Category Archives: main course

Spaghetti alla Siciliana

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Spaghetti alla Siciliana ( Spaghetti with sundried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil)
How would you like to learn an authentic Italian pasta recipe that consists of only FIVE ingredients? As some of you know, I just returned from Italy 2 days ago and this recipe, along with Sicilian sun-dried tomatoes in a small tupperware container, was one of the things I brought home with me.
I was so blessed to be surrounded by amazing Italian homecooks who gave me tips and advice on cooking authentic dishes from various regions of Italy. Sun-dried tomatoes were an unexpected gift from our dear hostess. You gotta love Italian generosity and hospitality! I just briefly mentioned during lunch that I liked the tomatoes and she immediately pulled them off the table, put a lid on and handed them to me while saying, “Can you take them on the plane?” I wasn’t sure actually whether I could take them on the plane as we only brought our carry-ons but I was not about to refuse the precious gift.
As I was leaving another friend quickly told me how to cook this amazing pasta and in two days I’ve been home I’ve cooked it twice! This pasta is beautiful in its simplicity-so flavourful and satisfying! Here is what you will need. Spaghetti alla Siciliana -ingredients. Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • Olive oil- 2 tbsp.
  • Garlic- 3 cloves
  • Red Chilli flakes-1-2 tsp.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped- 4 tbsp.
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped- 1/2 bunch
  • Spaghetti- 500 gr
  • Salt
  • Hard Cheese like Grana Padano or Parmesan (to taste)

Method:

Before I start, I would like to say that the flavour of your dish will almost solely rest on the quality of sun-dried tomatoes so keep that in mind when you are buying them. Get the best quality you can afford, after all you only need a little jar!

In a large pot of boiling and salted water cook your spaghetti according to package direction. I usually subtract 2 minutes off the cooking time suggested, this way you get them al dente.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a frying pan and add minced garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and red chilli flakes, cook while stirring over low heat for 1 minute, then add half of your chopped parsley. Set aside. Spaghetti alla Siciliana (prep)

Drain your cooked pasta and toss everything together in the same pan, add salt to taste and remaining half of chopped parsley. Serve with grated cheese on top. Seriously, it couldn’t get any easier or tastier than that!  Buon Appetito!
Spaghetti alla Siciliana (spaghetti with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and parsley)

Shepherd’s Pie (with a kick!)

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Shepherd's Pie (with a kick!)
What happens when we bring the comfort and heartiness of British cooking and the spice and spunk of the Indian cuisine? Well, many good things actually! Dishes like Mulligatawny soup and Chicken Tikka Masala have long been a fixture in most British pubs and homes. Perhaps combining Shepherd’s Pie and Rogan Josh curry is not pioneering a new frontier but it IS creating a delicious and memorable dinner nonetheless. Look at the vibrancy of the colours!
Shepherd's Pie (with a kick!)
Preparing it as easy as 1-2-3 and, even better, I’ve got loads of pictures for you to follow along. 🙂
Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Onion, chopped- 1 large
  • Cilantro, chopped- 1/2 bunch
  • Garlic, minced- 2 cloves
  • Extra lean ground beef- 1 lbs (technically Shepherd’s pie is made with ground lamb and Cottage pie is made with beef)
  • Carrots, diced-2 ( I used 1 orange and 1 purple!)
  • Cauliflower, chopped -1/2 head
  • Peas- 1/2 cup
  • Rogan Josh curry sauce or your favourite curry sauce ( I used Patak’s sauce since it’s my favourite)
  • Water- 1/2 cup
  • Potatoes, boiled and mashed- 4 large
  • Butter- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt and pepper

Shepherd's Pie (prep)
Method:

Wash and peel your potatoes and cut them in smaller and equal pieces, cook them in a slightly salted water until soft and mashable.

While your potatoes are cooking chop and dice all the vegetables. Just look at the colours here, all of the goodness of these will go into your meal! I saw purple carrots being sold at our local Sainsbury’s right before Halloween under the name “Witch’s Nose”. LOL I had to buy them! They look gorgeous and are incredibly sweet. My kids loved crunching on them for a snack. 🙂Shepherd's Pie (prep)

Separate cilantro leaves from the stalks, reserve the leaves and chop up the stalks, they carry too much flavour to get rid of them! Cook onions, cilantro stalks and garlic in 1 tbsp. of oil over low heat for 5-7 minutes. Shepherd's Pie (prep)
Add your ground beef and brown until no longer pink with a pinch of salt and pepper. Then add chopped carrots, cauliflower and curry sauce with 1/2 water, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Taste your curry for the seasoning, add more salt if necessary. Shepherd's Pie (prep)
While your curry is cooking prepare your mashed potato topping. When your potatoes are soft drain them and mash with 2 tbsp. of butter and a pinch of salt.
Shepherd's Pie (prep)
When your curry is done stir in frozen peas and chopped cilantro. Preheat your oven to 350F/180C.Shepherd's Pie (prep)
Empty the contents into a baking dish and top with mashed potatoes.
Shepherd's Pie (prep)
Bake at 350F/180C for 20-30 minutes until the filling is starting to bubble up. If you like a slightly crusty top on your potatoes broil it for 2-3 minutes at the end of your cooking time. Serve it with poppadums and mango chutney or a spicy lime chilli pickle. Shepherd's Pie (with a kick!)
Or you can dip your poppadums in the pie filling.Shepherd's Pie (with a kick!)
This shepherd’s pie is truly the best of the two worlds- the East and the West blending together.
Shepherd's Pie (with a kick!)
For more Indian food check out Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry.
For British food take at look at Ground Beef Wellington and Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie.

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”.

Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella

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Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella
I’ve had a realisation a couple of days ago that there is an unforgivable lack of pasta dishes on my blog which is so odd considering we eat pasta 2-3 times a week. I want to say we are pretty Italian in this respect but I am afraid if I check with my Italian friends Tano and Angela they would say that’s still not often enough. 🙂

Oh well to the task at hand, I am presenting you Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella in Tomato Sauce we ate last night.  A truly amazing dish that takes a whole 20 minutes to make! This sauce is so flavourful yet simple Brad considers it his signature dish and the guy does NOT really cook.

I learned how to make this little number while watching a friend cook it in front of me in Italy. It was a few years ago on my very first trip to that beautiful country. Little did I know we are going to be always connected to it! Italy is such an amazing place, it captures you as soon as you breath in the air and take in centuries old cityscapes and stays with you forever. Pure magic. And so is their food! Italians are one of those people who will always speak of the quality of the ingredients over the complexity of the cooking process. This dish is a bright example of that philosophy- just a few beautiful ingredients produce stellar results!Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella

Ingredients: (Serves 4-5)

  • Tagliatelle (or any other pasta)- 500 gr
  • Olive oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Basil, sliced- a bunch
  • Garlic, minced- 2 cloves
  • Pancetta, cubed (or any other unsmoked bacon, cubed not sliced)-100 gr/ 1/2 cup
  • Red Chilli flakes (optional)- a little pinch
  • Italian Passata, smooth, thick sieved tomatoes (feel free to use crushed tomatoes)-500 gr/2 cups
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh Mozzarella ball- 125 gr
  • Parmesan cheese for serving

Before I get deep into cooking instructions I’d like to give a few of tips that will help with achieving an authentic Italian dish at home.

1. Look for pasta produced in Italy or the brand that says 100% durum semolina or 100% durum wheat. That will make a world of difference.

2. Use real parmesan cheese that you have to grate yourself, it costs a bit more but you get a good value for your money because the flavour is incredible and you will need much less to be satisfied.

3. Mix your pasta and sauce as soon as it’s cooked. Pasta in Italy is ALWAYS served mixed with a sauce rather than being scooped on top of plain pasta at the table. Something magical happens when you combine hot pasta with hot sauce as the flavour coats the pasta and gets absorbed by it, so don’t wait until it’s at the table. Do it the Italian way! 🙂

4. Do not overcook pasta. I know every recipe says it but non-Italians horribly overcook their pasta, it really should be cooked al dente. So when you bite into it, it should not taste like noodles from grandma’s Chicken Noodle Soup but have a bit of firmness to it. 🙂

5. And last but not least. it deserves mentioning that Italian food has a bad rep for being unhealthy. Unfortunately, it’s only the case for Italian cuisine outside of Italy. This recipe only uses 100 gr/ 1/2 cup of pancetta and 125 gr/ 1/2 cup of mozzarella for the ENTIRE recipe that can feed 4-6 people!! Not too bad at all!

Alright, let’s get to it.

Method:

Set a large pot filled with water and bring it to a boil. When it boils put a good pinch of salt and pasta, cook 1 minute less than your package suggests, it can vary between 7-10 minutes. Remember when you combine it with sauce it will continue cooking.

While you pasta is cooking, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook your pancetta until there is virtually no visible fat, add garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes if using  and cook for 1 minute, then add half of your basil and tomatoes, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer until pasta is cooked.

Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozarella (ingredients)
Tagliatelle with Panceta, Basil and Mozzarella
When your pasta is cooked al dente, drain it while reserving a cup of water you cooked your pasta in. Put your pasta into the sauce along with the remaining basil leaves. I don’t slice basil leaves, I just tear them as I like bigger pieces.
Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella
Then simply tear your fresh mozzarella ball with your hands directly into the pan with pasta. Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella
I have to confess that mozzarella addition is my own twist to this recipe but it turns out so wonderfully gooey. Pure comfort food!
Gently stir fresh mozzarella into your pasta over low heat, add a splash of reserved water if your sauce is getting a bit dry. Take off the heat as soon as mozzarella melts and turns stringy, it will only take a couple of minutes. Serve immediately topped with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan.
Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella
And maybe a slice of garlic bread. Not too authentic but a bit of a guilty pleasure for everyone in this family. 🙂
Doesn’t this look incredible!Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika Sauce

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Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika SauceThis recipe was on my waiting list far too long. As soon as I began blogging I knew I would have to write about stuffed bell peppers that my mom used to make. It’s an authentic Russian recipe, which means the peppers are stuffed with meat. Yes, we Russians are very much a meat loving nation. 🙂 However, our vegetable dishes are bountiful and ridiculously full of flavour and no one would ever imagine to sit down to just a plate of humungous steak. Variety and moderation is key to any diet in my world.
These peppers are loved by anyone who eats them, the meat filling is mixed with rice and flavoured with herbs and spices in perfect harmony, I tell ya.
Ingredients:

  • Olive oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Onion, chopped-1
  • Extra lean ground beef- 1/2 lbs
  • Extra lean ground pork-1/2 lbs
  • Rice, cooked- 1/2 cup
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped-  a bunch
  • Salt- 2 tsp.
  • Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
  • Bell Peppers (any colour but I prefer yellow and red)- 10 medium
  • Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream- 1 1/2 cups
  • Crushed Tomatoes- 1 1/2 cups
  • Smoked Paprika- 1 tsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Bay leaf- 1-2

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F

Cook rice or use leftover rice. If you are cooking 1/2 cup of rice just for this recipe I usually cook it the same way as I do pasta. Bring water to a boil in a pot and add rice to it, cook for 7-10 minutes. Don’t worry if it’s not completely soft, it will get there when you are cooking peppers.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan gently saute the chopped onion over medium low heat until softened for 5-7 minutes.

In a large bowl combine beef, pork. onion, rice, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika sauce
Wash peppers, cut the tops off and removes the cores with seeds and membranes by gently pulling and twisting them out of the peppers.
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika Sauce
Stuff peppers with the meat filling. If you have any leftover filling roll it into meat balls. We used to call them “hedgehogs” when I was little because rice starts to poke out when they cook and they really start to resemble tiny hedgehogs. 🙂 Then stand them up in a casserole dish and put the meatballs (if you have any)on top. Choose a casserole dish where all the peppers can fit while standing up.
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika Sauce
Make sauce by mixing creme fraiche or sour cream with crushed tomatoes, then add paprika and 1 tsp. of salt. Pour the sauce over the peppers, add your bay leaf, cover with a lid and put in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until the peppers are soft.  One of the best features of this dish is the sauce. After 40 minutes in the oven sour cream based sauce becomes even more delicious through absorbing the flavours of the peppers and the meat.  People joke that Russians put sour cream in everything and we really do. Can you blame us?! Wouldn’t you if you hit the jackpot!

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika Sauce
If your sour cream separated a bit in the process of cooking don’t worry it will still look just as amazing. Serve your stuffed peppers with mashed potatoes or on their own. I am getting hungry all over again just thinking about them!
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika Sauce

Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp

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Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp
In my quest to deliver the tastiest food to you I am absolutely determined to get the dishes out that have been tested and approved by my family, dishes that are equally loved by children and adults, dishes that are quick, easy and inexpensive and preferably a one pot meal. That’s one tall order but Cajun Dirty Rice is exactly that! My kids dance for joy when I say it’s for dinner and, unsurprisingly, so does my husband? It’s been our staple for more than a decade and we are yet to get tired of it.

Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp

The origin of this dish is from the south of the United States, probably Louisiana, where it’s still very popular. It takes its name from its appearance as you can see. It used to be cooked with gizzards and livers which made rice look dark or “dirty”. If you have boys in your family the name will be a BIG seller! My boy loves it! You will also be happy to learn that no organ meat was used in this version. 🙂
Ingredients:

  • Olive oil- 2 tbsp.
  • Extra Lean Ground Pork- 1lbs/450gr
  • Onion, chopped- 1 medium
  • Celery, diced- 2 ribs
  • Green bell pepper, diced- 1 medium
  • Garlic, minced- 1-2 cloves
  • Cayenne- 1/4 tsp.
  • Paprika- 1/2 tsp.
  • Dried Oregano- 1/2 tsp.
  • Bay leaf- 1
  • Salt- 1 3/4 tsp.
  • Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
  • Rice- 1 1/2 cups
  • Chicken stock- 3 cups
  • Shrimp- 1lbs/450gr
  • Green Onions, sliced- 2

Note: Instead of adding all the spices listed I often use a premixed spice. My two favourite ones are Louisiana Hot and Spicy by Victorian Epicure and Cajun Spice by Aromatica Organic Spices. Depending on where you live you can find any Cajun type spice mix from your local grocery store or use what I listed above. 

Method:

In a large pan heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil and cook your pork over medium heat until no longer pink. Then push the meat to the side of the pan, add remaining tablespoon of oil and add chopped onion, celery, green bell pepper and garlic, cook for 5 minutes, stir in all the spices mentioned, salt and pepper and rice and fry while stirring for 2 minutes. Now add your stock, bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.

Take the lid off and if the rice is too dry or burned to the bottom a bit add a splash of water (1/4 cup) and stir in your shrimp, cover with a lid and let it cook for 2 more minutes until shrimp turns pink. Taste if the rice is fully cooked. (If not, let it stand covered for 5 minutes, off the heat). Gently stir in sliced green onions. Voila. A beautiful Cajun dish is done!Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp

Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp This recipe was adapted from “Quick from scratch one dish meals cookbook”.

Sausage, Pear and Sage Stuffing

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Sausage, Pear and Sage Stuffing
It’s Thanksgiving in Canada on Monday and although we don’t live there anymore we, as all Canada-adoring ex-pats, celebrate the holiday every year. September and the first week of October have been very busy for us, it’s often challenging for me to remember everyone’s schedules and events as organisation is not my forte. So last Friday when Brad looked at the calendar and yelled out with a sense of urgency. “It’s Thanksgiving on Monday!”, I didn’t think to double check but promptly ran to the only store in London that might sell turkeys in non-Christmas season and returned home triumphant carrying a 7 lbs bird and all the trimmings. I also invited our friends over to share the Thanksgiving meal with and carried on defrosting the turkey. The next day it dawned on me that we were a week ahead of the schedule!

I guess it didn’t really matter when you stop and remember being thankful so we celebrated last Monday. My dear husband was able to find the silver lining as usual. Being a week ahead allowed me to get the recipe out to you in time!  And you are going to love this stuffing recipe! It’s our family’s favourite. Once in a while I find a more exotic recipe and make it but we always go back to this one.
Sausage, pear and sage stuffing
To me,  this stuffing has the best flavour combination to complement roasted turkey. Sausage, sour dough bread, parsley and sage create a wonderful medley but the real winner in this stuffing is slightly sweet and fragrant pear!
Ingredients:

  • Sour Dough Bread, cubed (or any other crusty bread)- 4 cups
  • Italian- style sausages (I used Sicilian inspired from Sainsbury’s)- 6-8 sausages (375gr/3/4 lbs)
  • Chicken broth- 1 cup
  • Celery stalks, diced- 2
  • Onion, chopped – 1 medium
  • Pear, diced – 1 medium
  • Fresh Sage, chopped- 1 tbsp.
  • Fresh Parsley, chopped- 1/4 cup.
  • Egg, beaten- 1 large
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil- 1 tsp.

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

Cut your bread in cubes and put it in a large bowl. You really want crusty bread because it will give your stuffing more texture.

Sausage, pear and sage stuffing
Remove your sausage from casings and cook it in the frying pan (no extra oil needed) breaking it up with a wooden spoon. I wouldn’t recommend using just bulk sausage meat. You want to use sausage with herbs and spices already built into it as it will only make your stuffing more flavourful! Cook your sausage over medium heat until slightly browned for 3 minutes and then push it to the side of the pan and add chopped onion and diced celery, cook for 5 minutes until softened, then mix it together and add diced pear, sage and parsley and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Sausage, pear and sage stuffing
Add the sausage mixture to the bowl with bread cubes, pour in chicken broth and mix to combine, then add beaten egg, salt and pepper, quickly stir everything together. Empty the stuffing into a buttered baking dish and brush the top with a teaspoon of olive oil for a beautiful and golden crusty top.

Sausage, pear and sage stuffing. (before baking)
Bake at 350F/180C for 30 minutes.

Sausage, pear and sage stuffing.
Note: This recipe was adapted from “The South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook”.