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Pan Fried Mackerel with Warm Potato and Fennel Salad

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!

Pan Fried Mackarel with warm Potato and Fennel Salad

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!

Ingredients:

1 mackarel filleted

4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 medium red onion thinly sliced

1 fennel thinly sliced

1 tbsp olive oil

1-2 lemons

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

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!

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Veal Steak with Roasted Baby Potatoes, Haricot Verts and Jus

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:

Veal Steaks

Haricot Verts

Baby Potatoes

Salt and Pepper

Olive Oil

Nob of Butter

Pinch Mixed Herbs

200 ml beef stock

1 tsp Tomato Ketchup

1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar

Method:

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!

Bon appetit!

Pakistani Cuisines and Chicken Curry

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.

Recipe

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

Method:

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.

Going Back to my Roots

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…

New York Bagel with Lox Spread

Still buzzing from my first New York City adventure, I wanted to share with you one of my morning delights on my week-long escapade: the infamous New York Bagel. Available almost everywhere, these donut shaped treats are served with a variety of toppings, most common of which is cream cheese. 

As a soul searching for absolute gastronomic satisfaction I embarked with my partner in all things hot and spicy to H&H Bagels where we indulged in what became a morning breakfast tradition. As a native English speaker I thought I knew it all, until I was confronted by ‘lox’ which stared back at me from the menu. Searching through my travel guide book like a confused tourist in a foreign land I became educated on one of New York City’s colloquial terms. Lox = Smoked Salmon. 

H&H Bagel: Cream Cheese with Lox Spread

 

Lox is usually served in two ways: either chopped and mixed with cream cheese (Bagel with Lox Spread,) or as thin slivers sitting on top of a cream cheese bagel (Bagel with Cream Cheese and Lox.) My choice can be seen in the image above.

I highly recommend these bagels. though I also tried other local bagel stores and they were equally pleasing. Whatever you do on your next or first trip to New York, don’t forget to try out this New York tradition, and if you can’t wait, try out my recipe here.

Till next time, eet smakelijk!

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Delicious Banoffee Pie

I have to confess, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth – I’ll take a slice of buttered toast over a mars bar any day. But there is one sweet dish I don’t mind whipping out the whisk for – and that’s the delicious, creamy and sweet Banoffee Pie…

I learnt this recipe from a Greek friend of mine at University. She was married and had her own house, so we often popped over to hang at hers, and on many occasions enjoy Greek delicacies. Banoffee Pie however, is not Greek at all. Since, I’ve taken her recipe and have made it my own, and with many attempts behind me, I decided to make it for the umpteenth time.

Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie

I recommend serving the pie as illustrated above, once I decided to go all out and made individual Banoffee Pie’s in glasses. Boy they were a bugger to eat, with the biscuit base rock solid at the bottom of the glass. I swear it was like working off the calories as we ate! If only it can be as easy as that…

Anyway, this is a real quick and easy treat for lovers of all things sweet. Just make sure you have plenty of people to help you eat it! Bon appetite!

Ingredients:

1 packet of Digestive Biscuits

50g melted Unsalted Butter

1 tin of Condensed Milk

4 large Bananas sliced

1 tub of Double Cream whipped

Method:

Boil the tin of Condensed Milk for 1 hour on a medium-low heat. Then remove from water and allow to cool.

Beat the Biscuits in a bag with a rolling pin till they are all crumbled up. Add enough melted butter to the biscuit mix so that it binds together. Try to use the butter sparingly – we don’t want to add extraneous amounts of calories if we don’t have to. Press the biscuit mixture into the base of a dessert dish (approximately 8″) and refridgerate for 20 minutes.

The next step is to spread the biscuit base with a thin layer of the boiled condensed milk, which should now have a thick toffee like consistency. Try to resist the urge to lick your fingers…you might not stop!

Finally, add a layer of sliced bananas on top of the toffee layer and then cover generously with whipped cream. As the dish is sweet enough, it’s best to use plain whipping cream – don’t cheat by using the pre-whipped sweeetened stuff. The cream is meant to balance off the pie.

Your Banoffee Pie is then ready to serve, with a few shavings or sprinking of chocolate if it tickles your fancy!

Enjoy!

Rome Uncensored

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of swapping a wet and miserable Amsterdam for some much needed sun in Rome. It was in fact my second visit in three years – it’s actually just settling in that I’ve been there twice now! It was the one destination I vowed myself to visit when I was just 16. I have to admit my romance with the city stemmed from E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View, which awoke in me a passion for life, plus I saw something of myself in Lucy… It is afterall a story that reveals the repressed culture of Edwardian England…not that far off from the Pakistani culture in which I was raised.

So I was in Rome less than three weeks ago, with my partner in travel to keep me company. I had the whole trip planned out, complete with daily itineraries, places to visit, eat, drink and chill. The first time I went, I walked everywhere and sadly didn’t have much luck with food, mostly because I didn’t stop in the right places, neighborhood or choose the right dishes. But this time I made sure to do my homework well in advance. Read the rest of this entry »