Mexican Cornbread

This year I’m drawing out my birthday for as long as possible with bi-coastal celebrations. With the party kicking off on America’s East Coast, we had 20 people over to party, play and most importantly, eat! Friends and family joined us around the table after piling their plates with copious amounts of food. The kitchen island had a glorious spread on offer, East Coast style. We gorged on jumbo shrimp, fried chicken and 10lbs of some delicious locals, Maryland crabs.P1000104

P1000099Whilst prepping for the party, I discovered this little guy hiding in the corn. I named him Cobb.IMG_0393 Couscous quickly assumed the position of birthday diva and waited anxiously for guests to arrive. IMG_0430 IMG_0415Never one to skimp on sides, we had bowls of macaroni & cheese, baked beans, corn on the cob, my famous pomegranate salad and last, but certainly not least, jalapeño cornbread. I keep being asked for recipe posts and as this was such a winner at the party, I thought I’d share so you can be the food hero at your next get together. Just be sure not to tell everyone how easy it is to make and lap up the endless compliments and table full of ‘mmmmms’.

You’re not actually going to believe how easy such a delicious dish is to make.
You ready?
To feed a hungry party of 20 you’ll need:
720g Cornbread mix
350ml Buttermilk
4 Eggs (beaten)
1 can Creamed corn
80ml Vegetable oil
200g Pickled jalapeños (diced)
2 Large onions (diced)
230g Shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat your oven to 400F (200C)
Pour your cornbread mix, buttermilk, vegetable oil, creamed corn and beaten eggs into a bowl. Give it a good mix with your spatula.
All combined? Good.
Now grab about two heaping handfuls of shredded Monterey jack cheese and sprinkle them in like strands of cheese rain. I have tiny hands, so I went for three. You can obviously substitute this for a different cheese if you like, but preferably something sharp to contrast the sweet corn.
Now give your onions and jalapeños a rough chop and toss them into the gloopy mixture. The jalapeños add a nice fiery kick and you can add as much or as little as you like. Give a final little stir and pour into your sprayed or buttered 9×13 baking dish.
Pop into the oven for about an hour. The top should become a nice golden brown, and the interior will still be moist. Uh oh, does that word make you shudder? Sorry. The cornbread will still be a little wet and will leave a bit of residue when you test with your fork.
Cut into squares, pile onto a plate and watch them disappear before your eyes.

If you make these, take a picture and tag me @Alessandra_LDN on Twitter or Instagram so I can see how yours turned out! Or tell me what recipe you make as the perfect side dish in the comments below.

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Pancake Day

Pancake Day is a glorious day widely celebrated in the UK.
It has some sort of religious origin which you can look up if you like because this is all about the pancakes. Pancake Day

Pancakes across the pond in the US of A are thick, fluffy beauties that decorate a breakfast table with their rich, mighty goodness.
They’re served stacked high, topped with fruit and slathered in syrup.
Really, they’re an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.

Pancake Day

Over here pancakes are more like crêpes, the pancake’s thinner cousin.
To celebrate this day, Brits far and wide beat their batters and practice their flipping all to impress with the best pancake.

But enough chit chat, let’s get flipping!

For about 10 perfect pancakes, you’ll need:
110g plain flour
2 eggs
200ml milk
75 ml water
Pinch of salt
Butter (for cooking)

Toppings (whatever you prefer):
Classic: Sugar & Lemon
French: Nutella & Banana
Mexican: Dulce de Leche & Cinnamon
American: Syrup & Fruit/Bacon
New York: Cream Cheese & Salmon
Foodie: Goats Cheese, Fig & Truffle Honey
Savoury: Cheese, Ham & Mushroom
Be creative…try them all… it’s a holiday damn it, do what you like!

To create the perfect pancake:
1) Sift your flour into a mixing bowl. This will ensure light fluffiness which is mandatory for a perfect pancake. To your sifted flour, add a pinch of salt.
2) Crack eggs into flour and whisk together.
3) Mix together your milk and water and slowly add to flour mixture whilst whisking. Keep stirring until your ingredients are completely combined and batter is smooth and thin.
4) Heat a frying pan and add a knob of butter. (It’s a holiday, you deserve to celebrate with full-fat goodness)
5) Swish it around your pan until completely coated and glistening in buttery goodness. Once it starts to bubble, add a ladle of your batter. Cook for about a minute until little air bubbles begin rise and brown a little.
6) Flip it over to cook the other side for about another minute. For the final flip, stand in the middle of your kitchen (audience preferred) with an arm out for balance. Flip pancake into the air and catch to the sound of cheers and applause, you pancake master, you.

Plate your perfect pancakes and load them up with whatever toppings you like.

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Happy Pancake Day!
Tell me your favourite toppings and tweet me your pancake pictures!

Red Velvet Brownies

It’s holiday time, which means you have presents to buy, halls to deck, and parties to attend. For the Christmas party goer that doesn’t have much time between gift wrapping and hall decking, I have the perfect recipe to dazzle your friends with.
Red Velvet Brownies.
The deep red colour is perfectly festive and the rich, dense flavour will have all your friends saying, “let it snow.”

Red Velvet Brownies

Here’s what you’ll need

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted, room temperature butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 oz red food colouring
4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 350F/ 176C degrees
2. Spray a non-stick spray over your 9×13 glass baking dish
3. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time and mix until combined.
4. Time to put the red in the red velvet. Add food colouring until you have a deep red colour. Don’t overdo this or you’ll end up with bright red brownies. Add vanilla extract and mix until the colour is fully incorporated.
5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cocoa and salt until fully combined. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients until you have a gooey, red batter.
6. Pour batter into your prepared pan and pop into the oven for 35 minutes. This will ensure a thin crust and gooey goodness underneath.
Now you have time to lick the spoon and get back to wrapping those last few gifts.

Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Do you have any favourite Christmas baking recipes you’d like to share?

Pumpkin Spice Bars

Do you want to know the best thing about October: all things pumpkin.
As the leaves begin to change, the scarves are pulled out form their hiding places, and the frantic Halloween costume search begins, there’s only one thing I can think about: Pumpkins.

I absolutely love pumpkin flavoured anything. 
How could you not?

Every year I indulge in Pumpkin Spice Lattes, light Pumpkin Spice candles, and make my favourite Pumpkin Spice Bars.

To make your Pumpkin Spice treats, you’ll need:
Ingredients:
4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin – if in London, try Whole Foods Market
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Cover the sides and bottom of a 10×15 pan with non-stick spray.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin. Beat this together until your ingredients are combined and your mixture is smooth. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves.
Spread batter into your prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.
Whilst your cake is in the oven, you can make your cream cheese frosting. After removing your pumpkin cake from the oven, allow it to cool completely. No picking!

To make a luscious Cream Cheese Frosting, you’ll need:
16 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until combined and smooth. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in confectioners’ sugar. Beat until light and creamy.
Spread evenly onto your pumpkin cake, cut into bars and serve up your little taste of October!

Naughties

Put down the carrot stick, it’s time to be naughty.

Sometimes we all need to be a bit naughty. You don’t need to tell me your reasons, I’m sure you deserve it.
Naughtiness is only truly enjoyed when it’s easily accessible, and let me tell you, these Naughties are easy.
However, easy isn’t the only requirement for naughtiness… it needs to be worth it. So worth it, that the waves of guilt that arrive after finishing the entire batch are overcome with, “whatever, they were damn good!

Now that I’ve convinced you to abandon that diet* that you weren’t really sticking to anyways, I’m sure you’re wondering what naughty, self-control destroying treat could possibly be worth “after batch” guilt.
(*the only diet you should be on is eating balanced meals with occasional naughtiness and exercising…step away from the laptop)

Naughties are a magical combination of chocolate chip cookies and brownies sandwiching any candy of your choice.
Imagine your favourite candy bar: Snickers, Kit-Kat, Milky Way, Twix etc, sandwiched between chewy cookie and gooey brownie.
Naughty, right?

For this post, I decided to share with you two of my favourites: Naughty Reese’s and Naughty Nibbles

Ingredients:
1 box brownie mix
1 box chocolate chip cookie mix
1 egg
4 tblsp vegetable oil
Candy bar of your choice (I used Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and Cadbury Caramel Nibbles)

If you want to go all Martha Stewart on your Naughties, go ahead and make any cookie dough and brownie batter from scratch. Or… you can be naughty and make it from the box, because life’s short and it’s just one of those days.

To Create Your Naughties:
1) Preheat oven to 350F/175C
2) Prepare your muffin tray by lightly coating with butter or spraying with PAM (a magical non-stick spray that ensures baked goods pop out easily, I’m sure there are Brit alternatives…I just prefer smuggling PAM back from the US as it’s the best)
3) Follow instructions on the box to create your cookie dough
Or get out the apron for your from scratch batch, you little Martha Stewart you
4) Squish about a tablespoon of dough to cover the bottom of each hole
5) Place candy bar of your choice in the centre of your dough
6) Follow instructions on the box to create your brownie batter
7) Spoon about a tablespoon of brownie batter to cover the candy, leaving the hole three quarters of the way full
Bake for about 15 minutes – 18 minutes

Serve warm and squishy from the oven with a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream for a full blown Naughty.

What candy bar will you make even more naughty?

Chimichurri Sauce

There’s nothing like a nice piece of meat.

There’s also nothing that spoils a nice piece of meat faster than steak sauce from a bottle. My heart sinks a little when I see a diner dump some brown, store bought sauce onto their steak, completely masking its beautiful flavour. Today I shall try to put the steak sauce massacre to an end, or at least give you a pretty little alternative bursting with flavour.

I have a tasty, smoky sauce to spice up your steak that adds flavour to your meat rather than covering it. It’s so simple that I can tell you how to make it in two steps!

Ingredients:
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp smoked hot paprika
120g fresh parsley
15g fresh oregano
25g chopped red onion
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp chilli pepper flakes (or you can go with a tsp like me, warning: I like it hot!)
Dash of sea salt

Sauce:
1. Set a small frying pan over medium heat. Heat your oil and paprika until the oil shimmers and paprika is fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove your pan from heat and let cool.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine parsley, oregano, red onion, garlic, and chilli pepper flakes. Pulse your ingredients together, then add vinegar and a dash of sea salt. Continue to pulse and slowly drizzle in cooled oil with the food processor still running. Chop until your sauce is emulsified and chunky.

Wasn’t that easy?

For perfect steak, use Heston’s Perfect Steak Recipe: here. Serve with a generous portion of your Chimichurri sauce and bask in the oohs, aahs and mmms! of your guests.

Boozy Baileys Cupcakes

I’ve never needed an excuse to make cupcakes.

If I get a craving for a cupcake, or brownie, or cookie, or any other delicious baked good for that matter, I don’t exactly deprive myself of the treat. Luckily my busy schedule doesn’t often provide the time to frequently whip up a batch on a whim to satisfy any craving like an obese Keebler Elf.

But this weekend was a particularly special birthday for a particular someone with a particular fondness for Baileys Irish Cream. Besides a gourmet dinner, which I’ll tell you about later, I decided to whip up some boozy Baileys Cupcakes as a birthday treat.

Oh! and it’s National Cupcake Week, and whoever invented NCW is definitely in my good books.

For the Cupcakes (yields 24, or 14 and a little birthday cake like I made)
Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coffee
1/2 cup Baileys Irish Cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cups vegetable oil
1tsp vanilla

Frosting
Ingredients:
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tblsp cocoa
4 tblsp Baileys Irish Cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
(if this tastes a little sweet to you, add 1/2 cup sour cream. strange, but it worked!)

Ganache
Ingredients:
230g bittersweet/dark chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tsp butter, room temperature
2 tsp Baileys

Cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C or Gas Mark 3 for you Brits)
2. Line your cupcake tin with pretty little liners, or whatever you have in cupboard.
3. In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients and mix well. (flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt)
4. Add in your wet ingredients, and give your arms a good workout. Beat until completely combined. You should have quite a liquidy batter. (eggs, coffee, milk,  Baileys, vegetable oil, and vanilla)
5. Fill cupcake liners half way, as these tend to explode like little lava cakes.
6. Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 15-17 minutes.
7. Remove and let cool. Resist the delicious temptation!

Frosting:
1. Beat butter with mixer until light and fluffy. (or get toned arms in 5 minutes)
2. Slowly fold in powdered sugar and cocoa powder. (slowly being key if you’d prefer not to be engulfed by a sugar storm)
3. Once combined, add Baileys and vanilla and beat until the icing has thinned.
– if the frosting is too sweet for you, mix in 1/2 cup of sour cream

Ganache Filling:
1. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.
2. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the heavy cream to a simmer.
3. Pour the warmed cream into your bowl of chocolate, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Then whisk until smooth.
4. Once smooth, whisk in the room temperature butter and Baileys Irish Cream.
5. Cover and place in fridge until it takes on a creamy ganache texture. (at least 30 minutes)

Assembly:
Cut little cones in the middle of your of your cupcakes and set aside. Fill each hole with the ganache and replace your cupcake cones. Frost your cupcakes and get yourself a napkin to prepare yourself for battle as you reap the benefits of your cupcake war.

(I couldn’t find my piping bags from the move, and just cut a hole in the corner of a zip-loc baggy instead, hence the sloppy swirl on top. Still tasted great!)

For the birthday cake, I cut it in half, spread a layer of ganache, and replaced the top half. Then frosted the outside with the not too sweet frosting and added some candles.

These were some of the most moist cupcakes I’ve ever had, and the Baileys ganache seriously packs a punch if you’re heavy handed with the bottle!
Happy Cupcake Week and Happy Birthday darling!

Prosciutto Caprese Sandwich

I’ve done it.
I’ve taken a beautiful Italian classic and turned it into a delectable, filling sandwich.

Caprese salad has always been one of my favorites. It takes me back to my childhood in Tuscany, ravenously consuming the salad alongside a pizza at lunch after a busy morning of sandcastle building on the beach. Fresh, ripe tomatoes layered between decadent slices of Mozzarella di Bufala and torn pieces of peppery basil. (US: bay-zel, UK: bah-zil) Heaven.

What could possibly make this fresh, simple salad any more amazing?
How about stacking it on pieces of warm, toasted sourdough baguette and covering it in prosciutto? I think yes.
I’m always looking for an interesting new lunch to tantalise my tastebuds mid-day. This would be a great way to spice up the lunches you take into work, but be wary, this may inspire work fridge theft.

Ingredients:
Sourdough baguette (obviously you’re free to use any bread you like, but there’s something about sourdough with the tanginess of the balsamic and sweetness of the basil)
2 Ripe tomatoes (depending on size)
Mozzarella (if you’re eating this right away, use fresh Mozzarella that is packaged in water – if you’re taking this to work, use low-moisture Mozzarella served in a package so that your bread doesn’t become soggy)
A handful of basil leaves
Several strips of Prosciutto Crudo
Olive oil & balsamic vinegar
Sea salt & pepper

Assembly is quite simple and can be done to your taste.
I sliced and toasted my sourdough baguette, then layered slices of fresh tomato and mozzarella on top. I then placed layers of prosciutto crudo over the tomato and cheese like a tasty, meaty blanket. Then, I gave a handful of basil leaves a rough chop and sprinkled them over the top. Glug some olive oil and balsamic over your masterpiece to create an incredible, sloppy mess. A pinch of salt, a dash of pepper, and there it you have it: My Prosciutto Caprese Sandwich.

I hope you enjoy it!
Do you have any exciting lunch ideas I should try?

Coconut & Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

This may sound odd, but I love things that are squishy.
I like play-doh, I like bean bag chairs, I like overweight animals, and I even like the word squishy. Say it out loud: squishy.
I bet you’re smiling.
Anyways, let’s get down to business. As you can tell, I am a tad sugar high and quite pleased with myself.

Since waking up to find London immersed in fog and rain, again, today was definitely an indoor day, and what better place to be indoors than the kitchen.

One of my favorite desserts in the world is an Italian Panna Cotta. Panna meaning cream and cotta meaning cooked, the dessert essentially consists of cooked cream. I’ve been craving this dessert for weeks and decided I would make myself some as a kickoff to my Birthday Week. Yes, I get a week. 

The good thing about this recipe is that it is so incredibly easy to make. The bad thing, it’s so incredibly naughty.

Ingredients:
400ml canned Coconut Milk
200ml Full-Fat Milk
50g Caster Sugar
1 Vanilla Pod
12g Powdered Gelatin (or leaves)
Serves: about 3
1. Pour the coconut milk and milk into a saucepan, then add the sugar. Split the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds. Add seeds and empty pod into the pan, and give everything a good stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, and be ready to have the most glorious smelling kitchen in the entire world. Once the mixture is fully boiling (not just a few little bubbles), remove from heat and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Seriously, walk away.

2. After 5 minutes, return to glorious smelling brew. Spoon 200ml of the hot mixture into a bowl. Shake in your powdered gelatin whilst whisking until it has dissolved into the mixture. If it’s not dissolving completely, return the mixture to a gentle heat for 1-2 minutes and stir. Stir back into the coconut mixture and discard the vanilla pod.

3. Pour the mixture into little ramekins or moulds, preferably with a cool shape. Imagine how it will look upside-down. This recipe is enough for 3 good sized desserts, but you could always make lots of little Panna Cottas or a couple larger ones.

4. Place in the fridge for at least 3 hours, until they are firm with a slight wobble. Squishy.

As my little desserts sat to harden safely in the fridge, I saw my massive bowl of pineapple and decided to experiment.
I heard the Dessert Gods in my head warning me to never experiment with baking. But, this isn’t really baking, is it? I’m using a stove and things are boiling, surely that counts as cooking.
I am so glad I ignored the Dessert Gods because my experiment could not have turned out better!

If you’re willing to defy the Dessert Gods and want to add some serious flavour to your Panna Cotta, I give you: Caramelised Pineapple & Coconut Sauce with Mint Sugar. This was an in the moment experiment so hopefully my instructions are accurate enough to get you the same yummy sauce.

Ingredients:
Sauce
1 cup Ripe Pineapple
1/2 cup Caster Sugar
1 tblsp Water
1 tblsp Vanilla Extract
1/3 cup Coconut Milk
1/3 cup Double Cream

Mint Sugar
Handful of Fresh Mint
1 tblsp Sugar

1. Pour sugar and water into a saucepan and place on medium heat. Stir until sugar has almost completely dissolved.

2. Chop pineapple into small chunks and add to your saucepan. Add vanilla extract. Stir pineapple with vanilla and sugar water and let simmer for about 8 minutes until the pineapple begins to break down and brown.

3. I wanted the sauce to be slightly creamy, but still maintain the juiciness of the pineapple, so I decided to make my sauce a full fat situation. If you want, you can stop here and have a perfectly yummy sauce. But, I don’t think you want to. Stir in coconut milk and double cream and remove from heat.

4. Finely chop fresh mint leaves and mash together with sugar with a mortar and pestle. A spoon and bowl works just fine if you can’t find your mortar and pestle, like me.

And Voilá! Experimental Caramelised Pineapple and Coconut Sauce with Mint Sugar!

3+ hours later: They’re DONE!
To Serve:
Boil some water and dip the mould for about 10 seconds to loosen the Panna Cotta. Don’t leave it in the water too long as it will instantly begin to melt. Turn onto a serving plate and wait for it to plop out. There it is! Your squishy, flawless masterpiece.
Top with warm Caramelised Pineapple and Coconut Sauce and garnish with a sprinkling of Mint Sugar.


Perfect way to kickoff my week of celebrating! Happy Birthday to meee!