Tag Archives: vegetarian

Spinach and rice pie

We used to eat this spinach and rice pie every now and then at home, I’ve always loved this recipe. I recently tried it in my own kitchen for the first time and – without tooting my own horn too much – it turned out quite splendidly! I believe one of the secrets to get such a beautifully baked pie is using a metal pie form instead of a porcelain one. Oh, did I mention that this is quite a healthy recipe? Give it a try!

Ingredients for 6-8 servings (depends on how hungry you are, and if you’re serving anything else like salad with the pie)

1 big onion, chopped finely
1 kg of fresh or frozen spinach, roughly chopped
2 or 3 chopped garlic cloves, to taste
butter and olive oil
hot vegetable stock
150 grams of (basmati) rice
4 eggs
150 grams of parmezan cheese, grated (or other tasty hard cheese)
breadcrumbs
grated nutmeg, pepper and salt to taste
a metal pie form, about 26-28 cm diameter

Spinach and rice pie

How to:

Put a large casserole on medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil or butter. Fruit the onion until it’s soft and starting to become brown. Add the garlic and fry a little while with the onion. Add the spinach, you can do this in smaller bits at a time, as fresh spinach can be quite large. Stir-fry with the onion and garlic and add grated nutmeg, peper and salt. When the spinach has shrunk completely (or the frozen spinach has thawed), add the rice and keep on stir-frying a bit. Now add the vegetable stock in small portions. Be careful with quantities: my spinach released quite a lot of water, so I ended up having to scoop out liquid becaue I added too much vegetable stock at once. You want the rice to cook but not completely, there needs to be enough liquid left to cook the rice but too much will get you a soggy pie. When the rice is halfway done, take the casserole off the fire and let it cool a little. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Then add eggs and parmesan, and more nutmeg, pepper and salt to taste. The mixture should be quite gooey and contain plenty of liquid.

Butter the bottom and sides of your pie form and add breadcrumbs, whirl them around so every part of the form is covered in breadcrumbs and add the spinach mixture. Divide the spinach evenly and smooth over with a spoon. Cover with another layer of breadcrumbs (just scatter them from the box or with a spoon over the spinach until completely covered, it’s okay if the breadcrumbs soak up some of the liquid). Bake the pie for +/- one hour in a 180 degrees oven, if it becomes too brown you can cover with a layer of tinfoil. Enjoy!

Spinach and rice pie

Chili sin carne

What’s not to love about chili? It’s great comfort food that satisfies immediately and you can improvise on the recipe in all sorts of ways. I’ve made meatless chili without any kind of meat replacement (let’s not forget red beans are pretty protein-loaded by themselves) and that’s great. Recently, I found they had seitan at the local supermarket and decided to give it a try. I’ve never really been “into” meat replacements, I seem to manage just fine without burgers or quorn most of the time. I am, however, very thankful for their existence, especially when it comes to dinners with extended family or bring-your-own-meat sumemr BBQs.

So when I was preparing meatless chili the other day, I figured I’d give the seitan a try. You could substitute with quorn ‘minced meat’ or any kind of substitute you like, or just leave it out. The seitan wasn’t bad, but I can’t say I loved it. The same kind of rubbery texture that is sometimes the problem with tofu. I might have to bake it a little harder in a separate skillet first. If there are any good suggestions on how to handle the seitan, I’d love to hear them!

I’m sorry there are no photos – but I think you all know what chili looks like, and there are not many elegant ways to present it.

Ingredients for 4 servings

2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
500 grams of seitan or ground quorn, in small cubes or ground in a kitchen robot
2 tablespoons of tomato concentrate
1-2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
something spicy used according to taste: a chopped red chili pepper, or tabasco, or harissa…
500 ml of tomato passata + a little bit of vegetable stock
a can of red beans, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

Serve with: a wild rice mixture or regular white rice.

How to:

Heat some olive oil in a heavy-bottom casserole (I prefer my cast-iron one). Stir-fry the chopped onion, peppers and garlic until they start to soften. Then add the seitan and stir for another few minutes. Add the tomato concentrate and spices, mix well and wait another few minutes. Now add the passata, I use some water + stock to clean the bottle and add it to the chili. Let it come to a boil and simmer for a bit, until the peppers are soft. Add pepper, salt and other spices to taste. In the end, add the beans and just let them heat with the chili for a bit. You’re done! Serve with rice or bread and tabasco for lovers of spiciness.

Wok met noedels, aardpeer, knolselder en tofu voor Thuisafgehaald

Voor een keertje een bericht in het Nederlands! Een tijdje geleden schreef ik me in om mee te doen met Thuisafgehaald, een leuk initiatief om van je restjes af te geraken en tegelijk buurtbewoners een plezier te doen. Het werkt zo: je schrijft je in op de site van thuisafgehaald.be en duidt aan of je maaltijden wilt afhalen en/of aanbieden. Als je wat teveel gekookt hebt, kan je dat online zetten. Je plakt er een prijs op gebaseerd op de ingrediënten en geeft aan wanneer je beschikbaar bent voor de afhalers. Iemand die bij je in de buurt woont kan dan reageren en zelf een lekkere maaltijd komen afhalen. Zo leer je ook nog buurtbewoners kennen. Fijn!

Deze week besteedt FM Brussel aandacht aan Thuisafgehaald en daarvoor kwamen ze het concept uittesten. Ik gaf wat uitleg over het concept en de journaliste kon naar huis met twee porties Aziatische wok. Hierbij het recept, een variant van de koolrabi met champignons en tofu.

 

Wok met noedels, aardpeer, knolselder en tofu

Wok met noedels, aardpeer, knolselder en tofu

Ingrediënten voor 6 personen

500 gram stevige tofu
1 knolselder, in dobbelsteentjes
500 gram aardpeer, in dobbelsteentjes
1 ui, gesnipperd
5 cm verse gember, fijngehakt
sesamolie
500 gram Japanse noedels
sesamzaad

voor de marinade:

5 eetlepels sojasaus
4 eetlepels ketjap manis
2 eetlepels honing
3 eetlepels zoetzure saus
3 eetlepels sesamolie
1 eetlepel gemberpoeder
3 cm verse gember, fijngehakt
beetje harissa/sambal/chilipeper

Bereiding:

Meng alle ingrediënten voor de marinade. Snijd de tofu in blokjes en meng met de marinade in een potje met deksel. Zet minstens een uur in de koelkast en schep regelmatig de marinade over de tofu. Kook intussen de noedels volgens de verpakking, giet af en meng met een beetje olie, probeer te voorkomen dat het een grote plakkende massa wordt. Doe de tofu in een zeef of vergiet en vang de marinade op. Meng er eventueel wat extra sojasaus of een ander deel van de marinade door, naar smaak.

Zet een wok op hoog vuur (of een wokbrander als je dat hebt) en laat een royale scheut sesamolie goed heet worden. Roerbak de tofu tot hij knapperig is. Leg de tofu in een kom met wat keukenpapier om uit te lekken.

Doe opnieuw een scheut sesamolie in de wok en fruit de ui en gember tot de ui glazig wordt. Voeg de knolselder en aardpeer toe en blijf goed roerbakken. Draai het vuur wat lager en laat de groenten even stomen met deksel op de wok, zo worden de groenten sneller gaar. Blijf regelmatig roeren en neem tijdig het deksel weer weg zodat het niet zompig wordt. Als je groenten gaar zijn, voeg je de noedels toe. Zet het vuur op hoog en roerbak de noedels. Voeg na enkele minuten de rest van de marinade toe en meng goed. Breng op smaak met peper en zout en eventueel wat gedroogde pepers Meng tenslotte de tofu in de wok. Strooi bij het serveren sesam over je bord. Smakelijk!

Spicy pumpkin risotto

Lent has started. Some people give up alcohol for 40 days, some give up candy (that would be me), some try to live a little more sober, some do nothing (which is fine too). In Belgium, the ‘Dagen Zonder Vlees’ (Days Without Meat) initiative was launched for the third time. Meat eaters try to reduce their meat and fish consumption and register this on a website (www.dagenzondervlees.be). The website then counts the amount of CO2 that was saved. Many meat-loving carnivores who participate (including my beloved) end up realizing they don’t need to eat meat every day. As a vegetarian I can only applaud this initiative.

To encourage all those brave temporary vegetarians out there, I’ll try to have some extra attention for recipes without meat or fish during this period. I had some leftover veggies from a weekend dish: half of a small round butternut-ish pumpkin and Jerusalem artichoke (called topinambour or aardpeer in Dutch, but what a fantastic word in English!). They were turned into a hearty veggie risotto. Enjoy!

Spicy pumpkin risotto

Spicy pumpkin risotto

Ingredients for 4-6 servings

50 grams of butter or margarine
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 chopped chili peppers or a teaspoon of dried chili flakes (depends on your taste for hot)
500 grams of tasty, firm pumpkin or squash (for example butternut), in dice-sized pieces
4 Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut in dice-size pieces (optional)
500 grams of risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
1,5 liter of hot vegetable stock
3 tablespoons of chopped fresh sage
50 grams of Parmezan cheese
75 grams of sour cream
pepper and salt

How to:

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Fruit the onion and add the chili pepper. Fruit for 2 more minutes, then add the pumpkin and Jerusalem artichokes and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir well, so it’s covered with the butter. Add the vegetable stock in small portions  and stir every now and then to prevent from sticking to the pan (to make it a more traditional risotto, you could add some white wine before the stock – I didn’t do this and it was fine, actually). When the rice is ready, turn off the fire and add the sage, Parmezan, sour cream and pepper and salt. Mix with the rice, put a lid on the skillet and let it rest for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Pomegranate, Brussels endive and feta salad

This is one of my favorite winter salads. It has the qualities of a good salad: a good mix of textures (crunchy endive, smooth feta), colors (red – green- white) and flavors (sour-sweet pomegranate, bitter endive, fresh mint and salty feta) and it combines some of the best staples of winter: Brussels endive and pomegranate. Brussels endives, sometimes called chicory, were invented accidentally in Brussels in the basement of a place that now harbors a music and arts centre, the Botanique. One of their club spaces is still called the ‘Endive Club’ since the vegetable was ‘discovered’ there, as the story goes. The vegetable is bitter and therefore not everyone likes it, but I’m convinced the other star of this recipe, the pomegranate, balances the bitterness out very well.

There are many reasons to love this exotic red fruit: it’s really healthy, it preserves well for several weeks (also out of the fridge), but above all, most people love its tart taste. It also combines well in all sorts of dishes: Martha Stewart has a great tangerine-pomegranate-cranberry-champagne cocktail recipe, it goes well in salads, in hearty dishes, in desserts… I believe you have every reason to try this salad before the pomegranates go out of season again. There’s just one catch: extracting the seeds can be a tricky (read: messy) business. I recommend using a big bowl to avoid ending up with a wall that looks like you were slaughtering something, not standing near white walls that can’t be easily cleaned and wearing an apron (and perhaps a red shirt). Don’t be frightened by this advice: it’s also great fun! So let’s get to the recipe.

Pomegranate endive feta salad

Pomegranate, Brussels endive and feta salad

 

Ingredients for 4 servings

3 stalks of Brussels endive (also called chicory)
note: you can also add radicchio (a reddish-purple Italian type of lettuce) or the red version of Brussels endive to the mix, mostly to complete the color palette
1 large or 2 small pomegranates
one red onion, finely chopped
one tablespoon of raspberry vinegar (or regular red vinegar)
a handful of mint leaves
150 grams of good feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper

How to:

Remove the seeds from the pomegranate. Start by making an incision all around the fruit and then ‘breaking’ it apart with your hands, so you don’t have to cut through the seeds. With your fingers, remove the seeds and throw away the white bitter stuff between the seeds. (Some recipes say beat the pomegranate with a wooden spoon to remove the seeds, but frankly, this has never worked for me.) Mix the pomegranate seeds with the chopped onion and the raspberry vinegar and let the flavors soak for about 15 minutes.

Break the endive leaves and radicchio leaves apart and arrange on a large plate or in a salad bowl. Add the pomegranate mixture, add the mint leaves and the feta and top with some mint leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you’re using a salad bowl rather than a plate, you can alternate layers (endive-pomegrante-endive-pomegranate). Enjoy!

Bruxelles alla Turca: restaurant review and lentil soup with mint butter

Having spent three wonderful summers excavating in Turkey, I’ve come to love the Turkish cuisine. I’m not the only one – everyone that has ever participated in the Sagalassos project has fond memories of pide (a Turkish type of pizza), güveç (dishes baked in clay pots) or sütlaç (delicious burnt rice pudding). I’m still in awe of the magic Turkish cooks can perform with a simple ingredient like yoghurt, and I’ve tested quite a few Turkish recipes myself (see below).

So when a friend proposed to go out for dinner to a Turkish restaurant, I eagerly said yes. We went to the Brussels Mecca of Turkish food: the strip of Chausséee de Haecht between Rogierlaan and Botanique, where every other place serves pide or pasta (Turkish for all types of sweet pastries). Finding a parking spot was not easy (we finally discovered ‘parking Express’, shady at first sight but perfectly fine and not expensive), I definitely recommend going there by bus (stops: Robiano or Middaglijn/Méridien) or metro (Kruidtuin/Botanique). We picked out a restaurant using the well-known ‘locals’ technique: it can’t be bad if a lot of locals are eating here. This restaurant happened to be Hünkar Sofrasi (Chaussée de Haecht 89). We were not disappointed.

The waiter spoke Dutch (always a pleasant surprise in Brussels) while we put to practice our culinary Turkish (probably the only Turkish words we can still remember). The three of us ordered one plate of mixed mezze and çoban salata (shepherd’s salad) as a starter. True to Turkish tradition, we were stuffed by the end of this course. The mixed mezze consisted of various yoghurt- and vegetable-based salads, cheese börek, and calamares. Yum.

We then proceeded to the main course: copious amounts of mixed meat-cheese lahmacün (round thin Turkish pizza), mixed meat-cheese pide (boat-shaped Turkish pizza) and spinach-cheese pide. All were absolutely delicious. The waiter, probably foreseeing our imminent indigestions, gladly offered to wrap up the leftovers, providing us with food for at least another night’s dinner. The feast was concluded with Turkish tea on the house (sadly, none of us had room left for sütlaç). We paid 15 euros per person, very reasonable considering the quality and quantity of our dinner.

Our Turkish feast

Our Turkish feast

As my last two posts were also culinary reviews, I figured I owe you a recipe. In keeping with the Turkish theme, I’m offering my new favorite Turkish lentil soup from Turquoise by Greg Malouf. This hearty, perfect winter soup reminded me instantly of the thick soup served at Turkish peasant weddings, but its spicy and eloquent touch makes it just as perfect to be served at Christmas dinner. I might just consider selling my rights as firstborn for this soup (might!).

Lentil soup with mint dressing

Ingredients for about 6-8 people:

one big onion, finely chopped
two big winter carrots, finely chopped
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp of ground cumin powder
2 tsp of spicy paprika powder (chili powder – not as spicy as cayenne)
2 tsp of mild paprika powder
1 small can of tomato concentrate
200 grams of red lentils (those tiny round orange ones – at the Turkish supermarket, or organic supermarket, or well-sorted supermarket)
2 liters of vegetable stock – or two liters of water with 4 stock cubes (the original recipe mentions chicken stock, which is fine too, but I like to keep it vegetarian)
5 tbsp of fine bulgur (Turkish supermarket)
2 tomatoes, seeds removed, chopped
sea salt, fresh black pepper
lemon parts, for serving

For the mint dressing (optional, but gives a very nice touch):

50 grams of butter
1 tsp of dried mint
1 tsp of paprika powder

How to:

Heat the oil in a large soup casserole on a low fire. Add the chopped onion, carrot and garlic and stir lightly. After a few minutes, add the cumin and two paprikas. Stir regularly until the vegetables start to become soft. Be careful not to let the spices burn (this happens to me sometimes in a casserole with a thin bottom) – it’s better to add the rest of the ingredients a little early if you see it’s starting to burn. Add in the tomato puree and mix well. Let it heat for one minute. Add the lentils and vegetable stock, bring to a boil. Let the soup boil softly with the lid on, stirring regularly for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are starting to fall apart, making the soup a bit ‘creamy’ or starchy. Then add the bulgur and the tomatoes. Season to taste with pepper and salt and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the mint and paprika powder. Serve the soup in a hot bowl with a piece of lemon and add a few drops of the mint butter. Enjoy!

Layered spice cake (Kue lapis)

This is a pretty special cake recipe – the cake is grilled in tiny layers, instead of baked! The minute I saw this in the book ‘Warm Bread and Honey Cake’ by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra – a really cool baking book  with very traditionally Dutch and very exotic recipes that has also been translated into Dutch (Zelfgebakken) – I wanted to try this. So here it is! It’s not difficult, but it takes dedication and patience, as you basically have to stay very close to the oven for more than 40 minutes. In my experience, this amount of batter forms very very thin layers, so you can always go for  6 layers (2 times three) if you want more ‘visible’ colored layers, although the baking times will be a little different. The cake is quite heavy (cut small slices) but very yummy and spicy. Let me know if you give it a try!

Ingredients for a 20 cm tin:

250 grams of butter, at room temperature
200  grams of fine sugar
5 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon of vanilla-extract
125 grams of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of ground clove (kruidnagel)
1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
50 grams of melted butter, for greasing

Beat the butter, with a machine mixer (handheld or standing) if you have one. Add 100 grams of sugar and keep beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks in small doses and the vanilla extract and mix everything well. Sieve the flour with the salt and set apart.

In a clean, grease-free bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the remaining sugar while beating, slowly but surely. Keep beating until you have good and sturdy egg white ‘blobs’ that don’t sag. Add a tablespoon of the egg whites to the butter mixture and spoon it through. Now slowly spoon the egg whites and flour through the butter, making large round movements with a spatula. Don’t mix for too long to preserve the fluffiness. Now, separate the dough in two bowls into two equal parts. Carefully mix the spices with one of the two bowls. Heat your oven’s grill. Grease the baking tin with some of the melted butter and add 1/4 of one of the bowls to the tin. Flatten the mixture with a palette knife and make sure no extra batter is sticking to the sides, as this will burn under the grill and distort your pretty layered pattern.

Put the tin under the hot grill until the top starts to ‘bulge’ and the batter is baked. The first layer will take about 5 minutes, depending on your oven and the distance from the grill. Take the tin out of the oven, using a brush, coat with a layer of melted butter and add another layer, from the other bowl (alternating light and dark batter). Repeat this process – the grilling will now take about 3 minutes for each layer. The layers have to rise, be golden brown and baked. You will have eight layers in total. Always spread the batter evenly and clean spilled batter, as this will burn. When all layers are grilled, carefully cut away from the sides of the tin and let the cake cool on a baking grid.

Mango speculoos no bake cheesecake

This cheesecake is one of the closest things I have to a ‘family recipe’: I remember having it at birthdays and summer parties at home and helping my mother with the preparations. I first made it myself when I was studying abroad in Spain, because it’s such a refreshing and fruity summer dessert. Over time, I’ve created my own version, keeping the basics but substituting the ‘accessories’. The original recipe uses petit beurre biscuits that you arrange on the bottom (no crumbling) and canned abricots as fruit – in fact, I don’t think mangoes existed in the Belgian supermarkets when I was a kid. My version uses speculoos biscuits, fresh mangoes and passion fruit. Basically, you can use any kind of dry and sweet biscuits/cookies (no chocolate chips or any of the sort though) and fruit, I’ve also made it with strawberries for example. The recipe is not complicated, but there are some tricks you can apply to make it succeed, so follow the instructions. It takes about an hour to make and needs several hours to set properly, if possible you can make it a day ahead. Enjoy!


Ingredients for a 26 cm cake tin

8 gelatin sheets (I prefer these to powder, but powder will probably work too. If you’re a strict vegetarian you could use agar agar, but I have no experience with that. 8 gelatin sheets are about 13 grams.)
200-250 ml of (tropical) fruit juice/pineapple juice
juice of one orange
3 passion fruits
200 grams of sugar
500 ml of heavy whipping cream
4 bags of vanilla sugar
500 grams of no-fat fresh white cheese/quark/plattekaas (this is a very basic product in Belgium, but somehow it’s not always available in other countries. Use a fresh, soft, white, unsalted cheese, for example ricotta, if you can’t find it.)
200 grams of dry biscuits of your choice (I used Vermeiren speculoos)
75 grams of unsalted very soft butter (not melted!), use only if you’re going to crumble the bottom
2 mangoes

Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water. Squeeze out the orange into a measuring cup and add the contents of two passion fruits. Fill up with fruit juice (pineapple, tropical…) until you have 300 ml. Heat the juice with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Squeeze out the gelatin and add into the warm juice, stir well. While this is cooling down, stir every now and then so the gelatin doesn’t set too much yet.

Whip up the cream with the vanilla sugar in a large bowl until stiff. Mix in the fresh cheese in large round motions, using a spatula or spoon. While the juice is still cooling down, crumble the biscuits, using a mortar or in a food processor. They don’t have to be completely crumbled, you can leave some small chunks. Mix with the soft butter and spread out over the bottom of a 26 cm spring cake tin. Cut a mango and one half into wedges and cover the biscuits with them.

When the juice is sufficiently cooled down (it can still be a little warm but not hot), add it slowly into the cream mixture. Start with a few spoons, mix well, and continue like this. It is really important to mix in the liquid very well, or you will have jelly-like inclusions in your cake later on (which are also yummy, but not very pleasing to the eye). Now comes the most crucial part: pour the cream-juice mix over the mangoes, but do this very slowly, or the mango wedges will come floating up (once again, just as tasty but not the intention!). Slowly keep pouring until you have poured out all of the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap or a cover if your cake tin has one and let it sit in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours.

To test if the cheesecake is ready, wiggle the tin a little bit. The white top part should move as one solid mass. You can decorate the top with leftover mango wedges and the extra passion fruit. Carefully cut around the sides with a sharp knife and then remove the sides parts of the tin. Don’t keep the cake out of the fridge for too long, or it will start to get wobbly again, and possibly collapse. Enjoy!

(the pictures below are my first version of the cheesecake and the one I made for my bake sale party, as you can see they’re always a little different)


 

Pineapple upside down cake

Ever since Bree Van de Kamp made this wonderful cake in Desperate Housewives (there’s quite a funny scene about Gaby and Bree making the cake, watch it here), I’d been wanting to try it myself. I finally had the opportunity at my charity bake sale last Sunday. The cake turned out quite well and was a lot of people’s favorite! My most important advice: if you have a regular cake tin instead of a spring cake tin, use it – the caramel on the bottom will run a little during baking, no matter how good of a spring cake tin you have. I didn’t have a full bottom cake tin and the cake still came out fine, but who knows, it might have been even better…

Ingredients (for a 26-cm cake tin), serves at least 8 hungry people:

One can of pineapple slices in juice (not syrup)
100 grams of butter, melted
100 grams of light brown sugar (or dark brown)
7 red sugar cherries (maraschino)
150 grams of butter, at room temperature
210 grams of sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
280 grams of flour, sieved
10 grams of baking powder, sieved (a bag of Dr. Oetker is 16 grams, you can also take one large tablespoon)
45 grams of ground coconut

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Pour the melted butter in a closed cake tin and brush the sides of the tin with butter as well. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter. Let the pineapple drain and keep 150 ml of the juice. Spread the pineapple slices over the bottom of the tin in the butter-sugar mixture (one in the middle and the six others around it) and put a cherry in the middle of every slice.

Beat the butter soft in a big bowl (either by hand with a wooden spoon or with a hand mixer). Beat in the sugar and keep going until the mixture is fluffy and creamy. Add the eggs one by one and mix well. Add the vanilla extract. Now slowly add in the flour and baking powder, the coconut and the leftover pineapple juice. Stir with a metal spoon until the batter is smooth, stop when it’s all mixed well.

Scoop the batter out over the pineapple slices and smooth the top of the cake, which will later become the bottom. Make a bit of a hole with the back of a spoon in the middle, to prevent it from rising too much in the middle.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean of the middle. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it over on a large plate to cool down. Enjoy!

Italian-style dinner

The sun is shining! Finally! As usual, my mood turns completely must-have-some-Italian-style-sun-ripened-food at the sight of the first shiny rays of sun. As one of  my classes was moved, I had some time to cook a more elaborate dinner tonight, which I did! Healthy (veggies!), Italian (eggplant!), vegetarian… All you need is a lovely glass of wine to enjoy it with!

It was my first time making artichokes that didn’t come out of a can. I love artichokes, but frankly, I’ve always been a bit intimidated by them. They appear so… rugged. So today, as I got off the bus and towards the grocer’s, I overcame my fear and bought some, remembering I had a step-by-step recipe from delicious. magazine. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right? They require a little work but it’s really worth it, and not that hard at all!

The second dish is a classic eggplant-tomato-pasta. I’m a big eggplant fan and so I tried this recipe, which came out of ‘Una Bella Spaghettata’ – a book about Neapolitan pasta I’ve had for quite some time but haven’t really used so far. I changed some things (you’re supposed to add in a lot of mozzarella but I left that out) and it came out exactly as it shoud – a tasty, light Italian pasta dish. Give it a try!

Stuffed artichokes

Ingredients:

4-5 artichokes (depending on size)
half a lemon
50 grams of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs, some ground dry old white bread will work too)
50 grams of parmezan cheese, (freshly) grated
2 eggs
handful of basil, torn into small pieces
1 big tablespoon of capers

Place a pan of salted water on the fire. First, you have to ‘clean’ the artichokes. This is not as hard as it seems, but you need a good sharp knife (preferably a bigger chef knife). Start by cutting off the upper side of the artichoke, more or less at the widest part, cutting off a good part of the upper artichoke. Then, cut off the stem, including the base and cutting off the outer hard leaves. Now, take a spoon with sharp edges and remove the inner parts of the top, you will notice that this is a bit ‘hay’-ish. Keep trimming the leaves and taking out the dry inner part until you have a shape that’s somewhat like a ‘finger bowl’ with all smooth sides, then quickly brush the sides with a half lemon to prevent it from oxidizing. Repeat this with all the artichokes (you will notice, it gets easier as you get more practice) and then but them into the (by now boiling) water. Cook them for about 15 minutes, until they’re al dente but not completely soft (they will continue in the oven later).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare the stuffing by mixing all the other ingredients. When the artichokes are out of the water, let them cool down slightly, place them on a baking tin with parchment paper and then fill them up with the stuffing, mimicking the ‘artichoke/pyramid shape’. Now, place them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the tops turn golden brown (I turned the temperature up a bit at the end and turned the grill on to reach this effect). Before serving, you may need to remove some extra outer leaves that have become hard in the oven. Enjoy!

Eggplant tomato pasta

Ingredients for 4 servings:

2 eggplants
salt
olive oil
4-6 tasty tomatoes, depending on size, chopped (I used a mixture of more fleshy tomatoes and yummy cherry tomatoes)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
400 grams of good quality pasta, rigatoni or penne or another shape that will soak up the tomato sauce well
80 grams of Parmezan cheese, freshly grated
a handful of fresh basil
Cut the eggplant into thick slices (about 1,5 cm), sprinkle with salt on both sides and let them sit in a colander for at least 30 minutes. (Note: I love eggplant, but it took me a long time to figure out how to make it the best way. You really need to do the salting beforehand, because the eggplant will lose some water in the process and soak up less oil later. I also find that it becomes rubbery if you don’t do this. You can then either let it fry quickly in hot oil until the sides are becoming brown, or let it simmer quietly – my preferred style, when it starts falling apart and mixing itself into the sauce… yum! Anyway, back to the recipe.) Then, squeeze as much liquid out of the slices as possible, and pat with paper towels. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large heavy-bottom skillet, let it get really hot and then add the eggplant. Fry, turning until its sides are golden brown. Take the slices out of the skillet and put on paper towels to drain.Leave a few tablespoons in the skillet and reduce the heat.

In the meantime, cook the pasta as directed in salted water. When done, drain and then put the pasta back into the pan. Now, add the garlic to the skillet and let it fry a bit. Then, add the tomatoes to the skillet (I tend to add a little white wine here for the sauce, but this is optional of course). Let the tomatoes heat and simmer, when they’re starting to fall apart add the eggplant back into the sauce and let it simmer on a low fire for a while, until the eggplant starts to fall apart and you have a consistent sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the fire really low and add in the pasta and parmezan cheese, turning over and under until all the pasta is sufficiently mixed with the sauce. Sprinkle with basil leaves and serve!