Zucchini parmigiana

This delicious dish is ideal for a simple, nutritious evening meal. Technically, you should use Parmesan cheese in parmigiana recipes but I used cheddar instead and it worked very well!

Ingredients

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 zucchini, cut into ribbons about 1/2 cm thick
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 400-gram can of tomatoes
2 cups breadcrumbs
100 grams grated cheese (Parmesan or cheddar)
1/2 tsp pimenton (smoked paprika)
4 tbsp olive oil

1. Dice the onion and sauté with the crushed garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil until golden.
2. Add the can of tomatoes and the pimenton. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes.
3. Shallow-fry the sliced zucchini in the other 2 tbsp of olive oil (you will probably need to add more while frying) until the slices are golden and slightly brown. Turn the slices while frying so they are golden on both sides.
4. Layer the zucchini in a baking dish (I used one which was 27 x 21 cm), followed by the tomato sauce, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the zucchini and tomato. Finally, sprinkle the grated cheese evenly on top.
5. Bake at 340F/170C for 20 – 25 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are crispy and the cheese is golden.
6. Enjoy! I served it with a side of garden peas and steamed cauliflower but it would also make a great lunch dish along with a green salad.

Food: celeriac soup recipe

Source: Wikipedia. Author: DocteurCosmos

Photo credit: Wikipedia. Author: DocteurCosmos

Celeriac – celery root – isn’t going to be winning any beauty contests any time soon. But let’s not be judgemental. Despite its unattractive appearance, it is a versatile and delicious vegetable which is perfect in blended soups. This soup is creamy and lovely, ideal for chillier days as autumn begins to creep into the air.

Ingredients

1 large white onion, diced
2 medium leeks, finely chopped
1 large celeriac (celery root), chopped into small cubes
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp paprika
Approx. 8 cups/2 litres vegetable stock
1 cup milk
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Step 1: Sauté the onion, leek and garlic in the olive oil, stirring frequently for 10 – 15 minutes, until they are golden brown.
Step 2: Add the celeriac and simmer on a low heat until the celeriac is tender. Add the vegetable stock, paprika and salt and pepper. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Step 3: Blend the soup until it is smooth and creamy, then return to the stove. Add the milk, stir and heat until it is steaming hot. Enjoy with a slice of freshly baked bread!

Giant couscous and feta salad

Couscous salad

Despite the name, giant couscous is in fact a type of pasta which is toasted and shaped into little balls that look like an enlarged version of couscous. According to Wikipedia, it was invented in Israel during the early 1950s when there was a rice shortage. You can read more about its invention by clicking here. Ptitim, as it is known in Israel, is now becoming increasingly well-known outside the country and is currently a popular ingredient on the menus of many trendy restaurants. It is also known as Israeli couscous or Jerusalem couscous. I used a wholegrain giant couscous to create this nutritious, summery salad. If you cannot find giant couscous, you could substitute regular couscous or orzo pasta in place of it.

GIANT COUSCOUS AND FETA SALAD
(serves 4)

Ingredients

150g giant couscous
100g feta cheese, cut into small cubes
1 small red onion, finely chopped
100g frozen garden peas, boiled
Approx. 10 Kalamata olives, chopped
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper, to taste

1. Cook the giant couscous according to the instructions on the packet. I lightly fried mine in a little olive oil for 5 minutes before adding water and stirring until the water was absorbed and the couscous was tender.

2. While the couscous is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Boil the peas, drain them and leave them to cool. Chop up the feta cheese and the red onion. Finely chop the Kalamata olives. I prefer to buy the ones which are whole as I think they taste better than the pitted ones. If you do this, take care to remove the stones before including them in the salad.

3. When the couscous is cooked, add it to a large bowl, along with the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over the salad, mix well and serve. Enjoy!

Summery kohlrabi soup

A rather spectacular Kohlrabi by Petr Kratochvil (public domain image)

A rather spectacular Kohlrabi by Petr Kratochvil (public domain image)

Kohlrabi is a versatile member of the brassica family; in the winter, you can use it in hearty soups and stews or create a delicious mash with olive oil and salt and pepper. The summer crop of kohlrabi is less fibrous than during the winter and it is ideally suited for summer salads and kohlrabi slaw. Try adding grated kohlrabi and carrot together with a mustard dressing.

This kohlrabi soup – my own recipe – is perfect for a light lunch in the garden. The combination of peas and mint help to bring out the crisp taste of the kohlrabi, resulting in a delicious summer soup.

SUMMERY KOHLRABI SOUP
(serves 4)

Ingredients

2 tbsp good-quality olive oil
2 large onions, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 kohlrabi, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
3 heaped tbsp frozen garden peas
3.5 cups/1.5 pints vegetable stock
2 heaped tbsp chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper

1. Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil for approx. 10 minutes, until they are golden.
2. Add the kohlrabi and carrots to the pan. Saute gently for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the vegetable stock and the peas. Bring to the boil, then immediately turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes until the peas are cooked.
4. Add the chopped mint, season with salt and pepper to taste and blend.

Kohlrabi soup

Cultural Life turns two!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Cultural Life! Public domain image - Happy Birthday In Sand by Petr Kratochvil

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Cultural Life!
Public domain image – Happy Birthday In Sand by Petr Kratochvil

My WordPress blogging journey began two years ago today. I have enjoyed every minute of blogging so far and I am glad to be a member of the WordPress blogging community. In the past year, a lot has happened in my blogging life: my number of followers has grown significantly from a mere 60 this time last year to 619 (and counting!) at the time of writing this post. And I was Freshly Pressed in February! That was a wonderful experience and getting a personal email from the editor of WordPress made me feel very honored.

To mark my second blog anniversary, here are a few highlights from the past two years of Cultural Life:

Reasons why I want to move to Maine – this post, with wonderful Maine photos courtesy of Karen at Back Road Journal, is one of my most popular posts. It seems that a lot of people Google “reasons to move to Maine”!

Saying Goodbye – This is my Freshly Pressed post, about the emotions I felt when saying goodbye to my mother before she was wheeled into an operating room for lifesaving surgery.

Valencia Orange Cake – a delicious recipe with no flour, making it perfect for gluten-free diets. The cake is simply amazing, especially when served with cream.

Photo Challenge day 1: Resolution – I took this photo on the first day of this year; it’s a pretty view from outside my home.

Thoughts on reading The Hunger Games – when I first read The Hunger Games in November and December 2011, I became hooked on the series. When I was going through a stressful time last year, I re-read the series a couple of times. I find that I take inspiration from Katniss’s grit and determination.

Thank you to my readers for supporting my blog and here’s to the next two years – and more! – of Cultural Life.

A blogging milestone

This post marks the 100th post and the third blogging milestone for Cultural Life, after my first ‘blogiversary’ in June 2012 and the delightful surprise of being Freshly Pressed in February this year!

All milestones should have cake or some form of dessert. ;-) And so I celebrated my 100th blog post by baking this apple streusel cake:

As a Brit, I was initially confused by the name of this particular cake. If you say “coffee cake” the image that springs to the minds of most Brits is something like this: Nigella’s coffee and walnut layer cake. In England, coffee cake has coffee in it. It’s always interesting to learn how cooking and baking terminology varies on each side of the pond.

Linguistic differences aside, this apple streusel coffee cake turned out to be very delicious indeed, despite the fact that I unintentionally ignored the instructions to bake in a baking dish and not in a round cake pan. Hence, the flatness of my cake!

Recipe text from this page reproduced with kind permission from Mama’s Gotta Bake. Do check out her lovely blog….your mouth will water!

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Adapted from Gale Gand’s Brunch!

The Cake

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 apples, peeled and cored, and chopped (I like to use a tart Granny Smith apple)
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry brush and melted butter, grease an 8-inch baking dish.

2. For the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or I used an electric hand-mixer) beat the egg and then mix in the milk and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is incorporated. Add the apples and walnuts to the mixture and pour into the baking dish.

3. To make the streusel topping, mix the sugar, flour, cold butter and cinnamon in a medium bowl by pinching them together with your fingers until combined. Spoon the mixture over the top of the batter.

4. Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, and when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan, and then cut into squares.

January, we had fun

January was a great month on the blog.

I made some delicious soup (Honey-roasted parsnip and carrot soup), took part in a photo challenge (highlights below) and published the post which was Freshly Pressed, to my delight, on February 1!

I kick-started January with the First Thirty-one Photo Challenge, welcoming in 2013 with a photo a day.

Browse highlights from my entries below:

Day 1: Resolution:

Resolution: to get outside and go places

Resolution: to get outside and go places

Day 10: Gorgeous hand-knitted socks, knitted by a friend

socks

A wintry photo entry for day 14′s “Frost” theme

snowy tree

Day 19: Fur

fur

Day 31: snowdrops signal the end of winter

snowdrops

I also enjoyed challenging my writing skills with challenges from The Daily Post

My dream trip: a writing challenge about traveling set my imagination on fire.

Another writing challenge: Starting Over, a short story set in Mexico.

Cultural Life celebrated the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with this post:

January 28 1813.

And on January 31, I published this weekly writing challenge post, about saying an emotional goodbye to my mother at the doors of the operating suite. It was Freshly Pressed! I don’t often use the word “awesome” but being Freshly Pressed was the embodiment of that word. Thank you to everyone who commented, liked and shared my post. Welcome to my new followers and thank you for helping to create a great blogging month here at Cultural Life!

Honey-roasted parsnip and carrot soup

A few days ago, my sister gave me a bag of parsnips. Her husband had brought them home and since she doesn’t like parsnips, she gave them to me. I am not a parsnip hater but I am not particularly enamored by them either. But I was determined not to let them spoil and go to waste. And so I made this soup which actually turned out much better than expected. I guarantee it will convert anyone with a low opinion of parsnips!

Honey-roasted parsnip and carrot soup

Honey-roasted parsnip and carrot soup

Ingredients – serves 6 – 8, depending on portion size. If you are daunted by the quantity of soup this recipe produces, freeze the leftovers.

4 large parsnips, peeled
6 medium carrots, diced
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp mild chili powder
Vegetable stock/bouillon cube
Salt and pepper

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 390°F/200°C. Chop the peeled parsnips into rough chunks. No need to worry about making them look pretty; they are going to be blended. Drizzle them with a liberal amount of honey and a little olive oil.

Chopped parsnips, drizzled with honey, ready to go in the oven

Chopped parsnips, drizzled with honey, ready to go in the oven

Sprinkle with a small pinch of salt and some ground black pepper and roast for 30 minutes. Half-way through roasting them, add 2 garlic cloves (chopped in half) along with more honey if necessary.

2. While the parsnips are roasting, saute 2 finely chopped onions in a little olive oil. Add 2 crushed cloves of garlic, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika and some ground black pepper. When the onions are golden, add the diced carrots and 1/2 tsp mild chili powder. Cook on a moderate temperature and stir frequently.

3. When the parsnips are done, add them to the onions and carrots. Cook for 10 minutes. Then add vegetable stock to cover the vegetables – the liquid should come approx. 2 inches above the veg. Sorry for the lack of an accurate measure: I didn’t bother measuring my stock. You can always add more liquid if you prefer a thinner soup.

4. Cook until the parsnips and carrots are tender, adding more cumin, paprika or chili if desired. Blend thoroughly and season to taste. After blending, return to the pan to heat the soup until bubbling. Serve with fresh bread and a green salad. Enjoy!

Blog challenge #11: Canada

Flag of Canada

Long time, no blog. Sorry for the absence. My life is currently very busy and very stressful. But this afternoon, I took a little respite to do one of my favorite things: baking. And blogging about baking. Achieving two of my favorite things in one afternoon? Way to go!

When I think of Canadian food, I think of maple syrup. After all, the maple leaf is the iconic symbol on Canada’s flag and according to this maple syrup industry facts sheet on the website of the Ontario Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (linked here), Canada is the largest producer of maple syrup in the world.

Maple Syrup Season by Charles Rondeau

You are in for a treat with the following recipe: Maple Crisp Pie. Doesn’t just the name make your mouth water? Anything with maple syrup is appealing to me…I could drink that nectar straight out the bottle. The combination of apple, cinnamon and maple syrup in this recipe is heavenly. I served it with plain yogurt and it was delicious!

Recipe source: Food Network Canada (link for Maple Crisp Pie at Food Network Canada. Recipe courtesy of Anna Olson)

Maple Crisp Pie

Ingredients
Dough

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Filling
5 Mutsu (Crispin) or Granny Smith apples
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, mixed with 2 tbsp cold water, for brushing

To Assemble

Directions
Dough

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter the texture of coarse meal. Stir sour cream and maple syrup and add to dough, mixing until it just comes together. Chill dough for 15 minutes.
Filling
Peel and slice apples. Toss with maple syrup and cinnamon.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Slide dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place apples and all the syrup into the center of the pastry. Dot with butter.
To Assemble
Fold crust over apples in 5 folds, leaving some of the filling visible. Brush with egg wash and bake for 30-40 minutes, until crust is brown and filling is bubbling.

Have a wonderful weekend! Do you have any baking suggestions you think I should try (with or without maple syrup)? Leave a comment and let me know. :)

Blog challenge roundup: the first 10 recipes

I apologize for the lack of activity on the blog for the past month. My weekly post schedule has slipped out the window but I’ve been busy, not to mention the fact that I spent two weeks of July hobbling around in pain, before having surgery on August 1st. Ideas for blog posts haven’t been flowing freely and I haven’t cooked anything exciting in the past month. But I intend to return from my hiatus this week so be sure to look out for frequent posts again and some more delicious recipes!

Recipes from around the world. Picture source: Map Of The World by Jiri Hodan

In the meantime, here is a roundup of the first ten recipes I have cooked as part of the blog challenge I set myself back in February. You can read about that in this post: I’m setting myself a challenge.

Recipe 1: Irish soda bread

For blog challenge recipe 2, Middle Eastern cuisine gave me one of my favorites: hummus

Recipe number 3. A trip to South America: Honduras

Blog challenge 4. I have a special fondness for Greek food and I was delighted by how these Greek koulourakia turned out. I have made this recipe many times since blogging about it and it gives delicious results every time! Greek koulourakia

Blog challenge 5. Nettle soup: this is an easy, money-saving recipe and, despite what you might think, tastes very good! European nettle soup

Blog challenge 6. A simple but yummy Indian curry: Indian curry

Blog challenge 7. Ah, this is possibly my favorite recipe so far from the ones I have cooked for my blog challenge: Valencia orange cake

Blog challenge 8. I threw a load of ingredients together for this and the combination worked very well: Italian-style pasta sauce

Blog challenge 9. A hearty dessert: Traditional English pudding

And finally, blog challenge recipe 10! These are too bad for anyone’s waistline but they are amazing! Blog challenge recipe 10 celebrated the Fourth of July by baking some American brownies.

I hope you will join me as I embark on the next ten recipes! These are the remaining countries and I have recipes to find and make for all of them: Canada, Australia, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, Portugal, Singapore, New Zealand, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Czech Republic, Belgium, Brazil, Turkey, Japan, Austria, Serbia, Costa Rica, Norway, Georgia, Belarus, Romania, Slovakia, Nigeria, Egypt, South Korea and Myanmar.

Quite a challenge!