Xmas Lunch at the Conservatorium Hotel

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I can’t believe how fast this year has passed by. With Christmas just around the corner, lots of restaurants already have their holiday menus planned. A great alternative if you want to skip on the cooking. As much as I enjoy the whole cooking process, sometimes it’s nice to let others do it and just enjoy the meal and the company.

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Today I had a Xmas lunch at the Conservatorium Hotel. Our table was beautifully decorated and with live singing, it was impossible not to get into the holiday spirit. We started with the Hamachi sashimi with caviar, beef tartar with nashi pear, Alaskan king crab with avocado & blood orange, and a wild carrot tartar with ash & chardonnay vinaigrette. This was all to share. The first two were my favorite. I love a good steak tartare and the combination with pear was just delicious. And the Hamachi, well I ended up eating a bit of my neighbor’s as well.

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Then we had a cappuccino of roasted celeriac with white truffle. The soup was very airy and full of flavor with a surprise of citrusy mushrooms in the bottom. For a more traditional touch, the main course was composed of very tender and juicy beef Wellington with structures of mushrooms, Bordelaise sauce, mashed potatoes, poached pears and chestnuts in salted caramel sauce.

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fullsizerender-2And since there is no ending without something sweet, we had the winter wonderland dessert and some gingerbread men. I really enjoy Schilo Van Coevorden’s cooking. I’ve been coming here since early this year and it never disappoints.

The Conservatorium Hotel

Van Baerlestraat 27 , Amsterdam

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Burrata with Balsamic & Honey Glazed Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Seeds

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When it comes to entertaining friends or family, my preference goes into making simple dishes so that I can also enjoy their company, instead of being fully occupied in the kitchen. This is a super easy appetizer that you can make in advance and just garnish before serving. I sliced the butternut into very small cubes and then glazed it in a pan with balsamic vinegar and honey. It goes so well with the creamy burrata and the slight tartness of the pomegranate seeds. This is a perfect use for burrata this fall/winter.

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This recipe is for one burrata, but you can always double or triple it if you are feeding a large crowd.

Ingredients:

For the glazed butternut squash:

2 cups of finely cubed butternut squash

1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil

Pinch of salt

Pinch of cayenne

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons of honey

Extras:

1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds

1 baguette, sliced and toasted with olive oil

Chili flakes

Garden cress

A drizzle of olive oil

 

To make the glazed butternut squash, place the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the diced butternut squash, salt and cayenne. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring from time to time. Then add the balsamic vinegar and cook for an extra 3 minutes until it has reduced, don’t forget to stir. Finally add the honey and cook for an extra 2 minutes. Taste it and adjust the salt and cayenne to your liking. Transfer it to a bowl and allow it to cool down a bit.

In the meanwhile, toast the bread with some olive oil.

To serve, place about ¾ of the butternut squash on a plate. Place the burrata on top. Add the remaining butternut squash on top of the burrata. Finish with a sprinkle of chili flakes, garden cress and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with the toasted bread. Enjoy!

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Hendrick’s Glühwein

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Christmas markets are now everywhere around the city and they usually have at least one stand selling mulled wine. The lovely smell of spices always draws me in, but I prefer to make it at home since it’s so easy to make and you can adjust it to your liking. This time I added a shot of gin per serving to kick it up a notch. A good way to keep warm if you ask me.

This recipe makes 5 servings.

Ingredients:

75cl of red wine

2 cups of apple-elderberry juice

2 star anise

3 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

1 orange, thinly sliced

1/3 cup of sugar

Juice of 1 mandarin

Juice of ½ a grapefruit

5 shots of Hendrick’s Gin

Extras for serving:

Cinnamon sticks

Star anise

Candied orange slices

 

Place all of the ingredients except for the gin in a medium saucepan. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Then divide it among 5 glasses and pour a shot of gin into each one. You can decorate each glass with a cinnamon stick, a star anise and a candied orange slice.

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Saffron & Cranberry Star Bread

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I wanted to try to make a star bread for a while. I just love the shape and it is perfect for the holidays. Based on the Swedish saffron buns, I thought of making a saffron star bread. And to add more color and flavor, I added a homemade cranberry jam.

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This recipe makes 1 star bread.

Ingredients:

For the dough:

3 ½ cups of All-purpose flour

7gr dry yeast

½ cup of warm water

½ cup of milk

0.2 grams of saffron

1 teaspoon of salt

4 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup of sugar

1 egg

For the cranberry jam:

1 cup of cranberries

1 cup of water

1/3 of a cup of sugar

For the egg wash:

1 egg

1 tablespoon of cream

 

Start by making the cranberry jam. Place the cranberries, water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Let it cook for about 12 minutes, the cranberries will burst and it will thicken. Then blend it until smooth. Transfer it to a bowl and set it aside to cool down.

To make the dough, place the milk and saffron in a small saucepan over medium heat. Let it come to a simmer and then turn off the heat. Let it steep for 5 minutes. Then blend it to break the saffron threads. Set it aside.

Place the yeast and the warm water in the bowl of the stand mixer. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

Place the flour, salt, egg, cooled melted butter, sugar and the saffron milk into the bowl with the yeast.

Knead on low speed for 5 minutes, using the dough hook attachment.  You can also knead it by hand.

Then remove the dough from the bowl. Clean the bowl and then grease it with a bit of vegetable oil. Form the dough into a ball and place it back into the greased bowl. Cover with plastic film and let it rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Once the dough has risen, place it on your floured working area and divide it into 4 equal pieces.

Roll out one piece big enough to cut a circle of about 24cm. Just use a large plate or cake pan to cut the dough into a large circle. Place the circle on a piece of parchment paper. Then repeat for the remaining dough. Once all the dough is ready, place one circle on top of a sheet of parchment paper. This will make it easier to transfer to a baking sheet once the star is assembled.

Spread some of the cranberry jam all over it. Be careful to not add too much because it won’t stick and it will just get very messy.

Place one circle on top of the one with the jam. Repeat until you have no more circles left.

Place a glass in the middle of the circle. Using a knife cut the dough into 16 pieces starting from the rim of the glass. To try to make them as even as possible, I first cut it into 4, then into 8 and finally into 16.

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Then grab 2 slices and twist them twice. Repeat for all of the 16 slices.

Finally grab two of the twisted slices and press them together to seal them. Let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Then brush it with the egg wash.

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Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Bake the star bread for 20 minutes or until golden. Enjoy!

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Apricot, Date & Walnut Spiced Bread

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This spiced loaf is great to eat on its own but it also works well paired with some blue cheese. The sweetness of the loaf complements very well the strong cheese. We ate it with some Bleu d’Auvergne and fig jam on Saturday as part of our dinner. The apple sauce really keeps this loaf moist and it’s easy to pack, so it makes a nice edible gift as well.

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This recipe is for a medium size loaf pan.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour

½ cup of sugar

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder

½ teaspoon of grated nutmeg

1 cup of apple sauce

½ cup of sour cream

10grs of melted butter

Pinch of salt

100grs of chopped walnuts

1 cup of chopped dried apricots

1 cup of chopped dates

Zest of 1 orange

 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a medium loaf pan with parchment paper. This just makes it easier to remove the loaf afterwards.

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the batter into the mold. Tap to get rid of any air bubbles.

Bake for about 40-50 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Chocolate, Oatmeal & Cranberry Sandwich Cookies with Vanilla Bean Frosting

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These cookie sandwiches are soft and chewy. They make a perfect edible gift for the holidays.

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This recipe makes about 23 small sandwich cookies.

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

1 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour

¼ cup of cocoa powder

1 cup of instant oats

1 cup of brown sugar

113grs of softened butter

1 egg

½ teaspoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of baking soda

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

1/3 cup of chopped dried cranberries

1 tablespoon of milk

For the vanilla bean frosting:

4 tablespoons of skyr or Greek yogurt

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped off

3 cups of powdered sugar

 

To make the cookies, preheat your oven to 180C/350F and line an oven sheet with parchment paper.

Cream the butter with the sugar. Then add the egg and vanilla extract. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder. Finally add the milk, oats and cranberries.

Grab about 1 teaspoon of the dough and roll it into a ball using your hands. Place it on the prepared baking sheet and repeat for the rest of the dough. Bake them for about 10 minutes. Allow them to cool down for a couple of minutes in the baking sheet, and then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Once all the cookies are cold, start making the frosting. Whisk the skyr with the vanilla bean seeds and then gradually add the powdered sugar.

Place about one teaspoon of the frosting on the flat side of one cookie, top with the flat side of another cookie, and press to spread the filling. Repeat for all. Keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Purple Carrot & Golden Beet Tart with Tahini & Sumac

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I made this tart today for dinner and it hardly lasted till dinner. Since I cook everything early to be able to photograph it during daylight, it was hard to stop eating it. I love the sweetness of the carrots and beets combined with the citrusy sumac and creamy tahini. It’s a very easy tart to make for this holiday season.

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This recipe is enough for a 40x24cm tart.

Ingredients:

1 sheet of puff pastry (40x24cms)

4 medium purple carrots, thinly sliced lengthwise with a mandolin

1 very large golden beet, thinly sliced with a mandoline

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

For the tahini-sumac sauce:

¼ cup of tahini

1 tablespoon of sumac

Juice of ½ a lemon

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of honey

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

Pinch of garlic powder

Pinch of onion powder

Chili flakes to taste

Pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

For the toppings:

80grs of feta, crumbled

¼ cup of chopped chives, dressed in a bit of olive oil, white vinegar, salt and pepper

¼ cup of toasted pine nuts

2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds

Extra:

Egg wash

 

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.

Cook the thinly sliced carrots and beets in a large pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I cooked them separately for about 5 minutes until tender but still firm, stirring often.

To make the tahini-sumac sauce, just mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.

Place the puff pastry on an oven sheet lined with parchment paper. Fold the edges, making a 1cm border and pinch to seal them. Using a fork, pinch the dough all over, except for the borders.

Spread the tahini-sumac sauce evenly over the pastry. Arrange the cooked carrot and beet slices all over the pastry. Make sure to spread them evenly, so there is a good ratio of carrot/beet on each slice later on.

Brush the edges of the puff pastry with the egg wash. Bake it for 35 minutes, till golden.

To serve, spread the crumble feta all over. Do the same for the toasted pine nuts, pomegranate and the dressed chives. Enjoy!

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Onion Jam Wreaths

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I’ve wanted to make savory bread again and yesterday I made these wreaths. Thinking onion soup meets rolls in a way. The bread is very soft and the sweetness of the onions really comes through in the jam. These make a great appetizer or side dish to a soup.

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This recipe makes 2 medium wreaths.

Ingredients:

For the dough:

3 ½ cups of all-purpose flour

7grs of dry yeast

½ cup of warm water

½ cup of milk

6 sprigs of thyme, leaves only

1 teaspoon of salt

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 egg

1 tablespoon of sugar

¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese

For the onion jam:

4 tablespoons of olive oil

8 medium white onions, thinly sliced

Salt

Pepper

1/3 cup of white wine

¼ cup of balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon of sugar

4 sprigs of thyme, leaves only

Extra:

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)

 

Place the yeast and the warm water in the bowl of the stand mixer. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

After the 5 minutes are up, add the remaining ingredients for the dough. Knead on low speed for 5 minutes, using the dough hook attachment. You can also knead it by hand.

Then remove the dough from the bowl. Clean the bowl and grease it with a bit of vegetable oil.  Form the dough into a ball and place it back into the greased bowl. Cover with plastic film and let it rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

While the dough is rising, start making the onion jam. Place the olive oil and sliced onions in a large pan over medium heat. Add some salt and pepper and cook for about 14 minutes. Stir from time to time until the onions have caramelized. Then add the white wine, balsamic vinegar, sugar and thyme. Let it cook while stirring until all of the liquid has evaporated. Taste for salt and pepper. Blend it until smooth. Set it aside to cool down.

Once the dough has risen, place it on a floured working area and divide it into 2 equal pieces.

Roll one piece into a large rectangle of about 35x24cm. Spread some of the onion jam all over the dough. Roll it lengthwise like a tight crepe. Cut the crepe in half trying to make a clean cut, except on one end. Then start twisting the 2 pieces, make sure the opened side showing the onion jam is facing up. Pinch the ends to seal them. Finally form a circle with it, tuck the ends underneath and give it a pinch to seal them. Repeat for the other piece of dough.

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Place each wreath on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Grease with some vegetable oil two large pieces of plastic wrap. Cover the wreaths with them, greased side touching them (this will prevent them from sticking to the plastic). Let the wreaths rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

About 10 minutes before the wreaths are done rising, preheat your oven to 180C/350F.

Once the hour is up, brush each wreath with the egg wash. If you want, you can sprinkle them with some sea salt. Bake them for 18 minutes or till golden. Enjoy!

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Quince, Pear & Ginger Pie

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I made this pie last week; it was quite relaxing to just spend time making all the small and tiny leaves for the top crust. I made the filling by poaching quince, pear & ginger, and then adding ginger syrup & ginger jam.

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This recipe is enough for one 23cm pie and 2 mini pies.

Ingredients:

For the pie crust:

3 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon of salt

340gr of cold butter, chopped into pieces (I used salted butter, but you can use unsalted butter)

10 tablespoons of cold water

For the filling:

For poaching:

700gr of quince (peeled, cored and chopped into big pieces)

700gr of pears like Bosc (peeled, cored and chopped into big pieces)

1 piece of ginger, peeled and chopped (total of about 3 tablespoons)

½ cup of sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

Rest of the filling:

2 tablespoons of ginger syrup

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of ginger jam

Juice of 1 lemon

1 ½ teaspoon of cornstarch

To finish the pie:

Egg wash

Granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the pie crust

 

Start by making the pie crust, you can make it in the food processor, or in the stand mixer. I used my stand mixer fitted with the flat beater. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer. Add the cold butter pieces, mix it with a spatula. Then mix on low speed for about 2 minutes. Then add the cold water. Mix on low speed for a couple of minutes until you have an even dough.

Divide the dough into 3 parts, one part a bit larger than the other 2. Pat them down with your hands, forming a circle with each piece. Keep the larger piece on a floured working area. Wrap the 2 remaining pieces with plastic wrap and place them in the freezer for 1 hour.

Roll out the piece of dough that you left on your working area. Dust with enough flour so it doesn’t stick. Roll it big enough to cover the bottom of the large pie mold. Place the dough on the bottom of the pie mold, press with your fingers so the sides stick and trim the edges. Repeat for the mini pie molds, if you make them. Refrigerate them until the time for the other pieces of the dough that you placed in the freezer is up.

In the meanwhile, start making the filling. Poach the quince, pears and ginger with the sugar and cinnamon sticks until tender. About 20 to 30 minutes.

Then discard the ginger and cinnamon sticks. Chop the quince and ginger into smaller pieces, I prefer them very small, especially since I also made mini pies.

Place the chopped quince and pear in a large bowl; add the ginger syrup, ginger jam, lemon zest, lemon juice and cornstarch. Mix well and set it aside.

Once the hour is up for the dough in the freezer, take the pie molds out of the fridge. Spoon the filling into the pie crusts.

Remove the dough from the freezer and start by rolling one out on your floured working area. This is where you can be creative and make any design that you want. You have enough dough to play around. I really wanted to make leaves. Since I didn’t have any leaf shaped cookie cutters, I just used a paring knife to make them. For 1 mini pie, I made a tree design by making the tree trunk first and then adding small leaves to the branches.

Once you are done decorating your pies, place them in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180/350F.

Once the 20 minutes are up, remove the pies from the fridge. Brush the dough with some of the egg wash and sprinkle some granulated sugar. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the dough is golden. For the mini pies, it took from 35 to 45 minutes.

I like to eat this pie warm with some vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

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Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies with Matcha-White Chocolate

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Cookie season is coming soon and these chocolate thumbprint cookies make perfect edible gifts or you can just eat them yourself of course. I made the filling with just white chocolate and matcha. But if you would like a softer filling, you can make it into a ganache by adding about 75ml of cream when you are melting the chocolate over a water bath.  These cookies are quite fudgy and I find them nicer if they are not too big, so try to use not more than 1 tablespoon of cookie dough per cookie.

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You can use the leftover matcha-white chocolate to make hot chocolate milk.

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This recipe makes about 15 cookies.

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

1 cup of self-rising flour

113grs of butter at room temperature

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

1 egg yolk

½ cup of powdered sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

1 tablespoon of milk

For the matcha filling:

225gr of white chocolate, chopped

1 ½ tablespoons of sifted matcha

Extra:

50grs of dark chocolate, melted

 

Preheat the oven to 180/350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter, sugar, vanilla and the egg yolk. Then add the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Mix until combined. Finally add the milk and mix only until combined.

Make small balls with about 1 tablespoon of the cookie dough and place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving some space in between. With your thumb press a bit with your fingers to flatten them. Using the handle of a wooden spoon; press gently in the middle of each cookie to create an indentation.

Bake them for 10 minutes. As soon as they come out of the oven, press each cookie again with the handle of the wooden spoon as the indentations lose definition while baking. Allow them cool completely.

Once the cookies have cooled down, start making the filling. Melt the white chocolate over a water bath. Once it has completely melted, slowly start adding and mixing in the sifted matcha.

Place the matcha-white chocolate in a piping bag or zip lock bag. Pipe it into the center of each cookie. Allow the chocolate to harden. You can place the cookies in the fridge to speed up the process.

Once the chocolate has hardened, decorate each cookie by drizzling melted dark chocolate over each one. Once the dark chocolate has hardened, keep them in an airtight container.

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