Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sweet Chestnut Milk


300g steamed and peeled sweet chestnuts
850 ml water
2 tbsp (mascobado) sugar or stevia to taste
1/4 ts vanille
1/4 ts cardamom powder
1/3 ts xanthan gum (optional)

Place all ingredients together in a high speed blender and blend until perfectly smooth. Use it in fruit smoothies or serve it and drink it like that. Keep in a closed bottle in the fridge for up to 2-3 days.
The xanthan is meant as stabiliser, to avoid the water to separate from the chestnuts. If you don't use xanthan, just shake it well before pouring it into glasses to serve.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Chestnut velouté soup with star anise

What you need:

1 liter water
500g steamed and peeled chestnuts
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise (or 1/3 ts ground star anise)
1/2 ts ground coriander 
1 bay leaf
1 lovage leaf
60 ml tamari or 80 ml shoyu or salt to taste (the amounts of tamari and shoyu depend on the brand you use and on your personal preference for how much salt you want in it.)

Optional garnish: stir-fried wild mushrooms (e.g. chanterelles)

If you harvested the chestnuts yourself for the first time and don’t know how to prepare them, here is a link where you can find more information.

Add the steamed chestnuts, water and all the spices to a cooking pot and bring it to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the fire to low heat. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, cinnamon sticks and star anise and blend it all well until thoroughly smooth. Bring back the cinnamon sticks, bay leaf and star anise to the soup and let it all work in for (at least) ten more minutes, with the pan covered. Add tamari/shoyu or salt to taste. Warm it up again before serving.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hot Choc with Cardamom Fluff

Best hot chocolate ever. Seriously.

Since the discovery of aqua faba (the cooking water from beans/chickpeas) cooking will never be the same again. Here is one of the easiest ideas to do with that precious stuff that can bring your hot chocolate to a total new level. Here is how you do the fluff:

100ml aqua faba (water from cooked chickpeas)
1/2 cup sugar (I use mascobado, a totally unrefined sugar, but for a more "refined" effect you can use powdered sugar)
1 ts ground cardamom
1/3 ts vanille
1 ts xanthan gum

Combine the sugar, cardamom, vanille and xanthan. Pour the aqua faba into a large mixing bowl and whisk it with the help of an electric stand mixer. Start at low speed, then slowly increase the speed to highest, until soft peaks have formed and the mixture has become very light and fluffy. Turn the speed down to medium-high and add slowly the sugar mixture while the machine is still beating the fluff. With all  the sugar in it, increase the speed back to the fastest. Continue to whip until very stiff and glossy. You should be able to hold the mixing bowl upside down and have everything stay in place. Use it on top of pies, cupcakes, on fruit salads, hot chocolate, milk shakes, etc... It keeps surprisingly well even when you want to use it next day!

Hot chocolate


600ml oat milk or other plant milk (add some high quality coconut milk if you want extra creaminess - I wanted mine with less calories)
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 ts arrowroot
a pinch of chilli flakes & mace powder (optional)

Bring all to a boil, stirring with a whisker now and then. Remove from fire and add the fluff. Serve immediately.

Stir it slowly with the help of a spoon to get the fluff combined with the hot chocolate while you drink it.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cannelloni with chestnut-basil cream


lasagne sheets
tomato sauce (from a jar or home made)
olive oil
Found the best basil ever in a market: so aromatic!

For the filling

200ml coconut milk (neutral taste, preferably from Asian shops)
100ml water
2 ts sea salt (or to taste)
3 tbsp nutritional yeast (I use brand Vitam)
a bunch of basil leaves - if it is a strong and aromatic basil species, use less, when using a mild type, use more

1/2 ts herbs de Provence

Blend everything with a hand held mixer or food processor until smooth. 

oven baked tomatoes is the best way to make your own tomato sauce

The tomato sauce I used was made with oven baked garden tomatoes. I cut the large tomatoes into 3 or 4 pieces and the little ones remained uncut. I added some olive oil to a baking tray, placed the tomatoes on it and baked them in the oven on 185°C for 45 min (or longer depending on your oven and on your tomatoes). I allowed them to cool down inside the oven and after a few hours they were very aromatic, creamy and tasting like Italian food. Then I added sea salt, fresh herbs such as savory, rosemary, oregano, lovage (just a little bit), and blended it all together (with a hand held mixer or food processor). If using cherry tomatoes, like the ones from the picture above, remember to remove the little greens on them before blending. Often I also remove all the tomato skins after baking them - pretty easy. But it is not a big deal if you leave the skins. 

Cook the lasagne sheets for like 5 minutes if they are already pre cooked and for 9 minutes if they aren't. They should be flexible but not totally cooked otherwise they break. Cook a few each time depending on which cooking pan you are using, as you need to remove them from the water and immediately fill them with the chestnut filling before they cool down completely.

Add some olive oil to a baking tray, a little bit of water and if you want add some tomato sauce or a bit of the chestnut cream diluted in more water, so as to allow the lasagne sheets to cook further in the oven without sticking to the bottom. 

Add a bit of the chestnut cream on the 1/4 end of the lasagne sheet and make sure it is evenly spread, so that when you roll the cannellonis they will stay in shape. Roll one by one placing them right next to each other. Avoid using a too large baking tray that the cannellonis have too much space to roll out and open up. 

Cover them with tomato sauce. In the picture the tomato sauce is still pretty creamy as I made it but just before placing the tray in the oven, I added water enough to the sauce so as to allow the rolls to get further cooked in the oven. They should be totally covered in sauce not to dry out and get crunchy.

Bake it in the oven at 195°C for 20 minutes or for as long as it takes for the lasagne sheets to get soft. It really depends on the brand you use and on how much pre-cooked they have been. If you notice they are not yet cooked but the sauce starts to dry out, feel free to add more water to the top.

Serve immediately.

When it is not chestnut season you can easily use a mix of cashew nuts, walnuts and white beans or chickpeas in this recipe.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chestnut cheesy spread

With free chestnuts to be found all over the city, I’ll be eating chestnuts every day for a few weeks. Today’s idea is a creamy spread that can be used not only on bread and toasts, but also as filling for pasta dishes or, in a more fluid version, replace white sauces in lasagnes.

Making spreads with chestnuts is pretty easy and the result is a yummy and rich cream that keeps you satisfied for several hours. The coconut milk can be, depending on the desired effect, easily replaced by nut butters or tahini + some lemon juice for a more “hummusy” taste. Try every time a different combination of spices and fresh herbs and you’ll never be bored with it.


400g steamed chestnuts (if you are foraging them for the first time, please check my other blog post on how to harvest and prepare them)
200ml coconut milk (neutral taste, preferably from Asian shops)
100ml water
2 ts sea salt (or to taste)
3 tbsp nutritional yeast (I use brand Vitam)
a bunch of basil leaves - if it is a strong and aromatic basil species, use less, when using a mild type, use more
1/2 ts herbs de Provence

Blend everything with a hand held mixer or food processor until smooth. Use it as spread, dip sauce or filling for lasagne or cannelloni. If using it for lasagne or pizza, add water until the required consistency. What is not immediately used you can keep in a air tight food container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sweet chestnuts - how to prepare them

freshly harvested sweet chestnuts are highly nutritious and can take part in so many delicious recipes

Now with the chestnut harvest season open we'll be cooking every day something with sweet chestnuts. These incredibly nutritious and freely available foods are very versatile and can be used in endless culinary ideas, sweet or savory.

Here are a few examples of where and how I use steamed chestnuts in:

- smoothies with banana, carob or cocoa powder
- hot drinks, with oat/rice milk and spices or with cocoa powder
- creamy sweet spreads with vanilla and dates or with melted dark chocolate!
- savory spreads with nutmeg, chili pepper, tahini, garden herbs such as rosemary or basil
- tapenades with sun-dried tomatoes, capers, nutritional yeast, olives, sambal and lemon juice + zest
- stews instead of rice or noodles - I just add them at the end of the cooking, lightly broken
- soups
- Thai or Indian curries, also instead of noodles or rice
- pancakes, cakes, bread, cinnamon rolls...
- burgers, with some chickpea flour or oat flakes and spices
- add to seitan recipes, for extra richness
- lasagne white sauce (instead of wheat flour as used in bechamel)
- pizzas and calzones
- croquettes
- or I simply freeze them for later use.

How I prepare the chestnuts, for immediate use or to freeze:

Rinse the sweet chestnuts and make shallow cross-like cuts on their round, thicker end. Steam them for 20 minutes or until they show the little cross cuts open up and their peel is flexible to be removed. Peel them while they are still hot and moist as it is much easier to do that before they cool down. If they get cold and their skin hardens again, you can re-steam them again.

Use them directly or cook them further according to what is required in your recipe.

In France most people prepare their chestnuts directly on the fire with the use of special pans, like this one:  'La Lyonnaise' Poêle à Marrons . These are pretty handy to use and it allows you to peel both the outer shell and inner dark brown layer (which doesn't bother me but it might give a little rough effect in some creamy recipes). Note that if you don't have direct fire to cook with - instead if your stove is induction, ceramic or electric - these pans won't work.

*Note: if you harvest sweet chestnuts for the first time, please make sure to learn the difference between them and horse chestnut, a similar nut that can also be found under large trees in the same season. Here is a post with pictures that can help you with that:
Sweet chestnuts and Horse chestnuts: how to tell the difference.

Curious about how nutritious sweet chestnuts are? Take a look the nutrition facts:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lasagne with dark greens

Using dark greens in a lasagne is a great way to make sure of getting plenty of them. I use any dark leaves that are available at each season: kale, watercress, lamb's quarters, spinach, nettles. My all favorite way to get enough dark greens is blending them in green smoothies or juicing them when they are fiberish. My second favorite way is to use them in lasagnes. 

I'll bring a few words on nettles, since they grow abundantly for most part of the year and are great source of protein and essential minerals. Nettles are in fact much more nutritious than most store bought vegetables - and for free. You can use nettles in pretty much the same way as you use spinach in recipes. Pick the tops of the plants, since they are more tender. If you can not handle the stinging, use gloves to harvest them. Avoid picking nettles in places that are polluted with heavy metals or unwanted chemicals (such as in industrial areas). Rinse them thoroughly and voilà, ready for use.

The white sauce I use in this recipe is gluten-free and very light. My secret for a good "cheesey" sauce is to use a good brand of nutritional yeast flakes. My favourite brand (that I can find in this part of Europe) is Vitam. Some brands may be bitter and are therefore not suitable.

the lasagne sheets I used in this picture were gluten free and they did not hold together, but were delicious anyway


300g dark greens (e.g. spinach, kale, lamb's quarters or nettles)
olive oil
500g (organic) tomato pulp (from a jar if it is not tomato season)
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
100g minced seitan (or finely grated vegetables)
1 bay leaf
1 celery leaf
1 ts tabasco (optional)
nutmeg, oregano, thyme, savory, paprika powder (or a good mixture herbes de Provence)
fresh basil and fresh rosemary (or other fresh garden herbs if available)
1/2 cup rice milk + 1 cup coconut milk 
2 tsp lemon juice
lasagne sheets (precooked - gluten free if you prefer)
1 ½ tsp arrowroot
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (non-bitter brand - I use Vitam)
(Sea) salt to taste


Tomato sauce:

Bring the tomato pulp (my favorite brand is BioTime or Bio from Delhaize), paprika, nutmeg, celery leaves a bay leaf (take it away after it's cooked) to the boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Add the seitan and pepper and cook 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining spices. Bring to taste with Tabasco (or chili) and salt. Instead of chopped seitan you can use chopped vegetables (food processor) - or the fruit pulp from your juicer slow.

Preheat oven to about 210 ° C (it depends on the furnace, because in my current furnace should I bake at 190 ° C).

White sauce 
Heat 1 cup coconut milk + 1/2 cup rice milk (or the milk of your choice) over a low heat along with 1 bay leaf 1/4 teaspoon of (freshly grated) nutmeg and sea salt to taste (I use 1/2 tbsp). Simmer for 2 minutes. Combine 1 1/2 teaspoon arrowroot/tapioca or kuzu and 2 tbsp water. Pour the arrowroot slurry into the cooking milk, whisking until thickened and smooth. Adjust consistency as required by either adding more arrowroot (always diluted in a little liquid) or by adding more liquid. Remove from heat and add 2 tsp lemon juice and 2 tbsp nutritional yeast. For extra tanginess add 1 tsp prepared mosterd (optional).

Rinse well the nettles or spinach and place them in a large  cooking pan. Pour boiling water over it, let it soak 5 minutes and then strain it well, pressing it to remove all the water in the leaves. Place the greens on a cutting board and cut into chunks. Return to the pan, mix it with a little (herbal infused) olive oil and tamari (or common salt). If you use kale or lamb's quarters, cook the shredded leaves in olive oil for 3 minutes (or longer if needed) and add salt and pepper.

Grease an ovenproof dish and cover the bottom with a thin layer of white sauce. Add a layer of lasagne sheets (immerse each sheet under water for 2 seconds before adding them). Then a layer of tomato sauce, another layer of lasagne sheets, a layer of greens and repeat as long as you have ingredients and room in the over dish. The top layer should be the white sauce, thick enough to cover the lasagna. 

Bake in pre-heated oven at 200°C for like 30-40 minutes or as specified in the lasagne package. Total cooking time and oven temperature depend on which type of lasagne you use and on the oven you are cooking at. If your oven is too powerful, perhaps after 20 minutes of cooking you might want to take a look and reduce it a bit to avoid burning.

Extra tips: 
1) I use neutral coconut milk, usually found in Asian shops. Some coconut milk brands will leave a strong coconut-ish taste which is not appreciated by everyone. 
2) Next to using dark greens and tomato sauce, use any chewy vegetable available at a given season. My favorites are stir-fried mushrooms, grilled courgette and/or aubergines/eggplants, roasted hokaido pumpkin or butternut with sambal, fresh rosemary and sage leaves, olives, sun-dried tomatoes. 

3) Adding one layer of ripe banana slices can offer a very surprising sweet and creamy contrast with the other ingredients. But that's probably more for the die-hards who are open to exotic taste combinations. 

4) Instead of seitan I often use finely grated vegetables (such as carrot, celery or beets) or the pulp that comes from juicing vegetables (or even apples!) on a slow juicer. Nothing goes to waste here.