Archive | January, 2012

Camarão na Moranga (Squash with Shrimp)

28 Jan

Alice’s dish reminded me of this quote from the movie Forrest Gump:

Bubba: Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.

Funny thing is, he didn’t list either one of our shrimp dishes…

Growing up in Brazil, our special occasion dishes were not the same dishes that most of my American friends had. And we didn’t go to a grocery store to get our produce. We, and by we I mean our gardener Zé Branco, grew it. Meet Zé…

This shrimp dish was one of our special dishes, introduced to us by our Brazilian family. They served it in a large Cinderella pumpkin and it was as beautiful as it was delicious. It became a dish that I made for holidays, but I had to make it in individual acorn squash, because I couldn’t get the beautiful giant pumpkins in Minnesota at Christmas time. In fact, I just had it with my dear friends a month ago.

This is a dish that reminds me of family and love and celebration.

The method is quite simple, bake your squash, cut the top off and scoop out the seeds.

You can do those previous two things in any order. Usually, I cut the top off the squash, scoop out the seeds, put the lid back on and bake it until it is soft. This time, I reversed the order because the squash seemed very hard, I had already injured myself once that day… and wasn’t interested it doing it again. So I baked the squash for about an hour, then cut off the tops, scooped out the seeds and filled them with the shrimp sauce. Oops, getting ahead of myself.

While the squash was in the oven, I set to making the sauce.

I chopped up an onion, three cloves of garlic, half of a bunch of parsley, half of a bunch of green onions and four tomatoes.

I sautéed the onions in a large pot, over medium heat, with a tablespoon of oil. They just needed to soften a bit, about five to seven minutes, while being stirred once in a while. Then I added the garlic and let that soften a bit as well. By the way, the smell of sautéing onion and garlic together is quite possibly one of my favorite scents in the world. So inhale deeply at this point. You’re welcome!

Then I tossed in the chopped parsley and green onion, mixed them around a bit,

then added the tomatoes. The whole mixture cooked for a while, until everything started softening up and breaking down.

Then I added about four to five tablespoons of ketchup, two tablespoons of tomato paste, two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, a couple of dashes of a hot sauce, like Tabasco, and some salt and pepper to taste. Stirred that all together, and topped it off with four cups of chicken broth. I tasted it for seasoning and then let it simmer for about 45 minutes.

When the squash was soft, I cut the tops off, scooped out the seeds,

then smeared the insides with onion and chive flavored cream cheese.

You can certainly use plain cream cheese, or you can use Requeijão Cremoso if you have access to it. It’s a creamy cheese that is readily available in Brazil and sometimes available in Latin markets in the US.

The shrimp can be added to the sauce for a minute or two before you scoop it all into the squash.

Don’t let it cook for too long, or the shrimp will become quite rubbery. Raw shrimp works best for this dish, but I have also tossed in some of the teeny tiny precooked shrimp in a pinch.

I filled the squash with the sauce, put the lids back on

and put them back in the oven for another 20 minutes, while I made the rice.

We always served this over rice, but it really can be served as a one dish, errr gourd, meal.

Brazilians are very fond of their rice and will usually not have a meal without including it. And once you taste some well made Brazilian rice… you will realize why. It’s garlic-y, soft and absolutely delicious on its own or as a complement to a nice sauce.

I will post the recipe and method for Brazilian rice another time. You’ll just have to check back!

Camarão na Moranga (Squash with Shrimp)


1-2 tablespoons of oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped

1/2 bunch of green onions, chopped (use the greens and whites)

4 large tomatoes, chopped

3-4 tablespoons of ketchup

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

2-3 dashes of hot sauce (like Tabasco)

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups of chicken broth (I used 1 carton of store bought chicken broth)

1 lb of shrimp, peeled or with shells according to your preference

1 tub (12 oz/ 350g) of onion and chive flavored cream cheese (can also use plain)

1 large Cinderella pumpkin or individual acorn squashes


Place squash in a 350F oven, let bake for at least one hour or until it is soft when pressed. Alternately, if you feel brave, cut top off squash, scoop out the seeds, replace the lid and place in oven to bake for one hour or until soft when pressed.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium/high heat, add chopped onions and sauté five to seven minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add chopped garlic, cook two to three minutes longer. Add chopped parsley and green onions, mix around, then add chopped tomatoes. Stir intermittently, keep cooking until the tomatoes start to break down.

Add ketchup, Worcestershire and tomato sauces, then some salt and pepper to taste. Pour in the chicken broth and lower the heat to medium. The sauce should be at a high simmer, lightly bubbling. Let sauce cook for 45 minutes or longer, if needed.

When squash is soft, pull it out of the oven, cut off top and scoop out seeds if you haven’t done so yet. Be careful, it will be very hot! Spread cream cheese around the inside of the cooked squash, including the lid.

Add shrimp to the sauce and let it cook for just a few minutes. Stir in any remaining cream cheese.*

Fill squash with sauce. You will most likely have some extra sauce remaining.

Place squash back into the oven for another 20-30 minutes for the flavors to blend.

Remove squash from oven, if using large squash, place on a serving platter in the middle of the table and serve by scooping sauce along with some of the squash and cream cheese over rice.

If using individual squashes, place one on each plate, serve with rice and allow each person to scoop their own.

*If you prefer a creamy sauce, feel free to add some cream cheese, sour cream or a cup of creme de leite to the sauce before you scoop it into the squash.

Smothered Shrimp and Grits

25 Jan

My knowledge of New Orleans comes entirely from movies and TV, the sounds of jazz, the Cajun food, and the colourful and lacy buildings are the sum of it. I had never even heard of a muffuletta sandwich until B made hers, but I dream about them now. Actually, when B told me she was making a muffuletta I thought of this gorgeous kitten. I guess that my crazy cat lady credentials are in the open now.

I realise how little I know about Cajun food, especially when I look and see that most of the recipes have capsicum (bell pepper) which I can’t eat, so it means I have tried very few.

A few weeks ago B sent me through a recipe for ‘smothered shrimp and grits’. I made it, and loved it, I needed to share it. What I didn’t realise when I first made it is that it is a recipe by a famous N’Awlins restaurateur, Emeril Lagasse, from his book Farm to Fork. Etouffée, a well known New Orleans dish means ‘smothered’. This ‘smothered shrimp’ is a variation on the traditional, but it is so delicious, I am not sure I would make the traditional version now. This dish takes a little while, there is nothing difficult about it though, and oh, it is worth it. I have adapted it a little mainly to incorporate the ingredients I can get here.

For our non-USA readers, grits are like a rougher ground polenta, still with some hull remaining. Here in Trinidad I can find the yellow, but it is also available in white hominy corn. A USA grocery should carry them or some say you can substitute with polenta. Polenta would be smoother in texture.

I started the grits first and let them cook on low heat for the time it took to make the shrimp. Adding the last two ingredients to the grits just before I was ready to serve.

For the Grits

The loot you need: corn grits, milk (full cream if available, I could only get skim that day), cheddar cheese, butter, salt and pepper.

In to a saucepan I poured the milk, and some water, salt and pepper and added half the butter.

I brought it to a boil, and then turned the heat down to low and whisked in the grits.

Stirring every ten minutes or so, I cooked the grits for close to an hour and a half. Taste to make sure they are cooked through, they will be soft.

I then added the rest of the butter and the grated cheese and mixed well.

I then left the grits on the stove on low heat until ready to serve.

For the Smothered Shrimp

You’ll need shrimp (prawns), olive oil, butter, cayenne pepper, paprika, ground chilli pepper, salt, black pepper, chorizo or other smokey flavoured sausage, ripe tomatoes, sour cream, onion, shallots, garlic, spring onions (scallion), and some parsley for garnish (if you remember, ahem).

First up I made a stock from the shrimp shells and heads, so I shelled the shrimp directly in to a saucepan, and then deveined the shrimp (I deveined the shrimp after I had already put the stock on to boil, as I knew the stock would need some time on the stove). Instructions for shelling and deveining a shrimp if you need them. Set the deveined shrimp aside.

I added three cups of water to the saucepan containing the shrimp shells and heads and brought it to a boil.

I wanted a full cup of stock so I boiled until the liquid was reduced by two thirds. While this was boiling down I was preparing the rest of the sauce and shrimp.

When the stock was ready I strained and reserved the liquid ready to add to the sauce.

The rest of the sauce
I added the chilli powder, cayenne, paprika, salt and black pepper to the shrimp and mixed well.

And then chopped up or minced the remaining ingredients… the onions, the shallots, the spring onion (scallion), the garlic (which I microplane to mince), the chorizo and tomatoes. The chorizo I can get here is almost like a salami, but if I was back in Australia I would get an aged chorizo sausage and use that. You could also use a fresh chorizo or andouille, if you do that, double the quantity you use.

I put the oil and butter in a large fry pan on a medium heat, and melted the butter.

Then added the shrimp and cooked for around three minutes, turning midway to lightly cook on both sides.

I removed the shrimp to a plate, then put the chorizo in to the pan and cooked until crisped a bit.

Then added the onion and cooked that through with the chorizo.

When the onion was translucent, I added the shallot, garlic and two thirds of the spring onion, keeping a third for garnish. I stirred them in and continued to cook.

After another minute or so I added the tomatoes.

I cooked the tomatoes in to the sauce for about five minutes and then added the shrimp stock.

With the heat on high I cooked vigorously to reduce the liquid right down. And then reduced the heat to low and added the sour cream and mixed it through.

I then put the shrimp back in to the pan and cooked for another couple of minutes, until the shrimp were ready to warmed and cooked through.

I then ladled some grits in to a bowl, some of the shrimps and their sauce on top, and topped with a little chopped spring onion. Some chopped parsley would also go well.

The shrimp sinks in to the bowl of grits, but rest assured, there is quite a nice surprise portion of shrimp in sauce as you eat the dish.

Tasty tasty ‘smothered’ shrimp and grits.

Well B. Thank you for these introductions to New Orleans cooking. I’m curious to see where you take it, because you know what this means… you’re “it”.


serves four

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1.25kg (2 1/2 pounds) large uncooked shrimp, with heads and shells.

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground chilli pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

120g (4oz) dried chorizo, or 240g (8oz) fresh chorizo or andouille sausage, chopped in to a small dice

1 medium onion, diced

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onion (scallion)

2 cups chopped tomatoes, whatever kind looks most flavoursome and ripe

1 cup shrimp stock

1/3 cup sour cream

Chopped parsley for garnish

Shell and remove heads from the shrimp, retaining the shells and heads in a small saucepan. Add three cups of water to the shells and boil rapidly to make shrimp stock. When liquid has reduced by two thirds strain out the shells and retain the stock ready for the sauce. Devein the shrimp.

Season the shrimp with the cayenne, chilli powder, paprika, salt and pepper. In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil, and then add the seasoned shrimp. Lightly cook the shrimp at medium heat for three minutes, flipping half way through. Remove the shrimp to a plate.

Add the chorizo to the pan, stirring often, until the sausage is crisped up, about 5 minutes. Then add the onion to the pan and continue to sauté for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic, shallots, and a tablespoon of the spring onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, cook for 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the shrimp stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the sour cream and stir to combine. Return the shrimp to the pan, stir through and heat just until the shrimp are cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Spoon the shrimp over the warm grits, and garnish with finely chopped spring onion and parsley to serve.


serves four

3 cups water

3 cups milk (preferably full cream (whole) milk)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup stone ground grits

150g or 5oz grated tasty (cheddar) cheese

Combine the water, milk, salt, pepper, and one tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the grits and cook, stirring frequently so the grits don’t stick to the bottom of the pan, for 1 1/2 hours. If you need more liquid to keep the grits nice and moist, add water as needed.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of the butter and the cheese. Serve the cheese grits immediately or retain on very low heat until shrimps are ready.


Muffuletta Sandwich on Foccacia Bread

21 Jan

I was excited to see that Alice used olives in her recipe. I am a huge fan of olives! And it gave me an opportunity to make a couple of my favorite things – foccacia bread and a muffuletta sandwich.

I’ve made foccacia bread in many different ways, using many different recipes and it’s a very easy yeast bread to make. Yeast breads tend to scare people who are new to bread making, but after you try this bread, it might just give you the confidence to go on to bigger and better things!

Foccacia is a perfect accompaniment to any Italian dish, it is delicious cut in wedges and dipped in olive oil, it is great as a deep dish pizza crust, or as a base for artichoke dip. It is also just the thing for Muffuletta sandwiches. I first had a muffuletta sandwich in New Orleans, at the Central Grocery deli. They sell the sandwiches in wholes, halves or quarters. I liked it so much that I bought a half sandwich to bring home with me to Minneapolis.

The secret to a great muffuletta is the olive salad.

I happened to have a jar of Central Grocery’s olive salad (which they sell online here)
or you can easily make on your own with this recipe

I mixed up my flour, salt and yeast

Added the warm water and mixed it with my hands until the dough was sticky, but not too sticky.

Then I turned it out onto a very well floured counter and kneaded the dough, incorporating a little more flour as I did so.

Kneading is such a therapeutic thing for me. Really, kneading is just turning the dough upon itself and pressing down with the heel of your hand, turning a half turn and repeating. If you need to get out some aggressions, you can always pick up the dough and slap it onto the counter. Do it! It feels really good!

Then I put the dough back in the mixing bowl with a little more flour and covered it with a clean cloth. I allowed it to rise in a warm spot for about an hour or until it had doubled in size.

I pulled it out of the mixing bowl with oiled hands, shaped it into a large ball and placed it onto an oiled baking sheet.

I then pressed it into a large circle and poked holes into it with my finger, making sure the holes didn’t go the whole way through. I drizzled it with olive oil, scattered the rosemary leaves, pressed the olive halves into the dough and sprinkled with salt.

After letting it rest for a few minutes – 10-15 or so – it went into a 425F oven for 25-30 min, until it was golden brown in color.

I let it cool, then cut it in half and covered the bottom with the chopped olive salad.

Over that, I placed a layer of slices of genoa hard salami, a layer of slices of hot capocollo ham (or you can use smoked ham instead if you want a more mellow flavor),

then a layer of provolone cheese. Topped with greens – I used baby arugula, which has a mild peppery sharpness to it – it was nearly complete.

I drizzled the top half of the bread with olive oil (I just used the olive salad oil)

and put the two halves together. It’s best to let it sit for about an hour, for the flavors to meld.

Cut in wedges and serve.

This sandwich tastes wonderful the next day, which makes it perfect for picnics. Just wrap the entire sandwich in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Kalamata olive and rosemary focaccia

Recipe loosely based on this recipe by Nigel Slater.

Makes one round bread about 10 inches (25cm) in diameter.

4 cups (450g) bread flour
1½ tsp salt
1 packet (7g) fast-acting yeast
1 1/2 cup (400ml) warm water
a good handful of Kalamata olives
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rosemary leaves
sea salt flakes

Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl, mix well, then pour in the water to make a sticky dough. Start with 3 1/2 cups of flour, then add more as needed to make a sticky, but workable dough.

Flour the work surface generously, then turn out the dough and knead lightly. Knead in some of the flour from the work surface, adding a little more if the dough remains sticky. It should come away from the work surface cleanly, but should be a little more moist than the usual bread dough. Keep kneading until the dough no longer sticks to the board. Continue kneading in no particular fashion for a full 5 minutes then put the dough into a floured bowl and set aside, covered with a clean tea
towel, until it has risen to double its size. This generally takes anything up to an hour depending on the warmth of your room.

Rub the bottom of a baking sheet with a little oil. You can also scatter it with a thin layer of cornmeal – this will keep the base crisp and prevent it from sticking as it cooks (I did not do this). Set the oven at 425F (220C).

Remove the dough from its bowl (it will sink, but no matter), shape it into a ball and place it on the oiled baking sheet. Let it rest for another 15 minutes or so.

Slice the pitted olives and remove the rosemary leaves from the stalk.

With a floured finger, push several holes deep into the dough, then drizzle olive oil and rosemary leaves over the dough and press in the olives. Scatter liberally with salt flakes. Bake for 25-30 minutes till pale gold, crisp on top and springy within.

Many thanks to Amy for the beautiful photography. I think I’ll be cooking at Amy’s house a whole lot more!

Alright, Alice. What are you going to tempt me with next?

Olive and Eggplant Spread

15 Jan

B’s amazing looking dessert takes me back to Melbourne where the Greek food abounds, and ‘filo’ as we call it is part of our make up.

I was tempted to make Spanakopita, a spinach and cheese pie baked in filo pastry, but I am relishing making new dishes. What else would fit with this current crop of dishes we have been making… something with eggplant? A dip? Now, I love Baba Ganoush, but Jason, my husband has just never been a fan of eggplant, I think much of it is the texture. But how about a spread with eggplant and tasty tasty olives? Would that pass muster with him?

My supply list… one verrrrrry long eggplant, kalamata olives, parsley, garlic, limes for zesting, olive oil, chilli flakes and salt.

I sliced the eggplant in half lengthways (and in my case in half again) and placed in a baking tray. Then drizzled with olive oil and spread with a brush. I sliced a clove of garlic thinly.

After spreading the garlic over the eggplant and giving a sprinkle with salt I baked until golden brown.

While the eggplant was baking, I prepared the rest of the ingredients. After pitting the olives I gave them a whizz in a food processor, until they were roughly chopped, and then put them in a mixing bowl.

Chop chop chop the parsley, and then in to the bowl also.

I shook in some chilli flakes.

Grated some lime rind in.

When the eggplant was baked to golden brown, I set aside to cool a little.

And when cool enough, scooped the flesh from the skin and put in to the food processor.

Whizzed it to a purée, and then added it to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.

I mixed it all up.

And that’s it! Serve with toasted bread, or crudités.

Both Jason and I commented…. “it tastes just like tapenade”.  The eggplant adds a creamy texture to the olives, and smooths out the flavour, but it is still quite strong on olive flavour like a tapenade. Served like this it is nice for a pre-dinner snack with a drink.

This is a good recipe to use if you have eggplants and someone who would normally not eat them, because you can barely taste them.

If you are after a good strong smokey eggplant flavour, I would recommend charring the eggplant  instead of baking.

Today I plan to make a salad with chickpeas, chopped up leafy greens, thinly sliced red onion and some of this ‘spread’ tossed through it. I’ll let you know how it goes.


(This is an adaption of a recipe by Martha Stewart.)

2 medium sized eggplants (or one verrrrrrry long one like I find here), halved lengthwise

drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

good pinch of salt

1 cup Kalamata olives (or a mix of green and Kalamata)

1/4 cup of chopped parsley

Pinch of chilli pepper flakes

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon or lime zest

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice eggplants in half lengthways and place on a baking tray with the cut side up.  Drizzle and brush with olive oil, and scatter the garlic slices on top, and sprinkle with some salt. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool a little. (Or use this alternate eggplant cooking method for a smokier flavour.)

Pit olives and blend in a food processor until roughly chopped. Put the olives in a medium sized bowl and add chopped parsley, chilli flakes and citrus zest.

When eggplant is cool enough scoop the flesh and garlic from the skin of the eggplant and put in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the eggplant to the bowl and mix well. Add salt to taste.

Serve with toasted sourdough or crudités.


Here’s the salad. I mixed a rinsed can of chickpeas with half a cup of the ‘spread’, sprinkled in a little salt, added a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a grind of pepper and mixed well. I threw on top some ripped up lettuce, some pre-soaked red onion slices (see recipe for couscous salad if you want to see the method I use) and crumbled in about 50 grams (2 oz) feta. I then tossed the salad well.

It was nice. A good robust lunch. The kind of meal I like to take to work if I am heading to an office. If I was taking it as a packed lunch I would mix it all bar the lettuce and then add the lettuce at the last minute. Healthy, filling and tasty.

So B, you know what that means…. ‘tag’ you’re it!

M’hanncha (Snake Cake)

12 Jan

Going off of Alice’s use of the rose water in her tea, I used this recipe that calls for orange-flower water. The use of dried fruits and nuts in Middle Eastern cuisine fascinates me.
It’s very different from our typical rich chocolate or moist sweet cakes
here in the US and it uses flavors that I don’t typically use in my daily cuisine. I like almond paste a lot and I also like the light crispiness of phyllo dough. It is a difficult pastry to work with, but it yields a great finished product.
Thankfully, I had Randy and Sarah’s 12 ft granite topped kitchen island to work on for this dessert and I used the whole counter… I’m sure there’s an easier way to make this dish and still achieve the same delicious results. If you try it and find an easier way to do this, please let me know.

Grinding up the almonds paste was made very easy with a food processor,

but once it was made, it was terribly difficult to work it. It was like trying to make play-doh snakes out of wet sand.

I squished and mashed it together as best I could,

then laid the sheets of phyllo dough out on the counter,

Sarah brushed egg white to seal them together, then brushed the whole sheet
with some melted butter.
Then all we had to do was put the almond paste snakes along the edge of
the sheets

roll them on up,

then coil them onto the buttered pan, brush with butter and bake.

Once it was a nice golden brown, we removed it from the oven and brushed
it with warmed honey,

let it cool for a bit, then served with Randy’s AMAZING home made
cardamom ice cream.

M’hanncha (Snake Cake)

Almond Paste

1 lb (500g) raw almonds
2/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons orange-flower water

12 (12- by 17-inch) sheets phyllo dough
1/2 cup (1 stick/110g) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg white, whisked

3 oz (90g) warmed honey


To Make the Almond Paste:
Combine the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse to grind into a coarse meal. Add the butter and orange-flower water and pulse until blended. Scrape the paste into a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll the paste into a snake (or many snakes) the width of your thumb.

To Assemble the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a large baking sheet. Dust a work surface with confectioners’ sugar. Place a sheet of phyllo pastry on the sugared work surface, brush the sheet with melted butter, slightly overlap it with another sheet, brushing with whisked egg white to “glue” sheets together. Keep adding sheets, slightly overlapped, as long as you have counter space. Set almond paste logs in a row down one long end of the phyllo, and roll the pastry up over them into a cylinder. Fold over the ends and brush on some melted butter to seal the seams. Shape the cylinder into a small,
tight coil and place on the baking sheet, seam side down.

Continue adding phyllo sheets and the almond paste and rolling, all the while adding to the end of the coil on the baking sheet, forming a large coil. Brush the top of the coil with more melted butter.

To Bake:
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Remove the cake from the oven, brush with warmed honey and let cool on the baking sheet. Serve.

Alright, Alice – I can’t wait to see what you come up with!!

Persian Iced Tea

10 Jan

B’s feast had me remembering a Middle Eastern meal I made when a Texan couple came over for dinner, here in Trinidad. I know Linda loves iced tea, and it had become a running joke that it was never available when we went out together for a “coffee”. I experimented and made up a rose water syrup for a special version to suit the meal. I think it would go well with B’s feast too.

This drink is refreshing, perfect for warm weather and flavourful food. Rose water is one of those things you either love or hate. I stand firmly in the love camp. I also love the romance of Persia, hence my name for the tea.

The drink is a layering of ice, rose water syrup, a little lime juice, cooled black tea and some fresh mint.

I made the pot of tea in advance, and then started the syrup. I used raw sugar for extra flavour but white works fine too. If you could imagine that the glass coffee pot is in fact a glass teapot, that would be great. It’s how I cope day to day.

Put the sugar in to the saucepan.

Add the water.

Add the lime rind, and warm on a low heat to dissolve the sugar granules. I swirl the mixture around from time to time rather than use a wooden spoon.

When the sugar is dissolved turn the heat off and allow to cool, and then remove the lime rind.

When cooled, put ice in to a glass and pour in some syrup, lime juice…

And then fill with tea and garnish plentifully with mint. Give it a stir…

and hold me back if I am nearby.

Tag B, you’re ‘it’.


Cooled black tea
Lime juice (lemon would also work)
Fresh mint

for around 6 serves

1/2 cup sugar (either raw (brown in the USA) or white)
1/4 cup water
rind of one lime in large pieces (lemon or even orange would be good too)
2 tsp rosewater

Put all ingredients in to a small saucepan and mix, turn heat to low and warm until sugar crystals have dissolved. No need to boil the liquid. Allow syrup to cool. Remove lime rind.


To make the drink
Over ice, pour around two tablespoons of syrup, a tablespoon of lime juice, and top up with tea. Stir, and garnish with mint leaves. Add more syrup and lime to taste.


Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemon

8 Jan

I was very happy to see that Alice went Moroccan with her last dish. I am fascinated with Morocco, with the fragrant spices and the combination of ingredients that I’ve seen in their recipes. I imagine how amazing the sights and smells would be walking through a spice market there… with the overwhelming scent of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, saffron as well as the intense colors all around.

I’ve also always wanted to cook in a tagine. The traditional tagine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.

Well, my friend and fellow foodie, Randy just happens to have a tagine as well as the nicest, best equipped kitchen that I’ve ever had the privilege to cook in. And he was kind enough to offer the use of his kitchen for this meal. And I was quick to take him up on his offer!

We discovered that this recipe can be made in an iron bottom tagine or in a heavy bottomed pot.

Moroccan tagines often combine the meat with fruits and complex spices, so I picked a recipe that paired chicken with olive and preserved lemon. This all sounds crazy and exotic, but I found this recipe was quite a simple one.

It calls for a whole chicken, which we purchased already all cut up. I browned the chicken for a few minutes in the pan over medium heat, with olive oil, a pinch of powdered ginger, turmeric (a bright yellow spice), some salt, pepper, one chopped onion and a few threads of saffron, which is a super expensive spice that is dried crocus flower stamens. I then turned the chicken pieces over and added to the pan a chopped tomato, one chopped handful of both flat leaf parsley and cilantro. Then I poured two cups of water over the whole mixture, added four peeled cloves of garlic and let it simmer for 45 minutes.

When the chicken was fully cooked (full disclosure here… I forgot to time the chicken so we think it had cooked for the full 45 min) we checked it for doneness by cutting into the thickest part and making sure the juices ran clear. Your timing on cooking meat in this case doesn’t have to be precise, as long as you can tell if it is done.

When the chicken was done, we removed one ladle full of the cooking juices, added it along with the chopped preserved lemon and pitted olives to a small saucepan and let it boil over medium/high heat until the liquid thickened a bit and reduced in size.

Next time (and I will definitely make this another time), I will remove most of the liquid from the cooking pan and thicken it in the saucepan and then pour it back over the chicken. That sauce was delicious!

Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemon
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large white or yellow onions, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground dried ginger*
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 saffron threads, crumbled (optional)*
1 tomato, chopped
one small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
one small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
2 cups of water
6 oz (180g) Kalamata olives, pitted
1 preserved lemon, quartered and seeds removed (can be bought in
specialty food shops, or you can make it yourself – recipe here)


To Cook the Chicken

With the base of the tagine (or heavy bottomed pan) on the stove, over medium heat add enough olive oil coat the bottom of the pan. Add the
spices. Arrange the chicken in the pan
(skin-side down), and distribute the onions all around. Cook for about 7
minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and add the tomato, cilantro,
parsley, garlic and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low
and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes.

When chicken is done cooking, remove most of the liquid to a saucepan,
add the olives and preserved lemon to the liquid and boil for 5-10
minutes, until liquid is thickened and reduced a bit. Pour the thickened
sauce over the chicken to serve.

*Instead of all those spices, you can use this Moroccan Road Spice which was quite delicious and a simpler all-in-one spice mix.

We had a great time cooking this dish and Randy, his wife Sarah and I all agreed that this was a delicious, sophisticated, subtly flavored dish. And the recipe we used did not even call for it to be cooked in the tagine, but we did use the beautiful pot as our serving dish.

We paired this main dish with a side of Rice Pilaf with Golden Raisins and Pinenuts.

I adapted this recipe that I found on Epicurious. I doubled the recipe and used pine nuts instead of the pistachios called for in the original recipe and would definitely make it again. It was very nicely spiced and both echoed and enhanced the spices used in the chicken dish.

Rice Pilaf with Golden Raisins and Pinenuts

1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup long-grain rice
2/3 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted lightly and cooled
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens (or chopped parsley)


In a small heavy saucepan cook the onion with the turmeric and the cardamom in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened. Add the rice and cook it, stirring, until it is coated with the butter. Add the broth, bring the liquid to a boil, covered, and simmer the mixture for 17 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat. Stir in the pine nuts, the raisins and add salt and pepper to taste. Top with the sliced scallion greens or chopped parsley

Alice, thanks for the trip to exotic Morocco! Now it’s your turn!


Moroccan Beef Kebabs with Couscous Salad

4 Jan

Brenda’s hearty French beef stew was so fitting for a snowy day in Minneapolis. I wanted to cook beef, and given that I am in such a warm climate I thought about the way that hot French colonies use imported ingredients like beef and work them their own way. I have read romantic tales of the kebabs sold in markets in Marrakech. So a bit of investigation… and quite a bit of artistic license later… here are some spiced kebabs and a truly interesting salad.

Roll call… stewing steak, lime juice, ras el hanout*, and olive oil.

*Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix that is unique to each spice seller. It means ‘top of the shop’ and is regarded as the shop’s finest blend. It is available online in the States from places like Dean and Deluca. In Australia, I like the Simon Johnson tin.
There are a number of recipes for it online if you are feel like getting in the mix. Most versions include spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, clove, cumin, nutmeg, pepper, and turmeric.

I bought this meat already diced, but if you are doing the dicing, it is in pieces of roughly 1 inch (2 1/2cm) cubed. Ideally the meat should be marinated for around 10+ hours. I was organised enough to manage 24 hours. Because I used a ‘cheaper’ cut of meat, I wanted the citrus to have time to tenderise the meat well.

Rub the spice mix directly on to the meat.

Juice the limes and pour over the meat, along with the olive oil.

Mix thoroughly and refrigerate covered in plastic wrap. I tumbled the meat around again after 10 hours just to make sure it was evenly coated.

24 hours later….
When the barbecue (grill) is lit and ready to go

Soak the bamboo skewers in water for ten minutes to prevent them burning, and then thread the meat straight on.

Ready to barbecue.

I kept the barbecue on a low heat, so I could cook the skewers for an hour. I chose a stewing meat rather than a fine fillet to get more of a charcoal and rustic flavour. I cooked these with the lid down on the barbecue. While they were cooking I made the salad outlined below.

The cooked kebabs were that great mix of tender and rough meat, with a smokeyness from the coals.

Couscous Salad

Meet the crew: celery, couscous, chick peas (garbanzo beans), red onion, limes, sultanas (or raisins), garlic, mint leaves, Kalamata olives, salt and pepper.

Dice the half red onion. This is my tried and true method. Slice off the top of the onion. Keeping the base of the onion in tact, slice lengthways but not entirely to the end.

Then slice across the onion, and voila, you have diced onion. The unchopped base is then thrown away.

Put a teaspoon of salt and a cup of luke warm water in to a bowl, and allow the onions to soak for 20 minutes. This takes away some of the ‘bite’ out of the onion and is a great method whenever you are using raw onion in a salad as it is easier on the stomach. This onion is drained and rinsed before adding to the salad.

In another bowl add juiced lime, minced garlic, pitted and chopped olives, sultanas (or raisins).

Mix well and let sit while you prepare the couscous.

Follow the directions on your couscous packet, as they all vary. But this one was a matter of pouring an equal quantity by volume of couscous to water.

Mix and leave sit for five minutes.

Then fluff up with a fork.

Dice celery.

And roughly chop mint.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas well.

Then put all of the ingredients together and mix well. Taste for salt and pepper, and add more lime juice if needed.

Pile a serving of the salad on to a plate, I added some extra green by the way of coriander (cilantro) because I can’t resist having fresh greens. Place a couple of the cooked kebabs atop.

Serves 4

750g/26 oz Angus (or good quality) stewing steak cut in 1 inch cubes.
2 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mix
1/2 cup lime (or lemon) juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a bowl that will fit easily in your fridge, rub the spice mix evenly over the cubed meat, then pour lime juice and olive oil over. Mix well. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 10 hours but ideally 24 hours.

On a low heat barbecue cook for an hour or until meat is tender. Turn after 30 minutes.

Serves 4

1/2 medium red onion diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup raisins
juice of three limes (or one largish lemon)
3/4 cup couscous
one can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
2 stalks of celery, diced
more lime or lemon if needed
fresh ground pepper

Dice onion and soak in a bowl with a teaspoon of salt and a cup of luke warm water for 20 minutes.
In a large bowl combine minced garlic, olives, raisins and lime juice, mix well and leave to sit while you prepare the other elements.
Cook the couscous according to the directions on the packet.
After fluffing couscous with a fork, add it, the celery and mint to the large bowl.
Drain and rinse salted onion, and also add to the salad.
Mix well.
Taste for salt and pepper, and additional citrus juice if needed.

Serve the salad at room temperature.

Beef Burgundy (boeuf bourguignon)

1 Jan

It’s a cold, windy day here in Minnesota, the skies are a pale blue gray, with light pinkish clouds peeking through swaying stark treeless leaves. And inside  my friends, John and Jill’s house, I was cozily cooking a big pot of rich, red wine beef burgundy. I’ve been great friends with Jill for many years and was along when she met her fantastic husband John and they both enjoy having dinner cooked for them–it started when I cooked some food for Jill right after she had their daughter Grace and has become a regular occurrence.  I enjoy cooking for an appreciative audience, so it’s a win-win situation!

When John heard what Alice had made last, his request was that I cook something in a wine sauce and what better to eat on a cold day, than this rich hearty French stew. Jill was my photographer for this dish and she is top notch, as you’ll see.

I knew it was going to be good, just by the ingredient list – beef, pearl onions, mushrooms, carrots, wine? Yum.

Cut up the steak into 8 pieces and season with salt and pepper before browning in the butter/oil mixture.

Add the onions and garlic and brown a bit…

Sprinkle with flour, toss and add the wine as well as the thyme and bay leaves…

While the beef and wine roast in the oven, prepare the rest of the dish

And play a few games of hide and seek with Gracie:

After an hour and a half, the beefy goodness is ready.

Add the vegetables and top with some chopped parsley.

And it’s ready to eat – with a little ambience, some wine and good company.

Yum! It was good enough to eat!!

John and Jill were great dinner critics (they loved it) and dinner companions. Many thanks to Jill for the photos. I will certainly be back to cook more another day.

Beef Burgundy  (adapted from a recipe by Jacques Pépin)

2 pounds beef from the flatiron part of the shoulder (or beef chuck roast)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon flour
1 bottle of red wine
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
15 cipollini or pearl onions
15 cremini mushrooms
15 baby carrots
5-ounce piece of pancetta
1/4 cup water
Dash of sugar
Chopped fresh parsley

Buy about 2 pounds of beef from the flatiron part of the shoulder or beef chuck. Cut the meat into 8 pieces.
Preheat the oven to 350°.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast-iron pot that is attractive enough for the table. Arrange the meat in one layer in the pot, and season it with salt and pepper. Cook on top of the stove over high heat for about 8 minutes, browning the meat on all sides.
Add 1 cup of finely chopped onion and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic. Cook over moderate heat for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tablespoon of flour. Mix in well so that the flour doesn’t form lumps. Stir in 1 bottle of red wine. Add 2 bay leaves, a sprig of fresh thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir well and cover.
Place the pot in the oven and continue to cook for about 1 1/2 hours; the meat should be soft and tender and the liquid properly reduced. The recipe can be prepared to this point up to a day ahead.

For the garnishes, peel 15 cipollini or pearl onions, wash 15 cremini mushrooms and peel 15 baby carrots. For the lardons, you will need one 5-ounce piece of pancetta. Bring the pancetta and 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and simmer for about 30 minutes; drain. Cut the pancetta into 1/2-inch slices and then cut the slices into 1-inch-wide lardons.
Combine the onions, mushrooms, carrots and pancetta in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 cup of water and a good dash each of sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes; at this point, there should be practically no water left. Uncover and cook over high heat, sautéing the vegetables until nicely browned on all sides, about 4 minutes.
To serve, mix some of the vegetables and lardons into the stew and sprinkle the rest on top as a garnish. Add a little chopped fresh parsley and serve.

*I used the wrong cut of beef – brisket instead of flatiron, by mistake – and found all the extra fat to be off putting. Be sure to use a lean cut of beef. Also, you can substitute bacon for the pancetta, but don’t skip the 30 mins of simmering of the bacon prior to cooking it with the vegetables.

This was a delicious, very rich dish. Very well worth the effort.

And now Alice, it’s your turn!!


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