Babycake

What a better way to celebrate a special occasion than sharing a nice homemade cake? Maybe sharing four homemade cakes which recipes were perfected, sometimes lightened up, over the years and transmitted from mother to daughter?

My mother is a great source of inspiration and information for healthy cooking as she used to be a passionate dietitian. When my sisters and I were younger, we believed she had the magical power of making calories disappear… When we felt like an ice-cream or some other delicacy after a meal, we would ask her if it was OK and her agreement would instantly lift any concern we might have.

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The entire Quéré family on a sunny Christmas day, in Lesconil, near Quimper, Brittany

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The first baking tip I learned from her, when using a traditional recipe, is to automatically divide the sugar content by two. And she is right! Not only you lower the caloric intake (and your conscience) but this really helps the other flavors come through. More recently, she taught me that a cake shouldn’t contain more than 20 g sugar and 15 g butter per serving (or 160 g sugar and 120 g butter for 8 servings).

The Apple Yogurt Cake is really a family favorite, so we actually served it last Christmas. Its success even crossed the Atlantic, as my American family immediately fell for this treat and kindly requests one on each of my visits. We sometimes prepare some variants with a bit of banana, coconut, rum and / or chocolate chips. You might use any kind of molds, large or individual, round or rectangle. It is particularly nice served a bit warm with some fromage blanc (or low-fat Greek yogurt) on the side.

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Improvised Christmas dinner with Apple Yogurt Cake, Fois Gras, pancakes and cheese. Why not?

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The Far Breton is a traditional cake from my region, Brittany. It looks like a prune flan and is probably the lightest of all Breton cakes. Others, like Kouign Amann, Galette de Saint-Michel or Palet Breton contain an horrifying quantity of butter and sugar. The Far Breton, on the other hand, is a great source of calcium (1 liter of milk), fibers and antioxidants (thanks to the prunes).

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The Express Chocolate Cake is a chocolate wonder only prepared in a matter of minutes! Its simple bare version is already very enjoyable. But it is also delicious with either a dark chocolate coating, or served with homemade whipped cream and canned pears, or homemade whipped cream, canned cherries and chocolate shavings for a Black Forest Cake style.

A cold Sunday afternoon of January 2015, I started baking these three cakes one after the other and finished with my beloved Carrot Cake (see Rain and Treats). You can imagine it took me a good part of the afternoon and probably delayed the blog post I was writing at that moment. No guest was expected though. Kjeld and I couldn’t resist a small piece of apple cake each, after dinner. The rest came to the office with me the following day.

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Indeed, I had something special to celebrate with my colleagues, the fact that Kjeld and I will become parents in a few months, in July more precisely! 🙂 I spread the news via an e-mail titled Babycake, hence the title of this post (it is also the name of the fourth book in the Tales of the City series by American novelist Armistead Maupin). A few minutes later, several colleagues joined me in the cafeteria to congratulate me and enjoy some cake, which was very nice. An hour later the last crumbs had vanished! I hope that this little boy who starts giving me a few good kicks will enjoy my cooking just as much! 🙂

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Apple yogurt cake
(serves 8)

2 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup sunflower / colza oil (or 30 g / 1 oz butter)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 small pack of vanilla sugar)
1 + 1/2 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of ground cinammon
1 pinch of salt
4 apples, peeled and cubed

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar(s) energetically until creamy and fluffy. Add the oil (or melted butter) and mix well. Add the yogurt and vanilla extract and whisk for another minute or two.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Fold dry ingredients into wet mixture and blend well. Fold in the apples until well blended.

Butter and dust the cake mold with flour. Pour in the dough and bake in a preheated oven 180°C/350°F between 30 and 45 minutes or until the top gets a nice golden colour and a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

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Far Breton (Breton prune flan)
(serves 12)

250 g / 8 oz prunes
200 g / 1 + 1/2 cups plain flour
150 g / 3/4 cup caster sugar
1 pinch of salt
4 eggs
1 L / 4 + 1/8 cups milk (whole or half-skimmed)
40 g / 1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp rum
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 small pack of vanilla sugar)

Whisk together the flour, caster sugar, vanilla sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Pour the milk in a medium pan, add the butter, rum and vanilla extract and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the prunes (either whole or halved) and let simmer for 2 minutes.

Remove the prunes from the milk using a slotted spatula and arrange them in the bottom of a large buttered and dusted baking dish. Gradually pour in the milk on the flour mix, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined. Pour the batter evenly over the prunes and bake in a preheated oven 220°C/425°F for 40 minutes.

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Express chocolate cake
(serves 8)

200 g / 6,5 oz dark chocolate
100 g / 1/2 cup butter
4 tbsp milk
80 g / 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
50 g / 1/3 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Combine dark chocolate, milk and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave on high for 2 minutes, remove and stir well. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar(s) energetically until creamy and fluffy. In another bowl sift together flour and baking powder. Fold dry ingredients into wet mixture and blend well. Fold in the melted chocolate until well blended. Pour the batter in a buttered and dusted microwave-safe dish and heat in the microwave on high for 5 minutes.

DSCF4186 (2)The Quéré women: 1 mother, 3 daughters, 2 of whom are pregnant. My sister Typhaine (second from the right) is also expecting for May 2015. 🙂

Boosting your way into the New Year

I admit this post is long overdue. I meant to write for Christmas and share my family recipe of “Bûche de Noël”, which I know is a favorite for some of my readers. But this will have to wait until next Christmas unfortunately… You probably won’t contradict me when I’ll say that there is always a lot going on around this time of the year. Buying last minute gifts (even though I always swear to my myself this will be the last time), wrapping a mountain of presents (this takes me a lot of time because I am a perfectionist), visiting family members, cooking delicious Christmas treats…

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However, you’ll probably like to hear that my new year resolution is to be much more active on Stefinitely Yummy! Even if this is probably going to get a bit tricky at some point… (more explanation about that soon :-)). I have so many nice recipes I’d like to share!

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Does the above snow man really looks freaky to you (so says my boyfriend Kjeld)? Vote for your favorite snow man!

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Probably unlike many of you, but I don’t blame you, I have been pretty reasonable during the end-of-year celebrations. Still, I really feel an urge for food that’s good for my body and will give me the energy I need to go through this snowy Luxembourgish winter. All I feel like is fibers and vitamins. Nice fresh and colorful vegetables. I can’t get enough of them! As I thought you might probably feel the same way after the “fois gras”, turkey and Texas Taters(*) overkill, I decided to share my ultimate energy boost and feel good recipes!

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My smoothie does not contain any salad, kale or any of the other usual ingredients in healthy green smoothies but it definitely reaches its objective in terms of freshness! I have prepared my second recipe, a carrot and sweet potato soup, countless numbers of times since I discovered it two years ago. It’s got so much flavor! Finally, the salad contains some of my favorite ingredients and the way it combines sweetness, softness and crunchiness is incredible!

I wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Yummy New Year!!!

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(*) Special reference to my dear American host-family. The Texas Taters is a recipe that Ann, the classy grand-mother, is required to prepare every Christmas. It is absolutely delicious but I don’t dare figuring out the calorie count. It contains potatoes and a LOT of sour-cream and butter! But it’s so GOOD…

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Cucumber, lemon, mint and apple smoothie
(serves 2/3)

You can add more or less apple juice depending on the consistency you like.

1 cucumber (about 400 g), peeled and sliced
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
20 cl / 7 fl oz organic or traditional apple juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Remove and serve immediately.

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Carrot, sweet potato, coriander and coconut milk soup
(serves 4)

If you don’t have the Thai red curry paste or the nuoc-mâm don’t worry, the recipe also works very well without these ingredients. The coconut milk can also be replaced with any other kind of milk. On the other hand, the lime and the fresh coriander are essential! They give all its freshness to this smooth and comforting soup.

800 g / 28 oz carrots, peeled and sliced (about 9 large carrots)
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced
1 onion, sliced finely
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
50 cl / 2 cups chicken broth (1 chicken stock cube)
40 cl / 2 cups coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp nuoc-mâm (Vietnamese fish sauce)
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Place the carrots and the sweet potato in a medium pan. Cover with boiling water and let simmer for about 10 minutes. If you use a chicken stock cube, drain the vegetables on top of a large bowl so that you keep the water which is full of flavor and vitamins. Poor 50 cl / 2 cups in a measuring cup while still hot, immediately drop the stock cube in, let it soften for a few minutes, then stir until the cube is fully dissolved.

Sauté the sliced onion in a large pan on medium heat with the olive oil. When softened, add the red curry paste and stir for a minute or two. Add the drained carrots and sweet potato in the large pan, as well as the coconut milk, the nuoc-mâm and the lime juice. Stir and add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, lower to medium heat, cover and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from stove, add 1 tbsp of chopped fresh coriander and blend until smooth. Sprinkle with the remaining coriander before serving.

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Energy boost salad
(serves 4)

4 handfuls fresh baby spinach
200 g / 1 cup quinoa
1 cauliflower
4 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 green apple
1 avocado
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp chive, chopped
4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch of cinnamon
salt / pepper

For the sauce
2 tbsp low fat Greek yogurt or fromage blanc
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup
juice of 1 lemon
1 pinch of turmeric powder
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
salt / pepper

Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water (two times its volume) with a pinch of salt until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). When ready let it cool down for 10 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F. Prepare the cauliflower by removing the outer leaves and separating the florets. Place in bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil, cinnamon, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Transfer on a parchment paper covered baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes. Turn the cauliflower pieces over with a fork and bake for 10 more minutes, until tender but still crispy. Remove from oven.

Prepare the sauce by beating all the ingredients together until smooth.

Place the spinach, the grated carrots and about half the sauce in a large bowl and mix well. Add the quinoa, the cauliflower, the parsley, the chive and mix well. Toast the pumpkin seeds a few minutes in a frying pan on medium heat. Peel and thinly slice the apple and the avocado.

Split the content of the large bowl between four plates. Carefully add the apple and avocado slices. Sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds and serve immediately with the remaining sauce.

Turkish delight

Istanbul is a fascinating city! Split between Europe and Asia, it has such a rich history. A Greek trading city in its early history, it successively became the capital of the Roman, the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. It is also the second largest city on the European continent after Moscow, with over 14 million inhabitants.

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2 mosque café

By pure chance (but also a bit thanks to Tripadvisor) we picked a hotel in Boyoglu.
I immediately loved this neighborhood, with its antiques, designer shops, cool cafes and steep streets. It is walking distance from the buoyant historic quarter of Sultanahmet but yet very laid back.

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We stayed at Faik Pasha Suites & Apartments, a very charming boutique hotel. Every morning we would enjoy a few pieces of Yufka (flat bread) with some Çai (black thee) on a nice covered terrace overseeing a little garden, in the company of a friendly cat. Cats are everywhere, so numerous but apparently really well feed and healthy. We couldn’t help but take some interesting specimen in picture. One had such a worried expression imprinted on his face; it was hilarious. When visiting the market, a colorful stall caught my eye with what I believed were nice dried fruits and spices. But when I looked a bit closer I realized there were all different types of cat food. Incredible! We also found out that Istanbul cats love a good cup of coffee, as you can see on the picture picture.

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You need at least three days to enjoy the many wonders of the city. The first day we took a ferry to the Asian side. The highlight was sitting on pillows overseeing the Bosphorus while sipping on Turkish coffee. The second day we crossed the Galata bridge toward the historical quarter. I was really impressed by the Hagia Sophia, even though a very large scaffolding currently prevents enjoying it fully. The world’s largest cathedral for a thousand years it was converted into an imperial mosque when the city fell into hands of the Ottoman Turks. A special atmosphere also emanates from the Basilica Cistern, an impressive subterranean construction dating from the 6th century. Unfortunately, we could only admire the Blue Mosque from outside as we were discouraged by a very long line and it was later closed to tourists.

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In terms of restaurants, there is so much to choose from! We tried both ends of the spectrum from trendy Lokanta Maya, very nice but a bit pricey to traditional Refik and its delicious mezze and shish kebab. The many rooftop terraces are also a great way to enjoy fantastic views of the city by night. At the 360, up a very nice open staircase, sexy sailors served us delicious cocktails, whereas we went for some specialty coffee at Galata Konak Cafe.

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The last evening we went fully local in a small bar with live Turkish music. The singer would choose hers songs from a pile of napkins handed over by members of the audience who would throw their arms in the air at the sound of their favorite tune. What a great way to end our stay in such a lively and colorful city!

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Pomegranate, cucumber and goat-cheese salad
(Serves 4)

Fresh-pomegranate-juice stands flourish on every street corner. When we got back I absolutely wanted to cook something with pomegranate. Plus this fruit is moderate in calories and a good source fibers and antioxidants.

1 pomegranate
1 cucumber
1 small goat cheese (crottin)
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar of Modena

Open the pomegranate by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open. Separate the seeds from the peel and the internal white pulp membranes which gives it a sour flavor. Cut the cucumber in small cubes without pealing it, add some salt and leave to sweat for a few minutes. Remove the excess water from the cucumber and mix with the pomegranate seeds and the herbs. Season with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Thinly slice the goat cheese and add on top of the preparation right before serving.

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Chicken, apricot and almond tajine
(Serves 4)

I’ve been cooking this tajine for years. The use of chicken makes it less fat and quicker to prepare: not need to let it simmer for hours as a regular tajine. And the smell of orange and cinnamon immediately takes you on a journey to oriental lands!

4 chicken breasts, sliced
175 g / 6 oz dried apricots
25 g / 1 oz almond powder
25 g / 1 oz toasted flaked almonds
1 onion, sliced finely
2 garlic cloves, sliced finely
70 cl / 1/3 cup chicken broth
zest and juice from 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp liquid honey
3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper

Sauté the chicken slices in a medium pan / casserole with a tbsp of olive oil. Once golden, set aside. Sauté the sliced onion in the same pan on medium heat with an extra tbsp olive oil. When softened, add the garlic and the spices and stir for a minutes or two. Add the chicken, the chicken broth, the orange juice and zest, the cinnamon stick and the honey. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over a gentle heat for 20 more minutes. Add the dried apricots and two tbsp of fresh chopped mint, cover back and continue simmering for 10 more minutes. Add the almond powder and stir until the sauce thickens. Sprinkle with the remaining fresh mint and toasted flaked almonds before serving.

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Fig, grape and pomegranate tart with light almond sugar crust pastry
(Serves 8)

A light sugar crust pastry is a challenge I absolutely wanted to meet. I am quite satisfied with this version. Crispy and savory! The combination of fig, grape and pomegranate with a nice orange syrup worked out pretty well too.

For the light almond sugar crust pastry (preparation starts one hour ahead)
1 egg
50 g / 1/4 cup butter, cubed at room temperature
75 g / 1/4+1/8 cup low fat greek yogurt or fromage blanc
2 tbsp brown sugar
60 g / 1/2 cup almond powder
200 g / 1+1/3 cup flour
1 pinch of salt

For the filling
50 g / 1/4 cup low fat Greek yogurt or fromage blanc
zest and juice from 1 orange
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp caster sugar
6 figs
300 g seedless grapes (red or white)
1/2 pomegranate seeds
2 tbsp Xeres vinegar

To prepare the sugar crust pastry, start by whisking the egg in a bowl. Then add the butter, the Greek yogurt / fromage blanc and the sugar and mix well with a wooden spoon. When the butter starts to mix with the other ingredients, add the almond powder and mix well. Add the flower and a pinch of salt and finish combining using your hands. You should obtain a slightly sticky dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

On a floured parchment paper covered surface, roll out the pastry dough to fit your tart pan. Line your tart pan (I keep the parchment paper underneath to prevent sticking) and prick the base with a fork. Cut out a piece of parchment paper and line the bottom of the tart. Place beans or any oven proof weight and bake in a preheated oven 180°C/ 350°F for 20 minutes. Remove weight and parchment paper and bake for a further 3-4 minutes, or until slightly golden. Set aside.

Beat the Greek yogurt / fromage blanc with brown sugar and orange zest. Set aside. Cut the figs in quarters. In a large frying pan, pour the caster sugar, the orange juice and the Xeres vinegar. Bring to a boil until the sugar has fully dissolved. Add the fig quarters and cook for about 5 minutes on a medium heat. Remove with figs with a skimmer and set aside. Renew the operation with the grapes and the pomegranate seeds.

Fill the tart base with the flavored Greek yogurt / fromage blanc, place the fruits on top in a circular shape. Cook the syrup on higher heat for a few minutes, until it starts thickening. Pour on top of the fruits. Can be served warm or cold, with some Greek yogurt or fromage blanc on the side.

Family traditions

Auchan supermarket aisles have been packed with school stationery for weeks. The constant flow of Dutch caravans has switched direction, now on their way back from the South of France. The last traces of the Schueberfouer (traditional Luxemburgish fair) will soon disappear. The workload is picking up. We have to come to terms about the fact that Summer is nearly over…

However, with each seasonal change come little traditions that I very much enjoy. End of August, beginning of September is the time for blackberry picking! For my family this is actually a major activity, as we need to provide for the weekly jar of blackberry jam.

One of the many things I love about visiting my family in North Brittany is the abundance and variety of breads and jams, most of which are homemade: rhubarb, apricot, strawberry, orange… A different flavor for each slice of bread or each crêpe (French pancake). We spend hours around the breakfast table and a few hours later we renew the operation for “quatre heure” (afternoon snack). This time of the year, one can find us along the fields, picking blackberries. We obviously compete for the one who will perform the best harvest, which sometimes involves fighting our way through the brambles to get to the best specimen. We finally come back at sunset with black fingers and scratched wrists, but satisfied that we made our contribution and already anticipating the sweet and warm smell that will spread throughout the house in a couple of hours.

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This year I haven’t planned any trip to Brittany around this period, so I decide to take my boyfriend Kjeld on a little expedition in our neighborhood in search for the sought-after berry. I scrutinize the bushes along the roads and fields. But the few I find are either dried out or not yet ripe. It seems that we are either too late or too early. We are making plans to come back the following week, when we finally come across a few splendid specimen! Just enough for a few deserts. This was also a great excuse to discover parts of our neighborhood that had remained a mystery until now. We come across a sports field and a tunnel covered with gratifies we had no idea existed just a few hundred meters from our building.

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Once back home, I decide to use part of our harvest for a apple-blackberry crumble with vanilla custard which will be perfect for our “quatre heure”, while enjoying some unexpected sunshine on our terrace. A little treat filled with fibers and antioxidants!

I must say, I find it hard to believe that Summer is coming to an end, as the weather hasn’t exactly spoiled us this year. I have actually caught a cold, which I rarely do, even in the coldest of winter. I try to do some damage control with my anti-cold infusion with cinnamon and honey known for their antibacterial qualities, as well as ginger, thyme and lemon which hold antiseptic powers.

To put the odds in my favor, I also decide to cook a lamb dish, as it is known to be very iron-rich. Plus it contains heme iron which is four to five times more easily absorbed by our body than non-heme iron contained in vegetables. I used lamb leg which is much leaner (15 % fat) than the other parts (up to 25 % fat). The combination with eggplant, tomato and spices was a great success!

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In a few weeks, the view from our apartment will take on fall colors. Hopefully, we find some mushrooms and chestnuts in the close-by woods. And I am pretty sure I won’t be able to resist the pumpkins that will lure me with their various shapes and colors. I can start cooking comforting and delicious soups again. Simple pleasures that make great weekends at home!

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Anti-cold infusion
(serves 2)

1 thin slice of fresh ginger
1 lemon slice
1 sprig of thyme
1 tsp locust-tree honey
1 pinch of cinnamon

Add all the ingredients to the equivalent of 2 cups of boiling water and leave to infuse for 6 minutes. Then filter, relax and enjoy!

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Eggplant lamb curry
(serves 4)

4 slices of lamb leg (about 400 g / 15 oz)
2 small eggplants (or 1 large)
400 g / 2 cups tomato pulp (either fresh or canned)
160 g / 1 cup semolina of couscous
1 onion, sliced finely
1 garlic clove, sliced finely
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp curry powder
1 pinch of caster sugar
salt, pepper

Rinse the eggplants, dry them out, do not remove the skin and cut them in thin slices. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper, place the eggplant slices on it, add a bit of olive oil with a brush and place under the over grill for about 2 minutes on each side. Put aside.

Cut the lamb in big chunks and put them in a bowl. Sprinkle with the curry, salt and pepper. Mix well. Preheat a large frying pan (or wok) with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook the lamb chunks for about 5 minutes while stirring. Put aside in a dish.

Sauté the sliced onion in the same pan with 1 tsp of olive oil. Once soft add the garlic, cinnamon, cumin, sugar, some salt and stir for 1 minute. Add the the tomato pulp, cover and let it simmer over a gentle heat for 5 minutes.

Add the grilled eggplant and lamb chunks in the frying pan (or wok). Cover and continue simmering over a gentle heat for 10 more minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the couscous following the instructions on the package.

When ready, sprinkle the lamb curry with some pepper and the fresh coriander and serve with the couscous.

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Apple-blackberry crumble with vanilla custard
(serves 4)

For the crumble
3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1 cm / ½ inch pieces
300 g / 10 oz blackberries
100 g / 3/4 cup flour
50 g / 1/4 cup brown sugar
50 g / 1/4 cup butter, cubed at room temperature
1 pinch of salt

For the custard
2 egg yolks
20 g / 1/8 cup caster sugar
25 ml / 1/8 cup milk
1/2 vanilla pod
1 tsp cornstarch

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, the sugar, the pinch of salt and mix well. Then add the cubes of butter and rub into the flour mixture with your hands, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Place the apples and blackberries into the bottom of a lightly greased baking dish, then sprinkle the crumble mixture on top. Bake in a preheated oven 180°C / 350°F for 40-45 minutes until the crumble is browned and the fruit mixture bubbling.

In the meantime prepare the custard. Split the half pod lengthwise into two halves, scrape the pod halves and add the pod and the grains with the milk into a small pan. Bring to a boil and set aside. In a mixing bowl, whip the eggs and sugar energetically until creamy and fluffy. Discard the vanilla pod and gradually add the milk to the egg-sugar mix while continuously whipping. Add the cornstarch and mix well. Pour back into the small pan and cook over medium heat while stirring, until the mixture thickens. Make sure it does not boil. Set it aside until the crumble is ready.

Serve the crumble warm with the custard.

Let’s go Dutch

Friday August 15th, it is 8:30, and we are setting off through the deserted streets of Luxembourg city (it is a holiday, it is early, it is raining and it is Luxembourg), friends on the back seat, in the direction of an inspiring weekend in Amsterdam. The plan is to travel the city up and down via all the best ways: on foot, by bike and by boat, as long as the weather permits us to do so. And if this is not the case, we know we can take shelter in one of the numerous cosy cafes and find comfort in a slice of delicious “Appeltaart”.

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One of my favorite cafes in Amsterdam is De Bakkerswinkel. It is always extremely busy, so you need to arm yourself with patience until you are finally seated either to a large table shared with other groups or to a tiny table surrounded by worn out cloth chairs. And then… you find yourself faced with a dilemma: the attractive quiche of day or the warm “broodjes” filled with combinations of ingredients that delight the taste buds; the apple pie (which ranks 2nd or 3rd on our list of best apple pies in Amsterdam) or the delicious scones with homemade lemon-curd and clotted cream? I finally had a lentil, spinach and goat cheese quiche which inspired the vegetable and fresh goat cheese “quiche without crust” that I baked this week.

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The quiche is one of my childhood standards. My mother, always anxious to keep her dishes light (she is a Dietitian) would prepare it without crust. The base is extremely simple and for the filling you can unleash your creativity! Presented with a side salad, it always pushes the right button.

Another breakfast option often seen in Amsterdam cafes and which usually hits the spot is the muesli. When home over the weekend, I like to give a twist to my breakfast with a homemade fruit muesli, so simple and yet so attractive. Over the last few months, I have collected all sorts of seeds, nuts and dried fruits. I feel like a painter when adding a stroke of cranberries here, another one of sunflower seeds there and finishing off with halved almonds.

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Our friends had never set foot in Amsterdam before, thus, for dinner, we decided to take them to places which honor the water component of the city. The first night was on a platform in the IJ river: REM Eiland. This platform was built in Ireland and used to host pirate radio and TV stations. The second night, we chose a cosy trattoria by Keizersgracht (Emperors Canal): Pastini. We all ordered pasta, and it all looked amazing. I highly recommend the Crespelle Capra, a pancake of pasta filled with spices, lemon, goat cheese and green peas.

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On our way back to Luxembourg, we stopped at my boyfriend’s parents for what we thought would be a quick bite. But Kjeld’s mother surprised us with a savory avocado cheese cake and a strawberry pavlova. Both looked absolutely stunning! I had been thinking about baking a pavlova for a while and it was so good that I decided we just had to have it again this weekend. Meringues are really fun to bake. I made them with slightly less sugar than indicated on most recipes. I can’t wait to try other versions, more or less crunchy, with different flavors (orange flower, rose, vanilla) or in different sizes!

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Amsterdam is a truly inspiring city! Kjeld, when are we going back? 😉

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Homemade fruit muesli
(Serves 1)

100 g / 1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt or fromage blanc 20% fat
50 g / 1/2 cup strawberries, sliced (or any other berries)
1 tsp dried cranberries
1 tsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp pumpkin seeds
3 almonds, halved
1 tsp honey (optional)

Pour the yogurt (or fromage blanc) in a small bowl. If you prefer it sweet, add the honey and mix well. Cover with the other ingredients, one after the other, in the order indicated above.

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Vegetable and fresh goat cheese “quiche without crust”
(Serves 4)

For the base
3 eggs
100 g / 3/4 cup flour
100 ml / 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp milk

For the filling
100 g / 1/2 cup coral lentil
100 g / 3 oz green beans (frozen or fresh)
100 g / 3 oz green peas (frozen or fresh)
100 g / 3 oz carrot, grated
100 g / 3 oz fresh goat cheese
30 g / 1 oz emmenthal cheese, grated (any other grated cheese will do)
1 onion, sliced finely
1 garlic clove, sliced finely
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
salt, pepper

Cook the coral lentil in 1 cup of water (two times its volume) with a pinch of salt between 5 and 10 minutes (they should stay firm). Sauté the sliced onion in a large frying pan with a tbsp of olive oil. Once soft add the garlic and stir. Add the green beans and the green peas, stir and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until the vegetables are defrosted. Add the grated carrot and the cooked coral lentil, season with salt and pepper, give it a good stir and cook for 1 or 2 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs and the flour until smooth. Add the fresh goat cheese and mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Then gradually add the milk and mix well.

Butter and dust a mold (about 20 x 25 cm / 8 x 10 inches). Pour in the vegetable mix, then the base mix, add the chopped mint and gently stir to evenly spread the ingredients. Sprinkle the top of the dish with grated emmenthal cheese and bake in a preheated oven 180°C/ 350°F for 45 minutes or until the top turns golden.

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Mini pavlovas
(Serves 4)

For the meringues
3 egg whites
100 g caster sugar
1/2 tsp white wine or cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cornstarch

For the topping
150 ml / 2/3 cup whipping cream (lighter option: 75 ml / 1/3 cup whipping cream and 75 g / 1/3 cup fromage blanc)
2 tbsp icing sugar
A handful of strawberries, currants, blueberries (or any other berries)

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Gradually add the sugar while mixing. Mix the vinegar and cornstarch through. Spoon a quarter of the foam on a lined baking sheet to a kind of heap. Repeat the operation for the 3 other meringues.

Bake in a preheated oven 130°C/ 266°F for an hour and a half. It should be crunchy on the outside and marshmellow-like on the inside. Let is cool down in the oven with the door open.

Slice the berries and when you are close to serving, whip up the cream with the icing sugar. For the lighter option gently fold the whipped cream in the fromage blanc. Place a meringue on a serving plate, tap it gently to break the center. Finally add the cream and the fresh berries on top and enjoy!

Rain and treats

Luxembourg is a charming city but Sundays tend to be very quiet. They are great for meeting with friends around a copious brunch, going for long walks in the woods or laying down in the park. But what if it is a mid-July Sunday when most of your friends are away and for some reason it is constantly raining? I find myself stranded at home with plenty of time on my hands. This is the perfect opportunity to try out new recipes! For lunch, I want to bring Summer back with a fresh quinoa salad. I love the bitter-sweet of grapefruit in salads. An avocado, smoked salmon and grapefruit quinoa salad with a light “fromage blanc” sauce it will be! I had some salmon left, so I accompanied my quinoa salad with smoked salmon potted eggs.

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When the sun starts setting, I feel like a warm and comforting dish. My coral lentil, chicken and coconut milk soup did the trick. Finally to please my Dutch boyfriend with a reference to his national color, I decided to go for a full blown orange dinner with a carrot cake, an all time favorite. I sometimes cook a gluten-free version of it for my gluten sensitive friends. Without giving in to the recent gluten-free or all-organic crazes, I like the challenge of baking with unusual ingredients and discovering new flavors and textures. My cupboards are now well-stocked with different types of flour: coconut, chestnut, corn, rice, buckwheat. I am not done experimenting!

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Avocado, smoked salmon and grapefruit quinoa salad

(serves 4)

200 g / 1 cup quinoa
2 avocado
150 g / 5 oz smoked salmon
1 grapefruit

For the “fromage blanc” sauce
200 g / 1 cup fromage blanc (can be replaced by fromage frais or quark)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tbsp dill (fresh and chopped or dried)
salt / pepper

Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water (two times its volume) with a pinch of salt until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). When ready let it cool down for 10 minutes or so.

Dice the avocados and slice the salmon. Cut the grapefruit in half crosswise and remove the pulp with the help of a thin kitchen knife while keeping the grapefruit on top of a bowl in order to collect the juice. Keep the juice aside and mix all the other ingredients in a large bowl.

To prepare the sauce: Mix the fromage blanc, the Dijon mustard, the grapefruit juice, the chopped chives and the dill. Season with salt and pepper.

When cooled down, pour the quinoa and the sauce in the large bowl together with the other ingredients and gently stir.

Smoked salmon potted eggs (Oeufs cocotte)

(serves 4)

4 eggs
50 g / 1.5 oz smoked salmon
20 cl / 7 fl oz light cream
1 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tsp dill (fresh and chopped or dried)
salt / pepper

Chop the chives. In a bowl mix with the cream and the dill. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the cream and herb mix between four small pots. Thinly slice the salmon and divide between the four pots. Add an egg on top of each pot. Season with salt and pepper. Heat in a bain-marie either in a pan or in the oven for 10 minutes or until the egg white turns solid.

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Coral lentil, chicken and coconut milk soup

(serves 4)

220 g coral lentil
1 carrot, diced
3 chicken breasts, sliced
20 cl / 7 fl oz coconut milk
1 onion, sliced finely
1 garlic clove, sliced finely
1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
75 cl / 25 fl oz chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Sauté the chicken slices in a medium pan with a tbsp of olive oil. Once golden, set aside. Sauté the sliced onion in the same pan on medium heat with some extra olive oil. When softened, add the garlic and the spices and stir for a minute or two. Add the lentil, the diced carrot and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then cover and lower the heat. Leave it to cook for 10 minutes. Add the chicken slices and leave it to cook for another 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and give it a good stir. No need to blend. Sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving.

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Carrot Cake (gluten-free option)

(serves 8)

3/4 carrots, finely grated
95 g / 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
60 g / 2 oz walnut halves, finely chopped
45 ml / 3 tbsp olive oil
45 ml / 3 tbsp colza oil
175 g / 1+1/4 cup plain flour (for gluten-free version mix 75 g / 1/2 cup chestnut flour and 100 g / 3/4 cup rice flour)
1 package 16 g / 2 tsp baking powder (make sure to chose it with maize starch for gluten-fee version)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch of salt

Cream-cheese frosting (optional)
50 g / 1.5 oz butter at room temperature (salted or not)
100 g / 3 oz cream-cheese (Philadelphia)
50 g / 3/4 cup icing sugar
1 package 7.5 g / 2 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F.

In a mixing bowl, whip the eggs and sugar energetically until creamy and fluffy, then add the oil and mix well. In another bowl sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture and blend well. Add carrots and chopped walnuts and blend well.

Butter and dust the cake mold with flour. Pour in the dough and bake in a preheated oven 150°C/ 300°F for 1 hour. You can also use muffin molds, in this case only bake for 45 minutes.

Let the cake cool on a wire rack. When cold, you can ice the cake if you wish. In this case mix the butter and the cream cheese until smooth. Then add the sifted icing sugar. Mix well and cream your cakes with the icing. Hold 15 minutes in fridge before serving.