Category Archives: Snacks, Appetisers, Finger food

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).

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.

Indian Short-Term Fridge Chilli Pickles

If you think these pickles look and sound familiar, you are right: this is exactly the same recipe I posted seven months ago. I didn’t include it in my previous preserving post (My Favourite Summer Savoury Pickles) because it is unique. When I first made it – and shared with you my enthusiasm – it was the middle of winter, the chillies were imported from a warmer continent and not half as good as local seasonal produce, nonetheless these Indian pickles were so extraordinary I promised myself I would write about them once more when chilli season arrives.

Now that I have tested several chilli varieties, I find these pickles the best with jalapeños because they stay relatively crunchy throughout weeks and of course because jalapeños are highly aromatic and delicious!, so if you have a chance to test this recipe with jalapeños, I urge you to do so.

Although I have already grown chillies on my balcony, I was particularly thrilled this year to pick my own balcony-grown jalapeños. They aren’t sold fresh anywhere in my city, so the only way to get them was to sow them and grow on my own. Maybe they don’t look as perfect and as plump as those grown outdoors, but they are absolutely delicious. The photo of this very first harvest was taken a month ago and I’m so happy to have been able to pick a similar amount every single week since then! Obviously every week a new small batch of Indian pickles is started!

This recipe was inspired by two sources: a recipe found in  Meera Sodha’s (Fresh India) and another one, from the newly discovered Healthy Veg Recipes website (in English and Hindi).

Even though both sources are Indian, these pickles taste fantastic in sandwiches, on toasts, in salads and they give a nice fiery kick to every dish from all around the world. One of my favourite ways to have them is with crisp Finnish bread, on top of a thick layer of fresh goat cheese…

TIPS:

If, once your jar is empty, you are left with some thick spicy brine, don’t throw it away! It’s fantastic mixed with mayonnaise or as a salad sauce or as an addition to a vinaigrette sauce. (I have tested only these three options but I’m sure it can be used in other ways too). I don’t advise reusing it for a new batch of fresh chillies.

Chillies have different heat levels and some are ridiculously mild (at least for me), so even if you cannot handle fiery food (and for example jalapeños are out of question), you can still prepare these pickles with mild chillies because the spices here don’t contain chilli powder. You can also look for thin-skinned sweet peppers and cut them into bite-sized pieces. What makes these pickles fantastic is the aromatic, spice-loaded brine, the heat comes after (of course for us, chilli lovers, both are important!).

You can also use raw red chilli, but Indian sources suggest green chilli is the best for pickling. (And I second it, green jalapeños being the best!). Apart from the different, fresher taste, I wonder if green chillies don’t stay firmer when pickled.

I have noticed that Indian dried spices are available practically all around the world (at least online), so try not to skip any of the below ingredients (such as asafoetida, which cannot be substituted and which adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to these pickles making them really special).

You will find all the spices and the mustard oil in Indian/Sri Lankan grocery shops. Mustard oil does make a huge difference in taste here… but you can use also for example peanut oil.

The below spice amounts can be changed to your taste, but be careful with fenugreek. It’s easy to overdose and thus make the whole jar of pickles bitter (I’ve had this awful experience once with a curry dish). Asafoetida is quite strong, but it’s not as “dangerous” as fenugreek (in my opinion).

Special equipment: disposable gloves

Preparation: 15 minutes + minimum 3 days

Ingredients:

250 g (about 1/2 lb) fresh green chillies without stalks

50 ml mustard oil

6 teaspoons salt

juice from 1 lime (or 1/2 lemon)

3 heaped teaspoons sugar

3 tablespoons vinegar (I’ve used cider vinegar)

2 tablespoons white/yellow mustard seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1/3 teaspoon asafoetida powder

Grind all the spices in a spice grinder or in a cheap coffee grinder (I have one I bought only for spices, see TIPS above).

Put on disposable gloves. Slice the chillies or cut them into bite-sized pieces. (Remove the seeds and white parts if you want less heat).

Place the chilli pieces tightly in a glass jar or any other container (a Japanese pickling jar, such as this one is a fantastic gadget here).

Add the spices.

Heat the oil (but don’t boil it) and pour it over the chillies.

Add the lime juice, the vinegar, the salt and give it a good stir.

The chilli pieces must be submerged in the pickling liquid, so once you mix everything, you must put something heavy on top. A Japanese pickling jar with a weight will be perfect, but you can also use a bigger jar for pickling and a small clean jar filled with water as a weight. Afterwards you should put a lid on the jar or cover with plastic film (or simply a plastic bag), so that no unwanted bacteria or insect gets inside.

Cover well with plastic wrap or a cover, so that no bacteria gets inside, and leave at room temperature for two-three days. Stir the content once a day with a clean fork or spoon.

The chillies will soften, their volume will be reduced and their colour will change to an olive hue; then they will be ready to eat. (At this point you can transfer them into a smaller container or jar).

Store the pickles tightly closed in the fridge and whenever you fish some pieces out, make sure you use a clean fork or spoon (i.e. not used on any other food product).

I eat them quite quickly, but sometimes I have two batches at the same time, so I have noticed they stay delicious and unspoilt in the fridge for several weeks.

 

My Favourite Savoury Summer Preserves

Pickled Sweet Pepprs

I don’t eat jams and other sweet preserves, so my even though for most people preserving means mainly making jams, my pantry has become almost 100% savoury with most of the jars filled with chilli pepper-based jellies, sauces, pickles and other more or less fiery products. Preserving season has practically started here (I’ve just made my first jars of chilli jelly!), so I thought I’d share with you my favourite preserves, those I cannot imagine skipping even for a single year. 

Some of them can only be kept in the fridge, some can be put into jars and kept for at least a year in your pantry. If you are afraid of long-term preserving (though I must assure you I’ve literally lived all my life on home preserves and never ever got even a slight stomach ache!), all the below long-term recipes can also be made as “fridge” preserves and kept for several months. If the hot water bath process (which I find necessary in long-term savoury preserves) seems too fussy and too long, I assure you, it lasts only 10-15 minutes, depending on the jar’s size, and is really easy. 

I hope you will find some of the below ideas useful or inspiring. Happy preserving!

TIPS: If you cannot handle very hot chilli varieties, choose the mildest ones. I keep on getting furious because from time to time I buy at the same shop chillies labelled as hot while they are not even medium-hot, so I know such things exist…

If you live in Europe and your country doesn’t produce chillies, I strongly suggest looking for Turkish grocery shops and Turkish stalls at farmers markets. They usually have several varieties of chillies (also some which are barely hot) and they will be fresher than those imported from other continents.

Short-term or Fridge-Only Preserves

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista

Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Peperoncini sott'olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

Peperoncini sott’olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

 

Salt Brine Pickled CHilli

Salt Brine Pickled Chilli

Long-term/ Pantry Preserves

 

Pickled Dill Cucumbers

Moomins’ Pickled Cucumber Salad

Indian-Style Tomato Chutney

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies

Chilli Jelly

Chilli Jelly

Habanero and Oil Paste

Habanero and Oil Paste (Only for Brave Chilli Lovers!)

Pineapple and Chilli Jelly

Pineapple and Chilli Jelly

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Pickled Sweet Peppers

Quick Chilli Pickle in Reused Olive Brine

When I met MJ and started reading the wonderful MJ’s Kitchen I discovered a whole new world of exotic dishes, ingredients and techniques. We share a huge love for chilli (or chile, as MJ would say) in all its forms, but her ways of cooking and using it are usually completely new to me. MJ might be surprised but I always think about her whenever I open a jar of olives. In fact, until I met MJ I would simply discard the olive brine from an empty jar, (unless my husband hasn’t drunk it!), but I’ve seen MJ use olive brine in so many creative ways, it started to make me think it’s totally wrong to throw it away.

One day I thought I’d recycle this brine and try making quick chilli pickles. The result was so good, I now always make sure I have two or three chillies in the fridge whenever I open a jar of olives. Such quickly pickled chilli slices are still crunchy, only lightly altered in taste and texture and they make an excellent snack or an addition to salads and sandwiches. If, like my husband, you like drinking olive brine, you can still drink it after you’ve finished this “secondary” pickle, but beware, the brine will be even hotter than the chilli. Now olive brine makes me think even more about MJ because I know as soon as I finish the olives, I’ll throw some chillies into the same jar and have a delicious hot snack I’m sure she would enjoy. Thank you so much, dear MJ, for your constant inspiration!

If you have just opened a jar of vinegar-pickled vegetables (cucumbers for example), once you have finished it, you can try the same method to make quick secondary cucumber pickles with leftover vinegar pickling brine:

Cucumber Pickled in Reused Vinegar Brine

TIPS: This quick recycled brine pickling idea is intended for olives pickled in salt brine (salt and water), not preserved in oil or with addition of oil (you might try it too, but I don’t guarantee the results).

The photo you see above was made at the moment I started pickling. The red chilli colour won’t change but the green chilli slices will soon turn olive green, so don’t worry, it’s normal.

Some olives are sold in plastic pouches. Once you have finished the olives, transfer the brine into a glass jar and then  pickle the chillies (don’t reuse the plastic pouch for that). Olives might be sold also in metal cans, but I’ve never tried pickling in the leftover brine from such olives. I’m worried it might take a metallic taste… If you ever intend to do it, make sure you don’t reuse the same can (anyway, I’m sure most of you know, metal cans should be emptied as soon as they are open, so you should transfer the olives with their brine into a ceramic or glass container as soon as you open them).

Obviously, if you don’t like fiery food and cannot handle chillies, you can pickle sweet peppers in the same way.

If your pickled chilli has developed a mould on top, throw it away and don’t be put off by this first experience. I have made these reused brine pickles at least dozen of times, always in the same way and once they developed mould, I have no idea why (it might have been some dirt on the chillies or a fork which had touched some other food product and then used to retrieve olives from this brine…).

Preparation: 2-3 days

Ingredients:

a jar with brine from pickled olives (you can reuse the same jar)

raw chillies, washed, dried and sliced

Place the chilli slices into the brine, making sure the liquid covers all of them (they will float a bit of course, but don’t pack too much chilli, otherwise some of the pieces won’t pickle at all) and cover with a tight lid.

Place the jar into the warmest part of the fridge (vegetable drawer is a good place or the fridge doors) and wait 2 or 3 days (taste the chilli to see if it’s already changed the taste). You can shake the jar once or twice a day. Don’t keep these pickles for more than a week and transfer them to a colder place in the fridge once you think they are done. (After a certain time they might start developing mould).