healthy food

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Simplicity At Its Best: Mediterranean Dinner in France

Published July 28, 2014 by The Feminist

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When I was on holiday in the South of France (I don’t mean to rub it in) I discovered one simple truth: simplicity is the key to good Mediterranean cooking. With ingredients that you can count on just one hand, you can conjure up the most delicious dish imaginable.

So there I was…in my (temporarily rented) garden… watching how the boats sailed into the harbor… and I just knew that I had to attempt one of those classic, simple dishes myself.

So meet this delicious Coeur de Boeuf and Burrata mozzarella starter. In my homecountry  Belgium, I would never have voluntarily opted for a tomato and mozzarella salad at a restaurant. The tomatoes taste like water, the mozzarella tastes like water… I just found it really bland and boring most of the time. Until the French Riviera made me realize that a simple plate of tomato-mozzarella can be truly magical if you have the best products on the planet to work with. These Coeur de boeuf tomatoes were juicy, succulent and bursting with flavour and the burrata mozzarella… by golly, don’t get me started on the mozzarella! Burrata is the creamy King of mozzarella cheese: a texture that almost resembles thick yoghurt and a lovely rich flavour that almost does not require any additional seasoning. To make my version of this Italian classic dish extra special, I used some extraordinary olive oil I bought in Nice in the restaurant Oliviera (which I already blabbed on about in my previous post). It has a lovely sweet and nutty, almondy flavour and gives a peppery finish at the back of your tongue.

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Ingredients:

  • Burrata mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • Coeur de boeuf tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Fresh basil

Following  the rules of simplicity, I also made this lovely fish dish: locally sourced fish topped with an almond and red pepper tapenade on a bed of courgette and fresh flageolet beans. Served with some homemade garlic bread (really really garlicy!)

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Just spread some good quality, store-bought almond and pepper tapenade (preferably bought at a local market, of course) on top of your fish. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200°C until tender and juicy. Cut the courgettes into thick slices and take the beans out of the pods. Blanche the beans al dente. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a huge pot, add the courgettes and salt and pepper and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the blanched flageolets and let it simmer for a further 10 minutes. Right before serving stir in some fresh basil leaves and sprinkle on some lemon juice.

Now pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the sun!

 

 

Kitchen Wisdom for Dummies: 3 great tips and recipes provided to you by a culinary genius

Published October 29, 2013 by The Feminist

And that culinary genius is –of course- me. Over the past few years I’ve experienced my fair share of culinary tragedies and abominations: I burnt stuff (sometimes it was the cake, other times it was the meat and that one dreadful time it was even my hair), I’ve had soggy bottoms (for which I’m terribly sorry, Mary Berry) and I’ve managed to conjure up some really bland and boring dishes (Although, admittedly, that is a really long time ago)

If there is anything I’ve learnt from my cooking adventures, it has got to be this: cooking requires a “So what?!” attitude. You need to be able to let loose. To let your senses do the talking/cooking. To be confident. Even if in reality you couldn’t even distinguish the difference between Arborio and basmati rice. (Although I really hope you can, because otherwise you might get arrested by the foodie police)

Moreover, if you really want to become a good cook, you first and foremost have to be an adventurous and eager eater. If you don’t like eating all sorts of foods and tasting all kinds of cuisines, than why the hell do you want to learn how to cook in the first place? On top of that, I truly believe in the power of “winging it”. To my mind, a recipe is just a theme, a general idea that can be molded and shaped into something that is truly yours. Creativity and Variation. These are the two key elements that make a great culinary experience, and ironically it’s what scares beginning cooks the most. But let me tell you something, dear Cooking Dummies: don’t be afraid to embrace your experimental side. Have fun! Be brave! And if it turns out to be rubbish, remember: so what?

Since I’m already in a lecturing mode, here are three more tips that will turn you into a cooking wizard!

1) When the weather outside is frightful, be sure the food is still delightful!

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I am a great advocate of basing your dishes on the weather forecast. If it’s really hot outside, opt for a light and summery dish.(Nobody wants to eat a hearty one pot wonder when you’re already sweating like hell!)And if it’s really cold outside, go for some ultimate, soothing comfort food that will warm you up from the inside out. (Seriously, I still don’t get why people would want to eat ice cream in the winter. I mean, isn’t it cold enough already?)

A key aspect of matching your food with the weather is seasonal cooking. Nothing can go wrong if you create recipes that feature freshly harvested foods. Nothing. Just look at the next recipe. I cooked this one while awaiting the worst storm in years to hit Europe. Pumpkin, endive, smoky bacon and cream cheese. Turned into a wonderful pasta sauce to coat those cute orecchiette. Thanks to this recipe the expected high winds suddenly seemed more like a silent sigh of pleasure and gratitude.

Storm-conquering orecchiette with fall flavours:

Ingredients
• 375gr orecchiette pasta
• 200gr cream cheese with herbs
• 250gr of pumpkin, cut into chunks
• 1 large onion, finely chopped
• 1clove of garlic, finely chopped
• 3 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
• 1 head of endive, finely sliced
• 250gr smoky bacon
• 2 tbsp mustard
• Splash of white wine

Method:
1) Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package.
2) Sautee the endive until soft, remove from the pan and set aside.
3) Heat a knob of butter in that same pan and fry the onion and pumpkin together with the thyme and garlic for a couple of minutes.
4) Add a generous splash of white wine and the same amount of water (use the starchy cooking water from the pasta!). Let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
5) In a separate pan, fry the bacon until crispy. Add the bacon and sautéed endive to the pumpkin mix and heat through. Season with salt, pepper and mustard.
6) Stir through the cream cheese and then add your cooked pasta.

2) The Bigger the Better

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If you want to impress your friends and family, just bring out a big dish to share and I can assure you that they will be throwing rose petals at your feet out of utter delight. This jambalaya “my Way” is a family favourite at our house. When I come out of the kitchen with a gigantic pan in my hands, filled to the rim with spicy, satisfying goodness, they honestly start clapping. It looks sophisticated, decadent and incredibly luxurious… and yet it was all made in only half an hour and you have just one pan to put in the dishwasher afterwards. Splendid!

Jambalaya “My Way”

Ingredients:
• 250gr wild rice
• 500ml Vegetable stock
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 carrot, finely chopped
• 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
• 2 peppers, one yellow and one red, sliced into thin strips
• 400gr canned tomatoes
• 150gr chorizo, finely chopped
• 2 chicken breasts, cut into small chuncks
• 200gr brown shrimps
• 150gr cooked crayfish
• ¼ tsp smoked paprika
• 3 tbsp Cajun spices
• Fresh parsley

Method:
1) Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and brown the chicken with one tablespoon of Cajun spices and salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.
2) In that same pan, fry the vegetables in some olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add the rice, smoked paprika and Cajun spices and fry for a couple of minutes.
3) Stir in the canned tomatoes and then add the stock. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until therice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally. This will take about 15-20 minutes.
4) Add the browned chicken and cook for a further 5 minutes. Now add the chorizo, shrimps and crayfish and finish with fresh parsley.

3) Spice things up!

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I’ve said this so many times already, but I simply cannot repeat it enough: spicing is everything. What once was an expensive commodity and played a crucial part in the development of civilization, can now be found in kitchen cupboards all over the world and herbs grow in abundance in cute allotments or my very own windowsill pot. Spices and herbs are entrenched in our history and the cooking possibilities are endless. They bring everything to life and should therefore righteously form the foundations of every possible recipe.

Pomelo, mint and coriander marinated aubergine with fragrant tomato sauce and herby couscous

Ingredients:

For the marinated aubergine:
• 4 aubergines
• 8 tbsp fresh coriander
• 8 tbsp fresh mint
• 4 tbsp dried pomelo, finely chopped
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 2 tbsp honey
• ½ tbsp sumac
• 1 tbsp za’atar
• ½ tsp chilli powder
• Juice of half a lemon

For the tomato sauce
• Can of tomatoes
• ½ red pepper
• ½ tsp chili powder
• 1 tbsp za’atar
• ¼ tsp rosewater

For the herby couscous:
• 250gr couscous
• Lots of chopped parsley, coriander, mint,..
• Handful of raisins and cranberries

Method:
1) Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut the aubergines lengthways into thick slices but make sure the ends are still attached. Drizzle with olive oil and put in the oven for 15 minutes.
2) Make the marinade by combining all the other ingredients and spread it generously between each layer of aubergine. Put in the oven for a further 20-30 minutes until the aubergines are really soft and unctuous. (Cover with foil it they colour too quickly)
3) Make the tomato sauce by heating everything in a small sauce pan and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
4) Cook the couscous and stir through the herbs, raisins and cranberries.

Make Dinner, Not War: 3 stress-free dishes

Published April 10, 2013 by The Feminist

Let’s be honest here: Now and then we all get really annoyed with other people.

• When someone is constantly talking about his or herself in a very boastful “I’m the Greatest Star this world has ever known” kinda way.
• When someone is too lazy to get his or her ass off the couch and watches TV shows all day, while you’re working your butt off.
• When you’re trying to have a conversation with a teenager who has a very big attitude. “Wha’everrr”
• Sometimes, even the slightest noise, movement or snort can get under your skin.

Yes, we’ve all been there. But instead of letting all the anger boil up inside of you – or worse – instead of yelling all nasty things at that particular person, why not maintain the peace and start cooking? I find cooking to be incredibly soothing and relaxing. Besides, it is also more convenient, because you can now actually use your dinner plates to serve your food on, instead of smashing them to the ground.

Here are some really yummy stress-relieving dishes:

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Indonesian chicken wraps

Ingredients:

• Good quality shop-bought wraps
• 4 chicken breasts, diced
• 300gr of bean sprouts
• Fresh coriander
• 3 spring onions, chopped
• 1 mango, finely chopped
• 1 apple, in fine slices
• 1lime
• Chopped cashew nuts

For the marinade:
• 2tbsp ketchup
• 1tbsp fish sauce
• 1tbsp soy sauce
• 2tbsp honey
• 1tbsp mirin
• 1tbsp sesame oil

For the satay sauce:
• 200ml coconut oil
• 40gr of peanut butter
• 1 small red chilli
• 1 tbsp garam massala
• 2cm piece of ginger
• 1tsp brown sugar

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Method:

1. Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade and stir through the diced chicken breasts. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
2. For the satay sauce, mix all the ingredients together – et voila! – done! 😉
3. Mix the bean sprouts together with the coriander and spring onion and sprinkle over some lime juice.
4. Fry the chicken until brown and tender.
5. Make your own awesome wrap with the beansprout salad, mango, apple, chicken and of course the scrumptious satay sauce and finish with some chopped cashew nuts.

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Tutti Frutti prawn curry

Ingredients (serves two):

For the curry paste:
• Two small red chillies
• 3cm piece of fresh ginger
• Coriander stalks
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1 onion
• 1 tsp garam massala
• 1tsp brown sugar

For the fruity prawn curry:
• 16 prawns
• Half a pineapple, diced
• Half of mango, diced
• 1 banana
• 400ml coconut milk
• 1tbsp peanut butter
• 1tbsp fish sauce
• Fresh coriander to decorate

Method:
1. Make the curry paste by mixing all the ingredients together in a blender.
2. Fry the curry paste in a large wok in some vegetable oil until fragrant.
3. Add the coconut milk, the peanut butter and fish sauce. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the prawns, pineapple and mango and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Finally add the banana and heat through.
6. Sprinkle some chopped coriander on top.

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Italian meatloaf with homemade pasta and basil-sundried tomato pesto

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the meatloaf:
• 750gr minced beef
• 1 courgette
• Cherry tomatoes, on the vine
• 1 onion
• 1 clove of garlic
• 15gr grated pecorino cheese
• 1 egg
• 1tsp dried oregano
• 1tsp paprika
• ½ tsp cumin
• ½ tsp garam massala (You’re now probably shouting: “Garam massala?? In an Italian dish??? Well, it actually works 😉 )

For the pasta:

• 350gr plain flour
• 4 eggs
• Salt

For the pesto:
• 200gr semi dried tomatoes, in oil
• 30gr pecorino cheese
• 2 cloves of garlic
• Handful of cashew nuts
• Bunch of fresh basil leaves (lots and lots of them!)

Method:

1. For the meatloaf, line a baking tin with baking parchment. Using a vegetable peeler, peel strips off the courgette and line them in your tin. (This will create a lovely courgette blanket for your meat)
2. In a bowl, mix together the meat with the chopped garlic and onion and grate in some of the remaining courgette (the white part). Add the cheese, the egg and the spices and mix through.
3. Put the mince in the courgette baking tin and put in a preheated oven at 200°C for 35 minutes. Take the loaf out of the oven and put the vine cherry tomatoes on top. Put back into the oven for 10 minutes.
4. For the pasta, pour the flour into a mound onto a flat surface and make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs into the well and gradually mix with either a blunt knife or your hands. Knead until well blended and the dough is soft and flexible. Leave the pasta to rest for about 15-30 minutes. Cut it into your favourite pasta shape.
5. Cook the fresh pasta in boiling water for 3-5 minutes and immediately drain the pasta and coat it with the fresh pesto.
6. For the pesto, mix all the ingredients together in a blender and season with salt and pepper.
7. Serve the meatloaf and pasta with a rocket salad with balsamic dressing.

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From “Meh! Vegetables” to “Yeah! Vegetables”

Published March 26, 2013 by The Feminist

Confession: I am the biggest vegetable lover on this planet.

It’s true! I love every type, shape, size, taste, smell of vegetables. To my mind, vegetables are awesome! For some reason, however, a lot of people (and I mean A LOT of people! ) don’t like their veggies. They think of them as plain and boring.

Let me tell you something: if you are one of those people, you just don’t know how to cook them right. There are so many fun and original things you can do with vegetables! They are the true masters in versatility! So what the f*** is wrong with you people?? Eat your vegetables! They’re not only good for you, they are also one of a kind!

We had a “Hurray, it’s spring!”- brunch a couple of days ago. On the menu: grilled asparagus wrapped in pancetta (heaven!), pecorino, courgette and broccoli quiche( double heaven!) and a Middle Eastern cauliflower salad (triple heaven!). The irony was, however, that exactly on the day of our spring welcoming, it was bloody snowing outside. But hey, when you’ve got so many yummy vegetable dishes in front of you, who cares?

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Pecorino, courgette and broccoli quiche
Ingredients:

• One sheet of shop-bought puff pastry
• 50gr pecorino cheese, grated
• 1 small broccoli, in small florets
• 1 small courgette, diced
• 1tbsp dried oregano
• Bunch of fresh parsley
• 2 eggs
• 200ml single cream
• 50ml whole milk

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 210°C. Grease a 23cm loose-bottomed tart dish with butter and gently line the tin with the sheet of puff pastry . Prick the pastry all over with a fork. Blind-bake the puff pastry case for 8-10 minutes.
2. Blanche the broccoli for a couple of minutes in salted water. Drain and rinse under cold water.
3. Sauté the diced courgette with the dried oregano in a tablespoon of olive oil.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream and milk. Mix through the grated cheese and chopped parsley. Season generously with salt and pepper.
5. Put the vegetables on the bottom of your blind baked pastry and pour over the egg mixture.
6. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

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Middle Eastern cauliflower salad

Ingredients:

• ½ large cauliflower, blanched and chopped finely.
• 3 spring unions, chopped
• Handful of raisins
• Bunch of fresh coriander
• Bunch of fresh parsley
• Handful of chopped almonds
• 1tsp cumin
• 4tbsp olive oil
• Juice of half a lemon

Method:

1. Easy! Put all the ingredients in a bowl, season generously with salt and pepper and mix through. Voila!

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Grilled asparagus wrapped in pancetta

Ingredients:

• 250gr thinly sliced pancetta
• 350gr green asparagus, ends trimmed
• Juice of half a lemon

Method:

1. Steam the asparagus al dente.
2. Wrap the asparagus with pancetta in bundles of five.
3. Heat a frying pan with olive oil. Add the bundles and fry to colour for one minute on each sideand sprinkle some lemon juice over the top and season with pepper.
4. Serve!