Tag Archive for Sauce

Baba Ganoush

I never liked aubergine much. It is kinda squishy and spongy and doesn’t have much flavour. But when I recently had a very delicious aubergine curry, I was curious to see if there are other ways to make aubergine delicious. So when I found a recipe for baba ganoush, a sweet, smokey Mediterranian/Arabic/Middle-Eastern aubergine dip, I knew I had to try. Traditionally the dip is flavoured with tahini, garlic, salt and lemon, but ground cumin, chilli powder, parsley, mint and black pepper are often used as well.

I used an ingredient that is not very traditional: pimenton de la vera picante. Normal pimenton (Spanish paprika powder) is made by drying paprika with the sun and hot air, but the pimenton from the la vera region is smoked, which (obviously) gives it a delicious smoky flavour. A pinch of the spicy (picante) variety gives the baba ganoush a lovely extra smokiness and a mellow heat. This stuff overpowers easily (both the hotness and the smokiness), so make sure you use only a tiny bit!

This dip is delicious served with all sorts of flatbread, but also with vegetables, for example cucumber and carrot. It is also very tasty as a spread on a sandwich or wrap with grilled vegetables.

Baba Ganoush
3 aubergines
3 garlic cloves, crushed with a teaspoon of salt
1 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of pimenton de la vera picante
Optional: lemon juice
Garnish: chopped flat leaf parsley, olive oil, pomegranate seeds, pimenton

Prick the aubergines with a fork. Grill the aubergines until the skin is charred and blacked and the flesh feels soft when you press it. Turn a few times to make sure that all sides get blacked. If you have a smoke alarm in your kitchen it might be best to take the batteries out while you are grilling the aubergine, otherwise it will probably go off.
When cool enough to handle, cut the aubergines in half and scoop out the flesh. Mash with a fork (or leave it chuncky if you prefer). Add the crushed garlic, tahini, olive oil and pimenton, stir well to get an emulsified smooth puree. Taste and add some extra salt, pimenton and/or lemon juice. Place in a serving dish and finish with one or more of the garnishes, or store tightly covered up to two days in the fridge and garnish when serving; make sure you take it from the fridge in time to serve the dip at room temperature, cold it is quite icky.

Cream sauce

Cream sauces are delicious with all sorts of dishes: meat (pork/chicken/beef), fish, but also pasta and vegetables. There are different methods for making a cream sauce, and some are very fast and simple. For the fastest and simplest method you pour cream in a wide pan and cook it down until reduced and thickened slightly, season with salt (and a little pepper if you like), and voila, a delicious sauce. A bit more elaborate is doing the same thing, but in the pan you used to bake your meat. In this way the sticky bits that are stuck in the pan after baking the meat, flavour the cream.
You can also make a cream sauce like the French would do. Use equal amounts of good quality stock, white wine and cream. Start with sweating a chopped shallot in some butter until soft. Add the stock and wine, cook down until barely anything is left. Then add the cream, simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Season with salt and pepper. For extra richness, take the sauce off the heat, add a few small cubes of butter and stir until molten and mixed well with the sauce.

Pasta Pesto

For me, this is THE absolute summer dish. Why? Because I can only grow basil in summer. Nowadays there are only a few products that are truly seasonal (as in: you can only get hold of them in a certain season), most of the things are flown in from other parts of the world or they are grown in hothouses. This is not necessarily a good thing, since it is not very sustainable, but it does mean that when you crave something off-season, you can still buy it.

I never buy basil. Basil is a very vulnerable herb. This means that the cut variant is useless anyway, the taste diminishes just too fast. And the small plants you can buy are useless too, because they are grown much too fast. To get a lot of flavour in basil, it needs a long growth time. That is why I grow my own basil. It is very easy and a lot cheaper than buying the plants every time you need basil. I pour a layer of potting earth into an empty, washed yoghurt container, wet it well, sprinkle a layer of basil seeds on top and cover it lightly with a little more soil. I place the transparent lid of the yoghurt container on top to create a mini-hothouse and place it on a sunny spot. I make sure that it stays wet and I remove the lid when the plants start to emerge. Just keep watering the plant regularly until it is big enough to use (this takes about 6 weeks). I use the whole plant in one or two days, because the climate over here is not good for basil, so once I start picking, the plant dies anyway. That is why I try to sow some new basil every two weeks for a steady supply.

For me, pesto is one of the best ways to use basil. It is a very clean tasting dish in which all the ingredients shine. I think pesto should be made in a mortar and pestle, because making it in a food processor will give a different, less nice texture. Most Italian recipes advice to use an equal amount of two cheeses: parmezan and pecorino, but I like to use the grana padano from our local cheese monger; use what you like. It always takes a bit playing around, getting to know the amounts of everything you like to get a balanced pesto. This recipe is just a starting point from where you can find out your way of pesto. Just like the Italians, in Italy no two pesto recipes are the same!

Pasta Pesto

Pasta pesto (2 persons)
From ‘De Zilveren Lepel’

25 large leaves fresh basil
50-100 ml good extra virgin olive oil
40 g pine nuts
50 g cheese, grated (grana padano, or a mixture of parmesan and pecorino)
a small clove of garlic, peeled (optional, some people don’t like garlic in their pesto)

extra cheese to serve
200 gram spaghetti, cooked following instructions of the package
optional: grilled courgette or asparagus

Roast the pine nuts (this is not authentic, but I like how it brings out the flavour). Crush the garlic together with a little salt in a pestle and mortar. Add the roasted pine nuts, crush. Add the basil, crush into a fine paste. Add the olive oil, just enough to make a thick paste (some people like their pesto with a lot more oil). Stir the grated cheese trough and check if everything is in balance. Serve immediately with pasta, some extra cheese and vegetables.

Mushroom and cream sauce

This sauce is a pan sauce, which means that it is made in a pan after a piece of meat was fried in it. It uses all the juices that came out of the meat and the bits that stuck to the pan to create something delicious very fast. Sometimes I leave my sauce very plain, I just add a little water to the frying pan to make a lovely jus, but you can also make it into something a bit more special: mushroom and cream sauce.

Not all kinds of meat are suitable for pan sauces. I have the best results with all kinds of beef steaks or pork chops/fillet/loin, so basically all cuts that can be cooked fast in a hot pan. For this, I start with removing the smoke alarm from the kitchen as it tends to go off when I prepare something like this, it can get a little smoky. And you’ll have to take the meat out from the fridge 30-60 minutes before cooking, it should be at room temperature. And slice the mushrooms, you will not have time for that later on. For an extra luxurious version, use wild mushrooms.
Heat a thick bottomed frying pan on high heat, it should be very hot, you should not be able to hold your hand above it for more than 2-3 seconds. Add a little oil (use something that can withstand the high heat) and place your meat in the pan. Leave it for about 1 minute (do not fuss around with it!!) then turn it over (it should be nice and brown), fry for another minute. Turn the heat down, season with salt and pepper and add a knob of butter to the pan. This gives the meat a nice caramelized flavour and glossy finish. Turn over the meat once again, season this side as well. The time on low heat depends on the kind and cut of meat, a steak will need less time than a pork chop. Unfortunately I cannot give times for this, it really comes down to experience, I smell, hear and feel (cooked meat is less springy) if the meat is ready. Rest the meat between two plates to keep it warm, usually 10-15 minutes is enough, this is also the time necessary for making the sauce.
Use the same pan as frying the meat in, don’t clean it and don’t pour anything out. On medium heat, add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes, or until soft and a little coloured. Then add few tablespoons of cream, stir well and take off the heat. Check for seasoning. If some of the juices came out of the meat, add these to the sauce too. It gives extra flavour. If you like, you can add some herbs like parsley or tarragon to the sauce. Serve directly with the rested meat, oven baked potatoes and a mixed salad.

Mushroom and cream sauce

Poached seatrout with carrots, rice and hollandaise sauce

A very simple dish with clean and light flavours. Don’t be scared by the techniques of poaching and making a hollandaise, it seems difficult, but actually it is quite easy. Just give it a try!

Poached seatrout with carrots, rice and hollandaise sauce

Poached seatrout with carrots, rice and hollandaise sauce (serves 2)
From Raymond Blanc – The Great British Food Revival
and from the BBC recipe archive

For the poached seatrout
1/4 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 celery stalk, washed and thinly sliced
1/4 medium leek, washed and thinly sliced
2 lemon slices
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leave)
1 tsp sea salt
5 peppercorns
100 ml white wine
1 seatrout, cleaned

For the hollandaise sauce
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 egg yolks
125g butter
1 tbsp chopped green herbs
lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

To serve
Cooked carrots
Cooked rice

For the poaching stock, add all of the ingredients (except the fish) to a large saucepan with 750ml water. The fish will have to fit in later on, so choose a pan that is wide enough. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the hollandaise sauce. Put the vinegar in a small pan with the peppercorns and bay leaf. Reduce the vinegar over a high heat until there is only 1 tbsp left. Strain the peppercorns and the bay leaf from this reduction.Put the egg yolks in a bowl with the vinegar reduction. Gently melt the butter so that the butter solids fall to the bottom of the saucepan. While whisking, pour in the butter. The sauce will start to thicken. Don’t add the butter solids! If the sauce is too thick, add a little hot water.Season to taste with salt and pepper and a little lemon juice, and add the chopped green herbs.
Slide the trout into the simmering stock (leaving the vegetables in). Bring the pan back to a gentle simmer and cook the fish for about 10 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.
Serve the fish filleted together with the hollandaise sauce, the carrots and rice.

Note: The poaching stock is just a simple vegetable stock, and after you have poached the fish in it, it will have a fish flavour as well. So don’t throw it away, it is a great soup, either like this or with some added ingredients to jazz it up a bit.

Rosemary and garlic salt baked lamb shank with spicy pickled cabbage and onion salad and sweet mustard mayo

This recipe may seem very complicated, but actually all the separate parts are quite easy. However, it does take quite some time shopping for and making it. But it is certainly worth it! The lamb shanks are meltingly tender, juicy and flavoured with the garlic and rosemary. The salad is sharp and acidulous, with a delicate spicy fragrance, cutting through the fattiness of the lamb and cleansing your palate. And the mustard mayo just binds everything together. Served with pita or naan bread, it is just like a posh version of kebab. Make this on a rainy Sunday, spreading the process over the whole day, and let the delicious and comforting fragrance of lamb and spices fill your home!

Salt baked lamb shank

Rosemary and garlic salt baked lamb shank with spicy pickled cabbage and onion salad and sweet mustard mayo (serves 4)
Adapted from Tom Kerridge – BBC Saturday Kitchen

For the lamb in salt crust
300g salt
1 kg flour
9 egg whites
75g rosemary, stalks discarded
4 lamb shanks, trimmed
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

For the pickled cabbage
500ml white wine vinegar
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 star anise
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
300g sugar
1 tsp white pepper corns
1 tsp Sichuan pepper
1 cabbage, sliced finely

For the salad
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 bunches spring onions, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 green chilli, sliced
1-2 tbsp salt
1 bunch chives, chopped
200ml rapeseed oil (or a light olive oil)

For the sweet mustard mayonnaise
1 eggyolk
2 tbsp English mustard
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
325ml vegetable oil

Finely chop the rosemary and mix with the salt. Add the flour and the egg whites and mix. Slowly mix in 300 ml water, but stop adding when you have a firm dough. Kneed for 10 minutes (hard work because it is quite a stiff dough), wrap in cling film and leave to rest for 2 hours. Alternatively use a standing mixer with dough hook to make the dough.
Preheat the oven to 150C. Roll out the salt dough into a rectangle about 1cm thick. Cut into four equal rectangles. In a food processor, blend the garlic cloves to a paste with 50ml water. Massage the garlic purée into the lamb shanks. This may seem garlicky, but it helps tenderize the meat making it melt in your mouth soft, and because of the long baking the garlic will turn sweet. Wrap each lamb shank in a piece of dough with the bone sticking out of the top.Place in a roasting tray and bake in an oven for 4½ hours. Remove the shanks from the oven and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile for the pickling liquor, place all the ingredients except the cabbage into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the liquor through a sieve into a bowl and leave to cool (or use it hot as I did, I don’t like raw cabbage). Place the cabbage into the pickle mix and leave for 30-60 minutes.
For the salad, mix the onions together with the chilli, sprinkle with the salt and set aside for 20 minutes. Drain the pickled cabbage and mix the cabbage with the onion salad. Sprinkle with the chopped chives and drizzle with rapeseed oil.
For the mayonnaise, place all the ingredients except the oil into a food processor and blend to a fine purée (or mix with a whisk). Gradually add the vegetable oil, while the food processor is running (or while whisking), until the mayonnaise has thickened. Season with a little salt.
To serve break open the crust around the lamb and serve each lamb shank with the pickled cabbage salad and mustard mayonnaise.

Salt baked lamb shank

Courgette, ham and bechamel sauce gratin

Everyone who has/had courgette plants in their gardens knows that with nice summery weather these plants turn into overdrive. A courgette a day per plant is not uncommon. Although our two courgette plants did not yield us this much courgettes, other ways to use courgette except grilling an putting it through rice and pasta dishes are always nice to know.

This recipe was given to me by one of my neighbours. The courgette is cut into batons, grilled until brown and rolled into slices of ham together with some sautéed onions. Bechamel sauce is poured over and the top is grilled in the oven. The combination may seem a bit weird, but when you taste it, you will make it again. The firm courgette contrasts very nicely with the creamy bechamel sauce, and the ham gives a nice savoury touch. By gratinating the dish it becomes a whole, and the bechamel gets a nice crust. Very nice to serve with some plain cooked rice. You don’t need much rice because the dish is very filling, but the rice works well with the bechamel sauce.

Courgette, ham and bechamel sauce gratin

Courgette, ham and bechamel sauce gratin (2 portions)
1 courgette
1 onion
some oil
salt and pepper
a few sprigs of thyme
150 gram cooked ham (in thin slices)
25 gram butter
25 gram flour
300 ml milk
Optional: some green herbs (parsley, chives) to put through the bechamel

Slice the courgette into batons and the onion into rings. Grill the courgette until brown and sauté the onions in some oil and with some salt, pepper and the thyme until soft. Preheat the oven at 200C.
Make a bechamel sauce. Melt the butter, add the flour, stir until mixed well and there are no lumps (this is called a roux). Fry this on low heat for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour. Take care not to brown the roux, bechamel is a white sauce! Then pour in the milk bit by bit, stirring well and adding the next bit only when the previous is taken up completely. When you add too much milk too fast, the sauce will get lumpy. I like to do this with a wooden spoon, but many people prefer a whisk. When all the milk is added, cook the sauce for another 2-3 minutes to let it bind completely. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg (and green herbs when using).
Make the onion-courgette-ham rolls. Spoon some onion on a slice of ham, place some courgette batons on top and roll the ham around. Place in an ovenproof dish and finish all the rolls. Then pour over the bechamel sauce. Put the dish in the oven and bake until the top forms a nice crust. Take care, bechamel is one of those things that can go from pale to burned in a very short period of time! Serve hot.

Pasta with tomato sauce or lasagna

Simple pasta with tomato sauce, mince and vegetables, and a simple lasagna are quite similar to make. The pasta is a little faster because it does not have to go into the oven, but I do like the lovely cheese crust you get on the lasagna. Both dishes are not the real deal, not real ragu alla bolognaise and not real lasagna al forno, but they are great dishes filled with veggies and much faster and lighter than their original versions.
You can make the pasta sauce in advance and store it in the fridge or the freezer, I personally like to cook my pasta fresh, but even cooked pasta can be frozen. Ideal for last minute healthy food on busy days. Lasagna can be stored in the fridge as well (uncooked or cooked), freezing I never tried.
Because of their hearty taste, ease, vegetable-richness and filling properties, these dishes can be found often on our diner table.

Pasta with tomato sauce or lasagna (2 generous servings)
penne/lasagna sheets (the ones you don’t have to precook)
olive oil
300 gram minced meat
1 can of tomatoes
1 onion, cubed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), cubed
100 gram mushrooms, sliced
1/2 courgette, sliced
1 stock cube
1/2 tbsp paprika
balsamic vinegar (1/2 tsp lasagna, 1/4 tsp pasta)
soy sauce (1/4 tsp lasagna, not in pasta)
sambal (1/4 tsp lasagna, not in pasta)
1 tsp dried oregano
cheese (gouda or mozzarellla)

Cook pasta/preheat oven to 200C. Fry the onions and garlic until soft in some olive oil, add the minced meat and fry until loose and slightly cooked. Then add the mushrooms and the bell pepper. Add the can of tomatoes, spiced and condiments and let cook for a while. This is especially important for the pasta sauce, since canned tomatoes are quite acidic and you need to cook them for a while to get the sweetness out. Add the courgette at the last moment, so it will keep a nice bite. Serve with the pasta, or make layers with the lasagna sheets in an oven dish and cover the top with cheese. The lasagna will have to cook for about 35 minutes in the preheated oven (but check the package of your lasagna sheets, some will have to cook shorter or longer). Enjoy!