Monday, 16 July 2018

LAVENDER PANNA COTTA WITH RUM BASED SYRUP AND NECTARINE SLICES



     What is life without a little letting go of our fears? I feel that it is the way to learn. For example, I have developed a crazy fear of flying, at time of take-off, although I have been travelling every year since I was six. What is the deal, Maria? You may ask... The deal is I have no idea how this fear got there in the first place. Perhaps it has to do with all the terrible accidents we find out (because of internet) the last 10 to 15 years or a part of inhibited feat from a close relative. Whatever the reason, I try to manage with it and at times...to let go.
     I apply the same technique with almost everything else that scares me. Simply, I try to let go and see what happens. So, yesterday I decided to let go of my fear of making something without having a good recipe in mind. I wanted to make a lavender infused panna cotta. Looking around the net, nothing satisfied my needs exactly. You see, I'm a person that likes to adjust to situations. And if a situation means I am missing an ingredient or I would like to use an ingredient before it goes bad, I do it. Eventually my adventure of panna cotta making began on a Sunday morning!




    Lavender is such a beautiful and useful plant. It has amazing properties we can benefit from, such as muscle relaxing, improvement of sleep and mood, balance of blood sugar and many more. We can use it when it's dry through various ways, like a herbal infusion, a face scrub, infused vinegar or syrup, cooking and others. And let's not forget the powerful use as an essential oil. This plant is a miracle maker for all purposes. And...it's so pretty.
    It goes without saying that I had a lot of lavender hanging around. First thing that popped to mind was panna cotta infused with lavender and a rum based syrup on top. Panna cotta, a dessert originated from Italy, means "baked cream". And it means just that. The heavy cream is cooked lightly to create a creamy interior, while the gelatine used in the recipe makes the jelly appearance so fun to play with. It's a very easy dessert to make and a perfect one for summertime! 



Lavender Panna Cotta with Rum based syrup and Nectarine slices

ingredients (for 4 medium sized panna cottas)

150gr whole fat milk
350gr heavy cream
4 gelatine leaves
3 tablespoons dried lavender
60gr sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the rum based syrup+nectarine slices

1/2 cup lavender syrup*
1/2 cup water
1 shot of rum
nectarine slices (peach is ok too)

*for the lavender syrup you will need: 1 cup water, 2 cups sugar and 3 tablespoons dry lavender. You shimmer everything in a pot for 15 minutes (low temperature) and let it cool down completely.

How do I make it?

1. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water. 
2. In a pot, put half the portion of heavy cream with sugar, milk and dried lavender and cover the pot to shimmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Then, with your hands take the gelatine leaves and squeeze them tightly to get out the water. Add them to the pot and whisk quickly until they dissolve completely. Pour inside the remaining heavy cream and whisk again until combined. Use a strainer to remove the lavender by pouring the mixture in a bowl with the strainer on top.
3. Let the mixture cool a bit for 10 minutes. Take your preferred tins for panna cotta (I used small jars I had) and fill them evenly with the mixture. Next thing, put them in the fridge for at least 4 to 6 hours or overnight (desired).
4. For the syrup, mix all the ingredients together and cook in medium heat until the nectarine slices soften. It will take around 20 minutes. When ready, remove the pot from heat.  Let the syrup cool for some minutes before using it on the panna cotta. 
5. When it's time to serve, take the panna cotta tins out. If you want to remove them from their tins, there are two ways to achieve it. You either hold them in your hands and rub them for some minutes. Or you can fill a pot with boiling water and carefully place the tins inside for a minute or less. Then, all you have to do is reverse the tins on a smooth surface or plate and tap the bottom firmly. When they're ready to serve, simply put the desired amount on top of the dessert.




     

Monday, 25 June 2018

MATCHA, GINGER AND HONEY AFFOGATO


     Finally I am in Greece for a little while. Before I get to start an exciting and very scary part in my life (nope, not getting married!) I decided to spend some relaxing time back home and get some rest. In all sincerity I wanted to taste again the sweetness of a ripe tomato and the freshness of a seedy watermelon. The flavours in vegetables and fruit is what I miss the most when I am away, but I've learned to adapt that to seasonal and local only produce in Zurich.
    Whenever I travel to Athens, I make sure I load up on all the superfoods and adaptogens I use from a very good store downtown. This time I got myself some matcha powder as well, since I would like to reduce my coffee consumption by next month to one per day or zero, when possible. A hot cup of matcha mixed with some honey is a great start in the day for me. I can't tolerate matcha on its own, so I either mix it with some nut milk or some honey and coconut oil. 
   The great thing about matcha, apart from the antioxidant properties which I will not talk about in this post, is that you can incorporate it in almost any recipe you can think of. If you search the net a bit you will find matcha cheesecakes, doughnuts, waffles, energy balls and so many more. The heat in Athens got me thinking I haven't yet had a proper cream here. An immediate response was to create a matcha infused ice cream. However, our fridge was rather packed with things, so it was impossible to include an ice cream maker or a large bowl inside the fridge. Still, I needed that chilly taste in my mouth... Then, I had an idea to create a sort of affogato, with matcha!




     Affogato is an italian inspired dessert made with ice cream and espresso. You can find a recipe I created a while back with it. In this recipe I used an infusion of matcha with ginger and honey as the hot liquid and then some delicious ice cream as the base. I find that it's a nice twist of the real thing and you can enjoy it if you don't like coffee that much.

Matcha, ginger & honey affogato

ingredients (for two persons)

1 teaspoon good quality matcha powder 
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coconut oil
300 ml water
4 scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips (straciatella)
honey to drizzle
crushed peanuts or other nuts to garnish

How do I make it?

1. First thing is to prepare your matcha brew. In a pot, put together the matcha powder, honey, ginger & ginger powder, coconut oil and water. Boil the mixture in medium heat, mixing a bit once or twice. The water doesn't need a lot of boil, just when small bubbles start to appear remove from heat. Using a strain, pour the hot brew in a large cup or bowl. Let it cool a little bit before you start serving the ice cream.
2. When you're ready to serve, simply put two scoops of ice cream in two bowls and then pour some of the matcha brew on top. Quickly drizzle with some honey and peanuts. Enjoy as fast as you can!




Saturday, 2 June 2018

CHOCOLATE & COCONUT OATMEAL BAKE



     Hello, lovely people! June is here and some of you may already have plans ahead for the summer. I booked my tickets for Greece yesterday, where I'm going for two weeks this month before a new chapter in my life begins. I can't wait to taste all the fresh vegetables and fruit in my home country and take in as much vitamin D as possible. We're planning on doing a small getaway with some friends, so I'm looking forward to that too!
      This month I think began in the best way possible. Yesterday we were invited by some dear friends of us for a casual food experience (or so we thought). Apart from the amazing food they served us, they had the most wonderful news in the world. They are expecting their first baby!!! I couldn't hide my happiness for them and I'm already thinking how blessed this kid will be. 




     Moving towards some foodie talking, a while back I got us a very good quality cast iron pan. It had been in my plans of getting one  for a long time, and cook amazing recipes. The great thing about a cast iron skillet is that the more you cook with it, the better it gets. Plus you can always place it in the oven just like that and create wonderful recipes. Which is what I did two days ago, when I needed something sweet but not too much, as I'm trying to lay off sweets for a bit (at least for everyday eating). And I thought to myself "what can be sweet, but also slightly health-ish?". Well, a chocolate and coconut oatmeal bake.
      I am one of those weird people that loves oats, oatmeal and everything oaty. To me they have an earthy taste and I think being a Taurus (earth sign) I can appreciate these types of tastes. Often I find that people dislike them and reply with a "I don't want to eat horse food" and I'm like "have you seen a horse? they are so beautiful...". But I can understand that oats alone are flavourless. That's where dutch-processed cacao and coconut milk come along in this recipe. And some 90% dark chocolate on top!

Chocolate & Coconut Oatmeal Bake

ingredients (for one medium pan)

2 large or 3 small overripe bananas
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup oats 
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tbsp good quality cacao (unsweetened)
2/4 cup shredded coconut
90% dark chocolate chunks for topping (70-90% works great)

how do I make it?

1. In a large bowl smash with a fork the bananas until they get very smooth, almost soupy. Then, pour inside the olive oil and brown sugar and mix very well until combines. Next, pour in the coconut milk and mix again. 
2. Add the baking soda, oats, cacao and whole wheat flour and mix well just until everything is combined together. Finally, mix in the shredded coconut. Prepare your cast iron skillet with some oil and pour inside the mixture. Top it with some dark chocolate chunks or more coconut if you want.
3. Bake the oatmeal bake at 180C for 20 minutes. It will be slightly undercooked, but it will make it softer. Enjoy plain with a cup of coffee or pair it with some ice cream.



Saturday, 26 May 2018

LENTIL, PEA AND ROASTED CHERRY TOMATO SALAD WITH TAHINI DRESSING


     Getting ready for summer is a never ending struggle for me, as I am one of those people who leave it at the last minute. I always have an idea about what I want to do and look for tickets, possible accommodation options and what the food situation is in the destination, but I have a hard time deciding on it. A very important factor on making plans for vacations are your companions. Are your companion/s ready to make a commitment? Are they adventurous or like to keep it safe? Numerous determinants and factors contribute to your ideal and final choice of destination.
     However, next month might find me in the middle of Italy, savouring a big slice of pizza or eating two scoops of Italian ice-cream. Visiting this county never gets old I have to admit and there is nothing like living the Roman Holiday à la Audrey Hepburn, don't you think? I will just have to do my little research of what to see and look for in Florence and Siena and then hope for a nice weather and delicious adventures ahead. 




     Summertime brings another flavour to our food. Gone are the heavy sauces and the cheesy dishes this time around. At least for me. I like letting my stomach to relax a little bit from digestion and eat dishes that are light, but tasty of course. Salads or roasted meet is a good choice for this season. But salads sometimes tend to be this boring mixture of tossed green vegetables accompanied by some equally boring dressing. No, no. Not the way to enjoy your meal. 
     When I was thinking of a proper salad to make, my mind came to lentil salad. Lentils are normally eaten in a soup with some feta for me and bread on the side. They are however a wonderful ingredient for a warm or later cold salad. This salad might need a little more effort than what you would give for a salad in other circumstances. That said it is a delicious dish I enjoyed making and eating, with a wonderful combination of ingredients and an amazing tahini dressing you won't stop eating.


Lentil, Pea and Roasted Cherry Tomato salad with Tahini Dressing

ingredients (for 2 to 4 people)

for the salad
1 cup uncooked brown lentils
2 cups frozen peas
2 gloves garlic
1 bunch of cherry tomatoes (with around 10 tomatoes)
olive oil
rosemary leaves
50 gr of good quality feta cheese
2 tablespoons pinecones 
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
garnish: avocado slices

for the dressing
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed butter)
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 garlic powder

How do I make it?

1. Preheat oven to 170C for the cherry tomatoes. Prepare a baking pan with some baking sheet and place the bunch of cherry tomatoes on top. Sprinkle some olive oil generously on top and place the rosemary leaves on top of the tomatoes. Place the baking pan in the oven and roast the tomatoes for around 25 minutes or until they become soft and their juices start coming out.
2. Next, cook your lentils. Normally I cook the lentils with a ration of 1:2 in salted water (1 cup lentils, 2 cups water) and then when they have soaked the first amount of water I taste them to see if they need more water. You don't need too much water for this as they won't be part of a soup. So imagine you cook them as you would cooke your rice. Taste the lentils to check for firmness. We want them soft but not too mushy. 
3. Place some butter in a medium pan and in medium heat. Chop nicely the gloves of garlic and transfer them into the pan. When the garlic has turned slightly brown, pour inside the frozen peas and some salt. Mix through the cooking of the peas and pour some water inside if they start to stick on the pan. The peas need around 10 minutes of cooking, not too much since they were frozen and not fresh.
4. Now that you have all the ingredients ready, let's assemble the salad. In a mixing bowl mix together 1 1/2 cup of cooked lentils and the peas together. Pour inside the chopped cilantro, the pinecones and mix again. Take a big serving bowl, then carefully place the salad on the center of the bowl. Take the cherry tomatoes out of the oven or where you had them cooling off, and place them on top of the salad. Then, with your hands (wear gloves if you want to) crumble the feta cheese on top.
5. For the dressing, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and using a hand mixer or with a spoon, mix very well everything. You are aiming for a creamy dressing, so no lumps should be left. I used a mixed I have for making frothed milk or frappe coffee. When you're done pour the dressing on top of the salad you had assembled in the previous step. Place some avocado slices or anything else on top to garnish. 




Tuesday, 15 May 2018

BEET HUMMUS & TURMERIC FALAFEL SANDWICH


   The week started in the best way possible. After a refreshing Sunday in the woods, somewhere in Schwyz, on Monday we got to go for an outdoor training in the forrest near where we live. Surprise, surprise, my boyfriend was really into working out...the first 10 minutes! But okay he can't become a fitness model in one day, it takes some time. I also managed to write down some ideas for recipes in the future and eat what was left from the beet hummus I created last Friday. 
     A lot of creative projects and ideas have passed my mind the last few days. I'm at this point where I have the idea strongly in my head, but don't know where to start, how to achieve it and put it into tangible results. Has this ever happened to you? And if so, what was the first step you took to put your ideas into practice? I'm thinking of taking creative seminars or workshops for food entrepreneurs, but my inner insecurities tell me perhaps it's not the right time yet. Then, how do you know what time is the right one?




     I still have a lot of things to figure out about these projects and ideas I have. In the meantime, may I introduce you to beet hummus? Hummus is something I make quite often and eat it with some carrots, add it into salads or eat it plain with a spoon. This time I went a little bit further with my hummus and tried adding a special vegetable that I also love...beetroot. Beetroot has a sweet taste and goes well with steamed vegetables, in salads or in juices. I really like its taste, although some people find it a bit strange and tend not to eat it. In this recipe for beet hummus, I found that it elevated this dish a bit more by giving it a sweet and earthy flavour. If you like hummus, you should definitely try it!
     So my idea was to create a simple recipe for a lunch or a light dinner. Sandwiches are always easy to prepare and easy to carry with you. However, sometimes they are simply sad. And nobody likes a sad sandwich, right? You may think "why add hummus AND falafel in a sandwich?". Well, simply because they go perfect together and the one complements the other. I added other fun and tasty ingredients to make this sandwich delicious and something you will look forward to eating during your lunch break.



Beet Hummus and Turmeric Falafel Sandwich

ingredients (for one sandwich)

2 slices of whole wheat bread or one rye bun
3 tablespoons beet hummus
2 falafel patties
slices of half of a baby avocado (or small avocado)
1 small carrot in slices
1 small pepper in slices
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
a spoonful of sunflower seeds
salt, pepper

Beet hummus

1 medium beetroot cooked (boiled, roasted or steamed)
400gr cooked chickpeas or from can (wash them before using)
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of good quality tahini
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
juice from one big lemon
pepper

Turmeric Falafel

450gr dry chickpeas soaked in cold water overnight
1 red onion cut in half
3 cloves garlic
1/4 chopped fresh coriander or parsley
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
1 to 2 tablespoons flour
optional: oil if you're frying them

How do I make it?

1. Before the day you start everything make sure you have soaked the chickpeas for the falafels beforehand (the night before). The next day, start with the falafels. Put the chickpeas and the rest of the ingredients (except oil) in a food processor. Pulse in medium to high speed. During the process, stop the food processor at times and scrape the sides in order to get everything in there. Your final mixture should look like a course meal and almost like a paste. I check it with my hands after 2 minutes to see if it's sticky.
2. When your mixture is done, pour it into a large bowl. Then, carefully start shaping small patties of falafel and place them in a plate to use later. Once ready, you can either fry them or bake them like I did. If you bake them, then set your oven to 170C and bake for about 20 minutes. If you decide to fry them, fill a large pan with enough oil (around 1/3 of the pan) and make sure it's really hot before you fry them. The falafels will be ready once they turn a little brown. Have a plate next to you to with some kitchen paper to absorb the oil and place the cooked falafels. Let the falafels on the side until you have to use them.
3. Next in line is the hummus. Clean your food processor and then put again everything inside from the ingredients list for the beet hummus. Pulse really well in high speed for around 5 minutes. Remember again to stop the processor and scrape the sides in order to get everything mixed. Have a small taste with a spoon and see if it needs more salt or lemon juice.
4. Now, it's time to make the sandwiches! This part is quite simple and honestly you can do it as you wish. I suggest however, you put the hummus on the surface of one slice of bread. Take three generous tablespoons of beet hummus and slather them on one slice of whole wheat bread. If you wish, you can separate the hummus  between the two slices. Then, start placing the rest of the ingredients. Add the carrot and pepper slices, then the avocado. Sprinkle with the sunflower seeds and add the fresh coriander without chopping it. Add salt and pepper if you wish. Then finally top the sandwich with the falafel patties. Place the top slice of bread and either enjoy immediately or save for later.






Friday, 11 May 2018

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES WITH ORANGE ZEST


    This time of the year arrived again. My birthday. Not very special, you may say, everyone has one, but my 29th birthday felt a little different than last year. This year it didn't feel as intimidating as it felt last year, although it set the time until 30 to only one year. Perhaps it was because I was in a better state in my life since last year, I was done with my thesis and lucky enough to get an internship. Or perhaps it was the love I got from the friends I invited over for some food and drinks. Who knows? Whatever it was, it felt good to celebrate my birthday and hope for an equal or even more celebratory 30th birthday.
      A friend of mine prepared an amazing gift, with two boxes containing gems inside. She had it all wrapped together with small details everywhere. I was in shock and utter happiness! For me, opening a present is half or even more of the total excitement. I felt like a kid again, savouring every item and every detail I discovered.  My friend (I will not say her name) has a talent for artistic things and I have to say I'm very grateful to call her my friend!



     Talking about presents and feeling loved, there is one person out there who probably deserves our love more than anyone else. Our mother, mom, mommy or whatever you call her. She is the person who will never stop loving us, who will drive us mad sometimes and who will in the end be right about most things. I'm not suggesting that our dads don't deserve our love or they did less of a hard work of bringing us up! But I feel that a child will always have a special relationship with their mother, an intimate connection.
     



   For this special person, a special gift is needed. I believe in handmade gifts for someone you really care for. So, for your amazing mum I have created a recipe for peanut butter cookies. But not just any peanut butter cookies! I know your mum must be elegant (and not a child), so I added some orange zest in the recipe to make it more adult appropriate. 
     You can be creative in the packaging of your gift as well. I used a beautiful ribbon that was part of the gift made me (which I mentioned above) and was perfect for wrapping together the cookies and making a small and cute bow. Pick something in a colour your mom would like, maybe get a plastic wrapping as well and give it to her. I'm sure she will feel happy and blessed!


Peanut Butter Cookies with Orange Zest

ingredients (for 12 cookies)

1/2 cup creamy pure peanut butter (100% peanuts)
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
zest from one medium orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

How do I make it?

1. In a bowl put together your dry ingredients, such as flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Pour and mix together in another bowl all of your wet ingredients: peanut butter, tahini, honey, olive oil and vanilla extract. Once you get a good mixture pour inside the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well with a wooden spatula. At some point the mixing may not be so easy and you will need to use your hands. The mixture might be a little crumbly.
2. Preheat your oven to 170C and prepare a pan with a baking sheet. Then, start shaping your cookies! Take some dough with a spoon and slightly kneed it in your hands, flattening it out on the top and shaping it round. Place it on the prepared pan and using a fork start making a cross by putting some pressure on the top surface of the dough. I did it with the tip of the fork and made small  tip prints until I shaped a cross. Repeat the same ritual for all the resting dough.
3. Once you have your cookies ready, bake them for 10 minutes. You don't want to exceed this time as they will get too hard. We want them a bit soft.
4. Let the cookies cool completely before touching them as they will probably fall into pieces. Once they are cool, you can make your wrapping or transfer them anywhere.
5. Give your mum a kiss and the cookies!

Happy Mother's Day