Fesenjan: Iranian Chicken, Walnut and Pomegranate Stew

Fesenjan

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Fesenjan: Iranian Chicken, Walnut and Pomegranate Stew

I’ve recently been trying a lot of home cooked Iranian/Persian foods and am really enjoying the intensity of the flavours that are so different from the other Asian foods I’ve had before. I’ve experimented with different recipes and I’ve cooked this fesenjan a few times, I’ve been told it tastes very authentic so I’m sharing the recipe I’ve adapted from this online version from the New York Times.  Fesenjan is typically eaten during special occasions in Iran, I like to make it when I have friends for dinner.

Having eaten this dish in various Persian restaurants in my home town, I think I’ve come close to the real deal! It’s not a particularly ‘pretty’ dish but it tastes amazing with a depth of flavour that is rare in a stew that only takes just over an hour to cook. It goes without saying that it tastes even better if left for a day to let the flavours melt together even more!

A word of advice to begin with, the sauce is meant to be very thick and ‘oily’ as the natural oils from the walnuts rise to the surface. Just mix the sauce up to combine the oil again. This recipe does not have any additional oil so it’s a pretty healthy dish overall!

 Ingredients:

  • 8-10 chicken drumsticks and thighs (use chicken breast if you prefer but that can end up quite dry due to the long cooking method)
  • 200g shelled walnuts, roasted and ground into a fine powder
  • 1 medium white onion, finely diced
  • 150 ml pomegranate molasses
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • sugar to taste
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds, to serve

 

 

Method:

  • Start by roasting the walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes at 150 degrees C. Turns them half way through to avoid burning. Let them cool then grind them into a fine powder, but don’t let it turn into a walnut butter!
  • In a large saucepan (with a fitted lid) add the ground walnuts, diced onion and 200ml water (or until the nuts and onions are just covered), allow to simmer with the pan lid on tight for 20 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes and check if more water is needed so the nuts don’t stick and burn.
  • In the meantime fry off the chicken pieces in a frying pan, no need for extra oil and the natural chicken fats will do that for you. Fry until lightly golden on all sides, no need to fully cook as that happens in the lovely sauce later.
  • Add the pomegranate molasses and ground spices to the stewed nuts and onions, mix it all in then add the fried off chicken pieces. Mix it all up with 2 tsp salt and allow to simmer with the pan lid slightly ajar for around 20 minutes. At this point the sauce becomes very ‘watery’ from the chicken juices. Keep stirring it to stop the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan and leave the lid off for a further 20 minutes of cooking or until the sauce becomes really thick and coats the chicken pieces well.
  • Add extra salt and sugar to taste. This stew is meant to be on the sour side but I’ve found that different brands of pomegranate mollasses require a little adjustment as they can be quite tart!
  • Serve topped with fresh pomegranate seeds and steamed rice, with a bit of salad

 

20160904_132624

Fesenjan: Iranian Chicken, Walnut and Pomegranate Stew

This is a very rich and heavy meal so the pomegranate seeds and salad help to lighten and lift the flavours somewhat.

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Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

Spiced Apple Muffins

Spiced Apple Muffins

Having started up a new business in the catering trade I am developing a range of baked goods and desserts that I hope my customers will enjoy. This recipe was inspired by the abundance of apples coming from my mother’s apple tree. She presented me with a bag of apples and asked me to bake an apple crumble. Then a few days later came another bag of apples so I did a bit of research and found a basic apple muffin recipe which I have adapted.

These muffins come out light and fluffy with a nice contrast between the tart apples and the warmth of the spices. A good basic muffin recipe that can be adapted as the seasons change and new fruits become the star of the show!

I started off adding cardamom to the muffins as it is my ‘go to’ spice for baking.

Apple and Cardamom Muffins

Apple and Cardamom Muffins

Then I got some feedback from customers and it seems that cinnamon is much preferred! It was also suggested that I put in more apples, so with a lot of home grown apples to use up I happily obliged! 🙂

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

To add some extra texture and additional flavour hit I added a spiced sugar on top of the muffins. As there is little sugar in the cake itself, the sugary top really helps to bring an extra dimension of flavour. On the cardamom spiced muffins I added the sugar topping at the end of baking but with the cinnamon version it was added as soon as the muffins went to the oven. The latter worked out better…

Ingredients:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 90ml milk
  • 80g baking margarine
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp of ground cinnamon, cardamom or whichever spice you choose!
  • 2 large apples – peeled, cored and chopped
  • Spiced sugar (2 tbsp brown sugar with a tsp cinnamon/cardamom mixed in)

 

Method:

  • Beat the eggs, sugar, milk and baking margarine together
  • Add the flour, baking powder and  ground spices then fold in until just combined
  • Add the apples and gently fold so you avoid over-mixing and creating a chewy texture
  • Spoon into muffin cases until 3/4 full and top with a sprinkle of the spiced sugar
  • Bake at 200 degree C for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top (check with a skewer that it is cooked all the way through

 

 

And if you have any apples left over make an apple crumble! Here’s one I made earlier…

Apple Crumble

Apple Crumble

A Recipe for Success: English and Dumplings

HEART & PARCEL

There are currently many women living in Britain who have a wealth of pre-existing skills and resources to offer, but do not have the required English language level to do so. These are the women that Heart & Parcel aims to support.

What is ESOL and why is it in trouble?

The government offers ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) provision which is free English classes for migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers who come to Britain and need help learning the language. Due to media sensationalist coverage on ‘migrants’ and a highly politicized discourse, the general public have been ill-informed about who comes to this country, for what reasons and the amount of provision or hand-outs they receive.  This misinformation perpetuates a negative view surrounding those who require these classes. A combination of all these factors lead to funding for ESOL being insecure and unstable (Hamilton & Hiller…

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Hand made Gnocchi

Bringing Communities Together Through Food

I’ve been thinking a lot recently have how we really do bring communities together through food. I’ve recently involved myself in various community based initiatives that are relatively new in the concept of ‘bringing communities together through food’. So this post is one of sharing and reflection…

In the ‘modern world’ where people become very busy looking inward at their own lives and may not take the time to observe the lives of others, I’ve noticed people are making more of a conscious effort to contribute in a positive way in society for the benefit of others. Whether this is something new in the circles I move in, or just new to me, is questionable. But still it makes you think about how societies evolve and adapt to change in circumstances and environment.

Food Bank

Food Bank

In the UK, the grown on Food Banks where people are overly relying on food donations we are seeing massive increase in the number of ‘Junk Food Cafe’s’ popping up. The concept behind them are to cook food for the public from ‘goods that would otherwise have been thrown away by supermarkets, independent grocers and food banks’. These unwanted food is charging a “pay as you feel” policy, allowing ‘customers’ to pay what they feel they can, and if that is nothing, they can help with the washing up.

The idea of a ‘Pay as You Feel Cafe’ is an interesting one as how do you ensure that everyone actually makes a contribution? If the concept of ‘Pay As you Feel’ isn’t embraced by all then will the concept as a successful business model? I’m hoping to find out through getting involved in a couple of such cafes so I’ll soon find out!

Another interesting idea is how we bring single people together using food. In today’s fast pace world we often isolate ourselves from others by keeping busy with what is within our comfort zone. This often means that people who are looking to be in a relationship so not have the opportunity to meet new people outside of their existing social circle. For me the rise of internet dating somehow takes away the social aspect of meeting new people, and potential matches. There seems to be a lot of pressure to make judgements on individuals based on what they choose to say or disclose about themselves to complete strangers. And who does that in real life?  So the idea of a ‘singles night‘ where a group of people get together through a shared love of cooking and eating seems to be a great way around this…

My next experience is one that is probably familiar to most but was new to me, and nicely ties into the ideas I’ve shared above. I was invited to attend this fundraiser where the food on offer was wood fired pizzas made from ‘waste food’ to raise money for local food banks! The event took place in a community allotment and people got together to eat and drink whilst raising money for a good cause. I went alone and got chatting to several people who shared stories about how they love to spend time in the shared allotment to grow the fruit and vegetables. I grow a few vegetables my yard at home but the space is limited and although I enjoy pottering around the garden, the idea of doing it with other people really appeals… that day I even bought some local honey and organic eggs from some allotment owners, how else would I have been able to do that?

My final experience to share is that of a local apple cider distillery I happened upon whilst volunteering for a new Junk Food Cafe. As I was working with a small group of volunteers to break down wooden pallets to be recycled into cafe furniture, a slow trickle of local people came along and dropped off bags and bags of apples they had harvested from their gardens. This project takes unwanted and excess apples and turns it into cider or apple juice and the apple donors can take away samples of the cider or juice back with them! In late summer I often wander past gardens full of over ripened fruit trees and wonder why people let the fruits go to waste. The Moss Cider project encourages the fruit donors to get involved in the processing of the fruit so people can get a real experience out of it too.

Just from this handful of experiences I have had in the past two weeks has really opened my eyes to the different ways that food really is bringing communities together. I often think back on meals shared with friend and family remember the food we ate as much as the memories created.

I have found that by keeping an open mind to new experiences and taking the leap to do something out of my comfort zone, I have met new friends with similar interests but from hugely different walks of life. Who knows where my next step into the unknown will take me? 🙂

Rosemary and Cayenne Soda Bread

Rosemary and Cayenne Soda Bread

Week 3 of Great British Bake Off 2015 was ‘Bread Week’ with the contestants starting off with a Soda Bread, before moving onto the technical baguette and then the more elaborate show-stoppers!

Rosemary and Cayenne Soda Bread

Rosemary and Cayenne Soda Bread

So naturally I started off with the easiest option of soda bread. Not a bred I’ve made before so I turned to my trusty ‘bread book’ Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard for inspiration. This cook book doesn’t have a huge amount of photos but more than makes up for this with tonnes of recipes! I once saw Dan Lepard showcasing his bread making techniques at a food festival so have admired his bread making since. An Aussie version of Paul Hollywood!

The basis of this recipe is Dan Lepard’s ‘Breakfast Soda Breads‘ which recommends putting together the ‘dry’ ingredients and storing them for when you want to bake up some fresh rolls. Not a bad idea since I often struggle to eat bread before it starts to go stale. However this time I wanted to bake a whole loaf so I used the same basic recipe but added used some rosemary from my kitchen garden, then threw in some cayenne and chilli flakes for a bit of a kick! I also topped the loaf with some sunflowers seeds because they were closer than the rolled oats.

The great thing about baking this soda bread is that there is no kneading and proofing involved, so it’s really a quick bread!

For ease of reference, I’ve copied the recipe below:

For the dry mix

  • 450g wholemeal flour
  • 3 level tsp baking powder
  • ½-¾ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp muscovado sugar

For every 75g of dry mix (per bread roll)

  • 50-75ml cold whole milk (390ml in total)
  • 30ml plain yoghurt (180g in totol)
  • 15cm square of baking paper
  • Rolled oats, to finish (Or any seeds you have to hand)
  • Extra flavours- 3 sprigs Rosemary (finely chopped), 1 tsp Chilli Flakes, 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper

Method:

  • Sift the dry ingredients together, so the baking powder and salt are evenly mixed. Add any herbs and spices you want at this point.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-assisted)/400F/gas mark 6.
  • Stir the required quantity of milk and yoghurt into your dry mix.
  • Position squares of baking paper over each pocket of a muffin tray, then spoon about 150g into the centre of each. Gently press the mixture and paper down into the pocket.
  • Sprinkle a few rolled oats (or seeds) over the soda breads and bake for 25 minutes, until puffed and brown. Serve warm. If baking one large loaf, then bake for 50-60 minutes or until done.

I baked this loaf twice as the first time it was slightly under-baked in the middle, as I didn’t slash the loaf in the middle. The second time I baked it I added some extra rosemary and reduced the amount of salt but felt that the flavour of the first loaf was better. I think I’ll try other soda bread recipes to see how they compare!

Rosemary and Cayenne Soda Bread

Rosemary and Cayenne Soda Bread

In another ‘Short and Sweet’ recipe for ‘Ale House Rolls’ he suggests part baking the rolls before freezing them then baking them from frozen for 10-12 minutes when required. I like this idea and reckon it would work with any breads! Worth a try…

Looking forward to week 4 of Great British Bake Off 2015! 🙂

Salted Butterscotch and Almond Shortbread Biscuits

Salted Butterscotch and Almond Shortbread Biscuits

The Great British Bake Off is bake on British TV and, like thousands of others, it has reinvigorated my interest in baking! My sister and her colleagues have decided to each choose a week to bake some goodies and take them along to the office to share. The idea is that they bake something that was on the programme that episode. However I’ve made it easier on myself and just stuck to the theme. The idea is to challenge myself to bake a new recipe or come up with a new idea.

This week was biscuit week (week 2)! There was lots of shortbread being made, so this inspired my first attempt at these ‘Salted Butterscotch and Almond Shortbread Biscuits’.

You may be wondering why I’m starting with week 2, and what happened to week 1! Well I’ve started late so I’m kind of cheating and counting a previous bake (from 4 months ago!) as my week 1 contribution: Black Forest Cake.

I’m also on Twitter @wangsamsin so feel free to follow my progress!

Shortbread Ingredients: (Original recipe from Tesco website)

  • 125g butter
  • 55g Caster sguar
  • 150g Plain flour
  • 50g Ground almonds
Salted Butterscotch Sauce

Salted Butterscotch Sauce

Salted Butterscotch Ingredients:

  • 125ml double cream
  • 30g butter
  • 4 tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Butterscotch Method:

  • In a small pan, bring cream to the boil and stir in butter.
  • Turn down the heat to low then the sugar, stirring until the butterscotch becomes smooth.
  • Add the sea salt and mix thoroughly
  • Allow to cool to room temperature so it becomes spreadable but not too thick (if it thickens too much then re-heat to loosen)
  • Left-overs can be stored in a sterilised jar in the fridge for up to a month. Use as a sauce for ice cream or pancakes!
Salted Butterscotch and Almond Shortbread Biscuits

Salted Butterscotch and Almond Shortbread Biscuits

Almond Shortbread Method: (I made two batches for these double layered biscuits)

  • Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Beat the butter and the sugar together until smooth with an electric mixer.
  • Stir in the flour and almond to get a smooth paste. Turn on to a work surface and gently roll out until the paste is 1/2 cm thick. For the second batch, I cut a small hole in the centre of each biscuit to allow the butterscotch filling to show through.
  • Cut into shapes, place onto a baking tray.
  • Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a wire rack. Make sure you bake the ‘holes’ too as they make really cute mini-shortbreads!

To Assemble:

  • Think of a ‘Jammy Dodger’ and you’ll not go wrong!
  • Using the plain biscuit as the bottom layer, spread a layer of butterscotch filling on it then ‘sandwich’ it with a top layer that has a hole in it. Simple!
  • Decorate with some extra sea salt flakes to give a hint of what’s inside…
Salted Butterscotch and Almond Shortbread Biscuits

Salted Butterscotch and Almond Shortbread Biscuits

Courgette and Lemon Loaf

Courgette and Lemon Loaf

Courgette and Lemon Loaf 

This bit of baking was inspired by my glut of, rather oddly shaped, courgettes in my tiny little veg garden. Having sewn the seeds and transplanted the seedlings before I headed out of the country for a few months, I was amazed that so many of them survived! Thankfully my house-mates did as promised and watered the plants as often as they could. After a couple of hours of tidying up and weeding I managed to get my little kitchen garden back on track.

As a dedicated cake fan and a member of the Clandestine Cake Club I went about setting up a cake club in Yangon, and to my delight I found a lot of other cake-eating friends wanted to join in too! For the second event we had twinned with my original cake club, CCC Manchester Central, and held a joint event. For this event I made a ‘Courgette and Lime’ cake which turned out quite good considering I hadn’t made it before!

So with some lemons in the fridge and a couple of huge home grown courgettes, I set about making a cake destined for the bellies of some family members who are currently visiting from Hong Kong (the motherland!). What better way to welcome people than with a home baked cake?

Ingredients:

  • 1 large courgette, grated and with as much liquid squeezed out as possible (I ended up with 240g)
  • zest of two lemons
  • 160g sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 140g butter, softened
  • Juice of the two zested lemons (for the syrup)
  • 2 tbs icing sugar (for the syrup)

(n.b. The recipes is based on a pound cake one with some amendments. I’d say I had slightly too much courgette and I reduced the usual amount of sugar and butter since Chinese people generally don’t like very sweet and buttery cakes)

Ready to go into the oven

Ready to go into the oven

Method:

  • Use an electric beater to whisk the eggs and sugar to ‘ribbon stage’ to get as much air in as possible to get a better rise in the cake. Then whisk in the softened butter at the last minute trying not to undo all your hard work in getting the bubbles in…
  • Mix the courgette, baking powder, flour and lemon zest all together
  • Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients
  • Pour the batter into a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake at 160 degrees C for about 50-60 minutes (or once a skewer stabbed through the cake comes out clean). Check it at 45 minutes just in case you have a super duper efficient oven!
  • Allow the cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes, in the mean time make the lemon syrup by thoroughly mixing the icing sugar and lemon juice.
  • Use your skewer to poke wholes all over the cake and slowly drizzle the lemon syrup all over, trying to get as much into the holes as possible. Leave the cake in the tin until it is fully cool.
Courgette and Lemon Loaf

Courgette and Lemon Loaf

As I didn’t want to waste the second courgette I decided to chop it up for my lunch. One vegetable (or is it a fruit because it has seeds?!) and two completely different recipes!

Courgette and Tomato Wholewheat Spaghetti

Courgette and Tomato Wholewheat Spaghetti

Culture of Waste: Skipchen response to French supermarket law

An interesting take on the food waste debate. I’ve seen much of the ‘donated’ foods going into bins after supermarkets have donated them due to these charities lacking correct storage facilities or because the food was already going mouldy… Surely reducing the amount of waste to begin with is a better solution?

Culture of Waste: Skipchen response to French supermarket ban on food waste.

In May France made headline news for taking the lead in the battle against food waste.

The legislation bans supermarkets over 1000 m2 from deliberately spoiling unsold edible food with chemicals and bans any edible food from going to landfill.

Instead, unsold edible food must be donated to local charities and redirected back into the human food chain or composted, fed to pigs or anaerobically digested to produce biogas.

The new law has been celebrated by many as an historic turning point in the fight against global food waste.

In a similar move, Tesco announced in June that they are trialling a scheme where charities can pick up unsold edible food for ‘free’ using an app.

However, we feel it is important to look beyond the click bait headlines and ask some important questions.

Does the legislation address…

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Myanmar Mangoes

Mango and Avocado Salsa

Mango and Avocado Salsa

Mango and Avocado Salsa

Mango and Avocado Salsa

After spending three months in South East Asia and mostly eating fresh local mangos for breakfast (because anything more would have just sent me back to sleep) I find the same breakfast in the UK just doesn’t cut it!

Myanmar Mangoes

Myanmar Mangoes

This morning I was highly disappointed with the mango that I’d just bought from the supermarket, finding it already blackened inside and not nearly as sweet as the ones I’d grown accustomed to in Myanmar…

My Myanmar Breakfasts

My Myanmar Breakfasts

However it did remind me about to post this basic recipe of Mango and Avocado salsa! A great addition to any barbecue spread or with some lightly grilled fish for a light summery dinner. There is a fair bit of chopping but it all just gets tossed together right before eating so no cooking involved!

Mango and Avocado Salsa Ingredients

Mango and Avocado Salsa Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • Fresh mango, cubed
  • Half a cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and sliced
  • Ripe avocado, cubed
  • Lime, quartered and juiced
  • Red chilli pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • Handful of coriander, chopped
  • Red onion, finely diced (I forgot this bit!)

Method: 

  • Mix everything up just before serving!

The mangoes and avocado are sweet and soft, the cucumber and onion adds texture, whilst the coriander, lime and chilli pepper add extra punchy flavours. A very simple salad that will always remind me of the delicious Myanmar mangoes… 😀