Couscous with Italian Sausage and Fennel

DSC_0787I had never used fennel as a vegetable before, so I was eager to try it out in a recipe that would compliment it well. Couscous, by virtue of being adaptable to different flavours, was a perfect fit for this recipe. To satisfy our carnivorous souls and also to enhance the flavour, I decided to combine these with some fresh italian sausage.

For this recipe you’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup sun dried tomatoes
  • ½ cup diced olives
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 8½ ounces mild italian sausage, cut into small chunks
  • 1 large fennel bulb chopped (keep some fronds for garnishing and discard the rest)
  • ½ teaspoon harissa paste
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon chili flakes
  • 1 cup couscous
  • salt if needed (depends on the chicken stock you are using, low sodium one would require additional salt on top)
  • freshly chopped basil or fennel fronds for garnishing

Method:

  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the garlic. Saute for a few seconds and add the fennel.
  2. Once the fennel turns soft, add the sausage and stir-fry on medium to high heat for a few minutes.
  3. Add the harissa. When the sausage starts leaving oil and turns dark brown, add the olives, sundried tomatoes, oregano and chili flakes. Cook for a few seconds and then add the chicken stock and salt if required.
  4. Once it comes to a boil, add the couscous, stir well, and turn off the heat. Cover the pot immediately and let the dish steam for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Fluff the couscous with a fork. It should be soft and fluffy, if not, sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of boiling stock or water over it, cover, and steam for a few minutes. Be careful not to add too much water as it can easily overcook. Garnish with freshly chopped basil or fennel fronds

Serve hot with Tzatziki Sauce(optional). You can find the recipe for Tzatziki here.

DSC_0811-Edit

 

American Sponge Cake with Chocolate Frosting

American Sponge Cake

Both me and my husband do not have a sweet tooth at all (except for those days when we sit and empty half a bucket of vanilla ice-cream), but once in a while after having our spicy Indian meals we crave for something to soothe our simmering taste buds. I have tried a version of sponge cake before, but this recipe is just the thing that we were looking for since it is not overly sweet and uses no fat, which makes it amazingly light and moist. It is complemented perfectly by whipped cream and fresh fruits but for the health conscious, it tastes great as it is without any frosting. Here is my take on this classic recipe for a 9″ cake.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup (100 grams) sifted cake flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Zest of lemon or orange (outer skin)
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (or same amount of lemon juice)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.  Have an ungreased 9 inch round cake pan ready.
  2. Separate the cold eggs, keeping the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and keep aside to bring them to room temperature. Meanwhile sift or whisk the sifted flour with the baking powder and salt.
  3. Place the egg yolks and 2/3 cup (135 grams) of the sugar in the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment or use an electric hand beater. Beat on high speed until they are thick, fluffy and light colored. Then beat in the vanilla extract, water, and lemon zest and set aside. 
  4. In a clean bowl beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar or lemon juice and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup (65 grams) of sugar and continue beating until the egg whites are shiny and form stiff peaks. 
  5. Next, sift the flour mixture over the beaten egg yolks (about one third at a time) and gently but quickly fold the flour into the egg yolk batter with a rubber spatula. Then gently fold the egg whites into the batter little by little, folding just until incorporated. Do not over mix the batter or it will deflate. Pour the batter into the pan smoothing the top. 
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 28 -35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  7. Remove from oven and immediately invert the pan on a cake stand or a plate. Allow the cake to cool completely before unmolding (about one hour). Run a flat metal spatula or sharp knife around the cake along the pan and unclip the pan rim. Invert the cake onto a greased wire rack. The cake can eaten plain or with fresh fruits and whipped cream. I tried mine with a chocolate frosting which turned out to be amazing.

HARISSA SAUCE

DSC_0257

We learnt about this ‘magic wand'(Harissa) from our frequent visits to the Moroccan stall at the farmer’s market. Our staple brunch every Sunday would be lamb shawarma from this stall which were without doubt the best shawarmas we had ever had. Since we became its loyal customers, after a couple of friendly chats, the vendor told us about the sauces that make his shawarma so special. One of them was Harissa. This Moroccan sauce has various versions, depending upon how hot one wants it to be. The reason I called this sauce a ‘Magic Wand’ is that it adds a flavorful punch to almost any dish. However, it is typically used to marinate meats or as a spread for wraps and also as a flavouring agent in most couscous recipes.

Here is my version which is really HOT. You can use seeded chiles, and replace some chiles with charred and peeled bell peppers to make it less hot.

Ingredients:-

  • 8-9 Thai Chili or Bird’s eye chili
  • 4-5  cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • salt to taste

Method:

  1. Soak the chiles in warm water for about 20-30 mins. Drain the chiles, reserving about  2-3 tablespoons of the soaking water and then stem the chiles. DSC_0231DSC_0240
  2. Stir coriander, caraway and cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium-high heat until aromatic for about 30 seconds. Then crush them using a mortar-pestle until finely ground.GRIND
  3. Finally, put all the ingredients in a blender, including coriander, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Puree until smooth. If the texture is thick, you can add a little olive oil and the reserved chili water.DSC_0247

Store it in a jar in the refrigerator with its top covered with olive oil.

 

DIY art for your home

DSC_0762

This is an ode to all the art classes I took in my architecture school but never put them to use. I’ve been so excited with these brick walls ever since we moved in, and wanted to create something on my own and hopefully shock my husband, either way..:P. Now that I have my first attempt out of the way, hopefully this will be the start of a series of challenging paintings. Here are a couple of them and I’ll keep adding more as I go along. The colors I’ve used here are royal blue and matt gold.

paintings