Monthly Archives: June 2013

Cilantro and Walnut Dip

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Cilantro and Walnut Dip
The barbecue season is here and I am always on the lookout for a new side dish to complement my grilled meat and especially dips. Who doesn’t love to dunk a cracker or a chip into something flavourful. I stumbled upon this dip accidentally while testing a new recipe for the green bean salad. When I tasted the dressing I immediately knew I made a cracker dip!

Ingredients:

  • Walnuts-1/2 cup
  • Fresh Cilantro-half a bunch (1/4 cup chopped)
  • Garlic cloves- 2-3
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 2 tbsp.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice- 2 tbsp.
  • Water- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt- a good pinch
  • Olive Oil- 4 tbsp.
  • Red Onion- 1/2

Method:

In a food processor or a blender combine all the ingredients, except the onions and blend them well until you have a homogenous paste, very much like Italian pesto. Chop the onion finely and put it in the dressing.{ I sliced mine because they were meant to go in the greens bean salad} Let stand for 30 minutes. This time allows the flavours to blend and the onions get slightly pickled. The acidity in vinegar and lemon juice neutralise the bitterness of the onion and enhance the flavour.

Serve with crackers, tortilla chips or crudités.

Cilantro and Walnut Dip

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Spicy Turkey Burek

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Spicy Turkey and Filo Burek
Some smells and tastes are so nostalgic that even the mere memory of them create instant longing. Sometimes it’s the taste itself but more often it’s the time of our life that is linked to certain food experiences-happy childhood memories, flashbacks to the dizzying early days of a first love or late night eating with your girlfriends in a college dorm. Life is inevitably connected to food we eat and people we share it with. That’s what makes some things truly unforgettable.

One of the best parts of my childhood were summer travels with my parents to the South of Russia. We often went to the Black Sea for a much needed beach holiday. It was a day and a half travel by train which was surprisingly fun for my brother and I. I really loved Russian trains or “mobile hotel rooms” as Brad calls them with their endless tea drinking ceremonies usually accompanied by adults passionately discussing everything from the history of football to the flaws of the government structure and the children watching the expanse of Russian landscape stretch for hours on end. The highlight of the journey was the moment the food vendors would knock on our door with their cart full of wonderfully smelling food. To our utter disappointment, their food never passed my mom’s standards for health and nutrition but once in a while she’d be out of the compartment and my dad would buy us a burek or a cheburek as it is known in Russia

Spicy Turkey and Filo Burek
Cheburek is a popular street food commonly sold throughout Russia. It’s Crimean Tatar’s national dish that is loved and accepted in Russia as their own. Different incarnations of it exists in parts of Eastern Europe and also in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan and is more commonly known as Burek or Borek. Deep fried pastry filled with spicy minced meat and onions, cheburek is a lovely snack but not the healthiest thing in the world. I am sure you can see my dilemma as I’ve been on a quest to shed a few pounds for a couple of months, burek just didn’t fit into my diet but the need to make it grew stronger every time I passed the Turkish shop on my way to pick up the kids from school. Necessity is the mother of invention they say. Lo and behold, I present to you-Healthy Burek. Spicy minced turkey breast wrapped into delicate filo pastry and baked in the oven. I served it with hummus and fresh veggies for dipping. Although creating guilt-free burek was hugely experimental, the end result was a keeper and equally loved and enjoyed by husband and children alike. Win-win.
Spicy Turkey and Filo Burek with Hummus
Ingredients:

  • Minced Turkey Breast-500 gr
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Cilantro- 1/2 bunch
  • Parsley- 1/2 bunch
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Dry Coriander- 1 tsp.
  • Chili Flakes(optional)-to taste
  • Salt and Pepper- 1 tsp.
  • Filo Pastry sheets- 150 gr.
  • Olive oil or oil spray

Method:

Preheat the oven to 250C/450F.

Chop onions, cilantro and parsley, mince garlic and combine with turkey, add salt and pepper and mix well. It’s very important to make sure your filling is properly spiced or you will end up with something bland and uninteresting, pinch a small amount off and fry it, taste it and add more spices if necessary.

Take one sheet of filo pastry and keep the rest covered with a tea towel to prevent drying out. My filo pastry came from a Turkish shop and was already cut into triangles, if yours is not you can do it yourselves. I prefer the triangle shape because you end up with less pastry to meat ratio and therefore crispier burek.

Put 2 tbsp. of filling on the wide end of the filo sheet and wrap it towards the tip of the triangle tucking the sides in. Place it on the parchment lined baking sheet making sure that the tip of the triangle is on the bottom, then either brush it with a bit of olive oil or use an oil spray. Repeat until the filling is gone- approximately 8-10 bureks.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, turning them over at a half time point to make sure they crisp up evenly.

Spicy Turkey and Filo BurekSpicy Turkey and Filo Burek
Additional links of this tasty treat are found below. Enjoy!

Russian Pastry Chebureki by Mom’s Dish

Borek or Burek (with spinach and cheese) by To Food with Love

Turkish Sigara Boregi with Minced Meat by Eating Out Loud

Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing or The Taste of The Caucasus

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Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing
What is your favourite side for a barbecue? Mine is Russian Potato Salad “Olivier”. It’s incredibly tasty but not exactly a health food. Green beans on the other hand are full of great stuff if only someone would think of an exciting way to eat them! If you eat green beans before and find them plain you are not alone. Green beans are not the most exciting vegetable in the world. Good news is I have found a reason to eat them, enjoy them and come for a second helping! Interested?

This recipe comes from the Georgian cuisine – not the state of Georgia but the country situated on the coast of the Black Sea. The dishes from Georgia were and are incredibly popular in Russia and many of them have become staples in every Russian home. I got introduced to real Georgian food while on a family holiday at the age of 15. To this day I consider that experience to be the biggest culture shock I’ve had – and I’ve lived and visited countries like China and Philippines.

Georgian food was very different from mild and rich flavours of my native Russia, but good different. Fresh, exciting, spicy and delicious are the words that come to mind when I think of their food. This Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing recipe is no exception. Full of flavour and a joy to look at!

Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing

Ingredients:

  • Walnuts-1/2 cup
  • Fresh Cilantro-half a bunch (1/4 cup chopped)
  • Garlic cloves- 2-3
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 2 tbsp.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice- 2 tbsp.
  • Water- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt- a good pinch
  • Olive Oil- 4 tbsp.
  • Red Onion- 1/2
  • Green Beans- 1 lbs

Method:

In a food processor or blender combine all the ingredients except for green beans and onions and blend them well until you have a homogenous paste, very much like Italian pesto. Slice the onion thinly and put it in the dressing. Let stand for 30 minutes. This time allows the flavours to blend and the onions slices get slightly pickled. The acidity in vinegar and lemon juice neutralise the bitterness of the onion and enhance the flavour.

Put the green beans in a pot and cover them with water, bring to a boil and cook them for about 5 minutes until tender but still have a bit of a crunch and retain their beautiful green colour. Take care not to over boil or the dish will be ruined.

Drain and rinse in cold water. This shocks the beans and they stop cooking immediately. Let them dry and toss with the dressing. Taste and add salt if necessary. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Bring it to the next barbecue party and people will be hounding you for the recipe! You can proudly tell them it comes from the Caucasus. Talk about being exotic!

Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing

Rosemary and Thyme Infused Roast Chicken and Potatoes

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Rosemary and Thyme Infused Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
As much as I love all types of food from every corner of the world the ultimate comfort food for me will always be Roast Chicken and Potatoes. This taste of childhood and the aroma that comes from the kitchen when mom is making a special dinner is something that cannot be easily replaced by the exotic flavours of Thai curry or sushi, at least not for me.

Fortunately, cooking a roast chicken is much easier and quicker than is assumed and doesn’t have to be reserved for special occasions. This recipes I am sharing today was our weekday meal, and I do have a day job and not much time or energy to fuss around in the kitchen after I get home from work. What I also love about this meal is it only requires about 15 minutes of hands-on time and the rest of cooking is done in the oven without your involvement.

Ingredients: 

  • Whole Chicken- 3-4 lbs.
  • Rosemary and Thyme, or Parsley- 2,3 sprigs of each
  • Garlic-3 cloves
  • Lemon-1
  • Potatoes- 2 lbs
  • Salt and Pepper- to taste
  • Olive Oil-1 tsp.

Rosemary and Thyme Infused Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F/180C.

Rinse your chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Chop up the herbs, peel the garlic cloves and slice them. Make little slits all over the chicken with the tip of your knife and slide the garlic slices into them. My mom always did that with all of her roasts. This step allows the meat to get a delicate flavour all the way through and not just the surface.

Prick the lemon with a fork and put it inside the cavity along with the half of the chopped herbs and a clove of sliced garlic.

Rub the surface of the chicken with a tbsp. of olive oil and the other half of the herbs. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Put in the oven in a large roasting pan and set your timer for 1 hour.

While the chicken is cooking, get your potatoes ready. I used new potatoes which I usually don’t peel. Wash the potatoes and cut them in half lengthways. Put them in a pot with salted water and bring them to a boil, continue boiling for 7 minutes, then drain in a colander, cover with a lid and set aside.

When the timer for the chicken goes off take it out of the oven, baste it and scatter potatoes around it. Dip a pastry brush in the fat that collected in the roasting pan and brush the potatoes with it. Put it back in the oven for another hour, checking from time to time making sure that your potatoes are roasting evenly and turning crispy on the outside. I have discovered that nothing does a better job of achieving that crispiness than the copious amount of chicken fat! Beauty!

Rosemary and Thyme Infused Roast Chicken and Potatoes
Serve your chicken and potatoes with any vegetables in season. I served mine with broccoli.
I also discovered some frozen baby Yorkshire puddings in my freezer so I threw them into the mix because my kids love them, we do live in England, and when in Rome…you know the rest. The baby Yorkies were great with a wonderful Russian Mushroom Gravy I adapted from Natasha’s Kitchen blog. The recipe she shares is found here. It’s very traditional in Russia and I hope it becomes one of your favourites as well. Check it out, it’s really worth having a different gravy recipe up your sleeve!Rosemary and Thyme Infused Roast Chicken and Potatoes

My Personal Pinterest {Contest}

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Vikalinka
Hello Friends!!

I am ready for a contest. Are you?

Have you had a few recipes that you’ve kept on your wishlist for a while but haven’t had a chance to get around to actually make them? I am offering myself as your official tester and taster. Let me know what it is you want me to cook and I will be your personal genie. Does that sound like fun? Great!

I do have a couple of conditions. In order to enter, “Like” Vikalinka on Facebook and “Share” it with your friends. Leave a comment for me on my Facebook page to show that you did that. I will draw three winners and will feature you and your recipe idea in my next blog posts.
Ready, Set, Go!

Vikalinka

Salted Caramel Affogato

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Salted Caramel Affogato
Salted Caramel Affogato. Doesn’t it look heavenly! Do you know what else is so stellar about this dessert? It’s a dessert your children will not steal from you because it requires a sophisticated adult taste and a deep love for coffee…and caramel. Better yet, only two ingredients are needed. Ice-Cream and Espresso. Affogato is Italian for “drowned”, so literally what you get is delicious ice-cream drowned in a shot of espresso. I can’t imagine anything better for an afternoon pick me up. Just picture yourself with a good book or a magazine and a cup of that liquid delight. I am pretty sure it would also go nicely with my morning paper and a holiday in Sicily this summer. Alas, summer holiday in Sicily is not in my near future but it is in Angela’s who, once again offered her help and Italian expertise for creating this post. 

Salted Caramel Affogato
Ingredients: (for 2)

  • Salted Caramel Ice-Cream or your favourite flavour-2 scoops
  • Freshly prepared espresso- 2 shots
  • Amaretto or Bailey’s (optional)
  • Chocolate shavings or curls (optional)

Method:

Scoop ice-cream into two individual cups or short glasses. Prepare espresso and pour over ice-cream, add Amaretto or Bailey’s if desired and sprinkle with chocolate. Don’t wait any longer, enjoy immediately!!

Salted Caramel AffogatoSalted Caramel AffogatoSalted Caramel AffogatoSalted Caramel Affogato

Paella Valencia and More Memories of Days Past

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Paella Valencia
How often do you look at your life and feel contemplative about the course it’s taken- decisions made, places visited and lived and food eaten? I seem to find myself reminiscing quite often as our life keeps charging forward with so many changes which leave me feeling desperate to hold on to every fun memory we’ve ever had. Those moments, of course, were often created around a meal. If the memories are really special wouldn’t you want to re-create them?

This post is about one of those great memories which incidentally includes our good friend Paella Valencia. Although it is a friend now and shows up regularly for dinner at our house 10 years ago when Brad and I decided to go for a little getaway for our 2nd wedding anniversary neither of us ever heard of Paella. Here we were really excited to have a proper mini-holiday like two grown-ups, the feeling we promptly lost upon our check-in into a beautiful Victorian mansion Bed and Breakfast. Our first and definitely last stay in a B&B. We just couldn’t escape the feeling like two teenagers staying at their spinster aunt house but also paying handsomely for it.  For the duration of our stay we were trying to avoid the all hearing ears of our eccentric and ever so curious hostess but alas we were lacking much needed ninja finesse to be successful. Venturing out to a fancy restaurant we had a voucher for made us feel even younger and more out of place. After surveying the menu for a couple of minutes we quickly realised that the place was far out of our price range even with the discount we were clutching in our hands. Well the decisions was made quickly. We simply ordered the  only item we could afford-the foreign sounding Paella Valencia and tap water.

That was my first introduction to the Spanish staple. It was delicious yet simple and achievable at home. No wonder it’s been the country’s hero among the peasants for generations and many consider paella the national dish of Spain. It gets its beautiful yellow colour from saffron, the world’s most precious and expensive spice. The dish is as tasty as it is gorgeous- vibrant yellow rice punctuated with the colourful bits of red chorizo, pink shrimp, black mussels and green peas!

Paella Valencia
Ingredients:

  • Paella Rice- 2 cups/500 gr
  • Olive Oil-1 tbsp.
  • Saffron- a pinch
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Flat Leaf Parsley- half a bunch
  • Chicken Stock (homemade or prepared)-4 1/2 cups/1.2 litres
  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)-4
  • Prawns- 1 cup/250 gr
  • Mussels- 1lbs/450gr
  • Chorizo- 250 gr
  • Frozen Peas- 1/2 cup
  • Lemon-1
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Paella ingredients
Method:

I find it helpful to dice and slice everything that needs to be diced and sliced before we start our paella because once the heat is on you will be throwing things in quickly and won’t have the time to do the prep. Chop up your parsley, slice chorizo and dice chicken into bite sized chunks. Also, dice the onion and finely mince the garlic. Heat the chicken stock.

Set a large pan over medium heat and put in the olive oil. Add the chicken, chorizo and parsley and stir everything together. Cook until the chicken is cooked, then add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add rice, a pinch of salt and saffron and stir everything making sure the rice in coated in olive oil, cook for 3 minutes. I once watched Antonio Banderas cook paella on TV and he said that frying of the rice is what makes paella. Don’t know about you but I trust the man with silky voice and charming Spanish accent.

Now pour in your hot chicken stock and bring everything to a boil, cover the pan with a lid and lower the heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes. When the rice is almost done but still a bit chewy add the prawns, mussels and frozen peas. Cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally so the paella is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and grind some fresh pepper over the paella before serving. Taste to make sure there is enough salt, add more if necessary.

Paella Valencia

Serve with some crusty bread and robust Spanish wine.

Paella Valencia
Paella Valenciana
Note: This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie Does Spain”.