Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Break the monotony!

Monotony in the kitchen is a terrible thing, especially when your food becomes more of a habit than a way of enjoyment to you. Most of the people, at some point in their lives, experience this phenomenon that whatever they eat, tastes more or less the same.

I am sure, nobody likes boredom with food. What I usually do to relieve this is that I completely shuffle my flavours around, try different and unsual recipes and thus try to change my food choices. Believe me, change can be a good thing! Also in the kitchen! You will either like your new selection or itll make you convince of your old eating habits once again:) Whatever food choice you end up with, important is that you also enjoy it and that you are open to try new things.





Coconut Peanut Butter Chicken with Parsley Orange Rice
 
 

Ingredients:

8 chicken pieces, deboned and cut into strips (you can ask your butcher to do that for you)
1 tsp garlic paste
150 ml chicken broth
3 tbs coconut powder
1/2 cup fresh cream
1 tbs oil
4 tbs peanut butter
zest and juice of a lemon
salt , white pepper and cayenne pepper

1 1/2 cups string beans (phaliyan) blanched in boiling water with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp lemon juice
2 spring onions
cashews (optional)
 


Blanch the string beans.





Heat oil in a pan, add the chicken pieces and the garlic paste. Fry until the chicken starts changing its colour, add salt. Also add coconut and the blanched string beans. (In the picture, you can see cayenne pepper as well, I would recommend mixing it in the cream later as adding it at this stage makes it really hot).





In a bowl take the broth. Mix with cream, coconut, peanut butter, zest and juice of the lemon and white pepper. 



Into the chicken, add spring onions (cut in rings) and the liquid mixture. Mix well and add cayenne pepper as well. 

Pepare the rice by:

boiling rice in salted water till almost done. Strain and toss in 2 tbs oil, 1/2 cup parsley, 1/2 tsp garlic paste (optional), crushed white pepper and orange zest. Cover with a tight lid and place on very low heat for 5 minutes. Serve hot....





I know, I know...you are expecting me to share the secret of this hand mould as well as the butterfly garnish. Its very simple. Ive used my son´s sand toy (obviously new) for serving rice this way. And here is a photo of the orange butterfly:





 

Thinly slice the orange. Cut out two portions (opposite to each other), giving it a butterfly look. To make antennae, use two strips of orange peel. You can also make these butterflies using lemon/lime.









Thursday, 26 May 2011

For your next dinner for two

A foodie friend of mine posted a recipe of braised chicken on a forum a couple of weeks ago and that suddenly reminded me of a long-due recipe that I had almost forgotten to post to my sister-in-law who has been asking for it for years. I am either getting old or there is perhaps no storage folder in my brain any more. I am literally getting into this habit of forgetting things lately. But before I start taking any treatment on it, it would be wise to share what I do remember.

Thank you so much Shafaq Ghufran for reminding me of the promise and special thanks to Susan Meadow for the inspirational pattern on the chicken. Rest of the credit goes to me, ofcourse, for turning a grilled chicken recipe into a semi-braised one and other additions and accessories :p






Semi-Braised Chicken with Pasta


Ingredients: 

2 chicken breast halves
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp turmeric powder 

1/2 tbs mustard paste
50 ml orange juice

Juice of half lime
Salt and pepper
1 tsp crushed red chili flakes

1 tbs oil for cooking.

Vegetables of your choice, e.g. I took
2 small carrots, cut in slices
1/2 cup green string beans
1/2 cup peas
1 medium onion cut in cubes
1 orange
50 ml orange juice (additional)
1 tsp mustard (additional)
1 tsp brown sugar (additional)
salt and pepper
strings of fresh thyme

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup fresh cream
1 tsp corn flour






Prepare marinade by mixing honey,sugar, turmeric, mustard, orange juice, salt n pepper, chili flakes as well as the lime juice. Make cuts on the chicken making four-sided polygon shapes (Make lines with knife, first horizontaly and then vertically). Coat chicken with the marinade and set aside for 20 min.
 

Take out the breast pieces and pat dry using kitchen paper. Heat oil in a pan and fry the chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side to give it a nice golden brown colour. Don´t overcook. It should stay raw from inside.





Place in an oven proof dish sprinkled with 1 tbs olive oil. Now fry the vegetable for a minute in the same pan and spread them on the chicken as well. Add the additional juice, mustard, sugar, salt n pepper into the left-over marinade. And pour over the chicken and veggies. Also place the thyme strings on top. Cut the orange in 4 pieces(along with the skin) and place on the corners of the dish.







Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake either on 140 C for about an hour or for a quicker version for 15 minutes on 200C without covering the dish or until your veggies are done but still crunchy. Tip: If you want it quick, blanch the vegetables before sautéeing. Remove from oven. Carefully take out the chicken and transfer the juices and vegetables in a sauce pan. Also squeeze the juice of baked orange.








Mix cornflour with cream and pour in the leftover juices, stirring carefully until the sauce gets thick. Depending on the taste of your house, you may like to season it again at this step.

Ive served it over boiled tagliatelle tossed in 2 tbs butter, salt, pepper, crushed red chili, lime juice and a bunch of  chopped fresh herbs.



 

You can take rice, mashed potatoes, french fries or even simple baguette instead. Decorate with fresh orange slices.





Make your dinner for two a memorable experience and dont forget to consider flowers and candles for adding some sophisticated glamour.


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Regaining the lost appetite

Summer and loss of appetite. I believe, this is a very common phenomenon. Even the heartiest food lovers like me, who literally live to eat, find themselves consuming less in the hot season. Many people take it as a positive chance to reducing weight, which is, ofcourse, not at all healthy. Even if our body doesnt need excessive calories, it does need healthy nutrients to keep going. And trust me, ice-creams or sugary cocktails are the least of things that could supply us with the essential energy. I am myself a huge fan of these summer treats but every night at our home, there has to be something on the dinner table as well.

Now the question is, what should be done to regain the lost appetite? There is actually no secret tip but a simple rule: try to go for the food choices that are specifically meant for summers, e.g. cold refreshing and healthy salads or fresh fruits and sugar-free smoothies etc. And the best part is, you need not even stand over the hot stove for hours to prepare these delicious choices; they are done within minutes.

Summer Salad


Freshening Up The Left-Overs

There is actually no exact recipe for the salad . I simply used the left-over boiled spaghetti from the day before, added a few fresh ingredients to it and a healthy, filling and nutritious salad was created within minutes that we all three enjoyed eating in the hot weather.

Ingredients:

1 cup boiled chilled sphaghetti
1 red apple, cut in slices
1/2 green apple
1/2 cup grapes
1 peer, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup tomatoe ketchup
3 tbs fresh cream
salt and pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp mustard paste
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried italien herbs (optional)
1 cup fresh salad leaves (optional)

Mix together mayonnaise, ketchup, cream, lemon juice, sugar and mustard in a small bowl and season with salt, pepper and herbs. In a large bowl, take rest of the ingredients and pour the dressing over it. Toss well. Incase your ingredients were already enough chilled, serve immediately or place in the refrigerator or freezer for a while. Tip: Add the cold fresh salad leaves before serving to prevent sogginess. You may add other fruits and vegetables of your choice, e.g. cucumber, green peas, oranges or boiled kidney beans.









Chill yourself in the warm sunny days!







Monday, 23 May 2011

It´s all about passion!

Its been quite a while now that I have stopped following the recipes precisely. Not that I am declaring myself a master chef who knows everything nor that I dont try other peoples recipes at all...Its just that once youve developed a taste of your own, you automatically like sticking to it and no matter what recipe you are having infront of you, you are unconsiously altering it to suit your own taste preferences. When talking about baking and cooking, I believe, the old original recipes are certainly the best but its mainly the foundational principles and techniques that should be followed more carefully and each recipe can then be tweaked according to your tastebuds.

Food is all about creativity, passion and joy. Also, one shouldnt hesitate to follow the gut instinct. If your heart wants you to replace a few ingredients with your own shortcuts, feel free to do that. Just try to comprehend the main science and proportion of ingredients in the original recipe and then let your tongue be your guide. There are various recipes of Passion Cake available online; mostly using ginger, nuts and carrots. Since carrot cake itself is my most favourite of all the cakes, I wanted to save its guaranteed no-fail recipe for a seperate post and have, therefore, deliberately left the carrots here. The new direction is somewhat closer to another favouite tea-time treat of mine, i.e. Banana Walnut Bread. Hope you all like the new yet familiar taste....


Passion Cake

Passion Cake

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar (very fine granulated) or 1 1/4 cups icing sugar
few drops of vanilla essence
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup yoghurt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/4 cup chopped almonds/walnuts

Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add salt and half of the sugar to this.




Add butter and mix well using your finger tips or you can also use the electric beaters for this.





Take yoghurt in a seperate bowl and add vanilla and mashed bananas to it.






Now take the remaining sugar in a seperate bowl, add both eggs and beat for 5 min until creamy.





With the same beaters, beat the banana yoghurt mixture as well until it forms a smooth paste.




Add half of the flour mixture to the egg mixture as well as half of the banana-yoghurt. Fold carefully. Repeat the process with the rest half. Also fold the walnuts. Pour in a lined and greased bread loaf tin (or ring mould/ ca. 8") and bake in preheated oven (180C) for 30-35 min.




Serve with tea or coffee.



Saturday, 21 May 2011

Hey to Hay:)

I know, I know...Its probably not the best title for a food recipe. But trust me, the hay I am talking about, is absolutely safe for human consumption as well. It contains not only essential nutrients but also tastes so good that you will feel like grazing on it again and again...:D

The recipe is a blend of the famous Spaghetti Bolognese and Spinach Lasagne. You will find all the traditional flavours, i.e.  meat, garlic, tomatoes, herbs and cream in one dish, whereas, the spinach and spaghetti makes it resemble the hay that can be safely stored over a longer period of time making this casserole dish an ideal food for parties and get-togethers. You can prepare it ahead of time, cover with foil and place in the refrigerator for several hours and bake fresh right before the party starts or freeze (like lasagne) for up to 3 months.

So here comes the healthy hay:


Hay Bolognese with Spinach


Hay Bolognese With Spinach

Ingredients:
200g Spaghetti
1 tbs Oil
1 tbs Salt (for boiling the Spaghetti)
2 tbs Butter
1 Egg White
2 tbs grated Cheese (Chedder/Mozarella/Gouda/Emmental)

2 small Onions, chopped
1 tbs crushed Garlic
250 g chopped Canned Tomatoes
250 g Minced Meat (beef)
1 cup Creamed Spinach (I used store-bought, you can make it at home as well)
Salt
Pepper
Red Chili Flakes(optional)
1/2 cube Instant Bouillon
3 tsp freshly chopped Parsley
125 ml Milk
Salt
5 tbs Cheese (Chedder or Mozarella)
3 tbs Breadcrumbs
2 tbs Butter
1 tbs chopped Parsley
1 tbs chopped Oregano
Red Chili Flakes

Beat egg white and add 2 tbs cheese into it.





Boil water with salt in a big pan and cook the spaghetti until tender but firm (al-dente). Strain, and mix well with 1 tbs butter and the beaten egg white.





Place aside until further use. Heat 1 tbs oil and the remaining 1 tbs butter in a pan and fry the chopped onions until they become translucent. Add minced meat, salt and the garlic paste.





Once the meat has changed its colour, add chili flakes, pepper, spinach, tomatoes and instant bouillon cube. And cook until entire water has evaporated.






Add chopped parsley. Spread half of the spaghetti hay on the base of an oven proof dish. Transfer the minced meat-spinach mixture on top of it. Cover with rest of the spaghetties.





Boil milk in a sauce pan. Mix flour and salt in half cup cold water and pour into the boiling milk. Stir constantly for a minute.




Pour the sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano and chili flakes on top. Distribute few butter knobs on top.




Tip: Make sure, your spaghetti completely dips in the sauce. My dish wasnt deep enough and the spaghetti on top became a bit dry while baking. I personally like the crunchiness but my husband and son preferred the soft base :)

Bake in the preheated oven (200C) for 35-40 min. Serve hot.




Enjoy and dont forget to share your opinion!!


Thursday, 19 May 2011

Extracting Potatoes from a Honeycomb!!

I know it sounds absurd and you all must be thinking, "How can one collect potatoes from a honeycomb?"
I myself never knew that until I bumped into this interesting recipe on Wasafat Sahla awi by Yasmeen Ali. The picture looked so promising that I had to give it a try but unfortunately, the recipe is stated in Arabic only, whereas, my skills for the language are limited only upto reading and writing. But thanks to the modern facilities of internet that help you deal with nearly all problems in your life. Once Mr. Google Translator provided me few hints on the ingredients, my refrigerator automatically helped me find a way of my own to reach the beehives. However, special thanks to Yasmeen Ali for the first kick.

So, here is my route to finding the potato - honeycomb.



Potato Honeycomb



Potato Honeycomb




Ingredients:

1/2 kg Potatoes, boiled and peeled
4 tbs Parsley, chopped
2 small Red Chillies (Piri Piri from glass)
Zest of a Lemon
Salt
White Pepper
1 tsp Lemon Juice
Mozarella Cheese, cut in small cubes

1 Whole Chicken Breast (I used 3 whole chicken leg quarters, deboned ofcourse)
1 tin Button Mushroom Slices  or 1 cup of fresh ones
2 tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp Garlic Powder/ 3 cloves Fresh Garlic
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 cup Broccoli
3/4 cup boiled Sweet Corn
Salt
Red Chili Flakes
2 tbs Oregano, chopped (or 1 tbs dried)

200 ml Fresh Cream
1/2 chicken bouillon cube (I used Knorr)
a pinch of Salt
1 tbs Corn Starch


2 tbs Butter
1 tbs Chopped Thyme (optional)


Blanch broccoli in salted water (I always add some lemon juice to it; gives a tangy fresh flavour).






Strain broccoli and put aside till further use.

Heat 2 tbs olive oil in a frying pan and cook the boneless chicken strips for a while. The moment it turns white, add garlic, onions and mushrooms to it. Cook for another 2 minutes.






Add broccoli, sweet corn, salt, chili flakes and oregano.




Transfer the chicken and veggies into a baking dish.

Mash potatoes, add salt, parsley, lemon zest, piri piri and white pepper. Mix well and make small balls by placing a cube of mozarella cheese in the centre of each ball and covering it fully with the mashed potatoes around.




Now place the balls on top of the chicken-vegetable base, adjusting close to each other forming a honeycomb.



Flatten a bit with the back of a spoon and distribute knobs of softened butter on top. Sprinkle chopped thyme, place mozarella rests on side.

Mix cream, bouillon cube, salt in a cup and microwave for a minute.







Pour this on top of the potato-balls. And bake in preheated oven (230C) for 20 minutes or until the top starts turning light golden. Enjoy with baguette or fresh home-made bread rolls.




Ive also placed few bees on top which I made by cutting black olives in the centre and placing sweet corn in it for adding yellow colour to the bee. Adjusted spaghetti pieces to make antennae. I actually wanted to make the wings as well (with corn flakes) but the tempting aroma made me forgot almost all the accessories:P

Happy Cooking friends!!!


Monday, 16 May 2011

Bake or fry, It´s just worth a try..

Do you ever get a feeling that you are no more in control of your relationship with food and that you eat not to satisfy your hunger actually but its mostly your cravings and temptation for a specific food that makes you stuff yourself to the brim, and then you feel guilty and promise yourself that you wont be repeating this mistake in future but forget it the very next moment you even think of that food again.

We are having a serious issue at our home these days. My husband has lately realised that its time that he should seriously control his emotional eating habits or his wardrobe wont be having anything to offer him soon. Whereas, alone a cooking show on the TV or a good cherrished memory is enough to make the cravings attack him with such force that it becomes impossible to beat them. I dont know when and how we shall be able to find a solution to this, but I do know one thing for sure: there are foods that are hard to resist. And most of them are, unfortunately, also fairly unhealthy.

The reason behind the entire story are the legendary samosas that Ive started to make at home recently. I am sure, most of you must have heard of these small triangular shaped stuffed patties that are mostly deep fried in oil and are so tasty that you just dont want to compromise on having only one piece of it...Believe me, if I tell you the number of samosas that we both consumed over the weekend, you would probably think we are crazy but they were just too good to hold back and since we are already celebrating the potato-weeks here on the blog, here I am sharing the sin with all of you. (Do read the tips stated at the end for a much healthier and nutritious version of samosas).





Samosa 

Ingredients

For the dough:

1 cup plain flour
2 tbs hot oil
1/2 tbs margarine or ghee
approx. 1/3 cup boiling water to knead the dough
salt
1/2 tsp cumin (optional)

For the Filling:

4 medium sized potatoes, boiled and roughly mashed
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds, coarsely ground
1/2 tsp corriander powder
1/2 tsp dry pomegranate seeds
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 small green chili, chopped
4 tbs fresh green corriander, chopped
Salt

Oil for deep frying




For the dough, mix flour and salt. Add the cumin seeds as well as the oil and the margarine. Mix well with fingers. Now knead the dough with hot water. Cover with a wet cloth or plastic wrap and place aside for 15 minutes.

Make the filling.






Roughly mash the boiled potatoes. Add in rest of the ingredients and mix well with soft hands. We want to save some of the potato pieces from getting mashed completely.

Take the dough, knead it well once again. Make small  golf sized balls. Roll them out with a pin in the given shape.




Please note, its not completely round, rather a bit oval. Cut in the centre to make two halves. Place some filling in the centre of one half.




And cover by folding the dough towards the rounded  side. I hope you can see that I have taken the centre of the straight side of my flat dough as folding guide. Now place the other side of the dough over it (do brush he edges with water so that it sticks well). This will make a triangle.




Press the edges with your finger tips to seal the samosa. Repeat for all the dough balls.



Tip: Incase your dough is hard and non-sticky, you wont having any problem overlapping the samosas on one another and cover with a cloth until use. But if the consistancy is a bit sticky, try placing them apart on a tray and place in the freezer for a while before frying.

Heat oil in a deep frying pan. Please note, you need a lotttttt of oil for this. The samosa should be able to completely dip in oil. Once the oil is hot, set the heat on medium (low-medium) and deep fry the samosas.

Enjoy with mint chutney, tamarind or tomato sauce.

Or for a lighter and more fresh flavour, flatten two prepared samosas on the botton of a plate. Distribute 2 tbs boiled chick peas over these. Cover with 1/2 cup fresh salad leaves (Crisphead/Iceberg) and a few tomato chunks. Add some milk and salt into the mint chutney to make it a bit runny and pour over the samosa plate. Sprinkle with some chat masala. And decorate with tomato ketchup or tamarind sauce. Believe me, the taste is matchless!!!!!







One tip for all the readers who do have control over their diet: You may also enjoy the irresistable samosas in a way that either prepare them the way they deserve to be, i.e. as stated in the recipe and limitise your consume. Or try replacing the evil ingredients through healthier ones, i.e. for more fiber, mix whole wheat flour and refined flour in equal quantities in the dough and instead of deep drying, trying baking them in the oven. This will save you from the unhealthy saturated fats. However, for even browning, do spray them with oil before baking.

Try and share your comments :)

 

Friday, 6 May 2011

yummy is good for my tummy....

Potatoes are probably the most popular vegetables eaten across the world. Whether featured as a side dish or main course, as tea-time snack or kids lunch, they are a favorite food to many of us. Potatoes are, however, at the same time, usually believed to be one of the unhealthiest and fattening products which is actually not true. They are not as bad as most of us think. Its basically the cooking method or the ingredients used with potatoes which make them evil. For exmaple, the french fries are not good for your waistline not because they are made of potatoes but because of the oil, they are fried in. Jacket potatoes are equally harmless if you use a sensible filling inside.

However, I must confess, like most of the potatoe-lovers out there in the world, I dont usually care about the calories as long as the dish is pleasing my taste buds:) Its just that certain foods pair so well that you really cant say "no" to them. I will, therefore, be adding both healthy as well as convenient and a bit sinful potato delights to my series of the month.
 






Potato Rissoles

Ingredients:
4 large - Potatoes
1/2 cup - boiled and shredded chicken
1 finely - chopped green chilli
2 - chopped spring onions
4 tbs - fresh chopped coriander leaves

5 tsp - bread crumbs (or if you dont want to use these, use one beaten egg to coat cutlets before frying)
1 1/2 tbs - coarsely ground dry coriander seeds
1/4 tsp - each red chili powder and cayenne pepper

1/2 tbs - ground dry pomegranate seeds (optional)
1/2 tbs cumin
Salt
Oil for cooking


Boil the potatoes. Peel and mash well. Add all the spices and other ingredients except oil and mix well.









Make small balls with the potato mixture by clasping within your palm. Press a bit and flatten.





Heat a non-stick pan and drizzle some oil. Cook the rissoles on medium flame.




Once they turn golden brown flip them over and cook on the other side likewise. Drizzle more oil if needed. Serve hot with fresh mint-walnuts chutney or tomato ketchup.

Tip: Leftover cutlets can be wrapped in plastic bag and frozen for later use. Please try not to defrost before cooking.
For a complete veggie version, substitute finely shredded green cabbage for the chicken.

Mint-Walnut Chutney

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 green chili
salt and white pepper
1 small tomato (optional)
1 clove garlic (optional)
1-2 tbs milk
1 cup yoghurt

Mix all the above ingredients except yoghurt in an electric blender/chopper. Mix into the beaten yoghurt. You may add more yoghurt or milk to get the desired consistancy.



Enjoy!!!