Classic Chicken Curry

This chicken recipe does not have any curry powder; however several other spices are used that make a beautiful and aromatic chicken curry dish. This recipe is adapted from Two Stews’ recipe.

 

Ingredients for 8 chicken legs:

- 4 tablespoons Canola oil
– 7 whole cloves
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 7 green cardamom pods
– 1 onion, finely chopped
– 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
– 9 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
– Salt
– 1 tsp turmeric
– 1 tsp chili powder
– 2 Tbsp coriander powder
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/4 cup tomatoes from can
– 8 chicken legs
– 2 cups water
– 1 tsp garam masala

Method:

Heat oil in a deep pan. Add the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and fry for less than a minute.

Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger. Fry for 3 minutes.

Add the spices, the bay leaves(except the garam masala) and salt. Stir well.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes, until sauce thickens.

Add the chicken and cook in the sauce for 5 minutes.

Add the water, bring to boil, simmer for 25 minutes or until the chicken is well cooked and the water has evaporated and the sauce thickened.

Add the garam masala in the end.

Serve with white basmati rice.

Homemade Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Basil Sauce

I can hear you going yummy! Yes, yummy it was! It was my first time making fresh pasta from scratch. I had this fresh ravioli pasta recipe (again) noted down somewhere among my recipes, but the cheese stuffing I just made it up. Here’s how you can put together this delicious plate in just over an hour.

To make raviolis enough for two people, you need:

Pasta

- 2.5 cups flour

- 1 cup hot boiling water

Filling

- 1/2 cup feta cheese

- 2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano cheese

- 1 egg

- A sprinkle of: black pepper, basil and chives

Sauce

- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped

- 1 Tbsp olive oil

- 1 cup chopped tomatoes

- 1 tsp basil (I used dried)

- A sprinkle of black pepper

- Salt

- A sprinkle of sugar

Method:

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the hot water over it. Carefully, with your hands, knead the ingredients into a dough. Add flour if you feel the dough is sticky. Let is rest for 10 minutes (while you prepare the filling).

For the filling, mix the ingredients listed above into a thick cream.

Dust the surface you’ll be working on with flour. Roll out the dough into a large circle, thickness 1 cm.

Using a pizza cutter, cut out the edges of the rolled out dough leaving it rectangular in shape.

Place one-teaspoon measures of the filling all over the dough placing them an 3 cm apart.

Again using the pizza cutter, cut between the empty spaces leaving each spoonful of the filling in a square on its own.

Fold the dough over the filling and seal with your fingers. Repeat for all the filling. You should end up with over 15 pillow-like raviolis.

Throw the raviolis in a pot of salty boiling water. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the raviolis float.

Drain the raviolis and set aside.

(By the way, in order to get the raviolis in a proper square or rectangular shape, after they cool down, cut out the uneven edges with a knife.)

To prepare the sauce, fry the garlic in the olive oil for a minute. Add the tomatoes. Sprinkle a little sugar (to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes). Season generously. Bring the sauce to boil and then let it simmer for 15 minutes (to thicken). Finally, put the raviolis in the sauce. Turn off the heat after a minute or two, after the raviolis are well coated with the sauce.

Sprinkle grated Parmigiano cheese on top and, if you can, share half with a loved one!

Again, here’s the cheese ravioli with tomato sauce :)

Moist Banana Cake With Walnuts

Whenever I have a few bananas that are overripe and are starting to turn black (too ripe to be eaten), I make a banana cake. Each time I add a surprise ingredient or bake the cake in different ways (muffins, loaf, heart-shaped … ). One time, for example, I added chocolate chips. This time, I used Muscovado sugar, millet flour and crushed walnuts, and I can tell you that I am very satisfied with the result! If you don’t have millet flour, use 2 cups of regular flour.

Ingredients (1 loaf):

- 1 cup flour, sifted

- 1 cup millet flour, sifted

- 1 tsp baking soda

- 1 cup Muscovado sugar

- 1/4 cup canola oil

- 1 egg

- 4 ripe bananas, mashed

- 1/2 cup of crushed walnuts

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, cream together the oil and sugar.

Beat in the egg.

Add the mashed bananas. Mix well. (As usual I use a spatula)

Add the dry ingredients, cup by cup.

Finally, toss in the walnuts. Give the batter a final mix with your spatula.

Pour the batter in a loaf pan – this time I lined my loaf pan with parchment paper *.

Bake for 1 hour.

* Baking your cake in parchment paper will make it very easy to take out of the pan after it’s baked, you just grab the parchment paper from the top ends and lift it up. There is no need to grease the baking pan with butter when you’re using parchment paper.

Did you know? Muscovado sugar is also called ‘moist sugar’. It is coarser and more sticky than regular brown sugar. It is made from sugarcane juice.

Chocolate Cake with Prunes and Chocolate Chips

If only you could smell the house right now! It smells of chocolate and fresh baking! Yum yum yum!

We have a game of Monopoly coming up tonight with our neighbors/friends and I wanted to bake something to enjoy with coffee and tea. I had a recipe for a chocolate cake saved somewhere, so I went through my folder of recipes and found it! I changed a little with the ingredients and added chocolate chips, but really the smell is enough indicator that it is going to be entirely devoured tonight!

Chocolate Cake with Prunes and Chocolate Chips

Ingredients:

- 3 eggs

- 1 cup sugar

- 150g yogurt

- Juice of two oranges

- 1 cup dark cocoa powder

- 1 cup flour

- 1 cup rolled oats, ground (I used a food processor)

- 1 tsp baking powder

- 1 tsp baking soda

- 1 tsp vanilla

- 100g pitted prunes, chopped into little pieces

- 1 cup chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the yogurt. Mix well. Add the orange juice. Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients. Make sure to sift the flour and cocoa powder. Mix well. I use a spatula. It works OK.

Add the prunes and chocolate chip and give the batter one last mix with your spatula.

Pour the batter in a loaf pan or any cake tin.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Leave to cool down on the counter top.

Sprinkle powdered sugar all over.

OK, off to Monopoly now! Wish me luck!

Basmati Rice With Chickpeas and All Spice

When you’re stuck at home and hungry and it is ‘cold and rainy’ outside, what kind of food comes to your mind?
Me: spicy food or spicy dessert! Hence, Basmati Rice With Chickpeas and Spices.

Usually this kind of rice, whether cooked with meat or not, is served with salty yogurt on the side.

Ingredients, serves 4 hungry people:

- 1 onion, cut into chunks

- 1 Tbsp butter

- 1 Tbsp olive oil

- 1/2 tsp turmeric

- 1 tsp cinnamon

- 1 tsp cumin

- 1 tsp all spice

- 1.5 tsp salt

- 1.5 cups Basmati rice

- 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas

- 3.5 cups water

Method:

Soak the rice in warm water while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a deep pot, heat the butter and olive oil, add the turmeric and onions and fry until the onions turn golden in color.

Add the cooked chickpeas and spices and salt and stir well so the spices coat the chickpeas well.

Drain the rice and add it to your pot. Mix everything well.

Add the water. Bring to boil and then lower to the heat to the minimum possible.

Cover and leave until all the water evaporates and the rice cooks well. It should take 20 to 25 minutes.

The rice was fluffy, perfectly well-cooked and the spices are just enough to make it beautifully aromatic on a ‘cold’ night!

Did you know?  Turmeric is considered of one nature’s most powerful healers.

Read about the health benefits of turmeric here.

Shish Taouk and Homemade Hummus

The best thing about shish taouk (grilled chicken breast cut into cubes) is that you can marinate it whichever way you desire, there is no one recipe. This time I decided to go herby. I used thyme, and instead of squeezing the lemons, I used them whole. Frankly, they were yummilicious! And to complement shish taouk, you can’t but have hummus! I worked from scratch, i.e. didn’t use canned chickpea cream but worked with fresh ingredients.

To marinate chicken for 6 skewers, you need:

- 500g boneless chicken breasts cut into cubes

- 1 lemon cut into 8 cubes

- 3 garlic cloves, pound into a cream

- 1 tsp salt

- 2 tsp thyme

- 2 Tbsp olive oil

- 1/2 tsp paprika

- 1 zucchini cut into thick circles (optional – I just wanted some vegetables with our dinner)

Marinate the chicken for half an hour. In the meantime prepare the hummus, for which you need:

- 400g ready-to-eat chickpeas

- Juice of  1 and 1/2 lemon

- 1 tsp salt

- 1 tsp olive oil

- 10 Tbsp tahini

- 3 Tbsp water

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend well.

Back to the chicken. Fill the skewers will the chicken mix. Grill over medium/high heat until both sides are golden and the chicken is cooked but not dry. Serve with the hummus on the side.

Did you know? Tahini is sesame paste and sesame seeds are a good source of proteins.

Apple Olive Oil Pound Cake

I have had this recipe for this sweet apple cake written down in my recipe notebook for months and months now, and the sad thing is that I do not have a reference for it! I do not remember where I got it from. But I enjoyed it as if it were mine! A beautifully sweet cake, can be even eaten warm. I love how the apples give it a fruity taste yet they’re almost totally dissolved.

To make one loaf pan of this sweet Apple Olive Oil Cake, you need:

- 1/4 cup sugar

- 4 eggs

- A pinch of salt

- 1/3 cup of olive oil

- 2 cups flour

- 2 tsp baking powder

- 3 apples, peeled and diced finely

- 1 Tbsp butter

- 2 Tbsp sugar

- 1 tsp vanilla

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Fry the diced apples with the butter. Sprinkle the 2 Tbsp sugar and vanilla on top and cook until the apples become soft.

For the cake batter, beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl. Add the olive oil and mix well.

Sift the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then cup by cup, add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.

Whisk well. Finally fold in the apple mush.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Let the cake cool before slicing it and serving it with a scoop of vanilla  ice cream or a cup of spiced black tea.

Curried Red Lentil Soup

This is your classical red lentil soup but with a twist! Red lentil soup isn’t usually as watery as regular soup, it is more like a cross between a puree and a soup. You would serve red lentil soup with a slice of lemon on the side and you can garnish the bowls with parsley. Beautiful hearty dinner loaded with vitamins, iron and fiber.

To make two generous bowls of Curried Red Lentil Soup, you need:

- 1 cup red lentils

- 1 small onion, diced

- 1 Tbsp canola oil

- 1/2 tsp curry powder

- 1/4 tsp cumin powder

- 1/2 tsp salt

- 1 liter water

Method:

Fry the onions in the oil. When they turn translucent, add the curry powder and stir for a minute. When the onions start smelling spicy, add the lentils, the salt and cover them with the water. Bring to boil and then lower the heat. Let the ingredients cook until the lentils are well done. You might have to add a little water. You be the judge. After the lentils are well cooked, puree the soup with a stick food processor (would be the easiest thing) and then add the cumin. Make sure that you blend the soup OFF THE HEAT. Finally, return the pureed soup to the heat and let it break into a boil and then turn off the heat. Garnish with parsley and serve with a slice of lemon. An immensely fulfilling soup perfect for cold winter nights.

Wild Thyme, White Onion and Green Olives Salad

If you can get your hands on wild thyme, this is probably the best thing you can do with it! My grandmother used to make this salad for us in winter using wild thyme hand-picked from her garden in the village. A flavorful mix of three basic ingredients that work like magic together: wild thyme, white onion and green olives. The dressing is a simple classical one: lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt. Make sure you wash the thyme leaves well because they hold a lot of dirt. The additional touch (a basic one for my grandmother) is eating the salad with pita bread using your hands! That is the way I eat it.

Black Tea with Spices and Nuts

As promised, here is my second contribution to my Hot Drinks Week. This black tea with spices and nuts is usually eaten/drunk in the mountain areas of Lebanon during the cold winter season. You immediately warm up the moment you take a few sips from it. It also makes a very nice night-in-with-friends-playing-games drink.


For one cup, you need:

- 1 Tbsp of loose black tea

- 1 Tbsp of dark brown sugar

- 1/2 cinnamon stick

- 2 cloves

- 5 almonds

- 5 walnuts

 

First, soak the cinnamon stick and cloves in the hot water for a few minutes before adding the loose tea. Brew tea like you would usually brew tea: loose tea leaves in a strainer in hot water. Infuse for a few minutes. Take out the tea strainer and the spices and add the sugar. Stir. The tea will darken in color, it will become almost black because of the dark sugar. Finally, add the nuts (you can also add pine nuts and pistachios) and serve with a spoon. Beautifully and literally heart warming!

Boneless Chicken with Paprika & Rosemary and Oven-baked Saffron Basmati Rice

After someone mentioned to me that Iranians use rose water in their cooking and considering my love for rosewater, I started reading about Iranian food with the intention of experimenting with a few recipes soon. I read through many websites but did not print or copy one recipe. What I usually do when I want to try out a new type of cooking or food from a new cuisine, I read a lot about it and then I innovate based on whatever stuck in mind or whatever stood out from all the recipes.

The following recipe is adapted from many recipes that I found on many different websites on Iranian/Persian food. I can safely say that the chicken was very flavorsome and the rice deliciously fluffy. Why not give a try?!

 

Boneless Chicken with Paprika & Rosemary and Oven-baked Saffron Basmati Rice (for 4):

For the chicken:

- 500g boneless chicken breast, cut into cubes

- 1 onion, cut in half and then thinly sliced

- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

- 2 Tbsp butter

- 1 tsp paprika

- 1/2 tsp salt

- 1/2 tsp rosemary

- A pinch of black pepper

- 1 tsp tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup of hot water

For the rice:

- 1 cup basmati rice

- 1 Tbsp butter

- 2 1/2 cup boiling water

- A pinch of saffron dissolved in a tablespoon of warm water

- Salt

- 1/4 tsp rosewater

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Wash the rice in a strainer under running water for a minute.

Melt the butter in a pan and when it starts to form bubbles, add the rice and the salt. Stir-fry for a few minutes.

Put the rice in a baking dish and pour over it the boiling water and the saffron and sprinkle the rosewater.

Place in the oven on the middle rack and let it bake for 50-60 minutes. At the end, the water should have evaporated and the rice should have doubled in size.

While the rice is cooking in the oven, work with the chicken.

Fry the onions and garlic in the butter over medium heat. When they start to soften, add the chicken and cook for a few minutes before adding the paprika and salt and rosemary and black pepper. Cook the chicken very well. Near the end, add the tomato paste in water and turn up the heat to high. The water will boil and evaporate leaving the chicken almost red from the paprika and tomato paste. There will be no sauce. The chicken will be coated with the wilted onions and garlic.

Now back to the rice, before taking out of the oven, make sure that the water has totally evaporated. The top of the rice might be a little crispy or hard because of the heat of the oven, but don’t worry, after the rice is cooked and you mix it, it will be fine. The rice will not come out yellow, but it will have a hint of pink from the saffron.

Serve the chicken with the rice on the side.

Vegetable Lasagna

Did you know that I was a vegetarian for 9 years?!

The reason I became a vegetarian: Mad Cow Disease. The reason I went back to eating meat: steak with salt and squeezed lemon juice in Rome.

But here’s to all the vegetarians out there, including my sister who, I think, is on her way of becoming a vegan! A baked vegetable lasagna with homemade bechamel sauce.

Ingredients for a 30cmx20cm baking tray:

- 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp butter

- 1 cup diced white mushrooms

- 3/4 cup diced zucchini

- 1/2 cup diced carrots

- 1 small onion, chopped

- 2 garlic cloves, minced

- 2 tomato heads, diced

- 1 tsp tomato paste dissolved in 1/4 cup of water

- Salt, black pepper and 2 tsp of Italian seasoning

- 1.5 cups shredded cheese, as usual I use mozzarella and Emmental

- 6 sheets of lasagna, half-cooked

For the bechamel sauce:

- 2 cups milk, hot on the brink of boiling

- 2 Tbps butter

- 3.5 Tbsp flour

- 1 tsp salt and a sprinkle of white pepper

Method:

Fry all the vegetables in the olive oil and butter (except the tomatoes). Add the salt and the black pepper and Italian seasoning. Leave the vegetables to cook well for a good ten minutes. Next, add the diced tomatoes and stir well. A few minutes later add the tomato paste in water and let the sauce thicken and the vegetables become very soft.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In the meantime, start working on the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a deep saucepan and add the flour. Whisk well until they form a ball. Off the heat, add the milk batch by batch, whisking non-stop.  The sauce should immediately thicken. Add the salt and white pepper. Set the sauce aside.

Now it’s time to start the lasagna. Spread a tablespoon of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of the baking dish (to avoid the pasta to stick to the bottom) and layer 3 sheets of lasagna side  by side. Next, spread half the vegetables over the pasta and sprinkle a little bit of the grated cheese over the vegetables. Repeat this layering one more time ending with the vegetables. Now pour the bechamel sauce all over the layering and finish with a generous layer of cheese. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese totally melts. Broil the top for a few minutes for a crispy and golden effect.

And mamma mia what a finger-licking good lunch we had today!

 

 

Spiced Hot Chocolate

Boo hoo, I sort of have the flu. My nose is congested and I feel like having soups and only soups! But I am not complaining, because this is the perfect excuse to finally start the Hot Drinks Weeks that I’ve been meaning to do! And the first drink for you is this yummy spiced hot chocolate drink:

To prepare two small cups, you need:

- 1 cup milk

- 3 leveled Tbsp dark cocoa powder

- 3 Tbsp sugar

- 1 cinnamon stick

- 2 cloves

Method:

Put the cinnamon stick and cloves in the milk and warm the milk in a pot over medium heat. When the milk starts getting warm, add the sugar and cocoa powder and stir well. Make sure the cocoa powder does not form lumps. Turn off heat before boiling hot, when the milk develops steam but is not boiling. Perfect hot drink for a cold night in!