Saturday, October 31, 2015

Instagram moments

The last ten or so days have been incredibly busy with work and personal stuff and as a result I haven’t been able to share many things here; even though I really wanted to. It felt like I didn’t have time to think let alone write anything.

Luckily, I do a better a job when it comes to taking photographs and I do manage to share them on instagram, so I thought why not share them here as well? I think I’ll start doing this from time to time. It’s fun, and those of you who don’t use instagram will get to see what I’ve been up to.

Hope you enjoy them and I promise to be back soon with a recipe.

Oh, and if you see something you like, ask me about it and I promise to post the recipe here on the blog in the future.

By the way, I have updated the recipe index and it is up and running. Hope you find it helpful and easy to use.

Have a great weekend!

“Autumnal shades of brown.”
My favorite things: chestnuts, mushrooms, bread. So many recipes planned ahead with these gorgeous ingredients.

“Holland, I love your flowers.”
This one was shot today. I got a large bouquet for home and now everything seems brighter.

“Coffee, rose petal spoon sweet (Greek preserve) and a new book that arrived today on my doorstep. Can't wait to cook from it!”
I did cook from it. I need to share the recipe soon.

“Homemade fresh tomato sauce is key. #dinner ”
Based on this one.

“Chocolate and coconut.”
Chocolate Lamingtons. I’ve been making them for years and they’re perfection.

“Greek fava (yellow split pea purèe). This, with olives, tinned anchovies and crusty bread. My comfort food. #greekfood #fava #φάβα ”
Find the recipe here.

“One of my colleagues grows cucumbers on a little vegetable plot he rents and today he brought some over to the office to give away. Who can resist fresh (and free) vegetables? So of course I grabbed a couple, and now it's time to make tzatziki. #greekfood #tzatziki #τζατζίκι ”
I've been planning to share with you my recipe for tzatziki for such a long time. One day...

“So dark and rainy today.”
Around The Hague.

“Tonight, sea bream. #τσιπούρες ”
I could live on fish alone.

“When you come home from work, exhausted and hungry, this is the sort of food that can lift your spirits and fill your belly. Not a fancy meal, nor photo for that matter, but delicious and fulfilling. Piping hot thick pasta with minced veal and fresh tomato sauce, aka "makaronia me kima". Will be topped off with a generous grating of Greek Kefalotyri cheese. #greekfood #μακαρόνιαμεκιμά ”

“The best thing to eat on a cold and dark day like today. Greek lentil soup with olives and good bread. #greekfood #φακές #σούπα ”
Find the recipe here.

“Golden potatoes and juicy, crispy-skinned lamb, the Greek way, for Sunday lunch. #greekfood #lamb #αρνίμεπατάτες ”
Find the recipe here.

“Pinks and purples in my salad today.”
You need this salad in your life.

“Flaky, buttery croissant, homemade quince jam and hot cocoa kind of Sunday.”
Find the recipe for hot cocoa here.

“Delicious things on toasted bread to the rescue when I'm famished.”
You need this in your life, too.

P.S. Have you heard??? I’m nominated for three awards at the first ever Greek Food Blog Awards organized by Vima Gourmet magazine. You can vote for me here for Best Cooking Blog, here for Best Sweet Treats and here for Best Food Photography & Styling by clicking the “like” button below the Greek text and next to where it says “Like for Vote” in each category. Thank you very much for your support!!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pistachio, buckwheat and lemon cake with honeyed plums (gluten free)

I was going to tell you about the sunny days we were having. About the clear blue skies and the seducing starry nights. About our walks in the woods and the time we discovered a little wild mushroom village. Or the time when we unexpectedly stumbled upon my dream house; a big one made of Dutch red brick in the middle of the forest, surrounded by tall trees, with a huge thatched roof and small white windows peaking out of it, and a wooden yellow front door. I didn’t take a photo. I didn’t feel the need to. Some images have the ability to sneak into your mind, stay there forever without you even realizing it, until, suddenly, they return, unannounced, and awaken hidden desires. That house will pop into my mind again in the future, I’m sure, and I may stumble upon it on another walk in the woods.

But I have other things to tell you; about sweet flavors and honeyed plums, about a dreamy cake and the irresistible aroma that emanated from the oven while it was baking, about its sweet and earthy taste, the plums sitting on top and the crimson juices that stained our plates. About the vibrancy of the lemon, the unsurpassed flavor of buckwheat and all that it can bring to baked goods, about the ground pistachios and almonds, crunchy inside the fluffy and moist cake, giving it texture and body.

Yes, that’s what I want to tell you today; because there’s no better place to be when the cold autumn days come than in the kitchen, baking pastries and cakes and all kinds of sweet and savory things that warm you up, body and soul, that take you out of your routine and arouse your senses with their flavor. Just like this cake did.

This cake that’s anything but ordinary, both in texture and flavor; made with buckwheat flour, ground pistachios and almonds, dark brown sugar and honey, lemon and red plums; extremely light, airy, fluffy and moist with a crunchy texture from the nuts and soft, juicy plums on top; with the unadulterated, pure taste of honey, the gentle acidity of the lemon balancing the sweetness, and the mellow bitterness of the buckwheat that brings almost a savoriness to the cake that is unique. It’s not very sweet but it rather leaves you with a whiff of honey sweetness and a nuttiness that lingers as an aroma through your palate and nose, while the taste of the red plums enriches the flavors and makes the cake truly special. It makes you want to eat it all, in one go.

Bake this, enjoy it, take a piece with you on a walk through the woods on a cold autumn day and listen to this track. Put on your headphones, listen to it as loud as you can and lose yourself in your thoughts, your feelings, your desires.

Pistachio, buckwheat and lemon cake with honeyed plums (gluten free)
Adapted from Dutch Delicious magazine

I love using alternative flours like buckwheat because they give a beautiful, nutty flavor to baked goods unlike white flour. These types of flours, though, tend to make cakes dry and dense; not in this case. The fluffy texture of the cake is achieved by the addition of a meringue that’s folded in the rest of the cake’s ingredients whereas the honey, soft dark brown sugar and egg yolks are the ingredients that give the cake its moistness.

The plums you use mustn’t be too ripe and soft otherwise they will disintegrate when you cook them in the honey and won’t retain their shape. You want them to have a little bite still to them to complement the fluffiness and softness of the cake.
The flesh of red plums becomes redder as they ripen with the centers remaining orange-yellow. The ones I used were a bit firmer and not too ripe hence their orange-colored flesh. The juices they release, though, have the most charming reddish hue.

If you can’t find plums, since we’re nearing the end of their season, you can substitute with figs, apples, pears or quinces. In the case of apples, pears and quinces, you’ll need to cook them longer in the honey, but only until they’re tender cause you definitely don’t want them to be mushy (about 15 minutes, adding a little water if you see them drying out, and make sure to peel them before cooking).

You will notice that this cake doesn’t contain any fat (butter or oil). The only sort of fat that’s needed is for the greasing of the pan so the cake won’t stick to it. You can use butter, like I did, or sunflower oil (or margarine) but don’t use olive oil because it tends to burn and your cake will have a bitter taste.

Yield: 1 cake / 8 pieces

100 g shelled, unsalted pistachios
55 g blanched ground almonds (preferably freshly ground)
55 g buckwheat flour
¾ tsp baking powder
3 medium-sized eggs, separated into yolks and whites
100 g soft dark brown sugar
Zest of 1 large lemon
Juice of 1 large lemon (about 60 ml)
100 ml runny honey, plus extra for drizzling the cake
3-4 fresh, plump yet firm plums (I used red plums), cut into wedges
Butter, for greasing the pan

Special equipment: 22 cm springform pan, baking paper, small food processor or mortar and pestle, large food processor, stand mixer or electric hand-held mixer

Butter the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Line the bottom with baking paper. See here how to make a round piece of baking paper.

Preheat your oven to 170°C.

In a small food processor (or using a mortar and pestle), add the pistachios and grind them finely, being careful not to grind them too much or they’ll start releasing their natural oils and become pasty. You don’t want that.

In a large food processor, add the ground almonds, buckwheat flour and baking powder and pulse a few times to mix. Add the egg yolks, the brown sugar, the lemon zest and juice and 60 ml of the honey and mix well. Add the ground pistachios and pulse to incorporate. Empty the mixture in a large bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a clean, large bowl), add the egg whites and beat, using the whisk attachment (or a hand-held mixer), on high speed until stiff peaks form when you lift the whisk. Using a spatula, fold in ⅓ of the meringue into the flour-egg yolk mixture, then add the rest of the meringue and fold it in carefully as to not deflate it, until just combined but no white streaks are visible.

Empty the batter gently into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
Place the baking pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cover the pan with aluminum foil halfway through the baking time, if the top gets too dark.
When ready, remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Then remove it from the pan and allow to cool completely on the wire rack.

To make the honeyed plums, heat the rest 40 ml of honey in a small sauté pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until hot. Add the plum wedges and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes or until they are covered with a layer of honey. Take the pan off the heat and leave plums to cool for 2 minutes in the pan. Then, add some or all of them on top of the cake. You may want to leave some off the cake for extra servings. Drizzle the cake and plums with some of the juices from the pan and also with some runny honey (1 tsp is enough).

You can keep the cake (without the plums on top) at room temperature, covered, for a couple of days. You can keep the plums in a bowl, covered, in the fridge, for a couple of days.

P.S. Have you heard??? I’m nominated for three awards at the first ever Greek Food Blog Awards organized by Vima Gourmet magazine. You can vote for me here for Best Cooking Blog, here for Best Sweet Treats and here for Best Food Photography & Styling by clicking the “like” button below the Greek text and next to where it says “Like for Vote” in each category. Thank you very much for your support!!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Tagliatelle with rainbow chard, pine nuts and Gruyère & VIMA Gourmet Greek food blog awards

This post starts in an unorthodox and different way than usual because I have a happy announcement to make. Those of you who follow me on instagram or facebook may already know this. My blog has been nominated for three awards at the first ever Greek Food Blog Awards organized by Vima Gourmet magazine and needless to say I’m super excited and proud. The joy I get from blogging has everything to do with the fact that you, dear readers, are following my journey, cook my recipes, give me feedback and share your thoughts with me. The fact that I’m nominated for an award is the cherry on top yet it certainly gives me a sense of accomplishment. It is a wonderful feeling being recognized for the work you do, and of course your support would mean the world to me.

My Little Expat Kitchen is nominated in the following three categories and I’d be thrilled if you voted for me. You can do so by clicking on the links below (three different categories, three different links, so three separate votes):
1) Best Cooking Blog
2) Best Sweet Treats
3) Best Food Photography & Styling.
In order to vote, you must be logged-in on your facebook account, and click the “like” button below the Greek text and next to where it says “Like for Vote” in each category.
Thank you very much for your support!!

The recipe…
Lately I’ve been cooking with all sorts of colorful ingredients. Exhibit no1, rainbow chard. Isn’t it amazing? Those bright, vibrant, psychedelic colors are stunning and kind of weird when you realize you’ll end up eating them. This chard in particular was organic and thus more colorful, but it also came with its own little creatures. You know, those little green bugs that I had to “exterminate” i.e. rinse away, as soon as I came home, in plenty of running water.

While I customarily use chard in Greek pies or with rice to make a dish similar to this spanakorizo (spinach rice), this time I thought of using them in a pasta dish. S loves pasta, so naturally I have become an expert on inventing pasta dishes, especially those containing vegetables, as is evident if you take a look here.

The combination of pasta and vegetables without heavy, cream sauces is for me ideal since I prefer light pasta dishes. With such dishes, the selection of cheese plays a major role. There’s not only parmesan or pecorino out there, you know; there are so many flavorful cheeses with robust flavors and interesting textures that can elevate even the simplest pasta dish. In this case, I opted for Gruyère that’s slightly sweet, nutty, earthy and salty, and as it slowly melts over the piping hot pasta it has a wonderfully creamy texture.

With the soft bitterness of the sautéed chard, the earthy trace and crunch of pine nuts, the soft heat of garlic and freshness of lemon, the dish has an autumnal feel to it. It’s a warming dish that embraces and satiates you, without being heavy; perfect for these autumnal days.

Tagliatelle with rainbow chard, pine nuts and Gruyère

As with all my pasta recipes with vegetables, there is no sauce per se, but a light “sauce” is created from the chard and pasta cooking liquids, along of course with the olive oil. The starch in the pasta water helps to bind the “sauce” and together with the creamy Gruyère you have a beautiful resulting texture.

The rainbow chard leaked its colors onto the tagliatelle which came as a pleasant surprise. Some of them became reddish, other yellowish. If you can’t find rainbow chard, use regular green chard (Swiss chard) or even spinach which is similar in flavor, even though chard doesn’t leave that astringent feel in the mouth.

Yield: 4 servings

1 bunch (about 270 g) rainbow chard (weight after trimming 230 g)
3 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 large garlic clove, minced
25 g (a little less than ¼ cup) pine nuts
1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Gruyère cheese, grated
300-350 g dried tagliatelle

Special equipment: colander, grater

Rinse the chard under well cold running water. Separate the leaves from the stalks by cutting them at the point where the two meet. Cut off the stringy end bits from the stalks and cut them into long strips lengthwise, roughly the size of the tagliatelle, but not too long (about the length of a finger). Take the leaves and cut out the central hard veins (don’t remove it all the way up, only up until it’s thick) and put them together with the rest of the stalks. Cut the leaves in half or thirds lengthwise, depending on how wide they are, in order to keep them long; they’re easier to eat that way with the tagliatelle.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat and add the tagliatelle. Cook until al dente (firm but not very hard) or cook to your liking.

While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, prepare the chard “sauce”. You will need to add some of the pasta water to the chard so keep that in mind.

Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large, wide sauté pan (one that will fit the pasta as well) over medium heat and add the pine nuts. Toast them and when they start to take on a golden color, add the chard stalks and the garlic. Turn heat down to medium-low and sauté for 5-6 minutes or until tender but not mushy, stirring regularly and being careful not to burn the garlic and pine nuts. Add the chard leaves and sauté for 2-3 minutes stirring continuously. Season with salt and pepper and add the lemon juice. Stir well and take the pan off the heat.

Take 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid from the pot and when the pasta is ready, strain it in a colander. Add the pasta to the sauté pan with the chard, add a little of the reserved pasta water and grate some Gruyère on top. Toss everything well yet gently with tongs and immediately you’ll see the cheese starting to melt.

Note: Add more pasta water if you think your pasta is too dry.

Serve immediately on individual plates making sure to pick up the pine nuts from the bottom of the pan because, being so small, they tend to get lost in the pan. Drizzle with some olive oil and grind some black pepper on top. Finally, grate some more Gruyère and sprinkle it over the top.