Friday, 28 June 2013

Russian Meatballs

I have been trying to please my nieces (ages 5 and 8) with food for so long now.. They don't like my Mac & Cheese because it's too cheesy (I now make it for them without cheese, bacon or tomatoes). After polishing off a plateful of spaghetti monsters, Sophie says she doesn't like them. They won't even try corn dogs, so I haven't bothered making them. Phew! So imagine my excitement when Emily mentioned that she would love to try spaghetti and meatballs!

Of course- we don't serve meatballs with spaghetti in Ukraine- we serve them with good old mashed potatoes. I did however send a bunch to Emily to have with spaghetti, and then had to send a few more! And they were so easy to make.

Now, trust me.. Pinky swear.. THIS is the cure for a bad day. Just for you, sprinkle a little cheese on top, settle in on the couch under a blanket, get a glass of wine.. Watch Big Bang Theory until it cheers you up, and if it doesn't, eat some cake too.

Russian Meatballs
From My Mom

1/3 cup basmati rice
700 g beef mince
1 egg
1/2 tsp paprika
115 g + 1 tblsp tomato sauce
115 g tomato paste
2 x bay leaves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4-5 x aromatic pepper balls

1) Boil the rice in salty water until cooked, drain and leave to cool.
2) Add the rice and egg to the mince, season generously and stir until incorporated.
3) Put a bit of olive oil in a pot, add the paprika and fry it for a little while.
4) Add the tomato sauce and paste, and cook them for a while.
5) Add about 500 ml of hot water, bay leaves, pepper, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil.
6) Set up a frying pan, add some olive oil. Make balls out of the mince, fry them to lightly caramelise both sides, then gently drop them into the pot.
7) Once done, boil them for about 20 minutes.
8) Taste one meatball and correct seasoning.
9) If you want to serve them with spaghetti, I would suggest separating some sauce, dissolving about 1 tablespoon of corn starch in a bit of water and adding it. It will take a couple of minutes for the sauce to thicken, and you can add some more if it's not the desired consistency. The add the meatballs, cook some spaghetti and serve.
10) To serve with mash, make mash, and put meatballs with some sauce on top. It makes for a soft warm soothing meal which is just a perfect antidote to all the bad in the world.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Cinnamon Rolls

I bought Joy The Baker's cookbook almost as soon as it came out. You know when you just feel like you just suck at life and someone has this knack of just making you feel like you're doing great? When I feel like I'm just doing a horrible job with this blog, I read one of her lighthearted, friendly and sweet updates, and I feel like I can do this again!

Normally these decadent things would trigger that switch in my brain that turns me into a crazed monkey smooshing cinnamon buns on my face. I've been trying very hard and just absurdly unsuccessfully to lose some weight lately. I'm back into my running routine of 4-5 times a week, but controlling my eating has been a whole other issue. Unfortunately I love love love my food.. I'm trying to get into enjoying smaller portions for food, so with these, Ralph and I shared one, and off the rest went to his work for the boys.

I miss them.. I want them back..

Cinnamon Rolls
From Joy The Baker's Cookbook

1 packet dry instant yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tblsp muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
344 g cake flour plus more for kneading
3/4 tsp salt
114 g soft unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup caramel sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup sultanas
1 tblsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 tblsp maple syrup
114 g melted unsalted butter

2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk

1) In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup lukewarm water, yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar.
2) Add the rest of the sugar, milk, muscovado sugar, vanilla, egg and egg yolk. Whisk thoroughly.
3) Add the flour and the salt, and knead with a dough hook attached to a mixer, until it comes together and for a couple of minutes after.
4) Add the butter, and knead some more until it's fully incorporated.
5) Take the dough out of the bowl onto a well-floured surface, and knead by hand until it absorbs about 1/2 cup sugar. Aim for the dough to still be a bit sticky when you're finished.
6) Put into a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and put in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours. Because it's winter here- it took much longer, so keep that in mind.
7) For the filling, mix everything except the butter.
8) When the dough has risen, knead it a bit more, adding a bit of flour until it's not sticky anymore.
9) Roll the dough out into a 25 x 50 cm rectangle. You will be rolling from the short side.
10) Brush the dough with half of the melted butter. Sprinkle the filling and even it out pressing it in lightly, but make sure to leave a couple of centimeter border at one of the short sides.
11) Roll the dough into a cylinder, ending on the border you left out so that you can seal it.
12) Put it down seam side down, and cut into 8 pieces.
13) Grease a 20 x 30 cm baking dish, and arrange the slices inside it.
14) Cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm place to rise, again for about 2 hours (while you have supper).
15) Preheat oven to 180 C.
16) Bake rolls until they are brown and bubbling, which takes about 30 minutes.
17) Take out of the oven, and drizzle the rest of the melted butter on top.
18) Mix the icing ingredients, and drizzle over rolls.
19) Send them away before you eat them all!!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Roast Buttermilk Chicken

It's amazing how the word 'hours' in a recipe just puts me right off. It's never an instruction to do something for hours, just allowing things to rest, rise, absorb or marinate, but still for me it's like someone not using a photo on a dating site- I steer well clear. 

There's never time to wait an hour, 2 hours or 24 hours! This panic builds up inside me.. I would love to have the time to spend 8 hours or more making homemade puff pastry, but I have a job, exercise and studying to do, plus there's the keeping non-filthy, sleeping way too little and spending good quality time nagging my husband!

We should all overcome our fears though, right? I started small.

This chicken needs to marinate for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours. I quickly put it together one night when I was tidying up after supper, and just popped them in the oven two nights later. It turned out much simpler than I thought- and garlicky, soft and lovely.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken
From Smitten Kitchen

1 cups buttermilk
5 garlic cloves
0.5 tblsp salt
0.5 tblsp sugar
1 tsp paprika (I used hot, not sweet)
4 chicken thighs

1) Mix all the ingredients in a ziplock bag (put everything in, close the bag and squoosh it around in your hands), and pop in the fridge for 24-48 hours.
2) Preheat oven to 200 C.
3) Line a baking dish with foil, take the chicken thighs out of the bag and place them in.
4) Drizzle thighs with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and paprika.

5) Bake until the skin looks like it's starting to burn- about 40 minutes.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Russian Chicken Salad (Olivye)

Just looking at this salad makes my mouth water. It's amazing- it doesn't really look like much.. But all I can think about is eating giant spoonfuls to 'check for salt'. It's my mom's fault. She was always paranoid about salt content and making me taste.. And I never was one for small spoonfuls.

In my family, and possibly every other in Ukraine, this is the salad that gets made for every get together, party and birthday. It's just always there, made with whatever protein is on hand. My mom makes it with beef or chicken, which makes for a nice excuse to buy a rotisserie chicken, keep the breasts for the salad and eat the rest with your fingers. I've seen recipes online of it made with polony, which is an easy alternative. I once even tried it made with calamari, which was.. Just plain weird..

This is the salad you want to snack on when you can't get to sleep and you're watching Buffy reruns at 2 am. Just get it out the fridge, grab a fork, wrap up in a blanket, grab a magazine, switch on the TV and you're all set.

I felt so good being able to make this fresh for Ralph. Normally I just beg my mom to make it whenever we come over, then I quietly and efficiently pack up and take home all the leftovers. I don't even share them.. I just quietly take them to work and eat them for lunch, telling myself that if Ralph wanted some, he would have said something. Truth is, I think he doesn't say anything because he knows how much I love Olivye and he's wonderful, so mostly I'm just an awful awful wife. But not when I make it myself and serve it up! Then I get to feel like the nice one for a while!

From My Mom

2 chicken breasts, cooked
3 medium potatoes
1 - 2 medium carrots
6 eggs
1/2 470g can peas
1/4 English cucumber
3-4 Israeli pickled cucumbers
Roughly 4 tblsp of mayonnaise (I used Hellmann's)
Roughly 2 tblsp of sour cream

1) Place the potatoes and carrots in a pot of boiling water and cook until tender.
2) Boil more water in the same pot. Drop eggs in to boil for 8 minutes, until hard boiled. Pour cold water into the pot to stop the cooking process and leave the eggs to cool.
3) Chop everything except the peas into pea sized cubes, and put in a large bowl. It should look colourful and gorgeous like this.

4) Start by adding two heaped tablespoons of mayo and one of sour cream, along with a large pinch of salt. Mix through nicely. Add more mayo and sour cream if it looks a bit dry (add half of the mayo amount in sour cream). Now, start the tasting. You will be tempted to taste large amounts. Go with it. It will probably need more salt.
5) Serve room temperature. Goes really nicely at barbeques (or braais!).

Friday, 14 June 2013

Gourmet Gourmet Burgers

Eating wise - I'm really not a very gourmet person. It's just that I'm not the biggest fan of change. I was brought up on schnitzels and mash, and besides pizza and the whole vegetable requirement to staying alive, nothing much has made onto my permanent rotation. Cooking on the other hand.. 

I just crave new recipes, better recipes.. I'm dying to get to the best recipes already! I am thoroughly frustrated that I don't yet have some old notebook in which I've scribbled the best way to make everything, from chocolate chip cookies to simple but incredible roast chicken.

This burger is actually a combination of two recipes, one for the rolls and one for the burger itself (both from Foodie Bride). This is what happens when I get over excited.. I take on far too much, and panic in the kitchen from the second I get home from work until it's far too late for supper. I did end up with this colourful saucy thang though.. And Ralph loved it!

Burgers on Jalapeno Cheddar Buns with Roasted Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil Pesto
From Foodie Bride and Foodie Bride

Burger Buns:
1 packet (10 g) instant yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tblsp canola oil
1 extra-large egg
3 tblsp sugar
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
170 g mature cheddar
3 large jalapenos, pickled, chopped finely
1 extra-large egg

Basil Pesto:
2 cups Basil leaves, not packed
1 garlic clove
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tblsp pecan nuts
3/4 cup grated Pecorino
pinch of salt
approximately 1/2 cup olive oil

Roast Tomatoes:
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper

300 g mince
1 tblsp worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

1 slice mozzarella

1) Make the buns first, as they need to rise.
2) Mix the yeast with the warm water, oil, sugar and egg.
3) Add the flour, salt, cheese, and jalapenos. Attach the dough kneading attachment to your mixer, and knead until it comes together and becomes elastic. I ended up kneading a bit with my hands, as the dough was working its way up into my mixer, and it worked just as well.
4) Grease a large bowl, and put your ball of dough in it. Cover with a damp towel, and put it in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1- 1.5 hours.
5) Line two oven trays with wax paper.
6) Take dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface. 
7) Divide dough into 8- 9 buns.
8) Roll the buns, and place them on baking trays, giving them room to rise.
9) Cover and rest again, this time for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
10) Whisk egg with a tablespoon of water, and use a brush to egg-wash the buns.
11) Bake for about 20 minutes, until the buns are browned.
12) Remove and let cool.

13) Place all the ingredients for the pesto in a jug. Use a hand-blender in one hand and drizzle in olive oil with the other. The blender might get stuck once or twice, but after that it should all go smoothly. Keep adding olive oil until it's the right consistency.

14) Place the tomatoes on some foil on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 150 C for about 30 minutes. 

15) To make the burgers, simply add the sauce and seasoning to the meat. Make patties, and fry on a medium heat according to your doneness preference.

16) Now, put together the burger. Cut open the bun, grilling a bit if you like. Spread with a bit of butter. Now top with the burger patty, a slice of mozzarella, some tomatoes, and basil pesto.We didn't manage a side for this - but I imagine it would be wonderful with sweet potato fries. As would anything else, anytime, ever.
17) Serve to happy husbands who make those amazing grateful eyes at you, then clean up the kitchen while you lie on the couch..

Monday, 10 June 2013

Apple Crisp A La Mode

What is it about cooked apples and cinnamon that makes life seem better? One bite and suddenly it's snowing outside, and toasty warm inside, I'm in a wood log cabin with a roaring fire, a glass of Gl├╝hwein, the best book ever (Sherlock Holmes), a kitten cuddled up with me, and my husband snoring gently in the distance.

I got this recipe from an episode of Kitchen Boss. Although Buddy's knife skills are a little rough (like I'm one to talk), he sure does have some good ideas.. I have since found that Joy The Baker makes a very similar dish in her book- and I can't wait to try that one!

Apple Crisp A La Mode

6 apples (I used golden delicious, but I suspect it might be lovely with Pink Lady and Granny Smith)
1 lemon's juice
4 tblsp granulated sugar
2 tblsp cake flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup instant oats
1/2 cup chopped pecan nuts
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup Demerera sugar (soft brown sugar)
1/4 tsp baking powder
90 g unsalted butter, cubed and slightly chilled

1) Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2) Peel and cut apples in 1 cm cubes.
3) Mix apples with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
4) Place all the topping ingredients in another bowl, and using a pastry cutter, mix them together thoroughly.
5) Place the apples in a baking dish, and top with the topping mixture.
6) Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the apple mixture is bubbling up in places.
7) Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, in front of a fire, when it's cold outside. Or just pretend all that and eat it on the couch with a big spoon.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Mom's Plov (Lamb Rice Pilaf)

I started studying again around the middle of May. That makes it a struggle to take care of supper every night. Although Ralph is more than capable, I like taking care of us, and I don't want that to fall away because I have to study. So, I'm trying to make meals on Sundays that can last us for at least Monday and Tuesday nights.

Plov is lovely because it has a mild but meaty flavour. I'm not a huge fan of lamb, but the flavour dissipates throughout the rice, and becomes gentle and wholesome and filling. It doesn't take long to make- about an hour, and can last the whole week.

It's one more thing that brings the feeling of family into our house, and for that I love it. For a minute I get that feeling of closeness with my brother, who is in another country, my mom and dad, who are in another city, and of course my gran, who is no longer around.

Lamb Rice Pilaf
From my mom

approximately 700 g deboned leg of lamb
2 cups Basmati rice
3 medium carrots
2 onions
1 tsp paprika

1) Place the rice in a bowl, add water and stir it in. It will turn milky which is when you carefully discard it. Repeat until it stays relatively clear. Soak the rice for 2 - 3 hours.
2) Clean the lamb, removing most of the fat, and cut into pieces roughly 1 - 1.5 cm.
3) Dice the onion, and jullienne the carrots (this just means cutting them into thin, short sticks).
4) Pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a large cast iron pot. Add the lamb, and fry until browned and slightly caramelised. Season generously with salt and pepper.
5) Take the meat out and add the onions and carrots. Braise until carrots are soft and slightly browned. Add paprika.
6) Add the meat, and braise everything together for a few minutes. If things begin to burn, add a bit of hot water.
7) Drain the rice and add it to the meat and level the top, then add water (tap water is fine) until it covers up to about 3 cm above the top of the rice.
8) Bring to the boil. Taste the water- adjust salt and make sure it tastes slightly over-salted, as the rice will absorb a lot of salt. Do not stir.
9) With the wrong end of a wooden spoon, make about 4-5 holes in the rice, right to the bottom. This will keep the rice from burning.
10) Set to a very low heat. Cover with the lid, and cook for 20 minutes completely covered.
11) Uncover, stir and serve immediately.

Monday, 3 June 2013


I discovered these heavenly things completely by accident while in New York. Ralph and I had secured spots for the St. Patrick's Day parade, and I went off in search of coffee to keep us from freezing to death (I don't deal well with cold). 

I saw a lady sitting outside a tiny little patisserie having a cup of coffee and one of these. I asked her if the shop was any good and she excitedly told me that this doughnut she was having was amazing. I wasn't convinced, but went inside and ordered one anyway, with two cups of coffee.

Can you tell it was cold? I wasn't wearing my gloves and windbreaker yet at that point. Of course, it hadn't started snowing yet. Why do I look like I'm smiling at some sort of drooling psychopathic dog who's about to attack me? That's me trying to decide whether to be happy about an amazing parade or burst into tears and demand to be taken somewhere with heating (I really don't deal well with cold). The parade won- for a while..

That cruller was just incredible.. They just look like doughnuts on the outside, but inside they're doughey and holey- like an eclaire. In fact, they are eclairs, just deep fried ones. I fell in love with them that day. I wonder why they're not more ubiquitous? I was determined to make them at home, and blow everyone away. And boy did I.

From Food Network

1 cup water
114 g unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cake flour
3 - 5 extra-large eggs
Canola oil, for deep frying

3 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup milk

1) Place water, butter, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a strong boil.
2) Remove from heat, add all the flour, and stir hard with a wooden spoon, until it's uniform.
3) Return to the heat, and stir continuously while cooking the dough a bit to evaporate some moisture. Do this for about 2 minutes.
4) Place mixture into a bowl, and start beating.
5) While beating, start adding the eggs, one by one. Make sure each egg is perfectly incorporated before adding the next. After adding 3 eggs check- if the dough is glossy, and slowly drips off the beaters, it's done and no more eggs should be added. Otherwise, add eggs until the dough becomes the right consistency.
6) Line a couple of baking sheets with wax paper. I drew outlines on mine so that I knew how to pipe the crullers (about 2 1/2 inch rings, I used the outside squares).

7) Fill a piping bag with the mixture.

8) Pipe rings onto the wax paper:

9) Place the baking sheets in the freezer for 1 hour. This will make the crullers easy to lift.
10) Make the glaze: mix the milk and icing sugar until smooth.
11) Heat up about 2 inches of oil on a medium heat.
12) Gently lift off and place the crullers in the oil, fry until golden, and turn over. Drain on paper towels once cooked.
13) Dip the crullers into the glaze, and drain.

14) Let them cool, then serve for breakfast, or tea, or naughty midnight snack that you eat alone before falling into the sweetest sleep.