Category Archives: recipe

Soup season

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Winter is the best opportunity to eat soup, lots and lots of soup. And this is what we have been doing every evening in the past couple of weeks

I’m a fussy eater, so it’s not all kinds of soups I like, especially the ones with weird texture and chunky vegetables. 

A colleague from work passed on a brand new soup maker to me because he has “a pot, a blender and a sieve at home” and he didn’t want to add more clutter to his home. 

I wasn’t holding my breath to the soup made by a pot-blender-sieve machine until I made the first one. Actually, the second, as I thought that I was lucky with the first one.

The soup was quite tasty, but the best part was that the hard work was to select and finely chop the ingredients. Once you press start, you can do something else for 30 minutes and your soup will be ready, blended and sieved, all left to do is serve and eat. (And clean afterwards)

We have soup practically every evening during weekdays. My least favourite ones being the tomato soup (too acidic, maybe I should have added cream), a mix of mushroom, celery and spinach (needed to use the spinach, otherwise would go to the bin) and a slightly too sweet carrot-swede-onion-potato soup. 

The beauty of soups is that you can try all sort of combinations, really. Sometimes it might not work very well (like the spinach one, but it was still edible), most times it will. The only thing the manual doesn’t recommend is to put raw meat in it, but it doesn’t say anything about addind pre-cooked meat in the blender. I haven’t tried and prefer to add it at the end and keep the chunky pieces.

We have reduced the food wastage big time!

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The actual thing is basically a fancy blender. It boils the water first, then blends a bit, boils/cooks some more, blends, sieves while blending, until it stops.

The sieve is a small net cylinder in the middle of the cup, which holds the solids, while the water is everywhere. I find the capacity of the cylinder a bit small and our soups serve well 2-3 people. It’s ok, I guess, better finish it all and have that feeling that we want some more than to have left overs and risk throwing food in the bin.

 

the blender with just water. Can you see the sieve in the middle?

 
 

the ingredients go in the middle. Not too much space though.

 
 

In the middle of boiling and blending, half way through

 
 

You can open the lid (health&safety; it beeps and stops the process), but you can open the cup. Very hot and steamy!

 

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Some of the soups I cooked so far:

Potato + leeks + garlic + olive oil + seasoning. I used chicken broth as part of the water and added the chicken I cooked after it.

First day is always a mess. The food didn’t fit the compartment, it wasn’t enough soup, I made extra straight after the first batch and almost kissed my soup maker goodbye.
Lesson learned: the instructions say finely chopped for a reason; everything needs to be very small to fit in. And never ever repeat the procedure without cleaning it first.

  

Potato + spinach + carrot + garlic + onion + olive oil + seasoning + a tiny bit of courgette/zucchini (left over) and a few lardons on top

Learnings: potato based soups are very creamy but also seem to be the ones that accummulate more (burned) residues at the bottom, making the cleaning of the cup a bit of a mission. But they taste so nice.

  
 

Mushroom + garlic + onion + dried herbs + cream
That was probably my favourite as it was so unexpected.

Learnings: try without cream before. It might be good enough to save on the extra calories (I doubt it though). Also very easy to clean the blender, compared to previous days.

* I forgot to take photo *

Tomato + basil + celery + onion + carrot + garlic + stock cube + olive oil

Learnings: although it looks nice, I thought it was too acidic. Next time I’ll try with cream. 

  
  

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World Cup and another simple recipe

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And the World Cup is back (well, for a long time now)! It seems like yesterday we were all in our new home, with tiny baby Laura in our arms (she was 2-3 months old in 2010) watching a few matches with us (time difference wasn’t so bad). I was on maternity leave and could follow most of the games. My maternity leave ended yesterday, but because of the time difference, I can watch most of the games, if I want to.

So far so good, the World Cup in Brazil is not bad, despite all the negative expectations. At least from what I’ve seen on TV, the stadiums are beautifully done, people are behaving ok, most of the matches are very exciting, and there are lots of goals to keep us happy. There will always be one or two boring games, so let’s hope this WC has had its share of boredom with Ian vs Nigeria and Brazil vs Mexico.

The most interesting part of the World Cup, though, is following the comments on Twitter. I don’t follow that many people, but it’s always great fun to read what the “experts” have to say about the games. It started with the Olympics in 2012 and now I’m always looking forward the next big event to be tweeted about.

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I shouldn’t need to say this, but I am supporting Brazil. Always. We might not be the favourites or the best team, but, hey, it’s my duty to support my home team. Other than that, I tend to support whoever wins. Just so I don’t have to suffer with defeats.

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Apparently this is the best World Cup ever. I can’t tell, but I’m loving all the images of Rio on the BBC and ITV during the games. Ops, I’ve just seen Spain being sent off back home. Oh, dear, well done, Chile, but not an expected result to Spain.

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I was planning to cook loads this weekend, but I just realised I have two events to go: a kids party on Saturday and a baby shower on Sunday (instead of celebrating my birthday, I’ll celebrate a friend’s baby). So I’ll have to leave all the baking for the following weekend. After that, we are off to Croatia. I can’t wait!!

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And here is another simple and quick recipe for those days that time isn’t on our side. I adapted it from one on Tesco’s website (here) and it was really good. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the pastry from scratch, which would have been healthier, but as I said, it is for days we don’t have the time.

What you will need:

  • One savoury pastry case (photo below – the one I used. it’s quite small, but was enough for one meal)
  • 1/2 onion – grated
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 45g bacon into cubes (I used smoked lardons)
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic (I didn’t have garlic gloves, which would have been better)
  • 1/2 courgette, sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75ml single cream
  • 50g Gruyère, grated

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How you prepare it:

Preheat the oven at 180C.

Fry the onion in the olive oil until brown, then add the garlic and the bacon and cook until bacon fat has melted. Add the courgettes and spinach and cook for 5 minutes. Put this mix into the case. Mix the cream and the beaten egg and season (I added a pinch of salt, as I didn’t find any pepper). Pour the mixture on top of the courgette/spinach and add the granted cheese. Bake for 20 minutes and turn the oven up to 200C and bake for another 5 minutes (check not to burn).

What I loved about this dish is the flexibility of adding any toppings I like – almost like a pizza. It’s a great way to add vegetables in our meals. For fussy children, you can even blend everything together and have a creamy vegetable topping.

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Done!

Final countdown and quick and easy food

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I’m going back to work on Wednesday.

I am going back to work.

I am.

Depressed.

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At least, we are very close to sorting out Beatrice’s childcare. My preferred option didn’t work out very well and neither did Plan B and C. Plan D might be a great option, so fingers crossed.

The plan now is to keep her at home until September and then both girls will go to the same childminder – Laura only from 3.30pm, after school. I’m still anxious about it.

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So when I’m depressed and anxious, I like to bake/cook/eat. I tend to always cook the same stuff, but my plan is to create a 4 week menu to vary what we are eating here. The “catch” is that the recipes need to be simple and quick to prepare and have “room” to to add as many veggies and fruits I possibly can. Ah, they won’t necessarily be super healthy all the time.

This week I tested a couple of recipes and the result was quite good.  I will share my experiments/experiences here and would welcome any suggestions, ideas, tips. The first one is the easiest cake in the world.

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A week or two ago, we went to a barbecue at a friend’s house and she was “baking” a cake. Well, she was putting it together, as it doesn’t require any baking. I loved the idea of having a yummy cake ready in 20 minutes, from selecting the ingredients to putting the last strawberry on top, so I decided to give it a go when my mother in law arrived. Here is the recipe (sorry, I don’t have photos of the step by step):

What will you need?

Two flan cases, similar to this one (never kind the brand, I guess, but this was the one I bought, the medium one, which is small-ish):

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1 can of caramel (I used a bit more than half, it depends on how much you love your sugar)

Lots of strawberries

300 ml of cream (or maybe less)

Caster sugar (or condensed milk, as I used) – to taste. I didn’t add much because I thought it would be too sweet

Some sort of liquid to moist the case (you can use milk, or baileys, or juice – I used orange juice and I liked it)

 

How do you put this together?

Place one of the cases on a plate or where you want to serve your cake. Pour half of the juice/milk with a spoon – make sure it is moist, because this case is dry as sand.

Cut the strawberries and place them on the case – how much is up to you. I used quite a lot. Then put the caramel on top (it doesn’t make any difference which order you put the caramel and strawberries)

Cover the cake with the other case, but this one facing down (bottom up). Pour the remain of the juice.

Now, here is a step I’m not 100% is needed: my friend covered it with foil paper and left it in the fridge until 10 minutes before serving. And only then she covered it with the cream. I did this because I prepared the cake the night before and I was scared of putting the cream straight away and not being good. But knowing me, I wouldn’t have had the patience to decorate the cake just before serving it.

The cream is also easy: using an electric mixer, mix cream until it is consistent enough to spread on the cake – but not too much or it will become butter – and then add the sugar, mixing a bit more. I used condensed milk, 1/3 of a can, and mixed by hand.

Here is how the cake looked like:

(The beauty of this cake is that you can fill it with anything you like; use your imagination and enjoy). Laura helped decorate it! 🙂

 

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Bruges, sleepless nights and banana cake

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We spent last bank holiday in Bruges (weekend of 24/25 + Monday 26) and I was hoping to write a post about it the day after we got back. As you can see, it didn’t happen.

The trip was great, the place is so so beautiful (even Laura was sad to come back home), but our accommodation wasn’t great and I ended up having a sleepless night, which ruined the following day, which ruined the rest of the week.

Speaking of sleepless nights, sleep in our house seems to be a roller coaster. Some days good, other days bad. Beatrice is not too bad, I am ignoring some of the cries in the middle of the night (because it is not a proper cry, it is more a “dream” and she falls asleep within seconds. I do tend her when she is really crying, which was the case yesterday, 1st June, when she didn’t sleep at all) and we have great nights when I only go to her once. I can live with that. On the other hand, miss Laura has been a pain, sleeping in our bed since too long now. Again, I can live with co-sleeping, BUT I cannot live with someone kicking me through the night. The night after we got home (after a sleepless night, remember?), she kicked me three times: on the face, on the breast and on my ribs. Not a gentle kick, a Bruce Lee kick, that left me in pain the whole of the following day. If you want to see me deadly angry, just mess up with my sleep.

And because I cannot return the kids to wherever they came from, what do I do? Call Supernanny? Sleep in the living room? Run away? No, I stuff my face with things that are not good for me and will make me overweight again eat. Within 6 days, we had two banana cakes (very yummy) and a creme caramel. Oh, well, I think I’ll have to resume the diet once my mum goes back, next Saturday.

So, what’s with the banana cake? We had a few bananas that were nearly going bad and I was sick of throwing bananas in the bin so I googled a banana cake recipe and found this one here. But I had to adapt because I didn’t have certain ingredients, so here is (are) my version(s) of it:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil – I quickly melted it on the microwave
  • 150g caster sugar – I also tried with muscovado sugar and the result was good
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 190g flour (2nd time I used 150g of flour and 50g of ground linseed, as I had loads at home and don’t know what to do with it)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 30g of preferred chopped nuts (I used pecan the first time and mixed nuts the second)
  • 60ml coconut milk

Method:

  1. Grease and line a loaf tin. Mix oil, sugar and vanilla.
  2. Add the mashed bananas, mix well.
  3. Add the egg, mix well.
  4. Stir in the flour and the milk. And finally add the baking powder.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin. Optional: sprinkle with a tablespoon of demerara sugar to give a crunch topping (I did that the 2nd time but didn’t like the result that much).
  6. Bake at 180 C until a skewer comes out clean. (it took me about 45 minutes)
It was the first time I  baked a banana cake and it was so yummy that I didn’t wait it cool. As a result, I had to bake another one two days later (because more bananas were going to waste and because I was stressed with something else).
Our window view in Bruges

Our window view in Bruges

The banana cake saga: the first attempt

The banana cake saga: the first attempt

The banana cake saga: the second attempt

The banana cake saga: the second attempt

Creme Caramel, beautiful and tasty after nearly 4 hours baking (it doesn't take that long though)

Creme Caramel, beautiful and tasty after nearly 4 hours baking (it doesn’t take that long though)

Who would have thought that this little angel is a Bruce Lee in the making?

Who would have thought that this little angel is a Bruce Lee in the making?

Party food

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I got the recipe for the cheese bread from here, after researching on Brazilian websites. The recipe is all in English, so I won’t write it here, but it is worth mentioning that I changed it slightly. Instead of either using tapioca flour or sour cassava flour, I used half of each, after reading a comment somewhere from a girl saying that the original recipe uses both. And because I don’t use vegetable oil at home anymore, I replaced it with coconut oil. If you read the recipe, you will see that they say that pão de queijo should be crunchy on the outside and hollow on the inside. Well, I disagree – I like it chewy on the inside, and this is exactly like it!

Now… I made pão de queijo using this recipe twice. The first time, I could shape it into balls and it was alright. The second time, I tripled the ingredients and the result was a liquid dough, which I couldn’t shape at all. So I put it in cupcake cases. The result was yummy, but I was very stressed.

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Cheese bread – not as round and beautiful as they should be, but as yummy as they can be

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Cheese bread

The recipe of the hot dog bun came from this video; I just shaped it differently:

I don’t have a bread machine, so everything was done by hand. And I kneaded it for about 15 minutes or more. Oh, and I doubled the ingredients as well.

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Mini hot dog – they were delicious just after baked, but also quite yummy the following day

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I baked about 50 buns

The pie is very simple and quick to make and it’s great for a last minute lunch or party food. The original recipe was taken from here (Portuguese) and the translation is below.

Pastry:

3 eggs

13 tablespoons of flour

1 and 1/2 cup of milk

1 tablespoon of baking powder

3 tablespoons of cheese (option)

A little less than 1/2 cup of oil (I used coconut oil)

Salt to taste

Filling:

You can use your creativity here. We cooked chicken tights with onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomato passata, salt and other stuff, removed bones and that’s it. You can also use tuna, cheese and ham, pork… Great to use leftovers.

Mix all ingredients in a blender – add baking powder at the end. It will be a very runny mixture. Pour half of it in a tray, then add the filling (make sure you spread it very well) and finally cover with the remaining of the pastry. You can sprinkle cheese on top (some people like to put sliced boiled egg or olives), but it’s totally optional. Bake for about 40 minutes (at 180 degree celsius) and eat it.

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This pie was the next day’s lunch

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For the party, we had two chicken pies and they were all gone. Hubby didn’t even get to try it.

Typical Brazilian Couscous (one of the several versions)

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First time I saw couscous in the UK, I was surprised. First, because it was a savoury dish. Second, because it wasn’t made of white tapioca. I have no idea what couscous is actually made of (is the name of the grain couscous?!), but it’s certainly not tapioca. But then I remembered that there is a savoury couscous in Brazil as well, although I don’t even know how it looks like (not to mention what it is made of).

The couscous I know – and it is cuscuz – it a sweet dish, very popular in Bahia (the whole of the Northeast?) and in Rio. Apparently in São Paulo and in the south they have a different type. As a kid, I was a pain when it came to food and cuscuz was something that I wouldn’t eat in a million years! A few decades later, I changed my mind and tried it (yeap, firt time eating it, despite always saying I didn’t like it) for the first time during our trip to Bahia, in January.

I not only liked it but also learned to make it. And it’s so easy! Wanna see? Sorry i don’t have the step by step photos, but I only thought about posting the recipe now, after the whole thing has been eaten.

What will you need?

500 grams of tapioca (I saw it in supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s, in the UK, in the “food of the world” section. Brazilian shops abroad might sell it too)
1 liter of milk (we used skimmed, long life one, but some people might prefer to use full fat fresh milk)
1 cup of sugar (it depends on how sweet you like your food – I prefer it to be not so sweet so I can use lots of condensed milk on top. Haha)
Grated coconut (we used two freshly grated coconuts; the brown dried ones, but I don’t think these are easy to find in the UK)
Condensed milk to taste

How do you make it?

Heat – not boil – the milk in a big pan. Once it’s hot, add the tapioca and the sugar to te milk and stir it a bit. Keep it in the fire for 5 minutes or less – this is just to soften the tapioca, not to cook it. Remove it from the fire and pour the content in a baking tray, no need to grease it. Put the grated coconut on top, cover it with a towel and leave it to rest for a few hours. Serve it as it is or with some condensed milk on top.

When we grated the fresh coconut, some milk came out of it. We used part of it in the mixture, but it’s up to you.

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Tapioca granules

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This was the cup of sugar

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The recipe was enough of a medium tray and a little bowl of cuscuz

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One of the several pieces I had. yum yum

Relaxing therapy

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I found out that cooking is more relaxing than eating. I eat because I’m anxious/stressed/happy/hungry/bored but it doesn’t always make me feel better. When I cook I drift off, I relax, I don’t think about the problems. Some people think that cooking when you are stressed is not good, because all the stress passed on to the food. If it’s true or not, the fact is that I am way more relaxed after the food is ready that everybody around me is more relaxed as well. If they will get sick eating the stressed food is another thing.

As with any manual work, I’m useless. I struggle to make things look pretty, my hands aren’t firm and precise. But I don’t let this put me off cooking, because it’s all about “the inner beauty”. If the dish is yummy, it doesn’t matter if it’s not looking great.

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On Friday mum and I defrost the freezer to clean it as the door was barely closing due to the amount of ice that accumulated on the drawers. I had a couple of things for a long time in there and I decided to get baking.

I bought this Jus Rol ready made pastry to try at home. I got two options: one savoury and one sweet. I started with the savoury as I was also preparing lunch. The sheet didn’t fit on any of my baking trays so I cut them in two. I prepared a very simple recipe to start with – tomato sauce, cheese (I only had leerdammer cheese, my favourite at the moment), ham and oregano. I cut the squares before baking them, just to make it easier to separate them, but the package doesn’t say anything about that.

The conclusion: the pastry is great, I can’t believe I didn’t try this before! It’s quite messy to eat though. I used sliced cheese, so the cheese melted and disappeared; next time I will use bigger chunks and I will also choose a cheese with stronger taste. I will also experiment with different flavours; when I was a kid I was a big fan of puffy pastries with pineapple and bacon. Yummmm. I accept suggestions of toppings!

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The savoury option

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The result

I decided to try to make berry tarts with the sweet pastry, but I didn’t have the ingredients for the recipes I found online, so I had to improvise. The inspiration came from lime pie: 1 can of condensed milk + the juice of one lime + one teaspoon of vanilla paste + the juice of the berries I had (it was quite thick), all blended together to a cream. It is simple and it doesn’t require cooking. I had frozen berries in the freezer but they weren’t sweet, so I added some sugar since the cream wasn’t too sweet.

The conclusion: this thing is a time saver and I can focus on coming up with new toppings – I want to try pineapple, lemon, ginger and nuts. Learning for next time: I need bigger and deeper circles so it can hold the cream properly. They taste quite good, especially when chilled!

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Tah-dah!

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Preparing it

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They look right, but they are too small and I only noticed it after they were ready

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The first one looks good

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The rest looks a bit messy

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I’m in love with this