Nature is blossoming all around me! Crunchy young leaves sprinkle the branches of the Linden trees in front of our house with their fresh green, thousands of yellow, pink and white flowers take over the city, visually and with their fragrance. It feels so refreshing and wakes up all my senses!
So many colours bursting around me inspire my culinary activities, I need crisp greens, beans, peas and mint, and a little orange, sweet and sour kumquats and fresh turmeric root for a light vinaigrette. You could also enjoy this composition as a warm side dish, with a splash of olive oil instead. I wanted to take my time, to prepare one ingredient after the other without hassling about keeping everything warm. I chose to slow down my pace, the kitchen windows wide open and the birds seemed as excited about this outburst of spring as I am. It was a cold salad in the end, enjoyed with a relaxed mind and a couple slices of fresh ciabatta.
Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Turmeric and Mint
For 2 as a lunch or 4 as a side dish you need
flat green beans, the ends cut off, 380g / 13 1/2oz
peas, fresh or frozen, 150g / 5 1/4oz
kumquats, rinsed and scrubbed, thinly sliced, 4
fresh mint leaves, a small handful
For the dressing
olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 3 tablespoons
freshly grated turmeric root (or ginger), a pinch, to taste
salt and pepper
In a large pot, bring salted water to the boil and blanch the beans for 3 minutes or until al dente. Take them out with a slotted ladle and rinse them under cold water for a second (to keep the fresh colour). Blanch the peas in the same pot for 1 minute, take them out and rinse them for a second with cold water.
Whisk the ingredients for the dressing and season to taste. Arrange the beans and peas on a large plate, sprinkle with the dressing, the slices of kumquat, mint leaves and a little more grated turmeric root.
This little Gâteau Breton looks so simple and innocent but there’s a rich and buttery depth behind its golden crust that can easily compete with any lavish layer cake. I admire the sweet French cuisine for mastering the art of getting the most out of a piece of butter, a few eggs and some sugar and flour. This is minimalism brought to perfection in baking.
I chose this Brittany butter cake as it seemed the right recipe to try out my new homemade lavender sugar. A spongy shortbread, that’s how I would describe it, sprinkled with the most fragrant purple sugar, it sounded so good and it tasted even better. Frances Bissell, the woman behind the wonderful baking book The Floral Baker, is a genius mind responsible for many wonderful sweet and savoury creations refined with lavender, jasmine, rose petals, orange flower water, wild garlic or saffron. Her recipe collection is a journey through nature’s opulence, I felt so inspired by the way she introduces new flavours and offers fresh combinations that I had never heard of or thought about. I already decided that her Saffron and Rosewater Biscuits, Lavender and Tomato Tart and the Lavender White Chocolate Caramel Cake will soon make an appearance on my kitchen table!
My first practical approach to her book was the preparation of lavender sugar. Frances suggests 10 parts sugar and 1 part lavender flowers (L. augustifolia, Hidcote), I trust this experienced baker so I decided to fill a huge jar up to the brim. My new pantry project satisfied me instantly, every couple days, I took it off the shelf to shake my flowery treasure and imagined all the recipes it would refine in future. Pure relaxation in a jar!
After a few weeks the time had come to give it a go and I think I couldn’t have had a better start to my flower project. I didn’t mix the sugar in in the dough, I just sprinkled the purple flowers and sugar on top of my warm Gâteau Breton and it instantly spread its beautiful aroma. It looked stunning, it took a French baking classic to another level and my boyfriend, who isn’t usually too fond of lavender, couldn’t get enough of it (like me)!
I’m with Diana Henry on The Floral Baker: ‘So thrilled with this by the wonderful Frances Bissell’! Thrilled and inspired, that’s the best a cookbook can do!
Lavender Gateau Breton
Mind that you prepare the lavender sugar a few days (or even weeks) in advance, 10 parts sugar and 1 part organic lavender flowers (L. augustifolia, Hidcote), you’ll only need a couple teaspoons for this cake.
For a 25cm / 10″ tart pan you need
plain flour 200g / 7oz
baking powder 3/4 teaspoon
a pinch of salt
butter, soft, 150g / 5 1/4oz
organic egg yolks 3 plus 1 egg
sugar 125g / 4 1/2oz
For the glaze
organic egg yolk 1
water 1 tablespoon
For the topping
lavender sugar 1-2 teaspoons, to taste
Set the oven to 170°C / 340°F (fan-assisted oven) and butter the tart pan.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, the egg and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the butter and mix with the hooks of your mixer, add the flour and continue mixing until combined. Scrape the dough into the tart pan (it will be sticky) and even out the surface a little. Whisk the egg yolk and water for the glaze and brush the top of the dough. Scratch a diamond pattern into the surface (as you can see in the pictures), mind that you scratch deep enough, otherwise the pattern will melt away while baking. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of lavender sugar (without the flowers) and bake for 25-28 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle the warm cake with a little more lavender sugar (this time with the flowers as well).
This scrumptious pork roll combines the hearty qualities of a juicy roast topped with crunchy crackling and the fresh spring feeling of ricotta, lemon zest, parmesan and thyme. If you liked my Bavarian Beer Roast for those cosy dinners at winter time, this is a great alternative for the warmer season, for a summery Sunday lunch under the bright blue sky and blossoming trees. It’s the perfect recipe to feast with your friends, the table filled with plates of crisp asparagus tomato salad, loaves of homemade bread and pink glasses of chilled rosé wine – and the roast right in the middle!
You could use butterflied pork loin from a fully grown pig for this dish but I went for suckling pig. Its fine flavour and tender texture is exactly what you need if you want to roll up the loin with a light Mediterranean stuffing, no distractions, just the fine aromas merged with the meat.
Suckling pig is a traditional German dish, you can often see it at village feasts in the countryside, a whole pig roast on a spit over the open grill. The scene can be a bit intimidating, it’s an archaic ritual – meat and fire. To me, it’s part of our nature and as I decided to include meat in my diet, I also decided to confront myself with various cooking methods, even the ones that aren’t as pleasing for the eyes as a schnitzel covered in breadcrumbs.
Thyme and Lemon Ricotta stuffed Pork Roll
For 6 people you need
suckling pork loin, boneless, butterflied, 1,2kg/ 2 3/4 pounds
ricotta 225g / 8 ounces
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
lemon zest 1 heaped tablespoon
parmesan 1 heaped tablespoon
fresh thyme leaves, 1 heaped tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
salt 1 teaspoon
coarse sea salt, to sprinkle the roll
cotton string for the roll
Set the oven to 240°C / 465°F (I used the Rotitherm setting).
Whisk the ricotta, lemon juice, zest, parmesan, thyme, pepper and salt. Lay the meat out flat on the kitchen top and spread with the ricotta-spice mix, leave a 2 cm / 3/4″ rim all the way round. Roll up the meat tightly without squeezing out the filling and tie with a cotton string every 3cm / 1″. Sprinkle the skin generously with sea salt (push it into the skin a little), place the roll in a roasting dish and roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn down the heat to 175°C / 350°F and roast for 35 minutes. Turn on the grill until the skin starts to crackle. Take the meat out of the oven, wrap in aluminium foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with asparagus tomato salad or a light potato salad.
The meat also tastes great cold, cut into thin slices, on a sandwich!
This is one of the quickest and most addictive lunch snacks you can imagine – and it’s healthy! With just one bite I had 3 cloves of roasted garlic in my mouth, enjoying its smooth texture and aromatic taste refined with pretty pink peppercorns and my flaky sea salt from Gozo. I roasted lots of fleshy cloves from a young garlic bulb in the oven, you’ll need about 15 for 2 small tartines. They cooked in their skin for about 15 minutes before I mashed them with a fork onto the bread, smooth, slightly sweet and concentrated in flavour. I shared a similar sandwich with you, exactly a year ago, the same procedure but with grilled Gruyère cheese on top. It was good too, a bit more hearty and rich.
I could really eat garlic by the bulb (roasted, not raw!). I love its sweet spiciness, its bold taste. You could also purée the grilled and peeled cloves with a little salt and use it as a thin spread on bread. It’s so good for our bodies, known to be one of the oldest traditional remedies in the European and Asian culture. No additional medicine, you just have to eat well to feel good!
Roast Garlic and Pink Peppercorn Tartine
For 2 small tartines you need
rustic dark bread 2 small slices
large cloves of garlic, in their skin, about 14
pink peppercorns, lightly crushed in a mortar, for the topping
flaky sea salt, to taste
Set the oven to 210°C / 410°F (fan-assisted oven).
Roast the garlic in their skin on a tray in the oven for about 15-18 minutes, or until you can mash the cloves with a fork. Mind that they don’t get dark and hard! Peel and mash them with a fork on the bread, sprinkle with a little sea salt and pink peppercorns. Enjoy warm!
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend told my about this Maltese classic from his childhood days: Froga tat-Tarja, a golden pan fried pasta omelette. This is the essence of Southern comfort food, it works all year round, but I mixed in some spicy green pesto which gave it a fresh spring feel. I must admit that my initial plan was to go for basil pesto but my little Mediterranean kitchen plant looked too sad. I can see it trying so hard (and hopelessly) to grow more leaves so I couldn’t bring myself to rip it up and leave it naked with only some slim stalks stuck into the soil.
I also had some rucola left and could have easily turned that into an aromatic pesto but you can imagine what happened next, ramp came to mind as always at this time of year and all other green pesto options were kicked out in a split second. It’s garlicky spiciness combined with its really short season make it simply irresistible to me. So if you have any green pesto, some eggs and leftover pasta lying around in your kitchen, whisk it together, throw it in a pan like a pancake and fry until golden brown. Wonderfully easy comfort cooking, thanks to the leftovers!
Froga tat-Tarja – Maltese Pasta Frittata with spicy Green Pesto
leftover spaghetti or capelli di angelo, cold, 120g / 4 1/4oz
organic eggs, beaten, 2
ramp pesto, or any other green pesto, 1 heaped tablespoon plus more for the topping
salt 1/2 teaspoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, to taste
parmesan, grated, for the topping
Whisk the eggs, salt, pepper and pesto and mix with the pasta. Heat a splash of olive oil in a small pan (21cm / 8″) and fry the egg pasta like an omelette until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with parmesan and a little more pesto, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
An exciting email from New York changed my life! Holly La Due from Prestel/ Verlagsgruppe Random House asked me if I’d be interested in writing a cookbook filled with my recipes, stories and photographs. I had to read this email twice before I ran to my boyfriend who was still in bed, it was 7 in the morning, I put the laptop on his chest and made him read the email to me again. I screamed and laughed out loud hysterically!
Holly is the most patient and helpful editor any author could ask for, she has been following eat in my kitchen for a while and I felt pretty soon that we’re a very good match. So the past few weeks were filled with lots of excitement and many, long Skype calls across the Atlantic. Discussing how we’re going to do this together, talking about our ideas and our vision for the book which will be published in English and in German. Prestel is highly renowned for its publications in art, design and architecture so I don’t have to worry about the aesthetic development of my book. With a great publisher behind me, I have the wonderful freedom to fill almost 300 pages with many new recipes, some blog classics and my own photography. After working only digitally on the blog, it feels like a natural transition into the physical world, everything you find on my blog, my style of cooking and baking and my photos, will be merged into the pages of the Eat In My Kitchen cookbook. There will be many more of my salads, soups and vegetable creations, meat and seafood recipes, sandwiches, and there will be lots of baking happening as well. The American Eater brought it to a point a few days ago, “comfort food with a Mediterranean palate”. My German upbringing, my mother’s cooking in particular, my boyfriend’s Maltese/ American family, many summers spent in Malta and Gozo, these are my influences in the kitchen, my never ending source of culinary creativity.
And now I can do what I love so much, I can cook and bake even more, write new recipes and take many, many pictures so that all of us can hold this book in our hands next year. I feel so inspired, I have so many recipes on my mind, there’s so much energy and happiness that I can already feel coming from these pages.
It must have been around a year ago that some of you started to ask me about an Eat In My Kitchen book, a physical alternative to my blog’s online platform. I had never really thought about it before, although there were enough recipes to fill a couple books, it wasn’t on my mind. That changed in the past few months, to get so much support from all of you, so many emails from happy food lovers who enjoy my recipes so much, this experience let this idea ripen in my head, so Prestel asked me at the right time, I’m ready!
Although there are still quite a few months of work ahead of us before the big release day, which will be in the Fall of 2016, I know that we’ll need the time to create a book that touches and inspires everybody like the blog already does. Thank you for your ongoing support, thank your for your wonderful words and trust in my work!
The happiest regards from Berlin!
This much excitement asked for a kicking taste experience to feel that I’m actually not dreaming: crunchy biscotti, refined with espresso butter, spices, dark chocolate and hazelnuts. These little treats are so good with a cup of tea or a tiny black espresso, they are definitely for adults who need a moment of intense savouring, bittersweet and full of flavour!
You can read the first announcement of my cookbook on Eaterhere!
Set your oven to 180°C / 355°F (fan-assisted oven) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk the espresso powder into the warm, melted butter and let it cool for a few minutes.
Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until creamy and mix in the espresso butter. Add the dry mixture and mix with the dough hooks of your mixer until just combined. Stir in the chocolate and nuts, form a ball and divide into four parts. Form each into a long bread shape (around 5cm / 2″ wide) and place on the baking sheet, bake for 25 minutes. Take them out and let them cool for about 20 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 170°C / 340°F.
For the second round, cut each loaf gently into 1 1/2cm / 1/2″ slices and lay the biscotti flat on the baking sheet, sprinkle each one with a little sugar. Bake for 6 minutes, turn them over and sprinkle the other side with sugar. Bake them for another 6 minutes or until golden brown, put them on a wire rack and let them cool. You can keep the biscotti in an airtight container for days.
These two ladies are a true force of nature! If you ever have the chance to be in a room together with the charmingly gorgeous Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, prepare yourself for a wave of energy. I met the two sisters at one of their delicious workshops at The Store Kitchen at Soho House in Berlin and I was equally impressed by their natural beauty and their skills in the kitchen. With infectious smiles and their experienced hands at the chopping block, they prepared one scrumptious treat after the other: smoothies, salads, courgetti with bolognese (the sisters’ famous zucchini spaghetti) and a divine raw avocado cheesecake dessert. I sat, listened and savoured!
The Hemsley sisters started their careers in different fields before they took over the food world with their concept of no gluten, no grains and no sugar but with lots of taste and pleasure. While Jasmine worked as a model for over 15 years her younger sister Melissa traveled the world as a fashion consultant. Due to their busy lifestyles both women had a strong interest in a diet that would do their bodies good rather than stressing them even more. Their holistic concept convinced many food lovers, it started off with friends who asked for consultancy and cooking classes before the sister’s blog and family business Hemsley + Hemsley was born in 2010. As contributors for Vogue UK and The Guardian, the two recipe developers, cooks and food consultants also became responsible for the catering of several celebrities. Nothing could stop them anymore, their popularity grew rapidly. Their first cookbook, The Art of Eating Well published in fall 2014, is a bestseller packed with lots of inspiring recipes and we chose one of them to share with you: the addictive Avocado Lime Cheesecake, raw, vegan and unbelievably delicious!
The pictures of the Hemsley sisters and the avocado dessert in glasses (served at Soho House Berlin) are by Nick Hopper.
Avocado Lime Cheesecake
For the base
pecans (or sunflower seeds) 125g /4 1/2oz
desiccated coconut 45g / 1 1/2oz
cacao nibs 70g / 2 1/2oz
pitted dates (approx. 32) 185g / 6 1/2oz
coconut oil, melted and at room temperature, 3 tablespoons
For the filling
avocado flesh (from approx. 5 medium-large avocados) 560g / 1 pound 2 1/2oz
lime juice (roughly 8 to 10 limes) 200ml / 7fl oz (I used 100ml / 3 1/2fl oz)
coconut oil, melted and at room temperature, 175ml / 6fl oz
1 tsp lime zest
honey 190g / 6 3/4oz (I used 100g / 3 1/2oz)
Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2.
Place the pecans and desiccated coconut on a baking-tray lined with baking-paper. Place in the oven for seven to eight minutes, until toasted. Transfer the pecans to a food processor and add the rest of the base ingredients. Blend until the mixture is crumbly (don’t let it go completely smooth) and holds together when pinched.
Line the base and sides of an 18cm (7″) ( mine was 20cm / 8″) round cake tin with baking-paper and tip in the base mixture. Press this down firmly and evenly with the back of a spoon, ensuring it is neat and flat where it meets the tin. Transfer the tin to the fridge while you prepare the filling.
Place all of the ingredients for the filling into the food processor and blend until the mixture is completely smooth and silky. Check for taste – add more lime juice, zest or honey according to preference, but it’s best to keep this deliciously tangy. Remove the cake tin from the fridge and pour the filling over the base. Cover the tin, using a plate or cling film, and return it to the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
To serve, run a knife between the tin and the cake and carefully push the base up from the bottom. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.
Before you started your family business Hemsley + Hemsley in 2010, you worked as a model and as a fashion/ brand manager. How did this transition into the food business come about? What moved you to make this step?
Jasmine: Yes, I was working full-time as a model from the age of 19. I was fascinated by the many different ideas surrounding health and nutrition, from paleo to low-fat, juice cleansing and many other ideologies, and began to develop and grow the Hemsley + Hemsley way of eating through research, study and self-practice whilst sharing tips and tricks with friends and family. Mel, who worked as a footwear brand manager and later in marketing and promotion for gastropubs and bars, caught the cooking bug and helped spread the word.
Melissa: We didn’t intentionally ‘launch’ the business – it came about organically. As people reached out to us for help with their digestion and relationship with food, we suddenly found ourselves working as wellness coaches and private chefs. Providing a bespoke service for these clients, we’d clear out their cupboards, fill up their fridges and freezers and show them how to cook our recipes. The results where so positive, they felt better – happier, healthier and more energized. Back then we didn’t have a name, so our clients called us their ‘food fairies’ and from the first week we had a waiting list as everybody recommended us to their friends, families and colleagues.
You seem to complement each others strengths perfectly. What are the advantages of working so closely with your sister? What are your roles, how do you deal with disagreements between the two of you when it comes to your business?
Jasmine: We always said it would be great to have a family business, making the food we all want to eat, food that keeps us happy and energised and be able to share it with everybody. The business has evolved naturally and we now work in areas that we love the most. When it comes to recipes, my sweet tooth means I usually mastermind the puddings and desserts, while Mel is the queen of knock-out curries and one pot dishes. My partner Nick is the third wheel to Hemsley + Hemsley – the man behind the scenes taking all the photos and running the back end of the business.
Melissa: As with all small businesses, you have to roll up your sleeves and get involved. Luckily everyday is different at H+H – cooking, meetings, recipe developments, lots of room for creativity and also plenty of time to work alone and remotely from laptops so we aren’t on each others space the whole time. And when it comes back to just being family we find it remarkably easy to switch off!
Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen? What are your culinary roots?
Jasmine:We’ve both always loved good home-cooked food from early on thanks to our Filipina mum being wonderful and inspiring in the kitchen. She would make use of everything we had – definitely where our frugal streak comes from – and each meal was made with great care and attention.
Melissa:Growing up, the more we tuned into how our bodies were really feeling, the more we realised the relationship between food and good health. Being the youngest I lucked out as mum and Jasmine used to do all the cooking and all I had to do was lay the table. As I got older I realised that it was so hard to eat nourishing foods without truly taking charge of it yourself. I realised that if I wanted to eat the same good food I’d have to start putting into practise what I’d absorbed over the years of being around mum, Jaz and all our aunties!
You’re big fans of bone broth, how did this start and why does it have such an important role in your food concept?
Bone broth will always be at the heart of our philosophy and intrinsic to everything we do. We love it because it’s a champion all rounder, packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, collagen and keratin – all the building blocks for healthy digestion and glowing skin. Easy to make, frugal and tasty, this ‘liquid gold’ is supremely versatile and a must in anyone’s recipe repertoire! Wellness begins from within and good digestion is key – bone broth is an easy to digest source of protein for very little money. At home, we always have broth on the go or a batch in the freezer. You can throw any leftovers in like shredded chicken, roast veggies, yesterday’s salad and swirl through some pesto or miso for a quick soup. We also use it to steam up some quinoa, as the base for sauces, soups, stews and to simply drink it warm from a mug.
How did you develop your holistic food concept, did you work together with food/ health consultants or did you follow your own experiences?
We’ve been developing and growing the Hemsley + Hemsley way of eating for almost ten years through research, study and self-practice. We really tuned in and focused on what made us feel good despite whatever was going on in the media about what you should and shouldn’t be eating. Our philosophy and nutritional ideals take you back to basics with a focus on provenance and digestion. People love our style of cooking and are always intrigued as to how food this tasty could possibly be good for you.
How do you develop new recipes?
We are constantly inspired by our travels when experiencing new cuisines as well as by our readers and client’s who often request Hemsley + Hemsley reworked versions of their favourite foods.
What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?
Jasmine:My mum would make a big soup instead of a Sunday roast, using up all the leftovers from the fridge. I started off cooking one-pot dishes and they are still a Hemsley + Hemsley staple now – a lot of our recipes are simple, quick and frugal dishes which begin with a base of homemade bone broth and can be adapted and added to in order to make use of leftovers.
Melissa: I remember making the perfect creamy scrambled eggs with my mum…lots of butter and a slow-cook.
What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in London?
Jasmine: We’ve just discovered Sea Containers (Seamus Mullen) on the Southbank which is stunningly beautiful and the food is incredible with views of the Thames. While we’re over that way, we love Borough Market for fresh produce and The Ginger Pig for delicious, organic meat.
Melissa: For eating out I love Brunswick House in Vauxhall, Elliots in Borough Market, Rochelle’s Canteen in Shoreditch (it’s hidden from the street in a converted school) and Paradise in Kensal Rise (where I used to work).
You shared your Avocado Lime Cheesecake recipe on eat in my kitchen, how did you develop this delicious vegan cheesecake?
People always tell us that our recipes don’t taste healthy and we pride ourselves on coming up with upgraded versions of takeaways, comfort foods and the nostalgia-inducing dishes that our clients, friends, families and followers love best from their childhoods. Keeping texture and flavour in mind, we made clever use of whole foods such as skin-boosting avocado and zesty lime to reinvent this classic and give it the Hemsley + Hemsley stamp of approval. The Avocado Lime Cheesecake is a raw, New York-style cheesecake packed full of goodness. The smooth creamy lime sits atop a nutty, chocolate base with a hint of coconut. It’s tasty, filling and good for you!
If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?
Jasmine: Keith Floyd, cooking up a Bouillabaisse in the South of France and enjoying it with plenty of wine in the sunshine. I bet it’d be an afternoon to remember!
Melissa: Rather than have her cook for me, I’d want to cook for the legendary Madhur Jaffrey, probably something like our Chicken Curry and Cauliflower Rice so that she could critique it!
You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?
Don’t be fooled, these 3 course menus are so easy! And people always tell us they cant believe that it’s healthy food when it tastes that good:
Jasmine: Starter: Baked Chicken Liver Mousse and Carrot and Flax Crackers Main Course: Fish Pie with Celeriac Mash and a side of Garlic Lemon Green Beans Dessert: Instant Berry and Coconut Ice Cream
Melissa: Starter: Cucumber Maki Crab Rolls Main Course: Courgette and Aubergine Curry and a side of Cauliflower Rice Dessert: Pistachio, Fig and Goat’s Cheese Trifle
What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?
Jasmine: I’ve always had a sweet tooth so it would have to be chocolate brownies. I almost cried the first day I made our Black Bean Brownies and they came out perfectly – fudgy, rich and delicious. They’re now one of our most popular sweet treats from our book The Art of Eating Well; and best of all, they’re free from any processed nasties!
Melissa: Spaghetti Bolognese was one of my favourites growing up and it still is now, except we call it Beef Ragu with Courgetti. Made with the Hemsley Spiralizer, we enjoy the sauce atop a bed of spiralized courgette which we call courgetti and fill the sauce with extra grated carrot and courgette as well as highly nutritious chicken livers if we have any. It’s hearty, warming comfort food that’s perfect with a glass of red wine.
Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?
Jasmine: I love to cook with family and friends, it’s always a great way to catch-up and I love seeing how other people do things in the kitchen.
Melissa: I like to have the music on and cook by myself sometimes, as it’s one of the ways I love to unwind, just in the kitchen at home. Saying that, I also love getting together with friends over a glass of wine and have us all chopping away in the kitchen together.
Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?
Jasmine: I’m the queen of leftovers so I love getting experimental – it’s a great way to discover new recipes and more often than not you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you can rustle up.
Melissa: The spontaneous ones that come out of leftovers in the fridge, they’re always the best!
Which meal would you never cook again?
Jasmine: Lactose fermented herring – yes I tried to make fermented fish myself! It’s not something I will be repeating anytime soon, I think I’ll stick to sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented veg to get my probiotic fix!
Melissa: I can’t think of any one but have definitely recipe tested recipes before that ended up being really complicated so I wouldn’t bother with those again, no matter how tasty. We spend a lot of time experimenting while recipe developing to come up with meals that are simple, delicious and nutritious, so if it’s complicated, it doesn’t make the cut.
A few months ago, my mother went to one of her favourite spots in France, the Belle-Île-en Mer, a picturesque island off the coast of Brittany. It wasn’t her first visit, she’s been to this tiny rock in the Atlantic Ocean countless times, and whenever I talk to her while she’s there, she sounds like she just walked out of a spa. This island must be magic and I’ve wanted to discover it for myself for ages. I’ve tasted it though, at least some of it’s produce. My mama knows my weak spot for all the culinary delights from this country, solid and liquid, so she gladly treats her ever hungry daughter to her new and old discoveries whenever she comes back. Last time she gave me a few beautiful tins of preserved sardines, the design is a bit old-fashioned, I love that, although it’s just a fish tin, it’s a pleasure to see it in the pantry. Once she gave me a large can of tinned fish soup from the same island, I liked it so much that it became my container for the kitchen brush and sponge!
The first time I tasted the preserved sardines refined with thin slices of lemon, it must have been early last winter, I got absolutely hooked on this oily treat. I’ve never been a big fan of preserved fish until that life changing moment, literarily, as since that day, I always eat my weekly Sunday pizza with these sardines, week after week. But today I thought they deserve a little variation. I had to change to another brand as our stock has been used up, it’s not as good but still delicious, and I decided that the fish would make a scrumptious appearance on a juicy sandwich with ramp pesto and preserved lemons. It’s that time of year again, I can’t leave the grocery store without a bunch of ramp, due to their short season but mainly because we’re almost addicted to it. So, another ramp pesto, another tin of sardines and a new sandwich, the kind you would eat at the sea, wrapped in paper, your fingers dripping of oil, and the wonderful taste of garlicky green, sour lemon and rich sardines in your mouth, fantastic!
Sardine and Lemon Sandwich with Ramp Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes
For 2 sandwiches you need
rustic white buns, cut in half, 2
quality preserved sardines in olive oil, boned and cut into fillets, 3 fish (about 70g / 2 1/2oz)
preserved lemon, cut into thin slices, 1/8
(alternatively, you could use the roasted lemon peel from this recipe)
cherry tomatoes, quartered, 2
rucola, a small handful
For the pesto
(this will be a little more than you’ll need but you can eat the pesto with pasta or as a spread on toasted dark bread)
bunch of ramp, the stalks cut off, 1 (around 45g / 1 1/2oz)
parmesan 25g / 1oz
olive oil 55ml /2fl oz
salt 1/4 teaspoon
Mix the ingredients for the pesto in a blender until smooth and season to taste.
Brush the bottom half of the buns with a little oil from the fish tin (just if it’s quality olive oil), cover with rucola and lay 3 single fillets of the sardines on top. Garnish with the tomatoes and sprinkle with pesto and lemon slices.
Bitter radicchio, sweet and sour balsamic butter and flowery marjoram is a very powerful combination, every single flavour is dominant rather than subtle. They all scream for attention, but somehow manage to merge in this comfy pasta dish to create something bigger, a new taste that’s beyond their individual qualities.
Whenever I savour a meal with spaghetti, I’m always impressed by how such an easy dish can make me feel so good, comfortable and cosy, and at the same time, caress me with its sensuality. The most simple and quickest pasta dish, be it carbonara, bolognese, pure red sauce, or just butter and parmesan, can feel like a Mediterranean feast, it makes me forget about duties and sorrows, it’s a celebration of life. I guess that’s also the reason why there’s often wine involved, at least at our dinner table. It makes me want to have the windows wide open, dreamy music in the air carried away by a soft breeze, this is one of the most sensual meals in the whole world, spaghetti! Just thinking about it, writing about it, wakes up my senses, seeing the plate in front of me, to smell the teasing aroma of radicchio, vinegar, butter and nuts, and the fresh marjoram, makes me want to sing out loud and raise the glasses! Buon appetito!
Radicchio and Balsamic Butter Spaghetti with Marjoram and Pine Nuts
For 3-4 people you need
spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
radicchio, quartered, stalk removed, cut into 1cm / 1/2″ thick slices, 430g / 15 ounces
fresh marjoram, a small handful
pine nuts, roasted, 20g / 3/4 ounce
Balsamico vinegar 30ml / 1 ounce
butter 50g / 1 3/4 ounces
a pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta in salted water al dente.
In a sauce pan, bring the vinegar to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Take the pot off the heat and add the butter in 2-3 batches, let it melt in between and whisk well. Season with a pinch of sugar.
In a large pan, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the slices of radicchio on medium-high for 1 minute on each side (it will fall apart, that’s fine). Take the pan off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Gently mix in the warm pasta and balsamic butter and serve with pine seeds and marjoram leaves. On the plates, season with salt and pepper to taste.
One of my earliest Easter memories is searching for Easter eggs with my sister in the garden of the house we had just moved into. There was no fence around the lawn, the green grass sprinkled with red tulips opened up to a dense forest, my childhood playground. We were young and so excited, the kind of overwhelming excitement we tend to neglect as we get older. On that sunny April day many years ago, we forgot about everything around us as we found our Easter presents hidden behind a group of old oak trees: 80’s roller skates in flashing red and white, it was better than Christmas!
I still love these special feasts, not for the presents but for these pure moments of bliss, when we take a break from our normal routine, slow down the pace and relax a little, or reflect on the memories filling our book of life. To me, memories are as precious as the moment itself and I wouldn’t have started a food blog if they weren’t inseparably connected with dishes, meals and recipes, at least most of the time. Easter Sunday is perfect for a long breakfast, preferably outside in the sunshine, which, unfortunately, isn’t really an option in Berlin at the moment. We’re still in the hands of snow, hail and rain! But snuggled into a blanket at our cosy wooden table feels just as nice, especially if there are crescent milk rolls, Milchhörnchen in German, involved. I love these yeast rolls warm, fresh out of the oven, when the soft inside smells almost buttery-sweet. The thin crust is sprinkled with crunchy poppy seeds which adds a slightly nutty nuance, to me they are best with a little butter and maybe, some homemade strawberry jam, but that’s not even necessary. Happy Easter!
Crescent Milk Rolls with Poppy Seeds
For 10 rolls you need
plain flour 500g / 1 pound
sugar 3 tablespoons
dry yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
salt 1 teaspoon
milk, lukewarm, 220ml / 7 1/2 ounces
butter, melted, 40g / 1 1/2 ounces
organic egg 1 + 1 egg yolk, beaten, for the glaze
poppy seeds, for the topping
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Whisk the milk, melted butter and egg in another bowl, the mixture should be lukewarm. Add to the dry flour-sugar mixture and mix with the dough hooks of your mixer for a few minutes until the dough is well combined and elastic. Continue kneading with your hands for about 5 minutes until you have a soft and silky dough ball. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let it rise in the warm oven (35°C / 95°F) for 70 minutes (top/ bottom heat and not fan-assisted!).
Take the bowl out of the oven, punch the dough down and knead for another 30 seconds. Divide the dough into 10 portions (each about 80g / 3 ounces). Roll each of them to a smooth ball in your hands before you roll it out on the kitchen top with a rolling pin. Give it the shape of a 20cm / 8″ long triangle, roll it up towards the tip and bend the roll into a crescent. Continue with the remaining dough and place the rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a tea towel and let them rise in a warm place for another 20 minutes.
Set the oven to 220°C / 430°F (top-bottom heat).
Brush the top of the milk rolls with the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with poppy seeds (you can use more than you can see in the pictures). Bake in the warm oven for about 10-12 minutes or until golden on top. They are best on the first day!
My beloved ramp is back in season, ready to add its garlicky spiciness to fish, meat and vegetables, and to one of my favourites of course: fragrant ramp pesto!
I’ve been looking for it impatiently over the past few weeks and when I finally spotted the first bunch at my organic supermarket I had to call my boyfriend instantly, he’s almost more obsessed with these green spring leaves than I am. We changed our dinner plans from gnocchi with blue cheese sauce to spaghetti with pesto, and that was just the beginning of our re-awakened green passion! Cod al cartoccio on a bed of ramp and red onions was next on my list. It’s not only very delicious but also a very convenient match. I wrapped the fish in a parchment paper package with a little white wine, olive oil and lemon juice and cooked it in the oven for 15 minutes, all in all it took less than half an hour including the preparation! If you’re still looking for a light and easy family Easter lunch, think al cartoccio. It cooks the fish to perfection while you can create your desired aroma of herbs and vegetables, it tastes divine and looks beautiful on the table.
Cod al Cartoccio with Ramp and Red Onion
For 2 people you need
cod fillet, about 2 1/2cm / 1″ thick, 400g / 14 ounces
ramp, stalks cut off, a large bunch (about 50g / 1 3/4 ounces)
small red onion, cut in half and into thin slices, 1
white wine 2 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
olive oil 2 tablespoons plus more for the parchment paper
sea salt and pepper
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (fan-assisted oven).
Cut 2 large pieces of parchment paper, big enough to wrap the fish, lay them on top of each other and brush the top layer with olive oil. Lay the ramp leaves in the middle of the oiled parchment paper (leave 2 leaves out and put aside), place the cod on top and season with salt and pepper. Lay 1 ramp leaf on top of the fillet and arrange the onions around the fish. Whisk the wine, olive oil and lemon juice and pour over the fish. Close the parchment paper like a bonbon and fold the top twice. Place in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Check after 10 minutes, if you can separate the fish (gently) with a fork it’s done, if it needs a little longer close the parchment paper and put back into the oven (mind not to overcook it!). Chop the raw ramp leaf and sprinkle over the cooked fish, serve with fresh baguette and a glass of chilled white wine!
I finally made my first preserved lemons of 2015, one of my new annual pantry traditions. Until last year, I focused on jams and chutneys in my kitchen, but then I remembered my grandmother’s passion for preserving, her huge cellar packed with shelves up to the ceiling. I can still picture the long lined jars of preserved fruits, all those cherries, plums, pears and apples kept in colourful juices, the crop always came straight from her own or her children’s garden. I used to love this room in her old house with the cherry tree in the garden, this was true kitchen magic for my young eyes.
In late summer, my family used to have so many fruits that preserving was the only way to prevent waste. Living in the city doesn’t really confront me with this problem, we eat the fruit and vegetables as soon as I buy them or not long after. So unfortunately, there are no baskets full of ripe late summer harvests waiting for me on the kitchen top, but I discovered a couple recipes that are equally satisfying, in preparation and consumption: lemons and artichokes!
This year’s preserved lemons are already as tasty as the last batch. I prepared them about 6 weeks ago and they still need a couple months to turn into perfectly tender bites, but I’m impatient and today’s recipe asked for their salty sourness. I made meatless burgers with black Beluga and red lentils. The dark lentils stayed crunchy after I cooked them and the red legumes were quite soft, the perfect burger mixture. I refined them with cardamon, parmesan and red onions, squeezed them in a bun and topped the little beauties with a refreshing dill dip and my fruity lemons – a proper spring burger!
Cardamom Lentil Burgers, Dill Sour Cream and Preserved Lemon Sandwich
I made 15 lentil patties, for the 2 sandwiches you will only need 4.
For 2 sandwiches you need
rustic white buns, cut in half, 2
rucola, a small handful
preserved lemon, very thinly sliced, 1/4
(alternatively, you could use the roasted lemon peel from this recipe)
For the patties
black Beluga lentils 125g / 4 1/2 ounces
red lentils 125g / 4 1/2 ounces
small bay leaves 2
medium sized red onion, finely chopped, 1
garlic, crushed, 1 clove
organic eggs 2
parmesan, grated, 100g / 7 ounces
breadcrumbs 70g / 2 1/2 ounces
cardamom 1 teaspoon
salt 1 1/4 teaspoons
olive oil, for frying
For the dill sour cream
sour cream 200g / 7 ounces
fresh dill, chopped, 4 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon for the topping
olive oil 2 teaspoons
heavy cream 1 tablespoon
a pinch of cardamom
a pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
Cook the red and black lentils separately, according to the instructions on the package, each with 1 bay leaf but without salt. My Beluga needed 20 minutes in 325ml / 11 ounces of water (they should be al dente), the red lentils took 10 minutes in 325ml / 11 ounces of water to be done (they should be soft and mushy). Drain both well once they are cooked and let them cool for about 10 minutes (I cooked mine a few hours before I made the patties).
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (fan-assisted oven) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, gently mix the lentils and the ingredients for the patties with a wooden spoon until well combined. Wet your hands and form 70g / 2 1/2 ounces patties. Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a heavy pan and fry the lentil patties for 2-3 minutes on medium on both sides until golden brown. You will have to fry them in batches. Transfer the patties onto the baking sheet and cook in the oven for 9 minutes.
Whip the ingredients for the dill sour cream until creamy and season to taste.
Spread a little rucola on each bottom side of the buns, lay 2 patties on top and drizzle some dill sour cream over the lentil burgers. Sprinkle with slices of preserved lemon and fresh dill. Enjoy!