I learnt to bake cakes when my daughter turned one. I wanted to be one of those mothers who can bake a delicious cake and make it look fantastic too. I enrolled myself in the best confectionary art school in Toronto, Canada, where I was living at the time. I learnt how to bake and the techniques of decorating too.
The recipes given below are simple, easy to put together and delicious. Your family will love them, just like my kids do.
Cheese toast with salad & sautéd vegetables
For the garlic cheese toast
- 6 slices of thick-cut white bread
- 1/3 cup of salted butter softened
- 1 large pods of garlic grated
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp dried parsley flakes + more for garnish
- 1½ cups grated three cheese blend (Gouda, cheddar, mozzarella)
Set your oven to broil. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and lay 6 slices of bread on top. In a small bowl, stir together butter, garlic, garlic powder and dried parsley flakes until well combined. Spread about half a tablespoon evenly over each slice of bread. Broil until golden brown and lightly crisp. Flip over and spread another half tablespoon of the mix over each slice of bread. Top with 1/4 cup grated cheese per slice and broil until cheese is bubbly and melting and the edges are golden and crisp. Cool 2 minutes, then slice and serve.
For the salad
- 3 firm red tomatoes chopped
- A bunch of basil leaves chopped fine
- 2 pods of garlic chopped fine
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Olive oil
For the veggies
- 2 steamed carrots, chopped and an equal amount of peas
In a hot pan, put a tablespoon of butter till it sizzles - add in the carrots and peas, add salt and pepper, swish it around and plate it.
for mince sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little for the dish
- 1 kg chicken or minced meat
- 3 onions, finely chopped
- 4 pods of garlic, finely chopped
- ½ tsp ginger paste
- ½ tsp garlic paste
- A full can of stewed tomatoes
- 1 roasted red pepper peeled and chopped
- Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
- A little grated nutmeg
- Worcestershire sauce to taste
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- About 6-8 lasagna sheets
- Prepare pasta sheets and keep aside.
- Make a béchamel sauce.
- Grate ½ a block of fresh mozzarella (Flanders) and keep aside.
for the béchamel sauce
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1¼ cups milk, heated
- Freshly ground pepper
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit — but don’t let it brown — about two minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat and cook, stirring for two to three minutes more. Remove from the heat and keep aside.
for the mince sauce
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and put in the minced garlic, ginger garlic paste and chopped onions till golden brown. Add in the mince and toss around till brown, then add the fresh thyme, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and add the chopped roasted pepper, followed by the can of tomatoes. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Let it cook for about five to seven minutes.
Preheat oven to 1800C. Take a heat proof rectangular dish and use a pastry brush to grease the bottom and sides of the dish. Start with the pasta sheets at the bottom, add béchamel sauce, then layer it with the mince. Cover with pasta sheets and meat layers till you reach the top of the dish. Grate some fresh mozzarella to cover the top and place in the oven for five to 10 minutes so that the cheese melts and starts to bubble.
- 600 gm skinless boneless chicken thighs (cut into 1½ inch pieces)
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- ½ tsp of sesame seeds
- ¼ cup soy sauce (light soy sauce preferred)
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar (or white granulated sugar)
- 3 tbsp cooking Sake (rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
- 2 tbsp Mirin (optional — white wine or dry sherry can be substituted)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil (optional — adds a wonderful flavour)
- 2 tsp minced garlic (2 cloves garlic)
- 1 shallot/green onion stem (sliced to garnish)
- 1 tsp cornstarch (or corn flour) mixed with 2 tsp water (only if needed)
- Heat cooking oil in a large pan over medium heat. Put in the sesame seeds, stir fry chicken, stirring occasionally until lightly browned and crisp. In a small jug or bowl whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, sake/vinegar, mirin and sesame oil. Set aside. Add the garlic to the centre of the pan and saute until lightly fragrant (about 30 seconds). Pour in the sauce and allow to cook. Stir until the sauce thickens into a beautiful shiny glaze (about two to three minutes).
- If for some reason your sauce has not thickened, quickly whisk in the cornstarch/water mixture and continue stirring until syrupy. Garnish with green onion (or shallot) slices and serve over steamed rice.
Tip: Replace garlic with ½ tsp minced ginger. You can also use both if you wish.
For the vegetables
- Stir fried bean sprouts and broccoli
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 250 gm bean sprouts
- 1 grated pod of garlic
- ¼ tsp grated ginger
- Steam broccoli and keep aside.
- In a wok or pan, heat oil, add ginger and garlic till slightly browned. Toss in steamed broccoli and bean sprouts, keep flame high just a minute or two and do not overcook. Add salt to taste.
Easy pizza from scratch
- 1 ½ cup warm water (105-110 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 2 ½ tsp active dry yeast
- Pinch of sugar/ tsp of honey
- 3 ½-4 cups bread flour (you can use all purpose flour, but the crust will not be as crispy)
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 ½ tbsp olive oil, plus ½ tbsp for coating the dough
- Add the yeast and sugar or honey to the warm water. (You can add the yeast into the flour directly, but I like to add the yeast to warm water first. If it's fresh, it will get foamy.)
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and olive oil. Bread flour is the best to use, since it will make your crust really chewy. Using all purpose flour will make the crust much softer. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix well. Once completely incorporated, turn the mixture over onto a floured counter and start to knead the dough with a punch, stretch and fold action until the dough forms into a ball. Continue kneading for about 5 minutes till the dough is smooth and firm.
- If the pizza dough seems a little bit too runny, add a tbsp of flour each until you have the right consistency. Or if the dough is too tough, add a tbsp of water until it's the right consistency.
- Drizzle the pizza dough with the remaining ½ tbsp of olive oil, and turn it over to make sure it's all coated with the oil. This will help prevent a dry skin from forming on top of the dough as it’s
- Place the dough in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean semi damp kitchen towel. Set aside in a warm, draft free place to rise until the dough doubles in size in about 1-1½ hours.
- Cut the dough into ready to roll pizza portions. (You can go for round or oblong or any shape you like.
Roll the pizza on the floured surface. The purée and the vegetable toppings for pizza
- 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
- ½ (14.5) oz can crushed tomatoes
- A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt to taste
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½-1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1½- 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
- ½ green bell pepper, julienned
- 1 small shallot or ¼ of a red onion, thinly sliced
- 4 oz sliced mushrooms, fresh or cooked
- 1.5-2 oz sliced pepperoni
- In a skillet, heat ½ tbsp of olive oil, add the minced garlic, the crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for about 30 seconds, then pour in the crushed tomatoes.
- Season with salt and then add the Italian seasoning. Cook on medium heat, covered, for five to seven minutes. Cool slightly.
Tip: You can make the sauce ahead of time. You only need half the can for one pizza, but I always make the whole can into the sauce. You can store the remaining half in the refrigerator and use it for another pizza or use it in a sauce or soup.
Spoon out the cooled tomato purée on to the rolled out pizza dough, add cheese and vegetable toppings. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pizza stone into the oven so that it heats up too. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can use an overturned baking sheet, but a pizza stone is the secret to a really crispy crust. You want the pizza stone to heat up for at least 30 minutes. Bake the pizza in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, just until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden and crisp.
(The writer is a professional baker)...