Traditional Scones

I recently enjoyed a morning baking Scones with an American friend, Angela => convincing her that they truly are easy to make (or at least I think so!). The secret is really cold butter, chaffing the dough (fold in half, turn 90 degrees and repeat) and finally – to avoid overworking the dough… the less you touch it, the better!

This is a recipe is from Paul Hollywood’s collection and is a truly tried & tested recipe that never flops!

We adapted the recipe by leaving half the dough as is and adding cheese & chopped fresh chives to the other half – a sweet & savoury collection!

Traditional Scones

500g strong white bread flour
80g softened butter
80g caster sugar
2 eggs
5 teaspoons baking powder
200ml milk

  • Place 450g of the flour in a bowl and rub in butter (with your fingers) until you get to a crumb consistency
  • Add sugar, eggs and baking powder and mix with a wooden spoon
  • Add half the milk and continue to mix
  • Add the rest of the milk bit by bit to make a wet dough (and you don’t need to use all the milk if you think you have achieved the correct consistency)
  • Use the 50g remaining flour on the table top (half on the table top and leave the rest for the dough)
  • Place dough on the floured counter top and cover with remaining flour
  • Then chaff the dough (fold dough in half, then turn 90 degree’s and repeat) until the flour is incorporated into dough and consistency is smooth
  • roll dough out with a rolling-pin to 2.5cm and using a cookie cutter (or a glass dipped in flour), cut out your pieces
  • Bake at 200C (fan or 220C without fan) for 13minutes

Dinner in the Sky Brussels: The Restaurant Edition

My “Bucket list” items have included getting a tattoo, seeing the Big 5 on Safari, jumping out of an airplane (Skydiving) and a few others that I have been blessed enough to be able to tick off. The remaining items to complete before I “kick the bucket” include a cruise, seeing the Northern Lights (preferably while on a snow sled pulled by a team of huskies) and going up in a Hot Air Balloon.

So when The Hotel invited me to be their guest for lunch with Dinner in the Sky – I realized that I would partly be fulfilling the dream of seeing the world from the sky (like my dream of hot air ballooning) by being suspended 150 feet at Parc Cinquantenaire – but better still – I would be enjoying a 5 course meal along with premium wines while sitting there!

Disco ball & signage between the “tables”

Chef Lionel Rigolet** of Comme Chez Soi was joined by Chef Pierre Balthazar from The Restaurant (which is situated in The Hotel in Brussels) and between them, they served up a delicious menu for 22 guests! I had the pleasure of eating at The Restaurant with Alison from Cheeseweb in 2013 – an experience that I will never forget (and one that we both happily paid for :)). And currently Chef Pierre Balthazar launches a new weekly menu at The Restaurant each Thursday utilizing local, fresh & seasonal ingredients and served with style!

Chef Pierre Balthazar and Chef Lionel Rigolet

But lets start from the beginning …. Parking was easy to find at Autoworld at Parc Cinquantenaire and just a few steps away from the Welcome Lounge & registration area. Once I had signed in (electronic registration) at 11h30, I was given an identification fabric wrist band & escorted into the tented lounge to enjoy a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne.

Soon it was time to “board” – we were called up pair by pair to be safely harnessed into our comfortable “racing car” type seats. A 5 point type harness was secured with a very high level of detail & checking by the team to ensure maximum safety (and had me envisaging my own daughters car seat). I can honestly say that I felt 110% safe.

12h30 and we were in the sky… the initial reaction as you are being airlifted is fear, but this is quickly replaced with awe & wonder as you gaze upon your surroundings! And no sooner had we arrived at the top, when the first of the appetizers was served. In the infamous words of Chef Pierre Balthazar => “2 fingers, 1 bite”, we all quickly munched on a Beetroot meringue topped with wasabi & smoked eel. If this was the way we were to begin, I knew that we were about to embark on a taste explosion! YUM!

 

The next appetizer was Nobashi shrimp & king crab along with guacamole, basil oil and yuzu. The Japanese word Nobashi means stretched… and you can see that this is a pretty long shrimp 🙂

The final appetizer plated included delicious slices of beef marinated in soya, saké, cumin & ginger and served with grilled aubergine caviar. Pure heaven – excuse the pun, especially since we were in the clouds! But you barely required a knife to cut the meat as it was so tender.

At this point, everyone was feeling far more confident in their seats – swiveling around to get a better view or photo opportunity and enjoying the djs choice of music.

Time for the starter = Lobster mousse with shellfish & Chardonnay coulis. Did I mention “heaven”?? I could have licked the plate!

 

This was followed up with the main course of Farmers poultry served with passion fruit, sweet potato and a corn tempura. At this point, I was so in love with the food, that I wished that the day would never end! The chicken was soft and succulent and the addition of extra jus (which was poured on by one of the chefs) just made me smack my lips in pleasure (again and again).

Our plates were cleared & our crane lowered us down to the ground… there I was thinking “oh no, I hope that this isn’t over already”.. but it was only a quick stop to collect the tray of pre-prepared desserts. Strawberries and Lime… different textures and flavours and the perfect ending to the perfect meal. The crispy little pops of lime were a welcome tart crunch to the otherwise creamy & sweet strawberry panna cotta type dessert. And the mini meringues… yes please!

The meal was over – the food and wine consumed – laughter and new friendships made… and 14h00 was on the clocks. Time to sing a song together, wave our napkins and finally descend to the ground for coffee and biscuits in their premium lounge.

Cost of tickets are 285€ for Dinner in the Sky and include 5 courses by a starred chef along with accompanying wines. At first, I was shocked by the price (which I didn’t pay) and couldn’t believe it was actually worth that type of money – BUT I can say that after living it, it is worth it. Obviously not an everyday experience but definitely one that you would put onto your own Bucket List as special and noteworthy!

Two additional points to add => Firstly, there are obviously no bathroom facilities while you are in the air for 1hr30min, so you should ensure that you make use of the high-end portable toilets on the ground near the lounge. And when I say high-end… I do mean that inside the “box”, you could be forgiven for forgetting that this was a port-a-potty! And secondly, as a woman, don’t take a big handbag… as there is no place to secure it, or leave it (i.e. no lockers) so you need to either leave it in your car or take a small enough bag that can fit on the table in front of you.

An enormous THANK YOU to The Hotel & The Restaurant for this wonderful experience. Although this was an experience that I did not pay for, all opinions are truly honest & my own.

Mexican Rice and Beans

Generally I make up a pot of chili con carne and serve it over rice… but one night, I decided to rather incorporate everything into one pot and which lead to my version of a “Mexican Rice and Beans“.

An easy(ish) mid-week meal that tastes great!

And of course, Mommy’s little helper got in on the action as well 😉

Mexican Rice and Beans

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1Tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves – crushed
tin of tomato paste
500ml Passata
425g tin of red kidney beans (I like to use the variant that is already in chilli sauce)
1 green pepper – diced
200g tin of sweetcorn
500ml stock (I prefer to use chicken stock – which means that this isn’t vegetarian)
1teaspoon brown sugar
1 and half cups long grain rice

  • Heat frying pan over a medium heat
  • Add cumin, allspice, chilli flakes and paprika and *dry fry* for about a minute to release the flavours
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and spices and cook for 2-3minutes
  • Add garlic and rice and cook for a further minute
  • Add the tomato paste, passata, sugar and stock
  • Bring to the boil
  • Reduce the heat and add beans, green pepper & sweetcorn.
  • Simmer, covered for 15-20minutes, stirring occasionally until rice is cooked

Introducing: Carrefour Simply You Box

At the end of 2016, Carrefour launched their own meal box called Simply You Box.

Offering a similar concept to Smartmat & HelloFresh – a cardboard box filled with 3 different recipe cards plus the fresh ingredients to make these recipes. Each week, the Simply You Box offers 9 different recipes from which you can pick/choose which 3 meals you would like to cook. Just like the other recipe/fresh food boxes offered by competitors, they too promise that meals can be ready within 30minutes and are easy to follow.

Turkey schnitzel with roasted baby potatoes and salad (10 April 2017 menu)

What you need to know:

  1. Choose 3 recipes out of the 9 menus that offered
    • 3 vegetarian, 3 traditional & 3 family friendly
    • Menu’s change weekly
    • View 4 weeks worth of menu’s online
  2. Number of people to feed: Currently options are only 2 people or 4 people?
    • 40€ for 2people = 6.67€ per meal per person
    • 60€ for 4 people = 5.00€ per meal per person
  3. Collect on a Monday from your nearest Carrefour Drive pick-up point (available all over Belgium). They are investigating delivery options for the future!
  4. Payment via debit/credit card online
  5. Order by midnight on Monday to collect the following Monday

I got the opportunity to test out one of the boxes (2people) and can say that the whole process was very EASY – especially the collection at the Carrefour Drive pick up point in Auderghem where Carrefour staff were super helpful and took at total of 5minutes!

As you can see from the box above – the quantities were GENEROUS for 2people! (A whole packet of linguine for 2people for one recipe! Obviously, splitting their pre-existing packaging for this concept doesn’t make sense – but it means that not only is the concept pretty cost effective at 6,67€ per person per meal but that you might be adding to your store cupboard as well!)

Coming back to value for money => how does this stack against the competition?? Pretty well considering that HelloFresh is 34€ for 2 people for 3 meals = 5.67€ per person/per meal and Smartmat Original Box is 59€ for 2 people for 3meals = 9.83€ per person/per meal. So Simply You Box is only just more expensive than HelloFresh but definitely cheaper than Smartmat Original box.

creamy risotto with roasted pumpkin & mascarpone (10th April 2017 menu)

Additional Comments

  • Positive:
    • Easy to follow simple recipes (each card is printed recto-verso, so Dutch on one side and French on the other side – but even with that – the recipes were so easy, that you didn’t really need to pore over each line of instruction)
    • Fresh ingredients were exactly that… FRESH
    • Excellent quality/price ratio;
    • Pretty balanced nutrition (IMHO… that I could see – although I am not a nutritionist, I am sure that they are consulting with one and having carbs/protein/vegetables etc in each menu seems pretty level headed to me)
  • Negative: finding something negative to say was really difficult as this is a great concept that is executed professionally!
    • Having to collect box on a Monday (looking forward to delivery options becoming available);
    • Website & recipes only available in Dutch/French

Website: www.simplyYouBox.be

PROMOCODE: Use unique code WHIMNTSYB before 31/05/2017 and you will get a discount of 10€ when you purchase a Simply You Box of min 40€

Courgette and Feta pastry wreath

Probably one of the simplest recipes that I have ever encountered and completely inspired by Marie Gourmandise – whose Instagram photos are always so beautiful, light and simple but utterly delectable! I was even lucky enough to sit next to her at a Smartmat blogger event 2years ago.

One of the upsides to Monkey growing up is that she can now help me a bit in the kitchen… or at least it is *helping* in her vocabulary, while in mine it is sometimes a case of her stealing & eating my props while I attempt to take a photo …. but those hands… aren’t they too cute??? (yes – I am biased!) But this might just become a trend …

In general – I have made this pastry wreath about 3 or 4 times already and each time, tweaking it a bit – which means that you too can adapt accordingly.

Courgette & Feta pastry wreath

1 pre-made pastry
1 medium courgette/zucchini/baby marrow – sliced (whatever you call it in your own country)
1 tub boursin – I used the herby version (but any cream cheese version will work)
1/2 block of feta – cubed

  • lay the pastry on a greased piece of baking paper on your baking tray
  • as the pre-made pastry that I had purchased was already round – I only had score the edges and make a star shape cuts in the centre. Be careful that you leave a ring around the centre uncut as this is where your filling will go
  • spoon the cream cheese (boursin) around your uncut ring, top with slices of courgette & feta
  • Fold the pastry over the filling starting with the outside first (see images above for direction)
  • Egg wash if you like… I don’t as I find it browns/burns too quickly
  • Bake for 20-25minutes at 200C

Orange Chocolate Chip Loaf

A few weeks (if not months ago), I was completely inspired by an instagram post that I saw of Finla Noronha (another Belgian based food blogger with the blog “My Kitchen Treasures” which isn’t active in the blogasphere anymore – but I do recommend following her on instagram for drool-worthy food images)…

orange-choc-chip-bread-2

I found the recipe via google using *self raising* in my search as I have run out of normal cake flour (seriously???) on a recipe website called Naïve Cook Cooks => recipe here , however I omitted the orange butter!

It was super easy to make but my only negative comment is that by day 3 it was a bit like a stale scone… but nothing that 10 seconds in the microwave couldn’t fix 🙂

orange-choc-chip-bread-1

Orange Chocolate Chip loaf

3/4 cup of milk
3/4 cup yoghurt
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 Tablespoon orange rind
3 cups self raising flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips

  • Mix together milk, yoghurt, sugar, eggs, orange juice & zest
  • Add flour & mix well
  • fold in chocolate chips
  • Pour into a greased loaf tin
  • Bake for 40-45min at 190C

 

orange-choc-chip-bread-3

White Mushroom Lasagna

A colleague recently reminded me about the HelloFresh concept (weekly delivery of ingredients & recipes for a certain number of meals for the family) and offered for me to try a box on a *free* coupon that she had been given. I had tried the concept in July last year (read the review here) and thought that the concept was pretty good, but I didn’t like the fact that recipes/website were in Dutch only and that there wasn’t much choice when it came to the meals each week.

The good news is that they have evolved!! Although the website is still only available in Dutch or French, you do get an email that allows you download the recipes in English just before your order is delivered. AND you can choose within 10 menu’s that change weekly! (Another bonus is that I notice that their price has remained the same=> 53€ for 5 meals for 2 people)

We got an original box => 5 meals for 2 people. And I have to say that a few of those meals were portioned for 3 rather than 2… meaning that we have some soup in the freezer and HIM or I could have leftovers for lunch the next day. One of those meals was the White Mushroom Lasagna – which was delicious but very filling & rich!

white-mushroom-lasagne

I have never made a béchamel / white sauce like this before – but talk about hiding the vegetables!!

We are currently signed up for a regular original box and I am loving the fact that for a few nights each week, I don’t have to *think* about “What’s for supper?” and the ingredients/groceries required – PLUS it has allowed us to widen our repertoire of cooking (and eating) and increase our vegetable intake. Indeed… we are definitely getting our 5-a-day in now! (I also signed up for their wine box but that is another story :))

This recipe is definitely a make again AND perfect for a vegetarian!

White Mushroom Lasagna
4 portions

1 head of cauliflower
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
200ml single cream
50g cheese, grated
lasagna sheets
500ml vegetable stock
butter
6 Tablespoons flour

  • Cut cauliflower in smaller pieces and using a food processor, make into crumbs
  • Gently fry the onion & garlic & cauliflower in 2 tablespoons of butter for 2minutes in a deep saucepan. Remove from heat
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the same saucepan
  • Stir in the flour, mixing for 2minutes at a medium heat
  • Add stock slowly, mixing well with a whisk to avoid lumps
  • Bring to the boil, then add the cauliflower mix along with the mushrooms to the sauce
  • Add the single cream and 1/3 of the cheese (along with Salt & Pepper to taste)
  • leave on the heat for 2minutes
  • in an oven dish, layer the lasagna sheets & sauce => repeating until all the sauce is used up
  • Sprinkle with remaining cheese
  • Bake at 200C for 20-25minutes

white-mushroom-lasagne-2

Easy Fruit Loaf

I have never been a huge Christmas cake or pudding fan, until recently. Or should I rather say, until I tasted the Christmas pudding Anne (my friend, Sarah’s mum) made! And now I am a convert!

Every year I think I will finally try my hand at making my own … or even my own fruit mince pies… but I never get around to doing it in time for Christmas.

But when I saw this Easy Fruit Loaf recipe in the Snowflake Book of Baking – I thought I could manage this and it didn’t have to be related to the festive season 🙂

easy-fruit-loaf-3

It really is easy to make… and delicious. I would suggest checking it after an hour as I left mine in a little bit too long, making the outside a bit crunchy while the inside still remained deliciously moist and chewy with all that fruit (probably also due to the large amount of butter in it… hee hee). This is a definite make again (even HIM approved)

Easy Fruit Loaf

200g Sugar
250ml milk
250g butter
310g mixed fruit cake mix
1 egg, beaten
350g cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • Place sugar, milk, butter & fruit mix in a saucepan.
  • Bring to the boil, then simmer for 2-3minutes
  • Remove from heat and leave to cool
  • Add beaten egg to mixture
  • Sift in dry ingredients
  • Mix well
  • Pour into greased loaf tin
  • Bake at 160C for 60-70min

easy-fruit-loaf-2

Herby Scone Bread

We hosted some friends for a little brunch in our new place at the beginning of January… when our apartment was still not 100% fully renovated (missing doors on kitchen cabinets & appliances; an empty living area as the couch will only be delivered tomorrow; a toilet in one bathroom and no basin, a basin in one bathroom with no toilet; half painted door frames… etc etc…)

But the oven works …  as seen with the banana yoghurt loaf that I baked => so I decided to also try my hand at this herby scone bread recipe from the *Recipes from a Royal Kitchen* – a cookbook gift from my mommabear long time ago!

herby-scones-1

The secret with any scone mixture is not to work it too much, otherwise you don’t get a good rise. And normally I make mini individual scones, so I was eager to try leaving it as “one whole bread”

The Result? It had a crumbly scone texture but very tasty … and would be taken to the next level with the addition of some strong cheese in the mixture! Would I make it again. Most Probably.

Herby Scone Bread

2 cups cake flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
pinch of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon caster sugar
4 teaspoons dried herbs (or 1/4 cup of chopped fresh herbs)
50g butter (melted)
1/2 cup milk
1 beaten egg with 1 Tablespoon milk for glazing

  • Sift flour, baking powder, bicarb & salt
  • Add caster sugar, herbs & melted butter
  • Add milk & mix lightly to form a soft, sticky dough
  • Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth
  • press into a round shape approx. 3cm thick
  • Place on a greased baking tray and brush with egg/milk mixture
  • Mark into 8 wedges using a knife to cut lightly into the dough
  • Bake at 180C for 20min

herby-scones-2

Banana Yoghurt Loaf

2016 was a crazy busy year (you can read our overview here) and 2017 has started off with a whole lot of *new-ness*… New apartment, newly fitted kitchen (still waiting for the scratched counter top to be replaced and the subway tiles to go up between the counters as a backsplash) and a new car!!

But obviously the most important in terms of this blog is the new kitchen… and a new oven (brand spanking new!!) which obviously needed to be tested. So we baked a Banana Yoghurt Loaf out of the *Recipes from the Royal Kitchen* cookbook by Heilie Pienaar (South African food stylist).

banana-yoghurt-loaf-3

Easy to make and probably ranks up there with the best of the banana bread loaves that I have ever made! And still moist and delicious on day 3 if it lasts that long!

Would I make it again? YES

Banana Yoghurt Loaf

2.5 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
80g butter (room temperature)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 cup plain yoghurt
3 large bananas, peeled & mashed

  • Sift flour, baking powder & salt
  • Rub in butter with fingertips to make a fine crumb
  • Beat eggs & sugar together
  • Add yoghurt to wet mixture
  • Add wet mixture to dry ingredients
  • Fold in mashed bananas until combined
  • Bake in a grease-proof lined loaf tin for 50min at 180C

banana-yoghurt-loaf-2