Category Archives: US

Roasted Green Chilli Spread with Greek Yogurt and Walnuts

chillispreadAfter Filo Rolls with Chilli and Feta it seems strange to write once more about chilli as the protagonist, but I really couldn’t resist sharing it while I’m still in the middle of chilli roasting frenzy. This Europeanised version of MJ’s Green Chile Pecan Cheese Spread, containing Greek yogurt and walnuts instead of cream cheese and pecans, is a fantastic treat for a fiery food lover and the quickest thing one can do with roasted chilli at the same time.

Actually this spread was the first thing I did with my very first batch of roasted chilli (before the previously posted Filo Rolls). The choice of Mj’s Kitchen as the source of inspiration for this first roasted chilli dish was obvious, since, as a highly experienced specialist of chilli roasting and cooking, MJ has a huge choice of related luscious looking recipes. Thanks to MJ’s encouragement I discovered how this simple process creates an utterly delicious product, incredibly easy to experiment with and will always be grateful for that. I have not only replaced some products, but I have also changed the ingredients’ ratio, so check MJ’s original Chile Spread Recipe.

If you have never roasted chilli peppers, check MJ’s tips and detailed instructions, many more roasted chilli dishes and myriads of other delightful New Mexican – and not only – treats.

TIPS: Make sure you use chilled chilli peppers and Greek yogurt straight from the fridge (though the best is to refrigerate the paste for several hours in the fridge because the flavours improve with time).

Try to add some grilled bacon bits next tim, as MJ recommends (I certainly will!).

Preparation: 5-10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup (250 ml) chopped roasted (and skinned) medium hot green chilli, chilled

125 g (about 4 oz) very cold Greek yogurt or any other rich, thick natural yogurt

2-3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

juice from 1/2 medium lime

salt

1 teaspoon crushed dried oregano

Combine everything, taste to check the seasoning, refrigerate for several hours (or use very cold ingredients, straight from the fridge).

Moist Carrot Cake

carrotcakepj

We are in the middle of the carrot cake season. Many bloggers have already written about this cold-weather dessert and, as it often happens with such popular sweets, there are myriads of versions. I have been faithful to exactly the same recipe for the last fifteen years, so you will be surprised if I say this is the best one I know. Obviously, this is a matter of personal preferences, but if I tell you that the moisture is what I appreciate the most in a carrot cake and that mine is, undeniably the moistest of all the carrot cakes I have ever tasted, you will understand why I dare calling it superior.

Nowadays, with internet and the world seeming smaller and smaller, the carrot cake is no longer a novelty. When I baked it for the first time it was a big adventure because using a vegetable in a dessert seemed highly exotic, if not extravagant. I quickly learnt I should never reveal the carrot’s presence before people tasted it because some were so disgusted by this unusual ingredient, they refused to taste it, inventing different false reasons, such as diets or a copious main meal. Since then I tell the truth (especially to picky eaters) only after they have finished their first slice. I have read somewhere that in Europe carrots have been used in sweets since Middle Ages, so it’s surprising this use has been abandoned in so many countries.

With the dozens of times I served it, I can affirm that this is a totally foolproof, particularly easy cake and, apart from the batter ingredients which guarantee the moisture and stickiness I am fond of, such items as nuts, raisins or spices can easily be exchanged with other ingredients. Unfortunately, at the time I wrote this recipe down I didn’t care much for the sources, so unfortunately I cannot thank the person who has invented it. I also don’t remember if I had modified the original amounts.

TIPS: Exceptionally, I have always measured most of the ingredients of this cake in cups. My cup = 250 ml

This cake is moderately sweet, but if you prefer “standard” sweetness in desserts, double the sugar amount.

I prefer this cake served very cold, straight from the fridge (this is the way I prefer most moist or/and sticky cakes).

Preparation: 1 hour 20 min

Ingredients (fills a 10 cm x 30 cm baking tin):

1 cup (250 ml) flour

1/2 cup (125 ml) sugar (unrefined cane sugar tastes better here, but is not obligatory)

1 1/2 cup (375 ml) finely grated carrots (5-6 medium carrots)

60 g (about 2 oz) melted butter

3 eggs

a handful of raisins (I prefer sultanas)

a handful of chopped nuts

50 ml (1,7 oz) milk

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (if not freshly grated, put the double amount)

1 teaspoon (flat) dried ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Combine everything in a big bowl stirring with a spoon.

Grease the baking tin or (like I do) line it with baking paper.
Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for 45 minutes to one hour depending on the oven (a skewer put into the cake should come out moist and sticky but without traces of raw batter).

Since this cake is very moist, I prefer it served cold, straight from the fridge.

 

 

 

Ketchup

ketchuppp

Last weeks of summer are the best moment to make your own ketchup, but if you consider it an easily copied and uncomplicated sauce, think again. For long years all the home-made specimens I tasted or tried to make were only distant and ridiculous wannabes, not even meriting to be labelled as “ketchup”. Accepting the superiority of commercial brands was not easy to accept by a passionate preserver like me, so when two years ago I was offered a huge batch of untreated, ripe tomatoes, the old dream of making my own ketchup returned. I started searching on internet, leafing through my cookery books… Finally, thanks to Jeffrey Steingarten and his fascinating “The Man Who Ate Everything” (one of the best food-related books I have ever read), I discovered a marvellous sauce which beats every single commercial brand and which is no longer a home-made copy, but the best ketchup in the world.

I have slightly modified the ingredients’ amounts because the original recipe was intended for ten pounds of tomatoes. The process is not complicated itself, but a bit fussy and long. The initial volume of tomato pulp and juice will reduce up to 80%, so this sauce is quite costly, unless you cultivate tomatoes or have access to very cheap ones. The tomatoes must be very ripe and ideally untreated or almost untreated. If the tomatoes’ quality is good, the result is so excellent, you will find it difficult to believe you have made it on your own. The flavour balances between the concentration of a fresh ripe tomato taste and a subtler version of good commercial ketchup. Once you have tasted your first batch, you will realise this sauce is too good to be served with just any ordinary sausage or meat and definitely not to every guest…

TIP: If your tomatoes are far from being perfectly ripe or are rather watery, I strongly advise the Indian style Tomato Chutney. The recipe gives amazing results even with ordinary tomatoes.

Preparation: around 2 hours

Special equipment: a food mill (a sieve and a spoon may be used instead, but it takes much longer)

Ingredients: (for 1 kg tomatoes, but the volume will reduce up to 80%)

1 kg tomatoes (about 2 lbs)

1 garlic clove chopped

1/2 medium onion chopped

70 ml  (about 2,4 oz) cider vinegar (4,5%)

1 teaspoon peppercorns

1 teaspoon allspice berries

6 cm (about 2,4 in) cinnamon stick 

2 cloves

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon dried ginger

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

Chop roughly the tomatoes.

Put them in a pan, cover, cook over high heat 5-10 minutes, stirring until the chunks give off their juice.

Strain the juice, pressing gently to the sieve, so that the liquid goes through, but not the tomato pulp.

Add garlic, onion, spices and vinegar (not sugar!) to the liquid obtained by straining.

Cook over moderate heat until it becomes slightly syrupy (it will take 40 – 60 minutes).

In the meantime sieve the pulp or put it through a food mill (make sure the seeds and skins do not get into the pulp). Put aside.

Strain the syrupy liquid discarding all the spices, onion, garlic etc.

Pour it over the pulp, add the sugar and stir well.

Cook until you obtain the desired ketchup consistency (keeping in mind that hot ketchup is a bit more liquid than when it cools down).

Adjust the taste if necessary (some tomatoes need more sugar or more salt) and heat until the sugar is dissolved.

You can mix the sauce in a food processor if you judge the texture not smooth enough.

/At this point you can (after the ketchup has cooled down) either freeze it, or keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or process it in the jars, as described below, and store it in your pantry for at least a year!/

Pour the ketchup, still hot, into sterilised jars. Cover with lids. Leave the jars to cool.

Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling- water to the level just below the lid. Bring to boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.
Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the sauce and don’t forget to mark the date.

Eggless Applesauce Cake

As soon as I saw a Low-Fat Banana Bread on Jeno’s blog (Weeknite Meals) I thought it looked and sounded very similar to the Applesauce Cake I make. I promised Jeno I would post my recipe and I hope she will forgive me for being so terribly late!

I have found this recipe in Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Marritt Farmer, an excellent book I have bought at second hand book sales, unconscious of the treasures I would find there. It might not be the most appealing source of recipes (especially my old edition), but everything I have tested proved fully successful. (If you don’t cook often from books, believe me, foolproof cookery books are rare jewels…). Another recipe from this book I posted some time ago are the fabulous and easy Deep-Fried Scallops.

Apart from being sticky, moist and flavoursome, this cake has several big advantages. It is very simple and quick to prepare. It doesn’t requite any eggs or fresh fruit, so it can be made with your pantry’s permanent stock all year round. You will also be surprised to see it keeps fresh for ages, especially if refrigerated. Since it’s best very soft and moist, I prefer it served straight away from the fridge, anyway.

Preparation: 1 hour

Ingredients:

120 g  butter (about 1/2 cup); I often reduce this amount to 50 g butter

250 ml (1 cup) unsweetened applesauce + 200 g (1 cup) sugar, or sweetened applesauce + 100 g sugar (1/2 cup)

220 g (2 cups) flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

(cinnamon or vanilla or nothing if you applesauce is already seasoned)

a big handful chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Mix the sugar with butter, add the applesauce and the remaining ingredients. Stir well.

Bake in a buttered and floured pan (or lined with baking paper because the cake is very sticky) for 40 minutes – 1 hour.

It can be served after it has cooled down, but I like to wrap it tightly in cling film and put into the fridge for several hours.

Then it becomes really moist and irresistible.

Deep-Fried Scallops

I have a very quickly growing affection for scallops. They are delicious, smell divinely (the detail which I find rare in seafood), are beautiful and even very pleasant to manipulate – I love their soft texture and smooth surface. They are also difficult to spoil, the only faux pas being overcooking. Not to mention the low-calorie and low-fat factor. Moreover, the constantly increasing fish and seafood prices eliminate them out of the luxurious sea products group and embolden me to even very adventurous experiments.

Yesterday I think many rigid, French cuisine fans would have said I crossed all the limits of decency in scallops experiments. I simply wanted to transform them into a warming, down-to-earth, home dish… All the French cookery books were of course out of question and I was right opting for The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook by Fannie Merritt Farmer. I have chosen the Fried Scallops. The sacrilege I committed was not only deep frying them, but sticking completely to the recipe and  coating them with breadcrumbs, a culinary technique often associated with fast food. The only modification I introduced was using duck fat for frying, and, as always, it hasn’t let me down.

If I haven’t dared this “barbarous” recipe I would have never imagined scallops could be so tender and mellow, almost juicy. The taste was unforgettable. Even though they lose here their low-fat and low-calorie advantage, I’ll certainly deep-fry them hundreds if not thousands of times. (I don’t advise trying to make this recipe lighter by baking the crumbled scallops in the oven; I did it once and the result was more than disappointing… On the other hand the oven is very handy in keeping the plates warm keeping scallops warm while the following batches are made.)

Preparation: 30 minutes (or more if more batches of scallops are fried)

Ingredients (serves 2):

14 big scallops (without the coral and opaque, tough “foot”)

10 tablespoons breadcrumbs

1 egg, slightly beaten

salt, pepper

deep frying oil or duck fat

Wash the scallops and pat them dry.

Add salt and pepper to the beaten egg and place it on a small plate.

Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl.

Heat the plates in the oven.

Heat the deep frying oil or fat (it’s hot enough when a tiny piece of bread thrown into the fat doesn’t “sink” and stays on the surface instantly browning).

Dip the scallops first in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs.

Shake off the excess coating and fry them only several at a time, otherwise the oil temperature will lower and they’ll be soaked in fat. The number of scallops in one batch depends of course on the size of your pan.

Fry the scallops around 3 minutes until they are golden.

Put them on paper towels, shake off the excess fat and put them quickly on the warm plates kept in the oven at 50°C.

I serve them with a green salad and slightly hot fruit sauces, jellies, spreads etc. (they go perfectly well with Gold Chili Jelly).