Happy birthday Anne-Claire!

My friend’s birthday called for something festive, and although I can’t really stand the trendy hipness of cupcaking, I thought I’d make them just because they suit the occasion so well. I got the recipe for these lemon curd-cheesecake-meringue-cupcakes from the Gartine cookbook, so instead of publishing it here I’ll just urge you to go over Gartine and buy the book yourself, or just read through it while you eat one of their fantastic homemade cakes. I made a bunch of lemon curd which is fantastic to have in your fridge: I put it on crackers with goat cheese, mix it into my yogurt, and it goes with almost any dessert.


How to cook everything vegetarian – Book review

I’ve never felt the need to review books until this one came along. Mark Bittman, also known as ‘The Minimalist’, is not a restaurant chef. He’s been writing recipes for the New York Times for, I believe, ten years or so, and is actually not a vegetarian himself. He just thinks it’s a good idea to eat more vegetables, which is exactly how I feel. This 1000 page cookbook is not just a collection of recipes, it’s a true reference book. It tells you how to make just about anything that doesn’t have meat in it, from just about every cuisine. But most importantly, this isn’t just a list of recipes, it really explains the principle of how you make food, and gives you a million variations and suggestions how to modify and adjust the recipes to your taste. So it’s more a guideline then a set of strict instructions. With almost every recipe I find now, I go back to this book to have a look at how I can adjust it to my taste. Every recipe I’ve seen in here is straightforward, simple and easy, and he works with so many of my favorite ingredients: miso, beans, whole grains, loads of Asian and middle eastern ingredients, you name it. It’s very comprehensive. If you’re only going to have one single cookbook, I’m pretty sure this is the one to go for. Even if you eat meat.


Pomegranate muesli

Muesli and full fat yogurt always makes a great breakfast, especially with fresh fruits. My mom often has pomegranate seeds in the fridge, and they are the perfect fresh, crunchy fruit for this breakfast. They’re great on salads too, by the way, so pretty!


Kartoffelsalat

One day, I was in the supermarket, very hungry, staring at prepackaged potato salads. I know they’re crap, but it’s a nostalgic thing, I used to love them as a kid. And I always get stuck on the bad-for-you-processed-food isles when I go shopping on an empty stomach. I managed to tear myself away, and got the ingredients for a homemade potato salad instead. It takes longer to cook this then it does to open up a package like that, but it was well worth it! Boil up some firm, waxy potatoes, let them cool off a bit and slice them. Add sour cream, mayo (not too much though, you don’t want it to taste too cheap and mayonnaisy), capers, lemon juice, garlic (optional), salt, pepper, parsley and minced pickles. Absolutely delicious, great the next day as well, even my German assistant approved. Here we ate it with some green salad & tomatoes.


Onigiri

Onigiri, Japanese rice balls, are a delicious snack or side dish. Simply make sticky rice, let it cool down and add a bit of rice vinegar/sugar mixture if you like. You can make them by hand, but I bought this cute tool that makes it even easier. Make balls and stuff them with pickled plum paste (umezuki paste, one of my favorite ingredients), pickled vegetables or anything you like, wrap with nori seaweed and enjoy! I like to baste them with a little miso sauce (miso thinned down with some soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar and sesame oil) and quickly grill them until crispy on top. Delicious!

SEE FULL RECIPE

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Asparagus & deviled eggs midnight snack

After a long day of cooking but not really eating (elaborate cooking often takes away my appetite) I decided to satisfy one last craving. I had some asparagus lying around and some leftover miso/mirin/rice vinegar/soy sauce mixture. So, I boiled up a couple of eggs, quickly deviled them (adding mayo, crushed sesame seeds and some of the miso sauce to the egg yolks and returning them to the halved egg whites) and topped them with a bit of green onion. In the meantime I grilled/steamed my asparagus, and here you are.


In defense of oatmeal

I’ve become a big, big fan of oatmeal since I discovered how you can make it interesting every time by adding different fruits to it. It truly is a great breakfast. Everyone makes their oatmeal differently, my formula is: one part oatmeal, one part rice milk, one part water. But if I’m out of rice milk regular milk works just fine. Let it cook until done, just a few minutes, and your breakfast is ready: just as fast as a sandwich! Rice milk is quite sweet, so you won’t need to add sugar. I like to add some maple syrup or concentrated fruit syrup when it’s done for sweetness. I’ve seen people add a pinch of salt to their (otherwise bland and boring) oatmeal, but a good quality, organic oatmeal (which really, really is better than the cheap stuff: more taste, less slime and more body, you can still discern the individual nutty flakes) with some fruit and syrup doesn’t need that in my opinion. It’s just perfect. Vary using any fruit or nuts you like: apple and raisins works very well, fresh or frozen forest fruits too, but passion fruit is fantastic too!

Peach, cinnamon and maple syrup oatmeal.

Blueberry, raspberry and blackberry oatmeal.


Okura!

As a special celebratory treat, we went to Yamazoto, the Japanese restaurant at the Okura hotel in Amsterdam. As far as I know, Yamazoto is the only Japanese restaurant in Europe with a Michelin star. It was actually my first time in any star restaurant, we weren’t quite sure what to expect here. Food-wise, it was absolutely amazing. Instead of opting for a cheaper menu with wine, we went for the full-blast, all-out seasonal menu, skipping the expensive wine. It was a great choice. Somehow they managed to cram twelve species into seven courses and we didn’t feel full until exactly the last bite of the last course. The service was perfect, we had our own geisha-style waitress that sweetly explained every bite of every course with her heavy Japanese accent, and was absolutely delighted that we emptied our plates to the last crumb with each course. The only thing I don’t like about these types of restaurants is the cold and formal atmosphere, and the fact that you have to share the room with loud mouthed corporate fat cats with no sense of taste, who just eat there because the company pays for it, but who’d actually much rather go for steak and fries. Anyway, here’s what we had:

Shrimp sushi wrapped in bamboo leaf
Burdock root wrapped in grilled eel with teriyaki sauce
Baby corn wrapped in beef
Herring rolled in pickled radish with an egg yolk-vinegar sauce
Simmered abalone
Edamame beans wrapped in lotus root

The herring was particularly good, and something I might try making at home! With all the herring you can get here in Holland, it’s hard to believe I never tried any herring recipes.

Green pea soup with egg tofu, daikon, sprouts and gold leaf.

Sashimi!

Fatty tuna
Squid
Scallop
Yellowtail

With some shiro leaf, jelly/stock cubes and miniature tomatoes. Fantastic!

Grilled salted sea bass with shrimp
Carrot and daikon wrapped in omelette

The bass was unbelievable, so moist and crispy…

Tempura

Deep fried lobster
Lobster liver wrapped in seaweed
Green asparagus
Lotus root

After all that fish this was just the satisfying course I craved: grilled fillet of beef with sticky rice, edamame and corn, a delicious sauce and the crunchiest pickles ever!

The perfect dessert…

Fig cheesecake
Mochi (sweet red bean paste wrapped in rice dough)
Red and white strawberries, raspberry and cherry
Brown rice/tea icecream and pumpkin icecream
Crispy cookies

The brown rice/tea icecream was unbelievable, the fruit was perfect and the cheesecake was also very, very good.
All in all, this was a great, inspiring meal!


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