Every once in a while I decide to put my prejudices aside and try out a recipe from a magazine. Well, to some extent…
I know this may sound a little arrogant, but good recipe writing is a rarity these days. Even well-known food writers are increasingly publishing books (written by ghost writers, may I add) with recipes that simply do not work. As a recipe writer myself, I question whether or not the recipes are tested before publication. I know how disappointing it is when a poorly written recipe ends up in failure and a waste of ingredients, so my recipes are always tested before being submitted to an editor or published on this blog. I want people to gain confidence in the kitchen, not be turned off by disasters that are a result of crappy recipe writing.
Anyhow, to get back to my point…
This past weekend I picked up a copy of the newest Allerhande, a magazine published by Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn. While I prefer to shop at exclusively organic supermarkets and markets (geez that also sounds snobby!), I regularly visit the supermarket for their organic line. I usually leaf through their magazine quickly, but rarely make one of the recipes. This issue, however, featured a really tempting couscous dish I knew I would have to make. It was really my intention to follow the recipe, yet as I was cooking I decided to give it my own twist. The original version (found on page 64 of the April issue) also looks very appealing, though if you’re making it, use 480ml of water to cook the couscous and broccoli rice. The specified 350ml simply isn’t enough!
Here’s my variation, to what already looks like a great recipe:
Herbed Spelt Couscous with Grilled Asparagus & Halloumi
- 300g spelt couscous
- 400g broccoli rice
- 1 tbsp ras el hanout
- freshly cracked pepper
- 480ml boiling water
- juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tbsps olive oil
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- fleur de sel
- 15g mint, leaves chopped
- 15g chives, chopped
- 15g parsley, chopped
- 350g green asparagus, ends trimmed
- 400g halloumi, in 8 slices
- handful of almonds, chopped
In a large bowl mix the couscous, broccoli rice, ras el hanout and pepper. Pour in the boiling water and close with either a lid or plastic wrap. Allow this to ‘cook’ for 10 minutes. Make a dressing by whisking the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Pour this over the cooked couscous, add the chopped herbs and stir well. Divide the couscous over 4 plates. Grill the asparagus for approximately 4-6 minutes in a lightly oiled grilled pan. Season them with salt at the very end. Divide the asparagus over the couscous. Grill the halloumi for 1-2 minutes per side and divide the slices over each plate. Garnish each plate with chopped almonds and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
One of the best things about working from home is allowing myself the time to have a proper lunch. After walking my dog at noon, I return home energized and head to the kitchen to feed him and make myself a salad with lots of leafy greens, good proteins and my standard dressing which consists of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, fleur de sel and cracked pepper. This afternoon break is essential for me and keeps me alert and focused the rest of the day.
On days when I have a little more time (like today), I like to make soups and warm salads, especially with quinoa. Today I made a gorgeous quinoa bowl with roasted butternut squash and kale. So healthy and vibrant! I even ate it outdoors as is was a ‘balmy’ 15C in my garden. Though I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.
The lunch, on the other hand, was a VERY good thing!
Here’s the recipe:
Quinoa Bowl with Butternut Squash and Kale
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp dried garlic
- fleur de sel
- cracked pepper
- 120g quinoa
- handful of finely chopped kale
- 1 small red onion, halved and finely sliced
- 1/2 pomegranate
Preheat oven to 190C and line a baking sheet with baking paper. In a bowl, mix the butternut squash with the olive oil, turmeric, cumin, garlic and salt and pepper. Spread the squash over the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. In the meantime, cook the quinoa according to package directions, adding the finely chopped kale during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Stir the butternut squash and red onion through the quinoa and kale and divide over two bowls. Garnish each bowl with the pomegranate seeds, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh pepper.
I’m spending a rare, quiet Sunday at home, allowing myself the luxury of not working. We started the morning with freshly baked croissants and then headed to Ekoplaza, my neighborhood organic supermarket (PS: Not sponspored). I’ve written about my love for organic food many times on this blog, for example here, so let it suffice to say once again that organic eating feels right for my family and we find the food much tastier, Not to mention that it’s also a pleasure to shop at Ekoplaza.
During our shop, we discussed what to have for lunch, and quickly decided on a Greek salad. Crisp, seasonal flavors and fresh as can be! Everyone has their version of this classic summer salad. The following recipe is the one I like most. Enjoy!
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 3 tbsps peppery olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp dried garlic
- fleur de sel
- freshly cracked pepper
- a few handfuls of mixed salad leaves
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 4-5 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cucumber, deseeded and thinly sliced
- 3 tomatoes, cut into eighths
- 100g mixed olives (I used green and kalamata)
- 50g feta cheese, crumbled
Make the vinaigrette by whisking the red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Divide the salad leaves over three plates. Top with red onion, radishes and cucumber. Spoon half of the vinaigrette over the salad. Place the tomatoes around the salad. Top the salad with the olives and feta and drizzle with the rest of the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the microgreens and serve with a cool rosé.
I love eating out in France (who wouldn’t?!), especially at lunchtime and preferably at a modest brasserie in a very typical French village, somewhere deep, deep in the French countryside. I do not really enjoy eating at stiff, fancy restaurants where plates are made to resemble works of art. Keep the art for the museums and bring on the real, honest food prepared with love! Though to be perfectly honest, I feel there is much more artistry in a well-made, simple meal than there is in a snobby chef’s masterly food arrangement skills. In fact, I have been moved to tears by a perfectly cooked steak — just as I have by a Rembrandt! And, I have been bored and aggravated to tears while sitting at a pretentious restaurant that served decorative food in tiny portions and where stark faces looked at every move I made, literally following each forkful to my lips. Ugghh…
I recently ate at a restaurant most tourists would pass by (except for coffee or a drink on market day). It’s a hangout for locals run by people some (and, no, I am not one of them) would call ‘arrogant’. Though the restaurant has recently changed management and adopted a new name, not much has really changed. You still have to do your best to get their attention if you want a drink, the locals are still sitting in the exact same spot (God forbid you happen to forget that and take their table — the looks!), and the only thing served from 12-2 p.m. is a straightforward menu du jour consisting of a starter buffet, two main choices and a few dessert options. Don’t even bother asking for a menu. This is it. Take it or leave it.
Never, not once, have I been disappointed. It’s home cooking served with carafes of good local wine, to the sound of French conversation and — sorry — the smell of Gitanes. Because after all, when I go to France, I want to be right in the middle of French culture, trying to blend in as much as possible.
One day, I walked over to the starter buffet and helped myself to a flavorful terrine (with chorizo!), some cold vegetables, grilled aubergine and a verrine of thick, ice cold beet gazpacho. You can see the photo here. Oh the taste in that little glass of soup! It was fragrant, peppery, tangy and just beautiful! I have made beet gazpacho in the past, but it wasn’t as good as the one I had that day. So I took note of what I was tasting and vowed to recreate that recipe when I got home. It’s been gloriously HOT here in the Netherlands — no better time to make it than now! Here’s the recipe, which yes, tastes just like the one I had at that perfect and utterly French restaurant. Enjoy!
Peppery Beet & Tomato Gazpacho
- 3 tomatoes
- 500g cooked, vacuum packed beets (with juice)
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, bruised
- 1 tsp pink peppercorns. bruised
- 1 tsp dried coriander
- 4 tbsps rosé vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp piment d’Espelette
- 320 ml water (or more, if you like a thinner soup)
- fleur de sel
- freshly-cracked pepper
- good olive oil, to serve
Make a small X with a sharp knife on the bottom of each tomato, and plunge them in boiling water for 3 minutes. Rinse with cold water, and remove their skins. Chop the tomatoes roughly, and put them in a food processor or blender together with the rest of the ingredients. Blend well but make sure the mixture is still nice and thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning or add extra water if you like. Leave in the fridge for a few hours before serving. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and an extra grinding of pepper.