Light Yogurt Mousse with Passion Fruit

yog_mousse_passionSpring has been particularly cold this year and strawberries (I mean the edible ones) are late, so I keep on buying other fruits. A week ago I was thrilled to find exceptionally aromatic and sweet organic passion fruits and then wondered what dessert I could include them in… Finally, I thought the cleaner the flavours, the better. I’m glad I steered away from chocolate and strong tasting ingredients this time because this simple yogurt mousse proved perfect enhancer of the intense flavours of passion fruit. While shopping the following Friday I even didn’t look cravingly at strawberries and headed straight to passion fruits’ corner.

TIPS: I often make several individual portions of my light yogurt mousse-based desserts (see some of them here) and they keep perfectly several days in the fridge. This one is no exception (of course passion fruit should be added just before you eat).

Whatever the form of gelatin, it’s always indicated how much you need in order to set a certain amount of liquid. I don’t want to obtain here a stiff jelly-like texture, but something similar to a mousse, so I always check the advised amount and use only about 3/4 of it.

For the first time I used here only full-fat natural yogurt, but the following time I wanted it richer/creamier, so I reduced the amount of yogurt (see below) and added a bit of cream (mine was half-fat). It was just heavenly and still remained a light dessert.

Instead of normal full fat yogurt you can use here Greek yogurt or very smooth (mixed) fresh cheese/curd cheese/quark/, also called fromage frais/serek homogenizowany)

Ripe passion fruits have wrinkled skin (I learnt it very recently!), but if you buy smooth ones, you can put them at room temperature and wait until they ripen. Afterwards keep them in the fridge.

Preparation: 5 minutes+at least 2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4-5): 

500 ml  (about 17 fl oz) unsweetened full-fat yogurt (or see the TIPS above) or, if you want this dessert richer and creamier: 450 ml yogurt+50 ml cream

3/4 of the amount of gelatin necessary to set 500ml/17fl oz of liquid (usually 1 tablespoon gelatin or 6 – 8 sheets, depending on the size/brand, so check well the package and reduce the amount to about 3/4, see the TIPS above)+4 tablespoons warm water (I prefer to use hot water with powdered gelatin)

4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener of your choice

4-5 passion fruits (or more, depends on the size; I count 1 big per person or 1 and half of smaller ones)

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm or hot (not boiling) water. (If using leaves, proceed as indicated on the package). (I’ve recently stumbled upon instant gelatin powder which can be added directly to any creamy mixture or liquid without previous dissolving, so check well the procedure on the package.)

Mix the yogurt (or fresh cheese) and the sweetener/sugar in a food processor.

Add the dissolved gelatin and mix well.

Pour the yogurt mixture into individual bowls or glasses and put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Just before serving, cut the passion fruits in two and scoop out the flesh on top of each mousse.

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).

 

 

 

 

Easy Lazy Eggless Baked Chicken Katsu (Breaded Chicken Breast)

baked_chkatsupTonkatsu 豚カツ (breaded pork) and especially chicken katsu チキンカツ are among those Japanese dishes I could eat practically every other day. Until recently, I thought they had a huge disadvantage : being deep-fried. (I don’t find deep-frying difficult, complicated or dangerous and actually like it, but avoid it due to the fat and calorie content.) This was until I discovered Nami’s (Just One Cookbook) revolutionary solution : baked chicken katsu. Thanks to her, suddenly, tonkatsu and chicken katsu have switched from a rare special treat to a guilt-free staple!

If you have ever deep-fried chicken katsu or tokatsu, the ingredients of this lighter baked version are the same: flour, beaten egg and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), all used to coat the meat. The only difference is that panko is stir-fried until golden before the meat is coated, which takes only a while, so the process is quite easy. However, since I’m a lazy cook, always in search of shortcuts, after a dozen of baking sessions I started to wonder what would happen if I skipped the flour and egg coating stage… One day I simply brushed chicken breasts in oil (to make them stickier), coated in stir-fried breadcrumbs and baked as advised in Nami’s recipe. Even though oil-brushed meat is less sticky than an egg coating, the amount of panko is enough to make it still deliciously crisp. This baked chicken katsu might look less attractive than its deep fried version, but it’s so much quicker, lighter and easier, I just couldn’t wait to share it with you.

Personally I find both the three stage-coated and this lazy, one stage-coated chicken katsu equally delicious, but it might not be to everyone’s taste, so check the beautifully photographed Nami’s Baked Chicken Katsu together with a very helpful video.

TIPS: You can use any fat or oil of your choice. After many tests I have become crazy for coconut oil in both panko frying and meat brushing stages. The final flavours have only a hint of coconut aroma and I love it.

You can fry some panko crumbs in advance, cool them down and keep in a closed jar for several days. Strangely they still keep crisp and you can skip their stir-frying process.

Chicken katsu and tonkatsu are served in Japan with a special tonkatsu sauce (easily available at Japanese groceries but I prefer much more less sweet homemade version) and ground white sesame seeds. I also like it with ponzu (yuzu citrus and soy sauce mixture) and… mayonnaise+ taberu rayu (garlicky chilli sauce with sediments, see how to make it here).

Quick Chilli and Garlic Oil with Sediments

Quick Chilli and Garlic Oil with Sediments

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

2 small chicken breasts or 1 very big (if you use very big chicken breasts, halve them lengthwise)

8 heaped tablespoons of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1 tablespoon coconut oil+ 1 more for meat brushing

salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a pan (at low heat). Slowly stir-fry the panko crumbs (don’t stop stirring because at a certain point they quickly burn) until they become golden.

Once they cool down, place them on a plate.

Season the meat with salt and pepper.

Coat the chicken breasts in panko, pressing with your hands (pat more with your hands if you want more of the crunchy crust!).

Place on baking paper and bake for about 20-25 minutes (depending on the breast size and the oven) until, when pierced with a tooth pick the running juices are clear, not pink.

If you intend to eat with chopsticks, cut the breast into bite-sized pieces before serving.

You can serve them with tonkatsu sauce (in every Japanese grocery shop), but personally I love them with mayonnaise and hot sauce (such as sriracha or taberu rayu) and, in a lighter version with ponzu (soy sauce and Japanese citrus sauce).

Polish Salt-Brined Cucumber Soup with Coconut Milk

cuc_souppAs soon as I wrote the title of this post I realised that probably for the majority of my dear readers salt-brined cucumber sounds much more unusual than coconut milk, but I was so pleasantly surprised to see how such geographically distant products go well together, I decided to post this international version. Anyway, whether it’s coconut milk or the traditional cow’s cream, this is one of the most delicious soups I know and I hope some of you will be tempted to make it. Maybe due to its tanginess or maybe due to the refreshing presence of the dill, I consider it a perfect springtime dish.

Since it’s a very popular soup, every Polish cook has her/his own method. I have based the instructions below on my mum’s recipe with, as always, my own slight modifications, including a lightened option (see the TIPS). I have experimented here with coconut milk instead of adding the traditional cow’s cream, but both options are equally delicious. Though not heavy at all, it’s a nourishing soup with potatoes, so, depending on the amounts served, it can be considered as a full meal (you can serve it with bread).

TIPS: Salt-brined cucumbers are fermented/pickled in a mixture of salt and water, with herbs and spices. They become sour, but not as harsh as vinegared ones. They are also relatively healthy (they have vitamin C, absent in raw untransformed cucumber), unless they contain too much salt of course. They cannot be replaced with vinegared pickles. Apart from Polish, Russian and Ukrainian shops, salt-brined cucumbers can be found in some German or Austrian shops too and I know they are also sold in “normal” organic grocery shops. Not to mention online sources.

If you cannot find fresh or frozen dill, forget this recipe (I must be very strict here because without dill it’s just not the same soup, while dried dill is almost as useless here as dried basil in a caprese salad…). It’s used here in big amounts, so its presence is very important. If dill is not used in your country’s traditional cooking, you might still find it at farmers’ markets and even in some Asian shops (I see it regularly in my Vietnamese/Thai shop). The good news is chopped fill freezes very well, so if your farmers market or Asian shop is far away, buy a big bunch, chop it and freeze. (It also grows very very easily from seeds, even on a window sill). Dill is also very popular in Greek cuisine, so you will find many ways to use your frozen batch.

I always remove fat from my stock, so here, once the stock was ready, strained it and put into the fridge. After several hours the fat will solidify at the top and thus will be easy to remove. You don’t have to follow this procedure of course!

Preparation: minimum 3 hours (depends on the choice of meat and fat removal or not, see TIPS)

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a starter):

2 chicken legs (I prefer skinned) or the equivalent of other meat (pork/beef), preferably with bone

4 big salt-brined cucumbers (see the TIPS)

leek leaves

1 big carrot+1 to be added at the end

1/4 celeriac (or 2 stalks celery)

(optional, but worth looking for: 1 small parsley root)

4 medium potatoes

salt, pepper

coconut milk/cream or cow’s liquid cream (2-3 tablespoons per person)

1 big bunch of fresh or frozen dill

Put the meat, the leek leaves, the carrot, the celeriac and parsley root (if you can get it) into a big pan. Cover with water, add some salt and simmer, covered, until the meat falls off the bone (the time depends on the meat, but it’s minimum 3 hours to make sure the stock has deep flavours).

In the meantime grate the salt-brined cucumber (vegetable grater, not the one with smallest holes). Do not throw away the brine! You might discover you prefer your soup even more sour and add it later on.

Place the grated cucumber into a small pan, cover with water and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Put aside.

Once the stock is ready (or rather the meat is tender enough), remove the meat and the carrot. Strain the stock and throw out the remaining cooked vegetables (unless you like them).

Here you can either refrigerate the stock in order to remove fat (see TIPS above) or continue the preparation without the fat removal.

Remove the bones and cut up the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Cut up the cooked carrot and grate the raw one.

Peel the potatoes and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Put back the stock into the pan, add the potatoes and cook until soft.

Then add the grated cucumber, the meat, the carrots and let it simmer for about five minutes.

Adjust the taste with freshly ground pepper, salt and, if you find the soup not tangy enough, add some of the brine from cucumbers.

Just before serving chop some dill to every plate, add a splash of cream or coconut milk and serve.

Asparagus has arrived!

breadtartletasppGreen asparagus is almost a perfect vegetable: it doesn’t need any peeling or scrubbing, is particularly low calorie, has important health benefits (e.g. antioxidants), is ridiculously easy and quick to prepare and, last but not least, is absolutely delicious. Moreover, once we take its traditional luxurious image out of ours heads and let our imagination run wild, we discover it’s one of the most versatile vegetables in the world. In fact, asparagus is fantastic in as different dishes as maki sushi, stir-fry, Indian curry, spring roll or tempura. Apart from its short season, I cannot find a single flaw.

Now that Spanish organic asparagus has appeared (I still wait for the best ones, from the south of France), I cannot imagine my weekly grocery shopping without a precious green bunch carefully places on the top of my bag. I’m still too excited to think of new experiments, but in a couple of weeks I’ll certainly start playing with my beloved vegetable, just like every year. In the meantime I thought my dear readers, especially those who happen to be asparagus lovers too, might find the following suggestions useful:

Asparagus with Chicken and Miso

Asparagus with Chicken and Miso

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Bread Tartlet with Egg and Asparagus

Bread Tartlet with Egg and Asparagus

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Asparagus Tempura

Asparagus Tempura

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Tama Konnyaku with Asparagus

Tama Konnyaku with Asparagus

Rice, Asparagus and Fried Egg

Rice, Asparagus and Fried Egg

Asparagus with Cashew Nuts and Chicken

Asparagus with Cashew Nuts and Chicken

asp_springrollsp

Spring Rolls with Asparagus and Chicken