Saturday, February 21, 2015

Beetroot hummus with spicy, crunchy roasted chickpeas

When I get the flu, a cold and the like, I usually am a pretty calm and patient person. I sit on the couch with my hot cup of tea and a big packet of tissues and I’m as quiet as a mouse.

As the days pass and the damn cold, flu etc. refuses to go away no matter how many glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice I have drank or how many soups I’ve eaten, well, then things change just a tiny bit.

I gradually become more and more impatient, I get cranky and a real bitch sometimes, every little thing bothers me and S needs to have nerves of steel to be able to cope with me.

Until the moment when I get noticeably better, I’m not ashamed to admit, the nagging goes on and on. In the case, however, that S is the one with the flu, then the nagging begins on day one, but that’s how it goes, doesn’t it? You have to accept the person you are with along with all of their flaws, because if you can’t handle or stand their flaws, then you won’t and can’t stand them. Because those flaws, idiosyncrasies and quirks are more evident during moments of weakness and difficult situations and of course perceivable by the people who know us, people with whom we live and share our lives, those who have seen us sick and unkempt, sad and depressed, with eyes swollen from crying, heart crushed from loss, spirit broken from failure, those who have seen us in our worst and have stood there, beside us.

Those who instead of getting upset or disappointed in us and run away from us, they run towards us and love us with greater intensity, they encourage us, make us laugh, embrace us so tightly that the warmth and sense of security brings us back to life, they lift us up not with words but with their actions, loud and clear. They endure not only us, but all that we sometimes don’t want to or can’t bear. If it’s not like that, then you are not with the right person and if you’re not willing to be like that with your partner, then you still haven’t found the right person for you.

I don’t need to search for the right person for me, I have already found him, and one mistake I never want to make is take him and all that he does for me for granted. I always try to please him in every way I can, not only because he stands by me during difficult times, but because he does so effortlessly.

One of the ways I please him is with my cooking and it shouldn’t come as a surprise because S loves good food. So when I felt a little better and I could cook something more than plain spaghetti or soup, I made this beetroot hummus that S loves. Apart from its delicious flavor we both love its color. Isn’t it fantastic?

I have been making this hummus for years yet nowhere as often as I should, because as a food blogger I always search for the next thing to make, forgetting about the recipes I love. The last couple of times I made it, I served it with spicy roasted chickpeas and it was incredibly good.

If you haven’t made spicy roasted chickpeas before then you’re missing out. Apart from being utterly delicious they are healthy, easy and quick to make and totally addictive. And of course any leftovers, you can have as a snack in front of the tv.
So do try the hummus and chickpeas this weekend!

As for all you Greeks out there, this hummus is the best side dish to serve at your Kathari Deutera (Clean/Ash Monday) table along with these:
Lagana (Greek Lenten yeasted flatbread)
Melitzanosalata (Greek Smoky Eggplant Dip)
Greek braised octopus with short pasta (and how to clean and prep octopus)
Greek octopus with vinegar, olive oil and dried oregano
Midopilafo (Greek mussel pilaf) and How to clean and prep mussels
Sautéed shrimps with tahini and garlic sauce and a sumac, cumin seed and pistachio dukkah
Greek fried calamari
And more Lenten recipes

Have a great Kathari Deutera!

Beetroot hummus with spicy, crunchy roasted chickpeas

You can use either boiled or roasted beets to make this hummus. I used boiled beetroot here, but in this recipe I had used roasted beetroot and it was amazing.

In Greece we eat roasted, salted chickpeas called stragalia (στραγάλια) as a snack, but this spicy version is the best.
You can play around with the recipe to your liking. Adding turmeric, cardamom or other spices and various dried herbs will change the flavor profile of the chickpeas. You can serve them not only with this hummus or other dips, but also on top of soups or salads.

Yield: 6-8 as an appetizer


for the beetroot hummus
4 raw beetroots (about 600 g), tops and stalks cut off
250 g cooked (boiled) chickpeas (see here how to make them), or canned chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
1 garlic clove, finely grated
4 Tbsp lemon juice
2½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1½ Tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt

A handful fresh dill leaves, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

for the roasted chickpeas
260 g cooked (boiled) chickpeas (see here how to make them), or canned chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sweet smoked paprika (Spanish pimentón de la Vera, dulce)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp chilli powder

Pita breads, toasted, to serve

Special equipment: large food processor, baking tray, baking paper


for the beetroot hummus
Scrub the beetroots under cold running water with your hands and place them in a medium-sized pan. Fill the pan with cold water to cover the beetroots completely and put on the lid. Place pan on high heat and bring to the boil. Boil the beetroots for about 40 minutes or until they become tender and you can easily insert a knife into them.

Drain them in a colander, leave them to cool and when they are cool enough to handle, peel them with a knife carefully. You don’t want to take too much of the beetroot away, only the skin which is pretty easy to peel off as it comes away very easily.
Cut the beetroots into pieces and leave them to cool completely.

Place them along with the rest of the ingredients for the hummus into the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth. Give it a taste and add more salt if needed. Also check if it needs more olive oil or lemon, adjusting to have the desired flavor and consistency. It shouldn’t be runny nor stodgy and it should have a tang, not be too sweet.

Empty it in a bowl.
You can keep it in the refrigerator, in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap for up to 5 days. Take it out of the fridge half an hour before serving and stir it very well with a spoon or spatula to make it creamy and to fluff it up.

for the roasted chickpeas
Preheat your oven to 200ºC.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Take your cooked chickpeas and rub them with paper towels to remove the skins. If you’re using canned chickpeas, dry them first. Discard the skins and transfer the chickpeas to a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to mix well.
Transfer chickpeas to the baking paper-lined baking tray and spread so they are in one layer.

Place them in the middle rack of the preheated oven and roast them for 35-40 minutes, until they are golden brown and crunchy, checking them every 10 minutes to make sure they don’t burn and tossing them a bit.

If you try them straight out of the oven they may seem not crunchy enough, but once they cool they will crisp up a lot! Keep that in mind and don’t be tempted to roast them for longer or they will be rock hard when cool and you won’t be able to eat them.

You can keep them in an airtight container for weeks.

serve the hummus
Place the hummus in a large bowl and drizzle with some olive oil.
Mix some of the roasted chickpeas with some finely chopped dill leaves and scatter over the top.
Serve with pita bread cut into triangle shapes and enjoy!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Inspiration | February 2015

While I’m struggling with an awful cold I caught a few days ago and daydreaming about the day I get my taste back so I can eat my favorite fruits and cupcakes (that's what I'm craving these days), I realized it’s been a while since I shared with you some sources of inspiration. So, here they are. There’s a few of them so make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and sit comfortably.

Loved this movie.
This one too.
I look forward to watching this one.

Listening to a lot of Fiona Apple lately. This is on repeat and can’t wait for this to be released.

Loved the first season of this series. Now waiting for the second season.
Also, Louie. Nuff said.

Salvador Dali’s illustrations of Alice in Wonderland and of the zodiac signs.
These food illustrations.

Food photography:
And here.
I’m intrigued by cinemagraphs. Here.
And here.

“Fire and cooking meat is very fragile, tender and feminine”
2015 food trends? Will you be embracing them?
How to eat sushi.
I love a good bakery and pâtisserie and I want to visit each and every one of these. Well, a couple of them I already have. Any others you’d add to the list?
Health food for foodies.
What grandmothers cook around the world.

Girl stuff:
Lisa Eldridge’s make-up tutorials are the best. I love this one in particular.
DIY skincare.
If you’re a fan of the cat-eye.

I usually don’t like quotes, but this and this are good ones.

The A toZ of dance.
This photograph.
This documentary.

Old loves.
Dutch ingenuity.
I love Paris as much as the next person but I wouldn’t live here. Would you?
This room, full of light.

Have a happy weekend!
The cupcakes I made the other day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vanilla bean cupcakes with speculoos-mascarpone frosting

If you follow me on instagram you may have seen that Saturday was baking day; in the morning it was cupcakes and in the afternoon bread. Being tucked away in my little kitchen making sweet and savory things on the weekends makes me happy.

I made a bread loaf entirely with buckwheat flour for the first time ever, and it was a good start. It was dense, due to the lack of gluten in the flour, a bit crumbly, but held together very well, and we ate it mostly with some strong aged Gouda and fig jam. The recipe needs some tweaking so I’m not going to post it just yet, but what was a complete success was these cupcakes.

Saturday was not the first time I made these; they are my go-to cupcakes whenever there is a craving for speculoos biscuit paste, which doesn’t happen often, admittedly, but when it does, these cupcakes are the thing to make. I don’t enjoy speculoos paste on its own or on pancakes/bread etc. as I find it a bit too sweet, but incorporated in a mascarpone frosting for cupcakes, it is alarmingly good.

When I was in Belgium recently, I bought a speculoos paste whose flavor I really enjoy over those I find in the Netherlands, and Saturday was my chance to use it. Vanilla cupcakes are the best vessel to carry the flavor of the frosting, making an excellent combination, and I also had some speculoos cookies on hand, which I crumbled and sprinkled on top to accentuate that biscuit flavor.

The cupcake is fluffy and intensely aromatic from the fresh vanilla seeds whereas the frosting is creamy and airy with that spicy speculoos biscuit flavor. Overall, the flavors are not overly sweet, which is always a good thing when it comes to cupcakes in my book.

Give them a try! And if you can’t find speculoos where you live, how about substituting the biscuit paste for gianduia? Different flavor of course, but oh so incredibly good.
That’s what I did yesterday when I made another batch of these cupcakes.

Vanilla bean cupcakes with speculoos-mascarpone frosting

Speculoos paste is a paste made from the classic Belgian speculoos biscuits (similar to Dutch speculaas). Not all speculoos pastes are the same, so make sure to use one whose flavor you really like. Oh, and if you can’t find speculoos paste or gianduia (as mentioned above), then use nutella or another hazelnut-chocolate paste of your liking.

Yield: 12 cupcakes


for the cupcakes
110 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120 g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
200 g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
60 ml fresh whole milk

for the frosting
220 g mascarpone
200 g speculoos paste
70 g icing sugar, sieved
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Speculoos biscuits, crushed, for sprinkling on top

Special equipment: stand or hand-held mixer, fine sieve, 12-cup cupcake pan, paper liners


for the cupcakes
Line your cupcake pan with paper liners.
Preheat you oven to 175°C.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl) add the butter and sugar and beat with the paddle attachment (or with a hand-held mixer) on medium-high speed until you have a creamy and light mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition to incorporate them fully. Beat in the vanilla seeds (or vanilla extract) and then sieve the flour, the baking powder and the salt directly into the bowl. Add the milk and beat on medium speed until the ingredients have just incorporated. Be careful not to overbeat the mixture or the cupcakes will be tough.

Empty the batter into the lined cupcake pan, filling each cup halfway up.
Bake the cupcakes on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 16-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check them after 15 minutes because all ovens are different and it is best to be on the safe side and make sure that they don’t over-bake and become dry.

Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Once the cupcakes have slightly cooled, remove them carefully from the pan and onto the wire rack.

The cupcakes need to be completely cool before you frost them, otherwise the frosting will melt.

You can cut the pointy tops of the cupcakes off if you want a flat cupcake but I rarely do that.

for the frosting
In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl) add all the ingredients for the frosting and beat with the whisk attachment (or with a hand-held mixer) on medium-high until you have a creamy, smooth and fluffy mixture. Give it a taste and if you can feel the sugar on your tongue or teeth, it means that the sugar hasn’t dissolved so beat a little more until it does.

Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag and nozzle of your choice (I used a star tip), or using an offset spatula.
The frosting will soften after a while but it should not be runny. You may put the frosting in the fridge to firm up a bit before you use it if you wish. If you leave it in the fridge for too long it will stiffen up, so before using it, leave it out of the fridge for 10 minutes and then beat it again.

In order to crush the speculoos biscuits, put them in a plastic freezer bag, seal it and beat the cookies with a rolling pin.

Sprinkle on top of the cupcakes and enjoy!

You can keep the cupcakes for a couple of days at room temperature, lightly covered, or if you make them during the summer, keep them in a paper box in the fridge for a couple of days.

P.S. If you’re using gianduia/nutella etc., make the frosting in the exact same manner. Sprinkle the cupcakes with dark chocolate shavings (very bitter preferably) instead of crushed speculoos biscuits.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Watermelon radish, fennel and avocado salad with whipped feta dressing

Winter can be monochromatic, especially in northwestern Europe. There are days when it seems like a dark veil is covering the whole sky, allowing only a few rays of sun to pierce through; the continuous rain makes it even worse. It can be romantic—at least that’s how I viewed it when I first moved to Holland from Greece, and it still feels like that sometimes—but mostly, these gloomy winters can be quite tiring, affecting both body and soul.

Seeing bursts of color in the form of fruits and vegetables is invigorating. Citrus, beetroots (more on those later), radishes, cauliflowers, carrots and cabbages are the saving grace of winter.

With the glorious reds, greens, pinks, yellows, golden of the citrus, with the purple of the cauliflowers and cabbages and, of course, the unexpected and thrilling fuchsia-pink color of the watermelon radishes; that psychedelic color that only nature could have dreamed up.

With the green and off-white surrounding it, it looks like a tiny watermelon waiting to be savored. If only I had some nigella seeds to artfully place on one slice, it would be magical, right?

Being an extremely visual person, I get turned on by color and hues and tones, and making this colorful salad was exciting. Even though pink is not my color by any stretch of the imagination, this one was rather cute and against the bright green of the avocado and the ivory of the fennel, it was really a color-fest if there ever was one.

The flavor of the salad was vibrant, refreshing and light with the crunchy, slightly peppery and bitter radish, the creamy, sweet avocado and crisp fennel, and the whipped feta dressing tying everything together, because this dressing, let me tell you, is key. It’s the secret of this salad and one of the most delicious dressings this feta-obsessed Greek has tasted. The salty tang of the feta is smoothed over by the (real) Greek yoghurt and Greek olive oil and the sprinkling of sumac is the proverbial cherry on top, adding a touch of acidity and a faint spiciness that balances the flavors of the salad.

Paired with a piece of grilled or oven-baked salmon and fresh bread, it is a perfect meal.

I leave you with this song. See you here again soon.

Watermelon radish, fennel and avocado salad with whipped feta dressing and sumac

The watermelon radish is an heirloom Asian Daikon radish. It is mildly peppery with a crisp texture and belongs to the same family as rocket, broccolo and turnips.
If you can’t find it, substitute with daikon or another type of mild-flavored radish.

Yield: 4 salad servings or 2 main-course servings / 400 ml feta dressing


for the whipped feta dressing
200 g feta (Greek of course!)
120 g (real) Greek yoghurt, full-fat
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp white balsamic vinegar (or white-wine vinegar)
Freshly ground white pepper, 4-5 grind of the pepper mill

for the salad
3 medium-sized watermelon radishes, peeled and sliced very thinly (preferably with a mandoline)
1-2 avocados, sliced thinly
½ large fennel bulb, sliced
Lemon juice
Olive oil

Fennel fronds (from the fennel bulb), for garnishing
Ground sumac, for sprinkling over the salad

Special equipment: food processor, mandoline (optional)


for the whipped feta dressing
If your feta is too salty, soak it in cold water for 15 minutes (in one piece). Drain and use in the recipe.
Cut the feta in small cubes and place it along with the rest of the ingredients for the dressing in a food processor. Process until you have a smooth and creamy mixture.
Empty it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge until ready to use. It will firm up a bit in the fridge.
You can make it 4 days ahead and keep it covered in the fridge.

to make the salad
Arrange the watermelon radishes on a large, shallow plate. Brush with a little olive oil.
Toss the sliced fennel with a little lemon juice (1 tsp) and olive oil in a bowl.
Brush the sliced avocado with a little lemon juice and olive oil to keep it from turning brown too quickly.

Top the radishes with the fennel and avocado and scatter the fennel fronds over the top.
Drizzle with a generous amount of the feta dressing and sprinkle with sumac. Keep extra dressing handy in a bowl at the table for extra helpings.