pasta

All posts tagged pasta

Fishy Business: Two Inventive Dishes from the Sea

Published August 24, 2014 by The Feminist

fish

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.

Squid Tales: Speedy, Simple and Spectacular

Published April 5, 2014 by The Feminist

squid

From the traditional calamari fritti to some sticky and caramelized squid in a Vietnamese stir-fry: I love squid in all its glorious versatility. The following recipes are no exception. The first one is an eccentric explosion of flavours; a harmonious sing-along of pistachio, coriander and parsley. Whereas the second recipe is exhuberantly hearty, a Cajun-spiced one-pot wonder.

If you’re a seafood expert who loves getting his or her hands stuck in some slimy tentacles, be my guest to clean the squid all be yourself. (The satisfaction will be even greater!) But if you’re a squid nitwit or someone who just got her nails done (like me), there is no shame in asking the fish monger to do it for you. It will make cooking these recipes even easier than they already are.

Kamut linguini with pistachio pesto and smoky squid

I love kamut pasta, because this ancient wheat gives the pasta an incredibly satisfying earthy flavour. (Plus: it is a wholegrain pasta, which means it is really good for you!) The pesto is a nice alternative to the traditional basil-pine nut version and goes beautifully with the smokiness of the squid.

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Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 350gr kamut linguini
  • 4 squid tubes
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp chili flakes
  • 2 yellow courgettes, diced
  • 250gr cherry tomatoes

For the pistachio pesto:

  • 60gr pistachios
  • Lots of fresh coriander
  • Lots of fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil

Method:

  1. Blend all the ingredients for the pesto together in an electric mixer and season with salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil to form a paste but it shouldn’t be runny.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and fry the courgette for a couple of minutes. Add the halved cherry tomatoes.
  3. Meanwhile cook the kamut linguini al dente. Drain but keep 100ml of the starchy cooking liquid.
  4. Stir the cooked pasta in the vegetables and add the pistachio pesto. Now pour in the cooking liquid so that the pesto transforms into a lovely glossy pasta coating.
  5. Wait until the very last minute to cook your squid. Cut the squid into 0,5 cm strip. Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan and when the pan is scorching hot, add the squid, smoked paprika and chili flakes. Season with salt. Fry for no more than 3 minutes.
  6. Scoop a large serving of pasta onto your plate and put your delicious squid on top.

Cajun-spiced rice with squid and brown shrimp

Just like the recipe above, I used brown rice for this one, because it just has so much more flavour and adds a really gutsy element to the dish. (You know what they say: No guts, no Glory!) This dish is inspired by the world famous Jambalayah but contains no meat, only seafood. The blend of spices together with the heartiness of the rice and the sweetness of the seafood is incredibly comforting…

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Ingredients (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 300gr brown rice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 200gr green beans, chopped into 2cm pieces
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 3-4 tbsp Cajun spice (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 400gr or one can of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 squid tubes, cut into strips
  • 200gr brown shrimps
  • 150gr crayfish
  • Lemon
  • Fresh coriander
  • Vegetable stock (approx. 750ml)

Method:

  1. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large pan and sauté the onion for a minute. Add the rice and fry for a further minute or two. Stir in the green beans and peppers and add the chopped tomatoes. Add the Cajun spice.
  2. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for at least 45 minutes. Until your rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. (It should not be a stew but it should not be completely dry either. Just the right amount of moisture. It’s a tricky thing, but follow your gut 😉 )
  3. In a separate pan fry the squid with some extra Cajun spice and salt. Stir the squid, shrimps and crayfish into your rice and finish with lemon juice and chopped coriander.

Snow-Proof Food: Paccheri with Roasted Figs, Stilton and Radicchio

Published January 31, 2014 by The Feminist

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I’m leaving for the snowy mountains of Austria tomorrow.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly.

This blogger is going skiing!

You cannot believe how long it has been since my last sky trip to the Alps and I am so terribly exited , I don’t think I will be able to get much sleep tonight due to an exceedingly high level of adrenaline rushing through my body.

Austria is a beautiful country, full of magnificent nature and an über cool abundance of schnapps.

The only thing the Austrian Alps seem to be missing is a high percentage of hot dudes. (This blog is-after all- still called Fashion, Food & Flirts!) Therefore, I will make it my personal goal next week to go and look for sexy Lederhosen-wearing men, to prove to everyone that their prejudice about Austrians is absolutely wrong.

I will make it my quest to look out for men who look like this:

jesse

A mountain version of Jesse Williams? It can’t be that difficult, can it?

Or maybe find myself a Captain Von Trapp who looks like this:

michael

I would be happy to sing “the Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music” (even though my voice sounds like a cow with bowel problems) if it meant winning over a Michael Ealy look-a-like!

Me picky???

Not at all!

I would gladly “settle for”  a Hiddleston, Cumberbatch or Fassbender

bennie fassbender

…if I have to.

I can already predict the potential side-effects:

Ovaries

I’m getting slightly off topic here.

Where was I?

Ah, yes. I’m going skiing!

Which means that I will be spending a lot of time in the snow. In the cold. Possibly freezing my ass off. So in order to prepare myself for all that cold weather and glacial temperatures I cooked myself a heart-warming, super comforting dish.

A bowl of steaming pasta… with an intense stilton sauce… some heavenly-sweet roasted figs… crunchy bitter radicchio… and finally a good sprinkling of chopped walnuts…

Merely describing this dish to you all is making the snow melt, so I think I’m going to stop writing and give you the recipe instead (I still want there to be some snow left when I get there, you know.)

PS: Unfortunately, this also means I won’t be able to blog for at least a week. Sorry folks! But don’t you worry, I’ll be back! (For once, quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger is allowed, since he himself is Austrian 😉 )

Paccheri with Roasted Figs, Stilton and Radicchio

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 100gr paccheri pasta
  • 4 figs, cut into quarters
  • Large handful of radicchio, sliced into thin strips
  • 25gr stilton cheese, plus extra to garnish
  • Chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ tsp dried thyme

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. (keep some of the cooking liquid for later)
  2. Heat a knob of butter in a pan and fry the figs until slightly charred. Sprinkle on the honey and dried thyme.
  3. Melt the stilton cheese on top of the al dente cooked pasta and stir in approx. 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to create an even creamier sauce.
  4. Stir in the roasted figs and just before serving stir through the radicchio.
  5. Serve the pasta on a large plate and decorate with chopped walnuts and some extra stilton cheese.

Bellisima! A very yummy Italian weekend

Published January 6, 2014 by The Feminist

italian

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.

the horror

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 😉 )

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.

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?

When your mom says it’s the best pasta dish she’s ever tasted…

Published August 27, 2013 by The Feminist

… you’ve simply got to post it on your blog!

Are you ready?

Here it is: my conchiglie pasta with a mackerel and fennel saffron sauce!

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Applause!

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This is a very special pasta dish. Not only is it ridiculously delicious, but it is also ridiculously easy and quick to make. Seriously, if you don’t try it, you are absolutely bonkers!

This dish was inspired by my passion for Sicilian food and its intriguing blend of Italian and North African flavours. One of Sicily’s national dishes is pasta con le sarde; a wonderful sweet and salty spaghetti with fresh sardines, wild fennel, raisins, pine nuts and saffron. The combination of sweet and savoury is typical of Sicilian food and one of the main reasons why I love it so much.

As you may guess, I’m not one to copy a recipe straight from the book and like to put my own twist to things. I decided to stick to the fennel and saffron, but I opted for a funkier type of pasta shape (funky me!) and used fresh mackerel fillets instead of sardines. (In my humble but honest opinion I truly believe that mackerel is the most beautiful looking and tasting fish in the entire world!)

And this is where it gets weird: The traditional dish requires a dry white wine for the sauce, but I didn’t feel like opening up an entire bottle of wine just so I could use a splash of it in my sauce, so I ended up pouring a good glug of Martini Bianco in my pan.

Yes.

Martini Bianco. You know what our good ol’ friend George Clooney used to say: No martini, No party!

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I know you think that a food purist would consider this sacrilege, but I swear on my mother’s incredibly advanced flavour palate that the sweetness of the martini is a wonderful accompaniment to the aniseedy fennel and aromatic saffron!

And this is where it gets really bonkers: the traditional pasta con le sarde is presented with toasted breadcrumbs on top, but I really couldn’t be bothered to make some croutons from scratch and was about to skip this part of the recipe when I got a twisted idea …While I was frying the mackerel fillets skin-side down in a pan, I got overly excited about the crispiness of the skin and decided to turn the skin into a mackerel skin crumble topping. I removed the skin from the soft and succulent flesh of the fish and chopped it op as finely as possible and sprinkled it on top of the pasta when it was finished! Eureka!

So imagine me and my mom sitting at the kitchen table. The pasta dish was made in no less than 15 minutes so we weren’t really expecting to be hit with the most incredible flavour bomb in the history of flavour bombs. And then it happened: we took a bite… looked at each other in utter surprise… and sighed out of pure contentment. “This is by far the best pasta dish I’ve ever tasted”, my mom said after a couple of minutes. (the disbelief clearly audible in her voice 😉 )

And you know what they say:” mums know best”, so this has got to be the truth!

Ingredients (serves 2):
• 225gr of conchiglie pasta
• 1 fennel bulb
• Handful of cherry tomatoes
• Generous pinch of saffron
• Juice of half an orange
• A good splash of martini bianco
• 3 fresh mackerel fillets
• Pinch of chili flakes

• Handful of toasted pine nuts

Method:
1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
2. Finely slice the fennel in thin stripes and half the cherry tomatoes.
3. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the mackerel skin-side down until the skin gets really crispy. (Cook the mackerel entirely on the skin side, this will keep the flesh extra moist)
4. Remove the skin from the fish. Keep aside and flake the flesh of the fish and put it in a bowl.
5. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan you used to cook your fish and now add the fennel, tomatoes , chili flakes and salt. Sautee for a couple of minutes.
6. Pour an generous splash of martini over the top, together with the saffron and let it simmer until the liquid has almost entirely evaporated.
7. Add the juice of half an orange and season with some extra salt and pepper.
8. Add your cooked pasta, an extra tablespoon of olive oil and stir through the flaked mackerel fillets.
9. Toss through some toasted pine nuts and at the very last minute chop your crunchy fish skin and scatter all over the pasta.

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!

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? 😉