Monday, 31 October 2011

Chicken and Kale Casserole

 I found a recipe for chicken and kale soup, it looked really great except for the fact that all the ingredients were cooked separately and so it seemed to be very time consuming. I'm all about one pot cooking wherever possible so I changed it around a bit, left out the cannelini beans and used sweet potatoes instead of regular ones. The original recipe was a soup but I used less broth so I guess you could now call it a casserole!! I've only recently discovered kale, but I am certainly a fan, it makes a change to put greens in a soup but it adds an interesting new dimension and even my fussy kids ate it.

Ingredients (serves 6)
12 pieces of chicken, I used a mix of thighs and drumsticks)
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, unpeeled and chopped into 1 1/2 inch squares
1 leek sliced
1 small onion or shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
2 cups chicken stock
Olive oil for frying
1 pound of washed kale leaves, hard stalk removed, roughly chopped
3 slices of chopped bacon (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper

 Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a heavy based pan or Dutch oven, over medium high heat, brown the chicken on all sides (in two batches) in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Place the chopped sweet potatoes, the chopped leek and the onion/shallot in the pan along with the garlic and the fresh thyme leaves.
Turn the vegetables in the oil (add a little more if necessary) and move around in the pan for 2-3 minutes. Put the chicken pieces back into the pan and pour over the chicken stock. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place a lid on the pan and turn down the heat. Simmer on low heat for about 1 1/2 hours. There may be some oil floating on top of the pan, this can be removed by placing a paper towel directly on top of the liquid and blotting the oil.

I dried the kale in a salad spinner
 Once the casserole is cooked, you need to add the kale to the dish, of course you can just wash the kale (I used a salad spinner to dry it) and just drop it on top of the casserole and let it cook in the soup for about 15 minutes. However I wanted to add a little extra flavour, so I fried some bacon pieces in a little butter and then I added the chopped kale and tossed it about with the bacon for a couple of minutes then added it to the soup and allowed it to cook for a further 10-15 minutes.
Adjust the seasoning and serve piping hot.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Europe's first Paleo restaurant opens in Berlin

Just in case anyone ever finds themselves in Berlin and hunting (ha ha) for some good eats, the British  newspaper the Daily Mail reports that Europe's first Paleo restaurant recently opened. It's called Sauvage and you can check it out right here or here on their Facebook page

Friday, 28 October 2011

Spice rubbed lamb steaks

Oh, these were so good! I found some bone-in lamb leg steaks in the supermarket. Good lamb is not always easy to find in Germany, there is a grass fed, organic lamb farm near us which I have yet to visit but is on my list of places to go. We have got an amazing Grass fed beef supplier close to us,  so if I can find lamb with the same quality and freshness, then I will be really happy. This is another recipe from Nigel Slater, he never fails to impress me with the the depth of flavour of his dishes compounded by the sheer simplicity of his recipes. They definitely taste all the better if you fire up the barbecue and grill them, but you can also cook them under the broiler.
Ingredients serves 4
4 lamb leg steaks (bone-in)
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon smoked parika
4 tablespoons olive oil

Fire up the barbecue
In a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic with the salt,
Add the peppercorns, the coriander seeds and paprika along with the olive oil and grind it to a rough loose paste.
 Rub the paste into both sides of the lamb steaks and set aside for at least 15 minutes, a little longer if you can.

Lay the steaks on a hot barbecue to get a charred spicy crust. Leave to cook for approximately 10 minutes, turning them occasionally.
 Serve immediately with Spicy turmeric tomatoes or if the weather is a little warmer a cooling mint and pomegranate salad

Spicy turmeric tomatoes

 I try to use seasonal ingredients when I cook. This often means I have a lot of one type of produce because it is cheap and readily available. Then I have to search the Internet for interesting ways to use them. I found this recipe recently. It is an adaptation of one designed by the chef, Nigel Slater He is one of my favourite TV cooks. He is famous for using just two or three ingredients, mixing them with a blend of spices and always with the end result of great tasting food. I really like the simplicity of this dish, the onions, garlic, chilies, cumin and turmeric give a warming heat which make this dish a super accompaniment to most meats. We had it with some lamb steaks and I was amazed at how well they complemented each other. This is a definite winter warmer, side dish, and would even be suitable in slightly larger quantities as a main dish if you had vegetarian friends over for dinner.

Ingredients-serves 4
2 medium onions thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 medium red chili (seeds removed & finely chopped, you want gentle rather than searing heat, but feel free to add more if you like it extra spicy)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
14 oz can chopped tomatoes
8 fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup coconut milk
 Thinly slice the onions and cook with the olive or coconut oil in a non stick frying pan over medium heat, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so. Add the chopped chili to the pan along with the cumin seeds and turmeric. Stir well. Tip in the can of chopped tomatoes and then fill the can up with water and add that to the pan.
Place the whole fresh tomatoes into the pan, (you can leave the leaves on for artistic effect if you like!)
Cover the pan with a lid and allow the tomatoes to steam for approx 25 minutes.
When the tomatoes have softened move them to one side of the pan and pour in the 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Stir through the spicy tomato juices and serve piping hot.

Pomegranate salad

We had some lovely lamb steaks with a spicy rub for dinner tonight. To go with it I made  a spicy tomato dish, but the kids won't eat anything that has visible pieces of onion in it, so I made this quick salad which was the perfect accompaniment. A cooling minty salad with some pomegranate sweetness and crunch and so quick to make.

Ingredients Serves 2
large handful of lamb lettuce or rocket leaves
1/4 cucumber cut into neat chunks
seeds of half a pomegranate
6 mint leaves finely chopped
Arrange the salad leaves on a plate, along with the cucumber pieces and pomegranate seeds. Finely chop the mint leaves and sprinkle over the top. Serve with spicy food for a cooling effect to counteract a dish with heat.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Floury, fried fish fillets

 In England, fish and chips is the staple Friday night takeout food. There is something about walking past a chip shop that smells so good on a cold night. It draws you into the shop, with its steamy windows and line of eager customers waiting their turn to be served. The smell of the crispy battered, fresh cod frying, the vinegar scented chips and the acid crunch of a pickled onion are all childhood memories of mine, and I can conjure up the taste of good fish and chips in my mind to this day. Unfortunately, the last time I ate fish and chips, I had been off wheat, potatoes, flour and the like for a few months. We were in London and my mum suggested we get some to save her cooking dinner that night. I considered it a treat so I agreed. Oh how I rue that decision. I had the worst stomach ache ever, the combination of flour, fat and potatoes sat so heavy in my stomach I felt as though I'd gained 25 pounds in a matter of minutes! Occasionally I still get the craving, but luckily chippies (fish and chip shops!) in  Germany are few and far between, so I console myself with this healthier version which still has some crunch but it comes from coconut flour instead of heavy fried batter.

Ingredients Serves 2
2 large white fish fillets. (I used Pangasius Fillets but you can use cod or Tilapia or any other white fish)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup coconut flour (You can use almond flour but if you do, fry the fish over medium heat as the almonds tend to burn over higher heat)
salt and pepper
lemon pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon each of butter and olive (or coconut) oil for frying

Preheat a non stick frying pan over medium high heat. add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil (or coconut oil)
Put the coconut flour into a flat dish or plate and season well with the salt and pepper, you can also add a little lemon pepper to it for some added flavor.
In a separate bowl beat the egg and set aside. Blot the fish fillets dry on some paper towels and then dip the fillets into the egg wash and then into the seasoned flour, it doesn't matter if it isn't totally covered.
 Carefully place the floured fillets into the preheated pan and fry for about 3 minutes on each side, (turn the heat down to medium if you think it may burn)
Turn the fish and fry for a further two minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy ( maybe more, maybe less, depending on the thickness of your fillet) Serve with Pesto vegetables and a slice of lemon if desired.

Pesto sauce

 Have you ever bought pesto sauce from the grocery store and actually thought it was good? I haven't, the basil always tastes like it was dried first and the oil always has that rancid taste in the back of your throat, like it's been sitting on the shelf for too long. Even worse than jarred pesto are the packets of pesto sauce mix that you buy and just add water to. I know we are all busy people and it's supposed to save us all time, but it is so far removed from the original product that it makes a mockery of the convenience factor.  The funny thing is, pesto is incredibly easy to make, you don't need a lot of special equipment to make it either. Basil plants are available year round now in the supermarkets, you can also grow them yourself from seed on a sunny windowsill (I've tried, but sadly they start out well and then expire, might be something to do with me forgetting to water them!)
A couple of tablespoons of pesto sauce can really liven up winter vegetables. They go very well with tomatoes and zucchini squash and the best part is that it only takes a few minutes to make. If you make too much you can even freeze it, a few frozen pesto cubes are also great when dropped into a winter soups or stews instantly giving it flavor

Store pesto in a jar or Tupperware container for up to a week in the fridge or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Cut Basil will turn brown if exposed to heat and air for long periods, keep your pesto looking fresh and green in the fridge by placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on its surface or storing it in a jar with a covering of olive oil to keep the air out. If it does happen to turn a little brown, this does not affect the taste.

 Ingredients Serves 4
1 bunch of basil weighing about 2-3 oz (about 1/2 a large basil plant, if the stalks are tender and aren't too woody, throw those in too)
75ml or just under 1/4 cup olive oil, use a good flavorful one if you have it, time to break out that special Extra virgin olive oil you've been saving for special occasions.
1 tablespoon of pine nuts or about 6 walnuts
1 clove garlic crushed
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (omit this if you don't do dairy)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

There are several ways of doing this, one is to tip all the ingredients into a blender and whizz until it is well mixed but still has some texture, you don't want it to be smooth, there need to still be some flecks of green basil leaf and nuts visible. You can also pulse it in a food processor or use a stick blender until you get the desired texture.

If you haven't got any kitchen gadgets you can also make this in a pestle and mortar. Start by grinding the salt and garlic together until it becomes a smooth paste. then chop the basil and add it to the salt and garlic and pound it until it is incorporated and smooth. Add the olive oil a little at a time then add the pine nuts and the cheese and pound it all together until it is well mixed. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Spinach and bacon- Quick side dishes

Sometimes you just don't want to spend hours in the kitchen. you've got your chicken or your pork chop all ready to go and you want something quick but healthy to go with it. This takes 5 minutes tops if you use fresh spinach and maybe just a little longer with frozen. Plus it contains bacon and we know that bacon makes everything in life better!

Ingredients - serves 2 adults or 100 children (because as we know, all kids hate spinach!!)
500g fresh spinach, wash and pick out any discolored leaves. (A good tip is to wash it and spin it in a salad spinner to remove excess water.)
4 slices of bacon chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
salt and pepper

In a large non stick pan or wok over medium high heat, fry the bacon until it is brown but not too crispy.
You shouldn't need to add any extra cooking fat as the bacon will start to render and cook without it. Add the spinach and let it sit for a minute, then add the crushed garlic and start to move the spinach around in the pan where it will wilt within a minute or so.
Do not overcook it, as soon as it is wilted it is cooked. How easy is that? Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and serve immediately.

Beef Jerky

 Remember this?
 Well, I made some dried bananas and pineapple chunks in it last week and was quite disappointed that they took ages to dry out, almost 3 days in fact!! I think I was trying to emulate the dried bananas you buy in the supermarket. What I didn't realize is that those little rock hard chunks of banana are dehydrated but then are also flash fried to make them super crispy. The dried bananas we made were delicious, with a concentrated banana flavour but they were still a bit chewy in the middle. I actually prefer them to the crunchy ones.
 I guess the main lesson I learned is that you have to undergo some trial and error to get the best results. Take the beef jerky I made recently. I bought some flank steak to use, and read that you have to partially freeze the meat to make it easier to slice into evenly thin pieces. My husband decided that to make things even easier, we'd buy a slicer to make the slices uniform in size. I'm all for labour saving devices so we got this Graef Slicer from Media Markt.  As a self confessed gadget geek, my husband was very happy with this purchase, he sliced a whole salami, some cheese, and pretty much anything in the fridge that wasn't nailed down!! He even looked a little disappointed when he read you shouldn't slice wood with it! Should his current career ever hit the skids, he could always moonlight as a deli man!! 6oz of sliced pastrami anyone??!
  The first time I tried to make the jerky it was cut it into 1mm thick slices, but I quickly found out that's a bit too thin. I also tried pouring the marinade into a resealable bag and then adding the meat, but found the marinade made the meat clump together, and it all tore into little pieces when I tried to take it out of the bag.What I forgot about was that the acid in the marinade 'cooked' the meat which broke down the fibers and made it stringy. So I tried again, this time I cut it into 1.5 mm slices and it was much closer to the thickness and texture of jerky you find in the supermarket but without all the unpleasant additives.
This time I layered the meat in a large ceramic dish and poured the marinade over the meat  and carefully turned it in the marinade to ensure it was all covered. Then I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. The result was evenly seasoned and pretty uniform sized pieces of jerky. Not as salty as the brands you buy in a supermarket but it had much more flavor.

Marinade recipe
This was enough to cover and marinade a 2 pound piece of flank steak, ( It's much easier to put the meat in the deep freeze for an hour or so before cutting it. This helps it to keep its shape,
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/4-1/2  teaspoon ground red chilies (depending on how spicy you want it)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Mix all the marinade ingredients well, slice the meat at least 1.5mm thick and then lay it in a ceramic dish. Pour over the marinade and turn the meat gently to allow the marinade to soak into every bit of the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, but you can leave it overnight for the flavours of the marinade to really penetrate the meat. Place the meat on the dehydrator racks. Do not overcrowd, leave room for the air to circulate.
After the allotted time, take the pieces of meat out carefully and lay on the racks of the dehydrator. Dry according to the Machine's instructions. Mine is an Excalibur and took about 4-5 hours @155F.
If you don't have a dehydrator you can still make jerky at home in the oven. Details here or if you are feeling super adventurous and want to channel your inner Macguyver then try this for size :)


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Cauliflower rice

 I thought I'd just add my own recipe for cauliflower rice. If I'm honest it doesn't taste like rice at all but it does have the same texture in your mouth and depending on what you eat it with, is an excellent substitute for rice and a brilliant way of getting a lot of vegetables into your diet without even trying. If you serve something with a sauce it doesn't compete with the taste and is a great way of getting kids to eat veggies.  There are various ways of making this dish, all available with a quick Google search. However I have tried a few and found this to be the best way of doing it. It seems to me that if you steam the cauliflower first, it has a tendency to have that 'soggy Christmas' vegetable taste. By processing the cauliflower first and then sauteing it, it you can control how much it cooks, thus keeping the rice texture instead of the cauliflower mush texture. this is good served with curry or Chinese stir fry. I'm also thinking of making some spicy chilli this week and serving it with that.

Ingredients (serves 6)
1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed and broken up into florets
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 zucchini
1 onion finely chopped or 2-3 green/spring onions, finely chopped
a little olive oil for frying

Put half the cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse 8-10 times until cauliflower pieces are small and resemble rice. Tip out into a bowl and repeat step for the other half of the cauliflower.

Put the peppers, zucchini and onions in the processor and pulse until all pieces are finely chopped. add to the Cauliflower in the bowl and stir together to combine.

Heat a wok over medium to high heat and add a little olive oil. Add half of the cauliflower/zucchini/pepper mix and stir fry, moving the vegetables constantly for about 5 minutes or until it starts to soften. You still want a little bite but don't let it get too soft as it turns mushy. Repeat with the other half of the cauliflower mix and that's it.

 You can add in any finely chopped veggies of your choice, I sometimes add carrots, broccoli, and fresh herbs. Surprisingly if you don't overcook it, it doesn't taste strongly of cauliflower. One of my kids said it tasted like fried rice and another said it had the texture of couscous. They all eat it ,whereas if I put pieces of cauliflower and peppers on their plates they will turn their noses up. The power of disguising food is a good trick in getting kids to eat their veggies!

Curried leftovers

 We are big on leftovers in our house, it wasn't always that way though, I was bought up to throw away leftover food, it's just what my mum did, so I figured it was normal...right?  The only time we didn't was at Christmas when mum would buy a huge beast of a turkey and we'd eat it baked, boiled, souped and sauteed, in fact every which way, right up until New Years!! When we were first married my husband would look on bemused as I'd go to throw away half a chicken left over from dinner. Of course, he'd stop me from throwing it out but I always refused to eat any leftovers until we'd been married for a good few years and I learned to cook. By then I realized leftovers meant you were half way to making tomorrows dinner, and quite often whatever you had cooked tasted twice as good the next day.

This is something I made for lunch with some leftovers and a couple of things from the freezer and fridge. We made curry with cauliflower 'rice' last night. There was enough leftover to make one frozen dinner for my Husband to take to work next week, leaving some cauliflower rice and curry sauce still leftover
Fresh spinach
Shrimps, leftover cauliflower rice and a few other ingredients, make a tasty and quick meal
about 2 cups of leftover cauliflower rice mixed with about 1 cup of curry sauce (never throw away curry sauce, even if there is no meat or vegetables left, freeze it until you need it!)
1 bag fresh spinach washed
6 large mushrooms chopped into quarters
1 1/2 cups cup shrimps, peeled and uncooked
a little coconut milk
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
a little coconut or olive oil for frying

Heat a wok or large non stick pan over medium high heat. Fry the mushrooms and the garlic until just cooked.
Add the bag of spinach and cook until it is almost wilted.
 Next, add the shrimps and cook those until they are pink and no longer translucent. 
Now add the cauliflower rice and a little coconut milk to loosen the mixture along with 1 teaspoon curry powder. Stir until everything is piping hot and serve in bowls topped with a little chopped cilantro/coriander.