Mutabbal

One of my favourite Mezzeh in Oman was Mutabbal, a roasted aubergine dip. I ate it for breakfast and most often later during the day again. This recipe is super easy and tastes absolutely delicious, have a try!

2 medium aubergines
1 clove of garlic
60g tahini
125g yoghurt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 250°C.

Cut the aubergines into half, place on a baking tray lined with parchment with the cut side down. Pinch the dark side with a fork all over the aubergine.

Bake /grill (if you have one) the aubergine in the oven until very soft (about 30 minutes). Take out and leave to cool for a while. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh into rough chunks. Place in a sieve and press out as much liquid as you can.


Blitz the drained aubergine with garlic, tahini, yoghurt, lemon juice and cumin into a smooth paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in a bowl topped with good quality olive oil and fresh pomegranate seeds, sumach, and arabic flatbreads.

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Omani Chicken Biryani


I spent New Years in Oman this year and was fascinated by this wonderful country. Of course, I was also very interested in the food. We managed to eat out in a very simple traditional restaurant and enjoyed it very much. This one here is with grilled chicken but the idea of it was similar:


Back in Germany, my  friends gave me a book about Omani cuisine for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to try the recipes. This was my first attempt at a recipe and it turned out very well.

For 6 portions:

spice blend:
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

chicken:
600g chicken pieces (I used breast and legs)
2 cloves garlic
1 small piece of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 vegetable stock cube

rice:
500g basmati rice
3 whole cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
salt

onion garnish:
250ml vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced

sauce:


1 plum tomato, cored and chopped
1 medium red onion, halved
1/2 teaspoons whole black pepper corns
3 whole cloves
2 whole cardamom pods
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, finely minced
6 cloves garlic, pressed/mashed
1 small piece of fresh ginger
1 vegetable stock cube
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
6 tablespoons tomato paste

optional:
3 tablespoons ghee for assembly

To make the spice mix, combine cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and cardamom in a small bowl.

Prepare the chicken by removing any skin and excess fat. Place in a large pot with garlic, ginger, salt, cumin, cinnamon, stock cube, 2 teaspoons of the spice mix, and water to cover  everything. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broth (keep for other dishes if you like) and leave to cool completely.


Prepare the rice by rinsing with water until it runs clear. Place into a bowl and soak with water for 30 minutes.


To make the sauce,  puree tomato, halved onion, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, and 2 tablespoons of water in a food processor. Add more water if neccessary to form a smooth paste.

For the onion garnish, heat the vegetable oil in a pot and fry the thin onion slices until golden brown (about 8-10 minutes). Repeat this in small batches to avoid cooling of the oil. Transfer onto a paper towel to remove excess fat and set aside. Keep the pan with oil for later.


Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a large casserole dish. Sauté the chopped onions until brown. Add the garlic and ginger and stir. Increase the heat to high and add the pureed paste with 1 tablespoon of the spice blend, the stock cube, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and turmeric. Cook for a few minutes before stirring in the tomato paste and water to prevent burning.

While the sauce is cooking, fry the chicken in the pan used for the onions previously. Add the fried chicken to the sauce and mix well. Cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the rice with water, cardamom, cinnamon stick, salt. Bring to  boil rapidly, for 6-8 minutes only! Turn of the heat, drain the rice and set aside.

Remove the sauce and chicken from the casserole dish and set aside. Do not clean the pot!

Assemble the biryani by spreading half the rice into the pot, covering it with the sauce and the remaining rice. Sprinkle with the fried onions and cover for 15 minutes. Serve with some fresh yoghurt and enjoy!

Gluten-free pizza crust


I found this recipe for a gluten-free healthier pizza dough in the BBC Good Food Magazine a while ago and was excited to try it out – it sounded just like the right thing when trying to avoid eating too many carbohydrates for dinner.

The recipe makes one large or several small pizzas.
1 medium cauliflower

100g ground almonds

2 eggs

Salt, pepper, oregano, spices to taste 

Heat the oven to 200C fan.

Chop the cauliflower into florets and blitz  in a food processor (small portions at a time). Place into a microwaveable bowl, cover with cling film and cook on high power for 5-6 minutes. Pour out onto a clean tea towel and leave to cool. 


Press out any liquid from the cauliflower in the tea towel.

Place into a clean bowl, add ground almonds, eggs and spices to taste. 

Place baking parchment and spoon on the cauliflower mix. Form one or more pizza bases and form a little rim around the edge to keep in the sauce later. 


Bake for 15 minutes until slightly brown. 


Top the pizza to your taste. I used tomato Passata with spices, capers, Schinkenspeck and Gouda cheese. The original recipe calls for mozzarella cheese and grilled aubergine for example. 


Enjoy 🙂

Stuffed Mushrooms


I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food Healthy Diet plan website and liked how easy it is to prepare. I adapted the recipe slightly. We cannot get hold of portobello or any other large mushrooms in Germany so I used  smaller ones instead.

For two portions:

8-10 medium sized mushrooms (or 4 portobello mushrooms)
olive oil
3 tablespoons of fine bulgur wheat
100g feta cheese
10 walnuts
1 clove of garlic
2 teaspoons of herbs of Provence 
pepper, salt, cayenne pepper

Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and place onto a baking tray with the closed side up. Brush with some olive oil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the bulgur wheat in boiling water (slightly more than covering the bulgur) for about 8 minutes.

Remove all the liquid from the mushrooms and baking tray with paper towel, turn them. Mix cooked bulgur with chopped feta cheese, walnuts and pressed garlic. Add spices to taste and fill mushrooms.

Bake mushrooms for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy 🙂

English country life – pheasant and partridge

I’ve got a week off from work and have been cooking quite a lot of food, it is just the perfect way for me to relax. In that context I have been wanting to improve my sauce skills a little so I have focussed on making meat and fish with matching sauces.

Winter is game bird season and because its not something I can get easily in the city I was more than excited to get to fabulous birds from the farmshop for only 3 Pounds each.

I got a pheasant and partridge from our local farm shop butcher. Both birds were plucked, gutted and cleaned.


For two  portions:

1 cleaned pheasant and partridge
1 medium sized onion 
1 medium sized shallot
1 carrot
300ml dry red wine
150ml stock (beef, veal, game, etc)
2 mini cauliflowers (or half a normal one)
3 medium potatoes
5 leafs of savoy cabbage (half a small one)
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
butter
milk
salt, pepper, nutmeg

 

I started by removing the legs of the pheasant and the wings of the partridge. Next, I cut off the breasts of both pheasant and partridge. Unfortunately, my knifes were not sharp enough to cut them off with the skin, please leave it on if you can. Cut off any meat left on the bones for the stock.


In a casserole dish, heat some rapeseed oil on medium heat. Chop one shallot, one onion and a carrot roughly. Sauté the onions and carrot in the hot oil. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and the leg/wing meat into the pan. Sear until brown. Deglaze the pan with 300ml of dry red wine and add 150ml of good quality beef or game stock. Leave to simmer on low to medium heat until the sauce has reduced to half.


In the meantime, cook cauliflower florets and small chunks of potato in boiling salted water separately. When fully cooked, drain and transfer to a food processor/tall bowl. Season with salt and some pepper. Add two large knobs of butter and some milk. Blitz until you get a smooth and creamy puree without any lumps. Keep warm until serving.

Bring water to a boil and cut the savoy cabbage into thin strips (removing the stalks first). Blanch cabbage (cooked but still crisp, placed into ice water and drained). Melt a knob of butter in a saucepan over low heat. Toss the cabbage in the butter and season to taste (e.g. salt, pepper, nutmeg). Keep warm until serving.

When the game sauce is reduced sufficiently, remove the pieces of meat and sieve the remaining sauce. Keep the sauce and thicken to taste with whisking in some flour/cornflour. Add some more butter to taste if necessary.

Heat some rapeseed oil and a large knob of butter in a pan over low heat. Add some sprigs of fresh thyme. Panfry the pheasant and partridge breast until slightly coloured.  They should be served slightly pink.


Serve breast meat with cauliflower puree, savoy cabbage and the game jus. Enjoy 🙂

Pumpkin Pasta Lasagne

I have pumpkin almost every day now and  came up with this new twist today. Instead of using meat you can use some roast pumpkin slices/cubes and make the whole dish vegetarian. Measures are rough estimates here as pumpkins will have different size and water content etc. I used a green hokkaido pumpkin but you can use any sort of pumpkin for the pasta.

4 Portions

for the pasta dough:
1/2 small Hokkaido pumpkin
2 teaspoons of stock powder
about 200g Semolina
about 100g plain flour
salt, pepper, spices to taste

for the fillings:
300g minced lean beef
4 medium onions
2 cloves of garlic
400ml tomato sauce (with spices if you like, I use pasta base sauce)
100ml red wine
1 tablespoon tomato puree
200g baby spinach 
2 small mozzarella balls (or buy grated mozzarella)
250ml milk
some butter 
2 tablespoons of plain flour
100g soft goats cheese
salt, pepper, nutmeg
parmesan cheese to finish

Start with preparing the pasta dough. For this, deseed and peel half a pumpkin. Cut of the skin and cube roughly. Place in a pot and cover with water. Add some stock powder and cook until soft. Drain and transfer to a stand mixer (if you don’t have any you can of course mash it with a potato masher). Add spices to taste and leave to cool down.

Combine with semolina and plain flour to form a flexible dough that is not wet anymore. Cover in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 mins.

In the meantime, chop the onions and press the garlic. Cook both until brown and soft. Transfer 1/4th of the onion/garlic mix to a large pot and add the spinach leaves on low heat until they shrink and soften. Remove from the heat and store in a bowl.

Brown the minced meat in a pan until brown. Add the onions and tomato sauce. Season with salt, pepper, red wine and tomato puree to taste.

For the white sauce, heat a large knob of butter in a saucepan. When melted, add the flour and stir to form a roux. Remove from the pan and set aside. Heat the milk in the pan and slowly stir in the roux to thicken the sauce to your liking. You don’t necessarily have to add all of it. When you’re happy with the consistency, add the goats cheese and combine to form a smooth and thick sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.


Grate the mozzarella balls in a food processor. I use the KitchenAid grater attachment, its great!


Now that all the fillings are done its time to make some pasta! I use the KitchenAid pasta machine attachment as it allows me to use both hands to hold the pasta sheet. You can of course also use a manual one. I like to make lasagne in glass dishes that I can cover with clip lids for freezing later but any oven dish will do.


Make sure your pasta dough has the right consistency before you start. No recipe can guarantee for perfect ratios for these doughs, they always come out different depending on the size of eggs, humidity etc. Its best to keep practising and get some experience on how it works best. Mine started off a bit too wet. I took a picture of how it shouldn’t look when you start handing it through the pasta maker:


The dough should be flexible and not wet or sticky at all. If it is, incorporate more semolina. When the texture feels right, take a small piece and flatten out to fit into the pasta maker. 


Coat in semolina and start on the thickest (1) stage of the pasta maker. This is the stage to get a right and even shape so I usually pass it through many times, folding and coating it in more semolina if necessary. Keep passing it through the machine a few times on each setting up to setting 3 or 4. Cut the dough into the right size and cover the bottom of the oven dish.

Squeeze out the liquid from the spinach mix and start layering: tomato sauce, spinach, some mozzarella, white sauce, pasta, etc.

Try to get at leat three layers – make sure they are thin to fit as many in as possible.


For the top layer cover the last pasta sheet with white sauce, mozzarella and some parmesan shavings if you like.


Bake at 180°C until golden brown (about 20 minutes depending on the size).


Enjoy!

Celebration cake – cherry filled ultimately chocolate cake & vanilla and raspberry cake


I have an important celebration coming up tomorrow and decided to bake cake with two tiers. The bottom layer is a very stable chocolate cake filled with cherries and covered in chocolate ganache. The cake mixture itself is adapted from the BBCs Ultimate Chocolate Cake recipe. It is a super moist and chocolatey cake but I have slightly reduced sugar and adapted it so German supermarket stocks.

For a 28cm cake:

400g good quality dark chocolate
400g butter
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules ( I used Douwe Egberts Pure Gold from the UK - my absolute favourite, also for drinking!)
250ml milk
340g plain flour
1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate soda (Natron in German supermarkets)
400g caster sugar
50g good quality cocoa powder (the bitter one, not the sweet drinking stuff!)
6 eggs
150ml buttermilk

sweet cherries in juice (in Germany we get them in glass jars) -  400g cherries and 250ml of the liquid required.
6 sheets of gelatine

for the ganache:
450g dark chocolate
150-200g cream

I prepared the ganache the night before making the cake. You can make it on the same day but make sure it gets time to cool down completely:

Chop the chocolate into small chunks and heat the cream in a pot at medium heat. Stir until the cream starts to bubble up. Remove from the heat and wait until the bubbles stop appearing. Add the chocolate chunks, leave for 2 minutes and stir together to get a smooth and glossy ganache. Leave to cool and store in a microwavable container until use (at room temperature, fridge is also fine).

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan / 180°C conventional oven.

Chop the chocolate into chunks, cube the butter  (keep the paper for greasing the tin) and dissolve the coffee granules in cold milk. Add all three to a pot and warm up at medium heat. Stir until dissolved completely and leave to cool. In the meantime sift flour, sugar, cocoa, and bicarbonate soda into  a large mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk and start whisking.  While whisking, add the eggs to the mixture (one at a time). When mixed well, add the liquid chocolate mixture to the batter. Line the bottom of a spring form with baking parchment, clip into the form and grease the sides with a butter paper. Pour the chocolate mix into the tin and place in the oven. Bake for about an hour. Check whether its done by inserting a toothpick  – it should come out clear if its done.

Leave the cake to cool completely. Cut the cake into two slices. For that you can use a ruler and toothpicks for marking where to cut or a conventional cake cutter (this metal string, I don’t particularly like it but many people do). If the cake has risen unevenly cut of the top to make it look straight before cutting it in half.

Line the spring form bottom with baking parchment again. Place one half of the cake into the tin (with the browner/harder side down). If necessary, heat up the ganache again in the microwave. It should have a consistency of Nutella/peanut butter. Pipe around the edges of the form onto the cake to create a barrier for the filling to leak out later. Place the cherries into the middle. In the meantime, heat up the cherry liquid. Prepare gelatine according to packet instructing (for sheets usually soaking in cold water until wobbly). Add the gelatine to the cherry liquid and stir to dissolve. Leave to cold down until it starts to set. Check whether the chocolate ganache has set and pour the setting cherry sauce onto the cherries to create a smooth surface. Add the second half of the cake on top.

Cover the top of the cake with chocolate ganache while its still in the spring form. Leave to set. Remove the cake tin and coat the sides in ganache, too.  Rinse your palate knife under hot water to get a really smooth finish on the sides or top of the cake. If you want more info on how to coat a cake check out this tutorial that I found very helpful.


Leave for the ganache to set overnight for further fondant decorations or decorate to your liking 🙂 Enjoy pure chocolate indulgence ❤

Vanilla and Raspberry Cake

The upper tier of my celebration cake is a vanilla cake filled with panna cotta and raspberry. One of my favourite desserts to make is panna cotta topped with a raspberry sauce so I thought why not put this inside a cake. I love the sweetness and creaminess of the panna cotta and the tartness of the raspberry – I hope it also works in this cake.

For one 20cm cake:
250g  butter
250g caster sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla sugar for the German bakers ;)
4 eggs
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
75ml milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the panna cotta:
300ml cream
3 vanilla pods 
about 50g caster sugar

For the raspberry layer:
500g frozen raspberries
6 sheets of gelatine
some caster sugar

For the buttercream:
250g icing sugar
125g butter
teaspoons vanilla extract

Prepare the two fillings first. If you have two 20cm cake dishes you can prepare them in parallel. Line the bottom of the cake tin with baking parchment and clip into the spring form. Heat the cream and raspberries in a pot over medium heat, each. Scrape the inner lining of the vanilla pod with a knife and transfer into the cream and add sugar to taste. Remove from the heat and add gelatine according to packet instructions. Leave to cool down to room temperature and pour into a baking tin. Leave to set in the fridge. Then the raspberries are hot, sift them and collect the puree in a bowl. Add sugar to taste and gelatine according to packet instructions. Leave to cool to room temperature and set in a baking tin. Store both fillings in the fridge until further use.

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan.

Cream butter and flour with a hand or stand mixer until smooth. Add one egg at a time while whisking. Sift in flour and baking powder and continue whisking. Finally, add milk and vanilla extract.

Line the base of a cake tin with baking parchment and grease the sides with a butter paper. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for about an hour (until toothpick comes out clear). Leave to cool completely.

Cut the cake into three layers with the help of a ruler and toothpicks (to mark to cut above). In case the cakes break (like mine did 😉 ) use the most stable one as the bottom. Place the panna cotta filling on top of the bottom, line with the second layer of sponge, raspberry jelly and the top sponge – I noticed that it can be difficult to line the outside of the cake with buttercream. Next time I would cut the jellies into slightly smaller circles and pipe some buttercream around it (inside a baking tin). 


For the buttercream, whisk icing sugar and butter until creamy. Add some vanilla extract to taste. Crumb-coat the cake with buttercream on top and sides. Due to the jelly fillings the cake is very wobbly, coat it as well as you can and continue after a night in he fridge if it’s too difficult…

 Leave to set in the fridge overnight. If you want to cover the cake in fondant spray with some water or add a thin layer of buttercream for the fondant to stick.


I coated both my cakes in white fondant and decorated using the Wilton letter cutters, silicon moulds for coloured and self-coloured fondant decorations and the remaining buttercream with some food colouring.