CHOCOLATE & SPICE APPLE CAKE

Recently I made this cake for a work morning tea. I was asked about the origins of this recipe and I realized that the recipe appeared in Cuisine magazine about 20 years ago. I don’t want to mess with a classic but over the years tweaked a bit and reduced the amount of sugar. It is a generous cake and the flavours are so perfect for winter.

Chocolate and spice apple cake

INGREDIENTS

230g raisins

250mls water

485g apples, peeled and chopped

125mls dark rum

1 and a half teaspoons baking soda

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BHUNA MURG – INDIAN STYLE CHICKEN STIRFRY

Indian cuisine dates back over 5000 years. In a true sense, the cuisine is an amalgamation of the cultures, traditions and influences of different ethnic communities absorbed and imbibed over the centuries. 

If you look up the definition of curry, you will understand that it is a dish of meat, vegetables, etc., cooked in an Indian-style sauce of hot-tasting spices and typically served with rice. This is of course a much generalized definition which does not reflect the diversity that is Indian cuisine.

Bhuna technique originated in Bengal. The first wave of immigration was of the Hakka Chinese in late 18th century, who came to work on a sugar plantation. The Chinese stir fry technique was quickly adopted and bhuna dishes were favoured. Bhuna which simply means to fry the flavour base or masala really well till it starts to caramelize and give out oil along the sides.

Serve this with pita bread or Nan along with a salad or vegetables for a weeknight dinner.

Bhuna Murg

INGREDIENTS

600g boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut in half or third

Juice of ½ a lime

2 tablespoons ghee, divided

1 tablespoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

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CHILE CON VERDURAS – PLANT BASED CHILI

On cold wintry nights, if you are yearning for a hearty, spicy and warming casserole that is vegetarian, then this one is for you. You can serve over corn chips and make vegetarian nachos or other optional toppings are pickled jalapenos, crème fraiche, sour cream, coriander leaves, avocado or guacamole and hot sauce. The dish is relatively easy to make and using tinned beans halves the cooking time.

I used a combination of borlotti beans, red kidney beans and black beans. Any combination of dark coloured beans would work well.

Chile con Verduras

INGREDIENTS

100g onions, finely diced

2-3 sticks celery, finely diced

200g carrots diced into a small cube

200g orange kumara or sweet potato, peeled and diced into a small cube

200g mushrooms, sliced or quartered

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MURG DOPYAZA – CHICKEN IN ONION SAUCE

In Hindi, do (pronounced like the English though) means two and pyaza means onions. The term describes a dish using twice the normal amount of onions. The resulting dish is bursting with flavour and a bit of sweetness. This dish is popular in Bengal and has Muslim origins. Bengal had its share of Muslim influences in art, architecture and cuisine because of Muslim rulers and Mughal governors. Please don’t be alarmed by the amount of onions or spices – you can’t expect anything less in a chicken and onion dish. This is a yummy and likeable dish.

A great alternative to butter chicken or chicken tikka masala, this could be your go to as far as Indian curries go.

Murg dopyaza

INGREDIENTS

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs

8-9 shallots, peeled

6 medium sized onions

8 small baby potatoes

2 teaspoons chilli powder

½ cup Greek style yoghurt

5 tablespoons of canola or other vegetable oil

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VIETNAMESE STYLE PANCAKES – BANH XEO

The more I delve into the world of food, the more fascinated I am about food history and how food traditions established. The cooking practises and style I thought was indigenous to South India has in fact travelled and can be seen in other parts of the world. I find a lot of coincidences this way particularly with Greek, Middle Eastern and other Asian cuisines. I am not saying they have all been cut from the same cloth but the similarities are intriguing. Yes we all wonder whether noodles originated in China and then travelled to Italy and other parts of Europe. In the same token the Greek tzatziki is very similar to raita – yes Alexander did try to invade India! What about babaghanoush (Middle Eastern) and Indian baingan bharta. That brings me to one of the Andhra specialties of Pesarettu or mung bean pancakes and banh xeo. They are uniquely different but can see similarities especially in the vegetarian version. These are very yummy and to make these, you do need a nice big wok.

Vietnamese Style pancakes

INGREDIENTS

For the pancakes

1 and a half cups of split mung flour

½ cup of brown rice flour

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ROAST PUMPKIN TOPPED WITH PUY LENTILS

This is a wholesome and hearty vegetarian dish that you can make as a main and doesn’t require much else by way of accompaniments. Butternuts roasted are the best as they are sweet, luscious and warming. I used Manchego cheese for this recipe but you can use Gruyere or any other sweet cheese that melts well.

I’ve made the dish using two medium sized butternut pumpkins but you can scale it up or down. By the way, any leftover lentils are yummy on their own or on toast!

Roast Pumpkin Topped With Puy Lentils

INGREDIENTS

For the butternut pumpkins:

2 medium sized butternut pumpkins weighing about 700g each

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

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CREAMY LENTIL & ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP

On days when you don’t feel like cooking much but still want to serve up something healthy and filling, this soup is your answer. You can actually use any combination of root vegetables you have on hand but vegetables like kumara (sweet potato) and carrots make the soup luscious. This is a lovely creamy soup that is so satisfying.

Creamy lentil and root vegetable soup

INGREDIENTS

200g onions, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 potatoes, chopped

400g orange kumara

1 parsnip, chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons medium curry powder

3 tablespoons vegetable oil like canola

1 cup of lentils, rinsed

150ml coconut cream

30 – 40mls of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Chopped coriander leaves to garnish

Salt to taste

METHOD

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and fry onions for 3-4 minutes. Toss the garlic and curry powder in and continue frying for a further 30 seconds. Add the lentils and root vegetables. Fry to combine everything well, so the vegetables are coated in the spices. Season with salt. Add 1.5 litres of water. Let it come up to the boil, cover with a lid and let simmer gently for 30 – 40 minutes. The vegetables should be soft and not offer resistance when pressed with a spoon. Rest for five minutes and blitz soup with a hand held stick blender.

Mix in the coconut cream and return saucepan to heat for five minutes until it is warmed through. Stir in the lemon juice. Sprinkle the coriander leaves and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

JALAPENO POPPERS

Exciting thing about end of summer and early autumn is bountiful produce in the farmers markets. I’ve always loved the sound of jalapeno poppers but didn’t like the idea of deep frying so I created these oven baked poppers. I assure that they are so tasty and if you are a chilli lover, you’ll simply love them and want more.

Jalapeno poppers ready to be grilled
Jalapeno poppers

INGREDIENTS

16 jalapenos

125g cream cheese (I used reduced fat)

1 shallot, finely diced

50g finely grated cheese like gruyere

1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup or hot sauce

Salt to taste

METHOD

Preheat your grill to 180 degrees Celsius.

Slice the jalapenos in half from the stalk to bottom tip. Scoop out most of the seeds and pith.

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, shallot, grated cheese and sauce. Season with about half a teaspoon salt.

Arrange the jalapeno halves in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Use your hands or a small teaspoon to fill the jalapenos with the cheese mixture.

Place under grill for 8 – 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly and brown. Serve warm. Serves 4-6 as a starter.

PICKLED JALAPENOS

I love growing jalapenos as they are relatively easy to grow and the plants produce abundantly provided you have a long, dry sunny summer. This year, mine didn’t produce well as summer in Wellington was virtually non-existent. I love pickling them as that way I can enjoy year long and tend to use them in different ways. I use them as a pizza topping, in tacos and burritos, chop finely and add them to a dipping sauce or a marinade and in hummus. They are very much a staple in my pantry and if you know how quick it is to make a jar yourself, you won’t be buying them again. You can scale the recipe down too.

Jalapenos

INGREDIENTS

1 kilo jalapeno peppers

4 cups white vinegar

2 cups water

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HOT, HOTTER & HOTTEST

Chilli is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum which are members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The plant is capable of mutating very quickly and as a result you have so many varieties. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours and spiciness. The environment also impacts what the pepper will look and taste like: soil, temperature, and weather all need to be taken into account.

Rocoto, Bishop’s hat and Thai red chilli

I am going to share some interesting facts about chillies.

Peppers are believed to be one of the first plants to have been domesticated, and chili pepper seeds from over 6000 years ago have been found in Peru and Mexico.

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