Thursday, 30 June 2016

BBQ season with grilled harisa chicken and grilled peaches

I do believe that by now the barbecue season reached us all. Today I am going to share some recipes for the barbecue season. Surely in Spain it does start a bit earlier and we did grill couple of times till now already. There is no need to explain why barbecue season is so great. I love it mostly because this is my opportunity to experiment, create new recipes and try some new trends and classics. There are some basics I always do follow, anyhow the outcome is most of the time quite all depends on what our refrigerator would offer and my mood on the spices and herbs the moment I do prepare the meat. I always go easy when preparing the food for the barbecue, most of which can be prepared in advanced. In my opinion barbecue parties are the best, if you are expecting a bigger crowd to come over... it is less formal, it is outside at the fresh air and you would not spend days in the kitchen to prepare the food to "wow your guests.

My barbecue menu would always include some marinade meat, fresh salad, some antipasti for starter and a simple dessert. Meat, antipasti and dessert are the things you can always do in advanced, so finally only whats left for the special day is the preparation of the fresh salad, which shall also remain rather simple as the star of the menu shall always be the meat. If we expecting other people to come over, I always would mix the menu with some store bought grill sausages or meat, some oven roasted potatoes and for dessert some additional fresh seasonal fruits. It does certainly save some time in the kitchen and nobody will leave hungry.
My barbecue menu for today: Harisa yogurt marinade chicken, grilled vegetables antipasti, fresh figs and avocado salad and grilled peaches with vanilla ice cream and homemade amarettini cookies.
Harisa yogurt chicken
  • 2 chicken breast
  • 1-2 teaspoons harisa paste (depends how spicy you like it to be)
  • 3 tablespoons natural yogurt ( I usually use Greek yogurt)
  • fresh thyme or any other herbs
  • some smoked paprika
  • salt, pepper, olive oil
  • 1 glove garlic (optional)
Cut the chicken breast in half's and season it with some salt and pepper. Take a plastic bag and put in some of the olive oil, harisa, yogurt, fresh herbs, smoked paprika, some salt and pepper add the chicken slices. Close the bag and start to shake it so all spices are well combined and chicken breast are all covered. Put the bag into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (best over night) so the meat can marinade and get spicy and tender.
Fresh figs and avocado salad
  • 2-3 fresh figs
  • 1 avocado
  • hand full cherry tomatoes
  • fresh cheese - such as Burgos cheese
  • lemon
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and olive oil
Half the cherry tomatoes, cut the figs in slices and avocado and fresh cheese in cubes. Place some of the tomatoes on a serving plate and sprinkle with some salt. Put the avocado cubes on top and sprinkle with some lemon juice. Distribute the figs and cheese cubes on top. Give  good splash olive oil and some of the balsamic veinegar over the salad.

Grilled vegetables antipasti

  • 1 courgette
  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 bell paprika
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C and put it on grill function. Line the baking sheet with baking paper and sprinkle some olive oil over it. Cut the eggplant and courgette in slices and quarter the bell paprika. Put the vegetable slices on the baking sheet season with some salt and pepper and give another good splash of olive oil over it. Grill for 20-25 minutes.

  • 150 ml olive oil
  • 50 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 gloves garlic
  • lemon juice of half of a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh basil leaves
  • fresh thyme
In a bowl whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Press the garlic through the garlic press, chop the herbs and mix it all into the oil-vinegar mixture. 
Take the dish you will stack the vegetables in, pour in 1-2 tablespoons of the marinade and put some of the vegetables slices on top, pour some of the marinade over the veggies. Continue till all vegetables are used. Always finish with the marinade. Let the antipasti rest for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before serving (best overnight). The antipasti can be stored in the refrigerator for more than a week, just make sure they are covered with the marinade.
Stack the antipasti in a jar and it will makes a perfect present for your friends for the next BBQ party or italian themed dinner.
This antipasti can be served as a starter on a fresh baguette bread slice, or as a side dish for grilled meat. Any leftovers will pep up your ordinary sandwich you might prepare for the next picnic and is it delicious with fresh cooked pasta for lunch.
Amarettini cookies
  • 1 egg white
  • 75 g sugar
  • 85 g ground almonds
  • some drops of almond aroma
  • powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C. Whisk the egg white with sugar till soft peaks start to form. Add ground almonds and almond aroma (or Amaretto liquor). Mix till all well combined. With 2 teaspoons or wet hands from small dough balls and place them on the baking sheet line with baking paper. If the dough is bit too runny you can also pipe it on the baking sheet. Sprinkle plenty of powdered sugar over the cookies and bake for about 15 min.

Grilled peaches
  • fresh peaches (or nectarines)
  • some butter room temperature
  • vanilla sugar
Cut the peaches in half, take away the stone. Spread some of the butter on the half's and sprinkle vanilla sugar over it. Grill cuts down on the grill till browned and caramelised. Serve hot with a big dollop of vanilla ice cream and amarettini cookie crumbles (you can also use store bought amarettini cookies, works as good as homemade).


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Crepes with braised vegitables and cherry speculoos cookie trifle

Last year, when we spend a week in Provence, I tried to cook a new french recipe every day. This year however I was not as diligent and maybe also not as french. I guess in our memories the dishes I prepared would be still somehow french, only because of the fact that I was using local products and herbs de provence, something we would not get as easy in Spain. Today's recipes as already mentioned are maybe not authentic french, but there was certainly a french twist to it. Braised vegetables wrapped in a crepe with some fresh herb creme legere, made in my newly acquired ceramic pot and fresh cherry and speculoos cookie trifle with vanilla creme legere.
I do believe we all have been doing crepes in our life and everybody have a family recipe we got from our moms. I always stick to my recipe of the blinis (Russian pancakes) as for me they are most similar to the french version, as also in Russia or maybe just in my family we always tried to make them as thin as possible, something we all know from the crepes. German version of the pancake and I think the Swedish too are done a bit thicker and I know many people who does prefer it exactly that way. The ingredients for the crepes, blinis, Pfannkuchen are however always the same...eggs, milk, flour and butter (or vegetable oil). Using the recipe below you can make the crepes the way you like it, as thin or as thick as you like.

Blini - Russian pancake
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1,5 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • half  teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
Prepare the pan, put it on medium-high heat, grease it with little vegetable oil and let it get hot. If you have a blender put all the ingredients there and blend, till all well combined. The batter will be rather liquid, so you can spread it easily all over the pan.
Preparation without blender: put the flour in a big bowl, add sugar, salt. Make a whole in the middle and add eggs and some of the milk... whisk with a hand whisk from the middle to the edges. Add some more milk as you go till all is used. Keep steering to avoid clumps. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes. Finally add melted butter and mix till all well combined. Pour some of the batter into the hot pan, spread it equally all over the pan (by taking the pan and circle it, till all batter it well distributed), cook it till the edges start to brown (shall not take more than 10-20 seconds). Turn it around and cook from another side.

Braised vegetables
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 bell paprika
  • 1 big tomato
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 small cup of red wine
  • salt, pepper, olive oil
  • fresh herbs (I used rosemary, savage, basil)
  • 1-2 tablespoons creme legere
Preheat the oven to 200C. Wash and cut the vegetables in equal cubes. Put them in big bowl and season them with salt and pepper. Let them rest for couple of minutes. Pour  good splash of olive oil over the vegetables and steer till all veggies are covered. Put the veggies into a ceramic dish (or dutch oven), stick fresh herbs in and pour over the wine. Let it cook for about 30-40 minutes in the oven. Check the eggplants if the are cooked through, if so add creme legere, steer and let it cook another 5 minutes.

Fresh herbs creme legere
  • creme legere (creme fraiche)
  • fresh spring onions
  • fresh mint leaves
  • salt and pepper
Chop the herbs. Add creme legere into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the herbs over it and mix roughly.

Fresh cherries speculoos cookie trifle

  • 8-10 speculoos cookies (such as Biscoff)
  • hand full fresh cherries
  • vanilla sugar
  • creme legere
  • some fresh cherries and cookies for decoration
Crash the cookies roughly with your hands. Wash the cherries half them and take away the stones. Take a glass put some of the cookie crumbles, followed by some cherries and finally topped with creme legere, sprinkle some of the vanilla sugar on top. Repeat the same one more time and top it with a whole cherry and a cookie. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Lavender fields and easy apricot tarte

We are back home for couple of days already, but my mind is still in Provence, revelling in the memories of the nice holiday with all the delicious food and charming villages.

One day we went for a lavender fields tour, which has been recommended to us by our landlords. The tour was quite amazing as we have been seeing countless lavender fields and passed many small and charming villages along the way (Puyméras, Mirabel-aux-Baronnies, Vinsobres, Valréas, Grillon, Colonzelle, ChamaretChantemerle-lès-GrignanClansayesSaint-Paul-Trois-ChâteauxLa Baum de Transit). Each villages offers something special an old castle, charming restaurant, amazing church, beautiful old stone houses or an old ruin. The villages are surrounded by wine and lavender fields. We took the unofficial country road and were rewarded with stunning view of nature and countless lavender fields. This tour can be also done by a bike and I can image that it does enhance the whole experience even more.

We decided to take of for the tour right after the breakfast. I wanted to have something nice for the afternoon coffee and decided to make an apricot tarte, while we had breakfast. The cake is super for an afternoon coffee and is easy to make. The only difficult part in this recipe is taking  the stones out of the apricots and cut them in slices. By the time we came back home, we all were excited and happy to have a bite of this delicious cake, while we would speak about all the nice places we saw and checking the pictures we made. It was a lovely day with many impressions and a lovely summer cake.

Apricot tarte

  • pre-made puff pastry
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • vanilla essence
  • 4-5 spoons creme legere (creme fraiche)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • fresh apricots
Preheat the oven to 180C. Cover the tarte baking form with the puff pastry. In a bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, creme legere, vanilla essence and flour. Pour the mixture into the tarte form. Wash and cut the apricots in slices and place them on top of the egg-creme legere mixture. Sprinkle some of the sugar on the top and bake the tarte ca. 30-35 minutes till golden brown. Let it cool and serve at the room temperature.


Friday, 24 June 2016

Enjoying Provence..

It has been exactly one year ago we spend one amazing week in Provence. The nice memories lasted whole year around and the desire to see Puyméras again would not let us go. And this is how we ended up here again. The small village named Puyméras is a perfect place for a get away if you are looking for a relaxing holidays. We rented the same place as last year, after having such a great, friendly and welcoming treatment from our landlords. 
In Provence time seems to stay still, the villages around start to wake up for the upcoming summer season and the nature is starting to reward you with her first summer fruits net melon, apricots, strawberries, cherries and nectarines. There is nearly every day another outdoor market in a different village, where local farmers are selling their goods, starting with seasonal fruits and vegetables over home made cheeses, sausages and bread. Everything natural and biological of course. On top you will find many fruit stands along the way, which I personally just love, where you can get best quality seasonal fruits and vegetables for a very small prices. We don´t speak a single word of french (besides of the standard once hello, thank you and goodbye) but still we manage to have small conversations with the farmers, who are trying to give you some tips on how to select the best net melon and what you shall consider if buying courgettes. On top most of them will also exchange some tips on the dishes you could prepare with the vegetables you are buying. I always enjoy these experiences and sometimes I wish I would speak a little bit more french and get even more secrets and tips on a Provencal cooking. The country side is always very special to me, no matter where I am, people are more friendly and open, relaxed and welcoming. These are the warm memories which we are taking with us, this small piece of peace, which sometimes seems to be lost in the hectic of a working day back home in the city.
Some of the outdoor markets are not only offering local food, but also spices, soap, clothes and ceramic ware. I couldn´t resist of buying something from the local ceramic seller and as usual I was not able to decide which of the dishes I liked most and so I ended up of buying them both. One fire red ceramic pot for braised dishes which screamed "country dishes" to me and one gratin dish in a very funny design and colour. Both dishes were used the same day, just to proof my husband that I really really needed yet another ceramic pot and a gratin form. I love ceramic ware not only for cooking or baking, but also for using them to serve the food... it always looks amazing and decorate your table with a certain flair, on top you are not in the need to make an additional serving plate dirty... handy wouldn´t you agree?
Braised beef with vegetables
  • 400 g beef cut in cubes
  • 1 big onion
  • 2 big potatoes
  • 3 big carrots
  • hand full green beans
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • vegetable broth (500-600 ml)
  • salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh herbs
Season the beef with salt and pepper, pour some olive oil into the frying pan and fry the beef cubes from all sides to have them sealed. Take the meat cubes and put them into the ceramic pot (this dish can be also done in a dutch oven dish). Cut the onion in cubes and put them into the same frying pan, add some oil if needed. Cook the onions for a couple of minutes, till translucent and add the tomato paste and some water to make a sauce, let it cook for 1 minute. Pour the onion tomato sauce over the beef into the ceramic pot. Next peel the potatoes and carrots and cut  them in equal cubes, then put them into the pot too. Wash the beans and cute them equal pieces and distribute them on top of the vegetables. Finally pour in the vegetable broth, so the potatoes are covered. Stick the bay leaves and fresh herbs, season if needed and close the pot with the lid. Put the ceramic pot into the preheated oven (250C) and cook for about 1,5 hours.
Stir the dish after halfway trough. Try if more seasoning is needed. Serve with some creme legere and fresh baguette bread. 

Strawberry vanilla short cake with creme legere
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g sugar
  • vanilla sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of creme legere (or creme fraiche)
  • 50 g butter melted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 120 g flour
  • creme legere
  • fresh strawberries
  • 2-3 fresh mint leaves
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease the gratin form with some butter. In a bowl whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla sugar. Add creme legere and butter and give it another whisk. Add flour and baking powder, mix till all well combined. Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for about 30 min, make the wooden stick test. Take the form out of the oven and let it cool for 10 min. Meanwhile wash the strawberries and half them. Spread some creme legere over the top of the cake and sprinkle some vanilla sugar on top. Distribute the strawberries all over the cake. Chop the mint leaves and sprinkle it over the top.


Saturday, 11 June 2016

Greek inspired dinner and sugar cake which never fails

It was a very hot day yesterday and I was graving something fresh and light for dinner. Salad is always a good alternative for hot days, but sometimes just a salad is not enough and so I decided to do chicken wraps Greek style. Greek salad is one of the most freshers salads I know, it is light, delicious, reach on vitamins and then there is feta cheese, which makes the whole salad experience quite special. Zaziki is another Greek dish we adore, which is just perfect for hot days. It´s done within couple of minutes and is always a hit on the table.

Today Greek inspired dinner, done under 30 minutes, fresh, light and delicious. And sugar cake recipe you will adore. I was reading one of my baking magazine the other day and found a nice article about sugar cake from a baking chef promising that from now on you will always be able to bake a sugar cake, without having a recipe at your hand, there is just a certain "trick" you have to follow and you will end up with a gorgeous and delicious cake. This trick caugth my attention and I needed to try it out. I do confirm the trick is working and I was amazed by the outcome...
Greek salad
  • salad leaves 
  • black olives
  • feta cheese
  • cucumber
  • small red onion
  • tomatoes
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
Cut the onion in half rings, put them in a bowl and pour cold water over it. Put the bowl aside, this will take the bitterness out of the onions and give them a mild onion taste. Wash and cut the cucumber and tomatoes. Cut feta cheese in cubes and drain the onion rings. Take a big salad bowl, put the salad leaves in, top it with tomatoes and cucumber slices, onions rings, olives and feta cheese cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Finally have a good splash of olive oil.

  • cucumber
  • garlic glove
  • fresh mint leaves
  • feta cheese
  • natural Greek yogurt
  • salt, pepper
Wash the cucumber and cut out the seeds (they contain lots of water, which will make your zazaki watery). Grate the cucumber, add the garlic pressed through the garlic press and crumbled feta cheese. Mix everything together. Add the yogurt and chopped mint leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

Sesame chicken sticks
  • chicken breast
  • salt, pepper
  • flour
  • sesame seeds
  • olive oil
Cut the chicken in stripes. Dry them with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper. Dust bit of a flour over and fry them in some of the olive oil till golden brown. Sprinkle some of the sesame seeds over it and put them into the oven (preheat to 120C) for couple of minutes.

Serve the chicken sticks with Greek salad, zaziki and tortilla flat bread, so everybody can create their own wrap.

Friday is usually the day where I would pick up Pablo bit earlier from the kindergarten so we can have a bit more quality time together. And this is usually also the day of the week where we would bake together. He loves helping me in the kitchen and I do enjoy our time together. It is so cool to see him having the same passion for food as we do. He tries different ingredients and makes his comments or those funny "yummy" noises to everything he tries. Cookies are his favourite thing to bake, mainly because he can play with the dough, cut out the cookies himself and because they are baked within 10-15 minutes and he does not have to wait for them for so long. This Friday we did both vanilla sugar cookies and a sugar cake, based on the trick I read in the baking magazine. 
The trick is simple: you shall always use the same amount of grams for eggs, flour, butter and flour and you shall end up with a perfect coffee cake.
Start always with eggs, which will give you the amount of grams to be used for sugar, butter and flour. You can flavour the cake with vanilla, lemon, orange or lime zest and use berries, fruits, dried fruits or chocolate chips.
Chocolate sprinkles sugar cake
(for a mini bundtcake form)
  • 2 small eggs (about 85 gr)
  • 85 gr sugar
  • 85 gr butter melted
  • 85 gr flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • chocolate sprinkles
In a big bowl whisk together eggs and sugar. Add melted butter and vanilla, give it another whisk and sift the flour and baking powder in. Mix till all well combined. Finally add the chocolate sprinkles. Pour the batter into the greased bundtcake form and bake for 30-35 minutes. Let the cake cool of on a cooling rack, before taking it out of the form.

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