Sindhi chicken curry

Source: Easy Indian Cooking

I hate having great cookbooks sit idle on my shelves. (I’ve definitely discovered photos are key to a popular cookbook… I have books with amazing recipes, but without photos, it’s hard to get inspired and excited about the recipes.)

I was craving some Indian, so I committed to making something from my trusty Easy Indian Cooking book. It features authentic Indian recipes, slightly simplified to use ingredients that can be found in any grocery store.

It’s hard to go wrong with Indian recipes. The layers of spices almost guarantee a home run. This is a bright, light, fresh curry, but packed with flavour.

This recipe is surprisingly simple: you may have all the ingredients on-hand already and there’s not much prep (you can get started on the first steps and prep as you go). The cooking time is less than an hour. Throw a pot of rice on half-way though, and you have a delicious meal that could even be prepared on a weeknight.

Sindhi chicken curry with tomatoes and cilantro, served on white rice
Sindhi chicken curry with tomatoes and cilantro, served on white rice

Homemade doughnuts

Source: FineCooking.com

Making anything with yeast doughs requires a bit more commitment than regular baking. It’s not necessarily more difficult, but the dough generally requires 2 rising periods, each usually 1 hour long. So you’re easily looking at an entire day’s activity.

But the final product is always worth it.

Today I was craving some doughnuts. This recipe is actually surprisingly simple. All the ingredients get combined in the bowl of a stand mixer, and the machine mixes it.

The (very sticky) dough then rises for 1 hour, you then divide it into 16 pieces, roll into balls, and then let rise again for 1 hour.

At this point, it’s time to deep fry them. The key to deep frying is a good deep frying or candy thermometer to ensure your temperature is where it needs to be. (Too hot and things burn before they cook through, too cool and the food absorbs too much oil.)

Once perfectly cooked, the doughnuts get tossed in sugar, and filled with jam. (Although you can simplify things and skip the filling, and they’re still perfectly delicious!)

There’s nothing more satisfying than a delicious, warm doughnut… specially knowing you made it yourself from wholesome ingredients. Nothing guilty about that.

Homemade jelly-filled doughnuts
Homemade jelly-filled doughnuts

Jota: pork, sauerkraut and bean soup

Source: Lidia’s Italy

My dad’s side of the family is from the Trieste region of Italy. Because of its location and history, several traditional Triestine dishes have a Slavic influence. (It also has a unique dialect.)

Any good Triestino will have memories of jota, a hearty soup that combines beans, sauerkraut and a few forms of pork. Potato is used to thicken the soup. So we’re not talking about a particularly elegant soup, but on a cold winter day, it’s just what you need.

Lidia Bastianich’s recipe that I’m following flavours the broth with fresh pork butt, smoked pork sausage and fresh pork sausage. She calls for the meats to be removed and served separately, I’m keeping them in to create a satisfying single-bowl meal.

The soup takes about 2.5-3 hours to cook, but it’s a pretty hands-off process.

Jota: pork, bean and sauerkraut soup
Jota: pork, bean and sauerkraut soup

Goulash Triestino with mashed potatoes

Source: Lidia’s Italy

With life calming down a bit, I’m hitting the kitchen again. I decided to delve into a cookbook that I haven’t yet explored much: Lidia’s Italy, where celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich shares traditional recipes from all regions of Italy.

This first recipe is from Trieste in the far north-east corner of Italy bordering on Slovenia. This area has a long history as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and many dishes are more inspired by middle-European influences than Italian influences. The example in this dish is the use of paprika, which is rare or unseen in Italian cooking.

This is a lovely rich beef goulash that is quintessential comfort food.

Like any great stew, it does need about 2 hours of cooking time, then a bit more time to sit and meld, but it’s a very simple recipe. Prep doesn’t require anything more than coarsely chopping onions into large wedges, cutting the beef chuck into large 1 1/2-inch chunks and measuring out a few spices. Then things essentially go into a pot to stew. After cooking the onions and beef for an hour, you create a basic sauce by whisking together water, flour and tomato paste, bringing it to a boil, then adding it to the onion and beef, and letting it simmer for another 45 minutes.

Lidia’s recipe suggests serving with mashed potatoes (the Middle European style), polenta or fettuccine (Italian style) or steamed rice. I’m a sucker for mashed potatoes (made with a potato ricer), so that’s what I opted for.

Goulash Triestino with mashed potatoes
Goulash Triestino with mashed potatoes

Chocolate tart with salted pistachio caramel brittle

Source: Fine Cooking #96 (also at FineCooking.com)

Most people first pick a recipe, and then find an appropriate wine pairing.

But I often go the other way around. I find a great wine (or have a craving for a specific type of wine) and then find a dish that complements it.

This time around the wine was a 25 year old vintage port: Graham’s 1991 Vintage Port. Vintage port is typically paired with either cheese (usually blue cheeses like Stilton) or chocolate. We decided to go the chocolate route.

While I have a few amazing chocolate cakes in my repertoire, I felt like something different. But something that would nicely showcase chocolate.

This chocolate tart was a winner. And very simple to make. The tart crust is pressed into the tart shell (rather than being rolled), which makes it super easy. You then prepare the ganache filling while the crust bakes. You don’t let the crust cool, but add the warm chocolate filling as soon as the shell comes out of the oven, and then bake it again with the filling until it sets. The tart is topped with a salted pistachio caramel brittle (that can be made the day before). I sprinkled the entire tart with some additional flour de sel before serving.

An easy recipe that presents very well, and goes down even better. (Especially with a glass of vintage port.)

Chocolate tart with salted caramelized pistachios
Chocolate tart with salted caramelized pistachios, paired with aged vintage port