Shami Kebabs

Shami Kebab

The other day, someone commented on a recipe of mine with the question of whether my cooking and dishes differ Ramadan to Ramadan, since Ramadan falls in different months every year, or if I find myself making the same dishes whether it is summer or winter. That question did get me thinking…did I change how and what I cook year to year during Ramadan? Continue reading

Ground Chicken Kebabs

Ground Chicken Kebab

Grilling season is here and with it, a slew of delicious meats, and verdant and vibrant salads. There are skewers of luscious meats; chunks and velvety ground meat, charred and juicy from the high heat of a blazing fire. Pieces of golden, glistening tandoori chicken, cubes of marinated lamb and even meaty, satisfying mushrooms. Summer salads are bowls of individual creativity. Each one is different and never the same a second time. Throw in fresh salad leaves, springtime vegetables or seasonal fruit, top off with a handful of nuts or seeds, and a crumbling of cheese, if desired. There’s no recipe needed; just imagination. Continue reading

Piquillo Pepper and Goat Cheese Rolls

Piquillo Pepper and Goat Cheese Rolls

I wanted to start off by thanking all those who commented on the last post with words of encouragement, support and love. It has been difficult lately as the atmosphere every where is one of uncertainty. Violence, hate and suspicion are running rampant and I have to say, it makes me quite sad and afraid. 

For the first time ever, I fear the scarf I wear on my head may bring harm to my children. They do not look foreign, my girls and my son are all fair skinned. I wonder if they are treated differently once they see I am their mother? They haven’t mentioned any negative incidents and I pray they don’t encounter any hateful actions towards them.

Piquillo Pepper and Goat Cheese Rolls

I have never been worried about my scarf because it has never mattered before. I have, maybe in total, encountered about 4 negative attitudes and comments about my appearance. Even after 9/11, when other Muslim women were taking off their scarves, I decided to put mine on. People asked me back then, “Aren’t you afraid?” I answered “no” because what happened then didn’t represent me or my faith. I wore my scarf proudly.

What’s happening now doesn’t represent me or my faith either, but the atmosphere is different this time. I still wear my scarf proudly but at the back of my mind, there is this nervousness for my children.

What happened at the restaurant last week was definitely a wake up call; a nasty reminder of the reality these days.

However, I will say again, I haven’t encountered anything else other than that one incident. My experience with coworkers, clients and regular people I encounter day to day, has been nothing but supportive and encouraging. I like to concentrate on these people; the ones who make an effort to smile and make conversation.

Piquillo Pepper and Goat Cheese Rolls

Last week, a snow fall that was predicted as “just a few inches” dumped close to a foot of snow. I was woken up at 5:30 am with my cell phone buzzing and upon answering it, found out it was the school district issuing a Snow Day. Through the sleepiness, I pull the curtain aside and see something short of a blizzard! Snow was coming down hard, swirling in all directions in a frenzy. I was really happy that I didn’t have to get up and drive kids to school in that snow storm. My husband ended up staying home too since it would’ve taken him 2 hours to get to work. The roads were bad, the motorways were piled high with snow and the snow plows were not effective.

He and I worked side by side from home sitting at the dining table. It was really nice to have him home unexpectedly. Of course, Snow Day meant that all the kids were off from school so they all went off to hang with friends. Trace and I decided to get some lunch at our local Pho place. Went down a treat with the cold weather.

Blossoms of Light @DBG

The snow makes everything so festive; like gingerbread houses with a dusting of powdered sugar. Though ours was more than a dusting! One of these evenings we headed to the Denver Botanic Gardens for their Blossoms of Light festival. They decorate almost all their trees and shrubs with LED lights; SO, so beautiful. A cup of hot cocoa in one hand and a bag of roasted nuts in the other, we were quite cosy and mesmerised by the lights glittering on the trees. The cold air was invigorating and the hands did get a nip, but it was worth the little bit of cold to enjoy such a beautiful sight.

Blossoms of Light @DBG

These rolls are fantastic. They are a big favourite at my class demos, and one of my most requested recipes. I haven’t had a chance to post them until now. I have made these with different cheeses and fillings. Usually, I serve these as the appetiser with sides from the olive bar or a fresh salsa. The guests enjoy these with a glass of wine before the class begins. I am always asked for the recipe and I have promised it to many wonderful folks and finally have a chance to post it. 

Piquillo Pepper and Goat Cheese Rolls

These rolls are amazing out of a steam convection oven. If you’ve thought about getting one, my recommendation, GET ONE! They are simply great for many, many things but especially for breads.

Some variations: Piquillo Pepper and Asadero Cheese (this one is a favourite), Cheddar and Pickled Jalapeños, Roasted Red Peppers and Mozzarella, the combinations are endless. They are incredibly easy to make as well.

Piquillo Pepper and Goat Cheese Rolls

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 12

Thick and chewy bread rolls filled with Piquillo Peppers and Goat Cheese.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups all purpose or bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • Filling:
  • 12oz/340g jar grilled Piquillo peppers
  • 10.5 oz/300g goat's cheese
  • 2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter for brushing (optional)
Instructions
  1. Mix the flour, yeast,salt and sugar in a bowl of a mixer.
  2. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and run through the mixture to aerate a little.
  3. Add 1 cup of warm water and mix on low.
  4. If the mixture looks too dry, add more water a little at a time.
  5. You may use all the water and need a bit more, or you may not use all the water.
  6. I used exactly 1 ½ cups but Colorado is dry so our flour runs dry as well.
  7. If you live in a humid place, you may need less.
  8. Just gauge the consistency; you want a nice soft, pliable dough, not sticky or dry.
  9. After the dough has kneaded into a ball, drop it on the counter and hand knead for a couple of minutes.
  10. Knead the dough into a nice smooth ball and place in a greased bowl to proof in a warm area of your kitchen.
  11. This will take about an hour at high altitude or 1 ½ -2 hours at sea level.
  12. While the dough is proofing, prepare the filling.
  13. From the jar, chop about the 8-10 peppers into small dice.
  14. How fine you want the peppers is up to you, but I don't keep the pieces too large.
  15. Smaller bites of the Piquillo pepper helps to roll better and your get more per bite.
  16. I used 10 peppers but you could use more, or less.
  17. Grease a 9" x 13" pan, a cake pan works great, you need something with sides.
  18. I have used a 10" round ceramic quiche/tart pan with 1.5" sides before as well with good results.
  19. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a clean counter.
  20. Knead a couple of times to slowly deflate.
  21. Roll the dough out into a rectangle of 11" x 15" (the size of a ½ sheet tray)
  22. Sprinkle the chopped Piquillo peppers evenly over the rolled out dough.
  23. Drop crumbles of creamy goat's cheese evenly over the peppers.
  24. Sprinkle the parsley and drizzle the olive oil over the filling.
  25. Slowly lift up the long side of the dough and begin to roll up like a Swiss roll.
  26. Slowly roll the dough up evenly and making sure all the filling is tucked inside.
  27. When you get to the end, pinch the edge of the dough together in a long seam.
  28. Carefully cut the dough roll in half using a serrated knife.
  29. Cut out six pieces from each half to make total of 12 rolls.
  30. You can make bigger rolls by cutting in 6 or even 4.
  31. Carefully place the rolls into the greased pan, leaving a little space between them.
  32. Keep in a warm corner to rise a second time, about 20 minutes.
  33. Once they have puffed up a little and are touching each other, they are ready to bake.
  34. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to:
  35. Conventional oven : 375F
  36. Convection oven : 350F
  37. Steam Convection oven : 350F
  38. For a conventional oven or a convection oven, place a small cake pan filled with ice cubes on the bottom rack.
  39. Place the rolls on the rack above the ice cube pan.
  40. Bake the rolls:
  41. Conventional oven : 40 minutes
  42. Convection oven: 30 minutes
  43. Steam convection: 30-35 minutes
  44. Check to see if they are brown, if they are to your liking, remove and cool on a rack.
  45. If you'd like them a little more brown, add a couple more minutes.
  46. The filling will make a difference in the time as well.
  47. This filling isn't too wet, so it took 40 minutes to brown nicely.
  48. Different cheeses and other wet fillings will add to the time.
  49. Just add time in increments until browned and also done in the centre.
Notes
**Thermador or Bosch steam ovens: Use Steam-Convection mode and set temp to 350F
**JennAir Steam oven: Use Steam Convection mode and manual entry, set the temperature to 350F, steam level to medium and time for 30 minutes.
**Wolf Steam Oven: Use Auto Steam Bake for bread and set temp at 350F

Piquillo Pepper and Goat Cheese Rolls

I would like to end by wishing all my readers and friends very happy holidays, a Merry Christmas and an amazing New Year. I am thankful for your support of this blog and me. I am also very thankful for your friendship and hope that it will only grow stronger in the coming year. Wishing you all the very best this holiday season, filled with much joy, happiness and prosperity from my family to yours.

Nazneen 

Kale and Meatball Soup

Kale and Meatball Soup

Well, we’re in the second week of Ramadan and the fasts are going well. They are long and it’s been really hot here in Denver but we’re managing. The air conditioning has been turned on, I held on as long as I could because I do enjoy the electric bills when the AC and the heat are off. Alas, when the temperature reached 85F/29C on the thermostat, I decided it was time to turn on the cold air!

The fasting is not terribly difficult, really. I can manage without the food but it’s the no water and heat that does one in. We manage though, the rewards of the month make it all tolerable.

Kale and Meatball Soup

Ramadan isn’t all starvation, crabbiness and hardship, we do enjoy some great evenings where we open our fasts with our friends. Last two weekends we’ve been invited to iftar (breaking of the fast) by our close friends and both evenings were incredibly pleasant with good friends, good conversation and good food. I’ll be having them all over this Friday. I happen to be off this weekend for July 4th so it was a good weekend for me, Though once again, when I have a weekend off from cooking, I’m spending the day cooking for even more people! It’s all good. I’m still working on my menu but it will be either Indian or Middle Eastern.

For the last three weeks, I’ve started a new project with the company for whom I do the cooking and product demos. I’ve started “teaching” cooking classes for specific brands, so clients who have purchased a specific brand and would like to know the use and care of their new appliance, can sign up for these classes. Between me, the sales guys and the appliance reps, we teach use and care and I teach the cooking basics for their new range/oven/cook top and so on.

Kale and Meatball Soup

I’ve done 3 classes so far and they have been quite fun. The clients are appreciative and they really enjoy the food! For me the fun part is creating a menu to tailor to the product they’ve purchased and interested in learning about. It’s not as easy as it sounds! I have 2 hours to get the food ready to eat whilst telling them about oven modes or induction technology or range functions. The rep from the company helps a lot by fielding many of the technical questions while I get the food in the oven. At the end of it, they sit down to enjoy the meal that’s prepared in the appliances they have purchased or will purchase. All in all, it’s been a learning experience for me as well. So far, I have done Thermador, Wolf and Dacor classes. The one last week was one for Wolf SubZero and I had 13 people! It turned out to be quite the party. I prepared a full Moroccan themed meal and the guests were in heaven. They all thoroughly enjoyed the food which made me very happy because, since I was fasting, I cooked the entire meal without tasting!

So, that’s what’s been keeping me busy of late. It does take up my time because all the shopping and prep is done by me and I spend an awful lot of time grocery shopping. Seems like I live at either Whole Foods or Specialty Appliance!

Kale and Meatball Soup

This soup, I know it’s the heat of summer and you must think I’m crazy posting a soup recipe but when you’ve been fasting for 17 hours, soup is a great thing to break the fast with. It’s a complete meal and a very nourishing one. This Kale and Meatball Soup is very hearty and filled with rice, kale, beans, chicken broth and meatballs. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my bowl of soup with a side of sourdough toast. Another thing about fasting is that it tends to shrink your stomach so you don’t eat as much. The soup is a perfect, it’s filling but not overly heavy. It’s quite a light meal which is perfect because as soon as we finish eating, we really are almost ready to go to bed (to get up at 3 am to start our fast again),

Hopefully, for my Southern Hemisphere friends, this is an opportune post and also for the Ramadan fasters. For my friends on this side of the world, just book mark this for winter, it’s really good!

Kale and Meatball Soup

Kale and Meatball Soup

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 10-12 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 pound/455g ground beef
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • handful of parsley
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¾ cup brown rice
  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 15oz tin kidney beans
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • squeeze of lemon
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. To make the meatballs, mix the finely chopped onions, garlic and parsley together.
  2. I put all the ingredients for the meatballs in my food processor and whiz until the onion, garlic and parsley are combined with the ground beef, add salt and pepper and mix through.
  3. Put a thin layer of oil in a fry pan or cast iron pan on medium high heat.
  4. Drop little balls of meatball mixture into the oil and brown.
  5. You can shape them in your hands and make them round or just drop rough bits into the oil.
  6. You can also drop them straight into the broth without frying but I wanted them a little brown so while the soup was simmering I browned up the meatballs.
  7. Once the meatballs are fried, keep them to the side until the soup is done.
  8. To make the soup, sauté the onions in a big pot or pressure cooker (the easiest way to make soup)
  9. in a tablespoon of oil.
  10. Once the onions are softened, add the garlic and cook a minute.
  11. Add the tomato paste and cook out the raw taste for a minute.
  12. Add the rice and coat with the onion tomato mixture.
  13. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
  14. If using a pressure cooker, put on the lid and bring up to pressure and cook according to your cooker instructions.
  15. In my pressure cooker, it takes 15 minutes to cook brown rice, so I set the time for a bit less.
  16. I cook the rice for 12 minutes and then depressurise and carefully open the cooker.
  17. I add the turmeric, carrots, celery, potatoes and kale.
  18. Put the lid back on and bring up to pressure.
  19. I cook the mixture under pressure for another 4 minutes.
  20. After 4 minutes, depressurise again and carefully open.
  21. The vegetables should all be soft.
  22. If the liquid looks low, add a cup or two of water if needed.
  23. Add the kidney beans and the meatballs.
  24. Check for salt and pepper.
  25. Add a squeeze of lemon to finish.
  26. If you are not suing a pressure cooker, follow the same order but the brown rice will take about 30 minutes to cook.
  27. The vegetables will also take another 15 minutes to soften.
  28. Cook the soup for another 5-10 minutes after the addition of the meatballs and kidney beans.
  29. The soup will turn out the same but the time will be a bit longer.
Notes
You can use any kind of green you want and any kind of beans. Even lentils would be good. I actually used broccoli greens instead of kale because I found a fresh bunch at my farm stand. The broccoli greens were so sweet and perfect in the soup. I wrote the recipe with kale because I'm not sure broccoli greens are available everywhere.

Kale and Meatball SoupSo, it’s hot and this is soup, but it looks good doesn’t it? It tasted awesome and just what I needed after a long, tiring fast. 

I hope you all had a relaxing weekend and are ready for the week ahead.

Have a great one! I’ll be here, fasting and cooking (without tasting 🙂 )

Spinach Fatayer with Feta

Spinach and Feta Fatayer

London makes quite a few appearances in this blog purely because that’s where I grew up and have, not only my fondest memories, but the most vivid ones. I moved to London at a young age but since I was old enough to be aware and spent my school years there, I have wonderful memories. 

I don’t talk too much about my time in Saudi and only because I have flashes of my time there. I was born in Saudi and though I only lived there for a short time, my memories are happy ones. I have no Middle Eastern ancestry, but happened to be born there because my parents moved a few years beforehand for work.
 
Mostly it was hot, and I believe it still is! But for all the heat, I still played outside in front yard of our house with my sister, enjoyed picnics in the date groves and BBQ’s at the beach. It maybe a sandbox, but it has its own beauty.
 
To accommodate our big family back then (there were 8 of us) my dad ordered a huge 1976 Cadillac Deville straight from the factory in Detroit. I remember the day it arrived, beautiful, silver with red leather and big, boy was it big. It still had the temporary Michigan plates and as a youngster, I was just gob smacked. I have photos which I would’ve loved to share but they’re all back in Houston with my dad. I will remember to get them when I go back later this month.
Spinach and Feta Fatayer
 
The boot of this thing was massive. So massive that when we went on our picnics, my dad would open up the back and all us little kids would climb in and that’s where we ate, sitting in the boot of the Cadillac. I think there’s a photo of that too!
 
I’d just like to say that this car moved with us to England where it was way too big for the little English countryside roads. When we moved to Houston, it travelled with us then too. In fact, I learned to drive in this beloved Cadillac. We finally laid it to rest many years ago but it was my companion for many, many years.
 
Apparently, good food was important to me back then as well. Many of my flashes of memory, are food memories. The juicy rotisserie chicken spinning away at the bakery where my dad would pick up some hot loves of Arabic bread and a chicken for dinner. I can still taste it to this day, moist and tender with a hint of lemony flavour.
 
Spinach and Feta Fatayer
 
The shawarmas are ingrained in my taste buds too; slices of tender chicken or lamb, stuffed inside a warm pita bread with pickles, potatoes, tomatoes and lots of tahini sauce. And let’s not forget the famous lamb and rice kabsa; a whole lamb, spit roasted sitting atop mounds of glistening, golden rice. What made it even more fun was digging into this huge tray of food alongside others, communal style, all pinching off meat with our fingers and shaping a little mound of rice with our right fingers to scoop up to our mouths. Food tastes so much better when fingers are digging in, feeling the food, grasping it and transporting it to the taste buds. 
 
I have vague memories of the family who lived across from our house, they were Arabs and wonderful people. I can’t remember them at all really, but I know there were grown children, sons and daughters. My sister and I would spend time at their home and we were always welcome. We would just walk across to their house unannounced and they would include us in their day and we would sit with them to eat. Their courtyard had an overhead trellis were bunches of grapes hung, dangling from amongst the leaves. I remember this because I was fascinated by how the grapes grew, in masses draping themselves through large leaves. They were incredibly sour and I realise now that they weren’t grown for the fruit but for the vine leaves. Stuffed grape leaves are some of the best things on this planet.
 
Our neighbours to the left were an American family, My very first friend was the boy who lived next door, John. For years and even to this day, my uncle asks about my “boyfriend” John. So, John, if you happen to be reading this and you lived in Saudi in the 70’s next door to a scrawny Indian looking girl, that’s me!
 
Spinach and Feta Fatayer
 
So many wonderful memories of family, friends and food. The best apples and pears I ate were in Saudi, they actually smelled like apples and pears and their fragrance was intoxicating. Even today, when I pick up a pear to buy, I smell it, trying to get a hit of that fragrance I remember. The seafood, the kebabs, the sandwiches….In fact, one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten was at a fancy restaurant there. 
 
Just as we were getting ready to leave Saudi for England, my aunts and uncles moved there and so began a tradition of family members living in Saudi. I had opportunity to return a few more times and I hope I get to go again since Saudi houses two of the most important Islamic holy sites. 
 
My uncle and a few cousins still live there and my brother just returned from Saudi a few months ago. So, even though there is no Middle Eastern blood coursing through our veins, the Middle East is very much a part of our ancestry now.
 
That probably explains my love for all Arabic food. I have grown up eating it, and it is present at every family gathering and it’s one of the first things we cook after Indian.
 
Spinach and Feta Fatayer
 
These delicious spinach fatayer or pies, are common throughout the Middle East and the Levant. My children love them and I always used to buy them because they’re not expensive, and buying them fresh from the bakery they were still warm and so good. Of course, this was in Houston.
 
The Denver stores have them too but they are not warm and fresh out of the oven. I did pick up a couple of bags of spinach pies last time I was at the Middle Eastern store and they were done in a day. I decided to make my own variation with feta. 
 
These were wonderful, warm and soft bread with a lemony filling of spinach and feta. I used part white and part whole wheat, just to make them a bit healthier. I also don’t like my filling overly tart, so I dialled back the lemon a bit, but feel free to increase the lemon (not too much because you don’t want the filling too wet) These lasted about 3 days. They are a great snack and a wonderful picnic or lunch bag idea. 
 
Spinach and Feta Fatayer-6
  

Spinach and Feta Fatayer

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 16 pies

Soft, fluffy and tangy Middle Eastern spinach and feta pies
Ingredients
  • 2 cups/300g bread flour
  • 2 cups/300g white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons (or 1 package) yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ cups/355ml warm water
  • FILLING
  • 1lb/455g spinach, fresh or frozen
  • 4 green onions, chopped fine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • salt, to taste
  • ½ cup Feta cheese
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer mix the flours, salt, sugar and the yeast.
  2. Add the olive oil and the warm water, a little at time until a dough forms.
  3. You may need more or less water depending on the flour.
  4. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  5. Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl, cover and place in a warm area.
  6. Allow the dough to double in size, about 90 minutes (45 minutes if high altitude)
  7. While the dough is resting and rising, make the filling.
  8. If using fresh spinach, place the spinach in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for about 5 minutes until soft and wilted.
  9. Or, place in a pan with a drop of water and allow to steam and wilt.
  10. Drain the spinach and squeeze out all the water.
  11. You may need to wrap the spinach in a towel to get out all the excess water.
  12. Once the spinach is dry, chop it into small pieces.
  13. If using frozen, defrost and squeeze out all the water.
  14. Place the dry spinach in a bowl, add the green onions, feta cheese and lemon juice.
  15. Check to taste for salt and lemon juice.
  16. Don't make the filling too wet, it will be hard to seal the pies.
  17. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C
  18. Once the dough has doubled in size. slowly punch down the dough.
  19. Place on a clean counter and knead gently.
  20. Cut the dough into 16 pieces.
  21. Roll out one piece of dough into a 5 inch/13 cm circle.
  22. Drop a rounded tablespoon of filling onto the centre of the dough.
  23. Pull up one side of the dough and seal.
  24. Pull up the other side and make a tri tip seal.
  25. I didn't need any water to seal but if you're having a problem getting the edges to seal, use a bit of water or flour paste to seal.
  26. Keep the pie aside.
  27. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  28. Place on a couple of cookie sheets and place in he oven
  29. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 20 minutes.
  30. See warm or room temperature.
  31. They store really well in the fridge for a quick snack or packed lunches.
Notes
You can use all purpose flour for all or part of the flours. White whole wheat is great to use because it is soft but is still a while wheat flour.
This dough makes great pita bread if you decide to make only a few fatayer and a few homemade pita bread.
Just bake the pita bread on a hot pizza stone or a heated cookie sheet.
It has perfect pita pockets!

Spinach and Feta Fatayer

I hope spring or fall is making an appearance in your part of the world. Colorado spring is very much like winter so we really see no difference! Lots and lots of snow signifies spring for us, so I guess spring might very well be here! I haven’t been able to see any new blossoms or buds yet though, but maybe the several inches of snow might possibly be covering them up.

Have a great week!