Monday, December 26, 2011

World's Fluffiest Pancakes

Is there anything better than waking up to the smell of freshly made pancakes on a Sunday morning? Well, perhaps on every other day of the week too! I promise it won't disappoint if you've got a little extra time up your sleeve and feel like going the extra mile to make these cloud-like delights. There is one golden rule to a good pancake - it must be fried in butter - that wonderfully rich and artery damaging gift from the beloved bovine, not oil nor margarine!

Preparation time:      10 minutes
Cooking time:           20 minutes
Ingredients:              2 cups of all purpose flour
                              1 tsp of baking powder
                              3/4 cup of milk
                              1 cup of buttermilk
                              2 tblspn of sugar
                              1/4 cup of melted butter
                              2 eggs - separated
                              Pinch of salt
                              1 tsp of vanilla extract
                              1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

In a large bowl sift together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl whisk together the milk, butter milk, melted butter, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Combine the 2 bowls mixing well. Finally beat eggs whites and bicarbonate soda* together until firm peaks form. Heat a small amount of butter in a pan over medium heat - I can't stress enough how important it is to cook pancakes in butter rather than oil. Pour and spread pancakes accordingly flipping once small bubbles rise to the surface - generally between 2 and 3 minutes.

*The bicarbonate soda serves to form stronger and longer lasting egg whites.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peanut Butter Balls

Diabetics beware
Peanut butter balls are as deadly as the name sounds - even if you don't have a peanut allergy. I stumbled upon them one Christmas when an overzealous sales representative brought in some sweet treats to boost our ever-swaggering moral. Now they've became a staple in my home and workplace in order to ensure the silly season doesn't get a hold of us. The crisp chocolate coating resembling a rich truffle with a sweet, crunchy and nutty centre that doesn't disappoint. One problem. The moreish factor.

Preparation time:    1 hour
Refrigeration time:  45 minutes
Ingredients:           1 1/2 cups of icing sugar
                           1 1/2 cups of peanut butter
                           1/2 cup of melted butter
                           1 tsp of vanilla extract
                           3 cups of puffed rice breakfast cereal                                                                                                    
                           200 grams of melted cooking chocolate
                           Sweet cocoa or icing sugar for dusting

In a large bowl combine icing sugar, peanut butter, melted butter, vanilla extract and puffed rice. Mix well. Refrigerate for 45 minutes or until firm enough to work into balls. Melt cooking chocolate in a bowl resting above slowly simmering water, stir intermittently to avoid the burning the chocolate whilst maintaining its lustre. Take rolled balls of chilled mixture and coat in chocolate using a toothpick.

Serve with a dusting of sweet cocoa or icing sugar.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cheesy Eggplant Nuggets

Cheesy Eggplant Nuggets
Glorious eggplant. Some say its flavourless but I'm a firm believer in one man's trash is another's treasure. Although it may be bland its unique texture makes it a wonderful vessel to combine with other flavours. In this case I'm talking about vintage cheese sandwiched between eggplant slices, dipped in a light herb and garlic batter then quickly fried for a crispy outer coating.

This recipe is a little bit fiddly - especially in the construction - but definitely worth the trouble after gorging on the end result.

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time:      20 minutes
Ingredients:         2 medium sized eggplants
                         100 grams of sliced cheese
                         1 cup of plain flour
                         1/2 tsp of dry yeast
                         Salt and pepper
                         1 tsp of mustard powder
                         Finely chopped chives
                         1 tsp of garlic powder
                         1 cup of lukewarm water
To make batter add flour, mustard powder, salt, pepper and garlic powder together. Make a well in this mixture to place the yeast. Pour in lukewarm water. Add chives and stir well. Leave to rest for half an hour in a warm place. Slice the eggplants into 1/2 rings. 

Salting the eggplant to extract bitterness.
Salt the eggplants and leave them for 10 minutes before wiping away excess salt and liquids. Fry in hot pan until golden brown yet still firm. Preheat oil for deep frying to 170 degrees centigrade. Sandwich thinly sliced cheese between the fried eggplant rings. Use toothpicks to secure the halves and dip into batter. Movingly quickly to ensure an even coating is achieved. Fry until golden and crispy.

Serve with guacamole, hummus, tzatziki or sweet chili sauce.

Easy Chicken Curry

Mochilero's Chicken Curry
A chicken curry that won't burn the gullet.
One of life's simple pleasures. Nothing satisfies more than a warm bowl of smooth chicken curry. Unfortunately a lot of people are scared away from eating curry by all the connotations of unbearable heat associated with it. Curry need not be hot and spicy, its cooked using the right combinations of spices it can be utterly rewarding.With a few basic spices you can create the most amazing family friendly combinations. 

I'd often make this quick and easy curry when I was living in various hostels since it only requires one pot and the few ingredients can go a long way.

Serves:              6
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time:      40 minutes
Ingredients:           1 onion - diced
                                1 cup of diced carrot
                                1 cup of diced potato
                                1 cup of frozen peas
                                1 small chicken breast - diced 
                                3 cups of stock
                                4 teeth of garlic
                                1 large tsp of crushed ginger
                                1 tsp cumin - ground
                                1 tsp fennel - ground
                                1 tsp turmeric powder
                                1 tbspn of sugar
                                1 tbspn of coconut cream powder
                                2 tbspns of plain flour

Fry the onion, sugar, garlic, ginger, cumin, fennel and turmeric and a large pot. Add diced chicken brown with the plain flour and coconut cream powder. Once well browned add carrots, peas and potato. Cover with stock. Let simmer for 40 minutes ensuring the stock reduces to form a rich gravy. Stir occasionally and add water as necessary.

Foolproof and no-mess.

Serve with rice and sour cream to taste. If you like things on the spicy side chili makes an excellent addition when frying the onions.


Curried Banana Bread

Siamese Loaf
Don't forget to be excessive with the butter!
Being an avid lover of banana bread I'm always keen to see new varieties of this tried and true staple. Not only is it foolproof but a great way to use those dreary looking left over bananas at the end of the week. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to have a curried banana bread served upon my plate. Contrary to how it may seem its far from spicy, the curry lends a nice warmth to the loaf akin to that of ginger bread. If curiosity hadn't gotten the better of me I wouldn't have even known that Keen's curry is the magic ingredient. 

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time:      1 hour
Ingredients:        2 bananas
                        1/4 of sultanas
                        1/4 cup of crushed pineapple
                        1/2 cup of sugar
                        1/2 cup of brown sugar
                        1/2 cup of melted butter
                        2 tsp of coconut cream powder
                        1 and 1/2 cups of flour
                        1 tsp of baking powder
                        1 egg
                        2 tsp of Keen's curry powder.

The browning banana need not go to waste.

Mix mashed bananas, pineapple and sugars together. Stir in sultanas, egg, butter and curry. Finally sift in flour, coconut cream powder and baking powder. Mix well until forms a thick batter. Oil loaf pan and bake mixture at 150 centigrade for 1 hour. Loaf should part from the edges of the pan.

Make sure not to let the warmth go to waste and eat it fresh with plenty of butter!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Heartwarming Bacon Lentils

I'd lived the last 20 years of my life thinking that lentils were something you only ate if you were either a) a devout vegan or b) had no remaining taste-buds. Little did I know that lentils could become an incredibly rich and fulfilling meal on their own accord.

Not only are they delicious, a great source of protein and score low on the GI scale but easy to cook too. It's one of those dishes you can prepare earlier in the day and leave simmering away gently whilst all flavours and aromas release themselves into the broth.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time:      2 hours +
Ingredients:        1 cup of green lentils
                        3 cups of water
                        1 cup of carrot - diced
                        1 large onion - diced
                        2 rashers of bacon - diced
                        1 cup of frozen peas
                        1 20 grams of butter
                        4 teeth of garlic
                        Tsp oregano
                        Tsp powdered ginger
                        Tsp cumin
                        Tsp tumeric
                        Tsp chili
                        2 cups of preferred stock

Red, green and black lentils are all low GI.

Cook lentils with 3 cups of water until tenderized, generally taking 45 minutes to an hour then drain. Fry in a large pot the butter, bacon, onion and various herbs and spices. Add lentils, carrots and peas to the pot. Cover with stock. Cover and simmer for a minimum of 1 hour. Add water as necessary. Reduce the stock as desired.

Mighty good served with rice, patacones and an egg - sunny side up.

Creamy Garlic Guacamole

Creamy Garlic Guacamole
Unfortunately like most children I never caught onto the magic that is avocado. Its vibrant green colour may be slightly offensive to those out of the loop but it doesn't take long to discover the secret love hidden within its wrinkly exterior.

The downside of learning to love the avocado is the addiction - and it's not a cheap one at that. Hence I considered it not only my right but also my responsibility to take advantage of the cheap produce to be found in the markets of Colombia

Needless to say that guacamole became a daily ritual. After experiencing a whole host of guacamole recipes I find myself doting on creamy garlic guac.

Ingredients: Mashed avocado
                 Cayenne pepper
                 Finely crushed garlic
                 Sour cream
                 Lemon juice
                 Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the shallot, garlic and a light touch of cayenne pepper with salt to help sweat the shallot. Let this cool then stir through the mashed avocado adding 1 tablespoon of sour cream per avocado. Add salt and pepper to taste and lemon juice to stop the mixture from turning brown.

Ideally served with crackers, corn chips, patacones or on sandwiches as a healthy alternative to mayonnaise. 

Green Fried Bananas

Plantains - unripened bananas
Sometimes known as tostones are a deliciously deadly side dish served in Latin America. Prepared from twice fried plantains, heavily salted and served with a range of sauces and toppings make it easy to understand why this decadent treat has found its way into my recipe collection.

This ridiculously simple recipe was introduced to me by some friends in Colombia. Being a 20 something male I was keen to see what could be made with nothing more than the common green banana, excessive amounts of salt and a frying filled to the brim with oil.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time:      20 minutes
Ingredients:        Plantains (green bananas)
                        Oil for frying
                        Toppings of your choice

Inch long pieces of plantain fried until golden brown. Approx. 8-10 minutes.
After dicing the plantains either length-ways or in rounds the pieces where then they are fried until golden brown. Once drained they get crushed wafer thin between slices of baking paper using a tostonera. My personal tostonera comes in the form of a saucepan. Needless to say its a great form of stress relief.

The flattened plantain discs can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before being re-fried. Rub generously with salt and fry the flattened discs for some minutes until crunchy. Salt again before serving. 

Ideally served as a snack with guacamole, hummus,  baba ghannouj or any dip of your liking. Also great alongside lentils, cerviche or plain old steak and chips.

Patacones served with haloumi cheese, ham and salad.