Monday, 18 August 2014

Cucumber Dip

There is nothing like a nice dip that can be made in a jiffy to serve when guests come over. Or as movie watching food at home. Or just to have in the fridge to make snack time more interesting. Or if you open the fridge wondering what to eat with a teaspoon in hand, you can scoop some into your mouth just because.....
This cucumber dip has only 4 ingredients and is summer yummy and healthy too.
To make 1 cup of dip, you will need:
  • 1 cup of Greek style yogurt: Greek yogurt is quite pricey at the stores that stock them in Lagos and I use a lot of yogurt for dips, smoothies and for snack time. I use the locally produced yogurt in the white tubs that cost less than N400 per tub which works just as well as the pricier alternative
  • 1/2 cucumber: seeded and chopped into fine pieces. I do not mind the skin of cucumber - more fiber but peel the cucumber if you prefer
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet chili sauce
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

How to:
  • Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine
  • Serve with potato chips, pretzels, breadsticks or even rice cakes
  • This can also be a nice spread for sandwiches and burgers

Friday, 15 August 2014

Quick Dinner Idea - Smoked Chicken Sauce and Mixed Potato Fries

Sometimes at the end of a very long day, the thought of making dinner makes me want to cry. There are times that I do not have any leftovers to be reinvented, and its too late to order anything and you have hungry eyes following your every move.
Smoked chicken to the rescue.
I will do a post on pantry and freezer essentials very soon  - Smoked chicken is a MUST in my freezer at all times. Its already cooked through so very little cooking time is needed and its flavor can be the base of so many things from rice to soups to sauces.
Another staple in my house - potatoes. I like to have 2 types of potatoes at all times - sweet potatoes and another type - can be the local small Irish potatoes or the imported larger Idaho spuds. This means I have options to bake or fry or mash to accompany any sides that I come up with. Plus with a toddler that decides if he is going to eat whatever you put in front of him, chicken and potatoes always go down very little fights.
I love crispy fries and I usually mix sweet and regular potatoes to make things more interesting. My top tip for making potatoes crispy is to cut, rinse and place in bowls of ice cold water and very very hot oil. There will be a lot of splatter when you drop them in the hot oil, so step way back. 
To make the smoked chicken sauce, you need as many chopped vegetables as you have at home.
For this night, I used chopped red onions, yellow, red and green bell peppers and a yellow scotch bonnet pepper. You can use frozen vegetables as well if that is all you have at home.

Look at this lovely plump smoked chicken. So sexy. 
Rough chop the chicken into pieces.  

In a hot pot, add some olive oil. Add the chopped vegetables, a stock cube and some salt to taste. Sautee till vegetables are translucent. Add the chopped chicken and cover the pot. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Smoked chicken is so moist and tends to release its juices as it cooks. That is the base of this easy sauce. Taste and adjust salt if necessary and turn heat off .
When serving simple meals like this, it helps to make plating a little interesting. I also realize that everyone does not have the fancy crockery seen in food pictures. Try using a mug lined with a sheet of sturdy kitchen towel to serve your fries. It looks nice and the kitchen towel absorbs any excess oil from the frying process. It also keeps the fries crispy and away from the saucy chicken. Try mixing ketchup and mayonnaise for a speedy 'thousand island' style dip and place in a little bowl on the side of the plate.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Smart Entertaining - Antipasti Platters

It is so easy to spend all the time in the kitchen or shuffling between your guests and the kitchen if you are having company over. An easy way to get around this is to assemble antipasti platters especially if it is a casual get together or a movie night or a girl's day in.
All you need is a nice platter that is big enough to hold all the various things you want to serve and you can get as creative as you can. You can use a extra large wooden chopping board or even a big square of unused tile.
These platters allow your guests to graze, make their own combinations and gives you time to play the hostess role and truly enjoy your event.
I suggest a nice mix for your platter - some vegetables, different kinds of deli meats, a carbohydrate component like bread or chips, some cheese and some kind of dip or sauce. You can even have 2 platters and designate one to fruits - different kinds of fruit and a sweet dipping sauce or syrup.
My platter below has: bread rolls, cheddar cheese cubes, smoked gouda cheese cubes, salami
 slices, smoked ham slices, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, mixed bell pepper strips, olives and a dip made out with olive oil, black pepper, salt and paprika.

These platters also look pretty and photograph so well.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Dessert Spring Rolls

I love creating in my food lab. However, I am not a food Nazi and I do not look down on convenience foods - within reason of course.

Spring roll wrappers. I do not know how to make them from scratch. I have a few recipes in my binder of recipes to try but honestly, the time quotient - Not too hyped about that. I make spring rolls when I am entertaining. I hardly wake up and say - self, let me make spring rolls just because. With that in mind, anything that can save me time on days when I am usually over ambitious with my menus when I have people over is fab. In addition, ready made spring roll wrappers are such great value.

I get my stock from a supermarket chain with branches in VI, Agungi area and Maryland. Each pack has 26 spring roll wrappers. By the time I get rid of 2 or 3 that are crumbly, I still have 23 wrappers. Each pack costs N270. So if I have 4 people to cater for: assuming each person has 3 spring rolls each, I still have 14 sheets left. You really cant beat that. They packs usually come frozen solid. All you need to do is leave them out for 20-30 minutes and you are good to go. They come out nice and thin and crunchy - way better than the spring rolls that small chops vendors make here. What more can I ask for?

So these spring rolls. I thought of making dessert spring rolls because I love desserts with texture contrasts. I had spring roll wrappers left over from an experiment gone wrong and I had some apple pie filling left over from my other life in Cupcake Couture.

I ended up making 2 types of dessert spring rolls:

For the apple pie dessert spring rolls, you will need: (use the ingredients in quantities that your palate loves)
  • Spring roll wrappers - use as many as you need
  • Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and diced
  • Cinnamon powder
  • Nutmeg - freshly grated or powdered
  • Ground cloves
  • Brown sugar
How to:
  1. Combine the apples, cinnamon powder, nutmeg, cloves and brown sugar in a bowl and stir well ensuring that the apples are evenly coated
  2. On a dry flat tray or board, place a spring roll wrapper. Add filling in center. Do not fill end to end. Remember you are going to tuck and roll
  3. Take each end of the wrapper and fold inwards. You should have some parts covering the filling. Then roll carefully till you get to the end of the wrapper. Wet the tip of your finger with water and seal to close.
  4. Place seal side down until you are ready to fry
  5. In a pan, pour some vegetable or canola oil. I prefer to shallow fry my spring rolls. The key to crispy rolls that are not oily - the right temperature of oil. Heat the oil until it is very hot. Just short of smoking
  6. Place each roll seal side down in a single layer in pan and fry till golden brown. Turn over carefully and brown both sides evenly.
  7. Drain on kitchen towels and serve while warm with a dusting of confectionary sugar over the rolls
For the banana and chocolate dessert spring rolls, you will need (use the ingredients in quantities that your palate loves)
  • Spring roll wrappers
  • Ripe bananas - sliced
  • Chocolate squares - Use any dark, milk or white. I like Dairy Milk or Lindt bars. Just break off the squares at marked points
How to:
  1. On a dry flat tray or board, place a spring roll wrapper. Add banana slices and chocolate squares at the center of wrapper. Do not fill end to to end
  2. Follow steps 3 - 7 above
My guests had this look of surprise on their faces when the spring rolls appeared at the table after entrees. A huge, huge hit. I will definitely be making these over and over again with different sweet fillings


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Friday, 8 August 2014

Food Porn - Efo Riro and Fish Stew

My husband and 1 have some differences in opinion about some food. He likes efo riro with rice. I can't abide that combination. I like efo riro and dodo (fried plantain). He gags at the thought of that combination. However, I don't always have the time to make several things to satisfy us both at the same time. Enter making efo riro and fish stew and serving at the same meal. He gets to have his efo riro and rice and I get to have rice and fish stew. Or I get to have dodo and efo riro and he has dodo and stew. You get the idea.

Recipes for my traditional fish stew and oil free efo riro coming soon.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

For Adults Only - Dessert and Romance

This very simple dessert is for adults only. So simple with only 2 ingredients but big taste and looks pretty. And I dare say, an aphrodisiac too. *wink* Seriously. I cannot be held responsible for what happens after 2 consenting adults have this for dessert.
All you need: Irish Cream and vanilla ice cream. That's it. Oh and maraschino cherries to garnish and for that touch of red.
The glasses you serve this in add to the effect and make them even more special. Martini glasses are great to use. Simply place 1 scoop of ice cream in each glass. Pour the chilled Irish Cream over the ice cream. Add a cherry or 2. And that's it.
Indulgent, naughty but oh so nice.

Perfect as an after dinner treat, or just because, or to say I am sorry, or as a bribe, or just to be naughty or as a solo reward for being fabulous.. 


Monday, 4 August 2014

Kitchen Tip - Refreshing Frozen Prawns

Most of the prawns sold in Lagos are frozen. Its obvious when you see packs and packs of prawns in the massive freezers at supermarkets. Did you know that even in the open air markets where the prawns are weighed and sold to you looking all limp and fresh from the sea, the  some of the merchants get boxes and boxes of frozen prawns from trawlers and thaw them out with water and sell? Freezing is a preservative method so there isn't anything fundamentally wrong with frozen prawns. Its just that seafood should be as fresh as possible for best results in your recipes and sometimes, one doesn't know how long the packed prawns have been sitting in those freezers. Freezer burn doesn't translate well to food.

To refresh frozen prawns, rinse them in cold water with a tablespoon of salt. This process is like magic. The prawns get that fresh from the sea look and any sign of freezer burn is gone. So easy to do and well worth making this a part of your kitchen repertoire.