Monthly Archives: August 2013

Hummus with Grilled Eggplant

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Hummus with Roasted Eggplant
When my life is super busy I like to keep tasty and nutritious snacks in the fridge that help me recharge during the day and hummus is one of those things. I usually make my own as I find the pre-made varieties are often overpriced and lacking in the taste department. I also love to mess with different flavour combinations which is exactly what happened last night. Our friends were coming over for a game night and hummus is a pretty safe snacky thing to server to a crowd.  So I opened a can of chickpeas and threw them in the food processor only to find out a minute later there was really nothing else to add to that!  I guess have been working a little be too hard on emptying the fridge before our holiday. I loving putting fresh herbs in my hummus like cilantro or dill but this time I had to go without and had to improvise…fast. After the second and more thorough look in the fridge I discovered a forgotten and pushed to the back jar of grilled eggplant packed in oil. I remember buying it for a pizza topping but not using it. I love eggplant as I am sure you’ve noticed by the frequency of eggplant posts in this blog. It must be a Russian thing.

So I threw the eggplant slices in there, squeezed some lemon juice, garlic, salt and gave it a whirl. Not bad, not bad at all.  I always put tahini paste in my hummus but this time I wanted it to have a distinct eggplant taste so I held it back.

Note: The jarred eggplant I am using is this recipe is similar to a jar of artichokes and usually would be found in the deli section next to sundried tomatoes or olives.

Ingredients:

  • Chick Peas- 1 can
  • Lemon juice- from one lemon
  • Garlic- 2-3 cloves
  • Grilled Eggplant slices preserved in oil (from a jar)-1 cup
  • Oil from eggplant/olive oil- 1/4 cup
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients except for oil in the food processor and pulse until smooth, with the motor still running pour in the oil in slow and steady stream, blend for a few seconds longer, then stop the food processor, taste your hummus and adjust seasoning if needed.

Everyone absolutely loved that new concoction which tasted like a cross between a regular hummus and a baba ganoush that I briefly considered calling it Baba Hummoush but in the end decided to stick with a boring “Hummus with Grilled Eggplant”. If you can think of a more clever name could you please let me know?!!

Hummus with Roasted Eggplant

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Crumbly Scones with Red and Black Currants

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Crumbly Scones with Red and Black Currants
Who in the right mind would turn down a scone? No one. Make it a freshly baked scone with berries and my will power is slim to none. Why am I doing this to myself?
I love to create great food and I love to feed it to my husband and children.
Crumbly Scones with Red and Black Currants
If you share my love for baking and feeding your friends and family here is a simple recipe for you. I have never had too much success with scones, they never seemed to come out as flaky as the recipe promised. Here is what Jamie Oliver says in his book Jamie’s Great Britain,” Brilliant scones are about having confidence to do as little as possible.”

These scones are not picture perfect, they are rustic and scruffy but dang it…they ARE brilliant.
Ingredients:

  • Red and Black Currants (or any other berries you love)-150 gr/1/2 cup
  • Cold Unsalted Butter( cubed)- 150gr/1/2 cup
  • Flour- 500gr/2.5 cups
  • Baking Powder- 2 heaped tsp.
  • Sugar- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt- a pinch
  • Eggs- 2 large
  • Milk- 4 tbsp.
  • Clotted cream and your favourite jam, to serve

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

Put your cubes of butter, flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl and rub the ingredients together until the mixture resembles oat flakes.  Make a well in the middle and add eggs and milk.

Crumbly Scones with Red and Black Currants
Mix everything together with a spatula. You should have a soft and dry dough, don’t overmix. If your dough looks messy that’s a good sign. It shouldn’t be smooth if you want flaky, crumbly scones. If your dough is too dry and falling apart add a splash of milk to bring it together.  Add your currants, quickly mix and put it in the fridge for 15 minutes covered with a plastic wrap.
Crumbly Scones with Red and Black Currants
Take the dough out of the fridge and divide into 3 parts. Form each part into a ball and roll it out on a floured surface 2 to 3 cm thick. You can cut out circles using a round pastry cutter or you can take the lazier route-roll out your balls into large circles, transfer them on a baking tray and then just divide each circle into 8 wedges but don’t separate the wedges.
Crumbly Scones with Red and Black Currants
Bake in the oven until golden for 12-15 minutes. ( You can bake them altogether if your oven is large enough or one by one like I did.)
Here is proof to the crumbliness of these beauties.
Crumbly Scones with Red and Black Currants
These scones are not sweet so serve them with clotted cream and your favourite jam. If don’t live in England and your local store doesn’t carry clotted cream, a little bit of butter would also work but will never be a true substitute. Clotted Cream is my favourite English discovery.
Crumbly Scones with Red and Black Currants
Note: This recipe was adapted from “Jamie’s Great Britain” by Jamie Oliver

Mega Chocolate Cake and a Summer Picnic

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Mega Chocolate Cake
What do children of a food blogger want to do with their mom? They want to bake! Sounds simple , right, except that I am a bit of a control freak in the kitchen and seeing flour, sugar and eggs being flung about is not an easy task for me to endure. 🙂 Well, one overcast afternoon we were running out of things to do and baking a cake seemed like a great plan. I am not going to lie, things were no less messy than I expected. There are no pictures of the process because I was too scared to bring my camera into the kitchen, but the end result exceeded everybody’s expectations. Hours of fun together and the most delicious, chocolaty fudgy cake to show for it baked entirely by Mitchell and Vika. This momma was so proud! I am going to shut up now and let the pictures tell the story of what went on after the cake came out of the oven.

PicnicMega Chocolate CakePicnic Mega Chocolate CakeMega Chocolate CakeMega Chocolate CakeMega Chocolate Cake and a Summer PicnicSummer PicnicMega Chocolate CakeSummer picnicSummer PicnicSummer PicnicSummer Picnic
I am sure I don’t need to convince you how simple this recipe is since my 7 and 9 year olds mastered it. The entire cake is made in the food processor, poured into a pan and then baked. The most straightforward recipe ever, which is why the stellar results completely astounded me! This just goes to prove food doesn’t have to be complex to be delicious.
Ingredients:

  • Bitter-sweet Chocolate-7 oz/ 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • Butter-3/4 cup plus extra for greasing
  • Soft Brown Sugar-2/3 cup
  • Skinned Almonds (I used ground almonds)-2/3 cup
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt- a pinch
  • Eggs- 4 large
  • Flour- 1 1/3 cup
  • Baking Powder- 1 1/2 tsp.
  • White Chocolate (roughly chopped)- 1/2 cup
  • Whipped Cream or Vanilla Ice cream for serving

Method:

Preheat your oven to 325F/160C

Break up your chocolate into squares and put it in the food processor along with butter, sugar, almonds, cocoa powder and salt. Pulse until smooth. With the motor still running crack one egg at a time, then add flour and baking powder. Done!! Just make sure the batter is smooth.

Grease a rectangular 9×13 baking dish and dust it with a bit of cocoa powder. Pour the cake batter into the pan and scatter the white chocolate chunks over it (The original recipe by Jamie Oliver called for soft fudge pieces but I didn’t have any.) Bake for 18-20 minutes. Serve warm with a bit of whipped cream or ice-cream. The warm cake was incredibly fudgy and gooey – as you can see on the picture below – so after being prim and proper and eating it from our own plates, we abandoned that boring business and dove right into the cake pan!

Mega Chocolate Cake
Note: The recipe was slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s Food Revolution”.

Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat’s Cheese

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Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat's Cheese I love beans and am always on the lookout for the new ways to eat them. They are filling, low in fat and high in nutrition. What’s not to like! Well, if I am really honest, the taste can be sometimes quite bland. The beans are like that boring guy who has a great substance and character but lacks the charisma and needs a wing man to show him off.
That is when our flavour buddies come in- Cilantro, Garlic and Chilli! They are all about spunk and excitement but also need to attach themselves to something hefty to carry them. This Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad recipe is a match made in heaven as it does exactly that. It brings things together that desperately need each other!

Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat's cheese
Ingredients:

  • Butter Beans- 1 can
  • Red Kidney Beans- 1 can
  • Red Chilli (finely minced)- 1
  • Goat’s Cheese or Feta (crumbled)- 1-2 tbsp.

Ingredients for pesto:

  • Spinach-200gr
  • Walnut pieces- 3/4 cup
  • Garlic cloves- 3
  • Red wine vinegar-3 tbsp.
  • Flat leaf parsley- 1/4 cup
  • Cilantro-1/4 cup
  • Lemon juice- 1/2 lemon
  • Olive oil-1/3 cup
  • Salt and pepper- a pinch of both

Method:

Combine all the pesto ingredients but olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth.  With the motor of the food processor still running slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin steady stream until the mixture is well combined.

{The recipe given here will make about 1.5 cups of pesto. Use 1/4-1/3 cup for the bean salad and refrigerate the rest in an air-tight container. It will keep for two weeks in your fridge or a month in a freezer.}

Combine the beans and dress them with 1/4 cup of pesto, sprinkle with finely minced red chilli and crumbled goat’s cheese. If you love the flavour of this pesto go ahead and check out my Potato Salad.

Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes allowing the flavours to blend. This salad is absolutely gorgeous with any type of barbecued meat!
Cilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat's CheeseCilantro Pesto Bean Salad with Goat Cheese

Steak Sandwich with Seared Duck Breast

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Steak Sandwich with Seared Duck Breast
I am telling you I am loving this summer! It’s the first time in a few years I am not working but spending the holiday with my kiddos and having so much fun with them. There is so much going on in our house and all these activities don’t always leave much time for cooking in the evening. I am not a fan of takeaways, they are expensive and frankly, I am hardly ever satisfied with the quality plus who needs to throw away all that money when I can make something inexpensive, quick and delicious at home. Like this giant steak sandwich that feeds the whole family!

Steak Sandwich with Seared Duck Breast
So quick and easy made with the ingredients I usually have on hand. I’ve used duck breast for this one but we’ve also had it with sirloin steak and pork tenderloin in the past. Use whatever meat you like or have in the freezer as long as it’s steak quality and you won’t be disappointed!

Ingredients:

  • Duck Breast ( or sirloin steak, pork tenderloin)-300 gr/8-9 0z
  • Gooseberry sauce (optional)- 2 tbsp
  • Long Ciabatta loaf-1
  • Marinated Red Peppers (from a jar)-2
  • Marinated Artichokes (from a jar)- 3-4
  • Parsley- 3-4 sprigs
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

Score the skin on the duck breast with a sharp knife (scoring helps with draining of the fat) and season your duck breast with salt and peppers, sear on both sides over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) until golden crust develops- 5-8 minutes on the skinned side and 2 more on the other side.  With a pastry brush spread the gooseberry sauce on the duck breast and put it in the oven for 15 minutes for a medium breast or 18 minutes for well-done. Baste it with the drippings and the gooseberry sauce half way through the cooking. The gooseberry sauce works wonders when is paired with duck, its tangy flavour cuts through the richness of the meat and balances it out just perfectly. If you can’t find gooseberries I imagine cranberries would be a tasty substitute.

While your duck is being cooked in the oven. Chop up your red peppers, artichokes and parsley. You can use whatever you like on your sandwich. Marinated mushrooms would taste amazing with these flavours as well. If you can’t find jarred red peppers you can make your own, the recipe for them is found here.

Take your duck breast out of the oven and set it to rest for 5-10 minutes. Put the whole ciabatta loaf in the oven for 5 minutes to warm up.

Before serving: Cut your ciabatta loaf lengthwise and open it up like a book, slice the duck breast.

To assemble your giant sandwich: Spoon the meat drippings with gooseberry sauce that should be caramelised at that point from the bottom of your skillet and drizzle it over the ciabatta loaf, arrange the duck slices and top with the pepper/artichoke/parsley mixture.

Serve it on a wooden board and allow everyone cut a piece. It’s so much fun! A green salad to go along with this sandwich would make for a perfect summer meal.

Steak Sandwich with Seared Duck Breast
Note: An inspiration for this meal came from Jamie Oliver’s “30 minute meals”.
Note: I would encourage you to try making this sandwich using a duck breast. It’s incredibly tender and flavourful!

Summer Berry Tart

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Summer Berry Tart
Berries are quite possibly THE thing I love the most about summer and the presence of berry desserts signals holiday for me more than anything else. As every Russian child that grew up in the city I loved going away to a “dacha” on weekends and getting lost in the garden picking or, more likely, eating copious amounts of plentiful fruits and berries.

I was quite disappointed when I first moved to the States to find that the “berries” were reduced to strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, and perhaps blackberries if you are lucky. In my world there were so much more! What about gooseberries,  wild strawberries. black, red and white currants?

Summer Berry Tart
Thankfully, due to the resurgence of farmer’s markets and people’s general interest in gardening my little summer heros are popping up all over the place which means lots of desserts for me!

Summer Berry TartSummer Berry Tart
Ingredients:

  • Mixed seasonal berries- 600 gr
  • Meringue nests (broken)-4
  • Double Cream- 250 gr/1 cup
  • Creme Fraiche- 125 gr/1/2 cup
  • Icing Sugar- 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla bean (seeds scraped out)-1
  • Rum (optional)- 1 tbsp.

For the tart:

  • Flour-250 gr plus extra for dusting
  • Icing sugar-50 gr
  • Unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)-125 gr
  • Egg-1 large
  • Milk- a little splash
  • Butter for greasing the tart tin

Summer Berry Tart

Method:

First off, if you can find a great tasting all butter pre-made tart and it’s blazing hot outside, go ahead and purchase one! I am all about shortcuts in the kitchen as long as it doesn’t compromise the taste.

If no such tart available here is what you will do:

Mix the flour and icing sugar in a large bowl, add cubed butter and work it in the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add your egg and a bit of milk just to bring the dough together, form it into a ball.  Wrap it in a plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 min.

Sprinkle your work surface and the rolling pin with some flour, take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out big enough to fit a 9″ loose bottomed tart tin. Grease your tart tin with some butter, drape your dough over the rolling pin and transfer it into the tart tin making sure it comes up the sides, trim off the extra bits and prick it with a fork all over, cover it with a plastic wrap and put it back in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F. Take the tart dough out of the fridge and line it with parchment paper pushing it into the sides, fill the tart with baking beans or rice and bake it “blind” for 10 minutes, take it out, removes the baking beans and parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes longer until firm and golden, cool completely before filling it. (Note: Don’t be tempted to skip the blind baking step, otherwise your tart shell will shrink. I’ve learned the hard way.)

Before serving whip the double cream and creme fraiche with icing sugar, vanilla bean seeds and rum until soft peaks form. Mix it with broken meringue nests and fill your tart with the mixture. Top with mixed berries.

In the last week I’ve made this tart twice!

For this one I used raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.

Summer Berry Tart
Then a few days later I went to a farmer’s market and found red currants. So I had to make another Summer Berry Tart using a generous amount of red currants!

Summer Berry Tart
Dust with a bit of icing sugar for extra drama. 🙂
Summer Berry Tart
Note: This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie Does Sweden”.