Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Heirloom Empanadas from Argentina

I have been looking for a recipe that would recreate the empanada that I ate at a birthday party of one of the Filipino kids who lived in my neighborhood when I was a child. The Filipino parents always threw very generous birthday parties where we'd get to take a swing at a brightly colored piñata and there were roasted piglets (lechon), puto bongbong and lots of other delicious food. And yet what has stuck in my mind through years was the delicious empanadas.

When I first arrived in Spain someone asked me if I'd ever had an empanada and I said: yes. Anyhow this guy went ahead and ordered some for me and I was in for the biggest disappointment of my life.

In my mind an empanada should look like this, but the empanadas here look like this.

A few years later, my life style had changed immensely and I was cooking everything from scratch at home and I had started food blogging - and I thought to myself: Why don't I look for a recipe that is similar to the empanadas I used to have at those wonderful birthday parties?

Easier said than done.

When I looked-up several empanada recipes, they just didn't seem quite right. You know when the ingredients just don't match the details in your memory?

Anyhow while I was still dragging my feet, unable to find the right recipe, Paul Paredes (yes - he's the guy picking the ingredients for Paper Chef in the video) said he'd give me his grandmother's secret recipe! So was I concerned whether this was the same empanadas I ate when I was a kid? No! I knew these were going to be delicious so I started making plans to make his grandmother's mouth watering empanadas right away....and here they are.

Paul has been gracious enough to give me permission to reprint his recipe here so I'll give you the original and will insert notes on what I actually did.


For the Filling

600 g Ground Beef

600 g Onions (peeled and chopped finely)

30 g Rendered Beef Fat

1 Tsp Dried Greek Oregano

1 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Spanish Sweet Paprika

Fresh Black Pepper

Sea Salt

2 Hard Boiled Eggs (chopped)

A Handful of Green Olives (pitted and chopped)

The Wrappers

600 g Flour

70 g Rendered Beef Fat*

2 Tsp Fine Sea Salt

1 Tsp Sweet Spanish Paprika

500 ml Warm Water (I used only 3 dl water!)

100 g Unsalted Butter (melted)

Corn Starch (for dusting)

1 Egg (for glazing)

Step 1: Mix flour, paprika and salt and put the rendered beef fat or other animal fat on top. I used Manteca de Cerdo Iberico. Use your fingers to blend the animal fat into the dry ingredients.

Step 2: Once you've blended this nicely, add water. From my other experiences making wrappers (Beijing dumplings and Samosas) it's all too easy to end-up with a dough that's too wet and unless you have a Kitchen Aid to do the mixing for you it will be a nightmare! So add a little water at a time. I first poured in 2 dl water and then added another 1 dl - so a total of 3 dl. From my experience, I always end-up using a little less water than designated in the recipe so I'm guessing it could be something to do with some inaccuracy in my measurement devices or the quality of flour and their moisture content in Spain. If you've made other kinds of wrappers - use your common sense when adding water.

Step 3: Knead this to work with the gluten until you have a smooth pliant dough. Put it back inside a bowl and cover with a dampened fabric. According to Paul this needs to sit there for at least 1 hour. His grandmother used to leave it overnight by the way - so if you want to bake first thing in the morning, I'd prepare the dough last thing at night.

Step 4: While the dough is resting you'll want to make the filling or 'picadillo' as it's called in Spanish. Get yourself a nice big frying pan and melt the animal fat. Depending on the nature of your frying pan, the stove setting will differ because my Spanish pans heat-up to high temperatures really fast and are great for making Chinese stir fries whereas my pans from IKEA tend to never heat-up to very high temperatures no matter what your stove setting is. The idea is to slow cook your ingredients so make adjustments according to the characteristics of your frying pan.

Step 5: Add the chopped up onions and stir fry them for around 30 minutes. You do not want them to become very brown according to Paul and they should be soft and just beginning to color when they're done. I had a 'blond moment' and only chopped up 300 g of onions by the way. This was a mistake on my part and not intentional and because there was less onion, it took me about 15 minutes in an IKEA low temperature frying pan to reach this stage.

Step 6: Paul suggests adding spoonfuls of water should your onions get too dry. Spanish onions are very wet and hence I didn't have to add any water. Again this will depend on your onions.

Step 7: Turn up the heat a bit, add the ground beef and stir frequently to make sure you don't end-up with mini-hamburgers rolling inside your pan. The meat should stay in the same size it was when it was ground. Do not brown the meat or you'll end-up with a very dry filling. Try to picture a nice juicy moist filling and remember that that's where you want to go! Add the oregano, spices and salt during this stage.

Step 8: Finish this off with a couple of tablespoons of water at the very end unless your filling is already swimming in liquids although this shouldn't be the case if you've managed to get it right so far. The filling needs to be cooled before it is put into the wrappers so imagine what it might look like after the animal fat has congealed.

Step 9: I left out the olives and eggs completely because I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of boiled eggs and olives in my empanadas. The traditional way is to put a slice of boiled egg and a slice of green olive with pimiento stuffing on top of this when you wrap the empanadas. Paul said he chopped up both the eggs and olives and mixed them into the beef. It's your choice. Do what you think is best!

Step 10: Once your dough has rested for at least 1 hour, you can start preparing the wrappers. The first thing you'll want to do is divide the dough into 2 and then make sure the other half is covered with a damp cloth immediately so that it doesn't dry out. For those of you with small counters, I suggest you divide the dough into 3 or 4 balls to make rolling them out easier. I think Paul mentioned that Mike used a pasta roller for this, but the traditional way is to use a rolling pin to roll them out. Do it whichever way you wish. I don't have a pasta roller so I used a rolling pin!

Step 11: Flour your surface with corn flour first, then roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 mm, then brush it all over with melted butter, then fold it. Rotate it 90 degrees then roll it out again to 1 mm then brush it with butter again, etc. Roll at least 3 layers of butter into the dough in this manner. Corn starch really makes handling the dough easier so I recommend this.

Step 12: Preheat the oven to 220 C. Roll out the dough to 1 mm again and use a cookie cutter or whatever you have that's around 12 cm in diameter to cut circles out of the dough. My choices were either 10 cm or 13 cm and I went with the 13 cm so my empanadas were pretty big manly looking ones. Paul has told me that he and his grandmother use espresso saucers to do this. I used an inverted little bowl (about the size of a rice bowl) from IKEA.

Step 13: Moisten the edges of the wrapper, put the filling in the center and then fold them over in a half circle and seal the edges meticulously. Then, fold the edge over and seal the whole thing in tightly with a fork. Paul used a daintier technique of creating these lovely wavy patterns but I took the easier way out. The method I used is easier for people who don't have a lot of experience wrapping up empanadas or Chinese dumplings because it allows for a much bigger margin of error during the folding process. The fork marks will cover-up any messy folds so you can fold them over casually instead of being worried about creating a work of art.

Step 14: Brush these with the beaten egg and then bake them in the preheated oven on oven paper for 15 minutes or so. Some of mine ended-up in there for nearly 20 minutes but some were ready to go at 15 minutes exactly. Just make sure they are nice and brown on the surface.

*Paul mentions oiled and lined trays. I forgot to oil mine.

So were these empanadas similar to the ones I remember? No. But they were delicious and a great starting point for me to start exploring empanada recipes, and one day I hope I'll figure out what exactly were in those empanadas I had when I was a kid.

The most interesting thing about Paul's grandmother's recipe is undoubtedly her method for making puff pastry. Kneading paprika into the dough is a great idea and gave the flour a lovely warm color and her method of making puff pastry was quick and easy.

I'd like to extend my thanks to Paul Paredes again for his generosity in sharing this heirlooom recipe with me. It has been a real privilege getting to make his grandmother's secret recipe!

Other References:

Empanadas Mendocinas : The author gives step by step directions with photographs on how to go about making empanadas.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Maze Gohan with South East Asian Flavorings

Maze Gohan is a low calorie alternative to fried rice. Basically if you have some cooked rice you can flavor it and mix it with anything and it's what the Japanese would call Maze Gohan.

This Maze Gohan features South East Asian flavors and Chinese sausages.


3 Cups Cooked Jasmin Rice (volume after it's been cooked)

2 Toasted Red Chili Peppers (chop these up finely)

1 Tsp Sichuan Peppercorn Salt

2 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Seeds (ground in a mortar so that some of it is crushed to release flavors)

4 Tbsp Toasted Coconut Flakes

1 Tbsp Toasted Rice (long grain)

1 Tsp Lemon/Lime Zest (prepared like in a Gremolata)

1/2 Leek (thinly sliced)

Fish Sauce (a sprinkling of it)

2 Chinese Sausages (sliced)

1 Clove Garlic (chopped finely)

Step 1: Cook some rice in your rice cooker. We used Jasmin rice for this one...or follow my tutorial and cook it the old-fashioned way!

Step 2: While the rice is cooking, toast the chili peppers and remove to a bowl. Then toast the sesame seeds then put in a mortar and grind them up a bit. Toast the long grain rice until they're nice and brown and then put them through a food processor so that they're about the consistency of coarse sand. I tend to make this in bigger batches because they store well.

Step 3: Chop the Chinese sausages and fry them with garlic in the same pan you used for toasting the sesame seeds and chili.

Step 3: Put the rice into a big serving bowl and mix with sausages and all the other ingredients. The saltiness will come from the fish sauce and Sichuan peppercorn salt so make sure it doesn't get too salty. Taste and make adjustments if necessary. Serve immediately.

Note 1: You might add lemon juice or lime juice if you like the tang of citric juices. If you love cilantro throw it in. Just be careful not to put too much because it will be overpowering. The flavors do have to be balanced.

Note 2:
You can basically season the rice with anything you wish in this way. A pretty traditional Maze Gohan would be made with lightly salted and par boiled fresh peas. You can mix grated Parmesan cheese into it if you wish. Use your imagination and use whatever flavors you think will taste good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spanish Cheese & Home Made Sourdough Bread

The interiors of Carrefour I'm sure look very different from country to country and in Spain, you'll see the ubiquitous whole legs of Jamon Iberico and Jamon Serrano hanging by the dozens, vacuum packed whole piglets and rabbits and rows and rows of different types of Spanish cheese. I'm pretty sure the interiors of Carrefour in China look quite different from this.

The cheese we usually buy looks something like this. This one is a Manchego style cheese that comes from the heart of La Mancha. It's a cow's milk cheese that has been aged for over 10 months.

Right now they're giving away a bottle of red wine (which I'll use for cooking) with every half round of cheese you buy from a selection of local cheese and I've been taking ample opportunity of this. This kind of cheese goes for around 11 euros/1 kg and tastes exemplary with a slice of home made sourdough bread.

When living in Asia, it's sometimes difficult to appreciate the pure simplicity of a loaf of good bread and slice of cheese even though the quality of both are improving yearly in places like Tokyo. The cheese still wouldn't be local and would have to be air freighted from places like France and Italy and will be expensive as a result, to say the least.

One thing I do appreciate about living in Spain which is a main supplier of food to many other countries in Europe is the sheer volume of food that's available locally. I have to say that my starter which is fed on whole wheat flour almost exclusively makes a very nice 'country bread' to go with the unsophisticated rustic cheese they have here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chicken Flavored with Garam Masala & Chili with Warm Cucumbers and Jasmine Rice Sprinkled with Toasted Coconut and Shredded Leeks

This is a recipe that I do dare to say is very good with the added bonus that it is the easiest thing to make in the world without any complicated steps or techniques that creates a big mess, leaving your kitchen looking like a war zone. It's like everyday food you can whip you really easily when you want to eat something delicious but don't want to spend the time or effort making it.

Now I could have sworn this recipe was inspired from something I saw in Steamy Kitchen, and it was something far more time consuming, complicated and fancy - but now I can't seem to find it. If anyone ever finds Jaden's Garam Masala flavored chicken, please give it a try, because I'm sure it's mouth watering delicious!

I've included a basic tutorial on how to cook rice without a rice cooker just in case some of you don't have one. The rice cooker was originally invented to cook rice this way for you so if you do have one, don't bother trying to cook it like I did. Also, if you already cook your rice in a certain way - just stick to what works.

Chicken Flavored with Garam Masala & Chili with Warm Cucumbers and Jasmine Rice Sprinkled with Toasted Coconut and Shredded Leeks


1 Breast or Thigh of Chicken (de-boned with no skin)

1 Clove Garlic (crushed)

2 Tbsp Garam Masala*

Chili Powder (to taste)

Black Pepper (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

2 - 3 Tsp Panela or Brown Sugar

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Medium Cucumber

300 g Jasmin Rice

2 Tbsp Dessicated Coconut

1/2 Leek

Step 1: Wash the Jasmin rice very well and then put it into your pot or rice cooker with an equal amount of water. Let it sit for 1 hour.

Step 2: Chop up the chicken into bite sized cubes and marinate inside a bowl with garlic, Garam Masala, Chili powder, salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil.

Step 3: Start cooking the rice. You know how to use your rice cooker. If you're cooking it in a pot the old fashioned way - then put the lid on (make sure the lid does not have any holes in it and that it fits tightly but not too tightly. It should rattle when the rice begins to boil. Turn the heat on maximum and wait for for steam to start escaping from the sides. You might hear it coming to a roiling boil if you listen carefully. When this happens lower the heat to medium/low (so on a scale of 1- 12, maybe 4) and set your egg timer for 17 minutes. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID WHILE COOKING. The lid stays on until the rice is cooked.

Step 4: While the rice is cooking you might want to slice the leeks finely and put them in a bowl somewhere. You also might want to toast your dessicated coconut inside a pan. Toast them until they're golden brown but be careful not to burn them. Dice the cucumbers and set them aside in another bowl.

Step 5: When the rice is done - remove from the hot stove top, open the lid and place a cloth in between the lid and pot and close again. Let this sit for 15 minutes or until your chicken is ready. For round grain varieties I like to let it sit for 30 minutes.

Step 6: Put some olive oil in a small frying pan and when it's heated-up, start braising the chicken cubes. When they start to brown, sprinkle the Panela/brown sugar to give them that extra glossy sheen. When the chicken is cooked remove them onto your serving plates.

Step 7: Thow the diced cucumber into the pan with some salt and braise them for 50 seconds no more. You want them to just be covered in hot oil - no more.

Step 8: Put the cucumber on the plate with the chicken and some Jasmin rice, then sprinkle everything with the toasted dessicated coconut. Then put some leeks on top of the rice. Enjoy!

*I use Natco's Garam Masala.

Note: The way I've cooked rice is the way my grandmother and all the Japanese grandmothers used to cook rice before the time of the rice cooker. When cooking rice this way it's integral that you don't remove the lid until the rice is cooked. The amount of water is open for debate but I prefer to use a 1:1 ratio. Remember that when you wash your rice, the rice absorbs some water and it's almost impossible to remove all of the water so if you measure the water 1:1 in reality there is a little more than that in the pot. In addtion I might say that depending on your rice - you will need a little more water or a little less. If you want your rice to be more firm, use less water. If you think your rice lacks moisture, use more water. As a rule long grain varieties need more water and there's a larger margin for error when measuring the water. Round grain is very picky about the exact amount of water needed and if you put even a little more than is necessary - it can end-up being too soft and unappetizing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pasta with Cannellini Beans & Sun Dried Tomatoes

At the end of the month, everyday is Paper Chef around here because I need to whip up something that tastes good with whatever is still available in our storage. I also wanted to use a calcium rich ingredient in my pasta sauce since I've been paranoid about having a calcium deficiency these days...so I used Cannellini beans (white kidney beans).

Yes - I'm a bit of a hypochondriac and my lastest pet worry is osteoporosis so I've been monitoring my calcium intake everyday making sure I get my 1000 mg from natural foods daily.

Call me silly but I guess it's better to be careful than sorry!

Pasta with Cannellini Beans & Sun Dried Tomatoes


Penne (enough for 2 people)

2 Cups Cooked Cannellini Beans

2 Cloves Garlic (finely chopped)

2 Tomatoes (from a can - I had leftovers but feel free to use fresh tomatoes)

A Handful of Parsley (chopped)

1 Tsp Fresh Rosemary (chopped)

Salt (to taste)

Black Pepper (to taste)

Chili (to taste)

4 Sun Dried Tomatoes (hydrated and sliced thinly)

4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Step 1: Heat the olive oil in a deep pan (so not a frying pan) and when the oil is hot, take it off the heat and throw in the garlic and let it sizzle and release its aroma.

Step 2: Throw in the chopped tomatoes and any juices that may have come from it, then put it back on the stove top at medium heat.

Step 3: Once it's bubbling add the Cannellini beans and rosemary and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, adding water if necessary. Remember this is a pasta sauce so you don't want it to be too dry.

Step 4: Stir often and let the beans break down so that what you're stirring looks like a nice bean & tomato puree. If for some reason your beans do not break down at all, you can put it through a blender but this shouldn't be necessary if you soaked and cooked your own beans. Canned beans may be more firm and may require some blender/food processor action.

Step 5: Season it with salt, chili pepper and black pepper, let it cook a little more, and set it aside to cool down a bit.

Step 6: Boil the penne until it's cooked (al dente).

Step 7: While the penne is boiling braise the sun dried tomatoes in some olive oil in another pan and then set aside. Don't burn them.

Step 8: When the pasta is almost ready, mix the sun dried tomatoes and fresh parsley into the sauce.

Step 9: After draining the cooked pasta, put it back in the pot with the sauce, mix well and serve with a generous grating of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Roasted Aubergine Sandwich Spread

After pigging out on chocolate chip cookies yesterday we took it easy for lunch and had a calcium rich, (reasonably) low calorie brunch. On our little black plates you see 40 g cured Spanish cow's milk cheese, the Aubergine Sandwich Spread and slices of home made sourdough bread with hummus on them. Remember to leave some bread for your Aubergine Sandwich Spread because it's good as it is but better on home made sourdough bread according to Ronny.

Roasted Aubergine Sandwich Spread

Part I

Ingredients for the Aubergine Dressing

3 Medium Aubergines (I used 1 large & 1 small)

2 Large Garlic Cloves

2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or to taste)

Juice of 1/4 Lemon (or to taste)

Black Pepper (to taste)

Red Chili Powder (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

Step 1: Roast the aubergines and garlic cloves with their skin intact in an oven preheated to 210 C for 40 - 60 minutes. Turn them around 1 - 2 times to make sure the skin is nice and burnt all around to give them a smokier flavor.

Step 2: Peel the aubergines and garlic cloves on top of a chopping board without burning your fingers and chop them up a bit and put them into your food processor.

Step 3: Add all the other ingredients and turn the food processor on until it's all nice and creamy. Make adjustments with the flavoring ingredients.

Part II


2 Tbsp Finely Chopped Onions

1 Tomato (diced)

1/4 Cucumber (diced into little cubes)

Aubergine Dressing (use enough to make a nice spread)

Just mix all of the above together (manually) and you have a nice vegetarian sandwich spread (unless you're Vegan). You can put in other things too if they're lying around your refrigerator or are ripe on your vines in the garden. It's pretty versatile and satisfying when you're on a restricted diet.

Note: If you have a barbecue grill - the aubergine dressing will taste better if you can grill them black over some coals but this wasn't an option for me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie?

I had been looking for a recipe that would give me the perfect chewy chocolate chip cookie for some time and one day David Lebovitz posted a link to White on Rice Couple on his Facebook page while I was on my restricted diet and I bookmarked it so that I could make it as soon as possible.

Here's the recipe.

I halved the recipe because we don't have any kids and it's just Ronny and me. Instead of using 175 g dark chocolate, we used 100 g dark chocolate and 75 g milk chocolate. I have to say I liked the taste of the milk chocolate in the cookies a lot better than the dark chocolate. Other than that, I followed the recipe without modifying anything and it was great!

The cookies are best when they've cooled down just enough so that they don't burn your tongue, but this doesn't mean they're not any good later on. This recipe gets my vote.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What was supposed to be a few 'Cenci'...

I was back to my normal weight of 50 kg yesterday morning and I was still 50Kg this morning so I thought that it wouldn't hurt to eat a few 'Cenci'. Even though this is something one eats during Carnival, I realized we did absolutely nothing special all throughout Semana Santa and since it's Easter Sunday today I thought we should do something and eat a few calorie laden things.

My friend Valeria had given me a recipe a few days ago and the recipe said:

1 Egg Yolk

1 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cups Water

Sugar (for toppings)

Flour (as much as you need)

Anyhow I had just woken-up and wasn't really thinking when I put the 1 egg yolk into my bowl and proceeded to put the oil and water into it.

I started stirring and putting flour in it little by little and this was when it kind of dawned on me that I'd need a s***load of flour to get any kind of a dough that I could roll and cut. Of course, I ran out of flour before it got to this stage and I ended up with this bowl full of Cenci-Gone-Wrong.

So did I throw this out? I kind of wanted to - but no! If you ever had a grandmother and grandfather who survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and two World Wars and a mother who was a starving adolescent during World War II, you were taught to NEVER throw away food and so I just went right ahead and let the oh-too-soft batter rest for 15 minutes and then deep fried them anyway.

'Cenci' as it's called in Tuscany is called by different names. In Lombardy they are called 'Chiacchiere' and in Spain they're called 'Cuchiflitos'. They are supposed to look like this...so you can see why it was a problem that I didn't have enough flour to harden the dough enough to roll it out.

...and last but not least...I wondered as I spent more than an hour frying these things what happened to 'a few' Cenci.

This is how much we had left after I nibbled on at least 10 of them:

WARNING: Makes enough for 10 people or a few hungry kids.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Green Tea Latte

To celebrate getting back to my normal weight (normal as of late), I decided I'd be a little indulgent with myself and make myself a Green Tea Latte with 2 teaspoons of sugar in it. I regret not buying myself one of those little bamboo whisks they use in tea ceremonies for whipping up the green tea because I was unable to blend it perfectly, but it tasted pretty good anyway!

I have a backlog of high calorie recipes I want to try out now, but not sure where to start because there are so many...

NOTE: Will re-shoot this photograph when I get a chance.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bulgar, Ground Chicken & Green Tomatoes Wrapped in Iceberg Lettuce Seasoned with Herbs & Spices

As you know Ronny and I are on a low calorie diet now but that doesn't mean we're going to be subsisting on a diet of cottage cheese and leafy vegetables, because we are after all two people who think meals are the highlight of the day.

Today's recipe is a variation of one of our favorites and my favorite way to eat iceberg lettuce which I don't exactly love.


1 Iceberg Lettuce

1 Cup Bulgar

1 Lemon (the juice)

2 Cloves Garlic (chopped finely)

200 g Ground Chicken

1 Medium Green Tomato or Red Tomato (chopped finely into small cubes)

1/4 Finely Chopped Leeks (chopped finely)

2 Tbsp Finely Chopped Onions

A Small Bunch of Coriander Leaves (chopped finely)

12 Mint Leaves (chopped finely)

2 Tsp Garam Masala

Coarse Sea Salt (to taste)

Black Pepper (to taste)

Chili Pepper (to taste)

Step 1: Rinse the bulgar and put it in a non-metallic container.

Step 2: Squeeze the juice of one lemon and pour a little cold water over it so that it is covered with liquid. Then leave it for 3 hours until the bulgar is chewy and soft. You may want to add more water during this time if you see the bulgar has absorbed all the liquids and looks dry.

Step 3: Season the ground chicken with Garam Masala, black pepper, chili and salt.

Step 4: Chop up the garlic cloves finely and braise them in the extra virgin olive oil until they are aromatic.

Step 5: Braise the ground chicken in this until there is no more liquid and set aside.

Step 6: Drain any excess liquid from the Bulgar and then add 1 chopped green tomato, the leeks and the onions. Mix in the chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves.

Step 7: Add the chicken and mix and add more salt if necessary.

Step 8: Tear up the lettuce into a size convenient for piling on some of the bulgar mixture and serve side by side.

Step 9: Now grab one of the lettuce leaves, spoon on some of the bulgar mixture and stuff it into your mouth!

Note 1: To be honest it can get a bit messy but with practice you can learn to eat this without looking like a 3 year old.

Note 2: The execution will look prettier with red tomatoes and we usually make it with red ones. I might also add that our original version is made with ground pork or beef and seasoned simply with garlic, salt, chili and black pepper. We normally use parsley not coriander so those of you who are squeamish about coriander can go ahead and make it with parsley.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Iceberg Lettuce Salad with Roasted Szechuan Peppercorn Chicken & Wasabi Soy Sauce Dressing

After binge eating too much home made sourdough bread with herbed garlic butter and testing out the new candy thermometer and gobbling up David Lebovitz's Caramel Corn until we felt like we were going to OD on sugar, I stepped on the scale...and it was decided that it was time to go on a more restricted diet until my weight was back to normal.

We are going to be on a low calorie diet for awhile, so you won't be seeing much baking going on here. It's going to be mostly light Asianesque and Italianesque food until my weight is back to normal.

Today we just made a simple salad by tearing up iceberg lettuce leaves into bite sized pieces and tossing in some cubes of nice ripe tomato, thinly sliced white spring onion and slivers of red peppers. We then made a dressing with extra virgin olive oil, soy sauce and wasabi and tossed the salad in this, after which we put hand torn pieces of leftover Roasted Szechuan Peppercorn Chicken on top and sprinkled a nice dose of freshly toasted white sesame seeds all over the salad.
Some of you might think - but there's OIL in there! Well, if you really are on a strict diet - this dressing makes iceberg lettuce palatable even without any oil, so you're in luck.

I also confess I sprinkled some Szechuan peppercorn salt on the chicken for extra flavor, but this isn't necessary and doesn't improve the taste dramatically. If you are concerned about your sodium intake, I'd skip this totally.

This is our Wasabi Soysauce Dressing in its simplest form, but you can also jazz it up a bit more by adding grated ginger, chili peppers and/or the zest of some citrus fruit like Yuzu, Kabosu, Sudachi, lime, lemon and so on. And if you don't have a fear of vinegar like me - I'd throw in some balsamic vinegar or vintage Chinese black vinegar.

Does the vinegar have to be dark? No.

Rice vinegar will probably work fine but I have to confess that I am less afraid of 'black' vinegar than the other varieties - so I'm giving you my totally biased opinions.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's that time of month again....Paper Chef #39

Paper Chef is a fun and innovative food blogger's event that Owen of Tomatilla started. When Owen decided to take a vacation from the Internet, Ilva of Lucullian Delights offered to keep this event going and kept it going, she has.

I've decided to take a break from Paper Chef this month because the difficulty of getting ingredients can be nerve-wracking. Last month I spent 3 days hunting down dried figs and seriously, when I finally found some they were overpriced and not very nice ones.

Anyway I love this event nonetheless because it really is a great chance to get creative, innovative and meet other bloggers, but I've decided to limit my participation to when the ingredients are more 'available' in my sleepy little town in Southern Spain.

This month the Paper Chef ingredients are: Artichokes, bulgar, salmon and blackberries. It's hosted by Adrienne of Hungry Bruno, the winner of the last round.

Artichokes are dirt cheap now and cost only 75 centimos per kilo now and I have tons of bulgar in my pantry and salmon even though unappetizing (the salmon I've seen around here never look fresh enough for some reason) are an easy find.

This month the offending ingredient was blackberry. I mean where am I going to get blackberries in Torremolinos? I remember seeing frozen berries in places like London or even Regensburg, but have never seen them locally here. So well, I'll just have to be content to be in the gallery and admire the lovely creations everyone else makes!

I'd like to encourage people to participate if getting the aforementioned ingredients isn't a problem. I promise that it will be a lot of fun and you'll be surprised at the ideas you and other participants will come-up with.

There is also the option of substituting any hard to get ingredients or ingredients you do not eat due to health/religious/vegan principles - and if this does not spoil the fun for you as it does for me, please do send in your entry.

To quote Adrienne of Hungry Bruno: "Blog it up, and email it to paperchef AT gmail DOT com by midnight on Tuesday, April 7th."

Go out and get those ingredients now! If you don't have a blog - please leave a message here and I'll be happy to post your entry in my blog.

For those of you who don't have blogs, this is what you need to do:

1. Email Paperchef AT gmail DOT com by midnight on Tuesday, April 7th.

2. Email yutakahazuki AT hotmail DOT com with your recipe and a JPG of the entry BEFORE the above mentioned deadline....so I have time to post your entry.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Great Way to Recycle Leftover Rice

I'm not an environmentalist but I don't like wasting anything so I'm always looking for new ways to 'recycle' leftover food. The main culprits are usually potatoes and rice because I carefully measure pasta before boiling it - and I have a dozen ways to incorporate these into my meal the next day or the day after, and I'm still looking.

Ilva's Soft Rice Cakes with Onion Goat's Cheese and Thyme is a real winner as far as I'm concerned because I guess this is a quirk of mine, but I like to eat something not Asian after eating something Asian - and rice is likely to be something I have leftover after eating something quite...errr, Asian. So even though I have nothing against fried rice, it's not my idea of a brilliant meal right after I've had Chicken Cashew or Kung Pao Chicken. This is why I've made New Orleans Calas and various types of rice gratin among other things, but I really fell in love with Ilva's soft rice cakes because they were different, and when I made some and tasted them I thought: What a nice way of finishing off leftover rice!

Ilva uses freshly prepared rice in her recipe and some of you might be wondering how you can make these nice flat rice cakes from cold rice. Fear not. All you have to do is put your day old rice inside a microwave proof bowl, cover it with plastic and microwave it for a minute or two and you'll have hot piping manageable soft rice again. I seasoned mine with salt and grated parmesan cheese after doing this. I don't use salt when I cook my rice because I do it the way my grandmother taught me to, so my rice needed a little salt. If you put salt in the water when you make rice, then you don't need to do this.

In the original recipe, Ilva uses a cookie cutter to make these beautifully perfect round cakes, but as I've mentioned before I don't have any - so I just made rice cakes the traditional Japanese way - with my hands.

I brushed my cakes with extra virgin olive oil and baked them in an oven preheated to 225C, and while doing this I braised some leeks I had cut into slices that would fit on top of the cakes with thyme and a little salt. Once the leeks had caramelized a bit, I threw in strips of sundried tomatoes just to soften them a bit and removed my pan from the heat.

After 10 minutes I removed the tray from the oven and put three pieces of leek, two pieces of sundried tomatoes and put slices of Spanish cured cheese because I didn't have any goat's cheese. Then I baked it for another 7 minutes and put a sprig of fresh thyme on top of each one for extra flavor. It was like my day old rice had had a Mediterranean makeover! The results were not disappointing.

Now I'm ready to experiment with my Szechuan peppercorns again this evening. I made Szechuan Peppercorn Salt which I'm going to use on a roasted chicken tonight. The recipe for this flavored salt is from Steamy Kitchen.

Note 1: Even though the presentation of this rice cake looks decidedly 'Asian', let me say that there's nothing Asian about it except for the rice. The juxtaposition of something that looks 'Asian' bursting with the flavors of cheese, sundried tomatoes, thyme and caramelized leeks is divine.

Note 2: Rice is especially a problem because you can't really cook 1 cup of rice and have it turn out perfectly fluffy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sourdough Bread Canapés

I had a visitor yesterday - someone I grew-up with in the Philippines and had not seen for more than 20 years. She was in Costa del Sol chaperoning students with other teachers from some high school in Los Angeles, and came over for dinner with her friend. We had a great time.

Her mother made the best Chicken Cashews I've ever had and was really a good cook, so Ronny and I were under some pressure to make sure we regaled her with food that was up to par.

We made some canapés by slicing sourdough bread thinly, slathering them with herbed garlic butter and topping them off with Jamon Iberico and Spanish cheese - since she was only going to be here for a short period of time and I wanted to make sure she got to try out some Iberico ham. The Spanish cheese we used was a mild variety made from cow's milk from Asturias, but I'm not sure what exactly this is called.

The red stuff on these canapés are cocktail tomatoes that we had leftover from making the sandwich cake which was our main course and the green stuff is fresh oregano leaves.

Herbed Garlic Butter


225 g Unsalted Butter

A Small Bunch of Chives

A Small Bunch of Italian Parsley

1 Clove Garlic

2 Tsp Coarse Spanish Salt (Any good quality salt will do)

Freshly Ground Black Pepper (As much as you wish)

Step 1: Let the butter soften to room temperature inside your food processor.

Step 2: Throw in your garlic clove, chop up the chives (I cut them with scissors) into the butter and put the Italian parsley leaves inside. Put a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper into this.

Step 3: Blend everything. The food processor will mince everything for you so let it do its job.

Step 4: When everything looks more or less blended, put in the salt and let the food processor spin for another minute or so. You want the salt to be evenly distributed but not pulverized so you can feel the crunch of the crystals.

Ronny made a beautiful sandwich cake for our main course but we didn't take any photographs. It was decorated with prawns boiled in dill and salt, halves of cocktail tomatoes of different colors, sprigs of fresh dill and caviar. It was a smaller version of this one without the lobsters.

For dessert I made Gâteau de Zoë again and baked it for 20 minutes this time. The original recipe says 15 minutes but depending on the quirks of your oven the cake will need to be baked for a few more minutes.