memories ...

memories ...

zondag 19 juli 2015

Alternative apple cake

We had two apples lying around and I had a craving for baking and eating something sweet. That much coincidence must lead to an apple dessert, don't you think? 

I saw a recipe for an Irish apple cake on The Baker Upstairs that looked lovely and I used the recipe for my version of the cake. I adapted it a bit to: (a) include some almonds that were lying around, (b) add some wholesomeness by adding oats to the flour content and (c) adding some vanilla too. My fourth alternation (my idea was to add some raisins to the apple mixture - I personally love the combination of apples and raisins ...) didn't get the approval of my dad and sister so wasn't executed. 
So the original recipe was only a guideline to the measurements for me :)

It's result was a tasty cake that wasn't heavy at all. 

- 2 apples
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 5 tablespoons oats, ground to resemble flour
- 4 tablespoons ground almonds
- 110 grams plain flour
- 50 grams vanilla pudding powder
- 150 grams white sugar
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 egg
- 125 ml milk

How to:
First butter and flour a round cake tin (diameter of about 28 cm). Preheat the oven to 175°C.
Cut the apples in small cubes and mix them with the two teaspoons of sugar and the cinnamon.
Mix the flour, the vanilla powder, baking powder, the sugar, ground oats and ground almonds.
Put the 8 tablespoons of butter in the flour mixture and mix it through by hand so that a course mixture is formed.
Mix the milk and the egg with a fork and add this to the rest of the ingredients. Then, mix until just combined.
Put 2/3 of the batter in the cake tin and spread the batter to cover the whole surface.
Then scatter the apple mixture on top of the batter. With a spoon, put some dollops of the rest of the batter on top of the apples. Try to spread the remaining batter as well as you can to cover the apples.
Put in the over for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
Serve slightly cooled. 


zondag 12 juli 2015

Shortbread biscuits

Being in Scotland, we just couldn't ignore the fact that shortbread biscuits were all around. Both of us received a small package of these simple but delicious biscuits as a welcome gift (next to small wine bottles, a range of teas, and some chocolates) from the owners of the cottage we rented. 

On the 3rd of July, I was to receive my results of the final exams. Not having internet, my mum would call me when she'd received them and at a quarter past 2 in the afternoon I got the long awaited call to tell me I passed and received some very good results. I was over excited and we had a mini celebration at night on 'our' little terrace with tea, wine, shortbread biscuits and chocolates. It was small, not fancy nor decadent but pure bliss knowing nothing was there to worry about under the Scottish sun :)

Home, I wanted to recreate the shortbread biscuits and as they are super simple to whip up, I could serve them in no time. I'm not claiming this is the original recipe but they were great!

Emily enjoying the evening 

Ingredients for 20 small biscuits:
- 120 grams butter
- 60 grams sugar
- 175 grams flour
- pinch of salt
- two extra table spoons of sugar

How to:
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Cream the butter and the sugar.

When combined, add the flour and the salt and mix with your hands. You'll soon have a heavy dough you can easily shape.
Put the dough on a smooth surface (I used a parchment paper lined table) and form a square shape of about 1 cm thick.
Then you can cut it into 10 long 'fingers' which you can cut in half afterwards to become 20 sort of evenly shaped elongated biscuits.

I rolled mine in a little sugar for extra texture. 

Put the biscuits on a parchment lined baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes or until sides become slightly golden brown.

Leave to cool.

They disappeared very quickly so be fast to taste-test! ;)


zaterdag 11 juli 2015

Holiday in Scotland and a basic vegetarian chili

It's been some time since I've written something here but for good reason: I was on holiday to Scotland for 11 days with one of my best friends Emily. 

Emily and I made the most out of the beautiful weather (sunny, warm: 20-25°C!) and the landscapes we cannot enjoy in our own little Flanders. 

There we rented a small cottage called Squirrel Lodge and we cooked almost every day after coming home from a good, long walk around the countryside. 

One of the easy meals we made with the basic ingredients we had on hand was a basic vegetarian chili. It was soo good to have this! We made it before leaving the house in the morning and we were glad to not have to start hurrying to make our dinner after coming back late in the afternoon. 

- 1 can white beans in tomato sauce (we used Heinz)
- 1 can kidney beans
- 1 can peeled tomatoes

- 1 small can sweet corn
- 1 courgette/zuchini
- 1 red/yellow/orange bell pepper/capsicum
- 1 red onion
- pinch of salt and pepper to taste

- 1/2 tablespoon of honey
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

To top:
- a few dollops of Greek yogurt to substitute sour cream
- grated cheddar cheese

How to:
Chop the onion, the pepper and the zuchini in small cubes.
Heat some oil in a small pot and let the onion cook a little. Once the onion looks a little translucent, add in the chopped pepper. Let these simmer for about 5 minutes before adding the tomatoes, the salt, pepper, the honey and the cumin.
When the peppers are slightly softened, add the chopped zuchini. Leave to simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until the zuchini is no longer raw. You don't want the vegetables to be too soft, a little texture is wanted!
At last, add the corn and the beans and stir gently. Let simmer another minute or two and ready to serve!

Serve with some sour cream (or Greek yogurt like we did) and some grated cheddar cheese.


vrijdag 19 juni 2015

Red and green cupcakes

There was a little get-together planned with three of my friends and for the occasion I offered to make some treats. I decided to make thumbprint cookies (next post I'll talk about that) and some vanilla cupcakes. 

To decorate I used the fondant icing that I'd been given by the same friends with the explicit message to make them some cupcakes. Well, they got what they asked for! ;)

Ingredients for 12 well sized cupcakes (you can make them smaller and distribute the batter in 15 cupcake liners also!):
- 225 grams sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 113 grams butter
- 3 eggs
- 150 grams Greek yogurt/cottage cheese/curd cheese/milk
- 140 grams flour (or 190 grams flour and vanilla extract = instead of using pudding powder)
- 50 grams instant vanilla pudding powder
- 300 grams fondant icing (in two colours: I used red and green of Dr. Oetker)

How to:
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Cream the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer. When combined and creamy, add the eggs one at the time and keep on mixing. Then add the yogurt.
Add the salt, the flour and the pudding powder or vanilla extract. Mix well.
Line a baking tray for 12-15 cupcake. Divide the batter over the cupcake liners.

Put the tray in the oven and bake for 18-22 minutes. Check the cupcakes before taking out of the oven.
Leave the cupcakes to cool before decorating.

For decoration, divide the icing into 12 small balls. Roll each of the balls of icing out until a thin and round sheet (1-2 mm thickness) is formed. When too thick, the icing is too present on the cupcake and the taste will dominate the taste of the cupcake. With a cookie cutter (any shape), cut a shape out of each rolled out ball. Now you can interchange the cut-out shapes of the red and green sheets of icing.
Cover the cupcakes one by one and enjoy!


vrijdag 12 juni 2015

Strawberry tart

Strawberry time is a beautiful time. We normally just eat the strawberries like they are or on top of some ice cream. But today I wanted to use them for a fruit tart. 

It's a recipe that can be used for just any kind of fruit topping. But when the strawberries are abundant there's no better way to decorate the tart than with the bright red berries.

My dad is usually the one making these kinds of tarts here at home. He uses puff pastry in his but as I am not a big fan of puff pastry, I decided to go on a different route and used a shortbread crust. Crunchy, sweet and nicely shaped to hold the vanilla cream and the fruit.
For the filling, I used pastry cream. You can also use plain vanilla pudding (freshly made), and that will make it less heavy on the stomach (as it will not contain the eggs). The pastry cream is just a touch more luxurious and therefore our way to go. To decorate you can use strawberry jam to get that shiny layer on top but this is not obligatory in any way. You can also put on some whipped cream or use some powdered sugar to sprinkle on top of the tart. 

Ingredients for the crust:
- 85 grams sugar
- 155 grams plain flour

- 1 egg yolk
- 115 grams butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- (optional) vanilla extract
Ingredients for the pastry cream:
- 1/2 l milk
- 2 eggs
- 50 grams of instant vanilla pudding powder
- 4 tablespoons of sugar
Ingredients to decorate:
- 200-250 grams fresh strawberries
- (optional) 3-4 tablespoons strawberry jam

How to:
First make the crust. Mix the dry ingredients and then add all the other ingredients. By hand or with an electric mixer, combine everything until the dough comes together in a big ball. Put the dough in a mall bowl and put away in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Butter and flour a tart pan (I used a silicone one of about 28 cm in diameter so I didn't need to grease it at all - easy!).
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out. Put the dough in the pan and press well so that all the sides are evenly covered. I pressed the extra dough in with the rest but you can also make a few cookies with it.
Put it in the oven for about 30-45 minutes but check regularly. When the dough is golden brown and feels firm to the touch, it's ready. When ready, take out of the oven and let cool.

In the meanwhile, make the pastry cream:
Beat the eggs, the vanilla pudding powder and the sugar with an electric mixer until frothy and slightly whitish-yellow.
Heat the milk until just boiling. Take the pot of milk off the fire. Pour the egg mixture in the milk and mix thoroughly. Then put the pot back on the fire and let cook for a minute so that the cream can cook a little.
Take the pot off the fire and let cool up to room temperature. Regularly stir it to prevent lumps forming or a skin on top.

When the crust had time to cool off, take it out of the pan and you're ready to decorate:

Spread the cream in the crust. Slice the strawberries and cover the cream with the berries all over.

Heat the strawberry jam slightly until it's pourable and brush the tart all over the top with the jam to obtain a shiny layer on top.


dinsdag 2 juni 2015

Orange and chocolate cake or Jaffa cake

Who doesn't know Jaffa cakes?

Jaffa cakes are (according to Wikipedia):
'... biscuit sized cakes introduced by McVitie and Price in the UK in 1927 and named after Jaffa oranges. The most common Jaffa cakes are circular, 2 and a half inches (64 mm) in diameter and have three layers: a Genoise sponge base, a layer of orange flavoured jelly and a coating of chocolate.'

In our house they never last long. My sister can eat a whole package of 16 Jaffas in a day and that all by herself. It's a wonderful flavour combination of course: orange and chocolate just go together very well.  

I decided to make Jaffa cake. Not the regular prepackaged Jaffa cakes but one real cake with an orange jam filling and a chocolate coating. The flavours are there but it's more of a filling dessert than the thin Jaffas. I bet only one piece is needed instead op 16 to still the craving :p

just underneath the chocolate, you'll find a thin layer
of orange, just like in the Jaffa cakes

For the cake, I made sort of a pound cake with Greek yoghurt. It would be great in a bundt pan but as I don't have one myself at the moment, I made it with a regular rectangular cake pan. Feel free to use whatever you want.

In my batter, I forgot to put salt. It didn't make it less good but it's better to add salt. Salt is an enhancer of anything sweet.
I also put a little orange zest to the batter which is totally optional as well.

The cake turned out very good. The cake is moist in the middle and the chocolate covers the crusty outer layer.

Ingredients for 10 slices:
- 280 grams plain flour (or 230 grams flour and 50 grams (1 package) of instant vanilla pudding powder like I did)
- 1 package of baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 300 grams sugar
- 225 grams butter
- 3 large eggs
150 grams Greek yogurt
- optional: orange zest (half a teaspoon is sufficient)
- 100 grams orange marmelade
- 150-200 grams plain chocolate

How to:
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Butter and flour a cake pan (bundt pan or rectangular shaped pan works best).
Mix the flour (and the pudding powder), the salt and the baking powder together.
Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy by hand or using a mixer.
Beat in the eggs one after the other. When incorporated, add in the yoghurt. Mix very well.
Beat in the flour mixture gradually. Don't over mix but make sure all the ingredients are well combined.
Spread a little more than half the batter in the cake pan. Make sure the layer is evened out.
Spread the marmelade on top of the batter, making sure the marmelade doesn't touch the sides of the pan because otherwise it'll be a sticky business to get the cake out of the pan after baking.
Cover the marmelade layer with the rest of the batter. It's easier if you first fill the edges around the marmelade layer and then cover the top.
Put the cake in the oven for about 1 hour or until risen, golden brown and the top springs back when lightly touched.
Take out of the oven, let cool completely and take out of the pan.

Melt the chocolate and spread it over the cake on all sides.
You can use a brush to make this easier.

Let the chocolate layer dry and serve.

P.S.: Note that I didn't wait for the chocolate to set ... the result a slightly less  appealing (read: messy) piece of cake but as we like to say 'looks are deceiving, it's the inside (the taste) that counts!' :)


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 Fran├žais 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.