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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Uzbek Plov, Beef and rice stew

Rich and delicious beef pilaf with garlic
Taste: 4 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 3 (out of 5)
Source: Inspired by varied sources, mostly by Video Culinary

- 1 kg stewing beef, cut into 5 cm cubes
- 1 kg basmati rice
- 1 kg carrots, cut into 1/2 cm thick strips
- 1/2 kg of onions, sliced into half rings
- 2 heads of garlic, whole, outer loose skin peeled off
- 200 ml cooking oil
- 1 l cold water
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- up to 1 l of boiling water
Serves 10.

1. In a large bowl, rinse the rice with cold water to wash away the starch. This will help keep the rice grains separate in the final product. You might have to rinse the rice 3-5 times, until the water is clear. Cover the rice with more cold water so that the water reaches about 3 cm above the rice and let soak for 2-3 hours. Do not empty the water until you are ready to cook the rice, or the rice might get brittle.
2. In a large Dutch oven heat the oil on very high heat until it simmers and white smoke appears above the pot. Slowly (to prevent oil from splashing) place the meat into the oil. Sprinkle meat with salt as soon as all the meat is in the pot. This is supposed to make it tender. Cook on high heat, stirring, until the meat is golden brown and a crust forms.
3. Add the onions to the meat and cook, stirring, until the onions are golden brown.
4. Add the carrots, stir, add the salt and the spices, and stir more. Add 1 liter of cold water to the pot, stir to make sure all the meat is submerged. Bring the water to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible while maintaining the simmer, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring several times throughout. At the end of the 2 hours taste the liquid for salt and spices. It should be just a little too salty, to account for the addition of the rice. Add the garlic to the stew, root side down, and let it float close to the surface, don’t submerge.
5. Boil a kettle of water. Pour the water out from the bowl of soaking rice and transfer the rice into the pot on top of the meat-carrot layer. Flatten the top of the rice carefully. Slowly add enough boiling water to the rice so that it covers the rice by 1.5-2 cm. Increase the heat to high and cook until all the water evaporates. Do not stir.
6. When there is no more water to be seen, gather the rice into a dome shape in the center of the pot. Be careful not to mix the rice with carrots and meat. With a long wooden spoon poke 5-6 holes in the rice all the way to the bottom of the pot. Cook more until the water from around the rice dome and from the holes evaporates too.
7. Reduce the heat to low. Wrap the lid in a kitchen towel or place a paper towel between the lid and the pot and cook covered for 30-40 minutes. The towel will soak in the vapor and prevent it from dripping back into the rice.
8. When the plov is cooked remove it from the heat and let stand covered for another 10 minutes. Remove the lid, carefully open up the rice layer to extract the garlic heads. Carefully mix the layers of the rice and the meat and serve with the cooked garlic on the side.

This plov takes 3 hours to cook with a lot of steps, and contains humongous amounts of oil, but the final result is really rich and delicious. Worth the time and the calories on a cold winter night.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Buttermilk Pie Bars

Custardy, light and super easy to make
Taste: 5 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 2 (out of 5)

Source: adapted from here and there

For the crust
- 150 g animal crackers
- 1/3 cup (70 g) butter, melted
For the filling
- 4 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp orange extract (or lemon extract, or omit)

1. Grease a 5'x7' pyrex pan and preheat the oven to 350F
2. Place the crackers in a food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs
3. Pour melted butter into cracker crumbs, mix well, and spread to cover the bottom of the pyrex pan
4. Mix all the filling ingredients and pour over the crumb base
5. Bake for 55 minutes or until the top is light golden and the pie is still soft but no longer liquid.

- This was a really easy recipe and worked very well the first time around. But I used 1 1/2 cups of sugar and the aftertaste in the mouth was a bit too sweet. So I will cut the sugar to 1 cup next time.
- Might be wise to check the pie after 40 minutes or so depending on the oven.

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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Salted Cucumber Pickles (NO Vinegar)

If you don't like the taste of vinegar in your pickles 
Taste: 4 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)
Source: trial and error

- 1 kg / 2 lbs of cucumbers
- 1 liter / 4 cups of boiling water
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp dill flakes
- 1 tbsp whole mustard seeds or 1/2 tbsp mustard powder
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
- a dash of cayenne
- 4-5 bay leaves

1. Leave cucumbers in cold water for 1-2 hours (this is supposed to keep them crispy).
2. Boil 1 liter of water and mix in all spices except bay leaves. While cucumbers are soaked in cold water, let the boiled water with spices cool down.
3. Cut off the tips of the cucumbers. Place cucumbers in a 2 liter / half gallon glass jar and pour the chilled water with spices over them so that all cucumbers are covered. Place bay leaves on top.
4. Loosely cover the jar with the lid and Let ferment for 1 to 3 days at room temperature. Taste the cucumbers at the end of each day. The longer they stay out the saltier they become. For me one day is usually enough.
5. When the cucumbers reach desired degree of saltiness, close the lid and refrigerate. They will keep in the fridge for months.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Bok Choy Soup

Delicious, healthy, easy and practically calorie free

Taste: 5 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)
Source: trial and error (actually, success the first time around)

- 2 lbs bok choy
- 2 liters / 8 cups water
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 1 tbsp Better than Bouillon Beef soup base (or another soup base, or another tbsp of miso)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- yogurt to add to the finished soup as desired (optional)

1. Wash the bok choy, add to a big pot with cold water and bring to a boil.
2. Place the softened bok choy with some of the water, the miso, the soup base and the spices into a blender and blend until uniform. (I actually don't add turmeric to the blender to avoid coloring the blender. I add turmeric once I return the pureed bok choy to the pot).
3. Return the bok choy to the pot (add the turmeric, if you haven't yet), bring to boil and keep simmering on medium high heat for another 10-15 minutes.
4. Serve with yogurt (1 tbsp for 2 cups of soup feels perfect to me).
5. Additional serving options: croutons, bacon, crumbled dried seaweed, sesame seeds, or whatever you like adding to your soup.

I am not a big fan of soups or of bok choy. This soup was first made on a cold winter detox day to save calories (because bok choy has only 13 calories per 100 g). But it turned out surprisingly tasty. I made it many times since. It turns out bok choy is some kind of underappreciated super food with lots of nutrients. You can google it to feel even better about using it in your recipes. But this recipe does not really need external motivation - it simply tastes great!

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Sirloin Tip Roast

Super easy and just right
Taste: 5 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)
Source: trial and error

- 3 lbs sirloin tip
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, halved

1. Preheat the oven to 425F (450F in my oven - the thermostat is off) and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and parchment paper.
2. Make 8 cuts in the roast and insert the garlic.
3. Coat the roast with salt and pepper on all sides.
4. Roast the meat at 425F for 20 minutes, then at 350F (375F in my oven) for 30 minutes, then at 300F (325F in my oven) for another 30 minutes.
5. Check roast temperature in several places. If it's around 145F - good for you, if not, turn the oven off and leave the roast in the switched off oven for another 15 minutes. At that point the temperature reached 148F and the roast was just perfect.

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Duck Breast

The best duck breast I've made so far 
Taste: 4 out of 5
Difficulty: 2 out of 5
Source: Dorie Greenspan

• 2 duck breasts, at room temperature
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 1 tbsp honey
• juice of 1 lime

1. Preheat the oven to 250F.
2. Using the point of a sharp knife, score the duck skin in a crosshatch pattern. Cut the fat layer, but try not to touch the meat. Season both sides salt and pepper.
3. Preheat a deep cooking pan or a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Using a deep pan is better because the fat will splatter. When the pan is hot, place the breasts skin side down. Cook for 8 minutes, until the skin is brown and crisp. Turn the pieces skin side up and cook for 3 minutes more.
4. Transfer the breasts to aluminum foil, wrap loosely and place on a baking sheet, Bake for 5 minutes.
5. In the meantime, pour off almost all the fat from the pot, leaving about 1-2 teaspoons in the pot. (Preserve the fat for baking potato wedges.) (you should have just a teaspoon or 2 left in the pot). Stir in the vinegar, honey and lime juice and cook for about 1 minute on medium heat.
6. When the breasts are out of the oven, add the juices from the aluminum foil to the pot, mix. Add the breasts and cook for about 30 seconds on each side.
7. Remove the breasts from the heat, slice into 1/2 inch diagonal slices, drizzle with the sauce and serve.

• It’s better to cook in a non-stick pot, otherwise the duck skin sticks to the pan and the fat splatters even more.
• When adding the honey / syrup to duck fat for the sauce, watch the pot, otherwise the sauce burns very quickly.

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Chilean Corn Beef Pie - Pastel de Choclo

Definition of Comfort Food
Source: Adopted from En Mi Cocina Hoy
Taste: 4 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 4 (out of 5)

For the beef:
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 kg / 2 lbs ground beef
- 1 cup water or beef broth
- 3 onions, diced
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp flour
For the corn mixture:
- 2 tbsp butter
- 10 cups or 1 3/4 kg frozen corn
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold milk or water
- 10 basil leaves or 1 tbsp basil paste
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/4 tbsp black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp parprika
- 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled, cut into quarters
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, pulled with fork
- 10 olives halved
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
Serves: 8-10 people

For the beef (to be prepared at least one day before serving):
1. Preheat the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onions until golden brown, stirring from time to time. About 10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan, and leave to cool.
2. In the same pan saute the beef for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spices, the salt ant the pepper and stir for another 2 minutes.
3. Add the water and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring. After the first 10 minutes add the onions. If someone in your household does not like the cooked onion texture, grind the cooled onions before adding them to the beef).
4. Remove from the heat, adjust the seasoning as needed, stir in the flour and leave to cool.
5. Cover and refrigerate or freeze if you don't plan to use it within the next day or two.

For the corn:
6. In a large pot with a thick bottom, melt the butter over medium-high heat, add the frozen corn, cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. Add milk, basil, salt, pepper, and paprika and continue to cook for 10 more minutes, stirring.
8. With a hand blender, blend the corn trying to not to go uniform, leave some chunky parts. Add the dissolved cornstarch and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It will thicken slightly.

To assemble the pie:
9. Greeze a 13x9 inch baking dish
10. Spread the beef on the bottom of the dish. On top of the beef add chicken. Above the chicken layer add the eggs and the olives. You can also add raisins.
11. Pour the corn mixture on the very top. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake at 400F in a preheated oven for 45-60 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

- This is a traditional Chilean dish. In Chile it is usually baked in clay pots, but if you don't have a large enough clay pot, a pyrex will do.
- This pie is really hearty and flavorful. It's perfect for a dinner on a colder night, but in Chile they eat it for lunch in the middle of the hot summer day, so I suppose it works for any time of day and year. Traditionally served with a salad of lettuce, onions and tomatoes.
- You can prepare all the dish in one go, it will probably take you about 1 hour, just the prep, plus one more hour to bake. But you can also prepare the different parts in advance, for example, you can prepare the meat mixture and freeze until the day of serving.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Cranberry Crunch Cookies

Gooey and crunchy cookies. Perfect with milk, coffee, or as an ice cream sandwich.
Source: slightly modified from Better Homes and Gardens
Difficulty: 2 (out of 5)
Taste: 5 (out of 5)

- 1/2 cup of margerine
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp of baking powder
- 200 g of Post Cranberry Cornflakes (or similar cereal)
Total: about 30 cookies

1. Beat the margarine in a mixer on high speed for about 1 minute to soften. Add the sugar and the vanilla extract and beat for 2 more minutes. Add the egg and beat until incorporated.
2. Mix in the flour and the baking powder just until incorporated (no more than 30 seconds, you don't want to overmix the flour).
3. Crush the cereal either with the fingers or in a food processor (5-10 pulses). It should not be powder, just smaller chunks. Add the flakes to the batter and mix.
4. Line a large baking sheet (or 2 baking sheets, if not so large) with parchment paper. Using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop out the dough onto the baking sheet. The cookies will significantly spread (to about double the area), so space them generously. Bake in an oven preheated to 350F for 10-15 minutes until the cookies start getting firm. They will remain rather pale, so no need to wait for the golden color.
5. Let the cookies cool on the sheet before eating. They can be stored in an airtight container for about a week (but you will probably finish them sooner).

The batter is a bit gooey and the cereal is crunchy, so overall you get a little bit of every texture. And the yummy taste of Cranberry Crunch. 

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hot Milk Cake

Soft moist rich custardy cake, pretty fun to make
Source: slightly modified from Taste of Home
Difficulty: 2 (out of 5)
Taste: 5 (out of 5)

- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups of sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
- 2 1/4 tsp of baking powder
- 1 1/4 cups of milk
- 140 g of butter or margarine, cubed
Total: 16 servings (9x13 inch pan)

1. Beat the eggs on high-speed for 5-6 minutes, add the sugar and the vanilla extract and continue beating for another 2-3 minutes on high.
2. Mix the flour and baking powder, and gradually add to the eggs with the mixer on low speed, until just incorporated.
3. Heat the milk and the butter on medium heat until the butter melts. Gradually add to the eggs and flour continuing mixing on medium speed.
4. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 35 to 50 minutes or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
5. Let the cake cool before serving. Nice to serve with whipped or custard cream and fruit.

This is a very soft, moist cake. The original recipe had 2 cups of sugar, and I think that turned out a bit too sweet, so I will try 1.5 cups next time, as listed here.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Banana Bread Muffins

Really simple recipe, moist and fluffy muffins, great way to use those old black bananas
Source: family recipe
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)
Taste: 5 (out of 5)

- 50 g margarine, melted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda (pour 1 tsp lemon extract or vinegar over the soda and mix until all bubbles up, to prevent soda taste)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp milk
- 2 bananas, smashed with a fork
Total: 6 muffins

1. Mix eggs, sugar, salt, margarine, milk, flour, baking powder, and bananas (in that order). You can do all the mixing with the same fork you used to smash the bananas. No need for a mixer here.
2. Pour into 6 muffin tins (I used silicon, this way there is no need to line them or oil them). Bake for 30 minutes in an over preheated to 350F (or 380 for my oven - it wants to feel special).
3. Let the muffins cool before removing from the muffin tins.

- These are very moist, light and not overly sweet. Great for breakfast or snack or picnic.
- The prep is less than 10 minutes. The longest part is pouring the batter into the muffin tins.
- They also freeze really well.
- If you double the recipe, you can use a 9x13 inches baking pan.

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