Category Archives: main courses

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.

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”.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos

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Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
Imagine juicy and tender, I mean melting in your mouth tender pork wrapped in a soft corn tortilla. Then top it with some pico de gallo and velvety smooth avocado, maybe a dollop of creme fraiche. Go ahead throw in some cheese too if you like – I won’t judge you! You end up with one of the loveliest mouthfuls you’ll ever taste. How would you like if I told you cooking this pulled pork takes no effort AT ALL and a very short ingredient list?

Ingredients: (For Pulled Pork)

  • Boneless Pork Roast- 5 lbs (any cut will work)
  • Onion- 1
  • Tomato paste- 1 tbsp.
  • Cumin- 1 tsp.
  • Red Chilli Flakes- 1/2 tsp.
  • Dr. Pepper- 2.5 cups or 2 cans ( I know things just got weird but I promise you it’s worth it!)

Ingredients: (For Tacos)

  • Pico de Gallo (see the recipe  in the hyperlink below) or Salsa- 1 cup
  • Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche- 1/2 cup
  • Avocado- 1
  • Cheese (optional)- 1 cup

Method:

Preheat your oven to 300F/150C.

Slice your onion and put it on the bottom of a deep heavy pot, preferably a cast iron one or use your slow cooker, then place your pork right on top of the sliced onion.  Spread the tomato paste over the top of the pork and sprinkle with cumin and red chilli flakes.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
Then pour in your Dr.Pepper.  The first time I made this recipe it was an act of faith. Dr. Pepper…really? I stumbled upon it on the Pioneer Woman website and was so intrigued by it I just had to give it a go. I slightly modified the recipe only because for the life of me I can’t find chipotle peppers in London and it’s a real tragedy.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
Put it in the oven and cook for 6-7 hours. Flip it a couple of times. This is what it looks like closer to the end.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
When your meat is very tender take two forks and simply pull it apart.
Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
DE-LI-CIOUS!

Serve your pulled pork piled up on soft tacos with this pico de gallo or this chunky pico de gallo a couple of slices of avocado and a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

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Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry Brad and I have considered Indian food to be our comfort food for ages. Although we are both of European decent somehow the taste of warm and slightly spicy curries make us feel at home. It’s no wonder we eat them regularly, especially since we moved to Britain where it’s basically a national dish. There are not too many things that are better than a good curry coupled with crispy poppadums dipped in mango chutney and lime chilli pickle! Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry
I get so many requests to post a curry recipe which tells me you guys love Indian food too! I am not claiming to be an expert so what I am sharing today is something I cook often and is loved by everyone in my family. It’s a vegetarian curry and so delicious you won’t miss meat! This particular curry is called Korma which is a blend of aromatic spices like ginger and coriander and yogurt.  If you are not familiar with Indian food it’s an excellent one to start with because of its creamy consistency and mild taste, even kids will love it. Traditionally, korma is cooked with meat but this version is meat free.

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

Many people are very hesitant to venture out in the world of Indian cuisine. Rightly so, as the ingredient list is long enough to intimidate the most experienced cook!  Cooking is fun for me and the more complicated the recipe the better, so I usually have all the right spices on hand. However when we moved to England almost 3 years ago I had to get rid of my very large collection of spices and still haven’t replaced all of them. Since then I’ve discovered Patak’s Curry Pastes which I use almost exclusively for my curries. The taste is excellent and the variety is immense. Why worry about making it from scratch when someone has already put in all the hard work for you!
Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry
Ingredients: {Serves 6-8}

  • Oil-1 tbs.
  • Onion, chopped-2 medium
  • Garlic, chopped – 3-4 cloves
  • Cilantro, chopped (stalks and leaves separated, stalks reserved)- 1 bunch
  • Butternut Squash, diced- 1 medium
  • Chickpeas- 1 can
  • Patak’s Korma Paste or any other curry paste  (not cooking sauce)- 2 tbsp.
  • Coconut Milk- 1 can
  • Water- 2 cups
  • Spinach- 100 gr
  • Frozen Peas- 1/2 cup
  • Desiccated unsweetened coconut (optional)- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt- to taste
  • Basmati Rice- 2 cups

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

Method:

1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large and deep pan and cook chopped onions, garlic and cilantro stalks over low heat for 10 minutes until soft and slightly coloured.

2.  Meanwhile dice your butternut squash to match the size of chickpeas.  I leave the skin on as I discovered it cooks very nicely and eliminates a lot of unnecessary work. When the onions are tender add the curry paste and cook for a minute or so stirring the whole time, then add your squash, chickpeas, coconut milk, desiccated coconut, water and a pinch of salt,  bring it to a boil by turning the heat up, then turn the heat down to a low-medium and simmer it covered for 35-40 minutes.  Stir it occasionally to prevent from burning and add a few splashes of water if it gets too dry.

3. Start on the rice. Cook your rice in the rice cooker according to the manufacture’s instructions.

4.  Test the butternut squash, it should be fork tender by this point but not falling apart. Your curry should be thick so if it’s too runny, uncover and let the liquid cook down for a few more minutes. When you are satisfied with the consistency of the curry stir in peas, spinach and cilantro leaves, cover with a lid and take off the heat.

5. Serve with steaming hot basmati rice. We love having  naan bread or chapattis and various Indian pickles and chutney with our curries. My children go crazy for crunchy poppadums!

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

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.

Sweet Chilli Sausage and Black Bean Burritos

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Sweet Chilli Sausage and Black Bean Burritos Put your hand up if you love burritos. How can you not! It’s basically comfort food wrapped in little parcels of joy.  I make burritos 3-4 times a month because my kids go crazy for them and I’ve learned to add all kinds of healthy nutritious stuff like beans and veggies. Still they love them. I love them.  I don’t know about you but I can’t stand the packaged flavourings that you can buy at grocery stores, they taste so fake and highly processed to me so I’ve developed my own mix that comes together very quickly. This recipe however, is something even quicker and boasts tons of flavour.

How would you love to put this on the table within 20 minutes? Would you be happy to know that the shortcuts featured in the recipe don’t affect the flavour and deliciousness? Here is my secret, you can use your favourite sausage meat instead of ground beef and capitalise on the flavour that was already built in the sausage. For this recipe I used Sweet Chilli Sausages but you can choose any flavour you love! These burritos are also quickly baked in the oven so when you cut into them you will see warm and cheesy filling wrapped in a slightly crispy tortilla. Sweet Chilli Sausage and Black Bean Burritos
Ingredients:

For Burritos

  • Sweet Chilli Sausage (I used Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference brand but you can choose anything you like)-3/4lbs/300gr
  • Black Beans- 1 2/3 cup/15 oz can
  • Monterey Jack or Sharp Cheddar cheese- 2 cup(grated)
  • Flour Tortilla- 4

For Pico de Gallo ( You can always use  jarred salsa, unfortunately England doesn’t have any good brands I would recommend)

  • Tomatoes-2 large
  • Red Onion- 1 medium
  • Red Chilli- 1/2-1 depending on your taste
  • Cilantro/Coriander- 1/4 bunch
  • Garlic- 1-2 cloves
  • Lime juice- from 1/2 lime
  • Salt-1/4 tsp.

Method:

Heat your oven to 400F/200C.

Remove the casing from the sausages and cook them in a large frying pan over medium heat, breaking them up with a wooden spoon or a spatula. No extra oil needed for cooking sausages. When the sausages are cooked through and are beginning to brown, which will take about 10 minutes, it’s time to add your black beans. Before you add black beans make sure to pour off most of the fat that collected in the pan. The amount of fat depends on your sausages, mine were quite lean and I skipped that step. Add beans directly to the pan with sausages and start mashing them up with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. I recommend using a potato masher as it only took me about 30 seconds to do! You want your beans broken up but not completely mashed. Once it’s done your filling is ready.

Divide your filling among 4 burritos, sprinkle with cheese and roll them up tucking the sides in. Place your burritos on a baking sheet seam down and bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Remember that your filling is already cooked so all you are doing is melting the cheese and crisping up the tortillas.

Prepare your pico de gallo while the burritos are in the oven by dicing all the ingredients and mixing them together in a medium bowl. As I mentioned above, I’ve been making my own salsa exclusively because there is simply no decent tasting salsa on the market in England. Mexican food is still too foreign here. However, I know there are plenty of options in both US and Canada so feel free and use an already made one to save yourself some time. 9 out of 10 times I make pico de gallo by throwing all the mentioned ingredients in my food processor and pressing the pulse button a few times. It takes 3 minutes. This one here I diced by hand just because it looks so purdy!

Pico de Gallo
You can also try my Chunky Pico de Gallo. That one is a meal in itself!

And here you have it-super quick yet wonderfully satisfying Sausage and Black Bean Burrito.Sweet Chilli Sausage and Black Bean Burritos

Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

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Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes
Another school year announced itself with the arrival of true British weather-rain, rain and more rain. I am writing this while grieving our canceled park plans and listening to the heavy rain drops pounding on the roof of my conservatory. The message is clear-summer is over.
However, there is a silver lining in all of this. Cosy blankets, great books and delicious autumn food.
Roasted Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes is a one pot type of dish that never disappoints. The easiest yet the tastiest thing to throw together- no marinade, no countless dishes, everything prepped and done within an hour and, because it uses the cheapest parts of the chicken like thighs and legs, is also economical. No wonder it earned a permanent place on the menu in our house!
Ingredients:

  • Potatoes (halved or quartered_-1 lbs
  • Chicken legs and thighs- 6-8
  • Chestnut/Crimini Mushrooms (optional)- 8-10
  • Lemons-2
  • Garlic cloves-3
  • Rosemary- 3 sprigs
  • Olive oil- 3 tbs.
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450F/250C

On the cutting board chop up rosemary leaves roughly. In a mortar combine chopped rosemary, garlic, a pinch of coarse salt and 1 tbsp of olive oil and bash it all together with a pestle until you have a paste, then add the rest of the olive oil and the juice of the lemons, reserve the lemon halves.

Arrange the chicken pieces, potatoes and mushrooms on a baking tray and spoon the rosemary mixture on top making sure it covers chicken and potatoes. Stick the lemon halves wherever you have free space on the tray, they will infuse more flavour into the dish.

Rosemary Lemon Chicken
Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes until the chicken is golden brown and the juices run clear. Halfway through the cooking baste your chicken and potatoes with the liquid at the bottom of the pan.

Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes
The recipe was adapted from Minimally Invasive.

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

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!