“YOU EAT WITH YOUR EYES FIRST”

I love the experiential nature of cooking.
 

When you cook you can experiment with tastes,flavours,textures,color you can practically play around with all the ingredients in a recipe till you create a signature dish.

 

When cooking there are no rules,you create the rules.

But there are some guidelines to follow to ensure you create something memorable and here is what I use in my kitchen.

1.Nutritional balance

My number 1 rule is balance,you need to create balance ,nutritional balance of the meals you are preparing

Colorful plate of food from stockphotos.

Ensure your meals are nutritionally balanced,they cover all the food groups.And incase you have forgotten,there needs to be some carbohydrates,some proteins and lots of  vegetables and a slice of fruit.

This will ensure you are giving your body what it needs.

To get an idea of how your portions should be like,refer to my post on portion control here.

2.Flavour

course you need to provide interesting flavours with your meals,do not make them bland.

Mother nature has been generous enough to provide us with herbs,spices and a variety of other foods that mixed and matched will make all your meals memorable.

Find flavours that go well together and create memorable meals.Tease the taste buds of the people you are preparing the meal for,take them to heaven and back!

3.Texture

Texture of a food will determine how enjoyable the meal was……. or not.

Have you ever eaten ice cream and instead of  being smooth and creamy it turned out grainy ,that was your mouth feeling the texture of that brand of ice cream which is created by ice crystals.

Or if you take porridge and it turns out lumpy,or meat that turns out chewy after cooking that all texture.

4.Color

One of my favorite TV chefs Giada DeLaurentis says “you eat with your eyes first.”

Any meal should appeal to the eyes first,no one likes a plain-looking plate.

Let us imagine for a moment you had a plate in front of you that was all one color,not appetizing is it?

Create color by including more vegetables on your plate,especially the red,orange,yellow ,green varieties.All great for you in every imaginable way.

Dont you think its amazing that all the good foods (fruits and vegetables)all come in bright sunshiny colors,reason is so that you can eat more of them.

Make food so colorful the minute peole lay their eyes on it ,they want to grab their forks,spoons,knives and just dig in.

5.Plating.

Though how a meal is plated may not be something you worry about too much,you do not want a meal that is thrown all together hapharzadly.Where the rice beans and vegetables all look like a jumbled mess.

You want to be able to pick out the components of a meal without feeling like you are going through a haystack.

 

Bon appetit!

MACADAMIA NUT “CRACKED”

Image from www.stockfood.co.nz

Climbing my grandfathers’ macadamia trees when I was  younger ,before  self-consciousness hit me at 15 years was the highlight of any school holiday.

With my siblings,we would eat macadamia nuts off the trees like we were being paid to so.

Macadamia nuts grow in bunches , though their leaves can be really prickly but it never deteered us from eating them.It’s utter bliss  goodness when you crack the nut…

We would eat them while they were still raw and their shell had not gone all dark brown and hard.You practically cracked them open with your teeth.

Later when they were left to dry, the outer covering that was green would turn into a hard brown kernel ,underneath  was a tougher outer shell that we used specialized equipment to crack open.

The special pieces of equipment were scattered under all the macadamia trees littering the farm which were about 30 in number  and they consisted of two stones.

One was a big stone we called the base and which had a groove the size of a shilling because of the  nuts that had nestled there before they were robbed of their “treasures”.The other was a smaller stone that provided the neccessary pressure and force  to crack the nut open.

We were nut-crackers!

I never ever thought about roasting the nuts like they now do with the pre -packed ones because raw,they could take you to heaven and well you remained there.

We would often be found by grandfather sheltering under a tree  our bellies full of this little bits of creamy nuts with no need for lunch.

While the nuts have a high concentration of monounsaturated fats that are said to be great for the heart.

Here are five great ways macadamia nuts are used:

1.Eaten raw they are delicious and if you cannot have raw nuts then you can have them roasted.

2.On their own or paired with other nuts they make for great snacks to have with beer or wine

3.They make a great nut spread for breads because of their creamy nature that is as a result of the oils they contain.

4.They  add richness and crunch to foods like cookies,breads.

5.Macadamia nut oil is used for cooking food a true culinary treasure.

 

Apparently they have a higher concentration of oil than olives!They are also rich in protein,dietary fibre,phosphorus and calcium.

Below is a chart illustrating the goodness of this humble nut that I got from www.macnut.com.au

Macadamia nuts (raw kernel): Per 100g serve
Energy 3040kJ
Protein 9.2g
Fat (total oils) 76.4g
Monounsaturated 63.4g
Polyunsaturated 3.0g
Saturated 10.0g
Carbohydrates (total) 10.0g
Sugars 4.0g
Dietary Fibre 7.0g
Cholesterol NIL
Phosphorus 241 mg
Calcium 53mg
Sodium 3mg
Potassium 409mg

 

 

DESSICATED COCONUT …WHAT TO DO WITH IT?

Do you have some dessicated coconut in you kitchen pantry and wondering what to do with it?

Here are a few ideas:

1.In Ugali

Ugali is a staple food for most Kenyans ,it is a meal made out of ground maize /corn which is cooked in boiling water to make a stiff cake like mixture.

The only other food food i could equate it to for those who have no idea what ugali is, is polenta,only difference being  Kenyans love their ugali hot,polenta is eaten cold.

This was inspired by an ad i saw running on tv that said Ugali nazi is a coast favourite,some tablespoons of desiccated coconut added while your water boils to make ugali add some interesting flavour to ugali like you have never had.

My kids and i have found a new love for ugali.

And if you have ever made polenta,why not try it out with some coconut added  and see how it goes?

2.In rice

Add 2 tablespoons to your rice water once it boils then add rice,cook as normal,preferably with saucepan covered.It adds great flavour as well as interesting texture to your rice.

For rice i add 2 tablespoons for every cup of rice.

3.Doughnuts

Whether you bake them or deep fry them,cover them liberally with desiccated coconut,yum yum yum

4.In Pilau/Biryani rice

After you have made your spiced rice (pilau/biryani / pilaf) and its is ready just sprinkle with desiccated coconut liberally.Looks beautiful and its great for your taste buds too.

5.Bread/Cookies

If any of these are items you bake often,include some coconut to add some out of this tropical  flavour to your food items.

Toasted desiccated coconut is also  a great accent to cakes ,muffins,cupcakes  that have been frosted with whipped cream.And when you add some crushed nuts like cashews.peanuts/macadamia it takesyou tastes buds to *cue music*…….. heaven.

YUMMY YUMMY BEAN STEW

My freezer always has some pre boiled beans waiting to be cooked and this has to be one of my two-year olds favourite meals with a simple serving of rice.

Beans are highly nutritious rich in protein ,Vitamin B6,potassium,calcium and depending on variety some like kidney beans are very rich in iron.

That is why kidney beans are highly recommended for breast-feeding mothers and those who have given birth,Kidney beans are the ones  known as “njahi”

Below is my recipe and this can be applied to any kind of beans that take your fancy.

 

Ingredients

2 cups of beans

2 Tbs oil

1 large chopped onion

1 Tbs ginger-garlic paste

2 large tomatoes,chopped

3 medium-sized carrots,chopped

1 Tbs tomato paste

1 tsp dried oregano/basil

salt and black pepper to taste

parsley for garnish

Photo courtesy of www.aapscot.com

1.Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the 2 tablespoons of oil,saute’ till tender.

2.Add garlic paste,let cook for 30 seconds,add tomatoes,tomato paste,carrots,oregano and salt and black pepper ,cook uncovered till vegetables are tender about  2 minutes.

3.Add your pre cooked beans and enough water/stock to cover beans.

4.Bring to a boil then let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

5.Serve with coconut rice,chapatis (flat bread) garnish with chopped parsley.

Variations:If adding more spices to your bean stew you can add some cream to tone down the spices while still retaining their flavour.Some dessicated coconut sprinkled liberally  after the beans are cooked also provide an interesting flavour as well as texture to the stew.

 

 

 

SWEET N’ SOUR CHICKEN

Every child and some grown -ups too know the story of Chicken Licken and how s/he thought the sky was falling.

The sky never fell but Chicken Licken’s relatives remain a delicacy the world over.

How do you cook your chicken, fry it,roast it ,broil it or boil it?

Here is hod I do mine and my kids love it!

Ingredients

1 whole chicken on the bone,quartered or divided into serving portions

2 Tbs of freshly minced ginger and garlic paste

1 Tbs natural honey

1tsp ground cinnamon

2Tbs olive oil/vegetable oil

Juice from 2 freshly squeezed lemons

1 cup chopped red onion

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1 cup chopped carrots

1 Tbs tomato paste

Salt and pepper to taste

1.In a medium-sized glass bowl put chicken pieces

2.Mix the spices,1 tablespoon garlic paste,honey and lemon juice plus oil in a small bowl.

3.Rub all over chicken pieces  and wrap with cling film,let to marinade for at least an hour or even overnight

4.Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan,add the red onions.

5.Over medium heat saute’ till tender then add remaining garlic -ginger paste,fry for 30 seconds.

6.Add tomatoes,carrots,tomato paste,salt,black pepper then add chicken pieces.

7.Let fry till chicken loses its pink color.

8.If making chicken stew add enough water to cover chicken and then simmer for 30-45 minutes till tender.

Before serving garnish with chopped parsleyor coriander (dhania)

Variations:You can add yoghurt to the marinade and leave out the lemon juice,adding some grated lemon zest/orange zest will take your chicken to a whole new level.

So will experimenting with a variety of herbs and spices.

How do you make your chicken?share your chicken recipes here.

SAY “CHEESE”

Cheese defined simply is just milk that has been turned into curd with the help of good bacteria and some enzyme.The milk separates into liquid(whey) and solids (curd).The  result is  a fermented milk product that is very nutritious.

You see  curdling  in milk that has gone bad or what we  call mala(sour milk) here in Kenya.

If you like milk,then maybe you should not pass on the cheese as it is a food high in saturated fat.

However it  is a very good source of protein,calcium and phosphorus,the last two being very good for bone and teeth development.

Some advice though is that do not go overboard with the cheese platter

Image source wikimedia.

Cheese Platter.

Now Kenya has a fairly vibrant dairy industry but apart from consuming milk on its own we rarely use  other milk products becuase they are often too highly priced.

Butter,cream,heavy cream,sour cream,cream cheese,powdered milk,condensed milk, powdered milk  to name but a few  can  become part and parcel of Kenyan cuisine if creatively used.

Using cheese in your kitchen will be determined my many things including its flavour,texture and what you want to serve it with.

Apart from using it in sandwiches ,as a topping in pizzas,cheese can be used in many ways and here are just a few.

1.Dessert Served as part of dessert and are a great accompaniment to wines or even beer.The sweet nutty cheeses are used for cheese trays or served with fruits too e.g Baby Swiss

2.Garnish:This is usually for the firm kind of cheeses as they are perfect for grating and are used to garnish pasta dishes ,beans,salads or chilli’s.

3.Bread spread:Soft cheeses like cream cheese are great for this as they are smooth and spreadable

4.In salads e.g Feta cheese a soft crumbly cheese of Grecian origins is  added to salads.

5.In breads:It is also added to bread to add interesting flavour e.g Grogonzola

More on cheese can be found at www.recipegoldmine.com

Cheese is not only made from cows milk but can be made from sheep’s milk ( Parmesan cheese) or goat milk  .Any kind of milk can give you cheese  even buffalo milk.

CHAI TEA

Tea is one of Kenya’s main exports and our farmers especially in the tea growing region of Kericho have been smiling all the way to the bank in the past week.

But did you know there is a difference between tea as we know it and chai?

That preparing great chai is an art and that tea leaves should never be boiled?

Kenyans love their tea and by this I mean our milk,tea leaves and sugar period,that is how most of us  take our  tea.The furthest we may go outside of this   is adding ginger and cinnamon to our tea to spice it up.

It’s very rare that we blend other spices like pepper or cloves  to make this beverage a show stopper.

But wait till you discover Chai Tea,and like me you will get converted,now I take two cups of  it and yet I am a sworn coffee addict.

It’s that good!

I discovered Chai tea thanks to Aarti Party a cooking show on food network.

It was out of this world!you should just let tea leaves   steep and you get the most amazing combination of flavours in the world.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 green cardamom pods, smashed
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/2 star anise
  • 2 quarter-sized coins fresh ginger
  • 2 scant teaspoon black tea leaves (recommended: Taj Mahal) or black tea of choice
  • 2 teaspoons honey, or more to taste
  • Whole milk or half-and-half

Directions

In a medium pan, bring the water, all of the spices and the ginger to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes.

Bring the mixture back to a boil, then add the tea. Turn the heat off, and allow it to steep for 3 to 5 minutes depending on how strong you like your tea. Stir in the honey and add milk to your liking. Strain it into a bowl or pitcher and serve!

I use  Nature’s Own blend of Tea Masala ,I totally love the warm peppery after taste it leaves in your mouth,a totally great way to start the day or end the day after dinner.

I am almost tempted to go make another cup right now.

There is  a website dedicated to tea preparation www.chai-tea.org,  that is how seriously people take their tea.

Go on now,make yourself a cup and trust me you will be hooked.

1-2-3 OF PORTION CONTROL

A lot of the time when people want to lose weight ,they want to know how much to eat of what.

I have a rule I call the 1-2-3 rule and it is as easy as they come.

Get your dinner plate divide it into two halves, a bottom half and a top half.

The top half is for  the portion of vegetables   you should be eating.

The bottom half has to be divided into two equal quarters.

One quarter is your serving of  meat or any  other protein ,the other is your serving of  carbohydrates.

There you have it,a simple 1-2-3 rule .

Portion Control

SOUR PORRIDGE

One of the exports my grand mother would bring for us when she visited Nairobi was some home-made gruel which is Kenya-speak for fermented porridge made from any of these cereal grains millet,sorghum and maize.

Now fermentation plays a very important role when it comes to some cereal grains that i listed above,it gets rid of some toxins that maybe present in some grains,makes it easier to digest and ….gets rid of bacteria that may otherwise cause diarrhoea .

Our grandmas knew what they were doing .

Crop of millet from www.freepik.com

Seeing that they lacked cold storage facilities like fridges and freezers,sour porridge lasted longer.

Now traditionally my grandma would make it with some of her friend with some special gruel making equipment, but I can get  the same taste using lemons!

I love the sharp taste lemons give it and since i cannot do it like my grandmother,my taste buds aren’t any wiser.

Here is what you need:

6 tablespoons heaped millet flour

1 and a half cups water

2 lemons

1.Start by mixing the 6 tablespoons of  flour in half a cup of water,stir till there are no lumps.

2.Put the one and a half cups in a small saucepan  and bring toa  boil (this method I find quicker).Then using a wooden spoon stir in the pre mixed flour and water mixture stirring till it thickens and begins to bubble.

3.You can adjust the consistency of the porridge by adding water.

4.Let it simmer for 20 minutes to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked.

5.Meanwhile squeezze the juice from 2 lemons and add to simmering porridge.

7.Let it simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat into serving bowls.

8.Add sugar/honey for taste as desired

Variations:You can add the juice of any citrus fruit from lemons/lime to orange juice,all should be freshly squeezed and without seeds.

 And if you do not like the citrus flavour in your porridge,just go ahead and add milk or cream and you have yourself a hearty and wholesome meal!

GRILLING 6 WAYS

If there are two things that describe Kenyans better than Brand Kenya can its Beer and Nyama Choma.

So much so that you cannot imagine East African Breweries doing a Tusker lager advert(one of our best exports if i may say so) without succulent goat ribs featuring somewhere on that ad.

Now nyama chama is our version of grilled meat and Kenyans love their grilled goat ribs,though on this side we prefer to call them roast.

But technically speaking we grill meat not roast it,roasting is done in the oven,in an enclosed space with an indirect source of heat doing all the cooking.

Now cooking terminologies done with,did you know you can grill anything and everything?

From vegetables to bread to  Tofu,most foods take very well to grilling .

Grill marks add some pizzazz to foods and not only is it healthy its tasty too.

1.Vegetables

Everything from tomatoes,onions,egg plants(aubergines),even lettuce can be grilled.

And what use are grilled veggies you may ask?with just some simple vinaigrette vegetables are taken from glam to fab!

2.Bread

Yes you can grill bread too.

Just  brush it with olive oil,rub a clove of garlic onto the hot bread and you have garlic bread.

Great accompaniment for soups as well as for making panninis or sandwiches.

Grilled Pineapples
Photo courtesy of www.kitchenproject.com

Pineapples,bananas,mangoes can ll be slightly grilled for extra sweetness because the heat caramelizes the sugar in the fruit and yum yum yum.

They can also be served with a side serving of either plain yoghurt or some whipped cream and you can hit the gym later.

4.Heathier alternative to frying

As an alternative to frying or boiling root vegetables like potatoes,sweet potatoes,plantains or bananas,grilling is a great way to get some extra flavour into these foods.

5.Oven

A grill can also be used as a sort of  oven,just wrap whatever food you want cooked and fish is especially good for this with some foil,even banana leaves will do and you have yourself a great meal with just the use of a charcoal stove/jiko and a grill mesh.

6.Mini pizza’s

Thiscan also be cokked on a grill,with just tomatoes,mince meat(already cooked),some cheese you can be enjoying one of Italy’s best exports right in your own backyard.

Bon appetit!