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Virtual Bloggers Dinner for Modern Spice

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Monica Bhide recently invited food bloggers to participate in a Virtual Bloggers Dinner using recipes from her book Modern Spice. It sounded like so much fun and I put my hand up right away.

My dish for the virtual “potluck” dinner party was Pan Seared Trout with a Mint-Cilantro (Coriander) Chutney. The recipe was very simple. I was expecting to have to raid my spice rack and go on an extended trek for many wonderful ingredients but was pleasantly surprised and how easy this was going to be.

My local seafood shop had some coral trout, but sadly without the skin. I bought it anyway but was a little upset I wasn’t going to eat some crispy pan-fried fish skin with my dinner.

I ended up putting about half a red onion instead of a quarter, just on a whim, and because I love onion. I didn’t have a green serrano chile which the recipe called for but since this was optional I picked a couple of small chillies from a rainbow chilli tree I bought at the markets and used those. The tree is so gorgeous, purple, red and orange chillies! All gone now though since I made some chilli jam the other day.

Back to the trout!  The Mint-Cilantro chutney was as simple as throwing a bunch of ingredients into the blender to make a yummy paste.

I followed Monica’s instructions to pan sear the trout and it came out perfectly. (Ignore the part of the picture where it looks like I smooshed the fillet)

I made a little vegetable, noodle stir fry to go with the fish for dinner as well.

Andrew was very impressed with the fish and so was I. The chutney was so fresh and went really well with the fish. I was worried it was going to be very minty but it wasn’t at all. By following the recipe I ended up making more than enough chutney for quite a few more serves  so I’m looking forward to cooking the fish again (hopefully with some skin on this time).

I had lots of fun doing this and ended up cooking something I might not have tried otherwise. I hope Monica has another one of these soon.

To see the other dishes made for the Virtual Dinner, check out Monica’s site http://mbhide.typepad.com/

And here is Monica’s recipe if you want to try it for yourself.

Pan-Seared Trout with Mint-Cilantro Chutney

If you are reading this recipe and thinking, “Really, can it be that simple?”—yes, it is, and it is simply delicious. Don’t take my word for it, though. Get a pan out and start searing!

Serve the trout with a drizzle of the Mint-Cilantro Chutney.

Serves 4

Prep/Cook time: 15 minutes

4 skin-on trout fillets, about 6 ounces each, halved lengthwise

Table salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1?4 cup Mint-Cilantro Chutney

1. Season the trout fillets with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the trout, skin side down. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the trout is cooked through.

3. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, skin side down.

4. Place each fillet on a serving plate and drizzle each with up to a tablespoon of chutney. Serve immediately.

Mint-Cilantro Chutney

This is the most popular chutney in India, hands down. It can be found in many Indian-American homes, in restaurants, and now in jars on grocery store shelves. Its charm lies in how simple it is to prepare. My father always adds a little yogurt to his chutney to make it creamy and then pairs it with lamb kebabs. My mom-in-law adds a hearty dose of roasted peanuts and serves it with savory snacks; Mom adds pomegranate seeds—you get the idea—to each his own.

This versatile chutney has so many uses. Thin it a little and use it as a salad dressing for a crisp green salad; use it in the consistency provided here as a spread on a baguette topped with fresh cucumber slices; or simply drizzle it on some freshly grilled fish for a fresh flavor.

One word of advice here: Green chutneys have a short shelf life. Make them in small batches and make them often—they only take a few minutes but the rewards are well worth the effort (which really isn’t much).

Makes 1 cup

Prep time: 5 minutes

1 cup packed cilantro (leaves and stems)

1 cup packed mint (leaves only, please)

1 green serrano chile (optional; if you don’t like too much heat, remove the seeds)

1?4 small red onion, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon dried pomegranate seeds (optional)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1?2 teaspoon table salt

Up to 2 tablespoons water

1. Blend the cilantro, mint, chile, onion, pomegranate seeds (if using), lemon juice, and salt in a blender to a smooth paste. To aid in the blending process, you can add up to 2 tablespoons of water, if needed. Taste and add more salt if needed.

2. Transfer to a covered container and chill for about 30 minutes.

3. Serve cool. This chutney will keep, refrigerated, for 4 days.

Marinated Chicken Wings on the BBQ

Monday, February 16th, 2009

This marinade is enough for about 1.2kg of chicken wings. I am a chicken-wing fiend. I could just sit there like a big pig and eat a massive pile of them. I know some people who don’t like them because they require the most mess and work to eat, but I have a belief that foods that need more work taste better (ie. things in shells, crab, prawns, and meat off the bone). The wings are my absolute favourite chicken cut. Mmmm. Tasty.

Marinade

1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp brandy (optional)
2 spring onions coarsley chopped (the second time I made this I didn’t have spring onions so I used chinese fried onions, which gave it a different flavour, but still very nice).
If you want to make it easier to eat, you can cut the chicken wings into two parts, the drumette and the wing/tip piece. Alternatively sometimes you can buy the pieces pre-cut like this. I try to always buy organic chicken because hopefully this means they treat the animals well and theres less artificial things fed to the chicken.
Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl.
Place chicken wings in a big bowl or container and cover with the marinade. Coat the chicken pieces well. You can either use your CLEAN hands to do this, or if the bowl/container has a lid you can just shake the chicken pieces to cover them in marinade. Its adviseable to make sure the lid is fairly liquid and air-tight if you don’t want to make a huge mess and lose lots of yummy marinade.
The minimum time I would leave this to marinate for is probably 30 minutes to an hour. The absolute best time to let it sit for is over night because then the flavour will really have soaked through the chicken. I’ve tried it both ways and the over-night  marination tasted much better.
When you are ready to cook, the wings, the best way is going to be to BBQ them. Everything just tastes so much nicer when BBQ’d don’t you agree?
If you don’t have a bbq or you are too lazy to bbq (like I am sometimes), a grill pan is the next best thing, then of course you can either pan fry, or probably even bake them (I’m guessing at 180°C for about 25-30 minutes, just check on them).
Cook them until they are nice and browned (little charred bits if you are BBQ’ing are okay, and tasty!). If you want to make sure they are cooked through just cut through to the bone on one and make sure it’s ok.
Feel free to “taste test” a whole chicken wing, you know because, you just want to make sure that it tastes okay… hehe. Enjoy!

Sautéed Potatoes & Carrot with Egg & Sausage

Monday, February 16th, 2009

This is a recipe adapted from a recipe book Piggy gave me for my birthday! The carrots and sausage were my addition, and it worked out quite well. Might try to add some sautéed mushrooms next time.

500g Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (small is good)
1 carrot cut into chunks
2 Tablespoons olive oil (if you have it, substitute some of the olive oil for truffle oil, maybe about 1/2 a tbsp, makes it soooo tasty)
20g butter (I use organic butter)
2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 sage springs (lacking fresh sage, I used some oregano flakes or you can also use dried sage)
2 eggs (again organic, the only “real” free range egg)
Some sausages (entirely up to you how much you cook, I think we did about 6 sausages) 

Sausages:
Cook these in a frying pan, then chop them up into small pieces, using kitchen scissors is easiest, just hold the sausages with tongs and cut away back into the pan. This will save you messing up another plate and cutting board.

Potatoes:
The recipe says if you want just potatoes on their own (with no egg), you can double this amount and add an extra spoonful of oil, but if you’ll be adding the eggs to the pan you’ll need this smallish amount of potatoes with a fairly large non-stick frying-pan. However, I use enough potatoes to cover the bottom of the pan, and I’m still able to push them aside to fit eggs in it. Also I use about a 30cm-ish pan and you can serve this in the pan. 

Boil the potato and carrot chunks in boiling salted water until they are cooked through but not breaking up, this should only take about 10 minutes.
Put the olive oil, butter, garlic and oregano/sage in a large non-stick frying pan and heat until the butter melts.
Drain the cooked potatoes and carrots and add to the frying pan.
Saute over fairly high heat at first, until they start to become golden and leave to get a crispy coating. Every now and then toss or stir them carefully so that they will get crispy all over.
Take care not to mush them up, although I don’t mind if it happens a little bit because it just means there will be more crusty bits. I love the crusty bits which is why I try to cut my potato pieces pretty small.
If the garlic looks like it may burn, sit it on top of the potatoes.
When the potatoes are golden all love and crisp to your liking, shuffle them to the side to make two big spaces for the eggs, you CAN add more egg if you like. The most I’ve done is about 3, though I suppose I could fit 4 in my pan and just let the egg go over more bits of potato.
Break an egg into each space, sprinkle with a little salt, and put the lid on. Cook over medium-low heat until the whites are just set.
Serve at once, trying not to break the egg yolks because its nice to mix them with the potatoes on your plate, but this is entirely your choice (I know some people don’t like runny egg).
Then just tip the sausages on top when serving and eat from the pan!
I love the bits where the egg has cooked around pieces of potato, especially if its crunchy bits of the potato. Yummmm. This is a very filling dish, but even when you’re full you will keep eating it until there is no more.

Home Made Lasagne

Monday, February 9th, 2009

This recipe will serve about 6 people if you have a bit of salad and garlic bread on the side as well. They’ll probably have room for a bit of dessert as well. Or this will serve 4 really hungry people. I love lasagne, so I serve 4 with this (sometimes theres a bit left over for a serve of lunch and hopefully hubby forgets to bring it to work so I can eat it).

Handmade Lasagne Sheets
Makes 2 baking tray sized lasagne sheets 

This recipe can also be used to make other pastas. Even though I rushed out and bought a pasta maker, its not really necessary. You can use a good, old-fashioned rolling pin and cut the pasta to the shape and size you desire. If you have enough time, its best to make the lasange sheets at the same time you make everything else. If you really need to make them the day before, you can store them in the fridge. I suggest you put layers of baking paper between the sheets and flour the sheets to prevent sticking. Make sure you cover with clingwrap to prevent drying out. But of course, freshest is bestest.

Ingredients:

1 cups semolina flour
1 cups plain flour
1 eggs well-beaten
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive-oil (sometimes I substitute this for garlic oil)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold water (keep extra water aside if needed, though hopefully a tap is easily accessible)

Steps to delicious lasagne sheets:
1. Sift the two flours together into a large bowl.

2. Mix beaten egggs with olive oil, salt and one cup of cold water.

3. Make a well in the flour and pour in egg mixture.

4. Mix until it starts to come together (form lumps of dough).

Then start to use your hands to roll it into a big ball and knead it (keep pushing it down and rolling it together again) until the dough becomes more smooth. About 5 minutes of kneading should make it a uniform consistency.

5. Roll the dough into a loaf shape, dust underneath and over the whole “loaf” with flour. Cover with a dry cloth and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.

6. Take half the dough and use either a pasta maker or a rolling pin to roll your dough into a thin sheet. This amount of dough should make about 2 large sheets for a decent sized baking tray/dish.

Bechamel sauce
600mL milk
60g butter
60g plain flour
salt
white pepper
nutmeg

1. Heat milk to scalding point and set aside.

2. Melt butter in another saucepan and stir in flour.

3. Cook, stirring, until you have a smooth golden pasted (known as a roux).

4. Gradually work in hot milk and stir until sauce thickens and is very smooth. Continue stirring until sauce boils. You can add more milk if you feel that the sauce is too thick.

5. Cook for a further 10 minutes with pan on a simmer mat over a gentle heat.

6. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Sauce & Filling

Olive oil
500g minced meat (beef)
1/4 of a Japanese Pumpkin (chopped into small pieces, this will help it to cook faster)
250g of mushrooms (roughly chopped or broken into pieces)
1 can of diced tomatoes (I chose one with basil and oregano, you can pick yours to taste, or add fresh herbs yourself)
Some tomato paste or good tomato sauce can be added as well. This time I added about 1/3 of a cup of tomato paste.
Salt & Pepper 

You can substitute vegetables of choice. Zuchinni or carrot sound nice.

1. Put a small amount of olive oil in a non-stick pan and heat on high (for extra flavour, use garlic infused olive oil or just add a couple of peeled cloves of garlic while your oil heats up, just remember to remove these before adding to the lasagne unless you want a garlicy surprise).

2. Add chopped pumpkin once oil is hot. After a couple of minutes add the mushrooms.

3. Continue to cook until the pumpkin is cooked through (the colour will change and the pumpkin should be soft enough that when you press down on the pieces with a spoon or spatula it is quite squishy).

4. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Heat a little more oil in a pan.

6. Once the oil is hot, add minced meat (in the photos you’ll see I added more mushrooms at this stage, this was because I realised I just simply needed more mushrooms!)

7. When it is pretty much cooked through (beef has turned brown) pour diced tomatoes over meat, add the cooked pumpkin and mushrooms andmix everything together.

8. Allow this to cook for another 5 or so minutes. Turn off heat.

Assembling the lasagne.

Shaved Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup mozarella (if you want the top layer to be extra cheesey)

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Put half of the sauce mixture to line the bottom of the baking dish (hopefully you have enough here, if not, just remember for next time you make it to cook more sauce, or get a smaller baking dish hehe).

3. Next layer a sheet of the pasta on top. I didn’t need to do this the first time, but it might be a good idea to prick some holes in the pasta with a fork, as the second time around I experienced some big air bubbles under the pasta while cooking and had to push them down.

4. On top of the sheet of pasta, spread half of the bechamel sauce. If it seems to have become too thick, add some more milk and heat it up again on the stove.

5. Add the remainder of the meat and vegetable sauce as the next layer.

6. Place the second lasagne sheet next.

7. Now you can add the remainder of the bechamel sauce. If you like the top of your lasagne to be extra cheesey, you can heat up the sauce again and add 1/4 cup of mozarella before spreading it on top.

8. Cover the top of the lasagne with pieces of shaved parmesan cheese.

9. Bake in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes (Or until the cheese on top has become golden).

10. Eat it! :D