Monday, 22 June 2015

Greek-ish Pork Stew with Tomatoes and Beans

Just to show that I never stop thinking about food and often find inspirations from the strangest of places, the recipe I'm about to share came to me from my morning exercise.

When I was at the gym this morning, the TV screen in front of me was showing the news on them latest talks on Greek debt crisis. Without sounding inappropriate, yes, it's a serious issue to which I hope for the best possible outcome; but whilst on that cross-trainer, all I can think about was "hmmm... I really fancy a Greek stew for lunch". Then all sorts of ingredients came to mind, lamb, pork, chicken, olives, lemon, oregano, tomatoes and so on.

On my way home, I stopped by the grocery store, hunting for lamb but with my luck, there's none left. So, I opted for some diced pork shoulder.

The stew is easy to make. Like many stew recipes, it begins with searing the meat. I have to be honest, I used to loathe doing this. It's a step that seems unnecessary and time-consuming since you're not actually cooking the protein, just browning the outsides. But with experience I learned that it actually is a really important as the searing builds amazing flavours to the stew later. Plus if you don't sear the meat, it often looks grey just like boiled meat and they don't look very appetizing. 

For me, this extra step is worth the effort and if you've never done it before, you should give it a go. To do so, here are some of my tips:

Make sure the meat is pat dry. Once you're done cutting the meat into the desirable size, pat them dry with paper towel before seasoning with salt and pepper, etc. This helps keep the meat from steaming instead of searing.

Make sure the pan is hot. You do need a high temperature to sear the meat and to get that beautiful deep brown colour. For the pan, I'd use a stainless steel or cast iron material, but not non-stick. And with the oil, a thin coating of vegetable oil (which has a higher smoking point) is all you need. 

Last but not least, don't overcrowd the pan. Depending on the size of your pan, if you have to sear in batches, do it in batches. Overcrowding the pan means the meat will braise rather than sear. And just be patient. I mean, patience is not one of my virtues; and if I can do it, so can you!

Anyway, that is Martha Stewart tip of the day. Once your meat is seared the rest is pretty straightforward. 

When I was at university, I had a Greek flatmate who taught me to add a little ground cinnamon when making tomato sauce and ever since, whenever I cook a tomato sauce based Greek inspired dish, I always add just a pinch of cinnamon. It's not very noticeable but I feel like it adds to the je ne sais quoi

Serve the stew with anything you like, rice, couscous, bulgur wheat or some chunky chips... hmmm... chunky chips... and a dollop of cool plain Greek yoghurt or sour cream, whatever tickles your fancy.

Greek-ish Pork Stew with Tomatoes and Beans

1 kg pork shoulder, cut into big chunks
Vegetable oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
250 ml white wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tin chopped tomatoes
A pinch of sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (425 gr) tin cannellini beans, drained
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Plain Greek yoghurt, to serve

Pat the pork shoulder dry and with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Brown the pork well in batches. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Using the same pot, turn down the heat to medium and add another tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and garlic. Sprinkle some salt and pepper to prevent them from burning. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chili flakes and tomato paste and continue cooking for another couple of minutes.

Pour in the white wine and really scrape the bottom of the pot. Let the wine bubble away for five minutes or so. Add the fresh thyme, dried oregano, a tin of chopped tomatoes, sugar, cinnamon and the pork along with the juices that's been accumulated. Give it a stir and let everything comes to a boil before half-covering the pot with a lid and simmer for an hour. Stirring every now and then.

When the hour is up, add the beans and let it continue to simmer for another thirty minutes. Add the lemon zest and juice and adjust the seasoning. Serve with carbohydrate of your choice and a generous dollop of Greek yoghurt on top.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Chorizo and Beans Stew

Even in the Caribbean, it has to rain sometime. The past few days had been pouring down like crazy, but it is hurricane season at the moment after all. 

But this kind of weather for me is just the perfect excuse to cook up something warm and comforting, like this chorizo and beans stew. 

I adore chorizo sausage. It's utterly delicious and it adds instant flavour to anything you cook. It's heady with garlic and smoked paprika. In this stew, I fry the chorizo in an oil-less pot to release its natural paprika tinted oil; then later use the oil as the base to fry the aromatics. 

The stew takes hardly anytime to cook. I mean, you can get this done in less than half an hour. But like most soups and stews, this gets better with time. So, if you wish, you can definitely make it ahead of time and simply reheat when you're in need of comfort.  

Chorizo and Beans Stew

250 gr hot chorizo sausage, sliced into fat coins
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
A small bunch of fresh coriander stalks, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1 tin black beans, drained
200 gr cherry tomatoes
500 ml chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Spicy Baked Ziti

Greetings dear blog readers... Oh my, it's been a while since I last posted. Please do forgive me. I hope all of you are doing well and eating deliciously. 

Even though I have not been posting on the blog as frequently as I'd like to, I've been posting more videos now on my YouTube channel. I've recently experimented with vlogs which is quite interesting to say the least. So, if you want to see some of the awkwardness, please head over and subscribe to the channel for more updates in the future. 

Now, let's talk about pasta. You know how much I adore pasta and it's true I could happily eat pasta any time of day. Leftover cold pasta straight from the fridge is my ultimate guiltless pleasure. Another pasta pleasure is this spicy baked ziti. It's an easy pasta dish you can whip up during the weekdays and it feeds a crowd. The spiciness comes from hot Italian sausage meat and dried chilli flakes... It is hot but just enough to keep you wanting for seconds. I, embarrassingly had 3 servings... 

To the sausage meat, I also add minced turkey which I think always go together, like making stuffing/dressing. Then to boost the Italian-ness, some fragrant fennel seeds. Here I used ziti, but you can change it to penne or rigatoni or any pasta shapes that tickle your fancy.

The ricotta here lends creaminess to the sauce, then you get the salty nuttiness of Parmesan and ooey gooey mozzarella. Hmmm....

Instead of leaving instructions on how to make this delicious pasta, you get to watch it! It is the latest video on the channel. I hope you'll enjoy watching it as much as I enjoy making it. Until next time my friends...   

Spicy Baked Ziti

2 tablespoons olive oil, regular not extra-virgin
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced or grated
250 gr hot Italian sausage meat
250 gr minced turkey
2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 can (400 gr size) whole tomatoes, with juice
450 gr ziti pasta, or penne or rigatoni
200 gr ricotta cheese
450 gr shredded mozzarella cheese 
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
A handful of flat leaf Italian parsley, roughly chopped

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Orange Chicken

When thinking about take-outs, my first thought is very often Chinese food or Indian; depending on my mood. And when I am craving for some Chinese, if it's on the menu, I have to get orange chicken. 

Of course, we know orange chicken is not an authentic Chinese food. I, myself was introduced to orange chicken on my first visit to the States many years ago. And yes I had it at that famous Chinese food chain.

Few days ago I was craving for good ol' American orange chicken and unfortunately it's not available at my local Chinese restaurants on the island.

So, this is what I came up with and it is good! It's also very easy to make. If you want you can make the sauce ahead of time and keep it aside. When you're ready you just have to quickly fry the chicken, reheat the sauce and toss the two together. 

The chicken is crispy and the not-so-secret is, it's coated with corn flour. Also it's very important to get the oil to the right temperature before frying. 

The sauce as mentioned before is a no brainer to make. It's deliciously orangey sweet with a nice tang and bit of heat from the cayenne.

So, whenever you have a craving for orange chicken, I hope you give this a go.

Orange Chicken

For the marinade
1 tbsp soy sauce 
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 egg white

500 gr boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into cubes

For the sauce
100 ml orange juice
60 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 orange zest
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, finely minced or grated
1 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tbsp cold water
Salt, to taste

Vegetable oil for frying and sautéing 
Cornstarch for dredging
Spring onions

Marinate the chicken by combining the soy sauce, vinegar and egg white in a large bowl and add the chicken cubes. Stir gently to coat and let stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce. Heat one teaspoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté the garlic until fragrant, about a minute or so. Watching carefully not to burn the garlic. Add the orange juice, chicken stock, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, orange zest and cayenne, if using. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until it is reduced by three fourths. Stir in the cornstarch and water mixture and continue stirring until the sauce thickens. Season with salt to taste. Turn off the heat and set the sauce aside.

Heat some vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed pot. The quantity of oil really depends on the dimension of the pot you're using.

In a large bowl, toss the marinated chicken with cornstarch until each cube is evenly coated. Shake off any excess before frying. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, carefully fry the chicken in batches until lightly golden on the outside and cooked all the way through. This takes 3-4 minutes. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and drain on a large plate line with paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Reheat the orange sauce and stir in the fried chicken cubes. Mix until well coated. Sprinkle with chopped spring onions and serve immediately with plenty of rice or noodles... Whatever tickles your fancy.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Potato and Salmon Korokke

Korokke are the Japanese version of the French croquettes, crispy patties often made out of mashed potatoes and meat. Both are breaded and then deep-fried but the Japanese korokke are coated with panko (Japanese bread crumbs) which are coarser than regular bread crumbs, resulting in extra crispy crust. I don't know about you but my mouth waters already just thinking about 'extra crispy'.

Along with the potatoes, often korokke is made with a meat mixture such as minced beef or pork. In my version here, I use salmon which I think makes the korokke lighter, but that really is least of my concern. I just like it and that's my main reason. And before proceeding further, yes, the salmon I use comes from a tin. And if the idea of using tinned salmon appalled you because it reminds you of cat food, of course, you may use fresh salmon fillet. Simply pan-fry or poach it before flaking into pieces. Or you can simply leave out the protein and add more veg, like finely chopped onions or carrots or petit pois for a vegetarian friendly version. 
The important thing is the potato mixture has to be dry. I remember making this the first time and the mashed potato mixture was too wet and I had such a hard time shaping the mixture. I learn from my mistake and now, after boiling the potatoes, drain it really well and let it steam dry for few minutes before mashing it. That's my Toa Tip of the day :)
These korokke are great as anytime snack or appetiser. They are crunchy on the outside and light, almost creamy inside. Oh so gooood.... Serve them with Tonkatsu sauce or do what I did. I made a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup and hot sauce. Booyah! 

Potato and Salmon Korokke
4 medium size potatoes, peeled and diced, appx. 800 gr in total
4 hard-boiled eggs, yolks and whites separated
A pinch of ground nutmeg
1 x 170 gr tinned salmon
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Panko breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying

Fill a large pot with cold water and add the potatoes. Boil potatoes until tender and drain in a colander. Return the potatoes to the pot to steam dry for a couple of minutes before adding the egg yolks. Mash everything with a fork or potato masher until smooth. 

Finely chop the egg whites and add them to the potato mix with the tinned salmon. Give everything a good mix. Add a pinch of ground nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Form the potato, eggs and salmon mixture into patties. Make sure you press firmly so the mixture hold together well. They can be any size or shape you like; but try not to make them too big or they'll fall apart too easily when you fry them. Lightly coat each patty with flour and put them in the fridge for half an hour or so they can firm up.

Place the eggs and panko in two separate dishes lined up side by side. Dip each patty in egg, followed by the panko making sure to coat the korokke completely. 

Fill a medium pot halfway with oil and heat over medium high heat. Fry the korokke in batches. Everything in the inside is already cooked so you only need to fry them for a couple of minutes to crisp up the panko and they become golden brown. Transfer the korokke to paper towels, serve warm and enjoy!