Sunday, 20 October 2013

Blueberry Cheesecake (No-Bake)

It looks pretty amazing, huh? 

Jonathan decided to practice his (non-)baking skills and we (a.k.a. The Westgina House, yes I went there) were the lucky recipients! I snapped some shots, before we dug in, to immortalise the cake (hello, Andre Bazin) and practice some food photography/styling. 

I say styling, I mean how the hell am I gonna make this cake look as luscious in digital as it is in crumb? In this tiny kitchen with a large house blocking any natural light and actually pretty boring dishware? In the end, I think these couple of pics do it justice. And I learned something about light and glossy plates. 

J. used and slightly changed a lemon cheesecake recipe from Allrecipes.

- 1 squeezed lemon
- 150g of blueberries
- 250g of melting chocolate

Add 3/4 of the blueberries as whole and squeeze 1/4 into the mix.
Melt 200g of chocolate into the mix, top with 50g into a swirly effect.

A tip well-known, but worthy of reiterating: Before you start slicing wash the knife with hot water. The cake will be less sticky and you'll get smooth cuts.

I wish I had a photography/styling mentor. So far it is hit and miss. I need to read up some literature.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Halloumi and Spinach Curry with Couscous

This has been one of my favourite vegetarian recipes so far. It is simple (couscous), healthy (spinach), and delicious (halloumi).

I've never heard of halloumi until my housemate Yusuf promised to make me his best vegetarian dish. He made an amazing halloumi chili which sparked my interest in this particular type of cheese.

While visiting my family in Ostrava earlier this year, I looked for halloumi in the shops, but to no avail. Supermarkets don't sell them, stores specialised in Greek cuisine had gone bankrupt years ago (no surprise). This is something I miss in the Czech Republic - a variety of food stemming from the UK's multicultural society. Czechland is still too homogeneous for me, although this is changing (slowly). However, I do like Czech cuisine itself and I intend to blog some authentic recipes in the near future!

For those who don't know: halloumi is a cheese which does not melt under high temperatures. It is similar to paneer, but more salty and often infused with herbs. The other day I bought a chili flavoured pack of halloumi (since I am making an Indian dish anyway duh), but it was waaay too racy for my taste buds. I usually do nibble at it uncooked when I'm hungry and cooking is taking too long, but the flavour does not come out until heated. It works like mozzarella actually. I never understood why people eat raw mozzarella (e.g. in salads) since there's barely any taste to it. Although I may be buying shitty non-organic brands...

The truth is I have fallen in love with halloumi. I found a couple of related recipes, but Emily's Halloumi and Spinach Curry on Fuss Free Cooking is by far my favourite. I originally made it with brown rice according to her recipe, but after trying it with couscous I sticked to the latter (something about its texture). I also attempted to replace spinach with broccoli (this was my rather embarrassing let's-learn-to-love-broccoli phase), but spinach is indeed the better choice. Nothing against broccoli though, I am starting to see something in you. Kinda.

Halloumi and Spinach Curry with Couscous 

1 cup of couscous
2 - 3 onions
Frozen spinach
Coconut oil
Tomato puree
Garlic puree
Salt, black pepper, coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, chili

See original recipe for instructions, but first learn to cook couscous here!

1) Pour a cup of dry couscous into a pot.

I usually measure couscous in this neat, small cup from my broken flask! I like it.

2) Boil some water in an electric kettle and pour a little of it into the pot. The water level should be approx. 1 cm above the couscous. You do not need any flame to cook the couscous itself, just heat from the water. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper, stir, and quickly cover with a lid. If you end up with moist couscous after pouring too much water, place the pot on some heat and stir it while the moisture evaporates. (I find wet couscous a bit icky...) My friend Hana also melts some butter over her couscous if you're looking for extra flavours!

Naturally, most of our pots are missing their lids. 
3) Set pot aside and make the curry. It takes approx. 10 minutes for the couscous to cook.


I dislike plastic packets which make me spill couscous/rice/quinoa/whatever everywhere. So I nicked some empty sauce bottles off my housemates to use as containers. 
Yeah, I have a thing for recycling.
A funnel made from the top part of a plastic bottle. 

Chopping up halloumi

At first, I got worried, because it was hissing a lot (like popcorn) and releasing juices.
Is my halloumi melting? Did I break it somehow??
But after a while it started browning up. Lots of stirring needed here!

What do you think?

It looks marvelous, no?

Monday, 5 August 2013

Berrytown, UK

For the past week or so I have been trekking back and forth Coventry in search of a new home. My 11-month contract has finished and I need to find my first post-university accommodation. It has been a bit disheartening to see the unimpressed looks on landlords' faces as they learned I do not have a job at the moment. I understand their viewpoint completely. Their skepticism is a bit hurtful though.

I trekked to nearly all the booked houses, because... I love walking. Simple as that. The fresh air calms my mind. I like being surrounded by greenery and birdsong.

The other day, on my way to Earlsdon, I noticed a beautiful, succulent blackberry hanging in front of me over a fence. After inspecting it for flaws I looked beyond the plant to find many, many blackberry shrubs colonising the unkept land! From all that chaos burst beautiful ripe blackberries.

I returned with my camera.

Just hanging in there.

Some still need time.

Others need care.

Who would have thought to look for berries here?

Can you spot them?


... but protected by thorns.

A beauty... with a friend! I wish I had noticed the insect on the leaf at the time. 
They would have made a lovely picture. 

Who would have known Coventry was Berrytown? And why is nobody eating them? I know I'm coming for seconds.

Friday, 12 July 2013

(Frosty) Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

So dudes and dudettes I have been mentally prepping myself to make these babies all year. I came across the recipe on Joanne's blog Eats Well With Others at some point in September and felt like I needed more experience before I attempt at making them.

Now the end of the academic year and my university studies altogether have arrived and so has the time to pick out that recipe from my delicious account. (At the time of its creation in 2005 little did I know I will end up using it mainly for food - fitting much? Its methuselahian age is also the reason why I won't share my profile with you - who knows what atrocities saved by my fourteen-year-old self you would find? *shudder*)

Indeed, we still have leftover food from our housemates who had moved out circa two weeks ago. Housemate Anthony suggested the other day for me to bake something in order to use up the available baking ingredients. By that time he had already made Madeira cake and flapjacks so I could not fall behind too much!
We had everything we needed for Chocolate Chip Brownies in the house apart from chocolate (obvs doesn't last long in my possession) and butter. I would have preferred to alter some ingredients of the original recipe (such as spelt flour for wheat as in my oatmeal pancakes), but the working conditions were clear: Use what the house gives you! (to paraphrase the Czech idiom co dům dal)

I will not bother rewriting the full instructions as you can easily check them out on the original post (with insanely delicious photography, might I add). However, I will point out a couple of things.
As a European born and bred I am easily confused by cups and ounces (happens often). For people like me I posted the converted measurements below. (I find The Metric Kitchen as probably the most useful website for these situations. Do you know any other good conversion websites? Or perhaps a tool, mnemonic device, to remember the system?)

I was surprised to learn that chocolate chip cookie dough does not require any eggs. All you need is a bit of milk to achieve the sticky texture.
Has my whole life been a lie? I've always made my CCC with eggs which prevented me from licking my hands because (in my eyes) raw eggs equals salmonellosis. I know some people do it anyway, but that goes against my upbringing. So, my dear reader, note that this was the first time in my life I actually tasted CCC dough. I guess there's a first time for everything...

If you're familiar with Joanne's recipe, you will notice a small change in the title - chilled. 
The brownies ended up being surprisingly heavy. I ate one half of my first brownie and had to take a break before getting back to the other. I certainly wasn't expecting this outcome! I started questioning my one-brownie-a-day eating plan. In order to preserve their freshness, I froze the rest of the batch in a food container. And that's when the magic happened.
Of course the next day I got my usual sugar cravings. Instead of turning to my usual grapes, raisins or white yogurt I took out a frozen brownie. I could not wait for too long though and nibbled at it still cold. *drum roll* It was wonderful! Kinda crunchy, less sticky on the fingers in the current British heat, and it reminded me of ice cream!

Therefore I recommend to all of you to serve the brownies chilled, approximately five minutes after taking it out of the freezer. It is so worth the wait.

Ha! I did not forget to include anything this time!

(Frosty) Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

70g flour
120g brown sugar
80g unsalted butter
100g chocolate
2 eggs
1tbs cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp salt

@ 180 ºC

90g flour
90g brown sugar
50g caster sugar
120g unsalted butter
80g chocolate chips
2 tbs hemp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt (Do people actually measure this? Or do you use your instinct like me?)

2 tbs unsalted butter
100g chocolate


Mixing flour with cocoa and salt.

I love how easy it is to measure butter due to the design of the packing! Also note how hot it was during the day. 

I first melted the butter and then added blocks of chocolate. 

Flour + cocoa + salt followed by butter + chocolate + eggs + vanilla extract in one bowl. Brown sugar in the other.

Brownie dough ready for the oven! I used an aluminium pan for its shape and easy brownie removal. 

Mixing chocolate chip cookie dough with hands as tradition. I was getting worried there is not enough to fill the pan, but it worked out well. 

Making chocolate chips. I don't buy manufactured ones as it takes away from the homemade feel. This method is also cheaper and presents a good practice in patience. I recommend to warm up the chocolate a little (takes place naturally in hot weather or bring close to the stove) and tilt the bar sideways (as pictured) for easy cutting. 

Brownie base is done!

Layers from bottom to top: brownies, chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate glaze.

Refrigerated sufficiently :)

Om nom nom nom nom!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

It's Going Like Spaghetti Carbonara

A post at last! I've become fairly lazy the past couple of days when it comes to eating. Many of my housemates had gone home (I miss you already!) and left quite a substantial amount of food in the house. Therefore I ended up making the strangest food combos, many of them involving crispbread.
However, I soon had come to crave proper food and decided to make some spaghetti carbonara utilising left over eggs.

I know there are various ways of making carbonara. I used to make the amazing traditional version with bacon back before I became a vegetarian. It was an intensely caloric dish as well and made me feel fatter the very next day! Nevertheless, people change and I decided to try my first veggie carbonara. No recipe, just common sense cooking.

What do I need?

Whole wheat spaghetti ... I always buy whole wheat products (pasta, bread) for extra nutrients (Vitamin B 1-3) and the om nom taste. It's come so far that I don't actually like white bread anymore. I find it too sweet.

Eggs ... Thanks, Chris! They actually passed their expiration date 1 1/2 weeks ago, but I employed the ancient water test. And they seem fine!

There's less water in the second pic because Archimedes.

Mushrooms ... are an indispensable part of my pasta dishes as they go extremely well with cheese. I remember being fairly confused about mushrooms when I first arrived in the UK. They are all called... mushrooms! In the Czech Republic, many families engage in the traditional mushroom picking which requires knowledge of their individual names, forms, toxicity and place of growth. The term houby refers to the group itself, not a specific type. I've never been a big mushroom lover, but luckily it's fairly easy to identify Tesco's mushrooms as žampióny

Gorgonzola ... My usual choice for carbonara is good old cheddar as it blends well with sauce when heated. However, Ms. G does feature in one of the best cheese memories of my life: One Venetian evening in August 2012, I ordered gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. Mind was blown on that day, I tell ya. (Note to self: Must re-create soonish.) In hopes of experiencing the pure awesomeness once again, I picked gorgonzola to be my cheese base for today. 

Broccoli ... I was a die hard spinach fan for most of my veggie life, but I knew the day will come when I had to learn to accept broccoli into my life. I started slowly - boiling it and mixing it into sauces to the point where I cannot tell it is actually there. Like baby food. 
This is one of the recipes. 

Arugula ... I basically put arugula into everything I eat. I love its peppery taste, so unusual for a green. One week I tried substituting it with watercress, but nevermore. Watercress may have a nutritional advantage in many ways, but I shall remain an arugula woman. 

Garlic ... is one my favourite foods on this planet. The more, the better. I have yet to eat a dish with too much garlic in it. I actually think that relationships work on a garlic compatibility. What can be sexier than garlic breath (or a person who accepts you the way you are: with constant garlic breath)? 
Although Daria makes a fair point as well. 

Black olives ... Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Black olives. The Charlie's Angels of my food world. 

Um okay, this post is becoming worryingly intimate. This is the reason I need a blog. So I don't end up talking like this in front of people. 
Here are the instructions. 

Let's play "Spot the ingredient Kristina forgot to include in the pre-cooking pic" game. The first one to comment accurately wins... a cookie.

Spaghetti Carbonara

2 eggs
3 closed cup mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic
3 medium-sized broccoli florets
Whole wheat spaghetti
Black olives
Coconut oil
Hemp milk
Basil, nutmeg, white pepper, salt

1) Cook spaghetti. I usually boil the water in an electric kettle for time-saving purposes. I used to break the sticks in halves to fit them in the pot, but waiting for the lower half to soften and then pushing the rest inside is waaay more fun. And you get full-sized spaghetti.
Add a pinch of salt for taste.

2) Dice mushrooms and fry them up on coconut oil until soft. You can tell they are ready when you are able to cut them in half with a wooden (plastic) spoon. 

3) Cook broccoli. I recommend purchasing it frozen as the majority of the nutrients are not lost and you can store more for later!

Why do I keep seeing humanoid figures in my meals? Have I been watching too much Hannibal

4) Mash garlic. The garlic press is probably my second favourite kitchen appliance, right after the god-almighty blender of course! (How is there no hilarious blender-related Futurama pic anywhere on Google? I am disappointed. And inspired.)

5) Crack eggs into a bowl and mix with a fork. Cut the gorgonzola and boiled broccoli into small pieces. Add both into the bowl followed by mushrooms, mashed garlic, arugula (torn into small pieces) and spices. Dilute with a bit of hemp milk if you wish.

6) Rinse spaghetti under cold water to prevent stickiness.

7) Place spaghetti on the frying pan and pour the carbonara mixture on top. Mix well with wooden spoon under medium heat until sauce solidifies. 

8) Decorate with black olives for extra om nominess! :) 

Yummy meal, but the G-magic did not happen. I guess we'll always have Venice... 

Illustrative recipe TBC! 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Sweet Sweet Baadasssss Oatmeal Pancakes

Yes, this food blog will most probably feature movie puns as they are the one thing I love more than food itself. Perhaps I should add food puns to my film reviews?
I think I just challenged myself.

There are several reasons behind my decision to start writing a blog about cooking/baking/food-hunting/anything related really:

1) If you know me just a bit, you also know how much I love talking about food. So much I'm getting worried I may be annoying you. Therefore this page will function as a medium for my food craze and, hopefully, I won't have the need to inform everybody I live with on how wonderful coconut oil is. Or it will make me even more crazy. It's too early to tell. Boo!

2) Words. I used to write them a lot before falling in love with the motion picture (age 15) and completely redirecting my attention from the written to the filmed. I wish to get back into the habit. Word.

3) I can cook and I can type, but there's one new skill I'm meaning to take up - photography. What is a documentary filmmaker who does not take photographs? I've been telling myself so for the past two years. I think food photography will be a nice starting point.

4) Lately, I've been obsessed with visualisations. So I decided to take up Adobe Illustrator and contribute to the fairly unknown area of food infographics. Check out the cheat sheet I prepared for you at the bottom of the page. You can download/print/do whatever you with it. I personally like to save recipes in image formats for easy access.

So to completely undermine my third point I took lazy photos of yesterday's dinner with a mobile in a badly lit/-tered kitchen. Don't judge me!

Jonno and I decided to check out Beth's Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes while modifying them a bit. I've been wanting to learn a healthy version of pancakes for ages! The original recipe says it serves four, but I decided to double the amounts as:

1) I accidentally ate tomorrow's plane snack for lunch and needed to prepare something new for the journey.
2) When given pancakes, I will eat A LOT of them.

Okay, okay, enough chit-chat (or banter as they call it here), voilà recipe.

Sweet Sweet Baadasssss Oatmeal Pancakes

1 1/2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
2 eggs
2 tbs brown sugar
3 tbs butter
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
Hemp milk*
Coconut oil*
Shredded coconut*

Honey, ice cream, maple sirup, nutella, walnuts, yogurt, whatever makes your taste buds tingle

*If the recipe doesn't contain a particular dosage, I simply used my instinct. You'll see how much you need during the process.

1) Soak oats in hemp milk for 30 minutes - this is the wet bowl.

2) In a seperate bowl mix spelt flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt - this is the dry bowl.

3) Melt butter.

4) Mix eggs, brown sugar, shredded coconut and melted butter into the wet bowl.

5) Pour the dry bowl into the wet bowl and whisk the batter until its ingredients are evenly mixed.

6) Melt some coconut oil on a frying pan and pour batter to form individual patties. Turn over patties regularly until they're nice and brown. We managed to fry up 11 biggies from our batch.

They say the first pancake is a 'trial' pancake - it will inevitably come out malformed. I think that's just a method of consoling oneself. All our pancakes came out funny-shaped.

7) Apply toppings to your heart's desire! My friends and I usually have each pancake with something different.

Our assembly line. This one looks like it has a face!

In the end I understood that when given oatmeal pancakes, I will actually eat three, maybe three and half of them. They are very filling and yet remain soft and moist for days. They are tasty sans sauce as well if you are personally not into sweet food.

Spelt flour - ancient grain with many lovely nutrients that are lost in the processing of wheat; a great source of manganese, phosphorus and magnesium; also I like its funky Czech name - špalda
Hemp milk - probably the healthiest alternative to cow's milk, no intoxicating effects; also my alternative to sea food as a source of omega 3 fatty acids (the perfect ratio)
Nutmeg - Malcolm X made me buy it. I was rebelliously excited when I first purchased nutmeg oh-so-legally only to realise that I don't really want to go through the symptoms of influenza. It's nice for soups though.