Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Bacon & Leek Quiche

quiche

This weekend, I felt the need to do something different. I wanted to eat something I haven’t eaten in a while. Feel the satisfaction of making something special from scratch. So, after having a quick look through the fridge, finding bacon cubes, a leek and lots of eggs, I decided on baking a quiche. My first quiche baking experience was thanks to Odzer, who taught me how to bake a Spinach & Bacon Quiche.

Bacon & Leek Quiche

Pastry:

100g Butter (salted)

100g Flour

Pinch of salt

Put all of the above into a bowl, then cut the butter into small cubes, you may use a pastry blender or whatever you have at hand. It is important that the butter is cold when you do this, you do not want soft butter or your pastry dough will turn greasy!

Rub the butter into the flour, using your index finger and thumb. Keep doing this until the mixture resembles crumbs and both are properly combined. (Don’t leave crumbs of solid butter in there or while baking you’ll get holes in your pastry dough!) Now, add a little bit of water, just enough so that the dough sticks together and holds together while kneading. Knead for around 5 minutes, until the ingredients are nicely combined.

Wrap in foil and keep in the fridge until needed.

Filling:

1 pkt Bacon cubes (250g)

1 leek – sliced

1 onion – sliced

1 tsp Salt – reduce if your bacon is very salty

Pinch of black pepper

Fresh herbs of your choice – I used fresh rosemary, crushed

4 Eggs

125ml Milk

In a frying pan or wok, fry the bacon until it leaves fat and turns golden brown at the edges. Then add the leek and onion, keep frying until all is cooked. Season with salt & pepper and herbs. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and the milk together until combined. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Take out the pastry dough and roll it out on a clean floured work surface. The base of the quiche should be approx 1/4 inch thick. Spread a little oil over the pastry case of your choice – either one big one; approx. 6 inches across, or multiple smaller ones. (In case you’re making small quiches, roll the pastry dough out a little thinner. Now line your case with the dough. I used a cake tin; putting a 10 inch diameter round of pastry dough into my 6 inch case. Press the dough into the corners so no air bubbles remain, and make an even edge all across the side of the case, roughly 2 inches in height.

I was left with some pastry dough after doing this, so I kept it aside for using as a lattice top later on. If you followed my pastry dough recipe using 100g butter and 100g flour, you probably have exactly the right quantity for a normal sized pastry case.

In a preheated oven, bake the case empty for approx. 10 minutes, until it starts looking half cooked. You can tell when it’s cooked enough by waiting until the dough is no longer shiny and greasy, but turns matte and a little flaky. Now put the bacon/leek/onion mixture into the case, pour your whisked egg/milk over the top and sprinkle with some grated cheese (optional). If you had pastry dough left over, put it over the top as a lattice shape or however you prefer. Bake at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes, or until the egg is no longer runny when pricked with a knife. Enjoy the quiche hot or cold!

Homemade beef burgers

All this weight loss talk is making me hungry. Time for some comfort food!

burger

500g Beef Mince – I used extra lean. You could also use any other type of mince you like, need not be beef

1 egg

1 small onion – finely chopped

1 clove of garlic – finely chopped

1 green chilli – finely chopped

2-3 tbsp breadcrumbs

1 1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Garam Masala

Black Pepper – to taste

Red chilli powder – to taste

Combine all the ingredients until they’re evenly mixed. Form the mince mixture into round patties, approx. 2cm thick. How big you make them would depend on your preference, or what buns (if any) you intend to eat them with. For best results use a non stick pan; on high flame. Fry the burgers in very little oil first one side then the other until properly browned. Then turn the heat down and keep cooking them until done. This will take approx. 10-15 mins depending on how thick your burgers are. Test if they are done by pricking them in the middle with a knife. If juices run clear, your burger is done.

For Mushroom-Cream gravy: In case you intend to eat your burger without a bun, it is nice to have a tasty gravy with it. Finely slice 4-5 mushrooms (of your choice, I used Chestnut mushrooms but you could use regular button mushrooms as well) and half an onion and a small clove of garlic. If you’re as sloppy as me, some onion pieces will fall off of the burgers while cooking anyway, so you may use those and not chop any more onion for the gravy. If using a non stick pan, fry up these vegetables with your burgers. If you keep the heat high enough, there will be some meat juices coming out of the burger and making a nice brown coating on the mushrooms. After your burgers are done, take them out and keep them aside. Add a bit of water and 2-3tbsp cream to your mushrooms. Salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce is too runny for your taste, add plain flour, while stirring the sauce well to avoid lumps. You may season the sauce with any condiments of your choice, ranging from mustard, to red wine (use very little!) or even ketchup if you prefer. In my case I thought it was fine as it was.

Serve your burgers with gravy and fries and enjoy! (Or put them in burger buns with lettuce, ketchup/mayo, pickle and anything else you fancy.)

Kill da wabbit!

Ok, touchy vegetarians stop reading now. Because I’ve been whining about my dinner plans for Christmas Eve for weeks now, I might as well tell you how it turned out ūüôā ¬†

The Rabbit – Marinated for 24 hours in Red Pesto.

rabbit1

 Slow Roasted for around 2.5 hours at 100 degrees celsius. Afterwards simmered in its own sauce.
Basically I was happy trying to  cook a new type of meat, but not ready to try a new type of marinade/ sauce so I stuck with what I do with roast Chicken. (Just refined it a little with some Rose wine before putting it in the oven).  

The Side – Potato Gratin

potato ¬†This side dish is very simple to make, yet extremely tasty. Probably because it is so sinful. You peel and slice around 4-5 large potatoes, then put them in a small pot, pour 300ml Single cream over them, add milk until the potatoes are somewhat covered. Add salt, black pepper, ground nutmeg to taste. Simmer for at least 5 minutes (until the potatoes are half done). Then take the potatoes out (don’t discard the cream!) layer them in an ovenproof dish and pour only so much of the cream mixture over them until all except the top layer of potatoes are covered. If you like, add some grated cheese over the top. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees celsius for 30 minutes. If you like your gratin more firm, add an egg, or in my case, I had an egg yolk leftover from the dessert I made, so I put it into the cream mixture before pouring it over the potatoes. ¬†

The Dessert – Coffee Trifle with Chocolate Sauce

trifle
Well if every single thing we ate on Christmas Eve already had cream in it already, the dessert couldn’t be far behind. For making this type of dessert, you need to have three different components: sponge cake (can be purchased or home made. You could also get sponge biscuits), some type of sauce to soak the sponge cake with, creamy mousse which will make up the bulk of the trifle.¬†

For the sponge cakes, I just did the lazy person’s thing; bought some trifle sponges from the supermarket.¬†

Then I made chocolate sauce by heating a little bit of double cream and melting dark chocolate in it. I also added some sugar. Make sure to whisk the sauce properly or the sugar will not combine with the cream fully. You’re looking for a sauce of fairly thin consistency so it can be absorbed by the sponge cake. Put the cake into the sauce and let it absorb it while making the cream.

The Coffee flavoured cream was made by combining extra thick (double) cream (approx. 500ml) with some icing sugar. All flavourings were added to taste, because I didn’t follow any recipe. Plus tasting the cream is most of the fun of this dessert anyway. I boiled some water, and dissolved Nescafe in it (just 50ml of water with 1.5 tea spoon of nescafe or more if you like. Added the concentrated coffee and some vanilla essence to taste, to make the cream get a subtle taste of coffee. Whip the cream until it is fairly stiff. Then beat an egg white and softly fold it in.¬†

Now start layering your trifle in a freezer proof bowl. First some sponge cake, if need be pour more chocolate sauce over it. Then little less than half of the cream, then the rest of the sponge cake and chocolate sauce, and the rest of the  cream over the top. Even out the top of your trifle and dust with some cocoa powder. 

Depending on how firm your cream turned out (depends on the type of cream used and amount of flavouring you put in), either refrigerate it or freeze it. This dessert, being so creamy, is very tasty when its almost frozen, but still soft. If you made it a long time in advance, you may need to take it out of the freezer an hour before it is to be eaten. 

A break from the ordinary

Even though the idealist in me wants to reject it, Christmas holds dear memories and sentiments that I would like to hold on to. As a child I would be excited for weeks leading up to Christmas eve, could not wait to see what presents would lie under the Christmas tree. And the tree was special too. Being asked in office whether my family was a “real tree” or “fake tree” family, I proudly proclaimed “real tree with real candles!”. And I’m not exaggerating. There would be a pine tree, carefully chosen to have firm branches, full, yet widely spaced enough to allow real candles to be put on it, without burning the top branches off. Real little candles, either white or red (the whole tree should be coordinated in one candle colour!) in little metal clip on candle holders which could be golden or silver in colour.

The decoration would consist of various odd ornaments straying as far away from shiny baubles as possible (my mother would think they look cheap.. I can’t say I share her sentiments, but oh well that’s what parents are for). My mother was a fanatic when it came to protecting her own childhood memories and German Christmas traditions, and wouldn’t compromise one bit. So we had straw ornaments shaped like stars, angels and snow flakes, as well as some other bits and pieces, wooden angels, bells and wreaths. No tinsel, no electric lights and certainly no Santa in sight! (Oddly enough we did have lametta which in my book is just tinsel which isn’t tied up. But somehow my mother approved)..¬† Instead, the traditional decoration was offset by shiny, foil wrapped chocolates or mini wreath shaped chocolates with white sprinkles on them. It was the greatest thing in the world, being able to walk past the tree, and sneakily rid it of one or two chocolates, without anyone noticing (because there were so many!).

So that is my rationalisation, my reasoning for making Christmas a bit special, even if the atmosphere of it has been altered with all the shopping propaganda we get fed. My tree is still real, I bought one in a pot, hoping it would survive in order to be kept and reused (although the label says it will not live because the roots are too limited.. I’m still hoping!) It still has decoration on it which people may find odd; lots of straw. The odd Kashmiri paper mache hand painted painted star, but still some shiny, glittery baubles I could not resist. And electric lighting. I don’t care if candles are supposedly nicer. Electric will do for me.

But the real idea of having a special Christmas is not the tree. It is the company and the food. My company is already taken care of – just the two of us, spending some quiet days without office and other nonsense to worry about.. The food was more difficult. Apparently all of the UK eats turkey on Christmas day. I have nothing personally against turkey, but it just isn’t very flavourful to me. Just a big old bird, that cannot be marinated fully because the meat is too thick. And plus, what are two people going to do with a whole turkey. So it had to be something smaller. Something more special.. Chicken is of course smaller, has better marinating possibilities, but it’s not special to me.. If you’re going to look for special birds, it has to be either duck or goose, something you would not eat every day…

My irrational, short-attention-spanned mind however wanted something much more unusual. Something without wings, yet small enough to have a full animal on the table for just two people. The only possible conclusion I could come to given a limited budget as well as time frame was : Rabbit. For some reason, in this country, rabbit is seen as something odd to eat. Apparently it is budget meat (well I certainly didn’t find that so much while buying it – chicken is much cheaper), and not readily available. But to me, simply because it isn’t that available, and I’ve never cooked it before, it seems exclusive and special. A break from the beef, lamb, chicken and occasional pork we eat every day. Something that lived and grew up in the wild, and is now going to be enjoyed, just one special night this year.

Considering I live in a place surrounded by Halal Butchers that will sell only skinned chicken, lamb and goat, I had to travel a bit and hunt for my rabbit. Although not armed with a gun and surrounded by some dogs… My hunting ground became Borough Market. And I was victorious. My weapon was a wallet with ¬£5 in it. And now my prey is awaiting preparation in my fridge. I will try my best to remember and click some photos while making it.. That shall be the topic of my next post…

I’ve finally managed it! Chicken Fried Rice.

For a long time, I’ve been having problems making Chinese style food. I don’t know why really. I just keep getting things wrong, and it turns out weird. Learning different styles of cooking isn’t that easy. I was brought up in Western Europe; so the standard fare of stews, potatoes, roasted meat, pasta¬† as well as German style baking etc. is not so hard for me. But then after moving to India, I faced a steep learning curve trying to replicate North Indian recipes. Well although in certain cases people would say otherwise, I think I’ve managed it to some degree. (Although, my chapatis still aren’t round enough! Damnit!).

So last night was an epic battle against the odds. I wanted to make Chicken Fried Rice. Again. Expecting something or the other to be wrong with it, like it usually is… (Now I’m sure there are people reading this going “What the F*ck?! Fried Rice is so easy!”… ). Surprisingly, it turned out fine…

Chicken Fried Rice

4 cups boiled rice – I used leftover Basmati, kept in the fridge for a few days

1 Onion – medium size, finely sliced

1 clove Garlic – finely chopped

1 Green chilli – finely chopped

4-5 small Spring onions – greens attached

200g Chicken breast filet – small pieces

Little bit of flour

2 Eggs

Salt, Pepper for seasoning

Vegetable Oil

Soya Sauce – any type you like, I used Light Soya Sauce

Splash of vinegar – again any type you like

First you prepare the chicken; after chopping it, you coat it a little bit in flour and salt&pepper. Preferably use a non stick Wok for this dish; or it will stick horribly! Heat the Wok properly, add some oil and coat the wok with it. Then add the chicken. Fry it until it’s done – take it out of the wok and keep aside. Put your wok back on the fire (clean it if necessary) and make sure it’s really hot again. Add Oil and coat it properly. Add the garlic and chilli. Fry for a few seconds. Add your onions. Fry for 1 minute on full heat. Keep moving it around so it doesn’t burn! Add the spring onions, keep frying for 1 minute. Then you break the two eggs on top of the wok, and stir vigorously. Immediately add the cold rice on the top and mix it in properly. Then add the chicken pieces. Season with salt, pepper, soya sauce and vinegar. Cook until egg is done, but not too long or it will burn and get soggy. You do NOT want the spring onions and onions to get soggy! They should be cooked properly, but still be crisp.

Serve immediately.

Variations: If you like your Fried rice with more vegetables in it, you can add anything you feel; mushrooms, beans, peas, carrots, bean sprouts, etc. But: it may be a good idea to blanch them first, because most vegetables take some time getting cooked. The bean sprouts you should just add raw though.

2 for 1 Meal vouchers!! Valid only til Thursday!

I just received these vouchers by email and thought I should share… With the recession going on, I’m sure many will appreciate to get some stuff for free! (Even if it means having to pay for half of it…)

So print out a voucher, take your loved one/partner/friend by the hand, drag them off with you for lunch, and enjoy the fact that you got a bargain!

Ask – 2 for 1 deal (’til 27 November)

Cafe Rouge – 2 for 1 deal (’til 23 November – expired)

Gourmet Burger Kitchen – 2 for 1 deal (’til 27 November)

Zizzi – 2 for 1 deal (’til 23 November – expired)

My favourite Roast Chicken Marinade

It has been a long time since we’ve eaten anything non-Indian at home. One thing that always works is Roast Chicken. However, because we’re only two people, having a full chicken is too much of a hassle and it never seems to finish… So roast chicken legs then.

Eating a lot of spicy food has made us picky; chicken marinade has to have a very good flavour or it just tastes boring to us. So here’s my favourite – it goes very well with some fresh mashed potatoes.

Red Pesto Chicken

Chicken legs& thighs with skin

1 heaped tea spoon Red Pesto per leg&thigh piece

Salt

Black Pepper

Dried Basil

Dried Oregano

2 cloves of garlic – crushed

Splash of olive oil

Trim excess fat off the chicken pieces. Poke the skin with a knife in several places. Coat with pesto (easiest way to do it is rub it in by hand). Place the pieces on a baking tray. Add the crushed garlic cloves (no need to have them mashed up; just take a whole garlic clove, take a knife or some other metal utensil and crush it, take the skin off and put it on the tray with the chicken. Season everything with Salt, Pepper, Basil & Oregano. Splash some olive oil over the chicken. Pop it in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius. Baste the chicken in its own juice a few times, and let it bake for around 30-40 minutes; until when you poke it with a knife, the juices run clear, not pink.

Red Pesto Gravy

Once your chicken is done, take it out of the tray. Put the tray on the stove, and add around a cup of water to the juices and fat in the tray. Cook it on the stove until everything dissolves and mixes with the water. Season with salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Add 2 tsp of red pesto and about the same of concentrated tomato puree. For extra flavour add a few jalapeno peppers. Let the gravy reduce until it has a creamy consistency.

Serve with the chicken and a potato side; choose from Mashed Potato, boiled or roasted potatoes.

Indian Food basics (North Indian)

Lots of people are fascinated by Indian food and assume it is very complicated. It may seem daunting; reading the ingredients list of many Indian recipes; the number of spices is overwhelming and makes the dish seem hard and time consuming to make. But it need not be that way; there is such a thing as Indian food for busy people as well!

The main principle to follow with all cuisines is very simple: Quality ingredients! You cannot make tasty food if your ingredients are old, stale and tasteless.

You need fresh and ripe vegetables, fragrant spices and good quality meat, or you’re going to end up disappointed. Disappointment happens to me as well, and I have been cooking Indian food for quite some time now; I tend to get demotivated and frustrated if the food turns out bland, but what we need to remember is that these things happen; and it does not necessarily mean you’re a bad cook, or the recipe was inaccurate. It could just be that the ingredients were at fault!

If you’re going to venture into cooking Indian food at home, and you do not want to go all out buying spices right away, there are some basic supplies to stock up on and you can get cooking right away:

The bare minimum: Turmeric Powder (“Haldi” in Hindi), Red Chilli Powder, Cumin seeds, Coriander powder.

Jeera Aloo (Cumin Potatoes, no gravy)

Ingredients:

approx. 400gr Potatoes – peeled cubes

two medium sized Onions – sliced evenly (Optional)

one Green Chilli (fresh) – finely chopped

Vegetable oil (neutral in flavour, like Sunflower Oil)

1 tbsp. Cumin seeds

1 tsp. Coriander powder

1/2 tsp. Turmeric powder

Salt & Red Chilli powder to taste

Chopped Coriander Leaves as garnish

 

Have all your ingredients ready for use. To save time, boil the Potato cubes in salted water for a few minutes, until they are almost cooked.

Heat the oil in a Wok on medium heat, add cumin seeds and fry until they crackle. Add Onion. Fry until onions get translucent, then add Green chilli and Coriander Powder. Fry for a few minutes more, then add some salt. Keep stirring so the onions don’t burn. You want the onion to get brown (in case of white onions, or dark purple in case of red onions). Once onions are nicely browned and getting softer, add Turmeric Powder with two tablespoons of water. Mix well. Add Potato cubes. If they stick, add a little more water.

Cook until the potatoes are done. Adjust seasoning; If you want more flavour; add more salt, Coriander powder and some Red Chilli powder. If you prefer a tangy flavour; add some lemon/lime juice. Turn off the flame and top with chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Serve hot, with roti/naan (store bought if you’re in a hurry).

 

The recipe above is one of the most simple Indian dishes to cook, and quite tasty! Purists would say that actually Jeera Aloo does not contain Onion, but decide for yourself; I personally like the flavour with onion a lot. You can vary and adjust and add different ingredients as well. For a better flavour, do not pre-boil the potatoes, instead chop them into smaller pieces, not thicker than 1cm and put them in raw. Add more water while cooking to slightly cover them while cooking, and let the water evaporate to required consistency in the end. This way it will take considerably longer to cook them, but they soak up more of the flavour and you do not end up making them too mashy.

You can also add French beans to the dish or garden peas for more variation. Basically any vegetable can be added, as long as it’s chopped into bite-size pieces and does not take longer than the potatoes to cook. Traditionally, if you add other vegetables, you use less cumin seeds or none at all. But again it’s up to you to decide!

Golgappas!!

When I moved to India, it took me quite a while to get used to certain foods. (Some I just totally did not get used to at all but very few!)

One of the things that had to grow on me were Golgappas (Pani Puri). They are like little crispy balls made of flour which are completely hollow. You fill them with some boiled potato and spicy water and try to shove the whole thing in your mouth without spilling the water all over your clothes.

In India they are a very popular snack, sold on the streets. And amongst some of the least safe things to eat as a tourist.. For that matter they are not even that safe to eat for locals either; especially during Monsoon they can make you quite sick if the water is contaminated.

But I was never particularly careful, so used to gorge on these (once I got used to the flavour) no matter what season. In India you get two types of water; sweet water which is maroon in colour, and green water which is a bit more sour and hot. Although both types are very spicy and can set you on fire properly!

So the other day I was craving a snack and discovered that some shops around my flat in London actually sell boxes of them! You get a jar of spicy paste to mix in water, and a big box of ready made crispy flour balls. Not expecting too much, I took them home, boiled some potatoes and mixed the spice paste with water. It hardly took any time and soon we started stuffing our faces. My husband and I must have eaten at least 20 each (it was a big box!)..

I must say, although ironically you always want to eat exactly that which is not available, no matter where you are (or at least this is true for me!), London is not such a bad place… If you look hard enough, you can probably find just about anything in terms of food. And often right under your nose as well! The shop I found the golgappas in is just around the corner from my flat. And until maybe two weeks ago I did not see the inside of it. But one day I was bored and just wandered in, only to discover that it was pretty much like walking into an ordinary neighbourhood every day needs store in India!

After blowing a load of cash on spices and food that we didn’t really need, I got home, you should have seen the look on my husband’s face when presented with some Maggi Masala instant noodles. It’s strange, the things you miss when you move…