August 28, 2011

cakes... savory and sweet

cakes... how many different recipes are there? i have absolutely no idea, but i m guessing hundreds, if not more.

there are the classics; like Victoria sponges, pound cakes, angel food cakes, devil food cakes, chocolate cakes, fruit and nut cakes, full on or gluten-free... oh, i could go on and on.

and i m sure every country, every family, every grandmother, mother, daughter (and let s be fair, granddad, father, and son) has a special favorite recipe.

i haven t found my absolute top cake yet... but that means i get to bake and bake until i do, yay!

we ve been having a very fitful summer, a true 'kwakkelzomer' as we often say in Belgium.

so baking something with summery ingredients and flavors can actually bring the sun into the house.

just like this recipe which i adapted from the july-august 2011 edition of Saveurs.



1 large courgette
100 gr feta cheese
2 eggs
150 gr self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50 ml olive oil
50 gr pine nuts
handful of mint leaves, chopped at the last minute
salt and pepper


1. pre-heat the oven to 180°C and prepare a long cake tin by buttering and lightly flouring it, or lining with baking parchment
2. grate the courgette, sprinkle with salt, and leave to drain for about half an hour
3. sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and beat in the eggs and the olive oil
4. squeeze out the grated courgette and mix into the batter
5. crumble in the feta cheese, add the pine nuts and chopped mint and mix lightly
6. season with salt and pepper
7. put the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean
8. leave to cool slightly in the tin before taking it out.
9. can be eaten lukewarm or cool

perfect for a light lunch!


now for a little indulgence.

last week, i went to my friend Alina s teahouse, My Cup of Tea, in the middle of Antwerp, and had a slice of her signature cake. WOW, wow, wow...

if you re a fan of Nutella or any other hazelnut chocolate spread, this is one for you.

Alina kindly let me copy the recipe, which came from a little book called 'Taart, Cake & Muffins' which was translated from '101 Cakes & Bakes' by Mary Cadogan...

enough said, here it is, definitely a recipe to be shared, it s just too scrumptious.



175 gr unsalted butter
90 gr fine white caster sugar
85 gr dark brown sugar (for a richer flavor and moister texture)
3 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
200 gr self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder, optional
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3-4 rounded tablespoons Nutella or other hazelnut chocolate spread
50 gr hazelnuts, chopped (i used pecans because i didn t have the hazelnuts)


1. pre-heat the oven to 175-180°C and prepare a 20-22 cm round cake tin
2. if you have a KitchenAid or Magimix mixer (or any such mixer), just put everything (EXCEPT the Nutella and the nuts) into the bowl at once, start mixing on slow, then add a few notches to the speed and mix until very light and fluffy...
3. however, i only have an electric hand-held mixer, so i first softened the butter, added the sugar and started beating until that was quite creamy and fluffy
4. one by one, i added the eggs and then the milk
5. once that was well beaten, i sifted in the flour, the baking powder and the cinnamon and mixed again until it was really quite light
6. i then added the nuts
7. then i filled the cake tin about 2/3 full and gently distributed the 3-4 tablespoons of Nutella on top of that

8. finish with the rest of the cake batter
9. bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean

10. leave to cool before serving (which i did with a drizzle of cream...)


and now i shall continue on my quest, i don t care if i ever find the holy grail, the journey itself will be fun enough.

August 17, 2011

from west to east

a while ago, on Facebook, a friend of mine wrote about discovering culinary Turkey.

i ve been interested in 'mediterranean' cooking for quite some time now. not only Spanish, or Italian, or Greek... but, thinking about it, as Rick Stein so aptly described on one of his tv-shows: Mediterranean Escapes, this encompasses a vast vast area from Spain, Southern France, Italy, Greece, to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, then Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco...! if you think about all the different food cultures, it s just mind-boggling.

of course, that mind-boggling aspect could be applied to just one country like India, or the whole of South-East Asia, and the different food cultures in China, Korea and Japan too.

however, i m not an expert, i just like to cook. and i m fascinated by spices and herbs and how people use the ones available to them to turn basic ingredients such as breads, yoghurts, vegetables, meats, etc. into something exciting.

i found a recipe for labne in one of my favorite cookery magazines and wanted to try making it. then i found a recipe for flatbreads with thyme, cheese and honey, and i had been wanting to make a very simple and delicious Moroccan carrot salad too... so i combined the three for a light supper.



300 gr natural Greek yoghurt
1 large clove of garlic, crushed with a little salt (this is optional)
cheese cloth
fine mesh sieve


mix the garlic with the yoghurt and strain through the cheesecloth and sieve for about 6-8 hours or longer for a firmer consistency.
add whatever herbs u like to make a dip. i added chopped parsley, mint, coriander and some za'atar and olive oil.

(adapted from a recipe i found on the Smitten Kitchen blog)

1 3/4 (220 gr) cup of plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil

sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
mix in the water and the olive oil.
knead well until it becomes an elastic dough (it will feel very oily, but you won t taste that once baked).
divide the dough into four balls and roll out to rough naan-shaped breads.
bake on a baking-paper lined baking sheet at 230°C for about 10-12 minutes until golden.

please do read the post on Smitten Kitchen, because here i diverted from her recipe, and instead of using the thyme and honey and the cheese, i opted for, you guessed it, a sprinkling of za'atar and sumac.


about 8 to 10 medium-sized carrots
pepper and salt
a good handful of parsley, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 teaspoons pimentón (i used the picante or spicy one)
2 teaspoon cumin seeds (i lightly roasted and crushed them)
vinegar and olive oil

i took the easy road and peeled and sliced the carrots, then steamed them in a covered bowl in the microwave for about 8-10 minutes until al dente.
then i just very lightly mashed them with the garlic, the parsley (and also some chopped coriander because i love it), the spices and added vinegar and olive oil to taste. it should taste lightly sweet and sour.


i think i will be travelling from west to east more often.