I have a confession to make: I don’t like tap water. And as I only drink water most of the time (the occasional juice aside), that is a real bummer. Because, as if the whole not-liking-tapwater isn’t enough, I have also a strong preference for a certain brand of bottled water. Plastic bottles, I know! To make it even worse, I was so attached to the brand, that I took my reusable bottle to school, filled with bottled water. Sigh, that doesn’t help much, does it?
I am pleased to tell you that I am slowly changing my ways. Thanks to Little Boy (who’s actually not that little anymore, it’s scary how fast those kids grow!). He consistently and specifically asks for tap water. I do the same for his little sis, for whom it doesn’t matter, as long as she can drink from a glass, like her mother. And I?
Well, I’m trying. When I’m really thirsty, I first drink a glass of cold tap water and then decide if I want bottled water. It helps if it’s cold, so I often keep a pitcher of tap water in the fridge. And to get my husband on board too (which seems nearly impossible), I make infused water.
He likes fresh tastes, like lemon and lime and cucumber. I prefer a sweet touch, like watermelon or strawberry. For Little Boy it doesn’t matter, as long as he sees it’s infused, he’s over the top enthusiastic.
It has been a few weeks since our last can, time to start again. And because Pinterest is my friend and those pictures scream summer all over, I’ll share with you my best finds.
grapefruit @ rosemary actually this is a gorgeous article on infused water, with plenty of interesting combinations. I particularly like how fresh herbs are involved.
Disclaimer: I do not create recipes. I improvise. When something actually really works, I try to write it down, so I could recreate it later. Which, to be honest, I often forget, unless it was a very quick win.
Lasagna. While I do appreciate a good one, I hated the fact that there was so much work involved. Making two sauces. Cooking dried pasta sheets and separate them before thy would all stick together. So I never ever made lasagna and always went for store-bought. Which was good, but classic.
And then there was pumpkin season. And a whole lot of cheap pumpkin. And fish fillets – plaice. Not very much of it. Some leek. And inspiration. One has got to love inspiration. Not hesitate when it strikes. So I bring to you: my first lasagna ever. With pumpkin béchamel sauce. Ta-daaaa!
First, roast some (a lot of) pumpkin. I cut it in cubes, place it on my baking tray and roast with just a little vegetable oil, pepper and salt.
When roasted, make your sauce: a classic béchamel (you know: equal amounts of butter and flour, cooked until you have that hazelnut smell, and then add milk bit by bit and whisk whisk whisk!) When it’s almost done and not too thick (it has to make your pasta cooked), stir in two thirds of the roasted pumpkin. Stir well. Season to taste.
Prepare the extra ingredients: cut leek in small strips and cook/wok. Do the same with the plaice, but leave it raw. Flatfish is thin enough to cook during the time the lasagna is in the oven.
Boil water for the lasagna sheets. Spread out kitchen towels where the sheets can be put apart once they’ve met the boiling water for about three minutes.
Layer your lasagna: Sauce, pasta, leek/fish/rest of the pumpkin. Repeat. End with pasta covered by sauce. Put in a 200°C oven for about 30 to 40 minutes.
If you plan to blog about it – try not to eat it all before the picture. And if you want some for lunch the next day (excellent idea!) – give precise instructions to your husband. Very precise. As in: eat these leftovers and you’ll spend the night on the couch. Alone.
Almost three years into mothering my sweet little boy, I’ve had to bend a lot of the principles I had in my mind before entering parenthood. There are others though, that with the cooperation of my little gourmand, I never had any trouble to instill – and those all have to do with food.
One of them was that I absolutely wanted him to consider vegetables as an essential part of the meal. Not something I would have to push. Not something we would have to fight over. One condition: taste everything. Even just by licking.
So from his very first day at school, vegetables are in his lunchbox. September and October were still nice and warm, so raw carrots, tomatoes or cucumber were no problem. When the weather started to change though, raw vegs came back untouched – and to be honest, I can understand why. So I started to look for new ways to fill up his lunchbox with all these vitamins and nutrients.
Enter puff pastry pea rolls. Tasty hot and cold, so perfect as leftovers to feed a toddler who likes something different from the traditional sandwich. And dead easy to make.
You’ll need two hands full of frozen peas, cooked and well drained. Put them in a blender with a spoon of cream cheese, freshly grated parmesan. (You can add some wilted leafy greens too, if you want.) Season to taste. Blend until creamy, maybe just a tad chunky.
Preheat the oven to a 200°C. If you like them, you can bake some lardons until they’re crispy. Flatten a sheet of puff pastry, spread with the pea mixture, sprinkle with lardons. Roll up and cut into strips.
Put on a baking sheet and in the oven until the pastry is golden.
If you manage to have leftovers (or be smart and bake twice the usual amount), let them cool down completely before packing them in an airtight container. Lunchbox will be empty. Promise!
The day I moved into a house with a garden (a rental first, or own house now), we’re the proud possessors of a particularly generous redcurrant bush. We didn’t plant them, they just came with the house. Never had to put nets on it, birds weren’t feasting on them, and still both of the bushes were abundantly covered with red berries. That I love to look at, but don’t really like.
So I handed them out to friends and family, until my elderly neighbor told me that I just had to try to make jam. She promised me it wouldn’t be hard at all and that she did nothing fancy with her recycled pots and it would keep 6 months anyway. So I finally decided to give it a try. But it had to be jelly. Redcurrant should be eaten as jelly, not as jam. Don’t ask me why, that’s just the way I feel it. So here I bring to you: redcurrant jelly for those who never attempted to make anything jam-ish before. Foolproof, so to speak.
Pick the little red berries. I cute little helper makes that job even more enjoyable. Leave those stalks and stuff on and put them in a strainer. Rinse thoroughly. Weigh them. I had about 600 grams.
Cook them like you would make cranberry sauce. I added about 200 ml of water. Stir so they don’t burn. You want them to burst open and release their juices. Don’t mind the stalks and stuff. They will add extra pectin to the mix, which is a good thing when you’re making jelly.
Find a pristine kitchen towel that you’re not too attached to (I used those gauze-like baby cloth towels) and a bowl (or maybe a good size measuring cup). Put the redcurrant in the towel, and hang them above the cup (you could let them rest in a mesh, if you want to, but I happened to have good knobs on my kitchen cabinets). Don’t push through to speed things up. Leave them hanging for quite a while (some say a whole night, but I reckon that two drops during the last two hours isn’t worth the wait). If you squeeze them, the jelly might become cloudy. Of course you could decide that doesn’t bother you at all (why should it anyway).
When the end of that process is near and the actual jelly-making is about to begin, grab your well-washed pots with lids. I simply used recycled pots (from jam, sundried tomatoes and mayonnaise), ran them through the dishwasher so they were really clean and put them in the oven. For about 15 minutes, 100°C, make sure they heat up slowly, with the oven).
Grab a pack of special jam-making sugar (jelly sugar) and closely follow the instructions. Meanwhile, put a plate in the freezer and oven mittens on your working space. When the four minutes cooking time are over, test your jelly, by dripping a bit of it on a cold plate (told you to put one in the freezer). Wait for a minute and then test the consistency. If you like it (and can’t stop licking the plate), get out your jars (hence the oven mittens). Pour the hot (!!!) jelly into the hot (!!!) jars – would be a good idea to use a wide funnel to do that. Fill them to just under the top, firmly put on the lids and turn them upside down.
I was told to let them rest for five minutes and they would seal themselves, to be heard by the click. To be honest, I’ve left them for ten minutes and haven’t heard a click. One of them was sealed when I turned it around (I couldn’t push the middle down), an other one clicked the moment I turned it around and the last one didn’t do a thing. Of course I went online to see what I had done wrong, decided to put it upside down again (which made for a jelly shake that probably shouldn’t happen). It finally clicked when I turned it around again after half an hour. And then the jelly floated on air that was on the bottom. Ugh.
Don’t worry, it will come down anyway.
Try not to hand out everything out of proudness. Save some for yourself. It’s so good!
The best things are discovered by accident. At least that’s how roasted peppers entered my life. I did like the occasional pepper, but removing their skins was not my favorite job. I was told to burn them in the oven and put them in a plastic bag to cool. Skins would fall right of. Of course I used the time peppers were in the oven to call my mum. And of course I lost track of time.
The result? Peppers with burnt skin that removed easily and melting goodness underneath. I’m addicted since. Whenever they are on sale, I pick up more than I normally would, just to roast and freeze them.
Roasting is very easy. Halve the peppers, and spread them on a baking tray, skins up. Put in a hot oven and wait until the skins start to blacken. Then wait some more. You want them to be almost melting. You’ll see the juices on the tray and how the peppers shrink. Get them out, allow to cool, quickly peel and try not to eat all of them.
My favorite way to eat them is with gnocchi. I cook the gnocchi, bake them in some butter, and then add the pepper puree with a spoon of mascarpone, just enough to coat them. Season to taste.
You could also add them to cream cheese and spread on toast. Or mix them through your pasta sauce.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out these fabulous ideas:
You got to love risotto. It’s the best comfort food ever made. Bev has a great recipe for it. And if you don’t get what she’s saying – no worries, the recipe is in the end. It’s a funny read though!
Kevin uses cauliflower to give smoothness to his soup. Creaminess without cream! Plus, it gives an interesting depth of flavor.
Sometimes simple things are the best. Jessie gives you a pretty straight forward, vegan roasted pepper soup.
I love to dip. My son loves to dip. He even adores cucumbers since he’s allowed to dip them into something. Suzy gives the perfect example of hummus with a little extra.
One thing I did accomplish this summer is a pantry-purge. It wasn’t pretty, I had to throw out a lot of things. But it inspired me as well, as I found an old pot of dried mushrooms and half a package of cannelloni tubes. Normally I make spinach-ricotta cannelloni with tomato sauce, but the mushrooms just asked for a silky white sauce. This would be a perfect autumn dish.
For this recipe you’ll need cannelloni tubes (three per person should do), ricotta cheese, spinach (I used fresh, but I can tell you that frozen spinach works just as well), a shallot, dried mushrooms (If you have some fresh ones laying around, they could do too, but you’ll need some dried to use the rehydration liquid for the sauce), flour, butter and milk.
Rehydrate the mushrooms in some very hot water. How many is your choice, it’s the liquid that we’ll need to make a special white sauce, but I used some mushrooms in the filling too. Preheat the oven to 200°C (that’s my standard, I hardly use any other temperature, so if you know your oven, maybe you should play around). Butter a oven proof dish slightly.
Make the filling: welt the spinach and when it’s done, try to squeeze out as many of the moisture as you can. When using frozen spinach: defrost (maybe you can do that ahead and let it sit overnight in a sieve over a bowl) and squeeze out the moisture. Cooking isn’t needed, it will be in the oven later, time enough to cook!
Chop the shallot very finely and cook until translucent. When using a few fresh mushrooms, you can chop them very finely too and cook with the shallot. For the dried ones, no cooking required, but you’ll need to chop finely and squeeze out all the liquid. Don’t throw it away, but set aside. That brownish water with the distinctive mushroom fragrance is going to add some extra to your sauce.
Combine spinach, mushroom, shallot with just enough ricotta cheese to bring it all together and then just a little more. Season to taste.
Fill the tubes with the mixture. For me, a simple plastic bag works best. Put the filling in it, cut a tiny little bit of the corner and tadaaa, great filling tool!
Prepare the white sauce. First, make a roux of equal quantities of butter and flour. Cook it long enough to smell something nutty, then add a few spoons of the mushroom water to it (I suggest you start with two and then go on with the milk – it can get quite overwhelming taste wise). Continue with milk, constantly whisking until you have a lovely beige sauce. It can’t be runny, but make sure it’s not too thick either, because your cannelloni will have to cook in it. Taste! Season and add more mushroom water if you like.
Spoon a layer of sauce into your dish, arrange the cannelloni on top of it, and cover with the rest of the sauce. Put in the oven for at least 30 minutes, maybe 45, until your cannelloni are cooked. To me, it’s a very filling meal, but I would understand the need for something fresh to accompany it. I would go for a simple salad with a light, fresh dressing. Enjoy!
Sometimes a rush and some basic ingredients create the most wonderful dishes. And one of them became the absolute favorite of my husband, hence the name. The secret ingredient? Lots of fresh dill, I’ve already tried it without and it honestly makes all the difference…
Cook pasta. I like to use rigatoni for this dish, but penne or any short, ribbed pasta would do.
In the meantime, cut up some spring onions, slice a bunch of ‘candy tomatoes‘ (it’s a kind of very sweet cherry tomato, but longer, like a teeny tiny version of roma tomatoes – it has to be really sweet) and toss them in a pan, pot, wok, whatever. Let them simmer and get warm.
Add mascarpone, one big spoon will do for now. Season, but be careful with the salt…
cause you’ll add your cooked pasta, along with little slices of smoked salmon. Keep some of the salmon apart to sprinkle over it once done. Now it’s the art to make it come together, the pasta just coated, the salmon just a different color, and heaps of chopped dill. Make sure everything is warm, but don’t overdo it.
Serve in bowls or big plates, sprinkle with the rest of the salmon and a bit of leftover dill.
Enjoy. Take seconds. Thirds. Fight over the last spoon.
Kohlrabi. You love it, you hate it. Or you simply don’t know it, which was my case until it showed up in a veggie box last year. It was a veg I would never ever buy myself. I like the occasional raw diced kohlrabi salad, especially when they are young and fresh and sweet. But while they keep long, they don’t keep forever. And I had no idea how to cook it in a way it did the veg justice. So now it’s kohlrabi season apparently and they kept living in my fridge and multiplying with each veggie box. Not to mention the two beautiful cuties that came from my proper garden (yeah, I bought seedlings and forget what they were. I just put them in and they thrived! I can really recommend them for your vegetable garden).
Help was needed. Google was my friend. (I deliberately decided not to use Pinterest for this one, as my green kohlrabi friends would still be partying in the fridge while I was gasping at all those creative food pictures of the most amazing recipes from the most amazing sites. In which case I could not write this post. And believe me, you would not have want to miss it!) I found kohlrabi purees and salads. But I wanted something more fancy than a puree and I wanted it cooked, not raw. I could roast them in the oven with olive oil and salt, but I was feeling more ambitious. In came the curries.
Oh lord, the curries. We’re not big curry eaters in this house. We don’t particularly like spicy or hot food. You could say we’re more into the pastas than into the curries. This recipe might have changed this. I made it up combining elements that kept coming back in other recipes and added my refusal to run for the store for extra ingredients. It was my day off and I had been grocery shopping the day before. (It’s not good for my wallet to stroll through the supermarket more than I need to).
kohlrabi, preferably with the leaves still on, but you could do without them just as fine (or replace them by kale or chard or spinach or any sturdy leafy green).
tomatoes (I used two on three kohlrabis, but you can play around easily, this is a very forgiving and adaptable recipe)
onion (one large one) and garlic cloves (three)
red curry paste
a can of coconut milk/cream (mine said milk, but it looked more like cream, I guess texture wise cream would work best)
cumin (I used powder, but you can grind some seeds or maybe leave them whole?)
pepper and salt to taste
How to make it:
Dice the kohlrabi. Young, small, fresh ones don’t need to be peeled. But I would not peel them anyway, since you’re making a curry and you can let it cook for as long as you want. And I’m lazy like that. I pre boiled them in slightly salted water, mainly because I wanted to reserve some for milder version for Little Boy. But I guess you could skip that and boil them in the curry, but then adding more liquid in the beginning.
In a little oil, let the onion and garlic sweat for a while, add a decent amount of curry paste, the cumin and let it fry a little. Then add the chopped tomatoes. Let it reduce a little, a bit like a sofrito.
Add the kohlrabi and the coconut cream. If you’ve already boiled it, you can turn the heat quite low and just make the flavors come together, seasoning to taste and adding the chopped greens (kohlrabi leaves or whatever substitute you use) right away. If your kohlrabi is still raw, you’ll have to let it cook for quite a time on medium heat. Using the thinner coconut milk might be the way to go then. Or some stock. I haven’t tried, I’m just thinking aloud here. At the end of the cooking process, add the greens and season.
I might this batch especially to freeze, but I really had to bit my tongue to not dive in (even if it was only 9 a.m.! ) I froze two two-person portions, and I had kept some kohlrabi apart to put together with the cooked sweet potato. I mixed those with a teaspoon of the curry paste and two table spoons of coconut cream to make a mild version for the Little Boy. Everybody happy!
In my lovely veggie box last week were a bunch of parsnips. Big ones, small ones, chunky ones. The weather was slightly cooler, so I decided to make a dish that I could prepare in the morning and then put in the oven at night. It’s my take on the traditional hachis parmentier, and I think this works with almost any veg you could put in a mash.
First, brown the mince. I used it just like that, but I would add some garlic, spring onions, or chopped onion/shallot. This will be the bottom layer of the parmentier.
Cook the potatoes and the parsnips. Large chunks are ok, you’ll mash them up anyway. I used only a slightly bit less potatoes than parsnips, but I think this dish doesn’t need to much potato. Parsnips are quite rich on their own, and maybe you could even leave the potato out.
Season your mash. Use plenty of butter (or some of the cooking water). You can add some greens if you want to. I added curry powder and it could easily have done with some more of that. It’s a good combo, parsnips and curry powder. I think it’s important not to make your mash too dry, especially if you’re going to reheat it in the oven.
Put the mash in a generous layer on the mince. You could add a little splash of cream in between, to moisten things a bit. Or you could serve it with some creamy sautéed Chinese cabbage, as I did. In my opinion, it needs some greens to counter the earthy sweetness of the parsnips. My husband didn’t want them, but I ended up eating more than him, just because of that variation in taste.
When you frowned at that title, you’re right. I just made up a word. But this one has been on the menu a lot lately, so I thought I should share the recipe. If it’s even a recipe.
I’ve never really liked pizza. There. I said it.
It has to do with the crust. For a while I liked the traditional crust of PizzaHut pizzas but then my boyfriend at the time started to work there and they caused a dramatic drop in occasions to see each other. Plus, the stories ‘behind the scenes’ made me not wanting to eat pizza for a very. long. time. Yikes.
Later, when I decided that I should know how to cook and dived right in with my favorite, cheese croquettes (which is a complicated recipe and because of that not my best idea ever), gained some experience, I tried to make pizza dough. Hey, I managed to make decent bread, pizza could not be so hard, could it?
Euh… yes it could. I fought with the dough, I turned it and twisted it and made it awful. I gave up and used pre made dough instead but it didn’t help with my pizza-hate-affair. And then supermarket was closed, I hadn’t a thing left to eat, I thought, and my husband could come home hungry any minute now.
Enter mini-pizzas on a pita. The bare fact of using pita as bottom solved the problem of not making good dough AND baking time. My husband loves them and it’s the best way ever to use leftover veggies. It’s so simple it is ridiculous.
Take little pita breads. Don’t bake them, don’t cut them, just leave them like that. Put tomato sauce on them. I use a mix of concentrated tomato puree and tubed tomato sauce. (If you’re lazy, you can as well be super lazy.) Put anything you like on it. Mozzarella cheese, bell pepper cubes, anchovies, shredded chicken, snack tomatoes, spring onions, … Sprinkle with your favorite dried herbs, season and put in the preheated oven. They will take ten minutes, twelve maybe.