Category Archives: meat

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

Persian Chicken Salad

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Persian Chicken Salad
Don’t you feel that lunch is the most “unloved” meal of the day? We are often far too busy to think about what to eat in the middle of the day. The result is we either get an expensive and often unhealthy takeout or eat the same ol’ boring sandwich. In other words, nothing to write home about.

Well, not all is lost and I’ve got an excellent reason for you to get excited about breaking into your lunchbox again. Persian Chicken Salad is a modern update on the timeless classic. This energy boosting salad made with tender and juicy chicken breasts, crunchy vegetables and black smoky olives and seasoned with yogurt and lime dressing and loads of herbs. It’s especially delicious in a wholewheat pita mixed with a bunch of spinach leaves. So fresh and satisfying!Persian Chicken Salad
Eating it in a pita pocket is so appealing to children! Here is your school lunch sorted.
Persian Chicken Salad

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts- 3
  • Olive oil ( for cooking chicken)- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt-1 1/2 tsp.
  • Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
  • Plain Greek Yogurt- 1 cup
  • Mayonnaise (I used low fat)- 1/3 cup
  • Dijon Mustard- 1tbsp.
  • Lime juice- from 2 limes
  • Carrots (grated)- 4 medium
  • English Cucumbers (diced)-2
  • Celery (diced)-2 ribs
  • Frozen petite peas (thawed)-1 cup
  • Red Onion( chopped fine)- 1 small
  • Black Olives (halved and pitted, I used Smoky Moroccan Olives but Kalamata Olives will work as well)- 1/2 cup
  • Flat leaf Parsley(chopped)- 1/3 cup
  • Fresh Basil(chopped)- 1/2 cup
  • Wholewheat pitas-4

Method:

1.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and brown your seasoned with salt and pepper chicken breasts on both sides  over medium heat until done, about 5 minutes per side, it might take a couple of minutes longer if your chicken breasts are very thick.  Remove from the pan, let it cool until it’s safe to handle and slice crosswise into bite-sized pieces.

2. In a small bowl mix together yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice and remaining salt and pepper. In a large bowl combine together chicken, carrots, cucumbers, celery, peas, onion, olives, parsley and basil and carefully toss together with the dressing.

3. Serve in a pita pocket or on its own for a gluten-free lunch. Persian Chicken SaladPersian chicken salad

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

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!

Get Your Picnic On!

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Roasted Eggplant Salad

Lately, I am all smiles. Why wouldn’t I be? The weather outside is glorious! I know I am not the only one who is loving sweet summer days that lead to wonderful outdoor dining. A while back I announced a contest. I suggested my readers would challenge me with any recipes/meal ideas and I would cook them, photograph them and report back. I was supposed to randomly draw up 3 winners. Drum rolls please….
The first winner is Noemi Hedrick. Here is what she requested, “I would love to see a picnic “done well”. Cold foods that make you want to picnic ALL DAY! I love chicken on skewers and dip. Can you deal with that?”

Absolutely!

I loved working on this post because it combined so many things that I adore-my reader’s request, Russian food I grew up on, endless tasting tests with friends and family while having picnics of my own.

The first thing I got working on was skewered meat with dip called Shashlik in Russian, which is mostly likely a borrowed word as it doesn’t sound Russian to me. 🙂 Shashlik is a marinated meat that is later skewered and slowly roasted over hot coals. It’s Russian campers’ favourite past time. All city dwellers will talk of nothing more than their desire to finish the work week and go to the countryside “na shashliki” (to have shashlik).  This tasty food came to Russia in the 19th century and was brought by Russian soldiers who fought in the Crimean War and fell in love with that local delicacy. Since then it’s been one of the most beloved foods and became the symbol for outdoor eating.Russian skewered meat "Shashlik"

My husband Brad was first introduced to shashlik by my two friends Marina and Misha in the country house outside of Nizhni Novgorod, Russia. He loved it so much that he made it his first project in our newly bought house to build a brick fire pit for making shashlik. It does tend to leave an impression on people!

Russian Shish Kebab "Shashlik"
Shashlik is traditionally enjoyed with fresh vegetables and simple salads.
        My Picnic Menu

  1. Pork Shashlik with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip
  2. Crudités (tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers or any vegetables you like)
  3. Grilled Eggplant Salad with crusty bread
  4. Mixed Olives
  5. Red Wine

Russian Picnic Menu
Russian Picnic Menu
Grilled Eggplant Salad
Ingredients for Shashlik:

Marinade:

  • Onions (sliced for marinade)- 3 large
  • Garlic- 1 head
  • Cumin- 1 tbsp.
  • Paprika- 1 tbsp.
  • Oregano- 1 tsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Fresh Pepper- 1 tsp.
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 2/3 cup
  • Lemon Juice- 1 lemon
  • Bay Leaf-2

Skewers:

  • Pork Loin- 2,5 lbs
  • Onions (quartered for skewers)
  • Bell Peppers- 2-3 (red, green, yellow)

Method:

{The night before}

In a large wide bowl combine all the ingredients for marinade, then add 3/4″ cubes of pork loin, cover with either a lid or a cling wrap and refrigerate over night.

Prepare hot coals for grilling until coated with white ash or use a gas grill.

Remove the meat from the marinade and string it on a skewer intermittent with pieces of bell peppers and onions. Grill the skewers sprinkling with marinade every 3 minutes for 9-11 minutes.

Note: Do not use the onion slices from the marinade on your skewers as they were in contact with raw meat for hours and might be unsafe to eat.

Ingredients for Minted Greek Yogurt Dip:

  • Greek Yogurt-1 cup/250ml
  • Lemon Juice-1/2 lemon
  • Fresh Mint- 3-4 sprigs, leaves only (to taste)
  • Cucumber (diced)- 1/4 cup
  • Radishes (diced)-1/4 cup
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Recruit your spouse or partner to grill the meat. This way you can get all the side dishes ready. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, mint, salt and pepper. Add cucumbers and radishes right before serving as the vegetables will release quite a bit of liquid and will make the dip too watery if combined too early.

Also prepare a selection of raw vegetables and arrange them on a platter. They will be delicious with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip.

Grilled Eggplant Salad

Ingredients for Grilled Eggplant Salad:

  • Eggplant- 2 medium
  • Eastern European style or Italian marinated mushrooms (usually in the deli section)- 1 small jar
  • Bell peppers (red, orange, yellow)-  2-3 mini peppers or just the number according to the size
  • Cherry tomatoes (halved)- 7-8
  • Olives (optional)-1/4 cup
  • Flat leaf parsley (chopped)- 1/4 cup
  • Garlic (crushed)- 1 clove
  • Red wine vinegar- 1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste

Method:

While your barbecue is warming up, cut the eggplants into 1/2″ slices and leave them in a bowl filled with water and 1 tsp. of salt for 30 minutes. Then remove them from water and put on the skewers, brush with a bit of olive oil or spray with a calorie reduced cooking spray. Grill on the barbecue for 10 minutes, test for doneness, they should not be spongy but have a soft and silky texture.

While your eggplant is getting grilled, prepare the dressing for the salad. Mix together oil, vinegar, crushed garlic and chopped parsley, set aside.

As soon as you take the eggplant off the grill, put the slices in a salad bowl and pour the dressing on them while still hot, then add the remaining ingredients, season with salt if needed.

Set aside for the flavours to meld. This salad is delicious both cold from the refrigerator and at room temperature. Perfect picnic food!

{Note: Grilled Eggplant is also great just on its own with the salad dressing as pictured in this post.}Grilled Eggplant SaladRussian skewered meat "Shashlik"
So what do you think Noemi? Did I handle it alright?

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

Paella Valencia and More Memories of Days Past

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Paella Valencia
How often do you look at your life and feel contemplative about the course it’s taken- decisions made, places visited and lived and food eaten? I seem to find myself reminiscing quite often as our life keeps charging forward with so many changes which leave me feeling desperate to hold on to every fun memory we’ve ever had. Those moments, of course, were often created around a meal. If the memories are really special wouldn’t you want to re-create them?

This post is about one of those great memories which incidentally includes our good friend Paella Valencia. Although it is a friend now and shows up regularly for dinner at our house 10 years ago when Brad and I decided to go for a little getaway for our 2nd wedding anniversary neither of us ever heard of Paella. Here we were really excited to have a proper mini-holiday like two grown-ups, the feeling we promptly lost upon our check-in into a beautiful Victorian mansion Bed and Breakfast. Our first and definitely last stay in a B&B. We just couldn’t escape the feeling like two teenagers staying at their spinster aunt house but also paying handsomely for it.  For the duration of our stay we were trying to avoid the all hearing ears of our eccentric and ever so curious hostess but alas we were lacking much needed ninja finesse to be successful. Venturing out to a fancy restaurant we had a voucher for made us feel even younger and more out of place. After surveying the menu for a couple of minutes we quickly realised that the place was far out of our price range even with the discount we were clutching in our hands. Well the decisions was made quickly. We simply ordered the  only item we could afford-the foreign sounding Paella Valencia and tap water.

That was my first introduction to the Spanish staple. It was delicious yet simple and achievable at home. No wonder it’s been the country’s hero among the peasants for generations and many consider paella the national dish of Spain. It gets its beautiful yellow colour from saffron, the world’s most precious and expensive spice. The dish is as tasty as it is gorgeous- vibrant yellow rice punctuated with the colourful bits of red chorizo, pink shrimp, black mussels and green peas!

Paella Valencia
Ingredients:

  • Paella Rice- 2 cups/500 gr
  • Olive Oil-1 tbsp.
  • Saffron- a pinch
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Flat Leaf Parsley- half a bunch
  • Chicken Stock (homemade or prepared)-4 1/2 cups/1.2 litres
  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)-4
  • Prawns- 1 cup/250 gr
  • Mussels- 1lbs/450gr
  • Chorizo- 250 gr
  • Frozen Peas- 1/2 cup
  • Lemon-1
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Paella ingredients
Method:

I find it helpful to dice and slice everything that needs to be diced and sliced before we start our paella because once the heat is on you will be throwing things in quickly and won’t have the time to do the prep. Chop up your parsley, slice chorizo and dice chicken into bite sized chunks. Also, dice the onion and finely mince the garlic. Heat the chicken stock.

Set a large pan over medium heat and put in the olive oil. Add the chicken, chorizo and parsley and stir everything together. Cook until the chicken is cooked, then add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add rice, a pinch of salt and saffron and stir everything making sure the rice in coated in olive oil, cook for 3 minutes. I once watched Antonio Banderas cook paella on TV and he said that frying of the rice is what makes paella. Don’t know about you but I trust the man with silky voice and charming Spanish accent.

Now pour in your hot chicken stock and bring everything to a boil, cover the pan with a lid and lower the heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes. When the rice is almost done but still a bit chewy add the prawns, mussels and frozen peas. Cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally so the paella is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and grind some fresh pepper over the paella before serving. Taste to make sure there is enough salt, add more if necessary.

Paella Valencia

Serve with some crusty bread and robust Spanish wine.

Paella Valencia
Paella Valenciana
Note: This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie Does Spain”.