Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Bratkartoffeln - Fried potatoes

This is a simple recipe that my children love. The only problem with it is that it cannot be really eaten alone, except maybe as a snack. When I make it we have burgers, sausages, or schnitzel together with a vegetable (last night it was carrots).


Preparation time: 45 minutes; serves 4


Ingredients:

1kgPotatoes
1 tsp.Salt

Oil

Method:

Peel and wash the potatoes and then cut them into small pieces about 0.5 cm thick. For smaller spuds I cut them in two first and larger ones into four.



To fry these potatoes it is important that you have a heavy bottomed frying pan, preferably a cast iron one that is well seasoned (i.e. nothing sticks to it). If you use a non-stick pan the potatoes will not get as crunchy and brown. Heat the pan on medium heat and add enough oil so that the bottom of the pan is covered (I need about 1/4 cup). Don't put so much oil in that the potatoes are swimming. You need just enough so that they all get coated with the oil. Once the oil is hot you put in the potatoes, sprinkle them with the salt and toss them in the oil so that they are all coated with oil. If there is not enough oil to coat them just add some more.

Continue frying them, stirring every now and then until all the potatoes are cooked and are as brown as you like them. This takes me 20-30 minutes. If you feel like your potatoes are sticking you can pour in a bit more oil. Scrape the bottom of the pan while you are frying to ensure that nothing sticks to the pan and burns.


You can sprinkle a variety of other things on top of your potatoes once they are cooked through. Roasted onions, garlic powder, cheeses, chilies, herbs are a few that come to mind.

Serve hot.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Guacamole

Yesterday I took my youngest grocery shopping with me. I usually do this all alone while I am waiting for my eldest to finish her gymnastics training. I am so used to doing it alone, which  makes it difficult to do it any other way. I get so distracted by the company and they get me to buy all kinds of things that I don't want and cause me to forget half of what I do want.

Well yesterday I was made to buy avocados and tortilla chips. The demands were very clear: "Can we have guacamole for dinner?" There were other demands made like "Can we have salad with pomegranate? Can we have Oreos? Can we have Jaffa cakes?" but only some of them were granted, including the guacamole.

We love the stuff, and I am not sure why I have never made it in Sri Lanka given that avocados are so cheap and good and all the ingredients are available. It either is because I don't have the recipe with me (no more excuses now) or due to the lack of chips to dip. A few years ago I had guacamole in Arugam Bay and they served it with papadum which is a brilliant idea (might be best to bake them though instead of frying!).




Preparation time: 30 minutes; Makes a big bowl


Ingredients:

1Onion
2-3Garlic cloves
2.5 cmGinger root
Haas Avocados (about 2 Sri Lankan avocados)
2Limes, juice and grated rind
4 tbspCoriander leaves (cilantro)
2 tspGround coriander
2 tspGround cumin
1 tspChili powder
Ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 tspSalt (to taste)

Method:

So there are two ways to make this. You can either have the chunky variety or the smooth variety. We usually go for chunky.

If you want to go for smooth just put the onion, garlic and ginger into your food processor and pulse. Then put in everything else except the tomatoes and pulse until smooth. Stir in the tomatoes and serve!

You might consider chunky to be a bit more time consuming but you save on cleaning the food processor!

So I first put the avocado in a bowl and smash them up to the size that we like. Then grate my ginger and garlic into the bowl. The onion I dice finely and add that together with all the other ingredients.



You can adjust the spices as you like and I was very tempted to add some finely chopped green chili but I didn't have time. If your tomatoes are watery dice them, let them sit for a few minutes and drain off the water. The tastier your avocados and tomatoes are the better your guacamole will taste.



As you probably all know avocados turn brown very quickly. To keep your guacamole a bit longer you need to stop the surface coming in contact with the air. To do this I take some cling wrap and press it down onto the surface of the mixture making sure to press any air bubbles out. Then to be extra careful I put another layer of cling wrap on top. The guacamole should be chilled before using so pop it back in the fridge until you need it. In my house it never goes back into the fridge (unless we are having visitors) but straight into some warm tummy's!!!

This is half the recipe

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Pasta with zucchini, mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes

My mother-in-law arrived today to visit and cleaned up the kitchen after dinner 😁 leaving me with a bit of time before getting to bed to finish this blog post. This recipe was totally inspired by some vegetables that were lying around the house that had to be used up. My family insisted it be repeated! It is quite good and I'm really proud when I make something up all on my own and the family likes it. Makes me fell so good. I hope you enjoy it too.



Preparation time: 45 minutes; serves 6 - 8 (figure out how many it will serve based on your usual pasta consumption)

Ingredients:

600 gMushrooms
2Zucchini, medium
500 gMacaroni, dried
1/4 cupChopped dried tomatoes (around 4 large ones)
1/4 cupChopped cilantro
4 small sprigsOregano
50 gButter
250 mlWhipping cream
2 tbsp.Thyme infused oil (or oil plus a few sprigs of thyme)
2 tbsp.Olive oil (if necessary)
1/4 cupGrated parmesan 
1 tsp.Salt (to taste)

Method:
The first thing I did was to put the water to boil to make the macaroni. While waiting for the water to boil I took the opportunity to wash and chop my vegetables. Interrupting the washing in order to put the pasta in the pot and once again to take them out once cooked. I am horrible with cooking pasta so I always follow the directions on the packet. I always set my timer for the pasta once the water has returned to the boil, otherwise they seem so not done. Al dente is fine but crunchy is not happening. Although maybe Italians like their pasta crunchy! When we were in Rome this spring our host recommended a local restaurant to us. The pasta was so crunchy that we couldn't eat it. We were thankful that the portions were small (although the price was not) so we didn't have to waste too much.

Finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes with some oregano fresh from my garden 
When I made this I purposely cut the vegetables into large chunks so that we could actually taste the vegetables. The sun dried tomatoes were finely chopped since their taste is so intense. Likewise the cilantro and oregano.


I happened to have some thyme and lemon flavoured oil and I used this to fry the zucchini. Fried over high heat until golden. Once I run out of this oil I will just sprinkle the zucchini with fresh thyme. I have a large patch now in my garden.


I removed the zucchini from the pan and put them into a large bowl and threw in the mushrooms into the hot pan adding a bit of olive oil (you might not need any oil to fry the mushrooms and this is okay). This were also fried over high heat, continuously stirring. I think that the high heat helped seal the juices into the vegetables and by cooking them separately neither was was over cooked and each preserved their own flavour. A bit of caramelization just added to the taste.


Now that the mushrooms were cooked I turned them into the bowl with the zucchini and added the chopped tomatoes.

To complete the sauce melt the butter  over medium heat and once the butter has melted add the whipping cream. Keep stirring until the two ingredients are well combined. Make sure the sauce does not boil, simmering is okay. Then just add the vegetables, reheat . 


Add the macaroni or what ever pasta you are using. I like something tubular so that the sauce goes inside and gets stuck there!
Finally I took the pan off the heat and mixed in the salt, cilantro and oregano leaves. As always our kids have to have fresh Parmesan sprinkled on top. With them its usually the more the better (below is my plate!).




Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Agri Park, Kandy - Fantastic day out

Last summer we visited the Eden project in England and we had a long discussion as to how it would be so easy for someone to come up with something like this in Sri Lanka. After all they don't even need the green houses. Everything would grow just fine outdoors. A few months later when I visited Kandy, I found that there was something vaguely similar. In fact it could be as good as the Eden project if someone had remembered to put in the infrastructure and remembered that people don't necessarily want to see acres of different types of paddy! But if you remember to take a lot of water and some snacks this can be a most wonderful place to visit.
Just across the river from the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens is the much cheaper Agri Park. To get here take any bus heading towards Peradeniya or Penideniya and get out at the Dangolla Junction. Walk over the Mahaweli, Sri Lanka's longest river, and the ticket office is about 250 m on your left.
As of this month the tickets were 10/20 LKR for locals and 100/200 LKR are tourists (child/adult).

I so think that it is worth seeing that I made a little map in google so that you could find some of the nicer things. There are lots of things missing because I just have never had the time to see everything.

Hanging over head as you head to buy your tickets
Dragon fruit on the fence to the road by the ticket counter

Humungous ladies finger in the home garden
Crazy sign board telling you what is good for you when you have heart disease

What is good for oral health?


We were told by one person that we could climb up but then someone with more authority told us that it was not allowed. It looked quite dangerous. It's the kind of hut the farmers sit in to stay out of the way of elephants.

Feeding the goats

A kid with its mother

Paddy fields with the trash sculpture in the background



End of your tour with a visit to the Hela Bojun food stalls where you can buy all kinds of traditional foods. Sweet and savoury. Try the ulundu wade if there are any left by the time you get to the front of the line. They are amazingly good. If the ladies at Hela Bojun are not working (you are either too early or too late) go around to the back of the building where you will find a small eatery. The food there is good and freshly prepared. At the end of the Hela Bojun food stalls are some basic toilets for a fee.

Once my husband has gotten round to getting our vacation photo's off his camera I might be able to upload some nicer pictures!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Channa Masala (chickpeas) with spinach

So one of my daughters was on a class trip and my husband was away on business so I agreed to inviting two of my little ones friends over to spend the night. I was a glutton for punishment! But better a full house than an empty one. At some point in the afternoon I realized that I had not planned dinner and that I did not want to go out shopping for fresh vegetables. No fear, I figured, a pot of dahl always goes down well, except, of course, when you are out of lentils!! Luckily the pantry was not bare and I found a couple of cans of chickpeas. So I put on a simple meal of chickpeas and rice. It was such a hit (there were not enough left overs for a second meal!) that I reproduced it last night for the rest of the family (and wrote down the recipe to share).


Preparation time: 1 hour; serves 4 if served alone with rice 

Ingredients:

1 (75 g)Onions, chopped
1/2 tbsp. (4 cloves)Garlic pulp
1/2 tbsp.Finely chopped ginger
50 gButter (or ghee)
1 tbsp.Ground corriander
2 tspCumin seeds
1/4 tsp.Chili power (or to taste)
1 tsp. Tumeric
2 tsp.Ground cumin
1 tbsp.Amchur or lemon juice
14 ozCanned tomatoes (or use fresh ones)
480 gCooked chickpeas (= 1 large can of chickpeas)
150gFrozen spinach
2 tsp.Garam masala
1/2 tsp.Salt

Method:
The method is relatively simple and I'm guessing if you are not being neat and pretty and taking photographs that you can probably put this together in less than an hour. The big time consumer is letting it simmer at the end for 30 minutes, but this gives you time to make other delicious things (and if nothing else at least your rice).

Since the first part of this recipe is cooked pretty fast, and because I didn't want to burn anything, I got most things ready before melting my butter. I had two piles. One of chopped onions, garlic and ginger


and one with all the spices


There are heaps and heaps of spices here because I made two cans of chickpeas i.e. I doubled the recipe. Here is everything except the salt and the garam masala. Once I had these two piles set up I put the butter in a heavy bottomed pan and melted it over medium heat. Then added the onions, garlic and ginger, increased the heat, and cooked them until they were soft.

You should stir them every now and then so that they are evenly cooked, but in between there should be enough time to crack open the canned tomatoes and roughly chop them. I first made this with fresh tomatoes and it came out fine. It's just a bit less... well ... tomatoey! 

Once those onions are done it is time to add the spices. I again reduced the heat because I did not want to burn the spices and over a low heat cooked them for 1-2 minutes. Keep stirring them so that they don't burn. Then in go the tomatoes and their juices. Now I put this up to around medium and heated it through. 



While this was happening I drained off the chickpeas and then added them to the pot and gave it a really good stir. On went the lid and I allowed it to simmer while I put together our now favourite potato masala and some rice. After 15 minutes of simmering I added the frozen spinach. I am sure you can use fresh spinach as well but I would cook it and drain the water first (else the masala will become watery). 

Continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Add the garam masala and salt to taste and enjoy!



Thursday, 8 June 2017

Deliciously Simple Home-made Croutons

When I first moved to Germany from the USA I could not find croutons in the store so when our good friends from San Francisco came to visit I had to figure out how to make some, and quick! A few years ago I found some in the supermarket, but they are nothing compared to my homemade, fresh, crunchy ones.




Preparation time: 30-40 minutes; Makes 2 bowls full (see above) 

Ingredients:

6 slicesWhite bread
1/4 cupOlive oil
2 tbsp.Oil (canola, sunflower, etc.)
1 tsp.Salt
1 cloveGarlic, small (optional)
1 tbspRosemary, finely chopped (optional)

Method:

Unlike many other recipes this one you really need to put the oven on before you start preparing stuff. It's that quick to prepare. I used a fan oven at 180 C, so 200 C for a regular oven (400 F). 
You could use any type of bread for this. I like to use white bread that is pre-cut. It is called "American Sandwich" here in Germany and "Sandwich bread" in Sri Lanka. The main thing is that it is pre-cut to save you some time and to make it nice and regular. I cut my bread so that cubes are formed.



Then put them in a big bowl and pour over the oil and mix quickly so that the oil gets evenly distributed. Crush the garlic and add it to the bread with the salt. I personally think that this recipe is a bit too salty but my family assure me that it is the perfect amount. So adjust according to your own taste. You will probably only know if there is too much or too little after you have finished making it! Given that you will be making this more often than you think this is not such a bad thing. Mix well. 


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the bread evenly. Put in the hot oven. Now finely chop the rosemary. If you put it in in the beginning the rosemary will burn so you have to wait. Every 5 minutes you should stir the bread so that all sides get evenly toasted. After 10 minutes or so sprinkle on the rosemary.

Bake until the bread is golden brown, 15 - 20 minutes in total. If you have a well disciplined family you can wait until it is cooled and then use it on your salad. We use ours immediately. What ever croutons are left over my kids have for dessert!


Don't forget to adjust your croutons to your taste. Pepper, chili of any other spice or herb will taste great. Just remember that more fragile herbs should be put on very near to the end and some probably after you have taken the croutons out of the oven. 

Monday, 8 May 2017

Mexican (Spanish?) Rice

There is a controversy in our household as to whether this is a Mexican recipe or a Spanish one. I'm guessing you could eat it with either type of food. Our main use of this rice is to stuff it into burritos which is why I claim that it is Mexican! We love burritos and I am a bit bewildered as to why I have not posted our favourite burrito fillers yet! I shall have to look into this. If I ever get round to posting instructions on how to put a burrito together I will link it here.



Preparation time: 1 hour; Serves 8 (with side dishes) 

Ingredients:


350 g12 ozTomato (the riper and redder the better)
75 g 1 mediumOnion
3
Jalapenos (optional)
400 g2 cupsBasmati rice
75 ml1/3 cupOil
4 cloves1.5 tsp.Garlic, minced
475 ml2 cupsWater
1
Veggie cube
1 tbsp.
Tomato paste
1.5 tsp
Salt
0.5 cup
Cilantro, chopped
1
Lemon

Method:

Take your tomatoes and onions and put them into your favourite food processor. Puree them and measure out 2 cups (a little under 500 ml). Don't worry if you have small pieces of tomato skin in your puree. It makes the rice look nicer in the end. If you have more than 2 cups of puree do not be tempted to put it in the rice. The rice will get too soggy. Of course you could reduce the amount of water and substitute it with any left over puree.


Mince your chilies (if using) and garlic and then wash your rice. Wash it under cold water and keep washing until the water is only slightly milky. The more starch you get rid of the less sticky your rice will be (at least if you are using basmati). Drain well.

The rice needs to be baked in the oven so make sure you pick a pan, with a fitting lid, that can be put in the oven. Make sure it is large enough to deal with the expanding rice. Now heat this pan on medium high and add the oil. Now is also the time to put your oven on at 160 C for a fan oven or 180 C (350 F) for a conventional oven.

Now back to your oil. You will know if the oil is hot enough because the oil will sizzle when the rice is added. Add a grain to check. Once the oil is hot add the rice and fry. Keep on stirring it to prevent it from burning. It should be fried for 6 - 8 minutes, until some of it is golden brown.

Reduce the heat to low and stir in the garlic and chili. Stir continuously until it is well distributed. It always takes me forever to get the garlic well combined, but it is quite essential so that no one ends up with a clump of garlic in their rice.


Now stir in the water, vegetable cube, puree, tomato paste and salt. Just for the record: tomato paste is highly concentrated tomato. I don't know what you could substitute it with if you could not get it but I personally would just omit it rather than use some other tomato product. Mix everything well and increase the temperature to medium high. Bring the whole thing to a boil.



Once it boils take it off the stove top and put it in the oven. The rice should bake for 30 minutes and it needs to be stirred in the middle. So set your timer for 15 minutes, take the pot out of the oven and stir it. Replace the lid and pop it back in for a further 15.


Once you take the rice out of the oven (be careful someone always burns themselves on the hot pan!) add the cilantro and the juice of 1 lime and mix well.


Your rice is now ready to serve. You can add it to a burrito or just use it as your main staple. Try mixing other things into it to turn it into a one pot meal.