On Health & New Food Trends

Thursday, 16 April 2015

BITE SIZE: Tapas & Pintxos - #1 Croquetas

Chicken & Mushroom Croquetas


Snacks make perfect party food. Be it a dinner, a pass around cocktail party or even a sundowner get together, we don't really have to be boring, serving full meals all the time, the same foods, the same mood and the over all same activity! Serving snacks is folds more fun, and paired with the right coolers, drinks or even Gazpacho (cold soup) shots you allow for more interesting conversation and definitely a more fun ambience all together. Don't worry, a variety of snacks and in good amounts will fill up your guests just as a full menu of a seated meal would.

While all cuisines have major varieties of snacks to prepare, I find the Spanish & Basque people to be to the cooks with the snacking hooks! I had once spent 3 weeks just in the Basque region, mostly eating snacks and hardly repeating any one type! Seriously 3 full weeks of different flavours, mostly very interesting flavours and all in a bite or max 2 bites size! I do admit, I have always had a thing for bite size food, so perhaps I am biased to snacks!

Anyhow, summer is almost here, outdoor entertainment is absolutely fun, and since we all look for new ways and new ideas... this summer, I do not wish to bore you with the same old BBQ talk, and the same old entertainment tips with the repetitive same old activities, this summer why not make it more fun? Why not go BITE SIZE :)

So for the coming few posts, I will be going for recipes of some of my favourite Tapas & Pintxos that I have had in Madrid & the Basque Region. Starting of course with


Croquetas
You Need
The pulled roasted meat of 1/2 chicken, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 button mushrooms, finely chopped
2 oyster mushrooms, finely chopped
1 spring fresh Thyme
90 g butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup home-made chicken broth
4 slices bacon (any meat type you prefer), chopped
Salt & Balck pepper to taste
for the crumb coat
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
50g home-made breadcrumbs (you can go for gluten-free crumbs)

Vegetable oil for deep frying (Yup, its fine we can still have fried foods every now and again)



Cook the chopped bacon and onion in the sizzling butter over medium heat, until onion is translucent but not browned. Add the spring of thyme and chopped mushrooms and cook over low heat stirring frequently until the mushrooms are softened and cooked through. Add the chopped pulled chicken and stir to mix, and leave to sizzle for 5 minutes. Remove the thyme, then sprinkle with the flour and mix to coat, then remove from heat.

Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth. Continuing to stir, add the chicken broth and stir until smooth. Return the mixture to the heat, cook stirring until boiled and thickened. Season with salt and balck pepper to taste and refrigerate for an hour before rolling.

Once ready, roll 1 tbsp of the mixture at a time into a croquette (elongated) or a ball shape. Roll each croquette into the flour, then into the the beaten eggs then into the breadcrumbs. Line the coated croquettes on a baking tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes before frying.

Right before serving, deep fry the croquetas until golden. Drain well on paper towels, then transfer to a serving bowl or tray.

Serve with Garlic Aioli (home-made garlic-infused mayonnaise) and enjoy :)


Come back soon for my favourite Tapas: Albondigas!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Oneness.





March 8, 
International Women's Day. Indefinitely. 
#InternationalWomensDay #IWD #Women #Men #Elderly #Children #Adolescent #human 


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Today, more than ever, we need inspiration!

Picture by photographer & friend Ilian Iliev
Please do not use this picture without his consent,
 I have his permission to post it here and you should too before you save to share it


There are people on this earth who make it richer. We have all come across such people, and even tend to refer to them as 'inspirational' because we look at how they inspire us some way or the other. We feel richer when we meet them or get to know about them, we feel empowered, more driven and even learn from them. They may change us thoroughly, or may change a perspective... the thing they do for sure is be in their own way an enriching factor to the thought or life of those they get in contact with.

Inspirational people come in all shades of colour. They specialise in different fields... these amazing creatures do not have a set of definitives about them, not a specific look, hairdo, background, degree or type! Yes they can be anybody! The one thing they definitely have in common is a type of positive wisdom that causes an effect that they have on others. As such, some of them may have inspired huge, like the whole world; think Galileo, Avicenna, Socrates, Einstein... and many others like them. These people's inspiration was so tremendous that the world before them was never the same after them. They changed the way we saw and see this world, they enriched our knowledge, our comprehension and therefore altered some gene in our collective evolution. Other inspirational figures did not necessarily show us how flat our view of earth was in comparison to its actual roundness, however, and to what some may see as a lesser degree of importance, they showed us how flat our perspective was when it came to understanding what it is to actually be human. Think Saints if you like or less Godly figures the likes of Jalal Ad-Din Rumi, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Mandela... and many others the likes of these marvelous people. Such inspirational people brought our attention back to our heart, the soul of being human and reminded us that we all share the same truth, the condition of being human. Through their personal actions, these people showed us that we too - as they are exactly like us, not aliens from another planet - can find that same amount of love inside of our hearts. Yes, our routine ridden, bill driven, exterior polished, interior neglected everyday self can still have space for this tremendous love as theirs did...!

The truly inspired, (and I don't mean those who like the sound of being inspired or inspirational as a social network status or some sort of decoration pin), I mean to the truly inspired, the company of such people and their likes can be life changing. The gift of being inspirational is definitely not cheap commodity and therefore not for everyone to have! It cannot be taught, bought, it cannot be manipulated, it just is and that's that. And since on average we cannot control how inspirational we truly are, we can control how inspired we can be. So why not be inspired? Why not find our inspirational people and learn from them, instead of wasting our time trying to prove we ourselves are inspirational?!
Did Mother Teresa wake up every morning thinking: "Oh I can't believe how inspiring I am!" every day as she checked herself out in the mirror?!!
Why don't we really look for inspiration? Why not see the inspiring strengths and their beauty without polluting those with our egos? What really matters here is that we are looking, and looking for inspiration, for betterment, for reason, and ultimately for the human. A human sends love, hope, strength, light, understanding, tolerance, and oneness! Never does a human send hate, evil, darkness and the end of all things human regardless under what name, what pretense, what power trip, what ignorance...! 


One inspiring woman I learnt about yesterday and found her inner strength tremendous and absolutely inspiring, Nidaa Badwan. Picture courtesy of The New York Times, find the full article on this link

Today more than ever, we need a new Galileo, a new Avicenna, a new Socrates.... Today more than ever, we need the likes of the true saints and of Gandhi, of Mother Teresa and of Mandela... Today more than ever, we need inspiration ( by "we" here, I honestly mean all of us) we all need inspiration and we must stop and look for true and real inspiration because our world needs it!




Heavy food, slow digestion, however, cleansing.



Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Snack Delicious With These Home-made Smoked Almonds



I will not be telling you about nutritional value or the infinite health benefits of almonds, the internet is full of such content. I will however, be telling you about flavours and memories, which are my absolute favourite things and are my ingredients for #FoodForSoul


***


There is a specific sophistication in the palate of smoked foods and I always find it delightful. From the popular smoked salmon to less popular smoked foods such as a most wonderful smoked basil ice-cream which I recently had at a restaurant in Barcelona and anything that resides in the levels in between the two, smoked foods are very interesting to say the least.

Therefore I chose to post a recipe for a smoked snack, because these days I am munching all the time and happily snacking away like they will disappear tomorrow!! And most delightful of snacks are those amazing smoked almonds. So I chose to share with you the recipe here and hope you love them as much as I do once you give it a try.
With that said and as you will read in the description below, I am also showing you how you can adapt this recipe to your preferred flavours and even type of nuts. 


Before jumping right into the recipe
Here is a bit of 
Levantine Entertaining & Love of Snacking

When we entertain guests, it is very common for the hostess to have placed a few bowls of assorted toasted nuts - in a variety of flavours - on the centre and side tables, so guests munch on them along with their drinks and until dinner is served. Sometimes even when friends visit, it is popular to serve these nuts among the other snacks and dips... In less formal and humbler societies nuts and seeds are very popular snacks that are usually taken for picnics and many people back in the day will have spent the whole afternoon and a big chunk of the night munching on these nuts and ceaselessly cracking seeds for the delicious little pearl of heart inside.
A little more back in time, people even took those same snacks to the much humblers forms of movie theatres that were present at the time. Once the movie was over and the lights were on the floor will have become no more and shells will have taken over to decor the ground of the theatre! Just imagine what amount of seed crackin will have taken place if there was any suspense in the movie!! :))

While back in the day it most likely was toasted, salted nuts or (less popular then than now) the raw nuts especially almonds, which are among my favourite snacks ever; in the recent decades many new flavours have emerged, from BBQ, to even cheese and I even once found a Mexican Jalapeno and cheese flavoured nuts... The variation is fun and allows you to play with themes, where even your choice of nuts can go with your whole menu or event's theme.


My favourite flavour is smoked almonds, however, you can choose to go with BBQ flavour, chili flavour or even cumin. Really any spice mix you prefer works well here. Also you can carry out the same recipe using walnuts, macademia or even cashews..
You might have to break the pieces apart as at home you do not have a revolver to revolve the nuts in order to keep them coated yet separate. But that is not such an issue really.


You Need
500g Unblanched almonds
1 egg white
2 tsp smoked spices*, BBQ spice mix or red chili for spicy almonds...
1/2 tsp unrefined salt (optional for more savoury flavour)



Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Preheat the oven to (325F/160C).

Slightly beat the egg white in a large bowl, then add the almonds and toss to coat them well with the egg white. Add the salt and smoked spices and rub the nuts between your palms (you can wear gloves if you must! or wash afterwards!) Make sure each nut is coated with the spice.

Spread in a single layer over the lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes making sure to turn twice throughout.

Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper over a wire wrack and leave to cool completely. Once cooled, break any stuck pieces and place in an airtight container. Store for up to 1 month.

Serve these almonds in small bowls for guests to munch on with their drinks, or as a snack for your family.


Smoked Spices there is a special mix called "Smoked Spices" that you can buy from spice markets and specialty stores that gives the exact flavour of spiced nuts you buy from vendors. However if you are unable to find this mix you can simply smoke your spices at home. A very easy way to do this is to place them in a foil bowl in a smoker with lit smoking chips (of course in a very well ventilated area) and smoke them until the chips burn out and the smoke fades. Another one is to use a smoking gun and place them under a smoking cloche and smoke them that way.


Go Nuts! Why not!
If you prefer to go smoked then check out the recipe on this link, you will love it!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Asabe' Zeinab - The Popular Traditional Palestinian Cookies



I have received many requests for this recipe and have always kept it on my task list to make, photograph and post. However, partly being very fully scheduled, and partly because I have limited making sugary foods to almost none (I always end up convincing myself to have more, and really could do with eating less lol) ... ! I have finally managed to get myself to tick this recipe off my task list :)

So here you go, the recipe for this best loved and delicious (however naughty) Palestinian cookies the name of whic literally means Zeinab's Fingers...

You Need
1 recipe sugar syrup
Flavorless vegetable oil for frying
2 cups fine semolina
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp ground fennel seeds
2 tbsp ground anise
1 tsp ground mehlepi (Mahlab)
1 tsp nigella seeds
2tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup water

In a large bowl, mix well together the semolina, flour, baking soda, seeds and ground seeds. Add the olive oil and rub the mixture well between your palms to moisten all. Gradually add the water and mix until you have a firm dough. 

Place the dough in a bowl, cover and leave to rest for a few hours.

After resting, line a large baking sheet with baking paper. And start shaping the finger.
To shape, take 1 tbsp of dough and roll into a thick finger (sausage) between your palms. Roll the dough back and forth over a firm large holed sieve to creat impressions over the fingers as you can see in the picture above. Line the rolled and impressed dough over the lined baking sheet and continue to shape the rest of the quantity as such.

Once done, heat the frying oil. Meanwhile place the prepared sugar syrup in a pot next to you. Once the oil is heated add a few fingers at a time and fry them over medium heat until golden.

Once golden remove the cookies and dip them straightaway in the sugar syrup pushing them in to make sure they are fully covered with the syrup. Repeat the process with all the quantity.

Line on a serving plate and serve cold with tea.


Have a very sweet day :)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Ghraybeh - Ancient & Traditional Arabic Cookies


For those of you who emailed me regarding posts and recipes please see my note below :-)


And here is a regularly requested recipe...
Ghraybeh,
Perhaps an ancient Arabic dessert the recipe of which may have slightly been altered from time to time, however, remains with an unforgettable flavour from childhood for those who grew up in the Levant. Ghraybeh is a type of cookies famous all over  the region, however eternally residing in the cuisines of Falasteen, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, the area from which these cookies originated.

Give this recipe a try and serve these to your families with tea in the afternoon and taste the flavours of our childhood's afternoons.

You Need
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tsp powdered vanilla
1/4 tsp baking soda
Shelled pistachios for garnish

Beat the soft butter for 1 minute, add the confectioner's sugar and vanilla powder and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the flour and baking soda and beat on slow speed until the flour is all incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until you achieve a dough.

Place the dough in a bowl and cover, then leave to rest at room temperature for one hour.

Divide the dough into equal sized balls, roll each into a tube then pinch the edges together to form a loop like in the picture above. Press a shelled pistachio at the tip.

Line the shaped cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated (325F) oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms are firm and slightly darker.

Remove from the oven and completely cool in the baking sheets, then line on your serving plate and serve with tea.

Happy Baking!



RE: Ur Emails
I am receiving your emails, and agreed, between family time and my work projects I have not had the time to regularly post, especially recipes!! And I know you love those, but you guys know I am not a 100% dedicated blogger as I mainly work on other projects (food related of course, however not all public projects) and blogging is what I do on the side. Some projects are more forgiving and allow me time, but somehow the projects I have been working on lately have been so demanding and leaving me no time to post regularly. I am saying this here as it is easier to post one answer than answering all the emails. Lol one month out and my inbox is jammed!!
Love you guys! :))

Saturday, 31 January 2015

My Take On Flavour Development & Matters Of The Palate (a quick cooking class)



Going straight to the point...
The Very Mysterious Talent of Tasting!

Often times, when we taste food, our palate can tell if something is missing, or if there is too much of anything. We can immediately tell if the food needs more salt, less garlic, or even a squeeze of lemon... At times, you might even think, “something is missing”, without really knowing exactly what the food is missing! You see, "cooking is innate and the palate is the expert" as Sir Gordon Ramsey Says, therefore, allow it to be your guide.

Despite the world over complicating matters of the palate, by insinuating that one must know every flavour under the sun, and must be able to tell what is what without looking, furthermore, that the palate must be of professional experience; it is all not that complicated really! We all can taste food, and anyone who likes food and enjoys eating knows exactly what they are looking for. That is precisely why we reach for that lemon wedge, add a sprinkling of salt or pepper, or even add nuts to a dish, not only for flavour but also for texture. So, yes, there are palates that are more sophisticated. There are individuals whose palates are extremely sensitive to flavours and others who are naturally talented in creating unusual flavour combinations... but those are not the only ones who can cook. Each one of us knows a good eating experience, and we all have a vision or a memory that we are trying to replicate and we all have palates that can taste and tell whether a combination works or doesn’t.


Flavour Development

There is no better judge to help you achieve good flavours than your own individual palate. Therefore, and most importantly, in order to cook flavoursome concoctions
you must get in the habit of attentive tasting and smelling of your food while cooking as well as eating. There is no two ways about it: Season, taste then adjust. Add aromatics, taste and adjust. 
Also note that tasting the food after each addition will, overtime, make you an expert in creative flavour combinations. Because that exercise will show you how the flavour changes after any addition, as well as how different ingredients taste when combined.

Tasting does not happen only in the mouth, smelling is half the tasting experience.

Smell your food, smell the ingredients and smell the combinations, then taste. This is how you teach your palate the art of tasting. This is your only guaranteed path to flavour success.


Non-Professional Yet Effective Training

With that said, training your palate makes a huge difference. Approaching food open-mindedly and continuously trying new ingredients, flavours and textures always helps. Use your eating experiences as training opportunities.
Be aware of the food you eat. Notice the overall flavour palate and try to figure out which flavours are present. Is the food spiced (not necessarily hot)? If it is, then try to figure out which spices have been used. Are there hints of lemon or vinegar - sour? Is there sugar, honey or hints of cinnamon - sweet? Can you spot olives or zest – bitter? How about the seasoning – salt? Is the food well seasoned, over seasoned or under seasoned? You will find that the more conscious you are about the food you eat, the more expert your palate becomes.


In Conclusion

Experiment continuously with ingredients, flavours and combinations to find out what goes with what.
Keep in mind, that while we all cook somewhat similar recipes, the outcome always varies from one cook to another, as when we cook for others, we are sharing our vision and take on the recipe. Therefore, don’t be overly anxious about changing the recipe and adding your own touch and flavour to the dish. After all, it is your vision and you are generously sharing it with others through the food you cook and serve.

Have a flavourful day ;)

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