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D J U V E C – my first ‘fast food’

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(Tomatoes, Capsicums, Meat, Paprika and Rice – all in one pot!)

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When I grew up in Bonn the words “Fast food” and ‘Street food” were so not used to us – they simply had not entered my generation’s vocabulary – yet!

Nor was the myriad of Middle- and Far Eastern spices known to any of us – yet!

But it introduced me to the wonderful world of spices – and I certainly have not left this ‘spice world’ – yet!

In our schools and colleges we started to learn about different countries in the world, especially on our continent, although hardly any of us had ever ventured out of Germany – yet!

For us Youngsters, a special treat after a visit to the cinema was normally a (newspaper-) cone filled with freshly made ‘fries’ with a dollop of ‘mayo’ on top.

Places like any of those now well-known Burger places, Mo-Mo Restaurants, Pizza Parlours, various Coffee- and Tea Bars, etc. etc. did not even exist in our country – yet!

But all was going to change one day – the first “foreign” Restaurant opened, just opposite the Main Train Station, in our still sleepy little town, by then already the new Capital of Germany.

My memory plays a little dance in my head – it annoys me that I cannot remember the real name of this restaurant, even searching through my box of old old notes from around the world, did I not come up with the right name. So, I herewith name this place “The Balkan Restaurant” (you never know, it just might have been its name all along).

Of course, like Youngsters all over the world, we had to explore en bloc after school/college before heading home. We thought we were in heaven no less – delicious smelling foreign food, big portions, relatively little money and when sharing a plate between 2 or even 3 people it was not a ‘budget killer’.
After having sampled through the menu once or twice soon we established a dish called by the strange name of DJUVEC was our favourite.

The word Đuveč derives from the Turkish word Güveç, which means casserole (traditionally cooked in an earthenware pot).

Having typed this so far I now feel sort of peckish (nothing was left over from yesterday when I prepared this dish from memory, more or less).

Ingredients for 2 pretty hungry people or
Ingredients for 4 with big salad and flat bread on the side

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½ kg lean Meat (see notes), cleaned and cut into small pieces
1 x large onion, chopped
4 x garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 x large green chillies, cut finely
½ x large red Capsicum (known as Paprika in Europe), cut small
½ x large yellow Capsicum, cut small

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½ x large green Capsicum, cut small
3 x large Tomatoes – skin and seeds removed and cut small
300 x g long grain Rice (I like to use top Basmati rice), wash and keep aside
1 x tsp of mild paprika powder
1 x tsp of chilli powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 x Tbsp of tomato paste
2 Tbsp Oil
1 ltr of good meat broth, keep aside

Method:
In a wide pot heat oil, add your chosen meat (see notes) and fry very quickly, stirring all the while. Take out and keep aside.

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Add onion and garlic to the oil in pot and then all the Chillies, Capsicums (Paprika) and now let all this cook on low heat for a few minutes. Keep stirring often. Now add the previously fried meat, salt, pepper, paprika powder, chilli powder and the tomato paste – stir and add enough meat broth so that it just covers all this.

Cover and now let it simmer for 30 to 45 minutes (depending on the meat you are using – keep checking!) If needed just add some more broth – don’t let it go dry or even burn!!!!

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Halfway through add the tomato pieces. Stir once gently. Now mix your washed rice into all this and add more of your meat broth. Keep simmering for maybe another 20 minutes or so without stirring; but towards the end of your cooking time check to see if more broth is needed.

Rice should still have a nice soft ‘bite’ and the whole dish is meant slightly on the moist side rather than dry.

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That’s it – all done – serve and enjoy. Guten Appetit!

Notes: You can use Pork, Beef, Veal.

I have eaten this also with some wonderful very hot sausage like ‘Chorizo’ – and it was quite delicious, too.

Namaskaram
Carina

Celery/Leek Soup with my little twist

According to the Oxford Dictionary Diaries the phrase . . . “warm the cockles of one’s heart” means in plain English “to give one a comforting feeling of contentment”. And sweet Molly Malone from Dublin’s Fair City could tell you a thing or two here.

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Comfort feeling of Contentment’ is what I am looking for if and when I am either down with a flu/cold or just simply feel slightly below par.

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As long as I can remember I nearly always have made my weekly pot of delicious home-made soup, ready to be consumed at any time or portioned off and frozen for later use. It does not matter if now again I live in a hot or cold climate – the aroma from the vegetables, the wonderful spices wafting from my special soup mug gently up my nose immediately tells certain brain cells of mine “get better – and snap out of this negative mood you are in” – and rest be assure it always works like a dream. And yes, this is one of the reasons why I still continue to conjure up soups, not following recipes most of the time either.

I know that a great number of my blogger friends are right now living in colder climate – and that’s one reason why I like to share one of my favourite “winter warmers” with you (never mind we and some other dear friends live in a hot climate) – sitting around your own kitchen table with bowls of hot steaming soup in front of you and either nice thick chunks of granary bread or Arabic hoops on the side for ‘dunking’. Especially for you, who have just come in from clearing snow off your pathway, de-frosting the car, or just came home from a long crisp walk.

So therefore, without long ado – here is last nights “Carina’s Special” for you to enjoy hopefully as well.

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The amount of ingredients you see in the first picture turned out to be a generous four-portion-soup. And here is what I used:

1 x medium onion, chopped
1 x fat leek, washed thoroughly and sliced
4 x cups of celery, well washed, ends trimmed and rest chopped
1 x medium/large washed but unpeeled potato, diced small
5 x garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 x small piece of fresh ginger, finely sliced
2 x heaped tsp of cocopowder
1 x Tbsp Olive oil
1 x Tbsp hot curry powder
Salt, to taste and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ x tsp of turmeric powder
4 – 5 x cup of vegetable stock (I used Knorr cubes)
1 x tsp of dry oregano
1 x tsp of dry rosemary (or a twig of fresh one)
Some celery leaves for garnish and celery seeds (if you can get them)

METHOD:
First of all, have all your vegetables prepared as mentioned above and keep aside on a board.

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Set a large medium high vessel on MEDIUM heat and after a couple of minutes add the olive oil, followed by the onion, leek and the celery, stir, cover and cook gently for app. 10 minutes, stirring half way through again.

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Now add curry powder, stir and gently cook for another 2 minutes only.

Add potatoes, nearly all the stock and the herbs, stir and continuing to simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender. We don’t like them too mushy – so you may have to adjust simmering time.

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When done, switch off heat and let soup cool down slightly (I switch on the Ceiling fan).
10 minutes later I puree the vegetables in my “Mixy” until they are nice and smooth.

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Now check your soup for any possible additional spices needed.
Return all this to your vessel and gently re-heat until piping hot.
Switch off the heat and add your previously prepared coconut milk powder, stirring gently. Do no remove vessel – allow the previous heat deal with the added coconut milk.

Serve in individual soup plates, bowls or cups decorated with a sprig of celery leaves and if you have, a light sprinkling of celery seeds.

You can also do, what I sometimes do, add a few prawns quickly boiled in chilli water! For a little kick.

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You do not need much else, apart from delicious healthy bread or hoops for dunking – little culinary heaven!!!

That’s it – all done – enjoy!

Namaskaram
Carina

Note: The statue shown above has been moved to Suffolk Road while a light railway line is being built in Grafton Road, but is expected to be returned to its original place in 2017.

“. . . a meal for a King – Uppuma”

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Breakfast is unarguably the most important meal of the day.

I was raised in Germany on the old saying “….Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper” – something which I adhered to on and off over the years.

Like most of us I too rushed out in the morning far too often without a bite to eat, just a cup of coffee “on the run”, lunch often was a sandwich or two and come evening it was either a visit to a restaurant or pub, eating food which I should not eat, especially late in the evening. In Germany we normally try not to eat a full calorie-laden meal after 7 pm!

But, over the years, and with gained experience and with accumulated ‘wisdom’ I tried to eat more sensibly and healthy – not always succeeding, mind you!

So living here now, my eating plans simply had to change – and they did. I do not have what we call ‘European’ breakfast any longer, except when I make a small bowl of oats with a few raisins and a small spoonful of honey for myself to see me through till lunchtime. In the last 14 years, I have quite happily adopted to my new eating routine.

I love breakfast – and I so enjoy occasionally starting an often quite hectic day with one of South India’s most common and popular breakfast dishes.

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I do like ‘to ring the changes’ when it comes to our meals and therefore I find it a little bit difficult to talk about my favourite choice for a good Indian breakfast – after all I do like nearly all varieties of dhals, potato curry, Idlies with chutney and sambar, masala dosa etc etc and of course then there is UPPUMA – made from Wheat rava (semolina) with a few items added to suit our own personal taste bud. There are of course once again numerous slight variations on the same theme – but what I present to you today is, as usual, what we would serve you if you happened to join our breakfast table.

All measurements given are for 2 portions.

I like to buy pre-roasted Rava (Semolina) – so no need to fry this in your own kitchen any longer.

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1 x cup pre-roasted Rava (semolina)
½ x cup of Ullis (shallots) – sliced
2 x long green chillies, cut into 2-3 pieces, seeds not removed!
4 x cloves of garlic, sliced
1 x Tbsp Cashewnuts (or shelled Almonds)
1 x Tbsp Kismis (Raisins)

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½ x tsp of black mustard seeds
½ x tsp of black pepper
½ x Tbsp of Uppu (Salt) (you may want to adjust this)
2 x sprigs of Curry leaves
1 x Tbsp of vegetable oil
2 x cups of water (boiled)

Method:
Heat up a large wide vessel, add oil, when hot add mustard seeds (remember – those little sneaky ‘bullets’ will fly all over your stove – so keep pot covered for a couple of seconds), when they have stopped ‘popping’ add chillies, Ullis, garlic, raisins, nuts, curry leaves, salt and black pepper. On medium heat stir all this and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

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Now turn down heat even more and add Rava in a stream all over this mixture, stir again and again for another 2-3 minutes before adding the water.

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Mix well – making sure nothing sticks at the bottom or the sides of the vessel. Keep stirring before covering with a lid for another 3 minutes.

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This is usually the time when I have a quick sip of coffee!!

Switch off your flame, using a fork I break up any possible little lumps.

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Since I make Uppuma this way, I never ever have burnt bits at the bottom or sides of my vessel, just beautiful fluffy delicious Uppuma.

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This is normally served with a steamed banana.

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That’s it – all done – enjoy!

Namaskaram
Carina

A small gift for you – ALMONDS

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As long as I can remember come New Year’s Day I have made “Gebrannte Mandeln” (sugar-burnt-almonds) to give away to friends as a little ‘thank you’ for this and that.

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Wrapped in little cornucopias simply made out of newspaper they always bring a smile to everybody’s face; with most of us being reminded of those fun-filled childhood visits to our local Christmas Markets. Although I never had an overly sweet tooth this did not stop me from nagging my own mother to buy me a portion of those deliciously smelling ‘gebrannte mandeln’ each time we visited one of those markets – until she decided it would be cheaper making them at home.
To me and many people around the globe the almond is a symbol of good fortune and happiness.

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….already at sea en route to Germany, the biggest import market.”

And this is one of the main reasons why today I like to present each one of you with my little gift combined with my very best wishes for

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There are so many uses for this nut in the kitchen alone, too many to start listing them all here.

And although I use Almonds a lot in my kitchen, one of my own personal ‘comfort dishes’ (especially when the wretched cold/flu has hit me) is a nice bowl of rice pudding, laced with a pinch of cinnamon and a dollop or two (wicked!) of jam and some Almonds. By the way, this is also a Swedish Christmas Tradition.

Here in India we say that eating 10 Almonds a day is good for the brain (….oh yes?!) – and so I keep stocking up once a month!

And who does not know the 5 important health benefits of Almonds: they are of course as follows:
1) Almonds are a great source of healthy monounsaturated fats.
2) They are a good way to get your magnesium, copper, manganese and vitamin B
3) They are particularly high in antioxidant vitamin E
4) Eating Almonds instead of high carbohydrate foods has been shown to aid weight loss.
5) Vitamin E in Almonds protects your skin’s collagen to keep you looking younger for longer.

Now for you, who like to make those Almonds at home, here is this very simple recipe I have been using for so many years.
300 g Almonds (with skin on)
180 g white sugar (you can use more if you like, but ….)
2 Tbsp Cinnamon powder
The inside (pulp) of one Vanilla
40 ml water

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Take a large frying pan and on medium flame heat water, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla pulp stirring continuously until sugar has molten.
Add Almonds and continue stirring until all the Almonds are well covered. Now for the next 10-15 minutes keep stirring until all the water has evaporated and the Almonds have turned nicely brown.

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In the meantime line a tray with parchment paper and transfer all the Almonds onto this, spreading them out and simply let them dry for a little while. For this I put the whole lot into the oven (WITHOUT HEAT) for maybe 30 minutes or so.

That’s it – done – ready to be bottled or boxed and enjoyed.

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Come now and join me – jumping straight into a New Year, with a spring in one’s step, a song in one’s heart, a smile on one’s face and hope for a better tomorrow.

Namaskaram
Carina

Out with the Old – in with the New

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2016 – Nothing good is to write about that year (at least from my perspective) and so I will not dwell on all the sad, bad and unpleasant things – they came and went and now I want to leave those behind and just concentrate on the New Year ahead.

JS and I wish you all a better, happier, healthier and safer

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And to put you into the right mood tonight I like to give you all a little musical gift – one of the most famous musical pieces for this occasion

AULD LANG SYNE

so beautifully (and heart rendering) performed by the Band of the equally famous Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

I just know that, just like me, quite a number of you will need a handkerchief and I also know of at least one friend in Canada who will actually need 2 of them, – yes, this music is especially for you, Rebecca!

And if THE PIPES are not for you, you might like Rod Stewarts rendition live from beautiful Stirling Castle

or you, who still remember the 1940 film “Waterloo Bridge” (starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor), might enjoy listening to Michael Buble’ and Kylie Minogue’s version of AULD LANG SYNE.

Whatever – come midnight lets join hands through cyberspace and hope and pray for a more peaceful and happier NEW YEAR.

Carina
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Leg of Lamb

– Part of our memories of England, Tuscany and now India –

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The dish I served at one of my first dinner parties I gave way back in England to introduce JS to some of my friends was, at his request “English Leg of Lamb with all the trimmings” and he still keeps talking about it. He absolutely loved it and I could have made this for him quite easily once a week then.
When later we went to Florence, this beautiful city, I happen to mention to some of our Italian friends the “English Leg of Lamb……” story and guess what! Yes – right, one day at a beautiful Lunch in the Tuscan Countryside they served “Tuscan Leg of Lamb with a spread of beautifully oven roasted vegetables” from their garden – both JS and I thought we had gone to heaven.

But with all this incredible deliciousness maybe secretly a few of Indian spices were missing? So, it happened that when we returned home to South India we managed to get a nice piece of Lamb from one of our meat suppliers in town and set about making for a change an “Indian Leg of Lamb….

All this happened nearly 14 years ago and over time all three variations merged somewhat and we came up with our own Lamb dish.

We managed to get this piece of meat, just around 1 kg, from our new Hypermarket and …… forgot about it for some time in our freezer, until the other day when I had some sort of clear-out.

So in order not to keep on talking about all this, here is what we did earlier this week. But be warned, the “heat” is on (to suit our own taste), but of course, as always, you can turn it down a bit – not too much, though!!

For 2 people I used:

1 x Leg of Lamb, just around 1 kg
6 x green chillies (1 x cut into very thin rings, the rest cut in half)
3 x Onions, peeled and cut into quarters
6 x Carrots, peeled and cut into little chunks (see photos)
6 x Tomatoes, skin removed and cut into quarters
6 x Potatoes, peeled and cut into halves
1 x whole garlic bulb
8 – 10 x garlic cloves, peeled
Some slices of fresh ginger
1 ½ x tsp of Fennel seeds
1 ½ x tsp of Cumin powder
2 x Tbsp Chilli powder
1 ½ Tbsp Garam Masala powder
Salt and black pepper, to your taste
Some Bay leafs
1 whole bunch of fresh Coriander, washed, roots removed
1 x small bunch of fresh Mint, washed, roots removed
1 x handful of olives (from a jar)
1 x Tbsp good Balsamic Vinegar
1 – 2 x Tbsp of Malt Vinegar (check for your taste)
1 – 2 x cups of Water (mixed with the 2 vinegars)

How to prepare your Leg of Lamb:

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On a large baking sheet (big enough to hold the whole leg) put the following: chilli powder, cumin powder, garam masala powder, some salt and black pepper; mix this well, take your Leg of Lamb and just lay it on top of all your above spices and cover the whole leg well from all sides.

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Then, with a sharp knife, cut as many gashes into the meat as you like, (I cut 10) and stuff each one with a whole peeled garlic pod (remember, our garlic is small and so I use more here in India then I would back in Europe). I also cut 4 more gashes which I stuffed each with a sliver of fresh ginger. Cover lightly with a clean cloth and keep aside.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C.

How to prepare the “bed” for the Leg of Lamb:

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Take a baking pan (as in the photograph) – line the base loosely with a number of bay leaves, add all the green chillies, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, the garlic bulb, olives.

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Sprinkle some salt over the vegetables and then lay your Leg of Lamb on top of all this.

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And now here is something we learned in Tuscany, cover the meat with all your fresh mint and coriander. This not only gives your meat a subtle flavour but also protects it from coming in direct contact with the foil.

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Mix your 2 vinegars with the water and pour all around the meat and a couple of teaspoons of olive oil (you can of course also use vegetable oil) directly over the meat.

Now cover the whole lot loosely with foil and put it in the pre-heated oven for some time.

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Some time’ I say here, because it all varies from meat to meat and from oven to oven – never the 2 are the same!! So start of as usual, but keep checking after 1 ½ hours.

I checked this time after 2 hours but the meat was not quite ready, so back in it went again for another 20 minutes, checked, done! The smell was enticing – the meat came nearly off the bone.

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I let it rest, with cover on, for 15 minutes and then we were able to sit down for our Lunch.

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N.B. We also like to add some (frozen) green peas, but unfortunately I had non in the freezer this time.

Re the spices, of course you can tone this down a bit, but remember, this is not a traditional ‘European Leg of Lamb’.

Since I do not eat much rice, but enjoy lots of vegetables, I will include more carrots, onions and tomatoes next time.

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So, that’s it! Guten Appetit.

Namaskaram
Carina

Mild Leek Soup

….. with an Indian/Welsh twist …..

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As many of you know by now – I do love vegetables ……or at least most of them!

When I grew up Leeks, in one form or another, appeared on our table at least once or twice a week.

Grandpa had a nice biggish vegetable garden behind his house where he grew nearly everything possible and the women in the family at that time always managed to come up with a wonderful variety of recipes for this and other vegetables.

But since leeks are not always readily available in the Supermarkets here, I make full use of them whenever I find them in their shelves. This means that we will be eating leeks at least 2-3 times that week – changing my recipes around to avoid boredom. And yes, this is just one of those weeks – a delivery of leeks had arrived in our Supermarket and so, you guessed it, I have been cooking various different dishes, partly from memory, partly from my little box of old old recipes and partly with my new ‘spur-of-the-moment’ input. So far, touch wood, I seem to have hit just the right button on my taste buds and hopefully at least some of you, who read this, will like today’s delicious soup and the other leek recipes which will be posted in the near future.

This following recipe is pretty much a standard one – in fact ideal for a light supper or an after party treat.

What does she mean by this, I hear you ask – simple, exactly what I wrote.

Many many years ago I started a habit (which soon became a sort of ‘tradition’ in our house). I started serving big chunky mugs filled with delicious hot nourishing soup after our official entertaining. Some of you know these occasions, where in a room (or garden) filled with well over 100 people one does not have a chance talking to some of the people one would really like to talk, like old friends etc., due to protocol, priority or whatever. Just imagine weddings, big birthday bashes etc. – so we started asking certain people discreetly to stay behind after the 2-hour long reception, which was very much appreciated, more so when we lived abroad somewhere on this planet. The ladies were only too happy to shed their high heeled shoes and literally flop onto the nearest sofas, chairs or even floor. The men, tie loosened, followed quickly suit and that’s when we brought out our soup. And after a few drinks and delicious ‘finger food’, the hot heart-warming, soul refreshing soup, was more than well received.

This became such a success that it was not only copied (the biggest form of flattery, right ?) but guests started to ask “what is the soup of the night?” And so I kept this by now ‘tradition’ going well past retirement from official life.

As always, I tell you what I used here for 2 people – so do not be too rigid – adjust to your own need and taste.

What you need:

250 gr Mincemeat (Keema)
3 x medium sized leeks, cleaned, most of the top green part discarded
4 x garlic cloves, finely chopped (or use garlic powder) – optional.
2 x Beef- or Vegetable Stock cubes dissolved in appr. 500 ml water
200 – 250 x gr of soft cheese (I used Mozzarella), cut into small cubes
3 x Tbsp of thick curd or crème fraîche
1 x medium sized potato, peeled and sliced thinly
Salt, pepper, to taste
2 x tsp (home-made) curry powder
2 x tsp paprika powder
2 x tsp ground nutmeg
2 x Tbsp Vegetable oil

How to cook:

First of all prepare your leeks further by washing them thoroughly to remove all the dirt between the layers. Then cut them into fine rings and keep aside.
Heat the oil in a wide pot – add the Mincemeat and quickly fry this for app. 5-8 minutes; add salt and pepper. Stir.

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Now add the previously prepared leeks, mix and fry this further for another 5 minutes or so.

Add the stock, stir, reduce heat to fairly low, cover with lid and let this cook for maybe 10 minutes (check – don’t let leeks get mushy).

Add the cheese, Mozzarella is fine here, let it melt completely.

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Add curd or crème fraîche and turn up heat a little bit for just a couple of minutes. Keep stirring.

Taste and add all the remaining spices. Mix well and check if this to your own liking.

I frequently serve just a couple of thin slices of ‘French bread’, slightly toasted and my own garlic butter scraped over it.

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That’s it. Guten Appetit.

Namaskaram
Carina