I’m sure you remember my Mexican trip last month. Of course you do because I couldn’t stop harping about it. (Sorry!) Well, one of the many gifts bestowed on us during this trip was a Mexican cookbook. I know right? How lovely.
I thought I’d try out one of the recipes – Sweet and Spicy Empanadas – with a few adjustments (addition of cayenne pepper – c’mon, you can’t call it spicy without a hit of hot and fiery, and some Worcestershire sauce because I felt it needed the extra flavour and tang). The beef mix turned out totally delicious. I could just eat it on its own…but wrapped in pastry? Divine!
Empanadas are commonly found in the South American street food scene. It’s usually eaten as an appetiser, but can be served as a main with various fillings from cheese to veggies to meat or seafood.
The filling is really easy to prepare and assembling the pastry was very therapeutic (well, for me at least – I had my ‘cave time’) The chopped nuts was an unexpected ingredient and I thought the added crunch was brilliant. I served the empanadas with a side of tangy chunky salsa which balanced out the dish really well.
This one’s a keeper!
Sweet & Spicy Beef Empanadas
50og ground beef
1 onion chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
400g canned chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup sherry
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsbp vinegar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 tbsp chopped toasted almonds
1 spring onion, chopped
salt & pepper to season
2 sheets of puff pastry
1. Preheat oven to 200C. In a hot skillet, brown onions and beef in a splash of olive oil. Once done, drain excess fat.
2. Add in sherry and garlic and cook till sherry has evaporated.
3. Add in sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and tomatoes. Cook till the tomato sauce is thickened and there is hardly any liquids.
4. Add almonds and spring onions, stir through and set aside to cool.
6. Roll out puff pastry, cut into 5 inch circles. Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of beef onto pastry. Fold in half and press sides to seal. Crimp the sealed sides with a fork.
7. Pierce top of the pastry with fork a few times, then brush with an egg wash (beat 1 egg with a splash of milk). Bake for 20 – 22 minutes till golden brown.
1 large beef tomato, cut in chunks
1 avocado, cut in chunks
1/4 red onion
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
5 basil leaves, sliced into fine strips
Mix all of the ingredients through, set aside in the refrigerator to chill.
Just taking a break from my greek food trail. Here’s a recipe which I recently tried and loved. Bonus feature – worked very well in my slow-cooker, which meant chucking in the good stuff in the morning before work, and returning to find a simmering pot of five-spiced infused, melt-in-the-mouth braised beef. Fab!
This dish is similar in flavour to the commonly found braised beef brisket in Chinese restaurants. Often served in a claypot or as a single meal with steamed rice. The base of this dish is a fragrantly spiced beef stock – seasoned with soy sauce and the wonderful natural juices of braised beef, ginger and spring onions.
Wonderful and warming – perfect for a cool evening.
Slow-cooked Chinese style braised beef
Adapted from BBC Good Food
- 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- good thumb-size piece fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
- 1 bunch spring onion, sliced
- 1 red chilli , deseeded and thinly sliced
- 1½ kg braising beef, cut into large pieces
- 2 tbsp plain flour , well seasoned
- 2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
- 2 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 500ml beef stock
- Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan. Fry the garlic, ginger, onions and chilli for 3 mins until soft and fragrant. Tip onto a plate. Toss the beef in the flour, add 1 tbsp more oil to the pan, then brown the meat in batches, adding the final tbsp oil if you need to. It should take about 5 mins to brown each batch properly.
- Add the five-spice to the pan, tip in the gingery mix, then fry for 1 min until the spices are fragrant. Add the sugar, then the beef and stir until combined. Keep the heat high, then splash in the wine or sherry, scraping up any meaty bits.
- Pour the beef mix in the slow cooker (which should be heated up by now), add in the soy and stock (it won’t cover the meat completely), bring to a boil on high then, switch to a low setting and cook for at least 6 hours.
Many people are wary of using the slow cooker because of the fear of leaving an electrical appliance switched on at home. The slow cooker, as its name implies, cooks on a low heat and in my own experience has never over-boiled or spilled or caused any hazards. Just remember to switch it to medium/low before you leave the house. It’s easy and convenient and produces the best slow-cooked meals.
First Brazilian cheese bread, now some Argentinean action in a homemade chimichurri sauce. Maybe my sub-conscious is telling me I need to visit South America soon? Oooh…that would be very nice!
The truth is – I saw Valentine Warner on a BBC cooking show recently grilling a juicy slab of sirloin and accompanying that with an easy chimichurri sauce. I drooled. Hubby drooled. So I thought I should just stop drooling and get in the kitchen to re-create the meal.
And that I did…grilled sirloin steaks – check! Side salad – check! Brazilian cheese bread – check! Chimichurri sauce – check!
When I googled ‘chimichurri’, I found three interesting etymologies for the word chimichurri (extracted from Wikipedia, where else??):
One story claims that it comes from ‘Jimmy McCurry’, an Irishman who is said to have first prepared the sauce. He was marching with the troops of General Belgrano in the 19th century, sympathetic to the cause of Argentine independence. The sauce was popular and the recipe was passed on. However, ‘Jimmy McCurry’ was difficult for the native people to say. Some sources claim Jimmy’s sauce’s name was corrupted to ‘chimichurri’, while others say it was changed in his honor.
Other similar stories involve Jimmy Curry, an English meat importer; a Scot, James C. Hurray, travelling with gauchos; and an English family in Patagonia overheard by the group of Argentinians that were with them while saying “give me the curry”. All the stories share an English speaking colonist and the corruption of names or words by the local population.
The Argentinian gourmet Miguel Brasco claims that the word chimichurri originated when British were taken prisoner after England tried to invade the Spanish colony of Argentina. The prisoners asked for condiment for their food mixing english, aboriginal and Spanish (castilian) words. Che-mi-curry stands for “che mi salsa” (dame condimento) or “give me curry”. Later “che-mi-curry” corrupted to chimichurri.
I know…’Give me curry’ = ‘chimichurri’?? I don’t know if I buy that.
Whatever it is, here’s the recipe for Valentine’s chimichurri – it was all garlicky, vinegary with a slight kick from the chilli. Went beautifully with the juicy steaks. Delicious!
Forget about smooching after though, the garlic was rather lethal.
I was supposed to have a healthy tofu dinner on Saturday night. Well, what can I say – that didn’t quite pan out. I was not in the mood for tofu, I was not in the mood to cook and I really felt like sinking my teeth into a big, juicy hunk of beef patty in between toasted sesame seed buns.
Started by three Kiwis in Battersea in 2001, the GBK chain has since sprouted all over the UK and very conveniently, there’s one within walking distance to my home.
Oh my, oh my, tough choices to make. The GBK menu consists of a 100% Aberdeen Angus beef section, a chicken section, a specialty section and a veggie section. I knew before I stepped in that I was going for the angus – so that made things a lot easier to begin with.
After much umm-ing and ahh-ing I ended up going for the Habanero burger – hot and spicy sauce, mozzarella, salad and mayo. I expected the habenero sauce to be more intense and with a more tangy, peppery flavour but it turned out to be more of a sweet and spicy chilli sauce. Still yummy though. The mozzarella only made an appearance halfway through, but I didn’t care. I had one drippy, messy burger to contend with and I was happy.
Chunky GBK fries – I’m in carb heaven. Super thick cut fries, hot and crisp dipped into smoked chilli mayo. Need I say more?
Hubby picked out the Kiwi burger – a very typical burger from down under, and well in this case, from NZ. Beef patty, fried egg, cheese, beetroot and pineapple. It made for one handsome looking burger. I had a little yolk-envy looking at it…all that gooey egg yolk…mmmm…
What better way to wash down a ginormous burger with a humongous milk shake? The GBK shakes are sweet, thick and very big. I was glad I didn’t get one for myself (just sneaked a couple sips from the hubs), because by the time I finished my burger, I was ready to explode or have a snooze or more likely both. Either way, I was totally satisfied with my non-tofu dinner.
Yay to burger joints that are within decent walking distance to my lazy bum on the couch!
Korean food to me is always about kimchi and hot and spicy goodness. I love it. There’s also another popular Korean dish called bulgogi – which is namely marinated meat grilled on a hot plate. Nothing spicy about it at all but just as wonderful. The thinly sliced sirloin, pork or chicken is marinated in a sweet soy based sauce, then either grilled or pan fried. Grilling the meat creates caramelisation and the blackened bits are the best! However you do risk smoking the entire kitchen…unless you’re blessed with a backyard and a nice outdoor grill. (I live in a top floor one-bedroom mews flat in London – tough luck on the backyard!)
Pan frying the marinated meat is commonplace as well – even in restaurants. I find that with pan frying, instead of the caramelised bits, you get a bonus syrupy sauce that is excellent drizzled on steamed rice.
To make this a one dish meal, I normally do a quick stir fry of bean sprouts with minced garlic and sesame oil. No seasoning is required as the beef and all its glorious sauce will be plated right over the sprouts. Key thing to remember is not to overcook the sprouts – keep ‘em crunchy.
I’ve made the marinade at home before and it’s simple enough, here’s a recipe – but you can also buy the bottled stuff which makes life far easier.
450g thinly sliced beef (I use the pre-sliced beef that’s meant for hot pots, which can be found in asian groceries)
1 small bottle of bulgogi marinade
300g bean sprouts
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Spring onion for garnishing
Marinade the beef with half the bottle of the marinade. Cover and let it sit for at least an hour.
In a hot wok, drizzle some sesame oil, add the minced garlic, fry till fragrant, add the sprouts and stir fry for two minutes.
Remove and plate the sprouts in the serving dish.
Heat a little bit of cooking oil to the wok, add the beef and stir fry for about five to seven minutes till the meat is cooked. If you prefer to have more of a sauce, add the remaining marinade to the beef half way through cooking.
Dish the meat and all that wonderful sauce on top of the cooked sprouts. Garnish with spring onions. Serve with a bowl of steamed rice. Yum yum…
Growing up in Southeast Asia, chilli simply meant chilli peppers. So as kid, when I read books where people were eating a hot bowl of chilli, I used to think they were crazy! It was only when I was in high school did I find out what eating a bowl of chilli really referred to.
According to an old South-western American Indian legend, the first documented recipe for chilli con carne came from a beautiful Spanish nun – Sister Mary of Agreda. However, according to Spanish missionaries, Sister Mary never left Spain! So, in fact, no one really knows how this dish originated but it is a dish most embraced by Texans. In fact, the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson claims this: “Chilli concocted outside of Texas is usually a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing. One of the first things I do when I get home to Texas is to have a bowl of red. There is simply nothing better.”
Some people are big fans of chilli huh? To me, it’s a good, hearty stew of meat and beans. Very comforting on a cold day but it’s something I would only make once in a while, and probably only in winter.
I tried my hand at making chilli the other day. It’s a simple task of browning the mince and onions and chucking everything else in the slow cooker. I used (and modified) this recipe that is written specifically for a slow cooker.
Result: I loved it. It was rich with the chunkiness of the cooked beans and sweetness from the tomatoes. It could have done with a bigger spice kick though – more cumin and chilli powder next time! Instead of sour cream, I topped the chilli with guacamole which gave a nice, creamy finish to the dish.