Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey

Muttabaq (2)

Well, not just for Big Man, but for some dear friends who came to visit recently. Time for desserts, sitting around after a meal chatting until the candles burn down, sipping coffee and eating “just one more little piece” even though the waistband is straining a little.

To be honest, most of my girlfriends are not big dessert eaters. Not for any health or diet reasons, we’re just more fans of all things savoury. A good compromise was found once more in the pages of Jerusalem, the cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I decided to make Muttabaq, a delicious dessert made with layers of buttery filo pastry and filled with creamy cheese.

If you want a look at the original version, hope over to see how Chaise Longue of Olives and Artichokes made it.  I decided to add a little Chica twist of my own.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of filo pastry
  • 100g melted butter (the original recipe calls for about 50g more but I found I didn’t need it all)
  • 2 x 250g packs of ricotta (Check out Chgo John’s method if you want to make you own)
  • 1 x 250g pack of mascarpone (the original recipe calls for goat’s cheese but I have a goat’s cheese hating pal)
  • A large handful of chopped pistachios

Then my additions

  • About a dozen fresh dates, finely chopped
  • About half a cup of chopped walnuts
  • The grated rind of an orange
  • A tablespoon of icing or caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Using half the packet of filo, place layers of pastry in a deep baking dish brushing with melted butter between layers. Cut off any edges that curl up the side of the dish. Mix together the cheese, orange rind and sugar and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle over the dates and walnuts and then place the remaining pastry over the top in layers, brushing again with butter as you go. Tuck the outside edges of the top pastry section under the bottom half, brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle over the pistachios. Cut into squares, without cutting right through to the bottom

Muttabaq Pistachios (1)

Bake for25 mins approx. at 225 degrees (or a hot oven) until golden brown. Meanwhile make up a lemon sugar syrup using 250g sugar, 90mls of water and the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

When the pastry comes out of the oven, pour over the sugar syrup (it seems like a lot but just keep going). Serve just warm but it’s also good cold.

To accompany the Muttabaq I made a Moroccan inspired dish of sliced oranges sprinkled with chopped mint, pomegranate seeds, rosewater, sugar and cinnamon. Very pretty and fresh.

Oranges & Rosewater (1)

We talked for hours, we reminisced, we laughed…now that’s what I call a perfect evening. And now I wish all of you and your loved ones peace and joy over Easter and I hope you all get to enjoy some wonderful food, time and laughter together.

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Creamed Cauliflower Soup

Who needs bouquets when your loved one brings you cauliflower?!

Recently Big Man came home with one of his horticultural “surprises” for me.  Five cauliflowers!  We both love cauliflower, but after giving some away and eating cauliflower with vinaigrette, buttered cauliflower and cauliflower cheese, we were still looking at a cooked cauliflower in the fridge wondering what to do with it.

Inspired by a potato and garlic soup recipe over at Rufus´ Food and Spirits Guide, this cauliflower´s destiny was decided.  Of course, I was in a rush and didn´t have exactly the ingredients to hand, so I made do.

I loved the idea of the roasted garlic, but as I had nothing else to cook in the oven, it felt extravagant to turn the oven on just to roast one head of garlic.   I decided to experiment and try to cook it in the microwave to see how it turned out.  I usually use my microwave to store my bread in (a kind of electrical bread bin if you like!) so for me to actually cook something in my microwave is rather unusual…

I put a whole head of garlic in on medium for about 3 minutes and I was amazed when it was done.  Of course, there were no lovely toasty edges, but the garlic smelt great and each clove was perfectly soft and ready to pop out of its skin to use.

I put the cloves of garlic in a saucepan with a little olive oil and warmed them through whilst mashing them with the back of a spoon.  I added the cooked cauliflower broken into florets, a teaspoon of ground cumin seeds and covered with vegetable stock (although water would also be fine).  After bringing it to the boil I reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

In the absence of cream I then added half a cup of milk and a tablespoon of mascarpone cheese and then blended with a stick blender.

A few left over rashers of bacon which I also cooked in the microwave – I was feeling adventurous – were cut into small pieces and sprinkled over to finish the dish off.  I put a kitchen towel on a plate, put the bacon on top and covered with another sheet of kitchen towel and cooked on high for 5 minutes.  This gave me beautifully dry, crisp bacon, and no greasy pan to wash.

Perfect!  And I now officially love my microwave.