Sunday, 29 September 2013

American style rhubarb pie

Rhubarb is one of those things I had never come across before moving north... But the BF is a big fan of it, so I had to try it. Turns out it's alright, not the best thing ever but quite nice in a double crust pie (those American style pies they have in Mickey Mouse cartoons...).

I've made it a few times now, using this recipe.

Here's a Europe friendly (metric!) version...

200g sugar
25g flour
1g cinnamon
2 eggs
15g butter
500g chopped rhubarb (that was about 4 stalks for me)
2 pie crusts (I use store bought puff pastries)

1. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. 
2. Gently stir in the rhubarb. 
3. Line a pastry case with the bottom pie crust and add the filling. Dot with butter.

4. Cover with the top pie crust and seal the edges together (the original recipe says "Trim, seal and flute edges". I've no idea what this fluting business is, but what I usually do is fold the excess top pastry under and pinch it together with the bottom pastry edge. Then press a fork on the edge to make it prettier... This works just fine).

5. Cut slits in the top pastry so air can escape while its cooking, and the top pastry doesn't go flying off... You should have something like this...
6. Stick it in an oven preheated at 205 degrees C (or 185 for a fan oven), for about 45 minutes. As for most things, keep an eye on it the last few minutes;)

And this is what you get!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Beignets de fleur de courgette et citrouille (courgette and pumpkin flower fritters)

Those are typical from Nice, where I spent most of my uni years...

Our vegetable garden has pretty much been taken over by courgette and pumpkin plants (those grow BIG), and since it's getting to the end of the season (the -huge- leaves are starting to brown), I thought I'd use the flowers that haven't transformed into veggies yet to make those beignets...

But not before we got this loot:

Oh and here are some of the pumpkin plants:

(Yep, the whole mass at the back and on the left side is made of pumpkin plants!)

And here are the flowers:

(The small orange ones at the bottom are courgette flowers, and the bigger yellow ones at the top are pumpkin flowers. Next to some tomatoes and spring onions also from the garden).

Anyway... I used the recipe from this website.

Here's a translation of the important bits:

  • about 2 dozen courgette/pumpkin flowers
  • 75g plain flour
  • 10cl cold milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper


1. Wash the flowers delicately, checking that there are no creepy crawlies in them. Cut the stems at the base of the flowers.
2. Make the batter:
    a) Mix the flour, egg yolk, olive oil and a bit of the milk. Add the rest of the milk gradually while mixing.
    b) Beat the egg white until firm peaks form (damn, that takes a while!).
    c) Gently fold the egg white into the mixture. Season with S&P.
3. Dip each flower into the batter, and fry it for about 2 minutes, or until the batter is golden.
I don't have a deep fat frier so I just pan fried them, and that worked reasonably well.

Here's the result:

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Lemon Mayonnaise from Scratch

If something's typically Belgian, it's got to be fries with mayonnaise. I confess I didn't actually like mayonnaise before moving here. Well I had only tasted the fast food version. Turns out, the homemade stuff tastes quite different (quite a few restaurants here serve it with their fries, which they serve with most dishes).
Of course it's still to be eaten in moderation as it's not exactly good for you, but you know, every once in a while...

Anyway, I took that recipe from my big "150 Dutch & Belgian Recipes" book, which as you'd expect from the title covers quite a lot...

Here we go:
- 1 fresh egg yolk
- 5ml/1tsp mustard powder or mustard (I used Tierenteyn mustard, a Ghent specialty)
- 15ml/1tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar (of course for lemon mayonnaise, use lemon juice... duh)
- salt and ground black pepper (I hadn't thought of it, but I have lemon pepper that would have gone well in there... next time I guess!)
- 120ml to 200ml/4-7fl oz vegetable or sunflower oil (I used the full 200ml, but the mayonnaise tastes a little greasy to me, so I might reduce it next time)

1. Mix the egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice/vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl (I put that in the mixer, but if you're going to do it by hand they advise placing the bowl on a wet towel so it doesn't move while you whisk).

2. Whisk the mixture vigorously with one hand while adding the oil drop by drop with the other. When it begins to thicken, add the oil in a thin and steady stream (again, the mixer is your friend here).
Stop when the mixture is thick and creamy.

3. Check the seasoning, then serve.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Panzanella Salad

Here's one of my go-to salad recipes, courtesy of Dutch celebrity chef Rudolph Van Veen. The Dutch call this tomaten broodsalade ("tomato bread salad"), which I find a tiny bit funny:)
Here's the original recipe, and here's my version:

a few tomatoes
1 or 2 spring onions
a few gherkins
some fresh thyme
2 slices of old bread
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

(The original recipe uses garlic/capers/basil/white wine vinegar instead of spring onions/gherkins/thyme/balsamic vinegar)

1. Cut the veggies (yes, I know, botanically tomatoes are a fruit!) and herbs into pieces. 
2. Cut/shred the bread into pieces and sauté it in olive oil. 
3. Mix everything together, seasoning with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Here's what you get:

It makes a nice light dinner with some salmon filets:
And... a lot of it came from the garden:
And the thyme too, but it's now too dark to take a picture:)

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Rucola pesto

Some time ago I planted some seeds in the garden, and made the (apparently "classic beginner") mistake of sowing way too many seeds in my rows. I wasn't sure they'd all come up, you see...
Well they did, and I now have big "cubes" of densely planted vegetables. Among which a rucola jungle.

    Exhibit A

So over the past few weeks, I have been bringing edible plants to my colleagues, and made some attempts at eating more salad... 
That's not really cutting it anymore though, the green stuff is growing faster than I can get rid of it:D

Then last week I found a recipe for rucola pesto. I thought I'd give it a try.

So I cut up some leaves and flowers (rucola flowers are edible, I checked... although I tried some in a seafood pasta dish the other day and I wasn't impressed... not enough rucola taste), added the rest of the ingredients and there it went in the blender.

Oops forgot the cheese...

Here's the end result:

The verdict? I'm not impressed! And quite disappointed too... 

But as the BF remarked, I'm not a big fan of pesto to begin with (my first memory of eating pesto is forever associated to my first memory of getting really sick due to a gastro-enteritis, so it's not the pesto's fault, but we kinda got off on the wrong foot!).
So the plan was to reconcile myself with pesto by trying a different main ingredient... Yeah, that didn't work...

Anyway, the BF likes it, so it's not lost... "More for me!" he said. Yep, you can have it all!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Pangasius filet with lemon and sugar snap peas

I had never heard of pangasius fish before living in Belgium. I first had it in our work canteen, who, like for all white fish, makes it taste almost, but not quite, entirely unlike fish (yes, I stole this line from the HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it is Towel Day after all...).

Anyway, when I saw it in the shop I though I'd give it a second chance, and cook it my favourite way for fish: in the oven with some green veg, lemon, dill and olive oil. That's pretty much fool-proof: just blanch the green veg first if they're a type that won't cook as fast as the fish (not necessary for sugar snap peas), layer green veg/fish/lemon, and pop it in at 230 (210 for a fan oven) for 10-20 min depending on the thickness of the fish filets.
This is what you get:

I made butternut squash purée with this (the BF had requested purée), and the hardest part was cutting the squash (those things are really tough!).

Anyway, the purée (with some herbes de Provence and double cream) turned out OK too.

So here's the result:

Monday, 29 April 2013


This is very easy and very yummy, but it takes a looooong time... Best attempted when you're going to be in the kitchen for a while anyway (for example making and eating dinner, then doing the washing up!).

1.5L milk
500g brown sugar
a dash of vanilla extract

1. Start warming up the milk in a saucepan on a medium-low fire.
2. Gradually whisk in the brown sugar and add the vanilla extract.
3. Keep whisking regularly while the mixture is heating up. It can bubble up gently but do not let it completely boil (you all know the milk boiling over effect, well, add stickiness from the sugar to that... Hello clean up!).
In the meantime, put some baking paper in a rectangular dish pan, covering the bottom and sides.

The mixture should reduce and thicken. This could take a while (mine took 2:30hrs!).

You know you're nearly done when it has reduced by at least 2/3, and it looks like this (skin forming on top, bubbles that look like they're coming through something solid).

4. When you start feeling some resistance while whisking, it's good to go. Pour it into the prepared pan (watch out for burning splatter!)

Casualties: no burn on my side, but I did break my whisk!

Oh, one last little tip: clean your pan and utensils immediately after you're done, and with plenty of hot water. If you let the fudge rests harden, your pan is lost!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Ricotta, bacon and veg pasta

I usually cook pasta with whatever's in my fridge, however, quite often it's a variation of this...

For 2/3 people

250g pasta (I used penne rigate this time)
250g cherry tomatoes
200g diced bacon
2/3 spring onions
200g fresh spinach
250g ricotta

1. Boil the pasta in a big saucepan of salted water (you can add a dash of olive oil to make sure it doesn't stick together).
2. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the cherry tomatoes in some olive oil for a few minutes, then add the bacon and the chopped spring onion (I usually just cut it with scissors on top of the pan to save time).

3. When everything is pretty much cooked, add the spinach and stir it around the pan. It will only take a minute or two to wilt (I usually add it in 2 batches so it fits in the pan).
4. Add the ricotta and thyme, some black paper (no salt needed as the bacon is salty),
5. While the ricotta is warming up, drain your pasta, then add it to the sauce.
Ta-Da, it's done!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Next up: reversible polka dot skirt

I bought some fabric today, including these jerseys to make a skirt.

I had noticed this black and grey polka dot one last time I was in the shop, but I had the BF in tow and he wasn't too enthusiastic about it, which made me doubt so I didn't buy it. And of course I kept thinking I should have afterwards! So I went back for it today (obvious conclusion: don't ask for a guy's opinion on fabric!).

The fabric is a little thin for a fitted skirt I think, so I got the plain dark navy as another layer... Then I thought it'd be nice to make it reversible! It might be slightly more difficult (at least for a beginner like me), but I think it should work... Of course, the best laid plans etc etc...

We'll see... I'm planning to give it a shot tomorrow.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Quick Thai soup

On Thursday I celebrated my birthday in a Thai restaurant with a few friends, and had very yummy food:)
The next day though, I wanted some more Thai prawn soup:D
I made some tonight with a few simple ingredients... It wasn't as fantastic as Baan Thai's one, but it still hit the spot.

So here's the recipe (makes about 5 bowls of soup):

1 red pepper
a bit of leek white (a spring onion would do nicely too)
2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
some rice noodles (I used a 2-3 people "wok-ready" pack, I'm guessing about 250g)
about 300g prawns (I used pre-cooked prawn tails)
1 or 2 chillies
my Asian food "usual suspects" (oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and lime juice)

1. Slice the red pepper and the leek as finely as possible and sauté in a pan.
2. Boil about 5 bowls of water (yes I actually poured bowls of water in the pan to get a better control on the final quantity - I always make too much food!), add the sauces and chillies to taste.
3. Add the fresh spinach, let it wilt (it should only take about a minute), then add all the rest to the pot.
You're done!

Now that was easy:)
The verdict: I had to add a bit more soy sauce and lime juice to mine, and thought it was pretty mild, but the BF found it quite spicy! (He's still not used to spicy food).

Friday, 5 April 2013

Awesome: Sheldon Cooper quilt!

Somebody in Nova Scotia (Canada) made a Sheldon Cooper quilt! I'm not really into quilting but this is brilliant!

Image source and details here.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Weird 80's thing to skirt refashion

I started out with this:

I got this from my mom. She has a lot of clothes, among which a fair few weird old things... And she likes to pass them on to the kids... Anyway, I only took this because I liked the stripes at the bottom and thought I might be able to make it into something somewhat wearable.

I decided to make a skirt from it (and use this project to test the stretch stitch of my new machine and practice inserting an elastic... hey, I'm still a beginner at this sewing stuff!).

So I measured the length I wanted, added a few centimetres for the waistband and chopped the top off.

Then I marked how much I needed for the elastic waistband, folded it over and pressed it, and tried that stretch stitch on it... It worked very nicely.

I then inserted the elastic using a safety pin (I need to get bigger ones!), tried it on for size and sewed the elastic together.

(Not perfect looking, but will hold up to wear and tear)

And here's the final result:

I have a new skirt:)

Yummy lemon muffins

I adapted this recipe from a banana bread recipe in a "cafe food" booklet from The Australian Women's Weekly (that I randomly found in an Irish supermarket a few years ago).

Now why start from a banana bread recipe? Well I'm a beginner baker so I don't have that many recipes under my belt yet... And that one is a favourite, so one day I tried pouring the batter into a muffin tray instead, and then tried making a batch with different ingredients... And it worked:)

So here we go:
- 185g flour
- 5.5g baking powder
- 100g white sugar
- 20g butter
- 1 egg
- 50ml milk
- 2 untreated lemons
- sesame seeds (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (200 if using a fan oven) and line the muffin tins/muffin tray.
2. Mix flour and baking powder in a large bowl.
3. Rub in the butter (you can also melt it in the microwave to mix it in easier).
4. Stir in the sugar and milk.
5. Juice and zest your lemons, and add the juice and zest to the mix (watch out if you have cuts on your hands the lemon juice will burn!).
6. Spoon into the muffin tray and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired (I did half with and half without in case somebody was allergic).
7. Bake in the oven for 15min (a little less if you want the center a little gooey).

And enjoy!

I made this for the Show&Tell meeting last week (meetings with cake are always more interesting;) ). One of my colleagues usually brings some cake, so I decided it was my turn this time (except I didn't mention it so I was one of 3 people that brought cake... So it was a very good meeting!).
It went down a treat and was all eaten:) And I got a great compliment as my colleague Gerd, who has been taking evening baking classes for a few years, asked me for the recipe:) Here's her blog about baking: Veel Afwas! (in Dutch). She's definitely not a beginner!

Here's the only picture I have (I saved mine for after the meeting as I was full from the other treats):

Thursday, 21 March 2013

New sewing machine!

When I went over to my parents for Christmas, they proposed that I give my sewing machine to my lil' sis who wanted to start sewing too, and instead get money for a better machine. Sounded good to me!
So I took a little while to look up models and reviews, and finally settled on the Janome 525s (I knew Janome to be a good brand, and the 525s seemed to be a well-loved mid-range model).

Here it is:

So far I've only used it for straight and stretch stitches, but I'm really happy with those, so here's to many years of a happy working relationship! ;)

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Elegantees Hope dress

I did not make this (still beyond my skill level), but just got it in the post. I ordered it from, who helps survivors of sex trafficking by giving them a sewing job. Good cause fashion, the best kind!

And the dress is very nice too:) Would be suitable as maternity wear if that's what you need but otherwise does not make you look pregnant (phew!). And could be worn to different types of occasions...

I ordered it in January and got it in March (as it was handmade in Nepal), but that's fine by me as I can't wear it yet anyway (it's still snowing here... at the end of March!).

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Donna Hay's Egg and Bacon pies

Well... pie, I only made one (the BF wasn't hungry... He usually gets up and has breakfast way before me in the week-end... I just like sleeping in).

Here's the recipe.

I lined the tin with 4 pieces of streaky bacon, and added a mix of 2 eggs, some milk, salt and pepper and some herbes de Provence.

I planned on adding cherry tomato slices, but it was pretty full and I didn't want the egg to go overboard. Maybe next time!

Waiting in anticipation:

And here it is:


Monday, 11 March 2013

Chicken noodle soup

I made noodle soup for scratch:) I started with a recipe my lil' sis gave for "cold-fighting Asian soup" (since the BF has a cold/flu thing at the moment, I thought I'd try it...).

So the recipe goes like this: "boil some water with some lemon, ginger and miso soup, add small pieces of chicken and carrots, and a bit of chilli to clear up the nose!" Sounded yummy and, well, useful!

Of course I can never leave a recipe alone, so I added a few bits and bobs from the fridge and pantry...

My version used:
about 2L water
1 carrot
half a red bell pepper
a quarter fennel
2 small shallots
2 red chillies
4 packs dried miso soup (48g)
1 pack chicken soup base + flavouring oil (that came with the noodles)
a generous helping of ginger
3 packs of noodles (individual portions)
some oyster sauce
some soy sauce
about 300g chicken, diced into small pieces
4 eggs
lots of lime juice
a dash of Chinese 5 spices
some fish sauce
some toasted sesame oil

Yes I know that's a lot of bits and bobs but I tend to be enthusiastic about making food I like!

So basically I just diced the veggies, put them in boiling water, added the soup bases, spices, and noodles... Then the chicken, more spices and the eggs at the end.
Little tip for the eggs: beat them and spread them around the soup. I just cracked them above the pot and then I had to try fish around for them to break them into smaller pieces and make sure the yolk was cooked :S

So how did it taste? Really good, like proper Asian soup!

So I served some to the BF with a spoon and chopsticks, and the first thing he did was change the chopsticks for a knife and fork, and CUT THE NOODLES IN THE SOUP!!! *sigh*

Ah well, at least I made plenty so I can freeze some for later (hopefully that freezes well).

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Tracing a pattern off a top

After making a top from a pattern that turned out way too big (in class), I decided to try and make a pattern from one of my best fitting tops. Here it is, in possibly the grainiest photo on the internet:

So I laid the top flat, and pinned some tracing paper onto it...

Then traced the seams...

Drew some alternate necklines...

Lengthened it so I could make a dress out of it too...

Then cut it, folded it in two and checked it against the top again to correct the seams a little...

I did the same thing for the back, and I had a pattern!

For the sleeves, I traced the front and back on paper separately...

Then joined them and retraced them on some new paper (this worked because my sleeves had some gathering, I'm not sure it would have worked otherwise).

Then a band for the high neck version, and I was good to go!