Monthly Archives: March 2010

Easy Peasy Diner: appetizers

When my family in law comes to diner I kind of get the creeps. Cooking for friends or my family is rarely a problem. But from the moment husbands family steps into the picture I completely freak out. I am sure there are wonderful theories about this phenomena… no doubt about that. But for me it just plain horrible. The husband tries his best to calm me down a bit, but rarely succeeds.
Now it was even worse because they were coming on Ostara and I had to make sure that “my holiday” was not rubbed into their faces. I am not quit sure my family in law even knows I am pagan… And I was certainly not planning to tell them straight away.
So I tried to use some subtle decoration that did not scream “I am a wiccan!” I got the most amazing tulips, grass green candles and pretty ribbons who made sure that our living room was transformed into a spring Walhalla. No altar this time around for me, but I was satisfied non the less.
I decided to keep the menu simple. I did not feel like spending hours in the kitchen like I normally do. No I wanted simple, but tasty food that could be prepared in advance and that just needed a final touch right before serving.
I build my menu around the Ostara theme by using lots of young vegetables, eggs, cheese and I used the colours green and yellow a lot.
It turned out to be great. My family in law was very enthusiastic about my menu. The best compliment was when my mother in law asked me for some recipes.

INGREDIENTS PEA CAPPUCINO WITH PINK PEPPERCORNS

500 grams of peas (I used frozen peas)
1 small potato
325 ml chicken stock
85 ml cream
1 teaspoon of pink peppercorns
pepper and salt

INGREDIENTS CAULIFLOWER PANNA COTTA WITH GREEN PESTO

½ cauliflower
½ litre cream
2 gelatine leaves
nutmeg
pepper and salt
2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese
30 grams of basil
2 gloves of garlic
30 grams of pine nuts
3 tablespoons of olive oil

INGREDIENTS SHRIMPMOUSSE
200 grams of gray shrimps
300 grams whipped cream
fresh dill
paprika powder
pepper and salt

PEA CAPPUCINO WITH PINK PEPPERCORNS

Peal the potato and dice him into small cubes.
Bring the potato to the boil in the chicken stock. When the potato is boiling add the peas and let this simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Now poor the peas, potato and stock into the blender and blend this together into a pea mash.
Season the mash with pepper and salt.
In the mean time whip the cream and season it with a little bit of salt.
Now add ¾ of the cream to the pea mash and season according to taste.
Poor the pea mousse into glasses and place them for about 2 hours into the fridge.
Just before serving you poor the rest of the cream on top of the mousse and you decorate with the pink peppercorns.

CAULIFLOWER PANNA COTTA WITH GREEN PESTO

Wash the cauliflower and cut it into really small pieces. This is very important, cause you need to cook the cauliflower really fast. Because of the cream we ‘ll be using you cant have it cook for hours.
Now cook the cauliflower in a mixture of the cream, a little bit of water, some pepper and salt. The cauliflower should almost fall apart into the cream.
In the meantime soak the gelatine in some cold water.
Make the green pesto in your blender. Green pesto is one of the easiest things to make. You just add all the ingredients together in the blender and you mix it into a lovely green pasta. According to taste you can add some extra oil, pepper, salt or basil even.
When the cauliflower is done you mix it together with the cream using your hand mixer. Season it with pepper, salt and some nutmeg. Now add the soaked gelatine leaves and stir well.
Now add a tablespoon of pesto to a glass and poor over some of the cauliflower panna cotta. Pop this in the fridge for about 2 hours before serving.

SHRIMP MOUSSE

Shrimp mousse is one of the easiest things to make as an appetiser. The taste is really luscious and soft and you can make it in less then two minutes!
Just mix the shrimps into a paste with your blender. Then mix the whipped cream with the shrimps using a wooden spoon. Season this mixture with pepper, salt, dill and paprika powder.
Poor the mousse into the glasses and pop it into the fridge for about 2 hours.
Just before serving you add a little bit of paprika powder on top of the mousse.

Easy Peasy Diner

PANNA COTTA OF CAULIFLOWER WITH GREEN PESTO
SHRIMP MOUSSE
PEA CAPPUCCINO WITH PINK PEPPERCORNS

GOAT CHEESE SALAT WITH RASPBERRY DRESSING

SPRING COTTAGE PIE
CREME BRULEE

Paella

Its beginning to look a lot like spring time! With temperatures around 17 degrees I even start to dream of summer.
This week I was able to drink a glass of rose while I was chatting with a friend on the phone while wearing a T-shirt and sitting in my garden looking at the daffodils.
We went for an evening walk in our town and I did not have to whine that I was cold once.
That little bit of sun and warmth was just in time, because I was really tired of that never ending snowy winter. At the beginning of winter I am always over the top with joy because its time for delicious stews and heart warming pans full of fat meat to get us trough winter. But after a while I start to long for those light, flavourful sunny dishes that resemble the summer in my kitchen.
The husband came home with the idea to make a fresh paella. The last paella I actually made myself is dated back in 1999 when I spend my summer in Andalusia and the entertainment guys from the hotel seduced me into some outdoor cooking by the pool. The chef of the hotel gave me some wonderful tips on how to cook an authentic Andalusian paella… but time has erased them from my memory.
Paella brings back such a warm memories to me. It makes me remember the lunch breaks I had with my friend Karen on the grass by the museum of classic arts when she brought left over paella and we had it cold with just some bread.
It takes me back to a vacation from hell the hubby and I had in Mallorca when we were still dating. The hotel came out of a horror movie, the area was full of drunk and high teenagers and the food was just horrible. Luckily we found a little restaurant 30 minutes away from our hotel that served a killer paella. (It was also the only thing that little restaurant served.) 7 nights in a row we walked down there to indulge ourselves in their lovely paella. The chef even felt sorry for us and tried to serve us a different paella everyday. We enjoyed it all… it were wonderful night on the terrace of that little restaurant, just the two of us, the candles and the paella.

INGREDIENTS

200 grams of paella rice ( I used arroz bomba from the brand La fallera)
200 grams of mixed fruits de me (I used mussels, cuttlefish and various clams.)
1 chicken breast
6 chicken wings
10 large prawns
100 grams hot chorizo
4 gloves of garlic
1 onion
1 red bell pepper cut into fine stripes
125 grams of pealed chopped tomatos
100 grams of peas
8 tablespoons of olive oil
500 ml of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of paella herb mix
1 teaspoon of cayennepepper
1 lemon

Wash the mussels and the clams with cold water.
Boil them till they are nearly done. (Don’t cook them all the way trough, cause they ll go into the paella and will be cooked a little more.)
Now heat a little bit of olive oil into the paella pan and bake the chicken cubes and the chicken wings shortly. They just need to get a little color.
Take the chicken out and throw in the cuttlefish and the shrimps. Again, cook them quick and set them aside together with the chicken.
Now heat the rest of the olive oil in the paella pan. When the oil is hot add the finely chopped onion and garlic. When the onion is nearly cooked at the bell pepper and stir fry for about 5 minutes.
Now its time to add the chorizo cubes, the tomato and the peas. Season this with the cayenne pepper and the paella herb mix. Give it a good swirl with a wooden spoon so all the flavours combine.
Now add the rice to the pan and poor in some chicken stock. The rice should be just under the stock, so don’t add to much stock at once.
Turn the fire down to medium low heat and let this simmer for about 15 minutes. Check it regularly so your rice does not burn.
After 15 minutes place the chicken cubes and the fruits de mer on top of the rice. Try to mix them in, without stirring the rice. Now add some more stock and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. Depending on what rice you are using it might be necessary to add more or less stock.
After 10 minutes it is time to place the large shrimps and the chicken wings on top of the rice. If necessary poor in a little more stock and cover the paella with a piece of newspaper or some aluminium foil. Let this simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Just before serving decorate your paella with the lemon and if you like some finely chopped parsley.

Appetizers: 4 amuses gueule

And then as the last part of my new years eve trilogy I am going to share with you my amuse gueule.
I know it’s a little funny to end with aperitif. But lets just say its because I love to have a good cocktail or a nice glass of wine with some amazing amuses gueules. I would rather skip dessert, then not to have an aperitif!
The most amazing part about these amuse gueule is the fact that they are just little meals, where you as a chef can place your whole heart and soul in. And above all… its mini. And everything that is mini I adore!

For my New Years eve feast I prepared the following quartet:

Black pudding with apple sauce
Steak tartare
Salmon mousse with marinated cucumber
Smoked duck with mango chutney

I served it with a mojito royal, which I decorated with a little bit of green sugar. It look so amazing for something so simple. Just mix in a little bit of food colouring into some granulated sugar and dip in your glass.

INGREDIENTS BLACK PUDDING WITH APPLE SAUCE

1 black pudding
250 grams soft sour apples
25 grams granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick

INGREDIENTS STEAK TARTARE

200 grams of minced beef meat
½ teaspoon Worchester sauce
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon ketchup
a few drops of Tabasco
1 egg

pickled onions
pickled gherkins
capers
pepper and salt

INGREDIENTS SALMON MOUSSE WITH MARINATED CUCUMBER

3 slices of smoked salmon
1/3 cucumber
½ finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon of mascarpone
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of xeres vinegar
a few pieces of dill
½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Tabasco

INGREDIENTS SMOKED DUCK WITH MANGO CHUTNEY

100 grams of smoked duck breast
3 large mango’s
1 lime
25 gram of grated ginger
½ red hot chilli pepper
1 dl vinegar
125 grams sugar
1 teaspoon of Szechuan pepper
Salt

BLACK PUDDING WITH APPLE SAUCE

This dish is so easy to make and takes almost no time to prepare.
When you make the apple sauce in advance of the party, you just have to back the black pudding and assemble the dish.
Peel the apples and cut them into 8 equal large pieces.
Put the apples in a cooking pot and add a little bit of water and the cinnamon stick.
Now put this on a low fire and let it come to the boil gently. Stir regularly in the apple sauce. When the apples start to fall apart, you can add the sugar and stir it in.

Just before serving you bake small round pieces of the black pudding en you place them on top of the apple sauce.

STEAK TARTARE

Steak tartare is a dish made of finely chopped or minced raw beef meat. Steak tartare is a very popular dish in Belgium, but also in The Netherlands, Germany, France, Poland and Slovakia. It may not be know very well in other countries, although steak à la Americain maybe rings a bell?
Anyway my husband and father are huge fans of steak tartare, so they demand this as an amuse gueule.

Steak tartare is at its best when you use real steaks and chop the meat fine by hand. But because of the very small portions I needed I used grounded beef from the butcher.
Just mix the grounded beef with pepper, salt, mustard, Worchester sauce, ketchup and Tabasco. Combine this into a meaty paste. (Not sure what I should call this?)
Then add the egg, finely chopped pickled onions, gherkins and capers and mix well again.
Steak tartare is at his best (and at his safest, remember you are working with raw meat!) when you make it à la minute.

Tip: When you want to serve this as a large portion you can serve the egg yolk in the egg shell on top of the meat. You don’t mix in the onions, gherkins or capers, but you serve them separately so your guest can take them to your liking.

SALMON MOUSSE WITH MARINATED CUCUMBER

Peel the cucumber and slice it into small cubes. Now add the finely chopped red onion and the cucumber together and mix this with a few drops of olive oil, the vinegar and a few drops Tabasco. Let the cucumber marinated for about two hours in the fridge.
Mix the slices smoked salmon with the mascarpone and the heavy cream into a mousse. Season this with a little bit cayenne pepper.

Now assemble the dish in small glasses. Start with a bottom of cucumber, add the mousse and dress with some dill.

SMOKED DUCK WITH MANGO CHUTNEY

This little dish will ask some preparation in advance but don’t let that scare you. In return you get a wonderful mango chutney they stores in a for a couple of months and is divine with Indian curries and rice!

Peal 2 mangos and slice the meat into small cubes. Chop the lime (with peal and pits) fine and try to catch as much of the juice as possible.
Now take a little pan with a thick bottom and add the mango cubes, the chopped lime, the ginger, the finely chopped pepper, the vinegar, the sugar, pepper and salt to it. Place this on medium heat and let it boil for about 30 minutes. Stir it regulary.
After 30 minutes remove the pan from the fire and let the mixture cool/
When you put the chutney into jam jars, you can keep the chutney for months!

Now peel the third mango and slice the meat into thin pieces.
Now assemble the dish by place a piece of duck on your spoon, then a piece of mango, another piece of duck and another piece of mango. Top it of with a spoon of mango chutney.

Dessert Pallet

Inspired by my previous post on my New Years Eve menu and my promise to share more recipes of that evening, I decided to share my dessert plate with you today.
I need to confess that I am a little dish person. I just love to make little dishes for the aperitif and dessert.
Why? I have no idea. Maybe because I think its cute? Maybe because I have a collection of tiny glasses, cups, spoons and plates where any restaurant would be jealous of.  I think it is meanly because I get bored easily. When we go out to eat I order “the walk trought the menu” every single time and as a dessert I want “a selection of…”
A one flavour dessert does not bring me the happiness 4 little nibbles give me. So when you come to my place for dinner, you can be sure of the fact that I serve you a dessert pallet.

This time my dessert pallet consisted of 3 white dessert, rice pudding, mojito cheesecake and mascarpone mousse.
Three very different flavours, but combined together a marvellous trio.
The rice pudding I used for this dessert was a white rice pudding, which means I did not add any saffron.

INGREDIENTS RICE PUDDING

1 l full fat milk
125 grams dessert rice
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 sack of vanilla sugar
1 tablespoon of custard powder
a little bit of butter

INGREDIENTS MOJITO CHEESECAKE

100 grams of biscuits
50 grams of melted butter
4 limes
120 grams sugar
4 tablespoons of white rum
1 hand of mint leaves
250 grams cream cheese
100 grams of cream
250 grams mascarpone

INGREDIENTS MASCARPONE MOUSSE

250 grams mascarpone
65 grams powder sugar
2 egg whites
50 grams cream
speculaas ( A dutch spiced biscuit)

RICE PUDDING

Set aside 25 centilitre milk and bring the rest of the milk to the boil together with a nut of butter.

When the milk starts to boil, add the dessert rice and let it simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes on medium heat. Stir regularly, so the rice does not get a chance to stick to the bottom of your cooking pot.
Mix the remaining milk with the custard powder. This should become a thick paste like mixture.
When the rice is almost ready add the custard mixture. Let this boil for a minute under constant stirring. While you stir you should feel the resistance building up, because the pudding starts to thicken.
Take the rice pudding of the fire and poor it into the little pots and put them for a couple hours in the fridge.
Just before serving you can decorate the pudding with a little bit of light brown sugar.

MOJITO CHEESECAKE

Take a cooking pot with a thick base (very, very, very important!) and heat in this pot the sugar with 5 tablespoons of water. You are actually making a thick sugar syrup. Let this boil for about 2 minutes without stirring. Now add the juice and the zest of 3 limes, the rum and the mint leaves to the syrup. Take this almost immediately of the stove, stir well and place the pot into a bad of cold water. This will make the syrup cool a lot faster.

Now add the biscuits to a Ziploc bag and bash them into crumps. (I used a bottle of wine to do this. One has got to help themselves with original kitchen tools!)
Now add the crumps to the melted butter and mix it together. Now fill the serving cups with a spoon of this mixture. The biscuit-butter mixture is mend as the bottom of your cake.

Poor the syrup through a sieve. (don’t forget to push the leaves and the zest, so you get all that jummie flavours out!) Now poor the syrup into a large bowl.
Beat the cream until it is stiff and has creamy peaks.
Now add the cream cheese and the mascarpone to the syrup and mix it all with a wooden spoon. Then add the beaten cream and mix carefully, you don’t want to loose the lightness in your paste.

Now poor in the cheese mixture on top of the biscuits and place the little cheesecakes into the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Just before serving you can decorate the cheesecakes with some fresh mint leaves.


Mascarpone Speculaas mousse

Speculaas is a sort of short crust biscuit that is very popular in The Netherlands and Belgium. The dough of the cookie combines lots of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper. Other ingredients are butter, flour and brown sugar. Gingerbread is not the same thing as speculaas, but could be used as a substituted.

Beat the egg whites until the are stiff and have high peaks like the snow-white alps! You should be able to hold the eggs above your head without any accidents happening!
Now mix the mascarpone cheese with the icing sugar.
Add the speculaas to a Ziploc and beat into crumps.
Now add with a wooden spoon the egg whites to the mascarpone mixture.

Now start building your dessert. Start with a layer of speculaas crumbs, then mascarpone, crumbs, mascarpone… always end with a layer of crumbs!

Salad bar!

On my Dutch blog I posted some picture of my New Years Eve menu with the promise I would share some of the recipes in the weeks that followed. I did not keep my promise until recently I was challenged by a Dutch Co-foodblogger (something like the daring cooks but in Dutch) to create some buffet dishes that would suit her birthday buffet.  All of a sudden I remembered my promise and the recipes I did not share with my readers. Shame on me!

New Years Eve we traditionally (I admit) have a gourmet, but I always present it with a large salad bar. I try to make everything as fresh as possible cause I detest the flavour of store bought salads and don’t even get me started on the price of those horrible things that pass for food. I admit, making your own salads takes a little time. I spend about 4 hours on my little salad bar. But the result was wonderful, the flavours intense and the crispness of the veggies was unforgettable.
Like you can see in the picture I served all the salads in aluminium boxes. Not very fancy, I know. But after 2 days of cooking I could not stand the thought of doing the dishes for another 2 days in a row. So to make life easier on myself I used these throw away babies! Very convenient, when a there was no salad left I just threw away the box. It made New Years Day a lot more relaxed for me.
Today I share the top 3 of the salads. The ones my guests loved the most!

INGREDIENTS SWEET AND SOUR COWL CAROTT SALAD

300 grams carrots (finely sliced by the food processor)
300 grams of white cowl (finely sliced by the food processor)
1 finely chopped onion
1 dl vinegar
1 dl sunflower oil
50 grams of sugar
1 teaspoon curcuma powder
 salt and pepper according to taste

INGREDIENTS FOR THE ORIENTAL PINEAPPLE MANGOSALAD

1 pineapple
1 mango
1 tablespoon grounded ginger
1 finely chopped red hot chilli pepper
3 tablespoons of lime juice
3 spring onions
1 tablespoon of finely chopped mint
pepper and salt according to taste

INGREDIENTS GREEK PASTASALAD WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES

100 grams orzo pasta
100 grams roasted and marinated bell pepper
100 grams roasted and marinated zucchini
50 grams roasted and marinated eggplant
1 dl olive oil
5 cl white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of cumin powder
1 teaspoon of paprika powder
pepper and salt according to taste

SWEET AND SOUR COWL CARROT SALAD

Take a little cooking pot and put it on the fire. Add vinegar, sugar, peper, salt and curcuma to the pot and bring this to the boil. (Look out, don’t look straight into the pot. The vinegar will irritate your eyes.)
When the mixture starts to boil, turn down the fire and let it cool down at room temperature.

Now add the cowl, the carrots, the onions and the sunflower oil together in a big bowl.
Mix this well and dress it with the vinegar mixture.
Mix again and place this for at least 3 hours in the fridge.

ORIENTAL PINEAPPLE MANGO SALAD

Peal the mango and slice the meat into little cubes. (Try to catch as much juice as you can in a little bowl.)
Now skin the pineapple and slice it to in little cubes. (Again try to catch the juice.)
Now mix the pineapple and the mango and dress it with the juices you caught.
Now add some of the finely chopped spring onions to the fruit.
Mix in the finely chopped mint, the lime juice, the ginger and the red hot chilli pepper.
Place this for at least 2 hours in the fridge before serving.

 

 GREEK PASTASALAD WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES

You can if you like grill and marinate your own vegetables. But I took the easy and lazy way and used delicious marinated veggies from the local Italian deli. You can also use the store bought version from sacla, which is also very tasty.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package all dente and drain it with running cold water when cooked.
Mix in a little bowl the olive oil, white wine vinegar, pepper, salt, cumin and paprika powder together into a salad dressing.
Let the marinated vegetables drain a couple of minutes before cutting them into little cubes.
Now add the pasta, the vegetables and the dressing together in a large bowl and pop this into the fridge for at least 2 hours!

  

Spring cupcakes: coconut all the way!

These cupcakes have a funny story behind them. A story staring my wonderful dog Yoda.
My husbands works weekends every other week and that’s why except from cleaning the house and doing the laundry Saturday is my cooking and experimenting day.
As some of you know I am a pagan and ostara is a holiday I celebrate on the 20th march and on Easter my (catholic) family always has a brunch. This year I organise the brunch. So I tried to combine the two into these lovely spring cupcakes. They are perfect for Ostara and they are a wonderful try out for my Easter Brunch.
Anyway I spend the afternoon decorating my cupcakes with wonderful mascarpone frosting in lovely spring colour and even lovelier sugar sheep, little chocolate eggs and little chickens. I must say they look so cute and delicious. I was a proud cook!
I decorated my cupcakes on a plate and placed it in the middle of our table.
When my hubby got home we left the room for a little while and when we got back… well… lets say there was not a lot of cupcake left.

Our dog however sat in the very corner of the living room with a little green face from all the frosting. He was surrounded by half eaten cupcakes.
Frosting was spread all over the floor.
Of course I was a little angry. Not only because he ruined my lovely cupcakes, but also because I was a little scared for his health. It cant be good for a dog to eat that much sugar. I was very relieved to see he did not eat the chocolate eggs!
No need to say we had a bouncing dog the rest of the evening from his sugar rush. The next day we had a blast when we saw his *** was green. It may sound very childish, but Michael and I laughed so hard when we saw how lightning green it was.
That same day Michael helped me make another batch of these wonderful cupcakes. Not as pretty decorated as the other batch (cause I ran out of decorating stuff). But I must say, these cupcakes are delicious. They are in my top 10 of favourite cake stuff ever! So If you try one thing this weekend, for crying out loud, let it be these cupcakes!

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CUPCAKES
175 grams all purpose flour
60 grams of grounded coconut
2 teaspoon of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of salt
113 grams unsalted butter
200 grams of sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla essence
120 ml coconut milk

INGREDIENTS FOR THE FROSTING

250 grams of sugar
90 grams of unsalted butter
220 grams of mascarpone
food colouring (I used pink, green and yellow)

The butter you use for the cupcakes and the frosting should be at room temperature.
Add the butter to the food processor (or use a hand mixer) to beat it until it is creamy and a little bit fluffy.
Now add the sugar and mix it till all is combined.

Now splits the eggs. Keep the egg whites apart and mix in the egg yolks.
Add the vanilla essence and mix again.
Now add the flour, the salt and the baking powder to the mixer.
Mix for a couple of minutes and then add the coconut milk.
When all is combined you can add the grounded coconut and mix it one last time.

You should get a creamy mixture with a lovely smell!
Now beat the egg whites until they get lovely tops that resemble the snow covered Alps.
Now using a wooden spoon fold in the beaten egg white with the batter.
Now fill your cupcake forms with the batter in place in a preheated oven on 175 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes.

In the meanwhile we can make the incredible tasty but very easy topping.
Just mix the butter with the sugar till you get a nice creamy paste.
Then using a wooden spoon add the mascarpone cheese and mix well.
Divide this mixture into 3 different plates and add a little bit of colour.

Let the cupcakes cool down and then start decorating!