February 10, 2016

For Valentines Day, or any day, made with LUV

Inspired by Valentines Day this weekend i added an extra sweet touch to my red beets and bacon soup today: a cream heart.

I tried blitzing the bacon with the vegetables and i found i could not get it fine enough and disliked the grainy bacon texture. By boiling the bacon with the vegetables and removing them before blending: the bacon taste is there and a better texture result. 

Need to feed 2 luvbirds:
3 medium size red beets - peeled and cut in equal size chunks
1 onion - diced in chunks
200gr of smoked bacon in chunks
1 liter of vegetable stock
50 ml of cream

1. Brown the bacon in the soup pot till crisp, add a little stock as to absorb all the flavour and let simmer for 5 minutes.

2. Add the beets and onion chunks. Cover with stock. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes and let simmer on lower heat till stock is reduced by 1/3 and beets are soft, about 20 minutes orso.

3. Sift the stock and remove the bacon. Blitz the beets and liquid till smooth. Add the cream for a smooth finish. To taste season with salt and pepper. Alternatively add some crisp bacon and serve.

February 9, 2016

sweets and my new scarf full of sweets

I LUV sweets, all kinds: cookies, cakes, macarons and candies, not a huge fan of chocolates but from time to time i like a nice hazelnut chocolate like Guylian sea-fruit. 

I recently got this Longchamp scarf which has become quickly a favourite. Of course it's pink ( my favourite color) and it has all my favourite sweets on it - FAB.

My mom regularly spoils me with vintage finds either from her own cupboards, flea markets or thrift stores. She gave me a while ago this theatrical centerpiece which i just found again stuffed away in the back of my cupboard . After a good polish it looked pretty good.

My favourite macarons place is still Laduree, the others to me, just don't quite compare. This delectable meringue-based confection is know as French but does have its origins in Venice, Italy as early as the 8th century. Laduree has been for over 150 years experimenting with flavours; they recently opened a second store in Brussels on the Grand Place. My ultimate flavours are: rose, fleur d'oranger (orange blossom) and salted caramel. What's yours?

February 6, 2016

Tips for mid-week entertaining : the main course and what to do when it goes wrong

On Thursday i already shared some tips about mid-week at home entertaining. I talked about setting the table and how to create a last minute menu. I shared my easy fish starter en papilotte. 

Today i share the main course of carrots and apple baked in the oven and a pork roast failure. Alas it happens, also to me, to mess up. 

Tips when you mess up:
Remain calm, and don't try to fix it, hide it or pretend it's great - just fess up to your friends: "sorry mates but the pork sucks" i even said: "if this was served in a restaurant, i would send it back." 
Don't serve if it is truly inedible, burned to crisp or possibly poisonous. You can save pretty much anything with a bowl of pasta or rice. So pour your friends more wine and boil some water.
If all fails, make a quick call and order in.Your friends won't mind, don't worry, they are there to spend time with you.

for the main course:

Need for 4 p:
assortment of carrots i got some purple and yellow ones - about 2 per person total
about 10 small button onions, i used dry but you can use fresh green onions too
bustle of fresh thyme
2 apples - select juicy crispy apples 
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
2 table spoons olive oil
1 seeded pomegranate
1 slice of feta cheese, crumbed
1 pork roast ( ask your butcher for advise on cut, size and weight)

1. clean and cut the carrots (cut lengthwise) and apples (cut across middle), add to baking dish. add onions cut in half and thyme. add a squeeze of agave and a good splash of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

2. in preheated oven at 180C and bake for about 40 minutes, checking how cooked the carrots are to your preference. Before serving I added some feta cheese and pomegranate seeds.

3. My butcher recommend I broil the pork in a little stock on the stove for 50 minutes but i was disappointed. The edges were super dry and middle was raw, requiring me to cut and recook, which left it all very dry... failure... I would now cook it as i know best: roasting in the oven so i can monitor the temperature and cooking time better. (live and learn). I served it with mustard and pickles.

February 4, 2016

Tips for mid-week dinner party at home : setting the table and an easy fish starter

Tips for pulling off a mid-week dinner party:
An impromptu dinner invite same morning and voila ... dinner for 4 tonight chez moi. Now, i was not working that day so i had time to decide what i wanted to cook and rush to the stores to get it all. If I had been at work that day, i would 've created my menu based on ingredients i can get at the same store. And pulled wine from my reserve vs going to the shop and getting wine advise, but i had some time. 

I always tidy up, set the table and refill the candles holders first, as this is what your guests see when they walk in and makes them feel at home instantly. Even if you are running behind with the cooking, they will feel welcomed and relaxed.

While i set my table (iron table cloths and napkins, shine crystal, polish silver and think of little something fun) i brainstormed with myself on what to cook. If you are stuck for inspiration Pinterest is your friend and my blog too :-). 

At any given time i 've an ironed table cloth and napkins at the ready. But colorful place mats and funny paper napkins can do the trick easily too when you are in a rush. Just have something ready. 

I usually serve some easy snacks at apero as guests arrive at different times after work ( often traffic being the big culprit) so you want to be flexible and not have things dry out in the oven or getting soggy in the fridge. Just a few exquisite pistachios and a yummy dip with crackers does the trick every time. Also people don't want to eat too much already before they start the meal.

When mid-week entertaining bear in mind, no-one wants a late, heavy meal so keep it light, and easy and i often forgo a real dessert but serve little waffles or madeleines to have with tea or coffee. I generally serve a starter and a main but i have also done heavy hors d'oeuvres at apero and just a main course. It depends what you ve time for and the timing of your guests. If one is going to be a lot later than the others, they might get hungry so might be better to serve more snacks up front.

Table decoration : i went for mouse and stone grey table cloths and pink napkins, which i laid under the plate to give extra pop of color. I love tulips and got a bunch of white and pink different types and arranged them in 3 glass containers in the middle of the table. I used the silver serving dishes to hide a secret message in them. And although I didn't do a table plan (as it was just 4 of us) oddly enough the little messages were very appropriate and fitting to my guests, who had randomly chosen their seat. 

Food: I got some maviar from Petrossian as it is our favorite to start off with. As a starter i served en papillote (in parchment parcel) white fish with spinach and broccoli. As a main i braised a pork roast and oven-baked carrots with apples, feta cheese and pomegranate seeds.  Both recipes were inspired from Libelle Lekker, one of my favorite local foodie magazines. 

For the fish starter:

Need for 4p: 
about 120g white fish per person - i take what looks good at the fishmonger, this time it was black saithe (lieu noir)
1 small broccoli
handful of fresh spinach leaves
1/2 lemon per person, 1 lime for zest 
40 ml white wine
40 ml vegetable stock
parchment or baking paper and kitchen rope
for the dressing : 100 ml yogurt ( i used soy), lime juice and chives

1. clean, cut and blanch the broccoli. Cut per person a large parchment sheet to make into a parcel ( about 50 cm). Cut the fish per person in 3 cm size pieces.

2. pre-heat oven to 180C and layer the parchment squares with a few spinach leaves, the cut fish, some blanched broccoli and grate some lime zest over it. Crunch the parcel together forming a pouch or parcel and add some stock and white wine to it. Ty it with the rope and place in baking dish.

3. bake in oven for 15 minutes. Prepare the dressing: mix the yogurt with lime ( or lemon) juice and chop the chives, season with salt and pepper. Serve the parcel with the dressing on the side and a lemon wedge.

Tip: i don't salt the fish before baking as the stock will have some salt content and i prefer a well seasoned dressing and offering salt and pepper at the table. 

I will post Saturday the main course i cooked.

February 2, 2016

Celebrate Light: buckwheat crepes with smoked salmon and cream

Today we must eat crepes and i posted Saturday a sweet crepe with almond milk and exotic fruit. Today a savoury crepe with buckwheat flower and smoked salmon, salmon eggs and sour cream, a bit of my Eastern European roots coming through... and my grandma, meme, Maria figurine and my dad's whisk - not cooking alone for sure . 

- you can easily make crepes in advance and reheat before serving however i like them cold too.
- take the hot buttered pan of the fire, ladle a spoon full of mixture in the middle and start turning the pan around to let the mixture run all around the pan to get a nice round shape but most importantly a nice thin crepe. And the 1st ones are always for the chef as they are bound to be delish but not yet perfect. Practise makes perfect!

200gr buckwheat flower (or you can do half and half with white flower)
300ml milk (i used lactose free for easy digestion)
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
a table spoon of olive oil
smoked salmon
salmon eggs
sour cream and lemon juice

1. add the eggs to the flower and add gradually the milk while whisking. add the salt and oil and let rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.

2. whisk the sour cream with a little lemon juice till firm but still runny.

3. bake the crepes and let cool. Once cooled down, layer smoked salmon, salmon eggs and cream and serve.