Monthly Archives: June 2013

Quick and Easy Pasta

Pasta Ingredients-0030-2

What I love about this pasta dish is its simplicity. Easy to make, tasty and quicker than ordering a take out. Whether it’s dining al fresco or making a quick meal for a very hungry husband coming back from a 20km run, pasta is a great convenience food and store cupboard ingredient. Take a few simple ingredients like cherry tomatoes, garlic, chilli flakes and fresh herbs, tossed together to make a quick sauce in less time than it takes to boil water for the pasta.

Pasta Ingredients-0044

Whenever I can I love using fresh herbs, but soon my lovely pots of fresh oregano and thyme will succumb to Bahrain’s summer heat and I will have to start all over again 😦 and plant new herbs when the weather cools down. I also keep dried oregano and thyme in the store cupboard and use these when fresh herbs are not available.

Pasta Ingredients-

Did a little DIY and painted some old boards for a different background for my food photography, I must admit I wasn’t very adventurous with the colour. Thought I might make a mess of everything, so erring on the side of caution choose an off white colour. Hopefully I will be more courageous next time and try and paint a more colourful board, like this lovely distressed wooden board.

Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes, Chilli and Fresh Herbs

Ingredients:

  • 250g dried spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 crushed chilli flakes
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 2 tablespoon of fresh oregano leaves
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped or remove the leaves if the stems are woody
  • sea salt and freshly ground back pepper, to taste
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve

How to make: Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, until firm to the bite. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the garlic, chilli flakes, cherry tomatoes, fresh oregano and thyme and cook for about a minute and a half or until the tomatoes have softened and released some of their juices. Season with some sea salt and black pepper. Drain the pasta and add to the tomato mixture, toss together, check seasoning. Serve immediately with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, if desired. Serves 2.

Mojito Cocktail or Mocktail

mojito-0343-2The seasonal forty day north wind usually keeps June somewhat cooler and speeds the ripening of dates on the palm trees. Summer temperatures will soar and reading 45 degrees celsius and up on a car thermometer leaves you feeling drained and rather hot. Whether it’s for relaxation or re-hydration, cool refreshing drinks are always welcome and two of my favourite summer drinks are a mojito and a nojito… a mojito without the alcohol.

mojito-0239While waiting patiently for my lime tree to start producing fruit (I do use the leaves), I love using the small flavorsome limes that grow locally, even touching them perfumes your fingers with their wonderful scent. Also, fresh mint is so accessible here and the herbs spearmint flavour is used often in my cooking.

Making a mojito into a cocktail or a mocktail is up to you, however, extracting the flavour from the mint and lime is the “key,” so a bit of muddling is needed. Using the whole lime is important, the juice and rind have different flavours and you want all those lovely oils from the rind, as well as using the juice. Bruising the mint leaves extracts the oils, chopping the mint leaves and adding to the drink will not achieve the same results… muddling everything together is the best way of extracting all that lime and mint goodness! 

mojito-0258-2

Now I don’t have a specially assigned muddler but I do have a spurtle which I have used more times (up-side down) for making mojitos/nojitos than stirring porridge!  You could use a large pestle and mortar if you were making up a few mojitos/nojitos, muddle together the limes, mint leaves and sugar before dividing into each glass.

mojito-0304-3

I prefer to use chilled bottled sparkling water and not canned soda water for these drinks. When muddling I like to use a fine-grained sugar which dissolves quicker. The sugar also creates some friction and helps extract more flavour from the mint and lime. If I make a mojito/nojito for others I keep the taste on the sharper side and serve a small bowl of powdered sugar on the side, should anyone need to stir in a tad more sweetness to their drink. The recipe is for one serving but you can make as many as you wish and adjust the recipe according to your taste. Making up a mojito or nojito is so easy and the flavours are so clean, delicious and refreshing. I do hope you try a bit of muddling over the summer.

Mojito or Nojito

Ingredients:

  • 12 large fresh mint leaves
  • 2 small limes cut into quarters, remove the pips
  • 2 or 3 teaspoons white caster sugar
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of white rum (optional)
  • chilled sparkling water

How to make: Place the mint leaves and lime quarters into a tall sturdy glass. Add the sugar and use a muddler (you might have to improvise here) to crush the mint and lime together to release the juice and oils from the lime and mint. Add the ice cubes and white rum (if using), pour in the sparkling water to fill the glass. Stir with a swizzle stick and serve immediately.

Creamy Coconut Milk – Homemade

Coconut Milk-0054-2If you have subscribed to Food and Tools you might be feeling a sense of “Déjà Vu”…  I’ve seen this post before! Yes you have! I never knew blog posts could disappear and I have absolutely no idea how that happened. It did bring to my attention that some older posts have some broken links and missing photographs, so it seems I have a little housework to do. Maybe it happened when I switched themes! Thankfully I had most of this post saved… always backup EVERYTHING!

This post was also part of the February photography challenge over at Simone’s blog JungleFrog Cooking and the theme, Homemade… making a homemade recipe from scratch. My first introduction to fresh coconut milk was in Thailand some years back and seeing how easy the process of extracting fresh coconut milk from grated coconut was, encouraged me to make coconut milk at home. It’s so easy to grab a tin of coconut milk (maybe not so easy to find a good quality brand) from the store cupboard, but there is a great sense of culinary pride when you make your own coconut milk… give it a try.

Making delicious creamy coconut milk at home is easy but cracking the hard shell of the coconut might be the most difficult part and result in a few painful mishaps!  If you have a supermarket (Lulu and Geant in Riffa) that grates fresh coconut it might be a good idea to avail of this service. Homemade coconut milk means no additives, stabilizers or salt and it’s dairy free. When selecting a coconut, gentle shake and listen for the sound of liquid sloshing around inside, no sound or very little means the coconut has cracks, leakages or old and dried out.

Coconut reminds me of Halloween and as a child I have memories of myself desperately trying to pry the coconut flesh from the shell with a dinner knife, stabbing myself a few times in the process. Placing a coconut (cracked and water drained) in a preheated oven on moderate heat for about 15 minutes helps loosen the coconut flesh, making it easier to pry away from the shell… a tip I could have done with years ago! Although you can complete the process of making coconut milk by hand, some kitchen tools make it easier. To grate the coconut flesh use an electric coconut scraper, the fine side of a grating blade on a food processor or a manual grater. Using a blender to blend the grated coconut flesh with hot water  helps extract more of the oils, resulting in a creamier milk with more flavor. You can also soak the grated coconut flesh in the hot water and when cool, massage the coconut flesh with your hands for about three minutes before straining. Using a cheesecloth bag or nut milk bag makes it easier to strain and squeeze the coconut milk from the grated coconut flesh.Home-made Coconut Milk

On standing, the strained coconut milk separates and the coconut cream rises to the top. If you only need the coconut cream for a particular recipe, leave the coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. The coconut cream on top will have completely solidified (will soften again at room temperature), making it easy to remove, leaving behind a light coconut milk.  When making coconut milk you can experiment with the grated coconut and water ratios to make a consistency you like. Use the coconut milk or cream to whip up some tasty coconut desserts like a coconut and date dipping sauce or  chilli coconut broth with caramelized fresh pineapple. Use coconut milk or cream in curries, sauces, soups, smoothies, custards, ice creams, rice dishes, bread and cake making… the list is quite endless. Grated coconut can be frozen so its handy to keep a few bags in the freezer.

Coconut Mlk-LRE-0179

Creamy Coconut Milk

Ingredients:

  • 1 coconut ( 260g when grated)
  • hot water (used 260g of hot water)

Note: Depending on how many coconuts you use, weigh the grated coconut flesh and use the same weight in water. Based on the above weights I extracted 350ml of creamy coconut milk. On leaving the coconut milk to separate and solidify, the coconut cream (when removed) weighed 120g, leaving behind 230ml of light coconut milk

How to make: If using a whole coconut; Preheat the oven to moderate temperature. Holding the coconut securely in one hand, held over a sink ( which will catch the water), whack the coconut along the middle with the back-end of a heavy chefs knife or cleaver. You may have to repeat this step a few more times to break the coconut in half. Place the coconut into the oven for fifteen minutes, remove from the oven and cool before handling. Pry the flesh away from the shell using a knife and grated the coconut flesh.

Place the grated coconut flesh and hot water into a blender, blend for a minute, scrape down the sides and blend again. Pour the coconut mixture into a straining bag or nut milk bag placed over a bowl and when the mixture is cool enough to handle, twist the straining bag and squeeze out as much coconut milk as possible. Transfer the coconut milk to a suitable container and refrigerate until need. Coconut milk can be stored in the fridge for 2 days.

Note: You can repeat the process a second time, mixing the coconut flesh with more hot water, blending and straining again which results in a watery coconut milk with not as much flavor. Do not mix both together as it will dilute the taste of the creamier coconut milk… unless it’s a consistency and taste you prefer!

Once the grated coconut is squeezed of all its goodness it is quite tasteless, especially after a second pressing, I usually discard it.

%d bloggers like this: