Goulash – Eastern European Comfort Food

I’ve had many versions of this dish all over the Czech Republic and in Budapest. Sometimes it’s more of a soup and sometimes it’s more of a stew. You can adjust it to more of a soup consistency by adding an additional cup of beef broth.

This is the simplest variation of this dish I know of, and I like it because is does not use lard, as many of the typical recipes. If you want to make it a bit more authentic, you can substitute lard for the vegetable oil.

I like to serve this with hearty dark bread and a great Czech beer like Pilsner Urquell.


2 lbs Beef Chuck, cut into medium size cubes
1 lbs of White Onion, sliced thinly on a mandoline
½ cup of Vegetable Oil
½ cup of dark Beer
1 Tbsp of Salt
2 Tbsp of Sweet Paprika, you can mix some Hot Paprika in if you want some heat.
2 tsp of Marjoram
4 cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 tsp of Caraway Seeds
1 can of Tomato Paste
2 cups of low sodium Beef Broth
2 slices of stale dark Bread, cubed

Brown off the meat in the hot oil, remove the meat and set aside and then add the onion and garlic and caramelize the entire mixture.

Add back the beef, then add the beer and cook until all of the beer is evaporated. Now add the spices and mix well. Add the tomato paste, beef broth and bring to a boil.

Lastly add the cubed bread and cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours until the oil has separated.

Serve garnished with a few onion rings, sour pickles and mashed or boiled potatoes or dark bread.

Meatballs with Mushroom Cream Sauce

This is a wonderful comfort food dish. It is hearty, has lovely flavor and is easy to bring together. It’s sort of a fusion between Swedish meatballs and a Stroganoff mushroom cream sauce and then you add the noodles for a perfect finish.

This would be perfect with a nice French Burgundy or Pinot Noir.


24 Meatballs, rolled to 1 inch in diameter
To prepare the meatballs, use 1-1 ½ lb of ground Beef. Season the beef with Black Pepper, Celery salt, ½ tsp Sugar, a bit of freshly ground Nutmeg, Worcestershire Sauce and one beaten Egg and a Tbsp of Breadcrumbs. Mix gently and then form into meatballs.

1 Onion, sliced
1 lb Mushrooms, sliced in two
2 Tbsp Butter
¼ cup dry Sherry or Marsala
1 pint/two cups of heavy Cream or Crème Fraiche
Green onions, just the green or chopped fresh chives
Egg Noodles

Prepare the meatballs and allow them to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Then heat 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a sauté pan and brown off the meatballs and drain away the fat and set meatballs aside.

In the same pan, add the butter, then sauté the onions until caramelized, add the mushrooms and sauté for one or two minutes then add the sherry and flame it (light it) to remove the alcohol. If it does not light, don\’t be concerned, just cook for another 3-4 mintues until the alcohol aroma is gone.

Start your water for the noodles, and when boiling add the noodles in and cook until just al dente and then drain.

While the noodles are cooking, add the meatballs back into the pan, add the cream into the meatballs and gently bring it all back to a simmer. Finish by pouring the meatballs and sauce over the noodles and sprinkle the chives or green onions on top and serve.

Gai Pad Khing/Ginger and Lime Chicken

This is one of my favorites, because it’s combines the salty, sweet and sour taste so common in Thai cooking. It is not common in this form on most Thai menus, but is more of a fusion dish.

In Thailand, they often use tamarind paste to create this sour effect, but this is hard for many people to find, and it requires a longer cooking time to blend well.


¾ lb. Skinless, boneless Chicken Breast, sliced
1 large thinly sliced Onion.
1 large thinly sliced sweet Red Pepper
1 can Bamboo Shoots, drained
2 Tbsp. of Peanut or another Vegetable oil
3 cloves chopped Garlic
2-inch piece of fresh Ginger Root, sliced very thin.
1-2 Thai Chili, chopped

Sauce, this will be added towards the end of the cooking process.

3 Tbsp. Fish Sauce
1 Tbsp. White sugar or brown sugar or palm sugar
Juice from one lime

Hint: I prefer the “Three Crabs” or “Tra Chang” brand, as it is very flavorful but not too salty compared to others I’ve tasted.

Start the heat under your wok, or a large skillet may also be used. The key is to heat the pan before you add the oil. After pan has heated for about 2 minutes, add the oil. Then quickly add the ginger and the garlic. Now you need to work fast, and keep stirring so this doesn’t burn or brown. Garlic can become very bitter when burned.

Now add the chicken and stir-fry until the pinkness is just gone. This takes only about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions and peppers, and cook until they soften slightly and then add the bamboo shoots. Add the sauce that you prepared earlier. Stir this in and cook for 1 to 2 minutes at the most and serve with steamed rice.

Note: Brown rice is not as common in Thailand, and most other places I’ve been to in Asia. However, it can certainly be substituted as desired. I prefer the Thai Jasmine Rice. It is a unique flavor, and goes very well with any Asian dish. Update: Latley, I have been seeing a lot of Brown Thai Jasmine Rice and I can highly recommend it.

Gai Yang – Thai BBQ Chicken

This is the most wonderful marinated grilled chicken dish. It is a staple in Thailand on most any street corner and it is delicious.

I have also used it on pork (Moo Yang) and beef and it is just as good. The key is to use the best ingredients and make sure to let it marinade overnight.


½ cup Coriander/Cilantro Roots– These roots are not easy to find, even in Asian markets, as most markets cut off the coriander roots before putting them out. I always look through the bunches and if I find some with roots, I buy them all and then wash them, dry them and put into freezer bags and freeze the roots for later use. If you can’t find the roots you can substitute 1 cup of fresh cilantro stems.
3 cloves Garlic
1 Tbsp freshly grated Ginger Root
2 tbsp freshly ground Black Peppercorns
4 Tbsp Thai Fish Sauce
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Lime Juice
1 small can Thai Coconut Milk

Grind all dry ingredients and then combine into a food processor and blend into a smooth mixture.

Pour over the meat and refrigerate for at least overnight. Then remove from marinade and grill until done.

Serve with Thai Jasmine rice and Nam Pla Prik sauce.

Nam Pla Prik – Fish Sauce with Chilies

This versatile dipping sauce is perfect with any Thai meal and great on Thai style omelettes, rice and noodles dishes, spring rolls and Gai Yang (Thai BBQ Chicken).


6 Tbsp. Fish Sauce, here is where you will really see the difference in using a top Thai fish sauce.
2 cloves finely sliced Garlic
1 tsp. of white or palm Sugar
5 finely chopped Thai Chilies
1/2 lime, sliced

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Allow to rest for a day to let the flavors mingle. This will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Making your Own Chili Paste

This is so easy and you can make a fantastic chili paste that is healthy and free of any artificial ingredients. Most store bought brands have preservatives and chemicals. This one is just chili paste and nothing else.

This is a fiery chili paste, which was shared with me from my friends in New Delhi. It is wonderful and a must for chili and garlic lovers.


1 lb. Red Bullet chilies (or ripe jalapenos), or other hot red chili
2.5  oz. fresh Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Juice of two Lemons
2 Tbsp. of Rice Vinegar
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar 

Grind everything together in a food processor and store in the refrigerator in a glass jar. It is better after aging for a few days to a week. It will keep for months.

Gai Pad Prik/Chicken with Hot Chilies

Thailand has always been one of my favorite places to visit. There are wonderful people, amazing sights and fantastic food. What more could you ask for?

I wanted to share some simple Thai recipes, as I know most of you love Thai food, but many people think it\’s complicated to prepare. Actually it\’s very easy if you follow a few simple steps. Bottom line, you need to have everything prepared and ready to go before you start and then it\’s just a matter of putting it all into the wok in sequence.

Make sure you are careful with your ingredients, as the flavor is well balanced, so the ingredients are key. If you have any questions about the ingredients, just refer back to the \”Thoughts on Setting up your Kitchen\” post in December 2010. Experiment and have fun.

Here is a very basic Thai stir fry dish, which can be ready in 20 mintues from start to finish. This is my absolute favorite, and it is very easy to make. Warning: it can be really hot, and in Thailand, it can be like napalm! If you find the Thai chilies to be too hot, then you can substitute jalapenos or serranos.

Hint: Remember that the most intense heat in any chili is in the seeds and membrane, so removing the seeds and surrounding membrane will give you the wonderful flavor without the intense heat. Always wash your hands after chopping chilies, as touching your eyes or skin can give you a really uncomfortable burning sensation.


¾ lb. Skinless, boneless Chicken breast, ground, and marinated in 1 Tbsp. of fish sauce
1 sliced large Onion
1 sliced sweet Red Pepper
 finely chopped Thai Chilies
2 Tbsp. of Peanut or another Vegetable oil
3 cloves chopped Garlic
2-inch piece of chopped fresh Ginger

Sauce, this will be added at the end.

2 Tbsp. Fish Sauce
1 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
2 tsp. white sugar, brown sugar or palm sugar

Start the heat under your wok, or a large skillet may also be used. The key is to heat the pan before you add the oil. After pan has heated for about 1-2 minutes, add the oil. 

Then quickly add the ginger and the garlic. Just cook it for 30 seconds or so and then 
add the chicken and stir-fry until the pinkness is just gone. This takes only about 2 to 3 minutes. 

Add the onions and peppers, and cook until they soften slightly and add the sauce that you prepared earlier.

Stir this in and cook for 1 to 2 minutes at the most and serve with steamed Jasmine white or brown rice.

Poulet au Lyonnais/Chicken in Dijon Cream Sauce

This is a wonderful dish, which reflects the rustic cuisine of the Lyon region perfectly. The use of Dijon mustard is a must.

Should you want to lighten it up a bit, you may also use plain Greek style yogurt instead of the sour cream, but be careful as the yogurt tends to break if cooked too much. It won’t affect the taste to much, but the sauce will be less pristine and authentic.


8 Chicken Thighs with bone in
4 Tbsp Butter
1 Large Onion chopped
16 oz of Mushrooms, sliced in half
1 Shallot minced
1 cup of Chicken broth
1 pint of Crème Fraiche or Sour Cream
1 pint of Heavy Cream
1/2 bunch of fresh Tarragon, chopped
1 cup of White wine
3 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
Egg Noodles

Salt and pepper the chicken breasts on both sides. Heat the butter in a heavy sauce pan which is able to hold all of the chicken breasts. If you use a smaller pan, then cook them in batches.

After browning them well, remove them and set them aside and add in the chopped onion and shallot and cook until translucent. Then add in the mushrooms and cook until just softened.

Add the chicken back into the pan and add wine and cook the alcohol off. This takes maybe 3-5 minutes. Then add the chicken broth and simmer covered for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the thighs.

Add all remaining ingredients (tarragon, Dijon mustard, crème fraiche, heavy cream) by mixing them together in a bowl and gently folding them into the chicken and making sure they are well mixed.

Cover again and simmer gently for a further 10 minutes. While this is finishing, cook your noodles and then serve, by placing on a large plate with noodles, chicken arranged over the top and sauce to finish.

How to make your own Vanilla Extract-Update

Okay, now we are in week four and the color is noticeably darker than last time we looked and the aroma is clearly coming around. I am thinking that it will be at least another 2-3 weeks and they should be ready.

As you can see from the pictures, the Tonga beans are quite a bit darker than the Tahitian beans. The aroma is clearly very different, with the Tonga beans giving off a pleasing fig like aroma versus the Tahitian which is quite floral and bright.

If you want to try this project it couldn\’t be easier. Just buy a bottle, order the vanilla beans from www.beanilla.com and fill with vodka. Then be patient.

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives

So many of you asked for this recipe, so I am happy to share it. This is a modified version of a recipe from Claudia Roden\’s wonderful book \”Arabesque\”.

She has given a very authentic recipe which according to her book is, \”the most famous Moroccan chicken dish\”. Which I can believe, as it is amazing. I have modified it to make it a bit easier to prepare.

Firstly, you will need to find a somewhat unusual ingredient, preserved lemon. Don\’t try to make it without this, as the flavor will just not be there. Check your local Arab or Armenian food market and if you can\’t find preserved lemons, lemon pickle is a very good substitute. Normally, these lemon pickles will be from Egypt.

Serve this with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.


6 Chicken Thighs, bone in and skin removed, except for one, where you should leave the skin on for flavor.

2 large Onions, chopped very fine
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Garlic cloves, crushed
Large pinch of Saffron threads, about one tsp.
1/2 tsp powdered Ginger
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2-3 Tbsp Cilantro
2-3 Tbsp Parsley
3 small Preserved Lemons, with pulp removed and rind sliced thinly
16 green Olives, with pits
Salt and Pepper

Heat olive oil up in a large casserole or other heavy pan, and then add onions. Let them cook until soft, but do not brown them. When done add in the ginger, garlic and saffron and stir well.

Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides, being light handed with the salt, as the olives can be very salty. Put in the chicken and lightly saute on each side, maybe 2-3 minutes per side only. Add about 1 1/2 cups of water cover and cook on simmer for 45 minutes turning at least once.

Remove the chicken and add in the lemon juice, preserved lemon, cilantro, parsley and olives and reduce the mixture down by approx. half. This should take about 7-10 minutes. Add the chicken back into the pan, warm through and serve with couscous.