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

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.

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.

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

 

Pack a healthy protien punch into your meals with Quorn

One of the main challenges I have been facing off late as I am trying hard to throw off weight is maintaining a high protien diet and keeping my meals low on fat. Believe me it’s tricky trying to go low on sugar, saturated fats and ensuring blood sugar and cholesterol are at acceptable levels too- almost like a tight rope walk!

But even if you do not need to actively lower your cholesterol or sugar levels and are just looking for a healthier alternate to protein from meat sources I would consider including Quorn in your diet. I first tried Quorn simply out of curiosity. Both my husband and me love lamb mince but eating it more that 2 times on a week made me really feel very guilty. But swapping Quorn mince for lamb, once a week was something we are happy to do.

I always marinate Quorn mince with spices overnight and leave it to soak in all the flavours overnight. So when I was invited to an event to cook with Quorn at the Underground Cookery School, I was quite keen to see what recipes they had in mind.

Starters for the evening

Starters for the evening

We started by making dessert – always a great way to start the evening! Chocolate Torte was on the menu and we really enjoyed working with chocolate and working to an easy recipe created by the Underground Cookery School .

Chocolate Torte

Chocolate Torte

Next it was the BBQ pulled Quorn and pink coleslaw followed by Quorn Thai Curry – which I enjoyed making the most. I really loved the recipe created by Denise.

Denise in conversation with bloggers at the #quorncooks event

Denise in conversation with bloggers at the #quorncooks event

And for you, my readers here its is for you:

Quorn Thai Curry

Serves: 10

Ingredients:

Marinade

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp korma paste
  • 2 tbsp vegetarian Thai green curry paste
  • 500gm Quorn pieces

Sauce

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 400gm onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 60gm fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp fresh, frozen or dried lime leaves (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 vegetable stock cube crumbled
  • 2 x 400 gm tin coconut milk
  •  3 tbsp sweet mango chutney
  • 30 gm fresh basil
  • 350 gm red peppers, thinly sliced
  • 200 gm mangetout or sugar snaps, halved
Quorn Chicken Pieces

Quorn Chicken Pieces

Method

  • Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl until the Quorn is coated. Transfer to the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  • To prepare the sauce heat the oil in a pan then gently fry the chopped onion, garlic and ginger for 5 minutes until softened but not coloured.
  • Add half of the coriander, the lime leaves, turmeric, stock cube, coconut milk and mango chutney. Gently bring to the boil then simmer, covered for 20 minutes. Add the basil and remaining coriander to the sauce for the last 5 minutes of cooking time then remove the pan from the heat and blend until smooth with a hand blender.
  • Meanwhile transfer the marinated Quorn pieces to a baking tray and cook in a moderate oven 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve.
  • Add the Quorn pieces, red pepper and mangetout to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just cooked.
Quorn Thai Curry

Quorn Thai Curry

While our curry was bubbling away we sat through a presentation over wine and a  Q-A session. The question many of the bloggers had – as am sure many of you do was – what exactly is Quorn made up of?

Quorn’s core ingredient is a plant protein that is exceptional at replicating the texture and taste of meat.  This is a naturally occurring fungus, which is harvested through a fermentation process. Other key features that make it a great choice are:

  • Quorn has no cholestrol and is high on fibre
  • From the sustainability perspective consider this Quorn mince uses 90% less greenhouse gasses than lean beef mince,

It was lovely to meet so many bloggers that evening and also bump into familiar faces like Leyla Preston and Becky. And for me it’s always a good feeling to come back to Underground cookery school where Chef and Patron Matt Kemp and his able team of chefs ensures that every blogger feels welcome, wine glasses never run dry and cooking is fun all the way.

DSC_9363 (Copy)

The BBQ pulled Quorn was delicious and I really liked the texture of quorn and how easily it had taken up the flavours of the seasoning used. Paired with pink coleslaw it makes for a really great snack and a lovely idea for a summer BBQ.

BBQ pulled Quorn and pink coleslaw

BBQ pulled Quorn and pink coleslaw

Served with steamed basmati rice, perfectly done – each grain cooked to satisfying perfection was the creamy Thai Green curry – this was the most satisfying dish that evening and one that I am happy to make at home over and over again.

Both hubby and me love our meat and seafood but we are consciously trying to eat healthier, include more vegetables and fruits in our diet and look for healthier protein choices. That’s where Quorn comes in. Quorn certainly is a healthy protein alternative with a wide range of options – a solution to both vegetarians and the rapidly expanding group of people wanting to reduce their meat consumption.

Infographic-Quorn

Infographic-Quorn

Today is World Meat Free Day, why not create your very own easy vegetarian delight for an easy dinner at home tonight? And for those feeling less adventurous there’s many options Quorn has like my favourite Quorn steaks – served with a peppery salad of rocket leaves and fresh summery cherry tomatoes they go down a treat.

World Meat Free Day

World Meat Free Day

*With  thanks to Quorn for the invite and for the team at Underground Cookery for another great experience.  All photographs used in this post are courtesy Preston Perfect Photography. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Bombay Fever Pink Gin

Today is World Gin Day and a Saturday and it’s summer, can’t think of a better excuse to mix up some fabulously fragrant summer cocktails and share with a few friends! After all can be anything more English than a fruity gin and tonic? Think Not!

So get your cocktail shakers ready for my crazy new cocktail which I have christened as the Bombay Fever Pink Gin. This is an offshoot of the iconic original Pink Gin cocktail. Originating in Cuidad Bolivar – earlier known as Angostura, the capital of Venezuela’s Bolivar state, this cocktail rose to fame in the England in the mid-19th century.

The cocktail is normally made with 4 parts of pink gin and a dash of the angostura bitters. Also a lime rind is added into to allow the oils to infuse into the drink. Served in a chilled highball glass with lots of ice and tonic water it makes for a refreshing and citrusy drink. I always avoid sweet tonic water as it defeats the purpose of adding the bitters. But to each his own and even sweet tonic water works.

I wanted to add a bit of kick into the recipe so I decided to crush some red peppercorns and slit a red chilli in the middle and hang it on the side, slowly adding it’s heat into the drink.  Obviously then the glass must be chilled and the gin should be poured over ice before adding the tonic water. I also decided to leave the bitters out instead of ”in”.

Bombay Fever Pink Gin

Bombay Fever Pink Gin

Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb and Ginger Liqueur is infused with rhubarb which gives the gin and the cocktail a delicate rose colour and an intense .aroma.The ginger, peppercorns and the chilli have a warming aftertaste. Made in the heart of Scotland at the Edinburgh distillery where they create gins infused with beautiful botanicals.This gin pairs well with tonic, soda or lemonade, and as I can say with guaranatee is also fabulous in cocktails, with Champagne or simply over ice

Ingredients:

  • 60 ml Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb and Ginger Liqueur
  • a dash of  angostura bitters
  • 1 red chilli split top to down and de-seeded
  • a small twirl of lemon rind
  • 1/2 tsp crushed pink peppercorns
  • a sprig of mint
  • Ice
Bombay Fever Pink Gin

Bombay Fever Pink Gin

Method:

  • Wash and wipe down your best martini glasses. Leave them to chill in the freezer the frostier the glass the better.
  • Crush the red peppercorns and add into the cocktail shaker
  • Pour angostura bitters into an ice filled glass and stir 4-5 times, then pour the bitters out.
  • Pour the gin onto the ice and add the crushed peppercorns stir gently allowing the flavour from the bitters and the peppercorns to mix well with the gin.
  • Remove the frosted glasses from the freezer and strain the gin into the glasses.
  • Top with tonic water and add a lemon rind into each glass.
  • Rest one half of a split red chill on the side of each glass
  • Gently crush a fresh mint leaf and add into each cocktail glass
  • Sip slowly and enjoy the sunshine

Mix-strain-repeat! It’s #WorldGinDay after all so kick any guilt away by thinking of the many gin lovers who are enjoying their favourite spirit too.

I must say I have a really good time reading all about the history, production and cocktail recipes with gin. Here are links to a few recipes and articles by some of my food blogger friends who appreciate  England’s national spirit as much as I do:

Bombay Fever Pink Gin

Bombay Fever Pink Gin

Curious to know how the World Gin Day came into being? Head to their website here, but be warned you might just get crazy gin cravings after!

To Purchase Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb and Ginger Liqueur head to stockist Amazon UK by clicking here

References:

*With  thanks to Aamzon U.K for sending me a sample of Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb and Ginger Liqueur . No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

BombayFever Pink Gin

Bombay Fever Pink Gin

Mixed berries, finger millet and amaranth GF Pancakes with Co Yo

Coconut Yoghurt is something that will change your life forever, I think I have jumped on the cocnut yoghurt bandwagon a little late but better late than never right? I mean considering that coconut oil used for cooking and as a moisturizer and of course hair oil – I have done it all thanks to having lived in Mumbai. The most amazing taste of coconut oil in food I have eaten has got to be the banana chips sold at small tiny shops mostly to be found outside railway stations where raw banana slices are deep fried in a massive wok gingerly balanced on gas stove. It is a miracle how though these street food stall owners manage to function in tiny spaces in the busy bustling lanes adjoining stations – it is just something I shall never be able to figure out!

Ok back to coconut yoghurt – I wanted to use them in pancakes and also use a mix of flours to come up with a pancake that is not just fluffy but a bit crunchy too – a fusion of the dosa with the pancake really. This time I left out the Natvia sugar and upped the berries and let the natural fruit sugars do their magic.

Co Yo is a very creamy and delicious yoghurt made with coconut milk – it is 100% dairy free , 100% gluten free – and true to their tag line it really does taste like – heaven in a mouthful! An offshoot of Planet Organic these are now manufactured in Kent by Bethany and her husband Paul, read all about it here.

Mixed berries finger millet amaranth pancakes with CoYo

Mixed berries finger millet amaranth pancakes with CoYo

Health Benefits of these pancakes:

  • Finger Millet prevents any spikes in blood sugar as it is naturally Low GI
  • No added sugars means it is refined sugar free and safe for diabetics
  • The use of amaranth which is GF and a great source of protine. It contains lysine which most grains lack.
  • High Fiber
  • The omission of semolina will make this recipe suitable for vegans too
  • 00% dairy free , 100% gluten free coconut yoghurt
  • Thick and creamy consistency from the coconut milk yoghurt
  • Great option for people aiming to loose weight as part of a balanced diet with exercise
  • A low carb and low fat recipe suitable for those looking to maintain low levels of bad cholestrol ( diabetes patients face a risk of increased cholesterol)

Amaranth is a glutenfree food and a source of complete protein—it contains all the essential amino acids, including lysine, which is lacking in most grains. High in fiber and a good source of magnesium and iron,Amaranth is a spectacular addition to your diet.

Serves: 1 – makes 6 mini pancakes – double up quantity for 2 people

Preparation and Cooking time :15 minutes + 20 minutes to rest the pancake mix

Ingredients:

  • 4 heaped tbsp finger millet flour / Nachni in Marathi / Ragi in Hindi
  • 1 tbsp Amaranth flour / Rajgira in Marathi and Hindi
  • 2 tbsp toasted semolina / toasted rava – OMIT for a vegan version
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • 2 pots  CoYo – one plain and one with vanilla
  • Handful of blueberries
  • Handful of blackberries
  • Handful of raspberries
  • Olive Oil
  • Water
Mixed berries finger millet amaranth pancakes with CoYo

Mixed berries finger millet amaranth pancakes with CoYo

Method:

  •  In a large bowl add the oats, amaranth flour, semolina. Then add both the pots of yoghurt and mix well. To make your pancakes GF omit the semolina.
  • Then chop the foods roughly and add into the mixture.
Pancake mix with CoYo

Pancake mix with CoYo

  • Dilute the mixture with water until you get a consistency good enough to pour into the pan and make a pancake.
  • Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the mixture to develop a good consistency. In my first attempt I did not add oats and used the mix immediately – the difference with oats and resting time is a fluffier pancake that has more bounce and kick 😉
  • Heat a pan on a medium flame and add 1 tsp of olive oil then spoon the mixture and flip when the pancake starts to seperate from the side using a wooden spatula.
  • For maximum effect stack the pancakes on a fancy plate, serve with a large dollop of CoYo and a handful of mixed berries.
Mixed berries finger millet amaranth pancakes with CoYo

Mixed berries finger millet amaranth pancakes with CoYo

*With  thanks to CoYo  for sending over the samples. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.Kindly do not re-produce any images without my prior permission. Please consult your doctor of you have been diagnosed as a Diabetic before making any drastic changes to your diet. None of the information in this post is to be used for self diagnostic and / or medical purposes. Please consult your doctor and / or a trained dietitian for any existing health conditions.