memories ...

memories ...

zondag 31 mei 2015

Belgian meat stew

Ask Belgians (that are not vegetarian) what their favourite food is and a lot will answer you it's Belgian beef stew and fries.

I say 'fries' because I don't want to imply they are a French invention. The art of fry-making is purely Belgian. Other cuisines make totally different fries: too thick, too thin, not twice fried in the proper temperatures ... For an overview of some differences between French and Belgian people, read this: Les trucs que les Belges font mieux que les Français It's in French so it's a good way to practice for the next visit to France or Belgium (or at least Brussels and the South) ;)

I'm not a big meat eater myself. I'm actually more of a flexitarian, eating fish and other kinds of meat but mostly vegetarian (and occasionally vegan). That's a decision I made out of two main ideas:
- First of all I don't really like most meats, I never liked them. You can't please me serving a big chunk of steak nor do pork chops look tempting to me. The only meat I like is meat that's 'hidden' or part of a larger dish, like a stew or a casserole.
- Secondly I don't like eating a lot of animal products because of the ecological point of view. The production of meat is so intensive and wasteful that's it's more logical and eco-friendly to eat more vegetarian dishes. Knowing that a lot of species around the world are in danger of going extinct due to loss of habitat or over-fishing, it's only better to be more conscious in what we eat. 

About 3 to 4 days a week I eat vegetarian/vegan, the other days I eat some kind of meat. When I leave my parents' home I see myself eating even less meat but for now I try to fit in the family dinner rotation also.

Well, today I made meat stew. Not beef stew because I think pork chops are better in taste (more fat content that is) and get soft more easily than the tough beef.
The ingredient that makes our stew Belgian is the beer and the mustard. Without those two it wouldn't be the same.
To serve this, we had (Belgian) fries and chopped salad and tomatoes. With mayonaise of course. Other ways to serve the stew are with cooked potatoes and apple sauce or red cabbage. 

Ingredients for 4:
- 4 pork chops
- 2 bay leaves
- knob of butter
- 1 medium onion
- pepper and salt to taste
- 1 package of Knorr stew seasonings (if not available: two pieces of white bread without crust with mustard on top)
- 1 tablespoon of mustard
- 1 bottle of beer (any kind, we use a less expensive one as the better beers are for drinking purposes in our eyes) of 33 cl
- a little water if needed
- raisins, dried apricots, dried prunes, ... (dried fruits in general), chopped

How to:
Chop the onion. Put some pepper on the chops. 

Heat the butter in a pan and sear the chops on both ways. Take out of the pan and put in a large pot with a good lid. Then brown the onions a little. Put the beer in the pan with the onions once they're browned so that the meat juices and pieces from the bottom loosen up.

Put this all in the pot along with the meat. Add the mustard, the bay leaves, extra pepper and salt (only use salt if you're not using the seasoning as the seasonings are salty on their own), the dried fruit and the mustard coated bread slices (again: when using the seasoning, this is only optional as they are needed for binding purposes).

Get everything boil a minute or two and put the lid on.

Then bring the fire to 'low' and let the stew simmer for at least 1,5 to 2 hours. Check whether the meat is softened.
Mix the seasonings with a little water and blend the mixture through the sauce.

Let cook along on medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Check the taste and add salt or pepper to taste.


Stews get better when they stand. Making this a day ahead or in the morning is best but not needed.


zaterdag 30 mei 2015

Sweet and tart slices

I am a follower of a great many food blogs. One of them I visit on a regular basis is The English Kitchen because I like the food on it. Nothing very fancy, just good food that's not a pain to make or costs a lot because of exclusive or hard to find ingredients. 

On The English Kitchen I saw a very good looking recipe for strawberry and rhubarb slices and I had to make them. They are made up of two layers: a crust that's not overly sweet with a sweet and tart fruit topping. This topping is a nice contrast to the crust because it's pudding like (it sets but doesn't get dry like a cake). 
I loved these slices a lot, and so thought my mum. My sister doesn't like anything with rhubarb because her stomach doesn't tolerate it (a pity) and my dad thought he liked to have something more cake-like so he didn't think much of it. But that didn't matter because there was more for me of course! (I liked them that much I took a slice for lunch yesterday ...)

Below you can find the recipe for 6 good servings or 8 smaller slices:

Ingredients for the crust:
- 85 grams butter
- 105 grams flour
- 3,5 tablespoons of sugar
Ingredients for topping:
- 1 egg
- 95 grams white sugar
- 50 grams light brown sugar
- 70 grams flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 5 sticks of rhubarb (in 0,5 cm cubes)
- 4 big strawberries (in 0,5 cm cubes)

How to:
Make the topping in advance as it needs to stand in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Mix the eggs and sugars until fluffy with a hand mixer. Add all the other ingredients (except the fruit) one at a time and mix well. Then add the fruit and mix gently until all of the fruit is covered. Just make sure to not crush the strawberries altogether. Put in the fridge. 

After half an hour, preheat the oven to 180°C.
Mix the three ingredients of the crust well until you get a firm dough. Press this dough into a buttered ovenproof dish (I used a 15 x 20 cm glass oven dish) so that the dough covers the whole surface of the dish. 

Now pour the topping over the dough and make sure you spread the topping evenly.
Put in the hot oven and let bake for about 45 minutes or until the topping is set (doesn't wiggle) and is golden in colour.
Take out of the oven and let cool completely.

Serve immediately or up to several days afterwards (I kept them in the fridge).


vrijdag 29 mei 2015

Creamy pasta with salmon and cheese

When one needs something comforting, something quick and something tasty pasta comes in and works time after time. Pasta is one of my favourite things to eat, in any form and in any shape. If there was only one thing I could eat every day it would be pasta. At least that would make me have numerous options of what to do with it anyways. I wouldn't be bored in any case!

Today we had a bit of a time problem. My mum and I are watching The Missing, a series that's the result of a cooperation between the television networks of France, Belgium and Great Britain. Here it's broadcasted on Eén. I like it quite a lot but we don't get to see it on the regular scheduled times. My mum works nights so we watch it later when we have the time. 
Today we were watching the episode of Tuesday and we didn't pay attention to the time until our stomachs began to grumble and my sister was already eating chips and a kiwi to still her hunger ...
So we saw it was way past time to start cooking and I rushed to the kitchen halfway the episode (the end will be seen later tonight) to make some pasta. At least that wouldn't make us wait too much longer.

We had tagliatelle with a creamy sauce of Boursin (garlic and herbs), chives, spring onions, broccoli, mushrooms and smoked salmon. The pan was scraped clean and we all enjoyed it. 

This is an easy dish for any time. It can be made with other vegetables too, bell peppers and zuchini make it more of a summer's dish but mushrooms, broccoli and spring onions were the things in the fridge and they are great. 

Ingredients for 4 servings:
- 350 grams tagliatelle or any other pasta shape of your choice
- 6 large mushrooms
- half a head of broccoli
- 3 spring onions
- chives to taste (I used about 10 pieces from out garden)

- salt and pepper to taste
- milk as needed (about 200 ml in total but add)
- butter for frying
- 200 grams smoked salmon
- 150 grams of Boursin (garlic and herbs) or Philadelphia or any other brand with this kind of flavour combination

How to:
Put a big pot of water to a boil. In the meanwhile make the sauce.
Cut the mushrooms and the spring onions into small pieces/slices.
Take a big skillet and heat a knob of butter. Fry the mushrooms and spring onions in the skillet.

When browned and fragrant, add a splash of milk and some salt and pepper. Then add the cheese and let it melt into the sauce on low heat. Add more milk until you have a creamy yet runny sauce. Mix in the chopped chives and take off heat.

Cut the broccoli in large chunks.

When the water boils, add the tagliatelle and the broccoli. Let them boil together for about 8 minutes or to package instructions.
Cut up the salmon in small pieces and add them to the sauce. This is best when the sauce is slightly cooled so that the salmon doesn't get cooked along and gets tougher. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Check whether the broccoli is softened enough (let cook some minutes longer if needed, without the pasta so that the pasta is not mushy). Drain the pasta and the broccoli.

Add the pasta and the broccoli to the skillet with the sauce. Mix in so that the pasta gets covered all over and serve immediately.


woensdag 27 mei 2015

Daring Bakers' May challenge: Lamingtons

For the May challenge, Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons.
An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant.

This is my very first challenge as I only joined Daring Bakers' last month. I was attracted to the idea of trying new things, trying things that might be out of my comfort zone. I never followed any classes, I am a self taught cook and baker and I manage okay even with the few handicaps I have: I don't own scales so I always measure my amounts in spoonfuls. On top of that I live with my critical family that' liked to stick with their favourites. Daring Bakers will hopefully help me in taking up challenges I wouldn't normally try.

This month's challenge is Lamingtons. They are in essence bite sized sponges soaked in chocolate frosting and then tossed in dessicated coconut.
This is what they normally look like:

This is what I made:

The challenge stated that we had to make Lamingtons by making bite sized pieces of sponge or butter cake, soaked in a frosting and rolled in any kind of outer layer 'as to avoid messy fingers'. The cake could be scented or flavoured any way we liked and also for the frosting and the outer layer, we were free to choose whatever we liked.

As much as I liked the classic flavour combination, I decided to make something different too. With so much freedom, I thought about which flavours combined well and my mind was set on the flavours of a classic frangipane. Frangipane is a very popular tart that is made of an outer crust on which (usually apricot) jam is spread and which is then filled with a mixture of ground almonds, sugar, butter and eggs. The sweet filling combines well with the tanginess of the jam and that's what I wanted to recreate with my Lamingtons.

I scented the cake with almond extract to have that typical frangipane flavour. I then used strawberry jam to coat the pieces of cake and next I rolled them in ground almonds. I also decided to half the cake recipe as 12 Lamingtons would be enough for us to eat so I made 6 classic ones and 6 frangipane-inspired ones. 

the frangipane inspired ones with almond and jam

the classic Lamingtons with coconut and chocolate 

I made the cake the evening before and the cake looked very good, fresh from the oven, which was promising. As the recipe stated, I let the cake stand overnight to be able to cut it nicely the following day.

I invited a friend over and his verdict was very positive. He called them delicious. He tried both of the variations and loved them equally. He took home some other Lamingtons fo his girl friend to try as well. Hope she likes them just as much!
My mum came home and was in love with the frangipane inspired Lamingtons so I dare say they were a hit. And my own opinion: I loved the classic ones but that's no surprise because I'm a big lover of chocolate and coconut anyways.

With these kind of reviews and the ease to make this for the first time, I will make these again :D

Ingredients for cake:

- 2 eggs, 1 egg yolk
- 112,5 grams of sugar
- pinch of salt
- 100 grams corn starch (Maizena)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Ingredients for icing:
- apricot/strawberry/... jam (about 4 tablespoons)
- 30 ml milk
- 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
- 100 grams confectioner's sugar
Ingredients to coat the Lamingtons:
- 75 grams ground almonds (I ground whole almonds in the food processor)/dessicated coconut
- 75 grams dessicated coconut
How to:
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Butter an ovenproof dish (15 x 20 cm) and line the dish with parchment paper so that the cake won't stick to the dish later on.

Mix the eggs and the sugar for at least 5 to 10 minutes with a hand mixer on high. The mixture should be whitish and frothy.
Add the almond extract and mix another couple of minutes.
With a regular spoon, fold in the corn starch, the salt and the baking powder.
Put the batter in the lined dish and make sure that the batter is evenly distributed.

Put in the oven and bake for 22 to 25 minutes. Don't open the oven during baking. When ready, the cake should feel light and springy.
Let cool overnight in the dish. 

the cake will flatten while cooling

The next day, cut the cake in 12 pieces (I used a bread knife which cut clean pieces without crumbling the cake down). 

Warm the apricot/strawberry jam slightly to make it more pourable. Cut the cake pieces you're going to use in half and spread some jam in between so you get a little sandwich. Dip the 6 pieces of cake in the jam. Then roll them in the ground almonds one by one.
Warm the milk, cocoa and confectioner's sugar au bain marie (put a bowl into a pot of warm water to heat indirectly) until all is warm and dissolved. Dip the 6 other pieces of cake in this icing and roll them in the dessicated coconut.
Put them on a wire rack or on parchment paper for at least half an hour and up to 2 hours.

don't they look pretty on the inside as well?

from every angle ...
Ready to serve :)


maandag 25 mei 2015

Curry night!

I love Indian food. I love the spices, I love the smell of the curries and I love rice.
About 5 years ago, I went to India and there I ate the most wonderful things. I still have to laugh thinking about the visits to restaurants where we were offered a menu with less spice. When I asked to make the dish Indian spiced, they looked at me in disbelief. When I was served the dishes and ate all of it without blinking, they were quite surprised. Apparently I can stand hot chilies :)

a selection of dishes mmm!

In the desert, the food was slightly more basic: 
toasts and bananas :)

I brought home with me several Indian recipes, just so I could recreate the delicious things I'd eaten. I went to special Indian shops to gather a collection of lentils and spices like fenugreek, cardemom seeds, mustard seeds and many more. The cupboards are overflowing with these ingredients but you cannot not add spices to Indian dishes. Pepper and salt, the Belgian spice mix, just isn't enough haha!

I made a curry last night to serve today. I was inspired by a recipe on Veg Recipes of India: veg makhanwala. It's a dish made with quite a lot of butter, some cream and a paste of cashew nuts. The different vegetables and the cashew paste attracted me but as I don't fancy a lot of butter and my dad doesn't like anything vegetarian (unfortunately ...), I decided to make it a little different to decrease the amount of fat and by adding chicken, I knew my dad would be pleased as well.

Of course you can decide to leave out the chicken and make it vegetarian ;)

Ingredients for 4-5 people:
- 2 heaped tablespoons of cashew nuts (about 20-25 pieces)
- 1 can (400 grams) peeled tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 2-3 tablespoons of neutral oil
- 5 pieces of chicken (I prefer chicken with bone because that's much less dry and much tastier)
- 2 red bell peppers
- handful of fresh green beans (I used frozen beans)
- handful of fresh peas (I used frozen peas)
- 2 medium carrots
- pinch of kurkuma/turmeric powder
- chilli flakes/powder to taste (make it as hot as you like or can stand)
- 3/4 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (crushed)
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 230 ml water
- basmati rice to serve (250-300 grams)
- coriander leaves for garnish

How to:
Start by soaking the cashews. Boil some water and pour it on top of the cashews. Let them soak for about half an hour. 

In the meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and bake the chicken pieces slightly. The chicken will cook in the sauce as well so it only needs some searing.
Cut the vegetables in small pieces or sticks.
Take the chicken out of the pan and in the same pan, saute the vegetables slightly. Just like the chicken they only need some searing. Take them out of the pan and set aside.
Take the cashew out of the water and put them in the food processor along with the peeled tomatoes (you can drain the juice if you like, like I did), the ginger and the garlic. Process them until you get a smooth paste without cashew pieces remaining.
Bake the paste in the same pan as the chicken and vegetables (you see I didn't add extra oil) for a few minutes. Add the water, the turmeric powder and the chilli to the paste and stir. Then add the fenugreek, the salt and the sugar. Stir another minute or two. You'll see the sauce thicken slightly.
Add the chicken and the vegetables back to the pan and stir everything around so that the sauce covers everything. When the curry starts to boil, add the garam masala and stir gently.
Leave on low fire and with the lid on for about 1 hour. Let it simmer.
I made the curry the night before so I took it off the fire and let it cool off. Curries tend to taste better the next day as the flavours get time to blend.
I served this with basmati rice and coriander leaves.


vrijdag 22 mei 2015

Banana-chocolate cupcakes

With my parents and sister going away for the long weekend and three ripe bananas left in the fruit bowl, I came up with a delicious idea: banana-chocolate cupcakes. Of course, of course, this isn't my idea. Hundreds of food blogs display pictures and recipes of these two ingredients combined. Even though I wasn't the most original, it was - in my opinion - a good way to 'dispose' of extra fruit.

sweet and luxurious!

You have to know that I'm not the banana addict. I'm a fruit consumer to the extremes. The reason is that I have the constant feeling of being hungry (is that normal?) and luckily I don't like most sweets nor savory snacks. I snack on fruit all day and when I don't control myself, the whole plate of grapes is gone in no time. My day starts with at least two oranges and on top of that I have at least two but more often than not 4 to 5 pieces. But banana is not one of them. I only like banana when it's incorporated into something else: banana cake, banana bread, toast with banana slices and chocolate, banana milkshake, ... My favourite combination is banana-chocolate. 

a little grated coconut on top

Something about my snacks in the more unhealthy category: The only sweets I love are, pudding (chocolate or vanilla is good but rice pudding is the best!) cakes and cookies (but then home made), and especially when they contain chocolate.

My everyday (yes, every day ...) after dinner snack is therefore a piece of cake or a cookie and when the weather permits (any day apart from the really sunny summer evenings when you feel like you're melting away in your chair - read: about 1 day a year in Belgium, on average - a cup of hot chocolate. 

Call me indulging, call me crazy, but that's the way I like to end my day. Healthy all day permits me to have a good snack that says: 'Hey, you've done okay, here's the treat you deserve!'

Ingredients for 6 cupcakes:
- 2 ripe bananas
- 35-40 grams butter
- pinch of salt
- 75 grams light brown sugar
- 1 egg yolk or 1/2 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 table spoon cinnamon
- 38 grams flour
- 50 grams instant chocolate pudding mix (Oetker is what I used)
- 15 grams cocoa powder
- 100 grams chopped chocolate bar
- optional: a little grated coconut

How to:
Preheat the oven to 175°C.
Line a cupcake tray for 6 cupcakes.
Mash the bananas with the butter. Mix in the sugar, the egg, the pinch of salt, the vanilla extract and the cinnamon. Then add the flour, the pudding mix, the baking powder and the cocoa. Mix just until combined. Add the chopped chocolate to the batter and devide the batter over the 6 cupcake liners.
Put the tray in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes.
Let cool slightly and take out of the tray to cool further on a plate or a wire rack.
When desired you can sprinkle some grated coconut on top. For an extra exotic accent.

Beware: they are rich! The chocolate is in there in the form of 3 ingredients and especially the chunks make these decadent. You will smell the banana well but in the taste the banana is only secondary to the chocolate that does take the lead. No bad deal for me of course! :)

All of this talk about snacks can be summarized to this: yesterday I had a great evening watching the Eurovision Song Contest snacking on a banana-chocolate cupcake. Two guilt pleasures at the same time and then it was only the second semi-final of this year (by the way: Belgium is in the final, something that doesn't happen every year ;) )

Today I started on my very first Daring Baker's challenge. The May challenge will be posted on the 27th of May, that's just a few days away and I'd been thinking when and how I would bake the challenge presented. I'm not telling you what it is of course. I will have only one person who'll know in advance and that will be the friend who's visiting tomorrow. Will talk all about the experiences of baking and taste testing coming week so stay tuned!

But today I have one of these cupcakes left and I will devour it tonight. 

zondag 17 mei 2015

Goat cheese filled sweet pepper with a green salad

When the temperatures rise I always feel like eating salad kind of things. Lots of vegetables and light on the stomach. When you feel the same, you should try this:

I made this salad with sweet pepper filled with goats' cheese TWO times this week. That's how good it is. You can serve it as is or serve it with whole grain bread or a piece of French loaf. The bread will make it more filling of course. The salad can be very simple: just some rocket and some tomatoes for example but feel free to adjust to your own taste. Beetroots are my favorite and when possible, I add them always to mine. 

This is a perfect salad for spring or summer and any other day of year because it's so easy to make, to tasty it can be served just as fancy or informal as you like. 

Ingredients (for 2):
- 1 sweet pepper, sliced in halve lengthwise
- 4 pieces of green asparagus, cooked and sliced in 4 pieced each
- 2 handfuls of rocket
- 1 medium sized beetroot, cooked and diced
- 6 cherry tomatoes
- 2 rolls of fresh goats' cheese (the soft kind, about 100 grams each)
- chilli flakes
- honey 
- black pepper
- salt

How to:
Take the cheese and put each in the cavity of one half pepper. Press well until all fits.

Sprinkle some chilli flakes on the cheese and put honey all over the top. 

Put under the grill/broiler in the oven for about ten minutes or until the pepper softens and the cheese is golden on top. 
Meanwhile, spread the rocket on a plate. Scatter the other veggies on top. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on them all to taste. 

this is a plate for one ... mmmmm!

Put the grilled pepper and cheese on top and serve with some fresh bread if you like.