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Sunshine on a plate

Sunshine on a plate


Summer is here – well, officially it started yesterday, but the weather does not seem to be taking much heed. It has been grey, cool and wet.

It might not be a perfect warm day out there, but I still feel all summery. I am not sure if it is the sunflowers smiling over at me from the table or the sunny plate of food I just enjoyed; a light quinoa salad studded with red beans and golden mango.

I made this dish for the first time a few nights back as part of a little “end-of-the-work-week-feast”. At first I was not convinced the mango would be necessary. So I started by mixing all the other ingredients together: some cooked quinoa, a small can of beans, chopped spring onion and a crisp citrus mustard dressing. I was already quite happy with the result. But it was only when I decided to add the mango that this dish turned into something special. All the flavours pair beautifully, but I think the real magic is in the contrast between the sweet melting mango and the little pops of earthy quinoa. 

The first sunflower - bringing warmth and happiness symbolizing adoration and long levity

The first sunflower – bringing warmth and happiness symbolizing adoration and long levity

 

Ingredients
(hardly altered from the blog ‘Taste Love and Nourish‘)
Serves 4

Salad
200g of red kidney beans (about 1/2 can)
1 ripe mango
1 spring onion
about 1-1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa
2 tbsp dried cranberries or currants

Vinaigrette
juice of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2  – 1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin

Topping
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

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Recipe

  1. Rinse the beans well.
  2. Cut the mango into cubes.
  3. Slice the spring onion into thin rings.
  4. In a blow combine the quinoa with the beans, mango and spring onions.
  5. If using, cut the cranberries into smaller pieces (currants do not need to be cut). Add to the salad.
  6. In a small bowl combine all the dressing ingredients: lemon- and lime juice, oil, mustard, cumin, salt and pepper.
  7. Pour the dressing over the salad and carefully combine.
  8. If you have the time, keep in the fridge for 1 hour. Then allow to come to room temperature for 15 min. Salad is fine in the fridge for lunch or dinner the next day.
  9. Before serving. Chop the parsley and sprinkle over the salad together with the pumpkin seeds.

Tips & Variations

Consider some of the following

  • Use red instead of regular quinoa (used in the original recipe)
  • Use black beans instead of kidney beans (used in the original recipe)
  • Add frozen sweet corn kernels (used in the original recipe)
  • add avocado cubes or slices


Serve with

  • As part of a vegan dinner: spicy sweet potato, guacamole, green asparagus and strawberry salad with tortillas
  • Tandoori chicken drumsticks
  • Lambchops

More quinoa recipes

 

Celebrate the season in style by sipping a warm glass of Halloween blood

Celebrate the season in style by sipping a warm glass of Halloween blood


A moment ago we were still enjoying the carefree warmth of long summer days and suddenly the nights are turning long again. By late afternoon the shadows already begin to creep up. By early evening an inky blackness has spread. And as every child knows danger lurks in the dark; monsters, ghouls and unimaginable horror. All of a sudden it is Halloween again – the marker of the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death.

Time to usher in the winter season and to celebrate an ending and a beginning in an eternal cycle.

Kick off your Halloween party with these elegant little “blood” shots as appetizer. To stay in the theme serve them with some black grissini.

Should you have already had your Halloween celebrations there is no need to wait until next year to enjoy this little treat. These beetroot shots are a stylish amuse for any dinner party – great for the festive season that is right on our doorstep. (Although in that case I would leave out the plastic spiders….)

Not only do these little shots look stunning and taste fantastic, they can be prepared ahead and can either kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen for up to a month in advance.

 

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Ingredients
(I have made these shots for years and have no idea where I found this recipe or who I have to thank for it)
About 1 liter which makes 20 glasses of 50ml

Optional: black plastic spiders
1 bunch (15g) fresh tarragon
200ml yoghurt (use a liquid
2 red onion
3 tbsp light brown sugar (NL: gele basterdsuiker)
75ml red wine
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 liter vegetable stock (hot)
500g cooked or roasted beets*
Salt, pepper

Recipe

  1. Bring some water to the boil and pour over the plastic spiders to clean them.
  2. Chop the tarragon and blend all but 2 tbsp with the yoghurt.
  3. Optional: place a spider half-way in each ice cube.
  4. Spread the yoghurt in an ice cube tray, cover with cling film and allow to freeze.
  5. Peel and finely chop the onion.
  6. Place the onion in a pot and add the sugar. Cover with a lid and cook for 10min on a medium flame. Keep the lid on the pot and shake once in a while.
  7. Add the red wine and vinegar. Cook until it reaches a syrupy consistency.
  8. Peel the beetroot, cut into small cubes and add to the pan.
  9. Pour in the hot stock.
  10. Add the 2 tbsp of tarragon you reserved. Allow all to cook gently for about 15min.
  11. Blend smooth using an (immersion) blender.
  12. Pass the puree though a fine meshed sieve.
  13. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  14. Serve the soup in small (shot) glasses with an ice cube.
  15. To store: The soup can be cooled and kept in the fridge for a few days. Alternatively it can be kept in the freezer for up to a month. Remove from the freezer a day before serving to allow to defrost in the fridge. Heat for 5min on a medium flame.

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Tips & Variations

Consider some of the following

I prefer roasting beets but they can also be cooked. Heat oven to about 200C (400F) Wash the beets. No need to peel. Fold a large piece of aluminum foil double. Place the beets on top and rub with oil, salt and pepper. Wrap the foil loosely around the beets make sure the foil is closed well. Roast the beets for 40-60 min or until a knife pierces the beets easily. The beets keep in the fridge for up to a week.


Serve with

More Halloween party treats

Sometimes it surprises me how I can head into new situations with such naivety (or is it confidence? At times the two are so close together, I cannot tell)

I just returned from a road trip through Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France full of the most wonderful experiences; but the height of the trip was undoubtedly a two-day hike into the mountains of Italy’s Grand Pardiso – ten hours of scrambling upwards for 1500 meters and another day spent heading back down again.

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I love to walk, but my experience had been limited to a few hours rambling; usually carrying only a little camera or a bottle of water and a sandwich at the most. But, all of a sudden, here I was,  a little ruck-sack strapped to my back, heading off for a two-day trek into the mountains. I started walking, thinking little of how long it would take or how far I would have to go.

The first hour I was out of breath, my legs were aching and I could not imagine reaching the next turn in the path, let alone the nearest ridge. But somehow my body knew better than my mind; my breathing calmed down and each step was followed by another.

I did not count the times my mind offered the thought: ‘No, I cannot go any further’.’No, I cannot do this’. It was of little consequence, as there was always the ‘yes’ of the next step. For a while the resistance would be forgotten and my body moved on and continued walking.

We left behind our little town, the last few humans and then even the trees. The path became rougher; more and more often I was grateful for a hand to help me up to the next rock. We made our way through endless expanses of ever changing mountain side: rolling hills became jagged rock slides; shades of green were replaced by hues of grey.

In the late afternoon our refuge for the night appeared in sight. My heart sank: I could make out no more than a small orange dot high up amongst dark rocks and white sky.

We continued walking

Ibex and chamois appeared. Carefree in their natural environment. A patch of snow. Constant  through the warm, long summer.

We continued walking

A little rain

We continued walking

And then, clambering over yet another rock, suddenly and finally the orange dot transformed into the little hut that was to be our shelter for the night. Four walls, a roof, some mattresses, blankets – that was all. No water. No electricity. Amongst those vast expanses of black rocks and white glaciers, this austere little hut seemed to me the most homely of places.

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Standing out there on the top of that mountain I felt so small and insignificant and yet so full of life.

Grand Paradiso

Grand Paradiso

Yesterday was my first day back at home – a day to be spent cocooning, savoring memories and enjoying doing nothing much at all.

Waking up late, I remembered that early morning before the hike into those rugged mountains: the charming small farm; the breakfast room warmed by a bread baking oven; the slices of fresh, home-made bread. I decided there could be no better start to my day of reminiscing than with a fresh loaf of bread. As the day was to be dedicated to laziness, a complicated recipe would not do. So, I pulled out my favourite quick bread recipe from my blogging friend Liz.

This bread requires no more than a quick sifting of the dry ingredients, some water and a brief stir. Then all you need to do is to exert a little patience, whilst the bread rises and bakes. 90 minutes from start to finish to create a beautiful fresh loaf. By the way, should you find yourself with leftovers, it also makes for a good slice of toast the next days.

I enjoyed mine with some Italian ham that had travelled with me from the previous day’s lunch. Munching on my homely slice of bread I thought back to the marvelous adventures of the last weeks.

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Ingredients
(from the blog ‘My Favourite Past Time‘)
1 loaf

oil or butter (I have a non-stick loaf tin for which I use oil. For a regular tin use butter)
450g whole wheat flour (NL: volkoren tarwemeel)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp brown or muscovado (molasses) sugar
400ml warm water

Recipe

  1. Grease a 21 x 11 x 6cm (8½ x 4½ x 2½ inches) loaf tin with oil or butter and set aside in a warm place.
  2. Sift the flour, salt, yeast and sugar into a large bowl.
  3. Make a well in the centre and add the warm water.
  4. Stir from the outside to the middle for about a minute until a dough forms. It will be shaggy and sticky. It is enough to mix the dough until the flour is just incorporated.
  5. Spoon the dough into the prepared tin. Even it out a little.
  6. Cover the bread tin with oiled cling film (plastic wrap) and leave in a warm place for 30 min or until the dough has risen about 1cm (1/2 inch) from the top of the tin. (I like to keep the dough in the oven with a dish of boiling water.)
  7. Briefly before the rising time is finished preheat the oven to 200C (400C) (of course without the dough in it.)
  8. Bake the loaf for about 35-45 min or until a skewer comes out clean and the loaf sounds hollow when it is tapped on the base. (I usually bake 35 40 min, but have baked it as long as an hour).
  9. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool slightly.

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One plate and two forks is all you need to enter chocolate heaven

One plate and two forks is all you need to enter chocolate heaven

Summer has been amazing with seemingly endless sweltering days. But ever so often this glorious weather is punctured by bland grey skies or a powerful rainstorm; Iittle reminders that this summer is not everlasting and that I better enjoy every single beautiful day.

So I have not been doing much cooking at all. On work nights I might throw together a quick dinner, but in the weekends I have been (literally) eating out as much as possible- I’ve been enjoying rooftop, waterside and pavement dining.

There have only been very few exceptions were I was tempted to invite friends over and cook a meal. And even then I did not want to spend long hours indoors preparing dinner. But then at the same time, when my friends are sitting at a table laughing and chatting, I want to be with them instead of standing in the kitchen putting together a meal. This dessert was exactly right:

this chocolate torte comes together quickly and can be made the night before – or earlier in the day.  After it has baked and cooled, you just pop it into the fridge until it is time for dessert.

This torte is decadent; it is so moist it almost has the consistency of a mousse. You can bake one large torte to serve a crowd or, for a romantic, informal dinner, you can make a smaller torte and serve it on a single plate with two little forks to share.  Either way, it is fabulous with a little whipped cream and a tart raspberry sauce or the way I prefer it: piled high with fresh summer fruits.

 

Pure, sensuous and rich decadence

Pure, sensuous and rich decadence

 Ingredients

(from the blog ‘Almacucina’)
Two small 16cm or one 22cm torte – serves 4 to12

110g (6 ounces) 70% dark chocolate
1 tbsp butter
30ml (1/8 cup) strong black coffee (brewed or instant)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
55 (1/4 cup) of (unrefined) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
120ml (1/2 cup) heavy whipping cream
a sprinkling of sugar

Recipe

  1. Line the bottom of two 16cm spring form pans (or one 22cm pan) with a circle of parchment paper.
  2. Preheat oven to 175C (350F)
  3. Au bain marie* melt the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring once or twice. Once melted remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
  4. Bring some water to the boil.
  5. Using an electric mixer whisk the eggs on high, gradually adding the sugar. Add the vanilla and continue to whisk until the eggs are pale and have double in volume – about 3 – 5 min.
  6. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until soft peaks form.
  7. Using a spatula fold the cream into the chocolate with a few quick strokes until incorporated.
  8. Then add the egg and fold in gently and quickly.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared form(s).
  10.  Fill a large pan or deep baking tray with the boiled water. Carefully place the cake pan(s) inside. The water should come about 3/4 way up the pan.
  11. Place in the oven for 25 min (maybe a little longer if using a large pan). The torte is done when it feels slightly bouncy but firm when you press lightly with your finger.
  12. Remove from the hot water bath and allow to cool 10-20 min.
  13. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  14. To unmold run a knife or spatula around the sides. If you find the bottom of the cake is sticking you can place the pan over a small flame to heat the base. Sprinkle the top of the cake with a little white sugar, to keep it from sticking when it is cut.
  15. If you are serving the torte in wedges use a hot wet knife to cut it, cleaning the knife after each cut.

 

* Au bain marie means melt in a heated water bath: bring a pot of water to the boil and then immerse a second pot/bowl until it sits about halfway inside the water. Keeping the water on a soft simmer allow the chocolate to melt.


Serve with

  • Fresh summer fruit (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • Whipped cream and a raspberry sauce

 

Summer bliss in a glass

Summer bliss in a glass

 

Enjoying the most wonderful summer heat wave – much too nice to stay indoors and blog regularly…..or cook for that matter….

Usually my idea of a prefect weekends involves pancakes for breakfast, but with this weather I hardly want to stand over a hot stove, endlessly flipping pancakes. Thankfully this fabulously summery dish crossed my path: some fruits stewed with orange and then layered with honey sweetened yoghurt and roasted oats.

The magic in this dish is the contrast of flavours and textures: tart fruit topped with gently sweet smooth yoghurt and crunchy oats.

The original recipe involved a few more steps (and calories): some cream whipped stiff with golden sugar that is folded into the yoghurt and finally some cookies crumbled over the top of it all. But I kept it a little simpler – as this treat is all about enjoying the summer.

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Ingredients
(a little altered from Albert Heijn ‘Jools Schotse Zondag‘)
Serves 2


250g mixed frozen summer fruits (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries etc)
1 twig of fresh rosemary
2-3 tbsp honey
1/2 an orange
optional: 1-2 tbsp butter
100g oats
100g Greek Yoghurt 0% fat
Recipe

  1. Place frozen fruit, rosemary and 1/2 tbsp of the honey in a little pan.
  2. Grate in the orange peel and stir in juice.
  3. Bring to the boil. After a few minutes, when the fruit is soft and has released some juice, use a slotted spoon to remove the fruit and allow it to cool.
  4. Discard the rosemary and allow the sauce to cook a little longer and thicken. Add to the fruit.
  5. In a separate pan melt the butter (if using) and add oats and 1 tbsp of honey. Cook stirring regularly until the oats have turned golden.
  6. Stir the remaining tbsp of honey into the yoghurt.
  7. Layer the glasses with fruit, yoghurt, oats (repeat layers). Finish with a little fruit and/or oats.

Tips & Variations

  • Whip 50g cream with some golden sugar until stiff and fold into the yoghurt
  • Add some crumbled cookies to the layers

 

...and now off to have summer adventures...

…and now off to have summer adventures…

An effortless, spectacular breakfast treat.  Oh baby, what a discovery!

An effortless, spectacular breakfast treat.
Oh baby, what a discovery!


I love to travel – an even bigger hobby than food (ok, that is cheating as travel always involves food).  Usually travelling is about discovering faraway places and exotic lands. Which makes it even more special to discover a hidden gems on my own doorstep.  Again, I am not being accurate… this discovery was not quite THAT close to home, to be honest.

I was visiting friends up in the north. They took me to visit this little town so far off in the northern corner of the country that my navigation system actually took me through Germany on my way home. But back to this amazing place, the fortress town of Bourtange.

A short history of the place: it was built, it fell into ruin and it was rebuilt. To add some dates to that 1593, 1851, 1967. But those facts really do not say much. That is why I borrowed the below picture from the town’s website.

 

 

Stellar discovery - Bourtagne fortress

Stellar discovery – Bourtange fortress

 

The reason for the fortresses star shaped design was the increased use of the canon in battle in the 15th century. The old medieval ring shaped fortresses proved vulnerable to cannon fire, which resulted in the rise of the star shaped fortress first in Italy and then throughout Europe.

But as I said at the beginning of this post: travel always involves food and this little trip was no exception.  Before we set out in the morning I was treated to a fabulous breakfast. It has become quite a tradition that, whenever I visit, we start the day in the kitchen were HMM and I get to chat whilst JMM conjures up the most amazing treats for us – like those tasty scones I posted a while back.

So here I am sitting in a Dutch kitchen about to discover the skillet pancake which in the States is apparently also known as Dutch Baby Pancake or German Pancake. As I have never seen one of these babies either in the Netherlands or in Germany I was a little puzzled, but Wikipedia is quick to explain that these pancakes were the invention of a Seattle restaurant in the first half of the 19th century and that the use of “Dutch” was s a corruption of the German, “Deutsch”.  But enough talk of faraway places, time for food:

These pancakes are whipped up within no time and are much less effort than regular pancakes as they cook all on their own in the oven. The pancake puffs up magically whilst baking and it is at its best if the crust is lightly crispy whereas the center still has a custardy texture.

These fluffy make a great vehicle for any type of topping: I was treated to icing sugar and apple sauce, but you could add fresh berries, oven-roast strawberries,caramelized pear – the variations are endless.

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Ingredients
Serves 1-2

 

1 tbsp oil or 2 tbsp butter
3 eggs (room temperature)
60g all-purpose flour
120ml milk
a few drops of stevia (maple syrup, or sugar)
a pinch of salt
a few drops of vanilla essence
optional: a pinch of cinnamon


Recipe

  1. The batter can be prepared the night before and kept in the fridge. (I find they turn out even better when rested.)
  2. Heat the oven to 200C. Place a skillet or oven dish in the oven to heat up.
  3. Once the dish is hot add a few tablespoons of oil or butter.
  4. Whisk the eggs until well combined.
  5. Add the milk, stevia, salt, vanilla and cinnamon if using.
  6. Add the flour. Combine well.
  7. Pour the patter into the piping hot oven dish.
  8. Bake for 20-30 min. It should rise beautifully. You are looking for a golden center and a lightly dark edge.
  9. Serve hot as it will fall very quickly
  10. Toppings are endless, but I adore strawberries and icing sugar.

 

Tips & Variations

  • add some berries to the batter
  • add some lemon zest instead of the cinnamon
  • make small pancakes by baking them in a muffin pan and reducing the cooking time slightly
  • want something slightly similar but savory – try this Yorkshire Pudding recipe


Serve with

  • apple sauce and icing sugar
  • fresh strawberries and icing sugar
  • fresh berries and yoghurt
  • lemon juice and maple syrup
  • brown sugar
  • caramelized pears
  • stewed (frozen) fruit or raspberry apple compote

Other pancake recipes

 

Pumpkin Quinoa Pancakes

Pumpkin Quinoa Pancakes

Pancakes Buckwheat

Pancakes Buckwheat

Pancakes Ryeflour Pear

Pancakes Ryeflour Pear

Oat Banana Pancakes

Oat Banana Pancakes

Buckwheat Blinis

Buckwheat Blinis

Socca Pancake

Socca Pancake

Oat Egg White Pancakes

Oat Egg White Pancakes

Rice Pancake

Rice Pancake

Rice Patties

Rice Patties

Apple Pancake Rings

Apple Pancake Rings

Buckwheat Crepe

Buckwheat Crepe

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I have mentioned before, that I started blogging because I wanted to keep a record of what I cook (just for myself) and wanted to find a way of sharing my recipe with friends and family (without bombarding them with endless emails). Little did I know that blogging would introduce me to a whole new world of blogging friends that share my passion for food. I have met so many lovely new people, like Vanya who I have really been enjoying to get to know through her stories,  recipes and the comments she leave on my posts.

And then one day Vanya took me by surprise by invting me for a visit – blogger style. A few weeks back she hosted me as a guest on her blog and I brought some Beet Muffins to celebrate the occasion. Of course I immidiately wanted to return the honour, by inviting her to do a guest post on my blog. She had a few suggestions for recipes of which one immidiately caught my eye: Arabian Fried Eggs. I was mystified and curious. But let me make way for Vanya to explain this magnificent recipe further:

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Fried hard boiled eggs are a common feature in many Middle Eastern households but you will find this most commonly in Egypt. I first came across this recipe in the Middle Eastern cookbook, Traditional Arabic Cooking by Miriam Al Hashimi. According to the author, if you take a walk through the markets of Cairo, you can find traders selling tiny packets or conesof blended spices which are used for flavouring the fried eggs.

There are several different variations based on the blend of spices. The one I decided to try was the sumac-sesame seed blend.

Sumac is a flowering shrub and the dried fruit drupes of this plant is ground to get a crimson red tangy spice that is used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking. This spice has a tangy, lemony, citrusy flavour that goes well in salad dressings and with grilled meats. Sumac is easily available these days at most supermarkets or in specialty Middle Eastern food stores.

This dish makes a delicious and pretty accompaniment or starter to any meal. So here’s the recipe for Baid Mutajjan or fried hard boiled eggs rolled in sumac-sesame seed spice blend.

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Ingredients

5 fresh eggs
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp sumac
2 tbsp sesame seeds
salt – to season
fresh coriander leaves – finely chopped, for garnish


Recipe

  1. Hard boil the eggs, remove shell and cut into halves. Season lightly with salt.
  2. Dry roast the sesame seeds till light golden; make sure not to burn.
  3. Coarsely grind the sumac and sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle and keep aside.
  4. In a flat pan, heat oil (on medium heat) and place the eggs yolk side down. A bit of splutter is expected. (You can fry the eggs whole too without cutting into halves but ensure that you prick a couple of holes with a fork to avoid the eggs from exploding.)
  5. After a minute or two, turn the eggs over and fry another minute. Remove from flame.
  6. Roll or dust the eggs with the sumac-sesame seed blend. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves just before serving.

 For more of Vanya’s amazing recipes visit her site Skinny Chef de Cuisine.

 

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