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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

 

 

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All you have to do is stir together some ingredients and then let the oven do the work

All you have to do is stir together some ingredients and then let the oven do the work


Have you noticed that when you sit still time seems to rush by even faster than when you are occupied.
The last few days just raced past as I did nothing much more than sit on the couch with a box of kleenex. I caught a cold – not nasty enough to tie me to bed, but bad enough to keep me from going into the office. So the last few days were spent half lying on my couch,  doing a little work, browsing recipes and doing not very much else.
And somehow the hours just rushed by.

By the second day I had to do something to slow down time. Also I had run out of bread and felt starving (I always feel ravenous when I have a cold). Heading outside just did not seem an option (sniffle, cough). So I decided to find a bread recipe that required less effort than going to the shops.

I have a lovely recipe for a sturdy whole wheat bread that takes about 30 minutes to rise and 45 to bake. But even the wait for it to rise seemed like too much work. So I tried this super quick, super easy recipe. No kneading, no rising, no effort. Not much more than a sift and a stir and you are done.  A quick bake and the result is a fluffy bread with a lovely crunchy crust. The seeds give the bread some texture and a lovely flavour (do not leave them out).

And guess what: as I sipped my tea and bit into a fresh slice of bread with jam – the moment expanded and time slowed down.

Ingredients
(from the blog ‘Cinnamon and Thyme‘)
1 loaf (best eaten the same day)

260 g whole wheat spelt flour

2 full teaspoon baking powder (or cream of tartar)

1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp sunflower seed + 1 tbps for sprinkling
1 tbsp flax seed (ground or whole)
1 tbsp hemp seed (I did not have any so added a little more flax)
250ml (mineral) water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 generous tbsp yoghurt (I used 0% Total Greek yoghurt. The original recipe states sour cream also works)

 Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 190-200C.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
  3. Add the sunflower-, flax- and hemp seeds Stir.
  4. Add water and oil. Mix briefly with a spoon.
  5. Add yoghurt and quickly mix again. The dough will be quite sticky and wet.
  6. Cover a baking sheet with wax proof paper.
  7. Turn the dough out onto the paper and shape into an oval loaf.
  8. Sprinkle with remaining sun flower seeds.
  9. Place the loaf into the oven and bake about 40 (-50) min. Test with a skewer to ensure it is done.
  10. Wrap in a clean kitchen towel and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  11. This bread is best eaten the same day. Should you have some left over the next day you might want to toast it.

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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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Sometimes it surprises me how I can head into new situations with such naivety (or is it confidence? At times the two are so close together, I cannot tell)

I just returned from a road trip through Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France full of the most wonderful experiences; but the height of the trip was undoubtedly a two-day hike into the mountains of Italy’s Grand Pardiso – ten hours of scrambling upwards for 1500 meters and another day spent heading back down again.

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I love to walk, but my experience had been limited to a few hours rambling; usually carrying only a little camera or a bottle of water and a sandwich at the most. But, all of a sudden, here I was,  a little ruck-sack strapped to my back, heading off for a two-day trek into the mountains. I started walking, thinking little of how long it would take or how far I would have to go.

The first hour I was out of breath, my legs were aching and I could not imagine reaching the next turn in the path, let alone the nearest ridge. But somehow my body knew better than my mind; my breathing calmed down and each step was followed by another.

I did not count the times my mind offered the thought: ‘No, I cannot go any further’.’No, I cannot do this’. It was of little consequence, as there was always the ‘yes’ of the next step. For a while the resistance would be forgotten and my body moved on and continued walking.

We left behind our little town, the last few humans and then even the trees. The path became rougher; more and more often I was grateful for a hand to help me up to the next rock. We made our way through endless expanses of ever changing mountain side: rolling hills became jagged rock slides; shades of green were replaced by hues of grey.

In the late afternoon our refuge for the night appeared in sight. My heart sank: I could make out no more than a small orange dot high up amongst dark rocks and white sky.

We continued walking

Ibex and chamois appeared. Carefree in their natural environment. A patch of snow. Constant  through the warm, long summer.

We continued walking

A little rain

We continued walking

And then, clambering over yet another rock, suddenly and finally the orange dot transformed into the little hut that was to be our shelter for the night. Four walls, a roof, some mattresses, blankets – that was all. No water. No electricity. Amongst those vast expanses of black rocks and white glaciers, this austere little hut seemed to me the most homely of places.

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Standing out there on the top of that mountain I felt so small and insignificant and yet so full of life.

Grand Paradiso

Grand Paradiso

Yesterday was my first day back at home – a day to be spent cocooning, savoring memories and enjoying doing nothing much at all.

Waking up late, I remembered that early morning before the hike into those rugged mountains: the charming small farm; the breakfast room warmed by a bread baking oven; the slices of fresh, home-made bread. I decided there could be no better start to my day of reminiscing than with a fresh loaf of bread. As the day was to be dedicated to laziness, a complicated recipe would not do. So, I pulled out my favourite quick bread recipe from my blogging friend Liz.

This bread requires no more than a quick sifting of the dry ingredients, some water and a brief stir. Then all you need to do is to exert a little patience, whilst the bread rises and bakes. 90 minutes from start to finish to create a beautiful fresh loaf. By the way, should you find yourself with leftovers, it also makes for a good slice of toast the next days.

I enjoyed mine with some Italian ham that had travelled with me from the previous day’s lunch. Munching on my homely slice of bread I thought back to the marvelous adventures of the last weeks.

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Ingredients
(from the blog ‘My Favourite Past Time‘)
1 loaf

oil or butter (I have a non-stick loaf tin for which I use oil. For a regular tin use butter)
450g whole wheat flour (NL: volkoren tarwemeel)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp brown or muscovado (molasses) sugar
400ml warm water

Recipe

  1. Grease a 21 x 11 x 6cm (8½ x 4½ x 2½ inches) loaf tin with oil or butter and set aside in a warm place.
  2. Sift the flour, salt, yeast and sugar into a large bowl.
  3. Make a well in the centre and add the warm water.
  4. Stir from the outside to the middle for about a minute until a dough forms. It will be shaggy and sticky. It is enough to mix the dough until the flour is just incorporated.
  5. Spoon the dough into the prepared tin. Even it out a little.
  6. Cover the bread tin with oiled cling film (plastic wrap) and leave in a warm place for 30 min or until the dough has risen about 1cm (1/2 inch) from the top of the tin. (I like to keep the dough in the oven with a dish of boiling water.)
  7. Briefly before the rising time is finished preheat the oven to 200C (400C) (of course without the dough in it.)
  8. Bake the loaf for about 35-45 min or until a skewer comes out clean and the loaf sounds hollow when it is tapped on the base. (I usually bake 35 40 min, but have baked it as long as an hour).
  9. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool slightly.

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'Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelettes' - George Bernard Shaw

‘Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelettes’ – George Bernard Shaw

It is funny what can make you feel happy. I just found myself thinking: finally, finally it is cold, grey and rainy again – how fabulous that the weather is so dismal and I am so tired, that I want to stay inside, sit behind my laptop and finally write a post again. 🙂

The summer has been filled with long sunny days that were just too short for cooking extensive meals. Therefore the last weeks have been all about quick and easy dinners fixes. This dish has been one of my favourite discoveries: a simple silky omelette with plump and juicy prawns. The flavours are a combination of the saltiness of soy sauce and the delicate garlic of chives. It makes a lovely lunch dish or a light dinner with some fried rice and steamed paksoi.

I came across this Asian dish in the most roundabout way. It all started with a visit to Spain earlier this year and a day trip to Gibraltar. On a lunch menu full of rich and heavy dishes, the “Prawn Omelette” caught my eye.  The combination made so much sense. There I was looking forward to a delicate fluffy omelette, when my plate arrived piled high with these odd crispy fritters. Unfortunately they were greasy and lacked favour, but they had caught my imagination.

I discovered that Tortitas de Camarones, shrimp pancakes, are a specialty of Andalucía. They are made from an egg-less batter of (part) chickpea flour and of course shrimp.  Once home I almost became obsessed with turning, what sounded like a winning combination of ingredients, into a tasty dish. Obstinate as I am, I tried (and failed) over and over again. When I was mean with the oil the results was rubbery, almost slimy. When I gave in and cooked the fritters in generous amounts of oil, the texture was lovely, but the fritters were sickly greasy.

As I was about to make another experimental batch when my eye fell on the beautiful plump prawns I had bought (a variation on the tiny shrimp I had been using until then, in the hope it would improe things). And I realized I just didn’t have the heart to waste these beauties on another failed dish. So instead I decided to make the omelette that I would have wanted to have been served that day. Simple and plain but so satisfyingly delicate. 

The thing I like best about the island of Gibraltar …….is that it inspired me to make Asian Prawn Omelettes....and how it looks in the distance

The thing I like best about the island of Gibraltar …….is that it inspired me to make Asian Prawn Omelettes….and how it looks in the distance

Ingredients
(based on ‘Wokking Mum‘)
Serves 1

Marinated prawns
1 tsp shaoxing rice wine (or dry pale sherry or at a pinch some vermouth or sake, use a little less)
1/4 tsp tapioca- or corn starch
salt
pepper
6 large prawns

Omelette
1 small tomato
1 spring onion
optional: oil
1/2 tbsp tapioca- or corn starch
2 tbsp milk or chicken stock or water
1 tsp soy sauce
optional: a few drops of sesame oil
2 eggs
salt
pepper
chives
optional: oyster sauce

 

Recipe

  1. Combine the rice wine with the starch and mix until smooth.
  2. Add the salt, pepper and prawns. Refrigerate until ready to use. .
  3. Skin the tomatoes (bring a small pot of water to the boil. Cut a cross into the skin of the tomato. Briefly drop into the hot water. Remove and skin.)
  4. Dice the tomato. If it is very juicy you might want to discard the seeds.
  5. Chop the spring onion.
  6. If using, heat a little oil small pan. Fry the prawns until 80% cooked. Remove from the pan.
  7. Combine the starch with the milk, stock or water and mix until smooth.
  8. Whisk in the two eggs.
  9. Season with soy sauce, sesame oil (optional), salt and pepper.
  10. Add the tomato, spring onion and prawns to the egg mix.
  11. Pour the mixture back into the pan.
  12. Reduce the heat and cook until the egg is 90% set.
  13. Chop the chives.
  14. Plate and sprinkle with chives and oyster sauce, if using. 

Tips & Variations
After you have cooked the prawns add some thinly sliced onions and/or bean sprouts to your pan


Serve with
Fried rice and paksoi or sugar snaps

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Tradition to some, adventure to others either way these are simple and fabulous

Tradition to some, adventure to others either way these are simple and fabulous

Do you know how frog’s legs became a traditional French delicacy?

Apparently in the 12th century Catholic monks were growing so fat that the church introduced additional days for fasting when meat was forbidden. The monks were quick to have frogs categorized as fish rather than meat, which meant they could be enjoyed without restriction. Devout peasants followed the example and the tradition of eating frog legs was born.

The first time I had frog legs I was a kid and we were having one of our rare meals out at the local Italian. The frog legs where smothered in a tomato sauce and I remember the adventurous feeling of eating them more than the actual taste. I have not had them often since so I have no idea what inspired me to google a recipe for them the other day. I was blown away to discover how easy they are to prepare. They are hardly any effort, look spectacularly exotic and taste amazing: fabulous little morsels of succulent and delicate meat.

Now I know that they are said to taste like chicken, but really…..they don’t. Especially paired with the deep flavours of grassy parsley and pungent garlic they have an earthy taste that reminds of a shallow creek.

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Ingredients
Serves 4 as a starter

500g frog legs
ca. 1/2 liter milk
30 g (2 tbsp) flour
salt, pepper
2 cloves garlic
12 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
20-40g (1-2 tbsp) butter

Recipe

  1. Defrost the frog legs in the fridge over night or for 15 min in a bowl of cold water.
  2. Place the legs in a bowl, cover with milk. Let the legs soak in the milk for 30-60 minutes (or if you have the time 8 hours…overnight…). Or if you are rushed then skip the soaking all together.
  3. Pour off the milk and dab the legs dry with kitchen paper.
  4. Place flour on a wide place and combine with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat a large frying pan.
  6. First add oil to the pan. When it is hot add the butter.
  7. Dredge the frogs in the flour, shake off excess flour.
  8. Fry the legs on medium heat for about 5 min. Flip and fry another 5 min.
  9. Mince the garlic and add when the meat is almost done.
  10. Chop theparsley. Sprinkle half over the legs and toss.
  11. Place the legs on a serving plate and sprinkle with the rest of the parsley.
  12. Serve immediately.

Serve with

  • Just some crusty  bread and a lemon wedge
  • or for a main meals you can add some fried chanterelle of blanched green beans
  • oven roast potato wedges

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An effortless, spectacular breakfast treat.  Oh baby, what a discovery!

An effortless, spectacular breakfast treat.
Oh baby, what a discovery!


I love to travel – an even bigger hobby than food (ok, that is cheating as travel always involves food).  Usually travelling is about discovering faraway places and exotic lands. Which makes it even more special to discover a hidden gems on my own doorstep.  Again, I am not being accurate… this discovery was not quite THAT close to home, to be honest.

I was visiting friends up in the north. They took me to visit this little town so far off in the northern corner of the country that my navigation system actually took me through Germany on my way home. But back to this amazing place, the fortress town of Bourtange.

A short history of the place: it was built, it fell into ruin and it was rebuilt. To add some dates to that 1593, 1851, 1967. But those facts really do not say much. That is why I borrowed the below picture from the town’s website.

 

 

Stellar discovery - Bourtagne fortress

Stellar discovery – Bourtange fortress

 

The reason for the fortresses star shaped design was the increased use of the canon in battle in the 15th century. The old medieval ring shaped fortresses proved vulnerable to cannon fire, which resulted in the rise of the star shaped fortress first in Italy and then throughout Europe.

But as I said at the beginning of this post: travel always involves food and this little trip was no exception.  Before we set out in the morning I was treated to a fabulous breakfast. It has become quite a tradition that, whenever I visit, we start the day in the kitchen were HMM and I get to chat whilst JMM conjures up the most amazing treats for us – like those tasty scones I posted a while back.

So here I am sitting in a Dutch kitchen about to discover the skillet pancake which in the States is apparently also known as Dutch Baby Pancake or German Pancake. As I have never seen one of these babies either in the Netherlands or in Germany I was a little puzzled, but Wikipedia is quick to explain that these pancakes were the invention of a Seattle restaurant in the first half of the 19th century and that the use of “Dutch” was s a corruption of the German, “Deutsch”.  But enough talk of faraway places, time for food:

These pancakes are whipped up within no time and are much less effort than regular pancakes as they cook all on their own in the oven. The pancake puffs up magically whilst baking and it is at its best if the crust is lightly crispy whereas the center still has a custardy texture.

These fluffy make a great vehicle for any type of topping: I was treated to icing sugar and apple sauce, but you could add fresh berries, oven-roast strawberries,caramelized pear – the variations are endless.

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Ingredients
Serves 1-2

 

1 tbsp oil or 2 tbsp butter
3 eggs (room temperature)
60g all-purpose flour
120ml milk
a few drops of stevia (maple syrup, or sugar)
a pinch of salt
a few drops of vanilla essence
optional: a pinch of cinnamon


Recipe

  1. The batter can be prepared the night before and kept in the fridge. (I find they turn out even better when rested.)
  2. Heat the oven to 200C. Place a skillet or oven dish in the oven to heat up.
  3. Once the dish is hot add a few tablespoons of oil or butter.
  4. Whisk the eggs until well combined.
  5. Add the milk, stevia, salt, vanilla and cinnamon if using.
  6. Add the flour. Combine well.
  7. Pour the patter into the piping hot oven dish.
  8. Bake for 20-30 min. It should rise beautifully. You are looking for a golden center and a lightly dark edge.
  9. Serve hot as it will fall very quickly
  10. Toppings are endless, but I adore strawberries and icing sugar.

 

Tips & Variations

  • add some berries to the batter
  • add some lemon zest instead of the cinnamon
  • make small pancakes by baking them in a muffin pan and reducing the cooking time slightly
  • want something slightly similar but savory – try this Yorkshire Pudding recipe


Serve with

  • apple sauce and icing sugar
  • fresh strawberries and icing sugar
  • fresh berries and yoghurt
  • lemon juice and maple syrup
  • brown sugar
  • caramelized pears
  • stewed (frozen) fruit or raspberry apple compote

Other pancake recipes

 

Pumpkin Quinoa Pancakes

Pumpkin Quinoa Pancakes

Pancakes Buckwheat

Pancakes Buckwheat

Pancakes Ryeflour Pear

Pancakes Ryeflour Pear

Oat Banana Pancakes

Oat Banana Pancakes

Buckwheat Blinis

Buckwheat Blinis

Socca Pancake

Socca Pancake

Oat Egg White Pancakes

Oat Egg White Pancakes

Rice Pancake

Rice Pancake

Rice Patties

Rice Patties

Apple Pancake Rings

Apple Pancake Rings

Buckwheat Crepe

Buckwheat Crepe