Thursday, November 26, 2015

Velvety carrot soup with carrot-top pesto

The weather has suddenly turned and it finally feels like winter. The mild autumn lasted too long for my liking and I’ve been anticipating the cold temperatures eagerly, not in the least because I want to start digging into soups, stews and all types of heartwarming dishes.

My body craves soups at the moment; I long to feel their warmth travel down to my tummy and make me smile with contentment with each spoonful. I plan on making lots and lots of soups in the coming months. A traditional Greek meat soup is in order (one of S’s favorites), fish soup (possibly my favorite soup in the whole wide world) and of course vegetable soups. Those are the easiest and quickest soups to make, and they indeed tend to feature on our dinner table regularly during the colder months of the year.

Vegetable soups are the chocolate chip cookie of the soup world; you may have found the recipe that you absolutely love and swear by, but you just can’t resist the temptation to try new ones. I hope this happens to all of you with this soup —a velvety carrot soup with a full-flavored carrot-top pesto— and you make it as soon as you read this.

I love utilizing the whole vegetable, root to leaf, wasting nothing, and that’s exactly what I did in this dish. I used the carrots for the soup, the carrot-tops for the pesto, and paired them with the best ingredients to bring ultimate pleasure to the palate. You’ll have trouble to believe that this soup doesn’t contain any cream, milk or butter as it’s so incredibly smooth and rich in flavor and texture, but it doesn’t. It is simple and made with only a few ingredients; the right ones.

This warming, cozy soup has a delicate flavor with the natural sweetness of the carrot coming through, whereas its smooth texture is, for me, just right; not too thick (I have a huge issue with very thick soups that verge on being a purée), very creamy, even if it lacks any kind of dairy fat, and super light yet filling. The carrot-top pesto with its grassy, earthy, nutty and umami flavors livens and freshens up the soup, while adding a pleasant sharpness and zing.

If it’s getting cold now in your part of the world, dear reader, make this and enjoy it with some good, crusty bread and the best ingredient of them all, good company.

P.S. The Greek VIMA Gourmet Food Blog Awards competition is still running. Apart from your votes, there’s a judges panel that will judge specific recipes submitted for the competition using sponsors’ ingredients. One of its sponsors is #Knorr and they send me maaaany stock pots and cubes to feature in my recipes for the competition. I have loved using them. So, this soup is submitted for one of the categories I’m nominated in, “Best Cooking Blog”. If you wish, you can still vote for me here for Best Cooking Blog, here for Best Sweet Treats and here for Best Food Photography & Styling by clicking the “like” button below the Greek text and next to where it says “Like for Vote” in each category. You will make me very happy if you do. Thank you very much for your support!!

Velvety carrot soup with carrot-top pesto

If you can’t find carrots with their tops attached, substitute with flat-leaf parsley for the pesto. The flavor won’t be the same but it’s the closest one there is.
The thing when getting carrots with tops is that you end up with a loooot of carrot tops. You need 1 cup of leaves for the pesto so use the rest in soups, stocks, or in salads.

The carrots I used in this recipe are the small ones. If you can’t find them, use large carrots. They will, however, need a bit more time to cook.

Add a few drops of lemon juice to the soup before eating it. The lemon balances the sweetness and adds another level of flavor with its acidity. Especially when it comes to vegetable soups, lemon is your friend, and in this case, even though the pesto adds sharpness (garlic), oumami flavor (parmesan), earthiness (toasted pine nuts), the soup still needs a bit of acidity in the form of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Use any leftover pesto tossed with pasta, in sandwiches, to smear on steaks, you name it.

Yield: 4-6


for the soup
2½ Tbsp (40 ml) olive oil
1 onion (about 120 g), roughly chopped
A large bunch of carrots with tops (about 900 g in total) – you will need 700 g peeled and sliced carrots (2cm-thick)
1 Knorr vegetable stock pot
900 ml hot water
Freshly ground white pepper

for the pesto
1 cup (about 30 g) carrot tops, chopped
3 Tbsp (30 g) pine nuts
1 garlic clove
4 Tbsp (60 ml) olive oil
¼ cup (12 g) finely grated Parmesan
Freshly ground white pepper

Lemon, for serving

Special equipment: immersion or regular blender for the soup, small food processor for the pesto


for the soup
In a medium-large soup pot, add the olive oil and place over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and season with a little salt. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn, for about 8 minutes.
Add the sliced carrots to the pot together with the Knorr stock pot, the hot water and a little freshly ground white pepper. Turn heat up to high and bring to the boil. Put on the lid slightly ajar, turn heat down to low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are very tender, for 20-25 minutes.

Once the soup is ready, remove from the heat and then, if you’re using an immersion blender, blend the carrots in the pan until smooth and creamy. If you have a regular blender, transfer the carrots little by little to it and blend until you have a smooth and creamy soup. Return soup to the pan.
Check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

for the pesto
While the soup is simmering, prepare the pesto.

To toast the pine nuts, add them to a dry, small pan and place over medium heat. Toast them, stirring regularly so they don’t burn, until they become fragrant. Empty them immediately onto a plate and let them cool.

In a small food processor, add the garlic and toasted pine nuts and process until a coarse paste forms. Add the carrots tops and process until you have a coarse mixture. Add the olive oil and pulse until combined and then add the parmesan and pulse until just combined and you have a rough-textured pesto. Add some white pepper, taste and add salt if you think it needs it. Pulse for 2 seconds and you’re done.

Note: If you don’t use the pesto immediately, you can keep it in the fridge, inside a bowl covered with plastic wrap, for up to 5 days. Mix well with a spoon before use.

serve the soup
Serve the soup while hot in soup bowls and top with a couple teaspoons of pesto (more or less according to your taste). Squeeze some lemon on top and enjoy!

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Grilled langoustines with olive oil, lemon and chilli

Sometimes I try to find ways in which to highlight a specific ingredient, or explore a new recipe that will make me appreciate the protagonist of a dish even more. I long to find ways in which to expand my culinary repertoire, my skills and my palate.

And other times, I just want to enjoy the main ingredient in all its glory, all its beauty and simplicity. Especially when said ingredient is langoustines. I have tried a number of recipes featuring langoustines in the past, mainly the classic one of langoustine pasta, I have tried them slathered and sautéed in copious amounts of butter, the French way, but truth be told, this is the only way I fully enjoy them and appreciate them for what they are; juicy, tender, sweet-fleshed crustaceans with incomparable flavor.

Coated in a mixture of rich olive oil, some dried red chilli flakes and a little salt, char-grilled on very high heat for just a few minutes and then dressed with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice and fresh flat-leaf parsley, they are as simple as it can get, and you know what? They don’t need anything else.

So, when you want to enjoy this type of beautiful shellfish in all their freshness, without any heavy ingredients masking their delicate flesh and flavor, then this is the way to go. Pry them out of their shell, not forgetting the meat inside the heads and those little claws of theirs, take some crusty bread, dunk it in the juices, drink a good glass of chilled white wine and enjoy.

Grilled langoustines with olive oil, lemon and chilli

Ideally, you should use lobster picks and crackers, because it’s not just the tail meat of the langoustines that you should eat but also the meat from the head and claws. So don’t be afraid to dig in there and get all the meat out. And if you don’t have the equipment, use a nutcracker and the back end of a small teaspoon to get the meat out.

Don’t throw away the shells and heads once you’re done. Use them to give extra flavor to a fish soup or to make a sauce for seafood.

Pair the langoustines with these hand-cut Greek fried potatoes with dried oregano and feta, and a big leafy salad. Best pairing ever.

Yield: 2 servings

10 fresh langoustines (about 500 g in total)
300 ml extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of dried red chilli flakes (preferably Greek boukovo if you can find it)

for the dressing
A large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 large and juicy lemon
Salt, to taste

Special equipment: grill or griddle pan (I use this one)

Note: Langoustines look like small lobsters (even though they are not lobsters) so don’t confuse them with shrimps/prawns.

Rinse the langoustines under cold running water. Take each one, place them on a cutting board and using a thin, long and sharp knife, cut them in half lengthwise starting from the head and ending at the tail. Remove the vein that runs along the center of the tail (it will reveal itself when you cut the langoustine in half) and place each half of the langoustine in a large rimmed tray.
In that tray with the halved langoustines, add the 300 ml olive oil, the chilli flakes and sprinkle with some salt. Mix gently with your hands so they get coated well with the mixture.

Heat your grill over high heat and once extremely hot, brush with some olive oil (use a heat resistant brush for this) and add the langoustines on the grill, shell side down, in one layer. Don’t crowd the grill. If they don’t all fit, grill them in batches. Grill them shell side down for 4-5 minutes and then turn them over to the exposed meat side and grill them for 1-2 minutes. Their flesh should be creamy in color (not translucent) when they’re done and have some grill marks. Be careful not to overcook them or they will lose their flavor and juiciness, and they will be rubbery.

In the meantime, mix in a small bowl all the ingredients for the dressing.

Place the langoustines on a large platter and pour the dressing over them.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

P.S. Have you heard??? I’m nominated for three awards at the first ever Greek Food Blog Awards organized by Vima Gourmet magazine. You can vote for me here for Best Cooking Blog, here for Best Sweet Treats and here for Best Food Photography & Styling by clicking the “like” button below the Greek text and next to where it says “Like for Vote” in each category. Thank you very much for your support!!

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Instagram moments

The last ten or so days have been incredibly busy with work and personal stuff and as a result I haven’t been able to share many things here; even though I really wanted to. It felt like I didn’t have time to think let alone write anything.

Luckily, I do a better a job when it comes to taking photographs and I do manage to share them on instagram, so I thought why not share them here as well? I think I’ll start doing this from time to time. It’s fun, and those of you who don’t use instagram will get to see what I’ve been up to.

Hope you enjoy them and I promise to be back soon with a recipe.

Oh, and if you see something you like, ask me about it and I promise to post the recipe here on the blog in the future.

By the way, I have updated the recipe index and it is up and running. Hope you find it helpful and easy to use.

Have a great weekend!

“Autumnal shades of brown.”
My favorite things: chestnuts, mushrooms, bread. So many recipes planned ahead with these gorgeous ingredients.

“Holland, I love your flowers.”
This one was shot today. I got a large bouquet for home and now everything seems brighter.

“Coffee, rose petal spoon sweet (Greek preserve) and a new book that arrived today on my doorstep. Can't wait to cook from it!”
I did cook from it. I need to share the recipe soon.

“Homemade fresh tomato sauce is key. #dinner ”
Based on this one.

“Chocolate and coconut.”
Chocolate Lamingtons. I’ve been making them for years and they’re perfection.

“Greek fava (yellow split pea purèe). This, with olives, tinned anchovies and crusty bread. My comfort food. #greekfood #fava #φάβα ”
Find the recipe here.

“One of my colleagues grows cucumbers on a little vegetable plot he rents and today he brought some over to the office to give away. Who can resist fresh (and free) vegetables? So of course I grabbed a couple, and now it's time to make tzatziki. #greekfood #tzatziki #τζατζίκι ”
I've been planning to share with you my recipe for tzatziki for such a long time. One day...

“So dark and rainy today.”
Around The Hague.

“Tonight, sea bream. #τσιπούρες ”
I could live on fish alone.

“When you come home from work, exhausted and hungry, this is the sort of food that can lift your spirits and fill your belly. Not a fancy meal, nor photo for that matter, but delicious and fulfilling. Piping hot thick pasta with minced veal and fresh tomato sauce, aka "makaronia me kima". Will be topped off with a generous grating of Greek Kefalotyri cheese. #greekfood #μακαρόνιαμεκιμά ”

“The best thing to eat on a cold and dark day like today. Greek lentil soup with olives and good bread. #greekfood #φακές #σούπα ”
Find the recipe here.

“Golden potatoes and juicy, crispy-skinned lamb, the Greek way, for Sunday lunch. #greekfood #lamb #αρνίμεπατάτες ”
Find the recipe here.

“Pinks and purples in my salad today.”
You need this salad in your life.

“Flaky, buttery croissant, homemade quince jam and hot cocoa kind of Sunday.”
Find the recipe for hot cocoa here.

“Delicious things on toasted bread to the rescue when I'm famished.”
You need this in your life, too.

P.S. Have you heard??? I’m nominated for three awards at the first ever Greek Food Blog Awards organized by Vima Gourmet magazine. You can vote for me here for Best Cooking Blog, here for Best Sweet Treats and here for Best Food Photography & Styling by clicking the “like” button below the Greek text and next to where it says “Like for Vote” in each category. Thank you very much for your support!!

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