Meat Patties with Dill

kotlety_zkopDill has been growing like crazy on my balcony, so use it now several times a week. Luckily, it’s one of my favourite herbs, so I cannot complain. Patties were probably among the most frequent dishes my mum cooked. I don’t think she has ever made them with dill, but she would sprinkle dill on top of most dishes (a typical culinary gesture in Poland), especially in spring and summer. This gave me the idea to add the dill to the meat mixture (though of course I didn’t skip the sprinkling final touch either!). The result makes them taste lighter, more refreshing, more summery… and actually quite original in the world of meat patties. Serve them with a yogurt-based sauce for a perfect hot weather meal.

Throughout the years I have slightly changed even the basic meat patties making procedure. First of all, I don’t add raw onion, like my mum did, but stir-fried one (I have found this improvement at Nami’s Just One Cookbook; thank you so much, Nami!!!). Secondly, I make smaller patties (my mum’s have a size of my hand), which cook quicker and are juicier without excessively fatty meat. Last, but not least, I find brushing the patties juste before serving with a mixture of soy sauce and sake, a fantastic flavours enhancer, whatever the seasoning and whatever side dishes I have.

TIPS: These patties taste great with tzatziki, Indian raita or similar yogurt-based sauces/dips.

Here are some other dill use ideas:

Bulgarian Dill Salad (Dry Tarator)

Bulgarian Dill Salad (Dry Tarator)

Pickled Dill Cucumber

Pickled Dill Cucumber

Moomins' Pickled Cucumber Salad

Moomins’ Pickled Cucumber Salad

Polish Brined Cucumber Soup

Polish Brined Cucumber Soup

Preparation: about 40 min – 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 3 as a main course, if served with some carbs, such as potatoes):

500 g ground beef+pork or pork or beef+pork+veal (beef alone becomes too tough)

1 egg

aprrox. 5 heaped tablespoons breadcrumbs (you can use Japanese panko) or 1 slice of toast bread soaked in milk or water and then well squeezed

oil to pan fry

1 medium onion or 3 medium shallots

salt, pepper

1 big handful finely chopped dill (discard only the thick…) + some for decoration

(soy sauce+sake, mixed, to brush over the patties before serving)

In a big bowl combine the meat, the salt, the pepper, the dill, the raw egg and the breadcrumbs.

(If you think the mixture is not thick enough to form patties, add more bread crumbs or soak a small bit of bread (don’t put too much bread/crumbs! it might change the taste and also make them tough).)

Put aside.

In the meantime chop the onion finely and stir-fry until golden.

Add to the meat mixture.

If you have time, you can leave the meat, covered, in the fridge for several hours. This will improve the flavours. However, it’s not necessary and you can proceed directly with frying.

Heat some oil in a pan. Form the patties with wet hands and pan-fry at medium heat, covered, until they are well cooked (because of the pork). It usually takes about 15 minutes for each batch. Covering the pan accelerates the process.

Brush the patties with soy sauce just before serving.

Serve sprinkled with dill and preferably with a yogurt-based sauce.

 

 

 

Olives with Lemon Zest and Fennel Seeds

fennel_olivespI haven’t bought seasoned olives for long year because homemade ones are simply better, cheaper and can be ready in about five minutes. Until now I have been seasoning them either European or what I call Korean style, always applying the same method (i.e. combine everything and put into the fridge). I eat them all year round, at any time of the day, at every occasion and even take them as an afternoon snack to the office. Somehow I feel this newly discovered version will be my first choice for hot summer evenings… These olives are particularly refreshing, slightly tangy and, maybe because of the fennel seeds, they simply beg for a glass of ouzo!

I found this mixture of flavours in Smashing Plates by Maria Elia, a wonderful imaginative source of Greek- and Cypriot-inspired recipes. I’ve barely modified the amounts and the method, but I strongly encourage everyone to check Smashing Plates, an original take on traditional Greek culinary traditions.

TIPS: As a big fan of fennel seeds and in general whole seeds as condiments, I loved the additional crunch and texture they add. If you don’t like the idea of whole seeds (or you aren’t sure about your guests’ preferences), you might use of course ground fennel seeds, but I’d advise coarse ground (and do it after roasting whole seeds).

The author advises to warm in the pan all the seasoning ingredients, but I prefer harsher taste of both garlic and chilli, so I have skipped it and only roasted the fennel seeds. Choose the method that suits you best.

Preparation: about 5-10 minutes

Ingredients (serves as a drinks snack for 8 people):

500 g brined olives (unseasoned, of course), drained and rinsed

3 medium garlic cloves, grated, crushed or finely sliced

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

2 fresh chillies, chopped (any heat level and colour will be fine; all depends on your preferences)

lemon zest from one medium lemon, cut into small pieces

5 tablespoons olive oil (or more)

Heat a pan on medium heat and roast fennel seeds for about 30 seconds (don’t burn them).

Combine with all the remaining ingredients and olives.

You can serve these olives straight away if you are in a hurry, but they improve after a night in the fridge (of course covered). If you have kept them in the fridge, take them out about 30 minutes before serving because the oil will solidify during the refrigeration.

They usually keep in the fridge for at least a week (or more).

Light Yogurt Mousse with Passion Fruit

yog_mousse_passionSpring has been particularly cold this year and strawberries (I mean the edible ones) are late, so I keep on buying other fruits. A week ago I was thrilled to find exceptionally aromatic and sweet organic passion fruits and then wondered what dessert I could include them in… Finally, I thought the cleaner the flavours, the better. I’m glad I steered away from chocolate and strong tasting ingredients this time because this simple yogurt mousse proved perfect enhancer of the intense flavours of passion fruit. While shopping the following Friday I even didn’t look cravingly at strawberries and headed straight to passion fruits’ corner.

TIPS: I often make several individual portions of my light yogurt mousse-based desserts (see some of them here) and they keep perfectly several days in the fridge. This one is no exception (of course passion fruit should be added just before you eat).

Whatever the form of gelatin, it’s always indicated how much you need in order to set a certain amount of liquid. I don’t want to obtain here a stiff jelly-like texture, but something similar to a mousse, so I always check the advised amount and use only about 3/4 of it.

For the first time I used here only full-fat natural yogurt, but the following time I wanted it richer/creamier, so I reduced the amount of yogurt (see below) and added a bit of cream (mine was half-fat). It was just heavenly and still remained a light dessert.

Instead of normal full fat yogurt you can use here Greek yogurt or very smooth (mixed) fresh cheese/curd cheese/quark/, also called fromage frais/serek homogenizowany)

Ripe passion fruits have wrinkled skin (I learnt it very recently!), but if you buy smooth ones, you can put them at room temperature and wait until they ripen. Afterwards keep them in the fridge.

Preparation: 5 minutes+at least 2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4-5): 

500 ml  (about 17 fl oz) unsweetened full-fat yogurt (or see the TIPS above) or, if you want this dessert richer and creamier: 450 ml yogurt+50 ml cream

3/4 of the amount of gelatin necessary to set 500ml/17fl oz of liquid (usually 1 tablespoon gelatin or 6 – 8 sheets, depending on the size/brand, so check well the package and reduce the amount to about 3/4, see the TIPS above)+4 tablespoons warm water (I prefer to use hot water with powdered gelatin)

4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener of your choice

4-5 passion fruits (or more, depends on the size; I count 1 big per person or 1 and half of smaller ones)

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm or hot (not boiling) water. (If using leaves, proceed as indicated on the package). (I’ve recently stumbled upon instant gelatin powder which can be added directly to any creamy mixture or liquid without previous dissolving, so check well the procedure on the package.)

Mix the yogurt (or fresh cheese) and the sweetener/sugar in a food processor.

Add the dissolved gelatin and mix well.

Pour the yogurt mixture into individual bowls or glasses and put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Just before serving, cut the passion fruits in two and scoop out the flesh on top of each mousse.

Growing Garlic Leaves Indoors, or What to Do With Sprouting Garlic?

garlic_leaves_I bet some of you also keep on finding old, last year’s sprouting garlic heads. Once they sprout, the taste becomes harsh and when the next – mushy – stage arrives, most of us usually throw them away. This year, I decided to do exactly what I have been doing for years with sprouting onion bulbs and simply planted a garlic head indoors. In barely one week I obtained 20 cm (about 8 in) of delicious, strongly scented fake garlic chives and at the same time saved my garlic from the bin. I didn’t even need to use my balcony! The small amount of light (we’ve been having an awful spring this year) was enough to make these green leaves grow at an impressive speed!

Though I have been treating this away sprouting onions almost for the pas four years, I’ve never had the idea to experiment with garlic. I’m glad I did because it’s such a rewarding and funny experience! The garlic leaves have a stronger scent and taste than garlic chives, but they can be used in a similar way or as a substitution of garlic.

Here is a quick reminder of what can be obtained if you plant a sprouting onion bulb:

springonions

TIP: You will probably have to throw the soil away once the experiment is over because garlic’s root grow at a speed even higher than the leaves and quickly the fill the whole potted space.

If you have a garden, obviously you don’t need to pot the garlic bulb!

I haven’t tried growing leaves from single garlic cloves yet. If you do, please let me know if it works.

Directions:

Take a garlic head with sprouting cloves (don’t worry if some of them don’t sprout; they will sprout once they are potted) and plant it, covering about 2/3 of its height, in a pot filled with soil.

Place it in any room you prefer, as long as there is some light during the day.

Water it every day or every other day (depends on the soil and air dryness), keeping the soil moist and wait patiently until the garlic leaves/spring onions appear.

(I haven’t checked yet if a second generation of leaves would keep on growing…I’ll update this post if it does).

 

 

 

 

Easy Lazy Eggless Baked Chicken Katsu (Breaded Chicken Breast)

baked_chkatsupTonkatsu 豚カツ (breaded pork) and especially chicken katsu チキンカツ are among those Japanese dishes I could eat practically every other day. Until recently, I thought they had a huge disadvantage : being deep-fried. (I don’t find deep-frying difficult, complicated or dangerous and actually like it, but avoid it due to the fat and calorie content.) This was until I discovered Nami’s (Just One Cookbook) revolutionary solution : baked chicken katsu. Thanks to her, suddenly, tonkatsu and chicken katsu have switched from a rare special treat to a guilt-free staple!

If you have ever deep-fried chicken katsu or tokatsu, the ingredients of this lighter baked version are the same: flour, beaten egg and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), all used to coat the meat. The only difference is that panko is stir-fried until golden before the meat is coated, which takes only a while, so the process is quite easy. However, since I’m a lazy cook, always in search of shortcuts, after a dozen of baking sessions I started to wonder what would happen if I skipped the flour and egg coating stage… One day I simply brushed chicken breasts in oil (to make them stickier), coated in stir-fried breadcrumbs and baked as advised in Nami’s recipe. Even though oil-brushed meat is less sticky than an egg coating, the amount of panko is enough to make it still deliciously crisp. This baked chicken katsu might look less attractive than its deep fried version, but it’s so much quicker, lighter and easier, I just couldn’t wait to share it with you.

Personally I find both the three stage-coated and this lazy, one stage-coated chicken katsu equally delicious, but it might not be to everyone’s taste, so check the beautifully photographed Nami’s Baked Chicken Katsu together with a very helpful video.

TIPS: You can use any fat or oil of your choice. After many tests I have become crazy for coconut oil in both panko frying and meat brushing stages. The final flavours have only a hint of coconut aroma and I love it.

You can fry some panko crumbs in advance, cool them down and keep in a closed jar for several days. Strangely they still keep crisp and you can skip their stir-frying process.

Chicken katsu and tonkatsu are served in Japan with a special tonkatsu sauce (easily available at Japanese groceries but I prefer much more less sweet homemade version) and ground white sesame seeds. I also like it with ponzu (yuzu citrus and soy sauce mixture) and… mayonnaise+ taberu rayu (garlicky chilli sauce with sediments, see how to make it here).

Quick Chilli and Garlic Oil with Sediments

Quick Chilli and Garlic Oil with Sediments

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

2 small chicken breasts or 1 very big (if you use very big chicken breasts, halve them lengthwise)

8 heaped tablespoons of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1 tablespoon coconut oil+ 1 more for meat brushing

salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a pan (at low heat). Slowly stir-fry the panko crumbs (don’t stop stirring because at a certain point they quickly burn) until they become golden.

Once they cool down, place them on a plate.

Season the meat with salt and pepper.

Coat the chicken breasts in panko, pressing with your hands (pat more with your hands if you want more of the crunchy crust!).

Place on baking paper and bake for about 20-25 minutes (depending on the breast size and the oven) until, when pierced with a tooth pick the running juices are clear, not pink.

If you intend to eat with chopsticks, cut the breast into bite-sized pieces before serving.

You can serve them with tonkatsu sauce (in every Japanese grocery shop), but personally I love them with mayonnaise and hot sauce (such as sriracha or taberu rayu) and, in a lighter version with ponzu (soy sauce and Japanese citrus sauce).