Thursday, 11 October 2012

Spicy Creamy Pumpkin Soup

To new beginnings, be that the start of a new day, the crisp arrival of a new season, the first breath of a new life, the first footstep on an unexplored path...

To the knowledge and acceptance that life is ever moving, ever changing, taking you by the hand and leading you blindly...

And to old trusted recipes, changing and adapting to the seasons as well as to our desires and needs.
While pumpkin soup is an old trusted favorite, it's slightly different every time... The pumpkin may be slightly sweeter, there may be an extra carrot or two, or perhaps a leek in need of use, threatening to succumb to a slow, slimy ending at the bottom of the fridge...

Todays pumpkin soup, however, was a deep rich yellow. Sweet, spicy and creamy. The perfect way to compliment such a sunny and refreshing autumn day. Curled up on the couch in the last dwindling rays of sunlight, this batch of pumpkin soup really hit the spot.

You can garnish it with crispy buttery croutons or some coriander, parsley or spring onions.

I only had a bunch of parsley in the fridge, so I chopped up a sprig of that and added a good squeeze of lemon juice. Lemon juice gives this sweet, rich soup a bit of a zing and really sets the off the flavors.

Alternatively, you could add an extra spoonful of yoghurt.

Spicy Creamy Pumpkin Soup:


2 medium butternut squash (a type of pumpkin pictured above... I find these pumpkins very sweet, which gives a great flavor to the soup)
3 medium carrots
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 leek, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 piece of ginger about the size of two thumbs
1300ml vegetable stock
1 can of coconut milk
3 tablespoons of yoghurt

Chop the butternut squash and the carrots and put them in a bowl to use later.
I never peel my pumpkins and carrots because it takes too much time and the skins cook well and taste fine.
I wash them well, however, giving them a good scrub under the tap.

Put a large saucepan over medium-high heat and put in the spices. (curry, chili, cumin and pepper)
Heat them for a minute or two, until they start smelling lovely and fragrant. Be careful not to burn them!

Add the olive oil, chopped leek and minced garlic cloves and stir them together with the spices.
Stir frequently in order to prevent the mix from burning.
When the leek softens (should take about 5 minutes) add the ginger, carrots and pumpkin.

Stir for a few minutes to ensure that the pumpkin and carrots are well mixed with the leeks and spices.

Add the vegetable stock and put the heat on high to bring the soup to the boil. Once the soup is boiling, turn the heat down low and simmer for about 40-45 minutes or until the pumpkin and carrot pieces are soft enough to be blended with a stick blender.
(The larger the vegetable chunks, the longer they will have to boil for)

When the vegetables are soft and cooked, puree them with a stick blender (or food processor, or normal blender. I find stick blenders to be easier here because you don't have to transfer the hot soup, it can just stay in the pan!)

Once the soup is blended, add the coconut milk and yoghurt and give it one more whiz with the blender to ensure everything is thoroughly mixed.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice, some chopped coriander or parsley (or both) and enjoy!!!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Lemon Vanilla Pancakes

When the morning wakes you up with howls of lashing wind and rain... and upon opening the curtains the only thing you can see is a relentless expanse of rushing grey... It's a wonderful thing to know that you have no obligations and can therefore stay huddled indoors, safe from the world outside.

And what better to eat on a cozy relaxing day off (especially when it's miserable outside) than a batch of hot fluffy pancakes, drizzled with some kind of delectable sweet syrup?

Warm, sweet, buttery... Pancakes are my favorite comfort food.

And I love playing around with what I put in my pancakes. My standard pancake recipe usually involves a banana blended into the pancake mix. That way all of the pancakes are a bit sweeter and moister than usual. Also I tend to go more for the flat, thin, crepe-style pancakes.

However, I have recently been inspired by the other food blogs I've been reading, most of which are written by Americans. They have smaller, fluffier pancakes, which are also quite delicious.
(For my readers in NZ, American pancakes are more like large pikelets.)

So I decided to whip up a batch and see how they turned out. This is actually a recipe I made last week when my camera wasn't working, and it was so yummy I had to make it again to share with all of you.

Lemon Vanilla Pancakes (American Style)

1 cup self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup yoghurt
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla essence

The way I mix all of the ingredients is very easy: Dump them all in a mixing bowl and blend them with my trusty stick blender. An electric whisk would be great too.
It saves heaps of time mixing by hand and trying to get the lumps out!

Another tip which I highly recommend: Once your pancake batter is mixed, let it stand for about 30 minutes! I am usually WAY too impatient to wait, and just get cooking as soon as the batter is mixed. But because this mix has quite a substantial amount of baking powder, that extra half hour gives it the chance to become properly active, and results in beautifully light and fluffy pancakes.

Heat a frying pan (preferably some kind of non-stick variety... They just make life a bit easier) over medium heat and add a small knob of butter. When the butter is melted and golden and bubbling, you're ready for your first pancake.

Make them as big as you like. I personally prefer them not too big, so I have a large dishing up spoon handy. One spoonful of batter = one pancake. My pan is big enough to cook two small pancakes at the same time.

When the pancakes are getting lovely and bubbly on the top, they're ready to be flipped. That side should be a lovely deep golden brown.

Repeat until the batter is finished.

Serve with a drizzle of warm honey and lemon juice, or whatever else takes your fancy!

One serving suggestion which is sinfully delicious is the following:

Each pancake that you've made and put onto the plate, put a small knob of butter and a small teaspoon of honey on top. Put the next pancake on top of that one (the heat will melt the butter and honey) and add a dollop of butter and honey to the top of that one too, and so on and so forth.
So you end up with a bit of melted butter and honey between each pancake..... It's truly heavenly (but I wouldn't do it too often.)

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Baked Apples with Whipped Coconut Cream

I have made an exciting new discovery.

Whipped. Coconut. Cream.

Yes, that's right.

It is extremely delicious, lighter on the digestive system than normal whipped cream (at least, that's how it feels for my rather sensitive tummy) and full of healthy fats.

Bring on the healthy fats, I say!

Here is what you do:

Grab a can of coconut cream/milk and pop it in the fridge over night.
Do make sure that it doesn't have any additives (e-numbers and stabilizers etc). Not only is that better for your health in general, but the coconut milk doesn't separate the way it should for this recipe.

I personally use this brand:

The only ingredients are coconut solids (70 percent, so it's amazingly creamy and sweet) and water.

Once it's been in the fridge for at least 24 hours, open the can up and scoop off the top layer.
(A harder, thicker top layer should have formed: that's the fatty and creamy part)
Put that into a bowl and whip it up just as would with whipped cream.
Pour the runny coconut water left in the can and save it for later. It's yum. You can add it to smoothies, or drink it by itself. It's quite light, since all of the coconut solids have separated into the top layer.

For the whipping: the easiest way is to do it with an electric beater (which I am unfortunately currently not in possession of) but with a hand whisk also works fine, it just takes a bit longer.

I added a dash of vanilla essence, which added an extra warm, "desserty" flavour, but the whipped coconut cream is delicious by itself.

Baked Apples:

Quick note... I got a bit too enthusiastic when taking the apple cores out, and scooped out more apple flesh than I probably should have (in order to stuff more of the yummy filling inside. I thought: The more filling, the better. This is not true!)

Too much flesh scooped out results in a weakening of the structural integrity of the apple... Which ends in collapse! My apples, while tasting superb, split and collapsed and didn't look too pretty.

Also the ratio of apple to filling was a bit off... My initial thought "the more filling the better" was also not quite true. The filling on top was lovely and crispy and caramelized. However, the stuff in the middle which had not been directly exposed to the heat of the oven, was a bit too much of a good thing.

Solution? Don't take out as much of the inside of the apple. Take out JUST the core, and slice the top centimetre off the apple so that more of the filling is sitting on top, ready to be caramelized.

I have also adjusted the amount of apples in the recipe from original three I used to five, to accomodate the filling.


5 firm tart apples (granny smith for example)

50g walnuts, chopped
Large handful of raisins, chopped (sorry, I forgot to measure how many raisins I put in! But it was approximately one handful)
2 tbsp dark sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp rolled oats
Grated rind of half a lemon
Grated rind of half an orange
Juice of half an orange
1 tsp cinnamon
Dash of vanilla essence

If you have other spices handy such as cloves or allspice, add them! A dash of brandy would be delicious too I think...

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Mix all of the ingredients together (not the apples) and set aside. This is the filling.

Cut only the core out of each apple, leaving the rest of the apple intact, then slice about 1 cm off the top.

Fill the apples with the filling mix: Don't be afraid if most if it is sitting on top of the apple, on the flat bit that was sliced off. This gets crispy and caramelized (delicious).

Put the apples on a baking tray and then into the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the apples are soft and the topping is golden brown and crunchy.

Serve with a dollop of whipped coconut cream.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Pan Fried Brussel Sprouts with Roasted Chicken

Autumn is definitely here... The air has a crisp edge, the leaves are crinkly and golden and there's nothing like curling up with a cup of hot chocolate in the evening, looking out at the darkening skies.

Today at the supermarket I was greeted by sight of all of autumnal fruit and vegetables... Chicory (witlof), pumpkin, beetroot, carrots, pears, apples, brussel sprouts... And all cheap as chips precisely because of the fact they are in season.

Pumpkin is a personal favourite of mine. I love it. Pumpkin soup, roast pumpkin, worked into a sweet treat, or any number of ways. Delicious.

However, tonight's dinner wasn't about pumpkin. An often detested vegetable (if you believe the stories...) will be the feature of this evening's meal. Brussel sprouts are, I have to admit, not something that I buy often, simply for the reason that I never quite know what to do with them.
But at 69 cents a bag, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

Another feature of dinner was: Roasted chicken thighs with sage, rosemary, thyme and garlic.
Now, I have recently revoked a long period of vegetarianism. Some may be surprised. Hopefully none of you will be offended...
(I can assure you, I buy exclusively free range, organic meat)
So maybe you could imagine how proud I was when that chicken came out of the oven, and it was roasted to PERFECTION. The skin was crispy and golden brown (and oh-so tasty) and the meat inside was so tender and juicy it very nearly melted in my mouth.

And this whole delectable dinner is dedicated to my brother Ties, who is going to graduate in a few hours from now... Massive congratulations to him!!!!
(Tiesy, I ate a few extra brussel sprouts in your honour)

And now for the recipes (and photos)...

Pan Fried Brussel Sprouts:


Brussel sprouts (as many as you like)
Olive oil for frying (I also added a dash of macadamia oil... That gave a slightly sweeter, nutty taste)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
A sprinkle of cajun pepper (I found that to be quite tasty, but don't add that if you're not too keen on spicy food)

Heat the oil in a frying pan on a high heat. The pan should be really hot.

Add the brussel sprouts, salt and pepper and fry for 3-4 minutes each side. It's not a bad thing if they get a bit dark or burnt in some places.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Rosemary, Sage and Thyme

Serves 2


2 free range chicken thighs
One sprig of rosemary, sage and thyme
One clove of garlic
A few tablespoons of olive oil
Sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (celsius).

Finely chop the herbs and put them in a small bowl. If you happen to own a mortar and pestle, that's even better.

Add the olive oil and crushed garlic to the herbs, and mix well with a spoon, pressing the herbs firmly. A mortar and pestle would be great here, then you can really infuse the oil with the flavours of the herbs and garlic.

Rub the oil/herb mixture into the chicken, covering each piece generously.

Place on a baking tray and season with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Put the chicken in the oven. After 30 minutes at 200 degrees, turn the heat down to 175 and leave it in for another 20-30 minutes, until the juices run clear.


Veggie Lasagne with Spinach-Feta Pancakes

As I looked in the fridge this morning, I realised that I still have copious amounts of vegetables left from my tuesday trip to the supermarket.

My 30 euro a week budget is apparently enough to last me a week and a half at least. Which is great.
I've gotten rather used to doing shopping with B, spending 30 euros each (60 euros in total) and then having to scrape the bottom of the barrel at the end of the week because the food is almost finished... (he eats considerably more than me, which is fine of course, but I was surprised to see that how much less than him I actually eat: I'd barely made my way through half of what I'd bought)

The question was: what to do with all of the fresh veges that I won't be able to eat all by myself? And I still have a whole container full of yummy mango chicken curry in the fridge from the other day that mustn't go to waste!

I would usually make some kind of vegetable lasagne... That's a great way to use a lot of vegetables and make a delicious, filling meal that will last a few days in the fridge.

However, it soon became apparent that the cupboards were bare of lasagne.
Wanting to stick to my budget and not go out and buy extra ingredients that a recipe or dish may call for, I decided to get creative.

The idea of replacing the lasagne with pancakes popped into my head as I remembered something a colleague had mentioned about his mum's famous savoury "Pancake Cake"...

And suddenly I was bursting with ideas. Not only of how I could spice up the pancake mix, but of all the different layers I could make with what I had in the fridge!

Here were the layers I dreamed up:

-Mushrooms sauteed in a large knob of melted butter with a branch of fresh thyme and seasoned with salt and pepper. (Mushrooms are amazing... and even more so when sauteed with LOTS of butter.... mmmm)

- Thick slices of courgettes, grilled in a very hot frying pan with olive oil

- Slices of boiled beets

- A thick, sweet carrot-tomato sauce, with onions and garlic

- A few crumbled pieces of feta and mozzarella dotted around the place

Topped off with a few slices of mozzarella to give the while dish that crispy, cheesy, top layer.

And the pancakes: basic pancake mix with a bit of salt, a few italian herbs, a generous handful of spinach leaves, and a handful of feta cheese.


Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries just as it came out of the oven, so you''ll just have to imagine how colourful and tasty it looked with all of the different layers.

A perfect autumn meal.

Be warned though: It was very time consuming and labour intensive...

Veggie Lasagne With Spinach-Feta Pancakes
Serves 4 

For the pancakes:

1 egg
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of yoghurt
1/2 cup of milk (you can add more if you find the mix is too thick)
A big handful of spinach
100g of feta
Salt and pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and blend with a stick blender until the mix has a smooth consistency, not too runny but not too thick either.

For making the pancakes it's handy to use a frying pan that is roughly the same size as the oven dish you want to use later on (so that the pancakes aren't too small). Alternatively, you could use several smaller pancakes to create the "lasagne" layer... It all depends on what kind of "equipment" you have at home!

Make the pancakes and set them aside for the moment.

For the beetroot layer:

Boil 2 beetroots for about 40 minutes, until they are cooked through.

Drain and let them cool down.

Once they've cooled down, you should be able to rub the skins off easily with your hands.

Cut them into slices and set aside for later.

For the carrot sauce layer:

2 medium carrots (finely grated - this is a great arm workout!)
2 medium tomatoes (diced)
1 onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 small can of tomato paste (30g)

Saute the onions and garlic in a large frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil until soft and glossy. Add the tomatoes. When the tomatoes are soft and mushy, add the carrots and the tomato paste and a wee bit of water (half a glass or so) and simmer with the lid on, stirring occasionally.

And don't forget to add a bit of salt! (Not too much)

When the mix looks like this (the carrots should be very soft) take it off the heat and set it aside till later.

For the mushroom layer:

A punnet of mushrooms (250g roughly) - sliced
A large knob of butter
A sprig of fresh thyme
Sea salt

One thing is for sure: You can't have too much butter here. Mushrooms fried in butter are sinfully delectable! So don't go easy on the butter.

Melt the butter in a pan, and when golden and bubbling, add the mushrooms, thyme and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Cook until the mushrooms are soft and moist. Set aside for later.

For the courgette layer:

The final layer!! And it's an easy one.

Cut one courgette lengthwise into thick slabs.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, and make sure it's good and hot.

Add the courgette slices (beware, they will sizzle quite viciously) and turn them once that side is dark and slightly charred in some spots.

When they are cooked on both sides, set them on a plate and you're ready to start layering!

So, before we get started on making the layers, preheat the oven to 175 degrees celsius.

Grease a medium sized oven proof dish.

And now you can start layering the various vegetables with the pancakes, just as you would with a lasagne.

There is enough carrot sauce for two layers, and I made sure to top the whole thing off with a layer of the carrot sauce which I then sprinkled with mozzarella so you still get the crunchy cheesy topping which is always so yummy on a lasagne.

Also, I dotted a bit of crumbled feta throughout the whole thing.

When that's ready, pop it into the oven for 45-50 minutes or until the top is melted and a deep golden brown.

And enjoy!

Side note on the spinach pancakes: They taste so good by themselves, they would be amazing as some kind of wrap or tortilla alternative....

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Green Smoothie with Goat's Yoghurt

Yes, I have a day off work... And I've only left the warm comfort of my bed (despite it already being 3:15 in the afternoon) in order to grab something to eat... Which I thought was worth mentioning...

My absolute favorite way to start the day is with a green smoothie.

And seeing as I recently made a batch of goat's yoghurt (which has a slightly stronger and more earthy taste than regular cow's yoghurt) I've been adding that to my morning smoothie, and it's great!

Here is the breakfast I've been feasting on every morning for the last few days:

Smoothies are great because you can basically use anything you have left in the fridge or fruitbowl.

(within reason obviously)

In terms of greens, I personally love spinach so I always have a big bag of that handy. But any leafy green is fine in a smoothie: Lettuce, chard, beet greens etc. Some are a bit more spicy or tangy than others.

With fruit: Anything goes. I personally tend to veer away from melons in smoothies, I'm not quite sure why... Maybe because they're just so delicious by themselves.

Green Smoothie with Goat's Yoghurt

1 large serving


1 ripe banana

1 large handful of spinach

A few spoons of yoghurt (any kind will do, but goat's yoghurt gives it a little something extra)

A bit of fruit juice, maybe half a glass, depending on how sweet and/or runny you want the smoothie to be (I usually use water, but there happened to be a carton of mango juice in the fridge)

I also added a small spoon of hemp protein

Put all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend on high for 1 or 2 minutes, until the texture is smooth and silky and there are no green lumps left!

Side note: The more liquid (juice/water) you add, the lighter and thinner it will become. If I want a really substantial, filling smoothie, I tend to use less liquid.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

First post: Sweet Potato and Carrot Puree with Spiced Caramelized Cauliflower

Right, I'm going to get straight down to business...

Food blogs have become the part-time focus of my somewhat "aimless" state of being at the present time. I have spent many an hour looking at mouth watering photos of D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S food, and reading some delightfully well written (and sometimes quirky) anecdotes on food and life in general.

And, of course, I have spent a decent amount of time in the kitchen myself, whipping up some seriously yummy recipes which I sourced from my hours of rummaging around the world wide food network.
(I think I'm subscribed to about 20 or 30 blogs at the moment, and the list is growing... So I now also get "bites" of inspiration delivered to my inbox on a daily basis!)

To cut to the chase: I thought it might be fun to start my own blog! Having looked at some truly beautiful blogs, I came to realize that they combine three of the things I've always enjoyed: food, writing and photography.

Why not give it a whirl and start one myself, right??

So a few nights ago, having done my grocery shopping for the week (with my new budget of 30 euros per week) I came home with a cart full of fresh fruit and veg plus a few other goodies...

I was SO excited about the stuff I'd bought (shopping on a tight budget forces you to get quite creative if you want to be able to buy enough food to really last the whole week) and immediately rolled my sleeves up and got busy in the kitchen.

My latest food "phase" at the moment has been partially influenced by the "paleo" diet that Ties is trying out.

For those of you who don't know what the Paleo diet is, very briefly: The belief that grains and harvested crops including beans and corn are not particularly good for you (as well as the obvious sugary, fatty, high processed foods, but that's a no-brainer) for various reasons.

While I am not eating a strictly grain free diet, I am trying to cut down on my wheat and sugar consumption, and eat a lot more vegetables in general. Also... I've started eating meat again! Not a whole lot, and I make sure that it's organic and free range.

So that has definitely influenced the current contents of my fridge and the fact I am doing a lot more cooking in general (I'm not taking sandwiches to work)!

I set about making a sweet potato and carrot puree, accompanied by roasted caramelized cauliflower florets, with a green salad and half a smoked herring.

It was YUM.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Puree:

Enough for 2-3 servings


2 medium sized carrots
2 small sweet potatoes
a knob of butter         

Peel and chop the carrots and sweet potatoes and put them in a pan. Cover them with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until soft.
Drain, then add the butter (and a wee bit of salt and pepper) and puree with a stick blender. 

The sprig of rosemary added a lovely fragrance to the puree.... Maybe next time I'll boil the rosemary with the vegetables (taking it out before mashing), and maybe add a clove of garlic too...? Hmmm....

Spicy Caramelized Cauliflower

But modified it a bit because I didn't have all of the spices listed in the original recipe. Plus I only used half a head of cauliflower.


1/2 a head of cauliflower
2 generous teaspoons of butter (melted)
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
a pinch of salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees.

Chop the cauliflower into smallish florets.

Mix the spices and sugar into the melted butter.

Put the cauliflower into a bowl and toss with the melted butter mixture until everything is well coated.

Pop the cauliflower onto a baking tray and into the oven.
I left it in there for about 20 minutes, until the sticky-outy bits were dark golden brown and crispy.

One word: Yum.

The green salad was very simple: Just chop up a spring onion, some spinach and a tomato and toss them all together. I served the salad with a drizzle of (homemade) goat's yoghurt and fresh thyme.

So that was my dinner on tuesday night!

And it fed me for three meals: It was yesterday's lunch AND dinner.

Okay... And now....


I'm going to publish my very FIRST blog post!

The first of many, I hope...