We started a new ritual and that’s to spend our Saturdays without any electronic devices, preferably in the countryside. It’s just the two of us, no duties, meetings, parties or anything, we just go with the flow and see where our mood takes us. I can’t even say which part of this ritual I enjoy more, the fact that we leave the city for a few hours or that I have 24 hours without emails, Instagram or any other social network activities. I love it.
Last Saturday we spontaneously decided to take the bus to the west of Berlin to have a cup of espresso in my aunt Ursula’s kitchen. She and my uncle Uwe make the best coffee in town and whenever I announce our visit, I can be sure to find a few pieces of cake on their table – they know me well. The espresso tasted so good that I had to have 2 doppio, which made me a bit hyperactive and ready for the next adventure. We wanted to visit Berlin’s best farmers market at Karl-August-Platz, but we got “stuck” on Kantstraße, a street famous for its Asian restaurants. We stopped at a restaurant that I’ve been wanting to test for years, but unfortunately, it didn’t meet my expectations. We ordered 6 dishes and none of them really struck me. The problem with hyped food places in the city is that you expect something outstandingly amazing if so many people talk about it. So if it’s just average, it’s disappointing. Our dessert was ice cream from the supermarket, which I don’t do very often, but it never lets me down and it’s a reminder of lots of good childhood memories. Stuffed and happy we walked to a small lake and fell asleep in the warming sunlight. The whole scene felt a bit Roman: Two happy people after a lavish meal taking a nap on a blanket in the grass.
Revitalized, we drove back home, planning our dinner of white asparagus, fresh from the fields in Beelitz. It wouldn’t be a proper Saturday if our plans didn’t change with our mood. We stopped by at our favourite local wine shop to buy a bottle of rosé for our meal, but the little bistro tables looked so inviting that we couldn’t resist sitting down for a glass of German Weissburgunder, some lemon olives, and an asparagus quiche. We got chatty and silly and stayed until 11pm, needless to say, we didn’t stop after the first glass.
We haven’t made any plans for next weekend yet, but at one point there will be this pasta dish on the table again, which I came up with last week and got hooked on. It’s a quick pesto made of sun-dried tomatoes and pistachios, the combination is divine, and it’s even better when it’s stirred into warm spaghetti. It also works very well as a thick spread on rustic white bread, the perfect nibble along with a glass of chilled German white wine. There’s one thing that our Saturdays have in common, there’s often a bottle of good wine involved – la dolce vita for a day!
dried spaghetti, about 200g / 7 ounces
flaky sea salt, for the topping
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, for the topping
For the pesto
sun-dried tomatoes, preserved in salt, 50g / 1 3/4 ounces
salted shelled pistachios 60g / 2 ounces, plus a few chopped pistachios for the topping
olive oil 60ml / 1/4 cup
garlic, crushed, 1 large clove
In a large pot, cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente.
In a small saucepan, cook the sun-dried tomatoes in a little boiling water for about 3-4 minutes or until soft. Reserve the water and rinse the tomatoes under cold water. Pat them dry with paper towels.
In a food processor or blender, purée the dried tomatoes along with 4 tablespoons of their cooking water, the pistachios, olive oil, and the garlic until smooth. Add more of the cooking water and olive oil if the pesto is too dry.
Divide the pasta between 2 plates and stir in some of the pesto. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and season with flaky sea salt and crushed pepper to taste.
You can use any leftover pesto as a spread on bread.
If I could choose between a cake or creamy desserts, I think I would always go for the cake. I just love pastries, no matter if it’s buttery shortcrust, flaky puff pastry, soft sponge, or juice-soaked lady fingers in a trifle. The combination of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar is pure magic in my eyes. Since I was a child, I’ve always been the first at the cake buffet when we have our luscious family feasts, and I’m also the last one, when the platters are almost empty.
As I’m the one who’s responsible for sweet treats at home – at least most of the time – we barely get to enjoy the dark depth of a mousse au chocolate, the sweetness of a vanilla scented Bavarian cream or a crème caramel. If my boyfriend could choose, it would be the other way around; we’d have cake maybe twice a year. He loves anything sweet, smooth, and creamy and if I want to spoil him a little, I make a panna cotta. The Italian classic is usually made with heavy cream and milk, but I like to sneak in some ricotta (like I did for my rosewater and pistachio panna cotta), or a little mascarpone, which fits perfectly to the juiciest strawberries I’ve found this year so far. A bit of fresh mint on top and these little beauties are done. When we have guests for dinner, I usually serve this dessert in small ramekins, but this time I went for wine glasses. The shiny red fruit looks really pretty in the bright panna cotta, it would be a pity to hide them.
Strawberry Mascarpone Panna Cotta
Serves 2 to 4
gelatin sheets (7 x 11cm / 3 x 4″) 2 1/2, or 2 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
heavy cream 240ml / 1 cup
whole milk 120 ml / 1/2 cup
a pinch of fine sea salt
vanilla pod, scraped, 1
granulated sugar 50g / 1/4 cup, plus more for the strawberries
mascarpone 60g / 2 ounces
fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced, 140g / 4 ounces, plus 3-4 whole strawberries, quartered lenghthwise, for the topping
a few fresh mint leaves, for the topping
Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for about 5 minutes.
In a small saucepan, bring the cream, milk, salt, vanilla seeds, and sugar to the boil. As soon as the mixture is bubbling, take the pan off the heat. Squeeze the excess water from the soaked gelatin sheets and crumble into the warm cream mixture; whisk thoroughly. Stir in the mascarpone and whisk until well combined. Leave the cream in the saucepan and let it cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes, whisking occasionally. Then chill the panna cotta in the fridge for about 1 hour, whisking 3-4 times, or until it starts to set.
Divide the sliced strawberries between 4 ramekins (120ml / 4 ounces), or 2-4 wine glasses, and sprinkle them with a little sugar. Divide the panna cotta between the glasses and chill for about 30 minutes or until set. Arrange the quartered strawberries and the mint leaves on top of the cream just before serving.
Whenever I buy a new appliance for my kitchen, a bigger wardrobe for our bedroom, or a more powerful driller for the tool box, I always ask myself how I managed before the new purchase entered our home. I’m totally fine with having to deal with limited space or less satisfying equipment in the house, but give me the comfort of improvement and I’m hooked for life.
This is exactly how I felt when I got my new fridge last December. It’s only the third fridge I have ever owned and although I can’t really complain about its predecessor – it did a decent job for more than 15 years – it drove me crazy at times. Mainly because the space it offered and the food I tried to put inside it did not match at all. I love fresh food, I buy a lot of fruit and vegetables every week at the farmers’ market, and all kinds of cheese, olives, capers, prosciutto … and wine of course. There are only two people to feed but our food needs space. Thinking back, I don’t know how I managed to store all the greens in my old fridge while I was working on my book a year ago, I have no idea. It worked, but now it’s different, now I actually enjoy my fridge. A few days ago I came into my kitchen with lots of bags and baskets full of rhubarb, berries, asparagus and other spring produce and everything fit. I looked at this silver beauty and couldn’t help but say “I love my fridge!”. When Samsung offered me their Chef Collection for my kitchen, I was over the moon and I still feel the same. When you love food and cooking you truly appreciate having the right equipment.
So when I took a look at all the vibrant colours in my fridge, I came up with a salad that looks and tastes as bright and fresh as this season. I cut raw green asparagus very thinly and mixed it with a handful of arugula and canned chickpeas. A few fresh strawberries on top and a light vinaigrette made with orange juice drizzled all over and it was almost done: Some pink peppercorns added subtle spice and their distinct aroma. It was a very satisfying spring creation.
Strawberry, Chickpea, and Raw Asparagus Salad with Basil and Pink Peppercorns
For the dressing
olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 2 tablespoons
white balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
fine sea salt
For the salad
young green asparagus, trimmed, 4 stalks
arugula leaves, 1 large handful
drained canned chickpeas, 2 handfuls
fresh strawberries, cut into quarters, 6
a few fresh basil leaves
a few pink peppercorns
For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, orange juice, and vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cut off the heads of the asparagus and cut them in half lengthwise. Using a mandoline, a cheese slicer, or a sharp knife, cut the asparagus stalks into long, very thin slices.
In a large bowl, arrange the arugula, asparagus, chickpeas, and strawberries in layers and drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns and basil and serve immediately.
I almost live in my kitchen, day and night, at least that’s how it seems at the moment. Although I’m used to spending a lot of time in this room – and I love it, that’s the reason I started this blog – but I barely see anything other than my pots and pans right now. I was asked to develop a bunch of recipes for a project (which I can’t talk about yet) and this task ties me to my kitchen again, just like a year ago when I worked on my book. It’s so funny that some things tend to repeat annually and you don’t really know why. It becomes a theme without a deeper sense to it. So I accept, it’s the second year in a row that I spend the month of May developing, cooking, and shooting recipes and producing more food than two people can possibly eat. But luckily, our friends are more than pleased about these circumstances. I cook and bake and they indulge in plates of cakes, roasts, seafood dishes, and salads.
Although I basically do exactly the same as last year, it feels different. It’s not my book, these aren’t my blank pages that I have to fill. I have to accommodate someone else’s vision, which is fine as I have complete freedom with the recipes. But when it comes to taking the photos, I have to match my own ideas with the visual concept that my partner in crime brings to the table. It works surprisingly well but when it comes to the amount of sauce – as banal as it may seem – there are worlds between us. I like it a bit less soggy, however, my creative supervisor prefers more juices on the plate. We compromise and meet in the middle.
The fruits of last year’s kitchen work are getting closer and closer to coming to the analogue world – the Eat In My Kitchen book is at the printing press! After I shared the Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk pre-order links for the English book a few weeks ago, it’s time for the big announcement for my German readers: Eat In My Kitchen – Essen, Kochen, Backen und Genießen is ready for pre-order on Amazon.de! It will be published on the 26th September, a few days before the English book (on the 4th October). The cover picture is the same as the English book and we also kept the subtitles quite similar. Apart from the last word, ‘to treat’ in English (einladen / verwöhnen in German) became ‘genießen’ (meaning ‘to enjoy’), the books are the same and both completely written by myself (I was offered a translator for the German version but that felt a little weird).
My book emerged out of this blog, which is all about cooking, baking, eating, treating, and enjoying the pleasures created in this marvelous space – mykitchen.
One of the latest creations I passionately enjoyed from my kitchen were churros, the famous Spanish fried pastry snack. It was the first time ever that I made them and I was impressed how easy they are to prepare and how good they taste when they are made at home. Fresh out of the boiling oil, soft inside and golden and crisp on the outside, I tossed and coated them with aromatic cardamom sugar and ate them warm with fresh strawberries. The combination is perfect as it balances the churros’ richness with a bit of sour-sweet fruitiness.
I love my kitchen, especially when it produces such deliciousness.
sunflower oil, for frying, about 1,3l / 5 1/2 cups
water 350ml / 1 1/2 cups
olive oil 2 tablespoons
granulated sugar 1 tablespoon
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
plain flour 200g / 1 1/2 cups
organic egg 1
For the topping, combine the sugar and cardamom and spread on a deep plate.
In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the sunflower oil over medium-high heat.
In a large saucepan, bring the water, olive oil, sugar, and salt to the boil. Take the pot off the heat, add the flour, and, using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until smooth and the dough comes away from the side of the saucepan. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Using a spoon, beat in the egg and mix until well combined.
When the oil is hot – dip in the bottom end of a wooden spoon, little bubbles, should form around it – fill the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star tip (about 1cm / 3/8″). Carefully squeeze the dough into the hot oil and snip it off when the churro is about 7cm / 2 3/4″ long. Fry about 5-8 churros at a time, depending on the size of your pot, and turn them a few times, using 2 large spoons. The churros should be done and golden after about 4-5 minutes. If they turn dark quicker, turn down the heat a little. Take them out with a slotted ladle and transfer them to the plate with the cardamom sugar. Toss and coat them and keep them in a large bowl while you continue frying the remaining dough. Serve warm with fresh strawberries – and preferably with a dark espresso.
Churros taste best on the first day. You can freeze them once they are fried, but they become a little rubbery (my aunt still enjoyed them though).
A lusciously filled sandwich will always excite me. It only needs the right combination of flavours and textures to lift this comfort treat to new heights. Playing with contrast is a good way to start: soft and crunchy, fresh and creamy, sweet and salty – there are endless possibilities to create a little firework between two slices of bread.
If you follow the seasons, you can find inspiration in the pantry during the colder months of the year or while strolling through the farmers’s market to see what nature offers as soon as it gets warmer. And that’s what I did. Although I can find zucchini all year round, it’s only at the peak of spring that squash is finally packed with sweetness again. Mine comes straight from the fields in Italy and it has all the qualities it needs to become golden fried fritters. Mix in some cheese and lemon balm and you have a fragrant little snack on your plate. My cheese of choice is Leerdammer, which worked so wonderfully well in my Grilled Persimmon, Ham, and Cheese Sandwich. It’s not too overpowering next to the zucchini yet adds its particular subtle sweetness. Bringing in lemon balm makes it fresh and citrusy. And don’t be distracted by the strawberries graciously arranged on top, it may seem a bit brave but their sweet-sour fruitiness makes the composition complete.
This sandwich is just right for a decadent breakfast, a springy lunch, or a cozy dinner enjoyed on the sofa. And it works just as well without the bread: arrange the warm zucchini cheese fritters on plates along with fresh strawberries, sprinkle with lemon balm, and scatter some grated cheese and pink peppercorns all over this colourful feast.
This post is sponsored by Leerdammer.
Zucchini Cheese Fritter Sandwich with Strawberries and Lemon Balm
Makes 3 sandwiches
For the zucchini cheese fritters
zucchini, grated, 450g / 1 pound
fine sea salt
spring onions, the green only, thinly sliced, 2 (about 2 tablespoons)
mild hard cheese, freshly grated, 30g / 1 ounce
organic egg, lightly beaten, 1
fresh lemon balm, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon
a generous amount of ground pepper
plain flour 40g / 1/3 cup
olive oil, to cook the fritters
fresh ciabatta, about 6 slices
rucola 1 handful
Leerdammer cheese, thinly sliced, about 6 slices
ripe strawberries, hulled and cut in half lengthwise, 6
fresh lemon balm, about 9 leaves
For the zucchini cheese fritters, in a large bowl, combine the grated zucchini and 1 teaspoon of salt. Rub the salt into the squash and let it sit for 10 minutes. Drain the zucchini and squeeze it in your hands. Spread the zucchini on a kitchen towel, cover with a second towel, and squeeze out any remaining liquid.
In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, spring onion, grated cheese, egg, chopped lemon balm, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add the flour in batches and mix with your hands or a large spoon until well combined.
In a large, heavy pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add 2 tablespoons of the zucchini mixture for each fritter to the pan; give the fritter a round shape and flatten it lightly. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown, flip the fritters over, and turn down the heat to medium. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the fritters to paper towels and cover with a lid while cooking the remaining fritters, add more oil if necessary. This makes about 6-7 zucchini fritters.
For the sandwiches, spread a little rucola on 3 slices of bread. Cover each slice with 2 slices of cheese and 2 warm fritters and finish it off with 4 strawberry halves. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns and a few lemon balm leaves and close with a slice of bread. Squeeze the sandwich – gently – and enjoy.
London welcomed me with blue skies and the brightest sunshine – the city looked like a blossoming beauty as I stepped off the train. It was supposed to be a two day work trip but spring temperatures made it feel like a little holiday. Great food and wine and the company of wonderful people almost made me forget why I went to the capital: my publisher’s London team invited me to present my Eat In My Kitchen book for the first time at the Photographers’ Gallery. To say that I was nervous, is a slight understatement. I drove the people around me crazy in the past few days! We just finished the last edits for my book this week, which means I can’t change anything anymore and I’m not yet sure if I like this feeling. Now I have to learn to let go. But the thought of talking about it in front of 30 people straight after closing the last pages of my book to send it to the printing press felt a little overwhelming.
I booked an early flight on Wednesday morning so that I’d have the day to myself. I wanted to have enough time to meet a couple special people. My first stop was the gorgeous Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair where I stayed for the night. My last visit to London – and a scrumptious meet in your kitchen tea time feature – made me fall in love with this wonderful hotel. It’s the perfect choice when you need a relaxing place to stay during a busy trip. London is like a beehive but Brown’s Hotel is the calm oasis you can go back to to rest. Thank you Sophie Grounds for making me feel so good again!
A stroll through the sunny streets of Mayfair took me to busy Oxford Street and the charming building of Selfridges. I came here to visit Melissa Hemsely at the sisters’ brand new Hemsely + Hemsley Café located on the third floor of the luxury department store. It’s a cozy place that’s only been open for a month and it was totally packed. All the tables were taken and I saw lots of happy faces enjoying beautiful dishes from the girl’s books, like quinoa roasted vegetables with basil pesto (delicious!), salmon burger with lime slaw, and the sisters’ fantastic sweets. We chatted about our books – they just published their second book called Good + Simple – and I also got to try a wonderfully juicy banana cake that’s not on the menu yet.
Spitalfields was next, and here I met a man whose work I’ve admired for quite a while and who I got to know through another one of my meet in your kitchen features: Sami Tamimi. This man is a great inspiration, he’s open and charismatic and he talks with a warm, calm voice. Sami seems to smile the whole time, genuinely, and it felt like I’ve known him for years. He gave me such a flattering quote for my book and I wanted to thank him in person. Sami invited me to the latest addition to the Ottolenghi restaurants, their deli in the heart of Spitalfields that opened just a year ago. The place is bright and airy and the long counter right at the large window front is filled with the most beautiful food you can imagine. No one presents food as tempting, lush and perfect as the Ottolenghi crew. Large bowls filled with colourful salads and vegetables, the freshest meat platters, and piles of colourful meringue, delicate tartlets, and cakes dripping with thick icing turn this room into a food lover’s paradise. I was in heaven.
Sami constantly works on new creations and tries the food prepared by his team working in and for the five restaurants, he’s an absolute perfectionist. There was a little banana cake on a plate of six that he spotted, it wasn’t as straight as the other ones, so it had to go – right into my mouth, I didn’t mind. Seeing him in this environment, surrounded by the food he creates with so much passion and perfection, made me understand why he’s so successful and why guests from all over the world love the Ottolenghi restaurants so much. The vision that the team behind Ottolenghi once had, has been brought to life completely. There’s no compromise and that makes it so good. Before I left, we exchanged spices, and when I stepped out onto the street I felt a little sad to leave.
My dinner plans took me to an old, traditional pub, The Grenadier in Belgravia. It was an early night, I enjoyed my obligatory fish & chips and a glass of wine to the fullest and went to bed early – I had an exciting day ahead.
On the morning of my presentation, I felt like a student going to her exams, but after a few minutes of talking I was fine again – as always in life. The Photographers Gallery was the perfect surrounding and I can only recommend visiting one of their great exhibitions when you’re in town. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for the arts but I had a lovely crowd to talk to about my book instead, which felt even better. Thank you everybody at Prestel for inviting me and for making me feel so welcome. It was a pleasure to meet you, Andrew, Emma, Oliver, Lincoln, and Will!
My London days called for a traditional British treat when I was back home in Berlin, ready for a cozy weekend on the sofa: a simple Victoria Sponge cake refined with lemon zest, filled with plump blueberries, jam, and whipped cream. It’s an honest, uncomplicated treat that fits perfectly after a week of lots of excitement.
Blueberry Victoria Sponge Cake
You’ll need 2 18cm / 7″ springform pans for this cake. If you only have one pan (like me), divide the ingredients in half and prepare and bake one cake after the other. For the 3 eggs, beat them lightly and then divide in two equal portions.
For the sponge cake
plain flour 145g / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
cornstarch 15g / 2 tablespoons
baking powder 1 teaspoon
a pinch of salt
butter, at room temperature, 160g / 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon
granulated sugar 160g / 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon
freshly grated lemon zest 2 teaspoons
vanilla bean, scraped, 1/2
organic eggs 3
For the filling
blueberry jam, lightly beaten, about 4 tablespoons
fresh blueberries 120g / 4 ounces, plus a few berries for the topping
heavy cream, whipped, about 120-180ml / 1/2-3/4 cup
icing sugar, for the topping
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (conventional setting) and butter 2 18cm / 7″ springform pans.
For the sponge cake, in a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, using in electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla seeds until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between. Using a wooden spoon, fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well combined.
Divide the batter between the two buttered springform pans and make a slight dip in the middle of each of them (to prevent the cakes from rising too high in the middle). Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and spongy. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Take the cakes out of the springform pan and let them cool completely (about 15-20 minutes).
Transfer 1 sponge cake to a plate and cut off the tip if it rose to high, it shouldn’t be too pointy but it doesn’t need to be completely even either. Brush the top generously with jam and spread the blueberries on top. Spread the whipped cream all over the berries and sandwich with the second sponge cake (you don’t have to even this cake out). Dust the cake with a little icing sugar and, if you want to decorate it with blueberries, dip the berries in the jam and stick them on top of the cake.
When I have a bowl of hummus in front of me, I grab the biggest spoon I can find and enjoy this creamy, nutty deliciousness with inexplicable enthusiasm. I don’t know where this fascination comes from, I only discovered this Middle Eastern dip relatively late in my kitchen, but I’m obsessed with it.
Most of the time I’m not even very experimental, I just stick to my basic recipe, but sometimes my mood calls for a little change. I either replace the chickpeas with white beans, stir in some fresh or dried herbs, or I try less pleasant combinations that I never ever want to taste again (like my avocado hummus – disastrous!). There must be something in the tahini – the rich, oily sesame sauce that’s used for hummus – its nutritional value, that my body is almost addicted to. I can eat the thick, pure sauce by the spoon, straight out of the jar. It’s strange.
One of my latest experiments led to a very simple yet absolutely scrumptious result: a generous amount of ground cinnamon and a pinch of ground cumin. The spices enhance the dip’s sweetness and give it a warm and earthy touch. You don’t actually taste them, they merge with the other ingredients and create a new flavour, which makes me want to eat even more of it. To accomplish the sweet side of the hummus, I added sliced boiled potatoes (warm or cold, both work), fresh basil, and a few prawns. It felt like summer on a plate and reminded me of a similar Mediterranean meal we had in Malta last year.
Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil, and Prawns
For the hummus
drained and rinsed canned chickpeas, 240g / 8 ounces
tahini 150g / 5 ounces
water 120ml / 1/2 cup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 4 tablespoons
garlic, crushed, 1 large clove
ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
ground cumin 1/8 teaspoon
fine sea salt about 1 teaspoon
prawns, the heads cut off, 8-12
boiled potatoes (warm or cold) 8-12
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
fresh basil leaves, a small handful
For the hummus, purée the ingredients in a blender and season with cinnamon, cumin, and salt to taste.
In a large pan, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat and sear the prawns for 1-2 minutes per side or until cooked through.
Arrange the sliced potatoes on 1 large platter or on 4 small plates, drizzle generously with the hummus and additional olive oil, and season to taste with flaky sea salt, crushed pepper, cumin and cinnamon. Place the prawns on top, sprinkle with basil and enjoy immediately.
This is such a kiddy cake: it’s light and fluffy, sweet and juicy, and packed with soft strawberries and creamy white chocolate. And although my childhood days are far away, I love this cake. I would even call it my favourite spring cake (for the time being, until my next discovery). And the fact that it’s so easy to prepare – you just have to roll out of bed on a lazy Sunday morning and throw it all together – makes it a perfect weekend breakfast cake.
The combination of the ripe red berries and the milky chocolate works unbelievably well in a cake. I’m familiar with this duo in ice cream and other sweet snacks, but it never struck me as much as in this composition. I was worried that the sweetness could be a little overpowering, but there was no reason for it, it was still balanced. In fact, this cute little teaser tastes so good that the two of us ate it in less than 24 hours. I wanted to freeze a few pieces – my new habit to eat a little less sweets as summer is ahead of us – but it was hopeless. We kept cutting one piece after the other until it every little crumb was gone and the plate looked almost clean. I think if I could choose between a plate full of cake or a little less on the hips, I’ll always go for the cake!
Strawberry White Chocolate Breakfast Cake
plain flour 130g / 1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon for the strawberries
cornstarch 30g / 1/4 cup
baking powder 1 heaping teaspoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
butter (at room temperature) 160g / 2/3 cup plus scant 1 tablespoon
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
vanilla bean, scraped, 1/2
organic eggs 3
fresh strawberries, cut into cubes, 150g / 5 ounces
high quality white chocolate, chopped, 100g / 3/1/2 ounces
For the topping (optional)
icing sugar or finely grated white chocolate 1 tablespoon
fresh strawberries 3-4
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (preferably convection setting) and butter a 20cm / 8″ springform pan.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.
In a second large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla seeds until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well in between. Continue mixing for 2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and creamy. Quickly mix in the flour mixture until combined. Mix the strawberries with 1 tablespoon of flour and add, along with the chopped white chocolate, to the batter. Using a wooden spoon, gently fold in the berries and chocolate until just combined. Scrape the batter into the buttered springform pan, even it out, and bake for 40-45 minutes (slightly longer if using a conventional oven) or until golden on top. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the cake cool for a few minutes before you take it out of the springform pan.
Sprinkle the cool cake with icing sugar or grated white chocolate and decorate with strawberries.
Some books make you fall in love with its captivating pages from the moment you lay your hands on it. Anatolia, by Somer Sivrioglu and David Dale, is one of them. This outstandingly beautiful cookbook is rich in pictures, stories, and recipes. It takes you to another world of flavours, ingredients, and unknown combinations and it makes you want to go straight to your kitchen to bring this exciting new discovery right into your home – or at least a bite of it.
The first recipe I tried from this book, was pide, thin Turkish pizza. Somer makes it with an aromatic minced lamb topping, which is divine, however, when I gave it a second go, I sneaked in a dark Provençal olive tapenade, and shared it on eat in my kitchen. Somer liked my version so much that he shared it on Facebook, we started chatting, and here’s the result: Our cross-continental Berlin-Sydney meet in your kitchen feature!
My guest grew up in Turkey, in Istanbul, where he lived with his family until he was 25. But one day, the young man decided to explore life on the other side of the world and moved to Sydney. His dream came true and he started an impressive career in food that led to two fantastic restaurants and an award-winning cookbook. Somer runs the popular Efendy that opened in 2007, featuring contemporary Turkish cuisine in the Balmain district. Anason – his second ‘baby’ – was next, which only just opened its doors to the public world, but it’s already one of Sydney’s new culinary hot spots.
This man is busy and I don’t know how he managed to write a cookbook on top of his packed schedule as a chef, but he did, and the result takes the globe by storm: Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking won the prestigious international IACP award (former winners are luminaries such as Thomas Keller, Claudia Roden and Julia Child). I’m sure it will keep its place in the front row of my book shelf for quite a while. Somer is a passionate chef, he loves food, and this shines through in every project that he pulls onto his table. Congratulations!
My weak spot for Turkish pizza made me go for another pide recipe from Somer’s book, which I share with you today: slim pide filled with an aromatic cheese mixture of 4 different cheeses, green pepper, tomato, and a baked egg. This dish calls for a relaxed dinner on the balcony or in the garden, with a glass of chilled crisp white or rosé wine and a fresh salad on the side. May only the temperatures rise and summer begin!
Pide with Four Cheeses
For the dough
dry yeast 1 tablespoon
water, lukewarm, 50 – 100ml / 3 1/2 tablespoons – 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon
granulated sugar 1 teaspoon
plain flour 300g / 2 1/3 cups
strong flour 150g / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
milk, lukewarm, 50ml / 3 1/2 tablespoons
salt 1 teaspoon
For the cheese filling
4 cheese-mixture, grated or crumbled, 100 – 140g / 3 1/2 – 5 ounces (depending on how rich you’d like your pide)
(such as feta, aged ricotta, blue cheese, and mozzarella or provolone)
chopped fresh oregano 2 teaspoons
(or about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
For the topping
large tomatoes, thinly sliced, 2
large green pepper, cut in half, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced, 2
vegetable oil 2 tablespoons (I used olive oil)
Dissolve the yeast in 50ml / 3 1/2 tablespoons of the water. Stir in the sugar and set aside for 5 minutes. It should start to form bubbles.
Sift the flours into a large bowl, make a well in the middle, and pour in the yeast mixture and the milk. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until it reaches earlobe softness. Add more of the water if necessary (I used all of the water). Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and let it rest and rise for 30 minutes.
Add the salt to the dough and knead for 3 minutes. Place the dough on a floured work surface and form it into a cylinder, then cut it into 4 equal pieces. Cover and let rest for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. If you have a pizza stone or tile, place it in the oven. Or leave a baking sheet in the oven so it will preheat.
Combine the crumbled cheeses in a large bowl. Add the egg and fold and mix until combined; stir in the oregano.
On a floured working surface, stretch the pieces of dough into ovals, about 30 x 20cm / 12 x 8″ and 5mm / 1/4″ thick; or use a rolling pin.
Transfer the 4 pides to 2 pieces of parchment paper. Spoon a strip of the cheese mixture in the middle of each oval, leaving a 5cm / 2″ rim all around the edges. Fold over the 2 longer sides so they touch the filling but don’t cover it. Join the folded edges at the top and bottom to make a boat shape. Press each into a point and twist to close tightly. Arrange 6 slices of tomato and 4 slices of pepper on each pide and break an egg into the middle. If you don’t want the egg to be cooked through, bake the pides without the egg for 7 minutes, then add the egg, and bake for another 7 minutes or until golden brown.
Brush the tops of the dough with oil.
If you’re using a baking sheet preheated in the oven, take it out of the oven and pull 1 parchment paper with 2 pides over onto the hot baking sheet; or transfer 2 pides with the parchment paper onto the hot pizza stone or tile in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Growing up in Istanbul, Turkey, in the 1970s and 1980s, during a time of severe political unrest, how would you describe your life as a child and teenager? What are your memories of those days?
I was born and raised in Kadikoy, Istanbul, one of the last multicultural suburbs of Istanbul, where the few of the last descendants of Greek, Armenian and other non-muslim population lived after the rise of nationalist policies drove them out of the city they lived in for many generations. Although the 1970s were chaotic, we felt safe on the streets as the community values were very strong back then, everyone knew and looked after each other.
Why did you leave Turkey in your twenties and move to Sydney?
I came to study for my MBA degree and to live in another country to find my own voice.
What does having your own restaurants – Efendy and Anason – mean to you, is it a dream come true?
My restaurant, Efendy, and the amazing team gave me the chance to represent Turkish food in a country where it was only known as kebaps and Turkish bread before we opened.
Your mother worked as a restaurant consultant, do both of you share a similar philosophy when it comes to food, cooking, and running a restaurant? Does she give you advice and do you listen?
She ran a number of restaurants /meze bars and I learned a lot from working with her, as to sharing the same philosophy fundamentally, yes, but I challenge myself to progress and she is a bit more conservative. I think we are both challenging each other in that aspect. She gives me advice, typically I would ignore, or pretend to ignore, but do it later on anyway (laughing).
Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?
My grandma, Akife, was my childhood influence, as she was one of the first modern females to complete a home economics degree and she took cooking classes as part of it. She was a great example of how to create excellence from scarcity.
How did the Turkish cuisine influence your perspective as a chef? How do you develop new recipes?
Turkish food is all about seasonality, abundance and variety. As a chef, it made me think about using the right produce at the right season and applying various drying, pickling, and preserving techniques to my cooking. I used to create the recipes and get my chefs to cook them at Efendy, but now I ask them to create recipes that means something to them, from their heritage, and I learn and coach them to fine tune them to put in our seasonal menus at Efendy and Anason.
How long did you work on your cookbook Anatolia? Can you describe the creative process of this wonderful book, which you wrote together with David Dale?
Three years from concept to print. As a first time book author, I was lucky enough to work with one of the best food journalists, David Dale, and he coached me thorough the whole process. We have been to Turkey twice together visiting cities all over the country, talking to masters of craft and adapting the recipes to Australian and European readers where they can cook with common ingredients that can be found at any farmers’ market.
What is your favourite Turkish and your favourite Australian dish?
Turkish: Kalkan – Black-Sea turbot.
Australian: Mud crabs cooked over the BBQ.
What do you miss about Istanbul?
I am lucky enough to go back every year. Eating seasonal fish and drinking raki on the Bosphorus with family and friends is one thing I yearn for and do every time I am back. In fact, I am in Istanbul at the moment.
What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?
I remember helping my grandma buttering the layers of her lamb borek, she had the scariest looking electrical round oven where all the cables and elements were exposed.
What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Sydney?
My favourite shopping spot was at Growers Market at Pyrmont, unfortunately they closed, so currently it’s Eveleigh Markets every Saturday.
Favourite cafés: Le Cafeier in Balmain and Edition Coffee pop-up at Barangaroo, both located next to my restaurants and keep me going all day and night.
So many restaurants to mention but I love the next-gen Turkish restaurants in Sydney like Pazar Food Collective, Stanbuli and Sefa Kitchen.
If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?
I would love my babaanne (paternal grandmother) to cook something from her Albanian heritage, as we lost her when I was very young and never learned that part of my culinary culture.
You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?
It won’t be on the table but the spring lamb on a spit would be next to the table and complemented with some mezes and seasonal salad accompanied by raki or a few nice bottles of Öküzgözü(Turkish red wine variety).
What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?
I loved my anneanne’skarniyarik and borek, nowadays, I love having a simple grilled fish or a nice steak on a charcoal BBQ.
Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?
Of course cooking with others, I don’t like cooking by myself or eating by myself.
Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?
Improvised, as it has an element of surprise and spontaneity.
Which meal would you never cook again?
Bombe Alaska (Baked Alaska). Many years ago, when I was working in banquets at a hotel, I made it for a wedding of 1000 people not knowing how it is made. Lesson learnt.
The combination of rhubarb and cinnamon crumble is so perfect that I dare to call it one of my favourite baked sweets. It’s sweet, fruity-sour, and buttery, what more could I ask for? I could add oats, which I’ve never done before for some reason, so I gave it a try and the result was extremely pleasing. The first bite through the crunchy aromatic crust and soft fruit gave me the feeling that home-baked sweets are simply the best.
The past few days were a little rough and rocky and I often wished I had two Meikes to sort out all the tasks and problems piled up on my desk. Late night work led to sleep deprivation and a paranoid me, worrying that I wouldn’t manage to finish everything in time. I call myself quite disciplined, I can work hard, but luckily, I also know when to pull the brake. It was a bright and sunny afternoon and I started to feel like I could see the light at the end of the tunnel – although not all problems were solved yet – but I decided to close my laptop. Trying not to think too much, I grabbed my bag and jumped on my bike. Cycling through springy Berlin and enjoying the bumpy ride over cobbled roads put a smile on my face as I saw nature’s leaves and blossoms taking over the city again. I stopped at a café for a creamy cappuccino that felt like the best coffee I had in a while, and leafed through a cheesy magazine. Life can be perfect and sometimes it’s so easy to get there, all you have to do is forget about your duties for a little while and follow whatever you’re mood calls for.
Rhubarb Tartlets with Cinnamon Oat Crumbles
Makes 10 tartlets
For the filling
trimmed rhubarb, cut into 5cm / 2″ pieces, 600g / 1 1/3 pounds
granulated sugar, 100g / 1/2 cup
For the pastry
plain flour 260g / 2 cups
sugar 80g / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon
a pinch of salt
unsalted butter, cold, 160g / 2/3 cup
organic egg yolks 2
For the oat crumble
rolled oats 100g / 3 1/2 ounces / 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon
plain flour 65g / 1/2 cup
granulated sugar 90g / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
unsalted butter, melted, 80g / 1/3 cup
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (preferably convection setting).
For the filling, add the rhubarb and sugar to a large baking dish and toss to combine. Bake for about 25 minutes or until soft but still in shape. Set the rhubarb aside and let it cool completely.
For the pastry, in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg yolks and continue mixing with the dough hooks of an electric mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film, and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Butter 10 (10cm / 4″) tartlet pans and dust with flour. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into 10 equal parts. Roll out the 10 pieces of dough between cling film into 12 cm / 4 1/2″ circles. Line the tartlet pans with the pastry, push the dough into the pans, and prick with a fork. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until golden, bush the dough down with a fork if it bubbles up. Take the tartlet pans out of the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. Using a metal skewer, loosen the pastry shell gently along the rim and turn the tartlets out onto the lined baking sheet.
Turn the oven down to 180°C / 350°F.
For the crumble, combine the oats, flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Stir in the melted butter and mix until combined and crumbly.
Divide the rhubarb among the tartlet shells, sprinkle with the oat crumble, and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.