Sunday, February 20, 2011

Eggplant and blue cheese spread recipe

Eggplant and blue cheese spread with flat bread

I got inspiration for this dish from baba ghanoush, an Arabic spread generally made with eggplant, onions, tomatoes and other vegetables. I substituted the onions and tomatoes with blue cheese and it turned out to be a great combination. The spread had the distinctive blue cheese taste without overpowering the eggplant flavour. Overall an excellent combination and I for sure will be making it again.

The amounts I have suggested is based on my taste. You can vary the amount of cheese and cream, as well as the type of cheese to suit your taste. I have not tried this dish with any other kind of cheese. I presume feta cheese would work well.

1 medium eggplant, cut into centimeter cubes
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
100 grams blue cheese, crumbed
100 milliliters cream, crème fraiche or yogurt
1 tablespoon oil

1.       Heat oil over medium flame
2.      Sauté onions until translucent
3.      Add garlic, cook for about 30 seconds, don’t let the garlic brown
4.      Add eggplant and cook until done, about 15-20 minutes. Stir frequently
5.      Reduce heat to low, add paprika, blue cheese and cream and stir through
6.      Puree the mixture or leave it chunky
7.      Salt throughout the cooking process

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Beetroot Cake Recipe

Beetroot cupcake
Beetroot cake is not as common as carrot cake and I wondered why. The main explanation I could come up with was the fact that carrots are more easily available than beetroots. They are both sweet root vegetables and requires similar procedures for preparing a cake. But beetroot looks nicer!

Most beetroot cake recipes I found on the internet were for chocolate beetroot cake, plain beetroot cakes were less common. Again I asked myself why? Why is beetroot being treated differently. I am sure beetroot and chocolate is a great combination, and so is carrot and chocolate. But carrot cakes recipes are more popular than carrot chocolate cake recipes. I suppose some questions are best left unanswered.

One of the more appealing aspects of working with beetroot is the beautiful red color. Here is a photo of the dough before it went into the oven. When it comes to good looks, beetroot cake dough is unbeetable!

Beetroot cake dough

The dough loses some of the red color during baking but taste is important. And it did not disappoint. The cake was surprisingly quite light and moist. If you prefer a more dense cake you can half the amount of baking powder or increase the amount of beetroot.

The beetroots can be either cooked or uncooked. I had baked beetroots which I chopped finely. Uncooked beetroot will work fine, just as uncooked carrots does.

2 cups flour
2 large beetroots, grated
1 cup sugar
230 ml oil
4 eggs beaten
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder

1.       Preheat oven to 175 degrees
2.      Sift the flour, baking power, salt and cinnamon powder, then add beetroot
3.      In a separate bowl mix the sugar, eggs and oil thoroughly
4.      Combine the wet and dry mixtures
5.      Pour the mixture into to two greased loaf tins or cake pans
6.      Bake until done, about 40 minutes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Char Siew/Char Siu Pork Recipe

Char siew pork with rice

Char siew pork is one of those "love at first sight" dishes. It is hard not to love slices of pork glistening with char siewy goodness, unless you don’t eat pork. In addition to good looks char siew pork possesses other desired characteristics we look for in a loved one – tenderness and a good balance between sweet, salty, spicy and tangy.

Char siew is not difficult to prepare, however there are many different variations regarding the ingredients for the marinate, cut of meat and cooking method. 

Regarding the marinate it is important to get the right balance between sweet, salty, spicy and tangy.

Ideally the cut of meat should have some fat otherwise the meat will dry up. Probably the best cut is pork belly but if you have some hesitations on using pork belly, you can use pork butt or shoulder.

The preferred cooking method is grilling. Char means fork and siew means cook/burn indicating that the meat is skewed using forks and grilled. If grilling is not convenient or practical the oven is a good substitute. That’s how I do it. You can also use a wok and finish off under the grill for the charred effect.

Pork is the preferred meat but other meats can be used. Char Siew chicken and fish are quite nice. I have never tried beef.


500g pork, sliced into strips

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tsp minced garlic or garlic powder
½ teaspoon 5 spice powder
Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon soya sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon oil

1.       Mix all marinade ingredients and marinade the pork, preferably for at least one hour.
2.      Preheat oven to 2o0 degrees
3.      Cook until done, about 30 minutes, turning the meat over half way through
4.     Once cooked glaze the pork and place under the grill until it is well charred, about 5-10 minutes

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Double Chocolate Coffee (Mocha) Daim Cookie Recipe

Double chocolate coffee daim cookie recipe

This cookie had a myriad of flavours – chocolate, more chocolate, coffee and toffee, with hints of almond and vanilla. And they all work fantastically together. 

This was my first time making a cookie that combines chocolate and coffee. The recipe calls for one tablespoon of coffee which seems a lot. I do love strong coffee but I was a little curious how it would turn out. My curiousity was put to rest and I got comfortable when the aroma starting coming out of the oven. I knew that I was in for a good treat. The coffee flavour is special and works well with the other flavours.   

In spite of being 'double chocolate' the cookies are not overly chocolatey for two reasons. The coffee helps to balance out the chocolate flavour, in a very good way. The second reason is human error - I used half the amount of chocolate chunks by mistake. Thats the reason you don't see too many chocolate chunks in the photo. I was quite happy with the outcome but next time I will try with more chocolate.

The cookies in the photo look a bit innocent but don’t get fooled by their appearance. Underneath the innocent exterior is a flavour packed interior – chocolatey, coffeey, toffeey, chewy, crispy, and if eaten warm, gooey. Whether you eat them warm or cooled, you will be well rewarded. How the cookies fare after a few hours or days is not the kind of information I felt would be useful, so I didn't experiment.

I used O’boy daim chocolate drink powder. O’boy contains crushed daim bar, cocoa, sugar and other ingredients. If O’boy is unavailable where you live, you can substitute with cocoa powder, sugar and roughly chopped or crushed daim bar. I normally would not buy O’boy and similar pre-mixed items but it was really really cheap, cheaper than mixing the items yourself.  

I froze part of the dough, and I am glad I did otherwise I would have finished everything and not left anything for the next time. If you are planning to make this for yourself, freeze part of the dough as soon as possible unless you have strong willpower. And if you are planning to make it for friends and family, time the baking so that the cookies leave the house as soon as possible.

½ cup butter or margarine, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 cup flour
½ cup O’boy daim 
1 egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon instant coffee
150 grams chocolate chips or chunks
Few drops vanilla

1.       Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2.      Cream butter/margarine and sugar until light and fluffy
3.      Add egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly
4.      Mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and combine with the wet mixture
5.      Place balls of dough in a baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes. The cookies will spread so make sure there is a lot of distance between them

Monday, February 7, 2011

Baked Spinach Savouries/Salted Spinach Cookies Recipe

Spinach cookies with adzuki bean shoots

These baked spinach savouries are really simple to make, delicious and healthy. You can have it as a snack or as part a meal, in the form of a pancake. The recipe is quite versatile, you can add other ingredients to the dough. I have added adzuki bean sprouts and they turned out delicious. It is like the chocolate chip version.

Calling the baked spinach savouries cookies is perhaps stretching the definition of cookies a little bit. What is a cookie? The trusted wiki alludes to the sweet version but there is no common definition. There is actually a lot of confusion when it comes to defining cookies. A cookie in US is biscuit in most other countries, a cookie is a bun in Scotland, a biscuit is a scone in the US, a cookie is generally chocolate chip cookie in UK and therefore my baked spinach savouries is a cookie. And even better, you can have them for dinner without feeling guilty!

I’ve had eaten deep fried versions in Asia. They are shaped into balls and usually served with a spicy sauce made with tamarind and few other ingredients. While the baked version may be less tasty compared with the deep fried version, it is much easier to make, and of course better for you. 

Few notes:
  • I use a mixture of plain flour and rice flour. Rice flour makes it crunchier. You can substitute rice flour with chickpea flour or you can use 100% flour but the texture will be a bit more ‘doughy’
  • The spinach can be chopped roughly or finely, depends on your preference. I use frozen finely diced spinach and it works perfect.
  • The amount of spinach and onions depends on your preference. Use as much as you want, if you are unsure, use more not less
  • The consistency of the dough should be somewhere between thick cream and bread dough
  • You don’t need to preheat the oven, start with a cold oven. I have tried with and without a preheated oven, the main difference I found was that it took longer when preheating the oven, obviously. There was negligible difference in the final outcome

¾ cup plain flour
¼ cup rice flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons oil
Spinach, fresh or frozen
½ onion
3 cloves garlic

1.       Combine shifted flour and baking powder
2.      Add spinach, finely diced onion, minced garlic, salt and oil
3.      Add enough water to make a soft runny dough
4.      Drop tablespoons of batter onto a well greased baking tray
5.      Flatten slightly and bake at 220 degrees until it starts to brown, about 15 minutes 


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Asian Style Braised Pork Recipe

Braising is one of my favourite ways of preparing pork. The flavourful and tender melt in the mouth pork is irresistible. Braising is also a very forgiving way of cooking, it is difficult to go wrong unless you do something really really wrong. And since the cheapest cuts of meat are ideal, so it is economical. In a nutshell braised pork is cheap, easy and tasty.

The ideal cuts of meat are parts of the animal which is used more, such as knuckle or shanks. The muscle fibers are more developed and it is loaded with collagen. When the meat is cooked long and slow the collagen breaks down into gelatin, giving a dish a very nice texture. It almost has the consistency of fat but it is healthy. I think Tony Bourdain referred to collagen as the next fat in one of the ‘no reservations’ episodes.

I prefer the Asian style that uses a variety of sauces. The ‘Western approach’ uses stock and root vegetables. For the Asian approach it is important to ensure that the braising liquid is balanced between sweet, salty and acidity. You should test the braising liquid at the start. However since it is a long and slow cooking process you will get plenty of opportunity to make adjustments along the way. As I said earlier it is a very forgiving method of cooking.

I use a different braising mix each time and the result is always fantastic. My choice of braising liquids depends on what is available in the pantry. I try to include ingredients that brings the following flavours to the party:
  • Salty: soya sauce
  • Sweet: hoisin sauce, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), oyster sauce, wine, brown sugar, molasses
  • Acidity: rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar
  • Spicy: 5-spice mix, star anise,
  • Other flavours: garlic, paprika,chilli 

You can choose one item from each category. Or if you want, you can leave out a category such as acidity if you don’t want the braised pork to be slightly acidic. The bottom line is that even if you leave out all the ingredients and just use plain salted water for braising you will end up with salted tender melt in the mouth pork, and this will be very nice.

I have not given amounts in the recipe below, just proportions. If you are in doubt use more not less. If you end up with too much sauce at the end, great! You can freeze them in ice cube trays and use as flavour enhancer for soups, noodles and other dishes. The sauce will be rich in collagen, meat juices, different flavours and fat. Because of the abundance of the collagen (and fat) the sauce will have a jelly like consistency at room temperature and when warmed it will be thick with a pleasant mouth feel.

Soya sauce – 2 parts
Kecap manis – 2 parts
Hoisin sauce – 1 part
Red wine – 4 parts
Apple cider vinegar – 1 part
Garlic – 1 part
Chinese 5-spice  – ½ part
Paprika – ½ part

1.       Brown the meat in oil over medium heat
2.      Add minced garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds, don’t let it turn brown
3.      Add all the rest of the ingredients and enough water to just cover the meat
4.      Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 1½ -2 hours
5.      If the amount of braising liquid runs low during cooking, add more water. If there is too much liquid towards simmer uncovered.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Liver Eggplant in Spicy Tomato Sauce Recipe

Liver Eggplant in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Liver and eggplant was on the ingredient list today and I did a web search to find dishes that used eggplant and liver. An Israeli dish called ‘eggplant chopped liver’ was one of the more popular results. Eggplant chopped liver was created in the 1940’s/50’s when Israel was a poor country. It sounds logical to use secondary cuts of meat since it is generally cheaper and has higher nutritional value. After all famous dishes like beef bourguignon, osso buco and liver paté rely on secondary cuts.

I was excited to cook an Israeli dish, something I had never done before. Unfortunately that excitement was short-lived when I discovered that eggplant chopped liver has no liver, and its certainly not chopped. There is eggplant, so one point out of three. Why name it eggplant chopped liver when there are other more creative names like “eggplant pureed foie gras”, “eggplant braised veal cheeks”…?

Including ‘liver’ in the name of a dish that has no liver seems counterintuitive. Generally speaking people are more likely to be put off by liver than be attracted to it. It is like including the word ‘beef’ in a vegetarian dish.

Anyway I still had liver and eggplant to take care of and with no help from the Israeli’s I was left on my own. Liver eggplant in spicy tomato sauce was created. It has liver, eggplant, tomato sauce and spices, to avoid any misunderstanding. For a brief moment I was tempted to use my newly acquired naming skills to come up with a more creative name to match eggplant chopped liver.

Liver eggplant in spicy tomato sauce is pleasant. The irony taste is subtle because of tomatoes and eggplant. And the spicy tomato sauce works well with liver and eggplant. For those who are not keen fans of liver, liver eggplant in spicy tomato sauce can probably be a first step, it will nudge you in the right direction. If you are bit more daring chicken liver and smoked sausage parfait could be an option. But this special dish is reserved for the very brave souls.

I finished off my satisfying lunch with a cup of “coffee and curdled spiced donkeys milk”.

The recipe below has no amounts, please use estimates to suit your preference. I used liver and eggplant in equal quantity by volume and was quite generous with paprika. Not much oil is required since the cooking is done covered on low heat.

Liver (cut into cm cubes)
Eggplant (cut into cm cubes)
Garlic, minced
Onions, diced
Tomato paste or pasta sauce

1.       Sauté onions over medium heat
2.      When onions are almost brown add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds
3.       Add  liver and brown
4.      Add eggplant, tomato paste/pasta sauce, paprika and salt
5.      Cover and cook until done, about 20 minutes
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...