Category Archives: Vague origins and/or inspiration

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.

Growing Garlic Leaves Indoors, or What to Do With Sprouting Garlic?

garlic_leaves_I bet some of you also keep on finding old, last year’s sprouting garlic heads. Once they sprout, the taste becomes harsh and when the next – mushy – stage arrives, most of us usually throw them away. This year, I decided to do exactly what I have been doing for years with sprouting onion bulbs and simply planted a garlic head indoors. In barely one week I obtained 20 cm (about 8 in) of delicious, strongly scented fake garlic chives and at the same time saved my garlic from the bin. I didn’t even need to use my balcony! The small amount of light (we’ve been having an awful spring this year) was enough to make these green leaves grow at an impressive speed!

Though I have been treating this away sprouting onions almost for the pas four years, I’ve never had the idea to experiment with garlic. I’m glad I did because it’s such a rewarding and funny experience! The garlic leaves have a stronger scent and taste than garlic chives, but they can be used in a similar way or as a substitution of garlic.

Here is a quick reminder of what can be obtained if you plant a sprouting onion bulb:

springonions

TIP: You will probably have to throw the soil away once the experiment is over because garlic’s root grow at a speed even higher than the leaves and quickly the fill the whole potted space.

If you have a garden, obviously you don’t need to pot the garlic bulb!

I haven’t tried growing leaves from single garlic cloves yet. If you do, please let me know if it works.

Directions:

Take a garlic head with sprouting cloves (don’t worry if some of them don’t sprout; they will sprout once they are potted) and plant it, covering about 2/3 of its height, in a pot filled with soil.

Place it in any room you prefer, as long as there is some light during the day.

Water it every day or every other day (depends on the soil and air dryness), keeping the soil moist and wait patiently until the garlic leaves/spring onions appear.

(I haven’t checked yet if a second generation of leaves would keep on growing…I’ll update this post if it does).

 

 

 

 

Curry Pie with Leftover Filo Top

filo_crumble1pDo you ever have leftover filo pastry bits? As a filo addict I have those all the time (especially with my individual rolls). Now that I discovered genuine (though expensive) frozen Greek filo, they started to worry me much more than before. A heap of unused small bits of filo suddenly reminded me of a very unusual chicken “pie” spotted in Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies: chicken in a creamy sauce topped with crushed filo pieces. It looked original and delicious enough to stay engraved in my memory. I decided to use their idea of filo top, suspecting it would be perfect for any leftover strips and I was right.

I didn’t follow Hairy Bikers’  filling recipe since I happened to have some other leftovers (curry sauce and unused broccoli stalks from Pork and Broccoli in My Favourite Indian Curry). In fact, my filo rescuing plan became a triple leftover dish! I added some chicken meat, mushrooms and a carrot and the result, though looking quite messy, was a meal of delightful creamy and crunchy goodness. The airy crushed filo topping is so good, I am ready to destroy some whole pastry sheets to make it even if I don’t have leftovers!

As I have mentioned, I didn’t use the pie filling recipe from Hairy Bikers’ book, but it seems absolutely delicious, as well as all the other imaginative pies and tarts this huge source of recipes contains, so make sure you check it whether you are a fan of open tarts, British-style covered pies, mini tartlets, pasties or other similar dishes.

TIPS: You can, of course, make the curry from the scratch (see the recipe here) or use any other sauce of your choice (tomato sauce, for example). I had only 250 ml (about 1 cup) leftover curry sauce, so I have stretched it with some additional coconut milk.

Any vegetable or mushroom can be used here, but I’d advise pre-cooking briefly the mushrooms and the tough vegetables (carrots or broccoli stalks) but not broccoli florets or courgettes, for example.

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (serves two hungry people; fills a 16 x 16 cm baking dish):

1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

stalks and branches from one medium brocoli, cut into bite-sized pieces

5 rather big cultivated mushrooms (I have used ones called cremini in US and Canada), cut into four

about 400 ml (about 13.5 fl oz) leftover curry sauce (I had only 250 ml, so I added some coconut milk)

1 medium carrot, cut into thick half slices

about 3 sheets of filo/phyllo (can be whole or leftover strips)

oil or butter or coconut fat to brush filo

Preheat the oven to 200°C (392°F).

Heat the leftover sauce (adding more liquid, such as coconut milk, if needed).

As soon as it starts boiling, add the chicken, the carrots, the brocoli stalks and the mushrooms.

Let it simmer until the chicken is done.

If you use softer vegetables, such as courgette or brocoli florets, put them into the sauce about two minutes before the end (unless you like them rather mushy).

Taste the sauce, adjust the flavours and pour everything into a baking dish (you should have roughly 2/3-3/4 of the height filled; I have used here a 16×16 cm dish.

Spread the filo sheets or torn pieces flat and brush them slightly with the fat of your choice.

(If you use whole filo sheets, not leftovers, cut them into six or more squares).

Crush the filo in your palms and place on top of the curry making sure you cover well the whole dish.

Bake until golden (about 15 minutes).

Turmeric, Garlic and Chilli Chicken Rub

baked_thighs_Some of you might remember how enthusiastic I was to discover Rick Stein’s India, bought after seeing his fascinating culinary tv series set in India. Apart from opening my eyes to the world of Indian fish and seafood cuisine, both the tv program and the book made me stop using the curry powder after long years of mistaking it for a traditional spice mixture. Apparently it is considered by many – or maybe all ? – Indian cooks as a Western attempt to make a false shortcut to their rich culinary heritage and a disgrace to their cuisine. This information was enough to make me throw the stuff away.

Before, curry powder was a staple, especially as a part of rub for baked or grilled chicken. Nowadays I simply combine individual spices on my own, ending up with mixtures which are composed of Indian spices, but I never pretend they are genuine or/and traditional. I enjoy this new approach and find the flavours somehow clearer and brighter. This simplest four-ingredient rub has quickly become my basic favourite for all the baked chicken cuts, eaten both warm and cold (in sandwiches, wraps, spring rolls or salads). I think I use this spice mixture on average once a week, so I couldn’t imagine not sharing it with you. The below recipe is for baked skinless thighs, but you an easily adapt it to any chicken cut you want, skinless or not.

TIPS: I do not recommend using fresh garlic here (unless you stuff the meat with it) because it will burn during the baking/grilling process. Dried ground garlic can be bought probably everywhere, but I encourage you to make your own. It takes only a while and the final result is noticeably better than the one you used to buy. Here is my easy recipe for Homemade Dried Garlic.

If you don’t like hot dishes, replace chilli powder with sweet pepper powder.

If you don’t use turmeric often, beware: it’s very easy to overdose and make your chicken bitter.

Preparation: 20 minutes – 1 hour depending on the method and the cuts (grilling chicken breasts will take about 20 minutes, while baking legs might take up to one hour, including the oven preheating time)

Ingredients (serves two):

2 chicken thighs (skinned or not) or other chicken cuts of your choice

oil to brush on skinless cuts

Rub:

1 teaspoon dried powdered garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons powdered chilli or powdered sweet pepper 

Rub the spices into the chicken, starting with salt.

Brush with oil on top if you use skinless cuts.

Preheat the oven, if baking or broiling.

Put the seasoned chicken legs into a baking dish.

Bake or broil or grill until the meat is golden. (If you grill or broil, you need to turn the cuts of course; if you bake, you don’t need to do it).

 

 

 

Habanero Paste

habaneropaste

Sweet and hot pepper season will soon be over (at least in this part of the world), so make sure you don’t miss last moments to enjoy it and maybe preserve it. My organic farmers’ market stall sells chilli regularly, but this year their harvest has been particularly rich. They have increased the number of varieties and thus I came back home with half a kilo of beautiful red and orange habaneros. If you are not a big chilli fan, you might not know, but habaneros are incredibly hot (much more than for example long red cayenne peppers). They have however an extremely seductive, enticing aroma that makes you want devour them, no matter how much your mouth is on fire afterwards… This oily habanero paste is one of the easiest ways to preserve this fantastic chilli variety and its splash guarantees an immediate upgrade and awakening kick to any omelet, boiled egg, toast, pizza, grilled meat… or really any dish. Only for fiery food lovers!

I have based this recipe on the Italian preserve, often served here in pizzerias, called “Peperoncini sott’olio”.

By the way, I’m searching for other ways to use my habaneros (and the ones I’ll probably buy tomorrow…), so if anyone has a recipe, I’ll be extremely grateful!

TIPS: Wear gloves!!!! Do not touch the peppers (even whole) without gloves and make sure you wash well the cutting board, the knife and anything that they have been in touch with. I did wear gloves, but have inadvertently rubbed my eyes after touching the knife… I cried for half an hour.

Make sure you remove the seeds. Even without the seeds habaneros are extremely fiery (and it’s a big chilli geek talking…).

If you cannot stand the heat of habaneros, you can try mixing them with milder chillies or even with sweet peppers.

This is a short-term preserving method, which moreover uses fresh produce and has a very low acidity, so keep it in the fridge (you can probably freeze it too!).

Vinegar is here not only to add some acidity, always good for preservation, but also to improve the taste. Before adding the vinegar I found this somewhat bland.

If you don’t like/have peanut oil, use any oil you prefer. Given the hotness of habaneros, it’s a pity to use olive oil (I have made a tiny batch to test and it ended up as I had suspected: confronted with the heat and strong aroma of habaneros, olive oil’s delicate flavours practically disappear…).

Preparation: about 30 – 40 minutes

Ingredients (yields 1 x 200 ml jar (not full)):

about 15 habaneros (or a mixture of milder chillies and/or sweet peppers, but keep at least 20% of habaneros)

2 medium garlic cloves

1 heaped teaspoon salt

150 ml peanut oil (or more)

1 tablespoon vinegar (I have used red wine vinegar)

Put on the gloves.

Wash the chilli peppers.

Discard the stems and the seeds.

Chop roughly the peeled garlic clove.

Mix both in a food processor (don’t make a pulp though, they should be just very finely chopped) or chop with a knife (wearing gloves!).

Warm an empty frying pan.

Heat the chopped chillies and garlic at very low temperature, constantly stirring, so that they dry a bit and release some of their juices (but don’t dry them too much; they shouldn’t change the colour).

When they start sticking to the pan (after about 5-10 minutes), pour the oil.

Fry the chillies at very low temperature for about 10 minutes, constantly stirring (add more oil if you see that it’s been quickly absorbed).

Put aside and when it cools down, add the vinegar and salt.

(Add more salt if needed or more vinegar if it’s too salty).

Put into a jar, close it and keep in the fridge.

Chillies can be eaten at once, but they improve with time, so try to wait 24 hours before serving.