Kung Fu Café
Since 2011

Gratefulness | A Degustation of Paleo Delights (long and reflective post alert!)

Menu du jour:

1. Mashed butternut squash with coconut and macadamia nuts
2. Pork, apple and sweet potato meatloaf
3. Cauliflower risotto
4. Green breakfast smoothie

This week’s been a funny week!

For me, it started on a low, and ended on a high!

I’m not sure why exactly, but on Monday and Tuesday I felt really insecure in myself, rather upset and couldn’t stop thinking about certain “issues.” I’m worrying about quite a bit, going to Frankfurt for a few days next weekend, getting back into OU Spanish when I get back (can I keep up with the workload? Or rather, can I actually achieve the grades I want to achieve?), not being able to cook for a while due to other commitments, worried about people’s impressions and opinions of me, lots of emotions, etc. But thanks to my lovely mother I was able to see it through and by Wednesday I was back to my normal self again. 🙂

On a more positive note, I was picked for a team to compete in The Tribal Clash 2014! I briefly wrote about the competition that took place this year, and it was an amazing experience! A LOT of teams applied for it in 2014, including from various other countries, too, such as the Portugal, Norway, Finland, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Spain, Poland and the USA. And Josh picked me to be in his team! Along with Kim (we were teammates last year, too!) and Thom! There were 144 team slots, and 607 applicants (I assume the applicants were individual people who had a team in mind they wanted to put together, so I suppose that’s a potential 607 teams registering their interest!)!

However, as it turns out, after all of the places were allotted, those teams that won that ballot had to claim their place before a certain date (yes, it’s only October and we have to commit to an event that’s taking place in August). Of course, a lot of teams didn’t claim their place (which I think is understandable, because if there are people who need to come in from abroad of across country, they don’t know if they can commit to the money to get there and stay, and even local people; who knows if they can have that time of guaranteed? Who knows what’ll happen!). So as a result, there was a “smash and grab” event, in which at midday on a certain day, the applicants could log online and claim the places that successful ballot winners failed to claim. As a result, there are a total of 7 teams not from CFP (there were only 2 before!)!

I’m really excited for it, and honoured that I was chosen by a very strong crew to be part of their team, although I am very nervous about letting them down on the day. The thing is though, they’re all lovely people and I feel comfortable around them, so even if I did let them down, I don’t think they’d say it (I don’t know if that makes me more nervous or not!). But either way, it’s 10 months away… that’s 10 months to prepare!

This week in uni/at work has been… productive, but at the same time, not so much. I’ve had very productive mornings, so I’ve been doing about 5 hours of productive work each day this week (except for Friday, which was very productive, but I’m going in on Sunday to make up for slack time this week!). But for some reason, in the afternoons, I found it extremely difficult to concentrate.

This week has really brought up the lesson, again, that life is all about what you think!

I keep on learning this, over and over again. So why do I sometimes make myself dwell and focus on the little “what if’s” and make what other people may think of me a priority in my life, rather than concentrating on right now?

Nobody knows what’s around the corner. And I’m not talking about major life events or disasters. I’m talking about little everyday occurrences. Every day, every week, every month, I’m pleasantly surprised by people’s kindness, nice comments, invitations to places, etc. I try to enjoy it in the moment, but I also try not to let it get to my ego (i.e. I should be just as happy even if no one appreciated how hard I worked to achieve this, or if no one invited me out anywhere this weekend, or if I didn’t get any attention from that person today, etc.). But then I also know that bad things will happen, too. Again, I’m not talking about disasters that are life-changing here, I’m just talking about little things, such as someone making a sarcastic remark and hurting you, someone using you and talking to you only when they feel like it, not being as productive as you would have liked, or achieving a result that you wanted, etc.

But I know now, through experience, that life’s always going to be cycling between the two, and as a result, you get times in life when you feel really high on just experiencing the everyday, and then you get times in life where, although nothing has changed, you feel really low. This can happen within such a short space of time that it feels as though an alien has invaded my brain when it does and I’m no longer my true self!

But knowing isn’t enough. Application is the key! I feel as though I know enough on how to survive in a happy-for-the-most-part-manner in life. I feel as though I’m knowledgeable enough to guide myself and give myself the advice I need to overcome everyday insecurities. But then why don’t I listen to myself? “Lessons in life will be repeated until they are truly learned.” Well, of course they will be, because you’ll always be falling for the same traps until you learn to overcome them. But in a way, that’s the beauty of it; life always presents you with an opportunity to better yourself and to overcome something that previously held you back. And if you don’t succeed, then life will present you with countless opportunity to succeed again, and again, and again. But life will never not present you anything that you find uncomfortable or difficult to deal with, because then you’d never develop and grow as a person, and then, in my opinion, life just wouldn’t be interesting or worthwhile.

It’s like eating for health and losing weight. If someone wants to lose weight, they (as most people I know) get so obsessed about food, being around it, restricting it, planning every calorie, etc… but then when they’re offered some chocolate, for example, they eat it! But it isn’t aligned with their plans, so why do they eat it? Well, some people would blame the other person for offering them chocolate. They try to control the outside. To be honest, no one is ever going to be in a situation where they’re never offered anything that’s full of calories. I went to a buffet meal the other night and had this plate of dessert (I’m quite ashamed!); but my point is, is that no one made me eat it. I put the food on the plate, I ate it, and I have to suffer the consequences (sugar rush, sugar crash, calories, etc.). I could blame the food for being so tasty and looking so delectable. Or I could have attempted to control the situation by not going to a buffet restaurant. Or I could see it as a chance to improve myself. I could have had maybe only a little bit of each, or chosen one thing, etc. In other words, life will always give me a chance to improve myself and enhance and strengthen every lesson I’ve learnt. Once I’ve truly learnt it, then it will seem as though life no longer throws it at me.

When I’m in that period where I’m in my own bubble, life couldn’t be any better. That’s not to say that people still don’t influence me or that I don’t care, but it’s to say that I’m just happy with what is, and I just absorb myself in the moment and focus on what’s to be done at hand, without referring to possible future outcomes or dwelling on the past.

This is why I love this food blog; it’s so cathartic, spiritually renewing my, ego isn’t involved, and I can explore my creative side in a relaxed manner by carefully selecting what dish to construct and how the flavours will complement one another, purposefully preparing it and cooking it with love, and how to photograph it by bringing out the colours and right angles (that’s another reason as to why I love to eat paleo; the food is just so colourful!).

Sometimes, I look through recipes online and admire the photography of others and wonder how they created such a magnificent image. I look at things in their photos such as the colours, the props, the composition, the light source, how harsh the shadows are and how that contributes to the appearance of the texture of the food, etc. I ask myself: what can I do in my place to improve my own photography making use of the light source and location that I have? Should I play with aperture or shutter speed settings next time? How can I get better photos with less light, or should I consider buying a halogen lamp? What should I play around with next time? What can I create that my family would enjoy? I think it’s obviously worked, because the improvement I’ve seen in my own photography has been phenomenal! I can’t even explain to you what exactly I did to improve it, but it was asking myself these questions, being analytical, and developing a sense of intuition and experience to judge situations. Of course struggle with more things than others; some dishes are just easier to photograph than others, and sometimes the light one day is perfect, while another day it’s too harsh or not enough. But just looking back at the first few pictures I took with my camera, I’ve come a long way, and I can’t wait to go even further!

It’s doing things like this, such as contributing/maintaining a food blog, that lead to a higher path in life. When you’re so utterly absorbed in what you do, it’s so unexplainably enjoyable and there’s so much satisfaction to be found in any activity. It just brings you limitless happiness. And I get this bubbling passion and enthusiasm for everything. That’s when life is truly worth living.

That’s why I like doing a PhD; it’s a 3-4 year project that you work on, after which you become an “expert” in your field. On those days when I really get into my project, it’s incredible. Take a meeting I had this week, for instance: we discussed the use of electrolytes in a solution of adsorbent and adsorbate, and how a more concentrated solution of electrolyte will compress the double layer on the adsorbent, thereby possibly enhancing the adsorption of the adsorbate, but more electrolyte will screen any electrostatic repulsions. So how do we calculate the Debye length under my given conditions? It got really more indepth than that, and it was interesting. The satisfaction I get after discussions like that is incredible. I feel as though what I’ve been working towards is finally being realised. When you solve a problem, immerse yourself in such analytical thinking and go about investigating what happens when this changes that, etc., it’s just so amazing. However, it does take a lot of mental effort. And a lot of times, there are those days when you apply effort, effort, effort, but nothing comes to fruition for days, weeks, months… it’s about pushing through. Just like a WOD. Get that last rep done, get that last experiment done, and when you finally see the end, the buzz, the adrenaline, the amazement at what you can achieve becomes apparent!

Anyway, my point is, is that when you throw yourself into things, the rest of life falls into place. In my most insecure times, I feel as though I’m waiting for the next good thing to happen (i.e. I spoke with this person the other day and worried that they don’t like me, so when they next contact me I’ll be happy), or going over in my head how bad an impression I give to other people or how they think this or me, etc.

But yes, life is all about human relations, I believe, for the most part at least. But at the same time, at the end of life, it’s all about what you thought about the most. What occupied your mind throughout your life? Was it focussing on how this wasn’t right, how that person may not have liked me or didn’t invite me to this (or even if you were invited, who cares?! Why place so much emphasis on it?!), or was it focussing on all of the beauty there is in life?

That’s why I’m a very keen advocate of finding hobbies, and lots of them (well, that’s another blog post in itself! But my mum always tells me that life is about sacrifice. There are so many things in life I would love to do but not enough time and mental energy to do so all at once, so sometimes some things have to give and sacrifices have to be made if you want to achieve what you want. And she also advocates simplicity; i.e. simplify your life and do as few things as possible as well as you can. And again, she also talks about balance; life is all about balance! So finding the right amount of hobbies to keep you interested in each, or if you dwindle in one area, then you have other areas/hobbies to pick you up, but picking few enough so that you can really get the best and put your mental energies 100% into each without spreading yourself too thinly).

Just doing something as simple as appreciating other’s food blog posts and photos, to cooking, serving my family and photographing (or trying to!), makes me appreciate how beautiful life is. We take these things that grow out of the earth, apply heat and other spices in various ways and we have a meal that every human enjoys the eating experience. Isn’t it amazing? And the camera itself; what a fantastic contraption! Life is full of amazement every day and it’s up to us to see it for what it is and how physicists and inventors were able to think in such abstract and creative ways to manipulate the laws of the universe to do something at will. Incredible!

Gratefulness is the key to living a fulfilled life! I have to say, that when I’m feeling blue, it’s usually because I’m taking for granted what I do have going for me and focussing on the negatives. Actually, I’m not even focusing on the negatives (as there really are none!), but on the potential perceived negative, that isn’t even really that big a deal anyway, and I know isn’t logical thinking either. But that’s what insecurities are.

However, it’s part of the human condition, which to some may be an affliction, but to me, even in my down times, I remind myself that this is my once chance, and I feel so honoured that I get to experience it and that so far everything has turned out perfectly, and it always will (there’s a little bit of Susan Jeffers’ life teachings and sentiments right there in that sentence!).

Anyway, onto the food – enough spirituality for the week! I could type forever about this stuff but it’s always incoherent and just a stream of consciousness! I wish I had more time to edit these blog posts to make a lovely accompaniment to the photos, but this’ll have to do for now! 🙂

As you can see, the other week I decided to whip up a fair few different things as I just couldn’t decide which one to make. The meal we had was roast pork with crackling, meatloaf, cauliflower risotto, mashed squash with apple, coconut and macadamia nuts and steamed broccoli and sprouts (I steamed enough broccoli and sprouts for the first few days of the following week to take to uni/work in lunches!).

We also had cauliflower rice with this lamb’s liver I cooked in tomato sauce. It was beautiful! There was just enough sauce to coat the liver, and the cauliflower was moist, as were the vegetables. I actually take a preference to meals that aren’t caked in sauces. Sometimes it’s nice to have a roast dinner covered in homemade gravy, but for the meal you can see that had the meatloaf and butternut squash – no sauce was needed! I drizzled some pork juice over the top of the dish, but I didn’t want to smother the colours and flavours in a generic gravy. It really wasn’t needed as each element of the meal could have been eaten alone.

I would love to cook the cauliflower in coconut milk, too! In these photos, I cooked it in water and a bit of dried sage – nothing else! I think coconut milk would have made it creamier and thicker, which may have been a bit too much here, with everything else, but if it’s the main element of your dish, then it’d be great! I’m definitely going to try that sometime. 🙂

The meatloaf was also incredible; this is by far my favourite meatloaf recipe ever. I’ve made it about twice before, and it was always ok (just minced meat moulded into a load shape…), but this was something else! Each bite was just a little bomb of flavour in your mouth, and I think fresh apple diced and thrown into the mix would have gone really well with the rest of the flavours. But we ate the load straight from the oven, and so it crumbled easily. It’s only when it’s cool does it keep its shape and then you can cut it (as with cakes). My brother and I had it in lunched for uni the following week. 🙂

Saturday’s advanced WOD @ CFP:
In any order, in pairs
a) Row 1600 metres
b) 30 snatch anyhow 70kg\45kg
c) 20 rope climbs
d) 14-12-10-8-6
C2B pull ups
One starts on HSPU, one starts on C2B, both complete 14 then swap and complete 14. Continue down the sequence until they are finished.

I did this with an awesome partner and she’s really strong! Power snatching 45k like it’s nothing! I really struggle with power snatching at anything more than 40k, and I know I bleed a lot of energy from my hips and don’t extent. I’ll have to practice tomorrow in the open session. I was full snatching 45kg, but struggling today! It’s funny because last time I was snatching I hang snatched 45kg three-times in a row and did a 47.5kg hang snatch, and that was easy – and right at the end of a workout, too (so I felt really warmed up). Maybe it’s because I’m a little sleep-deprived from the week and under the weather (I did get almost 11 hours of sleep last night and really needed it considering how little I’ve had during the week!), but I was surprised that I nearly had an accident full snatching that bar. I didn’t pull it high enough, got under it and it fell on the back of my neck and starting pushing me forward. Lucky I just sort of pushed it back, but it could have been serious.

I never really did get into this morning’s workout, but I think that demonstrates how serious lifting things and doing skilled movements (even doing stuff like HSPUs, rope climbs, etc.) can be when they go wrong, and so never ever do something like that hardheartedly! Never have I had anything happen to me that could have been that potentially serious!

But I really struggled this morning with those snatches! I put the weight down to 40k and I can power snatch it ok (I know I don’t extend my hips enough and bleed lots of energy from them – gotta work on that!), but I can work at 40k doing hang snatched really easily. As soon as it’s 45k, I get scared and think I need to work more at that weight to get more confident and stable.

Here’s a video of some snatch practice from this week! It’s a bit wobbly at the bottom, but I think I know why (thanks to paying attention to what coaches say in class, reading, and help from others, of course!). It’s supposedly my “1RM” from a while ago, but I just need to practice at this weight now to get comfy and confident with it, too! 🙂

Mashed Butternut Squash with Coconut and Macadamia Nuts
Adapted from: Coffee and Quinoa and The Healthy Foodie
Serves 4-6

• 1 butternut squash
• 3 x apples
• ¼ cup (60ml) coconut milk
• ~50-100g toasted coconut
• ~50g macadamia nuts, halved or crushed
• 1 tbsp maple syrup
• splash of lemon juice

Halve the butternut squash, and put in the oven with the whole apples for 1h 30m at 160°C, or until the apples are bursting with their juices and the squash is soft when a knife is pushed all the way through.

When cooled, scoop out the flesh of the squash and put into a saucepan. Remove the core, seeds and stems from the apples (this can get messy!) and put in with the squash. Mash using a potato masher, and homogenise thoroughly.

At this point, you can sauté onions and garlic in butter or coconut oil, and add those to the butternut squash and apple mix.

Add the coconut milk, toasted coconut, crushed macadamia nuts, maple syrup and lemon juice, and homogenise well.

Gently heat over the hob until warmed/heated through. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Pork, apple and Sweet Potato Meatloaf
Adapted from: Paleo OMG
Serves 8-10

• 1.5 kg of pork mince
• 6 x small sweet potatoes
• 2 x apples, cut into small chunks
• 1 tsp garlic, minced
• 2 x small white/yellow onions, diced
• 6 x rashers of smoked bacon, chopped into lardon-sized pieces
• 1 cup of almond flour/ground almonds
• 2 x eggs, beaten
• 1 cup mixed dried fruit/raisins
• ½ tbsp cinnamon
• hard-boiled eggs

Put the sweet potatoes in the oven for 1h 30m at 160°C, or until they are is soft when a knife is pushed all the way through. Let cool.

Put the bacon, garlic and onions in a non-stick frying pan. Turn the heat on low until the juices are released from the bacon. Sauté the garlic and onions until the onions are translucent and the bacon is cooked al gusto/to your liking. Add these ingredients to a large mixing bowl.

When the sweet potatoes are cool, cut the ends off of the sweet potatoes, cut into rough pieces, and add to the large mixing bowl, along with the apple chunks, ground almonds, eggs, raisins and cinnamon. Homogenise well.

Rinse/wash the mince, and add to the large mixing bowl. Use your hands to really mix everything well. Press around the hard-boiled eggs that you have and then press everything into a non-stick/buttered/silicon/lined with non-stick baking paper baking tin (I love silicon moulds!). Mine was a square 20 x 20 cm silicon mould.

Bake for ~2h minutes in a preheated oven at 175°C.

Cauliflower Risotto
Adapted from: page 172 of Paleo Comfort Foods
Serves 4-6

• 1 x cauliflower
• ¼ tsp black pepper
• 2 x cloves garlic, minced

Steam the cauliflower until tender. Put into a bowl along with any seasonings (herbs, spices, sauces, etc.), and mash using a potato masher until the texture resembles rice. Serve immediately, or if preparing in advance or wanting more flavour, reheat later over the hob with a little bit of water, stock or coconut milk for creaminess.

Green Breakfast Smoothie
Adapted from: About.com
Serves 4-6

• 3 cup of filtered water
• 1 handful kale leaves
• carrot tops from a bunch of carrots
• 1 apple, cored and cut into chunks
• splash of lemon juice
• 2 kiwis, peeled and roughly chopped
• 1 ¼“ slice of ginger

Blend the kale and carrot tops with two cups of water. Press through a sieve and put the resulting juice in a large glass storage bottle. Blend the rest of the ingredients, and incorporate into the juice. Shake/mix/homogenise, chill, enjoy. 🙂

Chicken & Prawn Thai Green Curry

For Father’s Day, I asked dad what I could cook for him as a ‘gift.’ He asked for Thai Green Curry and Spotted Dick.

I found this recipe from the internet and it looked quite tasty (I have to admit, it’s always the pictures that draw me to the recipes!), and the ingredients seemed plentiful, but easy to find. I have had this curry in curry houses before, but I made one myself from one of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks using shop-bought curry paste, and it didn’t come out very well. I think it was because I used long beans and asparagus spears, which were quite hefty to manage without getting curry everywhere! This, on the other hand, was extremely creamy and soft in flavour. It would have been easy to spice it up a little more using more chillies (and including their seeds, perhaps) for the curry paste. But having my grandmother and people who don’t appreciate too much spice, I thought it’d be best to tone it down as one can always add chilli to their dish.

Happy Father’s Day, dad 🙂

Chicken & Prawn Thai Green Curry
Adapted from: It Must’ve Been Something I Ate
Serves 6-8

For the green curry paste:
• 3 tbsp walnut/peanut oil
• 2 tbsp soy sauce
• 1 tbsp fish sauce
• 2 tbsp lime juice
• 1 x stalk lemon grass
• 1 x tsp ground cumin
• 1 x tsp coriander leaf
• ½ green chilli, deseeded
• 3cm ginger, roughly chopped
• 2 x garlic cloves, crushed
• 2 x spring onions, roughly chopped
• 2 x fist full fresh coriander

For the green curry:
• 2 tbsp walnut/peanut oil
• butter and flour, for greasing
• 812g boneless chicken breast
• 360g cooked prawns
• 3 x spring onions, chopped
• 1 x garlic clove, crushed
• 2 x red and green bell peppers, chopped
• 155g mangetout
• 200g pack of “cabbage medley”
• 1 x 400ml can coconut milk
• green curry paste (as above)
• 3cm carrot, grated
• ½ cup water
• 2 x tbsp cornflour
• fresh coriander leaves for garnish

• enough rice for your guests

For the green curry paste:
Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until a smooth paste is formed.

For the green curry:
Heat 2 tbsp of walnut oil in a large pot. Add the chicken and prawns, and whiten the chicken all over. Throw in the chopped onions and crushed garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped peppers and mange tout., and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the coconut milk, green curry pasta, water, cabbage and grated carrot. Bring all to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until ready.

Don’t forget to cook the rice! Serve and enjoy!

ทานให้อร่อยนะ 🙂

Enjoyed: 19.06.2011

Sticky BBQ Pork Ribs

Mum and I were shopping the other day, and we came across a large pack of ribs on offer. The first thing that came to our minds was to make a sticky BBQ sauce! As soon as we got home I rushed through all of the cupboards to see if we had all of the ingredients, and luckily, we did! The sauce was very simple to make, and I’m surprised that I hadn’t ever made something like this sooner!

The recipe that I originally followed was a little odd in that the liquid measurements were given in ounces rather than millilitres. But I weighed them all out on a set of digital scales (extremely useful!) and the recipe turned out really well! I also substituted Worcestershire sauce for dark soy sauce, corn syrup for honey, and apple cider vinegar with white wine vinegar, as that’s all we had!

Sticky BBQ Pork Ribs
Adapted from: Food Network
Serves 5-6

For the sauce:
• 450g Ketchup (I used Reggae Reggae tomato ketchup)
• 225g (~250ml) water
• 85g brown sugar
• 85g caster sugar
• ½ tsp ground black pepper
• ½ tsp garlic granules
• ½ tsp English mustard
• 300ml white wine vinegar
• 5 tbsp dark soy sauce
• 5 tbsp lemon juice
• 2 tbsp honey
• 25g paprika

For the ribs:
• 870g pack of pork ribs
• enough rice for your guests

For the sauce:
Throw all of the ingredients into a large saucepan/pot (otherwise it’ll slowly spit all over your cooker). Bring to the boil, then let simmer, uncovered for an hour.

For the ribs:
Wash the ribs and lay them in a baking dish. Pour over the BBQ sauce, using your hands to cover them entirely. Leave to marinate overnight (not necessary).

Pop into a preheated oven at 180◦C for about an hour and a half. In the meantime, cook the rice, and serve the ribs and sauce piping hot over the rice with salad and sweetcorn. 🙂

Enjoy 🙂

Devoured: 17.06.2011

Moroccan Kefta Mkaouara & Flat Bread (Khobz)

I’m so glad that exams are finally over! My final exam was on Friday, and on Saturday I thought I’d be feeling really good, but in actual fact, I didn’t. I’ve done really well with my coursework, and was desperately hoping to get a first, which I have! However, my exams have really brought my marks down. Even though I studied hard, it got to a point where even if you know everything on the lecture slides and the stuff we covered throughout the year, none of us could answer the questions on the papers because we just didn’t cover them! Quite infuriating! Anyway, Ed came and stayed the night on Saturday, and we played badminton. The on Sunday, we went to our tennis club’s open day, where it was the busiest I’ve ever seen it! It’s quite rainy today, but luckily yesterday the weather held out and it turned out to be a pleasant day. 🙂

For my family today, I made the kefta tagine. In Morocco, Tim and I had kefta, but not in a tagine with eggs quite like this. When I looked the at the recipe, the photos looked really nice, but I thought it as just gonna be a sort of bolognaise sauce and didn’t really think it’d be too nice with rice. But it turned out ok actually! Would probably go just as well with pasta!

Below you can see some pictures of some of the food we had with the Moroccan flat bread. I never took a picture of the bread, but fortunately it managed to sneak its way into some of our pictures. I also didn’t take a photo of the kofta we ate that one time… The top left picture is one of the only times we ate pasta, and the top right was in Tangier, the day we left for Madrid airport.

I also made some Moroccan flat bread, which they have everywhere in Morocco, and it turned out to be just like it (which I was surprised about, because the last time I made bread it was a hard rock of something completely inedible)! I was pretty pleased, and I love fresh bread from the oven, when it’s warm and smells of yeast. 🙂

Moroccan Flatbread
Adapted from: About Moroccan Food
Makes 2 loaves

• 4 x cups plain white flour
• 2 tsp salt
• 2 tsp sugar
• 1 x sachet dried yeast (7g)
• 1 ¼ cups warm water
• 4 x tbsp olive oil
• extra flour

Prepare a baking sheet with grease-proof paper, and 2 tbsps olive oil. Sieve the flour in a large bowl, and add the salt and sugar. Make a well in the centre, and add the yeast, 2 tbsps olive oil and water into the centre. Mix together, and knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes. Make sure that the dough is soft yet firm, but not sticky to the touch.
Split the dough into two, and form into balls. Place on the baking tray and cover with wet kitchen roll for 10 minutes.
Then, use your hand to flatten the dough out into about ½” thick discs, and score two lines through the dough in a cross formation. Cover with the wet kitchen roll for an hour.
The pop them into an oven preheated to 180◦C for 30-35 minutes.

Moroccan Kefta Mkaouara
Adapted from: Almost Bourdain
Serves 4-5

• 2 tbsps oil
• 500g minced beef (or lamb)
• 1 tsp paprika
• 2 tbsp dried parsley
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 x onion, diced
• 2 x garlic cloves, diced/minced
• 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
• A small handful of fresh corianders leaves and finely chopped stalks
• 4 x eggs

Pop the minced beef (or lamb), parsley and ½ tsp paprika into the bowl, and a good shake of salt and pepper. Use your (dampened) hands to mix it all together, and form tight little balls; I got 26.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in an oven-proof dish over the stove, and brown the meatballs all over. Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them on a plate.
Add the diced onion and garlic into the remaining oil and fry until they start to turn brown. Add ½ tsp paprika, the coriander stalks and a few leaves and the tinned tomatoes (with another shake of salt and pepper). Simmer for 10 minutes before adding the meatballs
Bring to the boil, and cover, leaving to simmer for 15-20 minutes.Preheat oven to 200◦C.
Crack four eggs onto the top of the dish, and pop, covered, into the oven for abotu 10 minutes (or until the eggs have just cooked).
Serve with salad, the remaining coriander leaves, soft, fluffy rice, and khobz!

Bon Appétit!!

Spices Inc. Giveaway | Beef Rogan Josh to Celebrate!

Well, seeing as it’s a rainy day, and I’d rather be doing anything than revision (I was really hoping to go on a long cycle today), here’s a little story and recipe to go with it!

On Valentine’s day, I entered a competition at Jen’s website, My Kitchen Addiction. The competition involved having to choose 10 spices, herbs, seasonings, chiles of extracts from the Spices Inc. website, developing a name for the spice set, and creating a couple of lines as to why those particular spices were chosen for the set.

I didn’t think I’d win anything, but it was a little bit of fun and worth a shot. So I came up with:

The Opportunist’s Diverse Gourmet Collection
These unique and expensive spices are from many areas of the world and only a true gourmet can appreciate their rarity, aroma, richness and origin. They can be used in many dishes, from main courses to desserts, virtually every day in order to develop some of the beautiful flavours found in the world. These spices create opportunity for those who can’t travel, or for those who want to bring about sweet reminiscence, to share these flavours and memories with others.

1. Organic Garam Masala
2. Saffron
3. Organic Cardamom Pods
4. Organic Vanilla Beans
5. Organic Ground Black Pepper Medium Grind
6. Fleur de Sel
7. Star Anise
8. Organic Herbs de Provence
9. Organic Lavender
10. Organic Mustard Seeds

Then a couple of weeks later, Jen sent me an email saying that she’ll be forwarding my address along to Greg Patterson of Spices Inc. so that they can send the custom spice set I “created.” It was amazing! Jen announced the winners here, and it turns out that they couldn’t settle with choosing just one, so they chose three sets that were suggested by competitors.

I couldn’t wait to start cooking with them! I love the use of spices but usually don’t go for expensive options. I’ve never used saffron, star anise or vanilla pods before, so I couldn’t wait to try them out! As well as that I’ve also never used fleur de sel or lavender in cooking, either!

It took the Spices Inc. crew a little bit of time to send to package across, probably because it was quite expensive, and they also said they’d never shipped anything to England before, so I guess they were sorting out the logistics.

A couple of days ago, Parcelforce sent me a letter saying that I was to pay an extra £21.24 as import VAT and clearance fees, and then the spices could be delivered. The Spices Inc. said that they had already paid $39 shipping it over, but as the retail value of the set is under £40, I was able for the gift to be delivered for free (apparently, the value of the spices were written as around $90 on the side of the box!). And I finally received them today! 😀 You can see the set for yourself, here.

And to celebrate, I made a beef rogan josh! I followed the sample recipe for my lamb rogan josh, except I used beef instead, and substituted the roasted peppers from a jar in the paste for grilled aubergines from a jar, and used a few different spices, too.

Recipe: here.

Chicken Korma with Homemade Naan Bread | Dan’s Birthday Meal

Yesterday was Dan‘s birthday. He came over for a birthday meal, and then we surprised him with a lovely chocolate cake! I know that a curry isn’t particularly a special meal, but I thought that one made from scratch, along with naan bread, would be a nice effort for any occasion!

This curry was actually a really nice level of spiciness. I like a bit of heat, but I find that too much just overpowers and destroys the rest of the flavours in the dish. This was perfect. There was spice, but you could still taste the other flavours. However, the curry looked a little anaemic; so I improvised and added some turmeric to make it a deeper colour of yellow.

This was also a nice opportunity for me to make some naan bread! The original recipe stated that you should stick the naan with water to the pan, and then turn it upside down to expose the top of the bread to the flame to create those large blister-type bubbles on top. But I didn’t want to create a mess, and decided to play it safe. They came out more like pancakes…but they still looked quite nice and people always appreciate when you’ve gone to extra lengths. The dough however, was extremely sticky (which I believe is what naan bread dough is supposed to be like), so next time I’ll try it the way the original recipe stated.

We served this curry with a really nice salad; with olives, fresh strawberries and hard-boiled eggs. My mum makes such amazing and colourful salads. And this curry definitely thickens up the next day!

Well, I hope you enjoy making this beautiful and aromatic dish as much as I did! I absolutely love cooking for others, because for me it’s not only nice to see people enjoy and compliment something you’ve worked hard on, but it’s also a way to share time together and bond. Food is something that everyone has in common, which is most probably why going out for a meal is always something people find a socially fun thing to do.

Chicken Korma
Adapted from: Jamie’s Ministry of Food, pages 74 & 99
Serves 6

For the curry paste:
• 1 tbsp walnut oil
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp garam masala
• ½ tsp sea salt
• 1 tbsp tomato purée
• 5 tbsp desiccated coconut
• 2 tbsp ground almonds
• 2 tbsp dried coriander leaves
• 2 x cloves garlic
• ~20g fresh root ginger
• 1½ fresh green chillies

For the curry:
• 800g diced chicken (or chicken breasts, thighs or legs)
• ~40g fresh root ginger
• 2 x onions
• a large bunch of fresh coriander
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp butter
• 1 x drained can of chickpeas
• 1 x 400ml can of coconut milk
• curry paste (as made above)
• turmeric (optional)
• enough natural yoghurt for a large dollop each
• 1 x lemon
• enough rice for 6

For the curry paste:
Pop the cumin and mustard seeds into a frying pan, and put on high heat. Don’t add any oil, but leave the seeds on high heat until you can smell their wonderful aroma and you can hear them start to crack. Don’t leave it for any longer though, otherwise they’ll shoot out all over the place.

Finely peel and chop the ginger and garlic cloves. Not forgetting to cut the chilli, too. Pop that, along with the toasted seeds, into a small blender. Then add the rest of the ingredients to a blender, then whiz everything together until it’s a nicely ground paste.

For the curry:
Peel and finely cut the garlic along with the onions. Remove the leaves from the coriander and set aside for garnishing later, and finely chop the stalks.

Put a large casserole dish on high heat and throw in 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the chicken and brown it all over, then toss in the onions, ginger and coriander stalks. Add 1 tsp butter and cook until the onions are soft, but not browned.

Then, add the curry paste, the coconut milk and the drained chickpeas. Fill up half of the coconut milk tin with water and mix that into the curry, too. Bring the mix to the boil, and then leave to simmer for 45 minutes. If the curry looks a little pale, add some turmeric until you’re satisfied with it’s colour.

In the meantime, cook the rice! And when that’s all ready, serve with a fresh wedge of lemon, a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkle of coriander leaves.

And for the naan…

Homemade Naan Bread (Pancake Style)
Adapted from: Rasa Malaysia
Makes 6

• 2 cups (330g) plain flour
• ¾ tsp baking powder
• ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 1 tsp sugar
• ¾ tsp salt
• ½ tsp olive oil
• ½ cup (150g) yoghurt
• ½ cup (125ml) warm milk
• butter for brushing
• coriander, lemon, garlic, coconut, black peppercorns (for the type of naan you want)

Sieve the flour into a large bowl, and add the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and salt.

Form a well in the centre, and add the oil and half of the milk. Then mix together and add the rest of the milk slowly, until a dough is formed that’s slightly sticky to touch, but leaves an indent when you press it.

Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes, and then cover and keep in a warm place for 2 hours.

Separate your naan into six balls (it will be hard as the dough is sticky wet your hands to make it slightly easier).

Then, heat a non-stick pan on high, and use a brush to brush a little butter to thinly cover the surface.

Stretch out one of your naan balls into an oval, and place it in the skillet/wok. After it has cooked on the bottom, use a spatula to flip it over, and press down on the naan to make it thinner and to spread it out, so as much of the dough is cooked as possible. This is similar to the technique I used for making banana pancakes.

Continue to cook on both sides until they’re slightly brown and crispy.

Do this with the other 5 balls, and set aside to cool. Then, you can reheat in the oven at 200°C for 5-10 minutes (or under the grill for a few minutes) with a sprinkling of water when you’re ready to serve them with your curry!

Enjoy your meal. 🙂

Lamb Rogan Josh | Cooking for The Masses

Rogan josh
An aromatic rogan josh lamb curry.

I’ve always wanted to make a curry from scratch, without using curry sauce from a jar or paste from a tube. So I asked if I could cook for the family when our grandmother came over to ours on one of her fortnightly Sunday visits. I also asked my family what sort of curry to make, and my mum immediately said “anything with lamb.” Well, that solved my problem, rogan josh it is!

Om nom nom
This smelt amazing. 🙂

According to Wikipedia, this lamb dish originated from Kashmir (a disputed territory, claimed by both India and Pakistan, with some areas also claimed by China), and is popular in India, Pakistan, Singapore and, of course, the UK. Rogan (روغن) means oil or colour in Persian, while josh (جوش) means heat, hot, boiling, passionate or red. So I suppose that you can interpret that as you wish.

I prepared the rogan josh paste at my university accommodation a few days before actually making the curry, and when my house mate Jon walked into the kitchen, the first thing he said was “hmm, smells like curry!” He sounded a little surprised, with good reason though, as I said that I was making a banoffee pie!

Om nom nom
Nom nom.

Lamb Rogan Josh with Lemon and Coriander Rice
Adapted from: Jamie’s Ministry of Food, pages 81, 96 & 99
Serves 6

For the curry paste:
• 2 x garlic cloves
• A large piece of fresh root ginger
• 85g roasted peppers from a jar
• 2 tsp paprika
• 2 tsp garam masala
• 1 tsp tumeric
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 tsp walnut oil
• 2 tbsp tomato purée
• 1 fresh red chilli
• 2 tbsp dried coriander leaves
• 2 tsp cumin seeds
• 1 tsp black peppercorns

For the curry:
• 600-800g diced lamb
• 2 x onions
• 1 x fresh red chilli
• 1 x piece of root ginger
• a bunch of coriander (they’re sold in Tesco in 30g bunches)
• 4 x bay leaves
• 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
• 400g tin chopped tomatoes
• 800ml vegetable stock
• rogan josh curry paste
• two handfuls (~70g) red lentils
• natural yoghurt

For the rice:
• enough rice for 6
• 1 x lemon
• a few tsps dried coriander leaves

For the curry paste:
1. Peel the garlic and the ginger.
2. Put a frying pan on medium to high heat, and add the black peppercorns and cumin seeds. These are to be toasted for a few minutes, until you can hear them start to crackle and the wonderful aromatic smell is released.
3. Add the toasted spices to a blender, along with the rest of the ingredients (remembering to chop the ginger and peppers and to mince the garlic; as yo’ll get a more homogeneous paste), and blend until smooth.

For the curry:
Dice the onions, chop (or grate) the ginger and thinly slice the chilli, and set aside in a bowl. Add the four bay leaves to the bowl, too.
Pick half of the coriander leaves from the bunch, and set aside for decorating later.
Chop the remaining coriander (leaves and stalks), and set aside in the bowl with the onions, etc.
Put a large casserole dish on high, and add your lamb. Brown it all over.
Remove the lamb from the pot (or you could keep it in; your choice), and add the onions, ginger, chilli, bay leaves and coriander to the remaining fat and stick left over from the lamb.
When the onions are browned and softened, or when the pot starts to go dry, add the lamb back in and add the balsamic vinegar.
Add the tomatoes, stock, curry paste and lentils (no need to cook them beforehand).
Bring to the boil, and then simmer with the lid covered for about an hour.

For the rice:
While the curry is cooking, give yourself half an hour to prepare the rice, along with the naan bread and/or papadums.
Slice the lemon into 6 slices, and set aside for serving. Then zest and juice the rest of the lemon to mix in with the rice once it’s cooked, along with the coriander.

To serve:
Serve the curry over the rice, garnish with a large tablespoon of natural yoghurt, a sprinkling of the fresh coriander leaves set aside earlier, and a lemon wedge.

لذت ببرید شما کاری.
According to Google Translate, this means “enjoy your curry” in Persian. 😀

Plum & Nectarine Chicken Tagine | Moroccan Memories

When my brother and I went to Morocco in June 2010, we were really looking forward to trying a lot of Moroccan cuisine. However, seeing as we were on the road a lot and staying in hostels, camp sites and balconies our staple diet was cous cous! Cous cous and tagine…we really wanted to try one ourselves! And we did, although it wasn’t like anything we tried in Morocco. It has a sort of, Asian twist I suppose?

Delicious fresh fruit and aromatic herbs
Tagine with a south-east Asian twist; so colourful and aromatic. 🙂

When we first arrived in Marrakech, tagines were a novelty. They were delicious and aromatic, and served in a unique looking pot. There are all sorts! Vegetables and potatoes, chicken and fish tagines…and they’re typically served with a sort of flatbread (I really want to try that recipe next). By the end of the trip we had tagine coming out of our ears!

Tagines cooking on an open fire
Tagines cooking for the locals in “paradise” near Chefchaouen.

In Morocco, the men can be quite vulgar and rude, especially towards women. Even more so if they are attractive. However, there are also plenty of kind of hospitable people, who are genuinely interested in wanting the best for you, and also who just want to sell things in their shop. There was also one particularly fond memory I have of my brother and I meeting a man in Essaouira, who told us to be aware of younger men. By the end of the day, we were sitting in the middle of a carpet shop with his boss, his wife and two other Moroccan girls (one of whom who could speak brilliant English, and they were both students who studied media) eating a tagine made with local fish. We had no cous cous with it, but this Moroccan flatbread that I mentioned earlier. I believe it’s called khobz in Arabic.

Fish tagine made with local produce
Delicious fresh fish tagine eaten with khobz whilst sitting in the middle of a carpet shop.

Tim stuffing his face!
Tim eating vegetable tagine with cous cous and khobz in Marrakech.

So there we were, sitting in a carpet shop, sampling local cuisine and being taught some basic Arabic. And this was all on our second day in Morocco…oh what more awaited us! I was absolutely dying to try out a tagine for my family when I got home.

This tagine, however, sounded really delicious and original. Tim and I never sampled something quite as fruity as this in tagine form in Morocco, so I thought we’d give it a go. This is also the first time we have eaten cous cous since our trip to Morocco! Although next time I make a tagine, I think I’ll try and recreate one of the tomato fish ones we had so often. The only problem is that my dad doesn’t care for cous cous, so I’ll have the replace that with rice. Or maybe I can cook him a separate portion of rice; it’s extra effort, but it’ll be worth it to bring about those staple flavours and Arabian memories of Morocco.

Fish tomato tagine
Tomato, lemon and fresh local fish tagine. Our last authentic Moroccan meal in Tangier overlooking the tropical sea before heading back to the UK.

Tim acting like a cat!
Tim literally eating every last scrap!

Unfortunately, to boil the cous cous I accidentally used my mother’s Le Creuset oven dish…and it cracked as soon as I touched it on the hob when it heated up. She was very good about it, but I was absolutely gutted and still feel extremely guilty. I hope she can forgive me! It was a beautiful orange, Mediterranean-style pot, and I always used to eye it up whenever I opened up the cupboards for saucepans. I feel as though we should give it a proper burial and ceremony. 🙁

Delicious fresh fruit and aromatic herbs
A little touch of Morocco in our very own kitchen!

The smell from the plums and nectarines was absolutely beautiful throughout the cooking process. They were so soft and succulent and complimented the chicken perfectly.

Plum & Nectarine Chicken Tagine
Adapted from: Eats Well With Others and Closet Cooking
Serves 4

• chicken legs and/or thighs (however many your guests will eat)
• 2 x onions, sliced
• 2 x garlic cloves, crushed
• fresh ginger, grated
• 4 x nectarines, chopped
• 4 x plums, chopped
• 1/2 cup (125ml) water
• 1 tsp parpika, cumin, tumeric, cayenne pepper, cinnamon
• salt and pepper
• 2 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tbsp clear honey
• 1/4 cup (~40g) olives
• a bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

1. Brown the chicken in a large dish over the hob. Remove the chicken.
2. Brown the onions in the fat that emerged from the chicken in the dish, and add the garlic and ginger.
3. Now add the water, spices, plums and nectarines. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. The add the chicken, olives, honey and lemon, and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
5. Don’t forget to prepare the rice and/or cous cous in the meantime.
6. Mix in the chopped coriander, and serve with flatbread and rice/ cous cous.

Bon Appétit!!