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Thursday, 3 September 2015

THE DELICATELY FLAVOURED INDIAN LYCHEES

Good Morning to you,



Do you recognise this little fellow?


No?


How about this?


Still not sure?


Is it on the tip of your tongue, but you can't remember the name?

Well, I think I've teased you enough. It's time for me, 
to introduce you, 
to, 



the 
very
exotic 
Indian Lychee.

Are you as surprised as I was to
 discover the
 name of this fruit?

My only experience of the lychee, was in the late 1960's, when we used to go to our local Chinese restaurant. We loved the restaurant because it was so different. We discovered dishes like Sweet and Sour Pork Balls, Chicken Chop Suey, Crispy Pancake Rolls and Chicken Chow Mein.  Prawn crackers and crispy noodles were a revelation and very shi shi for the time.... and if my memory serves me well, most of these items were not on sale at my local grocers in the early 1970's. I really don't remember noodles or bamboo shoots. I do remember packets of dried food, which included noodles, but I think those new types of food  came a little later.

The dessert selection at the Chinese restaurant was never as exciting as the main courses.... the only dessert I can remember being offered was tinned lychees, swimming in syrup with a spoonful of cream floating in the syrup.  By now, you will be well aware of my sweet tooth, so of course, I had to try the tinned lychees and I have to be perfectly honest, they were awful, so I never ate them again and I never gave them a second thought.

That is, until we visited Natasha in India.  

Natasha had been out and about with George and on their return home, George presented me with what looked like a bunch of flowers.  On closer inspection, I could see they were not flowers, so I asked what they were. That is when Natasha told me they were a fruit, and in actual fact, they were lychees, well, you could have knocked me down with a feather.

Once I got over the surprise, I was excited to see how they tasted. I was keeping my fingers crossed that they tasted nothing like the tinned lychees of so many years ago.   Natasha showed me what to do and once we peeled the outer cases to expose, 



the fruit,



I could see the lychee was the most lovely pearl colour.

Now, let's get down to business, the eating of the lychee.

Within my family
there seems to be two ways to eat a lychee.


Firstly, you peel the fruit and then pop the whole fruit into your mouth and somehow or other, move it around your mouth to remove the fruit from the stone, which is what Gaja and George did.... mmm not my style at all.

Or
secondly
you can adopt my style,
which 
safely 
keeps your teeth in tact.



Using a teaspoon, I scored the fruit from top to bottom and carefully released the fruit from the stone. Yes maybe this technique is a little fiddly, but I feel it is well worth the effort.

Once the stones were removed, we popped each piece of lychee into our mouths and they were delicious. To my surprise I loved the flavour.  It was nothing like those tinned lychees, I had tasted all those years ago, instead, the fresh lychee had the most delicate, almost floral flavour.


....as with the mangoes, because the lychees were in season during our visit to India, we really ate our fill. It was interesting, because the more I ate, the easier it became to de-stone the fruit.... I became quite the expert, although George and Gaja continued with their method and thought I was crazy to go to so much fuss and bother.

..... but that's me, I am not a finger food person. 

Do you remember me telling you, about the very first time I ate a MacDonald's, when Natasha and Danielle were little girls.... I asked for a knife and fork.... yes, I would say that just about sums me up. After all the years, the girls still find it funny, that I asked for a knife and fork to eat a beefburger.

Talking of experiences.

I have to tell you, you have no idea how hard it has been to write the word lychees.... each time I wrote the word, I wanted to add an 'e' at the end. So instead of lychees, I was writing 'lycheese'.... my brain just would not accept that there was not an 'e' on the end of the word.


With a little luck, and lots of proof reading... oh and if you are thinking I could have used spell check.... I did, but it did not recognise the word, I feel sure I have weeded out all those extra e's.

Let me know if you spot one.

So take care and I will see you next week.

This week I will be visiting,



and










Thursday, 27 August 2015

PART 2 ~ SWEET AND JUICY MANGO WITH LABNEH AND ROASTED OATS

Good Morning to you,


I was wondering, how do you record birthdays, anniversaries and appointments, which you need to remember?

Are you a paper person?

Or,

are you a computer, Ipad or Iphone person?

In the back of my mind, as it is the year 2015,  I feel the correct answer should be, that I am a computer person. I am not without skills, I do use a computer quite a lot, but not to keep track of appointments or the like.

George does, he records all his comings and goings on the ipad and loves it.  Along with checking the weather.... yes, as you can guess, we are English and checking the weather is ingrained in our psyche.

..... but, to date, I have resisted .... and do you know why.

Call me old fashioned, but I love paper calendars. 

I love visiting card shops during the month of December, (did you notice I didn't mention Christmas) to see the newest calendars .... I will look at four or five, but I always end up buying the same style..... a line a day calendar, for each month of the year, as it suits me well. 

.... and the reason is,

At the beginning of each year, I love to sit down at the kitchen table, reach for a pen and record what is going to happen in the future. I find by writing the information down, I am more likely to retain it.

I love to be able to see at a glance what is happening throughout the week. I highlight birthdays and remind myself at least two weeks in advance that a card needs to be bought.... yes I do try to be organised. 

.... and I am happy with my paper calendar, 

but,

each time Natasha and Danielle come home, they invariably encourage me to change my habit of a lifetime. They both encourage me to use my ipad and tell me, it will make life simpler. I always listen and smile, then I say 'I'll give it a go',

but,

they both know, that I know, it won't happen, as next time they come home I will still be using my paper calendar, then once again they will try to convert me.

It is a little game we play..... just a thought, I wonder, will Natasha and Danielle ever manage to win me over?

... but there are no games being played today, as today, we are going to be making the second part of our dessert.

The roasted oats to place on top of

our

Mango and Labneh dessert.

Now then, you may be asking, 'Why are there blueberries on top of the roasted oats, when last week Daphne used mangoes'.  Well, there is a reason.

Someone, who shall remain nameless, although, if you have been reading my blog for a little while, you will know, it's George, ate the last remaining mango. It meant that I was scuppered, there were no mangoes left. I did not have a replacement, and I could not buy anymore, because the mangoes in the shops would be firm to the touch and not ripe enough to eat. 

Note to self: remember to let George know when I need to keep an ingredient.

So apologies for the blueberries, but having said that, blueberries would be lovely to use in this dessert as well.

So without further ado, 'it's on with the pinnie' and the music I am listening to is,



the fabulous Blake Shelton.  Do you remember, I mentioned, that I had never heard of Blake, until he dueted with Barbra Streisand on the song 'I'd Want It To Be You'. I had mentioned this to George, and he surprised me with this wonderful album.... and I love it.

BUT, before I share some of Blake's music from the album, I discovered this YouTube clip.... you may have seen it already as it has had a lot of hits, but it is the first time for me.  Get your tissues ready, because you will need them. 

Natasha and Danielle, are you ready?


Then when you have dried your eyes and composed yourself, listen to,


and fall in love with Blake's beautiful voice.

So while I gather my ingredients together, I am listening to,



I have played this album so many times, that I know most of the words, to the songs.... so yes, I am singing along and I have to say, as I gather my ingredients, I am also including, very dramatic dance movements around my kitchen.  It's just as well you cannot see me, as you would be in fits of laughter.


INGREDIENTS
YOU 
WILL NEED
TO MAKE
ROASTED OAT TOPPING

4 oz large rolled oats
6 or 7 large walnuts
2 oz dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons organic Agave Syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon organic coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Preheat the oven to 160 C
or
140 C if you have a fan assisted oven

You Will Also Need

1 medium sized baking tray
Baking parchment 

HOW TO 
MAKE
ROASTED OAT TOPPING


Place the oats
onto a baking tray
and
bake for 30 minutes.
Move the oats around every 15 minutes.

Keep an eye on them, because ovens vary 
and you might find it takes
 less time to roast the oats.
Whilst the oats are baking, cut the walnuts into
small pieces.

You will notice there is a mix of large and small
pieces of walnuts.  This is because George enjoys
a larger walnut, whilst I prefer
 a smaller piece of
walnut.
Place the walnuts into a small pan and toast until they take on a golden colour.  

It is important that you move the walnuts around the pan and
that you keep an eye on them.
I did not heed my own advice, as I answered a text from Natasha, which is always welcome,
 and I managed to burn a few walnuts.  
It is so easy to do.
As my father would say, 'Don't do as I do' Do as I say'.
When the walnuts have toasted, set  them aside for the moment.
Place the dark brown sugar into a small saucepan

along with
the Agave syrup,
the coconut oil,
the
vanilla essence,
the
salt
and finally,
the 
toasted walnuts
and
cook over a low heat
until
the brown sugar has dissolved.

Using the same baking tray as you used to toast the
oats, line it with baking parchment,
 as this will make 
it easier to remove the roasted oats
 when they have cooled.
Oops, here is my second mistake, I forgot to line the baking tray. I think I am enjoying Blake's music a little too much.

We'll move on..... Spoon the mixture onto the lined baking tray
and
using the back of a spoon, level the mixture.

Cool completely.
By which time you will have the most delicious, gooey topping.


Break into small pieces

and
 place
on top
of your sweet and juicy mango with labneh dessert.


I thought I would let you know, that you will have some roasted oats left over, but they are delicious and I usually find once I place them in a dish, they are eaten by the end of the day.

As I mentioned last week, please don't be put off by the Part 1 and Part 2 of this dessert.  It really is straight forward, but because I take step by step photographs, it makes the whole process seem a lot longer than it really is. Just remember to drain the yoghurt and roast the oats the evening before and the following day, you will be ready to complete this dessert.

As you know, I always own up to mistakes I make in the kitchen, because I am not a chef, I am someone who enjoys cooking, and I am not infallable, I am prone to making a few mistakes here and there when I lose concentration.

I'm sure you are the same, have you had the odd mishap in the kitchen?

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,


and
















Thursday, 20 August 2015

PART 1 ~ SWEET AND JUICY MANGO WITH LABNEH AND ROASTED OATS

Good Morning to you,


Have you heard the saying 'Your never too old to learn?'


Well that applied to me recently.... and I'll tell you why.


If you had asked me a couple of months ago how I felt about mangoes.  I would have told you they tasted like soap and in fact  they were a fruit I did not like at all.

.... but  oh dear me, how wrong could I be.

It all began on a sunny New Delhi morning, when George decided to stretch his legs by going to the grocers, to buy some mangoes for Natasha, as she loves them.  To be honest, I was a bit sniffy about them, because I had tried them once, many years ago and I really could not see their attraction. The fruit was a beautiful colour but as I said, I thought the flavour was rather soapy and one I really did not like.

George duly returned from the grocers and he showed our friend, Gaja, what he had bought.  Gaja took one look at the mangoes and told George, in a very nice way, that he had chosen the wrong mangoes and promptly took them from George and went to the grocery shop himself.

George thought Gaja had meant, he had chosen the wrong variety, so when Gaja returned he showed George which ones he had chosen. They were the same variety of mango called Alphonso, but Gaja had chosen the most wrinkly looking fruit and not the round firm fruit which George had bought. I was so surprised, because to be honest with you, I would have passed the mangoes by without a backward glance, thinking they were on the turn.... but here's the surprise. When Gaja cut the mango open and handed me a piece to try, I found it to be juicy and oh so delicious.... there was not a soapy note in sight.... I experienced the most wonderful  taste explosion. From that moment, mangoes became one of my favourite fruits.

Looking back, the mistake I had made, was the same as George's. I had bought a firm mango, thinking that was the right thing to do, when in actual fact it was totally wrong.

After the first slice which Gaja had given me, there was no turning back, my prejudice towards this fruit had disappeared and I can honestly say I absolutely love them. We went on to try different varieties of mango and do you know, I even ate a mango which tasted like a pineapple..... now that was a little confusing.

So if you are a complete mango novice like I was here's what you need to do.

Place your mangoes in a fruit bowl, on their own, and and allow them to soften. You might think that as the skin wrinkles they are 'going over' but they are not, honestly, try it,  you won't regret it.

So now that we are back in England, I decided to put the mangoes to the test, to see if they would be as delicious. I am sure you will agree, fruit always tastes different , when eaten in the country of origin, rather than when it has been transported thousands of miles from where it was grown. 

We visited our local market and decided to buy a variety of mango called Keitt which is grown in Puerto Rico. Yes, it was firm when we bought it, but this time  we knew what to do, it was placed in a bowl and left alone for a couple of days.  When I checked, it still was not ripe enough, so I left it a further two days, by which time the skin had become wrinkly and this time, it was perfect and ready to use

..... and this is what I made,


layers of cubed mango, with labneh mixed with vanilla bean paste and a roasted oat and walnut topping. This lovely little dessert was something Natasha made for us and we could not get enough of it.  The mango was so sweet that the slightly savoury labneh and the oat topping worked very well together.

Shall I let you into a little secret, the first time we tasted this dessert, Natasha made it for us and she placed it into small glasses, but as the weeks went by, the glasses seem to get larger and larger, especially when George made the dessert. 

So it's 'on with the pinnie', and the music I am listening to today is,



Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets by Gary Jules. If you are not familiar with Gary's music, you will probably remember when he sang the remake of the 'Tears for Fears' song 'Mad World'.  The song I am listening to at the moment reminds me of 1960's folk music. Listen to 


So whilst I listen to another song from the album, The Princess of Hollywood Way it is time to organise my ingredients.

INGREDIENTS
TO MAKE
MANGO, LABNEH AND ROASTED OAT DESSERT

Serves 2

How to make the Labneh
Do you remember we made labneh in April of this year.
You will need to make this the night before.

You will also need,
1 large very ripe mango
2 teaspoons of Vanilla Bean Paste

HOW TO MAKE 
THE ROASTED OAT TOPPING

WE WILL MAKE THE TOPPING NEXT WEEK,
BUT I HAVE INCLUDED THE RECIPE TODAY
SO YOU WILL KNOW WHAT INGREDIENTS
YOU WILL NEED.

4 oz large oats
6 or 7 walnuts
2 oz dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons of agave syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon of salt

HOW TO MAKE 
MANGO
WITH
LABNEH AND ROASTED OAT TOPPING


Slice either side of the mango. 


You will not be able to cut the mango down
 the middle because of the mango pit.


Remove the flesh from the other sides.


Plus any fruit which is left on the pit.
I usually manage to remove quite a bit, this flesh
may not look pretty, but it tastes divine so
you want to be sure you remove it all.


Take one piece at a time and gently run your
knife around the edge to part the flesh from 
the skin.

Then gently cut into cubes, but do not pierce the
skin.


Invert the mango.
You will see the pieces of mango squares which 
you cut.


Using a teaspoon
 remove the mango flesh from the skin
(I find a teaspoon is the easiest tool to use for this
job.)



Then
place the cubed mango into a bowl.

Repeat with the rest of the mango.

(You will find some pieces are perfectly cubed
and others aren't, but don't worry, we will be
placing the cubes around the side of the glass
and the irregular shapes in the middle.


Place as much or as little mango as you like
 into the two glasses. 
(As I mentioned place the cubes around the outer
edge of the glass and the 'bitty' shapes in the centre.)
I tend to fill the glass 2 thirds full with mango.


Remove the labneh, you have already made,
 from the muslin 
and 
place into a bowl.


Add the vanilla paste

and


gently mix together.


Spoon half on top of the cubed mango
then repeat with the second glass.

This is where we are stopping for today, because if I included the step by step instructions for the oat topping, then this would be a very long post indeed and I feel you would tire of reading the recipe.


So next week we will finish this dessert by making 
the roasted oat topping. I have listed the ingredients so that you will have them to hand.

I know this seems like a lot of fuss, but it really isn't. I make the labneh the evening before and also the oat topping, so once made all there is to do is to chop up the mango..... it just needs a little organisation.

..... but there is a variation, if you are busy, you can used Greek yoghurt on top of the mangoes, drizzled with just a little honey, not too much, as the mango is sweet and pop some chopped walnuts on the top.

This makes a lovely dessert as well.

So take care and I will see you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,




and








Thursday, 13 August 2015

HOW TO MAKE A WATERMELON, FETA CHEESE, RED ONION AND MINT SALAD

Good Morning to you,


When I lived in Cyprus, I used to look forward to the watermelon season, because Cypriot watermelons were delicious and I have to tell you, they were huge.... yes, so huge that we could never do them justice in just one sitting.  So to make sure we did not waste any of this lovely fruit, we would cut the watermelon in half, keep one and share the other half with friends..... if only I had known about watermelon juice back then, we could have enjoyed many glasses of the refreshing juice during the long hot summer months.

So as you can imagine, when we visited New Delhi, I was thrilled to discover that watermelons were in season. 

The watermelons were so fresh, because they had not travelled very far. Cart loads of melons would trundle into the city everyday from the surrounding villages. 

So today, in honour of my love of Cyprus and India, yes, I think you have guessed, one of the ingredients we are going to be using is, watermelon. We are going to make


a Watermelon salad.  It is fresh and zingy and we love it.  It may seem a bit of a strange combination, but the sweetness of the watermelon and the tang of the Feta cheese and red onion work really well together.

So its 'on with the pinnie' and the music, I am listening to is, Indian Bhangra music, which transports me straight back to India.


Click on the YouTube link (I do hope it works as it is the first time I have added a YouTube link..... fingers crossed) and I feel sure, you will be foot tapping, if not dancing around your kitchen... I know I am.  I find Bhangra music so infectious..... the music starts and I feel my shoulders moving up and down in time to the music and then that's it, I'm in a world of my own. 

So with my shoulders taking on a life of their own, it's time to organise my ingredients.

INGREDIENTS
YOU WILL NEED
TO MAKE
WATERMELON, FETA CHEESE, RED ONION
AND MINT SALAD

2 small red onions (you will use only one)
1/2 water melon
2 large lemons
200g Feta cheese
8-10 fresh mint leaves
black pepper
1 tablespoon of olive oil

HOW TO MAKE
WATERMELON, FETA CHEESE, RED ONION
AND MINT SALAD


THE NIGHT BEFORE

We are going to tenderise the red onions with the lemon juice, so you will need to do this the night before you make the salad.


Peel the onions

and


slice into circles.
Pop into a bowl


Juice the two lemons.


Then 
pour the lemon juice over the onion rings.
  Toss together.


Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in the fridge overnight.  
If you are happy with full flavoured onions,
 then leave the red onions in the fridge
 for three or four hours.
I soak the onions overnight as
personally I enjoy a much more
mellow flavoured onion.

We will only be using half of the sliced onion in this dish. 
So remove half and place into a separate dish.
 I will explain why at the end
of the recipe.

THE NEXT DAY


Cut the melon in half
(The recipe calls for half, but I assume you have bought a whole watermelon)
and then,


into quarters.


Remove the rind and the pips and cut the
watermelon into 1 inch chunks.
Set aside for the moment.


Cut the Feta Cheese into roughly 1 inch cubes.
Set aside for the moment.


Wash the fresh mint and remove the leaves from the stem.


Place a third of the watermelon, 
a third of the Feta cheese 
and 
a third of the red onion into a large serving bowl 
and,


sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.


Repeat the process until you have used all of the watermelon, Feta cheese and the red onion.

You will notice there is some watermelon juice left in the bottom of the bowl which held the watermelon.

Mix the watermelon juice
with,
 1 tablespoon of olive oil
 and 
1 tablespoon of lemon juice left over from the
 soaked onions
 and
 whisk together.


Pour the dressing over the salad
 and 
add the mint leaves
 and
 there you have it,
 a lovely fresh summer salad.

You must be wondering about the rest of the
 onion rings?


Well it's time to tell you, I pop them into a small Tupperware pot, with the left over lemon juice and keep them for the next day, when we use the other half of the watermelon to  re-make this salad.

I really don't mind having this watermelon salad twice as it really is a refreshing salad when the weather is warm.

.... or if you prefer, you could put them into a small dish and allow people to add extra red onion to the watermelon salad.

.... or you could add the onions to a cheese sandwich as George sometimes does.... he loves cheese and onion sandwiches.

Before I go, I realise some people say a watermelon is a fruit and some people say it is a vegetable.  I have always known it as a fruit. I was wondering, what about you, do you know it is a fruit or do you know it is a vegetable?

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,



and









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