healthy desserts

Jul 012016
 

SS: July - Cherries and Peaches

 

 

Summertime is prime stone-fruit time and my two favourites are cherries and peaches.

 

Cherries: When I was a little girl, I remember eating cherries straight out of a colander, freshly rinsed. I was taught that the darker cherries were sweeter and I would spend time examining the pile looking for the darkest cherries, with extra joy when I found twin-cherries joined by the stem. However, there are many varieties of sweet cherries which  come in a variety of colours from deep burgundy to bright red to yellow. When buying cherries, look for glossy firm skin and green stems. Cherries stay freshest in cold storage so make sure you keep them in your refrigerator rather than on your countertop (unless you plan on eating them straight away, in which case your countertop is perfectly fine). Cherries freeze well if you remove their stone, place them in a single layer on a tray in the freezer until frozen through, and then seal them in a freezer-bag. You can then throw these cherries into smoothies and desserts directly from your freezer.

 

Peaches: Peaches took me a little longer to appreciate because my mini-self objected to their lightly fuzzy skin, but I soon overcame that hurdle and enjoyed many moments of simple pleasure in the company of a perfectly ripe peach, it’s juice running down my wrist. Even now, I sometimes try to eat my peaches quietly away from the rest of the household to fully absorb myself in that moment of simple joy. When buying peaches, look for unblemished skin and a slight give when pressed with your thumb. Peaches come in a variety of shades from pale yellow to blush red to maroon, and can be large round orbs or small flat discs (my preference is for flat peaches). The scent of a peach is a good indicator of its taste. Peaches are delicate so make sure you carry them on top of the rest of your shopping rather than at the bottom (as I have learned the hard way). Peaches are at their peak in July and August.

 

* The produce above is in season in July in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, July seasonal produce includes papayas, mandarins and golden delicious apples.

 

 

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Sep 072014
 

Figs and Pomegranate in Spiced Syrup

 

 

It’s early September, and I can’t find any figs in my supermarket. Last week there were lots of lovely tiny ones which you could finish in one bite, but this week nothing. Fig season is from July to October, so I’m hoping I will still manage to bag a few of the season’s last figs before it’s too late.

 

Pomegranates, on the other hand, are plentiful. Pomegranate is a winter fruit, and grows in the Northern hemisphere from September to February and the Southern hemisphere from March to July. The ones in my supermarket are from India, where pomegranates grow the whole year round.

 

My usual recourse with figs is to eat them plain or to prepare them as Figs with Mascarpone and Honey, but last week I decided to use my stash of figs for something different. Here’s my recipe for Figs and Pomegranate in Cardamom and Clove Spiced Syrup. Delicious spooned over yogurt, ice cream or cake.

 

 

 

FIGS AND POMEGRANATE in CARDAMOM AND CLOVE SPICED SYRUP

 

Ingredients:

Seeds from 1 pomegranate

250g / 8oz ripe figs (approximately 10 small figs)

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

6 green cardomom pods (whole)

6 cloves

Pinch of salt

 

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, pour 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, 6 cardamom pods, 6 cloves, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Place the saucepan on the stove and heat on medium for about 10 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve and the flavors to infuse. After 10 minutes, switch off the heat, but leave the syrup in the saucepan to continue infusing.
  3. Prepare the figs by washing and drying them gently. With a small sharp knife, cut off the stem at the top of each fig. Cut the fig into quarters or sixths (you want them to be bite-size). Set aside.
  4. My preferred way to de-seed a pomegranate is by what I call ‘The Water Method’. To do this, wash and dry the skin of your pomegranate. Fill a large bowl with fresh water and set it aside. Using a small sharp paring knife, cut off the flower stem at the top of the pomegranate. Take your knife and carefully score the skin from top to bottom into 4-6 segments (make sure you only cut the skin, not the seeds). Holding the pomegranate in your two hands, carefully pry it apart. It should separate easily. Take a segment, and submerge it in the bowl of fresh water. Start pulling apart the seeds under the water while discarding the pith and skin. The seeds will sink to the bottom while most of the pith will float. Do the same for all the segments of the pomegranate. When you are finished, drain the pomegranate seeds. They are now ready to use. Depending on how fresh your pomegranate is, you can store the seeds in the refrigerator for upto 3 days.
  5. Once the syrup has cooled down to room temperature, remove the cardamom pods and cloves (this is important as they will be hard to find after you have added the pomegranate seeds). Add the pomegranate seeds and figs. Gently mix. Put in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours to allow the syrup to infuse its flavor into the fruit. Can be refrigerated for upto 48 hours.
  6. Eat in its own or spoon it over yogurt, ice cream or cake.

 

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Jun 232014
 

Greek Yogurt with Pomegranate and Blueberries

 

 

The summer holidays have started and I have a list of activities which I like to do with my little one now that we have more time on our hands. One of our regular activities is making ‘chapati cookies’. The whole idea came from a cookie-making experience gone wrong.

 

A few years ago, I stocked up on some pretty cool cookie cutters and whipped up a batch of cookie dough. I realised that this was not quite up my alley when the directions told me to:

 

– Divide the dough in half and then roll each half out between two sheets of parchment paper (ugh, is this step really necessary?)

– Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (ok, let me try and make some space in my full fridge!)

– Try and work quickly with the dough once it’s out of the fridge before it starts to warm up to room temperature (Really? Work quickly with a four-year old?)

 

I knew it wouldn’t work the moment I read that last bit, but I persevered because people make cookies with their kids all the time, don’t they? Needless to say, it was rather stressful trying to keep warm little curious sticky hands working fast. We had to refrigerate the dough every few minutes as the dough kept becoming ‘gloopy’ and the whole process just took so long!

 

Since then, we’ve made cakes and drop cookies which are great for making with kids. But I still have these fantastic cookie cutters and I’ve been desperate to use them.

 

Enter ‘chapati cookies’. Chapati is the staple flatbread which Indians and Pakistanis eat. Chapati is actually amazing for kids to work with. It is easy to whip up, is soft and malleable, and can sit at room temperature for the whole day if necessary without melting into a puddle of butter. It’s also very healthy (I use 2 cups finely-milled wholewheat chapati flour + 3/4 to 1 cup water + 2Tbsp olive oil).

 

Although chapatis are traditionally rolled out into circles, there’s nothing in the rules which says you can’t cut them into gingerbread men, hearts, or umbrellas (yes, we have an umbrella-shaped cookie cutter!). You don’t bake them, you dry-cook them on a cast-iron pan or tava. Dipped in a little honey, chapatis make a nutritious breakfast, snack or dessert and my daughter doesn’t even miss the cookies.

 

Another summertime dish which I love eating for breakfast, snack or dessert is Greek yogurt with pomegranate, blueberries and pumpkin seeds. You can go on about the health benefits in this heavenly combination of foods, but the fact is that I eat it this high-protein anti-oxidant laden dish for breakfast simply because it tastes sooo good.

 

 

 

GREEK YOGURT WITH POMEGRANATE AND BLUEBERRIES

(serve for breakfast, snack or dessert)

 

Ingredients:

4 heaped Tbsp Greek yogurt per serving

1 Tbsp honey per serving

2 Tbsp pomegranate seeds (see below for directions on the easiest way to remove seeds from a whole pomegranate)

2 Tbsp blueberries

2 Tbsp any seeds or chopped nuts

 

Directions:

  1. If you can’t find pomegranate seeds in the refrigerated section of your supermarket, you can buy a whole pomegranate and remove the seeds in the following way. Wash the pomegranate’s skin and then cut the pomegranate into quarters (wear an apron to avoid red stains on your clothing). Put a large bowl in your kitchen sink and fill it with water. Take a pomegranate quarter and hold it under water in the bowl. With your fingers, start pulling off the seeds. They should come off very easily under water and there won’t be any red squirts of juice. Because of their weight, the pomegranate seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl while the white pithe will float. Discard the skin and repeat this process with the rest of the pomegranate quarters. Remove any floating white pithe, drain the pomegranate seeds, and refrigerate for upto 3 days.
  2. Stir the Greek yogurt in its pot to loosen it. Spoon 4 Tbsp of Greek yogurt into each bowl.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp of honey into each bowl and mix well with the yogurt.
  4. Add 2 Tbsp of pomegranate seeds.
  5. Add 2 Tbsp of blueberries.
  6. Add 2 Tbsp of any type of seeds or chopped nuts.
  7. Serve immediately without mixing the toppings into the yogurt.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sep 162013
 

Figs with Mascarpone and Honey

 

 

I only discovered fresh figs by chance in my early twenties. Having been forced to eat Fig Newtons as a school snack (grainy, sticky sweet yet musty at the same time), I always had quite bad associations with figs. After those school encounters, I would never have dreamt of going to a restaurant and torturing myself by ordering a fig tart or a goat’s cheese and fig salad. But one day, I ordered a cheese board for brunch and was presented with a chunky oak board with five types of cheese and a fig sliced into quarters. I fell in love with the way the fig looked before I even tasted it. Since then, I have loved fresh figs, and one of  my favorite ways to eat them is with a dollop of mascarpone and a drizzle of honey.

 

Fig season is a bit tricky because it actually has two seasons. A quick appearance in early summer (June) and then a longer stint from late summer to autumn (August to October). When you go to buy them remember that figs don’t ripen once they are picked, so make sure you buy ripe figs (they should give just slightly under the pressure of your thumb) and eat them within a day or two. They are very delicate and can spoil easily in transit, so check that your figs don’t have soft spots, excessive bruising, or mold on the bottom.

 

 

FIGS WITH MASCARPONE AND HONEY

(Serves 4)

 

Ingredients:

8 ripe figs, trim off stalk if it is hard

8 tsp mascarpone cheese (one tsp per fig)

Runny honey

 

Directions:

  1. Gently wash and dry your figs. If the stalk is hard, trim it off.
  2. Cut each fig into quarters but only 2/3 of the way down (see image above).
  3. Gently splay the figs and fill them with 1 tsp of mascarpone cheese.
  4. Arrange them on a serving platter or individual plates (allow 2 figs per person).
  5. Drizzle with honey according to taste.
  6. Serve immediately.

 

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May 022013
 

Rosewater Chocolate Covered Strawberries

 

 


Strawberry season is from May to August, and while this lovely fruit is delicious without any embellishment at the height of its season, it’s nice to dress it up for a special occasion. I decided to try to liven up my latest purchase of strawberries and make something festive. I prepared a batch of Rosewater Chocolate Covered Strawberries and they turned out beautifully!

 

You can use any type of good quality chocolate (dark, milk or white) – just remember that chocolate with 65% or higher cocoa content has antioxidant benefits. Rosewater is used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking to give a slight rose-perfumed taste to food (think of Turkish Delight). However, you certainly don’t need to use Rosewater if you don’t like it or don’t have it. Adding rosewater to the chocolate gives a very subtle essence, not overpowering.

 

To continue with the Eastern theme, I dipped the chocolate-covered strawberries in either coconut, toasted sesame seeds, or crushed pistachios. This is a great one to do with the kids!

 

 

ROSEWATER CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES 

 

 

Ingredients:

100g/4oz good quality chocolate (dark, milk or white – above 65% cocoa content is healthier)

200g/1lb fresh strawberries

1&1/2 Tbsp rosewater (optional)

Finely crushed pistachios or almonds, toasted sesame seeds, coconut flakes (or anything else which is finely crushed)

 

 

Directions:

  1. Set out 3 bowls, each filled with one of your different toppings (pistachios/almonds, sesame seeds, coconut).
  2. Set out a tray or plate with parchment or wax paper on it and keep it to the side – this is where you will place your dipped strawberries. (Make sure it will fit in your refrigerator!)
  3. You will need to melt your chocolate, so the first thing you should do is to break the chocolate into small pieces. You can either melt it in a bain-marie or in a microwave (directions for both are below).
  4. Bain-marie: Set a pot with water (about 1/4 full) on the stove to boil. once the water has boiled, reduce the heat to a simmer and place a stainless steel or strong ceramic/glass bowl on top of the pot (the bowl should fit on top without touching the water underneath). Place the chocolate pieces in the bowl – it will start melting quite quickly. Stir the chocolate gently so that it melts evenly. When it is 3/4 melted, remove the pot from the heat, and keep stirring the chocolate until it is complete melted.
  5. Microwave: Place the chocolate pieces in a ceramic/glass microwave-proof bowl (not stainless steel). Microwave on high for 20 seconds at a time, stirring and checking how much has melted as you go along.
  6. (If you are not adding rosewater to your chocolate, you can skip this step). Add 1&1/2 Tbsp of rosewater to the melted chocolate and start stirring vigorously. It may look like your chocolate is splitting, but just keep stirring and in about 30 seconds the chocolate mixture will become smooth again and slightly thick.
  7. Now, you simply dip your strawberry 1/2 to 3/4 in chocolate and then dip it immediately in one of your toppings.
  8. Place the strawberries on the parchment-lined tray as you complete each one.
  9. Place the tray in the refrigerator for at least one hour to set.
  10. Remove from the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes before serving to take the chill off, and serve.
Dipped Strawberry and Thumb
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May 012013
 

Rainbow Fruit Salad

 

 


A Rainbow Fruit Salad is really any fruit salad which is made with seven types of fruit.

 

The best combination will always be the one which uses the freshest seasonal fruit available, so it’s really a constantly changing recipe depending on the time of year. You would be surprised how the same fruit salad changes just by altering one or two of the fruits.

 

 

One of my favorite combinations is:
– Blueberries
– Pomegranate seeds
– Red grapes
– Canteloupe/Rock Melon
– Apples
– Oranges
– Tinned peaches (yes, I know they’re not fresh but I love adding a little peach syrup into my fruit salad)

 

This is a great salad to have the kids help out with. Add a dollop of thickened cream or vanilla yoghurt on top for a little something extra!

 

 

RAINBOW FRUIT SALAD

(Serves 6)

 

 

Ingredients: (You can use any combination of 7 fruits)

200g blueberries

100-150g pomegranate seeds

300g red grapes (approximately 30 grapes), cut in half and deseeded

500g canteloupe/rock melon, cut into bite size pieces

1 apple, cut into bite size pieces

2 oranges (peeled), cut into bite size pieces and deseeded

1 tin of sliced peaches in syrup (400g tin), cut the peaches into bite size pieces and reserve the peach syrup to glaze the fruit salad (you can also use any other juice you have on hand if you do not want to use peach syrup)

 

 

Directions:

  1. Wash all the fruit and drain well.
  2. Cut the red grapes, canteloupe, apple, oranges and peaches into bite size pieces and toss them in a large salad bowl along with the blueberries and pomegranate seeds.
  3. Add 6 Tbsp of peach syrup (or any other juice you have) and toss until well mixed.
  4. This salad tastes great when left in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours for the flavors to develop.
  5. Serve with a dollop of thick cream or vanilla yoghurt (optional).
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Apr 292013
 

Spicy Peach Salad

 


I grew up seeing my father regularly eating fruit with lashings of salt on top. As a child I found it counter-intuitive — if you’re going to eat fruit with salt, shouldn’t you just eat vegetables instead? It wasn’t until I was older that I was able to appreciate the mix of sweet, sour, salty and spicy.

 

This Spicy Peach Salad is a refreshing way to serve peaches once you’ve gotten tired of the cobblers and pies and peaches ‘n cream. It’s not sweet like a dessert, but tangy like a lemon sorbet… with chilli.

 

Make sure you use firm peaches otherwise they won’t stand up to the peeling and slicing necessary for this recipe. Through trial and error, I learned that peeled peaches are slippery – I mean, really slippery. The best way to slice up the peaches for this dish is in this order:

  1. Cut the peaches in half
  2. Remove the stone
  3. Peel off the skin using a small sharp knife or potato peeler
  4. Slice thinly

 

 

 

SPICY PEACH SALAD 

(Serves 4)

 

Ingredients:

600g fresh firm peaches (roughly 4 peaches)

1/8 tsp red chilli powder

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon)

pinch of salt

pinch of black pepper

pomegranate seeds or mint leaves to garnish (optional)

 

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare the peaches by cutting them in half, removing the stones, peeling the skin off, and slicing thinly. Arrange neatly on a platter.
  2. In a small cup or jar, mix the chilli powder, lemon, salt and black pepper and stir well.
  3. Spoon the lemon and chilli dressing evenly over the peaches.
  4. Scatter with pomegranate seeds or mint leaves to garnish (optional).

 

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