Sunday, 28 November 2010

Late Thanksgiving Dinner

Obviously, Thanksgiving Day is not part of the British festivity.  But how could I not celebrate the day when I get to stuff my face with delicious food all day long.  Thanksgiving day is the perfect excuse for it, not that I need any excuses to eat.  Have I cooked Christmas dinner with all the trimmings in the middle of July? Absolutely yes.

I don't normally do nibbles especially knowing there will be a feast ahead (well, that's a lie. There's always nibbles), but it is the season when you are expected to over-indulge, so why not (that's the truth).  These wholegrain mustard and ginger cocktail sausages are so welcoming, delicious and addictive.  The recipe is taken from Nigella's Kitchen.

Taking the centre stage last night was my maple roasted poussins, not turkey. *gasp... Yes, this may be a shock to some and I have this notion in my head that the Thanksgiving/Turkey police will come to arrest me in the middle of dinner... but I feel like, even though I am borrowing the celebration, I do not somehow strict myself to its tradition.  These tender birds look so beautiful and bronzed by the maple syrup.

To accompany the bird, we had double mashed potatoes made with sweet and regular white potatoes; green beans in warm maple and lemon dressing and my favourite Thanksgiving side dish, cornbread, sausage and apricot dressing.

No Thanksgiving is complete without a pumpkin treat and instead of the traditional pumpkin pie, I made pumpkin, ginger and lemon cheesecake.  Served with a good dollop of whipped cream.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Chips Kebab

I hope all you had a great Thanksgiving.  I was away in London for work yesterday, and I just returned home today, so I'm not gonna have my Thanksgiving dinner until tomorrow... I cannot wait!

Here's the thing, I had a fantastic night in London and I had too much to drink.  I drank all sorts and when I woke up this morning, it was painful... It was not good.  Even the guy sitting next to me on the train noticed that the state of me was horrendous.

Few hours later and after two paracetamol, I am feeling much better and now I need food (read: carbs) to absorb last night's excesses.  I saw Nigella made this chips kebab few weeks ago in her TV show.  The idea of it was so bonkers that I have to try it!

This is what you do:
Get a flat bread of your choice, I use tortilla.  Smear it generously with hummus and pile the chips on top.  Squirt a little lemon and sprinkle with sea salt.  Roll and apply to face.

I need this.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Poulet rôti tout simplement

Or in simple English: roast chicken, pure and simple.

I didn't grow up on whole roasted chicken.  My mom would always buy chicken already in portions, and then cook it in many different ways and it tasted amazing.  I must have been about eight when I asked my mom to cook whole roasted chicken.  At the time and often still I thought, this is the most elegant dish.  My mom's whole roasted chicken looked just like the ones in old recipe books or TV commercials; golden in colour, crispy skin and moist.

There are countless variations when roasting chicken, but I like mine, simple.  The fresh tarragon, the garlic and the herb-y cheese here give such wonderful flavours.  The only change I made to the recipe below is, I use butter instead of olive oil.  Olive oil is great but nothing crisps up the skin like butter...

Next, to truss or not to truss, that is the question.  I think it depends on the size of the chicken, I don't bother most of the time to be honest. 

When the chicken is cooked, like any other meat, it's good to let it rest for a little bit to let all the juices come back to the centre.

Everybody has their own culinary disasters, and for me, one of them is carving.  I cannot carve to save my life and I normally just ended up tearing the chicken and my excuse is "it looks more rustic".  I still tried though and today it looked kinda alright.  Martha Stewart would have been proud.

I serve the chicken with some cooked green beans and peas, dressed with the juices from the chicken.  And no wine tonight.  I still need to finish my essay...

Poulet rôti tout simplement
by Stéphane Reynaud
Serves 4

1 Whole chicken, preferable organic
1 Boursin-style cheese with garlic and fines herbes
1 Bunch of fresh tarragon
3 Cloves garlic
Sea Salt
Olive oil
  1. Remove the chicken's innards, and reserve the heart and liver.
  2. Peel the garlic, fill the chicken with the cheese, garlic, tarragon and reserved giblets.
  3. Oil the chicken and sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Cook uncovered in pre-heated 200C oven for an hour, basting the chicken regularly. Cut the chicken into portions and dress it with a mixture of melted cheese and cooking juices.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Sweet and salty crunchy nut bars

I don't know where to start to describe how delicious these sweet and crunchy nut bars are.

It may seem odd to add salted peanuts to chocolate bars, but let me tell you the combination is YUM and these bars are addictive.

Feel free though to change the chocolate to your liking, if you want to use milk or dark chocolate only.  I'm sure Nigella wouldn't mind.  I personally like the mixture of both chocolates.  And yes, there's chocolate, butter, golden syrup, and more chocolate; but hey, this is a treat.  I would recommend not eating the whole tray for one.  It's nice to share sometimes, but the decision is yours.

Sweet and salty crunchy nut bars
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves... 16 generous slices or 32 medium one... whatever you fancy

200 gr dark chocolate
100 gr milk chocolate
125 gr butter
3 tablespoons golden syrup
250 gr salted peanuts
4 x 40 gr Crunchie bars
1 foil tray, approximately 30 x 20 x 5 cm

In a saucepan, break up the chocolates into pieces and add the butter and golden syrup.  Melt gently under low heat.

Tip the peanuts into a bowl and crush the Crunchie bars, letting the rubble falls into the nuts.

Take the melted chocolate mixture off the heat and stir in the peanuts and crushed Crunchie bars, then tip straight to the foil tray.  Smooth the top of the mixture and put it in the fridge for about four hours before cutting into slices as desired.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Chocolate and Raspberry Pavlova

I have an essay due next week and I have no motivation whatsoever to do it... I'm not normally like this... oh, why?!  *sigh...

Anyway, let's talk about something delicious.  Here's the thing, I don't like wasting food.  When a recipe calls for just the egg yolks, there's no way I'm throwing away the whites.  And when I have egg white lying aroun in the kitchen, that usually means pavlova day or meringues, depending my mood.

Pavlova was created in honour of the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova.  There's been a debate over the origin of pavlova whether it's from Australia or New Zealand.  Well, I don't know, but what I know is it's delicious and that what matters to me. 

A good pavlova for me should have a dry and crsipy crust and the inside should be soft and marshmallowy.  And of course, adding cocoa powder makes it even better.  You could certainly add some chopped semiweet chocolate to the pavlova, but I didn't.  Instead, I'm topping the pavlova with chocolate whipped cream (and raspberries). Yum...

Chocolate & Raspberry Pavlova

For the chocolate meringue base:
4 egg whites
12 tablespoons caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon corn flour

For the topping:
284 ml double cream, lightly whipped with 2 teaspoon of cocoa powder
300 grams raspberries
Grated chocolate of your choice

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs with freestanding or hand mixer until it reaches peak form and the beat in the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the meringue is stiff and shine.   If you touch the meringue with the tip of your fingers, it should be silky smooth, not grainy.  Gently fold in the cocoa powder, vinegar and corn flour.  The vinegar and corn flour will ensure the inside of the meringue to be soft and chewy.  Mound on to the baking tray into a fat dome, smoothing the sides and top.

Put into the oven and immediately turn the temperature to 150C and cook for about an hour.  After an hour, the outside should look crisp and dry.  Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the meringue cool completely.

When ready to serve, invert the giant meringue into the platter of your choice and then pile your chocolate cream and raspberries and grate some chocolate on top if you wish.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Korean Keema

The word keema simply means ground/minced meat.  It is a traditional South Asian dish of spicy lamb or goat cooked with onions,garlic, ginger with variant of spices like curry powder and garam masala.  In some variations of the dish, potatoes, peas or lentils may be added.

Nigella's Korean Keema is a wonderful variation of the traditional dish.  The recipe calls for minced turkey here which, let's be frank, can be a bit on the bland side, but it's a good thing here; because of its mild flavour, minced turkey is a great carrier for all the spices and the Gochujang paste.

Gochujang or Kochujang paste is a new ingredient for me.  It is a delicious hot and sour red pepper and soybean paste from Korea, hence the name of the dish.  You may need to make a trip to your local Asian food store or specialty store to find this paste.

The minced turkey is steeped in this paste along with honey, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar before cooking it with spring onions and petit pois.  Serve over plain boiled rice and sprinkle with chopped coriander.

Ok, I gotta go now. I am almost late for my lecture....

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Pasta alla genovese with potatoes, green beans and pesto

It's no surprise that I LOVE pasta.  Nothing to me says Italian food like pasta.  Unlike other infamous Italian foods like pizza and tomato sauce, which have a fairly recent history, pasta may indeed have a much older pedigree going back hundreds if not thousands of years.

I was once told that the Venetian merchant, Marco Polo brought back pasta from his journeys in China in 1295. So I did a little research and found out there are evidences of Italian recipe books from earlier years containing references to pasta dishes. Since China is an ancient civilization, with a complex culture dating back thousands of years, it's likely that pasta existed in China very early.

Right, so pasta did not arrive in Italy courtesy of Marco Polo; and let's just stop here. I am not a food historian and instead I want to focus more on pasta as a staple ingredient in my kitchen and in my family.

I have been eating pasta for as long as I can remember. Pasta is one of the ingredients in my mom's chicken soup recipe. My sisters and I loved this soup. With so many different kinds of shape and flavours of pasta available these days, it isn't difficult to be creative when deciding upon a dish.

I have always considered pasta as one of the great pleasures of the table. For casual get-together, I know there's nothing more satisfying (and economical) to set on the table than a big bowl piled high with pasta. Everyone can serve themselves as much as they want, and it can either be a side dish or as a main course.

And today, I made pasta alla genovese with potatoes, green beans and pesto from Nigella Kitchen book.  It's ridiculously easy to make and absolutely delicious.  The potatoes, linguine and the green beans all cook in one pot and then coated with home-made pinenutless pesto of basil, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil.   

I know some might have a concern about the double carbohydrates intake in this recipe, I personally don't, but it just works! The soft potatoes will crumble a bit and thicken the pesto which makes such comforting sauce.  And green beans are good for us, so if it helps to make you feel better, simply add more beans.

Pasta alla genovese with potatoes, green beans and pesto
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves 6 - 8, depending on age and appetite

500 gr large floury potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
500 gr linguine pasta
200 gr fine green beans, trimmed and cut in half

for the pesto:
100 gr basil leaves (2 fat bunches)
100 gr grated parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, peeled
100 ml regular olive oil
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil

Put the prepared potato chunks is a large saucepan with enough salted water to take the pasta later; and bring to the boil.

Cook the potatoes until tender and then add the pasta.  Check the packet instructions and four minutes before the end of the specified cooking time, add the green beans.

When this is bubbling away, make the pesto in food processor.  Drain the saucepan, reserving a little of the cooking liquid. Tip the drained potatoes, beans and pasta back to the dry pan.

Add the pesto and enough cooking water to give a runny sauce that coats the strands of pasta, potatoes and the beans.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Sausage Carbonara

If my evening meal were an episode of Friends, the title of this dish would be 'the one that should have been eaten yesterday' or 'what was I thinking trading pasta, cheese, bacon, eggs and cream for muffins?!' Silly me...

If you like pasta carbonara, this is the next level to it, it's oh-so-delicious.

The sausage not just adds extra meatiness to the dish, because depending on the kinds of sausage you use, I used spicy Italian sausages flavoured with chilli, garlic and smoked paprika; you also get an additional instant seasoning to the pasta.

And what I always like when making carbonara sauce is to add lemon zest which gives lightness and balances the cream and parmesan cheese.  One of the things I learned from Jamie Oliver. 


Sausage Carbonara
by Jamie Oliver
Serves 4

4 good-quality organic Italian sausages
Olive oil
4 slices of thickly cut pancetta, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g dried linguine
4 large free-range or organic egg yolks
100ml double cream
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
A sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil

With a sharp knife, slit the sausage skins lengthways and pop all the meat out. Using wet hands, roll little balls of sausage meat about the size of large marbles and place them to one side.

Heat a large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil. Gently fry the sausage meatballs until golden brown all over, then add the pancetta and continue cooking for a couple of minutes, until it’s golden. While this is cooking, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the linguine, and cook according to the packet instructions.

In a large bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream, half the Parmesan, the lemon zest and parsley. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and immediately toss it quickly with the egg mixture back in the pasta pan. Add the hot sausage meatballs and toss everything together. The egg will cook delicately from the heat of the linguine, just enough for it to thicken and not scramble. The sauce should be smooth and silky. If the pasta becomes a little claggy, add a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water to loosen it slightly. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan, season if necessary, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve. Eat immediately!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Chocolate Banana Muffins

The plan was to have pasta for dinner tonight.  But, when I got home from work I saw three overripe, sad bananas and of course, I couldn't throw them away; and so I made chocolate banana muffins...You guessed it, from Nigella Kitchen.

Start by mashing the bananas in a bowl and then add some oil, eggs and light brown sugar.  In a separate bowl, mix in the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb.  Mix the dry mixture to the banana mixture, gently.  I think muffin batter should be gently stirred until all the dry ingredients are moistened.  The batter will be lumpy, yes; but lumpy batter makes better muffins.  Spoon the batter into the cases and bake in preheated oven. 

Chocolate banana muffins and red wine. Who says muffins are only for breakfast?!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Bread and butter pudding is a classic, old-fashioned English recipe.  When made in the traditional way, that is by pouring milk/cream custard to a pile of buttery triangle sandwiches before baking it in the oven, it's simply the most comforting and warming sweet treat during cold winter nights.

This chocolate chip bread pudding is Nigella's American take on the classic dish, in which the staled bread is simply cubed before being drenched in an eggs, brown sugar, milk, cream and rum custard then sprinkled with crunchy demerara on top and baked until the pudding puffed up.

Whilst it's in the oven, make yourself a cup of tea and stay in the kitchen.  The smell coming out from the oven is delicious.  Yes, waiting is a torture but it'll be worth it.  Serve warm.  On the outside, you'll get a nice crunch and the inside is soft with the chocolate chips melted into the bread.

If you're lucky enough to have leftovers, I must say, it's also delicious fridge-cold with a splash of cream.

Friday, 5 November 2010

I'm at a different home today

I am so excited.  Today, I am the guest post at More Than A Mount Full – A Culinary Journey, a mouth-watering blog by Chef Dennis.  It’s such an honour to be asked to write for his beautiful blog.  And no pressure for me at all, writing for a chef....

Chef, thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity.

You can read what I prepared, by visiting Chef Dennis’ blog.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy cooking, eating and sharing it with everyone.

If you visit my blog for the first time, I’d like to give you the warmest welcome...  (tight hugs... not too tight though. I don’t want to suffocate you. That wouldn’t be welcoming at all).  Please do feel free to leave comments as I also enjoy meeting new people and making new friends. 

Have a delicious day!


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Slut's Spaghetti

Isn't this the most fantastic translation of pasta puttanesca?!

Pasta puttanesca is one of my favourite pasta dish (in my top five, at least).  It's rustic, gutsy, feisty, really lives up to its name. I remember being a teenager when I first had this dish from a restaurant in LA.  I read the description, "pasta cooked in whore-ish fashion" and I was lured into ordering it, and it's so delicious.

A typical pasta puttanesca recipe would include ingredients such as anchovy, chilli, garlic, capers and black olives with a tomato based sauce.  Nigella includes all of these ingredients in her recipe, but I made a little addition to the sauce, a splash of red wine vinegar to enhance the sourness.

And therefore, you really get all the flavours... the saltiness from the anchovy and the black olives; the warmth of the chilli and a lovely fresh sourness from the capers and the tomato and red wine vinegar in the sauce.  Heaven...

Also, a couple of days ago I received the Lovely Blog Award from Foodiva's Kitchen.  The author, Maya loves purple sweet potato and she makes the most beautiful, beautiful and no doubt delicious creations in her kitchen.  So, please check out her blog.  Maya, thank you so much for this award.  I am flattered.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Canard à l'orange

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I'll mention it again, I love mixing meat with fruit.  But of course, the sweetness of the fruits have to compliment the savouriness of the meat, vice versa.

Food historians says that the practise of pairing of citrus fruits with fatty meat is thousands of years old.  The acid in the fruits contacts the fat in the meat, making the dish more enjoyable and digestible. Think: pork and apples, goose and cherry or plums and duck à l'orange.

This classic French dish is so delicious and not at all difficult to make.  Feel free though to cook the duck to your liking.  I like mine not so much still quacking, but a nice medium, that way you really get the taste and tenderness of the duck.

Canard à l'orange
by Stéphane Reynaud
Serves 6

3 Breasts from a fattened duck
4 Oranges
1 tablespoon honey
200 ml soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
50 g butter
  1. Take the zest from two of the oranges, the juice from three, and the peeled segments from one.
  2. Slash the fatty side of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern (the flesh should show through). Mix the juice with the zest, cinnamon, honey and soy sauce.
  3. Place the duck breasts in a dish, skin side up, pour over the sauce. Chill for 24 hours.
  4. Pan-fry the duck, skin side down, for 10 minutes on a gentle heat (the fat needs to melt and brown). Drain off the fat and return the meat to the pan. Add the orange segments, half of the marinade, and allow to reduce for 5 minutes. Remove the meat and whisk in the butter to make a sauce