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.