Brussels, balance, & cooking for one in a limited kitchen

Hello world! :) Yet again I’ve let quite a while pass without an update. The reason for yet more radio silence is that I’ve temporarily uprooted and am in Brussels. I’ve been here since the end of March and will be staying on most of this month, with a little 3-day sojourn to Germany for Easter. I am here conducting interviews with EU officials for my PhD research.

It’s an interesting time for me. As a PhD student one of my biggest challenges has always been balance (and any PhD’er will admit the same). Balance between work and play, between writing and reading, between planning for the future and focusing on your present work, between reading a journal article or a novel, etc. I have had to learn a LOT about balance over the past 18 months, and am still learning. But with my life in London it is easier because I have developed a life outside of my work with H., friends, family, and activities. Here, I am faced with that challenge again, but it’s even more pronounced because I am totally out of my normal routine. It’s taken some getting used to and I’ve felt a little lost. I’ve also been suffering from terrible hayfever since I have been here which has been affecting my sleep and concentration.

I had intended to post an update and recipe for Lucy Waverman’s Lime Pudding Cakes that I made a couple of weeks ago when we had our friends C. & S. over for dinner, but I realized I only have the recipe in her latest cookbook which is of course back in London. That will have to wait!

I’ve been trying to eat as healthily as possible since I’ve been here but not been trying anything new. The little kitchen I have here is challenging. It has 4 big gas burners but only a toaster oven, so I’ve mostly been making stove-top items only. Another big factor is that I’m on a limited budget so don’t want to spend a lot of money on ingredients I’ll only use once. Needless to say I haven’t been doing much elaborate cooking, but I do plan on doing a post about cooking easy and healthy meals on a limited budget and with limited resources quite soon.

I’m also planning a big favourites post will come over Easter for those who didn’t get your month-end fix. ;) To finish, here are a few Brussels pics.

The European Parliament

The European Parliament

Dinner Sunday at a Moroccan restaurant: my friend S. came to visit me for the weekend.

Dinner Sunday at a Moroccan restaurant. My friend S. drove all the way from southern Germany to visit me for the weekend!

A sunny Grand Place

A sunny Grand Place

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Wroclaw & Krakow, Poland

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently spent a great 5 days in Poland. The circumstances were pretty special: I met up with my friend S., who is on a year-round trip around the world. Before last August we hadn’t seen each other in 8 years. We’ve managed to connect on this side of the world in London, Paris, & now Poland.

Poland may not feature on the typical “must see” list, but I’d thoroughly recommend it. I’m really glad I got to see two different cities. We found Krakow quite touristy, where Wroclaw was smaller and felt more of what we thought to be a “truer” Poland. And the Polish sense of humour was fantastic. :)

Sunny Wroclaw

Sunny Wroclaw

Wroclaw at dusk

Wroclaw at dusk

PIEROGIES!

PIEROGIES!

Church I liked in Krakow

Church I liked in Krakow

How a Canadian and an Australian celebrated St. Patrick's day in Poland! (the vodka on the right is pretty much the only vodka I like - bison grass vodka!)

How a Canadian and an Australian celebrated St. Patrick’s day in Poland! (the vodka on the right is pretty much the only vodka I like – bison grass vodka!)

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Spiced Cauliflower Fritters & Green Onion Chickpea Curry

My posts are so mixed up now, I can’t even remember when I made this. Sometime in early March, I think. The meal was inspired by the recipe for the fritters, found in my March delicious magazine. And yes, I’m fully aware that I’m using both metric and imperial systems. Sorry!

Fritters: I love fritters, cauliflower, and most things Indian so when I saw the recipe I knew it would be a winner. I can’t find the recipe online so will repost here:

  1. Boil a whole cauliflower head in water for 5-7 minutes, until just tender, flipping once to ensure the whole thing cooks. My tip:  place on a slightly dampened towel or paper towel to avoid the cauliflower drying off too much.
  2. Meanwhile, dry toast the following spices in a pan: 1/2 tsp chili flakes, 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, & 1/4 tsp each coriander, cumin, & turmeric.
  3. Warm 300ml whole milk in a saucepan and then dissolve 3g (“scant teaspoon”) of yeast into it. *Don’t heat the milk beyond lukewarm otherwise it may kill the yeast.
  4. Put 200g strong bread flour into a mixing bowl and season. Then add the spices from step 2, along with the milk/yeast mixture, stirring the latter in slowly and mixing as you go. When it’s all combined together, set aside for 20 minutes.
  5. Next, the frying: we did this without a thermometer, but it says to heat oil to 170°C. To prepare the fritters, break the head of cauliflower into florets, dust them in plain flour, and stir into the batter. To form the individual fritters I simply spooned the batter out in chunks using a teaspoon and them dropped into the oil.
  6. I made the chili and coriander salsa that was suggested in the recipe, but found it way too acidic, so quickly whipped up some Greek yogurt with chopped coriander.

By the way, I think we’ve finally nailed deep-frying. Turns out it’s all about the pan! We used an enamel one which can take much more heat and it was perfect – the fritters were done really quickly.

Fritters

Blurry fritters

Curry: The curry is quite similar to a veggie version of this, with the addition of of quite a few green onions. The recipe is from Vij’s & I’ve modified it below for 2 people as opposed to the original 4.

  1. Heat 1/4 cup of rapeseed/canola oil and toast 1/2 tsbp cumin seeds, allowing them to sizzle for about 30 seconds. Then add 1/2 a large onion and saute 8-10 minutes.
  2. From there, stir in tomatoes. The recipe recommends 1 medium, but I used canned because I like a bit more sauce. In addition, stir in 3/4 tsp salt, 2.5 tbsp chopped ginger, 2 tbsp chopped jalapenos (or more/less as desired). Let this combination simmer for 5-8 minutes.
  3. Then add in 1.5-2 cans chickpeas and 1/2 cup coconut milk and let that simmer for a further 5 minutes or so. Just before serving, add in the green onion. The recipe says 3.5 oz (100g). I didn’t use that much, so amend as desired. Enjoy :)
Blurry curry

Blurry curry

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Back on the job

I can’t believe there has been a nearly 3 week gap between my last post and this one. I don’t think that’s ever happened on this blog other than planned breaks! The 3-year anniversary of MwL even came and went on the 10th without my acknowledgement – tsk, tsk. Needless to say it’s been very busy on this end with lots of PhD-stuff going on and a 5-day trip to Poland squeezed in there. Another part of why I haven’t posted is because I’ve felt that why I’ve been trying a few new things in the kitchen, not a lot of them are groundbreaking or interesting enough to warrant a post. With that in mind, I’ve decided to play catch-up by combining a few different dishes into one post.

Anti-vampire (aka garlic) soup (from Lottie & Doof, recipe here)
As a lover of garlic I have always wanted to try making garlic soup. This one seemed the perfect antidote to the crappy weather we’ve had all winter. It was also great because I wanted to use some of the sage that my friend A. brought back from Turkey for me as a gift! Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me at the time, there are two types of sage. One is much stronger, and guess which one I was using? I left it in the entire time the soup was simmering (~20 minutes) and as soon as I’d taken the first sip I knew: it was horribly and disgustingly bitter! Once we’d removed all the sage it was palatable but still unfortunately not probably as good as it could have been. What made it better was fresh bread & the poached egg, which were both lovely.

Get outta my soup, sage.

Get outta my soup, sage.

Quiche
After stating for years that I wasn’t a fan of quiche (due to a very unfortunate bad association with rotten quiche on a plane as a child), I discovered over Christmas that I actually love it! My aunt J2 made a delicious lobster quiche for Christmas morning brunch and since then I’ve made it three times (although admittedly with the less luxurious and more humble mushroom). This recipe, with the addition of green onion, is my favourite so far.

Quiche & Sunday morning sun

Quiche & Sunday morning sun

Breakfast hash
I am a sweet potato fiend and so this brunch dish immediately caught my eye. It did not disappoint! Other than slightly overcooking the eggs (baked eggs are such a precise science!), this was perfect. Unlike the recipe I did make it the day of and was chopping potatoes at 9am, but it was worth it.

Sausage, egg, & bacon hash

YUM

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February 2014 Favourites

February has been a pretty ‘knuckle down’ month for me. It’s been the wettest winter since records began in England — the perfect weather for lots of writing and lots of cups of tea which is how I feel like I spent my month! I know that I will make lots of my North American readers roll their eyes when I say I am missing snow, but it’s true. Good thing I was able to get a fix over Christmas in NS.

The good news is that this month I’ve crossed a lot off the to-do list, PhD-wise. AND, in other news, H. & I have started a Highgate “pub crawl” (not in one night). We’ve always gone to the same local, so we’ve decided to try all 12 pubs in our area & see what we’ve been missing (or not). Stay tuned for those results. :) In the meantime,

◌ A collection of winter remedies from Design Crush.

◌ YUM: these nuts look so good.

◌ Thanks to M. for sharing this interesting piece on modern marriage.

Thai red curry shrimp dumplings? Yes please! (Also, the Guardian‘s Cook had a great collection of dumpling recipes last week).

This thrift store challenge reminds me how much I love a good bargain and how rewarding second-hand shopping can be.

◌ I’d like one of everything on this menu!

◌  The Olympics. 4 mornings in a row H. & I sipped coffee & watched the Olympics pre-8am while we had plumbers and electricians clanging around our flat (8 days without heat :( ). It is very weird yet very awesome to be living outside of your homeland during the Olympics. As the old saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. The women’s hockey final was I think one of the best games I have seen of any sport, ever!

◌ I recently made this kale + chickpea salad & it was really delicious. Recommended.

◌ If you’re on Instagram, I’d follow Design Crush for, at the very least, her really inspiring quotes of the day.

How to store lemons (who knew?).

◌ Kind of love this: getting married at an engagement party (first part of the post). (Debate?)

◌ House of Cards. ’nuff said. (I’m on s02e09).

Arthur's Seat from Calton Hill, Edinburgh (early February 2014)

Arthur’s Seat from Calton Hill, Edinburgh (early February 2014)

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Chocolate Krantz Cake

This was the most elaborate dessert I’ve made in a while, but also one of the tastiest and most satisfying! We finished off our mezze with this cake (recipe online here, originally from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi), which is a yeasty bread-ish dough mixture with a chocolate and pecan filling.

Like baking some types of bread, making this requires a bit of advance planning (although I did do it all on one day, but started early). There are a number of steps but none too tricky. I’d recommend having a helper on hand as some parts are a bit harder to do on your own– and it’s also fun to make this cake with another person!

Its flavour is quite subtle but really delicious — it almost feels like a healthy dessert. I will definitely be making it again!

hergehjy

Flattened dough with chocolate spread & pecans

Rolling up the krantz.

H. rolling up the krantz.

Before it cooked.

Before it cooked.

Finished krantz

Finished krantz cake.

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Mixed Middle Eastern Mezze

A couple of weeks ago H. and I had my cousin P. over for dinner. Instead of one big main I decided to do a mezze of different smaller dishes, something I had been wanting to try at a dinner party for a while. As it happens a lot of the recipes are from Ottolenghi, but I didn’t really plan it that way. Overall I was really happy with the food. It was mostly quite healthy (lots of vegetables) and not overly heavy which was nice. If anything I think I could have had one more substantial dish, maybe something with potatoes, more for the boys though!

Here was the menu:

Toasted pitas & hummus (plain & roasted red pepper) I have made hummus loads of times before but never with roasted red peppers. I was really pleased with the result! We used our food processor to make both and I have to say, unfortunately I would not recommend this particular model. We’re becoming increasingly frustrated with it. It has some serious design flaws, the most serious of which is the non-existent locking system for one of the blades. Hummus was everywhere.

Spicy carrot salad (from Jerusalem, similar to this) This is a mix of chopped carrots, onions, and spices — I also added mixed greens. The spiciness comes from harissa paste and really adds a kick. I enjoyed the salad but because it has so many onions in it (regular readers will know that onions are not my favourite!), it wasn’t my favourite.

Roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce (based on this dish from Jerusalem) I adapted this and chose to roast the cauliflower instead of frying it. This went over very well and is really easy to prepare if you make the sauce in advance. I would describe tahini as an acquired taste but personally I love it and think it’s quite versatile.

Pearl barley, parsley, & marinated feta salad  (Jerusalem) I was really pleased with this dish. The pearl barley is a nice departure from couscous and quinoa which we eat more regularly. There’s not much of it in there though, so I’d recommend upping the quantity of barley. The marinated feta is delicious. All in all I think this is a really different and creative salad – typical Ottolenghi.

Meatballs with a cilantro-lemon sauce. I made the same meatballs I made at Christmastime except I used beef this time. This time they were a little dry for me because the beef was too lean. As usual, the sauce always goes down well though.

Mixed green salad with chicken This was the most cobbled-together dish of the night. I’d originally planned to do a fennel & saffron chicken salad but at the last minute switched to this because I couldn’t get any fennel. I poached the chicken and then made a simple quite lemony vinaigrette.

And for dessert, a chocolate krantz cake (coming in a separate post!).

A few (quite random and not very good-quality) photos below.

Red pepper hummus.

Red pepper hummus in the cursed processor.

It wouldn't be a dinner party without a toppled plant! (Thanks ahem to the WIND

It wouldn’t be a dinner party without a toppled plant! (Thanks … ahem … to the WIND!) And yes, we have lights in our floor. Don’t ask.

Chicken salad

Part of the chicken salad

Carrot salad

Spicy carrot salad

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White Bean & Tomato Panade

I wouldn’t normally post something as … cobbled together/what-am-I-going-to-eat-tonight as this (especially when the main ingredients are beans, canned tomatoes, and old bread — huh?), but the dish really surprised me and so just has to be shared.

Most nights, H. and I eat together. We do live together after all. But sometimes our schedules, particularly midweek, clash. When H. eats alone he nearly always makes either (1) a sandwich or (2) some pasta dish. On the other hand, when I’m cooking for myself I like to try something new, when and where possible! This is the perfect example of that. I found the recipe on the Kitchn (followed it pretty much to the T). A panade is apparently bread soup.

I urge you to try this. It is sooo tasty and really easy to throw together. It’s a little carb-heavy, but very warming and the perfect winter wind and rain meal.

bean and bread panade

PS: Happy Valentine’s Day. I will be celebrating with a morning’s worth of editing, volunteering for 3 hours, attending a seminar on the upcoming European Parliament elections, and then coming home to this meal! To keep things interesting, for the second time this winter we have no heat and hot water! Lovely.

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Apple, Carrot, & Oat Muffins

A couple of years ago, my good friend D. gave me this cookbook as a birthday present. The book features tons of yummy dishes from the Fresh Track Cafe which is a mountaintop cafe at Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, BC. (Sidenote I just love how my last 3 posts have been about cookbooks given to me as gifts, and 2 of them Canadian!). I have cooked a few things from it before but I don’t think I’ve shared anything from it on the blog yet. Time to remedy that now.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking for the perfect breakfast muffin. H. and I were headed to Scotland for the weekend to visit family and our train was at 7am. After a quick hunt through my cookbooks I decided to try these muffins. They are a true breakfast muffin in that they’re very healthy — none of this sickly sweet Starbucks rubbish. They have no refined sugar (the slight sweetness comes from a bit of honey and shredded apple), and there is also Greek yogurt to prevent them from becoming too dry. Although just slightly overdone, the muffins were perfect for exactly what I wanted them for, which wasn’t for a sugar rush but a staple breakfast item. :)

 

Mixing in the apple + carrot.

Mixing in the apple + carrot.

Finished muffins.

Finished muffins.

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Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Roasted Cauliflower & Spinach

Another one of my great Christmas presents was the new Sprouted Kitchen cookbook from M. For those of you who are familiar with the blog, the book contains a lot of new material and is in general a great addition to any bookshelf. The book focuses on healthy whole foods, and while a lot of the recipes lean towards what I would call summer cooking, there are several in there that are good for this time of the year too (which in the UK so far this year can hardly be called winter, but rain and wind season I’ve decided).

Cauliflower may be becoming all the rage in 2014 (!), but I have been on a kick ever since I made this salad about 9 months ago. Roasted cauliflower is so tasty and healthy and can be added to a really wide variety of meals.

This pasta dish was adapted from the roasted cauliflower capellini in the cookbook. It is perfect for a filling weeknight meal. The main ingreidents are wholewheat pasta, cauliflower, and spinach (note the recipe calls for basil). These are added to a “sauce” of browned butter, salt & pepper, and balsamic vinegar, and topped with cheese. I even forgot to add the vinegar (whoops), and it was still delicious.

I was worried this would be a little too “healthy” for H. (he prefers his pasta with tomatoes and cheese), but it definitely got his stamp of approval. Definitely a new addition to the weeknight repertoire.

wholewheatspag (not the best photo!)

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