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!
(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
a few limes
- Peel and then thinly slice the ginger.
- Cut the lemongrass stalks into very thin slices (only use the bottom part of the stalks not the woody top section).
- Combine ginger, lemon grass sugar and water in a small saucepan.
- Cover and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes without a lid.
- Allow to cool 30min or even 1 hour.
- Pour through a sieve into a clean bottle or jar.
- Allow to cool and use immediately or refrigerate for a few weeks.
- To finish the drink:
- Add some basil leaves to a glass.
- If using add ice.
- Top with sparkling water.
- Serve with some lime wedges and a spoon to smash the basil leaves and stir.
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.
Black or red salt
1 part silver tequila
2 parts good quality blackcurrant juice (mine was lightly sweetened with grape juice)
- Chill the tequila and juice.
- Rub the rim of your cocktail glass with lime.
- Place salt on a plate and dip the glass in the salt to crust the rim.
- I would suggest making a small amount first so you can tweak the ratio to your own taste.
- 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).
- Pour into the glass without the ice cubes.
- 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
Pure and simple
One day a year the Netherlands turn into an Orange on steroids, we call it Queensday. That is until today we called it that: this will be the last Queensday for at least a few decades with a new king taking the throne.
Queensday is not so much a celebration of the queen as an excuse for a great party: when I was a kid it was all about selling old junk on your doorstep. Then it became about joining the thousands of people on the streets of Amsterdam drinking way too many luke warm cans of beer. Nowadays the perfect Queensday is sitting at a friend’s window looking out on the mayhem, enjoying a lovely glass of wine.
The food that I associate with Queensday has also changed over the years: First I remember eating half of the cake I was trying to sell by slice. Then there were years of greasy shawarmas, French fries and burgers. And now I am nibbling on a few delicacies that have nothing more in common with Queensday than that they are ….orange.
These salmon bites take no effort to put together and make a great appetizer for any celebration.
Small tip: as only part of the salmon filet is thick enough to cut it into beautiful even cubes, have another recipe handy for the remaining salmon. Have some Salmon Burgers for lunch, for example.
a piece of thick sashimi quality salmon
Fish roe ( I used orange for the occasion, but black roe gives a very sticking effect as well)
- Cut the salmon into even cubes.
- Place salmon onto serving dishes.
- Top each piece with a dollop of roe.
- Cut the green parts of the spring onion into oval slices.
- Top each cube with a few onion slices.
Tips & Variations
You could prepare the fish in a soy sauce marinade for an Asian twist
Exploring the world one bite at a time
Whenever I head to my favourite local Chinese supermarket, I feel a little as Winnie the Pooh must have done when he shouted:
“We’re going on an Expedition, all of us, with things to eat. To discover something.”
My expedition begins hunting through the supermarket isles, searching for ingredients I have never even heard of. (What are Bean Curd Sheets?)
At home the journey continues as I work with ingredients I have never even seen before. (Why does soaking make these dried mushrooms look like massive algae?)
The exitement rises as I check the seasoning (Uhm, is this flavour what they call umami?)
The most thrilling bit is when my guest join in the discovery. (What is THAT???)
A successful expedition ends for me much the same way as it did for Pooh as he
“went back to his own house, and feeling very proud of what he had done, had a little something to revive himself.” (like some left-over Bean Curd Rolls).
(found on the blog ‘Use Real Butter‘)
5-10g (1/2 oz) dried Chinese black or shitake mushrooms
5-10g (1/2 oz ) dried Chinese tree ears mushrooms
115g 4 oz pork
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
1 tsp cornstarch
60g (1/2 cup) bamboo shoots
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 pkt (225g / 8 oz) bean curd sheets (tofu skins)
3 tbsps vegetable oil
2 tbsps soy sauce
pinch of sugar
- Bring some water to the boil. Soak the mushrooms in the hot water for about 20 min.
- Cur the pork into julienne strips.
- Combine the soy sauce, Shaoxing, cornstarch and add the cut pork.
- Cut the bamboo into julienne strips.
- Drain the mushrooms. Remove any hard stems. Cut the remainder into julienne strips.
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot add the pork and fry until just cooked.
- Add the bamboo and mushrooms and cook for another minute.
- In a small bowl mix 1 tbsp of cornstarch with a little water into a paste.
- Unfold the bean curd sheets. If the edges are not regular cut them into shape with a pair of scissors. (To get uniform sized rolls, I cut the sheets the same size as my chopping board.)
- Briefly hold the sheets under running water. Wipe off excess water with a kitchen towel.
- Lay the sheet on your chopping board with one of the narrow ends towards you.
- Place some of the meat filling on the bean curd sheet. Fold in the long sides and then roll the narrow end away from you. Do not roll too tight.
- Dip your finger in the bowl with water and then the cornstarch. Run your finger along the open edge of the roll and fold close. Lay on a plate seam side down. Continue making the remainder of the rolls.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Place the rolls in the pan seam side down. Fry until lightly browned on all sides. Remove from the pan. You can prepare the rolls ahead until this step.
- Place a shallow bowl of a sheet of parchment paper into a steamer. Layer the rolls inside.
- Sprinkle rolls with 1 tbsp oil, 2 tbsp soy sauce and a pinch of sugar.
- Cover and steam for about 5-10 minutes or longer if you prefer the sheets softer.
- Pour the sauce that has collected over the rolls and serve hot.
Serve as part of a dim sum style dinner with:
Mild and gentle Gomen (kale) to balance out the zing of the Beg Wot (Lamb Stew)
As a last post in my series of Ethiopian dishes I am sharing a simple recipe for a humble side of kale.
Although the Injera sets the stage for almost every Ethiopian meal and the meat stews are the stars, an Ethiopian feast is not complete without the supporting rolls of the many pulse and vegetable dishes. This mild kale dish contrasts beautifully with those spicy meat stews.
It might seem a bit odd that I am using kale from a glass jar – I have tried fresh and even frozen kale, but it simply does not taste like the Gomen I grew up with….so now I just continue our family tradition and pop open a jar.
3 tbsp oil
1 large jar of kale (720g) (NL: boerenkool, DE: Gruenkohl)
2 cm piece ginger
green jalapeno pepper (large chili pepper)
- Chop the onion very fine (in a food processor).
- Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a medium size pot. Gently fry the onions until they are translucent. Should they start sticking and burning add a little hot water.
- Squeeze in ginger in through a garlic press.
- Drain the kale and squeeze it dry.
- Add to the onion and cook whilst stirring until quite dry.
- Cover with a lid.
- Cook about 20 min, stirring once in a while to prevent it from burning.
- Season with salt.
- Remove seeds from the jalapeno and cut it into thin slices or strips. Stir most of the jalapeno into the stew and decorate it with the remainder.
Tips & Variations
- Make a triple amount of the onions sauce. Use one third for the kale, a third for yellow split peas and a third lentils.