Thursday, November 25, 2010

Eid Al Adha!

As usual when it comes to our family Eid traditions having starbucks after the Eid prayer, two frappachinos here
And a hot mocha espresso with whip for my second youngest sister

Headed over to pick up grandma and to a new Afghani restaurant we tried out this year:

Mango Yogurt drink (lassi, dough) my youngest sister orders every single time!

Delicious beef afghan curry !
Grilled meat platter
More meat!

Salad, and bread, we had rice too of course!

At the very top is a quail south african style biryani we whipped up last weekend after Eid, thanks to my youngest sister Munch n' Crunch for all the great photos covering the holiday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'll miss you Apricot Girl

Today I lost my dear companion kitten, eight month old bengal lost to Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
She was sweet, loving, very talkative and a foodie cat, she reminded me of myself in so many ways, we used to prep cook and photograph food together, she always made her way into the shots somehow though she was camera shy compared to her lovely sister.

We lost her sister in August after a month long battle with wet FIP.

I miss you both <3

Thursday, November 4, 2010

If I had a deep freezer I'd freeze ...

I want to make pretezels ... but if I had more room in my freezer I'd freeze them like last time since it's easier to make a big batch. They taste wonderful heated up because their crust gets crispy and the inside stay soft and chewy.. this got me thinking of buying a deep freezer.

Since I LOVE to make lists I thought I'd write out what would go inside it:

Lasagna (made with boil noodles)
Raw meatballs
Cooked meatballs

Homemade pasta sauces
Homemade pizza sauces

Homemade pizza dough
Homemade Pretzels
Homemade bagels

Artisan bakery breads
Pita bread
Homemade tortillas
Garlic bread (assembled from scratch)

Certain cheeses

Leftover slices of layered cream Cakes
Leftover spice cakes
Homemade cupcakes

Homemade whipped meringue buttercream frosting

Homemade fresh fruit purees
Freezer jam

Frozen berries and fruit

Ginger (for grating)
Chopped hot peppers
Lemongrass (cleaned and chopped)
Lemon juice with zest in it
Lime juice with zest in it
Simple syrup (for all kinds of drinks!)

Spice blends (like my arabic 7 spice blend)

Nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans..etc)
Seeds (roasted pumpkin and watermelon seeds)

Vegetable clippings for stock
(Shittaki stems, celery tops..)

Chicken bones for stock



Homemade Stocks
Roasted homemade stocks

Soups (for hotpot or pho)

Frozen boiled dry beans

Stews (like okra or goulash or gravy before thickening)

Homemade pet food
Homemade stock for pet food
Liver pate for pets

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Baghali Polo

Here is a familiar dish that I recently learned had roots in Persia. My mother was introduced to this dish by my sister's childhood Kurdish friend when her mother brought a plate of it over to our house. It's a dill and fava bean rice, known as Baghali Polo in Persian Cuisine.

Favas in Arabic are Baqila, and they are very popular all over the Middle East. In Iraq they are known as Bajila and the dry form is boiled and served as a nice soup - introduced to you hopefully in another post sometime - and the green form is also cooked in this Persian style rice.

All that said I doubt they are as pouplar anywhere as in Egypt, where it is a hearty rustic dish that everyone is familiar with and known as "foul mudamas"

Just like peas and mint are a pouplar combination favas go beautifully with Dill, Shbint in Kurdish or Shibitt in Arabic and Farsi or sometimes Sheveen in Farsi too.
The rice my mother knew was made with a round calarose type rice in Kurdistan but upon searching almost all the Persian recipes were made with a nice fluffy basmati, and being my favourite rice I thought to go with it.

I've combined two recipes that I found online but it's a simple recipe.

-Lots of chopped fresh dill
-Shelled green baby favas (I had thawed from frozen)
-Soaking basmati in salted water for a few hours
-Took the recommendation from one recipe to sautee the fava with some garlic and set aside
-Bring Basmati to a boil for 10-12 mins in a big pot of salted water, drained and rinsed.

Then it was all assembled layering the rice over some oil and a few drops of water and then adding dill, fava and more rice until the last layer was rice. Making holes in the rice and steaming on high for 8 mins or so then adding a bit of water (less than half the amount of rice) and steaming with a lid covered in a kitchen towel for 40 mins or so on a low setting.
A little melted butter can be added to the top when it's done then flipped out onto a pan and gently arranged for serving.

Next time I'd like to add more dill, lots more and see what other things I can do to learn how to perfect the cooking process. I'd also like to add more chopped dill to it after it's cooked because I like the fresh taste.

Any tips and ideas are welcome, feel free to comment and let me know what you think.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Making Manti

Some shots of manti making today using a recipe I found a short while ago, it was a perfect thing to do on this chilly November day while sipping a homemade pumpkin spice hot cocoa.

Manti are these turkish (also armenian and variations are made in different regions) dumplings made easy by stuffing a savoury spiced beef (or lamb) mixture into a wonton wrapper and baking until golden then baking one more time with a flavourful broth. The dumplings are tender with golden crispy tips served with yogurt sauce.

Recipe courtesy of My Barbarian Table

Friday, October 29, 2010

November - National Pomegranate Month!

Poms are known in arabic as "Rumm aan" and they're one of my favourite things in the whole wide world.
A lot of people find cleaning them to be a chore but I've always loved and enjoyed this task. The fruit is so amazing with all it's chambers and membranes inside, it's just fun to snap the little seeds off and hear them falling into the bowl. Before my sisters and I could dig in we'd sprinkle them with a bit of salt then just eat it all up with a spoon. Yummy!

It's national pomegranate month, yay! Love seeing all those pomegranates in the stores for such a good price, since normally they are rather expensive here in the west. Pom seeds are great on rice as a garnish, make a nice sour burst of flavour in a salad, or just a healthy antioxidant packed snack!! So many ways to enjoy..

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Key Lime Bundt Cake

I'm all about seasonal freshness and local food, if I see vine tomatoes but the sign says product of usa or mexico and I'd much rather go for the hothouse tomatoes grown locally.

I'm also a bargain hunter so today I saw key limes, tons of them on the clearance rack, two little sacks choved onto a tray and wrapped up with plastic and a sign that says 1.49. I figured I'd give them a try since they looked pretty ok and I've been eyeing them over the summer but their price is usually close to $4.

The key lime always confused me, I've never tasted them before and I hear they are used for pie - the fameous key lime pie - but I don't have much of a sweet tooth and pie isn't my thing really, especially a citrus pie with meringue .. not my thing at all (please don't kill me lol)

When I was younger in pakistan my mother used to give us a lime type of fruit that was very sweet, and delicious but this isn't the same thing at all. I've not yet located any of those in the west yet, but my search over those sugary limes is not over yet!

Wiki says key limes are loomi amani, which is a dry lime that is brown in color used in arabic food, to flavour stews and rice, and all sorts of dishes, very popular in southern iraqi cuisine, as well as all over the gulf and parts of the middle east as well as persia where it's called leemo. Being of middle eastern backround I can work with this.

If I can dry the rest of these babies successfully (unlike the baby cherry peppers I hung from my window which resulted in a scary moldy interior -ewe! ) then all should be well and I'll have a huge stock of some dry lime for my cooking.

Not a fan of the pie as I said so a cake sounded just right. I LOVE CAKES! Especially plain sort of cakes.

Here's a good time to use the kitchen aid mixer or a hand mixer because you'll have to trust me on this, after zesting and squeezing the juice out of all those little limes the last thing I wanted to do was use a whisk.

Took me a bit to figure out what the breadcrumbs were for, I've debated whether to use panko or ordinary ones and it's a good thing I didn't season my homemade breadcrumbs with salt, pepper or anything like that because I was thinking of it last week.

Upon some searching online I found a blog which mentioned not to use panko, and instead a fine regular sort of breadcrumb so I went for that instead and seems it is a trick used for bundt pans to prevent sticking I guess. Learning something new everyday!

Moving on to the recipe. I've zested close to 10 key limes even though the recipe calls for three, why not I say - go big or go home - and their juice made EXACTLY 1/2 cup for the syrup. Yay!

Upon tasting the batter I found it to be just right, tasted like a green fruit loop to be honest, so I'm glad I went for more zest.

Next time I'll use coconut milk instead of regular, and see how that turns out!
My cake baked for exactly 1 hour, so keep an eye on it, Also I've placed another tray under the bundt to prevent any browning because my oven is hotter than the norm.

Recipe for Key Lime Bundt Cake

Best made the day before. Helpful to have one of those microplane graters for lime zest. I think I use a bit more zest than the recipe calls for. Enjoy!

Fine dry bread crumbs & softened butter (for coating pan)
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz unsalted butter, at room temp.
2 cups sugar
4 extra large or jumbo eggs (I often use 5 large eggs)
1 cup milk
Finely grated zest of 3 limes, preferably key limes

1/2 cup fresh key lime juice or 1/4 cup each lime & lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar

Oven 350 degrees
Butter 10 inch tube pan (I use my Bundt pan) and sprinkle w/ bread crumbs (coat - use a lot of butter)

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and set aside.
Beat butter till soft, gradually add sugar, beat 'till light & fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down bowl after each addition.
On lowest speed, alternately add dry ingredients & milk, scraping bowl as nec. and beating just to mix each addition.
Stir in lime zest by hand.
Pour half the batter on one side of pan, half in other. Level top by briskly rotating pan back and forth.

Bake until cake tester comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool slightly on wire rack - 10-15 mins.

Stir lime juice and sugar together just to mix.

Place cake rack on tube pan and invert and place rack over foil. Using pastry brush, brush glaze all over warm cake until completely absorbed. Brush on any glaze that drips onto foil.

Let cake cool completely & transfer to cake platter. Let stand loosely covered for several hours or preferably over night. When ready, outside of cake will be completely dry.

Thanks to MMRuth, a chowhound member for this recipe. It is a delicious cake and I'll be making it again and again!!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cheddar Thyme Gougères

These are Cheddar-Thyme Gougères with creamy goat cheese filling!! A little time consuming but really great Hors d'oeuvres

Basic Recipe
Makes about 4 dozens
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup grated Cheese (of your choice)

    2-4 sprigs of thyme, with leaves removed and chopped roughly. (about 1 tsp of the final product)
Position a rack in the top third of the oven, and heat the oven to 425 F. Line a large baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Heat the milk and 4 tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from burning. When the mixture is simmering and the butter is melted, remove from the heat and add the flour, salt, and pepper all at once. Stir well with a wooden spoon to combine. Return the pan to medium heat and stir hard for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture thickens further and becomes stiff.
Transfer the mixture into a bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the dough on medium speed for a minute to cool the dough slightly. Break the eggs into a liquid measuring cup or a bowl, lightly whisk with a fork. Add the eggs gradually, in 4-5 additions beating well after each portion has been added to incorporate it into the dough. Remove the bowl from the mixer base.
Chop the thyme finely and add to the cheese mixture and blend it in at the end with a wooden spoon. They were not overly salty but you can add a little salt to the mortar and pestle with the thyme to crush it, or on the cutting board to scrap and chop so aromatics are released.
Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a large plain tip. The mixture will still be warm.
Pipe the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets in mounds about 1 inch in diameter, leaving a couple of inches between them. Smooth out any points with a wet finger.
Unbaked gougères can be frozen on the baking sheets. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a week.
Put one baking sheet into another to isolate the pastry bottoms from strong heat and slide the baking sheet into the oven. Bake for about 12 minutes, until the gougères are well puffed. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F and continue baking until golden brown, 10 to12 minutes more. Let them cool slightly on the baking sheet.
If baking the previously frozen pastries, there’s no need to completely defrost them before baking; just let the frozen gougères sit on the baking sheet on a counter while the oven is preheating.

Thanks to Source for recipe

For the filling I added some lemon zest and black pepper to some goat cheese whisking it with a bit of sour cream, yogurt or creme fraiche for a smooth filling.

Pierogi lunch

Pierogi lunch
Originally uploaded by Adventuress Heart
Store bought saurkraut and mushroom pierogi boiled then pan fried for crispy crusts, served with caramalized onions, chive and sour cream of course!

Potato pierogi are great, but these are my go to pierogi when I don't want to feel guilty. lol.

It's great having them in the freezer, normally they're my midnight snack where I boil up a few and sometimes pan-fry or sometimes not and just eat a big bowl with yogurt. Forget ice cream, with my "savoury tooth" this is my kind of indulgence.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

- THE - BEST chocolate cookie

Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookie

THE best chocolate base cookie, chewy, moist, chocolaty, brownie like, semi soft and so delicious!
I've added both white and dark chocolate chunks and 1/2 cup halved dried cherries, the recipe yields 12 larger cookies for me.
Try adding spices for a chocolate mexican cookie or cranberries, nuts, candy .. the possibilities are endless.


1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz white chocolate, chopped into chunks


In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside. In stand mixer with paddle, mix butter and sugars on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat until fluffy on medium-high, about 2 minutes. Turn to low, add vanilla and egg, mixing until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients until combined. Stop machine and fold in white chocolate by hand.

Line 12-by 18-inch baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart on trays and lightly flatten. Bake on middle rack of 350F oven until puffy and cracked, 10 to 12 minutes. If pans won't fit side by side on middle rack, use top and middle, switching trays halfway through baking time, quickly, to maintain oven temperature.

Cool completely before storing in airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 30 cookies


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shawarma: Attempt number 1

Marinating: doesn't look too yummy in this stage.
Grilling up..
And here's the neighbourhood kitty that came to check out the yummy smell!
Yummy! At this point it smells great and so does the whole neighbourhood.


This recipe is for 4 medium steaks.
I'm not exactly sure what kind of meat is good for this recipe but I used a marinating steak that was similar to flank but not quite as tough.

Next time I think I'll try something with more marbling, like a sirloin, I think some melting fat would add more flavour and add moisture. Something similar to what I would do for a kebob on a skewer.

Anyway.. here it goes, same recipe as my salmon Shawarma I've blogged about years ago:

- 2 cups plain yogurt
- 1 onion, 4 cloves of garlic finely minced in food processor
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp white vinegar

- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tbsp dry ginger or fresh paste
- 1/2 tsp dried mint
- Smoke powder or liquid smoke
- black pepper


All the spices go into a bowl with the yogurt and aromatics, everything except the salt or that will draw moisture out of the meat so leave that for later.
The meat was cut against the grain in medium thin ribbons, and they went into the marinated and got coated nicely.
I've omitted the curry powder this time but it's been in my mothers original recipe.

The next day I removed the meat from the fridge and let it come to room tempt, shaking off excess marinade lightly and salting it.

At this point I was trying to figure out what the best approach was to cooking them, salmon biryani always got cooked in the oven but it could be done stove top. Tandoori chicken I've made in the past also in a yogurt marinade did well in a skillet or on the BBQ. This time I decided to go with the BBQ so I lit it and the pieces went on against the grill. If you have one of those baskets that goes on the grill for smaller things like veggies that would have been ideal.

Flipping them once they cooked fairly quick and then I let them rest on a plate.

The pieces were still quite large so I cut them yet again on a diagonal in smaller pieces and having no pita bread in the house (I know I know, totally unacceptable for a middle easterner!) I went with a tortilla that was homemade and frozen from the time I made fish tacos, it got grilled up in the skillet really quickly and was really delicious and fresh tasting!!

Here's the dip recipe:

Shawarma tastes good when left to sit a bit, as the flavours seem to get more intense, so leftovers are really yummy.

Have all ingredients on hand: Pita bread, chopped veggies (tomato, lettuce, pickles, cucumbers, fresh mint.. etc) for sandwhiches and make the dip by mixing:

- 1/2 cup tahini
- salt
- sumaq (can be found in middle eastern shops, leave out if not available)
- pickle juice or water
- fresh lemon juice or citric acid crystals
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt (optional)

Whisk together the tahini with the spices and add the water/pickle juice mixture gradually until it thickens, it may seperate at first but keep whisking and the mixture should come together and form a creamy dressing like consistency.


Give it a try, and if you come up with an improvement on what cuts of meat to use or method of cooking let me know, I'm definitely going to try to prefect the process as best as I can.

I've got a nice rotisserie option in my toaster oven that makes a gorgeous chicken, so if I somehow figure out how to use it for a shawarma that could have potential! Maybe chicken shawarma at least.