Tag Archives: food

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

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

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

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

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

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry

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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.

Apple Spice Streusel Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle

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Apple Spice Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle
Don’t you think autumn is the ideal time to bake? There is plenty of fruit that’s been just harvested but the temperature is not scorching hot anymore which makes a warm oven is quite welcome. Especially when it is a cheaper substitute for central heating!

This cake is my take on a well-beloved zucchini loaf except instead of zucchini I am using shredded apples. They add the same amount of moisture to the cake and so much more aroma and flavour! Just look at the raw material I was working with!

Apple Spice Streusel Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle
You are going to fall in love with this cake because it has the familiar taste of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves we so crave in the fall and the little extras like streusel top and salted caramel drizzle take it to the next level. I also lightned up the cake by using only 1/2 cup of oil and a reduced amount of sugar. I’ve used Demerara sugar, which has more nutrients and minerals than regular white sugar, it’s light brown, raw and has a natural caramel flavour that hasn’t been refined out!Apple Spice Streusel Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle
Ingredients:

For the Cake

  • Apples- 4 medium (3 cups shredded)
  • Sugar ( I used Demerara/Turbinado sugar)-11/4 cup
  • Oil-1/2 cup
  • Eggs-4 large
  • Flour-3 cups
  • Baking soda- 2 tsp.
  • Baking powder-1/2 tsp.
  • Salt-1 tsp.
  • Cinnamon- 1 tsp.
  • Mixed Spice- 1/2 tsp.
  • Nutmeg- 1/4 tsp.

For the Streusel Topping

  • Flour-5 1/2 tbsp.
  • Sugar (Demerara/Turbinado)-5 tbsp.
  • Cinnamon- 1/4 tsp.
  • Mixed Spice- 1/4 tsp.
  • Nutmeg- 1/4 tsp.
  • Butter, slightly softened- 3 tbsp.
  • Walnuts (chopped)- 1/4 cup

Salted Caramel Drizzle ( I used pre-made Marks and Spencer brand)-2-3 tbs.

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C

2. Grease the bottom only but not the sides of a 9″ round pan. Springform pan works the best as it makes it easier to remove the cake after it’s been baked.  Shred the apples with skin on and mix together with sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients (cake ingredients only). Pour the batter into your pan and smooth the top.

3. Mix together the streusel ingredients in a small bowl with a fork or use your hands.  The streusel won’t be crumbly but will have the consistency of a cookie batter. Pinch of small bits and cover the surface of the cake.

4. Bake for 60 minutes or until the toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.

5. Let cool for 30 minutes, then loosen the sides of the cake and remove it from the pan. Drizzle with pre-made salted caramel in any way your imagination allows. (If you caramel sauce is a bit stiff put it in the microwave for 30 seconds, that should help to get it runny and only use a good quality brand you trust. :-))

Even though this cake is incredibly soft and flavourful, the best part of it is the crunchy streusel top drenched in caramel. Pure indulgence!

Apple Spice Streusel Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle

Apple Spice Streusel Cake with Caramel Drizzle

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

Raspberry Almond Muffins

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Raspberry Almond Muffins
I woke up this morning to the sound of the rain, not a terrible thing I suppose if you can stay dry and cozy inside. There is was another thing though that kept my mood gloomy. Brad was leaving for a work trip to Sri Lanka and we have a long history of being away from each other through the years due to travelling. The longest one was 9 months during our engagement. He spent it in Nepal and I lived in the Philippines. To this days it was a wonderful and the most dreadful year of my life.

In order to snap out my misery I decided I needed to keep busy while the kids were at school. I thought it would be a pleasant surprise for them to walk into the house that smelled of warm and fragrant muffins- amazingly fluffy muffins filled with raspberries, the last remnant of the summer!

Raspberry Almond MuffinsRaspberry Almond Muffins
Ingredients: { Makes 12}

  • Flour- 2 cups
  • Sugar- 3/4 cup
  • Baking powder-1 1/2 tsp.
  • Baking soda- 1/2 tsp.
  • Salt-1/2 tsp.
  • Sour Cream- 1 cup ( I used reduced fat)
  • Milk- 1/2 cup
  • Vegetable oil- 1/4 cup
  • Almond extract (or use vanilla if you don’t like almond)- 1/2 tsp.
  • Eggs- 2 large
  • Raspberries (fresh or frozen)- 1 cup
  • Sliced Almonds- 1-2 tbsp.

Method:

Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Line your muffin pan with paper liners.

In large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a smaller bowl whisk sour cream, milk, oil, almond extract and eggs.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and combine until blended, then gently fold in raspberries.

Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups and sprinkle sliced almonds on top. Bake for 20 minutes, test with a toothpick for doneness, it should come out clean. {I also dusted them with a tinge of powdered sugar once they cooled a bit}. Yum!

These muffins are truly gorgeous. My son said that “raspberries make them very refreshing”. 🙂 I just love how children express themselves!

Raspberry Almond Muffins
Being busy definitely helped so it’s fair to expect a lot more baking in the next two weeks.

The recipe was adapted from  “The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook”.

Crumb Apricot Cheesecake

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Crumb Apricot Cheesecake
Do you have a recipe you’ve made so many times you know it by heart? Better yet, was that recipe passed on to you by your momma? The one I am about to share with you is one of those recipes. The first time I made it I was in my early teens and since then I’ve made it hundreds of times…literally. It was my mom and my “go to recipe” when there was only about half an hour between a phone call and guests appearing on our doorsteps.  We made it so many times we used every kind of fruit filling possible. I thought we exhausted all the options but I was wrong.

Last Saturday morning I woke up with a strong urge to bake and I knew I was craving something Slavic. 🙂 That’s right it’s a thing. I made a dash to the closest Polish shop and picked up a pound of farmer’s cheese. It was a good start. When I grabbed the closest to me cookbook an old, marked with food stains piece of paper fell out. I grinned widely when I picked it up. The precious sheet of paper contained a collection of our family’s favourite recipes typed up by my mom and sent to me when I left for college in America. Bingo! That’s exactly what I needed.

Crumb Apricot Cheesecake
If you follow my blog you’d know that when it comes to recipes nothing is sacred to me. I love to change things up and what started out as my mom’s favourite recipe became highly experimental at some point of the process. Needless to say, I was beyond pleased when I cut into it (after hours of waiting for it to cool) and found out the risk payed off!
What my mom and I always made was essentially a seasonal fruit encased in rich and buttery pastry but somehow I ended up with a fruit cheesecake with a buttery crust and almond crumb topping. Pure luxury.
Crumb Apricot Cheesecake
Have I convinced you that you too need it in your life?

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • Flour-2 1/2cups
  • Butter- 1 cup/250 gr.
  • Sugar- 1 cup
  • Egg- 1
  • Baking powder-1/2 tsp

For the filling:

  • Apricots- 12
  • Farmer’s Cheese (Tvorog)/Cream Cheese- 500 gr/16 oz
  • Eggs -2
  • Sugar- 1 cup
  • Semolina- 2 tbsp.
  • Vanilla bean/Vanilla extract- seeds from 1 vanilla bean/ 1 tsp.
  • Ground Almonds ( for the topping)- 1/4 cup

Method:

In the food processor combine flour, cold butter, sugar and baking powder, pulse until the  mixture resembles fine bread crumbs, add the egg and pulse until just combined.  (This could also be easily done in a regular bowl with a pastry blender.) Take the pastry out of the food processor, it will be soft.  Pinch off 1/3 of the pastry, wrap it in a plastic wrap and put in the freezer. Wrap the rest in the plastic wrap as well and put this portion in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Crumb Apricot Cheesecake

Now let’s take care of the filling.  Cut your apricots in half and pit them. Set aside. (I also planned to use the red and black currants at first but then changed my mind and that is why they are in the picture.)

Combine farmer’s cheese or cream cheese, eggs, sugar, semolina and vanilla bean seeds in a large bowl using a hand mixer until smooth or a food processor if you want your farmer’s cheese to be less grainy. ( I processed mine in the food processor for a silky consistency.)

When the pastry is finished chilling take it out of the fridge and roll it out to fit an 9″ springform pan lining the bottom and the sides all the way to the top. Don’t worry if your pastry tears, just take the overhanging pieces and patch up the holes! That pastry is very pliable and forgiving. When your springform pan is lined all the way put it back in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Then take it out of the fridge and fill it with the cheese filling and top with apricots.

Crumb Apricot Cheesecake
Now it’s time to get your crumb topping out of the freezer. In Russia this dessert is called “Tertiy Pirog”, which literally means “Grated Pastry” because the top is being frozen and then grated directly on the filling with a vegetable grater like so.
Crumb Apricot Cheesecake
I decided to toss my crumbs with ground almonds for an extra indulgence. Trim off your overhanging sides and press them gently in to blend with the crumb topping. When the pastry casing bakes it magically all blends together beautifully.

Put it in the preheated oven at 350F/180C and bake for 50 minutes or until golden. Cool it for an hour until cool to the touch and then chill it in the refrigerator for at least 2 more hours to ensure the cheese filling in cooled completely. (Waiting for it was the hardest part for me. :-)) Crumb Apricot CheesecakeDust with additional powdered sugar if desired and enjoy with a cup of tea!
Crumb Apricot CheesecakeCrumb Apricot Cheesecake