Tag: garlic

Mussels with Spices, Ginger, Lemongrass and Coriander

Mussels with Ginger, Lemon Grass + Coriander

Last summer I enjoyed a sumptuous dinner in a beautiful candle lit garden at an old villa surrounded by fragrant Stephanotis and Plumbago. The setting was just perfect and the food divine as always, cooked by my dear friend Vanessa. She treated us to the freshest seafood, prepared in inspiring variations. We started the dinner with mussels cooked with coriander, turmeric, cayenne and ginger in a wonderful broth made with coconut milk and lemon. I was never too fond of mussels until that night. I used to cook them with celery, carrots and onions in white wine which is nice but the exotic mixture of spices and herbs was something special and unexpected.

When I bought the mussels for our dinner I knew I would take Vanessa’s version and mix it with mine. I used white wine instead of coconut milk but adopted her mix of coriander, turmeric, cayenne and ginger. To this I added some lemongrass, garlic, spring onions and carrots. The velvety broth was a fantastic match for the mussels, very bold while not overpowering the fresh sea taste of the mussels. We finished all the mussels and soaked up every drop of the remaining broth with some Ciabatta bread.

Mussels with Ginger, Lemon Grass + Coriander

Mussels with Spices, Ginger, Lemongrass and Coriander

For 2 hungry people you need

mussels, rinsed, 1 kg / 2 pounds
garlic, crushed, 1 clove
spring onions, cut into slices, 2
carrot, cut into cubes, 1
ginger, grated, thumbnail size
lemongrass, cut into thin slices, a 7cm / 3″ piece
coriander seeds, ground, 1 teaspoon
turmeric, ground, 1/3 teaspoon
cayenne pepper, ground, 1/8 teaspoon
salt 1/2 teaspoon
white wine 250ml
lemon juice 1 tablespoon
oil for frying 2 tablespoons
fresh coriander, chopped, a handful

Heat the oil in a large pot and fry the ginger, lemongrass, garlic and vegetables for a couple minutes. Add the ground spices, mix and fry for another minute. Pour the wine and lemon juice into the pot and bring to the boil, season with salt. Add the mussels and mix with the liquid. Close with a lid and turn down the heat to the lowest temperature. Steam for 5 minutes or until the shells open. Take out the mussels which didn’t open, you should not eat them! Mix in the coriander leaves and serve on big plates.

Mussels with Ginger, Lemon Grass + Coriander

Salmon with a Crust of Winter Spices

Salmon with Winter Spices

Salmon is great to combine with strong flavours. Its own taste is so strong and unique but blends in perfectly with all kinds of herbs and spices, even exotic curry mixtures. When I saw this nice salmon steak at the fish counter I had to buy it. I didn’t even plan to cook fish but it looked too good to pass by.

At the moment, I use a lot of juniper, bay leaves and cloves, the typical winter spices. I decided to give them a try on the salmon as well – as a rough crust. They are very strong and aromatic spices, a bit sweet and smoky. It was more an experiment of sorts but I was really impressed by the result. We ate it with fresh bread and a salad on the side. Enjoy a glass of white wine with your meal and you will have a small dose of summer in January!

Salmon with Winter Spices

Salmon with a Crust of Bay Leaf, Juniper and Clove

For 2 people you need

salmon steak, around 2cm / 3/4″ thick, 1 big or 2 smaller steaks
olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

For the crust

garlic, crushed, 1 clove
bay leaves, ground in a mortar, 2
juniper berries, ground in a mortar, 2
cloves, ground in a mortar, 2
black pepper, ground in a mortar, 6

Set your oven to 200°C / 390°F.

Grind all the ingredients for the crust in a mortar until you have a combined paste. Heat some oil in a non-stick pan (highest temperature). Rinse and dry the fish, season with salt and pepper and fry for 1 minute (on each side). Take the fish off the heat and spread the paste on the top side of the steak. Pour a bit of oil in a baking dish, mix with the lemon juice and place your  salmon steak on top. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes, when you can lift the fish from the bones it’s done.

The last spaghetti (in 2013)

Spaghetti with Aubergine + Oregano

The last day of the year always gives me a funny feeling, an emotional mixture of memories, feelings – and excitement for what the future will bring.

I need some pasta to relax.

Tonight, we are invited to dinner, we will have cheese fondue. I don’t want to eat too much for lunch before this cheese feast but I have some grilled aubergine left from our Sunday pizza. Golden brown and soft, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano, crushed garlic, salt and pepper – I just cut them in bite sized pieces. I throw some spaghetti in boiling water, when they are done, mix them with the aubergine, a bit of olive oil, some more dried oregano and crushed pepper and sea salt – from Mr. Cini’s salt pans in Gozo. You can sprinkle some Parmesan on top if you like. A simple meal to relax in the last hours of 2013!

Spaghetti with Aubergine + Oregano

 

Spaghetti with Aubergine + Oregano

My Sunday Pizza Tradition

Pizza Aubergine + Pecorin

Another tradition of mine – I always bake pizza on Sundays, always. My friends joke about my unwavering dedication (I barely break this tradition) but to me pizza is the ultimate cosy mood food. Nothing beats an evening on my sofa with a nice big piece of pizza in my hands and a good movie. It’s the perfect preparation for a smooth transition into a new week. So why change it.  The only variation is what’s on top which depends on the season, my appetite and spontaneous inspiration. So far, my Sunday tradition has never seemed boring.

For today, my pizza gets a topping with aubergine slices (grilled with garlic and oregano oil), Pecorino slices and one part with ricotta. A very concentrated tomato sauce with lots of oregano and slices of organic Mozzarella go with it, that’s all it needs. I make the pizza dough with olive oil which makes it richer and very tasty. A very easy recipe, it takes its time to rise but it’s worth it. Nothing beats homemade pizza dough! It makes such a big difference to the taste – and kneading the dough with your own hands is great stress relief!

For years I made my pizza base the same way. First I let it rise in a bowl and then, a second time, on a baking sheet before I put the topping on. This summer I got a great tip from a friend of mine from Switzerland. He told me to put the baking sheet for the pizza on the bottom of the oven while the oven is heating up. As soon as the baking sheet is hot you take it out of the oven and flip it over. You take the well risen pizza dough (which has been rolled out) and place it on the hot baking sheet. The dough will start to rise and bake straight away which makes an amazing crust – like pizza stone. Once the topping is on, bake it in the oven for a few minutes and you will get the crispiest pizza you can imagine!

Pizza Aubergine + Pecorin

Pizza with Aubergine and Pecorino

I start to prepare the dough 2 hours before I bake it to give it enough time to rise.

For 1 big pizza (size of 1 baking sheet) you need

For the dough

plain flour 350g / 12.5 ounces plus more for mixing
dry yeast 1 package for 500g / 1 pound of flour
water, lukewarm,  190ml
olive oil 3 tablespoons
salt 1 teaspoon

Combine the flour with the yeast and salt, add the olive oil and the lukewarm water, slowly, not all at once (you might not need all of it). Mix with your dough hooks for a few minutes. The dough shouldn’t be moist and sticky at all, more on the dry side. Continue kneading and punching with your hands until you have an elastic dough ball, not too hard, not sticky. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let it rise in the warm oven (35°C / 95°F) for 40 minutes. This works really well but make sure that your oven is set to top/ bottom heat and not to fan.

When the dough is well risen, roll it out on a very well floured (this is very important!) working surface. It should be a bit smaller than the size of your baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for another 10-15 minutes

For the tomato sauce

tinned tomatoes 400g / 14 ounces
oregano, dried or fresh, 1 tablespoon plus more for topping
salt (1 teaspoon) and pepper

Mix the ingredients in a small sauce pan, chop the tomatoes and let everything cook down until very concentrated and thick. If you leave the sauce too liquid it will be soaked up by your pizza base.

For the topping

I prepared the grilled aubergine a day before. You can keep it in the fridge for days and use it for other recipes as well, or enjoy it as antipasti.

aubergine, cut in thick slices, 1
garlic, crushed, 1 clove
olive oil to brush the aubergine and to drizzle on top of the pizza
salt and pepper
Pecorino cheese, cut in thin slices, 100g / 3.5 ounces
mozzarella, cut in cubes, 125g / 4.5 ounces
ricotta, 100g / 3.5 ounces
(I sprinkled just 1/4 of the pizza with ricotta)

Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Grill in the oven until golden brown and soft and cut in long strips.

The pizza

Set your oven to 260°C / 500°F. My oven has a special pizza setting but you can use top / bottom heat as well. Put the baking sheet on the bottom of your oven to heat it.

Take the hot baking sheet out of the oven, flip it over and place it carefully on two stable wooden boards or mats as it will be very hot. Place your risen dough carefully but quickly (best done by two people) on the baking sheet, push it gently into place if necessary. Spread the tomato sauce on top and sprinkle with oregano, continue with the aubergine, Pecorino, mozzarella and ricotta. Put the baking sheet back into the oven, on the bottom again, and bake for a few minutes until the pizza is golden brown, bubbling and crisp!

Pizza Aubergine + Pecorin

 

Pizza Aubergine + Pecorino

A Celebration of Roots, Garlicky Potatoes and Gingery Rutabaga

Roots

This meal celebrates roots in all their variety. On one side, mashed potatoes which are absolutely addictive, combined with garlic and lemon.  The mash is fluffy, it is tasty and it is so good that you don’t really need anything else with it but I want another root on the plate: rutabaga (also known as swede). This root gets spiced up with ginger as the two flavors combine perfectly.

Winter is the time for roots and I love to try out different variations otherwise I wouldn’t be able to eat it for so many months. But there is so much you can do with it! You just have to be a bit brave and play around with it. The potato-garlic-lemon idea came up because we love mash potatoes (also in the very basic version) but I thought it would be nice to add some favors to make it more suitable for other, more extreme combinations like the gingery rutabaga for example. Together with garlic and lemon we can still have our mash on the plate even when there are more exotic roots involved!

Roots

Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and Lemon and Gingery Rutabaga

For two people you need

For the mash (the amounts are a rough guideline)

medium potatoes, cooked, 6
clove of garlic, crushed, 1
juice of half a lemon
olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons
butter, 30g / 1 ounce
milk, around 150-200ml
salt and pepper

Heat up all the ingredients in a pot on medium heat and mash. If the mixture becomes too dry add more milk, if it is too liquid let it cook a bit more. Season with salt and pepper.

For the rutabaga

one small rutabaga, peeled
ginger, grated, a thumbnail sized piece
olive oil for frying
white wine for deglazing
salt and pepper

Cut the rutabaga in very thin slices (about 2mm). Cut these slices in strips (1cm / 1/2″) and cut these strips in 2-3cm / 1″ pieces (see my first picture for the shape).

Heat up the oil in a pan, add the rutabaga and let it become golden. Add the ginger, fry for a minute and deglaze with the wine. Add salt and pepper and a splash of water if necessary (the liquid should come up to 2cm / 1″), close with a lid and let it cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Check the rutabaga in between as it shouldn’t get too soft and season with salt and pepper if necessary.