Wednesday recipes: V’s favourite dishes

14 11 2012

It has been literally ages since I published any Wednesday recipe, maybe because I haven’t been a very inspired cook in the past years. But I am slowly getting back to cooking, trying new recipes and having the time to do so. Fortunately we have been blessed with a little boy who eats almost anything! (touch wood, as I know that children can go through different phases of not liking different foods)

Here are some of V’s favourite dishes, that are very easy to make – necessary as we both work full time and V is absolutely starving when we get home in the evenings:

Veal strips in a mustard sauce
Boil or fry strips of thin veal slices with some onion. I still try to boil V’s meat instead of frying it, but I add garlic cloves, laurel, and other herbs to the pot while boiling. When the meat is cooked, drain the water, remove the garlic etc. Add some olive oil / butter, a spoonful or two of French Dijon mustard, tarragon and cream and let it get warm.
Serve with mash of potato and parsnip, and green peas added at the end, or rice.

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Spaghetti with courgette, ham & feta sauce

Grate a courgette and fry it lightly with some olive oil and maybe a chopped onion. Add mushrooms if you have some at home, some diced ham, feta cheese and cream. Season with fresh herbs (basil) or dry (I really like tarragon / estragon / dragon). Serve with spaghetti.

Green veggie soup / puré with chèvre

In our local supermarket we can find frozen “green veggies for soup” (broccoli, leek, peas, brussels sprouts etc) that we boil with 1-4 potatoes and some herbs (fresh or dry). Drain most of the water but keep maybe a 1 deci-litre / cup, add some chèvre or feta cheese and blend it in a blender to a semi-smooth soup / puré (depending on which consistency you want!). Decorate with some ham, lightly fried mushrooms and drizzle some olive oil on top (the Spanish touch 😉 ).

Et voilà, there you have three quick, simple and delicious everyday meals that are at least as tasty for grown ups as for babies (at least our baby)! We tend to cook without salt nowadays as we want to avoid V eating salt for a while longer. With the ham and the cheese the food gets salty enough.

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Top shelf in yellow

22 11 2010

I just realised the other day that the top shelf in our tiny kitchen is colour coordinated and representing “our” four countries. Maybe not all of them are brands originating in the different countries but we have bought them in: Sweden (soft “pepparkakor” from Skane* and a bag of Swedish dry yeast that is almost not visible leaning against the vanilla sugar), Belgium (Imperial vanilla sugar and baking powder), Spain (Royal baking powder) and Puerto Rico (coffee). Also interesting that the baking powder is either Imperial or Royal!?

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*) I loved these cookies when I was a child but my mother refused to buy them as they were not “healthy” but nowadays she always brings them… for O! Same thing with the so-called shrimp cheese sold in a tube – I was never allowed to eat that as a child but when we lived in Puerto Rico my parents would pack their suitcases full of the stuff – for O!!





Wednesday Tapas

22 09 2010

Not really a recipe this Wednesday but a list of stuff that you can serve if you want a Spanish tapas evening! And not much cooking involved, just opening cans, slicing and arranging on plates and in bowls:

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Leftovers from a Spanish-themed dinner a few weeks ago…

Wednesday Tapas

  • olives, both green and black – the classical Spanish green olive is stuffed with anchovies
  • marinated anchovies – sometimes served on a small skewer with green olives (one of my favourite tapas but O usually thinks it’s too expensive)
  • tortilla (Spanish potato omelette – I have forgotten to publish a recipe on this classic and simple Spanish dish – promise to do it soon!)
  • jamón, chorizo, lomo and other Spanish cured meats
  • lots of thick bread slices (baguette)
  • tomato salad with tuna and olive oil
  • Manchego cheese in slices (O usually cuts the cheese in triangles)
  • paté on small toasts
  • pickled artichokes or alcachofas revueltas
  • boiled eggs – cut the eggs in half, remove the yolk and mix it with mayonnaise and tuna. Put the mix back in the egg halves.
  • mushrooms – fry them (whole if small, otherwise in halves) in olive oil, garlic, white wine and parsley. Can be served cold.
  • pickled and canned seafood, such as langostillos, mejillones en escabeche (pickled mussels), almejas (clams), berberechos (cockle)
  • Ensalada Rusa

This kind of dinner is all about the presentation! Get out all your small bowls and pretty serving plates and lay out the food. Serve with Spanish red wine / beer / clara (shandy / panaché, i.e beer with lemonade). ¡Buen provecho!

Spanish tapas on Christmas day
Our Spanish Christmas Day dinner in 2007 in Puerto Rico!

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I am not going to tell you what I thought that this looked like but rather have you guess what it is! What do you think O and his sister feasted on when we were in Spain?





Wednesday recipe: Sage Potatoes with Bacon

11 08 2010

This is actually not my recipe, I found it on the great blog of Havtorn Design – run by two sisters-in-law who blog about interior design, flea market finds and family life. They also have a little web shop. Check out the two links, their texts are in Swedish and English (since a few days!) but the pictures are very inspiring!

I realised when reading the recipe that I have never cooked with sage, but what a lovely herb. Both O and I discovered that we love the smell of sage which coincidentally is called salvia in both Swedish and Spanish (and Italian, but sauge in French). The smell actually reminds me of the childhood, but I don’t know why – maybe my mother used to cook with it, or did we just have the herb growing in my father’s small herbal garden?

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Sage potatoes with Bacon
1 kg potatoes / cut in pieces
Olive oil
Bacon / cut in strips and lightly fried, dry off excess fat on a plate covered with kitchen paper
Sage leaves
Salt and black pepper

Boil the potatoes almost soft. Spread them on an oiled oven-proof dish; sprinkle about 1 decilitre of olive oil on top. Bake in the oven, 200 degrees (Centigrade) for approximately 20 minutes. Add the bacon and a handful of sage leaves. Bake another 10-20 minutes until golden. Season with salt and black pepper. (original recipe in Swedish from Havtorndesign)

Bizarre food related observations:

O had bought eggs one day, we put them in the plastic egg holder in the fridge as we usually do, and threw away the packaging. When I made pancakes a few days later I had the funniest experience: double yolks in two eggs! All in all I think four out of six eggs had double yolks – what kind of eggs had O bought?? We don’t actually know since we hadn’t kept the box… Have you come across a lot of double-yolked eggs?

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And what about this jam? I thought that “The Old Factory” was Danish, at least it is sold under that name in Sweden – with the exact same label, in Danish (but when reading on the back it said Eslöv, my home town in Sweden!)… Isn’t it a bit of false marketing, “Founded in 1834” – yes, but in which country? Denmark or Spain?? Does the jam and marmelade brand exist in other countries as well? Ok, so I googled “Den Gamle Fabrik” and the label is slightly different but the names (and founding year!) are definitely the same, in different languages…

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Wednesday recipes and an etiquette poll on nakedness

28 07 2010

It has been a long while since I published a recipe, and for that matter an etiquette poll, but since my blog inspiration in general has come back, I am also more motivated to take up this Wednesday theme! If anybody wants to join in the Wednesday recipe / Etiquette poll, just let me know and I will link you up.

Since the Belgian summer has been so warm and sunny so far (this week a little less even though I can see a blue sky at the moment), I have been making a lot of light and simple salads. Here are two of my favourite ones:

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Cherry tomato and rucola pasta salad

– cherry tomatoes
– pasta; such as farfalle or torti / fusilli
– a handful of rucola / rocket / arugula
– Optional: some slices of cured ham such as Parma ham or Spanish jamón AND / OR canned artichoke hearts AND / OR feta cheese
– fresh basil
– olive oil, salt & pepper

Haricots verts and potato salad

– new potatoes – boiled and halved if small, otherwise in quarters (I usually boil the potatoes already in small pieces, saves time!)
– fresh haricots verts (string beans) – boiled to desired texture; I like mine crispy, O prefers them more soft…
– cherry tomatoes – halved
– feta cheese – cut in pieces
– Optional: some slices of cured ham such as Parma ham or Spanish jamón
– olive oil, (balsamic vinegar, optional), salt & pepper

As you can see I am going through a feta and jamón period at the moment! I have these phases when I completely focus on one or two ingredients – previous obsessions have included soft-boiled eggs, lemon and gorgonzola. Rucola is another current favourite, probably because I never bought it (only exceptionally found it but in small, expensive packages) in Puerto Rico! And of course – I am eternally obsessed by potatoes, O calls me “Mrs Potatis” (potato in Swedish) 😀

Etiquette Poll on Nakedness:

I read in a Swedish magazine (Damernas Värld, nr 8/2010) a few weeks ago about “the new prudeness” – in the article it was discussed that Swedes (women) have become more prude / liberal and less prone to sunbathing topless, taking a sauna naked or breastfeeding in public than previous generations. It made me think about my own attitude towards nakedness. I have never seen myself as prude, I am after all Swedish but no, I never sunbathe topless, however I wouldn’t wear a swim suit when in an unmixed sauna and I have so far never had to consider whether breastfeeding in public or not.

Nudist beach
Nudist beach, in the winter…

I will never forget the embarrassment of an Italian male friend when on the beach with four Scandinavian girls – the two Danes were sunbathing topless, while my Swedish friend and I had kept our bikini tops on. The poor guy was trying to completely focus on us Swedes and not glance over to the Danish girls… It was probably especially uncomfortable for him as one of the Danish girls was the girlfriend of one of his friends! When I go to the beach in Sweden nowadays it seems, interestingly enough, to be more common among the older generation to be topless than among women my own age.

A few years ago I went to a Belgian spa for the first time for a French friend’s hen party. We were a group of mixed nationalities – mostly French, but also Greek, German, and Swedish. Initially we were a little disappointed by the smallness of the spa until we saw a door saying “No swimsuits”. A bit perplexed we opened the door slightly and discovered a huge area with big swimming pools and jacuzzi … and lots of naked people! It was quite interesting to see how the group split into two; the French girls who took off their swim suits and giggling entered the main part of the spa which was the mixed, nude area and the Greek, German and Swedish contingent that decided to stay in the small, dressed women’s swimming area.

Nudist beach in the winter

Those of us who decided to stay clothed questioned why you would have to be nude in the mixed area and not in the unmixed one? None of us knew that this is apparently the Belgian tradition! I have since then been with a Swedish friend to another Belgian spa with the same division between nude and clothed areas, and we both had the same reaction – why would we want to be naked with male strangers? When I discussed it with some Belgian female friends they just didn’t understand what was the issue. Well, personally I don’t mind being naked among other women, but I just don’t see the point in taking my swim suit off among men. What do you think? How would you react if you had to be nude in a swimming pool / spa?





Wednesday pizza / frites and a home

5 05 2010

Wednesday again and even though I don’t really have a recipe to share with you, I thought that a food post could be in order. Belgium is, as you might know, famous for fries or frites / fritjes as they are called in French / Flemish. In Brussels one of the most famous places to go for fries is Maison Antoine on Place Jourdan. The two times I have been on Place Jourdan since I came back to Belgium, I have actually seen bus loads of tourists queuing for some “frites avec sauce andalouse” (spicy mayo-ketchup sauce) or a mitraillette (baguette filled with fries, the word actually means a machine gun).

Frites on Place Jourdan
Frites on Place Jourdan is a Brussels classic. The fries are either served in a cornet (like the paper cone the girl is holding in her hand) or ravier (a small paper dish) and you eat them with a small plastic fork

My first evening in Brussels, the 9th June 2002 (yes, I am a sucker for remembering dates!) my Irish and Scottish friends took me to a terrace on Place Jourdan. We didn’t have any fries but I was told that I had to try them as soon as possible! Ever since then Place Jourdan has been “my” square in Brussels – I used to go there for lunch with my colleagues as I worked close by, I used to go to the bakery Au Vatel’s night-open atelier (workshop where you buy bread straight from the bakers) for newly baked pain au chocolat after partying all night and I even had a falafel one early morning in the other friterie (Maison Antoine is not open in the middle of the night).

BYOFries are welcome at this bar
BYOF to the bars around Place Jourdan (Bring Your Own Fries), as long as you order something to drink in the bar they don’t mind…

O and I even met at a party in an apartment on Place Jourdan almost five years ago (21st May 2005). I bought him a pain au chocolat in the bakery after the party and he gave me and all my friends (actually his as well as it turned out that we had mutual friends) a lift home.

Mamma Roma pizza on Place Jourdan
A new classic, Mamma Roma’s delicious pizza! You can see Maison Antoine in the background through the wooden slats

However, nowadays my new Place Jourdan favourite is the pizza at Mamma Roma’s. They sell the slices by weight and they are absolutely delicious with yummy toppings such as courgette and fontina cheese, mozzarella di bufala, fresh mushrooms (I loathe canned mushrooms), and sliced potatoes. The lunch offer is two big slices plus a drink for 7 EUR, which isn’t too bad at all. O and I actually went to [another] Mamma Roma’s for O’s last dinner in Brussels before moving to Puerto Rico in August 2007!

No eating or drinking in the supermarket
No eating or drinking in the supermarket!

What is great about Place Jourdan is also all the terraces that are open during the [more or less] warmer season. They get packed during lunch time and after work when it is sunny. Most of them don’t mind that you bring your own fries (or other food) as long as you order something to drink. My father has his favourite bar where he always drinks a Leffe Brune (Belgian beer) when my parents visit Brussels.

On Sundays there is a market on the square and you can buy all sorts of delicious cheeses, sausages and fruits and vegs. The grilled chicken with roasted potatoes is another classic!

Kitchen
Orange kitchenette

And to round up, some photos of our new temporary home in Brussels! It is an apartment-hotel apartment (sounds funny, doesn’t it?) and it is definitely an ok sized apartment. Even though I don’t just loathe canned mushroom but also the colour orange, I guess I can live with an orange kitchen for a few months!? 😉

The plastic boxes above the kichen cupboards were bought in Ikea on Monday and filled with food stuff since there isn’t much storage at all in the kitchen. The lower cupboards contain a fridge, a dishwasher and the rubbish bin and below the micro-wave oven to the left there is a Nespresso machine…

Bath room
Bath room with both bath tub and shower

Living room
Living room with a view over the big roundabout

Bed room
Bed room

We are off to the big Carrefour (supermarket) tonight to stock up on some more food and necessities…





Wednesday recipe: Un bocadillo español (a Spanish sandwich) and an etiquette question

21 04 2010

What do you say, isn’t it high time for another Wednesday recipe? The last few weeks I have lost count of the days and not realised which day of the week it has been. You might have noticed that I have finally cleaned up the back-log of unanswered comments, dating all the way back to March… It was actually thanks to Bejla and Anna in Stockholm that I got around to reply to the comments, since they both did catch-up reading sessions today and wrote lots of comments (thanks girls!). I think that all comments have been answered now, give me a shout if I have missed any! Thanks for reading and commenting even though I have been so bad with responding lately.

Flying your way

O was supposed to have gone back to Puerto Rico yesterday but his flight was cancelled, and I have to admit that I was quite pleased that I got to keep him in Europe. We are staying with our Greek-French friends Y and S, however Y managed to fly to Greece today so we are keeping S company while her boyfriend visits his family. Fingers crossed that the situation doesn’t get worse again and that he will be able to get back to Belgium on Sunday!

A Spanish-Swedish breakfast at Ikea
A Spanish-Swedish breakfast at Ikea in Zaragoza

It is no secret that O and I love Ikea, but our 4 (yes, f-o-u-r!) visits to the big furniture store in two days (in a row) while we were in Spain recently, was just a bit exaggerated even for me! Especially as we weren’t looking for anything for ourselves but for O’s brother… We did treat O’s father to his first ever Ikea meal and I stocked up on Swedish sweets (Polly and Daim!). The second day we started by having breakfast in the Ikea restaurant, something we have done several times now and it is always surprisingly good (and cheap). To be honest, much better than the meatballs!  

Un bocadillo español (a Spanish sandwich)

This is a typical sandwich that Spaniards eat as a morning snack. Since a Spanish breakfast usually just means a cafe con leche (coffee with milk), and some magdalenas (Spanish-style muffins / cupcakes), I guess most people end up hungry after a few hours… Many cafés serve small tapas, and sandwiches with jamón (ham) or a piece of tortilla (Spanish omelette with potato).

Olive oil on bread
1. Sprinkle some olive oil on a bread roll / slice of white bread (eg baguette or ciabatta)

Spread the grated tomato on bread
2. Spread grated tomato. O has taught me that grating tomatoes is a perfect way to remove the skin. Just grate until you are left with only the skin that you throw away (also great for tomato-based sauces, paella etc).

Bocadillo con jamón y tomate
3. Add a slice of Spanish ham and you have a classic bocadillo español con jamón y tomate

Since it is Wednesday, let’s continue with an etiquette poll:

During our week in Spain I managed to meet up with a Swedish(-Dutch) girl, L who lives in Zaragoza. Her mother and my mother are work colleagues and when they figured out the Zaragoza-link, they thought that it would be nice for us to meet, which we did last year. It was the first time though that we had time to really sit down and talk, we met in a bar / café* where we spent two hours comparing notes on Spanish experiences. It was great to get to know her better and hopefully we will be able to meet next time with our respective Spaniards.

Spanish bar
What do you see in this photo from a Spanish bar / cafe that is not very common to see anymore in other countries

One indication that the two of us are not so Swedish anymore was how we handled the whole “who-should-pay-for-what” thing: When I went to order a coffee at the bar, the waitress asked me if I wanted to pay for everything on the tab, which included my fellow Swede’s coffee and water (I was a little late, another sign of my un-Swedishness**). I said yes, and paid. Later on I ordered a sandwich (incidentally one with tortilla and tomato as seen in the middle of the photo above) and L had something more to drink, and she paid for the two of us. No big deal for either of us, but I am not so sure the same thing would have happened in Sweden… However, in Brussels this is also the way things usually work when you are in a bar / café with friends, and I like it!

Same thing with splitting the bill after a restaurant dinner if everybody has eaten and drunk for more or less the same amount. I do not like it when you are a big group of people that you might not know (when out with friends and their friends) and everybody ends up drinking and eating so much more than yourself (maybe you are on a budget or you just don’t feel like having a big meal) and you feel forced to subsidise their dinner (or look very cheap if protesting!). However, among our friends we usually keep the same level of consumption and in those cases I think that it is an ok way of doing things. What do you think?  

*) Quite a typical phenomenon in Europe that a place acts as both café and bar, serving coffee, alcohol and light food such as tapas, sandwiches and salads
**) Or quite simply due to the fact of being married to a “time optimistic” Spaniard!! (who by the way loves that expression – being a time optimist…)