Tag Archives: picnic

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


(hardly altered from the blog ‘Taste Love and Nourish‘)
Serves 4

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

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

1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

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  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


Star of the week: zucchini (supporting roll: chicken)

Star of the week: zucchini (supporting roll: chicken)

A new tradition is born: “Vegetable of the Week”!

The other day, my sister and I decided that we would introduce more vegetables to our own and our family’s diet. Not that we eat unhealthily, but with the weather getting cold and the craving for comfort food  is setting in, it is becoming tempting to see vegetables as colourful decoration on a plate of protein and carb.

So we decided to launch the “Vegetable of the Week”. The idea is that EVERY week we pick a vegetable that we will both prepare AT LEAST ONCE THAT week. Also we will share our recipes with each other so that we can choose to cook the other’s recipe or to prepare a different dish. It’s as simple as that.

This recipe seemed to me to be the perfect kick-off.
You must understand, our pact is not about chewing on more raw carrots, it is about introducing more veg into our regular everyday eating routines. And what better start than a common meat dish that replaces some of the meat with vegetable.

Without further ado……. I present to you …….the first “Vegetable of the Week” (drum roll):
Zucchini (in chicken meatballs)

This recipe ticks all the boxes: it has a fabulously healthy vegetable playing the central role, it is ever so tasty (the zucchini adds amazing moisture to the meatballs), it is quick and easy to prepare and did I already say: it is tasty! A recipe by Ottolenghi (whom I have raved about
before – socca, lentil with celeriac).

You could make this dish using ready-ground chicken mince. But I prefer using boneless chicken thighs and blitzing them in my food processor (chicken breast would also work well, although it has a little less flavour).

There must be an endless amount of side dishes you can serve these tasty little morsels with: some pita bread and a little salad. Add some pulses and fold them into mung bean wraps or go all veggie and prepare some cauli tabouleh and steamed green beans.

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(adapted from Ottolenghi’s ‘Jerusalem’and inspired by the blog ‘The Iron in You’)
About 20-25 meatballs

1 large (or 2 small) zucchini (courgette)
1 medium onion, finely
500g organic boneless chicken thighs (or chicken breast or ground chicken)
2 tbs mint (you cannot skip the mint! J )
2 tbs parsley
2 egg whites (or 1 large egg)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Chop the mint and parsley.
  4. If you have a food processor: use the grating disk to shred your zucchini and onion. Insert the chopping blade. Cut the chicken into chunks and together with the chopped herbs, egg white and seasoning. Blitz just long enough for the mix to come together. Do not overwork.
  5. No food processor: Chop the chicken meat finely. Grate the zucchini and onion finely. Combine with the chopped herbs, egg and seasoning.
  6. Using a spoon drop meatballs onto the baking sheet (the mixture will be rather moist compared to traditional meatballs)
  7. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Check them once in a while as you want them cooked, but only just done so they stay moist. (Usually they will flatten out a little instead of staying perfect little balls – but believe me: the flavour will make up for that)

Serve with

Some of the health benefits

  • Depending on the size, one meatball has just 28.5 calories, with almost no fat (0.3 grams), just 1 grams of carbs and an outstanding 5.3 grams of protein.
  • Zucchini is one of the very low calorie veg – 17cal per 100g (nutrition and you)
  • It is a very good source of potassium, an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte and helps bring the reduction in blood pressure and heart rates by countering pressure-effects of sodium.(nutrition and you)
  • A source of magnesium which like vitamin C protects your tissues from harmful free radicals. It supports the function of glycosyltransferases, a family of proteins that promote healthy bone tissue development. Manganese also helps your body produce collagen essential for efficient wound healing. Each cup of chopped zucchini boasts 0.22 milligram of manganese. This provides 12 and 10 percent of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily intake for women and men, respectively. (livestrong)
  • High in fiber
  • Beta carotene
  • Potassium
I doubt you can pack any more goodness into a quiche

I doubt you can pack any more goodness into a quiche

Autumn has arrived and outside it is grey, rainy and blustery; the perfect weather for staying inside and enjoying culinary adventures. Curled up on my comfy couch, I started thinking back to my visit to Paris a few weeks back. A special trip with many memorable experiences.  Basically I ate my way across Paris: macaroons, croissants, steak tartar, Berthillon ice cream (more macaroons) and fabulous bistro dinners. I even took a piece of Paris home with me in the shape of a quiche.

So I decided to celebrate that memory by baking a quiche. At the same time I had enough butter and cream during that trip to last me…well until my next visit to Paris. So I thought I would go for a healthier and slightly less conventional quiche. I used one of my favourite crust recipes; it comes together in no time, contains hardly any fat and uses part rye flour. But really it is the filling that transforms this quiche into a healthy little dish.

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(hardly altered from the blog ‘veggies on the counter’)
Two 15cm quiches (you could do one large, but I prefer a little more crust to go with the distinct flavour of the filling)

For the crust recipe click here

Roasted vegetables
350g shallots
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
350g cherry tomatoes
1 tsp muscovado sugar
Tofu custard
500g firm tofu
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp (lemon) thyme


  1. Make the crust from this quiche recipe. It takes about 30-40 min or can be made the day ahead.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C.
  3. Cut shallots into halves or quarters. Place in a baking dish that is large enough so the pieces do not touch each other. Sprinkle with the balsamic, a little oil and salt. Toss carefully and then turn the pieces cut side up.
  4. Throw in the garlic cloves (peel and all).
  5. Cut the tomatoes in half. In a separate dish, toss the tomatoes with the sugar and a little oil.
  6. Place both dishes in the oven for 25 min.
  7. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  8. Turn the oven down to 180C.
  9. For the custard, place the tofu, balsamic, soy, lemon juice, thyme and pepper in a food processor.
  10. Add half the tomatoes (including any juice).
  11. Pick the garlic out of the oven dish, peel and add to the tofu.
  12. Process the tofu mix, taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  13. Place the shallots on the crust.
  14. Spread the tofu on top.
  15. Carefully press the tomatoes in, cut side up.
  16. Bake 25-30 minutes until the custard is set and golden.

Serve with
A leafy salad that is full of strong flavours and textures (red capsicum, blanched green beans, spring onions etc)

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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

(pieced together from several different recipes)
12 mini pies

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)

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
1 egg


  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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Some lentils, cleriac, nuts and  a bit of seasoning - amazing that something so simpel can taste this increadible

Some lentils, cleriac, nuts and a bit of seasoning – amazing that something so simpel can taste this increadible

Do you already own Yotoma Ottolenghi’s amazing recipe book ‘Plenty’? No? It is a collection of extremely creative and unbelievably tasty vegetarian recipes.

I already shared recipes based on his chickpea pancakes and his lentils with roast vegetables and grilled aubergine. As I mention in this last post, I will not be sharing many of his recipes as you really should buy his book. But to whet your appetite, here is one more wonderful dish.

And just so you know: I have cooked a few other dishes from the book. I loved them, but will not share them with you. I will not even tell you what they are called so you cannot search for them on-line. You will just have to get the book yourself and explore 🙂

A big thank you to RE for the beautiful little dishes I served the lentils in. Such a lovely present – you know me so well 🙂


( hardly altered from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe from ‘Plenty’)
Serves 3-4

60g whole hazelnuts
200g Beluga or Puy Lentils
700ml water
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
1 small celeriac (about 650g)
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp hazelnut oil (alternatively use walnut oil)
3 tbsp balsamic (or red-wine) vinegar
4 tbsp chopped mint
salt, black pepper 


  1. Preheat oven to 140C..
  2. Scatter hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast for 15 minutes.
  3. Allow to cool and chop roughly.
  4. Combine lentils, water, bay leaves and thyme in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or all dente.
  5. Drain in a sieve and discard leaves and thyme.
  6. Peel the celeriac and cut into 1 cm chips.
  7. Bring water to the boil. Add salt and cook celeriac for 8-12 minutes or until just tender. Drain.
  8. Mix the hot lentils (if they are cool they will not absorbe the flavours of the dressing) with olive oil, 2 tbsp of the hazelnut oil, vinegar, pepper and plenty of salt.
  9. Add three quarters of the celeriac and stir. Adjust seasoning.
  10. To serve warm: stir in half the mint and half the hazelnuts. Spoon on a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining tbsp of hazelnut oil. Garnish with the rest of the celeriac, mint and nuts.
  11. To serve cold: allow the lentils to cool and adjust seasoning again; possibly adding some more vinegar as well. When you are ready to serve finish the dish the same was as when serving hot.

Serve with

  • As a vegetarian main with a side salad. Yotam recommends radish, cucumber, dill dressed with sour cream and olive oil
  • As a side dish to a plain steamed white fish