Millet Vegetable Cakes

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Millet Veggie Cakes (02) by MeetaK

Dishes like this really excite me. At first they look like any ordinary savory cakes, but a look closer and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the versatile revelation. These cakes are inspired by the famous potato latkes, which here in Germany are eaten as a side to several types of dishes. You'll often find them served with veal in a creamy sauce, with beef ragout and my favorite with a simple order of apple sauce.

I've taken the potato latkes and given it a whole new dimension. Instead of potatoes I've used millet, added a few Mediterranean vegetables and some aromatic rosemary. The result is an extremely flavorful and versatile side dish that can accompany fish, meat, poultry and vegetables. Not only that but I've also served them for breakfast with omelettes or scrambled eggs, for lunch with elegant smoked salmon and for dinner with a hearty ragout or just roasted vegetables. The possibilities with this are truly endless.

I started experimenting with millet a few years ago. Here in Germany babies are encouraged to eat grains and cereals. Often called "brei" (porridge), these are amongst the first types of solid foods a baby is introduced to in the form of porridge. Soeren grew up on millet, spelt and 7 grain cereals and porridge. Then after he began eating the same food we did, I stopped buying these cereals.

One day, a few years ago, I had time to spare and was not in a rush to go through the aisles at my organic store. I noticed packets of cereals and grains. Not in the baby food aisle but in the aisle where rice, couscous and co. were stored.

Were these always here? Or are they new? I put back the packet of couscous on the shelf and instead put a bag of millet in my shopping cart.

Back at home I was scratching my head at what to make with it. Besides baby porridge I was unsure of how to put the bag of millet to use. I was surprised that my mum came to help. Surprised because I did not even remember ever eating millet while growing up. But she assured me that millet was a staple in Indian cuisine, often grinded into flour.

"Use it like you would rice." she advised. So, began my experimenting phase with millet. I made several pilaf type of dishes. Rediscovering millet was something of a revolution in my kitchen, with both Tom and Soeren loving the mild nutty. Soeren's tastebuds must have been familiar with flavor as he had no trouble re-accepting it back in our diets.

I've come up with several great ideas using millet over the past few years. It is a wonderfully versatile grain and can be used in several ways. It can be creamy like mashed potatoes or puffy like rice. Besides cooking it as breakfast porridge it can be used alternatively to rice or potatoes. Grinding millet and adding the flour to bread, cake or muffin recipe will add a new texture and flavor to your baked goods.

It is important to thoroughly rinse the grains under cold running water before cooking them. To release the nutty flavor millet offers dry roast the grains in a skillet before boiling them. When the grains turn a golden color simply add them to the boiling water or stock.

For fluffy rice like millet cook one part millet grains to two and half parts boiling water. Once the liquid and returned to a boil, turn heat down and covered, simmer for 25 minutes. A more creamier texture can be achieved by cooking it like risotto - stir frequently and add the liquid every now and then.

Millet Veggie Cakes (01) by MeetaK

There is not much you can do wrong with this grain. My recommendation just let your imagination run wild. I did and came up with these savory millet vegetable cakes.  

 

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

250g millet grains, rinsed and drained.
600 ml vegetable stock
3 eggs, separated
100g quark - substitute with sour cream or crème fraiche
1 red bell pepper, cut into juliennes
1 red carrot, cut into juliennes
50g olives, chopped
1 tablespoon sage, chopped
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive oil


Method

Dry roast the millet grains in a skillet until golden. In the meantime bring the stock to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add the roasted millet into the boiling liquid, turn heat down and simmer for approx. 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl stir together, egg yolks, quark, vegetables, olives and herbs. Incorporate the cooked millet into the mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks have formed, then fold into the millet mixture. Heat the olive oil in a skillet.

Form small flat pancake-like cakes with the millet mixture and on low heat fry the millet cakes for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden.

Serving suggestions:

 

 


Verdict

Millet Veggie Cakes (03) by MeetaK

Maybe you can share my excitement for these. They are never really out of place and can be served with any meal. What I truly like about these is that you can create a new flavor combination every time, using other vegetables, spices or herbs. I have gone Indian, Italian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern with these cakes, by adding items like garam masla, pecorino cheese, sprouts and chickpeas to name a few. The ideas are plentiful - one thing remains delicious healthy millet cakes.

Grains are being featured for two events this month. My friend and Daily Tiffin colleague Suganya of Tasty Palettes is hosting this month's session of Jihva for Ingredients (JFI) and chose Whole Grains as her theme. Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was also craving grains. Being this month's hostess for Weekend Breakfast Blogging (WBB) she asked us to show us grains in our breakfasts. I'd like to send both of them these great savory millet and vegetable cakes.

You might like these ideas from WFLH:

Coucous Salad 03 framed Couscous Salad
AmaranthGranola 06 framed Amaranth Nut Granola
Bulgur Mixed Veg and Feta 04 framed Bulgur with Vegetables and Feta

From around the blogs:

 

Daily Tiffin Reading Tip:


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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Daring Bakers: Lavash Crackers and Ajvar - Vegan & Gluten-Free Recipe

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Daring Bakers Challenge September 2008

Lavash & Ajvar (01) by MeetaK

I procrastinated!! This is totally unlike me. I hardly ever procrastinate. I am not going to say "never" because I have been known to put back tasks or jobs to the bottom of my list. Those little jobs that one kind of pushes back because they are not interesting or one thinks they are easy enough to tackle at some other time.

This month's daring bakers challenge was very interesting and I was quite intrigued as it was the first in it's kind in the group. See, it was a vegan and a gluten-free challenge! Since April 2007, when I first joined this amazing group, we have made incredible pastries, cakes and sweets. The group has grown to accommodate so many nationalities, cultures and lifestyles. I was always extremely inquisitive by the way my gluten-free and vegan colleagues in the group adapted each challenge to fit their dietary lifestyle. Often I marveled and admired their resourcefulness.

This month I was excited as the lovely Natalie from Gluten A Go Go (yes the same Natalie who helped with my own challenge last month) and co-host Shelly of Musings From the Fishbowl chose Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread. It's a book I've been eying for quite some time to help me get rid of my bread-baking phobia!

Why did I procrastinate with this one? I was so relieved to read the instructions for this challenge, when it was announced at the beginning of the month. First it was savory (however, I have noticed a few sweet varieties appearing on a few blogs as we speak!) and second it sounded so easy. Well I simply pushed it back from day to day thinking "I'll do it tomorrow!"

Well finally today came and I still had no lavash crackers. Out came my mixing bowls, flour and measuring cups and after breakfast I began with the challenge.

The challenge came in two parts. While Natalie asked us to make the lavash crackers gluten-free, Shelly challenged us to make vegan dips to accompany the crackers. We were however, left with the option to make the crackers non gluten-free, using normal unbleached flour.

For me, this challenge was really the opportunity to try and understand a tiny bit about such dietary restrictions. So, earlier in the week I had gone to my organic store in search of a gluten-free flour blend and xanthan gum. They also had wonderful looking fresh red bell peppers and juicy eggplants. Right then I decided on the dip that would accompany these crackers.

Lavash Ajvar Pepper Diptych (01) by MeetaK

I love the flavors of roasted red pepper and aubergines. One of my favorite dips is ajvar, a delicious relish or dip popular in the Balkan countries, but there are versions of it found in Turkey and the Middle East. It is made with fresh red pepper, aubergines and garlic. One of my good friends, who comes from Bosnia was the one who inspired me to make this wonderful dip. It's a breeze to make, the only real work being the peeling of the vegetables.

Sumac and Za'atar where my toppings of choice. I love the aromatic lemony flavor, sumac gives to dishes and za'atar lends it's herby zing giving my crackers a wonderful Middle Eastern flair. The marvelous aromas seeping out of the kitchen evoked delicious memories of my childhood in Qatar, where toasted pita bread covered in a buttered mix of za'atar and olive oil, dipped into bowls of labneh - strained yogurt sprinkled with sumac were my snack of choice.

The recipe amount is quite small, so if you are expecting friends increase the amount as required. I doubled the amount as I thought this would be a great and healthy snack for Soeren and his sleep-over friend this evening.

I'll leave you with the recipe now, excuse me while I nibble on a few of these and check out the the grand lavash creations from the rest of the Daring Bakers.

 

Lavash Crackers

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

Makes one sheet pan

1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, sumac, za'atar or kosher salt for toppings

Method

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.


For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough
Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


For Gluten Free Cracker Dough
The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).


For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough
Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.


For Gluten Free Cracker Dough
Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.)

Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.


Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).
When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

 

Ajvar -Roasted Bell Pepper, Aubergine & Garlic Dip

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

Makes about 6 servings

2 large aubergines
6 red bell peppers
3-4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Method

Heat the grill function of your oven to 250 degrees C. Cut the bell pepper in half, de-seed and them. Cut the aubergine in half. Place them skin side up, along with the garlic cloves, on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil.

Roast the vegetables for a good 30 minutes until the skins of the peppers and aubergines have charred and blister.

Remove from the oven and cover with a kitchen towel to allow them to steam for 10 minutes.

Peel the skins off the peppers and aubergine using your fingers. Squeeze the garlic clove out. Place in a large bowl and mash or purée depending how chunky or fine you would like it to be.

Add olive oil and the remaining ingredients and incorporate with a wooden spoon. Salt and pepper to taste.

You can store the ajvar in air-tight jars for up to a week.

Notes:

  • Chop up a green chili and add it to the mixture for a bit heat
  • Use fresh mint leaves instead of the coriander for a new flavor level

 

 


Verdict

Lavash & Ajvar (02) by MeetaK

Well Soeren and I have nibbled on a few of these already and are addicted. To all mummies out there - this is guilt free and healthy snacking for the kids. We plan to have the rest tonight with Soeren's sleep-over buddy while watching Happy Feet. I loved the crispy and crunchy texture these crackers have. They taste great, with the tangy sumac and aromatic za'atar. The dip adds all those perfect roasted flavors that one associates with vacations by the sea!

Would I make this again?
Are you kidding I am already thinking of toppings for the next batch. Maybe a sweet variation, although my savory ideas are pretty tempting. I really do believe I have found the perfect snacking bites for my family and guests. The fact that these are easy to whip up makes it all the more attractive.

What did I learn from this challenge?
I am glad I gave the gluten-free version a go. It's simply good to be able to experiment with different techniques and forms, when you would not have if the need did not arise. This challenge has opened an interesting door for me - to dare to experiment with more vegan and gluten-free recipes.

Thanks to Natalie and Shelly for daring me to be different this month!

A few of the past challenges:

Foccacia 04 Tender Potato Focaccia
French Baguette 01 framed French Baguette
Bagels08 Jewish Purists Bagels


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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Aubergine Dolma with a Piquant Rice Filling and Tzatziki

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Aubergine Rolls-Dolma (06) by MeetaK

Last week Tom and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary. On one side when I think about it I find it so hard to believe that 10 years with this wonderful man have past. On the other it feels so natural, like there was no other meant to be for me.

I did make a mistake in my “past life” but I think that mistake was meant to happen - to lead me to Tom.

For the past several weeks Tom, Soeren and I have been living in perfect symbiosis with each other. Everything fits together, everything is tuned to perfect harmony and everything works like clockwork. At times it feels like we are living in our own bubble, taking a step outside of it wakes us up to the realization that there indeed is another world out there.

It was not always like this though. Like any “healthy” relationship both of us had our downs and hard times. So much so that at times I really thought about leaving!

Being a Gemini I am constantly restless and need to be on the move. I can be hard-headed and stubborn. Put this up against the characteristic traits of an Aries, to which Tom is born under, you will see we make an explosive couple. Tom can be broody, impatient and far too logical, sometimes driving me up the wall. I know I often hit against Tom’s rational aspect of life with my light and airy ideas, making him impatient.

We’ve had our share of fights and battles. However, we’ve come through and found our peace. We do make an explosive pair but I could not think of anyone else I would rather have my fireworks with. Sure he makes me mad, but no one else can make me laugh as much as he does. I probably drive his patience with my wild ideas, but it is his rational thinking that always puts my world into perspective.

Together we share one treasure: Soeren. The Virgo in him brings the order we often need in our relationship. With his coolness and sensitivity, he is the soothing balsam on our egos, making us complete.

This weekend we wanted to remain in our bubble. It was just so cozy and comfortable. The rain could fall down in sheets and the wind could howl against our windows, we were happy just enjoying each other's company. Over a game of Uno, I looked over to Tom and smiled to myself. Yes - I am looking forward to the next ten.

Aubergine Rolls-Dolma (04) by MeetaK 

Dolma is the name given to stuffed vegetable dishes typical in the Turkish, Middle Eastern, Lebanese and Greek cuisines. However you will most certainly find versions of the dolma in the Balkan countries and even Central and South Asia. One of the most popular dolma variety is probably the grape-leaf dolma.

My dolma is typically found in Greece. I use rice and Kefalotyri cheese, a sensational Greek salty cheese made from goat milk. For the required heat I use a hot Aci Sivri pepper, a Turkish chili. The entire dish is served with a garlicky Tzatziki style sauce, making this an unforgettable experience. 

 

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

1kg Aubergines, cut lengthwise is approx. 1cm thick slices, then placed in salt water.
6 tablespoons olive oil
Butter for the form
50g cold butter

The Filling
120g onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
100g rice, cooked
200g bell pepper, cut into very small cubes
1 aci sivri pepper, finely chopped. Substitute with any other green chili.
300g large Roma tomatoes, blanched, skin removed, de-seeded, and coarsely chopped
70g Kefalotyri cheese, cut into very small cubes. Substitute with an Italian Pecorino sardo
Olive oil
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and fresh cracked pepper

The Yogurt Sauce
150g thick Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
2-3 garlic cloves, mashed
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
 

Method

In a large skillet heat the 2 tablespoons of oil for the filling and sauté the onions and garlic until aromatic and translucent.

Add the bell pepper and the Aci Sivri pepper and continue to stir-fry for another 5 minutes. Incorporate half of the tomatoes and 1 tablespoon parsley into the mixture.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, then add the cheese and rice. Mix well, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Take the aubergine slices out of the salt water and pat dry with paper kitchen towels. Reserve 1 cup of salt water.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan and cook both sides of the aubergine slices until slightly golden. Set on paper towels to soak up excess oil.

Butter an ovenproof dish. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Taking the narrow end of the aubergine place approx. 1 tablespoon of the rice filling on the aubergine and gently roll. Place each aubergine roll tightly next to each other in the ovenproof dish.

Distribute the remaining tomatoes over the top of the aubergine rolls. Cut up the cold butter into flakes and divide over the top. Pour 1 cup of reserved salt water into the dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

In the meantime prepare the yogurt sauce, by mixing the mashed garlic into the yogurt. Add the crème fraiche and whisk until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

Take the ovenproof dish out of the oven, sprinkle with remaining parsley. Serve with yogurt sauce and rustic bread.

 


Verdict

Aubergine Rolls-Dolma (01) by MeetaK

Maybe I am featuring this recipe because it is in a way a lot like the three of us. The aubergine and the rice-cheese mixture are quite the individuals. But the aubergine tightly hugs the rice-cheese filling, creating the perfect harmony. It is the cool refreshing yogurt that caresses the entire dish, adding a totally new flavor level. We love it because it simply tastes fantastic.

You might like these aubergine ideas from WFLH:

Ratatouille o6 Ratatouille Provençal
ChokaAubergines 02 framed Aubergine Choka
 Babaganoush01 Baba Ghanouj

Dolma from around the blogs:

 

Daily Tiffin Reading Tip:

 


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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Quick & Easy: Root Vegetable Stir-Fry on Quinoa

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Quinoa Root Veggies (02) by MeetaK

Weeknights and it has to be quick and easy. While I love spending a luxurious long time in the kitchen, a glass of tasty Italian wine on the counter next to my mis-en-place, listening to tastier Eros Ramazzotti on the stereo, I will take time to cook a lavish meal, weeknights however is a dash against time. 

My dad always says "Meeta steals time to work for her!" I was never sure exactly what he meant by that until a few years ago when he tried explaining how I manage my pace to Tom. What he meant was that my one hour would be two hours for many others. I "steal" time to do several jobs or chores at once. Multi-tasking has a whole new dimension with me. 

So, for example today, a hectic work day but also with several private tasks to complete. It was one meeting after another, all over the university campus. In between I found myself with 20 - 30 minutes to kill. I used this time to my advantage. I did my grocery shopping at my organic store in the first 20 minute meeting-free block, the next 20 minutes block, made a doctor's appointment for Soeren, as class rep. for Soeren's class managed to arrange a day trip to the local fire station and brought back library books.

At home it's the same. While I am cutting veggies for dinner I will get Soeren to practice guitar or his reading. Or while I am tidying up I catch up on chit-chatting with friends on the phone and while I have a roast in the oven I do a bit of newspaper reading.

Are you exhausted yet? ;-)

Tom gave up long ago trying to keep up with my pace. I admit it's fast - but I have a problem. If I slow my pace I get edgy and irritated. Then I am not a nice person to be around. Am I exhausted at the end of the day? Not really. I was very hyperactive as a child. As an adult I found a way to channel the energy to my advantage.

On weeknights I will steal time and make a quick and easy dinner - full of flavor and nutrition. My preferred method of cooking - stir frying those lovely organic veggies I bought earlier in the day.

Carrots Icicle Radish (01) by MeetaK

When the Chinese invented the stir-frying method they must have been thinking of all those busy working mums of the 20th/21st century!

Stir-frying is one of the easiest and quickest techniques of Chinese cooking. All it requires is cooking bite sized pieces of meat, fish or vegetables in a wok on a fairly high heat. As the pieces are small and the heat high it enables the food to be cooked quickly and fully. This short and intensive way to cook ensures that the full flavor and nutrients are retained in the food.

Although stir frying is typically an Asian way of cooking, I often use this method to cook a lot of my meals - be it Indian or Italian. I find it the healthiest - less oil, crispy flavor, perfect texture and full in nutrients.

This particular dish uses the simplicity of root vegetables, concentrating on the freshness of the flavor and texture. Many of you know that I believe in organic produce, but will never preach it to anyone. Here though I have to say the quality makes this dish. Try buying organically grown and fresh vegetables for this dish. You will notice the difference in the aroma and flavor straight away.

I chose to serve this with quinoa, cooked according to the instructions on the package, just using strong vegetable stock instead of plain water.  The result a powerful and intensive meal - veggie pure and full of incredible aroma.

Quinoa Root Veggies (03) by MeetaK

 

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

10 carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
6-8 Icicle radishes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
Bunch of green asparagus, cut into 2 to 3 cm pieces
Bunch of spring onions, cut into 2 to 3 cm pieces
Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
Small piece of ginger, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200 ml vegetable broth
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Peanut oil
Soy sauce
250g cooked quinoa

Method

In a large wok heat the peanut oil on high heat. Once it is hot add the ginger and garlic and sit-fry for 1 minute until transparent.

Add the carrots, radishes and asparagus and stir fry for 5 minutes. Add a little dash of the broth and cover to gently steam until the vegetables just start to soften.

Mix the cornstarch in a separate cup or bowl, with a few tablespoons of broth until smooth.

Add the spring onions and stir fry for another minute. Now add the soy sauce and continue to sauté for another minute or two. Finally add the remaining broth and cornstarch mixture. Bring mixture to boil, stirring until sauce thickens.

Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with hot bowls of cooked quinoa.

Notes & Tips:

  • When stir-frying it is advisable to prepare all your vegetables (and/or meat) before you start cooking. Cut your vegetables and meat and place in bowls.
  • Make sure all your ingredients are ready and within reach. Stir frying is fast. Often there won't be time to mix the sauce or look for the salt while things are cooking.
  • It's important to cut your vegetables approximately the same size - bit size. This will ensure that everything is cooked evenly and thoroughly.
  • If you are making a stir fry with meat or chicken, stir-fry the meat first. Cook completely and remove from heat. Then cook your vegetables, adding the meat at the end.
  • Each item has a different time. It is advisable to start with those that take the longest to cook through.
  • Heat the pan/wok first. When it's hot then add the oil. Once the oil is hot it is time to start with ginger, garlic and onions. These need to be stir-fried just for a few seconds, until they become aromatic.
  • The sauce or broth should be added towards the end of the cooking time. If you find that the vegetables still need a few minutes, cover and steam until done.

 

 


Verdict

Quinoa Root Veggies (01) by MeetaK

Not only does the wonderful rainbow of colors makes this dish look delightful, it is also the incredible aroma of ginger, garlic and lovely vegetables wafting in the kitchen that makes for hungry mouths sit eagerly at the dinner table. I personally find that quinoa offers a fantastic alternative to rice and pairs beautifully with the root vegetables. Perfect on any occasion, but a time saver on weeknights!

title

Don't forget to send me your authentic Italian creations by next week. The best creation could win a one year subscription to the La Cucina Italiana magazine! Details here.

You might like these Asian style dishes from WFLH:

AsianStyleTilapia 01 framed Asian Style Tilapia
Chinese Fried Noodles02 Chinese Vegetable Noodles
teriyakisalmon Honey Teriyaki Salmon

 

Daily Tiffin Reading Tip:

 


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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Welcome Fall: Sweet Plums

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Plums 01a framed

To me, plums signalize that Fall is just around the corner. In Germany, plums start appearing in the stores around August and last till October. So when I see the delicious, purple colored fruit in the stores I know we are on the cusp of the seasons.

So, I welcome Fall, with a new banner to create the right atmosphere for my readers and look forward to celebrate the rich and colorful produce it offers.

Going to the Farmer’s Market or to my local organic store is always a great pleasure, but right now just as summer dwindles and fall takes control, it's pure bliss. How wonderful is the variety of fresh produce right now? I still see raspberries and peaches, stacked next to apples, pears and figs. There are those wonderful red tomatoes and green zucchini lined up next to the rainbow chard and pumpkins.

Plums are however, my current favorite. I recently bought a 2 kilo basket from my organic store and was in sweet heaven with each luscious bite I took. Two kilos of pure juicy fruit!

While we enjoyed most of them pure I did make several interesting creations with the plums. There are not many types of fruit that come in such a huge variety and colorful panorama as plums. Each variety tastes different, highlighting a wonderful array of flavors and versatility these fruit offer.

You will find that plum season extends from May through October depending where you are in the world. The Japanese varieties are the first in the markets, arriving in May and peaking in August. The European plums follow closely, from August and extend throughout Fall till October.

Plums are related to cherries, peaches and almonds and belong to the extensive Prunus family They are classified as stone fruits and believed to have originated in Asia. Plum trees have been cultivated all over the world since ancient times. It is reported that Native Americans consumed wild plums prior to the arrival of the Europeans and till today the wild variety is still consumed.

Temperate regions are where the plum trees grow best, producing purple, red, orange, yellow, or light green fruit. Colder temperatures may brown the color of the fruit , giving it an unappealing appearance.

Health Benefits

Plums and Prunes (dried form of plums) are high in unique phytonutrients called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid. These substances are classified as phenols, and their function as antioxidants has been well-documented.

Plums help to produce and absorb iron in the body, which leads to a better blood circulation, helping the growth of healthy tissues. This ability of plums and prune to make iron more available might be related to the high vitamin C content of this fruit. It’s always a good idea to get an additional dose of vitamin C during the colder “flu” season and plums offer a great source of vitamin C.

Studies have also shown that regular consumption of plums will prevent macular degeneration and any other infection of the eye in the long run. Although I was often told by my mum that carrots will keep my eyes bright, these studies prove that plums are the best way to keep my sight.

Researchers have also found that plums have anti-cancer agents that may help prevent the growth of cancerous cells and tumors in the body. Furthermore, eating plums also reduces chances of contracting a heart disease. Plums contain certain cleansing agents, which purifies the blood and also prevents complications of the heart.

We all know that plums and prunes are both effective laxatives, with prunes being the more effective of the two. The laxative action of both prune and prune juice could be explained by their high sorbitol content.

Selecting & Storing

Look for unwrinkled plums. Their skins should be smooth with no blemishes, soft spots or discolorations. The gray-white sheen on plums is perfectly normal, as a matter of fact it is an indication that the plums have not been excessively handled. Good quality plums will display a rich color and will yield to gently pressure. If you choose slightly firmer fruit to ripen at home, do not go for extremely hard plums. These are still immature and the full flavor of the fruit will probably not develop as desired.

You can easily ripen plums at room temperature, but as they mature quickly, make sure you check them daily to ensure they do not become overripe. Once they are ripe you can store plums in a plastic bag and place in your refrigerator. There they should last for 4-5 days.

Plums can also be frozen. Although I have not done this myself, I have read that it is advisable to remove their pits before freezing them.

Plums can be easily preserved as jams or jellies for use later. A great recipe idea you might enjoy is this plum cinnamon preserve.

If the plums have been in the refrigerator allow them to reach room temperature before eating them. This allows them to attain their full sweet juicy flavor.

To remove the pit all you need to do is cut the plum lengthwise, along the pit, gently twist off the sides in opposite directions. Finally, take he pit out. If the fruit is still a little hard and the pit does not come off easily, place the tip of a sharp knife under the pit and gently release it from the flesh.

To remove the skins for baking or poaching, the easiest method is to place them in boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Remove the fruit and run them under cold water to stop them from cooking further, then remove the skin with your fingers.

Enjoy these fruits to the fullest now. Although there are so many great recipes using plums, the best way however is to enjoy them pure.

Here is a sneak peak at a few scrumptious plum creations coming your way right here on WFLH. Stay tuned!

Plum Diptych

Hugs!


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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Monthly Mingle Chocolate & Fruit Roundup & MM 25

| 18 comments
MM FruitChocolate Roundup-550px_bearbeitet-1

The Monthly Mingle has become a bit like my baby. I really enjoy hosting this event. For the past few months you have seen it travel to many different blogs and I have to say each hostess has always done such an impeccable job. However, you will surely understand when I say I am always happy to have my baby back home. ;-)

The best thing about this event is that there is such a wide variety of participants, each bringing a part of their own culture along to the mingle. I always smile when I receive an entry from my regular guests, or I get worried when one did not take part. I enjoy discovering new blogs and making new acquaintances. I love chatting with those friends who always seem to make it to the mingle. All in all it's a grand event and I thank you all for being so creative and taking time to make something special for my mingles.

This month had us all in chocolate craze with a bit of fruity frenzy. I cannot remember the last time I drooled this much at your mails and creations.

Monthly Mingle - Sensational Sides

MM Sides Sept2008-550px

However, before we go into the roundup, mark the next mingle in your calendars. This month my Daring Baker friend Ruth of Ruth's Experiments is your gracious hostess. For this month's challenge she has chosen a very appropriate theme - Sensational Sides. I am excited about this as I know before I even blink Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here and I'll be scuttling around looking for adequate side dishes to go with my meals. I entertain very often and the next few months are always filled with several traditional holidays and events. So this is going to be worth gold!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Create a dish that fits the theme of “Sensational Sides” as described above
  2. Post about it on your blog anytime from now until 12 October (entries must be in English, please).
  3. Link to Ruth's announcement and/or this post and send the details to Ruth (see below).

Once you’ve posted your dish, send an email with “Sensational Sides” in the subject line to: ruth.e.babes[AT]gmail[DOT]com by 13 October with the following information:

  • your name
  • the name of your blog
  • the name of your dish and a link to the relevant post
  • a copy of the main photo of your dish 200px wide (and compressed so that it is below 1MB!)

We're looking forward to your entries!

Now I present the most droolworthy roundup to date!

The entries are sorted in various categories for your convenience. You can view all the pictures of all the entries in the Fruit & Chocolate picture gallery.

Baked Sweets

  1. Baking Obsessions: Chocolate marzipan stuffed figs in chocolate phyllo purses
  2. ...and a little more...:Fruit brownie crumble

Cakes & Cookies

  1. Tasty Curry Leaf: Chocolate Orange Sandwich Cookies
  2. Not Quite Nigella: Goey chocolate brownie and strawberry sandwich cake
  3. Lemon Basil: Dark Chocolate Blackberry Pound Cake
  4. VeggieGirl: Cranberry-Apricot-Banana Brownies
  5. Dhanggit's Kitchen: Cadbury Chocolate Cookies Fruits & Nuts
  6. Cook's Hideout: Chimp Cakes
  7. BitterSweet: Berry Crazed
  8. Morsels & Musings: Glacé apricot, chocolate & poppy seed cupcakes
  9. Health Nut: Chocolate & Caramelized Banana Mango Cake
  10. Palachinka: Chocolate Dimply Plum Cake
  11. Feeding My Enthusiasms: Chocolate dipped lemon butter cookies
  12. Dragon Musings: Wheeley Scones, Dark Chocolate Berry Brownies
  13. Few Minute Wonders: Orange Chocolate Cake

Candy

  1. Clumbsy Cookie: Fresh fig chocolate candy bar
  2. Sumi's Weblog: Chocolate Covered Cherries
  3. ECurry: Orange Flavored Chocolate Covered Farfel

Drinks

  1. Creative Saga: Banana Choco Shake

Ice Creams & Frozen Desserts

  1. Yummy Food: Chocolate Banana Splits
  2. ...and a little more...: Low-Fat banana choco-nut ice cream
  3. Cake or Death?: Apricot Ice Cream Tartufi
  4. My Spicy Kitchen: Frozen berries with warm white chocolate

Mousse & Puddings

  1. Make Life Sweeter!: Strawberry Mousse Puffs with white chocolate glaze
  2. Apple Pie, Patis, and Pâté: Chocolate Pots of Cream with Raspberries
  3. Passionate About Baking: Mango jelly mousse with chocolate
  4. My Diverse Kitchen: Eggless Dark Chocolate and Orange Mousse
  5. HomeMadeS: Orange Infused Custard with Dark Chocolate Bottom
  6. Vegetarian in ME: Chocolate Muhallabiah, ruby red pomegranates and a whiff of orange blossom
  7. Fun and Food: Mini chocolate fruit trifle 
  8. What's For Lunch, Honey?: Chocolate Panna Cotta with Caramelized Pineapple and Amarena Cherries

Hope this has made you drool too. If I've missed your entry please leave me a comment here on the post and I'll update it as soon as possible.

Keep track of the Monthly Mingle as it wanders across the World using the MM Calendar. If you'd like to guest host the MM drop me an email.


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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Delicious Apricot Olive Oil Tea Cakes

| 40 comments
Apricot Olive Oil Cakes (03) by MeetaK

A few days ago one of my favorite neighbors celebrated her 55th birthday. She’s a lovely lady and I love spending afternoons in her little oasis she has as a garden. By profession she is a florist and has often helped me making my little home design bouquets. She is sensational at what she does and has arranged the interior of her house so beautifully I often feel like I am on a mini-vacation when I am there.

She was having a little tea party and had invited several guests. I was very honored to be amongst her carefully picked guests. I was also the youngest. For weeks I had pondered on what I should take along to complement my main present. Flowers – well do you give flowers to a florist?

I finally decided the best thing to do was to give her a little something that came from me. A piece of me – in a matter of speaking. She knows about my hobby and is a passionate reader of this blog. Often telling me that although she enjoys my desserts and cakes the best, she loves this space because I tell such great stories and it’s almost like she is a part of the story.

She has done a lot for me and loves Soeren to bits. I have never actually seen her not smiling. I am sure she even smiles in her sleep.

My idea was to make a few delicate teacakes to show her my appreciation. I wanted it to be something a little different and a bit out of the ordinary, because that’s exactly how she is. She is full of life and vivacious, bringing a bit of sunshine with her where ever she goes. So how do I define all that in a teacake?

Apricot Olive Oil-Diptych (01) by MeetaK

I was inspired by the olive oil pound cake from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich. Although I have not gotten around to making it in its true form, the flavor of olive oil in a cake intrigued me immensely. I also was not looking for a muffin consistency with these cakes. Although I wanted to bake them in muffin forms to make eloquent individual portions, I wanted something more moist and spongy. I decided to use natural yogurt not only for the moister texture but also that slightly tangy flavor. Apricots gave the tea cakes that final touch of sweetness and epitomized the sunshine my neighbor is for me.

The result was delicious and elegant teacakes with such exquisite flavor that they quickly became the star of the afternoon!

Apricot Olive Oil Cakes (02) by MeetaK

I have used less sugar and of course the olive oil substitutes the butter. This makes the cakes lighter and fluffier in texture. The natural yogurt brings a slightly tangy note to the cake making it a delightful partner for the sweet apricots.

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

200g all-purpose flour
2 eggs
80 ml olive oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
125g Demerara sugar
300 ml natural yogurt
200-300g fresh apricots, a few quartered the rest coarsely chopped
Pinch of salt

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Prepare the muffin tin or forms by brushing with some melted butter and flouring them. Alternatively you can line them with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, olive oil and yogurt into a smooth batter. In several portions incorporate the salt, flour and baking powder into the batter.

Gently fold in the chopped apricots, reserving the quarters for the tops.

Fill the forms with the fruit-batter. Place a quarter apricot on the top. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden or when a wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake, comes out clean.

Notes:

  • You can use a variety of stone fruit for these teacakes. Try plums, peaches or even other fruit like figs work extremely well.
  • Serve these warm drizzled with some vanilla pudding for a lovely after meal dessert.
  • If you like a crunchier texture add a few chopped nuts to the batter. Pecans or pistachios are just perfect.


Verdict

Apricot Olive Oil Cakes (02) by MeetaK

My neighbor loved these teacakes, however I had a bit of a guilty conscience because of all the fuss they created with her guests. See I decided to serve them slightly warm with some thick vanilla sauce and they became addictive. Her guests were constantly asking her for her recipe and she kept sending them to me. I was kind of uncomfortable standing in the middle of the group explaining how I made these. But in the crowd I caught my neighbors eye standing at the back, who winked and smiled at me, lifting her plate to show me that she had managed to grab the last teacake. I love her nonchalance!

I wish you all a great weekend. If you are looking for something to cook this weekend I am sure you'll find several interesting ideas in my recipe book. Looking for something vegetarian? Then check out my latest article at FoodieView where I discuss Vegetarian Specialities and give a few great ideas from across the blogs.

See you Monday with the roundup for the Chocolate & Fruit Monthly Mingle.

You might like these exquisite cake ideas from WFLH:

BostiniCreamPie 01a Bostini Cream Pie
CantucciniChessecake01 Cantuccini Plum Cakes
RaspberryHaselnutCake 01 framed Raspberry Hazelnut Teacake

From around the blogs:

Swedish Lingonberry Cake by Nami Nami
Orange & Poppyseed Cake by Couture Cupcakes
Blueberry Yogurt Cake by Ahaar

Daily Tiffin Reading Tip:


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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Chocolate Panna Cotta with Caramelized Pineapple and Amarena Cherries

| 23 comments
Choc Panna Cotta (02= by MeetaK

We’re having a few wonderful late summer days here at the moment. It’s been a real pleasure to tank up on a bit of warm sunshine. I hope that winter this year is also slightly warmer. I am dreading the cold!

I know many of you are waiting for my creation for the current Monthly Mingle: Chocolate & Fruit, but I hope you understand I had to take some extra space yesterday to announce the La Cucina Italiana contest. It’s a fantastic opportunity to win yourself a free subscription to this gorgeous magazine, so I do hope you will join us!

As if by coincidence my dessert today has been inspired by the great Italian dessert - the Panna Cotta. My variation of this extremely elegant dessert is by no means an authentic version of the panna cotta. Contraire – it’s rather exotic with the sweet caramelized baby pineapple and the Amarena cherries. The added delicacy of chocolate makes it lavishly decadent. A panna cotta it is though.

I will allow you to enjoy this dessert to the fullest now, as I stretch out on my deck chair and enjoy the last of these chocolate fruity delights.

Ciao!

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

For the chocolate panna cotta

400 ml heavy cream
90g fine sugar
30g cocoa powder
4 sheets gelatine
1 vanilla bean, scraped
50 ml milk
50 ml chocolate syrup, I used Swiss Chocolate from Monin
100g Mascarpone cheese

For the caramelized pineapple

1 baby pineapple, peeled and cut into wedges
50 g sugar
150 ml - 200 ml pineapple juice
8-10 Amarena cherries
2 tablespoons syrup reserved from the Amarena cherries

Method

For the chocolate panna cotta

Soak the gelatine in cold water for approx 5 minutes. In a saucepan bring the cream, sugar, vanilla pod and the scraped seeds to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and allow for the cream to steep for 30 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk the milk, cocoa powder and chocolate syrup to a smooth mixture. Remove the vanilla pod from the cream and discard. Bring the cream mixture to a boil once again and gently whisk in the cocoa mixture. Remove from heat.

Squeeze water from gelatine and dissolve into the chocolate-cream mixture. Allow to cool at room temperature, then place in the refrigerator until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the mascarpone cheese and whisk until smooth and there are no lumps.

Fill the mixture into 4 forms (each about 150 ml) and refrigerate overnight.

For the caramelized pineapple

On medium heat allow the sugar to dissolve and caramelize to a light golden color. Pour in the pineapple juice. The sugar will solidify but keep the mixture at medium heat and gently bring it back to a boil. The sugar will begin to dissolve. Allow the mixture to simmer and reduce into a thick syrup - approx 10 minutes.

Add the pineapple chunks, Amarena cherries and syrup and cook for approx. 5 minutes until softened. Cool to room temperature.

Tip the panna cotta onto plates and serve with the caramelized fruit or if you prefer just spoon some of fruit over the panna cotta in the glasses or forms.

 


Verdict

Choc Panna Cotta (01) by MeetaK

Making them in small glasses was maybe a mistake! LOL! I thought it would be a nice touch to a heavy meal we had. But apparently my guests could not get enough of this and for the first time in my cooking history I did not have enough!! Embarrassing? No – I just invited them over again – this time a light meal and a big portion of this chocolate panna cotta. It was rich, smooth and delicately fruity. Something one can indulge in over and over again.

You might like these Panna Cotta varieties from WFLH too:

Panna Cotta Sin Panna Cotta with Blackberries
SaffronCardamomPannaCotta 07 framed Panna Cotta with Saffron and Cardamom
Strawberry Panna Cotta 01 framed Strawberry Panna Cotta with Balsamic Red Wine Syrup

From around the blogs:

 

Daily Tiffin Reading Tip:

 


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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Authentic Italy: An Event, A Dish & A Prize

| 20 comments
title

I've been looking forward to announcing this event all weekend. Many of you know how much I adore the Italian cuisine. No - actually it's not just the cuisine, it's the country, the people, the flair, the fashion (shoes, handbags etc.) - just about everything the country has to offer I am crazy about it.

Being a food blog though we are going to concentrate on the wonderful cuisine.

Italian cuisine is so varied, each region offering it's own style and cooking habits. It's about fresh, earthy and down-to-earth products. No other country in the world offers such diversity in their cooking as the Italians. Each region offering their own wonderful speciality - Milanese risotto, Spaghetti Bolognese, Pizza from Naples. In spite of the regional differences, Italian food in general is often flexible and innovative.

No wonder that I am not the only epicure in Italian food, the cuisine has found it's fans all around the world.

The US edition of the fantastic La Cucina Italiana has been recently launched. This magazines celebrates vibrant and innovative Italian food like no other magazine I know. I regularly get my German copy of La Cucina Italiana each month and enjoy the colorful and fresh ideas it provides. The magazine offers a wonderful wealth of knowledge, not only in the spectacular regional dishes, but gives a closer insight into the culinary traditions of authentic Italian food.

I want to celebrate - not only the launch of this beautiful magazine but also authentic Italian food with you! I'd like you to dig deeper into your recipe boxes, files or the Internet and cook up great, traditional and authentic Italian dish.

For this one time event I am also glad to offer a wonderful prize. The person with the most delicious Italian dish will have a chance to win a fantastic one year subscription to La Cucina Italiana, very kindly sponsored by the team of this magazine.

For this contest I have asked two lovely and able connoisseurs of Italian cuisine. My favorite Italian cream puff living in Canada - yes, I am talking of the gorgeous Ivonne and the lovely Swede living in the beautiful region of Tuscany, who tantalizes me with every dish and every pictures, none other than the sensational  Ilva.

It's not going to be an easy contest as you can tell by the judges so, I need you to give me your best.

Here is an overview of the guidelines:

Contest Guidelines

  1. Research and cook an authentic Italian dish from any region. Write about why you chose the dish and why you think this is authentic. This is also a part of the contest as we want to learn about each dish, its origins and how it was created.

  2. You must use typical Italian ingredients, as fresh and as seasonal as possible. It can be a savory dish or a dessert.

  3. All entries must be in English.

  4. The deadline of the contest is midnight PDT 22nd September 2008.   

  5. Only one entry per blog.

  6. Please send your entries to authenticitaly@googlemail.com with La Cucina Italiana in the subject line of your email.

  7. Entries will be judged in the following criteria:
    - Authenticity of the dish
    - The research matter - what you can tell us about the dish
    - How Italian in your dish?
    - Does your dish make the judges drool for more?

  8. The contest is open to entries from all over the world.

  9. If you follow a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or are allergic to certain products you may modify the dish according to your diet.

As soon as we receive all the entries and the judges have scored, the winner will be announced towards the end of the month.

Let the fun begin!


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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Preserving Summer: Jams, Jellies, Chutneys and Relishes

| 43 comments


Cooking School – Preserving 101!

JamsPreservesChutney01 framed 

The markets, home gardens and stores are simply bursting with fresh and ripe fruit and vegetables at this time of year. Not only am I getting tons of gorgeous produce in my CSA box each week, I can never resist buying huge loads of colorful, berries, stone fruit or squash from the Farmer’s Markets. To top it all off my mother-in-law and friendly neighbors keep bringing tons of homegrown cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini harvested from their overflowing gardens. I always have a problem saying no!

So it is not surprising that I have a surplus amount of produce at this time of year. Does this sound familiar to you?

My solution to all this surplus produce is preserving – making jams, jellies, chutneys and preserves is something we have gotten used to doing every year. Although it’s just the three of us, our consumption on these items is rather high.

Every weekend we enjoy long and relaxing breakfasts with warm rolls, organic butter, eggs and homemade jams and preserves. While I am the type who spreads my jam or preserve thinly on my buttered rolls, Tom and Soeren dollop thick layers enjoying the fruity taste. The cooler seasons also has me making more hearty roasts and piquant types of dishes and there is nothing better than having some delicious homemade spicy chutney or a fruity jelly to serve with it. Moreover, giving away colorful jars of jelly and jam as gifts in the holiday season always adds a special touch.

We’ve been doing this every year for the past four years, this year however we were rather creative with a few of our experiments. As I looked into my pantry for that recently made fig and ginger preserve the jars of jams, jellies, preserves and chutney all lined on the rack, gleamed at me. At this moment I was struck with the idea to write this post.

I have often heard some of my friends tell me they have no time to go through the process of making jams or chutneys at home. It’s a lot easier than one thinks. There are however, certain points and tips one has to consider. With this post I hope not only to offer a comprehensive column focusing on preserving and making jams, jellies, chutneys and relishes, I am also going to be sharing several of our favorite recipes.

Jams, Jellies Marmalades, Preserves and Conserves

This is the ideal way to preserve fruit. Sugar is the main ingredient that preserves the delicious summer fruits of choice. Exactly that is what a all of these start with: delicious, succulent and ripe fruit.

Jams are made by crushing or grinding, whole fruit. They usually have a thick consistency due to high pectin content.
Jellies are made using the juices of the fruit. It is much stiffer that a jam and if cut it will hold its shape.
Marmalade is a jelly with pieces of cut fruit in it. Often citrus fruit like oranges, lemon or lime are the basis of a marmalade.
Preserves is usually interchangeable with jam, but it often applies to cooked and gelled whole fruit, which includes a significant portion of the fruit.
Conserves are made using a mixture of fruit, not necessarily fresh, and also contains nuts and citrus fruits.

Chutneys and Relishes

Chutneys originated in India and comes from the East Indian word chatni, which means "strongly spiced," Chutneys are basically condiments which usually consists of a mix of chopped fruits, vinegar, spices and sugar cooked into a chunky spread.
Relishes are hardly cooked and use much less sugar. It is made by coarsely chopping fruit or vegetables, giving it a crunchier bite.

Although both chutneys and relishes are interchangeable, often chutneys are made using fruit and relishes using vegetables.

Sterilizing Your Jars and Lids

jamjar

Whether you are making a jam, relish, chutney or a marmalade one thing that needs the highest priority before you start is that everything you use, needs to be scrupulously cleaned. The pan, spoons and most importantly the jars should be scrubbed cleaned and wiped dry. Boil jars and lids to sterilize them to prevent bacteria from getting into the jam/chutney and spoiling it.

How To:
Place your empty jars, upright, without lids and open side up in a large clean pot. In a tea kettle bring water to a boil, and then pour enough water in the pot, filling the jars with the hot water. The jars should be covered with water. Bring the water to a boil and continue boiling for 10 minutes. In the meantime lay out clean kitchen towels on your counter. Using tongs take the jars out and allow to drip dry.

Place the lids in the hot water and leave them in the hot, not boiling, water until ready to use.

For best results with your fruity jams or preserves, it’s best to work with approx. 1 to 2 kgs of fruit at a time. Using more than that makes it difficult to handle in a home kitchen and it also becomes difficult to get the jam to set as it does not boil fast enough. With 2 kgs of fruit I often yield approx 6 jars of 450g-sized jars.

Making Of

prepjam

Jams, Jellies, Preserves and co. can be made with or without using pectin. Pectin is needed to allow the thickening or gelling of the jam. It is created from a compound, protopectin, during the ripening of fruit and during the cooking of under-ripe fruit. All fruits contain some pectin. Large amounts of pectin can be found in apples, gooseberries, plums and citrus peel. Fruit like rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries or cherries have very little pectin.

If using fruit with little pectin and you do not want to add commercial pectin, the jams, preserves and co. will thicken or gel only if it is combined with other pectin rich fruit or powdered or liquid pectin is incorporated in it.

Jams and co. made without added pectin will require longer cooking time and you might notice a slightly different taste from those with added pectin. They also yield a less finished product.

You will find that most recipes call for powdered or liquid pectin. Purchase pectin fresh every year as old pectin may result in poor gels. When preparing a jam, jelly & co. with powdered or liquid pectin, it is vital to carefully follow the directions accompanying the pectin product. Generally 50-125 ml of liquid or 2 teaspoons of dried pectin to each 450g of fruit is sufficient. The order of combining ingredients depends on the type of pectin used. For successful preparation of pectin-added jams and co., accuracy of timing is very important. Begin counting time when the mixture reaches a full rolling boil.

JamsPreservesChutney02 framed

Sugar is another important ingredient in jams and co. You can use any type of white sugar however; I find finer types of sugar dissolve more quickly. I often use gelling sugar, which is specifically used for preserves and contains pectin, in my jams and co. It is very important to make sure that the sugar has dissolved in the simmered fruit before it is brought to the boil. If not the jam may become crystallised and sugary. The amount of sugar needed for gelling basically depends on the amount of pectin present. If you have used fruits with plenty of pectin, use 1½ times the amount of sugar to fruit. If there is just enough pectin, use equal amounts of sugar and fruit.

The easiest way to test the consistency of the jam or jelly is by placing a saucer into the freezer for a few minutes, then spoon about ½ teaspoon full of the jam onto the saucer. Place the saucer back into the freezer for approx. 30 seconds. If the sample is firm to the touch and has your required spreadable texture then it is done. It can now be removed from the heat.

Chutneys and relishes I love them - the best is that the variety seems endless. The combinations and alterations can be varied according to personal taste and the ingredients available. They can be sweet, sour, hot or mild.

One of the big advantages to both chutneys and relishes is that they improve with age. If properly stored they will remain in good condition for several months or years and you will be rewarded with spectacular bursts of new flavor.

Vinegar, spices and sugar are all the things that make chutney or relish nice. As vinegar is the most important ingredient, it is vital that a good quality is used. I love using white wine vinegar, but you can use apple cider or a champagne vinegar too. Although any kind of granulated sugar can be used, I prefer brown or Demerara sugar as it gives the final product a wonderful rich and dark color. However, you can also achieve the darker color by simply cooking the chutney a little longer. Spices really make the chutney or relish nice. Your imagination is required here. Use whole spices rather than powdered. If you just want the flavor of the spice in your chutney then slightly crack or bruise them and tie them in a spice bag. Then cook along with the rest of the ingredients. Finally remove and discard. However, I often prefer having the spices in my chutney and just throw the amounts loose in the pot.

Good chutney is relatively smooth in texture and it will have a rich mellow flavor. The best way to achieve this is to cook it long and slow. Ideally, it should be left to mature for at least three months.

Relish on the other hand is cooked for a lot less and the texture is crunch, with bits of coarsely chopped vegetables.

Whatever you preserve one thing is for sure nothing will satisfy you more than opening a jar of freshly preserved summer! I hope you will find this Preserving 101 helpful and refer to it whenever you require more information. You will find it conveniently in my sidebar category “The Know Hows of Food” under the section “How To…”.

Now if I have gotten you into the mood here are a few of our favorite recipes. 

Recipes

JamsPreservesChutney-ApricotChutney01 framed 

Apricot Chutney

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

(makes 3 200ml jars)

600g ripe apricots
1 red chili, slit in half, seeds removed and finely chopped
3-4 Shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/8 l white wine vinegar
100 g Demerara sugar
Salt
1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves, coarsely chopped


Method

Place the whole apricots in a large pot. In a tea kettle bring water to a boil. Pour over the apricots until they are covered. Allow to sit for 30 seconds to 1 minutes. Then take them out, one at a time, peel, cut in half, remove pit and coarsely chop.

Add all of the remaining ingredients, except for the fresh coriander leaves. Pour in about 100ml of water and bring the entire mixture to a rolling boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped coriander leaves.

Fill the chutney immediately into sterilized jars (as described above) and tightly screw the lids shut. Turn the jars upside down and allow to cool.

Notes:

  • Tastes great to cheese, lamb, and poultry.
  • Will keep in the fridge for 4 weeks
JamsPreservesChutney-Relishi01 framed 

Cucumber Zucchini Relish

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

(makes 4 250ml jars)

2 large cucumbers, very finely chopped
2 large zucchini, very finely chopped
250g onions, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, mashed
200 ml white wine vinegar
200g Demerara sugar
Salt

Method

Place all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Keep the mixture at a boil, regularly stirring for approx. 10 minutes.

Immediately fill in the relish into the sterilized jars (as described above)and tightly screw the lids shut. Turn the jars upside down and allow to cool.

Notes:

  • Is perfect on burgers, hot dogs, fish and steaks
  • Will keep in the fridge for 4 weeks
 JamsPreservesChutney-RaspChili01 framed

 

Spicy Raspberry Jam

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

(makes 5 200 ml jars)

900g raspberries, washed, dripped dry on kitchen towel
2 red chilies, slit in half, seeds removed and very finely chopped
100ml Cassis Liqueur
500g gelling sugar (I used Dr. Oetker's Extra Gelling Sugar 2:1)

Method

Place the raspberries in a large pot, cover with sugar, pour in the cassis liqueur and add the chopped chili. Allow to steep for 15 minutes to release the juices.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Now start timing and keep the mixture at a rolling boil for 3 minutes stirring all the time. Check to see if the mixture gels using the saucer test mentioned above. If not keep at a boil for another minute and then check again.

Fill the jam in sterilized jars (as described above), leaving 3 mm space at the top of the jar, turn upside down and leave for 5 minutes. Then store in your pantry

 JamsPreservesChutney-Mirabelle01 framed

 

Mirabelle Silver Edge Lavender Preserve

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

(makes 5 200 ml jars)

1 kg mirabelles (or yellow plums), cut in half, pits removed then quartered
2-4 sprigs silver edge lavender, tied tightly into a bouquet garni
500g gelling sugar (I used Dr. Oetker's Extra Gelling Sugar 2:1)

Method

Place the mirabelles in a large pot. Put the lavender bouquet garni into the pot and cover with the sugar. Stir well to coat the fruit with the sugar and to release the juices.

Bring the mixture to a boil under constant stirring. Now start timing and keep the mixture at a boil for a good 3 minutes, constantly stirring and crushing the fruit gently. Remove the bouquet garni and discard.

Check to see if the mixture gels using the saucer test mentioned above. If not keep at a boil for another minute and then check again. Skim off any foam.

Fill the jam in sterilized jars (as described above), leaving 3 mm space at the top of the jar, turn upside down and leave for 5 minutes. Then store in your pantry.

 JamsPreservesChutney-Fig01 framed

 

Fig Ginger Preserve

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

(makes 5 200ml jars)

950g fresh figs, stems removed and peeled
30g fresh ginger, very finely chopped
5 tablespoons orange juice
500g fine sugar
1 packet (25g) commercial pectin

Method

Place the figs and ginger in a large pot. Pour in the orange juice and mix.  Mix the powdered pectin and sugar and then add to the figs.

Bring the mixture to a boil under constant stirring. Now start timing and keep the mixture at a boil for a good 3 minutes, constantly stirring and crushing the fruit gently

Check to see if the mixture gels using the saucer test mentioned above. If not keep at a boil for another minute and then check again. Skim off any foam.

Fill the jam in sterilized jars (as described above), leaving 3 mm space at the top of the jar, turn upside down and leave for 5 minutes. Then store in your pantry.

 

JamsPreservesChutney-Plum01 framed

 

Plum Cinnamon Preserve

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

(makes approx. 3-4 200 ml jars)

1.3 kg red plums, cut into quarters, pits removed
120 ml water
1 kg sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
85 g commercial pectin

Method

Place plums, cinnamon, lemon juice and water in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil, stirring often. Cover and reduce heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, until the fruit softens. Stir often.  

Add the sugar, returning the heat to medium-high and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Incorporate the pectin, stirring constantly. Boil for another minute, then remove from heat. Skim off any foam.

Place the cinnamon stick in the jar then fill the jam in sterilized jars (as described above), leaving 3 mm space at the top of the jar, turn upside down and leave for 5 minutes. Then store in your pantry.

JamsPreservesChutney-RedFruit01 framed

 

Berry Cherry Jam

Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

300g black cherries, halved and pitted
220g blackberries
200g raspberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
150g sugar
56g natural fruit pectin

Method

In a large pot mix the cherries, berries, lemon juice and pectin. Over a medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, mashing the fruit with a wooden spoon. Boil for a further minute. Add the sugar and continue cooking, stirring often until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam.

Fill the jam in sterilized jars (as described above), leaving 3 mm space at the top of the jar, turn upside down and leave for 5 minutes. Then store in your pantry.


Verdict

It's all about mixing, tasting and experimenting. Jams, jellies, chutneys or relishes. There is not much of a science to it, just a few basic guidelines. You do not need special equipment, just a large pot that you use mainly for your jam/chutney making. You will find these recipes are fairly easy and will offer you a wonderful array of summer flavor throughout the year.


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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