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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

 

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When you spend a few days in a holiday home you only buy what is absolutely essentials for your stay, right?!

This is how – during our recent trip to France – I discovered that buckwheat and spelt flour are totally indispensable!  At least, this is what I deduct from the fact that they landed in the cart on our first shopping trip.

Or do I need to accept that I might be dealing with a touch of bread-baking obsession here? (Especially as my previous post is also about a holiday-bread experience)

No! Thankfully I can reverse-construct a good “reason”:  there was no bakery close to our little holiday house, which meant that having these flours saved us from the horrible fate of suffering stale bread.

Actually I need to correct myself on one point here:  I can hardly describe the place as “little”. It was a huge converted barn – a “little” dark and cold, but incredibly spacious with a fabulously equipped kitchen….and a huge oven that just had to be used.

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(Let’s hope nobody will notice I am side-stepped the flour-situation by inserting holiday pictures of our “little shed” and lovely Saint-Cirq-Lapopie).

 

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But now about these scones:

  1. Quick and no fuss – they come together in no time at all. A little stir, roll, cut, and bake. No resting required.
    2. A note on the cheese – it makes the scones better but is not absolutely necessary: without the cheese they are still tasty, however the texture of both crumb and crust is a little more solid. They are certainly less golden and pretty. If you are watching your fat-intake you can leave out the cheese, but otherwise I would suggest using it.
    3. And then the secret trick – first you press the dough with your hands to half the thickness you would for a scone. After that you fold the dough double, press it lightly again before you cut out the scones. This creates a beautifully layered scone that breaks open easily. I am sure I will use this trick for other recipes as well.
    4. Substantial – these innocent looking biscuits will fill you up and keep your hunger at bay for a good while. For a full breakfast or lunch they are fabulous with scrambled eggs (with spinach and tomato, or filled with cottage cheese and chives, for example).

Ingredients
(from the blog ‘The Healthy Epicurean‘)
Serves 4 (12/16 or so scones)

150g spelt flour
100g buckwheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp paprika
large pinch sea salt

1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
100g strong cheese* (as I was in France I used aged Comté as suggested in the original recipe)
1 tbsp olive oil
125 ml milk
1 egg

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Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. In a large bowl sift together the two types of flour, baking powder, paprika and salt. Add chia if using.
  3. Grate the cheese. Using a metal spoon stir the cheese into the dry ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl mix together the egg and milk. Then add the olive oil.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Using the metal spoon quickly stir together until a dough starts to form (add a little milk if the dough is too dry).
  6. Using your hands press the dough on a clean surface to about 5mm thick. (Do not use a rolling pin. It is too heavy and will stop the scones from rising.)
  7. Fold the dough back onto itself and gently flatten with the palm of your hand. (Folding it double will create that “break” in de the middle to cut the scone open.)
  8. Using a round cutter to cut scones (about 12-16 depending on the size of your cutter). You can gather the scraps and flatten them out again, be careful not to overwork the dough.
  9. Place on a baking tray and bake about 15 minutes until golden.
  10. Serve hot or cold.  

Tips & Variations

* You can omit the cheese; however the crumb as well as crust have a better texture with the cheese. On top of that the cheese makes the scones look wonderfully golden. But if you are watching your fat intake you can leave out the cheese and have a fabulously healthy scone.


Serve with

  • Scrambled eggs (with spinach and tomato, or filled with cottage cheese and chives, for example)
  • Brie and grapes

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Other bread recipes

 

 

 

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.

Related recipes

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Yes, you read correctly: muffins with lentils! But before I reveal more about this amazing idea for sneaking healthy proteins into your next sweet snack:

Welcome to the New Year! Wishing you all that is good and beautiful for 2015….. which very neatly brings me back to lentils: eating lentils at the beginning of the new year is an Italian custom that associates lentils with prosperity. And although I am in no way Italian, I enjoy symbolic traditions (and lentils). I was searching for a creative new way to prepare them when I stumbled across this recipe, which of course I could not resist. I will admit I was a little doubtful, but (trust me on this) it works!

These muffins are moist, not too sweet, full of flavour (and none of it ‘lentily’) and last but not least they are actually rather healthy: I made them using half whole wheat flour (I have not tried but am sure you can experiment increasing the whole wheat ratio). Also they are made with oil instead of butter. Granted, they contain sugar, but really…… who is going to be thinking about that when they are biting into a muffin that is studded with power packed lentils 😉

I split the batter in to batches to experiment with frozen cherries, blueberries and raspberries. It was a close call, but I slightly preferred the raspberries because of beautiful contrast between the tart fruit and the rich chocolate. Nonetheless I think I will take the same approach next time and making different batches as I liked the variation.  I am sure there are many more options for filling them: chocolate chips and walnuts, half a plum, a strawberry, poached pear…..By the way, I did make some without any fruit, but I found them a little dry and plain in comparison.

But whatever you add, do not leave out the lentils 🙂

Ingredients
(a hardly altered from the blog “Our Fresh Kitchen“)
12 muffins

75g (3/4 cup) green lentils
About 225ml (1 3/4 cup) water
1/2 tsp salt
60g (1/4 cup) all purpose flour
65g (1/4 cup) whole wheat flour
50-60g (1/2 cup) Demerara sugar (NL: donkere basterd suiker DE: dunkeler brauner Zucker)
30g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1 generous tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
125ml (1/2 cup) mild tasting olive oil
2 eggs (see “tips” for vegan alternative)
1 tsp vanilla essence
200g frozen fruit (either half blueberries half raspberries or all of one sort)

Recipe

  1. Bring lentils, water and salt to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for about 45 min. Check half way through to ensure there is enough water. Cook until lentils are very soft and all the water is absorbed.
  2. When the lentils are done remove from heat and allow to cool slightly about 10 min.
  3. Preheat oven to 190C (375F).
  4. Prepare your 12 hole muffin tin(s) (If using a silicon muffin tin no grease is needed otherwise you might want to grease your tin or line it with paper cups).
  5. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients – the two types of flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and – soda as well as the chili flakes.
  6. In a second bowl or measuring cup combine oil, egg and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
  7. Stir the cooked lentils into the dry mix and combine. Then stir in the wet ingredients – the oil, egg and vanilla.
  8. Fold fruit into the batter (even if you are using both types of fruit you can easily use the one large bowl to fold blueberries under half the batter and raspberries under the other half)
  9. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.
  10. Bake for about 20-25 min or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (do not over bake as the muffins will dry out).
  11. Remove the muffins from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  12. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

Tips & Variations

  • For a vegan recipe replace the eggs with a mix of 2 tbsp chia seeds and 6 tbsp water that you allow to sit for 5 min until it forms a gel
  • Instead of the berries you can fold in chocolate chips and/or walnuts, half a plum, a strawberry, poached pear

I have linked this post to the novice gardener’s fabulous initiative of hosting fiesta Fridays
https://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/fiesta-friday-50/

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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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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

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…