Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Dutch Classic

It has been raining all weekend. As most parents with small children will experience, I too am extremely prone to all kinds of colds. So when it starts raining, and the children come home with a only a tiny bit of a cold, I immediately start sneezing.

Time for some soup! I know, I should have been making chicken stock... It just is the best when you are having a cold, but this Vegetable Soup with Meatballs is sooo comforting and warming on rainy days.
It takes a while to make, but most of the time is waiting time, so can be spent with (in my case) the children.
In these rainy weekends we spent a lot of time in our big 'living kitchen', working on childrens art projects such as making a house out of cardboard boxes, painting, cutting and pasting images from magazines etcetera.

I find it comforting to hear the delicate bubbling sounds of the soup in process next to the tapping sound of the rain on the roof and the windows. Not too mention smelling the soup, which already warms me without even tasting it.
Probably it is in my genes, as my mother and also my grandmother would allways make their own broths as well. I must have passed the 'love of this soup' genes to my children, because both my children love this soup and are even eating the veggies in it!

Vegetable Soup with Meatballs
A Dutch Classic

Ingredients for 1 pan of soup:
2 marrowbones (1 with and 1 without meat),or more if you like.
1 very small tin of tomatoconcentrate
1 celery
2 big carrots
2 onions
1 leek, green parts
1 hand of parsley

Finishing the soup:
1 leek, white parts
1 spring onion
250g of mushroom
250g of minced meat
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 egg

Put on the oven-grill on highest temperature. Spread a spoon of tomatoconcentrate on the marrowbones and roast them for about 10 minutes in the oven. Put the bones in a pan and fill with cold water. Put it on the stove at a low heat. Chop the celery, 2 onions (washed, but unpeeled), the green part of the leek and 2 1/2 carrot in big chunks and roast for a few minutes in the oven as well, after which you toss them in the pan. Also add some parsely, peppercorns, and of course whatever vegetables/herbs you furthermore like to put in.

Leave it on the low heat for a few hours, preferably the whole day. Strain the soup into another pan, squeezing out as much fluids as you can from the vegetables. Throw away the vegetables from which the soup was maked, but save the meat.
If you want to save the broth for later you could reduce it now untill you only have about a quarter left, cool it and freeze it in small portions ready to use whenever you need a broth as a basis for soups or sauces.

If you are ready to make the soup, you'll go on by pulling the meat in small pieces and add it to the strained soup. Season with salt & pepper.

Finely chop an onion and the clove of garlic and put in a bowl together with the minced meat, egg, breadcrumbs salt & pepper. Make a lot of small balls from the meatmixture.
Finely chop the white of the leek, the remaing 1/2 carrot and the spring onion. Roughly chop the mushrooms.

Add mushrooms, meatballs and vermicelli to the soup and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the vegetables 2-3 more minutes.
Taste and season some more if you like. Put in bowls and dress up with a little fresh parsley if you like.

Score: 5 out of 5, but only if you take enough time to let it simmer!
Tip: Make a large pan full of the broth, reduce half of it and freeze it in small portions (icecubebags are perfect) use the other half to make the soup. You can throw in just about any vegetable you like a few minutes before serving. A mix with small pieces of cauliflower, leek and carrots is a popular choice in the Netherlands. And don't forget the meatballs, without these it wouldn't be a Dutch Classic!
Time: to make it perfect, you'll need at least one day.
Amount of work vs waiting: Low.
About 30 minutes to start it up if you roast your meat and veggies, which I would recommend. But you could also make a lazy version by just putting all ingredients in the pan, fill it up with water and be ready to let it simmer within 5 minutes.
Finishing the soup will take about 30 minutes, making the meatballs and chopping the veggies.
Ideal for: Simple family dinner, Autumn, Winter

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Vietnamese Salad

Years ago, before we had our children, we went to Vietnam. It was quite an impressive traveldestination. Straight out of our busy jobs we flew for many, many hours to arrive in an extremely busy Hanoi.
It wasn't a luxury trip, since we wanted to see and do as much as possible with a tight budget, so we stayed in a low budget hostel in the centre of town. Motorcycles racing through the streets at literally every hour, day and night.

The only thing I can remember from these first days was that I needed to get away from all of this noice and I desperately needed some fresh air and space. We decided to take the nighttrain to the northern mountains and from there went to a very small town with only a handful of tourists. In my memory this town had one hostel and a small hotel that was being expanded/renovated at the time. In preparation of the expansion they were advertising (on a printed/typed black and white A4 paper) a walking/culture trip for 3 days and 2 night where you would stay at local families in the small farmingvillages surrounding this town.

This was the best thing we ever did! We walked through the misted mountains in the morning, watched the clouds break for some sun and had more than amazing views throughout the whole trip. What a peace and quietness, just what I needed... Everywhere the people were friendly and hardworking. And they too, were an amazing sight being traditionally dressed in colourful clothes. What made the trip even more worthwhile were the homestays. The first night we were invited to sleep in the house of the chief of the village we visited.

We were asked if we wanted to join the family for dinner or if we wanted to eat separately. Of course we wanted to join them. The organizing hotel had brought a big amount of food, so that our guide would prepare a meal for us. They added the food that was being prepared for the family and on a small open wood fire in the kitchen our guide transformed the seperate ingredients into numerous wonderful small dishes which we all shared.
Our guide only spoke a little English, and our hosts didn't speak any English at all, but nontheless we had such a nice and engaging evening, with supertasty food!

Since then I am a huge fan of Vietnamese food. Vietnamese salads are delicious, they usually have a good bite and delightful freshness. One of these days I will describe some of my cookbooks in more detail, but for today I just wanted to mention my Vietnamese cookbook which has been my inspiration for this recipe. It is an interesting reading book as well as a book full of wonderful Vietnamese recipes. It is in my possession for a few years already, so I am not sure it is still available, but if you happen to stumble across this book I would definitely recommend purchasing it.

Vietnamese Salad, side dish 2p
Inspired by:
bún với rau thơm, salade van rijstvermicelli
Geheimen van de Rode Lantaarn (Secrets of the Red Lantern), pg 118
Author: Pauline Nguyen, Luke Nguyen & Mark Jensen

Ingredients for 2p:
1 small hand of unsalted peanuts
1 shallot
3 dl vegetable oil
1 spring onion
100g rice noodles
1 cucumber
1 baby romaine lettuce
1 hand of mintleaves
1 hand of cilantroleaves
50ml Nuoc nam cham (You can make it yourself, this book has a great recipe for it, but this time I just used a store bought version)

Stirfry the peanuts in a dry wok at medium heat untill they have a light shade of brown. Roughly chop them and leave them to cool.

Slice the shallot in thin rings, rinse and dry them on a paper towel. Heat about 2 dl oil in a small fryingpan or wok untill it is so hot that when you put in a piece of bread it inmediately start to brown. Fry the rings of shallot in small batches untill they are goldenbrown. Take them out with a skimmer and put on another papertowel.

Cut the spring onion in diagonal rings. Put 1dl oil and the spring onions in another pan and bake untill they are getting soft. Let it cool.

Cook the rice-noodles according to the instructions. (A few minutes in boiling water) Cool it down under running water. Let it drain out.

Julienne the cucumber. Finely slice the lettuce. Tear the mint and cilantro leaves. Mix these 4 ingredients.
Put the rice-noodles on your plate, add the lettuce mixture and the spring onions with the oil. sprinkle the nuoc nam cham over it. Dress with the fried shallots and roasted peanuts.

Score:4 out of 5
Tip: You can add some tauge. Nice side dish to any oriental spiced meat or fish, try it with Thai Styled Mussels
Amount of work vs waiting:high
Degree of difficulty:medium
Ideal for:Side dish, salad, asian food

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Thai Style Mussels

It is summer, which means that there are new mussels again! Zeeland, a province in the southwest of the Netherlands provides one of the most tasteful mussels of the world. Strangely, most of these mussels are exported, probably to countries that have a higher standard of foodculture than we have here.

There are quite a lot of foodies in the Netherlands, but unfortunately the average Dutch person cares more about the price of the food than the quality...

When we go to our southern neighbours (Belgium), we suddenly find food with a much higher quality, even in the supermarkets. I love living in the Netherlands, but I really find this a disadvantage!

Although, when you look a little further than your local supermarket, you can find great food here as well, you just have to look a little harder.

But luckily we could get our hands on some of the Zeeuwse mussels, and they do taste great!
I usually simply cook them in white wine with finely cut vegetables and herbs. That way the taste of the mussel itself is the star of the show and I love it this way. However this week I wanted to experiment with our beautiful mussels and made up an Asian version.

I am not sure if I will ever be able to make the simple mussels again and get a smile from my husband again. He absolutely loved these experimental Thai mussels, and if he could give a rate above the 5 out of 5 I gave these mussels, he would absolutely take that advantage.

Thai Style Mussels

Ingredients 4p:
2-3kg of Zeeuwse mussels
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
3 small red chili peppers, fresh and/or dried (chiliflakes)
1/2 of a lemon, juice and zest.
2cm of ginger
1 spoon of oil
200ml of coconut milk
1 hand full of cilantroleaves (and stems)

Throw away all mussels with broken shells. Put the rest of them in cold water. (I usually put them in a blocked sink full of water). Leave them for a while.

Finely chop the onion, 1 clove of garlic and the peppers. Cut the other cloves of garlic in half, and make some chunks of the gingerblock. Lightly fry the onions in a little oil in a highwalled pan until they are translucent. Add the garlic, chili peppers, lemonzest and ginger for a few minutes. Pour the coconut milk in the pan, add the lemonjuice and the cilantro and heat it up.

Throw away all mussels that haven't closed in the cold water. When in doubt you can give them a little knock on the shell. If they close, they are fine, if not: throw them away. Cook the mussels in different batches in the coconut mixture. Throw away the ones that haven't opened up and serve steaming hot!

Score: 5 out of 5, or more if it were up to my husband...
Tip: Serve with some nice bread for dipping the heavenly sauce, or make it even more oriental by serving noodles. Also serve it with a fresh salad, I served it with a delicious Vietnamese salad I plan on telling you about later this week.
Time: 15 minutes
Amount of time vs waiting: 50/50 when you include stirring once in a while in the waiting period.
Degree of difficulty: Very easy. However, you will have to pay attention to selecting the good mussels, even if you buy the best quality mussels. When in doubt, throw them out!
Ideal for: Romantic dinner, dinner party, summer/autumn meal.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Herbs

Italy is my favourite country in the world. It is beautiful, diverse, has a nice climate but most of all the food is great! With only a handfull of ingredients Italians are able to make simple meals that often are beyond delicious.

I absolutely adore antipasti, especially the grilled vegetables. The grilled flavour combines so well with the salty slightly acidic flavours of the dressed vegetables. Although I think that putting herbs like mint and cilantro on these antipasti will be seen as an incredible sin in Italy, I definitely think that they add a lovely freshness to this salad. So, if not forgiven by the Italians, I am totally forgiving myself for this delicious sin!

Making large portions of these, asks quite some time grilling. Your guests however, will be pleasantly surprised and impressed with this work!

2 zucchini's
3 spoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of lemonjuice
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
1 hand of mintleaves
1 hand of cilantroleaves
Salt & pepper

Make long slices of the zuchini about 3-5mm thick. Cover in salt for 10 minutes, wash, let dry on some kitchenpaper. Meanwhile cut and squeeze half of the garlic clove with a little salt. Make a dressing with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemonjuice, vinegar an garlic.
Brush some olive oil on the zucchini and fry them on both sides in portions on a very hot grill pan or BBQ. Take them out of the pan when they are goldenbrown and rub them with the other half of the garlic clove while they are still hot.
Pour the dressing over the grilled Zucchini, add the fresh herbs and sprinkle with a little extra oil.

Combine it with grilled eggplant for an extra festive salad!

Score: 4 out of 5
Tip: Really impressive salad for a dinner party or a BBQ party. Also very nice with Eggplant. For a spicy touch you could add some chiliflakes to the dressing.
Time: Depending on how much you are making, about 30 minutes for 2 zucchini's.
Amount of work vs waiting: High, a little waiting time which you can partly fill with making the dressing.
Degree of difficulty: Moderate
Ideal for: starter, side dish/ salad, BBQ, dinner party.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Making quiches always brings back good memories to me. When we were dating I often planned a biking or walking picnic trip into nature. Usually I would bake a savoury quiche, make a small salad, pack a bottle of good wine and we were of for the day. Enjoying the nice weather, beautiful nature, a nice meal and of course each other.

With small children and fully booked agenda's this belongs to the past, and only the sweet memories stay with us. But nothing to be sad about, there is room to make plenty more sweet memories that do or do not involve quiches! Having a family picnic isn't as lazy, and we usually go to a park nowadays where we meet up with friends instead of making trips into the woods, but they are just as memorable as the old days. 

Talking with friends while watching the children all play together, drinking a good glass of wine and enjoying the same old quiche... Life evolves, but with some sun on your face, good company, a nice glass of wine and good food, it still treats us very well!

Ingredients for 1 quiche:
1/2 package of puff pastry. (You can make it yourself, but I like the one we have in the freezer here, and it is so much easier...)
A spoon of butter
250g creme fraiche, mascarpone, double cream or something comparable
1 or 2 eggs
200g grated cheese
Salt (a little) & pepper

Other ingredients:
Basically you can variate all you want with the other ingredients inside. See some suggestions below.

Heat the oven at 210 degrees Celsius. (410 degrees Fahrenheit)
Defrost the puff pastry. Whisk the eggs and put most of it through the creme fraiche (or whatever alternative you use) in a large bowl, save some whisked egg for later. Finely slice or press the garlic and add to the mixture, add a little salt, some pepper and the cheese.

Spread the butter on the baking mould. Cover the mould with the pastry, letting it hang slightly over the edges.
Put in the other ingredients of your quiche and cover with your cheesy/creamy mixture. Fold the edges in. I sometimes (as in the picture above) like to make a roof of puff pastry, adding a bit more pastry to close up the pie. But you can also choose to bake it without a roof. Spread the little bit of whisked egg over the pastry roof or edges and put in the heated oven for about 40-45 minutes. Let it cool for a picnic or serve hot for a simple family style dinner.

A few of my favourite quiches:

My Basic quiche, super simple but preferred by my husband:
Bacon, leek and mushrooms (I bake the mushrooms with salt &pepper before I put it in, but put the leek and bacon in raw, they cook inside the quiche)
You can keep it in the fridge overnight and eat again the following day. It is also nice when eaten cold, and is also nice without the mushrooms.

Sweet onion & goatcheese quiche
Shallots, goatcheese, honey, thyme. Gently bake the shallots for 15-20 minutes. Add the thyme to the cheesemixture. Devide the shallots and half of the goatcheese over the pastry, add the cheesmixture put the rest of the goatcheese on top and sprinkle some honey over it.
Serve hot or cold, you can keep it overnight in the fridge.

Chicken- Tauge quiche
Chicken, mushrooms, tauge, more garlic. Cut the chicken into pieces and shortly bake them with some salt and pepper. Bake the mushroom with salt and pepper in another pan, add the finely sliced garlic for another minute and put all of it together with the chicken and tauge on the pastry. Add the cheese mixture, put a pastryroof on this one and serve it immediately when it comes out of the oven. The tauge gives a nice fresh bite to this quiche, but when you leave it to cool down and or reheat it, I don't like it any more. So no picnicfood...

I can think of a thousand other nice quiches to make, ingredients that you can add to the quiches above, but I suggest you start experimenting for yourself!

Score: 4 out of 5
Tip: nice for picknick's. Quiches are also very good partyfood, especially a lot of small (different) ones in bright cupcake forms. They are easy to make and everybody just loves them.
Time: 1 hour (15-20 minutes work, 40-45minutes oven-time)
Amount of work vs waiting: low
Degree of difficulty: easy-moderate
Ideal for: Picnic, simple family dinner, party

PS, curious what I put in this one? It was my husbands favourite with bacon, leek and mushroom, but I also added a few baked onions.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spicy Champagne Shrimp & Spaghetti

A Celebration!

This week for the first time I made a meal inspired by a recipe from a blog. Through Pinterest I started to look around at other foodblogs and I found Rasa Malaysia! I am really excited about that. Although I'm new at blogging and reading blogs, I am almost a pro in buying cookbooks and cooking magazines and Bee from Rasa Malaysia is amazing... She has so many recipes that look and sound so delicious that I inmediately want to start cooking.

I love asian food, but I don't often cook it. I will definetly try to make some of her asian food one day, but with a husband training for the marathon there was a need for a pastadish tonight. And I found this wonderfull fusion recipe which of course I altered a bit to my liking and to our spirit! Afterall today was a milestone in his running 'career', he ran half a marathon today! And believe it or not, when he arrived home I couldn't even tell. He looked like I look when I have to hurry home from doing groceries, half a kilometer away...

One of the things I love to do in life is to celebrate small victories, so this victory of my husband needed celebration. Champagne had already been chilling in the fridge, and this was the perfect moment for a festive pastadish. Inspired by Bee's Spicy Shrimp Pasta recipe I made this heavenly champagne dinner for two, and I don't think my husband will be running too far tomorrow...

Spicy Shrimp Spaghetti & Champagne
A celebrative dish
Inspired by:
Rasa Malaysia's Spicy Shrimp Pasta
Author: Bee Yinn Low

Ingredients for 2p:
150g spaghetti
Splash of olive oil
2 spoons of butter
3 cloves of garlic
1 tomato
200g of peeled shrimps
1 lime
1 glass of champagne (or cava)
1 teaspoon of chili flakes, plus a little more for the finishing touch.
A bunch of flat parsley
A bunch of cilantro leaves
Fresly grounded pepper
Some grano padano (or parmesan)

Boil your spaghetti in salted water, save some water for the sauce. Finely chop the garlic. Chop the tomato in small pieces.
At the end of the cooking time start making the sauce by putting oil and butter in a wok and add the garlic. Be carefull not to let it brown as it will then turn bitter. After a minute add the shrimps and fry for 1-2 minutes.
Cut the lime in half, use half for the sauce and slice the other half in parts for decoration.

Add the champagne, chiliflakes and tomatoes to the wok. Let it cook for another minute. Add the juice of half a lime, spaghetti and a little bit of the boiling water as well as the fresh herbs. Season with salt & pepper to your own liking. Plate up and make it look pretty by putting some grano padano flakes, shrimp, fresh herbs and chiliflakes on top.

Score: 5 out of 5
Tip: If you are not in a festive mood, don't want to open up a bottle of champagne, or you want to use this recipe on an ordinary day: a glass of white wine makes for a very nice dish as well.
Time: 20 minutes (if you buy already peeled shrimps)
Amount of work vs waiting: 3/4 work, 1/4 waitingtime
Degree of difficulty: easy
Ideal for: a celebration, pastadish, romantic dinner

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Spicy Zucchini Soup

It's summertime, so I love to eat cold soups as a starter! Making a tasty soup for a dinnerparty is a great way to have a succesfull evening while still having time to chat with your guests. It is easily made and can be prepared in advance. The only thing you have to do is serve them!

The soup I made wasn't for vegetarians, because I used homemade chickenstock, but of course you could add some vegetable stock instead. Since making this zucchini soup is sooooo easy when you already have a stock prepared (or if you use a stock cube) I will also add my tips for making chicken stock...

Whenever we eat chicken, I choose either a whole chicken or chicken legs. For example, we make our Green Chicken, or any other chicken recipe. We have our family meal, and when cleaning up after dinner, I collect all the chickenbones and rests of the vegetables which have not been touched. Instead of throwing things away, I put it in a pan, add fresh water, and usually some carrots, celery, onions, a few black peppercorns, parsely or whatever useful ingredients I find in my fridge or garden. Leave it on the stove for about an hour, cool it down and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next (or another following day) I put it on the stove for a couple of hours more. After which I sieve it, season it, cool it again and use it as a base for various soups. The easiest is chickensoup, for which I use the rests of the meat on the bones. Pulling the meat of the chickenbones is a great meditative activity...  Then add some vegetables and vermicelli and you have a delicious and wholesome chicken soup. Especially recommended for when you have flu patients in your house, they'll inmediately feel better after this homemade soup.

To make your stock even more delicious, you could roast the bones and vegetables before you put them into the water. It is also possible to add a variety of herbs, or other flavours. I sometimes use thyme, garlic or ginger, but usually I prefer the more plain version.

Back to the Spicy Zucchini Soup, super easy to make, a very good start for a dinnerparty or your family dinner. For the kids, you can just skipp the sriracha if they are not a fan of spicy food (yet). You can make it in advance and have it at the dinnertable within a minute. Perfect for summer! For our family dinner I added an icecube with an oreganoflower, just to make it look nice and because it was available in our garden. (The oreganoflowers, not the icecubes..). Flavourwise it would have been better (even though we finished our soup long before the oreganoflavour reached the glass) to have a mintflower icecube. But, hey, it looks nice!

Spicy Zucchini Soup
Author: me

Ingredients for a small pan of soup:
2 onions
4 cloves of garlic
2 small (or 1 large) zucchinis
A splash of olive oil
1/2 liter of chickenstock (or any other stock)
Salt & pepper
For garnish: a (edible) flower in an icecube

Chop the onions, garlic and zucchini. Gently fry the onion, after 2-3minutes add the garlic and zucchini. Fry for another few minutes, add the stock and blend with an immersionblender. Put the pan in the sink filled with a layer of icecoldwater and icecubes just below the level of soup in the pan. If neccessary, change the surrounding cooling water once or twice. When cooled down, season to taste, prefill your serving glasses and put in the fridge.
Prior to serving, add an icecube and a few drops of sriracha.

Score: 3 out of 5, but for simplicity and advance preparation 5 out of 5.
Tip: without sriracha also perfect for small children. Check out the text above for tips on making the chickenstock.
Time: 45 minutes, of which 10 minutes preparing, the rest is cooling.
Amount of work vs waiting: low
Degree of difficulty: easy
Ideal for: summerdinner, simple family dinner, dinnerparty

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Vegetarian Spinach 'Meatballs' for Adults

The kids really enjoyed the spinach 'meatballs'  I made last week. After a few bbq's and picknicks at which they chose to eat the meats and pasta's while carefully getting rid of all the vegetables, they could use some veggies again. Since it was a big hit with the kids last week I decided to make the spinach balls again today. So the youngest one had a feast and the oldest bravely ate one ball to be as strong as Mega-Toby (a superhero from the Belgium children's production Mega Mindy).

Although I liked them too, I wanted to give them a little bit of a spicy twist! So while the children had the original ones, I made a spicy version for us. Without nutmeg, but with homemade chiliflakes (dried chilipeppers from our garden), fresh cilantro (from the supermarket, because the one in our garden had a heat stroke which it didn't survive), and some lemonzest. Which made it a little less heavy, more fresh but also nice and spicy. Next time, I think I'll try to substitute the parmezan for feta or another lighter cheese, ideas are welcome!

Vegetarian Spinach 'Meatballs' for Adults
Inspired by:
Eerlijk Italiaans, pg 24
Author: Antonio Carluccio

Ingredients for 4p:
500g fresh spinach
2 eggs
fresh cilantro (leaves and stalk)
zest of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic
5-6 slices of bread without the crust (this time I used whole-wheat)
50g of grated parmezan (feta, another lighter cheese?)
50ml of olive oil
salt & pepper

Wash the spinach, boil it in lightly salted water for 1-2 minutes, drain and cool it. Squeeze the spinach untill you cannot get anymore fluid out of it.
Finely cut the leaves and put it in a big bowl. Loosely beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add to the spinach afterwards. Finely cut the garlic add a tiny bit of salt and rub the garlic into a paste. Finely chop the cilantro. Pull the bread into fine pieces. Add all of this and the parmezan, lemonzest, some salt & pepper. Mix and make balls from the mixture. (NB, if it is too wet you can add the extra bread)
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the balls and gently fry them golden brown in 4-5 minutes each side. Take out and leave to rest on kitchen paper. Serve them hot or cold. Serve as an appetizer or combine with a pastadish, a ricedish or any other dish.

Score: 3 out of 5
Tip: Easy to make as a spicy variation while you make the original
Spinach 'Meatballs' for the children. Try it with other cheeses to perfect these balls, and please let me know!
Time: 20-30 minutes
Amount of work vs waiting: High
Degree of difficulty: Medium
Ideal for: Spicy variant of kid's favorite, appetizer, vegetarian dinner

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tomatoes and Pomegranate Salad

Let's knock on wood before and after I say this... This year's summer is wonderful in the Netherlands! We've had one rainy week, but most of the time it is a very lovely Dutch summer. Not too hot, nice and sunny and around 23-25c during the day, cooler at night. It is such a delight! Lot's of days for a BBQ...
I like to serve some fresh salads with a BBQ, especially when there is only meat on the BBQ.

So when my husband had a group of his friends over, and an only meat BBQ it would be, I served this tomato salad, which we all found to be delicious! It took me ages to make for such a big group, but it was well worth it!
It has a delicate flavour combination with all of the different tomatoes, the pomegranate and the oregano.
You'll have an almost meditative work cut out for you when you're starting this job, chopping and choppping and chopping more and more tomatoes... Carefull with getting the seeds of the pomegranate out, I made somewhat of a mess by splashing some of it's juices over my recipepage.

But hey, getting cookbooks dirty means they are being used, so all the better! Usually I also write myself notes on the pages I have cooked from. It was something my grandmother did as well, and it is a very nice surprise to find one of her old notes when I cook from the book I inherited from her. So, I started to do the same!

Tomatoes and Pomegranate Salad
Slightly addapted from:
Plenty More, pg 15
Author: Ottolenghi

Ingredients 6-10p, as a side dish:
500g snack/cherrytomatoes red
500g multicolloured snack/cherrytomatoes
3 truss tomatoes
3 roma tomatoes (but choose any mix of good tomatoes you can find)
1 red paprika
1 red onion
1 pomegranate
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of allspice
A dash of white wine vinegar
2 spoons of pomegranate melasse
60 ml of olive oil
A small hand of oreganoleaves

Chop, chop and chop all tomatoes and paprika in small peaces of approximately equal size. Finely chop the onion, and mix the 3 of them together and set aside. Get the seeds out of the pomegranate and set aside.
Finely chop and rub the garlic into a paste. Mix it in a bowl with the allspice, vinegar, pomegranatemelasse, olive oil and a pinch of salt to make the dressing. Put the dressing over the tomatoes and gently mingle it.
Put the tomato mixture in a nice bowl, sprinkle the seeds of the pomegranate and the oregano on top and finish up with an extra few drops of olive oil.

Score: 4 out of 5 (When good tomatoes are available)
Tips: You'll need good tomatoes for this salad, otherwise all of your chopping isn't worth it. Although it is nice to have different colloured tomatoes, the quality of the tomatoes is more important. So skip all the other collors if neccessary.
Time: 60 minutes (or so? Kind of went in a meditative state and can't really remember...)
Amount of work vs waiting: High!
Degree of difficulty: Very low, it just takes a lot of time...
Ideal for: side dish, salad, BBQ, romantic dinner, dinner party

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Green Chicken

Ok, I will admit... It doesn't instantly sound appealing, and the picture isn't that great either, but it is one of our favorite 'homemade' recipes! It is something my husband 'invented' one day and it has immediately won over the harts (and stomachs) of our children. This was back in the days that our oldest didn't eat much more than sweet sandwiches and fruits, and we were seriously worried about his protein (and vitamin) intake. So we were delighted he started to eat some meat. Nowadays we are lucky if he let's us eat some of the chicken...

So back to the not very appealing picture of the chicken, I have a presentation for my job to work on, so after some (but not enough..) research on the internet I bought a programm (picmonkey) to make some alterations and watermarks in my pictures. I started practicing on these watermarks and texts in my food pictures. Wow! It is funny to see how a rather dull picture can become something special with a bit of text in it. You can see for yourself here! Ok, the green may be a little too much shouting, but it's my first try. Give me a few posts before you judge it, and let me (a total digital moron) be proud of it.

So, would I recommend Picmonkey to you for upgrading your pictures? Only if you have a device with a flashplayer... Yep, I didn't do enough research (luckily it wasn't that expensive), and I do think that Picmonkey should have warned about needing adobe flash player before it sold me a subscription, but it doesn't work on Ipad/Iphone (yet). Basicly it doesn't work on the devices I take my pictures with and from where I work most of the time... So now I have to, very efficiently..., transfer my picures to the laptop first, add the watermark and texts, and transfer them back. But hey, I love what it does to my pictures and I haven't even tried all of the options yet. So I'll be working from my laptop more often, and I might have to start working on getting this website more professional now that my pics start to look so profi..?

Back to the chicken!
Green Chicken
Personal recipe

Ingredients for 4p:
1 whole chicken, preferably organic
4 (or more) hands full of basil leaves
4 cloves of garlic
60ml olive oil
1/2 lemon
400g of small potatoes
250g of mushrooms
6-10 scallions
250g of cherry tomatoes
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees celcius. (356 F)
Grind the basil leaves with 1 clove of garlic and some salt & pepper in a mortar, add half of the oil. Make a space under as much of the skin of the chicken as possible and rub the basil mixture in this space. Also rub some salt & pepper in the belly. Cut the lemon in peaces and put together with some tomatoes, scallions and garlic gloves in the belly of the chicken.
Put the chicken in a casserole and pour the rest of the oil on top and put it in the oven.

Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes. Add the potatoes, rest of the garlic, scallion, tomatoes and the mushroom in the casserole after 20-30 minutes and leave in the oven for another 30 minutes. Enjoy your chicken, and don't forget to save the bones and juices...

Score: 5 out of 5, but I must admit I'm a little prejudiced, so maybe you should try for yourself...
Tip: You can add all sorts of other vegetables (and herbs for that matter). usually we eat 2 times from one chicken, next day I make a salad or pasta with the 'spared' meat. After you finish, usually I put the bones and remaining fluids and veggies in a pan full of cold water, add some leek, carrots and celery and simmer for a few hours. Take out the solid parts with a strainer, season with salt & pepper and you'll have a very nice homemade broth.
Time: 75 minutes
Amount of work vs waiting: Low, about 20 minute work, and rest is oventime.
Degree of difficulty: Easy
Ideal for: Children's favorite, simple family dinner

Monday, August 3, 2015

Spinach 'Meatballs' with Spaghetti & Courgettesauce

We have a winner and a keeper!!!!

Our children our the worst eaters I've ever met, especially the oldest. When he was 7 months, old after one of those childrens illnesses, he decided he didn't want anything but milk and bread. After a while some pear and bananas went in as well, but meat and/or vegetables were out of the question. After his first birthday, he started to eat a little bit more. But, now 4 years old, still his diet exists of bread with peanutbutter or someother sweet topping, some types of fruit, sausages, chicken, kibbeling (a dutch fishdish you buy at a fishstand and consists of fried pieces of seasoned cod) and pasta without any sauce. Since half a year now, we now and then get him to eat a tiny bit of veggies by giving him only a little bit of the food he loves (sausages or chicken) and reward him with some more only if he eats a bit of his vegetables. But it is a fragile standoff, if we ask him to eat too much vegetables for a piece of meat he will not eat anything anymore... Trust me, we've done just about everything else to get him to eat a more normal and healthier diet. It just doesn't work with him.

His little sister isn't too fond of her veggies eather, but she can, like most children, sometimes be tricked by hiding the veggies in a sauce or in these spinachballs!!!, which she absolutely loved.
We had to trick her older brother to eat almost a whole spinachball by telling stories about Popeye and promising him more spaghetti without sauce. Meanwhile she was, as we say in Dutch, watching the food out of his mouth, after she had already eaten three balls of her own and some spaghetti (with sauce.. there has got to be some difference).

Spinach 'Meatballs' with Spaghetti & Courgettesauce
Adapted from:
Pasta met courgettesaus en spinazieballetjes
Eerlijk Italiaans, pg 24 & 72
Author: Antonio Carluccio

Ingredients for 4p:
500g fresh spinach
2 eggs
small amount of freshly grounded nutmeg
1 clove of garlic
5-6 slices of fresh white bread without the crust
50g of grated parmezan or grano padano
50ml of olive oil
salt & pepper

400g of spaghetti (all'uovo if you can find it)
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chilipepper
2 courgettes
20-30ml olive oil
50g of grated parmezan or grano padano

Firstly make the spinachballs (you can even give them straight away to your children, adding spaghetti later).
Wash the spinach, boil it in lightly salted water for 1-2 minutes, drain and cool it. Squeeze the spinach untill you cannot get anymore fluid out of it. (Maybe save the water for a healthy drink?)
Finely cut the leaves and put it in a big bowl. Loosely beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add to the spinach afterwards. Finely cut the garlic add a tiny bit of salt and rub the garlic into a paste. Add to the big bowl. Pull the bread into fine pieces and add it. Also add the parmezan, nutmeg, some salt & pepper. Mix and make balls from the mixture. (NB, if it is too wet you can add the extra bread)
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the balls and gently fry them golden brown in 4-5 minutes each side. Take out and leave to rest on kitchen paper. (Also possible to keep them warm in the oven if you like)

Cook the spaghetti for 8-10 minutes 'al dente' in plenty of lightly salted water. Catch a bit of the boiled fluid when you drain the spaghetti.
For the sauce grate the courgettes. Finely cut the garlic and chilipepper and gently fry them for about a minute in the oil in a frying pan. Add the grated courgette for 3-4 minutes. Take it off the gas and add the parmezan, season with salt & pepper and mix well. Put it together with the spaghetti and a little bit of the boiled pastafluid. Serve with the spinachballs on top.

Score: General: 3 out of 5, but 5 out of 5 for making the kids eat spinach!
Tip: The spinachballs can also be served chilled as an appetizer. Without the spinachballs this is a really simple and fast pastadish for after a day of work, maybe add some smoked salmon or nuts.
Time: Spinachballs: 20-30minutes, pasta 10-12 minutes
Amount of work vs waiting: high, spinachballs you have some waiting time during frying, but I suggest you keep an eye on the balls. During pasta cooking time you can prep your pastasauce.
Degree of difficulty: Medium
Ideal for: Children's favourite, simple family dinner, appetizer, vegetarian dinner

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Quinoa Goddess Salad with Shrimps and Avocados

This spring I found a recipe in the 'Allerhande', a free magazine from the largest dutch luxury supermarket chain, Albert Heijn, inspired by a californian green goddess salad. Since then I've been cooking this frequently because I absolutely love it!
This week for the first time I actually made the original recipe, because usually I give my own twist to it, and it was great to eat the goddess again. Although I personally liked my own version with a different type of lettuce better... I will show you some pictures of that version the next time we'll be eating this superb salad again!
It is a whole meal kind of salad, no side dishes needed, but my husband likes some freshly baked (ok, baked-off, I don't have the time to bake bread during weekdays since we don't have a machine for it) with it.

It is kind of 'good weather food' but since I had my mind set on it, and groceries had already been done in better days, we ate it (and still enyoyed it) on a rainy day.
I really love quinoa, but with most of the recipes it is not to my husbands likings. This is one of the exceptions however, luckily for me because it became my 2015 favourite spring/summer meal.
I think it is the dressing that won my husbands hart over. The anchovis make it savory, there is some sweet from the mayonaise and sour from the lemonjuice but the combi with the chives and basil makes it a very special dressing that goes so well together with the shrimps and avocado. The texture of the dressing binds the quinoa together to give it a very nice sensation in your mouth.

I have just started blogging and I still have to find out how to make cathegories, but this one will end up in my old-time-favourite section for sure, so let's start!

Quinoa Goddess Salad with Shrimps and Avocados
Quinoasalade met avocado en garnalen
Allerhande 2015
Author unknown

Ingredients for 4p:
150g quinoa (black according to the original recipe, I've always used the regular version)
300ml vegetable stock
250g green peas
1 cucumber
Iceberglettuce sliced in fine pieces (I like it better with lambs lettuce)
4 anchovis
juice of 1/2 a lemon
4 spoons of mayonaise (which you can of course also easily make yourself when time is on your hand)
a big bundle of chives
2 hands full of basil leaves.
2 avocados
150g (or just a bunch) of peeled shrimps
salt & pepper

Boil quinoa in the vegetable stock for about 10 minutes with a closed lid. Put aside and let it cool down. Boil de green peas for 1-2 minutes and put in icewater or under cold running water untill it is cold again.
Peel and slice the cucumber in parts. Mix quinoa, lettuce, cucumber and green peas.

Finely slice the anchovis and mix it with the mayonaise and lemonjuice. Chop the chives and basil leaves. Mix half of the herbs in the anchovis-mayonaise. Add some pepper and salt if you wish.

Cut the avocados in small wedges. Put the salad in a bowl, dress up with the avocado and shrimps, add some of the dressing (give the rest on the side) and finish with the remaining herbs. Bon appetit!

Score: 5 out of 5
Tip: I think it's better with lambs lettuce, looks prettier as well.. Cooking the quinoa in a nice homecooked stock will make it so much tastier, you will hardly need any dressing if you want to have a slimmer salad.
Time: 20-30 minutes. Again, depending on your cutting-skills
Degree of difficulty: Easy
Amount of work vs waiting: High, you can do your cutting and gathering while you wake for your quinoa to cook and cool down.
Ideal for: Romantic dinner, family dinner, spring/summer meal, dinnerparty, lunch, salad

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Salad of beetroot and fresh herbs from our garden

We live in the city, so we only have a small garden, which we are very fortunate to have! Last year we redesigned it so we would have enough space to eat, sit and play on our terrace. We also wanted to have plenty of flowers in the garden, so at first there was no more space for a vegetable garden.
Both my son and I were a little disappointed by that, so in March we bought a big planter and got out our unused terracotta pots. We planted some vegetable seeds and plants as well as lots of herbs. And of course, strawberries for the kids. It is the first time we have vegetables in our garden, what a joy it is to pick something out of your garden and put it right onto your own plate.

So this weekend we went out in the rain and picked two beetroots and a lot of fresh herbs out of our own garden to make this great salad by Yotam Ottolenghi, my ultimate favourite author of vegetable dishes and salads. How cool is that! The salad was delicious, it had a good and fresh bite from the raw beetroot (I never knew you could eat it raw.. but I've never been a fan of beetroot before), a nice little punch from the chiliflakes and lots of flavour from all the different kinds of herbs. The mixture of textures with the raw beetroot, nuts, seeds and leaves was also very pleasant. Mmmh, my mouth is watering again... And besides all of that, the salad is also a beauty!

We ate the salad as a sidedish next to a simple butter-baked trout and some potatoes, but the salad definitely was the star of the evening.

Salad of beetroot and fresh herbs from our garden
Salade van rauwe biet en kruiden
Plenty More, page 21
Author Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients for 2p
2 raw beetroot
3 spoons of slivered almonds
1 spoon of sesame seed
4 spoons of pumpkin seeds
2-3 hands of basil leaves (torn)
1 hand of parsley
1 hand of dill
1 hand of cilantroleaves
Leaves of a small branchlet of tarragon
1 teaspoon of dried chili flakes
Zest of 1 organic lemon
3 spoons of lemonjuice
75ml of a nice olive oil
Salt & black pepper

Peel and slice the beetroot into small strips. Roast the slivered almonds, pumpkin and sesame seeds for a few minutes in a pan (or oven) untill they are slightly browned. Let it cool.

Mix the beetroot, most of the fresh herbs, chili flakes and lemonzest in a big bowl. Add most of the nuts & seeds, lemonjuice, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix it all, put it in a nice deep plate and garnish with the extra herbs and seeds. (I put dill flowers on top, to finish it off nicely)

Score: 5 out of 5
Tip: I like the seeds and nuts better when panfried. Ottolenghi advises to eat the salad next to grilled lamb or fat fish, I think that would make a better combi.
Time: 20-30 minutes, most of the time will be spent by cutting and gathering the herbs, so timing depends mostly on your speed. If you are fast, probably you could make it in less than 10 minutes.
Degree of difficulty: Easy
Amount of work vs waiting: All work
Ideal for: Side dish, salad, lunchmeal

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Moroccan Saddle of Lamb with Pomegranate Couscous

It was a beautiful Dutch summer evening, nice and warm, with a jentle breeze of cooler air blowing through the garden. These evenings are rare but precious, they last long and make for lovely nights sitting outside, enjoying pleasurable conversations with a good glass of wine and a luscious plate of food.

I was lucky to have already been doing groceries for a recipe I found in the Delicious. I had bought earlier this week. It had a lot of inspiring recipe's, but since it has been a long time since we've been eating lamb my eye fell on a lambchop recipe with pomegranate. Pomegranate is one of my favourite ingredients, when I have plenty of time to cook. When opened up, the seeds look like jewels, so pretty! And they have this nice fresh-sweet taste, that enlivens many savoury dishes. The only adverse of pomegranates is that it takes me ages to get all the seeds out. Maybe I'm not doing it the right way, but I often spent at least ten minutes or more to get all the little jewels out without mixing it with the inbetween whites.

Luscious our plate of food was!

Moroccan Saddle of Lamb with Pomegranate Couscous
Lamskoteletjes met granaatappel op z'n marokkaans
Delicious. augustus 2015, page 32
Author Valli Little

Ingredients for 2p (or more)
4 Saddles of lamb
2 Spoons of ras el hanout (moroccan spice-mix)
80ml Olive oil
200g Couscous
Zest of 1 organic lemon
1 pinch of salt
150ml chickenstock
60ml molasses of pomegranate
1 Spoonful of sugar
A bit of aluminium foil
1 handfull of freshly roasted and chopped pistachios
1 (or more) hands of freshly chopped mintleaves
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
2 teaspoons of rosewater

Mix 1 1/2 spoons of the ras el hanout with most of the olive oil, and mix with the saddles of lamb. Put it aside for 30 minutes.
Roast and chop the pistacchios. Take the seeds out of the pomegranate. Grate the lemonzest. Boile some water.
Mix the couscous, lemonzest, salt and the rest of the ras el hanout. Add 250ml of boiling water, cover with a dishcloth and put aside for 5 minutes.
Mix the stock, pomegranate molasses and sugar on a low fire and leave it on untill you have a slightly viscous fluid.
Fry the saddles of lamb on a grillplate, bbq or in an ordinary frying pan for 2 minutes each side and put aside, loosely packed in aluminium foil.
Stirr the couscous with a fork, add most of the pistachios, mint and pomegranate seeds.
Pour the juice of the lamb in the sauce, add the rosewater and the last spoon of olive oil.
Plate your couscous, put the lamb on top and finish with the sauce, and the extra mint, pistachios and pomegranateseeds.

Score: 4 out of 5
Tip: Nice change of taste for lamb, couscous also nice as a salad without the lamb. Could use more vegetables/herbs.
Time: Original recipe 25min + waiting for 30 minutes. It took me about 50 minutes, because a lot of the waiting time can be used for the preparation of the other components.
Degree of difficulty: Moderate
Amount of work vs waiting: Continuous work during waiting time
Ideal for: Romantic dinner, main course at a small dinner party, bbq

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sausage with a soursweet onion-ale marmelade

Yesterday the kids were quite tired, so the little one had an extra afternoon nap and the oldest sat half asleep in front of the TV. Time for some cooking.....!
Since it is holidayseason and I have a little bit more time at home, I thought ahead and bought for the first time in ages a cooking magazine from where I selected some dishes to cook this week.
In the prekids era, I used to buy these kinds of magazines at least ones a month. Also my bookshelves are full of cookbooks, so really, if I were to cook all of the recipes I've collected in all those years, I'm not even sure I would have sufficient time left...
But there is something about those culinary books and magazines that it keeps me wanting more and more. Maybe it is the gorgeous pictures and lay-out, I don't know, but they have a strong appeal on me.

So, as I said before, it has been a long time since I last bought a food magazine, so for my first try-out recipe I sought out something easy and tasty, something that would appeal to all the members of my family. (That's quite difficult, but I'll write about that some other day)
I wanted to be able to make this meal with two children screaming and hanging around (or on) my legs, as cookingtime usually is a difficult time for the kids. But, this time I was lucky with my little (half)sleepers. It isn't the most attractive food to look at, but it tastes great!


But I must admit, it would have been easily done with two children in my hair, and it was delicious, it will therefore be not the last time this sauce was cooked at this house!
I will no longer hold you in suspence, here it comes...
As always I adjust recipes a little to my liking, so ingredients and workways may differ from the original recipe to which I refer.

Sausage with soursweet onion-ale marmelade
Broodjes worst van de bbq met bier-uienmarmelade
Delicious. augustus 2015, page 44
Author Valli Little

Ingredients for 4p.
Olive oil 50 ml
2-3 Onion, sliced in thin rings
Pinch of salt
Half a bottle of dark ale
Spoonful of butter
40 Gram of sugar
1 Spoonful of redwine vinegar
4 Sausages (pork)
4 Crispy breads (I used bake-off German breads)
4 Spoons of Groninger musterd (or whatever you have available)
Lettuce, rucola or watercress

Heat the oil in the frying pan at medium high. Slowly bake the onion goldenbrown with a good pinch of salt (about 30 minutes). If you are not precooking the sauce, now would be a good time to put your sausages (if they are as big as mine) in another frying pan. Pour the ale in the pan and reduce by half (5-10 minutes). Add butter, sugar and vinegar and let it reduce to a dark, sticky sauce. Put aside, this you can make the prior evening or during kid's naptime.
Now, you can either light up the bbq as the original recipe said, or you can just put your sausages in another frying pan, like I did. That is, if you haven't got them in your pan already... Also heat up the oven, if you have to bake-off your bread.
Cut the breads and grill them if you want. Put as much musterd as you like on both sides of the bread, add lettuce/rucola or watercress, put in the sausage and add a good heap of your onionsauce. It's delicious!!!

Score: 4 out of 5 for the sauce
Tips: I liked it best with rucola
Time: Original recipe 45min; it took me: Sauce only 45 minutes, whole dish 50-60 minutes
Degree of difficulty: Easy
Amount of work vs waiting: Low
Ideal for: Simple family dinner, BBQ-party's