February 26, 2011

Chocolate Candies

For today’s post I chose a traditional Brazilian recipe: Brigadeiros or Brazilian chocolate candies.

History says the chocolate candies originated in the South of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, circa 1920 when some old ladies that couldn’t find enough supply of fresh milk decided to mix condensed milk instead with chocolate to prepare a dessert. However the candies became nationally known when in 1940 the Brigadier Eduardo Gomes decided to use them as give-away gifts for people attending the parties he promoted during his rum for presidential elections. So after this, the candies were name “Brigadeiros” (Brigadiers).
These candies are a must-have in all kid’s birthday parties and I don’t know one child that doesn’t like them. What I do know is that a lot of adults also like them very much and I’m sure you will too once you try them.
To makethis recipe you need:
1 can of condensed milk
2 tablespoons of sweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
1 tablespoon of butter
Chocolate sprinkles or colored sugar strands
Small paper cases
To prepare the candies:
Add all the ingredients to a heavy bottom saucepan. Mix them well and bring to the stove top to cook in low heat stirring constantly. The cooking time is about 15 min. The tip I can give you is it is ready when starts to boil and the dough doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan anymore.  

Transfer the mixture to a butter plate and let it cool down completely.
When the mixture is cooled it is time to start rolling the candies in small balls. Put the chocolate sprinkles in a soup bowl or some deep dish. Open the paper cases and put them side by side.

Butter your hands and put a teaspoon of dough on them and roll into a ball. Dip the ball in the sprinkles and roll it until it is completely covered. Transfer the candy to a small paper case. At first seems a bit complicated but in fact it is very easy. Once you’ve done a few of them it is going to be easier.

This recipe yields around 20 candies depending on the size you choose for them (Mine are about 2cm each).

February 21, 2011

Potato Cakes

You know one of those days that you just miss a loved one for no special reasons?

I woke up on Saturday thinking about my dear grandmother and how much I wished I could fly to Brazil and spend a few hours with her.  I want to describe her a little so you can understand why I love her so much: she is 1.5m tall, has a huge constant smile on her face, is the most amazing mother to my mum, is one of the strongest references I have in my life, was a wonderful wife to my grandpa, cooks anything with so much love that you can probably smell it, can do any type of arts and crafts you can possibly think of, is 80 years old (or about that) and still full of energy.

This lovely amazing woman taught me so many important things that I am sure I would need at least 10 pages to just start describing them.

She also taught me how to cook some of her recipes including this one that I prepared to share with you today. I am not sure what is the most appropriate name for this recipe in English but I will call it “Potato Cakes Stuffed with Minced Beef”. I’m sure that is a more charming way to name it however I don’t think you would bother too much about the name if you had the opportunity to actually eat it. However, please feel free to suggest a name if you feel like.

To prepare this recipe you will need:

Cakes Dough
6 large russet potatoes
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 large egg
Salt and black pepper
2 table spoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Minced Beef 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
Start peeling the potatoes, chopping them and bringing to boil in a large pan with water. Once the potatoes are soft pass them though a vegetable mill or mash them with a fork. Season with salt and pepper. Add the beaten egg, the Parmesan cheese and 1 cup of flour. Mix it well with a wooden spoon until totally incorporated. Add the rest of the flour and mix again. This dough should be very moist however firm enough not to stick on your hands. Let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, 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.

Back to the cakes, you can shape them in any size you like. Using my hands, I take parts of the dough and roll each one of them in small balls about 3 to 4cm diameter. Next, taking one ball each time, I press it in my hand until about 1 cm thick and add the filing (about 1 shallow tablespoon) and then close it, shaping the cake. Not too easy to describe but hopefully the pictures will help a bit.

Once the cakes are all done I sprinkle them with some extra flour.

Next step is frying the cakes in a frying pan with some cooking oil. You can deep fry them however I prefer to use just a shallow layer of oil and turn the cakes until brown.

Serve them hot.

By the way, in case you find it to difficult to make the cakes, this same recipe can be used to make potato pies like this one below. All the same ingredients, same potatoes dough and filing. I just spread one layer of dough at the bottom of the dish, one layer of minced beef in the middle and finish with a third layer of potatoes dough. I also sprinkled a bit more of Parmesan cheese on top.

February 13, 2011

Another Sunday Lunch

Still in the mood for red meat...I'm not sure if it was the sudden change in the weather or something else but this week i don't feel like cooking or eating anything else than beef.

Talking to a friend this week, she asked me where she could buy some good beef tenderloin to make some beef skewers for a barbecue she will join in the coming weeks.I told her that i used to make beef skewers very often few years ago and for no reason had not made them for a while. I also told her that i would be posting a recipe this weekend.

My Beef Skewers Recipe

1kg of beef tenderloin
1 medium tomato chopped (seeds removed)
1/2 medium green pepper chopped
1/2 medium yellow pepper chopped
1/2 onion chopped
3 tablespoons of barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
1 tablespoon natural yogurt
pinch of salt
black pepper
12 bamboo skewers

Start chopping the vegetables 1/2 inch square pieces and the beef in 1 inch cubes;

Mix the barbecue sauce, soy sauce, yogurt, salt and pepper to prepare the marinate for the beef. Add it to the beef cubes and let if marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 180o C. Next, start assembling the skewers alternating 1 piece of vegetable and 1 cube of beef.

Transfer the skewers to a baking tray and bring it to the oven to cook for about 20 min for a medium-well done beef. The cooking time depends on how you like your meet.

Next, enjoy it!

Dear A. this post is for you. Let me know if you liked it!

February 6, 2011

Sunday Lunch: Steak

I am a shameless red meat lover! I am fully aware of all the researches and the benefits of not eating red meat but I can’t help it! In case you don’t know already I am Brazilian, from the very South of Brazil where not eating red meat is like being an alien! Barbecue is our most know and exported "food" and we are not talking about grilling some small burgers … we are talking about serious meat eating. 
Well, now that you probably understand why I am one of those people that goes to the supermarket and spend a considerable amount of time in front of the meat display section marveling about the color of the meat and the probable tenderness (or not) of each cut we can start discussing this post.
It all started in a Sunday morning after breakfast when I was wondering what to cook for lunch. In my very personal opinion there are two options for a Sunday lunch: a brunch, which is not lunch, and some sort of roasted something (beef, chicken, pork…). Since we had the brunch two days before I was left with the only possible option: a yummy, tender, fantastic smelling and tasting roast! So, off I went for some shopping and to my surprise I couldn’t find any cuts of meat that would be appropriate for roasting. But, I did find beautiful sirloin steaks and wasn’t difficult to change my mind and decide that was just what I needed.

 Back in the kitchen, I seasoned the steaks with salt and pepper ...

Seared them in very hot frying pan for 2 minutes on each side ...

 Transferred them to an oiled  baking sheet and brought to the oven for 10 minutes in 180o C ...


 Served with some mashed potatoes and asparagus.

February 3, 2011

Curry Anyone?

Curries always intrigued me with the combination of all spices and flavors.  I’ve been eating curries of all varieties for quite some time and I can’t decide which I like most. Some days I feel more towards a Thai style some other days I prefer the Indian ones. For each one of them I have my preferred restaurant because I never felt confident enough to cook one from scratch myself.
Of course I tried already the store bought curry paste that promised a delicious meal just with the addition of chicken/shrimp/lamb but that just ended up as a total disaster with us resorting to a pizza delivery.
However since I started MyVerySmallKitchen I am challenging myself from time to time with some recipes that I was previously afraid of trying. So, last November when I bought the monthly edition of Delicious magazine I was very happy to find a curry recipe well explained that seemed worth trying – Spinach, Tomato, Prawn and Salmon Curry.
After reading the recipe in details I realized I would have to buy several spices that I had never used before and didn’t have a clue about. I confess I felt intimidated again but off I went for some shopping and after going to two supermarkets and an Indian store I found everything needed.
Back home I spent a considerable time chopping garlic, onions and chilly and the “20 minutes to make” as promised in the magazine were in fact almost one hour for me. The only change I did to the original recipe was reducing the amount of chillies since we don’t like really spice food.
If like me, you are not experienced in cooking curries I suggest you try this recipe. You will end up with a tasty fragrant dish that is worth every second spent in the preparation.

For the original recipe click here.