Friday, January 29, 2016

Fast Food: Fish

So, one of the main reasons I sometimes eat crap is that crap is easily available, cheap, and able to basically make itself. Frozen pizza? Pop it in the oven, run a dungeon, voilà - done. I forget that healthy food is actually not really a hugely difficult or time-consuming thing to prepare, given the right ingredients. So here's some awesome food, done in a flash, with little effort.

Red Snapper with Virgin Mary Vegetables

400g canned tomatoes
1 large red bell pepper
half a celeriac bulb
salt, pepper, Worcester sauce
2 strips of bacon
1 clove of garlic
half a red chili
fillet of red snapper

Cut up the bell pepper and the celeriac into nice, medium-sized cubes. In a pot, heat the canned tomatoes, add the vegetable cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer on medium heat until the celeriac is soft. Add the desired amount of Worcester sauce.

Cut the garlic clove and the chili into very fine slices. Fry the bacon in a frying pan with no added oil or fat; the bacon itself will provide what we need. When the bacon is crisp, remove from pan. In the remaining bacon grease, sautee the chili and the garlic on medium heat. Before the garlic begins to brown, pile all the vegetables to one side of the frying pan and add the fish, skin-side down. Fry for about two minutes, then turn and leave for another minute or so. When serving, place the fried garlic and chili on top of the fish with what remains of the grease. Bon appetit!

Remember: everything is better with bacon.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Do you wonder how the people of a given region view the foods named after said region? After living in Spain, and seeing what they call a "Swiss" (molten chocolate in a cup, basically), I have often felt curious whether we are doing other people wrong in the same way. Indeed, Wikipedia informs me that, "Outside Italy, the phrase "Bolognese sauce" often refers to a tomato-based sauce to which mince (beef or pork) has been added; such sauces typically bear little resemblance to ragù alla bolognese."

Since my sister - whose Bolognese is far superior to mine - was slow to respond today, I pieced together what I remember from eating it a lot, and got some inspiration from our beloved Betty. This is the result.

Ragù alla Bolognese

1 tbsp of oil of choice
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
1 zucchini
300g minced beef
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 dl red wine
400g canned tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
pepper to taste
basil, thyme, rosemary according to personal preference

The tedious part first: chop up all the vegetables into itty bitty pieces, brunoise-style.

Itty. Bitty. Fucking. Pieces. 
Put the oil and the vegetables into a frying pan and sautee everything until the onions are soft. Add the beef, the tomato paste, and the wine. Allow the wine to cook, then add the canned tomatoes. Season, and let simmer for a few minutes. Serve with the pasta of your choice. My favourites are the spirally ones.

My sister is still in shock that I needed assistance with something "as basic as Bolognese". Ah, well. My relationship with Italy is ambivalent at best.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Things in Jars

Snacking is the enemy of the healthy diet. Fact. Eating good things for lunch or dinner is easy if you're someone who cooks. Snacking is evil, because all the things that are highly convenient - bite-sized pieces in a neat little pack - are usually awesome, but not recommended in large doses.

So I became the enemy of my enemy. I put convenient, bite-sized things in jars.

You will need vinegar, sugar, and spices. For every cup of vinegar, you add 3/4 cup of sugar. The choice of vinegar is important, since it's the flavour you're going to taste, along with the spices. My personal favourite is apple/pear vinegar, or white wine vinegar. Please note that red vine vinegar will also colour your veggies a little bit. If you don't mind that, go ahead.

Bring the vinegar and the sugar to a boil, cook until all the sugar has dissolved, then let cool. Cut your veggies into nice, medium-sized pieces, and put them in jars. Fill 2/3 of the jar with the vinegar. Add dried spices.

Preferred veggies: cucumber (duh!), peppers, onions, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli. Be creative, use your favourites! In a jar in the fridge, your pickled salad will keep for about two weeks.

Preferred spices and herbs: everything dried; parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (sing it!).... basil, you get the idea. I also like to use pepper, cardamom, cumin. I don't like anise, personally, and it's a very strong ingredient, but if you're into it, give it a shot.

A note on tomatoes: tomatoes are not vegetables, they are fruits. Fruits, in general, contain too much water to conserve well. You can add tomatoes, but you have to eat the result soon.

A note on garlic and ginger: use very, very little, if at all. Time is a close friend of those two, and after a while, that's all you're gonna taste in that jar.

A note on beets: the content of your jar will be pink. That's what beets do best. They are a well-known dye. I personally like to combine cauliflower and beets.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Year's Eve Menu

For NYE, in a radical departure from past habits, I decided to spend a quiet evening in with a few friends. I wasn't in a mood for partying. The best thing about having guests, of course, is serving them awesome food, so I came up with a stress-free menu for the occasion. One complication was that it had to include a vegetarian dish. A complication, because I'm a meat-eater, and the centerpiece of a main meal, to me, is the meat. On the other hand, I didn't want to take the easy way out and serve my vegetarian friend just the side dishes or some such indignity. Where I did go the easy road was with the side dishes: potato puree and peas practically make themselves. Also, it's important to have a dessert that can be made hours in advance.

The menu

Carrot-Mango Cappuccino

Glazed Pork Roast or Vegetarian Königsberger Klopse
with Potato-Chestnut Puree and Green Peas


As always, when you have an entire menu to cook, preparation and planning are everything. One thing to make life easier, is to do a dessert that can be prepared well in advance, which is why I went with the Tiramisù. Once assembled, it has to rest in a cool place for a few hours. Let's start with that. 

200g princess fingers biscuits
2 egg yolks
50g sugar
250g mascarpone
grated zest of half a lemon and half an orange
2 egg whites
1 tbsp of sugar
a pinch of salt
2,5 dl espresso
2 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp Amaretto 
cocoa powder

If you have no Amaretto around, there are a few more commonplace types of alcohol that work just as well. Personally, I used Bacardi Spiced Rum. Whisky might work, or Cognac. 
For the cream filling, beat the two egg yolks with the sugar until the mass is fluffy and light yellow. Add the mascarpone and the fruit zests. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. Add the tbsp of sugar and continue beating until shiny. Carefully add to the mascarpone cream. 
Cover the bottom of a flat bowl with half the princess fingers. Soak in half of the espresso-sugar-amaretto mix. Spread half of the mascarpone cream over the fingers. Dip the second half of the fingers into the espresso mix, layer on top of the cream. Spread the second half of the cream over them. Store in a cool place for about two hours. Before serving, dust extensively with the cocoa powder. 

Glazed Pork Roast
1kg pork, from the neck
1 dl maple syrup
1 tbsp mustard
1 clove of garlic

Again, the roast was a good choice because it requires minimal attention, once everything is put together. The amount here was enough for three people. Since the roast needs a lot of time in the oven, this should be your next step. 
Crush the clove of garlic and mix with the maple syrup and the mustard. 
In a frying pan, fry the pork until golden brown on all sides. Put in an oven-proof vessel, glaze with half of the maple syrup mix and roast in the middle of the oven at around 180°C for an hour. Pour the rest of the glaze over it, leave in the oven for another half hour. 

Vegetarian Königsberger Klopse
200g tofu
fresh horseradish, grated
zest of half a lemon, grated
salt, pepper
1 tsp mustard
1 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 small egg
5 dl bouillon for boiling
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 tsp lemon juice
100g capers from the jar
salt, pepper

Tear the tofu up into a fine, crumbly mass. Mix with everything up to and including the egg. You should be able to mold the mass into small balls, like meatballs. Should the mixture be too dry, add a tiny bit of mustard or water (taste it first to check if you need more or less flavour), if it's too wet, add more breadcrumbs. Set aside. 

Carrot-Mango Cappuccino
400g carrots
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
small piece of ginger, about 2cm
5 dl bouillon
1 mango
1 lime
tabasco, sugar, salt
200ml coconut milk
100ml cream

Peel and chop the carrots and the onion into even pieces. Remember, the smaller the pieces, the faster they will be soft. Peel and chop the garlic and the ginger. With a little oil, sautee the carrots, onion, garlic and ginger, until the onions are soft. Add the bouillon and cook until the carrots are soft. 
In a separate pot, bring the coconut milk and the cream to a boil. Cut off two fine strips of lime zest and simmer in the coconut cream for five minutes. 
When the carrots are ready, puree the soup and add lime juice, tabasco, sugar, and salt to taste. Remove the zest from the coconut cream. 
Fill the carrot soup into the heat-resistant glasses. Beat the coconut cream slightly foamy and carefully layer on top. Serve. 

Yes, I could have smoothed out the edges of the carrot soup somewhat. Next time. 

Königsberger Klopse, continued

Boil the prepared balls in bouillon, for about five minutes. Remove from bouillon, reserve the liquid. In a separate pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Gradually add the bouillon to make a creamy sauce. Stir in the cream. Add the lemon juice and the capers, salt and pepper to taste. 

The vegetarian in question liked it. 

Potato-Chestnut Puree and Green Peas
600g potatoes suitable for mash
300g chestnuts, peeled and probably frozen
butter, milk, salt

500g frozen green peas

For the puree, peel the potatoes and cut them into even pieces. Boil in salted water, with the chestnuts, until soft. Remove from water, puree. Add butter (I used about 50g), stir in well. Add milk to taste, additional salt if needed. 
Cook the frozen peas in bouillon until ready. 

Remove the roast from the oven, pour a tiny amount of maple syrup over the cut slices. Arrange everything neatly on pretty plates (I used an ice cream scoop for the puree), et voilà!