All posts by A_Boleyn

About A_Boleyn

Having come late to the kitchen, other than in an eating capacity, each new recipe I try is an exciting opportunity to enjoy the original and then make it my own.

Victoria Day Weekend and Palak (Spinach) Paneer

Between taking time off for a bad cold which started with the sore throat from …. well, you can guess, and a Friday without any calls, I’ve been home for six days. And doing very little cooking that I can post about.

So, this palak paneer is a stretch to be creative with very little energy.

Palak, means spinach, but the more broadly defined saag paneer, which refers to various ‘greens’ including spinach, mustard greens and fresh fenugreek leaves, is the more commonly served vegetarian dish found on Indian menus. Paneer refers to a fresh cheese which you can buy in Indian grocery stores but make, quite easily, at home.

I combined a couple of different recipes I found on line for the recipe below.

Palak (Spinach) Paneer – serves 3-4

250 grams / 8-9 oz cooked spinach*
250 grams / 8-9 oz fresh cottage cheese (paneer), cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tbsp vegetable oil

For the gravy or sauce:

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 bay leaf (medium to large)
1 onion, medium, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 or 2 fresh green chilies, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp red chili powder)
1 pinch turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dry fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi), use 2 tsp if you want a more bitter taste
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1/4 cup whipping cream or drained plain yogurt**
a pinch of sugar
salt as required
1-2 fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped (optional)

*  I used a 10 oz box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and cooked according to package directions.
** I would have used the yogurt but I didn’t have any this time.

Blanch spinach leaves in boiling water for 3 minutes and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl of cold water with 1/2 cup of ice cubes in it and leave for 1 minutes to cold shock (stop the cooking). Drain the spinach well and puree in a food processor or blender if you want the spinach to be a fine puree. Otherwise, just chop as finely as possible.

Optional: Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Pan fry the paneer cubes until golden brown on several sides to add additional flavour and texture. Remove the paneer cubes and drain them on paper towels.

Making the gravy or sauce:

In the same oil in which you pan fried the paneer, add the cumin seeds and the bay leaf and saute over medium high heat until the cumin seeds crackle. Then add the finely chopped onions and stir well cooking until they turn a light golden colour.

Add the ginger paste, garlic paste and finely chopped green chilies, stir and saute till the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic goes away. (If using the tomatoes, add them now.) Now add the spice powders – turmeric powder, black pepper, and dry fenugreek leaves, crushing the leaves before adding.

Stir well, reduce the heat to medium and add the spinach puree. Season with salt and sugar. Stir well, simmering the gravy for 5 to 6 minutes or until it thickens slightly and the spinach is cooked well.

Add the whipping cream along with the garam masala powder and stir very well. The cream should be mixed thoroughly with the spinach gravy.

Turn off the heat, add the paneer cubes and stir them gently with the rest of the gravy so as not to break up the cubes.

Serve the palak paneer hot with various Indian breads ie. rotis, naan, chapatis, paratha or cumin basmati rice or biryani rice.

I had to eat even though I was sick so I made some other quick and easy dishes …

pan-fried boneless pork chops with leftover enchilada quinoa and

roasted chicken drumsticks which had been marinated in Italian salad dressing, steamed broccoli dressed with sweet Thai chili sauce, vanilla bean panna cotta topped with a compote made with frozen blackberries, blueberries, orange juice and some orange zest.

I even made another sourdough tartine loaf with dried dill weed and minced onion. Great as a snack with some butter or toasted and spread with cream cheese.

Oh, and there was a sourdough pizza and sourdough pancakes with macerated strawberries and strawberry coulis.

Happy Mother’s Day (2017) … Fudgy Chocolate Cake

In many households, dads barbecue to save mom from having to cook on this, their special day. Which you might think is a very considerate thing to do.

My question is … who does the dishes and cleanup, let alone did the shopping, for what gets bbq’d?

Dad?

I DON’T think so. 🙂

For all the mothers (step-mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers etc) out there, I hope you had a great day surrounded by your loved ones. Who show their appreciation to you for all you do, year round.

I made a fudgy chocolate cake yesterday which many mothers would appreciate. Instead of a cake however, I made a dozen cupcakes and two mini cakes that would serve two people. They were frosted very simply with a ganache (whipping cream and chocolate) and there’s a pretty strawberry sauce to go with it.

Strawberry Sauce – makes about a cup of sauce

3 tbsp water
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 cup thinly sliced strawberries
3 tbsp granulated sugar
a squeeze of lemon juice (it’ll liven up the flavour of the sauce)

Stir together the water and cornstarch in a small bowl until combined.

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the cornstarch mixture, sliced strawberries, lemon juice and sugar.

Bring mixture to a simmer, whisking frequently and cook for a minute or two. Cool for 5 minutes.

Puree in a food processor.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl.

I bbq’d a sirloin steak, a large pork chop, several pork souvlaki skewers for the rest of the week and some pineapple rings. The steak was served with a baked potato (cooked in the microwave and finished on the bbq), sauteed white mushrooms and a simple salad.

 

Cupcakes and frosting

 

Quinoa Goes South of the Border

Cooking for one is a challenge.

On the plus side, you don’t have to cook as often. So the preparation and cooking time for one dish (which will give you six to eight meals) is reduced overall. On the negative side, especially with new dishes, what happens if you don’t LIKE the result? You end up having to eat it for six to eight meals. And some things don’t freeze well. If you’re smart, you halve the recipe to make that particular dish. But then, you often end up with half cans of sauces, beans, veggies etc that are needed for the dish.

Another negative is that you sometimes end up having to buy pre-packaged perishable foods for the dish you’re making that you don’t always use up before they go bad.

This past weekend I brought home a lot of pantry items. Some of them were intended for dishes in which the remaining quinoa in my pantry would be used. And then, I ran across a 900 gm package of white quinoa which was reduced to about 45% of its regular price. So I bought the bag planning to save the pricier tri-colour quinoa for dishes where appearance mattered. Luckily, such items have a long shelf life. But I ALSO bought a hard taco kit cause I have had a Tex-Mex craving for a while. And my Cinco de Mayo meal was just … sad. And it was on sale. 🙂

I DID have to buy some ground beef to put in the tacos, though, because I didn’t have any in my freezer. And old cheddar cheese because I was low on that too. Luckily the cheese was a dollar off.

(The JOYS of grocery shopping.)

Anyway, at this point, I had decided on a Tex-Mex menu for the weekend.

To spare you further headaches of the mental gymnastics I went through, my Sunday cooking ended up being beef tacos, a quinoa enchilada casserole and some mac and cheese (leftover pasta shells) as a side to one of my future weekday meals.

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole – serves 4

2 cups cooked quinoa (1/2 cup rinsed and drained quinoa, 1 cup chicken stock and 1/2 tsp salt, though you can use vegetable stock)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn
1/2 cup black beans (if canned, drained and rinsed well)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced finely
1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Enchilada sauce

1 clove garlic, smashed and sauteed over medium heat in 1 tsp vegetable oil til golden, discard garlic retaining the seasoned oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp chipotle in adobo
1-2 tbsp water, as needed

Topping

1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Garnish

1-2 diced Haas avocados
1/4 cup green onions thinly sliced on diagonal

Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil a medium sized casserole or other baking dish.

In a large sauce pan, combine the seasoned oil, tomato sauce, cumin, salt and pepper, chipotle and 1 tbsp water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add additional water if sauce is too thick.

Combine the quinoa, corn, black beans, jalapeno pepper and cheese in a medium sized bowl. Turn out into prepared baking dish and press down lightly.

Spoon the enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle the 2nd amount of cheese over the top.

Cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil, or the lid if using a casserole dish.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes and serve, garnishing each individual portion with diced avocado and green onion.

Expect to see more quinoa recipes … soon.

Meal Planning on a LJ/Blog Post

Sometimes, my cooking plans for the weekend get tossed out the window after going grocery shopping.

I was only going to pick up a few things … chocolate chips for a fudgy chocolate cake recipe I was going to try, butter milk for something. I can’t remember what it was right now. And tahini, black bean sauce and hoisin sauce. I didn’t end up with any of those, other than the tahini. I DID pick up a bunch of things to restock my pantry … cans of baked beans, chickpeas, black beans, refried beans and pasta sauce. A sleeve of jalapeno flavoured tostadas. Ground beef (and a hard taco kit) as well as a tray of pork chops and a package of Canadian bacon. And a couple of packages of potato gnocchi.

So, now I’ve got to rethink my plans for Sunday.

One thing is sure though. There’s a lot of good eating ahead.

PS: I also bought a treat. Strawberry Twizzlers.

PPS: The buttermilk was for whoopie pies which I was going to make before I decided on the fudgy chocolate cake.

Tri-Colour Quinoa Honey Whole Wheat SD Loaf And SD English Muffins

Recently, I had a craving for English muffins and this weekend I tried a new recipe I found on line, which used sourdough starter. It ended up being a bit fiddly to execute and the finished muffins were much bigger than I liked. I split and toasted the muffins and ate them with butter, honey and peanut butter. I even had a hearty ham and peanut butter sandwich. Tasty, but not remarkable.

Sourdough English Muffins with honey

 

 

On a recent trip to Bulk Barn I picked up some tri-colour quinoa and riffing on my previous honey whole wheat sourdough bread experiments, I made a lovely sandwich loaf with some soaked quinoa.

Tri-Colour Quinoa Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Loaf

Tri-Colour Quinoa Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Loaf – 860 grams of dough, makes one 9″ by 5 1/4″ loaf

1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed 3 times and soaked overnight at room temp in fresh water**
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp ground garlic powder (optional)
3/4 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm milk
1 large egg, room temperature, slightly beaten

** You may find that some of your quinoa has sprouted the next morning.

 

 

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the AP flour, the WW flour and the salt, stir well.

Add the quinoa, honey, olive oil, garlic powder (if used), starter, milk and egg and beat well with a large wooden spoon until you have a smooth batter. Gradually stir in the rest of the all purpose flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough forms a ball around the spoon.

Turn out the dough onto a floured working surface and gradually knead in the rest of the flour until you have a soft but not sticky dough. Knead for 5 minutes, let rest for 5 minutes under a bowl and then knead for another 5 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a sheet of saran wrap or a damp towel and place in a warm place until doubled. (This took about 1 hr 45 min in my oven with the light turned on.)

Shape the dough and place into an oiled 9 by 5 1/4 inch loaf pan. Cover again with saran wrap or the towel and let rise until doubled, another 1 1/2 – 2 hrs.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F and bake the loaf for 25-30 minutes until well browned and the bottom is firm and sounds hollow when knocked. You may need to cover with a sheet of aluminum foil if it gets too brown before it’s finished baking.

Turn out and let cool on rack. Don’t cut until it’s cooled to room temperature.

Depressing Saturday and a Fun Kitchen Toy

I had Friday off because of a PD day so I went out and ran a bunch of errands. I’m SO glad I did so cause it was nice and sunny and not very cold at all. I had lots of energy. I even made a batch of sourdough English muffins using a new recipe when I got home. The results were ok but too fiddly to repeat so I’d stick with my previous version.

Today is a gray and miserable day and I’m not in the mood to go out.

So, I boiled up a smoked picnic shoulder ham. Which I sliced and made a sandwich with on a toasted English muffin, from yesterday’s bake, slathered with smooth peanut butter. That should tide me over for a while.

And I’m baking a quinoa honey whole wheat sourdough loaf.

I may even post some pictures.

Speaking of pictures … one of the errands yesterday was to Canadian Tire to price their digital scales. I bought a very very cheap one. It does just what I need it to and not much more. The brand isn’t one I consider even middle end, but the price was right. And it was red. (WIN WIN)

Right now, I’m doing a load of laundry while my bread final proofs. I hope tomorrow is a much nicer day.

U is for Udon (Noodles that is)

Noodles are ubiquitous in many cuisines and udon, a soft, thick and chewy wheat noodle, is one of the many Asian forms I hadn’t tried until I found them fresh at my local, cut-rate, grocery store.

Vacuum sealed in individual portions, they’re removed from the package and added to a pot of boiling water where they take only three minutes to cook to the al dente stage. Rinsed thoroughly in cold water and then well drained, they can be served either hot or cold.

Closeup

Dan Dan Noodles … the noodles are topped with the meat sauce, sambal oelek and green onions … stir it up and dig in.

Tofu and red miso soup served over a half package of udon noodles with a poached egg for garnish.

Easter Sunday (and Easter Monday) Dining

Sorry for the delay in posting … no real reason.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend with friends and family. Four days off seems like a lot but, amazingly, it’s Monday already and they flew by. It was a mild weekend so I went outside and bbq’d a tray of lamb shoulder chops, a package of asparagus and a package of jumbo hot dogs for my Easter dinner. It was all delicious.

Supper – Chickpea soup with a crispy kale garnish and the lamb chops, kale salad, sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Instead of buns or rolls, I used part of the dough from the traditional Romanian Easter bread, pasca, which I posted already, to make a pull-apart braided cross.

And here’s the star of the meal. The cheese filling is an accent not the main feature.

I cut some of the flowers from the front ‘garden’ for my Easter table and though the daffodils are all faded (they were gorgeous last weekend) the narcissus are beautiful, as always. My dad’s plantings are doing him proud yet again.

And speaking of plants, I planted a small egg tray (2 seeds in each of 6 cups) of lavender seeds a couple of weeks ago but there’s no sign of any seedlings yet. I’m not quite sure why I decided to plan them, but I have had this package of seeds for a while so I thought I’d give it another try in the face of previous fails.  UPDATE (04/22) : only 1 seedling germinated. It was never a very successful package of seeds so I suspect there was something wrong from the source.

I’m debating on what else I should plant this year from my collection of seed packets. Mostly herbs since that’s mostly what I have. Basil (Italian and Thai), some shiso since none of the four or so lovely plants I had in the house over-wintered successfully indoors, from the fall planting. One leaf after another dropped off until all I was left with was a bare stalk with faded blossoms on it. I suppose I could have gathered the seeds but I didn’t plan ahead. As to the mitsuba, I have one very leafy plant sitting on the window sill in the entry way. I pinched off the older faded leaves as a new furl appeared in the center and now I have huge leaves on it. The pot isn’t very large or deep but I’m wary of transplanting in case the shock causes them all to drop off.

It seems like the sage plant I bought from the city market has overwintered successfully outside without any type of covering but the rosemary … I’m pretty sure it’s dead. Thyme, oregano and mint plants were also in the pots but it’s too soon to tell if they’re going to come back.

Pasca cu aluat de cozonac (Romanian Easter Bread)

There are several kinds of Easter bread or preparations called variously, pasca or pascha or paska. One is even a molded type of cheese. But this version, made with the same sweet yeast dough as cozonac, has a sweetened cheesecake filling. The cheese used is a dry curd cheese, though ricotta, drained cottage cheese or even cream cheese has been used in recipes I’ve seen on line. I had a bit of cottage cheese in the fridge but not enough for the recipe I wanted to try so I made a batch of paneer (cheese made from acid curdled milk) which I drained well and used instead.

I wanted a higher cheese to bread ratio so I only used 1 1/2 pounds of dough (instead of the full two pounds the dough recipe makes) for the pasca.

Paneer – freshly made curd and after being drained and pressed

 

The sponge for the dough was allowed to proof for 30 minutes and was then combined with the rest of the ingredients

Dough shaped into base and braided border – next time I have to press down the center area where the cheese is spooned in.

 

I made a braided bread cross with the remaining dough.

 

In Romania and other countries where the pasca is made, it has deeper religious meaning, but it’s also a very tasty bread enjoyed at this time of the year.