Easter Fun with Friends

This is what we did for Easter. Had a fabulous jaunt in Brooklyn’s Botanical Gardens (combined with a matzah ramble and picnic – second last day of Passover), which is having a cherry blossom festival, and then we joined our friends Rachael and Mark and family for an egg hunt at their home, followed by a veritable feast. And that was just tea (I didn’t have a chance to take photos of the rest of the food) – imagine what they do for brunch or dinner! I brought along my Passover Toffee-Chocolate Matzah Brittle, which, I can now proudly say, has been tried, tested and approved by no less than a rabbi!¬†I desperately wanted to bring along a proper Easter dish, but it was hard to think what exactly, when no grains are allowed within 200 feet of me. But the brittle went down a treat with Christians, Jews and atheists alike, and I have improved my original recipe, so keep checking back for the details ūüėČ

Now, here’s a story of family Easter celebrations by Georgette Gilmore, a friend and owner and editor-in-chief of the wonderful kids’ blog, Barista Kids.

Coming from a home with an American, Southern Baptist mother and a Greek father, our table was filled with a rich culture of foods. American Easter was religious and Greek Easter was all about the food. It was cultural for us and my favorite holiday.

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April 5, 2010. Tags: . Easter, Festive, Spring, Stories. Leave a comment.

Lemon Sunshine Cupcake Minis

It’s miserable outside. Grim, grey, gloomy, garbage. We’ve had a couple of days of this already, topped off on Friday with a poorly child ¬†(he woke up sounding like a grumpy rhinoceros with pneumonia, but, from the second I told him he had to stay home, ne’er a sniffle was heard). He still looked awful, pretty hard for him from a doting mother’s point of view, and it was the sole clue of his true health.

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March 14, 2010. Baked Goods, Breakfast, Cakes, Cupcakes, Spring, Uncategorized. 12 comments.

Melon Soup (Recession-Friendly)

So I copped out on the chicken soup and matzo balls this year. What can I say, it’s a recession and I couldn’t countenance wasting an entire carcass for what would have been, no doubt, a tasty soup. Besides, the butcher was long on non-kosher sausages and short on chicken bones. Instead, I reproduced a soup I came up with a few weeks earlier when I found myself with two voluptuous melons fast ripening and fast stinking up my kitchen – this is what melons do if you haven’t room in your fridge for them – and had to find a non-wasteful way of using them up. (more…)

September 21, 2009. Tags: , , , . Autumn, Festive, Jewish, Passover, Rosh Hashana, Soups, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian. Leave a comment.

The Mango: Moist, Majestic and Morish


Mangoes featured very strongly in the early days of Richard’s and my romance, the buds of which were planted in India, from where the fruit originates. Indeed, we all have a soft spot for the fruit and are thrilled that it’s back in season again.

When I grew up in my grandmother’s home in Malaysia, she had a massive, enormously fertile mango tree right in front of her house. Its branches hung low and gracefully, providing welcome shade and coolness, and inviting my brothers and I to clamber upon them and give them the adoration they deserved. As if we didn’t spend enough time there, my grandfather tied a plank swing seat to one of its branches (the kind that would give anyone at Health & Safety a heart attack), and thus were spent the remaining hours of our carefree, childish days.

In the heat of the tropical summer, the tree would be heavily pregnant with fruit, leaving us awash in mangoes for months. My grandmother would give away as many as she could to the delighted neighbours, who were also the recipients of all the other fruit, veg and herbs that grew in Gran’s garden – soursop, jackfruit, coconut, plantain, bananas, papayas, Lady’s fingers (okra), basil, curry leaves, tomatoes.

While she had dozens of recipes for the bananas, plantain and coconut, the mangoes we ate fresh, and immediately. It didn’t make sense to adorn or dilute a fruit so voluptuous, so complete in colour, taste and perfume.

Having said that, my younger son loves homemade mango smoothies or mango lassis nearly as much as he loves the fresh fruit.

My favourite mango is the Alphonso, which is grown mainly in Western India. There’s no match for the perfect sweet yet tangy and firm flesh of this cultivar, along with its citrusy mango aroma and intense yellow-orange colour.

As I have yet to find these mangoes in north America, I am eternally grateful to Costco for regularly bringing in Champagne mangoes from Mexico. The taste isn’t as explosive, but the colour and texture are there, along with the lack of fibrosity that separates a good mango from its lesser brethren. It might behoove you to know the average Champagne mango packs a modest 80 calories, with lots of Vitamin A, C and folate too!

How to cut the mango? This could require a video (another blog entry, another day). Take the fruit and, keeping in mind it has a large seed in the middle, cut a semi-circle off each side. With your knife, make hatches and cross-hatch them so you have little square or diamond shaped segments of flesh (see photos). Hold each half and invert them by pushing the skin upwards. To eat, use a spoon and scoop the squares off. Or just dive in, face first!

For more mango recipes, click here and here.



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June 5, 2009. Tags: , . Asian, Kids Cuisine, Musings, Nutrition, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian. 6 comments.

Carrot and Cummin Soup


The texture and colour of this soup is so appealing that I return to it often, whatever the season. Beef it up with some lentils and leave half the vegetables unpureed for a hearty meal with chunky bread. It’s easy to make and to vary, and I am finally attempting to pin it down in writing before I forget what’s gone into it!

  • carrots, 500g worth, tipped, skinned, sliced
  • tomato paste, 1 small can
  • lemon juice, of 1/2 lemon, plus zest
  • ground cummin, 3/4 tbsp
  • ground coriander, 1 tsp
  • leeks, 3, sliced
  • celery, 3, chopped
  • veg stock, about 600ml
  • tomatoes, 2, skinned and chopped
  • coriander leaves, handful
  • seasoning

  1. In about 2-3 tbsp of butter or olive or canola oil, saute the leeks and celery till tender
  2. Add the ground spices, stir till fragrant
  3. Add the carrots and tomatoes and a little stock, allow to soften
  4. Add stock and tomato paste
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the veg are cooked
  6. Bung most of the soup’s solids, including half the coriander leaves, into a blender and puree
  7. Return to the pan, keep warm till it’s served
  8. Drizzle with oil or add a dollop of sour cream on top of each bowl of soup, and, if you wish, some chopped coriander.

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April 14, 2009. Tags: , . Autumn, Passover, Soups, Spring, Summer, Vegetables, Vegetarian, winter. 3 comments.

Cucumber Salad


My mother-in-law makes a very morish version of this salad. I asked her once what she put in it and she reeled off some ingredients hastily, probably embarassed that the seemingly humble dish had attracted such interest, when on the dinner table lay at least five other items warranting adulation. I hope I mentioned these others to her too, because she is such a superb cook!

Here is my approximation of this salad, with an added twist (of lemon).

  • English cucumbers, 4, sliced thinly
  • white vinegar, distilled, 1/2 cup
  • water, 1/2 cup
  • sugar (or sweetener), 3 tbsp
  • celery seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • dill, handful, chopped finely
  • mint, handful, chopped
  • spring onion, 3, sliced finely
  • lemon juice, of one lemon
  • lemon zest, of a whole lemon
  1. Slice the cucumbers thinly
  2. Separately, add all the other ingredients, except herbs, in a saucepan
  3. Bring the marinade to a simmer, just enough to ensure the sugar is well incorporated
  4. Allow to cool slightly, add chopped herbs, taste and adjust sweetness, piquancy and seasoning, then pour over the sliced cucumber
  5. Refrigerate at least 12 hours
  6. Before serving, check seasoning and adjust if necessary, adding some fresh herbs on top

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April 9, 2009. Tags: , . British, Jewish, Passover, Salads, Sides, Spring, Summer, Vegetables, Vegetarian. Leave a comment.

Mango and Pepper Salad


Here’s a salad that takes the challenge out of having one’s daily government-mandated ten veggie servings. It’s also the perfect antidote for those days when the leafy-green boredom sets in.

  • Alphonso mango, 1, julienned
  • red and green or variety of peppers, 2, julienned or sliced thinly
  • English cucumber, 1, sliced thin and long
  • carrots, 2 medium ones, as above
  • corn, 1, boiled and sliced off the cob
  • lime juice, about 4-6 tbsp
  • fish sauce, 2 tbsp
  • zest of 1 lime
  • brown sugar or stevia, 1 rounded tsp
  • garlic cloves, 2-3 large ones, minced
  • sesame oil, 1/2 to 1 tsp
  • mint leaves, handful, chopped
  • coriander/cilantro leaves, handful, chopped
  • thai basil, several sprigs, chopped
  • handful peanuts, roughly chopped

  1. Place all the sliced and chopped veggies in an attractive bowl
  2. Using a whisk, combine the dressing ingredients, including herbs
  3. Pour the latter over the former and toss
  4. Serve in individual bowls with a sprinkle of peanuts over
  5. Turn into a meal with a hunk of seasoned, pan-browned salmon or tuna

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April 4, 2009. Tags: , . Asian, Nutrition, Salads, Sauces and Dressings, Spring, Summer, Vegetables. 1 comment.

My Favourite Mint Dressing


My favourite dressing with mint and yoghurt – I whipped it up last night for a lamb salad, for which it was perfect. I then fancied a cucumber snack today, et voila, another winning combo!

  • thick yoghurt, preferably Greek, 1 cup
  • mint leaves, two handfuls
  • ginger, fresh, 1 tsp grated
  • garlic, 3 cloves
  • lime juice, 2 tbsp (or more if you like things tangy)
  • salt, 1/2 tsp
  • pepper, grind of
  • shallot, 1, small
  • green chilli, 1 (optional)
  1. Bung everything in a food processor and whizz
  2. Consume immediately or refrigerate for salads

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March 31, 2009. Tags: , . Condiments, Salads, Sauces and Dressings, Spring, Summer. Leave a comment.

Gazpacho


There is no soup as divine on a blazing hot summer’s day as a chilled, tangy and flavoursome gazpacho, a melange of chopped vegetables and herbs which hails from southern Spain’s Andalusia region. What I adore about this soup, aside from its addictive aroma and flavour, is the fact that no cooking and stock are required, and that gazpacho is, in effect, a part-liquidised salad. For anyone in a rush, it could be a quick meal, served with crusty, buttered bread.

The only trouble with making gazpacho is that however much I produce in the hopes of returning to it often as a snack, the refrigerated bowl rapidly empties because, well, the soup is so darned yummy.

  • Tomatoes, 5 or 6, ripe, and large
  • Green pepper, 1, large
  • Red pepper, 1, large
  • Spanish onion, 1, medium, chopped
  • Garlic, 1 tsp, minced
  • English cucumber, 1, large, chopped
  • Celery stick, 1, chopped
  • Green or red chilli or jalapeno, 1, remove seeds and chop
  • Coriander or cilantro, 1 large bunch, chopped finely
  • Tomato juice, about 3 cups
  • Tomato paste, 1 small can
  • Balsamic vinegar, about 2 tbsp (to taste)
  • Red wine vinegar, 1-2 tbsp (to taste)
  • Lime juice, to taste
  • Olive oil, extra virgin, about 3-4 tbsp
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bread, day old, a few slices chopped into squares
  1. Blanch the tomatoes in freshly boiled water for 1 minute and remove skin
  2. Chop tomatoes, peppers, onion, cucumber, celery and chilli
  3. As you cut up the above, reserve a quarter of each, cubed attractively, in a separate bowl to use as a garnish
  4. In a blender, add the chopped vegetables and cilantro (ignoring the 1/4s of each put aside) with about a cup of tomato juice and all the paste. Whizz till smooth, adding more juice as needed – I used about 3 cups in this recipe
  5. As you blend, watch the colour if you prefer it to be a red gazpacho (it could quite easily be a green one easy with so many green ingredients)
  6. Add the vinegars and olive oil , tablespoon by tablespoon, tasting after each one. It’s easy to add vinegar and lime juice but hard to remove them if the dish is overzealously zested
  7. If the soup needs sweetening, you could add some honey or a teaspoon of brown sugar
  8. Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon or lime juice as required
  9. Refrigerate overnight or for a few hours to allow the flavours to meld
  10. To make the croutons, spread the bread squares on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle a bit of sea salt over them. Bake in a preheated 200C overn for about 6-10 minutes, watching them closely so they only go golden brown and don’t burn
  11. To serve, scoop into bowls, sprinkle the croutons and reserved chopped veg and cilantro over the soup. It’s also delicious with a couple of splashes of smoky tabasco sauce. Enjoy!



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July 27, 2008. Tags: , . Salads, Soups, Spring, Summer, Vegetables, Vegetarian. Leave a comment.

Fig and Mango Salad


This salad was inspired by a recent shopping expedition at Brent Cross in London. Having often made do with whatever sandwich I can find so that I can return as quickly as I can to the task at hand (ie an urgent shoe hunt), I was excited to come across a hitherto unnoticed place serving a massive array of salads and huge toasted panini or foccaccia sandwiches. I was also delighted to see my mother-in-law polish off her entire (and very generously portioned) salad.

The dressing is mine – coconut and cummin to add a bit of an eastern touch which I think goes well with the tropical fruit. And I believe the restaurant served their figs and mango on a bed of arugula, whereas I use spinach and have added some pine nuts and toasted pumpkin seeds for bite.

Salad
spinach, bed of
mango, a ripe one, sliced
fig, sliced, 2
pine nuts
pumpkin seeds, toasted

Salad dressing
yoghurt, full fat, 4 tbsp
coconut milk (optional), 2 tbsp
rice wine vinegar – 1 tbsp (or lemon juice)
poppy seeds, 1 tbsp (roast them first)
cummin, ground – 3/4 tsp
salt and pepper, to taste
canola oil, 2 tbsp (optional)

Layer the salad, spinach first, arrange mango and figs as you wish
Sprinkle the seeds over
Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over the salad. Yum!

July 23, 2008. Tags: , , . Salads, Sides, Spring, Summer, Vegetables, Vegetarian. 4 comments.

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