Friday, 22 July 2016

Minted Watermelon Salad

Minted Watermelon Salad

This salad is a bit sweet and very refreshing.  Watermelon replaces the cucumber that usually fills this recipe. A touch of fennel seed adds an interesting dimension.  This is more of a savory salad than a fruit salad, because of the onion.

It should take less than twenty minutes to make this salad, depending on your chopping skills, and it serves four when served as a side dish.

¼ red onion
1 sweet long red or orange pepper
1 round slice of watermelon
1 tomato
10 or so fresh mint leaves
5 springs of cilantro, stems removed
¼ teaspoon fennel seed
5 to 10 grates of black pepper
¼ teaspoon garam masala (optional)
½ lime, juiced

The only secret to this salad is finely dicing all the fresh ingredients into the same size cubes.  Little cubes, about ¼ inch across.  You can make the onion a squinch smaller, if you prefer.  The mint leaves can be julienned.

Grate as much pepper as you like, but do include some!  Add the fennel seed and lime juice.  I don’t add any other spice to this, as I like it as a fresh contrast to spicy food.  No garam masala or chat spice for me in this recipe!  Toss and serve.  So clean and tasty!

Just be sure to dice all the ingredients into the same size.  Pretty and delicious!

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Easy Thai Coconut Fish (or Chicken or Shrimp!)

Easy Thai Coconut Fish or Chicken or Shrimp

This one’s easy.  It takes less than forty minutes from start to eating, it’s insanely delicious and highly adaptable.  Fragrant spices are enriched with luscious coconut and lime, and a firm white fish or chicken pieces can be used.  You could even use shrimp instead.  It’s all in the magical sauce.

It’s so good, I made it twice in one day.  Once for lunch when the girl friends were coming over, and again in the evening, when husband person said he could stand a good meal.  It was ready in about half an hour, as I didn’t dawdle, and it serves about four people, depending on how greedy they are.
Instant deliciousness.

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf (optional)
zest of 1 lime (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon mustard seed
½ medium sized red onion, diced
1 inch ginger, sliced into thin matchsticks
4 to 5 medium sized mushrooms, sliced about an eighth inch thick
1/3 cup of coconut milk powder
1 teaspoon green Thai curry paste (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
1 cup water
1 long sweet pepper, sliced into strips
2 large tilapia fillets or 4 smaller fillets of another firm white fish
2 Sliced chicken breasts
About 24 shrimp
10 sprigs of cilantro (approximately), chopped if stems are tender, or stems discarded if tough
1 lime

I like lime zest as a flavouring, so I zested the lime and added the green magic to the olive oil, along with the cinnamon.  You can skip this step if zesting isn’t your thing.  Once the heat reaches medium high, add the mustard seed. In a few moments it will splutter and shift colour.  Add the onion and ginger and turn heat down to medium and stir to ensure the onion is spread out in the pan.  

While it’s cooking, slice the mushrooms.  Once the onions are getting translucent, and some are golden, add the mushrooms.  Flavour comes from browning the mushroom to succulent gold, so take your time.  Stir often to ensure each slice is in contact with the heat.  While you’re waiting, slice the sweet pepper into attractive strips. 
The secret is in caramelizing!

Once the mushrooms are gorgeous, add the coconut powder.  You can use canned coconut milk if you prefer, but you won’t have control over the richness and thickness of your sauce.   If using canned, add most of the can, but reserve the rest of the can for the rice.  Let the coconut powder cook for a couple of minutes, stirring, just to bring out the flavour. 

How much curry paste you add depends on you.  For the friends at noon I added a scant teaspoon, but for husband person, a generous teaspoon full, maybe more like a tablespoon.  Stir it around a bit but don’t worry about blending it in just yet.

Add the water and gently stir.  Remain calm.  At this point, you’ll see globs and splotches, but trust that they will smooth out quickly, especially if you help them along with a spatula.

Yes, it's lumpy. Stay calm!

Once your sauce is mostly smooth, which takes about five minutes, add your fish, chicken or shrimp.  I used frozen fillets, so I added them and put the lid on for about fifteen minutes, then I added the sweet pepper.  If you’re using fresh fish, or chicken or shrimp, add it together with the sweet pepper.

The fish is done when it's no longer translucent, and breaks apart easily.  Chicken is done when its flesh is firm and grainy, and shrimp are done when they turn pink and start to curl.  No translucency for any of these proteins allowed!

Using a large shallow pan helps.  See how smooth it got? It still has a few lumps but they dissolved after the fish went in.

Minutes before the protein is cooked, stir in the chopped cilantro.  Squeeze the lime over the works and remove from heat.  I served this over coconut basmati rice, and at lunch with a minted watermelonsalad.  Recipe for that is coming soon.  

I'm not an expert when it comes to Thai curries, so I'm grateful to this easy but luscious recipe.  Let me know how you like it.


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Amazing Coconut, Rose and Vanilla Popsicles

Amazing Coconut, Rose and Vanilla Popsicles

Who doesn’t love a popsicle on a sunny, hot afternoon?  But why have one of those artificial chemical concoctions when you can have one that is intensely delicious, and good for you?

These take less than five minutes to prepare, and freeze in about three hours. 

Beautiful granddaughter, all of eleven, invented this recipe while I was puttering around the kitchen, focussed on making dinner.  It wasn't till we tasted these the next afternoon that I realized how silly delicious these are!  Sometimes homemade popsicles can taste a little bland, but these grab hold and shake you!

1 can unsweetened coconut water
1 capful real vanilla
1 capful rose water
Pieces of mango, fresh or frozen, enough for one per popsicle

Popsicle makers vary in size, so you need to fill a measuring cup with water to two cups.  Pour the water into your popsicle maker to see exactly how much liquid yours requires.  Ours are approximately 2 cups.  Dump out the water and add vanilla and rosewater to your measuring cup. 

Fill the measuring cup with coconut water, almost to the same amount your popsicle maker holds.  Stir.  Remember that the mango piece will displace the coconut water to an extent.

Push a piece of mango into each popsicle hole.  

Pour the coconut water mix into the popsicle maker and then place the sticks into position.  

Freeze till solid, at least two maybe three hours.

Run the outside of the popsicle maker under hot water to loosen however many popsicles you want.

Coconut water naturally contains some sodium, so these popsicles have a lot of punch.  The flavour of the rose water will capture you, then the substantial hint of sodium, then the coconut.  By the time your mouth arrives at the mango, it will have thawed into a juicy chunk, so that treat is awaiting you as well.

Those artificially coloured and flavoured bits of chemicals can stay in the middle aisles in their queer liquid packs, while you  drool over these delicious and healthy versions.  Enjoy!

A child can make these!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

White Chocolate Besan Burfi

White Chocolate Besan Burfi

Burfi is an easily made Indian sweet, something like fudge, but a million times better.  There are no crystals of sugar to grate in your mouth, just a creamy smoothness that will float you up to heaven.  Although it has an outrageous amount of butter, the other ingredients are reasonably healthy, so the guilt factor is more than halved when comparing this sweet to actual fudge, which is lacklustre in comparison.

This recipe takes less than half an hour to make, and another couple of hours to chill in the fridge.  This amount makes about 48 pieces.  It is rich, very rich, so keep the pieces small.  But just try to resist having more than one!

1 cup butter
4 green cardamom pods
1 cup besan (chick pea) flour (available in Indian aisle of big groceries, and Indian groceries)
1 tin (almost 2 cups) plain evaporated milk (not the sweet stuff!)
1 ½ cups jaggery powder, or any available raw brown sugar
½ cup good quality white chocolate chunks
2 to 3 drops rosewater

¼ cup same white chocolate chunks and ¼ cup almonds for topping

Leave some identifiable chunks of almond and chocolate.
Before starting to cook, put the topping ingredients into a blender and whir to a combo of finely and fairly finely chopped.  You still want to see some pieces of almond and chocolate, and not have just an unidentifiable powder.  Also line a 9x9 inch pan with parchment paper.  Have all of your ingredients ready and on standby.  Once you start cooking, you must stay with the pot, so organization is critical here!

In a large, heavy pot, begin melting butter on medium heat.  This is the only point in the recipe when you can turn aside and quickly perform the next step of husking and grinding the cardamom pods.  If you can’t do it fast, do it before hand!

The pods must be ground to a fine powder.  You can buy ground cardamom powder, but it won’t taste as heavenly, so invest in a mortar and pestle if you don’t yet have one.  This recipe alone makes buying one well worth it.

Add the cardamom powder to the butter and stir with a big wooden spoon.  At this point you could slightly brown the butter for extra nutty flavour, but it’s not necessary.
When the milky besan thickens up, add sugar.
Add the besan flour all at once and start stirring.  This is the kind of recipe you can’t wander away from, or the besan will scorch.  Cleaning scorched besan is a task, so focus! Keep stirring!
The besan and butter mixture will slightly darken after about five minutes of continuous stirring.  Add the tinned plain milk.  Now you really can’t wander off.  You must stay and stir till the mixture thickens, much like Jello pudding would do.  Thick and bubbly. This will take another three or four minutes.

Stir in the jaggery powder or raw sugar, whatever is on hand.  For one batch I used jaggery, for several others I used the raw, organic coconut sugar sold at a certain giant big box store.  Stirring remains the focus of the remainder of your time with this dessert. 
Not alive yet...

After about seven minutes, the confection will start to feel almost alive, clinging to the wooden spoon. You will see the butter just beginning to separate.  Keep stirring, till like in the famous Frankenstein movie, you, as the creator, want to cry out “It’s alive!”  The mass will become almost rubbery, and determined to lovingly cling to your wooden spoon, cringing as it fears the sides of the pot.  Take it off the heat and stir in the white chocolate and rosewater drops. The chocolate will melt and become invisible, but the taste and silkiness will remain.
Plop it into the parchment lined pan.  It’s still very hot, so use a knife or spatula to spread it.  

Sprinkle the white chocolate and almond pieces over the top and gingerly start pressing the topping into the now warm burfi.  As you press the pieces into the top, you can smooth it out as much as you like.

"It's alive!!!"

Refrigerate for a couple of hours, lift out by the parchment, and slice into pretty pieces.

The buttery smoothness, the flavourful silkiness, the fragrant sweetness, oh my.  Oh my.  I’ll confess to eating entirely too much of this, rationalizing all the while that it is made out of chick peas and raw, organic sugar.  Let's see if you can resist!

Cut into about 48 little pieces to discourage greediness.  Ha!  Go ahead and eat all of them.
Recipe adapted 

Monday, 25 April 2016

Devilled Eggs

Devilled Eggs

Nothing says summertime and picnics like devilled eggs.  I’m sure this is a British invention.  Who else would associate chilies with Satan? Even so, they did come up with a fabulous way to deal with eggs, so there will be no sniping at them for the time being.

This recipe is easy, if you don’t include the peeling.  Avoid fresh eggs for this recipe, as the fresher they are, the harder to peel.  Keep them refrigerated for a week or so, and they should be easier to manage. This recipe makes 20 halves, with most people opting for two to three pieces, more if they’re really hungry.  It takes about 45 minutes, longer to chill.  

10 eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon dried chilies, crushed or very finely diced fresh Thai chili if you like spice
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely diced, or 1/2 teaspoon of dried dill if you must
¼   cup very finely diced red onion
¼  cup very finely diced sweet red pepper
¼  cup plain yogurt
Salt, pepper, to taste--  1/2 teaspoonful of sugar to taste, maximim 

Dice onion and pepper as finely as possible

½ teaspoon hot paprika to sprinkle on top,
A few sprigs of stemmed chopped parsley leaves sprinkled on top, if you have it.

Place eggs in large pot cold water.  Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer for 6  minutes. 

Use an egg plate, if you can!
Prepare a large bowl with ice cubes and some cold water, or have cold water running at sink.

Remove one egg from hot water and place in ice and cold water till cool enough to handle.  

Peel carefully, slice lengthwise to see if yolk is cooked.  If it is, use a spider to remove all eggs from hot water, slipping into ice and water, or just drain pot of hot water, and place under tap running cold water.

Peeling the eggs is the hardest part of this recipe.   Start from broad end, crack gently and look for the membrane and air pocket.  Slide your thumb onto the slippery shiny white, under the membrane.  Peel by sliding thumb down and under shell and membrane, very carefully, to keep the egg white intact.  

Slice lengthwise.  (If any eggs should break, or get mangled, add broken whites to yolk mix).  
Pop out yolks into large bowl.  
Use real mayonnaise, not any of that weird stuff
meant to save you a few pennies or calories. .

Add onion, red pepper, mayonnaise, dried chillies, and dill. Mix till completely smooth.  Add plain yogurt, a tablespoon at a time, till mixture is smooth and moist. (Use a potato masher or pastry cutter if necessary.) Add salt and pepper to taste.  You may add a little sugar at this point, or a bit more mustard, or chilli, it’s up to you.  I like these spicy, but I do consider guests, especially children.

Place eggs whites onto a serving tray.  Either spoon in the filling or use a  piping bag to fill each egg white with yolk mixture. 

Ha!  I say that so smoothly.  I experimented with a piping bag, and chose a tip that was too narrow.  I gave up and spooned the rest of the yolk into the whites, I'll confess.

Sprinkle hot paprika sparingly over all, it’s just there for the colour.  Garnish with a little of the parsely leaves for extra colour.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.  Be careful to keep these well chilled until serving time, and don’t leave them in a warm place for more than an hour.  Hopefully they’ll be gobbled down in a hurry, so everyone will be gloriously happy.   

They're delicious and gorgeous, but do keep them well chilled!