I have never been keen on slaving over hot stoves, cookers, burners, hobs and ovens…….this includes hot pressing irons….which is why I am happy to pay to get my clothes ironed……but I digress….

A quick easy way to prepare meals is to use a variety of complementary spices in making the dish. Pilau rice is a fantastic example; it is big on flavour and requires minimum effort to throw together.

The spices I used in making it comprise of cloves, cardamon, pepper corns, cassia bark, cinnamon, cumin and dry coriander and ginger. Some mixes may include, chili and turmeric. It sounds like a lot but with balanced proportions these aromatic ingredients lend themselves beautifully to the dish.

In some parts of East Africa such as Tanzania, pilau is served only at special occasions like weddings. This so because spices like cloves are highly valued in that region and in fact are exported globally as cash crops.

Ingredients

1 cup basmati rice
2 cups chicken stock or water
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 onion
1 tbs pilau spice mix (ensure that all spices are represented)
1 tbs vegetable oil.
1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes or cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic
Salt to taste ( adjust quantity depending on stock or if using using plain water)

The “How To”

Using a shallow skillet wide frying pan ( that has a lid) heat the pan dry and then add your spice mix as well as the chili or cayenne. Toast them in the dry hot pan for about a minute; this “activates” the spices, releasing their oils and intensifying their flavours.
Next, add the vegetable oil and chopped onions, garlic and green pepper stir for about 2 minutes until the onions are translucent; be careful not to burn them. Add the rinsed basmati rice to the pan and coat it completely with the spice and onion mix.

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Pour in the stock/water, turn the heat down and put the lid on. Minimise opening the pan until,the rice is cooked. When it is cooked (between 15 – 20 minutes, depending on the quality of the rice) let it sit for a few extra minutes with a dish cloth over the pan, fluff with a fork before serving.

I was feeling extra lazy the day, I made this meal so it went with some grilled beef sausages and a coconut cream sauce.

For the sauce you need 50 grams of butter, 1 cup coconut milk, 1 tsp corn flour, 1 tsp black pepper and salt to taste.

Mix butter and corn flour in a sauce pan over medium heat until you have a roux. Then slowly add in the coconut milk stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper. It is ready when you have a homogenous sauce that lightly coats the back of a spoon.

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When a dear friend and her daughter came round to lunch the other day, I was frazzled because the munchkins were running me ragged. My guests needed nourishment for their tummies.

Rice and fish came to mind but I wanted it to look like I made an effort. The result? Sunny bright saffron rice and lemony herby fish.

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Ingredients
For the fish
2 large white fish fillets (I used cod)
2 tbs herbed butter
1 lemon
1 1/2 Black pepper
1 1/2 cayenne pepper
1 tbs butter
3/4 tbs salt.

For Saffron Rice
2 cups Basmati rice
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 good pinch saffron threads
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbs butter (optional)
Salt (to taste)

The “How To”

Heat the oven to 175 degrees Celcius
Place the the fillets on a shopping board and pat them completely dry with a paper towel. You may halve them or leave them whole depending on your preferred portion size.

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Sprinkle the fillets liberally on both sides with black and cayenne pepper. Then carefully, and evenly season both sides with salt.

Line a roasting pan with foil ensuring that you have an over hang on the sides to allow to allow you wrap the fish up in a parcel as it cooks. Heat a skillet with the table spoon of butter and sear the fellows for about a minute on each side then transfer them to the roasting the pan and squeeze half a lemon over them. Place a couple of slices of lemon on them and distribute the herbed butter as well. Wrap them up and place in the oven. After 17 minutes take them out and leave them to rest for a further 5 minutes stilled wrapped.

For an accompanying sauce, use the recipe described above for the pilau rice but add the pan drippings to it to infuse with the lemon and herbs.

To make the saffron rice simply add all ingredients except the butter in a skillet, bring to a boil, put the lid on and simmer until the rice is cooked. Least the rice sit for a few minutes in the pot for a few minutes then add the butter and fluff with a fork.

I added a small salad to garnish the plate and cleanse our palates as we dined. It was essentially sliced cucumbers and tomatoes with a wasabi dressing (it’s purely optional).

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Dessert was a berry treat. In my next post I will share the recipe for the 2 berry poke cake that promptly vanished after lunch.

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It was a delightful day and I enjoyed playing hostess.

FFF tip of the Day

Instead of using better as set out in the recipes here, you could replace with olive oil for a healthier alternative. Even your fresh herbs can be preserved in olive. Simply place washed herbs in ice trays and pour oil oil over them. Freeze and use as desired.

I have never made a pie of any kind before but today I did and I think that it was a good effort.

My mum came visiting and in her usual style she arrived with enough food and fresh fruits and veges to feed an army for at least 3 years. It was a similar food deluge that inspired me to make mango ice cream 2 years ago and she literally drove me bananas when I was surrounded by more bananas than any normal human should have

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The good thing is that the produce didn’t go to waste and because of her generosity I have turned out some pretty amazing meals.

Making apple pie filled me with trepidation but I plunged in head first.

I must admit that the whole process from start to finish was somewhat time consuming; in fact the combined time of labour for my two children was shorter. I had my children in 3.5 hours! This pie took the better part of 5 hours and this doesn’t include the time I had to leave it to cool and set after it was baked!

However, it is worth it! I feel like I have accomplished a lot today.

So, here you are; Apple pie!

Ingredients
For the Pie Crust:

2 1/2 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon (30 grams) granulated white sugar

1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup (60 – 120 ml) ice water

Apple Filling:

1.1 kg apples (about 6 large), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I used a mix of Granny Smith and golden delicious)

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar

1/4 cup (55 grams) light brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional) the cloves lent it a mild earthiness; omit if you don’t like strong flavours.

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)

I used a food processor to make the dough and the steps are as follows

Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar (optional) to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined.
Scatter butter cubes over flour and process until a dough or paste begins to form, about 15 seconds. (There should be no uncoated flour).
Scrape bowl, redistribute the flour-butter mixture then add remaining 1 cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 5 times until flour is evenly distributed. (Dough should look broken up and a little crumbly).
Transfer to a medium bowl then sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water and continue to press until dough comes together.
Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Cut ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. The can keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

So while the dough is chilling, you need to prep your filling.

Usually, the apples are sliced and bunches straight into the pie shell but the process I followed required macerating the apples, this helped to intensify the flavours as well as drained the apples of excess liquid thereby reducing the incidence of shrinking filling as the pie bakes.

In a large bowl combine the sliced apples with the sugars, lemon juice, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to three hours. Then, place the apples and their juices in a strainer that is placed over a large bowl (to capture the juices). Let the apples drain for about 15-30 minutes or until you have about 1/2 cup (120 ml) of juice. Place the juices and butter in a small saucepan and boil over medium high heat on the stove until it is caramelized and reduced to about 1/3 cup. Set aside for a moment.

To roll out the dough.
Remove one of the dough discs from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.
Lightly flour work surface, top of dough and rolling pin. Then use rolling pin to roll out dough to a 12-inch circle (about 1/8-inch thick). Be sure to check if the dough is sticking to the surface below β€” add a small amount of flour when necessary.
Check for size by inverting pie dish over dough round. Look for a 1-inch edge around the pie dish.
To transfer dough to dish, starting at one end, roll dough around rolling pin then unroll over dish.
Gently press dough down into dish so that it lines the bottom and sides of the dish. (Be careful not to pull or stretch the dough). Then, use a knife or pair of kitchen scissors to trim dough to within 1/2-inch of the edge of the dish.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

Then remove the second round of pastry and roll it into a 12 inch (30 cm) circle. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and return to the refrigerator.

After you may have prepped the filling and pie crusts, it is time for the magic to happen by assembling it all!

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Remove the pastry filled baking dish and top pastry crust from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes so it has time to soften. (Only the top pastry is left to sit, the pastry case should be filled with the apples as soon as possible).

Transfer the drained apples slices to a large bowl and mix them with the cornstarch (corn flour). Then pour the reduced syrup over the apples and toss to combine. Pour the apples and their syrup into the chilled pie crust. Moisten the edges of the pie shell with a little water and then place the top crust over the apples. Tuck any excess pastry under the bottom crust and then crimp the edges using your fingers or a fork. Using a sharp knife, make five- 2-inch (5 cm) slits from the center of the pie out towards the edge of the pie to allow the steam to escape. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill the pastry while you preheat the oven.

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Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C) and place the oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking sheet on the rack before preheating the oven. Place a piece of aluminum foil on the sheet to catch any apple juices. Set the pie on the sheet and bake for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the juices start to bubble through the slits and the apples feel tender (not mushy) when a toothpick or sharp knife is inserted through one of the slits. Make sure to cover the edges of the pie with a foil ring to prevent over browning after about 30 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 3-4 hours before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

If this pie is not demolished immediately, it can keep for about 2 days at room temperature.

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Phew! There you have it!

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Next stop pumpkin pie! Yes, there was a pumpkin amidst the foodstuff my mum hauled over.

FFF Top tip: It helps to use ceramic knives to peel and core apples. It minimises discoloration. Also, using lemon juice preserves the peeled apples.