Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Robin's 18th Annual Cookie Exchange

Robin's Cookie Exchange is always loads of fun. Each person makes about 100 of their favourite cookies, and just before Christmas , we get together and do a cookie swap, drink mulled cranberry cider and chat. This year we had a record number of ladies, (over 20), so we got to take home lots of different cookies!

Christmas Wreath Cookies

Here are Robin's delicious Chocolate Candy Cane cookies.

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

Servings: Makes about 18 sandwich cookies.

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 drops (or more) red food coloring

1/2 cup crushed red-and-white-striped candy canes or hard peppermint candies (about 4 ounces)


For cookies:
Whisk flour, cocoa, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in egg. Add dry ingredients; beat until blended. Refrigerate dough 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out dough by level tablespoonfuls, then roll into smooth balls. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Using bottom of glass or hands, flatten each ball to 2-inch round (edges will crack). Bake until cookies no longer look wet and small indentation appears when tops of cookies are lightly touched with fingers, about 11 minutes (do not overbake or cookies will become too crisp). Cool on sheet 5 minutes. Transfer chocolate cookies to racks and cool completely.

For filling:
Using electric mixer, beat powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl until well blended. Add peppermint extract and 2 drops food coloring. Beat until light pink and well blended, adding more food coloring by dropfuls if darker pink color is desired. Spread 2 generous teaspoons filling evenly over flat side of 1 cookie to edges; top with another cookie, flat side down, pressing gently to adhere. Repeat with remaining cookies and peppermint filling.

Place crushed candy canes on plate. Roll edges of cookie sandwiches in crushed candies (candies will adhere to filling). (Cookie sandwiches can be made ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.)

I made a family favourite, Brandied Fruit Slice (an old Australian Women's Weekly recipe).

Brandied Fruit Slice

11/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
125g butter

30g butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup or molasses
1/4 cup self-raising flour
90g glace cherries
90g dried apricots
90g silvered almonds
1/4 cup brandy

Combine sifted flour and brown sugar in bowl, rub in butter. Press firmly into lightly greased tin (base measures 16cm x 26cm). Spoon fruit Topping evenly over base, bake in moderate oven for 30 minutes. Cool in tin, cut when cold.
Topping: Beat together butter. brown sugar, golden syrup, sifted flour and brandy. Add halved cherries and chopped dried apricots, stir in sultanas and almonds.

Friday, 16 November 2007

November Cooking Session - Mexican Thanksgiving at Leticia's

We learnt how to make Tamales with Leticia. Wow, what a lot of work, but they were worth the effort.

Our Menu

Tuna Ceviche Tostadas
Tamales with 2 fillings
Banana Guava Tropical Delight

Thanks Leticia for these great recipes!


Tuna Ceviche Tostadas

1 Kg fresh tuna
Juice of 5-6 lemons or limes
4 Tablespoons sesame oil
5 Tablespoons coconut milk
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 finely chopped fresh Serrano or Jalapeno pepper
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
2 chopped tomatoes
1 handful cilantro, chopped
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
Soy sauce to taste

8 to 10 tostadas

Finely dice the tuna and place in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, sesame oil and coconut milk and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and serve on tostadas.


Filling 1.

Beef Picadillo

1.5 Kg beef cut in large chunks
4 large garlic cloves
3 chopped tomatoes
2 onions
1 large potato
2 carrots
1 handful of fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin
3 Tablespoons roasted red chili salsa (see below)
5 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a small soup pot, add 5 cups of water, beef chunks, 1 smashed garlic clove, 1 whole onion, cilantro and salt to taste. Boil for about 1/2 an hour then add a peeled potato and 2 peeled carrots. Continue boiling beef on low fire another 1/2 hour or until beef is tender. Cool beef and shred. Finely chop potato, carrots, 1 onion, 3 tomatoes and 3 garlic cloves. In a medium frying pan sauté onion in 4 tablespoons oil for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and sauté 2 minutes more, then add tomatoes and continue sautéing until tomatoes are cooked through. Add shredded beef, potatoes, carrots, roasted Red Chile Salsa, salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Red Chilli Salsa

2 tomatoes
1 to 2 garlic cloves
3 to 5 red dried chilies
3 to 4 Tablespoons water
Pinch of dried marjoram or oregano (optional)
Salt to taste

Line a sauté pan with enough aluminum foil to completely cover tomatoes. Heat pan on medium fire and roast/blacken whole tomatoes and chilies; enclose them with foil so they cook through. Occasionally turn them to ensure they are blackened all around. Once cooked, put tomatoes, chilies, garlic, water, marjoram and salt in blender. Blend till smooth.

Filling 2.

Chicken with Red Chili

1-2 chickens
6 cups of water
1 onion
1/2 tsp dried oregano/marjoram
8 Ancho chilies
1 dried red chile
3 garlic cloves
4 Tablespoons oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons corn flour (Maseca)
Salt to taste

In a soup pot add 6 cups water, chicken, onion, oregano and salt to taste. Boil for 1/2 hour or till chicken is tender. Once chicken is done, let it cool then shred. Using 4 cups of the chicken broth, boil the Ancho chilies for I 5 minutes. Put chilies, broth, garlic, corn flour, and salt in blender, blend till smooth. Using a medium sauce pan, heat 4 tablespoons oil. Strain chili mixture and add to sauce pan. Stir continuously till sauce thickens. Add more chicken broth or corn flour as needed to make the sauce a medium consistency. Let sauce come to a boil then add shredded chicken.


1 kilo corn flour (Maseca)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1 cup long grain rice, rinsed with hot water then cold and air dried.
400 grams vegetable shortening “Becel” (In the U.S. use “Crisco”)

35 to 40 cornhusks soaked in hot water for 30 minutes.

Using a food processor, grind rice till grainy consistency, similar to ground coffee. In a large mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients (including rice). Add shortening and blend with your hands until it is incorporated with the flour. Add cold water slowly and continue to knead until the dough is a soft non-sticky consistency. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

When dough is ready, place 2 tablespoons of dough on husk, press dough with back of tablespoon and spread it on the husk to form a small rectangular shape (about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide). Place one tablespoon of desired filling atop dough and enclose completely with the husk by rolling. Tie both ends of husk with a string (strings can be made by shredding a husk). At this point Tamales can be frozen for later use or cooked.

Place Tamales in a steamer. Steam for 30 minutes then open lid and lets cool for 10 minutes. Place on a serving platter and let them cool another 5 minutes, Tamales must be firm to the touch before eating. This recipe makes approximately 35 to 40 tamales.

We were amateurs at making these, but look at those perfect ones. Leticia made them, of course.

Banana Guava Tropical Delight

6 bananas sliced lengthwise
12 slivers of guava paste
6 tablespoons melted butter
6 tablespoons dark rum
400 grams mascarpone cheese
400 grams ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
Grate rind of 1 lemon

Using a 8”x 11.5” inch baking dish, line sliced bananas and drizzle with butter and rum. Place a sliver of guava paste on each banana slice. Blend cheeses with vanilla, and put mixture atop of bananas and guava. Top with grated lemon rind and bake for 20 minutes at 180 C.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Moroccan Cooking Class at Susan's

We are a group of international women living in and around Zürich, and we have one thing in common. We all love to cook! Susan hosted our October cooking class, and she chose the following menu:

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Parcels

Harissa Chicken with Cous Cous and Peppers


The recipes are from the numerous cooking classes she attended, while living in Hong Kong. The eggplant parcels were the high point of our lunch. Bold, creamy, goat cheese and sweet tangy sun-dried tomato, wrapped in strips of lightly fried japanese eggplant are served on a bed of zesty rocket. Our main course, Harissa Chicken, spicy and succulent, is a wonderful contrast to the steamed cous cous and roasted peppers. Baklava, deliciously flaky, nutty and buttery, was the perfect finishing note.

Hilda - with the beautiful Japanese eggplant

For 4 servings

Japanese Eggplant: 280 g or 4pcs
Soft French Goat’s cheese: 12O g or 4pcs
Sun-dried Tomatoes: 40 g or 4 pcs
Fresh Basil Leaves: 5 g or 4pcs
Rocket Leaves: 10 g

For Black Olive, Basil Sun-dried Tomato Dressing

Olive Oil: 1 cup
Balsamic Vinegar: 50 ml
Sun-dried Tomatoes: 20 g
Chopped Greek Black Olives: 15 g
Fresh Basil chopped: 5 g
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method: To make dressing, whisk all ingredients in a bowl with olive oil and vinegar, adjust seasoning to taste.

(1) Remove the stalk from the eggplant and slice length ways into thin slices.
(2) Season with salt and pepper and pan fry in olive oil till soft.
(3) Place four slices of eggplant on board ("weave" the eggplant strips together: one over, one under). Top with goat’s cheese, sun-dried tomato and a basil leaf.

Robyn loved making these eggplant parcels!

(4) The eggplant strips are folded over each other, either clock-wise or anticlockwise, to make a small parcel. Wrap in plastic wrap, twisting to form a tight ball, refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

(5) When ready to serve place in 150 °C oven for six minutes to warm. Place on a plate with rocket leaves.

(6) Drizzle dressing around plate, serve immediately.


For 4 servings


Cous Cous: 220 g or 2 cups
Red and Yellow Peppers: 2
Chicken Breasts: 4
Chinese Parsley for Garnish: 1 handful

For Harissa Sauce

Cumin: 2 Tablespoons
Chopped Red Chili: 1
Lemon Juice: 2 Tablespoons
Tomato Paste: 2 Tablespoons
Chinese Parsley: 1 bunch
Whole Garlic: 4 cloves
Olive Oil: 1 cup
Black Pepper

Method: Place all ingredients in a blender, mix well till smooth.

(1) Marinate chicken in harissa sauce for two hours.
(2) Place cous cous in a pan with 1/4 cup of water and steam for 10 minutes.
(3) Roast slices of pepper in pan with olive oil till soft.
(4) Bake chicken in oven for 20 minutes at 160 °C
(5) Arrange peppers on a plate with cous cous and chicken. Baste chicken with some of the harissa sauce and serve.



1 packet Phylo dough for baklava
250 grams butter
2 packets walnut


3.5–4 cups water
3.5 cups sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Layer the pieces of dough in a large baking pan.

Warm the butter and pour between each layer. We used a baby bottle, with extra large holes made in the teat. After layering 6 pieces of dough in a baking pan spread the walnut pieces and continue putting the rest of dough on top.

Cut the dough in diagonal slices. Bake until light brown and remove from oven.

Susan: pouring the cooled syrup over the cooked hot pastry/walnut mixture.

Syrup: Put water to boil and add sugar, stirring until sugar is melted. Boil 10 minutes more. Just before removing from stove, add lemon juice. Set aside to cool. Pour syrup over the hot baklava, just after it comes out of the oven.

Photos, courtesy of Leticia, thank you!
Susan - thanks for hosting this fabulous lunch! Fani, Sally, Viviana and Angela, you were all missed!