Thursday, February 27, 2014

Moana Surfrider Hotel: The First Lady of Waikiki

The 'First Lady of Waikiki', the Moana Surfrider Hotel stands as an icon of sophistication and elegance, with its historic Beaux-Arts design of detailed woodwork, charming arched porticos and grand porte-cochère. Built in 1901 by wealthy British-born Honolulu businessman Walter Chamberlain Peacock at a cost of $150,000, the Moana Hotel marked the beginning of tourism in Oahu, becoming the first large hotel in Waikiki. Chamberlain's vision to establish a luxury hotel in the deserted area of Waikiki, once a vast swampland, the Moana became the costliest, most elaborate and modern hotel in Hawaii at the time, featuring 75 guestrooms that included amenities that were regarded as the ultimate luxury at the turn of the century: telephones, private baths, a billiard room, saloon, reception area, library, and the first electric powered elevator in the islands, which is still in use today.

The pool and private beach

In the centre of the Moana's oceanfront beach bar stands a large banyan tree planted in 1904

A $50 million restoration in 1989 restored the Moana to its 1901 appearance and cemented the hotel as still one of Waikiki's premier hotels. It now includes over 750 rooms and suites, a freshwater swimming pool, three restaurants, oceanfront beach bar under the hotel's iconic banyan tree, and a new piano bar with live entertainment every evening. A surprise gift from my parents this past Christmas, the Moana Surfrider was to be our home-away-from-home for the next 10 days, and the perfect base from which to explore all that Oahu has to offer.

The Moana Surfrider in 1908

The modern day Moana Surfrider lobby 

The outdoor walkway to the beach

The outdoor veranda which overlooks the main entrance

The Beach Bar and Surfrider Café for beachside casual dining and cocktails

The Veranda Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch at afternoon tea

The elegant Beachhouse Restaurant serves modern island-inspired cuisine

Bin 1901, the wine bar and lounge with live piano each night 

Aloha kakou!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Culinary Journey to the Island Paradise of Oahu

A Tropical Culinary & Cultural Journey to Oahu & Kauai, Hawaii
February 26 - March 8, 2014 

Scrumpdillyicious will be touring the island oasis of Oahu and Kauai from February 26 to March 8, 2014, exploring the rich cultural heritage and regional cuisine of this Hawaiian tropical paradise. Join me online each day as we journey from Toronto to Honolulu and Lihue, capturing all of the robust flavours and breathtaking natural beauty of the island's lush natural landscape, from its pristine white beaches, cobalt blue ocean, breathtaking sunsets and savouring Hawaiian specialties from Lomi Lomi Salmon, Tuna Poke, Kalua Pulled Pork, Poi, Pupu's and Kona Coffee to the island's famous Royal Hawaiian Luau. 

Our Culinary Journey will take us from Waikiki Beach to the island's north shore exploring the Dole Pineapple Plantation, Polynesian Cultural Centre, Byodo-In Temple, spectacular Doris Duke Museum and Hawaiian royalty's Iolani Palace, to riding the waves on outrigger canoe, scuba diving Oahu's best underwater sites, to sampling the island's top ocean front bastions of pacific Rim cuisine. So pour a Mai Tai and join me as we drink in the beauty of the islands — Aloha!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stir-Fried Broccoli & Mushrooms

Simple, healthy and delicious, Stir-Fried Broccoli & Mushrooms are a quick and easy addition to any meal. Broken into small florets, the broccoli is sautéed with ginger and garlic for just a minute or so, to which sliced mushrooms are added and allowed to cook very briefly. A fragrant mixture of sweet oyster sauce, salty soy, nutty sesame oil and hot Sriracha chill sauce are then poured over the vegetables, along with a slurry of flour and water, which is added to thicken the sauce. Covered and cooked for another few minutes, the stir-fried Broccoli & Mushrooms are ladled while steaming hot into a warmed serving dish, garnished with sesame seeds and ideally served with a bowl of rice or over a bed of noodles, ensuring that none of the thick and fragrant sauce goes to waste.

The ginger and garlic are sautéed over medium-high until soft and fragrant, about 30 seconds

The broccoli florets and mushrooms are added and sautéed briefly, followed by oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and sriracha, plus a little flour and water to thicken the sauce

Stir-Fried Broccoli & Mushrooms
Serves 4

1 head broccoli, broken into generous bite-size florets
8 oz white button or Crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 2-inch knob fresh ginger, julienned
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
1 tsp flour 
Sesame seeds, for garnish

In a small bowl, whisk together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and sriracha, and set aside. In a small cup, whisk the flour with a tablespoon of water to make a slurry, and add to the sauce mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high and sauté the ginger and garlic for 30 seconds, or until they become soft and fragrant but not brown. Add the broccoli florets and sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another minute. Add the oyster sauce and flour mixture to the vegetables, stirring well to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and continue to cook for 2 minutes, or slightly longer if you prefer softer broccoli. To serve, spoon the vegetables and sauce into a warm bowl and garnish with sesame seeds.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chicken Marsala with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Chicken Marsala is an Italian dish made from chicken, mushrooms and Marsala wine. The chicken is traditionally pounded into cutlets, coated in flour, briefly sautéed, and then removed from the pan, which is then used to make a Marsala reduction sauce. I prefer to use bone-in chicken breasts with the skin on, and roasted whole in the oven until they are crisp and golden brown. Brushing the breasts with oil and seasoning with black pepper, paprika and a liberal dose of kosher salt ensures a perfect crisp outer skin. Just before the breasts finish roasting, I begin the Marsala Mushroom Cream Sauce, by first sautéeing the mushrooms in a little butter and olive oil until they're soft and fragrant. Some marsala wine or dry sherry is then added and cooked for about 5 minutes until it reduces slightly. The cream and fresh thyme are stirred in at the end, and cooked over a reduced heat for another 6 to 8 minutes. Thick, creamy and absolutely swimming with mushrooms, the sauce is poured over the chicken breasts, that have been arranged in a warm platter, and garnished with a tangle of fresh thyme. Served with sautéed new potatoes and a spinach or vegetable gratin, this is an easy and delicious recipe that's guaranteed to impress.

Chicken Marsala with Mushroom Cream Sauce
Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika

Marsala Mushroom Cream Sauce:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb sliced crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
3/4 cup Marsala or Sherry
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, plus whole sprigs for garnish
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat the chicken breasts with vegetable oil and set on a foil lined baking pan. Season with fresh ground black pepper, paprika and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt — the more salt, the crisper the skin. Roast the chicken breasts for 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts, until they are crisp and golden brown. Turn off the oven, cover the chicken with aluminium foil and begin the Marsala Cream Sauce.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mushrooms are barely cooked through. Add the Marsala or Sherry and cook for 5 minutes allowing the wine to slightly reduce. Stir in the heavy cream and thyme leaves, reduce the heat to medium and cook the mushroom sauce for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the chicken breasts from the oven and arrange on a warm serving platter. Spoon the Marsala Mushroom Cream Sauce over top, and garnish with fresh sprigs of thyme.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Asian Marinated Rack of Lamb Chops

Rack of Lamb is one of my favourite cuts of meat, and when sliced into single or double chops and marinated in a fragrant Asian, French or Moroccan-inspired elixir of fresh herbs and aromatic seasonings, the flavours can be intoxicating. With two fresh fragrant bunches of cilantro and mint shouting at me from my fridge, I was inspired to create this Asian-style marinade using fresh ginger, garlic and cilantro with sesame oil, soy sauce and samba oelek — an Indonesian red chill paste. Blended together in a food processor, and loosened with a little vegetable oil to produce a smooth paste, the marinade is simply massaged into the lamb chops and then abandoned to works it's magic for an hour or so. Roasted in a 425°F oven for 10-15 minutes, or grilled outdoors on warmer months, the lamb becomes meltingly tender and infused with classic Asian flavours for a memorable mid-winter dish.

The rack of lamb cut into single chops and marinated for 1-2 hours

Asian Marinated Rack of Lamb Chops
Serves 2

1 New Zealand Rack of Lamb
4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, leaves only
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sambal oelek hot chill sauce
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped on diagonal as garnish
1 bunch fresh mint, leaves only as garnish
1 lemon or lime, sliced as garnish

Cut the rack of lamb into single or double chops and place in a glass dish. In a food processor, blend the ginger, garlic and cilantro into a smooth paste, then add the sesame oil, samba oelek, and vegetable oil and pulse until mixed. Pour the mixture over the lamb, and using your hands, massage into the chops, and allow to marinate for 1-2 hours. Preheat oven to 425°F. Arrange the lamb chops  topped with the marinade on a foil lined baking tray and roast for 10-15 minutes, until the chops are brined but still pink inside. To serve, arrange on a warmed platter and garnish with chopped scallions, fresh mint leaves and few wedges of fresh lemon or lime.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Welsh Cakes: A Traditional Saint David's Day Treat

Saint David's Day is the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, a Celtic monk who spread the word of Christianity across Wales in the 6th century. Celebrated on the first of March every year, there can't be a Saint David's Day celebration without a plate of Welsh Cakes. Traditionally cooked over a hot bake stone, Welsh Cakes, or Bakestones as they were often called, are a cross between a scone and a small pancake, and can made from simple pantry items such as flour, sugar, milk and butter, in addition to currants, sultanas or raisins and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Rather than being baked like a scone, they're cooked like a pancake on a griddle, shaped into circles a couple of inches round and about half an inch thick. Served hot or cold dusted with fine sugar, Welsh Cakes are best enjoyed while they're still hot with lashings of butter! 

Welsh Cakes
Makes 16-20

9 oz all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 oz fruit sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp mixed spice
4 oz cold unsalted butter, diced
1/8 tsp salt
3 oz currants, raisins or sultanas
1 medium egg, beaten
A splash of milk to bind, if needed

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl, then add the sugar and mixed spice. Cut up the butter and add to the bowl with a pinch of salt. Using your hands, rub it all together into a fine breadcrumb consistency. Add the dried fruit, beaten egg, a splash of milk and mix together into a firm dough.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 3/4-inch thick. Using an glass or cookie cutter, cut the dough into 2 to 3-inch rounds and cook on a greased baking stone, griddle or non-stick pan over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes on both sides until golden brown. As they finish cooking, cool them on a wire rack and sprinkle with fine fruit sugar.

Serve warm with butter, or lightly whipped fresh cream and preserves. Welsh cakes are best eaten while hot but will keep for up to a week in an airtight container. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mediterranean Herb & Citrus Roasted Chicken Breasts

Moist, fragrant and absolutely delicious, this Mediterranean-inspired Herb & Citrus Roasted Chicken positively shouts summer, with a parade of bright flavours and fresh garden herbs familiar with the promise of warmer days and lazy evenings under the stars. An aromatic marinade of fresh squeezed orange and lemon juice, olive oil, pungent garlic, dried Greek oregano, paprika and crushed red pepper are whisked together and poured over the chicken, allowing the flavours to infuse for a couple of hours or ideally, overnight if you have the time, allowing the citrus juices to perfumes the chicken while it marinates. Arranged in a baking dish with the marinade drizzled overtop, and slices of lemon, orange and onion pocketed under and round the breasts, the chicken is seasoned with a final flurry of olives, sprinkle of fragrant herbs and roasted for 30-40 minutes until it's golden brown and the citrus slices have caramelized nicely. To serve, arrange the crisp golden brown chicken breasts on a warmed decorative platter, top with the caramelized orange and lemon slices, drizzle with a little jus and garnish with some fresh herbs. Modified from a recipe by 'Comfort of Cooking', this sensational dish is excellent served with my friend Linda's luscious Lemon Dill Rice and a simple green salad. Even my husband said "It's a keeper." High praise indeed.

Marinade of olive oil, garlic, sugar, lemon juice, orange juice, Greek oregano, paprika, 
red pepper flakes, salt and pepper

The chicken breasts are bathed in the olive oil mixture and allowed to marinate for about 2 hours

Slices of lemon, orange and onion are set around and under the chicken, then sprinkled generously with the olives, homemade dried rosemary and seasoned again with Kosher salt and black pepper

Roasted in the oven at 400°F for 45 minutes, the breasts were cooked through 
but still lovely, tender and moist

Herb & Citrus Roasted Chicken Breasts
Serves 2

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp sugar
2 lemons, one juiced and one sliced
2 oranges, one juiced and one sliced
1 tbsp dried Greek oregano
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on
1/2 medium red or white onion, thinly sliced

1 cup black olives
1/2 tsp dried thyme, or fresh chopped
1/2 tbsp dried rosemary, or fresh chopped
Fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, for garnish

In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, garlic, sugar, lemon juice, orange juice, Greek oregano, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Place the chicken breasts in a rimmed baking dish, skin side up, and pour the olive oil mixture overtop, turning the breasts to coat on all sides, and allow to marinate 1-2 hours. 
Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange slices of lemon, orange and onion around and under the chicken, then sprinkle generously with the olives, thyme, rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. Roast uncovered for about 35-45 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. To serve, arrange the chicken and caramelized orange and lemon slices on a warmed platter, and garnish with fresh herbs. I also like to serve the remaining sauce in a gravy boat to pour over the chicken for an extra blast of flavour.

Lemon Rice Mitchell
Serves 6

2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked rice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh lemon rind
2 tbsp fresh chopped dill
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Mix the broth, rice and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low for 20-30 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the lemon rind, dill and butter and serve garnished with dill sprigs and lemon curls.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Classic Fish Goujons with Crispy Gremolata Crust

Goujons have fallen from grace, but it's hard to work out why. The crunch of the crispy exterior, the tender, yielding softness of the white fish inside — this is a fish finger taken to the highest level. The classic fish goujon is reinvented with this recipe using a verdant green gremolata crust made with panko breadcrumbs and seasoned with parsley, garlic and lemon zest. These bite size pieces of succulent fish, dipped in egg then coated with seasoned panko and gently pan fried, make a quick and easy appetizer or starter when you've got people over, and a real treat for a midweek or Friday night supper for two. This delicious Italian-inspired recipe from 'Woman & Home' is easy and delicious, especially when served with some homemade tangy Tartare Sauce or divine Lemon Dill Mayonnaise. Yum!

Cod Goujons with Gremolata Crust & Tartare Sauce
Serves 4 as entrée/12 as appetizer
Recipe courtesy Woman & Home

Fish Goujons:
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 lemons, zested
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large bunch Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1 1/2 lb skinless, boneless cod or any white fish, cut into 4" x 1" strips
1/2 cup all-pupose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp oil

1 tsp Maldon salt, for garnish

Tartare Sauce:
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp dry English mustard
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
6 tbsp each olive oil and vegetable oil
1 lemon juiced, to taste
1 tbsp capers, chopped
10 cornichons, finely chopped
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp Italian parsley, roughly chopped

To make the tartare sauce, pour the egg yolk, mustard and 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar in a food processor and whiz until blended. Gradually, add half the oil into the food processor until the sauce begins to thicken. Add a little more of the vinegar and then slowly pour in the remaining oil until the mayonnaise is thick. Taste and season with the lemon juice, salt and pepper then stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into a bowl, cover and chill until needed.

In a food processor, mix the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, garlic and parsley until finely chopped and bright green, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the gremolata mixture, flour and beaten eggs into 3 separate bowls. One at a time, coat each fish strip with flour, then dip into the beaten eggs, and then press into the gremolata breadcrumbs, until each goujon is evenly coated.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and fry the goujons on each side for 3 to 4 minutes until they're gold and crispy on the outside, and opaque in the middle. Garnish with a sprinkle of Maldon salt and serve the goujons with the homemade tartare sauce and a bright green salad for dinner, or as delightful antipasti for company.

Lemon Dill Mayonnaise
Makes 1 cup

1 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice, to taste
salt and white pepper to taste

Put the mayonnaise into a bowl and the finely chopped the dill. Stir in the lemon zest, some lime juice and taste for seasoning. Cover and chill until needed.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Broccoli, Mushroom & Dill Frittata with Cheddar

Among the most classic of brunch offerings, omelettes, quiches, and frittatas are also some of the most versatile. Healthy, light and delicious, this low-carb Broccoli, Mushroom & Dill Frittata with Cheddar Cheese is simple to prepare and delicious to make anytime of the year. Italy's version of the Spanish 'tortilla', the frittata is a thick, hearty open-faced omelette with an egg base, and contains more or less anything you like: herbs, vegetables, cheeses, meat, seafood or even pasta. The beautiful thing about frittatas is that there are endless flavour possibilities. Frittatas are cooked either over very low heat on a stove, or in an oven, until the underside is set and the frittata is beautifully puffed up. Unlike an omelette, a frittata is never folded to enclose its contents, but rather is divided into slices, or cut into slender finger food-sized wedges or little squares and served with drinks as an hors d'oeuvre or tapas — 'buen provecho!'

Broccoli, Mushroom & Dill Frittata with Cheddar
Serves 4

8 large eggs
1 cup grated cheddar, feta or gruyère
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups sliced white button or crimini mushrooms
1 head of broccoli, florets only, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp herbes de Provence
salt & pepper

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the grated cheese and chopped dill, and set aside. In a medium non-stick sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high and cook the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add the broccoli florets and sliced mushrooms and season with salt, pepper and herbs de Provence. Sauté stirring frequently until the vegetables have softened, about 4-5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Pour the egg and cheese mixture over the vegetables and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, sprinkle with a little more dill, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until the frittata has set around the edges and the middle is cooked through. If the top is still runny, place the sauté pan in the oven uncovered for 2-3 minutes, until the surface is set. Serve while hot with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice with a splash of sparkling wine for a delicious start to a Sunday morning.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Treat: Pot de Crème au Chocolat

Nothing says romance quite like chocolate on Valentine's Day. A classic French dessert, Pot de Crème au Chocolat are tiny pots of rich chocolate custard, similar to chocolate mousse, only richer and smaller. The ingredients are also almost identical — eggs, chocolate and cream — but while mousse is light and fluffy in texture, Pot de Crème are rich, dense and intensely chocolatey. Also, while mousse is put directly into the refrigerator to chill, Pot de Crème are baked in a bain marie, or water bath, before chilling. Although it looks very sophisticated, don’t be fooled by the posh name, Pot de Crème au Chocolat is nothing more than a custard really, and one of the easiest desserts you can make. Start with small, heatproof cups and good-quality European bittersweet chocolate such as Callebaut, Valrhona or Lindt. Next, eggs and sugar are whisked into warmed cream, melted chocolate and Grand Marnier, then strained to get rid of any lumps. Finally, the pots are filled and baked in a water bath, which provides a gentle, moist heat that the custards need to thicken properly. Luscious, creamy and intensely rich, this sexy little dessert makes the perfect Valentine's treat. 

Pot de Crème au Chocolat with Grand Marnier
Serves 6

3 egg yolks
2 tbsp extra fine fruit sugar
1 1/4 cup light cream
3 oz Lindt Intense Dark 85% Cacao chocolate, chopped
3 oz Lindt Intense Orange chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 325°F. Using a standing mixer, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla together until the yolks are pale and thick.

In a small saucepan, simmer the cream over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, whisking until melted and well blended.

Very slowly add the chocolate to the egg mixture, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Mix in the Grand Marnier. Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a large measuring cup with a spout — straining the liquid will remove any lumpy impurities. Blot foam from the top of the chocolate with a paper towel or skim with a spoon.

Place six pot de crème pots with lids or ramekins in a baking pan. Pour the chocolate mixture into the small cups, dividing it evenly, then add boiling water into the baking pan so the cups are half immersed. Cover the pots with their lids or the ramekins with a single sheet of aluminum foil. Bake until the custards are just set at the edges but still a little wobbly in the centre, about 15 to 20 minutes. They'll firm up as they chill.

Once they're cooked, remove the baking pan from the oven and place the cups on a wire rack, removing the lids or aluminum foil to let cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days before serving. Serve with whipped cream garnished with orange peel, shaved chocolate or simply sprinkled with some fleur de sel.

"L'Amour et Psyche, enfants" by William-Adolphe Bouguereau - 1890

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mark Hix's Bramley Apple & Cider Pudding Cake

A champion of British cooking, celebrated chef, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix created this recipe for Bramley Apple and Cider Pudding Cake for National Bramley Apple Week, which is celebrated in Britain the first week of February every year. As a child, Mark remembers the bread pudding his Gran used to make as a regular tea time snack. "It’s one of those puddings or cakes that all households should make once a week. It makes a great tea time snack or even as a pudding with some homemade ice cream." Rather like a fruity version of an old-fashioned bread pudding, this is a deliciously moist treat for anytime of the day, from a chef who can do no wrong.

Champion of British cooking, top chef and prolific food writer Mark Hix

In his newest cookbook, Mark Hix on Baking, the renowned chef applies his characteristic flair to a range of sweet and savoury recipes that reflect his own unique interpretation of baking, which covers pretty much anything that can be cooked in an oven. Split into chapters covering snacks, bread, meat and fish, vegetables, savoury and sweet tarts and puddings and cakes, Hix's selection of recipes are based on his "favourite baked dishes, those which I have been cooking for years or eaten on my travels around the globe". Yet another great British cookbook to add to my culinary library.

Mark Hix's most recent cookbook - Mark Hix on Baking

Bramley Apple & Cider Pudding Cake
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy Mark Hix

1 3/4 cups medium strength cider
8 oz fruit sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
2 oz sultanas
2 oz raisins
1 orange, grated zest only
4 oz brown or white bread
4 large eggs, beaten
2 medium sized Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced*
2 oz butter
Icing sugar, for dusting

Bring the cider, sugar, spices, sultanas, raisins and orange zest to the boil. Break the bread into small pieces and mix into the syrup in a bowl. Cover with cling film and leave overnight.

Meanwhile peel core and slice the apples, cutting half of one into rings for the top of the cake. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and fry the apples on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring as they're cooking, until they're lightly coloured then leave to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF. Fold the eggs into the bread mixture then fold in the apples. Pour the mixture into a round springform cake pan, lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the cake is firm, and dust the top with icing sugar while it's still hot.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Murgh Kari: My Favourite Chicken Curry

One of my favourite Chicken Curry recipes, a classic Punjabi dish from Northern India — Murgh Kari — was inspired by a small spiral-bound copy of Time-Life 'Foods of the World - Cooking of India' cookbook that I permanently borrowed from my Mom's food library many years ago. A popular series of 27 cookbooks published by Time-Life from 1968 through to the early 70s, the cookbooks provided a broad survey of many of the world's major cuisines, and quite possibly lit the first spark that ignited my lifetime love affair with food history. The individual volumes were written by well-known experts on the various cuisines, including renowned food writers such as Craig Claiborne, Pierre Franey, James Beard, Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher and Santha Rama Rau, the Indian author and journalist to wrote 'Cooking of India'. The series combined recipes with wonderful food-themed travelogues to show the cultural context from which each recipe sprang, with each volume coming in two parts: the main book was a large-format, photograph-heavy hardcover book, while the recipes were presented in small spiral-bound booklets.

My well used Indian cookbook from the 'Time-Life' Foods of the World series published
in the late 60s and early 70s

Santha Rama Rau, the Indian author and journalist who wrote 'The Cooking of India'

Quick, easy and delicious, this Chicken Curry recipe is also light, flavourful and can be made an hour or two before dinner, then allow to simmer on low heat until you're ready. I often use chicken breasts as a lower fat option, but chicken thighs work equally well. Browned briefly in a little oil, the chicken pieces are cooked for just a few minutes then set aside while the sauce is prepared. Chopped onion, ginger and garlic are sautéed over high heat for about 8 minutes until the onions are golden brown, the heat is reduced to low and the spices are added: cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, fennel and 1 tablespoon of water, then cooked for a minute or so, stirring constantly. A can of drained chopped tomatoes, plain yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro and the browned chicken pieces are added to the sauce, then covered and simmered for at least 20-30 minutes, although I often let it cook up to 60-90 minutes will excellent results — the chicken just ends up breaking up more into the sauce. Served with basmati rice, papadam and a few mini samosas, this Chicken Curry is one of my favourite 'go-to' recipes — foolproof and guaranteed delicious.

2 large chicken breasts cut into quarters and cooked over high heat

The chicken is cooked for 3-4 minutes each side until browned

The breasts are set aside momentarily

In the same pan, finely chopped onion, ginger and garlic are sautéed for 8-10 minutes 
until golden brown

The heat is reduced to low and the cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, fennel and 1 tablespoon of water are added and cooked for a minute or so, stirring constantly

A can of drained whole tomatoes are added...

...along with chopped fresh cilantro and 6 tablespoons of yogurt

The sauce is stirred well to combine the ingredients together

 The browned chicken is torn into large bite size pieces and added to the sauce
and cooked over low heat for at least 20-30 minutes, or up to an hour

The chicken curry becomes fragrant and aromatic 

Murgh Kari Chicken Curry
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Time-Life 'The Cooking of India'

1 1/2 lb chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
2 1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp vegetable, or olive oil
6 oz finely chopped onion, about 1 medium onion
2 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1 1/2 tsp chopped ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
6 tbsp water
1 lb can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
6 tbsp plain Greek yogurt

Cut up the chicken breasts into quaters, pat dry and sprinkle with salt. Heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet, until water flicked into it splutters instantly. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until each piece is white and fairly firm. Transfer the chicken to plate. When cool enough to handle, tear up into smaller pieces.

Add the onions, garlic and ginger to the oil remaining in the pan and sauté for about 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly, until the onions are soft and golden brown. Reduce the heat to low, add the cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, fennel and 1 tablespoon of water, and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly. Stir in the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro, the yogurt and the remaining teaspoon of salt.

Increase the heat to medium and add the chicken plus any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Pour in the rest of the water. Bring to a boil, turning the chicken over in the sauce to coat the pieces evenly. Sprinkle the top with garam masala and the rest of the fresh cilantro. Reduce the heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is tender but not falling apart. I often extend the cooking time up to 60-90 minutes with great results. The chicken just ends up breaking up a bit more.

To serve, arrange the chicken attractively on a heated dish, pour the remaining sauce over top, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. I usually accompany the Chicken Curry with steamed basmati rice, crisp papadum and warm naan.