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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

 

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…

Enjoying the good life with abandon but without any of the guilt.

Enjoying the good life with abandon but without any of the guilt.

I’ve really been slacking on posting vegetable recipes regularly. It has been ages since my last Veg of the Week post.  But this discovery is so fabulous it really deserves the special honour of being vegetable dish of the month. Actually this is my most exciting discovery this year.

Now I thought I would lure you in by describing this as a no-noodle lasagna. If I had been more forthcoming in my description, I am sure I would have scared you off. But now I have got you reading, I will reveal what the best replacement is for regular lasagna sheets. It is not zucchini (too moist), nor aubergine (too chewy) it is…. white cabbage.

Crazy I know! But believe me, it works!!

I will own up that I really do not like white cabbage. I am still haunted by childhood memories of limp, grey, funky smelling cabbage leaves wrapped around greasy, tasteless rice and mince. Couldn’t stand the stuff.

Never thought I would ever post a white cabbage recipe, but here I am raving about the stuff. Once you briefly blanch the leaves in boiling water and layer them with a Bolognese sauce and cheese, you have the most amazing carb-free lasagna. The cabbage leaves have a comforting bite that is similar to al dente pasta sheets; lightly chewy but soft at the same time.

You can stick to your regular recipe for traditional Bolognese sauce. Just make sure you meat sauce is on the dry side as the cabbage sheets will not soak up moisture as lasagna sheets do. For this dish I added plenty of mushrooms to bulk up the sauce with some extra fiber and minerals. As you are being unconventional already, I suggest you skip the effort of making a béchamel and give the below combination of ricotta, cottage and cream cheese a whirl. I really enjoyed both the texture and flavour it added to the dish.

The result is an amazing lasagna that has the same comfort as a regular lasagna but is just that little bit healthier. And like a regular lasagna I feel that this one tastes even better reheated the next day. So, make sure you make a double portion…. at least.

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Ingredients
(inspired by the blog ‘Simple Roots Wellness‘)
Serves 3-4

500g mushrooms
2 onions
2-3 garlic cloves
(300g-) 500g mince
1 can of peeled and chopped tomatoes
a pinch of chili flakes
1/2 tbsp honey
optional: a dash of Worcestershire sauce
salt, pepper
about 1/2 head of white cabbage (the outer leaves are a little handier then the ones closer to the core)
optional: 10g of chives
2 eggs
200g cottage cheese
100g ricotta cheese
100g (light) cream cheese
1 tsp mustard
100g cheese for grating

 

Recipe

Make the sauce

  1. Bring a very large pot of water to the boil (I use the largest pot I have.)
  2. Slice the mushrooms and fry them in a wide pot or large deep fry pan until just tender. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Chop the onion and fry in the same pan.
  4. When the onions are translucent, mince the garlic and add it. Stir until fragrant.
  5. Add the mince meat and stir, breaking it up, until the meat has just coloured.
  6. Add the tinned tomato.
  7. Season the sauce with chili, honey, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
  8. Allow the sauce to simmer whilst preparing the rest of the dish. Stir once in a while and add a little water if it starts to get too dry. (When you assemble the lasagna the sauce should be quite thick as the cabbage leaves do not soak up liquid as regular lasagna sheets do.)

Prepare the cabbage

  1. Carefully peel the leaves off the head of cabbage. Cut out the thick ribs. You are looking for looking for the amount of leaves that will comfortably cover a teatowel when placed next to each other.
  2. Place the leaves into the boiling water until they turn opaque (about 2-3 min, but can vary depending on the amount of water). Using a slotted spoon remove the leaves and lay them on a kitchen towel to dry. Depending on the size of your pot you might have to do this in a few batches.

Make the sauce

  1. If using, chop the chives.
  2. Whisk together the two eggs.
  3. Add the ricotta, cottage and cream cheese and blend.
  4. Season with mustard, salt, pepper and add the chives.

Assemble the lasagna

  1. Heat the oven to 175C.
  2. Place 1/4 of the meat sauce in the bottom of a dish (about 20x35cm).
  3. Top with 1/3 of cabbage “noodles”.
  4. Add 1/4 meat sauce and 1/2 the cheese mix.
  5. Another layer using 1/3 of the “noodles”.
  6. 1/4 meat and the rest of the cheese mix.
  7. The rest of the “noodles”.
  8. The remainder of the meat.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 min. The dish can be prepared until this step and then refrigerated to be finished another day.
  10. Grate the cheese and sprinkle on top.
  11. Bake for another 20 min.
  12. Allow to rest before 5-10 min before serving.

 


Serve with

  • A green salad made from lettuce leaves or green beans

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Some of the health benefits of cabbage

  • White cabbage are a Good source of vitamin C and folate and potassium
  • Cabbage is filled with antioxidant power. This enables our systems to fight free radicals and clear up toxins, including potential carcinogens.
  • The fiber in cabbage keeps your blood sugar levels from fluctuating and also regularizes bowel movements. Cabbage is anti – inflammatory vegetable
  • Eating cabbage may also reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke and cancer, specifically colon cancer.
  • It speeds healing of ulcers and improves digestive health.
  • Raw cabbage cleans the waste from the stomach and upper bowels which improves digestion and reduces constipation.
    (Source: tarladalal.com)

 

More recipes replacing carb with veg

 

 

ผัดไทย

ผัดไทย (Pad Thai) – bringing authentic Thai street food to your table – with a twist.

 

“Tick, tick, tick”-  that sound was my first encounter with Pad Thai.

It was a few lifetimes ago, on one of my first holidays outside Europe. I had been in the country only a few hours and was waking up from a jet lagged coma in a tiny Bangkok hotel room.

At first I wasn’t sure whether the “tick, tick, tick” belonged to the world of my dreams or this exotic foreign land. I lifted a dream heavy hand to pull back the curtains (not too hard to do, as the room was only a few centimetres wider than the bed). The world outside had changed whilst I had been napping:  night had fallen and the day’s desolate street had tuned into a bright and buzzing stage.

There was a crowd in a circle on the street below.  At the heart of all, there was a little aluminium cart. Blue flames licking a wok. A man industriously working a stir-fry.

“Tick, tick, tick” and moments later I was holding a little square plastic tub. At first I was a little disappointed, that all this anticipation delivered no more than a few noodles, some bits of chicken and a few diced veg. But then I used my flimsy chopsticks to slide a bite into my mouth; an amazing flavour explosion hit me: sweet first, followed by spicy- salty and then the lightest touch of sour.

I experimented for a while with different recipes to get as close as I could to the memory of that taste. This time I combined the traditional flavours of Pad Thai with one of my newer discoveries: zucchini noodles. I was amazed how well they worked in this dish. If you do not feel inclined to take a julienne cutter – even better a spiral cutter – to a zucchini, this recipe works just as well with the customary rice noodles.

A plate of Pad Thai always takes me down memory lane for a few moments. But then it mainly makes me smile at all those new discoveries and adventures that lie ahead.

Tamarind, fish sauce and brown sugar are a must, but the shrimp are optional

Tamarind, fish sauce and brown sugar are a must, but the shrimp are optional

 

Ingredients
Serves 2

1-2 zucchini (or rice noodles)
150g raw prawns
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp tamarind sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch of dried chilli
optional: 2 level tbsp dried shrimp
spring onion
coriander
1/2 red onion or 1 shallot
2 garlic cloves
1 red chilli
black pepper
100g bean sprouts
2 eggs
peanuts
1 lime

 

Recipe

  1. If making zucchini noodles: Use a spiral- or julienne cutter to cut the zucchini into noodles. When using a spiral cutter, break the strands about three times as they are too hard to eat when they are too long.
  2. If using rice noodles: bring water to the boil and prepare the noodles according to packet instruction.
  3. Peel and devein the prawns.
  4. In a small pan combine the lime juice, fish sauce and tamarind sauce and brown sugar. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar and taste – add more of any of the ingredients as you wish. Season with dried chilli to taste. Set aside.
  5. If using dried shrimp: Pour some of the boiling water on the shrimp. Allow to sit 10 minutes.
  6. Thinly slice the spring onion.
  7. Chop the coriander.
  8. Slice onion into very thin half moon slices.
  9. Deseed and chop the chilli.
  10. Fry onion, chilli, garlic on a high heat until just soft.
  11. Drain the dried pawns and add, keeping the heat high.
  12. Add the noodles to the hot pan. Heat until the zucchini wilts (You are looking for the texture of al dente pasta.)
  13. Add the sauce.
  14. Push the noodles to the side. Add the prawns and black pepper. Cook until the prawns are just pink.
  15. Toss in the bean sprouts. Move all to the side again.
  16. Add the eggs. Pierce the yolks and, when they start to set on the bottom, scramble. Stir vigorously until almost set and then mix into the noodles.
  17. Add half spring onion and coriander (and peanuts).
  18. Arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle with remaining spring onion and coriander (and peanuts).
  19. Cut the lime in the wedges and serve on the side.

Serve with

  •  this is a dish of its own right, but you can add
  •  steamed bok choy
  •  Thai fish cakes

 

Variations
Replace the prawns with a combination of chicken and tofu

Some of the health benefits
Click on the links to discover some of the health benefits of bean sprouts or zucchini