Mighty Granola

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I don’t really like any type of breakfast cereals, maybe because I didn’t grow up with it, we never even heard of cereal when I was young, this came to our country only recently. I never heard of granola either until I moved to the UK. But I always liked oats hence I decided to try granola for breakfast one day. I tried it and I did fall in love with it instantly. I believe it came from US originally but it strongly grows in popularity all over.

I’ve tried all sorts of variations and for a long time my favourite was always plain granola topped with almonds , dried apricots  and figs. But recently I saw a recipe by Jack Monroe and had one of those moments when you think, “Why I didn’t think of that myself?’ The recipe is so simple and straightforward with only one twist in it – peanut butter (taking in account you like peanut butter, of course). However, variations are endless. She (Jack) recommends just with strawberry jam on top or banana – classic combinations! My recent addiction is just with lightly sweetened soya milk and fresh blueberries. Anything goes really when you have a good base.

I only twigged the quantity of oats because Jack’s recipe is super budget friendly and I wanted my granola to be a little bit richer and coated more with peanut butter flavour.

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PEANUT BUTTER GRANOLA

Ingredients:

25g butter

4 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter

4 tablespoons honey

200g rolled porridge oats

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. In a heavy saucepan/ovenproof dish on a low heat melt the butter, peanut butter and honey until incorporated.

3. Add the oats and mix together well until all oats are well coated.

4. Bake for about 15 minutes, stirring once half way through, until it becomes a golden brown but avoid it burning.

4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before transferring into airtight container, where you can keep it  for a few weeks. (In our house it doesn’t last longer than a few days 🙂

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Layered Fish Salad ‘Mimosa’

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This is my interpretation of one of the traditional Russian/Latvian salads called ‘Mimosa’  and originally made during big celebrations/holiday, especially Easter time, because of the colours and the eggs in it. You can use any tinned fish for this salad but most importantly, the salad must be prepared a few hours before serving to allow layers to soak (it is perfect for dinner parties as it could be made the day before and kept in the fridge). Originally these type of salads are always are made with mayonnaise, so it is not for those who are on a diet, and it is another reason why it is a special treat only for the special occasions, but  the taste is very tender and light.

LAYERED SALAD ‘MIMOSA’

Ingredients:

1 tin tuna (or any other preferred fish)

2 potatoes

2 carrots

4 hard boiled eggs

1 small onion (finely chopped)

2 pickled gherkins

1 cup mayonnaise

Method:

1. Do not peel potatoes and carrots. Just wash them and place in a pot with boiling water, adjust the heat and leave it to cook until they feel tender when you prod them with a knife. When vegetables are ready, just take them out of the water and leave it to cool so you can peel their skin off. When the vegetables are skinned and cool, start assemble the salad.

2. In a small bawl mix the tuna, onion and couple spoons of mayonnaise. Spread the mix on a dish you are going to serve from.

3. Then layers go as following: grated potatoes, mayonnaise, grated gherkins, mayonnaise, grated carrots, mayonnaise, then grated egg whites and top it with grated egg yolks.

4. Leave it in fridge over night or at least for a few hours. Serve as a starter.

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Chicken Livers with Grapes

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For some people even the thought of eating liver sounds horrible, because first of a lll people think of anatomy  (we know what the liver’s job is). However, liver contains more nutrients that any other  food. Here are just some facts about liver and reasons why we need to consider to eat more liver. Personally, I always was fond of any dish that has liver in it, but recently I found my absolute favourite. Here it is:

CHICKEN LIVERS WITH GRAPES

Ingredients:

400g chicken livers (rinsed and trimmed)

1 onion

about 200g seedless grapes (any colour)

few branches of fresh rosemary (chopped)

3 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoon olive oil

salt, pepper to season

Method:

1. On a large frying pan heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add sliced onion with salt, pepper, rosemary and cook until softened and golden brown, transfer to the plate and leave aside.

2. Pat dry the liver, season with salt and pepper and cook it on the same frying pan with remaining of butter and olive oil, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook.

3. Add the grapes and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Return the onion back to the pan, check for seasoning and serve immediately.

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Refreshing Prawn, Leek and Dill Salad

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I remember seeing this recipe on TV ages ago, thinking ‘I must try it one day’ as it sounded unusual. ‘One day’ finally came. I had not much in a fridge but young leek and prawns. The only thing, the original recipe by Simon Hopkinson required brown shrimp, however I had to compromise and it didn’t disappoint.  Such a simple and refreshing summer lunch! 🙂

LEEK, PRAWNS AND DILL SALAD

Ingredients:

3-4 stalks (depends on size) young leek

200g cooked and  peeled prawns

juice of 1 lemon

5-7 branches dill

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

salt and peper to season

Method:

1. Cut leek into small round pieces and steam it for about 10 minutes until tender, after place it on a serving plate.

2. In another bawl toss together prawns, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, chopped dill and place the mixture on top of prepared leeks.

3. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil and serve it with garlic bread or other preferred alternative.

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When the effort pays off

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BLACK BEAN SOPA AZTECA (AZTEC SOUP) WITH FRESH SALSA AND FETA CHEESE

I always like Mexican food but I only recently properly attempted to cook it at home. My inspiration to Mexican food was Thomasina Miers and her book. I think it is a very good for someone like me, an amateur with Mexican cuisine.  So slowly, but sturdy, I’m making my way throughout the book, one recipe at a time 🙂

Yesterday (although actually I started the day before with soaking the black beans!) I made Black bean sopa Azteca  following exactly her recipe and it came out an absolute bliss – hearty, silky, vibrant and very comforting and it is partly because I didn’t use the black beans from the tin. I cooked them instead (soaked overnight beforehand) with garlic, onion, thyme, bay leaves for over an hour until they are very tender and aromatic. I am not going to give up the occasional use of tinned beans just yet, but I will never compromise to shortcut when I have a spare time, as it definitely worth it!

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Middle Eastern Sweetmeat

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This last week I saw a post from my fellow blogger Aruna in which she shared a recipe from her fellow blogger about Revani – a traditional Turkish Semolina Cake. I was so excited to see it because it is one of my absolute favourite pudding recipes, although the version I know is called Basbousa (Egyptian version), introduced to me by my boyfriend. It differs from the Turkish version by not using eggs but has melted butter instead, however, I think they are VERY similar in their taste and appearance. Also, last night I met three friends of mine for our usual potluck and it was my turn to bring the pudding, and as Aruna’s post was still on my mind, I thought I had to re-visit the ‘classics’.
At the end it turned up to be a success among my friends and I was so pleased to have introduced them to this delicious dessert. As always there are so many variations to it: instead of lemon syrup, you can use orange flower or rose water, instead of almond – pistachios, pomegranate or strawberries on a side and for extra authentic taste, serve with a glass of sweet mint tea. 🙂

BASBOUSA

Ingredients:

125g butter

150g sugar

50g plain flour

150g semolina

75g grated fresh coconut

175ml milk

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

almonds or pistachios, to decorate

For the syrup:

100g sugar

150ml water

3 tablespoon lemon juice

Method:

1. First, to make a syrup, place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a pan, bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and let it cool completely, then chill in the refrigerator.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C. Melt the butter in a pan, add sugar, flour,semolina, coconut, milk, baking powder, vanilla and mix throughly.

3. Pour the mixture into a shallow cake tin, flatten with the spatula and bake for 30-35 minutes.

4. After removing the cake from the oven, let it cool a little, then cut it into diamond-shape pieces and pour the chilled syrup over the top. Place a piece of nut in the centre of each diamond-shaped slice.

P.S: When cooking the syrup, once the sugar has dissolved, do not stir the syrup while it is simmering. Keep the heat low so that the syrup thickens without changing colour.

Baklava Muffins

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Muffins never disappoint and I haven’t met anybody yet who doesn’t like them.  Also, they are so versatile with the flavour variations and some times it seems there are no limits.  This time, when I saw this recipe, I was so excited (anything unusual has my attention immediately) and surprised (Baklava and muffins, REALLY), sounds like a mad idea and then, my boyfriend made them for me. What a joy it was – they are light and gooey, crunchy and sticky, and they DO taste like baklava!

BAKLAVA MUFFINS

Ingredients:

For the filling:

100g chopped walnuts

75g sugar

1 1/2  teaspoon cinnamon

45g butter, melted

For the muffins:

210g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 bicarbonate of soda

75g sugar

1 egg

45g butter, melted

250 buttermilk (or 175g yogurt and 75g milk)

for the topping:

100g runny honey

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

2. Mix all the filling ingredients in a small bowl, and then get on with the muffins.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarb and sugar. In a separate bowl whisk the egg, melted butter and buttermilk. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid and mix very lightly, do not overmix, otherwise muffins will come out very heavy.

3. Fill the muffin papers 1/3 full, add a scant tablespoon of filling, then cover with more muffin mixture, then sprinkle any remaining filling on top of the muffins.

4. Bake for 15 minutes, by which time they should be golden-brown and ready. Put the muffins, still in their papers, onto a rack and drizzle with honey while they are still hot. Then leave them to cool completely.

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Eat Cake for Breakfast

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Rich and buttery, yet light and airy, this wonderful loaf-cake captures the essence of the classic with an added twist. Adding cognac gives a depth of flavour should you feel you particularly adventurous. You can even soak the apricots in it too. Also it is one of those cakes which tastes much better next day after baking.

TEA LOAF WITH APRICOTS

Ingredients:

200g plain flour

170l butter room temperature

3 eggs

170g sugar

4 tablespoons cognac

170g dried apricots

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

pinch of salt

Method:

1. Place dried apricots in a separate bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 5 minutes, then tip the apricots into the colander and let them dry. When they are completely dry from water, chop them into cubes and toss in a little amount of flour – it will prevent the fruit from gathering in one area and distribute evenly throughout the cake. Leave aside until later.

2. Preheat the oven to 170C. Butter the loaf tin and line with the parchment paper.

3. Beat the butter for 5-6 minutes until it’s really fluffy, add sugar, beat another 5 minutes. Slightly beat the eggs with the fork and gradually add into the buttery mixture, along with the cognac, continue mixing
another 5 minutes.

4. In a separate bowl mix the flour with the baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the buttery one. The mass will increase in volume, becoming very soft and airy. At the end, add the apricots and carefully mix into the batter, pour into the prepared tin.

5. Bake it for about 55 minutes or until golden and skewer comes out clean. After the baking leave the cake to cool in the tin because this cake is very fragile. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.

P.S: Please do not be confused by my pictures as it looks like the cake has raisins in it, where in my recipe I talk about apricots. The thing is I came across to the DARK variety of dried apricots which I have never tried before and I was keen to try them.  They are very dark and look like raisins when chopped  but I definitely recommend them if you have never tried/seen dark apricots.  Try them next time you see them because they are very soft, juicy and delicious. 🙂

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