herbs

All posts tagged herbs

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.

Mintspiration: Secrets to a life full of fragrance

Published October 16, 2013 by The Feminist

mint

I was sipping on a hot cup of fresh Moroccan mint tea the other day and I kept thinking to myself: “What is it about mint that makes it so damn tasty?”

The answer to that question is both elaborate and very straightforward at the same time. Of all the fresh herbs out there, mint is probably the herb most associated with cleanliness. One bite of a minty product and your mouth is immediately coated in a refreshing layer of mountain breeze. Chewing gum or tooth paste manufacturers know this but too well, but this doesn’t mean we should limit our mint intake to just the daily brush. On the contrary, mint can be enjoyed in so many different ways, it almost seems as if its uses are limitless.

There are the wonderful minty drinks, like fresh mint tea (so good on a cold winter evening) or mojito (so good on a hot summer day). And let’s not forget how beautiful mint tastes when rubbed on meat, fish or vegetables. And what about mint gravy! Mint yoghurt dip! Drop-dead outrageous mint desserts! (chocolate and mint is such a winning combination!)

So should you still be one of those people who prefer mint on their toothbrush and not in their food, please go away. I do not want to spend my time wasted on people like you who don’t appreciate the awesomeness that is mint.

You heard me.

get out

Move!

whatever

Glad I got rid of that! So dear mint-loving readers, shall we go on celebrating our love for the chosen herb?

The following two dishes are two flavour bombs. I believe the Mediterranean, African and Middle Eastern cuisines are not only among the best in the world, but I also adore how they all mix fresh mint in lots of dishes. Inspired by these cuisines, I conjured up these two beauties:

Mint crusted salmon with South African sweet potato and avocado mash with mint yoghurt sauce

Mint is practically everywhere in this dish! It’s in the crust, in the yoghurt sauce, in the mash,… And still it is not overpowering. It just lifts everything up to an unseen level of splendidness. The herb crust on the salmon is full of spices and flavour… the mash is smooth, comforting and delectably sweet and sour… and the mint yoghurt sauce gives that refreshing zing to make an already yummy meal absolutely delicious.

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Ingredients (serves 2)
• 2 salmon fillets, skinned
• 3 tbsp bread crumbs
• 1 tbsp za’atar
• ½ tsp sumac
• 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
• 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
• 2 tbsp olive oil

For the South African mash:
• 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into dices
• 1 avocado, peeled
• 2 spring onions, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
• ¼ tsp cinnamon
• Juice of half a lime
• Lots of black pepper

For the mint yoghurt dip:
• 150ml of yoghurt
• 2 tbsp of fresh mint
• 1 tbsp coriander
• ½ tsp ground cumin
• Juice of half a lime
To serve: some mini green asparagus (perfect!)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Make the crust by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and put them both in an oven-proof dish. Press the mint mixture on top of the salmon fillets and bake into the oven for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile make the mash. Cook the sweet potatoes in some salted boiling water until tender. Drain and mash the potatoes together with the avocado flesh and the lime juice to stop the avocado from turning brown.
3. Season with cinnamon, salt and pepper and stir in the mint and spring onions.
4. Mix all the ingredients for the mint yoghurt dip together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Sweet parsnip and dried fig stir fry with mint

I cannot express enough how much I absolutely loved this dish. The chilli gives a good boost of heat. The turmeric turns it into a fest of golden hues, the dried figs are so intensely sweet and blend so well with the earthy sweetness of the parsnip and then in the end the mint kicks in and balances out all those warm spices and sweetness. It is -in every possible way- perfection.( I served it with some store-bought falafels and although they were really good, I refused to put them in the picture since I didn’t make them myself. It’s a matter of principle.)

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Ingredients (serves 1)
• 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into cubes
• 4 dried figs, cut into small chunks
• ½ tbsp honey
• ½ tbsp turmeric
• ½ large chilli, finely sliced
• 1 tsp ground ginger
• 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
• ¼ tsp cinnamon
• ½ tsp ground cumin

Method:
1. Cook the parsnips in salted water until they are almost soft.
2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add the drained parsnips, chilli, spices, honey, figs and a splash of water.
3. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Finally stir in the mint.
4. Be amazed!

The proof of the Pudding is in the Basil… Basil and white peach cupcakes with a honey-mascarpone frosting

Published August 13, 2013 by The Feminist

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I know, the title doesn’t make any sense at all, but it certainly got your attention, right? I mean, the fact that you’re reading this could indicate that

a) You like cupcakes. (who doesn’t?)
b) You like basil. (Again, who doesn’t?)
c) You like weird flavour combos. (only me, I presume)

My guess is that it is probably (or should I say hopefully?) a combination of the three. So whatever your reason may be for visiting this post , welcome and be prepared to witness something truly spectacular!

Basil cupcakes!

self five

Let me say that again: basil cupcakes!

high five

Basil is often considered the King of Herbs when it comes to savory dishes. So much so that I truly believe our love for Italian cuisine is solely derived from Italy’s multitude of basil-flavoured dishes; pesto being the crown jewel of Italian cuisine.

However, because we all love basil in savory dishes so much, we tend to overlook how brilliant it tastes in sweet dishes.

Yes, sweet dishes! Whether it’s ice- cream, crème brulée, brownies or a dainty tart, the fragrant freshness of basil can lift all of these already lovely desserts up to a whole other level!

So forget about pesto or salad caprese! Give your basil the spotlight it truly deserves and for once use the leaves in a very summery dessert!
Like this one, for instance. I got my inspiration from one of my favourite summer salads: a fresh peach, mozzarella and basil salad sprinkled with toasted pine nuts. So in a wave of culinary brilliance I thought to myself: “Wouldn’t it be totally awesome if I could make a sweet version of this salad?”

And this is what I came up with: a basil and white peach cupcake!

wow

At this point I still wanted to find a way to include pine nuts and any Italian cheese( let’s be honest: mozzarella in a sweet cupcake would have been too weird) and after some mindboggling brain activity, I had the most wonderful epiphany: a mascarpone cream, sweetened with honey and topped with crunchy pine nuts!

Eureka! Don’t they just look delicious? They tasted delicious as well, I might add. The basil is truly the star of this dessert and its herby freshness blends so well with the juicy sweetness of the peach. Add to that the smooth and comforting mascarpone cream, the delicious hint of honey in the back of your mouth and that lovely bit of bite from the pine nuts, and what you have is the most deliciously sweet taste of summer imaginable! Even Roman Gods would descend from their clouds and make their way to my tiny Belgian kitchen to taste one of my God-almighty cupcakes!

So if you’re ready to let the sunshine in, here is the recipe

Ingredients (makes 10 cupcakes)

• 120gr plain flour
• 140gr caster sugar
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• Pinch of salt
• 40gr unsalted butter
• 120ml whole milk
• 1 egg
• 6 tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
• 2-3 white peaches

For the mascarpone frosting
• 250gr mascarpone
• 4 tbsp honey
• Toasted pine nuts to decorate

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a bowl and mix on low speed until you get a sandy consistency.
3. Whisk together the egg, milk and basil and gradually pour the mixture into the flour mixture. Continue beating until well incorporated.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake tin and cut the peaches into moon- shaped wedges.
5. Layer each cupcake with 4 wedges . Try to create some kind of flower pattern. If this doesn’t really work, no biggy, just put the wedges on top any way you like.
6. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean.
7. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack.
8. Meanwhile, whisk together the honey and mascarpone for the frosting. Once the cupcakes are cold, spoon a quenelle of mascarpone cream on top of each cupcake and finish with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts .
9. Optional: decorate the cupcakes with sugared basil leaves. Brush some basil leaves with a thin coating of egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar. Shake off any excess. Let them dry for at least one hour, this will make the leaves stiffen.