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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.

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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!

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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!

 

 

 

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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 :-).
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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.
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Chicken Pies with Mango Chutney

Let me start this post with wishing you all a very happy, healthy and tasty 2015! Hopefully you all had a great New Year’s Eve.

We ended 2014 surrounded by most of our friends. Everybody chipped in bringing a bottle of wine, some beers and a homemade dish. This varied from courgette soup to Spanish tomato bread (delicious Martijn!) and a very interesting concoction made of pancakes, grated cheese and hotdogs. Wait, there was sweet chili sauce involved there too…. right.   There was a lot more good food but the focus (for me at least) shifted pretty quickly to the delicious wines that were on hand… And a champagne or cava toast at midnight! We went out to watch some amazing fireworks that went on for about 30 minutes. I loved the oooohs and aaahhs coming from the crowd while everybody sipped their bubbles from plastic champagne glasses. From there on it was dancing, and more dancing!

For us here it is really a tradition, gathering with some good food and drinks, then going out for fireworks, no matter the weather, toasting with champagne, cava or prosecco and then on to the dancefloor! Do you all pop the champagne cork at midnight? What is your favourite New Year’s Eve?

When we came back to live on the second of January we were actually quite productive. For one thing, we finally hung up a large painting that was gifted to my boyfriend a while back. It is an Indonesian market on Bali and I catch myself staring at now that it’s up. Their lanky bodies and their productiveness fascinetes me. I had to include a photo to share this image:

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Anyway, I know nothing of art, and a little of food, so here we go to the recipe. It is a finger licking mango chutney served with chicken pies.
The recipe for the chutney is for three small jarrs, or two larger ones. The chutney also goes really well with rice dishes, naanbread or just to spicen up a simple cheese sandwich.

Mango Chutney: 

  • 3 ripe mango’s, cut in pieces
  • 100 ml of vinegar
  • 100 grams of sugar
  •  8 large dates, pitted and chopped
  • 5 dried apricots, chopped
  • handful of white raisins
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
  • 1 red chili peper, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely diced
  •  salt and pepper

Gather all your ingredients as described in the ingredients list. When you have prepared everything, it’s pretty straightforward from here.

Pour the vinegar and sugar in a pan over a medium heat. Bring to a bowl, lower the heat, then stir in the mango. Give it a few minutes.

If you want a softer tasting chutney you can use half the amount of ginger and just half a chili pepper. If you want a real kicker leave in the seeds of the chili…IMG_1201

Now stir in the dates, apricots, raisins, ginger, chili pepper, garlic, cinnamon and some freshly ground salt and pepper. Turn up the heat a little, make sure it comes to the boil, stir, then cover with the lid and put it on a low heat.

This needs at least 30 minutes, but if you can give it hour that’s great and the flavors will intensify. After an hour my mango pieces will still quite solid so I used an old fashioned puree smasher and the mango pieces disintegrated a bit, absorbing all the flavours and giving the chutney the desired structure. You want it a little runny with chunks in it, a bit like a compote.

If you want to preserve your chutney in jars you need clean jars. I always cook some old jam or bean jars (and their lids) on the stove in some boiling water for several minutes, and then fill them up immediatly when the chutney is still piping hot. Twist on the lid immediately and turn the jars upside down. The jars will now seal themselves on their own, and the chutney will keep for ages. You can check if the lids have popped in again, like they would be when you would buy a jam in the supermarket. Label it and put it away. Also makes for an original gift!

Or, just put it in a bowl, make these chicken pasties, and finish it all!

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Indian spiced Chicken Pies

For the filling:

  • two pieces of chicken thigh, finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • handfull of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • two tablespoons ketjap
  • 1 tablespoons of sambal
  • 2 tablesppons of Tandoori spice mix (an Indian spice mix)
  • 2 tablespoons of thick yoghurt (Greek or Turkish)

This is easy. Chop up the ingredients and mix it all together in a bowl. The yoghurt and Indian spice mix is something my sisters tipped me about. They have an Indian deli close to home who sell amazing spice mixes. This is the one she gave me:

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Usually I am skeptical of premixed packages but this is just too damn tasty!

 

It contains the following spices:

coriander, cumin, cinnamon, chili, black pepper, fenugreek, salt, mustard seeds, bay leaves, nutmeg, onion powder and garlic.

Of course you can mix it yourself based on the ingredientlist, but I am not sure which quantities to use of all the spices.

 

You can use story bought pasty if you are in a hurry, but this pastry did not take that much time at all! You can use the flour of your choice (I mixed wholemeal with white bread flour) and if you ask me, working with dough is just too much fun ;-).

For the pastry:

  • 320 grams of flour
  • 60 grams of butter, cubed
  • 60 ml of oil
  • 135 ml of boiled water
  • 1 tablespoon of salt

Sift the flour in a bowl. Mix in the cubed butter with your hands. Heat the oil in the microwave. Dissolve the salt in the hot water. Mix the oil and water and pour it through the flour. Mix it all together with your hands and once it starts to form a dough tip it out on you workbench and knead if for a minute or two into a beautiful soft ball.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celcius. Butter your tins. Start rolling out your dough and covering the tins with it. Make sure you cut out enough lids to go on top. Make a hole in the lids so the air can escape. If you line the tins with dough, make sure you leave about half a centimeter extra on top. After you have filled the pie with a spoonful of chicken, you cover it with the lid and fold over this extra dough to close the pie. It took me some practice before I got the hang of it, but I managed, so I am sure you will too!

Do not overwork this though, for it will become tough and less easy to work with. Just roll it out in one go, line the tin and move on to the next.

Depending on the size, they need about 45 minutes in the oven. The chicken will have long cooked by then but you need the pastry golden brown and crispy. If the dough is still soft or gooey somewhere it needs more time in the oven. Nothing worse then raw dough.

Well, I guess that’s it! Looks like a long recipe now, but trust me, you can whip this up in no time!

 

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Spanish style

So we just got back from Spain. I can’t wait to go back there again. Seriously, I want to live there! If anyone knows of a job opening there… I am game!

I thought I might add a recipe to my blog while we were in Andalucia, but I was really to busy, with, well, enjoying all that Spain has to offer. I am talking food and wine ofcourse, but also sun, loads of sun, nature, history, flamenco music and dance and brushing up on my Spanish and talking to the local people. Upon arriving back home the temperature was a lot less agreeable and it was pouring with rain… I really don’t know whether to post some sort of hearthy stew or other warming dish, or write about sunny Spain and it’super tasty foods and tapas… Well it is going to Spain, what else?!

All the foods we had there… loads of meat, what else. I am talking ham, chorizo and lomo. Delicious pork. Not a lot of chicken and beef to go around, they do love their pork. If the pork here would be as tasty as in Andalucia, I would eat it all the time, now I rarely eat pork. Then there is the manchego cheese, queso fresco, queso de cabra… Then we move to the warm dishes such as fried eggplant – OMG never had eggplant that good. Of course it is fried and covered in syrup, but it is so finger licking good, worth every calorie! I plan to recreate this dish soon! We also have the abundance of homemade croquettas, which I fear will be a bit harder to make, but I will attempt those too! Let’s not forget about the soups: warm garlic soup, cold gazpacho and salmorejo, silky smooth gazpacho made with white bread. Seeing we had days as hot as 30 degrees celcius, that cold soup tasted amazing! I really wanted to make salmarejo today, but it is pouring with rain. No cold soups. What then…. Maybe we will just have it easy tonight and feast on all the delicious things we brought with us: some heartwarming red wine, delicious sausage, cheese. The only think I will make are roasted red peppers, or pimientos in Spainish. This is easy and quick, and a perfect accompaniment for every tapas board. I also love it on a manchego sandwich or on a green salad. With some nice olive oil, sherry vinegar and a good glass of red wine perhaps?

OK I must run to the gym as soon as possible, looking back on our stay it looks like all we did was eat… But we walked a lot to, discovered Seville, Cadiz, Jerez de la Fronterra, Arcos the la Fronterra, Ronda, Grananada… All beautiful villages, cities and nature. Some of these places I had actually visited before, but I never tire of strolling through Seville, driving around and for miles and miles, just seeing olive trees and cork oaks. Strolling through the Alhambra palace again it took my breath away, just like it did the first time, just like it would do on another visit.

So please, get going. To Spain. Bring me some jamon while you’re at it.

Spanish roasted red peppers 

The red peppers in Spain are enormously huge. I never knew peppers could grow so big, and be so sweet as well! They are just perfect, but I think our own red peppers will do nicely too.

Ingredients:

– 2 large red peppers

– salt, pepper

– good quality olive oil

– vinegar of your choice

Heat your oven to about 250 degrees Celcius, or as hot as it can get. Put your peppers on a tray and into the oven. You don’t have to do anything with them, just turn them every five minutes. Check after 20 minutes if they are blackened en the skin is starting to come of. If so, take them out. I have noticed that in some ovens this will go a bit faster or slower, maybe also depending on the peppers. Give it more time if needed, do not worry if it blackens. There are other ways to roast peppers, but I prefer this one, just too simple!

Leave them to cool slightly so that you can touch them, then start pulling of the skin. This should be fairly easy. If the skin does not come off, they need more time in the oven. When you remove the skin, you automatically remove the black bits. Remove the seeds as well.

Cut up the peppers in long small strips. Put them in a bowl and grind over fresh salt and pepper. Use a good drizzle of olive oil and vingear. I like mine quite sour because of the sweetness allready in the peppers, but add vinegar and oil to your own flavor. Also, there will be juice coming from the peppers. No need to throw this away, just mix it in.

There you have it allready, something typically Spanish, but also something fast, delicious and not super unhealthy ;-). Disfruta! (Enjoy:-)!)

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