A wonderful dessert – the end

This is the end! If you really want to get into the right mood whilst you read this, click for some musical accompaniment. With this final recipe, I’m taking us back to the very start of this blog. I started writing all this when I was living in Genova for a year, and I was looking for a fun way to record all the new food I was getting to know there. I’d been thinking about writing something food-based for a while before then, but I never knew how to approach it. Genova changed that.

In one of those early posts, I wrote about a place I sometimes went to eat, da Maria. Such a wonderful place. Nothing too fancy or atmospheric, with bare walls, tube lights, and plain white tiles on the floor. But its casualness is also its charm: daily changing, hand-written and photocopied menus, some dishes crossed out with black marker after they’ve run out (the fish always the first to go, then the stew). The waitresses calling out to ask if you’re ready to order whilst on their way to other tables, never writing down what you want, always just shouting it directly into the kitchen. And most importantly, really good food.

It’s just around the corner from where I used to live, less than a minute’s walk, so the temptation was ever present. As I wrote all those years ago, I usually chose the same thing. Always the trenette al pesto to begin with, followed by whatever was still left by the time I showed up – fish if I was lucky, but usually the veal and aubergine stew or stuffed vegetables.Then I’d always get the only dessert that they had (aside from fruit salad, which doesn’t count): their famous dolce delizioso, or ‘wonderful dessert‘.

And wonderful it is, indeed. It took me a while to figure it out, but the dolce delizioso is actually a variation on tiramisù, with the same cream made with mascarpone and eggs. It is also packed with rum, although it only took me one bite to figure that out. With two wonderful things right there, together in one dessert, you can’t go wrong. Now I may have to admit, I ate off many a hangover at Maria‘s, and sometimes I found the rumminess of the dessert to be a bit much (although of course I always finished it). You can decide for yourself how much booze you want in it. If you’re having this after dinner (as opposed to after lunch which was really breakfast, as in my case), you’ll appreciate the excessive alcohol, no doubt!

So this is it, the end of our goodbye party, and the end of the dictatorship. Thanks so much to everyone who read and commented on the blog over these past five years. I really had fun, I hope you did too. Now go make dessert!


For four, use:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 200 gr mascarpone
  • 50 gr sugar
  • about two glasses of rum
  • about 20 to 24 lady fingers
  • 2 candied cherries

Separate your eggs, put the two yolks in one bowl and one of the egg whites in another. First beat your egg white until it’s all stiff and it stands up in peaks. Then mix the sugar with the egg yolks and beat that into a smooth cream. Now add the mascarpone and one tablespoon of rum (don’t worry, we’re using more later), mix well. Then add the egg white to the yolks and scoop it all around without breaking the egg white that you’ve just spent so much energy on – fold, don’t stir.


Put some rum in a bowl that’s big enough to put a lady finger in, roll said lady fingers around in the rum for a bit (depending on how rummy you want the dessert to be, quickly dunk them in and take them out, or actually drag them around in the booze for a couple of seconds). Put the lady fingers in a little glass bowl (you won’t believe it but these are the exact type of bowls that Maria served her wonderful dessert in!) until you’ve got one layer of rummy biscuits. Now top the biscuits with the cream. Put the bowls in the fridge for a few hours (at least three, I’d say – the cream needs to settle).

Then, when you serve up, you have to put half a candied cherry on top of each dessert. Why do you have to add candied cherries, which are totally disgusting?

Because Maria adds them, that’s why.

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The end!

Posted in Food, Italian, italian food, sweet, Sweets and desserts | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Pollo alla cacciatora, the middle of the end

For the second course of our massive boozy goodbye party, I’ve decided to go for a classic. There’s not much to write about it this time. Normally I’d choose a recipe that had come up in the past week somehow, but this time I actually deliberately looked for a recipe with a bunch of booze in it to fit the theme of the goodbye party dinner, which makes for a brief story.

It would have been fun to go for a recipe with as much booze as I could possibly get in there, you know, see if you can actually get drunk on food. I decided against it on account of those recipes often being a bit on the experimental side. I didn’t want to end on something weird and unknown like pork with rum and pineapple. Instead I wanted to do something that I know already and that I was sure would come out looking appetising. So we’re going for pollo alla cacciatora.

Not to be confused with coq au vin or chicken chasseur, this is a classic from Tuscany and it’s as easy as it is delicious. As usual, when the French put chicken in wine, they go the full fucking monty and add a million other things as well, plus you have to let it soak, rest and simmer for quite a bit. The Italians, as they do, just keep it as simple as they possibly can, which is great because it makes this dish affordable for paupers like me, and it keeps the threshold for actually making it low. It goes with the Holy Trinity of Italian cooking, i.e. celery, carrot and onion (plus, of course, garlic – the Mother Mary of Italian cooking), wine and tomatoes, and that’s basically it. Try some over the weekend!


For 4, use:

  • 1 whole chicken. I couldn’t be bothered with a whole chicken because I don’t have a cleaver. I just got legs. You can get any part of a chicken as long as it has bone.
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 leg of celery
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 5 peeled tomatoes (you can peel them yourself or use the tinned ones, it’s up to you, both work, but if you peel them yourself, do that before anything else)
  • some rosemary (best to use whole sprigs, if you have them – easier to fish out)
  • WINE! As this is a dish from Tuscany, I went for Chianti. Also because it was on sale. A full-bodied red is what you’re after, not too sweet.
  • some salt, pepper, and olive oil

First take care of your chicken. If you bought a whole one, chop it up into workable pieces. If you’re that kind of person, wash it and dry it. Either way prepare it for its delicious olive oil meeting. Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan with heavy bottom or otherwise one of those creuset-like stew pot things. Easy on the oil, the chicken releases quite a lot of fat.

Now you just want to brown it on the outside, which will take about ten minutes (check on the state of the chicken and flip them when necessary!). Just enough time to finely chop your onion, celery and carrot, and to crush your garlic. When the chicken is nice and tanned, chuck in the vegetables. Stir them around and leave them to soften up in the pan for a bit. Five minutes or so, then add the wine (about a glass full), simmer for two minutes on low heat. Then add the tomatoes (roughly chopped), and the rosemary, salt and pepper it up, and again, simmer for two minutes. Now give it a last stir, bring to an easy simmer and leave it by itself, with a lid on top. Check on it occasionally and stir if you have to. If it gets dry (although it shouldn’t and probably won’t) you can add some water or chicken stock.

Now all you really need to do is wait for the chicken to be done – depending on the size of your chicken and in what pieces your chicken is cut, this will take from half an hour to about an hour. Once it’s cooked, if you want to condense the sauce a little bit, leave it for another 10 minutes or so without the lid on, give it a last good stir, taste for salt and pepper, take out the rosemary, and serve up!


Posted in alcohol, chicken, Food, Italian, wine | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Penne alla vodka, the beginning of the end

Hello there. I’ve got something special to tell you. Did you know that next week will be my two hundred and fiftieth blog post? Aye aye, 250 recipes, tried and tested, photographed, coupled to an inane rant, and published here. It’s been five years that I’ve been doing this, pretty long eh? So I thought that it seemed like an opportune moment to call it a day. That’s right. The dictatorship is almost over.

For the small but loyal group of followers I have on this blog, I feel I should explain why I’m calling it quits. You see, five years is a long time to be doing something, and lately I’ve been thinking that maybe it would be nice to try something different. Of course a person can have more than one hobby, but the blog actually takes up quite a lot of time, even though it might not look like it does. (Sometimes, when I tell people I find it hard to keep up with the blog due to lack of time, they say “Ohh, surely not, how much time can it take?” I’m sure they mean it in an encouraging way, but I can’t help but find it a bit insulting.)

Mostly, the blog has been great fun over the past five years. It’s forced me to cook something new or interesting every week. It’s encouraged me to look around for new ideas. It’s allowed me to practice my writing skills in an environment where there’s no grades involved. Mostly, I’d say, it’s been enriching.

At the same time, however, it’s also become a limitation. Everything I eat is now judged on its blog-suitableness. Recipes that I may have wanted to try but that aren’t photogenic have been ignored in favour of their more glamorous-looking counterparts. If a recipe had no chance of making it to the blog, I often felt I could make better use of my time by cooking something else, and that’s been starting to bother me.

This decision hasn’t been easy for me to make. I’ve veered between quitting or continuing, and to be honest, I’m still not one hundred percent convinced. But I feel it’s like all those times I packed up all my shite and moved to another country. At first, you’re sad to leave all your friends and your favourite pub and the life you’ve constructed in your latest home town behind, but then when you arrive somewhere new, you recognise all the new opportunities that are suddenly available to you, which is also great!

Of course it would seem pretty poor to quit just like that, no warning or anything, so that is why I’m announcing this now. Next week is my 250th post, but I’m not one for even numbers, so we’ll do three more recipes, one today, one more next week and the one the week after, and finish on 251 posts. In proper goodbye party style, they’ll all be centred around booze! If you’ve been reading for a while (or if you know me in real life), you must know I’m an enthusiastic drinker, so I’m going to end on a cheerful, tipsy note. Moreover, we’re going to structure it like a proper dinner: a starter, a main, and a dessert.

This week, for our primo piatto, we’ll do penne alla vodka, an American classic, I think. There are various stories as to where, when and why this dish came about. Some of these involve Italians (1960s communist party Russia sympathisers from Bologna is one hypothesis), but I’m not really feeling it. You know what the Italians are like, they’re particular about what they let touch their pasta, so I’m pretty sure it must have been an American who invented this dish.

Penne and vodka seems like a weird kind of recipe, until you realise that it’s really a question of terrible naming: it should really be called “penne with tomato sauce and cream and also we put vodka in as an emulsifier to stop the cream from splitting”. That would have explained it all and I wouldn’t have spent years thinking the old yankees just poured vodka on their dinner.


For four people, use:

  • 400 gr penne
  • one 400 ml tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 150 ml of double cream
  • 4 shots of vodka
  • one dried chili
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • some fresh basil
  • some grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
  • olive oil
  • salt

Get your water boiling with plenty of salt. You know, for later, when you’re ready to boil the pasta.

Chop your dried chili and gently fry it in some olive oil. Peel your garlic and with the ball of your hand, crush them slightly, so that they’re broken, but still more or less in one piece. Throw them in with the chili and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, some salt, some sugar if necessary, turn up the heat, and stirring, reduce the sauce a little bit.

Your water is boiling? Throw in the penne! They’ll probably need about ten minutes (check the bag!) and that’s just how much time you’ll need to finish the sauce.

Turn the heat under the tomatoes down to medium-low. Throw in four shot glasses of vodka, stir well, and leave it like this for at least five minutes. Stir occasionally, and make sure the sauce doesn’t boil, at this point it should just simmer quietly. When the pasta is close to done, add the cream to the sauce. Stir well, and leave to simmer for a couple of minutes.

Drain the pasta when it’s done, then add it to the sauce. Grate in some parmesan and stir in some roughly chopped basil. Mix well, then serve up with some more cheese on top. It’s weird, but nice!


Posted in alcohol, Food, Italian, pasta, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Burani bonjon as a consolation prize

I’ve got a couple of friends who play in a band together, and sometimes, when they perform, I tag along and sell t-shirts for them. It’s great fun, because I get to hang out with them and the other band members, I can see them play for free (they’re good! Check them out!), and usually I’ll manage to scrounge a couple of free beers out of it.

Last weekend I headed over to the east of the country, where they stay, for a gig. On my way there, I sent them a quick text to find out where and what time to meet. “Shall I get you guys at the venue? What time?” They responded: “Yeah, get us at the venue around 7. Next month. You know. When the gig actually is.”

I cannot even say in my defence that this is the first time I do this, that I’m not usually so absent-minded, because I actually did the exact same thing last September, when I showed up for a gig that wasn’t scheduled for another four weeks. Ah well, I got a nice dinner out of it, because they felt a little bit bad for me so they invited me over for some delicious, delicious burani bonjon. They’d actually given me the recipe for this stuff years ago, but I just never really got round to making it before. Turns out to be a total shame, because it was divine, I tell you, fuckin’ divine. So I dug up the recipe and had a go myself – mine needs a bit of fine-tuning, but it was still really good.


For two, use:

  • 2 aubergines
  • 2 green peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 300 gr thick yoghurt (like Greek or Turkish style)
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
  • some fresh coriander
  • some fresh mint
  • 1 tsp kurkuma
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • oil, for frying

First of all, slice up your aubergines in fairly thick slices (or even better, slightly varying slices, anywhere between 0.5 and 1 cm). Sprinkle them with salt and put them in a colander for about half an hour.

In the meantime, finely chop the onion. Remove the seeds from the green peppers and chop them finely, too. Fry in some oil (sunflower or rapeseed, but not olive) until the onion is translucent and it starts to smell really good. Take out the mixture and keep it aside for now.

Now fry the slices of aubergine. You might have to to a few batches – just keep the fried aubergines on a plate or something and throw them back in once the last slices are done. When they are, throw back the onion and green pepper. Chop your tomatoes and add them, too. Add a little bit of coriander (but make sure to keep some for later, too!) and the kurkuma. Add a glass of water, put the lid on, and simmer the lot for half an hour or so on medium to low heat.

In the meantime, we’re going to make the yoghurty dressing. Finely chop or crush the garlic. Finely chop some fresh mint and some coriander. Put in a bowl, add the lemon juice, the yoghurt, and enough salt and pepper. Mix well.

Keep an eye on your aubergines – the sauce should come out nice and thick. Stir one last time, taste for salt, add some if you need to, then serve with the yoghurt sauce on top. Traditionally, this dish is served as a sort of pastaless lasagne: a layer of yoghurt, a layer of aubergine, and another layer of yoghurt. I like the presentation as seen in the picture so that everyone can decide for themselves on the yoghurt to aubergine ratio. You decide. Eat with bread, rice, or pitas.


Posted in asian, Food, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bucket list eggs benedict

Sometimes I can be a real Calvinist. Sometimes I do things not because I want to do them, but because I feel I should do them. For instance, that time I struggled through all of Crime and Punishment, and hated most of it, but wouldn’t put it down, just because I felt I ought to have read at least one of the Russians. In the same vain, I sometimes feel I should cook the classic difficult dishes, just to prove that I can. Prove to whom? I don’t know, myself, I guess. The other weekend I made some eggs benedict just to see if I could. It’s meant to be one of those difficult dishes, up there with soufflé and macarons, so I wanted to have a go and, hopefully, tick one more dish off the cooking bucket list.

Why are eggs benedict so difficult? Mostly because the recipe includes making Hollandaise sauce, which is one of those whimsy emulsions that apparently feel like going tits-up most of the time. As a bonus difficulty you have to poach eggs, which I always find slightly tricky to get right. Bonus-bonus difficulty for us, Europeans: none of the recipes agree on what meat actually goes between the egg and the English muffin – some say ham, some say bacon, but then apparently in some parts of Northern America, bacon is called ham. (Tom Green explained it quite well, back when he was still allowed on TV.)

So here’s some beginner’s luck for you: everything went right on my first try. Which is why I will never make this again. The Hollandaise came out nice and creamy, the eggs had a beautiful, runny yolk. The muffins didn’t burn, the bacon was bacony. Sure, it went right once, but that doesn’t mean you can go around tempting fate. On top of that, I’ve got a confession to make: it was good, really – but it wasn’t “30 minutes worth of beating egg yolks in my pyjamas whilst I’m still seeing double” good. I’d order it if I went out for breakfast, definitely. But in my own house, I think I’d sooner just have an extra half hour’s sleeping off my hangover, and settle for a fry up. But here, just in case you guys want to have a go, eggs benedict!


For two breakfast punters, use the following:

For the Hollandaise sauce:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 125 gr butter
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar
  • some ice water
  • a pinch of salt
  • a squeeze of lemon juice

This will make you more than enough for two people, but I don’t know how to make less.

For the benedict:

  • 2 English muffins
  • a few slices of bacon – enough to cover your English muffins with
  • 4 eggs
  • some pepper (although this is entirely optional and almost certainly unorthodox)

I started with the Hollandaise because the dish stands or falls with that, doesn’t it!

On low, low heat, start melting your butter in a saucepan.

Now set up a bain marie: grab a pot, pan, saucepan, whatever, put in a layer of water. Find a bowl (or as in my case, slightly smaller pan) that will fit in the larger pan without falling into it completely – it should hover over the water, but not touch it.

Heat your water. In the meantime, pop the egg yolks into the pan, add the vinegar and ice water, a pinch of salt, and start beating like a basket case. You want a nice and foamy mixture before you even take it near the bain marie. Is it nice and foamy? OK, put her on the simmering water. Keep beating – in a minute or so it’ll go funny and it’lll start looking like, I don’t know, some kind of thick mayonnaise. That’s good!

When it’s looking pretty thick and creamy, take it off the heat (shouldn’t be more than about 3 minutes, really). Now start whisking in the butter, bit by bit. If it’s still kinda thick when all the butter’s been incorporated into the mixture, add a little bit more ice water. Finishing touch, suqeeze in that little bit of lemon juice. You want to try and keep the sauce warm, so turn down the heat on the bain marie, put the sauce on, and stir every time you possibly can.

Now, cut your muffins in half and toast them. Throw your bacon into a frying pan and leave it to its own devices.

Poach your eggs! Know how to poach eggs? Skip this. If not, grab a pan full of water and bring it to a boil. Add some vinegar, it’s meant to help the eggs poach better or something. A lot of people say you really don’t need to add vinegar, that it doesn’t actually help at all, but I secretly love the taste of it so fuck those people. Now, break one egg, but don’t chuck it in the water straight away, chuck it in your favourite tea cup. Grab yourself a spoon, and start swirling the water in the pan so that you get a tiny little whirlpool in the middle. Take the egg and slowly, gently let it slide in there. Now leave it alone for 2 – 3 minutes. Scoop it out with a skimmer or something, gently shake off a little bit of water and put it on a wee plate until you need it. Repeat with the other eggs.

Assemble! Muffins, bacon, eggs, sauce, freshly ground black pepper.

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The aubergine, my trusty friend in times of need

Semester one of this academic year is over, which means that I just handed in the last of my essays and I can finally take it easy for a bit. Time management is still a problem for me, and instead of working steadily over December and January, I just took off for the Christmas holidays and had to pack two months’ worth of work into January. It wasn’t pretty.

The past few weeks have consisted mostly of a lot of sighing, swearing, despairing. After the fifth day in a row of spending 12 hours in the uni library, all you want to do is get sloshed, but you know you can’t, you know you’ll be in so much trouble if you do, because the next day you’ll be worthless, and you need that day. In fact, you need every hour you can possibly use for writing. So you go home, brush your teeth, and sleep, and you do it all again the next day.

When you’re essentially living in the library, you need to get creative with your food. Writing all these essays makes you hungry, and you can’t just live off cheese sandwiches, you’re feeling crap enough as it is. The aubergine has once more shown itself to be a trusty friend in desperate times. So versatile, so delicious, so comforting. You have to invest about half an hour in grilling it, but then you’ve got yourself a companion for the following few days. Throw it in with your salad, add it to your leftover pasta to give it some extra substance, or just stuff it in a sandwich. Whatever you add it to, an aubergine makes everything better. Even a shitty month spent stressing in the library.


You’ll need:

  • one aubergine
  • plenty of olive oil (no really, plenty)
  • some chilies, dried or fresh,, chopped finely, or alternative some chili flakes
  • salt

That’s just the grilled aubergine, if you want a delicious delicious sandwich like the one pictured above, you should also get:

  • some mozzarella
  • some fresh spinach
  • some fresh basil
  • a tasty roll of your choice
  • salt and pepper

Take off the green hat on the end of your aubergine. Cut the whole thing into very thin slices, lengthways. You can salt them and leave them to drain in a colander, weighted down with a wee plate and some tins of chopped tomatoes, but this will take extra time, so I didn’t do it this last time.

So when I say grill, I actually kind of mean ‘fry’. I don’t have a griddle here and the oven is too small for an enterprise like this one, so I just use a frying pan. If you have a griddle, just brush your slices with olive oil and chuck them in there. If not, put plenty of olive oil in a good frying pan, and start chucking in the slices of aubergine – flip when necessary. When a slice is nice and soft, and looking golden brown on both sides, take it out of the pan and put it on a plate to cool down for a bit. Keep going until all the slices are done.


Now you grab yourself a tupperware or otherwise just a wee dish or whatever (it has to be deep-ish though!), and you put in your first layer of aubergines. Drizzle on a little bit of good, nice olive oil, sprinkle on a little freshly-ground salt (unless you salted them before, in which case they’ll be salty enough), a little bit of chili (flakes), and then layer on the next slices. Keep going until all aubergines are duly oiled, salted and spiced. Then just put them in the fridge and use them up over the week.

As for the sandwich, I trust you guys have made sandwiches before.




Posted in cooking, Food, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

We loved kale before it was cool

For reasons that I cannot imagine, kale somehow became hip in the past few years. Kale, the least appetising-looking, toughest, most indestructible vegetable known to man. I’m sure it was announced somewhere to be full of antioxidants, and suddenly, as these things go, tonnes of people started eating it. Mostly across the Atlantic, at first, although the UK has caught on, and I think you can probably get air-fried kale crisps at your local Tesco now.

The thing is, though, the Dutch have been eating kale for ages. Not in the health-aware, diet kind of way – in the stamppot way. In fact, if you say ‘kale’ in Dutch (‘boerenkool‘, actually), it usually refers to the dish (boerenkoolstamppot), rather than the actual crop. It’s not necessarily a cool dish, but it’s a beloved classic, anyway. It spans generations – it’s one of those rare dishes that’ll please both your grandparents and your children.

The first time I heard about people eating kale outside the context of stamppot, it kind of blew my mind. As said, to me boerenkool really just meant boerenkoolstamppot – it just never crossed my mind that you could choose not chop it to bits and to mix it up with mashed potatoes. A friend of mine recently made a kale quiche, and said it was good, so I thought it would be interesting to have a shot. Still, I’m trying to get used to the idea, so I didn’t want to exaggerate – the goat’s cheese he’d used was still too big a step for me. In my opinion, kale has to be paired with pork – bacon and smoked sausage in the stamppot, but I figured spicy sausage would do for the quiche. So that’s what we’re doing this week, kale and spicy sausage quiche!


For one 23 cm Ø quiche, use:

  • 400 gr of kale, chopped finely
  • 1 red onion
  • 250 gr spicy pork sausage, or, if you don’t live in a country where they sell that, normal sausage that you’ve spiced up with cayenne pepper and paprika
  • 5 eggs
  • 100 ml crème fraîche
  • one pack of puff pastry

If you managed to get some spicy sausage, squeeze it out of the casing in small little balls and that’s it. If you got normal sausage (as I did, because while in Italy I used this stuff for everything, in The Hague there is no such thing as ‘spicy sausage’), squeeze it all out into a bowl, then add something like half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (but let the quantity depend on your taste, of course) and a good dash of paprika. Mix it up well, then press it down into a slab and cut that slab up into small bits.

Chop your onion and fry it in some oil. After a couple of minutes, add the sausage and wait for it to brown. Then remove it from the pan, throw it back into that bowl you used earlier, and throw the kale into the pan. Salt it. Wait for it to shrink down to about half the size of what you started with.

In the meantime, grease a springform tin and line it with puff pastry. When the kale is done, mix in the sausage meat and and onion. Now, in a separate bowl, mix the crème fraîche with the eggs, add salt and pepper, then add this to the kale mixture. Mix well, and put it in the springform tin. Decorate the top with some leftover strips of puff pastry, shove it in a preheated oven (220 degrees) for a generous half hour and you’re done!


Posted in Baking, Food, quiche | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Brunch, the only acceptable portmanteau

A few years ago I wrote about how much I hate portmanteau words. This is still valid (Brexit, oh dear Jesus), but there’s one word for which I make an exception: brunch. I guess brunch isn’t so bad because it doesn’t really sound like a portmanteau anymore. Maybe because it’s been around for so long, who knows?

I guess mostly I just cut brunch slack because of what it represents: getting up later than you would for breakfast, and having all kinds of food that you would have for neither breakfast or lunch and which are more delicious than either. Admittedly, on an average Sunday I’ll also get up later than you normally would for breakfast, take whatever I find in the fridge and have that around 2 pm, but that’s just not the same as a proper brunch. Brunch requires love and attention, well-prepared little dishes, a set table, stuff like that – it’s more than just dragging your hungover ass to the kitchen and chucking eggs into a frying pan. Also, not an unimportant point, it’s the only meal of the day that you can have prosecco with, which immediately grants it yet more bonus points.

So the reason that I’ve been thinking about brunch lately, is that for reasons I won’t elaborate on, I just had brunch like two weekends in a row. One of these occasions was in Italy, and I was organising it. My American friend was coming, and I imagined that, like me, she’d want some ham and cheese croissants. Because Italians only do sweet croissants, I decided to do something unorthodox: make my own croissant out of puff pastry. What do I care. Yes, of course I realise that these weren’t actually croissants, they were only croissant-shaped puff pastry ham and cheese rolie wolies or something, and if you’re in a country where you can get savoury croissants, I guess you can just do that, but in a pinch they’ll do fine, really! Plus, they’re fun to make, and they make the house smell nice.


For 8 croissant-shaped puff pastry ham and cheese rolie schmolies, use:

  • one sheet of puff pastry, or one block that you’ve rolled out to roughly a rectangle
  • a few slices of ham
  • a few slices of cheese
  • some egg white
  • baking parchment

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Take your slab of puff pastry and cut it up like so:


Also cut a line of about 4 cm from the bottom edge up in the general direction of the pointy end. Now pile up the ham and cheese like so:


Lightly roll up the rolie zolies. Don’t press down on them too hard! Once they’re all rolled up, grab your favourite silicon brush and coat them in a bit of egg white to make them nice and shiny.


Stick the rolie yolies in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes (start checking on them from 15 minutes onwards to see how they’re getting on – we’re going for a nice golden brown). Have them with prosecco and all kinds of other tiny fun little dishes that you invented.


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Illicit leftovers

One of the many facts of life that most people know, but no one likes to admit: leftovers are better than fresh food. There, I said it. Leftovers are so amazing because all the flavours have had more time to settle down and mix with each other – to make friends, so to speak. Rather than being a bunch of ingredients, the dish becomes a whole. It’s magic. Italians totally know this, but they cover it up neatly by just preparing a dish a day in advance, rather than eating it straight away and hoping it won’t be finished. That way it tastes like leftovers, but it’s not.

The other reason leftovers are so great, is because you get to use them for all kinds of blasphemous creations of your own, rather than what they were actually intended for. You know, like meatballs that you slice up and stuff in your sandwich to take to work the next day. What makes it so good? Probably the fact that you know it’s wrong, you’re not meant to, it’s against the laws of, I don’t know, proper conduct or something.

My favourite illicit leftover is pasta sauce, preferably ragù alla bolognese. It’s so mincy, and salty, and tomatoey. It goes well with everything, which means your improper creations can never get too blasphemous – it’ll always work out! When I lived in Italy, I felt like ragù was somehow sacred, you couldn’t just put it in or on whatever – if you had some left, you’d just have to make more pasta the next day. But I live in the Netherlands now, I’ll do whatever I like with my leftover ragù. Like put it in a fried piadina with eggs and a bunch of other stuff for the best hangover breakfast piadina ever.


This is one of those things where I just use whatever’s in the fridge. You can do that, and use up all of your leftovers, or you can go for the ingredients I used. You decide.

For one hungover and starving individual, you might like:

  • one fried piadina – for lots of info on how to make them, check out this recipe for how to make piadine, and then, rather than chucking it in a pan dry, quickly fry it in some oil – but really, it’s easy, you won’t even need to look, just read the basics in the recipe below!
  • 1 egg
  • some leftover pasta sauce (bolognese is best!)
  • half an avocado
  • half a small red onion
  • half a tomato
  • a couple of mushrooms
  • some cheese, grated or sliced
  • some crème fresh or sour cream


Make this fried piadina – mix flour, olive oil, salt and water – eyeball the quantities to get a large ping pong ball or a small tennis ball of dough. Stir with a wooden spoon, knead, make a supple dough, and roll it out to a very thin dough pancake. Then heat up some oil and chuck in the piadina. When it starts to bubble up, flip it. Leave until both sides are golden, then put it on some kitchen roll for a few minutes while you prepare the rest.

Now fry your egg, your onion and your mushrooms in the same pan. If you’re like me, you’ll want to keep the yolk intact so that the delicious yolk will spread out over all of the filling later.

Heat up your pasta sauce in a small pot or in the microwave. Meanwhile, cut up your tomato. Spread your avocado over the piadina, add the tomato, then add all of the other vegetables, the egg, the cheese, sour cream and the pasta sauce. Now try to roll up your piadina as tightly as possible, then cut it in half. Enjoy with a cup of tea, follow up with a nap.


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Meatballs for gamblers

Do you guys like games? I love games. You can keep me happy all night with a fridge full of beer and a good long round of Risk. The competition, the hilarity when you wipe out one of your friends’ painstakingly built up army, the thrill of the win or the crush of defeat, I love it. But it doesn’t have to be a long or complicated game like Risk. Even simple games are great. I’ll get just as excited and competitive about Snakes and ladders, no problem.

So guess what, I love food, I love games, I love combining them. Why sit around playing cards and drinking, as if the two were completely unrelated activities, when you can integrate them and play Ring of Fire?

Recently, a friend of mine came out with something I thought was pretty amusing: Russian roulette crisps. At first I thought it was something she’d made up herself, but then I realised this was actually the way these things were marketed: Russian roulette doritos, where most of them are simple nacho cheese flavour, but some of them are spicy like you wouldn’t imagine. We had some fun trying them out and watching each other cry with the spiciness or smile relievedly when it was plain cheese flavour.

However, the crisps had one big downside: the flavour powder obviously spreads from one crisp to the next in the bag, so rather than getting one super spicy one every now and then, you’d really go from mild to half-spicy to really spicy. We had fun with the concept for a while, but the execution wasn’t the best.

Thank god I found a way to make this game perfect, though: Russian roulette meatballs. For every five plain meatballs, you stuff one with chopped chilis – five out of six you’re OK, one out of six your head explodes. The difference in stuffing is invisible from the outside, so you make a hundred in total, take them to a party, and you wait for the fun to start. Make sure to put a note up, because games are only fun if people actually realise they’re playing.


You can season your meat as you always do, with whatever flavours you like. I just listed what I used this time round, but you can use whatever. However, I’d suggest not making them (too) spicy, or the effect of the spicy filling will be lost.

So, for a well-attended party, use:

  • a generous kilo of mince (count 12 – 15 gr of mince per meatball)
  • 1 egg
  • some breadcrumbs
  • 1.5 tsp paprika
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1,5 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • a small-ish onion, grated
  • a dash of olive oil
  • a few dried chilis, ground or chopped – alternatively you can use simple fresh chilies, or ghost peppers, or whatever. See how spicy you want to go.

I stuffed my five-out-of-six meatballs with mozzarella. It was a bunch of hassle, and next time I’d just go for plain ones. You decide. If you want to stuff them, use:

  • one mozzarella

You’ll also need some baking paper.

First prepare the fillings, get that out of the way. Chop up the mozzarella and then (ew!) squeeze it with your hands so that you get really tiny bits. This is a bit gross but it’ll be a lot easier to get the cheese inside later without it poking out of the meatballs. Also grind or chop the dried chilis, or if you’re using fresh chilis, chop those up finely. Put them in a bowl or cup and put a teaspoon in. I’m telling you to do all of this now so that you don’t need to wash your hands in between touching mince and preparing stuffing.


OK, so now for the meat. Mix up all of the mince ingredients, and mix well, using your hands. Now start rolling little balls out of it. You can weigh them if you want to be precise, or you can just go for small-ish ping pong balls. Either way, make sure you make enough, or the fun of the Russian Roulette effect will be limited somewhat. The ones you’re going to fill later don’t have to be perfect yet, just more or less round.

Once you’ve got more or less ball-shaped bits of mince, divide them in a 5:1 ratio. For every 5 balls you fill with mozzarella, fill one with the chopped or ground chilis. Place a ball in the palm of your hand, poke your finger in until you’ve got a deep hole, put in some filling, then carefully close the meat around the hole, and roll the ball between your hands to make it nice and round.


Put them on an oven tray on some baking paper. Now shove them in the oven, 200 degrees, for about twenty minutes. Cut one open to see if they’re OK, then leave them to cool. A lot of the cheese ones will leak a bit of cheese as they cook, thus giving away their delicious and, more importantly, innocuous cheesy filling. That’s OK. With a bit of luck you’re serving this at a wild party, and people will be half drunk and the lights will be dimmed. Plus, it’s a game. People want to play, and no one likes a cheater. It’ll be fine. Enjoy, and have fun!

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