Friday, 31 May 2013

Eat Like Viggo Mortensen

Hi peeps!

Another birthday today! Happy birthday uncle Colin! Wishing you an amazing day today!!!
For our Friday blog we have Viggo Mortensen in the spotlight.

Viggo Peter Mortensen, Jr. Born October 20, 1958; is an American-born Danish actor, poet, musician, photographer and painter. He made his film debut in Peter Weir's 1985 thriller Witness, and subsequently appeared in many notable films of the 1990s, including The Indian Runner Carlito's Way, Crimson Tide, Daylight, The Portrait of a Lady, G.I. Jane, A Perfect Murder, A Walk on the Moon and 28 Days
Mortensen's career rose to new heights in the early 2000s with his role as Aragorn in the epic film trilogy The Lord of the Rings. As far as research goes; it seems his favourite food is vegetables so for today let's get our aprons on and make two gorgeous veggie dishes fit for a king - pun intended, lol. Here we go!

Tuscan Vegetarian Pasta (food.com)
Ingredients:
2 cups cremini mushrooms
1 cup broccoli floret
1 cup spinach, fresh leaf, tightly packed
2 red bell peppers, julienned
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup tomato sauce
2/3 lb pasta (fettuccine or penne works well)
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons herbes de provence
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper

Directions:
Mix mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, pepper, and onion.
Spread on baking sheet.
Drizzle 1 T. olive oil and sprinkle liberally with seasonings.
Bake vegetables at 450 for ten minutes.
Boil pasta until "al dente".
Mix with mozzarella, vegetables, and sauce and transfer to casserole.
Drizzle remaining olive oil on top and coat top with Parmesan.
Bake at 450 for approximately 20 minutes.

Wild Mushroom and Chestnut Cottage Pie (bbcgoodfood.com)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 carrots , chopped
½ swede , chopped
12 pearl onions , peeled and left whole
1 garlic clove , crushed
1 rosemary sprig
1 tsp tomato purée
1 tsp yeast extract, such as Marmite
200g can chopped tomatoes
50ml white wine
175ml vegetable stock
500g fresh penny buns/ceps or mixed wild mushrooms , roughly chopped
200g vacumn-packed chestnuts , halved
FOR THE TOPPING
3 potatoes , diced
2 parsnips , diced
2 carrots , diced
300g celeriac , diced
100g butter
50ml milk

Method:
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the carrot, swede and onions, and cook for 8 mins. Add the garlic, rosemary, tomato purée and yeast extract, and cook for a further 5 mins. Add the tomatoes and white wine and scrape all the goodness off the bottom of the pan. Pour in the stock, add the mushrooms and chestnuts, then simmer for 8 mins until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Pile the mushroom mixture into an ovenproof dish, top with the mash, then cook for 30 mins until golden and bubbling. Serve with some buttered greens, if you like.

So yummy right?! Let's hope Viggo enjoys it too. Have an awesome weekend peeps and join me on Monday for some good news and a good chat about colic.

Ciao for now!
Chef Shants xxxxx

Thursday, 30 May 2013

More Weird Food!

Hi peeps!

HapPy biRthDay to my AMAZING dad!!! Have a fantastic day, dad and love you SO MUCH!!! Hope to celebrate with you soon!!!

My dad was the one who introduced me to the world of cooking and the love of food. A passion really! I owe so much to my awesome Pops.

Yesterday's weird food really freaked me out but I couldn't help but be so totally interested! I couldn't help myself, I needed to know more and because I'm so kind I had to share it with you again (*giggles naughtily*). Okay so let's see if these foods get any weirder than yesterday's wacky menu....

1. Codfish Sperm is served as a delicacy in parts of Asia. Scary thing is, they like to eat it raw. It resembles brains in the way these tight white tubes are dished up in odd balls and is considered to be quite delicious.

2. Mopane Caterpillars are chomped in Botswana. These caterpillars are either eaten raw or cooked with pap over an open fire. They can also be found in bottles of an alcoholic beverage called 'Mampoer'

3. Sannakji is eaten in China and is basically fresh, live octopus. take your fork and dig in but just watch out as those suckers on the tentacles can cause a major choking hazard as they stick to the inside of your throat. Apparently, the more it squirms, the better it tastes.

4. Tuna Fish eyeballs are even sold in supermarkets by the punnet in Japan. Yes, you guessed it, they eat it raw.

5. Stink bugs are a delicacy in Irian Jaya in Indonesia. Popped into the mouth and chomped just like that for a light snack.

6. Raw Herring is swallowed whole in parts of Holland. Just grab it by the tail, throw your head back and insert fish head first into your mouth.

7. Haggis from Scotland is well-known. Basically each household and restaurant have their own recipes to make the best Haggis. This dish is simply sheeps puck: heart, liver and lungs cooked with onion, oatmeal, spices and salt and then stuffed into a sheeps stomach and cooked for 3 hours more.

8. Muktuk is enjoyed by the Inuits in Alaska. This delicacy is frozen whale skin and blubber. It can be eaten raw or pickled, fried or breaded.

9. Rocky Mountain Oysters or Prairie Oysters have nothing to do with shellfish. No siree; peeps in Idaho, U.S.A take bull or buffalo testicles, flatten them and deep fry them. Apparently they've even got a festival where these "oysters" are enjoyed.

10. Fried Brain Sandwich. St. Louis, Missouri was quite popular for their fried cow brain sandwich before mad-cow disease broke out. The brain itself has not much taste so spices and herbs had to be added.

11. Birds Nest Soup is eaten in China. The birds nest is boiled with bird saliva and then made into a nutritional soup that is enjoyed all over China.

12. Hakari is said to be the WORST "delicacy" ever made anywhere according to one Mr Anthony Bourdain; who is well-known for travelling the world and bravely trying the weirdest delicacies from across our globe. This is gutted basking shark that has been left to ferment for oh.....about 3 to 4 months and diced up and served on toothpicks. We have the peeps from Iceland to thank for this one. The smell alone is enough to make anyone reconsider taking a bite.

Okay, I reckon between yesterday's blog and today's I've pretty much heard enough and seen enough weird and wonderful food for a while. I hope the goosebumps will finally go and my tum settles before I have to start dinner for tonight!

Hope you're stomachs are doing better than mine, peeps!
Chef Shants xxxxx

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Weird and Wonderful Foods From Around the World

Hi peeps!

We all belong to a culture, group, family and country that each have our own type of foods. Some of these foods can be really very weird and others can be enjoyed by everyone. Most of these traditional dishes might require and acquired set of tastebuds and so today I want us to take a gander at some of the most unusual dishes from around the world....
EndlessSimmer.com guest writer Mireille tackles one of our favorite subjects…

1. Deep Fried Tarantula (Cambodia)

When you think of a big, hairy, venomous tarantula, chances are, the last thing on your mind is to eat it. Well, in Cambodia, fried spiders are a common and much appreciated delicacy. The spiders–“a-ping” or “Thai zebra” tarantula, a species that is about the size of a human hand, are tossed in garlic and salt before being deep fried until crisp. Most people only eat the legs and the upper body’s flesh–but the bravest also eat the abdomen, which contains a brown, runny paste and sometimes even eggs.

2. Century Eggs (China)

Century eggs—or millennium eggs, thousand-year-old eggs or pidan, whatever you call them—are quail, duck or chicken eggs preserved in a mixture of ashes, clay and salt for several months. In the process, the egg’s white turns to a jelly-like brown mixture, while the yolk turns into a green-ish or gray-ish cream. Century eggs emit a powerful smell of sulfur and ammonia, and their taste is strong and complex.

3. Balut (Philippines)

Animal lovers, beware: You may be shocked by this one. Balut are fertilized duck eggs…Yes, this does mean that they contain a duck embryo. Balut are boiled and served with their shell: You pierce a little hole on top of the egg and sip the liquid contained inside. Once you have drank it all, you break the shell and treat yourself with an unborn baby duck. Balut are most often eaten when they are 17 days old: the chick is boneless and not yet really formed. But some prefer to eat it when it is as old as 21 days and has a beak, feathers and bones.

4. Durian (China)

This yummy-looking, yellow, spiky fruit from Southeast Asia seems normal in pictures. But the durian has something that truly makes it stand out: A strong, foul smell. The durian’s smell has been compared to rotting flesh, sewers and dirty socks and is so persistent that it has been banned from several hotels in Asia and is not allowed in many airports around the world.

5. Escamoles (Mexico)

Now you be careful next time you order food in Mexico. Those white beans might just as well be escamoles… a.k.a.: giant black Lipometum ants’ eggs. This “insect caviar” has a consistency similar to cottage cheese and, apparently, a nice buttery taste.

6. Lutefisk (Norway)

The Viking dish par excellence, lutefisk is made from dried white fish, usually cod or ling. The dried fish is placed in water for several days, then in a lye-saturated solution for two more days, until the fish’s flesh turns to jelly. Since lye is a poisonous and toxic substance, the process does not stop there: At this point, the lye-saturated fish could kill the one who eats it. In order to make it edible, the lutefisk is soaked in daily changed water for about a week, until most of the lye is gone. Lutefisk is often mocked for its strong, nearly unbearable smell. Because of the toxic products used in its making, it is nicknamed “weapon of mass destruction,” “rat poison” or “fork destroyer”…

7. Raw Blood Soup (Vietnam)

Tiet Cahn, or raw blood soup, is a traditional Vietnamese dish that contains very few ingredients: chicken gizzards and raw duck blood, topped with peanuts and herbs. Tiet Cahn is refrigerated before consumption: the blood then coagulates and has the texture of jelly…

8. Live Cobra Heart (Vietnam)

That meal is not for the fainthearted—pun intended. Live cobra hearts cannot be considered a common meal in Vietnam—but some people do eat them, mostly because they believe that, by eating a snake live, they will inherit a part of its power and enhance their strength. The ritual goes like this: A live cobra is picked by the customer from a selection of specimens—the meaner, the better. Its head is then cut off and its still beating heart ripped out, placed in a saucer with a bit of the blood, ready to be chugged and swallowed whole. According to Ross Lee Tabak, who tried eating live cobra heart in Hanoi, “you might feel it beating in your throat.”

9. Scorpion Soup (China)

A scorpion can not only be seen pinned on a wall at a natural history museum in Montreal or in New York: It can also be seen in a soup. Traditionally eaten in southern China, scorpion soup gives the spooks just by looking at it. Apparently, scorpions have a nice, wooden taste and their venom is neutralized by the cooking process. But beware: Eating scorpion soup and especially preparing it can still be very dangerous!

10. Last But Not Least: Casu Marzu (Italy)

Granted, all cheeses are kind of gross, when you really take time to think about it: Fermented milk, full of bacteria and germs of all sorts. But the casu marzu goes beyond simple fermentation. It is closer to actual decomposition. This Italian pecorino—a.k.a. sheep milk cheese—is crawling with… live fly larvae. At the end of the making process, the cazu marzu’s crust is cut open, in order to let flies lay their eggs in the cheese. Once those eggs hatch, little larvae are born, making their way through the cheese and giving it its strong, unique taste. Some people love to eat their casu marzu with the larvae still alive and wiggling, others prefer to suffocate them with a paper bag prior to eating the cheese… How would you take yours?

Ummm, can you say "no thanks!". I'm brave but definately not THAT brave; I can't deny my face was pulled in an "eeew" expression and my stomach was doing sickly flipflops while my skin did a crawl. Sorry to those who actually eat this stuff, you have my undying respect but I think I will stick to not-quite-so-adventuruous menus.

Keep it real, peeps! Till tomorrow!
A really creeped out Chef Shants xxxxx

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How To Make Your Own Pasta

Hi peeps!

Well, Akira is starting to get pretty nifty in the kitchen and more and more she wants to do things on her own. She loves working with her hands and I'm privately (now not so privately) chuffed that she's taken to a love of food. Baking and cooking really keep her entertained and she's always asking pointed, yet profound, culinary questions. One such question was "mommy, can't we make our own pasta instead of buying it?" And with a shocked look on my face I said "okay! Let's make some pasta!" And so we did! This is how you make your own pasta in the comfort of your own kitchen:

How to Make Homemade Pasta by Hand with picture guides by the editors of home cooking magazine.

It is very simple to make your own fresh pasta at home, even without a pasta machine. Just follow these basic steps and discover the delicious taste and satisfaction of eating your very own pasta.

Combine 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt on pastry board, culling board, or countertop; make well in center. Whisk 3 eggs, 1 tablespoon milk, and1 teaspoon olive oil in small bowl until well blended; gradually pour into well in flour mixture while mixing with fork or fingertips to form ball of dough.

Gradually add the mixture to the
flour to make a ball of dough.


Place dough on lightly floured surface; flatten slightly. To knead dough, fold dough in half toward you and press dough away from you with heels of hands. Give dough a quarter turn and continue folding, pushing, and turning. Continue kneading 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour to prevent sticking if necessary. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; let stand 15 minutes.

Knead the dough until it becomes
smooth and elastic.

Unwrap dough and knead briefly (as described in step 2) on lightly floured surface. Using lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/8-inch-thick circle on lightly floured surface. Gently pick up dough circle with both hands. Hold it up to the light to check for places where dough is too thick. Return to board; even out any thick spots. Let rest until dough is slightly dry but can be handled without breaking.

Lightly flour dough circle; roll loosely on rolling pin.

Loosely roll the dough on a rolling pin.

Slide rolling pin out; press dough roll gently with hand and cut into strips of desired width with sharp knife. Carefully unfold strips.




Cut the dough into strips of desired width.

Pasta can be dried and stored at this point. Hang strips over pasta rack or clean broom handle covered with plastic wrap and propped between two chairs. Dry at least 3 hours; store in airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days. To serve, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water 3 to 4 minutes just until al dente. Drain well.



Dry the pasta using a drying rack.

You can also make homemade pasta with the help of a machine.

And there you go! Now you can make your own pasta too and its great fun! See ya'll tomorrow!

Homemade is always better
Chef Shants and Akira xxxxx

Monday, 27 May 2013

Herbs - Rosemary

Hi peeps!

Another LOUD HAPpY BirTHDAy to Anschke Wessels; another beautifully nutty cousin of mine. I hope you have a great day, hun! Miss you LOTS and have an AWEsoMe DaY!!! ♡

Todays topic is about herbs. No dish is complete without the use of complimentary herbs and spices; not to mention; the medicinal properties they contain. Let's take a look at some quick info on herbs: (fresh-herbs.com)

Did you know that...

Fresh herbs contain more antioxidants – substances that fight cancer and heart disease – than some fruit and vegetables

Rosemary is rich in antioxidants which help to maintain vitality & slow the ageing process

The Romans believed that the consumption of mint would increase their intelligence and the smell of mint in their houses was also a symbol of hospitality

Growing a pot of basil in the kitchen may smell good to us but it doesn’t to nuisance flies and mosquitoes who are repelled by the aroma

Mint leaves or oil deters ants and so a few scattered leaves in your cupboards can prove a useful, natural solution

Fresh herbs aid the digestion of food – especially fat - and help with the elimination of toxins from the body

Chives have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system, lowering blood pressure

Dill is effective for the treatment of colic, gas and indigestion

A Royal Herb-Strewer was a popular profession in England in the days before proper drainage and medicines were the norm. Back then, herbs were used for their deodorising and healing properties. A herb strewer’s primary duty was to distribute herbs and flowers throughout the royal apartments in order to mask the rather unpleasant aromas of the city

Today we use the majority of the traditional ‘strewing’ herbs to make scented sachets to deter moths, for pot pourri to sweeten the room and a variety of other aromatic uses

Herbal seeds have been found in pre-historic cave dwellings dating back as far as 500,000 years ago. Our ancestors have always used herbs in cooking and health remedies

The discovery of America is linked to Western civilisation’s search for easier access to rare spices and herbs. Columbus was, in fact, hoping to open trade routes for these substances when he blundered into the West Indies and the Age of Exploration unveiled the New World

The Egyptians studied herbs and used them in medicinal and religious functions as far back as 3500 B.C. The Chinese began the organised study of herbs in 2500 B.C. Written records in China have survived enumerating the uses of herbs that date from 100 B.C.

Dill was once an important herb in witchcraft, and a purported aphrodisiac, it has a distinctive sour flavour that makes an interesting and sometimes unexpected statement in cooking. The leaves, seeds and flowers of the plant can all be used

Parsley is a natural breath freshener, particularly in combating the potency of garlic

Ancient records reveal recipes for herb infused oils and creams in the tombs of legendary beauties such as Cleopatra

Pretty cool, right?! Most of the time herbs are also noted for adding flavours to certain dishes such as Rosemary for red meat (although added to a chicken mayo sandwich its awesome too!); Fennel for fish and basil for tomato dishes. Here is an awesome recipe made with Rosemary:

Grilled Lemon and Rosemary Lamb Chops by Chef John from San Francisco

Ingredients:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 large lemon, juiced and rind grated
1 tablespoon chile paste
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 lamb loin chops

Directions

Whisk yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, chile paste, garlic, rosemary, oregano, salt, black pepper, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Transfer into a resealable plastic bag. Add the lamb chops, coat with the marinade, squeeze out excess air, and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

Preheat grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate.

Remove lamb chops from from marinade and scrape off excess. Discard used marinade. Season chops with salt and black pepper. Place on the preheated grill and cook until browned and medium rare on the inside, 3 to 4 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 130 degrees F (54 degrees C).

Rosemary also has amazing medicinal properties:
Medicinal Uses: Rosemary stimulates the central nervous system and circulation making it beneficial for low blood pressure and sluggishness. Rosemary oil and rosemary essential oil are used to alleviate the pain of sprains, arthritis, sciatica and neuralgia.

Rosemary for memory, concentration and focus. Rosemary has a long herbal tradition as a herb that improves concentration and memory, Greek students would braid Rosemary into their hair to help them with their exams. Modern science attributes much of rosemary's action on the central nervous system to it's potent antioxidant, rosmarinic acid. However, you don't have to take their word for it, the uplifting aroma of a fresh sprig of rosemary in the summer will go far to convince you.

Rosemary for beautiful skin and hair: Rosemary is one of best hair tonics available, whether you are worried about hair loss, or just want healthy, happy hair, rosemary extracts used in shampoos and herbal hair rinses will work wonders. A few drops of the essential oil can be applied directly to the scalp or hair brush to restore dry, flyaway hair and make it shine. Rosemary essential oil stimulates hair follicles and circulation in the scalp, which may help prevent premature baldness. Use rosemary on a continuing basis for a healthy scalp that encourages healthy hair growth and slows hair loss. Hoffman 177 Rosemary extract (rosmarinic acid) is a natural way to stabilize and extend the shelf life of hand made cosmetics, creams, lotions, and other herbal compounds. Use rosemary in skin care to tone and soften skin.

How to Use Rosemary Oil Rosemary infused oil and rosemary essential oil are both used in massage oil formulations to relieve the pain of arthritis and of sore aching muscles. Rosemary used as a massage oil also helps to tone the circulatory system. Antioxidant compounds in rosemary prevent uterine spasms and menstrual cramps. Rosemary essential oil helps alleviate water retention and increases circulation when used in massage blends.

Cooking with Rosemary. Unlike milder herbs, rosemary can withstand longer cooking times, and lends itself well to roasted meats, chicken and hearty stews. A few teaspoons of chopped rosemary lends a tangy taste to biscuits as well. Rosemary vinegars are an excellent and healthy way to dress cold vegetables and salads.

Rosemary is such an extremely useful herb, with so many culinary, medicinal and aromatherapy attributes that it deserves a treasured place in your home. Even the twigs, stripped of their leaves find use as kindling and as a aromatic addition to barbecue fires. (Extracted from anniesremedy.com)

And that's all the info for today! Hope you enjoyed this blog as much as I did! Once again; happy birthday, Anschke! Have a kick-ass day girl!

Keeping it fresh
Chef Shants xxxxx

Friday, 24 May 2013

Eat Like Viola Davis

Hi peeps!

Its F.R.I.D.A.Y!!! Hellooooo Friday!

Today's Eat Like blog features Viola Davis. This woman absolutely astounds me with her talent and her movies have moved me very deeply. One of these movies was The Help. If you haven't seen it then I recommend you hire it for a great Saturday afternoon viewing. I reckon this is one amazingly talented lady! Here is some background info on Viola: Born in South Carolina, Viola Davis grew up in Rhode Island, where she began acting—first in high school, and then at Rhode Island College. After attending the Juilliard School of Performing Arts, Davis soon made her Broadway debut in 1996. She won her first Tony Award in 2001, and was nominated for an Oscar in 2008 for Doubt. In 2011, Davis starred in the hit dramatic film The Help.

I have pretty much searched everywhere for her favourite food but unfortunately couldn't find any info on that. I had to wing it with my Charlie Hunnam blog so will wing it with Viola today. There's an interesting recipe I've heard of but never tried, its called Jambalaya and hopefully Viola likes it too, here's how to make it:

Straight from New Orleans' famous French Quarter, this Creole favorite is a descendant of the Spanish paella. Featuring local ingredients, and a healthy dose of French flair, Jambalaya has been a Louisiana favorite for over a century.

This simple Jambalaya recipe is easy to make, re-heats beautifully, and is great for entertaining.

4 Large Servings of Creole Jambalaya
Ingredients:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 ounces diced Andouille sausage, or other smoked spicy sausage
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 chopped onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
2 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
12 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in quaters
1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
Louisiana hot sauce, to taste

Preparation:

Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven, or deep skillet, over med-high heat. Add the sausage to the pan, and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the butter, chicken, onion, celery, bell pepper, salt, black pepper and garlic. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.


Add the rice, and stir until completely coated with oil. Add the broth, paprika, thyme, cayenne, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.


Uncover, add the tomatoes and cook about 10 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in shrimp and green onions, cover, and cook 5 minute. Turn off the heat, let rest 5 minuets before fluffing with a fork. Serve with hot sauce.

Oh wow! So that's how you make it! Seems easy enough; well peeps and Viola, enjoy a solid bowl of good ole Creole Jambalaya!
Get ready for some pretty amazing blogs for next week! I'm VERY VERY excited indeedy!

Wishing ya'll an amazing weekend peeps! Much love
Chef Shants. Xxxxx

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Delicious Baby Food Recipes (they'll actually like!)

Hi peeps!

As I've mentioned before, my cousin Yolandie and her best friend, Liani are both preggers at the same time. Yolandie and I were having a chat last week and it came up in discussion that she would like to make her own baby food as compared to having to buy the jars of food at the supermarket. I happen to agree; there is nothing more satisfying than cooking up a few pots of nummies and then freezing them till you're ready for a feed but before we get to Chef Shants's Original baby food recipes; I thought it would be a good idea to add some extra info...let's take a quick read:

When should I introduce solid food to my baby?

You can introduce solids any time between 4 and 6 months if your baby is ready. Until then, breast milk or formula provides all the calories and nourishment your baby needs and can handle. His digestive system simply isn't ready for solids until he nears his half-birthday.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for at least six months – though parents will attest that some babies are eager and ready to eat solids earlier.

How will I know when my baby's ready?

Your baby will give you clear signs when he's ready to move beyond liquid-only nourishment. Cues to look for include:
Head control. Your baby needs to be able to keep his head in a steady, upright position.
Losing the "extrusion reflex." To keep solid food in his mouth and then swallow it, your baby needs to stop using his tongue to push food out of his mouth.
Sitting well when supported. Even if he's not quite ready for a highchair, your baby needs to be able to sit upright to swallow well.
Chewing motions. Your baby's mouth and tongue develop in sync with his digestive system. To start solids, he should be able to move food to the back of his mouth and swallow. As he learns to swallow efficiently, you may notice less drooling – though if your baby's teething, you might still see a lot of drool.
Significant weight gain. Most babies are ready to eat solids when they've doubled their birth weight (or weigh about 15 pounds) and are at least 4 months old.
Growing appetite. He seems hungry – even with eight to ten feedings of breast milk or formula a day.
Curiosity about what you're eating. Your baby may begin eyeing your bowl of rice or reaching for a forkful of fettuccine as it travels from your plate to your mouth. (Thanks babycentre.com)

Well, at least now you will know when baby is ready to try out some new foods. As a mother I found that introducing solid foods slowly was a good idea to allow baby to get used to each new taste. Then I would blend a few tastes that baby liked and came up with some pretty lovely recipes. I also want to add that I started off with very smooth baby food and as baby got used to it; I'd make it a bit more chunkier. We sometimes make the mistake of only giving baby lump-free food (which is correct in the beginning to avoid choking) but some texture should slowly be introduced at the right time so baby doesn't become fussy and just want smooth foods. Most of my recipes call for steaming. I steam instead of fry or boil because steaming allows for the vitamins and nutrients to be stored within the food and not boil out. Steaming is also the healthiest method of food prep for your baby. Having said all this, here are three of my original recipes....

Butternut, Apple and Honey
Ingredients:
1 kg butternut, peeled and diced
2 apples of your choice, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons of honey.

Method:
Steam together the butternut and apple till very soft. Allow to slightly cool and then bomb in a blender. Add the honey and blend till completely smooth Allow to cool completely, portion into single portion tupperwares and freeze till needed. This will last for up to 8 days. Just nuke in the microwave before serving to baby.

Pears and Carrots with Potato.
Ingredients:
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped.
4 carrots, peeled and grated
1 pear, peeled and chopped.
Weeny pinch of salt.
1 tablespoon of brown sugar

Method:
As before with the previous recipe, steam together the carrots, pear and potatoes till very soft. Using the same method, allow to cool and blend together with the brown sugar. Portion and freeze till use.

Baby's Banana Pud
Ingredients:
1 ripe mashed banana
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt

Method:
Mash together all the ingredients and serve immediately.

I have many baby food recipes to share so keep your eyes glued to the chef mother blog for more easy peasy fresh, nutritious and quick baby food recipes! See ya'll tomorrow for another great Eat Like blog.

Organic food is best for baby (after breastfeeding); peeps!
Chef Shants the mommy too xxxxx

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

♥Carpetbaggers and Craig♥

Hi peeps!

Today is my hubby's birthday and I wanna scream loud "HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABE!!!"
So hubby wants a chocolate mousse cake for today and he says its gotta be a double layered one. Seems I have my work cut out for me but I don't mind. So I've got a quick blog for you today with another delicious seafood recipe and because its Craigs birthday I will share a Calamari recipe with you coz its his favourite! And calamari is a perfect birthday dinner treat! ( Actually, I'll make it two!) So here they are:

Lemon Caper Calamari Steaks with Broccolini
Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed in a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 lb Broccolini, trimmed
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
4 frozen calamari steaks (1 lb total), thawed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon bottled capers in brine, rinsed and drained
Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Preparation
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook garlic and red-pepper flakes, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add Broccolini and cook, turning with tongs, until coated with oil, then add water and salt and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter with tongs and keep warm, loosely covered with foil.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. While oil heats, stir together flour, cheese, and pepper in a wide shallow bowl, then lightly beat egg with water in another wide shallow bowl. Dredge 1 calamari steak in flour mixture, shaking off excess, then dip in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, and transfer to a plate. Dredge another steak in flour and dip in egg in same manner, then sauté coated steaks over moderately high heat, turning over once, until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes total. Transfer to platter with Broccolini and keep warm, loosely covered. Dredge, dip, and sauté remaining 2 steaks in same manner, transferring to platter.

Pour off fat from skillet, then add butter, lemon juice (to taste), and capers to skillet and cook over moderate heat just until butter melts, about 45 seconds. Pour lemon caper sauce over calamari steaks and serve immediately.
(Recipe shared by epicurious.com)

Carpetbagger Steak

It's an odd-sounding idea: a steak stuffed with oysters, served with a sauce of beef essence and more oysters. But the flavors of the two ingredients are most agreeably complimentary. The hard part of making this dish is making demi-glace, the ultimate reduction of an intense stock from roasted veal bones. If you don't want to go to the trouble, beg a restaurant at which you're a regular customer to sell or give you some. (You can also find demi-glace in some gourmet grocery stores now.) For four servings of this dish, you need only about a half cup of the stuff.

Ingredients:
4 filet mignons, cut from the big end of the tenderloin, 8-10 oz. each
20 medium-large fresh oysters
1 cup Pinot Noir or other dry red wine
1/2 cup demi-glace
1 stick unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs. clarified butter

Method:
1. Salt and pepper the steaks. With a sharp paring knife, cut a slit about an inch and a half wide and most of the way through the steak.

2. Place the remaining oysters into a stainless-steel or enamel saucepan or skillet. Pour in the wine, and bring the wine to a boil. Cook until the oysters begin to curl. Remove the oysters and continue to simmer the wine until it's reduced to about three fluid ounces.

3. Stuff one of the oysters into each of the steaks.

4. Lower the heat. Stir in the demi-glace and return to a simmer. Whisk in the butter, one pat at a time. Add salt and pepper. Keep warm.

5. Cook the steaks in a hot skillet with a little clarified butter, adding more as necessary to sear the outside of the steaks. Cook to the desired degree of doneness. Place on a serving plate. Surround the steak with four oysters. Nap the sauce over the steak and the oysters. Serve hot.

Serves four. (Recipe by nomenu.com)

So now you all know what we are having for my hubby's birthday dinner tonight, some delicious calamari steaks with a choc mousse cake for dessert. Now this is the way to celebrate a birthday!

♡Happy birthday, my love, I love you deeply always and forever
Your wife, Shants xxxxx ♡

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Heavy Metal, Steampunk and Gothic Cakes

Hi peeps!

Last week I shared some awesome pink cake ideas with you. They were pretty great hey?! Well, I was struggling a bit with insomnia the one night last week and decided to look up more weird and wonderful cake ideas, it got me thinking what types of decorated cakes there are out there. I came across these cakes and had to share them with you. The drumkit cake is my favourite! But I gotta say that the details on the Steampunk cakes are AMAZING! The gothic cakes are more my style as I'm weird that way but I guess its all a matter of preference too. Its my hubby's birthday tomorrow and I asked him what type of cake he wanted....seems the chocolate mousse cake is famous in my family coz thats what he wants. Lol! Aaah well. At least I have Akiras birthday to be a bit more creative. Anyways, here are the favourite cakes that made my "WOW" list:


  

  




What do you think peeps? Excellent or a little too outlandish? All I can say is I applaud the hard work and dedication that it takes to create such masterpieces and once I've got my hands on my very own gumpaste kit, I'd like to be featuring some of my own wonderful creations for your perusal.

\m/ rock on peeps \m/
Chef Shants xxxxx

Monday, 20 May 2013

Spuds, Spuds and more Spuds!

Hi peeps!

A quick HAppY birTHDay to Yolandie Horak for Saturday past. Hope you had a terrific day hun and that you were spoiled totally vrot! Love you stax and stax! Xxxx

So today's topic is potatoes. I gotta say; I love mash; especially the way my husband makes it. But besides mash; potatoes are just generally very yummy no matter which way you have them. Akira loves mash but doesn't like fried potato chips and Storm doesn't like mash but prefers potato bake. I'm also not fond of fried potato chips but Craig is nuts about them. Guess it all just boils down to preference. This weekend past; we had a whole pocket of potatoes that needed cooking and it really got my chef juices flowing. We made simple dishes of course; potato salad; potato bake; fried chips and mash but I wasn't just satisfied with that; there had to be other interesting recipes that were easy enough to prepare at home and tasty enough for the whole family to enjoy. So I did a little research and found these two beautiful potato recipes. Before we get started on those though; I thought some facts about potatoes would also be quite interesting:

The potato is the most universally grown crop in the world.

The Inca people of Peru were growing potatoes in the Andes Mountains as far back as 200 BC.

The Incas used the potato to treat injuries. They also thought it made childbirth easier.

Potatoes were introduced to Britain and Ireland in the late 1500s. It didn’t go so well at first. Many people blamed them for diseases and condemned them because they weren’t mentioned in the Bible.

Both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette wore potato blossoms to spiff up their outfits. (Partly to boost the crop’s popularity in France.)

Potatoes were often eaten aboard ships to prevent scurvy because they are loaded with vitamin C.

The first “French fry” was allegedly first served in the United States by Thomas Jefferson at a presidential dinner.

Potatoes were the first food to be grown in space. In 1996, potato plants were taken into space with the space shuttle Columbia.

The world’s largest potato was grown in the UK in 2010. It tipped the scales at 3.76 kilograms (8 lb 4 oz) – the weight of a newborn baby!

The highest voltage from a potato battery was 538.1 Volt DC achieved in Germany in July 2009.

Potatoes are environmentally friendly. They’re easy to grow and don’t require massive amounts of water, fertilizer or chemicals to thrive.

Potatoes are becoming more and more important in the developing world. That’s because they’re an easy crop to grow. They yield more nutritious food, more quickly and on less land than any other crop.

Thanks to littlepotatoes.com for these awesome facts. Now time for the two nummy recipes:

Potato Dauphinoise
Ingredients:
500g Smooth potatoes (such as Desiree)
• 200ml Double Cream or Creme Fraiche
• 100ml Semi-Skimmed or Skimmed Milk
• 1 Crushed garlic Clove
• 50g Grated Gruyere Cheese

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
Place the thinly sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water, this will prevent them from browning, then rinse the slices and pat dry with kitchen paper
Add the cream or crème fraîche, milk (semi-skimmed or skimmed for a lower calorie meal) and the crushed garlic into a large saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and add the potato slices, cover the saucepan and then simmer for 10 minutes or until just tender. Season well.
Empty the contents of the saucepan to a greased ovenproof dish; sprinkle the cheese over the top. Pop in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden…take out and enjoy with good friends!

Pork Sausage and Potato Casserole
Ingredients:
500g New potatoes halved
• 1 Pack of Pork Sausages
• 1 Jar Tomato Pasta Sauce
• 1 Sliced Onion
• 1 Diced Green Pepper
• 1 tbsp Olive Oil
• 1 or 2 tbsp Water

Preparation

Heat the oil in a large frying pan; fry the potatoes and sausages for 5 minutes.
Add the pepper and onion and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Turn the sausages occasionally until browned.
Add the pasta sauce to the saucepan along with 1-2 tbsp of water
Cover and cook for 5 minutes before serving.

Thanks also to lovepotatoes.com for these two gorgeous kiddie friendly recipes!
Tomorrow on the Chefmother....Heavy Metal; Steampunk and Gothic Cakes.

Have a mashy day peeps!
Chef Shants xxxxx

Friday, 17 May 2013

Eat Like Winnie The Pooh!

Hi peeps!

This is my favourite day of the week, its my favourite blog with one of my favourite childhood characters. For those of you who aren't sure who he is, here's some background info on this gorgeous yellow bear: Winnie-the-Pooh, also called Pooh Bear, is a fictional anthropomorphic bear created by A. A. Milne. The first collection of stories about the character was the book Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), and this was followed by The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne also included a poem about the bear in the children’s verse book When We Were Very Young (1924) and many more in Now We Are Six (1927). All four volumes were illustrated by E. H. Shepard. Poobear's favourite food is HONEY!! (Or 'hunny' as he spells it)

In honour of Poobear, here are three fantastic honey recipes:

Ricotta, Honeycomb and Hazelnut with Rhubarb Compote

Honey with the comb is honey pretty much as the bees intended. The idea is to eat the whole thing, comb and all. The comb has a chewy, waxy texture and is perfectly edible, but you can discreetly discard it once you've sucked all the honey from it, if you prefer.
Serves 4

100g skin-on hazelnuts
250g ricotta
200g honeycomb

For the compote
500g rhubarb, cut into 5cm pieces
50g caster sugar

1 Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. While it's still a little wet from being washed, add the rhubarb to an ovenproof dish and toss with the sugar. Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, until tender. Leave to cool completely.

2 Turn the oven up to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for around 5 minutes, until they are lightly golden and the skins are starting to split.

3 Tip the nuts on to a clean tea towel. Fold the towel over them and rub vigorously. This will remove most of the skins, but don't worry if a few stubborn bits remain.

4 Divide the ricotta between shallow serving bowls. Add a spoonful of rhubarb compote to each. Break or cut your honeycomb into 4 roughly equal pieces and place on the ricotta and rhubarb, trickling over any honey that has escaped. Scatter over the hazelnuts and serve.

Recipe supplied by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Honey Cake with Citrus Passion Fruit Syrup

This cake is as light as a cloud. Eat it straight from the oven with the warm citrus syrup, or cold and split into two, filled with Greek yoghurt or whipped cream and passion fruit.

For the honey cake
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150ml milk
5 eggs
7 tbsp clear honey
½ tsp baking powder
125g semolina
125g ground almonds
Pinch of salt
Butter, for greasing

For the citrus syrup
2 passion fruit
100g unrefined golden sugar
250ml water
Juice of 1 lemon
Greek yoghurt, to serve

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Lightly butter a 20cm diameter by 10cm deep round cake tin. Grate the zest of the lemon and squeeze out its juice. Add the juice to the milk. Separate the eggs and sift the baking powder into a bowl with the semolina and almonds.

2 Whisk the egg yolks with the lemon zest and honey until light and fluffy. Carefully clean and dry the utensil, then whisk the whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks.

3 Stir the baking powder, semolina and almonds into the yolk mixture. When the stirring starts to get difficult, add the milk and blend until smooth.

4 Add a big spoonful of the whisked egg whites to the yolk mixture to loosen it up a little. Gently fold in the remaining whites, trying to keep as much of the air in them as possible. Pour this mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40 minutes or until firm.

5 While the cake is in the oven, make the syrup. Halve the passion fruit and scoop out the pulp. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a medium heat, then turn the heat up and simmer rapidly for a few minutes until the liquid becomes syrupy. Add the lemon juice and passion fruit pulp and leave to cool until the cake is ready.

6 Once the cake is ready, pierce a few holes in the top with a cocktail stick, then pour the syrup over it. Let it sit for 10 minutes while the syrup soaks in.

7 Take the cake out of the tin and slice while it's still warm. Serve with Greek yoghurt.

Honey and Star Anise Panna Cotta

Honey works superbly as a base flavour for a creamy and luxurious panna cotta. It's a natural sweetener, so no additional sugar is needed. Use the best honey you can get.

Makes 4

125ml whole milk
375ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
2 x 2g sheets gelatine
2 points of a star anise
70g runny honey

1 Add the milk, 180ml of the double cream and two points of a star anise to a small saucepan. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the saucepan. Bring the liquids to the boil, then turn off the heat to let the spices infuse for 10 minutes.

2 Leave two sheets of gelatine to soak in a bowl of water for 4 minutes. Reheat the cream for 30 seconds or so, but don't allow it to boil again. Take the gelatine sheets from the bowl and squeeze out any excess water, then add them to the warm cream mix, along with the honey. Stir the mixture until the new additions have completely dissolved.

3 Strain the cream, honey, vanilla and gelatine mix through a sieve. Then allow this to cool for 10-15 minutes until it thickens and clings to the back of a wooden spoon.

4 In a small bowl, whisk the remaining double cream to "ribbon" stage – just before it starts to peak – taking care not to overwhip. Fold the gelatine-thickened cream mix into the whipped cream, then decant into a jug.

5 Pour the mix into dariole moulds or ramekins that hold 150ml of water. Leave a gap of around 5mm at the top of each pot. Chill them for a couple of hours or more. You could make these the morning before a dinner party, or even the night before.

6 Remove the panna cottas from the fridge five minutes before serving, so they become loose enough to slip freely from their moulds. If you are having difficulties, you may need to dip the moulds briefly in hot water to encourage them to loosen. Serve with seasonal fruit.

Recipe supplied by rocketandsquash.com

And there you go! Three gorgeous honey recipes fit for PooBear

Bee Sweet, peeps! Till next week...
Chef Shants xxxxx

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Pink cakes

Hi peeps!

I have family birthdays coming just around the corner; starting with my hubby's this month. Then, its my father's and my uncles. Following them is my youngest brother-in-law and then my middle daughter, Akira's. So plenty of opportunity and plenty of hard work ahead. I've been searching on google for some beautiful pink birthday cake ideas for Akira. I found so many but these were my favourite and I thought I'd share them with you. Take a look at these....






Beautiful! Aren't they?! And they helped me find inspiration for Akira's cake for June. Thanks for joining me today, see you all for our Feature Eat Like...you'll never guess who it is! *giggle, snort!*

Lick the frosting, peeps!

Chef Shants xxxxx

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Classic Soufflés

Hi peeps!

Let's mix it up today and do two very different types of recipes for the same dish. Let's get busy!

Classic Cheese Soufflé
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites
1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 ounces)

Method:
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400�F.Butter 6-cup (1 1/2-quart) soufflé dish. Add Parmesan cheese and tilt dish, coating bottom and sides. Warm milk in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming.

Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until mixture begins to foam and loses raw taste, about 3 minutes (do not allow mixture to brown). Remove saucepan from heat; let stand 1 minute. Pour in warm milk, whisking until smooth. Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in paprika, salt, and nutmeg. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, whisking to blend after each addition. Scrape soufflé base into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm or room temperature soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions while gradually sprinkling in Gruyère cheese. Transfer batter to prepared dish.

Place dish in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375�F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 25 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately.

Classic Chocolate Soufflé

Ingredients:
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1/16 teaspoon salt
Butter
Powdered sugar

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 6 individual soufflé ramekins and sprinkle with sugar; set aside.

Melt chocolate pieces in a metal bowl over barely simmering water, constantly stirring. (Even a small amount of overheated chocolate will ruin an entire recipe.) Once the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from heat and stir in the egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with salt on medium high speed until they hold soft glossy peaks. Continue beating egg whites on high speed, gradually adding the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, until the egg whites hold stiff glossy peaks.

Gently stir 1/3 of the eggs whites into the chocolate mixture, then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites. The chocolate mixture should be light and bubbly, and even colored, without egg white streaks.

Spoon your soufflé mixture into the prepared ramekins and allow to rest for up to 30 minutes or bake right away for 12 – 15 minutes (slightly longer at high altitudes) until risen with a crusty exterior. Serve with a dusting of cocoa or powdered sugar if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

Ooooweeee! Good Luck with your souffles peeps.

May they be unfloppable!
Chef Shants xxxxx