Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Meatzza for #ForeverNigella

I was browsing through the internet the other day, as you do, (Tell me it's not just me!) and I came across a blog hop devoted to Nigella Lawson and food your family would love.  The original organizer of the blog hop is Sarah at Maison Cupcake, but the host this month is Sally from Recipe Junkie and the Attack of the Custard Creams.  I could appreciate Sally’s attachment to Nigella and baking.  She went through a challenging time when her child was quite ill a few years ago and baking from Nigella's How to Become a Domestic Goddess gave her structure and something she could control.  While my feeling-out-of-control issues are not on par with hers, with all our moving about, I could definitely relate.  If my kitchen is in working order, I am in a safe, familiar place.

I decided to join the blog hop by making a Nigella recipe from her latest book, Nigellissima.  Whenever we have pizza, my motto is always the more meat, the better.  And the thinner the crust, the better.  This recipe goes one step further on both counts.  No crust at all and it’s basically all meat.  I added cooked lentils because 1. I like them, 2. I knew they would taste good and 3. they would make me feel better about eating what is basically a big hamburger patty with tomatoes and cheese.  This is comfort food for sure.  If you are trying to restrict carbs in your diet, this is the perfect pizza, or rather, meatzza for you.

1 lb 2 oz or 500g ground or minced beef
3/4 cup or 100g cooked lentils
3/4 oz or about 20g Parmesan
Small handful fresh parsley
2 eggs
2 cloves garlic
Sea salt
Black pepper to taste
Olive oil
1 can 14 oz or 400g chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Crushed red pepper - optional
1 ball mozzarella – about 4 1/2 oz or 125g – plain or with basil
1 small bunch fresh basil – for garnish

Preheat your oven to 425°F or 220°C.

Chop your parsley and pour your canned tomatoes into a sieve to drain.  (Save the juice for soup or another dish.)

Put your ground beef, lentils, parsley and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Grate in the Parmesan and one of the cloves of garlic and add a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Stir until just mixed through.

Oil a shallow, round baking tin.  For a thinner crust, choose a wider baking pan.  Mine was only about 8 in or 21cm so this was definitely a deep pan meatzz.  Press the meat mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan.

In another bowl, put your well-drained tomatoes, a little sprinkle of salt and the oregano.  Grate in the second clove of garlic and give it a good drizzle of olive oil.  Mix well.

Spread the seasoned tomatoes onto your meat and then sprinkle with some crushed red pepper, if using.

Slice the mozzarella and arrange the slices on top of the tomatoes.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, depending on the thickness of your meat layer.  I was a little bit concerned initially because the meat juices came up and around the tomatoes and cheese, which was not attractive.  But at the end of the cooking time, the top was browned and it was all good.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.  Decorate with the basil and cut in wedges to serve.  I served a good wedge along side a salad of arugula or rocket with a simple vinaigrette to complete the meal.

Nigella’s recipe says it serves four to six people but even with a side salad and my addition of the lentils, I don’t think you could stretch this to feed more than four.   It was delicious though and I would definitely make it again.


And again, check out the other #ForeverNigella favorites in the blog hop right here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Apple Banana Carrot Muffins #MuffinMonday

As some of you may have read, I celebrated a milestone birthday last week.  Yep, fifty years old already.  Which surprises me somewhat, because I can still remember what 10 felt like.  And 24.  Can anyone relate?  And while I have gotten considerably wiser and certainly more knowledgeable about a lot of things, 10 and 24 just don’t seem that long ago.  When I was 24 years old, more than a quarter of a century ago, we lived in Abu Dhabi and being back here and reconnecting with yet another old friend has freshened those memories enormously!

Those days, we spent every weekend with David, eating curry suppers after a rousing game of Pass the Pigs and a few cold beers on a Thursday night, cooking full English breakfasts (often at four or five a.m.), attending marathon “company” lunches that lasted from lunchtime through to early evening, but most especially, we sailed all day Friday and sometimes Saturday as well.  We had a Prindle catamaran and David sailed a wooden single hull boat called a Drascombe Lugger.   Along with a few other friends, we would launch our crafts in the morning, sailing out to some of the sandy spits offshore Abu Dhabi, bringing along drinks and sausages to grill.  We had fabulous weekends!

So guess what we did for my birthday? We went to Abu Dhabi, of course!  First there was a fun champagne tasting and dinner at David’s on my actual birthday evening.  Then we sailed all the next day, sipping cold wine and eating hot sausages in buns.  And then Saturday night we enjoyed a wonderful dinner out that started with champagne and included a specially chosen wine with each delicious course.  All in all, a great birthday weekend adding to great memories with a dear friend.

One of the sandy spits, with a view of the shores of Abu Dhabi.  These are often almost covered at high tide
so you have to plan your lunch stop wisely.

Here are just a few of the things I know after 50 years:
1. Your real friends don’t change and it doesn’t matter how often you get to see them, you will still love them and enjoy their company. And they will love you.
2. Friendships have a collective memory.  What you don’t remember, someone else will and vice versa.  Which is really important as we age.
3. Having a good giggle about old times reinforces the collective memory of all so we should get together with old friends more often.
4. When people are hurting, you should cook for them.  Your time and concern nurture their souls and the food nurtures their bodies.
5. Sailing is one of the best ways to spend a day.
6. When you stay with people, you should bring them food, drink and/or flowers.
7. Love people like you’d like to be loved, because it’s the right thing to do.
8. Be loyal to your friends and they will be loyal in return.
9. The company of good friends makes good food and drink taste even better.

In keeping with number six, I brought these tasty muffins to share for breakfast.   Our recipe this week was for a maple apple muffin, but I thought I’d make them an even more complete breakfast by adding bananas and grated carrot and then topping them with some crunchy granola.  Perfect.

For the muffins:
1 1/4 cups or 160g all purpose flour
1/2 cup or 100g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup or 60g butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1/2 cup ripe banana (about 3/4 of an 8-in or 20cm banana)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup or 60ml honey
1 medium carrot
1 small green apple

For the topping:
1/2 cup or about 60g granola or muesli of your choice
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 cup or 25g light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C.  Fill the muffin tin with liners or grease it really well with butter or non-stick spray.

Measure your flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and give them a good stir to mix.

Cut chunks off of your banana and mash them with a fork into in a measuring cup.  When the mashed banana hits 1/2 cup, eat what’s leftover, if any.

In another smaller bowl, mix the egg, mashed banana, vanilla, honey and butter.

Peel and grate your carrot and mix it into the liquids bowl.

Peel and core your apple and cut it into little pieces.  Add them to the liquids bowl as well and stir to coat.  This will keep your apple from turning brown.

Make your topping by crunching the granola into small pieces with the end of a thick wooden spoon.  Add in the butter and stir and mash until it is combined.  Add in the light brown sugar and mix well.  Set aside.

Complete the batter by pouring the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and fold until they are just combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups.

Use your fingers to sprinkle the topping on the batter.

Bake in the preheated oven about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool for a few minutes in the muffin tin and then remove to a rack to cool completely.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Eli's Sweet and Sour Chicken for #RandomRecipeChallenge

Easy, sweet and sour chicken, the Indonesian way, from the recipe book of one of my dearest friends. This is MJ and Jim approved!

Many years ago, and I mean MANY years ago, we lived in Balikpapan, Indonesia.  You may have heard me mention it before, at least once or twice.  I was blessed in that location by several good friends who made a tiny oilfield town with hardly anything to recommend it (We are talking 1989, folks.) one of our very favorite places to live.  I am thrilled beyond words that one of them is living in Dubai and we get together quite often.  It’s like we’ve never been apart.

When I read the instructions for this month’s Random Recipe Challenge where we are supposed to borrow a cookbook from someone else and make a random dish from it, I decided to ask MJ for her help.  She not only lent me her personal cookbook of handwritten recipes, but she chose the recipe for me.  It’s a dish she learned from her sweet maid while she lived in Balikpapan.

Eli made it by heart and, as you see by the evidentiary photos, there are no amounts and hardly any instructions, so MJ told me what to do and I did my best.  The amounts, I came up with on my own.  I don't think a recipe can get more random than that!

But I think I did all right because I brought a serving over to her house the next day for a critique and she and her husband both declared it delicious and well done!   I hope you enjoy it as much as we all did.

1 lb 6 oz or 625g boneless chicken breasts (more or less)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2-inch piece fresh ginger
1 tablespoon butter
1 small red bell pepper
1 small green bell pepper
1 hot red chili pepper
5 oz or 140g pineapple (fresh or canned in juice, not syrup - about 4 slices, drained)
3/4 cup or 180ml ketchup – any brand
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup or 65g flour
Olive oil for pan frying

Cut your chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.  Season with the salt and a good couple of grinds of fresh black pepper.  Stir well and set aside.

Mince your garlic and ginger.  Cut the onion in half and then cut it into thick slices.

Chop your green and red bell peppers into bite-sized pieces.  Cut the pineapple into small chunks. Mince the red chili pepper.

Sauté the onion with the butter and a little drizzle of olive oil.

When the onion has browned slightly but is still crunchy, add in the garlic and ginger.  Sauté until they are all golden but be careful not to burn the garlic.

Remove the garlic, onion and ginger from the pan and set aside in a small bowl.

Heat the pan until quite hot and stir-fry the bellpeppers for just a few minutes, until they get some little charred bits on them.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

For the sauce, put the ketchup, chili, vinegar and the sugar in a small pot with about 1/4 cup or 60ml water.

Give it a good stir and then add in the pineapple pieces and the onion, ginger and garlic.

Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  The recipe calls for some cornstarch to thicken it but MJ says she has never used it and I didn’t find it necessary either.

Add the flour to the chicken bowl and stir with a fork, gently prying the pieces of chicken apart with the tines to make sure that the flour has coated all sides of all the pieces.

Add a little olive oil to the pan and fry the coated chicken in two or three sets, keeping the chicken pieces in a single layer and removing them to a paper towel-lined plate with they are cooked through and are well browned on both sides.

Right before you are ready to serve, toss the peppers back into the pan with the chicken and warm through.

You can add the sauce and stir to coat.  Or simply pile your chicken and peppers on the white rice and top with the sauce to serve.

Either way, enjoy!

If you would like to join dapper Dom at Belleau Kitchen for this or future challenges, head on over to his website or his Facebook page and say howdy!

Challenge #24 - Another Country