Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mini Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone and Lime Icing

Classes have been taking a lot of my time... which explains how spaced my posts have been. I have moved into an appartment which, while quaint and full of charm, has a kitchen the size of a doll house. The sink is so tiny it has been a real challenge to wash pots and pans in it. That being said, I have a lot to report. I am learning more and more everyday and it's such a treat to talk to professionals in the field of food on a daily basis. I have learned how to cut duck and chicken, how to fillet round and flat fish, and how to produce different intricate cuts of vegetables. The most important thing I have learned, however, is how to understand the concepts that surround cooking and food. I used to follow recipes and think about what flavors would complement each other but I didn't used to think about the concepts being used. A recent example includes using fish bones to make a stock or a sauce which will then enrich the flavor of the fish itself.

Having prepared mostly savory dishes in the past month, I wanted to make something sweet. Carrot cake has always been one of my favourite desserts so when I saw Jamie Oliver's recipe for carrot cake, I was tempted to give it a try. I also wanted to use the mini muffin pan I had recently purchased.. so the carrot cake was transformed into mini muffins which we adorned with thin lime wedges.


Recipe (for about 3 dozen mini muffins)

285g/10oz butter, softened
285g/10oz light brown soft sugar
5 large organic eggs, separated
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Juice and zezt of 1 lime
170g/6oz self raising flour, sifted
1 slightly heaped teaspoon baking powder
115g/4oz ground almonds
1 heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
A pinch of nutmeg
12 oz young carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
115g/4oz shelled walnuts, chopped

115g/4oz mascarpone cheese
225g/8oz cream cheese
85g/3oz icing sugar, sifted
juice and zest of 1 lime

Preheat your oven to 180°C / 350°F / gas 4. Cream together the butter and sugar by hand or in a food processor until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs and the orange juice and zest.
Mix in the sifted flour and baking powder, add the ground almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Stir and fold in the carrots. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff and then fold them into the carrot mixture. Pour into the buttered mini muffin containers and cook for about 10 minutes until golden and risen. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Once the muffins are cook, unmold and allow to cool. Mix and the ingredients to make your icing and top the muffins with the mixture. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Potato Gratin with Gruyere Cheese

The past couple weeks have been challenging but incredibly fulfilling. I have discovered the wonders of a professional kitchen and the many, many differences between cooking for family or friends and cooking for a paying customer. I have to say I'm not quite used to the hectic rythm of kitchen life. I wake up every morning with aching muscles and tired fingers which are discovering the joys of using a chef's knife for several hours a day. That being said, I can't wait to go back every day.

Last week, we dedicated a whole day to learning how to cook several classic French dishes using potatoes. Potato gratin (or gratin dauphinois) was a pleasure to make. My mom has been making this dish for years as a sunday lunch ritual so making it under the guidance of a chef only helped to increase my love for the dish. It's really easy to put together and is, in my mind, the ultimate comfort food. You can also infuse the milk and cream mixture with a sprig of thyme and some fresh rosemary for extra flavor.


Recipe (for 4)
125 ml of milk
125 ml of heavy cream
A knob of butter
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
2 Idaho patatoes cut in sliced (about 1/8 inch)
1/2 garlic clove
25 grams of grated gruyere cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Take an oven-proof pan and rub 1/2 clove of garlic on the bottom and sides. Place on medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the milk, cream and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and place the slices of potato evenly throughout the pan you should first create an even layer of potatoes at the bottom of the pan, and then layer the slices on top). Season with salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes stirring carefully to make sure that the potatoes are evenly coated with the milk and cream mixture. Add the gruyere cheese evenly on top of the patatoes.
Cook for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top of the dish is golden brown, the potatoes are tender and the cream and milk have a thick consistency. Enjoy!
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