April 13, 2011
We had an impromptu picnic last weekend and I decided to make a version of lahm bil ajin, what literally means pastry (or dough) with meat. In Holland where Turkish food is somewhat popular, a version of these are also sold there called lahmacun. The downside of buying these readymade is that the meat topping is usually more onion than meat, and very thinly applied. I guess this way they are more profitable.
For my meat topping I decided to use a Moroccan inspired spice blend, mainly because of convenience and I know it would taste good, and it did.
I’ve made a vegetarian version in the past using finely chopped and sautéed mushrooms instead of meat, topped with feta after baking. Which were also very good.
When baking these make sure to not let them get to brown on the bottom, you want to be able to fill and roll them afterwards, which is not possible once they are to crispy. If you do let them get to brown a trick is to stack them after right baking and cover with a clean kitchen towel, the heat/steam will make them more pliable.
Lahm bil ajin.
makes about 8 medium-smallish ones.
300 grams (11 oz/ 2,5 cups) flour
60 ml (¼ cup) yogurt
120 ml (½ cup) water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp (olive) oil
1 packet of instant yeast (7 grams)
350 grams (13 oz) lean ground beef (you could use lam or mutton if you’d like)
½ smallish onion (about 2 tbsp finely chopped)
1 small garlic clove
1 heaped tsp tomato paste
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tsp sweet paprika powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 tbsp olive oil (if your meat is very lean, otherwise omit)
For the dough
In a bowl mix together flour, salt and yeast. Add the water, yogurt and oil and mix. Start with a big spoon, and start kneading it on a floured worktop as soon as it comes together. Knead for about 10 minutes until you have a smooth dough. Put in a clean bowl and cover and let stand in a draft free place for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Once doubled, punch the dough down and divide into 8 equal pieces, which you roll into neat balls. Cover and let stand for another 15-20 minutes. This is the right moment to preheat you’re oven to 200C. (400F/ gas mark 6), *
When the dough is proofing prepare the meat by very finely chopping (or grating) the onion and garlic. Mix that with the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate until you plan to use it.**
On a well floured work surface roll out a piece of dough into a 20 cm (8 inch) circle, they will be thin. Spread a big spoonful (1/8) of the prepared meat evenly over the surface.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and the meat is cooked. If you have an average sized oven you will be able to bake two at a time. So work in batches.
The easiest way to transfer these from counter top to oven, is to prepare them on a well floured cutting board so they’ll slide right into your oven.
*You could cook these on the stove using a dry thick bottomed frying pan (like cast iron).
** don’t let it stand to long, as raw garlic becomes stronger in flavor the longer it stands.
March 29, 2011
Yes you could use couscous, but I prefer bulgur for weeknight meals. Couscous is indeed a staple in north African countries, but you will not likely find anyone over there pour hot water over it and letting it stand. The most traditional way to prepare it is to steam it, now and then drizzle some water over it and then with your hands rub in oil or butter. It’s quite a process but that is part of its charm I guess. I’m not saying one is wrong or one is right, it’s a matter of personal preference. Bulgur I usually cook in a pot on the stove and that is was works for me.
This dish is inspired by a Moroccan condiment; onions slowly cooked with spices and raisins called tfaya. I like it a lot, but I’m alone on this in our house. It’s used to top stewed chicken (or meat) served with couscous, and is appropriately called couscous tfaya. The most common way to serve couscous is with stewed meat (or chicken) and vegetables though, and is normally not topped with this mixture. But because my grandfather liked it so much we always did it anyway and it somehow remained a habit.
I’m not sure about this, but what I understand is that bulgur is somewhat better for you and the kids go crazy for it so that is why I like to use it on a regular basis, but feel free to sub it for couscous in this case.
Bulgur with Moroccan Caramelized Onions
serves 3-4 as a side
250 ml (1 cup) of bulgur
1 big onion
small handful (about 30 gr/ 1 oz) raisins
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp ground ginger
1 scant tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp of sugar (light brown or white)
salt and pepper to taste
Put the raisins in a bowl and add hot water, set aside. In a pan add the bulgur and 250 ml (1cup) of water from the tap and a pinch of salt. Cover with a lid and let come to a simmer on medium low heat until you see that all the water is absorbed. Turn the heat off and fluff with a fork, put the lid back on an let stand until the onion mixture is ready.
Peel and quarter the onion, slice each quarter into strips. In a wide skillet heat about two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and fry whilst stirring until translucent, add all the spices, salt pepper and sugar and let this cook for about 10 minutes, reduce the heat if necessary you want it to go slow. You can also add a splash of water (not too much) to deglaze the pan if necessary. Drain the raisins and add to the onions and stir to combine, take of the heat.
In a large bowl add the bulgur and with a fork stir until loosened, add the onion mixture and keep stirring with a fork until everything is coated and loose, take your time. You can add more olive oil if you like, taste and adjust seasonings.
I like it just as much warm or at room temperature.
March 25, 2011
I'm not really familiar with indian/pakistani food, but I decided that's going to change. I love spicy complex food so I think it's right up my alley.When we go out to eat out with the kids, we tend to go for the usual because we simply don't what we would order if we'd go to a balti / curry house, and it's such a shame because there is plenty to choose from here in Birmingham. So when we went out to eat the other day we went to an Arabic restaurant where I noticed they also offered chicken balti. Now from what I understand is that balti refers to the pot the chicken (or meat perhaps) is cooked and served in, the description looked alright so I ordered it and it tasted fine. The downside was that it was way to oily, but it reminded me of a dish I made a few times years ago and totally forgot about.
I'm not saying it's authentic or anything, I think at the time I wanted to create butter chicken. This time I left out the butter and cream and added yogurt instead. Like I said I don't know much about curries etc, but I thought it was pretty tasty, next on my list is biryani!
I used skinless boneless chicken thighs, which are already cleaned and deboned available here and I prefer using it instead of chicken breast that tends to go dry. But you can certainly use chicken breast. If you have the time you can make it extra tender by marinating the chicken in the yogurt and spices then plop everything in the pan after you fried the onions etc.
For the fat I used olive oil, because I always use olive oil, but I guess ghee would be nice or use plain vegetable oil if you prefer.
Easy Chicken Curry
Serves about 3
500 grams (1 lb) skinless chicken breast, or thighs
3-4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 piece of cinnamon stick (optional*)
120 ml (1/2 cup) yogurt, stirred
120 ml (1/2 cup) water
*I used cinnamon because that's what I had, but you can use a cardamon pod or a clove to simmer in the sauce or add a dash of garam masala.
Slice the chicken in small bite sized pieces and set aside.
Finely chop the onion and garlic and grate the ginger. In a wide skillet add 2 tbsp of oil. And heat over medium high heat, add onion, garlic and ginger and fry for a few minutes until softened, stirring frequently.
Then add the tomato paste and stir fry that for antoher minute, add the spices, cinnamon, and chicken and stir to coat everything. Season with salt and pepper. After you let it cook for a minute or two add the yogurt and water, let come to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and let cook without a lid until chicken is cooked through and sauce is reduced, should take about 15-20 minutes. It should be more like a generous coating then a loose sauce. Remove cinnamon, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with basmati rice, naan or both.
March 22, 2011
I bought some fun shaped pasta a few weeks ago, and wanted to do something different. Not tomato based or end up with creamy mushroom/chicken sauce, you know been there done that. After watching an episode of jamie olivers show, jamie at home, te recipe of game ragu inspired me to do something similar. My first change was the meat, mixing up different kind of animals, by that I mean species, kinda freaks me out so I decided not to go there. I wanted to keep the ragu rather light coloured and clean so beef was out of the question, and enough with the chicken already! If I'd been able to get my hands on rabbit I would have probably used that, but eventually went with veal instead.
Although the ragu is light in colour it is somewhat rich, but since you only use it to coat the pasta instead of drowning it with sauce it has just the right amount of heft. It made me think of spring especially with the lemon zest added before serving. I was very happy with the results and thought it was a nice change from the usual grub.
The herb I used was sage which worked very well for this but you can certainly pick another herb like rosemary, thyme or a combination.
Veal Ragu (ragout)
Inspired by Jamie Oliver
serves about 6
1 kilo (2lb) veal
1 medium leek
1 medium onion
1 medium celery stalk
1 big carrot
bunch of flat leaf parsley (about 20 stalks)
4 garlic cloves
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh sage (small handfull of leaves)
2 bay leaves
60 ml (1/4 cup/ 4 tbsp) olive oil
250 ml (1 cup) chicken broth
250 ml warm water
1 heaped tbsp of flour
salt and pepper to taste
500 grams of wide pasta, like reginette, pappardelle, or rigatoni etc
to finish the dish:
30 gr (1 oz/2 tbsp) butter
60 gr (2 oz) grated parmesian cheese
zest of half a lemon (pref. unwaxed)
Prepare your vegetables:
Peel and chop the onion, not to fine and set aside seperately.
Clean and peel the rest: carrot, leek, celery (like I mentioned here), and garlic cloves. Finely mince the garlic and dice everything else in about 1cm by 1cm pieces, also finely chop the parsley and sage.
In a large pot or dutch oven heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and let cook for about 10-15 minutes until caramelized, lower the heat if necessary and stir frequently, you want them to be sweet soft and lighlty browned.
If the onions are done add the rest of the olive oil, the diced vegetables, herbs and a pinch of salt. Stir now and then and let this cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened, 10 minutes or so. In the meantime cut the meat into small pieces (approx. same size as vegetables).
When vegetables are cooked add the meat pinch of pepper and the flour, make sure everything is coated and cook this for about 5-7 minutes whilst stirring before adding the water and chicken stock. Let come to a boil, and reduce heat to low and cook this covered for about 45 minutes.
Check the meat, it should be very tender by now, discard the bay leaves and increase heat to medium and let simmer uncovered until the desired consistency. Take of the heat and add the butter, parmesian cheese and lemon zest* stir until everything is melted and combined, taste and adjust seasoning.
In the meantime cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Make sure you have everything to finish the dish ready. Before draining the pasta remove about 250 ml (1 cup) of pasta water. Put the pasta back into the pot and add ragu and some of the pasta water (start with 60 ml/ 1/4 cup) toss gently to combine and add more pasta water if it needs it. The pasta should be loose and glossy. Sprinkle some parsley and grated parmesian cheese over the top and serve immediately.
*before I added the cheese, butter and zest I removed half the ragu to freeze for another time. When I want to serve it I'll finish it with the cheese etc.(of course only half the amount)
March 11, 2011
Making soup yourself can be a lengthy process. Most soups use a broth (or stock, is it the same?) as a base, which is basically flavoured liquid, and can be used in al sorts of cooking. To make broth is what takes the most time, you need to slowly boil ingredients to extract the flavours. Celery, carrot and onion (also called mirepoix) are usually used whether it's chicken, vegetable or meat based you will likely find these ingredients used to make the broth, it's what makes it taste soupy. Normally we don't eat soup very often but of course my daughter requested "the red soup" when I made chicken soup the other day, so I made that as well later that week. Because I usually don't have readymade broth on hand, and canned tomato soups are way to sweet for my taste, I had to improvise with what I had. I used the same (mirepoix) ingredient but cooked them for a shorter time and pureed them right into the soup, so I still got all the flavour and dinner on the table in about half an hour.
I didn't use any additional herbs (like oregano or basil) but you can certainly add those if you like, or finish the soup with some cream.
I peeled the celery stalks with a vegetable peeler, because the outside of celery has tough strings which don't disolve when cooked, you can also peel them by hand. Break the end carefully and pull alongside the length of the stalks, usually the strings come of quite easily.
Basic Tomato Soup
2 large stalks of celery (I used 3 smaller ones)
1 large carrot
1 large onion
3-4 garlic cloves
small bunch of parsley (about 15 stalks)
2 cans (400 grams/ 14oz) of chopped or peeled tomatoes
2 tbsp of tomato puree
Salt and pepper to taste
about 1 litre (4 cups) of water
Peel the celery (see note) onion and garlic, dice everything including the carrot in small pieces. Chop the parsley very fine, use the stalks as well just trim the dry and brown ends of.
In a large pan over medium heat, heat a couple of tablespoon of olive oil. Add all the diced vegetables a big pinch of salt and cook for about 10 minutes stirring frequently. Add tomato puree and cook for another minutes or so whilst stirring.
Add the canned tomatoes a pinch of pepper and fill both cans with water (about 1 litre/ 4 cups) and add that as well. Stir and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and let cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or until all vegetables are very soft. Process the soup in a blender (in bathes) until smooth (or use a stick blender) taste, adjust seasoning and serve.
March 9, 2011
Because I still had some puff pastry that needed to be used, I made this quick tart. I decided to make a frangipane as well, because I had never made that before and it sounded rather tasty. It was, but I regret not adding a few drops of almond flavouring, because the almond flavour was pretty subtle. Plus I went a little overboard with the cinnamon. You could certainly omit the frangipane or make individual tartlettes instead (if you have squares of puff pastry instead of one block). Either way apples + puff pastry, it's going to taste good anyway.
Puff Pastry Apple Tart with Frangipane
For the tart:
350 grams (12 oz) ready made puff pastry, thawed and left outside the fridge for about 30 minutes
1 batch frangipane (recipe below)
4-5 apples, peeled cored and cut into very thin slices
1-2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (or more if you want)
2-3 tbsp of milk
adapted from Joe Pastry
50 grams (1.5 oz/ 1/3 cup) ground almonds
50 grams (1.5 oz/ 1/4 cup) sugar (I used demerera)
50 grams (1.5 oz/ 3.5 tbsp) soft butter (I used salted)
1/4 tsp almond flavouring (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F/ gas mark 6), line a large sheet pan with greaseproof paper.
First prepare the frangipane. Mix together sugar and almonds, add the butter then the egg and keep stirring until smooth. If you're using unsalted butter you might want to add a small pinch of salt.
Roll out your puff pastry, I won't give an exact measurment just make sure it's slightly bigger then your sheet pan. Fold the edges to make a rim, spread the frangipane evenly over the puff pastry (not the edges).
Arrange the apples over the frangipane, slightly overlapping each other. With a pastrybrush, brush the edges with a little milk. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle all over the apples including the edges of the tart. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
March 4, 2011
Indonesian food is, in my opinion one of the best there is. In Holland Indonesian cuisine is also very popular and has even influenced some recipes that are now known as traditionally Dutch, this of course due to history. I found out that even in Saudi Arabia Indonesian food is highly appreciated, and was happy to not only find a number of Indonesian restaurants, but also most supplies you need to prepare it at home, in the supermarkets. Luckily the Chinese supermarkets I found here in the U.K. are well stocked and carry a decent variety of Indonesian ingredients.
Because my mother had Indonesian foster parents, we regularly ate Indonesian (inspired) dishes growing up. But as far as I can remember she never made soto soup, and I don’t know what made me make it at home but I did. The first time was a disaster, the soup tasted good but I made a mistake and ruined it. I let the soup stand overnight without straining it, thinking this would benefit the flavor. But the lime, which I also left in the soup overpowered everything.
The recipe I use nowadays is inspired by different sources, Indonesia eats and Rasa Malaysia are two of my favorite sources for Indonesian or other Asian recipes.
This recipe makes a lot of soup, you can easily freeze the broth and adjust the amount of other ingredients to the number of people you are serving. Looking at my miserable pictures I should have added something green but was unfortunately all out. One thing I highly recommend (if you can find it) are fried onions they are a nice contrast and very addictive.
There are a lot of different things you can serve in this broth, most common are:
Slice and blanch (noodles, cabbage and sprouts) separately, rather than in the soup.
Other things to serve alongside the soup are:
sweet soy sauce (ketjap manis)
and hot sauce (sambal).
I’m sure I forgot a few, and of course you can add what you like to eat and find appropriate even when it’s not that authentic.
About 1 kilo (2lb) bone in chicken. (you can use a whole cut up chicken I used skinless whole legs)
1 big carrot
8-10 garlic cloves
15 cm (6 inch) piece of ginger, you can sub in some galangal as well
bunch of flat leaf parsley
4 celery stalks (don't remove the leaves if there are any)
2 big lemongrass stalks
1 small lime
about 2,7L (11 cups) of cold water
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black pepper seeds, or big pinch already ground
1 slightly heaped tsp of turmeric
Clean your chicken and put in a large soup pot, cover with plenty of cold water and let come to a boil over medium-low heat. When it boils drain completely, rinse the chicken and put back in the pot. This gets rid of any impurities (I got it from here, and since he’s a chef I believe him, and it works as well)
In the meantime prepare the rest:
Wash the carrots parsley, celery lemongrass and lime (obviously)
Chop the carrot into large chunks
Peel and quarter the onions
Crush and peel the garlic cloves
Peel (I never do though, just give it a good wash) and cut ginger in chunks
Slice the lime in wedges (if you are afraid that it will be too acidic for your taste, only add half you can always add more lime juice afterwards)
Peel the outer leaves of the lemongrass and bruise them, by bashing carefully with a rolling pin.
I roasted the whole spices in a dry skillet for a minute, then gave everything a few pulses in the spice grinder. You can also crush them in a pestle and mortal if you have one.
Sprinkle all the spices and a few big pinches of salt over the chicken, arrange the rest of the ingredients in the pot and cover with cold water. Put on medium heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce to very low heat, and let cook with a lid for 2-3 hours. 2 hours being the minimum.
After cooking drain the soup in another pot and put all the chicken pieces on a plate and let cool, discard the rest, I gave everything a good squeeze to extract as much flavor as possible. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning, you probably need lot more salt, and maybe some lime juice as well. When chicken is cool enough to handle, take all the meat of the bones, and discard the bones.
The easiest way to serve this is to put some chicken pieces, noodles, cabbage and other ingredients you want to add in the middle of a bowl then ladle the very hot broth carefully around it. And serve with condiments on the side so everyone can help themselves.