Tag Archives: cooking

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

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Strawberry Meadow Galette for Brad {giveaway closed}

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Strawberry Meadow Galette
In the early days of my husband and I dating he told me that his name Bradley meant “from a meadow” and that little tidbit just added to his allure. As if he needed any help I was already hopelessly in love with him. This past Sunday we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. Our night out in London was absolutely perfect-aimless wandering through the South Bank, crossing the Thames on our way to the West End with numerous stops in hundred year old pubs culminated in us being serenaded by a lovely street performer in Covent Garden along with a couple hundred other people. I couldn’t help feeling so blessed by having him by my side for the last 14 years.

A day later at home I made this Strawberry Meadow Galette which is dedicated to my Brad. 🙂 Throughout the years, no matter how busy we’ve been we’ve always managed to find time for a quick tea and a chat and I know we will have many more in the years to come, for which I am happy to bake for!Strawberry Meadow GaletteStrawberry Meadow GaletteStrawberry Meadow Galette
Ingredients: {For the Pastry} Makes 2 galettes

  • Flour-3 cups
  • Salt-3/4 tsp
  • Butter-3/4 cup/200gr
  • Sour Cream-3/4 cup/200 gr

Ingredients: {For the filling}

  • Strawberries (cut in half)- 2 lbs
  • Sugar- 1 cup (I used vanilla scented sugar for extra flavour)
  • Egg- 1 (for brushing)
  • Edible flowers for decorating (optional)

Strawberry Meadow Galette

I am a big fan of galettes as I love the rustic look of them plus they are so easy! Check out this Yellow Plum and Blueberry Galette  and Eggplant, Red and Yellow Pepper Galette  that I’ve made in the past.

The pastry I am sharing is very special and comes from one of my favourite Russian cookbooks Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen. I’ve adapted it slightly for my own taste. Sour cream makes this flaky pastry pleasantly tart which contrasts the sweetness of the fruit fillings in pies and galettes.

Strawberry Meadow Galette
Method:

In a large bowl combine flour and salt, add the butter using a pastry blender, cut it into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add sour cream and work it into the mixture with your hands until it comes together. Knead briefly, divide into two balls, wrap them in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F/180C. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Dust your work surface with some flour and roll out your pastry 1o″ in diameter. Wrap the pastry around the rolling pin and transfer it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Arrange half of the strawberries cut side down on the pastry leaving an inch wide border filling free and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of sugar. Fold the border over the berries while brushing the pleats of pastry with a beaten egg to hold the pastry in place and also to give your galette a beautiful golden colour. Sprinkle the pastry with additional sugar if desired.

Repeat with another ball of pastry.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 min.

Decorate with edible flowers to make it look like a meadow! 🙂

Strawberry Meadow Galette
Giveaway:

A couple of months ago kind people of Lurpak sent me a nice package which I would love to share with my readers. If you are not from Europe and not sure what Lurpak is click on the link above. I am giving away a beautiful apron!

Lurpak apron

This apron is not only useful to keep your clothes in top shape while you are busy in the kitchen but also is a brilliant cheat sheet for a novice or a seasoned cook alike! From recipes to useful tips this apron is full of helpful information.

Lurpak apron
And if it’s not enough I am also throwing in a Lurpak kitchen towel!

Lurpak kitchen towel

So what do you do to receive these items?

  1. “Like” Vikalinka on Facebook.
  2. “Share” Vikalinka Facebook Page with your friends.
  3. Leave a comment on my Facebook page that you’ve shared.
  4. For an additional entry, share this post on Twitter and include Vikalinka in your post  and then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so. That comment will count as your extra entry.

That’s it!!

The contest will close on July 31 st. 

Good luck!

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

Easter Eggs and Our Traditions

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Easter EggsEaster Eggs
Every Easter I am taken back to my childhood in Russia where the holiday is steeped in century-old traditions and memories. The holiday so loved and revered by people that even Communism wasn’t able to erase it from the nations’ psyche. It seems like the early childhood memories are the strongest and what I remember is my babushka starting to collect onion peels in a plastic shopping bag weeks before the arrival of Easter, so there would be enough to colour dozens of eggs. How could we possibly eat them all? We didn’t! With the rise of the dawn on Easter Sunday we would start hearing little knocks on our front door and my granny with a big bowl of beautifully coloured eggs at the ready opening the door to hear cheerful choir of the neighbourhood children, “Christ is risen!” to which she would reply with no fail, “Risen Indeed!” and give them each an egg. That went on for hours. That is one of the Easter traditions that carried on through centuries and was carefully preserved during the tough years when Christ was not welcome anywhere in the country. I still don’t understand how it was possible but one thing I do know there was not one family that didn’t celebrate Easter in one way or another. Miracle.
Having moved away from Russia many years ago I’ve lost many traditions but I was not about to lose the joy and anticipation of Easter by not colouring eggs with my own children! We colour eggs each Easter to remind us of what Christ has done, paving the way to new life, new birth and new beginning.
Easter eggs
Easter Eggs
The design on the eggs I have here is so beautiful yet so simple to achieve and what is even better is completely natural, no chemicals involved! Here is what you will need:

  • Onion peels(red or yellow) from about 10 onions
  • White Eggs
  • Any leaves you like e.g. rose leaves, parsley, dill, anything interesting you can find in your back yard!
  • Salt -1 tsp.
  • Pantyhose
  • Thread

Take the onion peels and put them in a pot. The next step is quite simple but a teensy bit fiddly. Place a leaf of your choice on the egg and slide it inside a pantyhose, tie a thread on each side of the egg to prevent the leaf from sliding. Repeat the process until all the eggs are “dressed” in pantyhose. I learned that very stiff leaves don’t work as well because they don’t “hug” the egg too tightly and produce an unclear print. Fill your pot with water and boil the eggs for 15-20 minutes. Make sure the heat is not set on very high as you don’t want your eggs knocking around in the pot and cracking. Cool the eggs, remove the panty hose and the leaves, wipe any leaf remnants with a cloth. The last step is to make them shiny! Simply rub each egg with a little bit of oil.

Easter egg colouring-The Russian method
I am sure I don’t have to tell you how much fun you will have with your children colouring eggs! However, if you have very young children the above method might be a bit too intricate for their little fingers. Not to worry, this is what I did with mine.
Egg colouring
Egg colouring
Use food colouring pastes and a tablespoon of vinegar per each cup of colour, top up with boiling water. Drop a cooked egg and let it sit for 5 minutes. I recommend using gel colours as they produce more vivid hues than their liquid counterparts.
Easter Egg Colouring
Easter Egg Colouring