Cooking up a Storm

I’m not exactly sure why, but last night I decided to cook a few things rather than just one or main plus carbohydrate. We’ve still been working our way through various countries but some iftaris weren’t really worth blogging about eg the night we had England as our theme, we had fish shop fish and chips…well the gluten eaters did. I had supermarket gluten free fish fingers with chips and baked beans. The following night with the US as our theme it had to be burgers. Last night we hit Spain.

Our menu was:

Lamb Paella with peppers and green beans
Prawns and mussels in garlic and chilli
Patatas Bravas
Tomato and goats cheese salad

Lamb Paella with peppers and green beans

1 onion
1/3rd of a shoulder of lamb (meat and bones)
Olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes or 2 tomatoes from a tin of tomatoes
230g of cooked Butter beans
100g green beans
1 red pepper chopped into large cubes
1 cup long grain rice
Approximately 2.5 cups* of Water
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons of sweet paprika (adjust to taste)
1 pinch of saffron diluted in hot water

* Cup = any mug you have just make sure to use the same for both the measures.

1. Wash the rice and set aside in some water.
2. Dice an onion
3. Put enough olive oil to cover the base of the pan, then fry the onions on a low heat until they are golden.
4. When the onions are done add the lamb shoulder, browning the meat.
5. Add 4 cloves of chopped garlic to the lamb and continue to brown.
6. Add the salt and paprika, stir and coat the lamb with them.
7. Finely chop the tomatoes then add to the pan.
8. Now add enough water to cover the meat entirely, bring to boil and then leave to simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes with a lid on. The water should have reduced slightly but there should be enough covering the meat.
9. Wash the butter beans until the water runs clear then add the beans to the pan. Stir to adjust the placement of the meat and beans in the pan.
10. Finally add the drained rice to the pan. Level out the rice so that it is evenly distributed in the pan. Do not stir the rice at all.
11. Heat the pan till the liquid till it boils, then reduce and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes with the lid on.
12. Switch the heat off, and place the green beans and red pepper on top of the rice. Place the lid back on to the pan and leave standing for 10 minutes. Do not open until the 10 minutes are up.

Patatas Bravas

4 medium potatoes
Spray oil

Cube the potatoes into approximately ½ inch cubes, put in a pan of water and boil for approximately 5 minutes. Drain and place on an ovenproof tray and spray with spray oil and place in the oven at 200 degrees for an hour and a half or until golden brown. Serve hot with the bravas sauce and allioli.

Bravas Sauce
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion
1 red chilli
½ tin tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoked chipotle

Slice the onion and fry in the olive oil until golden, add the chilli, tomatoes, salt and smoked chipotle. Gently stir on a medium heat until the sauce is thick.

Allioli
1 egg
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil + extra for pouring
1 crushed garlic clove
A pinch of salt to taste

Combine the egg, garlic, teaspoon of vinegar, teaspoon of olive oil in a food processor and blitz until they take on an emulsified consistency. Gradually pour in a little olive oil until you reach a thin mayonnaise consistency. I find doing this bit slowly helps.

Prawns and mussels in garlic and chilli

Allow approximately:
200g of mussels per person (ensure they are cleaned with beards removed)
5-7 raw grey prawns per person (ensure that all intestines are removed)
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 chilli finely chopped
3 tablespoons water
Olive oil

Put approximately 1cm of olive oil in a pan with the crushed garlic and heat on a very low heat for approximately 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and then add the chilli, prawns, mussels and the water. Place a lid on the pan and cook for 7 minutes or until the prawns and mussels are cooked all the way through. Serve with sliced limes.

Tomato and goats cheese salad

Slice tomatoes, goats cheese. Arrange the goats cheese on the tomatoes and sprinkle cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt on top.

Quick Palov

I’ve been slack of late, not necessarily in art of cooking but more in remembering to photograph or where I have remembered to photograph I’ve just been lazy in writing things up! Not good! Alhumdulilah, we’ve been fortunate enough to choose a different country to eat from every day this Ramadan and my objective was to share this so inshallah I will start sharing!

Last night for iftari we ate Palov from Uzbekistan done earlier (click Uzbekistan on the side – I can’t figure out links!). Actually it was very easy almost too easy! Before Ramadan I had prepared the lamb stock for the palov which meant that with iftari at approximately 8:23 last night the food didn’t actually get on to cook until 8pm! My husband did actually question me a couple of times to make sure I was on schedule.

The plus point was that all I had to do was chop carrots, if I had been at work I would have bought pre chopped carrots, but honestly I needed something to do just to pass the time! Once my carrots were chopped perfectly all that remained to do was drain and wash the chick peas, throw in the pre-soaked rice, the mandatory head of garlic and hey presto iftari was done! It was so easy, quick and brilliant for when your head just isn’t functioning.

Alhumudlilah everyone enjoyed iftari.

An Indian

Monday night, my mother cooked iftari for us so we indulged in true home cooking which made us feel truly loved, Alhumdulilah. She cooked keema aloo (Indian/Pakistani mince meat cooked in spices with potatoes) it is a dish my husband loves and yet one which my father-in-law cannot come to terms with. He repeats the same phrase every time my husband mentions this dish on the phone “ ..but how can you have a mince meat curry?” My husband views this dish as his childhood favourite meal of mince and tatties (now this I cannot get my head around this, plain boiled mince with boiled potatoes!) taken up a level.

My mum made a simple bougia of courgettes to accompany. Its really simple and one of my favourite vegetable dishes and best of all it can be done with any vegetable: a little oil, some whole cumin, whole coriander, whole cloves, whole black pepper then add some ginger, garlic and courgettes. Just add a little water until the courgettes begin to cook down and release their own water.

Finally my mum made a real treat for me, gulab jamon. Gulab jamon are little balls of milk solids which are gently fried until dark and then, like so many arab influenced desserts, are steeped in sugar syrup delicately flavoured with rose water or kerwa water. Surprisingly I have no memories of my mother making these for me when I was little simply because we always bought them from Ambala (an Indian/Pakistani sweet shop) however since becoming coeliac and prompted by Ambala’s refusal to state what their gulab jamon contains my lovely mother decided to make me some herself! If I ever do get to see what she does I promise to reveal all! In the mean time I’ll leave you with some lovely photos!

Belizian Bollo aka Tamales!

Belize is a small country in central America and this is where the Bollo comes from. Bollo, however, is a Spanish name and all the more baffling considering the official language of Belize is English! However Tamales are made through out Latin America and are almost staples of daily life. They consist of a filling surrounded by dough which is then wrapped in corn husks and steamed. In the olden days, and I mean ancient times, they were used as form of transportable food. Each parcel would contain meat, vegetables and carbohydrates, all in all the ideal meal. The origin of the Tamales goes back to the ancient civilisation of the Inca.

The way that the corn husks are used is similar in to the way that banana leaves are used in tropics. If you have neither banana leaves or corn husks to hand you could always use baking parchment.

For the filling I made up a spicy mince using approximately 250g of minced meat: cumin, garlic, onion, coriander and chipotle chilli, which is a smoked jalapino. The smokiness really makes the difference as the smokiness permeates the mince. I also added some peppers to the mince.

We served our tamales with a simple salsa of tomato, onion, fresh coriander and a little vinegar. Our accompaniments were sweet potato fritters and a grated carrot salad.

Makes approximately 10 Tamales

Dough
2 cups Masa Harina
1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of buttr
Corn husks
Cheese to sprinkle

1. Soak the corn husks in bowl of hot water to soften them
2. Beat the butter with the water until fluffy
3. Add the masa harina, baking powder and salt
4. Bring it all together as a dough
5. Create golf ball sized balls and then roll out each ball on to each corn husk
6. Place the filling eg mince, veggie and/or cheese, in the middle of the tamales and then fold up as a parcel and tie with string to hold in place
7. Repeat with all the corn husks and dough
8. Place in a steamer for a hour
9. Serve with the husks on but remove the husks before eating

Picture shows the tamales cut open

Mezze

Lebanese Mezze Menu
Shop bought Baba Ghanoush
Quinoa tabouleh
Grilled Haloumi
Left over kaufteh
Batatah Hara

I was feeling quite unwell yesterday and so my contribution to iftari last night consisted of burning kaufteh which just needed heating up, making the quinoa tabouleh and opening a tin of Baba Ghanoush. Subhan’Allah, when we made our Ramadan meal planner I put in a couple of easy meals but had never anticipated that they would fall on the exact night that I was feeling unwell. I just thought that I would switch things around nearer the time!

My husband decided to cook the Batatah Hara which was really delicious. I have no idea what he did but Alhumdulilah it tasted really good.

For the Quinoa tabouleh I just cooked some quinoa in water for approximately 20mins and strained off the excess water. I allowed it to cook for a bit before I added a simple dressing of olive oil and orange juice. Then chopped up some parsley very finely and mixed it in along with some tomatoes. Normally I would have added cucumbers and lemon juice. However as I didn’t have any I just made do and it worked.

China

For Friday evening’s iftari we decided to have Chinese. We kept it simple after so many days of what felt like heavy food (I think its more because we aren’t really able to burn the calories between iftari and sehri) so opted for a simple vegetable stir fry: lots of crunchy carrots, peppers and bean sprouts seasoned with the obvious suspects: garlic, ginger and a little chilli, lastly a good dash of tamari sauce, sesame oil and a sprinkle of spring onions and coriander.

To accompany it I made mussels in a ginger and black bean paste. Actually it was really easy to cook. In ideal world I think I would have given the mussels a miss (one less thing to cook) but I’ve been diagnosed with low iodine and my doctor has actually told me to eat shell fish, so who am I to say no? I had intended to go and
buy fresh ones from the fish monger but I’ve reached the point whereby I feel absolutely shattered so opted to jazz up a frozen packet. None the less it was still super easy and very tasty.

Mussels with ginger and black bean

500g of frozen garlic mussels
An inch of Ginger
1 clove Garlic
1 teaspoon black bean paste
½ a red chilli
A sprinkle of coriander

Fry the ginger and garlic in teaspoon of oil, once they begin to release they perfume, add the black bean paste and stir then put in the frozen mussels. Put the lid on and leave to cook according to the instructions on the packet. When cooked top with the chilli and coriander.

We served the stir fry and mussels with plain white rice with some prawn crackers on the side it felt like a veritable banquet!

For dessert nothing felt more Chinese than banana fritters. I dipped chunky sliced banana and cherries in a simple cake batter and then shallow fried them. It really gave the required sugar rush. If we had wanted more of a contrast they would have tasted great with ice cream but to be honest the fritters were great on their own.

Napoleon Pancake Cake

Last night saw us eat Italian, we had spaghetti bolognaise (I had mine with rice noodles as it twirls better than gluten free spaghetti which nearly always clumps) with garlic bread unfortunately in my haste (and hunger) my photographs turned out extremely blurred! Alhumdulilah, my photograph of the Napoleon pancake cake turned out perfectly.

A Napoleon may also be known as a mille feuille (a thousand sheets), a pastry stacked with layers of fruit and cream. Traditionally made with filo pastry, however in the modern world anything stacked can be known as a Napoleon.

Prepare the pancakes in advance. Use gluten free flour using a normal recipe if you are coeliac. Allow the pancakes to cool before attempting to stack them.

I sandwiched the pancakes together using freshly whipped double cream mixed with about half the amount of mascarpone cheese and then leave in the fridge to set slightly before using. The mascarpone cheese will help the cream hold the pancakes for longer. Use any fruit you like, I used a combination of fresh and tinned cherries. Then sandwich using the cream. Cover the top of the Napoleon with cream decorate with fruit and dust with a little chocolate.

Dulce de Leche Cakes

Dule de Leche is now world famous. Everyone knows the story, the gauchos would be out moving cattle and wanted something sweet to have. So they would boil a tin of condensed milk, wait until it had cooled and then devour the sugar sweet milky caramel.

When it came to think of a dessert to have with our Argentine meal I wanted to create something which represented what the gauchos had. Often they were out in the wilderness but more often than not they returned to rich farms where dairy products were in abundance hence the use of the cheeses.

These little cakes are soft, creamy and slightly cheesey. The dulce de leche in the centre makes a pleasant surprise. Best of all they are quite quick and easy to make.

Ingredients – makes 6 cakes
2 eggs
50g caster sugar
125g ricotta
125g mascarpone
75g Doves Farm Plain Flour
¼ tin of Dulce de Leche

1. Place the eggs, caster sugar, ricotta cheese, mascarpone cheese, and flour in a bowl and mix together.
2. Line a 6 hole metal muffin tin with individual sheets of grease proof paper. Make sure each sheet is slightly bigger than the hole.
3. Put approximately one tablespoon of mixture into each hole. Try and flatten it slightly.
4. Place ¼ teaspoon of dulce de leche on top of each cake, in the middle.
5. Now place another tablespoon of mixture on top of the dolce de leche

6. Flatten the mix slightly, push down any spikes with a clean, wet finger.
7. Place the muffin tin into a larger oven proof dish and fill the larger dish with water so that it comes up halfway to the muffin tin.
8. Place this in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes until the cakes are slightly puffed and risen.

9. Remove the cakes with their paper on and leave to cool on a wire rack until cool
10. Remove the paper and place a tablespoon of dolce de leche on each cake

Chimichurri Sauce and Farina

When we normally think of Argentina we tend to think about the people dancing the Tango, wearing red and black and perhaps holding a rose between their teeth. When I think about the rooms where these Tango scenes are played out they are always filmed in dinning rooms laden with food. However searching in to Argentina’s food, away from the posh lifestyle of the Argentine elite is the world of the gaucho, the Cowboy. The cowboy has a special place in Argentina’s culinary history after all they are the ones who worked on the land and provided the food.

A lot of Gaucho food is based on the concept of grilled meat with traditional sides. The gem, however, seems to be the Chimichurri sauce served alongside. Legend has it that a Scotsman was trying to say, “give me curry” (che me curry), some say it was British prisoners asking their Spanish jailers for a condiment to have on the side of their meal “Che mi salsa” which later became corrupted.

I have to say that while making this sauce, my mother was in the kitchen with me and looked rather unimpressed with the list of ingredients. On a couple of occasions she did suggest that we add some more things but I refused! The end result is garlic-y and rather like the green Beurre de Paris sometimes served with steak in France.

Farina, Socca, Basin bread are all pretty much the same: chickpea flour mixed with water, left to stand and then shallow fried in a frying pan or dry fried on a griddle

Our meal consisted of grilled lamb, grilled chicken, sautéed baked potatoes, a plain salad, chimichurri sauce and a slice of farina.

Chimichurri Sauce

Ingredients

1 bunch Fresh Coriander
4 cloves of Garlic
2 Spring Onions
Salt
A pinch of Red Chilli Flakes
Olive Oil
Vinegar

Use a food processor to blitz the spring onions and garlic until coarse. Then add in the coriander (leaves and stems), if the mix is unable to move in the processor because it is too dry add a little water. Blitz again with the salt and red chilli flakes. Finally pour enough olive oil while the mixer is moving and a couple of drops of vinegar to allow the olive oil to emulsify.

Farina
.
Ingredients
Chickpea Flour (basin)
Water
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix the chickpea flour and baking powder with the water until you have a thick batter. Leave to stand for approximately 10 -20 minutes. Spray spray-oil on to a non stick frying pan and pour on the batter. Check to see if the underside has cooked, then flip over and cook the other side. Repeat the process.

Tongabezi Chicken Curry

When deciding to cover foods from different continents for Ramadan this year, I have to say that while I felt I was well informed about food in general, I really didn’t know what to expect about non Arab African food. I was familiar with North Africa food and as a coeliac I now know to remind any waiter not to put any free bread over or under my food. I just really didn’t know what to expect with Africa let alone Zambia.

I found this recipe in Floyd on Africa and pretty much all recipes of Tonzabezi Chicken Curry are variations of his. I have, however, made alterations to suit my palate. I’m sure the late Keith Floyd won’t mind. I’ve put the butternut squash in with the chicken as it adds taste and texture to the chicken. I can’t abide the taste of ‘curry’ powder and never use. I also feel that if you are cooking meat on the bone there really is no need to use stock. The chicken, as they cook, will create their own stock from real bones. I’ve also added cumin seeds because the dish lacked a certain je ne sais quoi until this was added. Finally a sprinkle of fresh coriander makes this perfect.

This dish is soothing, comforting and the dish that you just want to come home to. It really is. Serve with white rice, and the sautéed sweet potato on the side. With plantation banana custard for dessert this was simply perfect. Alhumdulilah.

Ingredients – Serves 4
2 sweet potatoes
1 butternut squash
4 pieces of chicken (I used legs)
2 onions
½ a tin of tomatoes
2 inch ginger
2 garlic cloves
6 cardamon pods
½ teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
4 teaspoons dried lemongrass or 2 whole bruised lemongrass
2 large red chillies chopped
4 tablespoon of yoghurt
Water
1 tablespoon fresh corriander

1. Chop the butternut squash in to quarters and remove any seeds. Parboil the sweet potatoes whole, with the quartered butternut squash. When you can put a knife through the butternut squash and sweet potato remove from the pan but keep the water. Peel the butternut squash and cut into bit sized cubes. Leave the sweet potato whole.
2. Dice the onions and slowly cook in a pan until translucent before adding the ginger and garlic
3. Add the cumin, tumeric, lemongrass, salt and peppercorns. For the cardamom pods bruise before adding to pan.
4. Allow the spices to toast slightly, stir the spices for about a minute under a medium heat before adding the chicken to the pan and turning the chicken in the spices
5. Add enough water to cover the chicken
6. Add the tomatoes and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes on a medium heat.
7. Add the chopped chillies
8. Add a cup of the sweet potato/butternut squash cooking water to the chicken, along with the cubed butternut squash for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the butternut squash is soft but still holds its shape.
9. Peel and slice the sweet potato and sautee in pan with a little oil until the sweet potato is slightly crunchy
10. Just before you are ready to serve (ie just before you heat the food for iftari) mix in the yoghurt and heat gently, do not allow to boil otherwise the yoghurt will split. It will still be fine to eat but the sauce will look as if it has bits in.
11. Top with coriander
12. Serve with fresh rice and the sautéed sweet potato along side.