Category Archives: appetizer

Lime Tequila Chicken Wings

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Lime Tequila Chicken WingsNothing screams “summer is here” louder than a gloriously sunny 3-day weekend and a fired up barbecue. Will you agree with me if I say that absolutely everything taste better when it’s cooked outside? Suddenly simple and everyday foods get transformed into heavenly bites. The images of happy childhood camping days start flashing in front of your eyes as soon as you smell a bit of smoke coming from your barbecue, only now you can also indulge in a margarita. I love a quality margarita, only not the sweet and slushy kind you get in a pseudo-Mexican restaurant but “the real deal-squeezing your own lime juice-on the rocks margarita”. There is something magical in the combination of sour and refreshing lime juice and tequila that goes further than just making a drink great. No surprise, it also works wonders as a marinade for chicken.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Wings (split in half)- 2lbs
  • Fresh Green Chilli Peppers-2
  • Lime Juice-1/2 cup
  • Lemon Juice- from 1 lemon
  • Lime Zest- from 1 lime
  • Tequila- 1/2 cup
  • Garlic- 3 cloves
  • Cumin- 1 tbsp.
  • Chili Powder- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt

Method:

Put all the ingredients except for the chicken wings in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Put the chicken wings in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over them, cover with a cling film and let the marinade work its magic for at least 5 hours. Grill on the barbecue until a golden crust develops and the juices run clear or cook them in the oven at 450F/250C for approximately 20 minutes.

Serve with grilled corn, Pico de Gallo and corn chips and, of course, don’t forget to toast the arrival of the barbecue season with a homemade margarita. Cheers!

Lime Tequila Chicken Wings
Lime Tequila Chicken Wings
Lime Tequila Chicken Wings

Spring fresh or a Bruschetta Trio

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Bruschetta party
We’ve been hit by some amazingly beautiful weather lately. We are approaching our third summer in London and boy did we learn fast! Sunny and warm days are so rare and far in between that you gotta grab them as soon as you see a small clearing in the sky. You know you’ve met a true Londoner if he is sporting shorts, flip flops and pale legs in 17C weather. I believe we are quickly moving in that direction.

Balmy days call for picnics and fresh food. Nothing could be better than stretching out on a blanket  in the Greenwich park after the empty picnic basket has been tossed aside and enjoy watching your little ones run wild. That’s exactly what we did this past bank holiday Monday. And the food was definitely worth writing about. Fresh, simple, quick and delicious.

My picnic menu was inspired by these things: a baby olive tree growing in my front yard and a bowl of ripe red tomatoes.

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A Bruschetta Trio was born. Eggplant and Mint.  Artichoke, Lemon and Mint.  Tomato and Basil.
Brad and I really enjoy a meal of little bites, one that could be thrown together within minutes but lingers in your memory for days. This is one of those meals! Colours, smells, textures will send all of your senses into overdrive.

A Bruschetta Trio
Ingredients for Eggplant and Mint Bruschetta:

  • Eggplant-2 medium
  • Olive Oil-2 tbsp.
  • Balsamic Vinegar (or any other vinegar)- 1 tbsp.
  • Fresh Flat leaf Parsley- 4 sprigs (leaves only)
  • Fresh Mint- 6 sprigs (leaves only)
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

Slice eggplant 1/8″ thick and grill on a hot grill or griddle about 3-5 minutes on each side or until cooked and not spongy anymore. While eggplant is getting grilled. Mixed together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped parsley and mint, finely chopped garlic. Add the cooked eggplant to the bowl, mix with a pinch of salt and pepper. Done.Grilled Eggplant Mint Bruschetta

Ingredients for Artichoke, Lemon and Mint Bruschetta:

  • Artichokes- 1 jar 
  • Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Mint- 2 sprigs
  • Olive Oil (optional)
  • Salt

Method: 

If your prepared artichokes were packed in oil like mine skip adding oil to your bruschetta. Chop up artichokes in bite sized chunks and add the rest of the ingredients. Voila your Artichoke and Mint Bruschetta is ready. I told you it was easy. It should also be noted that although it doesn’t look as appealing as eggplant and tomato it can definitely rival them in taste.

A Bruschetta Trio
Ingredients for Tomato and Basil Bruschetta:

  • Ripe Tomatoes (deseeded)- 5 medium 
  • Fresh Basil- a handful
  • Garlic- 1-2 cloves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze the seeds out, chop them finely or chunky-your choice, put them a bowl. Tear basil leaves into the same bowl, add garlic, olive oil and season with salt and pepper. It’s very important you only use very ripe tomatoes and good quality olive oil because that’s where your flavour is going to come from.

Finally, slice a loaf of crusty bread (ciabatta is my favourite) and grill the slices until a bit crispy. Load up your bread right before serving, otherwise it will get soggy very quickly or let your guests do the work themselves. They will love it!
To round up the meal serve with some olives, salami and cheese or use the Bruschetta Trio as a lovely starter.

Bruschetta party

Celebrate like a Russian with Shuba and Olivier or Russian Food Demystified.

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caviar canape

Yesterday was Russian Orthodox Christmas celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar, and as done as I was with all the holidays I couldn’t resist making a special meal. Our festive fare was an exact replica of what my mum would have made- Roasted Chicken and Savoury Buckwheat with Caramelised Onions and Mushroom as the centrepiece but surprisingly that is not what my post is about. Today I will be talking about the sidekicks of Russian holiday meals known as “zakuski”, which if translated into English, would mean “little bites”. Little they might be but their presence is absolutely essential and marks every special meal in every Russian household. Zakuski (pl) serve the same purpose as Italian antipasti-they are meal starters and are meant to whet your appetite and are traditionally offered with a selection of flavoured vodkas, liqueurs and, more commonly nowadays, wines.

Although Zakuski are just there to tease you before the main course arrives, they are so incredibly delicious and oftentimes people can’t resist eating just a little and are usually already stuffed to the brim when it’s time to move to the next course. In Russia there is a vast variety of foods that are known to be served as zakuski-from simple pickled and brined vegetables to cured meats, variety of cheeses, caviar and salads.

I will be sharing two main salads that no Russian holiday goes without- Shuba and Olivier. You are probably wondering if I’ve lost my mind trying to promote salads as some sort of a delicacy. Don’t worry; for Russians holiday salads are something entirely different- no lettuce leaf in view!

Shuba

Shuba- Smoked Salmon under layers of colourful veggies.

Shuba Ingredients:

  • Smoked Salmon -200 gr. ( I prefer cold smoked salmon)
  • Potatoes- 2 medium
  • Onion- 1/2 medium
  • Carrots- 2 medium
  • Eggs-3
  • Beets-3 small

Dressing Ingredients for both Shuba and Olivier:

  • Mayonnaise – 3/4 cup
  • White Wine Vinegar- 1 tbsp
  • Dijon Mustard (no yellow French’s mustard please)-1 1/2 tsp.
  • Milk- 1-2tbsp (to losen the dressing)
  • Pepper -a pinch

Method for Shuba:

Put potatoes, carrots (don’t worry about peeling)  and eggs in the same pot and cook until  tender but not falling apart. Cook beets with the skin on in a different pot as they will take much longer to cook and will colour the water bright purple. Alternatively, you can roast them in the oven at 375F/190C for about 30 min., pierce them with a knife to test for doneness, your knife should easily go all the way through.

Cool the vegetable.

While the vegetables are cooling prepare your dressing. In a medium sized bowl mix together mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, mustard, milk and pepper with a wire whisk until well combined. Add more milk if necessary to ensure your dressing is somewhat runny.

Peel your eggs and vegetables and grate them on a vegetable grater separately without mixing with each other. Set aside in separate small bowls. Dice the onion finely. Set aside.

Chop the smoked salmon and cover the surface of your serving plate with it. This recipe will fit on a regular dinner size plate.

This salad is assembled by layering the ingredients on top of each other. The order of the layers is not as important as long as you start with the salmon and finish with the beets. This is how I usually arrange my layers:

  1. Salmon-a drizzle of dressing all over
  2. Potatoes-a little more of dressing
  3. Onions-still more dressing
  4. Carrots-and a bit more
  5. Eggs-a teensy more
  6. Beets- and the last bit of dressing

You get the idea, right? Each layer of the salad gets covered with the dressing, just drizzle lightly with a spoon and smooth it out.  I recommend using no more than 1 tbsp per layer, otherwise it becomes too stodgy! Reserve the rest of the dressing for Salad Olivier.

This salad is the best enjoyed a few hours after it’s prepared as time allows the dressing to seep through the layers and produce almost magical and very unusual flavours.

Note: Traditionally Shuba is prepared with pickled herring but I started making it with cold smoked salmon for the lack of the right kind of pickled herring I found that I like it even better. I’ve also made it with adding yams/sweet potatoes as another layer, it was simply delicious.

Olivier 

olivier

Salad Olivier is a Russian favourite and as I am discovering quickly becoming a salad of choice for anyone I’ve ever cooked it for. I often bring it to barbecues as it goes ideally with grilled meat. Overtime it became known among my friends as “Russian Potato Salad” and one of the most requested items. The original recipe was invented in 1860s in Moscow by a French chef and a fashionable restaurateur M. Olivier. It was so wildly popular they could never take it off the menu. Many other chefs tried to duplicate it without success as chef Olivier never revealed his secrets and took the dressing recipe to his grave while the salad lived on. The modern day recipe is not exactly the same as in the 19th century and my version will take you even further from the widely accepted one.

Ingredients for Olivier:

  • Potatoes-4 medium
  • Eggs-6
  • Cooked Chicken-(I usually use Rotisserie Chicken from a supermarket) 1/2 of whole chicken
  • Dill Pickles/Gherkins- 4 medium
  • Green Onions- one bunch
  • Apple- 1/2 of a medium
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Cook potatoes and eggs until potatoes are tender but not too soft and cool both. Cook chicken if not using already prepared, set aside to cool.

Dice all the ingredients into 1/2″ dice and empty into a large bowl. Add the reserved dressing and gently mix everything together making sure not to mash the cooked ingredients. At this point give it a try and add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow all the flavours to blend. Don’t skip that step, it does make a big difference.

If you would like to experience a true Russian zakuski table serve some salami, a variety of cheeses, olives, crusty bread with butter and caviar in addition to the lovely salads I shared with you and don’t forget VODKA!

caviar canape