Cooking and recipes

How to make a traditional Russian beetroot soup and a healthy energy bar

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We live in a world where cookery books seem like travel books - glamorous images of fresh vegetables and captivating words about the magical ingredients in the sauces are everywhere. As someone who has self-published books on creative subjects I know all too well the amount of effort that goes behind the production of a single book. And when that book has lots of beautiful, colourful photos the publishing process takes even longer and the time and effort involved producing it is truly incredible especially if you are doing it yourself. Small armies of people work behind  the scenes in publishing companies in order to launch these books. But I am not going to talk to you about the production of books. Not now! What I want to say is that .. today's cookery books are beautifully created and they deserve the eminence of coffee table books. 

Sadly, the large numbers of incredibly eye pleasing cookery books does not mean that people cook more on a daily basis. People seem happy to buy colourful cookery books, seem happy to watch fancy cookery programs, while munching on crisps and pop corn.............  We live in a more and more voyeuristic world!    It feels increasingly like we are going to the cinema to watch people ... cook!

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Years ago, while growing up in Romania, I remember we had two cookery books in our small flat...two books filled with black and white.....text ... no images ... none whatsoever. In spite of that or maybe because of that ... who knows ... there was always activity in our kitchen, my mother chopping vegetables, chopping meat, boiling, frying, cooking all sorts of lovely dishes without using loads of ingredients, with few spices. Yet, every day, day in, day out, after she returned from work, she always seemed able to produce tasty and healthy meals, every day ... I will always remember the yummy  smells reaching me in my bedroom across the hall. 

Believe it or not, cooking or preparing most of what you eat is not just about cooking it is also about relaxing and slowing down ...it is about sharing stories of the day around the kitchen table, about listening and about communicating in a warm and healing space, about being mindful ... there  we are ... the word so many people worship nowadays.  

The other day, on a very, very hot summer day I just felt the need to cook a traditional Russian beetroot soup. It is the type of a dish I remember enjoying when I visited my Russian family in Saint Petersburg and Orel. It is easy to make, delicious and healthy. 

Here is what you need to do:

Prepare the ingredients:

2 medium size beetroots peeled and grated

1 carrot peeled and grated 

1 onion peeled and chopped 

1 tomato diced 

4 small potatoes peeled and chopped 

2 litres of boiling water 

1 Knorr cube

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 grated cabbage

1 squeeze of lemon juice or more depending on your taste 

2 bay leaves

3 garlic cloves crushed 

1 table spoon olive or sunflower oil 

 

Now for the preparation: 

There's not much to do really. Just heat the olive or sunflower oil in a cooking pot, add the onion, sautee the onion for a few minutes, add the carrots, beetroots, potatoes. Sautee the lot for a further 10 minutes, add the bay leaves and the garlic.....then add the boiling water and then the cabbage and the tomatoes. Next ... nothing ... simply let it simmer on a low heat for about 1 hour and it's done. Enjoy it with a dollop or two of sour cream. Sour cream is a very popular addition to many dishes in Russia and I love it. 

I was never very good at cooking deserts, the type that my mother used to prepare, so any time I come across something sweet that I feel I can prepare, something that does not require the oven ... I am ready to have a go at it. 

The other day I came across something called Three Ingredients Energy Bar .....and of course I had to have a go. The result is not only pleasing .. it is really delicious and goes very, very well with a cup of Turkish coffee or tea. 

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So, here is the recipe;

 

THREE INGREDIENTS ENERGY BAR:

1 cup of almonds

1 cup of dates

1 cup of dried cherries 

....that's all

Put all of the ingredients together in a mixer, pulse until they are all mixed and chopped finely. Next, place the mixture on a plastic sheet or a non stick sheet of cooking paper, spread it evenly (use a roller), cover with another sheet of non stick paper and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Take it out, cut it in squares and store the pieces in an air tight container, in the fridge. They will last for a few good weeks (less the one's consumed ....so two days!!). You can of course make them in the shape of small balls if you want. 

They look very nice if you add some cocoa powder on top. The truth is that you can be very creative with this type of recipe and start making your own combinations using sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried apricots, raisins, raw cocoa and of course much more. 

 

Enjoy! 

 

 

 

 


About green, the heart and a soup

I am an artist! Colours mean a lot to me ... they heal, nurture, talk to me .... they call me and not the other way round. Green is not at all a colour I use in abundance in my paintings .. on the contrary .. and it is the same with my clothes ... up until 2 days you couldn't have found anything green in my wardrobe. But things have changed ...... 2 days ago I've felt an intense need for green in various shades ... so I have now a baggy green summer dress, Turkish trousers, a funky bag .... and yesterday I felt the need to cook ... a green soup ... all of this out of nowhere ... but was it really out of nowhere? Nope! I've realised that ... a year ago to the day.... .. my mother was leaving this Earthly dimension ... it was a blessing ... a big blessing for her... 

So ..... GREEN ..... I did a bit of research and green actually corresponds to the HEART chakra .... it's all about UNCONDITIONAL LOVE ... it is also the colour associated to my astrological sign .... 

Coincidence? Oh no ... I don't think so ... it's a sign ... a sign from the other side ... at least this is how I want to interpret it. Believe what you want to believe .... this is what you would hear me telling you time and time again if I were to know you in person. 

So ... I cooked a GREEN SOUP ... listened to Russian music (yes..... my mother was Russian)) ... and celebrated her departure ... celebrated my belief in reincarnation and my heartfelt wish for her to have a better and more exciting new life. 

And now .. here is the recipe just I case you might want to cook my green soup as well ... and a link to beautiful Gypsy Russian music. 

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Green Spinach and broccoli soup 

200 grams spinach leaves

1 small broccoli head (do chop it guys)

2 tsp butter or sunflower oil

2 leaks chopped

1 big onion chopped

2 garlic cloves

3 small carrots

a handful of parsley and lovage if you have 

1 chicken stock cube

1 litter of water 

juice of 1 small lemon 

salt, pepper, a pinch of paprika and a pinch of turmeric powder 

Add sour cream in your plate and freshly cut chives from the garden. 

Soups are the easiest thing in the world to make ... just melt the butter in a pan, ad the chopped vegetables, cook over low heat, add the water, stock cube, bring to boil and simmer for about 25 minutes.

Puree everything , add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and simply enjoy with a slice of cheese on toast .... and then,  put your feet up and watch a mesmerising gypsy music and dancing concert! 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Brinjali moli on a February afternoon

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There are days when I feel like putting the brushes aside, letting them rest and turning to .. the pots and pans in the kitchen. Today was one of those days .... cooking always spoke to me ... cooking new recipes ... colourful ones ....... 

I love cooking curries ... and this is exactly what I cooked today ..... Brinjal moli with spinach. 

And because cooking and music are the perfect combination for me, this is what I listened to today........ 

 

So here is the recipe 

1 ground turmeric

1tbsp flour (i used rye) 

salt, pepper

1 aubergine cut into slices (not very large)

oil for frying

cinnamon stick 

1 tbsp of chopped ginger

2 garlic cloves 

dried chilli

1 bay leaf

1 onion finely chopped

1 can of chopped tomatoes or passata 

1-2 tsp garam masala

Combine the turmeric, flour, salt in a large freezer bag. Add the aubergine slices and shake the bag so that the slices get coated nicely. 

Heat a few tbsp of oil in a frying pan and cook the aubergine slices until browned. Once cooked put them aside. 

When the aubergine is cooked wipe out the frying pan, fry the onion, cinnamon stick, ginger, garlic, chilli and bay leaf. Add the chopped tomatoes, boil for 10 minutes. Add the fried aubergines, spinach and garam masala and boil for 10-15 minutes. Chop some coriander, sprinkle it on top and ... done! 

You can enjoy it with rice or spaghetti while hot. Alternatively you can eat is as a cold dish on a slice of bread. 

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Creative cooking and chia seeds

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Creative cooking is one of my passions. What I mean is ... i love cooking new recipes, using new ingredients ... i just enjoy the challenge. When I am feeling blue ... opening a recipe book and trying a random recipe helps me improve my mood ... almost all the time. 

The other day, on a very cold and grey winter day i've decided to open the pack of chia seeds bought some weeks ago on an impulse from a local Holland and Barret. I bought this little pack of chia seeds just because they looked fun to me and because i remembered a conversation i've had a year ago with a friend living in America and who was raving about the properties of this new ... superfood. 

Having learned that this tiny, tiny seed comes from South America and that the Aztecs and Mayans ate it on a regular basis fired my imagination ... there is nothing like a good story  ... i am interested in the Mayan sculptures and symbols so I took this as a sign to start making friends with Chia. By the way, chia is the ancient Mayan word for ... strength! 

One can add chia in many things .. soups, casseroles, smoothies, porridge ... various desserts. 

The recipe I've tried yesterday and with good results is 

Chia seeds desert with a twist 

What do you need

1/2 cup of chia seeds

a tsp or 2 of honey (it depends on your taste)

orange/lemon peel

a pinch of cinamon and nutmeg

a rice banana cut in small pieces

a small handful of coconut peel

Mix everything, put them in a container in the fridge for 10 hours and .. enjoy as a breakfast (you can add more milk) or as a desert .. you can of course add dried fruits or fresh fruits. 

Enjoy! 


The sea, creative cooking and a bit of writing

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Living by the sea is a privilege. It took me a few years to acknowledge this ... it is only when living in the now started to be a bit more than just a sequence of words  ........ when from time to time i stepped into a different world where time seemed to be infinite ... without a clear past or future .. but a continuation of ... now(s). 

Having a walk reminds me of this (because just like many of us ... i forget and need to re learn again)  .... enjoying a cup of coffee and reading a new book reminds me of this ...... discovering a new recipe reminds me of that .... discovering a singer I connect with in seconds reminds me of this .... aren't we lucky to have all of these unexpected reminders! aren't we lucky! 

IMG_3570I am reading "Writing as a way of healing" by Louise DeSalvo and because if it, i am coming across writers I love and respect .... Alice Walker, Isabel Allende .... how good to be reminded that journalling was and is so much part of their lives. Sometimes words come easy ... sometimes they don't ... one is stuck, frozen ..... when words simply didn't want to come to me, i took to the paints and brushes and found another way of communicating .............. but i will always appreciate the written word .... and will go back to it when the time is right. 

Self expression is key ... through the words, paints, music .... self expression heals and saves ...  lives ... maybe yours as well ..... 

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And cooking ... cooking is another way of expressing yourself ... especially cooking new dishes .. ingredients are like different mixed media materials or like different words ... one can combine them in a multitude of ways .... it's still about creativity, process and only as a bonus ... the result. 

The other day I came across "I quit sugar for life" by Sarah Wilson and felt compelled to buy it. I am not sure I want to give up on sugar completely but I like the notion of combining ingredients in such a way that sugar cravings will be a past thought. I am just curious and I will definitely try the recipes .... they look lovely and .. colourful ... Here is a first recipe ... with a personal twist as well as respecting a recipe 100% is just ... not me :)  IMG_3588

Avocado and cottage cheese luxurious lunch 

1 ripe avocado mashed

2 TBsp cottage cheese

1/2 juice of a lemon

1 tsp mixed grains (see photo above)

roasted seeds 

Once you have the ingredients .. just mixed them all together and .... OLE! You are done! Serve them on rice biscuits, oats biscuits, corn biscuits, even bred but hey ... we are healthy now aren't we so just look for a healthier option.

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And as a treat  ... put your feet up and listen/watch to this mesmerising concert .... 

 


Creative cooking on a Sunday afternoon

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"Our lives are like the course of the sun, 

at the darkest moment

there is promise of daylight." - unknown author 

 

I don't know about you but sometimes, especially when the weather is heavy with dark clouds and heavy rain, when the wind seems to go on forever, when my head seems to explode because of the stories I tell myself,  I need to do something creative to help me snap out of the self hypnotic trance I put myself into (we are all specialists at this you know that don't you). Today ... cooking was my solution ... cooking something new ..... :) 

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Earlier this week, while going through my pile of magazines I came across a recipe for biscotti, a delicious sort of Italian biscuit I just love having while sipping my coffee in Costa Cafe. (I will definitely have a little bag with me next week while having my coffee in one of the coffee shops in Eastbourne)

Before sharing the recipe with you let me tell you that it is very, very easy to prepare and also the result is delicious.

Walnut and cranberry biscotti

What do you nee:

2 eggs plus 1 extra beaten for glazing

150 g caster sugar

250 g plain flour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

50 g walnuts chopped

50g dried cranberries or any other berries (you don't need to respect exactly the quantity really)

Whisk the eggs and the sugar together in a bowl. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, a pinch of salt and the chopped berries.

Leave the dough to rest in the fridge wrapped in cling film for about 1 hour. (the dough should be a bit soft but also a bit sticky)

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees C, or gas mark 6 and line a baking tray with baking parchment. 

Once the dough has rested, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectange about 28 cm long and 5 cm wide. I cut this in 2. Put them onto the lined baking tray, brush with beaten egg. 

Bake for 20 min. Check if it is ready with a skewer. Take out from the oven and leave it to cool. 

Reduce the temperature to 180. 

When cool, cut into think slices and lay flat on the lined baking tray, bake for 20 more minutes and don't forget to turn them halfway through cooking .. until a big golden brown. 

Allow to cool and ... start eating and sharing with friends. 

OK so by the time I had my first few slices of biscotti and sipped my coffee I was already feeling better and ... with an episode of NCIS in the background ... (I love watching TV while cooking) ... it was time to try a new recipe ... this time ... sweet potato burger. 

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Here is what you need: 

600g sweet potatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic crushed

1 tsp ras el hanout (Maroocan spice mix yum yum)

100g breadcrumbs 

50g almonds (like a powder)

a handfull of pumpkin seeds

salt, pepper

 

Bake or boild the sweet potatoes until soft. When soft, scoop out the flesh and set aside. Meanwhile gently fry the onion and garlic in a bit of oil. Add ras el hanout and continue for a few seconds. 

Combine all ingredients and let the mixture rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

Form the mixture into burgers or smal ball size shapes. Coat them in flour and fry them on both sides. 

Enjoy them pipping hot or cold with mustard, sweet chilli, various relishes. 

Bon apetite! 

 


Iced rooibus tea with a twist

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Rooibus tea ... I've had it for the first time in Lesotho, on a June morning, in Maseru .... in a very cold but beautiful hotel room. It was their winter and ... yes during winter it is very cold there ..no central heating ... but just a heater in the room (just like  it is in most of the places in Spain). With its nutty flavour, beautiful rusty colour this is a tea .. to remember. I am still drinking it now, in England but somehow .. the taste is not the same ... somehow ... the taste belongs to Africa ..... and Africa only. 

Earlier on today I was browsing through a new cookery book  (WORLD FOOD CAFE).. i bought it mostly because of the beautiful photography taking one from Peru to Colombia, from Cuba to Laos. Cookery books nowadays are a gorgeous combination of exciting recipes, storytelling, geography and superb photography. Love them! 

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So of course I was intrigued by the ICED ROOIBUS TEA SUNDOWNERS. Sounds so colonial ...just like a potential line from one of Somerset Maugham's short stories. 

The title was enough to determine me to ... have a go  ... prepare it. Apparently it would be great to have this beverage in a mix with a bit of gin, at the sunset .... on a veranda overlooking mount Kilimanjaro and reading ... Out of Africa ...... 

What do you need? 

6 rooibus teabags

3cm piece of grated ginger

1 large orange sliced 

1 lemon sliced

3 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons honey (you can add more really if you want) 

 

Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan with 1.2 l of water. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 min. Leave to cool, strain in a jug ... and voila .. you are done! 

Serve in a glass, with some ice cubes, add some orange juice if you want and of course .... some gin. 

Actually ... use your creativity and come up with different combinations. I would add some mint leaves as well ... and maybe a slice of cucumber ... be creative! Enjoy! 


About courgette and a creative afternoon

How do you express your creativity? Do you sing? Draw? Paint? Landscape your garden? Or maybe you cook!!!! But when I say cook, I don't mean repeating again and again the recipes you cooked for so many times ... I mean cooking a new recipe with the same enthusiasm one starts a new intuitive painting with.

I adore trying new recipes .... some work well and I enjoy them .... some end up in the bin .... but the cooking process is always fabulous, always exciting!

 

So today, with a flamenco concert playing on my iPad I have decided to try 2 new recipes having as a common ingredient ... the courgette..... a vegetarian recipe and a non vegetarian one.... great tapas material to be enjoyed with friends.

About courgette and a creative afternoon

Courgette quiche (recipe provided by a Romanian friend)

2 middle size courgettes - grated ( leave them for 20 min on a plate and after squeeze the liquid thoroughly)
3 eggs
200-250 grams grated feta cheese ( I just love feta cheese)
a tsp of butter ( used to butter the baking dish)
Pepper
1 bunch of dill    

Baking time - 160 degrees for approx 90 

About courgette and a creative afternoon

 

 

 

 

The rest is easy really ... just mix all the ingredients....( before you add the mixture sprinkle a bit of flour on the baking dish).... Add them to the baking dish, place it in the oven and celebrate with a glass of Cava and a good book. I am reading Andrew Marr's "A short book about drawing". It's a brilliant book!

 

 

 

 

 

And if you eat meat, here is a recipe

Meatballs with grated courgettes

300 minced turkey meat
1 small onion chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
1 medium courgette grated finely
1tsp dried mixed herbs
500 g tomato passata/chopped tomatoes
Pepper, salt

Combine the meat, onion, garlic, courgette, herbs, salt, pepper. Mix them well and put the mixture in the fridge for 30min. From the mixture form small balls.
Mist a non stick frying pan and fry lightly the meatballs. Set them aside. Add the passata in the frying pan, add about 100 ml water and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the meatballs and cook for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle some dill. Done!

The beauty of these recipes is that you can add lots of other ingredients ... add grated carrots, leak, fava beans .... use your imagination! Be creative and enjoy!

About courgette and a creative afternoon


Vegetarian sweets and letting go of fear

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Coffee shops are part of my life. I love trying new places and taking in their own particular identities, their individual atmospheres, their choice of coffee beans, the rhythms of their music tracks and most of all the enticing sweet stuff that one can eat while slowly sipping the coffee. One thing I've noticed is the real lack of choice if you don't want to buy a  big, expensive slice of cake (and in the UK they are quite big ....sometimes generosity that is not really needed) or a pack of cookies or plain biscuits. I usually end up asking for a few teaspoons of raspberry jam or any other jam they can find low down below the counter (a sign for many giggles)

For me, as much for my palate and my waistline as for my purse, I would much rather have 2 or 3 small sweet balls like those in my image below. 

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First of all they take only a few minutes to prepare and you can serve them to your friends when they come for coffee and ...... they can be lovely snacks as well. 

The idea came to me last week when I tasted an "energy ball" in one of the newest coffee shops in town. I immediately asked for the recipe ......and of course received a very firm "no way" from the proud owner of the coffee shop and their chef. Nevermind ... this made me think and I decided to experiment a bit with the ingredients I had in my cupboard. The result for me is delightful ......and I will not keep my recipe a secret  so here it is .... 

 

For my own delicious raw energy sweets: 

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1 TBsp chia seeds

2 TBsp honey

1 tsp sesame seeds

3 TBsp milled flaxseed with bio-cultures and vitamin D (this is what I have used but there are lots of combinations of flaxseeds with other ingredients - have a look at the LINWOODS website) 

1 TBsp almond butter (or cheshew butter or peanut butter)

2 TBsp desicated coconut flakes 

You don't need to respect the recipe to every coma and dot. There are no such things as mistakes, only different results, so  taste the combination as you go along and see what more it needs ... trust your taste buds, they are always reliable. Feel free, for example, to add some chopped dry cranberries, dates, apricots, walnuts ........ the combinations are endless. 

What you do is mix all of these ingredients in a little bowl, put the mix in the fridge for 30 minutes then put the kettle on and start rolling the mix into small sweet balls. 

Then take your lovely coffee and a little plate of your hand made raw sweets onto your terasa and ........ start writing your book ...... and dream of doing other new things - like making digital image creations ! The one below is of the Queens Hotel on the sea front in Eastbourne dressed up to the nines on my magic night by me

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About homemade lip balm and a delicious pumpkin soup

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Now that the cold season is here to stay for at least a few months I have decided to experiment with 2 products ....aimed to bring a smile on your lips and a warm, glowing feeling all around you. 

As a mixed media artist I love to experiment with all sorts of materials and styles ... from acrylic paints to chalk pastels, from fabric painting to ink painting, from diary painting to digital art ..... and from time to time ... i feel the need to stretch myself and .... use my creativity in ways I've never done before. 

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This is why ... lip balm came to my mind. 10 years ago, 6 years ago ..... even 6 months ago this would have intimidated me ... really ... But not now! It is very clear to me that anybody can do this in their own home if they have the ingredients, the recipe and .... lots of enthusiasm. 

But first ... the ingredients: 

1 Tbsp bee wax

1 Tbsp sweet almond oil

1 /2 shea butter

1 Tbsp cocoa butter 

1 tsp vitamin E essential oil

6-8 drops of essential oil (I've used tangerine)

a tiny bit of lipstick (just for colour) 

Step 1 

Place all ingredients (without the essential oil and lipstick)  into a glass measuring cup. 

Step 2 

Get a pan and fill it about half way with water, bring to the boil.

Step 3

Once the water is almost boiling, place the glass measuring cup into the water to melt the ingredients. After all are melted, (the bee wax will take longer) you will have a golden liquid. 

When all are melted, take them from the stove and add the essential oils and the bit of lipstick, stirring continuously. You can experiment with the essential oils until you reach the smell that you like. 

This is about it really ... once you are happy with the result, pour it into containers and allow to cool. It will not take long at all. 

There are lots and lots of variations to the recipe but this is a good start. 

 And if you are willing to spend just a few more minutes in the kitchen why not make a pumpking soup .... something i always connect with autumn. 

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Here is what you need 

3 cups of water

1 1/2 cup milk

1Tbsp butter

1/4 tsp nutmeg

black pepper

4 cups (1 kg) cubed pumpkin

salt

sour cream 

parsley or coriander  (about 2 Tbsp)

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the nutmeg, pepper, pumpkin and saute for about 10 minutes. Add the water, bring to boil. 

When the pumpkin is soft, blend it carefully, add the milk and return it to the stove for a fe more minutes. Season with salt and add the parsley.

There you are ... done ... i like to add some sour cream and lemon juice as well but it is just my taste. Do whatever is right for you my darlings and ... bon appetit!  Enjoy it while watching an Inspector Clouseau movie. Here is an option: