My Little Chequered Kitchen

Herb Infused Poached Chicken …

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This is my new “thing”.  You see I’ve only recently discovered the amazing properties of poaching meat.  Probably because it just sounds so boring.  I mean, how exciting can cooking something in water really be?  Well actually, it’s beyond exciting, especially when you consider that you don’t need to add any extra fat to cook it in (although admittedly I do add a tablespoon of oil to mine for added flavour), and when you realize that you can add any myriad of flavours imaginable into the water which will infuse into the chicken as it poaches.  But on top of all this, poaching chicken is like killing two birds with one stone, because you create your own homemade chicken stock at the same time!  So you can see why poaching is my  ”new thing”.  

Feel free to make up your own flavour infusion combinations for your poached chicken.  The below is ideal for meals that are perhaps French or Italian inspired.  But really the options are as endless as your imagination.

I use this method to cook chicken now any time I want to make a chicken salad.  And perhaps my favourite is to wrap a tortilla around the chicken and add some red pepper humus and matchstick vegetables.  Healthy and delicious.  If you are interested in making your own fresh flour tortillas (go on it´s worth it!) then have a look at my blog post here.  And watch out for my blog post in a couple of days for roasted red pepper humus and then how to put it all together to make the most delicious (and healthy) wraps ever! 

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Herb Infused Poached Chicken
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 chicken breasts (skinless)
  2. 1 spring onion
  3. 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  4. 1 lemon cut into slices or wedges
  5. 1 sprig of rosemary
  6. 1 sprig of thyme
  7. handful of sage leaves
  8. handful of peppercorns
  9. 1 tsp salt
  10. 1 tsp olive oil
Instructions
  1. Pop the chicken breasts into a pot just large enough so that they can sit in one single layer.
  2. Add all the other ingredients as well as enough cold water to completely cover the chicken.
  3. Place the pot over a medium heat and bring to the simmer. Simmer for one minute.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and leave to cool for about 1 1/2 hours, keeping the lid on.
  5. Remove the chicken from the stock and use as desired. Keep the stock to use another time in your cooking. I freeze mine for later use.
Adapted from Annabel Langbein `Simple Pleasures`
Adapted from Annabel Langbein `Simple Pleasures`
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

Fresh Flour Tortillas …

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As you may know, I’m an absolute fan of making things from scratch.  That doesn’t mean that I always cook from scratch, as unfortunately time doesn’t always permit it.  But if I can, then I will.  

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Now you may think why on earth would I make home-made tortillas when I can just as easily buy then pre-made from the supermarket.  But now where is the fun in that?  There is something about working with flour that I really enjoy.  Perhaps it’s the simplicity of it.  And then there’s the satisfaction of eating something that you’ve gone to the trouble of making.  It’s almost therapeutic, but yes only if you have the time.

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Tortillas are a sort of flat bread and are perhaps one of the easiest “breads” that you could make, mainly because they don’t contain yeast.  The only time consuming part is cooking them in a frying pan, but if you have a BBQ with a big hot plate, then you can cook a few at the same time.  Easy.  Traditionally, they are made with maize starch, but as that can be difficult to source, I prefer to make them with wheat flour.  

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One of my favourite occasions to make tortillas is the day after cooking a roast dinner.  There is nothing like wrapping a tortilla around some leftover roast meat together with some fresh vegetables and a tangy sauce.  

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But if there’s no leftovers hanging around, then try poaching some chicken in a tasty stock, whiz up a batch of roasted red pepper humus, chop up some fresh vegetables into matchsticks (like carrots and cucumbers), add some low fat creme fraiche and grated cheese and voila!  A delicious and healthy weekend lunch!  

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 And don’t forget that you can always freeze any left over tortillas, which is a good reason to make as many as you can in one hit so that you have a constant supply out of your freezer.  Just separate them with baking paper and pop them into a resealable platic bag.  You can re-heat them in the microwave too if you want to eat them warm.  Although room temperature is also fine.  

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Keep an eye out over the next few days for my red pepper humus recipe, poached chicken, and then how to put it all together to make the delicious wrap described above.   

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”People are too busy … We work too much.  And the kinds of cooking that people can do in a modern life when both partners have jobs is not necessarily baking or grilling a whole hog in your front yard. But we do seem to find time for the things we value.

”My intention is to show people how interesting and worthwhile this work is. It’s an argument for pleasure. How is it that we’ve come to think of it as drudgery? I blame food marketers for some of that. I think they’ve deliberately made it look too hard and not worth our time.”

Michael Pollan
Stop, Cook & Listen
http://www.goodfood.com.au

Fresh Flour Tortillas
Yields 16
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Cook Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 150g flour
  2. 1 teaspoon salt
  3. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  4. 1/2 cup sunflower oil (or other neutral flavoured oil)
  5. 1 cup hot water
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl, starting with the dry ingredients first.
  2. Mix to combine before kneading for three minutes (this could be done by hand or using the dough hook in your Stand Mixer).
  3. Once kneaded, cover with a teatowel and leave to stand for 15 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into 16 pieces - easiest way is to divide the dough in half, then in half again and so on until you have 16 equal pieces.
  5. Roll each piece into a ball and then using a rolling pin and a lightly floured surface, flatten each ball out into a circle before rolling the dough until it's flat. Keep turning the dough to ensure an even circle is rolled out.
  6. Cook the tortillas in a frying pan one by one or multiple tortillas on a BBQ hot plate over low heat (no oil) . When they start to bubble and puff up, you know it's nearing time to flip them over. You can gently slap the bubbles to break them before turning. The tortilla is ready when they have a few golden brown spots on them.
  7. If not using straightaway, you can keep the tortillas in the fridge for a few days and reheat them briefly in the microwave between paper towels or wrapped in tin foil and heated in the oven.
Adapted from Annabel Langbein "Simple Pleasures"
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

Rose Water, Cranberry & Pistachio Truffles …

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I have something to confess.  I’m not all that crazy about these truffles.  Which is a little unusual on a number of levels.  Mainly because I only post recipes that I’m passionate about and can highly recommend.  And also because by admitting this, I’m not giving you much reason to go and make them yourselves.  So let me explain further …  

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When I first saw Jo Seagar’s original recipe for rose water and pistachio truffles from her cookbook “It’s easier than you think” (available here), I was immediately intrigued.  I already owned a little bottle of rose water which I had purchased from the Asian specialty shop (toko) a week or so beforehand.  And these truffles look and sound so feminine and delicate.  I just had to try them.  

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But they just aren’t me.  You see, they simply don’t satisfy my ultra sweet tooth.  But that’s exactly why I wanted to share them with you, because I realize that not everybody is like me, and that some of you actually prefer a sweet treat that’s a little more subtle on the sugar stakes.  And furthermore, everyone else who tried them seemed to genuinely enjoy them.  Which makes sense, because I live in Holland, and I’ve noticed that the Dutch don’t have the same craving for ultra sweet foods as us Kiwis.  For instance, they are very conservative when it comes to size (ice cream is only available in what us Kiwi’s would call “small” tubs, and the variety and size of the blocks of chocolate in the supermarkets is sadly disappointing).  Perhaps this is also why the Dutch really don’t get into baking all that much (unless it’s from a packet, which doesn’t count!).  The term “food binge” means nothing to them.  And then there are the comments after “gouging” themselves on a bite sized sweet morsel.  Things like: “Wow this is delicious but very sweet, can’t eat too much of this!” or “Delicious but I feel like I now need to run a marathon” and the like.  And so, it seemed my mission was somewhat accomplished with these truffles.  They were loved by all … except me.  

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My version of Jo Seagar’s rose water pistachio truffles include the addition of white chocolate and cranberries to give them a little more excitement.  They are incredibly easy to make, and make ideal gifts for any occasion.  But yes they come with a word of warning:  If you are interested in making a “sweet treat” that’s more exotic than sweet, then do try these out!  But if you really are more of a ooey gooey chocolate brownie kind of person, or someone who secretly enjoys scoffing down a whole tub of ice cream when no ones looking (the Dutch won’t even comprehend what I’m saying here) … then just maybe these aren’t the truffles for you :)

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Rose Water, Cranberry & Pistachio Truffles
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Ingredients
  1. 200g white chocolate
  2. 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  3. 3/4 cup roasted pistachio nuts (shelled)
  4. 2 cups desiccated coconut (gemalen kokos)
  5. 400g tin of condensed milk
  6. 1 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (or speculaas kruiden)
  7. 2 tablespoons rose water (available from the Toko or most Asian specialty food stores)
  8. 1/2 cup extra desiccated coconut for coating
Instructions
  1. Gently melt the white chocolate in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water.
  2. Meanwhile, chop or cut up the dried cranberries into quarters.
  3. Next, chuck the pistachio nuts and coconut into a food processor and blitz until the nuts are finely chopped.
  4. Add the condensed milk, melted white chocolate, mixed spice (or speculaas kruiden), and rose water and process further until it forms a wet paste.
  5. Add the chopped dried cranberries and combine into the mixture using your hands or a spoon.
  6. With wet hands, roll the mixture into roughly 20 gram balls, covering in coconut as you go and placing onto a large plate or baking tray.
  7. Refrigerate preferably overnight before devouring.
Adapted from Jo Seagar's recipe in "It's Easier Than You Think"
Adapted from Jo Seagar's recipe in "It's Easier Than You Think"
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/
Sweet NZ

 

This recipe is My Little Chequered Kitchen´s entry into May 2013´s Sweet New Zealand monthly blogging event which is hosted this month by After Taste.  For more information, see the Sweet New Zealand website.

Sweet Lamb Curry …

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I just adore spending a lazy sunday afternoon in the kitchen making a curry.  For me, there is nothing more satisfying than preparing your own colourful and fragrant curry spice mix.  As with cooking anything from scratch, it’s a fantastic magical feeling to see all of the individual weird and wonderful ingredients come together to create a delicious and exotic dish.  If you’ve never made a curry from scratch, then I really encourage you to give it a go!  It’s really not that difficult.  But yes it’s time consuming.  The biggest challenge is sourcing all the ingredients beforehand.  In Holland, every town and city has a number of tiny asian food shops called Tokos.  I adore these quaint little shops, usually run by friendly family members who have at some point emigrated to the Netherlands.  But even the Dutch supermarkets these days stock a wide range of specialty ingredients.  So you have no excuse not to find everything you are looking for.  Next, schedule an afternoon, perhaps a lazy Sunday, to spend in the kitchen and enjoy the process of creating a wholesome curry from scratch.  And once you’ve tried making one, don’t be afraid to start experimenting with the flavour profile and proportions of the spices in the recipe.  You don’t want it quite so hot?  Add less chili.  You want it to taste slightly richer and warmer?  Add a little extra cinnamon or cloves or both.  In the end, you’ll come up with your very own curry recipe that will no doubt become a family hit.

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My love of cooking began as a small girl, while watching my Mum prepare the most tasty meals and the most magical birthday parties with endless amounts of sweet treats.  It was further fuelled by an early appreciation of Mediterranean and especially Italian food.  But my passion really sprang to life after discovering asian foods and although I would be hard-pressed to name just one cuisine that is my favourite, I do get especially excited when cooking asian dishes, originating from wide and varied lands from India to South-east Asia, and everything in between.  My brother-in-law recently returned from a 6 month journey traversing a number of these exotic countries and his stories of the foods he ate made me insanely jealous. I really hope that in the years ahead I will get the opportunity to travel through asia, purely to experience and learn how to cook their various cuisines. 

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As for this particular curry recipe – Adam Roberts, a.k.a “The Amateur Gourmet” calls this the “Best Curry of your Life”.  I’m not sure I could ever label one specific curry ‘the best’, as there are simply too many insanely delicious versions, originating from many different asian countries.  But in saying that, this curry is delicious and truly a joy to make.  It’s a sweet, fruity kind of curry, due to the addition of various fruit juices and citris peels.  You might think that a strange combination to add to a curry, but the sweetness mixed with the warmth of the spices makes it a match made in heaven.  It’s quite unlike any other curry I’ve ever cooked or eaten at the Indian restaurants back home in New Zealand.  And it’s definitely been added to my reportoir of curries to cook on a lasy Sunday afternoon …  

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Sweet Lamb Curry
Serves 4
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  2. 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  3. 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  4. 10 whole cloves
  5. 2 whole star anise
  6. 3 cardamom pods
  7. 3 kaffir lime leaves
  8. 1 or 2 whole dried small red chilli
  9. 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  10. 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  11. 8 small shallots
  12. 4 garlic cloves
  13. 85g of fresh ginger
  14. 1 1/2 - 2 kg boneless lamb shoulder
  15. olive oil
  16. 1 cinnamon stick
  17. 3 cups canned peeled tomatoes, drained
  18. 1 tablespoon flaky sea salt
  19. 8 coriander stems
  20. 1 strip orange peel
  21. 1 strip lemon peel
  22. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  23. 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  24. 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  25. 1 1/2 cups pineapple juice
  26. coriander leaves to garnish
  27. toasted flaked almonds to garnish
Instructions
  1. Prepare the curry mix first by toasting the fennel seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds in a wide-bottomed frying pan. Once toasted, pop them into the food processor and process together with the cloves, star anise, cardamom pods, kaffir lime leaves, red chilli, nutmeg, and turmeric until you have a very fine powder.
  2. Next, finely dice the shallots, garlic, and ginger.
  3. Dice the lamb shoulder into roughly 4 cm squares.
  4. Add a slosh of olive oil to your Dutch oven (or cassarole dish) and place over a high heat on the stove.
  5. Meanwhile, season the lamb with a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  6. Brown the meat well in the heated Dutch oven in batches (this stops overcrowding and allows the meat to brown properly). Transfer the batches to a separate bowl or plate and put aside.
  7. Turn the heat down slightly and add a generous slosh of olive oil to the Dutch oven.
  8. Once the oil is heated, add the shallots and cook stirring often until they are brown.
  9. Add the garlic and cook while stirring for another minute.
  10. Add the curry spice mix as well as the cinnamon stick and ginger. Cook stirring constantly for about 3 minutes.
  11. Stir in the tomatoes and salt and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture looks quite dry (takes about 15 minutes).
  12. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  13. Take the curry mixture off the heat and stir in the coriander stems, citrus peel, the fruit juices and the lamb.
  14. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and pop it into the oven for 1 1/2 hours, pulling out to stir every now and then.
  15. Reduce the heat to 120 degreed Celsius and cook for another 45 min - to an hour, or until the meat is tender.
  16. Garnish with coriander leaves and toasted flaked almonds.
  17. Serve with rice and naan bread.
Adapted from April Bloomfield's "A Girl & Her Pig"
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

 

 

Easy go-to chocolate cake …

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Everyone needs their own go-to chocolate cake recipe.  One that you almost know how to cook without following the recipe, and one that is easy to make, never fails, and covers all bases.  This recipe is my go-to chocolate recipe.  It’s not too moist, not too dry, incredibly simple to throw together, and seemingly impossible to get it wrong.  You can cut it in half and fill it with jam and cream, or slather the whole thing in sickly sweet butter cream icing.  Annabel Langbein drizzles hers with chocolate ganache.  My favourite, however, is simply dusting it with icing sugar and eating it as is.  Each to their own I say …

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You can easily make this cake using simply a wooden spoon and a large mixing bowl. But I like to throw everything into the food processor and blitz for a couple of seconds and then voila it’s done. Just make sure that the butter has been properly incorporated in the mixture.  If you butter isn’t soft enough, then you might want to break it up first into smaller pieces before adding to the rest of the ingredients and blitzing.   

If you’d like to see the original recipe on Annabel Langbein’s website, including a video watching her make it, then click here.  Interestingly enough, when I met Annabel in Amsterdam earlier this year, she told me that this recipe (The Ultimate Chocolate Cake) is one of her most popular and sought after recipes.  Once you’ve made it, you’ll understand why. 

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“The thing about cooking is … just to remember its about giving pleasure to people its not about being judged.” 

- Nigella Lawson, College Tour 2013, Amsterdam

Chocolate Cake 2

 

Easy go-to chocolate cake
Yields 1
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup milk or unsweetened yoghurt
  2. 3 large eggs
  3. 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  4. 3 cups flour (tarwebloem)
  5. 4½ tsp baking powder (bakpoeder)
  6. 2 cups sugar
  7. ¾ cup cocoa powder
  8. 2 tsp baking soda, sifted
  9. 200g butter, softened
  10. 1 cup boiling hot coffee
Instructions
  1. Pull out your butter well in advance so that it softens in time.
  2. Heat oven to 160°C.
  3. Using a 30cm round cake tin or 2 x 20cm round cake tins, grease the sides and line the base with baking paper.
  4. Put all the ingredients into a food processor (preferably in the order as listed so that you don't scramble the eggs with the boiling hot coffee) and blitz until the ingredients are combined and the butter is fully incorporated (if your butter isn't soft enough then you can break it up into small pieces before blitzing). If you don't have a food processor, then you can mix the ingredients together by hand in a large bowl.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin or tins.
  6. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a cake rack.
  8. You can dust the cake with icing sugar and eat while sill warm or leave it to cool completely before icing. This cake will keep for about a week in a sealed container in the fridge. You can also freeze it uniced.
  9. Eet Smakelijk!!
  10. Monique xx
Notes
  1. Approximate WeightWatchers Propoints Value per slice: 6 (when making two smaller cakes)
Adapted from The Ultimate Chocolate Cake
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

Quick & Easy Beetroot & Thyme Soup …

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A friend told me the other day about a discussion she had had with her boyfriend about salt. Specifically, they were disagreeing about the addition of salt to mashed potatoes.  She claimed that she was brought up to eat mashed potatoes without any salt added at all, and found that her boyfriend’s cooking contained far too much salt.  When she told me this, I’m afraid my sympathies laid with the boyfriend.  Mashed potatoes without salt is like a pina colada without pineapple, or a screwdriver without orange juice – it’s just not conceivable!  And what about fries without salt? Disgusting!  I admitted to my friend that I too was a big fan of salt, and consider it to be one of the most important aspects of correctly seasoning a dish.  

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I didn’t think anything more about the topic until I discovered that I would be choosing a recipe from Aranka’s low-salt food blog for this month’s foodblog swap.  Although I admit to panicking slightly about the thought of having to cook something that contained little or no salt, my interest was also piqued.  Why would anyone want to eliminate salt from their cooking?

After a little research on the internet, it soon became clear to me that most of us eat far too much salt in our everyday diets.  The biggest problems associated with a high-salt diet is high blood pressure and heart disease.  And the biggest sources of high-salt foods come from pre-packaged meals like those bought at takeaway joints or in the supermarket, as well as tinned or preserved foods.  But for those of us who tend to always cook from scratch using only fresh ingredients, unfortunately we are also to blame for adding too much salt to our foods.    

There are some options for ensuring your food remains tasty without adding salt.  Using herbs and spices for instance is a great way of giving flavour to food and allows you to add less salt than you otherwise would.  And if you are using salt, then use course salt rather than regular table salt, as it contains less sodium.  

Beetroot Soup

So am I going to stop using salt?  No.  Salt is such an important aspect of my cooking that I simply can’t part with it.  But I have learned my lesson, and going forward I’m going to ensure that I monitor my salt use, adding only when necessary and as little as possible while still ensuring that my food is well seasoned and flavourful.  And I also intend to re-assess my usage of preserved or tinned foods and try to always opt for cooking with foods in their most natural states.  

For my Dutch readers, check out Aranka’s low-sodium foodblog called “Aranka’s Foodblog – Ongezouten“.  I chose to cook Aranka’s Beetroot and Thyme soup as I’ve been experimenting a lot lately with beetroots.  And I have to say that I am now in love with beetroot soup!  I slightly simplified Aranka’s cooking method in order to make the recipe fit into the “busy work night meal solutions” category.  It would also be perfect for Sunday lunch, especially as the weather starts to cool back home in New Zealand.   

Beetroot & Thyme Soup
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 500g raw beetroot
  2. 1 big onion
  3. 2 garlic cloves
  4. 1 large carrot
  5. 20g unsalted butter
  6. olive oil
  7. 1 tbspn balsamic vinegar
  8. 1 tbspn palm or brown sugar
  9. 1 liter vegetable stock (preferably made from scratch to avoid the addition of salt)
  10. 1 tbspn fresh thyme leaves
  11. 3 large potatoes
  12. freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Set a medium sized pot of boiling water on the stove and bring to the boil.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the beetroots by washing them thoroughly and trimming off the stalks before boiling in the water for 30 minutes. A knife will easily pierce through them once they are cooked.
  3. While the beetroot is cooking, dice the onion, garlic, carrot, and potatoes.
  4. Add the butter and a good slosh of olive oil to a large pot and set over a medium heat.
  5. Once heated, add the onion and cook until slightly softened. This should take about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the carrots, potato, and garlic and cook over a low heat for a further 10 minutes until softened.
  7. Next add the vegetable stock, balsamic vinegar, sugar, thyme and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper to the pot. Let it simmer while you prepare the beetroot.
  8. Once the beetroot is cooked, the skin should easily peel off by hand. Soak them for a minute in cold water so that they aren't too hot to handle.
  9. Dice the beetroot and add it to the soup. Let the soup simmer for a further 5 minutes before serving. Season to taste.
  10. Eet Smakelijk!
  11. Monique xx
Notes
  1. Approximate WeightWatchers ProPoints value per serve: 3
Adapted from Aranka's Kookblog
Adapted from Aranka's Kookblog
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

Blueberry & Oat Muffins …

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I’m embarrassed to admit that I first made these muffins thinking they might be a healthy treat to eat while on WeightWatchers.  I mean, they have blueberries which are known to be a superberry, and oats are considered a health food.  So these must be healthy right?  Wrong.  Although I suppose they contain more nutritional value than a plain muffin, they are still full of butter and sugar and so are worth around 10 ProPoints.  Oops!!

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So now I’ve told you why you shouldn’t make these, but now I’m about to tell you why you should. They are quite simply delicious!  The oats provide a nutty texture and the brown sugar a slightly caramel flavour.  These are my go-to muffins, perfect for a picnic or a roadtrip.  Just not so handy if you are on a diet.  :)

Blueberry Oaty Muffins 4

I like to make my muffins using pieces of baking paper rather than muffin cases.  It allows you to make a bigger muffin and looks more rustic and modern.  Just simply cut out a square of baking paper about 10cm x 10cm and use a glass or anything round and about the same size as your muffin tin moulds to shape the paper.  Try and crease the paper so that it sits flat and flush against the glass, otherwise the muffin mixture will fill all the folds and look slightly strange.  When spooning the mixture into the cases, try to avoid getting too much of it on the paper, otherwise it will burn.    

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This recipe comes from Lorraine Pascale’s “Fast, Fresh, & Easy Food” (available from Amazon here).   Try using other fruits as well as blueberries.  Blackberries or raspberries would be equally delicious.  But really the options are endless!  

Blueberry Oaty Muffinsipe Card

Blueberry & Oat Muffins
Yields 12
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 100g butter
  2. 300g flour
  3. 275g brown sugar
  4. 50g rolled oats (havermout vlokken)
  5. 4 tsp baking powder
  6. 1 tsp baking soda
  7. pinch of salt
  8. 200g fresh or frozen blueberries
  9. 300g creme fraiche
  10. 2 eggs
  11. 1 egg yolk
  12. to garnish ...
  13. 25g rolled oats (havermout vlokken)
  14. handful of blueberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Melt the butter in a small pot over a low heat. Leave to cool.
  3. Cut out 12 squares from baking paper (about 10cm x 10cm) and use a glass the same size as your muffin tin moulds to push the paper into the mould and crease the paper tightly around the glass to create a paper case. Leave these aside ready to use later.
  4. Pop the flour, sugar, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl and mix together really well.
  5. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk, before adding the creme fraiche, and the melted butter and mixing well to combine.
  6. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients together with the blueberries and gently mix to combine (don't over mix otherwise the muffins will be tough).
  7. Place the first paper case into a muffin mould and spoon in a little of the mixutre. Repeat until all the paper cases are full with even amounts of mixture.
  8. Sprinkle the garnish (oats and blueberries) on top of each muffin.
  9. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes - the tops should be golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle of one of the muffins should come out clean.
  10. These muffins are equally delicious when eaten warm or cold. They will keep for a few days in an airtight container, and also freeze well.
  11. Eet Smakelijk!
  12. Monique xx
Notes
  1. Approximate WeightWatchers ProPoints value per muffin: 10
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

Quick & Easy Beef Pho …

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“I very very much dislike this contemporary attitude that cooking makes you a better person, people who feel they are superior because they can cook … Anyone can cook for their own sustenance.  And I do think at the moment there is an awful lot of smugness that goes on about people who cook as if it makes them better people, and it really really doesn’t”  

- Nigella Lawson, College Tour, NTR Television

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As much as I love cooking – and that entails the whole process from deciding what to eat and planning a week’s menu, which usually involves pouring over a couple of cookbooks for inspiration before making my shopping list, right through to the actual process of preparing the ingredients and creating a delicious dish – I don’t particularly enjoy anything about coming in the door at 6.30 pm in the evening and rushing to prepare something healthy and edible in time for a hungry Meneer Prins who will be walking through the door as well any minute from and counting.  On those weeknights, I just simply want to eat. And it’s for that reason that I’m always on the lookout for healthy, quick and easy meal ideas that I can throw together without much thought.  This recipe is one of those. 

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Beef Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a popular street-food dish in Vietnam.  If you wanted to make it as authentically as possible, then you need to give a lot of attention to making a flavoursome broth or stock, using meat bones and charred ginger and onion.  But for the purpose of a quick and easy weekday meal, just a stock cube will do.  Of course, if you are in the habit of making beef stock and freezing it, then pull some out of the freezer in the morning before heading off for your busy day.  

Another cheat in this recipe is the use of Chinese five spice mix, which includes all the main spices used to make a pho broth anyway.  If you wanted to make your own ground spice mix, then you would use ground coriander seeds, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground cardamon pods, and ground fennel seeds.   

This recipe has been adapted from Annabel Langbein’s Beef Pho in her book “Free Range in the City”.  It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally managed to complete my Annabel Langbein book collection and I’ve very much happy that I spend the money to have them shipped all the way over from her New Zealand bookstore.  Why they aren’t available on Amazon I do not know.  But click here if you are interested in ordering “Free Range in the City” online.  

 

   
 
Quick & Easy Beef Pho
Serves 2
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
8 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
8 min
Ingredients
  1. 100g dried rice vermicelli (glass noodles)
  2. 1 1/2 litre beef stock
  3. 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  4. 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice mix
  5. pinch of ground cloves
  6. 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  7. 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  8. 1 kaffir lime leaf (available in the Netherlands at any good toko store)
  9. 8 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  10. 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
  11. 100-150g beef (I use a tender cut of steak) sliced as thinly as possible across the grain
  12. 2 spring onions, sliced into thin strips or matchsticks (julienne)
  13. 1 medium carrot, sliced into thin strips or matchsticks (julienne)
  14. handful of mung beans (tauge)
  15. 1 lime, cut in half
  16. to serve ...
  17. coriander leaves
  18. peanuts
Instructions
  1. Pop the vermicelli noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak while you prepare the rest of the meal.
  2. Place the beef stock, fish sauce, Chinese five spice mix, cloves, grated ginger, chili, kaffir lime leaf, mushrooms, and the bruised lemongrass stalk (use a rolling pin to bash it, or some other such blunt object) into a large pot and bring to the boil before simmering for 5 minutes.
  3. While the broth is coming to the boil, prepare the rest of the ingredients - slice the steak into finely cut strips and make sure you slice across the grain (this makes it more tender when eating) and slice the carrot and spring onions into thin strips or matchsticks (julienne).
  4. Next, drain the vermicelli noodles in a colander, and divide into two fairly large serving bowls. Place the beef strips evenly on top of the noodles.
  5. Once the broth is ready, remove the lemongrass stalk and the kaffir lime leaf. Use a soup ladel to slowly pour spoonfuls of the broth over the steak. The heat from the broth will be sufficient to very quickly cook the thin slices of steak. Squeeze the juice of half a lime over each bowl, and top with the carrot, spring onion, mung beans (tauge), a handful of coriander leaves and a good sprinkle peanuts.
  6. Eet Smakelijk!!
  7. Monique xx
Notes
  1. Approximate WeightWatchers ProPoints value per serve: 7
Adapted from Annabel Langbein
Adapted from Annabel Langbein
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

 

Lemonade Scones …

Lemonade Scones

I know it’s been a little silent from me the last week, but it’s only because I’ve been working on this new look for my blog which I hope to have fully updated very soon!  

I’ve also purchased a Nikon DSLR camera which means the quality of my photos should improve at least a little.  However I know (or knew, as I’ve been cramming the past week and have learned so much!) little about photography so this is a new journey for me, in the hope to provide a more beautiful blog in the future!  (I note that these photos were taken a few weeks back now and so were not taken with my new camera).

 
Scones 

However, today I wanted to share with you my all time favourite scone recipe.  These scones (from “The Best of Annabel Langbein Great Food for Busy Lives“) use lemonade to give them extra lightness. And above all, they are dead simple to make, and use only four ingredients!!  In New Zealand, we never use cookie cutters to cut our scones like the English do.  That’s just too refined for our tastes.  In our minds, scones should look a little ragged and rustic.  My favourite way of eating them is with whipped cream and jam.  The English use clotted cream which is now available in Jumbo supermarkets.  But they are equally good with some butter, and in my opinion, should be eaten warm or at the very least on the same day.  They are the perfect idea for a last minute or unplanned afternoon tea with friends.  I always make sure I have a couple of cans of lemonade on hand so that I can easily whip them up whenever I feel like it. 

 
Lemonade Scones
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 600 gram (or 4 cups) plain flour (tarwebloem)
  2. 24 gram (or 2 tablespoons) baking powder (bakpoeder)
  3. 330 ml can of lemonade (i.e. Sprite)
  4. 1 cup (or 250 ml) of cream (slagroom)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl.
  3. Add the lemonade and cream and stir into the mixture until just combined. It's important not to over mix otherwise the scones will become tough. I like to use a spatula to gently fold the mixture together.
  4. Sprinkle a little flour onto a large cutting board and place the scone dough on top. Press it out into a rectangular shape roughly 4cm thick. Cut the dough into even squares. You can always gently re-shape any of the corners into squares as well. But don't worry too much - they aren't supposed to be perfect!
  5. Using your hands, pat each scone with a little flour. This gives them a rustic floury finish once baked. Place the scones spread apart onto a baking tray. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly golden.
  6. Scones can be eaten while still warm or when completely cooled. Serve with jam and cream or simply butter.
  7. Eet Smakelijk!!
  8. Monique xx
Notes
  1. Approximate WeightWatchers ProPoints Value per scone: 6
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

spaghetti alla carbonara …

 

 As part of a new initiative within the Dutch food blogging community, each month we food bloggers will choose a recipe from another Dutch food blog to try out.  The blog I was given this month is Italiaans koken met Antoinette (which is Dutch for Italian Cooking with Antoinette!).  Antoinette is Dutch, but she lives in Italy with her Italian husband and shares her culinary experiences from Italy through her blog.  I couldn’t believe my luck then when I discovered that I would be selecting something from her blog to cook!  Italian food has always featured high my list of favourite cuisines, or at least the bastardized version which is the only version I’ve probably ever been exposed to.  Spurred on by my planned trip this summer to Tuscany (first time ever in Italy!!) and further encouraged by my Italian colleague who in typical Italian style, insists that no food can be claimed Italian unless it has been cooked in Italy or by an Italian – I’ve become ever more curious to learn more about authentic Italian cooking. 

 
 
 

For this reason, I wanted to pick something from Antoinette’s blog that felt familiar so that I could try and learn the authentic version.  My heart skipped a beat when I found her recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara.   I have always been crazy for a good carbonara, and whenever I dined at an Italian restaurant back home in New Zealand, I found it nigh impossible to skip past it on the menu and try something else. 

In an effort to remain as authentic as I possibly could, I made a quick dash down to our local deli and picked up a small block of Parmigiano-Reggiano as well as a chunk of Pancetta   I was almost home when I suddenly panicked as I discovered that I hadn’t put cream on the shopping list.  So I toddled back down to the supermarket to buy a decent amount of full cream.  I mean, cream is the most important ingredient in a good carbonara right? 

 
 

Wrong!  To my surprise when I re-read the recipe I found no mention of cream at all!  I took a double take and decided I had better read the recipe a little more thoroughly.  It turns out that the sauce in an authentic carbonara is made purely from the eggs and a little of the cooking water from the pasta.  I began to get a little nervous.  I mean, I had eaten plenty of creamy saucy versions of carbonara before and it was because of this creaminess that I adored them!  But I chose to ignore my niggles and determinedly continued to follow Antoinette’s guidance and make the recipe as authentically as possible. 

And boy am I glad I did!!!  Authentic spaghetti alla carbonara has now taken it’s place as an all-time favourite recipe, and Meneer Prins made me swear an oath that I would make it as regularly as possible.  I didn’t protest.  Not only was this recipe so incredibly simple and incredibly quick to make, it was nothing short of heavenly delicious!  The mouthwatering flavour from the Pancetta envelops the entire dish, as does the punch from the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  And the rich egg sauce is just divine. No cream needed at all!!  

 
 

I was so excited with my efforts that I shared my discovery with my Italian colleague.  In typical Italian style, he then spent a good twenty minutes telling me what I did wrong and how I could have done it better. Apparently the dish originates from Rome, and considering he was born and bred in Rome, he was convinced he knew all there is to know about authentic carbonara. Who am I to argue?  I thought it worthwhile mentioning his tips here as well. 

Firstly, he recommends that I use Guanciale instead of Pancetta (not sure if I’ll be successful in finding that here in the Netherlands though) as this is the bacon most traditionally used with carbonara due to it’s stronger flavour and more delicate texture.  Secondly, he recommended that I use about 40% Parmigiano-Reggiano and 60% Pecorino cheese.  Finally, for a richer and slightly more thicker sauce, he recommended only using the egg yolks and discarding the egg whites – or alternatively you could use one egg white if you find it too rich with just egg yolks.  I’m definitely keen to try this out next I make it, which will be very soon, as it’s now a firm favourite in our little household!  Thanks so much Antoinette!!!

 
 

And finally, because this recipe post is intended to portray an authentic version of spaghetti alla carbonara, I think a little note about Parmesan vs Parmigiano-Reggiano might be in order.  In a nutshell, there are certain laws in Italy that were created in order to protect the authenticity of Italian foods and wines.  Parmesan cheese is therefore an attempt by non-Italians to recreate the incredibly tasty, crumbly cheese that is Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Therefore whenever possible, try to avoid Parmesan in favour for the real thing!  

 
 
 
 

spaghetti alla carbonara
Serves 3
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Ingredients
  1. 400 gram spaghetti
  2. pinch of salt
  3. 3 cloves of garlic
  4. 125 grams smoked bacon cut into small pieces
  5. (use preferably Guanciale, or otherwise Pancetta)
  6. 3 eggs (or 1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks)
  7. freshly ground pepper
  8. about 75 grams of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino cheese
  9. extra freshly grated cheese for garnish
Instructions
  1. Boil a large pot of water on the stove.
  2. Add a pinch of salt (much debate as to why this is done, with some claiming that it raises the temperature of the water. I reckon it has more to do with seasoning).
  3. When the salt is dissolved, add the spaghetti to the pot and stir until all the spaghetti is covered in water.
  4. Peel the garlic cloves and cut in half. Add both the garlic and the bacon to a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. No need to add any oil as the bacon will fry in its own fat. Let the bacon brown a little but don't overcook it, otherwise it will be too tough. A good indication of readiness is when all the fat has turned translucent. Turn the heat off at this point.
  5. Whisk together the eggs (or egg yolks and one egg white) and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl. Be generous with the pepper. Once whisked, stir in the freshly grated cheese.
  6. Remove the garlic pieces from the frying pan.
  7. Check the pasta. Once cooked to al dente, drain in a colander and then add to the frying pan.
  8. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and bacon, adding a tablespoon or so of the cooking water from the pasta and mix all together. The trick here is to ensure the pan isn't too hot, otherwise your egg sauce will turn into scrambled eggs!
  9. Serve in warmed bowls and sprinkle a little extra of the cheese on top. Enjoy!!
Notes
  1. Approx. WeightWatchers ProPoints (per serve): 13
Adapted from Koken met Antoinette
Adapted from Koken met Antoinette
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/
 

Neenish Tarts …

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Another walk down memory lane … I seem to vividly remember that Mum and I would often make the trip to the Wainuiomata Cake Kitchen to buy neenish tarts and raspberry slices. Neenish tarts were always my particular favourite.  There was just something about the sickly sweet ooey gooey lemon filling and the half chocolate half white tops.  I would always eat the white side first.    

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Neenish tarts are another New Zealand / Australian baked treat.  Although I think I may have to concede this time that the evidence points to them first being invented in Australia.  From what I have read, the Australian versions have a layer of jam inside and underneath the lemony filling.  I’ve never experienced this in New Zealand.  But even in New Zealand, no Neenish Tart is alike.  Often they are filled with a mock cream and contain no lemon.  But to date I’ve never been able to better those on offer by the Wainuiomata Cake Kitchen and the lemony goo in which they fill theirs with.   

 
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After doing some research, I found that most neenish tart recipes use condensed milk for the filling, including the perhaps most well known recipe from the Edmonds Cookbook.  I tried them, but the filling tasted too much like condensed milk. After quite some searching, I failed to find a recipe that would emulate the texture and flavour of those from my beloved Wainuiomata Cake Kitchen.  And so I set out to try and clone them by creating my own recipe. And I think these are pretty close. In fact they are so close, that I ended up devouring the whole batch myself!!  I felt so guilty afterwards that I began a diet …

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I like to make my neenish tarts in muffin tins as per the photo above in order to get a decent edge.  The trick to pushing the cut out rounds into the bottom of the moulds is to gently press the edges evenly until they sink and create the shape in the photo.  It’s easiest to do this when the pastry is warm and more malleable.  If you don’t have the patience for this, then you could just as easily use shallow patty tins which saves the hassle of pushing the delicate pastry rounds down into the moulds.  

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Neenish Tarts
Yields 24
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Ingredients
  1. Sheets of Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (blog post coming soon!)
  2. to make the filling ...
  3. 200g butter
  4. 1 cup caster sugar (fijne kristalsuiker)
  5. grated rind & juice of 3 lemons
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 250g icing sugar (poedersuiker)
  8. to make the icing ...
  9. 80g icing sugar (poedersuiker)
  10. milk
  11. cocoa
Instructions
  1. Cut the Sweet Shortcrust Pastry into rounds using a pastry cutter or a glass (or something similar). Push the cut out rounds gently into muffin tins or shallow patty tins - whatever you prefer. Prick the bottoms with a fork, then chuck the tins in the freezer for about 20 minutes (this helps to stop the pastry from rising in the oven).
  2. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  3. Melt the butter gently in a medium pot. Once melted, whisk in the sugar, lemon rind and eggs and continue whisking over medium heat until the lemon curd starts to boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  4. Meanwhile pull the pastry shells out of the freezer and bake in the oven for about 13 minutes. Each oven is different, so you'll need to keep an eye on them. I like my pastry shells to be faintly golden.
  5. Once the lemon mixture is cooled, add the icing sugar. The aim is to create a sort of loose paste. You can add more icing sugar if needed to get the desired thickness.
  6. Once the pastry shells are baked, leave for a few minutes in the tins before taking them out allowing them to cool fully on a wire cake rack.
  7. Once the pastry shells are cool, spoon the lemon mixture into them.
  8. Finally, make two batches of the icing, one with added cocoa and one without (use about 40g of icing sugar for each). Add a couple of drops of milk to create a paste.
  9. To ice the tarts, use something with a straight edge such as a ruler or mini bench scraper and hold at a 90 degree angle over the tart at the midway point. Spoon a small dab of the white icing onto one half of the tart, using the straight edge as a guide. I like to leave a little of the pastry edge showing.
  10. Once you've finished icing the white halves, go back and this time you won't need to use a straight line to add the chocolate icing half as you can simply match it up with the edge of the white icing.
  11. Leave to set before devouring.
  12. Eet Smakelijk!!
  13. Monique xx
Notes
  1. Approximate WeightWatchers Propoints Value: 8
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

Boeuf Bourguignon …

Now I’m by no means an expert on French Cooking.  Actually I know very little about it.  If I could speak the darn language it would probably make things a lot easier, but because I can’t even pronounce written French, attempting to cook anything with a fancy pancy French name seems pointless.  I did enroll into French when I started secondary school, but the timetable clashed with my other electives and so I had to forego the privilege of learning what I think is the most beautiful sounding language in the world. 

 

So anyway, about the only French dish that I at least think I know how to cook is Boeuf Bourguignon (which literally translated is Beef Burgundy, burgundy being the region in which the dish was invented and also the red wine that is traditionally used to soak the beef in).  And it’s so delicious, it really makes me want to discover more about French cuisine.  Will add it to my bucket list.

 
 

I could try and impress you by telling you that Boeuf Bourguignon is what the French like to call a ragout, which is a fancy french name for a stew. Truth is I did a little research before writing this post and just found that out myself.  I’ve heard this term brandied about for a while now by various television cooks but I actually never quite clicked on as to what they were referring to.  Now I know.  And so do you.

In a nutshell, Boeuf Bourguignon is a slow cooked stew, whereby the beef is cooked in red wine and stock, with mushrooms and mini onions added nearer the end.  Bacon is also usually included.  

If you want to see a cute and interesting demonstration video on how to make Boeuf Bourguignon that takes you back in time but is surprisingly instructive, then take a look at this Julia Child video on YouTube.  I found it a fascinating watch!  Apparently after this episode viewed in the US in the 1960s, it started a major Boeuf Bourguignon trend, with the dish being extremely popular at dinner parties.  I wouldn’t know.  I’m an 80s child.

 

Ragouts (or stews or casseroles if you prefer) are one of my favourite meals to cook, especially when entertaining. For me, they are usually reserved strictly for the winter.  But there is just something so incredibly satisfying about having your food cooking away, filling the house with incredible aromas while you laze around on the couch on a Sunday afternoon.  And when cooking for others, it means you can get all the prep work completed long before your guests arrive allowing for stress-free entertaining. 

My version is adapted from Annabel Langbein’s recipe in her “The Best of Annabel Langbein:  Great Food for Busy Lives“.  It’s incredibly tasty with rich fullsome flavours.  Annabel cooks hers on the stove, which I did also for years, until I bought a Dutch Oven recently and am now obsessed with cooking everything in the oven.  Annabel adds some orange peel to her recipe which adds a nice fruity touch to complement the already rich fruitiness of the red wine.  This is, however, not authentic. I also like to serve my Boeuf Bourguignon with a rustic loaf of bread.  But you could serve with potatoes instead. 

A final tip – this really does taste better if you make the effort of marinating the beef in the red wine overnight in the fridge.  Much to my exasperation, I almost always forget to do this.  But it’s really worth remembering to do the night before you intend to cook it.  

 

 
Boeuf Bourguignon
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 kg stewing beef (runderlappen)
  2. 500 ml of red wine
  3. 1 strip of orange rind
  4. 2 bay leaves (laurierbladen)
  5. ground pepper
  6. 3 cloves garlic, crushed (knoflook tenen)
  7. knob of butter
  8. 1 packet of bacon pieces
  9. 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  10. 2 tablespoons of flour (tarwebloem)
  11. 2 cups of beef stock (runderbouillon)
  12. 14 baby onions, boiled for 5 minutes (baby-uitjes)
  13. 300 g button mushrooms (champignons)
Instructions
  1. the night before ...
  2. Chop the beef into rough chunks, discarding any of the tough sinewy bits. Pop into a bowl and pour the red wine over. Add the orange rind, bay leaves, garlic and a good couple of twists of ground pepper. Cover and put in the fridge to marinate overnight.
  3. the next day ...
  4. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius (only if you are using the oven method).
  5. Take the beef out of the red wine marinade and dry it off between paper towels. This stops the meat from poaching in the frying pan.
  6. Fry the meat in the butter in a large pot or preferably in a Dutch Oven or Casserole Dish (i.e. a big pot that can also be put in the oven). You want the heat nice and hot so that you brown the meat really well. This step is crucial, as browning the meat adds enormous flavour to the dish. Make sure that you don't "crowd the pan" when frying - if you put too much meat in the pan in one go, then you end up poaching and steaming the beef rather than frying. Depending on the size of your frying pan, this might mean that you have to cook your meat in batches.
  7. Once the beef is browned, transfer to a clean bowl.
  8. Fry the bacon pieces in the same big pot. By now you should have a lot of nice brownings stuck to the bottom of the pot. Yum yum!
  9. Once the bacon is ready, add the tomato paste and flour to make a type of "roux". In other words, just mix and cook for a few minutes while constantly stirring. The mixture will start to bubble and froth.
  10. Add the marinade to the pot and the stock and bring to the boil. Stir well to lift off all the brownings on the bottom of the pot.
  11. Return the beef to the pot and either simmer on the stove for 3 hours (low heat) or chuck in the pre-heated oven for the same amount of time.
  12. Meanwhile, boil the onions for 5 minutes and add both these and the mushrooms to the pot in the last half hour of cooking.
  13. Eet Smakelijk!!
  14. Monique xx
Notes
  1. Approximate WeightWatchers ProPoints value per serve: 9
Adapted from Annabel Langbein
Adapted from Annabel Langbein
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

Raspberry Chocolate Fudge Brownies …

So I’ve been trying to find the ultimate Brownie, but it has proven to be more difficult than I thought. 

If you do a little bit of reading up in the world of food blogging, then you’ll quickly come across the name Nigel Slater.  Nigel is, I guess, what all us amateur cooks and food bloggers aspire to one day become.  I couldn’t actually believe how well his words resonated with me when I read his bio on his website, as Nigel’s views on food exactly mirror my own.  

  
 

As a newbie on the scene myself, I first came across Nigel’s name while researching Chocolate Brownie recipes, and it soon became apparent that Nigel’s Brownies have cemented their way into the Food Blogging Hall of Fame.   

So I had to make them of course. 

 

But I quickly struck a conundrum.  I had no butter left in the fridge and it was snowing outside while the temperature was hanging somewhere well below 0.  So clearly going to the supermarket wasn’t an option. 

But my craving for Chocolate Brownies just wouldn’t subside.

So, I did what anyone would do and decided to try and see if I could find a recipe for Brownies that didn’t use butter (yes I was that desperate!).  I came across this recipe on squidoo.com which uses coconut oil instead of butter.  This was perfect as I just so happened to have a tub of coconut oil in the cupboard for which I had limited use for and so this was the perfect opportunity to put it work. 

The author (sorry I couldn’t find your name!!) claims that her coconut oil recipe delivers a rich fudge-like Brownie unlike any other, and I think she might be onto something.  They are very fudgy and moist and received a huge thumbs up from Meneer Prins who very happily scoffed them down. 

And so although my craving for Chocolate Brownies was somewhat assuaged, I just couldn’t get my head around using any substitute for butter, and could swear that I could taste its absence.  And so of course, I was still super curious to try Mr Slater’s famed recipe and see just what the fuss is all about.  

 
 

On the surface of things, Nigel’s recipe simply reads like a dream.  It has real melted chocolate as well as a very decent amount of cocoa powder and a full packet of butter. And the end result was indeed decadently divine.  I was satisfied I had found the ultimate recipe, after all who am I to argue with the food blogging community? 

Until Meneer Prins decided that they weren’t as nice as the first lot (i.e. the batch with coconut oil) and were even decidedly dry.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  How could this be?? 

 

 

And so my search continued.  I asked around, and was told to try Donna Hay’s recipe, Martha Stewart’s, or Nigella Lawson’s.  But really, by now I was getting all brownied out and besides there were other sweet treats that I wanted to bake, and not only more Brownies.  Then the other day I stumbled across a blog post by The Amateur Gourmet.  He claimed to have found the perfect Chocolate Brownie.  By now of course I was becoming rather tired with words like “the best ever” when associated with Brownies, as I was beginning to think they just didn’t exist.  But something told me to try this one.  And so I did. 

 


First up, the method used for cooking these Brownies struck me as odd.  You add the butter, cocoa, sugar and salt to a metal bowl and put it over a pot of boiling water in order for the butter to melt and the mixture to warm.  This seemed unnecessary to me.  Why not just melt the butter nice and easy in the microwave and then add to the mixture?  But I kept my impatience in check and did what I was told.  Turns out, apparently what I was doing was “blooming” the cocoa powder and thereby intensifying it’s taste.  Yes, it’s completely new to me too!  To read more, have a look at David Lebovitz’s cocoa powder FAQ page here

The other quirk of this recipe, is that it takes you back to the good old days when Brownies contained only cocoa powder and not real chocolate.  According to The Amateur Gourmet, omitting real chocolate allows the Brownies to have more structure.

 

I also decided to put my own twist on these Brownies.  Although I consider myself a chocoholic, I’ve always found Chocolate Brownies just too much – they are so rich and gooey and sickly sweet.  The addition of tart raspberries seemed to be the perfect answer to combat all that sickly sweetness. 

 

And so to conclude:  Adam Roberts - I wholeheartedly agree.  These are the best Brownies of my life!  And I will NEVER make another Brownie without raspberries – the tang counteracts the sickly sweetness and unfortunately allowed me to down more pieces than I otherwise could.  Hmmm, perhaps adding raspberries wasn’t a good idea after all? 

But seriously, if you are looking for more of a cakey, less fudgy brownie, then do go and try Nigel Slater’s recipe.  I guarantee you’ll get your fix.  But if fudgy and slightly chewy is for you, forget adding real chocolate, start blooming your cocoa, and give these fantastic Brownies a go!  And don’t forget the raspberries … 

 
Raspberry Chocolate Brownies ...
Yields 18
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Ingredients
  1. 150g of butter
  2. 1 1/4 cups sugar (kristalsuiker)
  3. 3/4 cup (rounded) cocoa powder
  4. 1/4 tspn salt
  5. 1/2 tspn vanilla extract
  6. 2 cold large eggs
  7. 1/2 cup flour (tarwebloem)
  8. 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  9. punnet of raspberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  2. Line a brownie tin with baking paper, letting the sides hang over a little so that it acts as a handle later on to pull the Brownie out. Spray the other sides briefly with oil to prevent from sticking.
  3. Melt the butter in a bowl sitting over a pot of simmering water (bain marie).
  4. When the butter has almost melted, add the sugar, cocoa and salt. Stir until it forms a paste. Keep stirring until the mixture is warmed through and the cocoa has had enough chance to bloom.
  5. Add the vanilla, and the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously in between.
  6. Finally add the flour and mix until fully incorporated. Finish off with 40 good mixing strokes (there isn't enough flour in the mixture for it to become over mixed .
  7. Spread the mixture into the lined brownie tin. The mixture will be quite thick, so you'll need to spread it out with a palette knife or rubber spatula.
  8. Gently press the washed whole raspberries halfway into the mixture, and sprinkle over with the chocolate chips.
  9. Bake in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. You can check if it's ready by inserting a wooden skewer into the middle of the brownie. If it comes out mostly clean, then it's ready.
  10. Once the brownie has cooled for a couple of minutes, pull it out and allow to fully cool on a wire cake rack.
  11. Cut into squares, and enjoy!!!
  12. Eet Smakelijk!!
  13. Monique xx
Notes
  1. Approximate WeightWatchers ProPoints values per serve: 5
Adapted from Alice Medrich
Adapted from Alice Medrich
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

Spanish Style Chorizo Chicken …

My most vivid memory of my brief encounter with Madrid in 2011 is simply that of continually devouring the incredible food on offer, from early morning until late at night.  I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that I spent the entire three days eating the most delicious array of dried meats and tapas, with every mouthful a new adventure.  

 
 

This easy throw-together oven meal adapted from Jo Seagar’s recipe in “It’s Easier Than You Think” is a welcome reminder of the vivid colours and flavours that I experienced during my short time in Spain.  If you can get your hands on “real” chorizo, then so much the better.  However my local Jumbo supermarket only has these thin round slices in the cold meats fridge section.  It still does the trick, however you’d do even better with the real thing chopped into chunks.   

 

You can serve this oven dish with boiled and seasoned potatoes or with rice.  But personally I like to serve it with Damper Bread, which is a bread that can be whipped up in minutes (no kneading required) and is baked in the oven at the same time and temperature as the chicken.  It’s also perfect to mop up the juices left on your plate or in the pan.  (Watch out for my recipe for Damper Bread coming soon!).

 
 
Spanish Style Chorizo Chicken
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup of chorizo, chopped
  2. 8 chicken drumsticks, with skin
  3. 1x red capsicum, chopped (rode paprika)
  4. 1x yellow capsicum, chopped (gele paprika)
  5. 3x red onions, quartered (rode uien)
  6. 8x garlic cloves cut in half
  7. 1x can of chopped or crushed tomatoes
  8. rocket leaves (ruccola)
  9. black olives, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius.
  2. Fry the chopped chorizo pieces over a medium heat in a deep frying pan or wide-based pot. You shouldn't need any oil as the fat from the chorizo should be enough. If possible, use a metal pan (i.e. don't use non-stick) because you want the meat to brown well on the bottom of the pan. Once the chorizo is lightly browned, transfer to a roasting dish, while leaving the chorizo oil and juices in the pan.
  3. Next pop the chicken drumsticks into the frying pan and brown. A fairly high heat works best for this. Turn the drumsticks every so often so that they are browned on all sides.
  4. While the chicken is browning, chop up the red and yellow capsicums, garlic, and red onions. Add to the roasting pan along with the tinned tomatoes.
  5. When the chicken is properly browned, add it to the other ingredients in the roasting dish. Pour a cup of water into the frying pan and de-glaze the pan (this means cook the water in the pan to loosen up the browning on the bottom - this is where all the flavour is!). Pour this into the roasting dish.
  6. Make sure everything is evenly spread out in the roasting dish. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper, and pop the roasting dish into the oven to roast for 30 minutes.
  7. When ready, pull the roasting dish out of the oven and sprinkle with a handful of rocket leaves and the chopped black olives. Serve straight from the roasting dish.
  8. Eet Smakelijk!!
  9. Monique xx
Notes
  1. Approximate WeightWatchers ProPoints Value per serve: 11
Adapted from Jo Seagar "It's Easier Than You Think"
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/

Decadent Chocolate Self-Saucing Puddings …

If I combine the words “childhood, winter, food”, I come up with “Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding”.  This wasn’t something reserved for birthdays, Christmas, or any other special occasion.  This was a good, hearty pudding that Mum would make for my two older brothers and I a few times every winter.  It’s incredibly simple to make, and nowadays I often rustle it up impromptu after the dinner mess has been cleared up, and mostly at the spontaneous request of Meneer Prins.

 

There are many recipes out there for Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding.  I personally like this combination of ingredients inspired by Alison Holst’s slow cooker recipe as it contains a relatively small amount of fat, plus using oil rather than butter means that it’s just as good when reheated the following day (in fact it might taste even better!). It makes a wickedly fudgy yet light cake, and the real chocolate gives it a richness and decadence.  

 
 

If I do know that I’ll be cooking this ahead of time, then I’ll throw it in the slow cooker for a couple of hours on high.  But the problem is that I normally never plan to make this pudding, and so more often than not I’ll bung the mixture into individual dishes as pictured.  The advantage of this is that you’ll get a nice crunchy top to the fudgy cake underneath, as well as a fair share of the sauce. In the oven at 180 degree celcius, these little beauties only take about 25-30 minutes.   

 
 
Decadent Chocolate Self-saucing Puddings
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup flour (tarwebloem)
  2. 1 1/2 tspn baking powder (bakpoeder)
  3. 1/2 cup sugar (kristalsuiker)
  4. 1/4 cup cocoa (cacaopoeder)
  5. 1/4 tspn salt
  6. 1/2 cup milk
  7. 1/4 cup sunflower oil (or even better, canola oil)
  8. 1 tbspn vanilla extract
  9. 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or chopped up dark chocolate)
  10. for the sauce
  11. 1 cup brown sugar (basterdsuiker)
  12. 1/2 cup cocoa powder (cacaopoeder)
  13. 2 cups boiling water
Instructions
  1. Turn the oven on to 180 degree Celsius.
  2. Start boiling your water.
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  4. Whisk together the wet ingredients (milk, oil, vanilla) in a separate smaller bowl.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients and the chocolate chips into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined.
  6. TIP: As in all cake batters that contain flour, if you mix it too much, then you overwork the gluten in the flour which will make the cake tougher.
  7. Spoon the batter evenly into four individual ovenproof dishes that are sitting on an oven tray or roasting dish (makes it easier to pull them in and out of the oven).
  8. To make the sauce, combine the boiled water with the cocoa and sugar and pour gently over the top of the batter.
  9. Chuck your puddings into the oven for 25-30 minutes. Use a wooden skewer to check if they are cooked - the skewer should come out clean. If it's covered in wet batter, then it needs to be cooked a little longer.
  10. When ready, dust the puddings with some icing sugar (poedersuiker) and serve.
  11. Eet Smakelijk!!
  12. Monique xx
Notes
  1. Approximate WeightWatchers ProPoints Value per serve: 15
Adapted from Alison Holst
Adapted from Alison Holst
My Little Chequered Kitchen http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.com/