Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cala-marry me!

I love calamari. Whenever I go to a restaurant, this is the first thing I look out for on the menu. It such a simple dish, but has an amazing texture and flavour, and for me this always means match made in taste-bud heaven.

Baby squid can be a real pain to clean, but I seem to find that the preparation time is indirectly proportionate to eating time. i.e slow making means fast eating! Perfect really, as calamari should be served as soon as you've fried it. 

I'm a great fan of thai food- lime, chillies and ginger, so I've made my coating for the calamari out of this. I also really love nuts, so I've crushed a handful of these and bunged it into the mix. If you have any nut allergies, try using toasted sesame seeds, (although use these to sprinkle on top of the fried calamari as opposed to in the mix as they will remain more crunchy).

Once these squid rounds have been soaked in the batter, heat your oil and deep fry. They should really only take a couple of minutes to cook, and you'll literally see the calamari come to life as the batter turns a golden brown and the squid swells in the pan. Once they are drained of oil, sprinkle on another round of fresh green chillies and crushed nuts and give it a good squeeze of lime. If you're anything like me, these won't even make their way to the kitchen table!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Back to my roots

It wouldn't be right to talk about food and not talk about curry, especially as this is so intrinsic to my heritage. The great thing about a curry is that it is so versatile- you can make a curry with any meat, seafood or vegetable and can totally control how spicy it is. Curries in Sri-Lanka and South India are notorious for their heat whilst the West-Indian curries are generally milder in taste with hot sauces served on the side. Another great thing about a curry is that there is no set way of making it. You can literally make it up as you go along, and hence why I love them so much. This chicken curry is not a recipe per say, but the way it has naturally developed throughout the years.

For me a great chicken curry means layering. It needs the usual onions, garlic and ginger, but it also calls for a melody of different spices: cumin, fennel and dill seeds, cardamon, cinnamon star anise, cloves, dry red chillies and curry leaves. It also needs powders such as turmeric, chilli, curry and coriander for body and a twist of tomato paste for extra colour. A great tip when choosing your onions, is go for as small as possible as these are really strong and taste amazing once they are fried down. If you can stand peeling shallots, then even better, but if you're like me, chances are by the 10th onion you'll be crying to stop.

Heat your pan with a bit of oil, and then chuck in your spices and onions. Wait for them to turn golden and then add your powders and a few soft cherry tomatoes. This will start to stick to your pan, but before you add any water, give it a minute as this little step smokes the curry powders and will give your curry that smokey undertone. In the mean time you can wash your baby chicken. This is a probably a good time to mention my caution against buying a batch of same style pieces. Though no-one particularly likes eating the neck and naturally heads for the breast or leg, cooking a whole chicken means that you really get a full body of flavours. Trust me I've cooked batches of just legs or fillets, and they really do not taste as good. 

Once the chicken has been washed, add a dash of water to your pan (just enough to wet the spice and powder mixture), then add your baby chicken, tomato paste, garlic and ginger. Once you've turned this a few times, cover and allow to cook for 15mins. The chicken will naturally expel some water, so don't worry about adding too much water- unless, of course, you like extra sauce. After 15mins check on the chicken and give it a turn. Cooking time for 1 baby chicken should be about 25mins, so after this mid check allow to cool for a further 10mins. By this time the chicken will be juicy and the sauce will be a glorious amber colour. As an extra step, with total taste-bud pay off, fry a handful of onions, cumin seeds and green peppers and spread on the top.

Serve with some long-grain white rice and some fresh green beans and enjoy.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Balls of steel

When I was younger, my dad was always in charge of making fish cutlets for family parties. Come saturday morning, my dad and I would be in the kitchen and I would watch and act as sous chef to these little bundles of joy being made. 

I would always hope some cutlets would get damaged in the making, as I knew these would be naturally left aside in the cull and eventually eaten by me. It definitely paid off to the sous chef in that kitchen!

Growing up, fish cutlets became synonymous with parties and special occasions, however, as I soon realised that these consisted of very basic ingredients which mostly occupied my store-cupboard, I thought why wait til a special occasion to enjoy these balls of steel?
Fish cutlets are comprised of mashed potatoes (potatoes such as King Edwards work a treat as they soften quickly, are generally large in size so they can be pealed easily, and have a smooth texture), onions, chillies and of course, fish. I have used tuna as this is always in my store cupboard, but salty fishes, such as mackerel are ideal- just make sure whatever fish you are using has been properly cleaned of skin, bones and blood. A great little tip to spice and awaken those flavours is to fry off the onion, chillies and tuna. Add to this a spoonful of coriander powder, chilli powder, cumin seeds, green peppers, soya sauce and coriander stems, and you will have a fantastic fish mix. The soya sauce is really a key ingredient, as it  will give your fish a subtle smokey flavour, and this will contrast fantastically with the soft, velvety mashed potato.  

Once all of these have been mixed up, make yourselves some balls and double coat them in eggs and breadcrumbs. I know that this extra step might feel like a pain, but trust me, when it comes to eating, the additional layer will give you that 'bite' that is a must have in all cutlets! Deep fry in some fresh, hot oil and eat as soon as possible.

Simply delicious. 

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Brunch time

You know what the weekends are like. Lie-ins quickly mean you miss breakfast and your stomach can't wait till lunch. Let me introduce you to the best brunch time solution that is perfect for this time of day.

One meal compilation that fast became popular in my house when I was growing up was the 'TFC Delight' (no, this was not some horrific KFC spin-off!). TFC is a great local Turkish shop where my dad bought delicious authentic Turkish goodies (one of which was their freshly baked bread, the main part of this dish). The other components consisted of fresh chilli or garlic stuffed green olives, a couple of slices of applewood cheese, a good spoonful of hummus, some golden scrambled eggs, a couple of pickled green chillies and a drizzle of olive oil. Let me tell you, this is the only way to start the day.
Finding a good loaf of bread is key as this is really the centre piece of the meal. I would remember opening the front door and my dad handing me the bag of hot bread as if it were a newly born baby. If you can't lay your hand on some turkish bread, use any baked loaf alternative. As long as you do not go for a pre-cut sandwich loaf, you'll be fine. The crunch of the fresh sesame seeded bread marries perfectly with the softness of the hummus and salty nature of the olives contrast perfectly with the light scrambled eggs. I must add, the eggs really need to be eaten as soon as they are cooked, and as they take all of two seconds to cook, only start cooking them once the cut of the first slice of bread has been made. This will also ensure that the eggs are still soft and haven't had the chance to rubberise. There is nothing worse than eating scrambled eggs that are like pellets.  

What's perfect about this dish is that it does sustain you for some time, but is light enough for the first meal of the day. Honestly, for a dish that barely involves any any cooking this has all the flavour of fine dining!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Meat your match

I'm not really a meat lover. I love my veggies, but every so often, I do enjoy a bit of juicy meat! To all vegetarians, look away now, as it's about to get real juicy, real quickly.

To me, nothing says meat like a whopper of a burger. I like crossing a burger mix with a typical Shami Kebab mix, i.e. I think it's crucial to season the burger, but I don't like adding spices that ultimately overpower the meat and taste off-key with some fries and a bit of ketchup!

As I mentioned, I am not much of a measurer, and unless I'm baking, I tend to feel my way around the kitchen! For these bad boys, I added some cumin, onions, coriander, garlic and ginger, for flavour, tomato paste for colour, chilli powder for that extra punch and finally some breadcrumbs and an egg to bind it all together. 

Never mind, allowing 2 hours for digesting... stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Let the games begin! 
Nothing wrong a bit of elbow grease
3 little piggies...actually...Ba Ba Black Sheep would be more appropriate! 
Token green salad
French Fancies
Burger King? Bah, Burger Queen!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Too good to be true...

After the surge of pancake making yesterday, I got to thinking about other types of food that are sinfully good to eat.

Not removing myself too far from the pancake line of production, my mind cast back to a recent trip to Malaysia, where I experienced eating Roti Chennai for the first time. It is made from basically the same ingredients as the pancake- butter, egg, flour and water, and like pancakes can be enjoyed at any point of the day…not to mention, feverishly addictive.

The mixture is kneaded thoroughly, flattened, oiled and folded repeatedly. It is then allowed to proof and rise, and the process is repeated. Finally, the dough ball is flattened, coated with oil and then cooked on a flat iron skillet. Quite unlike the pancake, which is characteristically soft and springy in texture, Roti Chennai is wafer thin and renowned for it's flaky exterior. 

Fantastically, Roti Chennai is a very versatile dish as it can be served with curry or like a pancake, wrapped with fruits or a sweet delight for a quick snack. Even though I'm a firm believer in never missing breakfast (or indeed any meal of the day), I never thought I would be able to eat anything as heavy as a roti with curry for the first meal of the day. However, I soon understood the saying "Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince and dinner like a Pauper", as I found myself set for the day with my typical hunger pangs waning til well after elevenses. 

But who am I kidding? Eating Roti Chennai is far more than keeping hunger at bay. They are silk sheets of pure delight. As you take your first bite, you hear the crunch of the crispy Chennai break, and the more you eat, you can literally feel the different layers unravel. Imagine eating a flake…and you're in the right ballpark of textured heaven.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Happy Pancake Day!

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent and is customarily known as Pancake Day. Traditionally, pancakes were made as they involved ingredients that would be off limits during the period of Lent- namely flour, eggs, sugar and butter. For me, pancakes are dynamite as they are easy to make, and tasty to eat!

In celebration of this glorious day; I made my own pancakes, and as it was just me at home today, I could make them exactly the way I like.

I've never been much of a measuring kind of gal- so you'll have to forgive my scrappy instructions. 

To make three pancakes (a portion of one for me), you will need:
1. 100ml milk mixed with 75ml of water
2. 1 egg
3. 2oz flour
4. Pinch of salt

(To serve)
5. Caster sugar
6. Strawberries
7. Milk Chocolate

1. Simply mix the flour and salt
2. Make a well and whisk in your egg
3. Add in your milk and water mixture

It is literally as easy as that. 

Now for the fun part. Melt a small piece of chocolate, cut one strawberry, and dip the strawberries in the chocolate and allow to cool. 

Once you have made your pancake, sprinkle a bit of sugar heaven on top, roll into tube and add your chocolate covered strawberries and whatever you have left of your melted chocolate. You will definitely enjoy this.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Things that make you go hmmm...

There are countless ingredients I simply adore, however, whenever I go shopping, I always find myself drawn to a core list of items. Though there are always 'frill buys' that enhance flavours or even feature as 'main events' in the dishes themselves, I often feel my store-cupboard or fridge to be lacking without these core items. 

Obviously discounting milk, bread and all those genuinely essential items, everyone's lists are different, but I believe you could gauge an entire food list based on a person's top five key ingredients.  As this is a concept I firmly believe in, I thought it best to disclose my own list before I post anything further.

1. Coriander

2. Chick-peas

3. Potatoes

4. Egg

5. Lemon

1. Coriander
Strangely, coriander never really featured in the early years of my cooking. My dad used to crush the coriander seeds and use it to make Rasam, a typical Sri-Lankan gravy that is boiled with tamarind juice and spices to eat with rice. However, in my latter years, coriander has always featured in my dishes and is my top ingredient as I absolutely love its flavour, colour, aroma and ability to adapt to almost any dish, with the choice of using any part of it's body- from it's root right to it's glorious green tender leaves.. Coriander also transcends regional cooking as it is used as the base of many Thai curries, Moroccan pastes, Indian marinades and Mediterranean salsas, to name a few. Yes, this is definitely my top ingredient.

2. Chick-peas
At any given time, there are always 5 tins of chick peas in my store cupboard. Looking back, I always took this humble ingredient for granted. Some of the best dishes I had when I was growing up seemed to involve my beloved chick-pea. For saturday lunch, my mum would make a killer chick-pea curry with fresh-from-the-cooker Dhalpouris (rotis filled with crushed lentils), and my grand-mother used to make a moreish chick-pea snack with fried onions, chillies and spices. A very common West-Indian dish which my mum brought to England with her was a deep fried chick peas which are seasoned with spicy chilli powder and salt. Truly delicious and utterly addictive. To my dearest chick-pea, I'm sorry for not always appreciating 
you as I should.

3. Potato

Who could not love potatoes? They are so diverse in terms of what they can do for you and come in so many wondrous shapes and sizes- five thousand to be exact! I love these bad boys- with a drop of mayo on it for a potato salad, smashed up for a creamy mash, sliced up with their skins on for some spicy wedges, shredded down for a spanish omelette or boiled down with some stock for a winter-warming soup. Can't go wrong. Can get fat.

4. Egg
Just like the triumphant potato, the egg is another victorious all rounder. It also giving rise to such other great loves of mine, mayonnaise and, ultimately, the chicken. Or did the chicken come first…?

5. Lemon
Lemon is, I believe, a little un-sung hero. It is sharp in taste and is unapologetically fierce is smell. It's distinct flavour and aroma are among the main reasons why I love it so much, but adding to this, it's beautiful yellow skin makes it an amazing way to add flavour and colour to a dish. My grandad used to always buy a jar of lemon pickle which once opened would make your mouth water and taste-buds sings, and to this day, it is that awakening of senses that makes me love the lemon.

So there they are; my famous five. Now in the words of Craig David: 
'What's your flavour? Tell me what's your flavour?'

Friday, 17 February 2012


Hello one and all,

My name is Melissa and I have created this blog because I love food- talking about food, cooking food, presenting food and most importantly eating food- and want to share my passion with fellow food followers.

This is, in short, the one-stop blog-spot for those who appreciate good food. 

So, a little about me? Why not.

My mum is from the West-Indies, dad is Sri-Lankan, I was born in London and my husband is Bangladeshi- suffice to say, my cooking has been a bit of a 'melting-pot'. 

When I was younger our little kitchen was the hub of our home; there was always a lasagne baking in the oven, or cake being whisked up in the mixer. My dad and I would cook curries together, or I would help my mum prepare rotis, and it must have been at a very young age that I fell in love with the glorious sights and intoxicating smells of the kitchen as it fills such a significant part of who I am today.

I made my first dinner course when I was 11 when my mum visited her family back in Trinidad. I was determined to look after my dad and brother being the only female in the house. My chicken was bitter and dhal was salty but by the time she came back two weeks later, I had got the dishes sussed and I was hooked. 

So that was then, what about now?

After studying and working in the Design world for almost 7years, I have decided to give myself a new challenge and follow a long term dream of mine to enter into the food industry. Brave, yes. Foolish, perhaps, but the present and future, are I hope exciting times.

However, before the Food World chews me up and spits me out, I hope this blog will serve to document my journey, and all you lovely people will help me create the best eating experience you can get!

Ready? Steady? Cook.