Saturday, 23 April 2011

Aubergine Lasagne

More than a month after the Canada trip I'm still battling to lose those extra pounds. That's canadian pancakes up there. For breakfast. With bacon. In case you wondered what exactly I ate to gain them.
My newest angle is metabolic typing, and according to that, I need more protein and wayyyy less carbs. So, I'm aiming for a low calorie high protein content in my food. Not easy, I tell you.

Pasta? Off the plan. Bread? Suddenly a guilty pleasure. And it's not like you can just dig in the bacon and egg, either - too much fat, and you overshoot your calorie goal. And that's the tricky part - not a lot of protein rich food out there that doesn't also contain a lot of fat.

Well, nobody said it's gonna be easy. All a girl can do is try, right?

So here comes my lasagne - I substituted the lasagna sheets with dried aubergine (that's eggplant, for you american folks). It wasn't perfect, but worked out pretty well for a first try. Things to make better: more aubergine slices, and possibly take off the skin - they turned out a bit chewy, which I mostly liked (and suspect will be fine tomorrow, when I reheat the lasagne). But worth a try to see if leaving the aubergine skin out makes it better.

Aubergine Lasagne (feeds 4):

1 large Aubergine (keeping in mind my previous statement about improvement, you might wanna go with two)

500g lean beef mince
1.5 cups of cooked Lal Chori Dal (Cow beans)
1 small red onion
1 rib of celery
1 clove of garlic
1 can of chopped tomatos
2 tbsp of tomato paste
some water

2 tbsp of butter
all purpose flour
1 cube chicken stock

salt, pepper, chili flakes or powder, paprika powder, ketchup
grated cheese (in my case, mature cheddar)

Step One:
This can be done the day before you make the lasagna. Or at any point, really, as you can easily freeze the dried aubergine slices.
Slice the aubergine thinly lengthwise (not more than 5mm). Salt sparingly, lay out on a tray lined with baking sheet and put it into the oven. Turn once after a couple of hours. At 80C mine took about 4 hours. They should be dry, but not crisp.

Step Two:
Cook Chori Dal. For above mentioned reasons, my tomato sauce is half beef, half lentils - you can mix like I did, go full veggie by omitting the beef, or leave the lentils out. Up to you :D
If you use the Chori Dal (more protein, more fibre, less fat ... not that I'm preaching!), clean them carefully. Soak for at least 2 hours, better overnight. I used 1.5 cups dried lentils, and had leftovers for a salad. Put them on to cook with ample water covering them. Don't salt them just now, that stops them from getting tender. If you like, you can flavor them with bay leave, garlic, chili, other herbs. I used a bay leave, a chili and a slice of ginger.

Step Three:
Make bolognese.
Chop the onion, the garlic and the celery finely. Fry in a pan over medium heat until soft, add beef mince, turn heat up and fry till browned. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika. Add tomato paste, the can of tomatos, and some water if it's not saucy enough.
Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Add a splash of ketchup.

Step Four:
Make bechamel sauce.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add flour - I apologize for being a bit cryptic on measurements here, but I never measure. I learned to make this by "adding flour till it forms a ball", and that's still how I make it. Well, actually, I'm going for a less bally than thick pasty look of butter-flour-mix these days, but you get the drift. So, add flour until it nearly forms a ball (ha!), then add a splash of milk. Stir with a whisk. Add more milk. Stir more. Go on like this, adding a bit of milk at a time (about 2 tbsp) until you have a thick, but liquid sauce. Add more milk to desired consistency (Gluey - you know, not fully liquid, but by no means like pudding. That's how I call it, anyways. Thick cream would work, too).
Season with salt, pepper, and a crumbled chicken stock cube - you might want to add a piece at a time, to avoid overdoing it. In my case, it came out needing one exactly.

Step Five:
Start with a layer of beef-lentil-sauce. Layer the auberine slices on top. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with bechamel. Another layer of aubergine. Then more tomato sauce. Drizzle some bechamel over it, top with cheese.
Into the oven it goes, at 180C for 30 - 40 minutes.

Step Six:
Food coma. I'll leave this to your imagination :D

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Soy mince bolognese

While I thought I'd blog a lot more when taking a sabbatical between jobs, the opposite happened ... then the new job started with a 4 week trip to Kelowna, Canada, and I realized that I never stayed in a hotel for 4 weeks. Nor do I wish to repeat the experience. It sounds quite luxurious to eat out every night (and morning and lunch), but in fact it's rather depressing. The food was good, mind you, it just wasn't my food. And of course I put on an undisclosed amount of extra weight.

Which is why now a lot more vegetables are featuring on my menu. And low-calorie substitutes for staples. Like soy mince for beef mince.

So, without further ado, here's the recipe:

Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce 

1 pack of soy mince
700 ml pureed tomatoes (a big tin of canned tomatoes will work, too)
1 medium yellow onion
1 medium carrot
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chili (optional)
1/2 cup of red wine (optional)
a handful of dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh basil
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil 
 salt, paprika, black pepper

If you use them, soak the mushrooms for at least 15 minutes in cold water.
Cube the onion and carrot, finely chop the garlic and chili.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the onion and fry gently until translucent. Add the chili, garlic, and carrot. Add a sprinkling of salt, and continue to fry for another few minutes. Add the soy mince (be careful to read the instructions, they do differ, some ask for being soaked.), fry shortly, then add the wine. Let the wine cook away a bit, then add the tomatoe puree or tomatoes.
Bring to a boil, turn heat down low. Add bay leaves, sugar and the chopped mushrooms. For a bit earthier flavour, you can also add the soaking water. 
Let the whole lot simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until the sauce has the desired consistency.
Add salt, pepper and paprika to taste, and the basil. Serve over spaghetti with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Texas Jailhouse Chili - Slow-cooker edition

This recipe was found in the probably biggest german cooking community and recipe website, Or, actually, the recipe I based my variation on. Because, as the savvy reader will have guessed, I lacked certain ingredients, and thought others needed to be added. Seriously, chili without fennel seed?
The following is what I made out of this recipe called Texas Jailhouse Chili.

The first photo is at the start of the slow-cooking process, the last of the finished chili. And those in between - yeah, that's right, from in between!

Jailhouse Chile

400 g lean beef cuts
400 pork minced meat
1 can of tomatoes
2 - 5 cloves of garlic
2 - 5 chilies
2 medium onions

Sweet Paprika
Chili flakes
Fennel seeds
Unsweetened cocoa powder
BBQ sauce

Start by chopping the onions into fine cubes, and chop the garlic and chili - the measures are a bit fluid, basically from mild (2) to pretty spicy (5).
Heat a frying pan with about 1 tblspoon lard, and cook the onions over medium heat until they turn translucent. Add the pork mince, the garlic and chili, season with salt, pepper, and paprika.
In the meantime, get your slow-cooker ready.
Once the meat has browned a bit, transfer to the slow cooker. Add the can of tomatoes; fill about 1/4 with water to wash out all of the juice, throw into pan to catch all those juices too, and then add to the slow-cooker.
Put another tblspoon of lard into the pan, and fry the beef until it's nicely browned. Add to the slow-cooker.
I used dried majoram and thyme, that's why I crushed them in the mortar together with the pimento corns - about 1 tspoon each, and 6 pimento corns.
Add these and all the other spices, go easy on the salt, as the dish will lose liquid, so you'll want to wait with the final seasoning till it's done. I used about 1/2 to 1 tspoon on pretty much all spices - a little less paprika, a bit more cocoa (a heaped tspoon).
Let simmer on high for about 2 hours, then on low for about 4 more.

Once ready, you can serve with rice or beans or both. Crusty bread works well, too.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Fried penne with smoked tofu

This is a pretty typical lunch dish for me. Typical in so far as it's built around some left-over pasta. Add some fresh veggies, a handful of spices, and whatever else takes your fancy, and you have a whole new dish, making use of scraps, saving money and time.

Fried penne with smoked tofu
All measures in this recipe are approximates - it's more to give you the idea than a step-by-step instruction.

1 1/2 cups of pre-cooked penne (Rigatoni, in my case, but pretty much every other pasta will work, too)
1/3 red pepper
1 spring onion
1/2 cup cubed smoked tofu
1 egg
Chili-garlic sauce
Madras curry (I used hot, but mild will work just fine, too)

Heat 1 Tblspoon of veg. oil in a frying pan. Add the cooked pasta, and the veggies. Red pepper and spring onion was what happened to be in my fridge - you can pretty much use whatever you have. Brown onions, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage ... Keep the green end of the spring onion, cut into rings, to sprinkle over finished dish.
Fry for a couple of minues, until the pasta begins to take some colour. Add the curry, and the chili-garlic sauce. If you're in a more industrious mind than I was, you can of course use fresh chili and garlic. Or fresh garlic and dried chilies ... you get the idea.
When the pasta begins to crisp, and the veggies are done (but still have some "bite"), add the tofu and fry for a few more minutes.
Then add the lightly beaten egg, and keep stirring. A wooden spatula works great - oh, and this can of course be done in a wok, if you're so inclined.
Season with salt and pepper. Serve. I like to put a bottle of ketchup on the table with it, as it goes exceptionally well with this kind of dish. But I do understand if you think that's barbarian, and won't.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Quinoa Salad with lentils

From Kokori's Kitchen

After my visit in Germany, I'm equipped with a MOUNTAIN of marzipan and chocolates. Now, generally speaking, that's A Great Thing(tm), however, if you're fighting your weight like I always do, it means a few less-carb-more-veg meals need to be considered.

And because I had half an avocado left from last night's salad (which accompanied a teensy-tiny portion of mac'n cheese), I decided to make a Quinoa salad for lunch.

Quinoa Salad for 2

1/2 cup quinoa (cook like rice, 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water - I use my microwave rice cooker, but any other method you're comfortable with is fine)
1/2 cup green lentils, cooked (take care not to overcook them, or they'll turn to mush ... 10 - 15 minutes do the trick for me. I also add a pinch of salt, half a tsp of white wine vinegar, a small clove of garlic and one thai chili to the cooking water to give them a bit more taste)

1/4 cucumber, diced
5-8 cherry tomatoes, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 avocado, diced


1 tblspoon chopped parsley
1 tblspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 tblspoon (brown) sugar
1 tblspoon water
2 tblsoons good olive oil (I have the BEST EVAR. Yes, it's that good - a friend gets it from her parents, who make it from the olive trees in their southern french backyard. That's how good it is.)
small clove of garlic (optional)
a pinch of salt
1 tblspoon fish sauce (substitute light soy sauce if you don't want to use it or don't have any)
a few drops of lemon juice

Start by cooking the quinoa and the lentils, so they can cool a bit.
While they're cooking, mix the vinegar, sugar, water, finely chopped garlic, and olive oil.
Dice the cucumber, add to the dressing and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for min. 30 minutes, so the cucumber can "bleed" some of it's water into the dressing. Add diced onion and parsley.
By now, the quinoa and lentils should be cooked and cooled, and the other ingredients nicely chopped up.
Mix all well together, add fish sauce, lemon juice and freshly ground pepper, stir again, and enjoy.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Home made pasta FTW!

Today I decided I had earned a bit of a reward for all the stress in the last few weeks, and awarded myself a pasta maker. Well, a few other things, too, but none of those produce edibles, so we'll keep quiet about them.

Argos, £16.99 got me the desired machine, and of course I immediately set about to make some pasta. Tortellini was what I wanted, as I have not dared buy any filled pasta since my dairy intolerance was detected. I had unpleasant experiences even with stuff that assured me on the label no dairy whatsoever was involved.

First step - find a pasta dough recipe. Easy enough, although all I found were for like 5 pounds of pasta, and that's a bit much for tiny me. So I made a smaller batch of dough.
I used plain white flour, as the biggest supermarket close to me didn't have the desired 00 grade flour.

2 cups of flour, 2 eggs, half a tspoon of seasalt, a few drops of water gave me something that looked promising.

This went into the fridge for about an hour, and in the meantime I ravaged my fridge for things to make a filling with.
I found:
pancetta cubes
some brown mushrooms
a piece of parmesan
an egg
some old bread I shredded into breadcrumbs (about 1 tablespoon)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
half an onion
a clove of garlic
some dried porcini

I started by soaking the dried porcini in some water, then fried the pancetta in a bit of olive oil, added the onion, cooked that over medium heat till it started to brown a bit, added the mushrooms. When the liquid from the mushrooms had been absorbed, I threw the whole lot into a food processor, added the re-hydrated porcini, the bread crumbs, the coarsely grated parmesan, most of the lightly beaten egg (I kept some to seal the tortellinis), and whizzed it into a moist, but not liquid mousse.

Then I spent the better part of the next hour making about 12 tortellini ...
It's rather time consuming, if not complicated, this pasta making.
Take the dough out of the fridge, and cut off an about golf-ball sized lump.
Run that through the pasta maker on it's widest setting. Fold in half, sprinkle with flour, repeat. And repeat. And repeat - until the dough is elastic, but no longer sticky. At this point it dawned on me that my dough had a bit too much liquid, as I had to repeat these steps ca. 12 times until it was "right".
Once it has the desired consistency, set the machine one step smaller, and run it through. Repeat that until you're at the thinnest possible setting.

You can either make all the plates, and keep them separated by floured baking paper under a teatowel, or you can go batch by batch - I did the latter.

Once you have a plate of pasta dough, put it on a floured work top or wooden cutting board, and cut ca. 2 inch rounds (I used a cookie cutter).
Set about half a teaspoon of filling in the middle (or as much as you can get away while leaving enough space to close them), then smear some egg around the outer edge, fold in half and pinch together. Start in the middle and work your way to the sides, while trying to get any air out without the filling spilling.
Set on a lightly floured plate or tray.
The cut-offs can be kneaded into your next lump.

Once all of your dough and filling are used up (well, I ended up with quite a bit leftover dough when the filling was out, so I made a batch of tagliatelle out of it), you can either cook them right away, or freeze them. To do the latter, put them well apart on a tray and stick that in the freezer till they're frozen solid. Then you can re-pack them in a bit more space-preserving manner.

Cook in salted water for 2 - 5 minutes - they're done when they swim on top.
I just sprinkled mine with some molten soy margarine (butter would have been heavenly, sage butter even better ...) and that was it. They were delicious!

Well worth the hassle, but I'd strongly suggest to make them in batches to freeze. Seriously.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Spaghetti meatballs with preserved lemons

Not surprisingly, I'm always on the lookout for interesting food stuff - new ingredients, spices, and the like. Living in Brighton, there is a great choice around already, however me being the geek I am, online shopping is so much more appealing to me.

So I was pretty thrilled when I discovered Steenberg's online shop - organic fairtrade spices, condiments, baking ingredients and more. I just love it!

Of course I couldn't leave their site without ordering at least a few tiny little jars of spices, and I fully expect to stock my kitchen with a lot more of their offerings.
This time around, however, I restricted myself to Harissa with Rose (still waiting to be tested ... I'm thinking lamb tagine, maybe?), Cayenne Pepper (first used in this mornings breakfast of a tuna-and-tomato wrap), semolina flour (to go into my next bread) and a glass of preserved lemons.

Preserved lemons have been calling out to me for a long time. Having finally acquired a glass of them, I just had to do something with them, and since I'd already settled on Spaghetti with meatballs for today's dinner, that's where they went. Basically, I replaced the capers I'd otherwise have used with one tiny chopped lemon. Which worked GREAT, I'm happy to say.

The idea of this dish is to combine a rather fruity and a bit tangy sauce with the meatballs more on the salty and spicy side, and for me, this worked really well.

Spaghetti with meatballs, lemony version

500g lean beef mince
1 can of chopped tomatoes
a twig of rosemary
1 big clove of garlic
3-4 anchovy fillets
1 medium-hot green chili
1 medium onion
1/2 glass of red wine
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1 chili (I used a mild-ish sort today)
a good pinch of cayenne pepper
1 very small preserved lemon (mine would have just snugly fit onto a teaspoon)
3-4 dried tomatoes in oil
sea salt
black pepper

Chop up the one half of the onion, the garlic and the chili. Heat olive oil in a skillet, put in the onions and reduce to medium heat. Cook until they start to go tender, add garlic and chili, fry for a another couple of minutes. Pour in the wine, let it cook for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes.
Reduce the heat, and add the finely chopped dried tomatoes and preserved lemon - according to taste, you might want to just use the peel; I went for the whole lemon.
Add the sugar (it should soften the sharpness of the lemon, but you don't want it sweet), salt and pepper.
Let the sauce simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the anchovies, half of the garlic, the other half of the onion, and the rosemary very finely and mix with the beef mince. Add salt, cayenne and black pepper to taste. (If you like your meat-balls a bit fluffier, add some bread-crumbs and an egg to the mix; I left this out today). Use a teaspoon to form regular balls, add to the sauce after 30 minutes, put a lid on your pot and let it simmer for another 15 - 20 minutes.

Serve with spaghetti cooked al dente, and grated parmesan.