Although Christmas 2016 is officially over and only few hours separate us from New Years Eve, you might still be looking for a treat for this evening’s coffee table. Or not (this is most likely the case). At any rate, Elisenlebkuchen are a rich tasting German holiday season treat which I think you can eat from November to February, or actually, if I am honest, I myself could enjoy them all year round.
German-style gingerbread cookies or Lebkuchen are hard to find over here in Belgium – this year a local Loving Hut restaurant carried some, however, which was a nice surprise -, but luckily the German border is not thát far off, and in the past I have managed to find some over there in time for the holidays. This year the same thing happened during a one-day visit to Aachen. I found Lebkuchenherzen from Alnatura at Edeka and Lebkuchen from Veganz at dm, but no Elisenlebkuchen, the type which contains plenty of nuts and marzipan (an important distinction). The best purchase this time, therefore, was a couple of boxes of Backoblaten – baking wafers -, another food item which Belgian supermarkets do not sell, and which is, albeit not crucial, pretty convenient when you want to bake Elisenlebkuchen yourself. So the day after our trip I immediately started baking, using the recipe below.
The result was amazing and the recipe absolutely a keeper. The Elisenlebkuchen taste as they are supposed to taste, and more than equivalent of the ones you find in stores. The yield of two batches – about 40 pieces – already being completely gone, I’ll pretty soon have to bake some more. They are easy to make, but be prepared to invest some time in shaping and decorating them.
This being said, enjoy your New Years Eve, and set aside some time in 2017 for baking these beauties.
- 150 g flour (I used spelt flour)
- 200 g ground almonds
- 200 g ground hazelnuts
- 130 g cane sugar
- zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
- 5 TB jam (preferably from berries)
- pinch of salt
- 4 tsp gingerbread spices
- 200 g marzipan
- 1 dl water
- 2-3 tsp baking powder
- baking wafers (I used 20 – 22 round ones, 7 cm in diameter). You can also bake Elisenlebkuchen without them, but then make sure fully coat them in chocolate or sugar after baking.
- chocolate and/or powdered sugar for decorating. Grated coconut or almond slivers are nice for decoration as well.
- Mix the flour, sugar, ground nuts, spices, salt, baking powder, zest, salt in a bowl.
- Add the marzipan, jam and water to a food processor and mix. Add to the bowl and mix all ingredients until a sticky dough forms.
- Take about 1 TB dough and shape it to fit the baking wafers. I used a small saucer lined with plastic film to this purpose, but online shops also sell “Lebkuchenglocken” in different sizes which simplify the molding process.
- Bake for 20-25 min. in a preheated oven on 150 degrees Celsius.
- Once removed from the oven, you can immediately brush them with a powdered sugar/water mixture or with melted chocolate.
When I told my husband a couple of days ago that we would have chili, guacamole and cornbread for dinner, he enthusiastically told me that that was exactly the kind of comfort food he had been longing for all day. Without knowing, of course. It was that kind of need that first emerges when its fulfilment is already presented as a certainty, if you get what I mean.
Anyway, he was happy, I was too, and the children were, well, they were just being a bit fussy the way children sometimes can be after a long day at school (especially at the exhausting end of a term). The cornbread muffins were an immediate hit (they were, truth be told, the best I had ever made, thanks to butter-flavoured rapeseed oil I bought at Shavt, a nearby vegan store), but eating the chili took quite a bit longer. But they did finish dinner; not the guacamole, however (though this time at least my daughter, the more culinary adventurous child of the two, did actually taste some for the very first time).
Tex-Mex Trio: chili, guacamole & cornbread.
- 2 small onions
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts (which is what I used here) or vegan mince of your choice (seitan, soy or tempeh)
- 2 – 3 medium carrots
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 red or green bell pepper
- 4-6 large TB tomato paste
- 2 cups water (add more during the cooking process if necessary)
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp cayenne (or more, if you really want to spice up this dish)
- optional: a minced hot chili pepper (I usually do not include hot peppers, as I do not think my children would be that appreciative)
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 TB agave syrup (or another sweetener of your choice)
- Sauté the onion and add the walnuts and garlic. Keep in mind that when you use walnuts here, it will take some time for them to soften (which is not the case when using seitan or soy mince). After some more minutes, add the carrots, and then the bell peppers.
- When the vegetables have somewhat softened, it’s time to stir in the tomato paste and the water (or stock, if you prefer), and the seasonings. Let the chili simmer until its aroma has penetrated each corner of your dwelling. Add the agave syrup during the last step, so you can gradually add sweetness to taste.
- I like to serve this with a dollop of vegan sour cream or plain unsweetened soy yoghurt (with an added splash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt) on top.
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1/2 onion or 1 shallot
- 1/2 to 1 tomato
- a small handful of cilantro
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 TB lemon juice
- a dash of salt, and optionally also sweet paprika
- Add all ingredients to a food processor (with an S-shaped blade) and process until mostly smooth (you can leave in some tiny chunks).
(yields 8 muffins)
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup flour (I always use spelt, but you can use whichever type of flour you like)
- 1 cup plant milk (I mostly use soy milk for baking, or sporadically almond milk)
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup agave syrup
- 1/4 cup oil (I used rapeseed oil with a buttery aroma, and the result was awesome and just perfect. These cornbread muffins tasted more amazing then ever before. Usually I use sunflower oil, but lately it’s become difficult for me to ignore a sunflowery taste in my baked goods, and have therefore recently shifted to this rapeseed oil.)
- 3 TB aquafaba (the liquid from canned chickpeas)
- 1 TB corn starch (maizena) or arrowroot
- 2,5 tsp baking powder
- Optional: finely chopped chili peppers, corn kernels.
- Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl and all liquid ingredients in another. Then gradually mix in the liquid ingredients in the bowl with dry ingredients. Mix the batter until smooth and pour into a muffin pan.
- Bake for 17 minutes in a preheated oven on 180 degrees C.
In the series of easy and satisfying Saturday soups I now present the magnicifenct minestrone. This was what we had two weeks ago, with socca – a savoury mediterranean chickpea flatbread or pancake stemming from the French and Italian Riviera – on the side. At the end of lunchtime, everything was gone!
Let’s not waste any words on describing how very, very simple and delicious this is – here come the recipes.
Minestrone & Socca.
- 150 g uncooked Puy lentils, rinsed (if you prefer borlotti or cannellini beans, or a blend of both lentils and beans, go ahead) + 3x the volume in water, for cooking
- 1 onion
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 carrots
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 can finely chopped tomatoes (or the equivalent of fresh ones, ca. 400g)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ca. 6 – 7 cups vegetable broth (1,5- 1,75 l)
- 1/2 cup tiny pasta shapes (vermicelli or alphabet pasta, or whatever at hand)
- Boil the lentils in a separate pot. You don’t want to add them straight to the pot in which you’re preparing the soup, for otherwise they’ll add a murkish brown hue to your soup – and you do not want this, right? So boil them separately, drain and rinse them again, and then add them to the – bright red – soup in the final stage..
- Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the finely chopped carrots and celery. After some minutes, pour in the broth, tomatoes and tomato pastetogether with the bay leaves and rosemary.
- 1 cup chickpea flour or besan (there is actually a slight difference between the two; what I use is this besan or gram flour which I procure from an Asian store. This is a versatile, ingredient and very practical ingredient to have in a vegan kitchen, as it can quite often function as an egg substitute in a wide range of recipes, from quiche, omelette, to even cookies).
- 1 cup water (one can increase and decrease the volume of water, depending on the thickness of the flatbread you would like to achieve).
- 1-2 TB olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- herbs and seasonings of your choice; I used a TB of an Italian herb blend, which also contains some extra salt, and also added a garlic clove or two.
- Gradually mix in the water into the besan, careful not to make any lumps. Whisk until you have a smooth batter, and then add the olive oil, salt and the optional herbs.
- Let the batter rest for at least half an hour, but preferably longer. (Do NOT taste the batter in the meantime. Gram flour has a very distinct, raw flavour when uncooked, so refrain from pre-tasting, as it will only disappoint you. Not so much the final result, though. So practice some patience here.)
- Pour the liquid into a skillet and bake. — Traditionally socca is oven-baked and broiled, but since I do not have any oven-proof skillets, I just use my stove. And that works fine too.
If you google images of socca, you will find that a socca’s thickness can range from several mm, to quite thin. The one I made kind of occupied the middle ground between those two extremes.
Winter has arrived. With temperatures dropping below zero, warming rustic crockpot meals are up on this household’s menu. The Belgian classic hutsepot (or in French: hochepot) is definitely one of them. This dish traditionally features a hotchpotch (which is what hutsepot indeed means) of root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and meat, served with plenty of mustard. Now for this vegan version we of course leave all cows, pigs and sheep in peace and opt for nicer alternatives, being vegan sausages, tempeh, seitan or smoked tofu. Easy, filling and satisfying, even more so than the ‘original’.
Belgian hotchpotch or ‘hutsepot’.
This is a recipe which does not require exact measuring. So use the below as a point of reference and/or inspiration, and adapt vegetables and quantities to your liking.
- 1 onion
- 5-6 small potatoes
- 3-4 carrots
- 1 parsnip
- a handful of Jerusalem artichoke
- 1/2 cup diced celeriac
- other options: turnip, kohlrabi, white cabbage, leek
- 2 handfuls of Brussels sprouts (halve or quarter them)
- vegetable broth (Enough to cover the bottom of the pot in a decent way and to boil the vegetables until fork-tender. The vegetables should NOT be covered by the broth, or the dish will turn into a mash.)
- 2 tbsp strong mustard (or more)
- 1 tbsp herbes de Provence (or more), 3 bay leaves, optional: thyme sprigs, junipers, fresh sage
- 200-300g vegan sausage or smoked tofu. Seitan or tempeh would work too, but I usually go for one of the first two options. In the pictures over here I used Hobelz’ Currywurst, but the Bockwurst or Käsekrainer from Vantastic Foods are my absolute favourites in this dish.
- Chop all the vegetables in bite-sized chunks
- Sauté the onion in some oil until translucent
- Add the hardest vegetables, sauté them, and one by one add the other types of vegetables (from the hardest to the softest)
- After 5 minutes, add the broth (don’t overdo it – 2-3 cm will do), the herbs and the mustard. You can add garlic too, if you like.
- Cook until the vegetables are fork tender. They can be on the soft side but not mushy. Then add the smoked tofu or vegan sausages (you needn’t fry those in advance).
- Remove the bay leaves, thyme sprigs, etc., and serve with plenty of mustard (well, at least for the adults – children will not be that happy with an extra spoonful of strong mustard).
And as you can see below, my kids DO eat Brussels sprouts! In this dish their bitter flavour isn’t that prominent, which makes them more palatable to the younger ones at the dinner table. (As a 1 to 2-year-old, my son actually ate the Brussels sprouts in his hutsepot first).