Tag Archive for Dried fruit

Pilau rice

This dish has a nice balance between sweet and savoury, spicy and creamy. It is a delicious accompaniment to spiced chicken. You could also add some orange or lemon peel to give it an even more Arabic vibe. Use dried apricots and almonds instead of sultanas and pine nuts as a variation.

Pilau rice (serves 4)
Adapted from The Conran Cookbook

50 g butter
2 onions, very thinly sliced
225 g basmati rice
4 cloves
8 cardamom pods, smashed
5 cm piece of cinnamon stick, broken in 2
2 bay leaves
1 chicken stock cube
50 g sultanas (light raisins)
150 ml milk
300 ml water
30 g pine nuts

Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, sauté on low heat until the onions are soft, golden and translucent. Add the rice, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the rice becomes translucent. Add the bay leaves, chicken stock cube (crumbled), sultanas, milk, water and stir to mix. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Add a little more water if necessary. Meanwhile, roast the pine nuts in a dry skillet. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the rice to serve.

Summer couscous salad

Greek salad is a bit of a problem for me. I do like the idea, but I always find it tasting a bit raw and harsh (because of the raw paprika) and it tends to get very wet and soggy from the vegetables, draining away all the flavour of a dressing. Luckily, I found the solution: I made it into a couscous salad, roasted the paprika to make it a bit more mellow, and threw in some other ingredients that I like (roast courgette, almonds and dried apricots, some lettuce from my garden) to make it into a complete meal. Leftovers would be great for lunch the next day.

Summer Couscous

Summer couscous salad (serves 1 generously)

40 g couscous

1/2 courgette
1 red paprika
1 clove garlic
1/2 tbsp olive oil
few sprigs of oregano

2 tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
a few leaves of lettuce
50 g olives
75 g feta
30 g almonds, roasted
30 g apricots, sliced

Preheat the grill as high as it gets.
Cook the couscous according to the instructions on the packet (it varies between brands). I like to cook it in bouillon instead of water to give it more flavour.
Quarter the red paprika and discard the seeds. Place in a baking tin skin side up and place under the grill, meanwhile slice the courgette and grill the slices in a hot skillet. When the skin of the paprika is black, it is ready. Cover the baking tin with tinfoil and set aside to cool until manageable. Then peel of the skin. Slice in bite-sized strips. (for me, this is the easiest way to grill paprika). Crush the garlic, chop the oregano coarsely and place in a bowl together with the olive oil. Dump the paprika and the grilled courgette into the flavoured oil. Add the couscous and mix. Slice the tomato and cucumber in cubes and mix with the couscous-grilled vegetables mixture. Serve with the lettuce, feta, olives, almonds and apricots. Alternatively, serve the couscous-mix with the feta, olives, almonds and apricots mixed through, on a bed of lettuce.

Breakfast bars

I don’t find these bars filling enough for breakfast, but they are great as a delicious snack. They are not too sweet and have lots of flavour, and with all the grains and seeds they are healthy too. As a variation you could use other dried fruits, nuts or seeds, and I think that adding a little spice (vanilla, cinnamon, chai) would be delicious as well. They stay fresh for about 5 days in an airtight container, and they freeze well too.

Breakfast Bars

Breakfast bars (12 bars)
Slightly adapted from ‘Glutenvrij koken – Lyndel Costain en Joanna Farrow’

100 g soft butter
25 g raw cane sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
125 g millet flakes
50 g quinoa
50 g dried cranberry’s
75 g raisins
25 g sunflower seeds
25 g sesame seeds
25 g linseed
40 g dessicated coconut (unsweetened)
2 eggs

Line a 20×20 cm baking tin. Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cream butter, sugar and golden syrup. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Scoop in the baking tin, level out and press down well with a spoon. Place in the preheated oven and bake in about 35 minutes golden brown.
Leave to cool completely in the tin. Then take out and cut into 12 bars, using a sharp knife. Store airtight.

Cooked oats

A delicious and filling breakfast dish that doesn’t take much time to prepare. The recipe can be jazzed up further by adding fruit, for example berries, peaches, banana or stewed apples. I use semi-skimmed milk, but it will also work with full fat milk, or milk substitutes like soy, rice, almond or coconut.


Cooked oats (serves 1)

150 ml milk
2.5 tbsp rolled oats
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp flax seed
35 gram mixed nuts and dried fruits
1/2 tbsp sugar or honey (adjust this amount to your own taste)
optional: vanilla extract and/or cinnamon; honey or maple syrup

Bring the milk to the boil. Add the rolled oats, salt and sugar (vanilla/cinnamon if using), cook until the oats are soft and the porridge has thickened (the time depends on the kind of oats you use). Mix with the flax seed, mixed nuts and dried fruits. Serve warm (cold it will get quite gloopy). Optionally finish with a swirl of honey or maple syrup.

Morish Carrot Muffins

Sweet and spicy middle eastern muffins. Delicious as a snack and perfect for potlucks and picnics.

Morish Carrot Muffins

Morish Carrot Muffins (12 muffins)

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ras el hanout
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce*
grated zest of 1 orange
1/8 cup oil
2 eggs
200 g grated carrot
1/2 cup dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 175C. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin casings.
Whisk sugar, apple sauce, orange zest and oil together. Add the eggs one by one, whisk well in between. Add the dry ingredients, whisk until barely mixed. Add the carrot and abricots, fold in carefully until barely mixed.
Scoop 1/4 cup of batter in each muffin hole. Bake 15-20 minutes in a preheated oven, or until a sateh skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a rack.
These muffins are very moist, so you can store them easily for a few days (airtight).

*To make the apple sauce yourself, peel, core and cube 1 large apple. Place in a small pan, place the lid on top and cook on low heat until soft. Mash with a fork until saucy (although it is not a problem when a few small chunks remain).

– Use a different spice (mix): cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin spice, speculaas spice, garam masala, chai
– Use another fruit puree, for example pear
– Use lemon or lime zest instead of orange. Or leave out and add vanilla instead.
– Use grated courgette instead of the grated carrot
– Use another dried fruit, for example raisins, dates, cranberries; or use a mixture
– Add nuts, for example hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachio’s; together with the dried fruit or as a replacement

Sweet cream cheese dip

Recipe for a light, but still very indulgent dessert, easy to make and with lots of variations possible. I like to use philadelphia light for this, since it tastes just like the full fat variant, but still packs a lot less calories. Other light cream cheeses tend to taste bland, acidic and watery, which doesn’t work in a dessert that should be creamy and indulgent. I like to use brown sugar as sweetener because of the caramelly flavour it gives, but the recipe would work equally well with honey. If you have other delicious ideas for mix-ins and dippers, please leave a comment.

Cream cheese dip (1 person)

3 tbsp light cream cheese
1 tbsp brown sugar
a few drops of vanilla extract
a mix-in (for example a pinch of cinnamon, 20 gram small bits of chocolate (any kind you like), tsp of cocoa powder, few drops coffee extract*, tbsp of chopped nuts (any kind you like), etc)
a dipper (for example thin slices of apple or pear, grapes, biscuits (for example lady fingers), dried fruit, meringues, etc)

Mix the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Stir through the mix-in. Serve immediately together with the dippers.

*you can make coffee extract yourself very easily. Make very strong coffee or espresso, pour it into a sauce pan, place on low heat and leave to evaporate the water slowly. The coffee should not boil, because it makes the coffee bitter. You end up with an almost syruppy liquid, not palatable on its own, but capable of flavouring large amounts. I also use it for flavouring buttercream.

Luxurious baked apples

A simple baked apple is very nice, but sometimes you want something that is a bit more fancy and stylish. Then these luxurious baked apples are perfect!

Luxurious baked apples (4 servings)
From “Thuis in de Franse keuken – Guy Savoy”

4 apples
butter (for greasing the oven dish)
1 tbsp walnuts
1 tbsp hazelnuts
6 dried apricots
3 dried prunes
1 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp brown sugar

Remove the top of the apple, set aside. Remove the core of the apple.
Preheat the oven to 210C. Grease an oven dish in which the apples will fit (straight up next to each other) with the butter.
Chop the nuts and dried fruits and mix together in a bowl. Fill the apples with the mixture and place straight up in the oven dish.
Place the dish 20 minutes in the oven, then sprinkle the filling with sugar. Place the tops of the apples on top and bake for another 20 minutes.
Serve hot.

Variations: you can use any mixture of nuts and dried fruit that you like. You can also add spices like cinnamon, vanilla or even spice mixtures like pumpkin/speculaas spice or chai.

Muesli-nut bread with dried fruits and ricotta

This dish is a perfect pre-workout meal, but also works great as a breakfast or a snack. It is really fast to throw together and is very tasty and satisfying to eat. Just take a slice of muesli-nut bread, toast it if you like, spread it with about a tablespoon of ricotta (or Greek yoghurt), drizzle a little bit of honey over it, sprinkle some dried cranberries (or other dried berries) on top and layer with one dried date, one dried prune and one dried apricot (I like the variation, but you can also use one of the three). I only use a few pieces of dried fruit because they are very rich in sugar. Together it contains enough carbs, fibers and protein to fuel your body for quite some time!

Muesli-nut bread with ricotta and dried fruit

Pain au raisins

After my last unsuccessful attempt, I still did not succeed in making the perfect laminated dough for croissants, pain au chocolat and pain au raisins. But for the pain au raisins I found the perfect solution: using dough that is usually used for sticky buns. It is a lot easier, can be made in small batches and had already proven itself for making rolled buns. So I gave it a try, and I could not have dreamed of a better result, because of the overnight rising the dough has a very complex and not too sweet flavour, the buns are delicious fluffy, the pastry cream is rich and creamy, the raisins are plump and give a nice sweet hint and the buns overall have a good texture. All the people that had some came back for seconds and thirds and fourths. The only drawback is that they don’t keep well: eat them on the day they were baked… but this is not much of a problem since they will not last for more than one day anyway. I will certainly bake these again!

The original recipe uses osmotolerant yeast, which is not readily available for us, “normal” people. All the sugar and fat in sweet, enriched doughs like this are not the ideal circumstances for yeast. They grow slower and can even die, which causes your bread to rise much less. An easy solution for this is adding more yeast to compensate for the poor circumstances. I always use double the amount of normal instant yeast than the original amount of osmotolerant yeast, which never caused problems (yet).
Also important with sweet, enriched doughs like this is the kneading technique. Often, it starts out as a sticky mess that seems very worrisome if you’ve never worked with doughs like this. But don’t despair, keep working it! Also, with high percentages of fat (like the butter in this recipe) don’t add it immediately. For good bread you need to activate the gluten in the dough, which is done by kneading it, but if you add a lot of fat, this will prevent the gluten from forming (it makes the gluten slippery so it cannot form a good structure). So, first kneed the dough until it is smooth and elastic. When it is still a sticky mess, it works best to dump it all onto your workspace, scooping it up and slapping it down again. When the dough becomes more doughy, you can kneed in the normal way. When a nice dough has formed, dump it back into the bowl and add the butter. By doing this in a bowl, it makes the cleanup a lot easier. It starts out messy again, but just keep kneading until the dough has absorbed all the butter. All together it is a good workout, and a perfect calming activity.

Pain au Raisin

Pain au raisin (12 buns)
Adapted from “Advanced Bread and Pastry, the professional approach – Michel Suas”

340 g bread flour
70 g cake flour
170 g milk, lukewarm
1 egg, room temperature
85 g sugar
7 g salt
7 g osmotolerant instant yeast (or 14 g/2 bags normal instant yeast)
125 g butter, cubed, room temperature

275 g milk
15 g sugar
20 g cornstarch
55 g sugar
2 egg yolks
35 g butter

handful of raisins

Mix all the ingredients, except the butter, together. Kneed until a smooth, elastic dough is formed. Add the butter, kneed until it is all absorbed. Place in a bowl and cover, leave to rise 1 hour at room temperature, then overnight in the fridge.
Prepare the pastry cream. Heat the milk, vanilla and first measuring of sugar until it just boils. Mix together the cornstarch and second measuring of sugar. Add the egg yolks, mix well. Pour 1/3 of the boiling milk onto the egg yolk mixture, while whisking. Pour this mixture back into the remaining milk. Heat, while constantly whisking, until thickened. Take of the heat and add the butter, while still whisking. Pour into a clean bowl, cover with cling film directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin and refrigerate.
The next day, take the dough and the pastry cream out of the fridge and leave 20 minutes to come to room temperature. Roll out the dough to a rectangle of about 3 mm thickness. Spread with pastry cream (leave 2,5 cm at one edge) and sprinkle with raisins. Roll the dough (use a pastry scraper when the dough sticks to the surface) and make sure that the seal (the part that you left free) sticks to the rest of the roll. Cut the roll into 12 equal pieces (yes, this will be a bit messy) and place into a baking tray lined with baking paper (25×30 cm). This is a bit tricky, so aim for a rustic look. Leave to rise at room temperature for 1.5 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200C. Bake the pain au raisin 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden and a sateh stick comes out clean. Leave to cool on a rack.

Quark bread

Some time ago I bough some delicious quark bread at a bakery. It was slightly sweet, very moist and soft, and studded with plump raisins. Almost cake, but not completely, so still okay to eat as breakfast. But when I read the ingredients I was shocked: it contained all sorts of things that you would not expect to find in a product from an artisan baker… and it did not even contain real quark, only quark powder! So I figured I could do better than that and started to experiment.

I found two good-looking recipes for quark bread in my German baking books and tried them both. The first one is a little faster and more suitable for normal weekends, the second takes a bit longer and is quite a bit richer, so I find it more suitable for special occasions. Both recipes give very tasty results, although they are a bit more cake-like and less bread-like than the quark bread I bought at the bakery, so when I come across another recipe that seems nice, I will try again.

Quark is a type of fresh cheese, made by warming soured milk until the milk proteins disintegrate, and then strained. It is creamy and yoghurt-like, and can be found in the Netherlands in two varieties, full-fat (about 10% fat), and lean (almost no fat). These can be used both in this recipe. It is eaten for breakfast, but also as a dessert (with fruit), and it is also used for quark pie (similar to unbaked cheesecake). Unfortunately, outside Europe quark can be quite difficult to find, it is not always labeled as quark and there are also eastern Europe varieties of quark that are firmer, and thus not suitable for making quark bread. I guess that these recipes will work well with Greek yoghurt, sour cream or creme fraiche as substitutions for the quark, but I did not try it. There are also many other substitutions mentioned all over the internet.

Breakfast muffins (6-10 muffins, depending on the size of your baking tin)
Slightly adapted from “Kochen&Geniessen – Das Grosse Backbuch”

225 g quark
1 egg
4 tbsp milk
4 tbsp oil
50 g sugar
1 package vanilla sugar
a pinch of salt
250 g self-raising flour
100 g raisins

Line a muffin tin with paper baking cups. Preheat the oven to 175C.
Mix quark, egg, milk, oil, sugar, vanilla sugar and salt well with a wooden spoon. Stir in the self-raising flour. You will have quite a sticky batter. Stir the raisins through and divide over the muffin cups. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a sateh stick comes out clean. Leave to cool and serve with butter and jam, or eat them as they are.

Breakfast quark muffins

Sweet quark bread (1 bread)
Slightly adapted from ” Dr. Oetker – 1000 – Die besten Backrezepte”

125 g butter
125 g sugar
1 tsp salt
1 package vanilla sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
150 g quark
2 eggs
350 g flour
4 tsp baking powder
125 g raisins

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cream the butter with the sugar, salt, vanilla sugar and cinnamon (I used a hand mixer). Add the quark, mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, mix well in between. Use a spatula to mix in the flour and baking powder. When the flour is almost incorporated, add the raisins and mix well. Dump the dough on a baking tray lined with baking paper, shape it in an oval bread shape. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a sateh stick comes out clean. Leave to cool on a tart rack. This bread is best eaten the day it has been made, otherwise it will get quite dry. Serve with butter.

Sweet quark bread