recipe

Pickling Cucamelons: The Coolest Pickles You’ve Ever Seen

Pickled cucamelons | Hello Victoria

So one of the things that I really wanted to plant in our allotment, was cucamelons. I’m not even that big of a fan of cucumbers, but these just looked so cute! And of course, I love pickles, so growing cucamelons just pretty much means turning them into cucamelon pickles!

Here in the UK, I find pickles to be a bit sweet for my North American tastes. I like my pickles mostly tangy garlicky-dill rather than sweet, so I thought I should just make my own! My mom used to always buy those “yum-yum” pickles and I used to refer to them as “yuck-yuck”…

Pickled cucamelons | Hello Victoria

Pickled cucamelons | Hello Victoria

I used this recipe from The Kitchn as inspiration. I only made enough for two half pint jars, as that was the emount of cucamelons that I had. Just adjust the recipe up for the amount you need. As mentioned in the original recipe, I trimmed the blossom end of the cucamelons to prevent them from softening. (more…)

Coconut Pavlova with Passionfruit + Mango

Coconut pavlova with mango + passionfruit | Hello Victoria

I have always been a fan of strange things. When I was a child, I wanted nothing more than to have red hair and green eyes, because they were uncommon and would make me look unique (brown + brown = boring to little Amy). When my mom would take me to the grocery store, I would ask her to buy all of the strangest fruits. Passionfruit, grenadilla, star fruit, dragon fruit, prickly pear… you name it, I wanted to try it! And for my birthday, I didn’t want any old cake, I always wanted pavlova!

Unlike nowadays, pavlova wasn’t as common when I was a kid in Canada. My siblings always opted for things like cheesecake or chocolate torte, but I wasn’t such a fan of those. Of course, my mom made a version almost more like a traditional cake, with whipped cream icing all around, but it was pavlova all the same. Ever since then, I have been a huge fan of simple meringue bases topped with all kinds of fun and colourful fruits.

Coconut pavlova with mango + passionfruit | Hello Victoria

Pavlova is a fantastic dessert because you can top it with anything! In this instance, I chose to pick some tropical fruits that we had in the house, and one of my favorite weird ones – passionfruit. For the passionfruit, I chose to make it into a sauce with some coconut water. I had a coconut that I wanted to turn into toasted coconut flakes (for decoration) and decided not to waste the water. It’s not necessary though, so feel free to just use the passionfruit as is if you want.

The next time I make a pavlova, I’m going to try using an italian meringue, rather than a classic french meringue. I haven’t made a french meringue in a while, and kept over-whipping it (I’m just that strong). The nice thing about italian meringue is that the egg whites cook in the simple syrup as you whip it, making it the most stable meringue you can make. Finally, I just decided to add some acid to the mixture in order to make it more stable.

Coconut pavlova with mango + passionfruit | Hello Victoria

Fancy chefs whip their egg whites in copper bowls, as they create a chemical reaction that helps to prevent over-whipping. You can make a similar reaction by adding a bit of lemon juice to the egg whites, or cream of tartar. For this recipe, I added cream of tartar, but feel free to substitute a couple teapsoons of lemon juice if that’s what you have on hand. Just add the cream of tarter to a couple tablespoons of the sugar, and mix together. Add that sugar first while whipping.

The other great thing about pavlova, is that it looks pretty no matter how perfect the meringue. Even if there are cracks in the meringue, it still looks pretty. And, if you break the meringue accidentally, you can still eat it! Just call it Eton Mess, and mix all the same stuff together in a layered trifle type dessert. Although, according to Richard it’s not an Eton mess if there are fruits other than strawberries and raspberries in it. He’s British.

Coconut pavlova with mango + passionfruit | Hello Victoria

So whether you serve it broken up, as one large meringue, or as the individual ones here, give pavlova a try! Who doesn’t like fresh fruit, cream, and copious amounts of sugar?

Coconut Pavlova with Passionfruit + Mango

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Yield: 4 individual meringues

Ingredients

  • 150g egg whites
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 75ml coconut water
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3-4 passionfruits, seeds removed
  • 1-2 mangos, cubed
  • 500ml double (whipping) cream
  • toasted coconut flakes, optional

Instructions

  1. First, make the pavlovas. Preheat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the cream of tartar with a couple tablespoons of the 300g of caster sugar. Whip the egg whites until foamy, and soft peaks are beginning to form.
  3. Sprinkle over the sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, beginning with the cream of tartar sugar. Continue to whip the egg whites and sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form. Be careful not to overwhip.
  4. Gently fold in the coconut and divide into four mounds on the parchment paper. Using a spoon, create little depressions in each meringue for the cream.
  5. Bake in the peheated oven for 1 hour, 25 minutes. Turn off the oven, and allow to cool to room temperature.
  6. To make the passionfruit sauce, stir together the 150g sugar and coconut water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, and stir in the passionfruit seeds.
  7. Shortly before you're ready to serve, whip the cream to medium peaks and mound on the meringue shells. Add the mango cubes on top, the coconut flakes (if using), and the passionfruit sauce.
  8. Enjoy!
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Summer Borscht

Summer borscht recipe | Hello Victoria

It’s beginning to feel like fall over here, despite the fact that it’s still technically summer. The weather here in London definitely hasn’t received that memo 😉 The chill in the air has got me craving soups, casseroles, and all things cozy. But, as it’s still summer, I thought I would compromise with this summer borscht!

My grandma used to make two kinds of borscht, summer and winter. And my favorite was always summer, hands down. I loved the fresh dill flavor, slight tang from the sour cream, and the salty ham. And not only does this meal taste good, but it looks kind of fun too! Depending on how much beetroot you add, or how bright their colour, it can turn out almost pepto-bismol pink!

Summer borscht recipe | Hello Victoria

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Damson and Frangipane Tart

Damson and frangipane tart recipe | Hello Victoria

As I mentioned in the lemon tart recipe post, one of my favorite cookbooks is by the Bouchon Bakery. It contains a recipe for a plum tart that uses a wonderful pâte sucrée crust, and frangipane filling. I made it before as a thank you for some plums I was gifted, and have loved the combination ever since. Frangipane works well as a base for almost any fruit, especially stone fruit. So when we were given a load of damson a week ago, it was the first recipe I wanted to try.

Damson tart with frangipane | Hello Victoria

Damson tart with frangipane | Hello Victoria

Now, a word of warning here. Unless you’re a masochist for baking (like me!), I won’t recommend making a damson tart. Instead, use any larger plum, or even nectarines, or peaches. The amount of wedges you need to cut from the tiny damsons is ridiculous, and takes ages. However, if you’re like me, and have more damsons than you can eat (and a lot of free time), why not? (more…)

No-Churn Pina Colada Ice Cream

No-churn pina colada ice cream | Hello Victoria

You have no idea how excited I am about this recipe!! Well, if you know me at all, then you’ll probably be able to guess how excited. I consider ice cream to be the best food group of them all. 😉

When I moved to the UK, one of the items I couldn’t bring with me was my Kitchenaid mixer. This was not just a loss in terms of making things like marshmallows and other meringues, but in the loss of ice cream. See, I got the ice cream attachment for my mixer a few years back for my birthday! It’s pretty great being able to make my own flavours etc. – but without the machine, I couldn’t do any of that.

No-churn pina colada ice cream | Hello Victoria

Now, I had heard about no-churn recipes before, but had only tried a couple in the past. This one got me excited in more ways than just being able to make ice cream; I happen to looooove pina coladas. Give me pineapple and coconut any day… and throwing in some rum doesn’t hurt!

What makes this no churn ice cream work is two things – the alcohol and the cream. By whipping the cream to soft peaks before freezing, you’re essentially adding the air that would have been churned in during the freezing process. The other thing that helps prevent the mixture from turning into a solid pineapple-coconut-popsicle, is the alcohol. It changes the freezing point of the mixture, helping to keep it soft. (more…)

Warm Sweet Potato, Chickpea + Tahini Salad

Sweet potato, chick pea + tahini salad | Hello Victoria

Just a quick post today. I’m on a roll with the salads and lighter fare lately! Maybe it’s the warm weather, or maybe it’s because Richard is away? I find that when I am alone, I tend to eat almost entirely vegetarian cuisine, completely without thought. I guess my brain doesn’t think “meat” when I’m alone.

But it does still think “comfort food” which is why I really love this salad. Not only does it have some unusual flavors in the tahini and miso paste, but it’s got the warmth and hearty sweet potatoes. It’s the kind of salad that works well in the summer and winter – it’s easy like that.

Sweet potato, chick pea + tahini salad | Hello Victoria

Now, the only thing to be careful of is the tahini. Not everyone will like it – it’s a bit… bitter? Maybe it’s just the lemon juice. I really like tahini but I can imagine that it’s not to everyone’s taste. However, it is the star of this dressing, so don’t bother making it if you’re not a fan.

Sweet potato, chick pea + tahini salad | Hello Victoria

Feel free to adjust the amounts of red onion and parsley to your heart’s content – same with the potatoes and chickpeas. The great thing about salads is that you can simply make them however you want, it’ll work. Feel free to throw in other things too! I think some toasted chickpeas would do nicely – don’t you?

Sweet potato, chick pea + tahini salad | Hello Victoria

Warm Sweet Potato, Chickpea + Tahini Salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1kg sweet potato, cut into cubes
  • Oil for roasting
  • 426ml can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 0.25-0.5 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • 0.25-0.5 cup chopped parsley
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 0.25 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp miso paste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the sweet potato with some oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  3. While the potatoes are roasting, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, mash the garlic with some salt and pepper until you get a smooth paste.
  4. Add the lemon juice, tahini and miso and mix together. Add the water and olive oil whisk to combine. Add more water to achieve the desired consistency.
  5. Assemble the salad while the potatoes are still warm, and enjoy!

Notes

The miso paste adds a depth of flavor, but isn't necessary.

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Adventures in Foraging: Stinging Nettle Pesto

Caprese salad with stinging nettle pesto | Hello Victoria

While in my course at the Northwest Culinary Academy, we spent a day at an allotment garden in Richmond. Part of what we learned was about foraging for edible items. One of the things readily available in the springtime is stinging nettle! As the culinary students were required to use a foraged item in their menu development (and the pastry students were their guinea pigs), I got to try plenty of nettle pesto!

Now, if you’re like me, you may not have heard of stinging nettle before. Honestly, I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of it until that day, as it’s everywhere! It’s not just prolific, but it’s also the kind of thing you should be aware of… it hurts! Seriously, don’t touch this stuff without protective gloves. I accidentally touched the bag I was putting it in with my arm, and got stung. I guess my gloves got some residue on the outside…

Stinging nettle pesto | Hello Victoria

But while stinging nettle, well… stings, it’s also one other thing – free! Homemade pesto is one of those things that always seems to cost too much. Fresh basil and pine nuts aren’t the cheapest things to buy. So I decided to try my hand at making some nettle pesto using not just free stinging nettles, but the cheapest nuts I could find! I think pine nuts could give it a better flavor, so if you’re flush, go for it! Buuuut… if you’re trying to save on money, try walnuts! (more…)

Recipe Testing: Chocolate Banana Muffins

Chocolate banana muffin recipe | Hello Victoria

So I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect banana recipe – banana bread or banana muffins, I’m not picky. I’m always buying bananas, in an effort to get my 5 a day, but they keep ripening too fast!

Richard thinks I’m crazy, but when a banana has more than a few spots, I sort of lose interest in eating it. I like my bananas more on the green side. Speaking of which, when I was in Nepal, they had the best bananas (and they were always super green)!! As the food in the orphanage I worked in was dal bhat twice a day (gets a bit monotonous) the piece of fruit as dessert each evening was most enjoyable. And one of the best fruits I found, was the humble banana! It might have been the lack of variety in my diet, but those bananas were like the equivalent of candy over there.

Chocolate banana muffin recipe | Hello Victoria

I’ll eat the ones on the right, but the other ones are only good for baking IMHO

So in an effort not to waste my spotted bananas, I’ve been baking with them! Unfortunately, lots of the recipes just aren’t quite as good as I’m hoping for. I want something decidedly more-ish, but kept ending up with dry or bland, and certainly not banana-y enough. Like all my made up words there?

Chocolate banana muffin recipe | Hello Victoria

After all those failed attempts (okay, two), I decided to rework a banana muffins recipe that I had. I could vaguely remember a good recipe from an old job that I had loved, and used it to alter my current one. I increased the banana amount considerably, added some chopped chocolate, and a bit of cinnamon. It’s still not quite perfect yet, but good enough to share. (more…)

Paska Two Ways: Ukrainian Easter Bread

Paska two ways: Ukrainian Easter bread | Hello Victoria

Are you lucky enough to find yourself with an excess of lemons and oranges this Easter? Looking for something to make with them all? This was the bounty that I had the other weekend, and I was quite keen to use them all.

Paska two ways: Ukrainian Easter bread | Hello Victoria

The other day I posted about the more unique take on Paska that I made this past weekend, and I promised more. I decided to try making a regular paska recipe that my aunt gave me, as well as using a challah bread recipe to make a paska flavoured challah. I had remembered paska dough as being quite wet, and wanted something I could braid into shapes. However, after making my Aunt’s paska recipe, I realized it wasn’t as wet as I thought. I could have easily braided it into wreaths etc.

But you want to know what this huge amount of paska means, besides being something Richard can take to work? Paska French toast!! Awesome Easter breakfast… if I do say so myself.

Paska two ways: Ukrainian Easter bread | Hello Victoria

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Paska Doughnuts: A Modern Take on Ukrainian Easter Bread

Paska doughnuts: Ukrainian Easter Bread | Hello Victoria

The bakery that I work at in London, is quite well known for its doughnuts. When I first tried one without any filling, just the doughnut, I could only think of one thing. PASKA! They use lemon zest in the dough, and the combination of yeast and citrus just brought back memories of paska. It’s not really strong enough to come through when there is a filling in it, but on its own it’s like warm memories of my childhood.

For those of you who don’t know what paska is, it’s a yeasted Ukrainian Easter bread, flavoured with lemon and orange. It’s usually served with sweetened cream cheese – or at least that’s what my grandma always made with it. And if you grew up in a Mennonite family, then you’re probably used to seeing paska with some simple icing on top, sprinkled with rainbow sprinkles… like this!

Ukrainian Easter bread inspiration | Hello Victoria

paska photo via Natasha’s Kitchen

But I wanted to make something different this year! So with those doughnuts as my inspiration, I decided to make paska flavoured doughnuts! Using a recipe from Justin Gellatly’s cookbook Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding – I adapted it to include the paska flavour. All it took was increasing the amount of citrus zest exponentially, and changing the water to citrus juice. (I also used active dry yeast instead of fresh, as it’s kind of hard to find.)

Paska doughnuts: Ukrainian Easter Bread | Hello Victoria (more…)