Tag: pumpkin

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!

Holiday three course menu: fennel soup, pumpkin pie and hot toddy pudding

This is a menu I’ve used for a lunch with family, but it’s perfect for all those lunches or dinners one hosts during cold winter months. The various dishes are real comfort food but fancy enough to impress your guests – while easy enough to pull it off without any special equipment and ingredients. It does take some time to prepare, but a lot can be done in advance. I got my recipes from one of my cooking classes (at CVO Elishout, Anderlecht), the delicious. cookbook by Valli Little and the December edition of delicious. magazine (Jamie Oliver’s contribution).

My guests were very positive about this menu! All of it is very ‘filling’ comfort food, perfect for those cold and rainy fall and winter days. If you try any of these, let me know what you think!

As a strong starter, I made fennel soup with shrimp. This is actually quite an easy recipe but has a refined taste due to the garnish. Perfect to impress guests!

Ingredients for six persons:

one good-sized onion (if you have small ones, use two)
butter or oil, as you prefer
about 3 pieces of fennel (keep the green leafy parts apart)
two soft-cooking potatoes
fish stock (I used the real thing in class and cubes at home)

for the garnish:

200 grams of peeled grey shrimp/Dutch shrimp (shrimp from the North Sea)
zest of one orange, grated
a handful of basil leaves, thinly chopped
200 ml 30% cream


Make the soup by heating some butter or oil and sweating the chopped onions in it. Then add the roughly chopped fennel and potatoes and let the vegetables stew for a bit so they can give off flavor. Add fish stock and/or water – I don’t really measure this but just pour until the vegetables are at least completely covered and then some (at least 2,5 liters) – 2 cubes of stock per liter. Let this come to a boil and then simmer on a low fire for a while until the vegetables are completely soft. Turn off the heat and blend the soup with a hand mixer, using a conical strainer if you have one (I finally bought one, yay!). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the garnish, mix the grey shrimp with the orange zest and the chopped basil (for the real vegetarians, you can always leave out the shrimp or replace with some baked bread crumbs. I try to find non-peeled shrimp because they often travel a long way and back to be peeled, which is not very environmentally friendly). Beat the cream until it has the consistency of yoghurt. Put a spoon of cream into a soup bowl. Add the soup, then sprinkle with a few spoons of shrimp. Finish with a sprig of fennel green. Enjoy!

Note: originally, my soup was of a prettier color green than the one in the picture. I put it back on the fire to heat up a bit when my guests came in, but then I had to show them around the apartment and so my soup was boiling by the time I got back to the kitchen. The longer you let green soup boil, the less ‘green’ it will become. Just a hint!

The main course was a pumpkin pie to which I added some sweet potatoes that were still lying around. This dish is more labor intensive but if you have time, it’s absolutely worth it. The recipe is from the delicious. cookbook by Valli Little and it’s absolutely delicious and very filling comfort food. If you’re feeling lazy, just use store-bought shortcrust pastry instead of the homemade kind (it won’t be as good though). For those who dislike mushrooms (in my experience, quite some people dislike them, although I can’t understand why) you can just leave them out.


for the shortcrust pastry:

250 gr flour
180 cold butter, in small cubes
for the pie filling:

700 gr pumpkin/sweet potato, in wedges of 3 cm (or a bit more, according to what you have in store)
olive oil
40 gr butter (or a good chunk)
2 leeks, the white and light green parts, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
white wine
300 ml of 30% cream
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of chopped thyme leaves
2 tablespoons of chopped flatleaf parsley
125 grated gruyere or emmental
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

for the mushroom topping:

40 gr butter (or a good chunk)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400 grams mixed mushrooms (Parisian, shii-take,…), dirt brushed off and chopped coarsely
white wine
2 tablespoons chopped flatleaf parsley


First, make the shortcrust pastry. Put the flour in a mixing bowl and add the butter cubes. Rub the butter cubes until mixed coarsely with the flour (or pulse in a kitchen robot if you have one). Add three tablespoons of ice water and mix until you have a smooth dough (don’t mix for too long!). Shape into a round ball and put some plastic foil around it. Let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This can be made beforehand, a day or so.

For the pie filling: preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. (about 356 Fahrenheit). Dress a (metal) baking tin with a sheet of parchment paper. Put the pumpkin and sweet potato slices on the parchment paper, sprinkle with olive oil and coarse salt (fleur de sel) and pepper, toss carefully. Cover the pumpkin with aluminum foil (I don’t have this so I used parchment paper) and roast the pumpkin for 25-35 minutes in the oven, until tender. Shake the pumpkin in a large sieve and put above a bowl to let the liquid drip out for at least 3o minutes.

Now, take a pie mold of about 26 cm diameter (I used a bigger one but I upped all the portions) and rub it with butter. Roll out the pastry, about 5 mm thick onto a sheet of parchment paper, put this into the pie mold. Put it back into the fridge for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Then, line with parchment paper (I didn’t do this and used flour, but it was quite hard to remove the baked crust from the mold) and uncooked rice or beans (as a baking weight) and put it in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the weight and bake for 8 more minutes until golden brown.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and leek and stir-fry until the leek is tender. Add a good swig of wine and let it cook for a few minutes, then take the pan from the fire and let the leek cool. Blend the pumpkin flesh with the leek, the cream, eggs, thyme and parsley until smooth (with a hand mixer or blender). Add the grated cheese and nutmeg and royally season with pepper and seasalt. Pour the pumpkin mixture carefully into the prepared crust and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes (or longer if necessary), until firm and golden brown. If necessary, you can make the filling beforehand – but in that case, make sure that the leek and pumpkin are cooled before you add the cream and eggs.

While the pie is in the oven, heat an extra chunk of butter in a large frying pan or wok. Add the garlic and mushrooms and stir-fry for a few minutes until the mushrooms have shrunken. Add a bit of white wine and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes until the wine has evaporated. Mix the parsley with the mushrooms, put them on the pie and serve. Enjoy!

I recently made Jamie Oliver’s hot toddy pudding from delicious. magazine and it immediately became one of my favorite desserts. It’s easy, yummy and a winter dessert that warms you on the inside! You can make it a few hours before and bake it later, if you do so sprinkle the sugar on right before baking.





150 g raisins
100 ml dark rum (more or less)
15 slices of white bread (you can use old bread for this)
6 large eggs
600 ml cream
450 ml milk
200 g cane sugar + 50 g extr for topping
grated peel of one (preferable organic) orange
3 ripe bananas, in thick slices
a baking dish of about 25 cm diameter, lightly buttered (pyrex or ceramics, oven-proof)

Note: I used a smaller baking dish (see picture) and I cut the milk-cream-egg-sugar ingredients in half, I used about 100 g of raisins, about 10 slices of bread and 2 bananas. This amount was definitely enough for 6 people. If you notice you don’t have enough egg-cream mixture you can alway make a little more and add it to the pudding. The most important is that your proportions are right.


Start by putting the raisins in a small bowl and pouring rum over them so that they are completely covered. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Cut the bread slices into triangles, making four triangles from every slice (the second time I made two triangles out of every slice, it depends on the size of your bread). You can leave the crust on. Beat the eggs loose with the sugar and add in milk and cream. Sieve the raisins and mix the rum in with the cream mixture. Mix in the orange zest, keeping a small tablespoon apart. Dip about 8 of the bread triangles into the custard and keep them apart. Now, cover the bottom of your baking dish with bread and add half of the banana slices and half of the raisins. Add another layer of bread, bananas and raisins, but keep a handful of raisins apart.

Finally, cover the layers with the custard-dipped bread slices. Now slowly pour the cream mixture into the dish, be careful so that the bread doesn’t float up. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and orange zest. Jamie Oliver adds the leftover raisins at this point, but I like to keep them apart and add them before serving so they don’t burn. Put the dish into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until firm. If it gets too brown on top, you can cover it with some parchment paper. Add the raisins and serve (careful, it’s hot). Also perfect with some tea or coffee!




Fall menu: Blackened salmon with pumpkin fries and mango sauce

I love salmon. Smoked, poached, baked, grilled, in papillotte…  I wouldn’t know which way to choose. And while preparing salmon is pretty easy, it’s not always easy to decide what to serve it with. That’s my experience, at least. Sure, I love smoked salmon quiche with broccoli and goat cheese, and there’s plenty of classical salmon recipes, but every once in a while, we want something different, no? So I revisited one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon, which is blackened salmon. It’s a recipe that originated in Cajun cooking, in which the salmon is rubbed in a thick layer of spices and then baked, creating a ‘blackened’ spicy crust. Mmmm, I could hardly wait for dinner time once I decided I would make this.

But what to serve with it? There’s the problem. I once ate blackened tuna with mango sauce in Cactus Taverna, a great restaurant in Salisbury. But good fresh tuna is hard and expensive to find in Belgium, and I try to avoid tuna since it’s going extinct due to overfishing.  I decided to go for blackened salmon with mango sauce, and be bold and try out pumpkin and sweet potato as vegetable sides to balance the spicyness. Exciting! As it was kind of an experiment, I looked up a few ways to make blackened tuna, mango sauce and sweet potato baked fries on Tastespotting (always a great source of inspiration, if just for the wonderful pictures).

The result was delicious. There’s the spicy, slightly crunchy salmon, balanced by the sweet and mild mango. The earthy but flavorful pumpkin and sweet potato chips, also slightly spicy, make for a great balance. I have yet to perfect an elegant way to serve the plate, but the taste was surprisingly complementary. Do try at home!

Blackened salmon spices
Making the mango sauce


Fall vegetables
Pumpkin and sweet potato fries


Coating the salmon with spices
Baking the blackened salmon












The result: blackened salmon with pumpkin fries and mango sauce


Recipe for four people:

For the blackened salmon:

-four pieces of fresh salmon, preferably bio/organic

-spices: black and white pepper, salt, paprika, thyme, basil, rosemary, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, ground dry chili flakes or spicy chily powder, cayenne pepper (you’re free to improvise according to your own pantry here)


For the mango sauce:

-Two very ripe mangos

-Juice of one lime

For the pumpkin and sweet potato fries:

-Half of a small, flavorful pumpkin (I used a chestnut pumpkin)

-2-3 sweet potatoes (I actually didn’t have real sweet potatoes but some kind of in-between Turkish long potato I picked up at the local store)

-olive oil

-salt and pepper, dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, basil, some spicy chili powder

Start cooking!

Start with the pumpkin and sweet potato as they will take the longest. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (about 400 F). Peel the pumpkin and potatoes and cut into long fry-shaped wedges. Put them on a metal oven-proof platter covered with a sheet of parchment paper. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices, toss carefully so everything is covered. Put in the oven and let bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the fries are soft but still have bite (this depends on the kind of vegetables, your oven…)

While the vegetables are in the oven, start with the mango sauce. Peel the mangoes and cut them into cubes. Put in a mixer bowl with the freshly squeezed lime juice. Mix until you have a thick, fluid sauce. Keep the sauce ready in a saucepan to heat before you’re serving.

Cut the salmon into the desired amount of pieces if necessary. Mix all the spices. I don’t use an exact formula but I tend to start with the first listed in the largest quantities, then move down to smaller quantities, depending on how spicy you like the crust to be. When the mixture is ready, heat up a pan (a grill pan is also possible, try to use one that conducts heat well, like a cast iron) and let some of the butter melt at a low temperature. Take the salmon and sweep it through the butter on both sides, then through the spice mixture.  Put a little more butter into the pan (you don’t need to smother the salmon, just so the crust won’t burn) and heat it up. When the butter is hot and melted, put the wedges of salmon into the pan and bake on both sides until the insides are done (not overdone, it really is a shame to ruin salmon by letting it get too dry, so check regularly on the inside of it’s still rosy).

Put the salmon on a (warm) plate, arrange the fries around it or underneath and top with some hot mango sauce. Yum!