Archive for the ‘ Appetizers ’ Category


Another family staple in my house is bruschetta. You can’t go wrong with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some fresh bread. Throw some cheese on it, and you’ve got a pretty filling sandwich alternative.

The recipe I used to use for bruschetta is sadly no longer online… or if it is, I can’t find it….

I’m horrible at writing down quantities, I just kind of chuck everything into a pan until it tastes right, but here’s my best effort:


-1 baguette/focaccia bread

-4 cloves garlic (I always double this)

-1 /3 cup olive oil (extra virgin is best!)

-1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

-1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

-Salt and black pepper to taste

-700g roma tomatoes, chopped


1. Mince or crush the garlic and add it to the olive oil, set aside.

2. Slice the baguette into 1.5cm slices.

3. Brush the slices with some of the olive oil/garlic mixture. Make sure to reserve 1 tbsp.

4. Put the bread slices oil side up on the top rack of the oven, and broil until the bread browns a bit. This should take about 5 minutes, depending on the oven. You just want to dry the bread enough so that it’s not soggy when you put the tomatoes on it. Be careful not to burn the bread!

5. In the meantime, put the remaining olive oil and tomatoes, balsamic vinegar  into the pan on medium heat. Add in the balsamic vinegar and  basil, mixing the ingredients with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook the tomatoes until they have softened a bit, no more than 5 minutes.

6. Spoon the tomato onto the bread slices and serve. Alternatively, you can put the bruschetta back in the oven after you’ve put the tomatoes on, and sprinkle it with some finely grated parmesan or some other low-moisture Italian cheese of choice.

These days I’m trying to stay away from bread, but I still love tomatoes, so I often prepare tomatoes bruschetta style to serve as a side dish. Here they are, and the next time I make proper bruschetta, I’ll add the pic.


Chicken Saté

To even out the spread, we included a couple chicken dishes in our menu. One dish that is pretty popular in The Netherlands is saté, and it’s pretty common fare at Indonesian restaurants and street food stalls. I’ve made different variations of ‘chicken-on-a-stick’ in the past, but this was my first time making it southeast Asian style. I decided to branch out of my usual Martha Stewart/Jamie Oliver recipe niche and went with a popular recipe on

I didn’t have any coconut milk, nor did I have any low-sodium soy sauce or chicken stock, so I didn’t use them in my marinade. The chicken fortunately was not very salty, despite the fact that I ended up with more salt than called for. I marinated the chicken for about 3 days, not on purpose but because we didn’t end up serving it at the party because we had so much food!

As for the dipping sauce, we just bought some packaged peanut sauce to make our lives a little easier. To spice it up, we just threw in a few chili pepper rounds as we heated up the sauce.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I feel like I don’t even need to do a blog entry on these. Vietnamese/Thai/Southeast Asian raw spring rolls are one of those food items that I have started seeing everywhere, in random Asian fusion restaurants and at health food/vegetarian places. In any case, these ones are super easy. We got the guidelines for these rolls from the Australian delicious. mag, but basically just freestyled it. I’ll post the exact recipe when I’m reunited with it, but you can just Google ‘Vietnamese spring rolls’ if you’re dying to make it before then.

We used vermicelli, red peppers, cucumber, green onion, crushed peanut, mint and carrots to fill the rice paper. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes, and add spiced ground pork if you want to make it a little more filling.

For dipping sauce I made nuoc cham, a basic dipping sauce for Vietnamese food. The toughest part of this recipe was dealing with the rice paper. Store your rice paper properly! If not they will end up with all kinds of cracks and tears, which make them a nightmare to work with.

Next to making deviled quail eggs, this was probably the most frustrating and annoying cooking experience I’ve had in a while. Don’t be put off though—like I said, if you treat your paper well, things will be alright. The spring rolls went over quite well—the vegetarians enjoyed them, and people who aren’t ‘into Asian food’ can easily handle the simple dish. Had the process not been so frustrating, I would’ve definitely made more!

Something Russian…

A couple weeks ago when we started to plan our party, we started looking for new recipes to try. Of course, when it came to cute hors d’oeuvres, Martha Stewart came to mind. I found a recipe for chive blinis. I’d never made a blini before, but the recipe was short-listed immediately because it looked relatively easy, and inexpensive.

It was a pretty straightforward recipe that even I couldn’t screw up. I tried my best to make my blinis perfectly round, but it was difficult given the fact that my poffertjes pan has somehow ended up in the trash.

Blinis on their own are a little weird… they look like a pancake, so when you eat them, you expect them to taste sweet, and they can kind of put you off a bit when they don’t. Fortunately, once you top them with something savoury, they are quite delicious.

I did a test run with some cream cheese and shoulder ham, and later I topped them with crème fraiche mixed with chives, smoked salmon and capers.

If I were to make this again, I wouldn’t use the capers because there is already enough salt in the salmon. If budget isn’t an issue, I’ll definitely go for the salmon roe and quail eggs.


Peppadews made their debut in my house back in March. A family friend came to visit us and decided to show us something new. Until previously, peppadews to me were just those red mini pepper thingies that were next to the olives, and it had never occurred to me to try them.

This one’s pretty simple, and pleasing to the eye which is why I love it. Stuffed peppadews offer all sorts of contrast—both in the way they look, and the way they taste, as they have a nice combination of sweet and spicy. I’ve made them so far on three different occasions and each time they’ve been quite a hit.

All you’ll need is a jar of mild peppadews (they pack a bite that is pretty palatable for most people), block cream cheese (spreadable is too runny), and a jar of lemon curd (basically the filling of a lemon meringue pie).

Unfortunately, I did a terrible job of writing down the quantities, but I’ll do my best to guide you. Try starting with 200g of cream cheese and a 1/3 cup of lemon curd. Blend the cheese and the curd in a bowl with a hand mixer, fork, or potato masher. If you plan on using a fork or a potato masher, it might be wise to let the cream cheese stand outside of the fridge for about 30 minutes.

When you’ve blended the cream cheese and the curd, have a taste. You may want to add more curd to make the mixture a little sweeter. I suggest stuffing one peppadew, and eating that, to try and get a better gauge as to how the flavours taste together.

You can stuff the peppadews with a spoon if you don’t have many to do, or you can use a piping bag. If you don’t have a piping bag, take a Ziploc bag and cut a small hole in one corner and you’re good to go.


Stuffed Mushrooms…

This is the first of a series of foods that myself or some other member of my family made for our open house on June 5. Unfortunately, many of the recipe books with the instructions are now inside a container on their way to Cambodia… so I will give a basic overview of the recipe now and post some pictures, and when I am reunited with the cookbooks, I’ll update the entries and include the recipes, for those who were curious about all the goodies we made.

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This entry is dedicated to stuffed mushrooms. While there are many ways to stuff mushrooms, one of our favourites comes from the Australian version of the magazine delicious. While the proportions of the ingredients have escaped me for now, I know that this recipe involves mushrooms, ricotta cheese, pesto, basil, and parmesan cheese (we used peco romano).

As you can see by the photo of the cooked mushrooms, they are a family favourite, and very popular with our guests. By the time I got the right lens on my camera, half of the mushrooms were gone!

Caesar Salad Supreme

I’m sure many North American expats can agree on one thing: a good Caesar salad dressing is really hard to find in the rest of the world. Whether it’s too sweet, too flat, too oily, too watery or too much like Ranch, they all seem to taste pretty terrible.

Now when we lived in New Brunswick, Caesar salad meant some romaine lettuce (if we were lucky) tossed with Kraft Caesar dressing. Special occasions meant that maybe we’d get a salad kit with powdered, dandruffy parmesan, and bacon bits (facon, really, they’re made from soy). Caesar Cardini was far from our minds.

Fortunately for us, a good family friend of ours exposed us to the wonders of a home-made Caesar dressing. The only downside to her dressing was that it was the real deal (ha!)… meaning it had anchovies and raw egg in it. Try as I might, I don’t think I’ll ever become a fan of dried anchovies.

After moving to the Netherlands and suffering through brand after brand of crappy Caesar dressing (Remia and Calve), not to mention terrible house dressings in restaurants (I remember a particularly scarring experience in London), we gave up on Caesar salads completely for at least a year. It was a bleak time.

Then I found this recipe. Great stuff really–the use of mayo eliminated the need for raw egg, and even though it called for anchovies, the recipe still tasted good without it. Best of all, for those watching their waist lines, you can still indulge in a Caesar salad–just use light mayo, and go easy on the cheese and bacon, and skip the croutons.

This dressing’s been a family favourite for a few years now, because it’s so easy to throw together and tweak until it’s just right.