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Holiday Recap: I came, I saw and I ate

Published July 25, 2014 by The Feminist

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I’m back, dear readers. After spending a week enjoying the heat of the sun and the gentle sea breeze in Cannes, followed by a week of nothing but mountain glory in the North of Italy, it was time for me to come home.

I did not want to, believe me. I would have rather stayed in France and would have preferred to spend my entire life sitting on the beach, eating fish soup with delicious rouille whilst making googly eyes at a tall and dark French Adonis, but unfortunately, life is not a fairy tale. Reality awaited. And I had some duties to return to. Like paying rent, going to work and, last but definitely not least, connecting with my thousands of loyal followers. You.

So here it is, folks. A long (and yet incomplete) list of all the delicious things I had the joy of eating during my stay at the French Riviera and in the Italian Dolomites.

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Let’s start with the heavenly delights of France!
First off, I have some unfortunate news: I did not spot any celebrities. *releases a soft wail of disappointment*. However, what Cannes was not able to offer me regarding star status, it totally made up for in its array of hotness walking around. Because –let me make abundantly clear- Cannes is FULL of handsome men.
I mean, hallelujah! It was almost uncanny –pun fully intended- to see so much hotness on one tiny spot by the sea. Add to that the fact that the French Riviera had tons of delicious food on offer –I’m now referring to those of the non-male, edible variety- and you will understand why I had such a lovely time.

Sweet and juicy scallops with a saffron sauce and plenty of different vegetable side dishes. Always a winner with me!

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A delicious fish skewer, marinated in lemon and herbs with a sauce vièrge. That dish was preceded by the most delicious fish soup I had ever tasted and was so damn yummy I forgot to talk a picture.

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FYI, if you go to Cannes, it is key to find local restaurants. They will most likely offer delicious but affordable food. So don’t go running to the Carlton for lunch. Just sayin’.

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I mean, who the hell would pay 8 euros for a cup of coffee??

The French Riviera is famous for its fish, so obviously I ate plenty of it. This was a succulent piece of red mullet with Brandade de Morue.

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This dish surely packed a punch: homemade gnocchi with pistou and octopus in a spicy tomato sauce

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If there is one restaurant experience I have to tell you about, it is this restaurant in Nice: Oliviera. Honestly, it was one of the most extraordinary restaurant experiences in my entire life. First of all, the waiter. He was awesome and talked with so much passion about the food and his olive oils you almost started drooling just by listening to him. Secondly, each dish was paired with a particular type of olive oil. Olive oil was not just used as something to cook with, it was the heart of every dish. While we were waiting for our different courses, the friendly waiter brought us plenty of different olive oils to taste. Lastly, the food was insane. Pure. Delicate. Simple. Heavenly. Succulent burrita mozzarella with Coeur de Boeuf tomatoes, feta and herbs filo pastry tart, homemade raviolis,… and all drizzled with plenty of good olive oil. Mmmm. This was a courgette flower stuffed with a spicy bulgur salad and –of course- drizzled with lots of fragrant olive oil.

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Needless to say, I enjoyed plenty of desserts as well. I started my holidays with an epic ice cream cone with the most insanely delectable flavours: caramel au beurre salé and marron glacé

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(not a very flattering pic, but it’s about the ice cream, not my face 😉 )

Furthermore, I ate quite a few café gourmands, which are espressos served with lots of delicious things along the side.

This one was bold and big with honest flavours: a mini chocolate fondant, a strawberry macaron, vanilla panna cotta with apricot coulis, an almond tart and a huge scoop of rum and raisin ice cream with whipped cream…

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And this one was more petite in portion but –Oh my Frenchy God- that was by far the best coffee layer thingy I have ever tasted in my life! The flavours! The layers! Sensation in the mouth guaranteed. (I enjoyed this one at a rather fancy-looking place called Le Nôtre in Cannes)

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On our last night in Cannes, we ate dinner at L’Assiète Provençale, which is situated in the touristy heart of Cannes –right at the harbor!- but was anything but the tourist trap. The food was refined, and offered modern interpretations of French classics. I had the most amazing fried fleur de courgettes as a starter, honey glazed tuna steak with five spiced vegetables (praise the Lord!) and by miles the BEST LEMON MERINGUE PIE I HAVE EVER TASTED. (In fact, it was so good, I only realized half way through that I forgot to take a picture. So my apologies for the half-eaten slice of pie)

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Oh Mighty Dolomites

Now onto the delicious food I’ve eaten in the Dolomites, a region that embraces both Austrian and Italian cuisine. (So double check pot!) Luckily for me, apart from eating, I spent my days hiking, climbing mountains and doing laps in the swimming pool, so (hopefully) most of those calories got burnt off.

Our hotel is renowned for its gourmet cuisine, so I definitely do not want to spare you the delicious details:

Open ravioli with pea puree, delicate fish and a cream and white wine foam.

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Pan-fried sea bass with steamed vegetables and herby mash

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Milk chocolate mousse with mango and orange-scented shortbread

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Seared swordfish with crispy vegetables and beetroot macaroons.

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Fragrant herb risotto with prawns

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The most delicious banana tart with banana-flavoured parfait

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The ultimate Tiroler dish: spinach spätzle with Almkäse (mountain cheese) and fresh mushrooms

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Steamed whiting fillet on a bed of red pepper couscous

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Vanilla and puff pastry tompouce with vanilla ice cream and red berries

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So who’s hungry now? 😉

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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.

Italy vs. India: a Foodie’s Dilemma

Published December 4, 2013 by The Feminist

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“What would you order for your last supper?”

As a foodie, I often contemplate about this- albeit hypothetical-  question and the truth is that I don’t know the answer to it yet. I love food so much it is practically impossible to choose one ultimate favourite.

A couple of days ago I had a “sushi moment”. For those who aren’t acquainted with the term, here is a brief definition:

“A sushi moment is a period of time- usually somewhere around 5 pm – in which you start craving sushi. For a couple of minutes  people in the streets will turn into chop sticks, street lanterns will look like wasabi and the cobblestones will turn into a plate of your favourite types of sushi. (from yummy Futomaki to delicious Dragon Rolls) This moment will make you very hungry but you should be aware that what you see is just a hallucination. (So don’t go licking the cobblestones)”

Needless to say that after my “sushi moment” I was convinced that sushi would be my last supper. But then, only a few minutes later, I walked past a high quality Belgian chocolate shop.

Chocolate.

I think you get my point. It is impossible to choose only one. So here is what I suggest: when facing imminent death, stop worrying about calories, large portions and fat content. Eat whatever you want. You only die once. (Unless you’re a Vampire Diaries character)

My last meal wouldn’t be complete, however, without some Italian and Indian food. They are so different from one another and yet they both speak to my inner peace. Both cuisines have a spiritual capacity that can turn me from a stressed-out bitch into a Zen-like hippie.  They are the epitome of comfort food and they always make me feel loved. The spices, the colours, the soothing textures, the aromas… they all blend together to form the ultimate cuisines. They are simply the best. (And I think Tina Turner would agree.)

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Turkey Osso buco and linguini with rocket-almond pesto

Now, I normally try to eat as much vegetarian as I possibly can, but there is just something about Osso Buco that makes me incredibly happy. Stews in general tend to make me happy, but this marriage of Mediterranean ingredients makes me believe there is a heaven. A heaven of Osso Buco.

And what a beautiful heaven it is…

Anyway, the linguini accompanying this very scrummy stew is a true flavour bomb. I made this pesto with rocket and almonds, which creates an interesting flavour palate and is less expensive than a basil and pine nut version. (Seriously, every time I see the price of pine nuts I think I’m going to get a heart attack!)

Ps: Normally Osso Buco is made with veal shanks but since I made this dish the day after Thanksgiving, I thought it was only appropriate to use turkey instead. Absolutely delicious!

Ingredients(serves 4)

For the Osso Buco:

  • 4-6  large turkey shanks
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 carrots, finely chopped
  • ½ red pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ yellow pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp chili flakes
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 can (400gr) chopped tomatoes
  • 3dl chicken stock
  • 2dl white wine
  • 1 bay leaf

For the pasta:

  • 375gr linguini
  • 300gr rocket lettuce
  • 100gr almonds
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 30gr parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 200gr cherry tomatoes

Method:

  1. For the Osso Buco: Brown the meat in olive oil. Remove from the large pot and sauté the onions, garlic, carrots and peppers in that same pot.  Return the browned shanks to the pot.
  2. Add the wine and let it simmer for a couple of minutes until the wine has reduced by half. Add the stock, canned tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Add all the spices and the honey and bring to a simmer.
  3. Cover the pan and let it simmer for at least 1 hour until the meat starts to fall of the bone.
  4. Cook your linguini according to packet instructions.
  5. For the pesto: put all the ingredients (except the tomatoes of course)in a blender until you get a lovely paste. Add three tablespoons of olive oil and some extra pasta water (this will give the pesto a glossy shine).
  6. When your pasta is cooked, stir the pesto through the pasta and add the chopped cherry tomatoes.DSCN3440

Indian Vegetable Curry

This may seem like a very long ingredient list, but two thirds of this very alluring list are spices you should all have in your magic spice box. If you don’t have a spice box yet:

First of all : shame on you!

And secondly: Get one.

You have no idea how many wonderful dishes you can conjure up just by having the right spices in your cupboard. This curry is one of those wonderful dishes. It is an homage to the delirious aromas of Indian food: the richness… the heat… the fragrance… the depth… it’s all there.

This is –without a single doubt- the best vegetarian curry on the planet.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into cubes
  • 3 carrots, cut into cubes
  • ½ yellow pepper, roughly chopped
  • ½ red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 200gr frozen peas
  • Fresh coriander
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes (400gr)
  • 5dl coconut milk
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp nigella seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ – 1 tsp chili powder (depends on how spicy you want your curry)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp garam massala
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar

Method:

  1. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large pot. Add  the onion, garlic and all the spices and fry them until your kitchen starts to smell like an Indian Spice Bazaar.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, palm sugar and coconut milk. Stir and let it come to a simmer.
  3. Add the vegetables (except the peas) and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Taste and add salt and pepper. Stir in the frozen peas and let it simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  5. At the end, sprinkle some fresh coriander over the top and serve with rice or naan. (Or both 😉 )

The best of Rome and then some! Handsome Men and Heavenly Food!

Published September 14, 2013 by The Feminist

Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the Trevi fountain, you will return to Rome one day. Needless to say that if it were up to me, I would have tossed in an entire bucket of coins if I could , only to ensure my return to this magnificent ancient city. Because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it is that I want to go back. Sooner rather than later. So that fountain better work its magic or I will be pissed!
I can honestly say that my trip to Rome was everything I expected and so much more. I could now give you a list of all the things I’ve done and all the monuments I’ve visited, but that wouldn’t do the beauty of the city or the incredible awesomeness of my trip justice. Rome cannot be described with a list of activities. Rome is a feeling. Rome is a sensation. It is like a tingling rush of excitement that creeps under your skin, a stream of bliss that pumps through your veins. Rome equals happiness. I can’t explain why, it just does.

Having said that, I do want to point out that there are indeed a lot of handsome men living in Rome. Seriously. A lot. I remember being pushed against this incredibly sexy guy on the subway – for once I couldn’t care less about the inevitable exposure to germs and bacteria on overcrowded public transportation- and admired in total awe the sheer perfection of his complexion, his very manly jawline and his impressive arm muscles (it almost seemed as if he were sculpted by angels!) I’m sure I must have sniggered at him once… or twice- okay, maybe more like ten times- but I just couldn’t control myself. He must have thought I was crazy. Or stupid. Or both.

Probably both. On top of that, Italian men aren’t afraid to show their appreciation of female beauty. They whistle, look you up and down or even shout “Ciao Bella” or “You’re very pretty. I’m single!” at you while you’re walking by. Admittedly, not all of them looked like Armani models, some more resembled creepy Berlusconi, but nevertheless their attention was highly appreciated. Yes, it’s incredibly superficial but I couldn’t help but feel flattered. (In contrast, Belgian men are awful. They don’t look at you and you would have to hit them in the face- with a chair!- to make them notice your existence. Belgian men suck. Big time!)

So where was I? Oh yes, Rome! Apart from really handsome Italian men the other main reason for my huge crush on this ancient city is the überdelicious Roman food. Roman cuisine is without a doubt one of the best –if not the best- regional cuisine of Italy!

I know I said that I wouldn’t give you a list of all the things I’ve visited, but what I will do is give you a list of the most delicious things I’ve eaten. (Not to make you jealous are anything 😉 )

The best pizza I’ve ever tasted: @ pizzeria Dar Poeta

This may seem like an exaggeration, for I can often get overly excited by good food, but when I say this was the best, I do mean it was the best! The thin crust was to die for (incredibly crunchy on the outside but the dough was still soft and comforting in the middle) and the topping was insanely flavoursome (scamorza cheese with zucchini, garlic chilli and the most yummy smoky sweet salami I’ve ever had in my life!)

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A Gigantic plate of antipasti: pure, simple and full of flavour!

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Pesce Spada alla Siciliana and carciofi alla Romana @ La Taverna Dei Fori Imperiali

So good that I was literally on the verge of declaring my love to the chef!

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The best gelato on the planet! @ Gelateria Valentino
It’s hard to explain why exactly this gelateria is the best in Rome, you just simply have to go there and try for yourself. It was –and again, I’m not exaggerating!- THE BEST! I had amaretto-, pistachio-, and chocolate-orange ice cream; they all tasted so pure and fresh and drop-dead-heavenly-good!

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One of Rome’s specialties is fried zucchini and marrow flowers stuffed with mozzarella. De-lish!

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Awesome rolled pizza dough with mozzarella, wild chicory and prosciutto followed by very tasty vegetarian ravioli (me) or paccheri with calamari and crispy pork cheek (my best friend) @ Restaurant That’s Amore

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This chocolate soufflé brought me in a state of sweet chocolate delirium!

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Roman Coda alla Vacchinara (oxtail stew with vegetables): This is authentic Roman food at its best!

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Gnocchi with Seafood and asparagus in a rather spicy sauce: yum, yummer, yummest!

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Oh, and before I forget: lots and lots of aperol Spritz! 😉

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So who’s drooling over his or her keyboard at the moment?

I’m off to Rome! The Pope better be warned.

Published September 7, 2013 by The Feminist

Remember when I told you a couple of months ago that I had booked a trip to Rome? (For those of you who suffer from early Alzheimer’s or just have a really short-term memory: read it again here)

Well, it’s all happening tomorrow morning. Finally. My suitcase is packed (I’ve left some room for “new acquisitions”)and my stomach is empty (I’ve left some room for the delicious Roman food).

I’m so nervous and excited I think I’m about to explode!

Here is a short summary of all the things I want to do/ will probably end up doing:

Sightseeing (duh, I’m in Rome!)

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Eating gelato (duh, I’m in Rome!)

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Dancing with handsome Italian strangers (duh, I’m in Rome!)

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Making indecent proposals (du… I’m sure you get it by now!)

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Of course that means you will have to miss me for a couple of days…

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I know, I’m so sorry.

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But please don’t let my absence get you down! You will survive!

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Still worried? Here’s a little something that will cheer you up and bring comfort in times of sorrow: A garam massala roasted butternut squash stuffed with spicy, velvety dal! This dish doesn’t just look really cool, it’s also the ultimate me-time-deserving form of deliciousness! And you know what’s so special about the dal? It was made with pumpkin soup! Yes, you’ve read that correctly, pumpkin soup! Tell me something: what’ s the best thing about a dal? The velvety texture. What’s the best thing about pumpkin soup? The velvety texture. So putting these things together creates the most mouth-wateringly, mind-blowingly extravagant array of velvetiness!

You’re welcome 😉

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Ingredients
• One butternut squash (cut off the bottom part, since this will make the “bowl” for the dal. Peel it and hollow it out. Use the remaining top part of the butternut for the soup, see below)
• 65gr yellow lentils
• 1 tsp garam massala
• ¼ tsp mustard seeds
• ¼ tsp fenugreek
• ½ tsp cumin seeds
• 2cm piece fresh ginger, grated
• 1 clove of garlic, grated
• 1 large chilli pepper, finely chopped
• 1 tsp turmeric

For the butternut soup (I’ve made an incredibly spicy and fragrant soup from the remaining butternut squash and used some of the soup as the base for my dal and the rest can be kept in the fridge and eaten some other time 😉 )

• 1 large onion, roughly chopped
• ½ red pepper, roughly chopped
• 1 tbsp turmeric
• ½ tsp chilli powder
• 1 tbsp garam massala
• ½ tsp ground ginger
• 1l vegetable stock

Method:
1. Make the soup. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large pot and sautee the onion with the spices. Add the chopped butternut squash and red pepper.
2. Add the vegetable stock to the pan and bring to the boil.
3. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender.
4. Mix everything together until you get a smooth slightly thick and velvety texture. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Rub the bottom part of the butternut with the garam massala and some oil. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 20-30 minutes until the butternut is cooked through and soft.
6. Add a tablespoon of oil in sauce pan and add the spices. Fry until the spices become fragrant. Stir in the garlic and chilli.
7. Add the lentils and 200ml of the butternut soup. Bring to the boil and let is simmer on a low heat for 30-40 minutes. Add a bit more soup (or a splash of water) along the way if necessary.
8. Spoon the dal inside the butternut bowl and top with freshly chopped spring onion and nigella seeds.

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The Art of Homemade pasta: making fresh orecchiette like a Boss!

Published August 11, 2013 by The Feminist

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Making your own pasta from scratch is a very therapeutic thing to do: that rhythmic kneading of the dough, the gentle rolling of pasta ribbons, flour in practically every corner of your kitchen( because let’s face it: if your kitchen doesn’t look like a damp Italian bakery, you’re doing it wrong) …

Making fresh pasta becomes even more therapeutic when you’re not using any kitchen utensils. Forget about that pasta machine! If you really want to become an all-Italian mamma, you have to do it by hand!

So in a state of true tranquility and utter zen-like spirit, I thought I would give homemade –and handmade!- orecchiette a go. No pasta machine. Not even a rolling pin. Just my hands. And it was fun!

The only thing that seemed to be missing was an actual Italian setting. ( a small Belgian kitchen is not really how I imagine my idyllic pasta-making surroundings. ) I poured myself a large glass of delicious Hugo to get into an Italian mood and –well- because I was hoping the alcohol would help me to see a Tuscan sun, rather than a Belgian cloud.

(Side note: A Hugo is a typically North-Italian drink made with prosecco, elderflower cordial, lime juice and lots of mint leaves. It’s like a slightly less alcoholic version of a mojito but with the additional sensational flavour of elderflower! What I’m trying to say is: Forget Aperol Spritz! It’s so 2012. Give the humble but delicious Hugo a go! You can thank me later 😉 )

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So back to the pasta. This orecchiette dough is very easy to make since it doesn’t require eggs. It’s just flour, salt and water. For this recipe I used 300gr of semolina flour, ½ tablespoon of salt and… water. Most of the recipes (online or in books) list an exact amount of water, but previous experiences have taught me not to trust those and I just add water a little bit at a time. It will be different every time you make pasta, so don’t bother measuring it. Trust your instinct. It will guide you… Or trust me.

So pile the flour on your kitchen surface and create a well in the centre. Pour a little splash of water in the well and gradually incorporate the water in the flour using your fingers. Meanwhile add the salt as well. Once all the water is absorbed, continue adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture begins to form a dough. The dough should be soft, not wet!

Now start kneading. Kneading is not very difficult, just really labour intensive. Anybody can do it, the only thing you need is good arm muscles. If you still have no idea how to start kneading, here’s some guidance from Jamie Oliver: “There’s no secret to kneading. You just have to bash the dough about a bit with your hands, squashing it into the table, reshaping it, pulling it, stretching it, squashing it again. It’s quite hard work, and after a few minutes it’s easy to see why the average Italian grandmother has arms like Frank Bruno!”

Amen to that! After your daily dose of physical exercise, wrap your dough in cling-film and let it rest for half an hour. The official method of making orecchiette is rather straight-forward: roll your dough into snake-like strips and cut them into 0,5 cm pieces. Now it’s time to get your thumbs ready. Press your thumb into each piece of dough and pull it towards you. This will make the dough roll and flip over. This movement is supposed to create a slight cap into the dough, which makes it look like a little ear.

Easy huh? In reality, however, the pieces of dough are more likely to look like maggots or unidentifiable cavy little objects, rather than resemble little ears, but that’s the beauty of pasta-making: It’s homemade! It’s not supposed to look perfect! Just as long as it has some kind of cave in it, because this will make it easier for the pasta sauce to cling to the pasta.

Orecchiette finished? Let’s start with the other major part of this recipe: the super duper delicious sauce!

Orecchiette with mushrooms, asparagus, radish shoots and a creamy pecorino sauce

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

• Fresh orecchiette (see instructions above)
• 400gr of mushrooms, choose at least three varieties of mushrooms to make the dish more exciting
• 200gr green baby asparagus
• 100gr radish shoots
• 200ml soy cream
• 100gr grated pecorino
• 1 tbsp thyme
• 1 tsp fennel seeds
• 1 red onion, finely sliced
• 2 cloves of garlic

Method:

1. Blanche the asparagus in some salted boiling water for 2 minutes.
2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds and thyme and stir for a few minutes.
3. Add the mushrooms and let them fry until they are golden brown. Add the soy cream and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes on a low heat.
4. Meanwhile, cook your fresh pasta. This will only take a couple of minutes.
5. Cut the blanched asparagus into pieces and add to the mushroom sauce. Stir in the grated pecorino.
6. Stir the cooked orecchiette in the pasta sauce and season if necessary.
7. Finally stir through the radish shoots.
8. Buon appetito!

In Remembrance of Hotel Etiquette: Here come the cake-nappers!

Published July 26, 2013 by The Feminist

cake buffet

During my stay in Italy, I spent a couple of days in the lovely hotel Sporthotel Obereggen in the Italian province Südtirol, close to the Austrian border. If you are looking for a hotel with splendid views (everywhere you looked you could see the rising grandeur of the Dolomites!), excellent spa services and the most delicious food imaginable, you have to come here!

However, even though I was staying in such a lovely hotel, my peaceful mood was often spoiled by some God-awful morons who tried to take advantage of the hotel’s splendidness. I call them… the CAKE-NAPPERS!

cakenapper

Those of you who still have no knowledge of their existence, I suggest reading the following anecdote:

Sporthotel Obereggen is famous for its gastronomy: a breakfast buffet as large as the dining halls of Buckingham Palace, a delicious 5- course menu in the evening and “Kaffee und Kuchen” for all the hotel guests in the afternoon. (SN: another reason why I love this region: they speak German as well as Italian. To me, this certainly is an extra bonus since I don’t speak a word Italian, apart from Si, No, Grazie and un po’ di parmigiano, but speak fluent German. Ganz einfach! )

So imagine a large table with a variety of about six cakes and pies, all there to be enjoyed… and to be shared. Sharing, apparently, is a word some people have deleted out of their mental dictionaries. Anyone with even the slightest understanding of elementary politeness understands that you cannot eat all the cakes. Oh no. You chose one cake, take one big slice, or maybe two smaller slices of different cakes, and go back to your table and enjoy…

There. It’s easy. And everyone is happy.

Cake-nappers, on the other hand, don’t possess any knowledge of hotel etiquette and completely plunder the buffet, towering giant slices of cake on their plates, leaving nothing but a bit of crumbs for the other guests. Yes, I’m talking to you, family X, or as I like to call you: Family I-Prefer-White-Socks-In-My-Sandals. You were the cake-nappers!

As soon as the hotel staff brought the cakes to the buffet table, family X ran across the room, pushing anyone aside who might have been in their way. They were like little Usain Bolts- but annoying, far less sexy Usain Bolts- running towards the finish line.

usain-bolt-olympics-200m

These four innocent looking people were the first hotel guests to reach the “Kaffee und Kuchen” buffet, and before the other hotel guests could as much as blink, they had plundered their way through at least three quarters of the entire cake assortment.

Veni, Vidi, Mangi.

They came, they saw, and they ate.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think all of you who have ever stayed in a hotel with some form of buffet, can identify with this story. You must have all witnessed some form of cake-napping.

The fruitnappers, for instance. That one family who takes the entire plate of watermelon slices without realizing that- oh wait!- there might be other guests who would like a slice.

plate_of_watermelon-856

The lobster-nappers. That one family, sprinting across the dining room, nearly knocking over the Christmas tree to reach the fancy Christmas buffet and take all the lobsters. And when I say all, I do mean all the lobsters. (And before you start wondering if this could be true, believe me, it is. Unfortunately.)

lobster-cooked-plate

The bread-nappers. That one family at the breakfast buffet, taking an entire loaf of bread (!) up to their room (!!). Seriously, what were they thinking?

bread

Frustrations. We all have them. No matter how excellent your hotel may be or no matter how utterly delicious the food is, it can all get spoiled in a heartbeat because of these stupid stupid stupid people.

Politeness? Manners? Hotel Etiquette? Who cares about all those things? It’s free food, remember?

Ps: On a positive note, Mother X didn’t show up for dinner that evening. I heard Father X saying to the waiter she wasn’t feeling that well. “Stomach problems”. Ha! What goes around…