Cold Melon Soup

Here in Barcelona it’s summer – hot hellish like summer. These days a heat wave struck and combined with BCN’s usual humidity, I’m far from being hungry, and all I can think of when it comes to eating is having something cold, light, healthy & easy to make. Most head for a salad or – when thinking about cold soups – a Gazpacho, but a real good alternative to those rather known summer dishes is a cold melon soup:

SopaDeMelon

Ingredients (4 servings):

1/2 ‘Piel de Sapo’ melon

1/2 cucumber (a piece about 20cm long)

2 garlic cloves

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use a special one for salads – not for cooking)

salt & pepper to season

Chives

Optional:

A few slices of Jamón Ibérico Bellota – Pata Negra

You can also add some mint leaves that you puree in the beginning with the other ingredients.

Preparation:

Peel the cucumber, cut it and the melon into even pieces, and put them into a high bowl. Peel the garlic and add it as well. Puree everything with a mixer. Add 2-3 spoons of olive oil at the end and mix well. Season with salt & pepper and leave in the fridge for at least 1h. If you want to add a bit of jamón bellota, take it out of the fridge about 20mins before serving the soup so it can evolve its full flavours at room temperature.

Fill the cold soup into soup plates. Rip the jamón gently into pieces and place those in the middle of the soup. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over it and garnish with some chopped chives and the entire chive stems.

The Healthy Bake (vegan & vegetarian)

Today we fancied something fast, light & healthy, yet warm for dinner. As my better half is currently having some dietary restrictions, I was giving the options a good thought and came up with this easy to make one-tray-recipe – I just love putting everything into the oven and that all comes out cooked to perfection and ready to serve:

HealthyBake3

The Healthy Veggie Bake also makes as a perfect Side Dish

Ingredients (makes 2 servings as a main course):

1/2 big butternut squash pumpkin

1 big white sweet potato (you can also use a normal sweet potato)

4 big carrots

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)

Preparation (5mins + 30mins cooking time):

Preheat the oven (fan) to 180ºC.

Cut all the veggies into even pieces (the carrot pieces should also be a bit thicker) and place them into an oven dish (I lined mine additionally with parchment paper), drizzle some Extra Virgin Olive Oil over them and season with salt & ground black pepper. Place the oven dish on the medium level in your oven.

HealthyBake1

Optional: Pumpkin is great combined with parmesan cheese, so if you are feeling cheesy, take the oven dish out after about 20mins and cover the vegetables in a thin layer of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and put it back into the oven for another 10mins. Enjoy!!

HealthyBake2

Mmmmm, Parmigiano!

(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

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

Guinness Draught Irish Stew made in BCN

A little more than over a year ago I came across this fabulous Irish Stew recipe on one of my favourite blogs, Brown Eyed Baker (http://www.browneyedbaker.com/). I immediately felt intrigued and tried it on my own and since then basically can’t stop cooking it – especially now that autumn’s finally arrived and winter is just lingering around the next corner.

I must mention that I am not very fond of cooking according to recipes (which makes me a terrible baker since I consider the high art of baking something that is on one side absolutely creative but on the other a procedure of high-level chemistry which, once you added some fire, can’t be reversed, whilst cooking is an ongoing process and you sort of have more possibilities to make it work again) but I love to get my inspiration online and from my father who is a retired chef. So yes, I try baking once in a while, and have the highest admiration for bakers and their creations, but it’s something that I absolutely have to practise before I could even consider calling myself a baker.

So back to this marvellous stew. Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe (http://www.browneyedbaker.com/guinness-beef-stew-recipe/) inspired me various times to take my turn and try my own versions. I am not a big fan of beef so I always make sure to throw in enough vegetables. According to season, (I am very lucky to live just around the corner of one of the world’s most famous and biggest markets – The Boqueria Market), I like to choose fresh veggies and meat and that’s where cooking starts for me already – with the planning and then purchasing the right ingredients. I love choosing my own ingredients and won’t buy food where I can’t do that. Recently I love adding root vegetables (like parsnips and carrots) and different kind of pumpkins that I throw in 30mins later than the rest of the vegetables since they tend to get absorbed completely in the beautiful sauce – which is not bad at all since they add a nice, slightly sweetish taste to the stew.

Veggies

Beautiful Boqueria Veggies & Herbs

Fresh Beef

Fresh & juicy beef for stew with freshly ground black pepper

I try to stick to the recipe, only deviating a little bit from the original. Apart from different vegetables, I tend to use more Guinness Draught since I like a lot of sauce. Unfortunately I don’t have a Dutch oven so I do all the cooking in a usual pot which I keep covered, cooking the stew at low temperature the same amount of time as indicated in the original recipe on the stove. If you need help regarding the measurement conversions, I use the following link, which is quite helpful: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/conversions/

Slow cooking stew

Slow cooking at low heat

After the 3hs cooking time, I just leave the stew on the switched off, cooling down stove so the beef becomes even more tender. Then the only thing that’s left to say is “Enjoy your meal – bon profit!”

Dinner Time