Monday, 22 September 2014

Exotic Parcels

Foglie di Bietola Ripiene con Couscous Speziata & Tahini
Stuffed Chard Leaves with Spicy Couscous & Tahini


These are crazy little parcels of yumminess- a whole mix of flavors and clashes of cultures in here- a little Arabian, a little Indian- even a little Sicilian- it's all in the mix and it's all kinds of wonderful!

I bought the beautiful, bright megenta-red chard on Saturday, as it was simply too pretty to be passed by- but living alone, I had to face up to the fact that it WAS a little bit too much for me to eat all by myself- and so I decided to use the leafy greens tonight to make a little something out of them first... and whilst I was at it, I decided to make them into something special.  


I made a filling for my tasty little rolls, using couscous, packed with the flavors of turmeric, tandoori, pine nuts and raisins, onion and ginger... wonderfully rich to contrast with the tender chard- and so much more fun than the usual chard recipes I know!


To make the filling for 6 large chard leaves, I needed 1 cup of couscous, 1 Spring onion, 2 tablespoons of raisins, about 1" of fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon of pine nuts, 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 tablespoon of tandoori powder. Oh- and some delicious Tahini to serve as a garnish and sauce.

Like little vegetarian hand-grenades, these little rolls are packed with explosive flavor... not in a hot and spicy way, but in a rich and pleasing way that I hope you will enjoy as well as I did!


I began by steaming the chard- in the 5 minutes it took to do that, I was able to get the couscous ready for the filling- now, is that great, or what?


Whilst the chard steamed, I gently toasted the pine nuts, and added the Spring onion, ginger and raisins with a little olive oil to brown slightly.


I then added the couscous, the turmeric and tandoori powder and a little salt and pepper, stirred them in well and let it toast for just a minute or so.


The great thing about couscous is that it takes care of itself- and will soak up all of the great flavors from the ingredients and spices whilst doing so!


By now the chard, which I took out of the saucepan after 5 minutes, was also cooled off... but a little rinse under the cold water tap will speed things up just a little- I do tend to be impatient sometimes... especially after a long work day!!!


Next- time to get a-rockin' and a-rollin'!

Lay out the leaves nice and flat and set out a couple of tablespoons of filling at the stalk end. I simply crushed the stalk a little flat using a spoon in order to get it soft enough to roll easily.


Fold over the end first- once or twice, depending on the size/length of the leaf.


Now, fold-in the sides on the left and the right, to keep everything inside...


... and then simply roll all the way to the end- easy!

Once your roll is finished, it will be a little moist still, so wring it out gently- this will help keep it nice and snug and in shape.


Then, simply, carefully place the finished rolls back onto your steam rack and re-heat them for 4-5 minutes before serving, so that they will be nice and hot and delicious! Sprinkle with a little salt in order to get the chard seasoned too- and you are almost ready to go!

Serve with a little tahini and a last sprinkle of Tandoori spice for a bust of flavor and color- and enjoy!


Elegant, delicious- and packed with color and flavor once you cut into them- these make for a great vegetarian dish that is anything but boring! But then again- I wouldn't ever do that to you now, would I?


 To good to be kept under-wraps! Discover what is inside and enjoy every second of it!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Nuts About Curry!

Curry di Maiale "Penang" con Patate & Arachidi
Penang Pork Curry with Potatoes & Peanuts

Time to spice up your life again- or at least your supper, that is! Though most of us know it from the many Thai restaurants that are all around us (or so it seems!), Penang curry is actually Malaysian in origin... and just happens to be one of my favorite Asian curries!

I learned the basics of how to prepare Thai curries from those (thankfully) ready curry pastes, that yes, even the Thai folks themselves use, from a dear old work colleague. Thanks Tuan Jai! I hope you don't mind how I have altered the method to make it my own!


Apart from the coconut milk of course, the other most distinctive flavor of Penang curry is that of the wonderfully aromatic Keffir lime leaves... so divine! I love how this curry is so perfumed, lemony and mild... it had been waaay to long since I had last eaten it! I shall have to make sure to make this again more often in future!


I am so glad that us singletons can get these tiny cans of coconut milk- perfect for a single serving! So- other than that, my other ingredients were, of course the pork- which was a slice of loin, very lean and cut into bite-size strips, against the grain, 5 little potatoes, 1 carrot, 1/2 stick of celery, 1 small red pepper, 1 Spring onion, 1 handful of sugar-snap peas, 1 tablespoon of Penang curry paste, 4-5 Keffir lime leaves (frozen), and some fresh coriander. And a very healthy appetite!


So rich and exotic, and so much easier than you may think... like all of my favorite recipes! This is my kind of food! And possibly, yours too!


A little bit of chopping has to be done of course- the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and the rest in slices, just s you would for a stir-fry.


Begin by frying the pork in a dry, non-stick pan until it begins to give off it's own juices and to brown. One reason for this is that the coconut milk has plenty of fat and I did not want to have any more than necessary in the dish... the other you will see in the next photo...


By the time the pork is brown, you will have a lovely, roasted-in base of flavor to build on for the rest of the dish... so you can now set the pork to one side and continue with the coconut milk...


Add the coconut milk/paste and stir-up all of the good flavor from the pork. Wait until it begins to boil and at a certain point, it will "crack" and as you can see in the photo, separate into a milky and a clear color- that is the fat separating from the water and it signifies the right time to add the curry paste- and those delicious lime leaves!


Now transfer the milk to a saucepan, add the carrot, potato, celery and pepper, the chopped stalks of the coriander and a handful of peanuts and stir together well. Season with Thai fish sauce, top up with water and bring to the boil, then allow to simmer for 10 minutes.


Next, add the pork again and let it come up to temperature for a further 5 minutes...


...and then finally, add the peas, the Spring onion and a little finely chopped coriander. Stir it through gently, pop on the lid, and in the 4-5 minutes it will take you to grab your bowl for serving, your curry will be ready to go!


So full of flavor- and a rich, sweet perfume that will have the neighbors talking- and possibly inviting themselves over!


Maybe not the traditional recipe, but definitely tastier than any I have had at any restaurants here in Germany... In fact, the only better curry I have had here was made by dear old Tuan Jai! Thanks again old girlfriend!

Currant Affairs!

Torta di Ricotta, Mandorla, Pera & Mirtilli Rossi
Ricotta, Almond, Pear & Red Currant Cake


It's Sunday morning- apparently... but here in Frankfurt, there is no sun to be seen far and wide! Which of course means... on the one day of the week that I indulge and do make a breakfast... I need to make something a little extra yummy to brighten up the day!

So here is something simple, yummy- and even rather harmless and healthy, that is enough to brighten even the dreariest of days! Turn on your oven, go grab a whisk and get ready to enjoy a nice slice of this flour-less ricotta cake... you can have it baked and cooled-off in less than an hour, if you can manage to keep up with me!


This was just a little itty-bitty tester version here- just made for lil' ol' me, using just a small amount of ingredients- just to see if the combination turned-out well... And I think I may well make a full sized version next time- because, yup! I would certainly make this again!

Here we go... in all, I needed 2 tablespoons of fresh ricotta, 1 egg, 5-6 tablespoons of ground almonds, 1 pear, between 150-200g of red currants, a teaspoon of baking powder, a tablespoon of honey, a touch of lemon juice and sugar or Stevia, as you prefer, as a sweetener. I made the flour-free, sugar-free version version... just for the hell of it! I am crazy and reckless that way, sometimes!  


The result was simple, delicious and light... something in-between a moist, traditional almond cake and a cheesecake... if you can imagine that. A little crumbly of course, as it is ricotta after all, but refreshing and fruity with the pear, cinnamon and currants...

Sound like your kinda thing? Good- mine too! So let's get busy together right now!


Peel, core and cut the pear into relatively thin slices, then fan them apart slightly, so that you can lift them on the edge of a knife-blade or spatula later, to set on top of your cake batter.


Put the 2 tablespoons of ricotta into a bowl with the egg, 4 tablespoons of ground almonds, the baking powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, Stevia or sugar, and whisk together. This will make a soft-ish batter, so you should not have any problems with lumps- especially as you are using ground almonds and not flour. I used 1 teaspoon of Stevia, so maybe 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of sugar would be right for this small sized cake.


Add more ground almonds to the mix, little by little, until it becomes the consistency of a rich porridge and then add the currants, the honey and a little lemon juice... Stir these in gently using a whisk that looks like an unhappy chick if possible, but if not, fear not- a spoon will do just as well!


Be gentle now and try not to damage those delicate little currants too much!


Pour into a buttered and crumbed cake tray or baking dish and carefully set the sliced pear on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for around 40-45 minutes, until it becomes a rich and golden brown.


I should point out that I was in a hurry... I was hungry... and I was impulsive- and got right-in there and enjoyed mine whilst it was still warm from the oven! And I loved it!

But at the same time, I can imagine that if the cake had rested and cooled and perhaps even been chilled... it would have been nicer still!

Just- don't hate me for not waiting!


 I served myself mine up with a little fresh ricotta and currants on the side- just to make things extra yummy. I left my ricotta unsweetened, but of course adding a little lemon zest and sugar would also be mighty-delicious... or a drizzle of honey... or a dusting of powdered sugar... All good ideas, I'd say!

So whichever way you decide to try out your little cake... I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Two Drunken Pigs!

Scaloppina di Maiale con Salvia & Burro su Polenta ai Funghi Porcini
Sage & Butter Pork Loin on Porcini Mushroom Polenta


Oh, yes- you may indeed believe your eyes... I made another meat dish again! It is strange, but so many people think that just because I do not eat meat every day, that I do not like it- or that I am maybe a vegetarian!

Quite on the contrary, I enjoy meat very much! It is just that... there are so many things that you can cook using vegetables too- haha!

But this evening, pork was on the menu- with, rather passingly... "porcini" mushrooms and yummy polenta! Italian comfort food... with a twist!

You might imagine this kind of dish takes a long time to prepare, but actually, it took only 30-40 minutes in all... which was a really good thing this evening, as by the time I got home from the market hall and a little shopping in town... thanks to the Frankfurt weather, a torrential downpour... and the fact that I do not have a car and was carrying my goodies home on foot- I got soaked! I was freezing cold! And yes- once again... I needed a little comforting!


Just a handful of porcini mushrooms per portion, along with 1 cupful of polenta, 1 slice of pork, a couple of Spring onions and some parsley, sage, garlic and thyme- that was all it took to give this guy a whole lot of enjoyment, a good feed and indeed, a little comfort on this cold evening.

There were a couple of other little ingredients- maybe a little unusual... but I will get to those later...


Ok, I will tell you a couple of the other ingredients that I added to this dish, to make it more delicious... and they were both alcoholic in nature- so... sorry kiddies! This ain't for you!

I used both cognac and a Sicilian sweet wine called "Zibibbo" for the pork... don't you just love that name? Should you not be able to get zibibbo, a shot of port will have a similar effect, or a Marsala... but along with the cognac, the sage and the butter... and one last ingredient that I will mention later- you will have magical juices to accompany your pork and make sure it is filled with flavor!


Give the porcini a good rinse, let them dry off thoroughly- and be critical when you dice them up- look out for worm-holes and any little critters that may be enjoying them before you get a chance to eat them... remember- these things have come from the countryside!

Slice up the onions and a little garlic nice and finely to add plenty of aroma... and go grab yourself a saucepan to prepare that polenta!


Fry the mushrooms with around 2/3rds of the Spring onions and the garlic, with a good pat of butter, salt, pepper, and a little of the fresh thyme.


Once the mushrooms are brown, deglaze the saucepan with just a splash of cognac, then add enough water to cover the mushrooms. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer before continuing with the polenta...


...add the polenta along with plenty of freshly grated nutmeg and a little more pepper.


Stir it in well, so that it absorbs all of the water in the pan and gets nicely and evenly coated... this is not a bad thing! This will in fact ensure that you do not end up with lumps in your polenta- so it is actually a very good thing!

Next, add a good splash of milk and keep stirring the mushrooms and polenta until it dissolves again.

Top up with more boiling water until you have the desired consistency, reduce to a low simmer and allow to bubble away gently for a further 20 minutes or so until it is creamy, smooth and delicious. The mushrooms, garlic, onion, herbs and spice, will all cook gently into the polenta, making it rich and tasty... without you needing to do very much more at all!


After around 10-15 minutes, you can begin to prepare your slice of pork. In a good pat of melted and bubbling butter, place the pork, a little finely chopped garlic, 4-5 small sage leaves (or equivalent), a little thyme and some salt and pepper.

Fry until brown from both sides, then add the onions until they too begin to brown, then deglaze the pan with a splash of cognac and a little of the Zibbibo. Give the pork 3-4 minutes of frying time to each side before deglazing the pan and then allow it to gently simmer for a further 3-4 whilst you add the mystery ingredient that will bind the juices in the pan into a makeshift sauce... would you believe it? Hoisin sauce!

Yes, this blends wonderfully with the sweet onion and garlic juices and goes very harmoniously with the pork... with a finishing touch of a hint of honey to compliment the sage... you are now ready to serve!


With a light sprinkle of parsley and thyme, a little fresh pepper is the finishing touch before you sit down to a good, hearty meal! One that I promise you will enjoy immensely!

Spoon those rich juices and sweet onion on top and enjoy... who needs a more intricate gravy when this brings out all of the best of each flavor on the plate! And so easy of course, too!