Once upon the time there were 5 old wrinkling apples. They were getting older by the day but could still remember their life journey. From firm fruits attached to the branches of the tree to falling on the garden grass, picked from the garden grass and placed into Elena’s basket, passed from Elena’s basket to Tania’s plastic bag, from Tania’s plastic bag to the Algerian ceramic dish on top of the fridge. And there, with some other fruits the apples looked at me for a couple of weeks. Gone were the days when the sun would wake them up and the rain would shower them. Now they seemed to ignore the time passing, resigned to see the electric light at the end of the day and maybe waiting to see the first signs of softness in their flesh. For some strange (or not so strange) reason they were not getting rotten … they were giving me a chance. Finally, their glorious day arrived, I thought I would make an upside down cake with them! I looked for recipes on the web and on my cooking books and notes, and in a Frankensteinly way I made this upside down spiced apple cake taking elements from a supermarket recipe card and from the Girl Interrupted Eating blog (http://girlinterruptedeating.wordpress.com/2008/01/20/quick-apple-and-almond-cake/).
Think about the Little Prince next time when you are about to throw some food away and remember: L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
Upside down spiced apple cake
5 apples, peeled and cored
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
110 g butter
110 g soft brown sugar
110 g self-raising flour
55 g ground almond
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger powder
¼ tsp nutmeg
Cut the apples in slices (you decide the thickness) and sprinkle them with the lemon juice, the table spoon of sugar, and the half tea spoons of cinnamon and allspice. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar and when creamy, add the eggs. Incorporate all the dry ingredients (preferably sifted) to the creamy mixture. You will have a thick batter. In a silicone tin, greased pyrex or cake tin lined with baking paper place the apple slices. Put the batter on top and even the surface (don’t be shy and use your fingers if necessary). Place in a preheated oven at 200 ºC / Gas 6 for 15-20 minutes. Check if the cake is fully cooked by inserting a toothpick in the middle, it should come out clean. This cake can be kept for a few days and works very well with vanilla ice cream.
Following Vilma’s comment on quinoa and her question about ‘pesque’ I asked my mum if she knew what pesque was, she remembered from her childhood in Cuzco, Peru that they called pesque the cooked quinoa that was given to baby chicks. Beside that she wrote some comments (in Spanish) that I have translated below.
“To the marvellous qualities of this tiny grain I have to add the beauty of its plants, spikes of 2.5 – 3 meters high that appear like lovely bunch of flowers in different shades that go from crimson red to yellow and orange … all of which you can see in the Andean fields.
Regarding its nutritious value it has as many or even more proteines than red meat. The cuisine Novo Andina (Andean-Peruvian nouvelle cuisine) is wisely using this ingredient to give colour to salads with white, red or black quinoa, to make crusty buttered see food, lamb or pork meat or even in bakery. I have to add that NASA includes quinoa amongst the food given to astronauts.”
While chefs in Peru are experimenting with quinoa … how much do we dare to experiment in our kitchens? Just by replacing some ingredients we could be reinventing dishes and that is how I ended up making ‘Quinua chaufa’ (stir fried quinoa). The original dish I took my inspiration from is ‘Arroz chaufa’ (stir fried rice) which is something you will find in any ‘chifa’ which is how we call the Chinese restaurants in Peru. I don’t know how much chifa’s food are a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese culture, and I would guess that chifa’s dishes might not all be like in China (I haven’t been to China to compared though) and the stir fried rice or noodles in Peru are not like the ones I had here in London. Anyhow, now that you know a bit of the story behind the dish here is my recipe, now enjoy your cooking!
1 cup quinoa
1 chicken breast
1 bunch of spring onions
1 piece of fresh ginger (about 3 cm )
Soya sauce to taste
Salt to taste
Start by boiling the chicken breast, you will then have to shred it (if you boil it with something else like that lost carrot hiding in the fridge and that lonely little onion you can then use that chicken stock for a soup or another preparation!). Wash and drain the quinoa and toast on a hot pan until the grains are brown-ish and a lovely smell comes out of them. Add 2 cups of boiling water, cover the pan, turn the heat to the minimum and cook for about 15 minutes until the water is all absorbed. While the quinoa cooks fry the shredded chicken in a little bit of oil (wish a dash of soya sauce if you like). Keeping an eye on the chicken sun tanning in the pan wash and finely chop the spring onions and grate the ginger or chop it very finely. Whisk the eggs with some salt and pepper and make an omelette with them, you can optionally add some of your chopped spring onions to the omelette while it’s cooking, when done use a wooden spoon or spatula to ‘chop’ your omelette. Now you add to your fluffy quinoa the shredded chicken, pieces of omelette, ginger and spring onions, mix everything, add soya sauce to taste and some salt if you must. Eat as soon as it is ready! This recipe can have so many variations depending what you have in your fridge and what you like, here are some examples: replace the chicken by any other (edible) bird such as turkey or by any meat such as bacon strips (roasted meat leftovers are great for this dish!), if you are vegetarian replace the bird or meat pieces by mushrooms or tofu fried with crushed garlic. Your turn to come up with other vegetables that will work out well with this dish!
This dish is a particular favourite of mine as the ingredients are basic, quick to make and very tasty. You can use either red or yellow lentils and compliment it by adding fresh tomatoes or spinach, toasted fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander leaves.
1 cup red or yellow lentils
2 cups of water
1 small onion sliced
½ inch piece of ginger, cut in strips
2 – 3 green chillies slit lenghtwise
¼ teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of ghee
1 tablespoon of coconut powder
Salt to taste
Rinse the lentils well in cold water and tip into a saucepan. To this add the sliced onion, chillies, ginger, turmeric and 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil over a high heat and give it a stir now and then so it does not boil over. When nearly cooked add the coconut powder and salt and simmer until the lentils have disintegrated into a soft mash. Now add the ghee and coriander leaves and eat hot with rice, pita bread or chapattis. Some like it served like a soup in which case you add a little more water.
Originally from Goa, the Moilee is an Indian curry made with fish, or any seafood and coconut milk. This simple dish made with vegetables and coconut milk, has been slightly adapted from Thangam Philip’s recipe book, Modern cookery for teaching and the trade.
Coconut oil is ideal for this dish but I used sunflower oil. I always add a teaspoon of ghee, which I make myself, as it adds that little twist of caramel like undertones. Add more chillies and ginger to stimulate your taste buds, and very often I add a teaspoon of freshly toasted and ground fennel seeds to the sautéed onions before adding the potatoes.
The first time I made this dish I measured everything have included the weights as a guide. But cooking is about experimenting so just mix and match and maybe just add 2 carrots instead of 3, or broccoli instead of cauliflower, or cumin seed or coriander, less or more oil and so on.
Ingredients – serves 6
Onions finely sliced 200 gm
Potatoes diced 250 gm
Carrots diced 100 gm
Cauliflower florets 100 gm
Peas fresh or frozen 200 gm
1 tin of tomatoes or 3-4 chopped fresh tomatoes
Fresh ginger ½ inch piece
Green chillies 4 – 5
Lemon or lime 1
Coconut powder 1 cup, I use Maggi coconut milk powder
Turmeric ¼ teaspoon
Salt to taste
Oil 50 ml
Ghee – 1 teaspoon
Slice the onions and ginger and slit the green chillies lengthwise. Wash peel and dice the potatoes and carrots, separate the cauliflower into florets and shell the peas if using fresh ones. Prepare the coconut milk by dissolving 1 cup of powdered coconut milk with 2 cups of hot water.
Heat the oil and ghee and sauté the onions, ginger and green chillies until soft and transparent. Add turmeric and potatoes and fry for a few minutes and add 1 cup of the prepared coconut milk with an extra cup of hot water. Cook gently until the potatoes are a quarter done. Add the carrots, cauliflower, peas, tomatoes, the second cup of coconut milk and salt to taste. If it looks too thick then just add more hot water, just experiment until you can mix the ingredients easily. Cook gently until the vegetables are done and add the third cup of coconut milk and simmer. Add the lemon juice, taste, taste and taste and add more salt or lemon juice if needed, remove from fire and finally add the chopped coriander leaves and cover. Great served with rice, chappatis, pitta bread, quinoa or couscous.