Category Archives: Mediterranean style

Cannelloni with ricotta and minced meat

The husband and I are huge fans of Italian food, So I am always happy to try out something new and exciting. Normally I use a very basic cannelloni recipe à la bolognaise. It’s a wonderful recipe and I just know I ll keep using it till I am old an grey. But sometimes I want to try new recipes and new flavours. I found the base for this recipe while looking for some stock cubes on a website. The website suggested to use the cubes in a Ricotta cannelloni and I was won over. The idea of a ricotta cannelloni without spinach sounded like something different. So I added a little bit of this and a little bit of that and I ended up with those lovely creamy cannelloni.

 INGREDIENTS
8 tubes of cannelloni
½ red onions finely chopped
125 grams ricotta cheese
1 jar of tomato sauce (I used home made sauce about 250 ml)
50 grams of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
½ red pepper chopped in small cubes
½ green pepper chopped in small cubes
200 grams minced meat
30 grams of pine nuts
2 teaspoons of Italian herb mix
2 tablespoons of olive oil

In a large sauté pan over medium heat warm the olive oil. Add the minced meat and crumble it with a fork while it turns lightly brown and is cooked through. Now add the onion and the peppers and stir fry this for a about 10 minutes.
Now add the ricotta to the pan and mix it all together.
Season with a little bit of salt, pepper and the Italian herb mix.

Now add 25 grams of parmigiano reggiano cheese and the pine nuts to the mixture.
I had to pre-boil the cannelloni before using. Be sure to check the instructions on your package before using.
 Now fill the tubes with the meat-ricotta mixture. I did this using a small wooden spoon. Look out that the tubes don’t tear up completely.

 Place the filled tubes in a oven dish and poor over the tomato sauce. Make sure that the cannelloni is covered completely with sauce; else it will go hard an dry while baking in the oven. Now sprinkle with the remaining parmigiano reggiano cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes in an oven of 200 degrees. Uncover and bake further until the cannelloni is golden brown an bubbling, this takes approx. another 15 minutes.

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When you ask people to name some famous British chefs most of them will come up with Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey and Nigella Lawson. Not me though… No I am madly and deeply in love with the cooking of Rick Stein. Rick and I had some great times in front of my TV. I sailed the canal du Midi with him, I ate dumplings with him in Phuket and I followed him around the Mediterranean. And that is still my favorit..his Mediterranean escape. I loved the show with that typical cuisine and the lovely views. I soaked in all his tips and one moment I thought I was going delusional in front of my tv cause I could almost smell the sea! I was overcome with joy when I finnaly got my hands on the Mediterranean escape cookbook. The first recipe I tried from it was this lovely kefta Mkaouara or a spicy egg, meatball and tomato tagine.
But although I love Rick Stein and everything he does I need to tell you how happy I was with the adjustments I made to the recipe. Without the extra spices I used I think the flavour would have been kind of bland. The husband and I agreed that his recipe could never be “spicy” like the title mentioned. I wrote my added spices in the cookbook and I saw the husband smile. All my cookbooks are tweaked with little notes in the sides to make recipes “more us”.

 INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons of olive oil
4 medium sized eggs
a small handful fresh coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
450 grams minced lamb
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of hot paprika (I used some dried Harissa herbs I bought in Tunesia for this)
2 tablespoons of raz el hanout
1 medium onion, finely chopped
800 grams of canned chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves crushed

 Start with preheating your oven at 200 degrees.

Now for the meatballs put the minced lamb, parsley, 1 teaspoon of cumin, ½ teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper into a bowl and mix together well with your hands. When all is mingled together well form the meat into small balls. (Approximately 2,5 cm)

 Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a shallow tagine or a frying pan and brown the meatballs briefly on all sides. You don’t need to cook them through, they just need to get a lovely golden crust.  Remove the balls from the pan and transfer them to a plate.

 Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the onion to it. Cook it very gently for about 5 minutes until soft and tender. Now add the canned tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of cumin, ½ teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of pepper, the garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons of raz el hanout to the pan. Let this simmer gently for 20 minutes. Season with some salt to your liking.

Now return the meatballs to the pan and mix them together with the sauce. If you don’t have a tagine now is the time to transfer the mixture into a shallow oven dish. Make 4 slight dips into the mixture en break the eggs into each one. Now place the tagine or the oven dish in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the eggs or cooked.

Scatter with the chopped coriander and serve with some couscous like we did or some lovely Moroccan bread to dip into the sauce.

Recipe adapted from Rick Steins Med. Escape

Sundried tomatoes chicken with twice baked feta potato

I love sundried tomatoes. Not the all dried out version. No I have a thing for the half dried tomatoes who bath in oil. I know it probably is not healthy. Its not good for your figure… but it is delicious as hell. So for once I just don’t care. Normally I serve these tomatoes with a little aperitif, but to make it all a little healthier I made them into a lovely marinade.

These lovely marinated chicken breast are very quick to make and taste very Mediterranean.

I served them with twice baked potatoes and some feta. I just love feta and I love potatoes, so why not combine them into this lovely dish!

 INGREDIENTS FOR THE CHICKEN BREASTS

2 chicken breasts
12 half sundried tomatoes
6 leaves of basil
½ onion
1 clove of garlic
350 grams of tomato coulisse
250 mls of olive oil

INGREDIENTS FOR THE TWICE BAKED POTATOES

6 medium potatoes
Olive oil
200 grams of crumbled feta cheese and an extra 50 grams
2 teaspoons of finely chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons of finely chopped thyme
2 teaspoons of finely chopped sage
Salt and pepper

 

For the chicken breasts

Lets start of with the lovely chicken breasts. This is a really fast and easy marinate that you can use for any kind of meat. I just love it with chicken. The tenderness of the chicken goes wonderful with the sweetness of the tomatoes. But enough chit chat start chopping those sundried tomatoes and the basil leaves in rough pieces. When your done, do the some to the onion and the garlic.

Now take a large, deep plate or a large bowl and combine the chopped ingredients. Now add the tomato coulisse and the olive oil. Whisk it all together till everything is nicely combined.

Now take your chicken breasts and here comes the nice part…. Bash them with something heavy till they are nicely thin. Think about your bad day at work, about your husband loosing his socks for the seventh time this week, about your kids who never clean up their toys, about the dog who jumped on your pretty white dress with his dirty pawls. Anyone let the anger flow and just bash those chicken breast!

When the chicken breasts are nice and thin, you just toss them into the marinate, cover it up and place it for at least 2 hours in the fridge.

 Now heat a pan (even more lovely is a grill or a grill pan!) without adding any more oil or butter. Now take the chicken breast out of the marinate and fry them for about 2,5 minutes at each side.

FOR THE TWICE BAKED POTATOES

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees. Now scrub the potatoes and poke some holes in them with a fork. Isn’t this a lovely aggressive diner?

Now place the potatoes hole side up on a baking sheet and drizzle them with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and some sea salt. Now bake them for about 50 minutes in the oven. The potatoes are ready when you can insert a fork easily into the crispy skin of the potato.

Now remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool for about 10 minutes. Slice the potatoes in halve in length and scoop out that lovely, fluffy flesh into a bowl. Keep the skins on the side.

Now add 200 grams of crumbled feta cheese, the finely chopped herbs and some salt and pepper to the potato flesh. Mix this together into a creamy mixture and fill the potato skins with it. Top this of with the remaining feta cheese, some salt and pepper and return this to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Festonati with creamy ricotta lemon sauce

Pasta… if there is one thing I love in the world its pasta. I adore a plate of pasta with authentic bolognaise sauce and at night I dream about creamy sauce drizzled with some freshly grated parmesan cheese. If you ever wake me up for anything at night let it be a plate full of delicious pasta.

Unfortunately my dearly beloved husband is just not that into pasta. He barely eats a full plate of it and he complains when I put it on the table more then twice a month. It’s a problem in our marriage… maybe we need counselling…

On the other hand the pasta-hater himself makes the best tomato sauce ever and he does it with love and devotion and all that for little old me.

Sometimes he even brings home special types of pasta, just to surprise me. For valentine I got little red heart pasta one year, the other year I got pasta that looked like… well the crown jewels of a men. With Christmas he bought me little santa shaped pasta and a couple of weeks ago he brought home a bag of festonati pasta.

This pasta is one of the newer pasta shapes and is similar to penne or rigatoni. I must say I like it better then a regular penne. The shape is quit special, they are pretty big and they hold on to the creamy sauce I plunged them in.

One warning though, the festonati are quit big but don’t be deceived, they are all dente much quicker then regular penne! So don’t overcook them!

INGREDIENTS

300 grams of festonati
30 grams of butter
100 grams of ricotta cheese
50 grams of grated parmesan cheese
Juice of one lemon
The zest of one lemon
20 whole basil leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

Cook the pasta al dente. When you drain the pasta don’t forget to set aside 1 cup of the hot water you boiled the pasta in.

Now melt the butter on medium heat. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon and whisk it together with the melted butter. Turn down the heat. I know this sounds a little weird, but just believe me it will work! Now add the ricotta cheese and let it slowly melt while whisking in the parmesan cheese, the zest of the lemon and the basil leaves. The heat of your pan will make sure that the cheese melts into a creamy sauce. Using two cheeses might make the sauce a little to thick. So check the consistency and add some of the warm water you kept in a cup.

Now add the drained pasta and mingle it all together. You can top it of with some freshly grated cheese and some extra basil leaves if you like.

Tortilla al Horno

The day after we returned from vacation my parents in law came for diner. My head was still in the lovely Perigord; so I did not want to spend my whole day in the kitchen. Do you know that lovely rush that follows you a couple of days after you returned home. That feeling of complete inner peace. Its like walking in a cloud of good vibrations and still the holiday feeling. The husband choose to serve them paella. Quick, easy but delicious. I shared the recipe with you before and it always is a big hit when I make it. As a started I made a little buffet of Spanish tapas. Chorizo, gambas a la plancha, calamari, jamon, manchego cheese, some good olives and this tortilla al horno.
I ll just be plain honest with you guys.. I cant make a regular tortilla baked in a pan. It does not work for me. I always end up with scrambled eggs and hard potatoes. Horrible! So I fled from that challenge months ago and I go with this “It just cant go wrong recipe”. Tortilla baked in an oven. I was ashamed to tell anybody, but when I finally told my friend Maria, who happens to be Spanish and lives in Sevilla, she yelled: “What do you mean, you just recently discover that? That how I been doing that for years! And not just me, also my mom and grandma.” And to be honest, when a Spanish grandma does it, it cant be wrong, right?

INGREDIENTS

olive oil
1 large clove of garlic (pureed)
4 spring onions (cut into small rounds)
1 red bell pepper (deseeded and cut into small pieces)
175 grams potatoes partly boiled (they don’t need to be cooked through) sliced
75 grams of hot chorizo (cut into small cubes)
5 large eggs
175 grams of grated manchego cheese
Salt
Pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper

I used my crème brulee forms to bake the tortilla in. But you can do it just aswel in a square baking form. Just cover the backing form with some baking paper and grease it with a little olive oil.
Now add the oil, the mashed garlic, the spring onions and the paprika to a large pan and let it simmer for about 10 minutes on a medium heat. Remove the garlic, onions and paprika from the pan and add the chorizo cubes. Let it bake for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Take a large bowl and add whisk the eggs together with the cheese, the salt, pepper en the cayenne pepper.
Now poor in the garlic, onions, paprika, chorizo and potatoes. Fold it together carefully. Don’t be to enthusiastic, cause you don’t want the potatoes to break into little pieces.

Now poor the egg mixture into your forms and place them in a preheated oven op 190 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the tortilla looks golden brown.
The tortilla is ready when it feels pretty firm, but still a little springy when you push it with your finger.
Let the tortilla cool on a rack before removing it from the spring. The cool down time will allow the tortilla to firm up some more. Then cut the edges with a sharp knife and turn place a serving plate on top of the form. Turn it around and remove the form. Remove the baking paper carefully.

You can serve the tortilla hot or cold.

Mussels with Pastis and tomato cream sauce

I love mussels.. I really do. Once the season is there to eat them I kind of go wild. I make them at home, I eat the in restaurants or I just tag along at my moms table and eat her portion. But to be quite honest… there are only two ways I have ever eaten them. Fried with a golden crispy crust and some lovely tartar sauce and the classic Belgian way to serve them with onion, leeks and carrots accompanied with a little jar of mosselsauce.
While on holiday in France the husband and I tend to eat lunch in local restaurants where there are no tourists and all the townspeople. Its quit an easy thing to do… drive away from the large towns and stop at a cafe/restaurant in some local village. Mostly they have a menu du jour… for about 12 euro you have soup, salad, a main course, dessert and some coffee. For an extra 2 euro you get wine! How lovely is that!
One of those lunches we ended up in a little restaurant with a lovely few on the river and they served mussels marinara.
I got a huge plate of lovely mussels in a divine sauce. I could not resist to dip my bread in it until it has soaked all that lovely goodness.
Back home I tried to look up the recipe for mussels marinara, but I found nothing that looked or resembled the lovely mussels I had in France.
But now that I had seen the other side of mussels I was ready to experiment and this lovely dish is the result of it!

INGREDIËNTEN

3 kg fresh mussels
2 large onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
200 grams of finely sliced carrots and leeks
15 ml op pastis
200 ml cream
mussel herbs (We buy them at our local fish shop.)
150 grams of canned chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons of herbes de
provence

Wash and clean the mussels. (I do it as followed: clean the mussels, wash them, wash them again and wash them a third time! The cold water opens the mussels a bit and the shaking of your hands pours out the sand and weeds in the mussels.

Now take a large casserole (I use one for soup) and fill it with a layer of mussels, a layer of onions, carrots and leeks and a layer of herbs. Then again a layer of mussels, a layer of vegetables and a layer of herbs. Keep repeating this until all the mussels are in the pot.
Now add some water to the pot… its hard to say how much cause I normally do this by heart. But I would say 300 to 400 ml. Put a lit on the top and put it on a medium high fire for about 10 minutes. Shake the casserole a couple of times so that all the flavours can mingle!

Now take a little pan and heat some olive oil in it on another fire. When the oil is hot, add some onions and the garlic. When it turns golden brown add the pastis and the tomatoes. Stir this well before adding the cream and the herbes des provence. Now let this boil until you get a thick and creamy sauce.
When the mussels are done you take about 150 to 200 ml of the cooking juices and you add it to the cream sauce. Bring to the boil again and season with some pepper and salt.
Place the mussels in a large dish and pour over the cream sauce. Drizzle some fresh parsley over it and serve immediately!

Pesto Rosso

When a friend told me this week he had eaten something “pre -prepared” he looked at me with scared eyes.
“Yes, so?” I answered and he looked even a little bit more afraid. “But you love to cook and you do it so well. You must be anti pre-prepared stuff?”
I almost rolled on the floor while holding my laugh. Anti pre-prepared? Hallo, who do you think I am? God? Yes, I love to spend my time in supermarkets looking for good quality food. I get happy from using fresh product and yes I love to cook. But that doesn’t mean that I never use something out of a package or carton! I work full time, I have a husband who gets home pretty late and works weekends. I don’t have a housekeeper or a person who does my ironing. So sometimes it has to quick and easy for me.
To test my theory that I am not anti pre-prepared I examined my pantry and my fridge. With the following results:
– Gazpacho from Alvalle. There is nothing, but absolutely nothing that can beat this gazpacho. Even my Spanish friend buys it, cause she cant make it better herself. Over the years I have tried to make fresh or taste other brands, but nothing beats Alvalle!
– Mix for falafel
– Mix for couscous
– A jar of marinated zucchini
– Pastasauce from Bertolli
– A lasagne

Just to say I am not anti pre-prepared.
This week in the supermarket I even places a jar of red pesto in my bags. I had been planning some dishes with red pesto and ready made pesto is quick and easy. Waiting at the counter I studied the ingredients and noticed chiliflakes and cashews. I don’t know about you but I don’t think those two represent the authentic Italian taste I was looking for. So I left the line, place the jar back in his rack and started searching for fresh ingredients for red pesto. And to be quiet honest.. the fresh pesto only took 5 minutes to prepare….

INGREDIENTS

200 grams of half dried tomatoes on olive oil (dredged from the olive oil)
15 grams of fresh basil
2 gloves of marinated garlic (If you cant find these, just use regular garlic)
4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
40 grams of pine nuts
75 grams of grated parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons of olive oil

Add the sundried tomatoes, the basil, the garlic, the vinegar, the pine nuts and the cheese together in a bowl. Mix with your standing mixer until you get a smooth paste.
After the mixing spoon in the olive oil so it gets creamy.

Pesto can be kept in the fridge for a month. Just make sure that there is always a tiny bit of olive oil on top of it. This seals it from the air and protects it from any germs.