Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spiced Banana & Date Loaf

I never liked bananas growing up. On the rare occasion where I would be subjected to drinking them blended with some milk, my stomach would turn, my face would contort in a grimace and I would feel uneasy for the remainder of the morning. As I progressed little by little with age, I began to enjoy bananas but had found that first there were conditions that must be met. The banana must not have formed golden pockets of ripeness in its cream-colored surface. The banana must not be too sweet. The banana must hold itself if I attempt to poke it with my finger. Poor banana. So many rules.  

My relationship with bananas began to improve as an adult while living in Malaysia with a husband who was away on a business trip. Saddened by the thought that I would have to dispose of bananas that did not meet my criteria for eating, I chose to bake them into a cake for the first time. I ate it all. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. 2 full days of banana cake eating left me at peace with the idea that maybe I've grown to accept that which I chose to lock away in my "Ew" closet. 

Today, I'm sharing a recipe that will stick around for a long time in this household. Mixing an old favorite in dates and a new favorite in bananas, this cake turned out better than I would have ever thought. Slightly caramelly and packed with the warmth of cinnamon and nutmeg, the banana has finally found a permanent place in our home.

Spiced Banana & Date Loaf
You'll need:

300 grams of self-raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
140 grams of pitted and chopped dates
115 grams of caster sugar 
155 ml of full fat milk
2 eggs
200 grams of mashed bananas
75 ml of vegetable oil
loaf tin
baking paper 

1 cup of icing sugar 
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 tablespoons of milk 
Heat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius. In a large mixing bowl and with a hand mixer, beat the sugar, vanilla extract and eggs for 2 minutes until thickened and fluffy. Add the bananas, cinnamon and nutmeg and blend then add half of the flour and all of the baking soda with the full amount of milk. Mix on medium speed then add the second half of the flour with the oil and whisk until all blended. Add your chopped dates and fold them into your batter with a wooden spoon then pour into a loaf tin lined with baking paper. Bake for 50 minutes or until done when tested with a knife. Remove from the oven and cool before serving. To store, keep your loaf covered to avoid drying it out. 

For the icing: In a small bowl, mix together to icing sugar, milk and vanilla. If you'd like a thicker icing, eliminate one tablespoon of milk. Drizzle the icing over the entire loaf or set aside and drizzle per serving.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Partner in the Kitchen & a Smoked Herring Salad

My kitchen was an empty place - one that was mine alone and while I enjoyed it for a long while, it was becoming lonely. M then stepped in with his booming voice and his adventurous palate, bringing back the excitement. I began to realize that maybe I needed to watch someone start from the beginning again - to test out flavors that worked or didn't, to read about ingredients with an eagerness that had fallen into a semi-slumber inside of me.  Maybe what I needed now was a partner in the kitchen; one who would challenge me, push me to try techniques I was being lazy about. So here's M's first recipe on Buttered-Up - a recipe that I genuinely love and can eat over and over and over again, especially when he's sitting right beside me with his mouth full; when we're grinning at each other and at all of those flavors popping in our mouths.

Smoked Herring Salad
You'll need:
250 grams of smoked herring fillet
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2-1 teaspoon of chili powder, depending on your tolerance
Zest of one lime
75 grams of fresh coriander, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
salt to taste
Slice the smoked herring fillets into bite-sized pieces. In a bowl, mix together the red onions, scallions, lime zest, lime, chili powder, olive oil, black, pepper & salt. Add the sliced smoked herring and fresh coriander then toss together gently. Serve by first plating the fish mixture then pouring on the remainder of the dressing.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Guest Post: Matters of the Belly

I enjoy connecting with other Egyptian food bloggers, maybe it's because there aren't many of us; maybe because I can't seem to find enough Egyptian ladies interested in the kitchen the way I am.  I recently found another kindred spirit and thought I'd share. Noha Serageldin is new on the scene. Starting in August, she's already got a bunch of posts for you to consume and her pleasant, friendly voice comes through -  genuine, honest with a constant urge to learn. Support her on her journey and connect with her directly on her blog Matters of the Belly, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter & on Pinterest. Here's Noha below. Make sure to try out her recipe. 

I have a borderline obsessive love for eggplants. So much so, that I seriously contemplated calling my blog ‘The Anxious Aubergine’ before settling for ‘Matters of the Belly’. I kid you not. There is something quite magical, I find, about how its spongy and seemingly inedible interior in the raw state transforms into this incredibly creamy, sweet and earthy flesh once cooked correctly. As I mentioned before on my blog, I was one of those weird kids who always loved  vegetables... growing up, just the mention of Moussaka or Fattah for lunch always got me excited. 

Not much has changed since then… if anything, my love for vegetables has continued to grow as I have… and now, I am always on the lookout for new ways to enjoy them. Especially eggplants. Technically, the eggplant is a fruit from the berry family. I know, shocking right? However, I refuse to call anything a fruit if it cannot be part of a fruit salad (you heard me, tomatoes), so I shall proceed to refer to it as a vegetable. Go ahead, tell the veggie police… I like to live on the edge.

This recipe is inspired by a classic Turkish dish called ‘Imam Bayildi’, which translates to ‘the Priest fainted’. Legend has it that a Turkish Imam fainted when his new wife prepared him this dish; some say it was because of how delicious it was, others claim that what caused him to faint was the fact that the dish used up all the olive oil in his dowry. You see, traditionally, the eggplants are meant to be fried, and anyone who has ever cooked with eggplant before knows that it is a SPONGE for oil, and sucks up obscene amounts if you allow it. As tempting as that sounds, I choose not to fry them, for the sake of my expanding waistline. Also, the original recipe is vegetarian, whereas in my version I add minced beef to the stuffing, which is how we have always made it in our household.

As it always is with family recipes, this one has evolved and changed each time I make it, resulting in a version I can proudly call my own, yet still reminds me of the Imam Bayildis of my childhood. Our family cook of over 30 years, whose name is Iman, liked to joke that this dish was named after her, and called it Iman Bayildi. I still call it that, and it never fails to give me a warm, fuzzy tingle in my heart each time I do.

Iman Bayildi (stuffed Eggplant)

Prep time: 20 min          
Cook time: 25-30
Servings: 2-3


2 medium/4 small eggplants
250g minced beef
3 tbsp olive oil plus extra for drizzling
1 medium onion, finely chopped 
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cardamom
½ tsp sumak
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
¼ cup raisins or sultanas
Salt & pepper to taste
250ml tomato puree (I use store bought passata, but any tomato sauce will do)
2 tbsp pine nuts
½ tsp ghee (optional)
Fresh basil or mint leaves for serving
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Wash & dry the eggplants, then slice each lengthwise in half. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin, leaving a 2cm border along the edge (as shown in photo). If you are using smaller eggplants, you may leave the skin on if you like, but mine were on the larger side so the skin could be too tough and bitter. 

Using a spoon, scoop out about a third of the flesh of each eggplant half, then set aside. Chop up the scooped up flesh into small pieces (to be used in the filling).

In a large non-stick pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and onions. Cook until softened, about 5min. Add garlic, cook until fragrant, about 1min. Add the minced beef and cook until colour changes. 

Add the chopped up eggplant flesh and the spices, cook until the beef begins to brown. Add the pomegranate molasses & raisins, season to taste and remove from the heat.

Using a spoon, stuff the eggplant halves with the mixture. In a baking tray, pour in the tomato puree/sauce, and arrange the stuffed eggplants on top. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the eggplant is soft and slightly golden. 

If the stuffing is browning too fast, you may cover the dish loosely with some foil.

Meanwhile, in a small non-stick pan over low heat, melt the ghee if using and add the pine nuts. Cook, stirring continuously until golden. You may do the same without the ghee (dry toasting) if you wish, but the ghee just gives it the most amazing flavour. 

When the eggplant is ready, remove from the oven and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and basil/mint leaves. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hot Cinnamon Drumsticks

Now that I'm working with a regular schedule like most people (which I haven't done in 7 years), it is not a matter of choice anymore that I make food days ahead to snack on during work hours. At first I tried to do the apple/banana & nut butter thing. I ate raw almonds in bulk. I drank and drank and drank herbal tea. But all day? No, thank you. There's only so much you can take before you hear your insides wail, telling tales of personal tragedy, aching for grease. 

For a few days, I ordered what I would call nothing else but crap with the 21 year olds at the office but in reality, my body at 30 does not feel like it's 21. 

Maybe it should. Maybe I'm not doing enough. Maybe I should. 

So I started trying. I had already managed to go for 2 months without refined sugar, honey & yeast (which is a story I should tell in the next post). This had to be the next level - maintaining what I had already started with a few exceptions here and there. 

At this stage, I'm doing okay. No more crap. Clean eating. Happy body. Sort of self-satisfied me. Oh & here's a recipe that I like a lot: 

Hot Cinnamon Drumsticks
You'll need:

1 kg of chicken drumsticks
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup of vegetable oil + 3 tablespoons for cooking
1/4 cup of honey
1 tablespoon of mustard
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1.5 teaspoon of chili powder
2.5 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
250 ml of chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Salt to taste

Excluding the chicken drumsticks, beat the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Add the chicken and marinate for at least 8-12 hours.

Place a large frying pan on the stove and heat until medium hot and separate the chicken drumsticks into three batches.

For the first batch, brown on all sides then add approximately 80 ml of chicken stock and lower the heat. Cook for around 10-12 minutes until the chicken stock dries up entirely & the chicken is tender & nicely glazed.

Continue to turn the drumsticks to gain even color for another 1-2 minutes on medium heat.

Repeat with the next two batches. Allow the chicken to rest before serving.

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