We are friends, right? I mean we talk on a daily basis, I missed you all when we didn’t have access to internet, we share the good, the bad, the ugly and the tasty. Yes, we are friends and I feel that we are now so close, I could not keep this secret to myself any longer.
This is important – I am about to reveal the best recipe in the universe. My go to meal, the one you are 100% guaranteed to be served when you come to our house for dinner. It is that good. And once again, I have to thank Heidi for introducing me to this wonderful delicious meal. I make a little bow, rotate, let’s get started:
Otsu (aka Best Soba Recipe Ever)
Preparation time: excluding the dancing part I’d say 20 minutes perhaps?
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Juice from 1 lemon
2 cm cube fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (less if you don’t like spicy food)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar (can substitute balsamic vinegar)
1/3 cup shoyu sauce (or regular soya sauce)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil (you basically need 4 tablespoons oil so use olive oil if you don’t have sesame)
250 g soba noodles
100 g tofu (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
toasted sesame seeds to garnish (optional)
Supposed to serve 4 to 6 but Bugi and I finish this on our own…
I had never heard of soba noodles until I saw them in Whole Foods in London and just couldn’t resist buying a few packs (I am known for hoarding Japanese ingredients:) Soba is apparently Japanese for buckwheat. Soba contain all essential amino acids including lysine (not present in wheat pasta) making them as close as possible to protein (excluding meat obviously!) Protein means soba fills you up which is why soba noodles are a popular fast food dish in Japan. Unlike traditional pasta, soba noodles can be enjoyed both hot and cold. I know what you must be thinking – cold noodles? Yes, cold soba is absolutely fantastic. So, if you don’t have soba lying around in your pantry (like most people) run to your nearest health food store or a place where they are likely to sell Japanese ingredients and stock up. I guarantee you that you will love this dish so much you will want to cook it again!
Let’s get started, shall we?
1. Prepare the tofu using Emily’s wonderful tutorial. I use this method every time!
2. Before doing anything else put a large pot of water on the stove so it can be hot and ready for the soba noodles. Trust me, the rest of the recipe is very quick so you will want to get a head start on the noodles.
3. Prepare the dressing by putting the lemon juice, ginger, honey, cayenne, salt, rice vinegar, shoyu (or soya) sauce and the oil in a bowl.
Check the recipe again to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
This is how the dressing looks when all the ingredients are combined.
Whip out your hand blender or food processor and in less than a minute the dressing will look like this:
4. Now slice the green onions, the coriander and the cucumber. Place in a LARGE mixing bowl.
If you accidentally forgot to cover the pot with water and it is still not boiling, well then use the time wisely, dance a little:
Shake it! It’s important for the recipe, I swear!
And while you are dancing pay attention to your own personal paparazzo just in case he is having a little too much fun with your fruit bowl. Where did that come from?
Or “You dance so well honey but can we eat now?” face…
5. Cook the soba noodles according to instructions (boil for around 8 minutes stirring occasionally). Then rinse with cold water until the soba is cold. Drain all excess water and add the soba to the mixing bowl.
6. Add the dressing, the tofu and the sesame seeds (if using) and combine well.
If you’d rather skip steps 1 to 6 come on over and we’ll cook Otsu together!
Take time, focus, find your way to express yourself.
A human can never be happy with just existing, going through the motions. We need art in our life, we need beauty and a way to express ourselves. Without self expression there is no happiness.
This is why modern life can be so daunting at times. Waking up early, going to work, then dinner and TV and then back to bed is a comfortable routine – one which I practised for a very long time. I somehow thought that this is what adult life should look and feel like and since most people around me seemed happy with this routine I found comfort in conforming – in being like everyone else.
Mind you, with time and as I got to know other adults it became obvious to me that none of the people around me actually lived the life that I had imagined for them. Yes, they all watched TV and went to work but all of them had a passion in their life, something that defined them and allowed them to express their personality, something that is completely outside of the routine. For some it is reading philosophy and arguing about the meaning of life until sunrise. For others it was drawing or photography or running. Yet for others it was burlesque dancing in the evening, a suit and heels in the office during the day.
This is why I find people fascinating. We all instinctively know what helps us to make sense of this existence, what brings us joy and meaning. We pursue that passion in the quest for self expression. And self expression is so much more than giving a voice to our true feelings. Self expression is about understanding our feelings and processing emotions.
So I sit down every evening and write and write and write. I feel more alive than ever, more in touch with my true self than I have been for years. And I like using writing to express my true emotions and to understand them. I like this process so much that I have started exploring other forms of art. I am dabbling in photography, I am in search of the right painting materials. I have a drive to create, to paint the world around me in me.
Expressing myself leads to understanding who I really am.
The journey is beautiful – the destination unknown.
Oh, I am so excited that I get to blog regularly once again – I really really missed it!
So to celebrate I have the quickest and best recipe for these cold winter months!
Simple Pea Soup
Preparation Time: 1 minute (or however long it takes you to peel and cut one onion in half)
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
(Please disregard the internet boxes in the background but yay! we have internet:)
500g frozen fresh peas
1 vegetable stock cube
3 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel and cut the onion.
2. Melt the butter in a pot and saute the onion in a pot for a couple minutes until soft. Note: I usually skip this step which is why I only cut the onion in half and didn’t even bother cutting it thinly. Trust me, you won’t feel the difference and if you can get away with frying (sauteing) less why not?
3. Add the frozen peas, the vegetable stock cube and the water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Take out the hand food processor and blend until smooth (about 2 minutes?)
I am so excited about the fact that we can have a hot meal on a week night in under 30 minutes, most of which is spent doing whatever needs to be done while the soup simmers!
Plus, the soup does NOT resemble KFC chicken which in my book is a win:)
I am back! After 3 long weeks we finally have internet at home. In fact, sitting down in front of my computer and finding the good old blog on the internet was so thrilling! I have a lot of posts that I wrote over the past weeks but uploading takes time so this is officially a weekend task – expect a lot of blog posts in the next couple of days:)
While we did enjoy the quiet….we missed being connected to the real world, John Stuart and I am now completely behind on the Vampire Diaries season!
A few other things that have been happening while we were MIA:
1. Still no ceiling lamps but at least my candle collection is getting a lot of love lately:)
2. Given the lack of TV and internet, I’ve been reading a lot lately and I now seem unable to go to sleep without reading at least a chapter or two! So much more relaxing than watching vampires kill people….though I really missed my vampires:(
3. My photos are becoming better every day. Or at least I think so:)
Mmmmm…I love me some Kalamata olives!
4. We are still looking for a car. We sold our beloved lamborghini/Fiat Punto when we left Britain because we didn’t want to drive on the right side of the road with the wheel on the wrong side of the car:) Our research is intensive but we think we found a winner:
I seriously think we will be able to park this one in our storage room so we will be saving loads on parking costs:)
5. The other day for the first and hopefully last time in my life I was on a bus with a man in an army uniform with a huge gun hanging on his shoulder. None of the other passengers seemed to think that that was a bit odd or scary. I on the other hand was absolutely terrified! I mean, the man was standing up and swaying from side to side with the turns in the road, his gun swaying unrestricted as well. I think if you have to carry your gun with you then perhaps you can at least take the train, or a car or a taxi. Or at the very very least find a seat on the bus!
6. On my trip to London last week I found this beautiful Hermes bracelet. It has a solid H on it which is the same as the letter N (for Natalcho) in Bulgarian so I absolutely love it!
In case you are wondering I don’t usually pick up random things from the street but as soon as I saw that this was an Hermes bracelet I immediately picked it up and put it on….I think I did look around a couple of times just to check if someone wasn’t looking for it but I can’t be sure. This is Hermes after all, I couldn’t think straight…I knew it was expensive because let’s face it – everything Hermes is expensive. But until a colleague at work saw it on my hand and asked “You bought an Hermes bracelet???” I didn’t have a clue just how expensive it was! I of course googled it immediately and it turns out it costs $600! What the heck?
So this bracelet is officially the most expensive jewellery I own (and by a very very large margin!) and even though I found it on the street and paid nothing for it I am now terrified that I might lose it! So silly!
It is a strange feeling getting something like this for free especially because I would never ever pay that much money for a bracelet. Maybe for earrings? Just kidding obviously! But still, it freaked me out a little bit finding something like this. I feel lucky but I keep looking over my shoulder in case I lose something that I actually bought. I just figure that kind of luck has to be balanced somehow. So I plan to wear it until I lose it because I am convinced it will leave me just as unexpectedly as it came into my life:)
Have you guys ever found something that expensive?
Time for a recipe. I cooked this during the week and had lunch twice at work with the leftovers. This dish really keeps very well in the fridge which is a very important quality for me these days!
The star of the dish is quinoa. I love quinoa, I eat it all the time and I keep at least 3 kg of it at all times in my pantry – just in case, you know. Quinoa has two very important qualities which make it a star – it is basically a complete protein and it cooks very quickly, unlike other grains. I am always on the lookout for good quinoa recipes and when I saw this one in Heidi’s cookbook I had to give it a try. I have a few very very favourite recipes from this book so when Heidi says this is a good way to cook quinoa, I listen and cook.
Quinoa and Brie (Or Any Other Soft Cheese)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
(Clearly I could learn a thing or two about serving food in a more presentable way:)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups quinoa
1 cup dry white wine (I substituted with water because I didn’t have any wine)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (reduce or increase to taste)
a pinch of salt
500 g mushrooms
100 g brie (or any other soft cheese)
1. Start by rinsing the quinoa. This is very important because quinoa has a protective bitter coating that needs to be rinsed – otherwise your meal will be ruined. It is no big deal – just put the quinoa in a strainer and place it under running water for a minute or so. While we are on this topic may I just say how much I missed my strainer while I was in the temporary apartment? Do you know how freaking hard it is to rinse these little grains using only your hands and a cup???
2. Saute the garlic and the onion until soft in 3 tablespoons olive oil (I always skip this step) and add the salt, wine (if using), the water and the quinoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer covered for about 20-25 minutes. You will know when the quinoa is ready by the tiny tail each grain sprouts.
Can you see the lighter tails?
3. While the quinoa is cooking heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a separate large pan. Wash and cut the mushrooms. Add the chilli flakes, the salt and the mushrooms to the oil and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. When the mushrooms have softened up remove from the heat and set aside.
I must say – these were so good that they would make an excellent and quick side dish to many other main meals. But then again, in this house we proclaim anything cooked with chilli flakes to be the best thing since the new season of Dexter!
4. Once the quinoa is ready stir in the cheese.
I was actually a bit confused by this instruction because even though brie is a soft cheese it doesn’t actually lend itself to being stirred in anything. But as soon as I added it to the hot quinoa it melted and really blended in.
5. Serve the quinoa in a plate and cover with a generous helping of the mushrooms.
6. Keep the leftovers in the fridge for a quick and easy lunch at work (this meal is very good eaten cold as well).