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
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.