Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Greek Spinach and Feta Flatbread

I am undergoing an experiment and I hope to God it works, as my kitchen is producing some fantastic aromas and the thought of this flat bread is making my mouth water so much. Our kitchen cupboards are pretty bare this week and I have a fridge full of odds and sods. Nothing seams to go together. Sitting alone in the cheese box of my fridge was a medium piece of feta left over from a previous salad that needed to be used up. I scoured the fridge for any remaining ingredients that could go with this tangy cheese. There is was, half a large box of baby spinach leaves. I really didn't have to think too hard as to what I wanted to do. Originally a spinach and feta pie came to mind but I had no eggs to make pastry as Ian and I had devoured them over brunch yesterday. My thoughts then turned towards a type of flat bread. I had seen a recipe some time ago using two Indian roti's that sandwiched together some potato, onions and spices. I thought this idea might work with the spinach and feta...hence the experiment.
Spread the filling out flat leaving space at the edges

As I was making the filling I new what flavors I wanted and added them by taste. The filling turned out darn tasty..with a dash of this and a dash of that the perfect filling was made. I used my trusty tortilla recipe minus the oil to make the flat bread and allowed it to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes before rolling it out into small discs. A small amount of filling was added onto the top of the discs before being covered with another disc and rolled out to make a thin flat bread. At first I found that some of the filling did ooze out of the edges but with a bit of practice that ooze was minimal. These were then pan fried in a dry pan until the flat bread began to brown. The smell was amazing..I couldn't wait to tuck in. These would be perfect served alongside a Greek salad salsa. I had some of the filling left so I used this to serve alongside as a dip. Hummus would work well too.

For the Filling
2 Tbsp Cream Cheese
1 Tbsp Sour Cream
1/2 Onion finely diced
1 Garlic Clove minced
Small box of Baby spinach leaves
1/2-1 Tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 Tsp Dried Oregano
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
Grated Lemon zest
Feta Cheese Crumbled (Add to taste)
Salt and Pepper

For the flat bread
Click here
(Do not add oil)

Prepare the flat bread, cover in clingfilm and chill for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile in a frying pan soften the onion until translucent, add the garlic, spinach, cumin, oregano, lemon zest and lemon juice and wilt the spinach. Season with a small amount of salt and plenty of pepper. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool. Add the sour cream and cream cheese to the pan and allow to melt together. Chop the spinach mixture up finely and add back into the pan with the crumbled feta. Combine well. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Remove from pan and allow to cool.

Remove the flat bread dough from the fridge and divide into several golf ball pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball. On a floured surface press the dough ball flat with the palm of your hand. Using a rolling pin roll the dough into small discs approx 5-7 mm thick. Add a teaspoon of the filling into the centre of one disc and spread thinly. Brush water around the edges of the dough before covering with another disc. Seal the two pieces of dough together and gently roll out to a thinner disc approx 5 mm in total. In a dry frying pan over a high heat add the flat bread and brown the underside. The bread will begin to bubble and brown spots will appear on the dough. Flip the bread over when this happens and brown the other side. Continue to make up the flat breads untill all dough has been used. Serve warm with a dip of your choice.
This experiment worked so well. The flat breads do need to have a dip served alongside otherwise they may be too dry.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thumb-print Cookies

My mum used to make a similar cookie to these, she called them Viennese whirls. Mum's had a lighter  shortbread cookie  underneath the jam. She used to pipe the cookie mixture into a paper case and then add the hot jam once they were baked. These cookies are the closest I can get to them and  as I am not much of a baker, these were darn good. The only downside is that you can't eat them straight out of the oven unless you want third degree burns to your mouth. (Not nice). They are well worth the wait though.

Thumb-print cookies (makes 12)
1/2 Cup Softened Butter
1/4 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 Cup Flour
12 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Walnuts
2/3 Cup Melted Jam
1/4 Tsp Salt

Cream together the butter, sugar and egg yolk only until light and fluffy. (Reserve the egg white in a separate bowl). Stir in the flour, vanilla extract and salt. Shape dough into small balls. Coat in egg white then roll in the walnuts before placing them on a lined baking sheet approx 2 inches apart. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and using a wooden spoon handle poke dents into each cookie. Add a dollop of the melted jam into these dents and continue to bake until the cookies are browned and baked through. The original recipe called for 8 minutes. I let mine bake for approx 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool before enjoying....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Warming Chilli

You can't beat a bowl of hot steamy chilli on a cold fall or winters day. It warms you up through and through and can be served almost alongside anything, nachos, cheese scones, biscuits, crusty bread, rice, baked potatoes, corn bread, salad...the list is endless. I find chilli so versatile and for that reason I tend to make a large batch of chilli and freeze any leftovers (that's if we ever have any). I have been experimenting with my chilli for a while trying to get the spiciness right. Ian likes a hot hot chilli where as I like a mild chilli. I do believe though that my taste buds can take a little more heat than what they once did. I always stick to the main ingredients when making a chilli but  recently have been trying out new flavors to make my chilli more rounded.

I have been reading a few recipes and some have used a shot of coffee to give the chili a rich flavor. I thought that I would give this a go. Other options included adding plain chocolate to the pan and using different chilli's. After my experiment tonight I think I have perfected the perfect chilli....well at least for moi!!!

500g Minced Beef
1 Small Sirloin steak cut into 1cm cubes
1 Medium Onion
1 Medium Green Pepper
3 Garlic Cloves
2 Smoked Chipotle Peppers and 1tsp Juice from Can
1Tsp Ground Coriander
1Tsp Smoked Paprika
1Tsp Paprika
2 Tsp Cumin
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 Shot of Espresso
1 Can Crushed Tomatoes (300ml approx)
1 Can of Kidney or romano beans 
11/2 Cups Beef Stock
Flour for coating the steak
To begin with finely dice the onion, garlic and green pepper. In a large pan add a splash of oil and gently sweat the onion,garlic and pepper until they become soft. Meanwhile coat the cubes of steak in the flour and add to the pan and brown. Add the minced beef and brown. Then add all the spices and stir well to coat the contents of the pan. Add the liquid ingredients and tomato paste and mix well. Finally add the beans. Season with salt and simmer on a low heat for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop whilst stirring occasionally. (The longer the chilli stays simmering the more flavorsome it comes). I simmer the chilli with the lid on but if the sauce is not thick enough I remove the lid for a while until it thickens up. Serve warm.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Winter Salad (Feta, Cranberries and Walnut salad)

With Christmas and the American Thanksgiving  coming up there will be many heavy meals eaten and I'm sure some people will be fed up of full on meals. So to break this pattern I came up with this winter salad. It is based on the holiday season but much lighter than the traditional foods. It incorporates the holiday flavors of cranberries, toasted walnuts and cheese. It is finished off with a fruity raspberry vinaigrette which makes for a lovely refreshing salad that works well with cold cuts of turkey. We served the salad alongside hot turkey rolls for a mid week dinner.

Winter Salad
4 Cups Baby Spinach Leaves
1 Small Head of Steamed Broccoli florets (cooled)
Thin slices of 1/2 small red onion
1/2 Cup Walnuts
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/4 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
Raspberry vinaigrette (enough to coat the salad)
Pinch of S&P

In a large salad bowl toss all the ingredients together except the vinaigrette. Just before serving add enough vinegarette to coat the leaves and toss well.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gooey Chocolate fudge cake

We all need chocolate and some of us who are impulsive need it straight away. This cake is for those impulsive ones. It takes 5 minutes to cook and less than 5 minutes to devour. It comes out as a light chocolate sponge with a gooey chocolate sauce hidden around the bottom. Yum yum.

This recipe cooks the cake in the microwave but for those of you who don't possess a microwave you can bake it in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. I think I will play around with this recipe at a later date to make treacle sponge and sticky toffee pudding.

Funny looking hey...but oh so tasty
Gooey Chocolate fudge cake
110g All purpose flour
1tsp Baking powder
110g Brown Sugar
55g Melted Butter
1 Egg
4 Tbsp Milk
30g Cocoa powder
Pinch Salt
1Tbsp Vanilla extract
For the sauce
110g Brown Sugar
30g Cocoa Powder
125 mls Hot Water

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Add the melted butter, vanilla extract, milk and egg to the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into a microwavable bowl. The sides should be about 5 cm high as the cake will rise. Mix the remaining sugar and cocoa powder together and sprinkle over the dough. Pour the hot water over top of the cake gently. Cook in the microwave on a high heat for 5 mins. The cake will rise and there will be a lovely sticky chocolate sauce seeping down towards the bottom.  Best served with ice cream.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Coconut Prawns/Shrimp

I have attempted to write this post at least two times and everything I write sounds wrong. Nothing flowed together...a bit like dinner tonight. I knew I wanted to have a picky dinner and potato wedges were a definite but what was to go with it. I had a turkey breast thawing and some left over ham but these didn't float my boat. I hunted into the depths of the freezer and found a bag of plump juicy prawns. My thoughts turned towards coconut coated prawns. That was it dinner was decided, coconut prawns, spicy coleslaw and potato wedges. Not the most healthiest of dinners but it will be definitely be tasty.

The issue was do I fry the prawns or bake them... To be healthier I think I will bake them....lets hope the coating stays on hey!!! (To be honest I'll probably experiment and do a bit of both.... A taste test).

It has been 4 hours since I started this post and the experiment is in progress. So far the pan fried coconut prawn is in the lead. The baked prawn is a close second though. Now time for the taste test. The fried prawn is a little more crispier than the baked prawn and the coating has turned a much nicer shade of brown. To help the coconut brown on the baked prawn I slightly toasted the coconut before using it in the coating but to be honest this didn't really make any difference. I think for tonight I'll have the pan fried prawns. 

Coconut Prawns
Raw shelled Prawns (20)
1 Egg White
1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Desiccated Coconut
1tsp Salt
1tsp Paprika

In a bowl mix together the breadcrumbs the coconut, salt and paprika and set to one side. In another large bowl slightly whisk the egg white until it becomes loose and then add the prawns and coat thoroughly in the egg white. Take a few prawns out of the egg white mixture and toss in the coconut mixture and coat well,  before pan frying the prawns in a hot pan with vegetable oil. Once browned and cooked through place on kitchen roll and blot of any excess oil. Serve with a variety of dips. I chose sweet chilli and garlic mayo.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Posh cheese on toast with onion marmalade

This is a twist on a welsh rarebit recipe, a thick cheesy sauce grilled over toasted bread. Basically a posh cheese on toast. Apparently it is Britain's version of the continental European fondue. It works really well with the onion marmalade. The sweetness of the marmalade cuts through the creaminess of the cheese. This recipe will make for 2 slices of toast.

Onion Marmalade
1 Large Onion sliced finely
1/2 Cup of Balsamic Vinegar
2-3 Tbsp Brown Sugar (Add enough to suit your taste)
Olive Oil
1-2 Tsp Chilli Flakes

Over a medium heat fry the onions in a little olive oil until softened and lightly browned. Stir in the sugar, chilli flakes and vinegar. Bring to a slow simmer stirring occasionally until the marmalade begins to get thicker. This should take approx 20-25 minutes. Allow the marmalade to cool slightly.

Cheese Sauce
3/4 Cup Grated Cheddar
1/3 Cup Sour Cream
1 Tsp Mustard
Pinch of Salt and Pepper
1 Egg Yolk

Into a bowl add the sour cream, mustard and egg yolk. Whisk to combine. Add the cheese and mix well.

Now its time to assemble. Toast thick slices of good quality bread on both sides. Spread a good spoonful of the onion marmalade on one side of the toast. Top with the cheese sauce mixture, then grill under a medium heat until the cheese sauce begins to brown and bubble. Remove from grill allow to cool for 30 seconds before delving in.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vegetable Torta

Having had 3 weeks of work and indulging myself in hearty meaty dishes it was time to think vegetables..... How can you spruce up vegetables? A torta!!! which I have to say  is not what I would have called it. My understanding of a torta was a Mexican sandwich, not a layering of vegetables. Maybe I should call it layered vegetables. That still doesn't sound right doesn't it? Anyway enough of me rambling, lets get the recipe up. 

The original recipe calls for some of the vegetables to be roasted. I found that this took too long and dried out the vegetables too much, therefore I pan fried most of the veggies. This recipe will make enough for four people to have as a side or two people to have as a light supper. It would be great served alongside a fresh crusty baguette. We had it with grilled sausages and garlic pasta.

Vegetable Torta
2 Red Bell Peppers
1 Medium Eggplant
2 Zucchinis
1 Large White Onion
1 Garlic Clove minced
Handful of Basil and Parsley finely chopped
6 Rashers Bacon (Optional)
Grated Havarti Cheese (Optional)

Cut the bell peppers in half and place on a baking tray flesh side down. Place under a very hot grill until the skins begin to char and blacken. Remove from the grill and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled removed the skins, stems and cut out the seeds. Cut the halves into quarters and lay flat.

Fry the bacon until crispy, remove from pan and allow to cool. Chop into small pieces. Reserve the bacon fat in the frying pan for the pan-frying of the onions. 

Slice the eggplant and zuchini lengthwise approximatley 5mm in thickness and place in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and coat with a generous amount of olive oil. (This is where the original recipe stated you can roast this on a baking sheet in the oven until brown) I pan fried the eggplant and zucchini in batches in a dry frying pan until  the vegetables were cooked through and browned on each side. Once again allow the veggies to cool.

Slice the onions into rings and fry them in the bacon fat with the garlic until they become softened. Once again remove from pan and allow to cool.

Now that all the veggies have been prepared, this is where the layering begins. Line an 8inch spring loaded cake pan with plastic wrap allowing extra plastic wrap to fall over the sides. This will be used to cover the vegetables once layered. Firstly layer half of the eggplant followed by a sprinkling of the herbs. Then layer with half the zucchini, peppers and onion mixture. Sprinkle with some more herbs, the cheese and bacon. Top with the remaining zucchini, peppers and onion mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs and seal the torta with the remaining eggplant. Wrap the remaining plastic wrap over the top of the torta, press down and refrigerate for as long as you can.

To serve loosen the spring from the cake pan and gently remove the torta. Flip onto a plate and remove the plastic wrap. Allow to sit until it reaches room temperature then cut into large wedges.