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Italy: where Love means Food and Food means love

Published July 27, 2013 by The Feminist

This is probably the holiday recap you had all been waiting for: a bite by bite exploration of Italian cuisine.

Needless to say that it’s impossible not to mention food when discussing a trip to Italy. Italy is food. Italians talk about food as if they were talking about their lovers and all Italians cook with their hearts. Italian food is like a love affair: intense, pure and incredibly satisfying and exciting.

The most remarkable thing about Italian food is its simplicity. Less is more. With often less than 4 ingredients, they were able to put a plate in front of me that just blew me away. Pure and honest flavours.
Simple but never ever ever under-seasoned. And that, is the trickiest balance to get right.

So are you ready to see the evidence of my foodie Italian adventure?
Here we go!

1) Let’s start with the antipasti:

Aubergine millefeuille: so simple and yet so delicious!

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Wonderful carpaccio di Pesce Spada with fennel and almonds ( of which I –boohoo– forgot to take a picture)

Just to give you an idea of what it looked like:

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(just imagine the thin slices of fennel and almond flakes on top 😉 )

Amazing Vitello Tonnato: the best vitello Tonnato I have ever eaten in my entire life, I swear! (again, no pic, I was often just too mesmerized by the food that I couldn’t be bothered to so much as think about taking a picture)

2) The primi piatti:

The most delicious black tagliatelle with sea food: H-E-A-V-E-N!

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Bigoli pasta with… donkey sauce! Yes, sit in awe and be amazed!

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Raddicchio and taleggio risotto: the best risotto ever! (and woops, no picture)

But it looked a bit like this:

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Parsley risotto with shrimps: this sure packed a punch!

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Intense fresh egg pasta with hard goats’ cheese and pepper: sounds very basic but it just blew me away! (which, I guess, is the reason why I forgot to take a picture)

Potato gnocchi with celery and mushrooms: mmm, I love gnocchi!

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Vegetarian cannelloni stuffed with Mediterranean vegetables and a regional type of Hüttenkäse

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3) The secondi piatti:

Grilled pesce spada à la Siciliana: soooo good!

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Seppia gratinato (cuttlefish) stuffed with shrimp and tomatoes: the cuttlefish was cooked to perfection!

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Monkfish cooked al cartoccio with clams, mussels, vegetables and pesto: divine!

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Grilled vegetable tart with mozzarella: pure and delicious!

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Tagliata di manzo with rocket, parmigiano and balsamic syrup: a classic!

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4) Lots and lots of dessert: as always!

As you could read (and see) in my previous posts, I ate quite a lot of gelato, and why wouldn’t I? It’s just sooo good.

So beside that cone with a scoop of flora and cioccolate fondante, I devoured a cone with Malaga ice cream and biscotti ice cream: probably the best flavours on the planet!

I also had a rather gigantic Amaretto ice- cream bowl: chocolate, coffee and hazelnut ice cream drenched in plenty of Amaretto and topped with amaretti biscuits and whipped cream. Oh boy!

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In an attempt to eat more healthy: a giant bowl of frozen yoghurt with caramelized nuts and honey. I know, not really authentic Italian but oh so good!

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Apart from the gelato, I absolutely adore the Italian pasticceria as well!
A plate full of biscotti, which you were supposed to dunk in sweet dessert wine! Oh my God!!

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Moorish nutty caramel cake with coconut ice cream and sour cherries: seriously one of the best puds I have ever eaten! (And I’ve eaten quite a lot in my lifetime!)

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Südtirol has a lot of Austrian influences, especially in its cuisine, which is a lovely melting pot of Mediterranean Italy and Alpine Austria. And I simply couldn’t resist all those traditional Austrian Torten und Kuchen: I ate the most wonderful Topfenstrudle (it was so delicious that I forgot to take a picture) and ate the world famous Sachertorte not once, but twice.

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The list above is, of course, not a complete list of all the lovely and delicious things I ate during my stay in Italy but it would have been simply too much for you to handle! 😉

But before I go, I would like to give you a sneak peak of an Italian dish I cooked myself while I was over there:

Antipasti with a large variety of cured meats, and a salad of scamorza cheese (smoked mozzarella), sweet and juicy nectarine, basil and freshly ground pepper.

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Followed by grilled vegetables and spicy gnocchi with dried chillies, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and monte vecchio cheese.

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Yum!

So who’s hungry now? 😉

Convert a carnivore & Save the planet: Anything is possible with these vegan dishes!

Published April 23, 2013 by The Feminist

I know that there are a lot of people who still have an inexplicable lack of faith in vegetarian dishes. For some insane reason they seem to think that “no meat” equals “no flavour”. They worry about whether it will be nutritious or filling enough. If you so much as mention you’re going to cook vegan, you can see the look of pure horror on their faces.
I think those people are idiots. Seriously, it really pisses me off how so many people can still be so ignorant! In sharp contrast to every carnivore’s assumption, vegetarian and vegan food equals versatility. You’re not bound by the “I have to use meat” rule, meaning that you can be as bold and as crazy in the kitchen as you like! You will discover a whole range of new ingredients and new flavour combinations that will simply blow your socks off. A marriage of tastes and textures you wouldn’t have thought possible…
The following two vegan dishes may sound very strange to carnivores (or as I like to cool them, ignorant morons 😉 ) But I can assure you, once they will have tasted this, they will be back for more! These recipes are so cool, interesting and –above all- delicious that they will absolutely forget meat ever existed!
However, let’s not be naïve. Serving these vegan dishes to your carnivore friends won’t suddenly turn them into vegetarians or vegans as well. But it will make them realize that they can indeed survive without their precious piece of meat or fish. They may even be willing to cut back on their meat consumption and be prepared to cook vegetarian dishes of their own!

More people eating less meat. That is the ultimate goal. And these vegan dishes will help us achieve it!

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Oriental Seitan and Salsify Stir-fry with dried cranberries

I know this may sound like a really really really odd combination, but I am actually incredibly proud of this dish! I love salsify but I wanted to do something completely different with it ( so not the usual salsify in béchamel sauce). I wanted to create something new and vibrant. I honestly have NO  idea why I suddenly thought dried cranberries would do the trick – but hey- who am I to question my own brilliance? This dish is packed full of flavour and all its different textures marry together like a culinary harmony. The juiciness of the seitan, the earthiness of the salsify, the sweet-sour fruitiness of the cranberries, the crunch of the nuts and seeds and that gorgeous blend of spices and fragrant coriander… it almost sounds poetic!

Ingredients (serves 1):

• 100gr seitan, cut into small chunks
• 200gr salsify, I used the canned pre-cooked ones, but if you the courage to tackle that annoyingly sticky root vegetable by yourself, be my guest
• Handful of dried cranberries
• Handful of nuts and seeds
• Handful of chopped coriander
• Juice of half an orange
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 2tsp curry powder
• 3 pieces of candied ginger (in syrup) , finely chopped
Method:
1. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan and fry the seitan chunks until they’re golden browns and crisp.
2. Add the drained salsify and the spices and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the cranberries, ginger, nuts and seeds and the orange juice to create a wonderful sticky gravy.
4. Stir in the chopped coriander et voila! : A speedy, wonderfully nutritious and healthy dinner!

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Tomato and pea curry with coconut and coriander risotto
This is fusion cooking at its best. Indian meets Italian, or as I like to call it: Italindian. The sharpness of the tomatoes blends incredibly well with the sweetness of the peas. The hot and spicy kick of the fragrant curry and the rich creaminess of the risotto create the perfect symphony of flavours. This is simply a must for everyone who loves a classic Indian curry or a traditional Italian risotto. It’s the best of both worlds, but with an edgy twist!
Ingredients(serves 4)
For the curry:
• 500gr cherry tomatoes, halved
• 500gr frozen peas
• 2 onions, finely sliced
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 500ml of passata
• 1tsp chilli powder
• 1 ½ tbsp garam massala
• 1 tsp ground ginger
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
• ½ tsp ground cumin
• 2 tsp brown sugar
• 2 tsp turmeric
For the risotto:
• 320gr risotto rice
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 400ml coconut milk
• 400ml vegetable stock
• Lots of fresh coriander
Method
1. Heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wide casserole or pan that comes with a lid, and add the chopped onions, garlic and all the spices, stirring frequently as you cook them over a low to medium heat for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the tomato passata and the brown sugar and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes so that all the spices can infuse the tomato sauce.
3. Add the peas and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary and cook for a further 10 minutes.
4. For the risotto, sauté the onion in a tablespoon of oil for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir until all the grains of rice have a nice oily coating.
5. Add a ladle full of the stock to the pan and stir well. Cook until nearly all of the stock has been absorbed and then add another ladleful of the stock. Do the same with the coconut cream, this will give the risotto the most wonderfully rich texture.
6. When the rice is cooked, stir through the chopped coriander.

London Part Two: The Food

Published February 9, 2013 by The Feminist

In my opinion, London is the most exciting place on the planet when you consider yourself a foodie.

Why?
1. It has the best exotic, Asian or Indian restaurants in Europe!
2. Londoners have a sweet tooth and they prefer their cakes BIG and HEAVY instead of dainty and light!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that simply because of these two reasons London is my idea of food heaven!

During those three short days of pure heaven I’ve eaten a ridiculous amount of food ranging from “pretty damn good” to “blooming brilliant”.

Here are the dishes that truly wowed me:

• A raw vegetable, apple, blue cheese and walnut salad: I wasn’t expecting this salad to be this good but I can honestly say that without a doubt this was the BEST SALAD I have ever tasted! EVER! (@ Electric Diner on Portobello Road)

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• A Mediterranean mezze with hummus, tabouleh, tzatziki, falafel, stuffed filo pastry with goat’s cheese and spinach, chicken casserole, lamb casserole, aubergine salsa, Kisir ( a wonderful salad of bulgur wheat, herbs and walnuts!) and many other dishes! (@ Troia near London Eye)

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• Korean BBQ (@ Myung Ga near Regent Street): I normally try not to eat meat but SWEET BABY JESUS this was simply too good to resist! The lovely sweet, marinated chicken, pork and beef were delicious together with the noodles, kimchi and sweet and sour spring onions.

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• Coffee and walnut layer cake @ Selfridge’s: This was a gigantic slice of cake and it was to die for! The tearoom on the ground floor of Selfridge’s is pretty decadent and upper-class , hence the high prices, but it was worth every penny!

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• Amai Udon, duck gyoza and ebi gyoza (@ Wagamama on Earl’s Court): Don’t you just love Wagamama??!! We were in a hurry to catch our train back to Belgium so we didn’t have a lot of time, but that doesn’t mean we ate at KFC or McDonalds! Wagamama, with its very healthy and nutricious fast food, is the best restaurant on the planet if you want to get a quick and super yummy meal!

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• Raspberry Cheesecake brownie (@ Hummingbird Bakery on Old Brompton Road) : I have all the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbooks (which I consider the BEST cookbooks on the planet. And I mean it!) so you can imagine how excited I was to finally taste a cake that was made in the bakery itself! Needless to say it was delicious, just look at the picture below:

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