Erratic engineeress

A personal blog fuelled by caffeine and curiosity.

Sometimes I cook pt.1

Some random food ideas for cooking inspiration.

I love to cook whenever I have time and I’ve found that I actually have (or make) time to do it quite often. Over the years I’ve managed to figure out how to do it as efficiently as possible, which allows me to improvise with my food and find motivation to cook even when I’m feeling tired or sick.

Eating well is one of the best ways to brighten up a bad day and in my opinion food is always worth spending money on, which is also my motto when I travel. So, here are some of the dishes I’ve made recently for your cooking inspiration – I never cook by recipes because I learned to cook by feel from my mother, but I do like to remember random food ideas I see online or somewhere else. Most of these are therefore an improvised mix of whatever struck my fancy at the time.

#1: Melted camembert with garlic

Of course we’re going to start with cheese! This is a favourite of mine that I once saw on a cooking show and it’s really simple to make. All you need to do is get a wheel of Camembert (or Brie) and a whole head of garlic and put it in the oven at 180°C for at least 30 min. The cheese will melt inside its crust and the garlic cloves will cook inside the shells, so you can just dip the bread into melted cheese and squeeze the soft garlic out of its shell like a spread. You’ll smell horrible for the rest of the day but it’s incredibly worth it! Also, I like to have radicchio salad on the side, because the bitterness balances the cheese.

food ideas

#2: Pea soup with Parmesan

This is a simple one but it never fails as comfort food. I like to make mine with lots of butter, because as the rule goes “all good soups are based on butter”. To start off I roast chopped onions and garlic on all that butter, add peas, salt, pepper and lots of parsley (for some reason parsley goes great with peas), let it boil in water and then blend until smooth when it’s cooked. When it’s done you just grate some Parmesan into it and eat with buttered bread (yes, more butter!).

#3: Bread dumplings

This is an old school Slovenian (and probably everywhere else) dish and the best way to use leftover stale bread – zero waste!. When I feel like the bread is starting to go bad or is too tough to it, I stick it in the freezer and then it eventually becomes bread dumplings.

To make them you need to cut your old bread into small pieces, season it with salt, pepper and chopped parsley, add eggs, oil/fat and milk and let it soak for a bit. Then you add some flour to make the mixture sticky and shape it into balls, which can be either frozen for later or cooked in boiling water for up to 15 min. Here’s a similar recipe to what we make in Slovenia.

The dumpling can be eaten with just about anything, meat, roasted vegetables, sauces etc. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also add roasted onions, bacon or different spices to the bread mix to keep it interesting.

#4: Gnocchi with pomegranate, Ricotta and black pepper

This is literally what the name says, it’s done in 15 minutes and it looks and sounds super fancy. I randomly had this food idea once while eating Ricotta (can’t promise I didn’t subconsciously pick up the recipe somewhere) and it turned out great. All you need to do is cook the gnocchi or any other kind of soft doughy dumpling-ish pasta, season the Ricotta with a bit of salt, put it on the gnocchi and top all that with pomegranate seeds and freshly ground black pepper.

There’s an easy way to peel the pesky pomegranates without making a huge pink mess that my grandmother taught me: you need to peel it submerged under water. The seeds are heavy and will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the peels will float so you can simply fish them out.

#5: Kale chips

I recently learned this one from my boyfriend’s sister and it tastes surprisingly awesome. I’m not entirely sure if kale is the right word for this vegetable, because it might be Savoy cabbage, but anyway, this works with kale too. We call it ohrovt and it basically looks like a head of cabbage with thicker, slightly curly, dark green leaves and a more intense flavour. It’s basically a giant Brussels sprout, but better, because I personally don’t like Brussels sprouts.

Whatever it is, you can take the thicker outer leaves, season them with salt, olive oil and some chilli flakes, then stick them in the oven at 200°C for about 15 minutes until they get crispy and enjoy your new vegetable chips/crisps. They taste almost completely different than the original vegetable and constitute the perfect junk food, because the chips taste like junk food, but actually aren’t.

#6: Apple kale potato stew with thyme

Speaking of kale (or Savoy cabbage), this is another one of my random food inventions: a weirdly light and tasty stew – I felt like I could eat the whole pot by myself. Naturally, it starts off with roasting chopped onions, garlic and leeks on lots of butter, then you add chopped and peeled apples, potatoes and kale, season with salt, pepper, bay leaves, cumin and lots of thyme and let simmer in water long enough for it to become a stew. It’s even better if you add some vegetable soup stock to it if you have it.

P. S.: Another golden rule of cooking says that it’s wise to add cumin to any dish with beans, cabbage, kale, lentils and other legumes in order to minimise the consequent farting…

#7: Spring leaves with grilled cheese and roasted pumpkin

There’s only one type of food I love as much as cheese and that’s salads. I could literally live off of cheese, rich salads and green tea if other foods weren’t so interesting to eat too. So, here’s an example of what I mean by rich salads: this one was a mix of spring leaves dressed with wild garlic apple cider vinegar and pumpkin seed oil, grilled Halloumi cheese and oven baked Hokkaido pumpkins seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon and chilli flakes.

In general spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, pimento, chilli, ginger, paprika, coriander and cloves go great with pumpkins of any kind. Also, if you need more pumpkin food ideas I have plenty more here.

food ideas

#8: Lentil, carrot and turmeric patties

Last but not least, another one of my random food ideas when I felt like cooking. Since I don’t normally cook by recipes I also have a hard time recreating the exact things I’ve made before, but my boyfriend was so impressed with these he made me write down the recipe.

Like most of my dishes it’s relatively simple but this one requires a bit of preparation: I mixed pre-soaked red lentils, gold linen seeds, diced fresh green chilli peppers and ginger, grated carrots and some flour in a bowl, then seasoned it with cumin, mustard seeds, dried coriander leaves, lots of turmeric powder, olive oil and let it rest for an hour. You need to soak the linen seeds and red lentils in water for at least 20 minutes in advance to make them softer and drain them before you add them to the mix.

All that’s left is making the patties into whatever shape you want, then you can bake them in the oven or fry them in a pan. Making random strongly seasoned vegetable patties is also a great way to use up any extra vegetables in your fridge, because they freeze quite well for later (zero waste!).

If you’ve made it until the end of this post I salute you with my imaginary cooking hat and hopefully it gave you some fresh ideas for what to make the next time you feel like cooking. Do you have any interesting food ideas or like to improvise in the kitchen? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Stay tuned for part 2 after a while when I’ve amassed enough random food ideas again. 🙂 Also, feel free to share some of your food ideas in the comments, I’m always looking for new things to try!


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