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Thursday, 27 May 2010

Beetroot Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

This fresh Salad is a fabulous side to meaty dishes, especially next to beef or lamb meats. The colours of beets and carrots are gorgeous, warm and inviting. Once you dig in, you will be happy you did, as the earthy tones of beets and carrots are balanced very well with airy freshness of the mint leaves. Be prepared for showers of compliments with this salad, which is a winner every time :)

You Need
2 big beetroots, rinsed and scored all over with a fork
4 big carrots, peeled and chopped roughly
1 medium red onion sliced into thin wedges
cherry tomatoes

Cook the beets whole, wrapped in foil paper and roasted in a hot oven till tender. Remove from heat, and when cool enough to handle, peel and slice into wedges.

Steam the carrots until almost tender, remove and set aside.

Place all vegetables in a large bowl.

For Mint Vinaigrette
In a small bowl place equal parts of oil and lemon juice, add a little dash of white wine vinegar. Add salt, pepper and dried mint leaves and mix till well combined.

Pour vinaigrette over vegetables and toss to coat. Serve cold.

Would love to hear from you, so don't shy away and leave me a comment :)

French Classic; Roasted Chicken with 40 cloves of Garlic & Roasted Potatoes

This classic Provençal dish is very simple to prepare, makes for a delicious dinner and can be the perfect base for other chicken-based concoctions. Don't let the amount of garlic turn you off the dish, it works out really well and because the garlic is being roasted it will become sweet in flavour and very complimentary for the chicken flavour. The roasted garlic can also be used in making  Roasted Garlic Aioli, which could be used in sandwiches among other preparations. The juices produced in the cooking can be a base for an excellent soup (used as broth) and the left over chicken can make many varieties of other dishes. This is a good dish to master! Perfect on it's own & creates excellent delicious ingredients for other dishes.

For Chicken
You need
1.5Kg whole chicken
40 cloves garlic, seperated from bulb but unpeeled
2 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
Coarse Salt
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup water

For Roasted Potatoes
You Need
1kg Baby new potatoes
Vegetable Oil Spray
Salt & Pepper
herbs (optional, you can flavour roasted potatoes with any herbs you like, or you can keep them plain)

Preheat your oven to 450F.
Clean the insides & rinse your chicken. Pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the insides & outsides of chicken with butter. sprinkle all sides & insides with coarse salt & freshly cracked black pepper. Place some garlic cloves & bay leaf inside the chicken cavity. Tie the legs together with a kitchen string (you can ask your butcher give you some string if you don't have any.)

Place the rest of your garlic on the bottom of your baking dish. Place the chicken on top of the Garlic. Add water to the bottom of dish (do not add on chicken as it will wash out the seasoning).Place the baking dish in preheated oven and roast the chicken uncovered for 1 1/2 hrs till browned & cooked through. Note that you need to occasionally brush the chicken with the juices of pan to avoid it from drying out and keep it moist & tender.
Let the chicken sit for 5 minutes on a seperate plate before serving.

For Roasted Potatoes
Wash the potatoes & score twice with a fork. If you decide to go with large potatoes instead of new potatoes; chop into large chunks. Place potato in salted water & boil for 7 minutes. Remove & drain potatoes. Generously spray your baking dish with vegetable oil. Sprinkle with Coarse salt & black pepper. add drained boiled potatoes. Spray & season one more. Place in oven with chicken in the last 40 minutes. Roast till browned & crunchy.
Serve the Chicken with the potatoes. Beetroot Salad really compliments the flavours of this dish.

Make sure you try it! You will love it.....

Does the sound of 40 cloves of garlic scare you? It scared me the first time I made this dish! But it turned out Fabulous! Is there a food type that had some surprising element  - such as 40 cloves of garlic - that you have tried and were pleasantly surprised with how good it turned out? let us know about your surprising dish, we most probably would like it too! Leave a comment :)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Gourmet Caesar Salad

Easy | Serves 4
Caesar Salad is the perfect Salad! I can have it anytime, and it seems to be everyone's favourite too! well, it is delicious and filling, it can be had as a main course, being full of fiber, and flavour, it is a perfect meal.

When it comes to leaf salads, I don't understand why most people choose to cut their leaves in big sizes! There is nothing worse than large lettuce leaves that leave you having to open wide! Open wide was cute when I was four, but now I much prefer bite size!! Go for bite-size pieces of lettuce. I do not mean micro fine chop, but do not over do the large pieces. It is more elegant and easier to handle when you cut your leaves in manageable bite size. Leaves are better torn than chopped with a knife. This way they do not scar which keeps them looking fresh

Another thing to look out for is dressing. Do not drench the salad with dressing. The worst Caesar Salads I had were full of dressing that the leaves were almost swimming in it! That is not good, and makes for a poor experience, if any really. Moderately dress the salad, and if need be, then offer extra dressing on the side for those who wish to add more.

Anchovies - good quality - are the heart and soul of this salad. Make sure to go for the best quality available. Anchovies are one of those foods that had to grow on me, as I was not initially keen on having them. But when you try good quality anchovies you will definitely like the flavour, and will be asking for them. Quality anchovies are perfect snacks with torn baguette - give them a chance and choose those good ones, and you too will be loving them.

Before tearing the lettuce, cut the fibrous rib from 
the large leaves by slicing along the sides of the rib 
with a sharp knife. Then Tear the leaves into bite-size pieces.
Here is how this fabulous salad is made...
You Need
10 cups torn Romain Lettuce (check tip on the right)
Parmesan cheese shavings
Salt and Pepper to Taste
3 garlic cloves, halved

For Caesar Salad Dressing 
You Need
1 hard cooked egg yolk
1 clove garlic, quartered                                                                        
2 tbsp lemon juice                                                                                     
tsp dijon mustard                                                                                     
3 anchovy fillets, drained                                                                    
3/4 cup olive oil                                                                                       

For Parmesan Croutons 
You Need
1 small french baguette, cubed
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 heaped tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried Oregano
Salt and black pepper

Prepare the dressing: Blend or process egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, and anchovies till smooth. While blender or food processor is still running drizzle olive oil in a thin steady stream and process till mixture thickens. Set aside. (this dressing can be prepared ahead and refrigerated)

Make Parmesan Crutons: In a large bowl, mix melted butter, parmesan cheese, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. add cubed bread and stir till fully coated. place prepared bread cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer. bake in 300F oven for about 10 minutes or till golden & crisp. Cool completely.

TIP   these crutons can last for up to a week if stored in an air-tight container. you can use a cookie cutter and cut bread in shapes for a personalised look in different occasions.

Get your serving platter and rub the insides of it with the edges of halved garlic, then discard garlic cloves. sprinkle the inside with dried oregano. Add the torn Romaine lettuce and crutons to prepared serving bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss lightly to coat. Sprinkle with a pinch of dried oregano a little salt and pepper. Top all with some Parmesan cheese shavings.

For Chicken Caesar Salad
In a small bowl mix olive oil, dried oregano, 1 clove garlic crushed, salt and pepper. Clean and score 2 chichen breasts. Rub with prepared olive oil and grill for 5 minutes on each side. to serve you can either tear scored pieces of chicken apart, or cube the chicken. add to Salad.
Top with Parmesan shavings and serve.

What is your favourite Salad? Is there one Salad that you would have any time? Would love to hear your thoughts on this, leave me a comment :)

Salade Composé

Easy | Serves 4

In a Composé Salad, the ingredients are usually layered on top of each other, rather than tossed together. Then dressing is drizzled on top of all to finish. You can either plate in individual portions, or in a large platter all the same. Should you decide to go for a large platter service, I personally prefer an oval, square or rectangular platter to a bowl. Those help showcase the layering, better than a bowl. This would also help your guests get a taste of all ingredients in one serving - as when plating individual portions, you can make sure that each plate contains all ingredients.
You Need
6 bacon strips (use the bacon you like: pork, turkey or beef)
150g mesclun*
16 mini plum tomatoes, halved
1 large red capcisum, diced
1 medium beetroot, boiled, peeled & sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup EV Olive Oil
4 hard boiled eggs
1 small French Bread stick
Salt & Pepper to Taste

* Mesclun is a mixture of young, small salad greens. Depending on the source the mixture may vary. It usually includes: arugula, friseé, dandeloin, mâche, oak leaf lettuce, radicchio and sorrel. Mesclun is available packaged in supermarkets. Look for crisp leaves that are not wilted or starting to brown. Before using, wash with cold water, drain in a colander and pat dry with paper towels, or use the rotating leaf dryer.

For Dressing 
Red Wine Vinaigrette | or Red Grape Vinaigrette

1/4 cup Red wine vinegar | or 1/4 cup red grape vinegar
3 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/3 cup EV Olive Oil

In a small, bowl combine 1/4 cup olive oil with 1 clove crushed garlic a sprinkle of coarse black pepper and a pinch of salt. set aside. Preheat your grill or broiler.

Slice the small baguette into 1cm slices, bruch each slice with prepared garlic olive oil on both sides. Place slices on a baking sheet and place under the preheated grill or broiler until toasted and slightly browned. Careful as they could easily burn.

Remove rind from bacon and slice thickly. place on heated frying pan until crisp. Drain on paper towel and set aside.

Prepare your red wine vinaigrette by mixing the mustard with the vinegar, then drizzling with olive oil while mixing till all ingredients are combined. or you can place ingredients in screw top jar and shake till combined.

Plate your Salad by layering the mesclun, topped with the bread and bacon, then vegetables, then eggs and drizzle with vinaigrette to finish.

Salads are delicious and make for an excellent lunch that leaves you energetic for the rest of the day. Try making your own salad combinations regularly and you will see how it will become your preferred lunch option. What is your favourite Salad which you can have any time? Leave a comment and let me know :)

Monday, 17 May 2010

Salade Niçoise

Photo from 

Salade Niçoise is a medly of flavours and textures. The smooth creaminess from the boiled eggs against the melt in your mouth tuna (if using seared fresh tuna or cooked fresh salmon) and the crunch from the vegetables makes this salad a blend of textures that will satisfy a picky palate. Although simple to make, the complexity of flavours in this salad makes it delicious and on the verge of addictive. Delicious and filling enough to have as main course, this is one light lunch you will be delighted to have.

You Need
200g Fresh Green Beans
12 small new potatoes brushed, washed & halved
1 1/2 cups flaked seared fresh Tuna or cooked fresh Salmon (can substitute with canned Tuna but obviously going for fresh offers better flavours and quality)
2 hard cooked eggs, peeled & halved
1/2 cup pitted black olives
1/4 cup thinly sliced mild onions
Lettuce Leaves (separated, washed & dried)
Mesclun leaves (washed & dried)
4 anchovy fillets

You can also use celery sticks, bell pepper or capsicum strips, artichoke hearts, fresh tarragon... But all these are optional.

Wash green beans, remove ends and strings.

In a large saucepan, cook covered, the prepared new potatoes in a small amount of salted boiling water for 10-15 minutes or just until tender. Add the green beans and cook for 5 minutes longer. Drain all and place them in a bowl, cover and chill 2-24 hours.

TIP  In Salads Potatoes are best served chilled after boiling, they lend a better crispier texture and hold their shape better than when used warm. Using warm potatoes will wilt the greens, which spoils the experience.

Prepare Niçoise Vinaigrette
You Need 
1 tbsp white wine vinegar or white vinegar
3tbsp olive oil
1 tsp mustard
Salt & Pepper

place vinegar, mustard, seasoning in a small bowl. whisk till combined. While whisking add olive oil in a thin steady stream and keep whisking till all are well combined.

To Plate  place leaves at the bottom of the serving platter, top with potatoes, onions & green beans. Top with Tuna or Salmon then add the black olives, eggs & anchovies. Sprinkle with shaken dressing.

You can carry out this plating in individual servings. if you wish to serve in a large bowl, toss all ingredients with dressing to coat, or keep dressing in a separate bowl for diners to add to their salads.

Super Easy, Super Good!

Did you know that searing fresh tuna will only take a few minutes, just as much time needed to open up a can and drain its liquids!!? Has this recipe inspired you to go for using fresh tuna instead of canned in your salads? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts :)

My Personal Favourite - SALADS

Avocado Salad

If Salads refer to dishes of: Cold or Warm, Raw or Cooked, Vegetables, Fruits or Both combined, usually Dressed and Seasoned, can be served as an Appetiser, Side Dish, or Main Course... Then I am buying!!
Can you imagine the endless possibilities? The options? The flavour combinations?... This definitely is a place to experiment, create and enjoy: Guilt Free!!

Salads can be the combination of anything really. You can use fruits and nuts in Savoury Salads to give a variation and depth to the falvour as well as a crunch for texture. You can use herbs even in sweet Salads like mint in a fruit Salad. You can play around with vinegars, oils, edible flowers...etc you can play around with the textures as well. The best Salads are those that provide a crunch, a smoothness and freshness all combined. Salads must appeal to the eye just like with any food. They have to be colourful, creatively presented, and must look fresh.

Although there is no limit to Salad creations, they have been commonly categorised as follows:
  • Green Salads: Usually consist of raw green-leaved vegetables like Lettuce, Endives frisée, rocca- Arugula, Spinach, Mesclun, Dandeloin leaves, watercress, ...etc usually dressed with a vinaigrette (flavoured according to used vegetables).  These Salads are usually served as an appetiser or a side dish to meats or eggs. Common Additions to green salads are croutons, cheese, shallots, bacon...etc. Caesar Salad is a very good example of salads from this category, although it can be considered a mixed salad as well.
  • Garden Salad: usually Refers to salads that include vegetables alongside the leaves. The name comes from the use of vegetables that can be grown in gardens. Like tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, onions...etc. These salads do not include meats.  This category is often served with an acidic dressing such as lemon and oil, or vinaigrettes. Garden Salads are usually served as an accompaniment to meat and carb dishes alike. One very good example for salads from this category is Beetroot and Carrot Salad.
  • Plain Salads: Consist of a basic raw or cooked ingredient. the basic ingredient can be a vegetable, Meat, Chicken or shellfish. However way the ingredient is cooked, the plain salad is normally served with a cold dressing, such as vinaigrette, mayonnaise, mustard, remoulade, or cheese dressing. Like a plain Tuna Salad for instance.
  • Mixed Salads: These salads are more elaborate and are served as a main course or to accompany hot or cold roast meat dishes. They combine different ingredients of contrasting yet complementary flavours, textures, and colours. These salads can include exotic ingredients as truffles in Salade Gourmand or simple ingredients as in the Salade Niçoise. These salads are dressed with a dressing that blends with rather than mask the flavours of the ingredients used.

  • Fruit Salads: usually refer to sweet Salads, the ingredients of which are a combination of 2 or more of fruits, nuts, herbs, fruit juices, honeys, syrups, at times and  spices and other falvours.

Salad Dressings
Dressings are the liquids that go on a salad to give it its final flavour. The dressing can be hot or cold. Dressings can be tossed with the salad ingredients in a bowl to coat, or can be drizzled on top of a salad after plating. Dressings should compliment and bring out the flavours of salads, but never overwhelm those flavours.

Famous Salad Dressings include
  • Basic Vinaigrette or flavoured Vinaigrette.
  • Mustard Dressing or Honey Mustard Dressing.
  • Cheese dressings like Blue cheese or cheddar cheese...etc
  • Cream Dressings
  • Yoghurt Dressings
  • Oil Dressing like truffle oil, or nut oil.
  • Mayonnaise dressings like: thousand island, or mayo-mustard...etc 

Salad Oils and Vinegars
There is a wide variety of oils and vinegars to use. You can also make your own flavoured oils and Vinegars such as Basil oil, rosemary oil, black pepper oil, chili oil...etc or fruit vinegar, herb vinegar...etc

You can use Nut oils: Almond, hazelnut, walnut or even peanut oils... You can use olive oil, Sesame oil and Salad oils found in supermarkets. these will lend a variety of flavours to your salad creations and can help you intensify a specific flavour. Just note that chilled olive oil becomes thick and cloudy, therefore if you have pre-prepared your dressing and chilled it, let it stand at room temprature for 30 mins before using. Dressings that include olive oil are best made right before serving and not chilled.

The use of different vinegars will help you vary the flavour of your favourite vinaigrette. Choose from a variety of vinegars and open up the door to a variety of flavours. Vinegars are available in supermarkets and speciality Gourmet stores and delis. Experiment with aged vinegars, they are Divine!

Some vinegars and their properties 

  • Try Balsamic vinegar which gets its sweetness and dark colour from aging in barrels. Aged balsamic vinegar is the best, it is a delicacy.
  • Also try cider vinegar, it is golden brown with a hint of apple flavour as it is made from fermented apples. Fruit vinegar is made by steeping berries in cider or white wine vinegar. 
  • Herb Vinegar is made by infusing tarragon, basil, dill or other herbs in white wine or cider vinegar. 
  • Rice Vinegar is made from rice wine or Sake. It is mildly sweet with a subtle tang to it and is available plain or flavoured. 
  • White vinegar is colourless and made from grain alcohol. Its flavour is the strongest and sharpest of all vinegars. 
  • Wine vinegars reflect the colour and flavour of wine used in its making. this category also includes champagne vinegar and sherry vinegar.

Dima's Tips For Preparing Perfect Salads

  • Fresh (unwilted) ingredients are the best to use, when washed they need to be dried out thoroughly or the water will dilute the flavours of the dressing and will make your leaves wilted and soggy
  • To avoid bruising your greens tear rather than cut
  • Dress the salad Just before serving or the acid will wilt the greens and cause them to become soggy.

Here are some related links you will enjoy

With this post, I am hoping to get you to explore and experiment with flavours, vinegars, dressings, combinations other than the ones you usually go for. I hope I have managed to open the door of curiosity, and that you will try out some new salads from here on...

Thank you for reading this post, and for visiting my blog, I look forward to hearing from you, so leave me a comment..

Monday, 10 May 2010

Seasoning - transform your food and own it

Although Seasoning had become widely known as adding salt & pepper to food, there are many other ways to season your food. Seasoning is the medium which transforms food from bland to rich. It is the very thing that makes a dish distinguished. The reason why the same recipe comes out different in every kitchen. And the reason why an eatery becomes favoured over another.

Seasoning is adding ingredients to food that do not change its nature, either to give a particular taste or to emphasise the original flavour of this food.
Ingredients used for seasoning include: Oils, Vinegars, Aromatics, Condiments, Herbs, Spices, Salt & Pepper; as well as any mix of those.

Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Oils and Vinegars
can transform the palatability of food and totally change the eating experience. Using Truffle oil for instance adds a distinguished earthy tone to food due to its aromatic nature. A dish containing Truffle oil is straight out different in flavour than the very same dish with another oil. Furthermore, using Raspberry vinegar in your salad is a totally different experience from that using Balsamic vinegar for example. Even within the same type of vinegar, aged vinegars are deeper in flavour and make for a richer experience.
The flavours of oils and vinegars are suggested by the name. Sesame oil for instance will taste like toasted sesame and so on. Experiment with oils and vinegars, there is a wide variety to choose from, try nut oils, like walnut oil when roasting vegetables, this will lend a nutty flavour to the overall dish, which will pair very well with the caramelising of the natural sugars in the vegetables due to roasting.

Are used to elevate the flavour of foods and to stimulate the appetite. Condiments can either be an ingredient used in the food, like: fruits, herbs, spices, Alcohol, or even truffles. Or they can be accompaniments, like: mustard, ketchup, pickles, sauces, relishes....etc. Condiments like sugar, salt, oil, vinegar... have also been used as a reserving agent; such as in the process of pickling. Condiments could be used raw, such as onions, garlic or fresh herbs. Or they can be used as a prepared ingredient, such as sauces, chutneys, purees....

Are so commonly used, yet are so under estimated sometimes! Each herb brings its own distinct flavour to recipes. They can even contribute to the look of your food and on occasion add a fancy factor to your preparations. A wide variety of herbs are available in supermarkets both dried and fresh. Fresh snipped herbs however add a distinct flavour that cannot be matched by dried herbs. If you are following a recipe that calls for dried herbs and wish to substitute with fresh herbs use 1 tbsp fresh herb to 1 tsp of dried herb called for in a recipe. Fresh herbs are generally added towards the end of cooking time because they lose flavour and colour while simmering; except for Fresh Rosemary which can handle long cooking periods. As for dried herbs, you will need to add them in the beginning of cooking time to allow their flavours to develop.

Take a look at the charts below and learn more about the most commonly used herbs...

Are aromatic substances that originated in plants known for their fragrant sharp flavours. they are the seeds, roots, fruits, or flowers of plants. Spices can be used whole like pepper corns, coarsely crushed, or powdered. They can be a plain spice (including one spice) or can be made into blends that allow you to add intriguing flavours in one measure. Some spices are hot, making your food spicy, others are not and will not add the heat factor. Spiced food does not necessarily refer to hot-spicy food. It can be rich with spices, yet without heat.

Take a look at the charts below and learn more about the most commonly used herbs...

Common Spice Blends include
  • BBQ Seasoning - used for BBQ Meats. 
  • Bouquet Garni   - used in stews, broths, casseroles.                                                    
  • Cajun Seasoning - Used with Meats.
  • Dry Rub- Used with Meats.
  • Five Spice Powder - Used in Chinese and Asian Cooking. also used with meats.
  • Herbes de Provence - Used with poultry, creamy pasta and soups as well as salads.
  • Italian Seasoning - Used in All Italian Cooking, like pizzas and Pastas
  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning - Used with Vegetable dishes and Poultry.
  • Mexican Seasoning- Used with Mexican Cooking.
Seasoning is one place in cooking that allows you to own a dish and be known for it. It is definitely the place to explore, experiment, and create your own flavours. The use a given spice can transform a dish completely, and make it a whole new one. At times even take the dish right into another cuisine! The more you cook and experiment with seasoning the more you will love getting to know the different herbs, spices, condiments and their intriguing flavours.
Always keep in mind: the aim of Seasoning is to complement the flavours of a given dish, to bring out the flavours of ingredients, or to add flavour. But it is never to overpower the flavours of the rest of the ingredients. With a little bit of experimentation and experience you will get it right every time!

Thank you for reading this post, keep at it, very soon you too will become a very seasoned cook. Would love to hear from you, so leave me a comment :)