Posts Tagged ‘Dessert’

Maryam’s Chocolate Crepes

This is Maryam’s recipe. Kind of. It was Monday and we had just spent our entire weekend cooped inside. Maryam had a fever since Friday which meant she was off school. The weekend was spent trying to tear Hassan off Maryam as she rested on the sofa. The other half was spent pacifying Maryam as Hassan kept destroying her Lego creations. 

You know the usual. She made, he destroyed. Don’t ask. So when Monday rolled round, I was relieved we had plans to go to the beach with friends. Followed by a picnic of course. Beaches are aways associated with picnics, yes? At least they are in our world.

‘Mummy, what are you making to take to the beach?’ Maryam enquired. ‘I want something with chocolate, lots of chocolate.’ A giggle escaped her lips. I had no choice but to agree- who could turn down chocolate right? We decided on crepes, slathered with Nutella and sealed with bananas.

As she did her usual routine of cracking eggs and telling me the same story she tells me every time she cracks eggs- that of her 21 year old cousin that is scared to break eggs, she asked, ‘How about chocolate crepes?’ And I thought why not?

As the batter whizzed and spun in the blender and we both eyed the bubbles frothing, I saw a tiny hand scooping more cocoa powder. ‘It just doesn’t look chocolaty enough.’ Who was I to disagree. So instead of three, we put four tablespoons. Just right.

So that makes it Maryam’s recipe right. She beamed when I said we’ll call these Maryam’s crepes from now. ‘And I cracked the eggs all by myself and I wasn’t even scared……’ And she went on to repeat the same story for the nth time. 

After a hard day picking shells and sand at the beach for a special project (again, dont ask!), we feasted on these crepes. Some with bananas, some with raspberries. All with nutella though. And my Hassan, of course he joined in too. He’s also just learnt to suck with a straw. He is utterly obsessed with straws now. And I with him. 

Maryam’s Chocolate Crepes

1 cup all purpose flour
4 tbs cocoa powder

Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup soda water
2 eggs
2 tbs butter, melted and cooled
Melted butter for frying

Nutella, sliced bananas, raspberries, icing sugar and roasted hazel nuts to serve

Mix all the ingredients in a blender and mix until the batter is smooth and lump free. If lumps remain, sieve the batter. Let it rest for at least an hour or more.

In a non stick frying pan set over medium heat, ladle approximately 1/3 cup batter at a time (the amount will depend on how big your pan is) and swirl the batter around the pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes. You can add a few drops of butter to help lift the edges off to flip the pancake over. Cook for a further minute on the other side. Serve immediately with nutella, bananas, raspberries, icing sugar and hazel nuts.

Makes 10 crepes.

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Creamy Date Pots

I have been meaning to make these creamy dessert pots for a while now. But truth to be to told, January was a long month for me. It was a month of of anxiety, a month of waiting, a month where life seemed to be on hold. A month where nothing seemed to matter.

I had my PET scan after two long years to see if my cancer was still in remission. The two weeks it took to get my results back really were the longest of my life. I was always on edge, jumping every time the phone rang, nervous, scared. 

I felt as though I couldn’t make any plans. Just in case. What if the results showed activity spots? More treatment? That would mean I wouldn’t be able to attend the Cirque du Soleil show that I had my heart set on. And I would be in hospital again. Who would plait Maryam’s hair each morning? Pick her up from school each afternoon? Bake her favorite muffins? Check on her before bed just to be sure she was still tucked in? Would I miss Hassan’s first steps? His first real word? Would he remember me when I came back from hospital?

On the other hand, I imagined the doctor calling me, telling me everything looked clear and wonderful. I pictured myself laughing out loud with joy, thanking him over and over. I ran over the scenario of giddily calling my parents on the phone and breathlessly telling them the good news as fast as the words would escape my quivering mouth.

It was an immense relief when I did hear back. ‘Everything looks wonderful.’ I won’t forget those melodious, beautiful words. The scrambled calls to my family that followed. The thankfulness in my heart and relief. The sheer exhaustion of worrying for so long had drained me and that night, I slept with my children. Those hugs that night- I think they both wondered why I held them so tightly and so closely.

The date pots were a dessert I’d been willing to make throughout that time. The ingredients were always on the counter, the intention was there. The heart wasn’t. But I knew their time had come when I bought myself these new teacups as a celebratory gift. They would be perfect together. It was a sweet, creamy, dreamy end to a difficult month. 

Creamy Date Pots

2 cups cream
1/2 cup milk
3 tbs caster sugar
3 tbs date dhibs (syrup)
1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
chopped pistachios to serve

Add all the ingredients except the pistachios to a heavy bottom saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 mins. Let it cool slightly before pouring into cups or bowls. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. Serve with chopped pistachios. 

Serves 4-6 depending on cup size. 

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Blackberry Custard Tarts

She comes every year, yet I cannot get enough of her. She’s like the house guests we always look forward to, making sure to lay clean crisp sheets on the bed for them and lavender bags in the cupboard. After a few days we grow tired of them and crave to have our house back in order.
This time was no different. When she arrived, her bags were bursting at the seams. She brought with her berries and currants. Zucchini and cantaloupes. I loved seeing the layers upon layers of gems that slowly came out of her suitcase. My heart was giddy and my brain throbbed with menu plans.

To fill her days, we would go for a swim to cool down. Of course, a popsicle had to follow. She loved having us devour melon with sea salt and nibble on cherries. She beckoned us for picnics under the shade.  My most favorite thing about her though is the visitors she brought with her. Whilst she was here, my nieces visited. Then there was Akber’s brother. Finally, friends from far away graced our humble abode.
Every morning, she welcomed us with beams of golden light darting through the lace curtains. Every morning…..without fail. Even when she was sad, she never threatened rain. She was our alarm clock to wake, our cue to put the kids to sleep when she set.

Towards the end, she unraveled treasures of ripened peaches, dusky plums. We ate them over the kitchen counter, their juices trickling down our elbows. Then, unashamedly, we licked our elbows. She didn’t judge. Just when we thought that was the last of her bounty, she surprised us with one last present. Little nuggets of sweetness. In different shades of red, ruby, crimson. Tomatoes. We made soups, roasted them with honey, ate them as is.
This time though, She behaved and didn’t outstay her welcome. Gave us enough to savor but also had us begging for more. So until next time. Summer……we will miss you. But before she bid us adieu, she let us in on a little secret.

‘Shortly, someone very special will visit you- her name is Autumn. Someone that will bring you the smells of fall, cinnamon and nutmeg. She will have boxes upon boxes of apples and pears. She will entice you to wear your best angora sweaters and to dance to the pitter patter of gentle rain. You will know she is here when you see an envelop of fog in the morning.
Don’t forget to make her a warm cup of flavored tea when she arrives. And in exchange she will lay a carpet of leaves for you- rusty shades of orange and red to thank you with. However, don’t be so fickle and forget me. I am sure to return. As I always do, year after year.’
We will miss you Summer. You are always welcome, anytime.

Blackberry Custard Tarts

Pastry Crust:
200 gms butter, room temperature
100 gms sugar
1 egg
300- 350 gms all purpose flour
Custard filling:
300ml double cream
1/4 cup + 1 tbs sugar
3 egg yolks, lightly whisked
1 vanilla bean, deseeded and stick discarded
1/2 cup blackberries, halved
To make tart bases, cream the butter and sugar using the paddle attachment on your mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Stir in 300 grams of flour. If the mixture doesn’t clean the sides of the bowl, keep adding more flour a tablespoon at a time until it does. Shape the dough into a disc and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Grease your tart bases and roll out the tart dough using minimal flour to a 1/4 inch thickness. Fill the tart bases and use your fingers to mould tart dough into shape. Pierce the tarts with a fork and bake for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.
In the mean time, make the filling by mixing all the filling ingredients together until incorporated. Fill tart shells and with custard filling and place 5-6 blackberry halves into each tart. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes until custard is set.  
Can be eaten immediately but we refrigerated ours and ate them cold.
Filling enough for 8 tarts. Leftover dough can be frozen

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Cantaloupe, Lime and Mint Slushy

‘Are we going to Abu Dhaaaaabi tomorrow?’ Maryam asked in her sing song voice. Those that know her will know what I mean when I say her sing song voice. Akber gave me that look- the one questioning me why I tell her these plans so early.

We both knew the consequences. That is all she asked the whole day, every hour! Not only did she wake when the first flitter of morning sun seeped past her blinds the next day, she was ready to leave by 7am. Yes, that is right. And so, at a more respectable 10am, both kids were packed into the car and one picnic basket of snacks that Akber remarked could feed an army in the desert.

I had been meaning to visit the Grand Mosque (or Sheikh Zayed Mosque) ever since I arrived as a tourist in Dubai more than five years ago. One failed attempt two years ago occurred when the imposing structure was within arm’s reach but the spaghetti off roads surrounding the mosque meant it still remained elusive.

Not this time though. We carefully planned our route. Akber had some work in town so it was about 4:30 or so when we reached. Perfect time for a sunset tour of the mosque and the best time to take photos. Although still very hot, the mosque was bathed in a golden aura. Through the heat, it looked as though the numerous minarets were dancing.

As my feet burrowed into the plush, plump carpets, I was taken in by the light and colors. The light that bounced off the shimmering chandeliers, the light that was reflected off of the jeweled scriptures, that amazing, dreamy light. It took my breath away.

At every step, there was a sight to inspire, rows and rows upon rows of gilded columns, enchanting calligraphy, stories behind every corner. I had many questions that our guide automatically knew the answer to without hesitation.

As I sat near one of the many reflective pools, I took in all the beauty, the peace and calming atmosphere. Around me, I saw faces of every culture, every color, every age all gathered as equals. Beautiful. I highly recommend you to visit this marvelous structure if you are in UAE.

And this drink? Well, after a long and hot day taking photographs at every opportunity, this is exactly the kind of cooling drink I needed. We all needed actually. It is a forgiving recipe- all the ingredients can be varied according to your taste.

The best part is- we have had it as a slushy, a popsicle, a sorbet, a granita. Same recipe, many ways to enjoy it. I hope you will give it a try in some form before summer slips away. Ramadhan Kareem everyone.

Cantaloupe, Lime and Mint Slushy

sugar syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

1 cantaloupe- I used half honeydew and half cantaloupe
juice of 5 limes
3 tbs chopped mint
1 tbs lime zest
sugar syrup to taste
3 cups ice cubes

To make the sugar syrup, boil water and sugar until the sugar has just dissolved. Depending on the sweetness of the melons, you will not use up all the sugar syrup which can be frozen as ice cubes to use some other time.

To make the slushy, blend all the ingredients at high speed in a blender. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Makes 5 glasses.

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Eton Mess Trifle

To say it has been humid lately would be an understatement. And hot too. My hair is resembles an Afro wig, my skin sweaty to the point that it is difficult to separate skin from clothes, my eye glasses fog every time I leave the apartment.

I am typing this as I sit under a a cloud of billowing cold air blasting from the AC. Sipping a cold ambrosia melon, lemongrass and bruised mint granita to nurse this heat hangover. My eyes are heavy, drooping from the weight of the sun. The sun which only grazed my body for those few minutes as I walked briskly from the elevator to my car on my way to to do the school run. That was more than enough.

Yet, we aren’t even in the thick of summer. The temperatures are still set to soar, this is the mere beginning. We have already been trying in vain to beat the heat by lounging by the pool, playing with sprinklers, opening the fridge for a gasp of cool air.

To keep cool in this weather, I usually find solace in the form of slushies….any fruit will do. Whirled with a few bricks of ice, sometimes yoghurt and a touch of honey or sugar. We’re ready to go…..and when I say go, I mean fast. Or you’ll see it melt before you.

But before I give you the recipe for the melon slushy, let’s talk about these strawberries. The ones that disappeared from our Farmer’s markets weeks ago. The ones that I barely had a chance to nibble on before their time was up.

Yet, whose sweetness still lingers in my mouth. Strawberry season may be over in Dubai but we’re still able to find them in their troves thanks to American and British seasons. And nothing cools and soothes like strawberries with cream. A gentle cooling balm in this scorching weather.

I decided to make this classic British dessert with a Middle Eastern twist. A splash of rosewater in the meringues and a scattering of pistachio nuts. You may leave both these out if you are so inclined. Meringues has also been on my wish list to both bake and eat for the first time.

My first few attempts were disastrous- sugar syrup weeped from the meringues during baking (I didn’t beat the caster sugar and egg whites sufficiently. Make sure it doesn’t feel grainy or else beat them more). My second attempt didn’t even make it ot the oven. I added vinegar and the meringue curdled. But third time lucky and one more dessert marked off the bucket list.

A slushy melts before me and an afternoon nap beckons so I will be off. Stay cool until next time…..

Eton Mess Trifle

3 egg whites
2 pinches salt
3/4 caster sugar
1 tsp rosewater (optional)
handful chopped pistachio nuts
10 ounces strawberries
2 tbs caster sugar
500 ml whipping cream
4 tbs caster sugar
chopped pistachios for garnish

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Centigrade and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Tip the egg whites into a clean and dry mixing bowl and start beating at medium speed. Add the salt, Whisk until frothy. Whisking at high speed, start adding the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking 3-4 seconds between each addition. Whisk until stiff peaks form. The meringue will appear very glossy and puffy like clouds. It should not feel gritty (If it does, keep whisking until sugar has dissolved). Add the rose essence if desired and whisk for 30 seconds until incorporated. Scoop a large tablespoon of the mixture onto the baking tray, using another tablespoon to ease it onto the parchment paper. Leave a 1 inch gap between meringues. Sprinkle with pistachio and bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hrs, rotating after 1 hour. I baked mine for 1 hour and 20 minutes to achieve a crispy outer shell and a marshmallow centre. Bake for longer if you’d like it crispy all the way through. Turn the oven off and leave the door open. Allow meringues to cool in open oven. Break roughly by hand.

Hull the strawberries and chop roughly. Add the caster sugar and allow to macerate for 30 minutes. Whiz into a puree. Beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form (I added sugar to mine but that is optional). Fold the strawberry puree into the cream roughly to create a marbled effect.

To assemble the trifle, start with a layer of strawberry and cream followed by a layer of broken meringues and lastly, a sprinkle of pistachio nuts. Repeat layers 3-4 times and serve immediately.

Makes 5-6 trifles depending on glass size. Unbroken meringues can be stored in airtight container for 2 weeks.

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The Colors of Tanzania and Pineapple Mango and Coconut Crumble

Come, pull up a chair. Get cozy and comfortable. I’m going to take you on a little journey and share with you a small part of me. A glimpse into my childhood, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, where my parents still live, where the big five can be found and peacocks roam free, where the ocean has a hundred hues of blue, a haven of peace. This is Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

There is so much to tell you about Dar es Salaam- this post won’t even scratch the surface. Exotic, colorful, lush, tropical. As soon as you land and the rush of hot hair hits you hard, you know you’ve arrived.

We had glorious sunshine followed by tremendous outpours. Such stark contrasts. Lush green vegetation cocooned by the deep azure seas followed by arid and red dry land. Every day we had a different activity planned. Naturally, we spent a lot of time at the various local beaches. But Dar es Salaam has so much more to offer.  

There were visits to crowded local markets in Kinondoni where you would find more exotic produce such as avocados and the crunchiest variety of pears I have ever eaten. Or the more local market in Kariakoo where vendors stalls are literally piled on top of another, produce piled like little mountains on each table. And sellers hollering and jostling to get your attention. The place is bustling.

We visited The Slipway- a local tourist district from where you can take fishing trips, cruise the Indian ocean, eat local fare and just watch the sun set. We bought some hand crafted wooden souveniers and local ground coffee to bring back for friends. I was thrilled to catch a man skillfully chisseling at some wood to make a delicate carving. We were enamoured with the colorful and saturated ‘tinga tinga’ paintings- a style of painting developed in Dar es Salaam.

Then there was the food, oh the street food. The grilled corn or ‘makaai’ sold at every street corner-vigorously scrubbed with keffir lime and a generous helping of chili powder and salt. Deep fried ‘mihogo’ (cassava) drenched in a speciality sauce of local scotch bonnet pepper and tomatoes. And one of my favorites- mishkaki. Tender pieces of lamb eaten right off the skewer. Coconut water after each meal- ‘ngumu kyasi, maji tamu’ (slightly hard, but with sweet water we would tell the vendor). Yes, every day. Those are the little things we miss here.

We made sure to eat at least one meal a day at home. Infact, the first meal we had as soon as we came back from the airport had been planned weeks in advance. Slow cooked chicken stew which is then barbequed and simmered again in a rich creamy coconut sauce, ‘kuku paka’ similar to this. With sticky coconut rice on the side. Typical African fare.

As much as we ate at home, we ventured to quaint local restaurants from time to time. Especially those dotted along the beaches. At Mediterraneo, we ate fresh off the boat kingfish which was simply grilled. No spice, no fuss but full of flavor with a side of pickled garlic and scotch bonnet peppers. Definitely one to replicate at home. But that’s another post. 

Evenings were spent feeding the peacocks that wandered from the fauna and flora garden we live next to. Maryam wasn’t keen at first but she quickly warmed to their cries in the evenings. She was chasing them in the garden and before we knew it, they were more weary of her. At night, the days’ culinary adventures were digested with a few slices of papaya sprinkled with passion fruit and a dash of smoked paprika.

We were also lucky enough to visit a dairy farm on our last day. It wasn’t on the agenda, sort of just happened by accident. On the way to a picnic at my aunt’s beach house, I came across a herd of cows- a beautiful sea of velvety browns and blacks. A masaai was leading them to a nearby field to graze. You could tell they were happy cows. 

I made a few quick calls and it seemed we were destined to visit. The farm was owned by a lively Greek man who just happened to be a family friend. His passion for providing his family an open and green space, a place where nature roams freely, a place nature meets nurture led him to develop the organic farm.

Each of the twenty five cows are milked manually. Completely non commercial, the milk produced is given to local school children in the area. When he wants to show a token of appreciation to someone, he will gift them a cow. Anyone who knows local Tanzanians would now how much how heartfelt and revered a gift like that is. Such an inspiring man.

And so we watched a cow being milked and its baby calf being fed from a huge bottle. We were treated to smooth and creamy homemade yoghurt. Eaten Greek style with a dollop of honey. Simple, wholesome and so moreish. We were made to feel part of their family. It was a day to remember. The perfect end to a wonderful trip.

And so we are back in Dubai. But not empty handed. We have these memories locked in our hearts, our bellies are full with the beautiful meals we had and these photographs to remember good times spent. And these pineapples. I knew they would somehow find their way into my suitcase from the moment I had my first bite. Their sweet fragrance still lingers in my suitcase.

And that is not all I brought back. There was fiery red scotch bonnet peppers- fiery in appearance and taste. ‘Mali maao’, local keffir limes that I have been sprinkling on anything in sight. Very strong and pungent with a crackled green skin. We’ll be cooking with them in the next few days and I can’t wait to show you the results.

I mentioned this crumble before and that is the first thing I made when I came back, to celebrate the foods of my country. I added some seasonal mango and toasted coconut in the crumble. If you haven’t added coconut into your crumble before, you must. Tanzanian produce with exotic local flavors. Each bite brings back good times…..until we visit again.

Pineapple Mango and Coconut Crumble

1 large mango- cubed
1 pmedium pineappe- cubed
3 tbs muscivado sugar
1 vanilla pod desseded
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup muscavado sugar
5 tbs cold butter- cubed
1/2 cup dessicated coconut- toasted
3 tbs ice cold water

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Toss the first four ingredients on a baking tray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

In a food processor, pulse the flour and butter until it just resembles bread crumbs. Incorporate the sugar and coconut. Add the water and rake gently with a fork until some clumps are formed. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Line your baking tray or ramekins with fruit and top with crumble. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown (time will depend on size of each serving). Serve hot with custard, cream or ice cream and toasted coconut flakes.

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Strawberry and Pistachio Cake

I am in bed typing this post, a worn out 20 year old throw that I used since I was 5 years old comforting me and a pineapple and mango coconut crumble sitting on the bedside table. Piping hot, so much so, that you can you still see the juice bubbling. With custard on the side. Crumble with custard. ALWAYS with custard.

We have had stormy weather on and off and today is one of those days. You may have even heard on the news last week when Tanzania was issued a tsunami warning. Incessant rain, dull grey skies, a few strikes of thunder. Such a contrast to the bright blues I posted about last week.

Maryam is enthralled with this weather and glued to the window, sticking her hands out of the grill to catch a few drops every now and then, giddy with excitement. You see, Dubai has never experienced rain like this before. Capturing little sparkly drops in her tiny palms.

I am still in Dar es Salaam, having extended my trip by a week. Although I have been taking photo after photo to show you my second home, my country, I have really missed this space. This blog, writing. YOU. And so, here I am. Doing what I love.

You must be wondering then where these bright spring inspired images of strawberries have come from? It was a strawberries and pistachio cake I baked a few weeks ago before leaving Dubai. BBC Good Food Middle East did a short interview with me for their April issue and asked for a spring inspired recipe.
I knew I wanted to do a fruity dessert. Light and refreshing, oozing with fruit. And so this strawberry and pistachio cake was born. A simple cake elevated by using ground pistachio meal and raw pistachio milk. Then generously studded with tiny fragrant berries on top. The red of the strawberries and the jade green pistachios makes for a striking visual picture.

No frosting needed here- just a simple dusting of icing sugar and a warm cup of tea. And as for that crumble I mentioned earlier- well I’ve already polished that down. Slurping the last bit with creamy custard as I type. But I’m sure I’ll be making it again when I head back home. To savor the taste and the memories of home. With Tanzanian pineapples naturally that I hope to take back with me.
Catch you when I’m back in Dubai.
Strawberry Pistachio Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp soda bicarbonate
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbs butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup raw pistachio milk (can use normal milk)
4 tbs pistachio meal
Strawberries, hulled and cut into half (approx 1/2 cup)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade and grease a 9 inch cake pan with butter. In a bowl, mix together the first four ingredients. Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape sides of the bowl if necessary. With the mixer speed on low, add the pistachio milk alternating with the flour mixture until just mixed. Stir in the pistachio meal. Put batter into cake pan and place strawberry halves on top of the batter. Press them in very slightly into the batter. Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

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Cardamom Crepes With Rhubarb Compote

‘What’s that Mamma?’ she asked, a curious twinkle in her eye. I glanced over to see where her finger was pointing. ‘That’s rhubarb,’ I said. An incredulous giggle escaped her. ‘That’s not Rabab!’ It was my turn to laugh. Rabab is a friend of Maryams and she certainly doesn’t look like a ruby red sword sitting comfortably on the supermarket shelf.

She grabbed the rhubarb from the shelf- ‘See Mamma, this isn’t Rabab.’ I explained to her that rhubarb was actually a fruit. One that we hadn’t eaten or experimented with ever. ‘Like strawberries?’ Hmmmmm, not quite. We put it into the trolley and I promised we would transform it into something magical.

When we got home, I had forgotten but she had not. ‘Can I eat Rabab?’ As I carefully washed the woody stalk, I wondered what I would do with it. I have never eaten or cooked with rhubarb so I knew I wanted to do something simple.

And what could be more simple than compote- sophisticated and uncomplicated. Maryam grabbed a small piece and put it into her mouth. The pained expression on her face told me she wasn’t a fan. ‘Once it’s cooked, it will taste much nicer, sweeter.’

I quickly tossed the pretty rubies in sugar whilst throwing together the rest of the ingredients in the blender for the crepes. In no time at all, we had paper thin cardamom crepes topped with the prettiest pink compote I have ever seen. Some finely chopped pistachios to garnish….just because everything tastes better with nuts.

Maryam was unsure about putting the cooked rhubarb into her mouth- once bitten, twice shy, no? With some reassurance, she did. Although there wasn’t that pained expression on her face, she didn’t ask for seconds. That’s OK though. She doesn’t have to like every fruit. At least she tried though.

The crepes, however, she loved. Topped with plain icing sugar. Gobble gobble gobble and then lick lick lick the dust of icing sugar from around her lips. ‘Yummy in my tummy,’ she squealed. I had never heard that expression from her before but it’s once I hope to hear many many times.

And so that is the story of how we both discovered rhubarb!

Cardamom Crepes with Rhubarb Compote

1 ½ cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup milk
½ cup soda water
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs butter, melted and cooled
½ tsp cardamom powder
Melted butter for frying
2 cups chopped rhubarb
¼ cup caster sugar

Mix all the ingredients in a blender and mix until the batter is smooth and lump free. If lumps remain, sieve the batter. Let it rest for at least an hour or more.

In a non stick frying pan set over medium heat, ladle approximately 1/3 cup batter at a time (the amount will depend on how big your pan is) and swirl the batter around the pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes. You can add a few drops of butter to help lift the edges off to flip the pancake over. Cook for a further minute on the other side. Serve immediately with icing sugar or rhubarb compote.
To make the compote, cook the rhubarb and sugar until the rhubarb is soft (less than 5 minutes). Serve with crepes warm.
Makes 10 crepes.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart with Peanut Praline Brittle

Every once in a while, I have the urge to declutter and cleanse. Every part of my life- from my make up bag to the pantry as well as the fridge and freezer. There is nothing better than opening your wardrobe to find all your clothes arranged neatly according to color. Or opening the kitchen cupboard and staring in awe at all the jars labeled alphabetically.

Yes, you could say I am rather obsessed with being a clean freak- everything must be orderly and organised. This year, Maryam joined in my spring cleaning spree. Together, we went through her toys and systematically sorted out what she loves to play with and what is currently tossed to one side. As I kept putting more and mroe toys to the ‘chairty’ pile, every time I turned my head the pile became smaller and smaller.

She would putting the toys back saying she still ‘needed’ them. In the end, we collectively agreed on what toys she would be giving away to those less fortunate. It was a great activity to do together, to make her realise the importance of charity, of giving, of sharing. Yet, it also made me more conscious of how wasteful we can be.

Perhaps the best part of cleaning sprees is that moment of discovery. When you find hidden money in the sofa, when you stumble upon an outfit that is almost as good as new, when leftover tart dough is unearthed from the depths of your freezer.

And that is exactly how this tart came to be. I had made this tart dough a while back when I made these pear crumble tarts for Mowie’s magazine. I decided to top them with smooth and velvety chocolate mousse and a kiss of peanut butter. Then you bite into it and there is a crackling explosion in your mouth. It’s the crackle of peanut praline brittle. It was the icing on the cake after a hard day of cleaning.

Me and Maryam quietly ate one each at the end of the day, a twinkle of excitement in both our eyes. She- because she chanced upon a singing stuffed toy in her toy box. I- because I discovered a long lost yellow dress, perfect for spring.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart with Peanut Praline Brittle

Tart dough:
200 gms butter, room temperature
100 gms sugar
1 egg
300- 350 gms all purpose flour

Mousse filling:
200 ml whipping cream
1 tbs peanut butter
50 gms milk chocolate
100 gms dark chocolate

Peanut praline brittle:
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs water

To make tart bases, cream the butter and sugar using the paddle attachment on your mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Stir in 300 grams of flour. If the mixture doesn’t clean the sides of the bowl, keep adding more flour a tablespoon at a time until it does. Shape the dough into a disc and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Grease your tart bases and roll out the tart dough using minimal flour to a 1/4 inch thickness. Fill the tart bases and cut off any excess (can be stored in the freezer). Pierce the tarts with a fork and bake for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

Place the peanuts on baking paper placed over a baking tray. To make the peanut praline brittle, mix the sugar and water in a heavy bottom saucepan and bring to the boil (do NOT stir but swirl the pan). Boil for a minute and reduce the heat. Simmer mixture until it turns a golden color. Quickly pour the syrup over the peanuts and tilt the tray to coat all the peanuts. Work quickly as the toffee sets very quickly. Refrigerate until completely cool. Place in a food processor and pulse a few times.

To make the mousse, whip the cream to soft peaks. Heat chocolate and peanut butter until melted and fully incorporated over a bain marie (can use a microwave). Cool completely and quickly fold into the whipped cream. Spread into the cooled tart bases and sprinkle with peanut praline brittle. Can serve as is or refrigerate and serve cold.

Makes 6 tarts. Extra dough can be frozen.

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Chocolate Nutella and Hazel Nut Brownie Cake

We haven’t spent much time together. You see, I’ve been busy and she is confused. Before, my world revolved around her. She would be the first thing I set my eyes on when I woke. Or rather, when she woke me up. And the last thing I checked on before I went to bed. Just to make sure she was still tucked under her blanket.

But recently her world has been turned topsy turvy, she is in a midst of a hurricane. She doesn’t quite understand why. Why I’m always in a hurry? Why we don’t go to the park EVERY day? Why I don’t feed her EVERY meal time? Why I don’t drop her to nursery anymore?

Why do we never mange to finish the story at bed time? Why don’t we have play dates anymore? Why don’t we spend hours playing in the bath nowadays? Why do I have to share my toys? ‘Why’ has been a prominent question in our home lately. Sometimes I have an answer, a lot of the times, I evade the question.

Whilst Maryam is loving being the big sister and having a young brother to cuddle, play with and experiment on (!), she hasn’t been liking the fact that I cannot spend all my time with her. There just aren’t that many hours in the day anymore. But I had a plan. A surprise to make it all better again, to make ir right, to make her happy. Like old times.

The first thing she asked when I had gotten back from hospital was, ‘Mummy, can we make ‘loodles’ and carrot cupcakes?’ So I knew baking had to be involved. I told her the night before that we would make a brownie cake for Valentine’s. And a card for Papa. She was excited with a twinkle in her eye. ‘I’ll chop the nuts. And mix.’

And that’s exactly what we did for Valentine’s. I measured. She chopped, whisked and mixed. And tasted of course. That is always part of the plan.  Together, we baked and for a little while, there was a pause in the WHY. That is how we spent our Valentine’s. Simple. But with a decadent treat. A chocolate brownie cake with hazel nuts and Nutella. It was gooey, fudgy and the perfect end to our dinner.

Chocolate Nutella and Hazel Nut Brownie Cake

Brownie Cake
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup + 2 tbs dark chocolate, roughly chopped
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup hazel nut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa

Nutella Layer
1/2 cup Nutella spread
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped hazel nuts

Ganache Layer
1 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup milk chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tbs cream
1/8 cup butter, room temperature

Chopped hazel nuts to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade and line a rectangular pan with baking paper. In a bowl set over a a pot of boiling water, melt the butter and chcolate until smooth (can use a microwave). In whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Add dry ingredients into the liquid mixture until just incorporated. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs. Refrigerate brownie cake after it has cooled.

In the mean time, mix all the ingredients of the Nutella layer. Spread over cooled brownie cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or so or until it has set.

In the mean time, prepeare the ganache by melting all the ingredients in a bowl set over boiling water. Pour ganache over the set Nutella layer and immediately garnish with chopped hazel nuts. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or so to set the ganache layer.

Serve cold. Makes 18 pieces depending on pan size. Leave to cool out of the fridge for 5 minutes before slicing

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