Saturday, November 5, 2011


Mince pies Picnik collage 3 bis
In 2010 I decided that I was going to prepare my very first mincemeat for Yuletide. I planned on having a 100% British dinner and didn't want serve anything too heavy or rich as we had absolutely no desire to have bursting stomachs, feel unwell, sick and bloated...


"Mince Pies" (also called "Minced Pies") are British mini shortcrust pies or tartlets which are filled with mincemeat and eaten during the Christmas holidays (though it seems that during the Easter festivities you can sometimes find those pies - with a cross on the top - in stores too). The origin of those petits fours can be traced back to the 13th century when European crusaders returned from their campaigns in the Middle East where they tried to recapture the Holy Land and Jerusalem. At that time the people living in those far-away regions cooked many sweet and savory meat dishes which included fruits as well as spices (they still do). During the Middle Ages our cuisine was highly influenced by the culinary prowesses of the Orient, hence it is not surprising to learn that this combination was also very popular in our hemisphere.

In Tudor England they were often called "Shrid Pies" and consisted of shredded meat, fruits, suet and spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg). By 1596, they were also known under the name of "Mutton Pie" and "Christmas Pies". In the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras they were defined as "Minched pies".

"Mince Pies" have always been
associated with Catholic idolatry and considered a kind of consecrated cake. During the English Civil War (1642–1651) they were banned by the Puritan (English protestants) authorities who regarded them as sinful due to the guilty, forbidden pleasures they confered. Cromwell hated Christmas which was not sanctioned by the Bible and saw it as a pagan holiday promoting gluttony and drunkennes. Nevertheless, the tradition of eating "Mince Pies" on Christmas day was perpetuated long after that sad episode and is still well-alive today. The recipe has evolved over time. It is during the 19th century that those tartlets radically changed by becoming sweeter, not containing meat anymore, being reduced in size and altered in shape (early pies were much larger, oblong in shape and supposed to represent Jesus's crib).

Like all English folks my grandparents made "Mince Pies" solely in December and didn't break that old tradition. Speaking of that, here's an interesting fact for you: Cromwell's law forbidding the consumption of anything linked to gluttony (puddings and mince pies mainly) has never been rescinded, so "Mince Pies" are still illegal on Christmas Day. Hilariously ludicrous, no? That leads me to wonder why nobody ever gets rid of certain conventions and starts baking those pastries on other occasions. It is such an incredibly luscious goodie that it seems a pity to eat it only once every 12 month!

Of course, you could argue and bring up the fact that those pies carry a religious symbolism and that anything related to the birth of Christ has no reason of being produced out of that sacred moment of the year -though it must be said that their meaning is nowadays quite obsolete (most British citzens are surely incapable of explaining why they are holy) and taken a lot less seriously than at the time of their creation. That is totally ok if you are a Christian but in my opinion, if you are not a god-fearing believer then I reckon that it is not a blasphemy at all to enjoy "Mince Pies" when you feel like doing so. Not eating them more often, now that is what I would qualify as sacrilegious!

Mincemeat used as filling for "Mince Pies" is a preserve that can be stocked for a while (if one adds suet just before putting it in jars) and can be made all year long since it's components are available most of the time. So it would be awfully sad not to enjoy this delicacy whenever you feel like it.

Imagine going for a picnic in spring, organizing a potluck, a wedding or a birthday party, enjoying a divine pudding wine while admiring the stunning fall scenery or celebrating Easter... I bet you have no problem picturing yourself gobbling one of those gorgeous little pies during those events . So, I think we should declare that "Mince Pies" are too scrummy to be consumed exclusively during a restricted period of time!!!


I was really satisfied with my "Mince Pies" as they were flawless and reminded me of those I had tasted in England. The pastry was delicately flaky, tender and baked to perfection (just ever so slightly golden) and the interior was exquisitely moist, mouthwateringly citrusy, subtly spicy and blissfully fragrant (thanks to my well-ripened mincemeat).
To die for!

Mince pies 4 bis
~ Mince Pies ~
Recipe for the "Shortcrust Pastry" by Rosa's Yummy Yums 2011.

Makes 18 pies.

350g All-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 Tbs Powder sugar
1 Tsp Sea salt (fine)

120g Unsalted butter, cold and cut into little cubes
60g Lard, cold and cut into little cubes
4-10 Tbs Cold water
1 1/2 Jam jars (about 375-450g) mincemeat
Castor sugar for decorating

1. Sift the flour, icing sugar and salt into a bowl, add the butter and lard. With the hel
p of a pastry blender, work them together until the mixture fine breadcrumbs or coarse sand.
2. Add the water (quantity depending on the himidity of the air) and with the help of a table knife stir until the mixture comes together and forms a pastry ball.
3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very briefly until smooth.
4. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 18 x 8cm rounds using a fluted (or not) cutter and re-kneading and rolling the trimmings.
5. Lightly grease the cupcake tins (I made 18 little pies) with butter and line with the pastry
discs, then prick lightly with a fork.
6. Spoon 1-1.5 Tbsp mincemeat into each case.
7. Now with the leftover patry cut out 18 x 6cm pastry rounds or 18 stars (alternative pie lids),
re-rolling as necessary.
8. Brush the edges of the pies with water or egg wash and
press lids down onto the bases, sealing well.

Mince pies Picnik collage 5 bis
9. Chill for 20 minutes.
10. Preheat the oven to 190° C (375° F).
11. Brush the lids with water and sprinkle with castor sugar.
12. Bake for 26 minutes or until very lightly golden.
13. Remove from the oven and let the mince pies cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove them delicately from the pan and place them on a wire rack.

If you don't want to use lard, them replace it by white vegetable shortening or butter.

It is possible to freeze the unbaked pies in the trays (for at least 4 hours or overnight) and then transfer the frozen pies to plastic boxes, layered with baking paper between. In that way they can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months (to cook, bake from frozen but for a few minutes longer than indicated previously).
The pies can be kept for up to a week at room temperature in an airtight box.

Serving suggestions:

Serve warm or cold with a dollop whipped cream, clotted cream or brandy butter.


Mince Pies Picnik collage 1 bis
~ Mince Pies ~
Recette par Rosa's Yummy Yums

Pour 18 tartelettes.

350g de Farine blanche (+ un peu pour saupoudrer)
1 1/2 CS de Sucre en poudre
1 CC de Sel de mer fin

120g de Beurre non-salé, froid et coupé en cubes
60g de Saindoux,
froid et coupé en cubes
4-10 CS d'eau froide
1 1/2 Pots à confiture de mincemeat (environ 375-450g)
Sucre cristallisé pour décorer

1. Tamiser la farine avec le sucre et le sel dans un bol. Ajouter le beurre et le saindoux. Les travailler ensemble afin d'obtenir un mélange sableux.
2. Mélanger avec un couteau de table tout en ajoutant assez d'eau afin d'obtenir une boule de
3. Sur une surface farinée, légèrement/rapidement pétrir la pâte, puis l'étaler.
4. Couper 18 ronds (flutés) de 8cm de diamètre (réutiliser les restes de pâte).
5. Beurrer des moules à cupcakes (18 trous) et garnir avec les ronds de pâte, puis piqu
er les fonds.
6. Garnir chaque tartelette avec 1-1.5 CS de mincemeat.

7. Découper 18 ronds de 6cm de diamètre avec la pâte restante ou 18 étoiles (couvercles).
8. Humidifier les bords des tartelettes avec de l'eau (ou du jaune d'oeuf) et souder les couvercles en appuyant avec les doigts sur les bords des tartelettes.

Mince Pies Picnik collage 2 bis
9. Mettre au frigo pendant 20 minutes.
10. Préchauffer le four à 190° C.
11. Peindre le dessus des couvercles avec de l'eau et saupoudrer avec du sucre cristallisé.
12. Cuire pendant 26 minutes, jusqu'à ce que les tartelettes soient très légèrement dorées.
13. Sortir les tartelettes du four, puis les sortir des moules après 5 minutes de repos. Mettre les tartelettes à refroidir sur une grille.

Si vous ne voulez pas utiliser de saindoux, alors vous pouvez soit le remplacer par de la margarine soit par du beurre.

Les tartelettes peuvent être congelées non-cuites. Placez-les sur une plaque et mettez cette plaque au moins 4 heures au congélateur jusqu'à ce qu'elles soient congelées. Puis les mettre dans une boîte et les conserver au congélateur pendant 3 mois maximum (cuisson sans les dégeler + augmenter le temps de cuisson).
Conserver ces tartelettes une semaine maximum à température ambiante dans une boîte hermétique.

Idées de présentation:
Servir les Mince Pies froids au chauds, avec de la cr
ème chantilly, de la clotted cream ou du brandy butter.

Mince Pies Picnik collage 4 bis

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Cassata Cupcakes Lake 1 3 bis
The holidays are oficially over. Done, as energetic, charismatic and infamous chef Gordon Ramsay would put it. The dream has died, at least for now. It is once again time to face the harsh facts, cold reality and boring everyday, imposed routine. Impossible to escape the rat race. It never ceases to harass you like a hungry hyena and suck you dry of your energy and vital force like a famished vampire. Whether we consent to it or not we are all slaves to the wage (or to the system)...
"Run away from all your boredom
Run away from all your whoredom and wave
Your worries, and cares, goodbye

All it takes is one decision

A lot of guts, a little vision to wave

Your worries, and cares goodbye

It's a maze for rats to try

It's a race, a race for rats

A race for rats to die
It's a race, a race for rats
A race for rats to die..."

- Excerpt taken from the song "Slave To The Wage" By Placebo
The feeling of constantly running and wasting your existence for others is even stronger when it is impossible for you to make the most of those oh so precious, yet hilariously rare free days. Then, taking a break is a little bit of a torture as you are trapped in your rabbit box apartment and sentenced to not going out of a perimeter of a few kilometers around your domicile as taking cars, trains or aeroplanes is definitely not in your budget. So, in a way you feel trapped, deprived and like in a jail since you cannot escape your village, town and canton in order to get some fresh air. Money really determines the size of your cage, so to speak.

Don't get me wrong, though. I love to spend quality time between my four walls and if I had more resources, I would not be the kind of person who would travel frenetically and never be able to take some time out to relax at home. I am quite a tranquil and domestic "animal" who doesn't like to get stressed around or run like a maniac just for the sake of going away. Such tiring activities are not for me. They leave me empty and depress me. It is just another grind and I don't need that as I already have a plateful of this monotonous treadmill called modern life.

Tourist trap legolands, prefabricated and ugly hotels, phony paradises that all look the same wherever you go, people-crammed destinations, sanitized/sterile activities and accomodations (Western food, four-star beds, luxurious resorts, comfy trips, etc...) that don't disorientate you too much, yet just let you get a secure but not too mind-boggling glimpse of the exotic country you are "visiting" (most individuals don't want to a too drastic change of scene although they want to set foot on the other side of the globe), mindless and soulless quickie holidays that leave you feeling barren as well as drained or demented quests for things to boost about in front of your colleagues, family or friends repulse me. Instead of that, I'd rather see nothing else than my usual environment as I believe that if you go far afield it should have a purpose and be an enrichening as well as bewildering experience!

Why would one want to endure a long and exhausting journey, pollute the air we breathe and throw their savings earned from their hard labourship out of the window for a shellless vacation? What the point in getting into so much trouble just to export your safe way of living abroad?

Cassata Cupcakes 4 bis
In my opinion, travelling is synonymous of discovery, astounding enlightement, indelible memories, stepping out of your comfort zone, enjoying the beauty of different and learning about other civilizations/traditions. In absence of that, I prefer to have fun without skipping latitudes and to play the tourist in my own district, thus rediscovering my city as well as the countryside surrounding. In fact, that's what I do every time I go out for a walk. I try to see the things I know in a totally new fashion...

It is to be said that blogs are a marvelous medium for journeying on a trip without leaving your seat. They open you up to other cultures, patterns of thinking and offer you a highly pleasurable visual stimulus. Quite a voyeuristic way of living through others, but so soul-uplifting when you are in need of some serious daydreaming in order to flee your tedious and not so glamorous life for a short while.

Cooking gives you the means of fantacizing and freeing yourself from your shackles too. I cannot recall how many times my mind has wandered to distant lands while having a amazing meal. Food is really a world in itself.

Last week, for example, I prepared two foreign dishes that transported me to wonderful climes. Eating "Moussaka" and "Lime Rabbit" has helped me catch a sight of sunny Greece with its beautiful and deserted Peloponese beaches, turquoise sea, goat and sheep covered mountainous regions, lovely terrace coffees, amazing, atmospheric and rugged landscapes, olive tree filled valleys, friendly natives, ancients ruins, and stunning gastronomy as well as g
et a peek of the Antilles and its Caribbean blue waters, verdoyant nature, colorful vegetation and houses, exhuberant inhabitants, heavenly scenery and its exquisitely spicy cuisine. Very refreshing.

This is why, today, I wish to share with you my take on an Italian classic and make you forget that your children are going back to school very soon and that hot weather amusements as well as frivolity have sadly come to an end with the closing of the holiday season.

My Sicily-inspired "Cassata Cupcakes" will surely make you remember those deliciously lazy moments you spent while reading a book on your longchair, idly sitting on a restaurant patio, lethargically sleeping on the living room couch, gullibly sipping on a glass of frozen cold rosé, shamelessly faking boredom, fervently admiring the sun setting in the crimson horizon, flirting with the waves and effortlessly loitering around the streets of an unknown village or metropolis.

Of course, considering the fact that I am a person who likes to be creative, always itches to change recipes and to add her personal touch to them, it was out of question for me not to invent my own version of this gorgeous entremet. So instead of preparing a big cake, I baked cupcakes. Nonetheless, I decided to stuff them with a traditional filling and decorate them with rolled green marzipan as it is done in Sicily.

This is a fresh, refined, spicy, lightly boozy and divine summer sweet treat that is perfect for afternoon teas or parties with friends and is the ideal Sunday family lunch/dinner dessert. Just try it, you'll be ravished by its heavely taste.

Cassata Cupcakes 1 2 bis
~ Cassata Cupcakes ~
Cupcake recipe adapated from Amy Sedaris' "I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence" and ricotta filling by Rosa Mayland 2011.

Makes about 12 cupcakes.

Ingredients for the "Cupcakes":
3/4 Cup (90g) Unsalted butter
3/4 Cup (158g) Castor sugar

1 Egg (~63g)
1 Tsp Pure vanilla extract
1/3 Tsp Orange zest paste (or orange essence)
1 1/4 Tsp Baking powder
1/4 Tsp Salt

1 1/4 Cups (160g) Plain white flour

5/8 Cups minus 1 1/2 Tbs (130ml) Milk

Ingredients For The "Ricotta Filling":
1 Cup (250g) Ricotta cheese, strained (see instructions here)
1/2 Cup (60g) Confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3/4 Tsp Ground cinnamon
1 1/2 Tsp Pure vanilla extract
2/3 Tsp Orange zest paste (or orange essence)
4 Tbs (60g) Chocolate (60%), finely chopped
1 Tbs Whisky
Ingredients For The "Decoration":
200g Green marzipan
, to taste

Cassato Cupcakes Russian Church 1 6 bis
Method For The "Cupcakes":
1. Turn the oven on to 190° C (375° F).
2. In a medium bowl, mix together all dry ingredients (salt, baking powder and flour). Set aside.
3. In a big bowl, cream the butter until smooth.
4. Add the sugar and cream again until the mixture is white, light and fluffy.
5. Add the 2 eggs, one at a time while beating/mixing well until blended.
6. Add the vanilla and orange zest paste, then the dry ingredients and the milk, alternatively, while mixing well, until all ingredients are totally combined (homogenous batt
7. Pour into individual baking cups, until they are about 2/3 full.
8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one cupcake comes out clean.
Method For The "Ricotta Filling":
1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the ricotta until smooth and creamy.
2. Add the confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, orange zest paste and blend until homogenous.
3. Stir in the chopped chocolate and whisky.

4. Chill until firm.
Method for "Putting The Cupcakes together":
1. Cut the cupcakes in two (horizontally).
2. Brush the insides with a bit of whisky.
3. Spread 2 tsps ricotta filling on the bottom part of the cupcake and assemble.
4. Roll the marzipan between two sheets of plastic film and cut rounds about the size of a cupcake, then cover the top of each cupcake with them.
5. Serve.

The cupcakes can also be made in advance and frozen for up to 3 months.
The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the cupcakes. Just cover and keep refrigerated.

Serving suggestions:
Serve those cupcakes as a teatime treat or for dessert with a good cup of coffee or some sparkling wine (Champagne, Prosecco or Clairette de Dille).


Cassata Cupcakes Old Town 1 4 bis
~ Cupcakes Façon Cassata ~
Recette pour les cupcakes adaptée de Amy Sedaris "I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence" et recette pour la garniture à la ricotta par Rosa Mayland 2011.

Pour environ 12 cupcakes.

Ingrédients pour les "Cupcakes":
60g de Beurre non-salé
160g de Sucre cristallisé
1 Oeufs (~63g)
1 CC de d'Extrait de vanille pure
1/3 CC de Pâte de zeste d'orange (ou d'essence d'orange)
1 1/4 CC de Poudre à lever/cake
1/4 CC de Sel

160g de Farine blanche/fleur
130ml de lait
Ingrédients Pour La "Garniture A La Ricotta":
250g de Ricotta, égouttée (voir instructions ici)
60g de Sucre en poudre, tamisé
3/4 de Cannelle en poudre
1 1/2 CC d'Extrait de vanille pure
2/3 CC de Pâte de zeste d'orange (ou d'essence d'orange)
60g de Chocolat (60%), finement haché
1 CS de Whisky
Ingredients For The "Decoration":
200g de Massepain vert
Whisky, selon goût

Cassata Cupcakes 2 2 bis
Méthode Pour Les "Cupcakes":
1. Préchauffer le four à 190° C (375° F).
2. Dans un bol moyen, mélanger tous
les ingrédients secs (sel, poudre à lever et farine). Mettre de côté.
3. Dans un grand bol, battre le beurre en pommade.
4. Ajouter le sucre et battre jusqu'à
ce que le mélange devienne blanc et mousseux.
5. Ajouter les oeufs, un à la fois, tout en
battant bien après chaque ajout afin d'obtenir un mélange homogène.
6. Ajouter la vanille et la pâte de zeste d'orange, puis les ingrédients secs, tout en alternant avec le lait et en mélangeant bien afin d'obtenir une pâte homogène.
7. Mettre la pâte dans les caissettes et remplir seulement au 2/3.
8. Cuire pendant 20 minutes, jusqu'à ce que les cupcakes soient dorés et
que la lame d'en couteau en ressorte propre.
Méthode Pour La "Garniture A La Ricotta":
1. Dans le bol d'un batteur électrique, battre la ricotta jusqu'elle soit lisse et crémeuse.
2. Ajouter le sucre en poudre, la canelle, la vanille, le zeste d'orange en purée et battre à nouveau afin que le mélange soit homogène.

4. Ajouter le chocolate et le whisky.
5. Mettre au frigo afin que la garniture se rafermisse.
Méthode Por "L'assemblage Des Cupcakes":
Couper (horizontalement) les cupcakes en 2 parties égales.
2. Peindre chacune des deux parties intérieures avec un peu de whisky.
3. Etaler 2 CC de garniture à la ricotta sur la partie inférieure du cupcake.
4. Rouler le massepain et découper un rond de la taille du cupcake, puis recouvrir le dessus du cupcake avec.
5. Servir.

Si vouls le désirez, il vous eat possible de congeler les cupcakes (3 mois au m aximum).
La garniture peut être préparée 24 heures à l'avance et gardée au frigo.

Idées de présentation:
Servir ces cupcakes l'heure du thé ou comme dessert, avec un bon café et un vin mousseux de qualité (Champagne, Prosecco ou Clairette de Dille).

Cassata Cupcakes Spider 1 5 bis

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Halloween 1.4 bis
So, time has come for all you ghouls to worship the Pumpkin God, play spooky tricks on the living, roam the streets like zombies and threaten the good people with your incantation-like "trick or treat" spine-chilling sentence...

Halloween 2.2 bis
The 31st of October marks Samhain (or All Hallow's Eve), the end of the harvest as well as that of the "lighter half" and the beginning of the "darker half". According to Gaelic tradition it is a time during which the borders between the world of the living and realm (otherworld) of the dead, the home of deities and the stronghold of supernatural spirits similar to elves or fairies become thin.

If you are hiding home behind boarded windows and trying to stay away from the monsters that are amongst us, you might want to make a few recipes to uplift your soul and keep you sane, so don't forget to check my "Halloween Food Ideas" Page.

Halloween 3.1 bis

Monday, March 22, 2010


The use "Dried Hibiscus Flowers" (also known as "Hibiscus", "Sorrel", "Rosella", "Karkadé", "Rosemallow" or "Flor De Jamaica") in the kitchen is very interesting. Those lovely flowers grow on a plant which is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family (Malvaceae). Hibiscus trees are native to warm, temperate, tropical and subtropical regions. Their flowers are very large and trumpet-like, and their colors range from white to pink, red, orange, purple or yellow.

Due to it's medicinal properties, some people call Hibiscus the "other cranberry". As a matter of fact, it's good to soothe colds, open blocked nose, clearing up mucous, as an astringent, promoting proper kidney function, helps digestion, a tonic, a diuretic and helps reduce fever. It is also very rich in vitamin C.

Nonetheless, I recommend you to be cautious when using those flowers as they have a hypotensor effect on us. It is for that reason that you'd better not consume this flower if you are suffering from hypotension (low arterial pressure).

With "Dried Hibiscus Flowers" one can make tea, syrup/cordial, all kinds of drinks and cocktails. They can also be crushed into flakes and used as condiment (to flavor rice, stews, sauces, ice creams, etc...) or added to cakes, scones or any pastry as well as dessert of your choice and even used as a food coloring agent.

Check my "Mouhalabieh or Lebanese Milk Flans" recipe that is served with a colorful "Hibiscus & Rosewater Syrup".