Category Archives: cooking

Traditional Greek moussaka

As a child I never liked aubergines—I always made it a point to pick them out whenever I was served a dish with them in it. My views changed, however, while the hubby and I were on a trip in Greece in 2004 😋

 

Moussaka

 

Traditional Greek moussaka with aubergines

4-5 aubergines

50 ml olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

500 g ground meat

2-3 tomatoes, chopped

1 laurel leaf

salt

black pepper

2 tbsp oil (for frying)

Some flour

250 ml Bechamel sauce (see recipe below)

25-40 g parmesan cheese, grated

  • Wash and trim the aubergines; slice and let them soak in salted water for about an hour (to remove the bitter taste).
  • In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a pot. Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until the onions turn glassy.
  • Add the ground meat and sauté for another 10 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, laurel, salt and pepper, and let simmer for about an hour.
  • Drain the aubergine slices; coat them in flour and fry in very hot oil.
  • In a pan, alternate layers of aubergine slices and ground meat mixture (begin with the aubergines; end with the meat mixture).
  • Lastly, pour the Bechamel sauce evenly on top. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for about 20-25 minutes at 225°C

  

Bechamel sauce

50 ml flour

100 ml milk, warmed

50 ml oil (sunflower or rap seed will do)

2 eggs

50 ml kefalotyri or parmesan cheese, grated

salt

black pepper

nutmeg, grated

  • Heat the oil in a small pot. Stir in the flour and heat for a further 5 minutes.
  • Gradually add the warmed milk, whisking constantly.
  • Beat the eggs separately. Add them, one at a time, stirring until they are well incorporated into the mixture.
  • Season with salt, pepper and the grated nutmeg.
  • Finally, add the grated cheese and let the mixture cook until the cheese has melted into the sauce. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a more milk a little at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
 

 

Tagliatelle with meat sauce (my style)

Tagliatelle with meat sauce


Today’s Sunday dinner: pasta with my version of a simple meat sauce 😋  You can use whatever type of pasta you like, but in my case today I used two kinds of tagliatelle—one with plain egg, and the other with spinach.

 

Meat sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

500 g ground meat

2 tablespoons fish sauce

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

125 g button mushrooms, sliced

800 ml chopped tomatoes

125 ml tomato puree

60 ml water

25 g parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon herbs d’Provence (alternatively, use rosemary)

pinch of paprika (optional)

2 tablespoons milk

4 tablespoons ketchup (or as desired)

2 teaspoons sugar (if using canned tomatoes)

 

  • Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion turns glassy.
  • Stir in the ground meat; season mixture with the fish sauce and black pepper, and let the meat brown a little. 
  • Stir in the mushrooms and let cook until the meat is no longer pink.
  • Stir in the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Add the water if the sauce seems too thick, otherwise, skip it.
  • Mix in the parmesan cheese and let it melt into the sauce before adding the herbs and spices. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the milk. TASTE. Add the ketchup if the sauce ended up being bland.
  • Lastly, stir in the sugar, if you used canned tomatoes. Otherwise, just let simmer for about another 10-15 minutes.

Chicken alla cacciatore


Chicken alla cacciatore
Originally uploaded by c.flessen

This is my own take on Nigella Lawson‘s version of the classic Italian chicken alla cacciatore, in the hunter’s style. Among other things however, I used chopped real onions instead of spring onions, chopped real celery instead of celery salt, chicken breasts instead of thighs, and butter beans instead of cannellini beans 🙂

Chicken alla cacciatore

1 tbsp garlic oil (or 1 tbsp vegetable oil + 1 clove crushed garlic)
75 g pancetta (bacon) cubes
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary)
500 g chicken breast filets, cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
salt
125 ml white wine (or chicken stock, if wine is not available)
400 g can chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp sugar
400 g can butter beans, rinsed and drained

  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the bacon, onion and rosemary for 2-3 minutes;
  • add the chicken pieces, cooking until each piece is sealed on all sides;
  • pour in the white wine (or chicken stock) and bring to a simmer;
  • add the celery, tomatoes, bay leaves and sugar; stir lightly, cover, then leave to simmer for 20 min.
  • Finally, add the beans and continue simmering until the beans are warmed through. Serve with a slice of good bread (I recommend rye bread with sunflower seeds).

Alternatively, you could also use 2 x 400 g cans of white beans in tomato sauce instead of one 400 g can each of chopped tomatoes and beans 😉

Tom Khaa Gai


Tom Khaa Gai
Originally uploaded by c.flessen


I was never really fond of spicy foods as a child. In fact, through most of my life, I have always been skeptical of Thai foods in particular, being of the opinion that the Thais seem to put way too much chilis in their cooking. Things changed, however, when I moved from my Southeast Asian homeland into Europe a few years ago. Whether it is because of the relatively bland nature of the commonly used spices here (salt and pepper are basically it; thyme and rosemary are considered luxury), more exposure to other types of cuisine (believe it or not, there were more Thai restaurants in either Germany or Norway than there were in the Philippines when I left the country), or the fact that it was during that time I learned to cook on my own (and thus realise I could control the amount of spices to use to my own liking), Thai cuisine has become among my favourites. And here Tom Khaa Gai, or chicken soup with lemon grass, is among those I would highly recommend, especially during the cold winter months 🙂


Tom Khaa Gai

2 stalks lemon grass, cut into 3 cm lengths
2 walnut-size galangal (or ginger), sliced thinly
3 kaffir lime leaves (or the zest of half a lime)
250 g mushrooms (button mushrooms will do nicely), sliced
2 medium tomatoes, roughly diced
1 1/2 to 3 fresh Thai chilis, chopped
500 g chicken breast filets, sliced into bit-size pieces
400 ml coconut milk
4 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 – 2 tsp brown sugar

  • In a pan, heat the coconut milk until it simmers lightly
  • Add the lemon grass, the lime leaves and the galangal; let simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes without covering
  • Add about 750 ml of water; allow to simmer
  • Add the chicken, mushrooms and tomatoes; cook for 5 minutes
  • Finally, add the chilis, the lime juice, the fish sauce and the brown sugar; let simmer over low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Alternatively, you could also add the chilis, lime juice and fish sauce just before serving the soup instead of cooking them in. Garnish with coriander, or chives if this is not available.