Stock.

Vegetables. They’re tasty, versatile, good for you and something you should have on a daily basis. When you cook with fresh vegetables, you tend to end up with quite some “vegetable waste” however.

Did you know you can easily give your vegetable waste a new use by making stock out of them?

Stock, or broth if you wish, is a key ingredient that can be used as a base for soups, pasta, sauces and stews. You should always have some handy and with this recipe, you can.

Vegetable scraps and peels make a great broth. When you are cleaning and preparing your vegetables, put those aside instead of throwing them on the compost heap right away. If you don’t have enough scraps after one meal, why not store them temporarily in a plastic container or zipper bag in your fridge? That way, you can save up on scraps.

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Everyday I’m simmerin’

  • To make your stock, put all your vegetable scraps in a large pot, usually the one you use to make soup and add water until they are submerged.
  • Add your own favourite seasonings: pepper, salt, chilli, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, garlic cloves, …
  • Now bring it to boil and then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Leave it be for about an hour.
  • Strain the vegetables out and you’ll be left with a great vegetable stock. Use it right away, or freeze it for later use.

 

Lock, stock and barrel tips

  • Some vegetables, like celery, tend to overrule others with their taste. Experiment and learn how you like it by adding or cutting down on some vegetables.
  •  Tomatoes will add acidity and colour to your stock, mushrooms and potatoes give it more body.
    Want a sweeter stock? Why not experiment with sweet corn or baby carrots?
    For a bit more spice, you can go with onions, bell peppers or chilli’s.
  • If you want a nice, clear stock, you can strain it through a nettle cloth or tea towel.

It’s all good!

Egg.

Eggs. They are miraculous little bundles and awesomely versatile in the kitchen. From pastries to doughs, scrambled or boiled, eggs go a long way.

Today, I’ll share one of my own favourite egg recipes. This dish does not just look great, it is a taste explosion in your mouth.
It’s quite easy to make and doesn’t take all that long.

It’s my Spanish Eggs!

Ingredients

  • about four, free-range eggs from happy chickens to cater two adults.
  • four small potatoes, rubbed clean, skin still on.
  • chorizo (great, spanish spicy sausage)
  • a few rosemary twigs
  • pepper and salt
  • olive oil or butter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olé!

  • slice the chorizo about 0,5 centimeters. Don’t fuss, it isn’t mathematics.
  • add your olive oil or butter to a pan and heat. Don’t overdo it, the chorizo will release it’s own fat.
  • clean-rub your potatoes and half or quarter them in smaller chunks. Boil them in salted water until done.
  • bake the chorizo and potatoes for a few minutes on a high fire.
  • put the potatoes and chorizo aside, letting them rest.
  • rip the rosemary leaves of the twigs and throw them into the boiling fat of the chorizo in your pan. They are done when curled and colouring.

Now to our eggs

  • whisk the eggs until you have a smooth, yellow mass
  • season with black pepper from the mill before you pour it in the pan with the rosemary, throwing the chorizo and potatoes as well.
  • whack the pan in the oven, which you have preheated full force.
  • your eggs will go soufllé on you and double in size. Keep an eye on the eggs and when nicely golden on top, pull it out and serve.

Que Aproveche!

Ice.

No idea what the weather is like in your home town, but here in Western-Europe, we have had quite some period with heat now. Cooking is not the most favourite thing to do in these temperatures…unless…

This weather is ideal to talk ice cream!

Ice creams and sorbets are actually quite easy to make, but seem to impress people quite alot when you serve a home-made ice cream.
No wonder, since you can pick and tweak the flavours to your own taste and be sure you’re working with excellent ingredients.

Normally, ice cream is made with eggs, amongst other things. I always included them as well, until I recently learned it isn’t needed at all.
Less calories, more taste, what’s there not to like?

I’ll share two of my home-made recipes with you, but feel free to experiment with flavours you like.

Rhubarb ice cream

It’s rhubarb season and while alot of people tend to shy away from it, it is a truly versatile little plant to have about.
A classic component for preserves and jams, but why not try rhubarb ice cream? The acidity of the rhubarb balances perfectly with the sweetness of the sugar. Even rhubarb-haters can not turn away from this delicious ice cream!

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Ingredients

  • 500 grams rhubarb
  • 250 grams caster sugar
  • 150 ml cream

Gelatti!

  • Skin and chop the rhubarb into small pieces, putting it into a pot along with the sugar and put the lid on. Boil until it goes soft.
  • Run the cream into the ice-cream maker until it goes slightly thick.
  • Spoon in the rhubarb into the maker gradually and leave to mix. Once it has a thick consistency and the rhubarb and the cream has completely mixed pour into a freezer tight container and freeze.

Coffee ice cream

I’m a big coffee fan, but even a die-hard caffeine addict like me can’t always be tempted with a hot brew on summer days. An excellent replacement is making your own coffee ice cream, just the way you like it!

Ingredients

  • About 250 ml hot coffee. Feel free to experiment with different blends and beans.
  • About 125 g of white sugar
  • About 250 ml of cream

Frap that Cino!

  • Stir the sugar through the hot coffee until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let the coffee cool down.
  • Run the cream into the ice-cream maker until it goes slightly thick.
  • Gradually pour in the coffee into the cream and leave the ice cream maker running, until all of the coffee is mixed with the cream.
    Once it has a thick consistency, pour into a freezer tight container and freeze.

Depending on how you like your coffee, you can add more coffee or take away some sugar and/or cream to your own taste.
Why not serve with one or two coffee beans on top?!

Yes, sounds delicious, but not everyone has an ice cream maker, you know!

Very true!

Now, the only thing an ice cream maker does is keeping your mixture moving while it slowly freezes. This prevents ice crystals forming and gives your ice cream a better taste. If you’re up for it, you can still make ice cream yourself, using only that other magical kitchen utensil: the wooden spoon!

Spoon all ingredients into a freezer tight container, mixing them well. Slide into the fridge and every half an hour, you go back to firmly stir it all through again. You keep repeating this process until you can’t stir any longer and the ice cream is frozen.

This can take quite a while, mind you (several hours).

Tomato.

With the summer vegetable season well on its’ way now, I found us having an abundance of tomatoes. Tomatoes are incredibly versatile and I could share so many recipes on how to use them in soup, sun dry them, make sauces and the like.

I’ll go with the absolute basic though and share my recipe for tomato sauce. Tomato sauces are a great base to have at hand: they are easily turned into a hot or cold soup, you can use them with pasta, make a pizza layer from them, …

You should always have a tomato sauce base in your freezer, period! :)

And while it might seem a dull dish to make, I’ll give it a twist today and share you how I make a ‘tomato passata’.

Ready to go in the oven!

Ready to go in the oven!

 

Ingredients:

  • Tomatoes…the more, the merrier
  • One or two onions
  • Some garlic
  • Any garden herbs you have at hand or growing at the moment
  • A teaspoon of sugar
  • Salt and pepper from the grinder
  • Some olive oil

Passata!

  • Slice the tomatoes in two…don’t bother to clean the seeds out or peel them. Just remove any greens.
  • Roughly chop the onions, garlic and garden herbs up. (thyme, oregano, rosemary, …)
  • Put the tomatoes on a baking tray, the cut side facing up.
  • Sprinkle all the chopped ingredients over and between them.
  • Do the same with the sugar, add salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle the olive oil over the tomatoes.

Preheat your oven on 180° Celsius and slide the tray in, leaving it there for about an hour to grill.

Take them out and pour it all in a foodmill. Pass it through, milling until a relatively dry paste of tomato skin, seeds and whatever’s left remains. You’ll now have a delicious tomato sauce. Bring it to boil quick and short and you’re ready to go!

Jump.

Finally some time off from work: two weeks to be exactly. And what better way to start these holidays than to jump into a local river?

No, I wasn’t drunk and I did not go (entirely) crazy. Today was the ‘Big Jump’, a yearly event in Belgium and in fact alot of Europe to campaign for clean water and rivers.

Did you know that, in Belgium, 80% of our waste water gets cleaned already, before it flows back into the wild. Clean rivers mean healthy rivers. These waters caused the return of the otter, the beaver and even a local species of dolphin and seal. It means fish, water insects, bird- and plantlife and so much more.

Healthy rivers mean healthy people.

80% is good, but it’s not a 100% just yet. And that’s why the Big Jump is organized.

Together with alot of campaigners, I jumped the river Dijle in Malines, my hometown. Under a blazing sun and with water temperatures of 20° Celsius, it was actually quite a nice plunge.

Just don’t swallow the water ;)

Onion & Cheese.

Too many onions…so what do you do with them? Time for a delicious onion soup, topped off with cheese toast. Pure comfort food, if you ask me.

The following recipe serves about 4.

Ingredients:

  •  10 onions
  • A stick of butter
  • 1 litre fresh chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 leaves of laurel
  • Black pepper from the grinder
  • Grated cheese (Swiss Emmental for example)
  • 4 slices of toast
Onion soup, with a floating cheese and toast island. Simply delicious and ready in the blink of an eye.

Onion soup, with a floating cheese and toast island. Simply delicious and ready in the blink of an eye.

Get choppin’!

  • Clean the onions, slice them in half, then slice them in fine rings
  • Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the onions slowly until they are golden.
  • Put the fried onions in a kettle and add the stock. Add thyme and laurel.
  • Leave to simmer for about half an hour.
  • Taste and season with salt and black pepper to your own taste
  • Heat the oven, 90-100 degrees should do it. Add baking paper to your tray or grill.
  • Top each of the toast slices with a royal sprinkling of cheese
  • In they go for a few minutes until the cheese has molten.
  • Serve the soup in bowls, add a slice of cheese toast on top.

Bon appétit!

Ape.

A friend of mine read about our little sustainability-quest on this blog and send me a little app to make the ride more fun: GreenApes.

Ape-ify yourself and start scoring nuts!

Ape-ify yourself and start scoring nuts!

It’s a fun little game that lets you score everyday activities such as taking a shower, cooking a meal, commute to work or doing the laundry.

Depending on how sustainable you undertake these activities, you earn ‘nuts’.  You can mingle with other ‘apes’, challenge others to competitions, ask questions and get answers from the community, etc.

It’s supported by a handful of scientific centres studying sustainability all over the world. It’s a fun little tidbit, especially when you’re an app freak like me. Feel free to send me a message to link up as a fellow Ape.

Market.

As I already mentioned earlier, our goal is to change the way we consume.

We stocked up on bulk goods such as toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, … in our local supermarket last week and set out for our weekly shopping to the farmer’s market and local stores last Saturday. I will only say this: I’m even more convinced about how great this idea was now!

As an added bonus, on top of all the great products, less waste, less left-overs, greener consumption, there’s the social element as well. I think half of the time we spend on doing our groceries this way, was spent on conversation with shopkeepers and farmers. I admit, having the cute baby with us did help ;)

I will let the photos tell the rest of the tale.

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Herbs.

I always try to have fresh herbs around, either indoors in the kicthen, or in the garden. Fresh herbs simply can’t be beat by any of their dried counterparts in my opinion.

A herb patch in the garden or a herb corner in your kitchen isn’t all that difficult. You don’t need huge amounts of gardening expertise,
with just a few pointers, you’re on your way already.

I’ll try to share a few of my own ‘tricks’:

  • Grow what you eat.

    I see alot of people starting with a wide array of different herbs, but when you ask them what they will be using them for, they have no idea.
    If you don’t use it already today (dried or fresh), then why should you grow it? Make a list of the most used herbs and spices in your kitchen and start from there.

  • G(r)o(w) with the flow.

    Sometimes you need alot of something. At other times, you need just a pinch. Your herbs keep growing though, at more or less the same pace, the year long. Don’t harvest too much at the same time: it will limit the survival chances of your plants. On the other hand, harvest and prune even if you don’t need it right away. Don’t let your plants grow wild just because you just arn’t making that dish right now.

  • Dry fresh, freshly dried.
    Herbs & oil make handy herb cubes for future cooking.

    Herbs & oil make handy herb cubes for future cooking.

    Continuing on that same sentiment, there’s no need to let good herbs go to waste. If you have an abundance, why not dry them yourself for later use? Freshly, home-dried herbs still taste so much better than the ones that sit on the standard herb&spice rack.

    Not all herbs can be dried, but there are other solutions. Chop them up and take out an icecube tray. Fill the different ‘cubes’ with chopped up herbs and pour over olive oil. You can even experiment with mixing several herbs together this way. Once ready, they go into the freezer. Now you’ll always have herb cubes at the ready when you’re cooking.

  • Be creative.

    Herbs are for cooking, but that doesn’t mean they always need to go into the pot or pan. Lemon grass and basil for example, can be used to flavour olive oils: wash them until clean, stick them into a glass bottle and fill with the olive oil. Let it rest and you’ll have a deliciously flavoured cooking oil in a week or so.

    Rosemary is a well known herb, but has other uses as well in and around the kitchen: dry the sprigs and throw them into the BBQ fire. It gives a deliciously scented smoke, which adds to the flavour. Is your rosemary starting to grow woody like a bush ? These twigs make great skewers for meat and vegetables, adding their flavour as you roast them.

Herbs is all about experimenting and having fun. They can turn a simple tomato sauce into a feast for all senses with just the sprinkle of your fingers. If you don’t have some around already, I’d say: look into them. They are definately worth it!