Settling into my new neighborhood – the Pijp – in Amsterdam, this weekend I ventured out into the infamous Albert Cuyp market to buy me some treats to fill my fridge. There was so much on offer from fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables to meat and fish. This was truly an opportunity not to be missed – no way was I going to the local grocery store for my usual fix-up.
Stopping at a vegetable stall my gaze fell upon fennel. I have never cooked with this ingredient before, and I was well up for the adventure! With a few other green treats in my bag I walked over to another stall for the freshest fish one can find in Amsterdam.
Asking the guy for a suitable catch to accompany my fennel he offered me salmon and tuna; BORING – I thought. And that was when he finally made sense and suggested mackarel. I walked home a happy woman with my fish filleted and just a few simple ingredients to complement my find. And what would I make? Pan fried Mackerel with a warm potato and fennel salad – mmmmmmm!
Now, this is the very first time I have attempted to make this dish and also the first time I have cooked or eaten fennel or mackerel. But I couldn’t have enjoyed this plate of food any more than I did!
1 mackarel filleted
4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium red onion thinly sliced
1 fennel thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes till cooked, drain and add the sliced onions, fennel, olive oil, lemon juice and season to taste.
Lightly season the fillets of mackarel. Heat a drop of olive oil in a frying pan and add the fillets skin side down.
Press lightly to avoid curling. Once brown on one side, cook on the other side till cooked through.
Once cooked, place the fried fillets on a bed of the warm potato salad and squeeze over a little extra lemon juice.
Voila – bon appetite!
I have recently been to see a dietist with the intention to lose weight. Having presented her with my pain-stakingly honest diary of all the food I had eaten the previous week, she happily informed me that I am eating well. Her only advice to me so far is to be ‘conscious‘ of what I am eating and how much. This I have to say, has helped me a lot.
But I am not only bringing into my awareness how many slices of bread, or portions of potatoes I am eating, but what exactly I am putting on them. In particular, how much SALT.
Food for me always has to taste good, healthy or not. And the only way I seemed to be able to do that was to put just the right amount of salt and pepper/chili on my food. That said, I am now coming to realize just how much salt is going into my food, unnecessarily. I am awakening to the joys of an avocado sliced up on bread with a sprinkle of pepper and squeeze of lemon juice, without a trace of sodium in sight, bar the light cream cheese beneath the green slivers. I am for the first time in my life finding out what food really tastes like, and appreciating its taste.
I’m not cutting out salt completely, just being aware of how much I use on a daily basis and asking myself if what I am eating really needs the extra shake of salt. I am really beginning to understand what the likes of nutritionists Gillian McKeith have been saying. Sometimes, we think we need a taste, but it’s that we have damaged our taste buds from years of over seasoning our food, that we can’t really taste that what we are eating is perfectly seasoned.
What I was also really excited to find was that too much salt in a diet can cause a person to retain weight. I am purely quoting my dietist here, who stated that eating salty food causes the body to retain water, so it’s essential that after a salty meal to drink plenty of water, including the next day, to flush it all out. Please correct me if I or my dietist is wrong.
i for one am going to continue in this direction and hope to report back soon with my findings. I would also love to hear from you about your experiences with food, and in particular with salt. Please feel free to share!
Happy and healthy eating!
As a New Year treat to myself and my partner in all-things-nice-and-tasty, I pulled out all the stops to make a meal that we would remember for the rest of the year. Personally, I am fond of all forms of eating… I love sitting around a tray of food with a few other people and just eating with my hands – yum! I am also a big fan of eating sushi or a stir-fry the right way with some chopsticks. Equally, I just love making a classic meal that would put a massive grin on the likes of Greg Wallace or Michele Roux Jr. There are two gentlemen I would love to have the pleasure of eating with.
So, this New Year’s day, I made what was one of the best meals I have made in a long time. Inspired by the meal I had at my work’s Christmas party, I set out to make: Veal Steak, with Roasted Baby Potatoes, Haricot Verts and Jus.
Here’s the recipe:
Salt and Pepper
Nob of Butter
Pinch Mixed Herbs
200 ml beef stock
1 tsp Tomato Ketchup
1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
Boil the baby potatoes for about 10 minutes until soft. Drain and place on an oven tray and drizzle over a tbsp of olive oil, a pinch of salt and dried herbs. Place into a warm oven, preheated to 200 degrees centigrade, for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, top and tail the haricot verts and boil in water for 4-5 minutes. Mix the ketchup and balsamic vinegar into the beef stock and set aside.
Season the veal steak with salt and pepper and fry in a hot pan for about 4 minutes each side in a little melted butter and olive oil. Once cooked, remove from the pan and set aside to rest.
Add the ketchup, balsamic and stock mixture to the pan to deglaze. Make sure to incorporate all the bits from the pan into the liquid, which will make the jus. Once it’s reduced slightly, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed and then add a nob of butter to thicken the jus and give it that glossy texture.
To plate-up: Place the haricot verts at the bottom of a deep serving plate, scatter with some of the roasted baby potatoes, drizzle over the jus topped with the veal steak in the center of the plate. Voila, your meal is ready to be served!
Wow, it’s been a while since my last post, for which I apologize. It’s been a crazy few months, but they didn’t fly by without a couple of pots and pans on the stove bubbling away with some mouth watering treats. 2009 was a year for traveling, working, learning and experiencing. 2010 I am sure will be no less.
I made several trips to the UK, Sweden, while also stopping in Italy, New York and Malta. This year I will no doubt head overseas to the UK and Sweden again, with a few extra stops along the way to new lands as well. And you cn expect to find me reporting back on all the local treats that I find along the way.
For now, I leave you all with the wish that you make 2010 the year you want it to be…whether it’s filled with love, happiness, peace, adventures, or whatever you wish for…make it happen.
Much like India, Pakistan too has several kinds of curries hailing from the different parts of the land. There’s Punjabi, Lahori, Sindh, Pashtun, Blochi, Mughlai, Kashmiri, Parsi, Gujarati and Bihari. My family come from Lahore, so naturally the food I will describe in my posts hail from Lahore too, though on some occasion they may be influenced by other regions.
Lahori food is wholesome, full of flavor and have enough spices to put hairs on your chest! One of the major cultural attractions in Lahore is Gualmundi, or in other words ‘Food Street’. When I first went there, I felt like a kid taken to the candy shop! The street is literally full of Lahori and Pakistani delicacies. There’s Haleem, Nihari, Kheer, Batereh, and let’s not forget Dhey Paleh! This place is definitely worth a visit if you’re a foody looking for adventure.
There’s one dish in particular that I found myself craving a few weeks back and when I heard my family in London were about to tuck into some chicken curry. My mouth immediately began watering and I just knew that I had to make some for myself that weekend. Chicken Curry is a simple yet delicious Pakistani dish. I can’t describe the taste, aroma or pleasure this dish gives, it can only be experienced…
For this dish I recommend using a whole chicken cut into no less than 8 pieces. Bones are essential to add a nice flavor to the sauce – boneless chicken will also be nice however, but not as nice.
1 whole chicken cut without skin and into no less than 8 pieces
2 medium – large onions sliced
3 cloves of garlic crushed
1 inch garlic chopped
2 black cardamoms
6 green cardamons
1 cinnamon stick
4-6 bird’s eye green chillies chopped
3-4 tbsp tomato puree
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
Salt to taste
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ajwain seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 litre water
3 tbsp oil – I use olive oil in all of my cooking
fresh coriander to garnish
Marinade the chicken in the yogurt and 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 of the chopped chillies for a few hours if you can.
In a pot, heat some oil and gently fry the black and green cardimoms and cinnamon stick for 1 minute, add the onions and continue to fry on a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until they have softened. Add the crused garlic and ginger and fry for another minute. Add the chopped chillies and about 1/2 a cup of water and cook on a low heat to further soften the onions. Once most of the water has evaporated add the tomato puree and remove from the heat. Blend the mixture to a puree or mash with a potato masher to break down the onions as much as possible.
Add the turmeric, salt, red chilli powder and a drop of water if the sauce is too dry and return to a medium heat. Stir frequently to avoid the sauce from sticking. Once the sauce has reduced and is close to drying out add the chicken with the marinade to the sauce. Fry on a medium to high heat, stirring frequently so that the chicken turns white evenly. If your sauce is too thick at this point add 1/4 cup of water. Fry for no more that 5-7 minutes, then cover securely and simmer for 10-15 minutes. It’s advised to check half way through to stir and ensure the chicken is releasing its juices.
Once the chicken has released its juices turn the heat up and cook without the lid for a further 5 minutes or so or until the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has begun to release some oil. Remove the cardimon pods. At this point bring the heat down to medium and add a tbsp of oil to induce the oil release and the ajwain seeds, cumin and corriander powder and stir frequently. Once the oil has separated from the sauce add the water, allow to boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Check to ensure the chicken is cooked fully and then turn off the heat. Season with salt to taste and spinkle the garam masala and corriander on top.
Serving tip: Serve with plain boiled rice and a side salad. This dish may also be eaten with naan bread or even with regular french stick, if desired.
It has been hectic at work these past few weeks and have had almost no time to post regular blogs. I did make a feast last weekend and promise to upload the highlights very soon.
But for now I pose this question: Why do we eat food? And, perhaps more importantly, how do we eat food?
I find myself thinking about this almost everyday. The factual answer to the first question is that we eat so that we can fuel our body with all the nutrients and energy it needs to perform everyday.
If we don’t eat a balanced and healthy diet then our body will not function as properly as it should. But somewhere along the way we have forgotten that this is the reason we eat. We should eat for necessity and not pleasure. But I do believe it is essential to have pleasure in what you eat. A balance of both.
Now, how de we eat? I’ve noticed that there are many people in the world who eat dishes which they like, regardless of its nutritional content or benefit to their health.
For example, there is an abundance of junk food being consumed in the world, and it does worry me. If you haven’t seen the film Supersize Me yet, I recommend you do. I’m not saying it’s a brilliant documentary, but it will definitely open your eyes to how much fast food can affect your health. OK, the guy ate a specific brand of fast food 3 times a day for a month, which is what 90 visits to the fast food restaurant? I wonder if visiting 90 times in ones life will have an affect too?
I have to say that I used to eat a lot of junk food myself. I went through a stage of eating 5-6 packets of crisps (US: chips) a day, and basically having a no bars off eating habit. If it tasted good, I ate it. Consequently I piled on the weight…
I feel that we spend too much time eating the kind of food that makes us happy, gives us a good feeling, or even for nostalgic reasons. For example, last month I went back to London for a week and was together with my brothers who also have been away from the UK. The entire week it felt like we were constantly eating! Eating food that we missed like fish and chips, kebab rolls, meat pies, cheese and onion pasties and donner kebabs. And most of the time these were eaten in-between meals… Not very healthy, but we did it, and I watched myself and my brothers as we indulged.
It is a very real thing to eat for pleasure, nostalgia and so forth, but it is not a very healthy thing, and should be acknowledged. Next time you reach for a belly fix take a moment to ask yourself why you are eating it. Try to understand why and how you eat, you never know you may just realize something!
I am not a scientist or a dietist, so do not quote me on this. These are just my personal thoughts and musings.
When I started this blog a few months back I made promises of culinary secrets that were passed down to me from my mother and father, and now I feel it is time that I do just that. This weekend I will bring out the pots and pans and lay down a true Pakistani feast, and will return next week with recipes that will make your jaw hit the desk…or at the very least drool all over your top!
Till then, watch this space…