Thursday, April 28, 2011

Culinary Adventure: Cuba

In my first culinary- adventure post, I took a tiny peek into the Mexican culture by trying out and cooking a dish common in that land. Since the result of that gustatory experiment was more than just satisfying, I decided to seach another spanish speaking region and see if I could dig a bit deeper into its cuisine (which is in some way  influenced mine by the way). The mexican Quasadilla  was to my opinion quite easy to make.Since I have few days off this week, I decided to take on a more hmmm challenging task . This time, I am off to discover latin America through my tongue.

I found myself wandering in the land of sunshine and beautiful shores,rum and refreshing cocktails, cigars and coffee,  drums, music , sexy latin dances and the home of Fidel Castro ....yes peeps, I landed ( virtually of course)  in Cuba!

Que bola, asere?


Although, everything mentioned above are worth discussing, I would stick to my goal since this is a rather short trip.That is :to   stop by, look around ( thanks Google!) eat and savor something which is common in this country and go. Wow, if only life would be that easy! To be honest, I haven't tried any cuban foods before ( which makes it more exciting) so I can't say much about its cuisine in general. This is actually the first time that I tried, cooked and tasted Cuban Food.
The expereicment was fun but  although the result of the  hours and hours in the kitchen was devinely delicious, I must admit that, I did bite more than I could chew. The whole preparation was time consuming and very messy. Yes, It was a hand job and I  have to use my upper limbs ( all 6 of them) to make these yummy treats. So ladies and gentlemen, since I can't have some of those cubanese sunshine, bathe in its powdery shores and and learn salsa from a local then I might as well bring something from that land closer to me.And so  I made:

                                Papas Rellenas de Picadillo  
           ( Meat stuffed Potato croquettes)

I started off by making Picadillo. It is similar to Filipino's giniling recipe. First I browned ( 300 g) of grounded beef in a bit of oil. Then season it with salt and pepper.

In anothe pan, I made  Sofrito. Heres how to do it. Heat oil and suatee 1 small chopped onion until translucent. Add in 3 finely chopped garlic cloves and 2 medium sized  diced tomatoes, 1 red bell pepper,chopped.  Add in cooked ground meat.Stir in some oregano and 1 or two bay leaves.

Let the meat simmer for few minutes until bell pepper is tender. Add in 1 small can of diced tomatoes and season Picadillo with salt and pepper. Set aside and cool completely. 

I then prepared the mashed potato dumpling. I peeled about a kilo of it, boil it in salted water until fully cooked. Took about 30 minutes.

I needed some extra muscle so I asked FF to use our potato masher.  Here's how it was done. Sprinkle enough flour on a working surface. You could use a big mixing bowl but I prefer to knead things on a flat surface. I let the mashed potato cool off for a while (hot ingredients + hand = self inflicted pain ) . Then I season the potatoes with enough salt, white pepper and paprika powder. I then cracked three eggs into the potatoes.It will bind the mixture together.

Knead the whole mixture until mashed potatoes firm up. If its necessary, add in few more mashed potatoes or flour. You probably need the second pair of hand for that. Once the mashed potato is of right consistency, firm but not dry, still soft but not mushy, let it cool off complety. You could refrigerate it as this point.

Prepare three large bowl, fill the first one with flour, the next with 2 beaten eggs and the last with bread crumbs. With your (third) hand, use a spoon to scoop a handful of mashed potato. Flatten it at the palm of your hand . Make a dent at the center and  spoon in a tablespoon of Picadillo stuffing ( you probably need a fourth hand to do that). Enclose the filling by forming a ball, sealing it carefully ( adding a spoonful of mashed potato if necessary). Then dip the potato ball in flour, then carefully into the beaten eggs. Lastly roll it into the bowl of breadcrumbs.

Heat enough oil in the fryer . Deep fry the patato balls until golden brown. make sure to constantly turn it around since it tend to burn fast.

 Papas rellenas is a texural delight. There was a barely- there  hint of crusty exterior that gives way at the lightest of touch revealing a  tantalizing  layer with a smooth and velvety insides. The Picadillo was bursting with flavor and blends perfectly well with the mashed potato giving the whole dish a succession  of crunchy- gooey-savory sensation. Kanin at ulam in one!I could almost hear some cuban beat in every mouthful!  Muy delicioso!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cuninary Experiment: Snickers Ice Cream

I love ice cream as much as I love Snickers. Since I like to spoil myslef rotten when it comes to food, I decided to make something that combines both. Sounds good,no? Well it certainly was! The only regret I had was, not making enough!  The  contents of our ice cream can is getting undeniably less every morning when I wake up. I have a feeling, there's a sleepwalker or should I say sleep-eater in our home. That or we have a greedy rat with big teeth, elongated arms that knows how to open the fridge but  doesn't know how to wash used spoons. The culprit muss learn to hide the evidences or at least do the dishes.(^_^). Since DNA test is still on the way, I might as well refill our cans and use my ice cream maker to the point of exhaustion!

Vanilla Ice Cream with Snickers

In a saucepan, heat 400 ml of cream, 350 ml of milk, 200 g of caster sugar and 1/4 tsp salt. When bubbles starts to appear at the edges of the pan, take it out from the heat. Split one Vanilla pod open and  scrap out the seeds   . Put it into the mixture together with the pod. Put the pan back into the heat ( low) and let it simmer gently for few minutes while stirring constantly . Remove pan from the heat and cool slightly. Meanwhile, beat 3 eggyolks in a big mixing bowl until pale and thick.

Carefully pour about a cup of warm cream mixture into eggyolks while whisking constantly. After tampering the eggyolks, add the rest of the cream . Whisk thoroughly until well combined. Put the mixture back into the saucepan and let it simmer under low heat for 5 minutes until custard thickens. Be sure to keep that whisk rolling.

You'll know that the custard is ready when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Cool the cream completely before transfering it to your ice cream maschine. Use maschine as instructed by the manufacturer.

Fifteen minutes before the ice cream in done, I added in 4 pieces of chopped snickers into the mixture. To avoid the chocolate and caramel from melting, I put these chocolate bits in the fridge to keep its shape. Take the ice cream out from the maschine and put in a container and freeze for several hours . You might need to thaw it for a couple of minutes before serving.

If you like ice cream and snickers like I do, I'm sure you will love this too!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dense Chocolate Cake

Blessed is the brave soul who for some reason decided to make something decadent and delicious out of cocoa. Who ever invented chocolate ought to have a nobel prize! What would life be without it?! If you ask me, chocolate is one of the world's greatest discoveries, that and the hair mousse. Can't help it, I'm a girl with serious hair issues and yes a chocoholic!
My love for chocolate is shared by many. This recipe, as a matter of fact is a request from a friend. And since I'm nice ( uhurm!) and in need of another excuse for a perfect caloric indulgence, I decided to bake this  chocolate mud cake. The good thing about this recipe is, it is delicious and an absolute foolproof. It is so easy that  even the most inexperienced baker could make it! Good things don't need to be too complicated, if you want complications, go solve some  mathematical equation. It might be fun but it would never be this rewarding.

Chocolate Mud Cake


In a saucepan, heat together 200 g of butter, 200 g of ( 70%) chopped  bittersweet chocolate, 1 tbsp. of instant coffee powder and 100 ml of warm water. Under low heat, stir until everything turns smooth and well combined.

Transfer mixture in a mixing bowl and let it cool for about 15 minuntes. Once cooled down, beat in 2 large eggs, and 200 g of caster sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until everything is well incorporated,

Whisk together 240 g of flour, 1 tsp baking powder ,some salt and 35 g cocoa power. Sift over chocolate mixure and fold in.

Pour mixture into the prepared and well buttered springform pan ( I lined mine with baking paper). Bake for an hour at 160 °C or until set . Test it by inserting a skewer or toothpick in the middle, once it comes out clean then it is ready.

Set the cake aside and let it cool. It is could be enjoyed as it is but why go easy when you could go all the way? Frost it with some chocolate ganache and I swear, it's like eating a piece of heaven. There are many ways how to make ganache. You only need ( 200 g) good bittersweet chocolate, 150 ml double cream and some extra flavors depending on your own preference. A tbsp of rum or flavored liquor, vanilla or lemon zest are just few options.
  • You could heat the cream and pour it into the chopped chocolate,
  • heat both on a heatproof bowl over simmering water or
  •  simply heat chocolate and cream off directly in a saucepan under very low heat. Simply stir everthing together ( but not with a whisk since you don't want air incorporated into it) until mixture turns smooth and velvety. Take out from the heat and let it cool until it reaches a spreadable consistency .You could put it in the fridge. The longer the ganache stays in the fridge, the thicker and denser it would become.

Pour ganache over the cooled cake and spread it evenly. I put a parchment paper below the cake to save me from cleaning up the mess. (^_^). This cake taste better as it ages. Serve it the day after  if you have an iron will. 

This cake is dark , dense, delicious, moist and utterly chocolatey!

Happy easter everyone!

From the Babbling Spoon and her faithful Fork. We are wishing everybody a happy easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tapa Treats and the reason why I am glad I am not the Queen...

I love going to the movies but somehow, I was never able to visit any movie theaters this year! All work and no play made little Jane weary. And so last weekend, I convinced FF to go on a dinner and movie date. His treat! (^_^)

We watched The King's Speech. A movie  based on the  story of the introvert King George VI and his nerve shattering battle against public speaking. Colin Firth portrayed the part of the stuttering monarch with an absolute magnificence . I  was holding my breath at the scene where he must address the nation in prepation for the impending war against the Nazis . I could almost feel the physical frustration of a  King who must stand for what is unyielding,confident and firm while withholding his own   personal turmoil and fear. The burden of being the voice that could break or boost the nation's morals at the time of battle.

 There was an unmistakable superb chemistry between Mr. Firth and Geoffrey Rush who played the eccentric and unconventional  speech therapist and a commoner, Lionel Logue. The script was  packed with witty retorts and enough crackling quips   that  keep the movie constantly afloat. There's a well balance drama and  dry british humor that made the viewers interested and thrilled from the beginning to the end. The movie is all in all inspiring, funny, absorbing, enjoyable  and made me realize that despite of the facade of power and weath, the royals are just like everybody elses. They too have their own with demons to battle. Helena Bonhan Carter, who played the younger Queen Mother played her part rather she almost always does in the movies. Like a whip cream on the torte and a cheery on top of an ice cream she did grace the film with her presence. I highly recommend it!

After the very engrossing movie, FF and I decided to walk around since it was rather early for  dinner. The weather was pleasant and the sun was shinning. Perfect for a liesure walk.

Botanical Garden we passed by.

Germans love soaking up Vit. D when occasions allow.

Where ever there's water, then my camera must be pointed in that direction.

FF on the other hand loves trees and anything that grows.The bigger the better...Kapre?

The tulips are blooming!

We went to the city castle's grounds. Walked by the lake and sat on the bench facing the waters. The place was tranquil and I was even able to take a short nap. It was getting dark when FF woke me up, it was time for dinner. He asked me if I am in for some tapas, the last one I had was in Barcelona,Spain 3 years ago so I readily agreed.


We went to Besitos Spanish Restaurant for dinner then. Despite of the pouring crowd,which is a good sign for any restaurant if you asked me, service was fast and efficient. After 20 minutes, our orders  came. Tapas reminded me somehow of the chinese Dim Sum. They are small in potions and quantity . Good for sharing and an excellent way of trying several things without getthing overly sated too soon. But sated you will be.

Left: FF's Radeberger Pils Beer and right: my Virgin Caipe- mocktail made from ginger ale, lime, brown sugar and crushed ice.

Chipirones ( Deep fried calamares with cocktail sauce)

 De jamon y queso ( Ham and cheese croquette with horseradish and onion dip)

 Tomates del Sol ( pickled sundried tomatoes)

Pescaditos ( deep fried fish fillet with mayonnaise dip)

Salchichon ( air dried spanish Salami)

Albondigas ( meatball in tomato sauce)

De Queso ( cheeseballs with spicy tomato sauce in olive oil dip)

Gambas al ajillo (Shirmp sauteed in garlic sauce)

 Tapas were served with a basket of baguette.

 Dessert was Creme Catalana.

It was a rather nice way to end our day and it made me wish everyday is a holiday. 

If you want to check the restaurant out,please visit their website at
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