Minced Chicken and Rice Kebabs

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Easy and healthy … a complete dish on a stick, especially with the addition of carrots, parmesan cheese and herbs, which make them more appetising!  Serve them with any veggies or salad of your own choice.  The quantity of the ingredients used can be adjusted accordingly … I usually prepare enough mixture to have that extra amount left, which I could then use to prepare patties for lunch!

Makes about 14 generous kebabs in all (or as many kebabs as you might need plus extra patties!)

Needed

Enough bamboo skewers, which should be soaked in water for around 1 hour before using.

Ingredients

600g minced chicken

250g long-grain rice

1 medium onion

60g fresh breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

2 to 3 cloves garlic

approximately 2 tablespoonfuls chopped parsley

2 level teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 carrot, peeled

salt and pepper

sweet chilli sauce to serve

Method

Cook rice until tender, draining any excess water.

Process all the remaining ingredients together until you end up with a homogeneous mixture.  Transfer mixture into a large bowl and, using your hands, mix in the cooked rice.

Shape the mixture around the bamboo skewers.

Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan and cook the kebabs slowly, turning frequently until browned all over and cooked through.

Serve with sweet chilli sauce.

Enjoy!

Broad Bean with Bead-like Pasta Soup (Kusksu)

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A hearty yet simple soup, exploiting broad beans when they’re in their season or even frozen ones.  The name “Kusksu” sometimes gets people confusing it with couscous.  Maybe, it’s because the type of pasta used in this soup is shaped liked small beads (as shown in the picture), resembling bigger particles of couscous … maybe not … but this is how I like to prepare this traditional soup of ours!

In my soup I only like to add eggs at the end but the more traditional recipes also allow the addition of soft cheeselets or chunks of ricotta.  Also, I totally find that this soup is best made an hour or two in advance, if possible, for a denser end result.  Moreover, this standing period would also allow all the flavours to better combine and the bead-like pasta, which tends to remain a bit hard, to get the chance to soften and plump itself up.  All that would be needed is to reheat it a bit before serving, stirring gently in order not to break the eggs.

Serves 4 abundantly

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

150g broad beans, already peeled from both shells

150g frozen peas

2 large onions, sliced thinly

2 heaped tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper

150g pasta beads

4 eggs, or according to the number of persons to serve (1 egg per person)

Water

Method

Heat the oil and fry the onions gently on low heat until softened.  Add the tomato paste and stir whilst still cooking for around 1 minute.

Chuck the broad beans and the peas in the pan, over the onions, and pour enough water to cover them.  Bring the water to the boil and continue cooking the vegetables for approximately 15 minutes, taking care that the liquid wouldn’t evaporate completely.

Add more water (approximately 1-1.5 litres, according to how much dense you’d wish the soup to be, or how much you’d like to stretch the recipe for more servings), the sugar and the salt and pepper and bring to the boil again.

Add the pasta in and continue boiling for another 15 minutes, stirring every now and then so as the pasta won’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Carefully crack the eggs into the soup close to the surface, taking care not to break or overlap them. Lower the heat to low, cover and cook for a further 10 minutes without stirring.

Turn off the heat and leave to stand covered for that hour or so.

Reheat if needed and serve, putting an egg on the top of the soup in each plate.

Enjoy!

Wholemeal, Lemony Spaghetti with Surimi and Vegetables

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A fresh, colourful and easy recipe that’s meat-free but substantially satisfying just the same!

Influenced by various recipes I came across, this is what I’ve come up with to meet our personal taste-buds!  The only thing that one might take into consideration is to try and take some time to slice the vegetables thinly and lengthwise to camouflage themselves with the spaghetti shape, both for aesthetical and kid-friendly reasons!

Serves 4-6 persons

Ingredients

500g wholemeal spaghetti

1 large onion, diced

¼ cup (I use a 250ml cup) chopped, fresh basil

1 large courgette (cut into julienne or the nearest to resemble thin strips, as shown in the picture!)

1 jarred sweet, red pepper cut into long, thin strips (in this recipe I used some of the contents of a jar of sweet, red peppers in vinegar, as this was what I had at hand and it worked really well too!)

250g surimi (artificial crab sticks), also cut into thin strips

1 cup dry, white wine

2 cups water

1 chicken stock cube

4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon cornflour

2 tablespoons light butter

4 drops Tabasco

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh parsley, finely chopped

Method

Combine wine, water, chicken cube, chopped onions and basil into a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and leave uncovered until reduced by half.

Strain the liquid concoction and return to the same saucepan, discarding the onion and the basil.  Drop in the two tablespoons of butter and stir to melt whilst bringing to the boil again.  Mix the cornflour with the lemon juice and add to the liquid mixture just as it boils.  Simmer for about two minutes, stirring continuously until it thickens slightly.  Add some freshly ground black pepper and the Tabasco and remove from the heat.  Cover the pan.

Cook the wholemeal pasta as per package instructions, only keeping the time well to be able to throw in the julienne of courgette two minutes before the complete cooking time, so as it could be blanched in the same water the pasta would be cooking in for those last couple of minutes.  In the meantime, stir gently to incorporate the courgette strips into the spaghetti.

Drain the spaghetti well, along with the courgette, and return to the pasta pot.  Add the sliced, sweet red pepper, the surimi, the sauce and the fresh parsley.  Stir gently and well not worrying about the sauce being too runny, as this could be spooned over the pasta when plated to add to the freshness.

Serve immediately, even though it’s also good when eaten cold, with some more freshly ground black pepper.

Enjoy!

 

Spinach and Feta Plait

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A scone-like plait ideal to serve as a side plate with a bowl of vegetable soup or even on its own.  It’s definitely easier to make than it seems … no yeast … no proofing … but it’s better made close to serving, though!

For me, this particular season, almost marking the end of winter with spring just around the corner, simply calls for this kind of recipe!  It’s been a while since I’ve made one … maybe that’s why the slip of paper, on which this recipe was written down, just popped up in front of my eyes, making itself more evident than the others!

The recipe yields approximately 10 slices

Ingredients

500g spinach (always to make things easy I use 500g of frozen spinach, let it thaw and squeeze the excess moisture from it)

a knob of butter (the lighter version is always better)

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

300g self-raising flour

80g grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup (I use a 250ml cup) chopped fresh basil

150g crumbled feta cheese

250ml skimmed milk

Method

Grease an oven tray with a little butter.

Heat the knob of butter in a pan and add the finely chopped onion and the oregano.  When they start sizzling, lower the heat and cook gently until the onion is soft.  Add the prepared spinach, increase the heat and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring almost constantly, until all the liquid evaporates.  Turn off the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, the basil, the ground black pepper, the cold spinach mixture and three-quarters of the crumbled feta cheese.  Pour enough milk in, little by little, mixing until all the ingredients are just incorporated and ending up with a sticky dough.

Cover your work surface well with flour and turn the dough onto it.  Knead well until smooth, always adding flour to the surface, as much as needed, and coating your hands with the same flour during the process to avoid the dough sticking to your fingers, rubbing them clean every now and then.

Cut the dough into three pieces and roll into sausages (approximately 35cm in length).

Place the three sausages of dough onto the greased oven tray next to each other and gently plait together, neatening the ends as required.

Sprinkle with the remaining feta cheese and bake into the preheated oven for about 40 minutes.

Cut and serve whilst still warm … it should have a crust underneath and at the top and be moist in the inside.

Enjoy!

Green Pepper and Courgette Pasta with Red Pesto

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Back to healthy again and easy and fast to cook!  Simplicity makes perfect!

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 small onions or 1 large onion, finely chopped

1 green pepper, diced

1 large courgette, diced

1 jar (190g net weight) red pesto

100ml fresh cream (preferably the light version)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

500g pasta (I used conchiglie)

Parmesan cheese

Method

Heat some vegetable oil in a pan and add the onions, the green pepper and the courgette.  Add a good pinch of salt to help the vegetables release their liquids and when they start to sizzle in the oil lower the flame to low and fry gently for approximately 30 minutes, stirring every now and then. The vegetables should be almost cooked but with a bit of crunch left in them.

In the meantime, cook the pasta as per package instructions and drain.

Add the contents of the red pesto jar to the vegetables.  Fill half the empty jar with water, shake to collect all remaining residue and pour into the pan too.  Stir in the fresh cream and season with freshly ground black pepper.  Stir until heated through.

Mix the pasta into the sauce and serve dredged with a good amount of grated Parmesan cheese, which should be a must!

Enjoy!

 

Corned Beef and Veggies Mash Stack

Easy!  Layers of goodness neatly stacked onto each other between two blankets of mashed potatoes wisely hiding that not-so-kid-friendly veggie called “broccoli”!

Serves 6 (using a dish measuring approximately 30cm x 22cm)

Ingredients

6 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed with a knob of butter, some milk and salt and pepper

½ head of broccoli, cooked and processed with 4 cloves of garlic until it forms a paste

4 onions, sliced and cooked gently in a little vegetable oil until soft

2 large tomatoes, sliced thinly

dried basil

1 (340g net weight) tin corned beef (I use the lighter version)

4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

6 slices processed cheese

2 big carrots, sliced and boiled

grated parmesan cheese

butter

Salt and pepper

Method

Butter the ovenproof dish and preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).

Prep every ingredient up, as described above in the list of ingredients.

Mix the mashed potatoes and the broccoli paste together until you’d end up with a homogeneous, greenish mixture.  Divide into two.

Spread the first half of the potato and broccoli mash evenly into the prepared dish.

On top of the mash, layer neatly and uniformly as follows, trying to leave a small, free border at the edges:

  1. the cooked onions;
  2. the sliced tomatoes sprinkled with the dried basil;
  3. the crumbled corned beef;
  4. the sliced hard-boiled eggs;
  5. the slices of processed cheese;
  6. the cooked and sliced carrots.

Top everything with the other half of the potato and broccoli mash, spreading the mixture carefully and evenly with a fork and allowing yourself to help keep the layers intact at the edges with your clean fingers.  Push some of the mash down at the sides where you’d have left the empty gap/border.  Mark vertically with the fork for a ridged finish.

Deliberately dredge the top with the grated parmesan cheese and dot with butter.

Bake on the upper shelf of the preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let stand for a few minutes.

Cut and serve.

Enjoy!

Meaty Stuffed Globed Artichokes

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A different approach to cooking artichokes in my country but one of my old recipes, which we regularly cooked at my Mum’s!  You might tell me that I’m going against my focusing on making life easier but this recipe is easy to make … a bit time consuming maybe but easy!  Nonetheless, to quicken things up you can always use my best friend … the food processor … to chop and mix things up for the filling instead of doing all by hand!  With the right prep and time management you’ll do it!

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 large and fresh globe artichokes

For the Filling

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic crushed and chopped

250g mushrooms, chopped

3 sprigs fresh parsley

60g chopped ham

400g minced pork meat

1 egg

1 grated carrot

a good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

½ cup dry white wine

1 cup water

1 crumbled low-salt chicken stock cube

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon cornflour

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon cream cheese with herbs (if unavailable just simply use cream)

Method

Heat oven to 180°C (350°F).

Wash the artichokes and clean well.  Cut the stem and trim the base of the artichokes horizontally so as they could sit straight and don’t wobble.  Do not discard the stems but peel the outer layer and cook in the same water that you’d be cooking the artichokes into. Remove the tough outer leaves and cut the tips of the remaining leaves with scissors as shown in the picture above.  This will help to end up with a neat presentation and without any grumblings from kids or even adults when pricking their fingers as they’d be plucking them up whilst eating!

Bring enough water to arrive to the top level of the artichokes to a rolling boil, add the artichokes and boil for about 15 minutes and not more.  Immediately drain and cool.

In the meantime, make the filling.  Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onions and garlic until soft, stirring from time to time.  Stir in the mushrooms and parsley and cook, stirring, until mushrooms are just tender.  Cool for a moment.  Put the remaining ingredients of the filling in a bowl and add the mushroom mixture.  Mix everything together well.

Back to the artichokes!

Pluck out the middle leaves with your fingers and scoop out any inside leaves together with any coarse centre (the hairy part) with the help of a spoon (also as shown in the picture).  Divide the filling in four and press into the cavity of each artichoke.  Don’t be fooled by the quantity … when packed well the filling will be all used up!

If you have an oven dish small enough to put the artichokes pressed against each other and hold each other into place I advise you to use that.  If you don’t, tie a bit of string around each artichoke to hold the leaves in shape.

Pour the wine and water into whatever dish you’d be using and add the crumbled stock cube to the liquids.  Place the artichokes carefully into the dish and cover well.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Remove artichokes from dish and keep warm.  Pour the liquid from the dish into a pan and bring to the boil, simmering uncovered for approximately 5 minutes.  Stir in the butter, the blended cornflour with the 1 tablespoon of water, the cream cheese or cream and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens.  Serve over artichokes.

Enjoy!

Tangy Chicken and Spinach Meatloaf

Do you love meatloaf but wish it to be healthier but simultaneously moist and tasty?  Here’s a tweaked version of an old recipe … one of our established favourites at home!

Serves 4-6 persons (Please note that I use a 250ml cup in my recipes)

Ingredients

500g ground chicken

250g frozen, chopped spinach – thawed and squeezed of any excess liquid (I must admit that the day I made this recipe for the blog I had been caught a bit out of time and have left tiny specks of ice still attached to the spinach after squeezing it!  I don’t know if this hurried process of mine might have contributed or not but the meatloaf did turn out even moister than usual! 🙂 )

75g white breadcrumbs, preferably a day old

2 small or 1 big onion, finely chopped

2 eggs

½ cup skimmed milk

1½ teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

½ cup ketchup

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and lightly grease 1 large or 2 small loaf pans.

Gently fry the onion in some vegetable oil until translucent.

Put milk, eggs and basil in a bowl and whisk together.  In another, big-enough bowl put the chicken, the spinach, the breadcrumbs, the onion, the salt and the pepper.  Add the milk mix together with the lemon juice.  Mix thoroughly until well combined.

Press the mixture into the loaf pan/s and level the top/s.  Brush the top/s with half the amount of ketchup, leaving the other half for afterwards.

Bake for 30 minutes on the middle rack of the oven and brush with the remaining ketchup again.  Bake for a further 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes.

Turn out on a serving plate and slice to serve.

Any leftovers are amazing, either warmed up or eaten cold in a sandwich!

Enjoy!

Cheesy Cauliflower and Ham Bake

Cauliflower is definitely one of those vegetables which might not be quite the kid friendly type, not mentioning us adults!  Here’s a quick recipe using ready-made products to make it easier and faster to put on the table.  Obviously, the bechamel (white) sauce could be done from scratch at home, melting the cheese in it whilst it’d be still hot, but what’s the use of this site if not to make life easier!?  Don’t worry … there will be recipes which would be more complicated, so enjoy the easier ones first!

Serves 4-6 persons as a main dish or more as a side dish, according to the preferred, individual serving size.  (Please note that I use a cup measuring 250ml):

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets

300ml light, packaged bechamel (white) sauce

2 cups grated, light Cheddar

1 teaspoon English mustard

200g cooked ham, cubed

¾ cup packaged breadcrumbs

1 Italian seasoning cube, crumbled (approx. 2 level teaspoons seasoning)

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Heat oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and lightly grease a large, oven proof dish.

Cook cauliflower in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain immediately well, transfer into a large bowl and let it cool slightly.

Add the bechamel (white) sauce, light Cheddar, mustard, cooked ham and ground black pepper to the bowl of cauliflower and mix well.  Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and roughly level the top.

Mix the breadcrumbs, the Italian seasoning and the Parmesan cheese into another bowl and sprinkle evenly on top of the cauliflower mix.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes and put under the grill, if desired, for another 2 minutes or so for a golden top, keeping an eye on it so as the top wouldn’t burn.

Let stand for a few minutes and serve.  Enjoy!