Soy salmon

Like the self-respecting grown-up that I am, I spent the last month indulging in pretty much every kind of food and drink that is bad for you. And now, I’m trying to eat all the greens, in a desperate attempt to get my body to forgive me. I haven’t been able to give up the carbs and I never will, but there has been minimal meat, lots of vegetables and always a poached egg.

This is one of the slightly more involved things I made last week (which tells you a lot about the levels of effort around here). I fancied some salmon as apparently those omega-3 acids are good for you, but the rest pretty much fits the pattern. The recipe below is intentionally/lazily (delete as appropriate) vague, as I never really measure things like garlic or chilli. More fun that way.

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Soy Salmon

Ingredients:

salmon fillets (one per person), cut in slices if you like
soy sauce
brown rice vinegar
fresh ginger
chilli flakes
garlic
one spring onion per person
rice or noodles
vegetables of your choice
one egg per person
black and white sesame seeds

Marinate the salmon in soy sauce, rice vinegar, some chilli flakes, ginger, and an indecent amount of garlic. Add also the white part of the spring onion, thinly sliced.
Set the rice to boil. Rice noodles or udon would also be good here.
Cook the vegetables — I stir-fried mushrooms and boiled some cavolo nero.
Heat a small amount of sesame oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the salmon, together with the marinade. When it’s done, mix with the vegetables, serve on your carbs of choice and top with a poached egg, the green part of the spring onion in slices, and sesame seeds. Feel slightly healthier than before.

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Courgette fritters

I always thought of courgette fritters as something you order at a greek tavern and because they taste so amazing I assumed they would be too difficult to make at home. I do have an irrational fear of deep-frying too so that might have contributed to my reluctance. It turns out they are pretty easy, and you can shallow fry them instead. We even made a “diet” version by dry frying them on a non-stick pan. They turned out less like fritters and more like savoury pancakes, but still tasted great. I added a red pointy pepper for sweetness and some chili for a bit of a kick.

Courgette fritters

Ingredients (serves 3 as a main)

2 large courgettes, grated
1 red pointed pepper, chopped finely
3-4 spring onions, chopped finely
150 gr feta, crumbled
1-2 chillies, chopped finely
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried dill (or a handful of fresh dill, chopped)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
pinch of salt
lots of ground pepper
2 eggs
about 4 tbsp flour, to get the right consistency

Mix all the ingredients together, adding the flour slowly and mixing until you get a gloopy but not too thick consistency. In the meantime, heat some sunflower/olive oil in a frying pan; you want plenty to cover the bottom of the pan and be about 1/2 cm high. With the pan over medium-high heat, use a tablespoon to carefully drop some mixture in the pan and slightly flatten the top. Cook on one side until golden brown and then flip it to cook the other side. If they seem to be cooking too quickly you can turn the heat down a bit, as you don’t want them to still be raw on the inside. A few minutes on each side should do. Remove and place on kitchen roll to absorb the extra oil.

Serve these with tzatziki (garlicky yoghurt with cucumber) for dipping. They are also perfect as part of a greek meze dinner, as I did recently, serving them with spetsofai, a slab of feta and lots of crusty bread.

Croque Madame

This is one of my favourite sandwiches ever and so great for a weekend lunchtime treat. I’ve been trying to recreate my favourite version for a while and I think I’ve finally got the balance right – turns out you can have too much bechamel sauce. Would would have thought it.

Anyway, since I’m running out of words (unless you want to hear about fracturing toughnesses and patterned grounds) I’ll go straight to the recipe.

Croque Madame 

Ingredients (makes 4)

3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp olive oil (you can use butter, but I’m Greek)
less than a pint of milk (excuse the vagueness but I never measure – you should be able to tell from the consistency of the sauce)
1/2 to 1 tsp of english mustard (to taste)
pinch of nutmeg
salt and black pepper

8 slices of bread
lots of cheddar (about 2 cups when grated)
4 slices of ham

Quickly fry the flour in the fat over medium heat until you’ve got a paste – do not overcook or your sauce will taste biscuity. Take off the heat and add a splash of milk and incorporate until you’ve got a smooth mixture. Turn the heat on again on low-medium and keep adding milk and mixing until the mixture is thick. You want it to be slightly thicker than normal bechamel so make sure you don’t add too much milk. Stir in the mustard, salt and pepper, and let it cool slightly.

Start preparing the toasties: spread about half a tablespoon of bechamel on one side, top with grated cheese and a slice of ham, and toast them using a panini press or a griddle pan. If you’re doing it on the hob, make sure it’s on medium heat as you don’t want the bread to toast before the cheese is melted.

Turn the grill on to preheat. When the toasties are golden on both sides, top with a tablespoon of bechamel each, and then more grated cheese. Place under the grill for a few minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is starting to brown. In the meantime, fry 4 eggs – I did them all in one large frying pan, so it didn’t take long.

To serve, just top each sandwich with a fried egg.

Thai Chicken Soup

I think winter finally caught up with me a few weeks ago. After months of cycling to and back from work at minus temperatures, my body decided it had enough of the cold. As it was a really bad time to get ill, I did the only obvious thing: I boiled some chicken.

Now, I’m happy to admit that I love plain chicken broth, with some rice thrown in and a good squeeze of lemon. It’s what I always ate as a kid when I was ill and it is the first thing I turn to when I start feeling a bit fragile. But apparently*, it’s rubbish. Boring. Greasy. Tasteless.

And therefore, I’ve discovered this spicier, more sophisticated and grown-up version of it. It tastes good and it might even be better for you because of all the green things in it.

Thai Chicken Soup

Ingredients (serves 4)

500gr chicken (if using legs/thighs, remove the skin)
2 litres hot water

2 aubergines, cut in chunks
2 red chillies, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small piece of ginger, minced (about 1cm squared)
1-2 tsp thai green paste

juice and zest of one large lime
2 tbsp thai fish sauce
400ml coconut milk
a large handful of kale

300gr rice noodles
chopped fresh coriander (to serve)
lime wedges (to serve)

First, quickly brown the chicken pieces in a pan and then add the hot water and let it cook for about 1-2 hours to make the stock. Alternatively, you can use leftover chicken meat and ready-made stock. But where’s the fun in that.

In some olive/vegetable oil, brown the aubergines and add the chopped chillies, garlic, ginger and thai paste. Fry for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Shred the chicken and add it to the pan together with the stock, the juice and zest of lime and the fish sauce and cook for 20 minutes, or until the aubergines are tender.

Add the coconut milk, simmer for 5-10 minutes and then add the kale and simmer until cooked. Check for seasoning and add more fish sauce if necessary.

Prepare the rice noodles according to the instructions. To serve, put some noodles in a deep bowl, ladle in some of the broth making sure everyone gets a nice amount of chicken and vegetables (I fight for those aubergine pieces!) and top it with chopped coriander. Serve with lime wedges.

*”apparently” = “according to the boyfriend”.

Sausage Muttar

Don’t you just love it when something comes together with no planning, almost by chance? I was feeling hungry but lazy the other day and, somehow, it was one of those days that I didn’t fancy a big plate of pasta for dinner. It doesn’t happen very often, so I’ve got to embrace it when it does. In an effort to be healthy, I thought peas. And, you know, spices are good for your metabolism. And sausages…well, I can’t justify the sausages. But I don’t have to. They taste good.

Sausage Muttar

Ingredients (serves 5 as a side)

5 sausages
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil, for frying
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
2 tsp garam masala
500 gr frozen peas
2 tbsp tomato puree
salt, to taste

First, place the sausages in a tray and cook in the oven – how long for will depend on the type of sausages used.

Fry the onions in some oil until soft. Add the garlic and the spices and fry for a couple more minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the frozen peas, cook until defrosted and then mix in the tomato paste and some water and bring to the boil. Cook until the peas are soft.

Keep checking on the sausages – when they are ready, cut them into inch-thick pieces and add to the peas. Let everything simmer for 10 minutes, season with salt and serve with some naan bread.

This was unexpectedly good. I loved the contrast between the sweet peas and meaty sausages, and the Indian spices made this perfectly fragrant and slightly hot. Sausage might not be hugely traditional but I can see this becoming a favourite either by itself or as part of a curry feast.

Aubergine and Anchovy Pasta

This dish might not look like much, but it really does pack a punch. The aubergine makes the sauce creamy and thick, while the anchovies are really the dominant flavour. I’ve been quite vague about the amount of anchovies you should use in the recipe, as it really depends on your taste. I used four, and it was strong. I was not sure about the cheese/anchovy combination, but it works really well. Just don’t eat this before a date – you’ve been warned.

Aubergine and Anchovy Pasta

Ingredients (serves 2-3, depending on appetite)

300 gr linguine
1 aubergine
2-4 anchovy fillets, drained
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp tomato paste, dissolved in 1/2 cup water
freshly ground pepper
good pinch of dried oregano
grated pecorino or parmesan
fresh parsley, to serve

First, pierce the aubergine all over with a knife, place it in tray and under a hot grill and cook until it’s collapsing, with a burnt skin.

In the meantime, chop the anchovy fillets finely and grate the garlic into a paste (I do this using a microplane grater). Put some olive oil in a pan, cook the anchovies over medium heat until dissolved, and add the garlic. Cook for a further couple of minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

Cut the aubergine in half and scoop out the soft flesh. Chop finely and add to the pan. Fry it with the anchovy/garlic paste for a couple of minutes, before adding the diluted tomato paste and letting the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes. Season with pepper and oregano (the anchovies with make this salty enough so I doubt you’ll need more salt).

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water and, before draining, reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and use the reserved water to bind it together. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and stir until melted. Serve with some chopped fresh parsley on the top.

Marmite pasta

This is a serious case of “don’t knock it till you’ve tried it”. There seems to be a trend for really simple pasta dishes recently (-ish), and this is my contribution to it. I’ve been eating it several times a week (unhealthy? what about all the vitamin B in Marmite?) and I’m currently having withdrawal symptoms because I can’t find any Marmite in Greece. I didn’t even like the stuff before I tried this.

A lot of the enjoyment comes from the texture, so cook your pasta al dente and choose a good shape. I love bucatini, there’s some good bite on it as it’s thick, but the hole running through the middle makes it light and fluffy. If you’re one of those people that don’t understand others’ obsessions with the geometry of pasta (I can’t wait to read my Christmas present), spaghetti will do just fine.

Marmite Pasta (thank you Nigella)

Ingredients (serves 1 greedy person – me)

150 gr pasta
15 gr butter
1/2 – 1 tsp marmite (depending on how strong you want the flavour to be obviously – I normally do something in the middle)
freshly grated pecorino (or parmesan)
ground pepper (optional)

Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooking water – you’ll need that starch to bring the dish together. Drain the pasta.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the Marmite and the reserved water – stir until the Marmite has dissolved. Add the pasta back in the pan, then the cheese, and stir until everything is covered in gooey sauce and the pasta has turned a golden colour from the Marmite. You shouldn’t need any salt, but add pepper if you fancy it – I actually prefer it without. Serve immediately.

Prawn Spaghetti

This blog is dying, isn’t it?

I wish I had a good enough excuse for the absence, or even an exciting one, like being on holiday. Truth is, I’ve been lazy. And I was working a bit too. But mainly lazy.

This is not one of those blogs where you get loads of personal stories. I prefer talking about food rather than myself – well, on the blog at least! But you’re about to get some chat about something that is close to my heart.

Wireless.

I love wireless internet. Sometimes I wonder what life was like before you could have the internet in your bedroom, in your toilet, in the kitchen, surfing before going to sleep and first thing in the morning. Sad, right? Well, everyone’s got their addictions.

Anyway, two weeks ago the wireless broke for reasons that are far too geeky for me to fully understand. I thought a bit of detox would be good but in the end what suffered the most was the blog.

You see, I’m sitting in the living room at the moment writing this. At the same time, I’m watching the football with a few friends and drinking a Belgian triple. This little insight into my evening might explain a lot about the quality of this blog but I quite like the multitasking, even if I’m quite bad at it!

Now that I’m reunited with my love, I thought I’d finally share a recipe with the world. It’s very simple and perfect for the summer. It’s best done using fresh raw prawns, with the shell on. What I do when I find them is to get rid of the shell on the body, leaving the head and the tail on; that way, peeling while eating is really easy and you also get all the lovely seafood flavours from the shells during cooking. Also, use fresh tomatoes if you have some big, red, juicy ones.

I’m sure there are many variations of this recipe, this is just the way I do it, having put together my favourite bits from recipes I used over the years.

Prawn Spaghetti with Feta Cheese

Ingredients (serves 2)

200 gr fresh big prawns
a splash of balsamic vinegar

1 onion, chopped
1 chilli (without the seeds if you don’t like it too spicy), finely chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
1 courgette, thinly sliced (optional)
1 cup of fresh tomatoes, skinned and processed until smooth (or finely chopped tomatoes)
a pinch of oregano
salt, pepper, olive oil

250 gr dried spaghetti
crumbled feta to serve

In a large frying pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the prawns until pink, turning half way. When cooked, add some balsamic vinegar and wait for a couple of minutes until it evaporates. Remove the prawns and set aside.

Using the same pan, fry the onions in a little olive oil until soft. Gradually add the chilli, the peppers and the courgettes and cook for 5-10 minutes. When the vegetables have softened, add the tomatoes and a bit of water, as well as the seasoning, and cook until the sauce has thickened and the courgettes are cooked through.

Boil some pasta and while that’s cooking, add the prawns back in the sauce for 5 minutes. Serve with some crumbled feta cheese on top.

Aubergine in Yoghurt (Indian #3)

If this was a politics blog, I would have been busy all this time talking about all the big changes happening in the two countries I consider my home. It isn’t, and that’s why I’ve been silent. In real life, I mourned the loss of three lives, got angry at the violence of the police and worried about the future of a country that is “on the brink of the abyss”. In the meantime, the UK got a new government and I spent more than a few days complaining about not being able to vote. Not that it would have made much of difference anyway.

And after all that, I thought it was about time I put a recipe up here. If anyone still remembers, I do this thing where I pick a country and cook 10 different things from that country- provided I’ve never cooked them before. Last time I posted about this, I was doing India, and I promised some prawns. Well, guess what, I’ve gone back on my promise. But it’s ok, because this is better. Actually, it’s so good that I’ve already made it 3 or 4 times, and I thought it was about time I shared it with the world (well, actually, the BBC did that for me a while ago).

This is a very simple Indian dish, and apparently there exist other versions of it which use sour cream rather than yoghurt, but I thought I might as well keep it healthy. It’s a great side dish to any curry, or simply served with some Indian bread and/or rice.

Aubergine in Yoghurt (adapted from here)

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side)

2 large aubergines, thinly sliced into rounds
pinch of turmeric
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp olive oil

200 ml Greek-style plain yoghurt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin

a handful of fresh coriander leaves, to garnish

To prepare the aubergines, mix the oil with the turmeric, salt and 1/2 tsp of chilli powder in a bowl, brush each side of the aubergines and grill until soft, turning half way.

At this point, you can slice them in half to make it easier to mix with the yoghurt later.

In a bowl, beat 150ml of yoghurt with the sugar and the other 1/2 tsp of chilli powder. Roast the ground cumin in a non-stick pan over low heat until the smell starts filling the kitchen. Add the yoghurt and continue to heat gently until it’s warm. Add the aubergine slices and the remaining yoghurt and stir to combine. Serve with some chopped coriander leaves.

Have it as a side to a curry, with some naan bread and rice. It works well cold too, wrapped in pita bread for a quick leftover lunch. You can adjust the amount and type (I use hot) of chilli powder to make it as spicy as you like. I like it with a bit of a kick, as the cooling yoghurt makes sure you don’t burn yourself too much.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
King Prawn Puri 
Saffron Yoghurt with Fennel Seed Biscuits
Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: No, Heston, I haven’t got an MRI scanner!