Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boureki - Potato and Courgette Lasagna

I've decided to use food to trick my body into thinking that it's summer instead of winter. Today instead of making typical winter foods like soup, stew or just comfort food, I've decided to make a dish that I've only had once before, on the island of Crete, when it was gorgeous, sunny and warm outside. To me this recipe tastes of the sunny days and cool nights of Crete in April. The typical Boureki recipe is made with either filo dough or a pastry crust but I've found that making it this way gives virtually the same taste but is infinitely easier!

Easy Boureki
3 courgettes/zucchini
2 large potatoes peeled
1 leek sliced in 1/4 inch semi circles
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
4 cloves of garlic minced
1/4 cup minced mint
3 tablespoons minced coriander (cilantro)
2 eggs
1 250g container of ricotta
1 200g package feta cheese
3/4 cup olive oil (yes seriously...it's good for you!*)
1/4 cup water

Thinly chop all the vegetables and place in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with the flour. Using your hand toss everything in the bowl to make sure they are coated with flour. Add the garlic, mint, coriander, eggs, cheeses and olive oil to the bowl and mix with your hands until the eggs and cheese are equally spread throughout the vegetables. Pour mixture into an oiled lasagna dish. Press down on the vegetable mixture with your hands to pack the mixture into the dish. Drizzle the water on the top of the vegetable mixture.

Cook in a 170 degree C (340 F) oven. Do not put in a hotter oven than 180 C or 350F because the olive oil will oxidize and lose it's healthy benefits! Cook for 1.25 -1.5 hours.

Serves: 6
Cooking time: 1.5 hours
Active time 15-20 minutes
Total time: 1.75-2 hours

*Olive oil has been shown to lower cholesterol, is an anti inflammatory, helps prevent gastric ulcers. Also people who use olive oil in place of other fats, have much lower rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and asthma. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=132#healthbenefits

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stir Fried Crab with Soba Noodles

I spent most of today studying nutrition; reading about shellfish and essential fatty acids, and ultimately getting hungrier by the moment. I do love fish, but I wasn't brought up in a family that ate fish regularly (or at all for that matter.) Therefore I usually struggle to know exactly how to cook fish properly. Today I was determined that I was going to try something different and make a simple seafood dish. So around noon I headed to the local fishmonger, only to find that it was closed on Sundays. A few more minutes of walking and I found myself at Waitrose. I scoured the fish counter, freezer section and then the canned fish section and brought home 1 can of lump white crab meat and determined that I would find a nutritious recipe that used that 1 can of crab meat and made a full meal.

Stir Fried Crab with Soba Noodles
1 portion of Soba Noodles (they usually come 3 portions to a package)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger
1/2 red pepper roughly chopped
3 salad onions chopped into rounds, keep the green part separate from the whites
80 grams (about 1/2 cup) mange tout (snow peas) chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 can crab white meat drained
Juice from 1/2 an orange
1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce (tamari soy sauce has a richer flavor than regular soy sauce so you need less of it)
red pepper flakes to taste

Boil 1 liter of water and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to it. Cook the Soba noodles for 5 -6 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse them in cold water. Keep them in cold water until you are ready to use.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil and add the garlic and ginger on medium heat. Saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the mange tout, red peppers and the white parts of the salad onions. Saute for another 2 minutes or until the mange tout are cooked but still crunchy. Stir in the crab meat. Add the soy sauce and orange juice to the pan. Turn the heat down to low. Add the cooked soba noodles and heat until everything is hot.

Sprinkle with the green part of the the salad onions and serve with red pepper flakes.

Serves 2
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Active time: 9 minutes

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Maine Pumpkin Bread

I've been playing with this recipe since October and today I've finally nailed it! I think I've bought every can of pumpkin in Southwest London with my attempts to recreate the divine pumpkin muffins I had in Bar Harbor, Maine, this past September.

This recipe makes a huge loaf and 6 muffins or 3 7x3 loafs. It freezes really well and actually tastes better the day after it's made.

Maine Pumpkin Bread
4 eggs
1/2 cup walnut oil (or vegetable oil)
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 can of mashed pumpkin
1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp groung nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3.5 cups of self rising light brown flour

Heat the oven to 180 C (350 F) and butter the loaf pans.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and oil. Add the sugar pumpkin and molasses to the mixture. (tip: heat the molasses for 20 seconds in the microwave so it is pourable then measure it in the same cup as the oil to reduce sticking) Stir in the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Add the flour. The batter will be very thick.

Spoon the batter into the pans and cook for 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the bread comes out without any batter stuck to it.

Turkey Jambalaya

2 weekends ago I held my annual British Thanksgiving dinner, with the world's largest turkey as the main course! Every year after everyone has gone home stuffed from the thanksgiving dinner, I get to work cutting up the leftovers and making a meaty turkey stock that I can use with risottos and soups. To be honest after all that is done, I'm usually so sick of turkey that the last thing that I want is something that tastes like turkey leftovers. This year I discovered a new recipe and it is now my favorite way to use the left over turkey stock and turkey meat.

Spicy Turkey Jambalaya
1 1/2 cups of brown rice
3 cups of turkey stock
1/2 cup of cooked turkey
6 creole sausages (if you can't find creole use plain and add 1/4 teaspoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder 1/8 teaspoon paprika)
1/2 an onion roughly chopped
2 portabello mushrooms roughtly chopped
1/3 cup of frozen sliced peppers (or 1 roughly chopped green pepper)
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 courgette roughly chopped

Boil the turkey stock and add the rice and turkey to it. Turn the heat down to low and cook until all the water has evaporated and the rice is soft (about 30 minutes) Remove the sausage meat from the casings and brown it in a large pot. Add the onion, mushrooms and peppers to the sausage meat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and the rice to the large pot. Bring to a low boil. Add the courgette and cook a further 5 minutes.

Serves 4
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Active time: 10 minutes

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chunky Split Pea Soup

I've always loved soups. Having a bowl of soup always reminds me of playing in the snow as a kid and having soup to warm up afterwards. There isn't much snow here (a bit early anyway) but it is cold and miserable outside so soup is a great warming option.

Another interesting thing about soup is that apparently eating soup is a great way to lose weight. I think the reason is two fold. One reason (and the most commonly heard one) is that the water in the soup fills you up more quickly than if you had eaten all the ingredients on their own. The second reason is that most soups are full of vegetables which contain fiber and therefore are very filling per calorie. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/why-eating-soup-could-be-the-key-to-losing-weight-447090.html

This chunky split pea soup is loaded with vegetables and can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the ham. I like to make this chunky by only half blending the soup but you could easily blend it futher to make a more smooth soup.

Chunky Split Pea Soup
250/9 oz Grams dried split peas (either green or yellow)
2 carrots
2 ribs of celery
1 leek
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup frozen peas
Cooked ham diced (optional)

Rinse the split peas in cold water. Place the split peas in a large pot, cover with enough water for the water to be approximately 2 inches over the top of the peas. Boil for 20 minutes, skim the water as needed. Meanwhile roughly dice the carrots, celery and leek. After the split peas have cooked for 20 minutes pour vegetable into the water and add further water to just cover all the vegetables. Add in the bay leaves, cumin and salt and pepper and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Using a blender blend half of the soup. Add the diced ham and frozen peas and cook another 5 minutes.

Cooking time:40 minutes
Active time: 15 minutes

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chicken Oregano

This recipe is a family favourite. The great thing about it is that you really can't mess it up. One time I made this and burned the chicken and it still came out well. Last night I made it with left over breaded chicken fingers and I have to say the reworked leftovers were better than the original dish.

Chicken Oregano
6 chicken breasts cut into 2 inch cubes
2 eggs
2 cups of breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of white wine
Juice of half a lemon
3 cloves of garlic chopped
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C/ 250 degrees F

Lightly beat the eggs, dip the chicken breast in the eggs and then cover with breadcrumbs. Fry the chicken on each side until it is brown but not cooked through. Place the chicken in a casserole dish. Using the same frying pan heat the remaining ingredients until they boil. Pour over the chicken in the casserole dish. Cook in oven for 30-40 minutes checking that the chicken has cooked through before serving. I serve this with whole wheat pasta and cooked vegetable.

This recipe is great on day 1 but almost better as leftovers

Active time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Butternut Squash Soup

September is the best month to be in New England. The days are warm and feel like summer but the nights have a nice autumnal crispness. I go to New England every year in September to see my family, have a bit of open space and celebrate my birthday. This year I saw all but one New England State on my trip! I started in Boston, drove up through New Hampshire to Maine, drove back to CT to see my parents, then took a day trip to Rhode Island. Personally I feel that the further north you go the more "New England" you get. The few days I spent in Maine were heavenly; the people are laid back, the scenery is pristine and you really feel the culture of New England.

At this time of year in New England, squashes are one of the most prevalent vegetables at the markets. Historically squash was one of the few vegetables that would store well throughout the long, cold winters so they became a stable of the settlers diets (there is a reason Americans love pumpkin!) One of my favorite squashes that is readily available in the UK is butternut squash. It has a nice sweet flavor that's good both for savory and sweet dishes. Last night I decided to make a butternut squash soup to remind me of my holiday. This soup takes a while to make but most of the time is not active so you can make this while doing something else.

Butternut Squash Soup
1 Butternut squash
1 cube of knorr vegetable bouillon cube
a handful of shallots (about 6) or 1 onion
Water (approximately 3/4 of a liter-6 cups- but it depends on how big the squash is)
1/2 cup of white wine
6 sage leaves

Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds (see recipe below for spiced seeds) place the butternut squash, cut side up, in a 200 Degrees C /400 Degrees F oven for 45 minutes or until soft. Take out of the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

Scoop the flesh of the butternut squash out of the rind. Combine the squash flesh and the shallots in a pot. Lightly fry this mixture for 5 minutes. Add the vegetable cube and enough water to cover the vegetables by about 1 inch. Simmer for 15 minutes adding more water if soup looks too thick. Add the wine and cook for 5 more minutes. Blend the soup adding the sage leaves as you blend (the wand/stick blenders work really well for this because they can just be put directly into the hot soup) Simmer for 2 more minutes and serve

Cook time: 77 minutes
Active time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Spicy Squash Seeds
The seeds of a large squash (pumpkin, butternut, spaghetti, etc)
1 tbs of spices (I like using either Caribbean spices or mild curry powder)

After the seeds have been removed from the squash put them in a colander and run water over them. Place the seeds on a foil lined baking pan and sprinkle them with spices. Mix the spices and the seeds around on the baking pan. Bake at 200 Degrees C /400 Degrees F for 20 minutes. These are great on salads or as a snack.

Cook time: 20 minutes
Active time: 5 minutes

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Oven Dried Tomatoes (for Andy)

I've had a bumper crop of Tom Thumb tomatoes this year. I've made soups and salad and still have loads of tomatoes to spare. This year I decided to dry some tomatoes, but since the UK has had no sun all summer, oven drying was the way to go. The result is soft, sweet tomatoes that store well in oil and are a great taste of summer.

Oven Dried Tomatoes
Tomatoes (as many as you want/have)
a pinch of salt
Olive oil
2-3 whole cloves of Garlic

Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle the cut sides with a pinch of salt. Turn the tomatoes cut side down onto kitchen roll and allow them to drain for about 20 minutes.
Heat oven to 180 degrees C. Place the drained tomatoes with the cut side up on a wire rack. Cook in oven for approximately 2 hours.

When they are shrivelled and mostly dry pack them into a jar with the cloves of garlic, fill the jar with olive oil. The tomatoes will keep throughout the winter (if you don't eat them all in the first week!)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours

Friday, September 5, 2008

Soba Noodles with Summer Vegetables

A few months ago I tried one of Heidi Swanson's Soba noodle recipes (http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/garlic-soba-noodles-recipe.html) and I am now a true fan of them. I never would have thought that Soba Noodles which are typically Japanese could be done in a more Italian style and still taste wonderful!

Soba noodles are great because they are high in protein, so fill you up more than most other pastas would. They are also super quick cooking, taking only about 4-5 minutes to make.

Soba Noodles with Summer Vegetables
1 portion of soba noodles (the individually wrapped bunches will feed 1 as a main)
1 handful of green beans, chopped into 1 inch peices
2 small tomatoes chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 chopped sage leaves
Goat's cheese to top (I used this wonderful Devon garlic cheese from Yellowedge)

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to boiling water then add the soba noodles to the boiling water. Put a timer on for 1 minute less than the cooking time written on the soba noodle package (Soba noodles will get very sticky if over cooked) When the timer goes off add the green beans to the the boiling water and cook for one minute more. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse with cold water.

In a frying pan heat the remaining oil and tomatoes and sage. Add the drained noodles and stir until everything is hot (about 1 minute.)

Serve with goats cheese.

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5-6 minutes

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

African Tomato Soup

My friend Florence is from Uganda. When she moved to the states she brought with her some food combinations that my Italian-American family had never thought of. One of these is a peanut (ground nut) sauce made with tomatoes and onions. I've been planning to make her ground nut sauce for a few weeks now but since I don't tend to cook meat very often I decided that instead of making a sauce I would make a soup based on her original recipe. This soup is also a great way to use up my Tom Thumb tomatoes that are ripening now and producing far more tomatoes than I can eat in salads.

African Tomato Soup
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Onion Roughly Chopped
1 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder (or to taste)
About 20 Cherry Tomatoes
2 Heaping Tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) of Natural Peanut Butter (no salt, no sugar)
Juice of Half a Lime

In a heavy pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions for 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile mix the spices in a mortar and pestle and grind roughly. Add the ground spices to the frying onions and fry for another 2 minutes. Chop each tomato in half and add to the pot. Add enough water to cover the tomatoes and onions, bring to a boil. When the soup is boiling add the peanut butter to the pot. Allow to cook for 10 minutes. Blend the soup (I use a stick blender and put it directly into the pot but you can also transfer the soup to a blender and blend at high speed.) Add salt and lime juice to taste. For a smoother soup strain the soup through a sieve or fine mesh colander before serving.

Serves 4-6 people
Prep Time: 2-3 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta Fazool)

Normally I'm a pasta purist. I only eat white pasta because that's what my mom made and what my grandmother made. I've always tutted at my friends that they insisted that whole wheat pasta is so much better. But a few days ago one of my colleagues was saying how much he likes whole wheat pasta with just olive oil on it and how it is much more filling than white pasta. Since he tends to be pretty health conscious, I decided that I would try making something with whole wheat pasta. Then I got to thinking. Many of the popular pasta sauces were once upon a time "peasant food" and apparently the peasants also would have used whole wheat because the refined, white, flour was reserved for the aristocrats. So I decided I would make a hearty peasant pasta fit for the present.

Pasta e Fagioli (or Pasta Fazool depending on who you ask)
1 bag whole wheat pasta
150 grams of pre chopped prosciutto (or 6 slices of bacon cut into 1/4 inch strips)
1 onion chopped
4 cloves of garlic chopped
2 cans of cannelini beans rinsed
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
1 yellow pepper chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary
olive oil to taste (at least 5 tablespoons)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan Cheese to taste

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

In another heavy pot fry the prosciutto, onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add the rinsed beans, and the canned tomatoes to the prosciutto mixture. Add the chopped pepper and the rosemary to the tomato sauce. Add olive oil to the sauce until you get the desired texture. Allow the sauce to simmer.

Add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook according to the directions on the package

When the pasta is cooked, strain in and add the sauce. Top with cheese and more olive oil if desired.

This recipe serves 4, makes great left overs and cooks in under 20 minutes

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10-20 minutes

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Baked Eggs with Vegetables

Last night I came home late and wanted something nutritious but also easy. As is usual on a stressful day, I hadn't had many vegetables during the day, so I wanted to put as many different types of vegetables as possible into my meal. As I've said before, eggs are usually my fall back when the fridge is empty, but last night I wanted eggs with a bit more flavor. I used ramekins to make 2 individual servings but this could easily be doubled to serve 4. This dish was awesome straight from the oven and I had the second serving cold for lunch today--it was just as tasty cold as it was hot.

Baked Eggs with Vegetables
olive oil to coat the ramekins
1 large tomato or 4 cherry tomatoes
Herbs: 1 sprig of rosemary, 1 sprig of thyme and 5 sage leaves OR 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
1 salad onion
1 handful of rocket/arugula
a handful of French Beans or the insides of overripe runner beans
3 eggs
1/2 cup of shredded mature cheddar

Coat the ramekins with olive oil and set aside

Roughly chop the vegetable, mince the herbs and mix them everything in a bowl, crack the eggs into the bowl. Mix in 3/4 of the cheese. Pour the mixture equally into the ramekins. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese

Cook at 200 degree C (450 F) until the top is brown and the egg has puffed up

This can be eaten hot or cold

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Monday, August 11, 2008

Curried Egg Salad

I love eggs. I love that I can make eggs savory or sweet, can have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, and I can make a meal with eggs for a fraction of the cost of a meal with meat. Yesterday night, I came home rather late and needed something to eat that wasn't too heavy, but I also wanted something that would give me enough leftovers for a lunch or two during the week. I had about a dozen eggs, some salad onions and plain yogurt in my fridge I ended up with a really nice, lighter version of one of my favourites.

Curried Egg Salad
6 Eggs Hardboiled
3 salad onions
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
3 large spoonfuls of plain yogurt
chopped coriander to season
a handful of dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, cherries, chopped apricots, etc)
juice of 1/2 a lime

Hardboil the eggs (a trick here...hardboil the eggs for about 12 minutes, then stick them in ice water. The shells will come off much easier), chop the salad onions and combine them with the hardboiled eggs in a bowl.

In a frying pan warm the oil and curry power. Stir until the oil takes on the colour of the curry. Pour the oil over the eggs and salad onion. Run a knife through the whole thing until the eggs are bite sized and are mixed well with the onions and curry.

Mix a spoonful of yogurt at a time with the egg mixture until you get the desired texture. Add chopped coriander, juice of half a lime and dried fruit.

Serve as part of a sandwich or over salad greens.

This recipe serves 3 and will keep for approximately 5 days

Cooking time 14 minutes
Prep time 5 minutes

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Herbed Stuffed Courgettes (Zucchini)

Last Sunday I went to a wonderful farmer's market in Blackheath where I found some nice courgettes, both yellow and green. Since courgettes are in season, I wanted to make a dish with a summer feel but I wanted the courgettes to be the star of the main course instead of just a side. I decided the best way to do this was to stuff the courgettes and then serve them with a bit of salad and some fresh bread. The result is a nice summery light meal.

Stuffed Courgettes with Tuna and Herbs

6 courgettes
1 can of tuna, drained (if you're not into tuna you can substitute cooked mince or rice or mushrooms)
1 egg
1/3 cup of strong grated cheese (Pecorino, Parmesan, Cheddar, etc)
A mixture of chopped fresh vegetables, whatever is on hand (I used 3 salad onions, a handful of rocket/arugula, a handful of fresh peas and 1/4 of a pepper)
1 sprig of rosemary
3 sprigs of thyme
6-7 leaves of sage

Place the whole courgettes in a pot of cold water. Bring them to a boil. Once the water is boiling set the timer for 10 minutes. While the courgettes are boiling, combine the tuna, egg, and chopped vegetables in a bowl. Chop the herbs finely and add to the mixture along with half of the grated cheese.

When the courgettes have boiled for 10 minutes remove them from the water. Allow them to cool until you can work with them. Cut each courgette in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, remove and set aside the inside of the courgettes (the area with the seeds.) Roughly dice the pieces of courgette that have been removed, squeeze out any extra water and add this to the tuna mixture.

Line a baking pan with foil and heat the oven to 200 degrees C (450 F) Place the courgettes on the baking sheet. Stuff each courgette with the tuna mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

These can be eaten hot or cold and can be frozen.

Total cooking time:25 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes

Friday, August 1, 2008

Easy Pasta Two Ways, Carbonara and Primavera

I have been craving pasta for weeks. Tonight I'm finally getting to make my absolute favorite recipe, proper Carbonara. What do I mean by proper? Well when I was in Genoa, I learned that true carbonara doesn't have to have loads of cream in it. You can make a wonderful light version with just a few ingredients.

100 g Pancetta (you can buy this cubed from Armstrong's) or 5 slices of streaky bacon
1/2 an onion chopped small
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs
1 bag of any flat pasta (linguine or papperdelle work the best)
Parmesan cheese to top

Put the pasta on to boil. Fry the pancetta and onion in the oil until the pancetta starts to get a bit crispy. Turn the heat off on the pancetta if the pasta hasn't cooked yet. Whisk the eggs in a cup and set aside. Drain the pasta in a colander when it has finished cooking. Do not rinse it. Pour the pancetta and onion mixture into the pot that the pasta cooked in. Then pour the hot pasta and eggs into the same pot. Stir. Put the lid on the pot for 2 minutes. The egg will have cooked from the heat of the pot and the heat of the hot pasta.

Pasta Primavera
This is the same premise as the carbonara just vegetarian.
1/2 onion chopped
1 portabello mushroom chopped
1/4 cup of peas
1/4 of a red pepper chopped
3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 eggs
1 bag of flat noodles or 3 bunches of soba noodles (which will add extra protein to the meal)

Put the pasta on to boil, set a timer for 1 minute less than the cooking time on the package. Fry the onion and mushroom in olive oil for about 5 minutes, add peppers and salt. Cook until tender. When the timer goes off add the peas to the water and cook for 1 minute. Drain the noodles using a colander (if using soba rinse in really hot water) Pour the vegetable mixture into the pot, pour the noodles with peas and eggs on top of the vegetable mixture and stir. Cover the pot and let sit for 2 minutes. If you find that the egg has not cooked to your liking, briefly turn the heat on and stir until the egg looks less runny. Top with cheese and extra olive oil if needed.

Note: You can use just about any vegetable but broccoli or cauliflower in this recipe. The reason for this is that the egg gets caught in the florets of the two vegetables and doesn't cook fully.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chickpea, Courgette and Dill Salad

Yesterday I went to one of my favourite, cheap markets in Ealing and saw a really nice bunch of dill. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but I bought it anyway in the hopes that inspiration would strike. Try as I may, last night I just couldn't think of anything to do with it. So in the refrigerator sat my beautiful bunch of dill. Today I was determined to make something with the dill. Since it's finally warm and sunny today, I thought I'd seize the chance to make a summer dish.

Chickpea, Courgette and Dill Salad
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek cut into 1/4 inch slices (use up until the leaves begin)
1 can of chickpeas in water
1 courgette cut into 1/8 inch thick semi circles
1 cup of dill, roughly chopped
1 lemon
1 cup of plain or Greek style yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan on high heat. Cut all but 2 of the slices of leek in half so they are semicircular. Add the leek semi circles to the olive oil and fry for 2 minutes. While the leeks are frying, rinse the can of chickpeas under cold water. Add the chickpeas to the fry pan and fry for another 2 minutes. Add the courgette to the pan and cook for 2 more minutes. Turn the heat down to low and add half of the chopped dill and the juice of half a lemon to the pan. Allow to cook on low heat for 4-5 minutes.

In a blender or food processor combine the 2 remaining pieces of leek, the yogurt, the remaining dill and the juice of the other half of the lemon. Pulse quickly until everything is mixed.

Remove the chickpea mixture from the heat and stir in the yogurt mixture to your taste.

If there is remaining yogurt mixture it can be used as a salad dressing or a vegetable dip.

This recipe can be served hot or cold.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Best Salad I've Ever Eaten

This salad is perfect for summer barbeques and perfect to share. The prep time for this is more that my average recipe but the salad is so yummy and so healthy that it's worth the time. This recipe feeds at least 4, but if you're cooking for 1 or 2 read my notes at the bottom to see how you can make a smaller dish.

Rainbow Salad

1 block of Halloumi Cheese (or 2 cooked chicken breast)
1 small avocado
1 pink grapefruit
1 mango
1 bag of mixed salad greens
1 teaspoon of olive oil (optional)
Sesame seeds to sprinkle on top

Cut the halloumi into slices and fry the slices until each side is browned. Remove the slices from the pan and cut into smaller, bite sized peices. Segment the grapefruit (this is what takes the longest) I decided the best way to do this was to cut the grapefruit in half and cut each segment out with a knife the way I would if I was eating it for breakfast. It takes a while but it means that the bitter pith doesn't end up in the salad.

Put the grapefruit segments in a large bowl and squeeze any remaining juice over them. Cut the avocado and mango into pieces and add them to the bowl. Mix in the salad greens and the cooked halloumi. Mix the salad well and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Since the grapefruit is so juicy you don't really need a salad dressing but you can add a touch of olive oil to give it more flavor..

Note: The tricky thing about cutting this recipe down to serve only 1-2 people is what do you do with the remaining fruit. I made a fruit salad out of the fruit and used the second half of the avocado on sandwiches during the week. If you want to have "Rainbow salad" for multiple meals during the week you can mix the grapefruit, avocado and mango together and store in the fridge, then add the cheese and salad later (the lettuce will wilt if you mix it with the acid for too long) Although this recipe feeds a huge number of people I still make it for just me because its a great way to get a variety of fruits and vegetable and it really tastes wonderful.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lebanese Stuffed Peppers

My all time favorite food is stuffed grape (vine) leaves. When I lived in Massachusetts, I had a coworker with a Lebanese wife. Tim used to bring in these great stuffed grape leaves made with lamb and cinnamon that were absolutely divine. The grape leaves were fresh, picked from the many vines growing around their house, and the mix of spices gave the stuffed grape leaves a very different taste than the typical Dolmas served in Greek restaurants.

Since grape vines aren't prevalent in London, I wanted to see if I could make a similar recipe using peppers. The result is exactly what I hoped for!

Lebanese Stuffed Peppers
4 large peppers
500 grams (1 lb) of lamb mince (beef works too, or a combination)
3/4 cup of uncooked risotto (or regular rice)
1 teaspoon salt (don't use less, the recipe will be very bland if you do)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 lemon cut into slices plus extra lemon to squeeze over the top

Place the risotto in a colander and rinse with cold water. Mix the uncooked mince, risotto, salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Cut the tops off of the peppers and discard the stems and seeds. Stuff the meat mixture into the peppers. Make sure that the peppers are densely packed.

Lay 4 lemon slices on the bottom of a pot, place the 4 peppers on top of these slices with the meat mixture facing upwards. Place 1 more slice of lemon on the top of the meat in the each pepper. Any remaining lemon slices can be put in the pot. Half fill the pot with boiling water (the water level should be half way up the peppers.) Boil the peppers on a low boil for 40 minutes. The peppers may fall over while cooking but the recipe will still work!

Remove the peppers from the boiling water and serve. These can be eaten hot or cold and can be frozen.

Simon's Chocolate Birthday Cake

OK, OK so I know this recipe has nothing to do with St Margarets. I also know it's not the healthiest recipe I've ever made, but I have gotten so many compliments on this cake that I wanted to share the recipe.

This recipe came about because Simon, my boyfriend, loves chocolate cake. The night before his birthday, I went to the store and picked up Philadelphia and icing sugar because I knew I was going to be making a cake, what I had forgotten to get was milk, regular sugar, and a bag of flour. Luckily I had some supplies at home, but I needed a recipe that didn't need loads of ingredients and that I could make with what I had.

This chocolate cake is really quick and easy to make and the result is a really moist cake.

Chocolate Cake
3 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of honey
1/2 cup of sweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
3/4 cup of walnut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 cups water
1 egg

Pour all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix a few times with a spoon. Pour the wet ingredients on top of this and mix with a whisk until everything is beaten together. (A few lumps are OK but don't leave too many)

Pour batter into 2 greased round cake pans

Bake at 180 degrees C for 30-40 minutes. To check that the cake is done, insert a knife into the cake. If the knife comes out clean the cake is done cooking.

Chocolate Icing
2/3 of a container of Light Philadelphia
1 cup of icing sugar (If you want to make a vanilla frosting use 3/4 cup of sugar and omit the chocolate)
1 teaspoon vanilla
60 (2 oz) grams of unsweetened dark chocolate (I used Venezuelan Black from Waitrose)

Combine the softened butter, Philadelphia, icing sugar and vanilla with a whisk or electric beater. Grate or finely chop the dark chocolate and put in a microwave proof bowl. Heat for about 40-60 seconds in the microwave until it is melted but not boiling. Pour the chocolate into the icing and mix together until the icing has a smooth colour.

Put the icing in the refrigerator until the cake is fully baked.

When the cake comes out of the oven, remove it from the pans and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes. Also at this point take the icing out of the refrigerator so it is easy to spread when the cake has cooled.

Frost the cake and store it in the refrigerator until it is ready to serve.

This cake can be frozen.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mango and Tomato Salad

Sometimes you just need a summer food. I know that in St Margarets the weather is wavering between summer and winter, but I'm determined to make it summer in my kitchen. This is a really unique salad that sounds wrong but tastes fantastic!

Mango and Tomato Salad
2 ripe mangos
3 ripe tomatoes (I use the vine ones)
2 salad onions
1/4 of a cucumber
Juice of half a lemon
about 2 teaspoons olive oil to taste
hot sauce or chili oil to taste

Cube the mangos ( for those of you who have never done this before take a look at this link http://www.wikihow.com/Cut-a-Mango)
Slice the 3 tomatoes so the pieces are about the same size as your mango pieces
Slice the salad onions including the green part
Thinly slice the cucumber.
Mix the above in a serving bowl
Squeeze the lemon onto the salad. Drizzle with hot sauce and olive oil

Every time I have served this to guests they are amazed. The sweetness of the mango goes really well with the acidity of the tomato and lemon and the hot sauce gives the whole thing a bit of kick.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A note about measurements

I find cooking European recipes very time consuming and often times messy. I can't be bothered to get out a scale and weigh each of the dry ingredients, then get out a measuring cup and measure each of the liquid ingredients. When I actually try to weigh flour I usually end up with a kitchen full of white flour dust. I spend a third of my time measuring, a third making the recipe and the remaining third cleaning the kitchen!
If you find that cooking or baking just takes too long and is too messy than I suggest going to the local Waitrose and picking up some American measuring cups and spoons. Now that so many recipes are online, you will have no problem finding recipes (even classic English recipes) written using American measurement. The great thing about American measuring cups is that you only need one set to cover both the dry ingredients and liquid ones. Its far less time consuming and less messy!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Welcome to my kitchen

St Margarets, a small village between Richmond and Twickenham, is a foodie's dream come true. In most of England the concept of having a local butcher, baker and candlestick maker went out of fashion in 1850. St Margarets may not have the candlestick maker but it does have a wonderful butcher's (Armstrong's), a well stocked green grocer's (Streets) a few cafes (Zorans, L'amadine and Sunshine and Ravioli) and even a cheese shop and a local health food store.

Because I love all the local stores of St Margarets I have dedicated this blog to recipes that can be made predominately with foods sold at my local shops (plus a few staples). All of my recipes are fairly simple to make and most are good for leftovers as well.