December 26, 2010

Yummy Creamy Polenta



Hi, did you have a good Christmas? Did you enjoy yourself and your loved ones? Good, I’m happy for you.
We had a very nice celebration on Christmas Eve and a lazy day just the three of us on Christmas Day. And because I behaved very well during the whole year I got three new cookbooks as Christmas gifts. Nice! Lots of new recipes to try and I’ll be sharing them with you at some other day.


Another question, do you like polenta? We do, and a lot. So, for today’s post we have polenta in tribute to the cold weather in Hong Kong (temperature today is about 16 C and will drop to 10 by the end of the week). Nothing better than a hot, creamy, steamy polenta in a cold day…yumm!

You will see very soon that this is not a traditional polenta recipe. It contains polenta, minced beef and cheese ... a lot of cheese. I suggest that you just accept that this is a high calorie dish and enjoy it without any guilt. It is cold, and we all know that we eat more when it is cold so no point in fighting it. Just enjoy it and put some extra minutes in your workout.

Yummy Creamy Polenta

Polenta:
500ml of water
500ml of chicken stock
¾ cup of polenta flour
1  tablespoon  of butter
2  tablespoon  of grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon of salt

Minced Beef Sauce:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
500g of minced beef
2 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 cup of water
2 cloves of garlic
Basil leaves
Salt and black pepper

150g of mozzarella cheese

In a deep pan mix the water and the chicken stock for the polenta. Let it boil.

In a blender mix the 2 tomatoes (roughly chopped), the garlic, basil, tomato paste and water until creamy. Reserve.

 

In a saucepan heat the oil. Add the minced beef and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer the tomato cream from the blender to the pan, add salt and pepper and let it cook for 10 minutes in low heat stirring from time to time.


When the water for the polenta is boiling add the salt and the polenta flour. You have to add the flour in a very low stream and mix it constantly to prevent forming lumps. Keep mixing for about 5 minutes until the flour dissolves and cooks in the water. The polenta is ready when the texture is creamy, not grainy anymore. (The cooking time will depend on the time of polenta flour you are using. Some need more than 30 minutes to cook, so please read the instructions in the package carefully. I always use this same one and mine polenta is done in 5 minutes, not more than that). Once done, turn off the heat and mix the butter and Parmesan cheese, stirring for 1 more minute until smooth and creamy. Transfer the polenta to a serving plate.

 

Add one layer of grated cheese to the polenta and one layer of minced beef on top of the cheese. Finish up with some extra grated Parmesan cheese.














December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Hi, today is Christmas eve and this is a different post because there are no recipes.

I just wanted to say Merry Christmas to you all and thank you very much for spending your time following MyVerySmallKitchen. I don't know who you are but I know you are there. I hope you have a wonderful celebration with your loved ones and that the warm of Christmas fill your heart.

We are very fortunate to have amazing friends in Hong Kong and already started our celebrations last weekend with some of them. Tonight we will meet with some others in a traditional Christmas eve party and I'm looking forward to it.  I hope you can  celebrate  Christmas the way you love and have a fantastic time.

And since i said no recipes today i will only share with you some pictures from our early Christmas lunch last Sunday including some of the turkey breast with mushrooms gravy I cooked . No fancy pictures this time, just us having fun. Hope you like it, we did.

Merry Christmas!!!



December 19, 2010

Christmas Cookies


The Christmas spirit is finally in the air in our home. We managed to put our small Christmas tree up, spread some cute decorations around the living room and start the race of Christmas shopping.

To embrace the Christmas spirit even more I spent my Saturday morning baking little cute cookies with a recipe that I adapted from one my mum used to bake when I was a child. This is not the traditional Christmas sugar cookies recipe but if you trust me you will find out they taste very nice. And with some decoration they can be easily called Christmas cookies.

My Christmas Cookies Recipe
150g of unsalted butter (cut in small pieces)
700g of flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
250g of mascarpone cheese

Start mixing 500g of flour, the butter and the eggs in a bowl with a hand mixer. This mixture gets really dry and crumbly.

In a separate bow, still using the hand mixer in lower speed, mix the mascarpone cheese, sugar and the baking powder.

Combine both mixtures in one bowl and use the hand mixer for more 2 or 3 minutes until totally incorporated. Cover the bowl with cling film and bring the dough to the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a flat floured surface. At this point it should be just a bit sticky and from now on you need to work the dough and add the rest of the flour (200g) bit by bit until you it becomes light and smooth.

Divide the dough in 3 equal parts and open each part with a rolling pin until it is about 1/2 a centimetre thick. Using cookie cutters cut your preferred shapes. Place the cut cookies in a flat baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bring to the oven to bake.


The baking time will vary depending of each oven. What you are looking for is a cookie that is firm at the borders, a bit soft in the middle and not too brown. Each of my batches cooked in 8 minutes in 150 degrees Celsius.


After the cookies were ready we had fun decorating them with melted chocolate and colored sugar sprinkles. We used 200g of melted white chocolate and 200g of melted dark chocolate plus a lot of sprinkles. To melt the chocolate just cut each chocolate bar in small pieces and bring to the microwave in medium temperature for 3 minutes.


We finished up wrapping the cookies in small gift bags for little Christmas treats to friends.

















December 15, 2010

Ham and Cheese Chicken Rolls



Another busy week. At this time of the year approaching Christmas seems that the days don't have enough hours. I'm not spending as much time as I would like cooking or writing and I just see my list of things to do before the end of the year growing! On top of that I didn't do any of my Christmas shopping yet and am really not looking forward to the packed shops in Hong Kong. Item number one in  my wish list for the new year will be: "to get more organized"!

Since time is so precious lately I chose an easy tasty recipe for this post: Ham and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast. This recipe can be cooked in last than 30 minutes and goes very well with a simple green salad. Part of the recipe can be prepared in advance and after that it will take less than 10 minutes to cook.

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

4 boneless  chicken breasts halves
4 slices of cooked ham
4 slices of provolone cheese
Salt
Grounded black pepper
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Sauce

1 can of single cream
100g of shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt
Grounded black pepper

Start trimming any fat and skin from the chicken breasts. Place the chicken breasts in a chopping board and cover them with cling film. Pound each half with a meat mallet until 1cm thick. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.


Place one slice of ham and one slice of provolone in each chicken breast and roll it up so the ham and cheese is in the inside. Use a  toothpick to hold the chicken rolls. (If you are preparing the chicken rolls in advance stop here and transfer them to the fridge).


Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and pan fry the chicken turning from time to time to avoid burning (use low to medium heat flame). The chicken will be cooked in 10 minutes. 



Transfer the chicken rolls to a serving plate and let it rest for 5 minutes.To make the sauce heat the single cream in a small saucepan and mix in the mozzarella cheese in it until melted and incorporated. Season with salt and pepper and pour it over the chicken rolls.


December 8, 2010

Roasted Pork Tenderloin


Saturday evening I roasted pork tenderloin for our dinner and received some nice compliments. I love when my daughter comes to the kitchen asking “What is this you are cooking mummy? It smells soooo good!!!
Our family has dinner together most of the evenings however it is not the same feeling as on weekends when we have more time and are not pressured by what is going to happen early in the next morning. So that’s the time that I usually cook something a bit more elaborated. I haven’t posted any of my dinner recipes yet because I simply don’t like my pictures with flash.  I do the pictures that you see here without any fancy equipment besides my good Nikon and as you can imagine I get the best results when I cook during the day. Anyway, from now on I will be sharing with you some of my dinner experiments as well.
Let’s go back to the topic of this post: Roasted Pork Tenderloin.  For this recipe I used 2 tenderloins weighting about 1,2 Kg in total. I prepared a mix of dried herbs with rosemary, thyme, oregano and sea salt to marinate the meat for two hours.

After that, in the stove top, I browned the tenderloins for about 5 minutes in low heat. Transferred the meat to the oven and roasted it for 30 minutes in medium-height temperature.


Before serving, I sliced the tenderloins and added a ready-made mushroom sauce.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin Recipe
2 medium pork tenderloins
1 tablespoon of dried rosemary
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
2 teaspoons of sea salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper




Minced Beef Pies



Oh I’m falling behind my posting schedule. These last two weeks had been really busy and I got totally involved with working changes and the anticipation of Maria’s first school camp trip. Did I tell you she was going to spend three whole days and two whole nights away from home? No, I probably didn’t since this is in no way related to food! However, I have to confess I spent most of my last days eating more than usual and dealing with “things” missing in her camp bag and pretending I wasn’t nervous at all about this trip.
Saturday came and again I hadn’t planned what I would cook for my weekend project (I promise I will try to be more organized…) so I had to improvise again. For that, nothing better than a bit of comfort food to remind me where I come from and of course it had to be something sort of fast because I only had a few hours to dedicate to it.
After consulting busy daughter and hungry husband the decision was made: Minced Beef Pies!
The dough for the pies is actually the same one I used in another recipe posted here before. It is just a mixture of flour, butter and a bit of water. I used my fantastic food processor to make it faster.
After opening the dough with a rolling pin, I filled in the pie molds one by one. It was quite relaxing actually.

To prepare the filling I used a medium pan, added olive oil, chopped onions, minced beef and the tomato sauce and cooked it all together for about 10 minutes until the sauce reduced to almost nothing. After, I filled the pies with this mixture and covered the top of the pies with dough sealing the edges with an egg wash.



The pies cooked in the oven for about 20 minutes in medium temperature.



Beef Pie Recipe 
Pie Pastry Recipe:
300g of all purpose flour
150g of butter
3 tablespoons of cold water

Pie Filling:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
400g of minced beef
½ cup of tomato sauce
½ cup of onions finely chopped
Salt and black pepper

1 beaten egg







December 1, 2010

Orange Cupcakes





Cupcakes…don’t you love them? I confess I do.  I like them so much that i decided to dedicate my weekend project to them. It all started on Friday evening when I was going thru my list of favorite food blogs and checking for updates. I found a link for tips on baking “the perfect cupcakes” in which I also found: “use your preferred batter to make your cupcakes”! That was just what I needed to get me going. My first idea ,as you probably guessed, was chocolate. However after my mid-week chocolate cake disaster (and yes I didn’t post that here because this is supposed to be a blog for yummy food and that deffinetelly didn’t fit in this category…)  I went for the second option: orange.

I have this recipe for orange cake without milk  and butter that I’ve been baking for a few years with pretty much 99% success. It is a simple and easy to follow recipe that results in a fluffly-moist- sort of-sponge-orange cake.  Yummy!!!

But remember,  we were talking cupcakes. I wasn’t sure the batter would work for small cakes and I thought I would end up with “muffin shapped” cakes instead.  Anyway, I tried and look at the result:


Perfectly shapped cupcakes. I couldn’t believe. The tip to follow just 2/3 of the cup with batter works beautifully.


Next step was the icing. Did I tell you that I didn’t choose the icing before? Yes, sad truth: I didn’t plan what icing I would have in my beautiful cupcakes! So, as usual I run to my recipes folder and found  a vanilla icing recipe that I had never used before. It seemed way too much butter in only one recipe but I didn’t have any other option. This is what I got:


A not so perfect icing with a nice taste to the most. I’m still not sure if I didn’t mix it properly or if it was really too much butter.  

Anyway, the orange cupcakes compensated the average taste icing and overall it was quite good.  Next time I will stick with the orange cake recipe and try a different icing.

Orange Cupcakes Recipe

2 cups of flour
1 ½ cup of sugar
3 eggs
1 cup of orange juice
1 tablespoon of baking powder

First separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. With a hand mixer beat the egg whites until foamy.

In a separate bowl mix the 3 egg yolks and the sugar for 2 to 3minutes. Add the orange juice and keep mixing in a lower speed until totally incorporated.

In another bowl whisk the flour and baking powder togheter. Add this mixture slowly to the bowl with the egg yolks, sugar and orange juice. Next fold the egg whites in until incorporated.

Line the cupcakes paper molds in a muffin baking tray. Spoon the batter in the molds filling up to 2/3 of the mold. Bring the tray to a pre-heated oven at medium temperature and bake the cupcakes for about 20 min. The baking time can vary depending on the size of the cakes and the temperature of the oven. Basically the cakes should be baked until the centers are firm to touch.

After baked let the cakes cool down for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack.

Vanilla Icing

½ cup of butter (unsalted)
1 ½ cups of icing sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of milk

Cream the butter with a hand mixer until soft. Add the icing sugar and mix to the butter in lower speed until incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and the milk. Change the mixer speed to high and mix until icing is fluffly and light.
Add the icing to the cupcakes.









November 26, 2010

Vanilla & Chocolate Cream



I remember when I was a child my mum was always around the kitchen preparing at least three healthy meals for us. Somehow she found the energy to run a house, without any help, take care of four very active kids and cook! I also remember we often had homemade bread, homemade butter (!), yummy cakes and desserts.
One of the desserts that remind me a lot of my childhood is Vanilla and Chocolate cream. It is a very simple recipe that tastes delicious. I had cooked it for our family in Hong Kong a couple of times already following strictly my mum’s recipe. This time, however I decided to adapt the recipe and add chopped dark and milk chocolate. The result was a perfect combination of flavours.


I started chopping the two types of chocolate. Next was the vanilla cream. In a sauce pan I mixed milk, condensed milk, corn starch, butter, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Brought the pan to the stove and stirred constantly until boiling.



For the chocolate cream I mixed milk, cocoa powder, corn starch and sugar in another saucepan and again brought to the stove and mixed until boiling.


I served the dessert in 6 small cups alternating layers of vanilla cream, chopped chocolate and chocolate cream. At the top, a tablespoon of meringue.




Chocolate and Vanilla Cream Dessert Recipe

100g milk chocolate chopped
100g dark chocolate chopped

Vanilla Cream
1 cup of milk
1 can of condensed milk
1 ½ tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon of butter
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

Chocolate Cream
500ml of milk
1 ½ tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder

Meringue
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons of caster sugar


November 21, 2010

Stuffed Mushrooms



I think I am addicted to mushrooms! They are one of my favorite foods and I love that I can mix them with a variety of dishes and it is always going to taste better. A while ago I saw a recipe of stuffed mushrooms and went straight to the kitchen to try. In all honesty it wasn't what I expected. It tasted nothing (don't ask me why...) and the mushrooms were way too dry. So, last week after a trip to the market with more time than usual I came back home thinking again about Portobello mushrooms and how I could cook them.

I came up with the recipe below, which is quite simple and easy to follow. It was the first time I tried and the result was outstanding. I hope you like it as well.

Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe

1 tablespoon of olive oil
½ cup of chopped green peppers
½ onion chopped
2 gloves of garlic
1 medium tomato chopped
3 Portobello mushrooms
½ cup of chicken broth
Grated mozzarella cheese
Salt
Black pepper
Green onions


In a skillet add the olive oil and saute the onions and the garlic until tender. Add the green peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomato and the chicken broth and let is simmer until reduced to half.

Clean the mushrooms and remove the gills. Season them with salt and pepper. Add the cooked vegetables to the mushrooms and arrange them in a baking pan.


Bring the mushrooms to the pre-heated oven and cook them for 10 minutes in medium temperature. Remove the mushrooms from the oven add the mozzarella cheese and bake them for 2 more minutes to melt the cheese.

Spread the finely chopped green onions on each mushroom and it is ready to be served.