Tuesday, 30 September 2014

All Choked-Up!

Couscous Ebraico al Forno con Carote & Topinambour
Israeli Couscous Pilaf with Carrot & Jerusalem Artichoke


Pretty to look at, pretty easy to make... and pretty delicious to eat... that's exactly what this dish is! Using a few simple ingredients, having a bit of fun in preparing and being willing to go out on a limb a little, was all it took to make this wonderful meal- don't you want to give it a go too?

I love the flavor of topinambour, or "Jerusalem Artichokes" as they are also known... but never really know what to do with them! Soup is delicious... but obvious! But at the same time- the thing I decided to do with them should have been more obvious still... to combine them with Israeli couscous!


It may look like it was complicated to make, but actually it was almost literally childs-play! Which of course, made it the perfect way for me to relax after a tough day at work and to let me feel like an 8 year old in a art & craft class again- haha!


To prepare this great dish I needed 1 good cup of Israeli couscous, 2-3 topinambour, 1 large carrot, 1 red onion, 4-5 dates, 1 heaped teaspoon of Chorba spice and some fresh parsley and thyme.


The best part of making this dish? After enjoying playing with your food for about 5 minutes... you pop it into the oven for 20 minutes more and it takes care of itself! Oh yes- I like that!


Slice the carrot and the topinambour as thinly as you can and cut the onion in half and then into wedges- these will be your decorations... lovely, colorful and edible ones at that!


Chop the dates up rather finely, the parsley too and mix them together with the couscous and the chorba spice mix. If you do not have this spice mix, you can substitute it by using a few simple spices to give a similar flavor. Turmeric, coriander, ground ginger and a hint of cloves would be a decent combination.


Empty the couscous mix into your baking dish and add enough boiling water to cover it, then begin to lay out the topinambour slices from the outside...


 ... continue making things pretty with the carrot slices...

... then some thin wedges of red onion...

... and simply continue until the dish is pretty and full! Like I said- this is actually a lot of fun!


Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle generously with fresh thyme, sprinkle with olive oil, cover with aluminum foil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 15 minutes.


After 15 minutes, remove the foil and release some of that steam... careful now- that stuff's hot! And it will also have cooked the couscous through nicely and have the carrot, onion and topinambour almost ready to eat too! To finish it off, pop it back into the oven, under the broiler- and let those edges get toasty and brown!


The vegetables taste lovely, roasted with the salt, pepper, olive oil and thyme- the the couscous beneath is rich, spicy and sweet from the dates- a perfect combination! Even if I do say so myself!


This put topinambour right back to the top of my favorite ingredient list- at least for this evening, haha!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Croque 'n' Roll!

Pane Tostato con Zucchini, Pomodori, Pancetta, Olive & Scamorza Affumicata
Toated Bread, Zucchini, Tomato, Bacon, Olives and Smoked Scamorza Cheese


Cheese on Toast, "Croque Monsieur", Welsh Rarebit... all just "kids stuff" compared to this suppertime treat! How about upping your game just a little and making this big daddy of all the cheese sandwiches in the world? You know you want to!

Home tired-out from work and not feeling in the mood for making "a real meal", I started out thinking I would just toast myself a couple of rolls, with a little cheese and tomato, grab a mug of coffee and just have done with it. But then I did this instead! Yay!


Almost a savory bread pudding, although easy to make, this really did transform what would otherwise have been a snack into a real meal. It was easy, it was fun- and it was worth that extra little bit of effort it took to make it!


Armed with 2 rye bread rolls, 1 small round zucchini, 7-8 cherry tomatoes, a sprinkle of finely diced bacon, 4-5 black olives, 1 Spring onion, 1/3 of smoked Scamorza cheese, 1 cup of vegetable broth, a little fresh parsley and rosemary and a good pinch of dried oregano- I made myself a Mediterranean feast on toast!


Why not have fun with your food, even if you are only using really simple ingredients? For me, putting something nice together for supper after a hard day at work helps me to relax, unwind and settle down- and the feeling of satisfaction, as well of course as the great flavor, just makes for a good ending to the day- be it for family or friends, or simply for yourself... you deserve it as much as anyone else after all!


I cut the zucchini into quarters first and then cut the quarters into wedges, I sliced the cherry tomatoes and onion, turned on the oven to start it getting warm and grabbed myself a frying pan to get going! A hungry guy doesn't waste much time in the kitchen!


Into the frying pan went the bacon bits, the zucchini slices, the Spring onion and plenty of rosemary, which I fried together with no added fat, relying on the tiny bit of fat in the bacon to the the job- and it did it rather nicely as well! As soon as the zucchini began to brown on all sides, I turned off the heat and set it to one side.


I cut my 2 rolls into quarters and spread them out on a baking dish nicely and evenly.


I then added the zucchini wedges and tomatoes in-between the slices, added the olives, cut into smaller pieces, salt, pepper and a little dried oregano. I then sprinkled 1 cup of hot vegetable broth over everything nicely and evenly and covered the baking dish with foil.

Into the hot oven it went, at 200°C, for 10 minutes, to get a little steam bath and for all of the flavors to seep into the bread.

I then added the grated Scamorza cheese and a good pinch of fresh parsley and dried oregano- and doesn't that just look delicious?


Funny how what you would consider to be so little and such simple ingredients can suddenly seem so decadent and rich! And speaking of which, the finishing touch before it went back into the oven to finish baking, was the diced bacon that had remained in the bottom of the frying pan after browning off the zucchini... yum, yum, yum!


And 10-15 minutes later... voila! Golden brown, crispy on top and juicy inside, my suppertime sensation was ready to enjoy!

What more could you want than a snack like that?


Except for maybe just another slice!?!


Or why not just finish the whole thing off! I think that's a great idea... well of course, I would say that, because that is exactly what I did!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Get Reddy!

Zuppa di Barbabietola Rossa con Latte di Cocco, Curry Thailandese, Zenzero, Rosmarino, Salvia & Arachidi
Beet Root Soup with Coconut Milk, Thai Curry, Ginger, Rosemary, Sage & Peanuts


Autumn has arrived and so has my longing for warming, wonderful soup! Always comforting and always satisfying no matter what... soup always hits the spot... at least it does for me!

This evening, I improvised a little bowl of fusion, with fresh beetroot, rosemary and sage, crossed with ginger, Thai Massaman curry paste and creamy and delicious coconut milk... topped-off with chapped-up salted peanuts! Oh yes!


For one nice, big bowl of soup I needed 2 beets, about 2" of fresh ginger, 1 Spring onion, 4-5 leaves of sage, 1 stalk of rosemary, 1 teaspoon of Massaman curry paste, 1 small-sized can of coconut milk, a little fresh parsley and a handful of salted peanuts.


All I can say is that this was probably that tasty that a Russian would push his Borscht to one side and be tempted to try something new! I'm not kidding! Well, actually I am- but we all want to have a bit of fun now and again now, don't we?  


I diced up the beets and the Spring onion and finely chopped the ginger- that was all the prep-work involved! Other than opening one of those small 1/3rd-sized cans of coconut milk that is... and got busy making my yummy soup!


I began by heating up the coconut milk. As soon as it began to boil, I added the curry paste, the ginger and the herbs, seasoned with plenty of freshly ground pepper and some Thai fish sauce and let it bubble away for 5 minutes.


 After 5 minutes, I added the diced beets and the chopped Spring onion, stirred them in and topped up the saucepan with boiling water until the beets were just covered. I reduced the heat to a rolling simmer and left it to gently cook along all by itself for 15 minutes.


And after 15 minutes, the beets were almost cooked through, but the coconut milk and water had become a lovely, flavorful broth thanks to the spices, herbs and ginger... it smelled absolutely terrific!


I transferred all of the solids into a taller saucepan before blending them with an immersion mixer... and made sure to pull a tea towel over the top too! No reason to get the whole kitchen- including yourself splashed... because as pretty as that color may be. you will not be happy to have those stains to get rid of!

Of course, if you have a blender or mixer, that would be even better... but I haven't! So I couldn't! But that didn't stop me!

I added the pureed beets back to the broth in my saucepan and stirred it in again. I know some people would want to put this through a sieve and be all fussy about it and everything... but you know what? I LIKE to have some texture to my soups and don't particularly care for those smooth, strained soups myself, I find them boring... and I think that life's too short! So there!


I served up my soup, steaming hot, with a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley, a nice blob of coconut milk, a scattering of chopped, salted peanuts... and the end of my sprig of rosemary to make it a little prettier!


Simple, colorful and absolutely bursting with flavor- this is unmistakably one of my kinds of dishes! And I hope you all approve of it too!


Absolutely not a Thai recipe and absolutely no problem at all! It's always nice to try something new!

Let's Have Some More of Less is More!

Fritelle Dolce con Cachi & Mirtilli Rossi
Persimmon & Cranberry Pancakes

How much fun, how much amazement and how much breakfast can be conjured-up from 1 egg, 1 persimmon, 1 handful of cranberries, 1 cupful of flour and 1 cupful of yogurt?

Quite a lot as you can plainly see!

This was my Sunday-morning treat for this week- but you know what? YOU can make these any day of the week! Isn't that amazing?!? 


Not magic, not sorcery- and not rocket-science either- these little pancakes are quickly made... and eaten even quicker still!

I wanted to make something using the first of the fresh persimmons that I have bought this year- and these were the perfect choice! Not even I expected to be able to make something so wonderful using so little! Which is pretty amazing in itself- I mean... I did invent the art of making something from nothing, after all!


As I said- incredibly, all that was needed to make 8 little pancakes was 1 egg, 1 persimmon, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of yogurt, 1 handful of dried cranberries, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, a half teaspoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a nice tablespoon of honey to make them extra yummy at the end!


It's the little things that make us the happiest- so I kept these pancakes small, packed them full of goodness... and even had a little of that fresh and juicy persimmon left over to serve on the side... and what seemed like very little at the beginning became more than enough at the end!

Step one is of course to peel and core the persimmon- very easy as you can see- just a little triangular cut and your done! They are lovely and juicy and soft inside when they are nicely ripe like this!


Then, simply cut into a relatively fine dice.

Mix the egg yolk and yogurt together in one bowl. In another, the flour, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon. In a third bowl, whisk the egg white until it is nice and fluffy and firm.


Stir the flour into the egg yolk and yogurt, whisk it in well until nice and smooth and then add the stiff and fluffy egg white, folding it in gently until the batter is nice and smooth. Let the baking powder do it's stuff for 3-4 minutes and then add 2/3rds of the diced persimmon and a handful of cranberries. Stir in well, get your frying pan hot...


Although I do like to keep things lean... a good pat of butter makes for a better pancake! Keep the heat moderate, so that they cook all the way through and don't simply get dark on the outside and remain raw on the inside.


As soon as the bottom becomes firm enough that the pancakes slice loosely from the bottom of the pan, gently flip them over and continue frying until they are a delicate, delicious, golden brown- mmm!


And yes- I really managed to get EIGHT yummy little pancake out of 1 egg and 1 persimmon!


With a scattering of extra persimmon and a few cranberries- all it took was a tablespoon of honey to take these beautiful little babies up to a much, much higher level!


These will be made again... oh YES, they will be made again! Word!!!


Less is more, it's true... but maybe... next time I will make even more! Just sayin' !