Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Butternut squash chilli with quinoa

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Ever since I started blogging, I've come across countless quinoa recipes. I've only ever had quinoa in a store bought salad so I was pretty surprised to learn that it could also be used to make cakes and cookies. 

Quinoa is a recently newly discovered low fat grain that's high in protein and a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron copper and phosphorus. It's definitely a good addition to one's diet!

So to start off my quinoa cooking journey, I decided on a warm  Butternut squash chilli with quinoa. A recipe I adapted from Gordon Ramsay's Chilli con Carne and Olive's magazine Butternut squash chilli with quinoa recipe.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp dried oregano
3 tsp ground cumin
1 - 2 tsp chilli powder(depending on taste. Feel free to omit this.)
1 butternut squash, about 1kg, peeled and cubed#
100g quinoa, soaked in water for 30 mins
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of red kidney beans
olive oil
Salt and Pepper
a bunch of coriander, chopped

Roast butternut squash for 10 mins and boil quinoa for 10 mins.
Sweat onions and garlic in olive oil in a large saucepan.
Add oregano, cumin, chilli powder and cook till they release their aroma.
Add partially cooked quinoa, butternut squash, chopped tomatoes, cinnamon and bay leaf,.
Simmer for about 10 mins and add red kidney beans.
Simmer for another 5 mins.
Stir in coriander, check for seasoning and serve.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Bluebells in an enchanted forest...

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It's officially Fall in the UK, the air is crisp and cool, the days seem to get shorter really quickly and all I can think of is spring as I'm sure looking forward to see flowers blooming once again!

One of my favourite sights are the fields of bluebells that appear around April and May.

I feel as though I'm walking through an enchanted forest, waiting for my Prince Charming to ride by on his white horse and whisk me off into the sunset but no, the hubby was also busy taking photos so that didn't happen. :P However, it's nice to just dream about it right?

When walking through fields of bluebells, be sure to keep a lookout(or keep your noses wide open) for wild garlic as they are known to grow nearby. I haven't yet encountered any but i look forward to do so next year!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Wholemeal blueberry & banana muffins

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Cupcakes...Muffins.....what's the difference? I've asked this question and some say that they are the same, same say they are not. So who's correct?

Are cupcakes usually lighter in texture, topped with frostings, look very pretty and tastes so good??
Are muffins usually heavier in texture, looks rustic, is more of a breakfast food and also tastes good?

What do you think??

This is my first time making muffins with wholemeal flour and was very pleased with the texture as it's very moist so this is definitely a healthy, yummy muffin that's filled with goodness!!

Recipe from Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite
Ingredients (Makes 12)
2 very ripe bananas
300g wholemeal flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of fine sea salt
100g light brown sugar
284 carton of buttermilk
(I used soy milk and lemon juice to replace this. Mix 1 cup(250ml) of soy milk with 1 tbsp of while vinegar or lemon juice and let it sit for 10 mins. This method can be used with cow's milk too if you can't find buttermilk)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
75g light olive oil
200g blueberries
1 tbsp demerara sugar

Heat the oven to 180 deg C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases. 
Peel the bananas and mash in a bowl.
Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl.
Make a well in the centre and add the soy milk. egg, olive oil and bananas.
Quickly fold the ingredients together until just incorporated, taking care not to overmix.
Tip in the blueberries and give the batter one or two stirs.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cases and sprinkle with demerara sugar. The cases will be quite full.
Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 mins until well risen and golden brown on top. A skewer inserted into the centre of the muffin emerges clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Paprika Spiced Kale Chips

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What should I do when I suddenly crave for something crispy, have run out of potato crisps or tapioca chips at home, am lazy to go out to get some and have a bag of kale in the fridge?? Well, it's Kale chips to the rescue!!! I first came across this when Jenelle of One Apron mentioned that kale chips makes for a quick and easy side dish. That caught my attention as I'm always on the lookout for something healthier to snack on and having tried this, it'll be something that I'll be snacking on from now on. :) 2 thumbs up!!

1 bunch Kale, stems removed and cut to bite sized pieces
1 tbsp Olive oil
2 tsp Spicy Smoked paprika

Preheat Oven to 200 deg C.
Toss kale with olive oil and paprika.
Place kale in the baking tray in 1 layer.
Bake for 10 -15 mins until crisp. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

All about London!

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I've been in the UK for almost 5 years and live only a half hour away from London but I've come to realise that I haven't taken many photos of the city of London. I will have do some catchup but in the meantime, here are some that I've taken so far. Enjoy! 

London Eye

London Eye

Tower Bridge
Millennium Bridge & St Paul's Cathedral
St Gabriel's Wharf

St Gabriel's Wharf

Covent Gardens

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Stir-fried Ginger Pork

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Ginger is a flavourful spice that's useful not only in cooking/baking. It's also has many health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, prevents the formation of blood clots, calm an upset stomach, relieves nausea, has anti viral and anti inflammatory properties etc. It's definitely one spice that we always have at home even if we don't plan to cook with it as it comes in real handy when we want to brew some Chai!       

Stir-fried Ginger Pork is also one dish that we cook quite often as it a very fragrant and appetising dish. It's especially good if the ginger used is young and spicy! Chicken can also be used if preferred.

Ingredients (Serve 2)
250g of Pork fillet or shoulder (sliced)
2 big thumbs of ginger (julienned)
2 tbsp of oyster sauce (or vegetarian oyster flavoured sauce)
1 tbsp of corn flour
1 tsp of sesame oil 
1 tbsp of sunflower oil

Marinate pork slices in oyster sauce and cornflour for at least 30 mins.
Stir in sesame oil once you are ready to start cooking. If sesame oil is used earlier, it'll coat the pork and prevents the marination from working it's magic.
Heat sunflower oil in a wok.
Add in ginger and stir fry over a medium heat until the ginger is pretty dry (about 10 mins)
Add in pork and stir fry over a high heat until cooked. (about 3-4 mins)
Serve immediately with rice. Some blanched tenderstem broccoli goes well with the dish too!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Peach and Tomato Pasta

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I got to admit that I haven't been too adventurous with cooking savoury dishes with fruit of any kind. However, recently I came across a Peach and tomato pasta sauce recipe at Eat well with Others and decided that this 'not cooking with fruits' business has got to change!

And boy was I glad that I tried this out as it was delicious! The sweetness of the peaches cuts the acidity of the tomatoes making it a very well balanced dish and the use of cinnamon adds a bit of warmth. 

Adapted from Eat well with others.
Serves 3

5 medium sized tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 large peaches, chopped
1 onion chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 can chickpeas
A bunch of basil, leaves plucked and stalks chopped
250g penne pasta

Heat oven to 200 deg C.
In a lightly oiled baking dish, stir together tomatoes, peaches, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
Roast uncovered for 40 mins, stirring at least twice during cooking, until ingredients have softened and thickened.
Stir in chickpeas, balsamic vinegar and basil stalks after 30 mins.
Cook pasta according to package instructions.
Mix pasta with sauce and basil leaves.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Ali Baba Egyptian Restaurant

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There are a few things that gives us a clue as to whether an Egyptian restaurant serves authentic food. One, are the serving staff local Egyptian? Two, are the diners Egyptians? Three, is the television turned on really loudly? (I've read about this and the husband who's been to Cairo confirmed that this is true)

On this occasion, it was a yes to point one and three but as it was Ramadan when we had lunch, it was very quiet. However, the husband had dinner here some time ago and he says that there were a lot of Egyptian businessmen dining here so it's a yes to point two as well!!
As I haven't yet visited Egypt yet and have no knowledge of what Egyptian food is all about, I let the husband take the reins in ordering. 

We started off with Stuffed vine leaves. This was stuffed with rice, pine nuts, raisins with a splash of lemon juice and it was served warm which i was pretty surprised about as the last time I had Stuffed vine leaves in a Greek restaurant, it was served at room temperature. I actually preferred it warm as it somehow brings out the various flavours in the rice. 

Another appetiser we had was the spinach falafel. I have always loved a good falafel and this was definitely one of those times. Nicely spiced, chickpeas had the right texture and including some spinach in it makes for an even healthier dish. The falafel had this fragrance about it and i think rosewater was added to it. What an interesting addition!

Ali Baba Special
For mains, we had the Ali baba Special (Roast lamb with minced meat rice). The star of the show was definitely the lamb as it was so  tender and succulent. Don't you agree?

Molokheya Soup
We also had Molokheya Lamb Soup but this needed some getting used to as it's really starchy. Molokheya, a kind of green spinach like leaf found in the Middle East, acts as a thickening agent when added to soups. Again the lamb that came with it was ultra tender. They sure know how to cook their meats!
Om Ali
Even though we were really stuffed by now, we still had to order the Om Ali(as the husband was raving about it), a dessert flavoured with nuts, milk, rosewater and coconut, that's somewhat like a rice pudding but puff pastry is used instead of rice. Definitely a great warming winter dessert!!

So if you want an authentic Egyptian restaurant experience, give Ali Baba a go!

Ali Baba
32 Ivor Place,London

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Chai Spiced Banana Oat Muffin

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We've been having proper Chai every weekend when we are home and by proper, I mean making it using Chai spices rather than using a Chai teabag. Here's my Chai Recipe if you are interested. Since we don't have the luxury of having a stove at work, making chai using a teabag would suffice during the week. 

This weekend, we made it again but I also felt like having some banana oat muffins so I thought why not combine the flavours of chai into the muffin and the outcome was just splendid! The Chai spiced muffin went well with a cup of freshly brewed chai and we loved it! However, I'm not too sure if it's to everyone's liking as it might just cause a chai overdose of sorts! 

I adapted this recipe from Gordon Ramsay Healthy Appetite, one that I use all the time as it always results in moist muffins. 

Makes 12 muffins.

100g Oats
200g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
100g light brown sugar
4 large ripe bananas
1 large egg
60g light olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp all spice
1 tsp ground ginger

Heat oven to 180 deg C/Gas4.
Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, sugar and spices.
Mix well and make a well in the centre.
Mash bananas in another bowl.
Stir in beaten egg and light olive oil.
Add to dry mixture and fold through until combined. Don't overmix.
Spoon into paper cases and bake for 20-25 mins until brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Porcini Mushrooms Risotto

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Creamy, oozy and tasty, it's another one of those dishes that feels like a hug in a bowl/plate. This has got to be my favourite kind of risotto as the flavour of dried porcini is really intense without having to add cheese to it. It's not that I don't like cheese but I'm suppose to be cutting down on it so this risotto is right up my alley. ;)

Serves 2

25g dried porcini mushrooms
200g Arborio rice
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 glass white wine
1 pint(470ml) chicken or vegetable stock
Olive Oil
salt and black pepper

Mushrooms topping

10 chestnut mushrooms (sliced)
chopped chives


1.Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes, drain and squeeze out any excess water. Chop the mushrooms into smaller pieces. Strain and reserve the drained water.
2.Heat the stock and drained mushroom water in a pan to a very gentle simmer.
3.Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Fry the garlic and shallot over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the shallot's translucent. Do not let it brown.
4.Add the rice and coat with the olive oil, garlic and shallot mix. Cook for 2 minutes.
5.Add the white wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Once absorbed, add a ladle of the simmering stock together with the chopped mushrooms and stir until it's all absorbed.
6. Continue adding the stock in this way, a ladleful at a time, until the rice is creamy with a slight bite (you may not need all the stock). This will take about 20 mins.
7. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Take the pan off the heat and leave to stand for a few mins. 

Mushrooms Topping
1. Place a heavy bottom pan on a medium heat.
    Note: No oil is needed. Cooking chestnut mushrooms on a dry heat will further enhance the   nuttiness of of the mushrooms making it all the more appetizing.
2. Add the mushroom and just let it sit there for about 10 - 15 mins to allow the moisture to evaporate and shrink. However, keep an eye on it to make sure that they don't burn.
3. Once they are done, season with salt, spoon them over the risotto and sprinkle some chives over the whole dish.


This recipe has been submitted to the #ricelove bloghop event.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

ANZAC Cookies (Coconut Oats Cookies)

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Ever since I came across ANZAC cookies on Three Cookies blog, I just knew I had to try them as they sounded so delicious and he's always raving about them!!! Indeed they were very tasty! Crisp, chewy and very fragrant!! I could just these the whole day long! Sigh.... If only they won't be make me fat!!!!

ANZAC cookies come from Australia and New Zealand and stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Visit history of the anzac cookie to read a bit more about how this cookie was invented. 

I also passed some to my New Zealander friend and he gave the thumps up so this is definitely a recipe to keep in my over flowing recipe folder!!

Recipe adapted from Three Cookies .

Makes 33 cookies.
50g butter
75g light olive oil
1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated cocomut
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon bocarbonate of soda
1 tablespoons boiling water

1) Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
2) Melt butter, olive oil and golden syrup in a saucepan.
3) Add bicarbonate of soda mixed with boiling water.
4) Combine all dry ingredients then add melted mixture and mix well.
5) Roll teapoonsful of the mixture into balls, place on baking tray and flatten slightly.
    Place them about 2-3 cm apart as they do spread during baking.
6) Bake until golden brown.(about 10-15 mins)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Thai inspired Baked Seabass

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Firstly, I would like to apologise for the terrible photo as it really did no justice to this beautiful piece of  fresh seabass.

Secondly, a lesson was learnt from making this dish too..always always remember to get the fishmonger to scale and gut the fish for you!! ;)

We went hand in hand to the supermarket one happy sat morning with loads of idea on what to cook that day. But once we walked past the fishmonger, all the other ideas flew out the window when we saw this nice seabass with sparkly eyes staring at us so we quickly bought it and from then on, we started to think about how we should go about cooking it. We wanted to keep it whole so we first thought of stuffing it with loads of rosemary, garlic and baking it. Plain, simple and good. However, we recalled that we still had a bunch of frozen lemongrass so why not a thai inspired seabass.

Back home we went and when we took it out, we realised that it wasn't yet scaled and gutted! oh no!! we were getting hungry and none of us has ever gutted anything before. Thankfully, the husband took up the challenge while i had to easy task of googling the correct method of gutting a fish. Though it took a bit of time, he did a really good job of gutting it as it looked really clean!! I've now a personal fish gutter at home! haha

Anyway, we quickly stuffed the fish with lots of lemongrass, whacked it in the 200 deg C oven for around  20 mins. In the meantime, the husband whipped up a dressing with chopped up lemongrass, chilli, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice.

Once the fish was out of the oven, the dressing was poured over it and it was ready to eat. The wait was finally over!! As we were quite hungry by now due to the unexpected fish gutting time, i just managed to take a quick picture before diving in! And it was delicious!!! The flavour of the lemongrass permeated through and made itself known throughout the fish! As we used defrosted lemongrass, it still contained quite a bit of moisture, therefore when the fish was in the oven, it worked it's magic by streaming the lemongrass flavour into the fish. This flavour was then accentuated with the lovely and appetising dressing making it a winner!!

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