K's interview with great grandma, in celebration of #SolidaritywithPalestinianPeople Day

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Macaroni & Cheese

Serves 4 | Medium

This cheesy dish is sure to warm your hearts and comfort your souls. I mean who doesn't like a bit of Mac n' Cheese? This is comfort food at its best.

If you are more into mild cheese flavours, use American cheese or a very mild cheddar cheese. If you like your cheese and prefer it sharp, then experiment with blue cheese and smoked cheeses. This dish is very easy to make and the best thing about it is that it's open for your creativity. Let's go for it....

You Need
 250g either dried Rigatone, manicotti, or maccheroni (otherwise known as macaroni or elbow pasta)
1 onion chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded strong cheddar cheese
1 cups shredded American cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Black Pepper to taste
a pinch nutmeg
a pinch garlic powder
a handful parsley, chopped

Cook pasta till Al dente.

While Pasta is cooking, start with the cheese sauce by making a roux: in a saucepan, cook onion in hot butter until tender but not browned. stir in flour, powdered garlic & pepper. add milk at once and keep stirring over medium heat till thickened & bubbly. add nutmeg, and stir, then add cheeses and stir till melted. add cooked drained pasta over cheese sauce and mix to coat. transfer macaroni & cheese into a casserole dish and bake uncovered in a 350 F oven for  25-30 mins. let the dish stand for 10 minutes before serving. right before serving sprinkle with chopped parsley.

If you do not wish to bake the Mac n' Cheese, then prepare in the same way, except immediately after draining macaroni return it to its empty pan and pour cheese sauce over it and mix to coat. then cook stirring for 2-3 minutes, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. sprinkle tops with chopped parsley.

Serve warm!

Have you had Mac & Cheese before, do you find it to be Ultimately Comforting, or another type of lazy food you would rather not have? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of this recipe, you know I love hearing from you :)

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Tagliatelle With Spinach & Chicken in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Serves 4 | Easy | Healthy

Tagliatelle Pasta is one of my favourite pastas to cook. I like that it is wider than fettuccine, it adds a fullness to the bite, with more ground for sauce absorption. Tagliatelle is fabulous with tomato sauce, and also great with white sauce as well. I have gone tomato sauce with this one, and find the flavours mesh really well together. The earthiness of the spinach, against the sweet sourness of the tomato sauce with the mildness of chicken and the hint of a bite from the pasta, all coated with Parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black peppers make it a heavenly experience.

I find pasta dishes to be really comforting, and give me a warm feeling. I like to go for pastas and noodles on days when I am tired and looking to unwind. I also like to offer at least one pasta dish on most of the menus I go for when hosting a dinner at home. I find that most people enjoy eating pasta, and will definitely find something they like. This recipe is one that my guests love, and one that I always like to have. For a different presentation you can layer the pasta, spinach & tomato sauce chicken as shown in picture. But this dish can also be served with the pasta, sauce and chicken all tossed together, and served in a nice large bowl.

You Need
250g dried or fresh Tagliatelle
2 Chicken breast fillets, sliced into strips
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
100 g baby spinach leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp dried oregano
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
dried Bird's eye chili slithers (optional)
Parmesan cheese shavings

Slice chicken breasts, and rinse with water. Pat dry and sprinkle with Balsamic Vinegar and set aside.

Cook Pasta in boiling water with dried Oregano & crushed garlic till Al Dente.

While Pasta is cooking, heat the Tomato sauce in a wide pan over high heat till bubbly. Add the chicken slices and stir to cover with sauce. cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken slices are cooked through. Add the dried chili slithers if using and toss to mix.

To serve, drain the pasta and place on serving plates, sprinkle with black pepper. Top with Spinach leaves then with chicken & tomato Sauce. Sprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan shavings.
Serve warm and tuck in :)

For more on Pasta, check out my post Understanding Pasta - All There Is To Know

Do you have a pasta dish that you always like to cook? When entertaining at home, do you choose pasta as an offering on your menu? Leave me a comment and let me know...

Fettuccine Alfredo with Mushrooms

Serves 4 | Easy

I remember the first time I had Fettuccine Alfredo. To my very young palate it tasted utterly creamy with hints of sweetness that was much appreciated at that age. The whole experience was easy, effortless, and comfortable. That made it for me! I liked it. Growing up, I have tried many variations for Fettuccine Alfredo. Some add nutmeg, some add basil, some use mushrooms, some go without. Every time I tried one, I always found something I liked. I have decided that this is one dish, very open for additions, and can make a good base to many other pasta dishes. Fettuccine Alfredo, is a rich dish, but a very good one nonetheless. It can be had on its own, or served as a side to meat or poultry dishes. It can even be served as part of an appetiser, like the Trio of Pasta Appetiser, where you serve small portions of 3 kinds of pasta to start a meal.

The Classic Fettuccine Alfredo is done the same as in this recipe, except without the Mushrooms.
For this recipe 2 types of Mushrooms were used - button mushrooms and Swiss brown mushrooms - but you are not limited to these types, you can choose any type of Mushroom that you fancy. You can even take the dish to another level by adding shavings of black truffles on top. Or you can simply drizzle some white truffle oil to finish.  The flavours of Fettuccine Alfredo are very open for additions, as I mentioned. This is a good place to experiment with different flavours and textures. You can even use it as a vehicle to create a whole new recipe like Portabella Mushroom and Pecans Pasta in White Sauce, or Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken and sage...

Here is how this Fettucine Alfredo with Mushrooms is made...
You Need
250g dried Fettuccine (can also use spinach Fettuccine)
1 tbsp butter or margarine (can substitute with the same amount Extra virgin olive oil)
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250g button mushrooms, peeled & halved
250g Swiss brown mushrooms, peeled & quartered
3/4 cup half-and-half, or light cream
1/2 cup chicken broth | stock
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Cook Pasta in a large pot of boiling water until Al Dente (as explained in Understanding Pasta, All There is To Know).

Heat butter or oil in a large saucepan; add onion & garlic, stir till tender but not browned. Add mushrooms & cook stirring till mushrooms are browned and softened. Stir in Broth and simmer uncovered until reduced by half. Stir in the cream and 1/2 the amount of Oregano bringing to a boil. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the pasta. Add pasta to cream sauce and toss to coat. add Parmesan cheese and toss to mix. Transfer fettuccine into serving dish and sprinkle with cracked black pepper and the rest of the chopped Oregano. Serve warm as a starter or next to a grilled meat, fish, poultry option.

Do you like cream-based pasta dishes? Which cream-based pasta dish is your favourite? Let me know, leave a comment, I love to hear your thoughts :)

Understanding Pasta - All there is to know

is essentially made out of flour, water, oil, eggs (could be without), seasoning and herbs. It could be any combination of those ingredients, which are then mixed together to form a dough. The dough is then rested, after which it is rolled thin and cut into different shapes (rectangles for lasagne, long narrow strips for spaghetti, and long flat strips for linguine...etc). These are the main traditional ingredients used in making Pasta, but of course there are other variations.

Forms, Shapes and Flavours
There are many forms of Pasta. Most are categorised as Italian or Oriental. The Italian variety is classically drum-wheat based. The Oriental Pasta, on the other hand, is made out of different flours and starches and is usually long strips of pasta, known as noodles. There is a good range of Italian pasta that is non-wheat based and made with other flours instead. These are mainly for health food markets in order to cater for those who are wheat intolerant for instance, or eliminating wheat products from their diets. Whole-wheat and Buckwheat are to name a few, but with the increased interest in grains and other starches, nowadays you can find many varieties.

There are many different shapes and types of Pasta

Pasta is either fresh or dried. It can be shaped in a variety of shapes. It can also be flavoured with an array of aromatics, herbs, and flavourings.
The earliest known reference to Pasta is traced to Middle Ages Sicily and has been a basic food in Italy ever since, especially in Naples and Rome. because Pasta originates from Italy, it is therefore known and referred to as 'Italian-Pasta'. With that said, the industrial manufacturing of pasta replaced home-made pastas and made it available everywhere. Since then Pasta has become a part of many cuisines, who have adopted this ingredient into their offerings.

Fresh Pasta is the same product as dried pasta, only it has not been hung - after rolling and cutting - on pasta hangers and left to dry. The hard form of pasta is used and cooked in the same manner as fresh pasta. The only difference is that it might require a few minutes longer to cook. However, dried Pasta has a longer shelf life, whereas fresh pasta has to be consumed within a few days.

A wide variety of ingredients could be used to flavour fresh or dried pasta some of which are vegetables such as spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and recently sweet potato. Herbs like oregano, basil, rosemary and sage are also used in flavouring pasta and so are some spices such as nutmeg, allspice and at times saffron!

The most traditional Flavouring ingredients used with Pasta are: Spinach and Tomato. But other ingredients can be used as well not only to flavour but also to colour Pasta! Beetroot for example gives pasta a strong colour and a mild flavour. Black pasta is essentially made using squid ink, and green pasta comes from the use of spinach. This kind of treatment in colour and flavour is what allows you to create signature dishes that are unique and stand out from the rest. Black Pasta, for instance, is gorgeous and adds a dramatic touch to your plate. After all, when constructing a dish, colour is an important aspect to take into consideration; just as important as flavour and texture. The same applies to flavour. If you can incorporate pesto into the pasta dough, that will add a layer of flavouring and make your pasta way more interesting. This is why making your own pasta is far better than buying the ready made generic ones. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with buying pasta, we all do, and there are very good quality pastas in the market. But for more interesting pasta concoctions, and for a unique dishes, making your own will definitely step up the play. It becomes a whole different ball game!

Pasta Categories and Names
The term 'Baked Pasta' refers to dishes that contain Pasta and are baked. The pasta in those dishes had to be boiled then assembled in a dish with the rest of the ingredients. These days manufacturers are producing baking pastas - like lasagne, tortiglioni, bucatini, conchiglie and caravattine - that do not need to be pre-boiled before baking. They can rather be stuffed or layered dry then baked in generous proportions of sauce. The liquids from the sauce, and being covered with foil at first to build steam, will all cook the pasta without the need to pre-cook.

Another dimension to pasta and just as important is stuffing. Stuffed pasta varieties include: Raviolli, Tortellini, Tortellini as well as Agnolotti, Cappelleti, Cannelloni, Lumache, and Manicotti ...etc. Some will be available stuffed dried or fresh. Others will have to be boiled then stuffed by you. Stuffing may consist of cheeses, vegetables and |Or meats. Obviously, the ready stuffed ones cannot even compare to those made at home! The work, the patience and creativity that goes into making your own stuffing makes it way better than the generic, and usually poor manufacturer's stuffing.

Another variety of pastas, just as important as all the previous ones are 'Soup Pastas'. These are fairly small in size and are added to soups towards the end of cooking. These mini pastas have also become very famous in Salads. Soup Pastas include: Vermicelli, Linguine, Pennette, Stelline, Risoni, Anellini and Conchigliette.

Cooking and Serving
Pasts is cooked in a heavy bottomed saucepan, 3/4 full of salted water. You can, if you wish, add flavouring to the boiling water, such as  freshly cracked black pepper, herbs, spices, garlic, Parmesan shavings...etc. Flavouring the boiling water this way, will eventually flavour the pasta. The pasta needs to be able to move freely in the boiling water, therefore use a big pot and enough water for large quantities. Otherwise, it will become to starchy and sticky. But you do not need massive amounts of water to cook your pasta in. A general rule of thumb is that the pasta must be sealed with the boiling water. Long dried pastas, like spaghetti, need to be gradually pushed into the water. You will put the pasta in the pot and wait till it softens, then push it in slightly, and so on until its covered.

The perfect doneness of pasta is called 'Al dente'; which is when the pasta is no longer hard to chew, yet has a slight bite, is firm and holding shape. With fresh pasta, Al Dente is when the pasta is firm, holds shape and too soft, which is overcooked. Fresh pasta never has a bite. Do not over cook pasta - until it is too soft and loses shape.
The cooking time depends on the quality of the pasta, its size and the amount cooked. As a general guide (but do check your pasta while cooking to make sure): Dried Vermicelli takes 4-5 mins; Dried Long Pastas like Spaghetti take 11-12 mins; and large pastas take about. All fresh pastas take from 3-8 minutes, depending their size. Timing begins when the water returns to boiling after the pasta had been added.

When using Pasta in a salad, immediately after removing from the water, drizzle it with Olive Oil so it doesn't stick as its cooling down. If the Pasta is to be served hot, drain after cooking has finished, and do not rinse, and add the sauce its served with immediately and serve hot. In some recipes, you might have to allow 1-2 extra minutes of cooking with the sauce. In this case, reduce the first cooking time. One trick to make the sauce stick to the pasta is to add a little bit of the boiling water to the sauce. The starches released into the boiling water will act as adhesives allowing the sauce to stick to the pasta.

There is a huge variety of sauces to be served with pastas. Many are tomato based, but there is also white sauce, flavoured white sauces, browned or burnt butter sauces, creams, cheese sauces, bolognese, milanaise...etc. Pasta dishes often include meats, fish, shellfish, ham...etc. They are often served with herbs, cheeses, vegetables...and Fillings include: Meat, Spinach with white sauce and cheese, mushrooms, sausages, livers...etc.

Pasta is usually served as an starter to a meal, usually followed by a meat/poultry/fish dish, but could also be served as a side to a main dish or as main at times.

Pastas and Their Commonly Used Names: 

2. Mini Bow Ties     
3. Gnocchi
4. Spaghetti       
5. Manicotti             
6. Penne
7. Ravioli           
8. Linguine               
9. Fine Egg Noodles
10. Mafalda    
11. Orzo (rosamarina)   
12. Fusilli
13. CousCous   
14. Small Shell Macaroni  
15. Rotini
16. Capellini       
17. Wide Egg Noodles     
18. lumache

19. Long Ziti
20. Capellini (angel Hair)
21. Lasagne Noodles
22. Ziti
23. Ruote (Wagon Wheel Macaroni)
24. Cavatappi
25. Acini di peppe
26. Mafalda
27. Gemelli
28. Tortellini (tortelloni is the same but larger)
29. Ditalini (tiney Thimbles)
30. Rigatoni
31. Vermicelli
32. Cavatelli
33. Fettuccine
34. Nested Vermicelli (Nested Spaghetti)

Related Links that you might find interesting

Hope you have enjoyed this post, and found the information useful.
Let us know which is your favourite pasta dish? Are you the tomato sauce type or do you prefer white sauces? Share with us, we love hearing from you ;)

Come back again for more understanding food articles and delicious recipes...

Buon Appetito x

Friday, 23 April 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes - An Excellent Treat, any time & for any Occasion

DK Red Velvet Cupcakes
Serves 12 | Easy

For the purist these cupcakes only go with cream cheese frosting. But try them with vanilla cream as well; they will melt in your mouth to soften your heart :)
Top the cupcakes with swirls of cream and your desired mini decoration for a celebration look
For Cake Batter You Need
2½ cups all purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (preferably Madagascar Burbon)
Red food coloring (optional, quantity optional to required shade)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place all dry ingredients in bowl; mix all to blend.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs with fork; add oil and mix to blend. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add buttermilk & vanilla to mixture as well as food colouring if using. Whisk till combined. Pour into cup-lined cupcake tins. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for ten minutes and remove from pans.

For Cream Cheese Icing You Need
½ stick butter
8 oz cream cheese
1 lb powdered sugar
dash of salt
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Mix icing ingredients together until light and fluffy. Use to frost and fill cupcakes.
If desired, top cupcakes with edible decorations (try fondant ribbon flowers, leaves, mini butterflies, mini animal shapes... etc).

Cookies @ their Easiest!

The simplest and Easiest Gingerbread cookies
Super Easy

I was at Spinney's and got a flyer there with a gingerbread cookies recipe. I loved how simple the recipe is. not many ingredients and just plain old easy. I know my friends always ask me for simple recipes that don't require much to do. So I know that you will like this one.

I have added a bit to the recipe, as i felt it needed a little something extra. But it is still a Simple & Fast one.

You Need
500g sifted flour
150g butter
175g dark brown sugar
150g honey
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg

preheat oven to 350F. In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour, soda, baking powder& spices) and set aside.

In a seperate bowl, beat butter & sugar with an electric mixer till fluffy. add the honey & egg, beat until combined. Gradually beat in sifted dry ingredients, on low speed,  until mixture comes together. divide dough in 1/2 and wrap each 1/2 separately & refrigerate for 1/2 hour.

To make gingerbread cookie cutouts:
Roll out the dough between sheets of baking paper (aprox. 4 mm thick). using cookie cutters cut the required shape (gingerbread men & women are the classic choice, but you can do all other shapes as well)

Place the cookies on cookie sheets topped with grease proof paper (cookies must be min 3 cm apart). Bake 5-7 minutes or until cookies are firm to the touch (be careful as they will be hot). cool 5 minutes on sheets, then transfer to wire racks & cool completely.

These cookies will keep fresh in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


Tomato Sauce  |  White Sauce
For an indepth understanding of sauces, take a look at the previous post:
ALL There is To Know About Sauces; An Indepth Read.

Basic Tomato Sauce
Makes 1 1/2 Cups | Easy
Always use really ripe tomatoes for preparing tomato sauces as they are sweeter and fuller in flavour. This sauce is the base for many recipes and is very handy to make in advance and freeze.

You Need
12 Tomatoes, peeled
2 small onions, chopped
1 tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup red wine or red grape vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano, basil or marjoram
Freshly ground black pepper & salt to taste

Blanche your tomatoes and peel them (score tomato skins, place in a saucepan of boiling water, cook for 1 minute. remove from heat and place in cold water for 30 seconds. peel skin off.) Chopp the tomatoes reserving the juices.

Heat oil in a deep fying pan over medium- high heat. add crushed garlic and onion and cook till tender. add the tomato, herbs, salt & pepper & cook for 2 minutes. add reserved juices & wine and bring to a boil. reduce heat and leave sauce to simmer for 35 minutes.

Remove from heat & place in a clean non-metal container, cover & refrigerate for up to 3 days. if you want to store tomato sauce for longer, divide into portion size & freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw & use when needed.

  • After cooking the tomato sauce, do not store in any metal container or saucepan. the acid in the tomato may react with the metal.
  • Some prefer removing seeds from the tomatos before cooking. it is entirely up to you to keep or remove the tomato seeds.
  • If the tomatoes are sharp or acidic in taste add a pinch or 2 of sugar and they will taste a bit sweeter.
  • Do not let garlic & onion brown as that will effect the final flavour & look of the sauce.
  • You can use canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes if desired. canned tomatoes make for a thicker sauce and take less time to prepare as you do not need to blanch and peel them and they simmer for 20 minutes instead of 35 minutes.

White Sauce
Makes 1 1/2 cups | Easy

White Sauce is a base for many recipes. This recipe is a white sauce recipe with medium consistency used for creamed dishes and is also a base for other cream-based recipes.

You Need:
2tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups Milk
Salt & pepper to taste

Make a Roux: Melt butter in a saucepan; making sure it is all melted before adding the flour. stir in flour, salt & pepper. cook & stir over low heat untill well combined.

Once fat & flour are combined without lumps, slowly add all the milk in a thin continuous stream constantly stirring to evenly blend the roux & milk.

Cook & stir the mix over medium heat until mixture is thickened and bubbling across the entire surface. cook stirring for 1 more minute to completely cook the flour in the sauce.

  • For a perfect sauce, always follow recipe directions.
  • To prevent lumps from forming make sure the butter is all melted before adding the flour and keep stirring constantly. if lumps do form, beat the sauce briskly with a wire whisk or using a rotary beater.
  • Never leave sauce during cooking, and if you must make sure you take it off the heat.
  • Cook sauces over medium-low heat for no longer than specified time. High Heat & Long Cooking cause the sauce to curdle or seperate.
  • To thin a white sauce for use in cream soups or creamed vegetables add 1/2 cup of milk to recipe above and prepare in the same way as the above recipe.
  • Flavour sauces with spices, cheeses, herbs...etc according to the final dish flavours.
  • Nutmeg & powdered White pepper go especially well with white sauces.
Happy Saucing :)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Understanding Sauces - A Background

Sauces comprise the honor and glory of French Cookery. They have contributed to its superiority... Sauces are the orchestration and accompaniment of a fine meal, and enable a good chef or cook to demonstrate their talent..."      
                                     Curnonsky; Cuisine et Vin de France

A little Bit of Kitchen Talk and a read into the background of sauces is a good way to understand the liquids that flavour our dishes! Afterall; if sauces could do that to the French Cuisine, just think of what they can do to yours!! Once we grasp the understanding of ingredients, their functions, textures and flavours it becomes easier to construct our own dishes and come up with signature food creations.

In definition
Sauces are seasoned liquids that can be hot or cold. they are either served with, or used in the making of a given dish.

In Functionality
Sauces are used to add flavouring that is compatible with the ingredients used in making a dish.

The Evolution of Sauces
Early versions of French Sauces like: Cameline, poivarde, Robert... were either very spicy or sweet and sour due to their dependence on condiments which produced such flavours. They were basically made with hot stocks | broths, which are mainly wine based, also using other cooking juices and were sometimes mixed with dried breadcrumbs.

In the 17th and 18th Century more refined and aromatic sauce preparations were created; like: Béchamel, Soubise, Duxelles and mayonnaise sauces. But what started the whole sauce classification process was the renowned French Chef and Pastry cook Carême.

There is a great amount of finess, talent, and knowledge involved in the preparation of sauces. therefore; the Sauce Chef of the kitchen staff had always been considered to be a great technician and this position as a prestigious one.

In Classification
Sauces are classified into 3 main categories

  1. 'Hot Sauces' have numerous versions and preparation. They are subdivided into Brown Sauces and White Sauces (Basic Brown Sauces  Tomato Sauce, Espagnole and Demi-glace. Basic White Sauces  Béchamel and Velouté: the two have inumerable variations.)
  2. 'Cold Sauces'  have many variations and are usually based on mayonnaise or vinaigrette.
  3. ' Dessert Sauces'   These can be hot or cold. they can be poured over the dessert or served separately. Custard cream is a popular dessert sauce, there is also chocolate sauce and fruits sauces. Dessert sauces may often be made out of fruits in the form of a puree, jelly or juices of baked fruits.
Chateaubriand with Bearnaise Sauce & Chunky Mustard Sauce
The repertoire was gradually increased by introduction of new sauces derived from different cuisines and their ingredients. Hence the namings: Sauce à la Russe, Sauce à l'italienne, sauce à la Polonais...

Also added to the repertoire of sauces are those based on the use of a specific ingredient like:
Red or White Wine    :    Bourguignonne Sauce
Fresh Cream               :    Normande Sauce
Fresh Butter               :    Beurre Blanc
Mustard                      :    Dijonnaise Sauce
Shallots                       :    Bordelaise Sauce
Onions                        :     Lyonnaise Sauce
Garlic                          :    aïoli

Then evolved the tendency to produce lighter sauces, and nowadays chefs use a mixture of sauces derived from curd cheese, yoghurts... Names of sauces can often reflect its ingredients; like Paprika Sauce, Truffles Sauce...etc

In Constitution
A sauce can be thick or thin. Sauces can be clear, strained or with visible ingredients in them. They can be used to season raw food such as tomato with vinaigrette in a salad, it can be served with a cold dish like mayyonaise and coldcuts, it can also be served with a hot dish like chateaubriand béarnaise, or sole normande. Some sauces can be part of the dish like coque au vin and ragouts, or can be seperate accompaniments to a dish...

In Preperation
Ideally; deep heavy saucepans should be used to prepare sauces, as they evenly distribute heat and prevent sauces from burning or curdling. The techniques used in preparing sauces are: deglazing, reducing, thickenning, emulsifying, thinning with liquid, enriching with cream or egg...etc

The 4 Classic Methods of Sauce prepartion
  • Mixing together the cold ingredients like in the preparation of a vinaigrette.
  • Emulsification; which is mixing together liquids that do not normally stay mixed. in this method an emulsifying agent is used to hold the ingredients together. this method is used for cold sauces such as mayyonaise, tartare..etc.
  • Making a roux is widely used. It involves heating butter and flour together to form a paste. this method is used in sauces like Béchamel.
  • Cooking a stock | Broth and thickening it is a widely used first stage to prepare a variety of sauces. these sauces may be thickened by butter or cornflour, or a brown or white roux could be added to them...etc

Some Sauces you might want to try

A wide variety of ingredients can be used in the preparation of sauces, and it is the perfect place to start your experimentation. mastering sauces can transform any dish from simple to sophisticated. It will be your means to reflect your newly acquired talents and can also be used in your expressionist cooking from simpley garnishing a platter, to straight out sending messages! Hope this post ignited a spark for you to start experimenting with sauces and hope that you will be doing lots of experimentation !! Would love to hear your thoughts, leave me a comment :)

Happy Saucing :)

Monday, 19 April 2010

Let's get Back to Basics - Broths

BROTH The Base to soups, stews and many dishes. Many recipes call for broth, and broth makes for most of the flavour. Starting with a good broth is the secret to successful full on flavour dishes. This is the base of cooking. 
All Good foods start with a good broth... 

What is broth?
It is a liquid food preparation that consists of water or already flavoured stocks in which meats, bones, vegetables or legumes have been simmered. The strained clear liquid in which the bones, meat, poultry or fish have been simmered is what we call broth. The bones or meats can be simmered with vegetables, spices and / or herbs. The layering of flavours comes from the use of these ingredients. The choice of spices, herbs, vegetables and even the type of meat depends on the preparation in which the broth is going to be used and the overall desired flavours of a dish. Therefore there is no rule to stick to when making broth, it all relies on the use.

Broth is similar to stock and can be used interchangeably with it. Reconstituted Bouillon can also be used when broth is specified. With that said, home-made broths and stocks are far more superior in flavour to those that are store bought. they make all the difference to the flavour of your food. To begin with, at home, you will be using all fresh and good quality ingredients, which is always key to good quality, tasty food. When you make your own broths and stocks you can control the flavouring from spices to herbs, and even the vegetables that go in it. This way you can guarantee that no flavours clash or overwhelm the preparation you are making. Most important of all, is that you know exactly what is in your broth. You won't include artificial flavorings, preservatives and any health risking ingredients such as MSG among others. This means that home-made broth is healthier and guaranteed to tremendously enhance the flavours of your food.

Therefore throw away those stock cubes, and go for fresh, home-made broth, and listen to your family and friends rave about your food. Goodness starts here.

If you lead a busy life, and think that making broth is time consuming; worry no more! Broth takes at most 30 minutes to make. Once you have made your broth, strained it and let it cool, you can pour it in ice cube trays, and freeze it, then use the cubes instead of those processed ones. One broth recipe can make you lots of cubes, which can last up to 6 months in the freezer!

There are many ways to prepare broth, as mentioned above, and many flavours to broth. Here is how you can make a basic Beef/ Lamb/ Chicken broth:

Please feel free to experiment with spices, herbs and vegetables to change the flavours for different concoctions.

Make Your Own Beef Broth
This is the basic Beef Broth Recipe. You can experiment with different herbs, spices and vegetables according to the flavours you are after. Changing those will give your final broth the flavours and aromas of the ingredients you have chosen to add to your recipe.

You Need
Makes about 8 cups of broth; 
2kg meaty beef soup bones (you can use beef shank cross cut, or short ribs)
3 carrots, chopped
2 medium onions, quartered chopped
2 stalks celery with leaves, roughly chopped
2 fresh springs thyme
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tsp salt
10 whole black peppercorns
Fresh Parsley springs
3 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled, halved
10 cups water

Place Soup Bones in a large shallow roasting pan. bake in 450 F oven for 30 minutes or until well browned. Turn once through out.

Place browned bones in a large pot. pour 1/2 cup water into the roasting pan and scrape up browned bits; add water mixture to bones in the pot. stir in carrots, onions, celery, basil, salt, peppercorns, parsley, bay leaves and garlic. add the 10 cups of water. bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 1/2 hours. Remove soup bones. Strain broth, like in photo above.

Line a large colander with 2 layers of 100% cotton cheesecloth. Set Colander in a large heat-proof bowl; carefully pour broth into the lined colander.

Discard bones, vegetables and Seasoning.

Fat Skimming Broth Jug

For a lower fat version of broth
You can skim the fat from broth using the fat skimming ladle, or by placing it in fridge for 6-8 hours and removing the fat layer that forms on top.

you can cover broth and chill for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 6 months. Freezing broth is very useful as making it is time consuming. you can make a large amount of broth, and freeze it in 1 cup portions, or as ice cubes, which you can use as you cook. Note that: thawed foods cannot be refrozen, therefore it is best you freeze in portions that you regularly use.

Other useful broth recipes
Chicken broth Recipe

Now that you have read this post, and have an idea how easy making broth is, do you think you will start making your own broths and stocks instead of buying the ready made ones? Let me know what you think, leave me a comment...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse
Serves 8 | Easy
Not only is this chocolate mousse delicious, but it also looks fancy served in cups. It pairs very well with almond or hazelnut biscottis. It can also be used as a filler for chocolate mousse cakes. This succulent, seductive lusciousness of chocolate is a recipe everyone must have!

You Need
200g dark chocolate
4 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon coffee flavored liqueur, or 1 tbsp of strong prepared coffee, cooled
300ml thickened cream

Melt chocolate in large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. This is called a double boiler. Remember when melting chocolate in a double boiler, it is a rule of thumb that the water in the bottom pan, should never touch the bottom of the top pan. The chocolate must be melted by the steam resulting from the simmering water, not from the heat of the simmering water itself.
Once melted, remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.

In a seperate bowl, slightly beat egg yolks with liqueur or coffee. Pour the egg mixture in a thin stream over the melted chocolate while continuously whisking.

Beat cream in a small bowl with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold cream, in two batches, into the chocolate mix.

Beat egg whites in small bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form; fold into chocolate mixture.

Spoon mousse into eight mini cups or glasses. Refrigerate, uncovered, about 3 hours or until mousse is set.

Dima’s Tips
Try substituting crème de menthe for the coffee-flavoured liqueur – another way of serving after dinner mints!

Top the mousse with sliced fresh strawberries, or candied strawberries. Fresh Raspberries pair well with chocolate. You can also add a mint leave and sprinkle top with a dusting of icing sugar for a frosted finish. You can also make thin biscottis or wafers and place them on the side. For a fancy finish, add a small piece of gold leaf on top of the chocolate mousse....

Chocolate lovers, this is a treat you are going to love, served any time!! Just dive in and forget the world!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Love Kusa - Two Zucchini Dishes, to make you a zucchini fan!

Zucchini is very famous in Arabic cuisine. We like to cook it in every form or way imaginable. Personally, zucchini takes me back to childhood. It reminds me of when I would come home after school. The smell of it just filled the house and it is definitely one dish that belongs to the comfort food category!
The early days, that is where these stuffed zucchinis take me :)

There are many ways to cook zucchini. I have chosen my favourite two recipes for zucchini to share with you. the first one, is Stuffed Zucchini in minted yogurt sauce. This dish makes a delicious and comforting family lunch. This concoction is based on cooking the cored and stuffed zucchinis in a yogurt sauce - a sauce very commonly used in Palestinian Cuisine, specifically in Hebron, where my family comes from. Over there most yogurt-based sauces are made with the addition of tomato paste. Therefore if you haven't heard of it or cooked it this way before, don't panic, as the use of tomato paste in yogurt sauces is very specific to this city! I find that it adds depth and an extra layer of flavour to the overall dish. It is quite unusual to those who are used to cooking in a plain yogurt sauce, but once tried, it is always met with great admiration. Give it a go and I assure you that it will become a family favourite. It is the perfect meal for kids after school, and it pleases even the fussiest eaters.

The second recipe I am posting here is Spicy Zucchini Mash. I am posting both because as you core the zucchinis you will have the flesh, which instead of going to waste, is better used in the making of this mash, which you will love. Spicy Zucchini Mash is a perfect snack, and even makes for a very nice dip for pass-around cocktail parties that can be served with toasted pita wedges, or bread sticks.

So lets get cooking...

Stuffed Zucchini in Minted Yogurt Sauce
serves 6 | practice makes perfect
You can control fat intake, by using low fat yogurt, and lean veal mince instead of the traditional choice of lamb mince. This recipe requires a bit of extra work, but worth every bit of it.

You need:
 20 medium zucchinis
1.5 kg Fresh Yogurt
500 g lamb mince
4 cups Egyptian rice (short grain)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp corn starch
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 Fresh mint leaves
2 tbsp Dried Mint
Balsamic Vinegar
All Spice
Salt & Pepper

Wash Zucchinis and dry them. Remove the spiky top part and the dry small round bottom. Core each zucchini - using a corer like in the picture above - to create a cavity for the filling.
To core, you just need to place the corer in the middle of the top part and gently rotate the zucchini around it; pulling out the flesh regularly.

Rinse  the cored Zucchinis and set aside.

For Rice Stuffing:
Wash and drain 4 cups rice, set aside. Place minced meat in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, add 1.5 tbsp all spice and a generous pinch of cinnamon powder. Add 3 cloves garlic, minced. season with salt & black pepper to taste. Mix all together until well combine, but do not over mix, over-mixing toughens up the meat. add the rice to the meat & mix until well incorporated.

This Rice stuffing is a basic recipe that is very frequently used in Arabic cuisine. It is the base for many dishes.

Stuff the cored zucchinis with rice stuffing. do not over fill, or the zucchinis will burst while cooking. It should be very lightly packed with stuffing. Complete all zucchinis & set aside.

In a large pot, bring 3 cups of lightly salted water to a boil, place stuffed zucchinis inside, cover & simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, to prepare the minted yogurt Sauce: In a blender; place yogurt, corn starch, fresh mint, dried mint, tomato paste, 3 cloves garlic, and season with salt & black pepper to taste. blend, till all are well incorporated. Pour minted yogurt over the water and zucchinis. Stir continuously for 5-6 minutes. Then simmer on medium-low heat till the rice & zucchinis are cooked through (about 45 minutes-1 hour).

Serve the zucchinis topped with the minted yogurt sauce. for best effect, cut through zucchinis and top with sauce. & dig in ! Delish!

Spicy Zucchini Mash 
serves 6 | Super Easy
A perfect super delicious snack! when placed in a nice looking dip plate, sided with crispy toasted pita wedges, or bread sticks, it makes for the perfect pass around | cocktail party offering. You can control the heat of the spices, by reducing the amount of chili and removing the seeds. The recipe below goes for full on heat!

You Need:
10 zucchinis, peeled & grated
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 green chilies, finely chopped or thinly sliced
Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 tsp Cumin Powder
Salt & Pepper to taste
In a heavy saucepan, heat olive oil, add garlic & green chilies. cook till garlic is translucent but not browned. add grated zucchinies, salt & pepper and stir. cover & cook till zucchini is soft & cooked through (stirring occasionally, so it does not brown). When zucchini is soft, it is cooked through. Sprinkle the cumin powder & mix to incorporate.
place in serving platter, sprinkle with a little lemon Juice (optional), sprinkle a little extra cumin powder & drizzle with XV olive oil. Best with Pita Bread, but can be served with bread sticks as well as any other bread types.
These are two seriously good zucchini preparations. I am hoping you will try them and see for yourself. Remember with any new technique a little bit of practice goes a long way. It is easier than it seems, so go for it.

Do leave me a comment before you go and let me know what you think of these two great recipes :)

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Welcome to Dima's Kitchen (DK)

The kitchen is the heart and soul of every home. Mine is definitely one for my family. But good old DK serves more than just the core of my home. It is a bit more of : the centre of me! It is my hobby centre, my reflection and connection place, my therapist and my business! 

In my kitchen I have had my friends spill their guts out to me, and I to them. I have discovered a talent there, a passion for food creation and food expression. Out of DK came the very things that created my and other peoples' memories, occasions and expressions. I have moulded many pieces that eventually moulded me into who I am today. DK has that effect, not only on me, but on everyone who has stepped into it, or experienced it - as told by those who did. 

I have always been inviting people into my kitchen, sharing secrets, recipes, thoughts, opinions, ideas and essentially sharing a bit of myself with whoever is up for it. With this blog, I invite you to DK, hoping to help and inspire you to create your own kitchen, with all the joys that come with it.

I will be sharing some recipes, tips, tutorials and cheats ;), and also some thoughts in here. I will also be telling you some mad stories of my ordinary day-to-day life in the kitchen! 

Hope you enjoy Dima's Kitchen and all that it brings you. Most importantly, hope DK will inspire you SOMEHOW :)