Thursday, May 31, 2012

Azerbaijan - the meat

I went a little heavy on the meat dishes on Sunday night.

I was only going to cook the kebabs, but really loved the sound of these little meatballs with pomegranate sauce. I had intended to make a pilaf to go with the meatballs (I will next time I make them) but I ran out of time. Beside, lets be realistic: there were only four of us for dinner.

We ended up with heaps of leftovers - fine by me!

Don't forget: if you are using bamboo skewers, you need to soak them in water for a couple of hours first. I think I need to get myself some of these metal skewers. Perfect.


Marinated Beef Kebabs

serves 4-6

• 1 kilogram sirloin steak (cut into 3 cm cubes)

for the marinade

• 1 onion (peeled and grated)
• 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
• 2 tablespoons coriander leaves (chopped)
• 1 tablespoons basil leaves (chopped)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/2 cup lemon juice
• salt and pepper

to serve

• chopped shallots
• tomato wedges
• lemon wedges
• coriander sprigs

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and add the meat. Mix well and marinate the meat for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Thread the meat onto skewers and barbecue to you liking. To serve, arrange the kebabs on a platter and garnish with shallots, tomatoes, lemon and coriander sprigs.

Karabakh Khorovats

Marinated Pork Kebabs

serves 4-6

• 1 kilogram pork loin (cut into 3 cm cubes)

for the marinade

• 1 onion (peeled and grated)
• 1 tablespoons oregano leaves (chopped)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
 • salt and pepper

to serve

• chopped shallots
• tomato wedges
• pomegranate molasses

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and add the meat. Mix well and marinate the meat for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Thread the meat onto skewers and barbecue until cooked. To serve, arrange the kebabs on a platter and garnish with the shallots and tomatoes. Serve a bowl of pomegranate molasses separately.

Both of these kebab recipes came from this Russian cookbook.

Fesinjan Kyufta

Meatballs in Pomegranate Sauce 

serves 6-8

for the meatballs

• 750 grams beef mince
• 750 grams lamb mince
• 1 onion (grated)
• 1 egg
• 2 tablespoons iced water
• 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
• 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• 1 tablespoon mint leaves (finely chopped)
• salt and pepper

for the sauce

• 2 cups chicken stock
• 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 tablespoons honey

serve with rice pilaf

Preheat oven to 220 degrees. In a large bowl, mix all of the meatball ingredients together and roll into walnut size balls. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. In a saucepan combine all of the sauce ingredients together and set aside, ready to heat when the meatballs are cooking.

To cook the meatballs, toss in a little olive oil and spread out onto a baking tray. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Bring the sauce ingredients to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Put the meat balls into a serving dish and pour over the hot pomegranate sauce. Serve immediately.

This recipe is from the inspiring blog, Global Table Adventure. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Food from Azerbaijan

It's that time of year again.

The Eurovision song contest was held on the weekend. Do you watch it?

You may have read here last year, of our tradition to cook food from the host country each year.

This year it was Azerbaijan! A small country bordered by Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and the Caspian Sea. What amazing cultural influences and such diverse and delicious food.

This year we only cooked Azerbaijani food on one night (last night), for the Final. However, I doubt this will be the last you see of Azerbaijani food on this blog. I have gathered quiet a list of yummy recipes to try, many indulging in my love of pomegranate molasses.


Here is our menu from last night:
Basturma - Marinated Beef Kebabs
Karabakh Khorovats - Marinated Pork Kebabs 
Fesinjan Kyufta - Meatballs in Pomegranate Sauce 
Kutaby - Stuffed Pancake
Azerbaijani Cabbage Salad
Azerbaijani Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Firni - Rice Pudding

I'll post some recipes later on in the week.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hey presto, pesto!

(This photo was taken when my daughter was just two years old, helping me to make the pesto in her fairy dress. Now almost six, she helped me again this week - she was wearing a flamenco dress. It's nice to know that the yearly tradition of making pesto together isn't the the only thing that hasn't changed.)

So much for my big list last week.

I was feeling a little better, but I was hardly home. However I did make more pesto.

Pesto, you ask? In winter! (well almost)

This is what happens when you neglect your vegetable patch and allow the summer basil seeds to dry on the plant and self sow. With the exception of the last two days, the weather here, has been very warm.

A happy little accident, perhaps?

I made 4 cups of pesto a couple of weeks ago and another 4 cups of pesto this week. It has hardly put a dint in my bumper crop. Most has gone in the freezer for later use. I love pesto as an alternative on pizza bases or mixed with extra cheese to make pesto bread (like garlic bread). Pesto makes a nice addition dolloped into vegetable and simple chicken soups and is perfect for turkish bread toasties of any kind on a cool day.

Here is my recipe. Actually it might be Jamie Oliver's, I can't remember. I have been making this pesto recipe since our very first vegetable patch, over 10 years ago.

This week I used blanched almonds instead of pine nuts, a more economical option when making bulk pesto.


makes 1 cup

• 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup pine nuts
• 4 cups basil leaves (torn)
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

In a mortar and pestle (or food processor if you are making a larger quantity), combine the garlic, salt, pine nuts and half of the basil. Blend until well combined. Add the remaining basil leaves and mix well. Slowly pour in the olive oil in a steady stream until a paste starts to form. Stir in the cheese. If you are not using immediately, spoon the pesto into a jar and pour a thin layer of olive oil onto the top. This will stop the pesto from discolouring.

With so many basil leaves to use up I also made a salsa verde for our lunchtime barbecue last weekend. This recipe is another old favourite, very possibly, one of Jamie's too.

 Salsa Verde

• 1 handful flat leaf parsley
• 1 handful basil leaves
• 1 handful mint leaves
• 1 clove garlic (crushed)
• 1 tablespoon capers (rinsed if salted)
• 4 anchovies
• 1 lemon (juiced)
• 1 teaspoon djion mustard
• salt and pepper
• 100 ml extra virgin olive oil

In a mortar and pestal, pound together the herbs, garlic, capers and anchovies. Slowly add in the remaining ingredients until you get a thick green sauce. Serve immediately

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pass the vitamin C please

I have been sick with a dreaded head cold this week and keeping out of my kitchen.

However, I do have big plans for next week.  

I have oranges and mandarins for marmalade

I have chokos for pickles

I have lemons for lemon curd

I have kaffir lime leaves, chillies, galangal and dried shrimp paste to make Thai curry pastes

I have quinces for quince paste

And I have cabbage for sauerkraut.

Oh dear, that is a big list, I do hope I am feeling a little better.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lemon and Garlic Lamb Stew

This was another stew that I made last week. It is one I have made a few times over the last couple of winters. It is lovely served with mashed potato or soft polenta, but last week it was just as good served with freshly baked white bread and a salad straight from our garden.

Lemon and Garlic Lamb Stew 

serves 4-6

• 1 large bulb garlic (unpeeled and left whole)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1.5 kilograms lamb forequarter chops (each chop cut into 3 pieces) or 1 kilogram lamb shoulder (diced)  
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 x 400 gram cans diced tomatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 2 sprigs rosemary  
• zest of 1 lemon  
• 1/2 cup lemon juice
 • salt and pepper  

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place the garlic bulb in the center of a piece of foil. Pour over the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Wrap up and bake in the oven for about 1/2 hour or until soft. Allow to cool and cut in half. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy based pan and brown the lamb in 2 batches. Set aside. To the pot, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice and season to taste. Squeeze in the roasted garlic and mix well. Return the lamb to the pot and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours until the meat is tender and the stew is sticky.

With the leftovers I made a yummy soup for dinner the next night. Along with some chicken stock from the freezer: I added diced vegetables (carrot, celery, cabbage, potato) some tiny orzo pasta and a tin of haricot beans.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Greek Pork with Leeks

Last week it was rainy and cold here. I seized the opportunity to cook more casseroles.

It has been warmer this week, but maybe it's cold where you are? I made this a week ago and I can't stop thinking about it. When the cold returns, I know I will be making it again.

I had bought some lovely young leeks from the markets, and remembered this recipe that I copied  out from a Greek cookbook last year. (Sorry, I can't remember the name of the book) It has been adapted slightly from the original recipe.

Oh my, what perfect, heartwarming food. A few ingredients thrown into a pot and cooked long and slow. Simple and delicious. Even my children didn't complain. I love eating food like this, somehow it reminds me of my Nana.

Yes, this is exactly the type of food that my Nana would have cooked, had she been Greek. 

I served it in large bowls with a yummy olive sourdough bread for mopping up the sauce and finished the meal with this greek country salad.

As with all casseroles, it was much better the next day. Yes, we ate it two nights in a row. Yum.

Pork and Leek Stew

serves 6-8

• 4-6 leeks (washed and cut into 4 cm lengths)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 small onion (finely diced)
• 1.5 kilograms pork shoulder (cut into 5 cm pieces)
• 2 cups tomato passata
• 2 cups water
• salt and pepper
• 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

to serve

• cracked black pepper
• feta cheese
• crusty bread

Heat the oil in a large heavy based pot and gently saute the onions. Increase the heat and add the pork. Brown the pork in two batches. Return all of the pork to the pot and add the tomato passata and water. Season to taste. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour. Add the leeks and continue to cook for a further 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until the leeks are tender. Serve hot with a generous grinding of black pepper and lots of crumbled feta cheese.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dippity do da

The days here of late, have been just magic. Taking advantage of the beautiful weather on the weekend, this is what we ate for lunch on Sunday. Served along side little homemade sausages grilled on the barbecue, it was the perfect dip plate for autumn days.

Find some sun, grab some friends and maybe a bottle of wine.


makes 1 1/2 cups

• 1 x 400 gram tin chickpeas
• 1 lemon (juiced)
• 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 2 tablespoon tahini
• 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoon water
salt and pepper  

to serve

• extra virgin olive oil 
• ground cumin

Mix all of the hommus ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer into a serving dish, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with the cumin. Serve with pita bread.

This recipe is from the fantastic "River Cottage Veg" cookbook. I have made it four times in as many weeks, it has been a hit with friends and family alike. 

Beetroot and Walnut Hommus

makes 1 1/2 cups

• 50 grams walnuts (toasted)
• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (toasted and crushed)
• 15 grams stale bread (crusts removed and torn into chunks)
• 200 grams beetroot (cooked and cut into cubes)
• 1 tablespoon tahini
• 1 garlic clove (crushed)
• juice of 1 lemon
• 1 tablespoon olive oil 
• salt and pepper

Mix all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add a little more olive oil if necessary. Transfer into a serving dish and serve.

I have been making this bean dip for years, very quick and easy. Perfect for last minute entertaining. Perfect on hot summers days.

Italian Bean Dip

makes 1 1/2 cups

• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 1/3 cup mint (chopped)
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 x 400 gram tin of cannellini beans (drained)
• 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

• salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Fry the garlic and cumin for just under a minute. In a food processor put the garlic mixture as well as the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Add the extra tablespoon of lemon juice if needed. Transfer to a serving dish and serve

This is another recipe that I have been making for a while, a Libyan-Jewish recipe, adapted slightly from a Jewish cookbook I got from the library many years ago. I hadn't made this for years but remembered it well. It takes a little more time, but believe me, it is well worth the effort. Yummy.

Spicy Pumpkin Dip

makes 1 1/2 cups

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 small onion (finely diced)
• 4 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 350 grams pumpkin (finely diced)
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon garam marsala

• 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chilli
salt and pepper
• 1 small tomato (diced)
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• pinch of sugar
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

to serve

• 1 tablespoon coriander leaves (roughly chopped)

Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently saute the onion and half of the garlic. Add the pumpkin and cover. Cook for 10 minutes or until the pumpkin is almost tender. Add the spices and chilli to the pan and cook for 2 minutes more. Season to taste.  Stir in the tomato, tomato paste and sugar and increase the heat to medium high. Cook until the liquid has evaporated and the pumpkin is tender. This takes about 5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Stir in the remaining garlic and lemon juice. Transfer to a serving dish and allow to cool to room temperature to serve. Sprinkle with coriander leaves and serve.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cooking up a storm

For someone who hasn't opened a cookbook in over six weeks, nor cooked from a recipe, I seem to be making up for it this last week.

Over the last few days, I have made Bavelas (Hungarian Bean Soup), Erwtensoep (Dutch Green Pea Soup), two batches of this yummy Broccoli Soup and a Red Lentil and Vegetable Soup. Beetroot and Walnut Hommus and Pumpkin and Raisin Tea Bread, have both been made from the "River Cottage Veg" Book. I have made Julie's Grandma's Never Fail Cake (yum) from this beautiful book. I have made two batches of hommus. I have Mititei in the fridge, ready for tonight's dinner. And this morning instead of doing the housework, I have been in the kitchen making large pots of Leek and Sorrel Soup and Greek Pork and Leek Stew.

I am so happy to be cooking again, I am feeling so inspired to try new things. In order to get away with feeding my children with so much soup (soup deserves a whole other post - I love it, they don't so much) I want to try fun alternatives for dinner a couple of times a week. I want my kids to get into the kitchen to help cook our meals, not just be around to lick the cake bowl!

For as long as I can remember I have been I one pot cook. This will not change. I love this type of cooking for so many reason's. Stews, soups, casseroles and curries are easy to make, they are filled with flavour and can be made ahead of time. Just reheat them with simple sides of vegetables, rice, pasta, polenta or cous cous. They can be made with cheaper cuts of meat, and are a great way to get your kids to eat beans or vegetables that they might not normally like.

Hearty warming fare is: the ultimate comfort food.

But sometimes there is a groan at the dinner table.

Not again, I hate casserole."

Soup usually gets the same response. So in order to get through the casserole-loving winter months without little whiny dinners, I plan to try things like empanadas, mini meat pies, spring rolls, mini meatballs, burgers, calzone, fritters. That kind of thing. Not every night, just some nights.

If you have any other suggestions to make mealtimes more fun, I'd love to hear them.

Last night we cooked one of Manu Feidel's recipes from his cookbook "Manu's French Kitchen". You could hardly call it a recipe. I showed the picture to the kids and there was excitement!

This recipe had been a favourite of Manu's when he was a child and now it is a favourite of his son's. It is also now a favourite of ours. We loved it. So simple and very yummy. I'm used to pureeing and grating vegetables into meat patties (to hide them) that this was a nice alternative. We served our meat patties instead, with a rainbow salad filled with vegetables and a plate of oven baked chips: potato, sweet potato, beetroot, carrots and parsnips. Next time I think that we will double this recipe, as my son was begging for more.

In French the recipe is called: "Steak hache a cheval"

In English and in the book the recipe is called: "Pan-fried beef rissole with an egg sunny-side up"

My son asked, what do we call this? His suggestion was:  "Egg and meat yum yum"

I'm going to call it French Meat Patties, just because I can. Here is the recipe from the book.

French Meat Patties

• 600 grams minced beef
• 1 eschallot (finely chopped)
• 2 tablespoons chopped chives
• salt and pepper
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 4 eggs

to serve

• extra chopped chives

In a large bowl, combine the beef mince, eschallot and chives. Season to taste. Mix well and divide the mixture into quarters. Shape each quarter into a 10 cm round pattie. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the patties for about 3 minutes on each side or until cooked to your liking. In another large frying pan melt the butter and fry the four eggs to your liking. Once cooked, Place each pattie on a serving plate and gently top with an egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the extra chives. Serve immediately.

* Next time I make this I will definitely be doubling the meat patties that I make. Perfect for leftovers.

* Manu writes in his book that when he was a child, his mother served these with sauteed potatoes.
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