Monday, 2 September 2013

Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty

We were killing some time while waiting for a concert to start during the Festival Oude Muziek in Utrecht, the Netherlands. What better to do than browsing in an old fashioned bookstore.
It turned out the store has a great collection of cookbooks and I could not resist buying a copy of the Dutch translation of Yotam Ottolenghi's vegetable cookbook Plenty.
My rationale, as if I needed one, being that we have two children who are vegetarians combined with my interest in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Yotam Ottolenghi is an Israeli-born cookery writer and chef-patron. Born in Jerusalem in 1968, son of an Italian-born professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – and a German-born high-school principal. He grew up in Jerusalem and studied at Tel Aviv University before completing a master’s degree in comparative literature. In 1997 he moved to the UK to train at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London for six months, where he has lived ever since.
Nopi is his restaurant

Besides Plenty, he wrote two other books, these together with Sami Tamimi: Jerusalem and The Cookbook, his first.

I tried the Shakshuka recipe from Plenty and adapted it a bit to my taste and experience.

Shakshuka is a North African dish, ideal for a weekend brunch. 
There are several variations on shakshuka. David Lebovitz wrote a great piece about this dish in his blog, well worth reading.

The essence of the dish is that you make a  tomato-onion-bell pepper sauce spiced up with saffron, cumin, smoked paprika, thyme and cayenne. The consistency should be that of a thick pasta sauce. You put this sauce in small shallow pans, one for each person or in a large pan for a more family style experience, make two indentations in the sauce per person and break two eggs in there.
Cover the pan(s) and cook the sauce with eggs on a low heat until the eggs are cooked but not fully set.
Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with fresh crusty bread.

Absolutely to die for on a lazy Sunday.

To watch Yotam prepare Shakshuka himself, click on this link



Monday, 5 December 2011

Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking as an eBook

My favorite cookbook of this year is a classic:
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.

To be honest, I'd never heard of Julia Child before watching the movie Julie & Julia with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. Of course, I am not an American so how would I know.
The movie made me curious and I bought Julia Child's classic. The book was first published in 1961 specifically for American women who wanted to cook classical French cuisine with the ingredients available in the States. This is classical French cooking pre-nouvelle cuisine.

The first recipe I tried was an eye opener: Roast Chicken. I have roasted, grilled, bbq'ed more chicken than I can remember so I was skeptical. What was the big deal, so I set out to follow Julia's recipe to the letter. Her recipes are by the way very detailed and very clearly written. Off I went.

A 1.5 kg chicken, salt and lots of butter are the main ingredients (will serve 4 people) . For the sauce, she also adds some carrots and an onion but that is a different story.

Heat your oven to 425 F or 220 C. Salt the chicken on the inside, truss and smear 2 tablespoons of butter on the chicken. Place the chicken breast up in a roasting pan in the oven. Roast for a total of 15 minutes, turning the chicken every 5 minutes around to brown it on all sides. Bast when you turn the chicken, using a mixture of an additional 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of cooking oil that you melted in a separate small pan.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 F or 180 C and put the chicken on its side, basting ever 8 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time (1 hour and 20 minutes total) turn the chicken on its other side and continue basting. At this point salt the chicken on the outside...

15 minutes before the chicken is done turn its breast up and continue basting. If you run out of melted butter, use the drippings in the roasting pan.

Check the doneness of the chicken and if it is OK, let rest for at least 5-10 minutes, prepare the sauce, undo the chicken from the trussing strings and serve.

In essence you have to sit next to the oven to baste, baste and baste but I can assure you the result is amazing and worth the effort. The color, texture and flavor of the chicken are superb.

If you are interested or need an idea for a Christmas present, the book is now also available as eBook for Kindle.

Julia Child was the wife of a diplomat and travelled all over the world. During their stay in France she learned cooking at the famous Cordon Bleu school. Later she started writing, first with two friends, eventually on her own.
Her bibliography is impressive and her books are definitely worth reading.
When she returned to the States, after her husband retired, she appeared on television, one of the first TV cooks, a novelty at that time.

She donated her complete kitchen to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. in 2001.

Happy reading and cooking

Friday, 25 November 2011

Hummus, the staple of the Middle East

A few years ago we lived in London and bought most of our day-to-day food from a small Marks & Spencer around the corner from our house. Hummus was one of the products we bought regularly there. I had never tasted or even heard about it before moving to London and it was love at first taste. It became our small snack to go with a glass of wine before dinner.
When we moved back home, I tried to make hummus myself but it was not the same and I forgot about it.

Fast forward.

Dubai this September, I went to have breakfast in my hotel and to my surprise I found hummus on the breakfast buffet, in fact I found hummus not only at breakfast but also on the lunch and dinner menus.
Hummus is a real staple in the Middle East. Each country has it own take on the product but the basics are the same: soft cooked chick peas, tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, salt and lemon juice blitzed to a paste, garnished with olive oil and eaten with a piece of flat bread.

My colleague from Syria gave me a few tips:
Cook the chick peas with a pinch of bicarbonate soda to make them really soft and use tahini from Saudi Arabia (the best). My colleague from Lebanon disagrees, the tahini should be from Lebanon...

Here is a short video showing how hummus is made. This is one of the many variation. Try it and be creative yourself.


Monday, 21 November 2011


In March of this year we started our new way of eating. This time we became followers of Tim Ferriss and decided to try the Four Hour Body theory to, for the zillionced time, try to loose weight. Since then our breakfast looks like this:

I cook sufficient free range eggs for a few days and keep them cooked in the refrigerator.

I cook lentils by the bulk and also keep them in the fridge, or even freeze them in portions of three tablespoons.

Frozen spinach. I love the heart form this German company delivers frozen at our doorstep. And this spinach tastes good too. I think this is important. Why would you start your day with bad tasting food?

Over night the spinach thaws and the excess liquid will be  absorbed  by the cooked lentils in the bowl.

Before breakfast: Salt and a good pinch of pepper. Only 3 1/2 min per bowl on medium in the microwave. In the meantime I peel two eggs per person and slice them with the egg slicer.
We now love this breakfast. We even like to eat it on the cheat days, because it is very satisfying for hours.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Blogging together

Hi, everybody.
As we were driving for four hours in the fog today to visit our parents, we did some creative talking about both our blogs. Until now my personal blog, Marie-Thérèse quilts and knits is meant to write about my hobbies. 

Christiaan and I have been together since 1969 and we have been married since 1981. One interest we share is food. We both love to cook and we both have had problems with our weight since we met. We both try to live in a way that keeps us fit and healthy. We think you might enjoy reading about our experiences with eating our way. 

Since Christiaan already writes on this blog about his food related interests, he decided to invite me to share his blog.

I am really looking forward to be his buddy here and hopefully you will appreciate my posts too.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

To kraut or not to kraut, that is the question.

I was told by a friend that the English language has a new word, a verb: to kraut. It comes from Sauerkraut, fermented cabbage, a pickle known all over the Western world. To kraut is to make fermented pickles.
Pickling was for centuries one of the ways to preserve vegetables for the winter. What i mean is not pickling in vinegar but preserving with the help of bacteria, in fact a lacto fermentation process. sauerkraut, kimchi, ...all the same.
Pickles like this have gone almost completely out of fashion in the Western world. A shame because lacto fermented pickles are very healthy for your digestive system, your immunsystem and your general health. So what do we do? We spend a fortune on Yakult and other high priced products to get the same benefits as we used to get from our fermented foods.

So I am on a quest, let's start pickling again. It is easy, it is fun and it is delicious.

If you are interested, read Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz

and watch Sandor's video.


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Too many habanero chillies

I just harvested one kilo of yellow and red habanero chilies. Just had 4 plants in pots in my greenhouse. The seeds came from the HippySeed Company in Australia. The chillies won't hold long enough for two people to use them fresh, so I will make this sauce: AGENT ORANGE HABANERO HOT SAUCE, recipe courtesy of HotSauceAddicts.comp
Agent Orange Habanero Hot Sauce Recipe is a Hot Sauce Recipe from

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The new garlic harvest arrived

I bought six heirloom seed garlic bulbs at the Eggplant Urban Farm Supply shop on Selby Ave in St.Paul MN last fall and planted the cloves in November in my garden, a bit late but still.  The original seed bulbs came from the Filaree Garlic Farm in Okanogan, WA. I followed their growing recommendation to the letter, which means, plant the cloves and basically forget about them except for some weeding and the occasional bit of watering. Dead easy...

This weekend was harvest time.  I was completely overwhelmed with the result, spectacular large bulbs came out of the ground. 
They are now "curing" this is a fancy word for drying. As you can see, I have enough garlic for the year.

In other words, it’s time to think about cooking with garlic and as a garlic-loving cook this is a real great time of the year. New garlic is fresh and crisp, the cloves are bursting with flavor, so now is the time to use it in everything, grated raw into salads, simmered or roasted to get out the sweetness.

I came across several recipes:
David Lebovitz's Chopped salad with lemon-garlic dressing
New York Times: Provençal Garlic Soup with poached egg
Karen Hursh Graber of Mexconnect: Sopa de Ajo Mexicana
Lorraine Pascale's: Camembert and roasted garlic
James Martin's: Forty garlic clove chicken with garlic mushrooms and garlic croustades

Last but certainly not least, one of my favorites: roasted garlic ice-cream.
I first tasted this at Sebastian Joe's in Minneapolis. Shockingly delicious is the right expression. There are several recipes to be found on the web, this one is from Kathryn Vercillo: 3 Ways for how to make garlic ice-cream.
Enjoy the garlic season.