Chicken and okra in tomato sauce

Chicken and okra in tomato sauce

This is one of the most addictive dishes that I know of. It also appears to be a miracle cure for the common cold and a great relief if you have the flu. It is, however, absolutely vital that you use good olive oil when you're cooking it; cheap oil or any oil other than olive oil will totally ruin the taste and/or upset your stomach. Serves two to three, as usual.

  • ½ cup (125 ml) good olive oil
  • 350 g boneless chicken breast, cut into cubes
  • 300 g fresh okra
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 400 g tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a can of polpa)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt, pepper

Do not use canned okra. They have a very different taste and will disintegrate if used with this recipe.

Remove the tips and caps from the okra. If they are too large, cut them in half. Put in a bowl, add the lemon juice and fill the bowl with water until the okra are covered. Ideally, let the okra soak for about two to three hours. As a minimum, lert them soak for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan, but don't let it get too hot or it'll lose its taste. Add the chopped onion and chicken pieces and fry until meat and onions have a brownish tint. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, stir well, then reduce heat, cover with a lid and let everything simmer over low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the chicken from the sauce and put it aside. Drain the okra and put them into the sauce. Cover and let simmer over low heat for about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then add in the chicken pieces, let boil very briefly just to make sure the chicken is warm; then serve immediately, preferably with rice.

The idea behind cooking chicken and okra separately is that the okra and tomatoes get a fruity, slightly lemony taste, whereas the chicken does not. This contrast is essential, and you should not spoil it by cooking okra and chicken together.

Update: At the request of a reader, here is some more information about okra: [1] [2] [3].

Chicken Phall

Chicken Phall

Chicken Phall is the hottest dish of the Indian restaurant cuisine. It is by no way authentic and was almost certainly invented in the UK, probably as some kind of revenge on drunken Brits who arrived at the Indian takeaways after the pubs closed. Still, I felt like I had to give this a try.

I took some clues from vague descriptions of a Phall that I found online and improvised this dish. It may need some adjustments, but the first try turned out tasty and very hot. Serves 2, or one very hungry person.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 350g boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a 2.5" (6-7cm) piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 2 fresh habanero chilies
  • ½ bhut jolokia chili
  • 8 very hot dried red chilies
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 can tomatoes and their juice
  • salt
  • ½ tsp extra hot chili powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp chopped green coriander leaves

Squeeze the garlic cloves through a garlic press and grate the ginger finely, then put both into a blender. Put on protective gloves. Chop the chilies and put into the blender. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, fennel and lemon juice. Add a little bit of water. Whizz. The resulting paste should be thick and just barely liquid. Add some more water if necessary. Whizz until very smooth.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the chicken cubes. Stir fry until the meat is white on the outside. Open the windows and/or put the fume hood on full blast. Add the spice paste from the blender, keep stirring on high heat until the liquid has evaporated. Try not to inhale the chili fumes.

Put the can of tomatoes and their juice intio the blender and whizz until smooth. Add the tomatoes into the pan. The meat should be about covered. If not, add some water.

Salt to taste, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. You can now take off the gloves and turn down the fume hood.

Turn off the heat, add the chili powder, garam masala and coriander leaves. Stir, then cover with a lid and let stand for 3-5 minutes. Serve with lots of rice.

This is very hot, but I managed to eat a portion. If you find this insufficiently challenging, use a whole bhut jolokia chili. If you find it too hot, check out one of the milder curry recipes.

Tomato pan

Tomato pan

A while ago, I had to improvise a quick side dish to accompany grilled salmon. The result was this Italian-style dish, which takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and turned out to be extremely tasty and fruity. This recipe is a side dish for 2-4, depending on the size of the main dish and whether you have other side dishes as well.

The taste depends very much on the tomatoes, which is why you should use aromatic cherry tomatoes rather than regular ones.

  • 1 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 smallish onion, finely chopped
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, deseeded and cut in small (¼") pieces
  • 1-2 dried chilies, crushed
  • 300g (10oz) cherry tomatoes, San Marzano or similar, halved or quartered depending on size
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 8-10 basil leaves, cut in stripes
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and fry at moderate heat until slightly yellowish. Add the crushed chilies and chopped bell peppers, stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir carefully so that the tomatoes. The tomatoes don't need to be fried, they just need to be heated up, and they shouldn't fall apart. 1-2 minutes should be enough. The skin should not wrinkle and not come off.

Turn off the heat, add the basil leaves and lemon juice. Stir carefully. Let stand for 1-2 minutes, then serve.



Everybody has their own ratatouille recipe, it seems. Here is mine, which is a French-Greek crossover, as it combines the classic French ingredients with a Greek preparation method. The result is a bit more tomato-heavier and fruitier than the classic ratatouille. It's extremely tasty, though. Serves 3-4.

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 medium-sized courgettes
  • 1-2 red bell peppers, depending on the size
  • 2 cans of tomatoes with juice
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ cup (125ml) French or Greek olive oil
  • 1 bouquet garni (a few twigs of parsley and thyme, and a bay leaf bound together)
  • salt
  • pepper

Cut the eggplants and courgettes into small (1/4"-½") cubes, remove the seeds from the bell peppers and cut them into similar-sized bits. Put the tomatoes and their juice into a blender and whizz until smooth.

In a large pot, bring the oil to medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until transparent.

Add the eggplant cubes and stir well. They will very likely absorb most of the olive oil. That's okay. Add the courgettes and bell peppers and stir for another minute or so.

Add the tomato sauce from the blender, season with salt and pepper. Stir. Add the bouquet garni and make sure it is well immersed in the sauce. Bring to boil.

Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the bouquet garni, then serve as a main or side dish.

Aloo gobi

Aloo gobi

Pretty much a standard veggie curry. Aloo is potato and gobi is cauliflower, so you get an idea what it's like. Serves 3.

  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 can peeled tomatoes
  • 3-4 fresh green chilies, chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 1 large bunch green coriander, stalks and leaves chopped separately
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
  • salt

Quarter the cauliflower, remove the trunk, then cut or pluck into smaller pieces. Peel the potatoes and cut into small pieces.

Put the tomatoes and their juice into a blender, whizz briefly until semi-smooth.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, then add the cumin and chopped onions and fry until yellowish-golden, but not brown. Add the ginger, chilies and coriander stalks, stir well and fry for another minute. Add the turmeric powder and stir well. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Reduce heat, then add the cauliflower and potatoes. Add salt and stir well.

Cover and let simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring ocasionally, until the potatoes are done and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Turn off the heat, add the chopped coriander leaves and garam masala; stir carefully, then cover and let stand for at least 5 minutes. Serve with rice and/or chapatis.

Anchovies with skordalia

Anchovies with skordalia
For the skordalia (serves 4):
  • ½ kg (1 lb) floury potatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped;
  • 1-2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • good Greek olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

For the anchovies:
  • Frozen anchovies, about 3-4" in length (about 12-18 per person, depending on size)
    DO NOT use the salted anchovies in oil that are sold in glasses or tins!
  • some flour
  • oil suitable for deep frying (rapeseed or similar)
  • lemon juice

A few hours before cooking, defrost the frozen anchovies.

Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes, then skin them, season to taste with salt and pepper, add the finely chopped garlic cloves and mash well.

Stir in the vinegar and olive oil with a wooden spoon. Keep adding olive oil until the skordalia has become smooth and creamy, but not greasy. Put in fridge and let cool down for a few hours. The taste will change and intensify.

If you bought whole anchovies, remove the heads and gut them. To do do, pull back and tear off the head, then insert your index finger where the head used to be and move it quickly towards the tail, thus ripping out guts (you may want to wear vinyl or latex gloves to do this). Rinse well.

You can also buy kitchen-ready anchovies that are already headless and gutted. These can be used as they are once they have been defrosted.

Dry the anchovies with a paper towel and roll them once in flour, so that they are very thinly coated. No additional seasoning is required, not even salt.

Heat the oil well and deep fry the anchovies at high temperature. You don't need a deep fryer or even a large frying pan, you can do it in a small pot, 6-8 anchovies at a time. Just make sure they are well submerged in the oil.

Once the anchovies have a hint of a golden colour, remove them from the oil. 1-2 minutes will do. If you fry them too long, they will become too dry.

Put anchovies on a kitchen towel so that the extra fat is absorbed. Then arrange on a plate together with a serving of the skordalia. Season the anchovies with lemon juice. You can serve this with salad and a dry white wine.

Potato goulash

Potato goulash

Lately, I've become somewhat addicted to potato goulash. I've loved the dish for a long time (had it a lot when I was a child), but my own attempts at cooking it never totally satisfied me. Then I had a look at the Plachutta/Wagner cookbook, and it prompted me to change three things about my recipe. The result turned out to be perfectly delicious.

Here is the recipe:

  • 750g floury potatoes
  • 250g lightly smoked, dried sausage (Wiesbauer Bergsteiger or similar)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 300ml beef stock (or water + ½ beef stock cube)
  • 20g sweet paprika powder
  • 2 tbsp oil (rapeseed or a mild olive oil work best)
  • 3-5 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp marjoram
  • salt
  • crushed black pepper
  • optional: 1/4 tsp hot chili powder

Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters (or smaller, if potatoes are very big).
Heat the oil, then fry the onions over moderate heat until golden.
Reduce heat to minimum, then add paprika and mix thoroughly for a few seconds.
Add vinegar, mix for a few seconds more.
Add beef stock, stir well.
Add crushed garlic, potatoes, and all herbs and spices.
Cover pot, bring to boil, then reduce heat and let simmer over moderate heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the potatoes are simmering, cut the sausage into bite-sized cubes.
When potatoes are done, remove pot from heat and add the cut sausage.
Stir carefully to make sure potatoes don't break, let rest for about 5 minutes, then serve.



I guess the Korean dish Bibimbap must be one of the visually most frustrating foods in existence. Essentially, what you do is cook rice, sauté some vegetables, stir fry some meat and then arrange everything in a bowl. This is how you serve it.

Immediately after serving, however, you or your guests take a good look at it and enjoy the colourful appearance, after which you take a spoon and mix everything into a moderately undefinable mixture. "Bibimbap" apparently means "mixed meal".

Here is a simple Bibimbap recipe. The ingredients are per person.

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 tablespoon dried seaweed
  • 3 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons beansprouts
  • 1 small carrot
  • 50g beef, cut in thin stripes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean fermented hot pepper paste)
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ tbsp sesame oil

Boil the rice.
Soak the seaweed in some water, (optionally) season with hoisin sauce and rice vinegar.
Cut the carrot into thin stripes (julienne).
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan or wok. Sauté the mushrooms. Remove from the pan.
Sauté the beansprouts. Remove from the pan.
Add some vegetable oil if necessary. Fry the egg. Remove from the pan.
Stir fry the beef briefly over high heat, (optionally) season with bean paste.

Put the rice in a bowl. Put the gochujang in the middle. Place the egg on the gochujang. Arrange the drained seaweed, mushrooms, beef, carrot stripes, beansprouts and pepper paste around the egg.

Season with sesame oil and serve immediately.
Look at it.
Take a big spoon and mix everything, then eat.

Greek eggplant salad (Melitzanosalata)

Greek eggplant salad (Melitzanosalata)

I've come a step closer to finding out why so few Greek restaurants in Vienna have eggplant salad on the menu, and why, if they do, it's usually not cheap: Three eggplants and 80 minutes' work don't even fill a small tupperware container. However, the result is so yummy that you may want to give it a try. Here's the recipe:

  • 3 eggplants
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • a few parsley sprigs
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp good Greek olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 50 g feta cheese

Preheat oven to 180°C/360°F. Pierce the eggplants several times with a fork and place in oven. Bake for approx. one hour until the eggplants are all soft and the skin is slightly burned.

Cut the eggplants in half and scrape the pulp from the skin using a large spoon, then chop the pulp into very small pieces. Place in a bowl, add garlic, finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Add one tablespoon of olive oil at a time, keep stirring. Add vinegar to taste. The salad should have a texture that is about half way between smooth and chunky. You may want to use a blender to get the texture right.

Once you have the desired texture, break the feta cheese into crumbs and stir it into the salad.

Serve cold.

Stoemp (Mashed potatoes with vegetables and sausage)

Stoemp (Mashed potatoes with vegetables and sausage)

My recent trip to Belgium caused a strong craving for food based on potatoes, which I have been trying to deal with for the past week or so. Then I finally gave in today and cooked my first leek and carrot stoemp. It turned out quite delicious.

Here's what I cooked. The recipe serves two, possibly three if you add a third bratwurst and they're not too hungry.

  • 500g potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 1 large leek
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • nutmeg
  • 2 bratwursts (roast sausages, preferably of Belgian origin)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water until they're soft.

While the potatoes are cooking, remove the hard outer leaves from the leek, rinse it well, then chop it. Grate the carrots.

Melt the butter in a pan, then add the leek and carrots. Simmer for about 5 minutes over low heat, make sure that they don't brown.

Add the chicken stock, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and roast the bratwursts.

Mash the potatoes or squeeze them through a potato press.
Drain the vegetables, but keep the liquid.
Put the liquid back in the pan, let boil over high heat until it has been reduced to about half.
Mix the potatoes and vegetables with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring and slowly add the liquid from the pan to give the stoemp a softer texture.

Per plate, use half of the stoemp and one bratwurst. First put the stoemp on the plate, then the bratwurst on top of it.

Veggie option: Eat the stoemp without the bratwurst.