Kale and Walnut Pesto

Kale and Walnut Pesto | Fig & Honey

Today I walked into my local organic supermarket and saw Kale! I nearly jumped up and down with joy and excitement and my heart definitely skipped a beat.  I managed to contain myself, but inside my heart was doing a little happy dance!

You see, the supermarkets here in Germany are quite a bit different to those in England and the US. I’ve been spoilt with selection over the years in the US and despite the huge environmental and nutritional cost of providing all sorts of fruit and veg year round, I’ve kinda gotten used to it. Until I moved here to Germany that is.

For the most part you can just about find everything you need, but it’s the produce section that sometimes frustrates me. Though many fruits and vegetables are shipped from all over the world – grapefruits from mexico, bananas from peru, green beans from kenya, others only appear on a seasonal basis. It’s a good thing really since most of the seasonal produce is grown regionally making the farm to table distance much shorter which is great for the earth and for the nutritional value of the food. But sometimes, just sometimes, I get a bit down when I see the bloggers of the world enjoying their kale salads, green smoothies and yummy soups.

Kale and Walnut Pesto | Fig & HoneySo when I saw that it was Kale season, I was so excited! Even though it means the cold weather is setting in, it makes me super excited to find ways to incorporate this healthy green into our diets for the next four months! To start with -a fresh and bright kale pesto. Perfect for a break from the heavy thanksgiving leftovers (which we only just finished today).

Pesto is perfect this time of the year since it keeps for awhile in the fridge and can make any dinner special very quickly. After all the running around all the way up to the December holidays, its nice to have a quick and healthy dinner option around. Some ways that I’m looking forward to trying this with are:

  • roasted tomato soup with a dollop of pesto & grilled mozzarella
  • whole wheat pasta tossed in pesto sauce
  • crostinis with pesto & shaved parmesan
  • pesto, sundried tomato and goats cheese palmiers
  • spread on crusty bread with some english cheddar and roasted peppers to make a perfect sandwich

The possibilities are endless. Make a batch and experiment all week!

Kale and Walnut Pesto | Fig & Honey

Kale and Almond Pesto

makes about 1 cup

  • 2 cups kale, leaves and stems separated
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • handful of basil – about 6-8 leaves
  • 1/8 cup parmigiano reggiano
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

Since kales a bit hearty, its best to blanch the leaves and stems before blitzing in the food processor. So to start, heat about 4 -5 cups of water in a small saucepan to boiling. While the water is heating, chop the kale leaves and stems roughly.  Get a bowl of cold water ready next to the cooker. Once the water is boiled, throw in the leaves for about 30 seconds or so. Remove with a slotted spoon and place into the cold water promptly to stop the cooking. Next add in the stems and cook for about 2-3 minutes until they are just soft. Also remove and place in the cold water.

Next, add the kale, lemon zest, lemon juice, walnuts, garlic, basil and parmigiano reggiano into a food processor. Pulse everything a few times to get everything chopped up and mixed together. Then turn it on and drizzle the olive oil in slowly until all is finely chopped. You can add more olive oil if you like a runnier pesto or keep it chunky.

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Pumpkin & Gorgonzola Quiche

Pumpkin & Gorgonzola Quiche | Fig & Honey

I learned how to cook rather unconventionally. Or rather, I learned the way of cooking that millions in the east of the world learn how to cook. With flavors and ingredients, not recipes in the western sense of the word. While cooking with my mother, I was usually just told what ingredients are required. A little bit of this spice, a little bit of that aromatic and a lot of taste testing. See, most Indians don’t cook with exact measurements. It’s always about a feeling and always easily adjustable to the number of people that are coming to dinner.

Pumpkin & Gorgonzola Quiche | Fig & Honey

Maybe it has to do with the culture, as most Indian mothers I know are forever trying to feed the world and extra people are always added to the table. Or perhaps it’s more because of the sheer number of ingredients that go into any given dish and that no two are ever equal. Chilis grown in the backyard are never the same hotness as those found at the supermarket. I suppose because of all these things, you learn to understand the flavor profile of each ingredient and soon realize how much of each will most probably be required in any dish. Combined with taste testing, this almost always results in a perfectly balanced and fully flavored meal. It also results in one knowing how to mix and match flavors and ingredients for all cuisines. That is, if you properly paid attention when your mother was talking.

My unconventional schooling has helped me develop a guilty pleasure of mine of ordering unique flavor combinations when eating out and trying to figure out what went into them. This Pumpkin Gorgonzola Quiche is one of those orders. It looked good when I picked it out and tasted amazing when I took my first bite. After that the wheels were turning in my head trying to figure out how to replicate it at home. This was an easy one, but undeniably tasty.

I love the creaminess of the pumpkin mixed with the bite from the gorgonzola. All served on a thyme crust. Delicious. And perfect for a light dinner or even as a indulgent brunch over the holidays.

Pumpkin & Gorgonzola Quiche | Fig & Honey

Pumpkin & Gorgonzola Quiche

Serves 8

Pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 125g butter
  • 3-4 Tbsp cold water
  • 3 large sage leaves, finely chopped

Filling

  • 480g roasted pumpkins
  • 60ml water
  • salt and pepper
  • 100g gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml milk (I used unsweetened Almond Milk)
  • salt and pepper

To make the pastry, add the plain flour and butter to a large mixing bowl. Rub butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add in the sage leaves and evenly distribute. Then add 3 Tbsp cold water and bring everything together with your hands adding the additional water if necessary. Roll into a ball and place in a bowl. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll to fit a 9 inch deep tart tin. Prick the base all over with a fork.  Place the tin back into the fridge for 15-20 minutes to rest.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F.

Cover the pastry with parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and baking beans and put back in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, place the roasted pumpkin and water into a blender and blend until smooth. You can also use a can of pumpkin puree if you are in a hurry- just don’t add any additional water. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the tart case onto a baking sheet. Pour the pumpkin puree into the tart case and spread evenly. Crumble the gorgonzola over the pumpkin puree evenly.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Season with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt as the gorgonzola is quite salty too. Pour the mixture over the gorgonzola making sure it doesn’t overflow.

Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is set and golden brown. Remove and cool on a rack till just warm.

Garnish with fried or fresh sage.

Pumpkin & Gorgonzola Quiche | Fig & Honey

Beet Green & Mushroom Frittata

Beet Green and Mushroom Frittata | Fig & HoneyI had high hopes this summer. I had visions of growing pots of fresh green veggies and herbs that I could just reach out and pluck whenever I felt like. Unfortunately, our slightly shady, but lovely patio is not so great for growing very many edible things.

Like me, tomatoes and other tasty fruits and vegetables enjoy basking in the sun. So instead of a mini-garden with fruiting plants, I chose things like salad greens, basil and swiss chard. These I knew, are content with a sliver of sunshine for just a portion of the day.

However, while at the garden center dreaming about owning a farm, I spotted a lovely bunch of just sprouted beets. With visions of gorgeous purple beet salads, I threw caution to the wind and decided to take the chance and try them out.

Beet Green and Mushroom Frittata | Fig & Honey

All summer, I lovingly watered them and weeded them and waited and waited until I could harvest them. When the time came, I was so excited to see what was going on beneath the soil. To see if there was anything juicy at the bottom of the the lovely leafy greens. I could never be a farmer, the wait is unbearable at times.

I was disappointed. It turns out very little was going on beneath the soil. These gorgeous green leaves didn’t have what they needed to grow beets. I suppose I still have a lot of learn about gardening!
Beet Green and Mushroom Frittata | Fig & Honey
So what to do? Though I had grand plans of raw beet salads and roasted beets, I needed to rethink my strategy. Beet greens as it turns out are even more nutritious than the actual beets themselves and just happen to exceptionally tasty too. So what better to whip up than a quick frittata. Frittatas are the perfect solution as they take up barely any of your time and let you use up all the bits and bobs that are lying around the fridge. Add a few eggs and you’ve got a delicious lunch!
Beet Green and Mushroom Frittata | Fig & Honey

Beet Green & Mushroom Frittata

Serves 2

  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 cups beet greens, roughly chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to the grill mode.

Heat a small oven safe frying pan (stainless steel or cast iron) on medium heat until hot. Add the olive oil and sliced onions and then saute until translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Next add in the mushrooms and beet greens.

Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a medium bowl. Add the milk and cheddar cheese and season lightly with salt and pepper. Whisk together until combined.

Once the beet greens are wilted, add in the egg mixture and give everything a quick stir.

Cook for about 3-5 minutes until the eggs have set on the bottom and only the top layer remains undercooked. At this point, carefully transfer the pan to a high shelf in the oven. Watching closely, let the eggs get puffy and brown on top. After about 2-3 minutes, once the top is evenly browned, remove the pan from the oven.

Garnish with some chopped beet greens and eat whilst hot!

Beet Green and Mushroom Frittata | Fig & Honey

Date, Coconut & Almond Oat Granola

Date, Coconut, & Almond Oat Granola | Fig & Honey

A lot of times the only thing that convinces me to leave my cosy and comfy bed is breakfast.  Often, I lay in bed thinking of the options and only manage to jump up when I’ve decided on something that tickles my fancy. Though french toast or even this brussel sprout hash would be ideal most of the time, it’s not exactly ideal on a weekday. I’m looking for minimal output and maximum taste options that are quick to whip up and are easy to change on a day to day basis.  Did I mention that I hate eating the same thing two days in a row? I know, I’m difficult, but breakfast is an important subject and happens to be one of my favorite meals, so I do take it very seriously!

Date, Coconut, & Almond Oat Granola | Fig & Honey

Granola is usually one of my go tos. I can eat it with yogurt and fruits or with some almond milk or even on top of a smoothie.  I love that I can change the fruit and the accompaniments based on the season and have a completely different breakfast year round.

There are millions of granola recipes online and lots of different variations, but over time I’ve come to love this particular one.  It’s light on the oil and sugar and has a mellow taste which makes it a great pair for what you can think up.  I really like to add hemp hearts and chia seeds to the mixture as I’m incredibly forgetful (usually just way too eager to eat) and always miss these nutritional goodies out.  It makes life easier and I’m all for that!

Date, Coconut, & Almond Oat Granola | Fig & Honey

Date, Coconut & Almond Oat Granola

Makes about 5 cups

  • 3 cups Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1/3 cup Maple Syrup, grade B
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup medjool dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup almonds, sliced
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, flaked
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/8 cup chia seeds
  • 1/8 cup hemp hearts

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.  In a large bowl combine the oats, oil and syrup.  Using your hands or a large spoon, make sure all the oats are evenly covered. Tip out and spread into a thin layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You want to be sure to have a thin layer or the oats will end up steaming rather than getting lovely and crunchy.  Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even browning.  Take out from the oven when all the oats are a light brown color and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Then add all of the remaining ingredients and mix it all together so everything is evenly distributed.  Let it cool completely before storing in a airtight container.  It should keep for about a month – if it even lasts that long!

Oat Granola

Pumpkin, Ginger & Kaffir Lime Soup

Pumpkin, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soup | Fig & HoneyWhen this time of year comes around all I see is millions of pumpkin recipes.  Pies, loaves, cupcakes, oatmeal, stews, just about anything you can squeeze a little taste of pumpkin into.  I get super excited because its autumn and it’s all very festive.  But after awhile it sometimes just feels too much.  Blasphemous, I know, to all you pumpkin lovers out there.

I mean, what are you supposed to do when you roast a whole butternut squash and the recipe calls for only one cup of it.  You make some oatmeal which uses up another cup. Then you are left with four more cups with no idea what to do and end up trying to figure out how to avoid eating pumpkin for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week.  Yes, I could freeze the leftovers and use for recipes in the future, but unfortunately my European mini-sized freezer only fits my staples and pumpkin isn’t one of them.

So what to do? Make soup.  This is my answer to most of my leftover dilemmas.  Who doesn’t love piping hot soup when its raining and pouring outside? And pumpkin soup seems so festive with all the orange-y-ness going on outdoors.  This one is one of my favorites as the ginger cuts through a lot of the sweetness and the secret ingredient, kaffir lime really freshens things up and rounds out the flavor very well.  It’s light and filling and tastes best with a crusty loaf to dip with.  It reminds me again why I get excited about pumpkin in the first place!

Pumpkin, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soup | Fig & Honey

Pumpkin, Ginger & Kaffir Lime Soup

Serves 2

  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small shallots, finely diced
  • 1/2 inch knob of ginger, grated
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups cooked hokkaido pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/8 tsp salt + more to taste
  • Lime juice + pepitos to garnish (optional)

Heat a medium saucepan on medium- high heat. Add in the olive oil and diced shallots and saute until softened and very light brown.  Add in the ginger and cook for a further minute.  Once fragrant, add in the vegetable stock, pumpkin, kaffir lime leaves and salt.  Let cook for about 10 minutes until boiling and the pumpkin is heated through.

Remove the kaffir leaves and pour the rest of the ingredients into a high powered blender and blend till smooth.  Transfer back to the pan and add up to 1 cup of water to till you reach your desired consistency. I like mine quite thin, so I usually add the full cup.  Season to your taste.

Serve with a squirt of lime and garnish with some pepitos.

Pumpkin, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soup | Fig & Honey

Mushroom, Thyme & Lentil Pies

Mushroom, Thyme & Lentil Pies | Fig & HoneyWith all these cold rainy days piling up one after another, its obvious that winter is coming. Sooner rather than later. This makes me – 1). really really sad that I have no more Game of Thrones to watch at the moment and 2). remember how much I love casseroles, savory pies and roast dinners.

Comfort is my ultimate indulgence. More than anything in the world, I love cuddling under a blanket with a good book and cup of tea. Just add buttery crystallized ginger biscuits and that would be perfect just about now.

Mushroom, Thyme & Lentil Pies | Fig & Honey

A close second on the comfort scale is definitely a proper English roast dinner. With lovely crispy roast potatoes and yorkshire puddings drizzled with way too much gravy. Growing up this was a typical sunday dinner and even more so since I met my rather British husband. However, my desire to cut back on our meat consumption (for many different reasons) kinda makes this meal a bit obsolete.

So in hopes of finding equally comforting food, I’ve been experimenting with veggies and mushrooms in pies, casseroles and all sorts. Nothing quite replaces a full roast, but these Mushroom, Thyme & Lentil pies come quite close. Served with all of the roast dinner sides and you’re on your way to having a perfect Sunday in.

Mushroom, Thyme and Lentil Pies
Makes 4 large individual pies

  • 1/2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 small carrots, medium dice
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 500g cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups puy or beluga lentils, cooked
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 Tbsp dry red wine
  • 1 Tbsp dried Thyme
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Puff Pastry Sheet
  • 1 egg

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add in the diced onion and carrots. Cook on medium heat until the onion is translucent and softened and carrots are getting soft. Meanwhile, lightly wash and quarter all of the mushrooms.

Once the onions and carrots are softened, add in the garlic and mushrooms and let them cook for 4-5 minutes on medium high heat. The mushrooms will shrink quite a bit in size. At this point add in the lentils, vegetable stock, tomato paste, soy sauce, red wine and thyme. In a small bowl, mix together the corn starch with a small bit of tap water and then mix with the rest. Let cook for a few minutes more until the mixture comes to a boil and the sauce is thickened. Take off the heat and cover to let the flavors meld together a bit while you get the pastry ready.

Preheat the oven to 400F or according to the instructions on the puff pastry package. After leaving the pastry out for 5-10 minutes to warm up, roll it out flat onto a cutting board. Using the top edge of your ramekins as guides, cut out 4 circles to top your pies. Cut a small x into the middle of each circle so the pie can vent as it cooks in the oven.

Carefully spoon the mushroom and lentil mixture into ramekins and top with your cut pastry circles. Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush lightly onto the pastry. Place all the ramekins onto a baking sheet and put into the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is brown and puffy and the inside is all oozy. Garnish with fresh thyme and serve immediately.

Mushroom, Thyme & Lentil Pies | Fig & Honey

Valencia, Spain

Valencia Anjanee Four years ago while planning our wedding, the one factor we did not take into consideration was that October is quite possibly the worst month to travel. Just about everywhere is in the midst of changing seasons, experiencing monsoons or hurricanes or is just plain cold.  This unfortunate decision has made our lives quite difficult when considering where to visit for each of our anniversaries.  The first year we celebrated our anniversary, we decided that we love nothing more than travelling (other than each other of course) and that we would always take some time to get away together to celebrate our nuptials.

 Valencia Santiago CalatravaSo this year, we procrastinated like crazy (as we normally do when we have to plan a holiday) and waited till the ultimate last minute to choose somewhere to go.  We wanted sand and sun. Then we wanted an extreme cultural experience (the kinds that are found in the eastern part of the world). Later we decided that we would forgo the culture and opt for luxury. As per usual, we were incredibly indecisive.

 Valencia Santiago CalatravaFinally, with time dwindling and with it, the options too, we decided on Valencia. Why not we said. It has luxury, it has culture, it has sand, it has sun, it also has amazing architecture. We booked it. I’m really glad we did. Valencia was precisely what we needed.

Normally, in the interest of trying to balance experiencing a place and being able to see as much as possible, we stay usually only 2-3 days in any given city. It’s almost always never enough (unless you are in Venice, then 1 day will do!) but since our time in Europe is short, we sacrifice.  However, this trip, we spent 6 days in Valencia and were so happy we did.

ValenciaIt’s not one of those cities where there is loads of sites to see or hundreds of recommended restaurants that need to be tried.  Rather it’s just one of those in between.  It’s a beautiful city with a good amount of places to visit and good food to be eaten. But it’s also one of those places where you can quite happily say that all you accomplished was a huge pan of seafood Paella, a couple bottles of wine and a long siesta. Having this much time let us leisurely experience the culture of this little gem in Spain.

Valencia AnjaneeQuite possibly one of my favorite parts is the Turia Gardens. Once an old riverbed that was diverted around the city, this area has been transformed in a beautiful park full of sculptures, fountains, opportunities for exercise and hundreds of varieties of trees.  All of it ending with the famous Santiago Calatrava buildings. The perfect place to run (that is if I were a runner) or just inhale the outdoors.

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Roasted Eggplant Pide with Mint Yogurt and Pomegranate

Roasted Eggplant Pide with Mint Yogurt and Pomegranate | Fig & Honey Its undeniable at this point.  Autumn is here. Its not just a cold spell.  The summer sun is not coming back…until next year atleast. This makes me rather unhappy.  It’s not that I don’t like autumn, its more that I love summer.  You’d think that after almost 30 years of the seasons turning, I’d be used to it. But no, this is the only turn of seasons that drops me into a bitter spell. Then I realize (for the 28th time) that autumn is not so bad! However, to see out the summer, here’s one last recipe.  Don’t worry, it tastes good in autumn too!

This Eggplant Pida is inspired by a mixture of Ottolenghi’s roasted eggplant recipe (which I love!)  and one of my favorite Turkish Pidas. The Turkish Pida is very similar to a pizza, but with very different flavours. The traditional version usually has only ground meat and spices, but there are so many different varieties, many of which have cheese too.   Usually the raw dough and the toppings are cooked together in a coal oven giving the whole thing a yummy flavour. Roasted Eggplant Pide with Mint Yogurt and Pomegranate | Fig & Honey Since I don’t have a coal oven or the ability to make these lovely flatbreads, I buy a freshly made Pida at one of my local Turkish shops. If you don’t have a lovely Turkish shop around your corner, I think that Naan or even Focaccia would work well. My version of the Pida forgoes the meat & cheese and highlights the eggplants instead. Slathered with some mint yogurt and a little bit of fresh and bright pomegranate – you’ve got yourself a tasty treat!  Give it a go before the cold of winter sets in and all you want is warming currys! Roasted Eggplant Pide with Mint Yogurt and Pomegranate | Fig & Honey

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