Honest Food Writing

7308395186_2a1b2b9caf_oI recently purchased the Dutch translation of the book Deliciously Ella Every Day, written by popular food blogger Ella Mills. It caught my eye at my local supermarket, and I put it into my basket with good hope after reading some very positive reviews.
While the book is a pleasure to leaf through and has good tips for those new to a vegan lifestyle, I am losing faith after a few major recipe fails — especially the one that took place yesterday when I decided to ‘treat’ my family to her carrot cake muffins for breakfast. I should have stopped and not even attempted them after first reading through the recipe. How could they possibly work with mostly wet ingredients? Well, they didn’t. The result was moist, overly sweet little blobs that ended up in the bin. After almost an hour in the oven (the 35 minutes stated in the recipe would have resulted in liquid ‘muffins’), I ended up making eggs on toast instead.
Until recently, I wouldn’t have even tried a recipe such as this one. Or, I would have adapted it to make sure it would work. But I am trying to give cookbooks an honest shot these days, so I follow the recipes exactly as they are written. And nine times out of ten, I end up kicking myself for doing that, because if there is one thing that really irritates me, it’s a poorly written recipe. One that was probably never tested. As a food writer, I find it particularly disrespectful to your audience. You see, there are actually people out there who are not just interested in pretty pictures, but in GOOD, solid recipe writing. And who hate to waste money on disappointing kitchen failures.
I often wonder how some of these books sell like hotcakes. Clever marketing? Adoring fans who are too intimidated to report on their flops? Or maybe they don’t even attempt to actually cook from the books?
It is high time for food writing to be left to the hands of those who can truly create recipes and do so with passion, veracity and respect.
PS: By the same token, I should write about how food blogging is becoming one big marketing joke. Honesty is a rare thing when large sums of money are involved.

Strawberry & Lavender Mousse

mousseWhen I visited Le Touquet this past April, we ate at a lovely restaurant called À Table. It was our second visit to the restaurant. The first time was two years ago, also during the month of April. We had such a positive experience that first time, that we decided to book a table for lunch on our last day there. Luckily, it did not disappoint, as did a few other restaurants we returned to (here’s a hint: stay away from Le Matisse and Le Restaurant du Marché).
Though À Table is small (my chair was literally touching that of the person behind me), it serves gorgeous food and is friendly and welcoming.
My main course that last day was certainly memorable. I was served a tender pork loin with a velvety lavender sauce. Who would’ve thought this would be such an exceptionally beautiful combination! After that wonderful meal, I was reminded about how much I love lavender. In my garden, bath and pillow, but also in my food. In fact, there are three lavender recipes on this blog that can attest to that! Ever tried lavender in jam or in baked treats? Well here’s your chance! The one thing you have to remember is that you must use edible lavender. For those in the Netherlands, I got a bag at Dille & Kamille (not sponsored), but you can also try health food shops or organic supermarkets.
I recreated the pork loin recipe one Saturday evening and it was quite a success. However, I did not write down the recipe. Stay tuned!
In the meantme, here is a lavender creation all ready for you to try your hand at. This strawberry and lavender mousse is an elegant, summery dessert that can be made in advance. In other words, it’s the perfect way to end any dinner party in the months ahead! Enjoy!

Strawberry & Lavender Mousse
Serves 4-6 (depending on the size cups you use)

  • 300g strawberries, plus some extra as garnish
  • 1 1/2 tsps dried edible lavender
  • 4 tbsps sugar
  • 5 sheets of gelatin
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 200ml single cream

Place the strawberries, lavender and sugar in a blender and blitz into a smooth sauce. Pour into a small saucepan and heat while stirring for approximately 5 minutes. In the meantime, soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, squeeze out the gelatin sheets and add them into the hot sauce one by one stirring well after each. Allow the mixture to cool. Whip the mascarpone and cream until the mixture holds its shape. Carefully fold in the strawberry sauce in three batches. Do not stir too hard or whisk! Divide the mousse over 4 or 6 cups and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, garnish with fresh strawberries and perhaps a sprig of mint.
strawberries

 

Paella-Style Cauliflower

cauliflowerThere’s nothing I will not eat (as long as it’s food, of course). I have a healthy appetite and an adventurous palate. One of my favorite things growing up was my mother’s tripe soup. The whole house reeked when she made it, but the taste was sublime. I would greedily slurp up a bowl and ask for seconds without hesitation. One time, when I was about eight or nine, I invited a friend over while my mother was making the soup. Either she was very polite or there was something wrong with her sense of smell because she didn’t so much as wince disapprovingly. In fact, when my mother offered her a bowl, she nodded her head in agreement and we both slurped together. And asked for seconds together.
I suppose it’s much like French andouillette, a sausage made from pig intestines (aka ‘chitterlings’). You either love it (if you can get past the smell)… or loathe it.
One of the things I was never too fond of, however, was caulifower. No matter how I prepared the curdy-looking white vegetable, it tasted insipidly unpleasant. Like hospital food. No amount of salt would make it better.
Until I put on my hipster hat and learned to use it as a replacement for potatoes, rice and other types of refined carbs, that is. The first time I tried it instead of mashed potatoes, I was sold. Yesterday I whipped up a batch paella-style (sans seafood and meat) and it was delicious. To think that you can wolf this down in large quantities without ever having to experience an ounce of guilt. After all, it’s just vegetables! I will be adding some shrimp the next time, though.
Here’s the recipe:

Paella-Style Cauliflower
Serves 4

  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 600g cauliflower, trimmed into florets and blitzed in a food processor
  • 2 tsps turmeric
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
  • sea salt and freshly-cracked pepper
  • 150g green peas
  • 2 roasted sweet peppers (from a jar), chopped
  • squeeze of lemon
  • optional: shrimp, mussels, cooked chicken

Heat the olive oil in a large casserole. Add the cauliflower and cook for a minute before stirring in the turmeric, smoked paprika and salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Stir in the red peppers shortly before the end of the cooking time and squeeze in a bit of lemon. If you want you can add shrimp, mussels or cooked chicken toward the end of the cooking time. A scattering of flat-leaf parsley is also lovely, though I didn’t have any on hand.

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