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Egg curry, one of our favourites

2 May

DSCI0644Egg curry may not be the most popular with most people but it is one of my husbands favourites. I’ve tried a couple of recipes over the years but the one we both like the most is the one I am writing about today.  I have to say I was truly surprised at how delicious an egg curry can be but this is so lovely it has become a one of our regular meals. Anytime I have forgotten to take meat or fish out of the freezer or want a quick but tasty meal this is the one I turn to.  It would be very unusual for me not to have all the ingredients available at any time so this really is a convenience food for us but made from fresh ingredients so healthy too.

The recipe is one of Anjum Anard’s from her cookery book ‘Indian Every Day’ (ISBN 978-0-7553-1201-6).  I disregard the portion size she suggests and I have made some minor adjustments to cater for our appetites. Trust me, this is not too much for a medium to normal sized portion for two people.  I serve it with plain boiled rice and poppadoms. Absolutely lovely. You can make the sauce in advance and boil the eggs so that you can quickly complete the dish later in the day from Step 3.

Egg Curry               Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic crushed or 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 green chilli left whole
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 good pinches red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 200 ml hot water
  • 3 – 4 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and halved
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves, crumbled
  • handful chopped coriander
  1. Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan and gently fry the onion until golden and soft, about 8 – 10 minutes
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, green chilli, coriander powder, turmeric, red chilli powder and salt. Stir to mix.
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook on a medium to high heat for 5 minutes until thickened.
  4. Add the water and bring to the boil.
  5. Carefully lower the egg halves into the sauce and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle the garam masala, black pepper , fenugreek leaves and chopped coriander over the sauce and carefully mix in without breaking up the eggs.
  7. Serve hot with boiled rice.

 

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Briam – a Greek version of baked mediteranean vegetables. Delicious!

28 Apr

There are a host of recipes for roasting vegetables and most Mediterranean countries have their own speciality.  Briam is Greece’s offering to the mix.  It is unusual in that the vegetables cook slowly so that the tomatoes melt down and combine with the olive oil and onions to make a delicious sauce.  I have made this dish many times, we love it so much. It is hard to believe just how easy it is and yet pack such a punch with the flavours.  Whenever we go abroad, no matter where it is, we invariably have this to accompany a meal at least once and it is great to have with friends as all the cooking and preparing can be done well in advance. It is also a great dish to have in the winter, the flavours reminding you of the summer just gone and the promise of one to come.

Volumes have been written about the Greek diet and, before that, the Cretan diet. Based on a healthy lifestyle, the Greek diet makes the best use of natural and organic ingredients cooked without a heavy reliance on saturated fats and processed foodsTraditional Greek cooking grew out of a rural lifestyle lived by people who were poor in the economic sense, but wealthy in imagination and creativity. A few basic guidelines ensure that Greek foods are at their very best in taste, nutrition, and economy.

  • Seasonal: Keep it Fresh – most Greeks shop daily and use whatever meat and vegetables that are in season.
  • Scratch: Start at the Beginning – Greek food is made from scratch, rarely using comercially made ingredients.
  • Simple: Fabulous Taste with Time-tested Methods – Greeks love to keep their food simple so that the flavours of the meat and vegetables are enhanced by herbs and spices rather than the latter taking over.
  • Slow: Don’t Rush It – for generations food has been cooked slowly in Greece and the aromas during cooking evokes memories of their mothers cooking and their Grandmothers before her.

The vegetables are cooking slowly in the oven and the smell is absolutely divine.  Here is the recipe.

Briam                                                                       Serves 4

  • 3 fl oz olive oil
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 2 red onions quartered
  • 4 medium-sized waxy potatoes, peeled and sliced into thick rings
  • 2 medium or 3 small courgettes, cut into 1/2in chunks
  • 4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into rings
  • 1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into rings
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 120ml/4 fl oz boiled water
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas 4.  Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in a frying pan and fry the sliced onion over a low heat until it is softened but has not turned colour.  Should take about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
  2. Combine all the other vegetables, garlic, herbs and seasoning with the onions, in a large shallow ovenproof dish.  Add the water and drizzle with the remaining oil, toss well then cook for about 2 hours until the vegetables are tender and cooked through.  Turn them about every half an hour throughout this process.  When cooked remove from the oven and keep warm.  (These are best served warm rather than hot and can even be served cold the next day with a slice of feta cheese for lunch)

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Spicy tomato salsa – great for when friends come round.

20 Apr

This has to be the best salsa recipe I have ever made.  It is chunky and full of fresh flavour but has quite a bite.  It is fantastic served as a dip with tortilla chips and the leftovers can be used up for a fantastic lunch by scattering tortilla chips into a heat proof shallow dish, scattering the salsa over the top and topping with cheese (Gouda works well but cheddar is fine.  Put under the grill for a couple of minutes to let the cheese melt then serve hot with either sour cream or guacamole.  Fantastic!

The recipe came from a Cowboy Grill cookery book that my friend Joe bought for me when I returned to the UK after working for 6 glorious months in California.  Each recipe in the book is from the families and colleagues of some of the greatest cowboy actors and actresses , singers and filmmakers as well as some from real life cowboys, ranches and chuck wagons.  Joe bought me the book because of my love for cooking and my husband’s passion for cowboys.  What an innovative present!  Mind you, he was quite an innovative sort of bloke!  We often revisit the book for tried and tested recipes but this one is by far our favourite.

The recipe comes from the Grapevine Canyon Ranch in Pearce Arizona.  It always amazes me how easy it is to make, so much so I would never entertain the idea of buying salsa from the supermarket.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Spicy tomato salsa                                     Makes enough for 6 with leftovers

  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bunch spring onions, sliced into 1 cm chunks
  • 2 large green chillies, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tsp dried cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • tortilla chips to serve
  1. Put one tin of tomatoes , the coriander, chillies, salt, oregano, cumin and garlic powder into a food processor and whizz until the chillies are fine.  Mix in the second tin of tomatoes .
  2. Put the sliced spring onions in a serving dish and pour over the tomato mix.  Mix well then chill until ready to serve with tortilla chips.

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Feta and watermelon salad – really refreshing

8 Apr

DSCI0622Sometimes the simplest of recipes are the best. This salad is so refreshing. Perfect for a Summers day, shared with friends, in the sunshine, washed down with a chilled bottle of wine. Although we have never had a salad with watermelon as an ingredient, we both thought this reminded us of holidays in the Mediterranean, especially the great times we had in Greece over the years.  It does contain olives which I know are not to everyone’s taste but they are definitely an integral part of this salad as their saltiness perfectly offsets the sweetness of the melon, creaminess of the Feta and crunchiness of the cucumber.  Altogether a delightful salad and one I am sure we will be having over and over again.

When a recipe is as simple as this it is absolutely imperative that you choose the freshest and best ingredients possible.  The salad has to be served chilled so put all the ingredients in the fridge for at least 24 hours so you can serve it immediately when assembled.  Feta can vary in flavour and texture from the cheap variety to the sublime. In Greece it is cut off a block which is kept in a bath of brine and this is definitely the way to buy Feta wherever you are.  It is sold in tubs, soaked in brine, usually oak aged, in most supermarkets and it is definitely worth the few extra pence.  Terry’s Mum, who came from Crete, always told us never to buy melon that had been cut up as it was poisonous. I think this was possibly an exaggeration but I have always bought my melons whole just in case.  The olives, in my mind, have to be Kalamata, possibly the best olives in the world and please use good extra virgin olive oil for the dressing. You will reap the rewards.

Well, here is the recipe.

Feta and watermelon salad                 Serves 2

  • 1/2 cucumber, cut into quarters lengthways, deseeded and sliced
  • 1/2 small watermelon, deseeded, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 150g tub of Feta cheese
  • Handful go Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • Small handful of chopped mint
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tbsp)
  • About 1 tbsp of lemon juice (from a fresh lemon)
  1. Put the cucumber and watermelon in a salad bowl.  Scatter with the olives and mint. Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice then carefully mix.  Crumble the feta on top.
  2. Serve immediately, chilled.

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Melanzane, all the flavours of the Mediterranean.

15 Mar

  My daughter-in-law is vegetarian and I am always on the look out for tasty vegetarian recipes.  The funny thing is that, since I have started doing this, my husband has started eating vegetarian meals and loving them.  I never thought I would see the day.  This recipe is an excellent example of a meal Terry can’t get enough of.  He loved it so much the first time we had it, that he ate the leftovers for lunch on the next two days.  That’s another thing that is unheard of!

I’m not sure what I like best about this meal.  It’s a bit fiddley to make but, once all the layers are prepared, takes second to put together.  It’s a meal in itself, just eat it with crusty bread.  It warms up well and I have even frozen it successfully.  Best of all though, is the creamy taste of the cheese sauce as it melds with the tomatoes and aubergines.  Mmm!

The dish is from Southern Italy.  There are numerous recipes for it, you will find one in almost all Italian cookbooks and I have seen a few over the years in the cooking journals I subscribe to.  I can’t remember where I saw this recipe as it was so long ago, but I have made it numerous times, at home and on holiday, and it always turns out the same, delicious.  If you are trying to watch the calories I believe it will turn out just as well if you make the sauce with semi-skimmed milk and use half fat cheddar.  There is very little fat in the remainder of the dish as the aubergines are blanched rather than fried.  As they absorb so much fat when fried, this will automatically make the dish lower in fat and healthier.

Aubergines are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cooking so it would be easy to assume they originated there.  Not so!  Aubergines are native to India and it is thought it was introduced to the Mediterranean area by the Arabs in the Middle Ages.  There are numerous varieties.   The most common in Europe and North America is the large, deep purple variety.  In Thai they prefer the small berry type, sometimes green and sometimes pale purple.  Indian cuisine favours the small round or long thin purple fruit.  The seeds are bitter as they contain nicotinoid alkaloids, not surprisingly as it is related to the tobacco plant.  At one time aubergines were thought to be poisonous as they are related to the Nightshade family but in India they use it daily in cooking and even grind it to a paste to help heal wounds.

Anyway, to the recipe.

Melanzane

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 700g jar passata
  • 6 ripe tomatoes, skinned and deseeded
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1tsp caster sugar
  • 2 large aubergines, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 500ml/1 pt cheese sauce (bought or home-made)
  • 100g Parmesan, grated.
  1. Preheat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  2. Make the tomato sauce by heat oil in a deep frying pan and frying the onions for 4 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes, making sure it does not burn.  Add passata, chopped tomatoes, oregano and sugar.  Bring to boil and remove immediately from the heat.  Set aside.
  3. Make the cheese sauce (if using) by adding 2oz/50g butter, 1.5 oz/37g plain flour and 500 ml/1pt milk in a pan over a medium heat.  Whisk continually until the sauce thickens.  Add 4oz/100g grated cheddar cheese and 1 tsp English Mustard.  Set aside.
  4. Blanch the aubergine slices in a large pan of boiling salted water for about 5 minutes until softened but still holding their shape.  Drain onto kitchen paper.
  5. To assemble the dish, place half the tomato sauce in the bottom of a ovenproof dish.  Arrange half the aubergines on top then drizzle with the cheese sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Repeat ending with the remaining cheese sauce and grated parmesan.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

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Vegetarian chilli – really tasty

3 Mar

DSCI0516I am beginning to think my husband is a closet vegetarian.  If my son and his family are coming for a meal I always have to cook a vegetarian version of the recipe for my daughter-in-law.  This time it was a chilli and I have to say, he admitted to it being outstanding.  I like it so much I opted for the veggie version rather than the beef chilli myself!

I always use canned red beans for my chillies, rinsing them under water as directed on the can before adding to my recipes.  You can of course, cook red beans from dried yourself.  Be careful, however, that these are cooked properly.

Raw kidney beans contain lectin, a glycoprotein that can bind to sugars in membranes, causing changes in the membrane that lead to agglutination (clumping of cells) and mitosis (cell division). In the digestive tract, they bind to intestinal cells and block absorption. An episode of red bean poisoning lasts about four hours, beginning with nausea and severe vomiting and proceeding to diarrhea. Hospitalization is rarely necessary. The kidney bean lectin (phytohaemagglutinin) is destroyed by thorough boiling for about 10 minutes, after which water should be discarded and replaced before cooking. Red kidney beans are not appropriate for crock pot cooking.

I found this recipe in my well used and trusted cookery book by Judith Wills -‘Top 200 Low Fat recipes’ and adapted it to my own tastes.  It is so thick and unctuous you don’t miss the meat at all.

Vegetable chilli                             Serves 4 – 6

  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper deseeded and chopped roughly
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 birds eye chilli, chopped
  • 1 tsp each ground coriander and cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 400g new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 large courgettes, sliced
  • 400g can of red beans
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 200 ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • Tabasco to taste
  • handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onions and peppers over a medium heat for 5 minutes until softened and just turning brown. Add the garlic, chilli, coriander, cumin and chilli powder and stir for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except the Tabasco and fresh coriander, mix well and bring to the boil.
  3. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender. Half way through the cooking time test the chilli for heat. If you want it a bit hotter then add a little Tabasco sauce.
  4. When cooked, check the season and serve with the fresh coriander.  I like to sprinkle mine with grated cheddar cheese. Perfect on rice or jacket potatoes.

 

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Courgette and lemon pasta

30 Jan

DSCI0405My husband is not very keen on vegetarian meals so when I said I was making this to use up some courgettes my friend Erica had given me his face looked like he had sucked a lemon.  In spite of this he tucked in with relish, cleared his plate completely and grudgingly declared ‘it wasn’t bad’. I thought it was absolutely lovely. It was light and refreshing and the pine nuts gave it a lovely nutty flavour and added crunch. I will definitely be making this again no matter how much he protests and begs for meat!

Pine nuts are very good for you. Here are a few nutritional facts.

  • They are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid (18:1 undifferentiated fat) that helps to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increases HDL or “good-cholesterol” in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet, which contain good amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants, helps to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
  • Pine or cedar nuts contain essential fatty acid (ω-6 fat), pinolenic acid. Recent research has shown its potential use in weight loss by curbing the appetite.
  • They are an excellent source of vitamin E; contain about 9.33 mg per 100 g (about 62% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
  • Furthermore, pines are one of gluten-free tree nuts, and therefore, are a popular ingredient in the preparation of gluten-free food formulas. Such formula preparations can be a healthy alternative in people with wheat food allergy, and celiac disease.
  • They are an excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins.
  • Finally, pine nuts contain healthy amounts of essential minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.  Consumption of pines helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.

I couldn’t find this recipe on the Woman and Home website so I have written it out below.

Courgette and lemon pasta                 Serves 4

  • 225g /8oz spaghetti
  • 450g / 1lb courgettes, grated
  • 50g /2 oz pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • black pepper
  1. Cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions.
  2. Zest both the lemons and juice just one of them.
  3. Drain the pasta when cooked and return to the pan.  Add the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, courgettes and pine nuts.
  4. Toss together and serve immediately.

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