I love cheese – I could never become a vegan because I could never bear to give it up. And what’s better than cheese? Fried cheese of course.
You may be familiar with halloumi cheese, but did you know there are other kinds of frying cheese? Let me introduce you to the pleasures of saganaki cheese. The word saganaki means “little frying pan” in Greek, and refers to all manner of Greek tapas style dishes. The cheese I am referring to is the one labelled as “Saganaki” here in Australia. You may be able to find saganaki cheese in some supermarkets, delis and some gourmet fruit and vegetable stores [I got mine at Coles].
For further details about saganaki cheese, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saganaki
Halloumi and saganaki cheese can be very salty, so it can be a good idea to rinse your sliced cheese in water and pat dry with paper towel before cooking to remove some of the excess saltiness. Be careful when frying because the cheese can release moisture and cause the pan to spit hot oil.
Fried Saganaki Cheese with Salsa
- 200g packet of saganaki cheese
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons olive oil – or enough to coat the bottom of the fry pan
- 1 avocado, cubed
- 2 spring onions or 1 shallot, finely sliced
- 2 tomatoes, cubed
- 1 red chilli, seeds removed & finely chopped
- ½ a bunch of mint or parsley [or a combination of the 2], leaves removed & finely chopped
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Remove saganaki cheese from packet, slice if not already sliced, rinse in water to remove some of the saltiness, then pat dry with paper towel.
- Place flour and dried oregano into a plastic freezer bag, add the saganaki cheese to the bag and shake to coat the cheese in flour.
- Heat olive oil in frypan over medium heat.
- Dust off excess flour from the cheese, then add the cheese to the heated pan – be careful as it can spit during the cooking process [I tend to cover with the lid ajar to let the steam out and avoid being splattered]. Cook on one side, then flip and cook on the other side.
- Meanwhile combine the remaining salsa ingredients in a bowl.
- Once the saganaki cheese is cooked on both sides, transfer to a plate and top with the salsa. Enjoy.
What is your favourite cheese dish? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
I was nervous about cooking with spices, and as a result, tended to avoid cooking curries, except maybe with the assistance of a curry paste. After spending time living in the UK however, and watching a multitude of cooking shows, I grew confident enough to make curries and dishes using the base spices and mixing my own blends.
Indian cuisine is hugely popular in Britain and elsewhere around the globe, although one of the UK’s most popular dishes, Chicken Tikka Masala is not Indian in origin, and was created specifically for the milder British palate, and the majority of Indian Restaurants in the UK are run by Bangladeshis & Pakistanis and are influenced by those regions.
It is recommended when using spices, you buy whole spices, dry roast the spices [ie cook them without any oil over a low to medium heat – be careful to keep the spices moving so they roast evenly and only cook until lightly toasted and the aroma is released, don’t let the spices burn], then grind to get maximum flavour into your dish. Spices can be ground in a coffee grinder or a with a pestle and mortar.
Dal (also spelled Dahl or Daal, or Dhal) is one of my favourite vegetarian recipes. You can serve this alongside other Indian inspired dishes, and / or with rice. I tend to eat a bowl of Dal with a warm naan bread and skip the rice. This is the kind of dish that is even better reheated the next day after all of the flavours have had extra time to infuse.
Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients in this recipe, once you have everything assembled, it is quite straight forward.
Serves 6 [or 4 with leftovers for lunch the next day if you are lucky, also freezes well]
* This recipe was inspired by one by Alf McMillan that appeared on www.bbc.co.uk/food. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 100g ghee
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 birds eye chillies, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 3 teaspoons garam masala
- 3 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 sticks of celery, finely diced
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 1 x 400ml can coconut milk
- 1 litre of tomato based vegetable juice [I use V8 juice]
- 2 cups of red lentils
- 250g frozen chopped spinach [or feel free to add fresh spinach instead]
- Take frozen spinach out of freezer to defrost.
- Dry roast in a large saucepan the coriander, cumin, mustard seeds until fragrant. Transfer to mortar and pestle and grind seeds.
- Heat ghee in a large saucepan, add the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger, celery, turmeric, garam masala, ground seeds, star anise, cinnamon stick. Cook until the onion is soft.
- Add lentils and coat in the ghee mixture.
- Add chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, vegetable juice and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour [stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks and burns on the bottom of the saucepan]. If the dal starts to dry out too much add some water.
- Add spinach and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove kaffir lime leaves, cinnamon stick and star anise. Your dal is ready to serve. Enjoy.
How do you like to use spices? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
We may think of pomegranates as being exotic and a little intimidating, but they have been part of the Australian psyche for a long time. Notably, in the form of grenadine syrup, the sticky red cordial that is used in pubs to make pink lemonade & other mixed drinks [I’ve even seen grenadine used in a schooner of Guinness for the ladies, but haven’t tried this so can’t comment if it is a good idea or not].
Pomegranates are becoming more common and affordable in our fruit and vegetable shops, so today’s post is dedicated to ideas on how to use them.
De-seeding a pomegranate: The parts you use are the pretty jewel-like seeds inside the pomegranate and the juice. To get the seeds out of a pomegranate there are lots of tips and techniques – some say cut in half and whack with a wooden spoon to dislodge the seeds. I cut the pomegranate in half, and squeeze each half over a bowl – lots of juice and seeds will come out. I then proceed to rip the half apart, popping out the seeds as I go. Remove any pithy bits that make their way into the bowl. Pomegranate can stain so you may want to use plastic gloves and be careful not to get splatters on your clothes.
A tip I learnt from one of Nigella’s recipe books, is that pomegranate seeds freeze really well. Remove the seeds as described above, then transfer to a zip-lock plastic bag or a container and freeze until needed. You might want to freeze just the seeds [not the juice], otherwise you will end up with an ice-block and you will need to defrost the whole thing to use – if you have frozen just the seeds they will be on standby to sprinkle a handful over a bowl of Hummus or Tzatziki for decoration or to add to salads, fruit salad and other dishes.
Burghul comes in fine or coarse varieties, I use coarse for the texture. Burghul is also spelt bulgur, burghul or bulgar. If you want a gluten-free alternative to burghul, you could substitute quinoa.
Wishing a Happy Mothers Day to all mums, including my mum for tomorrow.
Watercress and Pomegranate Tabouli
* This recipe was inspired by one that appeared in the November 2003 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 1 cup burghul
- 2 lemons finely zested & juiced [if this is too lemony for you, use just the juice]
- 2 pomegranates – seeds & juice removed
- 1 bunch watercress, sprigs picked
- 1 large Spanish or red onion, finely chopped
- 1 bunch mint, leaves removed & finely chopped
- 1 bunch flat leaf or Italian parsley, leaves removed & finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes, finely diced
- ¼ cup olive oil [extra virgin preferred]
- Salt & pepper
- Add lemon zest [if using], salt and pepper to the burghul.
- Add lemon juice, pomegranate juice to a measuring jug, fill up with water to equal 1 ¼ cups of liquid and add to the burghul mix.
- Allow to burghul time to stand and absorb the liquid – you can test when it is ready by tasting to make sure the grains are tender [you should end up with a sloppy mix when this is finished, the extra liquid will coat the greens later].
- If you are substituting quinoa, cook according to instructions on the pack but using the lemon juice & pomegranate juice.
- Prepare the watercress, mint, parsley, onion, tomatoes and pomegranate seeds, combine in a bowl.
- Add the soaked burghul and olive oil. Toss to combine.
- Can be eaten straight away or keeps for up to a day or two in the fridge. Enjoy.
How do you use pomegranates? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Pasta makes a fairly regular appearance at my place for meals, but I do tend to get bored with tomato-based pasta sauces. This weeks’ recipe offers an alternative, it is also extremely quick and easy to make.
I have a lemon addiction, and can’t seem to cram enough lemon zestiness into my recipes. I know that this may not be to everybody’s taste, so feel free to start off conservatively and skip using the zest, only using the juice. If I am using just the juice of a lemon for something, I still tend to zest the rind before juicing, and freeze the zest in a small container for later – it is handy to have on standby to add to drinks or use as a garnish for dishes. I do have a zester gadget that produces long strips of zest, or you can use your humble grater [the fine grater section] to remove the rind. Only use the yellow part of the skin, as this is where the flavour is, avoid using the bitter white pith underneath.
Feel free to experiment with different types of herbs, adding some prawns, fresh diced tomato or grated zucchini to create your own twists on this base recipe.
It is up to you if you want to use fresh pasta or pasta from the pantry for this recipe – any sort of pasta will work well, but I like using spaghetti for this recipe.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 heaped teaspoons capers [drained if in brine, or washed, if the salted variety]
- 3 anchovy filets, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 chilli, finely chopped [remove seeds if you don’t want it too spicy]
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon [if this is too lemony for you, use just the juice]
- ½ a bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of thyme leaves [lemon thyme is even better if you can find it]
- 2 serves of pasta
- Parmesan cheese, to taste
- Place a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
- In a saucepan heat the olive oil over low heat, and add the anchovies, garlic, chilli and capers.
- Add the pasta to your boiling water and cook according to the pasta instructions.
- Cook the oil mix until the garlic is light brown and has infused the oil, then turn off the heat. Add the lemon zest and juice and chopped parsley to the saucepan and leave to the side until the pasta is ready.
- Before draining your cooked pasta, reserve a cup of the cooking water in case you want to thin out the sauce later on.
- Drain the pasta and add to the infused oil mixture, stir to coat pasta in the sauce. Add some of the cooking water if there is not enough sauce to coat the pasta.
- Transfer to bowls and add parmesan cheese to taste. Enjoy.
What favourite pasta recipes do you like to make on a regular basis? Has this post inspired any new ideas?