Cooking for Mom-to-be: a nutrient bomb with trout

A nutrient bomb with trout

A nutrient bomb with trout

This Dad-to-be likes to cook. So, I’m already looking forward to making wonderful meals for baby when the time for eating from a spoon has come. One of the pleasures of that, is that I’m looking around for a good food processor. I need a new one anyway, and this is a good moment to invest a bit in a great kitchen tool. If there’s someone who has some advice, that would be welcome.

In the mean time, Mom-to-be is the one I’m preparing extra healthy and tasty dishes for. And that took a bit getting used to. What are safe foods during pregnancy, which are also giving the best nutrients for baby and are tasty, too? Fortunately, there’s a lot of great information out there on the web. Such as which fatty fish are good. You can not just serve Mom-to-be any sort of fish. You have to be careful with those that are high up there in the food chain. Such as my favorite fish: tuna. Too much mercury in that one, so a no go for Mom-to-be.

Anyway, one fish I found on the list was trout. I only made a dish with that once (not a big success), and I thought it would be nice to give the fish a second chance. From a wonderful looking recipe I found online, I created this super healthy good nutrient bomb of a dish. Almost every element in it, maybe apart from the regular potatoes, contains nutrients that are good for Mom-to-be and for baby in this sauteed trout on a mash of potatoes and sweet potatoes, assorted beans with a bit of carrot, topped off with roasted almond shavings and crispy coppa.

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Drink from the garden: holunder syrup

Elderflower in the garden

Elderflower in the garden

In a corner of the garden of my childhood home, almost like it was hiding, we had an elder tree. When it was in bloom, it would have wonderful parachutes full of flowers. I really liked it. But, just as with the rhubarb we had in our garden, I did not really care for the taste of it. My mother often made elderflower syrup, and its distinct taste was something I didn’t really get used to in the beginning. Contrary to the rhubarb, though, eventually this was a taste that I acquired.

On irregular intervals, the elder tree would come back into my life. Like that period I lived in a street named after it. Or now, in Germany, where during bloom season you not just see the Holunder – as Germans call it – everywhere, but during the whole year you can taste it everywhere. Mostly in drinks. From syrups to beer derivatives (sorry, but I’m not sure yet what else to call Fassbrau). And of course in the summer cocktail from Austria, the Hugo.
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Eating from the garden: rhubarb-sage compote

New stalks are already sprouting on our rhubarb plant

New stalks are already sprouting on our rhubarb plant

Having a garden is a lot of work: mowing the grass, trimming the trees, taking out the parasitic weeds that want to ruin everything. But, it’s also a great joy. What I always thought of, when thinking of living in a house with a garden, was to have at least some edible things growing in it. So, when we made our trip to one of those garden centers recently, we bought several herbs to plant. And some strawberries. The herbs I can use already, the strawberries we have to wait a bit for. Fortunately, there were already some plants growing in the garden, that are meant for consumption. One is a sage bush, that was placed in a not very nice looking pot sort of thing, and I replanted in a small sunny patch of the garden, right next to the rhubarb. Now, we used to have rhubarb in the garden when I grew up, and my mother used to make all sorts of things with it. I just never liked the taste of it. Still, after replanting the sage (and smelling the scents of it), I felt I could try to make something that combined the sage with the rhubarb. There were quite a few stalks growing from the red thing already, and the smell of the few branches of the sage bush that broke off during replanting somehow made me think this could be a great match.

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Three sites to help you avoid eating horsemeat unintentionally

Real meat at restaurant Vincents in Riga

Real meat at restaurant Vincents in Riga

Let me start by saying that selling food means that you have to be clear on what it contains. If you claim your lasagna or burgers or whatever are made of beef, they should contain beef. And not pork or horsemeat. In light of the scandal recently uncovered in Europe, I think the sellers of ready-made meals are responsible for making sure that what’s in the product, is declared on the packaging. I also think that relabeling one type of (cheaper) meat to another (more expensive one), to make an extra profit, is fraudulent and criminal.

But in this horsemeat story, it’s not just the complex food supply chain, or the actors in it that carry all the blame. Nor are, as one former UK official tried to make us believe, the EU regulations culpable. I think we also have to aks ourselves the question: why do we allow ourselves to know so little of such an important factor in our lives? Now that we’ve climbed Maslow’s pyramid, we seem to pay less attention to the bottom of it. Our basic needs have become less important to too many of us. We think they should be fulfilled by convenient and cheap means, and that opens up opportunities for things like the horsemeat scandal to happen. Another question we could ask ourselves is ‘how did we let it get this far?’

There’s actually an even more important question that should feature in our minds prominently now: how can we take control of what we eat again? Sure, not all of us are top chefs, or even able to cook more than an egg and some water for tea or instant soup. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take charge of what we put into our mouths to fulfill that basic need of nutrition. We can care more, and know more, about the food we put on our plates. To help with that, I would like to point out three wonderful places on the internet.

First of all, I’d like you to take a look at the OpenIDEO local food challenge. In 2011, this open innovation platform focused on connecting food consumers to food producers. As is the norm on this platform, many wonderful ideas were generated, that are available for anybody to implement. Now, there are stories available of how people are doing exactly that, and working on enabling food consumers to be more connected to their food. Go check it out and see if you can be inspired.
The OpenIDEO local food challenge: www.openideo.com/open/localfood/

The second thing you should visit is the home of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. The celebrity chef is a wonderful champion of using real food. In schools, but also at home. From food knowledge to easy recipes, this place provides you with all you need to start taking control of the food you eat.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: www.jamiesfoodrevolution.com

The last one I’d like to share is nothing more than a collection of 30-minute recipes from a great variety of sources. Preparing food doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. And it’s certainly worth investing your time in. And if you use real ingredients, at least you know that you’re not eating something you don’t want to eat.
30-minute recipes on Yummly: www.yummly.com/recipes?q=30+minutes

Riga Resto Review: 3 Pavaru, lost in potential

Recently we went to the 3 Pavaru restaurant for the second time. A relative newcomer to the Riga restaurant scene, it has quickly gained quite a reputation. When I walked in to make the first reservation, I have to say I liked what I saw. It’s a spacious, modern-looking restaurant, that has a great atmosphere for an evening out. On our first visit, the restaurant was almost fully booked, so we took places at the bar that overlooks the plating are of the kitchen. Great seats for foodies, because you literally have a look in the kitchen.

Artful display of tasty dips and sauces for bread

Artful display of tasty dips and sauces for bread

The restaurant serves daily fresh meals, which means there is no printed menu, but the staff tell you what’s on offer that day. And on both occasions, the offer was good. After the orders are taken, as in many restaurants, you get served a bit of bread. However, at the 3 Pavaru restaurant, this is something special. On baking paper place-mats they make a small art work of different dips and sauces. They taste and look wonderful. For me, it’s a clear sign of the influence of chef Martins Sirmais, who is one of the 3 chefs from who the name of the restaurant is derived (3 Pavaru means 3 chefs in Latvian).

Veal cheek: great dish, high quality food, addition of human hair not necessary

Veal cheek: great dish, high quality food, addition of human hair not necessary

The food is generally very well prepared and the tastes are very well combined. We tried different starters (Latvian asparagus, burrata, foie gras), and all were definitely worth coming back for. Also the main courses were super, especially the veal cheeks.

Unequality on the plate
So far, so good, for this restaurant. But there is a catch. As said, during our first visit we had a good view of how food was assembled on the plates. Especially when the staff is working on large orders, the plating is inconsistent. Portions vary in size and not all get an equal amount of the best parts of the food. A good example is the asparagus starter. We saw them plate the green and white stalks on them. The thing with asparagus is: green ones have a strong flavour, and taste almost always the same, no matter where they’re from. The white ones are more special. They have a more delicate taste, and quality depends greatly on where they are grown. To me, the best are German and Dutch. The Latvian asparagus are also good. In any case, when they are in season, the ones that make it really special, are good quality white ones. So what you’d expect, is that the plates get at least all the same amount of white asparagus, and get topped off with the green ones. Not in this restaurant. The asparagus were, in a clear disregard of this quality product, randomly put on plates, with the last two plates being assembled clearly getting less than the other plates. Now, if you serve this to different tables, and make sure the portions at one table are similar, you might get away with it. But if you serve the plates that got the least attention and love to the people who can see what you’re doing, something is wrong with your quality and service standards.

Asparagus plate one: 3 green asparagus and at least 5 white ones

Asparagus plate one: 3 green asparagus and at least 5 white ones

Asparagus plate 2: 3,5 green asparagus, 1 whole white one, and 3 bottom-end small chunks of white ones

Asparagus plate 2: 3,5 green asparagus, 1 whole white one, and 3 bottom-end small chunks of white ones

Customers can be difficult people
What makes it even worse, is that the service in this restaurant is great, until you have a question or a complaint as a customer. Getting served those starters, of course I mentioned something about it to the waitress. Her response was one of looking at my puzzled and trying to get away as quickly as possible, without a serious reply to my question other than some mumbling. Now I understand that complaining customers are a pain, but not addressing the issue at hand at all, and just walking away is simply wrong. This could have been a solitary example of someone having a bad day. And I was ready to forget about this, because the food tastes so good. However, on our second visit, something similar happened. This time it was a bit more serious, as I found a human hair in my veal cheeks. Again, the food tasted good, and clearly had seen enough heat to kill any bad bacteria that could have been holding on to that hair, so I did not let it ruin my meal. But I put the hair aside on my plate, and when it was taken away, I pointed the waiter to it. No response. When our other waiter later came to ask if everything had been fine and if we wanted some desert, I mentioned the hair to him. He was shocked, called it uncomfortable, said he hoped it hadn’t ruined my appetite and… left it at that. No apologies. No, what would happen in a restaurant that cares about service, quality and customers, offering of a free coffee. Nothing.

Better service will make this restaurant worth a visit
The three chefs at restaurant 3 Pavaru clearly know what and how to cook, but if they keep service at this level, I don’t think it will ever be the success their cooking deserves. And as long as service is not improved, you’re better of at some of the other restaurants in Riga that have great food and great service.

Restaurant 3 Pavaru
Torna iela 4
reservations: +371 20370537
3pavari.lv

An artichoke experiment

Recently, I bought some artichoke hearts. At least, that’s the best way I can describe them. Now, I know what to do with artichokes, or canned artichoke hearts (no, I don’t buy them, I just know what to do with them). But this version was new to me.

Artichokes, in a form I hadn't used before

Artichokes, like I had not used before

Normally, when I find myself in a position like this, the web helps. But, since I prefer recipes in Dutch, and in The Netherlands you buy artichoke hearts in a can, it proved to be a bigger challenge. Anyway, I found a recipe. With step-by-step instructions and pictures. Seemed good, so I gave it a go, preparing stewed artichoke hearts.

First step was to clean them. Unfortunately, the instructions on said website looked easier than it was. I did no know where to stop. I removed all the tougher leaves, but had the idea that wasn’t enough. So, with one I removed more, deciding halfway through that process that it might not have been the best idea. Or was it?

Artichokes, cleaned. But did I do enough or not?

Artichokes, cleaned. But did I do enough or not?

For the stew, I chopped some garlic cloves, a bit of yellow bell pepper, skinned a few tomatoes and removed the hard kernel. In some olive oil I fried the garlic with bell pepper for a bit, then added the tomato, artichokes and a it of tomato puree from a pack. I also added a few chopped leaves of basil.

Everything in the pan, ready for some stewing

Everything in the pan, ready for some stewing

Then I let it stew for about half an hour, and served it with potatoes and steak. The end result was reasonable, I thought, although I left too much leaves on it. Maybe I produce something better next time.

The end result: too much leaves in it

The end result, too much leaves in it

From the water: dishes shared on #ShareDish Wednesday 2

ShareDish is about passion for food, and sharing the things you like. Maybe even with a recipe. The second ShareDish Wednesday took place last week. Here’s an look back on the wonderful dishes shared. Be sure to join us for ShareDish Wednesday 3, on 7 March. Theme to be revealed on Twitter and of course the ShareDish Facebook page.

My ShareDish: Crispy Fragrant Prawns, a Jamie Oliver recipe

For the second ShareDish Wednesday I made Crispy Fragrant Jumbo Prawns, a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Cook with Jamie book. They’re delicious, and super easy to make.

First, you get some nice big tiger prawns. Fresh, of course.

Fresh tiger prawns

Fresh tiger prawns, straight from the sea

For the crispy, fragrant jacket, you need to have some bread crumbs, and mix some lemon zest, grated parmesan, fresh coriander and a bit of olive oil into it.

Bread crumbs mixture

Bread crumbs mixture

When you have that, you can let it work a bit. In the mean time, you can clean the prawns. Chop off the head, remove the scales (I leave the last bit and the tail on), and cut open the back to remove the little intestine that’s there.

Cleaned prawns

Cleaned prawns

To coat the prawns, you need something to make the bread crumbs stick. In the original recipe, it’s egg. I added a bit of milk to that before whisking it, to keep the end result a bit more moist.

Egg and milk, the glue for the crust

Egg and milk, the glue for the crust

Take the prawns by the tail, pull them through the egg/milk mix and then through the bread crumb mix. Put them on an oven tray covered with baking paper.

Prawns ready for the oven

Prawns ready for the oven

Bake them in the oven (at aboout 200º C) until they look ready. Pink tails and a golden jacket. It will take about 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Crispy fragrant jumbo prawns

Crispy fragrant jumbo prawns

My New Year’s resolution: use the pasta machine more

Recently I rediscovered the joy of making my own pasta, and decided to make use my pasta machine more often in 2012. To be honest, I made some mistakes, but the end result was still quite tasty. The biggest issue with my mushroom raviolis was that the pasta was too thick. Anyway, I thought this was a good dish to use for the New Year theme of the first #ShareDish Wednesday.

My pasta machine

My pasta machine rediscovered

Making pasta is quite easy. You have to get the right flour, add an egg for every 100 grams and knead it into a nice and smooth dough. Then let it rest for a bit in the refrigerator. Take it out and use parts of it to roll them into thin sheets with the pasta machine.

For the filling of my raviolis I used some portobello mushrooms, which I cut up in small pieces, and I stir-fried these with some onion, garlic, bacon and chili. This I put in small piles on one sheet of pasta, and then covered it with another one, pressing the sheets together in the spaces between the piles of filling.

Piles of mushroom filling

Piles of mushroom filling

Then I cut the raviolis into separate pieces. Simply using a knife this time. I made rather big ones, because I did not want to cut the portobellos to finely. You can also use a shape or a special ravioli cutter of course. I made sure the edges were tightly pressed together, so that they wouldn’t come loose during the cooking.

Raviolis ready for cooking

Raviolis ready for cooking

The raviolis were then put into some boiling water for a few minutes. You can see when they’re ready, because they turn nicely pasta-white. But if you make enough, you can of course also try one to see when they’re done. I served the raviolis with stuffed pork tenderloin and grilled green asparagus.

Portobello raviolis with stuffed pork tenderloin and grilled green asparagus

Portobello raviolis with stuffed pork tenderloin and grilled green asparagus

Food lovers and home chefs: Share your dishes in 2012 with #ShareDish

As 2011 is drawing to a close, Françoise Lin and I are working on a great new project for 2012: #ShareDish. Being passionate home chefs, foodies and travelers, we thought it a great idea to create a monthly forum, on which people can share their dishes.

Every first Wednesday of the month will be #ShareDish Wednesday. We will set a theme, and ask you, our fellow food lovers, home chefs and travelers, to make a dish that fits the theme, take a photo of it, and share that photo (plus the recipe, of course) through Twitter or Facebook. Obviously, you can use earlier work, especially if you have blogged about your creations before, and don’t hold back: you can share as many dishes as you like.

For those that feel less comfortable in the kitchen: you’re welcome to join in with dishes you have enjoyed, but which are made by others.

Oh, and before I forget: make sure the photos and recipes you share are your own, or give credit to the source.

The first #ShareDish Wednesday will be on 4 January 2012, with the theme ‘New Year’. We thought it fits nicely with the time of year, and a new project. Any types of dish photos are welcome, whether it is a traditionally French Galette des Rois, or a dish you made for the first time. Feel free to interpret the theme as it inspires you! Françoise and I will be hosting the first #ShareDish Wednesday, but if you want to join us next time, let us know. We can use your help.

To follow #ShareDish Wednesday, search for it on Twitter and like our Facebook Page.