Tomato Soup

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Tomorrow we leave for a two and a half week holiday to India. We spent the day yesterday and today trying to finish up all the fruits, vegetables and other perishables at home. This morning I discovered a few fresh tomatoes and immediately thought of making a simple soup. Winter is a time when we all enjoy a hot bowl of soup. In our home the hand blender is one of the most used kitchen gadget. We often make a soup with whatever vegetables we have at home and also we make a lentil soup using red lentils (recipe to follow later). These all are fairly easy and quick to make. Tomato soup is nutritious and a great way to get some veg into your little ones too. I usually add carrots and celery to mine. If you have any fresh fennel lying around then add a bit of that too. Try and use the best quality tomato you can get hold of as that’s the key ingredient here. I have used canned chopped tomato in the past and they give good results too. Just use a whole 440 gm or thereabout can of good quality chopped tomato. I often add a bit of cream or a spoon of cream cheese or crème fraîche at the end. You can also use fresh or powdered stock for a deeper flavour but if its good quality tomato then I prefer to let the tomato do the talking.

Ingredients
Tomatoes 4 medium sized chopped
Carrot one small cut into dices
Celery one medium stick cut into slices
Onion one small sliced ( I used shallots here)
Garlic 3 cloves chopped
Bayleaf one
Thyme a fresh sprig or a tsp dried
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil about 2 tbsp
Double Cream 4 tbsp or 2 tbsp cream cheese (optional)

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Method
Heat a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the garlic and after a quick stir add the onion. Fry for a few minutes and add the carrots and celery. Fry covered on a low heat stirring often for about 10 minutes. Add the tomato and salt and put the heat up to medium and stir till the juices from the tomato starts to come out and the mixture starts to turn into a pulp (around 10 mins). Now add about 300 ml hot water and bring to a boil. Add the Bayleaf and thyme. Lower the heat and simmer for abound 15 minutes. Take off the heat and blend using a hand blender. Add cream or cream cheese if using. Dilute if necessary. Bring to a gentle simmer. Season the soup and serve immediately with some crusty bread. ENJOY!!
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Creamy Chicken Kebab (Chicken Malai Kabab)

Its incredibly easy to prepare Kebabs at home yet it seems that many people shy away from preparing them as perhaps they are not so sure about the marination or maybe they think that its a lot of hard work. They get cooked in BBQ’s (either shop bought or home marinated) but not considered much for general home cooking. Chicken Kebabs are very easy to prepare, are very healthy and are quick to cook. A bit of advance planning with the marination will ensure that you can have your dinner ready in less than 30 to 40 minutes, ideal for cooking when slightly short on time. Get the Meat marinated ahead and leave in the fridge overnight or for as less as 3 hours. If cooking after coming back from office or so try and leave it outside for a bit while you freshen up or get changed. The grilling itself takes about 10 to 20 minutes. Its best served with some light salad, pilau rice (Can be shop bought microwave version) or even a ready made tortila wrap. In India it gets served with Paratha Bread or Naan, usually a mint Chutney and some salad with onions.

Today’s recipe is for Chicken Malai Kebab (Creamy Chicken Kebab). Its my modern take on a Indian Classic. The end product is deliciously moist and the mild creamy nature is a big hit with the young fussy eaters too (if preparing for them perhaps omit or reduce the chilli, I use a separate marination without the chilli). I find that about 3 hours is enough for the marination but anything upwards of an hour should suffice. You could decide how healthy you want to make this dish (you could use light cream cheese or substitute half of it with sour cream or Greek yoghurt. But ). Some recipes call for two stage marination ie one first on with salt, pepper, ginger and garlic and after about 30 mins a second one wit the rest of the ingredients. I leave it up on you to decide how you want to do it depending on the time that you might have on your hand. While cooking keep an eye on it and try and not dry out the surface too much. Cut and check one inside to see if it has cooked. I use a George Foreman Gill and so it looks quicker and gives a lovely char grilled marks on the meat. In the following picture I have had to use red chilli as I did not have any green chilli at home at that time but green is much better in this recipe. (I have a shop bought Chilli Garlic Grinder that also includes fennel and I have used some of that in the marination but that is not necessary)
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Ingredients :

  • Chicken Breast 500 gms cut in medium chunks
  • Ground White Pepper half tsp (or black if you do not have white pepper)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cardamom Powder half tsp (use freshly ground if possible using the seeds inside a pod or if you do not have it use allspice instead, see below)
  • Ginger paste 2 tbsp
  • Garlic paste 1 tbsp
  • Green Chilli 2 nos or to taste
  • Corriander Leaves a handful
  • Cumin Powder half tsp (if you do not have this you can use a readymade curry powder)
  • Garam Masala (use allspice as a substitute but do not add Cardamom powder) half tsp
  • Cream Cheese (eg Philladelphia) about 4 heaped tbsp
Method :
Pat Dry the Chicken pieces and apply half the salt and the white pepper. Rub and leave it aside while you are preparing the rest. Make a paste of the ginger and garlic (if making your own) with the chilli, coriander leaves, rest of the salt, cream cheese cumin powder and the garam masala. Rub the chicken well with this mixture coating all the pieces well. Cover with a cling film and leave in the fridge. Soak the wooden skewers if you are using any.
Heat the Grill and skewer the marinated chicken using the soaked skewers without overcrowding them. (You could put them directly onto the George Foreman grill and cook without the skewers.) . Place on or under the grill and cook the chicken rotating regularly as necessary. Keep an eye on this as they cook very fast. the cream cheese will cause some lovely colouration on the Kebabs and take a piece out and cut in half to check whether its cooked through or not. If you overcook this it will dry up quickly (the outside should retain some moisture. You could also brush the Kebab couple of time while cooking using melted butter for a really yummy moist result (I did not follow this step on this occasion). Once you have checked if they are cooked take them off the grill and serve immediately. ENJOY

Bolognaise Sauce (Ragu)

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Bolognaise is one of the most common form of an Italian Meat Sauce that’s popular the world over. However there are no standardised recipe and presumably every family have their own version largely influenced by which part of Italy they come from. When I came to UK first I got introduced to this very tomato rich sauce with mince meat and often had mushrooms thrown in. Most of the generic ones that I had tried used to repeat on me and I found them very acidic. That put me off initially and then I would not order it from a menu based on my prior experiences and the same went for Lasagne. But I liked the concept. It was much later that I started researching it and got drawn back into it so much so that I wanted to create a version that agreed with me. In 2007 Heston Blumenthal had a show on Television that got my attention. It also revolutionised the way I perceived Bolognaise Sauce. He used milk like they use in certain parts of Italy that I previously did not knew could be done. So I simplified the process to suit me and came up with my own version. You can also read about different techniques on The Guardian’s website here or follow a close version of the original recipe here on Kok Robins’s blog.

I am not claiming any authenticity here but this is a recipe that I have come up using easily available products that tastes good and is not overly complicated. This is also a healthier version where I have cut out some of the initial oil, used lean mince and have not used any cream or butter at the end. It does take a bit of time but its the time that makes this sauce in my opinion. The amount of each each ingredient varies as I do not have any fixed amounts yet so most of them are approximation.

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Ingredients:

Olive Oil 50 ml
Garlic 3 large cloves chopped
Red Chilli 1 medium chopped
Onion 1 large diced
Celary 3 stalks diced
Carrots 2 medium diced
Bayleaf 2
White Wine 100 ml
Milk 250 ml approx
Lean Mince Beef 450 gms
Good quality seasoned Sausages 8 (slightly course mix is preferable)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Tomato Puree 1 to 2 tbsp
Worcester Sauce 1 tablespoon
Fish Sauce 1 tablespoon ( I have also used Anchovy paste instead )
Staranise 2 whole
Thyme 2 tsp dry or one fresh sprig (I have also used mixed dry Italian herbs instead)

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Heat oil in a heavy bottom casserole dish. Add the chopped garlic and chopped chilli and stir. After a minute add diced onion, carrots, and celery. Sprinkle some salt and sweat it over low to medium heat with the cover on for about 20 mins stirring often. Turn up the heat and add the white wine. Fry for a bit longer but without browning the vegetables till the wine is absorbed. Now add the mince meat and the sausage meat. Fry and break up the chunks as you go along. Now add the Worcester Sauce, fish sauce, and salt and pepper.
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Add the Bayleaf, thyme and star anise. Stir for a about 10 minutes and then add just enough milk to cover the mixture. Now bring to a boil and simmer on a very very low flame for about one hour stirring occasionally. Now add the tomato puree. Add any vegetables if you want like mix veg or peas if you wish at this stage. Stir and simmer on low flame for a further 30 minutes. Check for seasoning and serve with a good quality pasta with grated Italian dry cheese on top.

We also use the same sauce to make lasagne at home using shop bought lasagne sheet (also green lasagne sheets), home made bechamel sauce and little cheese on top.

Update N8vember 2018: I have recently found Aldi selling a 5percent fat Beef and Pork mince in a 750 gsm pack and have used it instead.

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Pepperonata Sauce

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There is something nice about the smell of roasted peppers. Pepper roasted in the Oven with a bit of Olive Oil will stay in a fridge for up to 10 days or more (ours are usually gone by two days). We mostly use them to make a simple creamy Sauce. You can also have the slices in a salad, pizza toppings, sandwich filler. The sauce is a good way to get more veg into fussy children too as they will love sweet creamy taste. If you make the sauce slightly thicker then you can also use it as a dip or a spread. We usually make ours slightly thicker and store in a closed container for a few days. We dilute it and use it for a quick pasta sauce. We also often add diced Chicken or prawns to make it into a more substantial meal.

We use red peppers where possible and also the yellow peppers but have found out that the green one do not work for this recipe. Usually find that two red peppers and one yellow pepper is enough for about 4 portions give or take. Put the peppers in a roasting tin. Cover with olive oil and roast in an 200 degree C oven for about 30 to 40 mins turning 2 to 3 times till the skin gets gently charred. If uou have a barbeque then you could roast the peppers on it. Take out into a bowl and cover with a foil and let cool. Roast the garlic cloves in the same pan for about 10 to 15 mins stirring few times without burning them. Meanwhile fry some sliced shallots or small white onions in olive oil till soft and translucent. Use a coverd pan over a low heat stirring frequently. This could take some time. When the onions are done let it cool. While that’s cooling peel the charred skin of the peppers and cut and take the stalk and seeds off. Add everything together and blitz in a food processor adding about 4 tablespoon of soft cream cheese and 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Don’t overdo this as a bit of texture is preferable.
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Serve mixed with freshly cooked pasta (usuing a bit of the drained pasta cooking water to loosen the mixture. We love ours as it is or with the addition of chicken or prawns) or store in a closed container to use as a dip or spread.
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Goan Pork Vindaloo

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I spent 6 months in Goa during my Hotel Management Course and had the pleasure of trying some lovely local dishes. Of all the Goan dishes the Vindaloo is perhaps the most popular the world over. However the ones cooked in the UK curry houses are far from the original. Here it seems to be popular as one of the hottest curry on the menu. However the dish is a Indianised version of the Portuguese dish “carne de vinha d’alhos,” a dish of meat, usually pork marinated in wine and garlic. The wine was substituted by vinegar and red chillies and a few other spices, ginger , garlic and sugar were added. Locally it’s also known as vindalho or vindallo. Essentially the spices are ground in vinegar and the meat is marinated in it before cooking. The end result is a delightful hot and sour curry with a slight hint of sweetness. I have heard stories in Goa that during family feasts this was cooked in a earthen pot and then reheated over 7 days before being finally laid in the banquet table. Not sure how true it is and if people these days have that kind of time. However one thing is for sure, this dish is a million miles apart from the curry house offerings. Another good thing is if you are making your own spice paste (easier than you think) you can control the amount of chillies that goes in it.

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I used diced pork fillet and found that with a 5 hour marination the meat was falling into pieces with a gentle touch after about 40 mins of cooking but this will vary. Using Belly Pork or meat with slightly more fat will add to the final flavour of the dish. Dry roasting the spices brings out the best flavour and is defiantly worth the extra effort and time. I also prefer mine with potatoes but this is a matter of personal choice.

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Ingredients
Port Fillet – 500 gms and diced into medium chunks
Onion – 2 medium, sliced
Ginger – a thumb sized piece, peeled
Garlic – 4 cloves, peeled
Fennel Seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin – 1 tsp
Corriander – 2 tsp
Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
Black Peppercorn – 1 tsp
Red Chilli – 2 medium size (adjust according to taste)
Cinnamon – a 2.5 inch long stick
Cloves – 4 nos
Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp
Vinegar – 4 tbsp (white or malt)
Oil – 4tbsp
Salt To taste
Fresh Curry Leaves – 5 nos (optional)

Method

Dry Roast all the spices except turmeric powder in a hot pan. Transfer onto a cool plate and leave aside. Make a paste with all the roasted spices, turmeric powder, salt, 3 tbsp of the Vinegar, Ginger and Garlic. Marinate the meat in this mixture and leave covered in a fridge for about 5 hours. 30 minutes prior to cooking take it out and allow to come to room temperature.

Add oil in a heavy bottomed pan and when hot add curry leaves if using. Stir for a minute and add the sliced onions. Fry on a medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes till slightly translucent. Now turn the heat up high and add all the meat and its marinating juices. Stir for about 10 minutes. Season with more salt if necessary. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of the vinegar and a drop of water if required. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for about 30 – 40 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure that its not sticking to the bottom and if necessary add little water to prevent it from sticking. Check meat and take off heat when done (this will depend on the cut of meat and marination but my fillet pieces with 5 hours of marination took 40 mins). It should be very soft to touch with the juices sticking to it. Serve with steamed rice or bread of your choice. This dish can be prepared in advance and reheated when required enhancing the taste even more. I have added potatoes to mine but its a personal choice.

Easy Bread : Irish Soda Bread

20130524_130115Irish Soda bread is one of the easiest and quickest bread to make. I have a basic recipe that I follow but play with the flour mixture from time to time and often add some seeds to the mixture for a different texture. The only thing with this bread is that you need to use it up fairly quickly as it do not keep very well but if you are anything like our household you might struggle to resist it once it comes out of the oven. Its good with a nice bowl of soup, with a hearty Irish Stew, with dips like Houmous and my wife loves it with butter and strawberry jam (as many do in Ireland).

INGREDIENTS :
175 gms Rye Flour (sometimes I use wholemeal flour)
175 gms of white flour
Half tsp Salt
1 tsp of Bicarbonate of Soda
50 gms of mixed seeds (optional)
284 ml carton of Buttermilk

METHOD :
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade. In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients. Now add the buttermilk and form a dough. Sometimes I have had to use a bit more flour at this stage to help form a dough. Whatever you do try and keep the whole process quick as as soon as the Soda comes in contact with the liquid it starts releasing CO2 which helps the bread to rise. Pour it over a floured surface and knead lightly in to a slightly firmer shape. Form a round shape and flatten slightly. Sprinkle a few more seed mix on top. Put it on a lightly floured Baking Sheet. Using a sharp knife make two incisions as a cross going almost all the way down. Dust lightly with some flour and bake for about 30 mins or so (till the bread sounds hollow when tapped). Cool on a wire rack. As said before this is best eaten on the day or the next.

Lunch @ La Braye

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We went as a family for lunch to one of our favourite restaurant in Jersey in one of our favourite beach (st Ouen’s Bay ). This place has such a nice feel and never fails to impress. They get very busy here but we went in early today so found ourselves in the second last remaining table. We have been there for breakfast, Lunch, Afternoon coffee and have bought water and ice cream from the Kiosk counter. In warmer weather the outdoor tables with that fabulous view gets filled up very fast. Outside they also have a small sandpit area for the little ones to play safely. The outside area is also very popular with the dog owners. We find the staff here and the owner friendly and the food is always good. This place if very popular with Locals and tourists alike. The menu is smaller compared to nearby El Tico but in my opinion offers a better mix and the food here is defiantly better (the use of seasonal local produce is more obvious here). The kids dishes here are actually cheaper. This time around we had the Tennerfest menu. My wife had the mushroom soup as starter and I had the Calamari. For mains I had the Jersey Beef Burger with while my wife had the duck. Our daughter had a kids burger and a Sunday for her dessert. While we had the apple pie to share and coffees. The soup was very rich and flavourful. The calamari were good. The Burger was unfussed but tasty and the duck was cooked very well. The apple pie was was had a home cooked feel to it too. Overall a great visit. We have had not any disappointing meals here in all our visits and this time was not any different.

La Braye
La Grande Route des Mielles.
St Ouens Bay. St Brelade. JE3 2EL
Tel 01354481395