Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lamb's Lettuce & Dried Cranberries Salad

... One day, the woman stood at the window and looked down into the witch's garden. She saw a bed filled with the most beautiful rapunzel, and it looked so fresh and green that she craved it; she had the most burning desire to eat of it. Her desire increased every day, but since she knew that she could not have any, she grew pale and ill.
This greatly alarmed her husband, who asked her 'what ails you, dear wife?'
'Oh', she replied, 'if I cannot eat some of the rapunzel from that garden, I must surely die.'...

- from Rapunzel, collected in the Grimm's Fairy Tales

When I came across the information that the word 'rapunzel' is used for the plant 'lamb's lettuce' and the passage from this version of the tale, I started to smile around happily. I was happy because I came to realise that all those years, I'd been reading, telling and listening to this fairy tale without knowing what the name 'Rapunzel' actually means or why the name is picked for the main character. I had simply skipped this version of the fairy tale.

This unexpected realisation is the main source of my happiness today and it naturally made me search for the lamb's lettuce on the Net and soon I ended up with a fact file about the plant. You'll find it quite helpful if you haven't heard of this wonderful vegetable before.

  • It's a member of the valerian family.
  • 'Rapunzel' is one of the German terms for this plant.
  • Known also as corn salad, fetticus, feldsalat, nut lettuce and mâche in French.
  • It has smooth, spoon-shaped, dark green leaves arranged in rosettes. 
  • It has a tangy and nutty flavour.
  • It only grows once a year and then dies off. 
  • It could be found growing wild among the crops or in meadows.
  • It is prized as one of few fresh vegetables available in the winter and early spring.
  • It is very low in calories.
  • It has three times as much vitamin C as lettuce, plenty of vitamins E, B6 and B9 (folic acid), potassium, beta carotene, and more iron than any other leafy green vegetable except parsley.
  • It is hard to find outside Europe.
  • It is rather pricey because it has to be hand-picked.
  • It is easy to grow and window boxes are enough to grow it.
  • The plant is delicate and should be eaten as soon as possible.
  • It can be very sandy. Wash it carefully.
  • It is used like spinach in omelettes and soups, or added to sandwiches, lamb's lettuce really comes into its own as a salad.
  • Two handfuls of it makes an adult portion. 

Lamb's Lettuce & Dried Cranberries Salad

lamb's lettuce (two handfuls of it per adult)
olive oil 
chopped garlic
dried cranberries


1. Rinse and pick over the lamb's lettuce, separating the leaves. Leave them to drain or use a salad spinner.
2. In a small bowl mix the yogurt, oil, salt and garlic beating them together.
3. Place the lamb's lettuce in a big bowl and add in the cranberries.
4. Season the lamb's lettuce with the yogurt sauce.
5. Sprinkle with more cranberries before you serve.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Baked Fish with Lemon and Fresh Wild Mint Leaves

I am the only fish lover in the family which makes things even more complicated in the kitchen. I feel the need to eat fish from time to time, but nobody else does. What is more, with such a background like mine, it is not possible to cook fish for only one. The reason is quite simple. I've been taught that food is for sharing and so when you cook, you cook for at least two. If there is no one else around to eat the fish you cook, then you assume that it's not worth it and you soon quit the idea. This is at least how it goes with me. 

Right at this level, I used a little common sense and chose to cook fish in a variety of ways to please the others too. Some worked, some didn't and the definite favourite by everyone has proved to be the fried fish. By the way, here is the last one I tried using the on-hand ingredients: baked trouts with lemon and fresh wild mint leaves.

Well... I came to believe that there is no way and need to try to persuade somebody else to eat something they do not feel like! Fish is the one in our kitchen history and I think it's high time that I let it go! It seems that even common sense and its creative practice won't work in this case especially after Finding Nemo has become a recent favourite movie by the family. 

garlic powder
olive oil
fresh mint leaves


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. 
2. Rinse fish well, pat dry with paper towels. 
3. In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs, cornmeal, salt, pepper and garlic powder. 
4. Line a baking pan with parchment and oil it.  
5. Season the cavity of each fish with garlic powder and salt. 
6. Season the fish with olive oil on both sides and then coat each fish with enough breadcrumbs-cornmeal-spices mixture, pressing firmly to adhere. 
6. Arrange fish on the pan and lay slices of lemon and fresh mint leaves on top. Drizzle oil lightly over fish.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes until fish is golden on top. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Flour Halwa with Dried Cranberries

The Islamic calender is based on a lunar cycle having 12 lunar months in a year of about 354 days. Islamic holy days usually shift 11 days earlier each successive solar year, such as a year of the Gregorian calendar even though these holy days are celebrated on fixed dates in their own calendar. 

Well, if you are not familiar to the Islamic calendar at all, this piece of information may sound a bit complicated. Even if you were born into a Muslim family and grew up in a neighbourhood where religious holidays were celebrated in a festive atmosphere for days and nights, the astronomical considerations concerning when to start the celebrations are always confusing and accordingly a big issue to talk about.

I remember, years and years ago, my mother saying once "I was a young girl, 18 or 19 I think, and it was the holy month of Ramadan and everybody was fasting. It must have been mid-summer because it was boiling outside and we would avoid stepping out of the house. It was scorching. Well, I'll be fasting again in mid-summer in my early 50s." Back then, my mother's words, which were totally based on the fact that that holy days on the Islamic calendar shift 11 days earlier each successive solar year, sounded like a prophesy, a glimpse into the distant future. I was simply enchanted. Actually, it kept be busy quite some years wondering how my mother was able to tell exactly when she would be fasting in the same season once again in a few seconds. I also started to imagine and so look forward to those prophesied days to arrive because by then I would have known that my mother's prediction came true, she was in her mid 50s and I was now a young woman! Later on, I was taught how to deal with such calculations when it comes to the Islamic months and I came to realise how my mother did the magic. 

However, I've been under the effect of my mother's magic for years still. It's been kind of a purest hope placed under a pillow deep down in my subconsciousness. It's laid under the very pillow I sleep on every night. I've been waiting for years to pass by to witness that my mother's prophesy has come true and yes it has come true. My mother is 52 years old and we are going to fast this summer in Ramadan starting in late June and ending in late July. Magical, isn't it?

250 grams butter
2 cups flour
2.5 milk
1.5 cups granulated sugar
100 grams dried cranberries
cinnamon, optional 
vanilla extract


1. Take a pan and heat it over medium heat for 1 minute.
2. Add the butter and melt it. 
3. Sieve the flour into the pan and stir constantly over low heat until it turns golden brown. It takes more than half an hour. Keep calm and carry on!
4. Meanwhile, pour in milk into another pan. Add in vanilla extract and sugar. Stir until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat.
5. Pour the milk-sugar mixture onto the roasted flour very slowly and continue stirring constantly over medium heat.
6. When the mixture boils and then gets thicker in consistency, remove the pan from heat.
7. Stir in the cranberries. Let it cool with the lid on for 10 minutes.
8. Shape the halwa using a wet tablespoon or an ice-cream scoop.
9. Sprinkle with cinnamon before you serve (optional.)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Never Give Up" Cookies

"You never give up, sis!" was the best confession & compliment I've received lately. When my sister, on Skype, said it so unexpectedly, I got puzzled for a split second to associate the statement to any recent event or accomplishment I'd been involved in. Well, there was none apparently.

When she saw the expression of confusion on my face, she explained it immediately. She'd happened to call me right after the first tray of thumbprint jam cookies (please read the previous post) came out of the oven and seen how the strawberry jam oozed from the cookies. Anyway, this video call was right after the second time I baked thumbprint jam cookies and this time with my own additions to decorate them. When she saw the cookies all perfect in shape she just wanted to show her appreciation: "You never give up, sis!"

My sister had a point actually. I felt a strong need to bake thumbprint cookies once again to see if there was anything I could add/do to make them better. Accordingly, all I did was to chop some walnuts and after shaping the dough into balls and denting each ball as told in the recipe, to roll the cookies in the chopped walnuts. I think that's how I proved to be a determined cooking enthusiast. I think I am so. Yes, I am a cooking enthusiast, a determined one.

For the full recipe, please see the previous post.