Tag Archive for Easy

Brussel sprouts with mustard sauce

I usually serve my brussel sprouts very simple, either simply boiled, or boiled and then grilled on very high heat, which makes them a bit sweeter. But sometimes you want something different, so I thought to share this recipe with you, since it is the beginning of the brussel sprout season. It is a very simple mustard sauce, the creaminess mellows the flavour of the sprouts and the heat/flavour of the mustard gives it something interesting. Keep in mind when making this sauce that mustards can be very differently, so add a little and taste, you can always add more but you cannot take out. This sauce would also be very delicious with other vegetables, for example savoy cabbage or green beans. Or use it as a sandwich spread and layer it with sliced cold meats.

The work in this recipe is in the cleaning of the brussel sprouts. You can buy cleaned sprouts, but usually those are very bitter and not tasty at all. This is caused by a degradation of components in the sprouts, very fresh sprouts taste very mild and sweet, and when they get older they get more bitter (less sweet) and more cabbagy. The cleaned sprouts are usually quite old, they keep longer because of special packaging tricks but the flavour will still change. So I think it is worth it to spend the extra time on cleaning fresh brussel sprouts. Another thing that is quite detrimental for the flavour of brussel sprouts is overcooking them. They will get horribly stinky and bitter. So make sure you cook your sprouts until just tender.

Brussel sprouts with mustard sauce (2-4 persons)
500 g brussel sprouts
3 tbsp cream cheese (normal or light)
1 tsp, or to taste coarse mustard
1 tsp, or to taste Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Clean the brussel sprouts: slice a bit from the bottom and remove the outer leaves. Drop in cold water and wash to remove any sand or other unwanted stuff. Drain, place in a pan and barely cover with water. Add some salt to the cooking water. Bring to the boil, when boiling turn down the heat. Cook until just tender (test with a fork). The sprouts will be bright green and will just start to smell slightly cabbagy.
Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining the cream cheese and mustards. Taste and season with salt, pepper or more mustard.
Combine the sauce with the brussel sprouts and serve immediately.

Vanilla cupcakes

Very light and fluffy cakes. Eat them plain, frost them, or fill with jam/lemon curd. Also perfect for people who find standard cupcakes made with butter a bit heavy.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla cupcakes (12 cakes)
Slightly adapted from a recipe from the course Child Nutrition and Cooking by Stanford University via Coursera

4 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 tbsp milk
1/2 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a cupcake tray with paper liners.
Separate the eggs. Whip the whites to stiff peaks.
Add sugar and vanilla extract to the yolks and whip until yellow and creamy (a few minutes). Add salt and milk, whisk. Add flour and baking powder, whisk until just combined.
Add 1/3 of the whipped egg whites to the yolk-mixture. Mix in (this is to lighten up the mixture). Add the rest of the egg whites and carefully fold through.
Divide the batter over the cupcake holes. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool for about 10 minutes in the tray, then take out and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Variations: use grated lemon zest or chai spices instead of the vanilla for a different flavour of cupcake.

Mango ice-cream

For once, Jamie Oliver is good for something (again). I loved him when he first started to do tv series, with dinner parties in his apartment, all kind of quirky and fun things. But things got out of hand, and although I admire some of the things he does (helping disadvantaged youth, promoting healthy school meals, cooking fast, cheap and healthy meals), it seems that Jamie nowadays is more a brand, created to make as much money as possible through all kinds of different channels (worldwide tv, his own magazines as well as guest articles in lots of other magazines, a pre-made food range, kitchenware, etc; some of them quite contradictory with each other and the other things he does), than the fun, quirky chef with original ideas that he was.
24Kitchen, a Dutch food channel, shows some of the tv series of Jamie Oliver, so sometimes when I’m zapping (channel surfing) I see a bit of his series. In this particular bit of episode I saw, he used frozen fruit and yoghurt to make ice-cream. I’ve seen this method before, for example on Saturday Kitchen (a BBC tv series), and in lots of magazines, but I never came around to making it. But this time I had a tiny bit of yoghurt left that needed using up, so this was the perfect moment for trying out this method of making ice-cream. I used 250 gram frozen mango and 50 ml yoghurt, but you can add a bit more yoghurt if you like. When you add too much the ice-cream will become too runny (which is also nice, then you can call it a smoothie). Alternatively you could make this with frozen banana, and maybe also with other fruit, but it should have enough flavour, because things tend to get a bit bland when they are frozen. The preparation is easy, just throw the frozen mango and a splosh of yoghurt in a food processor (if your food processor is small, do it in batches) and blitz until smooth and ice-creamy. You may need to scrape down the bowl once or twice and blitz again to make sure everything is processed. Serve immediately (you cannot store it).
I knew it was easy, but I was still surprised how easy, and how well it worked even in my small, not so powerful food processor. The flavour was lovely clean and mango-y, and if I hadn’t known the ingredients, I would have thought it was an Italian gelato (but it is much healthier than that). Just keep some frozen fruit in the freezer and yoghurt in the fridge (two things I usually do anyway) and voilĂ : instant dessert!

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.

Waldorf salad

The famous waldorf salad was created in the Waldorf Hotel in New York in the late 1800s and traditionally consists of apples, celery and walnuts dressed in mayonnaise and served on a bed of lettuce. It has become a real classic, with many variations on it, commonly involving celeriac, raisins, chicken and grapes, but lots of other variations exist as well (some of which don’t resemble the original recipe in anything).

This is my take on the waldorf salad. I use canned mandarin and pineapple for convenience, but using fresh fruit is delicious too. I do like to use the pre-made celeriac salad because it is already dressed which softens the celeriac, because it has quite a lot of dressing (enough to dress the whole salad) and I don’t have to buy a whole celeriac that I have to use up in other recipes.

The crunch of the celery, the soft crispness of the celeriac, the sweet and soft fruits, the earthiness of the walnuts and the creamy, tart dressing complement each other perfectly. I served the salad with grilled chicken and couscous for a light diner, but it would also be perfect with some lettuce, a few shrimps or poached turkey breast and a chuck of whole grain bread as lunch.

Waldorf Salad

Waldorf salad (2 generous servings)

1 tub celeriac salad/celeriac remoulade
3 sticks celery, thinly sliced
1 small can of mandarin segments, drained
1 small can of pineapple pieces, drained
1 hand of walnuts, broken in pieces and roasted
Salt and pepper

Mix everything together and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Nb. the recipe is one of approximates. The cans and tub can be of different sizes than I used, there are large celery sticks and small ones, and some people like a different ratio of ingredients. So change the amounts of the ingredients according to your own preferences.

Vanilla pudding

Sometimes you feel like having a dessert, but you don’t want to stand in the kitchen for a long time, but you don’t want to have anything ready-made too. Then this vanilla pudding is a perfect solution. It comes together in a breeze, uses only pantry ingredients and is lovely creamy and satisfying, so perfect for weekday cravings.

I’ve tried many vanilla pudding recipes, but this one is certainly the best. I like to eat my pudding warm, when it is not set yet, but you can leave it to cool and eat it when it has a more pudding-like texture. It is basically the same thing as pastry cream, so it works well as a filling for cakes, choux, sweet bread and danish too. Oh, and use real vanilla (or vanilla extract) for this recipe, it really tastes better!

Vanilla pudding (1 serving)
Slightly adapted from “Advanced bread and pastry – Michel Suas”

140 ml milk
8 g sugar
10 g cornstarch (maizena in Dutch)
30 g sugar
1 egg yolk
18 g butter

Mix the milk, first measuring of sugar and vanilla together in a pot and bring slowly to the boil (to have time to measure and prepare the other ingredients).
Mix the cornstarch and second measuring of sugar in a bowl. Add the egg yolk and mix well, but do not incorporate any air. By mixing the sugar and cornstarch together first before adding the egg yolk you make the risk of getting lumps of cornstarch smaller.
Pour one third of the boiling milk onto the egg yolk mixture and mix well. Pour this into the rest of the boiling milk and warm through on low heat until it is thickened. Keep stirring constantly (I like to use a whisk) to prevent getting scrambled eggs. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter. Keep stirring until the butter is incorporated, then pour the pudding into a clean bowl (or re-use the bowl you used previously).
Eat warm or leave to cool/set. Cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. The recipe can easily be multiplied to make pudding for more people.

Vegetable bake

This dish was inspired on a recipe from James Martin. He describes it as a perfect dish to serve at dinner parties to be able to give a wide range of different vegetables, without having to use many dishes. I completely agree with that, but it also is a great dish when you are busy, because the actual hands on time is very little. Since it has only a little fat and lots of vegetables, it is also a healthy dish, but is still satisfying because of all the hearty, roasty flavours. So perfect to give a bit of balance after the Christmas and New Year’s feasts.

Mine had sausages, thyme, lemon, potato, fennel, butternut squash, onion, garlic and carrot. Without the sausages it is a perfect side dish for roasts, rosemary and honey are a great alternative for the thyme and lemon, and other vegetables like parsnip, celeriac, swede/turnip, sweet potato, but also courgette, aubergine, paprika and mushrooms work very well. Basically all vegetables that cook well in the oven without much fat or liquid work.

The recipe is so straightforward, that I don’t even need to write a real recipe. Just cut up all the vegetables you want to use (small potatoes can stay whole), throw them in a baking dish. Add your flavouring of choice (herbs, lemon, honey, etc), peel some garlic cloves, smash them with your knife and throw in the dish too. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle some olive oil over the vegetables and mix. The oil should be enough to coat all the vegetables, but not so much that it puddles in the bottom. Then place the sausages (if using) on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 220C for about 45 minutes, or until the sausages and vegetables are cooked.

Vegetable Bake

Tomato Cream Soup

This soup is very easy and fast to make, but also very satisfying to eat. A generous serving in a big bowl with some bread and cheese or butter is a perfect dinner, but a small portion served in a nice deep plate, decorated with some extra cream is a perfect elegant starter.

The soup is thickened/bound slightly with a roux. Although this isn’t really necessary, I like the soup better this way. Passata/sieved tomatoes always have a slightly irregular texture which makes the mouth feeling a bit weird for me. By binding the soup (which only takes a few minutes extra), this feeling disappears.

Tomato Cream Soup (2-4 servings)

1,5 tbsp butter
1,5 tbsp flour
1 package (500 g) passata (sieved tomatoes)
1 stock cube (I used vegetable, but chicken is nice as well)
salt and pepper
75 ml coffee cream (cream with 20% fat)

Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add the flour, stir until a paste has formed, making sure there are no lumps in there. I prefer to use a wooden spatula for the whole process, but some people rather use a whisk. Cook it for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour, this makes sure that the soup will not taste like raw flour. But don’t let it brown!
Start adding the passata a small splosh at a time, stirring well before adding another splosh. Stirring well after each splosh prevents getting lumps. When the roux is already thinned out quite a bit the risk for lumps is smaller, so you can add more fluids at one time. Pour some water in the passata package, use this to get out the last bits of tomato and to thin out the soup. Leave it to boil for a few minutes to get rid of the acidity of the tomato. Add the stock cube and season the soup with salt (if necessary) and pepper. Add some more water if the soup is too thick. Make sure the soup is boiling hot.
Add 50 ml of the cream and use the other 25 ml for decoration, or just add all the cream and don’t decorate. Serve immediately.

Courgette ribbons with goats cheese, lemon and pine nuts

A very fresh and light dish. To add some earthiness, I served it with quinoa and smoked chicken. Also great for when you are in a hurry, but still want a nice and healthy meal: this dish can be prepared in 15 minutes.

I like the taste and texture of raw courgette, but it is also possible to cook the courgette for a minute, or to grill it.

Courgette ribbons with goats cheese, lemon and pine nuts

Courgette ribbons with goats cheese, lemon and pine nuts (2 servings)

1 courgette, in ribbons or thin slices
100 gram fresh soft goats cheese, crumbled
juice of 1 lemon
40 gram pine nuts, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: a drizzle of olive oil

Mix everything together. Serve at room temperature.
Serve with quinoa cooked in stock, and smoked chicken.

Note: to make this recipe truly vegetarian, make sure you use a goats cheese that is suitable for vegetarians (i.e. does not contain animal derived rennet).

Cheat’s ice-cream

Recently the new Nigella Lawson programme started on the BBC: Nigellissima. I had quite a high expectation, Nigella programmes in the past were always very amusing. And even though she used cheat’s methods a bit too much for my liking, her recipes were always good for inspiration. But this series are just very disappointing. Most of the dishes lack originality, or are just plain weird. And I still don’t understand why the series are promoted as going about Italian cooking, while it is pseudo Italian at most.

But enough ranting. The show did inspire me to make 1 dish: cheat’s no-churn coffee ice-cream. It consists completely of pantry ingredients, is sweet, rich, fatty, smooth, has a mild coffee flavour and comes together very fast (although it does take a while to freeze). Because of the high fat and sugar content, and the air you whip in, it is not necessary to churn the ice-cream to prevent crystals from forming. So this is a perfect recipe if you don’t have an ice-cream maker!

I think this recipe could work perfectly with other flavours as well. Plain vanilla, chocolate, etc. But it is important to not add too much extra liquid, because that gives a higher risk at crystal formation… So for fruit ice-cream, just make vanilla and serve with fruit coulis or compote.

Coffee ice-cream (about 1 liter)
Adapted from Nigella Lawson – Nigellissima

300 ml cream
175 g condensed milk (this is sweetened)
2 tbsp coffee, espresso or cappuccino powder

Whisk everything together until light and airy, and soft peaks form. Cover and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Note: 1 can of condensed milk is 400 gram. The remaining is nice to use in coffee, or melt some chocolate into it for a delicious chocolate sauce. Or make some dulce de leche by pouring it into a baking dish, placing this in a water bath and bake it in the oven at 200C until caramelized.