wilted beetroot leaves and goats cheese tart

Last week I shared about tarts being a perfect tool for hiding blemishes and wilted produce. Since you now know how to make a tart base, let's look at a way to fill the tart shell.

The other day I bought a bunch of beetroot with the leaves and stalks still left on. While I was intending to use both bulbs and the stalks and leaves, I used the bulbs first and kept procrastinating on the leaves and stalks. I was maybe not so inspired because I found the leaves were inhabited by dozens, probably even over a hundred tiny black bugs that I noticed on the way home. I made sure to put the bunch into my crisper as soon as I got home to prevent them from taking over my kitchen and perhaps the rest of my apartment.

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So out of mind out of sight as it happens with leftovers and food waste. While I dealt with the bulbs rather soon (even though they keep well so much longer!) I didn't want to face the rest. Luckily I am developing more and more of an awareness for food waste and feel increasingly guilty when I am thinking of throwing something. The leaves looked less and less appealing. But they were still ok.

Wilted doesn't mean it has to be discarded. Especially if you consider that when we cook leaves they wilt within seconds and lose their fresh and crisp look. Wilted is probably not good enough for a salad anymore in most cases, but good enough for a tart filling. And that's what I was planning to use the beetroot leaves for in the first place. Even though wilted they looked good enough to cook after a couple of weeks in the fridge. Cleaning them and making sure they are bug-free was quicker and easier than I thought. Chopping is no big deal and sautéing requires little effort. Whenever I have procrastinated and eventually get into action, I wonder why on earth I have put it off for that long.

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I love beetroot with goats cheese or another dairy product like yogurt. The filling of the tart was beetroot leaves and stalks, crumbled goats cheese and a simple custard of egg, cream, salt and pepper and thyme. Served with a salad it makes a wonderful lunch that is both quick and easy to prepare.

If you don't want to make your own shortcrust pastry, by all means feel free to purchase readymade at the supermarket, but it does make a difference, as most shop-bought pastry uses palm oil instead of butter and too me tastes bitter.

goat cheese and beetroot leaves tart

1 tart shell (25 cm diametre)

leaves and stalks of one bunch of beetroot

olive oil

200 ml cream

2 eggs

200 g goats cheese, crumbled

2 teaspoons of dried thyme (or herbs de Provence)

salt

pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
  2. Wash the leaves and stalks and leave to dry in a colander.
  3. Crack the eggs in a bowl and mix with the cream. Add the goats cheese and thyme and whisk again. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat the oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, add the chopped beetroot leaves and stalks and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Transfer to the baked tart shell and pour over the custard. Spread out with a spatula so the whole tart shell is evenly covered.
  5. Transfer the tart shell to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the edges are nicely browned. Remove from the oven and serve immediately or serve at room temperature.

leftover tool kit (part 1): the tart

Decision fatigue seems to be one of the major obstacles home cooks are struggling with when having to deal with leftovers. In our busy lifes it can be overwhelming thinking of ways how to save something that may soon perish. I can totally relate to this dilemma and thought of some tools that could help make the decision process a little easier. Over the coming weeks and months I want to create something like a tool kit or you may also call it a repertoire. There are some methods or basic recipes that can work as a foundation and kickstart a creative and eventually intuitive way to deal with leftovers.

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I like to think of a vessel, something that holds the leftovers together, or a tray, if you like, something that displays the leftovers in a favourable way. The first in the series is the tart, which I believe can be regarded as both a vessel and a tray. The French have a tradition of making a tart out of leftovers. The pastry shell can hold pieces of roasted meat, vegetables that don’t look so fresh and appealing anymore, a selection of herbs that look a little bit wilted. All those blemishes and imperfections can be cleverly concealed with a custard and some cheese that melds everything into a scrumptious and Lucullan treat. You will forget that you are eating leftovers after all.

Shortcrust pastry and puff pastry are available chilled or frozen at most supermarkets, so you can skip some part of the cooking process. Quite a lot of celebrity chefs claim that it doesn’t make sense to make the effort of making your own. However most ready-made pastry contains palm oil rather than butter and to me often tastes a little bitter. Making puff pastry is rather time intensive, but still worthwhile. It can be made ahead and frozen and defrosted whenever you need it. Shortcrust pastry is quicker to make, however you have to follow a few basic rules to make it a success. All the ingredients need to be cold and when you work it, you need to work fast and don’t overwork the dough. Again, this can be made ahead and chilled or frozen for later. I strongly encourage you to give it a try and make your own. Like with many other things it will get easier and more intuitive over time. And like my friend Astrid said, who taught me how to make perfect tart shells: You can really wow your friends if you master the art of tart making and serve them some delicious treats.

I recently purchased a food processor which makes shortcrust pastry so much easier. It's pressing the pulse button a few times, adding some egg and ice-cold water, press the pulse button a few more times and you are done.

But even if you don’t have a food processor it is not a major hassle to make your own. I will give instructions for both food processor and handmade pastry.

The recipe below is from Richard Bertinet’s book “Pastry”. It’s for savoury tarts. Hence it is called “salty tart crust”. The amount is enough for a tart form approximately 26 cm (ca. 10 inch) in diametre . However it always depends on what kind of border your tart ring has. There are some rather wavy fluted tins (which I like to work with), some tins have a lower rim. Keep experimenting what works for you.

A note to those who want to work without tart tins: you may also want to consider making a galette tart, which creates a very rustic-looking tart and works if the filling isn’t too liquidy. I will feature this kind of tart in a later post. It’s also a brilliant way to use up leftover pastry.

salty tart crust (from Richard Bertinet’s “Pastry”)

  • 250 g wheat flour

  • 125 g cold butter, straight from the fridge

  • 5 g salt

  • 1 egg

  • 35 g ice-cold water

Food processor method:

Put flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor and mix. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the flour. Press the pulse button of your food processor several times. Don’t overwork it. It does not have to come together now, so be careful. Add the egg and pulse again until the dough comes together a bit more. Add the water and pulse a few times more until the dough starts to form a ball. Don’t overwork the dough. It’s OK if it’s not one complete ball. You can press any bits that are separate into the ball. Press the ball into a flat disk on your work surface, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge, for several hours, ideally overnight.

Handmade method:

Put the flour and salt into a bowl and mix. Add the cubed butter and quickly work it into the flour with your fingertips. If you are using the palms of your hands the dough might get too warm. Stop working the dough when you have bits about the size of your fingernails, not like often said the texture of wet sand. If you work it too much, the dough will get sticky. Add the egg and water and quickly work it until it just comes together and forms a ball. Shape into a disc and chill in the fridge for several hours, ideally overnight.

Rolling out:

Grease a 26 cm tart form with butter and set aside.

Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out with a rolling pin, turning a quarter every couple of rolls. Roll it out to about 5 mm thickness. Once you have rolled out the pastry, remove the top sheet of baking parchment and dust with a little flour, turn over, peel away the other sheet of baking parchment and also dust with a little flour. Gently roll the pastry around the rolling pin as if you were rolling a poster around it. The flour will keep the dough from sticking together.

Transfer to the tart form and unroll. Then gently push the dough down and into the corners and ripples (if you have a fluted tart tin). With your fingertips go around the tart tin and press the dough gently into the corners. Any dough overlapping can be removed with a sharp knife. Alternatively you can put a sheet of baking parchment on top of the filled tart form and gently roll over the rolling pin. The sharp edges will ‘cut’ away the overlapping dough and you can almost remove the overlapping dough like a ribbon. You can freeze the leftover pastry for a later use. I will show you how to make use of leftover pastry in another post.

Chill the pastry in the tart ring for another hour in the fridge before baking.

Blind baking:

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Once the oven has reached the temperature, remove the tart shell from the fridge and cover with a sheet of baking parchment. Fill with baking beans (either ceramic ones specifically made for baking blind or a package of dried beans). Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift out the paper and the baking beans. Brush the base with beaten egg and bake for another 8 minutes. Now your tart shell is ready to be filled. Follow this blog where I will give one option how to make a filling from leftovers.

A few more tipps to make your pastry shell a success:

  1. Many recipes for shortcrust pastry ask you to shape the dough into the ball and then refrigerate it before rolling it out. However I don't get why they ask you to shape it into a ball. How on earth are they expecting people to flatten a solid ball?! My friend Astrid who is a trained pastry chef and learned at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris confirmed this. She always shapes it into a disc before chilling it in the fridge. When you are ready to roll out the dough, it is so much easier.

  2. All the ingredients need to be cold: butter straight from the fridge, ideally cut it into cubes and chill the cubes again before working into the dough. Eggs should also be cold and if you add water to your dough, chill it with a few ice cubes. Work in the butter only with your fingertips to avoid the dough getting too warm.

  3. Don’t overwork the dough! It should only just come together to form a ball. If you continue working it for too long, it will build too much gluten which will cause the pastry to shrink.

  4. Chill the raw tart shell at least one hour in the fridge, ideally overnight.

  5. You still need a bit of patience when rolling out the dough. Too often I was impatient and applied too much force. It takes a bit of time, but you will get there. It can be very meditative.

  6. I prefer to roll out the dough between two sheets of baking parchment. It's definitely less mess in your kitchen when you don't have to flour your work surface. The sheets can also be reused. Keep checking if you have reached the right size by laying or holding the cake tin on top. You want the pastry disc to be large enough to fit the bottom of the tart and also all the way up the rim.

simple watermelon rind pickle

The first proper summer days with hot temperatures are rather late this year. While some summer fruit has already appeared on the shelfs of green grocers over the weeks, I wasn't exactly tempted to try them when every other week one had to dig out the winter coat. So finally the temperatures are rising and I got in the mood to have berries, cherries and also some watermelon to help myself cool down.

Watermelon is actually a vegetable and belongs to the gourd family, nevertheless I regard it as a fruit. People are starting to learn about the versatility of watermelon. There is more you can do with it than just cutting it in wedges and eating it as a simple refreshment. I suppose many are familiar now with the pairing of salty cheeses such as feta or halloumi. There are quite a few dishes where it is served warm: watermelon soups and grilled slices for instance. One restaurant in NYC marinades halved melons for days, then smokes it and serves slices that resemble rare steaks. Apparently it convincingly mimicks the flavour of meat.

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When I was a child I always regretted that such a big part of the watermelon is being discarded. My family shared a watermelon usually as a refreshment on a hot summer evening and the rind ended up on the compost of my parents garden. I never questioned this and believed that the rind must be bad for you if people aren't eating it. I wasn't aware that in some parts of this world it is very common to also use this part. Only a few years ago I found a recipe in the New York Times Cookbook edited by Amanda Hesser where I learned that the rind is in fact edible. So you are definitely not going to die from it or sit on the toilet for days if you eat it. True, it doesn't taste of much when you eat it raw. Especially in contrast with the red flesh. However isn't that the case with many other vegetables? Zucchini doesn't taste of much, neither does aubergines or pumpkins if you try an uncooked piece. For a while I have been part of a food exchange group where people meet regularly and swap things they have made in the kitchen. It was a good testing ground for many recipes and once I decided to try a pickle from the New York Times Cookbook and let people try it without telling them what it is. If you only have the rind without the green skin and it has been pickled with all the spices it is easily mistaken with pickled pumpkin. That's what people thought and they took a long time guessing that it is actually the rind of the watermelon.

People always shy away from preserving, because they believe it means having to stand in the kitchen for hours on end and producing large batches. However it is worthwhile making smaller batches and it is not a lot of work.

I will write about some experiments with watermelon rind on this blog over the next few months, while watermelons are in season. Watermelon rind kimchi is one thing I am intending to try, also other kind of ferments such as watermelon rind sticks fermented with different herbs and spices. To start I am making a simple pickle that is popular in the southern states of the US. For a while I have been part of a food exchange group where people meet regularly and swap things they have made in the kitchen. It was a good testing ground for many recipes and once I decided to try a pickle from the New York Times Cookbook and let people try it without telling them what it is. If you only have the rind without the green skin and it has been pickled with all the spices it is easily mistaken with pickled pumpkin. That's what people thought and they took a long time guessing that it is actually the rind of the watermelon.

This blog isn't so much about leaf-to-root, however I feel it is wrong to discard the rind of the watermelon, not only because it makes up such a substantial part of the fruit (or rather vegetable). We don't grow it where I live, so it has traveled quite a bit. That's why I believe it is vital to make use of all parts of the produce. Unfortunately I have not found a way to make use of the mostly pretty skin. Maybe some clever startup will develop a way to make shoes or clothes out of one day. I would be happy to add some watermelon skin shoes to my outlandish footwear collection (serious!).

I use the quick pickling method for this recipe. Which is very simple and good for small batches. If you find you don’t have enough pickling liquid, it is easy to make some more to top up whatever you are pickling. I have adapted a recipe from Epicurious and have added some lime leaves I had in the freezer, some chilies that have shriveled up and a piece of fresh turmeric. Most recipes I find use spices like cinnamon, allspice etc. But I was in the mood for some Thai or Vietnamese flavours. Feel free to play around with herbs and spices. I can’t wait to use this for sandwiches or as a condiment for a BBQ.

simple watermelon rind pickle

  • peeled rind of one watermelon (ca. 470 g from one watermelon weighing about 2.5 kg)

  • 2 cups cider vinegar

  • 1/2 cup light-brown sugar

  • 5-6 lime leaves, slightly bruised

  • 5 cm turmeric root, sliced (or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric)

  • 3 dried chilies

  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

  • 2 tablespoons salt

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Make sure you have thoroughly cleaned the watermelon rind. You don’t want any peel or parts of the red flesh on it. Cut into pieces of about 5 cm and cut those pieces into matchsticks. The rind of my watermelon was about 1 cm thick. If you find yours is thicker, you might want to cut it into smaller pieces.

Put the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, turmeric and peppercorns in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium and let the pickling liquid cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile put the watermelon rind pieces in preserving jars (I used about two 400 ml jars and one 200 ml jar). Add the lime leaves and the chilies. I like to place them on the wall of the jar for visibility - will make your pickle look pretty.

Pour over the hot pickling liquid. Push everything down with a clean spoon and seal immediately and leave to cool on your counter. With this quick pickling method it is advised to store them in the fridge once cooled where it should keep for at least a week or two. I have found they last even longer, sometimes over a year, even if you don’t store it in the fridge. Just make sure that you place it in the fridge once you have opened the jar.

If someone would be able to turn the skin of a watermelon into leather, I would really love some shoes made out of that material.

If someone would be able to turn the skin of a watermelon into leather, I would really love some shoes made out of that material.

Watermelon rind waiting to be bathed (or rather preserved!) in hot pickling liquid.

Watermelon rind waiting to be bathed (or rather preserved!) in hot pickling liquid.

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The finished pickled watermelon rind. Very good in sandwiches, salads and as a BBQ condiment.

The finished pickled watermelon rind. Very good in sandwiches, salads and as a BBQ condiment.

pavlova - the leftover egg white monster

When it comes to leftover yolks and whites, the whites will certainly outnumber the yolks in most households. I have to admit, I have discarded quite a few over the years. There was always the intention to add them to scrambled eggs or a fried egg over the next couple of days. However too often I kept procrastinating and eventually I lost track of how old they were and wondered if they are still safe to eat. So I discarded them.

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In one of her series Nigella Lawson gave a useful tip how to save leftover egg whites: they can be frozen and defrosted when you need them. Which is what I have been doing ever since. I store them in a container in the freezer and just make a note that I have added one on the label. That way I know how many egg whites I already have in there. Sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming with the amount of egg whites I have…what on earth should I do with them? Meringue to feed a football team? I like meringue, but not that much that I could eat them all the time. And I find that many people are not that keen on them. They look pretty, but most find them too sweet or don’t like the texture. So giving them away isn’t so much of an option. My mother loves meringue and likes pavlova even more. Meringue with cream and berries on top? It’s one way to make her really happy. She came to visit me for a long weekend and I thought that is a perfect opportunity to use up some of my leftover egg whites. Pavlova originated in New Zealand, however the Australians claim that they invented it. It is popular in both countries and can be regarded as a national dish. Whoever invented it one thing is certain that it was named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who had several appearances in the late 1920s.

Back to my mum’s visit. One afternoon we planned to go to a beer garden with my boyfriend and his parents. I wasn’t sure whether my mum and I will finish the whole pavlova by ourselves, so we took it along as a surprise. The recipe I followed was by an Ottolenghi employee called Jens Ferdinand with the monicker “The Baking German”. I follow him on Facebook and Instagram and remembered his video on how to make pavlova. It is so easy and fuss-free, even if you are not feeling confident about baking, this is easy to follow. I have tweaked it a little bit, because I had less egg whites than the amount asked for in the recipe. I also lowered the amount of sugar. I replaced raw cane sugar for the regular caster sugar. Obviously this will turn your meringue a little beige, but I just prefer the flavour to regular white sugar. I have also reduced the amount of mascarpone and cream for the topping.

The pavlova created a bit of a stir at the beer garden. In a Bavarian beer garden you are allowed to bring your own food, but have to buy the drinks. Mostly people take pretzels, obazda (a spread similar to Liptauer cheese) and radishes. So all things savoury, however I have never encountered anyone bringing a cake. There were looks from the neighbouring tables and one couple from the adjacent table eventually voiced their disappointment when we finished the pavlova without offering them a piece. My boyfriend smilingly handed over his plate for a second portion after he finished the first, which is the greates compliment of all because he usually doesn’t like cake and often holds back when it comes to sweets. The couple from the neighbouring table said that we will probably meet again in that beer garden over the summer and told me to make sure I come prepared with another pavlova for them to try. I guess I don’t have to worry anymore about not being able to use up leftover egg whites.

  • 175 g egg whites (about 6 egg whites)

  • 250 g raw cane sugar (or regular caster sugar)

  • 100 g white chocolate, chopped

  • 250 g mascarpone

  • 200 ml single cream

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

  • 375 g mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries...)

  • 400 g apricots, pitted and cut into halfmoon shapes

  • chopped pistachios to garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and spread out the sugar. If you have a fan-assisted oven, put another piece of baking parchment on top and weigh down the left and right edges with some metal kitchen knifes, so the sugar does not get blown around. Set the timer for 7 minutes. Add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer (or put in a regular bowl if using a hand-held whisk) and start mixing a medium-high speed about two minutes before the timer for the sugar ends.

Remove the sugar from the oven and add to the beaten egg whites while continuing to whisk. Continue to beat until the whites are firm and glossy. They should build soft peaks when you remove the whisk from the beaten egg whites. Don't overbeat, otherwise the whites get dry.

Lower the heat of the oven to 90 degrees fan (110 degrees Celsius regular).

Dab a bit of beaten egg white in every corner of a baking sheet and put a piece of baking parchment on top. This helps to keep the baking parchment in place. Spread out the beaten egg whites on the baking sheet to a disk approximately 4-5 cm high and 25 cm circumference. Form a little well in the middle to accomodate the cream and fruit topping.

Dry the meringue in the oven for 3.5 hours. Remove the meringue and set aside to cool.

Put the chocolate in a bowl and place on top of a pan filled with water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Let the chocolate melt over medium heat. Once the chocolate has melted, distribute over the cavity in the meringue disk with a spoon or brush. This will prevent the cream mix you are spreading on top later to seep through and the meringue won't get soggy. Let the chocolate-covered meringue firm up for 10 minutes in the fridge. While the meringue is in the fridge, put the mascarpone and cream with the vanilla essence in a bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until thick and firm. Spread the cream mixture over the meringue disk. Dot with the fruit. If you like to jazz it up some more, add some chopped green pistachios for garnish.

The unbaked pavlova sitting on top of a sheet of baking parchment. You can make this pretty or freestyle and irregular like me. Just make sure you have a little cavity in the disk to create a ‘bowl’ for the cream and fruit topping.

The unbaked pavlova sitting on top of a sheet of baking parchment. You can make this pretty or freestyle and irregular like me. Just make sure you have a little cavity in the disk to create a ‘bowl’ for the cream and fruit topping.

leftover sourdough and date scones

Since about a month ago I have another living creature in my home. A sourdough starter, that is. I haven’t given it a name yet. Hearing that some people call their sourdough names like Brutus, I was wondering if I should call it after one of my bosses, who can be very temperamental. A sourdough requires some skill to deal with and it’s a bit trial and error in the beginning. So I thought why not. I still haven’t made up my mind whether it’s such a good idea.

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Maybe I am a bit unfair to my sourdough starter, everything I have made so far from it has been successful. I was very pleased with my first bread as well as the first try I had cooking with (what others call) discard, namely pancakes filled with goats cheese, asparagus and olives, drizzled with honey.

As mentioned in my previous post it never occured to me that the sourdough mother that keeps growing as you continue to feed it with flour and water does not have to be thrown away or added to compost (as some suggest). It’s flour, water and lactic acid bacteria. Perfectly good to use and adding another flavour dimension to your baking. Next thing I was inspired to try was making scones with it. I have usually used the recipes from Rose Bakery cookbook for a while and decided to tweak them a little. i have had very good results with their various scone recipes and especially like the one with chopped dates. I thought the tartness of the sourdough would work very well with the sweetness of the dates. However I have reduced the amount of dates asked for in the original recipe.

sourdough date scones

  • 180 g wheat flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon mixed spice (such as Quatre épices)

  • pinch of salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 60 g cold butter, cubed

  • 100 g chopped and pitted dates

  • 100 g sourdough starter

  • 60 ml milk

  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Mix the dry ingredients and add the butter. Mix with a pastry blender or your fingertips until you have a mix that resembles breadcrumbs or slightly wet sand. Add the chopped dates and mix. Add the sourdough starter and the milk and mix until just incorporated. You don’t want to overwork the dough. If the mixture is too dry add a few more tablespoons of milk until it comes together. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and pat into a disk or rough rectangle about 2-3 cm thick. Cut out circles of 5 cm with a cookie cutter. Alternatively cut into triangles with a knife. Transfer to the lined baking sheets and brush with the beaten egg. Bake on a middle shelf for about 15 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and serve with butter while still warm.

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Save the liquids-cooking with leftover sauces

This week I don't have to worry so much about leftovers in my kitchen since I am traveling and visiting friends. It is reassuring to see that by committing myself to eliminating food waste I am also inspiring my friends to waste less. My friend Katja in New York (who I am staying with) suggested to have a spring risotto one night for dinner. She had some peas in the freezer, spring onions and wild garlic (ramps) and combined that with asparagus. On our trip to Chinatown we found some yellow chives that we have never seen before and thought should go in as well. This is following a maxim that I think is important in cooking with leftovers: don't regard it as scarcity or deprivation or a chore, but make it fun, sensual and playful. Using something wilted, stale or soft and combining it with something fresh, crunchy and/or even decadent.

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I did some of the prepping for the risotto while Katja did the cooking. I enjoyed kicking back the heels and waiting to be served dinner after I have done my chopping duty.

Dinner was served with a laugh because of the decor being so 1980s. The risotto was delicious...all the wonderful flavours of spring! I was a bit puzzled though because I kept tasting a subtle flavour of fish. I believed I was imagining this, because it was so subtle. One can easily be fooled to believe he is something else, because there is a similar flavour. Braised mushrooms can easily mimic the umami of a beef stew. Eventually I asked Katja what stock she has been using. I think she was taken aback for a second and thought that there was something wrong. Not at all!

Katja revealed that she kept the poaching liquid when she made a salmon and kept it in the freezer for later use. She reckoned that we often don't make full use of the leftover liquids. Many recipes even ask to just strain something and not consider that this may be used for something else. I think I will dedicate a full post to this topic with further examples on how to include leftover liquids in your cooking.

Katja doesn't stop at saving liquids at home. When we were out and about one day this week, she took me to a Xian take away in Chinatown, which was made famous by Antony Bourdain. We shared a dish of spinach dumplings in a rich broth. When we finished we had so much left of the broth that Katja decided to take it home. Great idea. However you want to make sure to put it in a safe container or carry it in a separate bag. When we got home we realised that carrying it in your handbag with all your other belongings wasn't such a great idea. Unless if you fancy your smartphone wearing l'eau de beef broth.

leftover sourdough pancakes filled with asparagus and goats cheese

One culinary project for this year was to bake my own bread with my own sourdough starter. I have had several tries to cultivate my own starter, however they have not been very successful so far. You have to care for it a little bit like a pet or a plant. It wants to be fed regularly with flour and water. One starter I forgot to feed at some point and another one has gone mouldy. I never baked a loaf of bread from these unsuccessful attempts. So it’s been a lot of flour that has ended up in the bin.

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Most recipes for a sourdough starter ask you to discard some of the starter flour-water mix.  The authors argued that you would otherwise end up with a volume that would eventually take over your kitchen. I did not question this approach at the previous attempts and discarded as instructed.

This time I was determined to have more success with my starter and was happy to see it was already active after about 36 hours. I followed Justin Piers Gellatly’s method using rhubarb to kickstart the fermentation. After nearly a week of feeding the starter, the recipe asked for taking 30 g of the starter, continuing to feed that but discarding the rest. Eleminating food waste in my home has made me more vigilant to areas where I previously had a blind spot. When I took the 30 g out of starter mix, I looked at the remainder in the bowl and thought it just looks like pancake mix. It made me think: “this is flour and water...why throw that away?” I have never made pancakes with sourdough starter, so I thought I will try that. I got more ideas: savoury crackers, biscuits, scones...isn't it crazy that many recipe writers are telling you to throw it away? I will keep experimenting with this. Since I will continue to feed my starter I will have a lot more to experiment with. Somehow I think it's wrong to call it ‘discard’, because I am not intending to ever throw any of it away intentionally. Maybe we can find a different name for it that will encourage more home bakers to make use of it. For the time being I will call it leftover sourdough starter.

I will try several things over the next few weeks with leftover starter. I am intrigued to find out how it will taste in comparison with regular flour/water (or other liquid) mixes. To begin with I decided to make some savoury pancakes with asparagus, goats cheese and olives for a swift supper. I lo

And I nearly forgot to mention that my first sourdough loaf has been a real success. It's definitely not for the impatient and needs a bit of time management, but it is immensely pleasing to cut into your first home-baked loaf. The dough was a bit wet and difficult to get out of the proving basket and I surely have a lot to learn, but the finished loaf had a wonderful crackling crust and decent crumb that are not so easy to find in many loafs you buy at the shop.

Leftover sourdough pancakes with asparagus and goats cheese

  • 2 cups of sourdough starter

  • 2 eggs

  • milk for thinning the pancake mix

  • bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed

  • goats cheese

  • black olives, pitted

  • honey (optional)

  • olive oil

  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan. Line a baking tray with parchment, spread out the asparagus on the tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix to distribute the oil evenly on every spear. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes until some bits are nicely charred and the aspargus is tender.

While the asparagus is roasting in the oven, put the sourdough starter in a bowl and add the eggs. Whisk vigorously to break up the eggs. Gradually add some milk while continuing. You want to have a better that resembles single cream. Season with salt and pepper. Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a nonstick pan and put on medium-high heat. Add about 1/3 cup of the batter and spread out with the bottom of the cup. Cook until there is no raw batter visible on top of the pancake. Flip with a spatula and contnue to cook the other side for another minute.

Continue with the rest of the mix. Fill every pancake with a few spears of the asparagus, crumble some goats cheese on top and scatter the olives over it. Season with salt and pepper. Flip over one half of the pancake so you have a half-moon shape. If you like, drizzle some honey on top of the pancake (I like orange blossom for this). Serve while still warm.

Sourdough pancakes filled with goats cheese, roasted asparagus and olives. 

Sourdough pancakes filled with goats cheese, roasted asparagus and olives. 

Quite pleased with my first sourdough loaf. 

Quite pleased with my first sourdough loaf. 

The sourdough starter after 4 days. Already active and bubbling. 

The sourdough starter after 4 days. Already active and bubbling. 

savoury bread and butter pudding and a journey to self-awareness

Fighting food waste in my home is a little journey in getting to know myself better. I enjoy learning more about myself, increasing my self-awareness, even though it often comes with painful lessons one has to learn. When my mum came to visit a few days ago I did a big shopping since it was Easter and most of the shops were closed for three days. Whenever I have loved ones visiting I like to make it a feast. I make a meal plan, but time and again I simply overdo it. Usually I end up cooking only half of the things I have planned and then struggle to use it all up once the guests have left. Whatsmore, when my mum left, I was going out for dinner several nights and did not find the time to do any cooking.

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Eventually some of things have gone off and I had to throw them away. Instead of living in the problem, I was thinking of some solutions to this dilemma. What can I do so this does not happen again?

  1. Letting go: it’s OK to have less food than needed at home. I can always order pizza or take my guests out for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.

  2. Looking beyond the visitors: what are the plans for the time when the visitors have left? Will I be able to finish the food when they are gone? Giving some away to friends or neighbours would be an option, alternatively inviting people around for dinner to cook with the leftovers.

  3. Keep it simple: having food stuffs at home that are less perishable is better. Have a few meals that are quick to prepare and can be made from dry goods (pasta, rice, beans). Maybe also serve things that were frozen or preserved.

I will elaborate on this some more. But I guess since I am learning to cook with leftovers I will become more intuitive in handling this dilemma in the future.

One thing I had leftover a lot was bread (again). How could I fool myself that two people can finish so much bread! Totally unrealistic! I made some of the crispbread again to use some of the bread, however I had so much more. There was a loaf of sourdough that was stale already, so I intended to try a savoury bread and butter pudding. Again I like to do this by guess and by gosh. There is no point in giving a leftover recipe if the loaf of bread you have left over is different in size. I just prepare a simple custard with the ratio of 2 parts milk or cream (or a combination of both) and 1 part egg. You can also start small and see if you need more. I had a half kilo loaf left over and used a custard made up of 1 cup milk and 2 eggs.

Savoury bread and butter pudding

  • leftover loaf of bread, sliced into 1-1.5 cm slices

  • butter

  • eggs

  • milk (or cream or a combination of both)

  • grated cheese (such as Emmenthal)

  • a slab of bacon cut in to cubes (optional)

  • handful of dried porcini mushrooms (optional)

  • caraway seed (optional)

  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease an ovenproof dish with butter. Butter the slices of bread and arange in the dish. Fry the bacon (if using) in a pan until crispy and set aside. Put the dried porcini mushrooms (if using) into a bowl and cover with water. Leave to rehydrate for ca. 15 minutes then strain and squeeze out the excess moisture. Stuff the bacon and mushrooms between the slices of buttered bread.

Make the custard by whisking the eggs with the milk (and/or cream) and season with salt and pepper and the caraway seed (optional). I added about 1 teaspoon to my custard of 1 cup milk and two eggs. Pour the custard over the bread. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes on a middle shelf until the cheese has melted and the edges of the bread are nicely browned. Enjoy with a chilled beer.

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preserved lemons - when life gives you a leftover lemon...

Lemons are such a versatile ingredient and seem to be so frequently used in most kitchens, it seems unlikely that you ever have any leftover. I find it does happen when I buy them in bulk. There is always one that I may not use immediately. And they do not keep for very long. Food storage tips often state that under no circumstances citrus fruit should ever be stored in the fridge. However I have found that they keep way longer when I do store them in the fridge. On the kitchen counter or in a fruit bowl they often start to grow mould within days. So I put them in the fridge as soon as I buy them. I just researched and was happy to find this comprehensive article on the Food52 website that confirmed my assumptions.

Cut the lemon lenghtways and crosswise but not right down to the bottom. Carefully stuff with one tablespoon of sea salt.

Cut the lemon lenghtways and crosswise but not right down to the bottom. Carefully stuff with one tablespoon of sea salt.

Food waste in my house (and I believe many will share this notion) often occurs due to indecision and procrastination. Luckily sometimes I remember that keeping it simple is key to a happier and more stressfree life. Preserved lemons are a good example of creating a stunning condiment with minimum effort. I have come across them nearly 20 years ago when I got a copy of Tamarind and Saffron by Claudia Roden. They are a staple ingredient in Morrocan cooking, especially used in tagines. With Middle Eastern cooking becoming increasingly prominent every year, more and more home cooks are getting acquainted with them. Claudia Roden featured several methods how to make them in the above mentioned book. I have only tried one so far, which I believe to remember she stated is the traditional one. I also find it the most fuss-free. The only thing you will need is a little bit of patience to let the lemons mature before you can use them in your cooking. But “what do you use them for apart from tagine?” some may ask. The skin can be chopped and used in grain salads, it is very good with fish dishes and stews, and my favourite way to use them is also a Claudia Roden recipe: roasted, skinned red peppers with preserved lemon skin, capers and a drizzle of pomegranate syrup. A divine starter, simple to prepare and very impressive.

The lemons need about 3-4 weeks to mature, then you can use the skin which by then will have become very tender. Most recipes using preserved lemons don’t mention uses for the brine and the flesh. They just ask you to use the skin and discard the rest. That is an awful lot of waste. The brine (made up of lemon juice and salt) and the flesh surely don’t have to be thrown. They are perfectly edible, maybe just not as intrigueing as the tender skin. My plan is to make this a serial post. First I would like you to follow this recipe and then we will explore more ways to use ALL parts of preserved lemons: skin, flesh and brine. Needless to say I am talking organic lemons here. Since you want to use the skin, you don’t want it to be full of pesticides.

Mostly when I make these, I prepare a larger jar with 3-4 lemons. But it is possible to make it with just one lemon. If you have one lemon sitting on your counter and feel indecisive how to use it, there you go. All you need is a jam jar and some sea salt. The jar should be large enough to accomodate the lemon, but not too big, because you don’t want it to float on top, it should stay underneath the brine. I will give the recipe for one lemon here. If you want to preserve more just use a larger jar and adjust the quantities accordingly. I usually use bottled lemon juice for the brine because then I feel safe to have enough to cover the lemons in the jar. Follow this blog and see what I will do with the skin in about 3-4 weeks.

Preserved lemon

  • 1 organic lemon

  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

  • lemon juice (freshly squeezed or bottled)

Cut the lemon vertically crosswise from the top down to the bottom. Don’t cut all the way through, you should stop about a centimetre (about half an inch) from the bottom. Gently pry the four quarters apart and fill with the salt. Some of the salt will fall out, but that’s not a problem. Put the salt-stuffed lemon into a sterilized jar (either washed in the dishwasher or rinsed with hot water then dried in the oven on a low temperature) and press it down. You can put the rest of the salt that has fallen out into the jar on top of the lemon. Close the jar and leave in the fridge for 3-4 days until the lemon has released some of it’s juices. Cover with lemon juice so that the lemon is fully covered. Close the jar and store in the fridge for 3-4 more weeks before using. The lemons will keep for months, but I find the skin gets softer and more brittle over time, losing some of it’s bite (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Squeeze the lemon into a clean preserving jar large enough to hold it. Any salt that fell out you can add on top of the lemon.

Squeeze the lemon into a clean preserving jar large enough to hold it. Any salt that fell out you can add on top of the lemon.

After 4 days in the fridge the lemon has released some of its juices due to the salt. Now you need to top it up with some more juice.

After 4 days in the fridge the lemon has released some of its juices due to the salt. Now you need to top it up with some more juice.

The jar now has to be stored in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. Then the skin will be nice and tender. It keeps well for longer, however the skin will lose some of its bite and become more brittle.

The jar now has to be stored in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. Then the skin will be nice and tender. It keeps well for longer, however the skin will lose some of its bite and become more brittle.

soup of roasted cauliflower leaves and stalks

Cauliflower stems (like broccoli stems) are something that unfortunately too often ends up in the bin. Everyone knows that they are absolutely edible, but we go for the soft tender florets, because that’s what most recipes ask for. Recipe writers never seem to write about incorporating the stems. The leaves even suffer a worse fate. They only serve as some kind of flower wrap. Cauliflower would look unbelievably bland, mabye even suspicious if it was displayed on the shelves of green grocers and market stalls without the green leaves that are mostly trimmed to display the ‘flower’. So people rip off the leaves and discard them. At least some are mindful enough to compost them or feed their pets with it.

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I have only learned a few years ago that they are edible. My friend Leanne of Luna & Fennel lived in Berlin for a while and hosted supper clubs where she acquainted many with her delicious and wholesome pizza bases made out of cauliflower leaves. She also roasted the leaves and served them at the beginning of the evening as an appetizer with drinks. People were almost fighting over them. The flavour and texture was just amazing and I vowed to use the leaves more often. A few times I have actually rescued some from the bottom of the crates in a supermarket on a Saturday evening and made kimchi with it.

Last weekend I tried a recipe from Ottolenghi’s and Scully’s NOPI cookbook where (again!) I used mainly the cauliflower florets and part of the stem. I really wasn’t inspired to do something with the rest of the stem and the leaves. The scraps of a fruit or vegetable just never look that luscious and appealing as the whole beast. I did nudge myself though to make something with it. I thought a soup would be good. Then I thought roasting the leftovers instead of cooking them to introduce a smokiness to the flavour of the soup would be good. Time was limited that evening and since I didn’t have enough time to make the whole soup I broke it into increments.

I roasted the leaves and the stem in the oven for 10 minutes and after they were out of the oven and have cooled down, I stored them in a container in the fridge for a few days. That meant part of a quick dinner one weekday evening was already prepared. I came home last Thursday, put the roasted leaves with some herbs (chervil I had leftover in my fridge), garlic, vegetable stock, butter and grated parmesan in a food processor and puréed it for a few minutes until nice and creamy. The leaves of the cauliflower taste a bit sharper and more pungent than the rest of the plant. I don’t mind that, but some might prefer to tone it down a tad with cream or yogurt. I am not giving exact quantities here. Since I made this up myself I roasted what I had left from the cauliflower and incrementally added the stock to make a creamy soup. You can experiment to achieve the texture you like. Some people like their soups more thick and creamy, while others prefer them a bit thinner. You can always add a bit more stock to thin it to a consistency you desire.

Soup of roasted cauliflower leaves and stalks

  • leaves and stem of one cauliflower

  • vegetable stock

  • 1 clove of garlic crushed

  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

  • 2 tablespoons of butter

  • olive oil

  • herbs such as parsley, chives or chervil, roughly chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan (220 degrees conventional oven). Toss the leaves with a generous glug of olive oil and some sea salt. Spread on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the outer part of the leaves are nicely charred. Remove from the oven. Heat the vegetable stock. Put the cauliflower leaves and stems, the garlic and the herbs (if using) into a food processor and add a bit of the stock. Purée and add more stock to reach the consistency you desire. Reheat the soup before adding the butter and parmesan. Season to taste. Serve with some herbs sprinkled on top if you like.

Leaves and stems of a cauliflower often get the stepchild treatment in the kitchen…

Leaves and stems of a cauliflower often get the stepchild treatment in the kitchen…

Leaves and stems tossed in some olive oil and about to be roasted in the oven. Looking better already…

Leaves and stems tossed in some olive oil and about to be roasted in the oven. Looking better already…

The leaves and stalks after about 15 minutes in the oven.

The leaves and stalks after about 15 minutes in the oven.

citrus peel lemonade

Citrus peel is something so precious to me, I don’t think I ever throw it away (mind you, I am talking organic citrus peel here!). When a recipe asks for the juice or flesh only, I make sure I first thinly shave off the peel or finely grate it before juicing or splitting up the segments. Sometimes I use the peel immediately, more often I store it in my freezer and use it whenever I need something to aromatise a fruit compote, jazz up a jam or marmelade or use it in Asian cooking.

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Usually I have frozen berries in my freezer, so I eventually pair those with some slivers of frozen citrus peel, add some sugar and a bit of water and cook a quick fruit sauce for pan cakes or waffles. It just goes to show that using up leftovers is by no means a sign of deprivation or scarcity.

The last couple of weeks or so the weather has been lovely over here and has given us an enchanting foretaste of summer. I have decided to make my own lemonade more often to quench my thirst, combining it with various flavours. Herbs, spices and peels can add another dimension to a refreshment and it is a perfect way to make good use of leftovers.

This time I am keeping it simple by using few and very basic ingredients. I often keep bottled lemon or lime juice in my fridge for when a larger quantity of juice is needed. It’s difficult to say how many lemons you need to make up 1 cup. As a rule of thumb 1 lemon yields about 2.5 to 3 tablespoons of juice. Having said that it very much depends on the size of your lemons and how old they are (or how dry). So 1 cup of lemon juice should be around 5 to 6 lemons. If you want to keep it simple I advise you to have bottled lemon juice in your fridge. I find they also keep well a lot longer than is indicated on the label. (it often says use after 3 days, one or two weeks).

Citrus peel lemonade

  • 1 cup lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 4 cups chilled sparkling water (or still if you prefer)

  • organic orange, lime or lemon peel (fresh, frozen or dried)⠀⠀

  • ice cubes⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Make a syrup with the water and sugar and citrus peel. Bring the water to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool. Add the lemon juice to the cooled syrup and stir. Fill everything into a pitcher and top with the water. Serve with ice cubes.

easy peasy tomato soup with croutons

There are quite a few cookbooks out there dedicating themselves to the topic of zero waste or specifically eleminating food waste in your home. When I pick up one of those books I am often hopeful to learn something new, get a new inspiration on how to tackle food waste in my home more creatively. However I am mostly disappointed when I flick through some of those books and see long lists of ingredients. I close the book with an enervated sigh and put it back on the shelf. I simply don't see what makes it different from any other cookbook. When trying to save something from perishing I don't want a long list of things I have to go out and buy.

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More and more often my go-to sources are cookbooks that intrigue me with their simplicity. Nothing can be more captivating than using only a handful of ingredients and combining them in an unexpected way. Sometimes it can be one ingredient that is used in a slightly different manner, using a different technique or pairing it with another ingredient I have not considered before. Nigel Slater is a good source, a lesser-known (at least internationally) is the book by Risa Nagahama and her partner renowned food photographer Jörg Lehmann. Their book Easy Peasy came out two years ago and they really master the art of creating stunning dishes using as little as 2 and up to 8 ingredients. I love the elegant and minimalist style of Risa's dishes. Some of the ingredients might be a little bit difficult to source if you don't happen to live in a metropolitan area, however I find the book subtly encourages you to find substitutes and inspires to experiment. So far the book has only been published in German, yet I don't see a reason why it might not inspire you to learn another language. I have forgotten most of my French, but sometimes a beautiful picture of a dish has inspired me so much that I sat down and translated it.

Bread is probably the ultimate contender for food being thrown. What I do far too seldomly is turn dry bread into croutons, maybe because it is so obvious? Easy Peasy focuses mainly on fresh fruit and vegetables, but there is one recipe that is simple to prepare and is perfect for using up old bread. A soup made from tinned tomatoes, jazzed up with a condiment and the croutons! What are you using croutons for apart from soups and salads?

Most of the dishes in Easy Peasy are given rather endearing names rather than calling it what it is. The Queen in Japan (for a porridge with matcha tea) or August the Great (for a salad of melons and tomatoes dressed with an oil made off puréed black olives and olive oil). The soup is actually called Five Minutes in Bangkok, because in Easy Peasy they use a condiment with Thai flavours. The book names Harissa as an alternative, which I used instead. I have also made a little adaption by using chopped parsley instead of the thyme, because that’s what I had on hand. So I decided to call it Five Minutes in Tunis, because that’s where they apparently have the spiciest type of Harissa.

Five minutes in Tunis

  • 800 g of tinned tomatoes

  • 1 dry bread roll

  • olive oil

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled

  • 1-2 tablespoons Harissa paste (or another spicy condiment of your choice)

  • chopped parsley for garnish

Halve the dry bread roll horizontally and rub both halves with the garlic. Slice into small cubes. Put some olive oil into a pan and roast the bread until nicely toasted. Purée the tomatoes in a food processor or with a handheld blender and heat in a saucepan. Mix in the Harissa and season to taste. Serve sprinkled with the parsley and croutons.

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roasted puntarelle - when simple really is more than good enough

Over the last few months, since running this blog again more regularly I have also noticed a positive side-effect. I seem to be spending less on food. I don’t think I am eating less and neither do I buy cheaper or food stuffs of inferior quality. It’s probably due to the fact that I throw away less. Actually hardly anything. It’s the middle of the month now and I look at my bank balance and wonder what’s going on. There is still so much money in my bank! I once heard the phrase: polish here and it shines there. My original intention of throwing away less food has rewarded me unexpectedly with saving money.

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However since it seems to become more natural for me to avoid food waste I occasionally find it a bit challenging to come up with blog posts where I can share my experience of having saved anything from being thrown. Eleminating food waste in my kitchen starts to become second nature and I often dismiss an idea writing about something here, because I think it’s not relevant and probably won’t inspire people that much. Which I guess is a bit ignorant. You never really know what impact something you say or do has on other people.

My friend Karla recently sent me a note on Whatsapp before she was going on holiday. She took a photo of some vegetables roasting in the oven with seeds and nuts and shared that with me with the caption that she copied me. This really made my day.

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So when I was struggling this week to come up with a post because I thought there was really nothing in my fridge that needed to be used up I thought I might just copy Karla coying me and make up a post about roasting vegetables in the oven. Choosing some limp and wilted items on the bottom of the crate that probably nobody will buy anymore. How could I be so ignorant? In fact I DID have something sitting in my crisper for several weeks that I promised myself I will use soon. It was part of a head of puntarelle (in Germany we also call it volcanic asparagus) that left me with decision fatigue for quite some time. Should I ferment it? Use it for a filling of a tart? Eat it raw in a salad? Days passed, weeks passed and it is only because I have moved into an apartment with a super fridge that kept it alive and green for so long. In the end I decided I have had enough of this food procrastination and decided I won’t go out and buy some more food when I have clearly enough in the bottom of the fridge to last me for a couple of meals.

I guess what blocked me and kept me procrastinating for so long was the fact that I wanted to make something amazing with it. Something that earned me at least three imaginary Michelin stars. How silly is that?! The Italians love to eat puntarelle very simple. When I bought the head in mid-March the stall keeper in Munich’s Leopoldstraße gave me some unsolicited advice on how to prepare it: “Just some olive oil, fennel and anchovy. That’s how we love it in Italy!”

It felt like a relief to let go of all these super complicated projects I was going to do with it. Just setting the oven on high, ripping the shoots apart, splashing it with some gluggs of olive oil and letting it do its thing in the oven for 20 minutes while preparing a simple dressing of fennel seeds, lemon zest (hello! there was half a lemon rescued here, shrivelling in my fridge!) and smashed anchovies. Life can be wonderful when I am keeping it simple and let go of my perfectionism! Have you had any experiences of letting go in the kitchen? Feel free to share it with me below!

Roasted puntarelle

  • puntarelle (or endive or radicchio)

  • olive oil

  • lemon zest finely grated and lemon juice (optional)

  • anchovies

  • fennel seeds

  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven on 180 degrees C fan. Rip the puntarelle into individual shoots (if using endive or radicchio cut into wedges) and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Splash with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. While the puntarelle is in the oven prepare the dressing. Smash 2-3 anchovies in the pestle and mortar (or smash with a fork on a plate) and mix with the lemon zest, lemon juice and fennel seeds. Dress the puntarelle with the dressing and serve.

The individual shoots resemble asparagus a little bit, however they have a bitter flavour not unlike endives or dandelion. Here the shoots are dressed with olive oil and some salt and pepper before they are roasted in the oven for 20 minutes.

The individual shoots resemble asparagus a little bit, however they have a bitter flavour not unlike endives or dandelion. Here the shoots are dressed with olive oil and some salt and pepper before they are roasted in the oven for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes the shoots are slightly charred and nice and tender.

After 20 minutes the shoots are slightly charred and nice and tender.

chervil omelet - savoury pancake to use leftover herbs

Over the years I have thrown away many leftover herbs. It seems you can never buy herbs in the quantity you actually need. You either end up with too much or too little. The latter often puts you into the dilemma of having to buy a second bunch or package which mostly ends up being too much. Time and again it happens that I discovered the half-rotten leftovers of a bunch that was pushed to the back of my fridge and kick myself for not having acted before it started to wilt. It doesn’t seem like a huge amount of waste, however herbs are mostly rather expensive. If I add up all the leftover herbs I have thrown away over the years I suppose it amounts to quite a lot. It’s 50 cents here, 75 cents there…sometimes more, sometimes less.

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I have written a post about different ways to use up a leftover bunch of lemon thyme and covered quite a few options: making herb butter, flavoured oil or vinegar, freezing it, drying it. Something I have not listed there was a herb omelet. Yet I have to say that harder, sturdier herbs like rosemary or thyme don’t work so well in an omelet, at least not in huge amounts. More delicate herbs, such as chives, dill, tarragon or coriander (cilantro) work a lot better here and may be used in larger quantities.

The other day I bought a bunch of chervil which I mainly used for garnishing a dish. I had a lot left over and running this blog not only helps to sharpen my focus, but also increases my self-awareness. When I put the rest of the bunch of chervil in the fridge (which was a lot since I only used a tiny amount for garnish) I vowed to myself to not make the same mistake again. It was not only because of the price tag, which was a rather costly 3.50 Euros.

I procrastinated for a few days, but eventually got my act together and decided to make a simple omelet with it. I even remembered that I might make use of a kitchen gadget I haven’t used for a while: a blini pan (blinis are pancakes popular in Eastern Europe often served with sour cream and roe). Again I kept it rather simple using what I had on hand: eggs, garlic, a little bit of single cream I also had left, salt, pepper, the chervil and dollops of greek yogurt on top. I was chuffed not only to have beaten my leftover procrastination, but also having created a delicious meal with something that too often has ended up in the bin. It’s up to you how finely you want to chop the herbs. You may also add some cream, finely grated lemon zest or cheese if you like. Here is what I made:

Chervil omelet

  • bunch of chervil, roughly chopped

  • 3 eggs, beaten

  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

  • 50 ml single cream

  • salt and pepper

  • butter for the pan

  • greek yogurt to serve

Mix the eggs with the herbs, garlic, cream and salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a pan. Swirl the pan a little so that also the edges are evenly greased. You can make one large omelet with a larger pan or several smaller omelets if you have smaller pans. Add the egg mixture to the pan, either all at once if you have a large pan or make individual smaller omelets if you are using a smaller pan. Mine is 10 cm in diametre and I made three omelets each about one centimetre thick. Cook the pancakes at medium-high heat until they firm up. You don’t want the bottom to get too dark, so test for doneness by shaking the pan a little and seeing if they are firm enough to be flipped over. I use a plate to quickly turn them and then let the omelet slide back into the pan to cook the other side. It might run a little, leaving a little bit of the mix on the plate, but that’s ok. If making individual omelets keep them warm in a preheated oven (about 100 degrees) until you are ready to serve. Serve with Greek yogurt or sour cream or simply with some melted butter on top.

I used my cast-iron blini pan to make smaller, individual omelets

I used my cast-iron blini pan to make smaller, individual omelets

pretzel crisps from leftover pretzels

When trying to eliminate food waste, I don’t stop at my kitchen. Since trying to commit myself to avoid throwing away leftovers and being aware of the life span of some easily perishable food stuffs, I also often aim to buy things at the supermarket that have been reduced. Sometimes they are close to or have reached the sell-by date, others are simply not stocked anymore and have to make space for new products. Occasionally I also take things that were given away for free.

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The other day the cashier at an organic supermarket pointed out they have a crate with leftover bread behind the checkout, if I want to take some. It was only half an hour until they closed so I took a baguette and a couple of pretzels. The pretzels reminded me of a snack I discovered recently: pretzel pieces the size of an inch, made out of regular pretzels that have been doused in olive oil and different kinds of flavourings. I found that was a fantastic way to use up leftover pretzels.

Pretzels don’t keep for very long and they are very sensitive to some climates. If it’s too dry they quickly get very hard and chewy, when the humidity is too high they also adapt a rather chewy and slightly soggy texture. If you have some that have gotten too chewy, you can moisten them slightly with your wet hands and baking them in the oven on 160 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

I have decided to recreate the pretzel snack. I searched the internet and found some methods. Here is what I tried. Someone also told me to make pretzel dumplings, which apparently you can make out of hard pretzels that you have had in your larder for weeks. This is a project I am intending to try real soon and share with you. Since it’s the weekend I have decided to make the pretzels for snacking on when watching a film on Saturday night. I have made them with smoked paprika powder. Someone suggested to create a salt and vinegar version, dousing the pretzels in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. DIfferent herbs are also an option. What are your favourite flavours when it comes to cisps and other kind of snacks?

Pretzel snack

  • stale pretzels (a day old or max. 2 days old)

  • olive oil

  • mild paprika

Preheat the oven to 80 degrees Celsius. Remove the rock salt from the pretzels, simply by rubbing it off with your fingers. Slice the pretzels with a sharp knife into 1 cm rounds. Put the pretzel pieces in a bowl and add the olive oil. You need about 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil for each pretzel. Toss the pieces so they are evenly coated with the olive oil. Add the paprika or other spices of your choice and toss. I find it works best to dust the pieces using a metal sieve and spoon. Then toss again until they are evenly coated with the paprika. Spread the mixture on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and dry in the oven for 2 hours, turning the pieces in between. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Rub off the rock salt from the pretzels. Some have way to much salt. Slice them into 1 centimetre rounds and put in a bowl.

Rub off the rock salt from the pretzels. Some have way to much salt. Slice them into 1 centimetre rounds and put in a bowl.

Add olive oil and mix. Add more olive oil until they are evenly coated.

Add olive oil and mix. Add more olive oil until they are evenly coated.

Sprinkle over paprika (or another spice of your choice) and mix until evenly coated with the spice. I use a metal sieve to distribute the spice evenly over the pieces.

Sprinkle over paprika (or another spice of your choice) and mix until evenly coated with the spice. I use a metal sieve to distribute the spice evenly over the pieces.

I will never throw away pretzels. This is simply addictive. I let them cool and had them for a late evening snack.

I will never throw away pretzels. This is simply addictive. I let them cool and had them for a late evening snack.

sauerkraut from half a cabbage

Fermentation has been all the rage for several years now. I don’t really care about fashion or trends that much. I like what I like and I do what I do. My initation to fermentation has been an accidental one. About 5 years ago I came across Isa Palstek, who runs a fermentation group by the name of Wilde Fermente (German) on Facebook. She was also making and selling ceramic pickle weights that I got interested in. I wasn’t contemplating on trying my hands on fermentation, but wanted to have the weights to keep things submerged. For example bitter oranges I steeped in alcohol for several months to make an aperitif called vin d’orange or brining my own olives.

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It turned out that Isa lived around the corner, so I asked if I could come and collect the weights at her place. We had a chat and she told me more about fermentation, her Facebook group, her blog (German) and the health benefits of sauerkraut. It made me laugh. Sauerkraut! Of all things! I was like: “You’re alright?!” Nevertheless I joined her group, was intrigued by all the fermentation posts of her members and a complete convert after I participated in a workshop of hers a few months later. We made curtido, a Salvadorian kind of sauerkraut, that is traditionally served in El Salvador with pupusas (a flat bread with a filling). Ever since then I am hooked on the special kind of umami flavour of many ferments and continue to learn, be intrigued and willing to learn and explore more. I am planning to write a longer post on fermentation since it is such a wonderful way to handle your leftovers. One thing I can tell you: it’s not rocket science and most of the things you have probably read before are wrong.

One of the things that people are scared off when it comes to fermentation is that they believe it is laborious and you can only make it in big batches. Sauerkraut conjures up images of farmers in wellington boots stomping on tons of shredded cabbage in huge tanks. Believe me: it doesn’t have to be that much effort and you won’t need to buy wellies. I had half a cabbage left the other day. Enough for a half litre jar of sauerkraut I thought and another topic for my blog. At this time of year most of the cabbages have been stored for some months and have lost a lot of their liquid. Mine has been sitting in the fridge for another week since I bough it and used only half of it and I expected it to be a bit dry. You need to massage salt into the shredded cabbage and work it for quite a bit in order to get enough brine. The brine is essential because the cabbage needs to be submerged so no bad mould fungi can grow. The half head of cabbage I had was around 500 g. As a rule of thumb, you need 2 % of salt for sauerkraut. Which means a 500 g cabbage needs 10 g of salt. In summer you need a little bit less because of the higher temperatures, in winter a little bit more. More salt slows down the fermentation process. However it also depends on the room temperature. Most lactic acid bacteria works best at temperatures between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius. So the environment you start your ferments in should neither be too cold nor too hot.

The jars that work best for fermentation are those with a metal clip. In the UK they are called Kilner jars, in France they are called Le Parfait, in Italy Fido. A Swedish furniture store has them, too. I will explain more about jars in my longer post about fermentation coming soon, just trust me for now to use those types of jars.

The jars shouldn’t be packed up to the rim. Fill them up to the neck and use a weight to keep the sauerkraut submerged. Fermentation weights are available on the internet, but if you care about food safety I recommend the ceramic pickle weights of Isa. She also ships abroad (a little tip when emailing her: write politely and in full sentences. I know, it’s hard and a lot to ask for in times of text messaging and social media, but it’s good for your karma).

Sauerkraut

  • white or red cabbage (savoy won’t work, because it is to dry)

  • rock salt or sea salt (2% of the cabbage weight: i.e. 500 g needs 10 g of salt, 1000 g of cabbage needs 20 g of salt)

  • spices (crushed juniper berries, caraway seeds, bay leaf, macis…feel free to experiment)

Wash the cabbage and remove the tough core and some of the outer leaves. Slice the cabbage very finely or use a mandolin to get very even and thin slices. The thinner the cabbage slices the easier it will ferment. Add the shredded cabbage to a bowl with the salt and start massaging the cabbage until it releases a lot of liquid and a little pool forms at the bottom of the bowl. You need a lot of that liquid to cover the sauerkraut sufficiently. If your cabbage seems a bit dry and doesn’t yield a lot of brine, don’t worry. You can top it up with a 2 % brine. Simply dissolve 10 g of salt in 500 ml of water and use that to cover the sauerkraut.

Add crushed juniper berries or caraway seeds to the kraut and mix. Fill the kraut into a jar with a metal clip (Kilner, Fido or Le Parfait). Make sure you push it down enough so there are no air pockets. Fill it up to neck and top up with the brine. The kraut needs to be well submerged. Top with a ceramic pickle weight, make sure you clean the edges on the inside and outside with a paper towel, so no mould fungus can grow. Also look out for any bits that are floating on top and remove those or push underneath. Put a rubber seal on the lid and close. Keep in a dark place to ferment at a temperature between 18 and 22 degrees celsius. After a few days you can store it in a cooler temperature of around 18 degrees. After 4-6 weeks you can try your sauerkraut. Once opened store in the fridge where it will keep for several months.

You need to massage the salt into the cabbage for a bit to yield enough brine. If it is too dry (which often occurs at the end of the winter months, you can top it up with more brine (see details in the recipe).

You need to massage the salt into the cabbage for a bit to yield enough brine. If it is too dry (which often occurs at the end of the winter months, you can top it up with more brine (see details in the recipe).

You need to push the cabbage down so there is no air trapped. Don’t fill the jars up to the rim. You need to leave some space for the ceramic pickle weight and the brine.

You need to push the cabbage down so there is no air trapped. Don’t fill the jars up to the rim. You need to leave some space for the ceramic pickle weight and the brine.

Top with a ceramic pickle weight to keep the sauerkraut submerged in the brine. If you haven’t got enough brine from kneading the cabbage, make a 2% brine to top it up. This weight with the bubble decor is lovingly made by  Isa of Wilde Fermente .

Top with a ceramic pickle weight to keep the sauerkraut submerged in the brine. If you haven’t got enough brine from kneading the cabbage, make a 2% brine to top it up. This weight with the bubble decor is lovingly made by Isa of Wilde Fermente.

After a few days the brine will look cloudy. This is normal and a sign that the fermentation process has started. The bubbles you see here aren’t air pockets but the gases that is produced by the lactic acid bacteria.

After a few days the brine will look cloudy. This is normal and a sign that the fermentation process has started. The bubbles you see here aren’t air pockets but the gases that is produced by the lactic acid bacteria.

I recommend you put a plat underneath your jar, because some of the brine will leak out of the jar. The rubber seals allow for pressure to escape. The gasses produced by the lactic acid bacteria pushes out oxygen and creates an anaerobic climate at the top of the jar which makes it impossible for mould fungus to grow.

I recommend you put a plat underneath your jar, because some of the brine will leak out of the jar. The rubber seals allow for pressure to escape. The gasses produced by the lactic acid bacteria pushes out oxygen and creates an anaerobic climate at the top of the jar which makes it impossible for mould fungus to grow.

celery, parmesan and lemon salad

Over the years I have accumulated quite a few kitchen gadgets. Some of them are useful, some things just lie in my kitchen drawer and have only been used once or twice. Egg slicer, anyone? Having said that, I must add that I do have some pieces of equipment that make me unbelievably happy every time I use them. One of those items is a mandoline which I received over 15 years ago as a xmas present from my friend Katja. The model I have is adjustable which allows you to slice even the hardest vegetable into paper-thin slices. It effortlessly transforms cucumbers into transparent discs, fennel shavings appear as a whisper on top of salads and potatoes can be sliced evenly for a gratin. I think there are very few people in this world who have the knife skills to compete with a good-quality mandoline.

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Coming to speak of leftovers. Since a mandoline can turn even the most mundane produce into a stunning ingredient in any dish, I find it an extremely helpful tool to make use of your leftovers. If you get one that is adjustable in height (which allows you to choose the thickness of your slices) and has a sharp blade, it is a pleasure to use.

Celery is an ingredient I often have leftover. You buy a whole bunch and usually need only a stalk or two. A few years ago I read of a salad with thinly sliced celery, parmesan and lemon. There were no quantities given, but I find to make this simple summery salad you don’t need exact quantities. I usually make it by guess and by gosh. Often I use finely grated lemon zest and the juice to scatter over the salad. This time I wanted to make use of preserved lemons, because I have quite a few jars of them in my fridge. Note to self: preserved lemons will be another good blog post for the future. There are more ways to be creative here. If I have some parsley that has to be used, I add that. A poached egg is a lovely topping and makes it more substantial. You can use other hard cheeses such as manchego or pecorino if that’s what you have. Do you have any salads you like to make with leftover celery?

Celery parmesan and lemon salad

  • one leftover bunch of celery

  • parmesan

  • finely grated zest lemon zest and lemon juice (or the skin of 1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped)

  • extra-virgin olive oil

  • salt and pepper

  • addtional toppings (I used celery seeds, chopped parsley or toasted pine nuts would also be good)

Remove the leaves and from the celery and roughly chop. Set aside. Slice the celery into approximately 2 mm slices using a mandoline or very sharp knife and put into a bowl. Shave the parmesan into thin slices with a vegetable peeler or also on the mandoline. Add this to the celery, scatter over the celery leaves, grated lemon zest (or chopped preserved lemon) and any addtional toppings. Mix gently with your hands and drizzle over the lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste and mix again gently with your hands. Serve with crusty white bread and a glass of white wine (to make life even better). Sicily here I come again!

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chicken broth - the transformation of a roasted bird

The other day I made a roast chicken and I think this was the most expensive whole chicken I have ever bought. With chicken I have made a dramatic transition in my food shopping. For most of my life I have been completly oblivious to what kind of life the animal has had. Eventually I started buying cornfed birds, which was a change from only buying the cheapest chicken breast. Now I start to consider other things: free range, raised on a farm with no cull of male chicks, regional if possible. It is a completely different price level, but that makes me realise how meat is just not something to have everyday, but for a special occasion.

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I was intrigued when I roasted the bird. The scent was unlike other chicken I have roasted in the past and the flavour…this was something else. Which inspired me to get even more out of it and make a broth from the leftover bones. I think I have made it once before, but wasn’t too convinced. The flavour just wasn’t as strong as the stock you get from a stock cube. This bird seemed a lot more promising and I thought it is only fair to get the most out of the whole animal. So I searched the internet for instructions how to make chicken stock from leftover bones from a roast chicken. I decided to improvise with what I had and bought a couple of things that were missing. Many recipes ask to discard the vegetables after cooking the chicken stock. They definitely don’t look very appealing after having been cooked in the broth for several hours, but I found they are good enough to be turned into a cream of vegetable soup.

Colourwise the soup left a lot to be desired, it was a greenish-grayish hue that didn’t shout: Eat me! Turmeric was my saviour. It’s not only the vibrant yellow colour that I like, but also the earthy and slightly bitter flavour profile. The chicken stock was not as salty as I expected even though I added salt to the soup and celery imparts a natural saltiness. Feel free to adjust. It’s definitely worth making your own stock. It’s hardly any work and I didn’t even bother skimming off the foam. In my soup there wasn’t a lot. It was mainly put everything in the pot, simmer and leave for a few hours. What have your experiences with making your own chicken broth or other bone broth? Feel free to share below or send me a message.

Chicken broth

  • carcass and bones of one roasted chicken

  • 2 onions or shallots, peeled and cut in half

  • 3 stalks of celery

  • 1 large carrot, peeled

  • 1 parsnip, peeled (or stalks from a bunch of parsley)

  • 2 bay leaves

  • clove of garlic, peeled and left whole

  • a teaspoon of pepper corns

  • a teaspoon of fennel seeds

  • 1 star anise

  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut the carrot, celery and parsnip into large chunks. Add all the ingredients with the bones and carcass of the chicken to a large casserole and fill with water until just covered. Put on a lid and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, so it is barely simmering. A bubble rising to the surface here and there is enough. Simmer on this low heat for 2-3 hours. When ready strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Reserve the cooked vegetables (I also kept the garlic and onions) for later and discard the rest. Taste the stock and season to taste. If you don’t use the stock immediately, let it cool, then store in the fridge until ready to use. This keeps well for a up to a week in the fridge.

Cream of vegetable soup

  • cooked vegetables from the chicken stock

  • 1 cup of chicken stock

  • 100 ml cream

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

Put the vegetables in a food processor with a dash of the chicken stock and pulse to a puree (or use a handheld blender and a bowl). Add the rest of the stock and pulse. Mix in the cream and turmeric. Reheat on the stove and serve.

spring onion gratin - when a supporting actor takes centre stage

Spring onions regularly appear in my cooking. I don't think I have ever thrown any away. Not only because I use them frequently, but I find they are very sturdy and survive a lot longer in the vegetable box of my fridge. Occasionally I have to strip off an outer layer or discard a limp green stem. After having promised myself not only to fight foodwaste in my home, but also blogging here regularly, I feel I am developing a razor-sharp focus and awareness of what I have in my fridge. It also helped that I gave my fridge a thorough cleaning recently and just love to look at how structered, clean and orderly it looks. So I have seen this leftover bunch of spring onions sitting in the crisper of my fridge for well over a week and a half. They still look surprisingly fresh, but that is also due to the brandnew fridge that came with the flat when I moved in last year. But I catch myself procrastinating: "Oh, they still look good. There is still enough time. Today I am in the mood for something else." I wonder why mankind has this uncontrollable tendency to wait until things get really bad. Why always act with your back against the wall?! Am I waiting for these spring onions to come to life, corner me and force me to cook them?

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One thing I am learning with fighting foodwaste is keeping it simple. I am very much into dedicating myself to long and involved recipes, but this approach doesn't really help with using up leftovers. At least I haven't gotten to the point where I can do both. Nothing wrong with simplicity, but I sometimes find that I am being lazy if it's not long and involved or that it is not real cooking when I am doing something simple. However I am always intrigued when I see someone come up with a beautiful and stunning dish that does not comprise of a long list of ingredients and complicated method.

Coming back to the spring onions...I saw a very simple but beautiful dish in the book Dandelion & Quince by Michelle MacKenzie. It's mainly about using unsual fruit and vegetables. I find spring onions (or shallots as she calls them) not really an unsual ingredient, but it's unusal for them to take centre stage in a recipe. She dedicated a whole chapter to them and one of the recipes for a simple gratin was accompanied by a beautiful photo of the spring onions imbedded in melted butter and Comté cheese. If they zoomed in on the photo one could easily mistake it for a watercolour painting of a reed landscape.

I decided to change the recipe a little bit to my needs and what I had at hand. Michelle’s recipe asks for the spring onions to be blanched for about 5 minutes. I just used them as they were, set the oven to fan and 200 degrees and let it roast for about 10 minutes until the cheese was melted and bubbly and some brown spots started to appear around the edges. Some of the onions were already missing some of the green stalks, which I used for the roasted red onion and goats cheese salad I had last week. Some of the spring onions were looking limp and weren’t so vibrant in colour anymore. I thought it was good enough for me. I just cut the roots and some parts that were brownish. When they are cooked or roasted it doesn’t matter if they don’t look at their freshest to start with. Michelle used Comté in her recipe, which is not so easy to find. I had Parmesan in my flat, so decided to use that. Feel free to experiment with other cheeses. However I wouldn’t recommend anything that is too neutral (Mozzarella) or too strong (piquant Gorgonzola) in taste. Be careful with the salt. I would sample the cheese first to see if you need to add salt when seasoning.

  • bunch of spring onions

  • 125 g of finely grated Parmesan cheese

  • 100 ml single cream

  • olive oil

  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan (220 regular oven). Wash the onions and pat dry. Cut off the roots and parts of the stalks that don’t look fresh anymore. Put half of the cheese in a bowl with the cream and mix. Take a shallow gratin dish and grease with a glug of olive oil. Layer the spring onions in the dish, spread over the cheese/cream mixture and season. Scatter the rest of the cheese on top and season to taste. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and is bubbling. Keep a close eye on it towards the end to prevent it from burning. Serve immediately with fresh bread.

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roasted red onions and goats cheese salad

One of the main challenges I have with leftovers is procrastination. I might have the best intentions to use up something in my fridge or larder, but I am always tempted by something new. So I get all Scarlet O’Hara by putting it off for another day. Oftentimes I end up discarding something that I have cooked many times in my head in numerous variations.

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The other day when I was about to leave the house and thought what to have for dinner, I saw this packet of four red onions sitting on my kitchen counter. It had been there for weeks and I knew I had to do something about it. One was growing a green stem and another looked kind of saggy and sad. The latter I had to throw because the inside has turned all slimy and had traces of mould. The other ones were still good to use. I decided to make a simple salad of roast onions, goats cheese and balsamic vinegar. I have several bottles of good quality balsamic which were given to me over the years as gifts, so I am on a mission now to use them all up and eat more salad.

I was thinking of using walnuts and lambs lettuce for the salad and maybe parsley to scatter on top, but I wanted to keep the shopping list minimal. Pecans don’t have the bitter flavour of walnuts that I would have liked to have added here, but they were good enough for this salad. I also had hazelnuts, so that would have worked, too. Parsley wasn’t at hand, but I had some spring onions at home and thought that the green parts will be good for a garnish. After all the sharp taste of the red onions mellow in the roasting process. So the only thing I had to buy was goats cheese. I decided to get some soft goats cheese rounds, but the harder variety would have also been good. If you have Parmesan, that would also be a possibility.

I have to say, that I was thrilled that I was able to reduce my shopping and improvise with only a few things that I had at home. It was so much more fun to keep it simple, improvise and be creative with what I have rather than going on a shopping odyssey that clearly would have left me with another whole lot of leftover ingredients.

Here is what I used. Of course you can adjust the quantities depending on how much you have left at home. Red onions look more beautiful than white or brown onions, but if that’s all you have at home, don’t hesitate to try making this dish. It will be just fine.

  • 3 red onions, peeled and halved

  • 100 g soft goats cheese rounds

  • handful of pecans, roughly chopped (or use walnuts, hazelnuts or pumpkin seeds)

  • balsamic vinegar

  • olive oil

  • salt and pepper

  • spring onions, the green parts, thinly sliced at a diagonal (or substitute with parsley, thyme or chives)

Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C /fan: 230 degrees C (445 F/fan: 465 F). Layer the onion halves cutside up in a greased oven-proof dish and drizzle over some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes until caramelized and the edges are a slightly charred. When ready arrange the onion halves with the goats cheese on two plates, drizzle with about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar per plate. Drizzle with some more olive oil and scatter over the chopped pecans and garnish with the spring onion greens. Season with a little bit more salt and pepper and serve.