Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Food from South Eastern Europe

The seasonal festivities are now fading to black and white. The remnants of all manner of poultry should by now have been confined to the digestive system of the cat and everyone is wondering how rid themselves of the excessive fat that is obligatory in early January.

If that’s you, then have a look at lean living where you will get some tips and tricks to get back into shape before re-embarking upon a gourmet lifestyle once more.

For everyone else who doesn’t need to get into shape ie, those of you who are blessed with an unusually fast metabolic rate, I thought it would be a nice change to the new year to take a look at some of the more unusual and less known food which is coming our way as the EU continues to expand its borders.

If the
BBC is anything to go by, we may soon be experiencing some new and tasty treats, now that Romania and Bulgaria have joined the EU.

I have to admit that the cuisine of south eastern Europe is one beyond my scope of experience, but after taking a look at some of the native recipes, I think I would like to try a few dishes.

Tastes seem to range somewhere between Mediterranean cuisine and, dare I say, Asian (Indian Asian that is).

I am including a couple of recipes here which I intend to try out and will let you know what I think of the results.

Stuffed tomato salad

1kg tomatoes,
1 medium-sized celery,
250g Feta cheese,
sunflower oil,
1 cucumber


Peel and dice the celery, boil in salt water, strain and mix with the grated cheese, oil and finely chopped parsley. Slice off the tomato tops, core and fill with
the mixture (for an even more appealing appearance place the tomatoes on top
of cucumber slices). Trim with small pieces of tomatoes and parsley.


Shoppe style cheese

500g Feta cheese,
40g butter
1-2 tomatoes
1-2 peppers
black pepper
5 eggs.

Cut the cheese into five slices and place into butter-lined (earthware) bowls. Top with tomato slices, pepper rings and some butter, Bake in a hot oven some 5-6 min. Break an egg a top of each bowl and add the remaining butter with pepper and paprika. Bake until a crust is formed. Serve hot, garnished with slices of tomato, parsley and a chilli, as desired.

Kebapcheta (Oblong rissoles)

1kg minced meat (60% pork and 40% veal),
1/2 tsp cumin and pepper,


Salt the meat and let stand for 1-2 hours in the cold. Then mix with cumin, pepper, finely chopped onions (and some water). Let stand for another 2 hours. Form into oblong rissoles and grill. Serve with vegetables
and ... A LOT OF BEER!

Recipes source: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/bulgaria-faq/part9/

To find out more on Romanian and Bulgarian cuisine click this link
:bulgarian food

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Christmas Mince Pie Menace

Well, if this , wasn’t quite so pathetic, it would be hilarious.

For all those of you reading this outside the UK, it most probably is. Before reading this article, the first thing you need to understand is that here in England, we have the mental capabilities of a trained monkey.

Our magnificent Government has to protect us all from killing ourselves on a daily basis. So they are even more vigilant over our Christmas celebrations.

The fact that we are now, suddenly, in severe danger of poisoning ourselves by eating mince pies, brought a wry smile to my lips.

So Council Bosses in the Yorkshire Dales are worried about these pies containing nuts and suet are they ?


Well if they knew just what the original composition of the festive mince pie of Old England used to contain, I am sure they would by now be racing for a change of underwear.

In his excellent book The Complete Book of Curries, Writer Harvey Day dedicated half a page to this subject. I am sure you will find the following enlightening:
‘How a poor woman makes palatable Mince Pyes of stinking Meat.’
…..in the eighteenth century, before the advent of refrigeration, meat often went bad, especially in the homes of the poor who eked out their supplies over weeks; and in his delightful little book, Meet Mr Ellis, Vicars Bell gives extracts, supplemented by comments, of life in Little Gaddesden, Herts, two centuries ago. According to Mr Ellis, a prosperous farmer, ‘This is a poor industrious Woman that rents a little Tenement by me of Twenty Shillings a Year, who for the Sake of her Poverty is Every Week relieved, with many others, by the most noble Lord of Gaddesden Manour; who killing a Bullock almost every week for his large Family, he has the Offald meat dressed, and is so good as to have it given to the poorest People in the Neighbourhood. But as it sometimes happes, through the Negligence of careless Servants, that this charitable meat is apt to stink in hot Weather, for want of its due cleaning, boiling, and laying in a cool Place. However, the Poor are very glad of this Dole, as it does their Families considerable Service. ‘And to recover such tainted Meat, this Woman, after boiling and cleansing it well, chops and minces it very small, and when mixed with some Pepper, Salt, chop’d Sage, Thyme, and Onion, she bakes it: This for a savoury Pye. At another Time she makes a sweet Pye of this flesh, by mixing a few Currants and Plumbs with it. But in either Form the Taint is so lessened that it is hardly to be perceived.’

Copies of Harvey Day's The Complete Book of Curries are available from Amazon Books

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Roasting Tips for a Moist and Tasty Turkey by: Diane Watkins

There are many methods used to cook a moist and tasty Roasted Turkey. Most methods rely on basting. The turkey can be basted every 30 minutes with a basting bulb, or covered with cheesecloth soaked in butter. Other methods include brining the turkey (soaking in a salt water solution for 8-10 hours), or injecting a basting solution into the meat.
Whatever method you prefer, proper roasting is key to tender moist meat. Completely thaw the turkey. Start early and thaw the turkey in the refrigerator or in a place where the air temperature is no higher than 40 degrees. A 20-pound turkey takes about two or three days to thaw completely. Be sure the turkey is thawed completely, until no ice appears in the inner cavity and the meat is soft. Be careful: If the inner cavity is still frozen or even partially frozen when you put the turkey in the oven, the outside of the bird will be done before the inside, and the inside temperature will not be hot enough to destroy disease-causing bacteria, or if it is the outside meat will be dried out before the center is done.
Remove the neck and giblets from the cavities. If this is your first time cooking the turkey, be sure that both cavities are emptied. Reserve the neck and giblets for use in preparing the giblet gravy, if desired. Prepare the stuffing. If you are preparing the stuffing early, mix only the dry ingredients. It is recommended that you cook the stuffing separately, but if you do stuff the turkey, do not stuff it until you are ready to roast it.
Stuff the cavity loosely. Do not pack it. If you choose to cook the stuffing separately, you can place a quartered onion and some celery leave and other desired herbs in the cavity for flavor. Prepare a basting sauce. I prefer to baste with melted butter to which I add fresh or dried herbs. You can also baste with a mixture of wine and butter.
Baste the turkey with your sauce and place a loose tent of aluminum foil over the turkey to prevent the skin from burning before the turkey is cooked. This tent will be removed during the last 45 minutes or so of cooking. If you are using cheesecloth, soak the cheesecloth with the basting sauce and place over the breast and drape onto the thighs. When using cheesecloth, you do not need the foil tent.
Baste the turkey every 30 minutes during roasting. Roast your turkey at 325 degrees for the recommended time for the weight of your turkey. These times are approximate and should be confirmed with a meat thermometer. Be sure to check the thermometer about 3/4th of the way through the time indicated so as not to overcook.
Dry meat will result if the turkey is overcooked. The following table gives approximate times for roasting turkey at 325 degrees F. Estimated Cooking Times Wt. of Turkey Unstuffed Stuffed 10-18 lbs 3- 3 1/2 hrs. 4 - 4 1/2 hrs 18-22 lbs 3 1/2 - 4 hrs 4 1/2 - 5 hrs. 22-24 lbs 4- 4 1/2 hrs 5 – 5 1/2 hrs 24-29 lbs 4 1/2- 5 hrs 5 1/2 - 6 1/2 hrs The turkey must be roasted all at once. You cannot partially cook it ahead for later finishing. This method has been shown to increase the chances of food borne illnesses. For safety and doneness the internal temperature must reach 180 degrees F in the thigh and 170 in the center of the breast.
If the turkey is stuffed, the stuffing should reach 165 degrees F in the cavity. This temperature is essential to prevent food borne disease, and should be measured with a meat thermometer. The pop-up thermometer that comes in many turkeys serves as a good approximate of doneness, but should not be relied on as the ultimate authority.
When placing the meat thermometer in the thigh or breast, it is important not to touch the bone. The bone conducts heat and will be hotter than the meat. Do not allow the cooked meat to come into contact with anything that has touched the raw turkey. During the last 30 - 45 minutes of cooking, remove the foil tent to encourage browning.
If you desire to use a glaze, spread it over the turkey now with a pastry brush. After dinner, separate the stuffing from the turkey and refrigerate leftovers immediately. Within a few hours bacterial will begin to grow causing disease if the meat is not quickly cooled. Large chunks of meat will cool slowly, and therefore should be refrigerated immediately to begin the cooling process. Meat, stuffing, and gravy can also be cooled, then frozen for future use.
Luke warm leftovers allow bacterial growth. Food eaten cold will not have the opportunity for further growth, however when heating leftover, they should be heated to at least 165 to kill bacteria.

About The Author
Diane Watkins is a traditional southern style cook. She enjoys cooking, teaching, and writing about good food and family. For more information on southern cooking and recipes for everything you need to complete a traditional style holiday meal, visit her website Easy Southern Cooking.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What is a Gourmet

I suppose that when I was a kid and I first understood the term ‘Gourmet’, it sort of conjured up pictures of stuck-up French Aristocrats with waxed moustaches and monocles, hair plastered down with a couple of tons of lard. Before starting this blog, I took the time to ask around, mainly friends, saying “whats your idea of a Gourmet?”.

The normal response I got was pretty narrow and ranged around lovers of complicated recipes with rare and expensive ingredients and finicky aging types likely to complain if the consommé was not crystal clear or the Clos Vougeot was not at exactly the correct temperature.

To me, this is not what a gourmet is all about. Food is a great pleasure. Recipes are a joy. Sometimes, a recipe brings pleasure from its complexity and lengthy preparation as in the Elizabethan Oleo, which I will be exploring later. At other times, the simplest of dishes outweighs expense and time. Like mature cheese fried in best butter, or creamed mushrooms on toast, pure comfort food for cold wet dreary night.

On this blog I will be examining all aspects of good food regal and simple, and I will also be peeking at the seedier side, like avoiding those couldn’t-care-less restaurants which turn up the contents of a cess-pit and try to disguise the result as Volaille en Casserole à la Fermière.

One last point whilst we are on the subject French sounding nibbles. There is one thing you will NOT find me discussing on this blog after this current entry, and that is Foie Gras. Foie Gras is inhuman and should be banned forthwith. I abhor any form of forced animal cruelty and Foie Gras production is the epitome of this. If you need any further explanation on this subject I suggest that you see Sir Roger Moore’s short video which can be found here. But beware it is heart rending.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006