italian food

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Fishy Business: Two Inventive Dishes from the Sea

Published August 24, 2014 by The Feminist

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Contrary to what the first part of the above title may suggest, this post is actually a celebration of all the wonderful things that can be found under the Sea, and has nothing to do with rather suspicious or shady affairs with handsome Italian business men in Armani suits. (Sorry to disappoint you)

Although I will always attempt to eat vegetarian, there are days when I simply cannot resist the enticing call of a wonderful fish dish. (After all, I am a Pieces.)

The following dishes are true showstoppers that will make for a perfect Sunday meal with the family. They are full with bold flavours, colours and textures and will satisfy your fishy cravings in a heartbeat.

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Oriental Fish Fingers with a Thai-inspired Warm Noodle Salad

These fish fingers are without a doubt the best on the entire planet. Yes, I repeat: the best. You can also use this method to make crispy prawns, scallops, salmon and vegetarian alternatives such as tofu.

For the Fish fingers:

  • 600gr of strong white fish, cut into thick strips
  • Flour
  • 100gr desiccated coconut
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • Salt and pepper

For the sweet-and-spicy dip:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

For the warm noodle salad:

  • 300gr soba noodles, cooked according to the instructions on the package
  • 2 red chilies, finely sliced
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pak choi, cut into chunks
  • 1 red pepper, cut into strips
  • 200gr bean sprouts
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • Lots of fresh coriander
  • Handful of sesame seeds
  • Juice one 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Method:

  1. Season the chunks of fish with salt and pepper and a tiny bit of chili powder. Place the flour onto a plate. Place the beaten eggs into a wide bowl and place the desiccated coconut on another plate. Take a piece of fish and dust it in the flour, next dip it in the egg (allowing any excess to drip off) and finally into the coconut. Put the fish fingers on a large plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (This is an essential step in creating the perfect fish fingers, so do not be tempted to skip it!)
  2. Meanwhile, make your dipping sauce by mixing everything together and pouring the sauce into individual serving jars.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large wok and add the pak choi, ginger, chili, garlic, and red pepper and fry 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked noodles and beans sprouts and add all the other sauces and lime juice. Stir in the sesame seeds and season to taste. Finish with lots of coriander and spring onion.
  4. Deep-fry the fish fingers for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Serve with a wedge of lime, the sweet and spicy dip and the fragrant noodles.

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Red Bream and Pesto lasagna

What makes this lasagna truly stand out is the home-made basil and almond pesto. Sure, you can just use store-bought pesto if you want, to save yourself the time and effort, but trust me: this pesto will transform an already great lasagna into an I-can’t-stop-eating-this-is-sooo-good lasagna.

Ingredients

For the basil and almond pesto:

  • 2 huge bushes of fresh basil
  • 50gr parmesan cheese
  • One clove of garlic
  • Handful of white almonds
  • Salt and pepper
  • Good quality olive oil

For the lasagna

  • Sheets of dried lasagna (no-precooking necessary)
  • 2 large courgettes, cut into 0,5cm slices
  • 1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 500ml tomato passata
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp harissa
  • 500-600 gr red bream filet, cut into strips
  • Home-made pesto
  • 200gr mozzarella, cut into thin slices

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grill the courgette slices for a couple of minutes on each side until you get a lovely griddle effect. Set aside.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, add the garlic, onion and pepper and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato passata, oregano, balsamic vinegar and harissa. Season with salt and pepper and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Make the pesto by blending all the ingredients together. The pesto should have a rather thick consistency and look more like a tapenade rather than a pesto.
  4. Grease individual baking dishes with butter and start assembling the lasagna. First a layer of lasagna sheets, then the courgette slices topped with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Then another layer of lasagna sheets, followed by the fish topped with a generous layer of that home-made pesto. Now another layer of lasagna sheets and another of the courgettes and tomato sauce. Finish with a final layer of lasagna sheets and spread some remaining pesto over the top. Put the mozzarella cheese on top of the lasagna and put in the oven for 30 minutes.

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!

 

 

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!

Pizza Lovers, Be Warned: Pizza with Strawberries, Goat’s Cheese and Pink Peppercorn

Published June 15, 2014 by The Feminist

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Forget all the pizza knowledge you have acquired throughout your pizza-adoring life, because it is time for a reset!

A pizza is not just a brilliant edible plate to help you transport tomato sauce smothered with mozzarella into your mouth, it is also –and more importantly- a white canvas that you can paint with all the yummiest flavour combos on the planet. And when I’m talking about flavour combos, I don’t mean the usual peperoni-cheese/ tuna-olive / ham-pineapple (oh horror!)/ …

Oh no. What I mean by yummy flavour combos are those bonkers, stylish, avant-garde flavours you would normally never put on a pizza. Not in a million years. And yet you do it, because you’re the Queen of Flavour Bombs and trust your own foodie instincts.

A couple of days ago, I (the one and only Queen of Flavour Bombs) had a pizza epiphany:

I.Put. Strawberries. On. My. Pizza.

I put strawberries on my pizza.

Iputstrawberriesonmypizza.

Merely saying it, makes my mind boggle with foodie lust.

Seriously, dear readers and fellow pizza aficionados. This pizza is in every possible way the best thing on this whole damn planet (and far far beyond!).

It’s the classic, posh combination of strawberries, pink peppercorn and balsamic vinegar.

Put on pizza dough.

Together with goat’s cheese.

Some extra juicy nectarine.

And to finish some fragrant basil.

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I’m in heaven.

And if you would like to join me – there is plenty of room on my cloud – here is the recipe:

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Ingredients:

  • One pizza sheet
  • 1 nectarine, cut into slices
  • 2 handfuls of strawberries, sliced
  • 100gr mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 100gr goats cheese, crumbled
  • Basil (lots and lots of it)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Pink peppercorns, crushed

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°C.
  2. Roll out your pizza dough and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle on some salt, pink peppercorn and basil leaves.
  3. Layer the pizza with thin mozzarella sliced. Season with salt and pink pepper.
  4. Now put on the fruit. Season with pink pepper.
  5. Crumble on the goats cheese.
  6. Put in the oven for 15 minutes.
  7. Before serving, drizzle on some balsamic vinegar and sprinkle lots of basil leaves over the top.

Perfect Primavera: Spring In My Step, Spring In My Risotto

Published March 28, 2014 by The Feminist

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By golly, don’t you just love it when the sun shines? I mean, what’s not to love? Those sunbeams shining through branches of trees and the first spring warmth in beautiful harmony with a refreshing breeze…

Sigh. The sunny start of spring is making me very optimistic! I almost feel the urge to touch the flowers, dance in the grass and sing with the birds! (If only I could do that without people looking at me as if I were completely bonkers.)

However, to spare you all some traumatized ears, I won’t be bursting into song. Instead, I will cook something delicious; something reminiscent of this beautiful sunny day.  Sounds good, huh? 😉

This risotto primavera is what spring is all about: fresh, tasty and vibrant. It’s a classic combination of green asparagus and peas, a flavour combination that always sweeps me of my feet in all its simplicity and freshness. The creamy and unctuous texture of the rice balances so well with these tender yet crunchy veg and the basil highlights the green colour palette oh so beautifully. It’s almost like a Van Gogh painting, ready to be eaten…

Risotto with Green Asparagus, Leek, peas and Basil

Ingredients (serves 3)

  • 250gr Arborio rice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • Vegetable stock
  • 9 large green asparagus
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 200gr frozen peas
  • 100gr parmesan cheese
  • Lots of fresh basil

Method:

  1. Clean the green asparagus and steam them until just al dente. Cut them into approx. 2cm chunks. Set aside.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the garlic and onion until soft. Add the rice and let it fry for a couple of minutes.
  3. Pour in the white wine and let it simmer until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid.
  4. Stir in the leeks and add a ladleful of stock. Stir frequently until the stock is fully absorbed. Continue this process, adding the stock one ladleful at a time.
  5. Once your risotto rice is almost tender, stir in the frozen peas and the al dente asparagus and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Season to taste with pepper and parmesan cheese and finally stir in lots of fresh basil.

 

The Farewell Meal: Saying Goodbye To Meat With a Roman Veal Stew & Risotto A La Milanese

Published February 28, 2014 by The Feminist

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You all know by now that I prefer to stick to a vegetarian way of living. Not just for my own health, but for the health of our planet as well. However, it is not always that easy to adopt a 100% meat-free diet when everyone around me seems to be having an inexplicable love affair with all things animal. My brother loves his steak, my dad adores his honey glazed ribs and my mom devours everything that sounds even remotely Italian (From prosciutto di Parma to  Mortadella di Bologna).

Which leads me to the following confession: I still eat meat sometimes. (Feel free to drop your jaw or gasp for air) Once every ten days I am seduced by the heavenly sent of Ossobuco or lamb Jalfrezi and succumb to family pressure to cook one of my world famous succulent stews.

This Roman veal stew was one of those moments. The tender meat was soft and juicy and the sauce elevated the stew to unseen levels of spice perfection. Add to that a creamy risotto with saffron and dots of pretty courgette and you have a meal you will never forget.

A true farewell meal.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly. I’m saying goodbye.

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No, not to you. Don’t panic.

I’m saying goodbye to meat. Finally.

And I am not the only one, because in just a couple of days me and thousands of other fellow Belgians will try to make our country more vegetarian friendly by reducing our meat-consumption. This event is called “Dagen Zonder Vlees”, which means “Days Without Meat”. I’m sure the title is pretty self-explanatory?

Anyway, since I’m planning on dropping meat altogether, I thought it would be somewhat symbolic to end my days of eating meat with a yummy and super delicious meat dish. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but who the hell cares.

Roman veal stew with Risotto a la Milanese

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the stew:

  • 800gr veal, cut into chunks
  • Juice of an orange
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • ½ red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Heaped tbsp. flour
  • 1 can/ 400gr tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp honey

For the risotto:

  • 300gr Arborio rice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp saffron powder or saffron threads
  • 1 courgette, finely chopped
  • Glass of Marsala
  • Parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. For the stew: heat a knob of butter in a large pot and fry the veal chunks until they have a nice brown colour. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. In that same pan, fry the onion, garlic, carrots and pepper for a couple of minutes and add the meat back to the pan. Add the flour to the pot and stir until everything is nicely coated with a thin layer of flour. Fry for a further 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in the orange juice, balsamic vinegar and add the tinned tomatoes. Once you’ve emptied the can of tomatoes, use it as a measuring cup for vegetable stock. Add just enough vegetable stock so that the meat is just covered with liquid. Add the spices, herbs and honey and let it simmer for 1-2 hours on a low heat.
  4. For the risotto: heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes. Stir in the rice and fry for a further couple of minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, heat half a litre of vegetable stock with the saffron.
  6. Add a glass of Marsala to the rice and stir until the wine has evaporated. Stir in the finely chopped courgette and season with salt and pepper. Now add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring until each addition is almost completely absorbed. Once all the stock has been added, the rice should be tender and creamy.
  7. Finally stir in some grated parmesan to taste.

The Italian Bombshell: Baileys Zuccotto with Nutella and Raspberry Filling

Published January 17, 2014 by The Feminist

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A couple of days ago, I had massive amounts of lady finger biscuits lying around in my kitchen. At first, I thought what any other dessert guru would think –Make tiramisu!- but then I started wondering whether there might be something more dangerous I could do with lady fingers. Something more challenging than a tiramisu…

So I ended up calling my best friend, who is an expert on everything Italian: from the language, to the food, to the very yummy men. (You can see why she is my best friend 😉 ) I asked her if she knew any cool and impressive desserts with lady fingers and she immediately exclaimed: “Zuccotto! You have to make Zuccotto!”

So I did. And it was amazing…

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For those of you who aren’t an expert in Italian food like my BFF: a Zuccotto is an Italian dessert originating from Florence. It is a dome-shaped flavour bomb made with cake or lady fingers and is traditionally filled with whipped cream, chocolate chips, nuts, candied fruits and all different types of yumminess.

Although a traditional Zuccotto certainly looks impressive, I was still in doubt about the “ordinary” whipped cream filling. There just had to be a more thrilling alternative!( I know, I know, I’m a bit of a snob. )

So then I started thinking: what if I put one of my favourite types of tiramisu inside the Zuccotto???

Long story short, I made a Nutella and raspberry tiramisu but in the shape of a Zuccotto.

OMG

I have my moments of pure genius.

Not only did it look absolutely delightful and really impressive, this Italian bombshell is a pure explosion of flavours as well! First, there is the sharpness of the raspberry, then in comes the sweet and comforting creaminess of the nutella and mascarpone filling and to top it all off, the boozy lady fingers drenched in Baileys Coffee turn your throat into a love nest of warm and deep flavours…

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Oh yes, if you want to end your meal with a bang, this is definitely the way to go!

PS: I made a somewhat smaller dome, since I knew it would just be me eating it. (Guilty) But if you are expecting friends and family, just double the quantities and you can at least get 9 large portions out of it.

Zuccotto with Nutella and raspberry filling

Ingredients:

  • Lady fingers
  • 150ml Baileys
  • 200ml coffee
  • Cocoa powder

For the Nutella filling:

  • 200gr mascarpone cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 50gr Nutella
  • 50gr caster sugar

For the Raspberry filling:

  • 200gr raspberries
  • 100gr mascarpone cheese
  • 25gr caster sugar

Method:

  1. Line a bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. Mix the coffee with the baileys and dip each lady finger in the mixture. Line the inside of your bowl with the fingers and make sure they are all snugly side by side to prevent the filling from seeping out.
  3. For the Nutella mixture, mix the sugar, egg and egg yolk together in a bowl until you get a pale mixture. Stir in the mascarpone and nutella and mix until you get a smooth consistency. Spoon the batter into your dome of lady fingers. The mixture will fill up to three quarters of the dome.
  4. Put a layer of raspberries on top of the nutella mixture. This will keep both fillings separated.
  5. Make the raspberry mascarpone filling by mixing the leftover raspberries with the mascarpone and sugar. Spread the mixture on top of the layer of raspberries.
  6. Now finish the dome by putting a layer of lady fingers dipped in coffee on top.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Invert the Zuccotto onto a plate and remove the plastic wrap. Dust generously with cocoa powder and dig in!

Bellisima! A very yummy Italian weekend

Published January 6, 2014 by The Feminist

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Italian food. I still have to meet the first person who doesn’t like it. And to be honest, I don’t think I will ever meet him or her, because it is simply physically and emotionally impossible not to be swept away by the real flavours of Italian cuisine.

Just so you know, when I’m talking about Italian food, I do not mean spaghetti Bolognese or spaghetti and meatballs.

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Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these two dishes- they are actually pretty yummy- but they are just not really Italian.

No, when I’m talking about Italian food, I’m talking about food that kicks you in the balls. Food that is so full of flavour, freshness and depth, it will take your breath away. Real, honest Italian food does not look dainty or pretty. It is gutsy and robust.

The bigger the plate, the better.

Now that is a cuisine I love.

As you all know, I like to do my own spin on classic dishes. So if you are a traditional Italian, who prefers his dishes the way la mamma used to make them, I strongly advise you to click away.

If not, let’s bring on some scrumptious Italian food de la casa de Eveline!

To make things even better, both dishes are completely vegetarian. But don’t let that scare you, (not so) dear meat eater! If you make these recipes, you will forget there even was such a thing as meat to begin with!

Pesto lasagna

This was by far the best lasagna I had ever eaten. Grilled vegetables, punchy pesto and smooth béchamel. Eating a piece of this lasagna is like watching a brand new episode of Sherlock: so good it will give you heart palpitations.

Don’t say I haven’t warned you!

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Ingredients:

  • Lasagna leaves, dried and ready-to-use
  • 1 large courgette or 2 smaller ones, cut into 0,5cm slices
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 200gr minced tofu or seitan or quorn
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 500ml passata
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp chili flakes
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 150gr homemade pesto
  • 20gr butter
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of flour
  • 4dl milk
  • 150gr parmesan cheese, grated (plus some extra to finish)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease a square oven dish with butter.
  2. Make the tomato sauce. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the garlic, onion, spices and herbs for a couple of minutes. Add the vegetables (carrot, celery and pepper)  and vegetarian mince and fry for another 3 minutes.
  3. Add the passata and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Let is simmer for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Grill the courgette slices on a hot griddle pan. Set aside
  5. Make your béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a small sauce pan. Once melted, stir in the flour and whisk well. Gradually pour in the milk, while whisking vigorously. Stir the mixture until it starts to thicken and until there are no lumps left. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the grated parmesan.
  6. Assemble the lasagna. Start with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Now put a layer of lasagna leaves on top. Then a generous layer of tomato sauce- a layer of lasagna leaves- a layer of fresh pesto topped with courgette slices- a layer of lasagna leaves- layer of tomato sauce- layers of pesto and courgette-layer of lasagna leaves…. Repeat this process until you have used up all your tomato sauce, pesto and courgettes. Now finish with the scrummy béchamel and sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan on top.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Mediterranean Mash with stuffed courgette spirals

This is truly the best of both worlds coming together on a plate of culinary brilliance. The mash is very macho. The courgette rolls are very ladylike. But together they form the perfect marriage. The fragrant mash is zinging with basil, chives and fresh cherry tomatoes. The bold courgette spirals are a celebration of heavenly cream cheese and rich sundried tomatoes. Jay-Z and Beyoncé? Brad and Angelina? These glamourous showbizz couples suddenly seem nothing more than a bag of chewy Cheetos in comparison to this dish.

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Ingredients:

  • 750gr potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Lots and lots of fresh basil
  • Approx. 3 tbsp fresh chives
  • 300gr cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 250gr cream cheese
  • 200gr sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 courgettes, cut lengthwise into 0,3cm slices

Method:

  1. Grill the courgette slices on a hot griddle pan.
  2. Mix the cream cheese with the sundried tomatoes.
  3. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the courgette slices and roll them up into cute spirals. Put them in a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 180°C.
  4. Meanwhile, make your mash. Cook the potatoes until soft; drain. Mash the potatoes until you get a smooth mixture but do make sure it is not too smooth. (This mash is supposed to be butchy not drab.) You will probably have some leftover cream cheese mixture, so by all means put that in your mash. It will make it even more flavoursome. If your mash looks to dry, add a little splash of milk and some olive oil. Stir in the fresh herbs and the tomatoes. The heat of the mash will slightly soften the tomatoes. Ah, heavenly.

Keep on Stirrin’: The Best Risotto in the World

Published November 20, 2013 by The Feminist

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This is a very bold statement, I know. But sometimes you just have to stop being modest and tell the truth for a change. Have I tasted all the possible risottos in the world? No. (Although it would be pretty awesome if I had.) Have I read about all the other risotto options in an abundance of cookbooks? I haven’t. (Frankly, I don’t have the time, being an industrious American Studies student and all that. My professor would get a heart attack if he knew I had more knowledge about the history of risotto than about –say- Woodrow Wilson’s presidency.)

So how do I know this mackerel, shrimp and saffron risotto is the best?
To tell you the truth, there are plenty of other delicious risottos that deserve the title as well. Think about a wild mushroom risotto with gorgonzola cheese and roasted pear (yum!) or a pumpkin risotto with sage butter and roasted pine nuts. (yum yum!)However, when I was standing in my kitchen the other day, there was only one ingredient that would be able to satisfy my cravings. Mackerel.

Do I hear you frowning, dear reader? No worries, I completely understand your reluctance to see the brilliance of this fish. Honestly.

Taking into account that big frown on your forehead, let me just say this: mackerel is the most wonderful fish on the planet. It’s full of vitamins, full of good oils and so delectably juicy and scrummy it will make your mouth water just from looking at it.

So on that rainy and cold evening I decided that mackerel was the only way to go. Add to that the soothing and comforting texture of the risotto and the aromatic warmth of saffron and there is no further denying it. Shout it from the roof tops, dear readers.

THIS IS THE BEST RISOTTO.

Anyway, on to something completely different. (and less fishy) The best thing about cooking a risotto is the stirring. I’m aware that in the midst of a foodie battle- to stir or not to stir?- this might be a rather controversial thing to say. To all those who firmly believe risotto shouldn’t be frequently stirred: by all means, go ahead. After all, who am I to change your stirring aversion?

On the other hand, if you’re one of those people, you’re really missing out on all the fun. The rhythmic stirring, watching how those separate kernels of rice start to form a creamy union of splendidness, sipping from a glass of white wine, swaying around in your kitchen with JT’s angelic voice in the background…

Stirring risotto is simply the most joyous, relaxing and ultimately comforting time consuming act there is.

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Mackerel, shrimp and saffron risotto

Ingredients(serves 4):
• 300gr risotto rice
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 round green courgette, finely chopped
• 1 round yellow courgette, finely chopped
• 1 orange pepper, finely chopped
• 4 mackerel fillets
• 20 shrimps
• ½ tsp saffron powder
• ½ tsp paprika
• ¼ tsp smoked paprika
• 1 glass of white wine (drink the remaining wine while stirring)
• Vegetable stock
• Fresh mint
• Juice of a lemon

Method:
1. Heat the stock together with the saffron. In a separate pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil add the onions, courgette and pepper, and fry for 5 minutes without colouring. Keep Stirrin’. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice, paprika and smoked paprika and turn up the heat.
2. The rice will now begin to lightly fry. Keep stirrin’. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the white wine. Keep stirring — it will smell fantastic. (Meanwhile, practice your dance moves by mimicking the movement of your wooden spoon with your hips. )
3. Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Keep stirrin’. Continue adding ladlefuls of stock, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. Keep stirrin’. Think of it as giving the rice a well-deserved massage. This will take around 15 minutes.
4. In a separate pan, fry the mackerel fillets skin side down so the skin gets really crispy. Sprinkle on plenty of paprika. Remove from the pan and fry the shrimps in the same pan. Add same extra paprika and chili pepper.
5. Stir the cooked shrimps through the risotto. Take the skins of the mackerel fillets. Flake the fillets into the risotto and cut the skins into thin fish crisps. Stir through the risotto. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Finally, sprinkle on plenty of fresh mint and some lemon juice.

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.