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Two weeks ago I came back from a great holiday in France with two fabulous “souvenirs”:

  1. The realization that I just don’t have the time to work as much as I did the last few months.
  2. This recipe for beautiful breakfast bread.

It is amazing how easily you can become so busy with “have to” that you too loose sight of “want to”.  A few busy days turn into busy weeks and suddenly the habit has established itself and you are just busy, busy, busy….busy.

But going on holiday broke that habit. Now that I am back, I suddenly feel I can take the time again to read, to cook or to do-nothing-in-particular. And I can tell you it feels so much better than doing only the things I feel I “have to”.

So, for no reason/occasion/purpose whatsoever, I made this bread this weekend.

But let me take a step back to tell you how I came about this recipe: during our holiday we spent a night in Burgundy. What I remember most about our little b&b, Les Clos d’Orret was the joint breakfast – the tasty local produce, the fun conversation and the beautiful breads. I emailed our hostess after our return and she was gracious enough to share her recipe with me. What I thought was a brioche, without the sugar, turns out to be a “Tresse au Beurre”- a  bread recipe she brought with her from Switzerland where it is traditionally eaten on Sunday morning

What an easy loaf to make: some mixing, kneading and resting and you end up with pretty bread that has chewy crust and a silky, tender crumb. Lovely topped with some jam or cream cheese and fresh fruit.

I thought it was best the day I baked it but still enjoyed it on the second. I am sure it would make a great toast as well (But I had gobbled it all up before thinking about trying – guess I will need to make another loaf soon).

Bon appétit!

Les Clos d'Orret or where I discovered "La Tresse au Beurre" and...

Les Clos d’Orret or where I discovered “La Tresse au Beurre” and…

...where I learned that, close to its source, the majestic Seine is a little river

…where I learned that, close to its source, the majestic Seine is a little river

Ingredients
1 loaf

300ml milk
1 tsp sugar
20g fresh yeast (or 10g instant dried yeast)*
500g all-purpose flour
50g butter, very soft at room temperature or melted
1 tsp salt
a little egg yolk

 

Recipe

  1. Slightly warm the milk.
  2. Add the sugar and yeast and allow to stand 5 min.
  3. Add the flour, soft butter and salt. Knead by hand for about 5 min into a soft, pliable dough.
  4. Place the dough in a bowl, cover and allow to rest in a warm place until it has doubled in size (I let it rise about 1 hour)
  5. Form the dough into the desired shape.
    I decided to make three tresses and braid them. I placed the bread in a loaf tin.
    I only searched on-line afterwards and got the impression that it is more traditional to make two tresses. You lay them to form a cross and then twist them together before placing the dough on a baking tray.
  6. Allow the bread to rise again. The instruction was “until it is big enough”, which I decided was after 45 min.
  7. Preheat oven to 220C.
  8. Brush or spray the bread with some egg yolk.
  9. Bake about 30 min or until it is golden and done. (Test by tapping the bottom with your knuckle to check the bread sounds hollow.)
  10. Transfer to a wire rack to allow to cool.

Tips & Variations
* Although you can make this bread using dried yeast it will taste better using fresh


Serve with

  • Jam
  • Cream cheese and fresh fruit

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Breakfast- (lunch-, high-tea-, snack-) muffins

Breakfast- (lunch-, high-tea-, snack-) muffins


This post is one big thank you to my dear friend MJ!

What for, you ask?

She was the one who got me blogging. She introduced me to the site “Tastespotting” – a real smörgåsbord of food blogs. And reading blogs inspired me to start my own.

Blogging made me discover that my passion for food is broader than just cooking. At some point I realized that I was really having fun styling food pictures and now I am learning that I might actually get pleasure from writing as well (“might” as sometimes stringing together words seems the hardest thing J ). Such a fabulous journey, so many hours spent doing something I enjoy.
….and she is the one who triggered this.

What is the occasion, you ask?

This week, for the first time, Tastespotting published a picture of mine. The result: 258 views in one day (and 200 the next). I was totally caught off guard. (Exactly as I was the first time somebody, who was not a friend, “liked” one of my posts.)

When I started this blog I had no clear goal in mind; one day I just found myself posting. The blog was about keeping a food dairy and about sharing my discoveries with friends; I never thought about any other visitors. By now I have made some lovely blogging friends and I have actually had responses from total strangers that have cooked recipes I shared (Can you imagine someone in Australia actually cooked my mum’s Ethiopian Lamb Stew?!).

What recipe could be good enough for the occasion, you ask?

How about one more thing that I am thankful for:  the recipe for those amazing muffins that MJ baked when I last visited her in Finland.

Just imagine: you are a house guest. You get to sleep in, but then the sweet scent of baking lures you out of bed and to the breakfast table where you are greeted with a tray full of fresh, golden muffins. And there you are, sitting at a kitchen table in sunny Finland digging into freshly baked muffins.

I’ve made these muffins several times since – gently sweet and brimming with goodness. They are just as fabulous with a quiet cup of afternoon tea as they are with a strong cup of morning coffee.

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Ingredients
(slightly altered from ‘BBC Good Food‘)
12 muffins (around 180 kcal each)

1 ripe banana
2 large eggs
150ml low-fat yogurt (I use Total % Greek Yoghurt)
50ml canola oil (DE: Rapsoel, NL: Koolzaadolie ) alternatively you could use sunflower oil
100g apple sauce or puréed apples (I use my simple freezer apple sauce for this -about 1/2 apple)
4 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g spelt flour (the original recipe uses wholemeal)
50g rolled oats, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tsp baking powder
1  tsp baking of soda (NL: zuiveringszout, dubbelkoolzure soda, natriumbicarbonaat, DE: Natron)
1½ tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
100g (frozen) blueberries (or use raspberries as my friend MJ did)
2 tbsp mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and flaxseed)

 

Recipe

  1. Heat oven to 175C.
  2. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with cup cake liners.
  3. In a bowl mush the banana with a fork.
  4. Heat oven to (180C) 160C fan/gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with 12 large muffin cases.
  5. Mush the banana with the fork.
  6. Whisk in the eggs.
  7. Then add the yoghurt, oil, apple sauce, honey and vanilla. Mix well.
  8. In a separate bowl combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  9. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and bring together quickly, but do not overwork.
  10. Fold in the (frozen) blueberries.
  11. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.
  12. Sprinkle with the extra oat flakes and seeds.
  13. Bake for 25-30min until they are golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  14. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.
  15. They taste fabulous hot or cold (the next day)

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Thank you M, for amazing memories of Finland, friendship and food ;-)

Thank you M, for amazing memories of Finland, friendship and food 😉

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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Ingredients
(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
salt
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
Pepper

Recipe

  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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Summer days on a plate

Summer days on a plate

What a summer! Full of experiences which left little time for cooking and blogging. But cooler air and quieter days have returned and I am looking forward to pottering around in the kitchen again.

When times are as busy as they have been lately, this tuna pasta sauce is one of my go-to dishes. All the ingredients come straight out of the storage cupboard and it takes hardly any effort or time to throw together. As I try to get as many vegetables on my plate as possible I serve it on a tiny portion of spaghetti with a big pile of zucchini “pasta”.

The reason why this recipe is at top of my lists to share, is because it is a big thank you to my friend LL for the lovely visit I had with her in Italy at the beginning of the summer. This recipe (originally her mother’s) takes me straight back to the early years of our friendship:  she made this dish a few times before we went out for a night on the town.

Thank you L for all those long years of friendship…and this fab sauce recipe (and apologies if it is not quite the same as you taught me all those years ago) 🙂

Strolling through Cervia

Strolling through Cervia

Ingredients
Serves 1-2

1 onion
oil
1 clove of garlic
1 can of good quality tuna (I have to admit that using a tuna on a good olive oil tastes best but I tend to use tuna packed with only a few drops of water)
1 can of tomato
1/2 tsp vegetable stock powder / cube
chili flakes
salt, pepper
1/3 – 1/2 portion of whole wheat spaghetti
1 zucchini
optional: parmesan cheese

Recipe

  1. Chop the onion. Fry in a saucepan in a little oil.
  2. Squeeze in the garlic and fry until golden.
  3. Drain and add the can of tuna.
  4. Chop the tomatoes and add with the juice.
  5. Season with stock powder, chili flakes, salt and pepper.
  6. Allow to simmer, stirring once in a while.
  7. Bring a large pot of water to the boil add plenty of salt.
  8. Using a julienne peeler* cut the zucchini into strips.
  9. Add pasta and cook.
  10. 2 minutes before the pasta is done add the zucchini strips.
  11. Sprinkle with parmesan shavings.


Tips

The only thing I use my julienne peeler for is to cut zucchini into pasta. Nonetheless I find it totally worth having. I love the fact that it lets me have all the joy of eating pasta with all the health benefits of eating vegetables.
If you do not have a julienne peeler, you can also use a regular peeler or knife to cut the zucchini into thin ribbons.

Dreaming of summertime and easy living

Dreaming of summertime and easy living

Sometimes simple is all we want! And this recipe is fabulously simple. I shouldn’t even call it a recipe –  one ingredient, a little mixing and you are set.

I have just spent almost three weeks travelling Malaysia and Singapore. What a culinary adventure! But after all that time of having other people cooking (fabulous!) dishes for me, I am not ready to return to the kitchen yet. I’d much rather laze around for a little longer sipping this fabulous summery drink. The taste takes me straight back to the bustle of small town streets and the quiet of deserted island beaches.

So here is to amazing memories and dreams of future adventures.

Cheers and selamat minum!

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Ingredients
3-4 glasses

1/2 ripe watermelon
a little water
optional: ice cubes
optional: fresh mint
optional: lime juice
optional: honey or agave syrup

 

Recipe

  1. Peel and cube the watermelon.
  2. Blend in a blender adding water if necessary.

 

Tips & Variations

Consider some of the following

  • strawberries
  • cucumber
  • vodka
  • Or make a mojito by crushing together the mint and lime leaves and then topping with watermelon puree, rum and a splash of sparkling water
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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"Eat me" and travel straight to France

“Eat me” and travel straight to France

There are two things I enjoy almost as much as being on holiday: the anticipation before the trip and the afterglow when you get back. One of my favourite ways to continue the adventure back at home, is to bring foodie souvenirs and  to cook typical local dishes.

And at the moment my mind is still in France: the fabulous winding roads and the beautiful villages of the Loire valley…the rilletes, pâtés, baguettes, croissants and glasses of Saumure-Champigny wine ….I could go on and on (although I don’t think I will try pig’s ear again….)

So this weekend I decided to bring a little of the Loire region into my kitchen by baking a Tarte Tatin; the well known upside-down apple cake from the Orleans region that achieved fame through the ladies Tatin.

There are many different variations for making Tarte Tatin. Some cooks just throw some caramel sauce and apples together, cover all with pastry and shove it in the oven. But I find that this just does not deliver those soft rich caramel flavoured apples that make for a spectacular Tart Tatin. So I take that little bit of extra time and cook the apples in the caramel sauce first. The secret is to keep spooning some sauce over the apples and to shuffle them around a little in the pan to ensure even cooking.
If you are in a rush you could save some time by using store-bought puff pasty. I do however prefer the crumble of a quick home-made short crust; especially when you are planning to eat the tart at room temperature.

I should warn you though: it really is very hard to resist the scent wafting out of your oven and allow the tart the time it needs to bake all the way through.

Bon appétit!

Amboise, a Loire town that makes your mouth water

Amboise, a Loire town that makes your mouth water

Ingredients
One 25cm tart

Caramel apples
6 apples (use a firm, fresh-tasting apple like Jonagold, Cox)
60 butter
40 sugar

Crust
90g butter (room temperature)
40g sugar
1 egg
Optional: 1 vanilla pod
150g all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
 Recipe

  1. Use a mixer to beat together the butter and the sugar until creamy. Add the egg and combine until pale.
  2. Quickly add the flour, salt and vanilla (if using).
  3. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate.
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  4. Melt butter in a round 25cm oven-proof pan.
  5. Add sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce has turned a light caramel colour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C.
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  7. Peel and core the apples. Cut them in half length-ways.
  8. Place the apples in the pan, cut side up. Cook the apples on a medium-low heat for about 25 min or until the apples have softened and the sauce has browned a little. Spoon some caramel over the apples about every 5 minutes. If the outside apples are cooking slower than those at the center carefully shuffle them around.
  9. When the apples are cooked arrange them in neat circles. Turn off the heat.
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  10. On a floured surface quickly roll the pastry into a disk that is a little larger than your pan. Fold the pastry over your rolling-pin and transfer to the pan.
  11. Use the blunt end of a knife handle to tuck the dough around the apples. Do not tuck the edges of the pastry in though, but allow them to curl up against the sides of the pan.
  12. Bake the tart 25-30 min or until the crust is golden.
  13. Allow the tart to cool at least 10 min before covering the pan with a plate and turning it out.

 

Tips & Variations

  • Ready-made puff pastry can be used instead of the home-made crust
  • the apples can be replaced by pears


Serve with

A dollop of ice cream, crème fraîche or vanilla yoghurt

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