Category Archives: lunch

Chestnut Coquina Squash Soup with Porcini Mushrooms

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Chestnut Coquina Squash Soup with Porcini Mushrooms
I’m not too fond of soup, which makes me strangely unRussian. In Russia it’s considered an essential part of lunch. One hasn’t eaten until one has slurped on soup.
I think it’s the childhood memories of mom’s voice ringing in my ears, “Eat your SOUP” and the promise to 8 year old self, “When I am a grownup I never eat soup again” that left my family soupLESS for most of my marriage. It’s a shame because Brad really loves soup.

I can’t remember saying the word “soup” as many times in 2 minutes as I have just now. It’s a fun word to say, don’t you think? Fun fact: the word for “soup” in Russian? “Soup”!

I am not 8 anymore and now know that soups could be incredibly healthy and nutritious while also being warm and comforting when the weather turns miserable – welcome hug for the soul.  You will fall in love with this Chestnut and Squash Soup with dried porcini mushrooms. I’ve used Coquina Squash for its sweetness but Butternut Squash will be beautiful as well.  This soup is such a wonderful blend of the nuttiness of chestnuts and sweetness of squash while dried porcini mushrooms bring in the deep aroma of the forest. Serve it with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Pure delight. Chestnut Coquina Squash Soup with Porcini Mushrooms
Ingredients:

  • Pancetta or bacon- 50 gr.
  • Red Onions- 2
  • Coquina Squash- 1
  • Fresh Thyme- a few sprigs
  • Dried Porcini Mushrooms (or any other dried mushrooms)-40 gr/1/4 cup
  • Olive oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Chestnut puree- 400 gr/15 oz can
  • Chilli flakes (optional)- 1/4 tsp.
  • Stew Mix (barley, split peas and lentils) or barley- 1/4 cup
  • Chicken stock- 1 1/2 litres
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Chestnut Coquina Squash Soup with Porcini Mushrooms

Method:

It’s a good idea to peel and chop all the ingredients before you get going with the soup making so you are prepared and organised.

Cut your bacon into 1 cm pieces, peel, deseed and dice your squash into 1 cm dice as well, peel and chop your onions and remove thyme leaves from the sprigs. Soak the dried mushrooms in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes. Chestnut Coquina Squash Soup with Porcini Mushrooms Prep

Set a large pot on the stove and heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in it, then cook your bacon over medium heat, add onions, chilli flakes if using and thyme and cook for about 5 minutes until onions are softened. Chestnut Coquina Squash Soup with Porcini Mushrooms
Now add squash, barley and lentil mix and stir to lightly coat the ingredients with oil. Chestnut Coquina Squash Soup with Porcini Mushrooms Prep
Lastly add your pureed chestnuts, dried mushrooms with the liquid (make sure none of the grit get in there) and chicken stock, a pinch of salt and pepper, turn the heat up and bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.Chestnut Coquina Squash Soup with Porcini Mushrooms
Check if your squash is cooked at the end, remove 1/2 of the soup and blend it in a food processor, then return it back to the pot and combine for a thicker texture. Alternatively you can blend all of it if you prefer a smoother soup but I love having a bit of roughness to it.
Chestnut Coquina Squash Soup with Porcini Mushrooms
Serve with lightly toasted bread and a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.Chestnut Coquina Squash with Porcini Mushrooms
This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s Great Britain”.

Thai Noodle Bowl

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Thai Noodle Bowl
“I would kill!!!! for a noodle bowl but the broth would probably kill me with salt”, my sister Lydia texted me about a week ago. Looks like a text of an overly dramatic girl except that Lydia’s health condition is so serious that every single word in that text is pretty darn close to truth. Due to Type I diabetes her kidneys failed a year before she turned 30 leaving her first, fighting for her life,  then being put on a waiting list for a transplant,  then waiting.  Waiting is a tough business but what makes it even worse is her incredibly restrictive diet, sodium being her mortal nemesis.  Asian food, of course, comes to mind immediately when you think of ‘high sodium” offenders, especially if cooked in a restaurant.

As soon as Lydia mentioned her craving, I had a recipe in mind and I was determined to make it delicious and guilt-free! Thai Noodle Bowl is basically a Chicken Noodle Soup with a Thai twist. It takes 20 minutes to prepare and it gets all the flavour from spices and not MSG. If you are an Asian food lover chances are you have all the ingredients in your fridge already. I certainly did but I am also told by my friends my condiment section is out of control.

Thai Noodle Bowl
Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Sesame Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Onion, diced- 1 medium
  • Celery, diced- 2 ribs
  • Garlic, minced- 4 cloves
  • Lemon grass (I used a pre-made paste from a tube)- 1 tbsp.
  • Chilli powder- 1 tbsp.
  • Dried Chilli flakes- 1/8-1/4 tsp. (to taste)
  • Low-sodium Chicken Broth, pre-made or your own- 6 cups/1.5 litre
  • Canned Crushed Tomatoes- 1 cup
  • Chicken Breast, diced into bite size pieces- 2
  • Fish Sauce (Nam Pla or Nuoc Mam)- 3 tbsp.
  • Cilantro/Coriander leaves- 1 cup
  • Chow Mein Noodles or any other Asian noodles or even spaghettini- 125 gr.
  • Spinach- 150 gr
  • Lime juice- from 1 lime

Method:

  1. In a large pot heat both oils, then add diced onions, celery, minced garlic, lemon grass paste, chilli powder and red chilli flakes and cook until soft over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the broth, tomatoes, chicken, fish sauce, cilantro leaves and bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the noodles to the pot and cook according to package directions, mine took 5 minutes.
  4. Once the noodles are done, stir in spinach leaves and lime juice and take off the heat.

If you think chicken noodle soup is boring and reserved for sick days you will change your mind after trying my recipe.  Thai Noodle Bowl is a vibrant with a hint of spice dish that tastes even better than your favourite restaurant can deliver while you know all the ingredients that went into it.

Thai Noodle Bowl
{Note} The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine Magazine “Quick from scratch one-dish meals”cookbook.

French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

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Are you ready for another family classic?

This recipe is something my grandma cooked and my mom cooked and I cook ALL summer long…and sometimes in the winter and in-between. In Russia it’s called “Baklajannaya Ikra” or “Eggplant Caviar”. Surprisingly enough the recipe is almost identical to French Ratatouille. There is also Sicilian Caponata that is oh so similar with an addition of olives and capers. After travelling the world and discovering all the food similarities you realise we are a lot more connected than we think.French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

This dish is incredibly flavourful and so versatile. It’s eaten as a warm side dish or as a tasty topping for your crusty bread, a favourite with Russian children. As a little girl I remember eating it cold with bread for an afternoon snack. I still love doing it but Brad really prefers it warm so you are going to discover for yourself which way is your favourite.
Ingredients:

  • Eggplant-2 medium
  • Zucchini-2-3 medium
  • Onions-2
  • Red, yellow, green peppers( I use whatever I have on hand)-2
  • Garlic-2-3 cloves
  • Parsley- 1/2 bunch
  • Cilantro-1/2 bunch
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Ketchup or tomato paste-1 tbsp.
  • Olive oil-2 tbsp.

Method:

There is a long version and a speedy version. The long one involves slicing eggplant, putting it in a colander and sprinkling it with salt and letting it sit for an hour under a heavy weight. That draws bitterness and extra moisture out. It really does. However, I often skip that step and never regret it. If you decided to skip the first step as well the dish will take a bit longer to cook. Lately I’ve been using a cast iron casserole which cuts the cooking time in half. After years of not wanting to spend the money I finally broke down and bought an Ikea version (still can’t bring myself to pay the Le Creuset price tag) and I’ve never been happier. A cast iron pot is truly a must have tool for every kitchen. Now I have a small size and a big size and 3 skillets!

Back to our Eggplant caviar. Dice your onions, eggplant, zucchini, red or green peppers, set aside. Preheat the olive oil in a heavy casserole type dish and add onions and peppers first, let them saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes and then add your eggplant. Eggplants takes longer to cook than zucchini so if you put them together zucchini will turn into a mush and eggplants will still be spongy. Cook eggplant together with onions and peppers until it’s nearly done, about 7 minutes, then add zucchini, parsley, cilantro, minced garlic and a tablespoon of ketchup. Here is my confession, I never cook with ketchup, I don’t even like it but I found it gives this dish just a right amount of sweetness! You can add  some tomato paste, it’s up to you. Cook it for 5-10 minutes longer.

You will see quite a bit of liquid after you’ve added zucchini, at this point you can turn the heat up and cook it down or keep it a vegetable stew consistency. Mine varies depending on how I feel or how hungry my family is!

The batch right here was pretty dry and perfect to use as a bruschetta topping.French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar The recipe given here is a basic recipe that you could be altered by adding any other vegetables that you like.
Just a few examples of what I’ve done in the past: At various times I’ve added green peas (frozen), asparagus, green beans, carrots, potatoes, chick peas and red kidney beans. They all work well. Play with it and find your favourite combo!French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

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

Spinach and Walnut Pesto Potato Salad

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Spinach Walnut Pesto Potato Salad
In this season of barbecues and outdoor eating you can’t find a more suitable side dish to a grilled steak or a burger than a nicely made potato salad. At least not for me. In my potato loving ways I am Russian through and through. However, I will only eat a potato salad made by me. A potato salad snob? Perhaps. I give no excuses but I do offer recipes. One of my all time favourite potato salads is called Olivier and I often turn to it at my family’s requests but as usual I crave variety.

A couple of weeks I ago a stumbled upon a recipe for a Georgian bean salad in one of my numerous cookbooks. The dressing for it caught my eye as something I vaguely recalled eating as a child while spending a holiday in the country of Georgia with my parents. Georgia’s cuisine is quite famous and loved in Russia for its unusual flavour combinations, their use of fresh herbs and spices and overall deliciousness. Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled with the result. The dressing had the basic ingredients for Italian pesto but instead of using basil and pine nuts as the base, it called for spinach, cilantro, parsley and walnuts. I made so much of that pesto and literally fell in love with the flavour that for the next two weeks I’ve been putting it in everything-my morning eggs, my sandwich and finally potato salad. This is how a new and now a favourite potato salad was born. I wanted to contrast the creamy texture of new potatoes with something crunchy so I added sliced radishes and fresh shelled peas. Voila!

Spinach Walnut Pesto Potato SaladSpinach Walnut Pesto Potato Salad
Ingredients:

  • New small potatoes- 1 lbs
  • Radishes-10
  • Fresh peas- 1/4 cup (shelled)
  • Baby greens – 2 cups

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
  • Red chilli or dried chilli flakes (optional)-1 small
  • Lemon juice- 1/2 lemon
  • Olive oil-1/3 cup
  • Salt and pepper- a pinch of both

Method:

Cook the potatoes in a large pot until tender but not falling apart, they should be firm. I prefer to cook mine with the skins on. If you are using large potatoes, quarter them after they’ve been cooked. Let them stream dry and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking prepare the pesto. Combine all the 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 potato 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.}

Coat the potatoes with the pesto sauce while they are still warm. That will allow for the flavours to blend properly. Put in the refrigerator for the potatoes to cool. Before serving toss the salad with sliced radishes, shelled peas, and baby greens.

Spinach and Walnut Pesto Potato Salad
As you can seen I had little visitors while I was shooting who were set to pinch sweet peas off any time I wasn’t looking but got caught in the act!

Chunky Pico De Gallo

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Chunky Pico De Gallo
I can’t believe it took me so long to share one of my favourite things to eat with you friends! However, summer is upon us, and since even England is reluctantly warming up, it calls for colourfully fresh outdoor dining.

This salad is something that appears on our table any season of the year but tastes best in the summer when the tomatoes are ripe and flavourful. It comes in many incarnations as long as there are the major players present-tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, chillies and lime juice. The rest is variable and optional. I usually make it into a fresh salsa but once in a while I change it up and add  various beans, corn and such. You can use it as a filling for your burritos and fajitas but you can also eat it as a salad. My kids called it a dip because they were dipping tortilla chips into it. Whatever you call it, this concoction is bursting with flavours, vitamins and is out-of-this-world delicious.

Chunky Pico De Gallo
Ingredients:

  • Cherry Tomatoes (red and yellow)- 2 large handfuls
  • Red Onion-1 small
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Cilantro- a bunch
  • Red Chilli (minced)-1
  • Lime Juice (I was out of limes and used lemons!)- from 1 lime
  • Green Onions-3
  • Chick Peas/Black Beans- 1 can
  • Green Lentils (optional)-1/4 cup
  • Corn- 1 cup
  • Avocado (diced)-1
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Half or quarter the cherry tomatoes, dice the red onion finely, mince the garlic cloves and red chilli, then add chopped cilantro, sliced green onions and lime juice. To the mixture add the beans/chick peas, lentils, corn and salt. Mix everything and taste for the right balance of spices. You can see that this is hardly an accurate recipe and more of an idea. I like my pico de gallo spicy but you can skip or half the amount of onion and garlic if you prefer a milder version.  Add diced avocado right before serving to avoid browning.

This Pico De Gallo is truly a flavour winner and packed with power foods like chick peas, lentils and avocado. My kids were scarfing it down, having completely forgotten that they can’t stand tomatoes!

Chunky Pico De Gallo

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

Zucchini and Ham Hash with Grilled Tomatoes

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Zucchini and Ham Hash with Grilled Tomatoes Have you just come home with a load of reasonably priced zucchini and now wonder what to make out of it besides zucchini bread? Zucchini must be one of my favourite vegetables, it’s so versatile! It often appears on our dinner table and I always look for new ways to cook it.

Last Saturday I hosted a giant dinner party-Roasted Gammon with all the trimmings and now it’s time to clean up all the leftovers from the fridge. I stumbled upon this recipe while leafing through the June edition of Olive Magazine on the way home from work and knew immediately I would be eating it for dinner. Hash is usually a breakfast choice but Brad is away this week and I thought it would be perfect time for a lighter meal. The recipe incorporated all the bits of the weekend feast I was determined to get rid of.  To my utter delight, it was ready in minutes and the taste didn’t disappoint- the comfort of hash browns lightened up by loads of healthy, delicious zucchini and topped with a poached egg. Yum!Zucchini Hash with Poached Egg and Grilled Tomatoes

Ingredients: Serves 2

  • Red Onion- 1 small
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Fresh Thyme- a couple of sprigs (leaves only)
  • Potatoes , boiled (I used new potatoes)-2 medium
  • Zucchini, grated-2
  • Smoked Ham, chopped- 100-150 gr
  • Cherry Vine Tomatoes- 2 sprigs
  • Poached Eggs-2 (optional)

Method:

Turn your oven to 200C/400F and grill your tomatoes for 10 minutes until the skins blister a bit. Take them out and set aside.

Grate your zucchini and squeeze out the excess liquid. Slice the onion and saute with some olive oil in a very large pan over medium- low heat, when the onions are soft and lightly browned add sliced garlic and thyme leaves, add cubed potatoes and cook them until a golden crust develops. If your onions are burning at this point remove them to a small bowl.

Turn the heat up and add grated zucchini, continue cooking stirring everything. Zucchini will throw off liquid so cook until the pan is dry again and everything is cooked though, add ham and put your onions back in if you removed them earlier. Cook for a minute longer until everything is brought to the same temperature.

While you are cooking potatoes and zucchini bring water to a boil in a small pot and drop two eggs in boiling water 3-5 minutes before hash is done cooking, so everything is ready at the same time.

Zucchini and Ham Hash with Grilled Tomatoes
Zucchini and Ham Hash with Grilled Tomatoes
Zucchini and Ham Hash with Grilled Tomatoes

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

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Spring blooms
My children are off school for a spring holiday, only spring itself was here merely in theory or that was the case until two days ago. We were completely overwhelmed by cold, grey and windy days and then suddenly the sun appeared and made everything bright and lively bringing along little green buds and beautiful pink blooms. And although spring is still quite shy and only stays around in short spurts we are hopeful and ready to embrace longer days, brighter clothes and lighter meals.

A little while ago I made Quinoa and Puy Lentil Salad and it was quite popular with my family and my readers. I love adding quinoa, bulgur or couscous to my greens when making salads as they make light things a bit more substantial and satisfying without compromising the health benefits. As I had mentioned in that salad post I usually cook more quinoa and lentils than one recipe requires and use the extras throughout the week in various incarnations. Beet and Quinoa Salad is another tasty way to combine quite a few nutritious ingredients together and end up with a little number that is pure joy to look at and even more to eat.Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

  • Quinoa (cooked according to package directions)- 1 cup
  • Lentils or Chick Peas (cooked)- 1/2 cup
  • Beets (cooked and grated)- 1 large or 2 small
  • Radishes (sliced)- 5-6
  • Rocket/Arugula- 2 cups
  • Creamy Goat Cheese- 2 tbsp.
  • Balsamic Vinegar-1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1/4 cup
  • Lemon -1/2
  • Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Combine quinoa, lentils or chick peas, grated beets and sliced radishes and set aside. If you are not a regular beet eater let me assure you they are very easy to cook. Just boil them like you would regular potatoes until are easily pierced with a knife. Life is even easier for the UK readers as packs of cooked and vacuum packed beetroot are readily available in any supermarket. I would steer clear of the canned beets. They are pretty horrid and lacking in the nutrition department for sure!

Make your vinaigrette dressing by mixing together balsamic vinegar, juice of 1/2 lemon and chopped up parsley, then slowly pour in olive oil in a thin and steady stream while whisking the entire time. You can use an immersion blender or food processor if you like your vinaigrette to be very smooth but a regular whisk will also do the trick.

Dress your salad with vinaigrette until evenly coated, taste it and add salt if needed, toss with rocket/arugula and goat cheese. Allow 15 minutes in the fridge before serving for the flavours to meld.

Quick, easy and tasty! Just what I like for this spring season.

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

Kefir Blini or Russian Crêpes (Take II)

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Kefir Crepes
Another post on Blini? Haven’t I just written about them a couple of weeks ago? True, all true, however since then I found the magic ingredient that my mum always used in her blini and I couldn’t resist giving the crepes another try.

Kefir. What a wonderful thing you are and how have I lived all these years without you?! Are you scratching your head at my odd ode to this unknown kefir yet? I know my husband was utterly surprised when I brought a couple of bottles home from a newly opened Polish shop in my neighbourhood and stuck them in his face with a gleam of victory in my eyes. No, it’s not a type of vodka, it’s not alcoholic at all! Kefir is a dairy drink which is a cross between milk and yogurt in consistency but comes from kefir grains that is very popular in Russia and as I learned also in the rest of Eastern and even Northern Europe. It’s very healthy and believed to regulate people’s digestive system, much like yogurt only better ;-).

Health benefits aside it’s really tasty, especially if you grew up drinking it. Russians cook with kefir a lot, it’s great for baking because it has a natural raising agent. No wonder I was so impatient to make blini again. Here is my recipe.

Ingredients: {Makes 10  9″/23 cm crepes}

  • Flour – 2 cups
  • Kefir- 3 cups
  • Water-1 cup
  • Eggs-2
  • Sugar- 3 tbsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Baking soda- 1 tsp.
  • Oil- 3 tbsp.

Method:

(I added oil to this recipe to increase elasticity)

In a mixing bowl mix eggs, flour, 1 cup of kefir, baking soda, sugar, salt and oil with a whisk. When the mixture is smooth and has no lumps add remaining kefir and water. The consistency should be the same as of heavy cream.  Let stand for 20-30 minutes. You should see small bubbles on the surface of your batter. Preheat your non-stick frying pan on medium heat and grease it with an odourless oil. ( I usually put some oil on a paper towel and rub the frying pan with it to ensure even coating, I re-aply oil before frying each crepe.) With a ladle or a measuring cup pour 3/4 cup of batter in the pan and tilt the pan slightly so batter runs to the edges forming a thin and round crepe. Cook it until batter looks dry, then flip with a spatula and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Remove to a platter. Repeat with the next crepe and continue cooking until the batter is used. Stack the blini on top of each other. In Russia cooks usually brush each crepe with melted butter but I find it a bit too excessive.

Kefir wasn’t the only treasure I found in the Polish shop, I also came away with Cherry Compote and yummy sour cream.

Cherry Compote and Sour Cream

Traditionally Blini are served with sour cream, jam, honey and tea and kids drink compote. (Compote, in our definition, is slightly different from the trendy foodie version. It’s a homemade fruit drink. Extremely delicious and flavourful.)

Russian Crepes "Blini"
Russian Crepes Blini
After taking pictures for a while I just had to take a bite! YUMMMM!

Kefir Crepes

If you are looking for ideas for crepes add-ons, check out my other Blini post.

{Note: If kefir is not available feel free to use buttermilk, the result is also delicious.}