Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Samurai in Autumn

Pasta di Grano Saraceno con Pastinaca, Pancetta & Salvia
Buckwheat Noodles with Parsnip, Bacon & Sage


Eurasian? You're kiddin'!! Fusion? Or confusion? What kind of a dish IS this?! Well peoples... it is MY kind of dish- improvised, stylized- in case you haven't yet realized!

I looking in my fridge, thought of the the ingredients I had, the combinations of flavors I could create... and before I even knew it myself... this dish was on my plate! Wow- you are even getting poetry for your troubles tonight- haha!


I never thought I would be making this at the time, when I popped the parsnip into my basket of goodies at the market hall on Saturday. I was definitely planning on making a soup with it, which would have been a more typical thing for the Autumn season. And a favorite of mine at that.

And then THIS happened!

Thank goodness!


This was made in less than 10 minutes from less ingredients than you would think could possibly feed a grown man... but they not only did that- they also made him very, very happy at the same time!

One small parsnip, 1 Spring onion, 1 portion of buckwheat noodles (soba), 5-6 small sage leaves, 1 small handful of finely diced bacon and a little fresh parsley. And for a finishing touch, a little delicious Hoisin sauce to round off the seasoning and make it all extra delicious!


Not Asian, not European, not the typical kind of fusion dish either... I really don't know which category this should be listed under... other than delicious! The rich, earthy and nutty flavor of the parsnip is so intense that it brings the mild buckwheat noodles to life- the bacon and sage make it perfect for the season and the Hoisin adds a smooth and savory richness that brings it all together. What can I say? That is MY kinda food!


I halved the parsnip lengthways and then cut the halves into thin slices... well, the thicker ends in any case- the thinner ends made for a nice snack for the chef! The onion, finely chopped and the sage leaves left whole as they were so dainty and small... all done? Good! Then we are ready to get started!


First of all, I popped the buckwheat noodles into a saucepan of boiling water and turned off the heat. So much for them! They do cook very quickly and can over-cook very easily indeed. I have found that the best method for me to work with is to let them cook in the residual heat of a saucepan of boiling water after the heat has been turned off.

The bacon bits, parsnip slices, sage leaves and chopped onion all went into the frying pan, with no added fat, and fried together until the bacon became crunchy and the parsnip slices began to brown. I seasoned generously with freshly ground pepper and got ready to put my dish together!


I then passed the noodles over into the frying pan, with quite a bit of the water they had been boiling in (enough to cover the base of the pan and deglaze it) and let them continue boiling away on a high heat.

I added Thai fish sauce to season them, rather than using salt, and continued stirring for 2-3 minutes, until all the flavors had boiled together and into the noodles and ultimately, until all of the moisture in the pan had been absorbed and/or had evaporated away.


I served the noodles up, piping hot, with a generous sprinkle of finely chopped parsley and a drizzle of Hoisin sauce, plenty of freshly ground pepper... and let me tell you this! As simple as it is- the flavors are so strong, so intense and so good together, that you will soon realize that it is a good thing that it is left so simple! You would not need to add or take away anything at all to improve it!


Simple food- simply good!


Go grab your chopsticks and join me! You know you want to!


 Why make things complicated, when by keeping them simple, you can get down to eating more quickly? Haha! Only joking... but not really! There is some truth in there somewhere!


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

All Choked-Up!

Couscous Ebraico al Forno con Carote & Topinambour
Israeli Couscous Pilaf with Carrot & Jerusalem Artichoke


Pretty to look at, pretty easy to make... and pretty delicious to eat... that's exactly what this dish is! Using a few simple ingredients, having a bit of fun in preparing and being willing to go out on a limb a little, was all it took to make this wonderful meal- don't you want to give it a go too?

I love the flavor of topinambour, or "Jerusalem Artichokes" as they are also known... but never really know what to do with them! Soup is delicious... but obvious! But at the same time- the thing I decided to do with them should have been more obvious still... to combine them with Israeli couscous!


It may look like it was complicated to make, but actually it was almost literally childs-play! Which of course, made it the perfect way for me to relax after a tough day at work and to let me feel like an 8 year old in a art & craft class again- haha!


To prepare this great dish I needed 1 good cup of Israeli couscous, 2-3 topinambour, 1 large carrot, 1 red onion, 4-5 dates, 1 heaped teaspoon of Chorba spice and some fresh parsley and thyme.


The best part of making this dish? After enjoying playing with your food for about 5 minutes... you pop it into the oven for 20 minutes more and it takes care of itself! Oh yes- I like that!


Slice the carrot and the topinambour as thinly as you can and cut the onion in half and then into wedges- these will be your decorations... lovely, colorful and edible ones at that!


Chop the dates up rather finely, the parsley too and mix them together with the couscous and the chorba spice mix. If you do not have this spice mix, you can substitute it by using a few simple spices to give a similar flavor. Turmeric, coriander, ground ginger and a hint of cloves would be a decent combination.


Empty the couscous mix into your baking dish and add enough boiling water to cover it, then begin to lay out the topinambour slices from the outside...


 ... continue making things pretty with the carrot slices...

... then some thin wedges of red onion...

... and simply continue until the dish is pretty and full! Like I said- this is actually a lot of fun!


Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle generously with fresh thyme, sprinkle with olive oil, cover with aluminum foil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 15 minutes.


After 15 minutes, remove the foil and release some of that steam... careful now- that stuff's hot! And it will also have cooked the couscous through nicely and have the carrot, onion and topinambour almost ready to eat too! To finish it off, pop it back into the oven, under the broiler- and let those edges get toasty and brown!


The vegetables taste lovely, roasted with the salt, pepper, olive oil and thyme- the the couscous beneath is rich, spicy and sweet from the dates- a perfect combination! Even if I do say so myself!


This put topinambour right back to the top of my favorite ingredient list- at least for this evening, haha!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Croque 'n' Roll!

Pane Tostato con Zucchini, Pomodori, Pancetta, Olive & Scamorza Affumicata
Toated Bread, Zucchini, Tomato, Bacon, Olives and Smoked Scamorza Cheese


Cheese on Toast, "Croque Monsieur", Welsh Rarebit... all just "kids stuff" compared to this suppertime treat! How about upping your game just a little and making this big daddy of all the cheese sandwiches in the world? You know you want to!

Home tired-out from work and not feeling in the mood for making "a real meal", I started out thinking I would just toast myself a couple of rolls, with a little cheese and tomato, grab a mug of coffee and just have done with it. But then I did this instead! Yay!


Almost a savory bread pudding, although easy to make, this really did transform what would otherwise have been a snack into a real meal. It was easy, it was fun- and it was worth that extra little bit of effort it took to make it!


Armed with 2 rye bread rolls, 1 small round zucchini, 7-8 cherry tomatoes, a sprinkle of finely diced bacon, 4-5 black olives, 1 Spring onion, 1/3 of smoked Scamorza cheese, 1 cup of vegetable broth, a little fresh parsley and rosemary and a good pinch of dried oregano- I made myself a Mediterranean feast on toast!


Why not have fun with your food, even if you are only using really simple ingredients? For me, putting something nice together for supper after a hard day at work helps me to relax, unwind and settle down- and the feeling of satisfaction, as well of course as the great flavor, just makes for a good ending to the day- be it for family or friends, or simply for yourself... you deserve it as much as anyone else after all!


I cut the zucchini into quarters first and then cut the quarters into wedges, I sliced the cherry tomatoes and onion, turned on the oven to start it getting warm and grabbed myself a frying pan to get going! A hungry guy doesn't waste much time in the kitchen!


Into the frying pan went the bacon bits, the zucchini slices, the Spring onion and plenty of rosemary, which I fried together with no added fat, relying on the tiny bit of fat in the bacon to the the job- and it did it rather nicely as well! As soon as the zucchini began to brown on all sides, I turned off the heat and set it to one side.


I cut my 2 rolls into quarters and spread them out on a baking dish nicely and evenly.


I then added the zucchini wedges and tomatoes in-between the slices, added the olives, cut into smaller pieces, salt, pepper and a little dried oregano. I then sprinkled 1 cup of hot vegetable broth over everything nicely and evenly and covered the baking dish with foil.

Into the hot oven it went, at 200°C, for 10 minutes, to get a little steam bath and for all of the flavors to seep into the bread.

I then added the grated Scamorza cheese and a good pinch of fresh parsley and dried oregano- and doesn't that just look delicious?


Funny how what you would consider to be so little and such simple ingredients can suddenly seem so decadent and rich! And speaking of which, the finishing touch before it went back into the oven to finish baking, was the diced bacon that had remained in the bottom of the frying pan after browning off the zucchini... yum, yum, yum!


And 10-15 minutes later... voila! Golden brown, crispy on top and juicy inside, my suppertime sensation was ready to enjoy!

What more could you want than a snack like that?


Except for maybe just another slice!?!


Or why not just finish the whole thing off! I think that's a great idea... well of course, I would say that, because that is exactly what I did!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Get Reddy!

Zuppa di Barbabietola Rossa con Latte di Cocco, Curry Thailandese, Zenzero, Rosmarino, Salvia & Arachidi
Beet Root Soup with Coconut Milk, Thai Curry, Ginger, Rosemary, Sage & Peanuts


Autumn has arrived and so has my longing for warming, wonderful soup! Always comforting and always satisfying no matter what... soup always hits the spot... at least it does for me!

This evening, I improvised a little bowl of fusion, with fresh beetroot, rosemary and sage, crossed with ginger, Thai Massaman curry paste and creamy and delicious coconut milk... topped-off with chapped-up salted peanuts! Oh yes!


For one nice, big bowl of soup I needed 2 beets, about 2" of fresh ginger, 1 Spring onion, 4-5 leaves of sage, 1 stalk of rosemary, 1 teaspoon of Massaman curry paste, 1 small-sized can of coconut milk, a little fresh parsley and a handful of salted peanuts.


All I can say is that this was probably that tasty that a Russian would push his Borscht to one side and be tempted to try something new! I'm not kidding! Well, actually I am- but we all want to have a bit of fun now and again now, don't we?  


I diced up the beets and the Spring onion and finely chopped the ginger- that was all the prep-work involved! Other than opening one of those small 1/3rd-sized cans of coconut milk that is... and got busy making my yummy soup!


I began by heating up the coconut milk. As soon as it began to boil, I added the curry paste, the ginger and the herbs, seasoned with plenty of freshly ground pepper and some Thai fish sauce and let it bubble away for 5 minutes.


 After 5 minutes, I added the diced beets and the chopped Spring onion, stirred them in and topped up the saucepan with boiling water until the beets were just covered. I reduced the heat to a rolling simmer and left it to gently cook along all by itself for 15 minutes.


And after 15 minutes, the beets were almost cooked through, but the coconut milk and water had become a lovely, flavorful broth thanks to the spices, herbs and ginger... it smelled absolutely terrific!


I transferred all of the solids into a taller saucepan before blending them with an immersion mixer... and made sure to pull a tea towel over the top too! No reason to get the whole kitchen- including yourself splashed... because as pretty as that color may be. you will not be happy to have those stains to get rid of!

Of course, if you have a blender or mixer, that would be even better... but I haven't! So I couldn't! But that didn't stop me!

I added the pureed beets back to the broth in my saucepan and stirred it in again. I know some people would want to put this through a sieve and be all fussy about it and everything... but you know what? I LIKE to have some texture to my soups and don't particularly care for those smooth, strained soups myself, I find them boring... and I think that life's too short! So there!


I served up my soup, steaming hot, with a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley, a nice blob of coconut milk, a scattering of chopped, salted peanuts... and the end of my sprig of rosemary to make it a little prettier!


Simple, colorful and absolutely bursting with flavor- this is unmistakably one of my kinds of dishes! And I hope you all approve of it too!


Absolutely not a Thai recipe and absolutely no problem at all! It's always nice to try something new!