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zondag 16 september 2012

Homemade lasagna à la Ijeoma

Lasagna time! My most favourite dish ever and always an excuse to eat too much. Since I still work - and have to eat alone most of the time - I insisted on making this in the weekend so that I could be there too. 

I took this recipe from my mum, ages ago. The base is still the same, but I made some little changes which makes it better (in my humble opinion :p).

It's really different from the prepacked lasagnas you can find in any supermarket: there's not a lot of bechamel sauce to make the lasagna totally bland, it's full of vegetables and it's totally fresh!

Ingredients for 4-5:
- 1 kg carrots
- 2 zuchinis
- 3 bell peppers (red, green, yellow or any combination you like)
- olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 500 grams of minced (pork-veal) meat
- 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon of herbes provençales
- 1 teaspoon of oregano
- chilli flakes to taste
- 2 small cans of tomato paste
- 200 grams Emmental cheese, grated
- 100 grams Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- 500 ml milk
- nutmeg, pepper and salt to taste
- lasagna sheets (about 9)

How to:
Cut all the vegetables, the onion and garlic in small cubes.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Fry the onion and the garlic in it.
Add the minced meat and stir continuously so that it doesn't get burned.
Now stir in the carrots. Put the lid on the pan and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the peppers and leave them again with the lid on top of the pan. They have to have gotten tender.
Put the zuchini in with all of the herbs and the tomato paste. Make sure all is spread out evenly in the pan. Let simmer with the lid on for another 30-45 minutes.
Make a bechamel sauce with the butter, flour and milk. Season with the nutmeg, pepper and salt.
Now make the lasagna by layering the vegetable-meat sauce, the bechamel sauce, the grated cheese and sheets of lasagna (about 3 per layer). End with cheese so that the lasagna can get a nice crispy crust on top of it. Put enough sauce on the sheets of lasagne as they won't get tender when they're not wet.
Take from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes.
Serve in large enough portions (see picture ^^), you'll see that you just can't stop eating anyway ... 

It is simply too delicious to throw away the left-overs. Keep them aside and rehaet them in the oven. The taste is even better after a day!

We were only three this time. My sister wasn't at home, so we just divided the slightly smaller lasagna between the three of us. A lot! (I dicided to take a long walk with our dog to reduce my guilt about overeating :) )

P.S.: mushrooms in it are also a very nice option! Fry them a little and put them in the vegetable-meat sauce or make them as a seperate layer.

Buon apetito!

dinsdag 11 september 2012

How do you translate 'vispannetje' properly? 'Little pan of fish'?

I bought nearly 3 kg of fish filets for my birthday party. Problem was the organisation of cooking for over 30 people in our small kitchen, so we changed plans. The fish, however, was already in our freezer and we now have these fish-dish-nights to eat our stock. 

You have to be creative for doing this: my dad loves fried fish, my mum doesn't like fried fish, my sister usually hates fish and I love to eat fish in all sorts of ways as long as there is enough variation. A little too many different tastes to please all. But we try to do as good as we can, don't we? ;)

Tonight it's a Belgian classic: vispannetje. It can be literally translated as little fish pan, but that sounds a bit ridiculous. Just keep in mind it contains fish and sea fruit, is prepared in the oven and tastes lovely.

As I thought my brother-in-law Jasper was coming over for dinner, I substituted the mushrooms by leek (as he doesn't like mushrooms at all), but it turned out he only came to visit and was gone before we ate. Anyway, it'll be vispannetje without mushrooms ... Leeks taste really nice in this dish, so don't think it's only second choice!

Ingredients for 4:
- 3 or 4 small leeks  OR 250 grams of mushrooms (cut in rings or slices and fried (optionally) fried in some butter*)
- 1 carrot
- 500 grams fish filet
- 200 grams mixed sea fruit (mussels, squid, shrimps, ...)
- 3/4 cube of fish stock
- spoonful of butter
- 400 ml of milk 
- salt and pepper to taste
- 100 grams grated Emmental cheese
- handful of breadcrumbs
- dill

How to:
Grease a large ovenproof dish and scatter the leeks/mushrooms, the sea fruit and the fish in it. Scatter the chopped dill over all of this.
Now cover the dish with the cheese and the bread crumbs.
Make a light béchamel sauce with the butter, a little flour, milk, and the fish stock. Make it not too thick. It should be much more liquid than solid.
Pour the sauce over the rest of the ingredients. 

Put the dish in a 250°C oven and let it all bake for 30-45 minutes.

* You don't really need to prefry the leeks or mushrooms, but for some people the strong taste of leeks is better baked off. The only thing you need to make sure is that they are covered by the sauce while baking in the oven. They'll get tender there too.

Serve this with mashed potato or a carrot-potato mash. 


zondag 9 september 2012

Vegetarian enchiladas

I came home today after babysitting and the weather - 27°C in the shade - made me change the plans for tonight. Instead of the minced meat ready in the fridge, I took out minced quorn and I made vegetarian enchiladas. The minced meat is for a chillier day, today we want exotic food! 

I've made enchiladas before and posted them on the website too, but these are different: they're veggie in disguise and they're filled with a chili con carne sauce. It's the first time I've tried to make something with minced quorn, so it's a risk. I hoped the quorn wouldn't be too dry. To make sure, I made extra tomato-pepper sauce so that it would compensate a little.

Ingredients for 4:
- 6 tortillas
- 1 can (200 grams) sweet corn
- 1 can (300 grams) kidney beans
- 1 small can (150 grams) white beans in tomato sauce
- 150 grams minced quorn
- 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
- pepper and salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon of oregano
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- olive oil
- tomato-pepper sauce (as in the enchilada recipe some time ago)
- 200 grams of cheddar: half for in the enchiladas, half for topping them

How to:
Make the tomato-pepper sauce first. Set aside.
Fry the chopped onion and the peppers in the olive oil. Add the quorn and the garlic to this and a little of the tomato sauce so that it gets some liquid. Stir from time to time until the peppers are tender. Spice the mixture with cumin, pepper, salt and oregano. 

Add the beans and the corn and stir quickly. Make sure the beans don't get crushed.
Set aside.
Take the tortillas and after making a small layer of cheese, spoon the chili mixture over 4 of them. 

Cut the remaining 2 in half and put each half on one of the other (filled) tortillas. Now flip the sides of the lower tortilla so that you have a large roll.
Put the rolls (open side down) in a greased oven tray. 
Cover the rolls with the sauce so that nothing remains uncovered. Scatter the rest of the cheese on top of them.
Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour at 200°C. The cheese should've gotten golden brown in colour and the excess liquid from the sauce should have evaporated.

the enchilada served with some left-over corn, tomatoes
and cilantro for extra veggies

The verdict? My sister liked it very much, she said she wouldn't have known it was meatless if I hadn't told her. The taste is good. The quorn is slightly dry, but that's also the case with 100% pure beef mince (because it lacks the fat), so if you're not used to the juicy pork mince you'll be just fine! :D

Buon apetito!

donderdag 6 september 2012

Indian style dinner with everyday dal

I'm working nowadays. Just for the Summer, like most students, to earn a little more (pocket) money. I do reception work at my mum's work. She works nights for an institution that takes care of mentally disabled adults. 
My work is quite varied: answering incoming and outgoing calls, typing and posting letters, doing some administration, openening gates, ... I like it quite a lot. It's not boring and I come across people all the time so that I 'm never lonely, even though I have to spend the hours in a fish bowl-like office ^^

As I have very irregular hours, I mostly don't eat dinner with the rest of the family. I have to cook my own stews. That might seem lonely, but that's also good for trying out something new.

Today it's Veggie Day for me. And what cuisine is known for it's splendid vegetarian kitchen so much as the Indian? I browsed through the recipes and found this gharki dal recipe. 

It's a lentil stew with lots of spices and can be served as a hearty side dish or even as a full meal with basmati rice. (the author calls it 'everyday lentils', but for me it's much more)
It looks quite boring because it's a porridge-like dish, but the taste is quite unlike it!

As you see, the dal really needs a lot of different aromas - 11 - but they're essential to the end result which is delicious!
The tomatoes I've added to the recipe weren't there originally, but to me they add some more colour and I'm also a fan of having as much vegetables (with all their vitamins) in my food. But if you want to leave them out, that's also no problem because the dal is great in itself.

Ingredients for 1:
- 55 grams red lentils
- 250 ml water
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 ground turmeric
- 1/5 teaspoon nigella seeds
- 1/5 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/5 teaspooncumin seeds
- 1/5 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/5 teaspoon fenugreek leaves
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/5 teaspoon hot chilli powder
- 5 cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of chopped up fresh cilantro

How to:
Put the lentils, the tomatoes you've cut in four and the water with the salt, turmeric and ginger on the fire. Let the lentils simmer on medium heat for about 25 minutes until they're tender. 

Crush all the other spices - apart from the cilantro - and the garlic until the aromas come off. Add them to the lentils on the fire. Stir regularly while the dal simmers for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Now cook the rice according to the instructions on the package. 
Serve the dal with the rice and the fresh cilantro.

Watch out with the chilli powder if you are not a fan of real hot food! I like it very much, but you might be surprised by the heat of just the pinch you put inside ... 


zaterdag 1 september 2012

Roquefort, chicory and Italian ham quiche

Quiche wasn't my first love. It took many, many years for me to like the taste of eggs, (bacon) and cheese in combination with the pastry. I don't know why this was. I think it might be because of a bad memory to this combination of tastes which I kept on recalling whenever the aroma came to me, or just an unhappy coincidence. 

Anyway, I recovered from this strange ailment and started really liking all sorts of quiches ... on a few conditions. I have to say I'm still a little picky: I dislike puff pastry, so any quiche made with it doesn't get my full consent, and no bacon for me (I substitute it with all sorts of ham: Serrano, Ganda, cooked, ...).
The thing is that a quiche, to be good for me, should contain at least some vegetables too. I'm totally hooked to greens, from fruits through all sorts of vegetables. A day without them isn't a good one!

This one I'm making combines the sharp and salty taste of the cheese and ham with the bitter chicory and the mild cheese and eggs. And the rest of my veggies come alongside it to make it all the better ^^

Ingredients for 3-4:
- 1 roll of pastry (pick any kind you like, it's up to you whether it's more puffy or crumbly in texture)
- 3 chicories
- 100 grams roquefort
- 3 eggs
- 150 ml milk
- 100 grams Italian ham
- black pepper to taste
- handful of cut up chives
- extra cheese if you want

How to:
Steam or fry the chicory until ready. Make sure it's as dry as possible. When baking, the fluid in the chicory will come out and make the whole quiche wet so that it won't set. If needed, squeeze the excess liquid out.
Unroll the pastry (or make you own pastry) and put it in a with non-stick paper lined round baking tin. Make little holes in the pastry with a fork.
Slice the chicory and the ham, break the roquefort into small pieces and scatter all of these onto the pastry. 

Beat 2 eggs and the white of the third a little, pour in the milk and mix. Grind some black pepper into this mixture and mix in the chives. Don't add any salt because the cheese and the ham are more than salty enough.
Pour the milk-egg mixture onto the rest of the ingredients of the quiche.
If you like extra cheese, you can top this quiche with gruyère, emmental or another cheese you like.
Brush the pastry with the egg yolk that remained. 
Bake in a preheated oven of 180°C until the substance has set and gotten a golden brown colour. Also put on the heat on the underside of the oven so that the pastry gets baked.

I serve this with a salad which I've pimped with some fried bacon (for mum and dad) and some apple (for me).

Ingredients for the potato-bacon salad (for 2-3):
- 100 grams salty bacon pieces
- 6 small potatoes
- black pepper
- some rosemary
- tablespoon of raisins
- lettuce
- cucumber, tomato, ... or any vegetable you like
- 2 eggs
- handful of pinenuts
- neutral oil for frying

How to:
Soak the raisins in a little water.
Heat a skillet with a little bit of oil. Put in the bitezsize-cut potatoes, the bacon pieces, ground black pepper to taste and the rosemary. 
Fry gently on medium heat so that the potatoes are ready in the end but the bacon hasn't blackened. 
Brown the pine nuts by putting them on a fire shortly while stirring continuously. They start giving off a fantastic aroma once they've browned enough. 
Boil the eggs 10 minutes and peel the shell off. Cut them in quarters.
Cut the vegetables and dress them onto the plates.
Drain the raisins, scatter them over the vegetables. Put the potato-bacon mix and the pine nuts onto the salad and serve the boiled egg alongside it.

Nothing remained of both the quiche and the salad!

Bon appétit!

donderdag 30 augustus 2012

Vol-au-vent with chips, all homemade!

This is a classic dish. Very few restaurants don't serve this and I don't know anyone who doesn't like the taste.

When we were a lot smaller and I didn't cook yet, we never had this homemade. we always bought it in the shop, in these vacuum-sealed packages out of the freezer. The substance was thick and jelly-like. We liked it just because we didn't know anything else. 
It was only about 8 years ago, when I first took the challenge to prepare it all by myself, that I wondered why we never did that before ... 
Since that day, I always prepared it and I haven't heard any complaint. Haha!

This is a little more elaborate, but when you're having vacation, you don't really mind about having a little more to do in the kitchen. Besides, my sister has to be spoiled as she has to get through resits this month. 

Ingredients for 4:
- 4-6 chicken drumsticks
- 400 grams minced chicken
- 1 egg
- breadcrumbs
- pepper and salt to taste
- 2 litres of water
- carrots, leek, celery for the stock 
- bouquet garni (bay leaves/thyme/rosemary)
- spoonful of pepper corns
- 250 grams mushrooms, sliced (optional)
- butter
- flour
- 100 ml milk
- parsley for serving

Along with chips (homemade) and puff pastry cups.

How to:
Cut the carrots, leeks and celery in large chunks. Add them to the water, the bouquet garni and the pepper corns. Put on the fire. Once the water has come to a boil, put the chicken in. Let it all simmer on medium heat for at least 45 minutes or until the meat comes easily off the bones.

Take the chicken out but don't pour away the stock, you'll be needing it later on. When they've cooled down enough, you can tear off the meat (throw away the bones, but I tend to make our dog really happy with the skins of the chicken when making this!).

Mix the egg, salt, pepper and enough breadcrumbs to get an easy to handle mixture, to the minced chicken. Make small balls with this. The smaller they are, the longer it takes to roll them, but the result will be tastier looking.
Boil the meatballs in the chicken stock. Once they come to float, they're ready. Take them out of the stock and keep aside.
Now make the sauce: Melt a spoonful of butter in another pot and add the same amount of flour to it. Stir continuously as this mixture easily sticks. Now pour in the milk. keep stirring quickly, béchamel sauce binds very quickly!
Pour in a ladle of the chicken stock (only the liquid, no chunks) in the pot. Stir again. When the sauce begins to thicken, add some more stock. You should have about half to 3/4 of a litre of sauce in the end (approximately, no scientifically proven measurement!).

Now you can spice up the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
You can add the sliced mushrooms, the meatballs and chicken meat also. Stir carefully and set aside. This is much better prepared a few hours in advance, the taste gets much better.

What with the left over stock? Don't throw it away yet! It's really good for soup. I made tomato soup with it for example:

To serve, you bake off the puff pastry cups and fill them with the sauce. Decorate with a little cut up parsley.

Make homemade chips and a salad, and you're ready to dig in!


dinsdag 28 augustus 2012

Apple pancakes, Ijeoma style

This afternoon I'm away 'till after dinner. So if I wanted some warm food at home, I had to take care of it by myself. For some reason, I had a huge craving for pancakes*. 

* In Belgium, we usually mean crêpes when we say pancakes. 
They are thin, larger and less fluffy than the American ones.

It was lunchtime, and I started baking, and I shared the dough that I made for at least 8 pancakes with my mum and grandmother (who came in at just the right time ^^).

As there were these good apples, I made apple pancakes. And I added some cinnamon powder to the dough to match the flavour of the apple. 

Ingredients for 8 large apple pancakes:
- 200 grams flour
- 500 ml milk
- pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 2 or 3 large apples
- butter
- icing sugar
- blueberry jam

How to:
Make the dough for the pancakes by putting the flour and the salt in a bowl. Mix these well.
Then add half of the milk and an egg. Stir carefully so that all the flour gets wet. This makes lumbs less likely. 
Add the rest of the milk and the second egg. Keep stirring until the dough is as smooth as possible. 
Mix the cinnamon powder to the dough.
Peel the apples and slice them thinly. 
Heat a low-rimmed skillet and add some butter to it.
Bake the sliced apple pieces (enough for one pancake, not all of them at once!) until just tender.

Pour the pancake dough onto the apples in the skillet. Now you should wait until the downside has browned and dried enough before you turn the pancake upside down.

When the pancake is ready, put it on a plate and serve with dollops of blueberry jam and lots of icing sugar.

This is such an easy thing to make, and even though it costs next to nothing to prepare it, it can compete with any pastry!