Chard & goat cheese pizza

Chard and goat cheese pizza Super simple and delicious pizza. Chard is my favourite vegetable and this is a whole new way of preparing it. It gets a very strong, almost peppery flavour from being grilled on a pizza.

Ingredients: ready made pizza dough 1/2 jar tomato sauce that comes with the ready made pizza dough +-20 stalks of chard 1 small white goat cheese dried thyme salt & pepper olive oil

Pre-heat the oven at its highest setting. That is 250 degrees Celsius for mine.

Wash the chard, wrap it in a towel and swing it around to make it dry. I advise you not to do the swinging part indoors.

Roll out the pizza dough on an oven tray. It usually comes with baking parchment.

Spread the tomato sauce thinly over the dough, then lay the chard on top of it. Slice the cheese and spread it on top of the chard. Sprinkle with thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Bake till the dough is crispy and brown.

Chinese inspired turnip and stew

Image "What do you do with turnip?" Katinka asked me. "I don't know." I said "I never cook with turnip. I guess you could mash it with potatoes and make pommes duchesse with it.".

Then I remembered the dinner Xingfeng Huang cooked for me and my wife five years ago. He cooked many different dishes and I didn't remember exactly but some things I recalled. He made meat with ginger, garlic and star anise. He told me that he used many strong flavours to mask the flavour of the meat because in the region of China where he is from, people don't like the flavour of meat. I also remembered a dish with strips of white/yellow  vegetable. Potato or turnip but it might just as well have been cabbage. Flavoured with ginger. I thought of these flavours when I came up with this dish. I am sure it isn't Chinese at all. I used Dutch beer and I suspect I flavoured to Dutch taste rather than to Chinese taste. However, it certainly is my taste.

Ingredients 1/2 turnip 1 big leek (only the white part) 1 (leftover) scallion (leave out if you don't have one) 2 teaspoons of honey or sugar 250 g beef, diced. Any part that requires 3 hours simmering will do. fresh ginger 1 green chilli pepper 1 tablespoon of tomato puree 1 bottle of beer (I used Hertog Jan) 2 tablespoons Kikkoman less sodium soy sauce. 2 teaspoons roasted garlic (or use chopped garlic from a jar) 2 pieces of star anise 150g noodles

Make a marinade of soy sauce, roasted garlic and star anise. Add the diced beef and set aside to mind its own business.

Pre-heat the oven at 150ºC. Grate the green chilli and a piece of garlic the size of your thumb. Take a pan that is you can use in the oven and put it on the hob. Put some oil into the pan and fry the ginger and chilli for half a minute. Add the tomato puree and fry for another minute. Then add the beer, the meat and the marinade. Leave it on the hob for a little while to warm it through but you don't have to bring it to the boil. Put a lid on the pan and place the pan in the oven. After two, two and a half hours, check how tender the meat is and if necessary, give it another half hour or so. Once the meat is almost falling apart, take the pan from the oven and let it rest for half an hour with the lid on.

While you are waiting for the meat to cook, peel the turnip and cut it into slices a little smaller than McDonald's french fries. Also slice the leek and scallion and grate another half-thumb of ginger.

Put a big splash of water (100 ml or so, no need to take out a measuring cup) in a pan and stir in the honey. Wash the leek and add the leek, scallion and turnip to the pan. Put a lid on the pan and gently cook for half an hour or until the turnip is soft. You can prepare this and wait with cooking until you take the meat from the oven to rest.

Check the package of the noodles for cooking instructions. Time it so that the noodles are done just after the turnip is ready to be served.

Drain the noodles and put them in serving bowls. Scoop the meat and sauce over the noodles. Put the turnips on top.

Camargue black rice with haddock, button mushrooms, tomatoes and chard

Image My parents brought black rice from the Camargue for me. Not knowing what to do with it, I asked Anne how she cooks this rice which grows near to where she grew up. She didn't give me a recipe, she just told me she'd make a dish with black rice, fish, mushrooms and tomatoes.

Because Anne didn't tell me how to make this dish, I just followed my instinct and this is what I came up with. This one is a gem. It is the best food I ate in a month or longer. And I ate some really good food this month. This is how it is made:

Ingredients: 1 cup of black rice from the Camargue 1 haddock fillet 5 button mushrooms 6 stalks of chard 4 tomatoes 1 big splash of red vermouth butter olive oil salt & pepperStrip the leafs from the chard stems and put them aside. Chop the stems in 1cm cubes. Dice the mushrooms and haddock. Quarter the tomatoes. Roughly chop the chard leafs and wash them.

Bring 1/2 litre water to the boil. Wash the rice in cold, running water. When the water boils, add the rice. The rice needs to cook 20-25 minutes so now you'll have to wait about 10 minutes until you can prepare the rest.

Melt butter with some olive oil in a wok. Add the mushrooms with some salt and pepper. Once they have some colour, add the chard stalks and stirfry for a minute. Then add the haddock. Meanwhile, taste the rice to see whether it is done. Once it is, drain it and set it aside for a moment. If it isn't or once you've set it aside, add the chard leafs to the wok. They'll wilt quickly and once they are almost gone, add a big splash of red vermouth. Cook it through for another 30 seconds and then add the black rice. Cook everything together for another minute or a half and serve.

Grownups' sandwich and the nature of creativity

Today is saturday. I have a day off, it is lovely weather, there is a food market downtown and I have time on my hands. Days like today usually start off with me watching Saturday kitchen on BBC1 followed by a trip to the market and the 'Nature butcher' where I'll buy whatever looks interesting and whatever suits my mood. By the time I get home, I have a vague idea of what I'll be cooking but only once I start cooking, the preparation explains itself to me.

And so it was today. The Nature butcher sold me some lovely bratwurst and at the market I bought new season's beetroots, last year's celeriac and freshly baked carrot sourdough bread. On my way home, I thought I'd make a celeriac mash with baked sausages and a salad of beetroot and lettuce (from the garden) with balsamic vinegar. However, once I started peeling and grating the beetroots, I noticed that they tasted awful. Fortunately, I also noticed the funny stalks sticking out of the celeriac and the beetroot. They taste great and this recipe introduced itself to me. A hearty sandwich packed with flavour. It is heavy, earthy, bitter, sweet, rich and complex in flavour. I think this is the kind of sandwich I would not have liked when I was a kid because children experience bitter flavours stronger and dislike them more than adults. However, like coffee and beer, with a few more years of life and taste experience, I now think this is the best sandwich ever!

You might have noticed that I talk about ideas that come to me. I think creativity and ideas do not merely come from within ourselves. They also come from outside us. Most of the recipe's I create are given to me by the ingredients I bought, the problems I run into while cooking, the things I did that day and my genius.

Ingredients: 1/2 celeriac bulb the stalks of 1 celeriac (remove the leafs unless you like seriously bitter flavours) the stalks of 3 beetroots (remove the leafs) (or use chard) 2 bratwursts (take them from the fridge 10 minutes before you start cooking) 4 slices of carrot sourdough bread (any dark sourdough bread will do) 50g butter 3 tablespoons of olive oil salt & pepper 1 bottle Karmeliet triple (the perfect beer for a warm spring day)

Peel and cut the celeriac bulb into strips. Wash it and cook it with little water with a lid on for +-10 minutes or until soft. Drain and put the celeriac back into the pan and add some butter, salt and pepper. Mash it and set aside with the lid on the pan.

Meanwhile, finely cut the celeriac and beetroot stalks. Wash it and cook it with little water and some olive oil for +- 10 minutes or until soft. Drain it, put it back into the pan and set aside with the lid on the pan.

Put the grill pan and a frying pan on the stove and turn the heat to maximum. Add olive oil and butter to the frying pan, leave the grill pan to become very hot. Put the sausages in the frying pan and put a large lid on the frying pan. This helps to cook the sausage all the way through. Turn once or twice. Once the sausages are done, remove them from the pan, wrap them in tinfoil and set them aside to rest for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat below the frying pan.

Place the slices of sourdough bread in the grill pan. Pour half a bottle of Karmeliet trippel in the frying pan and use a wooden spoon to mix it with the frying fat and to remove all bits that stick to the bottom of the pan. Add salt & pepper.

Turn the bread slices once or twice until they are golden with black char marks on both sides. Then remove them from the grill pan and turn off the heat.

Spread the celeriac puree onto the toasted bread, sprinkle the celeriac and beetroot stalks over it. Slice the sausages and put them on top of the stalks. Drizzle with the beer gravy and serve with a glass of Karmeliet trippel. Cheers!

Grilled green asparagus with marinated chicken thighs and mash

Recently, I got a job with Willem&Drees, a company that sells regionally produced fruit and vegetables to supermarkets and catering companies. One of the great benefits of working for a company that sells fresh food is that you sometimes get to take some food home. On monday I got some green asparagus and potatoes grown by Ronald and Helma Vader. They have a farm in Oude-Tonge which I visited a few times now. Now I had a chance to taste their produce and it is fabulous!

Ingredients: green asparagus (go for a generous portion of at least 6 per person) chicken thighs potatoes olive oil butter cider vinegar salt&pepper thyme

Start by marinating the chicken thighs. In a plastic bag, mix cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme and add the chicken thighs. Press all air out of the bag and tie a knot to close it. Massage the chicken inside the bag for a bit and place it on a plate in the fridge for as long as you've got time (I had 15 minutes, over night would be better).

Peel and slice the potatoes. Cook them in salted water.

Put the grill pan on the biggest, hottest hob of your stove and wait for it to get hot.

Meanwhile, was the asparagus and click off their stalky ends. Pat them dry with a tower or kitchen paper.

Remove the chicken thighs from the bag and pat them dry with kitchen paper. They should be dry otherwise you can't grill them. Rub them with little oil and place them onto the searing hot grill pan. Wait for a few minutes until you can see on the side of the chicken that the heat has penetrated through more than half way. Then turn the chicken around and grill the other side.

Drain the potatoes, add butter, salt and pepper and mash everything together. Put the lid back on the pan and set aside till serving.

Remove the chicken from the grill, place it on a place and cover it with tinfoil. Set aside till serving.

Put the asparagus in the grill pan. Don't use any oil. Wait for a few minutes and then turn. Just keep turning until they're soft and grilled and look right.

Place the asparagus on a plate and sprinkle them with a few drops of cider vinegar (really, a few drops, no more), olive oil, salt and pepper and you're ready to serve.

Flammkuchen with pear

A flammkuchen is basically a pizza without yeast or a Mongolian pancake with a topping. It makes a quirky and hearty dinner. The recipe comes from the Hairy Bikers' Big Book of Baking. I added pear because I wanted to lighten it up a bit.

Ingredients: 300g flour 2 teaspoon sea salt 175 ml water 2 tablespoons olive oil 200g bacon 500g onions cut in half and thinly sliced 200ml crème fraîche 1 pear,

Place the flour in a large bowl and stir in the salt. Mix the water and half the olive oil together and pour them into the well. Immediately start stirring with a wooden spoon and then your hands to form a soft, spongy dough. Turn this out on to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until it's smooth and elastic. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest while you make the topping.

I like to cut my own lardons. I make them much bigger than the ones for sale in the supermarket. This enables them to get a firm crust on the outside while remaining soft and juicy inside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large non0stick frying pan and fry the bacon for 3-4 minutes until the fat begins to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil and fat as possible in the pan, and set aside on a small plate covered with kitchen paper. Tip the sliced onions into the pan and cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes until well softened but not browned, stirring occasionally. Remove the onions from the heat and leave to cool slightly for a few minutes. The onions will brown when the flammkuchen is baking. Meanwhile, peel, core and slice the pear.

Preheat the oven to 240C. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rough circle or rectangle about 3mm thick. I made mine about 5mm thick and it turned out too thick and bread-like.

Lift the dough with the rolling pin and transfer it to the prepared tin. You can make several smaller flammkuchen if you prefer.

Spread the crème fraîche over the dough, leaving a 2cm border all the way around the edge. Scatter the onions and then the bacon and pear on top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 16-20 minutes or until the base is crisp and lightly browned around the edges and the topping is bubbling.

Serve like pizza.

Grilled coq au vin


Have you seen Rachel Khoo's Little Paris kitchen? It is a great cooking show in which Rachel cooks French recipe's with a twist. One of her recipe's is a grilled coq au vin. I watched it and the idea got stuck in my head but I forgot how she did it exactly. So I set about trying to recreate it. I forgot a few ingredients and I ran into a few problems but the result was yummy!

Warning: this recipe takes 24 hours to prepare because the chicken needs to be marinated.

Ingredients (for two persons):
3 chicken thigh fillets
2 onions
1 clove of garlic
bay leaf
2/3 bottle of good quality red wine
1 big carrot
2 hands full of mushrooms
1/2 bag of frozen pommes duchesse (or make your own)
salt & pepper
1 drop of vinegar 

Day 1:
Peel and finely slice the onion and garlic. Gently fry them in some olive oil and butter with thyme and bay leaf until the onion is soft and pale. Add the wine and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid through a sieve and set aside to cool down. It should not be hot when added to the chicken because the chicken shouldn't cook yet.
Chop up the chicken thighs and add them to the cooled down wine marinade. Set in the fridge to marinate for 24 hours.

Day 2:
So this is where things went wrong. I made pretty skewers with marinated chicken, carrots and mushrooms and tried to grill them.

Unfortunately, they are packed so tight that the heat of the grill doesn't penetrate into the chicken fast enough. The result was chicken cooked on the outside and raw in the middle. So here is my solution:
Instead of making sticks, chuck all ingredients on the grill separately. Make sure not to put too much food in the grill pan at once and put everything that is ready in a bowl.

Meanwhile; bake the pommes duchesse according to the instructions on the package and boil down the chicken marinade with some salt, pepper and a drop of vinegar to make a sauce.

When everything is ready, serve on plates or bowls.

Bon appetit!

Ode to my father's chicory salad


My father doesn't cook often. When he does, it is usually one of five or so recipes. His chicory salad is the one I remember best. When i was a child, I liked it but I didn't like the bitterness of the chicory. Now that I am older and more accustomed to bitter flavours, I like it a lot and I made my own version of his salad.

400g tortellini
4 chalks of celery
3 or 4 chicory's
1-2 pears or apples
5-6 table spoons of yogonnaise (mayonnaise with yoghurt)
5 small gherkins
fresh parsley, finely sliced
salt & pepper

 Cook the tortellini according to the package. Meanwhile, chop the celery and gherkins and finely slice the chicory. Grate the pear/apple on a coarse grater or finely slice it. Cook the celery with the tortellini for the last few minutes of its cooking time.

Mix all ingredients together and serve it in a pretty bowl.

Simple beetroot and apple soup

This beetroot and apple soup is super easy to make. It takes a little more time than my healthy fast food dinner but not more effort.

Ingredients: 3 or 4 beetroots 1 potato 1 apple 1 (chicken) stock cube 300 ml water 2 teaspoons dried dill 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar crème fraîche or yoghurt

Peel the beetroots and the potato and slice them in 1 cm thick slices. Put them in a pan with the stock cube, water, dill and vinegar. Bring to a boil and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the beetroot and potato are soft.

Peel the apple, remove the core and add chunks of the apple to the beetroot. Put everything in a liquidizer and blitz it into a puree. This tends to give the soup a milkshake texture which is not the texture I want for my soup. I find that passing the beetroot mixture through a sieve removes most of the air bubbles.

Serve in a deep plate or bowl and spoon in a few dollops of crème fraîche or yoghurt.

Couscous salad, ideal for picnic.

Today I went on a cycling trip that included a picnic. I wanted to make something that is tasty, that provides a lot of energy and that is easy to make. At first I thought of making a quiche but I figured that would be a lot of work to make and difficult to transport on my bike so I came up with this salad.

Ingredients 1 pack (500g) of couscous boiling water 1 teaspoon smoked paprika powder 2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds 1 vegetable stock cube 500g tomatoes 1 fennel bulb 1 sweet pepper 10 sun dried tomatoes 100g olives 150g feta cheese juice from the dried tomatoes fresh mint leafs olive oil juice of 1 lime ground black pepper

Start by boiling some water. Put the couscous in a pan and mix in the smoked paprika powder, ground coriander seeds and the vegetable stock cube. Pour boiling water onto the couscous until there is about 1 cm of water above the couscous. Set aside to rest.

Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan with couscous. Just chuck them on top of the couscous.

Chop the fennel and sweet pepper. Put a few tablespoons of water in a pan, add the fennel and put it on the stove. Steam the fennel for a minute and then add the diced sweet pepper. Steam for another minute, then drain and add to the couscous.

Chop the dried tomatoes and olives and add them to the couscous. Crumble the feta over the couscous. Roll up the mint leafs and chop them finely. Add them to the couscous.

Taste the oil in which the dried tomatoes were stored. If it tastes good, add some of it to the couscous. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and the lime juice and some freshly ground black pepper too. Mix it all together with a fork. Adjust oil, lime and pepper to taste.

At this point, you can store it for a couple of hours before serving it. Ideal for picnics.

Preserved cow eyes

Just kidding! These are not cow eyes. They are lychees in agar-agar jelly. My friend Grace makes the most amazing snacks and candy and she inspired me to make my own squidgy snacks.

Ingredients: 1 can of lychees agar-agar

Drain the can of lychees over a sieve into a measuring cup. I measured 300 ml of syrup. My sachet with 25g agar-agar is sufficient for 3 kg jelly so I measured slightly less than 2.5 g agar-agar because I like my jellies wobbly.

Put the syrup in a pan and bring to a boil. Sprinkle in the agar-agar and whisk firmly for a minute or so. Turn off the hob and let it cool down for a few minutes.

I have a few small moulds that make bite-size jellies but they are to small to contain an entire lychee so I chopped up a few lychees and distributed them over the small moulds. Pour the agar-agar syrup into the moulds. I used a syringe because I am clumsy and I don't want to make a mess of my kitchen.

Pour the remaining lychees and syrup in a bigger mould and leave everything to cool down.

The small jellies can simply be pressed from their moulds. The big jelly refused to come out so I used the following trick: Agar-agar jellies melt above 90 degrees Celsius. Boil some water, put the mould in boiling water until the sides of the jelly become soft. Put a plate over the mould and turn them over gently and confidently. Give the mould a shake.

You don't have to make scary cow-eye-shaped jellies. Other shapes look less repulsive.

Healthy fast food. Dinner in 12 minutes.

Jamie Oliver makes dinner is 30 minutes. I make dinner in 12 minutes. Instead of making four dishes in half an hour, I make only one. It tastes just as good and it saves washing up and time. This is healthy fast food that is ready to be eaten faster than the delivery guy can bring you pizza.

Ingredients 250 g penne pasta 125 g mixed salad leafs 1 big 'winter' carrot 10 sun dried tomatoes stored in flavoured oil 15 cherry tomatoes 1 apple (I used Rubens) soft, fresh goat cheese hand full of pine nuts 1 tablespoon mustard 1 teaspoon vinegar 1 tablespoon olive oil salt & pepper 1 big pinch of dried dill

To get things started quickly; fill an electric kettle with water and bring it to the boil. Meanwhile, put a litre of cold water in a big (4-5 litre) pan put a lid on and put it on a big hob at high heat. When the water from the kettle boils, add it to the pan.  We need to have at least 2 litre of boiling water to cook the pasta and this is the fastest way to get it.

Meanwhile, grate the carrot on a course box grater. Slice the apple on the slicing side of the box grater. Chop the dried tomatoes and halve the cherry tomatoes. Briefly toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan. Mix together the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and dill.

Drain the pasta and put it back into the pan. Immediately pour over the dressing and mix it. Add all ingredients except the cheese and pine nuts and mix them together. Serve on a plate. Crumble the goat cheese on top of the salad and sprinkle over the pine nuts.

Chicken fillet stuffed with dried tomatoes, feta and mint, served with potato salad with chicory and fennel

This winter dish tastes of summer! It is fresh and light and yet it is made with ingredients that are in season through out winter (albeit because of storage). With temperatures rising and the days getting longer, this is exactly what I want to eat today.

Ingredients: 2 chicken fillets 3 dried tomatoes 50g feta cheese (cheap, fake feta made from cow milk will do) 10 fresh mint leafs

2 chicories 1 fennel bulb 400 g waxy potatoes 3 tablespoons mayonaise 3 tablespoons of the vinegar in which gherkins were stored 3 tablespoons of olive oil salt & pepper pinch of dried dill

Use the tip of a sharp knife to create a pocket inside each chicken fillet. Chop together the dried tomatoes, feta and mint and press it into the pockets in the chicken breasts. Set aside.

Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. Wash them with water and set them aside.

Thinly slice the chicories and fennel, wash them and set aside.

Boil the potatoes for 10 minutes or until they are just about cooked. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken fillets.

In a big bowl, mix the chicories, fennel, mayonnaise, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and dill.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and chuck them into the bowl with salad. Quickly mix everything together.

The chicken fillets are extra thick because of their filling. Make sure that they are cooked on the inside. Once they are done, serve everything on a plate.

Christmas dinner: canard à l'orange with red cabbage and roasted potatoes

Christmas dinner preparations were chaotic this year. I hadn't really planned the recipes when I went shopping. Fortunately, christmas dinner was for me and Iris only so there was no pressure of feeding a large group of people. However, even when I started cooking, I still did not know exactly what I was going to do. All I knew is that I wanted to make canard à l'orange but I didn't even know what it is exactly. Eventually, I got some help from Gordon Ramsay and I decided to cook the duck his way and serve it with orange sauce. It turned out wonderful! The duck was perfect and the sauce more orangey than oranges. The red cabbage has all christmas spices and the roasted potatoes are comforting and delicious.

Ingredients: For the duck: 2 duck breasts salt & pepper

For the orange sauce: zest of 2 oranges (use a speed peeler) juice of 2 oranges 25 ml grand marnier cordon rouge duck fat from 2 baked breasts

For the red cabbage: 1/2 red cabbage 2 apples 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon orange juice 1 tablespoon sugar 1/10th ground nutmeg 1/4th teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/8th teaspoon ground cloves 1/4th teaspoon ground ginger 1/4th teaspoon ground anise seeds

For the roast potatoes: 500g potatoes salt knob of butter

Start with making the red cabbage because it requires the longest cooking time. Finely slice the cabbage. Peel the apples and dice them. Put them in a pot with the other ingredients, put a lid on and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Stir every now and then. If all moisture evaporates, add some water.

For the roast potatoes, peel and dice the potatoes. Cook them for 7-8 minutes. Pre-heat the oven at 200 C. Drain the potatoes and let them steam dry. Meanwhile, put some butter in the pan you used for cooking the potatoes. After a minute or so, put the potatoes with some salt into the pan with butter. Put the lid on and shake the pan about. The goal is to roughen up the potatoes so that they'll have more crispy bits when baked and to coat the potatoes with butter.

While cooking the potatoes, you can start making the orange sauce. Put the zest in 100 ml cold water, bring it to the boil, drain it and repeat once. Now put the zest, juice and grand marnier in a blender and whiz it. Set aside until the duck breasts are resting before carving. Pour the fat from the pan into the mixture and whiz it for half a minute to create a creamy, orange sauce.

Cook the duck the way Gordon Ramsay does it: season the duck breasts and place them, skin side down, in a cold frying pan. Gently turn up the heat to render out the fat. Once the skin is crispy, turn the breasts over and sear them for a minute. Turn them around and place them in an oven pre-heated at 200 C for 7 minutes. Rest the duck breasts a few minutes before serving. Meanwhile, use the fat for the orange sauce.

Serve on a pre-heated plate. Slice the duck and pour the orange sauce over it.