Monday, 11 July 2016

Roasted aubergine and yoghurt sauce

I am a big Ottoleghi fan and though not much of a vegetarian food fan (only because i really am rubbish at cooking anything vegetable based, and making them taste good), whenever i go to his restaurant I always opt for the salad selection as they are seriously good. It was during one of those visits that i came across this aubergine and yoghurt combination which i absolutely loved and have been making at home ever since. A grilled chicken slice and this aubergine and yoghurt side is like the perfect summer lunch combo.

The yoghurt i used for this recipe is the Natural Yoghurt from Lactofree which is equally creamy and as flavourful as any other yoghurt. You wouldnt realise its Lactose-free and I've used it quite a few ways- as a dip, salad dressing, marinade,and my favourite, baking my French yoghurt cake. Results have been great so far and ive already suggested it to a friend whose daughter is lactose intolerant. Its great that brands like Lactofree are introducing more and more products for those with food intolerances and it makes life so much more nicer, they get to eat yoghurt! 

Recipe is super duper easy, and the use of Za'atar makes it just even more delectable. Just sprinkling some of this glorious Middle Eastern spice on to yoghurt and serving as a side to anything can do the trick. 

Recipe adapted from here, originally from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (serves 4 as a side)
Aubergine/ Egg plant- 2 large
Good quality olive oil- 1/4 cup
Thyme leaves- 1 tsp (I used dried ones)
Za'atar spice- 1 tsp
Salt and pepper- to season

Yoghurt- 1/2 cup
Olive oil- 1 tbsp plus enough to drizzle
Garlic- 1 small clove, finely grated
Za'atar- 1/4 tsp
Salt- to taste
Pomegranate seeds- 4 tbsp
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Preheat oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Slice the aubergines in half, lengthwise, and using a sharp knife make incisions on the cut side, without going through the skin. 
Place on the baking tray and generously brush in the olive oil.
Sprinkle the thyme leaves, za'atar spice, salt and pepper and chuck into the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes or till the flesh is soft, roasted and completely cooked.

While the aubergines are in the oven, get the yoghurt sauce ready.
Just whisk together the yoghurt, olive oil, za'atar and salt in a bowl and keep refrigerated till ready to use.

Take the aubergines out of the oven, transfer to a serving plate and scoop generous amounts of yoghurt on top of them. 
Finish off with the pomegranate seeds and serve as a side to cous cous or grilled meat or fish.

With thanks to Lactofree for the yoghurt.

Monday, 6 June 2016

South Indian coconut rice

On days I make rice, I make a bit extra and use it for variety rice, which is what we refer to rice that has been flavoured with various ingredients- lemon, tamarind, curd, tomato, coriander- to name a few. These are perfect when made with rice that is a day or two old and cold out of the refrigerator. Its also a one pot meal which pairs well with just a pickle, poppadom and maybe some yoghurt if needed,

This coconut rice recipe is an absolute favourite and it makes its way into my kitchen at least twice a month. Its perfect for summer (or whatever they call this ridiculous weather we've been having), light, not too spicy but with brilliant flavours and if you are feeling a bit indulgent you can of course pair it with a chicken curry and serve at a party.

Serves 2 as part of main meal

Cooked basmati rice- 2 1/2 cups
Ghee- 1 tsp
Vegetable oil- 1/2 tbsp
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Dried red chillies- 3, crushed or torn
Curry leaves- a sprig
Cashew nuts- 2 tbsp
Asafoetida- a generous pinch
Urad dal- 2 tbsp
Grated coconut- 1/2 cup
Salt- to taste
In a large wok, heat together the ghee and vegetable oil.
Add the mustard seeds and once they begin to pop, add the dried red chillies and curry leaves. Stir until they become almost crisp.
Add the urad dal, cashew nuts and asafoetida and continue stirring, making sure the dal and cashew nuts get ricely roasted and turn a light golden brown in colour. Make sure they do not burn, as this may change the flavour to a slightly smoky one.
Add the dessicated coconut and keep stirring on medium heat till the wetness from the coconut disappears and it becomes fragrant and lightly toasted- it should turn a reddish brown. This should take 7 to 8 minutes. keep a close eye as coconut can burn pretty quickly.
Add the rice, breaking it down carefully.
Add salt, mix them all together and take off the heat.
Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot with pickle and poppadoms.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Beef rogan josh in a Staub Cocotte

Ever since we moved into our new house we've been talking of banishing our non stick Teflon pans and going all cast iron or stainless steel. We have been eliminating them bit by bit and the transition has been a bit of a challenge but i think its working and I'm slowly getting used to it.

My first cast iron cooking experience was with this gorgeous Staub 24cm Cocotte, the lovely people over at Zwilling UK sent over. I have been thoroughly enjoying my time with it, or rather getting used to cooking with it and I'm very happy to have it as part of my new kitchen. If like me you do like a bit of colour, then look no further because Staub Cocottes come in a range of colours from cinnamon to basil to cherry red to graphite grey. etc Those who know me, also know my obsession with the colour yellow so no surprises there when i opted for the mustard colour Cocotte. It arrived promptly on time and i got cooking with it the very same day. 
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One thing i had to get used to was the weight of the cast iron pot. Having dealt with light weight thin stainless steel pots and such, the weight of the cast iron pot was a bit of a shock in the beginning, but i soon got the hang of it especially once i realised how the weight works to your favour while cooking. It also retains heat really well which also helps with cooking food evenly. I also noticed that all the dishes i made in the Staub cocotte was done at a much lower temperature than i usually do. For example, if i was cooking previously on the heat mark 7 on my ceramic hob, with the Staub i was doing it on heat mark 4, sometimes even reducing it down to 3 because of the heat retention and things like onions and garlic getting burnt. I agree it does take a while to get used and I'm still experimenting with what heat settings work well for what. The point is, energy consumption has reduced drastically, and my husband who was sceptical about this whole cast iron cooking is now absolutely impressed and sold on the idea.

Another excellent feature about the Staub Cocotte is the heavy lid with small spikes on them which act as a natural baster. The water drops back into the pot keeping your meat moist and this to me is a great plus point. When i usually slow cook meat, i have to keep adding water every now and then to keep the meat moist and also to prevent the food from burning or sticking to the base because the water would evaporate quite quickly. This i think is my most favourite feature from Staub, the really heavy lid and the special drip structure makes sure no moisture escapes and whatever gets collected gets poured back into the pot. I loved how my rogan josh didn't need any refilling through the entire cooking process and also how my rice was cooked perfectly well without moisture escaping, and without going through all that drama of covering the lid with a cloth or paper towel.
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When i made the rice, i was pretty sure it would stick to the bottom, but was pleasantly surprised it didn't. The enamel coating even though not completely non stick works to a great extent when it comes to cooking and cleaning, and even if it does stick a bit to the base, a bit of a soak easily removes it all. I have to try a biryani in the pot to see how the whole 'dum' aspect works, but before that i need to familiarise myself with the cast iron pot a bit more.

The only negative thing, well i cant quite call it negative really, is that the entire pot and lid becomes really hot while cooking. If you hold on to your pot while stirring and mixing, this becomes a bit uncomfortable. I managed to burn my hand twice, even after using a cloth but, this again is something i need to get used to, and nothing a pot holder cant solve. It however, doesn't affect the performance of the pot at all. Then there is of course the price which, lets be honest, is steep. When i was thinking of investing in a cast iron pan, i did a lot of research on various products in the market. and Staub definitely stood out. It is one of the best out there so think of it as an investment that would last you forever, and put it on your birthday gift list.

Coming to the recipe, I made a mutton rogan josh last year and it differs from this one quite a bit. I would like to think that is definitely the more authentic recipe and this one by Madhur Jaffrey is a bit more Anglicised, if i may call it that. But it works, its absolutely flavourful and we've been making it for years now. 

Recipe adapted from here (serves 4 as part of main)
Ginger- 5cm piece, peeled
Garlic- 8 to 9 cloves, peeled
Oil- 4 tbsp
Beef- 700 gms (cut into 2 cm cubes)
Cinnamon sticks- 2 cm
Cardamom- 6 pods
Cloves- 6 pods
Bay leaf- 1
Whole peppercorns- 10
Onions- 200 gms, peeled and finely chopped
Coriander powder- 1 heaped tsp
Cumin powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder- 2 tsp
Spicy chilli powder- 1 tsp (adjust according to heat)
Salt- to taste
Yoghurt- 6 tbsp
Warm water- 400ml
Garam masala- 1/2 tsp
Grind together the ginger and garlic with 2 tbsp water to make a fine paste.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a deep thick bottomed pot and on medium-high heat sear the beef cubes in batches till they are all brown. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium, add the remaining oil into the pot and throw in all the whole spices- cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaf and peppercorns - and saute till they are fragrant for about 10 seconds, take care not to burn them.
Follow with onions and saute them for about 5 to 10 minutes or till they turn brown.
Tip in the ginger garlic paste and continue to fry till the raw smell goes
Add all the spice powders one after the other along with salt, and cook for about 5 seconds, just to remove the raw smell. If you think the mix is sticking to the pan and has a chance of burning, add in a tbsp or two of water with the spices and cook till you can no longer smell the raw masala.
In goes the fried meat along with all the juices. Mix well so all the masala gets coated on the meat.
Add the yoghurt one spoon at a time, and stirring it into the meat mix after each addition.
Pour in 400 ml warm water and bring to a boil, scraping the sides of the pot.
Cover with a heavy lid, reduce heat to the lowest and cook for about an hour or until the meat is tender. 
Keep checking in between to see if the water has reduced, and if the meat is sticking to the bottom add some more water, stir well and continue cooking closed.
Open the lid, check if the meat is cooked, add more salt if required, and if you can see a thin layer of oil on top, that's sign of a good rogan josh i believe. 
If you do think there is too much liquid, increase heat and let the curry boil away some of the liquid.
Just before serving stir in the garam masala and serve hot with some steamed rice.
Notes: Instead of cooking this on the hob top, you can finish off the curry in the oven at 180C for about 1-1.30 hrs. Just make sure you stir it every 10 minutes or so and check for liquid levels. My Staub Cocotte would do a perfect job for this as you wouldn't need to transfer it into another oven proof dish but can directly move this from the hob to oven.
You can make the same dish with mutton/goat/lamb as well. Cooking times may slightly vary though.
Over the years I've made my own changes to it. I add a generous dash of cream just after i put the garam masala, making this quite irresistible.

With thanks to Zwilling UK for the Staub Cocotte that was sent to me. All opinions are my own and no monetary compensation was offered in return for a positive review.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Creamy potato soup

The lighting in my new home is fabulous. Even on an overcast, gloomy day I still have pretty decent light coming into my living room and although my backyard isn't south facing, the huge French windows bring in enough light there as well. I did contemplate where i should be setting up my photography station and although it mostly depends on the time of the day and the sun position, I think I'm going to like the French windows than the living room, purely because i can use my gorgeous new dining table for the set up and not drag my photography table (which has doubled up as a side table at the mo) around, and also I'm lazy (maybe this is the only factor, now that i think of it).

(If interested, do follow me on instagram: mykitchenantics, to see nooks and corners of the house while i set it up).
IMG_9477 My props are all 'propped up' up stairs and that's kind of a pain because it means i need to plan my shoot. Believe it or not, I don't plan my photo shoot in advance. I do a spur of the moment thing which means my set is a disaster zone after I'm done. I try the food in various serve ware before deciding on the one i like. Now that i have to go upstairs each time and since we've already established that I'm the lazy kinds, it requires a bit more planning.

Well, the reason I'm saying all this is because i nailed this setting with the first try. Although i brought down soup bowl and such, i tried this setting first and it worked for me. This is my mums recipe, well most of it. I've made it a couple of times and have created my own version with stock cube, cream and spring onions. her version is much more simpler, made with leftover chicken and potatoes, which is also great but i jazzed it up a bit more to make it more creamier and delicious. It takes almost no time to prepare especially because of the pressure cooker, but you can of course do this is a stock pot or sauce pan and derive the exact same or maybe tastier result. Its still cold in my part of the world, so soups are still welcome at the dinner table.

Serves 2 as part of main meal
Potato- 350 gms (around 2 large ones), peeled and cut into big chunks
Garlic- 2 large pods, peeled and lightly crushed
Leftover chicken on bone- 3 leg, thigh or wing pieces
Chicken stock cube- 1 1/2 cubes diluted in 3 1/2 cups warm water
Double cream- 1/4 cup
Salt- to taste
Freshly ground pepper- to taste
Spring onions- 2 sprigs, finely chopped
Herbs de Provence- to garnish (optional)
Chilli oil- to drizzle (optional)
Into a pressure cooker add the potato, garlic, chicken and diluted stock cube. Don't add the salt at this point as the stock cubes may be salty.
Pressure cook for about 15 minutes (around 3 whistles), wait for the steam to die down and then open the cooker.
The potatoes should be cooked, almost mashed or easily mashable consistency. If you feel its still hard, put it on for another whistle or so.
Remove the chicken pieces from the soup and leave the cooker open for the soup to cool down a bit.
Once cool, add the double cream, give a stir and using an immersion blender puree the soup to a creamy mix. Its ok if the potatoes don't get puréed, i like to have a bit of a bite between spoonfuls. But of course if you want it completely smooth, go all out. But make sure the garlic is not left behind in chunks.
Shred the meat off the chicken bone and add to the soup.
Check for salt and add more if needed, also season with a generous dose of pepper.
Just before serving, lightly warm the soup and garnish with spring onions, a light sprinkling of herbs de Provence and some good quality chilli oil.
Dip some crusty bread into it and sink into comfort heaven.
Notes: Break down the chunks of potato with a fork before blending, to make it a bit easier.
You can of course, chuck the entire thing into a smoothie blender and do the job. However with an immersion blender its just a tiny blade that needs cleaning and not an entire jar :)
You can add any leftover meat (or prawns even) of choice into the soup, doesn't have to be chicken. You can also just shred and add cooked chicken at the end, if you don't have them on the bone.
Add vegetables like spinach, carrots, peas etc to make it a completely veg soup.
The left over chicken i used was spicy, so the soup was too, if you do want to give a bit of heat, add a tiny piece of birds eye chilli while cooking the potatoes

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Bengali mutton curry

Right, so 3 months into 2016 and i muster up the effort to do a blog post. Well, i have my excuses. We moved into our new home end of December and then pushed off to India for a month. Came back to a house filled with boxes, no storage, no curtains and no enthusiasm. I should have been all thrilled and excited considering i was going to set up my new home but the constant arguments with Ro regarding what goes where, which colours suit better, why the earth is round etc etc made me lose interest in this whole scenario. So i just got on with life and left all my baggage right there (pun intended!) 

I think he kind of sensed the lack of interest, and pulled back a bit which is when i got in and absolutely took advantage. But even then i realised i kept asking him for opinions which in turn lead to more fights. Nisha, haven't you heard of something called taking decisions on your own??? Apparently not!! Anyways, I still have boxes strewn all over the floor, but its a bit more bearable now. I may have my own house, but tell me i can go back to Greenwich any day and I'd leave in a heart beat. I am so not cut out for suburban life and damn the owners who decided to sell that beautiful, beautiful apartment we spent 8 years in. (shedding a lil tear now).

The internet!!!! Since its a new built, internet has not been sorted out. We have been given a temporary solution and we seem to run out of the given allowance within a week. So uploading, editing pictures is an issue. This actually is a very lame excuse because im still on limited data and i managed a blog post!
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Then there is Chaiparty, which is doing pretty well and keeping us all occupied. We had 2 Bengali feasts back to back because people were on wait list and its the first time i actually got to taste some of the traditional Bong food. S was the main chef and G and I were sous chefs, obeying her orders and trying hard to not goof up. I was so inspired by all that Bong-ness, I decided to give the mutton curry a go.

In spite of S giving me a run down of the procedure and the recipe, I still had to google a recipe and since it was my first time, decided to just stick to it. I'm going to write down her grandma's mutton curry recipe (which was a big hit at our supper club BTW) and make it the next time. We had this with steamed white rice, that's it! I had to give Ro the stare when he asked me 'aren't there any veggies to go with it.' Like seriously, after slow cooking the damn thing for close to an hour, he wants a side dish!!!

It was a very mutton-y curry, especially the gravy, but that could be because of the type of meat i got. The chunks of potato are simply fab and the curry tastes even better the next day. I am assuming this is a variation of the mutton curry known to Bengali households, and what they call kosha mangsho. Either ways, I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.

Recipe adapted from here (serves 3)
IMG_9457 (1)
Mutton- 500gms (with bone and cut into small pieces)
Yoghurt- 4 tbsp
Lemon juice- 1/2 tbsp
Ginger garlic paste- 2 tbsp
Green chilli- 1, finely chopped (adjust according to taste)
Tomato paste- 1/2 tbsp
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder- 1 tsp
Garam masala- 1/2 tsp + 1/4 to sprinkle at the every end
Oil- 3 tbsp for the marinade + 3 tbsp for cooking 
Potatoes- 3 medium ones, peeled and cut into big chunks
Cinnamon- 1, 1 inch stick
Cloves- 3 to 4
Cardamom- 3 to 4
Black peppercorn- 8
Bay leaf- 1
Sugar- 1/2 tsp
Onion- 1 large, finely chopped
Salt- to taste
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Marinate the mutton with the 9 ingredients below it (using only 3 tbsp of the oil).
Cover with cling film and marinate it in the refrigerator, overnight for best results, or at least for a minimum of 3 to 4 hrs.
Bring to room temperature before cooking.

In a pressure cooker heat the remaining 3 tbsp of oil and fry the potatoes they they brown around the edges. Drain on to paper towels.
Infuse the oil with the whole spices- cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, peppercorn and bay leaf.
Add the sugar and let it caramelise.
Throw in the onions and on medium heat cook till they turn a golden brown. This would take around 15 minutes or so.
Add the marinated mutton, mix it together with the onions and cook on medium-high heat till you see the water drying and the oil separating.
This process can take close to an hour so make sure you keep checking the meat in between and scraping off the base and edges so that the meat doesn't burn.
Once the meat becomes a dark brown in colour, and mostly dryish in consistency, add 1 cup warm water, the fried potatoes, salt to taste and cover and pressure cook for about 2 to 3 whistles or till the meat is completely cooked.
Serve hot with steamed rice or luchi- a poori like bread.
Notes: It is originally made with mustard oil which imparts a distinct flavour i presume. I didnt have any at hand.
If you don't own a pressure cooker, continue cooking the meat on medium heat, checking water in between and adding the potato towards the end.
A lot of oil gets released. So on day 2 i drained a bit. Sacrilegious i know!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Christmas specials

New Tea Capsules from PG Tips
I got a swanky new Nespresso machine and i love the occasional cups of delicious coffee i get to enjoy. I also do enjoy a goo cuppa tea every evening and these new tea capsules from PG Tips helps me put my Nespresso machine to full use. The innovative, colourful pods are compatible with almost all the Nespresso machines and deliver a consistently delicious cup of tea, brewed to perfection in an instant. Works exactly the same way the coffee pods work. 

There are 4 desirable flavours- caramel and vanilla, green tea, peppermint and raspberry and apple. I have been thoroughly enjoying these on a daily basis and the raspberry and apple is my absolute favourite. Follow PG Tips on Twitter to be update on all the news.

Get your Perky on
These quinoa and sprouted grain oat bars from Perkier are the perfect snack bars, made with natural, whole food ingredients that have a lot of health benefits. They come in four flavours:
- Cashew, chia and pumpkin seed quinoa bar
- Goji and cranberry quinoa bar
- Cacao and cashew quinoa bar
- Cranberry and cashew oat bar enhanced with sprouted buckwheat

They are all gluten, wheat and dairy free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans. the new range is available at Sainsbury's, Asda and Wholefood stores. Join the conversation and share how you ‘Get Your Perky On’ via Twitter and Facebook.

Nudo Adopt this Christmas
Nudo  Adopt is a collaboration of small scale artisanal producers aiming at bringing high quality, speciality food to a wider audience. Nudo helps give security to the farmers by making the link with the customer which in turn helps to keep traditional farming practises alive.

Nudo has brought out a few unique Christmas gift ideas, and if you have a foodie friend to impress, then this is the deal. You can adopt an Italian Olive tree and give them either a gift pack of 3 stylish tins of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, right off the tree or give them an annual subscription with 4 deliveries a year, keeping their olive oil stash going all through the year. If you need an under tree gift, or a stocking filler, then the new sage infused oil from Nudo is a pure winner. I tried it on my fish a couple of days back and loved it. No Christmas is complete without a Panettone. If its infused with Nudo EVOO, even better! Its super moist and absolutely delish. For more gift ideas check out their unique gift section 

Festive recipes from Neil Rankin
I'm definitely not new to mulled wine and cider, but mulled beer is something I've not really come across. I guess its for people like me that Neil Rankin has partnered with AB InBev to create 2 perfect winter warmers using beer- Mulled Thai Spiced Lager and Mulled Ale. He has picked some of the nation's favourite beers and turned them into mulled drinks using ingredients that are easily available at home, but brings together different flavours altogether.

I was a bit doubtful after reading the ingredients in his mulled Thai spiced lager. Coriander stalks and mint leaves with beer?? Wasn't too sure how it would taste, but it wasn't that bad. Of course if you are not a fan of lemon grass, then this drink is a not for you. Also, the spice does really kick in once warmed, so be sure to not go overboard with it. Get both his recipes here.

Borderfields Gift Packs
Borderfields is the UK's biggest cold pressed rapeseed oil brand and only uses the finest quality rapeseed, all grown in UK. I guess by now everyone knows that rapeseed oil is one of the most healthiest oils to use with a near perfect balance of essential fatty acids, omega 3, 6 and 9. I do cook a bit with rapeseed oil and in the new year i shall try and do a lot more baking and Indian food prep using rapeseed oil.

I'm a sucker for anything infused, be it alcohol or oil or cakes or whatever it is. So when Borderfields sent me a gift pack with a range of infused oils, i was pretty happy i could use most of them while entertaining during the holidays. The Borderfields British Infusions Cold Pressed Rapeseed oil gift pack range includes Basil, Garlic, Chilli and lemon infusions and can be picked up exclusively here.

Do share your Borderfields' festive creations on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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A couple of weeks back i attended a small Christmas do hosted by Lactofree at the really charming Bake-a-Boo tea shop in Hampstead. Done up in pretty pastels and laces and flowers, it was almost like walking into an Alice in Wonderland enchanted tea party. Amidst chit chatting with fellow bloggers, we got to enjoy some incredible treats using products from the Lactofree range. From smoothies to sandwiches, to turkey meat balls to pita Christmas trees to scones to mince pie cupcakes to Irish cream and truffles, we were stuffed to the gills, and had to sadly leave behind a gorgeous looking trifle. I have to also mention the impressive collection tea's this lovely lil place had. I tried the strawberry and kiwi and kept stealing sips from the almond tea (this was like having marzipan) and rose tea my blogger friend Suchi had ordered.
I put my Lactofree cheddar to good use the very next day in a posh version of the mac & cheese and then some in a chilli cheese toast. The Almond milk (very impressed with the semi-skimmed version) is currently being enjoyed in different versions of winter warmers, precisely hot chocolate. Below is my favourite version using my favourite dark cocoa, honey, a generous pinch of cinnamon and the secret, a good sprinkling of fleur-de-sel right at the very end before pouring it into your mug. I am loving the addition of salt and Ive ended up adding it in all my hot chocolate versions. Really! try it!

I'm a big fan of the Schwartz products. In preparation for winter and the holidays, Schwartz has introduced 2 new products to their vast range- Mulled Cider and Mulled Wine spice sachets. For lazy bums like me who love mulled drinks but cant be bothered to put together the spices and make them, this comes as a saving grace. They come in sachets and are pretty easy to use- much similar to tea bags.

Chia Bia
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Not one for healthy eating, but I was given the task of taking the Chia Bia challenge and see how it does good to your system, and so i decided to give it a go. I admit, it was a bit of a struggle to get the ball rolling when trying to use an ingredient that you have no idea about. Chia seeds are high in fibre, protein, calcium, omega 3 and so on; and with Chia Bia, you only need 2 tablespoons a day to get you feeling tip top.

I used them in a lemon drizzle cake and proudly took it to work the next day much to the disappointment of my health conscious boss who as it turned out was a big fan of chia seeds. She told me that baking it or cooking it kind of defeats the whole purpose of using a super food like this and insisted i try it out in salads, smoothies and drinks.

I took the chia berry mixes- cranberry and blueberry to her place soon after and i tasted one of the most amazing smoothies there. I honestly had no idea kale could taste so nice in a drink. She made a green smoothie with broccoli, apples, oranges, kale, banana and some chia cranberry and also sprinkled some whole chia seeds on top for good measure and promised me it would taste good. Of course, nothing green could ever taste good was my reply but i had to change that soon after my first sip. It was delicious. Ever since, ive been motivated to try vegetable smoothies at home and have quite succeeded in making a few using Chia Bia. I still have plans to try it out in a cookie or a snack bar, but i think for now I'm thoroughly enjoying them in my smoothies. You can seriously consider these smoothies as a detox option after all that binge eating and drinking during the holidays.

With thanks to all the brands mentioned for gifts and event invites. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Spinach and artichoke dip stuffed garlic bread

How are Christmas preps going on you loverly people? I am off to my sister in laws next weekend for a pre Christmas bash and then to a blogger friend's place for a fun pot luck. We have a tradition of exchanging home made gifts for Christmas, and last year we all went out to brunch to a fancy restaurant sans the husbands, and exchanged them there over cocktails and conversation. This year we have been so busy with chaiparty pop-up stalls and other interesting business ventures, that we couldn't actually do a day out. We are still doing home made gifts (I have taken the plunge and made something I'm very excited about, fingers crossed on how it would ultimately turn out) but exchanging it on Christmas day, like it should be, with family and dear ones.

We have been busy on our whatsapp group discussing the theme, menu, gifts and so on and I have been entrusted with the vegetarian starter. I've made this recipe as a dip again and again at parties, and was quite convinced this is what I was going to take to the party, when I thought I should try this version, one that I book marked eons ago, a try before i decided. It's a fab appetiser idea and you score points on uniqueness. It doesn't take any time to put together, and you can cart it off anywhere and finish off the last baking in the oven just before serving. Stress free, hassle free and delicious.
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I decided to use the Norwegian cheese Jarlsberg instead of the traditional mozzarella because I was sure the nutty flavour from the cheese would be a perfect match with spinach and artichoke and it was. Maybe next time I'll up the quantity to 1.5 cups (oh please, its the holiday season, no ones on a diet). Its a cheese I was not familiar with until I attended a soiree hosted by Jarlsberg at the Good Housekeeping Institute where Signe Johansen and Lucie Bruckner took us through a session on how to use the cheese in different recipes, and of course treated to some delicious canapés using the same. After creating our own mac and cheese sandwish, we sat down to a glorious meal with wine and chatter. (I also got to drink a shot of the famous Aquavit for the first time. It shall be remembered is all i can say).

Recipe adapted from here
Baguette- 1
Oil- 1/2 tbsp
Shallot- 1 small, finely chopped
Spinach- 250 gms 
Canned artichoke hearts- 200 gms, drained and chopped
Salt and pepper- to taste
Chilli flakes- 1/2 tsp (optional)
Garlic powder- 1/2 tsp
Cream cheese- 230 gms
Jarlsberg cheese- 1 cup + enough to garnish

Butter- 2 tbsp
Garlic- 3 cloves, finely chopped
Slice the baguette into 4 and using a long serrated knife cut out the insides, leaving about a cm of bread around the edges, and scoop/ or push it out to make the baguette slices hollow. Keep aside. (Use the scooped out bread to make bread crumbs)
Heat oil in a frying pan and saute the shallots till translucent. 
Add the chopped artichoke hearts and saute for a couple of minutes.
Tip in the spinach, mix it all together and cover and cook till they have all wilted.
Open lid and cook till all the water has evaporated. 
Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and chilli flakes and transfer the mix into a mixing bowl.
Add the cream cheese and Jarlsberg cheese and give a thorough mix, making sure all the cheese melts.

Pre heat the oven to 175C and line a baking tray with silver foil.
Stuff the baguette quarters with the dip, using a teaspoon and pack it in as much possible. I found it was much easier to do this using a piping bag. Fill it with the dip, nip off the end and pipe into the baguette. 
Place the filled baguette quarters on to a chopping board and slice them carefully to pieces that are about an inch thick.
Place the sliced pieces on to the lined baking tray, arranging them back into the shape of a full baguette, or if your tray isn't that big, you can arrange them side by side.
Mix together the butter, garlic and parsley in a small bowl .
Cover and melt in the microwave for a couple of seconds.
Brush the garlic butter generously over the bread, and in between the slices if possible. Also make sure all the minced garlic gets used up, just top it all on the bread.
Cover the baguette with another foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Take the tray out of the oven, open the foil, sprinkle the remaining cheese and place back in the oven open, for a couple more minutes, for the bread to lightly brown and the cheese to melt.
Serve warm as a starter or as a side with soup.

Notes: Feel free to use mozzarella cheese instead of Jarlsberg and sprinkle parmesan right at the very end.
Add some shredded chicken to it and make it a non veg starter
If you want to do the dip, after you mix in the cheese, dump the mix on to an oven safe bowl, top with more cheese an dbake for about 20 minutes or till the mix is bubbling away. Serve with crusty bread.

With thanks to Jarlsberg cheese for the fab evening and for the cheese sample.