“Vaghareli Makai” (Spicy corn with peanuts, lime, cilantro and mustard seeds)

This is a real gem from Heidi Swanson’s new book “Near and Far” What a stunning array of flavors!

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The original recipe called for “2 small red chiles” so you can use whatever kind of chile pepper you want, depending on how hot and spicy you like things. If you are avoiding nuts then use pumpkin seeds. To make it vegan, Heidi recommends using sunflower oil in place of the butter.

2 small red chiles, stemmed, seeded (if desired), and sliced
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
One 1-inch (3cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee)
1 ½ teaspoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
3 cups (450g, about 3 large ears) fresh corn kernels
½ cup (60g) roasted peanuts
1 cup (30g) chopped cilantro
lemon or lime wedges
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1. In a mortar and pestle, or with a mini food processor, grind the chiles, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and salt to a paste.

2. Heat the clarified butter in a wide skillet. Add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring until they pop, which will take a minute or two. Stir in the corn kernels and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they just start to feel tender, which will take a couple of minutes.

3. Stir in the peanuts, half of the cilantro and half of the red chile paste. Cook for another minute then taste. If desired, for additional heat, add more of the chile paste and perhaps a bit of salt. Remove from heat and add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

Serve the spiced corn over rice, or as a side dish, topped with the remaining cilantro and sesame seeds.

Have lemon or lime wedges handy for guests to add as they wish. Any leftovers can be reheated in a skillet with a little more clarified butter.

Grilled corn with chiptole cream and cilantro

A super tasty recipe from Rachel Ray. and it’s sweet, smoky and spicy at the same time. This is perfect with some grilled meat or fish from the BBQ.

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4-8 appetizer-sized portions

1 cup cream
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped, 1 tsp adobo sauce reserved
Zest and juice of 1 lime, divided
1/2 heaped cup mild crumbling cheese such as queso fresco, Asadero or Cotija, for topping
1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
2 to 3 scallions, finely sliced
2 tsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
4 ears corn, husks and silk removed

Pre-heat the grill to medium-high.

In a small saucepot over a low flame, heat and reduce the cream, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce and lime zest until thick and flavors come together, about 15 minutes. Reserve and keep warm.

While the cream is reducing, mix the crumbled cheese, oregano, scallion and cilantro together in a small bowl and set aside.

Grill the corn until the kernels begin to char evenly. When the corn comes off the grill, let cool slightly and cut the corn off the cobb. Place a spoonful of corn in a bowl, drizzle with the chipotle cream sauce, sprinkle with the cheese mixture and serve with a squeeze of lime

Chilled corn soup with prawns, avocado and tomato relish

Chilled corn soup with avocado, shrimp and tomato relish

This is the season for gorgeous chilled soups, whether you serve them in shooter glasses or bowls like this picture. I will be posting several of these over the next few summer months, as I love starting a meal with a refreshing and zingy flavor.  You can make them well in advance so they are ideal for dinner parties or spontaneous lunches. Recently we held a house concert here at our home and I made my chilled cucumber soup (also on this blog) and set out 40 shooter glasses and two large pitchers of the soup. There was a constant group hovering over the pitchers refilling their glasses.

Serves 4
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 large leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
3 ears corn, husked, silk removed
3 cups chicken broth
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
6 oz grape tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
8 to 10 leaves fresh, thinly-sliced basil
8 oz small or medium prawns, peeled and de-veined, tails removed
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp Fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh lime juice

In a large saucepan on low, heat oil until melted. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until softened.
Meanwhile, over a large bowl, cut the corn kernels from the corn cobs (A sharp, serrated knife would work well). With a heavy knife, cut each cob into 2 to 3 pieces.
Add the corn kernels and pieces of cob to the pot with the leeks. Add the chicken broth and 1 cup of water, and increase the heat to high. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
Remove the pot from heat and discard the cobs. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then purée soup with an immersion blender. (Alternatively, carefully purée soup in batches in a food processor or blender.) Transfer to a large bowl, cover and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
In a small bowl, toss avocado, tomatoes and basil
Heat a nonstick skillet on medium. Season the prawns with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes, turning once, until just opaque.
Just before serving, chop the prawns coarsely and stir the lime juice into chilled soup. Ladle into bowls and garnish with avocado-tomato mixture and prawns, dividing evenly.

Fish tacos with lime, cilantro and chipotle cream

Another low calorie recipe, and this is great because of the combination of fish, lime, cilantro, corn tortillas and the divine chipotle cream.
I feel like I have to post a few of these “lighter” recipes, given it’s January and everyone is trying to stick to their new Year’s resolutions. (for now)

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
ground black pepper
1 lb white flaky fish, like Chilean sea bass, cod, halibut or tilapia

1/2 cup plain nonfat yoghurt
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

8 (6 inch) corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded green cabbage or lettuce
1/2 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, salt and pepper.
Pour over the fish fillets and let marinate for 20 minutes.
Put the yoghurt into a strainer lined with paper towel and place over a bowl to drain and thicken for 20 minutes.

Remove the fish from the marinade and grill or fry on a preheated grill pan or non stick pan over a medium heat until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
Set the fish aside on a plate for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the thickened yoghurt, mayonnaise and chipotle pepper.

Heat the tortillas on the grill pan for 30 secs on each side.

Flake the fish with a fork. Top each tortilla with 1 tbsp of the chipotle cream. Top with some fish, cabbage, corn and cilantro and serve with the lime wedges

Thai pork and peanut curry

This is the last recipe for 2013! Happy New Year to you all and thank you so much for signing up to the blog.

This was the top BBC Good Food recipe for 2013 and is well worth doing.

Serves 4

Use a fragrant hot red curry base (available in Asian markets) as the base to this curry dish with baby sweet corn, cilantro and soy sauce.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bunch scallions (spring onions) sliced
a small bunch fresh cilantro, stalks finely chopped, leaves picked
1 lb pork tenderloin, sliced
4 tbsp Thai red curry paste
4 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
a 14 fl oz can of coconut milk (you can use light coconut milk too)
1/2 a 14 oz tin of  baby corn, drained
juice of 1 lime
steamed Jasmine rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or flameproof Dutch oven.
Add the scallions and cilantro stalks and cook for 1 minute. Add the pork slices and cook for 5 mins until starting to brown.
Stir in the curry paste and peanut butter.
After 30 seconds, add the sugar, soy sauce and coconut milk, plus 1/2 can water.
Mix well, put a lid on and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid, add the baby corn and increase the heat.
Bubble for 3 minutes until the corn is heated through and the sauce has thickened a little.
Stir in the lime juice and check the seasoning.

*  It can now be frozen for up to 2 months at this point

To cook from frozen, thoroughly defrost, then heat in a pan on the hob until the curry is hot all the way through.
Serve scattered with the cilantro leaves and steamy hot Jasmine rice

Cornbread, bacon, pecan and leek stuffing

Another great stuffing to add to the repertoire

2 cups pecans
2 cornbread (rounds, squarers or loaves, 8 inches each) coarsely broken into 2 inch pieces (16 cups)
3 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for the dish
8 slices smoked bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 celery stalks, chopped nto 1/2 inch pieces
4 leeks (white and pale-green parts only), chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, rinsed well.
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock (preferably homemade)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7 minutes. let cool slightly; coarsely chop. Mix together pecans and cornbread in a large bowl.

Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cook the bacon in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until almost crisp, about 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium; add the celery and leeks. Cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Stir in thyme and 1 1/4 tsp salt; season with pepper.
Transfer to a large bowl.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat, and add the stock; bring to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
Add to the bowl with the bacon-vegetable mixture.
Stir in the eggs.
Gently mix in the cornbread mixture. (Do not overmix)
Transfer to a baking dish, dot the top with butter.
bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes

Pumpkin seed stuffing with chorizo

This is a terrific stuffing as it uses the “pepitas” pumpkin seeds. This recipe was voted best recipe of the year for Bon Appetite magazine in 2008.  Toasted pepitas, fragrant Spanish chorizo, chiles and cornbread. Would could be nicer?
You can make this the day before but only if you’re not putting it in the turkey. I like to cook this separately.

Serves 6 to 8

* Pumpkin seed oil can be found online or in well stocked supermarkets and is worth having. For a little extra heat, roast 2 to 4 jalapeno chiles with the poblanos, then clean, stem, seed and chop them before adding them to the stuffing.

10 cups cubed corn bread, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup pumpkinseed oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 1/4 tsp salt, divided
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups shelled pumpkin seeds
4 poblano chiles
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, divided
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 lb Spanish chorizo, cut crosswise into 1/8 inch slices
1 1/2 cups fresh corn, from about 2 medium corn cobs
2 onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 tsp minced garlic
1/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 tsp cumin (I roast my own)
1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
2 to 3 cups chicken or turkey broth

Preheat the oven to 375 F
In a large bowl, gently toss the corn bread with 3 tbsp pumpkinseed oil, the thyme, oregano,1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of black pepper.

Spread the cubes in a single layer on a large, foil lined baking sheet and toast for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly golden, shaking the pan every 5 minutes for even coloring. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then place in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl, toss the pumpkin seeds with the remaining tbsp pumpkinseed oil, 1/4 tsp salt and several grinds of black pepper. Place the seeds on a foil lined baking sheet and toast until fragrant, puffed and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Remove and cool, then add to the cornbread.

Meanwhile, roast the chiles on the stove top directly over a hot burner until charred on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove to a sealed bag to rest until cool enough to peel.
Peel the charred skin (do NOT rinse under water as this will remove the flavor)
Halve the chiles lengthwise, stem and seed. Cut the halves crosswise into 1/8 inch sttrips. Add to the cornbread.

Heat a large, heavy-bottom skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tbsp butter and the olive oil, then the chorizo and cook until lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan, and add the chorizo to the stuffing mixture.

Stir the corn and onions into the pan and season with 1/4 tsp salt and several grinds of black pepper.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is crisp-tender and the onions have softened and are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the garlic and cook until it is aromatic, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the white wine and cook, scraping any bits of flavoring from the pan, until the white wine has almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.  Cool, slightly, then add to the stuffing mixture.

*(You are building layers of flavor with all these steps)

Gently toss in the cumin and smoked Spanish paprika, and season the stuffing with 1/4 tsp salt or to taste.
Melt the remaining butter and drizzle over the stuffing. Drizzle 2 cups of chicken or turkey broth over the stuffing and gently toss. Add additional broth as desired.

Place the stuffing in a buttered 13 by 9 inch baking dish, cover and place in the oven. Bake for 20  minutes, then remove the cover and continue to bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until the top is lightly toasted.
Remove and serve.


Five spice fish

This is so full of flavor, spicy, sweet and sour all at once and really quite simple.  Also pretty low in calories and ready in minutes.

Serves 4

4 white fish fillets, such as cod, sea bass, halibut, flounder, sole (about 6 oz each)
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
4 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp sesame oil or sunflower oil
3 scallions, shredded
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
5 oz button mushrooms, sliced
4 oz baby corn, sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp dry sherry or apple juice
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

Mix the cornstarch and 5-spice powder together and toss the fish in the mixture to coat.

Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok and stir fry the scallions, ginger, mushrooms and corn for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the fish and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once.

Mix together the soy sauce, sherry and sugar then pour over the fish.
Simmer for about  4 minutes, (you can cover the pan for some of the time, if you need to) adjust the seasoning, then serve with noodles, stir fried vegetables or plain steamy white rice


Slow cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

This is a pretty low calorie comfort soup and you can leave it to “do it’s thing” for several hours.
I just love weather that asks for soups and stews!

Serves 6         260 calories per serving

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
8 oz can tomato sauce (or more to taste)
1 to 2 tsp chipotle chili in adobo sauce (or more if you can take more heat)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, and more for the garnish
15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes,
2 cups frozen corn (or tinned sweet corn niblets, drained)
1 tsp cumin (I use roasted ground cumin)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or if you prefer, chicken thighs
1/4 cup chopped scallions, for topping
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, for topping
fat free sour cream, optional

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add onion and garlic and saute for about 5 mins, till soft
Slowly add the chicken broth, tomato sauce and chipotle adobo sauce and bring to the boil
Add the cilantro and remove from the heat.
Pour into a slow cooker (crock pot)

To the slow cooker, add the drained beans, diced tomatoes, corn, cumin, oregano and stir.
Add the chicken, cover and cook on low heat for 4 to 6 hours.

Remove the chicken and shred with two forks.
Add the chicken back to the soup and season again with salt and more cumin, to taste

Serve in bowls and top with sour cream, cheese, cilantro and scallions.

If you’re not too worried about the low calorie aspect of this soup, it is divine with sliced avocado and crushed tortilla chips on top!!

Corn Casserole

I am almost embarrassed to put this on the blog, as it’s so incredibly simple, but everyone loves it. My friend Helen asked me if I had a simple cornbread recipe so this is for her! This is a Paula Deene recipe, so don’t jump on the scales after you eat it!

Serves 6 – 12

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (15 oz) can creamed corn
1 (15 oz) can sweet corn, drained
1 cup sour cream
1 (8 1/2 oz) box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1& 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl, stir together the 2 cans of corn, corn muffin mix, sour cream and melted butter
Pour into a greased casserole dish.
Bake for 45 mins, or until golden brown
Remove from the oven and top with the cheddar cheese
Return to the oven for 5 to 10 mins until the cheese has melted
Let stand for 5 mins then serve warm

That’s it!!