Turkish Green Rice

Cappadocia, in the middle of Turkey is well worth a visit. We stayed in Göreme in a cave hotel which had been carved out of the rock, but was nonetheless very comfortable.

Over the centuries the inhabitants of this region have carved out shelters, houses, churches and monasteries from the rocky outcrops, which are often described as fairy chimneys. The geology and history of the area is fascinating and in order to see the terrain from above we went on a balloon flight at dawn. One hundred and twenty balloons all taking off at about the same time is a sight to behold.

A Turkish passenger on our inward flight asked for a drink which the flight attendant poured from what looked like a two litre bottle of milk, but as he poured I could see it was much too thick to be milk. When I asked if I could “have what he’s having” the flight attendant looked sceptical. He said that usually only Turks asked for Ayran and I might not like it, so he gave me a little to try before filling up my glass. It’s basically plain yogurt watered down to pouring consistency, with a little salt added. Full of probiotics it’s really good you, so I drank it all the time while we were there. Delicious.

This was our third trip to Turkey and we felt perfectly safe. The people are friendly and helpful and the food is simple, but healthy and delicious. Lots of kebabs and grills, as well as vegetable dishes, salads and traditional casseroles cooked slowly in sealed clay pots. Thick yoghurt drizzled with local honey was my favourite dessert.

This rice recipe is from the inflight magazine on Turkish Airlines. It makes quite a lot so you may want to halve the recipe. Serve it with kebabs, hummus, Turkish bread and a salad of diced tomato, onion and cucumber.

2 cups long grain rice such as Basmati
1 packet frozen spinach or 1 bunch fresh spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
50g butter
3 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-3 Tbs each finely chopped parsley and mint
2 Tbs pistachio nuts or pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan

If using fresh spinach, remove leaves and discard stalks. Wash thoroughly. With just the water clinging to the leaves, place spinach in a large saucepan, cover and cook, stirring from time to time, for a few minutes or until wilted. Place in food processor and chop finely. You will need a generous cup or more of this chopped spinach, or use thawed frozen spinach. Quantities are flexible.

Heat butter in a large saucepan and cook onion until soft, stirring from time to time, and allowing it to brown slightly. Add rice, spinach, water, salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat as low as it will go. Cook for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked and has absorbed all the liquid. If not quite ready, turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes to continue cooking in its own steam. Stir in the chopped herbs. Check for seasoning and if liked add another knob of butter. Garnish with the toasted nuts.

Serves 6-8

Sweet Potatoes with Almond Tahini

I found this recipe in the Financial Times newspaper which I was reading on a recent QANTAS flight from Bangkok to Sydney. I tore it out as  I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes and although we’re not vegetarian I tend to cook a meatless evening meal at least once a week.

So last night was try-out night and the recipe didn’t disappoint. It said to bake the sweet potatoes on a bed of salt to draw out the moisture. I don’t think this made any difference, so I would leave that out next time.

2 large sweet potatoes
Tahini:
100g whole shelled almonds
Small clove garlic, peeled
3 Tbs vegetable or olive oil
Pinch salt
2 tsp lemon juice
4 Tbs water
Garnish:
2 Tbs almonds roughly chopped (blanched or unblanched, I used slivered)
2 tsp oil
pinch salt
2 spring onions, thinly sliced or 2 Tbs snipped chives
Pomegranate or date molasses (or fig glaze)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, but don’t peel them. Line a baking tin with foil and place the sweet potatoes on top. Bake for an hour or until soft and a knife can be inserted easily.

Meanwhile make the Tahini by blitzing the almonds in a food processor until fine then adding the garlic, oil, salt, lemon juice and water. Taste and adjust seasoning. It will thicken up as it sits. If made ahead and refrigerated you may need to mix in a little water when serving.

For the garnish, place nuts in a small frying pan with the oil and salt and stir over moderate heat until golden. Turn off heat.

To serve, cut the sweet potatoes in half horizontally. Squeeze to open up the flesh a bit then top with a couple of dollops of tahini. Top with the nuts, the spring onions or chives and a drizzle of molasses or glaze.

Variation: use pine nuts instead of almonds.

Serves 2-4

 

Mango Kulfi

To make traditional Indian or Pakistani ice cream, known as Kulfi, you begin by cooking sweetened flavoured milk over a low heat, stirring continuously to stop it from sticking and burning, until the volume is reduced by half. The milk takes on a distinctive flavour due to the caramelization process and this is the base you use to make the ice cream.

Having read a few articles and recipes online, I decided to replace the cooked milk with what is called Manjar or Dulce de Leche in South America. If you can’t find this use a can of Nestle Caramel Top n Fill, which is readily available in Australian supermarkets.  Kulfi can be made in any flavour, but mango kulfi is very popular in India, so as I had a packet of frozen mango in the freezer I thought I would give it a try.

This method of making ice cream in a food processor with frozen fruit virtually turns your food processor into an ice cream machine. As the frozen fruit breaks up it freezes the other ingredients. As you can see from the photo of the Kulfi when it was ready to go into the freezer, it already had the consistency of ice cream. Quick Raspberry Ice Cream is another recipe on this blog which uses this speedy food processor method. You can use any frozen fruit but the pieces must be fairly small or the motor will struggle.

250g Dulce de Leche or Manjar (or 1 can Nestle Caramel Top n Fill)
300ml cream (thickened, whipping, double)
1kg frozen mango pieces (I bought mine at Aldi)
Ground cardamom to taste
Pinch of salt
Grated rind and juice of 1 lime (save a little zest for garnish)
Lime Syrup to serve (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
Lime zest

Place Dulce de Leche or Caramel topping in food processor with cream. Process until mixed and then, with the motor running, slowly add the mango cubes through the feed tube. Depending on what size food processor you have, you may need to make the Kulfi in two batches. Mine was just big enough. Keep mixing until all the mango cubes have been pureed, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula from time to time. Add cardamom (half a teaspoonful then mix and taste and see what you think), the salt and the lime zest.

Scrape Kulfi into a plastic container, cover and freeze for 3-4 hours or overnight. Remove from freezer 15 mins before serving. Scoop into bowls, drizzle with lime syrup and garnish with a little lime zest.

Lime Syrup: Place lime juice, water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat to dissolve sugar. Continue cooking until reduced by a third to a half and syrupy. Cool.

Serves 8-10

Figgy Biscuits

As kids we all loved figgy biscuits. These little pillows of fig paste encased in a delicious cakey-biscuity dough were invented in Philadelphia in the late 1800s and are sold in the USA under the Newton brand. In England we bought a version made by McVities.

Anything home-made always tastes better than the shop-bought variety and these scrumptious biscuits are no exception. Buy dried figs which are plump and sticky and not too hard. If you don’t have quite enough throw in a few sultanas, raisins or dates to make up the two cups. The addition of ginger is my own suggestion for ginger fans. This is a good recipe for using up that last bit of jam or marmalade from the bottom of the jar.

Commercial figgy biscuits don’t have a sprinkling of icing sugar, but I always think it enhances the appearance of baked goods. Mine were a bit overcooked, as you can see in the photo. They should have been whipped out of the oven a few minutes earlier.

Serve as a biscuit or warm with vanilla ice-cream as a delicious dessert.

Dough:
140g butter (at room temperature)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs orange or lemon juice
1 egg
2 cups plain flour
Filling:
2 cups chopped dried figs, stems removed
1/3 cup jam or marmalade
2 Tbs orange or lemon juice
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger or glacé/crystallized ginger (optional)
To finish:
1 egg white, beaten
Icing sugar (optional)

Place butter, brown sugar, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon and honey in food processor. Process for a minute or two, stopping to scrape down the sides and gradually adding the orange, egg and flour. When thorough mixed use a spatula to scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat it into a thick square, wrap with the plastic, then refrigerate for an hour or so.

There’s no need to wash the food processor before you make the filling. Place all ingredients in food processor and process till smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Cut dough in half and roll out one half on a floured surface to a rectangle approximately 30cm by 10cm. Spread half the filling thickly down the middle as shown in photo. Bring in one side over the filling, then the other side, overlapping with the first side. You may need to use a metal spatula to lift the dough which will be quite soft with a tendency to stick and break. You will then have a long sausage with a seam along the top as shown in the photo. Turn it over and cut into 8 to 10 even pillows. Arrange on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper, with a space between each biscuit. Repeat with the other half of the dough and filling. Brush with beaten egg white then bake for 15 mins or until light golden brown.

Cool biscuits then store in an airtight tin.

Makes 16-18

 

 

 

Little Piggy Rolls

Sausage rolls have been in my repertoire for donkey’s years and there’s already a recipe on this blog.They are always popular and freeze well either uncooked or almost cooked which is what I do, so they just need a brief heating through before serving.

The food blog Belly Rumbles by Sara McCleary featured a recipe recently for decorating sausage rolls to look like little pigs. As four of our grandkids were coming to stay I thought it would be fun to make them some Little Piggy Rolls. Belly Rumbles uses the filling below which has bacon and cheese added. Use this or the traditional filling on my previous blog, which just uses pork mince.

5 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry (each 25cmx25cm)
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs water, to glaze
Filling:
500g pork mince
1 small onion, very finely chopped
3 rashers bacon, finely chopped
125g grated or finely diced cheddar cheese
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs
2 Tbs chopped Parsley
1 Tbs tomato sauce (ketchup)

Mix all ingredients for filling then follow the method on my previous blog for Sausage Rolls. I used 4 and a half sheets of puff pastry, cut the four whole sheets in half and made 4 sausage rolls from each of the 9 halves. Total 36.

I decorated 16 as Little Piggies and 20 with sesame seeds (as per traditional recipe). I used the remaining half sheet of pastry to make the features. Usually I would get 12 sausage rolls per sheet of pastry, but I wanted them a bit bigger for the Piggies.

To decorate the Little Piggies you will need enough extra pastry for the ears, snouts and tails and whole black peppercorns for the eyes.

When the sausage rolls are ready to go in the oven, arrange them on oven trays lined with paper, putting the join/seam underneath so you can’t see it. Use extra pastry to cut out ovals for the snouts, triangles for the ears and long strips for the curly tails. I didn’t have an oval cutter so I used the small round lid from a bottle of vanilla essence, then stretched them a bit to make them oval.

Brush the sausage rolls with egg wash, then arrange the snouts, ears and tails in place, as shown in photo. Use peppercorns for the eyes and the pointy end of a chopstick to make the nostrils. Brush features with egg wash.

Cook sausage rolls according to previous recipe. Serve warm. Can be frozen raw or almost cooked, then just heated through before serving.

Makes about 36

Japanese Meatballs

According to No.1 son, this easy mid-week recipe is the way to get kids to eat broccoli. Well it worked with his two sons who are ten and eight. If you can’t be bothered with the Ponzu sauce just serve the meatballs as they are, or with some soy sauce drizzled over.

1 large head broccoli cut into florets
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs miso paste (see note)
1 Tbs butter
1-2 tsp honey, to taste
2 cups corn (canned or frozen, thawed)
Meatballs:

500g pork mince
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 spring onion, finely chopped
½ cup breadcrumbs (preferably Panko crumbs)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 egg
1-2 Tbs grated ginger (to taste)
Salt and pepper
To serve:
Steamed rice
1 spring onion, finely sliced on the diagonal
Ponzu Sauce (see note)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix all ingredients for meatballs and form into 2-3cm balls.

Mix broccoli with half the oil, salt and pepper. Line a tray with baking paper, arrange broccoli in one layer then roast for 20 mins. Heat remaining oil in a large non-stick frying pan and brown meatballs all over. Place them on another paper-lined tray and bake them for 5-10 minutes. Broccoli and meatballs should be ready at about the same time.

Wipe out frying pan then add the miso paste and butter and heat to dissolve. Add the corn, broccoli and meatballs and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until coated with the sauce. If mixture seems a bit dry add a couple of tablespoons of water.

Serve the meatballs with steamed rice, garnished with the spring onion. Pass the Ponzu sauce round separately.

Serves 4

Note: Miso paste is a Japanese ingredient available in some supermarkets and Asian shops. If you can’t find Ponzu sauce make your own by mixing 2 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs each lemon or lime juice and mirin (sweet rice wine), 1 tsp sugar and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Little Edna’s Eccles Cakes

My mother’s best friend Edna was affectionately known as Little Edna because she was so tiny.

She loved to bake and watching friends and family eat what she had made gave her a great deal of pleasure. You rarely saw Little Edna eat anything herself, which is one of the reasons she was so tiny. My mother was always trying to shed a few kilos so we would avoid calling in at afternoon tea time. This wasn’t easy, as time-wise afternoon tea was a movable feast. Any time visitors popped in was an excuse to put the kettle on and get the cakes out. Edna was what is known as a “feeder” and saying no thank you wasn’t an option.

Edna and Stan kept a caravan on one of the beaches in northern France. They went there for a month each summer, often taking their grandchildren with them. One year Edna was on the beach, holding hands with two of her grandchildren as they ran in and out of the waves, laughing and splashing. Suddenly Edna’s false teeth shot out and into the sea. Despite a long search, they were nowhere to be found.

Driving back to England to get a new set wasn’t an option – they had only just arrived. So poor Edna spent a miserable two weeks feeling embarrassed and avoiding conversation. One day as she was strolling along the beach feeling glum she looked down and lo and behold “There they were, laffing up at me” she explained, with her broad Yorkshire accent “so I picked them up and put them straight back in again”.

Eccles cakes are traditional British pastries named after the town of Eccles and they were one of Little Edna’s specialities. I always thought her method of cutting the pastry into squares rather than circles (which is quicker and avoids any off-cuts) but still ending up with round cakes was pretty neat.

2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry, approx 25x25cm
Filling:
1 cup mixed dried fruit or half sultanas and half currants (see note below)
25g butter, melted
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs jam or marmalade
Pinch of nutmeg
Grated rind of 1 lemon
To finish:
1 egg white, beaten with a fork
Sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Cut each square of pastry into six even pieces – down the middle, then into three cross-wise. Mix filling ingredients and put a heaped teaspoonful or so in the middle of each square. Draw up the sides of each square into the middle and pinch the ends together firmly, to form a little round purse.

Turn each one over and press firmly with the palm of your hand, so you have a neat round cake, or roll over each one lightly with a rolling pin. Cut two or three slashes with a sharp knife on the top of each cake. Brush each one with egg white, then dip in some sugar and shake off the excess. Arrange cakes on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or cold. Best eaten the same day.

Makes 12

Note: if preferred, make the cakes smaller by cutting each sheet of pastry into 9 instead of 6 – as shown in this photo.

Currants are dried small grapes not dried blackcurrants. If unavailable use more sultanas or some chopped raisins.

 

Bruschetta with Goujons of Fish, Peaches & Buttermilk Dressing

This recipe was inspired by a bruschetta we ordered while we were in Chicago last year. I remember it was topped with homemade fish fingers – otherwise known as “goujons”- peaches, tomatoes, cucumber and a creamy dressing. The rest I had to invent.

The tomato is often thought of as a vegetable, but in fact it’s a fruit. If you don’t like fruit with savoury dishes, you won’t like this recipe, but I love the fresh flavour combination. If liked leave out the bread. Leftover dressing is delicious served with any salad.

4 slices of baguette, cut on the diagonal (I used sourdough)
Olive oil to brush onto the bread
500g white fish fillets (I used Basa) cut into fat fingers
3 Tbs plain flour, seasoned
1 egg, beaten
1 cup or more breadcrumbs (preferably Panko)
1 small cucumber, sliced on the diagonal
A few cherry tomatoes, halved
2 peaches or nectarines, peeled and sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
25g butter
Fresh herbs such as mint or coriander
Buttermilk Dressing:
¼ cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
3 Tbs buttermilk
1 Tbs chopped chives
2 tsp cider vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed

Coat fish fingers (goujons) with the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess, then with the beaten egg and lastly with the breadcrumbs. Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan and fry them for 2-3 minutes each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well. Brush the bread on both sides with the olive oil (if liked mix in a crushed clove of garlic) then grill till golden. I toasted mine in an electric sandwich press which works well and avoids having to turn on the grill.

Arrange toasted bread slices on 4 plates. Arrange the fish on top then garnish with the cucumber, the tomato halves and the peach or nectarine slices. Drizzle with some of the dressing and garnish with fresh herbs.

Makes 4 bruschettas

Coleslaw with Carrot Dressing

This is an unusual coleslaw because it doesn’t contain any mayonnaise. If you have a food processor with a grating attachment it’s very quick to make, but you can of course do the grating by hand.

½ large white cabbage or 1 small one
1 head broccoli or half a cauliflower, coarsely chopped or sliced
6 sliced spring onions
½ cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
½ cup sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
Carrot dressing:
2 carrots
1 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed  (optional)
1 Tbs sesame oil
½ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the thinly shredded cabbage in a large salad bowl with the broccoli or cauliflower (I used cauli in the photo, but broccoli would have been more colourful) and the spring onions. Stir the seeds and nuts over a medium heat in a dry frying pan, until lightly toasted and add to the bowl.

Using the grating attachment of your food processor, grate the carrots. Then, leaving the carrots in the bowl, switch to the metal mixing blade, add remaining ingredients and mix until you have a bright orange dressing. Add to the salad bowl, mix well then scatter the dried fruit over the top.

Serves 6-8

Variations: add some shredded red cabbage or strips of red capsicum.

 

Little Cauliflower Cheeses

This recipe makes 12 delicious little cauliflower cheeses. Instead of flour it uses breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together. Serve as a side dish, snack or healthy addition to school or office lunch boxes.

It’s a very adaptable recipe. Use broccoli or asparagus instead of cauliflower. Grated Parmesan or crumbled feta instead of cheddar.

1¼ cups breadcrumbs, preferably Panko
500g cauliflower florets
1 egg
250ml light cream or evaporated milk or half cream and half milk
¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
2 rashers bacon, finely chopped (or use ham)
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or use another fresh herb)
25g butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a 12 hole one-third of a cup muffin pan. Keep half a cup of cauliflower florets. Place the rest in a food processor and process till finely chopped. Place in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, egg, cream and half a cup of the grated cheddar. Mix well and season to taste, then divide among the muffin pan holes.

Slice remaining cauliflower thinly and mix with the bacon, thyme, melted butter and remaining cheddar. Top the muffins with this mixture. Bake 20-30 mins or until risen, golden and firm to the touch. Don’t overcook as they will be dry if you do. Cool 10 mins in pans then run a knife around to remove. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with some fresh thyme leaves.

Makes 12

Variation: for a vegetarian version leave out the bacon and add some chopped pitted olives.