Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Parmesan-crusted fish fingers

Kids LOVE fish fingers. And for most this is the only acceptable way to eat fish and getting their fill of those oh-so-important omega-3 fatty acids. But if you're like me and feel bad about having to head to the frozen-foods section and picking up the usual ready-made version, then this recipe is for you. It makes for a bit more interesting tasting fish fingers and I've adapted it from Aussie-chef Bill Granger's book Simply Bill.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Wasabi cheese

During a recent trip to my local Billa supermarket an oddity at the cheese counter caught my eye: green-colored cheese.  And last time I checked St. Paddy's day was in March not in August. The label read Wasabi Gouda. WTF? Was this the latest lame attempt of making a plain product or dish sound interesting by hitching a ride on the Wasabi bandwagon? Except the coated peas I developed a dislike for all other Wasabi byproducts. But I still had to give any green cheese a fighting chance by at least giving it a try.

Aaaaand..... it was good. Really tasty. Gouda texture and a distinct, but not overpowering Wasabi taste. According to the list of ingredients it contains horseradish and Wasabi paste. I will definitely buy it more often.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Super-quick Hummus-tahina dip

Hummus (also spelled hoummous, or hoummus, or hummous, or hommos or ...) is THE cornerstone of any Middle Eastern appetizer platter, or Meze. Mostly used as a dip alongside baba ganoush it is also a great spread and healthy Mayo-alternative for sandwiches and burgers. This is the shortcut version of the recipe my Dad once explained to me. The long version would include using dried chickpeas (in the US also known as garbanzo beans) and soaking them overnight in water. Overnight or 5 minutes. You decide which suits you more. And there's hardly any difference in the quality of the outcome.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Baba Ghanoush

As Vienna is currently besieged by a heat wave (and 36°C + humidity qualifies as a heatwave when you live in a city with hardly ANY air-conditioning) and LIGHT cooking is the order.

Baba Ghanoush, or Baba Ghanouj, apparently means something like 'Daddy's little girl' or 'Daddy's darling' in Arabic.  It is an integral element of a Meze, a selection of appetizer dishes that is very popular in the Eastern Mediterranean and the equivalent of the Spanish tapas.

This is a great recipe for having people over as it can be made a day or two ahead. And the taste gets even better if you keep it in the fridge for a day before serving.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Cheese-soufflé buckwheat blinis with salmon and eggs

Breakfast recipes, better yet, BRUNCH recipes, hold a special place in my heart. So when I discovered this recipe by Sophie Dahl ... Roald Dahl's granddaughter btw. Fascinating, I know ... in the April 2009 edition of BBC Good Food magazine I knew I had to give it a try.  Savory-cheesy pancakes with salmon and scrambled eggs? This has me written all over it.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

California trip - a review

I did not abandon my blog. I was busy vacationing with the family in California for almost four weeks... and then I was swamped with work... and then... OK, OK, enough with the excuses. I'm back at it. Really.

So... California. I'd never been there, but since that's where my wife is from, we figured it was high time we visited. And the trip was - to use the local lingo - TOTALLY RAD. We started off in Los Angeles, in Valley Village to be precise. Spent ten days in and around L.A., then flew north to explore San Francisco for a few days after which we rented a car to leisurely drive down Highway #1 all the way down Oxnard (between L.A. and Santa Barbara).

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Chinese fried rice

Every time I make fried rice I cannot help but call it flie' lice. I know it sounds stupid, but I can't shake that inner voice calling it out loud. Now I've lived for a substantial part of my childhood in China. And rice, or noodles, with scrambled eggs has been a recurring digestive theme for my stomach back then. Once I've left Asia, however, not so much anymore...there has been at least a decade-long flie'-lice lull in my life. Well, I've been back at for a few years now. And I must admit, I cannot think of a better way - suggestions are welcome - to use leftover rice than this. It is also one of my favorite quick breakfast fixes.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Baked lemon custard 'au lieu de la tarte'

I intended on posting about a my attempt at classic lemon tart adapted from a recipe in James Martin's book Desserts. Instead this was me after two unsuccessful late-night attempts at sweet shortcrust pastry:

Yes... well, I generally consider myself a good baker. But I always struggle when making my own shortcrust pastry (also known by its posh French name - pâté brisée). And this latest episode of Daniel vs Shortcrust Dough was a clear knockout win for the lifeless-yet-evil edible substance. I was tired, frustrated and above all very upset at the thought of having to toss the filling for the tart (which I've made earlier).

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Hotel breakfast review: Hesperia London Victoria

About twice a month my work requires me to travel abroad for a couple of days. Naturally I get to stay in a variety of hotels. Whatever the official star rating of the hotel, somehow the quality of the breakfast does not seem to factor. But it should. A good breakfast provides a quality start to the day which is vital when you'll be spending the day in meetings or at a trade show. So I've decided to make reviewing of the breakfast offerings at the hotels I'm staying at a regular feature of this blog.

First up is the 4* Hesperia Hotel, just outside Victoria Station in London, where I stayed for one night this last week.

Monday, 5 April 2010

My Easter lamb, Méchoui-style

Just to make something clear right away: this is probably THE best lamb recipe I've ever tried.

Now I was planning on cooking lamb for Easter, but was struggling to settle on the approach and recipe. Grilled lamb chops? Braised lamb shanks? Lamb stew? I was getting a bit disoriented. I wanted a lamb dish that had a similar wow-factor to the Christmas roast rib of beef. Them on a recent business trip to London I bought the Feb/March issue of Jamie Magazine  (Yes! Jamie Oliver has a magazine. And it's not bad)...and found what I was looking for: Méchoui lamb.

The main article in that issue is about Jamie exploring the food markets of Marrakesh and eating Méchoui-style lamb. As 'real' Méchoui calls for the whole lamb to be roasted on a spit in a specially designed oven dug in the ground, Jamie is kind enough to provide a recipe that can easily be cooked in a normal Western kitchen. The outcome is full of spiced flavors and wonderfully tender and moist. 

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

My grandmother's Yemenite chicken soup

As I've posted before I don't have an Nonna that could have provided me with insights into Italian home cooking. I do, however, have a Yemenite Safta (= Hebrew for grandmother). And she the originator of my earliest food memory - maraq of teimani , the Yemenite chicken soup. This is the holiday and Sabbath food of choice for countless Jewish Yemenite families.

My early childhood in Israel involved going to my grandparents house on Friday evenings for the Sabbath dinner. Before we even got to the door, we were greeted by a smell. That specific smell that instantly made our eyes tear, our mouths water and our stomachs grumble. That smell of chicken cooking to tender perfection. The smell of cumin, coriander, cardamon and garlic. The smell of freshly baked pita bread. The smell of family. The smell of home.

I always thought my Safta's chicken soup was out of reach for me. That only she possessed that magic touch that made it so special. However, when my dad came by for Passover today, the first thing he said when he walked in the door was that he could smell the chicken soup already out in the hallway... and that it reminded him of his mother and home.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Hawaij - Yemenite spice mix

This spice mixture is to Yemenite Jews what Jerk seasoning is to Jamaicans. There are two types of hawaij [pronounced hawai-yedsh]: one used for flavoring coffee and one for soups, stews and as a BBQ rub. Although both are referred to as hawaij, the ingredients vary. The coffee version includes ginger, cinnamon, cardamon and cloves, where as the more savory soup mix includes pepper, cumin, coriander and a few more ingredients.

Supermarkets in Israel have been selling ready made hawaij spice mixtures for a while now. And they have become a store cupboard staple. But I like to think that good hawaij - i.e. the real deal - you can only get at that Yemenite store in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market or you make it yourself at home. This is my home-made version of the savory hawaij for soups and stews.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Du'qe - Yemenite charoset for Passover

Passover is upon us and although I'm not religious I do enjoy the cultural aspects of holding a Seder. Some of my earliest food memories revolve around the edibles adorning a Jewish-Yemenite Seder table.

The charoset - my Yemenite family calls it du'qe [pronounced doo-keh] - is a paste to be eaten spread on matzos or as a dip for the ceremonial bitter herbs (we use parsley, dandelion and chicory/endive). Every family, every Jewish background (Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Iraqi, Italian, Egyptian, etc.) has their own recipe. The Yemenite charoset differs from most other recipes in that it doesn't feature any fresh fruits (apple is most common), just dates, raisins, nuts and spices.

Oh, and once Passover has passed, any remaining charoset can be used as a filling for cinnamon rolls/whirls/buns or Danish pastry.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Home-made granola bars

Sometime halfway between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner my blood sugar levels reach dramatic lows that have significant detrimental effects on my concentration, my attitude towards the people around me and god knows what else. That's when I need an energy booster. Preferably not chocolate. But something filling and sweet...but healthy.

Granola bars - also known as breakfast or muesli bars - are, in my humble opinion, the perfect mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. Especially when consumed together with a fresh piece of fruit or yogurt. For those of you who are not devout followers of a meal-sized breakfast like myself, these bars make for a decent breakfast on the run as well. I'm no nutritionist, but reading about the nutritional values of each granola bar I come across words like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, high in fiber, minerals other elements that I've been told are good for you.

As for most varieties sold in Austrian supermarkets being WAY too sweet for my taste (supermarkets in the UK have a fairly decent selection though), and thus don't really pass the 'healthy' part of the snack, I've decided to just go ahead and try my own. And after a few failed attempts...which nonetheless resulted in yummy self-made granola for topping plain yogurts ...this one my winning recipe so far.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Il mio ragù

Spag Bol, meat sauce, Bolognese, sauce bolognaise...there are a few terms to describe the world famous pasta sauce that originated in Bologna, Italy, and there is simply referred to as... ragù. And there must be thousands, if not gazillions, of different recipes out there. I'm pretty sure every Italian household has got one....a ragù recipe from Nonna. And then there is always that one secret ingredient that makes your Nonna's ragù better then anybody else's.

Alas, I'm not Italian. Well, my mom's family passed through Italy from France a few generations back. But I don't have a Nonna that could teach me the secrets and workings of a proper ragù. Yet, I feel like a have a special bond with that sauce. And fond memories when, as a kid in the 80s, my culinary highlight was eating spaghetti with ready-made bolognese sauce from a jar (mmmhh.... that metallic aftertaste) and lots of Kraft's dried Parmesan powder to top it off.

However, once I started to enjoy cooking and discovering fresh ingredients and all...it was time to move on and create my own, home-cooked version of ragù. Boy, what a difference to those jars....I just hope my future grandchildren don't refer to me as their Nonna *shudder*.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Rhubarb, apple & strawberry crumble

Rhubarb is a fairly new addition to our seasonal home cooking endeavors. Until about a year ago, whenever I heard rhubarb I mentally added compote and immediately lost interest. Something screamed 1980s and dull. So last spring, after being consciously bombarded with rhubarb recipes in cookbooks and cooking magazines - throw in few gentle nudges by my lovely wife - I finally did it. I cooked rhubarb. A rhubarb pie. And what a fine piece of delicious pie it was. I was hooked on rhubarb and immensely sad when the season was suddenly over.

It's a new year now. And according to the stock in the supermarkets, it's the beginning of rhubarb season. I wanted to do last year's pie recipe again. But as I'm trying to lose a bit of my winter insulation, I opted for the - slightly - healthier option: a rhubarb crumble. With apples and strawberries added... for good vitamin measure.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Lemon-steamed salmon with wild rice and salsa verde

It's been a while since my last blog entry. I apologize profusely. One of my New Year's resolutions was to post at least once per week. Well, the resolution still stands, but I blame this first slump on my recent excessive work-related travel AND sick children AND... whine, whine, whine. wine? wine, anybody? red? white?

AAAANYhow.... wild rice. What are YOUR thoughts on wild rice? My wife doesn't like it. At least that's what she's telling me. And the last time I had wild rice must have been so long ago that I completely forgot what it tasted like. Reasons enough to make it the side-of-choice for this weeks fish recipe.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Lemon, lime & clementine jellies

I've recently rediscovered jellies and decided to invite them as regular dessert guest to our dinner table. A guest who's basically fat-free, low-on-calories-ish and enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Yes, adults as well. Reminisce the fun you had with jell-o shots. My version does not include any alcohol - my oldest son is only 3, give him a few more years, please - but it should taste spectacular when spiked with limoncello or just plain vodka.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Chinese chicken dumplings

I spent a large part of my childhood in Beijing, China. Stir-fries, rice dishes and filled dumplings - jiaozi (or gau gee in Cantonese and gyoza in Japanese) - have since become second food nature to me. I live in Europe now, but it's Chinese New Year, the year of large striped kitty cat, and I suddenly have a craving for traditional Chinese food. Enter the crazy idea of making jiaozi from scratch. Ok, so not entirely from scratch as I'm planning to buy ready-made wrappers, but it's a long way from buying frozen dumplings from the Asian supermarket for a quick dinner. The last time I actually saw someone MANUALLY making jiaozi was back in the 80s, but hey, it's the eve of the year of the Tiger and we're ready to cook...

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Porcini risotto

Build it and they will come. Or in my case - cook it and she will eat it. My wife doesn't like risotto. She mentions it a-plenty when there's even the slightest chance that the food related thoughts I'm about to put into to audible words contain ANY reference to that wonderfully indulgent pièce de italian food résistance. And normally I would give in and go ahead and cook...soup, another stir-fry or some other culinary quick-fix. Every once in a while, however, I decide that I have been deprived for too long and, despite my lovely wife kicking and screaming (ok. it's not THAT bad), just go for it and cook a risotto. And she will it eat. And the words Mmmh, tasty will cross her lips. Everytime. Ree-SOH-toh - an Italian slow food opera in four acts.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Moroccan-style fish stew

We try to eat a balanced diet at home. Honestly. So fish is on our plates once or twice a week. As my wife got bored with various fried takes on fish it was time to try out something new. In the past I've already tried a Sicilian-style fish stew with couscous (as featured in BBC GoodFood) and a Moroccan fish stew (without couscous) by Aussie chef Bill Granger. This time I though I'd try and combine those two recipes for something a bit different.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Super-healthy breakfast muffins

Muffins are a wonderfully diverse food bunch. Super-easy to make too. You can make them almost cupcake-y with chocolate bits and other sweet ingredients... or go for a more healthy approach and fill them with dried or fresh fruit pieces or even veggies like grated carrots or zucchini. My very own version here, is a fiber-packed breakfast-on-the-run, or, as in my son's case, a mid-morning kindergarten snack. It's loosely based on a recipe for wholemeal blueberry muffins from Gordon Ramsey's Healthy Appetite...except without blueberries, and a few other minor changes.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Turkey schnitzel 'Wiener Art' with potato salad

Only a schnitzel made with veal is a genuine Wiener Schnitzel. Everything else is called [meat of choice] schnitzel Wiener Art (i.e. the Viennese way). The Wiener Art (= Viennese way) of my turkey schnitzel refers to the method of breading the meat: 1. seasoned flour 2. beaten egg and  3. breadcrumbs.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Fried eggs in a nest

I love me a good breakfast. But please, spare me cereals, rolls with butter and jam and the likes. My breakfast hast to originate in a pan. Preferably fried. And something with eggs - cholesterol, shmolesterol. There IS no better way to start your day than having treated your tummy to something hearty and filling. A good breakfast simply gets me off to a better start in the day. Mood and energy-wise. Without it I start scrounging for anything edible - usually junk - by mid-morning.

This easy recipe is now one of my new favorites for a perfect weekend morning (I'd have it on weekdays as well IF I had the energy to get up earlier). I always used to serve our own version of hash browns  - tiny potatoes, as my son Noah likes to call them  - with a side of scrambled eggs. It required to either prepare the hash browns first and then the eggs or the need to involve two pans at the same time. Too much fuss in the morning. So I recently had an inspiration for a small change: why not fry an egg with the potatoes in the same pan? And thus were born my fried eggs in a nest (of tiny potatoes).

Monday, 18 January 2010

Couscous à la maison

I am hungry. Feed me! Anything! It was lunch time and my wife's blood sugar levels were reaching alarmingly low levels. And she didn't have anything for breakfast. My food brain started to go through the inventories of our fridge and store cupboard and computing the options...pasta, instant soups, sandwich, bananas... COUSCOUS. That's it. She likes couscous... especially when you pimp it with other ingredients. From countless visits to Middle Eastern and North African restaurants I knew that couscous went really well with dried fruits and nutty flavors. I had a handful of raisins and dried apricot left. And some flaky almonds (although I had hoped to find some pine nuts...oh well, next time).
But what gives this recipe a truly Moroccan touch  is the use of the ras el hanout spice mixture. The term literally means head of the shop in Arabic. It apparently refers to being the signature spice mixture that a souk seller would offer his customers.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies

Hello. My name is Daniel. And I have a sweet tooth. There. I said it. But I'm not the only one in my family...my wife is very partial to all things sweet, my older son can sense chocolate 10 miles against the wind and it's not much of a bet to say that my youngest will follow in our family's sweet footsteps one day.

Now, instead of fulfilling my sweet cravings with supermarket-bought junk (which I do anyways...Toffifee anyone?), I'm attempting to resort to more home-made goodies. It won't be less calorific, but at least I know what goes in the finished product.

Chocolate chip cookies are a staple of our household. But they HAVE to be soft and they HAVE to be chewy.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Ginger beef and vegetable stir-fry

Stir-fry always means quick and healthy dinner for me. Perfect for midweek evenings and using up vegetables in the fridge. For the sake of this recipe I've listed ingredients that I normally use for my stir-fries. But honestly, take whatever is available in your fridge. Even substitute chicken or turkey for the beef (or pork...if you must). At this time of the year, however, the ginger-element is a must. Your immune system can use the additional boost...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Potato pancakes aka Latkes

I know it's not Hanukkah anymore, but Latkes are just too tasty to limit to 8 days each year and they're perfect for a weekend breakfast or brunch. So throughout the year, whenever we eat them (which is about every other week), we call the finished product of this recipe potato pancakes. And on Hanukkah...they become Latkes again.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

My special New Year's champagne breakfast Part 2: Bélon oysters with two sauces

My wife LOVES oysters. And I don't mind them so much myself (apart from the hefty price tag they carry outside of France or any other country they're natives to). My favorites are Bélon oysters, also know as European flat oysters, or Huîtres de Bélon in their home country.  I harvest mine at Fisch Gruber on Naschmarkt.

I addition to eating them pure with a drizzle of lemon juice, I like to serve mine with completely different sauces: one, a classic mignonette of sherry and shallots, and the other, Jamie Oliver's chilli, ginger an rice wine sauce (my wife's favorite).

My special New Year's champagne breakfast Part 1: scrambled eggs with caviar on toast

Every year on January 1st, my wife an I indulge ourselves in a very decadent, two-course New Year's breakfast: scrambled eggs with caviar on buttered toast and Bélon oysters with two sorts of sauces. All while sipping on French champagne