Roasted Aubergine and Red Pepper Dip

It’s one of life’s little pleasures to hear people making ‘nomnom’ noises as they’re devouring food that you’ve cooked – wouldn’t you agree?

This dip makes people do that and it’s easier than pie to make (much easier…why do they even say ‘easy as pie’?)

Roast aubergine & red pepper dipIngredients

For Roasting
1 aubergine (egg plant), cut into chunks
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced (not too small!)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and kept whole
1 teaspoon chilli powder
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
A slosh of olive oil

For the Food Processor (or Mortar & Pestle)
1 tablespoon tomato purée (the stuff you get in the squeezy toothpaste type tube)
A small handful of fresh coriander leaves
A good glug of olive oil (which is more than a slosh, in case you’re wondering)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/425°F/220°C

Using your hands, mix together all the ‘for roasting’ ingredients.mix ingredients together

It’s a good idea to do this in the tin that you’ll be roasting in – that way you don’t spend ages trying to scrape the spices off the side of a bowl.
And it’s one less thing to wash up.  See how I look after you?  You’re welcome. 😉
Spread everything in an even layer and slam onto the middle shelf of your preheated oven.

roast until just starting to blacken

Roast for around 35-40 minutes, or until things are just starting to blacken at the edges. Allow to cool in the tray for 10 minutes or so.

tip into food processor

Tip roasted vegetables into a food processor together with the tomato purée, coriander leaves, olive oil, a pinch of salt and a healthy amount of black pepper.

Blitz, taste, adjust seasoning, blitz again if necessary; bear in mind this is nicer when it’s still got some texture to it rather than being completely smooth.

aubergine & red pepper dip

Tip into a serving dish and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Cover and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Quick and Tasty Beef Koftas

Looking for a winning dish for dinner?

Cooked beef koftas

In that case, you should know that these beef koftas are almost effortless to whip up; the bulk of the time it takes to make them is actually the 30 minutes chilling time. Winner.

They don’t seem that effortless to the people eating them, who will demonstrate their appreciation of your ‘slaving’ over dinner by showering you with attention and affection.  Win, win.

They’ll probably do the washing up too.  Win, win, win.

Of course, they taste amazing too.  Win, win, win, win.

Well, would you look at that!  It would appear that the beef koftas are quadruple winners!  There’s clearly no need for you to continue your search for a dinner dish, which is happy news, because by now you must be very hungry.  I shall delay you no longer and will proceed to tell you how to make this scrumptious meal…

Kofta ingredients

Serves 3-6 people, depending on accompanying dishes

Ingredients
500g minced beef
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-4 green chillies, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 egg
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon harissa paste (If I’d had harissa paste in the stores I’d have used it, and the dish would have benefited from it, so I’ve included it here)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 wooden skewers
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Done your onion and chilli chopping?  Ok then, let’s get this show on the road…

Mix ingredients by hand

Throw everything (apart from the skewers) into a bowl and use your hands to mix well.

Shape onto skewers

Divide the mix into 12 rough balls then form into oval shapes on the wooden skewers (or make into patties if you don’t have any skewers).

Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Beef koftas

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or grill and cook for around 8-12 minutes on a medium to high heat, turning to ensure they’re browned all over.

Job’s a good ‘un!

Beef koftas with Mediterranean dips

Served here with a minty cucumber sauce*, pitta bread and a selection of Mediterranean dips*.

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* Recipes to follow shortly 🙂

Thai Style Meatballs with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Thai style meatballs on noodles

Fragrantly spiced meatballs on a bed of noodles, smothered in a creamy but fiery peanut sauce: a quick, easy and very tasty meal, ideal for mid-week when cooking motivation is fading and take-out food is looking appealing.  Way better than ordering in, and not that much more effort.

meatball ingredientsIngredients

For the meatballs
500g minced meat (I used beef here but go with what you like)
4-5 spring onions, finely chopped
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 dessert spoon fresh ginger root, grated
½ lime – zest and juice
A small handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 egg

curry paste ingredientsFor the sauce
1 tin coconut milk
2-3 tablespoons peanut butter – smooth or crunchy, as is your desire

For the curry paste
6-7 shallots
3-4 garlic cloves
3-4 red chillies
1 teaspoon peppercorns – crushed
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
½ lemon – zest only
½ lime – zest and juice
A handful of fresh coriander leaves

A couple of tablespoons of oil for frying

Noodles or rice to serve

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You’ll need a plate or tray for putting the rolled meatballs on – one that will fit in your fridge.  Got one?  Grand!

all the meatball ingredients in a bowl

Put all the meatball ingredients into a bowl and, using your hands, mix together.

roll into balls

Shape into 16-20 small meatballs and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes (or 10 in the freezer, but don’t forget about them!)

prepared curry paste ingredients

Put all the curry paste ingredients into a food processor.  Or you can use a pestle and mortar – it brings out more oils, and therefore flavours, but my word do you have to work for them!

ground to a paste

Grind to a thick paste.

Coconut milk

Heat around a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan until it reaches sizzling point then add your curry paste.  Cook, stirring, for a few minutes then add coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer.

Peanut butter

Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of peanut butter and continue to heat until sauce has thickened.  You may need to use a hand whisk to bring together the oils.  Keep warm on a low heat while you fry up your meatballs; stir occasionally to keep it from sticking.

Thai style meatballs with spicy peanut sauce

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and cook the meatballs until they’re evenly browned all over and piping hot in the middle.

Arrange meatballs on noodles or rice, pour over peanut sauce and finish with a sprinkling of chopped spring onion.

Ta da!  Dinner’s done!

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Kedgeree

Kedgeree is curried rice dish made with smoked fish and served with an egg on top.

There all definites end.

Kedgeree
Some say you must have boiled egg, others champion the delicious ooze of a runny poached egg.  Type of fish can be an issue too, with one camp swearing it must be haddock and the other saying that’s nonsense.  Some believe parsley is a must, others say it has to be coriander.  Many people demand peas in a ‘proper’ kedgeree, others recoil in horror at the thought.  In these days of poshing-up everything, there are some who feel basic shop bought curry powder is too ’70s and that a select few spices are better, while others insist that the basic curry powder is necessary for ‘authentic’ flavour.  Debates rage about the matter.

Well, I say debates rage…it’s probably more like an occasional cluck of annoyance, as Mildred and Henry order kedgeree for Sunday brunch then exchange tuts and outraged whispers about the inclusion of poached egg rather than boiled, and the complete absence of peas in the dish.  But still…

with mango chutney and a lemon wedgeI’m not too fussy myself – I like a dry kedgeree, not a wet, sauced version, which is too porridgey for my tastes – apart from that I’m willing to ring the changes a little.  This was a convenient attitude to be sporting when it came to making this particular kedgeree – we’re having a mini cupboard challenge right now and so needed to use what’s already available in our stores.

This is another imprecise recipe as it’s so easy to scale up or down according to number of servings required; tweak the recipe according to your own requirements, tastes and available ingredients.

ingredientsIngredients
Cooked rice – as many servings as are needed
1 small/medium sized piece of smoked haddock fillet per person
2 eggs
2 red onions, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
2 green chillies, sliced
2 teaspoons Very Lazy Garlic or 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-3 teaspoons curry powder, according to strength of powder and taste
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A large chunk of butter – use proper butter and use lots!  I had some lemon, garlic and herb butter left over from a previous meal so I chucked that in, with about the same amount again in ordinary butter – luvverly.
A good fistful of fresh parsley, chopped
A couple of spring onions, sliced
A couple of lemon wedges and few spoons of mango chutney to serve – not compulsory
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To prevent constant harassment, it’s a good idea to shut any cats out of the kitchen before you get started with this recipe.

Kitty excluded?  Ok then…Happy EggsHard boil your eggs by putting them in a pan of cold water, enough to cover the eggs.  Bring the water to the boil then turn down to a simmer and cook for 6-7 minutes.

hard boiled eggsAs soon as they’re done drain off the hot water and place the pan under a running cold water tap for around 1-2 minutes – this helps stop that horrid black layer developing around the yolks.  Peel off the shells and set to one side.

smoked haddockTo poach your fish bring a shallow layer of water (a couple of cm) to the boil, in a pan that has a lid; turn off the heat.  Pop in the fish, skin side up in a single layer, put the lid on and leave for around 5-6 minutes.  You’ll know when it’s done because the skin will easily peel away.

poached haddockDon’t over cook it.  Don’t overcook any fish 😉

Drain and discard the fish poaching water.  Remove skin from fillets, feed to cat, who Houdini like, has found a way out of exile and into the kitchen.  Flake cooked fish and set to one side.

cook onion and celery until softMelt butter (in that same lidded pan), add diced onions and celery and cook with lid on, over a low heat until soft.

Add curry powder, green chillies and garlic and cook, stirring, for minute or so.

Cooked riceStir in the cooked rice, salt and pepper, making sure everything mingles properly.

Add flaked fish and parsleyAdd flaked fish and most of the chopped parsley then stir gently to combine.

with mango chutney and a lemon wedgeServe bedecked with boiled egg halves and scattered with chopped spring onion and remaining chopped parsley. Finish with a spoonful of mango chutney on the side and a lemon wedge to squeeze over the top.

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Spiced Pineapple Chicken

Yet another cold, wet, miserable evening (we’re having far too many of them, even for this rain-renowned neck of the woods), and I was found standing in the kitchen glaring at a pineapple.

Pineapple

Why was this unfortunate fruit on the receiving end of my evil eye?  Well…hmmm…  I suppose we should just get this little bit of Bohemian crazy out of the way first – the thing is, it came from a hot place and I was suffering sunshine envy.  Ahem!

Moving swiftly on, and more to the point, I’d bought it on an impulse (very, very cheap) despite knowing that I have an inordinately difficult time persuading pineapples to take off their jackets and give me their fruit.  At the point of purchase I always tell myself that the deliciousness within will be well worth the effort to obtain; however once at home a reluctance to face the task usually settles in and avoidance becomes the order of the days.

This particular pineapple was at the eat-me-now-or-lose-me-forever stage of ripeness, which meant there was no choice but to prepare myself, and the kitchen, for a hack and chop session with the spiky one.

Massacred pineappleQuite frankly I find it ridiculous that despite much research and trying of different techniques, I still have not managed to skilfully prepare a fresh pineapple.  I waste far too much fruit, both in cutting off the skin and when gouging out all those tedious, bristled eyelets that get left hanging in there.  I also seem to end up with juice flowing over cutting board and work surface, running down arms, dripping off elbows, puddling into sticky foot anchors on the floor…it’s a mess!
Granted, the juice thing probably wouldn’t happen if I didn’t wait until one stage prior to rot before tackling it.

The obvious question is, given that I could easily buy a conveniently preprepared pineapple, why do I do it?  Stubbornness, in part – I don’t want to admit defeat (imagine: “Of all the culinary challenges, what broke me was a pineapple.”  How incredibly sad is that?! 😉 )

Another contributing factor is that fresh tastes so much better than tinned, although in a recipe like this it probably makes little to no difference (let’s refer back to the stubbornness paragraph).

Then, of course, there’s the unwillingness to pay the extortionate price for fresh preprepared pineapple, even if it is saving me some hassle.

The choice is entirely yours as to whether you go with fresh or tinned pineapple – you’ll find no judgement from these quarters.

Spiced pineapple chicken with parathasThis dish has quite a long cooking time but doesn’t necessarily need much effort from you; however, do bear in mind that depending on your skills set, preparation time may be affected by aforementioned choice 😉

Continue reading

Sweet and Spicy Chicken, Spinach and Mango Curry

I am extremely fortunate to be the frequent recipient of food gifts such as samosas and curries, made by one of the ladies in my team when she, her sisters and her mother get together for one of their traditional batch cooking sessions.  Lucky, lucky me!

SaagThe other day she presented me with a huge portion of freshly made saag (spiced spinach).

MangoesThat morning I’d noted that as we had two very ripe mangoes, dinner really ought to include them.  I had no further plans.

When I got home, clutching my saag booty, I discovered Barn had decided he fancied chicken, so had taken some breast fillets out of the freezer.  He had no further plans.Curry with riceAfter a bit of dithering, and having started out with a vague idea of mango chicken with saag on the side, this delicious curry was the meal that eventually evolved.

If you’re not lucky enough to have been gifted saag, and you can’t buy any locally, substitute with 2-3 ‘bricks’ of frozen spinach, defrosted and with water squeezed out.  Use an extra clove of garlic in the main recipe and add the following spices to the cooked onions:

2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ to ½ teaspoons cayenne pepper

It won’t be quite the same but you’ll be going in the right direction!

Cucumber dipThanks to the absolute authenticity of the saag, this dish was quite fiery, so at the last minute I threw together a cucumber dip to have on the side.

With no plain yoghurt or fresh mint in the house a proper raita was out of the question; we made do with diced cucumber and soured cream, generously seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I say ‘made do’…it was gorgeous and worked perfectly to allow the sweetness of the mango to come through, just before the spices kicked in.

To serve two very hungry people

Ingredients
2 chicken breast fillets, cut into chunks
A large portion of saag (curried spinach)
A couple of dessert spoons of ghee or a good splash of oil
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-2 onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1-2 courgettes, cut into chunks
1 chicken stockpot
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chunked
Juice and zest of 1 lime
A 2-3cm of fresh ginger root, grated
A couple of red chillies (how much you use depends on the heat of your saag and, of course, personal taste)
A handful of fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
To serve: steamed rice and optional cucumber dip
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Ginger, lime and garlic

CorianderPut mango chunks, lime juice and zest, ginger, chillies, coriander, salt and pepper into food processor and blend until smooth.  Set to one side.

Sliced onions

Heat oil or ghee in a heavy based saucepan and cook onions over a low to medium heat, until soft but not brown.GarlicAdd crushed garlic.

If you’re using the spinach/spices substitute for the saag, now is the time to add those extra spices (ground coriander, turmeric and cayenne).

Cook over a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time.

Jasmine ricePsst!  This is probably about the right time to get your rice into the steamer 🙂

Red bell pepper

CourgettesBack to the pan with the onions…

Turn up the heat a little and chuck in the peppers and courgettes.  Cook for about 5 minutes.

Add chicken and cook for another few minutes, stirring and turning..

Chicken stockpot

Chicken and veg in mango saucePour mango sauce over chicken and vegetables, add chicken stockpot and simmer, with the lid off, for around 15 minutes or until sauce is becoming thick and sticky.

SaagTurn down heat, add saag, or spinach, stir well to combine, and simmer with lid on for around 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on things to make sure it doesn’t start to catch on the bottom of the pan.

Curry - platedServe with fragrant steamed rice and cooling cucumber dip.

Burp loudly when finished eating (unless in polite company, or you are the polite company, in which case, don’t).
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Thai Style Meatballs

The first focus for the Cupboard Challenge was to use up six Italian herb flavoured meatballs that were in the freezer. We’d eaten their compatriots with tomato sauce and spaghetti, but had not been wildly impressed – that’s why the last six were still in the freezer waiting to be cooked.

I’m happy to say they were quite delicious served up like this.

To serve two:

herbs and spicesCurry Paste Ingredients
4 cloves garlic
2 red bird’s eye chillies (I remove the seeds – you might like to keep them in and set your mouth on fire)
1 green finger chilli (see above)
1 kaffir lime leaf
a chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon galangal paste
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2-3 teaspoons tamari (or use soy sauce)
A good handful of fresh coriander
Approx. 150g soffritto

Other Ingredients
Approx. 2 tablespoons rapeseed/canola oil
6 meatballs
5 tablespoons passata
1 tin coconut milk
1 chicken stockpot (I’m sure a stock cube would do just as well)
1 handful green beans
Rice noodles
1 spring onion, chopped, to garnish
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Ready?  Ok, let’s get started…with soffrito, chopped

Chuck all the curry paste ingredients into the food processor and whizz until finely chopped.

browning the meatballsHeat oil in pan (you need to use one that has a lid – the lid comes later), add meatballs and curry paste.  Cook, stirring frequently, until meatballs are browned and spice mix is beginning to release those yummy oils.

passata

coconut milk

Chicken stockpot

Add passata, coconut milk and stockpot.  Stir well, bring to the boil then lower heat.  Cover pan with lid (there’s the lid!) and gently simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

green beans

Add green beans and cook for a further 15 minutes.Rice noodles

While the beans are cooking, get your rice noodles under way.  These ones just need to be soaked in hot water for 15 minutes – simplicity itself.Thai style meatballs with rice noodles

Drain noodles, ladle on meatballs and sauce, scatter with chopped spring onion, say, “ta-da!”

So that’s what I cooked up.  What would you have done with the six bland meatballs?

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