Puh….

I’ve scanned through the last ten blog entries and noticed that I said a few times I would blog more… and I didn’t. I guess my life is busier than I thought or I am lazier than I thought.

I have been baking though… quite a bit. I baked my first ever Christmas cake in November last year… even though I don’t like raisins and sultanas. I used dried apricots instead. And morello cherries. And dried cranberries. I added glace lemon and orange peel and candied ginger. I soaked all the dried fruits together with orange and lemon zest in brandy and the juice of the citrus fruits for about three days before I finally made my cake batter. I also added nuts to my cake but I cannot remember which ones… Hazelnuts? Almonds? Walnuts? No idea.

The cake took about three hours to bake and when it came out the entire kitchen smelled of mixed spice and cinnamon. Just wonderful!

I read that I had to feed the cake once a week with brandy and I must have gotten carried away with the feed… when we cut the cake on Christmas Day it was more gooey than cakelike but my saving grace was that it tasted delicious. Especially with ice cream.

xmas cake

Keralan fish curry

A Jamie Oliver Recipe that sounded good but turned out to be quite bland.
Here are the original ingredients:
Groundnut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
20 curry leaves
6 shallots, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 x 2.5cm piece of ginger, finely sliced
1 green chilli, finely sliced
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
750g firm white fish cut into chunks
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Chopped coriander, basmati rice and naan bread, to serve
and here is what I added to it, to give it more flavour and spice:
1 tbsp tamarind chutney
1 tbsp curry powder
½ tsp garlic salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
a small squeeze of ketchup
Seeing that I tried this recipe for the first time I stuck to the instructions but realised quite soon that the timing is totally off because I ended up with my fish being overcooked and falling apart.
So, for best results, just do this:
Heat a lug of groundnut oil in a large pan and fry the mustard seeds with the curry leaves till the seeds start to pop (this happens quite quickly!). Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes until softened. Mix together the chilli powder and turmeric with a splash of water, and then stir into the pan. Fry for a minute, then add the coconut milk and tomatoes. Season with garlic salt and pepper and add the chutney and the curry powder, plus the ketchup.
Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add the fish. The fish (I used cod) doesn’t take long to cook through. The same time you put the fish into the curry put the rice into the cooking water. When the rice is done then your fish is done, too.
I served it without the coriander because I don’t like coriander. Flat leaf parsley is a good substitute or fresh dill. Or Thai basil works fine too.

Spicy Cranberry Chutney

Not just good for Christmas but all year round!
Ingredients:
1 kg cranberries (fresh or frozen)
400 ml cider vinegar
2 red onions, chopped
2 inch fresh ginger root, grated
300 ml port wine
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp chilli salt or chilli flakes mixed with sea salt
400 gr brown sugar
Put all ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes. Taste to see if you need more salt or more heat (chilli).
I ended up with 12 jars of all different sizes. To prepare the jars I filled my sink with boiling water and left the jars standing in the water while the chutney was cooking. Once your chutney is ready just fill the jars to the top, screw the lid on and let them cool upside down.
This chutney is great with cheeses, roast poultry or with curries.

Pasta salad with feta and zucchini

I follow a blog called Coconut & Lime and there’s a feta challenge on for this month. Rachel Rappaport even created a new blog called Making a change for the feta. I like feta a lot, especially since it reminds me of holidays in Greece and barmy summer evenings in the garden with friends around and a BBQ on the go!
I’ve only recently blogged about the simplest of all recipes with feta, the Greek salad, but there are so many great salads you can do with feta. One salad that I’ve not made for a while but will do so tomorrow for our BBQ is a pasta salad with feta and zucchinis.

Here’s what you need:

5 baby zucchini
200g feta cheese
400g cocktail tomatoes
400g black or green olives pitted
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley

For the dressing:

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp dried oregano
1 clove of garlic finely minced

Cook the noodles according to package instructions, drain, and let them cool down in a big bowl. Finely slice the zucchinis, olives and tomatoes. Finely chop the parsley. Add all to the noodles. Crumble the feta cheese over (you can cut it into cubes if you want).
Whisk all ingredients for the dressing together and pour over the salad. Taste to see if you need more seasoning.

Greek Salad

Eating this salad makes me feel like I’m on holiday! I used crunchy salad leaves, cucumber slices, tomato slices, red onion slices, cubed feta cheese, green pepperoncini and green olives. The dressing was simply half malt vinegar, half white balsamic vinegar, one crushed garlic clove, salt, pepper and sugar. All mixed together and drizzled over the salad.

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne

I wanted to do something vegetarian as we’ve had quite a lot of meat the last few days and I came across a mushroom lasagne recipe that sounded nice but not nice enough so I used different mushrooms and added spinach to it.

salt
olive oil
dried lasagne noodles or fresh ones
4 cups of whole milk (2 pints)
125 gr. butter
a knob of butter
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 punnets of mushrooms (I took one punnet of brown and one punnet of oriental mushrooms)
1 handful of dried porcini mushrooms
1 bag of fresh spinach
1 cup freshly ground Parmesan
1 cup of freshly grated cheddar

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees or gas mark 5.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of oil. Add the lasagne noodles and cook according to the packet instructions. If you use fresh lasagne sheets you don’t have to do anything with them (this is what I used!)

For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. Add 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 to 5 minutes. Add half a cup of parmesan and half a cup of the grated cheddar and stir into the sauce. Set aside.

Boil some water and pour over the dried porcini mushrooms to soak them while you slice the fresh mushrooms and fry them in a large pan in some butter and oil. Season them with salt and pepper.

Put some olive oil into a large frying pan, then empty the bag of fresh spinach into the pan. Add the garlic and some freshly ground pepper and stir until the spinach is done.

Squeeze the excess water out of the porcini mushrooms and add them to the fried fresh ones.

To assemble the lasagne, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms and 1/3 of the spinach. Sprinkle with some parmesan and cheddar. Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, spinach and cheese. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake the lasagne for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned the sauce is bubbly and hot.

Potato and green bean salad

This is one of my favourite salads. The combination of cooked green beans and roasted potato wedgies is simply ingenious!

1 kg potatoes
5 tbsp oil
250 grams of green beans
1 bunch of savory
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove
1 tsp brown sugar
100 grams Rocket
1 beef tomato
salt, freshly ground pepper, dried oregano
50 grams of pecorino cheese (sheep’s cheese, or you can use parmesan cheese)

Wash the potatoes and quarter (or divide into eighths) lengthwise. To make things easy, put the potatoes into a bowl, add some olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper and some oregano and mix with your hands so that each piece of potato is covered with oil. Put on a baking tray and roast in a preheated oven (at 240 degrees, 220 degrees convection oven, gas mark 6) for about half an hour. The potatoes should be cooked through and slightly browned.

Meanwhile wash your beans and halve them. Cook them in saltwater so that they still have bite. Drain them.
Wash the savory and chop finely. If you can’t get fresh savory replace with 4 tsp dried savory.
Take the potatoes out of the oven and let them cool down.
Mix olive oil, vinegar and crushed garlic together with with salt, pepper and sugar.
Mix the cooled potatoes, green beans and chopped savory with the dressing and let it stand for about half an hour.
Chop the beef tomato into small pieces and add them and the rocket leaves to the salad. Last but not least shave some cheese over the salad.

Cucumber mint dip

This is different from my normal cucumber, dill and sour cream salad as it has a bunch of herbs in it.

½ a cucumber finely chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped flat parsley
1 tbsp. finely chopped chives
1 tbsp. finely shopped mint
1 clove of finely chopped garlic
two big dollops of sour cream
about half a plain yogurt
freshly ground pepper
freshly ground sea salt
a few drops of olive oil

Just mix everything together. It goes well with any barbecued meat, especially lamb. I also make it when we are having curry and I want something fresh to balance out the heat from the curry.

Carrot, ginger & coconut soup

Whenever I heard carrot soup I used to be like “uh, thanks but no thanks” … for some reason the word baby food came to mind. But then I tried this recipe and have never looked back! This soup takes no time to make and you can have it as hot and spicy as you like it.

Ingredients for 4 people (easily feeds 6 though)
750 gr. carrots
1 piece of fresh ginger about a finger long
2 medium sized onions
3 tbsp. olive oil
750 ml vegetable stock
1 fresh mango
½ bunch of spring onions
1 red chili
1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
1 lime
salt for seasoning
½ bunch chives

Peel the carrots and dice them. Peel ginger and the onions and chop both finely. Slightly sweat the onions, ginger and carrots in the olive oil, then add the vegetable stock and let simmer for about 10 minutes. In the meantime cut the flesh off the mango and cube it. Cut the chili into fine rings and do the same with the spring onions. Use a handheld blender to blend the carrot/onion/ginger soup. Add the coconut milk and season with the juice of one lime and some salt. I sometimes omit the salt and use fish sauce instead. Add the cubed mango flesh, the spring onions and the red chili. If you want more body to the soup you can add cooked king prawns (that’s what I did yesterday). Finally with a pair of scissors cut the chives and sprinkle over the soup (which I forgot in the picture above!)  

Serve with either fresh baguette or a crusty country loaf.

Easy zucchini

Ingredients for 4 people

4 or 5 baby zucchini (cut into small cubes)
1 onion (cut into small cubes)
3 garlic cloves (finely chopped or crushed)
2 table spoons dried rosemary
1 lemon
½ pint of vegetable stock
oliveoil
salt
pepper
a pinch of dried paprika
parmesan freshly grated
freshly chopped parsley
spaghetti noodles

Heat some oliveoil in a pan and lightly brown the rosemary. Then add the zucchini and once they are brownish add the onions and as soon as the onions are soft add the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add the juice of one lemon and some of the vegetable stock (depending on how much sauce you want to have) and give all a good stir. In the meantime cook the pasta al dente.
Add parmesan, some dried paprika and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Enjoy!