Browsing Category

Miscellaneous

Soba and back to blogging

soba-0447

I’m not even sure that I’m back, back for real. I’m here, now, after a long pause and it feels right. At last. Moving to a new country to start a full time job made me a even lazier person at the beginning.

I’m adjusting to new rhythms and new seasons (which is winter all year long. I live in Ireland, folks!), I’m trying to defeat indolence by attending fitness classes and now even writing my blog again. One step at a time, as wise people say.

soba-0451

I never wondered why I had to keep this blog running, never questioned the reasons beyond any post. It had to be done, it had to be written, as a sort of practise for more discipline and sense of achievement.

Despite this lack of purpose, I was demanding too much from it and, more specifically, from my never-good-enough food photography. I was going after numbers to see if I could reach that pool of visitors many bloggers claim to attract.

soba-0468

Let me say, I’m done with this. If I come up with something good that’s worth sharing I’ll be happy to bring it to life here. Stress-free blogging.

Ladies and gentlemen, veggies+Soba is “clean eating” par excellence! So I’m starting from soba, real 100% buckwheat soba. I make a very simple and elegant dish with these very peculiar Japanese noodles. It’s quick, healthy, fulfilling and makes me feel “clean”. Maybe it also symbolises my new blogging life. No fancy claims.

p.s. In less than a month I’ll be in Japan for a couple of weeks of much needed holidays. I plan to eat everything local and weird. Any recommendations?

Soba and back to blogging

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 package Soba noodles
  • 1 cup organic broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2-1 cup organic mushrooms, sliced.
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pepper, shredded
  • 1 tsp organic Mirin (or soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp organic raw, wild-harvested honey
  • 1/2 tsp organic lime zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh, organic lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp organic ginger, minced
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper or Sriracha hot chili sauce

Instructions

  1. Stir fry the veggies for about 10 minutes in a pan with olive oil. Don’t over cook them, you want them slightly soft.
  2. Prepare zest, lime juice and other sauce ingredients. When your large pot full of water is boiling. place in the buckwheat noodles and cook according to instructions on the package. Rinse noodles well and toss with sauce and stir fried veggies. Enjoy!
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/soba-and-back-to-blogging/

Cauliflower Rice Quiche with Zucchini, Pepper and Feta

quiche28-0979

Long time no see. I’m still in Ireland, friends, and I am aware that I must share a recipe with you before you start forgetting about me.

Or before the effect of this crazy coffee I just sipped ends, leaving me again incapable of writing. Have you tried it yet? Have you given in to the new drinkable hype from trendy Cali? Hot buttered coffee, I am speaking about.

Now, because I unpretentiously threw in the blender butter and freshly brewed coffee I feel like raising again my blogging voice and bringing back to life this recipe I prepared two weeks ago or so.

quiche28-0962

The time to discuss the coffee+butter matter has not arrived yet. This quiche I made with wholewheat homemade pastry and cauliflower rice, zucchini, pepper and feta deserves a few words. It’s super good, can’t you see it? I had never made cauliflower rice before this quiche. True story: I didn’t have the right kitchen tool for it.

You probably know already this magic of cauliflower turning into grains as big as rice cannot happen without a food processor. Surely the making of this pie crust would not be as easy and quick either. What you don’t know is that since I bought a food processor I feel I have reached peak comfort levels in my life.

I got a job and bought a food processor and if you cannot see the link between the two events I’m happy for you because this means you have never been a penniless PhD student owing a blender that can only give you soups and smoothies.

quiche28-0954

But that’s a different story…

Time to concentrate on reading those unbelievable blog posts my fellow bloggers have published while I was off. I’ve got something like 90 posts in the archive and, hopefully, enough buttered coffee in my veins to go through them all.

Have you ever tried buttered coffee? If so, how did you make it though the night? Do you know what it means being a blender owner when all the recipes you want to make call for a food processor, instead?

Cauliflower Rice Quiche with Zucchini, Roasted Pepper and Feta

Ingredients

    For the crust
  • 1/4 butter
  • 2 cups wholewheat flour
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1/3 cauliflower
  • 1 leek, cut
  • For the filling
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 feta, crumbled
  • 1 red pepper, cut
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Mix flour with salt in a food processor. Add cold butter and start pulsing. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until dough forms into a ball. Gather up and pat into a ball. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes before rolling out.
  2. Meantime prepare cauliflower rice by breaking apart the cauliflower into large florets with your hands. Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor and process in 1-second pulses until it breaks down into grains.
  3. Stir fry the sliced zucchini, pepper and "cauliflower rice "(you have just made) in a pan with little olive oil to prevent sticking (about 7-8 minutes). Add salt and turn off the heat. Set aside.
  4. Crumble the feta with hands and in a separate bowl beat the eggs. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Take the dough put of the fridge, roll it out on a floured surface into a 10-inch circle. Carefully place dough in pie plate, fit loosely and then press into place. Crimp for a decorative crust. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  6. Lightly prick the base of the pastry with a fork then fill with baking beans. Blind-bake the pastry for 10 mins, remove the paper and beans. At this point take it out of the oven, add some feta cheese over the base, scatter over 1/2 of the veggies/cauliflower mixture, pour over the egg, then finally scatter over the rest of the cheese, leek and veggies. Bake for 20-25 mins until golden brown. Leave to cool down for at least 15 minutes, scatter with your favorite herb and serve in slices.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/cauliflower-rice-quiche-with-zucchini-roasted-pepper-and-feta/

Classic Spanish Omelette: The Tortilla

tortilla-0660

Hello folks, I’m back! Did you realize I disappeared? I missed blogging and cooking quite a lot but since I was in the middle of a big-ass relocation I could not help but focus on finding a new home and settle down in Northern Ireland. After more than a week spent in the hotel I finally found a beautiful flat with lovely views on the river and large windows. I am now trying to get used to it (a tad too big for me, I have to walk from the kitchen to the bedroom which is uncommon if you rent in London).

tortilla-0683

On top of the relocation, I had to start a new job. Am I excused now for not being a prolific blogger?

I arrived here the day before St. Patrick’s day which is, you might agree, a very good timing. My first impression is that the atmosphere is significantly warmer than in the mainland. In the streets, I heard quite a few people wishing me “good morning” (What?!? Do I know you? I was incredulous). People are generally more relaxed than in London (after all Londoners are always busy and in rush, they don’t have time to be straightforward and kind).

But the local accent? “Could you please repeat it once more?”.  “I know it’s the tenth time you repeat this intelligible word but I am about to get it“. And the food? “Vegetables of the Day means frozen veggies, seriously?!. Ah”.

Yep, I still have to come to terms with the language and the cuisine. Aye.

tortilla-0691

During my comfortable hotel stay I had to eat out every day. I tortured my delicate stomach on a few occasions (fries, weird extra sweet Indian food, fries). Now that I finally have a kitchen again I can cook something healthier and possibly Mediterranean, according to the type of cuisine/diet that I like the most.

Tortilla is a Spanish recipe my Spanish best friend introduced me to a few years ago when I moved to London. We were in Paddington, West London, when she cooked this heartwarming omelette as appetizer for an abundant portion of Paella Valenciana. I am kind of nostalgic of those days, when I had nothing but curiosity and a sense of adventure.

It was an about-face moment: for the first time I was leaving my parent’s house, my friends, my country. This recipe is impressed so strongly in my memories for this reason. And this might be also the reason why now that I am moving to a new city again, the Tortilla Espagnola comes up vividly to my mind. Maybe I can call this “my life changing recipe”.

p.s. I already blogged about tortilla here. This time, inspired by my recent trip to Malaga, I sliced the potatoes thinly using a mandolin slicer. This made the recipe a lot quicker and the potatoes easier to cook. I served the omelette with a broccoli and chickpeas quickly marinated in extra virgin olive oil.

Now tell me:

Do you have a life changing recipe, a dish that has important memories associated with? 

Have you ever moved to a new city?

Have you ever struggled to get to grips with a local accent? 

Classic Spanish Omelette: The Tortilla

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sized potatoes (700-800 g)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 big onion, finely sliced
  • rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash and peel the potatoes, then sliced them using a mandolin for thinner slices or a sharp knife for thicker ones. Finely chop the onion (I sliced it).
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook potatoes and onion, continuously stirring, until potatoes are cooked but not too tender.
  3. Remove the excess oil and keep aside.
  4. In a bowl, beat the eggs with salt and pepper. Transfer the cooled down potatoes in this bowl. Mix well add rosemary.
  5. Warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the frying pan and cook the mixture potatoes/eggs for 5-8 minutes or until golden. Do not stir. Then with the help of a flat plate flip the tortilla of potatoes and cook the other side.
  6. Serve warm or cold, cut into slices or cubes, together with a salad.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/spanish-tortilla-potatoes/

 

My Dream Kitchen

dreamkitchen I have never talked about the place where I spend most of the time (bedroom excluded), the place where all the posts of this blog are born and take shape. I’m talking about the kitchen. The reason why I haven’t covered the topic is that I’ve never been a house owner. Only in London I rented three different apartments over the last 4 years. My first accommodation in the British capital was a small apartment in Kings Cross where I began not only to cook for myself but also to share the kitchen with strangers flatmates and write this blog. Then came the Notting Hill apartment, with its extra small rooms and a kitchen placed in a small corner of the house that used to be a balcony. Finally, I moved together with my boyfriend into a small but modern studio where I could enjoy a medium sized and brand new kitchen. 90 % of my food pictures were shot in this studio not far from the Tower Bridge.

Despite my four years in London have seen some improvement in terms of accommodation, I have never been able to fully choose the decor of my house. In Italy I have only lived with my parents, according to the typically Italian family living arrangement. Since I am now a grown up and approaching a stage in my life that’s supposed to be marked by a greater level of independence, I find myself thinking about my dream house, the one that could be a more definitive residence. In short, I’m looking around, or rather, since I’m only visiting online magazines, I’m already beginning to fantasize. Now the “problem” for me is a choice between a more traditional or modern style. I’m still very undecided! Here I am showing you my recent kitchens in comparison with what I would like to own.

The Traditional Kitchen

In my Italian place (technically my mum’s house) the traditional style rules. We recently bought a new kitchen opting for a classic style and dark wood cabinets. This one below is not really my kitchen but a very similar one.

cherry A bit too gloomy, don’t you think? I liked the mosaic tiles and the sense of opulence that the dark wood adds, however I soon realised that the whole area looks significantly darker now. Even smaller. It is well known that white cabinets and kitchen units contribute to making a small space seem larger. I would probably pick a different kitchen now, something similar to this IKEA model I saw this week in the largest store of the popular Swedish furniture retailer (I’m in Denmark, by the way).

ikea I always dreamt of having a kitchen with island bench and a large countertop in the middle of the cooking area. What I love the most of the kitchen shown below is the contrast between the light color of the main body and the warm wood tone of the worktop and shelves. This to me is a very good example of a traditional kitchen with a modern twist on the classic feel. What do you think of it?

shape-aspire The Modern Kitchen

Ready for a sneak peek into my little house in London? Below is the kitchen I’ve been blogging from in the last two years.

wapping Even though I haven’t picked this kitchen myself I identify quite strongly with its design. It’s a design aesthetic where key points are simplicity and lightness. Since the addition of ornamentation and detail to fill in perceived gaps is not my strong point I was happy to keep my kitchen/living area plain and uncluttered.

However, there are quite a few reasons why I can’t consider this kitchen my ideal one. Have you noticed the mirror backsplash? Not sure why anyone would like to have a mirror as a backsplash. It does not multiply the space visually (as it is supposed to) but rather makes you crazy, if you are not good at cleaning mirrors like me. Also, I was never a fan of the glossy finish of the cabinets and the push-pull opening system (sometimes defective) of some drawers.

An example of modern kitchen that better meets my taste and would represent an improvement over all my previous kitchens is shown in the photo below.

white_gloss The subway tile backsplash is now really in vogue and I personally think it really pops beneath the modern cabinet adding a traditional touch to this otherwise very modern kitchen. What about a tall block of cupboards alongside the normal sink run, like in this Wren kitchen below? The marble countertop brings my mind back to the iconic pizzerias of Napoli where seasoned pizzaioli ply their craft. I love it (I would finally get rid of the fake marble panels that I sometimes use for my food photography).

morning_mist So many decision to take and great styles to choose from. Whatever kitchen I will get, I am pretty sure it will be characterised by these elements:

  1. It will be white, a color that is bright and never falls out of style.
  2. It will convey some sort of minimalism, in keeping with my personality. Minimalism in this case means no excess ornaments without functional purpose, which also means I will not hang pots and pans on the walls, especially in the case of a small kitchen. As a decoration, I will use tin boxes to store kitchen utensils or jars containing colorful pasta.
  3. It will be functional, full of space-saving features and appliances that use less energy and water.

What do you think of these kitchen ideas? Are you happy with your kitchen or do you also dream of a different one? Any tips and kitchen styles to suggest?

Thai Cooking Class in Chiang Mai

zabbelee-0090 I feel truly blessed to be here in Malacca city, 148 kilometres south east of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur. This is one of the cutest cities I have visited during my Asian trip, definitely a more walk-able and pedestrian friendly place where it is possible  to survive the morning heat thanks to a colonial architecture offering verandahs, front porches and internal courtyards.

Everyday, after lunch, I try to spend a few hours indoor in order to avoid sunburn and fatigue. Today in Malacca I take advantage of the “curfew” I force myself to tell you about my cookery class experience in Chiang Mai, the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. This happened a week or so before my food poisoning, when I could still comfortably enjoy spicy food.

zabbelee-0091 Having a cooking class with Ann at Zabb-e-Lee turned out to be a great experience, one of the most enjoyable activities I engaged in during my trip. Ann, our teacher, was very thorough in her explanations of ingredients and how to use them. A very professional and personable girl who also made us laugh and smile a lot during the class. What more do you expect from a cooking class? Ah, right: delicious food. We got this too!

zabbelee-0097 The day started at 8:30 am when Ann picked me and my boyfriend up from our hotel in her small truck. It was a fun ride together with other participants, mostly Europeans, during which we spoke about travelling experiences and impressions. After a quick stop at class venue to select the dishes, Ann took us to a local market to introduce us to the typical ingredients of the Thai cuisine. She shared a great deal of information about ingredients I have never seen before.

zabbelee-0111 For example, I had never seen a banana flower (below) this dark purple-red blossom that grows from the end of a bunch of bananas.

zabbelee-0120 Nor I knew about the “existence” of yellow tofu, that is turmeric-marinated tofu.

zabbelee-0124 zabbelee-0128 Each person was able to select an appetizer, soup, stir fry, curry paste and curry dish. There were many options to choose from and each of us was able to individualize the amount of heat/spice for their item (Ann nicknamed my boyfriend as “the hot man” because of his choice of adding 7 chilies to his curry. p.s. 5 chilies is the Thai standard.). Ann was also able to accommodate food allergies and special requests like my vegetarian diet (Thai recipes are not supposed to be vegetarian but she found a great way to replace meat using a soy protein product).

zabbelee-0154 The facilities and utensils were clean and the backyard nicely decorated. We had fun and enjoyed delicious Thai food prepared by ourselves. My boyfriend was a little nervous at first (seriously, look at the concentrated and preoccupied look of the guy wearing the green apron below). Probably I felt a bit “tensed” too since I soon realized that I could easily burn my food due to high fire and type of cooking pan. At the end we both managed to cook yummy dishes such as Pad Thai and Tom Yum without asking for help, meaning that the pacing and accuracy of the instructions were just perfect.

zabbelee-0156 Below: Thai tamarind sauce for Pad Thai.

zabbelee-0159 Below: My perfect Pad Thai!

zabbelee-0171 zabbelee-0185 Tom Kha Pak: a soup packed with Thai herbs and spices such as galangal and lemongrass, blended with coconut milk and loaded up with mushrooms and veggies.

zabbelee-0189 The delicious Tom Yum made by my “hot man”! Ann said it was too hot even for a Thai person.

zabbelee-0191 Thai aubergines and pea aubergines submerged in water. These cuties ended up in our curry dishes.

zabbelee-0207 Massamun curry, a rich Thai dish with peanuts and potatoes.

zabbelee-0243 The dish I am particularly proud of: Thai fresh spring rolls. Dealing with rice paper is not an easy task. Ann thought me a successful technique to roll the sheets like a pro.

zabbelee-0241 The group at the end of class. Proud and happily stuffed with food!

zabbelee1-0224 Have you ever attended a cooking class? If so, how was it like?

Where do you stand in terms of spicy and hot foods?

Glazed Butternut Squash in Thai Peanut Butter Sauce

butternutsquash-0450 It’s a final countdown for me in London and I cannot hide I’m feeling a bit nervous about it. This is a kind of reboot. Can I see myself changing home, friends and city again in 4-5 years from now? I don’t think so. It ‘s time to grow roots somewhere. Here is why I have to make sure to end up in the right place with the right job. Pressure, Pressure.

butternutsquash-0473 These few days left in London allow me to make some little wishes come true. Like this bowl of craziness I put together a couple of days ago to experiment with ingredients and a popular veggie that, shame on me, I have never tried in my whole entire life. Have I ever seen a butternut squash in Italy? No, I don’t remember I have ever spotted this lovely type of winter squash in my home country, where I’ve just learnt it is known as “zucca gialla”, yellow pumpkin that is.

butternutsquash-0467 Wikipedia states that butternut squash “has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin”. Since I’m not sure I like pumpkin (hey, I’m saying I’m not sure, there’s still hope for me), I felt a bit concerned while oven roasting the squash. I had a “plan B” recipe (pasta with chickpeas) in case of reluctant taste buds. With my great surprise, I had to put carbs aside this time because the dish won me over. Butternut Squash tastes better than pumpkin to me! I glazed it with honey and appreciated its delicate taste, not too sweet and not to pumpkin-ish. The nutty flavor and wholesomeness of the peanut butter sauce contrasted well with the subtle taste of the squash.

butternutsquash-0477 Now off to do some last errands (in my wardrobe to select clothes to give away) before I can relax and enjoy a dinner at my friend’s new home in Camden Town. Have a nice day, friends!

Butternut Squash in Thai Peanut Butter Sauce

Yield: Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup for vegan option)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter (unsweetened)
  • 1 handful of pepita seeds or your favorite nuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce and fish sauce. Add some water to adjust the consistency, if needed.
  3. Toss butternut squash with honey in a large bowl. Arrange coated squash on a baking sheet.
  4. Roast in the oven until squash is tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove butternut squash from the oven. Portion the squash into 2 bowls containing the peanut butter sauce. Top each bowl with chopped nuts (optional), pepita seeds and and extra sauce.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/butternut-squash-thai-peanut-butter-sauce/

Chickpea and Cauliflower Veggie Burger (Vegan)

cauli-veggie-patty-0036 Since I made these tortillas my appreciation for cauliflower grew significantly. I guess now that I am able to eat cauliflower I can finally consider myself a grown-up. I think. I just need to find a job and, et voila’, I’ll be catapulted right into the stage of life called “adulthood”.  I know, it sounds too boring compared these chickpea and cauliflower patties that are fragrant, nutritious, crispy outside and soft inside.

cauli-veggie-patty-0060 Speaking about jobs… are you aware of any openings about “cooking and travelling the world”? I’m quite sure I’d fit the position perfectly. Anything about cutting edge research in Photonics to make new life-changing technology will do too.

veggie-0088 Actually, I’m not really lying in wait for job interviews (if you were a recruiter, I’d play hard to get). Having planned the longest holidays of my life in a part of the world that’s incredibly different from London, right now I’m am more of a free spirit willing to turn savings into life experiences rather than in a lifelong mortgage. Sure, life will call me back to duties and responsibilities soon, but that’s just one reason more to enjoy this boss-less time light-heartedly. Am I being too irresponsible to earn a spot in the adulthood life?

veggie-0094

Chickpea and Cauliflower Veggie Patties

Yield: Makes 4 big patties

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups well cooked chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (plus more to stir fry the patties)
  • 1/3 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/4 cup of silken tofu, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Set a large pot with an inch or two of water over medium heat. Place the cauliflower florets in a pan with little oil and cook for about 5-6 minutes. You don't want them to be completely cooked and too tender. Remove the cauliflower and run some cold water over it to prevent further cooking. Place the florets in the bowl of a food processor (I used a blender). Pulse the mixture for a few seconds until finely chopped (like cauliflower rice).
  2. Transfer cauliflower to a medium sized bowl, add the chickpeas, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix and mash the chickpeas with a fork (you can use the food processor for the chickpeas too. Your choice). You should still see little bits of chickpeas. Stir in the flour until, 1 tbsp olive oil, the mashed tofu and mix until your mix is fully combined and the flour is absorbed. Taste the mixture for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  3. Divide the mix into 4 equal portions and form patties with your hands. Place the patties on a plate and let them rest in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
  4. Heat a good slick of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Place the burgers in the pan. Depending on the size of your pan you could cook two at a time. Fry until one side is golden (about 2 minutes) and then gently flip them over.
  5. Remove from the pan when the other side is golden. Keep warm on a parchment lined baking sheet in a low oven. Repeat with remaining patties. Serve hot with lettuce wraps/buns, avocado, tomatoes, red onion or whatever you fancy!
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/chickpea-cauliflower-veggie-burger/

Easy Palak Paneer

saag-paneer-0347 Let me introduce you to Mr. Palak Paneer, a North Indian cuisine dish where Paneer (Indian farmer’s cheese) is immersed in a thick curry sauce based on pureed spinach with garlic ginger and garam masala.

saag-paneer-0383 Guess what does Palak mean? Yeah, spinach.

Palak Paneer is a type of saag (leaf-based dish made from spinach in addition to mustard leaves, finely chopped broccoli or other greens) which is slightly more watery than other plant-based curries.

saag-paneer-0337 While I devour this dish with my hungry eyes (yes, hungry eyes, why not?) I can’t help but think of the mess my latest post has spurred. Tons of emails have clogged my inbox after I told you about my unemployment status.

saag-paneer-0386 No. Just joking. I’ve only got a call from my worried mum. Which, to tell the truth, has the same effect of 300 calls concentrated in an hour.  A long call from an Italian extra caring and worried mum… Can you feel my pain?

Allow me to use this post to reassure my mum. Mum, as you can see from these pictures here I can still eat. And I can still feel lucky, like the luckiest girl in the world, actually. As The Boss (Bruce S.) would say (=sing) I’m working on a dream. “Now the cards I’ve drawn’s a rough hand, darling. I straighten the back and I’m working on a dream”.

saag-paneer-0361 p.s. For an extra kick of flavor you can fry the Paneer cubes before adding them to the spinach sauce. To make a vegan Palak curry substitute Paneer with tofu and cream with coconut milk.

Palak Paneer

Ingredients

  • 200 gr baby leaves spinach (4 cups chopped Spinach
  • 200 gr paneer, cubed
  • 3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 green chilly, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
  • 1½ tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp garam masala powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • 1 tbsp dry fenugreek leaves
  • a pinch of turmeric (to add color, optional)
  • salt

Instructions

  1. Wash the spinach, making sure to clean it thoroughly.
  2. Blanch the spinach in hot water for three minutes or until wilted. Drain into a colander and run cold water over it. In a food processor or blender, blend spinach to a smooth paste and set aside. (I haven't blended all the spinach since I like my curry to be thicker. Keep a bunch of spinach aside and add it at the end to the sauce if you want a thick palak paneer)
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the cumin and fry for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, and fry over a low heat for about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies and cook for a further minute.
  4. Add the ground coriander and salt to taste. Cook for another 30 seconds then add the spinach and a splash of water if necessary. The mixture should be loose but not watery. Bring to a boil and then simmer for three minutes.
  5. Add the paneer cubes, garam masala, turmeric (optional) and cream. Stir and cook for a few minutes or until the spinach is nice and creamy. Serve with long grain rice or naan bread.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/palak-paneer/

On Boats and a Cookery Class Experience in London

oldelpaso-0055 A cookery school makes sense to me now. Now, not in the past. I always believed that reading a recipe (most of the time from an online source) would be more than enough to make me able to replicate a dish, whether its culinary origin is. I had to go through a long series of disasters in the kitchen, especially in the “minefield” of cakes and desserts, before I could realize that having some little guidance here and there can only be helpful.

oldelpaso-0059 Having classes and learning from them is the fastest and probably more effective way to learn how to cook something you’re not familiar with. Sure, not all classes deliver the same amount of quality information and knowledge, being the effectiveness of the class strictly related to your basic knowledge and the effort a chef is willing to put into his teaching. Personally, I enjoyed all the culinary classes I attended so far (which infers that I’m either extremely culinary ignorant or an enthusiastic learner).

oldelpaso-0061 Let’s be clear, I can’t afford a culinary class every time I want. Luckily for my finances, this time I was invited by Old El Paso, a brand already established in the 1938, that went global only after 1969, when Mexican food became increasingly popular and that’s almost everywhere here in London. You can also find it somewhere in my blog since I like their products. I was invited to learn about their new type of tortillas (=eat all the food available at the Underground Cookery School).

Stand ‘N’ Stuff Tortillas. Have you already heard about them? Not the usual tortillas.

oldelpaso-0062 Tortillas that have been especially designed to ensure we get all the  mouth-watering filling in one bite. Tortillas shaped like a bowl, Old El Paso explains. For me, tortillas shaped like little boats. Yes, boats to bite and devour.

oldelpaso-0064 So how do these tortillas boats look like? Where are the boats?! All in my stomach? Right. Truth is that I got so much involved into the “eat-your-own-food” part of the class that I forgot to take pics of my tortilla boat. Wait, the boats will star in my next blog post (or here, if you’re too curious to wait).

In the meantime let me tease your appetite describing the succulent filling of the tortillas we got to prepare during the class: mixed beans slow cooked with onions and spices, fresh lettuce, guacamole, pepper, aubergine and cauliflower stir fry topped with grated cheese, tangy salsa and a drizzle of cooling sour cream. Enough said? Let’s add an uncountable number of perfectly spiced sweet potato wedges. At the end of the class the “Stand ‘N’ Stuff” title was appropriate  to describe both the tortillas and me as gluttonous participant of the cooking class.

oldelpaso-0072 Speaking about the class, do you want to know what I learned?  How to cut an onion like a chef and how to make a flour-less melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake and, last but not least, guacamole. I mean perfect guacamole, not just the ordinary one. Not that I did not know how to make guacamole before this class (let’s be honest I am not a chef but a food blogger. I still know how to make guacamole, though!). Since the chef teacher was hilarious, entertaining and patient, the other participants were as hungry as me, if not more, I also enjoyed making something I’m already familiar with. The chef made us “team guacamole” working in prefect harmony while the team “meat” was busy with corpses of chickens to dissect, an activity that for obvious reasons I skipped.

Moral of the story: 1) if you fail at getting your hands on a perfect avocado, forget about fresh and delicious guacamole. You add onions, coriander, lime zest, lemon juice, tomatoes and salt but it’s still not “that” guacamole if the avocado is not perfectly ripen. 2) If you attend a cookery class (and pay for it) make sure to be clear about your dietary needs. If you cannot wrap a tortilla and eat it without spilling something like the 30-60% of the filling you may need to get on board these handy boat tortillas. It’s a tasty ride, I promise.

oldelpaso-0086

 

Easy Zucchini Ricotta Cakes

zucchini-ricotta-fritter-0132 I had very little expectations about this recipe. I was 85% sure the recipe wouldn’t work, the ricotta wouldn’t be firm enough to bind the ingredients and, in the end, the patties/fritters would crumble and take apart in the pan. I was mentally prepared for the disaster.

zucchini-ricotta-fritters-0096 It worked, instead. Against all the odds.

Was I just lucky? No. It seems that mixing the right amount of ricotta, eggs and breadcrumbs can lead to one of the best recipe for zucchini cakes that you’ll ever have.

zucchini-ricotta-fritters-0105 To my great surprise, I could shape spoonfuls of the zucchini batter into 3-in. (diameter) patties with hands without leaving any ingredient behind. Without shouting in my head “Why the hell did I start making this?”, I mean. A question that I happen to ask myself almost every time I leave the more familiar field of pasta-based recipes.

zucchini-ricotta-fritters-0120 Seriously, this recipe is very easy. I find it more complicate to describe! After carefully dropping the cakes onto the sizzling pan and waiting a couple of minutes for each side to become firm and golden, it’s all about eating zucchini cakes with a melt in your mouth texture, creamy but not in the heavy way.  I believe that along with a side, these fritters would be a perfect addition to a healthy quick lunch.

zucchini-ricotta-fritters-0122

Are you a ricotta lover like me? What’s your favorite ricotta-based recipe?

Zucchini Ricotta Fritters

Yield: 7-8 fritters

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini, washed and thinly cut into sticks
  • 80 g ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumb (or more to get the desired firm consistency)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon zest from a lemon

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the zucchini (cut into sticks), ricotta, egg, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir well, then stir in the breadcrumbs just until incorporated. Let the batter rest for 20 min in the fridge.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil until shimmering.
  3. Shape spoonfuls of the zucchini batter into 3-in. (diameter) patties with your hands (careful, if you make them too thin they will break apart). Working in batches, add the patties in the pan with 1-2 tablespoons of oil. It is easier to flatten the patties with a spoon while in the pan, so you can try to flatten a little more at this point.
  4. Fry over moderately high heat, adding more oil when necessary, turning the patties once, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Drain the fritters on the paper towels and serve right away, with lemon wedges.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/zucchini-ricotta-fritters/