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Tres Leches Cake “Three Milks Cake”

2 Feb

pastel tres leches

I suck when it comes to making desserts. This is not to say that I don’t have a sweet tooth. On the contrary. I would go as far as holding back on ordering a big main to reserve some space for dessert. But when it comes to making desserts, I always seem dissatisfied with the result. Perhaps it’s because I don’t stick to the recipe because I see myself as a non-conformist?

There is one dessert though that I can make which has improved with time. Perhaps the secret lies in not just the taste but in the fact that it allows much room for error. It’s difficult to get this one wrong. One thing I do know is that this cake has turned heads since the first time I made it. And it’s very popular with the girls. It’s got it all: sweetness, creaminess, nuttiness and zestiness. Add cinnamon and can you start to see why it’s a to-die-for dessert?

Now that I’ve convinced you to put on your apron and warm up your oven, you’re probably asking how do I make a Three Milks Cake? Easy. Vanilla cake, milks, cream and pecans, in that order. It can even be a packet cake mix if you wish to cut back on a few steps. Next I infuse the milks (sorry no short cuts here) and poured over the cake. Finally once the cake is completely cool, top with cream and pecans.

The quantities I describe below will produce a cake the size of an A4 sheet (12” x 8”) by about 5 cm (2”) thick. It’s very rich and yield 12 serves. I usually make everything a day ahead and finish it off on the day with whipped cream. This recipe could easily be modified to make it vegan friendly by substituting eggs with flax, dairy with soy or rice or oat milk. Cream can probably be replaced with whipped up silken tofu. I haven’t tried it but am planning too.

Let me know if you try it.

Ingredients

Cake Batter

Dry Mixture

  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Wet 1

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 C vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C cold water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Wet 2

  • 2/3 C egg whites (from about 5 eggs)
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • pinch of salt
Milk Mixture
  • 1 can evaporated milk (375ml/12.5oz)
  • 1 can of condensed milk (400g/14oz)
  • 300ml heavy whipping cream (10oz)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • one orange peel
  • one lime peel
Whipped Cream Topping
  • 1 C  heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest

In my world, 1 C = 1 cup = 250ml = 8.5oz

Method

Cake

1. Preheat oven to 160C (325F). Sift flour into bowl, stir in sugar and add baking powder (Dry Mixture)

2. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks. Then add oil, water and vanilla extract one at a time as you whisk the mixture. (Wet 1)

3. Fold Wet 1 mixture into Dry Mixture. Then beat for about one minute to aerate slightly.

4. Combine egg whites and salt in a bowl and whisk until you get a soft peak. Then add sugar and keep whisking until it holds a firm peak. Fold Wet 2 mixture into batter.

5. Pour into baking tin and bake for about 30 minutes.

6. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool, then pierce with a skewer all over. These holes are to help the milk mixture get absorbed by the cake. (Tip: if you’re patient enough, allow the cake to go stale)

vanilla cake batterbatter mix

cake batter mixingwhisking egg whites

vanilla cake batter preparing cake

Milk Mixture

1. Pour milks into a heavy based pot, add lime and orange peels, cinnamon sticks and bring to boil. Drop temperature and simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes on low heat.

2. Allow milk mixture to cool, pass through a sieve then pour mixture over the cake.

3. Place cake in the fridge to chill.

three milksorange peel

three milks cakepoured milk on cake

Whipped Cream Topping

1. Whip cream, sugar and zest.

2. Spread whipped cream across the cake and arrange pecans.

3. Cover with cling film and return to fridge until ready to serve.

heavy creamwhipping cream

spreading creampecans

 

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Non-traditional Christmas Lunch

8 Jan

On Christmas Day, I hijacked mum’s kitchen for the day. Lebanese food was off the menu because I wanted my parent’s to try something different. However, I included a lamb shoulder with roasted lemon thyme potatoes as backup (lucky I did). Beef isn’t very common in Lebanese cuisine and Lamb is a sure way to a “lebo’s” heart. Besides, my dad is a fussy eater and I wasn’t going to take any chances.

Roasted bell peppers, refried beans, guacamole and salsa were also on hand to stuff the warm flour tortillas and go with the juicy slow-roasted meats. By slow-roasted, I mean that I roasted the lamb shoulder for six hours in the oven at 120C (250F). I smoked the beef ribs on the gas barbecue, lid down also for six hours and mopped them over the last hour to develop a sweet crust. The meats were literally falling off the bone. I also roasted Portobello mushrooms after mum had stuffed them with parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs (I failed to keep her out of the kitchen completely).

Feedback was positive with the exception that dad thought that the ribs tasted “too fatty” and “smoky”. But hang on a second, isn’t that how they’re supposed to taste??? His tortillas ended up being stuffed with lamb, guacamole and salsa (I rolled one of these too and was surprisingly pleased with the combo).

What did you have for Christmas lunch or dinner or both?

refried beanschristmas lunch

roasted lamb shoulderroasted bell peppers

tomato salsasmoked beef ribs

lemon thyme potatoesguacamole

Out and about in Vancouver and San Francisco

16 Oct

The abundant seafood along with many immigrants from the far east has created the perfect environment for eating sushi in Vancouver. There are probably more sushi restaurants per capita in Vancouver than any other city in the world, perhaps even more than in Tokyo! They are literally on every city block, in shopping centres, food courts, etc…

Could Vancouver be the sushi capital of the world? We’ll I don’t have the statistics to support such a statement but one thing I can vouch for is that it was some of the freshest, tastiest and cheapest sushi I’d ever eaten! If only I had my camera on all the occasions that I’d been eating sushi.

Sushi and Sashimi Porn…

vegetarian sushisamurai sushisamurai sushi

donburi vancouverdonburi vancouver

donburi vancouversamurai avocado

tofusushi vancouver

Not only did I come across many sushi restaurants in Vancouver but also a wide variety of Chinese, Malaysian and Thai restaurants too. Unfortunately I only have one stomach and am limited to eating 3 times a day so I wasn’t able to rival my sushi indulgence with other Asian delicacies. I did however sample a few dishes like hand-cut noodles, chili-garlic eggplant and salty-spicy tofu at The Peaceful; kacang ikan bilis (fried anchovies with peanuts) and roti canai at Tropika; probably the best laksa of late at Hawkers Delight; and, some decent papaya salad at Bob likes Thai Food.

Hawkers Delight Laksa…

hawkers delight

The food choices in Vancouver weren’t limited to Asian either: fine dining vegetarian at the Acorn and the well established West, my first Thanks Giving Dinner experience and I even stepped up to the plate to prepare a 7 course dinner!

The Acorn…

vancouvervegetarianthe acorn

Thanks Giving Dinner…

vancouvervancouver

Samples from the 7 course dinner…(through the eyes of my exclusive diner)

kaleagave dressingTomato SoupIMG_0294

IMG_0290wild mushroomsIMG_0314IMG_0275

And it wasn’t all about Vancouver too. San Francisco offered some of the best Mexican food I’d tasted outside of Mexico. Sadly, the camera wasn’t always on hand to capture what was delighting my taste buds and nourishing my stomach. Two vegetarian restaurants worthy of a mention were Greens (the longest standing) and Millennium (contemporary).

Tacolicious Mission SF…

IMG_0216

Mexico revisited – Guacamole

4 Jul

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I started liking guacamole when I first dined at a small ‘hole in the wall” restaurant named Hot Salsa Kitchen in Annandale in Sydney (now closed). I had previously tried it many times but until that occasion, I had only disappointed my taste buds with bland, uninteresting or unauthentic guacamole which was usually suffocating in sour cream. Theirs was simple, creamy and balanced. This was until of course until I tried the one at El Asadero in Tulum. That’s when I went from liking to falling in love with guacamole.

True guacamole in my opinion starts with the aguacate (avocado). The aguacate must be of the highest quality, not bruised or scared, ripe but not overripe or soft and preferably of the creamier type like Hass or the buttery type like Shepard. The rest of the ingredients are there to decorate, accentuate and elevate the aguacate.

Some people like to add garlic and ground cumin, I believe both are unnecessary. White onion is already featured and cumin is likely to form one of the spices in the accompanying dishes especially if its Mexican. To soften the intensity of the onion, I usually rub with salt or sprinkle with salt then beat a few times with the pestle.

  • 4 Hass Avocadoes
  • 1/4 white onion diced finely
  • 1/2 a bunch of coriander chopped roughly
  • 2 tomatoes skin removed, deseeded and flesh chopped up finely
  • 2 small limes
  • Salt

If you have a mortar and pestle (molcajete) use it. Otherwise mash using a fork. Those who choose to use a blender should not refer to it as guacamole but rather blended avocado dip. In my opinion, it loses its character if blended. Blending will ensure that it is void of the various lumpy bits of aguacate which contrast well with the coriander and tomato embodied within the mole.

Start off with the coriander and onion. Sprinkle say 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt over the onion, then beat lightly until the juice is released.

Add avocado flesh, squeeze the limes and continue mashing.

Add tomatoes, beat a little and then switch over to a spoon. Mix it together.

Taste and add more salt or lime if required.

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Mexico revisited – Frijoles Refritas (Refried Beans)

26 Jun

The colonial city of Oaxaca was the standout city of all the cities which I visited during my travels in Mexico. The opportunity to explore its gastronomical delights was complimented by its backdrop of vibrant coloured homes, museums, colonial architecture, cobble stone streets, archaeological sites and flea markets.

Exceptional dishes were sampled on the streets and in restaurants of which many will remain etched in my memory for years to come. Tlayudas, memelas, mole (pronounced mo-lay), quesillo and hot chocolate made from freshly ground cacau beans to name a few. Oaxaca is also home to Mezcal a variation to tequila which in my opinion is an essential digestif and indispensable companion with the rich Oaxaqueña cuisine.

At a cantina in the heart of this city, I recall having the best refried beans to date. We were scouting for a late breakfast and whilst the cook was actually preparing almuerzo (lunch), she still greeted us with her warm hospitality and encouraged us to sample the buffet as the dishes were being laid out and garnished. The refried beans sat proud, clearly elevated and still bubbling in their earthenware dish, two servings and I couldn’t resist the temptation to ask. The key she told me was to use lard or bacon, especially if its smoked bacon. Up until that point I had avoided using lard for health reasons but with one mouthful, I began to understand why people would risk cardiovascular disease for these beans. Vegetarians may use ghee, butter or oil to saute the onions and the result will be similar but without the bacon flavour, and, of course meat free 😉

  • 200g of Pinto Beans or Black Beans (I used black because I was out of Pinto)
  • 1/2 white onion, diced finely
  • 100g of streaky bacon, diced finely
  • 4 Tablespoons of ghee, butter or lard

Soak beans in cold water for 24hours, then rinse, add to a heavy based pot or pressure cooker, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until they are cooked. Do not add salt at this stage as it will retard the cooking of the beans and they’ll end up crunchy on the inside ;).

Saute onion in a non-stick or heavy based pan in at least 4 tablespoons of melted lard, butter or ghee, add a good pinch of salt to ensure onions don’t brown. Then add the streaky bacon, saute until the fat in the bacon has melted away and fused with the rest of the ingredients.

Once the beans are cooked, ladle into the pan straining off the water and mash with a wooden spoon. Repeat gradually until you have mashed up all the beans adding water from the pot until you get the desired consistency. Alternatively use a blender and add water gradually. Either way will yield tasty refried beans.

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Mexico revisited – Carne Asada (Shredded Beef)

23 Jun

pulled beef

Whether it’s pork, beef or chicken, shredded meat (pulled) is an essential filling for tortillas. I’m a big fan of shredded beef and have made it numerous times. The key is the gravy which should end up thick and include a hint of earthy spices.

For vegetarians, I have used a variety of bell peppers, white and red onion, and, sometimes potato as a filling sautéed in a skillet with the basics (garlic, Mexican oregano, ground cumin, coriander) as an alternate with great success. Cooking time is significantly reduced as there is no need for stewing.

I’ve used Chipotle chilli to take this dish to the next level but Poblano would work well too. The smokiness of either of these chillies adds depth and tones. A Chipotle is essentially a Jalapeno chilli that has been smoke dried. As a result of this process, it ends up with a tan complexion and leathery skin.

The cut of beef should be preferably sub-primal and not too lean. Gravy beef or chuck steak is ideal but trim the visible fat as it’s not really needed. The end result should be a moist but not wet mixture. This dish works well with chicken thigh fillets or chicken pieces too if you’re not keen on beef.

  • 750g piece of chuck or flank steak
  • 1 large white onion diced
  • 2 Tablespoons of ghee, butter, lard or oil
  • 2 Cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 Teaspoon of each of Mexican Oregano, Ground Cumin and Ground Coriander (dry fry them and grind, it makes such a difference)
  • 1 to 2 Chipotle chillies deseeded if you prefer mild
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1lt or so of hot water

In a heavy base pot, seal and brown the beef then set aside in a plate.

On medium heat, saute onion in ghee, butter, lard or oil and add a good pinch of salt to ensure onions don’t brown.

Add garlic and fry until the aroma fills the air, stirring occasionally and ensuring it doesn’t brown.

Add herbs and spices stirring occasionally. I like to rub the oregano and sprinkle it in.

Add meat and Chipotle chillies then top with hot water, cover and simmer until meat is tender adding water as required.

Once the meat is cooked, remove, place on a plate and shred using two forks by pulling the fibers outwards.

Blend the remaining stock with a stick blender (handheld) then return shredded meat to the pot simmering uncovered over low heat until the gravy thickens.

Add cracked black pepper and some additional salt if required.

Pulled Pork Shoulder

pulled pork

Mexico revisited – The sequel

20 Jun

Following on from Sunday’s menu, I’ve decided to fill in a few blanks and elaborate on my initial post Mexico revisited. The dishes that I cherish most and frequently cook are those that I almost prepare instinctively. I often ring up my mother for guidance on some of the complicated Lebanese dishes and ask her for the recipe. Her response revolves around something like “Let me have a think. Its one or two cups of this, a few teaspoons of this, a pinch of that…”. Its no surprise, she’s been making those dishes for over 40 years. So here goes, just like my mother, I’ve tried to retrace my footsteps and included as much detail as possible.

Click below (I will post recipes shortly):

Pollo Pibil

Carne Asada

Frijoles Refritas

Guacamole

Pico de Gallo

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Mexico revisited

17 Jun

When it comes to cooking (and other things too), I often wonder why I can’t do things half way, why it always has to be a multitude of dishes instead of the basic few. It probably has to do with two things: influences and experiences.

My upbringing has a lot to do with my influences, particularly in relation to offering the utmost level of hospitality. My family background is Lebanese and ever since I could remember sitting around a table, almost every meal was elaborate, varied and complete. Elaborate because dining is sacred, varied because not everyone likes the same thing and complete because one must tantalize with a starter, enjoy the main(s) and end off on a sweet note, dessert.

Experiences? Besides offering a satisfying meal, I feel it’s vital that I share my dining experiences with my guest and try to recreate with as much authenticity the dishes that I have indulged in. I have traveled to several countries and almost on every occasion emphasis has been paid to food ahead of sight seeing, and, souvenir shopping. From street food to fine dining, local markets to supermarkets, sipping on the local street beverages to the luxurious rooftop bars, I believe it’s a must that we delve deep into the gastronomical zone as it gives a greater understanding of the culture. It’s what makes us culturally different that is of great interest and food definitely forms a great part of people’s culture and must not be overlooked.

So what’s on Sunday’s menu? Pollo Pibil, Carne Cozida, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Corn Tortillas and Frijoles Refritas inspired of course by the streets of Mexico from Mexico City to Oaxaca and of course the Yucatan.

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