Monthly Archives: March 2016

Zucchini w/Ground Beef & Bechamel

Zucchini w:ground beef & bechamel-finished product-2
Zucchini w/ground beef & bechamel-finished product

Another huge competitor in the comfort food category! (what’s up with me? I’ve been making lots of these lately!!)

It is an all-time favourite with all our friends, and a special favourite of my nieces Maggie & Mona.

This dish can be made with the ground beef/pine nuts mixture, or without; totally vegetarian. It is equally delicious in both versions. The secret is in the quantity of cheese, and in the texture of the bechamel.

I use two kinds of cheeses: finely grated Parmesan as well as coarsely grated Emmental (or Gruyere).

I make my bechamel on the loose side, not too thick, as I like to serve it with Basmati rice, and want the bechamel to behave more like a sauce, rather than a set “pudding” like.

Ingredients:

1 large onion chopped

½ kg ground beef

8-10 medium size zucchini

½ cup pine nuts (roasted)

1 cup Parmesan

1 cup emmental

for the bechamel:

4 heaped tablespoons flour

olive oil

4 cups full milk

2 cups water

1 soup cube

Method:

saute onion in a bit of olive oil

add the ground beef, brown, cover and simmer till tender

mix in the roasted pine nuts

set mixture aside

P.S. I almost always forget to mention salt & pepper in my recipes, but I can assure you that I season my food well! I always use coarse sea salt, and coarsely ground black pepper. And I do my seasoning as I go along, layering the flavours as I proceed. Not in the end as some people prefer. I believe that the seasoning should be part of the gradual construction of the dish, and not come at its very end, almost as an added “after thought”!!!

back to our dish…….

chop the zucchini into fairly uniform rounds

saute in a bit of olive oil using two spatulas to mix (as if you’re stir frying). Keep an eye on it, and keep the mixing going until the bright green of the zucchini is somewhat “dulled”. Difficult to explain any better, just compare pictures 2 and 3.

add the ground beef mixture to the zucchini in the pot, add a tiny bit of water to cook further, until the zucchini is done to your liking. It is important that most of the liquid be gone before you pour the contents of the pot into your Pyrex dish, otherwise the excess water will affect the consistency of the sauce in the finished dish

set aside to cool

when cool, sprinkle 1/4 a cup of the grated Parmesan

Now for the Bechamel:

I find that the secret of a successful bechamel is to add enough fat (by fat I mean olive oil) in the start, so that the flour/fat mixture be “loose” in the pan, not lumped together like a ball. If you start with this consistency, you almost always end up with a successful bechamel, smooth and with no lumps whatsoever Ofcourse you can use butter instead of olive oil if you prefer, just keep to the loose flour/fat mixture principal. If for some crazy reason you end up with lumps in your bechamel, don’t panic, you can always use a hand mixer to smooth out the lumps.

Heat your fat in the pot

add the flour

mix with whisk until mixture bubbles

add the milk and keep whisking

add the water and keep whisking

let thicken on medium heat

when you achieve the desired consistency, add ¼ cup of grated Parmesan, and ½ cup of emmental

mix well to incorporate

pour the bechamel on the zucchini mixture, making sure to cover all. Your bechamel is not thick at all, so it will penetrate through the entire content of the dish seeping through to the bottom

sprinkle the remaining Parmesan (¼ cup), and the remaining emmental (½ cup)

bake in a pre-heated 200centigrade oven, for as long as it takes for the mixture to bubble throughout, and for the top to be a nice golden brown.

Let cool for at least a ½ hour before serving to acquire a bit of a body, otherwise if you cut through while still too hot the whole dish will just run into each other and look like mush. It will still be delicious but mush nevertheless.

Serve with Basmati on the side.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shepherd’s Pie:

Shepherd's Pie-finished product
Shepherd’s Pie-finished product

Last night we went to a huge house-warming party. Over fifty people were there! Was also present ofcourse, an overabundance of food and drink. Drink being the key word here!

This morning is so far, obviously behaving like a typical “morning after”…

Yes the fresh crispy Lagana bread was a huge plus for breakfast, but overall, head and tummy, are slightly leaning towards the “delicate” side, and in desperate need of gentle food. Preferably one that also qualifies as comfort food.

Sheppard’s Pie springs to mind and the thought settles well in my tummy. Sheppard’s pie it is then… And maybe a light green salad on the side. Yum yum …

Some people say that the original Shepherd’s Pie requires ground lamb. If you’re going to use ground beef then it is called Cottage Pie. Well!! I’ve always made it with ground beef! And since the Shepherd’s Pie police are not around today, I will continue using ground beef, and will continue calling it Shepherd’s Pie….

My kitchen, my rules!

Ingredients:

6 large potatoes (or 8 medium ones)

1 large onion chopped

½ kg ground beef

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup frozen peas

1 tbsp flour

1 cup grated Parmesan

 

Method:

peel & cut up the potatoes, cover with water, and boil until tender. Drain & let cool

saute onion in a bit of olive oil

add the ground beef, brown, cover and simmer till tender

saute the carrots & peas in another pan, add the flour, stir, then add a bit of water to slightly thicken the mixture

combine contents of both frying pans, adjust seasoning, and transfer to your baking dish. Set aside to cool.

mash your potatoes really well, season with salt & pepper, and combine ½ cup Parmesan into the mixture

spread the potatoes on top of the beef mixture, making sure to not leave any uncovered holes

make markings with the edge of a fork

sprinkle the other half of the Parmesan

bake in a pre-heated 200 Centigrade oven until bubbly & golden brown

Serve with a light green salad on the side.

Enjoy!

Greek Lagana Bread

Greek Lagana Bread-1
Greek Lagana Bread-1

My God, I absolutely die for this bread!!!

Unfortunately it is made and sold only once per year on Clean Monday, marking the start of Lent for Greek Orthodox Easter.

It is a huge flat bread, crispy, with sesame seed sprinkled on top. The bread is mostly crust which makes it absolute heaven to eat with just about anything! Traditionally it is eaten that day with Taramosalata, or any sort of a spread really. I love eating it even with just plain old olive oil with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt in it.

Did I mention that I just love this bread?!

Unfortunately the bread does not keep long as it goes hard very fast. But I’m not one to let go very easily of all things loved, so I do my absolute best to make it last as long as I possibly can.

We usually buy two loaves, one of which I slice and freeze. You can take the frozen slices and place directly in the toaster. I first cut it in half length wise, then proceed with the slicing. It tastes just as nice as the first day.

Yummm…………

Now on to slicing, followed by battling with the contents in my freezer for enough room to store this delicious chunk of heaven!

 

Spicy Curried Chicken Mini Pies:

Spicy Curried Chicken Mini Pie-Finished Product
Spicy Curried Chicken Mini Pie-Finished Product

I may as well continue with my appetizer/finger-food spree. Last one today. I promise!

This is absolutely delicious, and the flavours are quite intense. It doesnt necessarily have to be hot (as in spicy), the heat entirely depends on your curry mix. You should be familiar with the strength of your curry powder in order to decide how much is needed. But you need to make sure that your mixture is well flavoured in order to answer as well as balance the sweet element of raisins in the filling.

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped left over cooked chicken

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup frozen defrosted peas

1 cup chopped fresh mushroom

1tbsp flour

¾ cup raisins

1 cup hot water

curry powder

1 large sheet of puff pastry

1 egg beaten (for glazing)

Method:

cover your raisins with the hot water and set aside until plump

Saute onions in a bit of olive oil

add mushrooms

add peas

add curry powder

add flour

add raisins with their water

simmer for just a little bit until you have a guey mixture on the thick side

set aside till completely cool

cut your pastry into rounds to fit your mince pie tray (no butering needed, and no paper lining either)

Place rounds in the tray

add a generous amount of filling in each

cover with pastry lids (cut the same size as the bottoms)

press with your fingers, followed by the edge of a a fork, round each pie in order to seal the edges

brush with beaten egg

bake in a pre-heated 180centigrade oven until golden brown

pop out of the tray while still hot and place on counter to cool off

once cool you can freeze them if you wish and re-heat when needed before serving

Enjoy!

 

 

Shrimp & Cream Cheese Dip:

Shrimp & Cream Cheese dip-4
Shrimp & Cream Cheese Dip-Finished Product

I love this dip! It is quick, easy to prepare, and it goes so well in parties! It is almost always the first dish to disappear.

I first had this dip in my niece Mona’s house a couple of years back, in one of her Thanksgiving parties that she loves to host.

This present version that I got in the habit of making since, is not the original one. You might have guessed! I never keep to a recipe, and this one is no exception. Sorry Mona, that stick of butter just had to go! The chopped celery too, my husband refuses to eat it….

Shrimp & Cream Cheese dip-1
Shrimp & Cream Cheese Dip-1

Ingredients:

400grs Philadelphia cream cheese (room temperature)

400 grs frozen shrimp

4 green onions

a small knob of butter

1tbsp fish sauce

 

Method:

Defrost shrimp in a colander to drain all excess water

squeeze with your hands just to make sure all the water is gone

heat the butter in a pan, add the shrimp, and give it a super quick whirl around just to firm up

remove from heat immediately and let cool

chop roughly

chop the green onions

add the softened cream cheese

add fish sauce

I also like to add a few drops of Tabasco to give it a kick, but that’s optional

cover & refrigerate till needed

serve with bagel chips or similar

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Beef & Walnut Pastry Swirls:

Beef & Walnut Pastry Swirls-finished product
Beef & Walnuts pastry Swirls-Finished product

I’m slacking off here, aren’t I? Not one post in well over a month!!

Nevermind, it is a blog after all. My own blog at that. Meaning no shoulds, or shouldn’ts. No demands, and certainly no deadlines! We all have plenty of those in our lives as it is, and creating new self-imposed ones, would not be the smartest thing to do.

Besides, this blog is about cooking yes, but it is also about healing. And God knows I’ve been doing lots of both. The cooking and the healing I mean.

There are no specific explanations as to how and when healing does happen, but I suspect its equal parts: time and choice. Yes choice. Sure time is needed to heal any sort of wound, but I’m beginning to think that choice has a lot to do with it as well. Having had enough of being at the bottom of the well, with hardly any air to breath, there comes a day when you say to yourself enough is enough, its now time to get back to “life”. That precious gift that we have all been given. Accepting it, consciously I mean, is both a privilege and an honour!

Back to cooking.

Yes, I’ve been slacking in the posting department, but never in my cooking. Its part of my life. A part that gives me immense joy! Since I started this blog, I got into the habit of taking pictures as I go along. I take the pictures on my phone, and then delete them as they’re posted. Not having posted in a while, means that I now have an over-abundance of pictures and recipes! Which should I post first?!

My big love has always been appetizers. And nibbles. All sorts of finger foods, that go well with drinks, and chats, and friends. And I’ve done quite a bit of those, these past few weeks. So let me start with that.

Beef & Walnut Pastry Swirls:

Actually the idea of this recipe, was inspired by the famous Lebanese/Syrian/Armenian Lahm-B’Ajeen. Its been a lot on my mind lately… This one is a lot faster ofcourse, not to mention way easier, but the taste is almost identical.

Ingredients:

¼ kg ground beef

1 medium onion

6 sun dried tomatoes

1 cup walnuts

1 large sheet of puff pastry

1 egg beaten (for glazing)

Method:

Chop onion and saute in a bit of olive oil till translucent

add ground beef, salt, pepper, and brown

set aside

chop sun dried tomatoes

chop walnuts medium ruff

open your sheet of pastry and distribute your filling one at a time,starting with the ground beef mixture, then the sun dried tomatoes, than the walnuts

roll up jelly roll fashion

wrap well and refrigerate for a couple of hours

slice into 1cm thick slices

place in a mince pie tray lined up with appropriate size paper holders

brush with beaten egg

bake in a pre-heated 180 centigrade oven until golden brown

pop out of the tray while still hot and place on counter to cool off

once cool you can freeze them if you wish and re-heat when needed before serving

I love to prepare nibbles ahead of time and freeze ready for unexpected company.

Enjoy!