Yoghurt pots

I haven’t blogged in a month.

It’s been pretty busy, and I’ve been eating simple food and not really taking pictures of it. Oh, and I’ve been eating yoghurt.

I was asked by the nice people at Total whether I’d like to sample their new split pots – they are basically pots with 0% fat yoghurt and a little bit of fruit compote (strawberry, blueberry or tropical fruits) or honey on the side. I do like Total yoghurt and a bit of healthy food was welcome since I haven’t had the most balanced diet so far in 2011 – highlight of January was when I did #Meateasy and Hawksmoor in 24 hours, but that’s a different story.

About the yoghurts – in short, I like them. A lot. They are thick and creamy and, while the compote is a bit sickly sweet by itself, when mixed with the sour yoghurt it works really well. There’s bits of fruit in there and everything. They’ve been an excellent afternoon (or evening) snack while I’ve been spending most of my day in the office. Strawberry is my favourite I think.

If you compare them to their obvious competitors, they definitely come out on top. The yoghurt texture is great and you almost forget there is no fat in it. Very different to the runny, thin fat-free yoghurts you normally find. That’s the beauty of Greek yoghurt.

As a disclaimer, I was sent the pots for free, but I wasn’t asked to write anything. I do like them though and I’ll be buying some myself.

Lentil and Aubergine Curry (Indian #7)

While I love meat and I could never be vegetarian, there is really no need to make vegetarian dishes bland and boring. Lentils are full of flavour (and iron, so no need for that steak) and aubergines are the meatiest vegetable out there. Both make a healthy alternative to meaty dishes and, combined with some Indian spices, you have the perfect winter warmer.

This started as a lentil and carrot soup, until I realised I had no carrots and had to improvise. So please don’t judge me on the authenticity of the dish. It’s yummy.

Lentil and Aubergine Curry

Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely or grated
2 dried birds eye chillies, chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
olive oil

1 aubergine
200gr lentils (I used green, but red perhaps will be more authentic)
2 tbsp tomato paste, diluted in some water
1 tsp garam masala
salt, to taste

200gr Total Greek Yoghurt, to serve

Fry the onions and the garlic in the olive oil together with the spices (chillies, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, chilli powder) over low-medium heat, until soft. Add the aubergines and fry them a little longer, until they start to soften.

Add the lentils and the tomato paste and let it simmer over low heat. You might need to add more water as this is cooking since the lentils will absorb quite a bit. When the lentils are soft (about 40 minutes later), add the garam masala and season with salt.

Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and some warm pita bread.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
King Prawn Puri 
Saffron Yoghurt with Fennel Seed Biscuits
Aubergine in Yoghurt
Heston’s Chicken Tikka Masala
Lamb and Spinach Curry
Red Onion and Pomegranate Salad

Cherry and Yoghurt Cake

There’s been a serious amount of baking on this blog and in my house recently, but this weather is begging for a slice of cake and a cup of tea to get through the afternoons.

Recently, I was given a very generous amount of Total yoghurt to sample and I tried to think of different ways of using it up. It is lovely by itself drizzled with some honey and I’ve been having a dollop of it on top of a lentil curry (recipe coming) for the last couple of days, so now I thought I’d bake something with it. I’ve used yogurt instead of sour cream in Nigella’s Guinness cake before, but the chocolate and stout are quite overpowering and I wanted something simple to let the yoghurt come through.

I slightly adapted a recipe for a Gâteau au Citron from Orangette, leaving out the lemon zest and juice. I had a jar of some brilliant Greek sour cherries in syrup (spoon sweets we call them in Greece) and thought I could pour some of the fruit and juice at the bottom of my tray and cook the cake on top of it, flipping it over when cooked for a lovely caramelised topping. Instead of the spoon sweet you can just use whatever fruit in syrup you fancy, either homemade or from a can.

Cherry and Yoghurt Cake

Ingredients

1/2 cup Greek yoghurt (I used full fat Total, but 2% will do too)
1 cup caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup ground almond
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sunflower oil

3-4 Tbsp sour cherries in syrup (or other fruit you like)

Whisk the yoghurt, eggs and sugar together until smooth. Add the flour, almond and baking powder and combine. Finally, mix in the oil and vanilla extract and give it a bit of a whisk until smooth.

In a round pyrex dish, spread the syrupy fruit and add the cake mix on the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 170 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes to an hour (the original recipe said 30-35 min but both times I made it it was way too liquid after half an hour), until a knife comes out clean.

When it’s out of the oven, cover the dish with a plate and quickly flip the cake over. The top should be sticky and caramelised and the cake will have a lovely soft and pale crumb. Enjoy!

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!

Saffron Yoghurt with Fennel Seed Biscuits (Indian #2)

In my search for different Indian dishes to try, the BBC website has been a big help. Have you ever watched the Indian Food Made Easy show? Although names like that normally put me off (possibly because it sounds like you’re cheating!) I have enjoyed the few shows I have watched and the food always looked really yummy. All the recipes are available online, and quite a few of them are accompanied by a video clip of the particular dish in the show, so it’s very useful and makes it easy to follow.

I saw this recipe for Fennel Seed Biscuits and I thought I’d give them a go. For some reason, I had imagined them to be shortbread-style, but after reading the recipe I realised they were nothing like it. For starters, they needed frying rather than baking. As mentioned in the recipe, they go nicely with creamy desserts, so I decided to make this Saffron Yogurt to go with them. I love using saffron, just because it looks awesome, and it seems like an extravagant thing to do. Pity I don’t have a clue where to use it! This recipe was starting to sound perfect for me.

Sweet Saffron Yoghurt (Shrikand) (recipe adapted from here)

Ingredients

500 ml greek-style yoghurt
2 tsp milk
1/2 tsp saffron
icing sugar (to taste)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds

Heat the milk in a cup in the microwave and crumble the saffron strands in it. Let the saffron infuse for 5-10 minutes. Every now and then, use the back of a teaspoon to crush the saffron into the milk.
Mix the icing sugar with yoghurt until it’s sweet enough for you. I don’t like it too sweet actually, especially with the biscuits, so I think I must have used 3 tbsp. 
Add the saffron milk (I discarded the saffron but, thinking about it, I probably should have kept it) and the ground cardamom seeds. Leave it in the fridge until ready to serve.

Note that the recipe calls for you to drain excess water from the yoghurt by draining it for a few hours in the fridge, using a tea towel and a sieve. I skipped that step as I used a tub of Total Greek yoghurt, which is already quite thick. If you use thinner yoghurt, you probably want to follow that step and also use more than 500 ml as it will lose water and reduce in volume.

Fennel Seed Biscuits (adapted from here)

Ingredients

80g plain flour, sifted
70g caster sugar
140ml milk
1½ tsp fennel seeds, ground to a powder in a pestle and mortar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp ground almonds
2 tbsp butter, melted
4 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil, for frying

Mix all the ingredients (apart from the oil/ghee) in a bowl and let them rest for 10 minutes. Heat the oil or ghee in a small frying pan and drop tablespoons of the mix in it. Fry for a couple of minutes, turning once. You want to have the oil hot enough so that they don’t absorb too much oil, but not too hot because the edges will brown too much. When cooked, place them on some kitchen towel to get rid of excess oil.  

I’m not sure whether these two are served together traditionally but I think the biscuits went very well with the sweet and fragrant yogurt. I’m sure you could have them separately or use them in different combinations. We actually had some of the yogurt by itself the next day, but it would also be very good with a sprinking of nuts.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
King Prawn Puri 

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: Trying to use up all those prawns. They turn out great.