Coffee-Cardamom Bites

This is a post dedicated to A.

1 December was the first day of a world without A, a befriended mom whom we got to know through school three years back, having just moved back from Sweden. Her oldest and our oldest were in the same class, just as her middle kid and our youngest. We got along well, our husbands and children got along well, and last year we started going on excursions during weekends. That is also what we did two weeks ago, making further plans for get-aways during 2018.

And then only 4 days later she found herself biking at the wrong place at the wrong time. Plain bad luck, with terrible consequences.

So this recipe is dedicated to her.

Only days before, she had finally found my IG-account (having misspelled it earlier in her searches, due to bad oral communication), and was ❤-ing one food picture after another, followed by a text message that she wanted a signed copy of my cookbook. That cookbook was one of the many plans – both hers and mine – we had discussed during earlier conversations. I don’t know if I will ever succeed in publishing one – she was, however, an ardent believer and supporter. She also generally thought that dreams are there to be realised, and she truly lived to put her own ideas into action and stimulated others to dare and dream bigger. But in case I never get to publish one, then at least there is this.

Besides our plans for the future, we regularly discussed food as such (me being a vegan, she being an advocate of low-sugar food), and this recipe for naturally sweetened raw bites would no doubt have been totally right up her alley. The combination of flavours -coffee and cardamom- is derived from a Dutch vegan ice cream brand, Prof. Gruenschnabel, which is now finally widely available over here.

So these are to you, A.

I wish I could have served these alongside a cup of tea or coffee after the dinner I intended to host for you and your family. They will have to serve as one of the many vehicles to remember the wonderful person you were instead

Coffee-Cardamom Bites

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
  • Pinch of salt and vanilla
  • 1 tsp coffee (ground coffee)
  • Ground seeds from ca. 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 TB cacao

Directions

Blend everything in a food processor until you end up with a sticky dough, then roll into walnut-sized balls.

Coat with melted chocolate if desired.


 

 

 

 

 

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Fragrant tajine with cinnamon & apricots.

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Being vegan or even vegetarian allows for a broadening of one’s culinary world and a more densely than average stocked spice rack. I remember being 23, entering my 4th year as a vegetarian, living abroad, and slowly expanding my cookbook collection. That year I bought several ones, including one on Indian cuisine which I still use every so often, and one on homemade schnaps, which I, contrary to friends who bought the very same book at the very same moment, but also had access to cheap alcohol in a university lab, never used (but never say never). I also remember compiling grocery lists with spices that at that particular time were totally exotic and new to me, but which I needed to finally start cooking up those dishes in my new cookbooks. It’s weird to realize how foreign cumin, coriander and curcuma once were to me, since I now use them on a nearly daily basis. In this tajine served over couscous, for instance. 

This is the kind of dish which is easily integrated into one’s rotating menu, because it’s easy to make, it doesn’t require any weird ingredients from specialty stores (I often make it when travelling, as I then usually only have access to limited vegan ingredients (aka veggies and pulses)), it’s sweet, spicy (as spicy as you like), and filling. And the kids eat it without much fuss.

Once I cooked a tajine assisted by a visiting friend who has an Algerian husband (yes, the same friend whom I mentioned in my post on Ratatouille and more). In Algeria, Friday equals couscous, so the recipe below should come quite close to the ‘real’ thing. At least that is what this friend contended, and if it doesn’t, it’s still worth making anyhow ;-). You’ll notice the many ‘handfuls’ below. That’s simply cooking tajine isn’t exact science. Use the amount of veggies you want, season as hot as you like it, use cilantro or don’t. It’s all up to you, regard the recipe below as a mere guiding framework.

Tajine

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 sweet potato, diced (optional)
  • 2-3 small potatoes
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1-2 bell peppers
  • A handful of string beans
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes + the same amount of vegetable stock
  • 2-3 TB tomato paste
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained (don’t throw out the chickpea liquid, use the aquafaba to make curd cheesecakemadeleines or crêpes or something)
  • A handful of dried apricots, finely chopped
  • A handful of raisins
  • 1 – 1,5 tsp curcuma
  • 1 – 1,5 TB ras-el-hanout (a North African spice blend)
  • 1-1,5 tsp cumin
  • 1-1,5 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 TB paprika or 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp or more harissa (North African chili paste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • A handful of almond slivers, roasted, for garnish
  • A handful of cilantro, for garnish

Directions

  • Fry the onion until translucent, then add the garlic and fry one more minute
  • Add the spices and then veggies one by one, starting with those that have the longest cooking time (i.e. the carrots and potatoes). Then the tomatoes and the renaining ingredients. Let simmer. Hold back the chickpeas, though: they shouldn’t end up in your casserole until the very end of the cooking process, when the vegetables have softened. 
  • In the meantime, prepare the couscous according to the directions on the package. Add in a TB of za’atar spice blend if you like that as much as I do.
  • When the dish is ready, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Then serve over couscous and sprinkle with almond slivers and garnish with cilantro.

Ratatouille.

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So here we are again!

When I posted my recipe for strawberry-rhubarb crumble pie, I hadn’t got the faintest idea that as many as five months would elapse before I’d be picking up on my kitchen adventures in a next blogpost. But that is what ultimately happened, and an entire summer (and half an autumn) was as such left blank in terms of blogposts, yet proved itself all the richer in terms of living life to the fullest and creating cherishable memories.

This is not to say food did not play any part in this. Rather on the contrary. It’s often the pebble that, softly hitting the surface of memory, ripples out, touching upon a variety of recollections. Food is a social connector, and reliving what was on and who was gathered around the table goes hand in hand.

Reminiscing this summer is reminiscing

  • the birthday pies I made as a treat for my colleagues at the onset of summer, and right before going on vacation.
  • the succulent dates and delicious oil-cured olives which we enjoyed during a stopover with German friends when we were on our way to the Alps. Last time we had seen these friends, a German-Algerian couple, we were traveling with a 9-month-old and they were expecting their first child. Now each of us had two boisterous kids ranging from 5 to 8, happily playing together despite the language barrier. We departed with a stash of Algerian dates and Moroccan olives (imported straight from Oran by our host – we learned that Moroccans are better at curing olives than their neighbours) and some bottles of Moroccan vinegar.
  • what must have been the first time in over a decade that I enjoyed the luxury of not having to touch any kitchen utensils for an entire week (no matter how much one loves cooking, being able to have break from it is something precious too), thanks to the hospitality, flexibility, open-mindedness and wondrous cooking skills of a high-school friend who now runs a family guesthouse on an idyllic Carinthian mountain top (with a panorama stretching as far as the Slovenian Julian Alps) together with her husband. If you’re ever considering a (family) stay in Austria, both during summer or in winter (there are alpine ski facilities practically around the corner), look no further than Gasthof Fernsicht! And oh yes, we continued our journey to the South with homemade elderberry syrup, books to kill time on the road, loads of Slovenian travel tips and refreshed spirits. And a cooler full of vegan stuff from Merkur (an Austrian supermarket chain with a gigantic range of vegan products).
  • the incredible Italian ice cream we had in Trieste at gelato Marco , where about half the (gigantic) counter consisted of vegan ice cream. This must have been one of the best, if not the best ice cream servings I’ve had, and if my husband hadn’t deemed it way too decadent, I think I really would have gone for seconds.
  • the joy of being able to order vegan pizza in Portoroz, Slovenia, before going for a swim in the Mediterranean. Pizza, sun, an inflatable dolphin, ample wind and a kite – what more do kids (and grown-ups) need to find happiness on a summer day?
  • the exchange of food when again staying over at our friends’ place in Bavaria again on our way back home. They had cooked a simple but lovely and hearty German potato soup for dinner (our son even had three large servings!), we had brought a decent portion of leftover Indian curry. Both the soup and the curry were gone by the end of the meal. We finished the soup, they finished the curry.
  • the counter full of Mediterranean-style dishes I had cooked for a family gathering, half of which cooked according to recipes from Yasou, the second cookbook by Miriam Sorell which I had finally purchased after it had been on my wishlist since its publication date. A book very much worth its money.
  • the scents and tastes – both familiar and new – that accompanied us on our trip down memory lane to vegan mecca Stockholm: vegan pizza (with aragula and figs – marvelous combo!) at Feca (where they even have an elaborate separate vegan menu) followed by an ice cream from 18 smakers glassmakeri, a Szechuan noodle lunch at Lao Wai, perfect nut cookies (cripsy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside) at Rosendals trädgård, the copious and utterly delicious Sri Lankan dinner – including a savoury kiwi dish – at the home of fabulous friends and former colleagues who are always spoiling us (and the home made Sri Lankan spice blends which I got as a present; the lovely scent of which permeated my travel bag until we got home and I could store the precious gift in jars) , the mezze lunch at Babel Deli (the muhammara! the roasted sweet potato! the parsley salad!), a burger lunch at Kafé44 following a visit to Fotografiska, the fika with peanut cheesecake we had at Los Vegos  in Uppsala (the city’s vegan scene has obviously been expanding the past couple of years), the fingerlicking good Thai inspired sweet potato stew  (I think its secret to success is the wine! – and the good cook) we had with dear Swedish friends in Uppsala – our friendship dates back to Germany 16 years ago -, the fast fajita lunch at one of the Zócalo restaurants you will find in Stockholm (in between shopping… of course I also bought a new cookbook: Mattias Kristiansson’s Välkommen till Vegoriket), a cinnamon roll (more specifically a Leobulle) from Vete-katten, again pizza and ice cream (see above) – this time with a Stockholm friend (we go back to Vienna 2000) to whom these places were a pleasant discovery -, dinner at good old Chutney (with the very same good old friend) before heading off to cinema Victoria and Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (that is what German philologists do), lunch at Herman’s, catching up with a Belgian expat friend, and then finally another lunch at Babel Deli (reaching the same conclusion that their muhammara is to die for).
  • The Sri Lankan cookbook The Lotus and The Artichoke, which I bought so that I could try and discover even more tasty food from this part of the world (now that I have some authentic spice blend in the house). My first attempts were a success; the curry I made, for instance, resembled my friend’s extremely well, which speaks for the book.
  • The huge pile of donuts, the Boston cream pie, fruit tart, chocolate Bundt cake and cinnamon rolls I made for both my daughter’s and my son’s birthdays. The donuts are a keeper for parties; they were immensely popular!
  • The stash of tomatoes and rhubarb which I got from friends, resulting in rhubarb chutney, rhubarb-strawberry jam, rhubarb sauce, and tomato chutney.
  • The goodbye pies for my colleagues, before embarking on a new professional adventure.
  • And much more.

What better recipe to write about after such a jumbled enumeration of separate memories that blend into one and all make up my great summer of 2017 than a chunky pot of ratatouille, which is basically a mishmash of ingredients. That – hodgepodge or mishmash –  is also what the Dutch word for ratatouille, namely ratjetoe, boils down to.

Ratatouille is one of my favourite comfort foods, and over the years I have developed my own version of it. It originally started with the traditional eggplant and zucchini kind of ratatouille, but then over time I first left out the eggplant (that just happened, probably because I at one particular moment didn’t have any in the fridge) and started adding olives, preferably well marinated ones (with herbs and/or spices), then suddenly the idea came to me to mix in some cauliflower florets (which was, frankly, a great idea!), and eventually I ended up with a version that usually also contains chickpeas. To me, that’s the perfect kind of ratatouille. And this is approximately how I make it (I never measure anything for this dish):

Ratatouille

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 to 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (pick a colour of your preference – I usually take a yellow one, because of the colour contrast with the remaining ingredients)
  • 1 can cubed tomatoes OR 2 fresh tomatoes and about 4 TB of tomato paste
  • 2 handfuls of cauliflower florets
  • a handful of sliced olives
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 TB herbes de Provence and some fresh basil, if you have some
  • some roasted pine kernels

Directions

  • fry the onion until translucent, then add the garlic
  • after a minute, add in the bell pepper, cauliflower and the zucchini; when they have softened a bit, add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients, except for the chickpeas and basil
  • when the content of your pot has turned into a stew (with the consistency of your preference), add in the chickpeas and basil
  • garnish with some pine kernels
  • serve with roasted potatoes or (my favourite!) potato mash (preferably potato mash with roasted garlic and rosemary)
  • enjoy!

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Strawberry-rhubarb crumble pie.

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It’s been 25 days since my last blog post. The longest interval in between posts since I re-started blogging last October. To begin with, life outside of the kitchen has been too busy lately, and my head too preoccupied with other things besides blogging recipes. Moreover, Belgium’s been struck by a heat wave for the ten days or so, and those temperatures wear me down completely. A thunderstorm was initially announced for this evening, and although the forecast has been readjusted (no rain to be expected until Monday!) , a cooler wind is currently blowing, and I wanted to seize the moment to finally share a recipe which I’ve wanted to get out into the world ever since I created it last summer.

As rhubarb and strawberries are in season (you might even grow your own?), this is absolutely the time to go for this easily pleasing tangy-sweet dessert. It’s not in the pictures below, but of course you can serve this pie with some whipped cream, ice cream, or vanilla sauce (like this one from Oatly, which I wish were available in Belgium, and which my in-laws were so kind to bring home a couple of packages of from their Sweden trip recently – thanks again!).

 

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strawberry-rhubarb crumble pie

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

PIE
  • 120 g cane sugar
  • 150 g vegan butter
  • 8-10 TB aquafaba
  • 3 TB cornstarch
  • 1 tl vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup vegan cream (I used soy cream)
  • 50 g vanilla pudding powder (which basically is cornstarch + vanilla)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 300 g spelt flour
  • 150 g strawberries, quartered
  • 150 g rhubarb, chopped
EXTRA FRUIT
  • 75 g strawberries
  • 75 gram rhubarb
CRUMB LAYER
  • 75 g vegan butter
  • 100 g spelt flour
  • 75 g cane sugar
  • dash of salt

Directions

  • Mix sugar and margarine until creamy. Add the vanilla and the aquafaba, and subsequently the cream, until you get a creamy mixture. Add the flour, cornstarch vanilla pudding powder and baking powder and stir decently.
  • Now mix in the strawberry and rhubarb pieces.
  • Distribute the batter evenly over a pie pan (28 cm in diameter)
  • Now layer the extra chopped fruit on top of the batter.
  • Finally make the crumbs: mix all ingredients until they form crumbs, and use them to create a top crumb layer.
  • Bake the crumble pie for 60 minutes in a preheated oven on 175-180 degrees Celcius.

 

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Samphire paella.

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I never had any paella before turning vegan or even vegetarian. Growing up in eighties and early nineties Belgium, one’s food on average did not get much more exotic than, let’s say, a pineapple topped pizza with a charred black olive in the middle. (An olive which I always immediately discarded and made me esteem its kind quite lowly for quite some time to come. That’s what I thought olives generically were supposed to look and taste like.) It was a time when broccoli had not become mainstream; neither had things like hummus or sun-dried tomatoes, all of which are part of our staple nowadays.

But even if paella had been a commonplace dish back then, I am sure I would have kindly declined every invitation to have some. Paella usually contains seafood (though each Spanish region most certainly has its own variation and key ingredients). And I happen to dislike (nearly) all things stemming from the sea’s salty waves. So even before turning vegetarian (and later vegan), seafood and fish were a no-go for me.

In the light of the above, it might seem utterly ironic that one of the first dishes I mastered as a vegetarian, was paella. Over the course of years the initially basic dish has become one which does not fail to convince vegans and non-vegans alike. Instead of seafood, my version contains cashews (for the bite), tangy, brine-cured, firmly textured Kalamata olives, and samphire. Although samphire is a sea vegetable, I actually do like it. Its salty taste is not overpowering, yet adds just that little extra which finishes the dish.

So this is how it goes.

Samphire paella

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy to medium
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Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp curcuma
  • 1 – 2 tsp sweet paprika (feel free to use a dash of smoked paprika)
  • a few pinches of saffron
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups short-grain rice (such as calasparra rice; though feel free to use what type you have at hand. I’m not ashamed to admit that I often use arborio or carnaroli rice instead).
  • 4-6 cups vegetable stock, or more if necessary. Substitute 1/2 cup of the broth with sherry, if desired
  • 2-3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3/4 – 1 cup grilled artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup cashews
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 kalamata olives
  •  1 cup samphire (blanched during 30 seconds)
  • a splash of lemon juice
  • some finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  • Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil; add the spices after 2 minutes and stir.
  • After 1-2 more minutes, add the rice, and stir, so that the rice is evenly coated by the spices.
  • Pour in the liquid (don’t add everything at once; you can add more later if necessary) and stir shortly
  • Add in the vegetables (except for the samphire, peas and olives) and mix them unter the rice.
  • Lower the heat and let simmer until all liquid has been absorbed. Add more if necessary. In principle you needn’t stir the paëlla in the meantime.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir to distribute them evenly.
  • Serve!

Thai tofu-mango pasta salad.

davA little over a week ago my 7-year-old son was away on a 2-day field trip with school: the perfect occasion to toss together a summery pasta salad with an Asian touch in which mango – a fruit much enjoyed by my daughter, but detested by my son (unless it’s in a smoothie) – is a key ingredient. Pasta, mango, tofu – what’s not to like?

Even though this is a very straightforward recipe, it does require some advance planning, as it contains marinated tofu. And the secret to successfully marinated tofu is – apart from a good marinade of course – time. Plenty of it. This tofu will be at its best when at least marinated overnight (I actually usually let it sit in the fridge for two days). I can promise you this tofu will be worth the wait, as it’s absolutely heavenly.

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Thai tofu-mango pasta salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

Thai marinated tofu

  • 400 g pressed (do not skip the pressing part) and cubed tofu
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 knob of ginger, grated
  • 1/2 – 1/3 stalk of lemongrass, grated or finely chopped
  • 3 TB agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 TB lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil (or other oil of your choice

Pasta salad

  • marinated tofu (see above)
  • ca. 350 g pasta shapes of your choice
  • 1 diced mango
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup grated coconut, toasted
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • a handful of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB vegan ‘oyster’ and mushroom sauce (or if you cannot find this: 1 more TB of soy sauce)
  • 1 TB sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tsp sambal oelek (chili paste)
  • 4 TB lime juice
  • 2 TB agave syrup

Directions

Marinated tofu

  • Mix all ingredients and pour into a container (with a lid), together with the pressed and cubed tofu.
  • Let sit overnight. Shake the container every now and then, so that the marinade is evenly distributed.

Pasta salad

  • Heat some oil in a skillet and sauté the tofu cubes until nicely browned. When you want to add some extra crispness, sprinkle some arrowroot or cornstarch over the tofu cubes, toss around the cubes until the starch is evenly distributed, and fry. Set aside when done.
  • Boil the pasta, drain, and set aside until somewhat cooled.
  • Take a bowl and toss in the pasta, the tofu cubes and all remaining ingredients. Mix well, and enjoy your meal.

Donuts.

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Last weekend did not only feature my udon noodle soup premiere, but also my first time ever for baking donuts. My daughter was going to a birthday party (actually two that weekend) and I always give something along, so that she has the option to eat something vegan. Now the (first) birthday boy in question had been announcing in class that there would be donuts at his party. With little time on my hands on a Saturday morning, I looked for the quickest donut recipe I could find. The first recipe (more or less) looked easy and tasty enough, but in the midst of making the batter I realized that donuts are supposed to be yeast-based, whereas this recipe contained baking powder. I had crossed the point of no return, so I just went ahead and fried the donuts. They were extremely dense and heavy, but my daughter was totally thrilled nonetheless at the prospect of getting 3 donuts (yes, I always tend to exaggerate). And a bit in tears at pick-up time that two boys had each taken one of her donuts (as it turned out, hers were ironically the only (wannabe) donuts at the party, where waffles and cupcakes were served), so that she was left with “only” one (it did count for at least two).

I quickly consoled her with the promise that I would be baking new ones the day after to take with us as a coffee table treat when visiting vegan friends. And even better ones this time. And so I did.

I found a recipe on a blog called Darth Vegan, and I decided to give them a try, despite one of the ingredients listed being coconut milk. There was the minor fear that the taste of coconut would be overpowering, but I decided to go for it anyhow. Looking back I certainly do not regret doing so! These were totally easy to make, the dough was a charm to handle, and the donuts tasted, well, like REAL donuts. Needless to say all vegan kids around the table were totally thrilled and devoured them in no time.

If it weren’t for all the fat (I fried them in coconut oil), I’d make a batch of these every week. But as it’s the plan to spend some of our summertime on Italian beaches, that wouldn’t be the best plan I guess. At least not when speaking for myself. So this will be just a once-in-a-while treat from now on.

Donuts (Darth Vegan style)

  • Servings: 15
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 TB lukewarm water
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk (the kind I buy, the home brand of Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize, is very rich and creamy and hardly contains any liquid. Good value for money.)
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce (this is roughly the amount one apple yields; you can quickly make apple sauce in the microwave)
  • 2 TB vegan butter or oil
  • 2 1/2 cups flour

Directions

  • Mix water and yeast and let sit for a couple of minutes until foamy.
  • Take a large bowl and combine coconut milk, sugar, salt, applesauce, and oil/margarine.
  • Add the foamy yeast/water mixture, the flour, and stir until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if it’s to sticky.
  • Let rise until doubled in volume.
  • Roll out the dough to 2 cm thickness and cut out donut shapes (I used a glass and the piping piece of a piping bag for the centre).
  • Let rest until doubled in size.
  • Heat the oil in a pot.  To test whether the oil is hot enough, test with a small piece of dough: if the oil is sizzling when you add the lump of dough, then it’s ok to start frying.
  • Fry the donuts for 30-45 seconds on one side, until golden, then turn and fry them on the other side.
  • When done, transfer to a plate lined with paper kitchen towels and let cool.
  • Decorate them. (I decorated them with either a chocolate ganache (vegan chocolate + soy cream), partly with strawberry icing (half a strawberry mixed with icing sugar), and with vegan sprinkles).

     

 

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Udon noodle soup.

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Up until today, I had never made udon noodle soup. Never. Go figure. It just happened to be this way, right until 5 to 12 this noon when I urgently needed to start prepping lunch. My husband suggested we’d have some soup, and this triggered my mind to start wandering back to the package of brown rice udon noodles I earlier this week had considered using in a stir-fry, only to eventually toss away the idea.

So now I again grabbed that very same package from the drawer and thought I actually might use those in a soup, rather than in a stir-fry. To give the soup a Japanese touch, I started out with a base of roasted sesame oil, ginger, tamari and rice wine vinegar, and I used a variety of veggies which I had around (being some leftover broccoli and zucchini, celery, spinach, red bell pepper and baby corn). Today is the 1st of May aka Labour Day, so shops are closed and I had to make do with what I had in my fridge. A fridge which, quite frankly, is pretty full, since we went grocery shopping only two days ago. But no bok choy or shiitake mushrooms. Not that that was any problem, however, because the soup turned out marvellously well without too.

I dare say I was pretty pleased with the result, the more so because the children seemed to enjoy their portions and my husband exclaimed several times how delicious this was. He has even already secured the single leftover soup bowl for this evening (we’re having scrap dinner, featuring three types of leftovers), so that definitely means something!

I cannot but wonder what took me so long to use udon noodles in soup. They always rather left me kind of disappointed in stir-fries, so I guess from now on, I’ll just stick to the ultimately safe noodle & soup combo.

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Udon noodle soup.

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2TB roasted sesame oil
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 knob ginger (sliced/grated/chopped – as you prefer)
  • A variety of veggies (such as e.g. paksoi, shiitake mushrooms, celery stalks, red bell pepper, celery stalks, broccoli, baby corn,…)
  • 3 TB tamari
  • 1 TB rice wine vinegar
  • 1 TB vegan mushroom and “oyster” sauce
  • 1/2-1 tsp red chili flakes
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 5-6 cups vegetable broth
  • 250 g brown rice udon noodles
  • 2 thinly sliced spring onions, more chili flakes and sesame seeds for garnish

Directions

  • Sauté the onion in a decent splash of sesame oil, together with the ginger and garlic.
  • Add the veggies, and after some minutes also the broth, soy sauce, vegan mushroom and “oyster” sauce, rice vinegar, seasonings and broth.
  • Bring to a boil, then add the noodles.
  • After approximately 5-6 minutes, the noodles should be done and the soup ready to be served. Add a splash of lime juice and garnish with sesame seeds, spring onion and dried red pepper flakes.
  • Enjoy!

Strawberry-lemonade nice cream.

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You all know that moment, right, when your stash of initially halfway greenish and still inedible bananas suddenly, and seemingly overnight, has turned into a bunch of freckled and speckled overripe fruit? My kids call them ‘rotten bananas’, but frankly, that’s a hyperbolically pejorative denotation that does not pay them the honour they actually deserve. Just have a look at  this long list of recipe ideas (some of which are vegan, plenty of which can be veganised).

Baking chocolate chip banana bread is my standard way to use up overripe bananas, and blending them into smoothies is my favorite second. When I don’t want to use them immediately, then I chop them up and freeze them. In this scenario also another option – something I should be doing more often – comes into the picture: making nice cream (aka banana-based ice cream), which is simple, sweet and satisfying. And a totally guilt-free way of enjoying ice cream.

So making nice cream is what I did last Sunday. I had some of spring’s first strawberries in the house, and wanted to add a lemony zing as well. So banana-strawberry-lemon ice cream it was, and really, it was goooood!

Usually, when making nice cream, I start from frozen banana chunks, but this time I reversed the order. I first blended the ingredients, then froze the (delicious!) cream until it solidified. The reason? I wanted to make popsicles. Not just popsicles, but beautifully decorated popsicles with heart-shaped strawberry slices. Not the worst idea ever, and it’s doable, but actually, next time I’ll stick to the usual order of things (as in the recipe below), and reserve my silicone popsicle molds for my regular, ice cream machine made ice cream.

Nice cream popsicles demand that you keep a very close eye on them, and regularly check when they are hard enough to remove from the mold, but not too hard that they’re icy. It can be done, but it’s tricky, as nice cream freezes less well than regularly churned ice cream. My regular ice cream contains arrowroot, an ingredient that prevents crystallization. Arrowroot requires boiling the liquid before cooling, churning and finally freezing it, and in the case of nice cream that process would undermine the exact USP of the concept: the fact that you can turn (frozen) bananas into nice cream in no time, with just a few whizzes of your blender.

In the pics below you can see that the popsicle my daughter holds has more or less the desired consistency. In the first pic, which was taken 1,5h later, you do notice that the ice cream has already turned rather icy.

Anyway, to cut a long story short: the ice cream tasted amazing, the children were happy, and this is definitely something I’ll be making again in the future, be it in the traditional way: freezing, blending, scooping, eating!

strawberry-lemonade ice cream

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: super easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 bananas (cut in chunks and frozen)
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries (preferably frozen as well)
  • 2 TB vanilla soy yoghurt (can be omitted)
  • pinch of vanilla
  • 1 TB grated lemon (I usually keep lemons in the freezer, which I take out and grate when I need some lemon zest or lemon juice.)

Directions

Blend all ingredients until they have a soft serve-like consistency. If the mass is too soft, then freeze it for maximum one hour before eating it.

Enjoy!

 

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Liège waffles.

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A blog post on waffles on a Belgian blog – it’s the worst kind of cliché, but there’s hardly any way avoiding it. And why would one, actually? There’s a reason why waffles are as highly acclaimed a treat as they are, right?

Of course there’s no such thing as ‘the’ Belgian waffle. There are different types of waffles. They come in various shapes and consistency (rectangular, round, thick, thin, hard, chewy, soft and crisp), they can have a creamy vanilla, syrupy, or fruit filling, they can come with toppings (strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, sugar,…), or they can just be eaten plain.

In this post I’ll restrict myself to the sturdy Liège waffle, which is the type of waffle you most commonly find in Belgian shopping streets, penetrating the air with their irresistible, seductive sweet smell, thus luring tourists to street vendors’ waffle stalls.

I won’t lie: I don’t have any street vendor’s recipe, though I wish I had. But I am also totally honest when I write that these waffles are totally awesome too. They have been multiply assessed and approbated by the most critical audience: children between 5 and 8, also those who are accustomed to the ‘regular’ waffles containing eggs and dairy.

So there you go, try for yourself!

Liège waffles

  • Servings: 16-18
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 dl water
  • 1 dl soy milk
  • 500 g spelt flour
  • 6 TB aquafaba
  • 2 TB chickpea flour (besan)
  • 180 g unrefined cane sugar
  • 60 g pearl sugar
  • 175 g vegan butter, melted (or a combination of butter-flavoured rapeseed oil and coconut oil)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 package dry yeast (7 g – equivalent of 21 g fresh yeast)

Directions

Mix all ingredients, let sit for half an hour, and then bake away in a hot and greased waffle iron. You can eat them immediately after baking, or you can cover them with melted chocolate first, and then ket them cool. They can easily be frozen and thawed.