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.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed from my recent personal retreat to sunny Zanzibar I have hit my food lab with renewed vigor. Armed with a variety of spices and dry herbs, it has been an aromatic infusion since my return. But this time my focus will be on using fresh herbs.

Today, I whipped up two simple meals for lunch and breakfast and show cased herbed butter in both meals.

I had bought a bunch of curly leaf parsley on impulse earlier in the week and didn’t want it to perish in my fridge so I chopped it up and mixed it in with 200 grams of butter (at room temperature). To finalize the preservation process, I placed the mixture in some cling film and carefully rolled it into an even cylindrical shape. I plonked in the deep freeze and all but forgot about it. All this happened late one night so I was in no condition to take pictures……I was practically sleep walking…..anyway getting back on track….

Breakfast was a simple fare of sliced bread, fried eggs, beef sausages and baked beans but the kicker was……yes you guessed it! Herbed butter! It just elevated the meal nicely. Isn’t it amazing how a simple inclusion makes a big difference?

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To give your sausages and eggs a mini make over follow these tips.

1. Scour your sausages with diagonal slashes before frying or grilling. Be careful not to slice it through just light cuts.
2. To make your eggs look geometric use a round metal cookie cutter to give the egg definition.

Simply place your non-stick pan on the burner and place a lightly greased or oiled cookie metal cutter in the pan. Add a bit of butter or cooking oil on the pan but inside the cookie cutter. Then carefully crack an egg in a bowl and pour it gently into the cookie cutter. Let the egg set for about 2 minutes; you may season with salt and pepper at thus point. If you like your yolk runny the cook the egg for a further minute and take off the heat. If like me you like your eggs well done then place a lid over the pan for at least two minutes and voilĂ  nicely rounded fried eggs.

Lunch had to easy to make too as I was in no mood for complex dishes. I had marinaded some pork chops yesterday so I just had to figure out what else to pair it with. I settled for sweet potatoes and carrots.

Ingredients.

4 pork chops on the bone (about an inch thIck)
1 tbs wasabi
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs steak sauce or BBQ sauce
1tsp coarse salt
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tbs vegetable oil

3 medium sized sweet potatoes
100 grams unsalted butter
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp black pepper

3 large carrots
1 tbs honey
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup green grapes

This meal serves 4.

The “How To”

Marinade your chops in a ziplock bag using the mustard, wasabi, steak sauce, sesame oil and salt. Give them a good rub in the bag and leave over night or at least 4 hours in the fridge.

Bring them out to come to room temperature fir at least 20 minutes before you intend cooking them.

Turn on your oven to 195 degrees centigrade.

Wash and peel you potatoes. Chop them in half and cook for about 15 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking commence prepping the chops.

Put a thick bottomed oven proof pan on high heat and add 2 tbs of vegetable oil to it. Leave the pan on for 3 minutes until the oil is very hot and even smoking slightly and carefully add your chops to the pan. (Be sure to scrape off most of the marinade of the meat before seating. This is only so you can use the marinade for a sauce later and also to ensure that the meat is relatively dry when it hits the pan to get good color on it).

Leave chops in the hot pan, heat turned to medium for 3 minutes without touching them. The carefully flip them over using a pair of tongs and put the pan straight into the oven for 10 minutes but keep checking them so as not to over cook and dry them out. From the 6 minute mark check their progress. It is cuit a point when you press on the middle of the meat with your find and it springs back immediately. Do not poke the heat to check for doneness as you will release essential juices.

Once the chops are cooked take them out and transfer them unto a plate and cover with foil to rest for 10 minutest this will allow the meat to “relax” and distribute it’s juices.

The potatoes should be cooked by now. Drain them, add 100 grams of butter and mash until you have a chunky consistency. Cover the pot and set aside. Scrape and slice carrots. Blanch them for about 3 minutes. Drain and drizzle 1 tbs of honey over them and mix through.

Add the marinade to the pan juices from the chops and cook for two minutes until slightly thicker. Sear cherry tomatoes and grapes in 1 tbs of vegetable oil on high heat for 1 1/2 minutes. Now you are ready to plate up and enjoy your meal! A nob of herbed butter completes this delicious meal!

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There was complete silence during this meal and all plates were returned completely devoid of food save for the bone from the chop.

My mum and hubby both took a nap after this meal so it is quite filling; be warned!…..lol!

FFF Tip: it is easier to work with herbed butter when it is frozen that way you can slice the pieces off as required.

A variety of herbs can be preserved in this fashion including basil, coriander, flat leaf parsley and tarragon. If you prefer a healthier route this mode of preservation, you can freeze the herbs in olive oil by placing them in an ice tray and filling with olive oil. Then you just use the required number you frozen cubes for your sauces and meals.