Category Archives: Salad recipes

Salad recipes

Olympic Souvlaki with Tzatziki

This is for my friends and blog commenters who have asked me why I have been avoiding the Olympics in my blog. Well…

  1. I have been too busy watching the Olympics on TV to blog much
  2. Two – not all of the sports interest me unless they involve great athletic prowess, a huge record breaking headline, controversy (doping scandals etc.) or Holland (who are 10th by the way in the medal rankings in case you were wondering 😉 ). Sri Lanka…well lets not even go there.
  3. I’m feeling very poor after my trip to Bangkok and have been working my backside off.

Anyway back to the subject at hand.

The first modern-day Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896, with 241 athletes (all male) from 14 nations competing in 9 sports with 43 events. Volleyball wasn’t one of them.

Athens hosted its second Summer Games in 2004, this time with 10,625 athletes (4,329 women and 6,296 men) from 201 nations competing in 28 sports with 301 events – including volleyball and beach volleyball. All that progress deserves a tasty Greek treat.

This dish can be prepared with lamb, chicken and pork although the recipe below is best with either lamb or pork. I don’t actually eat lamb so I make it with pork or chicken but some prefer lamb for the better depth of meaty flavour.

Olympic Souvlaki with Tzatziki:

Ingredients:

For the souvlaki

  • 1 kilo boneless pork or lamb (e.g. leg fillet or steaks. I use pork loin)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp rigani, or dried oregano
  • 150ml/5fl oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 onion, grated or very finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves, roughly torn (if not available omit these)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tzatziki

  • ½ cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g/5oz thick Greek-style yoghurt (I think you could safely substitute curd here)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Cut the pork or lamb into 2cm/¾in cubes, trimming off any gristle or other unwanted fat.
  2. Mix all the remaining souvlaki ingredients and then pour over the meat.
  3. Turn so that all the pieces are coated, then cover and leave to marinate for at least two hours, but preferably nearer to 24 hours, in a cool place (or fridge).
  4. To make the tzatziki, spread the cucumber dice out in a colander or sieve, and sprinkle over the vinegar and a little salt.
  5. Leave to drain for one hour, then pat dry with kitchen paper or a clean tea towel.
  6. Mix with the rest of the tzatziki ingredients, then taste and adjust seasoning. Serve either lightly chilled or at room temperature.
  7. Back to the souvlaki. Soak wooden skewers in cold water for an hour or two, and then thread the meat on the skewers. Don’t push the cubes right up against each other, but leave a minuscule gap between each pair, just enough space for the heat to curl round every cube, cooking it evenly.
  8. Preheat either the barbecue or grill or an oiled griddle pan (place over a high heat for about 3-5 minutes), then cook the kebabs close to the heat, or on the griddle pan, turning and brushing occasionally with the leftover marinade, until they are crusty and brown.
Olympic Souvlaki with Tzatziki
Olympic Souvlaki with Tzatziki

Serve sizzling hot, with a wedge of lemon, the tzatziki and warm crispy pitta breads.

Two Fabulous Thai dishes from my Recent Bangkok Trip

I have just come back from my first ever trip to Bangkok. It was short but fun and boy was the food good. So to start blogging again I first wanted to share two dishes with you that made my trip all the more memorable!

The first I tried in a good Thai restaurant and it was gorgeous and so refreshing so I promptly looked up the recipe online. I hope this version will taste as good.

Thai Green Mango Salad (Som Tum Mamuang)

This dish is a lovely refreshing adaptation of a more widely known version made with papaya.

Serves 4–6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. small dried shrimp (easily available in Sri Lanka, elsewhere you should be able to buy them from Asian grocers)
  • 8 red Thai chillies, stemmed, seeded, and julienned
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1⁄2 shallot, minced
  • 3 small, green unripe mangoes (about 1 1⁄2 lbs.), peeled and julienned
  • 18 green beans, trimmed and cut into 2″ lengths
  • 14 small (grape) tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 4 tsp. palm sugar or brown sugar (or crushed jaggery in Sri Lanka)
  • 2 tbsp. roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped

Method:

  1. Using a mortar and pestle, pound shrimp until coarsely ground; transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the chillies, garlic, and shallots in the mortar and pound until bruised. Working in three batches, add mangoes and pound, using a spoon to combine, until softened slightly, 2–3 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
  3. Add green beans and tomatoes to mortar and lightly pound them to extract juices; stir in fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Transfer to bowl with mango mixture. Toss to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with crushed dried shrimp and peanuts.
Thai Green Mango Salad. Credit: Todd Coleman
Thai Green Mango Salad. Credit: Todd Coleman

 

The second dish I tried at a street stall and it was so good I ordered seconds. There were hundreds of these stalls all around the area where I was staying. So cheap, popular with the locals (always a good sign) and not only were these pork satays delicious, they also smelled divine.

Muu Satay (Thai Pork Satay)

Coconut milk imbues this pork satay dish with a subtle sweetness.

Ingredients for around 10 skewers

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp. chopped lemongrass
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. chopped galangal (blue ginger)
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar (or crushed jaggery in Sri Lanka)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 12 oz. pork loin, cut into 1″-wide, 1/4″-thick slices

Method:

  1. Puree 1/2 cup coconut milk, lemongrass, oil, galangal, sugar, turmeric, coriander, salt, cumin, and cayenne in a food processor. Toss paste and pork in a bowl; chill 4 hours.
  2. Make a hot charcoal fire in a grill  or barbeque. Pour remaining coconut milk into a bowl and stir (helps to homogenize the coconut milk). Thread 3 slices pork each on 10 skewers (the skewers can be immersed in water beforehand to stop them burning if you wish), spoon coconut milk onto meat, and grill, turning, until charred, about 7 minutes.
Thai Pork Satay. Credit: Todd Coleman
Thai Pork Satay. Credit: Todd Coleman

The pork satay can be eaten as a snack with Thai Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce or with sticky white rice, peanut sauce and a Thai cucumber relish.

ขอให้เจริญอาหาร! (kŏr hâi jà-rern aa-hăan!) – Bon appetit in Thai 🙂

Salade Niçoise, Controversial but Oh so Good!

We are in the midst of a mini heatwave in Sri Lanka. Now don’t laugh because you reckon Sri Lanka is around 30 degrees all year around. You are very wrong. Hot days during the monsoon season are hotter than during the dry season…why? I haven’t got clue but anyway it’s hot and I’m craving salad food.

Salade Niçoise has to be one of my favourite salads ever. It is yummy and easy to make in Sri Lanka because the ingredients are all available.

However, when we  talk of ingredients for a ‘true’ Salade Niçoise (born in the city of Nice in the South of France) we are entering hot water. What should and shouldn’t be included – I am easy on this. It’s a French dish so stick to French ingredients and those which are fresh and readily available where you are. Are boiled vegetables acceptable – perhaps they weren’t in the original recipe but I like french beans and baby potatoes in the salad; preferably cooked! One thing I feel strongly about is the tuna issue – canned or fresh? I have eaten both and must admit to much preferring the canned tuna here. If I wanted to eat seared tuna steak I would have. It should be (in my opinion) good quality tuna steak (yep the expensive stuff) in OIL, not brine or that cardinal sin – tuna chunks in brine. Oil is important because it flavours the tuna you could even use use it to dress the salad. The rest of the ingredients are cheap so splash out on decent tuna and olives (and anchovies if you use them – I don’t if I have tuna…I do replace the tuna with them sometimes depending on my mood).

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of good quality tuna steak, preferably in olive oil but any oil will do.
  • 250 g small or baby potatoes, peeled, boiled and cut into bite-sized chunks or unpeeled, boiled & halved if baby variety.
  • 250 g french beans, boiled
  • Some lettuce – the crispier the better in my view, to use as a base, roughly chopped
  • 2 large juicy tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 3 nearly hard-boiled eggs, I like the yolk not quite set, quartered
  • Olives (as many as you want) – Niçoise or kalamata work well. Please no purple, stuffed or marinated crappy ones.
  • Capers (as many as you want) – optional but choose the little ones if using
  • Anchovies (optional – use good quality ones if using)

For the dressing:

  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (or use a bit from the  canned tuna if good quality oil if you like it fishy)
  • 2 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • salt and pepper

Method:

For the dressing: mix the minced garlic with salt and pound in a pestle and mortar. Add olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and mustard and mix well. Some use fresh herbs such as tarragon , basil or oregano but you can’t get them easily in Sri Lanka so I don’t.

Arrange the lettuce, potatoes and french beans on a plate. Top this with the tomatoes, onion, tuna (broken into chunks), olives, eggs, anchovies (if using) and capers. Drizzle over the dressing.

Salade Nicoise
Salade Nicoise

Bon appetit!!

Baba Ghannouj Recipe (Aubergine dip)

Those of you that regularly read my posts will know that I am a great fan of Aubergines (or Eggplant / Brinjal). Add to that my love of Middle Eastern influences in food (that includes Turkish & Jewish food too) and the following Baba Ghannouj recipe cannot fail to please me every time.

Baba Ghannouj Recipe (serves 4)

This classic Middle Eastern aubergine dip or spread, fragrant with garlic and smoky charred eggplant, is made even creamier with the addition of mayonnaise.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 medium aubergines / brinjals
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon (or lime) juice
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. tahini
  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Sprinkle of chilli powder
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil to serve

Method:

Place garlic cloves and aubergines (brinjals) on a baking sheet lined with tin foil, and grill until tender and charred all over, about 10 minutes for garlic, and about 40 minutes for aubergine (be sure to pierce the aubergine with a fork first to avoid an explosive mess!!). Peel and seed aubergines, and mash flesh with peeled garlic, lemon juice, tahini, mayonnaise, 2 tsp. parsley, the cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper in a bowl; sprinkle with remaining parsley and drizzle with olive oil.

Baba Ghannouj (credit: Todd Coleman)
Baba Ghannouj (credit: Todd Coleman)

Serve with crispy pitta bread and a fresh salad. Grilled or barbecued meats also go very well with this luscious dip. For you Sri Lankan die-hards out there, roti works well too!

Bitter gourd – Beauty or the Beast?

The name says it all to some folk: “BITTER gourd”…aka bitter melon, or karavila in Sri Lanka. Bitter gourd is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean for its edible fruit, which is among the most bitter of all fruits.

Just as with Marmite, you either love it or hate it. I definitely belong to the former group.

It’s not the prettiest of vegetables…

The not-so aesthetically pleasing bitter gourd
The not-so aesthetically pleasing bitter gourd

It is, however, one of the healthiest!

Bitter gourds are very low in calories but dense with precious nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber. It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana.

The gourd contains a unique phyto-constituent that has been confirmed to have a hypoglycemic effect called charantin. There is also another insulin-like compound known as polypeptide P which has been suggested as insulin replacement in some diabetic patients.

Bitter gourd (karavila) is also renowned in Sri Lankan indigenous medicine (Ayurvedic medicine) as an eradicator of toxins. Ayurvedic doctors have known about its invaluable qualities that help abate diabetes, alleviate phlegm, cleanse the blood, increase appetite and much more.

One popular way to serve bitter gourd in Sri Lanka is as a sambol to accompany rice and curry dishes.

Bitter gourd Sambol

Ingredients

2 or 3 large fresh karavila (bitter gourd)
2 small or medium red onions finely sliced
1/4 bottle of vegetable oil
2 or 3 green chillies finely sliced (de-seeded if you don’t want it too hot)
2   tomatoes thinly sliced
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
Salt to taste

Method

1. Wash bitter gourd, de-seed and slice thinly. If you want to remove some of the bitter taste you can soak the bitter gourd slices in salt water for a while before drying & frying.

2. Heat oil in a wok and deep fry karavila until golden brown.  Once done put them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

3. Mix  sliced onions, tomatoes, green chilles in a bowl and add deep fried karavila.  Lastly add lemon juice and salt to taste and mix well.

NOTE: this sambol is best prepared at the last minute before eating as it tastes best when the bitter gourd is still crisp.

Bitter gourd sambol
Bitter gourd sambol

Bitter gourd curry is another favourite that I cannot get enough of:

Bitter gourd curry:

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 fresh bitter gourds de-seeded and sliced thinly (see image below of how this should look)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 6 to 10 curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Half a cup of coconut milk
  • Juice of half a lime or lemon
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped into cubes
  • Oil for frying
Bitter gourd - sliced and de-seeded
Bitter gourd – sliced and de-seeded

Method:

  1. Marinate the bitter gourd slices in water, salt and turmeric for 10 minutes.
  2. Squeeze out the water and set aside the gourd.
  3. Sautee onion, garlic, mustard seeds and curry leaves until the oil starts sizzling.
  4. Add the cumin, turmeric and chilli powder and stir. Then add the gourd and stir again. Add the tomato, salt, about 1/4 cup water and the coconut milk.
  5. Let it boil until the bitter gourd is soft (8 to 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  6. When done, add lime/lemon juice. Check for taste. The lime/lemon minimises the bitterness of the gourd.
Simple, yummy and very healthy after all those vodka-infused snacks in my last post!
Healthy bitter gourd and tomato curry
Healthy bitter gourd and tomato curry

Bitter gourd is a significant ingredient in Okinawan cuisine, and is increasingly used in mainland Japan. It is popularly credited with Okinawan life expectancies being higher than the already long Japanese ones. Five times as many Okinawans live to be 100 than the rest of Japan, and the Japanese are the longest lived nationality in the world.

Other bitter gourd culinary uses range from the simply scrumptious Pachadi to the downright bizarre!

In the UK I know that bitter gourd is readily available in most Indian grocers in larger towns and cities, I presume this is the same in the USA & Australia and most of Europe. I would be interested to know where you buy yours!