Tag: dinner

Vegetarian lasagna with lentil and zucchini

An often-heard complaint among vegetarians is that restaurants offer very little originality in their vegetarian fare, a meatless lasagna being among one of the more trite options. I don’t mind so much, as lasagna is usually quite enjoyable. I realize that there is already a vegetarian lasagna on this blog (over here) and for a more wintry version I will direct you to Jonge Sla’s scrumptious pumpkin lasagna (in Dutch), but this is a rather ‘quick and easy’ version, made with what happened to be available in my fridge, compared to the one where I have you skin bell peppers. It resembles meat lasagna quite well, thanks to the tomato and bechamel sauce. Suited for freezing as well!

veggie lasagna

Ingredients (makes 4-5 servings):

one big or two medium-sized onions, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped1 zucchini, chopped in small pieces
5 tablespoons of small orange lentils (the kind you can put in soup as well)
white wine, for cooking
500 grams of diced tomatoes (canned or in brig)
olive oil
Provencal herbs mix, salt and pepper
45 grams of butter
45 grams of flour
0,8 liters of milk
block of Parmesan cheese and grate (or grated cheese)
8-10 lasagna sheets

How to:

Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan on medium fire. Add the onion and fry for a few minutes, until tender. Add the garlic, fry for another minute. Add the zucchini and season with Provencal herbs (don’t be frugal here), salt and pepper. Stir regularly. When the zucchini starts to get tender, add lentils and cover with a lid for a few minutes. Add a good swig of white wine, cover again for a few minutes (check regularly so it doesn’t burn). Add diced tomatoes, another swig of white wine and some herbs/salt/pepper, turn the fire down, cover with lid, and stir every now and then. The zucchini and lentils should slowly become completely tender. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Veggie lasagna

In another saucepan, make the bechamel sauce: melt the butter on medium fire and add the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon and let it ‘bake’ for a few minutes, until it starts to smell a bit like cookies. Be careful that it doesn’t burn, this will ruin the taste of your sauce (better start again if this happens). Add milk and use a whisk to stir vigorously, until the butter-flour mixture is completely dissolved. Let it heat on medium fire, whisking regularly, until the sauce starts to thicken and bubble. Season with nutmeg and salt, then turn off the fire. Make sure you keep whisking for a while so it doesn’t burn.

Scoop 1/4 of the tomato sauce into a baking dish (mine is 25 x 25 cm), ladle over 1/4 of the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with a thin layer of Parmesan. Cover with lasagne sheets and repeat 3 more times. Add a thick layer of Parmesan and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let the dish rest for 10 minutes, then enjoy!


Veggie lasagna  Veggie Lasagna

Veggie lasagna

Chili sin carne

What’s not to love about chili? It’s great comfort food that satisfies immediately and you can improvise on the recipe in all sorts of ways. I’ve made meatless chili without any kind of meat replacement (let’s not forget red beans are pretty protein-loaded by themselves) and that’s great. Recently, I found they had seitan at the local supermarket and decided to give it a try. I’ve never really been “into” meat replacements, I seem to manage just fine without burgers or quorn most of the time. I am, however, very thankful for their existence, especially when it comes to dinners with extended family or bring-your-own-meat sumemr BBQs.

So when I was preparing meatless chili the other day, I figured I’d give the seitan a try. You could substitute with quorn ‘minced meat’ or any kind of substitute you like, or just leave it out. The seitan wasn’t bad, but I can’t say I loved it. The same kind of rubbery texture that is sometimes the problem with tofu. I might have to bake it a little harder in a separate skillet first. If there are any good suggestions on how to handle the seitan, I’d love to hear them!

I’m sorry there are no photos – but I think you all know what chili looks like, and there are not many elegant ways to present it.

Ingredients for 4 servings

2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
500 grams of seitan or ground quorn, in small cubes or ground in a kitchen robot
2 tablespoons of tomato concentrate
1-2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
something spicy used according to taste: a chopped red chili pepper, or tabasco, or harissa…
500 ml of tomato passata + a little bit of vegetable stock
a can of red beans, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

Serve with: a wild rice mixture or regular white rice.

How to:

Heat some olive oil in a heavy-bottom casserole (I prefer my cast-iron one). Stir-fry the chopped onion, peppers and garlic until they start to soften. Then add the seitan and stir for another few minutes. Add the tomato concentrate and spices, mix well and wait another few minutes. Now add the passata, I use some water + stock to clean the bottle and add it to the chili. Let it come to a boil and simmer for a bit, until the peppers are soft. Add pepper, salt and other spices to taste. In the end, add the beans and just let them heat with the chili for a bit. You’re done! Serve with rice or bread and tabasco for lovers of spiciness.

Wok met noedels, aardpeer, knolselder en tofu voor Thuisafgehaald

Voor een keertje een bericht in het Nederlands! Een tijdje geleden schreef ik me in om mee te doen met Thuisafgehaald, een leuk initiatief om van je restjes af te geraken en tegelijk buurtbewoners een plezier te doen. Het werkt zo: je schrijft je in op de site van thuisafgehaald.be en duidt aan of je maaltijden wilt afhalen en/of aanbieden. Als je wat teveel gekookt hebt, kan je dat online zetten. Je plakt er een prijs op gebaseerd op de ingrediënten en geeft aan wanneer je beschikbaar bent voor de afhalers. Iemand die bij je in de buurt woont kan dan reageren en zelf een lekkere maaltijd komen afhalen. Zo leer je ook nog buurtbewoners kennen. Fijn!

Deze week besteedt FM Brussel aandacht aan Thuisafgehaald en daarvoor kwamen ze het concept uittesten. Ik gaf wat uitleg over het concept en de journaliste kon naar huis met twee porties Aziatische wok. Hierbij het recept, een variant van de koolrabi met champignons en tofu.


Wok met noedels, aardpeer, knolselder en tofu
Wok met noedels, aardpeer, knolselder en tofu

Ingrediënten voor 6 personen

500 gram stevige tofu
1 knolselder, in dobbelsteentjes
500 gram aardpeer, in dobbelsteentjes
1 ui, gesnipperd
5 cm verse gember, fijngehakt
500 gram Japanse noedels

voor de marinade:

5 eetlepels sojasaus
4 eetlepels ketjap manis
2 eetlepels honing
3 eetlepels zoetzure saus
3 eetlepels sesamolie
1 eetlepel gemberpoeder
3 cm verse gember, fijngehakt
beetje harissa/sambal/chilipeper


Meng alle ingrediënten voor de marinade. Snijd de tofu in blokjes en meng met de marinade in een potje met deksel. Zet minstens een uur in de koelkast en schep regelmatig de marinade over de tofu. Kook intussen de noedels volgens de verpakking, giet af en meng met een beetje olie, probeer te voorkomen dat het een grote plakkende massa wordt. Doe de tofu in een zeef of vergiet en vang de marinade op. Meng er eventueel wat extra sojasaus of een ander deel van de marinade door, naar smaak.

Zet een wok op hoog vuur (of een wokbrander als je dat hebt) en laat een royale scheut sesamolie goed heet worden. Roerbak de tofu tot hij knapperig is. Leg de tofu in een kom met wat keukenpapier om uit te lekken.

Doe opnieuw een scheut sesamolie in de wok en fruit de ui en gember tot de ui glazig wordt. Voeg de knolselder en aardpeer toe en blijf goed roerbakken. Draai het vuur wat lager en laat de groenten even stomen met deksel op de wok, zo worden de groenten sneller gaar. Blijf regelmatig roeren en neem tijdig het deksel weer weg zodat het niet zompig wordt. Als je groenten gaar zijn, voeg je de noedels toe. Zet het vuur op hoog en roerbak de noedels. Voeg na enkele minuten de rest van de marinade toe en meng goed. Breng op smaak met peper en zout en eventueel wat gedroogde pepers Meng tenslotte de tofu in de wok. Strooi bij het serveren sesam over je bord. Smakelijk!

Spicy pumpkin risotto

Lent has started. Some people give up alcohol for 40 days, some give up candy (that would be me), some try to live a little more sober, some do nothing (which is fine too). In Belgium, the ‘Dagen Zonder Vlees’ (Days Without Meat) initiative was launched for the third time. Meat eaters try to reduce their meat and fish consumption and register this on a website (www.dagenzondervlees.be). The website then counts the amount of CO2 that was saved. Many meat-loving carnivores who participate (including my beloved) end up realizing they don’t need to eat meat every day. As a vegetarian I can only applaud this initiative.

To encourage all those brave temporary vegetarians out there, I’ll try to have some extra attention for recipes without meat or fish during this period. I had some leftover veggies from a weekend dish: half of a small round butternut-ish pumpkin and Jerusalem artichoke (called topinambour or aardpeer in Dutch, but what a fantastic word in English!). They were turned into a hearty veggie risotto. Enjoy!

Spicy pumpkin risotto
Spicy pumpkin risotto

Ingredients for 4-6 servings

50 grams of butter or margarine
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 chopped chili peppers or a teaspoon of dried chili flakes (depends on your taste for hot)
500 grams of tasty, firm pumpkin or squash (for example butternut), in dice-sized pieces
4 Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut in dice-size pieces (optional)
500 grams of risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
1,5 liter of hot vegetable stock
3 tablespoons of chopped fresh sage
50 grams of Parmezan cheese
75 grams of sour cream
pepper and salt

How to:

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Fruit the onion and add the chili pepper. Fruit for 2 more minutes, then add the pumpkin and Jerusalem artichokes and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir well, so it’s covered with the butter. Add the vegetable stock in small portions  and stir every now and then to prevent from sticking to the pan (to make it a more traditional risotto, you could add some white wine before the stock – I didn’t do this and it was fine, actually). When the rice is ready, turn off the fire and add the sage, Parmezan, sour cream and pepper and salt. Mix with the rice, put a lid on the skillet and let it rest for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Bruxelles alla Turca: restaurant review and lentil soup with mint butter

Having spent three wonderful summers excavating in Turkey, I’ve come to love the Turkish cuisine. I’m not the only one – everyone that has ever participated in the Sagalassos project has fond memories of pide (a Turkish type of pizza), güveç (dishes baked in clay pots) or sütlaç (delicious burnt rice pudding). I’m still in awe of the magic Turkish cooks can perform with a simple ingredient like yoghurt, and I’ve tested quite a few Turkish recipes myself (see below).

So when a friend proposed to go out for dinner to a Turkish restaurant, I eagerly said yes. We went to the Brussels Mecca of Turkish food: the strip of Chausséee de Haecht between Rogierlaan and Botanique, where every other place serves pide or pasta (Turkish for all types of sweet pastries). Finding a parking spot was not easy (we finally discovered ‘parking Express’, shady at first sight but perfectly fine and not expensive), I definitely recommend going there by bus (stops: Robiano or Middaglijn/Méridien) or metro (Kruidtuin/Botanique). We picked out a restaurant using the well-known ‘locals’ technique: it can’t be bad if a lot of locals are eating here. This restaurant happened to be Hünkar Sofrasi (Chaussée de Haecht 89). We were not disappointed.

The waiter spoke Dutch (always a pleasant surprise in Brussels) while we put to practice our culinary Turkish (probably the only Turkish words we can still remember). The three of us ordered one plate of mixed mezze and çoban salata (shepherd’s salad) as a starter. True to Turkish tradition, we were stuffed by the end of this course. The mixed mezze consisted of various yoghurt- and vegetable-based salads, cheese börek, and calamares. Yum.

We then proceeded to the main course: copious amounts of mixed meat-cheese lahmacün (round thin Turkish pizza), mixed meat-cheese pide (boat-shaped Turkish pizza) and spinach-cheese pide. All were absolutely delicious. The waiter, probably foreseeing our imminent indigestions, gladly offered to wrap up the leftovers, providing us with food for at least another night’s dinner. The feast was concluded with Turkish tea on the house (sadly, none of us had room left for sütlaç). We paid 15 euros per person, very reasonable considering the quality and quantity of our dinner.

Our Turkish feast
Our Turkish feast

As my last two posts were also culinary reviews, I figured I owe you a recipe. In keeping with the Turkish theme, I’m offering my new favorite Turkish lentil soup from Turquoise by Greg Malouf. This hearty, perfect winter soup reminded me instantly of the thick soup served at Turkish peasant weddings, but its spicy and eloquent touch makes it just as perfect to be served at Christmas dinner. I might just consider selling my rights as firstborn for this soup (might!).

Lentil soup with mint dressing

Ingredients for about 6-8 people:

one big onion, finely chopped
two big winter carrots, finely chopped
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp of ground cumin powder
2 tsp of spicy paprika powder (chili powder – not as spicy as cayenne)
2 tsp of mild paprika powder
1 small can of tomato concentrate
200 grams of red lentils (those tiny round orange ones – at the Turkish supermarket, or organic supermarket, or well-sorted supermarket)
2 liters of vegetable stock – or two liters of water with 4 stock cubes (the original recipe mentions chicken stock, which is fine too, but I like to keep it vegetarian)
5 tbsp of fine bulgur (Turkish supermarket)
2 tomatoes, seeds removed, chopped
sea salt, fresh black pepper
lemon parts, for serving

For the mint dressing (optional, but gives a very nice touch):

50 grams of butter
1 tsp of dried mint
1 tsp of paprika powder

How to:

Heat the oil in a large soup casserole on a low fire. Add the chopped onion, carrot and garlic and stir lightly. After a few minutes, add the cumin and two paprikas. Stir regularly until the vegetables start to become soft. Be careful not to let the spices burn (this happens to me sometimes in a casserole with a thin bottom) – it’s better to add the rest of the ingredients a little early if you see it’s starting to burn. Add in the tomato puree and mix well. Let it heat for one minute. Add the lentils and vegetable stock, bring to a boil. Let the soup boil softly with the lid on, stirring regularly for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are starting to fall apart, making the soup a bit ‘creamy’ or starchy. Then add the bulgur and the tomatoes. Season to taste with pepper and salt and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the mint and paprika powder. Serve the soup in a hot bowl with a piece of lemon and add a few drops of the mint butter. Enjoy!

Salmon with ricotta, dried tomatoes and tarragon en papillote

I made this for New Year’s Eve dinner and can’t say my guests were complaining. It’s actually really easy, the hardest part is taking the salmon out of the oven in time – this takes a bit of practice but also depends on the size of the salmon. Try it for a dinner with guests or just for yourself, it’s really yummy.

Ingredients for 4-6 servings

1 or 2 salmon filets (at least 2 cm thick), in total about 1 kg (you can use frozen and thawed salmon but fresh is better)
4 tablespoons of sundried tomato tapenade or red pesto (try to use good quality – I use Père Olive, for the tapenade and sundried tomatoes)
200 grams of ricotta
several sprigs of fresh tarragon
8 to 10 sundried  tomatoes
olive oil
freshly ground salt and pepper
kitchen string (use good kitchen string, remember Bridget Diary’s blue soup!)
parchment paper

Heat the oven to 210 degrees Celsius. If the salmon has skin, remove this gently by pulling it away using a knife (I actually left part of the skin on for the bottom part, this works fine). Depending on the size of your filet piece, either cut it lengthwise or in half, so that you get two solid and equally large parts. Remove fishbones with a pincet.  Coat one side of each salmon piece with the tomato tapenade (if you kept skin on, don’t coat the skin side!).

Keep a few sprigs of tarragon apart, mix the rest of the leaves (without the harder parts) with the ricotta, season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the first piece of salmon (if you have skin, it should be on the bottom) with the ricotta mixture and the sundried tomatoes. Put the second piece of salmon on top, so that the ‘head’ and ‘tail’ pieces of the filet are on opposite sides and the ‘prettiest’ part on top. Add the extra tarragon. Now, cut a few pieces of string and carefully tie the salmon and its contents as on the picture (2-4 times, depending on the size of the salmon).

Take a large piece of parchment paper and grease with a bit of olive oil. Put the fish roll on top. Fold the papillote around the salmon (roll it carefully around) and fold closed as tightly as possible. I used some extra string to secure the package. Put it in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes – if you’re not sure whether it’s ready, take it out of the oven at 20 minutes and check whether the salmon is done, you can close the parchment paper again. My tip: don’t let the salmon bake completely through – take it out when the inside of the fish meat is still a bit darker and looking ‘wet’, it will continue to bake a little out of the oven. If you wait until it’s completely done, the salmon can become somewhat too dry. Enjoy!