Every day is a good day for a romantic dinner. I can always find a reason for one. I made this one first time some time ago, when without a known reason there was a bottle of Prosecco waiting for me at home. I used some of it to prepare this delicious dinner. It takes just half an hour to prepare and will impress the most sophisticated diners. Best served at a candlelit dinner.

Ingredients

Serves 2
10g butter
15ml truffle oil
2 shallots finely chopped
Pinch of saffron strands
150g risotto rice
250ml Prosecco
500ml light vegetable stock
100ml double cream
40g freshly grounded vegetarian parmesan cheese
2 tbsp pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Heat the truffle oil and butter in a large heavy-based pan. Add the shallots and cook for about 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the rice and saffron strands and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly until the rice grains are coated with butter and truffle oil.

Slowly add most of the Prosecco and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed by rice.

Add the vegetable stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently, making sure that the stock has been absorbed before adding more. This will take about 20 minutes and the risotto will become creamy and all the stock should be absorbed and rice should be tender.

Pour the remaining Prosecco, the double cream, freshly grated vegetarian parmesan and pine nuts. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to stand for a few minutes.

Garnish with a few parmesan shavings and season to taste with freshly ground pepper.

Serve warm, with a glass of Prosecco.

Bon appétit!
Lena x

Romantic Dinner – Prosecco and Parmesan Risotto
Romantic Dinner – Prosecco and Parmesan Risotto




It’s time to take down festive decorations. It’s been wonderful, it’s been jolly. Let’s keep this cheerful mood for a little longer. To keep that festive atmosphere in the air, how about an indulgent cake full of wintery scents and flavours. It’s such an indulgent and moist cake, it’s actually hard to believe it’s got no fat and no diary within it. Definitely one that will appear on our table more often throughout the year.

Ingredients

3 oranges
6 eggs
225g xylitol
200g ground almonds
75g polenta
25g wholegrain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Seeds of 8 cardamom pods, crushed
25g flaked almonds
A few orange slices for decoration

Preparation

Put the whole oranges in a large pan, cover with water and boil, covered, for about 1 hour until a knife easily pierces them. You might want to place a small plate directly on top of the oranges to keep them submerged. Remove the oranges from the water and cool.


Quarter the oranges and remove any seeds and any larger white chunks from the middle.


Pulse the oranges in a food processor to a rough purée and place it in a large bowl.


Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Line a 21cm round, loose-bottomed cake tin with baking paper.


Beat the crushed cardamom seeds, xylitol and eggs into the orange purée. Fold in the ground almonds, the polenta, wholegrain flour and baking powder, until well combined.


Place the mixture into the tin, level the top and bake for 40 mins.


After 40 minutes, place the orange slices on top of the cake and sprinkle with the almond flakes. Return to the oven and bake for another 20-25 mins until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.


Remove from the tin and leave to cool.

Bon appétit!
Lena x

Orange and cardamom cake (dairy-free and sugar-free)
Orange and cardamom cake (dairy-free and sugar-free)




A healthy and hearty soup that’s full of protein and nutrients from the chickpeas, spinach and tomato. It’s equally delicious in the winter season as it is on a warm summer day. Bringing the earthy aromas and flavours thanks to the spices, I can just imagine having a spoonful of it somewhere in a remote Moroccan village. The simplicity of ingredients means that you’ll most probably have everything to hand so can make this soup at any time. It’s actually more than a soup though. It’s a one-pot meal that will satisfy anyone.

Ingredients

400g canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
400g canned chopped tomatoes
100g fresh spinach, chopped
500ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper

To serve
100ml Greek yogurt
4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, cumin seeds and chilli flakes and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.


Add the chickpeas and the tomatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.

Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.


Add the spinach and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the spinach has wilted.


To make the dressing, mix the Greek yogurt with fresh coriander leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.


Serve the soup warm with a dollop of yogurt dressing.

Bon appétit!
Lena x

Chickpea and spinach soup
Chickpea and spinach soup




How are your Christmas preparations going? Have you planned your festive menu yet? What are your favourite dishes? The ones you need to have for Christmas to happen?

For me, the magic of Christmas is the magic of childhood and the childhood memories. It’s about being present, being with the closest ones. It’s all about celebrating the traditions and following the customs. It’s knowing that wherever I am in the world, family will follow the same rituals on the day of the Christmas Eve. There will be a little bit of hay under the festive table cloth, there will be an extra space on the table, for any unexpected visitors, and surely my dad will look out for the first star on the sky before announcing it’s time for the festive dinner.

And there will certainly be twelve traditional dishes on the table. Each of them reminding me of all the Christmas Eve dinners shared with the closest ones every year. With so much choice, everyone will surely find something delicious for themselves. As for me, I relish every single one of them. After all, you don’t get to eat them at any other time of the year.

First comes the red beet soup, accompanied by tiny ‘uszka’ filled with dried mushrooms. Then come all the sauerkraut dishes, with dried mushrooms, prunes or split peas. You can choose between sauerkraut with porcini mushrooms, or sauerkraut with split peas, or perhaps croquettes or pierogi with, guess what, sauerkraut and mushroom fillings. Plus, obviously, there is the Polish stew too. Moving towards more sweet dishes, we have the kutia with poppy seeds and dried fruit and nuts, accompanied by dried fruit compote. And finally, the unquestionable highlight of the evening – my grandma’s Christmas parcels with various fillings, sweet and savoury; I’m not sure how popular they are in other families, as I’ve never seen them in any recipes books or website, which makes them even more special for me, as special as my beloved grandma.

Here are my twelve dishes for a vegetarian Christmas Eve:
(click on the name to see the recipe)


Christmas Eve red beet soup

Uszka – Christmas Eve dumplings

Sauerkraut with porcini mushrooms

Sauerkraut with split peas

Croquettes with sauerkraut and mushrooms

Pierogi with sauerkraut and dried mushrooms

Vegetarian bigos – Polish stew

Christmas pie with pumpkin, spinach and buckwheat

Grandma’s Christmas parcels with three fillings

Kutia

Dried fruit compote

Christmas gingerbread cookies

May the enchantment of the magical Christmas Eve night be with you and your loved ones.

Bon appétit!
Lena x

Twelve dishes for a traditional, vegetarian, Polish Christmas Eve
Twelve dishes for a traditional, vegetarian, Polish Christmas Eve




…Christmas time, mistletoe and wine…

Yes, mistletoe and wine will certainly be present at our home on Christmas day. Although every year, the main question is, what to make for the Christmas meal?

As we celebrate the Christmas Eve as the main festive day or better said evening, quite often I happily skip any cooking on the Christmas day and savour the delicious leftovers from Christmas Eve throughout the entire festive period. After all, they are so special and delicious that enjoying them on one night only doesn’t seem enough.

Although, especially when guests are due to arrive, it’s nice to have something special for the Christmas day. How about this wonderfully colourful and amazingly flavoursome pie? I admit, it does require a bit of time, but you can prepare it in advance and it’s actually not too difficult. And it looks absolutely gorgeous on the table. This is definitely a dish to impress your guests.

What else do you need for a wonderful Christmas day..?

…Love and laughter and joy ever after…

Ps. Inspiration for this recipe came from this website although I modified the ingredients list and preparation method quite a bit as I was making it.

Ingredients

Serves 4

For the filling
1 small pumpkin or squash, about 1kg (I used harlequin pumpkin), peeled and cubed
240g fresh spinach leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150g brown mushrooms, sliced
20g dried porcini mushrooms
125g buckwheat
650ml vegetable stock
100g feta cheese
125g ricotta cheese
Bunch of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
0.5tsp ground nutmeg

For the pastry
600g plain flour
150g butter
85ml milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
Pinch of salt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 200C/ gas mark 6.

Prepare the baking tin (e.g. a loaf tin), brush it with a little oil and lay with a double layer of aluminium foil across the length, ensuring it’s longer than the length of the tin and sticks out, so that you can lift the pie by pulling the foil when it’s ready.

Brush the prepared pumpkin with a little olive oil and grill for about 30 minutes until tender.
Heat remaining oil in a large pan and cook the onion for 3-5 minutes until golden. Add one garlic clove and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

To make the buckwheat layer, put half of the cooked onion and garlic in a large pan (set aside the other half) add the brown mushrooms and dried porcini mushrooms and the buckwheat to the pan. Cook for a few minutes, then pour in the stock and bring to boil. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the buckwheat is tender and there is no liquid left. Season to taste with salt and pepper and leave aside.

Meanwhile, to prepare the pumpkin layer, mix the feta cheese with the remaining onion and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently fold with the thyme and roasted pumpkin.

For the spinach layer, pour some boiling water over the spinach, to wilt. Drain well and squeeze out the excess of water as much as you can. Roughly chop, then mix into the ricotta mixture and minced garlic glove. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

To make the pie, in a small saucepan melt the butter with milk and 150ml of water. In a large bowl mix the flour and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix with a large spoon until combined. Then knead with your hand until the mixture is relatively smooth.

Take two-thirds of the pastry dough, place it onto a slightly floured surface and roll out into a large rectangle, so that you can line the tin with it.

Ease the rolled out dough into the tin, pressing well into the corners. Spoon the buckwheat layer into it and smooth the surface with a spoon, then add the spinach layer and finally the pumpkin layer.

Roll out the remaining pastry into a smaller rectangle, to create the cover. Brush the edges with a bit of beaten egg, then press the pastry lid over the top. Trim the excess and pinch to seal.

The pie can be prepared the day before, if so, cover it with a tea towel and chill in the fridge until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 200C / gas mark 6.

Brush the surface of the pie with some more beaten egg.

Bake the pie for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C /gas mark 4 and bake for a another 60-90 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and feels hard.

Gently take out the pie, using the foil strips to lift out carefully.

Serve warm.

Bon appétit!
Lena x

Christmas pie with pumpkin, spinach and buckwheat
Christmas pie with pumpkin, spinach and buckwheat




This time, it’s not an anti-candida diet recipe…

It’s a wonderful recipe and one very close to my heart. From my lovey mum.

Last week, the chatter in the office moved was all around the Great British Bake Off. It didn’t take long until we came up with a sweep stake accompanied by our own baking spree. The rules are easy, if your contestant leaves the show, you’ve got one week to bring your own cake to the office. This week it’s my turn…

A yummy cake that will make everyone’s mouth water? It’s gotta be mum’s recipe! It’s September, the best season for apples. And so I’m baking an apple pie. Yum, my favourite. Even he scent itself is simply so delicious. For me it’s more than a scent of a delicious cake. It’s a scent of my family home. And even though I will try to resist it myself (September is my usual detox month when I return to a stricter anti-candida diet after holiday time), just baking the cake has been a pleasure.

I do hope that we will wow everyone e with this cake. Me and my mum.

Ingredients

Butter for greasing
1tbsp bread crumbs


For the crust and crumble:
520g plain flour
220g sugar
2 eggs
250g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sour cream
Pinch of salt
1tbsp bread crumbs


For the apple filling:
1,5 kg baking apples
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon


To decorate (optional)
3 apples
0.5 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar
Juice from 0.5 lemon
2 tbsp butter

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 180 C

Put all the ingredients for the crust and crumble into a large bowl and quickly mix to form a dough. Divide into 2 parts and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Spread one of the parts on the bottom of a round baking tin (greased with butter and sprinkled with 1tbsp of bread crumbs. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes, take out of the oven and sprinkle with the remaining bread crumbs.

Peel the apples and cut into roughly dice, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Place half of the apples to a small pot with 2tbsp water and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly until the apples soften and begin to caramelise. Mix with the raw apples.

Place the apples into the tin, on top of the crust.

Take out the remaining dough from the fridge and grate it roughly over the apples.

Optionally, make a few apple roses to decorate (instructions below).

Bake for about 40 minutes in a preheated oven. Take out and sprinkle with a little icing sugar.

To make the apple roses, cut the apples (skin on) into very thin slices. Place into a heatproof bowl and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Pour over lemon juice mixed with melted butter. Place in a preheated oven for 5 minutes to soften the apples. To make the roses, fold the first apple slice to form a tight roll and stick it in the dough. Then place another slice around it and so on, until the roses form.

Bon appétit!
Lena x

mums best apple cake
mums best apple cake




The man and I love weekend dinners in a mezze style, with a few different dishes to try. It transforms a simple dinner into a feast, where we celebrate the long conversations over the dinner, enjoying time spent together.
The more plates there are to be, the simpler they need to be. Much as I like spending time in kitchen, I prefer spending it with the man, over the dining table!
Here’s a dish that works well as a standalone main, or as part of the mezze.
I much prefer the taste of red peppers, but you can use green ones if you like their bitter taste.

Ingredients

Serves 2
2 red peppers, tops removed and retained, deseeded
125g mixed wild rice and basmati rice
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tomato, diced
10 black olives, pitted and chopped
2 tsp pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp paprika
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation

In a large pot, bring plenty of salted water to a boil and cook the rice for about 15-18 minutes until tender.

Preheat the oven to 200 C / gas mark 6.

Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil on a frying pan, add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Add the herbs and spices, pine nuts and olives and stir. Add the cooked rice and stir again. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the mixture between the peppers, packing them tightly. Place the peppers in a roasting tin, upright, topped with the pepper lids. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and cook for about 30 minutes until the peppers begin to soften. Cover the roasting tin with aluminium foil and cook for another 15 minutes.

Serve hot.

Bon appétit!
Lena x

Turkish-style stuffed peppers
Turkish-style stuffed peppers




Fresh.
Cool.
Crisp.

Finger-licking.
Mouth-watering.
Moreish.

You.
Have to.
Try.

Ingredients

165g desiccated coconut
2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 egg yolk
7 tbsp of xylitol
150ml full fat Greek yogurt
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
Butter for greasing
Berries to garnish

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 180 C / gas mark 4. Grease 4 loose-based tartlet tins.

In a bowl mix together the coconut, 2 egg whites and half of the xylitol until combined and sticky. Press the coconut mixture firmly into the base and to the sides of the tartlet tins. Place in the fridge and cool for 30 mins. After this time, place in a preheated oven and bake for 5-8 minutes.

To make the filling, beat together 3 yolks, half of the xylitol, Greek yogurt, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Remove the tartlets from the oven and pour in the filling. Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes until the custard gets firm and golden.

Leave to cool on a wire rack completely before removing the tartlets from the tin.

Decorate with fresh berries.

Bon appétit!
Lena x

Lemon tartlets with berries
Lemon tartlets with berries




I have rediscovered ratatouille!

I have always loved the this melting pot of Provençal vegetables like aubergines, courgettes, peppers, tomatoes coming together to give a simple, homely yet toothsome result of ratatouille. I liked the simplicity of this one-pot dish: wash, chop, mix, cook. Voilà! Or so I thought…

In preparation to our French holiday, I have recently been reading more and more about the French cuisine. This has been a great journey in itself, book by book, website by website, recipe by recipe. A journey through various regions of France, various traditions as well as fresh, novel ideas, various cooking and presentation styles. A delightful, multidimensional journey combining geography, history, tradition and taste.

As a result, I have rediscovered ratatouille! Turns out, that by giving every ingredient individual attention and cooking them separately, you’ll achieve a dish with much more character and flavour. It does take a little longer, but if you can afford spending a bit more time on this dish, it’s absolutely worth it. You’ll transform your ratatouille from a regular vegetable stew into a delicious melange of vegetables, each with strong individual character, that create an incredible synergy of tastes. And they look so much more appetising this way too!

Once you try it, there is no way back. Here’s my new and improved way of creating the ratatouille.

Ingredients

2 onions, quartered
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 aubergines, cut into chunks
2 courgettes, sliced
3 red or yellow peppers, seeded and quartered
4 ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
2-3 thyme sprigs
Handful of basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large, heavy based pot. Add the quartered onions and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft. Add the sliced garlic cloves and cook for another 2 minutes until soft.
Using a slotted spoon, take out the onions and garlic and transfer to a clean bowl.

Repeat the process with other hard vegetables (aubergines, courgettes and peppers) adding a tablespoon of olive oil at a time and cooking each of them separately for about 5-10 minutes until soft and gold and transferring to a large bowl once ready (you can keep all of them in the same bowl).

When all the vegetables are cooked, transfer them back to the heavy based pot. Add thickly sliced tomatoes and thyme sprigs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix gently and cook for about 15-20 minutes until soft and tender.

Before serving, stir in fresh basil leaves.

Serve warm.

Bon appétit!
Lena x

Ratatouille
Ratatouille




Love is in the air… it’s the love affair between me and the French cuisine.

For quite some time I thought about French cuisine as very elaborate and time consuming… until I actually tried experimenting with it myself a few years ago after a few holiday trips to various regions of France as I absolutely fell in love with French cuisine. Yes, there is the ‘haute cuisine’ which indeed is complex and sophisticated, but actually, it’s the classical French cuisine and perhaps the ‘nouvelle cuisine’ which gives much lighter versions of the typical rich, cream-based dishes that grabbed my heart. Not to mention ‘cuisine du terroir’ the regional French cuisine with its rustic character, traditional recipes and local, seasonal produce. The quiches from Lorraine, crepes and galettes from Brittany, ratatouille from Provence, plus all the tarts like the leek tart or tomato tart to name just a couple, or the onion soup. And let’s not forget about the desserts, from macaroons, through lemon tart, all the fruit tarts and obviously the tarte tatin, oh I could just go on as the list is almost endless. An absolute delight!

All this delightful food, is it good for you though? Oh yes, after all, we’ve all heard about the French paradox as the French enjoy one of the longest life expectances in Europe with very low rate of heart disease. I think it’s all about celebrating and enjoying the quality food in the right quantities, and let’s not forget, a glass of red wine can be actually quite beneficial to you. If you ask me, I absolutely think that a healthy diet doesn’t need to compromise on taste and the French cuisine is the best example of this.

As we’re just about to go on our summer holidays in France, you might see a few French recipes on the blog over the coming days. To start with, my breakfast favourite, classic French omelette. It takes just a few minutes to make. If you’re preparing this dish for more than one person, it’s still best to prepare individual small omelettes rather than one for all. Plus they taste best as soon as they’re ready. And do make sure you use best quality ingredients as they make a real difference, so go for good quality free range eggs, best butter you can get (I personally opt for French butter whenever I can) and fresh herbs like the classic ‘fines herbs’ including parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil, although I just love to add a few leaves of fresh thyme too.

Bon appétit!

Ingredients

Serves 1
2 eggs
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (e.g. chives, parsley, tarragon, chervil, thyme)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation

In a bowl, put together the eggs and 2 tbsp of chopped herbs. Beat vigorously and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a heavy-based, non-stick frying pan.

Pour the egg mixture on the heated pan.

Cook for about 2-3 minutes, without stirring until the eggs are just lightly set.

Sprinkle with the remaining herbs and fold the omelette over.

Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!
Lena x

Classic French Omelette with herbs
Classic French Omelette with herbs