DSC_0894

Shrimp pesto pasta with roasted fennel

Hi guys, how are you?

 

So … I haven’t written anything in a while. I could make up excuses (I’ve had stomachflu, been on holiday…) all true, but the real truth is that I wasn’t really inspired and motivated for a new post. Yes, I cooked, some things turned out pretty alright, but blog-worthy, I wasn’t sure.

But that is all over now! Guess what did the trick? An inspiring, sunny, happy and tasty weekend in Turin, Piedmont, Italy! If you ever get into a cooking-rut so to speak, just jump into a car or plane and head down to Italy. Okay, jumping on a plane is not always the most realistic option, but a elaborate dinner at an extremely good Italian restaurant might help a little as well.

I just returned from a great weekend which I spend with my dad, walking through the city, exploring coffee bars, icecream shops, beautfiul buildings, arcades and interesting musea. Did you know that, outside of Cairo, Turin has the largest Egyptian museum in the world? I did not. Did you know the shroud of Turin supposedly holds the image of Christ? I did not. (I’m not saying it is really Christ, but still an interesting relic). Did you know the complete city centre of Turin is covered with beautiful, old arcades? I really did not. What a decadent way to shade shoppers from the sun. Did you know the Piedmont kitchen is absolutely to die for? I do know now!IMG_0049
We feasted on the most fantastic things, from espresso machiatto’s (like a Spanish cortado), to perfect pistachio ice-cream, fresh lemon granita-like ice cream, parmaham foccacias, fresh pastries and enormously tasty fresh fruits. And I haven’t even got to dinner yet! And the wines;). From a classic spaghetti bolognese or pesto-covered gnocchi, to a more modern salmon tartar with caramelized white onions and not at all rubbery but soft squid on a mousse made of cannelloni beans and fresh rosemary. And yes, the list goes on.

IMG_1394

After getting home I already made a gnocchi and pesto dish, filled with scrumptious sun dried tomatoes I bought in Turin on an enormous food market. Also made a classic lasagne bolognese, radicchio and witlof salad and today I am thinking something with shrimp! Ow and I also fabricated an oven full of foccacia, made from spelt flour, because, well, that was what I had in my pantry!IMG_1430

 

 

Some of the lessons my last trip thought me:

Don’t be afraid to use freshly ground salt and pepper, be copious with the olive oil. Never dress a green salad in the kitchen but put some olive oil and (balsamic) vinegar on the table.Do not smother the pasta with sauce, here utter a little restraint and coat your pasta with sauce or pesto. Never accept anything then the best quality of produce. Whether it’s a coffee to go, a glass of wine on the plaza or a copious dinner. Never settle! If you are on a budget, do not disappear. beautiful produce is found on marketplace, directly at a farm or you can for example ask an excellent bottle of olive oil or balsamic vinegar as a birthday present. And last but not least: Adding cheese is always, yes always, a good idea.

Let’s start cooking!

Spaghetti with pesto, shrimp and roasted fennel

Ingredients for 2:

  • about 125-150 grams of uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 4 or 5 sundried tomatoes
  • half a chili pepper
  • 2 gloves of garlic
  • olive oil, extra virgin
  • handful of shrimp
  • handful of fresh basil
  • small handful of pinenuts.
  • small cube of Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground salt and pepper
  • optional: fresh thyme

Put a large pot of water on the stove, bring the water to the boil, add salt and cook the spaghetti as instructed on the package.

Slice your fennel, toss in an oven dish with pepper, salt, olive oil and some fresh thyme if you have some. this takes about 12 minutes to roast in an oven on 200 degrees Celcius.

Then take out your foodprocessor and add 1 clove of garlic, the basil, the parmesan cheese, 1 clove of garlic, the pinenuts and a generous amount of oil, about half a cup. I am not giving specific measurements, because I never measure this out. Just use your intuition and quality ingredients. I blitz it all for a minute or so, taste, and sometimes add some pepper/salt or more olive oil, because it needs to have the consistency of a nice pesto sauce, so it cannot be too dry.

Heat a frying pan on the stove with olive oil. Chop up 1 garlic clove and some chili pepper (use however much you want, I prefer medium heat so I just added half a chili). Toss the chili and  DSC_0907
garlic in a pan and add your shrimp. Then add some chopped sundried tomatoes. After a few minutes, when the shrimps seem cooked, add the spaghetti and pesto. Give it a stir and make sure everything is properly heated.

DSC_0894Take your fennel out of the oven. Taste your dish to see if there is anything missing, like salt or pepper or maybe a squeeze of some fresh lemon juice. Serve the pasta with the roasted fennel, and you’re done allready!

 

 

 

 

DSC_0898For the Love of Parmesan:

Parmesan really is a wonderful invention. Parmigiano Reggiano is a traditional Italian cheese, made from Cow’s milk and is usually an unpasteurized,hard, yellow-orange cheese. If you do not use it very often – unthinkable – you can freeze it can grate it straight from the freezer!

IMG_1262

Pork belly baby!

A good diet is a varied diet. There are so many things you can eat as long is you don’t eat some of it too regularly and not too much of some of it. With pork I am always doubting how it fit’s into a healthy diet. Yes, there is lean pork, but I tend to go for the bacon-variety of pork. As does the next dish. This recipe I have for you most definitely does not fall into the lean pork category… But I’ve only made it once, and that was during the holidays. So we indulged ourselves and I have hardly eaten any fatty pork since. Starting to think of it, it’s about high time to get me some…

So I have been wanting to post this recipe since Christmas, no kidding! I just didn’t get around to it. Prepare for this showstopper: Oven roasted pork belly. And let me tell you, it was worth the wait. We had never made anything like this before so we took kind of a risk, my mother and I did, picking this for our Christmas dinner. After seeing it being cooked on Australian Masterchef several times I just had to try this myself. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. We bought a kilo of pork and it took us 2 to 2,5 hours to prepare. There is not much cooking involved, just some preparation and then lot’s of oven time.

Let’s cut to the chase: It worked out fabulously! Of course, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have posted it on this blog… Or at least would not have featured it like this. We were happy, family was happy, and we were all extremely stuffed ;-). And no pork belly leftovers. I am thinking I am not waiting for Christmas 2015 to try this again. Remember a healthy diet is a varied diet no…

The ingredients are straightforward:

  • Nice piece of pork belly from you local butcher
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • A few sprigs of fresh thymeIMG_1259
  • A couple of bay leaves
  • Some cloves of garlic

Put on a kettle and bring some water to the boil. Put your pork belly on a rack over the sink. Once the water boils, pour it over the pork. Why yo ask ? By scalding the pork skin, you’ll help the skin crisp up into crunchy crackling.

Then start working on cutting the fatty top. I made a simple pattern as you can see. My mum actually ran upstairs for a sharp stanley knife because our kitchen knife could hardly cut through the fat. So get out your sharpest knife and carefully cut incisions on the top. Only cut the fat, that is the white part, do not cut into the rest of the pork.

Now we give it a good rub with a mixture of freshly ground salt, pepper and fresh herbs. I used rosemary and thyme straight from the garden. Remove the herbs from their stalks, chop these up roughly,  and use your hands to rub the mixture onto the pork.

Place the pork on a roasting tray and into an oven of 150 degrees Celsius. Underneath the pork place an oventray filled with water, bay leaves and the garlic gloves. No need to peel or cut the cloves.

There is really nothing to do here now but to open that bottle of wine and start on your pre-dinner cheese platter or something of the sort. We had it in the oven for two hours (1 kilo of pork) so if your piece isIMG_1294 slightly bigger or smaller it probably needs a bit longer or shorter! We checked if it was nicely done, then gave it another 15 to 20 minutes under the grill, to create a nice crust.

Do not leave it under the grill too , as things burn too easily under the grill and that would be such a shame!

Take it out, have a taste to check if it’s soft, tender and tasty and, then, well, it’s done!

IMG_1295Serve with side dishes of your choice. We went for an Italian dinner, so my mum had made fresh gnochi, and my additions were panzanella (an Italian bread salad), Caprese salad (Mozzarella cheese baby!) and a fresh orange and fennel salad. And that was our Christmas main meal for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1262

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Yes there’s a CD in the first photo, that’s what my mother used to cut the gnochi!

 

IMG_1285

Red Lentil Spread

Here I got a sweet little recipe for you. It was all made with things I had in the pantry and fridge so that’s always a plus. Plus it’s healthy AND I can use my new foodprocessor to make this!!! That was really the most important reason to create this recipe. We ordered this foodprocessor a few weeks back and I have been using it non stop. It does everything! Grate, cut, blitz, juice, grind… loving it! Especially the juices me and my boyfriend Bas now drink daily makes us happy and feel super good and healthy. So it’s a win win it seems. It only takes a little time to clean all the elements afterwards, but that’s ok.

So this spread or dip is delicious in many ways. I had it for lunch on a piece of toast, topped with some avocado and some melted cumin cheese over the top. To die for! It’s also a  great addition when you are creating a little cheese and/or charcuterie platter. Or on a wrap, just add some crunchy greens and spicy chicken strips and you’ve got yourself a dinner!

Let’s cut to the chase:

  • 1 small cup of red lentils
  • One small or one half a clove of garlic
  • Bottom tip of a chili pepper
  • Ridiculously big spoonful of Turkish/Greek yogurt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • fresh or ground coriander
  • fresh parsley
  • pinch of paprika powder
  • Dash of olive oil
  • Half  of a vegetable stock cube
  • Zest of half a lemon (can be replaced with a dash of vinegar)

You’ll need a food processor or blender for this. :D.

Add the lentils and stock cube to a pot of boiling water and cook the lentils until soft. Meanwhile start adding your ingredients to the foodprocessor. I felt half a clove of garlic was enough because you add it raw. I also cut of the bottom tip of chili pepper for a bit of a kick. (ofcourse add more if you desire a bigger kick!). spoon in some yoghurt, the herbs and spices. Don’t forget to add a little sourness, like lemon zest or vinegar. Add the lentils and a dash of olive oil. Then start processing! Should take you but a few minutes.

Taste it and add more spices and/or herbs if you like. I always like to ground over some fresh black pepper. Be careful with addaing any extra salt because when you cook the lentils in stock they become a little salty. Sometimes that can be salty enough.

Enjoy again guys. Next week I am definitely posting something with meat muhahaha.

IMG_1284

 

IMG_1287

IMG_1010

Berenjenas Fritas – Spanish Fried Eggplant

Hi guys!

It’s raining buckets outside, you really do not want to go grocery shopping right now, but you want to eat something GOOD. If you have even half a leftover eggplant you can relax! No cycling in the rain for you. (Yes us Dutch, we cycle everywhere, all true) Within minutes you can whip up this Spanish tapas-style dish.

This is actually my mum’s favorite Spanish dish and I tried making it before. That did not work out so well. Amongst other things we tried a beer batter for the eggplant. But you actually do not need to go through all this trouble.

We were once standing or hanging on a Grenada counter in a small bar. We ordered a plate of these berenjenas fritas and we saw a women walking around with an eggplant in her hand, talking to the bartender, meanwhile working the eggplant. Minutes later we had an enormous pile of fried eggplant in front of us. How did she do it this fast and so delicious? My boyfriend and I recently tested this simple version and we thought it came closest.

Time to get started:

  • 1 eggplant
  • flour
  • water
  • sunflower oil
  • salt, pepper
  • syrup or ‘stroop’ as we call it. (In Spanish: ‘miel’, a sort of honey).

IMG_1004Cut up the eggplant in the shape of fries. Whip up some batter with water and flower. I did not measure this but it needs to be the consistency of pancakes. A bit runny, not too thick. I mixed in some fresh pepper. I took one piece of aubergine to test this batter. Take out a small, high saucepan and put it on the stove. Fill it about halfway with sunflower oil and heat it. Once you thing it is hot enough you can trow in a tiny piece of eggplant and see if it sizzles. Another way is to add a tiny tiny drop of water which needs to create sizzle as well.

Once the oil was hot I added my test piece. It took longer then I thought, but maybe I was just anxious for the outcome. Once the eggplant had browned properly we took it out and… loved it :-)!

This was just too good to be true, the best recipe turned out to be the most basic one, with a batter of water and flour.IMG_1005

For the next batch I just poured a little batter of the eggplantpieces, covering it slightly. Do not simply pour over all the batter you have made, see the photo below. I believe coating is the right word here. I cooked the eggplant in batches and we just devoured every single one.

In Spain they pour over a sweet syrup, called ‘miel’. The literal translation of miel is actually honey, but what they pour over the berenjenas fritas is more of a syrup. Maybe you’ll think it strange but the sweetness just adds another layer of delicious flavour.

I’dd say go for it!

 

 

 

IMG_1007

IMG_1006             IMG_1010

 

IMG_0803

Maroccan Lamb Tajine

We bought a beautiful Tajine! And it such good quality, and it was so cheap. Yeah thriftstore! I don’t think anybody ever used it. I guess they former owner did not get as excited as we did after scoring this Tajine. I sat straight to work. Must eat Lamb!

I am sure there are many options but my mind went straight to Lamb. I got some lambshoulder with bone, the butcher recommended that very strongly. He actually spend about ten minutes explaining what to do for my Tajine dish, not leaving out a single detail. After going on and on he almost shamefully admitted that he liked to cook. We noticed ;-). We did exactly what the nice men told us to do, alright, there were some adjustments,  and now I share this recipe with you!

Again it’s a wonderful dish to make: Tasty, healthy, not too complicated, fresh, international, exciting, colourful… I could go on…

This is also for you sis! Enjoy your new tajine as well :-).
IMG_0802

Here we go:

  • Lambshanks about 1 kilo
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground peper, salt
  • about a third of a small pumpkin, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  •  1 chili, seeds removed, very finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes / half a can of tomatoes, diced
  • handful of apricots, roughly chopped
  • teaspoon of kurkuma
  • teaspoon of cumin
  • teaspoon of dried coriander
  • half a teaspoon of ginger
  • teaspoon of ras el hanout
  • teaspoon of curry powder
  • fresh coriander for garnishIMG_0876
  • juice of 1 lemon, optional.

Allright! Make sure you have all your vegies prepared. This stew is perfect to use leftover veggies, such as paprika, eggplant or potatoes as well. Put the tajine on the stove, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and brown of the meat.Remove meat from the tajine once browned and add the onions. Give it a stir and add the garlic and chili. You can use more or less then one chili, depending on your preference or tolerance for spicyness. Stir in the pumpkin and sweet potato. Once caramelized a little, add all the spices.

IMG_0800How does your kitchen smell now? Good I hope! Add the tomatoes and abricots. Do not forget to season with salt and pepper. Then you add the lamb again, make sure it is covered by the sauce. Put on the lid and let it simmer for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

The best way to check if it’s done is just to have a feel and taste. The meat should be soft and tender and also taste soft. I once left this stew for 2 hours and the meat just became softer!

We ate it with a simple couscous salad and some bread. Sprinkle over the fresh coriander. You can also sprinkle over some lemon juice for some freshness.

 

>> You can make this in a normal pot as well

>> This dish is perfect for freezing!

>> There are several health claims saying kurkuma can be beneficial when suffering from Parkinsons disease or Alzheimers

>> You can use the ras el hanout to spice your couscous as well. Just mix the couscous with a large tablespoon before you pore over the boiling water.
IMG_0806