(Healthy) Weekend Pancakes

Pancakes – they seem to be craved by everyone recently so I decided to give it a go and finally create my own recipe of delicious & even healthy tortitas!

I’ve been trying various combinations of ingredients and came down to a healthy and a less healthy version (depending on which flour you’re using).

Ingredients for 2:

1 egg (egg replacer for my vegan friends: 1 egg = 1 TSP baking powder + 1/2 TSP baking soda + 2 TBSPs flour + 3 TBSPs water – all mixed well

1 cup of buckwheat or normal flour

2 TSPs baking powder

1 cup milk

1/2 or 1 small ripe banana

1 TSP chia seeds

2 TSPs vanilla extract or one vanilla bean

1/2 TSP cinnamon

1/3 cup raw sugar

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients well and bake in a well-greased pan (I use butter but you can also use vegetable oil) at medium temperature from each side until golden brown. I have a pancake pan so I get the same pancake size all the time – but you shouldn’t need a whole ladle filling in order to get one pancake – I get 8 pancakes out of the mix above.

Healthy_Pancakes

Healthy Pancakes with a Cottage Cheese, Blueberry & Agave Syrup Topping

My style TLC Spanish Chickpea White Bean Stew (vegan – or non-vegan)

I just love to feel comfy & warm – especially now that it’s cold outside. And I love to eat soups and hearty dishes when it’s that time of the year. So what do you get when you combine a soup with a hearty dish?: a comfort food stew!

Ingredients:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Chorizo (if you opt for the non-vegan version – cut it up a bit, so the juices can get out while cooking)

1 white onion, chopped

2 green Italian peppers, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

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optional:

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 big carrot, cut into quarters and then into fine slices

1 big potato, diced

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400g chickpeas (soak them in water overnight or use a jar of pre-cooked ones)

400g white beans (soak them in water overnight or use a jar of pre-cooked ones)

500-750ml vegetable broth (depending on the desired consistency – you’ll get some thickness from the beans)

salt

white ground pepper

about 2 TSPs smoked paprika spice (Spanish one, if possible – I really recommend using this one as it provides the needed smokiness for the vegetarian/ vegan version)

Pimenton de la Vera

Preparation:

Pour about 4 TBSPs of olive oil into a cooking pot, add the onions, the carrots and the smoked paprika spice to the cold olive oil, stir well and let them cook at high heat for about 2mins. Lower the heat to a medium heat and add the garlic, the chorizo (for the meaty version), your Italian peppers and the red bell pepper. Let it simmer for about 5-8 more minutes.

Now add 500-750ml of vegetable broth and the diced potato and bring to a boil. Lower the heat again, but make sure it keeps boiling. After 5 more minutes add the rinsed chickpeas. Boil on medium to low heat for 10 more minutes until the potato dices are fully cooked. Now add the rinsed white beans, let them heat up and season everything with salt and pepper according to taste, switch off the hotplate, but leave the covered cook pot on, so the taste develops. The stew will taste better the next day, as most stews do.

Spanish Chickpea Bean Stew

The Healthier Option: Unfried Sweet Potato Fries

Love sweet potato fries? Me, too! Since I had that delicious treat for the first time back in 2010 in NYC, I’ve always preferred them as a side or a snack whenever available. I’m not a huge fan of fried food usually, and I like it healthy so since they are in season over here at the moment, I thought let’s give it a go and bake them in the oven. And the result was oh sooo good! This is yet another super easy recipe and just perfect for a snack or as a side dish.

Ingredients:

1 huge sweet potato or basically as many as you like or as many as your baking tray can hold 😉

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fleur de Sel or sea salt

Sweet Potato Fries

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan). Meanwhile peel the sweet potato(es) and cut it into evenly long pieces. Line out your baking tray with parchment paper and spread the sweet potato pieces all over it. Drizzle some Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used a pastry brush to glaze all sweet potato pieces evenly with olive oil) over them and season your fries with salt. If you like the taste you can furthermore season them with freshly ground black pepper.

Cook the fries during 20mins – if finely cut they shouldn’t take longer than that.

Recommendation: Serve them with some BBQ sauce – that is just an unbeatable combination!

Vegetarian / Vegan Cottage Pie

It’s winter in the Northern hemisphere and even for us people living in the Mediterranean it’s cold, and we long for hearty dishes that make us feel warm and comfort us through a cold evening. So what’s better than a delicious vegetarian (or even vegan) Cottage Pie?

Cottage Pie

Ingredients (for about 4 big servings):

vegetable oil

1/2 chopped onion

2 big chopped carrots

2 chopped garlic cloves

300 g Quorn Mince (alternatively [and vegan!] use several times washed, drained and crumbled firm tofu that you season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika spice, [add some mustard for the extra kick if you like] – for people living in Barcelona: you can buy frozen vegetarian mince at the Mercat de Santa Caterina)

gravy (use instant one or make your own: Fry some chopped onion (about 1/4) using 2 TBSPs vegetable oil until golden brown; sprinkle in about 1-2 TBSPs of flour and stir well until all flour clumps are removed. Cook while stirring well over a medium heat until the flour-onion mix is light brown. Add vegetable broth [about 250 ml or more depending on your desired gravy thickness], and keep stirring until your gravy is smooth and season with salt and pepper.)

about 100 g fresh or frozen peas

chopped chives and parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

For the mash:

3 big potatoes

butter or margarine

3 TBSPs of cream (vegan soy cream)

about 30 ml of milk (for a vegan version, use soy milk for example)

salt

pepper

ground nutmeg

Preparation:

Dice the potatoes and bring them to a boil. While they are boiling, heat up some vegetable oil (I recommend rice or sunflower oil as it has a rather neutral flavour) and add the onion and the garlic. Let the onion garlic mix cook over a medium heat and before it turns golden, add the chopped carrots. Keep stirring the vegetable mix from time to time to prevent burning. Incorporate the vegetarian / vegan mince and add more vegetable oil if necessary since it tends to soak up the oil quite quickly so you might need to add more. Season it with a bit of salt and pepper, but do not over season since you’ll later on add the already seasoned gravy, as well. When the mince veggie mix is cooked, add 250 ml of vegetable gravy and bring to a gentle boil. Add the frozen or the already cooked fresh peas and the chives / parsley mix, taste it and season more if necessary, and put aside when done.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (grill function).

Once the potatoes are cooked, drain the water and add 1 TBSP margarine or butter and mash them up. Add the cream and milk until you reach your desired mash texture – it should be smooth but not runny / liquid. Season it with salt, pepper and ground nutmeg spice.

Add the vegetable mince mix to a big casserole dish and cover it with the potato mash. Use a fork to get the riffled top structure. Leave it in the oven until golden brown.

Cottage Pie Ready

Crème Brûlée – the classic version

Creme Brulee

Many people love it and yet think Crème Brûlée is a super complicated dessert to make. Of course, you need a few basic tools in order to prepare it correctly, but those are all things easy to access (ovenproof moulds, a small blow torch), and surely you can borrow them from one of your gourmet friends if you don’t want to purchase them. I made it quite a few times and it’s become my favourite dessert.

Starting with the ingredients (makes about 5-8 servings according to the mould size):

750 ml liquid cream (at least 32% fat content)

250 ml milk

200 g sugar

12 egg yolks

1 scraped vanilla bean

raw sugar to caramelise the cooked crème brûlée

Preparation:

In a big bowl mix all the ingredients. Make sure the sugar dissolves completely. Fill the liquid mix into ovenproof crème brûlée moulds or similar (small tapas dishes do the same trick) and put them onto a baking tray. Transfer the baking tray into the oven and fill it with water until the water mark around the little moulds is about 2cm high.

Cook during at least 1h at 100ºC in a fan oven. Check the crème brûlée after 1 hour by moving the moulds a little bit – it should wobble a little but not too much. It shouldn’t need longer than 1h and 15mins in the oven to cook.

Let the crème brûlée cool down and sprinkle some raw sugar over it, which you caramelise with the help of a blow torch (DO NOT use a lighter – that only results in nasty and painful burns).

Store up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

My style lentil soup

Lentil soup – a typical cold season soup that makes you feel warm all over and provides you with a good, substantial meal. So many versions are out there: German, Spanish, French, Indian ones and so many more, I am sure – so this is my take on lentil soup. It’s fairly easy to make and not very time consuming, so definitely something for the newbie cook, but it will also surprise the gourmets amongst us since it is so tasty.

LentilSoup

Ingredients for 4 servings:

butter

1/2 white onion – chopped

5 slices of bacon – cut into strips

500ml of vegetable stock

3-4 carrots (depending on size) – chopped

2-6 firm cooking potatoes (depending on size – don’t use too many – the ones I use are not very big, so I use max. 6) – cut into cube-like pieces

1 jar of lentils (580gr gross weight – drained weight should be around 420gr but we don’t bother about that one since we make use of the liquid as well) or the equivalent of dried lentils soaked in water over night

1/2 leak – split in quarters lengthwise and chopped up

200gr Wiener sausages – cut into round, 3mm thick slices

salt & freshly ground pepper

2 TBSPs white wine or white balsamic vinegar (according to taste)

2 TSPs raw sugar (according to taste)

some parsley – chopped

some chives – chopped

Cooking directions:

Melt a piece of butter in a cooking pot, so all its base is covered; lower to a medium heat. Add the chopped up onion and stir. Add the bacon strips and mix with the onion. Let cook until slighly roasted. Add the chopped carrots and mix everything. Let it simmer for about 2mins. Add the vegetable stock, a pinch of salt and the potatoes, and bring to a boil. Let it boil during 7mins, then add the lentils (with their liquid), the leak and the Wiener slices. Let it boil until carrots and potatoes are fully cooked. Season to taste with salt, pepper, vinegar and raw sugar (the vinegar/ sugar combination is the big taste secret in this recipe). Add parsley & chives. Enjoy 🙂 !

LentilSoupCooking

Cooking advise:

Let the soup sit at least during 2hs to allow its taste to develop. Most soups and stews taste better the next day.

For a vegetarian version leave out bacon and use vegetarian sausages accordingly. For a vegan version use a high quality sunflower or rice bran oil instead of butter.

chök: Where dreams of Chocoholics (and Homer S.) come true

Since we moved to Barcelona’s city centre, and especially the Raval district, we have always enjoyed roaming the streets and discovering new curiosities and special cafés, restaurants, shops, etc. whenever possible. One of those discoveries was made a long time ago – around their first opening actually – and we have been going back for more ever since.

chök shop

Step into another century combined with an exclusive modern design while visiting chök located just off La Rambla

‘chök the chocolate kitchen’ (http://www.chokbarcelona.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/ChokBcn) is located just off La Rambla at the beginning of Calle del Carme, and therefore super easy to find & reach (Green L3 Metro Line stop is Liceu) when in need of a delicious chocolate fix for a 2nd breakfast or the Spanish merienda (afternoon tea time), or whenever really. ‘chök’ is what makes the heart of every chocoholic jump with infinite joy: choose between the grand variety of their always changing chöks (a gourmet doughnut with less sugar, less fat & fried for less time), krönuts (the love story between the classical croissant & the well-known doughnut), chocolate glazed marshmallows, chocolate truffles, chocolate muffins, cookies, etc. and have your chocolate fix inside the beautiful old shop that used to be an antique bonbonería (candy and chocolate shop, that also roasted & sold coffee), dating back to 1850, or get your chök & coffee to go while strolling down La Rambla towards the port.

chök selection

A current special is the Apfelstrudel chök (on the left side)

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My fave chök: the dark chocolate glazed, Fleur-de-Sel chök

Marvel at the wooden shelfs and ceiling and it’s beautiful carved ornaments typical of Barcelona’s Modernisme movement, while discovering other chocolate products such as chocolate pasta or chocolate porter.

chök pasta

chök porter

Most important: take your time and enjoy the friendly atmosphere and beautiful space that owner Débora & staff created. They will do their very best to make your visit a delicious experience, and their expertise and loving attention towards customers, products and detail won’t fail your expectations. All their products are being prepared on a daily basis in the visible chocolate kitchen in the back of the shop. Watch how Débora and Marcia fill their berliners or create such delicacies as chocolate chili truffles with the utmost respect for the product, emphasing on quality, detail and supreme ingredients.

crema catalana krönut

Crema Catalana Krönut in the making

chöks

Pick your chök from a great variety

One thing that startled me from the beginning was the rather untypical & creative name ‘chök’. It is actually derived from the Norwegian word ‘kök’ which stands for ‘kitchen’ and combined with ‘chocolate’ it became ‘chök the chocolate kitchen’. Débora & her staff also offer chocolate cooking classes, combining chocolate with typically savoury dishes (see website). You can also challenge your chocolate cooking skills at home with the help of their cookbook ‘Gourmet Chocolate – Reinventing sweet and savoury’, which also makes for a great Barcelona souvenir or gift for the cook/ gourmet in your life.

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One thing is for sure: if you are a chocoholic, an American cop or Homer Simpson, you will definitely love chök and will always come back for more – and honestly, who could resist such a sweet paradise:

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Owner Débora presenting the daily mouth-watering, beautiful selection of chöks & krönuts

Fleurs Place – or the place where I’d have lunch every day for the rest of my life

This blog post is long overdue and so I am happy & excited I finally found the right moment to write it. After returning from our beautiful, amazing, stunning, marvellous & *nowordscouldeverdescribethatfeeling* honeymoon in New Zealand, I am feeling incomplete. I am sure, I left a big, huge chunk of myself & my heart on the South Island of Aotearoa and now I have to live with this until we are able to return. And one place to return to is Fleurs Place.

Fleur's Place

So it was this gorgeous sunny Saturday morning in Dunedin and after a stroll along Otago Farmers Market (http://www.otagofarmersmarket.org.nz/) including a beautiful latte and pastries, of course!, we made our way to the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Colony (check out the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust http://yellow-eyedpenguin.org.nz/ to find out how you can help this endangered species). With the help of our expert guide, we watched these majestic birds from a safe distance (and I don’t mean safe for us – it’s more about making them feel safe from us) and even discovered a chick (if you should ever go to New Zealand, you shouldn’t miss out on this experience and the staff from 4Nature Tours is super experienced, helpful and keen to provide environmentally friendly tours http://www.4nature.co.nz/).

Yellow-Eyed Penguin

A Yellow-Eyed Penguin watching its chick

After walking up and down the cliffs, trying to avoid death-trap-like rabbit holes, we all felt it was time for a great & tasty lunch and luckily our guide Joanne had recommened Fleurs Place (http://www.fleursplace.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fleurs-Place/283579521839354?fref=ts) much in advance and booked a table accordingly (which is something indispensable to do).

Fleurs Board

When we arrived at the restaurant located just next to the tiny bay of the small village Moeraki, we were immediately enchanted by the peace & beauty that surrounded us. Fleurs Place looks like a charismatic fishermen’s hut and features collectables like old anchors, wooden-framed windows, antique crayfish traps, boats, etc. that its owner, Fleur, collected.

Fleur's Collectables

Fleur Sullivan, a well-known local for her contribution towards NZ tourism & gastronomy, opened Fleurs Place back in 2002 and is serving delicicious dishes made from fresh, local & seasonal ingredients, emphasising on local fish dishes with a personal twist. Not being a seafood/ fish lover myself, I ordered the fish of the day which was Blue Cod (it comes with the freshest, local & seasonal veggies cooked to perfection plus a choice of four different sauces – the Chilli, Coconut & Coriander Sauce was incredibly mouth-watering!!) and it was so delicious (plus it was a stunning piece of art that came on a plate and I am a person that definitely eats with their eyes first) that on from that point I started living on Blue Cod and similar while being in NZ (and I made it through Blue Cod, Elephant Fish, Blue Warehou & Groper). The quality of all the ingredients used for the elaboration of Fleur’s dishes is supreme. You can basically watch them pull up the day’s catch from the Moeraki fishing boats to the restaurant’s own filleting station. Since we came to the conclusion on different occasions, that everything’s the other way around in the Southern Hemisphere, I am pleased to say the oceans in the Northern Hemisphere are safe from me, but Fleurs Place is the place where I’d choose & love to have fish for lunch for the rest of my life if I had the chance to.

Fleurs Food

Kia mākona

And just before losing the interest & attention of all you vegans & vegetarians out there: vegan and vegetarian dishes are created to order! Ah, and not to mention the amazing desserts!!

Fleurs Desserts

On the left: Berry Eton Mess (your taste buds will go crazy); On the right: Crème Brûlée (to die for!!)

If like me you can’t get enough of Fleur’s delicacies, I recommend getting the book ‘fleurs place – simple, fresh, naturally good food’ by Graham Warman and Paul Sorrell, which can be purchased directly in the restaurant or online. Of course, I couldn’t resist and asked most inspiring, charismatic owner Fleur Sullivan to sign my copy which she happily did. And this is the best souvenir a foodie like me could possibly get from beautiful Aotearoa – Fleurs Place’s recipes and my memories will surely help me with my aching, lovesick heart and transport me to the place that owns a big part of it. Kia Ora, Fleurs Place!

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Fleur Sullivan signing my copy of ‘fleurs place – simple, fresh, naturally good food’

Moeraki Boulders

After a most satisfying lunch we headed towards the Moeraki Boulders, located up North alongside the coast from Fleurs Place, and enjoyed the magical scenery at one of the world’s most beautiful beaches

La Focaccia de Alfonso

What happens when you are alone at home, it’s miserable, dark and cold outside and you are in the mood for a decent pizza but there’s just none available and you don’t trust in your own pizza dough skills in order to make one? You do a Focaccia! It’s just so easy and recently marvellous Alfonso, who shall be mentioned again in a future blog post, passed me a basic, very easy focaccia dough recipe:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

1kg plain flour

500ml hot water

About 5 tablespoons of Virgin Olive Oil

1 pack of active dry yeast

A pinch of salt

Mix the flour with the dry active yeast and a pinch of salt. Then add the hot water slowly while constantly mixing all the ingredients thoroughly and add the Virgin Olive Oil afterwards – keep kneading the dough for at least 10 minutes. Leave the dough ball in a bowl that you cover with a clean kitchen towel. Best is if you keep it in a warm place so the dough rises faster. This should be the case after about 30mins.

Focaccia Dough

You can store leftover focaccia dough for the next day – just make sure you cover it in transparent film and keep it in the fridge

So what to put on top? Well, whatever you prefer and whatever your fridge has to offer. I first drizzled some more Virgin Olive Oil over the spread out focaccia dough and then went for Kumato Cherry Tomatoes, dried tomatoes, Mozzarella chunks and some green pesto sauce:

Covered Focaccia

Prepared for the oven?

Then you bake your focaccia at 180ºC for about 15-20mins. Keep checking on it from time to time because each oven is a bit different, I always say and what works for mine might not work for yours.

I didn’t prepare the focaccia dough with 1kg of plain flour – I only took 250g. That made two decent sized focaccias. So depending on if you’re cooking for more people or just for yourself, you just divide the quantities of the ingredients accordingly.

So is your mouth watering by now? Just give it a go – it’s super easy & fast – aaaaaand delicious!!!

Alfonso's Focaccia

La Granja M. Viader

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When living in or going to Barcelona you definitely shouldn’t miss out on this especially delicious & historically very important landmark. Its history began in 1870 when Señora Rafaela Coma first opened the doors to her little dairy shop in Calle Xuclà, 6. Since then one can find the best dairy products, cold cuts & cheeses (which can also be vacuum-packed for you to take home), cakes, desserts and the best and typical thick, hot Spanish Chocolate in Barcelona, Catalonia, I even dare to say in all of Spain, at the small Granja M. Viader (Website: http://granjaviader.cat.mialias.net/?p=201&lang=en – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GranjaViader/timeline)!

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Watch the staff handle the freshest dairy products

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The supreme cheeses and cold cuts selection for you to purchase

The young Señor Marc Viader started working there in 1895 and since 1910 the Viader family is the rightful and proud owner of this charismatic Granja, that maintained its charm and historic look throughout the centuries. When entering the little shop that is located in the historical part (Ciutat Vella) on one of the Raval’s very small streets, one feels like being transported into another time, far far away from our modern, hectic world. Go in, mix with locals and tourists alike, and marvel at all the awards and medals Mr Viader won during the last century and follow the history of the most important milestones for the little family run business – be it the important invention of the tasty Catalonian drinking chocolate ‘Cacaolat’ (the Catalonian equivalent to the Spanish ColaCao) or the pictures of their most valueable dairy cows displayed on the wall just hanging next to old, antique adverts for their dairy products – you won’t get bored and you can make sure to make the most of a rainy or cold afternoon in Barcelona.

Cacaolat

The Catalonian drinking chocolate ‘Cacaolat’ has been invented at the Granja M. Viader

The most typical thing to order would be a Xocolata Calenta (the thick, hot chocolate) but in order to make it a bit more luscious, I recommend going for the ‘Suis’ which is the thick, hot chocolate topped off with the most delicious freshly whipped cream I have ever tasted (and I come from a Northern country where people know how to treat dairy products!).

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Have your ‘Suis’ with some freshly baked ‘Xurros’

Apart from being able to take the best, typical cold cuts and cheeses home, you can also give their typical thick, hot chocolate as a present. It comes in different sized bags, accompanied by the instructions in Catalan, Spanish, English or French.

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The perfect & most tasty souvenir from the Catalonian Capital

So keep calm and have some hot chocolate!

keep-calm-and-beu-cacaolat