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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

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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

 

Tradition to some, adventure to others either way these are simple and fabulous

Tradition to some, adventure to others either way these are simple and fabulous

Do you know how frog’s legs became a traditional French delicacy?

Apparently in the 12th century Catholic monks were growing so fat that the church introduced additional days for fasting when meat was forbidden. The monks were quick to have frogs categorized as fish rather than meat, which meant they could be enjoyed without restriction. Devout peasants followed the example and the tradition of eating frog legs was born.

The first time I had frog legs I was a kid and we were having one of our rare meals out at the local Italian. The frog legs where smothered in a tomato sauce and I remember the adventurous feeling of eating them more than the actual taste. I have not had them often since so I have no idea what inspired me to google a recipe for them the other day. I was blown away to discover how easy they are to prepare. They are hardly any effort, look spectacularly exotic and taste amazing: fabulous little morsels of succulent and delicate meat.

Now I know that they are said to taste like chicken, but really…..they don’t. Especially paired with the deep flavours of grassy parsley and pungent garlic they have an earthy taste that reminds of a shallow creek.

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Ingredients
Serves 4 as a starter

500g frog legs
ca. 1/2 liter milk
30 g (2 tbsp) flour
salt, pepper
2 cloves garlic
12 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
20-40g (1-2 tbsp) butter

Recipe

  1. Defrost the frog legs in the fridge over night or for 15 min in a bowl of cold water.
  2. Place the legs in a bowl, cover with milk. Let the legs soak in the milk for 30-60 minutes (or if you have the time 8 hours…overnight…). Or if you are rushed then skip the soaking all together.
  3. Pour off the milk and dab the legs dry with kitchen paper.
  4. Place flour on a wide place and combine with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat a large frying pan.
  6. First add oil to the pan. When it is hot add the butter.
  7. Dredge the frogs in the flour, shake off excess flour.
  8. Fry the legs on medium heat for about 5 min. Flip and fry another 5 min.
  9. Mince the garlic and add when the meat is almost done.
  10. Chop theparsley. Sprinkle half over the legs and toss.
  11. Place the legs on a serving plate and sprinkle with the rest of the parsley.
  12. Serve immediately.

Serve with

  • Just some crusty  bread and a lemon wedge
  • or for a main meals you can add some fried chanterelle of blanched green beans
  • oven roast potato wedges

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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

 

The first days of spring always feel so tentative and so restrained: watery sunshine, pale buds. I wondered what I liked so much about this insipid season last year. And then spring burst out in its full extravagance. Suddenly there are almost endless hours of day-light (none of that hopeless saving of time). Everywhere you look there are vibrant greens bursting into life.

And then out of the blue there is Easter (was it not only just Christmas?)

As a kid Easter was spent hunting for eggs at my grandmother’s.  Usually we first coloured them with those brightartificialdyes that came in tablet form, but I will never forget the year that my uncle arrived with all these littlesachet of natural dyes….including dried red insects. (The seed for my fascination for unusual ingredients was planted at a young age 🙂 )

Besides painting eggs we do not really have any family Easter traditions…Except for eating together of course. This means that I am free to experiment with other people’s foody traditions 🙂  One wonderful discovery has been this beautiful braided sweet bread circled around a dyed egg.

The tradition of eating sweetened bread for Easter may date back as far as the Homeric Greek period (ca. 1100–800 BC). The eggs echo the significance of Easter as they are traditionally connected with rebirth, rejuvenation and immortality. Or, viewed from a more practical perspective: eggs were forbidden during Lent, after 40 days there would have been plenty of eggs that had to be used up.

This bread tastes wonderfully sweet and light; it looks stunning on any Easter brunch table.

NB: Nowadays I tend to opt for slightly less exotic ingredients for dying eggs. For some ideas pop over to my post on dying eggs with natural ingredients.

Wishing you a Happy Easter!

 

 

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Ingredients
(from the blog ‘Italian Dish‘)
4 breads


230ml (1,25 cups) milk
80g (1/3 cup) butter
1 package of instant yeast (about 3 tsp)
pinch of salt
80g (1/2 cup) sugar
2 eggs
350-500g (3,5 cups) flour
1 egg
6 dyed eggs (they can be dyed raw as they will bake in the oven)

 

Recipe

  1. In a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter until the butter just melts. Do not let the milk get too hot (or allow it too cool before adding it to the yeast).
  2. In a large bowl combine yeast, salt and sugar.
  3. Add the eggs and mix.
  4. Add the warm (not hot!) milk and butter mix.
  5. Add about half the flour and combine using the dough hooks of your mixer. Mix until smooth.
  6. Slowly add the remaining flour to form stiff dough. (The amount of flour needed will vary. You are looking for dough that is not sticky any more.)
  7. Knead the dough (either by hand or in a stand mixer) until the dough is pliable and soft.
  8. Lightly oil a bowl. Place the dough inside. Cover with cling film and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled – for about one hour.
  9. Prepare two baking trays by lining them with parchment paper.
  10. Punch down the dough. Divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope (about 2.5cm / 1 inch thick and about 35cm/ 14 inch long).
  11. Taking three pieces at a time, braid them together. Loop into a circle, tucking the ends inside.
  12. Cover with cling film and allow to rise in a warm place until double – for about 30 minutes.
  13. Heat the oven to 175C (350F).
  14. Beat the remaining egg and brush over the bread.
  15. Place a dyed egg in the center of each bread, pushing it down slightly.
  16. Bake about 20 min until ht bread is golden brown.
  17. Allow to cool on a rack.
  18. Note: If you leave the bread out for a few hours you should no longer eat the eggs.

More Easter and egg recipes

Tasty and tender Dak (chicken) Bulgogi

Tasty and tender Dak (chicken) Bulgogi


Finger-licking good. What a fabulous discovery this dish has been. Each bite is like a little trip to some exotic and far-away land.

Bulgogi (불고기) is Korean and literally means “fire meat”. It usually consists of  marinated beef that is grilled, sometimes with the addition of green peppers or mushrooms.

The first time I made this recipe, I enjoyed it so much I had to indulge myself and prepare it again the next day. The list of ingredients might seem a bit daunting at first, but the preparation takes no time at all. You just mix a few spoon full of this, a dash of that and then you allow the chicken meat marinade for a while. When you are ready to eat, just cook some rice or make a little noodle salad. Then just toss the meat under the grill for a few quick minutes. Within no time you are wrapping delicate lettuce leaves around juicy pieces of meat. A fabulously exotic and light meal. Added bonus: you get to eat with your fingers.

And for those of you that own a table grill or raclette set: this is a great little dish to spice things up for your next evening of table top cooking.

Ingredients
(hardly apated from the blog ‘Spontaneous Tomato‘)
Serves 3-4

500-700g chicken fillet or thighs (or beef or pork)
3tbsp light or kikkoman soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar (at a pinch you could use apple cider vinegar)
1/2 tbsp cooking sake (or if you do not have any you could use mirin, Chinese rice wine or sherry)
optional: a few pinches of chili flakes
optional: pinch of sugar
2-3 cloves garlic
2 tsp fresh ginger
3-5 spring onions
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 head of butter lettuce leaves (this is the soft lettuce not the ice berg)
2 tsp roasted sesame seeds

Recipe

  1. Cut the chicken into wide, flat slices. Place in a zip-lock bag or wide bowl.
  2. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and sake to the meat.
  3. If using add chili flakes and sugar.
  4. Mince the garlic, grate the ginger and add.
  5. Reserve one of the spring onions for decoration. Chop the rest and add to the meat.
  6. Combine all the ingredients, cover and refrigerate 30 min (or up to 3 hours).
  7. (Prepare your side dish – some steamed rice, cooked noodles or noodle salad)
  8. Allow the grill in your oven to heat up.
  9. Line a wide baking dish or tray with aluminium foil. Spread out the chicken and pour over the remaining marinade.
  10. Place the chicken under the grill. Stir after about 4 minutes. Usually it takes around 8 min for the chicken to cook. Cooking time can vary a lot and depends on the amount of chicken and type of dish. Note: do not overcook the chicken, it will not brown but stay quite pale.
  11. (Alternatively you can cook the chicken on a non-stick skillet.)
  12. Cut the remaining spring onion into thin rings.
  13. Sprinkle the chicken with the spring onion and sesame seeds. Serve with lettuce leaves and rice or noodles.

Serve with

  • steamed rice or
  • soba noodles or
  • vermicelli noodles mixed with fresh chopped mint and coriander with a splash of sesame oil, lime juice and fish sauce

This post was added to Easy to Cook Meals blog. Please join us in Cunning Ladies’ Friday Party.

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Some of the health benefits of butter lettuce

  • Vitamin A and beta carotenes. Just 100 g of fresh, raw-lettuce provides 247% of daily vitamin A, and 4443 µg of beta-carotene (Carotenes convert to vitamin A in the body; 2 µg of carotene is considered equivalent to 1 IU of vitamin A). These compounds have antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, and is also essential for vision. Consumption of natural fruits and vegetables rich in flavonoids helps to protect the body from lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • Vitamin K. Which has a potential role in the bone metabolism where it thought to increase bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bone cells. It also has established role in Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
  • Folates and vitamin C. Folates require for DNA synthesis and therefore, vital in prevention of the neural tube defects in-utero fetus during pregnancy. Vitamin C is a powerful natural antioxidant; regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
  • Zea-xanthin (1730 µg per 100 g), an important dietary carotenoid in lettuce, is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea, where it thought to provide antioxidant and filter UV rays falling on the retina. Diet rich in xanthin and carotenes is thought to offer some protection against age-related macular disease (ARMD) in the elderly.
  • It also contains good amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are very essential for body metabolism. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is essential for red blood cell formation.
  • It is rich in B-complex group of vitamins like thiamin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavins.
  • Regular inclusion of lettuce in salads is known to prevent osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases, ARMD, Alzheimer’s disease and cancers.
    (Source: Nutrition and You)
Happy 2014

Happy 2014

More and more I enjoy celebrating the transition from one year to the next. There is something soothing in looking back nostalgically. There is something powerful in visualising the coming year. But what I enjoy most, is the grounding realization that New Years Eve really is like every other night; there is no pause, no mark in time – this night feels significant because we make it so.

So on December the 31st 2013 I did not work on any New Year’s resolutions, instead I just decided to have a lovely afternoon in the kitchen making nibbles for a relaxed and happy evening.

And a perfect day of cooking for me just has to start with a lazy cup of coffee and browsing foodie blogs. As I already had my menu planned out, I started looking at ideas for drinks. And because I realized that I was chilling two bottles of bubbly a head and that these would – well, go to our head – I decided to try this non-alcoholic mocktail.

This drink tastes fabulous! A bit of sweetness a hint of spice and tons of moreishness. An amazing mocktail – and it gets better:  when we came in from watching the fireworks and we were frozen to the bone, my friend JvP had the fabulous idea of using  hot water to turn it into a tea.

So here I am, 1st of January 2014 sipping on some more of these fabulous bubbles.

I hope that right at this moment you are sitting there enjoying a happy New Year – my wishes are with you!

Ingredients
(from the blog ‘Girl Cooks World’)

30g (¼ cup) ginger
2-3  (¼ cup) stalks of lemongrass
200g (2 cups) sugar
150ml (¾ cup) water
(Thai) basil leaves
optional: ice
Sparkling water
a few limes

Recipe

  1. Peel and then thinly slice the ginger.
  2. Cut the lemongrass stalks into very thin slices (only use the bottom part of the stalks not the woody top section).
  3. Combine ginger, lemon grass sugar and water in a small saucepan.
  4. Cover and bring to the boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes without a lid.
  6. Allow to cool 30min or even 1 hour.
  7. Pour through a sieve into a clean bottle or jar.
  8. Allow to cool and use immediately or refrigerate for a few weeks.
  9. To finish the drink:
  10. Add some basil leaves to a glass.
  11. If using add ice.
  12. Top with sparkling water.
  13. Serve with some lime wedges and a spoon to smash the basil leaves and stir.

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Halloween is close again and it is time for dressing up and chasing out those demons.  This weekend my dear friends H & J MF invited me over for a fabulous Halloween party at their lovely (ups, sorry, horrific) house. Of course the question then was: what to wear;  who do I want to be this year?

So let me ask you:  If you would create a super hero alter ego for yourself, who would you be?

During the day I would be a wholsome-looking cook in a frilly apron, serving up platefuls of nurturing  and heart-warming food. But then when danger threatens my beautiful, safe and muffinscented world,  I would turn into a black flash of ligthening,  a master at using every day kitchen implements to defuse any type of dangerous situation.

My symbols? My civilian self would cradel a cup of warm anis-flavoured milk and smile beningnly at the folly of life. My alter ego, on the other hand, would be glaring over the edge of a cocktail glass, judging the world.

Of course this cocktail could not be an appeltini or a cosmopolitan; it would have to be a black widow.

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Ingredients

lime
Black or red salt
1 part silver tequila
2 parts good quality blackcurrant juice (mine was lightly sweetened with grape juice)
ice
blackberries

Recipe

  1. Chill the tequila and juice.
  2. Rub the rim of your cocktail glass with lime.
  3. Place salt on a plate and dip the glass in the salt to crust the rim.
  4. I would suggest making a small amount first so you can tweak the ratio to your own taste.
  5. Place lime juice, tequila, juice, ice in a cocktail shaker and blend. (you can skip this step and just pour the ingredients straight into a jug or glass).
  6. Pour into the glass without the ice cubes.
  7. Decorate the glass with a blackberry.

 Tips & Variations

Consider some of the following

  • vodka instead of tequila
  • add cassis

 Other Halloween ideas

Cheese Biscuits Disguised for Halloween