Tag Archives: quick & easy

In this dish green (wood) red (fire) come together not to burn but to cool.

In this dish green (wood) red (fire) come together not to burn but to cool.

Preparing my previous post, in honour of the Lunar New Year, I discovered a world of traditions and beliefs that I knew hardly anything about. As the celebration of the Chinese New Year spans 15 days I thought I would take the chance to post some of the facts I discovered. But first about today’s recipe:

This salad with bean sprouts is one of these simple dishes that hardly deserve the name recipe, but it appears on my table regularly as it is quick, tasty and healthy. It goes wonderfully with Asian flavours and is a great contrast to hot and spicy foods. Every time I eat it I realize that I prepare bean sprouts much too rarely – they have such a delicate flavour and are so good for you.

And I decided it is the perfect dish to go with this post as the bean sprouts are combined with cucumber – green for wood – and tomatoes – red for fire – which come together into a wonderfully cooling salad for this fiery year.

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So here are 8 facts you might not know about the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Wood Horse (8 because that is a lucky number in China).

1) The Chinese zodiac – or Shēngxiào – is a calendar system originating in the Han dynasty (206-220BC), which names each of the years in its 12-year cycle after an animal: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, in that order. According to the system, the universe is made up of five elements – earth, water, fire, wood and metal – which interact with the 12 animals, resulting in the specific character of the year ahead. (Guardian)

2) Year of 2014 is Wooden Horse. Because Wood (tree) is connected to the color of Green. Therefore, 2014 is the Year of Green Wood Horse. (Chinese Fortune Calendar)

3)  Horse hour of Chinese Horoscopes is from 11am to 1 pm. Sunshine generates lots of heat during the Horse hour. Therefore, horse is connected to heat, fire and red.

4) Horses like the social activities, because horses like show off themselves. Since horse is a social animal and red is also connected to love, therefore. Horse is treated as a Romantic Star in Chinese Horoscope. (Apanache)

5) Horse is one of Chinese favorite animals. Horse provides people quick transportation before automobiles, so people can quickly reach their destinations. Horse even can help people to win the battle. Therefore Horse is a symbol of traveling, competition and victory. That’s why Horse is connected to speedy success in China. (Apanache)

6) But……Feng shui masters are talking about a hot – literally – 2014, with temperatures melting people’s brains and a propensity towards earthquakes and volcano eruptions.(RT)

7) It’s estimated that a sixth of the world celebrate Chinese New Year, including more than 1 billion Chinese citizens. Which results in one of the world’s largest human migration as Chinese workers travel home to their families for Chinese New Year. In 2010 an estimated 210 million hit the planes, buses and trains – the equivalent to the whole population of Brazil packing their suitcases. (Go Hong Kong)

8) And last but not least: foods to be eaten at New Year include

– uncut noodles – a symbol of longevity
– fish for abundance – as the word for fish in Chinese is a homophone for abundance
– fried egg rolls – a symbol of wealth as they look like gold bars
– dumplings – for wealth
– Shrimp – for happiness and joy
– Lettuce – for rising fortune as the word is near homophonous “to make money”
– Mandarins (especially with leaves intact) – for happiness
– Eggs – for prosperity








(adapted from ‘De complete Asiatische Keuken’)
Serves 3-4 as a side dish

150g green beans
100g bean sprouts
12 cherry tomatoes (about 150g)
1 cucumber
1 red chili
coriander or mint leaves
2 tbsp rice vinegar (alternatively apple vinegar)
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar


  1. Bring some water to the boil.
  2. Cut the ends off the beans and cut them in half. Cook the beans 5-7 min in boiling water until barely tender (without the lid on the pot, to keep them green).
  3. Toss in the bean sprouts for the last 30 secs (this kills off any bacteria and in my opinion improves the taste).
  4. Drain the beans and sprouts and immediately rinse with cold water (or even cool in ice water).
  5. Cut the tomatoes in half and place into a salad bowl.
  6. Cut the cucumber into wedges. (Cut the cucumber in half, cut each half into four pieces lengthwise and then into slices.) Add to the tomatoes and then toss in the beans and sprouts.
  7. Chop the chili (Serve separate if the dish should not be spicy otherwise) Place in a small bowl and combine with rice vinegar, lime juice and sugar.
  8. Dish can be prepared a little ahead up to this point. When you are ready to serve, toss the vegetables with the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  9. Chop mint or coriander leaves and sprinkle on top.

Tips & Variations

  • Add some cubed fresh cucumber
  • Dry fry some dried shrimp, grind to a powder and sprinkle on top
  • Add some chili sauce to the dressing

Serve with

The variations are endless, but I found this salad goes well with

  • Rich and spicy coconut curries
  • Thai Fish Cakes

The 8 bullets on the Lunar New Year are enough facts for one post. I will share with you how incredibly healthy bean sprouts are another time J

The colours of the holiday season: red, green and white

The colours of the holiday season: red, green and white

The Christmas tree lights are all packed away again, but I am not quite ready to let go of the cozy feeling that comes with the holiday season. So I have dimmed all the light and dotted candles around the room. For this week’s vegetable post, I had to pick something that reminded me of Christmas on a plate – it had to be a red cabbage dish.
Since I was a child, most Christmases there has been a bowl of ‘Rotkohl’ with apples steaming on the table. And for years I enjoyed turning even the most rushed winter weekday meal into a little feast by popping open a jar of red cabbage. Because I will admit that for a long time I usually served cabbage from a jar. I did try braising it a few times, but was always a little disappointed with the end result. But then I discovered this fabulous recipe. The secret seems to be to in only briefly searing the cabbage. (With the extra added bonus that the cabbage retains its amazing amounts of nutrients).
The other wonderful thing about this dish is that it combines this wintery vegetable beautifully with the green fresh flavours of plenty of herbs. Every spoonful holds a little promise of warmer, sunny times to come.

It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness - Eleanore Roosevelt

It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness – Eleanore Roosevelt

(adapted from the blog ‘Soup Addict’ which in turn used the recipe from Deborah Madison’s ‘Vegetable Literacy’)
Serves 2
100g Greek yoghurt (I like Total 0% fat)
50-100ml buttermilk (amount depends on the yoghurt used)
salt, pepper
250g (2 cups) of red cabbage
1 small red onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 tbsp fresh mint
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley

1. Mix the yoghurt with just enough buttermilk so it begins to become runny.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Grate the red cabbage.
4. Chop the red onion.
5. Heat the oil in a frying pan.
6. Add the onion and fry gently until translucent.
7. Add the cabbage, squeeze in the garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir immediately and keep stirring until wilted. The cabbage should not be cooked for too long just two to four minutes should be enough.
8. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in a little lemon juice. Taste and add a little more lemon, salt or pepper as desired.
9. Reserve some of the dill tops and chop the rest together with the mint and parsley.
10. Toss the cabbage with the herbs.
11. Plate the cabbage and drizzle with the yoghurt sauce.
12. Scatter with the reserved dill tops.

Serve with
Roast Mustard Chicken and some Cauliflower Puree
• Or a piece of chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto baked in the oven or just a simple steak

Tips & Variations
Add some more flavour to the yoghurt sauce

• Add some more flavour to the yoghurt sauce with some finely chopped garlic or
• Tahini paste
• Replace the sauce with crumbled feta cheese

Some of the health benefits
Low in fat – Red cabbage is low in calories, and is a rich source of vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin C – The best-known sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, so it may be a surprise to learn that 1 cup of chopped red cabbage has 56 percent of the recommended daily intake of this important vitamin. As an antioxidant, vitamin C fights inflammation and protects cells from damage that leads to chronic health conditions, such as heart disease. Your body needs vitamin C to make collagen, which is the connective tissue that gives structure, strength and support to muscles, skin, bones and other tissues throughout the body. Collagen is also essential for the process of healing wounds. Vitamin C also strengthens the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells that fight invading bacteria and infections. (healthyeating.sfgate)

Anti-aging effect – Red cabbage is a wonderful source of Vitamin C, which helps in anti-oxidation and is therefore involved in maintaining beautiful skin and delaying aging naturally. The outer leaves are rich in Vitamin E, which aids in producing a glowing complexion.

Good for the Eyes and Skin –  Red cabbage is a rich source of vitamin A, which is involved in maintaining clear eye sight. Vitamin A also acts as a natural moisturizer, keeping your skin smooth and supple.

Boosts Immunity –  Red cabbage is an abundant source of Vitamin E, and thus helps in immunity building, DNA repair, and other metabolic processes. Red Cabbage boosts the immune system’s ability to produce more antibodies.

Cleanses the body –  Red cabbage contains large quantities of sulphur, and other minerals that work as cleansing agents for the digestive system. Raw red cabbage (incorporated into your diet in salads) cleans the bowels, thus preventing indigestion and constipation

Anti-cancer properties – Researchers have recently identified 36 different varieties of anti- cancer chemicals in red cabbage. This beneficial property is due to the high content of anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids that has been linked to cancer protection. Some varieties of anthocyanins have double the antioxidant effect of vitamin C. Red cabbage is also a good source of indoles, compounds that may reduce the risk of breast cancer by altering estrogen metabolism.

Prevents Osteoporosis – Like many other vegetables, red cabbage is a good source of calcium. Calcium is an essential mineral for people of every age, as it aids in the strengthening of bones and teeth. Proper intake of calcium-rich foods at a young age is important to help overcome osteoporosis during old age.

Reduces Alzheimer’s risk – The building up of certain plaques in the brain is found to be the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease. In a study conducted by researchers, the consumption of red cabbage in test individuals noticeably reduced the formation of these plaques. Red cabbage, unlike white or green varieties, has a higher concentration of natural anthocyanins that helps protect against this form of dementia.

The magical flavours of the Middle East

The magical flavours of the Middle East

I cannot believe that I have been posting “Vegetable of the Week” recipes for a while now and I have not yet shared this favourite of mine with you. This is one of these minimum effort, maximum taste dishes: whip this up at the last minute to go with your week night meal, or prepare it ahead as part of a fabulous dinner party spread.

The flavours have a hint of the Middle East which makes this a fabulous side dish for spicy lamb chops with cauliflower couscous, for example. But you can also keep it simple and just serve this up with some rice, a steamed chicken breast or a piece of fish.

(From “delicious – simpel & stijlvol”)
Serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil
1tsp lemon juice
1 tsp apple cider (or white wine) vinegar
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp mild paprika powder
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 carrots
10 radishes
flat-leaf parsley


  1. Put a pot of water on to boil.
  2. Make the dressing by whisking together the oil, lemon, vinegar, honey, paprika, cumin and cinnamon.
  3. Cut the carrot into very thin slices.
  4. Blanch the carrot for 2 minutes in the boiling water. Drain and briefly rinse with cold water.
  5. Mix the hot carrots with the dressing and allow them to cool down at room temperature.
  6. Cut radishes into thin slices.
  7. Chop the parsley.
  8. Combine the carrot, radish with 2/3 of the parsley.
  9. Place on a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

Serve with

Some of the health benefits of carrots

  • Good for your eyes – rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the liver. Vitamin A is transformed in the retina, to rhodopsin, a purple pigment necessary for night vision.
  • Reduces the risk for cancer – with falcarinol and falcarindiol
  • Anti-Aging – The high level of beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant to cell damage done to the body through regular metabolism. It help slows down the aging of cells. And Vitamin A and antioxidants protects the skin from sun damage. Deficiencies of vitamin A cause dryness to the skin, hair and nails. Vitamin A prevents premature wrinkling, acne, dry skin, pigmentation, blemishes, and uneven skin tone.
  • Prevent Heart Disease – Studies show that diets high in carotenoids are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Carrots have not only beta-carotene but also alpha-carotene and lutein.(source:
Comfort food - simple and heartwarming

Comfort food – simple and heartwarming

My “Vegetable of the Week” had to be something comforting and belly filling that goes with the these dark and cold winter evenings. So this week I am serving aubergine (eggplant) cooked into a creamy one-pot wonder with lentils.

I am not sure what it is about this dish, it is not fancy tasting or beautiful looking, but I have been cooking it over and over again in the last few weeks. Maybe it is because it comes together in just about half an hour. Maybe it is because it takes hardly any effort – just a little chopping and some stirring and in the end there is only one pot that needs washing.
But I think, mainly it is the earthy taste in combination with the soothing texture – every single spoonful brings a feeling of total comfort and warm fuzzies. The only problem is that I am always left wanting seconds and thirds, fourths and…. Well, you get the picture. At some point I even stopped cooking double portions as the second serving never made it to the next day.

I will be honest, this is not a dish you serve guests. It is not fancy or complex; this is honest weekday fare you make for your family or just for yourself.

Typically I eat this stew as a main course with some cooked green beans and maybe a dollop of yoghurt. You could also serve this as a side to spicy kofta or lamb chops.

There is only one secret you need to know to make this dish work: always taste it a few times towards the end of the cooking time and season it until it tastes so good you do not want to put the spoon down. Be prepared that the first bite will not blow your socks off. The secret is adding just the right amount of balsamic vinegar, lemon and salt. (I realise that balsamic is not authentically Lebanese, but in my opinion is absolutely essential.)

Now there is only one more question to answer: To peel or not to peel? You can go either way. Peeling the aubergine will result in a more creamy stew. I leave the skin on: I prefer the texture, a large amount of the nutrients of the aubergine are in the skin and last (but certainly not least) it is less work.

(inspired by the blog “Tortore”)

Serves 2

2 red onions
1-2 garlic cloves
150g lentils (I like green lentils for this dish although Puy or French would also be good)
300-350ml water
½ cube vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
2 large or 3 medium aubergines
balsamic vinegar (the secret ingredient)
lemon juice
optional: ground chili flakes
salt, pepper
optional: chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander (cilantro)
optional: pomegranate seeds


  1. Chop the onion finely.
  2. In a pot heat the oil and gently fry the onion until translucent.
  3. Squeeze in garlic and fry until soft.
  4. Wash the lentils and add.
  5. Add the water.
  6. Sprinkle in the stock.
  7. Add bay leaves.
  8. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil.
  9. Turn down the heat to low and cook 10 min.
  10. Cut the aubergine into chunks (you can peel them as well). Add to the lentils after they have cooked 10 min. Cover again with the lid.
  11. Stir around every 10 min and cook until the  lentils are tender and the stew is the consistency you like. With peeled aubergine this is around 20-30 min with unpeeled 30-40 min.
  12. Now for the important bit: this dish is nothing if you do not season it right. Add about 1 tbsp of balsamic, salt and pepper. Now taste – usually with the first bite you will doubt how this could ever turn interesting. With the right amount of balsamic and salt it will taste fabulous.

Serve with

  • I usually only have some cooked green beans on the side, but it would also be great with
  • Spicy kofta
  • Lamb chops

Other aubergine recipes

Some of the health benefits

  • Low in calories, no fat and high in fiber.
  • Good for the heart: Research studies show they can lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. But you must cook them the right way to get these benefits.
  • Improve blood circulation and nourish the brain. But remember—these nutrients are concentrated in the skin of the eggplant.
  • Relieve stress through being high in bioflavonoids.
  • Strengthens the capillaries and prevents blood clots with vitamin K.
  • And if that was not enough, they are full or iron, calcium and other minerals.
A simple weeknight treat

A simple weeknight treat

I present, “The Vegetable of the Week“: leafy green spinach.

I couldn’t stand the stuff when I was a child – ugh, that pureed frozen stodge, usually heated for ages. But then I discovered that spinach is actually a lovely fresh leafy vegetable….that is, if you only heat it ever so briefly or eat it raw.

Now spinach is one of my favourite veggies, especially for a quick weeknight meal.

This dish, for example, is one of my go-to dinners for busy week days. Usually I take the 30 minutes to cook some dried lentils, but when I am really rushed and starving I just pop open a tin of lentils and have a plate of healthy, comforting food ready in 15 minutes.

By the way, instead of cooking the fish in a fry pan, you can also prepare it en papillotte (wrapped in parchment paper and baked in the oven). Although it took me a few tries to get a feeling for the time the fish needs to cook, I now prefer this method. I’ll share my ‘recipe’ (more like an instruction) for fish en papillotte soon!

And if you like the idea of pairing fish and lentils have a look at this unique and delicious recipe for Tuna with lentils and strawberries (yes! Strawberries.)

(from the blog ‘Dishing up Delights’
Serves 2

150g lentils – I like using French Lentils, but regular green lentils are great to (or a can of lentils)
375ml water
optional: ¼ stock cube
optional: 1 bay leaf
2 tbsp fresh parsley
2 tbsp fresh basil
2 tbsp fresh mint (optional)
400g spinach, organic*
1 small shallot (or a ¼ onion)
1 tbs oil
100g cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 fillets of firm white fish like halibut


  1. If using dried lentils: Rinse the lentils in a sieve. Put in a small saucepan with the water and the stock , bay leaf (if using). Cook according to package instructions (usually: bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook 30 or so min).
  2. If using tinned lentils: Rinse the lentils in a sieve. Put in a small saucepan with a tiny bit of water and warm gently whilst preparing the rest of the meal.
  3. Chop the parsley finely and carefully cut the basil and mint into very fine small ribbons.
  4. Wash the spinach. Chop the shallot. Cut the tomatoes into halves
  5. Heat the oil and gently fry the shallot until soft.
  6. Add the tomato and fry gently, turning them carefully a few times.
  7. Remove the tomato and shallots on to a plate. (Keep the pan on the stove.)
  8. Heat a separate pan and cook the fish.
  9. When the fish is almost done, throw the spinach in the pan you used for the onion and. Move the spinach around just enough for it to wilt.
  10. Add the chopped herbs and the lemon juice to the lentils and check for pepper and salt.
  11. Plate up the lentils mixed with the spinach and topped with tomatoes and fish.

* Tips

Spinach is one of the high pesticide-containing foods, so it’s important to eat organic spinach if you can.

Other recipes using spinach




Some of the health benefits

  • This is a very nutrient-dense food. It’s low in calories yet very high in vitamins, minerals. For example:
  • Spinach is loaded with flavonoids which act as antioxidants, protecting the body from free radicals. Researchers have discovered at least 13 different flavonoid compounds that act as anti-cancer substances. The various nutrients offer much in the way of disease protection.
  • Another of the benefits of spinach is that this is a heart-healthy food. It’s an outstanding source of vitamins C and A which are antioxidants that help reduce free radical amounts in the body. The antioxidants work to keep cholesterol from oxidizing. In addition, folate is good for a healthy cardiovascular system, as well as magnesium, a mineral that helps to lower high blood pressure.
  • In comparison to red meat, spinach provides a lot less calories, is fat and cholesterol free, and an excellent source of iron. Because iron is a component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all body cells, it’s needed for good energy.