Category Archives: READY IN MAX. 20 MINUTES

Fresh Goat Cheese Spread/Dip with Chives

I’ve always loved fresh goat cheese, but it has really become my daily fare since I met a lovely young woman selling her organic goat cheese at my French farmers market. The taste has nothing to do with any shop-bought version (organic or not), the cheese freshest possible (produced the same morning) and the price is so low, I let her fill up a big tupperware and enjoy it almost every single day during the goat milking season, i.e. all year round apart from most of the winter (they became all pregnant – I know there must be a proper word for that in English too… – hence the halt in cheese production until baby goats are born).

Even though I had frozen big amounts of this cheese (the texture changes a bit but they still beat whatever one can find in shops), I ran out of them quite a long time ago and was very impatient to start buying it again. Coming back home the very first thing I did was devouring a whole one with a spoon, but just after that I made this delicious spread that makes me feel springtime is already here and reminds me of my childhood.

Actually, it’s an almost identical copy of the simple fresh cow cheese and chives spread I used to eat often as a child and which is very popular in Poland. In countries where goat cheese is expensive, this goat version would be a luxury, but luckily I live close to France where fresh goat cheese is extremely popular and obviously not expensive. The only personal twist I’ve added to my mum’s recipe is garlic, but chives remain the crucial element that makes this spread irresistible.

I usually have this spread on my favourite breakfast bread (this Finnish super thin “diet” one), not only in the morning but also as an afternoon snack. You can also serve it at a party, as a dip with nachos or raw vegetables and it’s delicious on dark/wholemeal bread canapés (if you like pumpernickel, you will love the combination).

If you don’t find fresh goat cheese (or if it’s expensive where you live or if you simply don’t like it), you can use fresh cow or ewe cheese (often called cottage cheese, but make sure it’s all natural).

Here are some other spreads you might like:

Baba Ghanouj/M'tabal (Aubergine Dip)

Baba Ghanouj/M’tabal (Aubergine Dip)

Yogurt/Quark Spread with Caramelised Onion

Yogurt/Quark Spread with Caramelised Onion

Tzatziki with Fennel

Tzatziki with Fennel

Bulgarian Dill Salad/Dip (Dry Tarator)

Bulgarian Dill Salad/Dip (Dry Tarator)

Taramosalata (Fish Roe Dip)

Taramosalata (Fish Roe Dip)

TIPS: While you can perfectly replace goat cheese with cow cheese (the taste is different, of course), I do not advise replacing chives with thick spring onions. They are too aggressive, too “oniony” and at the same time are not as aromatic as chives (I did try once and regretted my experiment). If you have access to the Japanese ao negi (slightly thicker than chives and less pungent), it will be a perfect replacement and you can use more of if, since it’s more delicate.

If you have a source of good quality fresh goat cheese, but it’s far away, buy it in big amounts and freeze it in well wrapped portions. Strangely the texture changes only a bit and the taste is practically the same. It becomes maybe less moist, but I still find it delicious mixed with yogurt and used as a spread. (My experiments in freezing cheese are sometimes surprising: I have always thought hard cheese freezes well, but I recently saw gruyère’s texture become horribly crumbly and dry, while the famous French blue cheese roquefort stayed in perfect shape… though I must say I always vacuum pack my cheese before freezing it, apart from the fresh one which is too soft).

Obviously, if you don’t like garlic, skip it. As I said, fresh cheese and chives are the key to the delightful flavours.

Yogurt is used here only to loosen the texture, so its amount depends on the texture of the cheese.

Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients (makes approximately a 250 ml jar of spread):

300 g of fresh goat cheese

125 ml natural yogurt (cow or goat milk yogurt will be ok), or more/less; see the TIPS above

6 heaped tablespoons chopped chives (or more)

1 big clove garlic

salt (to taste)

Combine the ingredients and refrigerate or eat it straight away.

This spread will keep for several days in the fridge.

Raita (Yogurt Sauce/Dip) with Pomegranate Seeds and Mint

pomegranata_raitapI thought this colourful raita might be like a ray of sunshine after a week of horribly cold rainy weather. The funny thing is that as soon as I prepared it, the sun really went out and suddenly the day felt like an extension of summer… so my roast chicken dinner felt particularly joyful. In spite of its summery appearance, this it is definitely an autumnal dish: here pomegranates are abundant (in full season from what I read, though of course imported) and, when it comes to fresh herbs, they still thrive on my balcony, so I am still able to pick fresh mint every day.

This delicious version of raita is one more jewel from Made in India: Cooked in Britain by Meera Sodha. As soon as I made it, I ranted once more about the boring almost identical choices in every Indian restaurant I went to in my area… but luckily I have wonderful cookery books and time to cook! Anyway, it’s the first time I added pomegranate to yogurt and I loved it! It can be served just like any raita (i.e. with Indian dishes), but it’s also fantastic with simple roast chicken, any kind of wrap and any heavy and/or fiery dish (such as my previous recipe, Spare Ribs in Guchujang), since it’s particularly mild and refreshing. I didn’t really look at Meera Sodha’s exact ingredients’ amounts, so I invite everyone to check the recipe in its original source.

TIPS: The recipe calls for dried mango powder (it’s available in Indian shops and on internet; I bought it from Amazon in UK), but I think you can easily replace it with tamarind juice.

Do not skip the tiny amount of sugar! It does add an additional flavour to the tangy raita.

If you are afraid of splashing pomegranate juice all around the kitchen, fill a big bowl with cold water, cut the pomegranate into 4 or two pieces and then tear it up under the water, taking out the seeds. The yellowish “skins” will float at the surface and thus will be easy to remove. All you need to do afterwards is straining the seeds.

Preparation: about 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

seeds from 1 small pomegranate (or 1/2 big one)

1 natural unsweetened full fat yogurt (125 ml/about 4 oz)

a pinch of salt

a pinch of sugar

1/2 flat teaspoon dry mango powder

a pinch of powdered cumin (the best taste is obtained with freshly toasted whole seeds, which are then ground just before being used)

1 heaped tablespoon chopped mint leaves

Combine all the ingredients, taste and adjust the flavours, if needed. Chill for one hour (or not, if in a hurry) and serve.

Do not prepare it a day before: mint becomes soggy and spoils the whole raita.

 

Tomato, Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad with Pomegranate Molasses

pomegranate_salad_It’s got colder in recent days and lower temperatures reminded me of the upcoming end of tomato season. I’m preserving it for the winter (preparing especially my beloved Indian chutney) and I eat raw ripe sweet tomatoes every single day, sometimes even twice, trying to enjoy them as long as they last. Last week this side dish was added to my favourite duo (Tomato and Shiso Salad and Indian Tomato Salad) and I cannot get enough of its various textures, flavours and scents, all in just one bowl.

This is a vague interpretation of a tomato salad and probably also inspired by other cold dishes from Persiana. Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond by Sabrina Ghaynour, a wonderful book I was offered by a friend. As an avowed carni- and piscivore I was surprised to realise a rare phenomenon : vegetable dishes stayed most firmly engraved in my memory after leafing and leafing through it. The presence of pomegranate is also particularly visible, so, as someone who has been buying it quite rarely, I suddenly feel very inspired and plan to include it in many dishes. Persiana has also made me buy a bottle of pomegranate molasses and though it’s the only dressing/sauce I used in this salad, it was just perfect, just like the author said. I felt no need even for salt or pepper! Another product to play with in the upcoming months!

In case you wonder what else to do with ripe, delicious, end-of-season tomatoes….

Indian Tomato Salad

Indian Tomato Salad

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Indian-Style Tomato Chutney

Indian-Style Tomato Chutney

TIPS: Pomegranate molasses are simply thickened pomegranate juice, so if you buy it, read well the ingredients. If anything else (apart from pomegranate juice) appears (for example sugar), it’s not the real thing.

Emptying a pomegranate is not obvious at first. Until now the best tip I have found is cutting through the fruit in half and emptying it submerged in a bowl of water. The yellowish skins will float at the surface and thus will be easy to remove. Beware! Pomegranate juice stains clothes!

Preparation : about 10 minutes (if you have emptied your pomegranate)

Ingredients (serves two-three):

seeds from 1 small pomegranate

1 small cucumber (or 1/4 of a long cucumber) 

3 medium very ripe tomatoes

1/2 – 1 small red onion

kernels from 3-4 walnuts

a generous splash of pomegranate molasses

(fresh mint)

Cut the cucumber and the tomato into chunks.

Slice the onion finely (I have used a mandolin).

Chop the walnut kernels roughly.

Arrange all the ingredients in a bowl.

Add the pomegranate molasses and serve.

(This salad keeps quite well in the fridge for at least 24 hours though it’s best freshly made).

 

Anchovy Vinaigrette, or Anchovy Salad Dressing

anchovy_vin_A big part of my summer meals consist of bowlfuls of salad leaves, topped with tomato, sometimes other raw vegetables, and proteins, such as cheese, egg, ham, bacon, canned tuna…. I often change both the toppings and the vinaigrettes, but none of the dressings I have tasted produces the effect comparable to this anchovy vinaigrette: it has this irresistible je-ne-sais-quoi characteristic of umami-packed food.

Canned or salted anchovy is hated by many people, but if mixed and used in correct amounts, it improves flavours in a very discreet way and thus can be enjoyed by all. I am a big fan of anchovies on their own (anchovy pizza is the only one I’ve been ordering for years!), so I’d like to propose also an “anchovy lovers” option. The latter, apart from mixed anchovy, has an additional amount of chopped anchovy added to the sauce  for a double anchovy taste (this is the one you see at the photograph above).

As for the source – or rather inspiration – of my recipe, I once saw an anchovy vinaigrette mentioned on a British tv cooking program, but don’t remember where exactly and didn’t write down the recipe. A couple of weeks ago I simply added anchovies to oil, vinegar and garlic and… it worked!

If you are an anchovy fan, you might also like this Spanish salad:

Egg, Pepper and Anchovy Salad

Egg, Pepper and Anchovy Salad

TIPS: This dressing is perfect for both salad as a full meal or as a side-dish (only leaves and maybe tomatoes). If you want to try the above salad version, I’ve put there a boiled egg, capers, mini tomatoes, dill and ground pepper. The tomatoes are dark because it’s the black Crimean variety.

Obviously you can use here both canned and salt-preserved anchovies. I never see the salted ones, so cannot tell you what difference in taste they make. If you are not a huge fan of anchovies and simply curious about the taste of this vinaigrette, start with half of the anchovy amount I wrote.

You can replace a part of olive oil with the oil from anchovies (if you use anchovies in oil), but don’t skip olive oil.

Preparation: 5 minutes

Ingredients (serves two): 

2 slightly heaped tablespoons of finely chopped drained canned anchovy (+1 more if you want the “anchovy lovers” version)

4 tablespoons olive oil (or a part of olive oil and canned anchovies’ oil)

1 big clove garlic, squashed or grated

6 (or more) tablespoons wine vinegar

Mix everything in a food processor (a baby food processor is very useful here) or mash well the anchovies with a fork, then mix well with the remaining ingredients. (Afterwards, add the chopped tablespoon of anchovies, if making the strong-flavoured version.) Taste and add more oil/vinegar, if needed.

This vinaigrette will keep for at least a week in the fridge, so it’s a good idea to make a bigger amount.

Asparagus and Streaky Bacon Rolls, or the Quickest Asparagus Dish

asparagus_bacon_rollspAfter a particularly cold spring, we’re having  impossibly hot days (28°C at 9 pm is not my favourite weather in the city…), so my body and mind have had a thermal shock. As a result I’ve been utterly lazy in the kitchen. The asparagus bought with the intention to make chawan mushi (Japanese steamed savoury custard) ended up in these simple rolls because suddenly chawan mushi (which otherwise I prepare practically every second week) seemed too messy, too long, too tiresome… I know they are far from being original, but I thought it’d be a good idea to remind my dear readers of such a quick and easy asparagus treat many of us tend to forget about (at least I do).

The rolls are perfect as they are, served with rice or bread or on their own, as a snack, but since I always try to smuggle an egg into every asparagus meal, here is the same bowl with a fried egg (the egg is not the best looking, but it was another quick shot with my camera because I was simply too hungry and exhausted after 15 minutes spent in my sauna-like kitchen):

asparagus_rolls_bacon_egg

(If you are curious about the ugly-looking powdery stuff on the rice, it’s my homemade spicy furikake with prune (a Japanese rice topping).

TIPS: I hate mushy green asparagus, so here it’s practically half-raw and very crunchy, but feel free to precook it if you like it soft.

Preparation: about 15-20 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

8 thin (I prefer about 5 mm/ about 1/5 in thick in the middle) green asparagus spears, the lower tough 1/4th or 1/3th discarded (the thinnest the spear, the smeller the tough discardable part)

4 super thin (transparent, cut thinly like cured ham) slices of smoked streaky bacon

Cut the asparagus spears into pieces a bit longer than the bacon’s width.

Divide the pieces into four groups (make sure you have at least one asparagus top in every group, since it’s the most delicious part).

Roll tightly into the streaky bacon and stir-fry on medium heat until crisp, starting with the sealed part of the rolls and then turning once (you can also grill the rolls).

Since my asparagus is raw, I like to cover the rolls during the first half of the frying process (thus they cook a bit, but not too much).

Serve with rice or as a snack with toothpicks.