A slice of Costa Rica – Casado

With summer firmly on it’s way out and Autumn settling in, the chilly nights demand some great comfort food. I wanted to try something different so I choose a popular Costa Rican dish – Casado. Why? Well, it’s the ideal comfort food, easy to put together and tastes amazing! Best part is it’s very easy on the pocket and if you plate it well, it looks like a posh meal – no one would guess what went into making it!

Costa Rican Casado

                                                                                                             Costa Rican Casado

Casado literally means a ‘married man’ and it is said that the name probably originates from how the local men expected food to be served when they were eating outside so that it reminded them of familiar tastes of a home cooked meal. An authentic Casado which is served at ‘sodas’ or local cafes is accompanied by what is known as a Lizano sauce. The brand name Lizano is now generic and retails in N. America.  Since this sauce is yet to hit UK shores ( believe me I did a fair bit of looking around in shops that sell Mexican ingredients, Asian, Carribean and most of my local supermarkets) I finally decided to make my own ,which was a great decision – why ? Well scope to experiment and innovate for one, coupled with freedom to incorporate easy to procure, local ingredients – resulting in a deliciously moorish creation! A traditional root vegetables dish from Costa Rico called Picadillo is a popular side dish with rice and tortillas. You can safely say that the gravy sauce is a marriage of sorts between the Lizano sauce and the Picadillo. I have done a fair amount of customisation and the most interesting part of cooking Casado was creating the gravy sauce, combining it with root vegetables and serving it as a wholesome gravy side dish. Let’s get started with the sauce aka gravy as this will take the most time to cook of all the other sides.

Costa Rican Casado

                                                                                                                Costa Rican Casado

 

Recipe is good for 2 with generous helpings.

Root Vegetable Gravy Side

Prep & Cooking Time: 35 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium juicy tomato – finely chopped
  • 2 small red onions finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots chopped into tiny cubes
  • 3 small sweet fresh peppers finely chopped
  • A handful of cauliflower florets
  • A handful of very finely chopped sweet potato
  • 1 heaped tbsp of finely grated celeriac
  • A pinch of garlic puree
  • Half a dry red Kashmiri chilli
  • ½ tsp of thick tamarind puree
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
  •  1/2 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • Salt as per taste
  • A handful of finely chopped coriander

Method:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil and add the chopped onions, add the garlic puree and cumin powder and stir well.
  2. When the onion starts to reduce add the bay leaves, the chopped tomato and chopped sweet peppers, stir the the tomato & peppers around vigorously bit to get them to release their juices and reduce the flame to a minimum.
  3. Throw in the finely chopped carrot cubes, sweet potato, grated celeriac, tomato puree and add enough water to cover this mixture.
  4. Cook with lid on till the sweet potato and carrots begin to soften, then it’s time to toss in the cauliflower florets, season with the dry red chilli,tamarind,cracked black pepper, salt and sugar and give it a good stir.
  5. Let this cook on a low flame with lid for about 25 minutes.
  6. Keep opening the lid, stirring and adjusting the water if it becomes to run dry, we need a gravy like consistency.
  7. When it done, add some finely chopped coriander in the tamarind should give it a bit of tangy twist, while the dried Kashmiri chilli gives it colour and mild heat, the sweet pepper and tomato puree work their magic together and the gravy is delicious and wholesome what with so many veggies hidden inside!

Root Vegetable Gravy Sauce

Red Kidney bean side

Prep and Cooking Time: 15 min

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1 medium sized red onion
  • 2 large tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp garlic puree
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil and sauté the chopped onions, add the garlic puree and stir well.
  2. After the onion has sautéed, add the tomato puree and stir then add the beans and mix well.
Red onions for Kidney Beans

                                                                             Red onions for Kidney Beans

  1. Add some water to the mixture and reduce the flame to a minimum, cook with a lid on but check often so that it does not burn or run dry.
  2. 4.Since the canned and ready to eat red kidney beans are preserved in salty water, check the taste before adding in any more salt, chuck in some dry red chilli flakes for flavour and set aside.
Red Kidney Bean side is done

                                                                                         Red Kidney Bean side is done

Boiled white rice

  • Cook 1 cup rice using exactly double the water and a pinch of salt

Fried Plantain

  • Peel and chop the plantain into large chunks and fry in hot oil in a kadhai or wok until they are a light brown. It’s easy for them to char so get them out as soon as the colour turns a golden shade of brown, allow to cool on a plate on a bit of kitchen roll to soak excess oil.

Plaintains peeled

  • Don’t fret if like me you can’t peel the plantain I simply use a knife and remove the thick green skin, even if that means that the plantain pieces are hexagonal or cubes now, well I never was too good at geometry 😉

Frying Plantains in Kadhai

Fish

  • Casado can be served with meat, fish or chicken. Chop one large fillet of fresh salmon and pan fry both sides till done in about 1 tbsp oil.

Salmon Pan Shallow Fry

Cheese Tortilla

  • Heat a large flour tortilla –shop bought on a pan and adds a generous helping of grated parmesan cheese on tortilla. Just as the tortilla heats up and the cheese shows sign of melting fold the tortilla in half and flip over and toast each side till you have a crispy yum cheesy tortilla, slice into neat triangles ready to be served.

Tortilla on pan with grated cheddar

Cabbage Salad

  • Chop a fresh cabbage fine to get one large handful of cabbage, add half a red onion and a small handful of finely chopped cucumber, squeeze half a lime, sprinkle some cracked black pepper, a small amount of fresh finely chopped coriander and toss all these together. Easy-peasy right?

Folded Tortilla

Serve the steaming hot rice with the salmon on the side, topped with some of the root vegetable gravy. Mop up the beans with the cheesy tortilla and munch on the sweet fried plantain with generous bites of the tangy cabbage salad in between mouthfuls of everything else.

Costa Rican Casado

                                                                                                                Costa Rican Casado

Lunch at Shampan at the Spinning Wheel

Set amongst rolling hills of the beautiful Kentish countryside is the plush Indian restaurant Shampan at the Spinning Wheel. I was invited to review their new Indian A la Carte menu which boasts of interesting combinations created using locally sourced where ever possible.

Shampan is located about a  half hour drive away from Bromley South overground station. One gets the relaxing feeling of getting away from the fast-paced rush that one feels while travelling around London. When you first walk into Shampan at the Spinning Wheel the fireplace instantly put you at ease while the sleek modern leather couches create an atmosphere of luxury and comfort. Perfect for pre-lunch or pre-dinner drinks the lounge reflects the owner Sufian vision to recreate the oomph factor you would experience while say walking into a modern 5 star in Mumbai. Highly regarded for its cuisine, it’s carefully crafted menu created by Chef Sadek Miah Shampan at the Spinning Wheel, has won many awards and accolades namely the British Curry awards in 2012 and Newcomer of the Year in 2013. They also have been awarded a certificate of excellence for 2015 by TripAdvisor.

Posh interiors at the Shampan

                                                                                        Posh interiors at the Shampan

It was a warm summer’s day and I choose to cool down with a Virgin Mojito and followed it up with a refreshing ‘Apple Julep’. A large basket of fried poppadums sprinkled with a tangy dry masala powder which had the right hint of green mango was so moreish it was almost impossible to stop at one. A host of chutneys and dips accompanied the poppadums that were constantly replenished by the very smart staff. Since we had a very long wait before lunch as some guests lost their way, I had another mocktail this time it was an Almost Amaretto sour but it was far too sweet for my taste.

Refreshing Mocktails at Shampan

                                                               Refreshing Mocktails at Shampan

After a tour of the beautiful premises we were seated and served some delicious starters. I choose the banana wrapped tilapia with coconut and coriander – a fine balance of delicate flavours in perfectly cooked fish. I have tried similar dishes at many Indian fine dining restaurants and ever so often it is not exactly what I look for – either the green chutney is not as pungent as it should be or the fish is not as perfectly cooked – somehow it’s always the seemingly simple dishes that are the most difficult to produce to near perfection. For seafood fans this dish is one you must most definitely try!

 

Banana wrapped tilapia

                                                  Banana wrapped tilapia

A look at some of the other appetisers on our table :

Tempting array of appetisers at Shampan

Tempting array of appetisers at Shampan

I am quite sure I could have had another portion of the tilapia had it not been for the massive portion size of my main – grilled duck breast with goan curry sauce and cumin mashed potatoes. The duck was cooked well and the mashed potatoes were lovely with the grilled potatoes. The sauce was not what I had hoped for though, ideally a Goan sauce should have been spicier and richer but the tomato over powered the other ingredients. I loved the  panner and tadka dal though, which I mopped up with buttery aromatic tandoori naans (with another helping of the yum poppadums!) .

All this while I was eyeing the delicious curry and rice mains the other guests were tucking into – particularly the Punjabi red spiced chicken breast with sauteed vegetables and pilau rice. I also loved the sound of venison smoked and cooked in Jodhpuri spices with crips okra – ummm what a fabulous combination. Another delicious traditional main was the Kerala spiced king prawn with a thick coconut sauce served with a flavoured coconut rice – ultimate comfort food! The grilled mullet was main looked great and I tasted a little but again the tomato like broth surrounding it was not a hit.

Grilled duck breast with goan curry

                                                                          Grilled duck breast with Goan curry

It was a particularly warm summer afternoon and we were served some fresh fruit smoothie’s – again very generous size serves and quite delicious too.

Fresh Mango and Strawberry Smoothies

                                            Fresh Mango and Strawberry Smoothies

A look at what the other guests enjoyed for their mains.

Tempting array of mains at Shampan

                                                                          Mouthwatering array of mains at Shampan

This is probably one of the most generous portion sizes of mains I have ever been served. Naturally that left no place for dessert which was an Indian dessert – samosa filled with gajar halwa with a dollop of delicious ice cream. I did not sample the samosa but did have some of the ice cream. The presentation of all the dishes especially the dessert was lovely and the service throughout was very courteous.

Desert selection at Shampan

                                                                                            Desert selection at Shampan

First opened in 2011, this destination restaurant has much more to offer than just great tasting Indian food and swanky interiors. It is the perfect venue for dreamy weddings and has a separate function room too called the Saffron Room with a lounge area called ‘The Mumbai Quarters’ – aptly so because when I first walked into to lounge area it reminded of some of Mumbai’s best loved posh five-star restaurants. The location offers ample parking space again ideal for business lunches or a family get together. The soon to be done up bridal suite promises to be just as lush as the rest of the venue. To book the venue for events or reserve a table you will find all the contact details on their website here.

Shampan at the Spinning Wheel

                                                                                                           Shampan at the Spinning Wheel

*With thanks to Humayun Hussain and Shampan for an invite. All opinions expressed are as always my own. No monetary compensation was provided for a positive review.

 

Korean Beef stir-fry

What is one to do when left with a gorgeous cut of meat? Well other than eat it as is, would have been delicious given the meat in question was a 300 gm rump of steak with a fabulous chimicurri sauce. But I had other plans for the leftover steak. ( Where did I order this gorgeous steak? It was at CAU in Blackheath where I was invited for an Argentinian Street Food Masterclass where I learnt how to make empanadas and sampled some amazing authentic Argentinian cuisine. CAU group of resturants is raising funds for the charity Action Against Hunger with the launch of #CAUnival a month long celebration of an ‘Friend’s Day’ or Dia do Amigo. Read all about it here )

Argentinian Lomito Steak with Chimichurri

Argentinian Lomito Steak with Chimichurri

The thought of a spicy Korean beef stir fry served with a comforting bowl of rice was very appealing. I wanted to ensure that I made the most of the succulent medium rare cooked beef and gave the vegetables just the right amount of flavour without any flavour overpowering the already moreish chimichurri dressing.

Korean Beef Stir Fry

Korean Beef Stir Fry

Ingredients:

  • 250 gm beef  (in this case I was leftovers from a medium rare cooked steak with a chimichurri sauce)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp Chimmichuri dressing
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 a red Thai chilli
  • 250 gm of vegetables – carrots sliced into ribbons, green beans, bok choy
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • Chopped fresh spring onion to garnish
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  • Slice the beef thinly and set aside soaking in the chimichurri dressing. The chimichurri contains paprika, garlic, parsley, tangy vinegar and oil. Packed with favour this Argentinian steak sauce pairs surprisingly well with the spicy Korean flavours of the stir fry. If you are serving the Korean beef stir fry with steamed rice then leave it to cook before starting on the beef, so that it is ready soon after the beef is done.
  • Remove the skin from the garlic cloves.
  • Heat the sesame oil in a large wok and fry the garlic cloves in the hot oil until it just begins to brown. Sprinkle the dried red chilli flakes into the hot oil.
Garlic,red chilli and dried chilli flakes in sesame oi

Garlic,red chilli and dried chilli flakes in sesame oi

  • Then add the chopped red chilli and add the carrots followed the beans, allow them to cook ensuring the vegetables still have a bite in them. Stir in the soy sauce and season with little salt. (Light soy sauce has less salt content that’s why I generally prefer it over dark soy sauce)
  • Remove the vegetables and set aisde in a bowl with a lid.
  • Then add the sliced beef into the wok and stir fry on heat for under a minute as the beef is already almost cooked.
  • Now reduce the heat to a minimum and add in the vegetables, add the bok choy and drizzle the chimichurri sauce over this. Mix everything well together.
Mixing the vegetables and the stir fried beef

Mixing the vegetables and the stir fried beef

  • Remove from the wok and serve with the steaming hot sticky rice. Garnish with chopped spring onion for a fresh,crunchy garnish.
Korean Beef Stir Fry

Korean Beef Stir Fry

Have you ‘herd’ of the #CAUnival?

I find it find hard to resist a hands on master class invite and it is the promise of making empanada’s and learning about Argentinian street food that lured me to CAU restaurant at Blackheath last week. A Buenos Aires inspired restaurant group CAU is located a short walking from the overground station facing the beautiful All Saints Church. The group is raising funds for the charity Action Against Hunger with the launch of #CAUnival a month long celebration of an ‘Friend’s Day’ or Dia do Amigo. A celebration of friendship this festival is celebrated in many South American countries. What better way to celebrate friendship that over a delicious feast which supports a good cause?!

 

 

Argentinian street food masterclass focusing on beef

Argentinian street food masterclass focusing on beef

As I walked up the hill to the restaurant, I walked past the pretty French Wine Bar – Le Bouchon, which I had visited for their opening a year ago, here is a my review.One has the  unmistakeable feeling of being in a smaller village with huge green spaces and village shops while walking along the high street. It’s rare to get such a feeling but I get that each time I alight at Blackheath station and walk into the area – must be a great feeling to come back home to from work in the busy crowded city.

I found my way in and sat down with two very friendly young ladies – Cherry and Brucine. It was a very warm summer evening and the chilled glass of sprite loaded with ice and wedge of lime was just the thing I needed.

#CAUnival , Action Against Hunger

#CAUnival , Action Against Hunger

 

The big cut of beef on each our tables seemed managed to do it’s job of whetting our appetite so while Dom the master griller took centre stage for the master class ,we were treated to various samples.

Master griller Dom explains the various cuts of beef

Master griller Dom explains the various cuts of beef

We then all got busy making empanadas with different types of stuffing, which we then took home to enjoy over tea. I baked my batch in the oven and enjoyed then with pipping hot cups of chai.

#CAUnival  making empanada's and sampling various cuts of beef

#CAUnival making empanada’s and sampling various cuts of beef

After our master class we were treated to a fabulous meal, here’s a quick look at what we sampled – started  off with a swordfish carpaccioa (£6.50) which I highly recommend – it is a great way to start a meal. Thinly sliced swordfish topped with capers, crushed chilli flakes and dressed with parsley and lemon oil – pairs well with a chilled classic mojito.

Swordfish Carpaccio #CAUnival

Swordfish Carpaccio #CAUnival

Inspired by the master class and eager to try a classic Argentinian steak, I was recommended the Lomito – a fillet of rump which is considered the finest cut in Argentina, it combines the flavour of rump and the tenderness of fillet. I choose to have my steak with a delicious spicy sauce – chimichurri instead of the blue cheese that is offered with Lomito. Chimichurri is definitely the best partner for an Argentinian steak – nothing compares!

Lomito with chimichurri #CAUnival

Lomito with chimichurri #CAUnival

I was seated with a bunch of foodies and we ordered sides to share – here’s a look a what we shared – in keeping with the spirit of ‘Friend’s Day’. Loved the baked sweet potato (£ 2.95), Onion rings (£ 2.75) and the grilled corn with chipotle butter,chilli and herbs (£ 3.95)

Sides at #CAUnival

Sides at #CAUnival

Well don’t just sit there and ‘stew’ get cracking and book yourself a table at one of the 12 CAU branches, after all you wouldn’t want to miss out on this ‘rare’ CAUnival now would you?

To book your #CAUnival feasting experience click here.  You can visit any of their 12 UK sites. For every meal ordered from the #CAUnival set menu, £1 from  will go to the charity Action Against Hunger.

*With thanks to CAU for an invite to a truly memorable evening. All opinions expressed are as always my own. No monetary compensation was provided for a positive review.

Taste ‘real’ this summer with the Häagen-Dazs Master Ice Cream Academy

Häagen-Dazs unveiled their Master Ice Cream Academy last week at Bloomsbury Square with a multi-sensory Haagen Dazs experience. I am always drawn to their luxurious ice cream because the ingredients are the very best and so ‘real’ – meaning no preservatives, no artificial additives and definitely nothing nasty!

Experience #realornothing

Experience #realornothing

To host the academy Häagen-Dazs brought together a panel of expert ambassadors ‘The Masters of Real’ – who helped create a unique experience for some select bloggers and members of the press. The academy is founded on the principle that ice cream should be made with high quality, carefully selected ingredients. That’s why Häagen-Dazswill always start with a base of four ingredients – real cream, real milk, sugar and eggs – no vegetable fat, no preservatives, and minimal air. The Masters of Real ambassadors all share Haagen-Dazs’ belief that Nothing is Better than Real. That is the carefully crafted Vanilla recipe by Häagen-Dazs hasn’t changed since they the company first started making it in 1961 – which is exactly what was the vision of their founder Reuben Mattus.

Häagen-Dazs strawberries and cream ice cream

Häagen-Dazs strawberries and cream ice cream

Hosted in a specially created dome we participated in a few simple yet interesting experiments that revealed how our senses react to various stimuli. ‘The Masters of Real’  – acclaimed Head Chef at Duck & Waffle, Dan Doherty , leading lifestyle blogger Rosie of ‘The Londoner’ and sensory expert Professor Barry Smith, helped bring to life the qualities of premium ice cream, encouraging us to explore our senses: aroma, sound, colour and texture, to discover how much they influence our indulgent moments.

Chef Dan explains the multi sensory experience

Chef Dan explains the multi sensory experience

Here is a video about a conversation between Professor Barry Smith and Rose Thomas discussing the science of taste.

Chef Dan Doherty crated a simple yet delicious treat for us using strawberries and cream Häagen-Dasz ice cream, topped with toasted almonds it was just the thing we needed on a warm summer afternoon.

Why not recreate Chef Dan’s peach melba float recipe at home this summer ? Experience and share the indulgent and luxurious taste of Häagen-Dasz with friends and family!

Chef Dan Doherty making a Häagen-Dazs peach melba float

Chef Dan Doherty making a Häagen-Dazs peach melba float

Häagen-Dazs’ Peach Melba Float

By Dan Doherty, Executive Chef at Duck and Waffle

Ingredients

  • Ripe peaches
  • Fresh strawberries
  • 1 x tub of Häagen-Dazs Strawberries & Cream
  • Rose Champagne
  • Toasted almonds

Method

Step 1: Slice the peaches and strawberries and place a couple of each in the bottom of a tall glass

Step 2: Add a scoop of Häagen-Dazs Strawberries & Cream ice cream

Step 3: Repeat both layers

Step 4: Sprinkle with toasted almonds

Step 5: Top up with Rose Champagne

I for one couldn’t stop scooping out the peach melba from the tall fruit laden glass but then we were given more ice cream to eat . This time it was to experience how the sense of touch alters our taste – comparing the feel of a soft silky piece of cloth to that of another that wasn’t as smooth – made all the difference on my taste buds! But as I began to peel off the lid of my ice-cream tub in greedy haste, salivating at the thought of another chilled treat, we were asked to wait just for a few minutes longer – to ensure we didn’t end up a broken spoon! Haven’t we all had that experience where we dug our spoons into a really tempting tub of ice cream only have the handle bend backwards or worse still end up with a broken spoon? To prevent that from happening always allow your Häagen-Dasz ice cream tubs to rest for about ten minutes so the ice cream can be scooped out easily.

I was most curious to learn about how music alters our experience of eating the very same food by affecting our mood and Professor Barry Smith played two very different types of tracks while we sampled the peach melba float. I was very keen to gain some more insight into the work done by Professor Barry Smith into his research into the science of taste. Watch this space for an interesting peek into the science of understanding our senses and taste with Professor Barry.

 If you are craving some ice cream then make yourself a very British dessert – Häagen-Dazs Frosty Eton Mess by lifestyle blogger Rosie. A delicious  recipe with a modern take on the classic recipe.

Here’s hoping you have enjoyed reading about the exciting journey my taste buds took with Häagen-Dasz and the ‘The Masters of Real’. Go get yourself a ‘real’ treat this summer – you know you want to.

The Masters of Real

The Masters of Real

*With thanks to Häagen-Dazs and Great British Chefs for the invite. All images are the property of Häagen-Dazs unless they carry the ‘travelsfortaste’ trademark.

Pasta Please – Round Up July 2015

And yet another calendar month this year has flown past at lightening speed. The weather was brilliant over the weekend but it is acting up again… but don’t let the grey skies bring you down for I have a round up here of some really creative entries for the Pasta Please blog linky hosted by me last month for Jacqueline of Tinned Toms.

First up is a slimming world recipe for Spring Vegetable Orzo from a blog called Penelope’s Pantry. An easy to make recipe that Penelope has customised to make it dairy free, it is loaded with veggies. Great for using up any veggies lying around so a god way to prevent food wastage. What’s more is that it tastes good at room temperature too, Penelope recommends adding chopped tomatoes if you want to have this healthy and filling dish cold.

Up next is a moreish Pea and Mint Gnoochi Bake from Allotment2Kitchen – blog from a Welsh Vegetarian who has loads of vegan and vegetarian recipes. And girl when you say you have a small freezer I totally hear you! Me with my mini fridge freezer in a small but very cute flat – my little matchbox world – I too ALWAYS have frozen peas – ready for emergency meals. And kudos to her for not giving into cravings for chips but coming home and making this baked pasta dish with a crispy,golden cheese topping.

Orzo seems to be the popular choice this summer as the next recipe is a Sicilian Orzo with Cauliflower and Saffron by Kate of The Veg Space. The very mention of such a rich combination of ingredients and saffron roasted cauliflower has me hooked. She describes her dish as cross between a pasta and risotto – am sure that got your attention. Go Drool!

Shrimp pasta with spinach sauce topped with crispy Brussels sprouts from the blog Law students cook book is a perfect example of how a  great dish can be created with some imagination and ingredients that you have at hand. I especially like the way the brussels sprouts have been flash fried to a garnish, I love the sprouts and can eat them plain or in absolutely any form – well almost.

Pasta Please July 2015 round up - creative recipes

Pasta Please July 2015 round up – creative recipes

Top L -R – ClockwiseSpring Vegetable Orzo , Sicilian Orzo with Cauliflower and SaffronPea and Mint Gnoochi Bake and Shrimp pasta with spinach sauce topped with crispy Brussels sprouts

Easy Cheesy Pasta by Anitha of Veggiesome blog is a quick and easy pasta dish to rustle up when you need something delicious in a jiffy. Whole wheat pasta and cheese come together in lovely combination of flavours.

A bowl full of deliciousness is the first thing that I thought of when I saw this Slivered veggie and soba salad with maple tofu. A superb combination of Asian flavours this is a healthy and wholesome meal with no compromise on flavour. I especially love the whole avocado in there! I see myself making this for a weekend lunch soon.

Another fabulous money saver meal is the Pasta with tomato and bacon sauce from Jane at Onions and Paper blog. I simply adore thrifty recipes that combine leftovers, vegetables leaning towards being chucked out, store cupboard cans lurking at the back of a drawer and other odd things which can spare you the guilt of ordering a takeaway when faced with an empty fridge staring back at you when you know tummies are rumbling.

Hot smoked salmon, fennel and pea pasta by Linzi of Lancashire Foods is a another quick to put together dish. The hot smoked salmon is something hubster and me love too.I love the sound of adding fresh garden fennel fronds which I imagine will add a fragrant touch to this comfort food.

Pasta Please July 2015 round up - inspiring recipes

Pasta Please July 2015 round up – inspiring recipes

Top L -R – Clockwise:  Slivered veggie and soba salad with maple tofuEasy Cheesy PastaPasta with tomato and bacon sauce and Hot smoked salmon, fennel and pea pasta.

Thanks to all the bloggers who linked up their creations to Pasta Please for July 2015 and I hope you enjoy browsing through them as much as I did. And last but not the least thanks once again to Jacqueline who blogs at Tinned Tomatoes for letting me guest host the food blog linky challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

Great British Chefs Masterclass with Chef Russell Brown

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting and cooking along with a chef I greatly admire – Russell Brown.

Chef Russell Brown

Chef Russell Brown

Self taught Master chef Russell Brown owned and ran a successful little restaurant called Sienna in Dorchester, Dorset. It was awarded 3 AA rossettes and a Michelin star in 2010. Only very recently has he closed shop to pursue a new venture – Creative about Cuisine.

We started out by preparing the ricotta in a process very similar to how I make paneer at home. Reminded me of all the times growing up when aai would show us how to expertly get the paneer out from the vessel and hang it to set in a soft muslin cloth – which usually was engineered from her and aji’s ( nan’s) old cotton sarees’s. Chef Russell strongly suggests using distilled vinegar to split the milk to ensure that the end product is not affected by residual odours which may lurk around when anything else is used – lime for example.

How to make ricotta cheese - easy and quick method

How to make ricotta cheese – easy and quick method

While Russell recounted his adventures from his recent travels to Italy he showed us how to make the pasta dough. Then as our dough was resting Russell showed us how to make a delicious vegetable sauce which really was the highlight of the evening. It was so good with the pasta – almost like an edible silk scarf.

Making the vegetable sauce for the agnolotti

Making the vegetable sauce for the agnolotti

I was making Angolotti for the first time and it was great to really get hands on with using the massive rolling pin to flatten the rested dough before passing it through the dough attachment on a KitchenAid. Pipping the ready ricotta mixture was great fun and gives more precise results that filling ravioli parcles with any kind of stuffing. Why? Well, the pipping ensures an almost even filling provided the fluted cutter is wielded almost symmetrically across the stuffed pasta sheet.

How to make agnolotti stuffed with ricotta cheese filling

How to make agnolotti stuffed with ricotta cheese filling

The dessert was Raspberry and Mascarpone mille feuille and we had a team working furiously in the background to make it for us while Chef Russell showed us how make the raspberry gel. Can never forget the taste of the gel on my palate – it sets almost instantly as it lands on the tongue – weird and fabulous at the same time.

Raspberry and Mascarpone mille feuille

Raspberry and Mascarpone mille feuille

In 3 hours flat we had made fresh ricotta and fresh pasta, learnt how to make a delicious sauce to accompany our pasta and filled and cooked the agnolotti too.

At GBC cook school I have had the opportunity to meet and cook with some acclaimed chefs who have shared tips from their vast experience working across the best kitchens across the world. As a home cook and a writer it is always a great pleasure to meet accomplished chefs and learn invaluable tricks and sample the brilliant food they cook. Working alongside some of my close blogger friends and getting an opportunity to meet more like minded journalists and food enthusiasts is definitely a plus.

I have to also mention the lovely Roaslind Rathouse and her efficient team at the Cookery School. A spotless, well maintained kitchen is the least one can expect from Rosalind who is a stickler for perfection and hygiene.

Am now quite determined to explore the joys of home made pasta by recreating Chef Russell’s delicious agnoletti and vegetable sauce sometime soon.

*With thanks to Great British Chefs and Chef  Russell Brown for an invite to a truly memorable evening. Many Thanks to Rosalind and team at the Cookery School. All opinions expressed are as always my own. No monetary compensation was provided for a positive review.

Pasta Please – July 2015

After almost a year am happy to be hosting the Pasta Please  food blog challenge once again. For those of  you who don’t already this is a fun food blog challenge where you simply make your favourite pasta dishes, post them on your blog and then add them to the linky below. This challenge has been created by Jacqueline who blogs at Tinned Tomatoes and is an accomplished vegetarian blogger and recipe developer. She has many delicious and fabulous recipes made from scratch.

So what will you be cooking up? Am very excited to see the recipes that are linked up. Vegetarian, meat, fish, green , gluten -free or the latest fad courgette pasta noodles! – Bring it all on.  There is no theme and I am a meat eater so all types of pasta recipes can be linked in.

If you would like to browse some of delicious recipes that bloggers linked up last time I hosted, have a look at my round up post here.

I have just ordered yet another kitchen gizmo much to the dismay of my hubster who worries I now need a new kitchen on stat! I am hoping I can make some cool courgette pasta or my new favourite – sweet potato noodles or ‘snoodles’ as the jargon goes.

But here is one of my all time favourites that I make often at home , my Spicy Chorizo Pasta with loads of veggie goodness

Spicy Chorizo Pasta with loads of veggie goodnes

Spicy Chorizo Pasta with loads of veggie goodnes

All we ask is that you have a read through the following rules :

  1. Post your pasta dish on your blog and add it to the linky at the bottom of the current challenge.
  2. Link to my bloghttp://www.sliceoffme.wordpress.com and Tinned Tomatoes
  3. Use the Pasta Please logo in your post
  4. If you use twitter, tweet  me your post at @travelsfortaste  and Jacqueline at @tinnedtoms with  #PastaPlease and we will re-tweet it.
  5. Only one entry per blog.
  6. Recipes must be added to the linky by the 28th of each month.

pasta please

 

 

Add you linky below:

 

Eat in Chicken Tikka Masala – Take the Tefal ActiFryDay challenge

Friday nights – when all you want to do is get home, put your feet up and watch some telly while tucking into your favourite takeaway. But here are some staggering facts about the eating habits of Britons and how many calories are consumed on an average with a takeaway meal. According to Tefal’s ActiFryday Report:

  • From a study of the 5 most popular dishes it was found that the nation consumes 12,400 tonnes of saturated fat through takeaway’s alone.
  • Brits eat upto 2900 calories and 161 grams of fat in their most popular takeaway meal.
  • Friday is the most popular day to order.

Not surprising then the survey revealed this shocking statistic –

BRITONS FEAST ON MORE THAN 12,000 TONNES OF SATURATED FAT FROM TAKEAWAYS EACH YEAR

Am sure you are as shocked after reading these statistics as I was. So naturally when Tefal asked me to take on their Actifryday challenge – to swap a typical Friday night takeaway for a healthier alternative –  I was in.

Tefal Actifry XL

Tefal Actifry XL

I decided to give the Chicken Tikka Masala recipe that they sent me a go. Why? Because  I have always been very intrigued by the recpie for Chicken Tikka Masala – a dish that I only ate when I first came to the U.K few years ago. CTM as it is popularly called, is without doubt the nations favourite British-Indian curry. Part of it’s popularity is attributed to the fact that it’s origin is quite disputed and many have staked a claim as to the dish being their own invention. While some believe that it was dish born out of necessity to satiate the British palate’s need to serve chicken in a gravy which can be mopped up with naan or rice, it is also believed that it is a variation of butter chicken. Many also firmly believe that it’s roots like in Mughlai cuisine and it was one of the many culinary inventions that were born to suit the English palate, when the migrant population from post partition India, Pakistan and Bangladesh came into Britain. Of course I was not going to follow the recipe without making some changes of my own. I normally make all my own masala’s and marinades from scratch and all of them can be stored and/ or frozen to be used later. I used half of the tikka masala paste I made  and froze the rest. Find my easy recipe for tikka masala on my blog here.

Tikka Masala Paste

Tikka Masala Paste

Since this is a recipe which aims to reduce the fat content the double cream that normally goes in the curry is replaced by low fat natural yoghurt. Figuring out how to use my new Tefal Actifry XL was not difficult at all and the instruction booklet is quite simple to follow too. Once the removable parts has been hand washed and dried completely , I set about making a Chicken Tikka Masala. Here is my modified version of the Chicken Tikka Masala recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 500g boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 2cm pieces
  • 100g Tikka Masala curry paste
  • 2 pots (150g size) natural low fat yoghurt
  • 1 ActiFry spoon of vegetable Oil
  • 1 Large finely chopped onion and made into a thick paste
  • 390g canned premium chopped tomatoes made into a puree
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 onion gravy flavour pot – I used Knorr
  • 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 150ml of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar – I used a substitute -Natvia
  • 2 teaspoons on lemon juice
  • Salt as per taste
  • a handfull of fresh coriander leaves chopped fine – to garnish

Method:

  1. In a large bowl mix the Tikka Masala paste with 4 tablespoonsof yougurt. Add the chicken in the coat then cover. Leave the marinate in the fridge for atleast 4 hours or ideally overnight – this will ensure the flavours have really seeped in, into the chicken.
  2. Heat oil in ActiFry for 2 minutes. Add the onion paste and cook for 5 minutes. I simply chopped the onion fine in my food processor and sprinkled some water to give it movement and gave it 2 spins at low speed. Result was a thick onion paste which is a much better way to use the onion in this recipe in the Actifry.
  3. Add the marinated Chicken and cook for a another 10 minutes. This ensures that the Actifry is hot enough to bruise the ends of the chicken giving it a similar treatment to what the griddle pan will. But of course the bruising is minimal and cannot be compared to grilling the meat. But this is where the addition of smoked paprika in the chicken tikka paste plays a big role as it works with the chicken and the cooking process to impart a much better smoky effect than without.
  4. In a small glass bowl crush the chicken stock cube, add the onion gravy flavour pot and smoked paprika and pour 2 tbps of hot water. With the back of a spoon mix well until a thick paste is formed.
  5. Add the tomato puree, the mixture with the stock and water cook for another 10 minutes. Add salt to taste but keep in mind that the chicken stock cube contains a lot of salt so taste some of the gravy base before adding additional salt.
  6. Remove the CTM into a bowl and then stir in remaining yoghurt. Then add the sugar and mix well.
  7. Add the lemon juice mix well and top with a handful of freshly chopped coriander leaves.
  8. Serve with steaming hot basmati rice, jeera rice or naan.

If you would like to view the original recipe from Tefal click here. To save time you can purchase the tikka masala paste too.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Both hubby and me were quite satisfied with this low calorie version of CTM and it definitely can hold it’s own in terms of taste. Of course the texture of tandoor grilled chicken tikkas and the unmistakeable creaminess of double cream is missing. But it’s a win -win on 2 very important factors :

  • Saving on unnecessary calories from the grease and oil from a takeaway. Thus eliminating the risk of eating artery clogging saturated fats.
  • Tefal Actifry is easy to use and very easy to cook in. With a little effort and planning it’s not at all difficult to produce a delicious curry – a healthier alternative to your takeaway- at home.

The Tefal ActiFry Express XL is available from John Lewis RRP £249.99.

*With  thanks to Tefal for sending me a Tefal Actifry XL for review. No monetary compensation was offered. No request was made for a positive review.  As usual all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Tikka Masala curry paste

Chicken Tikka Masala is the poster child for British Indian cuisine and definitely tops the list of the nations favourite curry. CTM as it is popularly known as is also the top choice for a Friday Night takeway when ordering in Indian food.

Like any good curry, it’s best to use a home made marinade, so if you can spare some time, it’s best to make your own tikka curry paste. I made mine and here is a simple recipe that you can use. The quantity is enough to marinade 1 kilo of skinless, boneless chicken breast pieces. I used 5000 gm of chicken for my CTM so the rest is in my freezer and can continue to live there for at least 2 months – I don’t think it will though because am sure the craving for a curry can strike sooner rather than later. Actually the tikka paste can be used as a starter marinade for grilled chicken kebabs as that is what is the basis of a good CTM. Or can be used for marinating even meat or fish to grill or as part of a curry dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Half a red chilli de-seeded
  • 2 medium sized kashmiri chillies
  • 2 heaped tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2 heaped tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp coriander and green chilli puree
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1 tsp roasted coriander seeds powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt as per taste
Tikka Masala Paste

Tikka Masala Paste

Method:

  • In a small saucepan heat the oil.
  • Reduce the flame to a minium then add the bay leaf and the dried red kashmiri chillies, which add flavour and colour and not heat.
  • Then add in the ginger garlic paste. Stir for 30 seconds before adding in the garam masala, that will allow the ginger garlic paste to mix well with the hot oil but prevent it from drying up the oil.
  • Once the garam masala is mixed well with the paste and the oil add the screaming dry spices and mix well. Allow  to cook on a very low flame for under a minute and then add the coriander and green chilli puree. (Again I make my own puree – simply spitz 2 large bunches of  fresh coriander leaves with two small Indian green chillies, add some water in a small food processor to make a thick puree. This can be frozen and used for many curries and sabzi’s or bhajee’s as we call them in Marathi.I store mine for upto 3 weeks)
  • The smoked paprika will work with the chiken while making the curry and impart a fabulous smoky flavour that is hard to miss.
  • Allow the paste to cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it does not burn or become too dry.
  • The water content in the coriander and green chilli mixture will totally dry out and you will be left with a dark reddish brown paste.

Like any marinade there are many things that been added or omitted according to one’s preferences. For example the red chilli can be eliminated to reduce the heat. A small pinch of sugar can be added to balance out the green chilli too. Also a small amount of water can be sprinkled to give the paste a more fluid consistency of required.
I use the dried kashmiri chillies and the bay leaf later in the curry base and did not purree the tikka paste further. Why?  Because the garam masala already contains both these spices. After marinating the chicken with the paste, the same kashmiri chilli and the bay leaf can be added to the hot oil, to impart fragrance and colour.

 

Tikka Masala Paste

Tikka Masala Paste