Category Archives: x CATEGORIES by ORIGINS or INSPIRATION

Takeaway Strawberry and Yogurt Mousse, or Strawberry & Yogurt Mousse in a Jar

Throughout the years I have posted many versions of this refreshing yogurt mousse, my favourite guilt-free dessert. Apart from yogurt, it usually includes fruits, gelatine and sometimes a thin layer of chocolate ganache. I prepare one batch a week and since I’m the only one who likes yogurt in my house, this way I can enjoy individual portions for several days ahead.

Today I’d like to propose you to make these portions in individual glass jars, the idea I wish I had many years ago… and don’t worry, it’s not my take on the recently fashionable ubiquitous food presentation in jars, but simply a matter of convenience. Actually, jars with lids make excellent takeaway containers and thus allow me to have a delicious refreshing afternoon sweet treat at the office. I have also taken them on car trips and can only imagine how practical they would be on a picnic…

The below recipe is just one of the many variations of this yogurt dessert. If you don’t like it or don’t have all the ingredients, you might like one of these:

Light Yogurt Mousse with Passion Fruit

Unsweetened Strawberry and Blueberry Mousse

Greek Yogurt and Chocolate Mousse with Cherries

Black Currant and Yogurt Mousse

Greek Yogurt Mousse with Canned Peaches

Yogurt Strawberry Mousse with Strawberry Coulis

TIPS: The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has more than 500 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard as a standard jelly).

You can replace blueberries with strawberry pieces or other fruits, or you can simply skip them!

If you prefer a sweeter ganache, you can add sugar. I never do because even bitter chocolate is sweet enough for me (of course the instant coffee can be replaced with several teaspoons of strong espresso or skipped; I practically always add a pinch of coffee to my chocolate desserts because it enhances the bitter chocolate flavours). The chocolate ganache can be prepared with milk chocolate too.

The mousses keep well in the fridge for several days (up to five days if the fruits are fresh). If you want to serve them for a dinner, you can prepare the mousses a day before and cover with ganache just before the guests arrive. They will be ready after 30 minutes in the fridge.

If your lids are slightly rusty underneath, make a protection layer with cling film or baking paper and then put on the lids. (I sometimes do it because I don’t like the idea of rust leaking into my desserts… though maybe I exaggerate).

Obviously, if you transport this dessert in a jar and plan to eat later, put it into an insulated bag and make sure it doesn’t fall.

If you keep these in the fridge for two days or more, cover them. (Put the lids on the jars if you prepare them in jars). 

Preparation: 10 minutes+ 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (4 portions, or jam jars):

250 g (about 1 cup) unsweetened natural yogurt (you can use also Greek yogurt, which will make this mousse creamier) 

300 g (about 11oz) strawberries (hulled)

4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener (or no sugar if you prefer your mousse to be very tangy)

the amount of gelatin necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too)

Chocolate ganache:

70 g (about 2.5 oz) good quality chocolate (I have used 72% cocoa chocolate), roughly chopped 

70 ml (about 2.4 fl  oz) natural liquid cream, min. 25% fat (do not use crème fraîche or any thickened cream)

(1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or several teaspoons of strong espresso) 

(3 handfuls of blueberries or other fruits)

Mix the strawberries in a food processor or a blender. Add the sugar and the yogurt (remove the liquid floating on the surface). Mix once more.

Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water (if using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water).

In a food processor mix well the dissolved gelatin with the strawberry mixture.

Divide the mousse into serving dishes, (throw some blueberries inside each dish/jar, if using).

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

When the mousses are well set, prepare the chocolate ganache.

Bring the cream to a boil. Put aside.

Throw the chopped chocolate and the instant coffee into the pan and, quickly stirring, dissolve in the hot cream (do not boil the mixture of chocolate and cream!).

Distribute the warm (not hot) chocolate ganache equally among the mousse portions and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes more.

Serve very cold. You can add blueberries or pieces of strawberries on top just before serving.

 

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.

 

Pork Roast with Bengali Five Spice Blend (Panch Phoron)

Most of you probably know garam masala, but have you ever heard of panch phoron? During my recent web browsing I stumbled more and more often at this mysterious Bengali blend of spices. The day I decided to taste it, I realised I had all the necessary ingredients, so it took me five minutes to make my own panch phoron and get ready to cook. I prepared one Bengali recipe, several days later another, then another… and now I’m so hooked on this mixture of aromatic seeds, I started my own experiments, such as this pork roast. Apart from my usual powdered roasting rub (powdered garlic, turmeric and chilli), I added a generous amount of panch phoron, mixed everything with oil and basted the meat, hoping it would create a spicy crust on top. The roast did end up with a nice crunchy texture and a wonderful array of addictive flavours. It was perfect in wraps with my homemade chapatti.

Phanch phoron (“five spices”) is a Bengali mixture of five seeds: fennel, nigella (black onion/kalonji), black mustard, cumin and fenugreek. All the seeds are whole and used usually at the beginning of a cooking process, stir-fried in oil until they start to pop (it’s called “tempering”), before other ingredients are added. I have also seen tempered panch phoron used as a “topping” (added just before serving). Some web sources use an equal amount of each and some advise adding an equal amount of everything apart from fenugreek. I have opted for the latter because I know that fenugreek can easily overwhelm any dish and any other spice. Therefore this is what my very first panch phoron looked like:
-2 teaspoons fennel seeds
-2 teaspoons cumin seeds
-2 teaspoons nigella seeds
-2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
-1 teaspoon fenugreek

Apparently some Bengali cooks using radhuni seeds instead of mustard seeds, but the huge majority of Indian blogs and websites call for mustard seeds, so I didn’t bother checking this other version (but maybe one day… if I find radhuni…).

All the spices are easily available in every Indian/Pakistani grocery shop and of course online (I bet one can buy all the seeds on Amazon too). All of them are regularly used, ground or not, in Indian dishes, they keep their freshness for quite a long time (unless ground), so if you cook or intend to cook Indian, it’s a wise investment.

TIPS: This lean pork loin roast is treated rather like a cold meat, so you will probably find it too dry if eaten hot as a part fo a Western-style meal. I advise using a fatter cut (such as shoulder) or tenderloin instead if you want a juicier result. Personally I don’t mind if pork roast is a bit dry (not too dry of course!), so I often bake loin anyway.

I have a very old oven, so you might want to adjust the roasting time according to yours. I start with high temperature and never reduce it because I like the results: I have noticed the crust forms quicker and the meat is less dry inside.

The pork should be at room temperature at the moment you put it into the oven, so make sure you take it out of the fridge early enough.

Preparation: about 50 minutes

Ingredients (serves four-five, if used in wraps or sandwiches):

600 g (bout 21 oz) pork roast (I have used the lean loin, but you can use any cut you like)

salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons chilli powder (or more, depending on the chilli powder and your heat resistance)

1 teaspoon powdered garlic (see the super easy home recipe here)

5-6 teaspoons of panch phoron (see the recipe above)

4 tablespoons oil (I have used coconut fat but any high heat resistant fat can be used)

Preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F).

Take out the pork out of the fridge, wash it, pat dry and season the with salt.

Make a mixture of oil and all the spices (turmeric, garlic, chilli powder and phaanch phoron).

Put the pork into a baking dish and rub with the spice and oil mixture (you can use a brush to do it).

Bake at 210°C for 40 minutes (make sure it’s no longer fridge-cold at the moment you put it into the oven).

Ten minutes before the end, take out the baking dish and baste the top of the roast with some of the spicy oil you will see at the bottom of the dish.

Put back to the oven for ten more minutes.

Serve sliced in wraps (it’s fabulous with Indian chapatti!) or in sandwiches.

Aromatic Thai Curry (Geng gari) with Chicken and Asparagus

If green asparagus can perfectly face the flavours and heat of an Indian curry,  why not test it with Thai one? Leafing through David Thompson’s Thai Food I chose a curry called “aromatic”, combining both Indian and Thai seasoning ingredients. When I say “I chose a curry”, I mean the paste because this extraordinary book has a different paste recipe for every single curry. Though the original recipe calls for duck, I replaced it with chicken (the author suggests different protein sources anyway). This modification, the presence of asparagus and of button mushrooms didn’t stop this curry from being one of the best I’ve ever had.

I couldn’t post this recipe without writing once more about Thai Food by David Thompson, one of the best cooking books I have ever seen (and I talk about all the cuisines from around the world). If you like and cook – or would like to cook – Thai food, this is the most genuine, complete and simply the best written source of recipes I can imagine. It can be a bit intimidating at first, but as soon as you start putting it into practice, every single dish will make you say “wow”, especially if, like me, all you know is food served in Westernised restaurants. As always, I’ve made some alterations to the original recipe, “slimmed” it down skipping coconut cream and replacing a part of coconut milk with water (to be frank the only part I didn’t change was the curry paste) so make sure you check the original source.

TIPS: Beware, the crucial point here is preparing your own paste, which makes this curry unique and so different from those made with store-bought product. Dried spices can of course be bought in Indian shops (or even normal supermarkets) and the fresh ingredients in Thai shops. I have been recently buying fresh turmeric in my organic shop, so you might check these too. I cannot say if any store-bought Thai curry paste will be equally good with asparagus, but you can give it a go.

This paste will keep in the fridge for about a week. You can also freeze it (though David Thompson is totally against it, I find it still more than acceptable when defrosted).

Instead of green asparagus you can also use the violet (purple) one, but I don’t advise the white one. I haven’t tested it in any fiery dish and since it’s very different, the result might be disappointing.

I’ve added some mushrooms to this dish simply because I had some fresh leftover mushrooms from another dish, but they aren’t necessary (add more asparagus instead).

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (serves two):

Curry paste:

7 medium hot red dried chillies, soaked in warm water until they soften (usually 20-30 minutes)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh turmeric, chopped

4 small Asian shallots or 2 medium European shallots, chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped galangal

1 tablespoon lemongrass stalks (the lower half part only, outer tough “leaves” removed), very finely chopped

2 teaspoons coriander root, chopped

15 white peppercorns

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

3 sheaths mace or 1 teaspoon ground mace

Remaining ingredients:

2 small chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

100 g button mushrooms, sliced

250g green or violet asparagus (the tougher low part removed), cut into bite-sized pieces

200 ml coconut milk

fish sauce

(palm sugar)

Prepare the paste: on a clean frying pan roast the whole seeds and then grind them in a spice grinder, mortar or a coffee grinder. Mix the chopped fresh ingredients in a food processor (a small baby food processor is best here), adding some water if needed. (You can also grind them in a mortar, then no water is needed). Combine the fresh and the dried paste ingredients and mix them well again.

Pour some coconut milk into a pan add about 1/3 of the curry paste (keep the remaining paste in a well closed jar in the fridge for about a week or freeze it).

Heat the paste, stirring, until it starts smelling really strong.

Add the remaining coconut milk, the chicken and the mushrooms and simmer at low heat for about 5 minutes. (Add some water or more coconut milk if you find the curry too thick).

Add the thicker asparagus parts and simmer about 5 more minutes.

Finally add the thinnest asparagus parts and simmer for about 3 more minutes.

Season with fish sauce and, if it’s a bit bitter, with sugar.

Serve. (The author advises deep-fried shallots but I thought they wouldn’t suit this light spring version).

 

Aromatic curry paste:

Korean Mung Bean Pancake with Ground Meat and Kimchi

A very kind friend has recently offered me Our Korean Kitchen, a beautifully illustrated home cookery book written by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo, an Irish-Korean couple. It’s not my first Korean cookery book, but in this one everything looks appetising and effortless at the same time, so I couldn’t wait more than one day to put it into practice. A mung bean-based pancake batter sounded  particularly intriguing, quite different from all the Korean dishes I know and I happened to have every single ingredient, so the choice was easy. The pancake was rich and filling, but didn’t feel heavy at all and I loved the idea of a healthier, not wheat flour- but bean-based pancake. It might not look very exciting, but I promise it was absolutely delicious!

As usually, I have slightly modified the recipe (e.g. used a mixture of pork & beef I prefer instead of beef alone or adding baking powder), so check the original recipe in Our Korean Kitchen which is a fantastic source to have a peek into easy and delicious Korean home cooking.

TIPS: Dried mung beans are small, have a green khaki colour and are slightly oval in shape. They can be found now in many “normal” supermarkets, but you can look for them in organic or Asian shops, and of course, online.

The cooking process is really easy, though you have to plan the pancake a day ahead (the beans must be soaked overnight) or at least in the morning, if you want to have the pancake for the dinner. The only tricky part is frying this thick pancake without burning it and without leaving it raw inside (especially if you use pork or chicken). I did it on low heat with a cover on so that the top of the pancake cooked a bit too before the flipping over.

The baking powder is my own idea because I believe it makes such a filling pancake a bit fluffier (it does the same to the Japanese okonomiyaki). You can skip it of course.

The whole batter (apart from the meat) can be made ahead and wait one or two days in the fridge before the addition of meat and frying process.

The recipe calls for chopped kimchi (preferably from an old batch), but if you don’t have it, you can add some Korean medium-hot powdered chilli, an additional crushed garlic clove and an equal amount of a chopped cucumber, courgette or bok choy. It won’t really be a substitution, but it will lighten the pancake and add some spicy kick to it.

Even though this recipe calls for minced meat, I can easily imagine other proteins such as shrimp, mushrooms or cheese… and why not some vegetables ?

Preparation: about 40 minutes+overnight (beans soaking time)

Ingredients (serves two if eaten with several kinds of pickles and/or a green salad):

150g/about 5.3 oz mung beans

100g/3.5 oz Chinese cabbage kimchi (at least several weeks old) + 2 tablespoons kimchi juice

50 g-60g/about 1.7-2.1 oz minced meat (I have used pork and beef, but you can use any meat of your choice) mixed with 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

several tablespoons of spring onion leaves, chopped + some more to sprinkle on top before serving

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or less if you use normal soy sauce)

1 cm/0.4 in grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour or wheat flour

1 flat teaspoon baking powder

(sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds or Japanese garlic and chilli oil)

Soak the beans overnight.

Drain them and mix in a food processor with the kimchi juice,  adding some water (about 50 – 70 ml) until you obtain a thick batter. (My batter was quite smooth, but it had still some bits of mung beans and I liked it a lot).

Combine with the remaining ingredients (apart from the sesame oil or taberu rayu, if using).

Heat some oil in a pan and spread a 1.5cm – 2 cm layer of batter (you might need to adapt the pan’s size, but don’t make the pancake too thin, 1.5 cm is a minimum; I have used the smallest pan I have).

Cover the pan and fry the pancake at low heat until it becomes golden brown at the bottom. It took me about ten minutes.

Flip the pancake over and increase the heat to medium.

Fry the second side for about 5 minutes (check with a fork if the batter is fully cooked, especially the meat).

Repeat the frying process with the remaining batter.

Serve cut up into pieces (if eating with chopsticks), with some green onion, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds on top. I thought it was fantastic with some Japanese garlic and chilli oil (taberu rayu).