Tag Archives: stew

What’s Been Cooking? Maternity leave, weeks 1-2

I love apple season

In Germany, expecting and new mothers have the advantage of a legally protected, essentially “no work allowed” time for 6 weeks before and 8 weeks after their due dates. If I were fully employed I would not legally have been allowed to keep working. As a freelancer, I think I could have continued working into the 6 weeks pre-due date, but I decided not to because by 33-34 weeks it was already tiring to cycle back and forth for my teaching commitments.

So yes – now I am on Mutterschutz (maternity leave) and working my way through some cooking and baking projects to keep me from getting too stir-crazy at home and to try and stock the freezer a bit for easy winter meals once our tiny human arrives. Here’s what I’ve gotten up to in my first two weeks off:

Week 1

On Monday, we ate leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes for lunch, then I froze the rest of the meatloaf and decided to use the mash for a project that had been on my list for a while: potato varenyky using this smitten kitchen recipe. I have fond memories of eating varenyky in Ukraine, usually with sautéed onions, butter, and sour cream. A great cheap, cold-weather, stick-to-your-ribs, carbs-on-carbs kind of meal!


The varenyky dough was simple to make and had a nice stretch to it, which made it easier to envelope the mashed potatoes and seal the dumplings. We sampled some for dinner – tasty, although the dough was maybe a tad thick – and I froze the rest of them.


On Tuesday, I delved back into my Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook and posted about that here: Baking with Hot Bread Kitchen: Paratha.

Superbly chocolaty cookies

On Friday, I wanted to bake something sweet for the weekend, so went for Melissa Clark’s tiny, salty, chocolaty cookies from NYT Cooking. My goodness were they good! Chewy and with crispy edges, gluten free (in case you care! I don’t), and very rich (thanks to cocoa powder and dark chocolate). G came over for boardgames on Saturday and devoured quite a few of them, and other friends also professed their enjoyment. Will make again!

Week 2

It wasn’t specifically on my cooking project list, but we had leftover vegetables on Tuesday so I threw them into these Korean scallion pancakes from NYT Cooking. It was a great use of the veg and made for a nice, lightish dinner, although I wish the pancakes had turned out a bit crispier.

On Wednesday we were hosting friends for the group’s weekly vegetarian dinner. F made spinach lasagne and I contributed dessert in the form of smitten kitchen’s Versunkener Apfelkuchen (sunken apple (& honey) cake), which was based on a German recipe. Delicious! The honey flavor came through really nicely and the apples were cooked but not mushy. I didn’t include the salted honey glaze because we thought the cake was sweet enough without it. Friends enjoyed it and, when I asked how traditional the recipe was, a couple people said their mothers/grandmothers had made similar cakes. Score for cultural integration through Kuchen!

On Friday (a public holiday in Germany – thanks, Catholics!) we had friends over for brunch: pancakes, of course. Later, I made a big pot of these chickpeas from Bon Appétit. For dinner, I turned some into a spiced chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric, NYT Cooking’s Alison Roman creation that became its own hashtag on social media. I’ve made #thestew three times now and it is so warming and delicious. It’s also quick and easy to throw together, quite forgiving, and flexible: add any greens that you happen to have; enjoy with pita, rice, or sweet potato; add yogurt and garnish, or not.

With the rest of the chickpeas I’ll make some hummus and this creamy chickpea pasta. That should get us through the start of next week!

Stay tuned for my next edition of “What’s Been Cooking” in a couple of weeks…

Vegetarian Month

After enjoying many a burger on our USA trip this summer, F suggested we eat vegetarian for a month after getting home. We didn’t eat much meat to begin with, and I rarely cook meat for myself when F isn’t around. In the past couple of years we’ve been thinking more about the ethics and environmental impact of eating meat. We thought a vegetarian month would expand our recipe repertoire and be a fun challenge. Read on to see what dinners we made…

Anita Bean stir fry with tofu

Week 1

  • A variation of this baked ziti for two
  • Salad Niçoise without tuna: lettuce, green beans, boiled eggs, random other veg
  • Three recipes from Anita Bean’s The Vegetarian Athlete’s Cookbook (a newish favorite)
    • Potatoes with spinach & chickpeas
    • Dhal with almonds, plus rice: this has entered the semi-regular dinner rotation
    • Tofu & veg stir fry (photo above)
  • Sweet potato & black bean tacos: a lazy variation of my enchiladas. Anything with sweet potatoes and black beans is okay by me!

Week 2

Kimchi soup

  • Cauliflower fettuccine Alfredo (adapted from this Serious Eats recipe): this was already in the regular rotation. It’s delicious, especially if you like cauliflower, pasta, and creamy foods.
  • Vegetarian kimchi soup with tofu (adapted from Bon Appétit): pictured above. Not the most photogenic, but still quite tasty.
  • Store-bought veggie burgers on Dunn’s brioche buns with roast potatoes
  • My soba noodle salad with peanut sauce and Quorn pieces
  • Vegetarian bolognese with Quorn mince: F made this from scratch. Didn’t miss the meat!

Week 3

Colorful salad + gruyere-melted-baguette

  • Homemade falafel with yogurt sauce, tomatoes, and pita
  • Pan-fried halloumi-portobello-zucchini “burgers” on Dunn’s brioche buns (man, those buns are good!)
  • Colorful salad with boiled eggs and gruyère-melted toast (pictured above)
  • Tofu, greens, beans, and rice bowls from The Full Helping: hearty and healthy but a bit bland, even after I doubled the spice amounts.
  • Takeaway (vegetarian) pizza from Sacro Cuore, our favorite place across the street

Week 4

Veg, beautiful veg!

  • Roast tomato and garlic pasta, à la Joy the Baker: we’ve made this a number of times before and it’s always nice.
  • Pie and mash! Vegetarian Pieminister pies, homemade mash, peas, gravy.
  • Baked sweet potatoes (1 hour in the oven, 400F/200C) with baked beans (Heinz) and peas. There was probably some grated cheese action, too.
  • A BBC Good Food lentil bolognese at Joe and Ciara’s
  • Pancakes & Pflaumenkuchen on the weekend!

Bonus Recipes (I can’t remember when we made these)

The verdict

Our vegetarian month went well and neither of us craved meat. The most difficult part, I found, was finding good veggie options while out and about: Tesco has limited vegetarian options in their lunchtime meal deals… We tried a bunch of new recipes and some will definitely become part of our regular rotation.

We like a bit of meat in our diets for the iron and protein (and taste), but ethically and environmentally it makes sense to cut down quite a bit on our meat consumption. So we’ve decided to keep eating mostly vegetarian but allow up to two dinners per week to be cooked with some kind of animal protein (chicken, fish, pork, beef, etc) that we buy from our local butcher (much happier chickens!). We can also be flexible when eating out.

What has your experience been with eating vegetarian (or not)? If you are a vegetarian, I applaud you!

What’s Been Cooking? Late Summer Edition

Gosh, the summer has flown by. Was it the same for you?

This blog has fallen a little by the wayside… I’m still here, just less frequently and with fewer of my “own” recipes, especially now that I can save all my favorites to NYT Cooking. Even though I’m posting fewer recipes doesn’t mean I’ve stopped cooking…on the contrary, our kitchen remains an exciting and comforting place amidst the stresses of daily life.

Here’s a peek into what F and I have been cooking over the past few months, in no particular order.

IMG_1421Ottolenghi’s “Chickpea Saute with Greek Yogurt” — light and bright summer flavors went beautifully over rice with a rich and creamy Greek yogurt sauce on the side. Highly recommended and very easy to throw together on a weeknight.
IMG_1163Pasta with Zucchini, Ricotta and Basil, courtesy of David Tanis at NYT Cooking. Creamy and rich yet summery, thanks to lemon zest and basil.

IMG_1407Smitten kitchen’s takeout-style sesame noodles with cucumber. Simple and delicious — I made them when F was away at a conference and managed not to get too tired of them despite having them over the course of 4 meals in two days…
IMG_1455The Woks of Life’s Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly — it took 3 hours but was totally worth it for the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the pork belly in rich, sticky sauce. So so good. We will definitely make it again on our next leisurely weekend.

Non-photographed but just as tasty dishes:

  • Melissa Clark’s Lunchbox Harvest Muffins (NYT Cooking) are moist and not dense at all, despite using only whole wheat flour. They’re packed with grated apple, carrot, and zucchini and made great afternoon snacks for F and me during the workweek.
  • We made Martha Rose Shulman’s Spicy South Indian Cauliflower for the second time. F browned some cubes of paneer cheese to add in and I made naan bread to go on the side.
  • I had always wanted to try making bircher muesli and finally did this summer. I used Nigella’s “basic bircher muesli” recipe and it turned out exactly like I’d hoped. Last week I made a double batch, which got us both through two weekday breakfasts.
  • These blueberry pancakes are SO FLUFFY, thanks to whipping the egg whites before folding them into the batter.
  • Rather have blueberry muffins? I made some of those, too: Call Me Cupcake’s blueberry lemon muffins were just right and didn’t even need the cardamom topping, in my opinion.

What have you been cooking?


A Moroccan Feast

Thank you, Easter, for providing us with a long weekend (Friday and Monday are Bank Holidays here in the UK). F and I wanted to enjoy some lamb as an ode to spring, so we invited friends to join us for a pre-Easter dinner on Friday. We could’ve done a traditional roast with the usual carrots and new potatoes, but in a fit of experimentation (and knowing we’d have the whole day to prepare — thank you again, Bank Holiday), F suggested we make Moroccan-style lamb. I suggested that we might as well go all-out and make Moroccan sides, too.

Needless to say, Googling commenced. I went straight to NYT Cooking, the New York Times‘ great hub for all the recipes they publish in their Food and other sections. I searched “Moroccan” and loads of vibrant, delicious looking dishes appeared. I was drawn to the Moroccan Cooked Carrot Salad; Spicy Orange Salad, Moroccan Style; and this couscous. Meanwhile, F found a recipe for Moroccan Lamp with Apricots, Almonds & Mint from BBC Good Food; it is a stew rather than a roast, which made it more attractive as it required less cooking time.

Here is how the meal turned out:


Perhaps it is a bit monochrome, but boy was it delicious. The stew had such depth of flavor, thanks to cinnamon, apricots, and orange, and the ground almonds gave it a deceptively “creamy” texture. The carrot salad — dressed with lemon juice, spiced with cumin and garlic, and balanced with olives — turned out beautifully. We really liked the pearl couscous laced with cumin, golden raisins, and sautéed onions. The orange salad packed a bit of heat from cayenne, although I left out the garlic, parsley, and olives, as those were already present in the carrot salad.

All in all, a great and delicious success. Will we make these recipes again? Definitely. I’m already looking forward to enjoying the leftovers for lunch.

Do you like Moroccan food? Ever cooked any of it? Post your thoughts and experiences in the comments!


Recipe: Chicken & Dumplings


Oh man is this good comfort food. On a Friday night after a long week with a cold, this was just what I was hoping for: warm, wholesome stew topped with fluffy-chewy dumplings. F gave the chicken and dumplings a “this is really good” rating and has already requested that I make the dish again, just a few weeks later.

Chicken and dumplings is (are?) actually pretty healthy for comfort food. Veggies, chicken, and stock make up the stew part, and dumplings are just delicious — I don’t really care what’s in them. I was inspired to try my hand at this dish when I remembered that one of my housemates from senior year of college would sometimes make chicken and dumplings. It didn’t seem that difficult (it’s not) and doesn’t require any out-of-the-ordinary ingredients — you probably have almost all of them in your house already.

Chicken & Dumplings (adapted from Simply Recipes; serves 4-6)


  • Chicken & Vegetables:
    • 3 chicken thighs OR boneless skinless chicken breasts
    • 3 tsp butter or olive oil, or a combination of both
    • to taste: salt & pepper
    • 4-6 cups chicken stock
    • 1/4 celery root, chopped finely OR 2-3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2″ pieces
    • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
    • 2 onions, roughly chopped
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1-2 tsp thyme (fresh or dried)
    • 1.25 cups frozen peas, thawed
    • 1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • Dumplings:
    • 2 cups all-purpose or cake flour (I used AP, but Simply Recipes says cake flour makes fluffier dumplings)
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
    • 3/4 – 1 cup milk
    • optional: 1/4 cup minced fresh chives


  • In a medium pot, heat the chicken stock to a gentle simmer.
  • In a large pot, heat the butter/olive oil over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle it with some salt, then brown the chicken pieces in the pot on both sides (start them skin-down, if using thighs). Remove the chicken from the pot and turn the heat off.
  • Get rid of the chicken skins and pop the chicken into the simmering stock. Cook for ~20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. When it is ready, take the chicken out of the stock and set aside until cool enough to shred into pieces.
  • Moving back to the large pot, turn the heat on to medium-high. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and thyme. Sauté the vegetables until they’re soft, 4-5 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock by ladleful to the flour-vegetable mixture, stirring well after each addition. The broth should eventually come together nicely. Add the chicken meat, peas, and parsley to the pot. Turn up the heat and let simmer while you make the dumplings.
  • While the stew simmers, make dumplings: whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the chopped herbs, if using. Pour in the melted butter and milk, then mix with a wooden spoon until everything just comes together (don’t over-mix).
  • Drop large spoonfuls of dumpling dough into the stew (they’ll float on top). Cover the pot and simmer until the dumplings are cooked through, ~15 minutes (do not uncover the pot during this time!).


Recipe: Classic Buttermilk Biscuits

Sunday evening, after a brisk but sunny afternoon at the ZSL London Zoo in Regent’s Park, F and his visiting friend S made a delicious British beef, leek, and mushroom stew. Naturally, I offered to make biscuits, since stew practically begs for some kind of carb to dredge through the broth.


I thought about making these biscuits (but not these, which are best enjoyed on their own) — which have been delicious every time — but we had a lot of buttermilk in the fridge so I opted for a classic buttermilk biscuit, courtesy of smitten kitchen. The fluffy, buttery biscuits were the perfect complement to the hot, brothy stew. They’d be great alongside my mom’s beef stew, too. Don’t discount day-old biscuits, either — spread a bit of soft cheese onto one for a nice afternoon snack.


In my mind, buttermilk biscuits are supposed to be savory, so I used a minimal amount of sugar in these. Feel free to add more if you like sweeter biscuits. These would also be great with some minced chives or scallions mixed into the dough.

Classic Buttermilk Biscuits (adapted from smitten kitchen; makes 6 medium-large biscuits)


  • 280g (2.25 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 15g (1 tbsp) baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 5 g (3/4 tsp) salt
  • 125g (9 tbsp) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk


  • Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients (through salt).
  • Add the chunks of butter and use your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  • Stir in the buttermilk until a shaggy dough forms. Use your hands to finish forming the dough.
  • Tear off chunks of dough and gently form them into rounded patties, then place them on the baking sheet.
  • Bake the biscuits for 12-15 minutes or until they are golden brown. Serve warm with your favorite stew.


Recipe: Vegetarian Chili

This is F’s chili recipe. Though I find that chili hardly needs a recipe — there are so many variations of it that it’s really up to you to personalize it. So think of the following recipe as a base to riff on. Aside from the fresh peppers — a bit pricey in the wintertime — this is an extremely frugal dish, mostly consisting of canned beans and tomato products. It comes together quickly, though the longer it simmers the better it’ll taste. (Note: if you’re using any dried beans, soak and cook them before adding them to the chili. We didn’t pre-cook the black beans so they were still a bit crunchy when we ate.) Serve the chili with cornbread or over rice, and top it with whatever you like. We prefer gherkins, sour cream, cheese, and avocado.



Again, the following recipe and its ingredient ratios are just what we happened to use this time. (We were going to add sweet potatoes but didn’t have any.) Next time it’ll probably be totally different. We made a monstrous amount so we can freeze some to enjoy at a later date. Happy experimenting!

Vegetarian Chili


  • 2-3 medium onions, diced
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 fresh peppers, diced
  • 2 cans cannelloni beans
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 2 cans sweet corn
  • 2 small cans tomato paste/puree
  • 2 cans diced/chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
  • spices to taste: cumin, allspice, chili powder, cinnamon
  • optional: 1 sweet potato, cubed small


  • Cook the onions and garlic in oil on med-high heat until they become slightly brown and translucent. Add the peppers and sauté for a few more minutes, until the peppers start to become soft.
  • Pour in all the canned stuff and the spices. Add enough water so that everything is covered. Throw in the sweet potato cubes, if using. Bring to a boil and let simmer with the lid on or cracked, for 45-60′ or until the beans taste cooked.
  • Serve over rice or alongside cornbread and topped with your preferred combination of gherkins, cheese, sour cream, and/or avocado.


Recipe: Beef Stew

I grew up enjoying my mom’s delicious beef stew almost every winter — my dad always made buttermilk biscuits to go with it. It’s the ultimate winter dish, full of richness, warmth and comfort. F added beef to a soup we ate the other week, and it made me think of my mom’s beef stew. So I asked her for the recipe, which she said originally comes from the old Betty Crocker cookbook that my parents have. She and my dad have doctored the stew recipe over the years to achieve ultimate deliciousness. F and I further developed it; we had to add more liquid (and chose to do so with more wine rather than water) and we tossed in a few extra root vegetables. It turned out so well and so rich that I could not finish what was in my bowl. I made these biscuits (with chives instead of scallions and with buttermilk instead of regular milk) to soak up the juices. Second- and third-day stew almost tasted better than it was the first night.

colorful spices + plenty of red wine go into the stew

colorful spices + plenty of red wine

Note: this stew takes quite some time to cook — start the process 3-4 hours before you plan on eating (you’ll have plenty of down time while it’s simmering).

This is one of the best dishes ever.

Beef Stew 


  • 2 lbs (~1 kg) stew beef, cut into small cubes
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • to taste: ground black pepper
  • 3 whole cloves or dash of allspice
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 small cans of tomato paste/puree
  • 3/4 bottle red wine
  • 6 carrots, cubed
  • 4 potatoes, cubed
  • 10-15 shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 3 turnips, cubed
  • 1 parsnip, cubed


  • Brown the stew beef in a large pot. Add the spices and liquids (through red wine, above). Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 1.5 hours.
  • Add the chopped the root vegetables and peeled shallots. Cover and cook for another 30-45 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through.
  • Serve with a warm buttermilk biscuit.


words can't describe the deliciousness

words can’t describe the deliciousness

Recipe: Mesir Wat Lentil Stew with Zesty Yogurt

We were running low on fresh vegetables mid-week, so I took a peek in the cupboards to discover a big bag of red lentils. I had come across this Ethiopian recipe a few days before, so F and I, both lentil-lovers, decided to make it together. We enhanced the original recipe by adding a couple of carrots and we used a raw tomato rather than tomato paste. It cooks quite quickly and turned out to be tasty, healthy and filling; we served it over rice but it would be equally as good with some kind of soft naan-like bread. Upon first taste, my mouth was overwhelmed by the smoked paprika, but the zesty yogurt cut the taste and overall the dish grew on me as I continued to eat. We would definitely make this again but would probably alter the spice combination a bit, perhaps adding some cumin and toning down the paprika.

Mesir Wat Lentil Stew with Zesty Yogurt Sauce (adapted from this recipe)


  • Stew:
    • 2 cups red lentils
    • 2 sm-med onions, diced
    • 3 tbsp butter
    • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
    • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tbsp smoked paprika (I’d cut this down to a half tbsp next time)
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1-2 tsp garam masala
    • 1 medium tomato, diced
    • 2 carrots, sliced
    • to taste: salt & pepper
  • Zesty Yogurt:
    • 1 cup Greek yogurt
    • zest from 1 lemon
    • to taste: salt & pepper
carrots and spices brighten things up

carrots and spices brighten things up


  • Saute onions in butter in a big pot until they begin to get soft and brown. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Add the spices, salt and pepper. Mix together, then add the carrots and tomatoes, stirring for a few minutes.
  • Add the lentils and 6 cups of water. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 min. (During this step, whip up the zesty yogurt and let it sit in the fridge until you are ready to eat.)
  • Uncover the pot, stir, and cook without a lid for 10-15 more minutes, or until the liquid has mostly evaporated.
  • Serve over rice with a dollop of zesty yogurt on top.



Recipe: Groundnut Stew

Peanuts & peanut butter really enhance this stew's body and flavor

What are groundnuts, you may ask? Why, peanuts! This easy, hearty East African stew can be made with or without meat and provides a fiber punch and delicious, peanuty taste. I made it last winter with chicken but today didn’t have any meat so just added more veggies and it turned out quite well.

Groundnut Soup


  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced OR 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2-3 carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 2-3 potatoes, diced
  • 2 lbs stew beef OR chicken OR other protein choice (or none!)
  • to taste: red pepper flakes & salt
  • 2-2.5 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup natural, unsweetened peanut butter PLUS 1/4 cup roughly crushed peanuts
  • optional: 1-2 red peppers, diced
  • optional flavor changers: 1 tbsp curry powder OR 1 tbsp soy sauce


  • NOTE: cooking times will be much shorter without meat, and chicken will cook faster than beef.
  •  Place onions, tomatoes, veggies, and meat in a Dutch oven. Sprinkle with salt (optional) and red pepper flakes.
  • Heat over high and stir until meat loses color. Turn heat to low, cover pot, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add boiling water, cover, and continue simmering 45-75 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Place peanut butter and peanuts in a small, heatproof dish. Ladle 1/2 cup liquid out of the pot and mix into PB to soften. Add mixture to stew and blend it in well.
  • Cover and simmer for 30 minutes more or until meat is very tender.
  • Serve over rice, fufu, or ugali.