Bulgur salad with preserved lemon chicken

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One of my favourite grains is bulgur. I always have at least 1 bag at home. Mainly I use it in salads, combining it with all sorts of vegetables. Recently I bought very juicy Medjool dates while shopping and once back home I had to decide what exactly I wanted to use them for. It took only a few minutes brainstorming to come up with the following recipe. Since then I have made this recipe a couple of times. Hope you will find it as tasty as I do.

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Bulgur salad with preserved lemon chicken

250g bulgur

500g vegetable broth

1 red onion, halved and sliced

6 Medjool dates, stone removed, cut into long stripes

100g pine nuts or chopped pistachios

1 garlic, finely chopped

3 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 heaped tbsp harissa paste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Olive oil, for drizzling 

For the chicken breast:

2 skinless chicken breasts

4 garlic, crushed and chopped

1 big preserved lemon or 2-3 small ones, chopped

1 pack coriander, chopped (including stems), keep some leaves aside for decoration 

Lemon juice, to taste

100ml olive oil, for marinating 

First marinate the chicken breasts. Put all the ingredients for the chicken including the chicken breasts into a large freezer bag. Let most of the air out and close the bag with a knot. Now massage the chicken with the oil, lemons, garlic and coriander. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180C fan.

Bring the bulgur with the vegetable broth to a boil and simmer with a lid on, over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer to a big bowl and use a fork to fluff it up.

For the salad, fry the nuts in a dry pan until they turn golden brown. Keep an eye on them and shake frequently so they don’t get burned. Once done, put them into a bowl and set aside. Use the same pan putting 2-3 tbsp of olive oil into it and sweat the onions with a pinch of salt over a medium heat until soft. Add the chopped garlic and fry for 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the white wine vinegar. Tip the onions, dates, pistachios and the harissa paste into the bulgur and mix well.

Use the same pan to fry the chicken with all the marinade, both sides 3 minutes then transfer all of it onto a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Place the chicken onto a plate to rest, while mixing the marinate into the bulgur salad. Season to tase with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Divide the salad between two plates. Cut the chicken into slices and lay on top of the salad. Drizzle with some olive oil, decorate with the leftover coriander and serve. I like to eat my portion with plain yoghurt on the side.

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Instead of putting the chicken on top, you can cut the chicken into smaller pieces and mix it under the salad.

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It’s also very tasty without any chicken!

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Apple Strudel my way

 

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A few weeks ago I met a friend in town and we went to a restaurant. The main course was really nice but the dessert was something very special. It was an apricot strudel with tonka bean flavoured ice cream and custard. The inside of the strudel wasn’t normal either, I could taste a kind of marzipan flavour throughout. It had rough chopped almonds in it as well. I went home and on the train I immediately decided I had to bake a strudel just like that one. As usual, there wasn’t any time right away to sit down with pen and paper (yes old school) and write down some recipes ideas. Eventually I did sit down however, to write down two recipe ideas. Instead of apricots I also decided to go for apples as they are currently in season. On the first try, the strudel turned out nice, but didn’t taste quite right in comparison to the one I had at the restaurant. The second recipe however, was bang on!  That’s the recipe I want to share with you now – and trust me, it’s so good I have made it twice since then!

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Apple strudel for two

60g butter

30g sugar

1 egg

1/2 tbsp flour

1 tsp cornflour 

Pinch of cinnamon 

20g ground almonds

35g chopped almonds

1/2 apple peeled and diced

2 sheets filo pastry, folded in half

2 pie dishes 10cm, greased with oil

Cream butter and sugar until pale. Add egg, flours and cinnamon and mix well. Fold in the ground almonds, chopped almonds and the diced apples.

Line each pie dish with one folded sheet of filo brick. Divide the filling in half and fill into the prepared pie dishes. Bush the overlapping pastry with oil on the inside then fold it over the filling, tucking the edges into the sides of the pie form. Brush with some oil and bake in a preheated oven at 180℃ for 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

The strudel can be served warm or cold. Dust with icing sugar and serve with vanilla custard.

 

Buon Appetite!

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Homemade Cheesecake

 

598C8BE7-327C-467D-BED7-D9E26D386141When I went food shopping for the weekend it was already past lunch time, I was still hungry and craving a coffee & a piece of cake. While strolling through the isles all I could think of was what kind of cake I would like and which one would be quick to make. There are two cakes I vividly remember from my childhood. One is a Bundt cake that every family member got as a birthaday cake while the other one is my grandmas famous cheesecake. After those two popped into my head, I instantly knew I wanted a slice of the cheesecake, I could already taste it. I also knew that Mr. T and child #1 would be more then happy to share a slice or 3!

German cheesecake dates back to 1598 and there are many different recipes – and believe me when I say I’ve tried a lot of them. I have to say however, this one is still my favourite one. I decided to make a smaller version so I halved the original recipe and used an 18cm loose bottom cake tin. As I have also been trying to reduce sugar as much as possible over the past 4 years, I only used half the amount of sugar the original recipe called for.

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Homemade Cheesecake 

500g Quark

63g butter, room temperature

175g sugar (90g if you want to eat less sugar)

2 eggs, egg yolks in one bowl, egg whites in another

1 sachet Bird’s instant custard (or Dr. Oetker’s original Pudding or 37g corn starch)

1 vanilla pod, seeds only

1 tbsp semolina (some more for dusting)

1 tsp baking powder

1 lemon, juice and zest

Heat the oven 180C/160 fan/gas6. Grease the cake tin and dust with semolina, make sure the sides are covered too. Beat the egg whites until firm peaks form and set aside. Take the bowl with the egg yolks, add all other ingredients and mix well. Now fold in the egg whites and mix well. Fill the cake tin evenly and put into the oven on the lowest shelf. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.

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Delicious – my cravings had been satisfied. It did turn out however that making the smaller version wasn’t the best idea afterall… Child #1 complained the pieces were far too small.

Warming winter soup

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I just came back from a fantastic round trip in Italy. Driving through Tuscany, Amalfi Coast and Umbria, I had so many delicious meals, that I got inspired to cook a typical Umbrian soup: Zuppa di legumi. The weather here is getting cooler each day and I am longing to go back to Italy to soak up more sun, but instead I’m standing in my kitchen and cook hearty Italian food to share the recipes with you.

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Warming winter soup

500g mixed dried pulses ( red, green, yellow and brown lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, butter beans,cannellini beans, borlotti beans)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

200g smoked streaky bacon, diced

1 carrot, chopped

1 leek, sliced in thin rings

3 sprigs rosemary, chopped

5 medium tomatoes ,  hopped

5 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped

4 tbsp olive oil

1,5 liter vegetable stock

salt, pepper

rind of Parmesan, approx. 2-3 cm thick

Heat the olive oil in a big pan, add the garlic, carrots, leek, bacon and rosemary and cook gently for about 10 minutes. Add the pulses, tomatoes, Parmesan rind and the stock, bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add the potatoes  and simmer for further 30 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper.

 

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Coleslaw with a twist

Coleslaw with a twist

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It is a bank holiday weekend and I have been home alone for 5 days. Technically I am not alone, our dog is with me. However child #2 has already started uni, child #1 is still on vacation and Mr T is on a business trip in Japan. I always think about food and I am always hungry and it’s even worse when I am just slightly bored (fact from a very good friend – she must know!) So in between searching our cupboards for my next snack, I have so far cooked home made potato salad with cod fillet (my moms recipe), a vegetarian curry with chickpeas and spinach (from scratch of course), and two little chocolate cakes that are to die for.

Today is Sunday, the fridge is almost empty, and I am craving coleslaw for dinner. All that’s left is 5 carrots, 2 yellow peppers, 2 turkey breast fillets that are already fried, and of course the usual store cupboard ingredients, like mayonnaise (always Heinz), mustard, milk and a pot of creme fraiche. So I walked into the kitchen closely followed by our dog, who is always hoping for something to fall off the chopping board. Only 10 minutes later I had created something extremely delicious – And that’s how Coleslaw with a twist was born.

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Coleslaw with a twist

400g carrots, peeled and grated

2 yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced

1 bunch chive, finely chopped

For the sauce:

3 tbsp good quality mayonnaise (I always use Heinz)

3 tbsp Crème fraîche

1 tsp mustard

1-2 tbsp milk

1 tsp white vinegar

Salt and pepper

 

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In a bowl, mix the grated carrots and sliced peppers and set aside. In a separate bowl combine all the ingredients for the sauce and mix well. Pour the sauce over the vegetables and add the chopped chive. Toss until well combined. Season to taste.

I served my coleslaw with sausages, but you can use chicken, turkey breast filet or just a slice of home made bread as well.

 

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Red Thai curry paste

Thai red curry paste

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Some of you have asked me if I quit posting after just starting…No worries I am still here, ready to cook and post. The reason for not posting: I have been on a fabulous family holiday to various destinations in Asia. We started in Singapore, followed by Vietnam and then to Thailand, Bangkok and Koh Samui. I have seen so many great things and took thousands of photos, but this is not a travel blog, it is all about food. And yes, we had the most delicious food in all of the places. While being in Koh Samui we did a tour around the island with a guide and at the very end she showed us how to make authentic red Thai curry paste. There are plenty of different recipes for curry paste, each family has their own. I took some photos while she was making the paste and this is the recipe I will share with you.

 Thai red curry paste

2 tbsp dry red little chillies

3 shallots, sliced

6  cloves garlic

1 tbsp sliced lemongrass

1 tbsp sliced galangal

5 cm turmeric root, sliced

3 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced

1 tbsp black pepper corns

1 tsp salt

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Put all ingredients into a mortar and start pounding with the pestle until you have a fine paste.

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You can use this paste now to make your Thai red curry. Heat some oil in a pot add 1 tbsp of the paste and fry for 1-2 minutes. Stir in 1 can of coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Cut 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into pieces, add into the sauce and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until fully cooked. Season with salt, or even better with fish sauce, and a bit of sugar. Serve with steamed rice.

You can freeze the leftover paste for up to 2 months.

Summer salad with crispy feta cheese

Summer salad with crispy feta cheese

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You might wonder why I am posting so many recipes with strawberries……Very simple answer I just love them. The few months during summer when strawberries are dark red, bursting with flavour and spreading a heavenly aroma, I can’t get enough of them! One of my store cupboard ingredients is feta cheese, I always have at least three or five in my fridge. They are very versatile to use, either cold crumbled over salad, baked in the oven with vegetables or made into a dip or dressing. So it was easy to go for crispy feta cheese to accompany my strawberry summer salad.

 

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Summer salad with crispy feta cheese

1/2 cucumber, diced

1/2 iceberg salad, shredded

1 fennel , thinly sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)

250g strawberries, halved (quartered if big)

for the dressing:

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1/2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp whole grain mustard

salt, pepper

for the crispy feta cheese:

2 feta cheese, cut in half

1-2 eggs, beaten

panko ( Japanese bread crumbs), you can use normal bread crumbs as well

flour

oil for frying

To make the salad, mix all ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a bowl or jam jar and mix well. Pour over the salad and mix. Season with salt and pepper.

For the feta cheese, place the eggs, panko and flour on separate deep plates. Toss the feta first in flour, then in the beaten egg and last coat with panko crumbs. You might want to add a second layer of the panko crumbs. Therefore you just toss the cheese in the egg and then in the panko crumbs again. Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the feta cheese from both sides until golden brown. Serve with the summer salad on the side.

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Strawberries with cream and cocoa nibs

 

Strawberries with cream and cocoa nibs

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A couple of years ago I created this dessert, because I had bought a big pack of cocoa nibs. You wonder what are cocoa nibs? They are unprocessed cocoa beans which are broken into pieces. The taste of chocolate but with no sugar and they are crunchy. I had posted a photo of the dessert on facebook, but of course hadn’t written down the recipe. A few days ago facebook kindly reminded me that I had posted that photo in 2011. So I decided to recreate it and share it with you. I hope you will love it as much as I do. Best of all, it is quick and easy to make so perfect for a few guests or even feeding a crowd.

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Strawberries with cream and coca nibs

5 digestive biscuits, crushed

30g cocoa nibs

5g strawberries freeze dried, crushed

300ml whipping cream (or double cream), whipped

1tbsp caster sugar

300g fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and halved

In a bowl mix the crushed digestives, freeze dried strawberries and cocoa nibs. Set aside. Whip the cream with the caster sugar to soft peaks. To serve, place a good dollop of cream on a plate, arrange the strawberries around and sprinkle with the digestive mix. Put a few tablespoons of the mixture on the side. Enjoy!

 

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Asparagus and saffron risotto

Asparagus and saffron risotto

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This week was Royal Ascot week, and I went with a bunch of ladies on Tuesday. What a fun event! We first had a pot luck lunch at the home of one of the ladies, which was already very nice. Lots of delicious food, a bit of booze and lots of laughter trying on our hats. We then went to the venue to wait for the queen to arrive in her open horse carriage. We had a good and close place to see her come in.

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After that we enjoyed the races, bet on horses, won a bit and lost a bit. It was a great day and lots of interesting people to watch. Once back at home the big question came up: what to cook for dinner. I inspected the fridge and store cupboard and  decided risotto with asparagus. I wanted a little twist on that so I took out my jar of saffron- which my son brought back from Spain- and used a good pinch of that. It was one of the best risottos we had.

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Asparagus and saffron risotto

1 onion, finely chopped

3tbsp olive oil

250ml white wine or Noilly Prat

400g risoto rice (I like carnaroli risotto rise best)

1 good pinch of Saffron

1 liter vegetable stock

150g cream cheese

100g parmesan, grated

1 bunch asparagus, cut into thin rounds, leaving the tips whole

salt and pepper

In a heavy saucepan sweat the onions in the olive oil over medium heat without colouring. Add the rice and mix well so the rice is fully coated with the oil and fry for 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the saffron and stir.  Now add the vegetable stock one or two ladles at the time, stirring occasionally until all the liquid disappears. Before adding the last 2 ladles of stock, put all the asparagus into the saucepan and mix. Repeat adding the stock until you have used all the stock. This will take about 20-30 minutes. Add the cream cheese and grated parmesan and mix well. Stir until the cream cheese has molten, season to taste. Best enjoyed with a nice glass of white wine!

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Strawberry cheesecake with Advocaat

 

Strawberry cheesecake with Advocaat

Strawberry cheese cake with Advocaat

A few weeks ago when we had our first ‘heat wave’ – yes we English call every temperature above 20 degrees a heat wave – Anne, a good friend of mine, was supposed to meet me for a coffee to catch up. She is someone I can count on when it comes to loving my food, regardless what I’m cooking. So here I was in my kitchen thinking about what I could make which would go well with coffee and be super delicious. Strawberries and cheesecake, yes that sounded good, but a bit boring. Then I remembered the bottle of Advocaat I had recently bought because it reminded me of my childhood. When I was little, adults used to drink a glass of Advocaat after their coffee and cake on Sunday. Children were allowed to ‘clean’ the glasses by licking the leftovers. Can you imagine allowing your child to do such a thing these days? I am sure you would get more than just an odd look from others. Anyway, this Advocaat needed to be added into the recipe. I hope you will enjoy this cake as much as we did. I had two slices!

Just for those who still wonder what Advocaat is, here a little explanation: Advocaat is originally from The Netherlands, it is a beverage made from eggs, sugar and brandy. It is very similar to eggnog.

Strawberry cheese cake with Advocaat

 

Strawberry cheesecake with Advocaat

100g digestive biscuits

50g butter

250g cream cheese, full fat

1tbsp caster sugar

1tsp vanilla powder

200ml double cream, whipped

100ml Advocaat

punnet strawberries

icing sugar

 

For the base crush the digestives, melt the butter and mix together. Line the base of a loose bottom tin (20cm) with the mixture pressing the biscuits with a back of a spoon. Leave to cool. Beat the cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla powder. Mix in the whipped cream and then the Advocaat. Spread the mixture evenly over the biscuit base. Put the the fridge for at least 3 hours. Just before serving wash and hull the strawberries. Cut them in half and arrange on top of the cream leaving no spaces. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.

Strawberry cheese cake with Advocaat

 

Strawberry cheese cake with Advocaat