Cake or Death
It's no surprise that DS and I sniffed out Luxembourg's finest cake spot quicker than you can say shwarzwaldtort. Sure, in a town/country this size, the options are limited. Thank you Chocolate House, whose obscenely oversized confectionaries siren call through the city to local wanderers lacking in dietary self control. The slices are too big, the icing too buttery, the chocolate too sickly. Yet we still manage to put away at least a wedge a day. There's not much else to do in Luxembourg.
Cue the guilt and sugar crashes and why oh why's. And an extra incentive to prepare saintly, health-filled dishes in my teensy kitchenette.
I'm coming to the end of my stay in Luxembourg so I need to start using up my leftovers. I also have to honour that lunch invitation I cavalierly proffered to a couple of kitchen-deprived colleagues last week, using the last few euros from my dwindling per diems. I’m the only one in the cast who opted for an apartment over a hotel room (although it WAS hard to turn down the option of daily room service) and after two weeks here, people are getting sick of two meals out a day. Again, the gastronomic choice here isn’t overwhelming.
The local farmers’ market makes up for it. Stalls are piled high with rainbow coloured, locally grown organic produce. Their holders look like they’ve come straight from a Grimm fairy tale, as colourful and gnarly as their vegetables. Purple cauliflower and juicy, fresh corn on the cob. Beetroot the size of your head and obscenely sized courgettes. Enormous vats of unheard-of strains of apples and pears, and delicate local cheeses. An overwhelming choice of home made jams, jellies and conserves. Even though it seems bulky to take home, I can’t resist a jar of blackberry for a friend’s impending birthday. Squashes of every shape and size and endless varieties of mushrooms inspire my menu choice of a frittata for my girly colleagues’ lunch. Served with roasted courgettes and followed by pears and chocolate sauce, the whole meal comes in at less than 15 euros. Pleasing.
The other recipes here are just some simple ideas for some light, warming meals.
Squash, mushroom and goat cheese frittata
Serves 3, takes 45 minutes
Frittata is a secret weapon. Simple and cheap to throw together, but looks so impressive. Anything goes in terms of filling - much like a quiche you can mix and match your ingredients according to the seasons and your cravings. Replacing the squash with sautéed courgettes (cooked with the mushrooms) would make a quicker, lighter version. Or add cream to the eggs for something a little more luxurious. You can easily expand this recipe to feed greater numbers - count on 2 eggs per person. You'll just need to increase the oven time accordingly.
* Squash - About 300g, seeds removed* and chopped into chunks
* Onion - 1 white, peeled and diced
* Olive oil - a glug
* Garlic - 2 cloves, peeled and halved
* Mushrooms - a punnet, cleaned and roughly chopped (any variety will do)
* Eggs - 6
* Parsley - a handful, chopped
* Goat cheese - 60g
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Spread the squash over a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 20 minutes of until cooked through. Reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees C.
Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a large, oven proof saucepan. Fry the onions and garlic until soft, stirring often. Add a dash of water to the pan a little way through the cooking to keep the onions nice and plump. Add the mushrooms and fry until golden brown.
When the squash is just cool enough to handle, remove the skin, if still on. Add the squash to the pan and stir to combine.
Beat the eggs with a fork in a large bowl and season with salt, pepper and parsley. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and briefly stir to mix evenly.
Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then crumble the goat cheese over the frittata and bake for a further 5 minutes, until golden brown. Check with a knife that the egg is cooked all the way through in the centre. If not, pop it back in the oven for a few minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature with some green vegetables or a salad.
*I used mini round squashes, because they were available in the market and they are easier to prepare (you can just chop them in half, scoop out the seeds and pop them in the oven). Of course you can use butternut here. I usually remove the skin with my hands once the squash is roasted, as peeling them can be a pain. Or leave the skin on for a little extra texture.
Poached pears with chocolate sauce
Serves 3, takes 20 minutes
This should be your lifesaver pudding. A few basic ingredients and minimal prep. And always delicious.
* Pears - 3, peeled
* Dark chocolate - 60g
Optional - cinnamon stick, vanilla pod, cardamom pods, sweet alcohol (vin santo, cassis, amaretto all work well). You could also add a dash of cream to the chocolate sauce and a pinch of cardamom.
Boil the pears in water for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Feel free to add a vanilla pod, cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick, star anise or a few glugs of sweet alcohol to the water to perfume the fruit.
Once the pears are cooked, drain them and set aside. Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl set over a pan of just simmering water. Stir the chocolate until all the lumps are gone and then serve immediately. Place each pear in a bowl and drizzle the melted chocolate evenly over the top.
Lentil, tomato and beetroot stew
Serves 3, takes 60 minutes (mostly cooking time)
vegetarian / autumn / winter / easy peasy / nothing fancy / vegan / dairy free / gluten free
This was how I used up everything left in my kitchen, with some freshly roasted vegetables thrown in. A good one for Halloween.
Beetroot - 1, large
Onion - 1, peeled and diced
Olive oil - a glug
Garlic - 2 cloves, finely sliced
Lentils - 1 cup full
Vegetable stock cube - 1
Carrots - a few
Courgette - 1
Tomato puree - 1 tin
Chili flakes - a shake
Parsley - a handful
Sugar - 1 tsp
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Wrap the beetroot in foil and place in the oven for 40 minutes
Meanwhile, fry the onion in a little olive oil in a large pan until softened. Add the garlic and fry for an extra minute. Next add the lentils, two cups of boiling water and the stock cube. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for twenty minutes.
Meanwhile cut the carrots in half and the courgette into thick slices. Arrange on a baking tray and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. When the beetroot has been cooking for 40 minutes, add the baking tray to the oven and cook for another twenty minutes. By this time all the vegetables should be tender. Be careful when opening the foil around the beetroot as hot steam will escape!
Once the lentils are tender and all the water has evaporated, add the tomato puree, chili, parsley, and sugar and stir to combine. Season well and bring to a simmer.
Roughly chop the beetroot and add all of the vegetables to the stew.
Serve on its own, with a hunk of bread or a sprinkling of feta cheese.
Baked eggs and squash
Serves 1, takes 25 minutes
easy peasy / brunch / vegetarian / autumn / winter / quietly smug / gluten free / dairy free / on a budget
This is a colourful, nutritious dish which goes down well at any time of day. I like it for brunch with a serving of home made baked beans.
Squash - 1 small, halved, with the seeds scooped out. A potimarron is a good variety to use here.
Eggs - 2
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Drizzle the two halves of the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut side up in the oven and roast for 10 minutes.* Remove from the oven and crack an egg into each squash half. Season. Carefully place them back in the oven, being careful not to spill the eggs. Reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees C and bake for a further 10 minutes, until the eggs are just cooked through.
Roasted cauliflower with feta
Serves 2, 5 minutes prep time, 20 minutes cooking
easy peasy / vegetarian / side / autumn / winter / nothing fancy / gluten free / on a budget
I’ve probably recorded this recipe before. But it really is a game-changer for the humble cauliflower. Once it’s baked, it is deliciously crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. Like the armadillo.
Cauliflower - 1 head, leaves removed and cut into florets and chunks (you should include the stem!)
Zataar - a sprinkling
Feta - about 50g
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.
Spread the cauliflower out on a baking tray and toss with olive oil, zataar, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve immediately with a generous crumbling of feta. Mine is pictured here with baked aubergines and herbed quinoa.