Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chick Pea Curry

This is Liz and her son Will in 2010. Wish I had more photos with/of her!
One of the best parts of living overseas for our family was the tight-knit community of ex-pats we came to know. When we first moved overseas, I felt so lost. In all the typical ways, like language, culture and trying to find our way around. But the most surprising thing to me was that I no longer knew how to cook! I was a pretty decent cook when we lived in the States and even thought I cooked from scratch pretty well, but then I came to a place where even canned goods are hard to come by consistently. This is one of the ways that our community of friends came to my rescue. Lizzy was certainly one of the biggest influences, pointing me in all the right directions for ingredients, blogs that she often referenced and sharing recipes. Another close friend, Liz Watson, was incredibly practical and skilled in the kitchen and today's recipe was one of her go-to meals and now is one of our family favorites as well. I think of her every time I make it and get to share it as a meal, which often leads to me also passing on the recipe. Quite a cooking legacy Liz! I love how quickly this recipe comes together and I generally tend to have all these ingredients on hand, so it's a good recipe when I need a last minute dinner idea.

Chick Pea Curry

Two cans cooked chickpeas (I usually use dried and soak them then cook them)
1 can peeled tomatoes. (Fresh can be used also. I also occasionally add a can of tomato puree if I want a more soup-like curry)
2 onions
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chilli powder (I do much less than this so my kids can eat it, but if you like a good, spicy curry, go for it!)
1 tsp salt
2-3 sliced green capsicum (bell pepper)
Fresh coriander (cilantro)

Fry spices and salt with onions and garlic in oil. Then add chickpeas and tomatoes and capsicums, until boiling. Add fresh coriander right at the end and mix in. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Peanut Sauce Chicken Stir Fry

Stir fry is a pretty easy option for dinner, but in trying to add a little variety lately, I decided to try to do a peanut sauce for stir fry.  I found a recipe for this Asian Pasta from Martha Stewart that I used as my starting point and tweaked to come up with something a bit easier and more feasible with available ingredients.  

I knew I wanted to serve it over rice.  We eat a lot of basmati or regular long grain white rice here, but stir fry dishes like this are nice with some sticky rice, if you have it available.  I had to search a bit to find directions for preparing sticky rice on the stovetop, and here is one site that I found.

6 T soy sauce
6 T rice vinegar
3 T honey
½ c natural peanut butter
½ t ground ginger
Pinch of red chili flakes (or more, if you like spicy)

2 small onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
500 g chicken, cut in small strips or cubes

2 cups (approximately) of chopped vegetables (I used green bell peppers, carrots, and cauliflower.)

¼ c sesame oil

(Makes about 6 servings)

Mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar (the first time I made this I didn't have any rice vinegar and tried apple cider vinegar, and it was a reasonable substitute), honey, peanut butter, ginger, and chili flakes in a bowl to form the sauce.  As you might be able to see in the picture of the skillet, this makes a lot of sauce.  When I'm using rice as a base, I really like to have plenty of sauce, but if you decide to serve this with noodles or you just prefer stir fry to be a little less saucy, you could easily half the sauce ingredients.
Saute the onions and garlic in a couple tablespoons of cooking oil for a couple of minutes until the onions start to soften.  Add the chicken and brown on all sides of the pieces.  I used chicken cut into approximately 1-inch cubes, but you could do strips, if you prefer.  Other meats could also be substituted.  Pork or beef also work nicely with peanut sauce.
When the chicken is nicely browned, add the chopped vegetables.  Stir fry is quite flexible with which vegetables to use.  We are always dependent on what is specifically in season, so I like to have recipes that can adjust to what is available.  This time, I used green peppers, carrots, and cauliflower.  Bell peppers of any variety work well and veggies that will stay a bit crunchy after a bit of cooking are good choices.  I would also add that you could easily use less meat and more veggies, if you like a stir fry heavier on veggies.  I was wanting to stretch the servings this made a bit, so I actually added more like 3 cups of veggies this particular time.  
After about 2 minutes, add half of the sauce to pan.  My kids tend to like the veggies a little on the softer side, so I continued sauteing them for about another 5 minutes, but it is a bit of a preference as to how crunchy you want the veggies. The goal is to let the veggies soak up some of the flavors of the sauce but still remain a bit crunchy (and for the meat to be cooked through).  In a perfect stir-fry, the meat and veggies would likely be done in separate rounds or pans, but I was going for simple!
When the veggies and meat are done, turn off the heat, stir the sesame oil into the remaining sauce (can easily be skipped, but I love the taste of sesame oil) and pour in the pan and stir to mix in.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hearty Chili and Cornbread

I love fall, if for no other reason than it seems the perfect time to start pulling out some comfort foods!
Clearly, food photography is not my gift, but it tastes delicious!

A good, hearty chili soup just makes me feel warm and cozy and is really versatile.  It is an easy thing to make for a big group, and even if I'm just making it for our family, I usually make a big batch when I make it.  We usually eat it the first night with some cornbread, and then another night we'll often put a bit of it on a bowl of pasta for some "chili mac" or use some of it as a topping for baked potatoes.  It also freezes really well, so I like having something to tuck away to thaw out and use later for a quick meal.

So, a warning is that this makes a BIG pot of chili.  You could easily half this recipe and still have enough for a family for dinner.

To be honest, this is the first time I've ever written down what I put in the chili, and the nice thing about this "recipe," is that it is really flexible, so if you like to have more or less meat or more or less beans, you can adjust those quite easily.  You can also adjust the amount of broth you add to make it thinner or thicker. Cutting to the chase, when I made it and wrote it down, this recipe leads to a hearty chili that we really enjoy:

Hearty Chili
1 c onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
500 g ground meat (I use beef when available but have made it with buffalo, pork, or chicken, or a mix)
4 c broth 
5 c cooked/canned kidney beans 
1 large can (850 g) tomato puree
1 T cumin
2 T chili powder (American)*
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 t cinnamon
1 t brown sugar

Lightly brown the ground meat in your pot with the onions and garlic.  The meat here is usually very lean, so I usually put a few tablespoons of oil in the pan first but did not usually do that if the meat had a bit of fat to it.
Add the broth.  In the States, I would tend to use beef broth or bouillon.  Here I use 4 cups of water and 2 bouillon cubes--usually chicken but only veggie were available this time, and it was fine.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium.  
Add the cooked or canned beans.  I have shifted the kind of beans, depending on what is available.  Here, I usually try to use kidney beans.  If you use canned beans, you don't have to cook them, but I used dried beans this time, soaked them overnight and then cooked them separately in a pressure cooker.  
Add the tomato puree, cumin, and chili powder and salt and pepper to taste.
* I didn't have American chili powder available this time, so I used 1/2 teaspoon of the local chili powder, and it was still a tad on the spicy side for my kiddos. 
Simmer the chili for 20-30 minutes on a medium low heat, stirring occasionally.  If it starts to bubble much, turn down the heat.  In the last 5-10 minutes, add the cinnamon and brown sugar.

Top with sour cream, shredded cheese, or green onions, if you like.

As I said, I like to make a batch of cornbread to go with our chili.
Here is the recipe I usually use:
The only change I usually make is that I substitute yogurt for the buttermilk, and it works great.  This picture is a double batch, but I would recommend just a single batch unless having company.