Saturday Lunch

Well I love eating healthy. For me it is not a hard thing to do. I do not force myself, I do not feel obliged to eat what I don’t like to eat. I see it like this: if I eat, might as well eat something good, nutritious, that respects my body.

So what this is an example of how one of my meals looks. I think it is tasty because I am used to eating like this and I appreciate rye bread, vegetables, spices. To those of you who eat processed food on a daily basis this meal looks bad. But we all have our own ways of seeing things.

So here are the recipes:

Guacamole (Jamie Oliver’s Recipe)

1-2 ripe avocados

1 lemon/lime

3-4 cherry tomatoes

salt& peppa’

Method:

You can do this by hand or using a food processor. Peel the avocado by hand. If the avocado is ripe the peel will come off without a peeler. Blend/crush the avocado until smooth then add the tomatoes and mix again until smooth. Now squeeze the lemon/lime, add salt and pepper and mix again. I think it tastes better with lemon but do try both and let me know what is your favourie one.

You can serve with crackers, oatcackes, rye bread, anything.

Brussel sprouts

Some people don’t like these as they sometimes taste bitter. Well brussel sprouts taste bitter if you overcook them. In which case it is your fault. Last semester, when I used to live in a university hall, one of the few times when I went to lunch I had brussel sprouts. I could see that they were overcooked as they were almost brown. No wonder people don’t enjoy brussel sprouts when they are served like this.

Method:

Wash the sprouts, remove any ill-looking leafs and cut them in half. Place them in the colander in the sink and pour hot water over them. They should be softer now. Set a wok over medium heat and add a glug of olive oil. When the pan is hot add the brussel sprouts and let covered for a few minutes. Taste them from time to time to check if they are done.

To serve:

I like adding green olives as they make a nice, tangy contrast to the mild tase of the brussel sprouts. Try adding potatoes, carrots, parsnips. Anything goes.

Serve with rye bread with guacamole and you have an entire lunch.

Enjoy!

 

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Some kids hate Spinach

We all know the famous cartoons Popeye the Sailor Man and that they were invented so kids would want to eat the glorious spinach and get stronger. After all, Spinach is a Superfood.

Later on in life we learn that spinach is soo good for us: packed with nutrients, low in calories, green and available readily washed in bags. Although I do reccommend that you buy fresh spinach from the market as an alternative to the packed one. But this may be do-able in Romania, in the UK things are different. Check out some population health statistics.

Anyway, my grandma used to cook the hell out of spinach. I am sure no nutrients were left but it was good. She would boil it and chop it up and then add it in a pot with a bit of flour for thickness, milk for smoothness and garlic because it goes well with spinach. It was good though.

Then I grew up and listened to Jamie Oliver (yes, I have to mention his name in every post) saying that if cooked spinach looses its precious vitamins. Since then this is how I eat spinach:

It may not look good to you (I’m used to it), but it is good for you. You don’t have to eat it like this anyway: this mixture can be mixed with hoummous and served on oatcackes, you can mix it with ricotta as a filling for canelloni or vegetarian lasagna or whatever crosses your mind.

So, Ingredients:

Spinach, obviously. As much as you want

Garlic

Salt

Pepper

Olive Oil

Lemon

Method:

Wash the spinach, place it in a colander, in the sink and pour boiling water over it. If the spinach is a bit tougher you may want to place it in a metal/glass/wooden/ceramic (NOT PLASTIC) bowl and soak it in boiling water. Once it is softer, drain it really well and place it in a food processor. (If you do not have a food processor you can use a knife and chop the spinach until it becomes a like paste.)

Add salt, pepper, oilve oil and lemon to taste and blend again. Transfer into a bowl and it is ready. You can mix it with yoghurt for a creamier composition.

Usually at home, I get a different texture than the one I get here because spinach in the Old Country is better then the one in Scotland. hihihi

All that salad

Recently I started re-eating salads. Mhhh what a lovely experience it has proven to be. I just wish I could have a farmer’s market closer, like I have at home. But no worries Tesco will always be here (I hate Tesco). And soon so will Sainsbury’s. But the truth is Aldi has a great range of SCOTTISH& BRITISH fruit and vegetables. Yep! you did not see this comming did you?!

Aldi’s British Cox’s apples are sooo delicious and sweet and perfect, while Tesco has a great range of overseas apples that break your teeth and pockets if you are really keen on eating fruits daily.

Scotland has proven a very good home for cauliflower and broccoli so I have been eating a lot of these lately…from soup to salad. Stay tuned to get inspired on how to use broccoli and cauliflower.

Romaine Lettuce has proven to be so tasty so I bought two packs and experimented.

Recipes:

Jamie Oliver, and any food lover would agree that the key to a good salad is the dressing. So what I did to enchance and enrich the flavours of my daily salads was to dress the romaine lettuce leafs with houmous (homemade recipe here), vinegar and pepper. If you are a fan of spices you can add dried basil, oregano, thyme, coriander etc.

After this step I just went with what I had in the fridge…good stuff of course.

Chicken Salad

As you may notice the ingredients added to the dressed lettuce are:

Cherry Tomatoes and Chicken.

How I cooked the chicken: I had chicken fillets, cut them in slimmer pieces, mixed them with a sauce made of passata, olive oil, pepper and dried basil, small oven safe dish and put them in the preheated oven for approx. 20 min. It’s as simple as that.

Raw Cauliflower and Carrot Batons Salad

The added ingredients to the dressed lettuce are:

Carrot batons (cut by hand, not bought)

green olives

cherry tomatoes

Raw Cauliflower may sound weird to many of you, but it is sooo good with houmous. And it is crunchy. The secret is to cut it into small bouquets. ya?

To add taste you can use some of the brine from the olives.

The Pink Salad

The addes ingredients to the dressed lettuce are:

Cooked beetroot

raw cauliflower

olives

cooked salmon

To cook the salmon, in any shape you may have bought it, the easiset thing is to cook it in the oven with some spices, for 10 min. When it is done do not forget to squeeze lots of lemon juice over it. You know what to do with the rest of the ingredients!

I hope that you will enjoy these salad ideas and experiment yourself new salads! It is easy to eat healthy, as long as you don not think too hard about what exactly is in the chicken, how was the salmon cut, how much nitrogen was used to grow the carrots or if the salad was washed with water and chloride.

However, this is not the case with most Scottish& British vegetables or meats. So I have been told. Therefore do try these recipes!

What to do when Tesco runs out of Houmous

If you live in St Andrews and you like houmous/hummus (that gorgeous chickpea paste), it may have happened to you more than once to be left without this student staple food. It is not an uncommon phenomenon for Tesco to run out of houmous. If you are really lucky, you may still be able to find canned chickpeas. If you are not that lucky well…come again another day or adventure yourself all the way to Aldi or Morrisons.

Or, there is one more option but it may be too much for your time and patience: a pack of dried chickpeas. You can leave these to soak in water over night and then boil them for 2 hours.

This is what to do in case you are lucky enough to get your posh hands on a can of chickpeas:

Homemade Houmous

(recipe inspired by Jamie Oliver and a few years experience in eating houmous)

Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas/cooked chickpeas

juice of 1 lemon

1 full teaspoon tahini (sesame) paste (try Holland&Barret or to support the local shops try the Health Foods Store)

pinch of salt & peppa’

(The above mentioned ingredients are essential to make a real hoummous)

(The below mentioned ingredients are optional and you can try this version or experiment with the spices and things you like)

1 garlic clove, skinned

1 teaspoon olive oil

pinch of cumin

pinch of coriander

dried basil

paprika powder

Method:

If you are the happy owner of a blender/food processor then toss the drained chickpeas with some water (not too much) in the blender and blend until somooth. You can mash the chickpeas by hand. However I noticed that this is harder to do with Tesco chickpeas, as they are slightly harder. But maybe they will change the recipe :)

Now add the lemon juice and tahini paste and what you chose from the optional ingredients. Although I highly recommend that you add a teaspoon of olive oil no matter what…it makes the houmous much smoother.

I like to decorate the top with stripes of dried basil and paprika powder. 

Also feel free to try adding some cooked spinach, yoghurt, red chilli or whatever you think would be appropriate. Please send me any suggestions that you may have.

Enjoy!

Happy Birthday Dad! or Dobos Torte

Dobos Torte can be translated as Hungarian Drummer Cake but it has nothing to do with the drums actually. The name Dobos comes from its inventor, but because of the sugary  hard surface of the cake people associtated it with a drum.

Dobos Torte’s recognizable characteristic is the sugary topping, that is crispy and it looks amazing. As a child I used to eat only that sugary part and I never bothered with the rest. The thing is I was not a big fan of my grandma’s cocoa filling, so I found no point in eating the rest.

Last year, on my dad’s birthday I decided to try a more traditional recipe, from his childhood, so the Dobos Torte was a perfect fir. But…my grandma, my dad’s mother warned me that I will never get it right, because it is difficult to bake so many layers of cake, and only she could do it. On the other hand, my other grandma said that I should give it a go and show my dad’s mom that I could do it too. 

Since my cooking skills were at steak and I was following a traditional recipe I did not try to improve the recipe by making it healthier and using less eggs and things like this. I did use whole wheat flour but I could not afford to reinvent other aspects. But I could not help not changing its appearance a bit. As you may notice, the surface is not just a burned sigar mirror, but I tried to draw some sugar lines on top, with a more denser structure in the middle. I kind of looks like a construction site, that I thought my dad would like since he is an architect.

So here comes the recipe:

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling:

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

Caramel Glaze:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
Method:
For the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, then flour and vanilla until smooth.
Lightly coat the bottom of 7 (9-inch) round pans (or bake as many layers at a time as you have 9-inch cake pans) with cooking spray. Weigh the batter (remembering to subtract for the weight of the bowl). Divide that number by 7 and that’s how many ounces you will need for each pan in order to create even layers.
Bake for 7 minutes or until edges are very lightly brown. Don’t overbake. Remove from oven, loosen layer and invert onto a cake rack. Continue until all the batter is used.
For the filling: Melt chocolate in a microwave and set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter on low for 2 minutes, then on medium for 3 minutes and finally on high for 5 minutes.
Place egg whites and sugar in a double boiler over medium heat. Whisk gently to 120 degrees. Transfer to a mixing bowl and whip on high until stiff peaks form.
Fold the melted chocolate into the butter, then fold in the egg whites until all traces of white are gone. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Make caramel glaze: Place one cake layer on a cake rack set over a pan to catch the drips. Mix sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Without stirring, cook until sugar dissolves, boils and begins to darken in color. Swirling the pan, continue to boil until caramel becomes a golden brown. Immediately pour it over the layer.
With a buttered knife, quickly mark the glaze into 16 equal wedges without cutting all the way through.
Assembly: Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate, or in a 9-inch springform pan to use as a guide, and spread on 1/8-inch of filling. Repeat, finishing with the glazed layer on top. Use the rest of the filling to cover the sides of the cake. Sprinkle with ground nuts of choice, if desired. Refrigerate.
You can experiment with the design of the top layer as you want. The sugar glaze is very versatile and mouldable so go crazy.

To serve, slice along the lines marked in the caramel glaze.
In the end my cake turned out nicely…and it tasted so goood. My grandma uses cocoa. I chose a recipe with chocolate so the filling was more delicious. Everybody was pround that I made the Dobos Torte, a dessert we were all familiarized with, but made by a different baker.
Plus, my dad actually ate a slice and liked it. That was rewarding for me.
So, Happy Birthday Dad!

What is it going to be this year: Red…or Blue Valentine?

The above title should be read with Gossip Girl’s voice, otherwise it will not sound right.

It is time to share with you my take on Valentine’s Day Brunch last year (when I had someone to share it with. ahahaha!). As breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, a Valentine’s Brunch seemed perfect. Plus you get more time for… fun  afterwards, ya kno wha I mean (Scottish accent)

Notice that this menu is very simplistic and unsophisticated but give it a go anyway, whether it is Valentines or any other day.

Menu

Appetizer: Salmon Entrées

Main Course: Fondue du Fromage served with a crudité platter

Dessert: Chocolate Lava Cake with Berries

Recipes

Salmon Entrées

Ingredients:

Whole Wheat Bread

Cucamber

Radishes

Smoked/Marinated Salmon

Carrots

Parsley

Method:

I did not list any quantities as this a simple recipe and you can be very inventive and make as many appetizers as you like. Also you can use crackers or oatcakes (as long as they are healthy) instead of bread, and your choice of vegetables and spices.

Fondue du Fromage (Recipe from epicurious.com)

2 cups grated Emmental cheese

2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

1 garlic clove

1+1/2 cups dry/semi-dry white wine

Method:

If you do not have a fondue pot set, just use a thick bottomed pot. Rub the garlic clove.around the sides of the pot, pour the wine and simmer over moderate heat.

Next, add the cheese gradually, while stirring in a zig zag pattern to prevent cheese from balling up. Do not let boil. Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until melted and creamy and amazing.

Set fondue pot over flame, or if you don’t have a fondue set just use your imagination to come up with a similar pot-flame system.

Serve with whole wheat breads like focaccia or baguette, cut into cubes and vegetables like carrots, cucambers, radishes etc.

Enjoy with a French-like appetite!

And now to the interesting part: Chocolate Lava Cakes with berries

(you will need oven safe ramekins, 4 large ones or 6 smaller ones)

Ingredients:

olive oil, to coat the ramekins

cocoa powder, to dust the ramekins

100g really dark chocolate (85%), chopped

2 eggs

5 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons butter at room temperature

2+3/4 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon creme fraiche

Method:

First, prepare the ramekins by coating them with olive oil (use a tissue soaked in a bit of oil) and dusting them with cocoa powder.

The next step is to melt the chocolate. Always do this over bain marie (not in the microwave), as this method protects the beautiful qualities of chocolate.

While the chocolate is melting of desire to be transformed into lava cakes, whisk the eggs with the sugar, until pale yellow and smooth.

When the chocolate is melted, remove from heat and mix in the butter. Chocolate and eggs are always a winning mixture when baking, so next add the whisked eggs to the chocolate mixture. Enrich this by adding the flour and the creme fraiche. Now the batter is done, so pour it into the remekins and place in the freezer overnight.

As these cakes  should be molted in the middle it helps if they are cooler when you put them in the oven.

To bake, preheat oven to 350 F, place ramekins on a baking tray and bake for 13 min. The cakes should be baked on the margines but moist in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool for 2 min. To take the cakes out of the ramekins, use a sharp knife to scrape the cake from the sides of the ramekins. Place the cake on a serving plate and top with berries or fruit of your choice.

Be nice to your Valentine throughout your relationship, not just on Valentine’s Day! Although this menu is very simple and basic it gives you a base on which you can improve and expand.

Have fun!

One more Cookie(for the Superbowl) and then Cake!

Well well well, superbowl is upon us and you should try this simple recipe to help you keep your eyes on the screen. Seriously, this recipe is easy peasy…and it is kind of my own invention inspired by the peanut butter cookie.

This cookie came to life when I blended some natural peanuts without removing the skins. I wanted to turn the peanuts into peanut butter but the skins did not allow for that to happen. So the end result was a peanut batter (not butter!) perfect for cookies.

Ingredients:

2 cups of (the above described) peanut batter

1 cup sugar

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

a bit of coconut, if you fancy it

Method:

Peheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

You can not get more easier than mixing everything together, by hand or with a mixer, in a bowl, a superbowl, obviously.

Take spoonfulls of the batter and place on the baking trays and then flatten with a fork to get that nice pattern on top.

Place in the oven for 10-12 min, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool.

Enjoy with caution, during a Superbowl party, but pay attention while you eat them. Do not get to caught in the match or you will end up eating more than you will want. Get it?