Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Broccoli and Feta Cheese Pie

I wish I had something more Halloween-appropriate for today's post :/  Last year my flatmates and I had an amazing Halloween party where we had made lots of Halloween party snacks. If I'm involved in a party, there will always be homemade food.  No chips and supermarket-cupcakes.  I miss my flatmates, Jess and Sarah. 

Anyway, I'll keep this short and sweet because I'm not at my best today.  The days are starting to get gloomier and gloomier here, and certain people are stressing me out more and more.  
 This is a broccoli and feta cheese pie with a whole wheat crust.  You know me, always trying to be healthy.  I feel bad because the whole wheat crust recipe isn't mine, yet I don't remember where I got it from.  I usually copy and paste the url but I forgot :(  So, it's not mine. But enjoy.  I'm really fussy about these things because I had to write an essay on copyright last year and did a lot of research and stuff.  Being accused of plagiarism is one of my biggest fears. 
Whole Wheat Crust
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1 tsp salt
113g (1 stick) butter, very cold, cut into cubes
4 tbsp cold milk
1 egg yolk plus 1 tbsp of water for egg wash

Broccoli and Feta Filling
2 heads broccoli, finely chopped
150g feta cheese, crumpled
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 eggs
pinch ground nutmeg
Make the pastry
You can either do this by hand or in a food processor.
In a food processor: simply first put in the flours and salt, pulse a few times to mix that, then add the butter and milk and pulse a few times more until it comes together as a dough.
By hand: first mix the flours and salt together in a bowl.  Run your hands under cold water so that they become cold, and mix the cubed butter and milk into the flour until it becomes like coarse breadcrumbs. Don't over mix.  Then just try to press everything together so that it becomes a dough. Wrap in clingfilm, put in the fridge and let that rest for at least half an hour. 

Make the filling

-In the mean time, fry the onion in a large pan with some oil until it becomes translucent.  Don't let it color.
-Add the garlic and broccoli and fry for about 5 minutes, adding water if it becomes too dry

-Let the mixture cool, and then add the two eggs, nutmeg, seasoning, and mix well

-Take the dough out, roll it out so that it's a few inches bigger than your pie dish. Carefully place the dough into the pie dish (an easy way is to roll the dough onto the rolling pin, so that it's wrapped around it, and then unroll/unwrap it out onto the dish).  If you have a lot of dough hanging out, then cut it off and use for decoration if you wish. 
-Pour the filling in. Decorate with remaining dough if you want, and brush the pastry with the egg wash (whisk together the yolk and water)
-Put in a preheated oven of 180C and bake for 30 minutes. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Dobos Torte [Happy Birthday Happy Belly]

My baby's 1! I've loved having this blog for the past year.  I love forcing myself to keep up the commitment of updating regularly, I love having somewhere to share my food obsessions, and I love just having somewhere to rant about my days.  And you know what? I love having something to be proud of.  As scared as I am to admit it, I do see this as an achievement and I am proud of it.

I only really discovered my love for cooking in university.  I had never been particularly good at anything before.  I'm hopeless at sports, mediocre at art, and just good enough at academics.  I had always loved food and cooked a bit here and there, but I never really properly discovered my passion until I came to university.  I'm not saying I'm particularly good at cooking, in fact, I think with just a bit of passion and some research and experience, anybody can cook.  However, I did improve.  I came from cooking raw chicken served in orange juice in my first year in university, to making a 9-layer dobos torte! haha.  Honestly, I've always been scared of being confident in anything, because I know that there's such a thin line between confidence and arrogance, and I'm terrified of crossing that line.  Arrogance is simply obnoxious.  Not only does it make that person irritating but it makes others feel bad about themselves, and there's no quality worse than that of being able to make someone feel that way.  I suppose this fear has stopped me from being even secretly confident because I accuse myself of being arrogant whenever I have such thoughts. 

It's funny because that's why, even after a year of Happy Belly, I'm still not confident in my cooking.  I'm always so surprised when people say I'm a good cook simply based on my blog.  Oh if they only knew how I'm able to photoshop photos to make them more delicious-looking hah.  Cooking's just one of those things where I feel can't screw up if you put your heart into it.  Some are better than others, but I'm nowhere near the level of the people that are really good at it.  But you know what, it's okay.  What I've got, what I can cook for myself and others, makes me happy.  It may not be fantastic, but I'm still proud of it.   So, thank you, Happy Belly, for a year of therapy.
I've thanked multiple people throughout the year, but one person I've talked too little of is my sister. My sister's always been supportive of me and this blog, and it's always nice to have someone to be proud of you.  So thank you, this post is for you, couldn't have done it without you, Nanna <3
This is a multi-layered Hungarian cake.  It's quite rich and dense, but quite delicious.  It's something you have to do the day before when you've got a lot of time.  It does take a whole afternoon, but it's worth it for a special occasion simply due to its appearance.  Look at the number of layers!  I had made 12 sponge layers but 3 had failed, so it became 9 layers.  I was too ambitious.  I was too stressed, I was worried it was all going to be a disaster.  But fortunately it was alright :)  I want to thank everyone that came to celebrate Happy Belly's birthday with me, thank you for your kind words about the cake, and thank you Paulina, Nick and Gen for the photos (aren't they beautiful?). 

Head over here for step by step photos.  They really help!
Sponge Cake
7 eggs, separated
3 egg yolks
1 pound (453g) icing sugar
4 oz (113g) plain flour, sifted
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt

Chocolate Butter Cream 
300g dark chocolate
300g butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
3 tbsp icing sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup almonds

-Start by cutting 10 pieces of aluminum foil or parchment paper, each about 11 inches square. Using a cardboard cake circle, pan lid or plate that’s 9 inches across, draw circles in the middle of the squares.

-Flip the sheets over, grease the area of the circle plus about another half inch all the way around for safety. Lay the parchment pieces out and sift powdered sugar over them. Tilt the sheets to get the excess off, and set them aside.

-Set a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 450. Sift the flour and salt together. In the bowl, beat with an electric whisk the 10 egg yolks on high for a few minutes until they’re pale and lemon-colored.

-Reduce speed and gradually add the powdered sugar.

-Increase the speed to high again and beat for 5 minutes or until very thick.

-Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the flour. Scrape the bowl, then once again
increase the speed to high and beat for 5 minutes more, scraping once or twice.  I know that the mixture just looks very stiff at the moment.  Don't worry, it's meant to look like that

-Stir in the lemon juice and remove the mixture to another bowl.

-In another bowl, whisk the seven whites with the salt to the stiff peak stage. Stir a few spoonfuls of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then fold in the rest of the whites.  Don't fright if in the beginning it doesn't seem like the egg whites will lighten the yolk mixture. It will. Don't worry. 

-To bake, place two or three spoonfuls of the batter on each sheet, spreading the batter very thin with an icing spatula or the back of a spoon. Slowly rotate the sheet with one hand as you spread, being careful not to leave any holes. Using the edge of the counter, slip the sheets onto a cookie sheet and bake 5 to 7 minutes (or longer) until the layers are golden brown with dark brown spots.

-Remove the finished layers from the oven and, holding the corners of the sheets, invert them onto a rack. Peel off the paper and immediately invert the layer onto another rack or towel that’s been dusted with powdered sugar (otherwise the tops of the finished layers will stick to the rack). The fully cooled layers can be stored in a stack, provided they’re separated by sheets of powdered sugar-dusted wax paper.

-Trim the edges of each one up with a pizza cutter, using your original form (a cake circle or plate) as a guide.

-For the filling/icing, chop the chocolate and melt it in the microwave using as many 10-second bursts of high heat as are needed (stir between each). Allow it to cool completely, though not to the point that it re-firms, obviously.

-Have the butter at room temperature and cut it into cubes

-Cream the butter with an electric whisk.  Add the vanilla and egg yolks and beat well.

-Next add the sugar and the cooled chocolate and beat it all until thoroughly mixed (don’t forget to scrape!).

-To assemble, choose a cake platter or build the cake on a cardboard cake circle. If you’re using a platter, lay down thin strips of parchment paper in a box roughly 9 inches square. These will serve as your drop cloth. Put a layer down on the plate and spread on a very thin layer of filling. Add another layer, making sure it’s placed in line with the one under it. Add another layer of filling. Continue on in this way until you’ve used all the layers.

-Spread the last of the filling over the outside of the torte.

-Refrigerate the cake for at least a couple of hours

-To decorate, carefully put the almond slices around the cake, saving a few pieces for the praline later

-To make the praline: decoration in the middle just pour the sugar into a pan.  Over medium-high heat,  you can swirl the pan but do not stir the sugar.  Do not.  When it turns amber, add the almond slivers and pour onto a piece of parchment paper.  Let cool then break into pieces and place in the middle of the cake

Friday, 26 October 2012

Lentil and Carrot Loaf

Okay.  I'm pretty much done with my essay.  I have an essay due this Monday, and after weeks, I think I'm done.  I'm not one of those people that can just pull an all-nighter and finish a 2000 word essay in 10 hours.  No, just the idea of it stresses me out.  In fact, I often stress for other people when they do that.  I can't write an essay when the deadline is countable in hours.  There is nothing wrong with writing an essay the day before, if you can do well, good for you.  I just take a long time to write an essay, longer than normal people I think.  If I am somehow able to write an essay the day before, it would be awful.  Badly worded, run-on sentences that are illogical and follow no argument whatsoever.  I'm actually quite worried about my current essay.  Even though I worked really hard on it, it's not great.  See, in secondary school our report cards had two grades for each subject: an effort grade and the actual grade.  What often appeared in my report cards is a high grade for effort, but a lower actual grade.  I don't know if that's a good thing.  That just means I work really hard, but I'm just incompetent, unfortunately.  I was always jealous of those that got high actual grades but low effort grades, because even though you're lazy, you're clever. 

My essay's on food preferences.  We were basically told to write a 2000 word essay focusing on individual differences in one of my Psychology classes.  So, obviously, I'd write it on food. 

Other than the essay, here, let me show you to this delicious lentil loaf.  It's very versatile, you can add different things to it, you can also turn them into lentil patties for delicious veggie burgers. 
Okay, I'm going to go back to my essay.  Reread and edit some more. *sigh*

2 cups lentils
1 cup oats
2 small carrots, shredded
1 onion, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 egg + 1 egg white
50g freshly grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 180C and butter and line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
Heat a bit of oil in a pan, add onions and bay leaves.  Fry until onions are translucent. 
Add garlic and shredded carrots, fry for an additional two minutes.  Remove the bay leaves and remove from heat.
Put the oats and 1 cup of lentils in a food processor and process until it's all mashed.  Put in a bowl with the rest of the lentils, the carrot and onion mixture, egg and egg white, and the parmesan.  Season, mix well and pour into prepared tin and bake for an hour or until browned on top. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Spaghetti Frittata

So I had finally started using a real camera to take photos of food, then I came here and I realize I had left the battery charger back home in Italy.  The thing is I have a personal food photographer, Nick.  We had a deal, he eats and takes photos.  But a lot of my dishes are kind of impromptu and they're usually for other people, so how do I ask him to take a photo of my frittata and then not touch it?  Ugh.  Excuse the iPhone photos. People tell me you can take great photos with an iPhone but I'm just incompetent when it comes to photography. 

So besides the frustrations with taking photos of this frittata, this is really yummy.  It's a lot more filling than your usual frittata as you can imagine.  Very yummy, I like the texture a lot more.  Try it out. The classic recipe from Naples also includes pancetta. You can add sausages, mushrooms or other vegetables too. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Baked Oatmeal with Bananas and Peanut Butter

I suppose this is more of a breakfast, but it's a perfectly reasonable afternoon snack and if you add more sugar in it, it could be a healthy dessert.
 I had brought it to one of our weekly Psychology lunches.  You know, I stress too much about these lunches.  This week was the first time I had organized it all by myself -- all the shopping, all the cooking -- just me.  I actually couldn't sleep the night before because I was worried it would go wrong, and I had been planning the shopping list for 3 days.  I wanted to make my own things but still have enough money to get the normal sandwich breads and dips and veggies and all that so people can still make their own sandwiches.  I'm worried that I would give myself too much work and people might not like what I cook, so people need to be able to make their own sandwiches. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Mistakes in the Kitchen

My hands are not pretty.  My nails are chipped, my fingers are rough, and I always have band-aids on at least one of them.  I've currently got one on my right ring finger because I've shredded a piece of skin off.  My finger is okay but the shredded carrots were stained.  My point is, I make mistakes in the kitchen all the time.  I do a lot of housework and I have the horrible habit of biting my nails/fingers, but my scarred hands are mainly the result of cooking, cutting and burning myself.

Other than self-harm, a lot of my dishes turn out to be disasters as well.  When people actually live with me, they realize that not everything gets put on Happy Belly.

These were American biscuits/English savory scones I've tried to make last Thanksgiving.  This is why now my American friends make the Thanksgiving dinner exclusively Americans in the kitchen only now.  They didn't rise :(  I've actually tried to make scones once before this as well -- double chocolate scones.  I think I had overworked the dough, just as with these biscuits, because they turned out to be fudgy double chocolate cookies/brownies.  They were actually very tasty, mind you, they just weren't really scones. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Apple and Peanut Butter Polenta

No longer gluten-free!  Don't worry, I know, this is what I had yesterday as my last gluten-free breakfast.  This morning I was overjoyed with my mix-match of all-bran flakes and muesli, and I've had bread with both lunch and dinner. And mid-afternoon snack with some peanut butter because I was really hungry. 

So, for my two-week gluten free challenge:  I've gained 1kg, so I've put on what I lost in my vegan challenge.  The thing is, it really was quite boring and I ate a lot of rice, which I like.  And I ate more than I normally would just because I felt like oh it's a special diet so I can eat as much as I want, like with the vegan diet, and, well, no.  Mousses and other wheat-free desserts weren't off limits and I think that's where it hit me.  Too much chocolate mousse and cheesecake toppings. 
Anyway, so I made this yesterday.  It was a beautiful morning and as I had run out of both quinoa and polenta for breakfast, I thought it'd be a good idea to walk to the big supermarket in my town and do some shopping. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012


This is soo budget-friendly.  Remember how I said I wanted to run for the position of lunch organizer in the psychology society?  Well, if you've been reading my blog you would, and if you haven't- well, basically it's me cooking for these weekly lunches and getting reimbursed for it.  I'm not officially the lunch organizer yet but I've been helping them out the past couple of weeks.  There's a budget obviously.  I can't cook like lobsters in a saffron soup topped with caviar and shaved white truffles.  So, in the search of cheap recipes, I found this.  

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Creamless Creamed Corn

Food52 is one of many recipe sites that I frequent on a daily basis.  I have God knows how many recipes saved on there.  I've also got a ridiculous amount saved on BBC GoodFood, Food Gawker, Saveur, Bon Appetit...And I've got a lot bookmarked from other websites. The worst part of this, other than me having an unhealthy obsession and needing a life, is that I rarely actually use any of the recipes.  Just like my cookbooks, I've got way too many and I don't use them enough. Which reminds me, I went to a book store the other day and mentally made myself a wishlist of about £400 worth of books. I finally figured out how this wishlist thing works on Amazon, maybe I should make my profile and wishlist public so some of you generous readers will give me one for my birthday/Christmas.  Maybe. 

Here's a recipe from Food52, it's fantaaastic.  It's great as a side or if you make more you can have it as a main as well.  Please use fresh corn! The grating of it is quite messy and troublesome, but it will all be worth it at the end, as with all good recipes :) It's healthy and it's so versatile, the original recipe asked for mushrooms, but I had none so I just left it out.  The next morning I made a sweet version of it for breakfast, so I omitted the shallot and garlic and added honey to it instead.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Date Paste

What is date paste and what do you use it for, you ask? Well, I was asking that when I first saw a post about it.  It's fantastic, it's just dates soaked in water then blitzed until it becomes a smooth paste, and you can use it to sweeten desserts or just spread a layer of it onto your toast in the morning.
So what you do is you need a small jar.  Pack the dates in as tightly as possible.  You can add some other dried fruits in it if you wish, I added some dried apricots.  Then fill the jar up with water, close the jar, and leave it soaking overnight (if you're in a hurry, a couple of hours should do).  The next day, put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth, about 5 minutes.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Basic Scrambled Tofu

AKA vegan scrambled eggs.
I'd been meaning to make these for awhile. And finally, it was time.  The thing is, with this gluten-free challenge, the only challenging bit is breakfast. I miss cereal, I really really reeally miss cereal.  I don't want anymore polenta or rice or quinoa porridge.  I just want my cereals.  I want my all-bran with dried fruits and nuts mixed with my Post grape nuts cereal along with a little bit of my Dorset really nutty cereal. I like mixing and matching my cereals because I have yet to find the perfect cereal. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Matcha Shortbread

I got this beautiful shortbread tin as an 18th birthday present.  It was my first year of uni and it was the best birthday ever.  I mean, there wasn't a lot to compete against considering the fact that I spent my 17th birthday at a vet with my friend and her poor deformed rabbit.  Oh this makes a great side story. So before I start talking about my 18th birthday, I should tell you about Link, Sarah's poor rabbit.  We had all thought that Link had a tumor around his eye.  There was essentially a huge protruding bit above his eye socket, and his eyeball was no longer in his eye socket. Yes, it's gross, but it gets worse.  So we took Link to the vet, and the good news was that it actually wasn't a tumor!  What happened was that, oddly enough, all the food that Link was eating went through a passage to his eye! And that protruding bit wasn't a tumor, it was food! The vet had to basically remove the food by pushing it out of his eye socket.  It was, well, I feel like the word "disgusting" isn't strong enough to describe that traumatizing process.  Probably not the best story to put up on a food blog.  Ok, anyway, on a happier note, my 18th birthday.   A lot of people say this, but I actually do have the best friends in the world.  They had organized a scavenger hunt for me, with 18 things to do for 18 years of my life.  So thank you for one of the most amazing days of my life, Jess, Sarah, Alex, Elliott, Nat & Ross.  But uh actually this present was from Gemma and Alex, some other lovely people hah.
So I hadn't used this tin until last night.  It was time.  I'm not the biggest fan of shortbread because it's too rich for my liking and I actually couldn't eat these because I'm still on my gluten-free challenge, which, by the way, is actually a very boring challenge because it's not difficult because I love rice and polenta and I can survive without bread.  My English teacher in high school always said I had a problem with run-on sentences.  Anyway, other people said the cookies were good.  

Shortbread's one of those wonderful pastries with an incredibly memorable ratio -- 1, 2, 3 -- 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour.  Just remember the ratio and it's quite versatile.  Some recipes use a bit of rice flour and use other flavoring agents.  Despite my best efforts, I don't know why the beautiful designs of the tin were not imprinted on the cookies.  If you don't have a tin, just roll the dough out and cut out desired shapes with a cookie cutter. 

75g sugar
150g butter
200g flour
25g matcha powder
zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 180C.
Cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy.
Mix in the flour, matcha and zest.
Work with your hands if you need to until everything holds together.
*Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to make it easier to handle later.*
If you have a tin, press firmly into a lightly oiled tin.  If not, just roll the paste out to about 5mm thick, and cut out rounds and desired shapes.
If you bake it in the tin you may need longer, like 30-40 minutes in the oven because it's thicker than 5mm.  If you have them in 5mm pieces then they may need only 15-20 minutes.  They're done when they're ever so slightly browned. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Rice and Bean Cakes with Honey Yoghurt

Psychology Society's Lunch Organizer
This position involves setting up the PsychSoc lunch every Tuesday at 1pm in the foyer of the psychology building. That means setting up the table, buying the food (for which the society will of course reimburse you) and clearing up afterwards.

Cooking for other people and getting reimbursed for it?  Yes, please.  I had started helping out this Tuesday and I made these rice and bean cakes.  Normally for the weekly Psychology lunches it's just bought sandwich bread, hummus, some veggies and cheeses and cold cuts. No, no, if I become the Lunch Organizer I'm bringing proper cooked food.
 I felt so Chinese because the night before I basically cooked a whole bag of rice and there's still some cooked rice in my fridge. I don't know, I feel like every Chinese household has leftover rice in their fridge, ready to be stir-fried.  Anyway, this recipe yields a lot of rice and bean cakes, they're very nice and simple and versatile.  Use other beans or lentils and spice it up if you want.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Grilled Polenta Rounds with Tomato Sauce

My dad has a natural affinity towards Jewish people, and I think that got passed down to me. I've grown up with the idea that Jewish people are just lovely people, so needless to say I often attend our university's Jewish Society's events, especially those that involve food. I love Jewish food.

Last Wednesday was a bit awkward though. It was Yom Kippur, and so it's quite a holy day in their calendar. They fast for 25 hours for atonement and repentance, and they had a service marking the end of that, in the form of a potluck. I was so excited, but unlike other Jewish Society events, I was the only non-Jew there. There was an hour of praying in which I stood there awkwardly staring at a piece of photocopied paper telling me of all the things I should be repenting for, while all the others around me sang along the prayers. I think it was longer than an hour. Then when we were finally free to go and eat I felt guilty because I had been stuffing myself the entire day, whilst the rest hadn't had even water to drink in the past 25 hours, so for once, I let others go before me at a buffet.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Two-Week Gluten-Free Challenge

Oh this is going to force me to be quite creative.  Aside from the obvious no bread no pasta no cookies no pastries, I also probably won't be able to have gravies, soups, and sauces.  Flour's in everything.  Actually, I won't be able to have most: ketchups, soy sauces, mustards, mayos.  It will be very difficult to eat out, but at least telling the waiter that I'll go into anaphylactic shock from the slightest consumption of gluten, than telling the waiter I'm vegan. So this challenge will be easier socially. 

I'm worried about breakfast. I love cereal, I can't believe I won't be able to have cereal for two weeks.  I refuse to waste my money on gluten-free cereals, I'm going to make this challenge very student-budget-friendly, I'm not going to buy any special gluten-free products.  Gluten-free oats are 3 pounds.  I buy my oats for like 79p. So, no.  Apparently oats are naturally gluten-free, but they're not made in a gluten-free environment..and I'm going to do this...properly.. Oh I might cave after a couple of days.  I had polenta porridge for breakfast this morning, was quite good.  I had it with sugar and chestnuts with a splash of milk at the end. Mmmm. 

© Design by Neat Design Corner