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: 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.


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Dinner for Two: Oyster Ceviche

dinner42I’m posting this in the “Dinner for Two” series because Mr BBF and I made it together, but it was in fact a pintxo for 12. Let me explain: last year, some of our Basque friends decided to host a pintxo competition. It works like this: each participating person or couple prepares one pintxo recipe, making as many pintxos as there are people, and brings it along. All pintxos are then consumed by all participants, and at the end we vote on the winner. Last year, I missed out on the action because they held it before I made it to Bilbao, but this year we decided to give it another spin and I was there! After some debating, Mr BBF and I decided to make use of the fact that in the Basque Country you can get a hold of both fresh sea food and Latin American ingredients quite easily, and prepared oyster ceviche. We came second, just behind an absolutely delicious cheese-cream with breaded prawns – our ceviche turned out entirely to our satisfaction!

Ingredients (for 12 oysters)

  • 12 fresh oysters
  • 1 red onion
  • ají amarillo
  • juice of 3-4 limes
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • 1 handful cilantro

Finely dice the onion and place it in a bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes to 1 hour (this will take away some of its sting). De-seed the ají amarillo and dice it very finely. If you find your ají to be extremely spicy, you can also soak it in cold water like the onion, ours wasn’t that bad so we didn’t do that. De-seed the tomatoes and cut them into very small cubes. Chop the cilantro. Mix everything except the cilantro with the lime juice in a bowl and leave to marinate while you open the oysters with a knife (careful!). Carefully loosen each oyster from its shell and clean it a bit, leave it in half its shell for serving.

Add the cilantro to the dressing and mix well. Spoon a bit of the dressing onto each oyster and let them marinate for 5-15 minutes, depending on how raw you like your oysters.

Slurp and enjoy!


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Recipe: White Beans with Spinach, or alubias con espinacas

This recipe is my take on this one for spinach with chickpeas from Smitten Kitchen. They claim that things sound better when named in Spanish, and knowing this to be absolutely true my white beans with spinach were quickly turned into alubias con espinacas, making the recipe sound all the more attractive. Then I popped a soft-boiled egg on top and it was perfection.

The great folks over at Smitten Kitchen use fresh spinach and dried chickpeas, but for me it was canned white beans and frozen spinach. It worked beautifully, too.

Ingredients (2 portions)

  • 1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • frozen spinach (I used about two handful of the portionable stuff)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml passata
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • olive oil
  • 1 dried small chile
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp (smoked) paprika
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • fresh lemon juice to taste
  • salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the minced garlic, chile, paprika and cumin, stir well and cook until the garlic is golden. Add the beans and stir to coat them evenly with the spices. Add the passata, tomato purée, vinegar, and the spinach. Cook until the spinach is fully defrosted. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. While the beans and spinach are cooking away, boil the egg for five minutes. Plop the beans and spinach onto two soup plates and crack the soft-boiled eggs on top. Enjoy with some toasted bread.