Monthly Archives: February 2011

Salads and Fresh Condiments: The Perfect Accents to a Meal

Just look at that spread! My mother (and doctor) would be proud!  I am proud! Pity I had nothing to do with it. Well, except for the shopping and the photography. Salads are the domain of the chef. The steward tends to be stuck with a few garden variety and cannot come up with any different. I blame it on all those goat-like Sunday tossed salads in Jamaica that I hated with a passion!  It was a pain to eat vegetables: they were just.. yucky… unless of course they were cooked in the gravy or sauteed with some delicious stuff like salted codfish or beef, chicken etc.  But now, salads are a whole new ballgame.  With a wide variety of vegetables available in the UAE, there is no reason to get stuck in a vegetable rut. We can even use them as condiments instead of the typical sauces and spreads!  Heres to a table filled with colour, texture and flavour and a body that thanks you for it!

Purple Tomato Salad: A salad can be very simple. We saw these deliciously sweet tomatoes at Lulu’s, Barsha and grabbed them in a hurry.  We only managed to have a few left as Chef has been snacking on them in the kitchen-they are that sweet!  They were so good, we wanted to make them the star of their own show.  Here we garnished with finely chopped parsley and drizzled some EVOO and a little salt and a crack of black pepper. They just pop in your mouth!

The extra tomatoes, we combined with this leafy green romaine lettuce and avocado salad.  This would be perfect with a honey mustard dressing or your favourite vinaigrette or dressing.

Asian Cucumber Relish: Dice cucumbers into very small cubes.

Mince lemongrass as small as possible. Slice a lime leaf very thinly. Combine and add salt and pepper to taste.

Avocado Mash: Crush avocado, squeeze a tiny bit of lemon juice, add a little salt and pepper, top with finely diced red onion for garnish. This would also be lovely as a dip for low carb tortilla crisps or vegetable sticks.

Asian Inspiration… Vietnamese Lemon Grass Chicken

Yesterday we travelled to the far east for a little inspiration.   Here is our take on lemongrass chicken, Vietnamese style…

Ingredients: 1 kg (2lbs) chicken breast, 3 stalks lemongrass, 2 tbps finely chopped ginger, 3 cloves garlic, 2 lime leaves, 1 red chili (seed removed), 2 stalks spring onion (scallion), 3 tbsp sunflower oil, salt to taste.

Method: Cut chicken breast into 1 inch cubes, add chopped seasonings and marinate for 30 minutes. Heat wok or pan and add 3 tbsp sunflower oil (or other cooking oil) to coat. Stir fry chicken in a oiled hot wok  until cooked. This should take about 10minutes. Be sure not to overcook it. Serve quickly! Goes well with broccoli steamed in ginger and garlic or jasmine rice.

Tuna Salad Two Ways

This is my default entree salad.  Whenever I am not in a “cooking mood” but need something quick and easy with a balance of healthy proteins and complex, crunchy and leafy carbs, I go to this salad.  Sometimes my body craves uncooked and crunchy vegetables and this is a great way to get them without hassle. Canned tuna is  a huge time saver and is quite versatile.  This makes a huge salad for one and is very filling. Talk about slow and steady blood sugar release for hours!  It’s great for any time of day too.   I like it with the mayo but will show you two ways to add a little variety.

Ingredients: I use 1 cucumber, 1 can tuna and about 3-4 leaves of romaine lettuce.

Method: Wash and spin lettuce in a salad spinner (if available) to dry leaves. Slice cucumber in two along the length. Put the cut sides down on board and slice thinly and evenly.  Toss together in a bowl. Top with drained tuna.

Dressing Number 1: A little EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), pepper, salt to taste. You could also use your favourite vinegar (we recommend champagne vinegar or apple cider as a substitute).

Dressing Number 1: My favourite, 2 tbsp of (low carb) mayo and salt and pepper to taste.  Tastes so rich, it must be good!

Please excuse me while I dig in!

Easy Semi-Homemade Flavoured Yoghurt

I know you have heard that yoghurt is good for you. Yes, yoghurt made with live cultures is filled with probiotic goodness, the calcium and nutrients of dairy and much easier to digest than other milk products but for many of us, plain yoghurt is just not quite our thing, to put it mildly.

I remember trying to switch from ice-cream back in the day to yoghurt because a personal trainer told me it was a better choice.  How could I switch from the sweetness of ice-cream to the tartness of yoghurt?  Needless to say,  I threw countless tubs of plain yoghurt until I discovered the fruity ones were also available, even if not appropriate.  ‘Fat-free’ flavoured yoghurt is very deceptive because as we have come to realize, ‘Fat free’ products are generally loaded with sugar.  ‘Light’  has less, but still contains sugar.   The solution?  Make your own! It’s quick and easy and it is cheaper and tastes much better plus it has much less carbs.

Ingredients: 3/4 cup plain probiotic yoghurt, 2 tbsp frozen or fresh berries or other fruit, 2-3 packs sugar free sweetener (Truvia, SweatLeaf, Splenda).

Method: In same bowl you plan to eat, place fruit in along with two packets of sweetener.

Microwave for 30-45 secs to unfreeze and to turn into a slightly lumpy and syrupy consistency. We do not want it to get very hot. Take it out and mix it around with spoon to cool it down if warm.   Put yoghurt on top, mix, taste.  Add  a touch of almond or vanilla extract if you like. Enjoy!

Stove Top Stewed Jerk Chicken with Pan Roasted Aubergines

Oh how we long for a real stove. You know- one with burners that work and an oven that bakes and all that jazz.  I felt like doing a quick and easy jerk flavoured chicken yesterday and would have done it in the oven- if only we could make up our minds on one! We are going to talk about this while we cook, so please bear with me and follow the pics and the instructions in italics.

Four things we always have in our kitchen…

Chicken marinated in the seasonings above.

Back to the stove conversation now! As you know, we have been cooking on a 2-burner cooktop since we moved nearly a month ago.

There are a few posts like Jamaican Rice and Peas that never made it to the blog or the dinner table. Let’s just say the cooker has limitations. Lots. We have been having a bit of a time trying to source a stove that both chef and steward can be happy with that also fits our space.

The temperature settings are whack and you can go from rapid boiling to nothing by turning the knobs just one degree. Talk about a home kitchen nightmare! It’s so much easier to find nice stoves that are bigger than smaller.  On top of that, we also have to use electric because we do not have a gas line and  I have no intention of cutting out cabinetry and giving up cupboard space. Plus we cook too often to have one small cylinder.  So, as much as the chef prefers gas, we have to find an alternative.

In the meantime, tummies were meant to be filled and so we have had to make do with our little cooker. Let’s get back to the pot!

After browning chicken, transfer to a bigger pot

Add a little water and cover and allow to simmer until cookend. You may thicken if desired with low-carb thickeners like Xanthan Gum or Thick N Thin.

Apply Finger Test: Pinch & quickly lick to cool. Add salt and oyster sauce to taste.

Cut the aubergine (eggplant) as thin and evenly as you can

Add salt, freshly cracked black pepper and 1 clove of finely chopped garlic and massage into the aubergine with a little olive oil

[Enter “Stove Top Stewed Jerk Chicken with Pan Roasted Aubergines’]

CHEF’S NOTE: Please do not mistake this dish for the authentic Jamaican jerk.  It isn’t!  It is just a quick way to get a hint of those native Jamaican flavours, especially if you have some bottled jerk seasoning in your chiller.  We plan to do a lesson on “How to Make Real Jamaican Jerk Seasoning” soon and will explain the history and relevance of the jerk method to world cuisine.  Also note that  we do not mean to be naughty with all the “jerking” going on in this post! “Jerk” in the culinary context,  is a verb that speaks to a specific Jamaican method of cooking  slowly over wooden/charcoal grills and also to the marinade associated with the process.