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Juicy, tasty morsels with a little spice

Juicy, tasty morsels with a little spice

Finally I have dug myself out from under the pile of work that filled my last few months. Finally, finally I have a little time and energy to post a recipe again – I have been missing it!

So to celebrate the occasion I threw myself a tiny little party. All very private and exclusive: just me and a plate of nibbles.

I got off from work much too late to buy fresh ingredients. But my mad working hours have made me rather good at stocking up the freezer. So I grabbed some frozen fish and prawns and within no time I had these lovely fish cakes sizzling in the oven. (Actually I even grabbed the coconut milk from the freezer – whenever I have some left-over I freeze the rest in an ice-cube tray and then pop the cubes into a freezer bag).

The amazing thing is this really is a store-cupboard/freezer dish – you need nothing fresh (I do admit I would suggest adding the fresh coriander, but I have done it without plenty of times).

I’ll be honest these are not quite authentic Thai fish cakes, but they are so tasty and healthy so I have stuck with these. ( I love them as a starter or side to zucchini “Pad Thai”)

By the way, you can play with the texture of these by adjusting the baking time. Baking them longer makes them a little chewy and more like the fish cakes I have eaten in Thailand. If you cook them for a shorter time they are more succulent and airier.  Either way, they are fabulous.

The only thing I have to admit…..this recipe is not coming to you very ‘fresh’. It has been over a week month since I threw myself that I-finally-have-time-to-blog-again party. I guess I still need to do some work on the recipe for the perfect free – and work time balance.

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Ingredients
(a hardly altered from the blog ‘45 Degrees‘)
Serves 2

350 g  white-fleshed fish fillets( frozen is fine) (I have used cod, red mullet)
150 g uncooked, peeled prawns (frozen is fine)
2 tbsp ( low-fat)  coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/3 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp brown sugar
optional: 1 kaffir lime leaves (I find mine in the freezer section of my Asian supermarket)
1 spring onions
small handful fresh coriander
2cm piece ginger,
3 cloves garlic
1 red chili (alternatively 1/2 tsp dried crushed chili)

 

Recipe

  1. Rinse the fish and prawns and pat as dry as possible.
  2. Cut in chunks and place in food processor.
  3. In a cup combine coconut milk, fish sauce, chili powder, cumin, coriander and brown sugar. Pour over the fish.
  4. Use scissors to cut the lime leaf into strips.
  5. Slice spring onion.
  6. Chop coriander.
  7. Grate the ginger.
  8. Mince the garlic
  9. Chop the chili.
  10. Add all the above ingredients to the fish.
  11. Pulse to create a thick paste.
  12. Use your hands to form the paste into little balls (about the size of a golf ball). Press to make a thick disk. (Tip: wet your hands to make the rolling easier. If your paste is too wet you can add a little flour or breadcrumbs.)
  13. Refrigerate the cakes for 10 min (you can scip this step but I find it makes for juicier cakes).
  14. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  15. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Place cakes on tray.
  16. Bake 15 min. Turn and bake another 10-15 min. The cakes will still be quite moist. If you prefer a chewier cake bake for a little longer).
  17. Serve with a dipping sauce or Sweet chili sauce, a lime wedge and a few coriander leaves.

Serve with

  • Plain as a starter
  • As a side to zucchini Pad Thai

 

Tips

  • All the ingredients can be stored in the freezer (and the coriander can be left out.)
  • Left-over coconut milk can be frozen in an ice cube tray and then stored in a freezer bag.

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I have a new favourite recipe book! Honey & Co – Food from the Middle East.

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What I like most: it is honest and transparent. Pictures, recipes, stories, all – and that makes it inspiring!

The other week I went to an evening of talks on food and business. Interesting stuff about sustainability, awareness etc. But then one of the guests was a food stylist working with one of the major popular food magazines. Quite inadvertently she ended up sharing that more often than not dishes “need a little help” to be photogenic. In the background there was this perfect photograph of a fish en papilotte … which turned out to be pretty only because it was still half raw.
She had to admit that anyone how would cook this dish would be disappointed because the end result could never look anything like the promise of her picture.

I am not sure which was worse, her obvious discomfort when she shared this or the defeatist shoulder shrug that followed: there she was telling us that she had turned her passion for food into a job, but in the same breath she revealed that she was compromising on her dream to scrape together a living.

It was only a small moment, but it seemed like this insincerity sucked up the positive energy in the room and left us all a little deflated.

Insincerity is apparently common enough for me to forget all about it until I read the introduction to this recipe book: every word radiates the authors’ passion for food and their desire to spread this joy. I would have appreciated this book regardless, but at that moment I realized that what can be seen as “just” another recipe book, is at the same time an expression of possibility: the passion to dream, the dedication to create and the strength to live whole-heartedly.

I will not share many recipes from this book as ….. well, you should buy the book J

But to spark your curiosity here is one recipe that should tickle your taste buds. This dish is like nothing I have eaten before:  fish, grapes, cucumber, yoghurt and herbs – just imagine that mix of fresh flavours and contrasting textures – and it takes no time at all to put together. I served it with a quick side of couscous, chickpea and harissa (another recipe from this beautiful book).

What a beautiful gift of inspiration (foodie and otherwise)!

Ingredients
(Hardly altered from ‘Honey & Co. Food from the Middle East’ by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich)
Serves 2

2 small Lebanese cucumbers (or 1/2-1 regular) about 300g
125g good quality(!) red grapes
about 6 mint leaves
about10g fresh dill
1/2 tbsp lemon juice and a little more to drizzle the fish before serving
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for frying
100g yoghurt (the authors advise goat. I used ‘Total 0% fat’ Greek yoghurt)
2 filets of sea bream (NL:zeebrasem, DE: Graubarsch?)
 

Recipe

  1. Shave off thin slivers of the cucumber skin lengthwise to give it a stripe pattern.
  2. Cut the cucumber into half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into 2cm slices and place in a large bowl.
  3. Cut the grapes in half. Add to the cucumber
  4. Chop the mint and dill and toss with the cucumber and grapes.
  5. Season the salad with lemon juice, salt, pepper, a little olive oil and mix well
  6. Place a dollop of yoghurt on each plate. Place some of the cucumber salad on/next to the yoghurt.
  7. Heat the remaining olive oil in a thick based pan. Place the fish in the pan, skin side down.
  8. If you like crispy skin: cook about 4 min on the skin. Alternatively cook 2 min, flip and cook another 1-2 min.
  9. Place the fish on top of the salad on your plates.
  10. Drizzle with lemon juice.*

 

 Tips & Variations

* the original recipe has you put the juice of 1/4 of a lemon in the pan with the fish and let it sizzle before plating. Personally I found the lemon flavour too strong. 

Serve with

  • Couscous with chickpeas and harissa (same recipe book)

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A simple weeknight treat

A simple weeknight treat


I present, “The Vegetable of the Week“: leafy green spinach.

I couldn’t stand the stuff when I was a child – ugh, that pureed frozen stodge, usually heated for ages. But then I discovered that spinach is actually a lovely fresh leafy vegetable….that is, if you only heat it ever so briefly or eat it raw.

Now spinach is one of my favourite veggies, especially for a quick weeknight meal.

This dish, for example, is one of my go-to dinners for busy week days. Usually I take the 30 minutes to cook some dried lentils, but when I am really rushed and starving I just pop open a tin of lentils and have a plate of healthy, comforting food ready in 15 minutes.

By the way, instead of cooking the fish in a fry pan, you can also prepare it en papillotte (wrapped in parchment paper and baked in the oven). Although it took me a few tries to get a feeling for the time the fish needs to cook, I now prefer this method. I’ll share my ‘recipe’ (more like an instruction) for fish en papillotte soon!

And if you like the idea of pairing fish and lentils have a look at this unique and delicious recipe for Tuna with lentils and strawberries (yes! Strawberries.)

Ingredients
(from the blog ‘Dishing up Delights’
Serves 2

150g lentils – I like using French Lentils, but regular green lentils are great to (or a can of lentils)
375ml water
optional: ¼ stock cube
optional: 1 bay leaf
2 tbsp fresh parsley
2 tbsp fresh basil
2 tbsp fresh mint (optional)
400g spinach, organic*
1 small shallot (or a ¼ onion)
1 tbs oil
100g cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 fillets of firm white fish like halibut

Recipe

  1. If using dried lentils: Rinse the lentils in a sieve. Put in a small saucepan with the water and the stock , bay leaf (if using). Cook according to package instructions (usually: bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook 30 or so min).
  2. If using tinned lentils: Rinse the lentils in a sieve. Put in a small saucepan with a tiny bit of water and warm gently whilst preparing the rest of the meal.
  3. Chop the parsley finely and carefully cut the basil and mint into very fine small ribbons.
  4. Wash the spinach. Chop the shallot. Cut the tomatoes into halves
  5. Heat the oil and gently fry the shallot until soft.
  6. Add the tomato and fry gently, turning them carefully a few times.
  7. Remove the tomato and shallots on to a plate. (Keep the pan on the stove.)
  8. Heat a separate pan and cook the fish.
  9. When the fish is almost done, throw the spinach in the pan you used for the onion and. Move the spinach around just enough for it to wilt.
  10. Add the chopped herbs and the lemon juice to the lentils and check for pepper and salt.
  11. Plate up the lentils mixed with the spinach and topped with tomatoes and fish.

* Tips

Spinach is one of the high pesticide-containing foods, so it’s important to eat organic spinach if you can.

Other recipes using spinach

 

 

 

Some of the health benefits

  • This is a very nutrient-dense food. It’s low in calories yet very high in vitamins, minerals. For example:
  • Spinach is loaded with flavonoids which act as antioxidants, protecting the body from free radicals. Researchers have discovered at least 13 different flavonoid compounds that act as anti-cancer substances. The various nutrients offer much in the way of disease protection.
  • Another of the benefits of spinach is that this is a heart-healthy food. It’s an outstanding source of vitamins C and A which are antioxidants that help reduce free radical amounts in the body. The antioxidants work to keep cholesterol from oxidizing. In addition, folate is good for a healthy cardiovascular system, as well as magnesium, a mineral that helps to lower high blood pressure.
  • In comparison to red meat, spinach provides a lot less calories, is fat and cholesterol free, and an excellent source of iron. Because iron is a component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all body cells, it’s needed for good energy.
    (source: www.naturally-healthy-eating.com)

 

Pure and simple

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.

 

Ingredients
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)
Spring Onions

 

Recipe

  1. Cut the salmon into even cubes.
  2. Place salmon onto serving dishes.
  3. Top each piece with a dollop of roe.
  4. Cut the green parts of the spring onion into oval slices.
  5. Top each cube with a few onion slices.

 

Tips & Variations

You could prepare the fish in a soy sauce marinade for an Asian twist


Serve with

  • Bubbles 😉

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Enjoy gravlax with ease

Enjoy gravlax with ease


Why are we so ready to believe that great results require great effort?

We live in a culture that tells us  that to achieve anything worthwhile, we have to work hard, to struggle and to fight. But I am beginning to feel that quite the opposite is true. There is no proof that struggle leads us to success.  Actually the focus on battling through life seems to undermine any goals of peace and happiness.
The key seems to be to look at life through different eyes; to let go of fear and strife, and to replace them with effortless and creative living.

So with this in mind, this post is not just a recipe for wonderfully tasty cured salmon, but my proof that effortless living is the secret to joy 🙂

For this dish you need to do nothing more than wrap some fish in salt, sugar and dill. Let some days pass (they will do that all on their own) and then enjoy the experience of  a beautifully, clean tasting, tender piece of cured salmon.

(And just to prove that ease and adventure go together hand in hand, see “tips and variations” below for a truly wild way of making gravlax.)

 

Ingredients
400g fresh salmon skin on
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
a large bunch of dill

 

Recipe

  1. Rinse the salmon and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  2. Place a double layer of cling film on your counter top. Place half the dill on the cling film.
  3. Combine salt and sugar. And rub all over the fish.
  4. Place fish on cling film and dill. Top with remaining dill.
  5. Wrap fish tightly in cling film and place into a (zip lock) bag.
  6. Put the parcel in a Tupperware container or oven dish.
  7. Place a plate or chopping board on the fish and weigh it down with heavy objects. (Or completely forget about this step as I sometimes seem to do.)
  8. Keep the salmon in the fridge for 3-5 days. It is best to turn the fish once a day to ensure even curing.
  9. Unwrap the fish and discard the dill.
  10. Rinse, pat dry and remove the skin.
  11. Cutting against the grain, serve in thin slices.
  12. The cured fish keeps for at least one week in the refrigerator.

 

Tips & Variations

Consider some of the following

  • add a little crushed black pepper to the salt and sugar
  • drizzle the fish with a tablespoon of vodka or aquavit
  • Add lemon zest

 

Adventurous Gravad Lax

A friend of mine shared his way of making Gravlax with me. It is so much more exciting & wild than my “domesticated” recipe. Unfortunately it is a true winter recipe that requires frost. So although winter is hardly gone I am already looking forward to its return to try this myself.

  1. Rub the salmon generously with Cognac (he uses Osborne)
  2. Wrap the fish in aluminum foil and then in cling film.
  3. Bury the fish in the garden about 40cm deep (this is where the name originates from: gravad lax.)
  4. Frost!
  5. Dig up three weeks later and enjoy.

Thank you GdB for this amazing recipe!

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Healthy, delicate tuna tartar

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I am grateful for any occasion that reminds me to be appreciative. And so to me Thanksgiving is an invitation to think about all that I am thankful for: my family, my friends, myself, the life I lead and just plain everything (summarizing here…)

I was reminded of just how much I am thankful for, when I was invited to a pot-luck thanksgiving dinner last weekend. The theme, of course, was showing thanks; it took me days to decide what to cook. Such a struggle to settle on one dish when you can only think of more and more things you are thankful for.

So I decided to show my appreciation for abundance by bringing a little bit of EVERYTHING: the sea, the land and the skies.;  little cups flowing over with either Tuna Tartare, Spicy Beef or Asian Chicken.

For a glance at the other recipes at this special Edible Europe Dinner click here.

Below the recipe for the tuna tartar. Recipes for the beef and chicken will follow as an instruction on how to make little wonton cups

 

Ingredients
(based on Ina Gartner’s recipe from the Food Network.com)
Serves 4-6

250g sushi quality tuna
1 tbsp olive oil
zest of 1/2 lime
juice of 1/4 lime
1/4 tsp wasabi (powder)
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp Tabasco
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 chopped spring onions
1/2 red chili
1 avocado (can be left out)
Optional: 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Recipe

  1. Combine oil, lime zest and juice, wasabi, soy, Tabasco, salt and pepper.
  2. Cut tuna into very small dice. Add to the marinade.
  3. Discard the seeds and chop the chili as well as the spring onion very fine. Save some of the spring onion as garnish. Add remainder to the fish.
  4. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  5. Cut the avocado into small cubes. Combine with the fish. Spoon into the wonton cups. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Decorate with reserved spring onion.

 Serve with

  • a cracker or toast. Choose a neutral flavour that will match the delicate Asian taste of the tartar.
  • shallow fry a sheet of wonton in some oil, allow to drain and use it as a “cracker”
  • make little cups out of wonton sheets

 

A heavenly dish with all the flavours of the sea

This post was inspired by a recent trip to Hamburg and a dinner at “Die Fischkueche“. The dish is like the city: straight-forward yet elegant; down-to-earth yet set for the seas.

Such a simple plate: some fish, some shrimp, a potato – but what an amazing combination of flavours and textures. A dish that feels like home even if you have never eaten it before.

This simple meal relies solely on the pure flavours of its few ingredients.  It will only taste wonderful if you use high-quality produce. If you use the vacuum-packed fish and prawns from your supermarket however, this dish is sure to disappoint. Go to your fishmonger for seafood that tastes of the far-reaching ocean and bring it home to your kitchen table.

 

Hamburg soaked in sunshine

Ingredients
(inspired by Restaurant “Brahms: die Fischkueche” in Hamburg)
Serves 2


1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter
salt, pepper
2 filleted soles (NL: tong, DE: Seezunge)
100g shrimp (I lprefer the tiny ones NL: hollandse garnalen)
Optional: Parsley
Optional: lemon wedge

 

Recipe

  1. Allow the fish to come to room temperature in about 15 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil moderately in a frying pan. Add the butter and allow to foam.
  3. Season the sole. Fry for about 2 minutes a side.
  4. Tip the pan to one side and allow the butter to form a pool.
  5. Put the shrimp into the butter.
  6. Plate the sole and scatter the shrimp across.
  7. Optional: Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with a lemon wedge.

Serve with

  • A plain steamed young potato.
  • A few blanched green beans or asparagus stalks.