Category Archives: x CATEGORIES by ORIGINS or INSPIRATION

Breaded Pork and Shiso Rolls

These rolls are the result of an exceptional craving for tonkatsu (Japanese breaded pork cutlets) combined with a desperate need to do something with an abundant crop of shiso leaves. I sliced the pork very thinly, seasoned it, rolled tightly with the shiso leaves, breaded and deep-fried. These crisp and aromatic rolls were perfect to celebrate probably one of the last harvests of this year’s balcony-grown shiso.

TIPS: Shiso (or perilla) is a Japanese herb (though it’s also used in Thailand and a slightly differently scented variety also in Korea), which luckily becomes more and more popular abroad (my two local gardening shops have been selling it potted for the third year in row). It grows in most climates, even on a balcony, so if you cannot get the potted plant, try sowing it. Unfortunately, shiso isn’t similar to any other herb I know, so I have no idea what can be used here instead. Certainly a herb which is still aromatic and good after being cooked (maybe Thai basil?).

My favourite way to have these rolls is with a mixture of mayonnaise and sediments from chilli oil (Taberu rayu), but they are also very good with soy sauce and chilli oil and I guess any dipping sauce will be delicious.

You can ask the butcher to cut thin pork slices or use a big wide very sharp knife (I now always do it on my own, it takes 5 minutes).

Make sure you have enough shiso leaves to cover the whole surface (more or less) of the slices. Otherwise you won’t feel the taste of shiso once it’s fried.

If you can get Japanese panko breadcrumbs, use them here. They are crisper and seem to absorb less fat than standard or homemade breadcrumbs.

Click here if you look for other recipe ideas with shiso.

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves as a main dish for 4-5, if served with rice and vegetables, or as a snack/appetiser for 6 or 7 at least):

1/2 kg (about 1 lb) pork loin, without fat, cut into thin (max. 2 mm) slices

big shiso leaves (as many as the number of slices or double the amount if the leaves are small; they should cover more or less the whole surface of the slices)

salt, pepper

1 egg, beaten with a fork

2 heaped tablespoons flour

2 big handfuls of breadcrumbs (use the Japanese panko if you can)

oil for deep-frying (I thought 400 ml oil was enough for this amount of rolls)

Prepare three bowls: one with breadcrumbs, one with flour and one with a beaten egg.

Start heating the oil in a small deep pan (I advise placing it as far from yourself as possible; I always deep-fry on a hob next to the wall).

In the meantime season each slice of pork with salt and pepper (on one side only).

Place the shiso leaf/leaves on the seasoned side and roll very tightly (no need for skewers; these rolls will somehow “stick” together during the frying process).

Roll each roll in flour, then in the egg and finally in breadcrumbs.

Deep-fry until golden. (The oil is ready for deep-frying when some breadcrumbs thrown into it instantly change colour and stay at the surface).

Serve them either as a snack, a starter or a main dish. They need a dipping sauce (see the TIPS above).

South Indian Egg and Onion Curry

Are you an egg lover? Do you tend to add twice – or thrice – as much onions as written in recipes? If you have answered “yes” to both questions, then you’ve come to the right place! In this Indian curry onions are not just a typical seasoning but, once softened, they act like a thick sauce or maybe even as a second main ingredient… If you are used to what I’d call a “mainstream abroad version of Indian cuisine”, you will also be surprised by the sharpness and freshness of the flavours I have found in other South Indian dishes.

This recipe is based on a video published by Mina Street Food channel (on Youtube it’s called Grandma’s Village Style Egg Curry) Videos are not my favourite source of new recipes, but I loved this one and quickly got addicted to the whole series of an older lady’s cooking sessions, which feature an ancient outdoor cooking method and a cutting tool I was mesmerised by (or rather by the dexterity with which the lady uses it).

The video didn’t list the ingredients, not to mention the amounts, but for me it has made the whole dish even more attractive! Once I started to cook what I hope is at least similar, it was one of those rare moments in my Indian cooking experience where I had a total freedom! I don’t know how close my result was to the genuine south Indian dish (especially since I’ve also also slightly modified what I saw, for example adding coconut milk…), so if you want to see the genuine recipe, check the video to see Grandma cooking sensational “village-style” Indian food!

TIP: Curry leaves make this dish very special, since they are a typical ingredient of South Indian cuisine. There is unfortunately no substitute for them. If you don’t have fresh curry leaves (sold in Indian or Sri Lankan grocery shops), skip them. My experience with dried ones is very bad (practically tasteless), so I cannot advise them. If one day you stumble upon fresh curry leaves, freeze them. They are totally acceptable preserved this way.

If you don’t have curry leaves, you might be interested by this Egg Molee which doesn’t require any and which is even easier than this curry:

Egg Molee

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two as a main dish served with some pickles/vegetables and rice or Indian bread):

4 hard-boiled eggs

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

2 big onions or 8 big shallots, finely sliced

4-6 medium-hot fresh green chillies (sliced horizontally or lengthwise, if they are short)

2 big garlic cloves, crushed

about 2 cm fresh ginger, grated

about 20 curry leaves

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1-2 teaspoons powdered medium hot chilli (I have used Kashmiri chilli)

1/2 teaspoon garam masala 

fresh coriander leaves

(50 ml coconut milk+50 ml water)

Heat the oil in a big pan.

Add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop (it takes 30 seconds to 1 minute), add the onions, the chillies and the curry leaves. Stir-fry for ten minutes at medium heat.

Add the garlic and the ginger and stir-fry for two more minutes.

Now add the turmeric and the powdered chilli and stir-fry for several more minutes.

If you wish, you can now add 50 ml of coconut milk+50 ml water to make the dish creamier, but it’s not necessary.

Now add the shelled eggs and continue frying, delicately turning them until the onions soften completely.

Finally sprinkle with some garam masala, give the dish a final stir and serve with fresh coriander leaves on top.

 

Baked Lamb and Potato Croquettes, Indian/Sri Lankan Style, or the Best Korokke Ever

I still hesitate if I should start my post with the Japanese croquettes (korokke), Sri Lankan “lamb rolls” or South-Indian seasoning… To make the explanations as simple as possible, the lamb rolls I saw in  Sri Lanka. The Cookbook looked to me like European croquettes, which in turn made me think of Japanese korokke and when I finally decided to make my own modified and simplified version of these Sri Lankan snacks, I realised my  improvised seasoning was inspired by certain “village-style” South-Indian recipes… All this sounds like a crazy triple fusion, but the first bite of these croquettes was so obvious, so good, so comforting…. I couldn’t believe my tastebuds! I don’t know if it was the presence of lamb, the refreshingly hot fresh green chilli, the mixture of spices… or the combination of all, but these were by far the best croquettes of my life! In short, if you like lamb, potatoes and green chilli, these soft spicy balls with crisp crust will become your favourite comfort food.

As I have mentioned above, the Lamb Rolls recipe that inspired me comes from the recently bought  Sri Lanka. The Cookbook by Prakash N Sivanathan &  Niranja M Ellawa, a beautifully illustrated collection of fantastic recipes from this barely known fascinating culinary heritage (I’ve already tested four or five and all proved exceptionally good). As I have mentioned above, I didn’t stick to the recipe at all, changed and reduced the number of spices, skipped the croquette “skins” and, as always, simplified the procedure as much as I could, so check  Sri Lanka. The Cookbook if you want to make genuine Lamb Rolls (these cannot even bear this name in my opinion… and the seasoning brings them probably closer to South Indian dishes than Sri Lankan cuisine).

If you want to make first the famous Japanese korokke, here’s my favourite recipe:

Japanese croquettes (korokke コロッケ)

TIPS: This recipe is not the quickest one, but potato boiling, meat frying and bread crumb browning processes can be made well in advance. You can cook the potatoes in advance and then reheat in a microwave just before forming balls. You can prepare the meat mixture, fry it and then refrigerate for several days or even freeze. The breadcrumbs can be toasted even a week before!

These croquettes can be reheated in a microwave and even though they are best freshly made, I think the microwaved version is still delicious.

I have baked these croquettes because I try to slim down dishes as long as they stay delicious, but you can of course deep-fry them.

PANKO is the Japanese version of breadcrumbs, but it looks like crisp flakes, absorbs less oil when deep-fried and stays crunchier than any Western form of breadcrumbs. For me it’s simply the best! Luckily you can buy panko on internet (Amazon sells it) and in many Asian, not only Japanese grocery shops. If you cannot get Japanese panko, use normal dry breadcrumbs, but when toasting them, heat some oil first in the pan.

I have used a mixture of ground lamb and beef, but you can use lamb only (or beef or pork or half beef half pork, if you don’t like lamb; for me the lamb’s presence is crucial though).

As much as I love fresh coriander, I must say apart from looking nice, it didn’t change the taste so much, so skip it if you don’t have it or don’t like it particularly.

These croquettes taste great with one or several of those: mayonnaise (yes!!! but good quality one), chilli oil, chilli oil+mayonnaise (why not?), tzatziki or any yogurt-based sauce, sriracha…

Preparation: about 2 hours

Ingredients (makes about 12-13 croquettes; serves three-four people if served with a salad or a vegetable side-dish):

1/2 kg (about 1,1 lb) ground lamb and beef mixture or lamb only

750 g (about 1.6 lb) potatoes (I prefer here waxy, not floury potatoes)

1 big onion, roughly cut into several pieces

4-5 fresh medium hot green chillies (I loved jalapeños here)

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon medium-hot powdered chilli (optional)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

3 big garlic cloves

3 cm grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon mustard seeds (I used black, but white is ok too)

salt, pepper

1 big egg or 2 small

about 300 ml container filled with panko or dry breadcrumbs

10 tablespoons wheat flour

(chopped fresh coriander leaves-optional, combined with the toasted breadcrumbs)

First toast the panko/breadcrumbs.

Heat an empty big pan at medium heat and spread a layer of panko (if you use breadcrumbs, heat one tablespoon oil first; panko already contains some fat so it’s not necessary).

Watch it closely without stirring and when it starts changing colour, stir it, so that it becomes a more or less uniform golden (I’ve never managed a uniform colour) and so that it doesn’t burn.

Depending on the size of your pan you might need two batches. (The layer of panko should be very thin, maximum 1/2 cm).

Place the onion, the garlic, the ginger and the ground spices (not the mustard seeds!) in a food processor and mix them (a small baby food processor is perfect here).

Put the meat into a big bowl and mix well with spices (the best is using your hand).

Put into the fridge.

In the meantime cook the potatoes until soft (without peeling them).

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and wait until they are cool enough to be handled.

Take the meat out of the fridge.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a big pan.

Throw the mustard seeds into the pan and fry at low heat until they start popping.

Now add the meat and, stirring, fry it until it’s well cooked, separating well the lumps with a fork.

Put the meat into a big bowl.

Peel the potatoes and mash them roughly with a fork or with a potato masher (I think they taste better when not too smooth), season with salt.

Combine the potatoes and the meat.

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Prepare three plates: one with beaten egg, one with flour and one with panko (or breadcrumbs).

Shape flattish round patties (mine had a 6 cm diameter), coat them first in flour, then in the egg and then in panko.

Place the balls on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes until they start changing colour and are well heated inside.

Omelette Curry, or Indian Omelette in Sauce/Gravy with Green Peas and Bok Choy

Does an omelette soaked in spicy tomato sauce speak to you? It certainly did to me! When I found it while looking for Indian egg recipes, I couldn’t believe my eyes! What a genius idea! Apart from the eggs, many recipes called for potatoes, but I wanted to eat the dish – and clean the plate ! – with my homemade chapatti, so I thought the meal would be too heavy with both. I opted for green peas and… bok choy, a typical Indian vegetable (just joking!). To make the matters worse, instead of following one source, I took inspiration from different recipes, making the seasoning and sauce as easy and quick as possible. I hope this dish can still be labelled as Indian because for me it tasted Indian and it smelled definitely Indian. The first bite felt like the quintessence of home comfort food (which was surprising, given my origins). I know it will be perfect for any time of the day (imagine such a luxurious late breakfast!) and I already see its endless versions, changing according to seasonal vegetables… (I did prepare it afterwards with potatoes too and it was sensational).

TIPS: Before you start panicking about the number of “exotic” ingredients, let me assure you that if you cook Indian from time to time, you probably already have most of them and if you intend to cook at least three Indian dishes in your life, you’ll need all those spices anyway and they’ll keep for quite a long time. (Moreover, you can use them in non-Indian dishes too!).

The great news for this dish is that you can make the omelette the day before and then finish the whole dish the following day. You can obviously change the vegetables according to seasons and to your fridge content.

If you decide to prepare this dish with potatoes, slice them and then cut into bite-sized pieces. The cooking time will be much longer though.

If you have homemade chicken or vegetable stock, add it to the omelette. If you have it only powdered or in cubes, just skip it and add more milk or cream.

Don’t be tempted to heat the omelette and peas for more than 5 minutes. The peas will become mushy!

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

Omelette:

4 medium or big eggs

3 tablespoons milk or cream 

3 tablespoons homemade stock (if you don’t have it, add more milk/cream)

1-2 fresh green chillies, finely sliced or chopped

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

salt, freshly ground pepper

(2 tablespoons of green onion stalks or chives (chopped) )

Remaining ingredients:

1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds

1 big onion or four big shallots, cut in two and then finely sliced

2-3 fresh green chillies, sliced (if you use small ones, you can cut them in four lengthwise)

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated (you can use ginger ad garlic paste instead of grating/chopping)

1 teaspoon chilli powder, I’ve used here Kashmiri chilli powder (or less/more, depending on its heat level and you preferences)

1/3 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

2 medium tomatoes, diced or about 100 ml canned tomatoes or tomato salsa

2 small bokchoys/pakchoys (remove the leafy part, unless you really like it), cut into bite-sized pieces

6 tablespoons fresh or frozen green peas (if using frozen, don’t thaw them before using)

salt to taste

First break the eggs and mix them with the omelette ingredients.

Heat some oil in a pan (I have used a 28 cm pan) and fry the omelette at low heat, covered, until the top part is almost set. Flip it over and fry for 10 more seconds.

Fold the omelette in two and put aside.

(You can make this step many hours before making the whole dish and even the day before).

Heat some oil in a pan, stir-fry the onion/shallots and the chillies, stirring, until the onion is golden brown.

Add the ginger and the garlic and stir-fry for one minute.

Put the pan off the heat and add the powdered spices (chilli, turmeric and cumin). Stir well.

Now add the tomato, let it simmer until the tomato breaks into a thick sauce or, if using tomato sauce, just warm it up for 5-10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Add the the bok choy and let the whole dish simmer for about 5 more minutes.

Cut the omelette in four equal parts and delicately put on top of the sauce with bok choy.

Add the peas, cover and let the dish simmer for about 5 minutes (until the omelette is well reheated).

You can serve this dish sprinkled with fresh coriander, fresh green chilli or chives/green onions (and also with fresh dill).

Financiers (French Almond and Butter Mini Cakes)

This was one of earliest recipes on my blog. Some time in 2011. It seems an eternity…. The photograph screamed for an update, so when I made another batch last week, I took new photographs and thought I’d write about the financiers once more. I took this decision also because I have recently read on a blog that financiers were time-consuming and nothing really special in taste. I found this really surprising and wondered if fussy difficult recipes were circulating among food bloggers…. I didn’t look into the details of this blogger’s recipe but mine, coming from a more than reliable French source (Leçons de cuisine de l’école Ritz-Escoffier ), is all but difficult to the point where I knew it by heart after maybe only three baking sessions! Actually, it takes about fifteen minutes to prepare the batter (no electric mixer, no kneading, no rolling), there are only five ingredients  and it takes only 15-20 minutes to bake. As for the “nothing really special”, it’s of course a question of personal taste, but even though I crave sweets very rarely these days, I find financiers quite exceptional: they might look like ordinary little sponge cakes, but they are much more sophisticated. They contain hardly any flour, but lots of powdered almonds instead, a generous amount of browned “hazelnut” butter, egg whites… they are incredibly light and literally melt in one’s mouth. I hope I have convinced you to try them at least once!

Contrary to what most people think, at the beginning financiers didn’t have a gold ingot shape, but they had an oval form. Produced since the Middle Ages by the French nuns of the Visitation of Mary, they were not called financiers and had an oval form. Then, for a certain time they were forgotten and around 1890, Lasne, a Parisian confectioner, revived the recipe. Since his shop was close to the stock market and financiers were his regular clients, he named the cakes “financiers” and transformed their form into the one recalling a gold ingot, probably thinking they appealed more to his clients. I find the muffin shape cuter than the lingot, so I always prepare financiers in muffin forms.

TIPS/WARNING: Do not even try to use a different flour (for example wholemeal) or sugar replacement (and never brown sugar!) or skipping the butter…. It will result in vaguely almond-tasting muffins. I have made financiers at least 50 times in recent years (my husband is a big fan and they are quick to make…) and I was once faced with a shortage of each of these: white sugar or white flour or butter. Every time the result was awful. The only thing this recipe stands well is cutting down on sugar’s amount and this is what I’ve been doing since the beginning because we don’t like too much sugar.

I have posted also a financiers with raspberry recipe here. I think raspberries taste wodnerful with almonds, but I guess you can add any fresh fruits you like (but not too many, otherwise the cakes might get soggy!).

Some pastry chefs make pistachio financiers, but I’ve never tried this variation, so I’m not sure if one adds the same amount of powdered pistachio…

If you don’t find powdered almonds (or they are very expensive), buy ground white (peeled) almonds and sift them through a sieve. This is what I always do (then you can use the remaining ground bigger bits of almonds in other less delicate sweets).

BEWARE! You might be convinced (I was too!) that something labelled as “almond flour” would be perfect here… I have recently noticed online products labelled in English as “almond flour” are in reality ground almonds… For this recipe you must use almonds powdered to a point where they resemble almost wheat flour, so if you realise you have coarser product (which frankly should be labelled as almond meal or simply ground almonds), sieve it.

Click here for some ideas of using the remaining egg yolks.

Preparation: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients (6 muffin shaped financiers or 12 mini-muffin shaped):

50 g powdered almonds (not ground but powdered; see the TIP & “BEWARE” above)

70 g caster sugar (I sometimes add 60 g sugar only, but it depends on your sweetness level preferences)

50 g butter

2 egg whites

1 heaped tablespoon white wheat flour

a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Prepare the “beurre noisette” (lit. hazelnut butter): heat the butter in a pan on a low heat and observe the milk solids, which will separate at the bottom. When they become light brown (hazelnut colour), put the pan aside.

In the meantime combine the egg whites, the sugar, the almond powder, the pinch of salt and the flour in a big bowl. Add gradually the butter, mixing with a spoon (no need to use a mixer or a food processor!).

Pour the mixture into greased – with butter – muffin forms (or other small cakes forms) 2/3 of their height.

Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes until light to medium golden.

Let them cool down before taking out of the forms.