Tuesday, August 20, 2013

If you're interested in the future of eating, the idea behind lab grown food or are just a bit of a science nerd, this is for you...

I just thought I'd point you in the direction of this really interesting article (that wasn't written by me although I would love to write something on this type of thing.) If you're interested in the future of eating, the idea behind lab grown food or are just a bit of a science nerd, this is for you. 


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Gorgeous food moments in the film Amelie

I adore the movie Amelie. You could say I am slightly obsessed with the main character. I love her hair, I love her apartment, I love her manner - and I especially love the film's numerous foodie moments. 

One of my favourites is when Amelie bakes plum cake (which is apparently actually a beautiful French cake called kouign amann, pronounced queen ah-mah, which translates to butter cake). When I first saw the film a few years ago, I made my own plum cake, although it wasn't using this recipe and I don't imagine it tasted nearly as good as the one in the film must taste (although a friend who tried mine back then kindly begged to differ. Thank you Elmien.).

Here is a link to Amelie's plum cake recipe. It looks gorgeous. Alas, I don't have an oven at the moment but as soon as I do, I shall be baking this beauty. (If anyone in Dubai has an oven they'd like to let me use, I shall share the cake with them...) http://whiskflipstir.com/2010/10/24/amelies-famous-plum-cake-kouign-amann/ 

As for the rest of the film, I've added links to my favourite food scenes below. They're not all about the actual act of eating, but they do celebrate the texture and, above all, the joy of food. And they are just gorgeous. And the music - oh, the music! (Can you tell I'm obsessed?)

Bon appetit! 

The film's quirky and beautifully choreographed opening scene (there is a little nudity in the form of a pregnant woman, so be warned, if you have kids)... 

Amelie likes the simple things in life... 

Amelie seeing her love in the cafe... 

Amelie baking plum cake... 

Amelie's revenge... 

Amelie eating by the TV... 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sumac and date chicken with browned asparagus, broccoli and sticky brown rice

I've been trying to eat healthier because I've been going to Bikram yoga classes and I want to look like Heidi Klum. I thought that three days of eating well and sweating like a concubine (during the Bikram yoga classes) would at least have me halfway there. But when I woke up this morning my cheeks were no higher and my buttocks no smaller. Damn it. But I won't give up! Which is why I made this dish for dinner tonight. It tastes amazing (if I'm honest, much better than I thought it would), is healthy and has a wonderful creamy texture that's quite similar to risotto. I hope you enjoy it!

What you need (makes 3 small servings)...

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped finely
  • 2 pinches of dried thyme
  • 120g long grain brown rice
  • 1 litre of water
  •  ½ chicken stock cube
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, roughly cubed
  • 1 tsp sumac 
  • 40g baby asparagus, ends trimmed, the remainder cut into one-inch pieces
  • 40g Tenderstem broccoli, ends trimmed, the remainder cut vertically 
  • 2 soft and sticky dried dates, pips removed, the remainder roughly chopped
What to do:
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium pot and once it's hot, add the shallots
  2. Add the thyme
  3. Cook the shallots and thyme on a low heat, stirring gently until the onions are soft and translucent
  4. Remove the onions and thyme from heat
  5. Rinse the rice in cold water and drain
  6. Add the rice to the onion and thyme mixture and put it back on the stove on a low heat
  7. Stir gently until the rice becomes translucent
  8. Add 550ml water and the stock cube to the rice and leave on low heat to cook down slowly
  9. In a large pan add the remaining olive oil and warm on medium heat
  10. Add the chicken cubes and cook the chicken until the cubes are white on the outside
  11. Add the sumac and stir into the chicken. The chicken will turn a pale pink colour
  12. Once the chicken is lightly browned on all sides, add the broccoli and asparagus and cook until the vegetables are lightly browned too. Let the moisture cook out of the chicken and vegetables. If the pan gets too dry add a splash of water
  13. Keep an eye on the rice and if it has cooked down, add water
  14. Once the vegetables and chicken are cooked, add the dates and stir so that they are partially dissolved into the mix
  15. Once the water you have added to the pan has evaporated entirely, remove the pan from the heat
  16. In the meantime the rice will be developing an almost risotto-like consistency. If it dries out add splashes of water and cook until soft and creamy
  17. Once the rice is cooked add it to the chicken mixture and stir well

Monday, July 29, 2013

Easy tartlets to cheat with...

My husband and I had our friend Chris (we call him Crystal Meth because his personality is so sparkly) over for dinner the other night. Because I am so naughty with the upkeep of my blog posts, I cannot for the life of me remember what I cooked for the main course. When I do I'll post it. For now though, no matter. What I do remember is that I made a cheat dessert in the form of ready-made tartlets and lemon curd. They're really quick to prepare and they look cute too. Happy eating!

What you need (makes about 6 tartlets)...
  • 6 ready-made tartlets (you can pick them up at most supermarkets)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup of lemon curd (again, you can find bottles of lemon curd at most supermarkets)
  • 2 handfuls of mulberries
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 1½ tsp of white sugar
What to do...
  1. Heat the oven to 180°
  2. Warm the butter in a saucepan until melted
  3. Paint the inside and outside of the tartlets with the butter and pop them into the pre-heated oven for about ten minutes or until golden
  4. Pour the lemon curd, cream and sugar into a bowl and mix well until the sugar has dissolved
  5. Take the tartlets out of the oven and let them cool
  6. Pour the lemon curd into the cooled tartlets leaving about half a centimetre from the rim of each
  7. Place three mulberries on the top of the lemon curd mixture
  8. Store the filled tartlets in the fridge to keep the berries fresh but remove them about 20 minutes before serving to get them to room temperature

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I am still alive!

Hello! It's been so long since I last posted anything on here that it’s almost the next ice age. I do apologise. I will also say – rather passive aggressively – “I told you I had problems maintaining my own blogs. What? Don't judge me!” **insert wink here**

So many things have happened since the last time I posted, the most momentous being that I got a new job as online editor at John Brown Media (www.johnbrownmedia.com) Guess what I am working on? FOOD magazine for Spinneys! (www.spinneys-dubai.com) For those who don't know, Spinneys is a massive supermarket chain and FOOD is the fabulous monthly print magazine that we create in collaboration with Spinneys. It is sold in all Spinneys stores across the UAE. Please do pick up a copy the next time you're there. It's only Dh7. Click on the image below to see recipes, our FOOD blog, our favourite foodie products and more.

So you see, food was always in my future?! No, I don't mean the next dish I am about to eat (which, by the way, will be iftar with my good friend Anna.)

To be honest, getting this job (which is really amazing) was one of the reasons I stopped posting so much. No, I’m not blaming anyone for my ludicrously lacklustre personal blogging style. It's just that it’s quite intimidating to be posting pictures of dishes that aren’t quite as gorgeous as the ones that FOOD magazine's stylists and photographers create. And their dishes are really super-styling-stunning-with-a-cherry-on-top. 

I'll put it into perspective for you. Next to FOOD's dishes, my meals look like they were fished out of a bin and then nudged into semi-fathomable shapes to be made ready for consumption by confined maximum-security prisoners who are on hunger strike anyway. FOOD's dishes are a millisecond away from being served to the Queen, Lenny Kravitz and Angelina Jolie (if she actually ate anything). They're beautiful.

Having said that, I guess I do have to remember that I am not a professional photographer or stylist, so for now you'll have to do with my cheap and cheerful iPhone pictures. I'm just hoping that the recipes I put up on my blog are at least tasty! **insert another wink here** (I’ll also take this opportunity to state that the recipes I put up on this blog have nothing to do with FOOD magazine or Spinneys. They come entirely from me and there is no cross over between my professional life and this blog. All of my thoughts and opinions on here are my own. I also feel like a trip to the Maldives, but that’s got nothing to do with either this blog or my professional life. Having said that, if anyone has any spare cash they’d like to throw my way so I can make my way to island paradise while sucking on a lolly, please message me.)

If you are interested in seeing what FOOD does though – and if you enjoy eating you should be people, you should be - here are links to FOOD's social media pages and blog. The magazine features absolutely stunning food photography (yes, I said it again) and amazingly simple but tasty recipes for you to try out. 

    •    More from FOOD blog - http://www.spinneys-dubai.com/index.php/more-from-food.html
    •    Find FOOD on Facebook - www.facebook.com/spinneysdubai
    •    Find FOOD on Twitter – www.twitter.com/foodmaguae
    •    Find FOOD on Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/foodmaguae

Happy reading and - more importantly - happy eating!

PS. I have to add that aside from making a dish look beautiful, there are two other steps to the creation of a successful meal:

1.)    It's really important to have fun while you're cooking.
2.)    Once you’re done cooking, it’s vital to totally savour the flavours of the meal you’ve so lovingly prepared.

So I guess what I’m saying is, whip up something with abandon and enjoy it no matter what it looks like. If it’s made with love, it’ll taste amazing.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Saffron, Honey and Ricotta Ice Cream Recipe

I've been going through an ice cream making phase, much to the delight of my husband and friends. When I was 17 I made honey and saffron ice cream by hand and the sweet saffron fragrance, pale orange hue and rich, honey flavour stayed with me which is why I decided to try it out again, this time using an ice cream machine and ricotta which adds an interesting texture to the mix. Happy eating!

Saffron, honey and ricotta ice cream (serves 6 to 8 medium-sized portions) 

What you need:

  • An ice cream machine
  • A double boiler (this will boil the milk slowly and evenly so it doesn't burn. It will also help prevent cooking the eggs in the custard.) If you don't have a proper double boiler you can use one pot over another (the bottom one with two to three inches of water). The most important thing is that the water/steam doesn't get into the milk mixture in the saucepan on top.
  • A jug or bowl with spout cooled in the freezer
  • A teaspoon of saffron strands
  • Two tablespoons of honey
  • 100g of castor sugar 
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 500g ricotta (broken apart with a fork so it's not too chunky)
  • 500ml full fat milk
  • 250ml double cream
  • A quarter of a cup of pine nuts
What to do...
  1. Put the saffron in the milk and heat until just before boiling point.
  2. In the meantime beat the egg yolks and sugar until the colour changes from golden to pale yellow.
  3. Add half the milk to the egg and sugar and stir well until everything is properly mixed.
  4. Pour the mix into the milk in the saucepan and stir continually with a wooden spoon until it thickens. When the custard coats the back of the wooden spoon it's ready.
  5. Remove from the heat and whisk in the double cream, then ricotta, then honey.
  6. Pour the mix into the chilled jug or bowl and let it cool for a few minutes.
  7. Pour the mix into the ice cream maker and churn as per the manufacturer's instructions or until the mix is frozen and has the texture of ice cream.
  8. While the ice cream is churning put the pine nuts into a saucepan and lightly toast them.
  9. Once the ice cream is finished, serve with a sprinkle of pine nuts and a drizzle of honey.

Wagyu steak, sweet carrot coins and butter broccoli served with wild rucola and parmesan salad

So here is the second recipe (for dinner) that I spoke about a few days ago in my Easy Peanut Chicken and Mango Salad recipe post. This dish is just as simple and quick to prepare. Happy cooking!

Wagyu steak, sweet carrot coins and butter broccoli served with wild rucola and parmesan salad (serves 2)

What you need:
  • Two wagyu steaks. (Remember the thicker the steak, the longer it will take to cook.)
  • Coarse salt (in a salt grinder)
  • Coarse pepper (in a pepper grinder)
  • Cold water
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • Two carrots
  • About ten florets of broccoli (a small broccoli head should be enough)
  • Ice blocks
  • Two teaspoons of sugar
  • Two tablespoons of butter
  • A box of wild rucola (rocket) leaves, rinsed
  • A cup of coarsely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
  • A sprinkle of olive oil for the salad
  • A sprinkle of white balsamic vinegar for the salad

Tips before we start...

Here are some guidelines for cooking steaks. I'm still working on my 'perfect steak' techniques but I've been doing some reading online and I came across these times which work well with the times I've used in the past. (I found these on this site: http://www.lobels.com/recipe/perfectsteak.aspx)

Rare (120-130°F)2 minutes each side
Medium Rare (130-140°F)3 minutes each side
Medium (140-150°F)4 minutes each side
Medium Well (150-160°F)5 minutes each side

Tips for working with wagyu meat...

Before you start cooking, remove steak/s from the packaging and let them sit on a plate to breathe for about 15 to 20 minutes so they warm up to room temperature.

To make the recipe...
  • Put the rocket in a bowl and grate pecorino or parmesan cheese on top. Drizzle a little olive oil and white balsamic vinegar over it. Toss and set to one side.
  • Rinse your carrots and cut them into carrot coins. Throw the ends away.
  • Cut off the trunks of your broccoli and rinse. Break it into bite-size florets.
  • Fill a medium-large saucepan with water and bring to the boil.
  • Drop the vegetables into the water once it's boiling and cook until tender. (2 to 6 minutes.) To test if the vegetables are tender take one of each out and bite into them.
  • Once cooked, drop the vegetables into the ice water. This will stop the residual heat from cooking them further and will keep them crisp until you want to butter them.
  • Heat two small saucepans.
  • Put a tablespoon of butter in each.
  • Melt the butter in each.
  • In the one you'd like to cook your carrots, put two teaspoons of sugar and stir until the sugar melts.
  • Add the carrots once the sugar is melted and cook until golden. They shouldn't crisp but they should change colour.
  • Put the broccoli into the saucepan with no sugar and cook for a few minutes until the edges are just wilting.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, take your steak/s and poke it with a few holes using a fork. Grind some salt and pepper into a bowl and add a drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon) to the mix. Baste the mixture on one side of the steak using a basting brush. Remember to leave a little for the other side.
  • Heat a large non-stick or cast-iron frying pan. Make sure it's large enough so that each steak has a decent amount of empty space around it to cook properly. I wouldn't recommend cooking more than two steaks in one pan at a time.
  • Once the frying pan is very hot, put the steak (salt-and-pepper-basted side down) in to the frying pan. It should sizzle when it hits the pan.
  • There should be enough olive oil basting on the steak for it not to smoke until the time you have to turn it over, but if it does, dip your fingers into the cup of water and flick the water into the frying pan to add a little bit of moisture to the steak so that it doesn't dry out or burn. This will also cool the pan down a little. Don't put too much water or the steak will lose its colour and flavour. This might sound funny, but to make sure the steak sucks up the water and then steams it out evenly, take a spatula and hold the steak down in the pan, turning it around and around like a record as you do so. This will encourage it to suck up the water and cook without getting watery.
  • Before you turn your steak over the first time, remember to baste the top with the olive oil, salt and pepper again. You can just baste it while it's in the frying pan.
  • Turn it over as per how you'd like your steak done. (See the table above or go to the link above for more steak cooking time tips.)
  • Once the steak is cooked, take the vegetables and steak off the stove and serve hot with rocket and pecorina/parmesan salad.
  • Enjoy!