Thursday, 26 September 2013

Dried Date Cake; No Bake Treat

Sometimes you taste something and immediately want to know the recipe. That happened a few weeks ago when I was having lunch with a friend at Bagels & Beans; a Dutch franchise formula lunch and coffee room.
A very successful concept where they serve delicious bagels, homemade cakes plus freshly squeezed juices , coffee and loose leaf teas. Most of it organic and fair trade.
(They also have an English menu online and in all their shops)

Anyway, it was not one of their bagels I was so excited about; it was their date cake.
A sweet and sticky cake, with the natural sweetness of the dried dates (plus some extra sugar and caramel syrup ;-))

I was already busy investigating the ingredients while eating it and was really surprised to find the original recipe on the Bagels&Beans website! I wish it was so easy to find these kind of recipes from more restaurants.

I used the original Bagels & Beans recipe with instructions from the Dutch food blog
I halved the quantities and instead of a normal caketray i made it in a well greased small, round quiche tray (20 cm). And served it, cut into small pieces, as friandise with coffee and tea at my dinnerparty. It;s a perfect recipe to make for a lot of people.

Dried date cake cut into pieces in quiche tray before serving

Before serving it at the dinnerparty I tested the cake on my family. Let me tell you; they normally don't eat dried dates. My family is of the kind that likes to eat the familiar cakes and pies over and over again. Like Dutch apple pie or my grandmothers Cheesecake ( in Dutch: Monchoutaart).But even though they looked a bit strange when I presented the pieces of dried date cake; everyone loved it!

My grandmother just couldn 't stop eating. Same as my colleagues from work, who I brought the leftovers. They immediately asked for the recipe. And I was very pleased to hear already two of them made it themselves successfully.

This is definitely one of my new favorite recipes and I'm very happy that Bagels & Beans shared this recipe online.

For the Dutch version of this recipe in PDF click here.

Dried Date Cake

For about 8 'pie' pieces or approximately 30 little pieces


  • 250 grams dried dates, pitted and chopped (weight after pitting)
  • 125 grams of butter + extra for greasing the tray
  • 75 grams dark brown sugar (in Dutch: basterdsuiker)
  • 25 grams chopped walnuts
  • 75 grams Maria biscuits, chopped into small pieces in a mortar
  • ½ egg (M), beaten
  • 1 tablespoon caramel syrup (Monin or ( for Dutch readers) Douwe Egberts)
  • Flaked coconut

Important: make sure to have pitted and chopped the dates before you start; it is a sticky job.

1. Grease a small quiche tray (20 cm) with butter.

2. Melt the 125 grams of butter on the lowest possible heat.  Do not let the butter brown!  When the butter has melted  add the sugar in parts and stir constantly with a small whisk. Make sure it does not stick on the sides. It has to remain a liquid mass. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.

3. Beat the egg with a fork and add it only to the butter-sugar mixture as this is no longer really hot anymore, otherwise the egg solidifies immediately and you get pieces of egg in your cake. Pour it in gently and stir constantly. Put the pan back on the heat and continue to stir until completely incorporated.

4. Add 1 tablespoon caramel syrup while stirring.

5. Add dates, keep stirring and boil for 1 minute.

6. Then add the biscuits and walnuts and remove from heat. Stir until everything is mixed well.

7. Put the mixture into the quiche tray and press it flat with a spoon. The cake should be 1 ½ cm  thick. Make sure everything is evenly distributed.
Let cool about 1 ½ hours in the refrigerator before you cut it in pieces.

8. Sprinkle the cake with coconut flakes before serving.

Easy to make 1 to 2 days in advance; keep in refrigerator.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Thai Red Chicken Curry with Cashews

As a foodie I like to try new recipes all the time. But I also really cherish my favorite recipes which I make over and over again for years and are always a succes.
One of our favorite weeknight meals is Thai red chicken curry with cashew nuts. I think I once found it in the Dutch Delicious magazine, but I'm not sure because of the many magazine clippings I collected.

It has been modified slightly because there were just a few vegetables in the original recipe.
I added  green beans and some extra pepper. 
It's quickly finished with noodles that only need to be soaked in some boiled water.

Once all the ingredients are prepared it's a quick and tasty weeknight meal. With a little heat from the curry paste and a crunch from the cashews.
I think the Mae Ploy curry pastes taste so good that, especially for a weeknight meal, it really doesn't make sense to make the paste from scratch.

My favorite brand of Thai red curry paste

Thai red chicken curry with cashew nuts

Main course for 2 persons

-          1 tablespoon groundnut or sunflower oil
-          1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (I use Mae Ploy; see picture)
-          1 large red pepper, cut into thin strips
-          300 grams chicken breast, cut into strips
-          200 grams of green beans, halved and + / - cooked 7 minutes
-          1 clove garlic, minced
-          1 tablespoon oyster sauce
-          1 tablespoon fish sauce
-          1 tablespoon brown sugar
-          2 spring onions, chopped
-          50 grams (roasted, salted) cashews 
-          150 grams of noodles or white rice,  to serve

1) Cook the green beans (if not already done) and keep the cooking water for the noodles to soak.

2) Heat the oil in a wok and stir-fry the curry paste and chicken about 2 minutes.
Add the peppers, garlic and green beans and stir-fry briefly.

3) Add the oyster sauce, fish sauce and sugar and let simmer on low heat for about 4 minutes.

4) Add the spring onions and fry for 2 more minutes. Soak the noodles in the boiled water according to package directions.

5) Sprinkle with cashews just before serving.

Serve with noodles, white rice or fried noodles.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Perfect Dinner Party with Friends!

It was a LOT of work. It was so much planning, preparing, grocery shopping and cooking that I actually reconsider my idea of starting a living room restaurant! But OMG it was also so much fun!!!

I had celebrated my Bachelor of Law graduation with family by throwing a BBQ. But to celebrate with friends I decided to invite the 11 most culinary ones for a dinner party in our living room. Unfortunately the friends who love cooking, eating and wine as much as we do were on holiday, but there were still 9 amazing friends with a good appetite left!

Preparing Lemon Cheese Cake desserts with white chocolate in glass ramekins

Recently I wrote a post with 5 tips for throwing a stress free dinner party. Well, after last weekend I have some more tips! Especially for throwing a dinner party for more people.  It turned out there are other things to think about when you host 8 or more guests, instead of the 'normal' 4 or 6. 
When I googled on Internet I found dinner party do's and don'ts like; 'create a playlist', 'learn the art of conversation' and 'send formal invitations'. Those were not the tips I was looking for...

Table ready for our guests to arrive
It turned out that my most important advice for people who are planning a big dinner party is:
Make sure you have enough space in your refrigerator! 
Because I really hold on to rules number 4 and 5 (plan ahead and start cooking in time) I composed a menu with almost only dishes I could prepare a day or a few hours in advance.
That was a good thing, because at the evening of the dinner party I did not have to stress at all about getting courses ready on time. But off course all the pre-made dishes had to be stored cool. As soon as I started shopping for all the groceries, on my 3-page long(!) shopping list, I realised there was not enough room in our fridge for all the food. Not to mention the many bottles of wine and beer that had to be served chilled!

All dishes and the ingredients needed
Which brings me to the second extra tip when throwing a dinner party for a big group, but also for dinner parties in general:
Be creative! 
I put a part of the stuff I didn't need in the fridge at my work and another part in the fridge of our neighbours. We also borrowed a little extra refrigerator from my parents and used a camping fridge plus a coolbox with ice packs.

Another thing I had to be creative with was how to bring a lot of glasses, from the amuse bouche and the cocktails, to our guests while I only had one serving tray. For that I put a kitchen towel on an oven tray and that worked perfectly as a serving tray.

The third thing which is really handy if you're planning a dinner party for a lot of people; make a list of all the things that need to be done. If possible even write the time schedule with it. I'm convinced I would have forgot to heat the oven if I had'nt looked at my schedule that night.

Time schedule

And the last tip:
Be flexible, and don't be afraid to change the menu or just leave something out if you discover you don't have time for it or just doesn't fit.
I really wanted to have a dish with fresh figs, because their in season now. So I planned on serving fresh figs with blue cheese and prosciutto on a crostini with the aperitif. But last minute I skipped them from the menu because it meant keeping an eye on the oven during the time everybody arrived.

And a few hours earlier, while the  menu's were already printed and on the plates, I decided to skip the chicory with serranoham from Ottolenghi. Let me tell you; nobody even noticed!!!

The dinner was a big success! Even though just a few of our friends met each other before, everybody was talking and enjoying the food and wine.

The final result! 
Although I normally like to plan a dinner around a theme I decided to skip it because the most important thing was that it had to be easy to make for 11 persons.
But in the end I discovered I accidentally did have some sort of theme; Lemon! Except from the amuse bouche all the courses, including the cocktail, had some lemon in it.
And because I like to do things properly I especially bought some coffee and tea with a lemon link in it ;-)

Curious about the whole menu? Here it comes! The Persian grilled chicken was really popular, followed by the Kisir and the amuse bouche. Unfortunately I totally forgot to make pictures of all the dishes because I was so busy organising everything. Recipes will be published in next posts!


Pistachios, Remeker cheese and dried sausage from butcher shop Le Jeune
Amuse bouche
Parmesan Foam / acidic cherrytomatoes / basil oil (inspired by the signature amuse bouche from Beluga chef Hans van Wolde)
Toast with Fiorito Frizzo Cocktail and Strawberry/Lemonsoda Mocktail

Tilburg Sourdough bread with butter (grass/goat), salt, olive oil

First course
Salad with smoked salmon and Middle Eastern dressing
White wine: Domaine Gibault Sauvignon Blanc
Main course Israeli mezze:
Ottolenghi's marinated aubergines
Kisir (Turkish bulghursalad)
Dina’s carrot salad with honeyroasted pecans
Lamb Meatballs with tahinsauce
Red wine: Oratoire Saint Vincent Côtes du Rhône
Rose wine: Domaine de Gournier-Mourvedre
Lemon Cheesecake (inspired by Gu)
Dessert wine: Muscat de Beaumes de Venise


Coffee or tea with friandises
Homemade dried date cake/ Helva/ Chocolate coffeebeans
Tea: loose leaf Verveine
Coffee: Freshly ground coffee from Finca el Limoncillo (Nicaragua)

Liqor: Sabra
All wines (except the Muscat) were ordered at Vindict wineshop who also adviced about the winepairing with the food.

The Persian grilled chicken wings on the BBQ