Thursday, 26 June 2014

Mushroom and kale canneloni

A quick blog post with a rather delicious vegetarian recipe I came up with the other weekend when the InvisiblePinkKitchen was without its main carnivore.

As I'm writing this I. Enjoying the breakfast buffet at the hotel. I just can't resist breakfast buffets, and to be honest we are enjoying the breakfast buffetso thoroughly that we haven't made it to lunch at all. It's just all about breakfast and dinner, with a few caipirinhas in between. The hotel food is rather mediocre, but there is always fresh grilled fish which is great. Today we are off to try wind surfing!

Mushroom and kale cannelloni (serves 4):
For the Béchamel sauce:
750 ml milk
a few parsley stalks
2 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns
1/4 onion, sliced
60 g butter
30 g flour

For the cannelloni:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
150 g mushrooms
200 g kale
250 g ricotta
salt and pepper
cannelloni (I had just enough filling for 15 cannelloni)
grated cheese to sprinkle on top (I used Grana Padano)

The howto:
Start by preparing the Béchamel. Put the milk, parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns and onion in a large saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. This will take a while, and make sure you keep stirring from time to time so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. When milk has boiled, strain to remove the flavouring ingredients. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and keep stirring to make a paste stirring vigorously to avoid any lumps. Start adding the milk while stirring with a whisk constantly. Add the milk in small amounts to start, whisking all the time to incorporate the milk in the butter-flour paste. Keep adding and whisking until all the milk has been added and you have a smooth white sauce. Bring to a simmer and take off the heat.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (400 F). To prepare the filling for the cannelloni, very finely chop the onion, garlic, mushrooms and kale. You will later be filling the cannelloni with a piping bag, so chop finely enough that it will be easy to do the filling. I used my small food processor and did the chopping in batches.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil to medium. Cook the onion and garlic until starting to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook another few minutes. Last add the finely chopped kale and increase the heat a bit if there is a lot of liquid in the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the filling from the frying pan to a big bowl and let cool for a while. Mix in the ricotta and taste, adjust pepper and salt if needed. Transfer to a piping bag with a large opening and pipe into the cannelloni. Place the filled cannelloni in an oven proof dish and cover with the Béchamel. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Cook for 40-45 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

The verdict:
This was just something I made up in my head while walking around the grocery store and being inspired by the cannelloni pasta. As the designated meat-eater was out of the house I thought I would take the chance and prepare a vegetarian meal. I was thinking spinach and mushroom, but then I thought the kale might be a good option instead. This results in a very affordable meal large enough to serve at least four and it turned out really delicious. I didn't use any strong spices so the flavours from the mushrooms and kale would come through which they did. The creamy Béchamel and cheese topping worked really well, and he cannelloni were perfectly cooked al dente in the sauce. I will definitely be making this again.


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Salmon and egg brunch salad

I have been wondering whether there is more traffic accidents on Friday than on any other day. At least based on my limited experience of living out in the countryside and driving to work for the last seven or eight months or so, it seems that on Fridays there is always an accident somewhere along my route. And with the weight of traffic being much heavier on Fridays anyways, it makes the trip home last forever. It is so frustrating to see all the routes turn red in an instant on Google Maps when people fill up the alternative routes once the main dual carriageway is blocked. The road infrastructure in this country is so incapable of sustaining the weight of traffic. We will have a brand new A14 in say 10 years or so, but it isn't much comfort right at this minute when the only option to get to work in a sensible time is leave home no later than 6.20 am in the morning. And even at that time I rarely get to do 70 on the A14 for long stretches at a time. 

Traffic has become one of my pet peeves, how people are so hell-bent on "Me, Me, Me, I need to get through here quickly" and no thought on the big picture of how your behaviour affects the traffic flow in general. When I lived in Cambridge and could walk everywhere I barely noticed the traffic jams, although they were always there. But they didn't touch my life in any way. Now, it's just such a gamble every time I look at Google Maps before leaving work. Is that red stretch on my route bad enough that I should take the alternative, longer route? I used to try and logically plan my choices, but I have learned that here the traffic situations change in an instant and looking at maps before leaving work amounts to no good, as by the time I have reached the car park there is another accident out there somewhere and another route is blocked. People, be careful out there! Everyone gets home quicker if we have some patience and don't do idiotic and stupid manoeuvres that cause high risk situations to occur. Ok, stepping off the soap box now. But promise me you will drive carefully!!! 

Ok, on to the main star of today's pos. This salad is a great healthier alternative to your usual salmon and poached egg muffin. Perfect for a delicious lunch or weekend brunch. Loads of flavour, healthy fats and protein along with several of your five a day. As easy to make for one, or scale up and make for a bigger party.

Salmon salad (for one):
big handful of mixed greens (I included spinach)
cucumber, chopped into sticks
handful of cherry or plum tomatoes
2 slices of smoked salmon
1 boiled egg
2 tbsp mozzarella pearls

For the dressing:
1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp finely chopped dill and chives
black pepper

The howto:
Pile all salad ingredients onto a plate. Mix the ingredients for the dressing, pour over the salad. All done! Can food get any faster than this?

The verdict:
I like to make my salads with lots of things in them. The lettuce and cucumber are there just for the background whereas the main stars of the show are always something delicious like chicken or smoked salmon, and some cheese too from time to time. Salmon and egg is one of my favourite salad flavour combinations. Healthy fats from the fish and lots of protein from the egg. Also, the right way to eat a salad is to eat the lettuce and cucumber first, and then leave all the goodies to finish with. I should maybe start assembling the salads upside down, with all the filling at the bottom and the greens on the top to make it easier to eat in my preferred way... Although that wouldn't make a very pretty photo now would it? 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Steak and warm kale salad

I am less than a week away from my summer holiday in the sun. A multitude of maxi dresses have been eBayed and I'm hoping my huge sun hat will arrive in time. I need to nip by Boots for some sunscreen and some other summer necessities tomorrow, other than that I should be more or less good to go. Although I'm hoping all I will be needing is a toothbrush, a bathing suit and a few dresses.

I should start packing soon, as we leave on Monday. Incidentally we are having some of the Culinary Consultant's family over on Sunday for a BBQ (this was agreed on before the summer holiday had been booked, have to admit the timing is not optimal). And I need to make the whole BBQ menu dairy free... oh deary (or dairy, hehe) me, I have no idea how to make a dairy free pudding. Anything I can think of has milk or butter. Maybe Eton mess with coconut cream instead of whipped cream? Or a nice dark chocolate sponge cake with oil instead of butter? I shall have to turn to my dear friend Pinterest to figure this out. At least doing dairy free BBQ should be quite easy. No cheeseburgers though... And I am thinking of having a salad station where everyone can make their own salad, bowls of ingredients like lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, feta, onions, sweetcorn, chorizo and whatnot. I just want to make it as easy as possible. And I'm happy the Culinary Consultant will be left to clean up the mess while I jet away to sunny Cape Verde. So expect an update on Cape Verdian food coming up!

Today's recipe is perfect for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. It takes less than 15 minutes to prepare if you multitask preparing the warm salad and cooking the steaks, and it will help you get rid of those last few leftover handfuls of spinach and kale. I always have a bit of kale left and never a good idea what to do with it.

Steak and warm kale salad (serves 2):
2 steaks of desired size
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
150 g mushrooms
2 big handfuls of kale
2 big handfuls of spinach
1 clove of garlic
salt, pepper

The howto:
Slice the onion and mushrooms. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, and cook the onions over medium heat until starting to soften. Increase the heat a bit and add the mushrooms. Let cook for a few minutes. Add the kale, and cook until starting to wilt. Add the spinach and finely choppped garlic. Toss well, season to taste and cook for another minute or so. 

Cook steaks to desired doneness. Let rest in foil wrap for a few minutes before serving with the warm salad.

The verdict:
This was something I just tossed together from the left overs in my fridge. I had a few traditional, "cold" salads over the weekend, and with the weather all overcast and chilly today I thought I rather have a warm salad instead. And it turned out rather nice even if I do say so myself. The kale was still a bit crunchy and the flavour of garlic came through really well. The Culinary Consultant, who is back from his weekend of debauchery also enjoyed it, although I served him some boiled potatoes with butter and mint to make it a bit more substantial. And I might just have had one or two of those potatoes when I tidied up after dinner. Leftover calories don't count! 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Garden update

It's been a while since the last garden update, so here are the most recent updates from the InvisiblePinkGarden. I can't believe strawberries and raspberries are starting to ripen, I have already managed a few sneak tasters and hoping soon the will be oodles to enjoy.

Raspberries!!! Could I be more excited???
My very own strawberries! They taste amazing.
Blackcurrants are starting to turn black.
We have already harvested a few courgettes, a there is more to come.
Cucumbers number two and three waiting for the picking.
So many tomatoes, now I'm just waiting from them to start turning red.
It seems like it will be a good grape year.
We have baby peppers!! I can't believe we are growing our own peppers.

The hydrangea is starting to bloom (hey, did you notice, I knew the
name of one of the flowers in our garden!!!)
Another poppy, this one was quite funny looking.
I had to finish off with another rose. I love love love my roses.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Summer strawberry and avocado salad

The Culinary Consultant is out and about for the weekend, and I am enjoying the rare treat of having the house all by myself. Which is great, except in the night when there are lots of weird noises and the house seems strangely big. Which is silly but I heard some noises from the neighbour's driveway last night, but it sounded like they were in our driveway, so I had to get up and close the window to feel safe. Of course closing the window would protect me from anything bad happening. And I get to watch as many romcoms as I like. Not a single movie with any shooting or violence. I'm burning through Netflix. Note to self though, I should probably learn to use the Xbox so I could watch my movies on the TV instead of the computer. Oh well, first world problems, eh?

One major benefit of being home alone is I can make all the salads I want. Today I made a summery strawberry and avocado salad for lunch. I have been going through punnets of strawberries as if there is no tomorrow. For dinner I have an idea for something vegetarian, which you will hear all about if it turns out reasonable. And tomorrow there will be another lunch salad! I probably should not mention the half tub of Ben & Jerry's I had for dessert after lunch...

Strawberry and avocado salad (for 1):
a handful of mixed greens (I like to include spinach)
1/2 avocado
4-5 strawberries
1 tbsp finely crumbled feta
2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

The howto:
Prepare the balsamic reduction. In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar to a medium heat making sure it doesn't boil, and keep on the hob until reduced to about half of the original volume and slightly syrup-y. While the balsamic is reducing, slice the cucumber and cut the strawberries into quarters. Place the ingredients on a plate, and drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Enjoy with a slice of fresh bread.

The verdict:
This is such a quick and easy lunch, and it's ridiculously delicious. It only takes a few minutes to throw together so it's perfect to maximise your time out in the wonderful summer sun. The salty feta, soft avocado and sweet strawberries just go so well together. And the balsamic reduction is perfection! 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Magic custard cake with summer fruit


I'm not sure I completely get the thing with custard. I mean, it's not bad, I wouldn't spit in a bowl of custard, but at the same time it's everywhere. The Culinary Consultant loves his custard, I'm sure he would be happy just eating it out of the tub with a spoon. If we have pudding with custard I know the pudding is there just for show, and the correct custard to pudding ratio is at least 3:1. And it seems like my Culinary Consultant is not the only British male who likes his custard. The Toddster, who is the Culinary Consultant equivalent on the lovely blog The English Kitchen, also seems to love his custard. So when I saw the recipe for this Custard Cake on the blog and read about how the Toddster loves his custard, I had to laugh out loud and obviously also decided I need to bake this cake for the Culinary Consultant. 

It's a very simple cake to put together, but you don't quite get away with doing it in one bowl as you need another bowl for whipping the egg whites. And it uses only basic ingredients you should have at hand at any time. It doesn't take many minutes to prepare. The hard thing is to wait for the necessary three hours while the cake cools. And as the original recipe says, please be aware that the batter is very runny and you will think this won't work at all and that you have done something wrong. You haven't. It will work. But don't use a springform pan!

Magic custard cake (serves 8):
4 eggs at room temperature
2 tbsp water
150 g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract (I used the equivalent amount of vanilla paste)
125 g butter, melted
115 g all purpose flour
500 ml milk
To serve:
icing sugar
berries or fruit (I used strawberries and rhubarb compote)

The howto:
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Carefully butter a cake tin (8 inches in diameter). I used a silicone cake tin and didn't prepare it in any way, and had no problems with sticking. 

Separate eggs into two bowls. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add water, sugar and vanilla to the egg yolks and beat until light and fluffy. Add the melted butter and keep whisking. Add the flour and milk, and whisk until a smooth batter forms. Gently fold in the egg whites. Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown. Let cool for at least 3 hours before dusting with icing sugar and serving with fruit or berries.

The verdict:
This is what it says on the tin, custard cake. It tastes like custard, but it's a cake. You won't believe it will ever become an actual cake when you pour the runny batter into the cake tin, but somehow magically it will turn into a cake after all. I think mine could have done with just a few minutes less in the oven, as the middle of the cake turned quite solid whereas the pictures on the blog with the original recipe it looked like the middle stays just a little bit gooey. But it was really yummy especially with rhubarb and strawberries on top. Definitely a summer dessert I will try again, I think this would be a great alternative for a cheesecake for a BBQ or other summer get-together.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Caramelised onion and goat cheese pizza

I can't believe we are already a week into June! Where has this spring gone? At least the weather is very summery today, the sun is shining and it's nice and warm outside despite the forecasted rain. What an anomaly! I am planning to finally wash all the linen and towels that have accumulated as I can finally get them dried properly outside. Laundry always smells so good when it dries outside. And I finally got around to wash a big bunch of towels I bought a while ago but haven't been able to use as I have been to lazy to wash them. Oh the troubles we have in our lives...

I was doing my normal Saturday morning thing, trying to figure out what to cook for the weekend. I haven't looked at my Pinterest boards for a while, I keep on pinning but never actually go back to look for inspiration on my boards. This time I decided to go through my Cheat Meals board to get inspired. I have pinned this caramelised onion and goat cheese pizza from Minimalist Baker ages ago and decided it was time to recreate it. It's simple and I love caramelised onions and goat's cheese. And I always make the same pizzas, so I thought it would be nice to try something different. The culinary consultant chose to go with his usual salami and cheese instead. His loss! And you have to try the balsamic reduction, it takes the pizza to another level!

Caramelised onion pizza (serves 1-2):
Pizza dough or flatbread (for my favourite pizza dough see here)
2 onions, caramelised and seasoned with salt and pepper (for instructions see here)
85 g soft goat cheese
a splash of milk
3/4 cup (185 ml) balsamic vinegar
basil or rocket for topping

The howto:
Prepare the pizza dough and caramelise the onions. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Roll the pizza dough a pizza of your choice, brush with olive oil and pre-cook for about 5 minutes. Add a splash of milk to the goat cheese to make it spreadable. Spread the goat cheese on the pizza and top with onions. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the crust is golden and crunchy. While the pizza is cooking, prepare the balsamic reduction. Put the balsamic into a small saucepan and cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat without letting it boil. The balsamic will become syrup-y and reduce in volume by about half. After removing the pizza from the oven, top with balsamic and basil or rocket.

The verdict:
This was a delicious pizza and a great change from my regular tomato based pizzas. The combination of goat cheese and caramelised onions is heavenly. And the balsamic reduction. Why haven't I know about it before this day?? It's sticky and strangely sweet and tangy and perfect to complement the goat cheese and onions. And it would be perfect for salads too!  

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Chicken in sun dried tomato sauce

You know how Pinterest is full of chicken recipes? When you browse your feed, all you get is chicken recipes. Or is it just me? But why is it that when you go looking for chicken recipes you can't find a single one of them? It's like shopping. If you go for a browse, you find the most amazing things. But just try to go out there looking for a pair of black trousers and you are guaranteed to find nothing. I actually had to look up "chicken recipes" on the find function in Pinterest to find something worth making. And boy am I glad I did. I stumbled upon this recipe from Spicy Southern Kitchen, and it is amazing. Without trying to brag, I'm usually a decent cook and most of what I cook goes down without a problem. But this was just out of this world good!! I was actually going to post another recipe today, but that one got re-scheduled because I just had to share this. That is how good it is!

This recipe is dedicated to by Bestie. I think she would love this. She is a pastaholic. And she really doesn't like onions. I usually never cook anything without onions, so I really notice if they aren't there. It's like a cooking ritual, starting by chopping up that onion and sauteeing it. But this time it was garlic and the wonderful flavour of sun-dried tomatoes that were the stars of this show. As usual, the picture doesn't do the food justice.

Chicken in sun-dried tomato sauce (serves 4):
1 tbsp butter
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp flour
3/4 cups chicken stock
4-5 chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup double cream
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red peppers
black pepper
2-3 tbsp of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes
4 chicken breasts
cooked pasta
1 cup peas or sweetcorn

The howto:
Finely chop the garlic clove. Melt the butter in a frying pan, cook the garlic until it starts to soften. Add the flour and mix, cook for a minute or so. Add 1/2 cup of the broth, a little bit at a time and mixing thoroughly to avoid any lumps. Add the finely chopped tomatoes, double cream, thyme and peppers and cook for a few minutes. Set aside in a bowl or small saucepan. Clean the pan, add the sun-dried tomato oil and cook the chicken breasts until cooked through (but make sure not to over-cook to avoid them becoming rubbery). Remove the chicken from the pan, add the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken stock, and scrape all the browned goodies from the pan to dissolve in the stock. Add the sauce and mix. Return the chicken to the pan, mix everything and cook until everything is heated thoroughly. Serve with pasta and peas or sweetcorn.

The verdict:
This is without a doubt one of the best chicken recipes ever! I just wanted to eat the sauce with a spoon straight from the pan. Double cream tends to do that... But it's worth every single calorie, I promise you. By a fluke I managed to cook the chicken to perfection, it was cooked through but very moist and juicy. And did I mention the sauce? Garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and just a pinch of heat from the red peppers. Trust me, you have to try this! The sooner the better. I may just make another batch this weekend again. Unless Pinterest pops up with another chicken recipe I want to try. But I find it hard to believe anything can be better than this!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Garden blossoms

This week I have been enjoying all the beautiful colours that are emerging all around the garden. I just walk around looking at the beauty all around us. The greenhouse is a jungle and everything is growing in the Culinary Consultant's tender care. The raspberry plants and strawberries are full of fruit and I can't wait for them to start turning red. We are also eagerly awaiting the tomatoes starting to appear. We already have courgettes on the way, so I can see a lot of ratatouille later in the summer. Until then, I will walk around and enjoy my flowers.

The courgettes were expelled from the greenhouse for taking up too much space. 
Poppies in so many different colours 

I have roses! My own pink roses in the front garden.

The front garden is in full bloom.