Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Pesto Pasta with Chicken - recipe

As much as I love cooking and baking, I do have those days where I just want to cook something basic and not time consuming.  So what can be easily done, no matter what time of the day? Pesto pasta !
Once you have your pasta cooked, which really doesn't take more than 10 ich minutes, you mix it with a few table spoons of pesto. Easy as that!


Now I would say that the best pesto is home made pesto but you can of course buy a good quality ready made pesto. Will share my pesto recipe here. For a creamy version, add few table spoons of double cream or creme fraiche and let all heat up on the stove then serve.

Ingredients for pesto:
3 dl fresh basil leaves
1 dl fresh baby spinach leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1 dl pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/3 dl sesame seeds
1 dl parmesan cheese
1,5 dl olive oil
salt and white pepar to taste

Ingredients for the fried chicken:
2 chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 tsp dried parsley, smoked paprika, chicken bbq seasoning, pepper 

penne pasta, cooked according to package.

1. Easiest way to do pesto is to add all leaves, garlic, nuts and seeds in a food processor or use a mixer and mix until a fine paste. Then add the cheese, olive oil and seasoning.

2. Next, cut the chicken breast into bite size pieces n fry gently in few table spoon s of olive oil until light golden brow. Add the seasoning and mix well so that each piece is well coated.

3. Once the pasta is cooked, the pest ready and the chicken fried all u need to do is to simply assemble it! Mix the pasta with a few table spoons of pesto. For a creamier version I would add 1 table spoon of cream fraiche. Sprinkle the chicken pieces over it and enjoy a great meal.



Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Beef Escalope with a Delicious Gravy and Potatoes - Recipe and review

Today we had a such a lovely meal, beef escalope with a delicious gravy and boiled potatoes. This meal is one of my favorite and brings such great memories from my school time. I went to Swedish schools during my whole study period from grade one to uni and up to Gymnasium (high school) you get one hot meal every day at school. Many of my friends did not like the school food, but I loved it. Everything they did appealed to me and I used to eat everything they cooked. I cant really remember anything they served, that I did not like. We would get 3 different things to choose from, so that might be the case why I liked it so much. If not the food, there was always 2 different salads and knäckebröd (Swedish crisp bread), butter and always a glass of milk. At school, we used to get boiled potatoes, meatballs and gravy which is where I got the inspiration from for this meal. To finish it off, we had Lingonsylt (lingonberry jam), yummi.

I get all meat from the butchers. When I want steaks or thin fillets, I generally buy a big chunk and cut it in thin pieces myself. Then I freeze 2-3 pieces, where I layer the meat flat in the freeze bag.  So when I make this meal, all I do is defrost meat, boil potato and make this super easy gravy. 

I always use one brand, when it comes to gravy: Knorr. My favorite gravy with meat is these two, and how do I get it better? I use half half from both. They come in bags in powder form. All you need to do is heat up some butter and milk in a saucepan and then add the powder and mix for a few minutes until it becomes thick and gravy-ish in the consistency. I like it quite thick. It tastes like homemade gravy and is very flavorful. And since it takes no time to make it, it is my go to sauce every time I make meatballs or steak fillet or escalopes with boiled potato. To dip a piece of the potato in the sauce is so tasty and creamy.

2-3 steak fillet
3-5 potatoes
1 egg
1 cup flour or more if needed
paprika powder
salt and pepper
bbq spice mix
frozen vegetable mix
Knorr gravy mix (gräddsås and brunsås, or one of them, cooked accordign to the package)

1. Start by hammering the steak fillets thinly and then season with salt, pepper and paprika. Dip it first in egg and then in a mix of flour, bbq spice and paprika and fry it for a few minutes on each side on medium-high heat in a nonstick frying pan.

2. Boil the potatoes and if you want, fry some frozen vegetables in a non stick pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. Make the gravy according to the package. I start by melting 1-2 tbsp of butter in a saucepan and add the two powders and mix it. As it becomes dry, I add some milk, roughly 1 cup, and mix well until I have the desired consistency. If I want it to become more creamy I add a splash of double cream.


Monday, 7 October 2013

Essential serving ware for dinner parties

If you like entertaining and love to have dinner parties like me, I am sure you will agree that good serving ware is essential to have for a successful dinner party. I always look out for new serving plates. My best tip is to select a few pieces that you know will always come handy and you will use often. Another tip is to buy timeless pieces that can go well with different sets of plates and glassware. But they don't need to cost a lot, rather choose pieces that will give great value for the price. Personally I like to buy serving ware in white as it goes with everything really. I have chosen pieces that are oval shape as well as square. This will give a nice variety to choose from depending on what I serve. My favorite places to find a good bargain for serving ware are second hand shops and car boot sales. I have made some of my best deals here, how about 2 £ for 2 big serving bowl each, or 1,50 £ for a big oval shape serving platter. Not bad right?! 

But you can also make great deals in various department or retail stores, especially during sales. My latest buy comes from Wilko, where a I bought several serving pieces from their White Collection. I have to say that they are very good and come handy for everything really. I bought almost 5-8 pieces and all came up to 35 £ (which is generally the price for one piece in a nicer department store). This is a selection of what I bought:

To help you a little when it comes to choosing serving ware, I have done a list of serving ware that I think is worth investing in:

  1. Serving platter and trays, as they are versatile and can be used for many things such as serving rice, fish, potatoes, starters, deserts, cookies and cakes
  2. Serving bowls, for soups, stews, fruit, nuts, candies and sweets, pasta, vegetables or a nice salad
  3. Serving utensils, for soups, rice, pasta, cakes
  4. Jug for water or juice
  5. Condiment set for dips and side dishes
I hope this will help you a little next time you have a dinner party. Have fun when choosing your serving ware, but make sure you keep in mind where to store them. I have a special designated compartment in my book case in the dining area for my serving ware as they are too big to keep in my small kitchen :)

Baked salmon with U-kuva i-Africa spice rub and mashed potato - Recipe

I have discovered a new brand of spices that I am interested in using more of in my cooking. U-kuva i-Africa is a fair trade brand specializing in spices and sauces inspired from all corners of the beautiful African continent. So far I have used the Jacobsbaai spice rub for fish and it was truly a special mix and very flavorful. Unfortunately I couldn't find this mix in their product section on their website so I hope they have not discontinued it as it was very good. I used the mix to rub in a baked salmon, served with veggies and mashed potato. In the mashed potato, I also used a very tasty mix to spice it up a bit: Pepper creek farm's Parmesan Garlic Bread Dipping mix. I love to find new spice mixes and introduce them to my cooking in various ways. These two spices I bought from TK Maxx, which generally have spices and sauces that are a bit hard to find elsewhere and more exclusive.

3 salmon fillet
U-kuva i-Africa Jacobsbaai spice mix
10 potatoes
pepper creek farm parmesan garlic bread dipping mix
salt and pepper

1. Layer the salmon fillets in a oven dish and rub them with a little oil and the U-kuva i-Africa Jacobsbaai spice mix all over, with the skin side down. Bake in the oven 185 degrees for 30 minutes.

2. Boil the potatoes and once done, mash up with a potato mash utensil. Add salt and pepper, 1 tsp of Pepper Creek Farm Parmesan garlic bread dipping mix. Also, add butter and milk to taste and mix everything well.

3. Serve The salmon with the mashed potato and dry fried veggies with a pinch of Parmesan garlic bread dipping mix.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Potato Dauphinoise with Quorn Fillet and Vegetables - Recipe

Today was a lovely day as I had quality time with myself. Sometimes that is really needed. The whole family was away and I enjoyed a day at home and also had some shopping time all alone. When I am alone, I can get lazy and try to eat something really simple that takes no time make. Usually some sort of baguette filled with cheese and veggies or something from the freezer.

Today after shopping, I went quickly to Sainsbury's (local supermarket) to see if they had anything on sale. Well they had. I bought a package of potato dauphinoise and Quorn roast style sliced fillet. I already had some frozen veggies at home, so I decided to make something simple out of these things. Nothing difficult, just a few steps to put them together and bake. I love when I find different ingredients (raw or cooked) that goes well together.

I was not sure how the quorn fillet would taste but I was pleasantly surprised as it was really tasty. I don't often buy it, but after this dish I might give it more tries.

I can't really say that it tasted like chicken, as it had a distinct taste, but was really tasty and juicy. It worked perfect with the vegetables, potato and the cream sauce. The flavors went really well together and it was very creamy and delicious. 

1 pack potato dauphinoise
1 pack quorn style sliced fillet
1-2 cups of frozen vegetables such as carrot, broccoli and cauliflower

Season to taste: salt, pepper, garlic, paprika powder

1- Take one small oven dish for 2  people. I used my enamel oven dish which worked perfect. Layer out the quorn fillet on the bottom.

2- Continue to layer the vegetable over the quorn fillet. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika to taste.

3- Finish of the last layer of the potato dauphinoise. Spread the potato and the cream sauce all over the fillet and vegetables. Bake it in the oven in 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

4- Serve as is or with a green salad.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Grilled Chicken with Reggae Reggae sauce and Bulgur - Recipe and Review

I don't use store bought sauces very often, but sometimes you just find those gems that are just perfect among all the others. The reggae reggae jerk/bbq sauce by Levi Roots is one f those lovely sauces. So how do i use it? Well, my favorite way is very simple and easy to make. And it involves chicken. Here is how I make it:

Few chicken pieces of your choice, I use chicken drums, wings and thighs
Reggae reggae sauce, jerk/bbq
few sliced veggies of your choice, I used leek, aubergine, potato, zucchini, celery
2-3 tbsp oil
salt and pepper
paprika powder

1- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Put the watched pieces of chicken in a roasting pan. I usually use an enamel roasting pan with a lid.

2- Choose veggies of your choice such as zucchini, potatoes, paprika, aubergine, leek and celery. Dice them to bite size and add them to the roasting pan. Pour over the reggae reggae sauce over the chicken and vegetables and put on the lid. If you don't have a lid, cover with aluminium foil. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes to 1 hour or until it looks grilled. 

3- For one cup of bulgur which serves 2 persons, use one cup of water in a sauce pan. Add few table spoon of oil and add seasoning such as salt, pepper and paprika powder. Let it come to a boil on high heat and then put on a lid and reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes or until tender and fluffy.

4- Serve the chicken with the vegetables and bulgur and if you like some tablespoons of Greek yogurt. 

This will taste grilled/barbecued and the sauce gives it a lovely sweet BBQ flavor which is not to overpowering. The chicken was tender inside but had a crusty outer layer which made it juicy and flavorful. The Greek yogurt is a great condiment that adds a round, creamy flavor and removes any over powering taste. The vegetables are caramelized to perfection with this sauce. The great thing with this sauce is you don't need any other seasoning, not even salt. I would definitely use this jerk/bbq sauce for other grilling/BBQ meals. I have heard people saying this sauce is spicy, but I think it is not spicy at all, it just gives it a very pleasant heat but nothing spicy that children would not be able to handle. I recommend this sauce for other meats as well.


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Seared Salmon with Mashed Potato and Vegetables - Recipe

Whenever I cook my seared salmon with mashed potato and vegetables, I think of the lunch meals we were given at school in Sweden. This meal used be one of the many tasty ones served at my school. I was fortunate to go to a grade/high school that made lovely food at school which was healthy and delicious. I remember when I finished 9th grade and was going to high school, one thing that worried me was the food. So I shared my thought with the food lady in the school canteen and she started to laugh. She told me that they actually cook food for that high school as well. I was so happy that the next three years' school meals would be equally good. I often find me thinking of the various meals given during that period and try to cook it. Whatever recipe I use, It always turns out as good as it used to be several years ago.

2 big salmon fillet
3-5 potatoes
1 cup frozen peas and sweet corn
1-2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp corn oil
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
sesame seed
paprika powder
ca 1 cup milk

1- Start by seasoning the salmon fillet with salt, pepper, paprika powder and sesame seeds. Heat a non-stick pan on high heat with the corn oil or any other oil of your choice. Place the salmon fillet with the skin side down  and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes or until browned and cooked half way through. At this point, reduce the stove to medium heat. Don't be tempted to move it to much. Then turn the fillet and cook for another couple of minutes until cooked through.

2- Boil the potatoes according to your own special way, until tender. Then add milk, and butter and season with salt, pepper and some paprika powder. Mash it up and put aside.

3- Last step is to fry the frozen vegetables in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Serve them together with the mashed potato and seared salmon and sprinkle a few extra sesame seeds over the vegetables.


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Vegetable and Chickpea Tagine - Feel Good Food Challenge (recipe)

I have finally taken the time to participate in a food challenge. I usually love to read blogs that organize various recipe challenges with different baking and cooking themes, but have not had time to participate in any specific myself. This month, I decided that I will. The blog with the funky name A Kick At The Pantry Door hosts a challenge every month called Feel Good Food. Every month there is a set theme with a key ingredient that is nutritious and healthy to use in your baking and cooking. The challenge for August month is to use GINGER

I love ginger and use mostly ground ginger in most of my stews and soups. I think besides all the healthy reasons to use it, it gives a bit of heat to the meal and a lovely exotic taste. 

For August's Feel Good Challenge  I am submitting my Vegetable and Chickpea Tagine.

Serves: 2-3

1 can of chickpeas
1/2 courgette
1/2 aubergine
1/2 yellow paprika
3-4 potatoes
1/2 leek
1 inch fresh ginger
1/2 parsnip
3 tbsp olive oil
couscous (cooked according to the package)
few coups of water

Spices: 1 tsp of ground ginger, parsley, ras el hanout, ground garlic, pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, 1//4 tsp ground cinnamon, 2-3 sliced of preserved lemon, salt to taste.

1- Slice all the vegetables and rinse the canned chickpeas. Heat the oil in a cooking pot on high heat and add all the vegetables together. Saute the vegetables for 3-5 minutes until they develop a golden color. Add the chickpeas in the pot and the spices as well and stir for few seconds until everything has an even coat of the spices. The heat should let the the spices develop a lovely aroma and release their oils.

2- Cover the chickpeas and vegetables with 2-3 cups of water depending on how thick or watery you like it and the lemon slices and bring it to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid once the water is boiling and reduce the heat and let it simmer for 25-35 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness.

3- When the tagine has been cooking for about 15 minutes, start to make the couscous according to the the instructions of the package. I usually take the amount of couscous I need and put it in a bowl and instead of covering it with water, I use ca 400 ml of stock from the tagine, to make the couscous tasty and spicy. That is the reason I use a few cups of water extra in the tagine. Place a plate on top of  the bowl and allow it to swell for about 5-10 minutes. 

4- Once the couscous s done, I usually sprinkle over 1/2 tsp of ras el hanout spice mix and extra salt, before fluffing it up with a fork.

5- Serve it by putting a few spoons of couscous in a Moroccan plate and pour the tagine over the couscous. 


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Swedish Salmon, Broccoli and Potato Gratin Dauphinois (laxlåda) - Recipe

One of my favorite memories from my Uni time is the various dishes we used to have for lunch or dinner while studying til late when we were about to have exams. A dear friend and I used to have Laxlåda (Salmon Gratin Dauphinois) every Tuesday at the restaurant on the ground floor of the Science Park building. Their salmon gratin was so creamy and cooked to perfection, that I never grew tired of it. One thing that annoyed me though, was that I could never wait for it to cool down and would always burn my mouth with the first bites.  But I simply had to have it once every week. So this is my take on that luscious and creamy gratin.

2 big salmon fillets
3-4 potatoes, sliced
1 cup of broccoli
1/3 cup of leek sliced
grated cheese
1 cup of double cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
Seasoning: dried dill, chives, parsley, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Dijon mustard

1- Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Cut the salmon to bite size pieces and layer them in a deep baking dish. Add a layer of leeks, broccoli and some of the grated cheese on top of the salmon.

2- Layer the sliced potatoes and pour over the cream sauce. Make the cream sauce, by simply mixing the double cream, milk, eggs and the seasoning, to your taste, in a bowl and pour it over the ingredients in the baking dish. If there is any element of the seasoning you don't like, simply leave it out.

3- Finish it of with another layer of grated cheese. Bake it in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until everything is golden brown and cooked through.


Marble Cake with Cream Filling and Chocolate Ganache - Recipe

The weather has been great here in UK the past few weeks and my family have had a few lovely picnics so far. On one of the occasions my mother in low brought with her a lovely cake that was so delicious and moist that i simply had to take the recipe and try it out myself. It was a simply but very elegant marble cake with a light cream filling and decadent chocolate ganache. It is a fairly simple recipe similar to any sponge cake really but taste like heaven.

4 eggs
225 g butter
225 g sugar
225 g self raising flour
2 tsp vanilla paste
1 tbsp milk
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp vanilla paste

2-3 dl double cream (heavy cream) whipped with 1 tsp vanilla sugar

Topping:Chocolate Ganache
100 g dark chocolate
1 cup double cream
1/2 tbsp butter

1- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Start by mixing the butter and sugar with a handmixer in a bowl for more than 5 minutes until it looks pale and very creamy. Add one egg at a time and mix each for about 10 seconds before adding the next egg. 

2- Add the milk and vanilla paste to the mixture and mix well. Then sift the flour and fold through until the mixture is smooth.

3- Put about half of mixture into another bowl and add the cocoa powder.

4- Then add both the white and chocolaty mixture to a cake tin (mine was round 28 cm), dollop by dollop of each. Use a knife to swirl around in the mixture to make marble patterns. Once done, tap the tin on your work surface to ensure there are no air bubbles and then bake in the oven for about 45-55 minutes or until you insert a sharp object, like a knife, in the cake and it comes out clean. Leave it to cool.

5- While the cake is baking in the oven, you can do the filling and topping. The cream filling is quite straightforward. Just mix the double cream together with the vanilla sugar, but don't over do it, so you can easily spread it on the cake.

6- The chocolate ganache is simply made by breaking the chocolate in to smaller pieces and put them in a microwave safe bowl together with the double cream. Heat it in the microwave until the the cream is pretty warm for few seconds on high heat and let it sit for ca 5 minutes without touching it. Then, slowly stir it until glossy and smooth. Add the butter now an let it cool.

7- Once the cake has cooled, cut it in the middle and spread a generous layer of the the cream filling. Put on the second layer of the cake and pour over the chocolate ganache. Put it in the fridge to let the cream and topping set and firm up. Serve it with a lovely cup of tea.


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Healthy Baked Falafel with Tzatziki and Hummus- Recipe

Middle Eastern food must be one of my favorite cuisines as it is very close to my family's Kurdish cooking. I can eat it all the time, and never get tired of it. It is very versatile with simple recipes with multilayered flavors to more complex dishes that can take days to cook. I will share a few of my favorite recipes of famous dishes such as falafel, tzatziki and hummus.

The falafel recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbook by Salah Jamal 'Arabian Flavours'. It is such a lovely book with an innate charm and great stories and anecdotes from his life and the Arabic culture. It does lack photos if dishes but it is so easy to just google it and find photos of how the end result might look like. If not for the recipes, the read it to get an insight of his childhood and travel memories in the Arab world.


Baked Falafel (with my own twist)
1 can of chickpeas
1 can of broad beans
2 onions
1/2 cup of chopped parsley
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp self-raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp paprika, black pepper, cinnamon
1 tsp cumin, coriander, Kuba spice mix

1- Mix the beans in a food processor until grainy mixture and put it in a bowl. 

2- Mix the onions and parsley in the food processor as well and add it to the bean mixture. Sprinkle over the spices, flour, baking soda and mix well. Let the mixture rest for 1 hour in the fridge.

3- Form the mixture to patties and put them on a baking tray with grease proof paper.

4- Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes on 220 degrees o until golden brown and crispy.

3-4 tbsp greek yogurt
5 cm cucumber, grated
1/3 onion, grated
pinch of dried dill, parsley, mint and garlic powder to taste
salt and pepper

Method: Mix everything in a bowl and add more seasoning if needed. 

1 can of chickpeas
2-3 tbsp of greek yogurt
2-3 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove of garlic

Method: Mix the beans in a food processor until it looks like a smooth paste. Add rest of the ingredients and mix some more. If needed add salt and pepper.

Tangy Salad
3 tomatoes, diced
1 yellow paprika, diced
1/2 cup of chopped parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint 
10 cm cucumber
green olives, chopped
1 tbsp sumac
1 tsp pomegranate molasses

Method: Chop the washed vegetables and mix in a bowl. Add the sumac and pomegranate molasses which add a lovely, zesty and tangy flavor.

 Serve the falafel with the tzatziki, hummus, salad and flat arabic bread. Bellow, you see everything being presented in a big silver plate, together with lentil soup and dried dates and figs, as a great Middle Eastern menu. Works perfectly  as a menu during the Ramadan for Iftar, to break the fast with.