asian food

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Super Healthy & Super Tasty: Red Quinoa With Sticky Mushrooms and Asian Veg

Published April 24, 2014 by The Feminist

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Some ignorant idiots still believe that healthy food means compromising on delicious flavours and unforgettable taste. They frown when they hear the word quinoa and go running up the hills out of utter fear when they are served something vegan.

Like I said: ignorant idiots.

Because let me set one thing straight: healthy(or vegan )food is super tasty. To prove my point, I conjured up this mouth-watering vegan dish that truly made my heart sing and my taste buds dance. The Eryngii mushrooms are marinated in ketchup, tandoori powder, soy and palm sugar, to give them a sticky sweet and spicy flavour. I kept my stir-fried vegetables rather simple. Just some teeny weensy bit of soy sauce and lots of garlic and red chillies. These crunchy flavour bombs were ready in just a couple of minutes, so if you are in hurry, these are the veggies you want to make!

And last but not least: the red quinoa. Quinoa is often called a “superfood”, because it contains lots of protein and fiber and is rich in magnesium and iron. Furthermore, it even contains calcium (which makes it ideal for vegans) and it is gluten-free. In short, a superfood for all us superwomen! There are different types of quinoa and as you can see I opted for the red variety, which is slightly earthier in flavour.

So combine the earthy quinoa with the sticky sweetness of the mushrooms and the crunchy, fragrant vegetables and you’ve got a vegan meal that totally blows your socks off! 😉

Ingredients (serves 3)                                                       

For the quinoa:

  • 250gr red quinoa
  • Vegetable stock
  • Pinch of tandoori powder

For the vegetables

  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 red chilies, finely chopped
  • 1 pak choi, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 250gr bean sprouts
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • Freshly chopped coriander (optional)

For the mushrooms:

  • 6 eryngii mushrooms (or any type of mushrooms), cut into slices
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • ½ tbsp palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp tandoori powder

Method:

  1. Cook the red quinoa in double the amount of vegetable stock for about 20 minutes until tender and the quinoa has absorbed all the stock. (Stir in some tandoori powder for some extra flavour if you want.)
  2. Mix the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl and brush the eryngii generously with the marinade. Heat a little bit of vegetable oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms until the marinade starts to caramelize and the mushrooms are tender.
  3. For the vegetables, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok and add the garlic and chilli. Add the pak choi and peppers and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the mirin and soy sauce and season to taste. Finally stir in the bean sprouts and some extra coriander.

Asian Dinner, Always A Winner!

Published February 10, 2014 by The Feminist

asian

After spending an entire week in the Austrian Mountains and enjoying regional delicacies, I was severely craving some honest Asian food when I got back home. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Austrian food- it definitely deserves much more praise than it’s getting- but there is only so much Mohntorte, Strudel, Knödel and Spätzle one can take before literally exploding out of one’s jeans.

So back in my humble kitchen I was convinced that the fragrant and spicy flavours of Asian cuisine would bring back some balance into my diet and I secretly hoped  that the large amounts of chili would speed up my metabolism.

But aside from my oh-my-God-I-can-no-longer-fit-into-my-jeans hysteria,  there was another reason for wanting to eat some Asian food…

Because it’s damn good.

And that is by far the most important thing!

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Stir-fried vegetables with marinated King Oyster (Eryngii) Mushrooms

In terms of originality, I believe this dish deserves a culinary high five. The flavours are bold, the presentation is great, but most of all, these King Oyster mushrooms are to die for. This is by far one of the best vegetarian meals I have ever cooked, and coming out of my mouth, that certainly says a lot.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the stir fry:

  • 1 pak choi, cut into rough chunks
  • 1 broccoli, cut into florets
  • 200gr beans sprouts
  • 1 red pepper, cut into slices
  • 2 onions, cut into slices
  • 3cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 chili pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1tbsp fish sauce
  • Corn flour and water mixture (optional)

For the Eryngii mushrooms:

  • 10-12 King Oyster mushrooms, cut in half
  • 4 tbsp curry ketchup (sounds tacky, but it works!)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice

Method:

  1. For the mushroom marinade, mix together the ketchup, spices and soy sauce. Spread the paste onto the mushrooms and grill them on a hot griddle pan for 1-2 minutes on each side. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and put in the oven at 180°C for 10 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and beautifully caramelized.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large wok and add the broccoli. Stir-fry for three minutes and then add the pak choi. Stir-fry for another three minutes and then add the garlic, ginger, chili, red pepper and onion slices. Keep on stirring.
  3. Mix the soy sauce, honey, mirin and fish sauce together in a bowl and add to the vegetables. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. If there isn’t enough liquid, add a little bit of water mixed with corn flour to give your vegetables a glossy look.
  4. Finally, stir in the bean sprouts.
  5. Serve hot with some steamed rice.

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Seriously Good Salmon Curry

A One-Pot Wonder. That is the best way to describe this heartwarming curry. Miraculously rich in flavour, magically packed full of spices and wizardly soothing with heavenly salmon and potatoes.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 salmon fillets, cut into large chunks
  • 400gr potatoes (preferably those cute small ones), blached
  • 1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 200gr butternut, cut into 1cm chunks
  • 400gr/ 1 can of tomatoes
  • 250gr Greek yoghurt
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion,
  • 3cm piece of ginger
  • 2 tbsp tandoori powder
  • 1 tbsp garam massala
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • Fresh coriander

Method:

  1. Mix together the ginger, onion and garlic in a food processor until you get a smooth paste. Stir this paste into the yoghurt, together with the tandoori powder.
  2. Put the salmon chunks into a large bowl and cover with the tandoori-spiced yoghurt. Put in the fridge and marinade for at least half an hour.
  3. Cut your cute potatoes in half. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large pot and add the potatoes, butternut and peppers. Fry for a couple of minutes. Add the can of tomatoes, turmeric and garam massala. Let it simmer on a low heat until the vegetables are just tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the salmon chunks to your curry together with the yummy yoghurt marinade. Stir carefully and let it simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes until your salmon is cooked.
  5. Finish with a generous sprinkling of fresh coriander.

Quintessential Quiche: Thai Chicken Curry Quiche.

Published November 28, 2013 by The Feminist

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A couple of days ago I was talking to a friend of mine when suddenly the subject of quiche came up. (You know how around lunch time you’re trying to make conversations with people about serious stuff- or the weather- and then somewhere half way through your mind starts wandering off and it’s like… aaaah look at that, flying pizzas!…. Okay, maybe that’s just me.)

Anyway, so friend X told me she doesn’t like quiche.

surprise

And for a moment I just stood there trying to think of a proper reply that could replace the insult that was lingering on the tip of my tongue.

Until I finally blurted out: How can you not like quiche??? It’s savory pie! I thought it was genetically impossible not to like a quiche!

Apparently, that was still a bit too harsh. Given the fact how her face turned red, I thought it would be best to change the subject and move on. We were doing fine for a couple of minutes until she said: “So…., you really like food, huh?”

Seriously?

i love food

If it wasn’t seen as this sad and lonely thing, I would marry food!

food

Therefore I would like to say to all my readers and fellow bloggers, thank you for being such food-loving crazy people like me!

The question I’m dying to ask right now is this: are you a quiche lover? (Be careful what you answer 😉 )

Thai Chicken Curry Quiche

Ingredients:
• One sheet of puff pastry
• 2 chicken breast, cut into small cubes
• 200gr spinach
• 3cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
• 1 large red chilli, finely chopped
• 400ml coconut milk
• 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
• 3 eggs
• 2 tbsp curry powder
• 2 tbsp garam massala

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease a tart tin with butter.
2. Heat a knob of butter in a pan and fry the chicken for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and 1 tbsp of curry powder. Remove from the heat.
3. Blanche the spinach, drain it and press it well with a spoon to get rid of all the excess water. If you don’t , you’ll end up with a watery custard and a soggy bottom. (And we sure don’t want to disappoint Mary Berry, do we?)
4. In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk with the eggs. Add the fish sauce, garam massala and curry powder. Stir in the chopped chilli and ginger.
5. Gently put your pastry in the tart tin. Fill the bottom of the pie with chicken and spinach and pour the coconut batter on top.
6. Put in the oven for 40 minutes. (Cover with foil if the top starts to colour too quickly).
7. Leave to cool slightly before serving.
8. Serve with a Thai salad of bean sprouts, cucumber, chili and sesame. Yum!

Travel the World in Your Kitchen: Mexican Cannelloni and Sesame Duck Noodles

Published November 6, 2013 by The Feminist

world

A culinary staycation is probably the best way to travel if you’re on a budget. With just a couple of ingredients and a trip to your local supermarket, you can conjure up the spirit of exotic places far far away from here. Forget ridiculously expensive plane tickets! Explore the world through food you’ve cooked in your own kitchen: it is not only much easier and cheaper but it also gives tons of satisfaction knowing you’ve cooked that insanely delicious dish all by yourself!

Admittedly, you might miss out on the beautiful scenery, but I can guarantee that after one bite of these two dishes you will visit these places in your dreams over and over again.

Go on an imaginary adventure through Mexico, take a short tour around Florence or breathe in the exotic atmosphere of Tokyo, because with these two beauties, anything is possible!

Mexican cannelloni
Imagine a whole bunch of Mexican-inspired flavours and ingredients, arranged in a very Italian way, and you’re immediately on your way to foodie paradise. A paradise where both Venetian gondoliers and Mexican mariachis walk hand in hand, pesto and guacamole are served on the same platter and you don’t have to choose between the Italian or Mexican cute waiter… Heaven, I would say!

The depth of flavour in this dish is beyond compare. The secret to recreating an exact replica of this dish at home is to be generous with the chili and not to be afraid to add that hint of chocolate. Dark chocolate works miracles in this sauce!

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Ingredients (serves 4 enormously hungry people)
• 8 corn tortillas
• 250gr seitan mince (or other vegetarian alternatives)
• 400gr/ can of red kidney beans
• 6 baby corns, chopped into chunks
• 2 peppers, finely chopped
• 1 courgette, finely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 500ml of tomato passata
• 2 tbsp Cajun spice mix
• 5gr dark chocolate
• ¼ tsp smoked paprika
• ½ tsp chili powder
• 150gr grated cheddar cheese

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease 2 ovenproof dishes with butter.
2. To make the sauce, heat some oil in a sauce pan and add half the onion, one clove of garlic, the Cajun spice and ¼ tsp chili powder. Sautee for 2 minutes.
3. Add the tomato passata and season with salt and pepper and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Finally, stir in the dark chocolate and let it melt. Let the flavours infuse for another 10 minutes.
5. Make the salsa vegetable mixture. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the other half of the onion, the garlic and spices and fry for 2 minutes. Add the seitan mince and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Cook on a medium heat until soft. Don’t be afraid to give the vegetable mix a good kick of chili.
6. Stir in the beans, season if necessary and add a small glass of water mixed with 1 tbsp of corn starch and add to the vegetables. This will create a lovely gloss on the vegetables and will make them nice and juicy.
7. Take your tortillas and spoon approx. 3-4 tbsp of salsa onto each tortilla. Roll it up until you get a beautiful cannelloni shape and put them in the prepared ovenproof dishes. Cover with the tomato sauce and finely finish with a generous layer of cheddar cheese.
8. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cannellonis are smokin’ hot and the cheddar has a golden brown colour.

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Sticky sesame duck with stir fried udon noodles

This was an exquisite Saturday dinner. Exquisite to see –but most of all- exquisite to taste. Every single ingredient in this dish adds that something extra. It is by far the best blend of spices imaginable and the sticky sweet glossy sauce of the duck is sooo good, I sincerely considered licking out the pan. (I eventually did!)

If you don’t try this one, I will be so pissed…

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Ingredients (serves 4)

For the duck:

• 2 large duck breasts, skin still in on
• 1 tsp Chinese five spice
• ¼ tsp star anise
• 2 tbsp honey
• 2 tbsp soy sauce
• ½ tsp sesame oil
• ¼ tsp chili powder
• 1 clove of garlic, minced
• Handful of sesame seeds

For the noodles
• 250gr udon noodles
• 200gr bean sprouts
• 2 carrots, cut into fine strips
• 1 pepper, cut into fine strips
• ½ leek, cut into fine strips
• 2 onions, finely sliced
• 2 large peaches, peeled, destoned and cut into quarters
• 1 clove of garlic, minced
• ½ large red chili, finely chopped
• 2 tbsp mirin
• 5 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp honey
• ½ tsp sesame oil
• ½ tsp Chinese five spice
• ½ tsp chili powder
• ½ tsp star anise
• ½ tsp ground ginger

Method:
• Cook the noodles according to package instructions.
• For the noodle stir fry, mix the soy sauce, mirin, honey, garlic, chili powder, spices and sesame oil together in a bowl and set aside.
• Make the marinade for the duck as well by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.
• Heat a large pan on maximum heat and add the duck breast skin-side down. Let it fry for 4 minutes on one side and then turn them over and give them another 4 minutes. Drain some of the excess oil and add the marinade to your duck breasts. Let the liquid caramelize on a low heat until it gets all sticky and sweet and gives your duck a nice glossy coating. Check whether your duck breasts are done. (They should be pink in the middle, but not raw) Cut them into thin slices, add back to the pan and sprinkle on the sesame seeds
• Meanwhile, make your stir fry by heating a tablespoon of oil in a wok. Add all the vegetables and stir fry for 3-5 minutes. The vegetables should be slightly soft but still have some crunch. Add the peaches, the cooked noodles and your bowl of sauce and stir everything together until it is well combined.

Coconut, Cacti and Creepy monsters: the Good, the Bad and the Awesome

Published October 24, 2013 by The Feminist

coconut

“How was your week?” It’s a question I’m sure all of you get a lot. For some strange reason I always find it really difficult to answer, as if I’m momentarily suffering from acute dementia and can’t seem to remember anything remotely memorable I’ve done all week.

Not this week, however. This week has been a whirlwind of emotions –and hell!- it’s only Thursday so who knows what’s coming next!

Apart from spending time in bed with my laptop, watching too many episodes of How I Met Your Mother (just because I was in a Barney-mood), I also had lots of work to do and –surprise surprise!- I needed to go to class. Economics is not my cup of tea, so you can probably imagine that a) I really didn’t want to attend( but then I did, because I’m a good girl and can’t say no) and b) I spent the entire lesson floating around on a blurry cloud of confusion, unsure whether or not I was awake, or asleep, or wrong to have put on that carmine red lipstick since that might be sending unintended signals to the professor.

Anyway, apart from all that boring stuff, I did experience some crazy moments as well.

I’m sure you’re all dying to hear what those are, right?
Okay. Here we go!

1) I drowned myself in coconut delirium

I love coconut. In fact, I love it so much, I tend to stay away from people who don’t, since I don’t want to get in contact with their foolish inability to recognize something wonderful. (For that same reason I avoid contact with Bieber-fans, but that’s another story.)

So given my adoration for the creamy lusciousness that is coconut milk, I decided to cook the ultimate coconut dish.

The Holy Grail of coconut.
This dish is so easy, it will honestly make you giggle.

It’s just some vegetables topped with beautiful pieces of monkfish.

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Giggle.

Bathing in a heavenly sauce of coconut milk, lime and fresh herbs.

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Giggle.

Baked in the oven for 20 minutes and served with naan bread.

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Giggle.

Yes, things really can’t get any simpler than that, and yet the satisfaction you get from eating it is from enormous magnitude!

Ingredients:
• 4 pieces of monkfish
• 500gr of spinach
• 1 courgette, cut into slices
• 300gr cherry tomatoes
• 1 can/ 400ml coconut milk
• Lots of fresh dill and coriander
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 2 limes
• ½ tsp sambal
• 2 tbsp fish sauce
• Naan bread

Method:
1) Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease an oven-proof dish and put the courgette slices on the bottom. Season with salt and pepper.
2) Sautee the spinach in some butter and put it on top of the courgette. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Put the fish on top of the spinach and scatter the tomatoes around it.
4) Make the sauce by blitzing together the herbs, garlic, sambal and juice of one lime.
5) Mix the herb mixture through the coconut milk and season with fish sauce.
6) Pour the coconut sauce on top of the fish and garnish with lime slices.
7) Put in to the oven for 15-20 minutes and serve with some naan bread.

Admittedly, this dish may not seem to correspond with a week of crazy things, but it was without a doubt crazy delicious. And it turned me into a crazy-ass giggling lunatic, so that is why I think this dish deserves a place in my crazy week review.

On to the next cooking experiment!

2) Cacti – Me: 1-0

prickly-pears

Have you ever heard from prickly pears or cactus fruit? Until a couple of days ago, me neither. I was walking around in the supermarket when I came across these funny looking beauties, sitting gloriously untouched on the shelf. I was so intrigued by their appearance and by their funny name that I simply had to buy them and try and make something delicious out of them.

I failed. Miserably. It might have been wise to do some research before digging into an unfamiliar type of fruit- but you know me- I’m such a daredevil and just couldn’t wait to try them. I thought I would use them in a delicious goat cheese salad. Goat cheese is often paired with fruit, so I thought this one would go brilliantly as well, and the simplicity would help me to really taste and understand the depth of the prickly pear…

First of all, normal people –as in: those who possess a brain- would have been alarmed by the name “prickly pear” or “cactus fruit”, because chances might be high that they would- I don’t know!- sting. But not me, oh no! I grabbed them with my bear hands, completely blind to the obvious. Surprise surprise, people. They sting. And if you touch them, you’re skin will feel irritated for the next couple of days. They’re called cacti for a reason. Silly me.

Next: the eating. After peeling the cacti, I ended up with beautifully fuchsia pink flesh. It looked delicious…

But it wasn’t. It tasted bland and they were full of little seeds. Finally, there was nothing left to do but throw them in the bin. It hurt. Not because of all the stings I had by then managed to attract, but because I really don’t like throwing food away.

After this disastrous experiment, I finally had the courage to google the devilish beauties. Apparently, you need to wear rubber gloves when you’re peeling them. (Ha!)And you can turn the flesh into smoothies! (Go figure!)

So after the incredibly prickly incident, I could use some distraction. A friend invited me to go to the movies and see “Mortal Instrument: City of Bones”. Needless to say, I excepted. Needless to say, it was totally awesome.

3) Creepy Monsters make me happy

The Mortal Instruments City of Bones Movie

Ever since the birth of film, people have been searching for the key ingredients that make a great movie. All I have to say is this: your search is over people! Just watch City of Bones!

This film has got some serious Oscar-winning potential, y’all! Best Picture, Best Actor (Mr. Cheekbones) and Best Actress (Miss Bushy Eyebrows), this film deserves them all!

No seriously. Throughout the entire film I kept wondering whether this film was either incredibly good– because it made me laugh- or incredibly bad-because it made me laugh.

Those of you who haven’t seen the film yet and don’t know what I’m talking about: here is a description (and my personal views )of the plot. (Spoiler alert!)

Vampires? Check. Werewolves? Check. A gag-triggering cliché kissing scene with a song in the background that can only be palatable for the highly emotionally exploding teenage-girl brain? Check Check Check.

Sounds like Twilight, right? You’re absolutely correct, only this film has – on top of the vampires and werewolves- some really sexy Shadowhunters as well! And they have tattoos!

What follows is an overdose of teenage mysticism and kinky baroque: A dog’s skull splitting open- because a demon is waiting to get out- invisible buildings, an old guy shooting with a fantastic fire blaster and Lily Collins’ bushy eyebrows, which were at moments even scarier than demons coming out of severed heads.

Oh, and there’s Jonathan Rheys Meyers, as always brilliant in portraying a completely mental –yet dangerously sexy-villain.

Like I said, the movie was funny as hell. If that was the intention of the film-makers, I’d say: job well done!

There was a wizard with glittery eyeliner. (hahaha!)

There was the scene with the water portal. (hahaha!) Jace, the blond Shadowhunter with the ludicrously high cheekbones, used it to teleport his hand to Lily Collins’ character Clary… (hahaha!) And then used his teleported hand to stroke her cheek. (hahaha!)

And then there was the apotheosis of ridicule: when we were all informed that the famous composer Bach was –in fact- a Shadowhunter and that he had originally designed his compositions to ward off demons. (hahahahaha!)

Oh yes, it was indeed a mishmash of teen fantasy clichés that would even make Robert Pattinson blush, but it was also a gigantic pile of silliness and I loved it.

Sometimes you just don’t want all those serious movies that give you astute depictions of modern day society, sometimes you just want something Awesome.

And Awesome, my dear readers, it most definitely was!

Passionate about Pumpkin: Curried pumpkin soba noodles and spiced pumpkin cake with nougat

Published October 8, 2013 by The Feminist

pumpkin duo

Take a look outside your window, dearest reader.
Do you see that?

Fall has arrived.
The foliage is changing colours, the sun is standing incredibly low on the horizon- transforming the air in a parade of golden sunbeams- and Christmas decorations are starting to pop up in shopping windows everywhere. Although I think that the latter is the epitome of bad taste and dreadful commercialism, I do love every little thing about this season. (yes, even the freezing toes and bloody rain showers)

But if there is one thing about the fall that I truly and utterly adore, it most definitely is the great… the humble…the magnificent… pumpkin! These strange looking fellas have the brightest orange hue –it would even make Tan Mom blush!- and their taste is just a heavenly combination of sweet, slightly honeyed bliss and earthy, fiber goodness.

Besides the obvious health benefits ( say hello to lots of vitamins and minerals!), this humble winter squash is also incredibly versatile! Yes, I’m not joking! There is actually more to pumpkins than velvety pumpkin soup or –the horror!- Halloween lanterns.

In order to prove my point, I conjured up a two-course meal for 4 that truly captures its unique and yummy character. Enjoy!

Asian curried pumpkin soba noodles

This is the ultimate vegetarian comfort food dish. Creamy coconut milk, sweet pumpkin, aromatic spices and –last but not least-very slurpable noodles!

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Ingredients:
• 250gr soba noodles
• 300gr pumpkin, cut into 1cm dices
• 1 can of chickpeas
• 200gr cherry tomatoes, halved
• 500gr spinach
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 5cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
• ½ tsp chilli powder
• ¼ tsp nigella seeds
• ¼ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp fenugreek
• ¼ tsp mustard seeds
• 2 tbsp garam massala
• 2 tbsp ground turmeric
• 400ml coconut milk

Method:
1. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a heavy-based cooking pot and add all the spices, garlic, onion and ginger. Sauté for a couple of minutes until your kitchen smells like an Indian take away (in a good way, of course)
2. Add the diced pumpkin and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the coconut milk. Let it simmer for 15 minutes until the pumpkin is soft but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Meanwhile cook your noodles according to the instruction on the packet and blanche the spinach.
4. Add the tomatoes, drained chickpeas, blanched spinach and cooked noodles to the pumpkin curry and season with salt if necessary.
5. Dig in!

Spiced pumpkin cake with soft nougat and nuts

(I repeat: pumpkin! Spice! Nuts! SOFT NOUGAT!!) This cake has the rare quality of being both incredibly light and airy, and at the same time staying lusciously moist and fudgy. The soft nougat turns into a sticky chunk of sugary honey and makes this already yummy cake a one-in-a-million showstopper! Don’t say I haven’t warned you!

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Ingredients (makes 6 really big squares, or 8 regular ones)
• 2 eggs
• 125ml sunflower oil
• 100gr caster sugar
• 80gr muscovado sugar
• 275gr pumpkin, cut into small chunks
• 170gr plain flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• ½ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp nutmeg
• 100gr soft nougat, cut into chunks
• 50gr of nuts, roughly chopped

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a flat cake tin with baking parchment.
2. Cook the pumpkin in some boiling water until it starts to fall apart (Add a cinnamon stick, a star anise and some crushed cardamom pods to the water to give extra flavour.)
3. Drain the pumpkin and mash it all up until you get a smooth puree. Let the puree cool slightly.
4. Add the oil and sugar to the pumpkin puree and mix well. Stir in the eggs and whisk until combined.
5. Sift in the dry ingredients until you get a smooth batter and finally stir in the chopped nougat and nuts.
6. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
7. Get ready to go to warm, gooey and fuzzy pumpkin heaven !

Dinner for one! Cooking for that one special person: yourself!

Published September 25, 2013 by The Feminist

I was walking through the grocery store a couple of days ago when I came across a woman, roughly the same age as myself, pushing a cart filled with microwave meals, Ben&Jerry ice-cream, Twinings Earl Grey Tea and a box of Tampax. Nothing else. She might as well have worn a neon flashlight around her neck that flashed “Single. Single .Single”. Our eyes met and I could clearly see the desperation in her eyes. Obviously her singlehood has led to some morbid self-pity and gloomy depression. I can only assume what she might have been thinking at that exact moment -pushing her cart past all those large chickens lying on display- staring at a large poster hanging on the wall beside those frighteningly big chickens. The poster showed a happy couple with a glass of wine in their hands, sitting at a beautifully decorated table with a gigantic roast chicken ready to be carved. To all the single ladies out there, let me ask you something: Have you ever tried making a single serving of a roast chicken? It is downright depressing. Not to mention impossible, if you really want to create that comforting sensation of unctuous and soft chicken flesh, carved straight off the bone. At that particular moment, the single lady pushing the cart must have been thinking something like this:
“Look at me. So pathetic. Living alone in a small flat. Probably going to die alone as well. With my decomposing body lying there for months until my landlord finally realized- or smells- something is not entirely right.”

And then there I was. The single lady pushing the cart could have easily been me. Except that it wasn’t, because I like being single and living alone. Sure, cooking for one may sound really depressing and boring but it is actually quite the opposite!

During the week, when I’m at university, I cook for me and only me. I find that to be an exhilarating experience. When I cook for my family at the weekends, there is always the possibility that my cooking is not entirely appreciated. Especially when I’m cooking vegetarian. Especially when my brother is staying for dinner. (He’s still this ultra-conservative nitwit when it comes to food. He keeps asking for meat, I’m starting to feel sorry for his environmental retardedness. No offence, bro!)

However, when you cook for yourself, you can cook whatever the hell you want. (In my case: cook as much vegetarian experimental food as I like) No one is looking over your shoulder. No one is making dietary commands. It’s just you and ,for once, you don’t have to make compromises.
There is only one person you have to take into account: you, the most special person on the planet.

So forget the microwave meals, beans on toast or – horror!- eating cereal for supper. Dinner for one is full of possibilities! The following recipes couldn’t be more different from one another. The first one is really quite fancy, it looks good on a plate and it takes quite some stages to prepare. (It’s an excellent dish for when you have absolutely nothing on your hands and want to feel the satisfaction of being culinary creative)The second dish is easy, quick and looks –quite frankly- a mess. But it is the most comforting, packed full of flavour, plate of stickiness you’ll ever eat. It’s wonderful. The only thing these two very different recipes have in common, is that they are vegetarian, they are rather experimental in flavour (I mean, not to me, but my brother would say otherwise. “You’re totally bonkers, big sis’” Well, yeah, deal with it) and they are one hundred percent for me and only me.

If you want to look inside my culinary brain and want to give these dinner-for-one dishes a go, here are the recipes:

Moroccan Aubergine pie with grilled aubergine slices and cottage cheese.

This pie is what I like to call “the spice bomb”. Not because it’s super hot, but because it is bursting with aromatic spices. Look at it as the edible and exotic version of Disney Land: colourful, with so many things going on you don’t know where to look first, but still so harmoniously balanced. Something that just makes you exuberantly happy.
By the way, I used no salt in this dish. Weird, huh? I used dried seaweed instead, which gives a salty flavour but adds a distinct aroma as well. (Though you have to be careful not to overdo it)

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Ingredients
For the pie
• Filo pastry
• ½ aubergine, finely chopped
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp honey
• ½ tsp turmeric
• ¼ tsp mustard seeds
• ¼ tsp nigella seeds
• ½ tsp cumin seeds
• ¼ tsp cinnamon
• ½ tsp coriander seeds
• ¼ tsp fenugreek
• ¼ tsp chilli flakes
• ¼ tsp rose water

For the little extras (because-let’s face it- the pie is really the star of the dish)
• ½ aubergine, cut into ½ cm slices
• 1 tsp dried seaweed
• 1 tsp sumac
• 1 tsp honey
• Cottage cheese
• Dried seaweed and sumac to decorate, optional

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Use a large coffee cup as a pie mould and grease it. Layer the filo pastry in the cup so that the sheets overlap slightly and there’s pastry left hanging over the edges.
2. Make the filling. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan and sauté the onion and aubergine together with all the spices until soft. Add the rose water.
3. Spoon the mixture into the filo pastry cup and lift up the edges of the pastry and fold over to cover the filling. Brush with a melted butter and flip the pie upside down onto a baking tray.
4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile mix the seaweed, sumac and honey together with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and spread it onto your aubergine slices. Fry them on medium heat till soft.
6. Serve your aubergine slices and pie with a generous amount of cottage cheese (to balance all that spiciness) and sprinkle on some dried seaweed and sumac for extra flavour.

Sticky soy and honey glazed Brussels sprouts and smoked tempeh

This is one of my ultimate go-to dishes when I’m starving to death and am looking for something that warms me up, literally and figuratively. The combination of Brussels sprouts with soy sauce, honey and peanut butter may sound incredibly disgusting, but I can guarantee that it most certainly is not. It’s probably the best Belgian-Asian fusion dish I have ever conjured up, so you can imagine that I’m presenting this dish to you with a huge amount of pride. Do it justice, people. Do it justice!(Serve it with some sticky rice or a bowl of noodles)

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Ingredients
• 200gr of Brussels sprouts
• 100gr smoked tempeh, cut into chunks
• 1 tbsp honey
• 2 tbsp soy sauce
• 1 tbsp peanut butter
• Pinch of chilli powder
• Splash of water

Method
1. Blanch the sprouts for 2 minutes in boiling water. Cut them in half.
2. Fry the tempeh golden brown in a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the halved Brussels sprouts and stir in the peanut butter, honey, chilli and soy sauce. Stir-fry until everything is coated in a lovely glaze of brown stickiness. Add a splash of water if the mixture gets to dry.