Tag Archives: dinner

Persian Chicken Salad

Standard

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

Advertisements

Thai Noodle Bowl

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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” 🙂

IMG_0926
Adorable child “numero due” Signorina Sofia looking mischievous as usual.
IMG_0906
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.
IMG_0928
IMG_0904
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
IMG_1097

Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie or Happy British Pie Week

Standard

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

Standard

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!