Saturday, 22 December 2012

Chicken and Chickpea Stew

I just wanted a meal that had chickpeas and was healthy, as I’d been over indulging again, but that is all I knew I wanted,  the rest of the ingredients were laying around my cupboard or my fridge. I got exactly what I wanted, a meal full of vitamins, low in fat and was light but full of flavour. This is exactly what I love about cooking, throw it together, if it works, great, if it doesn’t try again. There isn’t much more to say, but enjoy.

Excuse the camera, my battery died and had to use my phone.
  • 2 tbsp oil (I used extra virgin oil)
  • 1 onion cut  Asian style
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 chicken thighs, skinned, de-boned and diced
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and diced (not peeled)
  • 1 courgette, washed and diced
  • 100g dried chickpeas (soaked overnight see packet instructions) or 400g tinned chickpeas
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs (dried of fresh)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5-10 minutes ensuring not to burn them.

Stir the chicken into the onions cooking for a 5 minute stirring occasionally.

Add in the carrots, courgette and chicken peas and mix together. Pour in the chicken stock and add the mixed herbs.

Bring to a gentle boil and cook for a minimum of 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

Serve with rice, cous cous or mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Lovely Curry - Shame About The Pictures

Full Plate

I am staying in a hotel/apartment called Coral Al Khooray and below the hotel is a lovely, if grubby looking Pakistani restaurant, called Kebab Roll. I have eaten there before and the food was great and full of flavour as you would imagine for a Pakistani restaurant. The other day, I was being very lazy and I could not be bothered to get in the lift, go down four floors, walk about 50 steps and come back up, so I got them to deliver and it still took over 50 minutes :-)

The food was absolutely delicious and perfect for my hangover. I as planning to write up a positive review but when I saw the pictures I thought how the hell can I make this food sound great when it looks so awful. As you can see, the food doesn't look appetising what so ever. Even while I was putting it on my plate I thought it looked awful and was reluctant to eat it,. The dhal mash looks like ants egg mixed in turmeric. The spinach looks like green slim from the sewer and I'm sorry to say the mutton dish looks like something you might tread in. The only saving grace was the chicken wings, not much could go wrong with that.

Ants Eggs in Turmeric - Or Dhal Mash

But as the saying goes “Don’t judge a book by it's cover”.The food was very well cooked, if a little much ghee for my liking. The lentil in the dhal mash (cooked with garlic and onions), were firm and cooked well. The Qeema Mirchi (mutton mince with onions, peppers and tomatoes) had some great spices with a hint of ginger and the sarson ka saag (spinach dish with blended mustard leaves, ginger and green chillies) had the biggest kick of chilli that it made me sweat. Overall a very tasty and enjoyable food, just a shame the pictures didn't do it justice.

Sewer Slim Spinach - Or Sarson Ka Saag

What do you think.....????

I Didn't Tread In It - Queema Mirchi

Friday, 14 December 2012

Nile Perch and Bean Stew

I am very excited about the fish in Dubai because the varieties are so different to the UK and there are a lot of fish I've never heard of before. Kingfish, Hammour, which is like Seabass or Seabream, it's gorgeous with firm flesh to name a few. Another fish, which I am using for this recipe, is Nile Perch which is a fresh water fish and can grow to 2 meters in length and weigh up to 200kg ( I know that feeling :-) ) It is native to Congo, Egypt, Senegal to name a few places. Like most fish it's low in fat, but very high in Omega 3. so very good for you. It's not unlike cod or haddock light in flavour but the flesh is a bit more dense in texture. If you want to read more about the fish click HERE.

This recipe is loosely based on a Cod recipe from Angela Hartnett's book “A Taste of Home, which has over 200 simple recipes and a popular book when I'm home. I have made this recipe a few times and tweak the ingredients depending on what fish I using Just before I left the UK I made it with salt cod and it changed the flavour and texture so much it was like a completely different recipe.

I am using dried chickpeas and cannellini beans, which need to be soaked over night or for 8 hours. I then drain them, add to a pan of fresh water and then bring to a rapid boil for ten minutes then tun down the heat and cook for a further 30 minutes. When draining the cooked pulses don't throw away the liquid as can use it in the final recipe which will add depth of flavour to the recipe. You can just buy tinned versions, but were is the fun in that. If you prefer the tinned versions use 200g of each and make some kind of hummus using what is left over, as I believe the tinned versions only come in 400g each.

The flavour in this recipe does improve if you have some left over and you put it in the fridge, but the chorizo will lose it's unique flavour the longer it sits in the stock. If you do place in the fridge do not worry if the liquid is thick and gelatinous as it will become liquid again when reheated.

  • 100g each of dried chickpeas and cannellini beans, (or 200g each of tinned versions)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
  • ½ chorizo picante, skin removed and diced
  • 500ml of chicken or fish stock
  • 2 large Nile perch fillets or firm white fish and cut into pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • salt and pepper to season
  • (serves 4)

If using the dried beans, once boiled place to one side, saving the liquid as mentioned above.

Put the olive oil into a heavy based pan and turn on the heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-5 minutes, add the sliced garlic and cook until the onions are soft, ensure you don't burn the garlic or onions.

Add the skinned chorizo and cook for a few minutes. You will see the paprika slowly being released from the chorizo and cover the other ingredients in a lovely yellow/orange colour

Add the stock and stir all together.

Add the Nile Perch and tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add seasoning if you require, I did not as the stock I used had enough flavour and salt.
Serve with cous cous or rice.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Chicken and Mushroom in White Wine

When I first came out to Dubai and saw what little equipment I had to use in the kitchen I was annoyed as I was used to a well stocked kitchen with everything at my finger tips. At first I was I had my usual defeatist attitude and thought how the hell am I going to do some great food with such little equipment. Now that I am getting use to it I am really starting to enjoy the challenge.

In fact it's my work colleagues that have spurned me on. At work we have a vast array of nationalities and am always talking about what they were eating for lunch and they are always eager and keen to let me try there food. One of our admin workers, Jasmine, brought me in a traditional and popular Filipino recipe called Adobo Chicken which is a simple recipe but with a unique flavour because of the soy and vinedgar that is used in it. I am going to attempt to make this very soon and will write it up, but if you can't wait there are lots of version on the internet.. We also have a large group of Indian and Pakistani people who bring in there tiffin boxes and once they start warming them up you get the wonderful smell of spices and rice, much better than nasty office smells.

Most of the recipes I've been making are basically based around one pot, as I have no oven and only two electric rings. I have been trying to make a variety of pot meals and this one just came to me the other day. I'm using the herb tarragon as it's goes so well with chicken, mushroom and wine, so it would seem stupid not to use it. The only downside to this recipe is it's bland to look at and when served it with rice it looked even more colourless, so next time I will serve it with a colourful side dish to give it a bit of a lift. As they say you do also eat with your eye

Normally with a recipe like this I would use some stock mixed with water, but I wanted the wine to be the main liquid. So I just added some chicken stock powder and stirred into the wine. For some unknown reason meat stocks are not as extensive as the UK and I am shopping in Carrefours which is a massive supermarket in the Mall of the Emirates and it has large stock section but it is very limited. I've also checked other supermarkets and they are the same.
  • 2 tbsp oil – I used extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 chicken thighs, skinned, boned and diced
  • 1 tsp fresh or dried chopped tarragon
  • 500ml white wine
  • 150g mushroom, quartered or halved
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • salt and pepper to season

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion and garlic and cook for about 5-10 minutes or until the onions are soft.

Add the diced chicken thighs and stir into the onion mixture and cook for a few minutes, then add the tarragon, stir together and cook for a minute or two.

Add the wine and bring to a rapid boil then turn down the heat and add the mushrooms.

Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper to season and cook until the chicken is cooked. Although I cooked this for over an hour to ensure full infused flavour.

Serve with rice, pasta, couscous or potatoes and vegetable.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Chicken with Peppers and Olives

Chicken with Peppers and Olives
When I'm in the UK I am careful to try and not buy too much food out of season and nearly always look to find out how far away it's comes from. I like to try and keep my food miles down, but in Dubai you don't have that much choice. Although I try and use local produce, like Lebanon cucumbers, which are a smaller than European ones. I do like a variety of ingredients and some foods have travelled from miles away. Apples for example nearly always comes from the USA or Australia and I've yet to see any more mainland Europe, must I'm sure there must be, but even Europe is over 5 hours away.

Lebanon Cucumbers
As the vegetables have travelled they do not last very long. I bought the peppers, for this recipe, two days ago and they are starting to turn and so had to use quickly. In the UK these would have lasted at least a week before they started to turn for the worse. I wonder if that is because they have travelled or for other reasons, like added chemicals, but I wont look into it in case I don't like the answer.

Vivid Sliced Peppers
Look at the colours of these peppers, how could I not use them quickly. I am a big fan of peppers as they are incredibly versatile, you can cook them quickly or a long time and they have a different texture. They work wonderfully in a salad, either raw of cooked and are very tasty when stuffed, roasted, as the main ingredient or as a complimentary ingredient in another recipe. When I was a vegetarian they became a stable in my diet and even now that I'm a meat eater I still use them a lot.

This is a very simple recipe that you can cook either quickly, if you want crunchy peppers or longer if you like them softer and sweeter. It's also very low in fat and a healthy meal and if you don't want to use chicken it makes a lovely light vegetarian meal.

  • 2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli (optional)
  • 4 peppers of each colour, red, yellow, green and orange, sliced
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tbls tomato purée
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 400g chicken thighs, skinned, boned and diced
  • 100g black olive, stoned and sliced
  • salt and pepper to season
  • (serves 4)

Put the oil into a pan and turn on the heat. Add the onions, garlic and chilli (if using) and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the onions are soft, but do not allow to brown.

Add the sliced peppers and mix into the onion mixture and gently fry for 4-5 minutes.

Throw in the tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, mixed herbs and bay leaves and mix together and bring to the boil

Add the chicken, olives and salt and pepper to season. Cook for a minimum of 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked or like me for over an hour as I like soft peppers

Serve with any kind of pasta or long grain rice.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Apologies From Dubai

Hammour and Tomato and Mushroom Cous Cous

I cannot believe that it has been a month since my last entry, I had not realised it was so long since I added an entry. I wouldn't mind if I I didn't have so much to write about, but I've gathered a lot material in the last four weeks whilst I've been in Dubai. The big problem is getting time and the energy to write it all up. In fact since being in Dubai all sort of things that was common in the UK has gone out of the window. My exercise regime is almost dead and I've got to train for my first ever marathon in April – not sure how that is going to pan out. My healthier style of eating has taken a real battering. At least I've not succumbed, like a lot of ex-pats, and that is going out to cheap restaurants, which there are a lot of in Dubai. I have tried a few and they do produce really flavoursome food, but it's full of salt, cream and saturate fat to name an few items.
Baby Squid
I guess I am lucky because I find cooking a way of relaxing and I have managed to come up some wonderful, flavoursome and tasty recipes, like Nile Perch and beans stew, Chorizo and Pepper pasta and my dinner last night slow cooked lamb and potato curry to name a few. One thing that I have found strange is trying to cook for 1 and in fact I've given up and I am still cooking for four. It just means I've got enough for dinner the next night and something apart from sandwiches for lunch when at work. In fact I've started taking food into work to a colleague, who is from the Philippines and is not use to Western style food, but it appears she is enjoying every much – or it could be she is just being polite :-) I've also got no measuring equipment so most of it is guess work and I'm not really sure how write it up because I want people to try these recipes. I can hear you say buy some, but I don't know how much longer I'll be in Dubai and I hate to be part of that throw away culture. If I leave soon with no one to pass the equipment on to I will not be happy about throwing it in the bin.

Cheese (of course!)
I've also been lucky to go to some great restaurants, Alma a Momo a superb Moroccan restaurant in the Mall of the Emirates. A Friday Brunch at the Mayden Hotel, whilst not the best brunch I've experienced over the years, it provided a great variety of food with excellent service. In Dubai, Friday is the first day of the week and Friday brunch is very popular. A lot of the hotels do a buffet style brunch at different prices, normally regarding if you drink or not. Over the years I've been to many and they serve excellent quality with a grand array of food, due to the amount of different nationalities they have to cater for.
So please bear with me and I apologies for my lack of posts which hopefully in the next few days I will rectify. In this post are some pictures of the foods I've been lucky to experience and make.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Salmon Rice with Vegetables

I'm not doing to well at blogging at the moment. What with doing a full time job, trying to train for a marathon, visiting places whilst I'm in Dubai and having a lousy kitchen my food regime is very restrictive and quiet frankly cannot always be bothered to make something new. I've done several dishes, but because they aren't a super wow, just an average recipe I'm not sure if I should write them up. Maybe you can help, this is one of those recipes which I made up. To be fair I really enjoyed it and will make again because it's so tasty and easy.

I had made a chicken curry last night and had some left over rice, which I didn't want to throw away, so I stuck it in the fridge and wondered how I could cook it up. The following evening I scanned the fridge and bought a few vegetables and decided to make a dish with salmon and rice and this is what I came up with. You can use any vegetables and I just used what I had in the fridge at the time.

  • Knob of butter
  • 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 chilli, finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 carrot, cleaned and diced (not peeled, just washed)
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 2 bok choi
  • cooked rice (amounts up to you)
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • chicken stock (diluted in a bit of hot water)
  • 300g salmon, chopped
  • salt and pepper to season

Place the butter and oil into a pan. Once warm add the onion and cook for a few minutes.
Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further 5 minutes

Add the carrot, yellow pepper and cook and stir for a further 5 minutes. Throw in the bok choi and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the rice, stir together, add the thyme cook, frequently stirring for about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and keep stirring until the water has evaporated.

Throw in the salmon, stirring until the salmon is cooked, this took me less then 5 minutes, but it's up to you. I like my salmon a bit raw, but you can do it longer.

Serve on a plate with a nice cold glass of wine (I wish)....

Monday, 22 October 2012

A Pleasant Day

The last post I was moaning about having a “crap” day at work, and when there is a ying today was the yang, I had the good day with some lovely surprises.

The first good thing to happen was the issues we'd been having at work are now sorted. So my boss is happy, the client will be happy, which makes me happy, which means I don't moan to the software vendors and that makes them happy. Considering they have been at work for almost 48 hour solidly without any sleep I think they are going to be VERY happy.

At lunchtime I went to a new supermarket near where I work and they had a pork counter. Apologies if sounding insensitive but I have really been missing pork. I was lucky to go to a hotel last Saturday for breakfast that had a pork section, so I pigged out (excuse the pun) on lots of sausages and black pudding. My work colleague came up to me in the shop and I was actually jumping with joy I was that excited – sad I know. Pork is available in Dubai, but it's not sold in many shops for obvious reasons, for which I respect. But I've found a place on my door step – so guess whose having a bacon sandwich at the weekend....again, apologies for being insensitive.

Guess What This Is
The next thing was a surprise, I was introduced to a fruit that I have never used and had only tried a couple of times. In fact when I saw it I didn't have a clue what it is was. My work colleague came up to me and said that she has just seen something that looked like ginger, I asked if it was galangal, but she didn't know if it was. So she went over to this table, where other work colleagues were having lunch, and brought over this pod over, which I could see why she thought it looked like ginger, but it wasn't – I'm going to write about the fruit later in the week, but in the mean time can you guess what it is????

The next nice thing to happen was when I got back to my apartment the receptionist brought up two parcels from a very good friend in England who thought I might need them. One was a box of dried falafel mixture, he thought I might need them if I wanted a midnight snake. I think that was his attempt at being funny knowing that I'm in the middle east, it wasn't, but it did bring a very large smile to my face. He also knows that I have a very small kitchen with very little equipment, so he also sent over two small cookery books, called Cooking in a Bedsitter, which was first published in 1963, which is just older than me (and not comments thank you). Who would have thought that a book that old would be very appropriate to my needs today. The other book is 101 One-Pot Dishes, Tried and Tested Recipes by the BBC Good Food magazine, again very helpful as I've only got one big saucepan. So a BIG thank you to my friend Jeff as that now means I've got lots of recipes to make with very little equipment. But, there is a downside to this, I've no longer got an excuse to write moaning about my kitchen, but I do now have material to write more recipes and dishes on my blog so maybe not that much of a downer :-)

PS Don't forget to guess what the spice is

PPS Apologies for the quality of the pictures, I still don't have my camera

Saturday, 20 October 2012

White Fish Served With Red Pepper and Mushroom Cous Cous

GRRR ever have one of those days at work were nothing goes right. I was in by 0745 and within 5 minutes it went wrong. As the day progressed it just got worse, the client had a moan, my boss had a go, the software I support wasn't working and then the client came back again and had another moan. I got home at 1745, I was on a conference call at 1800 and I upset the software vendors as they didn't like it that I had a moan at them. When it finished at 1830, I had a quick phone call with my colleague to discuss the conference call a very very irritating day. When I got off the phone I started to relax as I was going to prepare a dish that I had no idea if it would work and I was really happy to try it out. As I started to prepare my dish all my “”crap” at work, just slipped away.

With two silly hobs, a microwave, one big saucepan and one small frying pan (apologies for keep harping on about my limited kitchen I promise to stop moaning – I mean – commentating on it) I made a steamed white fish, with herbs and lemon and served I it with a red pepper and mushroom cous cous. It all came together very well and it was a very moist, firm piece of fish and the cous cous was lovely and light, if a little too salty, but I was using a new stock I'd never used before and will next time go very lightly with the salt. It is hard to get cod in Dubai and so I am using Basa, which is a kind of catfish from Vietnam.

Oh and if the day wasn't bad enough, after I took the pictures for this recipe, the battery on my camera died and I left the charger at home in the UK so apologies for no pictures, yet. GRRR.

For the White Fish
  • 2 pieces of tin foil to cover the fish
  • 2 filleted white fish
  • 1 lemon, with two lemon slices for each fish
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 20g butter
  • salt and pepper to season
For the Cous Cous

  • 10g butter
  • splash of oil
  • 1 red pepper, washed and diced
  • 100g mushrooms, cleaned and diced
  • 200g cous cous
  • chicken stock – depends on the water
  • boiling water enough to cover the cous cous

Take the tin foil and place a piece of fish into each piece.

Chop the lemon in half and squeeze half onto each piece of fish. Add the half the butter and half the mixed herbs into one piece of fish and the rest into the other piece of fish.

Add seasoning and roll up the tin foil so there are no gaps or air holes for the steam to escape.

Place some boiling water in a pan, so that it does not cover the fish, but only comes up about halfway. Place a lid on the pan and gently simmer for about 10 minutes

For the Cous Cous

Place the butter and oil into a frying pan and let the butter melt.

Throw in the red peppers and mushrooms and cook for about 3-5 minutes or longer if you prefer them softer.

Place the cous cous into a microwaveable bowl. Place the stock in enough boiling water that it will just cover the cous cous and let it soak into the grains.

Place the soaked grains into a microwave and cook on high for two minutes.

Once completed, pour the gently fried red peppers and mushrooms into the cous cous, add some thyme and seasoning if required.

Serve on a plate, pouring the lemon juice and melted butter over the fish.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Khan Murjan - Restaurant Review - Dubai

Khan Murjan

Today is Saturday, but it feels very odd, because the weekend in Dubai is over and we go to work on Sunday and I am actually getting my days confused, because it's feel like a Sunday to me. When I logged onto my computer just now I was expecting to see the news for Sunday and did a Homer Simpson's “D'OH” when I realised what was going on.

This morning I was up very early to go for a run, as I'm training to do the Brighton Marathon and did my first street run here and to say it was a struggle was an understatement. I was hoping to do at least 10km, but managed about only 5km, it's was so hot I could barely breath by the time I finished. But after a quick dip in the sea and a gentle cool down swimming myself and some friends went to a mall called Wafi as we went to go to a middle eastern restaurant called Khan Murjan. My friend, Hany said that it serves some of the best middle eastern food in Dubai and he wasn't wrong. The food was amazing with a wonderful array of dishes, from Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Egyptian and the Emirates.

If you click on the dishes that are highlighted it will go to Wikipedia for details of what each dish is made of and it's origins.

Very Fresh Bread
As there was a large selection of starters we decided to have a kind of meze so that we could all share and taste. To be honest is all we should have ordered, as we ordered far to much, but were all very pleased when they said they did “doggy bags” (food to take away). But we were all very hungry and at the time and it didn't seem that much. For the starters we ordered Kebbe Kras, Fatoush Linban, Tabouleh Zaman, Hommous Bethena, Taktouka Morocco, Roasted Zuccini (courgette) with yoghurt, Chard with Beans and some fresh flat bread. All the ingredients were fresh and each dish were very well prepared and incredibly tasty. It was so tasty it was hard not to keep eating it, but we forced ourselves to stop so that we could enjoy our main course.
Meze - Selection of Starters
We realised we had ordered a little too much (now I realised that was a complete understatement) so we didn't order much rice and bread for our main courses. The restaurant noticed this and delivered us some chips instead. I guess they thought seeing as we were westerners that is what we would like. A nice gesture, but personally I didn't want chips as I wanted to stay as traditional as possible and actually none of us eat them, not sure if it was consciously or not. For our mains and the star of the whole meal was a whole white fish, called Hammour, which they cut in half, de-boned and then BBQ it. It was divine and the flesh light and fresh with a delicate flavour. It had been topped with some delicate herbs and spices. I ordered a chicken tagine, which was served with olives and preserved lemons. The chicken was little dry, but the spices in the sauce with olives and lemons complimented the meat perfectly and was very good. The last dish was shishbarak, which I didn't like very much, as I found it heavy, but the lamb mince had been cooked with cumin and coriander, like the kebbe and was good.

The absolutely delicious Hammour
The restaurant was light, bright with lots of room between tables, always a positive in my eyes. The staff were polite (mostly), attentive and explained in detail about the food and were the recipe had originated from. They don't serve alcohol, which was a first for most of two of the people on our table as they never go to restaurants that doesn't serve alcohol. But they served lovely fresh juice drinks, which dare I say, had a lot more flavour than the fruit in the UK. My friends all had lemon and mint and I opted for carrot and apple, each fresh and the lemon and mint was very sharp but very enjoyable.

Shish Barak
If you are every in Dubai and want to be gently introduced to middle eastern food, than I highly recommend this restaurant. All the dishes are laid out, so you can actually go and see them and the chefs or waiters will explain how they are made etc. I have a feeling this could become a very popular restaurant whilst I am out here.

Chicken Tagine - Spoilt by adding the chips, which I didn't ask for

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Spaghetti with Chicken and Peppers

As I said in a previous post I am in Dubai for two months and am currently sitting in my
very spacious hotel room/apartment. I have a big bedroom with on suite bathroom, the lounge/diner is twice the size than my own in London, as is the kitchen in fact I think it's about four times bigger. The BIG problems with the kitchen is, it's seriously lacking in everything. I have two electric hobs that quickly throw out a lot of heat, but I have only one saucepan, one frying pan and a kettle that takes ages to boil. In fact it's quicker for me to call room service for hot water than to wait for the kettle. But we adapt and make changes to the way we do things and work with what we have. I also have no oven, but it looks like my microwave can be used as a grill, but have yet to “play” with it. As a microwave it is slow but it works

Being someone who loves to cook it's going to be interesting creating food with such little equipment. This is the first dish that I have attempted to cook since I've been here. I used chicken thighs, as they have more flavour than chicken breasts and they don't dry out whilst cooking. It was fun de-boning them with a small serrated knife, but I managed and didn't cut myself. It wasn't the best recipe and it's won't set the world alight, but it was a healthy and light dish that could become a typical meal whilst I'm in here as it was very quick and easy.

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed, de-boned and roughly chopped
  • 2 peppers, de seeded and sliced
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to season

Place the oil into a pan and turn on the hob. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the chicken and cook until all the outside edge of the chicken is white about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the peppers and mix into the chicken mixture. Add the tinned tomatoes, dried thyme and season

Cook for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is done. Serve with pasta or rice.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Carrefours' In Dubai

I am currently in Dubai and I will be here for about two months. My apartment is near the Mall of the Emirates and yesterday (Saturday), I went go to Carrefours and I was amazed at the size of the shop and the very large variety of produce. Dubai has a very large ex-pat community with a vast array of nationalities for which the supermarkets try to cater for. When I trying to buy fresh coffee there were over 30 different varieties from all over the globe all in there unique styles. Just buying fresh coffee I lost count but saw Lebanese, Turkish and Italian to name a few and I didn't even look at the dried coffee section. The fresh meat counter also had a big array of meat with some very unusual meats. I saw sheep’s tongue, sheep’s head with eyes, chicken gizzards, chicken feet as well as traditional cuts. As you would imagine Carrefours do not sell pork, but there are shops in Dubai that do, so at least I will be able to get my hands on bacon and sausages, I'm such a traditionalist :-) I walked around the meat counter and my jaw almost dropped as I came to the fresh fish counter it would make my local fish shop, in London, very jealous. I couldn't believe it again the vast array of fish and seafood being sold, some I'd never seen before and prawns that made king prawns look small, pictures coming very soon.

My favourite sections was the fresh fruit and vegetable with “ugly” produce being wonderful. In the UK we have become spoilt, with all our fruit and veg all looking the same size and shape. It's got so bad that even I buy so called “perfect” looking fresh produce, even though I know it all tastes the shame. But in Dubai all the fruit and vegetables come in all shapes and sizes, it's cheaper and just as edible as the “perfect” produce. Sainsburys recently said that it was going to start selling “ugly” fruit and vegetables because of the poor harvest this year which is pushing up prices. The supermarkets say that they only give what the customers want, “perfect” produce and I think over the years we have all got use to buying “perfect” food and it's hard to buy “ugly”. It's almost the chicken and egg scenario, which came first, the supermarkets saying we, the customer, only purchase “perfect” produce or the supermarkets only providing “perfect” produce. What we do need to do is break that cycle and just buy and cook with all “perfect” and “ugly” food.

I am certainly looking forward to experiencing the foods in Dubai and there restaurants, but I wish my hotel apartment kitchen had more than two small hobs with more than one saucepan and one frying pan. With such little equipment it's going to be a challenge to produce some good food.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Karahi Lamb with Chickpeas

My other half has been away in Turkey for a week, and I've had a quiet but great food week on my own. I like having the house to myself because it means I can cook and eat foods that my other half doesn't like and today I am having a lamb curry. My other half likes lamb doesn't like eating red meat very often so I'm making the most of it. As well as eating it myself , there will be a lot left over, so the irony is he will have something to eat when he returns, as I'm flying to Dubai for a minimum of two months for a new job, he doesn't know how lucky he is :-)

The original recipe, comes from a great little recipe book, called Best-ever Curry Cookbook, by Mridula Baljekar. It has over 150 different curries from Asian and South East Asian. I've made lots from this book and they have all came out very well. I am adding some chickpeas and other pulses to this recipe to make it healthier. It's uses yoghurt rather than cream which will also keep the fat content down. I've also removed excess fat from the lamb, but keeping enough to add more flavour. If you want to keep it even healthier don't use butter or ghee with the spices, use a light margarine.
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 175g plain yoghurt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ¼ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp chilli powder – you can use more or less depending on preference
  • 450g diced lamb
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 250g chickpeas or any other pulse
  • 25g butter/ghee/margarine
  • 2.5cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 5 dried apricots
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander chopped
  • (serves 4)
Place the tomato purée, yoghurt, garam masala, cumin seeds, salt, garlic, ginger and chilli powder into a blender and mix together.

Place the lamb into a bowl add the blended spices and mix it into the lamb and leave to marinate for a minimum of an hour.

Add the oil into a heavy based pan, add the onions and cook until crisp and golden brown.

With a slotted spoon remove from the pan, allow the onions to cool and place them into a blender or pestle and mortar and grind them down.

Place the blended onions back into the pan and start to fry them again. Add the lamb and stir together and cook for two minutes.

Place a lid on the pan and cook for about 15 minutes. You may need to add some water to ensure it doesn't dry out.

Add the pulses to the lamb and mix together, cook for a further 20 minutes.

Add the butter or ghee into a heat pan, add the cinnamon and cardamom. Then add the dried apricots and cook for 2-5 minutes. Pour of the sauce of the lamb

Serve with rice, nan or another Indian bread.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Alma - Restaurant Review

I'm not doing very well last week I went to Thomas Cubitt and had a roast dinner and although I really enjoyed it, I moaned about roast potatoes which are never as good as home-made. So I don't normally eat roast dinner when in a restaurant. Well yesterday I went to The Alma, a gastro pub in Wandsworth and guess what I had, yep a roast dinner. I do have a perfect excuse, I'm off to live in Dubai for a couple of months or more, and I know they are not big on roast dinners. Who wants a roastie when it's 30C during the winter months. So, I decided that it's going to be a while before I have another decent roastie and so I would order one, but not eat the roast potatoes.

I also made a mistake, like Thomas Cubitt, by ordering a starter, which my friend and I shared. Its was a selection of meats, like chorizo picante, Iberia salami, with machengo cheese, some lovely tomato sardines with some wonderful Spanish olives. I thought if we shared a starter we wouldn't be too full after eating our main course – how wrong was I. The starters was very tasty and the toast, that came with it, was light and just enough to enjoy the meats and cheese.

Although they had a selection of other dishes, I was going for a roastie, as I mentioned earlier. They had four different of roast dinners, chicken, beef, stuffed rolled pork belly or the big one, called Chefs Roast. This was a quarter of chicken, a portion of stuffed rolled pork belly and a thick slice of roast beef with the trimmings. The trimming, on the plate, were a delicious yorkshire pudding, diced parsnip with red onions, red cabbage, spring greens, mange tout, cranberry sausage meat, which we both ordered. Unknown to us another plate was brought out containing the roast potatoes and lightly boiled vegetables of carrots, cauliflower and courgettes. Everything was very well cooked, although still didn't like the roast potatoes, but then I am very fussy. The meat were all well cooked, the beef lovely and pink, the chicken firm and moist with lovely seasoned crispy chicken skin and the pork was firm with a delicious stuffing. All the vegetables were well cooked and the highlight was the diced parsnip and red onions, which I thought together might be too sweet but wasn't and complimented the whole plate very well.

By the end of the meal I was very full and couldn't eat another thing. So if you decide to have a roast dinner in a restaurant or gastro pub, do not have a starter beforehand. I am going to have to do a lot of running to work this delicious lunch off.

The waiting staff were very professional and I have to give a special mention to Laura who was exceptional and made our experience even more enjoyable. She is an asset to the pub and hopefully will get to be served with her again. It was a real joy and pleasure to be served by her. That is not to say the other staff were bad, because weren't but Laura just went that little extra mile

I've eaten there before and can highly recommend this gastro pub at any time of the day, not just a Sunday lunch. Just a shame I am going away as I would be back sooner rather than later.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Salt Cod with Chorizo and Chickpeas

Salt Cod with Chorizo and Chickpeas
  The only time I eat dried food is normally when I'm having a “filthy” pot noodle or when I remember to soak some pulses, like black beans, chickpeas etc. But occasionally I use salt fish, which is also dried and something that is not very common in the UK, which is a shame as salt fish can add a lovely texture and flavour to a dish. In Spain they have salt cod, but although this recipe is mostly a Spanish recipe I am using Jamaican Salt Fish, which is actually salted Atlantic Pollack, which tends to be cheaper than the Spanish version and it's all I can get in my local supermarket.

When using salt fish, you must ensure that you soak the fish and drain a few times, otherwise the fish will be far to salty – hence the name salt fish. I do know an acquaintance who didn't realise that you needed to soak the fish. She placed it in a frying pan, added milk and season with more salt. So be careful to ensure you soak the fish before hand. I actually soaked the fish over night and in the morning I rinsed it and soaked it again for whole day and drained and refilled the bowl about five times. It was perfect when it came to use it.

soaking chickpeas and salt fish
I am also using dried chickpeas and soaked them also over night and in the morning, drained them, placed them into a pan of cold water brought it to a rapid boil. Boiled them for 10 minutes then turned the heat down and simmered for 40 minutes, but if you can't be bothered you can use tinned chickpeas. It's just I'm a cheapskate and prefer to buy big bags of dried pulses.

This recipe is for four people and I was the only one eating it, so I had enough for the next few days. To stop me getting bored of eating this over the next two days I added the bag of salad leaves which contain spinach, rocket and watercress which. I also served it with different sides dishes, cous cous, brown rice and then bulgar wheat with caramelised onions.

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 120g chorizo, skin removed and diced (picante if you can get it)
  • 200 dried chickpeas (soaked and boiled) or 400g tinned chickpeas
  • 1 carrot, washed and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 ltr chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 300g dried salt fish (rinse, see above)
  • pepper for seasoning.
  • (Serves 4)

Put the oil into a heat resistant casserole dish and bring to a gentle heat and add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the chorizo and cook for about five minutes. You will see the paprika being released from the chorizo and bring a nice yellow colour to your onions and garlic

Frying onions, garlic and chorizo
Add the chickpeas, carrots and celery and cook for about 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the chicken sock and bay leaves and then place the fish into the casserole dish and stir. Do not worry if the fish breaks up as you don't want uniformed size pieces of fish.

All the ingredients in a heat resistant casserole dish
Season with pepper and then place a lid on the casserole dish, once boiling, turn down the heat and cook for 20-30 minutes.

DO NOT add salt until ready to serve as you will probably find there is enough salt in the recipe because of the fish.

Serve with cous cous, rice or bulgar wheat or some crusty fresh bread.

Salt fish served with cous cous