27 December 2010

Soufflé the easy way

For Christmas day dinner I made a huge big tray of tiramisu, enough to feet a whole soccer team. Since I used 5 egg yolks I had to find a recipe for the egg whites. It was sitting in my fridge since Thursday and time was running out. Today had to be the day or else I would’ve thrown it out and I don’t like to waste food. So I searched online for a good recipe and notting really rocked my boat. So I decided to just give it a try and do it my way. I kept it really simple. I didn’t know how it would turn out so again no step by step pictures.


I used:
- 5 egg whites
- 150 gram dark chocolate
- 1 cup of whipping cream
- 1 table spoon of butter
- 2 table spoons of sugar 
- 1 table spoon of flour

First I headed up the butter till it was liquid and used it to thinly cover the inside of the ramekins. Then I used some sugar to cover the butter.

After that I wisked the egg whites with 2 table spoons of suger till it was nice and firm.

I then I broke the chocolate in little pieces and headed it up in the microwave for a coupe of seconds. When the chocolate melted I added a cup of warm whipping cream. I mixed till everything was smooth, then add a table spoon of flour and mixed till everything was corporated. This mixture I folded carfully into the beaten egg whites. I wanted to keep as much air in as possible. After everything is folded in well I poured it in the ramakins and put it in a preheaded oven on 200 degrees for about 13 minutes. After a couple of minutes you can see the soufflé almost double in size and your kitchen will smell heavenly.
This is what it looks like right after you take them out of the oven.
They were so fluffy and chocolaty.
They tasted great! Very rich, chocolaty and not overly sweet.

Christmas Eve

When I grew up Christmas Eve was the best day of the year. We would first go to church and after that it was time to open the presents. Now that we all have our own house we don’t get together till the 25th.

I only had to work till on Christmas Eve so I had a little bit time for some last minute shopping. When I came home my neighbor, Georgia was waiting for me and asked me to come over so she can give me a little something. Since we had a little present for Spyros I brought that with me also. Her dad just came over from Greece and brought some traditional Greek treats and her mom even baked some as well.
The dark brown cookies covered with nuts were home made. The rest were store bought.

Then our Portuguese neighbors brought us something typical Portuguese. 

I forgot to ask what it was but it looked like some kind of noodles baked in custard with lots of cinnamon. It took me a while to see, but the 2 pieces on top were something like in milk soaked French bread baked with cinnamon. It smelled really good.

Since they all brought me something, I had to make something also. I bought some smoked mackerel which I turned into an appetizer.


Once you cleaned the mackerel you can make this appetizer in a couple of minutes.
I bought 3 mackerel at a fish stand so there was plenty to give out. I think “fresh” smoked mackerel is much better then the pre-packed you can buy in the supermarket.
First I took the head and all the skin off.

Then I tried to get all the bones out. Of course the big bone in the middle of the fish is the easiest, as well as the bones in the belly area. The rest of the bones were kinda small and hard to find. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty you can also buy the mackerel filets.

I sliced some onion, chopped some garlic and sautéed it in olive oil until they brown and then added the mackerel filet.

I stir-fried everything together and added some fresh grounded pepper and some Maggi. The mackerel is quite fatty so you don’t need to add any extra oil. I tried to removed some more bones. Can’t get them all, but can sure try.
I served it warm with some plain crackers.

After making this appetizer it was time for the main course. We had duck breast with sauerkraut mash potatoes and caramelized fennel. I also invited my sister for dinner and since she doesn’t like duck I made something else for her. I went to the supermarket and bought some pre-packed pork roast and some sweet potato. During the holidays supermarkets have what I call “the lazy” meal packages that you only have to heat up or put in the oven. It contains the more luxurious meats or fish and there are all kinds of different side dishes and desserts. And it actually tastes pretty decent, so if you want a relaxed Christmas, this is the way to go.

The sweet potato came with pecan nuts and plump raisons. It was surpose to be seasoned with sweet chili, but it tasted more like they used Moroccan spices.
This was the easiest meal every, put together in no time. 

Now let me show you how I made our Christmas Eve meal.

First I boiled some potatoes with some bouillon and two cloves of garlic.
These fennel bulbs were firm, shinny and very fresh. I chopped the stems off and popped them in the freezer so I can use them for soup or stew later.
I sliced it in even parts.
I put some olive oil and butter in the pan and stir-fried the fennel. When they started to soften I added some salt, pepper and sugar. The sugar will burn a little and give the fennel color and flavor. When everything is cooked I added some of the fennel leaves to give it some more color.
I scored the duck skin and marinated it for a day with salt, pepper and garlic powder. This time I forgot to put a little bit of Chinese five spices powder. I baked it in a medium hot pan without any oil on the skin side first. The skin will release a lot of fat. Once the skin is brown and crunchy I flipped it on the meat side and baked it in its own fat. Duck tastes best when it is still a little pink on the inside. About 15-20 minute on low/medium heat should do it. Make sure you let it rest of a couple of minutes before you cut it.  

While the duck was backing I added the sauerkraut, which I soaked and rinsed with water, to the potato and let it boil for about 5 minutes. Then I mashed everything together. Since I used the bouillon I didn’t need to add any other seasoning. 

And now it is time to plate up.
This plate of goodies took me about 30-45 minutes to make.

I also had time to whisk up a dessert, thanks to my co-worker's recipe. Since it was an experiment, I didn’t take any picture of how I made it. I wanted to see how it turned out first, but since it was so good I will share it. You can't believe how easy it was.


All you need is 4 main ingredients:
- 3 table spoons of sherry
- about 400 ml whipping cream
- 1 very juicy lemon
- 2 table spoons of sugar

To make it looks nice:
- frozen summer fruit
- bitterkoekjes (Dutch macaroons, made of bitter almonds, sugar and egg whites)

First you mix the lemon juice with the sugar. For a nice fresh dessert you need it to be a little bit more sour then sweet. If 2 table spoons of sugar is not enough then add a little bit more. In the same bowl you’ll add the sherry and the whipping cream. Mix till it is firm, but still liquid. Don’t over whip it. It will firm up quickly so make sure you pour it out fast.

To make everything look nice, I put some frozen summer fruit, over which I poured some more cherry and some crumbled “bitterkoekjes” at the bottom of a glass. On top of that I poured the lemon whip cream mixture. It has to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm up.
I have to admit, I used quite big glasses and it was a little bit too much. Next time I will put it in smaller glasses or bowls.

It was a very good ending of a very good meal. And the best of all, it was very very easy to make. It will even taste good the next day, if it lasts that long.

26 December 2010

Last minute shopping spree

Christmas is always a very busy time for everyone. Of course this year is not an exception. I guess that is what you get if you need to go out and do some last minute shopping. I was not the only one, the stores were crowded with people, who just like I, needed to get some last minute presents. I know I said that our gift this year was not to give anything at all, but somehow this didn’t feel right. So the last two days before Christmas I went and shopped my butt off. It would’ve been so much easier if I actually know what to buy, so I don’t need to go through all the stores. With so many people it is hard to find something nice, so maybe next year we need to make wish lists.

This year we celebrated Christmas at my parents place and because I didn’t want mom to be in the kitchen the whole day I bought all the stuff and cooked it for the family. All mom had to do is to marinate a 4.3 kilo rib eye with the spices I gave her and to prepare the super size shrimp. The best thing for me this Christmas was to hear that mom was so relaxed. She said she woke up, read a book and just chilled. Just like every Christmas should be.
The result of our last minute shopping spree barely fit under the tree.

This tree my parents bought a couple of years ago. It started small, but this year it actually looks like a real tree. I bet next year it will look even prettier. After the holidays they will move it back to the yard where it can grow till next Christmas.

22 December 2010

A little Christmas spirit

On Monday when we all had to go back to work we found that Santa Cees had left us a little Christmas spirit over the weekend. He bought all of us a gorgeous display with 3 silver colored candle holders and a little bouquet of pine. Santa Cees always gives us something Christmassy and usually it will come one or two days before Christmas. So we were really lucky to get it 2 weeks earlier this year.
It was nicely wrapped in foil and looked very festive.
The little pine bouquet had pine cones and both fresh pine and artificial, but from the picture there is no telling which one is fake.
The silver together with the green make it all look so festive.
The candles were clued to the plate, but I will remove them later so I can display them somewhere else.  

Two days later Santa Michiel (one of our realtor friends) gave all of us a Christmas reef with lots of pine, silver balls and 4 candle holders. Silver and green always gives me a Christmas feeling.

So this year we didn't put a tree up, but we’ve cheered the house up with this beautiful reef. Every time I spray it with water the pine smell becomes stronger. If I close my eyes I can almost imagine having a real tree in the corner of the house. Next year I don’t need to imagine, I just need to make sure we’ll get a tree before the all run out.

19 December 2010

Shake N Bake Beef

When I was making pho I bough a little bit too much steak so I decided to turn it into a starter. What better to make then bo luc lac (shaken beef) on a bed of lettuce.
I cubed the steak and put them in a storage box.
Then I chopped some cloves of garlic and seasoned the meat with some salt, pepper and garlic powder. I also added some Maggi and let everything sit for a couple of hours.

I peeled the daikon root and made little flower shapes which I cut through half to make them a bit smaller. Then I sliced them thin so they don’t need to marinate for long. I also sliced an onion very thin to go into the same mixture. I made the marinate with some boiled water, some sugar, a pinch of salt and some lemon juice. The mixture needs to be in balance with sweet and sour. Then I added the daikon root and the onion and let them sit.  

I took the meat out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking it. In a hot pan I first put in some olive oil and one chopped onion. After frying a little I added the beef and the garlic. Since I baked it on high fire the meat was seared quickly. Don't keep it in the first to long otherwise the meat will be tough. Try to keep it medium. The meat will continue to cook after you get it off the fire. 

I dressed my lettuce salad with some olive oil, lemon, sugar, pepper and sour onion and pickled daikon roots and served my Shake N Bake beef on top.

Best PHO in town

Last weekend was very busy for us. On Saturday my hubby and I woke up early to go to the Toko (Chinese supermarket) and the Haagse Markt (open air market). We had to get some stuff for my famous pho (beef noodle soup). One of our good friends would come over for dinner on Sunday and I always like to cook to impress. Pho always wow people, especially since Vietnamese cuisine is not really well known in Holland. There is just a small Vietnamese population, noting compared to the population in other countries or the States, where almost more Vietnamese people live then in Vietnam
However the Chinese population is very big here, so we get to profit from that. Not everything is available so we learned to substitute one ingredient for another. So thank god for the Tokos for selling similar stuff we use in the Vietnamese kitchen.

To be honest I have never been a big fan of pho. My favorite is bunh rieu or bunh bo hue (recipe will follow) but since my hubby loves pho I get to make it more often. Got to keep the hubby happy right? My baby sister is a big fan of pho also. Both of them can eat it all day every day.

Pho always taste better when you cook it one day ahead. So Saturday was pho cooking day. The most important part of pho is the broth. This is how I made it.

I started with searing one onion which I chopped in quarters and some pieces of ginger in a hot pan without any oil. Searing will give the broth more flavor.
Then I removed the onion (I want them seared not black) and put some star aniseed and one cinnamon stick in the pan. I crushed the cinnamon so it will be easier to put them in a bag later. By heating the spices they will release more flavor. When you start smelling the spices it is time to put them in a bag. I always use two coffee filters to put my spices in, but a little cotton bag would work too. A tea egg would also work, but it might be a little bit too small to hold all the spices. At this time I decided to put the spices in two different coffee filters so the bag hopefully don't rip. I tied the bags with a string at set it aside. If you put your spices straight in the water, it will be difficult to get them all out in one time and the long cooking time will make the broth very dark.
The ginger and the onion will go in the pot separately so they will not crowed the coffee filter.  I got some beef bones and marrowbones which I rinsed in water first. Then I boiled some water and put them in. After the water cooks for about 2 minutes I drained the bones and rinsed them with water again. This will give me a clear broth. 

I use beef bones because this is a beef noodle soup. This same dish can be made with chicken also. It’s the same recipe but all the beef is substituted by chicken. 
Then I rinsed some stew beef, since it was the cheapest meat I could find. But oxtail would also be good also. Anything that can be simmered for a long time is good.I filled a big pot with water, added some salt, the ginger, onion and some fresh bay leaves and wait for it to boil.After the water boils I added all the meat. When the foam forms on top of the broth remove it with a big scooper. Every couple of minutes I would check the pot and remove any foam I see. The more foam you remove the more clear the broth will be, so make sure you do it every couple of minutes.Only after most of the foam is gone I'll put in the bags of spices. The spices will release a flavor that's very typical for this dish.

This is how my broth looks like after a few hours cooking. I added more water and seasoned it with salt when needed. Now get it off the fire and let it rest till the next day, either on your kitchen counter or in the fridge. Then whatever fat is on top can be scooped out before putting it on the fire again.

The next day while the broth is back on the fire I started preparing the rest of this dish.
I bought a really nice piece of steak (biefstuk or kogelbiefstuk). For the raw meat I need the softest meat I could find. I sliced it as thin as I could and put it in a box to store it in the fridge.
The way to keep the meat soft and tender is to slice it against the grain. Look for the part that looks like the one I’m holding and start slicing from that part on.
Pho will not be complete without beef balls (bo vien gan). I always buy them precooked and frozen at the Toko and this is the one I like. I try to keep at least one package in my freezer so I have it at hand when needed. Saves me a trip to the Toko.After defrosting you can slice it anyway you like. I like to slice in three parts so it looks like there is a lot.I soaked 2 packages of dried pho noodles, again to be found in the Toko. They have small, medium, larger or extra large noodles and I prefer the small or medium one. The large or extra large have just a bit too much noodle for me.I washed and thinly sliced some spring onions. I did the same for the cilantro or coriander and put them in a box for storage. I also added some thinly slice raw onion.About 15 minutes before dinner I added the beef balls. Since they are already cooked they don’t need to cook long and I like them to be a little bit chewy.
I already cut the stew meat in little pieces and put them back in the broth. Now it's time to plate up.First boil water some water in a separate pot. In the boiling water I first put a strainer with some bean sprouts to soften them a bit. After that I put in some noodle. Since I soaked them in water first, they only need about halve a minute. A quick plunge in cooking water is already enough. If you put them in the boiling water too long the noodle will break up in little pieces.
Then the spring onion, coriander and onion mixture goes in. Some people like to put this on top of the raw meat, but I like the spring onion to cook a little so I put them under the meat.I rearranged the raw meat so that they covered everything. This is for people who love meat! The hot broth will cook the meat in the bowl, but for people who can not eat raw meat I would dip it in the broth first before putting it in the bowl.And this is how I serve it.
I like to eat it with lots of herbs (sweet Thai basil, coriander and mint) some hoi sin sauce, chili pepper sauce and of course a little bit of lemon juice.
My hubby needs his dipping bowl with part hoi sin sauce part chili sauce for his meat balls.

We end up eating this for the next 2 days. My family was so lucky…got to eat their favorite food for 2 days in a row. And I was so lucky…no cooking for 2 days.