Savannah Red Rice – Low Country Cooking

This is a dish that is a staple throughout the low country region of South Carolina. I have had many different variations but this one is my personal favorite. If you want it to be a bit milder, you can leave out the cayenne pepper.

It’s easy to make and can be served as a main or a side dish. 

Ingredients

½ cup Onion
½ cup Green or Red Pepper
¼ cup Celery
4 Tbsp Butter/Non Dairy substitute or 3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 package of Field Roast Sausage, or smoked sausage if your want meat.
1 tsp. Cayenne

Freshly ground Black Pepper
2 tsp Salt
2 cups of medium grain Rice
1 14.5oz can of diced Tomatoes
1 cup of Water
Sauté onion, pepper and celery until translucent. Add spices and sausage and brown until well caramelized.You may leave the sausages whole or cut them into pieces.
Add rice and sauté for 2 minutes until all grains are well coated. Add tomatoes and water and bring back to a boil. Cover and cook on lowest heat for 20-25 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Serve in shallow bowls with hot sauce and a cold beer.

The Dreamsicle Martini, a vegan cocktail with a kick.

I’m always trying to come up with fun vegan cocktails and while most are not too hard, however, the ones containing cream as an ingredient can be a bit more challenging. This one took a while, but it’s done, and it’s very good.

As it is refreshing and sweet, it can be deceiving. Be warned, it has a little kick.

Ingredients

3 shots Three Olives Cake Vodka
1/2 shot Cointreau
1 shot So Delicious Creamer
3/4 cup OJ

Add all to a shaker with ice, shake vigorously, and strain into a well chilled martini glass and garnish with an orange peel.

Vegan Black Bean Tofu – Smoky, spicy goodness.

It’s always great to find a dish that translates into vegan even better than the original and here’s one. This has all of the things I like about good quality Chinese food, without the MSG and without the meat. 

The key to this dish is the dow see or fermented back beans. They usually come in a bag and are salted. They are easy to find in any Asian market.

They are packed with umami. In Japanese, umami means, “pleasant savory taste”. It’s often called the 5th taste. 


Ingredients

1 package Extra Firm Tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 Tbsp Oil
4 dried Chilis, Tien Tsin chilis are perfect.
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
1/2 piece of fresh Ginger Root, peeled and minced
1 Red Pepper, cut into 1/2 pieces
3-4 Green Onions, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 Tbsp Dow See (fermented black beans) rinsed, soaked, drained and lightly mashed. 
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
2 tsp Sugar
1Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1Tbsp Cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp Water.

Begin by preparing all of your ingredients. The key to Chinese cooking is to have everything  in its place, prior to starting, As the French say, “mis en place”.

Create your sauce, by combining the fermented black beans, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and set aside. Also mix up your cornstarch and water mixture and set aside.

Heat your wok and add your oil. When it is almost smoking, add the dried chilis and quickly sauté until they turn slightly darker, then add the garlic and ginger root. Stir fry for 30 seconds and then add the red pepper and saute until just slightly soft.

Now add your green onions and stir fry for a further minute, add your tofu and cook for 1 minute. Add your sauce and when it is all simmering nicely, add your cornstarch mixture, stir it and when it thickens, remove from the heat and serve with brown rice.

Pasta with Broccoli, Raisins and Walnuts

This is an easy dish to prepare and has a rich sweet and savory flavor which is just perfect over pasta. It seems to fit well with the cooler nights. 


The key is to not overcook the broccoli. You still want it to have some crunch, as this goes well with the walnuts.

Ingredients

1lb Broccoli Florets 
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 cloves of Garlic, crushed 

1 tsp Sea Salt
1/3 cup Raisins
1 tsp Chili Flakes
2 Tbsp Sherry
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar 
4 oz Walnuts, pieces and halves
Parmesan Cheese, or non dairy substitute 
1lb Cavatelli 


Add your oil to a large saucepan. Sauté your garlic until it just starts to brown. Add in your broccoli, add your salt and cook until it just softens slightly. Add your raisins, chili flakes, sherry and balsamic vinegar and cook until the sherry evaporates. 

Boil your water, add salt and then add your pasta. When it is one minute from being done, drain and add to your broccoli and finish in the saucepan. Add your walnuts, toss and serve with cheese. 

Serves 4

Miss Minny’s Chocolate Pie

For those of you familiar with the movie “The Help”, you will know all about Minny’s secret chocolate pie recipe. I found this recipe, minus the “secret” ingredient (read the book) and made it quite a few times and I can tell you, it is very good indeed.

You will think there is something missing, as the recipe is so basic, but it really is a simple recipe and so easy to make. 

Ingredients


1 Pie Crust, not deep dish.

1 1/2 cups Superfine Sugar
3 Tbsp high grade Cocoa Powder.
4 Tbsp unsalted Butter, melted
2 large Eggs, beaten well
3/4 cup Evaporated Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blind bake the crust for 15 minutes. While the crust is baking, mix together the sugar, cocoa powder, butter, eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla and salt. Combine well until smooth.


When crust is finished, carefully pour in the filling and place on a baking sheet in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes. If you find the edges browning too much just cover with a bit of aluminum foil.


You want the center to still be a little bit jiggly when you gently shake the pie, but not too loose. Cool completely before serving. You can put the pie in the refrigerator.

Coconut Cake

I love this cake and it is always a favorite at any gathering. It is rich, easy to prepare, with lovely coconut flavor and so moist. It is from Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra’s amazing book, “Warm Bread and Honey Cake” and it really is worth a try.

And, I can highly recommend the cookbook as a whole  It is filled with wonderful recipes and really not challenging from a baking point of view.

Ingredients

1 ½ cups AP Flour
2 ¼ tsp Baking Soda
¼ tsp Salt
2 sticks of unsalted Butter, softened
1 cup of superfine Sugar
3 Eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 ½ cups grated dry sweetened Coconut with 3 Tbsp water added. If you use moist coconut, you can omit the water. 
1 8 inch square pan
 
Mix the coconut with the water and set aside. Preheat the oven to 325 F and grease the pan and then dust the pan with flour. Hint: Even if you are using a non stick pan, it still needs to be greased and dusted so it will brown properly.
 
Sift the flour with the baking soda and salt and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until it is creamy and light in color. Add in the lightly beaten eggs a bit at a time. Then add the vanilla extract, mix and then gently fold in the flour. Do not overwork the batter or it will be tough.
 
Spread the batter evenly in the pan and rap the pan on the counter to remove any air from the mixture. The batter is quite thick.
 
Bake in the over for 30 min and then check for doneness with a knife or toothpick. If needed, you can bake for another 10-15 minutes.
 
Cool on a wire rack and slice into squares. It is amazing when still slightly warm.

Hack Alert: It is also very good with 1 Tbsp of lemon zest added to the batter.

The world famous Vesper

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to make the Vesper, like they do at Duke’s in London, here’s your chance.

Firstly, here is the history as told to me by Allesandro of Dukes, the great man himself. Ian Fleming used to frequent Duke’s bar and wrote at least one of the James Bond novels there and it is said he invented the Vesper. If you read the recipe in Casino Royale(1953), it says:

“Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?”


Duke’s recipe below is slightly different as Kina Lillet is no longer available. ” Kina Lillet was reformulated in 1986 and rebranded as Lillet Blanc, a “fresher, fruitier, and less bitter” concoction. Cocchi Americano is generally considered to be the nearest contemporary drink to the original recipe Kina Lillet and is often used as a substitute for it in cocktails.”


I fond that Lillet Blanc works very well. Just so you know, Duke’s uses its own vermouth made exclusively for them by an English company. Sorry, none to be had, I tried.


The Duke’s Vesper


1- large Martini glass

2 dashs of Angostura Bitters
1/2 measure Lillet Blanc
2 measures of Potocki Vodka
2 Meaures of No 3 London Dry Gin by Berry Bros. and Rudd
Garnished with an orange peel

Take your ice cold/frozen glass and add your bitters, then pour in your Lillet Blanc, add your vodka and top with gin. Take your orange peel and squeeze over the top of the glass it to disperse the oil and serve. No stirring or shaking.

How to make a stunning martini.

Firstly, I should say that I prefer a gin martini to vodka, so that is how I will list the recipe, but you can certainly substitute vodka if you prefer.

I think that preparation is critical to having a really good martini. A little prep will make all of the difference to the finished product.

Finally, buy the best gin or vodka you can afford, as the end result is going to be dominated by the spirit, so if you choose a cheap gin or vodka, you will definitely taste it. 

Gin is a very personal thing and while some will like one over another, the key is to have a gin that is smooth and in balance. No one flavor should dominate in an unpleasant way.

Here are a few of my favorites:

No 3, London Dry Gin by Berry Bros and Rudd – Truly one of my favorites and a staple at Duke’s Hotel Bar in London, for making the world famous Vesper.

No Ten by Tanqueray – A close second and a real surprise, as I was not excepting it to be so good.

Plymouth English Gin– This makes a lovely martini and is how I think a good gin should taste. Crisp and balanced, as it should be.

Cadenhead’s Old Raj – Very nice old style gin made in Scotland. Quite strong, so use caution.

Here we go:

1)   Firstly, you need to put your martini glasses and gin into the freezer. I like to taste the gin and I find that shaking dilutes the gin too much. However, in a clinch, I do prefer stirring over shaking.
2)   Remove your glass from the freezer, and pour about 1 Tbsp of Vermouth (I use Martini and Rossi) into the frozen glass. Swirl it around and then pour the vermouth out. This is to make sure you have just the right amount of vermouth.
3)   Add enough gin to fill ¾ of the glass and then garnish with a twist of lemon peel. Use a peeler to get a nice size piece, and squeeze it in half over the glass before submerging it into the glass. This allows the oils to cover the surface of the gin.
4)  Drink and enjoy.

Okay, so let’s say you want a martini tonight and forgot to put the gin and glasses into the freezer. First things first, put the glasses into the freezer as they will freeze up quickly. Set the timer for 30 minutes and go occupy yourself while awaiting your reward.

Now, take your cocktail shaker and fill to the very top with ice. Add your 1 Tbsp of vermouth, and swirl it around. Now strain off the vermouth. Add in your gin and stir for at least 30 seconds until very cold, then strain into your frozen glass and garnish as desired. I prefer lemon peel as it accents the gin nicely, but olives are good as well.

Potato Jalfrezi – Southern Indian Goodness

This is definitely one of my favorite curries and I like it because it can be made relatively quickly. Many years ago, I made this with chicken, but after swearing off meat, I realized it was just perfect with potato. You could always substitute, sweet potato or eggplant and even butternut squash. However, if you choose any of these, I feel roasting them prior, is a good idea and adds texture.
The key to this dish is to have all of your ingredients arranged, so you aren’t scrambling around the kitchen trying to find things once you have begun cooking. I find this works very well with a wok or karahi, but feel free to use what suits you.

Ingredients

1 lb baby Potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes or in half if they are quite small.
3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
4 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped, crushed or mashed with a mortar and pestle
2 inch pieces of fresh Ginger Root, finely chopped, grated or mashed with a mortar and pestle
1 large Onion, sliced very thinly. A mandoline is very handy for this.
2-4 Thai Chilies, seeds removed if you don’t want it too hot.
1 tsp of Turmeric Powder
2 Tbsp of prepared Curry Paste. Pataks is a good brand.
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp of Garam Masala
1 Red Pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
10 Cherry Tomatoes cut in half
½ cup of Coconut Milk, more if needed once you begin cooking
Fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped. About ¼ cup.
Heat your wok/pan and then add garlic, ginger and sauté for about 1 minute, add your chilies, and do not let it brown or burn. Add your onion and cook until the onion is well caramelized. 
Add your turmeric; curry paste and quickly sauté, not letting it brown. Now add your potatoes and sauté for 3-5 minutes on low heat.
Add the tomatoes, red pepper and garam masala, salt and stir well. Add the coconut milk and let it simmer for approx. 30 minutes covered, or until the potato is fully cooked. If the mixture becomes too thick add a little bit of the coconut milk to keep a medium thickness sauce.
Just before serving, stir in the fresh coriander and then serve immediately with basmati rice.

Strawberry and Candied Pecan Salad

This is one of my all time favorites. It is perfect for a light salad, but yet it’s packed with flavor. I do think the key is the candied pecan, but you can substitute any other candied nut.

Ingredients

6 cups cups of washed Rocket/Arugula
1 cup of sliced Strawberries
1/2 cup of Blueberries
1 cup of Candied Pecans of other suitable nut
1/4 cup of finely chopped Green Onion
1/2 cup of Crumbled Blue Cheese, omit if you are vegan or lactose intolerant 

Wash and thoroughly dry the greens. I find a salad spinner is perfect for this. Portion out the greens into the individual bowls and then add all other ingredients. Finish with a salad dressing of your choice, but a strawberry vinaigrette would be perfect.

Strawberry Vinaigrette

6 Tbsp of Pecan, Walnut Oil or other nut oil
3 Tbsp of Red Wine or Champagne Vinegar, more to taste if desired
2 Tbsp pureed Strawberries 
1-2 tsp Sea Salt

Add all ingredients into a bowl and add one half of the oil and then while whisking, add in the additional oil until emulsified.

Note: I always store my nut oils in the refrigerator. This has two benefits. One, it keeps the oil fresh and secondly, it makes the oil emulsify infinitely better.