MOROCCAN SPICED CHICKEN PIE with MINT & CORIANDER SAUCE

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Pie WatermarkedThis typical Middle Eastern pie is crammed with lovely contrasting flavours, and a main dish well worth the effort!  It looks complicated, but it’s really not – put on some good music, and enjoy the experience!  If you want to spread this preparation over two days as I did, then you can dry-roast the spices, toss the meat mixture together raw, and keep chilled in the fridge until you’re ready to put it all together; then, cook the meat mix, wilt the spinach and toss into the meat mixture, along with the roasted spices.  When you’re ready to bake it, follow the assembly directions as below.

MOROCCAN SPICED CHICKEN PIE

 

1) Dry-Roasted Spices

2  tsp. coriander seeds

2  tsp. cumin seeds

1  tsp. paprika, plus extra for dusting

½  tsp. ground cinnamon

140  gr. whole blanched almonds

140  gr. pistachios, shelled

In a pan, dry-roast the spices and nuts together, stirring regularly.  It only take a couple minutes – be careful not to allow them to burn.  This process brings out the flavours.  Set them aside to cool.

2) Wilted Spinach

A dash of olive (or coconut) oil to sauté

225  gr. fresh spinach

A dash of salt and pepper

Sauté the fresh spinach leaves with a bit of oil and salt and pepper; pour into a bowl and set aside for now.

3) Meat Mixture

2-3  shallots, quartered

4  cm gingerroot, finely chopped

1  tsp. ground cumin

2  whole garlic cloves

A dash of olive (or coconut) oil to sauté

900  gr. chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks

75  gr. dried cranberries

6  Tbs. clear honey

400  gr. canned chickpeas, drained & rinsed (either as-is, or blend into a paste)

3  Tbs. lemon juice

4  Tbs. fresh coriander, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).  Sauté the shallots, ginger, garlic and cumin together with the chicken; when the meat is nearly done, add the remaining ingredients and heat through, adding the roasted spices and the wilted spinach, tossing well to mix.  Set all aside while you prepare the pastry.

4) Pastry

100  gr. butter or coconut oil

2 flaky rectangular pastry doughs

A bit of cream to brush

Grease a rectangular casserole dish and line with one of the rectangular pastry doughs.  Poke with a fork a few times.  Pour in the filling mixture, and top with the second dough; pinch the edges together and trim off any excess dough.  Brush the top of the dough with a bit of cream, and then pierce several places with a fork.

Bake at 200°C /400°F for 35-45 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.  Serve with the Mint & Coriander Sauce.

MINT & CORIANDER SAUCE

Moroccan Mint & Coriander Yogurt Sauce Watermarked

100  gr. low – fat Greek yoghurt

50 gr. Plain yoghurt

1-2 mint tea bags – contents only, or 2 sprigs fresh mint, leaves very finely chopped

3 sprigs fresh coriander, finely chopped

¼ C. Red bell pepper, finely diced

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Prepare the ingredients and toss all together, stirring thoroughly to blend.  Serve as a side sauce, chilled.

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Vegetarian Lasagna

It’s been years since I’ve made traditional meat-based lasagna; currently we eat basically vegetarian because the young woman living with us is vegetarian, and it’s practical and healthy; there are so many great alternatives out there on the market today that meat really isn’t necessary to any dish – it’s just a matter of preference.  Here’s my recipe for vegetable lasagna; it can be made with ground beef by the carnivores or ground Quorn by the vegetarians, or with neither… the vegetable mixture is so good that you won’t miss meat!

Quorn Lasagne 2Veggie Lasagna

Meat(less) Mixture:

~450 gr. ground Quorn or ground beef (either are optional)

1 onion, peeled & finely chopped

1 aubergine (eggplant), diced into small cubes

1 zucchini, diced into small cubes

1 tin of stewed, chopped tomatoes

Italian spices, salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the vegetables; sauté the onion in a bit of your usual oil – I use either olive oil or coconut oil.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients, and cook until the aubergine and zucchini are nearly done.  Set aside while you make the sauce.

Pre-heat the oven now to 200°C (400°C) and put the oven rack on the lower to middle rungs.

 

Bechamel Sauce with Cheese:

1/2 C. Pre-made Bechamel Sauce

~2 C. milk (or more)

200 gr. grated cheese (your choice)

Place the sauce mixture in a sauce pan, and with a whisk, whisk in  ~1/4 C. milk to a smooth paste.  Bring gradually to a boil, stirring constantly and gradually adding milk.  The flour in the mixture will thicken gradually.  When the sauce has reached a good consistency – a bit thick, not soupy – stir in the grated cheese and remove from the stove.  If you feel you’ve not made enough sauce for 2 layers of lasagna, you can add a bit of Ricotta cheese, stirring it in well, to expand the amount of sauce.

Additional Ingredients:

Lasagna noodles (dry; not necessary to pre-boil them)

200 gr. grated cheese

~1/2 C. breading crumbs

To Layer:

Spoon 1/2 of the meat(less) mixture into the base of a rectangular oven-proof deep glass dish, spreading to coat the bottom of the dish.  Top with a layer of lasagna noodles (single-layer, not overlapping); spread 1/2 of the bechamel sauce over the noodles, covering all the way to the edges.  Repeat these layers once more.  Sprinkle the top with grated cheese, and then top with a sprinkle of the breading crumbs.  Bake at 200°C (400°F) for ~30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

If you like wine, serve with a red wine such as Pinot Noir for a robust taste, or Chianti for a slightly fruitier addition.

 

 

Beef & Feta Cabbage Rolls

Recently my husband requested Cabbage Rolls with Feta and ground beef; I couldn’t find a good recipe, so I came up with this.  It’s a wee bit of work, but well worth the time!  You could mix up the components the day before if you wanted, to save time on the day.  It’s worthy of being a guest menu, especially when served with a robust red wine.  As a side dish you could serve green beans or another steamed vegetable.

Cabbage RollsBeef & Feta Cabbage Rolls

500 gr. ground beef

1-2 packages Feta cheese, diced

cumin, salt, pepper to taste

lemon juice

1 onion, chopped

5-6 fresh mushrooms, sliced

2-3 C. rice, boiled

Saute the onions and mushrooms, adding the meat and browning.  Spice to taste, then toss in the Feta to melt into the mixture.  Set aside to cool, stirring in the rice whenever it is ready.

Savoy Cabbage

1 head Savoy Cabbage

You can prepare the cabbage one of two ways:  Either blanch the entire head in a large pot of boiling water, or do as I did:  Carefully separate the individual leaves, wash them, and “shave” down the thick spines to make them more flexible once softened.  Quickly microwave the leaves in batches (30 seconds to 1 minute on full power); this will make them pliable to roll.  Let them cool down a bit before handling.

250 gr. Grated cheese of your choice (Parmesan, Gruyére, etc.) to sprinkle on top just before baking

~1/2 – 1 C. Bread crumbs to sprinkle on top for an extra crunch (optional)

 

This next recipe is a basic white sauce; you can either use this or your own recipe, or mix up a batch of Make-Ahead Sauce.

BECHAMEL SAUCE (White Sauce)

6 Tbs. Butter

8 Tbs. Flour

4 C. (1 L) milk

Salt & white pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan over moderate heat.  Stir in the flour & cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until it has lost the floury aroma.  Do not allow to brown.  Add the milk gradually, stirring to dissolve any lumps that have formed.  Heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce boils & becomes thick.  Spice to taste.

 

To Assemble:

Taking each leave, spoon in a bit of the meat mixture in the centre and roll the leave around it, laying the leaf seam-side down in a casserole dish.  Repeat until the casserole dish is full; any leftover meat can either be saved for a later meal or spread out atop the cabbage rolls.  Pour in the prepared White Sauce, and then top with the grated cheese. Place in a preheated oven at 200°C (400°F) for ~45-60 minutes, or until the cheese / bread crumb topping browns nicely.

Serve with a dry red wine.

Copycat Ranch Dressing Dry Mix & Dressing Recipe

For those of you who live in the States, you may be able to go out to the store and buy a large container of this; but if you read the ingredients list, and look up those chemical codes, you might be surprised to find out just how little that concoction resembles anything your grandmother would have recognized as “food.”  I prefer to mix it myself; then at least I know what I’m eating!  If you want to go all natural, grow and dry your spices yourself (here in Switzerland there are no added preservatives to most spices I buy), and try to find powdered milk that is just that – milk that has been dehydrated and pulverized, with no added sugar or chemicals.

I keep a large container of this at hand; it makes a great salad dressing (obviously), but can also be used in Bisquick biscuits, soups, or any meal that wants a quick zing added.  Mix it up and keep it in an air-tight container.  To mix up the dressing, make sure you use a generous-sized bottle as it will thicken, and you will likely need to add additional milk to bring it to the consistency you want.

Ranch Dressing MixRanch Dressing Mix

½ C. powdered milk (unsweetened!)

1 Tbs. dried parsley, crushed

1 tsp. dried dill weed

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. dried onion flakes

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp. ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend at high speed until it forms a consistently smooth, fine powder. Store in an air-tight container.

Ranch DressingRanch Dressing

Combine

1 Tbs. mix

1 C. mayonnaise

1 C. milk; if you want a buttermilk taste, add 1 Tbs. lemon juice to the cup of milk.

Stir well.  It will thicken up because of the powdered milk, so make sure you use a large container or bottle.  If you want a “Lite” dressing,  I assume you’re smart enough to figure out the changes to ingredients on your own… 😉

Otherwise use 1 Tbs. in any recipe calling for an envelope of ranch dressing mix.

Southwest Beef Empanada & a Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Photo Credit:  Betty Crocker

Photo Credit: Betty Crocker

I’ll be making these once again this week.  This recipe was originally from Betty Crocker; one of my pet peeves is product placement in recipes; this is the 21st century, and bloggers are global which means that many people do not have access to Uncle Doohickey’s Gobbers, and have no idea how much “1 package” is!  When it comes to recipe ingredients, I’m a scratchaholic.  The Bisquick is a clone recipe I’ve already posted, and here you’ll find a good recipe for taco seasoning mix; there are hundreds out there on the web, but this is one I’ve used and like.

SOUTHWEST BEEF EMPANADAS

FILLING:

1  lb. (450 gr.) lean ground beef

1 oz. (30 gr.) taco seasoning mix

2/3  C. water

2-3 small potatoes, finely diced

8 oz. (225 gr.) carrots, finely sliced or diced

1  Tbs. dried minced onion (or 2 Tbs. fresh, finely chopped)

 

DOUGH:

4½  C. Bisquick mix 

1  C. boiling water

 

Heat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with baking paper, or grease with butter or oil of choice.

In a pan, sauté the diced potatoes and carrots in a splash of coconut oil or olive oil a minute, then add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until done; drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix, the water, & onion. Reduce heat to medium; cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a bowl stir the Bisquick mix and boiling water together until a dough forms. On a surface sprinkled with Bisquick mix, roll the dough in the mix to coat; knead. Divide dough into 6 balls. Pat or roll each ball into 7-inch (18 cm) round. Place on the baking sheet. Spoon about ½ C. beef mixture onto one half of each round. Moisten the edge of each round with water and fold over the beef mixture, pressing the edges with a fork to seal. Cut 3 small slits into the top of each crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake at 400°F (200°C) for 18 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

 

TACO SEASONING MIX

In a small bowl, combine the following ingredients:

 

¼ tsp. onion powder

2 tsp. paprika

½ tsp. cayenne pepper

4 Tbs. flour

1 ½ tsp. powdered beef bouillon

½ tsp. sugar

3 tsp. dried chopped onion

2 ½ tsp. salt

4 tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. garlic powder

 

Mix well, and store in a sealed jar.  This should be enough for ~25 tacos.

Afghani Mourgh (Afghani Lemon & Garlic Chicken) with Mint Couscous

Afghani Mourgh & Mint CouscousThis is a recipe I made on Sunday, and it was delicious!  This is a great recipe for trying out the Salted Lemons, and it was a success.  If you’re like me and only come up with these glorious cooking schemes a few hours before you need it for dinner, you can skip the overnight marinating, and just get it marinating as soon as you can.  It’s a simple dish, refreshing, and a nice change of pace!

TIP:  If you don’t have any fresh mint on hand, take a bag or two of peppermint tea (after all, it’s dried mint in a bag!), tear them open and pour them in.  I used both fresh mint, and 1 bag each (for the meat, and the couscous) for the meal.

Serve this with fresh plain yogurt, and hot peppermint tea.

Afghani Mourgh (Afghani Lemon & Garlic Chicken)

2 lg Cloves garlic

1 Tbs. finely chopped Salted Lemons (OR:  ½ tsp. Salt plus Juice & pulp of 1 large fresh lemon, 3 to 4 Tbs.)

2 C. Plain, whole-milk yogurt

black pepper (amount to taste)

2 lg Whole chicken breasts, about 2 pounds (boneless and skinless).  You can either use them whole, or slice them into strips.

a small handful of fresh mint sprigs, washed and finely chopped (leaves and stem)

1/2 an onion, finely diced

 

Chop up the salted lemons into half-pea-sized bits.  Any juice that comes with it can be poured into the marinating bowl, and add a bit more from the preserves jar if needed.  If you haven’t yet made the salted lemons, then simply add the salt and lemon as above.  Finely chop a couple cloves of garlic, and stir all together.  For a finer mixture, mash them together with the back of a spoon until you have a paste.

Add the plain yogurt & pepper, then the chopped peppermint and onion.

Skin the chicken breasts, remove all visible fat & separate the halves, or slice as you like it.

Turn the meat into the marinade, and stir until well-coated. Cover the bowl tightly & refrigerate. If you thought of it ahead of time, allow it to marinate at least overnight, up to a day & a half. Turn when you think of it.  Otherwise, let it marinade as long as possible.

To cook, remove breasts from marinade & wipe off all but a thin film. Broil or grill about 6 inches from the heat for 6 to 8 minutes a side, or until thoroughly cooked. Meat will brown somewhat but should not char. Once the meat is slightly brown, pour in the marinade and allow it to cook down somewhat.

Serves 2-4

Mint Couscous

2 C. uncooked couscous

1/2 an onion, finely diced

a small handful of fresh mint sprigs and leaves, washed and finely chopped

2 to 2 1/2 C. boiling water

 

In a heat-proof bowl, pour in the uncooked couscous, then stir in the onion and mint; add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour in the boiling water, stir quickly, and cover.  When the liquid is absorbed, fluff the couscous with a fork and test; if it needs more boiling water, or flavouring, adjust accordingly.

Swiss Cholera – Oberwalliser Lauchkuchen (Valais Leek Pie)

CholeraThis traditional Swiss recipe got its dubious name most likely during the cholera epidemics of the early 19th century; unwilling to leave the house, they used what they had on hand, packing it into a pie and baking it.  An educated guess is that, especially up in the Alps where technology was slow to come and even slower to be accepted, people were baking these either in their stone or clay bread ovens.  The apples add a nice contrast to the leeks and ham, and a good cheese makes all the difference in the world!  Raclette cheese is recommended for the reason that it’s quite a creamy melting cheese, but any good-quality cheese will work as well – Appenzeller, Gruyere, Emmentaler, etc.

Swiss Cholera

1 large onion, finely diced

300 gr. Leeks (3-4 stalks), halved lengthwise and ringed

60 gr. Ham, finely chopped

Nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste

250 gr. (6-8 med.) potatoes, boiled, chopped

2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped

150 Raclette cheese, or any good cheese, grated or diced

butter and flour for the baking form

500 gr. Pie crust dough (enough for a bottom and top crust)

1 egg yolk for brushing the top dough

Traditional Method:

Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F) Prepare the vegetables.  Saute the ham, adding spices to taste, then add the onion and leek, then add the chopped potatoes and apples; stir well, remove from heat.  Just before pouring the mixture into the prepared bottom crust, mix the grated cheese into the pan well.

Butter and flour your chosen baking form (round, or casserole), and then lay the bottom crust in.  Pour in the mixture, spreading out and topping with the top crust.  Pinch the edges together, slice away any extra dough, and puncture the top dough with a knife or fork to allow steam to escape.  Brush with the egg yolk, and bake for ~35-45 minutes.

My Method:

Preheat the oven.  Instead of sauteeing the vegetables before baking, I prepare the vegetables as described in the ingredients list, then toss them together with the grated cheese and spices before pouring it all into the prepared bottom crust.  I add a wee bit of milk, but it’s not really necessary.  Top with the top crust, pinch it together and trim away the extra dough, then bake as above.  In the boiling of the potatoes, I also added a few carrots to add a bit of colour; I boiled them with the potatoes, and chopped them both to large bite-sized bits once they were cool enough to handle.

En Guete!

Prep:  30 minutes  /  Bake:  45 minutes  /  Total:  75 minutes