Anise Cookie

In an attempt to make a healthy(er) cookie, I adjusted a recipe found in a Spanish cookbook (De Complete Spaanse Keuken.) This cookie has a nice crunch and is not overly sweet but flavorful because of the anise and whole wheat flour. A great company for a cup of thee or coffee.

 

Ingredients:

190 gram whole wheat flour

190 gram plain flour

1.25 dl olive oil

1.25 dl water

3 tablespoons anise liquor

40 gram sesame seeds

3 tablespoons anise seeds

1 tablespoon baking powder

125 gram cane sugar

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until you have a sticky dough.

For easier rolling you can cool the dough in the fridge or just get your hands dirty.

Roll small pieces of dough between your hands and flatten them into any shape you wish about 3mm thick.

Place the cookies on a baking tray lined with baking paper or dusted with some fine polenta.

Bake the cookies for about 25 minutes or until light golden brown on the top (the bottom will be darker).

Let them cool down on a baking rack.

Advertisements

Yogurt Lavender Pie

A friend reminded me yesterday about this pie I made. If he remembers it after more than a month I think it’s a good enough recipe to write down. The flowery taste and spring make a good pare, it’s best eaten outside, sitting in the grass.

Photo Credit: Lotte Hoeksema

.

Ingredients:

Bottom:

100 gram rolled oats

125 gram flour

1 tsp anise seeds

30 gram sugar

200 gram butter

Filling:

350 gram yogurt (10%)

4 eggs

3 tbsp cranberry compote

1 tsp dried lavender

3 tablsp honey

cacaopowder

PhotoCredit:

Lotte Hoeksema

You can choose to make the bottom with crumbled cookies (like kandijkoeken) as well, than you can omit the sugar.

Melt the butter

Mix the flour, oats, sugar and anise seeds

Combine the two and decorate a round cake tin with it.

Press the mixture to the bottom until it’s more or less a flat bottom without and holes in it.

Prebake the bottom on 180C and let it cool down.

Mix together the yogurt, 4 eggs, honey and lavender until everything is combined. Swirl the cranberry through the mixture with a spoon.

Poor the filling on the prebaked bottom and bake it in the oven until it’s set.

To serve you can dust the top with cacao powder but I think it would be even nicer with a layer of melted chocolate on top. Put it in the fridge before serving.

Whoever tries to taste before it cooled down will get punished immediately, it’s far from tasty when eaten warm.

Dusting the cake while holding it out of the window is a great idea on a less windy day…

And again, the credit for the pictures is for Lotte Hoeksema

Lychee Cocktail

 

Lychee Cocktail

For 6 small cocktails

–          Canned Lychees on light syrup (ca 500gr total weight)

–          250 gram frozen red fruit

–          1 tblsp chopped mint

–          150 ml vodka

–          Optional: crushed ice

Keep 6 lychees aside and poor the rest into the blender. Mix the fruits and syrup on the maximum speed until mushy.

Add the frozen fruits, mint and vodka, mix again shortly.

Put the lychees on a cocktail picker and place them in the glasses.

If you want to add crushes ice, do this just before serving. Poor the drink into the glasses and serve.

Cheers!  To Spring!

Not yet spring salad

This horrible wind that has been blowing for the past week is gone and the sun showed her smile in the past two days! The first snowdrops are flowering; how they do it in this cold is a mystery to me. My cat is even losing her hair as if to show me that a scarf, hat and gloves are not necessary anymore but let’s not be hasty, it’s just the beginning of February, it’s winter.

Even though nature comes to life again when the temperature is well above zero degrees, the vegetables are not yet to be persuaded, there is still a big chance of frost. We have to live of cabbage, potato’s onions etc for some time still or, if we can’t resist, eat a water inflated tomato bomb.

I’m not a big cabbage fan but it is what the land offers us in this time of the year. Hence my mission became: how to make something tasty out of a cabbage.


Cabbage salad

Cut some red cabbage into very thin stripes. Do the same for an equal amount of lettuce. With a fork mince some fettah and add some sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon zest, black pepper and za’tar. Mix everything together well and add some juicy green olives.

Another option

Cut the red cabbage in very thin stripes. Do the same for the lettuce. Cut cucumber in long, small stalks.  In a bowl mix together a tablespoon of tahina, 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, salt, a minced garlic clove,  a tablespoon of sesame seeds and a tablespoon of yogurt. Add enough water to make a dressing. Mix well, it will get lumpy first but this will straighten out if you keep on stirring. Mix everything together.

Thai Cooking


After three and a half weeks of rice and noodles I’m happy to be back in my own kitchen. I discovered the Thai kitchen, sometimes even in the mornings, and I started to appreciate spicy food. In times the tears were running down my face and I felt the flames shooting through my throat but it was all for the good, I’m spicy proof now; a chili doesn’t scare me anymore.

Most of the ingredients were new to me and I couldn’t get myself to taste everything but I felt quite a hero already when ordering frog clay pot, and preserved eggs (eggs marinated in bull urine). After this adventures lunch I thought a safe carrot cake was well deserved. You can imagine the horror when I found some worms/caterpillars in this steamed and carrot flavored mushy cake.

At first we tried to avoid eating from the thousands of road eateries that have their restaurant on the back of their motorcycle, no refrigerator or running water. But after a while we became careless, like with the anti mosquito spray, and luckily our sensitive European/Israeli stomachs didn’t complain.

We also found out that the cheaper the food, the better it is. When a place starts to be pretentious or cater to westerners it hurts the taste. Three times we craved European food so much that we sat in an overpriced Italian restaurant and twice it was a disaster. Let Thai cooks cook Thai food not pizza.

We had a fabulous cook on the live aboard diving boat in the Similan Islands. She cooked some amazing dishes but when she tried to make us something European on New Year’s Eve, with the best intentions, we were somewhat disappointed and missed her Thai cooking art right away.

A Thai market is something different. Fresh fish is very important on the coast but also sweet water fish is on the menu. The fish are crammed in small buckets with just enough water to keep them wet. Crabs are tied alive, sitting neatly in a row waiting for a buyer.

Even though pork is on every menu, some of the small road restaurants didn’t have anything besides pork, even the candy is layered with fluffy pork on top, still we didn’t see any life pig. Plenty of chicken running around, cow’s next to the road but not one pig? They do appear in pieces on the market so it’s probably just not a popular pet.

The Thai kitchen doesn’t have any use for an oven; food is prepared in a wok, steamed or fried. Fish generally comes fried or prepared on the bbq and they don’t believe in preparing it shortly to keep the meat juicy, deep frying is the preferred method.

They don’t see the point in vegetarianism either; all dishes come with some type of meat or fish.

I really don’t mean to be negative about Thai cooking, I ate some beautiful curries and papaya salads. The fruit juices are heavenly and also the simple steamy soups are a delight but there are a couple of things I missed.

For one, there was no bread! There is no bread in the Thai kitchen! The same for cheese; I didn’t eat any type of cheese for three and a half weeks. To make the trio complete: wine. The little wine there is, is relatively expensive and there is of course no wine culture. Of course you can find everything when you search well, especially in the touristic places.

I did find out that the Thai kitchen is relatively easy when you are in possession of the right ingredients. The challenge back home is to find ingredients like pickled radishes, Thai coriander; tiny green eggplant the size of a pea, tamarind/chili paste, keffar lime leafs and so on.  So I’m on a mission, I didn’t make any Thai food yet but I better start soon now the memory of it is still fresh.

The pictures below are from some of the dishes I made on the Thai cooking Farm. It was a very nice course. Like most cooking schools around, we went to the local market where they explained about some of the key ingredients.

On the farm every person had his or her own cooking station and we made all the dishes ourselves from scratch. Our teacher first gave an explanation about the dish, then he gave away all the tips and tricks while cooking it ones himself. After this little show we had to  copy him and eat it all. I had a nice group of people, there were nice conversations at the table and at the end we were brought home by car because we couldn’t walk anymore after 6 courses.

Beetroot salad with yogurt dressing

Roasted beets have a wonderful sweet and earthy flavor; but if you end up with a pair of cooked beets of which most of the flavor is flushed away with the cooking water, there is still hope. Naturally roasted beets have my preference but I managed to make a very tasty salad with the cooked version as well. You can also change the peas for lentils but the peas do give a nice bite to the salad.

This is what you need (makes about 8 sides)

500 gram beetroot

Big handful of fresh spinach

1 cup yellow peas

1 pear in cubes

3 tomatoes

Chunk of fettah

½ cup full yogurt

5 garlic cloves

2 red onions

Bay leaf

1 tablespoon dried thyme

A handful of chopped mint

Teaspoon sumac

2 tablespoons balsamico vinegar

One tablespoon honey

One tablespoon cider vinegar

Pepper and salt

Lemon juice

Cook the yellow peas with the bay leaf and one chopped garlic clove until soft but not mushy.

Cut the onion and tomatoes in parts and slice 3 garlic cloves. Heat a layer of oil in a big skillet and slowly bake the onion, tomato and garlic on a low fire for about 10 minutes.

Cut the beetroot in little cubes and add them to the onion. Mix it well, add the balsamico vinegar, thyme and the honey, generous pepper and salt and turn the fire a little higher.

To make the dressing. Mix the yogurt with a crushed garlic clove, sumac, cider vinegar, mint, honey pepper and salt.

When the beet is warm and caramelized, mix it with the peas, crumble the fettah and add the spinach and the pear.

Serve the salad with a dot of the yogurt dressing on top.

Garlic oil

The oil will have a warm and soft garlic taste and is great served with some bread, pepper and salt. You can spread the cloves out onto a toast. I also use it in dressings or to bake with.

Garlic oil

1 or two garlic heads

Olive oil

Herbs like thyme or a green pepper

Peel all the garlic cloves and gather them in a pan. Cover the cloves with oil, add the herbs or a pepper and bring the oil to a soft boil. Take the pan from the fire and put it back on it when the bubbles went away. Do this three times and after the third time, leave the pan on your smallest fire. You cook the cloves in the oil until they are entirely soft and slightly browned.

Keep the oil in a clean jar.

Sourdough bread

Even though I make lots of bread, I don’t write about it so often. That is because I don’t use a recipe. The way I make bread is as following, and if you follow my hands you don’t really need a recipe, just some practice.

Take some of your sourdough starter and put it in a bowl.

For a big loaf I use about a cup of sourdough starter but if you like it more sour, you can use more or less if you don’t. Add water and flour to your starter so you’ll get a substance which looks like a thick porridge. Stir until all the lumps are dissolved, you’ll notice the dough will become stickier as you keep stirring it. Cover it with a damp cloth and set it aside.

It depends on the amount of starter you use and the strength of it how long you should wait. I generally wait until it is completely filled with air bubbles. You can make it rise overnight in the fridge as well, the slow rising will give the bread a more complex and full flavor, let the dough come to room temperature before you use it again.

After the first rise, add enough flour and salt, and knead with your hands until you have a soft and flexible dough. It shouldn’t stick anymore. You can shape it into a loaf, let it rise until doubled in size and bake it right away or, give it a second rise. Cut in the top before you bake it or else it will crack open in another place. Brushing the top with oil, or egg will make the crust darker in color.

You can vary with the shape, size and with the baking time and temp to get a thicker or thinner crust.

And voila, there we have a new bread again, not so hard, everybody can do it.

A different result you get when you bake the bread in a preheated Dutch oven or other type of oven proof dish. When you don’t make cut’s in the top you end up with beautiful cracks like on the picture.

Portobello stuffed with Taleggio

I made stuffed Portobello in all kind of variations but I prefer this simple version above all others.

This is a main course by itself and you don’t miss the meat, you can eat it with salad, polenta, potatoes, pasta, rice or whatever you prefer. A good substitute if you want to introduce another meatless day in the week. The taleggio and the portobello are a great combination, just as Jamie promised. I added a bit of walnut oil and rosemary to the palette and topped it off with some bread crumbs for a nice crusty finish. Next to flavor you also have think about the contrast in texture and the feeling it will give you when you take a bite.

Taleggio stuffed Portobello

1 portobello per person

Taleggio to stuff the inside

Fresh rosemary

Bread crumbs

Walnut oil

Pepper and salt

Remove the stem from the mushroom’s hat; sprinkle the inside with some walnut oil, pepper, salt and some finely chopped rosemary.

Place some nice slices of taleggio on the inside of the mushroom. Mix the breadcrumbs with some more rosemary and place it on top of the tallegio.

Bake it in the oven until the Portobello is soft. You can test this by sticking the tip of a knife in the side, if it doesn’t meet too much resistance, it’s done.

Garden Pea Zucchini Salad

Indian cooks work a lot with their hands. A cook has to be good spirited because he puts his energy in the food through his hands, which passes on to the people who eat the dish. A beautiful way of saying that things made with love are better.

Garden Peas and Zucchini salad

125 gram garden peas, fresh or frozen

1 zucchini

A small hand mint leafs, cut in stripes

3 tablespoons full yogurt

1 1/2  teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon chili powder

Squeeze of lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

Salt

Shortly cook the peas and put them under cold water to stop the cooking process. The peas need to stay firm. Cut the zucchini in half moons and bake them with garlic in a little sunflower oil. Put the zucchini in the fridge to cool down.

Mix together the yogurt, cumin, turmeric, chili, lemon, salt and mint. Combine the ingredients in a bowl and serve.