Mexican Red Rice

This rice dish is full of flavour and texture and is great side for almost any savoury Mexican dish or just on its own with avocado and tangy salsa.

MEXICAN RED RICE

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1-1/2 cups uncooked long grain white rice

3 cloves garlic, minced

2-1/2 cups vegetarian/chicken stock (from the cubes is just fine)

400g passata/canned chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 cup frozen petits pois

salt to taste

chopped spring onion/coriander for serving (optional)

Method:

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes or until softened and translucent.
  2. Add the dry rice and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until rice becomes a golden brown colour. Do not allow the rice to burn. Add the garlic to the rice and cook for one more minute.
  3. Add the passata/chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, petit pois, chilli powder and salt, mix well, lower heat and cover with a lid.
  4. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

 

 

Mixed Beans and Aubergine Chilli

Aubergine is not the vegetable you usually find in a chilli, but their meaty, spongy texture perfectly absorbs all the flavours and together with the beans makes a delicious combo.

Mixed bean and aubergine chilli

MIXED BEANS AND AUBERGINE CHILLI

(recipe adapted from S. Rimmer’s ‘The Accidental Vegetarian’ book)

Ingredients: 

about 80ml vegetable oil

1-2 aubergines, depends on the size, cut into chunky cubes

1 red onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2-3 red chillies, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon cumin

pinch of ground cinnamon

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin mixed beans

1 cup of water

1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

grated cheese/soured cream to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the aubergine pieces for about 7 minutes or until they get some colour and soften. Remove and drain on the kitchen towel.
  2. Fry the onions until soft and translucent, add chopped green peppers, continue to fry for another 4 minutes. Add the garlic, chillies, all spices, stir well and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Then add the beans, tomatoes, aubergines, sugar and cocoa powder (if you use it) and a cup of water. Season well, cover with the lead and cook on a medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  4. Check again for seasoning and serve with rice/baked potatoes, with dollop of soured cream and some grated cheese.

Pan Fried Salmon and Tomato-Braised Lentils Stew

This is one of my favourite ways of cooking green lentils, the consistency is so soft and creamy, it’s almost like a risotto, just using lentil instead of rice. Occasionally when we have it as a main dish, served just with broccoli rabe, I would add splash of cream at the end of cooking, but on this occasion I opted out.

Pan-fried salmon and tomato-braised lentil stew

PAN-FRIED SALMON & TOMATO-BRAISED LENTIL STEW

Ingredients:

Serves 4

4 fillets of salmon

1/2 lemon (optional)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups green French lentils
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable), plus some extra if needed
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
Handful fresh basil leaves, roughly torn (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Sweat the onions over a low heat for about 8 minutes until translucent, add the celery, garlic and cook another minute. Add the lentils, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and a splash of the stock. Increase heat to medium and stir occasionally until stock has been absorbed. Continue adding stock and stirring occasionally until the lentils are just tender, about 30-35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the salmon.  Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the salmon skin-side down, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and squeeze over a little lemon juice. Fry for 2-3 minutes, then turn the salmon over and fry for a further 1-2 minutes, or until cooked through. Squeeze over a little more lemon juice and taste to check the seasoning. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Stir and check for taste the lentil stew. Stir in the basil leaves, then serve immediately with the salmon on top.

Gazpacho

Apparently the ‘real’ Gazpacho has bread in it, but I prefer the ‘clean’ version with fresh bread or other bread things on the side. Easy to modify to suit your taste. Even better the next day!

Gaspacho

GAZPACHO

(Recipe adapted from Ina Garten)

Ingredients:
1 medium cucumber, halved and seeded
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion

1 red chilly
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Method:

1. Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onion and chilli. Put all vegetables into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process it until the mixture appears creamy.

2. Transfer the mixture into large bowl or saucepan and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the tastier it gets. To garnish you can add finely chopped onion, tomato, cucumber or small croutons on top. I’ve just splash extra olive oil on top before serving. We had it with Empanadas on a side, the combination of flavours, cold and hot was wonderful!

Empanadas

Empanadas

If you think about, this is another food you can find almost in every country around the world with its own version of a pastry or dough stuffed with sweet or savory fillings: Cornish pasties, pirogi, samosas, dumplings, turnovers, pastels, etc. They can be served alone or as a side dish. Empanadas are a very versatile, once you know the basic method, you can try different fillings. It is a great way to use seasonal veg and fruits. This version is always a hit in our household and amongst our friends.

EMPANADAS

Ingredients:

For the pastry

450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

85g butter, chilled and diced

2 eggs, beaten, plus extra for glaze

4-6 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

4 tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato purée

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes/powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 can tuna, drained

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

salt & pepper

Method:

1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs.

2. Add the beaten eggs and the water, a little at a time, mixing them with the knife, then your fingertips, until a ball of dough is formed. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in a fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion over a medium heat for 5-8 minutes, or until soft.

4. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, chilli, cumin, paprika, tuna and  parsley, mix well, season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set the mixture aside to cool.

5. Preheat the oven to 190C. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to 3mm thick. Use a 9cm (or close to) pastry cutter to cut out circles.

6. Put a heaped teaspoon of the filling inside each circle, then brush the edges with water. Fold the pastry over to form a half-moon shape, then firmly crimp the edges to seal.

7. Place the empanadas on a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. We had them on a side with Gaspacho.

Empanadas

P.S Unfortunately, I can not remember which book the recipe came from. I had a black & white copy of it without any references on it for ages. I treasure it very much and now would like to share it with you, as this recipe is excellent and works every time.

Shakshuka

Shakshuka

According to Wikipedia, Shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chilli peppers and onions, often spiced with cumin. It is believed to have a Tunisian origin. The first time I heard about it, was on Ottolenghi’s TV cooking show. Thing is, I remember my grandma used to cook something very similar but without chillies and with some pre-cooked potatoes. Using up all the leftovers we called it ‘Poor Man’s Breakfast’.

It is warming and comforting, ideal for mornings or days when you are not up for a great culinary challenge. We had it with Soda Bread and it was a perfect match.

SHAKSHUKA

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 medium hot chilli pepper, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

5 large tomatoes, chopped

4 eggs

Salt & Pepper

Bread to serve

Method:

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook gently until very soft, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cook until tender, 1-2 minutes; stir in cumin and paprika, and cook 1 minute. Pour in tomatoes and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; simmer until tomatoes have thickened, about 10 minutes.

2. Gently crack eggs into skillet over tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover skillet with a lid and leave it cooking until eggs are just set, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with some fresh herbs, feta cheese or serve with hot sauce, if you wish, but definitely with some crusty bread to scoop up delicious sauce.

Italian Chicken with Basil and Cherry Tomatoes

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ITALIAN CHICKEN WITH BASIL AND CHERRY TOMATOES

Ingredients:

4 chicken legs, halved through the joints

Olive oil (approx 4 table spoons)

1 onion, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 bay leaves

100 ml white wine

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon dry oregano

250 g cherry tomatoes

25 g basil leaves, torn into pieces

125 g mozzarella cheese

salt & pepper

Method:

1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the chicken pieces until brown. Drain to a plate.

2. Add the onion and celery to the pan and gently fry for about 10 minutes, add the garlic, bay leaves and fry for a further 2 minutes.

3. Add the wine, can of chopped tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Then reduce the heat, return chicken pieces to the pan and cook very gently, uncovered for about 40 minutes.

4. Then place cherry tomatoes around the chicken, put on top torn half of the basil, following by torn pieces of mozzarella on top and cook for 20 minutes under the lead.

5. Stir in the rest of the basil leaves just before the serving and check for seasoning. Enjoy!

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Cuban Chicken Pie

I’ve never been to Cuba or even to a Cuban restaurant, so I can’t claim that this dish tasted like an authentic one. Also I used the left overs from our roast chicken the day before instead of cooking a whole chicken like the original recipe asks for. But this recipe is great and I can’t recommend it enough. The filling inside the pie which includes capers, olives, raisins, fresh tomatoes and many other ingredients is so vibrant and provides a flavoursome contrast to the crisp corn topping.
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CUBAN CHICKEN PIE

Ingredients:

Approx 500 g cooked chicken meat

30 ml olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped

2 tomatoes, roughly chopped

50 g pitted green olives, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon bottled capers

50 g raisins

salt & pepper

For the topping:

500 g drained canned or thawed frozen corn kennels

90 g butter

2 teaspoons sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

salt & pepper

Method:

1. Make the topping. Put the corn kennels into the food processor/blender and purée until smooth. Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. Stir in the puréed corn and sugar. Season generously with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens and comes away from the sides of the pan.

2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then slowly stir in the beaten eggs, a little at the time. Set the topping mixture aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and stir in the chopped onion. Cook gently for 5 minutes, until soft and translucent, season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Stir in the chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped tomatoes, olives, capers and raisins. Fold in the shredded chicken, make sure that it is well distributed throughout the mixture.

5. Spoon the pie filling into a 25 x 20 cm baking dish (or its’ equivalent). Using a spoon, spread the corn topping evenly over the top of the chicken filing and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with good crusty bread on the side and chilled white wine 🙂

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Saffron Chicken, Chickpeas & Fennel Casserole

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Even though it is summer, I do crave for some comfort food but a lighter version. This one is comforting but yet refreshing and zingy at the same time! It is not the prettiest looking dish but you’ll forget the look when you will taste it 🙂 Ideally, use a large heavy bottom/cast iron pan with a lid for it.

SAFFRON CHICKEN ,  CHICKPEA  & FENNEL CASSEROLE

(Adopted from Belinda Jeffery)

Ingredients:

2 large onions, diced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 bulb fennel, sliced

3 celery sticks, chopped

1 fresh chilli pepper, finely chopped

3 bay leaves

2 pinches saffron threads

1-2 cinnamon sticks (you can skip this if you don’t like or not sure about the taste)

6-8 chicken pieces (thighs, legs, on a bone)

1 can (400ml) chopped tomatoes

1 can (400 ml) chickpeas

green olives handful

Juice & zest of 1 lemon

salt, pepper to season

Olive oil

Method:

1. On a medium heat in a large heavy bottom pan warm up the olive oil and sauté the chopped onions for about 7 minutes. Add garlic and chilli, cook for another 2 minute. Then add chopped fennel and celery and continue cooking for 8 minutes. Crush gently the saffron  between your fingers to release extra flavour and add to the vegetables followed by cinnamon sticks (if you are using it). Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.

2. Push the vegetable to the side of the pan and place the chicken pieces in a pan, let them brown a little, then cover them with the vegetables, pour the chopped tomatoes on a top, then fill up the can from tomatoes half full with cold water and add to the pan, followed by drained chickpeas (everything should be just covered with water).  Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover with the lid and let everything gently bubble for 25 minutes.

3. After 25 minutes, take off the lid, turn the chicken pieces around and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes without the lid. Close to the end of cooking add the olives and lemon juice and zest of the lemon. Adjust the seasoning.

Serve with steamed rice, couscous, naan bread or anything else you like 🙂

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Empty food cupboard and Red Lentil Soup

Whenever we are making anything out of red lentils, 9 out of 10 times we have an empty fridge. It serves as an alarm bell for us indicating we need to go grocery shopping. Red split lentils is not only one of my favourites for the nutritional value, but to me  is like an old friend, always with you in hard times and you know ‘he’ will never disappoint. Hence this time, once again I did reach for ‘my best friend’ in a search for comfort food. Although normally I’d immediately think of some creamy coconut dahl or other Indian inspired dish to make, this time I did crave some sweet and sour flavours instead. As I’ve mentioned before,  the empty fridge meant I had limited ingredients to work with, but in the end the result was ABSOLUTELY wonderful.  Despite being rather late in the evening, we ended up having second helpings which I think says it all. 🙂

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RED SPLIT LETIL AND BLACK OLIVES SOUP

Ingredients:

1 cup of red split lentils

2 carrots (peeled and grated)

1 onion (finely chopped)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes (or 3 fresh tomatoes)

about 250 g pitted black olives (or any other you prefer)

2 garlic gloves

1/2 coriander seeds

2 tablespoons ketchup (or tomato purée)

Bay leaf

pinch of chilli

2 tablespoon table vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoon olive oil

salt, pepper, parsley

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, carrots, coriander seeds, pinch of chilli over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until softened but not burnt. Add the garlic and fry for 1 more minute. Add the ketchup, chopped tomatoes, bay leaf and sugar, simmer for a few minutes.

2. Rince red lentils and add into the pan, top up with the water (depends on consistency of soup you prefer, as for me, I like this version being quite thick), bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and continue to cook till lentils are ready.

3. Roughly chop the olives in halves, add them to the soup, add the vinegar, salt, pepper, check for seasoning and adjust it to your taste, garnish with chopped parsley.