Monday, 30 November 2009

Zesty Coconut Chutney

This recipe was introduced to me by my friend Yakuta on when I was looking for a good recipe for fresh coconuts when I wanted to try something savoury with it. It's unique and refreshing flavour will surely be a crowd pleaser during the season full of get-togethers and group dinners!
As a serving suggestion in above picture I used the chutney with grilled chicken breasts and tossed the chutney with cooked couscous.

Coconut chutney

1/2 of a fresh coconut, chopped it into small cubes
2 bunches of fresh coriander washed and roughly chopped
juice of 2 limes
4 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
greek yogurt or sour cream
2 tsp of sugar

Blend all of this together in a food processor/mixer with just enough yogurt/sour cream to make the mixture smooth. The texture of it should be thick not runny.

Serve with grilled fish fillets, chicken breast or as a condiment for seafood/avocado salad. Nice also for canapè!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Brussels meatballs

Well, it is not exactly a recipe from Belgium, I sort of invented the name. I always feel sorry for brussel sprouts as so many people vehemently detest them. For me it is a delicious versatile vegetable which go well with so many flavours and ingredients, and I always suspected they are hated because of unimaginative poor preparations to which they are subjected to. Surely they are not so attractive when they are simply boiled to death to the point they become greyish brown!! This is one of my favourite brussel sprouts recipes which are quite fun to eat also as an idea!!

Brussels Meatballs

for 4 people

24-30 (approx,depending on the size) brussel sprouts, cleaned and the bottoms cut off
500g lean mince, beef
1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Lea&Perrin worcestershire sauce

500ml passata (tomato puree)
100ml. red wine
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
1 tsp herbs of provence (or mixture of oregano, thyme and majoram)
1 bayleaf
1 tbsp brown sugar
(alternatively a tomato based pasta sauce, homemade or store bought, can be used for a shortcut)

Steam the brussel sprouts with little water in the microwave, until al dente (about 4-5 minutes) let them cool. Brussel sprouts should be on the firm side, but not too much. Test with a toothpick for the texture and if it is still too tough, cook further for another minute or two. Let them cool.

Mix all the rest of meatball ingredients, just as you do with regular meatballs/meatloafs.
Take each brussel sprouts and wrap them with the meatball mixture. Meatball part should be about 5mm thickness or little less.

To make the sauce, sautè the onion and garlic in olive oil, until they are softened.
Add the herbs, pepper, and wine and cook until the major part of wine is evaporated.
Add the passata and brown sugar. Bring it back to boil and simmer, stirring often for about 15 minutes. If needed add a pinch of salt.
Combine the meatball ingredients until blended in well.

Arrange the meatball wrapped brussel sprouts on a buttered baking dish, pour the sauce over, covering each meatballs completely.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 25-30minutes.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Savoury Mushroom-Cheese Strudel

I improvised this recipe the other day when I defrosted a sheet of puff pastry meaning to make a quiche, then realizing too late I only had 1 egg left. :-( Thank god puff pastry is so versatile, and I jumped on the opportunity to use up some left over mushrooms and brie still left in the fridge. This turned out to be a yummy hit, and it will surely turn into a proper repartoire when an occasion calls for a quick snack or a hors d'oeuvres!!

Savoury mushroom-cheese strudel

250g mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 slices of speck or english style bacon (optional)
dash of herbs provençal
butter, just enough to sautè the above items
1/2 tsp granulated (powdered) vegetable bouillon
dash of pepper
150g brie, chopped (or your choice of cheese)
generous handful of parsley, chopped
1 sheet of puff pastry (about 300g)

Melt the butter in a skillet and prepare the sautè mixture, starting with onion.
When onion starts to soften, add mushrooms, garlic, speck/bacon, and the seasonings. Continue to cook on high heat stirring well, until onions and mushrooms are completely tender.
Just before turning off the heat, add the parsley.
Let it stand to chill to the room temperature.*
(*if the mixture is too warm it will soften the pastry dough immediately, and it will be difficult to flip over in the process.)
Roll out the puff pastry dough, flatten it to about 3mm thickness if the sheet is thicker, spread it flat on a baking sheet.
Mix in chopped brie into the sautèed mixture, blend in evenly.
Arrange the filling on the surface of the pastry sheet across the centre, about 6-7 wide, leaving about 2cm each on both sides (so it can be secured).
Fold the pastry sheet in 3, folding over the both sides together, overlapping slightly at the centre.
Carefully flip over the strudel, so the seam side will be at the bottom. Press the opening edges on both sides gently with a fork to secure them.
Make a few diagonal slits on the surface with a sharp knife.
Bake the strudel in the oven at 200°C for about 10 minutes, or until the surface is thoroughly golden brown.
Let is stand to cool slightly to stabilize the texture before slicing up.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009



Hummus is a delicious dip/spread made with garbanzo beans/chick pea, popular throughout in the Mediterranean-Middle Eastern region. The name "Hummus" is transliterated from the arabic word for garbanzo, thus the spelling can vary widely, and it can be written also hamos, hummos, hommus, houmous etc. A very versatile snack, tapa, antipasto, enjoy Hummus with toasted pita breads (alternatively crusty toasted bread or crackers), or accompaniment to falafel, grilled or raw vegetables.

300g dried garbanzo(chickpea)*
80g tahini (middle eastern sesame paste)**
1 lemon
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 tsp cumin
Extra Virgine Olive Oil
pinch of cayenne pepper

Soak the garbanzo beans overnight (12-15 hours) in water with 1 tbsp of baking soda mixed in.
At the end of soaking rinse the garbanzo several times, then boil for 1,5 hour, or 45minutes in a pressure cooker.
Drain and transfer into a food processor/mixer. Add the rest of ingredients, with first about 1/4 cup of Olive Oil, pulse a few times, check the consistency and the flavour and adjust the amount of oil, add it gradually to make a smooth, creamy texture, as well as the salt and spice to your taste.
Garnish with chopped flat parsley or fresh coriander leaves if desired.

*It IS a bit of pain preparing the dried garbanzo while you can just pop open a tinned chick peas, but the difference in flavour is so significant it is highly recommended to use the traditional method with the dried beans!! Garbanzo beans are so versatile, you can prepare multiple doses in one go and make a few different items as well!

**as an emergency solution when you can't find Tahini, you can mix in some good intense quality sesame oil with the Olive oil, about 2-3 table spoons. Not exactly the same thing and significantly lighter in taste, but quite similar essence can be attained.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

La Cucina Italiana the magazine

La Cucina Italiana, this beautiful series of monthly magazines is undoubtedly the queen mother of magazines when it comes to a real Italian cooking in depth. As soon as I could sort of waddle through the italian writing, I was hooked and now I have been a faithful subscriber for well over 5 years since. It is so much more than a collection of recipes, every edition is filled with interesting reads about cultures behind each regional cooking, monographs on specific/seasonal items, introductions of great chefs and their secrets, gastronomic anecdotes, not to mention hundreds of mouth-watering gorgeous photographs. This month the magazine celebrated its 80 year anniversary, and one of the special features were stupendous collection of cakes specially created and dedicated by their appointed chefs. Here are some examples which will surely make your eyes drool :-)

Naturally the main editions are issued in Italian, however it's popularity has well extended into the international market, and now they are also issued in different languages, notedly in English, in German, in Dutch, and in Czech, each editions stick to the true Italian way as much as possible and keep the "international" modifications to the minimum so as to transcend the spirit of its founder and authenticity, so if you are in a bookshop or newsstand next time, check and see if a copy of "La Cucina Italiana" can be found near you!! There is also a worldwide site in English where you can learn the 101 of Italian food, so have a visit!!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Tagliatelle al cacao with Traminer sauce

I found this highly intriguing recipe on the latest issue of "La Cucina Italiana" and just HAD to try it out immediately. The result did not disappoint, faint touch of cocoa flavour from the pasta matches perfectly with the aroma of Gewurz Traminer, celebrated alpine wine famous for it's fruity refreshing fragrance, accented by speck, another delicacy which represents the alpine region. What's more, the dark chocolate coloured pasta does produce an interesting choreographic effect as well. The key is not to overcook the wine in order to maintain the distinct flavour and aroma!!

Tagliatelle al cacao with Traminer sauce

Ingredients (for 3-4 people)
-for pasta
220g flour (plus more for dusting)
30g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1tsp extra virgine olive oil
pinch of salt

-for condiment
180g speck*, finely julienned
250g onion, thinly sliced.
60g butter
360ml Gewurz Traminer
Freshly shredded parmigiano reggiano or grana padano
*if Speck is unavailable, try with a well smoked English style bacon

Knead the pasta ingredients thoroughly until the dough becomes elastic and smooth.
Roll out the dough thin, 1-2mm, and cut into strips about 5-6mm wide.
Let the pasta air dry a little, by hanging or on top of a dry clean cloth, lightly dusted.
(for the detail of pasta dough making technique consult this page)

In the meanwhile cook the condiment. Sautè the onion in the butter, when they begin to soften, add the speck and cook a few more minutes. Add the wine and bring it boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer for 7-8minutes.

Cook the pasta in a generous amount of boiling water, it takes just about a minute from the point the pasta floats up to the surface. Quickly drain the pasta and toss it with the condiment.
Serve with a generous amount of freshly shaved/grated parmigiano or grana padano

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Homemade Pancakes

Here is a favourite treat for just about everyone, great for brunch, afternoon tea, late night snack or any time of the day when you feel peckish!! Contrary to the belief of many it doesn't require a special ready made mixture, it is just as simple making it totally from scratch!! While it IS a quick and easy recipe but it may take a bit of practice to get the hang of it, so I tried to explain step by step in detail, please don't be intimidated by the longish entry, the procedure is much simpler than it looks!!

If you can find a self rising flour, that would be the perfect pancake making flour. This type of flour has already a rising agent mixed in so your pancakes will puff up without fail!!

However, if you can't find it in stores don't despair, you can mix about 1,5 tea spoon of baking power into about a cup of regular all purpose flour for the same effect as well.
Make sure though, the baking power is well preserved and well within the expiration date, many people make the mistake of using the poorly preserved "dead" baking powder which surely leads to a disappointing result!!

1 cup of flour (self rising, or all purpose + 1,5 tsp baking powder)
1 egg
2 tablespoon sugar
milk (preferably at room temperature)
juice of half lemon

Beat together all the ingredients, gradually adding the milk little by little, to bring the texture to a "muddy" consistency (not too dense not too liquid, it will be lighter than the regular cake batter, but not so liquid like the crepe batter)*. it's okay if it is not perfectly smooth and slightly lumpy.
Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes.
Lightly grease a hotplate or non-stick skillet and heat it.
Give a quick thorough stir to the mixture before start to cook it.
Drop about a ladleful (you can make it as small or as big as you want, but regular pancakes are usually about 10-15cm diametre).
Observe the pancake, after a while the bubbles start forming on the surface. When there are lots of bubbles all over and the edge of the batter start to dry, quickly flip it.
The side comes up should be nicely golden brown (not burnt), if the colour is still too pale, flip it back when the second side is fully cooked.
The other side should take much less time to colour. You can just raise the edge slightly with a spatula to check the colour/doneness.
When the both side is fully cooked, take off from the heat and repeat the procedure. (the first one usually takes the longest, as the hot-plate/skillet heats up more the cooking procedure gets quicker. If you are using a burner you may want to turn down the heat just a little when it starts to cook too quickly)

Enjoy the pancakes with
generous amount of butter plus
-pure maple syrup
-fruit preserve/sauce
-nutella etc. etc.!!