Crispy and Sticky Korean Chicken

This wonderfully crispy chicken in a sticky sauce is delicious. It is a speciality of Raquel – the lovely Filipino lady who helps us to look after my little boy now that I have gone back to work. Raquel often treats us to her fantastic cooking (Reuben loves her noodles with egg!) so I have asked her very nicely to teach me how to make some of her Filipino specialities. This is the first of a series of Raquel’s recipes -so watch this space!

Ingredients

  • Three chicken thigh fillets
  • 1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 of an onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of plain flour
  • vegetable oil (about a cm in the bottom of a small frying pan)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornflour / corn starch
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/8 cup of light soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup oyster sauce
  • 1/2 cup tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Method

First, chop the chicken into thin strips and marinade it in the dark soy sauce. Finely chop the onion and garlic and set aside for later.

Put the flour into a box with a lid, add the chicken and then shake it (with the lid on!) until the chicken is well coated in flour. Take a small but deep frying pan and heat a cm of oil, when it is hot add the chicken. Do not stir the chicken – this will knock the flour off and then it wouldn’t become crispy. Instead, leave the chicken to cook for a few minutes and then gently toss the chicken in the oil. Continue to toss the chicken until it becomes nice and crispy, then turn off the heat and set the chicken aside until the sauce is complete.

In a separate saucepan fry the garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the onion – you can use a bit of the oil from the chicken for this. While the onion is cooking take a large jug and add the cup of water, stir in the cornflour followed by the honey, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, tomato ketchup, sugar and ground ginger. When the onion is cooked (nicely translucent but not browned) add the liquid mixture and stir over a hot flame until the sauce thickens.

Taste the sauce and check that it is sweet / salty enough for your taste. Then add the crispy chicken (it should go without saying that you don’t want the excess oil!). Put into a serving bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve straight away while the chicken is still crispy.

Enjoy with rice – we had yellow rice, which had just a dessert spoon of turmeric added to the water before cooking.

Korean chicken

Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake

This recipe came about because I had ricotta cheese that I wanted to use up. All of the ricotta cheesecake recipes I could find online were for baked cheesecake – and I wasn’t sure that I trusted my oven enough for that (yes, I know, a food blogger with a dodgy oven is not ideal). The solution I came up with was to use the biscuit base from my sister’s lemon cheesecake and a chocolate ricotta mousse from Delia. It was delicious and I will certainly be making it again. It was a bit rustic looking because my little boy didn’t really want me to be in the kitchen so I was in a bit of a hurry, maybe next time I can make it a little more pretty.

Ingredients

for the base…

  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 level tablespoon caster sugar (optional, I think it is quite sweet enough without it)

for the filling…

  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 250g tub of ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of Cointreau, which is an orange liquor (Delia’s recipe used rum, the alcohol is of course optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of soft dark brown sugar
  • 200ml tub creme fraiche

Method

for the base…

The base needs making at least an hour before the filling so that it has time to set in the fridge.

First put the butter in a pan to melt (as slowly as your hob will allow). Next put the biscuits into a food bag and bash them until they resemble fine breadcrumbs – this is very therapeutic! Children love this part too! If you are adding sugar put it into the bag and shake it with the crumbs to mix, then stir the crumbs into melted butter. Press the mixture into the base of the dish you will be using for the cheesecake and put it into the fridge for at least an hour.

for the filling…

Melt 100g of the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water – the bowl should rest on the pan without touching the water so that the chocolate won’t burn. Grate the rest of the chocolate or chop it in a food processor and put it to one side for later.

Mix together the ricotta, Cointreau, sugar and two tablespoons of the creme fraiche. Fold this mixture into the melted chocolate and then add most of the grated chocolate – save about a tablespoon of it for decoration.

Spoon the chocolate mixture onto the biscuit base and smooth it with a knife (mine wasn’t at all smooth because I was in a hurry – oh well, next time!) and then top it with the rest of the creme fraiche and the grated chocolate. Put it in the fridge for at least an hour to set.

Enjoy!

p.s. for those of you wondering about the pretty drink I served it with, it was a martini served with frozen cherries. Delicious.

chocolate ricotta cheesecake
Chocolate

Huevos Rancheros

This post follows on nicely from the last one. The link? Both recipes were shared with me by Emirates cabin crew. A complete coincidence, but not surprising I suppose living where I do. I have decided that the best thing to do with the blog while living in Dubai is to collect international recipes – this recipe is number two in the series and shared with me by Raquel who is Portuguese – although the recipe is Mexican. You can follow Raquel’s travels on Instagram here.

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion
  • 4 tomatoes
  • a red pepper/ capsicum
  • a bay leaf
  • ground black pepper
  • a 400g can of beans (such as red kidney beans)
  • eggs (maybe one per person – how hungry are you?!)
  • chopped coriander or parsley to garnish.

Method

Chop one onion and throw it in a pan with some olive oil. Let it fry for a bit and add four chopped tomatoes, red capsicum to your liking, a bay leave and some ground black pepper. Add some organic tomato puree. Let it cook for 3 minutes. Add a 400g can of beans (I used red beans) and let it cook for 2 minutes. I smashed the beans a bit to release its flavor into the stew. Add the eggs (as many as you like), some salt and cover the pan. Let it cook for 5 minutes. At the end sprinkle some coriander or parsley and voilà!

Serve on a slice of bread.

Yum!

Czech Cherry Cake

Czech cherry cake
cherry cake
Czech cherry cake

One of my favourite things about living in Dubai is that it is such a diverse international community. I have been trying to decide what to do with the blog while I am here (British seasonal and frugal food doesn’t quite fit) and I think that collecting recipes from around the world may be the answer.

To start me off my Czech friend Tereza has taught me how to make her famously delicious cherry cake. She uses a special flour which she brings over from the Czech Republic, however I have tested the recipe with ‘normal’ plain flour and it still works very well.

Tereza tells me that there are three basic types of flour in the Czech Republic:

  • fine (hladka– which is ‘normal’ white flour),
  • semi-rough (polohruba– the one in the picture, used for the Cherry Cake), and
  • rough (hrubá– close to semolina).

Give the recipe a try and let me know how you get on!

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • a drop of vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g plain flour
  • the zest of one Lemon
  • a couple of handfuls of frozen cherries, defrosted

Method

Don’t forget to take the cherries out of the freezer! Pre-heat the oven to 180oC.

Whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla essence, half of the sugar and the oil. Next whisk the egg whites, adding the rest of the sugar until you have ‘soft peaks’ (as though you were making meringue).

Mix together the flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture and fold in, adding a splash of milk until it is the consistency of thick custard.

Fold in the egg whites along with the lemon zest. The lemon smells divine!

Pour the mixture into a ceramic oven dish. Coat half of the cherries in flour so that they don’t sink too much and put them on top of the mixture, followed by the un-coated cherries.

Bake in centre of oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting into pieces.

This wonderfully light cake can be served as a dessert with cream or with a cup of coffee.

Fish poached in a rich tomato sauce

Poached Fish

This is a dish which I came up with a few weeks ago. I often fry fish, but I had bought some tomatoes which were disappointingly too soft for salad and needed cooking, so I decided to make a sauce to poach the fish in. A much healthier option! I had a good idea in my head of how it would turn out, but it wasn’t until I was able to smell and taste that I realised that it had a distinctly Spanish feel to it.

I used Nile Perch, quite a strong meaty fish which is pretty cheap here in Dubai (we’ve been having a low-spend January). I served it with Buckwheat cooked with mushrooms (based on this recipe), and frozen peas because I hadn’t been organised enough to get any other green veg.

This served two adults and a child with some leftover.

p.s. I made it again last night and forgot to add the spinach, it was still very yummy!

Ingredients

  • a small onion
  • a couple of cloves of garlic
  • a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved (you could also chop larger tomatoes into chunks, I just happened to have cherry tomatoes which needed using)
  • a teaspoon of oregano
  • half a teaspoon of paprika (you can add more later to taste if you like)
  • a teaspoon of vegetable stock powder, or half a teaspoon of salt
  • frozen spinach – this is difficult to measure out because it usually comes in a big block. I banged the frozen block (while still in it’s packaging) on a hard work-surface to break it up a bit and used as close to a handful as I could.
  • a teaspoon of tomato paste
  • two pieces of a meaty fish, I used Nile Perch.

Method

It is best to make this in a large shallow pan with a lid if you have one.

Gently fry the finely chopped onion and garlic until soft. Next add the tomatoes along with the spices and stock/ salt and gently cook with the lid on the pan until the juices have come out of the tomato. Put the spinach in a jug or bowl and add just enough boiled water to cover it, when it has defrosted add the spinach and water to the tomatoes along with the tomato paste, turn the heat up and leave the lid off to allow some of the liquid to boil off (at this point I would start cooking the bulgar wheat). After about five minutes taste the sauce and add more seasoning if it is needed (this is all down to personal taste).

Turn the heat down so that the sauce is gently simmering and place pieces of fish on top of the sauce. Put the lid on and let the fish steam for about five minutes, then turn the fish over and cook for a few minutes longer. The exact cooking time will vary depending on the type and thickness of the fish; it needs to be served as soon as it is completely cooked through, if it is left much longer you risk it becoming a bit tough or rubbery.

Serve with the buckwheat and some green vegetables.

Janey’s Venerable Vegan Chilli!

Hurrah, a guest post – thanks Jane! It is so refreshing to be able to share someone else’s cooking and writing styles. I met Jane at a toddler group that I used to go to when I lived in the UK. She is a supermum (although I’m sure she doesn’t always feel like it) who has set up her own business making incredibly impressive party cakes. You can see her fabulous cakes here. This isn’t a cake recipe – I expect that she didn’t want to share her trade secrets!

I really enjoyed testing this recipe. We used smoked paprika because we couldn’t get hold of liquid smoke. The observant amongst you will also note that we missed out the sweetcorn – we were convinced that there was some at the back of the cupboard, but alas there was none. This made a huge amount of chilli – we should have invited the neighbours! I am looking forward to having it again as a freezer meal on a lazy evening.

vegan chilli

I love this “chuck it al in” chilli in January, a veg packed antidote to the over indulgence of Christmas and mercifully quick to temper one’s exhaustion at the thought of what to serve for tea (the eternal dilemma haha)! Protein rich, store cupboard friendly and super yummy with either long grain or wholegrain rice with some home-made guacamole or for vegetarians sour cream with chopped chives/grated cheese. The liquid smoke, if you can get hold of it, adds a super special magic and really does take it to a new level! Lastly, kids actually like this….all three of mine and this is a minor miracle as they all have such different tastes (I have a Venn diagram under a fridge magnet lol).

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red and 1 yellow pepper
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into batons
  • 1 broccoli head chopped into florets
  • 1-2 tbsp of chilli powder depending on your spice threshold!
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika or a splash of liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of oregano
  • 1 tin of chick peas
  • 1 tin of kidney beans
  • 1 tin of tomatoes (add a little veg stock if required)
  • 1 tin of sweetcorn
  • 1 tsp sugar (I would start with half a teaspoon and then add more to taste)

Method

I used a large, shallow pan with a lid.

1)  Saute the onion and garlic on a medium heat in the olive oil until starting to soften.

2)  Lower the heat and add the carrots and broccoli, plus the peppers, stir frying until they soften a little.

4)  Add the chilli powder, smoked paprika/liquid smoke, cumin and oregano and stir until the veg are thoroughly coated.

5)  Add the tomatoes and chick peas, as well the kidney beans and sweetcorn. Add the sugar and stir through.

6)  Simmer away on a low heat until the veg are cooked through but still a little al-dente and the liquid in the tomato base sauce has thickened (if it is still a little watery add some diluted cornflour to thicken at the last minute or add more liquid if vice versa…either another tin of toms or veg stock).

Serve as suggested above and enjoy!

vegan chilli

Mum’s Vegetable Pie

This is the delicious vegetable pie made by my mum, which I alluded to in my Bread and Butter Pudding post. It used up all the vegetables we had in the fridge, along with pastry and cheese which were left over from making New Year party snacks. A great using-up meal, and a special treat since I didn’t have to cook that evening (thanks mum!).

What is your favourite recipe for using up Christmas and New Year leftovers?

vegetable pie

Ingredients

  • one leek 
  • one carrot
  • a handful of mushrooms 
  • a handful of green beans
  • a splash of cream
  • a couple of spoons of cream cheese (we used a Middle Eastern cream cheese called Labneh, it is similar to Philadelphia cheese)
  • a small handful of hard cheese (we used stilton)
  • one egg
  • a sheet of puff pastry

Method

Saute the leeks and mushrooms together in oil or butter for a few minutes. Next blanch the carrots and beans and combine all the vegetables in a bowl  with cream, cream cheese and crumbled stilton. When this mixture is cool, stir in the beaten egg (it would be good to keep a little bit of the egg to one side to brush the pastry with).

Lay out the pastry on a baking tray and put the filling on one half (leaving space around the edge to seal the pastry parcel). Brush the edges with milk or egg and then fold the pastry over so that it has a lid and press down the edges with a fork. Brush with egg or milk and top with a grind of salt.
Bake at 180oC for approximately half an hour.

vegetable pie

Bread and Butter Pudding with Dates

Date Bread and Butter Pudding

I often don’t get through a whole loaf of bread before it starts going dry. I hate to waste things so I have been putting dry-ish bread in the freezer for months, with the aim of eventually getting round to making bread and butter pudding.

Now that it is January I am in fridge and freezer emptying mode; I do this every year to try and use up Christmas leftovers and decrease spending for a while. A week into the new year we had a fantastic leftovers meal of vegetable pie, invented by my mum, followed by bread and butter pudding made by Steve. A cheap delicious meal, no food waste, and an evening off from cooking for me – winner! Steve based the bread and butter pudding on a good-old Delia Smith recipe from our old family recipe book. He adapted the recipe to use dates instead of currants and candied peel, and omitted most of the sugar other than some lovely crunchy demerara sugar on top.

Ingredients

  • 8 slices of bread, buttered
  • a handful of chopped dates
  • 12 fl oz/ 350ml milk
  • 3 eggs
  • A couple of tablespoons of demerara sugar
  • Grated rind of a small lemon
  • Ground nutmeg

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC.

Rub butter onto the base and sides of a deep oblong baking dish (Delia Smith says a 2 pint dish, I just choose one which looks about right).

Butter the bread and cut it into triangles. Place a layer butter side up into the dish and sprinkle on some chopped dates, add another layer of bread and repeat.

Measure out the milk (you can add cream if you are feeling decadent or have some to use up, as long as it adds up to the correct volume). Add the whisked eggs to the milk and then pour over the bread. Delia adds sugar, the lemon rind and nutmeg to the milk, but I prefer to add them at the end for a delicious crunchy topping.

Sprinkle the sugar, lemon zest and nutmeg onto the top and then bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. It should end up lovely and gooey in the middle with a crispy top. The crispy sugar and lemon is delicious.

Chocolate Creams

Raspberry Creams

It has become one of Steve’s Christmas traditions to make hampers for some lucky few friends. I made a small contribution (this year I made Delia’s Chicken Liver Pate) but it is mostly Steve’s hard work. He finishes his teaching for the semester and (mostly) finds it calming making delicious treats in the kitchen, of the type that I would find far too fiddly and time consuming.

One of the favourites are mint creams, but it seems that Peppermint Essence is hard to come by in Dubai which led to some good experimenting this year. We had raspberry creams for the hampers, followed by orange creams for my Christmas present. What could be more romantic than chocolate made by your husband?… that he uses his wedding ring as the perfect size cutter (well cleaned first of course).

The basic recipe is based on one from The Crafty Larder, chosen because it doesn’t use raw egg white. Here, in his own words, is Steve’s method for making chocolate creams.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp flavouring (peppermint, raspberry, orange, etc.)
  • 2 tsp liquid glucose
  • 4 tsp water
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 100g 75% dark chocolate

Note that the quantity of water/flavouring may vary slightly and it may take a couple of attempts to perfect. If the mixture comes out too wet then add more icing sugar, if it is too dry then add a very small amount of water at a time.

Method

1.      In a bowl, mix the first three ingredients (plus food colouring if desired).

2.      Add the icing sugar and then thoroughly mix together to form a smooth workable dough, if the dough crumbles add water, if it is too sticky add some icing sugar.

3.      On a glass board sprinkle some icing sugar and then roll out the dough to a thickness of roughly 5 mm. During rolling sprinkle icing sugar to the surface regularly. You can place a sheet of baking/greaseproof paper on top to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. I however found this unnecessary. If the dough cracks during rolling then sprinkle more icing sugar.

4.      Using a cutter (my wedding ring is just the right size, cleaned of course) cut the dough into small rounds and place them onto a surface which is sprinkled with icing sugar. Leave them to dry for half an hour.

5.      Place a piece of greaseproof paper onto a tray that you can place into the fridge, flip the creams onto the greaseproof paper, then place them into the fridge overnight to continue drying.

6.      The next day melt the chocolate and dip the mints. I use a fork for this which produces an even coat, with relatively thin chocolate. I slide the chocolates on the fork slowly on their side, and then flip them such that the side that touched the fork is upwards. Depending on the temperature and consistency of the chocolate this will produce a texture to the chocolate surface. Place the coated chocolates back onto the greaseproof paper. During this stage you may add food glitter or an identifier of some form to the surface if you are making multiple flavours of chocolate creams.

7.      Place the chocolates back into the fridge to set. Once set they are done.

Using my wedding ring I make approximately 100 chocolate creams from this recipe.

It is then Kitty’s job to package them for the hampers, usually in greaseproof paper parcels tied with ribbon and a pretty label.

chocolate orange creams

Aubergine and Preserved Pepper Bake

This is the first recipe from my new kitchen… in Dubai! Yes, the ‘quiet year’ we had planned after the craziness of last year all went to pot when we moved half way around the world. Our possessions from the UK arrive today, hurrah! We have been rattling around in a rather empty apartment until now. As I have shared with you previously a kitchen with limited resources makes for some creative cooking… as does a  frequently breaking fridge-freezer it turns out. grrr. I am never buying a second hand fridge-freezer again!

There is nothing quite like a broken fridge-freezer to inspire a new use-it-up recipe. Sometimes these dishes are a bit ‘interesting’, however this one I will definitely make again. Past successes have included ‘disaster jam’ (can’t waste frozen fruit). I wasn’t sure what to call this one, ‘disaster vegetable moussaka bread and butter pudding’ – doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

aubergine

Ingredients

  • Dry bread, buttered
  • Two aubergine (Eggplant), sliced
  • One red pepper
  • Four tomatoes
  • Stuffed peppers preserved in oil
  • Salt, pepper and chilli flakes

Method

Pre-heat the oven to about 180oC.

Fry the pepper and tomatoes in some oil from the preserved peppers (the deliciously flavoured oil is too good to waste).

Place the bread butter-side down in an oven dish.

When the pepper and tomatoes have started to cook down add half to the dish as a layer over the bread. Add some of the preserved peppers, focusing on putting them in any gaps between the bread.

Add a layer of aubergine followed by the rest of the pepper and tomato mixture and the remaining preserved peppers.

Top with the last of the aubergine. Add a spoon of the flavoured oil onto each aubergine slice and season generously with salt pepper and a spice mix of your choice – I used BBQ chilli flakes.

Bake in the oven for approximately half an hour.

Enjoy!