Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thai Cooking

Perhaps one of the most challenging assignments I've ever had was to work on a culinary production featuring a cuisine I was hardly familiar with, namely that of Thailand. The assignment was to create six recipes, but that wasn't all. They had to be easy and needed to include ingredients that are readily available at every Dutch supermarket.
Before setting to work, I spent a few days reading up on Thai cuisine and watching YouTube films about authentic Thai cooking. I was especially interested in films showing authentic cooking in Thailand and not in some fancy studio. I also enlisted the help of my friend Vanessa who has visited Thailand many times, has taken cooking lessons in Thailand and recently gave Thai cooking demonstrations at a Dutch supermarket.
Writing and testing the recipes for this production was very rewarding. Mainly because it was a challenge I didn't hesitate to jump at (not that I ever do that), and also because I got acquainted with the wonderful flavors of Thai cooking. Those in the Netherlands can pick up a copy of Vriendin # 17 and try their hand at the dishes I created, which include a Thai beef salad, tom kha kai, a Thai stir-fry, pad thai, a green chicken curry and Thai fish cakes. Let me know if you try the recipes!
On a rather disappointing note, I was not credited for these recipes in the magazine. Instead, someone else's name was erroneously printed. My name does appear in the back, though. While I understand (especially because I work in publishing myself) that these things happen, I did find it a shame considering how chuffed I was about the results.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chilled Avocado & Cucumber Soup

Not all fats are created equal. The avocado (a fruit, and not a vegetable) consists of 30% healthy fats that are good for the circulatory system. Avocados are rich in vitamin E (neutralizes free radicals), potassium (lowers cholesterol), fiber (helps keep you full longer and keeps the digestive system in shape), and vitamin C (important for the production of collagen in the skin).
Cut open and sprinkled with fleur de sel or lemon juice, avocados are a delicious snack. Their mild, somewhat nutty flavor makes them great for all kinds of recipes. I love them in smoothies with a banana, almond milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Or like my mom used to serve them sometimes -- in a hot bowl of her lentil soup! And of course, in guacamole with lime juice, cilantro and red chillies.
Here is another one of my favorite things to do with avocados. This tasty, refreshing soup is super healthy and very easy to make. Serve it for lunch with a dollop of crème fraîche, a little olive oil and some freshly-cracked pepper. Or try it with some smoked salmon and cubed cucumber, or with homemade garlic croutons. In small glasses, you've got a wonderful little starter!

Serves 2-4
2 ripe avocados
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
2 spring onions, finely chopped
juice of 2 limes
2 tbsps crème fraîche, plus a little extra to serve
200-250 ml cooled vegetable bouillon
small bunch of cilantro, save some sprigs for garnish
fleur de sel and freshly-cracked pepper

Put all of the ingredients in the blender and puree until you have a nice consistency. If you think the soup is too thick, add a little more stock. Chill the soup for at least half an hour and serve with a little crème fraîche, good olive oil and freshly-cracked pepper.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Petits pois à la française

One of the best things to eat come the springtime is fresh peas. They're so much sweeter than the frozen or tinned kind and certainly worth the effort. Especially in a traditional French dish such as petits pois à la française in which they're paired with salty chunks of smoky bacon, slightly caramelized shallots and crisp little gem lettuce.
It's a gorgeous lunch dish, but also wonderful when served next to a simple roast chicken or rack of lamb. I think I may be serving it for Easter dinner next Sunday, and I'll probably be gathering all my ingredients at the Saturday market in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Not sure what I'll make for dessert yet, but stay tuned. I'll keep you posted!
In the meantime, here's the recipe.

Petits pois à la française
Serves 4
1 kilo podded peas (about 400g cleaned)
knob of butter
8 shallots, quartered
185g smoked bacon, sliced into thick strips
175 ml good chicken stock
1 little gem lettuce, sliced into strips
fleur de sel
freshly cracked pepper

Clean your peas. Melt the knob of butter in a pan and once it starts to brown, add the shallots. Allow them to gently caramelize, tossing them around every now and then. Once they look soft and sweet (about 5 minutes), add the bacon and give that all about 2-3 minutes. Now toss in the peas along with a little salt and pepper. Give that another minute or two before adding in the stock and letting the dish cook with the lid on for 7-10 minutes. Finally, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the little gem lettuce with a bit more salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy!

See how to make the recipe here: