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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Edamame & Goat's Cheese Salad - A boost of energy in every bite

Salads can be really interesting, just because it is a salad, does not mean it is limited only to chopped garden vegetables. It doesn't even mean it has to be a cold plate! Salads can also be warm and cooked. You can use roasted vegetables, you can also use preserved lemons, or aubergines... A salad can contain both warm and cold components.
When it comes to salad dressings, vinaigrettes are top of the list. But even there you are not limitted to the basic vinaigrette. You can play around with textures, flavour combinations and even consistency, all of which will tremendously affect the experience. The types of mustards, the types of oil, vinegar and/or acid used are limitless, and can create countless variations. You can intensify flavours by using rinds, herbs, and even spices. A salad does not have to be boring, and it can be used as an integral part of your meal to enhance flavours, textures and add a pop of colour when plating. You really want to experiment with various salads, especially if you frequently have salads for mains. follow this link for more on Salads.

In this salad, I have used cooked and raw components; yet despite the little prep, the salad is served cold. In terms of texture this salad is packed with variety. You get the crunch from the fennel, the shortly sauteed asparagus and flash-blanched carrots and edamame beans (an immature soy bean in the pod). You also get a smooth bite from the sauteed zucchini and summer yellow squash. Then you get the juicy ooziness of the fresh cherry tomatoes, the aromas of the fresh parsley leaves and finishing all with the creaminess of avocados and goat's cheese. All brought together with the sweet-tanginess of an orange-walnut vinaigrette... Epic!

No salad experience is complete without the good old piece of bread, which you will dunk into the vinaigrette to soak all the juices and offer yourself a juicy, tender piece of comfort. I have chosen a whole wheat walnut mini loaf to serve on the side of this superb salad. Pumpernickel works very well too, and feel free to go for your favourite bread. This salad is packed with nutrients, and easy to make. It will leave you feeling full, yet light and energetic. It is a perfect lunch for those days when you are thinking healthy but flavoursome... So let's get preppin'...

Salad serves 6 appetiser servings or 3 main servings
Julienned squash and zucchini
You Need
200g Edamame beans (removed from the pod)
2 small yellow squash, julienned
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and roughly chopped
150g baby carrots, roughly chopped
150g fresh green asparagus, roughly chopped
2 small zucchinis, julienned
3 ripe avocados, sliced
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh Parsley leaves, roughly torn
Crumbled Goat's cheese (quantity is optional)
2 tbsp walnut oil for sauteing the vegetables

For the Orange-Walnut Vinaigrette
You Need
juice of 1 orange
squeeze of lime
3 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp White wine vinegar, white grape vinegar or white vinegar
zest of 1/2 orange
Salt & Black pepper

In a large saucepan, bring some salted water to a boil, add the chopped carrots, and edamame beans, stir twice, then drain and quickly place in iced water bath. Leave for 3 minutes, then drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, place 1 tbsp of walnut oil, quickly saute the julienned sqaush and zucchini. Do not allow to brown, just saute enough to coat with oil and soften slightly. It has to keep a bite to it. Remove from skillet and set aside. In the same skillet, add the remaining walnut oil, and saute the asparagus till slightly softened without browning. asparagus should remain crunchy not soft. Remove from skillet and set aside. Allow all vegetables to cool.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Place orange juice, lime juice, mustard, vinegar, zest and seasoning and whisk to incorporate all well together. while continuing to whisk, drizzle the oil in a steady thin stream and continue whisking, until the mixture is well emulsified.

In a large bowl, place the sauteed vegetables, the blanched carrots and edamame, the chopped fennel, the halved cherry tomatoes, the parsley leaves, and toss to mix.

When plating, place the tossed salad towards the front of the plate. Place the sliced avocados fanned to the side at the back, and top all with the crumbled goat's cheese. Dress with vinaigrette, and place the loaf on the other side at the back and serve...

This is a fabulous salad, that I am having lots of these days, trying to keep the energy levels high after exercising and to compensate for lost nutrients. I have to say it is delicious, and makes me feel full, satisfied and totally energised. Eating this salad, I do not feel at all deprived or like am settling for lunch! Give it a try, am sure you will be glad you did..

Hope you liked this recipe, thank you for dropping by, and come back again for more. Show me some love before you leave ;)

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Baked Cheese Cake - Happy Mother's Day

At times when waters get rough, a mother's warm smile smooths away the tide and makes our worries disappear. Even if for a moment, she makes the world more peaceful. At times when looking for comfort, a mother's encouraging words make us feel like we are capable and the best there is. At times of achievement, a mother's joy makes all the effort worth while. And at times of sorrow, a mother's embrace makes the world safer. At the first step, first bite, first word, and every first, there was a mother to encourage, celebrate and lend a helping hand... a mother to pick us up, to hold us, to walk us through and to straighten and refine us, then to let us go in hope that we will always know what she made possible. A mother is the very definition of unconditional love. Some do it with hugs and smiles, some do it with words and actions, sometimes rough and others soft, but always out of love. Only when we become mothers do we fully understand her. The woman behind us, and always with us. The warmth, the love and the voice that guides us is the mother who never tired, who pushed and fought her own and our battles. To every mother out there, God bless you and Happy Mother's Day....

When I was thinking of what I should post for mother's day, I thought I definitely want to post a dessert recipe. Something as sweet as mothers! When it came to choosing the dessert, I thought to post this fabulous baked cheesecake for a couple of reasons. First, my mum loves cheesecake, and for mother's day I wanted to share her favourite dessert. Second, many of you had sent me emails requesting my baked cheesecake recipe and I thought to grant your wish for mother's day. So I am posting out this recipe in celebration of all of you Mums out there, wishing you a fabulous day filled with the love of your children :)

This baked cheesecake recipe is deliciousness at its best! The crunchy crust made out of a mixture of nuts and cookies is amazing both in texture and flavour. It crunches and oozes in caramel and nut goodness, making you want more and more of it. I love cheesecake crust, so I always make sure to make it thicker than usual, which is always commended by my guests. They seem to agree that crust shouldn't be too thin, and should be a substantial part of the experience. I strongly advise you to go only for mascarpone cheese as it is more creamy and less cheesy, just like a dessert should be. Some of the worst cheesecake experiences I have had, included a cheese type that produced a flavour that is more on the sour-like cheesy side, which I find offsetting in a dessert. The cheese filling in this recipe is sweet but not overly, and the addition of Vanilla seeds makes the flavour Divine and the look more appetising. As the filling cooks, the eggs help in creating a volume and texture, a breed between cakey and gelatenous; Heavenly! Good enough on its own, that you really need not have a topping for it. When every layer is flavoursome and good enough to have on its own, you know you have a great recipe. But, since most poeple find a plain cheesecake too plain and want a topping, I have included for you the recipe of a fresh strawberry sauce that you can use if you want to have a topping. However, I find that the best topping for this cheesecake recipe is simply assorted fresh berries. The tang of the berries pairs very well with the sweetness of the crust and filling. In terms of experience, this colourful and inviting dessert will give you a crunch from the crust, against the smooth creaminess of the filling, and the juicy bite from the berries as they explode in your mouth! What more can any one bite of food offer us? It is pure pleasure... You can also top this cheesecake with fruit wafers for a different style of presentation.

This recipe is a Dima's Kitchen staple, and another best seller from when I was catering. It is a crowd pleaser and a must keep in your recipe collection. Give it a try, and I am telling you, you will want to hang on to it... So here is how it goes:

New York Style Baked Cheesecake with Assorted Fresh Berries
You Need

For Crust: ¼ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
¼ cup finely chopped almonds
¾ cup crushed graham crackers, or homemade vanilla sugar cookies
2 tbsp butter, melted

For Filling: (all at room temperature) 750g Mascarpone cream cheese
1 1/3 cup sugar
5 large eggs
¼ cup flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
Scrapings of ½ vanilla pod
2 tsp lemon juice

Prepare crust: mix nuts and crackers with butter. Press against the bottom and sides of a greased springform pan. Set aside.

Keeping the mixer on 'low' throughout, beat cream cheese until light & fluffy. Gradually add sugar, and beat until creamy. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. When eggs have been mixed into the cream cheese, add the flour, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix well. 

Pour cream cheese into prepared pan, place in a preheated (350F) oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. When the time is up, open the oven door and leave in the oven for 1 more hour. Remove the cheesecake from the oven, let it cool completely before placing in the fridge. Once completely cooled, place the cheesecake in the fridge for 24 hours to mature and set the flavours, this will make it richer and much better as the flavours cure in the fridge. 

Right before serving, Arrange the washed and dried assorted fresh berries on top in whichever design you fancy. Sprinkle the tops with icing sugar, and place a fresh mint leave on the side for a splash of green colour. 

Serve cold and enjoy.

For Fresh Strawberry Sauce
You Need
4 cups fresh strawberries
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice (optional)
1 cup extra of fresh strawberries for garnish (optional)

Combine all the ingredients together in a large saucepan, and cook till the strawberries are soft and the liquid is thickened (about 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat, and let the sauce cool down. Using and immersion blender, liquidize the sauce, and spoon over the cheesecake.

Thank you for dropping by and reading this post, hope you have enjoyed it and that you will give it a try to know its goodness. Please come back again soon for more, and let me hear from you. Looking forward for your comments :)

Meanwhile, I have read this fabulous poem by Joaquin Miller, and thought to share it with you. So at days when motherhood seems hard, and you are looking for inspiration, just remember that motherhood is not easy which is why all mothers are warriors. 

"The bravest battle that ever was fought!Shall I tell you where and when?On the maps of the world you will find it not;'Twas fought by the mothers of men.

Nay not with the cannon of battle-shot,With a sword or noble pen;Nay, not with eloquent words or thoughtFrom mouth of wonderful men!

But deep in a walled-up woman's heart -Of a woman that would not yield,But bravely, silently bore her part -Lo, there is the battlefield!

No marshalling troops, no bivouac song,No banner to gleam and wave;But oh! those battles, they last so long -From babyhood to the grave.

Yet, faithful still as a bridge of stars,She fights in her walled-up town -Fights on and on in her endless wars,Then silent, unseen, goes down.

Oh, ye with banners and battle-shot,And soldiers to shout and paise!I tell you the kingliest victories foughtWere fought in those silent ways."
- Poem by: Joaquin Miller (1839-1913)

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Foie Gras Bon Bons on Beetroot Wafers

Foie Gras Bon Bons are one of the culinary trends that are super hot these days. It seems that the whole food scene is filled with them, in every shape, type, flavour that you can imagine. Foie gras has always been a gourmet item, and it is an ingredient that - when added to any preparation - adds a gourmet touch and a unique flavour. Most commonly, foie gras is added to steaks, or served as an ApĂ©ritif with bread and a sauce... but lately foie gras bon bons have swept the scene claiming the throne to their own! These bon bons can be savoury or sweet. The savoury version though, is usually a ball of foie gras filling encased in a shredded vegetable topping, then all quickly deep fried to perfection. The sweet version of these bon bons is usually shaped into balls, rolled in nut meals (almonds, pistachios, or walnuts, to name a few), then dipped in a syrup of sorts. The foie gras balls can also be dipped in tempered chocolate, acting as a filling - kind of like liquid fondant. Think of it this way, foie gras is duck fat, so essentially it is kind of like butter, but with a distinct flavour.

Many find foie gras to be an acquired taste, but most people love its uniqueness. Whichever way you prepare foie gras, you are definitely adding on character and depth to your overall flavours. The key however lies in buying a good grade foie gras, as in recipes like this one, it is the star, so it would better be of good quality. Good quality foie gras can be bought from gourmet shops and specialty stores.

I had gone to New York last year, and been introduced to the making of foie gras bon bons by a chef friend of mine. He recommended that the bonbons be served in a cold metal spoon, with a thin mini brioche wafer on the side. But when I made the Beetroot wafers, I thought the flavours of the wafers will pair with the fois gras bonbons just as well as the brioche does. So I had given it a try and found it to be fantastic. I even found that the hint of colour was very much welcome too. I will however, dip the foie gras in tempered chocolate, next time instead of the drizzled chocolate, as I think it will look better than the exposed foie gras. These bon bons are obviously sweet, and therefore offered as dessert.

Just as the case usually is with gourmet recipes, the use of alcohol is very common. The original recipe uses a cocktail of alcohol for flavouring, however I have also modified the recipe for you in case you do not wish to use the alcohol. I have included both recipes for you to choose whichever you fancy.

Original Foie Gras Bon Bons
Makes 50 bon bons

You Need
50 mini beetroot wafers
2  Foie Gras (grade# 3/16), cut into pieces and vein removed
2 tbsp Brandy
2 tbsp Sherry
2 tbsp white Vermouth
2 tsp unrefined salt
1 tsp black pepper
300g Dark chocolate, melted
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped (optional)
Gold leaf for garnish

Place all in the bowl of your stand mixer and mix together at speed 6 for 1 minute, then raise the speed to max and mix for 30 seconds extra. Place the mixture in a piping bag, get rid of excess air and seal the bag. Place it in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Pipe a small ball of foie gras mixture onto the beetroot wafer if not going to dip in chocolate. Then top each ball with a drizzle of melted dark chocolate, then sprinkle with toasted pecans and garnish with a gold leaf.

If you will go for dipping in chocolate, then pipe the foie gras balls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (then place back in the fridge to cool before dipping). Melt your chocolate, and dip the balls in the chocolate and place them on lined cookie sheet, then sprinkle the tops with pecans. Leave to set overnight in the fridge then garnish with gold leaf.

For Non-Alcoholic Foie Gras Bon Bons
You Need

50 mini beetroot wafers
2  Foie Gras (grade# 3/16), cut into pieces and vein removed
2 tbsp Apple Juice
2 tbsp Vanilla extract
2 tbsp Grape juice
2 tsp unrefined salt
1 tsp black pepper
300g Dark chocolate, melted
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped (optional)
Gold leaf for garnish

Follow the same instructions as the original recipe.

Check out this link for making Fruit Wafers

Thank you for dropping by and reading this post, hope you have enjoyed it :) This is a recipe with which you will always impress and be known for, so give it a try and offer something new the next time you entertain at home :) and make sure to drop by again soon ... I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment :)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Beetroot Wafers and Manual Photography

Paper thin see-through beetroot wafers
I have always had a thing for photography. I even used to go around Jordan taking pictures when I was younger, and found the country to be very rich in photogenic opportunities. From markets, to the streets, the old town... all full of picture perfect moments that are big on the human aspect. Silent as they may appear, you can really tell loud stories with just the pictures! Photography is a beautiful hobby.

I also love to draw. I have always been drawn to facial portraits and landscapes, so whenever I drew I drew people, especially those who are older and have defining lines of experience all over their faces. In photography, I always took close ups of faces I found to tell some story, and always were on the look out for landscapes that evoke a narrative of sorts. You can say that photography has always been a hobby of mine!

But, I can never claim that I am a master photographer. It is always a case of hit or miss. The photo either works fantastically or it flops majorly. But the photos were always mine, and to me each one meant something. I had never taken a photo that I desperately needed to be picturesque magazine quality. So they were all perfect, to me!

Gently release these ever so fragile wafers by sliding the spatula underneath them
Up until I started with food photography!
That story is very different. Photographing food is hard, as there is a million things that come to play and determine the outcome. From the light, to the styling, to the actual condition of the food... it is all important to master! And I am a long way from mastering all these things! Cooking and understanding food is one thing, but taking a good photo of that food is a totally different story! Just because the food tastes phenomenal, looks beautiful, does not necessarily mean it is photogenic!! It is totally the work of the photographer to bring out the beauty within that food. Kind of like a green model, whose new to the scene, if the photographer and art directors are really good they can ease her into bringing out her beauty and capturing the right shot!

I have a fabulous relationship with my food, but I am more like a mother than a photographer, I send my food to 'Time Out', when it does not cooperate!!  lol

To show you how thin these wafers are
Ironically, it is only with food photography that I desperately need the photo to be great. I mean, I need that photo to tell you how good the food is, in order for you to try it! In a blog, photography is one main element that needs to be as good as the food. Actually, I have seen, many times, photos of food that were in fact so much better than the taste of that pictured recipe! But it is one of those things were: "who cares about the literature when the illustration does all the work"!! So I have been working on those skills (don't judge! Still work in progress) and have been frustrated in miles, and happy in baby steps, but hopefully getting there :) One major leap I have made, is changing the mode of my camera from fully automatic to fully manual! Yes, I have taken the plunge in the deep, but to my surprise, I discovered that automatic was actually the obstacle standing in my way. I have noticed that all my photos have improved tremendously, just by changing that setting! I still miss many times, especially that at my home, there is very poor light and lots of harsh shadows from all the high rise buildings. But hey, I can say that I am doing way better on that front!!

I have chosen to share this story with you here, because the day I changed my life to manual, was the very day I made these delicious beetroot wafers that I am sharing with you in this post. These were my first manual food photos :)

Stack them, place a dip next to them and munch away
Beetroot wafers are seriously amazing! They are snappy, crunchy, with loads of reddish to purplish earth tones that are on the sweeter side. They are paper thin, so can be used as base, or stacked with filling, used for dipping, as topping to deserts, or to simply brighten up a food and bring in warm colours for an otherwise dull and cold picture! They can even be crushed up and used to top a dessert, a soup, or even a salad. They can give you a crunch to your salad, to your cupcake frosting or be used in the making of cheesecake bases!! Beetroots are super foods that are very good for you as well! So if that is not amazing I don't know what is!

Don't have to be uniformly shaped
When it comes to preparing food and presentation we tend to take the easy route out! But with these wafers you open doors that are not so common, and unleash a delicious creativity that is worthy of notice amongst your friends and guests. These wafers are a perfect base for canapes. Instead of the old fashioned blinis, bread slices... go for beetroot wafers. They add a new layer to the flavour, look good and less common. Make them in mini squares and top them with Ceviche, Smoked Salmon, Cream and Caviar, Confit de canard...etc even the simple tomato bruschetta will be transformed over a wafer! You can also top these mini wafer bases with rolled mini cheese balls (any flavour).
Not only for canapes, as you can use these wafers instead of breads, crisps or sticks to serve with dips. Beetroot wafers go very well with a Hummus dip, eggplant caviar, 7 layer Mexican dip...etc.  You do not even have to make them in mini squares or rounds, you can simply make a large sheet and break it into pieces for dipping. There really is no limit to their use, so this is one recipe worth having and perfecting as you will be using it lots once you get the hang of it. Like with anything great, this requires a bit of work, and some practice to perfect, but nothing overly complicated or difficult. Just a matter of getting the hang of it.

Before jumping into the recipe, it is worth noting that you are not limitted to beetroots in this preparation, as any root vegetable will work, and each type will lend you its own flavour and colour. Like carrots, will produce a beautiful light and vibrant orange wafer, with its own flavour. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnip... and one of my most favourite ones is horseradish! Yes! Think horseradish wafers topped with Tuna or Salmon Sashimi to name a couple!!

So let's get vegetable wafering...

Beetroot Wafers
You Need
500g beetroots, peeled cubed and steamed until tender
120g caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 250F. Line flat cookie sheets with baking paper and set aside.
Place the steamed and still hot beetroots in a large bowl with the sugar.

Blend using an immersion blender until super smooth and no lumps remain. (do not use the regular blender as it will over liquidize the beets)

Using a melon baller, scoop out leveled scoops of the beetroot puree and drop over the lined baking sheet, as in photo 1. Make sure the drops are well spaced as it will get very tricky to spread the puree if they are closely spaced.

Using a small offset spatula, slightly and gently spread the puree into a square shape as seen in photo above. This is the same technique used for spreading frosting over cake (side to side movement, then gently slide out without pulling). Using the spatula push the sides in a little bit to create an even line for all the square sides. The puree should be spread very thinly (literally paper thin), almost see through as above. The size of the square depends on the use, but mainly mini squares is what we are after.
Repeat until the whole quantity is finished.

Bake in preheated oven for  1 hour, or until totally crisp. Remove from the oven, then while still hot, carefully release them by gently sliding the spatula underneath each wafer (they are ever so fragile, so be very careful or they will break). Transfer released wafer to a wire rack and leave to completely cool.

Once cooled place in an airtight container till ready to serve. Top with desired topping right before serving. You can store them in an airtight container for up to 2 days. If you store them for longer they become soft, chewy and stale.

Thank you for dropping by, hope you have enjoyed this post, and that it inspired you to take a more creative route for serving food. There are a million ways to include texture, flavour and colour and they do not have to always be so traditional!  check out one of my favourite recipes: Foie Gras Bonbons on Beetroot Wafers
Also check out this post on making Fruit Wafers

Friday, 9 March 2012

Iceberg Wedges Salad with Chives Cream Dressing - A Saint-Patrick's Challenge

The website Very Good Recipes holds an exciting monthly cooking challenge, where you get to post your recipe on their website for a chance to win 'Best Recipe' prize (different prizes every month). This month is the 4th recipe challenge, and I will be one of the judges :) This is super exciting, and am looking forward to seeing all your recipes. This challenge's theme is Saint-Patrick's Day, meaning your recipe has to include something green in it. How easy is that? So if you can think of a recipe that has green in anyway, just link it up to the challenge page here, and you might win yourself a cooking book of your choice! Please follow this link for the rules and how to participate.

As a sample recipe for the challenge, I thought to go for this super easy, yet ultra delicious Iceberg Wedges Salad recipe. What can be greener than green leaves? I also wanted to show you that your recipe can be very simple too. It just has to be green and of course delish!

Iceberg Wedges Salad is very easy to prepare. It is also a fabulous salad because it tastes delicious, is filling and a perfect side to any meat dish you desire. This salad can be the main event, or a fabulous side, but nontheless offers a very nutritional and healthy option with all the fibers it includes. You can cut a medium size iceberg head in half, and serve a half per main portion, or you can cut it into wedges for a smaller side portion. You can add any vegetables you desire to this salad, usually cut super fine, in salsa manner. I like mine served with crisped up bacon, walnuts and sliced mushrooms. I sprinkle the whole with black pepper and finely sliced chives along side a Chive Cream Dressing (recipe below). You can go for a classic Vinaigrette, a lemon and oil dressing, or an Italian Dressing for variations.

Iceberg Wedges Salad With Chives Cream Dressing
You Need
Serves 4 sides

1 large head iceberg lettuce, cut into wedges (do not separate leaves of wedges)
7 bacon rashers (use any bacon you like pork, turkey or beef)
200g button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
5 chive springs, finely chopped
Freshly cracked black pepper

For the Chive Cream Dressing
You Need
1 tbsp white wine vinegar or vinegar of white grapes
3 tbsp whipping cream
1 tbsp natural yoghurt
5 chives springs, finely chopped 
small piece of blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
Salt & Black pepper to taste

Start by crisping up the bacon. Place the rashers in a hot cast iron skillet or in a medium size frying pan. Allow them to brown before flipping to the other side. Once browned and crisp, remove from skillet and drain on paper towels.

Make your cream dressing by placing all the ingredients, except the chives, in a bowl and vigorously whisking until all are well incorporated. Add the chives and stir to incorporate. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

On serving platter, arrange the iceberg wedges, sprinkle the sliced mushrooms, then top with crispy bacon (crushed into small pieces) sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and the finely chopped chives.
Place the chive cream dressing in a jug and place to the side of the salad. When serving, allow your guests to pour a small amount of dressing on top of their iceberg wedges.

Serve as main for a light meal, or as a side to steak, chicken, fish or game... Simple but good!

Thank you for reading this post, hope you like this simple salad recipe, make sure to come back again for more soon :)
Looking forward to seeing your recipes on the Very Good Recipes Challenge. Good luck ;)

The Judges of The Saint-Patrick Challenge on Very Good Recipes are:

  • Angie from Big Bear's Wife
  • Antonella from Sapori in Concerto
  • Colette from Cakes, Bakes and other Bits
  • Dima from Dima's Kitchen
  • Drina from Eaternal Zest
  • Marta from Princess Misia Recipes
  • Maslinka from Ja u kuhinji
  • Meta from Cooking with Barry & Meta
  • Pauline from Poppy Cooking
  • Stefania from Big Shade
  • Saturday, 3 March 2012

    Tiramisu Cups - and Nescafe's newest 'Dolce Gusto'

    Disclaimer Note
    This is not a paid advertisement, and I do not get compensations for reviewing any product here on my blog. On my Blog, I do sometimes write reviews, and recommend specific products like in the case of 'The sisters Olive Oil' in my previous post. But these are products I have found -on my own - to be outstanding, and believe you must know about them as they can tremendously change your cooking results. Therefore I have written these reviews and recommendations on my own behalf and did not earn any income for doing so. As I have promised you, my blog is dedicated to helping you understand food and take your cookery skills to the next level, part of that is knowing good products, equipment, and staying up to date with market offerings, which is why I do these recommendations for you. 
    In the case of a paid advertisement/review appearing on my blog, you will be informed :)


    A few weeks ago I got a phone call from Nescafe, where I was asked if I would try their new coffee machine. The lady says: "...we are launching a new coffee machine soon and before we release it in the market, we want to first launch it online..." Basically, they have chosen some "Digital Influencers" to be the first to try the machine, who will then talk about their experience through their social networks; so when the machine is released in the market, you already know all about it.

    I do not usually do product reviews of this nature, as mentioned above. However, I was totally impressed with their marketing strategy, something about it hit home with me. You see, my own Brand 'Dima Sharif' came to life online. My whole concept first saw light online and on social networks, then grew from there. I really liked how they were eager to tell their customers what other customers think of the product, and through channels that are familiar to them...etc, so I decided to go for it. A few weeks later, I received a package from Nescafe that included the Dolce Gusto coffee machine and 5 different flavours of coffee: Grande Intenso, Cappuccino, Esspresso, Iced Cappuccino & Chococcino. I was super impressed with lengths to which Nescafe had gone with the packaging. They have completely personalised the packaging to my social networking persona (specifically on Twitter). The Dolce Gusto machine pack even had some of my tweets on it, and my twitter profile too! I found that to be very cool, it kind of gives the impression that Nescafe which follows you on twitter really follows you and knows you. After all this is why we do social networks. We tweet to be heard. We follow people whom we find interesting to get to know about their opinions and hear what they have to say, isn't it? And best of all was the badge sealing the cover of the package, which had my name on it, so you know this package was meant to be sent to you, not just some generic package for anyone to try... Super Cool.

    There it was, the new Dolce Gusto by Nescafe, the 5 flavours and a whole lot of tasting to take place...
    But before we dive into all those tastings, let me tell you a little something about my Retro Nescafe Experience :)

    Old VS New
    I come from a culture that drinks mainly Turkish Coffee and seldom any filtered or instant coffee. It is just in the past couple of decades that the younger generation started getting into the whole filtered and instant coffee consumption on a large scale. Coffee shops such as Caribu, Costa and starbucks just recently opened up in Jordan. Before then the coffee options were mainly the turkish coffee, cappuccino at a local coffee shop or the Nescafe 'Red Mug'. I grew up in a home where mum is a tea drinker (no coffee at all), and dad is a notorious Turkish coffee drinker. So when I started drinking coffee, it was either the non-convenient boiling of Turkish coffee, or the instant Nescafe. Then at campus, Nescafe was the only coffee on offer, so you can say I drank quite a bit of Nescafe! They used to offer it in Styrofoam cups mixed with loads of sugar and milk/coffee mate, or you could have it black. For the longest time, I drank this coffee and found it very tasty (just as coffee should taste like, in comparison to only itself)!!
    With the passing of time, and trying out of many other different coffees, I came to learn that coffee could taste different. It can taste better or worse.

    When I finally tasted the Dolce Gusto: Grande Intenso Coffee, which is an intense dark coffee flavour, it is definitely a long walk ahead in the right direction. Way better than the famous instant granules! The machine's ability to create foam, makes it even better in texture and experience as the foam lends a hint of creaminess although cream is non present. I had it straight black, without the addition of sugar, which is how I usually like my coffee. I found that it tastes good, slightly on the bitter side of things though. One major improvement from the old Nescafe products, is that the coffee lacked on that sour note it used to have before. I find that sour notes in coffee are terribly offsetting. Not only that, but everytime I made a Dolce Gusto Coffee, whichever flavour, the coffee aromas were really robust, that everyone complimented the smell of my home as they walked in. First my hubby says: "Something smells very yummy, like a coffee smell". My guests said "your house smells like really good coffee"! I was very happy.

    Hot & Cold Coffee Drinks
    Of course, my second choice to taste was the Cappuccino. The box even said: "Have a Cappuccino with @ElsaMclean"!! My friend who also follows me on twitter, how cool is that?!! The best thing about the Dolce Gusto machine is that it is simply a matter of placing a capsule (already filled with the coffee) into the allocated slot on the machine, then you fill the small water tank at the back with water and press the hot water button. Yes there is another button for cold water!! The machine also makes iced Cappuccino!! The same process, just with a cold water button and some ice!
    Once the Cappuccino cup was made I have to say, it looked gorgeous! Just the right layering and with a tiny sprinkling of cocoa powder it was nothing short from any good Cappuccino I would be served in any cafe. This is a fact that impressed all 4 ladies I had over to taste the cappuccino. All four of them agreed that it was beautiful, delicious, creamy and would go for seconds. I and just another lady both agreed that it was a tiny bit too sweet, and thought it would be nice to have it non-sweetened as an option.
    (The milk Capsule was the sweet part, the coffee wasn't. For the rest of the ladies it had just the right balance.)

    The Final Verdict
    In total, I had asked 9 friends (coffee lovers) to join me to try the different coffee flavours and give me their feedback.

    On The Flavour
    Those who are into cold coffees voted the iced cappuccino as their favourite and agreed that it is better than any other iced coffee they had ever attempted at home. Those who prefer cappuccino were very impressed with the hot version and loved the flavour. Most said it was very well balanced. The ones who like espresso and dark coffee thought it was slightly over bitter.
    We have all agreed though that it would be nice to have capsules that are not sweetened for those who do not wish to have a sweet drink.
    Therefore, I am putting this request forward to Nescafe here, hoping they would take it into consideration and offer a sugar-free cappuccino and chococino capsules.
    I have been given only 5 flavours to try, but Dolce Gusto offers a total of 10 flavours, which sound fabulous:

    1. Cappuccino
    2. Espresso & Decaffeinato
    3. Esspresso Intenso & Ristretto
    4. Cafe Lungo
    5. Aroma & Cafe Crema Grande
    6. Cortado & Espresso Macchiato
    7. Vanila Macchiato & Late Macchiato
    8. Chococino
    9. Cappuccino Ice
    10. Nestea Peach (Iced Tea)

    Machine Shape & Function
    All 9 tasters unanimously agreed that they would buy the coffee machine because it was a convenient and affordable version of the Nespresso. They all thought the Dolce Gusto Machine is less bulky and actually very well shaped for the over crowded counter-tops of Dubai's small kitchens. The whole group agreed that the design of the machine was impressive, sleek and modern.
    We all thought that the machine was very user-friendly. Easy to operate and clean, which made it even more convenient. With the Dolce Gusto, you no longer have to worry about the right ratios, the clean up, the cup size...etc as it is all taken care of and easy to apply. However, the machine produces one cup of coffee at a time, which could be a bit non practical when preparing many cups of coffee at once.

    Everybody was excited to know when the machine was going to be in the market, and said they couldn't wait to buy it. So I would say, it was a hit with the coffee lovers :)

    Of course, I would not just let it go without somehow assessing its performance in food making. I have put the Dolce Gusto to the ultimate test, by using its strong black coffee in the making of a dessert that is a true coffee dessert. One that coffee lovers love, and one that is so well known that tasters know what to expect when they have it. What can be better than the old fashioned Tiramisu? I have to say here, that my Tiramisu recipe is always celebrated. Everyone who's tried it before, always told me it is super delicious. The same people who tasted this version of Tiramisu, know my original one very well, and can therefore tell the difference.
    The Tiramisu turned out fabulous. The coffee flavour was pungent and very well received. Everyone loved it, and said it tasted just like my Tiramisu (for which I usually use premium coffee). So the Dolce Gusto Won the hearts of everyone yet again, and I was happy with the results.

    I have served the Tiramisu in Cups to stay true to the Dolce Gusto theme, and layered them as much as possible like the Cappuccino cup to simulate the same experience. I have for this reason, separated the chocolate from the mascarpone mix, and used it in the form of a dark chocolate Ganache instead. In the original recipe, however, the grated chocolate is folded into the mascarpone mixture. Whichever way you go, is fine, but I will post my original and classic Tiramisu recipe for you to try (and as I have always been requested).
    You can serve Tiramisu in cups, or layered in a large platter, from which you serve everyone.

    Classic Tiramisu
    Using Dolce Gusto - Grande Intenso & Esspresso
    Makes 6 cups or 1 large dish to serve 8

    You Need
    1 packet Italian Millefoglie (puff pastry cookies) or lady fingers
    3 tbsp sugar
    1 cup Dolce Gusto Grande Intenso
    2 tbsp sugar syrup
    500g mascarpone cheese, softened
    ½ cup sifted powdered sugar
    1 tsp vanilla essence
    60g grated chocolate (bitter-sweet is best)
    1 cup whipping cream
    2 tbsp Dolce Gusto Esspresso
    More grated chocolate optional or cocoa powder to dust the tops

    Chill a medium bowl and beaters of electric mixer for 30 minutes. These will be used for whipping the cream. The chilling helps the cream whip faster and prevents separation.

    Make Coffee syrup
    In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and cup of Grande Intenso. Bring to boil over medium heat, and continue boiling for 1 more minute. Remove the saucepan from heat. Stir in the sugar syrup and cool completely.

    For Mascarpone Mixture
    In a medium bowl stir together the mascarpone, powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in grated chocolate (60g).

    To assemble in cups: 
    Cube the Italian Millefoglie. Soak each cube in the coffee syrup and place at the bottom of each cup. Top with a layer of the mascapone mixture. Add another layer of soaked Millefoglie cubes and top with some crushed Milfoglie. If your cup is big enough for another layer of Mascarpone mixture, then add another layer of both the mascarpone and soaked cookie cubes. If not, then just move right to the whipped cream layer.

    In the chilled bowl and beaters, add whipping cream and 2 tbsp cooled esspresso. Beat on medium spead till soft peaks form. Spread this mixture over the top of the last layer and sprinkle with grated chocolate or a layer of cocoa powder or both.

    Cover and chill at least 4 hours before serving. Serve cold and be showered with compliments :)

    The Dolce Gusto machine is now launched and had been spotted in Carrefour. Hope this post gives you a good idea about its function.

    Thank you for reading this post, hope you enjoyed it. Drop by again soon for more fab food, and kitchen talk :)) Would love to hear from you, so don't shy away and leave me a comment before you go...