Tag Archives: dinner

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

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

Chunky Pico De Gallo

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

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

Chunky Pico De Gallo
Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

Chunky Pico De Gallo

Garden Pizza Party all’Italiana

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Proscuitto di Parma Pizza
Who likes pizza? Who doesn’t! I have a confession to make. I didn’t like pizza for many years. I could eat pizza but it was never my number one choice if I had one. That until Brad and I went to Italy and had pizza the way God intended it to be. Thin yet satisfying crust crowned with a flavour galore of completely different toppings than we were used to…better toppings! The best part about Italian pizza is that flavour combinations are endless depending on the region of Italy you are visiting. With the variety you are facing one is guaranteed to find a favourite. Another great thing about Italian pizza is its simplicity. Is your mouth watering yet? Can’t make it to Italy by the next weekend or no authentic Italian restaurant in your area? No problem. This post is all about the homemade pizza that tastes even better. In order to achieve that authenticity I asked my great friend Angela to join me. Angela is 100 % Italian who happens to be one of my best friends and since two months ago is my “next door neighbour”. Alright, take that “next door neighbour” thing with a grain of salt, we do live in London after all but Angela and Tano and their two adorable girls live a stone throw away from us. That’s better:-).
One beautiful Sunday afternoon we decided to get together for lunch in our garden and pizza seemed like a good idea. Needless to mention a good time was had by all.

Adorable child “numero uno” Signorina Gloria sporting “pizza face” 🙂

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Adorable child “numero due” Signorina Sofia looking mischievous as usual.
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The usual suspects (minus me hiding behind the camera lens).
the usual suspects
My children are taking a break from modelling this time and running wild in the garden while Sofia and Gloria are taking their place.
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Here is a list of pizzas we made:
Prosciutto di Parma e Rucola Pizza
Proscuitto di Parma Pizza
Salami and Mozzarella Pizza
Salami and Mozzarella Pizza
Ham, Artichoke and Moroccan Black Olive Pizza
Ham, Artichoke and Moroccan Black Olive Pizza
And here is how we made them. Ready?
Ingredients(for pizza dough): Makes 6 medium pizzas

  • Flour- 1 kg
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Active Dry Yeast- 14 gr (2×7 gr packets)
  • Sugar- 1 tbsp.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 4 tbsp.
  • Lukewarm Water- 650 ml.

Method:

In a bowl mix sugar, yeast, olive oil  and lukewarm water and let the yeast work its magic for about 5 minutes.  Sift together flour and salt and empty the mixture  in the food processor or a stand mixer, add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and pulse it until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the food processor into a large bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let it rise somewhere warm  for 2 hours. (You can easily make it by hand if you don’t own the machines but they make this task a snap.)

Once the dough is doubled in size remove the bowl on a flour dusted surface and knead it a lit bit. Divide the dough into 6 equal sized balls. Now Angela tells me that a real Italian never rolls out their pizza dough but works it by hand that is why their pizza is never perfectly round. I trust her wholeheartedly when it comes to Italian food. The girl can cook!

The picture below demonstrates 4 main steps in pizza making. (It’s there just scroll down a teensy bit :-))

Ingredients for pizza sauce:

  • Tomato Passata (for non UK readers-passata is a smooth tomato puree)-1 tall jar
  • Olive Oil-1 tbsp.
  • Basil and Oregano-fresh or dried (I used fresh basil and dried oregano)

Ingredients for toppings:

  • Salami slices- 10
  • Fresh Mozzarella- 6×125/4 oz gr balls
  • Artichokes (from your local deli or tinned)- 4 0z/ 125 gr
  • Fresh basil – a handful
  • Black Olives ( we used Moroccan dry black olives from Sainsbury’s)- 5-7
  • Prosciutto di Parma- 6 slices
  • Ham- 2-3 slices
  • Arugula/Rocket- a handful
  • Parmesan cheese- a few shavings

Method: 

As you can see the quantities are hardly exact because it all depends on your taste. The main difference between American pizza and Italian pizza is that Italians don’t overload it, instead they use a few really good quality ingredients that deliver that flavour punch. Usually there is only 1 or 2 toppings besides mozzarella. Also, Italian pizza crust is really thin. Pizza often gets a bad rep for being unhealthy but if you make it at home the Italian way it’s not unhealthy at all!!!

Stretch out your pizza dough just like Angela is showing in the picture and let it sit for 10 minutes to allow it to rise again just a little bit. (However, if you like a very thin, I mean a paperthin pizza crust like Angela does, don’t allow the second rise and top it right away.) Use 2 tbsp. of pizza sauce and 1 mozzarella ball per pizza, improvise with the rest! If you decided to make Prosciutto Di Parma e Rucola Pizza, place prosciutto slices and arugula on pizza after it’s already baked with mozzarella and add a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano or any other good Parmesan cheese on top for the authentic touch.

Place your topped pizza on a parchment paper brushed with oil,( otherwise it will stick really badly as I learned the hard way) and bake at 350F/180C for 10 minutes or until the crust is baked all the way through and mozzarella is melted and bubbly.

The last and the main step is to enjoy it with your friends and family!


pizza steps

Salami Pizza
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Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie or Happy British Pie Week

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Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie

It’s British Pie Week and I thought it would be only fitting to indulge ourselves in yet another pastry filled with a wonderful fusion of flavours. When people talk about “pies” here in England you never need to wonder if they mean “meat pies”, it’s assumed. The Brits eat fruit pies as well but the meat variety holds a special place in the nation’s hearts and stomachs. Works for me as I come from Russia, another pie loving nation. I didn’t need further convincing to embark on a pie making campaign. Earlier this week I blogged about Yellow Plum and Blueberry Galette and today I am sharing with you this completely unusual and utterly delicious Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie.

When I was growing up my mum used to make Rabbit and Sour Cream Stew. If you think of happy childhood memories it wasn’t one of them. My brother and I had very strong opinions about that dish and talks about the dislike for it provided for some quality bonding time between the siblings. I often wondered since then if I would think differently now that I am in possession of a very grown up taste. There are not too many foods I dislike provided they are cooked well. Alas, I had a few opportunities to test my theories. After all, where does one go to purchase a rabbit or a pheasant in North America? Now, England is a different story. Sometimes I feel like I am in a foodie heaven-so many things that I love are easily accessable and completely affordable! This was the case with rabbit and pheasant casserole mix I stumbled upon in one of the local shops. Although I had no idea what I was going to cook I knew I had to buy it.  Rabbit excited me but pheasant sent me over the top. If you are a book worm like me you’d probably also wondered what pheasants taste like after reading the descriptions of feasts in various books of old. How pleased was I when I spotted the design on one of my plates- the latest flea market find-  Asiatic Pheasants. Serendipity, indeed.
Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
The recipe for this pie is a mixture of things-the memories of my mum’s stew, my usual meat pie recipe and also a bit of research. Without further ado let me introduce the final result.
Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
Ingredients:

  • Rabbit meat (skinless and boneless)-150 gr
  • Pheasant meat (skinless and boneless)-150 gr
  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)-300 gr
  • Onion-1 large
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Rosemary-2 sprigs
  • Flour- 1tbsp. heaped
  • White wine, vermouth or cider (optional)- a good splash
  • Chicken stock- 2 cups
  • Carrot- 1
  • Peas-1/2 cup
  • Potato- 1 medium
  • Pre-made pie crust – 500gr
  • Creme fraiche or sour cream- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Egg (beaten)-1Rabbit and Pheasant Pie

Method:

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan, dice the onion and gently cook it in a pan over low heat for 5-7 minutes without colouring it. Dice your rabbit, pheasant and chicken into 1” dice and add to the pan, brown the meat over medium heat, add rosemary and cook for 2 more minutes, then pour in the wine, let the alcohol burn off and then add your stock, bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Gently simmer the mixture for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if a bit dry. At the end of the cooking time your meat should be very soft and the whole filling look like it’s swimming in gravy but not too soupy.

Adding vegetables is entirely your choice. I like a little bit of crunch in my pies provided by the veggies not the gristle :-). Slice the carrot and potato and add to the mixture, cook for 5-7 minutes, then add frozen peas. When I added my peas I realised it was the pea and corn mix, so that’s what the yellow flecks in the pictures are. Stir in your creme fraiche for the creamy consistency and cool your mixture so it doesn’t melt the pie crust when you pour it in. I am very impatient and often pay for it! Now is the time to preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

Roll out your pie crust to fit your pie plate making sure the bottom crust goes up the sides and hangs over the edges. Fill your pie with the meat mixture and cover it with the top crust. If you feel especially creative you can cut out rounds with a pastry/cookie cutter and assemble a pie topper out of them, overlapping them slightly and brushing each circle with an eggwash to make individual circles stick to each other and to give your pie an attractive shiny and golden finish. If you opt out for the traditional top crust don’t forget to make slits so the steam can escape. Bake at 200C/400F for 30 minutes until the pie is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
Note: I would love to point out that this recipe will work brilliantly with just chicken. I realise that rabbit and pheasant are not too common but don’t discard a great pie recipe if you don’t feel adventurous enough to try them. Substitute and enjoy!

Christmas Dinner {Part 3}- Herb, Chorizo and Fig Stuffing

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Are you set on your Christmas dinner menu already? If you are anything like me you’d be changing things the last minute, adding to already existing ones and re-arranging everything from top to bottom. It’s impossible for me to stick with just one recipe for something, I get so distracted by the variety available to me and I want to try them all!
This post is about a stuffing recipe that I invented on a spur of the moment and surprisingly enough it turned out to be delicious. In fact, my husband said he could eat it alone as a meal! It wasn’t something I thought about or planned. I was simply cooking a pork roast one Saturday and I kept adding more and more sides to it. This recipe was born!
You know I actually already have a perfect stuffing recipe that I’ve been making for holidays for a while. It’s hard to beat perfection and why would I mess with it! More importantly why would I mess with stuffing when everyone knows it has a potential to taste like a bland clump of bread! The answer is I get bored when things are the same and I need to spice them up every once in a while. Also when you work with ingredients like these how can it possible not be fabulous?!

Another reason for this experimentation is I love cooking with Spanish sausage- chorizo (and I had quite a bit of it kicking around in the fridge that needed to be used), it gives the dishes such lovely flavour and zing! It also turns everything it comes into contact with yellow or orange which is like a bit of sunshine that the Spaniards share with all of us Northerners! I was curious to see if it would work with this very non-Spanish meal.
stuffing prep
Like I said this was not a pre-meditated affair so I had to use ingredients I had on hand. Next time I make it I think I am going to add chestnuts for more texture!
In my humble opinion, there are a few ‘must have’ components of a tasty stuffing besides bread or rice- a sausage of sorts, a variety of herbs, fresh or dried fruit and nuts. All things combined will give us flavour, texture, a bit of spice and comfort!
Ingredients:

  • Bread -stale French baguette- 2/3 or 200gr
  • Butter- 1tbsp
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Apple-1/2 (grated)
  • Chorizo- 150gr
  • stuffing prep 2
  • Dried Figs-10 (chopped)
  • Sage-2-3 sprigs (leaves only)
  • Rosemary-2-3 sprigs(leaves only)
  • Pine nuts-1/4 c.
  • Stock (beef, pork or vegetable)-1c.
  • Egg-1 large (slightly beaten)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C and butter an oven proof dish.

Cube your bread and put it in a large bowl. Chop up your onion and herbs and saute them in the frying pan with butter on a medium heat until translucent but not coloured for about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for a minute longer. Transfer to the bowl with bread.

Dice chorizo and figs and add them to the bowl with stuffing. Add all the remaining ingredients except the egg. Mix well together adding salt and pepper to taste. Finish off with the beaten egg, mix the stuffing again and transfer to the buttered baking dish.

Unbaked stuffing

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until puffed up and golden.

cooked stuffing

This stuffing has a slightly sweet and spicy taste. It’s crazy flavourful and although it doesn’t  have that traditional and familiar Christmassy taste it’s lovely nonetheless and goes especially well with this pork roast.

I hope you are adventurous enough to add this newbie to your Christmas table. I promise you won’t regret it and your guests will be so impressed with the bold and innovative combination of flavours!

Venison Steak Diane with a Facelift – Dedicated to Hunters and Gatherers

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venison steak diane
Those of you who follow my blog know that I recently acquired a rather unusual selection of meats with some of the items being entirely new to me.  Although I’ve never cooked venison before I am not a complete wild game virgin. Brad and I spent our honeymoon in a cabin in the middle of nowhere in Northern Ontario that was  graciously offered to us by my parents -in-law’s friends. When we arrived there we discovered another present inside the cabin- a freezer stocked full of meat, venison and moose, perfectly suited to the surroundings. I had no idea all kinds of delicacies like steaks, pepperoni and sausages could be made out venison. I grew up in Russia and in a very urban setting, the wildest thing I’d eaten up to that point was a stewed rabbit!

I loved the taste of venison but didn’t have a slightest idea of how to cook it, so I approached this challenge with a lot of research. I poured over hundreds of recipes on the internet to find the perfect one and get inspired until I stumbled upon Venison Steak Diane on Honest Food website. I am not going to lie to you that the main draw for the recipe was the picture! I really hope you will feel the same about mine:-).

What was keeping me from starting immediately was the name. Steak Diane had a firmly planted association in my head with an old and tired recipe from the 50s that no one would get passionate about. However, that opinion quickly changed when I learned that the name for Steak Diane didn’t come from some old lady named Diane who invented the recipe in her 1950s kitchen but Roman mythology and one of their goddesses Diana, who was a huntress. The sauce itself originated in the turn of the 20th century France and was invented for venison, not beef. It’a classic for a reason! That convinced me to give it a try. That, and the short and simple ingredient list.

Ingredients:

steak ingredients

Venison steaks-400gr/1 lbs

Onion-1 small

Garlic-2 cloves

Worcestershire Sauce-1 tbsp.

Whole Grain Mustard with chilies (chilies optional)-1tbsp.

Tomato paste-1tbsp.

Butter-2 tbsp.

Double cream/heavy cream- 1/4 c.

Beef stock-2/3 c.

Brandy (or any white wine or whiskey you have on hand)-1/4 c.

Basil for garnish- 2-3 leaves sliced

Method:

Take your venison out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature for about 20-30 min. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel. Melt the butter in the frying pan on medium heat and fry your steak until they develop a brown crust on both sides. It took me about 6-7 min. on one side and 3-4 on the other. They will be pleasantly browned on the outside but won’t cook all the way through provided your steaks are 1.25- 1.5 inches thick. Remove the steaks from pan and allow to rest on a plate, cover to keep warm.

steaks browned

While your steaks are frying, dice the onion quite finely and saute in the same pan for 2-3 min, then add minced garlic to it and continue sauteing while stirring constantly as garlic burns quickly and turns bitter for another 30 sec.

Add your brandy or whatever alcohol you are using and let it cook for 4-5 min so it’s reduced and the spoon leaves a trail on the pan when you stir. Brandy is not essential to this recipe but adds complexity to otherwise a very simple sauce. I usually never have brandy on hand but as you can see from my previous post I bought a bottle for my homemade eggnog which was another proof the recipe was meant to be!

Now add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, beef stock, a pinch of salt and pepper to the sauce and cook it until thickened and looks like this…

sauce1

Take your sauce off the heat and wait a bit until the bubbles calm down. Now add cream to the sauce until it looks pretty. Yes, that’s exactly how I decide on the amounts of cream in everything-from my coffee to apparently sauces. I like this colour…

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Stir everything together to blend but don’t put in back on the heat or it might separate and although it will still taste just as great it won’t look nearly as beautiful as this…

steak diane whole

Are you hungry enough yet? You can serve your steaks whole or your can slice them in medallions.

steak sliced
I was quite pleased with the way it turned out but I was also a bit under the weather and too busy taking pictures capitalizing on a brief moment of sunshine streaming through my kitchen window that it didn’t even occur to me to taste the meat. It’s steak, right? I’ve had steak before. The reason I went for a small mouthful is to bring variety to my shots and OH MY GOODNESS. All of a sudden, I forgot that I was sick and not hungry! The meat was so tender and flavourfulI had to immediately call for Brad, the main taste tester. Big mistake. It was gone in seconds.

steak diane 2
steak diane 3
Venison Steak Diane
One last word about the garnish. Traditionally parsley is used to adorn Steak Diane. I didn’t have any. I have a basil plant growing on my window sill, so used basil. It was outstanding. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I love intentional substitutions and unintentional mistakes! Did you know that Worcestershire sauce was one of them? I love bold and creative people!

P.S. This recipe was adapted from the one here.

P.P.S. If you buy anything similar at a restaurant it would cost your at least £20!  It cost me £2 per person!!

Christmas Dinner- Roasted Pork Leg with Port Gravy {Part 1}

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Believe it or not but this entire post in 3 parts was inspired by my most recent acquisition from the Greenwich market- this antique meat carving set. The vendor kept warning us about the sharpness of the blade so I had very little choice but to buy a chunk of meat and test it for myself!

Also, I am becoming very keenly aware that Christmas is very fast approaching and I would love to offer you some wonderful options from the Vikalinka’s kitchen for your festive dinner. This post is all about the meat and gravy but in the subsequent parts I will be telling all about your sides like potato and stuffing. So stay with me for the whole run!

I don’t know how you feel about roasts but I’ve always been a fan. Nothing is easier and more satisfying than throwing a big hunk of meat in the oven waiting for a couple of hours and then feasting on it for days and making your house smell heavenly in the process! My love for them only grew deeper when we moved to England where a Sunday Roast is a century-old tradition. When it comes to roasting meat I trust my favourite chef (who also happens to be a Brit), Jamie Oliver, more than anybody else in the world, even my own mother. I’ve looked through at least 6 of his recipes for different cuts and this is what I came up with- a hybrid of sorts but delicious and tender nonetheless.

Ingredients:

Pork leg- 6-7 lbs

Carrot-2 medium

Celery-2 stalks

Onion-1 medium

Sage and Rosemary- 2-3 sprigs of each

garlic-3 cloves

salt and pepper

For Port Gravy:

Flour-1 tbsp.

Port-1/4 c.

Stock- 2 c.

Method:

Preheat your oven to the highest temperature.Take your pork leg out of the fridge, rinse it with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Lay it on the cutting board skin side up and make slits on the skin with a sharp knife. Rub the meat with salt and paper. Take your herbs and vegetables and roughly chop them up while leaving garlic whole but smashed. Put them in the middle of your roasting pan and place the pork leg directly on top of them like that.

Place the pork in the oven and cook at 475F/250C for about 10-15 min allowing the skin to blister up, then turn the temperature down to 350F/180C and cook for 2 hours or until the internal temperature is 145F/60C basting it with the pork drippings half-way through. If you don’t have a meat thermometer I highly recommend buying one. They are inexpensive and a great way to make sure you don’t overcook your meat and end up with something that tastes like a shoe.They are quite important as oven temperatures vary so much that going by the internal temperature of your roast is much better than the cooking time in the recipe. I suspect that the reason many people stay away from roasts is because of the memories of dry and overcooked meat from their childhood.

When your roast is done. It should look similar to this one.

Remove the roast from the pan and set it aside. Cover it with foil if you plan on eating later. On the side note, once you take the roast out of the oven and cover it, the temperature will rise a bit more as the the internal cooking is still happening. That is why it’s important to watch the temperature and take it out of the oven sooner rather than later.

Next on the list is gravy. I cook mine in the same pan where I cooked the roast. This way you can use all the drippings and the burnt bits. That’s where the flavour is going to come from…well that and port, of course!

Sprinkle your flour over the pan and blend it in the fat. (I drain most of the fat but leave about a tablespoon.) Remember all the herbs and vegetables that were hidden under the roast? They should be nice and very soft right now. Mash them with the potato masher and blend everything together. The mixture will be very chunky but we won’t worry about it right now. Add port and let it cook for a couple of minutes, let the flavour seep into the gravy and then add the stock. Turn the heat up and allow the gravy to thicken, just watch it bubble away and enjoy the aroma that rises from it. When the gravy reached the right consistency take it off the heat and strain into a gravy dish leaving all the vegetable bits behind.I can’t begin to tell you how much the roasted veggies and port in this recipe improve and add depth to the overall taste of the gravy. The sweetness that port offers works particularly well with the pork. Please, please, please give it a try! I promise you won’t regret it! And when you do try it let me know your thoughts. Also, don’t forget to come back for Part 2 and 3 of this fabulous meal.

It was such a hit with the whole family that the last words of my 6-year old before bed were: “Mummy, can I please have more of that pig tomorrow?”

 

 

 

Turkey And Leek Pie

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With American Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching so quickly it seems only prudent to feature a recipe for “what on earth do I do with all the leftover turkey I hate turkey soup” conundrum. Understandable. Who wants to eat the same meal over and over again. Well, I do. I usually like to eat my turkey dinner at least twice after the big meal but then I have to move on. This year I moved on with this pie. I am Canadian we already celebrated Thanksgiving in October-a perfectly placed holiday in the Canadian calendar.

This recipe is easy, tasty and quick even though it has the word “pie” in it. Let me explain how.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. olive oil
30 gr. butter
800-1000 gr. leftover turkey meat
50 gr. italian pancetta or bacon
3 leeks (white part only)
3 medium carrots
1 cup/250 ml. leftover gravy
1 tbsp. flour
2 sprigs of each rosemary and thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
prepared shortcrust pie pastry (Pillsbury in Canada or Jus Rol in the UK)
1 egg (optional)
Directions:
Preheat your oven to 375 F/190 C or 180 C for a fan oven.
My dear friends, you were probably expecting some amazing pie crust recipe that was handed over to me by my mother, and to her by her mother and so on but instead I am advising you to use a prepared one. I hope you are not too disappointed but the truth is that when I have a container full of turkey leftovers in the refrigerator that scream-“Use me, I am literally on my last breath”, the furthest thought from my mind is to run to the kitchen and engage in a long and tedious process of pastry  making. Trust me, the flavour comes from the filling, not from the crust. There is definitely time for making your own special recipe but not a week after Christmas!
So where were we? Yes, oven.
In a deep frying pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil and your butter over a medium heat, cook your pancetta with the herbs for about 7-10 min and than add your sliced leek and diced carrots. You can definitely use bacon instead of pancetta if it’s too hard to find or pricey. It’s readily available in England and for a good price, so I prefer it. After your vegetable have been cooking for 10 min and leeks softened add your diced turkey and gravy. If you don’t have enough gravy use chicken stock and thicken it with flour. Cook the mixture for about 10 min until heated through and not too runny. Add more flour if it is!  Taste it and season with salt and pepper.
I really recommend using your leftover gravy because this is where your taste is going to come from. You already spend lots of time building flavour and complexity into it while cooking your Christmas dinner-it’s time to reap the benefits.
Take your filling off the heat and cool it before pouring it into the pastry.
While it’s cooling roll out your pastry or take a little break with a glass of wine!
Line the 9″ deep pie plate with the pastry.
When the meat is cooled enough to handle pour into your lined pie plate with the edges hanging over the sides of the plate. Brush the edges of the pastry with a beaten egg. I used to skip that step and my beautiful pies would come undone in the oven. I like my food to look pretty, so it would frustrate me to no end. The egg is your glue here. Don’t skip this step. I beg you. Pinch your sides of the pie really well and brush the top with the rest of your egg. Also, don’t forget to make pretty slits on your pie to make room for the steam to escape or your pie will explode. Maybe.
As I mentioned earlier, I like my food to look pretty. For the pie you see in the picture I used my turkey cookie cutter on the leftover pastry and cut out a couple of turkeys. Then I appliquéd them on the pie and brushed the whole deal with the egg again.
You know how I begged you not to skip an earlier step? Feel free to skip this one. It’s for food nerds only. Skipping of the last step bares no consequences on the deliciousness of that pie.
Bake your pie for 35 min and serve with whatever you like. In my case it was mashed potatoes and green beans.


PS. This recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver similar recipe but was tweaked so many times that I can almost claim it as my own.