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Dense, Dark and Devilishly Delicious: This Chocolate & Orange Cake Has It All

Published January 30, 2015 by The Feminist

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Chocolate and orange: it’s a classic combination that works every single time. But be prepared: this wonderful cake takes this traditional match-made-in-heaven even one step further onto the delicious scale, for this is not just a regular chocolate cake flavoured with orange zest or juice. Oh no. This cake is like a giant cake version of chocolate covered candied orange peel, for it boldly not only contains the zest or juice of this citrus fruit, but the whole – yes , the whole! – orange.

If you think putting whole oranges in a cake sounds a bit bonkers, I totally feel ya. It is not something I, an amateur Belgian baker, do on a regular basis either. But nevertheless, I was so terribly intrigued I simply had to try it! After all, the Spanish have been doing it for centuries! And if there is anything the Spanish know how to do – apart from dancing the flamingo and making paella- it is baking orange cakes. (Preferably using Valencian oranges, of course.)

So there I was, in my tiny Belgian kitchen, boiling two oranges (I used the smaller, but very flavoursome Minneola oranges) in a pot for about an hour until they were completely tender and my kitchen smelled like a Spanish beach party. After that heavenly scented hour, I blitzed the oranges in a blender. Whole. Including juice, flesh and skin. This amazing puree is then mixed through the other ingredients, poured in a tin, baked in the oven  … et voila! You will have never tasted such a wonderful chocolate cake in your life! Thanks to the orange puree, the cake is dense, moist and incredibly pudding-like; anything but what you’d expect from a traditional flour-based chocolate & orange cake. Moreover, the orange notes are punchy, but not too overwhelming, and seem to make the chocolate taste even more chocolatey.

What did I say again? Oh yes, the best chocolate and orange cake EVER.

So my dearest readers, you can stop being skeptical. Bake this cake. You won’t regret it.

Ingredients:

  • 50gr butter
  • 25gr cocoa powder
  • 2 Minneola oranges (or you could use 2 smaller regular oranges or clementines)
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 1 egg
  • 140gr caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 85gr flour

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Cook the 2 oranges in boiling water for about 1 hour until they are soft and tender. Drain and let them cool slightly before blitzing into a pulp in your blender.
  3. Once you’ve blended the oranges into a puree, put the puree in a large mixing bowl together with the cocoa powder, rum and sugar.
  4. Stir in the egg, mix well, and finally add the flour.
  5. Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for 30 minutes in the oven.

Spicy Food: Because Everyone Could Use Some Vavavoom in the Kitchen

Published January 24, 2015 by The Feminist

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I know it has been a while since my last post, but I’ve got a really good excuse for this minor absence on the world wide web.

No, sorry, that’s a lie. I was just lazy.

But here I am, dear readers. Back with an incredibly yummy post (Because how else would I make up for an entire week of blogging silence?)

This post is all about – you’ve guessed it!- spices.

I know I’ve said this plenty of times before, but I won’t stop repeating myself until every freaking home cook on this planet has an entire spice cupboard in his or her kitchen: spices are the source of life. No matter how tasty your other ingredients may be, if you forget to add some spice, the end-result will be dull, flavourless and downright disappointing.

Many (inexperienced) cooks only think about spices sporadically –that is, if they think about spices at all!- as if spices were some long lost acquaintances you never really got to know when you were little.

They only add spices right at the end of a recipe, or just throw in the tiniest little pinch, because they don’t really understand the purpose of this strange looking and pungently powerful acquaintance.

Basically, most of us are too scared. We would rather live a plain, boring and dull life that is safe of risks, than try and take the spicy road.

Making a close friend out of an acquaintance is indeed a work-in-progress. You will stumble, you will fall, but once you’ve got the doses right, it will feel as if your heart has finally caught fire. You will feel alive.

That’s what spices can do for you. Not only will they add some vavavoom to your daily meals, but they will also –and more importantly- warm your heart.

So make spices your best friend and you will never be cold again.

Vegetarian Chilli Sin Carne with a Coffee and Spice Blend

For this naughty little vegetarian chilli, I decided to make my very own spice blend. Believe me, there is nothing more therapeutic than grinding some spices together in a pestle-and-mortar and making the aromas spread through your kitchen.

To make this spicy dish even more special, I added some instant coffee granules to my spice mix. This will add another dimension of bittersweet intensity.

Last but not least, right near the end, I dropped a tiny piece of dark chocolate in the sauce. You won’t be able to taste the chocolate per se, but it will give the already fabulous sauce even more depth and richness.

chilli

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the Coffee and Spice Blend:

  • ½ tbsp. instant coffee granules
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

For the Chilli:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 courgette, roughly chopped
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 400gr or 1 tin of red kidney beans
  • 400gr or 1 tin of cannellini beans
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 5gr of dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)
  • Fresh coriander, leaves and stalks

To serve:

  • Sour cream
  • Homemade guacamole
  • lime
  • Any type of flat bread

Method:

  1. Make the spice blend by grinding all the spices and coffee together in a pestle-and-mortar or a large and heavy bowl. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Take 1 tsp of the spice mix and add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Mix until you get a nice paste. Brush the chunks of sweet potato with it and put them in the oven on some baking parchment and bake for 15 minutes. Once these beauties are roasted and are slightly turning black on the edges, take them out of the oven and set aside. The roasted potatoes will add an extra smokey flavour and will give the chilli an indulgent texture.
  3. In a large pan, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and add the onion, garlic, a tablespoon of finely chopped coriander stalks and the spice blend. Stir for one minute and now add the peppers and courgette. Let it fry for 3 minutes or so before adding the tinned tomatoes. Stir well and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add the beans and give it a quick taste. You will probably need to add more salt.
  5. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes before adding the roasted potatoes. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes to enhance all the flavours. Just before serving stir in the chocolate and let it dissolve.
  6. Sprinkle on some fresh coriander and serve it with a good dollop of sour cream, guacamole, a squeeze of lime juice and a slice of bread.

White Bean Curry With Rum-Flambéed Pineapple

This is an incredibly easy curry. Beans. Coconut. Spices. That’s all you need. Add to that some marvelous pineapple slices flambéed with rum and you will be dancing around your tiny kitchen like a Disney Baboon on steroids.

pineapple

Ingredients (serves 1):

For the flambéed pineapple:

  • 3 thick slices of fresh pineapple (Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use tinned pineapple!)
  • 2 tbsp Rum
  • Zest of ½ lime
  • Pinch of chilli flakes

For the white beans curry:

  • 200gr or 1 small can of white beans (but you could also use chickbeans, flageolet, black-eyed peas,…)
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3cm piece of ginger, grated
  • Fresh coriander
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Juice of ½ lime

Method:

  1. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil or ghee in a small pan and add the ginger, garlic and all the spices (apart from the garam masala). Let it fry on a low heat for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the beans and stir.
  3. Add the coconut milk and season with salt. Let it simmer away for 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in the garam masala, the desiccated coconut and the lime juice.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a knob of butter in a pan and fry the pineapple slices until they start to caramelize. Sprinkle on the chilli and lime zest.
  6. Finally, flambé the pineapple with the rum. Be careful. You don’t want to lose all your hair.
  7. Serve the curry with the pineapple slices and sprinkle on some fresh coriander.

Fusion Fever: Coconut and Lime Risotto with Peach and Pepper Salsa and Tandoori Prawns

Published June 23, 2014 by The Feminist

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There are days when I know exactly what I want to eat. Pizza. Tagine. Noodles.

I have cheese days. Chocolate days. Add-chili-to-everything days.

But sometimes my cravings aren’t so specific. The only thing I then know for sure is that I am hungry (very very hungry!) and want something comforting (very very comforting!). Now, when I am craving something comforting, I always choose either something Italian (risotto is on top of my list) or something Indian with lots of spice and coconut.

Yesterday, however, I simply could not choose. Italian or Indian? Indian or Italian? It was literally driving me mad.

So in a total act of desperation, I decided to do both. Mix Italian with Indian. I probably pissed off both the Italians and Indians by doing so, but at least it filled my stomach. Although “filling my stomach” does not exactly do this dish justice, because this insanely yummy dish was a lot more than filling; it was an entirely new, hallucinatory delicious experience! The coconut milk in the risotto made the rice extra smooth and creamy and the combination with the lime lifted the Italian classic to a very delicious Indian level. Furthermore, the creaminess of the risotto was in perfect harmony with the sweet-spicy-zingy salsa with peach and peppers and sits happily married with the ultra-spicy tandoori prawns.

This is fusion food at its best! So who cares if it pisses off the whole Indian and Italian population, when something is this sensational I don’t really mind stepping onto a few food-patriotic toes 😉

Ingredients:

For the risotto:

  • 320gr Arborio rice
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • ½ tbsp. nigella seeds
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • Vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • Fresh basil (you could use Thai basil, but since we’re doing Italian and Indian together, you can use the Italian as well!)
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced

For the salsa:

  • 2 long, sweet peppers, finely diced
  • 1 chili pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 peaches, finely diced
  • 1 granny smith apple, finely diced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh Thai basil
  • Juice of 1 lime

For the prawns

  • 30 prawns, peeled and cleaned
  • Tandoori powder

Method:

  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the shallot with the nigella seeds and chili flakes for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and fry until the grains become slightly translucent. Add 200 ml of coconut milk and let it simmer until absorbed. Now add the stock, one ladleful at a time until al dente. Now stir in the remaining coconut milk to make sure the risotto is oozing creaminess. Stir in the lime juice and fish sauce and scatter some basil and spring onions over the top.
  • Meanwhile, make the salsa by putting all the ingredients in a bowl and seasoning with lime, salt and pepper. Voila!
  • Completely dust the prawns in tandoori powder and skewer them onto large sticks. Now you have a couple of options. Fry them in a large pan, barbeque them or –like I did- put them under a hot griddle for a couple of minutes.
  • Dig in!

La douce France, the cake edition: Lavender and honey cupcakes

Published July 8, 2013 by The Feminist

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Warning: this recipe may piss off French culinary snobs
Julia Child once wrote that “In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.” So trust me when I say that this recipe is not a take on a French classic. I do not want to piss off the entire French population. The French treasure their classic recipes and local ingredients in such a way that goes beyond my comprehension. I don’t hold on to traditions, on the contrary, I like to break them. So if your French, and for some odd reason you’re finding yourself reading my blog, I advise you to stop right now. This post may be bad for your heart.

Don’t say I haven’t warned you.

To all of you who are still here: welcome and feel free to imagine the perfumed aroma of lavender and honey! (Why oh why doesn’t smell technology exist yet?)

lavendel

Lavender is one of the most amazing scents on this planet, and one that I inevitable associate with France and especially the rolling countryside of La Provence. Should you still be under the assumption that lavender is just for soap and toilet fresheners, think again! Because lavender is amazing in cooking as well!

These cupcakes were completely transformed by adding lavender to the batter. They tasted fragrantly floral without overpowering the well-known and comforting taste of the humble cupcake. (Again, the French would probably call this heresy. Using their lavender in an Anglo-Saxon cake? How dare I? 😉 )

I used fresh home-grown lavender for this recipe. That way I can be 100% sure that there were no pesticides or other icky chemicals involved in the plant’s growing process. You can also use dried cooking lavender, but if you do so, you should know that the essence of dried lavender is much more concentrated. (You should reduce the amount of lavender by two thirds if you’re using the dried version)

To create a lovely well-balanced lavender flavour I made my very own lavender-infused sugar. Just add 1 ½ tbsp of fresh lavender to the required amount of sugar and let it sit overnight so the lavender can infuse the sugar. Before you start making the batter, sieve the sugar so that all the lavender remains behind.

What follows is the ultimate dilemma: more or less lavender? The first time I baked these cupcakes I only used the lavender-infused sugar. This resulted in a very yummy and fragrant cupcake, but although the cupcake tasted ever so slightly perfumed, you couldn’t really tell it was thanks to the magical aroma of lavender. I tried the cupcakes again a couple of days later, but this time used the infused sugar and one third of the lavender florets used to flavour the sugar (very finely chopped). The flavour was much more intense and you could tell it was lavender, but still without completely overpowering the whole thing. So it’s actually entirely up to you: will you be safe or will you be brave?

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Lavender cupcakes with honey frosting

Ingredients (4 big cupcakes or 6 regular cupcakes)
• 0,5ml whole milk
• 75gr lavender-infused caster sugar (see above)
• 60gr plain flour
• ¾ tsp baking powder
• 20gr unsalted butter
• 1 egg

Honey frosting
• 3 tbsp of honey, preferably good quality lavender honey
• 25gr unsalted butter
• 4 tbsp icing sugar

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
2. Put the flour, infused sugar, ½ tbsp finely chopped lavender (optional, see notes) , baking powder and butter in a bowl and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency.
3. Mix together the milk and egg in a jug and slowly pour in the flour mixture.
4. Spoon the mixture into your prepared cupcake tray and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
5. For the honey frosting, beat all the ingredients together until you get a smooth and somewhat fluffy frosting.
6. Spoon the frosting on top of each cupcake and decorate with a sprig of lavender.

Two Chill Days, Two Chilli Dishes

Published July 5, 2013 by The Feminist

It must be some strange and relatively weak form of masochism. How else could you possibly explain my love for chillies? They burn your tongue (sometimes even your entire throat), make your eyes water like the Niagara falls and they can break you out into a sweat so intense, you’d think you were sitting in a Scandinavian sauna.

Yes, a lot of my friends declare me utterly crazy for adding so many chillies to my food. “Do you like torturing yourself?”, they keep asking.

Let me tell you something, dear readers. Those people who truly think chillies only bring pain are wrong, and they have definitely not tasted the chilli dishes I like cooking for myself. Yes, they are hot. Yes, they make your tongue sing with a fiery passion. But they are aromatic and fragrant as well! They boost your spirit and lift you up to a foodie heaven!

Now that my exams are finished (and I can proudly call myself “Master in Multilingual Communications”, fancy huh?) I finally have some time for me, myself and I.

Meaning: I snuggled in front of the TV with Mad Men and Game of Thrones and my best friends Ben&Jerry. For the first time in weeks, I was completely relaxed.

However, to spice up the comforting coziness of two days at home in front of the TV, I thought it was suitable to conjure up some ultimate spicy dishes. A chilli overload to contrast the mellow mood I was in! (And also because I was coming down with something, and I had high hopes that large quantities of chilli would tackle a lurking influenza 😉 )

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Sticky marinated Tofu with Spicy noodle stir-fry

Spicy like hell. Fragrant like heaven. Comforting like home. What more could you possibly desire?

Ingredients (serves 4)
• 500gr of firm tofu
• 250gr of rice noodles
• Mix of vegetables
• 2 cloves of garlic, minced
• 3cm piece of ginger, grated
• 1 large chilli, finely chopped
• 2 tbsp honey
• 1 tbsp fish sauce
• 5 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp tropical fruit juice
• 1 tbsp peanut butter
• 1 tbsp ketchup

For the tofu marinade:
• 5 cloves of garlic, minced
• 5cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
• 1 large chilli, finely chopped
• 3 tbsp mirin
• 3 tbsp honey
• 5 tbsp soy sauce

Method:
1. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Cut the tofu in 0,5cm slices and add them to the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours. (This way, your tofu will never ever ever taste bland!)
2. Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat and add the tofu slices. Let them caramelize for 3 minutes on each side.
3. Cook your noodles according to packet instructions. Drain and put the cooked noodles in a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process and to stop the noodles from clinging together.
4. Add all the other ingredients (except the vegetables) together to create a lovely sauce.
5. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large wok and add the vegetables. Stir fry them on high heat for a couple of minutes.
6. Stir through the cooked noodles and add the fragrant and spicy sauce. Season to taste if necessary.
7. Serve your spicy noodles with your sticky, sweet and spicy tofu slices.

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Sweet and Sour Chickpea Curry soup

It may not be the right time of year to enjoy a good bowl of steaming soup, but I was feeling a bit under the weather the other day, so what better way to kill all those nasty bacteria than be drinking some healthy soup? (and it’s a much tastier and vegan alternative for your ordinary chicken soup!) Besides, the lovely combination of sweet and sour will make you want to serve this soup all year round, even when there’s a heat wave coming!

Ingredients (serves 1)
• One hand of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
• 1 onion, sliced
• ½ red pepper, finely chopped
• 3cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
• ½ larg chilli, finely chopped
• Handful of raisins and sultanas
• 1,5dl tropical fruit juice
• 1 dl water
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 2tbsp garam massala
• ½ tsp asafetida
• ½ tsp ground cumin
• ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
• Fresh cheese (I used feta cheese, which sounds strange because it’s an Asian dish, but it worked really well and it’s what I had lying around in the fridge 😉 always try to use up those left-overs!)
• Fresh mint

Method:
1. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a small sauce pan and add the onion, ginger and chilli. Sauté until the onions become slightly translucent. Add all the spices and stir well.
2. Stir in the chickpeas and cover with tropical juice and water. Bring to the boil.
3. Put the lid on and let it simmer for half an hour.
4. Add the raisins and red pepper and season to taste. Let it simmer for another half an hour until the chickpeas are cooked through.
5. Serve your soup with some salty fresh cheese to cool down the zingy heat of the soup.

The Jewel in my Kitchen Desert: Saffron and almond cake with an apricot and rose glaze

Published July 1, 2013 by The Feminist

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There is something truly magical about saffron. Its almost hallucinatory aromatic scent sweeps me away in an Arabian daydream and that vibrant yellow-orange colour almost seems like edible gold.

Every time I cook with this mysterious spice, it feels as if I’m preparing food for the Gods. I know this sounds silly (really really silly) but I can’t help but feel bewitched by its mystical background and utterly gorgeous perfume. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I honestly believe that every foodie on this planet is nodding in complete agreement right now.

jamie oliver

See?

All of us foodies know that –since we’re all so very accomplished  in the kitchen- saffron is not only a brilliant spice to cook with, it is unfortunately (ridiculously) expensive. Saffron is like the Ferrari of spice, turning all other aromas into drab Volvos.( No offence to all Volvo drivers out there, though 😉 )

So what better way to honour saffron’s star status than by adding it to a super luscious cake batter? I think it goes without saying that I treasured this saffron cake like they were a new pair of Manolo Blahniks. A cake that even surpasses the magic of a “regular” saffron cake (although one could never call saffron regular) by oomphing up the recipe with the hypnotising aroma of rose water. This cake is not just a dessert, it’s an entire collection of Arabian fairy tales, all baked into one beautifully decadent expression of mind-wandering hysteria.

So be prepared, because this cake will cast a spell over you and you will never be able to lift it off (But you won’t want to, I promise!)

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Saffron and almond cake with apricot and rose glaze

Ingredients

For the cake:
• 100gr butter
• 150gr caster sugar
• 125gr ground almonds
• 2 eggs
• 50gr plain flour
• Pinch of salt
• ¼ tsp saffron powder
• 50gr chopped dried apricots

For the glaze:
• 50gr apricot jam
• 1 tsp rose water
• Almond flakes

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a bundt-cake tin.
2. Mix together the sugar, butter and saffron on a low speed.
3. Add the eggs and mix through. (Try not to overwork the mixture. The best part of this recipe is that you simply have to throw it all together without much of a fuss. 😉 )
4. Sift in the almonds, flour and salt and mix until the mixture is completely smooth.
5. Stir through the chopped apricots.
6. Pour the batter into your cake tin and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
7. Leave the cake to cool down completely in the tin before you remove it.
8. While the cake is cooling, add the jam and rose water together in a small saucepan and heat on a low heat. Spread the mixture generously on top of the cake and garnish with almond flakes.

The Wonder of Building Things: Aubergine Stack with a Difference

Published June 29, 2013 by The Feminist

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If you think about it, life is the continual process of building things. We build relationships, friendships, careers and confidence. We build love. We build life. Brick by brick and day by day. Sometimes it all crumbles down, leaving us scarred and bruised, but with the promise and opportunity to start all over and build something even better -even higher – than before. Sometimes we just keep building higher and higher, blinded by a compulsive necessity to always want more, until we realize we’ve built something so gigantic it is practically impossible for others to look over and beyond this wall of pompousness, leaving us all alone and small.

Whether we build with our hands, our words, our acts or simply with the toolbox hidden on the top shelf of our garage: Building is life’s vicious cycle. It is both loved and feared, for our need of building things goes hand in hand with the fear of falling. Failure. It is vertigo beyond compare, higher than the Kilimanjaro and Mount Everest combined. Failure leaves us dizzy and numb but when we finally find the courage to take the leap, to jump… we’re able to fly!

Anyway, enough with this spiritual, semi- poetic mumbo jumbo! Time to act! Time to cook! And inspired by all that’s been said above, I decided to build. Build with aubergine! It’s not really life changing, but it sure was delicious!

This aubergine stack is filled with a powerful maftoul mix, giving the whole dish a perfumed aroma of North African spice. This stack is lovely as a starter, or if you want to eat it as a main course, serve with a lovely salad (or just eat multiple stacks 😉 )

Aubergine stack with maftoul filling

Ingredients (serves 1-2 main course or 2-3 starters)
• 1 large aubergine
• 2 tbsp honey
• 1 tsp harissa
• 1 clove of garlic
• 2 spring onions
• 1 tbsp chopped candied lemon peel
• 1 tbsp chopped dried cranberries
• 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp paprika
• ½ tsp ground coriander
• ½ tsp ground ginger
• ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
• 80gr maftoul
• 50gr cottage cheese or Greek yoghurt

Method:

1. Cut the aubergines in 0,5 cm slices. Mix together in a small bowl the honey, harissa and a pinch of salt and pepper. Brush the aubergine slices generously with this sweet and spicy paste on both sides.
2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and fry the slices for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the aubergine slices to an oven-proof dish and bake for a further 5 minutes in a preheated oven at 180°C.
3. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan you used to cook your aubergines in. Add the chopped garlic and sauté on low heat. Add the maftoul and all the spices and let them toast for a couple of minutes until the spices start to release their lovely scent.
4. Add the lemon peel and cranberries and add some boiling water to the maftoul mixture. ( approx. 1,6 dl of water)
5. Let it simmer until the maftoul has absorbed all the water and is cooked through. (If necessary, add some extra water if the maftoul isn’t cooked enough)
6. Season the maftoul with salt and stir the through the finely chopped spring onions and mint.
7. Build your stack!
8. Finish your brilliant tower with a good dollop of cottage cheese or Greek yoghurt to balance the spiciness of the dish.

Good, Better, Me : A Week of Culinary Wizardry

Published June 20, 2013 by The Feminist

William Shakespeare once said: “Who knows himself a braggart, let him fear this, for it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass.” So in light of this very thoughtful quote, I would like to add that the title of this post was merely chosen as a creative expression of my wandering mind and is supposed to be interpreted with a great deal of irony. 😉

Believe me, I know better than anyone else on this planet that I am not the BEST thing this earth has ever seen. I’m not a brave humanitarian risking my life for others. I haven’t got the voice of an angel, nor do I look like one. And I haven’t won a Nobel prize…yet.

But I can cook. And not just a little. Of course I’m not as brilliant a cook as Jamie Oliver, Yotam Ottolenghi or Nigella Lawson, but sometimes you do need to give yourself credit for the things you can do! Being proud of all the things you have accomplished shouldn’t be seen as bragging, it’s merely stating the facts.

So at the risk of portraying myself as an incredibly Shakespearean ass: I truly surpassed myself this week! Moreover, the following dishes didn’t just taste and look scrumptious, they are also the perfect representation of me as a culinary wizard’s apprentice. These dishes are easy, full of flavour and –as always- not just a copy of recipe in a cookbook.

Udon noodle salad with marinated chicken skewers

“The best chicken I’ve ever tasted” ~ My Dad. That says it all, doesn’t it?

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Ingredients(serves 4)

For the marinated chicken:
• 4 chicken breast, cut into fine strips
• 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
• 2 tbsp honey
• 1 large chilli, finely sliced
• 4 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp fish sauce
• ½ tsp Chinese five spice
• 8 Wooden skewers
For the noodle salad
• 250gr udon noodles
• 2 spring onion, roughly chopped
• Half a cucumber, cut into half-moon slices
• 1 yellow pepper, cut into fine strips
• ½ red pepper, cut into fine strips
• 1 large red chilli, finely sliced
• 1 tbsp honey
• Zest and juice of a lime
• 1 clove of garlic, peeled and grated
• 1 tsp sesame oil
• 2 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp fish sauce
• Chopped coriander
• Roughly chopped roasted cashew nuts

Method:
1. Combine the marinade ingredients and add the chicken, mixing to coat well. Cover and set aside for at least 2 hours or place in the fridge overnight.
2. Thread the chicken strips onto the skewers. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the skewers on medium heat for 2 minutes on each side until the skewers get a lovely sticky caramel colour.
3. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under ice-cold water. Toss the vegetables and the noodles together.
4. In a jug, mix together the soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, sesame oil, lime juice, garlic and chilli and pour over the noodle mixture. Scatter some fresh coriander and roasted cashew nuts over the top.

Couscous stuffed Portobello mushrooms with tahini sauce

The oriental flavours of this dish will turn any boring supper into a fiesta of the foodie’s palate!

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Ingredients (serves 1-2)
• 2 large Portobello mushrooms
• 125gr couscous
• ½ red pepper, finely chopped
• 5 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
• 2 spring onions, finely chopped
• ½ tsp turmeric
• ½ tsp harissa
• 1 tsp falafel herbs
• ½ tsp fenugreek

For the tahini sauce
• 50gr tahini
• 75gr natural yoghurt
• Fresh parsley
• ½ tsp ground cumin

Method:

1. For the sauce, mix all the ingredients together until you get a smooth consistency. Set aside
2. Preheat the oven to 220°C and bake the Portobello mushrooms in the oven for 10 minutes until almost cooked through.
3. Meanwhile, cook the couscous according to packet instruction.
4. Fry the red pepper in some olive oil and add the spices. Stir through the spring onions and sundried tomatoes. Add the cooked couscous and 1 tablespoon of passion fruit vinegar.
5. Stuff the mushrooms with the couscous mixture and sprinkle some chopped nuts on top. Bake in the oven for a further 3-5 minutes.

Red peanut butter turkey curry

This is comfort food at its best! Or as Nigella would say: “Eating it is like being wrapped in a warm cosy blanket.”

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Ingredients (serves 4)

• 600gr cubed stewing turkey
• 1 broccoli, cut into small florets
• 1 pak choi , roughly chopped
• 1 yellow pepper
• 3 tbsp peanut butter
• 400gr can of chopped tomatoes
• 400ml can of coconut milk
• 1 tbsp brown sugar
• 1 tbsp soy sauce
• 5cm piece of fresh ginger
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1 red onion
• 1 large red chilli
• 2 tbsp garam massala
• Fresh coriander

Method

1. Brown the meat in a large pan. Remove from the pan and set aside. Blend the chilli, garlic, onion, ginger and garam massala together in a blender until you get a smooth paste.
2. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the pan you used to brown the turkey and add the fresh curry paste. Return the meat to the pan and stir for 30 seconds until the meat is coated in the curry paste. Add the soy sauce, sugar and peanut butter. Stir well.
3. Add the canned tomatoes and coconut milk. Put a lid on and leave to simmer for about an hour.
4. After an hour, stir in the broccoli, pak choi and yellow pepper and let it simmer for another 20-30 minutes.
5. Stir in the fresh coriander and serve with some jasmine rice.

Antipasti Pasta

I am pretty proud of this recipe, I have to say. It’s a pasta dish but with all the ingredients I usually like on a plate of antipasti: sundried tomatoes, cheese, sweet melon, parma ham, artichokes, olives,… You name it! Choose any type of antipasti you like, because they will all go beautifully with the garlic and rocket “sauce”.

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Ingredients:
• 350gr small pasta
• 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• ½ large red chilli, finely chopped
• 250gr rocket salad, minced in a blender
• Selection of antipasti: melon balls, parma ham, feta, mozzarella, olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes,…

Method:

1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Save some of the starchy cooking water for later.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the garlic and chilli and cook on a low heat.
3. Drain the pasta and tip into the garlic pan. Add the finely minced pocket and a bit of cooking water from the pasta to create a “saucy” tecture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Now it’s up to you: scatter some of your favorite antipasti ingredients over the lovely pasta and dig in!

He who eats alone chokes alone. Or how there’s always enough food in my house

Published June 13, 2013 by The Feminist

“Are you cooking for an entire army?” , “Are there some distant family members visiting I don’t know about?” ,or my ultimate favourite “Gosh, your imaginary friends have quite the appetite!”. Yes, every time I cook for my family at home, which is for 4 people most of the time, I’ll always end up cooking way too much food! Better too much than too little, that’s what my mother always says. And it seems her tendency to cook gigantic portions has infected me as well. Which often leads to oh so incredibly funny remarks from my brother and father (do note the hint of sarcasm there). I know that they just like pulling my leg and that the “imaginary friends” retort is just to provoke a sarcastic response, but I can’t help but feel guilty every time I see all those leftovers lying around in the fridge. They’re staring at me. Like all those hungry little African kids with bloated tummies you see on the news. Millions of people are starving and here I am, overindulging my family with food.

I’m trying to do something about my food-portion-miscalculation, however. For the first time I managed to cook two meals in a row that didn’t result in an over-stuffed fridge! Well,how about that?! 😉

I’m sure I’m not the only one suffering from food-portion-miscalculation. (At least I hope I’m not.) So if you have the same condition, take it from me: if I can get over it, so can you!

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Middle-Eastern trout with maftoul

This recipe is truly one you will cook again and again and again! The fragrant rub makes the trout incredibly tasty and moist and I just love the oversized Palestinian couscous!

Ingredients (serves 4)

• 4 trouts, scaled, gutted, cleaned
• 1 green courgette
• 1 yellow courgette
• 4 spring onions
• Fresh coriander, chopped
• 250gr maftoul
• 375 ml vegetable stock
For the rub:
• 1 red pepper
• 2 cloves of garlic
• ½ tbsp harissa
• 15gr confied lemon peel
• Coriander stalks
• ½ tsp ground cumin

Method:
1. Mix all the ingredients for the rub together in a blender until you get a thick paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Chop the courgette into 0.5 cm sliced and grill them for one minute on each side.
3. Score the skin of the fish several times. Stuff courgette slices in the body cavity of each trout. (Use the remaining courgette slices for the couscous later) Spread the sweet and spicy rub over the top of each trout and in the body cavity.
4. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 15 minutes.
5. For the maftoul, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the couscous and lightly toast them for a couple of minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and let it simmer for 5 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.
6. Chop the remaining courgette slices in fine chunks and add them to the maftoul. Season with salt, pepper, lemon zest and ground cumin.
7. Finely chop the fresh coriander and spring onion and stir them through the maftoul.
8. Get ready to dig in!

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Risotto Quattro Tomato with pesto and goats’ cheese stuffed chicken

Not one, not two, not three but FOUR types of tomatoes went into this risotto! Needless to say it was an absolute flavour bomb. The stuffed chicken breasts are so easy to make and the goats’ cheese mixture guarantees you won’t end up with dry bits of chicken but with a flavoursome and moist piece of heaven! This will definitely become a family’s favourite!

Ingredients(serves 4)

For the chicken
• 4 skinned chicken breast
• 25gr fresh goat’s cheese
• 25gr home-made pesto
• 5 sundried tomatoes( in oil ), finely chopped
• Zest of half a lemon
For the risotto
• 300gr risotto rice
• 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 1 large onion, finely chopped
• 1 can of chopped tomatoes
• 200gr cherry tomatoes
• 5 yellow vine tomatoes, quartered
• 10 sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 50gr parmesan cheese
• Dried oregano
• Pinch of chili powder
• Small glass of semi-dry Madeira wine
• Vegetable stock

Method:
1. Using a sharp knife, make a deep incision down one side of each chicken breast to form a pocket in each
2. In a bowl, mix together the goats’ cheese, pesto, chopped sundried tomatoes and lemon zest then stuff the chicken breasts with this mixture. Skewer the chicken with toothpicks so the filling doesn’t seep out.
3. Fry the chicken breasts in a large frying pan for 2 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken breasts to a preheated oven at 180°C and bake for a further 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, put all the different types of tomatoes in an oven-proof dish (except the canned tomatoes) and season with salt, pepper and dried oregano. Sprinkle a generous amount of olive oil over the top and put in the oven together with the chicken. Once your chicken is cooked, the tomatoes will be ready as well.
5. For the risotto, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the garlic and onion for a couple of minutes. Add the risotto rice and fry for a further 30 seconds.
6. Add the Madeira and cook until the volume of the liquid has reduced to almost nothing.
7. Add the canned tomatoes and chilli powder.
8. Add the warm vegetable stock a ladleful at a time, stirring between each addition to allow the liquid to be completely absorbed, until the rice is cooked and all the stock has been absorbed.
9. Stir in the parmesan cheese and add the roasted tomatoes from the oven.
10. Buon appetito!

Italy vs. Asia: One battle, two winners! Spicy mango carpaccio with rice noodles and mint-peanut pesto

Published June 5, 2013 by The Feminist

DSCN2782Carpaccio and pesto are two of the world’s best known and loved Italian dishes. There is just something about incredibly thin slices of raw meat, fish, vegetables or fruit that makes it ridiculously sexy and appealing. The same thing can be said about the traditional basil pesto. That heavenly scent and that fragrant taste are enough to make me go through life as an overly cheerful and euphoric crazy person!

Question is, however, what happens when you transform something so traditionally Italian into an Italasian fusion dish? Italians will no doubt kill me. And so will the Asians. Probably.

Whatever. At least I will die in complete and utter satisfaction because this dish was mind-blowingly delish! The Italian carpaccio became a wonderful mango carpaccio with a tangy and spicy dressing and the basil pesto was turned into a lovely blend of fresh peppery mint and creamy peanut butter.

Sounds amazing, right? 😉

If you want to try this summery dish for yourself, here is the very simple recipe:

Spicy mango carpaccio

ingredients
• One ripe mango
• Chilli powder
• Juice of half a lime
• One spring onion, finely chopped
• Freshly ground pepper

Method:
1. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice the mango as finely as possible and arrange the slices on a plate. Sprinkle on some lime juice, pepper, chilli powder and the chopped spring onion.

Rice noodles with a mint and peanut butter pesto

Ingredients (serves one)

• 4 spring onions, roughly chopped
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1 tbsp mirin
• 1 heaped tbsp peanut butter
• 1 tbsp rice vinegar
• Lots and lots of fresh mint leaves
• Splash of fish sauce
• ½ green chilli pepper
• 125gr rice noodles

Method
1. Cook the rice noodles in salted water according to the instructions on the packet.
2. Mix all the ingredients for the pesto (except the spring onion) together in a blender until you get a lovely and thick sauce.
3. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the spring onions for a minute. Add the cooked rice noodles and mint pesto and stir until all the noodles are beautifully coated.
4. Serve the fragrant mint noodles in the centre of your mango carpaccio.