Monday, March 30, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging #177 Hosting

Thanks again to Anna for hosting and you'll find that the recap is up and ready for your enjoyment.

This week Ivy from Kopiaste is our host.

To participate:
Post about any herb, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower - I encourage participants to read the rules to ensure that your post does qualify.

Posts must be written specifically for Weekend Herb Blogging during this week (March 30th - April 5th) and the deadline is:
3pm Sunday - Utah Time
10pm Sunday - London Time
9am Monday - Melbourne, Australia Time

Send your email to ivyliac AT gmail DOT com
and include the following:
* Your Name
* Your Blog Name/URL
* Your Post URL
* Your Location
* Attach a photo (300px wide)

To help your host, please re-size your photo to the specific requirement.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fesenjen - Chicken in Pomegranate and Walnut Sauce

Anna from Anna's Cool Finds is hosting this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I've decided to pay attention to a much neglected herb - Bay leaf

bay leaf© by Haalo

Bay Leaf is harvested from the Laurel tree (laurus nobilis) and is noted for its distinctive fragrance when cooked. It is one of these ingredients where there is debate as to whether fresh or dried is the superior product.

It's main use is in slow cooked dishes but be warned, it is best to use them sparingly, one or two leaves at the most otherwise they can give the dish a bitter taste.

It's this use that lead me to look through the pages of the Secrets of Slow Cooking by Liana Kristoff where I eventually came upon a dish called Fesenjen - this is a Persian dish of chicken cooked in a pomegranate and walnut sauce.

Just to be different, I haven't made it in a slow cooker.

fesenjen© by haalo

Chicken in Pomegranate and Walnut Sauce (Fesenjen)
[Serves 4]

4 skinless, boned chicken thighs (about 600 grams)
1 red onion, sliced finely
2 small bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, sliced finely
200 grams walnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
sugar, optional

Cut the thighs into larger, bite sized pieces.

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-based pot and sear the chicken pieces in batches until browned. Set to one side.

In the same pot, add in the onions, garlic and bay leaf and saute gently until softened - tip in the walnuts and stir well, cook until golden.

Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the pomegranate molasses and enough water to almost cover the ingredients. Taste the sauce - if you feel it is too sour you can add a little sugar to take the edge off but you should be aiming to retain some sourness.

Simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the chicken has cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened.

If you feel that the sauce is too thin by the time the chicken is done, then remove the chicken, turn up the heat and allow the sauce to simmer rapidly. This should eliminate the excess liquid.

Return the chicken to the pan, lower the heat and cook until the chicken has heated through.

fesenjen© by haalo

Serve with rice or couscous for a complete meal and if fresh Pomegranates are in season then finish it off with a scatter of Pomegranate seeds.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging #176 Hosting

Many thanks go to Yasmeen for hosting Weekend Herb Blogging - be sure to savour every morsels in this week's recap

This week our host will be Anna from Anna's Cool Finds

To participate:
Post about any herb, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower - I encourage participants to read the rules to ensure that your post does qualify.

Posts must be written specifically for Weekend Herb Blogging during this week (March 23rd - March 29th) and the deadline is:
3pm Sunday - Utah Time
10pm Sunday - London Time
9am Monday - Melbourne, Australia Time

Send your email to anna AT annalou DOT com
and include the following:
* Your Name
* Your Blog Name/URL
* Your Post URL
* Your Location
* Attach a photo (328px wide)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Saganaki with Peppered Figs

Yasmeen from Healthnut is hosting Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I have dried baby Turkish figs to enjoy

dried baby Turkish figs© by Haalo

It's probably been only a few years since these bite sized versions hit our shores but they have certainly proved to be exceedingly popular. When purchasing though, you need to make sure you are getting the freshest versions - they can go hard with time so it's important to give them a bit of a feel to make sure they are still soft.

Nutritionally, Dried Figs are high in Vitamin K - Vitamin K is a clotting agent and is thought to help with maintaining good bone density.

This week I'll be using these figs in an usual manner. Since having a dish of Saganaki with Peppered Figs at Hellenic Republic, not only have I been dreaming about it, I've been dying to make it myself and luckily I came across George's recipe for the dish...and the rest is history.

Saganaki with Peppered Figs© by Haalo

Saganaki with Peppered Figs

Kasseri (Kefalotyri or Kefalograviera), sliced

Peppered Figs
250 grams dried baby Turkish figs (or your favourite dried Fig)
40 grams honey
25mls balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 vanilla pod, sliced open & seeds removed
10 cloves

Make the peppered figs:

When using whole cloves I always count them - this makes removing them at the end a lot easier and you won't have any "nasty" surprises when it comes to enjoying the dish.

Put the figs, honey, balsamic, pepper, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cloves, vanilla pod & seeds into a pan. Top with enough water to cover the ingredients.

Cut out a piece of baking paper just big enough to fit inside the pot and press it against the liquid. Simmer over a low heat until the figs have softened and the liquid has reduced.

If you find the liquid hasn't reached that syrupy level by the time the figs are done, remove the figs, increase the heat and let the mix rapidly bubble until syrupy. Return the figs to pan, stir well and remove from the heat.

peppered figs© by Haalo

You can store them in a sealed container in the fridge - reheat when you are ready to use them.

Cook the saganaki:

Place a little plain flour into a dish - toss the cheese slice in flour, brushing off the excess.

Lightly oil a heavy-based non-stick or cast-iron skillet - place over medium heat. When well heated, place the cheese slice in the pan. When you see the edges are bubbling and have started to soften, carefully turn it over. The cheese should be golden. When the other side is done, top with the heated peppered figs and serve at once.

The cheese will harden as it cools so it is best to serve it in the dish it was cooked to retain as much heat as possible.

Saganaki with Peppered Figs© by Haalo

The combination of sweet, fragrant and peppery figs is just a magical combination and served with saganaki it truly is one of those great dishes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Skippy Pie

There's no reason why as Australians we don't eat more kangaroo. I know there is that emotive issue of it being one of our national emblems but hey, the leek is a national emblem of Wales and they don't seem to have any issues about eating it.

Now if you feel you might be offended about the content of this post then I suggest you stop reading now rather than post anonymous comments telling me how sick I am for cooking with kangaroo - it's a waste of your time and my time since those comments end up where they should be.

Comfort food has been on the mind of late and thoughts turn to that classic, Shepherd's Pie but instead of using the traditional lamb in the base, I'll be using these kangaroo steaks

kangaroo steak© by Haalo

These steaks, as is the case with all kangaroo meat, are incredibly lean - less than 2% fat. It is also low in saturated fats, contains omega-3's and a slew of B-vitamins. All up it is an incredibly healthy meat.

Since I'm using kangaroo I really can't call this a Shepherd's Pie so after much thought I decided to name it up after that most famous Kangaroo, Skippy!

skippy pie© by Haalo

Skippy Pie

250 grams kangaroo steak, minced
1 large red onion, sliced finely
1 carrot, grated
2 celery stalks, chopped finely
tomato paste
chicken stock
balsamic vinegar

potatoes (i used nicola potatoes)
salt and finely ground white pepper
grated parmesan

As kangaroo oxidises quite quickly it's important to mince the meat yourself just before you are ready to cook it - make sure the other filling ingredients are prepared first.

Make the filling:

Place a little oil in a heavy based pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is heated through, toss in the minced kangaroo and very quickly saute the meat until just coloured. This should only take a couple of minutes. Remove the meat and set to one side.

Turn the heat down, add a little more oil and bring back up to temperature. Add in the sliced onion and cook for a few minutes - just so they begin to soften without browning. Add in the carrot and celery, toss them slightly and allow them to slowly soften and colour - this should take about 15 minutes.

Stir through a generous spoonful of tomato paste and cook it off for a minute or two, then add back the meat and all its collected juices. Pour in enough chicken stock to cover the mixture and let this simmer for 15 minutes.

Toss in a handful or two of frozen peas and add extra chicken stock if necessary to cover the mixture again. Simmer until the stock has reduced.

Taste and season with salt and pepper and a good glug of balsamic vinegar.

Dissolve a tablespoon of cornflour in with a little chicken stock and stir this through the cooked mix - keep stirring until it thickens. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to assemble your pie.

Make the topping:

Boil the potatoes until tender and then put them through a potato ricer. Crumble in cubes of butter and sprinkle over with grated parmesan, season and stir well until combined. I'm being vague with the quantities as it really is up to you and your preference as to how buttery or cheesy it is.

Assemble the dish:

Place the filling into a baking dish - it should be about 3/4's full.

 skippy pie© by haalo

You can either spoon on the mashed potato topping or pipe it as I've done here.

 skippy pie© by haalo

If you don't want to make a large size - consider making these cute single serving size versions

individual skippy pie© by haalo

Place the baking dish on a baking tray and bake in a preheated 160C/325F oven until the topping is golden and the filling has warmed through.

skippy pie© by Haalo

Serve with a simple salad and some bread.

skippy pie© by Haalo

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging #175 Hosting

Many thanks to Astrid for hosting Weekend Herb Blogging - be sure to check out the delicious recap.

This week Yasmeen from Healthnut is our host.

To participate:
Post about any herb, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower - I encourage participants to read the rules to ensure that your post does qualify.

Posts must be written specifically for Weekend Herb Blogging during this week (March 16th - March 22nd) and the deadline is:
3pm Sunday - Utah Time
10pm Sunday - London Time
9am Monday - Melbourne, Australia Time

Send your email to YasmeenHealthnut AT gmail DOT com with WHB#175 in the subject and the following information:

* Your Name
* Your Blog Name/URL
* Your Post URL
* Your Location
* Attach a photo (350px wide)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Baby Cos Lettuce Salad

Astrid from Paulchen's Foodblog is our host for this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and my fascination for small vegetables continue - this time I've been lured by Baby Cos Lettuce

baby cos lettuce© by Haalo

Cos is also known as Romaine Lettuce and is a member of the Daisy family. They grow as long, slender heads around a central core.

baby cos lettuce© by Haalo

A view inside illustrates this core - the structure is reminiscent of a cabbage. As the lettuce ages, the core becomes more woody but at this stage, the core is still quite juicy and crisp. Nutrionally, Cos Lettuce is high in Vitamin A and Lutein - Lutein is an antioxidant that may help to protect against degenerative eye conditions.

Since I have this lovely baby lettuce I'll be making a dish that uses all of it. I recently saw a recipe in the Melbourne Magazine from Andrew McConnell which involved using the quartered hearts of iceberg lettuces - they were accompanied by a tangy mix of cornichons, caperberries and anchovies and dressed with a simple vinaigrette.

cornichons and caperberries© by Haalo

Cornichons, are those tiny pickled gherkins and Caperberries are the fruit of the Caper bush - milder in flavour than capers, Caperberries are pickled on the stem and eaten whole.

Baby Cos Lettuce Heart Salad© by Haalo

Baby Cos Lettuce Salad
(Serves 2)
1 baby cos lettuce, halved, washed & drained
cornichons, finely diced
shallot, finely diced
anchovies, slivered
lemon infused olive oil
white wine vinegar

Make the vinaigrette:

My general rule of thumb is to use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil - though this does vary depending on the acidity of the vinegar and flavour of the oil. I will not add salt to this dressing due to the presence of the cornichons, caperberries and anchovies.

Assemble the salad:

Place the lettuce halves on a plate, sprinkle over with finely diced shallots and cornichons. Scatter a few caperberries and anchovy slivers around the plate.

Drizzle over generously with the dressing. If desired, finish off with fine shavings of Parmigiano or Grana.

If you don't like anchovies, use crisp lardons of pancetta.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pork Belly and Chorizo Stew

While flicking through an old copy of Olive Magazine I was immediately drawn to a recipe for a rather decadent Pork Belly, Chorizo and Pancetta stew - a veritable triumvirate of pork.

Rounding out the dish were onions, garlic, smoky paprika, and cannellini beans - with tomatoes and red wine and a slow cook for a few hours, the end result is the definition of comfort food.

Pork Belly and Chorizo Stew© by Haalo

Pork Belly and Chorizo Stew

600 grams Pork Belly, skinned, cut into large pieces
100 grams Pancetta, cut into thick lardons
1 chorizo, diced roughly
1 red onion, sliced finely
2 garlic cloves, sliced finely
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 can/400 grams chopped tomatoes
1 cup red wine
1 can/400 grams cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

The most time consuming part of this recipe is preparing the various pork products but after that you're looking at about 10 minutes on the stove top before it all goes into the oven.

Pork belly, chorizo and pancetta© by Haalo

Heat a little oil in a heavy based pot - it will need to be large enough to hold all the ingredients and be oven proof.

When the oil is heated, brown off the pork belly pieces. You'll need to do this in batches - once all the pork belly has been browned, remove then from the pan and add the pancetta.

Sauté the pancetta for a couple of minutes and then add the onions and garlic. Continue cooking until the onions have softened and then add the paprika and chorizo. Cook for a further 2 minutes.

Return the pork belly to the pot along with the tomatoes and red wine. Top up with enough water to cover the ingredients and then place in a preheated 160°C/325°F oven for 2 hours.

Stir in the drained cannellini beans and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Serve at once.

Pork Belly and Chorizo Stew© by Haalo

Crusty bread is almost mandatory - mashed potatoes or plain couscous would be good accompaniments.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging #173 - Recap

Weekend Herb Blogging once again presents us with a wonderful selection of unusual and usual ingredients and thanks go to all who week after week, join in and share their knowledge. You can always be assured that there is something new to discover.

This week the recap is ordered by the featured ingredient.

Blood Orange

Quinoa and Blood Orange Salad
by Maggie from Dog Hill Kitchen

If you've ever had problems with cooking Quinoa then Maggie has a method that will guarantee success. Parsley and mint are stirred through the cooked quinoa and then tossed in a dressing made with shallots, red wine vinegar and olive oil - blood orange segments are served over the top of the completed salad.


Cajun Chickpea Cakes
by Joanne from Eats Well with Others

Joanne whips up these spicy and healthy Chickpea patties in her George Foreman grill. Flavoured with cajun seasoning, chilli powder, paprika, tabasco and cayenne, these are sure to warm you up from the inside out!


Asian Lettuce Cups with Spicy Ground Turkey Filling
by Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen

Kalyn shows her love of Cilantro with these gorgeous lettuce cups served with a Spicy ground turkey filling and topped with peanuts. The meat is added to a base of sauteed ginger, onion and garlic - soy, chilli and fish sauces are also added to the mix. A generous quantity of chopped fresh cilantro is mixed in near the end to just warm through.

Grilled Cilantro Fish in Coconut Broth
by Jerry from Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants

This thai-inspired creation consists of a fillet of halibut that's marinated in lime and cilantro before being grilled. It's then served with a coconut milk based broth infused in a base of sauteed shallots, ginger and lemon zest - fish sauce, lime juice and sweet red peppers round out the broth.

Collard Greens

Coconut Curried Greens
by Cheryl from Gluten Free Goodness

Even though Cheryl's home grown collard greens have vanished due to rabbits it hasn't stopped her from making this fragrant curry. Coconut milk teams perfectly with the spiced base of ginger, garlic and garum masala. You'll be lining up for seconds.


eggplant© by Haalo

This week I made Eggplants with Tahini-Yoghurt dressing using these baby eggplants.

Koth Bel/Wood Apple

Koth bel Maakha/Spiced Wood Apple Mush
by Sharmistha from Cook-a-Doodle-do

I don't think I've ever seen or heard of Koth Bel but here they are. This hard shelled fruit needs to be cracked open and it's the internal pulp and seeds that are used. Sharmistha creates a much loved summer dish, a simple mash of Koth Bel flavoured with mustard oil and green chillies.


Lumpiang Shanghai
by Ela from Everything's Herbed

Malunggay is a medicinal herb and Ela provides information about it's nutritional and health-giving properties. Ela also adds it to her Lumpiang Shanghai which is a meat-filled Filipino spring roll.


Mostarda di Arance / Orange Mustard
by Brii from Brii Blog

Mustard fruits are an Italian classic that I adore but up until now I've never seen how they are made. Commercial mustard fruits are usually found as an assortment of fruits but here Brii serves up an enticing mostarda using Oranges. I'm fascinated by the mustard essence Brii uses and the associated safety procedures you need to follow. As it's difficult to find this essence, Brii has helpfully included a recipe to make your own with mustard seeds.

Oregano and Thyme

Mediterranean Roasted Red Snapper
by Chris from Melecotte

Chris teases us with a dish from a recent class she took at the Institute of Culinary Education. Fillets of red snapper are flavoured with fresh oregano and thyme and then baked in a metal pouch. Cooked this way, all the nutrients and flavours remain in the package.

Preserved Lemons

Moroccan Chicken Tangine
by Anna from Morsels and Musings

Anna supplies us with two recipes - one for Moroccan Preserved Lemons and the other for this eye-catching Moroccan Chicken Tagine. If you like the look of this Tagine, Anna will soon be posting a Vegetarian Tagine so do keep an eye out for that.


Creamy Pumpkin Soup
by Cinzia from Cindystar

It's been very cold and rainy (and snowy) around Cinzia's area of Italy so a bit of comfort food is in order. Regardless of the temperature, this scrumptious bowl of thick and creamy pumpkin soup is sure to please. The blended soup is flavoured with nutmeg and parmesan and topped with golden cubes of toast.


Japanese Spinach with Sesame dressing
by Christine from Kits Chow

This looks like it came straight from the kitchen of a Japanese restaurant! Carefully rolled colums of boiled spinach are topped with a classic sesame dressing - a combination of soy, sesame oil, sesame paste, vinegar, shredded ginger and furikake. The enoki bundles are lightly boiled in the spinach water and then tied with spinach stems.


Turnip Salad with Cashew-Parsley Pesto and Poached Egg
by Chriesi from Almond Corner

It's Chriesi's first taste of raw turnip and she's on a winner with this recipe. Slices of raw turnip and kohlrabi are presented with a tasty cashew and parsley pesto and soft poached egg.


Roasted Vegetable Stock
by Genie from The Inadvertent Gardener

If you start with a good stock, then everything you make from it is just going to taste that much better. Genie takes a mix of roughly chopped vegetables and roasts them to help bring and the natural flavours and provide a richer end product.

Weekend Herb Blogging #174 will be hosted by Astrid from Paulchen's Foodblog.

Send your posts to foodblog AT paulchens DOT org

and please include the following information:
  • Your name
  • Your Blog name/URL
  • Your Post URL
  • Your Location
  • and a photo sized: 400px wide

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Eggplant with Tahini-Yoghurt Dressing

Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted here this weekend and it also happens to be our Labour Day Holiday weekend so I'm enjoying it with some of these adorable baby Eggplants.

eggplant© by Haalo

Eggplants that fit in eggcups!

I've written previously about the nutritional elements of Eggplant but here is an interesting titbit - if you ever find yourself bitten by a scorpion you can place eggplant slices over the bite mark. I have no idea whether this works and I'm not about to look for a scorpion to find out.

The dish I'm making today comes from Greg Malouf and is found in his book Moorish. Eggplant wedges are shallow fried until golden and then drizzled generously with a tangy and garlicky tahini and yoghurt dressing. I'm the first to admit that this isn't a dish that looks "pretty"- no amount of frilly ribbons or bokeh will change that.

eggplant with tahini-yoghurt dressing© by haalo

Eggplant with Tahini-Yoghurt Dressing

olive oil

Tahini-Yoghurt Dressing
90mls plain yoghurt
30mls tahini paste
lemon juice
1 garlic clove
sea salt

Make the dressing:

Crush the garlic clove with a little sea salt until it forms a puree.

Place the yoghurt, tahini and crushed garlic into a bowl and stir until combined. Drizzle in the lemon juice a little at a time until it reaches a good balance of flavour - you want a dressing that will has both those nutty and lemony notes. The dressing should have the consistency of honey, to achieve this you may need to add a little water to the mix.

You can store the dressing in the fridge for a couple of days.

Prepare the eggplant:

Whether you use the regular size or these baby eggplants the process is fairly similar. Cut the eggplants to form wedges - larger ones may need to be salted to remove the bitterness. For these smaller ones, that won't be necessary.

Shallow fry the wedges until golden and drain well on paper towels.

Assemble the dish:

Scatter the wedges over a serving plate and drizzle over generously with the dressing.

Serve at once.

eggplant with tahini-yoghurt dressing© by haalo

You could adapt this for the BBQ by grilling the eggplant wedges - this would incorporate those lovely smoky flavours to the dish and then serve them with the dressing.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Amaretti-stuffed Nectarines

March technically brings an end to Summer and the start of Autumn which means we'll soon be saying our goodbyes to locally grown stone fruit.

I've spoken of my fondness for nectarines in the past so it makes perfect sense that I adapt this traditional Piemontese dish of amaretti-stuffed peaches for their smooth skinned relatives.

amaretti-stuffed nectarines© by Haalo

Amaretti-stuffed Nectarines

4 nectarines, halved, stone removed
amaretti biscuits
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
dark chocolate
1 egg yolk
pearl sugar, for topping
orange juice (you can use wine or spirits if preferred)

nectarines© by Haalo

Once you have halved and stoned your nectarines, take a melon-baller and carefully scoop out the central red flesh to form a slightly larger cavity - save this flesh, you'll use it in the filling.

Place the nectarine flesh into the bowl of a small food processor and add in the flaked almonds and amaretti. How many amaretti you'll need will depend on the size of the amaretti - I had very tiny ones so I needed 16 to make enough filling.

Process the nectarine flesh, almonds and amaretti until it forms a rough, thick paste. Taste and add sugar if desired.

Drop in an egg yolk and pulse until just combined. If you like, you can also add a teaspoon of cocoa to the mix.

I've gone a slightly different route and added a Lindt Dark Chocolate bud to each nectarine.

Place the nectarines into a baking dish that will snugly fit them. Half fill each cavity with filling, drop in the dark chocolate and then cover with the remaining mixture.

Sprinkle over with pearl sugar. Pour orange juice carefully around the nectarines - use just enough to give the nectarines a shallow bath in which to sit.

Bake in a preheated 160/320 oven until the filling has hardened - about 45 minutes.

amaretti stuffed nectarines© by Haalo

These can be served hot or cold - with or without the cooking liquid. You'll find the orange juice has also taken in those nectarine flavours so it is quite delicious.

amaretti stuffed nectarines© by Haalo

Enjoy it as is or with a little thick cream.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging #173 Hosting

Many thanks to Laurie for hosting Weekend Herb Blogging, be sure to check out the tasty recap.

This week, I have the pleasure of hosting.

To participate:
Post about any herb, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower - I encourage participants to read the rules to ensure that your post does qualify.

Posts must be written specifically for Weekend Herb Blogging during this week (March 2nd - March 8th) and the deadline is:
3pm Sunday - Utah Time
10pm Sunday - London Time
9am Monday - Melbourne, Australia Time

Send your email to whb AT with WHB#173 in the subject and the following information:

* Your Name
* Your Blog Name/URL
* Your Post URL
* Your Location
* Attach a photo (350px wide)

If you would like to host, send an email to weekend.herb.blogging AT - please include your preferred email address and photo requirements.
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