Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

Summer is nearly coming to an end for all of us in the northern hemisphere. But if you are lucky enough to live in a climate where it is pretty much warm all the year around, like here in Dubai, then a few months more of delicious summer fare is still on the table.
When I think of food and summer, it involves a lot of colour, and these Vietnamese rice paper rolls are just that - summery and colourful. They are healthy, light (but addictive), and full of crunch. They look great on the table at a BBQ, or can be enjoyed with a salad for lunch.

Rice paper rolls are easy to find, either in your local supermarket or Asian food store. All you need then are everyday vegetables from your kitchen, some chopped peanuts and some frozen shrimp or prawns. Once you have chopped and prepared your ingredients, there is little else really to do. I suppose these are a cheats way of making rice paper rolls, as all I used for my dressing was a bottle of sweet chilli sauce, but I think you could add a little soy or fish sauce too. Regardless, the sweet chili sauce added just the right amount of sweetness and flavor.And if you are not a prawn fan, why not add a little shredded chicken or beef instead?

Serve with extra sweet chili sauce for dipping, and a few pairs of chop sticks. So versatile and so delicious!

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls
Makes 10 rolls
Packet of rice paper roll sheets, to make 10
1/2 carrot, small
1/2 cucumber, small
1/4 red bell pepper, medium sized
1/4 green bell pepper, medium sized
3-4 spring onions/scallions
3 tblspns sweetcorn (frozen or canned)
Lettuce leaves, a handful
Cabbage leaves, a handful
Prawns or shrimp, a handful (fresh or frozen)
2 tblspns roughly chopped peanuts
Sweet chili sauce, bottle to taste
Prepare your sweetcorn - drain if using tinned, or lightly cook for a couple of minutes if using frozen. Chop your prawns/shrimp into small pieces, or leave as they are if using small prawns. Cook the prawns/shrimp for a couple of minutes, till cooked through and leave to cool. Now cut all of the remaining vegetables into long and thin strips. Heat some water in a pan, and pour into a heat proof bowl, large enough to soak your rice paper sheets. Keeping all your ingredients at hand, take a sheet of rice paper and soak in the warm water for 30 seconds or until soft. Place on a surface and add a little of each ingredient along the centre of the roll, adding the sweetcorn, prawns and peanuts last. Spoon a little sweet chili sauce over the filling. Fold the ends in, and carefully roll up the rice paper to enclose the filling. Repeat again with the other rice paper rolls and filling. Serve with sweet chili sauce for dipping.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Homemade Garlic Lemon Croutons

The credit for this crouton recipe goes entirely to my mum. She is great at coming up with simple but delicious lunch ideas, and these croutons are one of her many! Add them to your salad, to give a bit of crunch and interest, but they are of course amazing when added to a soup. You can also add a little bit more lemon if you like them to be extra lemony.
So much better than shop bought croutons, which I always find to be far too salty or hard, and I love that this recipe uses everyday kitchen ingredients. It takes a few minutes to make and is the perfect way to use up those last few bread slices too!
Homemade Garlic Lemon Croutons
For one slice of bread -
2 tblspns olive oil
2 tspns lemon juice
1/4 tspn garlic, crushed
Dried herbs, to your liking
Pinch of salt
Mix together the ingredients in a small bowl, and cut your bread into squares. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of your squares with the mixture. Put under the grill for about three minutes on each side, or until golden and crunchy.
Add to your salad or soup. Leftover olive oil mixture can also be used as a dressing.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chocolate Cake & Eid (the cake that nearly never was)

This post should have been an Eid celebratory post. It was going to have photos of a beautiful chocolate cake, gold and glittery, and oh so inviting. Instead to say I have had a rough few days making this exact chocolate cake, is putting it mildly to say the least.

Sometimes no matter how much you plan things to happen, they just won't happen that way!

Day 1

I first started to make my chocolate cake the day before Eid. However to cut a long story short, I was so pushed for time that all I managed to do is bake my two layers, knowing that since Eid was the next day it would be a family day, and there would be no time to make the frosting and decorate my cake. Sighing, I knew it would have to be finished the day after Eid.

Day 2

The day after Eid, I excitedly made my frosting, frosted and piped the cake, and added my sweet finishing touches in the form of edible gold sequins and gold dust. Last but not least I added my two moon and star glittery gold toppers - a homage to Eid and Islam. It looked like a beautiful cake and I was so happy. As I set up my photo station outside, I noticed it was a little blustery, but didn't think too much of it. With the cake placed infront of my background board I realized I had forgotten to bring my camera out.

Well ladies (and gents), the scene that greeted me when I came back with my camera was not a happy one. Suddenly I saw no cake and a fallen backboard. My board had fallen flat down onto my chocolate cake.

All that frosting and decoration was ruined!

I really don't need to say, but I was not happy at all. Infact I was so upset I consoled myself with a Starbucks chocolate chip cookie AND Haagen Daaz Praline and Cream ice cream.

However, unfortunately for me that was not all!

Day 3

The next day I proceeded to remake my glittery moon and star toppers, re-frost the cake, and set-up again outside. My cake had kinda shifted and squashed a little from the impact of the board the day before, and my heart really wasn't into redecorating it, so visually I wasn't as happy with the way it looked compared to the first time round. It was still windy outside but this time I was extra careful that nothing would fall. Yet it still seemed like things just weren't meant to be...

Just as I switched on my camera, up flashed on the screen: 'Your memory card cannot be read. Please reformat'

What the... Reformat?! I tried to remove the card and put the card back in. The same message flashed. Even inserting the card into my laptop didn't help, as it still said it needed to be reformatted. All I could think was 'but I need to take photos of this darn chocolate cake, and I have so many photos on that memory card which haven't been copied!!!' This was seriously the last thing I needed to know.

Still all was not lost!! In the meantime, rescue came in the guise of another memory card I had on hand, so I did get to take my pictures. By this time though my cake looked super sweaty and pretty sad itself to be honest.

The final 'icing on the cake' (pun intended!) came after I had taken my photos. That wind just couldn't let things be and the backboard once again did its job on the cake.

So as you have probably guessed by now, I can't say I am pleased with how my pictures turned out at all. Not only had this cake been refrosted and decorated, it was also 40 degrees weather, the frosting was starting to melt badly, and add to that the wind which was still there.

But wait!!

One good thing did come out of all of this though... a seriously amazing chocolate cake. I have to say this is the best homemade chocolate cake EVER. Its moist, cakey and chocolatey in the perfect way, and the chocolate frosting pairs so beautifully with it. I found absolutely no fault with its taste that I have decided it is now my go-to chocolate cake recipe. And maybe the next time I make it, I will have better luck with the presentation and photos ;)

And you know what else? My husband managed to save the photos on the original memory card for me in the end too!

Hope those of you who celebrated Eid had a lovely one!

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

For the Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Sweet Falcon

Makes a small two layer cake
(Double the recipe to make a normal 9 inch cake)

1 & half cups packed brown sugar
Half cup butter, softened
2 eggs,
1 tspn vanilla essence
1 & 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tspn baking powder
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup yogurt plus half tspn baking soda
3/4 boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs one at a time, until well blended, and then the vanilla essence. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together, and add to the egg mixture a little at a time alternating with the yogurt. Make sure it is all well combined and stir in the water until blended. Pour the batter into two small greased and lined cake tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tooth pick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Chocolate Frosting

(Own recipe)

1 cup butter
 2 and half cups icing sugar
Half cup cocoa powder
2 tblspns heavy cream

Cream together the butter, sugar and cocoa powder until well combined. Add the heavy cream and mix well. If consistency is too soft, refrigerate for ten minutes before frosting your cake.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Beela Bakes on Instagram!

I don't know about you, but of all the social media tools available, Instagram is probably currently my most used and most favourite. I definitely used Facebook a lot when I first joined it (back in 2006!). But when it comes to sharing my passion for baking, cooking and simply being creative I am a visual person, and Instagram is an avenue that serves my blog plugging needs the best.

I have enjoyed using it a lot especially this month during Ramadan as, if there is one time of the year the kitchen is at its busiest (ironically) it is now! In a typical Muslim household the whole afternoon, sometimes even the whole day, is spent preparing for iftar - the evening 'feast' with which we break our daily fast.
Anyway, its an enjoyable time and I've been sharing a few of the things that have been cooked up in our kitchen on Instagram, so I thought I would share some of those pics on here and tell my readers to follow me too if you are on IG. And if you are more of a Facebook or Twitter person I am also on there! Simply click on the little social icons on the top right of my blog to go to my page accounts and follow :) In addition you can also now subscribe to my post updates by email, by entering your email address in the box underneath the social icons!
Fresh Orange & Melon juice with dollops of pureed Strawberry
Fresh 'exotic' fruit salad
Tomato Bruschetta
Sweet treats with our tea
Chicken and Beef Mini Burgers!
An easy way to jazz up dates, by adding M&Ms or Smarties
I even sometimes feature things I've baked and not put up on the blog.
Sushi cakes for my brother-in-laws birthday
Rocky Road Bars
So what is your favourite social media tool to use?
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