Daring Cooks - Beef Wellington

Now while the challenge has been done and I'm too late to post, I did make the dish and made pictures. I'm not happy about my pictures, because I had to make them with the kitchen light on as it was already dark outside. That aside, even though the pictures aren't perfect (I will post them later...) the beef wellington was really nice. I made the pastry myself too! It was a while ago that I made shortcrust pastry, but it was as nice as any other time I made it ages ago. For me the beef wellington was nicer when it was cold. The flavors of the beef came out better that way. And even though the beef was a little overcooked (it's hard to judge whether the meat is done whilst wrapped in a nice pastry ;-) ) it is something I would make again.

Beef Wellington is a preparation of beef tenderloin coated with pâté and duxelles, which is then wrapped in pastry and baked. Some people wrap the coated meat in a herby crêpe to retain the moisture and prevent it making the pastry soggy.
A whole tenderloin may be wrapped and baked, and then sliced for serving, or the tenderloin may be sliced into individual portions prior to wrapping and baking. Many spices may be added to enhance the flavour; some examples are curry, allspice, any grilling mix or ginger.

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

Beef Wellington
250 gram button mushrooms
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig of thyme
500 - 600 gram beef fillet, center cut piece
1 tbsp mustard
500 gram of short crust pastry (instructions below)
3 slices of nice ham
1-2 tbsp of milk

For the herb crepes
50 gram all purpose flour
125 ml milk
1 tbsp mixed herbs (chopped, I used rosemary, thyme and parsley)
1 egg
0.5 tbsp butter

1. To make the crepes, whizz the flour, egg and milk with a pinch of salt in a blender or processor until smooth. Pour into a jug and stir in the herbs and some seasoning. Leave to rest.
2. Fry the mushrooms in a little oil until they give up all their moisture and it has evaporated, leaving you with a thick paste. Add the thyme leaves and some seasoning and keep cooking for a few minutes. Cool.
3. Stir the melted butter into the crepe batter, heat a 15 cm crepe pan and oil it lightly. Pour in enough batter to make a thin layer on the base of the pan, cook until the top surface sets and then turn over and cook briefly. Remove and repeat with the rest of the batter. This will make a couple more than you need so choose the thinnest ones for the recipe. (Make sure the crepes are big enough to cover your meat!)
4. Sear the beef all over in a little oil in a very hot pan. Brush with the mustard, season and allow to cool.
5. Lay a large sheet of cling-film on a kitchen surface and put two crepes down on it, overlapping a little. Lay over the ham. Spread the mushroom mixture over the ham and put the beef in the centre. Roll the cling-film up, taking the crepe with it, to wrap the beef completely into a nice neat log. Chill for 1 hour.
6. Heat the oven to 200°C/390F. Roll out the pastry, remove the clingfilm and wrap the beef in the pastry like a parcel, with the ends tucked under. Trim to keep it nice and neat. Brush with milk or egg, score with shallow lines across the top and chill for 20 minutes.
7. Cook for 20 minutes. The best way to test if the meat is done to your liking is to neatly and carefully stick a skewer into the beef, count to three and then test it against your inner wrist. If it is cold, the beef will be raw, if it is warm then the beef will be rare and if it’s hot, it’ll be cooked through. Leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Shortcrust pastry
450 gr of all purpose flour
200 gr cold butter
pinch of salt

1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. For best results make sure the butter is very cold.

Caramelized Carrot Risotto

It's been a while since I posted. Mostly because I'm quite busy writing my master theses and also I didn't really have anything to write about. I didn't try any new recipe's that I was happy enough over to write about it to you.

But now I have a recipe I would like to share. Last summer I ate my first risotto. When my boyfriends parents were over, we did a big family dinner. My parents, brother, his girlfriend, my boyfriends parents and us two joined each other at our house for dinner. Now what is a nice and easy meal for 8 people? My boyfriends mother and I decided to make risotto. Everyone loved it! And since that summerday I have been meaning to make some more risotto.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. We were having our monthly potluck dinner with the neighbors again. And I needed to come up with something new and nice. Since we had some carrots left over and the meal needs to be vegetarian I decided to make a caramelized carrot risotto. It was a hit! Everyone loved it. One thing I might have done wrong this go though was that I used the wrong stock. The stock I used was a little bit overpowering. So next time I will make this dish I will try to use a stock that is not so strong and overpowering in flavor.

Caramelized Carrot Risotto - adapted from Yummy Mummy

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped as finely as possible
0.5 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1.2 liter stock (chicken or vegetable)
2 finely chopped onions
300 grams of arborio rice
125 ml of white wine
125 gram of freshly shredded parmesan
2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley, plus a bit for garnish

1. Heat 1 tbsp. oil and 1 tbsp. butter over medium heat and add carrots. Stir until well coated. Add 125 ml of water, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the sugar; cook 5 minutes or until tender. Continue to cook until water evaporates and carrots are just starting to brown. Reserve half of the carrots. In a blender, purée other half with 200 ml of hot water.

2. Bring stock to a simmer and keep at a simmer, covered, over low heat.

3. Heat remaining oil and butter over medium heat in same (unwashed) pot used for carrots. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add rice, stirring with a wooden spoon to coat rice with oil. Add wine and cook, stirring, until wine evaporates. Add carrot purée and cook, stirring, until mixture no longer looks soupy.

4. Add 125 ml of hot stock, stirring often, until rice absorbs most of the liquid. Repeat process, adding 125 ml of stock at a time and stirring often till each addition is absorbed before adding the next, until rice is al dente (about 20 minutes; at least 250 ml stock will remain).

5. Fold in reserved carrots (save 2 tbsp. for garnish),  half of the parmesan and 1 tbsp. parsley. Add up to 250 ml of (75 ml at a time) to loosen the risotto. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Sprinkle each bowl of risotto with some of remaining parmesan, remaining 1 tbsp. parsley, and reserved carrots. Enjoy!

Chilli Jam

About half a year ago we went to a Dutch flower show. Whilst it wasn't as amazing as the famous British flower show in Chelsea it was nice to see the displays of tulips, hyacints and other spring flowers. There was also a little market at the show. We walked around there for a bit and found an English couple that had a stall there with chutneys and cheddar cheese. We tried a couple of the chutneys and my boyfriends eye fell on the chili jam they were selling. It made him remember home, and the chili jam they always have in the fridge there for cooking with and eating with cheese on toast. So when we went home later that day, we took some cheddar cheese and a jar of chili jam with us.

About 4 months later he finished it all. As chili jam didn't sound really tasty to me I never tried the jam out of that jar. As my boyfriend ran out of his cherished chili jam he really wanted some new chili jam. Normally his parents send him the products he wants from the UK and can't buy here, by mail, but this is not easy to send a glass jar over the mail. So I offered to make him some. This time, as I had to taste if the jam was good enough, I did try. And it was lovely. The chili jam I made that day didn't last very long as I started eating cheese on toast with chili jam nearly every day and I had to make new. Also I gave one jar away to my best friend so he could try and he loved it as much as I did. He has been asking for more for a couple of weeks now and as we ran out too I spend today in the kitchen to cook us another bigger batch of this delicious jam.

This post will be this weeks entry for Weekend Herb Blogging. This week it is hosted by Cinzia of Cindystar.

Chili Jam (adapted from bbc good food)

8 red peppers, deseeded and finely chopped
10 red chillies, finely chopped (with seeds)
finger-sized piece fresh root ginger , peeled and roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled
400 gram can cherry tomatoes
750 gram  caster sugar
250 ml red wine vinegar


1. Tip the peppers, chillies (with seeds), tomatoes, ginger and garlic into a food processor, then whizz until pureed.
2. Scrape into a heavy-bottomed pan with sugar and vinegar, then bring everything to the boil. Skim off any scum that comes to the surface, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until it becomes sticky, stirring occasionally.
3. Once the jam is becoming sticky, continue cooking for 10-15 mins more, stirring frequently so that it doesn't catch and burn. It should now look like thick, bubbling lava.
4. Cool slightly, transfer to sterilised jars, then leave to cool completely.

Serve with some cheese, or with with your sunday roast or other cut meats.The jam will keep for 3 months in a cool, dark cupboard - refrigerate once opened. Enjoy!

Daring Cooks - Vietnamese Chicken Pho

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

I was quite excited about this challenge. It was my first daring cook challenge, and I immediately decided i was going to do the long version of the recipe. Which included chopping up a chicken carcass and making my own chicken stock. Two things i had never done before. Especially chopping up the chicken was going to be a challenge. I hate bones, I cant stand the feeling of bones on my teeth, and the cracking noise bones make when you break them gives me shivers down my spine. But I was going to try anyway, its called daring cooks for a reason right?

So there I was, standing in the kitchen with a sharpened big knife. Looking at the chicken, and wondering where to start. I got the chicken breast off with some help of my boyfriend in the end. Next was chopping it up... It took me some time to find the courage to start chopping. It even took my boyfriend to show how to do it and tell me I could do it to start! But in the end it was all good and I'm proud that I did it.

So what is Vietnamese Pho? Well, it’s a delicious noodle soup popular in Vietnam. The broth is simmered for hours and hours with either beef knuckle/leg bone or with a whole chicken. Other accompaniments include ribbons of rice noodles, fresh herbs like cilantro or basil, a wedge of lime or lemon, fresh bean sprouts and fresh sliced chilies if desired.

What makes Pho so different than any other type of noodle soup is the spices that go into the simmering broth. Warm spices like coriander, star anise, cloves and fresh ginger transform an ordinary broth into a very authentic Vietnamese Pho.

Our challenge focused on Chicken Pho, or “Pho Ga” in Vietnamese. By the way, the correct pronunciation of Pho is “fuh?” Yes, you say the word like it’s a question!

Some of the secrets to making great Chicken Pho is:
1) Toast the spices and char the onion and ginger. This brings out the flavor and fragrance of these ingredients!
2) If you’re cooking the longer recipe make sure you’re pre-boiling the chicken first – give it a hard boil for a few minutes to get rid of the scum and stuff in the chicken. This will help you create a crystal clear, clean broth.

The spices for Chicken Pho is whole coriander seeds, whole cloves and whole star anise – they should be easily found in your grocery store.

An essential component of Pho is fish sauce. Make your best effort to find fish sauce – your local Asian market should carry it. And if not, visit your local Thai or Vietnamese restaurant and see if you can buy a bottle from them. Soy sauce is a poor substitute for fish sauce, but if you can’t find fish sauce, then go ahead and make the sub.

I used this recipe http://steamykitchen.com/139-vietnamese-chicken-noodle-soup-pho-ga.html. Below is the recipe for if you don't want to make your own stock

Vietnamese Chicken Pho (recipe Source: Jaden of Steamy Kitchen from her new book The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.)
For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce
1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)

2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

1. To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
6. Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
7. Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients. Enjoy!

Chocolate Palmiers

When I made the daring bakers challenge there was plenty of puffpastry left over. And as everyone said, homemade puffpastry is valuable. It tastes so much better then store bought and even though mine wasn't perfect it was still really tasty! There are so many things you can do with puffpastry, but I had never done any of them. Puffpastry was new for me. And that is one of the main things I like about the daring kitchen, you use ingredients and techniques that might be completely new for you.

So I went looking for an easy recipe that was going to be tasty and sweet. With me having a sweet tooth, I went to google and quickly found several recipe's and movies on how to make chocolate palmiers. These little hart shaped cookies are really delicious and I'll eat these anytime! They are baked until the sugar thats on and in them is caramelized. Which makes them absolutely yummy!

250 gram of puff pastry
130 gram of sugar
3 tablespoons of cocoapowder

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celcius. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Mix the sugar and the cocoa powder.
3. Sprinkle about half of the sugar mixture over the work surface and place the pastry on top. Sprinkle the other half of the sugar mixture over the puff pastry. Try to leave some sugar for later. With your rolling pin gently press the sugar into the pastry.
4. Roll out the pastry a bit more so it is in a nice square shape. Turn the pastry over often to make sure most of the sugar goes into the pastry. Fold the top and bottom edges of the pastry about a third of the way toward the center, then fold each edge over again, leaving about 1 cm space in the center. Finally, fold one side over the other making a long narrow pastry rectangle with 6 layers.
5. Cut off the edges of the pastry and discard. Cut the remaining pastry into slices about 1 centimeter thick. If you had any sugar left over dip the cut edges into the mixture. Gently press the bottom of the palmier together and open the top bit a bit. This will make a nicer palmier shape. Place the slices, with the cut side down onto the baking tray and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Make sure there is enough room between the palmiers as they will expand quite a bit.
6. When the pastry is nice and cold again, and the oven is properly preheated put the palmiers into the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes or untill the sugar is fully caramelized. Take them out of the oven and place on a cooling rack. They are tasty both hot or cold. Enjoy!

Plum Chutney

2lb plums weighed after stoning.
1lb carrots
1 pint vinegar
1 lb stoned raisins (optional)
1 lb light soft brown sugar
1oz Chopped Garlic
1 oz Chillies
1oz ground ginger
1 1/2oz salt

Mix the plums with minced carrot and vinegar and simmer until soft.
Add the other ingredients, and simmer until the mixture is thick.
Put into jars and cover tightly.

Daring Bakers - Vols au Vent

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent, which we are pretty sure in French means, “After one bite we could die and go to heaven!”

So at first I didnt feel intimidated by trying my first Daring Bakers challenge... but when I started seeing the pictures of others on the forum, I felt more and more scared. I had all the ingredients in the house, but it took me another week to gain enough confidence to actually give it a shot.

At first it was ok, I had some problems with the butter being too soft but the turns went ok. Although after the 3rd or 4th turn the dough got a bit sticky and butter seemed to be oozing a bit. I did the 5th turn like that too, and then my boyfriend needed the kitchen and I forgot about the pastry. I picked it up again after 1.5 days and the dough was soo much better to work with. It was really cold, and no more stickyness or butter oozing. And I started wishing I knew this before hand so my pastry would be better.

The first vol au vents I made didn't really rise much. There was butter all over the parchement paper, but it didnt really help my pastry rise, and it even felt undercooked.
The second try I made sure the pastry was really cold, and the oven was nice and hot, but the vol au vents still didn't really rise like some of the ones I have seen at others.

Still it was great to make these, and become part of the Daring Bakers. I will definitely give the vol au vents another go. And maybe to 2 rings instead of 1 to see if that works better. If anything they were really tasty! It was my first time working with puffpastry, and it was a lot of fun, eventho it was frustrating at times.

Some really good movies on how to make puffpastry are:

Makes 2 ½ pounds dough
354 gram unbleached all-purpose flour
142 gram cake flour (substitute with normal all purpose flour -2 tablespoons flour +2 tablespoons of cornstarch)
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
300 ml ice water
454 gram very cold unsalted butter
Plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mix the dough:
Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.
Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that’s about 1″ thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporate the butter:
Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with the all-purpose flour (a cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10″ square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with “ears,” or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don’t just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8″ square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it. You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Make the turns:
Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 50 cm / 24″ (don’t worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 50cm / 24″, everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24″ and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chill the dough:
If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you’ve completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Form and bake the vols-au-vent:
Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe above will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent
In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need some egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a teaspoon of water or milk)

Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone mat and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.
(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d’oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with the egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.
Refrigerate or freeze the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)
Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over the top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-20 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on the top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings. Fill and serve.
Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from the frozen, egg-washing them first).

Couscous Salad with Mint and Shoarma

Today was a lovely day. And sadly this was most likely the last nice day of this summer. Autumn is coming, it's a shame really. There are so many things I still want to do, most of them involve playing in the garden with fresh herbs and learning how to grow them.

This growing season has been short for us. We moved into this house in May. Before that we didn't have a garden and thus didn't really grow any herbs at home other then the basil, chives and parsley that lived on the kitchen window ledge.
After we settled into this house and finished everything inside, we started work in the garden. At first I hated it. Getting soil under my fingernails, dirty hands... really I had brown, rather then green fingers. That changed when my boyfriend suggested that we could dedicate part of the garden to be a herb garden. I loved the idea, cooking with lots of different fresh herbs out of our own garden. What could be better then that! Since then, my knowledge about plants, gardening and herbs has grown a lot and I wish that there was more summertime left. It feels that I now need to wait forever until I can grow new things again. Of course growing season is not over, and I can still enjoy all the fresh herbs we have in the garden, but I want more.

This salad gives me that summery feeling you need at the end of the season. It has a great orangy and minty flavor, with tasty little chunks of shoarma meat. Last week I did a post on how you can make your own shoarma spices in case you can't buy shoarma meat in the supermarket. I hope you like it as much as we did this summer!

This post will be my first entry to Weekend Herb Blogging. This week it is hosted by Chriesy of Almond Corner.

Couscous Salad with Mint and Shoarma (serves 4)
150 gram Couscous
250 gram Shoarma
1 Cucumber (optional)
3-5 Tomatoes
4 Sundried Tomatoes (on oil)
2 Oranges
2 Lemons
2 tablespoons Pine nuts
6 sprigs of Mint
20 gram of fresh Parsley

1. Put the couscous in a bowl. Add the zest of the lemons and oranges to the couscous, squeeze the juice out of the oranges and lemons and add too. Put aside.
2. In the mean time roast the pine nuts and let them cool down on a plate. Fry the shoarma meat, and let this cool down also.
3. Clean the tomatoes and cucumber and chop into small pieces. Chop the mint and parsley, keeping a few good leaves aside and add this, together with the meat, to the couscous. Stir and let it stand for half an hour so the couscous can take in all the fluid. Season to taste.
4. Cut the sun dried tomatoes into small strips, add this with the pine nuts and separate leaves to the salad and serve. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Biscotti

We have a grain mill at the end of the road, and they mill and sell organic flours. And as I always have trouble finding nice flour, and I have a darking bakers recipe to bake which involves a lot of flour, I had to go and test this flour to see if it was good enough. So I went to the mill shop and got us some nice all-purpose flour.

As I have been baking a lot of chocolate recipes lately I felt it was time for something else. And as I have a sweet tooth, it was going to be something sweet.

After a long day walking around in Amsterdam with some friends I came home exhausted. I fell asleep on the couch as soon as we came back home. But the longing feeling of baking was still there, so there I was, standing in the kitchen at 22.000 baking cinnamon biscotti. I found the recipe the other day, now I know they aren't chewy and definitely not chocolaty, but they were delicious! And the next day they were even better.

I've never had biscotti before these, but my boyfriend did and said that these were exactly how biscotti were supposed to taste. I myself would have liked to be a bit more crunchy so next time I will use the Italian way of making biscotti instead of the American way.

For those who don't know the two ways of biscotti. The American version uses butter in the recipe to make the bscotti a bit more chewy, whereas the Italian biscotti are so hard that you might have to dunk them in some hot tea or coffee to make them softer so they wont break your teeth.

Cinnamon Biscotti
310 gram all-purpose flour
150 gram sugar
1 1/2  teaspoons  baking powder
1 1/2  teaspoons  ground cinnamon
1/4  teaspoon  salt
3  large eggs
2  tablespoons butter, melted
2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
2  tablespoons  sugar
1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine eggs, butter and vanilla; stir with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 10 times. Shape dough into a 16-inch-long roll. Place roll on the baking tray; flatten to a 3/4-inch thickness. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over dough.
3. Bake at 160 °C for 30 minutes. Remove roll from baking sheet; let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut roll diagonally into 24 (1/2-inch) slices. Place, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Bake at 160 °C for 10 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake an additional 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; let cool completely on a wire rack and enjoy!


Shoarma or as the other going name is Shawarma, is a really popular Middle Eastern dish in Holland. It's a sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or a mixture of these meats. Beef can be used for shawarma instead of lamb, and turkey is used instead of chicken. In Saudi Arabia, goat is as common as beef or lamb. Less common alternatives include fish and sausage. In the Netherlands you can also buy it with pork, and that is probably because its a cheap meat that goes well with the spice mix. Shawarma is a fast-food staple across the Middle East and North Africa. Shawarma here is eaten with in pita bread with some lettuce and lots of garlic sauce. Sometimes there is some hot chilli sauce on too, but thats not everyones cup of tea.  Other dressings include tahini and hummus. Chicken shawarma is served with garlic mayonnaise and / or a hot chili sauce.

Originally shawarma is prepared by placing strips of meat or marinated chicken on a stick; an onion or tomato is placed at the top of the stack for flavoring. The meat is roasted slowly on all sides as the spit rotates in front of, or over, a flame for hours. Traditionally a wood fire was used, now a gas flame is common. While specialty restaurants might offer two or more meat selections, some establishments have just one skewer. Here we also use thin strips of meat marinated in the spicemix and fried off in a frying pan.

After cooking, the meat is shaved off the stack with a large knife, dropping to a circular tray below to be retrieved. Shawarma is eaten as a fast food, made up into a sandwich wrap with pita bread together with vegetables and a dressing. Vegetables found in shawarma include cucumber, onion, tomato, lettuce, eggplant, parsley, pickled turnips, pickled gherkins, cabbage, and in some countries, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Jordan, Israel, or the United Arab Emirates, french fries.

Shawarma Spice Mix

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder.
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon piment (all spice).
1/2 teaspoon paprika powder.
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder.
1/2 teaspoon cayennepepper.
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.
1/2 teaspoon kurkuma.
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.
1/2 teaspoon celery leave.
1/2 teaspoon parsley.
1/2 teaspoon salt.

Mix all the spices in a bowl and marinate 500 grams of meat with 2.5 teaspoons of the spice mix. I also added 3 tablespoons of oil to the meat to make the mixing a bit easier. Let it marinate for at least half an hour. Then fry the meat and eat it with rice an vegetables or eat it the traditional way in a pita bread with some salad and garlic sauce. Enjoy!

Quesadilla's with Goatscheese and Kidneybeans

We live in a cohousing community. This is a community where we all have our own houses, but also share certain facilities with our neighbours. We also have more contact with our neighbours then what we had when we lived in our old house.

When I tell people that we live in a cohousing community I get a lot of questions. "Do you have your own house?" yes, "Do you have your own kitchen?" yes, "Do you have to spend all your free time with your neighbours?" no, but we have some chores that we do together, like taking care of the shared garden, cleaning the shared hallway and communityroom and a meeting once every other month.

Our cohousing community is divided into six clusers. And we spend more time with our own cluster then with the others. Once a month we have a potluck dinner with our cluster. This potluck needs to be attended by everyone. Then there is another weekly potluck dinner, that is voluntairy and if you want to join your free to come.

Because of the summer holidays this weekly potluck sort of stopped, and last friday it was the first time in 2 months that some of us got together and shared a meal together. Everyone brought delicious food and I want to share with you what i brought along.

This is a recipe I found on a great blog from Meeta and is called "What's For Lunch Honey?". If you don't know it you should go and have a look. I'll wait...

Right, are you back? Here is the recipe. It's slightly altered and really delish!

Quesadilla's with goatscheese and Kidneybeans
450 gram can kidneybeans, washed and drained
150 gram goat cheese, crumbled
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tortillas

1. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until fragrant and opaque - about 5 minutes. 
2. Add beans together with the garam masala, cinnamon and chili powder and stir to incorporate the spices. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes to release the aromas of the spices, then add about 150 to 200 ml of water. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the water has evaporated - about 6-8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. 
3. Using the back of a fork mash just part of the bean mixture up to give a chunky mixture. This will also make it more sticky and easier to spread it on the tortilla's. 
4. Spread the bean mixture over the 1 tortilla, leaving about 1 cm space along the edges. Scatter a third of the crumbled goat cheese over the bean mixture and cover with a second tortilla. Pressing slightly so it will stick together. Lightly brush or spray a fryingpan with oil and over medium heat place the quesadilla in the fryingpan.
5. Brown each side of the tortilla for about 2 minutes. Proceed in this manner until all the tortillas have been used. Cut the quesadillas into wedges and enjoy!

Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake

In the Netherlands there is a joke about carrotcake. Maybe this joke contributes to the fact that noone really knows carrotcake, and when seeing the cake people wont try it.

Once upton a time there was a rabbit and he went to the baker. He asked: "Baker do you sell carrotcake???" "No" the baker said and a little bit sad the rabbit went home. The following day the rabbit went back to the baker and asked: "Do you have carrotcake???". "No" the baker said and again a bit sad the rabbit went home. Then the baker thought "I will go and bake a carrotcake." And for the next few hours the baker was busy baking a carrotcake. The next day the rabbit came to the baker and asked: "Baker, do you have carrotcake?". "Yes" the baker said "I have carrotcake." The rabbit looked at the baker and says "discusting eh!"

When the parents of my boyfriend were over for a long weekend, his mum brought over 2 small cookingbooks. On the last day of their visit the boyfriend and his dad went birdwatching and me and his mum went baking. One of the cakes his mum said was delicious was the carrot cake. I was a little bit sceptical but we tried it anyway. And she was right, it was delicious!

Allthough the chocolate cake was eaten first the carrotcake was liked by everyone. Before trying though most people asked if it didn't taste like carrots too much and if it was a sweet or savory cake.

This carrotcake is a sweet cake, it doesnt taste like carrots at all, I'm guessing the carrots give the cake an extra sweetness to it.

This recipe for carrotcake comes out of Good Food, 101 Cakes and Bakes and is altered a little bit by me. The recipe I used is below:

Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake
For the cake:
175 gram light muscovado sugar
175 ml sunflower oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
140 gram grated carrots
100 gram raisins (optional)
grated zest of 1 large orange
175 gram self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg (freshly grated will give you the best flavour)

For the frosting:
185 gram cream cheese
juice of halve an orange
icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Oil and line the base and sides of an 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment. The easiest way to do this is to cut two long strips the width of the tin and put each strip crossways, covering the base and sides of the tin, with a double layer in the base.
2. Tip the sugar into a large mixing bowl, pour in the oil and add the eggs. Lightly mix with a wooden spoon. Stir in the grated carrots, raisins and orange rind.
3. Mix the flour, baking soda and spices, then sift into the bowl. Lightly mix all the ingredients. The mixture will be fairly soft and almost runny.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40- 45 minutes, until it feels firm and springy when you press it in the centre. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out, peel off the paper and cool on a wire rack. (You can freeze the cake at this point.)
5. Beat together the frosting ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Set the cake on a serving plate spread the creamcheese over the cake. Put the cake in the fridge to help set the creamcheese and enjoy!

Chocolate Fudge Cake

or... does my bum look big in this?

This is another recipe I made for my boyfriends birthday. It came from his mother. She is getting back into baking as she is looking for a new job. She sent the recipe to me so I could making it and everyone here could try it out. And they did! The chocolate fudge cake was the first cake to be finished. Everyone went straight for it! Now is that a sign that Dutchies love chocolate or is it a sign that Dutchies are affraid to taste new unfamiliar cakes... You decide ;-)

Before I made this cake I had never made fudge before. I had eaten it but that was about it. The fudge recipe required a lot of powdered sugar. That was causing me some problems. As the Netherlands is not a baking country it can be really hard to find certain ingredients. Powdered sugar is one of them. Dutchies only use it for dusting cakes, poffertjes or oliebollen, but not for icing a cake or doing other things with it. Therefore you can buy powdered sugar, but not in big quantaties. As i didn't want to buy lots of small packages of powdered sugar, and spend lots of money in the process, I did some research and came up with a plan to make my own.

Making powdered sugar:
I did this in small quantities at a time as I wasn't sure if this was going to work. But it did work, so next time I can do more at a time.
To make powdered sugar you have to put some castor sugar in a blender and blend this for 1 minute. You need to make sure that all the sugar is really fine and powdery. To test this you can rub some between your fingers. If you still feel some crystals the sugar needs longer in the blender.

Now that you have the right amount of powdered sugar you can make the cake and the fudge.

Chocolate Fudge Cake
3,5 tablespoons Cocoa
4 oz Butter or Margerine
8 fl. oz. of water
4 fl. oz of veg or sunflower oil (not olive oil)
12 oz. sugar
8oz Self-raising flour
2 Eggs
4 fl. oz. milk
0.5 tspn Baking Soda
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)

1. Preheat the oven at 180 C.
2. Line a 2lb loaf tin. (You can use a round tin if you like.)
3. Place cocoa, butter or margerine, oil and water in a pan, gently bring to just boiling. Stirring all the time so as not to burn the cocoa.
4. Remove from the heat and add the sugar and flour, stir gently in. Make sure all the flour is thourogly mixed
5. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and milk together then add the baking soda and vanilla, mix together quickly then add this to the pan mixture.
6. Quickly and gently mix together pour into the baking tin and bake at 180c for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours.

Fudge Icing:
1,5 tablespoon Cocoapowder
4 oz Butter or Margerine
3 Fl. oz. Evaporated Milk (cream can be used instead)
1 lb Icing Sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

1. In a pan melt butter or margarine into the milk or cream,
2. Add the cocoa, icing sugar, and vanilla. Mix well. Do not get too hot as the sugar will burn, it should not boil.
3. Pour this topping over the top of the cake. Letting it cover all 4 sides and top of the cake*. It becomes easier to do when the fudge is slightly cooler.

Any unused topping can be kept in the fridge and if it is reheated in the microwave it can be poured over ice cream. Or pour it into a lined square pan and when set cut it into pieces. I loved eating it this way too.

*According to my boyfriend this is not how his mum put the icing on the cake. She left the cake in the form and poured the fudge over the cake like how you do normal icing. When I make this cake again I will make it that way and post another picture of the cake here.

Coffee and Walnut Cake

When I asked my boyfriend if he wanted me to make him a cake for his birthday, he said "Can you make me a coffee and walnut cake?" Now I love baking, and baking so that other people can enjoy it is even better. But I don't like walnuts... So making a coffee and walnut cake wasn't really my idea of a nice baking session. So I asked him if he really couldn't come up with something nice for both of us. But he seemed persistent.

Then I found out that our monthly potluck dinner with our neighbours was on the same day and we needed something to bring with us. What better then baking for even more people. So I decided that our addition to the potluck dinner would be the dessert, in the form of cake.

I made three different cakes in total and half of the cake went to work with my boyfriend to share with his colleagues. The other half was shared with my neighbours. When my boyfriend came back from work he said the cakes were an success. All of it got eaten in notime. And that evening when we had the potluck dinner our neighbours were also really enthousiastic. One of my neighbours even asked me to make her two cakes for her birthday the following day!
On thursday my parents were over for a coffee, they tried all three cakes and also loved them. With the coffee and walnut and chocolate fudge cake (will be in the next post) as their favorites.
The coffee and walnut cake kept on staring at me from the table, whispering me: "Im a pretty cake, you need to try me!" so in the end I had to try a piece. Eventhough I don't like walnuts this cake was actually really nice. So I will be eating this cake onwards now too. It doesnt have a very strong nut flavor.
The first recipe I will to share with you is the recipe of the Coffee and Walnut Cake. It is a recipe from my boyfriends mother, and not very hard to make.

Coffee and Walnut Cake
For the cake:
225 gram (8 oz.) of butter
225 gram (8 oz.) of caster sugar
4 medium eggs
340 gram (12 oz.) of self-raising flour
55 gram (2 oz.) of walnuts
2 dessert spoons of instant coffee
1 dessert spoon of hot water
2 dessert spoons of cold milk
(For the coffee flavor you could also use 60 ml (2 fl oz.) of strong espresso coffee)

For the icing:
instant coffee powder
hot water
icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 150C.
2. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and pale.
3. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well to completely incorporate each egg before adding the next egg.
4. Mix the coffee with the hot water and milk, and add espresso to the mixture and stir well.
5. Sift the flour onto the mixture, add the walnuts and stir well to completely combine.
6. Spoon the cake mixture into a lined and greased 20cm/8in cake tin.
7. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Check at 40 the give away is the smell.
When you start to smell it give it 10 mins then take a sneaky look. The centre of the top of the cake should be firm to the touch when cooked. If you take it out too soon the cake will fall. Don't be fooled by the colour it will look brown before its ready because of the coffee.
8. When the cake is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Make the icing and pour on cake. Wait till the cake and frosting are fully cooled and enjoy!

First Post

Hi, my name is Anna and this is my first ever post on a blog. I have had the feeling of starting a blog for several times now, but never had the courage to actually start one. What can be interesting enough to keep people interested in whatever I post.

But one day after looking for a nice vegetarian dish I had to cook for a pot luck dinner, I came across my first foodblog. And after sniffing around on that blog, I found the links section and via that the big online community of food bloggers. Lots and lots of people that, like me, enjoy cooking and trying out new food.

Before that day I liked collecting recipe's out of (food) magazines, but never cooked them. Most of them are still on a pile waiting to be cooked. Most of the times I cooked either the traditional dinner: potatoes, veggies and meat or fixed me and my boyfriend a stir-fry. But since the day I found that food blog I have been more adventurous and trying out lots of new recipe's, herbs, spices and even techniques. This blog will tell you the story of my adventures in and around the kitchen.