With almost childish excitement I spotted a nice piece of goose prosciutto, a typical winter treat which couldn’t have found its way into my shopping basket at a better time. This Sunday will be the first Advent, the official start of all of my little christmassy traditions which I follow obsessively. Setting up the tree, baking lots of cookies and consuming more warm alcoholic beverages than I normally would are just some of them. Duck, goose and venison are to be found in my kitchen more often as well, another one of my seasonal habits.
Although it’s not December yet (or Advent), with today’s sandwich I welcome the time of joy and festive savouring. I start with a sandwich that combines the caramelized fruitiness from sour apples cooked in sugary butter with thyme and bay leaf with the smokey aroma of goose prosciutto. The meat is dark red with a strong smokey flavour, a bit too strong for my taste but still good. Its tenderness is topped with a thick layer of goose fat, you have to cut the slices really thin to enjoy it. It’s the same with duck prosciutto (which would also be fabulous on this sandwich) or smoked salmon, they should always be sliced as thinly as possible. At first, I wasn’t sure if this wintery composition between two slices of a French country loaf needed a further addition, but after the first bite I came to the conclusion that it’s all good!
Goose Prosciutto and Bay Leaf Apple Sandwich
For 2 sandwiches you need
white bread 2-4 slices (if you want a closed sandwich)
goose or duck prosciutto, very thinly sliced, 80g / 3 ounces
large sour apple, peeled, cored and thickly sliced, 1
butter 2 tablespoons
sugar 2 tablespoons
small bay leaf (stalk removed), chopped finely into tiny crumbs, 1
fresh thyme leaves 2 tablespoons
Melt the butter and sugar in a pan on high temperature, when it’s golden brown, add the apples, bay leaf and 1 tablespoon of thyme. Cook the fruit quickly for 1-2 minutes on both sides until golden and caramelized. Spread the apples and their juices on 2 slices of bread and put a few slices of the meat on top. Sprinkle with thyme.
What an amazing anniversary! Thank you so much for your sweet wishes and support of eat in my kitchen. It’s been a perfect celebration of an extraordinary year and the beginning of a new chapter, the second year of the blog!
Let’s start the new week with an easy pasta dish, chickpeas (canned, so there’s no soaking and cooking involved), grilled aubergine slices, lemon and basil! I got the inspiration for this composition from a sandwich which is very popular in Israel, it made it onto the blog last January, the fantastic Sabih. Velvety hummus, grilled aubergines and a boiled egg on juicy homemade olive bread, it tastes divine! Our godchild’s father told me about this sandwich classic from his home country, he praised it with such passion that I had to try it. It became a new standard, with great potential to inspire various recipes. For my linguine, I left out the egg, although I think it would have fit but instead I added lemon and basil for an aromatic southern Mediterranean feeling. The aubergine and chickpeas were so smooth, almost sweet, that it needed a bit of a contrast, a task that my beloved lemon zest always manages with ease.
When I grill aubergines, I always prepare two or three of them right away. You can use them for your pizza or roll them up with ricotta. Although they need (and soak up) quite a bit of olive oil, I found that you can minimize it by stacking them on top of each other as soon as you take them out of the oven. I brush them with a thin layer of oil on both sides before they cook. Don’t worry, they tend to look a bit dry at first when they are done but they will turn into perfect juicy and oily bites after a couple minutes of soaking and softening each other.
Linguine with Chickpeas, Grilled Aubergine and Lemon
For 4 people you need
linguine 400g / 14 ounces
chickpeas, canned, rinsed and drained, 300g / 10.5 ounces
large aubergine, cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices, 1
garlic, crushed, 1 clove
salt and pepper
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, for the topping, to taste
lemon zest, for the topping, to taste
basil leaves, a small handful
Cook the pasta in salted water al dente and keep some of the cooking water.
Brush the aubergines with olive oil on both sides, season them with salt and pepper and grill them in the oven until golden brown on both sides, they will darken partly but that’s fine. Mine needed 7 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other but that depends on the oven. Set the aubergines aside and stack them, that will keep them moist and soft. Cut them into thick slices.
In a pan, heat a splash of olive oil, add the garlic and cook it for 1 minute on medium heat. Add the chickpeas, season with salt and pepper, close with a lid and cook for 4 minutes on medium-low heat. Add the pasta and a little of the water they cooked in and season with salt. Stir in the aubergine and sprinkle with the crushed black peppercorns, lemon zest and basil.
When I decided to start a food blog in October last year, at the breakfast table on a cold and misty morning in Berlin, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I felt recklessly excited, so much so that I made a big decision which changed my life drastically in the past twelve months. My goal was to share a recipe a day, for at least 1 year. I was so inspired by this idea, my head was full of recipes and stories that I wanted to write down on the as yet empty pages of eat in my kitchen. I knew I would have enough of a repertoire to cook, to bake and to talk about for a few years so I thought I might as well share all this with the world once a day.
It has been intense if not tense at times, I completely underestimated how much time it would take to capture a dish in mouthwatering photos, to describe what I do in my kitchen, what your taste buds can expect, but also to inspire you to go to your own kitchen, to pull out the pots and pans and trust me. When I shared the first recipes, I didn’t think about the fact that you would have to believe me that my recipes would work out for you as much as they do for me. You would have to buy the ingredients, take some time out and cook with the same excitement that I felt. At one point, after I had been writing for a few days, it clicked, I understood what it meant and it overwhelmed me. Until today, every time I get an email from someone who felt enticed by one of my posts and cooked or baked my recipes and tells me about the result, I’m as happy as a child at Christmas. It’s a wonderful experience and there are no words to describe how thankful I am for this journey which put so many amazing moments into my life, and a written collection of more than 365 recipes!
In the past few months, I’ve written a lot about enjoyment, culinary pleasures and the fun of cooking in your own kitchen and treating the ones you love with the fruit of your work, that’s not a cliché, this fills me with true happiness. No matter if the final result on the table is mind-blowing or if a recipe still needs some work, the time spent creating this meal is precious. No one forces us to put our money into good quality and natural ingredients, no one tells us to turn them into a delicious meal, it’s our decision, one that we make every day to treat our body well but also to let our minds rest. Beyond all the satisfaction which my taste buds get from a great home cooked meal, I call my daily dinner a feast because I feel complete bliss as soon as I go into my kitchen to get out the vegetables and knifes, to chop and stir, to taste and experiment. I take this time out for myself, sometimes I get the record player started, open a bottle of wine, and I slow down my pace, always. There are a million other things I could do instead but I decided that this would be a part of my life, this is what I would do every evening for a couple hours. This choice has always been a gift and it still is, as it has given me some of my best memories, all saved in food.
For about three days, I thought about a recipe which I would like to share with you today. I was looking for something which tastes exceptionally good to celebrate this special day, but I also wanted to write about an experience which I felt quite a few times in the past year, to struggle, to doubt, to feel like giving up but in the end, to trust and follow your inner voice which guides you into the right direction.
One of the earlier dishes I made for eat in my kitchen, was a rabbit stew. It tasted fantastic but it didn’t look pretty and I had no experience whatsoever capturing every kind of food deliciously in a picture. I was used to taking photos of our dinners or lunches once in a while to freeze the moment but not to make it look good and appealing on a plate. So I sat on the floor of our kitchen, crying, it was late in the evening, my boyfriend was my light man standing on a chair and holding a fluorescent tube from the hardware store, trying to make it work. The scene was ridiculous and so funny at the same time, at least now when I look back! It didn’t work out, the rabbit never made it onto the blog and that night I thought I would give up, but instead I made a few changes and moved on. No more artificial light and no more stews until I felt experienced enough to capture their rustic beauty in a photo.
I’m not going to share a rabbit recipe with you today but another advanced kitchen task, Tyrolean apple strudel. This isn’t a quick and easy cake but it teaches you to trust. It’s a bit of a challenge but it will reward you with one of the greatest enjoyments of the sweet world, pure buttery fruitiness. The strudel is filled with lots of apples, raisins and spices all wrapped in a cinnamony short crust. The pastry isn’t crisp like a pie, it’s a bit soft, almost juicy which makes it quite delicate to handle. There is another strudel variation made with a very thin and flaky dough called Ziehteig in German but I prefer my strudel with short crust. It’s my favorite of all strudels, buttery, soft and slightly crisp on the outside.
The final result is fantastic but you will have to work for it and trust yourself and maybe improvise at times. There may be moments you want to give up, when you feel that you can’t get it right and for a second, you believe that it’s over, you’re done with it (although it’s just a cake, it can feel quite dramatic). But then, out of the deepest corner of the mind comes a spark, a pull, like a defiant little child that doesn’t want to accept a “no”, and this feeling that seems like a mood at first, doesn’t want to fade, it grows instead until it becomes a force. It fills you up with energy again, confidence, the exact power you need to overcome this low, because that’s what it is in the end, nothing more and nothing less than a low that will pass. Maybe these words fit more to my last year than to a strudel but anyhow, it can feel similar in the kitchen at times. So back to my strudel, the first 10 minutes in the oven are the critical phase, it can be tricky. The dough can crack, it happens sometimes but it’s not a problem, you just have to close it again. And here’s when the trust comes in. I’ve been making this recipe for almost 15 years but today’s strudel opened more than any other before as I took my time taking pictures so the pastry got warm. I was used to a few cracks on the top which you can easily close with two spoons, but this time, one side opened completely. So I had to react quickly, I pulled the pastry up again with the help of the parchment paper and stabilized it with small baking dishes on each side. I got a bit nervous but it worked, as always.
And maybe that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the past year, not for the first time in my life, but with a kind of intensity I never felt before. As long as you don’t give up and trust everything will work out. The peace discovered through this experience is a treasure.
I want to thank you so much for joining me while I fill these pages of eat in my kitchen. I hope you enjoy the time in the kitchen and at the table with these recipes as much as I do. There will be many more to come, not every day but about four times a week. I need a little break once in a while to feed my inspiration.
Thank you to my mother and my whole family in Germany, Malta and in the US for being such an amazing inspiration to my kitchen and a big thank you to my boyfriend for his patience!
Combine the flour with the sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. 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 and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 1 hour.
For the filling
sour apples (like boskoop), peeled, cored, cut into 8 pieces each and sliced thinly, 800g / 1 3/4 pounds
raisins 100g / 3.5 ounces
breadcrumbs 60g / 2 ounces
butter 1 teaspoon
vanilla, the seeds of 1/3 pod
cinnamon 1 1/2 teaspoons
zest of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
Kirsch schnaps 1 table spoon
sugar 80g / 3 ounces
Roast the breadcrumbs in the butter, stirring constantly until golden brown. Let them cool.
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the filling apart from the sugar. It would pull the juices out of the apples so you add it when the filling is spread on the pastry.
organic egg, beaten, 1 for the egg wash
icing sugar for the topping
Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F (fan assisted oven).
Roll out the dough between cling film, about 35 x 30 cm / 14 x 12″. Take the top layer of cling film off the pastry and put a large piece of parchment paper on instead. Flip the dough around so that the parchment paper is at the bottom and take off the cling film on top. Gently spread the filling evenly on the pastry but leave a 2cm / 1″ rim around it, sprinkle the filling with the sugar. Carefully roll up the dough from the long side, it should be quite tight, if possible, push the apples back in that fall out. When the strudel is rolled up put the fold at the bottom and close the sides by pushing the dough together. Quickly move the strudel on the parchment paper onto the baking sheet, brush with the egg wash and bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Watch the strudel in the first 10 minutes, if it opens, quickly close it with the back of a spoon. If it opens on the side, pull up the parchment paper to put the pastry back into place and hold it in place with a small ovenproof dish put right next to the strudel. When it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before you sprinkle it with icing sugar.
Enjoy pure, with whipped cream or custard sauce.
For the custard sauce
organic egg yolks 2
cornstarch 30g / 1 ounces
sugar 120g / 4.5 ounces
milk 500ml / 17 ounces
a pinch of salt
vanilla pod, slit slightly, 1
Whisk the egg yolks with the cornstarch, sugar, salt and 50ml / 2 ounces of the milk until well combined.
In a sauce pan, bring the remaining milk with the vanilla pod to the boil. Take the vanilla pod out and scrape the seeds out of the bean into the milk. Add the egg mixture to the hot milk, whisking well. Take the sauce pan off the heat after 1 minute and continue whisking for 2 minutes, serve hot.
This is one of the best things you can do with a golden crêpes, fill it with sweet whipped sour cream! The cream is so simple that whenever I make it for my friends, no one manages to guess what’s in it. It’s definitely not much, just sour cream whipped with icing sugar but for whatever reason, it creates a unique taste between sweet and sour which is far more fine than you would imagine.
I learned about this recipe from my stepfather who lived in Paris for a few years. Uli adores this country, the food and lifestyle and he praises its cuisine almost as much as the one he grew up with, the traditional Swabian cooking. He’s a true gourmet, one of the most joyful and critical I know who loves his food and wine with such passion that he celebrates every meal. A dinner with him is a feast and even the smallest nibble for lunch turns into a special treat. It’s the way he talks about it, how he appreciates every bite, that it becomes more than just food, it’s a celebration of life. Uli brought a huge French influence into my family’s cooking, yesterday’s Coq au Vin, my Daube de Boef Provençale, the creamy Vichyssoise or my mother’s Tarte Tatin, I’m sure I would have cooked these recipes at one point in my life anyway, but his notes and comments to the recipes, his authentic knowledge and the stories about his life in France which he has told us since we were children turn these dishes into something very special (and delicious!). I still call him when my cooking turns French for some tips and advice.
I remember that we often used to make these crêpes as a spontaneous dessert after a long dinner when we all didn’t feel like finishing our gathering at table but rather listening to more stories while eating these wonderfully luscious crêpe rolls. Uli always used to remind us in the kitchen that we have to make them thinner, like in France! Today, I love to make them for a late breakfast on the weekend, with a Café au Lait at hand and some Jacques Brel in the background. Although he was Belgian he’s still one of my favourite singers when it comes to French chansons! He makes me feel like I’m in Paris!
Crêpes with sweet Sour Cream
For about 20 crêpes (for 4-6 people) you need
plain flour, sieved, 250g / 9 ounces
sugar 50g / 2 ounces
a pinch of salt
organic eggs 4
milk 1/2l / 2 cups
butter, to fry the crêpes
For the sweet cream
sour cream 400g / 14 ounces
icing sugar 6 tablespoons plus more to taste
Whisk the sour cream and icing sugar to a light and fluffy cream and sweeten to taste.
Mix the ingredients for the crêpes to a smooth dough (with an electric mixer) and let it sit for 15 minutes.
In a non-stick pan, heat a teaspoon of butter. Pour in a ladle of the dough, holding the pan in your hand and turning it so that the dough spreads evenly and very thinly. The temperature should be on medium-high as the crêpes won’t need more than 1 minute on each side once the heat is set right. I always use the first two crêpes to find the right setting. When the crêpe is golden on both side, fold it twice and keep it warm in the oven at 80°C / 175°F. Always heat a teaspoon of butter before you add new dough to the pan. When the last batch is done serve with the sweet sour cream.
A mother’s kitchen can be the best cooking class in the world, the place to learn all the little tricks and secrets passed on from one generation to the next. In my mother’s kitchen, I learned almost everything I needed to know to become a passionate cook with love and curiosity for ingredients. She nurtured my trust and boldness to create my own cooking style. Her kitchen is still a magic place to me where she creates all these tastes and smells which I’ll never forget in my whole life, especially when it comes to meat and gravies cooked the traditional way.
Most of us savoured the first stews and roasts in our mother’s and grandmother’s creative culinary spaces, where our taste buds were refined to distinguish between the woody herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary and the strong aroma of bay leaf, juniper and allspice. Sauces cooking in pots for hours fogging the kitchen windows on cold November afternoons became more important to me than the meat as this was the spice for my beloved knoedel, mashed potatoes or spaetzle. All the vegetables, spices and green leaves would cook down to a concentrate, the essence of natural, rich flavours, created to soak into the soft sponginess of a slice of soft white bread or a waxy potato mashed into these juices. This was always the pinnacle of cooking to me, an art. My mother, who makes the best sauces I know, would chop and stir for hours to come up with a deep, brown gravy – the grande finale.
For years, Coq au Vin was saved in my mind as one of the time consuming recipes which would take an afternoon of preparation, until I made it myself for the first time. I called my mother twice to double check her recipe and to see that we didn’t have any misunderstandings but her recipe was so much easier than expected. It really doesn’t take more than 40 minutes to turn a few chicken legs, a bottle of wine, some mushrooms and lots herbs and spices into this amazing French classic. The sauce is so aromatic, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t on the cooker for longer. The mushrooms are still crunchy and fresh as they only cook in the juices for the last 10 minutes, some fresh parsley leaves sprinkled on top of the drunken chicken finish it off. Then you can savour the juiciest meat, turned red from the wine and lots of sauce, deep, rich and fragrant.
Coq au Vin
For 4 people you need
chicken legs 5-6 (about 1.5kg / 3.5 pounds)
medium sized carrots, cut into julienne, 2
large leek, the light part, cut into julienne, 1/2
bacon, cut into small cubes, 50g / 2 ounces
celery, cut into large pieces, 1 stalk
garlic, crushed, 2 big cloves
small mushrooms (whole not cut!), bottom cut off, 400g / 14 ounces
red wine 1 bottle (0,75l)
salt and pepper
parsley leaves, a small handful, for the topping
For the bouquet garni (bound with a cotton string)
parsley, a small bunch
thyme, a small bunch
sage leaves 3
bay leaf 1
In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the chicken legs in batches for a few minutes on each side until golden brown , season with salt and pepper. Set the chicken aside and sauté the bacon for 2 minutes until crisp. Add the carrots, leek, celery and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken, the bouquet garni and red wine, season with salt and pepper and close with a lid. Cook on medium-low heat (simmering) for 3o minutes.
After half an hour, put the mushrooms on top of the chicken, dip them a little into the juices and cook for 10 minutes. Take out the bouquet garni and celery, season to taste and serve sprinkled with fresh parsley leaves and some crunchy baguette or potatoes.
What can be done with leftover quince and rutabaga? Throw them together and mash them with sweet Apple Balsamico vinegar and thyme! When I made my ginger lemon brandy with quince last week I bought too many of the fruits (as always) and their colour slowly changed from yellow to brown in the past few days. It was time to use them before they looked like potatoes. I could have also made jelly out of them but I still have a couple jars left, I just use it to refine sauces but it never finds its way onto my breakfast table. The competition in my pantry is tough, there’s also white vineyard peach jam, Tyrolean plums and my all time favourite, chunky strawberry. Soon I’ll make new batches of my tangerine and my blood orange marmalade and I’m slowly running out of space.
So no more jam but a purée which is a fruity alternative to mashed potatoes, ideally with a hearty roast and some aromatic gravy on the plate – heavenly! Both the quince and rutabaga flavours came through quite balanced and merged with the woody thyme, a little maple syrup and thick Apple Balsamico. You could use normal balsamic vinegar as well but the apple complements the quince and adds a little more sweetness, pear balsamico would be nice too. If you have it at hand, here’s the perfect dish for it to show off its qualities!
Quince and Rutabaga Purée with Apple Balsamico and Thyme
As a side dish for 4 you need
rutabaga, peeled and cut into little cubes, 300g / 10.5 ounces
quince, peeled, cored and cut into little cubes, 3
sugar 1 teaspoon
salt and pepper
a pinch of cinnamon
maple syrup, 1-2 tablespoons, to taste
Apple Balsamico vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons, to taste
fresh thyme leaves, 1 tablespoon plus more for the topping
In a sauce pan, heat a little olive oil and sauté the quince and rutabaga with the sugar for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Deglaze with a splash of white wine and add some water, it should come up about 2.5cm / 1″. Season with salt, pepper and cinnamon and stir in the maple syrup. Close with a lid and let it simmer on medium-low heat for about 30-40 minutes or until the fruit and root are soft, purée in a blender and season to taste. Serve warm, sprinkled with thyme and a little more Balsamico vinegar.
Salty, smoky and creamy! I’ve wanted to make this sandwich for months but whenever we had thin slices of pink smoked salmon lying in front of us on the kitchen table, we decided that it would be a pity to put this delicacy in a food processor. So we put some bread in the toaster instead and ate the fish puristically, just with toast, delicious as well but not what I had in mind today. I wanted to mix the fish with cream cheese, puréed and seasoned with a little horseradish, a simple composition which tastes fantastic on sweet and dark pumpernickel. It just needs some fresh dill on top and it’s a stunner!
In summer, I like to make these sumptuous open sandwiches for a late breakfast or brunch but at this time of the year it’s the perfect nibble for dinner parties. You can mix the spread in advance and put it on the table as a little appetizer with some more dips, like hummus or tzatziki with loaves of bread while you finish the last preparations in peace. It makes me nervous when I know that everybody is hungry waiting for me to get ready, so I’d rather see my friends happy with some finger food before the feast begins. It relaxes them as much as me.
Smoked Salmon Dip with Horseradish and Dill on Pumpernickel
For 12 small open sandwiches you need
pumpernickel, cut into triangles, 6 slices
smoked salmon 100g / 3.5 ounces
cream cheese 150g / 5.5 ounces
a pinch of freshly grated horseradish, to taste
dill, snipped, a small bunch
Purée the salmon with the cream cheese in a food processor and season with horseradish to taste. Spread on the pumpernickel slices and garnish with dill. Enjoy!
The fact that I found a bag with little green brussels sprouts at the far, far end of my fridge says a lot about my relation to this miniature cabbage. When I have them on my plate, I enjoy eating them, but if I’m not asked to cook them, they barely find their way into my pots. But this might change as I made a new discovery, roasted ginger lemon brussels sprouts! It’s amazing how the two lemony spices manage to turn the strong aroma of the green leaves into something new, less heavy and almost fresh. I was impressed! I often mix brussels sprouts with smoky bacon to soften their dominance, the meat’s saltiness is one of the few flavours that can handle this cabbage, but my new find is even better!
This dish is really easy to prepare, once you removed the outer leaves, the cabbages are completely coated in a strong ginger lemon olive oil and roasted in the oven for about half an hour. If you’re a big fan of these two flavours (like me) you can add a lot of grated ginger and lemon zest to the aromatic oil to give the vegetable a completely new direction. A while ago, these two aromas worked wonders in another recipe of mine, my refreshing cauliflower soup. I also wanted to bring out the brussels sprouts’ sweet side in this recipe so I sprinkled them with a bit of sugar before I put them in the oven to caramelize them a little. The added sweetness fit perfectly!
This makes a great side dish for poultry or Sunday roasts but also a delicious vegetarian lunch, if you’re still looking for some greens for your Thanksgiving table, here you go!
Roasted Ginger Lemon Brussels Sprouts
For 4 people you need
brussels sprouts, the bottom cut off and the outer leaves removed, cut in half, 750g / 1 3/4 pounds
olive oil 50ml / 1/4 cup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
zest of 1 lemon
freshly grated ginger 1 tablespoon
sugar 1/2 – 1 teaspoon
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (I use the Rotitherm setting).
Whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice, zest and ginger. Spread the brussels sprouts in a baking dish and mix them with the aromatic oil using your fingers to coat them thoroughly. Sprinkle them with sugar and salt. Put the baking dish in the oven and turn the cabbages with a spoon or spatula after about 10 minutes and then every 5 minutes to prevent them turning too dark. Take them out of the oven after about 25-30 minutes or when they are golden brown and al dente.
A homemade gnocchi dinner is quite a satisfying experience on many levels. Let’s start with the preparation: it takes a bit longer than cooking spaghetti but it rewards you with the feeling that you’ve created something special, something pretty and impressive on your plates. Here you don’t cook someone else’s product in hot water, this is your own dough made with fresh ingredients, gnocchi formed with love and attention. I believe that the effort you put into a meal is saved in it, you can taste it!
Making gnocchi can be intimidating but it doesn’t have to be, it’s about the right ratio between dry and moist ingredients, and taste obviously. When I make my potato or pumpkin gnocchi I know that I have to follow a few rules. The most important one is not to mix the flour into the vegetable mixture when it’s still warm, it has to cool off completely or the gnocchi won’t stay in shape. If you think that your dough is too sticky you just add a little more flour until you can hold it in your floured hands. It should feel a bit like yeast dough for pizza, when it’s more like glue, impossible to get off your fingers, you have to make some more adjustments. Be brave and it’ll work out!
Although my spinach gnocchi are made with fresh breadcrumbs and not potatoes, they follow the same rules. I blanche lots of crunchy winter spinach, squeeze it well and let it cool. Again, if it’s too moist and still warm it can cause hassles. Once it’s done, I mix it with the bread, a little flour, the spices and parmesan. The green dumplings are very easy to handle, you can even prepare them a few hours ahead before you cook them. I wanted the spinach to come through strong and earthy to keep up with my creamy sauce made of sautéed mushrooms. I also added some salty bacon bits but it’s just as good without the smoky flavour, the meat gives it a hearty touch, just choose what you feel like.
When I saw the plate in front of me, a perfect picture of comfortable Italian food, I knew why I don’t buy gnocchi from the store. They never taste as good, that’s for sure, but they also don’t have my kitchen memories saved in every little bite.
Spinach Gnocchi with creamy Mushrooms
For 3-4 people you need
For the mushrooms
mushrooms, the bottom cut off, cut into thick slices, 300g / 10.5 ounces
heavy cream 150 – 200ml / 5.5 – 7 ounces
salt and pepper
bacon, cut into small cubes, 60g / 2 ounces
In a large pan, fry the bacon in a little oil for a few minutes on medium heat until golden brown and crisp. Take the bacon out of the pan and add a little more oil if necessary, sauté the mushrooms on high temperature for 1 minute on each side. Deglaze with a splash of brandy, season with salt and pepper to taste and add the cream.
For the gnocchi
fresh spinach leaves (stems cut off), rinsed, 500g / 1 pound
breadcrumbs, freshly ground with a grater or in a food processor, 250g / 9 ounces
organic egg yolks 2
plain flour 70g / 2.5 ounces
parmesan, freshly grated, 40g / 2 ounces plus more for the topping
salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
Blanche the spinach in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and let it cool in a colander for about 10 minutes. Squeeze the spinach in batches in between your hands but mind that it isn’t hot anymore. The spinach should be quite dry. Purée the leaves in a food processor and mix with the other ingredients until well combined.
On a well floured surface, roll the dough in batches into a 2cm / 3/4″ sausage shape and cut off 3cm / 1 1/4″ gnocchi. Spread them on a well floured baking sheet.
In a large pot, bring salted water to the boil and cook the gnocchi in batches on medium heat (simmering). When they start to rise and float on the surface after about 4 minutes take them out with a slotted ladle and drain them for a few seconds. Keep the gnocchi in a covered ovenproof dish in the warm oven (100°C / 210°F) until the last batch is done.
Serve the gnocchi with the mushrooms, sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan and crushed black pepper.
Almost ten years ago, I found my favourite tea time cookie on a little island in the Mediterranean. The Maltese Ottijiet are crumbly short crust based cookies, shaped in a figure of 8, hence the name ottijiet (the plural of otta) derived from the Italian word for eight, otto. The composition is not very sweet but packed with wonderful flavours ripened under the Mediterranean sun: orange, lemon, aniseed, cloves and sesame. It’s one of the most aromatic sweets I know. Imagine the smell of the air in my kitchen while they’re baking in the oven, it’s beautiful!
When we’re on the island, I always go to my trusted confectionary Busy Bee in Msida on the first or the second day of our stay to stock up on ottijiet for our traditional 5 o’clock tea breaks in Jenny’s kitchen. As I’m not the only one in the house who is obsessed with them, I buy a few bags right away to avoid cookie shortages. This sweet became an important part of our daily ceremony, we all come together and meet around my Maltese mother’s big wooden table in the afternoon to chat and savour our caramel coloured teas. Many Maltese like to dip the crunchy rings into their warm beverage and our family has often tried to convince me of this ritual - without success, it’s not for me!
Whenever friends and family visit us in Berlin, they know how to make me happy and bring a few packages of ottijiet to our kitchen. But after so many years and cookies, I felt ready to bake my own. I was a bit nervous but luckily we still had a package from Jenny’s last visit so I didn’t have to depend on my taste memory. Ottijiet are kind of a national dish and I have learned a lot about the various traditional recipes and the obligatory spice mixtures from the cooks I met over the years. I knew roughly what I had to do but it took two batches of dough until my Maltese partner approved the result and I was happy too. But then, they were as good as Busy Bee‘s!
Ottijiet – Maltese Tea Time Cookies with Sesame Seeds, Cloves and Aniseed
Before you bake the cookies, the dough should rest in the fridge for about 1 hour.
For 22 ottijiet you need
plain flour 300g / 10.5 ounces
sugar 100g / 3.5 ounces
baking powder 2 teaspoons
a pinch of salt
aniseed, ground in a mortar, 3 leveled teaspoons
cloves, ground in a mortar, 20 (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
vanilla, the seeds of 1/2 pod
orange zest 1 teaspoon
lemon zest 1 teaspoon
butter, cold, 100g / 3.5 ounces
organic egg, beaten, 1
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
water, cold, 1 tablespoon
sesame seeds about 50g / 2 ounces, for the topping
Combine the flour with the sugar, salt, baking powder, spices and citrus zest. 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, juices and water and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for about 1 hour.
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (fan assisted oven) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put the sesame seeds on a plate.
Break large walnut sized pieces off the dough and roll them between your hands for about 5 seconds. On the kitchen top, roll them into thin, 25cm / 10″ long sausage shapes and close them well to form a ring. Twist the ring to an 8 shape, dip it into the sesame seeds and spread the cookies on the baking sheet with some space in between them as they will rise. Bake the ottijiet for 11 minutes or until golden brown and let them cool on a rack. Store them in your cookie jars and enjoy with a cup of tea!
This is one of my little kitchen traditions, every year in November, I go to the market to buy quinces to make Nigella Lawson’s Quince Brandy with Cinnamon and Star-anise. After a few weeks, the spirit turns into an aromatic composition that works wonders in mince pie fillings, stews or to deglaze meat and vegetables. But this year, things have changed! I will celebrate the first anniversary of my blog on the 23rd November, a whole year of my own and some of my family’s recipes written on the pages of eat in my kitchen. Here, I found my playground where I can write about all my culinary ideas and creations, my new finds and beloved traditions. I cook and eat the food in my kitchen but there are no words to describe how thankful I am for all the response and support I get from you. There are moments when it all feels so overwhelming and almost unreal. It’s a great inspiration for me to stay creative and open in the kitchen!
As Nigella already came up with the best recipe for her wintery cinnamon and anise brandy, I started to think about a variation on it that would create a completely different taste without disturbing the quince. I wanted something more fresh and fruity but still powerful enough to refine all the various recipes that I’ll need it for in the next few months (especially at Christmas time). The strong and dominant aroma of ginger and lemon peel seemed like the right choice to me. And although it’s only been a few days since I prepared the jar, I can already say that the result is very satisfying. I think I’ll use it soon for my first mince pies of this season and until then I’ll just enjoy its amber coloured beauty on my kitchen top.
Ginger, Lemon and Quince Brandy
For a 1.8l / 4 pints jar you need
quinces, wiped and scrubbed dry, not rinsed, about 6
brandy 1l / 2 pints
ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices, 2 thumb-sized pieces
peel of 1 lemon, long, thin strips
Fill half of the jar with brandy. Cut the quinces with the skin and core into 8 pieces and put them into the jars, layering them with the ginger and lemon peel. Fill with the remaining brandy to the top and wait patiently for about a week, shaking it every couple of days before you start to use it.
It was one of the last warm evenings in early October when I met Simon from The Sausage Man Never Sleeps for the first time. He had a stand at Berlin’s first Stadt Land Food Festivaland was about to close down for the day. I spotted a selection of coarse sausages in his display, the kind I got hooked on since I lived in England a few years ago. When I read the names of his creations I couldn’t help talking to him. Apricot, hazelnuts and cream cheese, apple and sage, or tomato, fennel and mozzarella sausage, doesn’t that sound heavenly? That’s exactly what I love to have on my breakfast table on a Sunday morning with some fried eggs, beans and bacon. This man offered what I had been looking for in this city for years! I had to learn more about his products, maybe make some sausages together so I asked if I could visit him in his kitchen.
At 5 am (!) the following week we had a date. The city was still dark and quiet when I jumped on my bike, ready to watch my laid-back gourmet butcher from New Zealand prepare his new batch of sausages for the day. While he was stuffing the skins with the various fillings which he had mixed earlier at night before my arrival, we spoke about his journey that took him from the other side of the world (from a European perspective) to London and finally to Berlin. Here, he decided to live his dream and make his own sausages. He started working at a butcher shop which is coincidentally in my area and my favourite place for meat. At the Erchinger Fleischund Wurstmanufaktur in Prenzlauer Berg, Simon finished his education to get the qualifications for the German market and he also became friends with the owner. Butcher Jörg Erchinger who took over the shop a few years ago, totally supports the young man and his visions. He believes in his unique products which have recently been featured by the renowned Feinschmecker magazine. Simon uses the rooms, machines and tools of the shop for his own production which he offers at the Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg and other special food events. If you want to stay updated about the latest The Sausage Man Never Sleeps projects, you can visit his website or Facebook.
I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to get these delicious sausages fried to perfection by the butcher himself. We couldn’t meet at his kitchen at home as the house is too dark for photos, so he took over mine. After a well deserved coffee for the sleepless sausage man and some hazelnuts that he spotted on my window-sill, we got down to frying. He cooked his work of the morning in a little butter and oil for about 10 minutes until the sausages were golden brown but still juicy. They were so good, I didn’t want to have them with anything else, I just enjoyed them and their pure flavours. I’m so happy that Simon offered to share one of his secrets with all of us, the recipe for his gourmet Apple and Sage Sausages!
Simon’s Gourmet Apple and Sage Sausages
pork belly, boned and skinned (approx. 20% fat), 1kg / 2 pounds
apples, peeled, cored and diced in 1/2cm / 1/4″ cubes, 2
salt 15g / 3 leveled teaspoons
cracked pepper 1g / a pinch
fresh sage, chopped, 2g / 4 leaves
natural pork sausage skins
Mince the pork through a 1/2cm / 1/4″ mincing plate, add the salt and mix by hand until it sticks to itself (3-4 minutes). Add the apple, pepper and sage and mix throughly.
Fill into skins but not too full so you can tie off sausages. Tie off sausages with thumb and forefinger, cut in the middle of the twist which should be about 1cm / 1/2″ long.
Shelf life of 2-3 days in the fridge or can be frozen if made from fresh meat.
Give your pan a medium heat, a squirt of oil, a dob of butter and heat until foamy. Pop sausages in the pan (there is no need to prick them first). Turn and baste in the pan juice until golden brown (9-10 minutes).
You started an apprenticeship at a butcher at 16 but only started working as one 14 years later. Why did you wait so long and what drew you back to this craft?
After completing my apprenticeship as a butcher I was looking for the next challenge and an opportunity came up to work in a freezing works (BIG Abbotoir) as a supervisor in a lamb cutting room. 10 years later after various office jobs in the food industry I found myself in London at the start of the recession with little chance of finding an office job in the food industry. Going back to being a butcher was the obvious choice. Leaving and getting back into hands on butcher work was not planned, it was opportunities that came along.
You grew up in New Zealand, lived and worked as a butcher in London and you have now started your own sausage business here in Berlin. What are the differences in sausage making in these three countries?
The basis of New Zealand sausages has an English theme as it was colonised by the British in the 19th century. New Zealand butchers have a lot of interesting flavour combinations in their sausages which is quite an inspiration for me. British sausages generally have more simple flavour combinations and are mainly pork based. German sausages are good and there is a huge range available, German sausages are world renowned as the best in the world.
Do you have a sausage philosophy?
Yes, keep it simple, use good quality ingredients and don’t add too much salt.
How do you develop new sausage recipes? What inspires you?
Trial and error, combining flavours that complement each other, that don’t overpower each other, using different textures to create interesting combinations that are more than just flavour and moisture.
Your company is called ‘The Sausage Man Never Sleeps’, is that what a butcher’s life is really like?
Not really, apart from Christmas time working in a butcher’s shop, usually that means 15 hour days for a while. The name was inspired by the New Zealand sausage man who I worked with at Lidgates in London. Most of the butcher’s shops I’ve worked in are 6am starts, I love that time of day, especially in the warmer months!
What do you miss about New Zealand in general but also when it comes to food?
I miss my friends and family, especially my nephews. I miss sea fishing and eating what you catch the same day, walking in the bush (forest) and the Southern Alps.
I’m a big fan of New Zealand Beef, Lamb and Venison. My father was a farmer and in his business he has a lot of contact with farmers, so his freezers (3 of them) are always full of the tastiest home killed and hunted meat you would find in the world. Also he has a massive vegetable garden, so it’s always a treat being at my parents’ house. And last but not least, Dimitrie’s Souvolaki in Christchurch has the best Souvolaki ever…
How often do you use your kitchen at home, do you like to cook?
I love to cook but since I started my business I have had not as much time to cook. Nothing better than getting friends round and all pitching in to make an epic feast!
What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?
My first memory of cooking is making mud cakes in the garden and the first dish I cooked was heating up frozen fries and a hot dog (in New Zealand this is a battered pre-cooked sausage on a stick), I was about 6 years old.
What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Berlin?
Markthalle Neun, Eurogida, The Dairy, Antipodes, Oma Marnie’s Pie Bakery, Erchinger Fleischund Wurstmanufaktur, and Gemüse Kebab Shop on Kastanienallee.
What are your upcoming projects?
I am starting in the Breakfast Market in the Markthalle Neun on the 16th of November, it is on the third Sunday of every month. Later I want to also get into Streetfood Thursday. Eventually I want to have my own production place where I can make sausages 24 hours a day.
Why did you choose Berlin as a place to live and work?
After living in London I needed to get out of the rat race, Berlin was the perfect choice.
What did you choose to share on eat in my kitchen?
Here’s a recipe for Apple and Sage Sausages.
If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?
Jamie Oliver, Scottish entrecôte steak, eggs and chips.
You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?
A massive vegan curry, rice, Raita and Turkish bread, a couple of salads, one including bacon. Whatever sausages I have in the freezer for the meat eaters.
What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?
Mum’s homemade lasagna with garlic bread and a leafy salad. Now, I have no idea. I like all food, except mustard, I am allergic to it. Actually I’m about to cook a full English for some friends, that’s one of my favourites… great way to start the day.
Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?
Cooking with others is preferred, although I find cooking alone fine as long as I have some good music to listen to.
Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?
Which meal would you never cook again?
Homemade falafel, it’s so frustrating cooking without a deep fryer!
My pumpkin phase has to take a little break, it’s going overboard. I had one last idea for soup in mind before leaving the pretty squash at the market instead of carrying one after the other into our kitchen. What I came up with is pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot cooked and puréed to a velvety soup topped with mild chèvre and pumpkin seed oil to melt into the sweet flavours.
This is the perfect end to an annual obsession I always fall for as soon as the leaves turn golden. The first bowl of my warm treat put me at ease, I felt ready to jump into a new phase! The composition combined all I could ask for, it was smooth and thick. This soup isn’t light and liquid, it’s more like a purée, a potage that is rich enough to satisfy your hunger after a busy day. I really like these kind of soups that can replace a whole meal instead of just being a starter to tickle the appetite. All you need are some slices of juicy ciabatta sprinkled with olive oil on the side to enjoy the entire comfort of this dish.
Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup with Chèvre
For 4 people you need
pumpkin, without the fibres and seeds, cut into cubes, 700g / 1.5 pounds
(Hokkaido with skin or peeled butternut or Musquée de Provence pumpkin)
sweet potato, scrubbed and rinsed, cut into cubes, 500g / 1 pound
large carrot, peeled or scrubbed, cut into cubes, 1
medium sized onion, finely chopped, 1
garlic, crushed, 1 clove
bay leaf 1
water 1 l / 2 pints
a pinch of mace or nutmeg
salt and pepper
soft chèvre, crumbled, 100g / 3.5 ounces , for the topping
pumpkin seed oil, for the topping
In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the onions on medium heat for a few minutes until soft and golden. Add a little more oil and the pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot and garlic. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the water and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Season with salt, pepper and mace and cook for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft (simmering). Take out the bay leaf and purée the soup with a stick mixer or in a blender. Season to taste and serve sprinkled with pumpkin seed oil and a few crumbles of the chèvre.
These three B’s lead to an amazingly luscious sandwich: beetroot, bacon and blue cheese! The earthy-sweet, salty and smoked flavours are anything but silent, however surprisingly harmonic in this combination. They merge naturally with the sharpness of the melted Fourme d’Ambert cheese and the crunchy rucola (arugula) which I added for some colour and green freshness.
It started off with one of my weekly kitchen tradition, I always cook a big pot of the purple roots to have them at hand for our salads or as a little snack cut into small cubes and drizzled with olive oil and Balsamico vinegar. As I saw the rustic vegetable dancing up and down in the deep red water I got mesmerized, dreaming of all the delicious recipes I would use them for. The three B’s where one of them!
When I put the sandwich under the grill, the seductive aroma of grilled cheese spread in the air. Attracted by the smell, two hungry people found their way in front of the oven. My partner and his mother Jenny who isn’t usually too fond of strong cheeses, blue ones in particular, looked at me with impatience and hunger. They both love my Sandwich Wednesdays but the fact that I have to take pictures first can be quite a mean teaser. Grilled sandwiches especially are a feast for the eyes but even more for the nose. It can be so cruel to sit in front of this beautiful creation in all its juiciness when all you want is to take a big bite but you can’t. You have to wait until the last photo is taken. That makes me appreciate it even more!
A grilled Beetroot, Bacon and Blue Cheese Sandwich
For 3 sandwiches you need
long rustic buns, cut in half, 3
large beetroots, scrubbed and rinsed, 2
bay leaf 1
bacon 3-6 slices
strong blue cheese, like Fourme d’Ambert or Stilton, cut into slices, 100g / 3.5 ounces
rucola (arugula), a small handful
sat and pepper
Cook the beetroot in lots of salted water with the bay leaf for about 50 minutes or until the roots are soft. Rinse them under cold water and let them cool for a few minutes. Peel and cut them into thick slices and brush them with olive oil.
Fry the bacon in a little olive oil until golden brown and very crisp and brake it into large pieces.
Spread 3-4 beetroot slices on the bottom side of each bun and put a few bacon pieces on top. Finish it off with the blue cheese and put it under the grill for 1-2 minutes until it starts to melt. Sprinkle with pepper and rucola, close the bun and enjoy!
When it’s grey outside it’s time to bring some colours back to our plates! I combined bitter chicory, or endive, the sweetest red pomegranate and juicy oranges in a powerful salad full of strong flavours and vitamins. The dressing is a bright yellow aroma bomb mixed with freshly grated turmeric, thick apple balsamic vinegar and a little maple syrup – fruity and spicy. This is definitely a keeper for winter! Fresh turmeric root has a very strong taste, so you have to add it carefully, one pinch at a time, to enjoy its qualities in the dressing.
At the moment, my kitchen is stuffed with all kinds of citrus fruits, three big plates piled with lemons, oranges, deep coloured tangerines and the lighter and loose skinned satsumas, or mandarins. It’s so easy to prepare and strengthen the body for winter when these fruits are at hand. I start every morning with a cup of green tea with half a squeezed lemon, my prevention and cure. When I tried it the first time, I got hooked on this warm drink so it became the daily morning ritual of my life. Since then, about four or five years ago, I have rarely been sick. This is my beloved little ceremony, boiling water and letting it cool down to about 80°C (180°F) to brew the fragrant leaves. My lemons are normally from Italy, and always organic, I pour their sour juices into the light green of my tea and take a few minutes just for myself. This is like meditation, I sit down on my sofa with the warm mug in my hands and relax!
Chicory, Pomegranate and Orange Salad with fresh Turmeric
As a lunch for 2 you need
medium sized chicories (endive) 2
orange, peeled and cut into filets, 1
For the dressing
olive oil 3 tablespoons
apple balsamic vinegar 1 1/2 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
maple syrup 1/2-1 tablespoon, to taste
fresh turmeric, grated, a bit less than 1/8 teaspoon, to taste
salt and pepper
Whisk the ingredients for the dressing and season to taste.
Spread the chicory leaves and orange filets on 2 plates and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and the dressing.
Last week’s guest, my Mediterranean mama Jenny, brought so many mouthwatering delicacies from her home island to our kitchen that I didn’t even know where to start: Maltese sausages, pies, bread and cheese! Earlier this year, I shared our table with you, covered with gifts from another frequent and beloved guest, my partner’s sister Emma. To get an idea of our delicious feast, take a look here.
After a couple pies and a few slices of the wonderful sourdough bread, we continued the next morning, with a scrumptious English breakfast. Bacon, beans and the strongly flavoured island sausages with lots of coriander crowned our plates. You couldn’t ask for more on a late Sunday morning! As Jenny knows how much we love this spiced meat composition, she brought enough of it with her to feed a big Mediterranean family. So here’s what we had next on our table:
It has been cold outside in the past few days as we watched the last red and yellow leaves fall outside our windows. This is the start of the comfy food season, the best time to have a hearty meal of Savoy cabbage, potatoes and meat, all cooked in one pot and placed on our wooden table. It was quite a cosy scene! For the first time, I cooked the cabbage with coarsely crushed coriander seeds inspired by the Maltese sausages. I refined it with spicy mustard and a little cream and it was great. Not many of you will have the chance to find these kind of sausages but you can easily replace them with salsiccia or any other strong sausage, or wait until the end of this week:
On Friday, I’ll have a special treat for you! I met an Australian butcher to learn how the professionals make sausages and I can’t wait to share it with you in the next meet in your kitchen story!
Savoy Cabbage with Coriander and Maltese Sausages
For 4-6 people you need
coarse sausage 4-6
Savoy cabbage, quartered, the hard inner core removed, 1.2kg / 2.5 pounds
potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes, 500g / 1 pound
medium sized onions, finely chopped, 2
white wine 300ml / 10 ounces
heavy cream 100ml / 3.5 ounces
water 200ml / 7 ounces
coriander seeds, coarsely crushed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon plus more to taste
spicy mustard, 1 teaspoon plus more to taste
salt and pepper
Cut each quarter of the cabbage into thick slices and then into cubes. Rinse and drain them.
In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the onions on medium heat for a few minutes until golden and soft. Put the wet cabbage on top of the onions, add 1/3 of the wine, stir and close with a lid. Cook for 5 minutes before you add the potatoes, the remaining wine and the water. Add the coriander seeds and mustard and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat (lid closed) until the cabbage is between soft and al dente. Add the cream and season to taste. Put the sausages in between the cabbage and let them cook (lid closed) for a few minutes until they are done.
In my young years, I built up a remarkable reputation in my family regarding the amount of cake I could eat at one go. Our regular gatherings at my granny Lisa’s house used to start with a huge cake buffet which equaled paradise in my childish eyes. Most of my aunts and uncles are passionate cooks and bakers, they always lined up a scrumptious selection of our sweet family classics, like black forest cake, cheese and fruit cakes, spongy lemon cake, crumbles and my granny’s masterpiece, her fabulous Donauwelle (meaning Danube wave). This traditional cake is also known as Snow-White-Cake due to its colour combination. It combines a layer of juicy black and white marble cake with sour cherries, German buttercream and melted bittersweet chocolate on top. The original name refers to the wavy pattern which you see when you cut the pieces. The cherries sink into the dough while it’s baking and create waves like the Danube river – Donau in German.
As a child, I used to have quite a healthy appetite, but sometimes I pushed my borders. I could easily eat five or six pieces of cake, especially when I tried to keep up with my well built male cousins. Of course, there were many days I had to suffer afterwards but it was all forgotten by the next family feast.
It’s been more than twenty years since my granny passed away and I never baked this cake myself. I kept the recipe safe and waited. But then, when my Maltese mother Jenny visited us last week, I thought about a special German sweet to treat her to. My granny Lisa’s Donauwelle was the first one that came into my mind and it felt like the right time to finally give it a try. I was a bit nervous so I called my sister to get some more detailed instructions. After a few adjustments and improvisations on the recipe (we forgot to use the fifth egg as it rolled behind the toaster but we didn’t miss it in the final result), we had this luscious family classic on our table. It tasted like my granny’s and brought back sweet memories of her in the kitchen, of her cherry tree in her garden and the perfect times I used to spend at her house.
The cake is traditionally completely covered in chocolate decorated with a wavy pattern, my granny made it this way too. I find the bittersweet taste too overpowering so I went for a lighter chocolate sprinkle. I also only used half of the butter for the buttercream, it made it less dense and heavy.
We were all quite impressed with the result and savoured it for days. On the second and third day, we thought it was best but the chocolate wasn’t as pretty any more, but who cares! What can I say, food is like music, it saves memories for the rest of our life so that we can recall them at any time, I love that!
For a 24 x 30cm / 10 x 12″ baking dish you need
sour cherries (preserved) 300g / 10.5 ounces
bittersweet chocolate 100g / 3.5 ounces, for the topping
butter 1 tablespoon, for the topping
For the marble cake
butter, at room temperature, 275g / 10 ounces
sugar 275g / 10 ounces
the seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
organic eggs 4
milk 175ml / 6 ounces
plain flour 400g / 14 ounces
baking powder 1 package (4 teaspoons)
a pinch of salt
dark cocoa powder 2 heaped tablespoons
Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F (fan-assisted oven) and line the baking dish with parchment paper.
Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and continue beating for a few minutes until thick, creamy and light yellow. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Fold the dry ingredients and the milk with a wooden spoon gently into the butter egg mixture, alternating, about 1/3 at a time. Divide the dough in half between two bowls and stir the cocoa powder into one of them.
Scrape the light dough into the baking dish, even it out and put the dark one on top. Spread the cherries on top, one by one, and push them lightly into the dough. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cake is done. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the cake cool completely.
For the German buttercream
All ingredients for the buttercream must be at the same temperature (room temperature) to combine well!
Beat the soft butter for 5 minutes until white and fluffy.
Whisk the egg yolks with the cornstarch, sugar, salt and 50ml / 2 ounces of the milk until well combined.
In a sauce pan, bring the remaining milk with the vanilla pod to the boil. Take the vanilla pod out and scrape the seeds out of the bean into the milk. Add the egg mixture to the hot milk, whisking well. Take the sauce pan off the heat after 1 minute and continue whisking for 2 minutes until stiff. Fill into a bowl and cover the pudding’s surface with cling film.
When the vanilla pudding has cooled off completely, press it through a sieve and mix it in batches with the beaten butter, first with a spoon and then with your mixer for a few seconds until nice and creamy.
For the topping, melt the chocolate and butter and let it cool a little.
Spread the buttercream on top of the cake and decorate with the melted chocolate.
One of my all time favourite salads is mâche salad with beetroot and walnuts. The small green leaves are also known as field or corn salad and lamb’s lettuce. My dressing is simple and whisked together in just a few seconds. All I need is olive oil and thick Balsamico vinegar and I’m happy. This wintery salad visits our table at least once a week!
I never really plan my salads, most of the time they are spontaneous compositions depending on my mood. I just throw together whatever I find in the fridge or on my kitchen tops. Fruits, vegetables, nuts or preserves, I use what sparks my senses. It can start with a visual idea or a vision of flavours combined on a plate. Today’s salad started with a pear, I looked at it and decided to caramelize it in sugary buttery. There was another pretty one next to it but it was quite crisp and still a bit hard. I grated a small piece and mixed it into the vinaigrette to give it a fruity touch. A bag of pink peppercorns seemed as fitting as a box of crunchy mâche salad which was left in the fridge. I also wanted to add some walnuts as you can see in the photos but when I tried it I thought it would be too much so I left them out. Maybe you feel different about it, just give them a try!
Mâche Salad with Caramelized Pear and Pink Peppercorns
For 4 people you need
mâche salad, rinsed and dried, a big handful
pears, rinsed, cored and quartered, 1
butter 1 tablespoon
sugar 1 tablespoon
pink peppercorns, lightly crushed in a mortar, 1-2 tablespoons
olive oil 3 tablespoons
Balsamico vinegar 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper
walnuts for the topping
Grate about 1/8 of the pear and whisk with the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the remaining pear into thin wedges.
Melt the butter and sugar in a pan. Caramelize the pear wedges in the hot brown butter for about 1 minute on each side.
Divide the mâche salad between the plates and arrange the caramelized pear on top. Sprinkle with the dressing and the pink peppercorns and serve immediately.
The Italian pancarrè, or pane in cassetta, is the perfect white loaf of bread. It’s soft and spongy inside wrapped in a thin but crunchy crust. It’s the kind of bread that tastes even better, if not heavenly, when you put slices in the toaster the next morning. In Germany, we also call this kind of bread Toast or Toastbrot and I had a rather funny discussion about this topic with Phia and Josh when we met in their kitchen. They found this name quite confusing as for them, and the rest of the English speaking world, toast only becomes toast when it’s put in a toaster. So we came to the conclusion that a toasted slice of bread, to be correct, would be the equivalent to a toasted Toast in Germany.
No matter what you call it, first you have to bake it. I like to use organic white spelt flour (type 630) for this recipe which I often prefer for my cakes, cookies and pies as well. Spelt grain has better nutrition values than wheat and I find it much easier on the body. My Italian bread’s dough is made with butter and milk which makes it rich and slightly sweet in taste. To allow it to rise to its fullest, I learned to divide the dough into three parts which I braid into a plait. I once made the bread without this technique and it wasn’t as airy as I was used to. After this experience, I never messed with it again!
Although I’ve praised this breads toasting qualities, I can just recommend that you start with a warm, thick slice and some salted butter melted on top. The smell and taste is seductive! Then you can continue as you wish, with marmelade – great for tea time – cheese or Italian mortadella. After I had this pancarrè on my table, I always find it hard to go back to the various loaves of bread I buy from the bakeries. Nothing beats home baked bread!
For 1 loaf of bread in a 20 x 10 cm / 8 x 4″ loaf tin you need
plain flour (white spelt or wheat) 400g / 14 ounces
dry yeast 1 package for 500g / 1 pound of flour
sugar 1 tablespoon
salt 1 teaspoon
milk, lukewarm, 150ml / 5 ounces
water, lukewarm, 100ml / 3.5 ounces
butter, melted, 60g / 2 ounces
Mix the melted butter with the milk and water, the mixture should be lukewarm.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the milk / butter mixture and mix with your dough hooks for about 5 minutes until you have an elastic dough ball. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm oven ( top / bottom heat, no fan!) for about 45 minutes.
Butter your loaf tin and dust it lightly with flour.
Take the bowl out of the oven. Punch the dough down, divide it into three parts and form thick sausage shaped rolls. Braid them into a thick plait a bit longer than your tin. Fold down the ends and put the plait into the tin. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for another 30 minutes in a warm place.
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (top / bottom heat).
Bake the bread for about 40 minutes or until golden on top. If you’re not sure if it’s done, turn the bread around and knock on its underside, it should sound hollow. Let it cool for a couple minutes before you enjoy the first slice.
A special guest calls for a special meal! My partner’s mother Jenny came to visit us from Malta for a few days and, as always when we have a special guest, I got overly excited about planning our dinners and sightseeing trips days before she arrived. I love to have her here and it’s been a while since her last visit so there was a lot to pack into six days!
During one of our last phone calls she asked if we could make a Bavarian Beer Roasted Pork. It’s been years since I cooked it for her but she enjoyed it so much that she never forgot about our Bavarian night. Our first day together in Berlin was quite busy, I had to travel, my partner had a concert and we could only fit in a lunch. Inspired by all those wonderful Mediterranean seafood feasts we had at Jenny’s house in Msida this summer, I wanted to present a fish of the north, brook trout. I love its earthy taste, somewhere between trout and salmon, and its beautiful pink colour. It’s a member of the salmon family and lives in streams and brooks, although it’s called trout it’s actually a char. I prefer to cook sweet water fish al cartoccio wrapped in parchment pepper with spices, herbs and strong flavours like bacon or capers, like in my trout recipe. This method keeps the meat juicy and infuses it with all the delicate aromas it’s filled with and wrapped in. For my brook trout, I chose artichokes, parsley, olives and bay leaves which bring out the best in any kind of sweet water fish. Cooked for about half an hour in some white wine, it just needed a fresh, crunchy baguette to dip into the juices to make a delicious lunch for my beloved guest!
Brook Trout al Cartoccio with Artichokes and Olives
For 2 people you need
brook trout 1 (about 500g / 1 pound)
black olives 10
small preserved artichoke hearts (tinned), cut in half, 6
parsley, a small bunch garlic, quartered, 3 cloves
bay leaves 2
white wine 100ml / 3.5 ounces
salt and pepper
Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F.
Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper, about 20cm / 8″ longer than the fish. Put them on top of each other and brush the top with olive oil. Lay the trout in the middle and season it with salt and pepper inside and out. Put 1 bay leaf and half of the parsley under the fish and the other bay leaf and the remaining parsley inside. Fold up the sides of the parchment paper, twisting the ends without closing it. Arrange the artichokes, garlic and olives around the fish and pour the wine over it. Close the top by folding it twice, put the cartoccio in a baking dish and cook in the oven for about 25 minutes.
The fish is done if you can lift the meat with a knife off the bone. Gently cut along the middle line on one side to check. If it needs a little longer fold the parchment paper to close it again and put it back into the oven for a few minutes. Enjoy with fresh baguette and a glass of white wine!