Avocado and Sheep’s Cheese dip/spread

Good morning! I hope those of you who celebrate Valentine’s day had a good one? We don’t really bother with it (except that one time Jan felt bad about ignoring our anniversary and got me flowers. This year I got chocolates for our anniversary, so not Valentine’s gift ;-)) so it was just a normal day. We both worked, then I did laundry and cooked. Jan came home at around 7:30, I ate at around 8 (he faffed around on the laptop doing work stuff and only ate the food I had placed in front of him half an hour later! Standard.) then we played Scrabble, in English, and I lost both times. How is he better at my native language than I am?! I had almost all vowels for most of the second game so I’m claiming that as my excuse! I did give him a chocolate heart in the morning and he shared it with me after dinner, but that was the extent of our “celebrating”.
Anywaaaay… you didn’t come him for an entirely uninteresting account of a random Tuesday in my life! Today I wanted to share a recipe with you, although it has so few ingredients/steps that calling it a “recipe” almost feels like an exaggeration… Remember that time I made pancakes with avocado and goat’s cheese spread? Welll, I liked the spread so much that I decided to make it again, only this time use it as a dip. And with sheep’s cheese, because that’s what I had. If you like avocado, goat’s/sheep’s cheese and garlic, you will love this. If you don’t like one or more ingredients or you’re vegan, I apologise. Come back another day for a post that might interest you.

dip

Above you see an awful photo of dip. Apologies! There’s a reason I’m not a food blogger. Anywaaaay…

You will need:
1 avocado
1 pack of sheep’s (or goat’s cheese) – give or take
1 clove of garlic
Seasoning of your choice (salt, pepper, etc.)

Take all your ingredients (except the seasoning), place them in a container and mash them all together with a fork until mostly smooth. Season to taste – I used a little bit of salt, a LOT of black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Serve with raw vegetables for dipping, or spread on pancakes (or crackers… or toast). Or just eat it with a spoon if you feel that way inclined 😉

We had it alongside bell peppers stuffed with bulgur wheat (part of the sheep’s cheese went in the bulgur mixture, but if I wasn’t using the cheese for other things I would have put the whole block in the dip).

dippepper

Et voilà – world’s easiest recipe showcased in world’s worst photo (seriously guys… how do you all photograph food so well?!)

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35 Before 35 – Baking: Maple Pecan Nut Cookies

DSCN4418The first Sunday in advent is coming up, which for me – not being at all religious – is an excuse to drink tea and indulge in the first round of Christmas goodies. I decided to bake biscuits rather than buying stuff as an excuse to try out the cutters I bought last year and had only used a few of. I used a combination of this recipe, which somehow has something to do with Pippa Middleton, and one I already had. Unfortunately, it seems I should have replaced the egg in my other recipe with the maple syrup from the linked one – that way, I might have ended up with a more biscuity type dough rather than a soft, cookie one (yes, American readers. The word cookie exists in British English, but it refers to a specific kind of biscuit, not all of them!). If you want to use this recipe, make your dough into little balls before baking so you end up with nice round cookies. If you try cutting shapes like I did, you’ll end up with shapeless masses…

Maple Pecan Nut Cookies

Ingredients:
225g unsalted butter or margarine
225g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
1 egg
4 dessert spoons maple syrup
50g pecan nuts
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder (1 tsp if using German Backpulver)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Method:
1. Cream, the butter, caster sugar and brown sugar together in a large bowl.

2. Add the egg and maple syrup and mix to form a creamy batter. Break up and stir in the pecan nuts. (If you’re lucky enough to have a food processor, you can use that to do the breaking, but don’t make the nuts too small – you want nice chunks of pecan nut, not ground pecans!).

3. Sieve in the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix into a thick dough (you’ll probably need to get your hands in at some point to bring it all together properly).

4. Roll the mixture into 2 balls, wrap them in clingfilm and refrigerate for 1 hour.

5. Once chilled, preheat the oven to 160° C/fan 150°C/gas mark 3 and line a baking tray.

6. Form the dough into smallish balls, place on the baking tray(s) and bake for about 8 minutes or until the edges start turning brown (bigger cookies may take longer).

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CUT THESES BISCUITS INTO SHAPES! If you do, this:

DSCN4411

Will turn into this:

Oh well, they may not look very pretty, but they’re incredibly tasty. In fact, I’m not sure they’re going to survive until Sunday…

Spiced apricot couscous salad

Couscous salad with smoked salmon fillet
Couscous salad with smoked salmon fillet

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, so here’s what I had for tea last night. This tastes best if you use fresh apricots, but if you plan on making it any time soon you’ll need to use dried ones or tinned ones (if you’re lucky enough to be able to find the type that are in juice instead of syrup!).

This amount serves around 2-4 people, depending on appetites and what you serve with it (probably 2 if you just have the salad by itself, 3 or maybe 4 if you have something substantial on the side).

It’s really more of a dish for summer, when fresh apricots are around, but it was still pretty tasty with the dried kind.

Spiced Apricot Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

180g couscous
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground ginger
80g apricots
1 small red onion
15g fresh mint
Approx. 15g fresh ginger
Handful of cashew nuts
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Cook the couscous in accordance with the packet instructions. Add the spices, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then fluff slightly with a fork and set it to one side to cool. Either place the pan lid on or cover with cling film while cooling.

    Spiced couscous
    Spiced couscous
  2. While the couscous is cooling, chop the onion, mint, fresh ginger and apricots and juice the limes.

    Chopped ingredients
    Chopped ingredients
  3. Add all the chopped ingredients plus a handful of cashew buts to the couscous. (I chopped the cashews in half, but you can leave them whole).

    Add the chopped ingredients to the couscous...
    Add the chopped ingredients to the couscous…
  4. Stir everything in well, then add the lime juice and stir that in as well. Taste test the couscous and add extra salt/pepper/spices to taste.

Tada – done! So quick and easy. I served mine with smoked salmon fillet, but it also goes well with grilled salmon or other types of fish. Chicken would probably be good with it as well, although I’ve never done that. And obviously whatever vegetarian/vegan alternative suits you.

For variations, you could add sultanas as well as the apricots (this is really nice – I just didn’t have any last night), replace the cashews with pine nuts or even add in pine nuts as well as the cashews. It’s really quite a versatile dish 🙂

Apple, walnut and cranberry salad

Salad

With all the ridiculously hot weather we’ve been having lately, the idea of cooking full meals is just not pleasant. The result: lots of salads for dinner! This one is probably technically more of an autumn salad as it uses apples, but since they’re available all year round these days it’s an easy one to make at any time and the fruit is lovely and refreshing on a hot summer’s day. Here’s the recipe:

Apple, Walnut and Cranberry Salad

Ingredients:
100g lettuce leaves (I use lamb’s lettuce – I find it goes well with the walnuts)
1 apple
100 g walnut halves
75 g dried cranberries
2 dessert spoons walnut oil
2 dessert spoons apple cider vinegar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method:
1. Toast the walnuts by placing them in a hot frying pan for around 5 minutes (or do them in the oven), then set aside to cool for a while. While they’re cooling, core and slice the apple.

2. Wash the lettuce and place it in a salad bowl, then add the walnuts, sliced apple and dried cranberries and toss everything a bit to mix it evenly.

3. For the dressing, mix together the walnut oil, apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt plus black pepper to taste.

4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss so everything is covered in dressing. This amount serves 2 as a side dish. We had it with marinated grill cheese, but I imagine it would also go well with pork (thanks to the apples) or grilled chicken.

Food

Gnocchi with leek and sausages in a creamy cheese sauce

DSCN0692At this time of year, all I want to eat are hearty, warming, comforting foods, like cottage pie, stews, pasta bakes and chilli. (This “phase” usually lasts from October until around Easter). This particular dish combines three of my favourite things: leek, potatoes (in the form of gnocchi) and cheese. It was actually supposed to be a recipe for gnocchi with vegetables in a creamy cheese sauce, but somewhere between doing the shopping and starting to cook, I managed to lose my courgette! It’s on the receipt, but it’s not in my kitchen. How on earth does one lose a courgette?! So I had a rummage in my fridge and improvised with a packet of Wiener-type sausages instead. Sorry vegetarians – my original recipe would have been for you!

Gnocchi with leek and sausages in a creamy cheese sauce

Ingredients (serves 2)
Butter (for frying)
400 g gnocchi
1 garlic clove
1 leek
4 Wiener (or Frankfurter, if that’s what you want to call them) sausages OR one large courgette/zucchini
1 pot of cream
Cheddar or other strong cheese (I used Swiss mountain cheese this time, because that’s what I had)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper

Method

1. Heat some butter in a frying pan. While it’s heating, chop your garlic into smallish pieces then fry it in the butter.

garlic

2. Put some water on to boil in a pan. Chop the leek – I usually cut off fairly thick slices then quarter the slices – then place the it in the frying pan with the garlic. (If using courgette/zucchini, you should also dice that it this point and put it in the pan at the same time as the leek).

leek

3. Chop the sausages into bite-sized pieces.

4. Once the water has boiled, pour in the gnocchi and boil it for as long as the instructions for your brand say to (usually until bits start to float)

5. Drain the gnocchi then add it to the frying pan along with the sausages. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

food

6. Pour the cream into the frying pan, stir it in and heat for a bit until it and the sausages are warmed though. Grate the cheese over the mixture, pausing every once in a while to stir it in. Keep adding cheese until the cream/cheese mixture forms a thick sauce/you think there’s enough (personally, I like a lot of cheese!). Stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper. Also add more salt/black pepper if you think it needs it.

7. Enjoy carbs covered in melty, cheesy goodness (see photo of the final product at the top).

Raspberry chocolate dessert pots

DessertThe company Jan currently works for celebrated it’s 30th anniversary last week, so he and all his colleagues were working extremely hard to get everything ready for demonstrating to the visitors. The result was that Jan and I ate together precisely once last week (on Friday – the anniversary was on Thursday). In fact, he didn’t come home before midnight on any of those days. After all that hard work, I decided he deserved a treat, so I made this dessert last night. The amounts given here make 2 pots.

Raspberry Chocolate Dessert Pots

Ingredients:
70 g chocolate digestives (or similar biscuits)
35g butter
125g raspberries
50g dark chocolate
200 ml tub of cream
Caster sugar

Method:

1. Melt the butter in a pan and, while it’s melting, crush the chocolate biscuits. Once that’s done, stir the melted butter and crushed biscuits together.

2. Divide the biscuit crumb mixture between two dessert glasses/bowls (I used glass pots that had previously contained shop-bought cheesecakes. Recycling!), then cover the pots with tinfoil and place them in the fridge for around 15 minutes.

3. Place all but 10 of the raspberries in a bowl and crush them with a fork. Add half a teaspoon of caster sugar and stir it in well, then your pots/glasses back out of the fridge and spread a layer of crushed raspberries over the biscuit-crumb base. Put the pots back in the fridge.

4. Melt the chocolate and 20ml of the cream in a bowl, either in the microwave or over a pan of water, then place to one side to cool for a bit. Once it’s cooled slightly, add a layer of chocolate over the layer of raspberries in your pots then return the pots to the fridge again.

 (*Note: I’m writing this recipe down the way I did it. The chocolate layer ended up hardening though, so next time I might put the chocolate directly on top of the biscuit layer than add the crushed raspberries on top – it might be less messy when eating the dessert later!)

5. Whip the remaining cream until it starts to for firm peaks. Don’t over-whip otherwise it will go liquid again and nothing will persuade the peaks to come back! Take 6 of your remaining raspberries, halve them, and then carefully stir the raspberry halves into the cream. Finally, spoon the whipped cream/raspberry mixture on top of the chocolate layer in your post. Decorate with the remaining raspberries and anything else you want. As you can see, I chose chocolate stars.

 

Sausage and fennel pasta bake

Pasta bakeRecently I’ve been experimenting with adding fennel to my dishes. I’d seen it in the shops countless times, but never really knew what to do with it. Finally, I decided to just buy some and find out what happened. This is a nice, comforting dish for autumn/winter and has the added bonus of being quick and easy enough to make in the evening after a long day at work. This amount serves 3-4 (me, Jan plus some leftovers for me to take to work for lunch, but Jan eats more than I do – it would be enough for 4 of me).

Ingredients:
Olive oil for frying
1 clove garlic
500g pork sausages (Germany residents: I would normally buy “grobe Bratwurst” but the supermarket didn’t have those this time)
1 fennel bulb
Any small pasta (I like penne, but fusilli or farfalle would also work)
1 400g tin of tomatoes
Cheese (one with a fairly strong taste, like Cheddar or Bergkäse)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (roughly 390°F). Heat some olive oil in a pan.

2. While the olive oil is heating, chop the sausages into bite-sized chunks. Once the oil is hot, crush in the garlic clove and fry for about a minute before adding the sausages.

Sausages and garlic
Sausages and garlic

3. While the sausages are cooking (stir them once in a while so they cook on all sides), chop the fennel into chunks. Once the sausages are mostly brown, add the fennel to the pan. Stir occasionally.

Add the fennel
Add the fennel

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it’s just short of being ready (with mine, that took 8 minutes). Drain the pasta then add it to the frying pan with the sausages/fennel.

5. Add a tin of tomatoes to the frying pan, stir everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the entire mixture into an oven-proof bowl.

6. Grate cheese all over the top – how much is up to you – and place in the oven until the cheese has all melted. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven and exactly how melted you like your cheese.

And there you have it – meaty, cheesy, comforting goodness… and it’s even pretty healthy (as long as you didn’t go too overboard on the cheese). If you wanted, you could add extra vegetables (leek might be nice), replace the sausages with a tin of tuna or, for a vegetarian version, use aubergine or tofu in place of the sausages. It’s entirely up to you!