Chocolate and Vanilla Cantuccini (Variation of Biscotti) with Hot Chocolate

Fun fact: Italian food is my favourite kind of food.

We’re still getting to know each other here and I just felt like you should know that. I love the fact that there are 101 things to do with pasta, there is always a gelato to compensate your mood and the coffee is black enough to match the colour of my soul. Beautiful.

 Another fun fact- biscotti means twice baked. And that’s exactly what we are going to do to these babies. I felt a bit reluctant to call these biscotti though, because biscotti just refers to any ordinary biscuit. And this is no ordinary biscuit. Cantuccini is a more appropriate name, because of the shape of these biscuits, perfect for dunking in your wine/hot chocolate.

This biscuit is fearless, it can take anything you throw at it. Chocolate chips, almonds, dried cranberries, you name it. You can virtually do anything you like with this recipe as long as the core ingredients remain the same.

Biscotti on biscotti on biscotti
Jenga with biscotti

The reason why I decided to bake these is that I was missing those cold winter afternoons I spent in Tignes, drinking hot chocolate and laughing my head off. Then I decided, I could recreate the biscotti and the hot chocolate…. but the one thing you can’t recreate is the moment. Not only am I sweltering in this 34 °C Zimbabwean heat, nothing beats having the same company around.

Luckily for us, that hole can be filled by eating more biscotti.

 


Cantuccini is traditionally served with Vin Santo, a sweet dessert wine. But seeing as I’m still underage and grossly deficient in funds, we’ll just have to contend with this wicked hot chocolate. Yes, it may be 34 degrees outside, but I am forever freezing and so will continue to sip my hot chocolate whilst pretending not to see you judge me.

The recipes for the chocolate and vanilla cantuccini are essentially the same, difference being that one has cocoa powder and the other has vanilla essence. This recipe is easily manipulated, you can leave out the chocolate chips, substitute the almonds for hazelnuts or chopped pine nuts, it is really all about catering to your taste! Please note below that there are 2 recipes, but only one method because it is essentially the same. I’ll be sure to post a lot more variations of this recipe just to give y’all some ideas 🙂

To make this mini chocolate fondue, all you have to do is melt 50g of chocolate and about a tbsp of milk together, add 2 tbsps of Nutella and mix to combine.

Chocolate Cantucci                                                                           makes about 15

Ingredients 

1 cup self raising flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

½ cup castor sugar

1 tsp salt

½ cup chopped almonds

2 eggs

Handful of chocolate chips

Vanilla Cantuccini                                                                            makes about 15

Ingredients 

1 cup self raising flour

½ cup castor sugar

1 tsp salt

½ cup chopped/flaked almonds

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

Handful of chocolate chips (optional)

Method

  1. Start by taking out two bowls of medium size, one for the chocolate and one for the vanilla cantuccini
  2. Sift the flour, castor sugar, salt and cocoa powder (for chocolate cantuccini) into a bowl and mix until combined. Add the almonds
  3. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into the centre and add the vanilla essence (for the vanilla cantuccini) Stir until incorporated and it forms a wet dough
  4. Shape the separate doughs each into a loaf, thats about 8 inches long, 9 inches wide and 2 inches high. Place in a greased baking dish and bake in an oven at 180ºC for 20 minutes or until the dough is firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and stand on a counter for 20 minutes until cooled. Using a serrated bread knife, slice the loaf diagonally into cantuccini pieces, each about half an inch thick. Return the cantuccini pieces to the baking dish and bake a further 15 minutes.
  5. Cool and serve with hot chocolate. Store in a cool, dry place, these will keep for a couple of months.

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate 

Ingredients

50g of your favourite milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces

2 and ½ cups whole milk, and another 2 tbsp of milk

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp brown sugar

Method

  1. Fill a sauce pan about ¾ of the way to the top with boiling water and put it on the stove on low heat. Place a medium sized bowl over the lid of the sauce pan and add the chocolate and 2 tbsp of milk. Once the chocolate is mostly molten, but not completely molten, remove the bowl from heat. In another saucepan, boil the 2 and ½ cups of milk.

2. Stir the chocolate and milk together until combined. You will have a really thick chocolate paste. When the milk is on the verge of boiling, scoop the paste into the milk and continue to mix until all the paste has dissolved. Add the cinnamon and sugar and bring the hot chocolate to a boil. Pour into cups and serve.

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Lemon Curd

2k16 is upon us. That means 366 days of absolute agony getting the opportunity to go into the world and be the best that I can be. This year, apart from being my last year of high school, will be the year that I continue my progression from a heartless pessimist and cynic to a more open-minded optimist 🙂 The creepy smiley face confirms this, it’s friendly, innocent and almost completely innocuous. Almost.

One thing I can definitely guarantee you is that you will be seeing a lot of this lemon curd in 2k16. A lot of it, you will be so sick of me like ‘Can’t you cook anything else?!’I can, yes, but I just feel like I’m not yet done with this creamy yellow deliciousness, I have very big plans for it. Very big plans indeed. 

  My first attempt at making lemon curd was about a year ago, and only about 56% failure. At the end of the day, I had a very yellow, very sour, very yummy substance. Just that it was liquid. It had not thickened AT ALL. Reason being that I was very impatient with my curd on the stove  and had removed it prematurely. And this is where I warn you, do not, and I repeat DO NOT remove the curd from the stove top until it has thickened considerably and when you run a spoon through it, it leaves streaks.

Also, you’re probably going to wonder if using 6 egg yolks is really necessary. After my first fail at this recipe, I decided to return to my office/bedroom to fully understand what went wrong and how I could fix it. Purely by analysis of ingredients, I deduced that the only way to get a thick lemon curd, would be to add more egg yolks. And so I did, and I am happy with the results. Or if you’re concerned about the 6 egg whites that will have nowhere to go, here’s an idea: whisk the egg whites together briefly with a pinch of salt and pepper and fry them like an omelette. Easy peasy protein packed breakfast.
Don’t like sweet stuff? Add less sugar. Want it to be more tart? Don’t be shy with that lemon juice! The colour making you sick? Use more whole eggs and less yolk, that’s the easiest way to tone down the beautiful sunshine colour (you heartless monster).  

Another note: do not try to cook this in a saucepan. Because you will fail. And you will have a plate of lemony scrambled eggs on your hands. You have been warned. Instead, fill the saucepan about ¾ of the way to top with boiling water, put your stove on the lowest heat setting, sit a large bowl over the saucepan and make your curd in there. Just make sure the bowl is not plastic. I also happened to make the mistake of melting the bowl and having it glued to the pan. And I’m supposed to be the scientist. If you feel like you are going to die before the curd is ready, feel free to turn the heat up a bit on the stove, just remember what I said about scrambled eggs then remember that patience is a virtue and this curd is to die for.

But Andrea, what on earth will I do with a jar of this heavenly pud? I’ll give you a few ideas, spread it on your toast, fill some pastry with it, use it as a filling for cupcakes (coming soon, spoiler alert), ice your pavlova with it (also coming soon) or just grab a spoon and indulge! If it’s acceptable to eat Nutella out the jar, the same should go for lemon curd.

Missing out on this spooooiler
Huge spoiler alert 😉

Lemon Curd 

Ingredients

6 egg yolks

*1 whole egg

¼ cup castor sugar

½ cup lemon juice

½ tbsp grated lemon rind

¼ cup cold margarine, cut into small pieces

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients except the margarine to a medium heatproof bowl and mix well to combine
  2. Fill a saucepan ¾ of the way to the top with boiling water and set it over the stove on low heat. Place your bowl over the lid of the saucepan and stir continuously, taking breaks, until the mixture has thickened considerably and when you run a spoon through it, it leaves permanent streaks in the curd. This will take you between 10 and 15 minutes. If after 15 minutes, the curd hasn’t thickened, increase the heat and continue to stir until it does.
  3. Remove the bowl from heat and add the margarine pieces bit by bit until all the pieces have melted and combined to give you what we can now call, LEMON CURD.
  4. Strain the curd into a jar to remove any lumps/cooked egg. Refrigerate for at least an hour and serve.

*If you’re a bit nervous about adding 6 egg yolks, it’s okay to play with the ingredients and add 4 egg yolks and 3 whole eggs, or 5 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks, your curd will just be less thick and the colour won’t be as strikingly yellow.

  
 

Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup

I am a terrible person.

I know, I know, I know, I was supposed to update a couple of days ago, but sometimes life gets in the way and you get distracted by other things.


Like this lemon curd that I’ve since used to make these crepes, these bars and these mini cheesecakes!

And these cookies that are the definition of heaven-sent.

So although I’ve been procrastinating updating the blog, I haven’t been off doing bugger-all, in fact I’ve been testing, editing and writing lots of new stuff for you lovelies to enjoy in the year to come. So it works out in everyone’s benefit really 😄


Onto today’s meal. Soup. And no- soup is not for the senile and toothless, soup can be a delicious appetizer that can be enjoyed by people of any age regardless of what their dental situation is. And this soup is not for the faint-hearted, it bites back. Hard. No worries if you’re not a fan of chilli and spice, I won’t judge you (out loud) you can just choose to reduce the amount of curry powder you add, omit it all together, or increase the amount of coconut milk you add when serving. f you’re not a fan of butternut, you can swap it out for another vegetable like pumpkin or cauliflower with this recipe, you will just have to adjust the cooking times as necessary.


My favourite part of this dish is actually serving it, spooning the hot soup into bowls and getting to make really pretty and unique patterns at the top with the coconut milk. That’s probably what I love the most, no two dishes will ever look the same. If you want to be fancy-schmancy, you can choose to garnish your soup with toasted coconut flakes and a mint leaf. All you have to do is heat a non-stick skillet on high heat, and add desiccated coconut/coconut flakes to the pan and cook for about a minute or until the coconut is lightly browned. Simple!


This soup works really well as a starter, served with homemade bread, or as a light lunch when you feel like being posh and minimalistic.

Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup                                                                                           Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion; sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic; minced
  • a thumb of ginger, grated (about 2 tbsp)
  • 2 tbsp minced lemongrass
  • 2 tsp red curry paste (homemade with this recipe)
  • 1 medium butternut; diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp dessicated coconut (optional)
  • Couple of sprigs of mint (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large and heavy bottomed cast iron pot on high, and fry the onions until translucent, about 2 minutes
  2. Add the minced garlic, ginger and lemongrass and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Then add the curry paste, stirring to coat the spices in the mixture  and cook for 2 minutes.
  3.  Throw in the butternut, cauliflower and carrots followed by the turmeric, cardamom and basil. Toss with a wooden spoon to ensure the vegetables are coated with spice.
  4. Pour in the 2 cups of vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to low and cooking until the butternut pieces are fork tender – between 20 and 25 minutes.
  5. Once the butternut has softened, remove the pot from heat and use an immersion blender to bring it all together. If you find that the soup is too thick then add vegetable broth 1/4 cup at a time until it’s loose enough for you. If you find that it’s too thin then return the pot to the stove and boil for 5 minutes or so until reduced to your liking.
  6. Ladle the soup into serving bowls. To create lovely patterns in your soup, carefully pour the coconut milk over the soup, moving the measuring cup over the bowl so as to create a pattern on the surface of the soup. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve immediately, this soup can keep for up to 3 days refrigerated, but it must be heated up on the stove before consumption.

Bacon, cheddar and cheese quiche

A frittata to make your heart beat fasta.

A quiche to suit your niche.

This quiche I tell you will satisfy all your cravings, solve all your problems and give you the answers to life’s greatest questions.*

  
*May not actually satisfy cravings or solve any of yours, or life’s problems.

Quiches are not a lot of work. No joke. Well, they’re a lot of work if you hate making your own pie crust, but then again you can always cut corners by buying your own pre-made crust (Don’t worry, I won’t tell). Once you’ve resolved the pastry issue you are, as I quote my matsh teacher, ‘home and dry’.

To me, quiches are that Saturday morning breakfast. You wake up at 7 am, throw this in the oven and let it bake for 45 minutes whilst you shower, pick today’s outfit and apply your make-up. (Ha, what a joke, in what world does all that take 45 minutes?) A quiche is the dish you serve your friends when they come over for brunch, and whilst they are all fawning over this heavenly dish, you will toss your hair effortlessly and say, “Well, it wasn’t much effort” while basking in their awe and admiration.

AND YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SAY THAT AND MEAN IT BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.

  
Because c’mon, who doesn’t enjoy having their ego fluffed once in a while? Brownie points (or should I say quiche points?) if you made the pie crust yourself, and I used this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. It’s awesome, trust me. Sally’s awesome too, she’s got a really cool blog, you should check out the rest of her website whilst your quiche is baking away happily in the oven.

  
Once you’ve got the pie crust sorted, you’re ready to rock and roll.

Ingredients

1 pie crust, homemade or store bought

2 rashers bacon

1 tbsp vegetable oil

8 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese 

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 cup chopped spinach 

1/2 cup grated cheedar cheese

1/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese 

1/4 cup grated feta cheese 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius 
  2. Grease a 10 inch pie dish and line with the pie crust. Blind bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes
  3. Whilst the pie crust is baking, heat the vegetable oil in a skillet on high heat and fry the bacon until crispy, about 4 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels and chop into small pieces
  4. In a large bowl, whish together the eggs, milk, parmesan cheese and thyme 
  5. Once the crust has finished baking, place the chopped spinach, cheddar, mozarella and feta inside the prepared crust and spread evenly. Top with chopped bacon 
  6. Pour the egg mixture over the spinach, cheeses and bacon and spread to make sure that it reaches all corners of the pie dish 
  7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the egg is set and the crust is a deep golden brown colour

 

I have an obsession

Post Number Three.

If you’re reading this right now then thank you for giving me a chance! Having this special bond that we have, the bond that is only known between a blogger and their readers, I feel that I am ready to take this relationship to the next level. We are moving onto Tier 2. And this is where I tell you about my obsession.

Oatmeal.

Yes, oatmeal.

You probably know it as the mushy gruel that your mother forced down your mouth until you were eight years old. Well, I’m here to change that preconceived idea.

For now, wipe your memory clean of any negative oatmeal-related thoughts, let’s start off on a clean slate. Oatmeal can be delicious. YES, say it with me now, oatmeal can be delicious. Think of the gross unsavoury oatmeal you had as a child as the nerdy pimply twelve year old girl. Now think of this dressed up oatmeal as the same girl ten years later. METAMORPHOSIS! Her braces are gone, her skin has cleared up and she’s finally decided exactly what she wants to do with her hair. She is confident. She is beautiful. She is the oatmeal I am about to introduce you to.

  

 She is Oatmeal 2.0.

At this stage, if you are still unconvinced, let me talk you into it. She’s smooth, silky smooth, her grains roll right off your tongue. She can go from 0 to 60° in just 5 minutes. She can be hot as hell or cool as ice depending on your preferences. She can do whatever you want her to do. Baked? She can do that. Put into a pancake? She got that down. Crunchy and savoury? She was ready for that the day she was born. Face it, Oatmeal 2.0 is the perfect woman- errrrr, food. She is unstoppable.

More on the superhero abilities of Oatmeal 2.0 will come later, but I just thought I would introduce you to my (and soon to be yours too) obsession.

  

Baked Shakshuka

Shakshuka. Shakky-shakky-shuuuka. Shhhhhhaaaaaaakshhhhhuuuuuka

Sorry, I just think that it’s a really fun word to say. So, shakshuka, what is a shakshuka? A shakshuka is (commonly thought to be) a Tunisian dish. In a nutshell, it’s eggs that are poached in a thick (often spicy) tomato stew. The actual origin of this dish is unknown but it is widely served throughout countries in North Africa and the Middle East, stretching from Mauritania to Israel, the shakshuka proves to be a popular breakfast dish.

So what is so special about a shakshuka? I can sum it up in just three words for you: shpicy, shavoury and delishious. And yes, I do know how to spell, but I also like to think I’m funny. This dish is sharacterised (okay, I’ll stop now) by the tomato base, get this right, and you’re already 80% of the way to success.

Whether you use canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes is all up to you, I happen to find that I don’t need to add any extra salt or sugar when using tinned tomatoes. However if you are using fresh tomatoes, you’ll need to make sure that you dice them into really small pieces, and the cooking time is going to be extended by at least 7 minutes while the tomatoes simmer and break down into that lovely stew.

 

Tomato stew
The tomato stew with spaces left for the eggs
 
As far as spice goes, I tend to have no boundaries. Feel free to reduce the amount of chilli, or omit it all together if you are not a fan of spicy food. I’ve been informed that I do tend to go overboard sometimes, so please, drop a comment below if you need me to slow down on the spice.

I like my eggs to be slightly underdone when I’m making this dish, as I love to mop up the runny yolk with a slice of whole wheat toast (and I’m drooling). So usually, if I am making this dish, I’ll bake the eggs for about 12 minutes, but if you’re hard set on having them well done (get it?) then you should bake your eggs for 15 minutes.

Some people prefer to cook their shakshuka on the stove, then in that case, you’ll need to cover the skillet with the lid and leave it to simmer until the whites are set and the eggs are done to your liking. Typically 9 minutes for a well done egg. Yes, it doesn’t take as long if you cook it on the stove top, but I find that the yolks don’t come up looking as yellowy and beautiful when cooked on the stove top. (Or maybe it’s just my method of cooking, but this is just an affectation, feel free to use your stove #aesthetic)  

Can I say, beautiful egg yolks or what?
But seriously, look at those lovely lovely yolks!
 I find this best served with avocado slices, grated feta cheese and a slice of whole wheat toast.

Ingredients 

2 tbsp olive oil

½ yellow onion, sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ of a large yellow bell pepper (Feel free to add other colours too such as red and green)

1 can of tinned tomatoes or 4 medium tomatoes, diced

2 small chillies, chopped (optional)

1 tbsp mixed herbs

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp grated feta cheese for serving (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C or 350°F.
  2. Heat the olive oil on medium high in a large non-stick skillet, and fry the onions until soft, about 2 minutes
  3. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds before adding the pepper(s) and cooking for another minute.
  4. Reduce the heat to low before adding the tinned tomatoes and chillies and simmering for a further 3 minutes. If using fresh tomatoes, simmer for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down and released their juices.
  5. Use a wooden spoon to make gaps in the stew, into which your eggs will go. Crack the eggs into these gaps before putting the skillet in the oven and baking for 12 minutes. (If you like your eggs well done, bake for 15 minutes)
  6. When the whites have set and the yolks are done to your liking, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the top with feta cheese and serve with toast and avocado.

  

  

Lemon, Garlic and Herb Chicken Kebabs

Hello and welcome to The F Scientist!

My name is Andrea Makamba and I shall be the primary author on this blog. Just a little information before we begin, I’m seventeen years old, I live in Zimbabwe and I have an awfully unusual relationship with food. Some days I wake up wanting to make everything in the kitchen. Other days I can live on an apple and a bottle of water. I’ve lived on both ends of the scale and through love-hate relationships with it, but more on that will come later. Right now, I live in the healthy green area where I can enjoy food in good stead neither stressing about calories nor piling on all the carbs (Yay!). Enough about me, onto the food.

DSCN3264
Chicken kebabs, roasted potato chips topped with ranch dressing and chilli sauce along with a jug of passion fruit juice.

Living in Zimbabwe, going to ‘braais’ (meaning outdoor barbecues, pronounced br-ys) forms a regular part of any teenager’s social life, and so I thought it would be fitting for my first post to reflect that.

DSCN3223
He’s smiling for the food, not the camera..

These chicken kebabs. Let me paint you a picture; tender chicken breast meat, the sweet yet tangy taste of lemon in your mouth, the aromatic garlic filling your nostrils. I could go on, but I wouldn’t want you to end up with a puddle of drool on your screen. This recipe is perfect for your Sunday afternoon barbecues, whether it’s just you and the family, or you’re hosting friends. Best served with baked potatoes and a cold glass of summer punch.

Ingredients

750g (1 and ½ pounds) chicken breast meat

6 bamboo or wire skewers

Marinade: 

3 garlic cloves (mashed)

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground rosemary

1 and ½ tsp dried thyme

½ tsp mixed herbs

3 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp brown sugar

2 tbsp cornstarch and 5 tbsp water

Method

  1. Start by cutting the chicken breasts into thick cubed pieces, about 1 and ½ inches thick.
  2. Optional: Fill a large bowl with water and add a generous amount of salt to it. Soak the chicken in this solution for about 20 minutes then drain well. This is known as brining the chicken. Also soak the skewers in ice water for 2o minutes.
  3. Combine the garlic, rosemary, coriander, thyme, herbs and lemon juice in a small bowl.
  4. In a small cup, add the brown sugar, cornstarch and water and mix until both the sugar and cornstarch are fully dissolved. Add to spice mixture and stir until well incorporated.
  5. In a large clean bowl, combine the chicken and marinade and use your hands to mix together until the chicken is well covered by the marinade.
  6. Thread the chicken onto the skewers leaving a gap of about 2 inches on either end. Place the skewers in a medium sized baking dish and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight. Reserve any leftover marinade, cover and store in the fridge.
  7. When you’re ready to cook your kebabs, remove them from the fridge and allow them to reach room temperature while you either preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F or you heat up your grill/ build your fire if cooking over hot coals.
  8. Grill the kebabs for about 15 minutes on each side, or until the meat is no longer pink in the centre whilst continuously basting with the reserved marinade.
  9. Serve with ranch dressing and kick back with a cold beer or summer punch.