America · Ice Cream · Salads · Sweets · Travelling

What I eat in Arizona, Part 1

First of all, Southwest Airlines are hilarious- I’m only ever flying with them again! Airline and a stand-up comedy act? Sold.

Featured highlights:

‘If you’re scared of flying, put your head between your knees and tremble until we bring round the alcohol’

‘You are so lucky to have us as your flight crew’ (no lack of confidence there)

‘My guy in Houston writes these leaflets – I know none of you will read them but you should. If there’s an emergency – tough, you’re on your own! (Only joking, obviously look for a crew member!)

[Paraphrased but the gist is there]

They also give very friendly snacks…



During the first few days we have swum, relaxed and eaten a lot of good food, so here follow the highlights!

The first night we ate at Pita Jungle where I was again reminded of the scale of American portions – I ate the  second half of the meal for breakfast the next morning! I had a lentil fatoosh salad which there is no photographic evidence of – it tasted good though!

Dessert did make the camera though – below is an ice cream sandwich made of a chocolate chip cookie, a s’mores cookie with mint chocolate chip ice cream and hot Nutella (hence the salad before…)


(They also gave us free brownies (2) and 12 white chocolate macadamia nut cookies as we were there at closing time!)

The next day we went to one of my favourite lunch places – Flower Child. Basically a hippie place (even including a ‘yoga mat parking’ spot) it specialises in bowls, salads and other tasty things. I had a Vietnamese salad bowl with tofu which was delicious, but I was also very taken by the drinks – honey-lavender-limeade, elderflower-rose lemonade and strawberry-lemonade, all on tap!


Then we had a quick tour around some of the amazing houses in the local area before heading to Creamistry – my favourite ice-cream place! Based on some – very dodgy – liquid nitrogen freezing principles you can create your own ice-cream by choosing a base, flavourings and toppings. Below we have a creamy base, tiramisu flavour with hot fudge sauce on the top. (Again, salad for supper!)


I do also get hugely excited by watching them make the ice-cream in front of you! We are planning on going again later in the week and then I plan to go a little more experimental with flavours.

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Also, this is what a Malteaser looks like in the States…

Until next time then, happy eating!

Desserts

Chocolate-Baileys Panna Cotta with Mascarpone Cream

It’s been such a long time since I posted regularly, and I miss it. I haven’t posted for so long primarily because of the few times I have baked, the results have not been such that I would like to post them on the blog, and also because I just haven’t baked for a while! Call it health-conscious, lazy, what you will – it just hasn’t happened!

However, I’m going to make a real concerted effort to start posting again, primarily bled goods, but also other recipes that I’ve tried. We are making a real effort to eat healthily and cheaply at the moment and this will hopefully start to chronicle this.

To start with, here is a delicious, impressive but surprisingly simple to make dessert which will impress any diner guests you may have coming over. A layered panna cotta, one flavoured with Bailey’s (Irish Cream Liqueur), the second with dark chocolate, topped with a sweetened mascarpone cream and blueberries. Panna cotta can seem quite intimidating, but I assure you, it is so simple and can be prepared ahead of time for stunning results.

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I have prepared individual dishes here, but this could also work well as a larger dessert, just be aware it may take longer to set.

Ingredients:

Bailey’s Panna Cotta:

  • 300ml double cream
  • 150ml Baileys/Irish Cream Liqueur
  • 1 sachet of Gelatine, dissolved in 8 tbsp hot water (I used Dr Oetker – see your chosen brand for specific details about amounts if different)

Chocolate Ganache Panna Cotta:

  • 150ml Double cream
  • 1/2 sachet of gelatine, dissolved in 8 tbsp water
  • 75g dark chocolate, chopped

To Finish:

  • 300g mascarpone cheese
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  • Grated dark chocolate
  • 6 crushed amaretti biscuits
  • Blueberries, to decorate

Instructions

Make the Bailey’s Panna Cotta by putting the cream, dissolved gelatine and baileys in a small pan over a medium heat, and bring to the boil (stirring constantly). Pour into 6 small serving dishes and leave to set in the fridge for an hour.

Once the hour is up, add the second lot of cream, gelatine and chopped chocolate to a small pan and heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is just coming to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes, before pouring onto the cooled dishes. Return to the refrigerator until completely set.

Before serving, beat the icing sugar and mascarpone cheese until thick and fluffy, adding in a little vanilla if desired. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe a swirl onto the top of each dish, garnishing with some crushed amaretti biscuits, blueberries and grated dark chocolate.

Baking · Desserts

Chocolate Chestnut Pavlova (A Holiday Miracle)

This year, I was allowed to cook dessert for Christmas Day. Now this is a big honour in our house, my dad guards the kitchen zealously, and it is very unusual for him to allow cooking rights to anyone else! This pressure is high as well – he does an amazing Christmas lunch and dessert has to live up to it!

This then was my creation, a decadent chocolate chestnut pavlova. One of my favourite combinations, this delectable dessert was a fitting centrepiece, converting even the meringue-haters amongst the diners – thus providing a holiday miracle!

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 This may be completed in a variety of styles – I made a two layer rectangular pavlova, sandwiched with the cream and ganache filling. However, you could also make a smaller three-layered circular pavlova – whatever floats your boat really!

 Chocolate Chestnut Pavlova

 Ingredients

  •  4 egg whites
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 115g icing sugar
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 200g double cream
  • 50g chestnut puree
  • 100g double cream
  • 20g icing sugar
  • Cocoa powder, to decorate

 Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas Mark 2. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment and draw three 10-in circles on the parchment. Please don’t use pen – ink and meringue is not a flavour combination I would particularly endorse…

In a scrumptiously clean bowl, whisk your egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add in the sugars, a spoonful at a time until it has all been incorporated and the mixture forms stiff peaks. Spoon the mixture onto the preprepared baking trays, doing your best to stay within your pencil-drawn lines! Use a fork to create a jagged top to one of the meringue circles – the extra peaks will give a greater surface area to create the lovely caramelised sugar topping, and add a delightful golden colour to the top of your pavlova.

Turn the oven down to Gas Mark 1/2 (basically as low as it will go!) and bake your pavlova for 1 hour 30 minutes until the layers have a crisp top, a light gold colour and slightly darker points. Remove from the oven, cover with a tea towel and leave to cool completely overnight.

The next day (a few hours before you want to eat it), make the chocolate ganache by melting together the chocolate and chestnut purée. Add the double cream and mix until completely combined. Leave in a cool place for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer until doubled in thickness.

To assemble the final dish, start by whipping the cream and icing sugar together until it forms a soft mass of whipped cream. Place the bottom layer of meringue on a serving plate and then alternate layers of ganache, cream and meringue, ending with the top layer you made earlier. Finish with a final dusting of cocoa powder, and serve in big, delicious wedges.