[instagrammed] Homemade granola

I am not a morning person. In fact, if I had the choice my day would only begin at 12pm. As this isn’t actually possible, I try to find ways to make my mornings a little more bearable. Enter homemade granola.

I’ve tried many granola recipes over the years, but this one is currently my favourite. It’s an (adapted) recipe from one of my favourite restaurants, Eleven Madison Park – so it really wasn’t much of a surprise when it turned out so well.

I tend to use either dried strawberries or cranberries in the granola, depending on what I have lying around. But feel free to use any dried fruit that takes your fancy – that’s the beauty of homemade granola, you get to personalise it and make it your own. Add in a dollop of Greek yogurt and milk = perfection!

granola 2

Homemade granola
Makes approximately 6 cups
Adapted from an Eleven Madison Park recipe

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cups rye flakes
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3⁄4 cup dried strawberries

1. Preheat your oven to 145’C.
2. In a large bowl, mix the oats, rye flakes, pistachios, pumpkin seeds and salt. Set aside.
3. Place the brown sugar, maple syrup, and olive oil in a small pan. Heat the pan over low heat, until the sugar has just dissolved.
4. Remove the pan from the heat, and pour the warm mixture over the dry oat mixture – be sure to coat the oat mixture well.
5. Spread the granola mixture on a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper, or a silicone baking sheet). Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until it is lightly browned. Stir the granola every 10 minutes or so to ensure even browning.
6. Remove the granola from the oven, and mix in the dried strawberries.
7. Once the granola has cooled completely, transfer to a storage container (an airtight one is preferable).

Pear & chocolate cupcakes

I love my food. I find any excuse imaginable to snack, and sometimes worry about how much I am seemingly able to eat! To ensure I maintain some sort of balance, I do try to sometimes snack on fruit rather than something errr… less healthy. I also like using fruit when baking, subsequently declaring it “healthy”.

Which is why I welcome the idea of office fruit boxes, which appears to be the new “in” thing. Fruitdrop are one of the companies that offers this service, and supply a selection of fruit to your office – each box contains a selection of 50 fruit, and you can choose from either the “Essentials” or “Seasonal” Fruitdrop office fruit boxes. Prices appear to be fairly competitive, and start at £20 per box. R gets a fruit box where he works, and I am perpetually envious that I don’t, and have to bring in my own fruit!

fruitdrop box

I was recently sent a “Seasonal” box – and was pleasantly surprised at the variety of fruit included within. The site didn’t state how many varieties would be supplied, so it was all a bit of a mystery until I received the box. As you can see from the photo, there were a few seasonal fruits e.g strawberries and plums, alongside the ever present bananas, apples, clementines and so forth.

As I had an abundance of fruit, I decided to experiment and bake with them. Eating them as they are gets boring after a while you see…

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcakes

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcake

So yes. I uhmed and ahhed about which fruit would be my first victim, and finally decided to make some pear and chocolate cupcakes. I tried to make these a little healthier than the average cupcake, so these were made with yogurt and oil (no butter). Shocking, I know. And there isn’t any icing because I honestly am not a fan of cupcake icing – I find it way too sweet for my taste.

The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to sprinkle some demerara sugar on the tops of the cupcakes, as this tends to give a very pleasant crunchy top to bite into. And I like crunch.

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcake

Pear & chocolate cupcakes
Makes 24 small cupcakes

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 125g corn oil (or any other flavourless oil)
  • 280g Greek yogurt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 180g pears, chopped into 1cm pieces, and tossed lightly in 2 tbsp of plain flour*
  • 100g dark chocolate chunks/chips
  • demerara sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 170’C (fan assisted).
2. Sieve the caster sugar, plain flour, ground almonds, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl.
3. Add in the corn oil, Greek yogurt and the egg yolks, and mix until just combined.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
5. Gently fold in the egg whites into the cake mixture, in two additions. Take care to not overmix, as this may result in a dense cupcake.
6. Gently fold in the pear pieces and chocolate chunks.
7. Spoon the mixture into a cupcake tin lined with cupcake cases. Sprinkle the tops with demerara sugar if you wish.
8. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown on the top.
9. Cool slightly, and enjoy!

* Tossing the pear pieces in flour prevents them from sinking to the bottoms of the cupcakes.

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcake

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Fruitdrop.

Roasted banana sorbet

The weather in London has been very good indeed over the weekend. Sun, blue skies, and proper heat. Now for a little confession: whilst I love the sun and the blue skies, I’m not so much a fan of the heat that comes along with it. I flap at the thought of humidity/heat, and cannot bear the thought of life without the fan/airconditioning.

My British friends always find it odd that I can’t take the heat (I did grow up in a tropical ‘always summer’ country after all).. to which I respond: ‘We move from air conditioned house, to air conditioned car, to air conditioned building’. Though come to think of it we had no air conditioning in school, and we sometimes even wore baju kurung. Thinking back, I have no idea how on earth I managed that.

One of the ways I deal with the heat is by eating copious amounts of frozen desserts – ice cream, sorbet, gelato, granita… I’ll take them all, thank you very much. I used to stock my freezer with many tubs of store bought ice cream, but ever since I got my ice cream maker I prefer to make my own. Because let’s face it, I can’t walk into Waitrose and get Milo ice cream now can I?

I saw this recipe for roasted banana sorbet in the Eleven Madison Park cookbook, and was quite intrigued. For those of you who don’t know, Eleven Madison Park is a 3 Michelin star restaurant in New York, and is currently No 10 on the Worlds Top 50 restaurants. It is also one of my favourite restaurants, ever. I’d cooked a couple of pork dishes from the book prior to this which turned out well, so thought I’d give their sorbet recipe a try.

This turned out rather well, but because there wasn’t any cream/milk/butter/egg yolks in it the sorbet wasn’t super creamy like how ice cream/gelato is. I actually liked this, because it made it very light and refreshing. The flavour of banana is also intensified from the roasting.. in fact it reminded me of goreng pisang (deep fried battered bananas, a Malaysian snack).

What I might experiment with next time is to use milk in place of the water – I suspect this would make it slightly creamier, without needing to use cream or egg yolks. And maybe add a dash of condensed milk. Hmmmmm.

Photo taken with instagram

I topped the ice cream with some crushed peanut & sesame brittle – because I always need a little crunch to go with everything I eat. I’m obsessed with texture!

Do try this recipe out if you’re feeling a little hot and bothered, and feel like you need to cool down. It works, really! 🙂

Ah, the difficulties of photographing frozen desserts in warm weather…

Roasted banana sorbet
Adapted from the Eleven Madison Park cookbook
Makes 2 cups

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup sugar (you may need more or less, depending on how sweet your bananas are)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 180’C. Place the unpeeled bananas on a parchment lined baking tray, and roast until the skins turn brown and the juices have run out. This should take approximately 20-30minutes.
2. Peel the bananas. Place bananas in a large bowl, and add the water, sugar and salt.
3. Puree the banana mixture using a hand held blender, or food processor. If you wish, you can strain the mixture to ensure it is smooth. I choose not to do this as I like small banana chunks in my sorbet.
4. Add the lemon juice to the banana mixture. You may add less lemon juice if you prefer a sweeter sorbet.
5. Chill the banana mixture in the fridge for 3-4 hours, until it is thoroughly chilled.
6. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturers instructions.

Pierre Herme chocolate raspberry mini tarts

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that I’ve got a slight raspberry obsession. I’m not sure what it is that makes me love it so… but truth be told, there is very little to not like about its vibrant red hue and ease of being eaten (they’re bitesize!). Or maybe it’s just because I never ate much of it growing up – my childhood was predominantly filled with more ‘tropical’ fruits like rambutans, dukungs, mangoesteens and durians (all of which I miss terribly).

At any rate, I always find it hard to resist any desserts that features raspberries. In fact, I actually add raspberries to most of the things I make, even when the recipe does not call for it. It’s all about evolution. 😉

So when I saw these chocolate raspberry tarts on Ju’s blog, I was instantly hooked. Chocolate? Tick. Raspberries? Tick. Pierre Herme? Double tick! I made these tarts almost a year ago, but I still remember what they taste like, as if I was eating it yesterday. Which doesn’t often happen, let me tell you!

The tart base was excellent, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best recipes I’ve encountered (so far) for a sweet pastry base. It was a perfect balance of crumbly and crunchy, and to be honest I think I could eat the pastry cases on its own and be one very happy person. Like Ju, I also made tartelettes (the original recipe makes for one large tart) – because in my world, mini tarts are always better. Not only do they look more dainty, but it also gives you the illusion that you are allowed to eat more of it in one sitting. Total win win situation, no?

One extra thing I did was to pour some melted chocolate on the tops of the tarts after they’d been baked. This was because I wanted the raspberries to be stuck on firmly onto each tart, as I was planning to bring some to work the next day and didn’t want rapsberries to be flying around in my container! And I’m glad I did, because the melted chocolate gave the tarts an extra texture, as well as adding a nice sheen to the top of the tarts. I’m all about shiny things, evidently.

I also made some custard tarts with the extra tart dough, but found that the tart shells browned a little too much in my attempt to get the characteristic ‘burned spots’ on the custard. Thankfully it didn’t alter the taste of the tart shells too much, but I think I might have to adjust my cooking times/oven temperature if I was to use this pastry dough for custard tarts again.

But yes – try this recipe out if you’re in the mood for some tarts. Whilst the recipe for the filling was good (but nothing outstanding), the recipe for the tart dough is fantastic, and is most definitely worth a try!

Chocolate raspberry tartelettes
From Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, first seen on The Little Teochew

For the sweet tart dough
* Make this at least 1 day in advance because you need to chill and rest the dough for a minimum 4 hours or up to 2 days, before rolling and baking

  • 285g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 490g all-purpose flour

1. Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed setting, until it turns creamy.
2. Add the sugar, ground almonds, salt, vanilla and eggs, beating it (on low speed) until it is combined. The dough may look curdled, but it’s alright – so don’t panic!
3. Add the flour in three or four additions, and mix (still on low speed) until the mixture just comes together to form a soft, moist dough. Take care to not overmix.
4. Gather the dough into a ball, and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces: 3 pieces for 10-inch (26cm) tarts, 4 for 9-inch (24cm) tarts. Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap each disk in clingfilm. (As I was making mini tarts, I divided my dough into 6 portions. This meant that my dough would stay cold for as long as possible.)
5. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or for up to 2 days, before rolling and baking. *At this point, the dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to a month.
6. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough to a thickness of between 2-4mm, lifting the dough often and making certain that the work surface and dough are amply floured at all times. One trick I’ve picked up from all those hours watching the food channel: it’s easier (and less messy) to roll out the dough between two pieces of clingfilm. Just remember to lift up the top sheet of clingfilm from time to time, to ensure the clingfilm doesn’t crease and cause tiny crease indentations in your dough.
7.  Roll the dough up around your rolling pin and unroll it onto the tart ring. Fit the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the ring, and cut off the excess. Prick the dough all over with a fork, and chill it for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. (If you’re making mini tarts, you can easily pick up rounds of dough without needing to use a rolling pin to help you.)
8. To bake the crusts, preheat the oven to 180°C. Fit a circle of parchment or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans/rice/baking beans, and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until it is very lightly coloured. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool. (I baked my mini tart shells for approximately 15 minutes. My advice is to constantly check to ensure you don’t overbake them.)

For the filling:

  • 55g (1/2 cup) raspberries
  • 145g bittersweet chocolate
  • 115g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm chunks
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature, stirred with a fork
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature, stirred with a fork
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
2. Fill the tart crust with the raspberries. (I used 2 raspberries for my mini tarts, how much you put into each case depends on the size of your tins.)
3. Break the chocolate up into small pieces, and melt it over a bain marie (i..e in a bowl, over simmering water). Do the same for the butter, but in a seperate bowl. Allow both the butter and chocolate to cool until they are just warm to touch (approximately 60°C).
4. Using a small whisk or rubber spatula, stir the egg into the chocolate, stirring gently in ever-widening circles. Take care to not agitate the mixture – you don’t want to beat air into the ganache.
5. Little by little, stir in the egg yolks, then the sugar.
6. Finally, still working gently, stir in the warm melted butter.
7. Pour the ganache over the raspberries in the prebaked tart shell(s).
8. Bake the batter for 11 minutes (5-8 minutes for mini tarts), until the top of the tart turns dull, like the top of a cake. The center of the tart should be wobbly if jiggled (it will firm up, don’t worry!). Remove the tart from the oven, slide it onto a rack, and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. (If you wish, you can drizzle more melted chocolate on the tart(s), and top with even more raspberries.)

Persian chicken with walnut and pomegranate sauce

I never really knew of the existence of pomegranates till about 2 years ago. Ignorance? Quite possibly. In fact, I never realised that it was a fruit that was sold in Malaysia. I highly suspect its because I spent most of my time stuffing myself with  durians, rambutans, mangosteens and mangoes.

Now that I’ve discovered the pomegranate, I can’t seem to stop myself from using it. From drinking it as a juice, to utilising it as a cooking ingredient – I do it all. There’s just something about the crunch of pomegranate seeds (especially the pleasurable burst of juice that greets you each time you bite into a seed) that appeals to me.

I’ve recently come to learn of the usage of pomegranate molasses in cooking. Primarily used in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean dishes, it is essentially a thick reduction of pomegranate juice made by boiling the juice down until it achieves a sticky and syrupy consistency. It keeps extremely well, and as such is a handy thing to have in your pantry.

So when I saw this recipe for Persian pomegranate and walnut chicken, I knew I had to make it. I order something similar when we eat at Persian restaurants, except that the restaurant uses duck in place of the chicken. I’d always thought it’d be a bit of a fiddle to cook, but it was surprisingly easy.

I used a recipe I found in Meals in Heels, by the lovely Jennifer Joyce. For those of you that don’t know her, she’s a food stylist by profession, but is also a fantastic cook. I am forever grateful to her for sharing her cucumber pickle recipe with me! But as I was saying, her cookbook is aimed at those who want to entertain with style and ease. There aren’t any photos of the food, but there are wonderfully drawn graphics to make up for it. Jennifer also has a blog where she features recipes from the book, and posts a photograph or two to illustrate the dish.

This dish was delicious (I had it with some wholegrain couscous), and had a real heartiness to it that I enjoyed – the walnuts thickened up the sauce very nicely, and gave it a nice richness to the whole stew. I sprinkled some pomegranate seeds over the top, simply because I cannot resist their delightful “crunch”.

Persian chicken with walnut and pomegranate sauce
Inspired by a recipe in Meals in Heels

  • 1kg chicken thighs and drumsticks, skin on (Jen uses chicken thigh pieces)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, for browning chicken

For the sauce:

  • 200g walnuts
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 150ml pomegranate molasses
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar

For garnishing:

  • seeds from 1 pomegranate*
  • parsley leaves

1. Place walnuts in a mini (or full-sized) food processor, and process until the walnuts form a fine powder. Set aside.

2. Season the chicken drumsticks and thighs with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat, and brown the chicken, in batches, until they turn golden brown. Set aside.

3. Using the same pan, fry the onion over low heat for 15 minutes, or until soft and golden.

4. Add the cinnamon powder to the onions, and cook for a further 2 minutes.

5. Add the pomegranate molasses, stock sugar, chicken and ground walnuts to the pan, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

6. Transfer to a serving bowl, scatter over the pomegranate seeds and parsley, and serve!

* A tip (courtesy of Nigella Lawson) for removing pomegranate seeds: Cut pomegranates in half, hold a half over a large bowl and beat the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon. All the seeds will come tumbling (or flying) into the bowl – much easier than picking at each seed individually.