Category Archives: READY IN MAX. 20 MINUTES

Armenian Cucumber Kimchi

This is the most recent kimchi recipe in my collection, and, most of all, a short report on my recent vegetable – or rather a fruit – discovery. A week ago I saw Armenian cucumbers for the first time in my life. I had never tasted them before, the shop assistant either, but they were locally grown and organic, so I was even more tempted. First, avoiding risks, I served half of it as a simple side-dish with vinaigrette and it was so good, I decided to try the remaining part in kimchi. Freshly made and after four days, it was particularly crunchy, refreshing and perfect for the summer heat, but I am also sure that, contrary to standard cucumber, this one might keep crunchy for long months…

Armenian cucumber (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus), also known as snake cucumber or serpent cucumber, is apparently closest to muskmelon, but also related to standard cucumbers. As its name suggests, it apparently originated in Armenia but nowadays is cultivated in many countries, such as USA or Japan. (From what I have noticed online Japanese uri look a bit different and all have smooth skin, though probably share the same texture and flavours) Armenian cucumber is less watery and much crunchier than any standard cucumber variety (the texture is closer to a small young courgette). It has a very thin skin which makes peeling unnecessary (though I never peel cucumbers anyway) and, though its taste bears some resemblance  to the cucumber, its flavours are more delicate and it’s much crunchier. I already see myself experimenting a lot with this new summer discovery, so I hope I’ll be able to see it on sale more often!

For those who have never heard of kimchi (김치), it is a preparation of fermented vegetables with dried chili peppers and other seasonings and has a very long history, though chilli was added only in XVIth century. (In fact, there exists also a “white” kimchi version, without chilli). Apart from the chili, garlic, ginger and scallions are the most frequent seasoning ingredients. It also always contains a fermentation “enhancer” such as fish sauce, raw shrimp, raw oysters or fermented fish.

Kimchi has a very powerful smell, but once you taste it and love it, the smell will never be associated with anything unpleasant. It is spicy, hot, sour and, like most fermented vegetables, very healthy. Apart from being served as a side dish, kimchi (matured one) is used in fried rice, stew and soups. 

Many vegetables can be made into kimchi, but Napa cabbage is the most popular and from my experience it can be kept in the fridge even for a year. I have already prepared daikon (white radish) kimchi, celery kimchi, white cabbage kimchi and cucumber kimchi which is my number one in the summer because it’s refreshing and particularly good when young, i.e. one or two weeks old. 

If you don’t have Armenian cucumber, you might like one of these versions of kimchi:

Easy Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Kimchi)

Bok choy/Pak choy kimchi

Mak Kimchi (Easy Napa Cabbage Kimchi)

White Radish Kimchi (Kkakdugi)

Celery Kimchi

TIPS: If you make kimchi for the first time, make sure you find Korean chilli flakes. Powdered chilli of any other origin will not do here unfortunately. You probably won’t have any problems finding the remaining ingredients (I use Thaï fish sauce, which is available in practically all the Asian shops).

If your kimchi grows mould or has an weird smell after fermenting (though sometimes to recognise it you must be familiar with the normal kimchi smell…), it means the container is not airtight. Apart from special kimchi containers, I strongly recommend Lock&Lock containers, which are airtight, keep for years and are BPA free. They are available all around the world, I think (I buy them online though).

This kimchi is quite versatile: it can be eaten straight away as a kind of spicy side-dish or fermented for two days and kept for a long time in the fridge (see below).

Do not peel Armenian cucumbers. The skin is very thin, delicious and probably packed with fibers.

Carrot is optional. I add it from time to time. Toasted sesame seeds are also optional. You can add them while preparing kimchi or just before serving.

Preparation: 45 minutes + chilling time or, if you ferment it, minimum 1 week

Ingredients:

500 g (about 2 lb) Armenian cucumber

1 tablespoon coarse salt

1-2 teaspoons garlic (grated or crushed)

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

3-4 heaped tablespoons Korean chili flakes

1 tablespoon fish sauce

3 green onion stalks, cut into 2 cm pieces

(1 small carrot, julienned)

(toasted sesame seeds)

Cut the cucumber in two lengthwise. Remove the seeds with a special spoon or simply scratch this soft part with a spoon.  Then cut the pieces once more in two lengthwise and then into thick slices.

Sprinkle the cucumber pieces with salt and leave them for 30 minutes.

Drain the cucumber, but do not rinse it.

Add all the seasoning ingredients and combine with the cucumber.

Wait for 20-30 minutes and serve straight away (chilled) or leave for two days in an airtight jar or other non-reactive container to ferment in room temperature and then keep in the fridge for months.

If you decide to ferment them, after placing the cucumber mixture in a container, rinse the bowl in which you have mixed it with about 100 ml water and pour it over the tightly packed cucumber chunks.

 

Fresh Goat Cheese and Wild Garlic Spread/Dip

Wild garlic season is short, so I make sure I buy it every week while it lasts. Last Saturday, the nice lady who keeps my favourite goat cheese stall (at my French farmers’ market there are now three stalls selling exclusively goat cheese!) suggested I combine fresh goat cheese and wild garlic. As soon as I came home I made this simple spread and it was so perfectly delicious I still wonder why I haven’t thought about it earlier… If you’ve never tasted wild garlic, chopping it into a bowl of fresh cheese and spreading it on a slice of bread is a great starting point.

Ramsons, wild garlic, buckrams, bear’s garlic, bear paw garlic… (Allium Ursinum) is a wild, wide-leaved plant with a very distinct garlic scent and apparently a favourite of bears, who would dig out its bulbs (hence the name). Its edible long leaves are very similar to those of the lily of the valley and mixing them up is very dangerous, since the latter are toxic. The strong smell created when the leaves are rubbed is the only way to distinguish them if one is not an experienced forager. Planting its bulbs in one’s garden (the seeds are sold in Swiss gardening shops) or buying from a trustworthy market stall is even safer! … 

Wild garlic grows all around Europe but while its use in the kitchen is popular in certain countries, it is almost non-existent in the others and often limited to rural areas. In Switzerland it appears in April and disappears in May and is so popular, it can be found on many market stalls and even in supermarkets. It is extremely versatile and can be treated as a spinach or other leaf substitute but also as a condiment, a milder cousin of garlic. If you find yourself with a big bunch of wild garlic, here are some other ideas:

Chicken with Wild Garlic and Cashew Nuts

Chicken with Wild Garlic and Cashew Nuts

Wild Garlic Pillows

Wild Garlic Pillows

Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild Garlic Pesto

Mock Spanakopita Rolls with Wild Garlic

TIPS: I’ve used here fresh goat cheese but if you don’t have access to it (or don’t like it), you can use cow or ewe cheese instead (or thick yogurt, such as Greek yogurt). It just must be fresh and slightly tangy.

Preparation: about ten minutes

Ingredients (serves as a snack for two-three):

250 g fresh goat cheese (or cow/ewe fresh cheese)

125 ml yogurt or sour cream

10 big wild garlic leaves choppes

salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients, add more yogurt if the consistency is too thick (and maybe more wild garlic leaves).

You can serve it immediately, but the taste improves (becomes more garlicky) after several hours in the fridge.

This spread/dip will keep several days in the fridge.

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).