May 24, 2010

Italian sunday

what a lovely morning...

i can see through my windows again (since i cleaned them yesterday)... so enjoying the sunshine streaming in, along with a cup of steaming hot café au lait and some cantuccini biscotti i baked yesterday.

besides chocolate chip cookies and ginger biscuits, nutty cantuccini are also one of my favorites.

i adapted a recipe by Tessa Kiros from her book TWELVE like so:



60 gr softened butter
250 gr golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
400 gr plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
75 gr almonds with skin still on
75 gr pistachios
50 gr chopped candied peel in all colors
3 tablespoons of vin santo or marsala wine


1. pre-heat the oven to 180°C
2. beat the butter and sugar until creamy
3. beat in the eggs and lemon zest
4. add the sifted flour and baking powder along with a pinch of salt
5. then work in the nuts and the candied peel and the wine
6. lightly flour your worktable and hands and roll the dough into 3 flat sausages approx. 5 cm wide and 3 cm thick
7. put them on a baking sheet already prepared with baking paper
8. bake for twenty minutes, until lightly golden but still quite soft
9. take them out of the oven, and slice in 2cm pieces with a very sharp knife. use a sawing motion to cut through the crust and then cut in one fluid motion, because the dough is not quite cooked yet
10. lay the biscotti on their side and bake again for about 10-15 min until dry.
11. leave to cool completely before putting them in an airtight container where they should keep for about 3 weeks.

no better way to spend a sunday afternoon than baking...

but ofcourse i couldn t leave it at that, so i had to make my own pasta as well.



100 gr plain flour (if possible tipo 00) per person
1 egg per 100 gr flour


1. mix the eggs with the flour (i used 400 gr flour with 4 eggs) and knead well
2. wrap in clingfilm and leave to chill for minimum one hour
3. if you have a pasta making machine, roll the dough thru the machine at the widest setting a few times until shiny, then roll thru lower settings until the right thickness is achieved. remember to dust with flour once in a while so the dough doesn t stick (if you don t have a pasta machine, then just roll the dough to the required thickness with a rolling pin)
4. cut into fine tagliatelle or papardelle
5. cook in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, fresh pasta cooks really quickly so keep watching it
6. serve with your favorite sauce

i got Sam to help me roll the dough thru the pasta machine

i made up my sauce with tuna, aubergine, onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes and kalamata black olives.

after that baking and cooking, enjoying this al fresco with a glass of wine was a perfect ending to an unusually good weekend...

May 23, 2010

quiet saturday

yesterday we went to the garden center to get some flowering plants. the sun was shining and spring is definitely here now.

when we got back, as my mom-in-law and Sam lounged in the garden, i started making my take on 'stoofvlees', which is just a meat stew usually made with beef, but i made it with pigs cheeks. please believe me when i say this, i had never used pigs cheeks before, but i don t think i ll ever be using any other cut again for making this stew... the meat becomes so wonderfully tender after 3 hours braising, and is so flavorful.

well, here s how i did it...



1 kg of pigs cheeks, cut into halves or quarters
4 medium sized onions, roughly chopped
6 medium sized carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
6 rashers of bacon, cut into small pieces
half bottle of good red wine, i used Côtes du Rhône
300 ml water
two large sprigs of thyme, two large sprigs of rosemary and a good handful of sage
pepper and salt
olive oil
beurre manié (30 gr butter mixed with 30 gr plain flour)


1. in a braising pan, sauté the pigs cheeks in hot olive oil until browned. do this in batches so the cheeks don t cook, but caramelize!
2. remove the cheeks from the pan, then lightly sauté the bacon pieces with the onions, garlic and carrots.
3. return the pigs cheeks to the pan, add the wine and the water, add the herbs (some might want tot tie the herbs together but i keep it very rustic), add salt and pepper (not too much, best to adjust the seasoning when it s cooked) and leave to simmer on a very low heat for at least 3 hours, but 4 would be good too.
4. when nearly done, add the beurre manié, and leave to thicken a bit, then adjust seasoning.

serve with fries (traditional) or crusty bread to soak up the gravy, and a simple green salad and homemade mayonnaise.



1 egg yolk
1 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard
pepper and salt
white wine vinegar
rapeseed oil


i do this a l'occhio (meaning, measurements are not quite so important here...)
start by beating the egg yolk and the mustard
slowly, slowly add the oil in a very thin stream while beating the egg mustard mixture
it will emulsify and become thicker, and you can then add more and more oil as is needed
when the mayo has become quite thick, add a teaspoon of white wine vinegar and pepper and salt to taste (instead of vinegar, adding lemon juice is also very good)
please never ever add sugar!
if and when the mayo should split just add a few drops of hot water to the mix, and beat, it should emulsify again quite quickly.

voilà, made for a great traditional Belgian meal... and after dinner another glut of watching Jamie's Italy and feeling completely contented...

and today is sunday...

May 14, 2010

being lazy

the past few days, i have been lazy. it happens.

reason was, i was studying for my exam, and i just couldn t think about cooking. i did think about food, as i said before, i always do. but i couldn t be bothered to think up something to make for dinner, go to the store to get the fresh ingredients, and cooking.

which brings me to Sam. so good to have a partner who likes to cook as well.

yesterday, since i had taken my exam the day before, we just upped and went to the seaside, just for the day, only a 100km away from where we live, so that was good. it was also a holiday, so no stores were open and when we got back, we only had eggs, some green asparagus, some spring onions and herbs from the garden. Sam thus made us a simple omelette... it was delicious.

so, i can afford to be lazy... sometimes.

YangHwa posted some really good recipes on her blog: GOT SOME VEG? and i m thinking of trying those out.

the sun is finally shining again, after a week of grayness and rain, i m off to the store!

May 10, 2010

how lucky we are

my good friend YangHwa reminded me that having a small fridge could just be a blessing in disguise. and she s probably right.
at least i have one!

at least i can also pop into my nearest supermarket or grocers and get whatever i want, fresh, whenever i want, even if i m not really hungry (although, to be fair, i always am thinking of food).

so, just to make a point, i m thankful that i was born lucky; lucky to have been born in a wealthy country, lucky to have had a good education, lucky to have a job, lucky to be able to do whatever i want to do (like making my jewellery, like cooking...) and not having to really worry too much. seriously, my kind of worries are just peanuts compared to what i ve been seeing the past few decades on the news: famines, wars, are we really in the 21st century... what s going on?

my grandmother used to tell me: you better finish your dinner, because so many other people aren t getting what you have!
i will finish my dinner, gratefully...

anyway, no more complaints from me...
just good cookery ideas that i might be able to share with others.

ps. i am not going to feel guilty.

simple dinner tonite: farmhouse sausages with sautéed new potatoes and a fresh tomato salsa with a papaya twist.

May 8, 2010

every day dilemma

having a small fridge must be one of the most terrible things in life when one loves eating and cooking. i have a small fridge. which means i have to go to the store nearly every day for fresh ingredients.

sure i have my store-cupboard stuff, dried pasta s, rice all sorts, spices, dried herbs, oils and vinegars, and thank god my partner Sam is a keen gardener who s inventive use of our very small garden means i have some fresh herbs and seasonal veg to hand.

still, it isn t easy, i love to cook, i wish i could cook better... having no extra cash (because my jewellery work is taking up so much at the moment) means i can t get a bigger fridge, which could make life a little easier.
still, we get on with it, i seem to be able to produce a good meal most days, be it 'ready, steady, cook!'-like (putting something edible on the table in 20 minutes flat after a 'hard' day at work) or gentle and easy one-pot slow food (mostly weekends).
it s just because of having that small fridge, having to think up something to concoct every single day can get daunting.

well, at least i get a lot of inspiration from my friends, my cookery books, the www (who d ever thought i d become an afficionado of this medium LOL), so, perhaps the everyday dilemma of deciding what to put on the table is not too hard after all.

i just wish i could have a bigger fridge!