Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Spiced Quinoa with Butternut Squash & Pistachios

I went through some of my earlier Happy Belly posts today and it's funny how different they are from the recent ones.  This started out as a proper food blog where every blog post was about the actual dish I made. Then slowly I started linking the food to relevant life anecdotes and next thing you know this somehow turned into a personal diary.
So let's talk about this dish.  It's not my recipe, I got it from Will Cook for Friends.  It's a healthy superfood salad full of protein and healthy fats.  It's, I suppose, inspired by Lebanese flavors, what with the pistachios and coriander.  Oh I should add saffron to it next time.  I love saffron.  Hell, I felt like it was such a splurge buying pistachios (£4 for a small pack), I might as well add saffron to this.  Saffron actually isn't that bad.  It's expensive but you use so little of it every time.  A tiny little box with like half a tbsp of it might cost you £5 but at the same time you only use such a small fraction of it each time that it would last you for quite a while.  These pistachios on the other hand...well this was half a pack right here. 

Ok back to the dish.  It's easy and versatile.  It's a salad, it is by definition just a jumble of ingredients so add what you want.  You can use cheaper nuts and you don't have to add saffron. 
I made this when my friend, Rachel, came for lunch.  I love it when friends come over for lunch.  Guys, don't be afraid to ask, I love cooking for friends, if you're good company, you can invite yourself over for a meal. 

Recipe from Will Cook For Friends
Serves 2
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup pistachios, roasted and shelled
1/4 cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 180C.
Toss cubed squash with 1-2 TBSP olive oil, and a large pinch of salt. Spread in an single layer on a foil covered baking sheet, and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until fork tender. Shake or stir the pan once during cooking.

In a small pan over medium heat, saute garlic in 1 TBSP olive oil until golden and fragrant. Rinse the quinoa under cold water, drain, then add to the pan. Add the vegetable broth, coriander, and cumin, and bring to a boil*. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and let cook 12-15 minutes without lifting the lid. Remove from heat, and let stand for another 5 minutes. Remove the lid, and fluff quinoa with a fork.

Stir in chopped cilantro, pistachios, and the squash. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Serve.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup

 Okay, before talking about this beautiful soup, I need to talk about Twitter.  As you (should) know, I got a Twitter account a couple of days ago, and  I'm having mixed feelings about it.  On one hand, omg, I tweeted with Nigel Slater, he acknowledged my existence, I'm one step closer to becoming his apprentice.  On the other hand, I honestly don't have that many interesting things to tweet about.  Every now and then I eat or cook something interesting, but what else?  I feel like I'm just being a nuisance popping up on people's newsfeeds with my mundane daily activities and uninteresting opinions on trivial things.  I'm still getting the hang of it.  But other than having a conversation (yes I'm calling it a conversation) with Nigel (yes I'm going to assume we're on first name basis now), the other highlight of my twitter experience is my friend, Ahmed, tweeting about Happy Belly!  I'm still so surprised that some of my friends actually read Happy Belly.  I can see how many page views I have but I don't actually think people read this, which is why sometimes I get really personal and start spewing all my problems here.  If I have regular readers who are not my friends, it's kind of creepy, because they know a lot about me...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Healthy Coconut Banana Bars

I was thinking about post-uni plans as I was eating these breakfast bars today.  Actually, I had this realization a couple of days ago.  It's that time of the year when all 3rd year university students are busy with internship applications, especially the economists -- and I may be the only one in my year that still hasn't filled out a single application form.  Most economic students are expected to go into banking or accounting or other dreadfully dull, high-paying and soul-sucking jobs.  I can't do it.  In all honesty, it's not like I haven't tried applying to them.  I've half-filled application forms, it's just always difficult when I get to the "Why do you want to work with us?" part.  I honestly cannot think of a legitimate reason why anyone would want to go into investment banking other than to have a bank account equivalent to an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Up until this year I was pretty much set on going down that grim path.  I knew I was going to hate it, but it just seemed like the logical thing to do.  I thought a high-stress life would suit me just fine, and 14 hours of work a day with no sleep would be fine --- all a small price to pay for a gorgeous flat in the center of London and unlimited amount of useless designer bags.  Then something hit me. I think what really changed my mind was my friend.  I had coffee with him and he's only a first year, and he was telling me of his plans in the investment banking world.  And it just made me so sad. 
 You know what I want to do with my life? What I really want to do and probably never will? 

I want to open up a cafe.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Spiced Onions, Chickpeas & Mashed Carrots

Ok, after a week of just self-loathing, this morning I woke up beaming.  I had the post-Thanksgiving glow.  Ok, when I first woke up I was feeling bloated and disgusted with myself for having eaten half a turkey last night, but then, I felt fantastic.  The sun was shining (even though it was short lasting) and everything was good.  I had just had a mini conversation with Nigel Slater on Twitter (highlight of the entire semester), my sister had sent me a whole box of cinnamint gum (which I'm addicted to), my kitchen was (and still is) clean, and everything is good. 
Nigel had tweeted about his dinner, which was essentially this, except that he had used black eyed peas instead of chickpeas.  And then I tweeted him and asked how he made it, AND HE TWEETED BACK! Bless.  And so here. Thanks for making my semester, Nigel. 
Oh and happy belated thanksgiving! 

Serves 1
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
1-3 tbsp milk/cream
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 can chickpeas (about 170g), drained
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp chili 

Peel and chop the carrots.  Steam until tender.
While the carrots are steaming, chop or slice the onions. 
Heat a bit of oil in a pan and add 1 tsp of  mustard seeds.  When they start popping, add the onions and chili and fry for 5-10 minutes, adding oil when it gets dry.
Season the onions and take them out, reserve.  In the same pan, add more oil, add 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds and the ground coriander, when they start popping add the chickpeas and just fry for a minute or two until warmed through. Season.
Put the carrots in a food processor and add the milk/cream bit by bit until it reaches your desired consistency.  Season.
Serve by placing the carrot mash on the plate first, then top it off with chickpeas and finally the onions.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Chocolate Salami

I remember making one of these with nutella once when I was small.  It was from one of the first cookbooks I've ever owned, and it was just a thin hardcover book filled with nutella recipes.  I remember being in my grandmother's kitchen in their seaside house and mixing the digestive biscuits with the nutella and butter... This must've been at least 10 years ago since I haven't been to that house since my grandfather passed away.   It's funny how we have such vivid memories of the most random events.

This is making me rather nostalgic.  You know those stereotypical big Italian families that spend a lot of time together?  That was us every summer in Southern Italy at the seaside house.  I never really appreciated it when I was younger.  It was always my grandparents, my aunts and their families, plus our family, so it was 14 people going to the beach together, or dining out in restaurants and at home with a ridiculous amount of good food and good laughs.  Then in 2003 my grandfather passed away and we stopped going to the seaside house. 

Things deteriorated even more after my grandmother had a stroke a few years later... and then she passed away this summer.  It was only then did we all finally get together again, the 12 of us, for lunch.  It was my cousin's 18th birthday, and it was the first time in years that we were all together and probably one of the last times.  Here's my big Italian family.  Excuse the bad quality, the waiter was absolutely useless. 

I made the chocolate salami for the weekly Psychology Society lunches, and used melted chocolate instead of nutella.  And I added a bit of almond extract, which adds a really nice touch to it.  Try adding rum or vanilla or spices like cinnamon or chili, or maybe coconut milk hmm. 

Recipe adapted from Giallo Zafferano 
200g good quality dark chocolate
150g good quality butter, softened at room temperature
300g digestive biscuits
1/2 tsp almond extract
100g sugar
2 eggs

Break up the pieces of chocolate, place them in a bowl and melt over a double boiler (i.e. put the bowl over a small pot of simmering water.  The bowl should not come in contact with the water, so not too much water in the bowl).  Leave to cool
Meanwhile, mix the sugar into the butter in a bowl with a spatula and mix in the eggs and almond extract
Mix in the cooled chocolate (not so cool that it hardens obviously).
Break the digestive biscuits into pieces and fold that into the chocolate mixture
Put the mixture onto a large sheet of parchment paper, roll it up and twist the ends
Place in the fridge for at least 2.5 hours to harden
Open up and slice into pieces to serve

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Curried Brown Rice Skillet

Just to exacerbate things, my iPhone took a hard blow today and the screen shattered.  It was already cracked, but now a bit of the screen is actually missing.  It's probably somewhere on my kitchen floor.  Yes, it happened while I was making this. 

If you've read my last two blog posts you'd know that I'm currently an emotional wreck.  I really shouldn't be allowed to post on Happy Belly when I'm like this. 

On another note, I got a Twitter account.  I probably should've gotten a Happy Belly one.  I don't have the slightest clue what to do with it.  It's just like a series of status updates isn't it?  I've always felt like my life isn't interesting enough to have a Twitter account.  I've always found people who update their Facebook statuses with meaningless little mundane daily activities incredibly self-absorbed.  I don't even know how it works.  I've decided just to use it to follow people.  I retweeted and replied to one thing about this exhibition.  I don't know what else I can tweet about, I thought I'd be able to tweet about Happy Belly but I don't know how that yet.  You know what else?  It's almost like a popularity contest, isn't it?  Right now I have no one following me which is really upsetting. 

Anyway, this was adapted from Naturally Ella.  It was originally with butternut squash but I didn't have any, so this was a nice staple recipe. 

Serves 2-3 
Recipe adapted from Naturally Ella 
1 onion, diced
1 garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp garam masala 
1/2 cup chickpeas
1 cup tinned chopped tomatoes
1 1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup short grain brown rice

In a cast iron skillet, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic and fry for 10 minutes until it begins to caramelize.
Add garam masala and rice.  Stir until the rice is all coated with the garam masala.
Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, and stir until tomatoes begin to boil.  About 3-4 minutes. 
Add the stock, bring it to a boil, and turn the heat down.
Leave the rice alone, let it absorb all the liquid, about 45 minutes.
Remove from heat and let it cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato Crackers/Flat Breads

I'm actually bored.  I had a horrible realization yesterday afternoon in the library as I was wallowing in my sorrows.  I had submitted my last piece of coursework for the semester and I didn't know what I would do the next day.  I didn't feel like working, so I didn't want to go back to the library, and I don't like staying at home.  I didn't know where to go.  It's been so long since I last.. didn't have to go to the library, that I actually didn't know what I would do if I wasn't going to the library.  It's not that I don't have friends, it's just that they still have coursework.  So last night I stayed up and looked for things to do in Edinburgh and wrote down a list of galleries that I wanted to visit.  I came here, actually worked a bit, caught up on some Psychology stuff, went to the galleries, and now I'm in a cafe, bored.  I need more friends.  I need more friends in Edinburgh.  I practically only have one friend in Edinburgh who's currently not replying to my request for company for dinner.  I don't mind dining out alone, I do it often enough, but it's between now and dinner... It's dark already, but it's only 17:00, I should wait until 18:30 at the earliest.  That's 1.5 more hours.  So I'm updating my blog, in dire need of friends and entertainment of some sort.  Again, winter and hormones. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Coconut Brioche Snails

I'm aware of the inappropriateness of all this.  This is a rather depressing post for such beautiful brioche snails.  I hope it doesn't put you off and so I warn you, skip to the recipe first.  I had made these over the summer and they were a huge hit with my family.  Perhaps if I had one now I'd be in a better mood.   

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Home-Cured Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Had some difficulties back home, but then this morning I hopped on a bus to Edinburgh and it was sunny and oh when I'm in sunny Edinburgh I'm just a ball of sunshine myself. 
I almost never buy those jarred sun-dried tomatoes, not even in Italy.  They'll never be as good as the ones you make at home. The key lies in the olive oil, really.  Unless you pay an extortionate price, the olive oil used in commercial sun-dried tomatoes are never good quality.  So for this, please use the best olive oil that you can afford.  Trust me, it will be worth it. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Overnight Chocolate Coconut Oats and Chia

Happy Belly's been a bit..inactive in November.  So what have I been doing in November, not updating Happy Belly?  Work. Work, work work.  Not even academic work. Ok, yes academic work, but the past three days have just been surreal.  I was working from 8 to 22, walking about 7, 8 miles a day, meeting and talking with the most fascinating people, not writing my Econ essay, and falling behind on both my Microecon class and Cognition class. 

All I can say is, expect good breakfast recipes in the next couple of days and not much else since I'll be leaving the house after breakfast and then only coming back from the library after dinner.

This is one of those power breakfasts that will get you through the day.  It's like an overnight oatmeal dish but with the addition of chia seeds for that extra boost of healthiness.  Coconut and chocolate are two flavors I always enjoy together, but do what you will -- add nuts, honey, dried fruits, coffee and whatever you like in the morning. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

How to: The Best Scrambled Eggs [Happy Birthday Jess]

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESS!  I've talked about my lovely friend, Jess, before, and I think I've yet to mention her and her celebrations.  She loves her Thanksgivings, Christmases and Halloweens, but above all, she loves her birthdays.  She loves her birthday like a child loves her birthday.  It's adorable, it really is.  She begins reminding everyone of her birthday weeks in advance, and so obviously, for someone such as her, it's important to not disappoint when the big day comes. 

She had come over for brunch, and unfortunately I didn't take photos of any of the things I cooked.  While there were many components to the dish, today I want to focus on scrambled eggs, which is always a nice thing to have for brunch.  And I found a pretty sketch of it from Debra Morris! 
People think it's such a simple thing to make, but it's so easy to screw up.  I had worked in a pub over the summer and they made horrible scrambled eggs, the ones that taste like rubber because it's so over cooked, you know?  I follow Gordon's sublime scrambled eggs recipe, and it never disappoints.  I've cooked it for several people for breakfast, and it always amazes them.  It's so velvety, creamy and as he says, simply sublime.  It really is only three ingredients -- eggs, butter and crème fraîche.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Chickpea Flour Wraps

And I got chickpea/gram flour finally.  I saw loads of recipes with chickpea flour before, but never took note of any because I thought, well, don't have chickpea flour, nowhere to get chickpea flour in this small town, no need to save the recipe.  Well, if you've been reading my blog, you know that I just went to Edinburgh and went to a health shop -- and I bought chickpea flour. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Breakfast PB Chia Seed Pudding

I had always wanted to buy chia seeds.  They're really healthy and they're always found in a lot of vegan recipes as an egg replacement.  I mean, "in terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach and human growth hormone" says this guy on the bbc
Of course, I had always thought that they were a bit out of my food budget, being 12 pounds per bag, so I never saved any of those healthy chia seed recipes as I thought I'd never get chia seeds.  Then I went to this health store with the friendliest people.  This is, by the way, unpaid advertisement.  If you happen to find yourself in Edinburgh, go to Jordan Valley Wholefoods.  In addition to all the wholefoods that they have, they make amazing quinoa bars and flapjacks, amazing hummus, baba ganoush, spinach and lentil pate, and a huge array of falafels.  I had the pleasure of talking with the owner's son and another girl.  They're really nice people.  I mean people that work in such stores are usually just friendly, peaceful hippies, but these people are especially nice.  Just from chatting with them for a bit, they gave me free baba ganoush, hummus, and a super falafel (with like a bunch of nuts and pomegranate seeds).  The next day I went back, and I got free lentil pate and more hummus.  So now I feel obliged to return to bring more business to them every time I go to Edinburgh. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Parmesan Celery Salad

Whoa I'm behind.  First November post on the 5th, not good, not good.  I had a mini holiday.   I went to Edinburgh for three days, splurged and didn't do any work.  As guilty as I feel, since I'm behind on so many things, it was fantastic.  I really needed it. 
I haven't been cooking much lately because..well.  See this is the problem with having a public blog, I can't really say whatever I want.  I can't really rant about certain people and situations involving certain people, so I'll just talk about this delicious salad.
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