Can-Do Recipes: Golden Milk Cauli Proats

A few weeks ago I decided to do the Whole30, in great part to finally discover whether or not (and to what extent) I actually am allergic to dairy and wheat.  I’m back to my pre-pregnancy size (i.e. not a single pair of pants in my closet is tight – I actually have no idea what I weigh, as I haven’t stepped on a scale since 6 weeks postpartum),  I generally eat pretty healthy anyway – our weekly groceries are 90% whole foods and zero processed items with unpronounceable ingredients (unless you count my inability to pronounce ingredient names in Russian), and all the digestive issues I developed in China gradually dissipated once I started eating lean-clean-green.  But after hearing about the program here and there I googled it and decided that 1) it couldn’t hurt, 2) if I did it I would finally figure out whether I’m allergic to wheat, dairy, peanuts, soy and anything else, 3) it might help clear up my skin, and 4) it would be good to finally not eat any wheat for a month, as I keep saying that I’m not going to have bread/pasta/wheat, etc…for a week/month etc… and then realizing I’ve just eaten bread on the second day.

So, Whole30: as the name suggests, the basic premise of the program is that one eats only (and they mean only) whole foods for thirty days, with a complete ban on sugars, grains, dairy, legumes (including soy) and peanuts based on the idea that these foods often irritate people’s digestive systems, and it takes about 30 days to clear everything out of your system.  For a more complete summary, see The Kitchn‘s post. Most people go through the program eating plenty of meat, fresh produce, and lots and lots of eggs, avocados, and sweet potatoes.  We have scant supply of the last two in Bishkek. I realized about two days in that this would be rather difficult and would require conscious eating, plus a few (fun!) modified recipes.  One you’ll find below.

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For anyone who has done the Whole30 (and lives in a country without much fresh produce in winter, or any avocados that don’t look like glossy lumps of coal) you’ll know that, most mornings, breakfast options are eggs, eggs or eggs (or some strange sausage-spinach combination with more cholesterol than I care to count, or something with shredded coconut, nuts, and dried fruit that really seems more like a hippie candy bar than actual fuel. So today, wanting something hot and warm, I did a twist on cauli proats (cauliflower protein oats): golden (non-milk) cashew cauli proats sweetened with banana. It was soft and satisfying and rich and warm, an actual porridge that I might actually make again after the whole 30 (though I might add a tad of honey and a tablespoon of oats).

Ingredients:
– 1 1/2c water
– 1 TBS raw cashews
– ½ TBS chia seeds (can be omitted)
– ½ head cauliflower, grated (cauliflower rice)
– 1-3 egg whites
– Golden milk spices (turmeric, cinnamon, ginger…)
– Salt to taste
– OPTIONAL: if you want it sweeter/creamier, top with coconut milk/cream, add in coconut flakes, add in chopped dates, dried apricots or raisins (I didn’t, but you could)

Directions:
– Stir cashews, chia, and spices into the water
– While grating the cauliflower, bring the cashews and chia seeds to a simmer on the stove
– Add the cauliflower and chopped banana to the pot
– Stir in the egg white(s)
– Cook on low until tender (maybe this was 15 minutes? It doesn’t need close supervision, so you can go and get dressed or make coffee or do some stretching while your breakfast cooks)
– Top with dried fruit, sliced banana, or coconut milk

Red Onion & Broccoli Salad: More Foods We Can Make in Bishkek

When I was in Ankara this past November I didn’t experience a single food craving.  After a few days I realized I should chock this up to the great quantities of leafy dark greens I was consuming – chard, spinach, arugula. Back in Bishkek winter vegetables are a little…flat.

Thankfully, there are still a few places selling green vegetables a few shades darker than that pale cabbage.  Orto Sai Bazaar, Yimpas, the little bazaar on Moscovskaya between Ibramov and Sovietskaya, and occasionally Boorsok and Globus all have broccoli and spinach.  Sometimes the spinach looks a bit frayed around the edges, but the broccoli is generally good.  And from here comes my fallback winter salad recipe:broccoli salad 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 broccoli head
  • 1 red onion (or white if you can’t find red)
  • 2 T fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t sumac and or isot (a dark smoked pepper)
  • Optional: cranberries, sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans, scallions to top

Instructions:

  • Cut the broccoli into bite-sized chunks
  • Steam the broccoli (just long enough so it isn’t raw but still has a bit of crunch)
  • Chop the onion; mix withe the broccoli
  • Squeeze out the lemon juice
  • Mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt, spices and optional dried cranberries, sunflower seeds or garbanzo beans with the broccoli
  • Let sit in the refrigerator until cool
  • Voila!  Delicious winter salad that is actually possible to make with available ingredients.

Around the World in Chicken Week 4: Spicy Sri Lankan

I realize that I’m a little (2 1/2 weeks…) behind on food posts.  We do keep eating chicken.  I just keep not writing about it.  So here’s the post from the week before last: spicy, savory and satisfying Sri Lankan Curry. The original (non-Bishkek-friendly) recipe was found here:  http://www.happyandharried.com/2015/07/24/sri-lankan-chicken-curry/

Ingredients:

To marinate the chicken:

  • 2 lbs Chicken –the original called for bone-in pieces; I used chicken breast. Obviously bone-in creates more fat and flavor.
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • 1 tsp Red chili powder
  • 1 tsp Madras curry powder (see curry recipe below)
  • 1 tsp Black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Korean hot pepper paste
  • 1 tsp Salt

For the  curry,

  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 1 Onion,  finely chopped
  • 1″ Ginger, chopped
  • 3-4 Cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Spicy Curry Powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon ground with 5-6 cloves and 3-4 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp Red chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp Madras  curry powder
  • 1 Tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 1 julienned carrot
  • 1/3 head chopped cauliflower

To garnish:

  • Yogurt (to cut down on the spice, as the original recipe called for coconut milk and we didn’t have any)
  • Cilantro leaves – to garnish (optional)

Madras Curry Powder:

  • Grind together  coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fennel, cumin, dried red chilies and curry

Instructions:

  • Chop the chicken into 2″ pieces, marinate, and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
  • Heat the oil . Add onions, ginger, and garlic. Saute until the onions start to brown.
  • Add spices in “curry” to the onions,  Stir and saute for a minute.
  • Add the carrots, as they will take more time to cook than the chicken and cauliflower.
  • After 5 minutes add the marinated chicken pieces and toss around for 5 minutes without covering or adding water.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, stir and cover to simmer.
  • After 10 minutes add the chopped cauliflower and 1/2 c chicken stock.
  • Cook for at least 10 more minutes, or until vegetables and chicken are tender.  The flavors will develop if you let the dish sit for a while before serving.

Alterations:  Sadly (sadly indeed!) we do not have tamarind in Bishkek.  In place of tamarind, I used spicy-sweet Korean pepper paste which (due to Stalinist policies and current fashion/food trends) is  readily available in Bishkek.  Obviously it’s a bit spicier than tamarind and is missing that sour tang, but it still worked well.  To compliment the spicy paste I added about a teaspoon of vinegar and squirted lemon on the finished dish.

Vegetables were not part of the original recipe.  I added cauliflower to the mix, and could have added julienned carrots as well, as I generally like more vegetables with my meals.

Score: 9/10 only because I was missing the tamarind. This was the perfect spicy dish for a cold and rainy evening.

While we do have plenty of Indian and Pakistani students in Bishkek, there aren’t very many restaurants representing that corner of the world – bot surprising (where do all those students eat?) and (having grown up half on Indian-Tibetan infusions) quite disappointing.

Around the World in Chicken Week 2: Moroccan Tagine

Moroccan Chicken TagineWe had a slaughtering of plums left over from the bazaar (1 kg of tiny purple plums is…a lot), and so this week I decided to try and use some up in the chicken recipe.  It also snowed (twice!), and so it was time for something warm and spicy.  Thus I chose the Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Plums.

This week also highlights how bad I am at following recipes to the letter.  I always add new ingredients, substitute this for that, or find three recipes and blend them all together.  Sometimes the results are fantastic, other times disastrous.  This week’s experiment was somewhere in the middle – everything was gone by lunch the following day, but I think it would have benefited from more pepper and the sweet tang of nectarines.

Recipe:

Borrowed from these three: Moroccan Braised Chicken, North African Chicken Tagine, and Moroccan Nectarine and Plum Chicken Tagine.


DSC_0018Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts (all the recipes used thighs, but we only had chicken breasts in the freezer)
  • LOTS of little plums
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/3 of a squash, chopped into 1″ squares
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 1-2 c cherry tomatoes
  • 1 eggplant, chopped
  • Spices: salt cumin, hot red pepper, cinnamon, oregano
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS honey
  • 1/2 c chicken stock

DSC_0017Instructions:

  1. Prepare all vegetables
  2. Marinate the chicken breasts in tomato paste, olive oil and spices
  3. Brown the garlic and onions in your skillet
  4. At this point, I should have also cooked the carrot and eggplant for about 10 minutes (until soft)
  5. Mix together chopped vegetables, spices, chicken breasts and spices
  6. Transfer to oven-safe dish
  7. Pour in chicken stock
  8. Top with plums
  9. Drizzle with honey
  10. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 degrees
  11. Serve! Preferably with pilaf (I like to make carrot/white bean/onion/potato/garlic pilaf with some saffron and just a little white basmati rice), couscous, or millet

DSC_0026Score: 7/10.  Taste was an 8/10, but I would have liked more spice.  I also forgot to calculate in the extra cooking time that would be needed for the carrots and eggplant, so they were not soft (at all) when I took them out of the oven.  Next time I would pre-cook them before mixing with everything else.

Would I make it again? Yes, but with the modifications listed above.

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Around the World in Chicken Week 1: Easy Adult Macaroni & Cheese

 

As I mentioned before heading off to Turkey, I decided to choose one food every year and find 50 different recipes from 50 different cultures, in great part to mix up what we’re eating and become more creative in our kitchen (especially during the monotonous winter months when Bishkek has cabbage and cabbage and potatoes and carrots).  This week’s experiment: Bohemian Millennial Adult Macaroni and Cheese with Thyme Chicken and Tomatoes.  I’ll argue that Bohemian Millennial – the young professionals who reside in cheapside apartments in up-and-coming NY neighborhoods, drink red wine with their local bodega burritos and always seem to know the newest indie coffee shop are a culture unto themselves.  In short, E was sick, everything in our freezer melted during the month we were away, and our kitchen was looking a bit bare.  So, here you are: Easy Adult Macaroni and Cheese.

Ingredients:

For the Pasta Pot:

  • Pasta (your choice; we only had shell pasta at home)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • Salt, pepper, red pepper

For the topping:

  • 1-2 pounds of chicken
  • 3-5 cherry tomatoes/person
  • thyme, red pepper, other spices as you wish
  • 1 tsp olive oil

For the cheese:

  • 1/4 cup grated cheese*
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 raw egg

*I used white toast cheese, as that was all we had in the refrigerator.  This would have been better with some crumbled blue cheese or sharp cheddar (if you choose to use curry and pepper in place of the thyme).

Instructions:

  1. Bring water for pasta to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add a dash of salt.
  2. Thinly slice onions and put them in the pasta pot.
  3. Add pasta and pepper or curry
  4. Chop up your chicken breast into 1/2-1″ cubes
  5. When the pasta is 10 minutes from finished heat 1 tsp olive oil in a pan
  6. To the pan add your chicken, thyme, black pepper, a dash of salt, and other spices.
  7. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the pan.
  8. Periodically flip the chicken.
  9. As the chicken is cooking, wash and chop the spinach.
  10. When the pasta is almost finished stir in the chopped spinach.  Close the top and let sit for 2 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, grate cheese into a large bowl.  Add butter, 1 egg (I find this gives it a better consistency), a dash of salt, and either thyme/black pepper or curry/red pepper.
  12. Beat the mixture together with a fork.
  13. Drain the pasta and immediately (gently!) mix it into the cheese mixture (do this while the pasta is still very hot to ensure the egg is cooked)
  14. Serve and add chicken and tomato topping.

Turnout: 7/10.  It would have tasted better with fresh grated ginger and 1/2 tsp curry powder.

 

Food Nostalgia: Kawa Manta (Pumpkin Dumplings)

As you can probably understand from the photos below, one of the highlights of living in Urumqi (and just China in general) was the food.  Sure, there were some awful dishes.  But the variety, the color, the texture, the taste, the play on you palate can hardly be matched. pumpkin dumplings

Living in Urumqi (2012-2013) I had access to both Uygur and Chinese cuisines (along with a few random western imports, like the Colorado-ian owned Texas Cafe).  Living on a university campus, I had access to both within a two minute walk of my apartment, and at student prices (it’s probably why I gained ten pounds that year…). And while I’m a bit wheat intolerant, nobody does bread and pasta like the Uyghurs.  There was laghman with endless toppings soft under dripping sauce, raisin-stuffed buns with perfect oven-fresh crusts, chick peas on cold noodles, savory naan with meat mixed in the dough (made perfect when dipped in sour local yogurt), a ready lunch of samsa, light pillowy bread with  paper-thin shell and, of course, manti. The most common manti come stuffed with sheep, and in Uyghur cuisine that’s usually fatty, oil-dripping mutton.  But spring sees manta made with wild grass from the Kyrgyz highlands, and colder weather my personal favorite – kawa manta, pumpkin manta.

There was one restaurant in southern Urumqi, just north of the tourist bazaar, where I would always stop for manti on my trips to the southern end of town.  Grease-stained wallpaper cloaking two mutton-smelling rooms with dingy tables and barely a seat free – because they had some of the best food in town.  The proprietor started to laugh at me after a while – I was that one foreigner (there weren’t man in Urumqi) who could speak a little broken Uyghur, and who would come and just order three pumpkin manti every time. But the manti… it was like a pumpkin pillow of heaven.

Yesterday I had pumpkin manta in Bishkek (from the ‘Manti Yurt’) and it was awful.

img_0896Maybe I should follow the recipe on this Princeton blog and try making my own:

Ingredients: 1½ cup all-purpose flour; 1 cup cold water; 1 tbsp. salt; ½ cup fried mutton fat (or lean meat with 1 tsp. cooking oil); 1 large orange pumpkin; 2 green or red hot peppers; 1 red onion; cumin, salt, and pepper to taste.
Serving: Four, about 40-50 dumplings
Preparation:
1. Dissolve salt into water. In a large mixing bowl, add the saltwater to flour while kneading the dough constantly for about five minutes.
2. Dice fat or meat and vegetables into small cubes, not more than half an inch wide.
3. Combine meat and vegetables into another large bowl. Add cumin, salt, and pepper to taste.
4. Roll the dough into logs about ¾ inch diameter on a cutting board thinly coated with flour.
5. Cut the logs into ½ inch-long pieces. Flatten each piece into 3-inch-wide circles. The center of the pieces should be a bit thicker than its edges. Alternatively, buy ready-made dumpling wraps at an Oriental foods store.
6. Place 1 tbsp. of filling into wrapper. Fold the dough over in a semicircle. Smear the inside edges of the circle with a little water. Close the dumpling by pleating and pinching the edges, meeting at the top. Twist the top of the dough to seal firmly.
7. Steam the dumplings for 20 minutes, best in a multi-level steamer, and serve hot.

If this sounds too complicated, there’s a Trip Advisor video here and here, or if you’re not much of a chef, more Xinjiang foodporn here and (meh pictures) here.

 

Easy-to-Make Cherry Chocolate Red Wine Cake

…that even rhymes!

Bishkek Food Hacks: Ovenless Red Wine (or Coffee) CherryChocolate  Cake

Noooooooo!

We all know it: Cake in Central Asia doesn’t quite compare.  It’s never dense or rich, just mildly sweet, somewhat dry, and definitely over-fluffy. A foray into any Narodnie will impart the impression that cakes in Kyrgyzstan are beautiful creations.

Napoleon Cake

Napoleon Cake

But it’s just the illusion of styrofoam-frosting. Unless you want a mouthful of dry, chemically-marshmallow, don’t try.  There’s no satisfaction in eating something that’s both bad for you and tastes fake. (One very special exception: Obama Bar does have good Napolean, which is  far superior to the US funeral variety and E’s favorite)

Our new apartment also doesn’t have an oven, so making a cake can create somewhat of a quandary.
But today I remedied this problem with red wine cherry chocolate cake with walnuts.  Dense, delicious, definitely chocolatey, and the tart burst of cherry was perfectly complimented by the dark tones of wine and soft, slightly bitter walnuts.  Did I mention that I made this in a microwave?
So, if you have access to a microwave and a Harodnie, here’s how to make rich faux-gourmet chocolate cherry cake:
IMG_0627
Ingredients for two:
(Follow this or any basic mug cake recipe, plus cherries and walnuts, swapping out the milk for 1-2 Tbs red wine)
5 Tbs flour
1/3 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1-2 Tbs unsweetened bitter chocolate
1 tsp vanilla sugar
1/4-1/2 dark chocolate bar, cut into slivers or small chunks
Pinch nutmeg, possible cardamon
10 walnuts, crushed
1/2 cup frozen cherries
I added shredded coconut, but it would have been smoother without
– Wet Ingredients –
1-2 Tbs greek yogurt
1 egg
1 tsp oil
1-2 Tbs red wine (or coffee, if you don’t have an already-opened bottle of wine)
Instructions:
1. Place walnuts on bottom of a large coffee mug/small bowl (if you plan on flipping it upsidown for presentation)
2. Mix together dry ingredients
3. Add frozen cherries and mix in
4. Add wet ingredients.  Mix minimally (mixing too much will make it very chewy)
5. Microwave on high/medium high for *about* 90 seconds.  Stop when the top is solid.
Top with yogurt, or a drizzle of honey.
As you can see, I forgot to take a photo before we started, because I didn’t know how good it was)), and unfortunately the photo does not capture the rich beauty that is this cake. So try it, leave comments, and let me know of anything else you’ve discovered to be possible in a limited Bishkek kitchen.