VANILLA CREAM CUPCAKES

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Who does not love cupcakes? They are sweet, delicious, moist and so versatile. This recipe for Vanilla Cream Cupcakes is so simple and it’s perfect if you want to get your creative juices following by decorating them in any way you want. You can add food coloring, sprinkles, glitter what ever you fancy, I had so much fun letting my inner child out decorating them.  The buttercream in this recipe is certainly a winner for me, it is the best I have ever tried and I will be using it for other recipes which require buttercream. The vanilla buttercream was so creamy and had just the right amount of sweetness, it reminded me of vanilla ice cream in a frosting, I mean what could be better? I have struggled with cupcakes in the past whether I have made them or bought them, I always found the frosting overpowered the sponge however this recipe has renewed my love for these mini cakes and i’m looking forward to making them again and to get creative and let my imagination go wild. Happy Baking!!!

MAKES: 24         PREP TIME: 20mins        BAKING TIME: 20-25mins

INGREDIENTS 

  • 200g plain flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • FOR THE ICING:
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • Decorative toppings (optional)
  • Food coloring (optional)

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan and line 2 x 12 hole cupcake trays.
  2. Place the first 5 ingredients in a bowl and mix together with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.                                                                             P1010028
  3. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla extract until well blended.P1010034
  4. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, using an electric hand whisk continue whisking all the time. Whisk gently until the mixture is smooth, being careful not to over mix as this can toughen the cakes.                                                  P1010046
  5. Pour the mixture in to a jug to make it easier to handle as it is quite a runny mixture. Carefully pour the cake mixture in to the paper cases, filling each one only half way. P1010051
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins. Leave to cool and then make the icing.
  7. To make the icing, combine the icing sugar, vanilla extract and butter in a bowl. Beat with an electric whisk for 5 mins, be patient the mixture will seem too dry at first but it will come together. Add your food coloring, I split the mixture in 2 and used pink and violet colors.
  8. If icing by hand add a teaspoonful of the frosting to the top of each cake and use the back of the spoon, dipped in warm water to smooth the surface. If piping the icing transfer the mixture to a piping bag and pipe a spiral on to the top of each cake. I found there was enough icing to frost the cakes using the teaspoon however there was not enough for piping therefore I suggest making double the amount of frosting if you wish to pipe and if there is any left over you can freeze it for another time.                                                                                      P1010075
  9. Decorate with sprinkles or any other decorative toppings you have if you wish. The cakes can be kept for 3 days in an airtight container.                                                      P1010073

Recipe taken from: Step by step baking by Caroline Bretherton. 

 

 

TOTALLY CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

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These cookies absolutely live up to their name, they are so chocolatey and delicious that even someone like me who is not a great lover of chocolate can’t resist them. I like to bake half of them and then freeze the rest for another time and bake them unthawed when a much needed chocolate fix is required. They are so quick and easy to make that even if you don’t have a batch in the freezer you will have these cookies knocked up in no time and that chocolate craving you have will be gone as quick as it came.

MAKES: 12 Cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 125g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
  • 150g plain flour (all-purpose flour)
  • 30g cocoa, sieved
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 125g soft butter
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 50g white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, cold from the fridge
  • 350g (2 bags) semi-sweet chocolate morsels or dark chocolate chips

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven 170c/150 fan. Melt the 125g dark chocolate either in the microwave or in a heatproof dish over a pan of simmering water, make sure the dish does not touch the water.
  2. Put the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl and mix.BeFunky Collage23
  3. Cream the butter and sugars in another bowl (you can use a freestanding mixer if you want). Add the melted chocolate and mix together. BeFunky Collage12
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract and cold egg, and then mix in the dry ingredients. Finally stir in the chocolate pieces.
  5. Scoop out 12 equal-sized mounds (an ice cream scoop and palette knife are the best tools) and place on a lined baking sheet about 6cm apart. Do not flatten them. P1000968
  6. Bake for 18mins. testing with a cake tester to make sure it comes out semi-clean and not wet with cake batter.
  7. Leave to cool slightly on the baking sheet for 5 mins, then transfer them to a cooling rack to harden as they cool.

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Recipe taken from: Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson 

BUTTER CHICKEN

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I have always shied away from recipes with a long list of ingredients, I think it’s because I found them intimidating as it gave off the impression that they would be complicated, however this Butter Chicken recipe definitely changed my opinion. I am trying to make a conscious effort to use more spices in my cooking and this recipe seemed like the perfect place to begin, it looked so simple but impressive at the same time and I was not wrong. It is rich and flavorful with a subtle punch from the spices and it is a recipe that I am going to enjoy making time and time again and I am so pleased it has been added to my cooking repertoire. Just try making this and you will see what I am on about, who thought a curry could be so easy. 🙂 Happy Cooking.

Serves: 4 People

INGREDIENTS

  • 75g butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed (or if your like me and don’t like garlic then omit this 🙂 ).
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 3 tsps sweet paprika
  • 2 tsps garam masala
  • 2 tsps ground coriander
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 700g/ 1 1/4 pints tomato passata
  • 1-2 tbsps mango chutney
  • 2 tbsps tomato puree
  • 2 tbsps of red wine vinegar or red grape vinegar
  • 6 large skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 200ml double cream
  • 150ml natural yogurt

METHOD

  1. Melt the butter in a large casserole pot. Add the onions, garlic (if using) and salt. Cook gently for about 2 mins. Add the spices and cook until the onion is soft. BeFunky Collage22
  2. Tip in the passata, mango chutney, tomato puree and vinegar. Stir well and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the diced chicken and stir, then add the cream and yogurt stir again and lower the heat. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Adjust seasoning. BeFunky Collage21
  4. Serve this dish with rice, chapattis and mango chutney for a more authentic Indian meal.P1010140

Recipe taken from: Student cookbook by Sam Stern

YOGURT AND NUTELLA MUFFINS

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Greek yogurt and Nutella is a match made in heaven when combined in these dreamy muffins. The yogurt and oil mixture makes them very light while the Nutella and equally delicious strudel topping just takes these muffins to another level. These muffins will have you coming back for more and will fast become a staple in your baking repertoire as they are so delicious and easy to make. Happy Baking!!!!

MAKES: 12-14 MUFFINS

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups (approx 280g) of plain flour
  • 1 cup (approx 200g) caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt 
  • 1 jar Nutella
  • TOPPING:
  • 2/3 cup (approx 115g) brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (approx 50g) plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp soft butter

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 200c/180c fan. Line your muffin tray with muffin cases.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients; flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the wet ingredients; vegetable oil, eggs and yogurt. Whisk the wet ingredients till fully combined.

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4. Add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix until just combined.

5.TO MAKE THE TOPPING; Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl. Mix together with your fingertips to make a crumb like mixture.

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6. Fill the muffin cases with the batter about 1/3 full (about 1 tsp). Add a generous amount of Nutella, add more muffin batter on top of the Nutella to fill the cases to 3/4 full.

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7. Sprinkle the topping mixture over the muffins and bake for 20 mins. Serve and enjoy. Happy Baking!!!

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Recipe taken from: http://juliasalbum.com/2013/08/greek-yogurt-muffins-with-nutella/

THE FLYING CARPET IFTAR – TORCH HOTEL

Image via thetorchdoha.wordpress.com

Image via thetorchdoha.wordpress.com

I have lived in Doha on and off for about 10 years and I am ashamed to say that I have never been out for an Iftar meal, well I plan to sort that out this Ramadan. For the first day of Ramadan my husband and I decided to go someplace close by to try and avoid the traffic and chaos that would be in the West Bay area, so we went to the Flying Carpet restaurant in the Torch Tower. This was my first visit to the Flying Carpet so if your interested in my thoughts on their Iftar buffet then read on.

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When we entered the restaurant we were promptly shown to our table, we were then brought some dates, water and Arabic coffee to break our fast. The staff were very polite and quick to come to our table if we needed anything so overall the service was fantastic. The only criticism I have is they were too quick to clear our table, a few times they took my glass of fruit juice away before I finished it, I know this is a little fault however it is one of my pet peeves when I am in a restaurant.

While we were waiting to break our fast I had a chance to have a look round the restaurant and soak up the atmosphere and admire the decor. However there wasn’t much in the way of atmosphere, I think the fact the restaurant was not busy contributed to this as well as a television playing in the background. I would have much preferred to listen to some Arabic music. However after a day of fasting these issues did not irk me as much as they normally would have, as I was more interested in getting stuck in to the wonders that lay before me in the buffet :). I have never been to ‘The Flying Carpet’ before so I am unsure of what the usual decoration is compared to what it is now for Ramadan, however it being an Arabic restaurant I doubt it needed much in the way of Ramadan decorations. The decor of the restaurant was however very colorful, pleasant and it certainly fitted the Arabic theme and I still felt like I was at a Ramadan event.

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Now on to the main event, the food. The starter selection was excellent they had all the typical hot and cold mezze; hummus, fattoush, fatayer etc. I especially loved the cheese fatayer, it had delicious feta cheese and mint inside the yummy pastry parcel. Another must try from the hot mezze section was the chicken shawarma, the chicken was cooked to perfection and it was so moreish and tasty I would definitely go back just for the shawarma they were that good. There was also a selection of light refreshing starters, my favorite was the avocado salad it was the perfect light dish to begin with.

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After the amazing selection they had for starters and the equally amazing quality I had high hopes for the main courses however I was severely let down. The selection was not anything to rave about and the same went for the quality.  They had the traditional mixed grill selection which I must admit the meat was cooked extremely well and was tasty, a fish dish which I did not try as I am not a fan of fish, Moroccan Tagine which was bland, my husband enjoyed the stuffed vegetables, chicken gratin was OK I found there was too much cheese in the dish which overpowered it and finally the main dish of the evening was the Kuzi ,my husband enjoyed it however he said he has had much better (he is Iraqi so he is probably comparing it to his mums so there is a high standard for him 🙂 ).

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Finally the dessert. Dessert is my favorite part of any meal as I have quiet a sweet tooth and this Iftar buffet did not disappoint which was a relief after the mains, overall the selection was very good. There was a mixture of Arabic and international desserts. Upon entering the buffet the first thing you set your hungry eyes on is the dessert section and the first thing I think to myself is I am going to try everything. Is it just me or does everyone else delude themselves at a buffet in to thinking they are going to try everything? So when it came to dessert did I manage to try everything? Unfortunately not 😦 . I did however manage to try a few things; creme brulee which was delicious and creamy and the portion size was perfect, a gorgeous lime macaroon that was everything a macaroon should be crispy, chewy and deliciously refreshing, a creamy and fruity mango posset this was so divine and finally a cherry and chocolate mousse I found this to be a little rich and heavy so I didn’t manage to eat all of it. After the meal we were brought complimentary tea to finish off which was lovely.

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My overall thought on ‘The Flying Carpet’ Iftar is that I thoroughly enjoyed it for my first Iftar experience. The starters and desserts were almost faultless however as mentioned the main courses let this buffet down. If your looking for a 5* Iftar buffet which is out of the way of the busy West Bay area then this is the one for you.

The Iftar buffet costs QR220 which I find a little too much after doing some research on what the other 5* hotels are offering in Doha for around about the same amount of money.

Overall I would give it 5.5/10 – the atmosphere and the mains let down an otherwise very nice meal but it has the potential to be really good.

If you don’t fancy ‘The Flying Carpet’ but still would like to eat at The Torch then why not try;

The Torch Doha
Includes set mezze, soup, main buffet dishes and desserts. À la carte menu available on request, with a view of the Doha city skyline from floor 50. Iftar QR200. Maghreb prayer until 8pm.
Panorama, The Torch Doha, Aspire Zone (4446 5600).

The Torch Doha
Suhoor set menu including traditional Ramadan platters served at the tea lounge, located on the 21st floor, overlooking Aspire Park. Suhoor QR140. 10pm-1.30am.
Torch Tea Garden, The Torch Doha, Aspire Zone (4446 5600).

The Torch Doha information taken from: http://www.timeoutdoha.com/ramadan/features/63704-iftar-and-suhoor-in-doha-2015.