Books, Bikes, and Food

Reviews, Recipes, Rides… and some other things, too.


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Recipe: Artichokes with Bacon

Having returned from a business trip to Brazil on a Saturday evening, and with German shops still stubbornly closed on Sundays, my food situation was somewhat bleak this weekend. However, I had a wonderful glass of artichokes in my pantry, from Tudela no less. These artichokes, which my Mother in Law thankfully knows to provide me with on each of our visits, are melt-in-your-mouth tender and cause an artichoke flavour explosion to happen in your mouth. I also had some diced bacon in the freezer and some red onions were knocking about. Almost all you need for a light, flavourful summer dinner.

But first, here are some gratuitous Brazil pictures:

Detail at the #niemeyer Auditorium #saopaulo

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The Niemeyer Auditorium in São Paulo is pretty striking.

Bom dia, Rio.

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Rio de Janeiro, stunning as ever. (I wanted to post a different picture here but Instagram won’t let me, I don’t understand…)*

OK, now for the food.

#Artichokes with #bacon for #dinner

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Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 400g (net weight) canned artichoke hearts, cut in halves
  • the artichoke water from the can
  • 1 (red) onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp white flour
  • 1 tbsp diced bacon
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (you can also use fresh)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Reduce the heat and add the diced onions. Cook until they start becoming translucent, add the minced garlic and the bacon and cook a bit more. Add the parsley and the flour and stir. Then add the artichoke water, turn up the heat and keep stirring until the flour has dissolved and the sauce starts thickening. Add the artichokes and continue to cook until they’re heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

* P.S. – A really annoying thing has happened; apparently Instagram has decided to take away the option of getting to the source code of a picture to embed it directly through the source URL. It’s a bit crap because now I can’t control the size of the pictures, whether they’re centred in the text, and it has all the Instagram caption and “likes” etc. Plus, it seems to “eat” or rather not let me post certain pictures. GRRRRRRR. Has anyone discovered a way of finding the source URL? Thanks 🙂

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Recipe: Mushroom “Ceviche”

Sorry for the long silence (again). I have a good excuse, we holidayed (yay), and since we’ve come back it’s been way too hot to do much in the way of cooking and biking, or reading for that matter (I’m sure my brain has melted more than just a little bit). The mere idea of adding more heat to the environment by turning on my stove has been so offputting I haven’t done it in the past two weeks, except for making coffee in the mornings. Cold dishes have been the order of the day, like this one, and all kinds of salads.

And then, as is wont to happen when the heat turns up, came the desire for ceviche. But the life of a Central European is tough, what with the distance to the sea (especially if two of your favourite sports include kayaking and surfing). And the life of a Central European fish lover is even tougher. My and Mr BBF’s moaning about the lack of good, affordable fresh fish could fill volumes. So what’s the Central European ceviche fiend to do? This one looked for alternatives and found: mushroom ceviche.

Although my favourite variety by far is Peruvian ceviche, I have to say I’m not afraid to shamelessly steal from other countries’ cuisines too, so this is based on a Colombian recipe. Next time I’ll try the original recipe using artichokes and palm hearts (two further obsessions of mine). This time, I made do with what I had around, mushrooms and a red bell pepper. The result of the experiment was… well, not really cevichesque, but more than edible. Tangy and fresh, this is best if the mushrooms and onions have had a chance to interact with the lemon/lime juice for at least a few hours.

Ingredients (serves 2 for a starter, 3 as a light main)

  • 6-7 large brown champignons, peeled, stems trimmed, and thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, halved and cut into very thin slices
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
  • handful cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 4 limes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • salt

To take away some of the its sting, soak the sliced red onion in hot water with a bit of salt for 5 minutes. Mix the lime and lemon juice with the vinegar in a large bowl. Drain the onions and add. Let them marinate for 30 minutes (meanwhile, prepare all your veggies). Add the vegetables and the chopped cilantro, mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least another 30 minutes (a few hours is best). Add salt to taste and serve. Enjoy!


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Recipe: Spinach Salad Bowl

The other day, I broke my little toe. Not fun. They put my foot in a silly cast shoe that I have to wear for six (!) weeks. Apparently, this is how long even a little toe takes to heal. I can also attest to the fact that three and a half weeks after the event, it still hurts when I step on it too strongly, so the cast shoe is probably for the best. All this to say, I haven’t been moving around much, as opposed to my usual habits. On top of that, summer has really started over here and I’ve been more than antsy to get out hiking, swimming, biking, and all the fun activities you get to do in the summer. Except I don’t get to be active. 

All this to say, I’ve been trying to watch what I eat a bit more because I’m not using any calories since I’m mostly stationary. And I’ve really been feeling like summer foods. Enter this beautiful salad bowl. The great thing with these things is, you can throw just about anything into them and it will taste amazing.

Ingredients (1 portion)

  • 1 large handful of baby spinach
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 5 radishes, finely sliced
  • 4 artichoke hearts, quartered
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • dash of olive oil
  • pinch of salt

Just assemble everything in a bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. Add the salt, mix well and enjoy! Also, you can plop a soft-boiled egg on top if you like.


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Dinner for Two: Salmorejo and Blue Cheese Cream with Strawberry Purée

dinner42This is the cecina edition of Dinner for TwoCecina is basically cured or smoked meat, similar to ham, but it usually has a stronger taste, and it can be made from meats that aren’t pork. We had some that friends brought us when they came to visit, and this weekend it was time to use it. We were in the mood for something fresh and summery, since the weather has been playing along really nicely. And it’s strawberry season! So we came up with two ideas. Salmorejo is a dish from Andalucía that we became addicted to last year on our holiday in the region. It’s a cold purée made from tomatoes and bread. It’s a bit similar to gazpacho, very refreshing, but since it’s got bread in it it’s more substantial and filling. Mr BBF used this recipe and topped it with some cecina that he briefly toasted in the microwave. We also decided to make a starter (which we later decided to have as desert) of blue cheese cream with strawberry purée, also topped with cecina (no microwaving this time. For this, we were inspired loosely by this recipe, but we wanted fresh strawberries, so I just made a real purée rather than using strawberry jelly. It was simply delightful. We enjoyed our feast with some txakoli and some cecina drizzled with olive oil:   Blue cheese cream with strawberry purée (serves 2-3) Ingredients

  • 60g blue cheese
  • 120g mascarpone
  • about 40ml milk (depending on the thickness of the cheese cream, start out with 30ml then add more if needed)
  • one large handful fresh strawberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • cecina or ham to garnish

For the blue cheese cream, cut the blue cheese into pieces and place them in a plastic bowl. Add the mascarpone and the milk and mix a bit with a fork, further crumbling the cheese. With a hand-held blender purée the mix until thick and very creamy. Taste and potentially season with salt and pepper (we didn’t). Also if you like you can vary the blue cheese to mascarpone ratio. I liked it as it was (I like cheese a lot), but Mr BBF would have preferred it with slightly less blue cheese. For the strawberry purée, wash and dice the strawberries, mix them with the 2 tbsp sugar in another plastic bowl. Purée with your trusty hand-held blender until it’s nice and creamy. Layer the cheese cream and strawberry purée into glasses and refrigerate until just before servingNow, I learned a lesson here. Inspired by the original recipe, I put the strawberry purée at the bottom of our glasses. But since our purée didn’t have jelly, it was more fluid than the cheese cream and the layering didn’t work that well. So I would recommend to start with the cheese and then layer the strawberry purée on top. Alternatively, you could spike the strawberry purée with some gelatine to make it less liquid. Refrigerate until serving time. Just before serving, garnish with the cecina and half a strawberry per portion. Salmorejo (serves 2-3 as a main) Ingredients 

  • 800g fresh ripe tomatoes
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 150g white wheat bread, crust cut off
  • 1/2 clove of garlic (this is really enough, just trust us on this one)
  • salt to taste

Warning: this recipe makes a bit of a mess in your kitchen, but it’s absolutely worth it. Peel the tomatoes, either using a very sharp peeler or using the poaching method. Chop them and place them in a large pot, bowl, or in a blender if you have one. Purée the tomatoes, then pass them through a colander to get rid of remaining peel and seeds. Dice the bread and add it to the tomato purée; leave for about 10 minutes to help soften the bread. In the meantime, peel the garlic clove and mince half of it. Add the garlic, the olive oil and salt to the purée and blend until smooth. Season to taste and refrigerate until serving. Cut some cecina or ham into small pieces and pop them into the microwave for a few seconds to make them crunchy. Ladle salmorejo into soup plates and garnish with the cecina. ¡Qué aproveche!


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Recipe: Cold Avocado Soup with Cucumber and Yoghurt

I haven’t been posting many recipes lately, because I haven’t actually been cooking that much. There have been some culinary discoveries in my kitchen and I’ll share them all eventually, but first I need to tell you about THIS COLD SOUP. It’s been a while since I’ve been so completely wowed by a recipe that I feel the need to get on a soapbox or sing it from the rooftops, or else I might burst. Here’s a bit of context though: spring has officially sprung in this corner of the world, and with it came an appetite for tangy, fresh dishes, salads and cold soups, and lemon, definitely lemon, and also avocados. Browsing through my recipe bookmarks, I came across this beauty, and the stars aligned. (Also… I appear to love avocados even more than I realised, seeing as the last few recipes have all involved this wonderful green fruit.) I didn’t quite follow the recipe to the letter, so here’s my take on it.

 Ingredients (2 large portions)

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 very small onion, or 1/2 normal size
  • small handful of fresh flat parsley (or cilantro as per the original recipe)
  • 150g full-fat or Greek yoghurt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (really) cold water
  • olive oil

Peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a tablespoon. Then cut half of the cucumber and one of the avocados into large chunks. Dice the onion and roughly chop the parsley. Place the chunks of cucumber and avocado in a mixer along with the onion, parsley, yoghurt, lemon juice and a good pinch of salt, as well as some freshly ground pepper and a dash of cold water. Process until smooth and pour into a bowl. Refrigerate.

Dice the remaining half of the cucumber and the second avocado. Add the chunks to the avocado paste and add some more cold water until you reach the desired creamy consistency. Refrigerate until serving time. Drizzle with some olive oil just before serving.

Optional: dice a small tomato and top the soup with it. Enjoy!


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Recipe: Chicken with Avocado-Yoghurt Dip

It occasionally happens that you get inspired. On Monday, I was going to make this recipe and follow it pretty much step-by-step. I was also feeling supremely lazy (so if you’re feeling too lazy to click on the above link to the original recipe, I totally hear you – it’s called “Greek Chicken Skewers with Avocado Tzaziki”), so I decided to make this recipe even less work than it originally was. I was going to leave out the skewers and just fry the chicken breast. I was also going to leave out the “Greek seasoning mix”, mainly because I wasn’t quite sure what it was (I’d never even heard it was a thing), what it contained, and was too lazy to google it – so I was just going to replace it with whatever Mediterranean spices I could find in my spice drawer.

And then, inspiration struck. Because what exactly would happen if in addition to the olive oil, garlic and assorted spices I coated the chicken breast in tahini before frying it? In one word: magic. The tahini really made the chicken pop! And the avocado-yoghurt dip was divine. On a side note, I’m refusing to call it tzaziki, for the love of Greece. The poor Greeks already have it hard enough as it is without folks – and worse, Germans – butchering their cuisine (although, might I say, in a freaking delicious way). And on that note, this video, made by German public television (you will not believe this), is absolutely BRILLIANT. It had me in tears laughing.

Man, so many words for such a simple recipe. So here it finally is. It admittedly doesn’t photograph very well (poor lighting, bad camera, etc.). It was a whole lot more interesting than it looks in this picture. The dip, which was velvety avocado-yoghurt perfection. And the chicken breast was soft and at the same time almost-crunchy tahini perfection. Maybe the next time I’ll add some actual sesame seeds too, to make it even better.

Ingredients (2 portions)

For the dip:

  • 1 avocado
  • 150g natural yoghurt (I used the low-fat kind and it was still incredibly creamy)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 drops tabasco sauce
  • 1 pinch oregano
  • pinch pul biber
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt

For the chicken

  • 500g chicken breast
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch of oregano
  • pinch of pul biber
  • pinch of thyme
  • 2-3 tsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt

To make the dip, place the pitted avocado, yoghurt, garlic, and lemon juice in a blender and whizz until smooth. Add the tabasco and spices, stir, cover, and leave it to chill in the fridge while you make the chicken. Wash the chicken breasts and cut them into thin strips. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the olive oil, tahini, garlic, and all the spices. Add the chicken to the bowl and mix until it’s is evenly coated in the dressing. Fry the chicken pieces in a non-stick frying pan until golden. Serve with the avocado-yoghurt dip and enjoy!


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Recipe: Pear and Avocado Salad

You know the kind of food that’s so good you want to cry when it’s gone? And how it’s even better when you can cobble said meal together in about 10 minutes? Because this salad, you guys, this salad is it. It’s so unbelievably fresh and creamy at the same time, sweet and sour and mustardy and avocado-y and all other kinds of goodness. This is a comfort food dish that’s not just rewarding, it’s also healthy.

Unattractively enough, the original recipe is from the January diet programme of a women’s magazine. But don’t judge a book by its cover, right (erm, I do that all the time to be honest… #loveprettybooks). Anyway, this is my take on it, I did tweak a few things. The original has you use curry powder, but I’d run out so I used some spices that also go into curry and it was just fine. But if you, like a normal person would, have ready-made curry powder rather than an assortment of random spices sitting in your pantry, just know that you can use it here.

Ingredients (1 portion)

  • 1 pear (with peel)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt (I used the full-fat kind)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • small pinch of each: ground coriander, turmeric, ginger (alternatively, curry powder)
  • A few shavings of parmesan or Idiazabal cheese

In a medium sized bowl, mix the yoghurt, mustard, lime juice, and spices for the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Finely grate the pear and add it to the bowl with the dressing. Mix well. Slice the avocado. Place the avocado on a plate and top with the pear and the cheese. Enjoy with some Swedish crisp bread.