31 October, 2009

Chicken Fricassee with Green Asparagus and Mushrooms

This chicken ragout is one of my comfort foods that I cook when I want to feel like home back in Germany. It's called fricassee in Germany and it's a dish that I have never had at restaurants. To me, fricassee has to be home-made, no matter what. I love the straightforward taste of chicken rounded with asparagus and mushrooms and spiced  with capers. It's still a light dish, as all its ingredients are light and the gravy contains just a little butter and flour.
It takes some time to cook the chicken, but after that it's pretty quick and can be made well in advance. It's served with rice or boiled potatoes.

(Print Recipe)

1 whole chicken (ca. 1200g)
1 carrot
1 small leek
1 small celery root
bunch of parsley

1 tablespoon butter
1 heaped tablespoon of wholemeal flour
300ml-500ml chicken broth

250g mushrooms (quartered)
300g fresh green asparagus (or 1 can of green asparagus), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons capers

Serves 4
Wash the chicken under running water and put it in a big heavy-bottomed pot. Cut celery roots, carrot and leek into big chunks and add to the pot. Add the parsley. Fill up with about 2 liters of water. Season generously with salt. Bring to the boil. Once it boils, turn down the heat and let simmer for about one hour. Take the chicken out. Drain the broth and keep it. Discard the vegetables. Let the chicken cool. Once it's cooled down, tear of all big chunky meat from the bones. Cut the chicken meat into bite sizes and set aside.

In another heavy-bottomed pot, let the butter melt. Once it's melted whisk in the flour. Slowly add the chicken broth bit by bit, altogether about 300ml or up to 500ml of you like it with lots of sauce. Keep on whisking. Once the sauce thickens, add the mushrooms and the raw asparagus. Cook them in the sauce until crisp to tender (if you use canned asparagus, add it at the very last, as the canned ones are usually quite soft and dissolve quickly). Add the chicken chunks and the capers and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Transfer to serving dish. Serve with rice or boiled potatoes.
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28 October, 2009

Green Bean and Chicken Gnocchi

I'd like to share another of our favorite dinner dishes: a one-skillet dish with Italian potato dumplings, grilled chicken and green beans with some natural flavoring through sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts.  We have had this for so long, I can't quite remember how we got this together. If I am not mistaken, it stems from the time when I was pregnant and were constantly hungry for green leafy vegetables. The original recipe was vegetarian and with Brussels sprouts. I fed them to family until everyone was overdosed on them. At that time I played around with other green vegetables and we  stuck with the green beans. The vegetables are surely replaceable though I'd stick to green ones. We tried mushrooms and it didn't quite work. The pine nuts are also replaceable by other nuts like walnuts. And the chicken, of course, can be omitted altogether.
Whatever you like, whatever you have at hand:  It will be tasty. It will be healthy. It's sort of quick if you prepare all ingredients at the same time. Just a few dishes to wash afterwards.....

400g Gnocchi (ready-made)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 chicken breasts
350g green beans
8-10 dried tomatoes
1 handful toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
nutmeg to taste
salt to taste

Serves 2-3
Marinade the chicken breasts in soy sauce for at least 20-30 minutes. Grill chicken breasts in the oven for about 10 minutes, turn them and grill for another 5-8 minutes or until cooked. Set aside and let cool. Cut into bite sizes, once you can handle them.
Clean the green beans by cutting off the ends. Cut the beans into 1-inch pieces. Steam over boiling water for about 10 minutes. Take of the heat and set aside.
Cook the Gnocchi according to instructions. Drain them.
Toast the pine nuts on medium heat in a dry pan for about 5 minutes. Set aside. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes.

Heat butter in a deep saucepan. Add the rosemary. Stir in the drained Gnocchi. Keep stirring until they become slightly golden.  Add the chicken pieces, green beans and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir gently until everything is heated through. Season with freshly grated nutmeg and salt to taste. Stir in the toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately.
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24 October, 2009

Bean and Tuna Salad

My lunch has to get me going until 7 or 8pm. Therefore, I recently got into the habit of always having some cooked beans in the fridge. They make a perfect base for a salad. Very healthy with good proteins and low fat, easy to cook in advance and keep for a couple of days, and versatile as they can be combined with almost everything.
This salad in particular I love for lunch as it is healthy but filling, as I have to run after two small children, one of them still breastfeeding. The good thing is, when time is short, that it can easily be made out of tins (tuna and beans). Just add some tomatoes, onion and green leaves. And there you go!!!

200g white dry white or  soy beans (or 1 can of beans, rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 cup bok choy, cut into strips
1 can chunk light tuna in water, drained and flaked

3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Serves 2-3
Soak white beans in water for at least 4 hours. Drain and cook in water for about 30 minutes. Let cool. Steam the bok choy for about 2 minutes or until wilted.
Combine beans with tomatoes, onion, bok choy and half the tuna.
Combine all dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour over the vegetables tuna salad and stir. Sprinkle remaining tuna on top. Ready to serve.
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22 October, 2009

Leek Millet Bake

This millet bake has been one of our long-time favorites, although there are many down-sides to it: It is not a quick meal, and you'll have a lot of dishes to wash afterwards.  But I promise you: it's worth every minute you spend preparing it and tidying up.
One good news though: it can be made in advance. By dinner time you just put the bake in the oven and heat it up. Since all ingredients are cooked already, it doesn't take long. For that reason, it's a good dish to have if you have dinner guests as it can be varied according to anyone's taste, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, with various vegetables.
The basic ingredients are the millet and the leek, the chicken is optional, as are any other vegetables. We often have this bake just with green vegetables. This time I had some steamed pumpkin over from the pumpkin biscuits that I made the other day and I just threw it in. It's up to your taste buds really.

1 cup millet
2 cups of water
1 pinch each of dried herbs, oregano, thyme, rosemary
1 teaspoon salt

2 leeks, cut into 1cm rings
1 pound of pumpkin, cut into bite size
2 handful of spinach, chard or kale, cut into stripes

2 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons soy sauce

5 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 cup of low-fat sour cream
100g grated Mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon of oil

Serves 4

Marinate the chicken breasts in the soy sauce for at least one hour. Oven-grill the chicken until cooked through. 10-12 minutes. Let cool. Then cut into bite sizes. Set aside.

Cook the millet in the water and add salt and the dried herbs. Once the water is boiling turn the heat down and let simmer until all liquid is absorbed.

Steam the vegetables (apart from the green leafy ones) until tender. Add the green leaves just before the other vegetables are done. Take everything off the heat once they are wilted.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Grease an oven-proof dish with olive oil. Combine millet, steamed vegetables, chicken and sunflower seeds. Stir in gently the sour cream. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.
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21 October, 2009

Pumpkin Walnut Cookies

Germans don't do Thanksgiving and Halloween. Neither do the South Africans, to whom I am married. We currently live in Dubai, in a Muslim country, who, least of all have any relation to any of these events. There is an expat community out here amongst which Halloween seems popular. However, my 4-year-old son hates dressing up in costumes. So even from his side no real interest in all this.
Nevertheless, the least I can do is using some nice seasonal autumn vegetables and fruit in my cooking and baking. These pumpkin cookies are just perfect for breakfast as well as for a snack between meals. Not too sweet, and still not savory, yet seasoned with cinnamon and ginger spicy enough to give it a round delicious taste. The walnut pieces inside the biscuit add a little crunchiness to the otherwise chewy biscuit.

1 3/4 cups wholewheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup solidly packed cooked/steamed pumpkin
3 tablespoons agave syrup
5 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup full-fat milk
2 teaspoons honey
12-15 walnut halves for garnish

Makes ca. 12 cookies
Cut pumpkin into bite size pieces and steam until tender. Let cool, then mash.
Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Cut the butter into little pieces and add to the flour mixture. Using your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mixture until it gets a slightly crumbly texture. Then stir in the chopped walnuts.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, mashed pumpkin, agave syrup and honey. Add wet ingredients to flour-butter mixture. Stir briskly until well combined. Let stand for a few minutes.
Grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
Flour your hands and your work surface. Gently knead the dough into a ball, then pat it into a 1-inch-thick disk. ut the dough into circles (using a cookie cutter or small drinking glass) and place them on the cookie sheet, leaving a couple of inches between them. Repeat this process until you've used all the dough.
Put one walnut half on each cookie, pressing it a little into the dough. Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes on center oven rack or until light golden brown. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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20 October, 2009

Bulgur Salad with Beans and Stir-Fried Vegetables

What took me so long?????
I discovered Bulgur (or cracked wheat) for my cooking a few days ago. I must admit, I never really had it before. It is so delicious, the whole 500g-package was being used up within two days. I put it virtually in every meal. Husband liked it, even the kids accepted it. They normally eat any kind of grains just with a little melted butter and some salt. Works well with bulgur.
I like the size and texture bulgur grains: sizewise between rice and couscous. The texture keeps a bite to it, after cooking. Therefore, perfect to be used in salads, as side dish, even in soups.
Here some nutritional facts that will convince everyone interested in a healthy diet:
Bulgur wheat is a natural whole grain food, high in fiber and carbohydrate and low in fat. It has a low glycemic index. It is rich in "B" vitamins, iron, phosphorous and manganese. It complements the protein profile of legumes such as pinto beans. Its "B" vitamins complement the folate in vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli or Brussels sprouts.

1 cup bulgur
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup dried beans (e.g. soya beans, black eyed peas), or one can of beans
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion
2 bell peppers (red and yellow)
1 bunch bok choy ( or other green leaf vegetable: spinach, chard, kale)

2-3 tablespoons sundried tomato pesto*

Soak the dried beans for a few hours. Cook in slightly salted water until tender. Make sure not to overcook them. They are better in salads when they keep a bit of a bite. Drain and set aside.

In a bowl, pour 3 cups of boiling water over bulgur. Let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and press out remaining water. Transfer bulgur into serving bowl.

In a wok or non-stick skillet, heat olive over high heat. Stir fry onion for about 5 minutes, then add peppers and cook for another 3 minutes or until golden brown. Add the chopped bok choy and cook until wilted. Take off the heat.

Combine beans and vegetables with the bulgur. Stir in sun-dried tomato pesto to taste. Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto (Pesto Rosso):
Combine 60g of sun-dried tomatoes with 60g of pine nuts (or walnuts) and some 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. Optional: add 1-2 garlic cloves. Blend in a food processor until smooth.
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17 October, 2009

Fast and Simple Fish Stew

In the course of my learning-how-to-cook experience I came up with this most versatile tomato sauce that can be used as a base for many dishes: either thinned out and spiced up for a delicious tomato soup, combined with curry and chicken or vegetables for a quick curry, pureed as tomato sauce for my kids' pasta. The list is endless.
This fish stew is another way of using it: make the tomato base, throw in some fish stock, cubed fish fillets and some green leafy vegetables and you have a really nice meal in no time.

2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 onions
4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
6 plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup fish stock (or clam brine)
1/2 cup white wine (optional, use more fish stock if you don't use wine)
500g white fish fillet (cut into bite sizes)
300g spinach leaves (chopped)
tabasco sauce to taste

Serves 3-4
Heat the oil in a pan. Cut the onions into fine rings and fry them until soft, about 5 minutes. Add crushed garlic. Cut the tomatoes into bite sizes and add to pan. Add tomato paste, fish stock and white wine and bring to boil. Simmer on low heat for about 15-20 minutes. Add the fish cubes and cook for about 5 minutes, Stir in spinach and cook until wilted. Season with a few drops of tabasco sauce to taste.
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16 October, 2009

Spinach Cauliflower Soup

The other day, I ended up with two big cauliflower heads in my fridge. I simply forgot that I hadn't used the first one when I bought the other. As they take up quite a bit of fridge space, I decided to use one immediately and make a soup out it. Knowing that my husband is not the biggest fan of cauliflower, but a lover of soup, I decided to contrast the mild and sweetish taste of cauliflower with some tart spinach. It worked really well, although there is the risk that the spinach takes over the whole soup. You can play around with the measures of cauliflower and spinach and put it in the soup according to your taste. The measures given below worked well for us, giving both vegetables a chance to bring out their flavor in the soup.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red onions, finely chopped

300g fresh spinach, rinsed and stemmed
1 large cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons yoghurt or creme fraiche

Serves 4-6
Over medium heat fry onions in olive oil until soft, for about 5 minutes. Add spinach with plenty of salt and pepper. Turn up the heat. Cook the spinach until it wilts, keep stirring.
Add the cauliflower florets and vegetable stock. Bring to boil, lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the soup for 15 minutes or until tender. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, to taste. If the soup seems too thick, add water, a few spoons at a time, to thin it.

Garnish with a spoonful of plain yogurt or creme fraiche.
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12 October, 2009

Soy Bean Fennel Salad

We've got visitors from overseas who are on a low carb diet. I take advantage of this and try all sorts of beans in our lunches and dinners. As it is still pretty hot in Dubai over lunchtime, I chose this salad of soy beans and otherwise just raw vegetables and nuts with a light lemon dressing.
I must admit, I never had raw fennel before. And I must say, I missed out on something. It really gives a fine, not too overbearing flavor to the salad. I'll definitely do it again, as it is thrown together in no time.

1 1/2 cups of cooked soy beans
1 bulb of fennel (very thinly sliced)
1 cup of cherry tomatoes (cut into halves)
1 handful of chopped parsley
1 handful of chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 garlic clove (crushed)
2 tablespoons of red onion (minced)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Serves 3-4
Combine all salad ingredients in a serving bowl and mix. Combine all ingredients for the dressing and pour over the salad. Can be made in advance. To be eaten at room temperature or chilled.
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07 October, 2009

Basil Pesto

Here in Dubai, seasons are a little upside down when it comes to gardening. The summers are far too hot for anything to grow. One has to wait for the end of the summer which is normally around October. It's still hot, don't get me wrong, with about 35-37 degrees at midday. But everyone who has lived through a whole long Dubai summer with 45+ degrees and/or humidity of 70+%, will know what I am talking about.
End of summer in sight also means that my son and I plant tomato and herb seeds in the garden, and then water and watch them everyday until we finally harvest around February. Last week, when I pulled out the pots from last year, I find two enormous basil plants who have survived in the shade of some flowers that have been planted there for the summer. The basil leaves were enormous and quite strong in taste. Not to be used as fresh herbs on tomatoes and mozzarella or something like that. But surely good enough to make some nice pesto. Freshly home-made pesto just beats absolutely everything. I had it it with spaghetti for dinner last night and for lunch today. There is still some left which will sure be used somehow for tomorrow's lunch or dinner. Can't get enough of this and will surely plant more basil in my garden this season.


1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup walnuts or pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

250g wholewheat spaghetti

Pesto serves 6. Spaghetti serves 2.
Combine basil leaves, nuts, garlic and Parmesan cheese and blend in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste. Slowly blend in the olive oil (only taking a small amounts at a time) until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook spaghetti according to instructions. Drain and mix pesto and spaghetti until pasta is well coated. 
If you don't use the pesto immediately, keep the pesto in an airtight container, covering it with a layer of olive oil to prevent it from going off. Keep in the fridge.
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03 October, 2009

Just Prawns... and nothing else!!!

Today is the 3 October, the anniversary of the German reunification in 1990!  I dare to say that most of the things in my life would not have happened without this historic event.
I was born in East Germany. We were not allowed to travel anywhere beyond the eastern block of Europe under the Communist regime that ruled until 1989. Once the borders were open and once I finished school and left home, I did not stop visiting foreign places. First Europe of course, then further away to America, then even further away to South Africa. There I met my now-husband. Before I met him, I basically lived off cheese sandwiches. He taught me a lot about food. In fact, he made me enjoy and explore cooking. One of the consequences is this blog.
Anyway, today's featured recipe is actually my husband's recipe. One of the few occasions, where I leave the kitchen to him and just wait til the table is set. It's prawns. Prawns and nothing else. Prawns cooked in a way and can only be eaten in places where they are superb and do not need much seasoning. No side dishes, no nothing. Just a little lemon juice drizzled on top and perhaps some mayonnaise to dip in. That's why 1,5kg of prawns are just enough for 2 people. We managed to finish off 2kg at times.....
The recipe cannot be any simpler: Buy the freshest good quality prawns, the bigger, the better. They should be close to king size. Get them deveined at the shop. That means the peel has to stay but the back will be opened and the vein taken out.
Prepare at home, chill and eat!!


1.5kg fresh prawns
1 onion

Cut the onion into slices. Add to a big pot of salted water and bring to the boil. Add the prawns and cook for 2-3 minutes. Not much longer than that!!!! Drain and cool in the fridge.
Serve cold from the fridge with wedges of lemon and mayonnaise for dipping.

Eat like this: Drizzle lemon over the prawns, Remove head and tail. Peel off the skin from the remaining body. Eat as it is or dip into mayonnaise.
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02 October, 2009

Vegetarian Lasagna

I think this was my first lasagna in about 10 years. I never made lasagna myself at home before, and I stopped having any pasta dishes in restaurants many years ago. When I met my husband, he once said, that he never eats pasta in restaurants because pasta you can make easily at home whereas a good pizza is difficult to make without the right ingredients and the right oven.
We are quite good with making various pasta dishes. But I had never made lasagna. I chose a vegetarian lasagna recipe and it turned out just brilliant. I loved the freshness and the lightness that came out between the pasta sheets. Much better than all the meat-based lasagnas drowned in heavy Bechamel saucethat I had before. The fact, that it can be made in advance is just another reason why I will make this lasagna again.

1 red bell pepper, diced
1 aubergine, diced
3 courgettes, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup of chopped fresh spinach
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
250g grated cheese
250g wholewheat lasagna sheets
200ml creme fraiche or sour cream
3 tablespoons of milk

Serves 3-4.
Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
Put all vegetables (apart from the tomatoes and spinach), diced and chopped, into a plastic bag. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil into the bag and shake vigorously, so the oil spreads evenly onto the veggies. Roast for 30 minutes in the oven, turning occasionally.  Remove the vegetables from the oven. Stir in tomatoes and spinach and about half of the grated cheese.
Pour hot water over the lasagna sheets and leave for 10 minutes until softened an little. Drain afterwards.
Stir together Creme Fraiche, milk and remaining cheese.
Layer the lasagna sheets with the vegetable mixture and Creme Fraiche mixture (keep some for the top) alternatively in an ovenproof dish, starting and ending with lasagna sheets. Pour remaining Creme Fraiche sauce on top.
Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until top is golden brown.
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01 October, 2009

Whole Grain Muffins with Cream Cheese Icing

I often have to slow myself down with all the cooking and baking, as things also need to be eaten. My husband is my favorite food guinea pig and critic. One of my children is too young to eat considerable amounts of what I cook, and the other is at a stage, where new foods are being refused straightaway.
What am I gonna do with all these muffins, I thought, when the batter was enough to make 18 of them? But they went like hot cakes, literally. My son had a few friends over in the last couple of days, and while the kids ignored my baked snacks, the mothers (who came along) dug in!!!!
I must admit, these muffins were so delicious and can be enjoyed absolutely guilt-free with all natural ingredients. Very dense and moist inside with some fruity touch coming from the cranberries and the icing on the cake is literally the icing on the cake. I'll do them again very soon, even in amounts of 18 at a time. I know they will be gone before I can blink. 

1 cup whole wheat flour (or whole grain spelt flour)
2 tablespoons of wheat bran
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups of quick cooking oats
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup of buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

200g cream cheese
3-4  tablespoons agave syrup

Makes ca. 18 medium sized muffins

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
Combine all dry ingredients and stir well. Add the oats, cranberries and raisins. Set aside.
Combine buttermilk, oil, vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture just until moist. Stir in the the mashed bananas. Add the boiling water and let stand for 10-15 minutes.
Line a muffin baking sheet with paper muffin cups or oil with cooking spray. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Bake at 190 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan immediately and let cool completely.

Mix the cream cheese with the agave syrup and put a layer on top of the cooled muffins. Let the frosting become solid before serving.

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