Monday, September 30, 2013

Thai chicken meat ball salad with zesty coriander satay dressing

I am trying to collect as many low carb, high veg, high protein recipes as I can and last week I picked up an old Food & Home magazine (September 2007) and found a recipe I simply had to make - thai chicken meat ball salad. 

I made a few minor changes, like baking the meat balls and not frying them and tweaking the ingredients here and there due to what I had available. The end result was absolutely delicious. Seriously tasty while being super low in fat, high in lean protein and loads of raw veggies. 

Am sure this will be a super recipe for summer entertaining. 

Thai chicken meat ball salad
Serves 4 light main meal portions

Meat balls
500g of chicken mince
60ml of fresh coriander leaves, picked and chopped
125ml of spring onion, finely chopped
1 tsp of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp of fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp of chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp of lemon zest, finely grated
½ tsp of salt
¼ tsp of ground black pepper
1 large egg

125ml coconut milk
2 Tbsp of peanut butter
4 tsp of fish sauce
1 Tbsp of the juice from the pickled sushi ginger
1 Tbsp of lemon juice
2 Tbsp of coriander leaves, washed and picked
2 Tbsp of desiccated coconut

6 baby cucumbers (or ¼ of regular cucumber), shaved into ribbons
2 medium carrots, shaved into ribbons
2 handfuls of watercress (or baby salad leaves of choice)
1 baby red cabbage (or an 1/8 of a regular red cabbage), finely shredded
½ tsp of salt

½ a cup of roasted peanuts
1 Tbsp of pickled sushi ginger, roughly chopped

Pre heat the oven to 220°C and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a large baking tray with foil or baking paper.

Combine all the meat ball ingredients and shape into walnut sized balls. I used two soup spoons to do this as the paste was really sticky. Arrange them on the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. If they are not golden on top switch on the grill and grill them for a few more minutes until golden brown.

While the meat balls are baking blend all the dressing ingredients in a blender until fine and set aside in the fridge until ready for use.

Toss all the salad ingredients with the salt in a mixing bowl. Arrange on a platter or on individual plates, garnish with the peanuts, sushi ginger and extra coriander.

Arrange the warm meat balls on the side and drizzle liberally with the dressing. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chocolate fondant - and how to get it right!

Perfecting the chocolate fondant to serve effortlessly at dinner parties is far easier than you might imagine and likely to impress the most hardened food snobs. 

The recipe and method is pretty straight forward. But getting it perfect every time is all about planning and timing. So I am going to babble on a bit about all the variables and how to overcome unforeseen obstacles. The below is for unsure or nervous bakers. It really will help you to make these with confidence. 

Firstly you need to select the right molds. These molds need to be freezer and oven proof, they need to be able to hold not much more than 200 ml per mold. I prefer them to be rounded as the fondants slip out the molds better but straight sided ramekins also work well.

Before serving this dessert to guests you need to do a test run. Make it for a family dinner or for people you don't mind not getting it perfect for. The reason is that the timing of the baking is key to the success of the desert and so many things can effect the baking time. You need them to be cooked but just a little runny in the middle. The margin for error is huge here. The shape, size and material of your molds will effect this. The cooking temperate of each oven varies 10 or 15 degrees up or down, so you need see how your oven reacts and do your timing accordingly. The temperate of your batter when you put it in the oven will also effect the baking time. If you are baking them right away, leaving them in the fridge until after dinner and then bake them or make them a few days before and freeze them (unbaked), they all will need different baking times. 

So when you do your trial bake, you needn't use the super expensive chocolate, an entry level milk or dark chocolate is fine, if economy is important for you. Make sure you have a scale which is correct - you can check it buy weighing things in your cupboard which have the weights written on them. Make sure you have correct cup and spoon measures using the South African standard. A cup is 250 ml and teaspoon is 5 ml. The american measures are slightly different. Make sure your eggs are the size specified on the recipe and are at room temperature. Measure all your ingredients exactly and follow the method exactly. 

Of the 6 molds, once they are filled with the uncooked batter, place 2 in the freezer, so you can bake them from frozen to see how long that will take to bake. 

Of the 4 remaining molds, bake them in a fully pre heated oven. The little light will have switched off once the oven reaches the temperature set on the dial. Use the top and bottom heat setting, do not use the fan. Use a timer when timing your baking. Bake them for 12 minutes, then check them, if they are wobbly, keep on baking. The tops need to have just gone crusty; when pressed it needs to have give but not break through to the runny batter. Keep adding 2 mins to the baking time and keep track of this so you remember how much time you have added. 

If you are unsure and want to check one. Take it out with a thick dry cloth. with the tips of your fingers (if you can manage that) or a butter knife, wiggle the cake a little to loosen it from the sides. Place a side plate over the top of the mold and flip the plate and mold, upending the cake. Tap it or shake it a little if it doesn't slip out. If it already cracks open and batter starts running out, it needs to bake more. You can simply slip it bake in the mold and carry of baking, it won't look great but will still taste amazing. The cakes are perfect once about 50% of the batter is cooked and 50% is runny. You will let the cakes stand for about 5 mins at least before serving so they will carry on setting a little more. 

While the cakes are resting out the oven, it leaves time for you to prep the side plates, berries, ice cream or what ever sides you plan to serve with the fondants. Once the fondants are un-molded a dusting of icing sugar through a sieve on top looks great. 

Whatever your perfect baking time ended up being, you should add about 5 minutes onto the frozen fondants baking time. But don't guess, check it, timing everything exactly. Bake them straight out the freezer, no need to defrost them. 

I like baking them from frozen as you can make them way in advance (like up to 2 months) leaving you free for other things on the day you are entertaining. All you need to do is pop the oven on to pre heat when you sit down for mains. Once mains are cleared you pop the desserts in the oven and while they bake you can get the plates and sides ready and serve your guests a restaurant quality dessert. I like to have a few extra just in case one or two are not prefect. 

Now this seems like an awful lot of preparation, ifs and buts - it really isn't as complicated as it seems, I just wanted to give you as much info as possible to ensure that they would end up perfect!

Chocolate fondant
Serves 6

6 metal or ceramic pudding bowls or ramekins
melted butter, for greasing
cocoa powder, for dusting

115g of butter
140g of dark chocolate
2 extra large eggs, beaten
1 extra large yolk, beaten
1 cup of castor sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (minus 2 Tbsp) of cake flour, sifted

Heat the oven to 200°C and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Brush the ramekins sparingly with melted butter and place them in the freezer to harden, brush them again and let that harden again too.

Melt the butter and chocolate on low heat a saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir, then set aside to cool a little.

In a large mixing bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale and frothy. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, little by little, beating in between. Fold in the sifted flour.

Dust the cold ramekins with coco powder. Place them on a baking tray and divide the mixture between the molds – each one ¾ full. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, until the tops have set. Remove from the oven and allow them to stand for a further 2 – 3 minutes. Get your plates and sides ready. Invert and tip out onto serving plates. Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream and fresh seasonal berries.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mini crustless quiche - so quick (and almost guilt free).

Low or no carbs seem to be all I hear about these days. But I am crazy for my carbs and shudder at the idea of cutting them out. I have however discovered a few recipes where I don't miss the pastry crust or mashed potato side at all. 

For many clients I have designed carb free, high protein recipes, which is actually pretty easy when you're a meat eater. But now my husband (the vegetarian) wants to start the low carb, high protein vibe, and I've found it pretty tough to find enough lean high protein foods without serving him egg whites morning noon and night. 

The veggies are easy of course and so far my go to lean proteins have been egg whites, fat free cottage cheese and raw vegan protein powders. I've been avoiding soya products, for various reasons. If you want to read more about the perils of soya products click here. We eat Frys as a treat but have added it into our fast food guilty pleasure category and not as part of our staple diet. 

So before this gets really boring, it hasn't been easy doing this for my veggie boy but these crustless mini quiche have a been such a win. I've taught our housekeeper to make them and it's great having them in the fridge to snack on or for a quick lunch with a salad on the side. 

Mini crustless quiche
Makes about 12 medium muffin sized quiche

150g crumbled feta or 250g of bacon, sliced and fried till crispy
1 cup of mozzarella cheese, grated
½ a cup of spinach – steamed, drained, squeezed and chopped
½ a cup of butternut – cut into small squares and steamed
¼ cup of red pepper, cut into small squares
3 large eggs
1 cup of milk
1 tsp of vegetable/chicken stock powder
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
A pinch of mixed spice
¼ tsp of salt
¼ tsp of black pepper

Grease a 12 insert muffin tin. Set your oven to 200°C and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

Crumble the feta (or fry the bacon), grate the cheese and prepare the veggies. Whisk up the egg, milk and seasoning in a container with a pouring lip so you can pour the mixture easily. Loosely fill each muffin insert with the feta/bacon and veggies. Top them off with the mozzarella. Fill each mould with the egg mixture and bake until the egg has set and is lightly golden on top, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Allow to cool before unmolding the quiches.

These quiches freeze beautifully. Re-heat in the microwave or oven.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Creamy tuna dip

For someone who eats most things the one thing I am a bit picky with is fish. I love fish if it is fresh fresh fresh and prepared with care. If there is a hint of that been standing too long fishy smell, my stomach churns. It may not necessarily be off yet, but I most certainly will be off it. 

My 100% love it, go to fish will always be good old tinned tuna. It may not be fashionable but it is something that just hits my comfort food spot. I love a tuna pasta, tuna salad, tuna mayo as a sandwich filling and tuna cream as a dip or spread. 

I taught my tuna cream recipe to a client last week and have made it for myself at home twice since then. It's quite addictive. It is great served as a snack before a dinner party or at a braai. Great to have in the fridge to snack on with carrot sticks, rice cakes or in a sandwich. And kids love! 

Tuna cream dip
Makes about a cup and a half of dip

2 x tins of tuna (240g drained weight)
1 Tbsp of chopped spring onion
1 Tbsp of capers
½ tsp of lemon zest
½ Tbsp of lemon juice
½ Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
½ Tbsp of soya sauce
1 Tbsp of chopped parsley and/or dill
4 Tbsp of mayonnaise
1 Tbsp of tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all the ingredients to a fine creamy paste. Serve with bruschetta and crudités.