December 11, 2011

little cheesecake pots

the run-up to Christmas is hectic. even without kids, well, one kid who s now more out of the house than in... it s hectic.

making Christmas cards, buying gifts, decorating the house, deciding on a menu (although the past years it s been a yummy collaboration with my mom-in-law), well, you know how it is.

which is why this easy little sweet pot is such a joy to make, and to eat.

if you re a fan of cheesecakes, but don t want to make a whole cake and wait for it to cool until set, here s a solution:



100 gr digestive biscuits, crushed
30 gr butter, melted
300 gr Philadelphia cream cheese
3 tablespoons lemon curd
handful of fresh or frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon of sugar


1. mix the crushed bisuits with the melted butter and divide between little pots or ramekins (just to make a crust, as thin or as thick as you like) and leave to chill in the fridge until set
2. mix the cream cheese with the lemon curd and taste. adjust by either adding a little more lemon curd or sweeten with a little icing sugar
3. divide between the pots or ramekins and chill
4. heat the fresh or frozen raspberries with a little splash of water and the sugar until the fruit just collapses, leave to cool
5. when ready to serve, divide the raspberries between the pots and dive in ;-)

sweet and simple, but just that little bit indulgent, just enough to get one thru these crazy days.

in case i don t get to post before the end of this year, let me wish you a Merry Christmas and may 2012 bring you all you ever wanted, and above all, happy cooking days!

December 5, 2011

sugary cinnamony goodness

when the days are getting shorter and colder, it s nice to have a little something that brings warmth and cosiness.

filled with yeasty sugary cinnamony goodness, at the moment, it beats just about everything, even the French toast with soft brown sugar that mom used to make, for a lazy weekend breakfast.

there are quite a few foodie blogs out there that have the most beautiful pictures with a well-defined recipe (Hungry Girl por Vida, Joy the Baker, Annie's Eats are among the best).

so i am not going to give you the whole story in pics. (reason one being that i like to use natural light and i m not getting much of that here these days, reason two being that i also have a full-time job and i only get to take reasonable photos during the weekend, and reason three, these gals i mentioned above already took such beautiful pictures, i really can t top that, so do please have a look-see). but i will write down my version of the recipe.

there are those who will say never to mix cup measurements with metric, but i did, and i often do (because i do have those cups and spoons as well), and it works for me.



for the dough:

2 3/4 cups or 350 gr all-purpose flour
1/4 cup or 50 gr fine white caster sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
60 gr unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

for the filling:

1 cup or 200 gr fine white caster sugar, or you could use unrefined cane sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, optional
60 gr unsalted butter, melted


1. mix 2 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast and salt and set aside
2. beat the eggs and set aside
3. melt the butter with the milk, add the water and leave to cool until lukewarm
4. add the milk/butter/water mixture to the flour mix, and beat in with a wooden spatula
5. add the eggs and mix in, then add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour
6. i use the Richard Bertinet technique for working the dough, which is a whole lot different to the traditional method of stretching and kneading on a work surface, but works brilliantly for a rather wet dough like this one (ofcourse the traditional method of kneading is fine too, but you might just be adding too much extra flour to the dough - due to flouring your work-surface - which would make it quite heavy in the end)
7. once soft and pliable, shape the dough into a ball and leave to prove in a bowl, covered with either a clean towel or plastic wrap, for about an hour or until doubled in size
8. once risen, knock it back a bit and roll out to a rectangle of approx. 30x50 cm
9. mix the sugar with the ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg (if using)
10. brush the melted butter all over the dough and sprinkle all over with the sugar and spice mix
11. cut the rectangle into 6 strips horizontally as well as 6 strips vertically
12. stack the squares on top of each other to make six decks of dough
13. put these side by side in a prepared loaf tin (i used a 28x12x8 cm old-fashioned one)
14. leave to prove again for another 45 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 175-180°C
15. bake for about 30-40 minutes until nicely browned
16. leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before carefully loosening the sides with a pallette-knife and taking out the bread to cool down some more (if you can resist the temptation to eat straight away)

what can i say that hasn t been said before... this one is a definite winner, although i ve been thinking i might like to add some chocolate nuggets, or maybe add some ground cardamom seeds?

before baking


ps. huge huge thank you to LKB for letting me in on 'the secret' ;-)

November 20, 2011

from Normandy to la dolce vita

saturday evening means:

not too much work in the kitchen, a good book or an interesting program on tv, and something quick and easy but very very tasty to munch on in the meantime... relaxation.

we recently discovered something that ticks all the boxes, altho purists might cringe a bit since we use herbs and flavorings more at home around the Mediterranean combined with a little cheese that comes from the north of France, closer to the Atlantic...

we still think it s a marriage made in heaven.



1 small whole camembert
2 sprigs of rosemary
a few sprigs of thyme
1 clove of garlic, sliced into thin slivers
a glug of olive oil


1. preheat the oven to 180°C
2. remove all the covering and check there s no sticker on the bottom of the cheese
4. make a few incisions in the cheese to put in the garlic slivers and herbs
5. put the cheese back into the wood case it came in
6. pour on a little glug of olive oil
7. roast on a hot baking tray for about 10-15 minutes until very soft to the touch
8. pour out a glass of white (or red) wine
9. tuck in with some crusty bread and perhaps some grilled paprikas

la dolce vita.

happy days.

November 12, 2011

four winds

Vier Winden (or Four Winds) is the house (now museum) in Jabbeke, Belgium that was lived in by Constant Permeke and his family...

we went for a visit last week.

the house is covered in five-finger ivy or wild woodbine.

and the artist s atelier is left almost entirely as it was when he died in 1952.

the view from his desk out towards the garden

the old stove to keep warm

out into the garden

fleeting images of life... but even stones have their weaknesses

looking back towards the house

it was beautiful. Permeke s work also stands out among his peers, with a kind of vigor and strength that is quite indescribable.

we needed something simple for dinner, something earthy, to reflect on the day.



4 soft chorizo sausages (these are the non-dried ones, mostly used for cooking), cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups +/- 360 gr) dried Puy lentils, rinsed (these do not have to be pre-soaked)
2 small onions, not too finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 young green celery sticks, chopped
1 liter of chicken stock (i used leftover liquid from cooking mussels the day before)
a teaspoon of pimentón picante or dolce, to taste
2 dried bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, a sprig of rosemary
salt and pepper, to taste
some crème fraîche, to serve, optional


1. fry off the chorizo in some light olive oil until the oil colors red from the spices in the sausage
2. add the chopped onion, garlic and celery. sauté until reasonably soft
3. add the Puy lentils and the chicken stock until just covered (if not add some water)
4. also add the teaspoon of pimentón, if using, and the dried herbs (you could tie these up to make a 'bouquet garni', but it s not about fine dining here)
5. cover and leave to simmer on a low to medium heat for about an hour until the lentils are soft but just holding their shape
6. adjust seasoning
7. serve with a little crème fraîche, if using, and crusty bread to mop up the broth

in memory of my mother, Sam s dad, and all others that paved the way before us.

October 31, 2011


the day has come, the one moment in the year when the physical and the supernatural worlds are supposed to be closest and magical things can happen...

every living thing (this side of the equator) is preparing for winter.

but today there will be just a little celebration before the quiet.

with some of the season s bounty.

(of which i had two left... yes, well)



250 gr self-raising flour
125 gr golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea-salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground dried ginger
130 ml milk
50 ml rapeseed (canola) oil, or sunflower oil
1 large free-range egg
1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored, cut into smallish chunks
2 tablespoons of coarse sugar mixed with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon


1. prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by lining with paper cups and heat the oven to 180°C
2. sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl
3. beat the wet ingredients together and mix in with the dry, combine, but do not overmix
4. add the apple pieces and mix gently
5. divide the batter into the prepared tin, it should be just enough to fill all 12 cups
6. sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar
7. bake for about 15 minutes or until a wooden skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean
7. leave to cool on a wire rack, but lukewarm these are also very nice, (i like mine with a cup of coffee)

meanwhile, we ve gone back to 'winter-time', the clocks have been set back an hour, and the evenings close in a lot earlier now.

that meant we needed to take advantage of this day and enjoy some of the final flourishes of nature.

ginkgo... (their fruit really do NOT smell nice, but the nuts are a delicacy)

red agapanthus still in bloom

magnolia seeds ready to pop (aren t these the strangest sight?)

and an old-fashioned little geranium...

there s been a freak snow-storm in the east coast of the States, it s absurdly warm over here for the time of year, down under they re preparing for summer...

but it s a magical time, a hallowed time, stay safe everyone... boooooooh!

happy halloween!

October 23, 2011

sweetly tart

lemon curd.

sweetly tart and so easy to make it s almost a sin to use shop-bought, although i have often done so, probably because i thought it was going to be complicated.

but that s what happens when you have loads of other stuff to do. full-time job, taking evening classes, housework that needs to get done.

and then i found this recipe on the BBC food website. a couple of friends of mine had already told me it was simple to make, and they had sent me their recipe, but i d misplaced it and today i just had my mind set on making some.

i followed the recipe almost to a tee... except that i didn t quite let it cool down completely before potting, but i think it ll be alright (i hope).

and because i really don t have to add anything, or didn t even tweak amounts, i ll only show how it went in pics. please do take a look at the link and when you have 30 minutes to spare, have a go too.

you ll need 4 organic un-waxed lemons

4 eggs and 1 egg yolk

100 gr unsalted butter

200 gr fine caster sugar

all the zest from the 4 lemons

and all the juice too

melt the butter and the sugar with the lemon juice and the zest in a bowl over simmering water, then slowly add the beaten egg

after stirring constantly until it becomes like a thick custard, leave to cool before potting into sterilized jars

i really did get exactly the amount mentioned in the recipe, which is 2 x 250 gr pots.

hmmm, i think i ll be making some of my favorite cupcakes again soon, with lemon curd, ofcourse.

October 22, 2011

to market & les coings

weekend markets.

i love them, especially when the sun is shining and the air is crisp. people strolling and looking at what s available. either planning ahead for the week, or just being bowled over and buying the best seasonal produce that s on offer. like i often do, with recipes and the day s dinner already in my head.

then sampling different delicacies: churros and hot chocolate for those who haven t had breakfast yet, oysters and champagne for the chique, Vietnamese spring rolls with a lot of sriracha sauce to wake up, Moroccan pancakes with goat s cheese and honey and a pipingly hot sweet mint tea, typical shrimp croquettes to remind us of the Belgian seaside, ofcourse the baguettes filled with anything you like as a quick lunch, or even the hamburgers and the sausages with loads of fried onions for those with a hangover from the previous night s revelries.

it s all there.

naturally, one needn t worry about not having the right utensils for cooking a warming tajine for example...

or decorating your front porch and your house with flowers. although now is the season for chrysanthemums (my mother s favorite)...

and don t you just want to keep touching these?

but we found us some quinces. i love what they re called in French: les coings (pron. k-WANG)... sometimes i like to go around mumbling 'coing coing coing...' (makes me sound like a duck too, i know)

the fruits are very fragrant, impossible to eat raw because they re so hard, but they make the bestest ever jelly. and since my mom-in-law is the best jam-maker i know... here s her recipe:



quinces, perhaps easiest to start with about 3 kg
2 cinnamon sticks
a few cloves
some mace


wash the quinces and cut them into smallish pieces. put them in a large pot with a lid, add the spices and just cover with water. boil until the fruit is soft. strain the leftover water with the fruit through a cheesecloth over a large bowl overnight to catch the juices. measure the juice and mix with about half to three quarters of the weight in sugar (so if you have one liter of juice, add 500 to 750 gr of sugar). boil the syrup until thickened and when a little amount put on a cold saucer immediatly jellifies... it won t react like jam, but will remain a little syrupy, more like a thick honey.
when ready, put into sterilized jars and close, then leave to cool.

my mom-in-law had to make this in batches because there were so many quinces, but she tried different cooking times and the results are pretty interesting. the first came out quite light, then a little more cooking produced a very floral tasting jelly (with the scent of roses) and the last one almost like caramel... all though, very very yummy on buttered toast.

i cannot wait to see what the market will offer next weekend.