Fruit, Nut and Cheese Tart

Game of Thrones Hotpie's Tart

She flinched one anyway, and ate it on her  way out. It was stuffed with chopped nuts and fruit and cheese, the crust flaky and still warm from the oven. Eating Ser Amory’s tart made Arya feel daring.A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Reading Game of Thrones awakens my appetite for roasted fowl, hearty soups and Hotpie’s bakery creations. I have been dreaming of these tarts ever since reading the description. Even if you are not a Game of Thrones lover, you will love these. Fruit, nut and cheese tarts. Chopped walnuts, sweet raisins and salty cheese sit atop a flaky and buttery crust. They’ll make you as daring as Arya. 

Game of Thrones Hotpie's Tart

A wonderful breakfast or appetizer. We enjoyed them as an afternoon treat with champaign on the porch. Spring has officially arrived in Shanghai! The birds are back and the trees green. No longer trapped inside, we’ve taken to eating every meal in the sunshine. Chirping sparrows momentarily transporting us to the countryside; a brief reprieve from bustling Shanghai. Al fresco culture in Shanghai is my favorite part of the city. As the weather heats up, patio seating becomes a treasured commodity with every inch of space crowded with tables and dinners. These tart are light enough for warm weather, while still filling and satisfying all your taste buds. 

Game of Thrones Hotpies Tart

My tiny kitchen’s dearth of tools means that I mix everything by hand. Instead of using a food processor to make pastry dough, a frozen cheese grader works incredibly well to cut in butter. As for the availability of ingredients, I used cheddar and goat cheese to compliment the raisins’ sweetness. However, other cheeses would go equally as well. Particularly, a sharp blue cheese or stilton. Use whatever is available. This tart is adaptable. Cranberries for raisins. Pecans for walnuts. Go nuts. 

Fruit, Nut and Cheese Tart

Pastry Crust
2 1/2 cups flour
227 grams cold butter (2 sticks)
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-6 tablespoon ice water

1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 cup cream
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Crust: Combine flour, salt, and herbs de Provence. Cut in butter until you have pea sized pieces. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough holds together when you pinch it. Use the least amount of water possible, as too much water will make the dough tough. Dump dough onto the counter and press together. Folding it on top of itself until it forms a disk.

Roll out dough until it is 1/8 thick. Cut out individual circles and place into cupcake pans.  (Also makes one 9 inch pie.) Pierce dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Filling: Combine raisins, walnuts, cheddar cheese, goat cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Whisk eggs yolks together in another bowl. Heat cream and honey together over low heat until honey has dissolved and tiny bubbles form. Pour a steady stream of 1/4 cup of scalding cream into the eggs yolks, whisking constantly. Then add the rest of the cream to the yolks. Combine the cream mixture with the rest of the nut/cheese filling.

Cook chilled crust at 180 C (350 f) for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon in filling. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes depending on size of tarts.

Posted in Appetizer, Breakfast, Desserts, Egg, Game of Thrones, Goat Cheese, Home, Pepper, Pie, Pies, Tart, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Prince Doran’s Dornish Hummus and Flatbread

Prince Doran's Dornish Hummus and Flatbread

A serving man brought him a bowl of purple olives, with flatbread, cheese, and chickpea paste.A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

Prince Doran’s afternoon meal of freshly made hummus, warm flatbread, kalamata olives and goat cheese. Dorne’s hot sun demands a light meal. Notorious for generous portions of spicy peppers, Dornish food is rich in olive oil, wine, olives, fruits, and all things Mediterranean.

Pound garlic, bird’s eye and Serrano peppers into a paste with a mortar and pestle. As my spice tolerance is quit high use more or fewer peppers as desired. Then ground the chickpeas. To create a creamier paste, shell the chickpeas. If using a food processor instead of a mortar and pestle this isn’t necessary.

Prince Doran's Dornish Hummus

Add freshly squeezed lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, chopped cilantro and spices to hummus. Eat with flatbread, goat cheese, and olives.

This flatbread uses yeast, only takes an hour to rise and a few minutes to cook. You can even make it the night before and let it rise overnight. Just make sure to cover with a wet towel. For a faster flatbread that requires no rising time, check out this recipe. Divide dough into golfball sized chunks. Use a rolling pin to flatten. Coat with olive oil, salt and rosemary and cook. After trying these made in the oven and on the stove, I think cooking them on the stove produces the best results. They get crispy on the outside and stay flaky inside.

Game of Thrones Dornish Hummus

Prince Doran’s Dornish Hummus and Flatbread

1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and shelled
2 cloves garlic
5 bird’s eye peppers (or peppers of choice, adjust amount depending on desired spice level)
2 serrano peppers (use as needed)
2 bunches cilantro, chopped
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon tahini sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

Flatbread toppings
olive oil 
fresh rosemary leaves

Flatbread: Add sugar and yeast to warm water. Wait about 5 minutes until the yeast is frothy.

In another bowl mix flour, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Make a well in the center and pour in olive oil and water. Stir to combine with flour. Kneed for 2 minutes. Place dough in a bowl coated with olive oil. Turn dough around until completely coated in olive oil. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to double in size, about 1 hour.

Tear off gold ball sized pieces and roll out on a floured surface into circles. Spread olive oil over one side. Sprinkle rosemary and salt on top. Place olive oil side up on an ungreased sauté or cast iron pan and cook over high heat until bubble forms and the bottom is golden brown. Flip over and cook a minute or so more.

Hummus: In a mortar and pestle mash peppers and garlic into a paste. Add chickpeas and continue mashing until smooth. Mix with olive oil, tahini sauce, lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin and cilantro. 

Serve hummus and flatbread with cheese and olives. Eat outside, in the sun by the Dornish coast. Or, while watching the new season of Game of Thrones. 

Posted in Appetizer, Cheese, Dips, Flatbread, Game of Thrones, Goat Cheese, Home, Lemon, Olives, Pepper, Rosemary, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Sansa Stark’s Lemon Cakes

In A Song of Ice and Fire series, Sansa Stark’s favorite snack is lemon cakes. After devouring book after book, my craving for lemon cakes has grown to huge proportions. I’ve been dreaming about them for weeks. Not having cup cake pans prevented me from baking them, but a trip to 久光百货 (Jiu Guang) remedied the situation and lemon cakes were baked and devoured. 

Today family has their own chocolate chip cookie recipe they prize, so I thought Westeros  lemon cakes would be similarly varied. Chilly Winterfell demands a heavier cake that is both tart and sweet. Balanced by tea or coffee, it is a satisfying snack.  I can see how they are Sansa’s favorites. I will be making a lighter version for King’s Landing. 

Ina Garten’s Lemon Cakes juxtapose tangy lemons with a sugary syrup, and are covered with crisp lemon and confectioner’s sugar glaze. Her cakes are dense, yet light enough to eat 2 or 3 in one sitting. Topped with fresh fruit, these are incredibly addictive

Sansa Stark’s Lemon Cakes

adopted from Ina Garten

Lemon cakes
227 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
500 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
4 eggs
zest of 2 lemons, about 1/3 cup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
375 grams (3 cups) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
60 ml (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice
180 ml 3/4 cup buttermilk

Sugar Syrup
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
120 ml (1/2 cup) fresh lemon juice

240 grams (2 cups) confectioner’s sugar
1/2 juice of one lemon

Fresh strawberries, blueberries or raspberries.

Cakes: Cream butter and sugar. Add in eggs, one at a time. When completely mixed in, stir in lemon zest and vanilla. 

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl mix buttermilk and lemon juice. (As buttermilk is hard to find in Shanghai, I used milk that was a few days too old to drink.) Alternate adding flour and buttermilk mixtures to butter. End with flour.

Pour into greased cup cake pans. Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 20 – 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

Syrup: While lemon cakes are cooling, make syrup. In a saucepan heat 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 lemon juice over low heat until sugar is melted. Make sure to use low heat and stir often. Remove cakes from pan and spoon syrup over them. Allow lemon cakes to cool. 

Glaze: Combine lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar together. Drizzle over lemon cakes.

Top with berries.  

Posted in Cakes, Desserts, Game of Thrones, Home, Lemon, Strawberry, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Blueberry Mascarpone Tarts

Fresh summer fruit in mascarpone tarts. Reading the Game of Thrones series has whetted my appetite for capon, lemon cakes, sweet wines, freshly baked bread and fruit tarts. Baked fruit tarts, savory ones, cheesy ones and fresh ones. There will recipes from the Seven Kingdoms and beyond for the next month as the new season of Game of Thrones begins. But first is blueberry mascarpone tarts. 

I thought I’d start with a tart that is made and ready in no time. This one is good for hot days and sparkling wines. For when you don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen, but still want a delicious dessert. The kind they might eat in warm Westeros or Dorne.

A crunchy crust holds up pillowy mascarpone cheese and whipped cream blended with lemon peel. Not Without Salt has a simple, melted butter tart crust that comes together in minutes and requires no chilling or rolling. (Her caramel walnut tart recipe is also plate scrapingly good). You can make it and eat in 30 minutes, which equals more time in the sun, less time indoors. 

Blueberry Mascarpone Fruit Tart

tart shell adapted from Not Without Salt

Tart Shell

1/4 cup (40 grams) powdered sugar
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (140 grams) flour
pinch of salt

Mascarpone Filling
1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (4 ounces) whipped cream, whipped
splash of vanilla
zest of one lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons (10 to 20 grams) powdered sugar, to taste (I prefer less sugar to bring out the tartness of the berries)

Glaze and Toppings
Fresh berries
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoon sugar

Stir together melted butter, vanilla, sugar, flour and salt. Divide dough and press into two 5″ tart pans or one 10″. Pierce crust all over with fork. Cook at 180 C (350 F) for 20 minutes until golden. Let cool when done.

While the crust is baking, whip the whipping cream until peaks form. Stir in mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla. Beat until firm peaks form. 

When tarts have cooled, divided filling between tarts and top with berries. 

In a sauce pan heat the juice of one lemon and sugar until sugar melts and the mixture boils for 1 minute. Stir frequently to avoid burning. Using a pastry brush, coat berries with the lemon glaze. Serve and enjoy. 

Tart shells and filling can be made ahead of time and assembled just before serving. Once assembled, the tart will stay firm and crisp for one day in the refrigerator. 

Posted in Blueberry, Cheese, Desserts, Game of Thrones, Home, Lemon, Mascarpone, Strawberry, Tart, Vegetarian | 3 Comments

Fudge Brownies

The ultimate fudge brownie recipe. Gooey and chocolatey with a crispy top. Not too sweet. And definitely salty. (Use salted butter. It’s good. I promise.) Made with more butter than flour, the cocoa turns into a creamy chocolate paradise. This is it. I may not make another brownie recipe for a long time. These fudge brownies have won my heart and my taste buds. 

Discovered on Smitten Kitchen and adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet.

Shanghai Cooks: All ingredients can be found at The Avocado Lady and City Shop. Check by the tea and coffee in City Shop to find cocoa powder.

Fudge Brownies

10 tablespoon (140 grams) salted butter

1 1/4 cup (250 grams) sugar
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (65 grams) cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (65 grams) flour

Combine butter, sugar and cocoa powder together in a microwavable bowl. Microwave stirring every 10 seconds until butter is melted. Mix in vanilla and salt. When mixture is warm, but not hot, stir in eggs. Add flour and mix well. 

Pour into a buttered 8 inch pan and cook at 160 C (325 F) for 15 to 20 minutes, may take a little longer. When a toothpick inserted 2 inches from the side comes out clean, they are done. Let cool and enjoy!

Posted in Brownies, Chocolate, Desserts, Home | Leave a comment

Mango Salsa

Mango Salsa. The perfect balance of four flavors. Salty. Sour. Spicy. Sweet. The ultimate salsa. Disfrútalo!

Another dip. Last post was Guactacular Guacamole. I’ve been on a dip kick. It’s Chinese New Year. The stores are closed. Shanghai has turned into a ghost town. Two of the few bars open, The Camel and Shanghai Brewery are bursting with expats. Even the Avocado Lady has taken a holiday. Tis the season to stock up and snuggle in with loads of blankets, snacks and movies. Finger food is key. Dips dominate. 

It is easy to make and calls for the same ingredients as the Guactacular Guacamole. You could make both at once and save yourself some chopping. 

This mango salsa even looks festive. With red, yellow and green, it is like edible fireworks. 

Mango Salsa

3 mangos, diced
1/4 onion, diced
5 full stalks of cilantro, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 jalapeño or serrano peppers, diced
1 lime, zested and juiced
few dashes of hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 paprika


Peel and chop mango. Dice onion, cilantro, tomato, garlic, jalapeños. Combine with spices, lime and hot sauce. Enjoy with tortilla chips, quesadillas, tacos, and everything else.  

Posted in Appetizer, Dips, Home, Lime, Mango, Salsa, Tomato, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Guactacular Guacamole


Chinese New Year. Time for loud noises and crowded rooms full of friends.  Time for lazy days and tasty eats. Need guacamole for tacos, for dips, for sides? This is it. Takes 5 minutes to prepare and disappears in seconds. Fresh. Healthy. Packed full of omega-3s and citrus. For chips or celery. A party appetizer. A sandwich spread. A topping. A meal. For right now.  For later.

Chinese New Year FireworksChinese New Year Fireworks

When you have Chinese New Years parties to plan and fireworks to set off, this guacamole will keep you out of the kitchen and illuminating the night. Enjoy the lights. 


4 avocados
1/4 onion, diced
8 grape tomatoes or 1/2 large tomato, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeño or serrano peppers diced, optional
4 stalks cilantro, diced, about 1/2 cup
1/2 large lime juiced and zested
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
a few dashes of hot sauce

Dice onions, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, cilantro and mix together. Zest the lime and juice it, add to mixture. Add cumin, paprika, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Mash in avocados. Serve immediately or press plastic wrap directly onto the guacamole, covering it completely so air cannot get to it and refrigerate. This will prevent it from browning and keep it vibrant green. 

Posted in Appetizer, Avocados, Dips, Guacamole, Home, Onions, Salsa, Tomato, Vegan, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Matcha Truffles with White Chocolate and Cocoa Powder

Green Tea Matcha White Chocolate Truffles

Apologies to those without ovens. I’ve been posting a number of “oven required” dishes. Knowing how many of you in Shanghai lack in the oven department, I give you a no-fuss stove top dessert that is sure to wow you and your party goers. Matcha Truffles. White chocolate, cocoa powder and matcha. Green tea and chocolate. Sophisticated flavor. Simply elegant.

Green tree white chocolate trufflesMatcha Truffles

This is easy. Really easy. Preconceived notions of intricate truffles belie their simplicity. Heated cream, melted butter, a teaspoon of matcha and melted white chocolate pieces are mixed together and refrigerated. Once chilled they are formed into petite balls and rolled in cocoa powder. An impressive dessert that you could even make in a microwave.

Green Tea White Chocolate TrufflesMatcha Truffles

Don’t like matcha? Prefer dark chocolate over white? No worries. This recipe is adaptable. Replace white chocolate with dark. Roll in coconut instead of cocoa powder. The options are endless.

Matcha Truffles 

200 g white chocolate, chopped (found at almost any grocery or convenience store)

1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon matcha powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder for rolling (more or less depending on if you have other toppings)

Heat cream and butter in a sauce pan until butter is melted and cream is warm. Don’t boil. Whisk in matcha powder and stir until combined. Add white chocolate pieces (the smaller the better) and turn off heat. Stir until chocolate is melted. You may need to turn on the heat to completely melt the chocolate. Make sure to stir frequently to avoid burning the chocolate. 

Pour into bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. When completely cooled,  scoop out chocolate and form into tiny balls with finger tips (you can also use a melon ball scooper). Roll balls in cocoa powder or desired topping. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.  

Topping suggestions:
cocoa powder
coconut shavings
powdered sugar mixed with a bit of matcha powder
finely chopped candy canes
finely chopped almonds, or other nuts

Posted in Desserts, Green Tea, Home, Matcha, Truffles, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Strawberry Vodka

strawberry vodka

Strawberry season is here. Last week I made a Strawberry Ginger Pie. We ate it for dessert, for breakfast and for lunch. Now it’s gone and soon the strawberries will disappear as well.

What better way to savor fresh strawberries all year than with strawberry vodka? It is divinely red and tastes of summer (even though it is cold January). Bursting with infused strawberry essences, you can drink it on the rocks or in a cocktail. Careful. Under that rosy frock is one kicker of drink. 

strawberry vodka strawberries strawberry vodka hulled

The best part of this recipe is that it is ridiculously easy. All you do is chop strawberries, add vodka, wait one week and that’s all. It’s ready. It tastes complicated. It’s impressive. It literally takes 5 minutes to make. Go buy strawberries before they are gone and make this. Your friends will love it.

strawberry vodka strawberry vodka infused

As you can see in the picture, after one week the vodka absorbed the strawberries’ color and flavor. You don’t want to eat those alien white strawberries…or maybe you had a bad and you really do. But, I don’t recommend it. They are very vodka-y and not strawberry-y at all. I tried.

Ideas for strawberry vodka cocktails:
Strawberry martini. (100% alcohol, but deceptively good)
Strawberry lemonade.
Strawberry screwdrivers
Strawberry vodka with rosemary lemon simple syrup and soda water.
Strawberry vodka and Mongozo Coconut beer.
Anything is possible. Experiment. Make a lot. It disappears quickly. 

strawberry vodka martini

Strawberry Vodka

5 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered

5 cups vodka
1 large jar

Wash, hull and cut strawberries. Place in jar. Add vodka. Store in a dark place for one week. Shake everyday. After one week, strain vodka. Enjoy!

Posted in Cocktails, Drinks, Home, Strawberry, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Frittata Recipe

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Frittata

Sunday mornings call for easy, yet toothsome breakfasts. Something quick, something satisfying. Preferably with cheese and definitely with mushrooms. Frittatas answer the call of duty. I grabbed what was in the fridge and got to work. Mushrooms, goat cheese, parsley, thyme, garlic and onion are staples in my house. If you don’t have or like some of these ingredients, throw in whatever strikes your fancy!

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Frittata

Sauté mushrooms, onion and garlic. Add to eggs beaten with milk and mustard. Flavor with fresh parley, thyme, salt, pepper, a splash of hot sauce and sprinkles of goat cheese. Pop it in the oven for 15 minutes and it’s ready. You can then crawl back into to bed to warm your toes and tummy. Careful when adding extra hot sauce. It flies all over, but nicely blends into the flower comforter. Just kidding… I most definitely washed it.

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Frittata

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Frittata

Serves 2 – double, triple or quadruple as necessary.

4 large crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 leafy stalk fresh parsley, chopped
3 stalks fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
4 eggs
1 teaspoon dijion mustard
1/8 cup milk
hot sauce to taste

Sauté mushrooms, onion, and garlic until mushrooms have browned and onions are translucent. Cool for 2 minutes while whisking eggs.

Whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Add mushroom mixture, parsley, and thyme to egg mixture. Sprinkle goat cheese on top.

Pour into buttered ramekins. Cook at 180 C (350 F) for 15 minutes or until centers are done. Likewise, you can cook it on the stove.

Posted in Breakfast, Cheese, Egg, Frittata, Home, Mushroom, Onions, Parsley, Vegetarian | Leave a comment