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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

 

Taking a giant bite out of life with these tiny little pies

Taking a giant bite out of life with these tiny little pies

Do you have these special dishes that transported you straight back to a certain time and place in your life?

To this day I cannot eat a meat pie without going all sentimental: For me it takes just one mouthful of pie to conjure up Britain and the late nineties.  I had just left school, for the first time I was living away from family and friends and in a foreign country. I was experiencing a completely different life, living in this small town in England, working in a family-run deli (that sold the most amazing pies).

So when I was in England a few weeks back and the sun was warm enough for a picnic in the park, I just had to pick up a pie from Marks and Spencers.

Believe me:  that pie, the warm sunshine and the good company turned a simple afternoon in a park in Middleborough into a blissful experience! That day, Middleborough had all the charm of Paris to me.

So back home I just had to celebrate those memories by bring that picnic, and some proper pork pies, straight into my living room. I did cheat a little by using sausage meat instead of regular (mince) meat, but I loved the result. These little pies turned out wonderful: buttery, crumbly pastry encasing juicy meat and layers of happy memories.

 

Sometimes life is just a walk in the park

Sometimes life is just a walk in the park

Ingredients
(pieced together from several different recipes)
12 mini pies

Pastry
200g all-purpose flour
100g butter (or replace half to all of that with lard)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/3 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp white wine (or 1 tbsp apple vinegar and 2 tbsp water)

Filling
100g pancetta (or bacon)
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
A handful of parsely
6 sage leaves (or alternatively some rosemary
450g good quality organic pork sausage meat
black pepper
salt
oil
1 egg

Recipe

  1. Dice the butter and place into a food processor.
  2. Add the flour, salt, sugar and pepper. Pulse until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  3. Add the white wine and pulse again.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead briefly until the dough is smooth and elastic. Do not overwork.
  5. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. In the meanwhile, fry the pancetta unti golden and crispy. Remove from the pan and allow to cool on some paper towls.
  7. Chop the onion and add to the pan. Fry until soft. Add the chopped garlic and fry until golden. Add to a bowl. Crumble in the pancetta.
  8. Chop sage and add to the onion together with the sausage meat.
  9. Season with pepper and a little salt.
  10. Roll out the pastry. Cut out 12 disks to line a mini muffin tin. (Do not worry if the pastry tears, you can patch up any holes with pastry.) Cut out 12 slightly smaller disks as lids.
  11. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  12. Lightly oil the muffin tin. Press the larger disks into the tin, fill with meat and then top with the lid. Pinch together the edges to seal the disks together. You can either shape the edges into a wave like patter with your fingers or use a fork to press them together.
  13. Beat the egg and brush over the pies.
  14. Place in the oven and cook for about 15-25 min until golden brown. Before removing them from the oven check one of the pies to ensure the bottom is cooked.
  15. Let the pies cool down for 5 minutes and then place on a wire rack to cool down completely.
  16. Serve room temperature with some (wholegrain) mustard on the side.
  17. The pies keep in the fridge for several days.

 Tips & Variations

  • add some finely diced apple to the onion and fry
  • add some chopped parsley
  • instead of sausage meat you can also use pork meat and increase the seasoning (all spice, nutmeg, mustard powder etc) and herbs
  • you could cut some more corners by using ready made pastry, but I have to say that I love the buttery, home-made taste this pastry has

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Exploring the world one bite at a time

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).

 

Ingredients
(found on the blog ‘Use Real Butter‘)

Filling
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

Rolls
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 pkt (225g / 8 oz) bean curd sheets (tofu skins)
3 tbsps vegetable oil
2 tbsps soy sauce
pinch of sugar

 

Recipe

  1. Bring some water to the boil. Soak the mushrooms in the hot water for about 20 min.
  2. Cur the pork into julienne strips.
  3. Combine the soy sauce, Shaoxing, cornstarch and add the cut pork.
  4. Cut the bamboo into julienne strips.
  5. Drain the mushrooms. Remove any hard stems. Cut the remainder into julienne strips.
  6. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot add the pork and fry until just cooked.
  7. Add the bamboo and mushrooms and cook for another minute.
  1. In a small bowl mix 1 tbsp of cornstarch with a little water into a paste.
  2. 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.)
  3. Briefly hold the sheets under running water. Wipe off excess water with a kitchen towel.
  4. Lay the sheet on your chopping board with one of the narrow ends towards you.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  1. Place a shallow bowl of a sheet of parchment paper into a steamer. Layer the rolls inside.
  2. Sprinkle rolls with 1 tbsp oil, 2 tbsp soy sauce and a pinch of sugar.
  3. Cover and steam for about 5-10 minutes or longer if you prefer the sheets softer.
  4. Pour the sauce that has collected over the rolls and serve hot.


Serve with

Serve as part of a dim sum style dinner with:

Not much more than onion, meat and spice come together to make a spectacular stew

Not much more than onion, meat and spice come together to make a spectacular stew

When I was only a teenager I started collecting my favourite recipes in a little book. I wrote down any exciting new discoveries and all the old family favourties. But then a few years ago, my car was broken into and my suitcase stolen – the worst thing was that it had my recipe book in it!

It still makes me sad to think that I will never recover those recipes again: I will never taste that Indonesian dish of poached mackerel in coconut milk – a recipe from friend from long ago and far away. I will never make that amazing chicken salad again – a treasured recipe I managed to coax out of a colleague after much begging.

At the same time, had I not lost my recipe book I would have never received one of the most special birthday presents ever: my parents made a book with a collection of my mother’s Ethiopian recipes. Each dish in this book my mother cooked especially, so that my father could watch, write down the instructions and then take photographs.

Below my mother’s recipe for Ethiopian Lamb stew, documented by my father, detailed a little more by my sister and then cooked by me and described through my eyes.

Pages full of food, family tradition and love

Pages full of food, family tradition and love

 

Ingredients

750g onion
1 – 1 1/2 kg Lamb (for example leg of lamb)
2 cloves of garlic
2 cm piece of ginger (about same amount as garlic)
125ml olive oil
2 tbsp berbere
1 can (400g) tomato (optional, see tips)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Recipe

  1. Chop the onion very finely (in a food processor).
  2. Bring water (about 750ml) to the boil.
  3. Add the onion to a large pot and cook. Cover the onion with a lid and stir regularly ensuring that the onion does not burn.
  4. Only when necessary add a little water to stop the onion from burning.
  5. When the onion is soft and translucent add the oil (after about 10-15 minutes).
  6. Cook 10 minutes until golden. (Optional – see tips: add 1 tbsp tomato puree)
  7. Add the berbere and cook on the lowest heat for about 30 minutes stirring once in a while. Only when the onions begin to stick, add a few drops of water.
  8. Add the canned tomato.
  9. Cut the meat into small bite size pieces.
  10. Add the lam to the onion.
  11. Press garlic and ginger through a garlic press into the pot.
  12. Cook the meat, stirring regularly until the meat is just cooked. They say the sauce is done when oil rises to surface. (Depending on the meat this takes about 10 -30 minutes.) When the sauce thickens (after about 10 minutes) add about 200ml-500ml boiling water. You are looking for a thick and glossy stew.
  13. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 

Tips & Variations

Instead of using the can of tomatoes you can add 1 tbsp of tomato puree before adding the berbere.

 

Serve with

Spicy, salty, sweet and ever so flavourful beef salad


A great little appetizer that can be made ahead and looks, as well as tastes, fabulous.

I have made it for summer parties, Asian-themed dinners and most recently for a thanksgiving celebration (It was the earth in between the abundance of the sea and the heavens.)

 

Ingredients
(only slightly altered from the recipe collection ‘The Picnic Hamper’)
Serves 6 as a starter

1 red chili
80ml ketjap manis
60-80ml lime juice
1 tbsp sesame oil

250g beef (steak)
2 cucumbers or 12 wonton cups

1/2 stick of lemongrass
40-60ml lime juice
1 red chili
20g mint
20g coriander
1 tbsp fish sauce
Recipe

  1. Deseed and chop chili. Place into a zip-lock bag or a non-metallic dish.
  2. Add ketjap, lime and sesame oil.
  3. Cut beef into strips and add to the marinade. Store in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 24.
  4. Allow the beef to come to room temperature before continuing.
  5. Heat a frying pan and briefly flash fry the beef on a high heat. Make sure not to over-cook the meat.
  6. If using cucumber: Cut the cucumbers into 12 slices (about 3cm each). Using a spoon or melon scooper remove some of the core to shape them into little cups. (If making a little ahead keep them upside down on kitchen paper in an airtight container.)
  7. Finely grate (or chop) the lemongrass.
  8. Deseed and chop the chili.
  9. Combine the fish sauce with the lemongrass and chili.
  10. When you are ready to serve chop the mint and coriander.
  11. Mix the dressing and herbs with the beef.
  12. Spoon a little of the beef into each of the (cucumber) cups.

 

Tips & Variations

The beef salad as well as the cucumber / woton cups can be prepared ahead. The salad looks fresher if you add the herbs at the last moment, but this is not a must.

An amazing gift ……

My parents gave me such a lovely gift: A bottle of wonderful wine, a jar of perfectly paired spice and a recipe.

The wine: Saint Julien. One of the most famous Bordeaux wines from the Médoc.

The spice: Pimentón de la Vera . An amazing smoky paprika used in traditional Spanish cooking. It is the spice that gives the chorizo sausage its unmistakable flavour.

The recipe: steak tartare. A dish of chopped meat that became popular at the beginning of the 20th century.

This weekend I assembled my gift. The combination of the Pimentón flavoured tartare and the rich wine was just incredible: powerful, harmonious, complementary.

Out of curiosity I also made a serving of a more traditionally seasoned steak tartare. On its own right I slightly preferred the classic version. I also really enjoyed having two tartares with different textures and flavours. But in the end the combination of the pimento tartare with the wine was unsurpassable.

Such a wonderful present! Just a little tip though: Apparently Saint Julien is not the easiest wine to find for a palatable price. So it might be worth looking for a more affordable alternative with similar flavours – elegant berries, warm plum, velvety spice.

Or fabulously spoil yourself or a very lucky person the way I was…..

A big thank you to my parents!

Ingredients
Serves 2

300g tenderloin (NL: ossenhaas, DE: Rinderfilet, -lende) (see tips for alternative cuts)
1/2 red onion
4 cornichons
salt, pepper

Pimentón
1 tsp Pimentón de la Vera
Classic
2 tsp capers
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes Tabasco
1/4 – 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp mayonnaise

To serve
2-4 (quail) eggs
sliced baguette
cornichons
other pickled vegetables you can get your hands on (silver onions, caper berries, cauliflower)
the jar of Pimentón de la Vera

Recipe
1. Chop the meat as fine as you like. (I like a very fine texture but it really is up to you).
2. Chop the onion and cornichons fine. Combine with the meat, salt and pepper.
3. Separate the meat into two equal portions.
4. Mix the one half with the pimento.
5. Chop the capers finely and combine with the second half of the meat as well as all the classic seasoning.
6. Taste the tartare and adjust to your liking!
7. The tartare can be served on one big plate, as individual servings or as canapés (For more info on how to serve see below).
8. Make indents into the tartare and allow the raw eggs to slide in.
9. Serve with all the side nibbles.

Tips & Variations

  • Buy your meat from a butcher and tell him/her what dish you are making to get the freshest meat. Do not buy a pre-wrapped piece of meat from the supermarket.
  • You can experiment with the cut of meat:

o Mild flavour: sirloin or tenderloin
o A little more bite: flank steak
o Beefy flavour: chuck or brisket

  • You can also add:

o 1 lightly whisked egg
o chopped parsley
o chopped spring onion
o 1 tsp ketchup

  • You can crisp the bread

o preheat oven to 150C (300F)
o brush bread slices lightly with olive oil
o sprinkle with salt
o bake for about 5 minutes until crisp and golden

To serve

  • rustic sharing: place the tartare in the middle of a large dish and surround with bread and other sides
  • 2 individual servings: using a serving ring place half of the meat on a small dish. Press down a little. Add half of the side servings. Repeat for the second serving.
  • amuse or party canapé: Place small amount of tartare on slices of bread or one  amuse –  or Asian soupspoons. You can use a table spoon to form the tartare into quenelles.

Tartare – Left: with Pimentón – Right: Classic

Juicy lamb chops with the punch of spice

A spice party in your mouth, that’s what these lamb chops are. Incredibly easy and wonderfully tasty – need I say more?

My only extra advice is to use good meat – it will make all the difference!

 

Ingredients

Serves 3-4

1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp crushed chillies
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp fresh or ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp fennelseed
1/4 tsp majoram
Optional:1 tsp ground dried mint
1 tbsp olive oil
salt
12 lamb chops

Recipe

  1. Mix all the spices in a zip-lock bag. Add the lamb chops and coat in the spice mix on all sides.
  2. Marinate overnight.
  3. Allow chops to come to room temperature (about half an hour).
  4. Fry about 3 minutes on each side. Keep warm and allow to sit just briefly.

 

Serve with