Aloo Gobi

We had the best of luck while visiting the city of Jodhpur. The hotel we wanted to stay at was fully booked but the owner had a cousin (off course!) with a place where we could stay. We were taken there through small, winding streets and alleys, all familiar signs for a tourist rapidly disappearing and a couple of times we did consider turning back. Then we finally arrived at our destination. It was a homestay and we were welcomed in to the house of some of the most friendliest people ever. This family had a couple of rooms to spare which they rented out. All meals were home cooked by the mother and daughter, tasted fantastic and were served on their lovely roof terrace. We would hang around speaking to the sons, one of them being a medical student in his 20s and had never spoken to an (Indian) girl in his whole life. They invited us to a friends wedding which we unfortunately couldn’t attend.
One of the dishes we enjoyed at this home stay was aloo gobi, which is potatoes and cauliflower cooked together in a delicious spice blend. I often make this as it’s quick and easy and it’s a good way to make use of those leftover veggies. Usually we have our aloo gobi with yoghurt and naan.

Serves 4

2 cm ginger, peeled and grated
3 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, chopped
2 green chilies, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1 small cauliflower, washed, trimmed and cut into small florets
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
300 ml water
1 tsp salt
50g green peas
Fresh coriander

In a bowl, mix the ginger, coriander, turmeric and cayenne pepper with a little bit of water to form a paste.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds. When the seeds starts cracking, add the green chillies and onion and stir for a second or two. Add the spice paste, stir well and let it all cook for a few minutes.
Add the cauliflower, potatoes, water and salt. Mix well. Cover the pan and let it cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Make sure to stir gently every 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the green peas. Cook for another few minutes until the vegetables are tender. Garnish with the fresh coriander.

Bagels

I had never realised that you actually can make your own bagels. Until a few days ago when I saw a picture my sister had put on Facebook of her home-made golden buns. So I thought, if she can…! Have to say that the result turned out very good. They for sure look the way bagels should. The consistency turned out firm and a tiny bit chewy (as it should). Flavour wise it was more of a bun than a bagel which I think had to do with a slightly too short boiling time. So I have adjusted that in my recipe. We ate them with the traditional filling of cream cheese and smoked salmon which for some reason I can’t put my finger on just works so well.
My favourite place for bagels is a café here in town called de Goudsche bagel. I have to admit that if I go here for lunch I choose for salmon and cream cheese too… Maybe because that is how a learned to eat them some 19 years ago (my god, I am getting old!) in the US. Maybe it’s time to eat my bagel with something else… so if any readers have some good ideas, let me know!

Makes 12

300g bread flour
150g whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
7g (1 sachet) dried yeast
3 eggs
1 tsp honey
2 tsp sunflower oil
200 ml tepid water
Sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds

Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and stir in the salt and yeast. Make a well in the centre.
In a separate bowl, lightly whisk 2 of the eggs together with the honey and the oil. Pour into the well in the flour. Add the water and mix to a dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for a good 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Form each into a 15 cm long log. Shape in to a ring, gently pinching the ends together to seal.
Put a lightly oiled baking sheet on a baking tray. Arrange the bagels on the sheet. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC . Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop the bagels into the water, one or two at the time, and cook for 30 seconds. Lift out with a large draining spoon and return to the baking sheet.
Lightly beat the remaining egg and brush it over the bagels. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Chilli sin carne

The oldest backpacker I ever met was an American guy who stayed in the same hostel as us in North of Mexico. He was 86 years old, walked with a stick and was completely deaf. He travelled together with a friend who was 72 and a little bit less deaf. The two of them would rent a taxi for the day to cruise around the Copper Canyon. In the evenings they would tell about their adventures around the common dinner table. When making (hard) decisions for the future, this guy often pops up in my mind to tell me that I am never too old to start a new journey and the only thing preventing me to do so is myself. I am about to make quite a few important decisions so the old man is visiting me rather often these days…!
The only time I ate chilli in Mexico was in this hostel. To be honest I can’t really remember much of it (I was too intrigued by the old guys stories…) except that it was vegetarian and vegetarian food in Mexico is (it was 10 years ago on my last visit!) a rarity. To me it’s comfort food, something that I need… when I have to make some tough decisions…

Serves 2-3

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green chili, cut in slices
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika powder
180g minced tofu
400g (1 can) of chili beans (kidney beans are fine too)
400g (1 can) of whole tomatoes
100g of sweet corn
salt and pepper

On medium heat, heat the oil and cook the onion, garlic and green chili for a few minutes. Add the paprika powder and cumin. Stir to combine and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the minced tofu, stir to combine. Add the canned beans, tomatoes and corn. Stir to combine. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 7-10 minutes until everything is cooked though.
Serve with sour cream, sliced avocado and tortilla chips.

Vegetarian lasagna

We had been travelling around South America for months surviving mainly on rice, beans and fried eggs. So heading down to the Bolivian jungle we didn’t expect anything else. Our destination was the remote little town Rurrenabaque which is the base for exploring the surrounding rainforest and pampas. It’s a pleasant enough town with a few hotels, one or two even with a swimming pool, and some decent restaurants. One had specialized in Western food and had this fantastic lasagna on the menu. And not only did they serve lasagna, they served vegetarian lasagna! What a bliss and how tasty! I haven’t counted how often I ate it but I do remember us spending quite a few evenings on the restaurant’s small patio, me with my nose above a steaming plate and a chilled  Pacena at hands reach.
What is great about making your own lasagna is that you can use what ever veggies you have lying around in the fridge. I usually use courgette, eggplant and carrots as a base and then fill up with I have (mushrooms, broccoli, celery and spinach maybe). So what is mentioned below is what I had at home at the time of cooking.

Serves 4

Vegetable sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 courgette, quartered and sliced
1 eggplant, quartered and sliced
4 carrots, diced into cubes
100g fresh spinach
1000 ml passata di pomodoro (tomato sauce)
2 tsp of oregano
2 tsp sambal oelek (or red chili powder)
salt and pepper

Cheese sauce
40g butter
40g all-purpose flour
500 ml milk
100 g cheese
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

1 package of lasagna sheets
50g of grated cheese

Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Gently fry the onion and garlic for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables, stir well and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the tomato sauce, oregano and sambal. Bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a sauce pan, heat on medium heat the butter until melted. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and the mixture turns sandy in color. Slowly add the milk, whisk continuously. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until the sauce thickens, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat. Add the cheese and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

Smear an oven dish with a couple of tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Then create layers starting with one single layer of lasagna sheets, 1/3 of the vegetable sauce and 1/3 of the cheese sauce. Repeat the layers twice more, finishing with a layer of cheese sauce and the remaining grated cheese. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until the lasagna is bubbling and golden, and the lasagna sheets are soft (check with an inserted skewer).
It’s lovely served with a fresh green salad.

Crema Catalana

Last night we were 12 ladies from 10 different nationalities who went for a ‘girls night out’ (meaning husbands and boyfriends stuck at home with the kids, tellie, beer and crisps). We had a great evening with wonderful tapas (my favourites being the grilled sardines and deep-fried artichoke), sangria, margaritas and live Spanish/Flamenco music. We ended the meal with the amazing Crema Catalana, a custard like dessert from North East Spain. In the restaurant we got it served with ice cream and a huge amount of whipped cream, however I prefer it plain as you also get in Spain. I love to serve it when having guests as you can prepare it well in advance. And it looks rather professional with that caramelised crust too!

After such a lavish meal some of my girls still had the energy to go clubbing until the wee hours, a small group of us were satisfied to end the evening with a drink and chat in this cosy almost 100-year-old Grand Café.

4-6 portions

Crema Catalana

4 egg yolks
200g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
grated rind from ½ lemon
500 ml milk
1 tbsp cornstarch

In a pot, beat together the egg yolks and 150g of the sugar until thoroughly blended and the mixture turns frothy. Add the cinnamon stick and grated lemon rind. Pour in the milk and cornstarch. Slowly heat the mixture, stirring constantly just until thickened. When you start to feel a resistance while stirring, remove pot from heat immediately. If not, the mixture may curdle or separate. The texture of the finished custard will be grainy instead of smooth and creamy as it should be.
Remove the cinnamon stick and pour the custard into 4-6 ramekins (depending on size). Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours.
Before serving you want to create that lovely, caramelised sugar crust. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the ramekins. The easiest is to use a blowtorch and blast the sugar until golden brown and bubbly. Or you can place the ramekins under a really hot grill. Just make sure you don’t burn them!

Aunt Signe’s apple pie

This apple pie is a family favourite and has been for many years. The recipe comes from my mother’s aunt Signe. When I was small we use to visit her and her sister a few times a year. The 2 ladies never got married and lived their whole lives together in a large, old house. My dad would help them with minor reparations around the house, my mum would assist in pickling and preserving fruits (they had a huge fruit and vegetable garden) and me and my sisters would (un)patiently wait for the big treat, the apple pie! Soft, juicy apples covered with that nutty, crunchy blanket of dough and usually served with a thick creamy custard. Heavenly!
Both the aunts passed away a long time ago now but the apple pie is still something we often treat ourselves to. This time I had a little helper making it (whose favourite food is, guess…., apple pie!) and his lovely mother helped with the pictures (check out her site here!).
This recipe is also my contribution to the sweet of the month on this blog.

6 apples
125g butter
120g sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar
100g almond flour *
60g all-purpose flour
1 egg

*You can either use almond flour from the store or you can get whole almonds and grind yourself. I have this nifty little grinder from Sweden, though I am sure you could use a food processor or a blender too.

Preheat the oven to 200C°.
Peel and slice the apples.
Beat butter, sugar and vanilla powder in a bowl for 5-8 minutes until pale and creamy. Add the almond flour, flour and the egg, stir to combine. The dough should be a bit sticky.
Brush a quiche tin with butter. Decorate with the apples and add the dough in small patches. It should look a bit like a quilt!
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve warm on its own or with custard or vanilla ice cream.

Breakfast muffins

Yesterday morning I woke Eric up with these lovely spicy breakfast muffins. I learned to have muffins for breakfast while living in the States. My host mother use to make delicious ones for us in the weekend. They were quite sweet and pastry-like, flavoured with blueberries, poppy seeds or sugar and cinnamon. My muffins contain less sugar and have massive flavours from the spices and lemon zest which get well-balanced out with the sweetness from the raisins. I have also used whole wheat flour for some extra texture. They are delicious served warm with cream cheese or honey.


Makes 12 muffins

50g butter
125g all-purpose flour
125g whole wheat flour
125g brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
Zest from half a lemon
300 ml low-fat yoghurt
90g raisins

Preheat the oven to 175°C.
Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
In a bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and lemon zest. Combine with a wooden spoon. Add the melted butter and the yoghurt, stir well to combine. Fold in the raisins.
Prepare a muffin tray with muffin cups. Divide the mixture over the cups. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Paella

We are having some fantastic warm weather at the moment despite it being only end of March. I don’t know how many degrees it is but the sun is shining, the sky is blue and I am lingering about on my roof terrace barefoot and in a sleeveless shirt. Reminds me of a holiday to Barcelona in the month of January, a few years back. The weather was super and we could enjoy lunch outside on the beach. Huge pans of paella topped with the most fantastic, fresh seafood were served, with sparkling white wine to go with it. To get the holiday feeling back I decided to cook some too. Result was very good and as hoped for, it definitely brought us back to Spain! Hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Serves 2
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp paprika powder
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
50ml dry white wine
200g paella rice or other short-grain rice (like Arborio)
500ml good-quality fish stock
pinch of saffron soaked in 1 tbsp hot water
Salt and pepper
100g white fish, cut into chunks
150g mixed seafood
6 king prawns
handful of flat-leaf parsley to garnish, chopped
½ lemon, cut into wedges

Heat the oil in a large, wide pan (or in a proper paella pan if you got one). Add onion and garlic and sauté for about five minutes until soft and transparent. Stir in the paprika powder and cook for one minute. Add the tomatoes and wine, turn up the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the rice and coat well so it forms an even layer, then add 400ml stock and the saffron with the soaking water. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the rice is nearly cooked, add more stock if it gets too dry. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the fish and seafood, carefully folding it into the dish without disturbing the rice too much. Cook for 5-8 minutes until the fish and seafood is cooked though.
Cover the dish with a lid and take off the heat. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Heat a bit of olive oil in a small pan and cook the prawns a couple of minutes on both sides.
Garnish the paella with the prawns, chopped parsley and wedges of lemon.

Spinach and Feta Gözleme

One of the best thing we did while visiting the coast of Turkey was to rent a scooter. It took us to some lovely remote places, brought us in contact with friendly locals, had us ending up in a mud bath and not at least it brought us to some amazing food experiences. We got to buy the most wonderful honey right off a farm. And along the roads there would be small outdoor restaurants where you could linger on kelim carpets while sipping on tea and being served some local delicacies, like this wonderful dish called Gözleme. Gözleme is something in between pizza, pancake and pastry. It could be filled with spinach and cheese as in my recipe or with meat, roasted aubergine and potatoes (choices are in fact endless). It is cooked outside on what looks like a large wok turned upside down. At home you can use a standard frying pan, just make sure to measure so the Gözleme actually fits in your pan! 

Serves 4-6

Dough:
500g all-purpose flour
7g dried yeast
pinch of salt
2 tbsp olive oil
250-300 ml lukrewarm water

Filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
4 spring onions
300g fresh spinach, washed
handful of flat parsley, chopped
200g feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper
Olive oil for cooking
lemon wedges, to serve

Combine flour, salt and the dried yeast in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and 250 ml of the water. Mix to form a soft dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-10 minutes or until elastic. Add more water if the dough is too dry.
Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Place on a plate and cover with a clean tea towel. Let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes or until dough doubles in size.
Roll a piece of dough into a rectangle. Place a bit of spinach mixture over half of the rectangle. Top with chopped parsley and crumbled feta and season with salt and pepper. Fold dough over to enclose filling. Press edges together to seal, you might need to brush with a bit of water to get the edges sealed.
Preheat a frying pan on medium-high heat. Brush one side of the gozleme with oil. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until base is golden. Brush uncooked side with oil. Turn over and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove to a serving plate. Cut gozleme into quarters. Serve while still warm with lemon wedges.

Prague

Eric and myself met in Prague exactly 14 years ago (yesterday was our anniversary day!). So this city is very special to us and we try to go back on a regular basis. Last month we had the opportunity to go again, this time to celebrate my father in law who recently turned 70. I have visited Prague in all seasons and in all sorts of weather but this time it was magical. The temperature had dropped to below -15°C or more, it had snowed, the sun was shining and the whole city looked like an ice palace. Breathtaking!

When it is that cold you can only enjoy the outside for so long time, so the coffee/drink breaks between the sights were quite a few. Our favourite for many years is Café Slavia, a grand place dating back to 1881 and a popular place for artists and intellectuals. It’s great for people watching and to enjoy the stunning views of the castle are you lucky enough to get a table at the riverside. The prices are good and they serve tasty Czech and international food throughout the day. Recommended is the pancake filled with grilled salmon and apple. The beetroot carpaccio with shaved parmesan and pistachios is also fantastic.

Another place worth visiting which also has loads of character and history is the Café Savoy across the bridge in Mala Strana. Close by you also find museum Kampa, a contemporary art museum displaying pieces from Central European artists. Intriguing art and the building it self is lovely with great views over the river. Further, what I love about Prague (being such a sweet tooth!) are the abundance of delicious cakes and pastries. Try find a traditional cukrárna (pastry shop) and spend hours choosing and indulging in your favourite(s)!

Another thing I love about Prague is the beer drinking culture. Pivo (beer) is still cheap, glasses are still huge and you never have to walk far to find a good place to enjoy one. We love to hang around the Betlemska square where lots of good places are found, Betlemske Kaple is definitely worth mentioning. Food is good here too  and I just love the whole grilled trout with almonds. Recipe is coming up soon!

For a more traditional place for a beer I would recommend Druhej Svet, you find it not far from the National museum. And for a more modern approach, try one of the bars/restaurants from Staropramen. We were very surprised with the hip yet comfy interior, the modern czech food was delicious and service was above standard.

Visiting Prague over the past 16 years or so, a few things have definitely changed for the better when it comes to dining out. Service is so much better, places are modern and fresh and the food is still czech but with a modern twist to it. We were pleasantly surprised!
A last place well worth mentioning is Radost FX and even though we didn’t have time to visit this time it still is my top hang out spot in Prague. Radost has a café, a (vegetarian) restaurant, a lounge and a night club. Eric and I went here on the night we met, lounging about, eating and chatting untill the wee hours in the morning. It’s cool but very romantic at the same time!