eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

meet in your kitchen | Cynthia Barcomi’s heavenly Peanut Butter Brownies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

Today’s meet in your kitchen feature means a lot to me, with great pleasure I visited the woman who established two beautiful culinary places in my adopted home of Berlin. One of them became my peaceful refuge as soon as it opened its doors a long time ago, in 1997. Barcomi’s Café and Barcomi’s Deli are both true gems, to me and many others who love good coffee and New York style cakes and sandwiches. I was more than happy to meet the inspiring Cynthia Barcomi in her kitchen, to chat about her life, rabbits and chickens and to bake her delicious peanut butter brownies, what a perfect morning!

Over 20 years ago, Cynthia opened her first Barcomi’s in this ever vibrant city that’s seen so many changes in the culinary scene over the past two decades. She left New York as a professional dancer to live and work on this side of the Atlantic, in the German capital which was so different when she arrived compared to how we know it today. Cynthia is determined, a disciplined and hard working woman, so it’s no surprise that she successfully became a part of the Berlin dance scene. Although she enjoyed her life here, there was something missing: good coffee. This has always been a very delicate topic, all over the world, making coffee is an art, interpreted by different (objective) tastes. Berlin’s café scene in those days was a far cry from today’s diversity and Cynthia wasn’t particularly happy about her discoveries. She’s a woman of action, so she decided to roast her own beans and while she was already moving in this new direction, she also had the idea to sell some sweet classics from her American baking heritage. Her New York cheese cake, muffins, raspberry granache and pies, and her fantastic coffee of course, soon gained so much popularity that she opened a second Barcomi’s only three years after, a proper deli this time.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

Since I first sat at one of her Deli’s black and white tables as a traveling teenager it became my all time favourite café, a piece of my Berlin that I never wanted to let go of. So much so that I promised myself that I wouldn’t live too far away if I ever moved here, which I managed in the end. It may sound a bit silly, but in this hidden café, tucked away in an old yard, in the dreamy Sophienhöfe, I found a lot of what I was looking for in this city at that point. Although it’s a tranquil oasis, it also gave me the feeling that, here, I could dive deep into Berlin’s secrets by just sitting on one of the leather benches watching people come and go, drink their coffee or wine, read a newspaper or have a chat. I’d just have to sit and watch attentively.

So after all these years, to find myself right in her kitchen is both a surprise and a gift, I can bake with one of my early baking heroes! I felt so excited to visit her creative space, this culinary laboratory where all the Barcomi’s magic starts. Her private kitchen is equipped with five ovens, a dream collection of tins and pans, and in the center of this baking heaven stands Mrs. Cynthia Barcomi. She’s so chatty and relaxed that one can easily forget that she runs more than a café and deli, she also has a catering company, has written five cookbooks, presents a TV show, and on top of all this, has brought up four children together with her husband. She seems like an endless source of energy and positivity, focussed without forgetting to enjoy her journey, this woman is truly inspirational!

Before we met, Cynthia asked me which of the recipes from her new Cookies cookbook I would like to bake with her. The choice wasn’t easy! I was torn between Lemon Lime Cashew Shortbread, Chestnut Flower Brownies, Toffee Crunch Bars and Pesto Twists, but when I spotted her Peanut Butter Brownies I couldn’t resist, I had to try them. The creamy, buttery, salty and chocolaty voluptuousness literally jumped out off the pages of her book and I wasn’t surprised at all that they tasted exactly as I expected. These brownies were deep and rich, addictive after the first fudgy bite – I just love this woman and everything she creates in her kitchen!

If you want to find out more about Cynthia Barcomi, the Barcomi’s cafés and her new book Cookies full of deliciously tempting recipes, click here!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

Peanut Butter Brownies

For a 23 x 23cm / 9 x 9″ baking tin you need

butter 155g / 5 1/2 ounces
bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces, 200g / 7 ounces
sugar 150g / 5 1/4 ounces
vanilla extract 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
plain flour 90g / 3 1/4 ounces
cocoa powder 20g / 3/4 ounce
salt 3/4 teaspoon
baking soda 1/2 teaspoon
peanut butter, creamy, 200g / 7 ounces
icing sugar, sieved, 25g / 1 ounce
eggs 3

Set the oven to 175°C / 350°F (fan-assisted oven) and butter the baking tin.

In a sauce pan, melt 125g (4 1/2 ounces) of the butter and the chocolate. Pour the melted chocolate-butter mixture into a bowl and mix with the sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Let it cool for about 15 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the baking soda. In another bowl, mix the peanut butter with 30g (1 ounce) butter, icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Whisk the eggs into the chocolate-butter mixture and gently stir in the dry flour-cocoa mixture. Pour the dough into the baking tin and even it out. Place the peanut butter mixture in dollops on top of the chocolate dough and swirl it a little with a tooth pick. Bake in the oven for about 23 minutes or until just firm on top (don’t overbake!). Let the brownies cool on a wire rack.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

You opened your first Barcomi’s in Berlin in 1994, the second one, a deli, in 1997. You also started roasting your own coffee beans, long before this café culture was popular in the city. How would you describe Berlin’s café and restaurant scene in those days? What changed over the years?

In 1994 and up until a few years ago, there was really no alternative to industrial roasted coffee beans and industrial produced pastries in Berlin except Barcomi’s. Everything tasted the same and bad! Bad food and coffee corrupts the palette so that at some point, people no longer know how real food and coffee should taste. I have always seen my work as an alternative to the industry – be it feeding our guests or writing books, so that people can bake and cook successfully themselves.

You came from New York to Berlin, arriving as a dancer, and today you’re one of Berlin’s most popular personalities in the culinary landscape. What led to this personal transformation?

Hard work and a lot of self-criticism let to my success as a gastronome. The transition from dancer to gastronome to cookbook author was simple: I felt inspired and used that inspiration as my starting point. I have never looked back!

How much of the New Yorker is still in you, how would you describe it? What do you miss about this city?

New York is a magical (and tough) city. It is an extremely competitive and fast moving city and if you live there, you have to keep up! Living and going to school there taught me not to be afraid of competition by always doing my best and remaining true to my ideas and beliefs.

As a writer of five cookbooks, a TV personality, caterer and restaurant owner, which of your activities relaxes you and which challenges you the most?

It is always challenging to be good and it’s always challenging to work with lots of people, I have 50 employees between the two stores. I love it though and I simply love to cook and bake. It relaxes and focuses me so I can let the creative process unfold.

You just published your latest book COOKIES, how do you develop new recipes, where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere: ingredients, shapes, colors, occasions, dreams, sense memories just to name a few. Inspiration is always the starting point for a new recipe and without it, I cannot create. A baking recipe begins as an intellectual theory of a bunch of ingredients. The magic happens, when I synthesize theory with practice (baking). This involves all of my senses and is partially an intuitive process.   When a pastry finally comes out of the oven, theory and practice have united – I love it!

What do you love about Berlin?

I love the people in Berlin. It has become a really exciting city because the people living here are busy making things happen. Whether music, the arts or the food scene – it’s happening in Berlin!

Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?

Actually I find visual artists and music composers inspiring in the kitchen. Layers and layers of details like shapes, juxtapositions, harmonies remind me of the intricacies of my own work.

You brought up four children together with your husband, one of your daughters joined your catering business, how much family is there in Barcomi’s?

There is a lot of family in Barcomi’s. My husband and son love to do the store deliveries on Sundays. My youngest daughter is a great helper / baker in the kitchen. Barcomi’s is my family’s existence as well as the existence of many co-workers of mine.

What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?

I used to bake when I was really young (3 – 4 years old) but cooking? I started making omelettes for my parents when I was…maybe 10 years old. Then I discovered Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The floodgate was opened!

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Berlin? 

I love to shop at the weekend market at Mexikoplatz.

There is also my favorite farmer who sets up a stand a few days a week at the corner of Sven-Hedin Strasse. I’m originally from Washington, which means that I know my apples. This farmer has the BEST apples I have eaten outside of Washington!

What did you choose to share on eat in my kitchen and why?

Peanut Butter Brownies (from the new Cookies book).

I really love your work, Meike: it is detailed, honest and personal. There are many blogs out there, but so few capture the essence of food like eat in my kitchen. I’m impressed! 

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

I would like Jean-Georges Vongerichten to cook his favorite meal for me… or Nobu Matsuhisa, I love his food as well.

You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

It is one of my favorite things to do: open my cupboards and simply throw a meal together (often in less than 30 minutes!). As my husband would say, I have done some of my best work in the least amount of time. I love the flow of improvising in the kitchen. It would be my dream TV show to go to someone’s home, open up their kitchen cupboards and cook an amazing meal!

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

Well, I do love chocolate chip cookies but my taste has also evolved over the years. I really love to make and eat simple, straightforward foods. Fresh herbs, seasonal and regional produce is simply the best.

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

I have a rather large kitchen at home with many ovens and lots of work space. One of the most important elements of my kitchen is the DOOR. I love to cook alone, by myself. It’s like painting to me and it is not necessary a collaborative process. It is a moment, THE moment.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

Well, I like to plan a meal for a special occasion as well as the challenge of an impromptu get-together. They are two very different disciplines, each one off-sets the other!

Thank you Cynthia!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

Mediterranean Octopus with Fennel and Orange

Octopus, Fennel and Orange Salad

This is my favourite octopus recipe, tenderly cooked with star-anise, fennel seeds, bay leaf and garlic before it reveals its fine qualities in a refreshingly light salad side by side with crunchy slices of fennel and juicy orange filets. It’s one of the purest ways to savour this seafood which is so unique in taste and so scrumptious when prepared well. Cooked octopus combines a smooth butteriness with the soft sweetness of the fresh sea, it doesn’t need much more to caress my taste buds. A little fruity acidity and the flowery aroma of anise and it’s complete.

It’s that time of year again, when my summer holidays come back to mind and tease me, especially the culinary memories from Malta and Gozo, our second home, and I can’t wait to revive them in a few months. This octopus salad makes an annual appearance and will definitely be on my plate more than once. It’s one of my personal Mediterranean classics, cooked in my Maltese mother’s kitchen and savoured in her garden for lunch, with a glass of crisp Maltese white wine and the sun on my back. So much to look forward to, so let the holiday dreaming begin!

Here’s more about the man who taught me to cook octopus with star-anise and fennel seeds, Kurt Micallef from Malta.

Octopus, Fennel and Orange Salad

 

Octopus, Fennel and Orange Salad

Mediterranean Octopus, Fennel and Orange Salad

For 2 people you need

For the octopus

octopus, skinned and cleaned, 300g / 10.5 ounces
star-anise 1 piece
a pinch of fennel seeds
bay leave 1
garlic, cut in half, 1 clove
small onion, cut in half
lemon, sliced, 1/2

For the salad

orange, peeled and cut into fillets, 1
medium sized fennel bulb, cut into very thin slices, 1, the green chopped
olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 2 tablespoons
white Balsamico vinegar 1 teaspoon
salt and pepper

In a large pot, bring water with the star-anise, fennel seeds, bay leave, garlic, onion and lemon to the boil. Slip in the octopus and cook on low heat (simmering) for about 45 minutes or until the octopus is tender. Take the octopus out of the broth, let it cool and cut into pieces.

For the dressing, whisk the olive oil, orange juice and vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the slices of fennel on plates and lay the octopus and orange on top. Sprinkle lightly with the dressing and fennel green, serve immediately.

Octopus, Fennel and Orange Salad

 

Octopus, Fennel and Orange Salad

Spinach Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich with Black Olives

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

The combination of mozzarella di bufala and pesto has been with me for as long as I can remember cooking. No matter if it’s been praised or put down in the media, I always loved its honest simplicity. The little mounds of fine buffalo milk go so well with the fresh sharpness of green herbs, all these concentrated leaves packed with flavours, like basil, rucola or parsley. Mixed with nuts and seeds, parmesan and garlic, this dish offers one of the purest Italian pleasures in the kitchen.

Sometimes, one needs a little change without moving too far away from the original formula, a new variation which can lead to surprising results, nonetheless very satisfying. My pesto was next on this list! I replaced the traditional herbs with another tasty leave, baby spinach. Their fine aroma of iron, its distinct bitterness which isn’t fully developed in the young leaves seemed like the right choice. The obligatory olive oil and parmesan made it nice and smooth but the fresh garlic had to stay out as I was worried that it would be too overpowering. I added some rucola (arugula) instead which gave the spinach a boost, nutty sunflower seeds instead of the sweet pine seeds, a hint of nutmeg, salt and pepper and it was done. It also tastes fantastic with pasta!

My pesto made quite a dramatic appearance on my Italian ciabatta sandwich. I topped it with aromatic black olives which turned them into a stunning Mediterranean beauty. What can I say about the first bite, it was juicy, fresh and green, the soft milkyness in contrast to the oily depth of the black fruits. It was great!

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

 

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

Spinach Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich with Black Olives

You can also use the pesto recipe for pasta.

For 2 sandwiches you need

ciabatta bread (with or without black olives), cut into thick slices
mozzarella di bufala, torn into bite sized pieces, 125g / 4 1/2 ounces
black olives 4-6
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, for the topping

For the pesto
fresh baby spinach 125g / 4 1/2 ounces
rucola 25g / 1 ounce plus a small handful
sunflower seeds 2 tablespoons
olive oil 100ml / 3 1/4 ounces
parmesan, grated, 25g / 1 ounce
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
salt 1/4 teaspoon
a pinch of sugar
a pinch of nutmeg
pepper

Purée the ingredients for the pesto in a blender until smooth, season to taste.

Arrange a few rucola leaves on 2 slices of bread and lay the mozzarella on top. Sprinkle with the pesto, olives and the crushed black pepper. Close the sandwich and enjoy!

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

 

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

 

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

 

Spinach Rucola Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala Sandwich

Asparagus Tortilla with Grilled Mountain Cheese and Tarragon

Asparagus Tortilla with Mountain Cheese and Tarragon

My first asparagus of the year found its way into my kitchen and I’m as excited as a kid on Easter morning. This is just the start, the beginning of the new season! I can’t help thinking of all the other delicious goods which are soon to follow: the first ramp leaves spreading their garlicky aroma in a bowl full of pesto, crunchy fava beans mixed with parmesan in a creamy risotto, juicy spring cucumber, so concentrated in flavour that some sour cream and dill is enough to throw a quick salad together and enjoy the purest and most simple pleasures of nature’s annual awakening. I don’t even want to imagine ripe tomatoes dripping juice, I’ve been missing them for so long and it’ll still be a little while before I can savour them. For now I’m just over the moon to have the pretty slim stalks of green asparagus back in my pan.

So two things were on my mind in the past few days which filled me with excitement in the kitchen: the first asparagus of 2015 and my brave decision to make a tortilla after I failed miserably at my first and last attempt more than 20 years ago. My potato omelette was burned on the outside and undone in the middle, a complete kitchen failure created at the beginning of my active culinary journey. Somehow it had an intimidating effect on me considering how long it took to give this dish a second chance. But now I felt ready to give it a go again, my asparagus and some fragrant tarragon at hand to vary this rich Spanish potato classic with some green freshness and a little grated mountain cheese (Swiss Appenzeller) to add its hearty flavours to the vegetables. It’s not as big a deal to get the potatoes right as I had imagined (or feared), the only trick is to find the right setting on your cooker. They should cook in the pan on medium heat while covered with a lid without turning black or mushy. It takes about 15 minutes and once they are done, you add some fried onions, eggs and asparagus and let the tortilla cook for a few minutes. I finish it off under the grill to melt the mountain cheese which created a smokey crust on the asparagus. It worked so easily, my tortilla kitchen trauma is finally solved!

Asparagus Tortilla with Mountain Cheese and Tarragon

 

Asparagus Tortilla with Mountain Cheese and Tarragon

 Asparagus Tortilla with Mountain Cheese and Tarragon

For 3-4 people you need

green asparagus, woody bottoms cut off, 400g / 14 ounces
medium sized waxy potatoes, peeled, 450g / 16 ounces
medium sized onion, cut in half and thinly sliced, 1
organic eggs 4
hard mountain cheese (like Appenzeller or Gruyère), grated, 60g / 2 ounces
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
olive oil
fresh tarragon, a small handful, to serve
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, to serve

Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for 1 1/2 minutes or until just al dente. Rinse with cold water, drain and set aside.

Slice the potatoes very thinly with a cheese or mandoline slicer, spread them between kitchen paper and pat them dry.

In a heavy pan (ovenproof, about 25 cm / 10″), heat a splash of olive oil and cook the onions on medium heat for a few minutes until soft, take them out of the pan and set them aside. Put the pan back on the heat and add a generous splash of olive oil. Spread the potato slices in the pan, close with a lid and cook for about 12 minutes on medium heat. Check the potatoes with a fork after 5-7 minutes by lifting them a little from the side, mind that they don’t burn and adjust the temperature if necessary. After 12 minutes, carefully turn the potatoes with a spatula (like a pancake) and spread the onions on top, give them another 2 minutes. Whisk the eggs with 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and nutmeg and pour over the potatoes, close with a lid and cook for 2 minutes. Arrange the asparagus on top of the eggs, close the lid again and cook for about 4 minutes or until the egg is set. Lay the grated cheese on top of the tortilla and put the pan under the grill for just a few minutes until the cheese starts to bubble. Sprinkle with tarragon and crushed black pepper before serving.

asparagustortilla3

 

Asparagus Tortilla with Mountain Cheese and Tarragon

 

Asparagus Tortilla with Mountain Cheese and Tarragon

 

Asparagus Tortilla with Mountain Cheese and Tarragon

Lime Buttermilk Cake with Pistachios & Orange Blossom Water Yoghurt

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

This cake is sweet perfection! It’s spongy, juicy, buttery and lemony with a touch of flowery lime which gives it a soft hint of marzipan. It’s simply a scrumptious loaf cake and I could have just left it at that, cut into thick slices with a cup of tea and I would have been more than happy. But I asked for more, no puristic cake treat but a rich composition of cakey citrus flavours topped with Greek yoghurt whipped with orange blossom water, Maltese honey and sprinkles of unsalted pistachios. This is a proper dessert, also very convenient as a special Sunday tea time treat, but definitely beyond a simple breakfast cake.

My cake tastes like a summery day in the Mediterranean, the sun at its zenith, so hot that it invites all the beautiful fragrances around you to merge into an enchanting perfume of citrus, salt and warming sweetness. Imagine the smell of your last holiday in a hot and dry country, close your eyes and feel the sun on your skin, all those rich and exotic aromas surrounding you and caressing your senses. That’s how this sweet little wonder made me feel and that’s why I call it perfection!

More about the dough which led to this satisfying experience: I mixed some cornstarch into the flour, a trick I already used for my apple breakfast cake, it guarantees a very light and fluffy result. Then there’s also buttermilk which adds the right juiciness to keep your fingers moist when you hold a slice of this cake in your hands. You could also reach this pleasant effect with more butter but that would make it heavier. Vegetable oil would also be an efficient alternative to end up with a very juicy cake (it’s actually used quite often in combination with buttermilk) but the taste tends to bug me when there are such fine aromas involved. I like it for my nutty Florida carrot cake, but I usually prefer to work with the dairy product.

In the end, everything was just right in this cake, well balanced and harmonic. When that happens I don’t ask any more questions, I’m just a thankful baker.

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

 

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Lime Buttermilk Cake with Pistachios & Orange Blossom Water Yoghurt

For a 24cm x 10,5cm / 9.5″ x 4″  loaf tin you need

plain flour 210g / 7 1/2 ounces
cornstarch 70g / 2 1/2 ounces
baking powder 3 teaspoons
salt 1/4 teaspoon
butter, soft, 180g / 6 1/2 ounces
sugar 180g / 6 1/2 ounces
organic eggs 3
zest of 1 lime
lemon zest 2 tablespoons (about 2 large lemons)
freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 tablespoons
buttermilk 90ml / 3 ounces

icing sugar 2 tablespoons, for the syrup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 tablespoons, for the syrup
pistachios (unsalted), chopped, a small handful, for the topping

For the orange blossom yoghurt
Greek yoghurt 200g / 7 ounces
orange blossom water (preferably organic) 2 teaspoons, to taste
quality honey 1 tablespoon, to taste

Set the oven to 160°C / 320°F (fan-assisted oven) and butter the loaf pan.

Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the butter with an electric mixer until fluffy, add the sugar and continue mixing until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mix well in between. When the mixture is light and creamy mix in the zest and juice. Gently stir in the flour/ cornstarch mixture with a wooden spoon, in batches, alternating with the buttermilk (about 1/3 of each at a time). Pour the dough into the buttered pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until golden on top. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes before you put it on a wire rack.

For the syrup, whisk the icing sugar and lemon juice until combined. Prick the cake and slowly pour the lemon syrup over the top of the cake, sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

Whisk the yoghurt, orange blossom water and honey, season to taste and serve with the warm cake.

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

 

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

 

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

 

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Carpaccio di Capriolo with Herbs, Ginger, Lemon and Parmesan Crust

Carpaccio with Ginger, Zest and Parmesan Crust

I forgot about this recipe completely, unfortunately, as it was divine! This isn’t one of my own creations, it was made for me and my family by my cousin Thomas, a very talented young chef. It was definitely too good not to share on eat in my kitchen, so here’s Thomas’ Carpaccio di Capriolo, prepared and savoured by all of us in my mother’s kitchen, we were thrilled!

A few months ago, in late autumn, I wrote about a special weekend at my mother’s house in the countryside. My family met to eat, drink, chat and savour, as usual, but this time we had a whole deer to prepare. We got the animal from a farmer close by, he’s a hunter but he also keeps deer on his vast land. My cousin Thomas who is experienced in butchering gave us more than a helping hand, he prepared the single cuts and parts to be frozen and used some for our extensive cooking. My mother cooked a heavenly stew for us and later on Thomas prepared two dishes himself, Pâté en Croûte, venison pâté in pastry crustand one of the best carpaccio’s I tasted in my whole life. He used the delicate deer’s back which he had just cut, it was exceptionally good. If it’s hard for you to find quality venison, especially at this time of the year, you could also prepare this recipe with beef fillet. I definitely recommend you to buy it from your trusted butcher or directly from a farmer as the meat has to be very fresh.

And here’s the secret to Thomas’ carpaccio: My cousin chef coated the meat in an aromatic crust of finely chopped fresh rosemary, sage and thyme mixed with ginger, lemon zest and aged parmesan. The thin crust was far from being overpowering, just right to add its quality to the fine flavours of the meat.

I was so busy feasting this weekend that I didn’t take many pictures of all the ongoing preparations in my mother’s kitchen so I decided to share some of the amazingly beautiful fungi we found on our long walks in the forest. Not to be eaten but so beautiful!

Carpaccio with Ginger, Zest and Parmesan Crust

 

Carpaccio with Ginger, Zest and Parmesan Crust

Carpaccio di Capriolo with Herbs, Ginger, Lemon and Parmesan Crust

It works best to slice the carpaccio very thinly with an electric food slicer.

For 4 people you need

fresh venison fillet (or beef fillet) 300g / 10.5 ounces
mixed fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme), finely chopped, 2 tablespoons
aged parmesan, finely grated, 1 tablespoon
ginger, finely grated, 1 teaspoon
lemon zest 1 teaspoon
ground black pepper and a little rucola and tomato slices to serve

Mix the herbs, parmesan, ginger and zest on a large plate and roll the meat in the mixture until evenly coated. Carefully wrap the fillet in cling film and close it like a bonbon wrapper. Keep in the freezer for at least 4 hours before you cut it very thinly with an electric food slicer. Arrange the slices on plates with the rucola and tomato and sprinkle with a little pepper, serve immediately. You could also drizzle some lemon oil over the carpaccio.

Carpaccio with Ginger, Zest and Parmesan Crust

 

Carpaccio with Ginger, Zest and Parmesan Crust

Pea Pesto and Caramelized Honey Bacon Sandwich with fresh Marjoram

Pea Pesto Honey Bacon Sandwich

My first green pesto in 2015! It’s made with peas from my freezer as nature isn’t exactly ready for my summery cravings yet, I’ll have to wait a couple months. This is the only frozen vegetable you’ll find in my kitchen, throughout the whole year as long as they are not in season. I like to add them to easy pasta dishes, especially with asparagus, mustard and leak, and salads (like my potato salad with rucola pesto and peas). The legume’s vitamins and taste are well preserved in these little green balls of summery freshness when they are frozen and they often taste much better then the fresh ones from greenhouses.

Frozen peas have another lazy advantage, they save me from peeling them which I can enjoy at times but today I wasn’t too unhappy about this circumstance. It made the preparation for our sandwich a very quick pleasure. I blanched the tiny legumes for just a minute to keep them crunchy before I mixed them in the blender with fresh marjoram, a little garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. I ended up with the prettiest bright green pesto, the colour was mesmerizing! It was a thick and luscious paste, full of fresh flavours combined with the marjoram’s flowery aroma. I combined it with crisp breakfast bacon fried with a spoonful of honey, the caramelized saltiness was a delicious addition to the pesto’s sweet and velvety smoothness. When a sandwich is made with such tasty ingredients it can easily deal with strong, dark bread. I went for a nutty whole wheat bun, topped with linseeds, sunflower and sesame seeds, the whole composition was hearty yet fresh and light at the same time. May spring come soon to pursue all my culinary cravings that have been waiting for months!

Here’s the recipe for another one of my legume pestos: Fava Bean Pesto with Mint!

Pea Pesto Honey Bacon Sandwich

 

Pea Pesto Honey Bacon Sandwich

Pea Pesto and Caramelized Honey Bacon Sandwich with fresh Marjoram

For 3 sandwiches you need

For the pesto

fresh whole wheat buns, cut in half, 3
peas (fresh or frozen) 200g / 7 ounces
fresh, young marjoram leaves, chopped, 3/4 – 1 teaspoon, to taste (mind that it’s very aromatic), plus a few leaves for the topping
water used to cook the peas 1 tablespoon
garlic, quartered, 1 clove
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 teaspoon
olive oil 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper

breakfast bacon 6 slices
honey 1/2 teaspoon
olive oil

Blanche the peas in boiling salted water for 1 minute, drain and rinse them with cold water (to keep their fresh green colour). Purée the ingredients for the pesto in a food processor until smooth, season to taste.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy pan and fry the bacon on medium-high for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and crisp. Add the honey and caramelize for 1 minute.

Spread the pea pesto on the bottom side of the buns, lay the bacon on top and sprinkle with a few marjoram leaves. Enjoy!

Pea Pesto Honey Bacon Sandwich

 

Pea Pesto Honey Bacon Sandwich

 

Pea Pesto Honey Bacon Sandwich

 

Pea Pesto Honey Bacon Sandwich

Crispy Pan-Roasted Fennel Potatoes

Fennel Potatoes

Fennel seeds are one my favourite spices, preferably the ones I buy from a lovely lady at the market in Marsaxlokk in Malta. Her harvest grows under the hot Mediterranean sun, the plants dig their roots into the limestone soil and clay, in the rich Garrigue. This is the name of a unique and protected ecoregion, scrubland that you find close to the island’s coast line, it’s rocky and dry and looks a bit like a moon landscape. The ground seems poor but it’s actually quite rich in minerals washed out from the rocks, they nurture wild thyme and fennel and add a strong aroma to the vegetation. A single fennel seed is enough to smell and taste the difference compared to the products you can buy in most shops.

My Maltese fennel seeds and the plant’s bulb (not from Malta but organic) are the fragrant secrets of my rustic pan filled with golden crisp potatoes. The seeds’ and vegetable’s sweetness fits perfectly to the yellow roots, together they create an aromatic variation on a comfy kitchen classic. I roasted my potato slices a few hours after they cooked, you have to give them some time to dry out a little if you’re after a crisp result. They should always spread evenly in the (heavy) pan and not on top of each other while they are cooking. You might have to roast them in batches but the effort is worth it. I cut the fennel bulb in very thin slices, like a carpaccio, and sautéed them for only 2 minutes in fennel seed infused olive oil. They were just al dente when I mixed them in the pan with the roasted potatoes, crunchy fennel seeds, sea salt and coarsely crushed pepper. We picked up our forks and ate straight out of the skillet, a rather rustic style of eating that fit perfectly to the dish.

Fennel Potatoes

 

Fennel Potatoes

Crispy Pan-Roasted Fennel Potatoes

For 2-3 people you need

waxy potatoes, peeled, boiled and rinsed, 700g / 1 1/2 pounds
small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced, the green chopped, for the topping, 1
quality fennel seeds (preferably organic), 1 1/2 tablespoons
olive oil
sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

Let the potatoes cool and dry on a wire rack for at least 1 hour or a day and cut them into thick slices. In a large heavy pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil and fry the potatoes on medium-high for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Cook them in batches and turn them one by one with a fork to keep their shape. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a splash of olive oil in another pan and cook the fennel seeds on medium heat for 1 minute (they shouldn’t get dark). Pull the pan off the heat, take just the seeds out with a tablespoon and set them aside. Put the pan back on and add the fennel slices, sauté them on medium for about 1 minute on each side without getting dark, they should be al dente. Gently mix the roasted potatoes, fennel seeds and slices in the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste, serve immediately.

Fennel Potatoes

 

Fennel Potatoes

 

Fennel Potatoes

Buckwheat Dutch Baby with White Chocolate, Blueberries and Hazelnuts

buckwheatdutchbaby1

I ate my first Dutch Baby in Marta Greber’s kitchen, the cook and baker behind the beautiful blog What Should I Eat For Breakfast Today?We met last October for one of my meet in your kitchen features, I was curious about this woman who is known to be so passionate about the first meal of the day. When Marta told me that she’d like to make a Dutch Baby for me I had to ask her for further information, unfortunately I had no idea what to expect on my plate.

To clear the picture for everyone else who feels as clueless as I did then: a Dutch Baby is a pancake baked in the oven in a heavy cast iron skillet. It rises a bit like a soufflé with a buttery crust on the outside. It’s a very simple yet very delicious way to start the day! Marta mastered this dish to perfection, you can find her recipe here in the kitchen feature with her. I didn’t want to change her basic formula too much. There are variations on this dish with a thiner result but I particularly liked the richness she created. Her recipe uses more flour than the ones that end up with a paper thin bottom, her Dutch Baby is a proper breakfast and not an airy dessert. I wanted to keep that but there is always room to evolve a recipe, to change it in order to give it a new direction. My new direction is called buckwheat!

buckwheatdutchbaby2

Inspired by my hazelnut cake made with this tasty flour which found its way onto the blog only a few weeks before I met Marta, I have been wanting to combine these two creations for months: a hearty buckwheat Dutch Baby refined with cinnamon to underline its nutty flavour. The right cast iron skillet was missing in my kitchen which isn’t obligatory for this recipe but I’ve been longing for this heavy pan from Tennessee for years and I didn’t want to start this project without this exact kitchen tool (I know, I sound a bit like a child). Thanks to our family, to lovely Ana and Chris in Florida, my cooking equipment has a few new additions: not only one skillet but three plus a casserole dish, it felt like Christmas when the box arrived. My first Dutch Baby is dedicated to these two wonderful people on the other side of the Atlantic, thank you so much for this kitchen gift!

When I finally got started, it took three attempts to learn that you can’t expect the same results from buckwheat batter compared to the ones made with lighter wheat or white spelt, it’s just not as airy. Buckwheat is simply too heavy to let the pancake rise and bubble like a perfect soufflé, as long as you’re not after after a crêpe-thin Dutch Baby which I wasn’t. I wanted Marta’s thick German pancake texture combined with the buckwheat’s distinct taste. So, using only buckwheat was out of the question, it’s impossible. For my first batch I used more or less Marta’s recipe replacing half the flour with buckwheat. It created a pancake with a certain density that I wanted to lighten up a little. The second batch made with 1/3 less buckwheat flour tasted perfect but I still wanted a different texture and look. The third and final recipe is made with an additional egg and the same amount of the two different flours, and this time I was finally happy. Don’t expect a feather-light soufflé but a cosy, nutty, cinnamony warm breakfast treat, slightly cakey, with sweet and creamy white chocolate melted on top. The addition of chopped hazelnuts and fresh blueberries made this comforting morning treat complete!

So where does the name come from? It’s another one of these sweet fairy tales. The dish is derived from the German pancake, the word Dutch is a corruption of the word Deutsch, meaning German. A restaurant owner called Victor Manca is supposed to be the person who made the first Dutch Baby in the early 1900 in Seattle, Washington. At least he owned the trade mark. Legend has it that one of his daughters chose the name, referring to the German-American immigrants, the Pennsylvania-Dutch.

buckwheatdutchbaby3

Buckwheat Dutch Baby with White Chocolate, Blueberries and Hazelnuts

For a 25cm / 10″ cast iron skillet or heavy baking dish you need

butter 80g / 2 3/4 ounces, to bake the pancake
plain flour 60g / 2 ounces
buckwheat flour 60g / 2 ounces
sugar 2 tablespoons
salt 1/2 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
organic eggs 3
milk 125ml / 4 1/2 ounces
quality white chocolate, grated, 60g / 2 ounces, for the topping
blueberries 125g / 4 1/2 ounces, for the topping
hazelnuts, chopped, 20g / 3/4 ounce, for the topping

Set the oven to 230°C / 450°F (top/ bottom heat).

Place the skillet or baking dish with the butter in the oven. Let the butter melt and sizzle slightly (it should be hot but not brown). Combine the flour, buckwheat, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a bowl, add the milk and eggs and whisk for about a minute until combined. When the butter is melted, gently pour the dough into the middle of the pan and bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until golden.

When the Dutch Baby is done, take the pan out of the oven and carefully pour out the excess butter. Sprinkle the surface with the chocolate immediately. Lay the blueberries and hazelnuts on top and enjoy warm!

buckwheatdutchbaby4

 

buckwheatdutchbaby6

 

Buckwheat Dutch Baby

Thyme, Rosemary and Parmesan Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

This is the essence of Italian food for me, a huge plate full of warm pasta with tiny meat balls, fruity tomato sugo and fresh thyme and rosemary. A glass of the deepest red wine, Caruso on the vinyl player and the world is as perfect as it can possible be!

I first learned to enjoy burgers through my Maltese/ American partner, he introduced these rather well sized portions of meat to my cooking. In the past, I only used to shape little balls of minced beef, lamb or pork in my kitchen, that’s how I learned it from my mother and I followed her recipe for years. She mixes the meat with eggs and breadcrumbs for a fluffy texture and lots of fresh herbs from her garden before she gives them a small round shape. In general, she’s not a big fan of huge portions on her plate so the dimensions of a proper burger didn’t really appeal to her. This only changed in the past few years, now she tells me with excitement about rustic burger nights in her kitchen!

I can’t even say which size I prefer, sometimes my appetite calls for a massive burger, preferably pure minced steak stuffed between a bun with some greens and thin tomato slices. Small meatballs are a delicious (and addictive) snack, warm and cold. They are perfect nibbles for a brunch or casual cocktail party, and absolutely tempting when it comes to pasta. Cook them in an aromatic tomato sugo, or with lots of onions and white wine, and you’ll have the most comforting dish on your plate. Their size should always be small enough to fit on a fork with a bit of sugo on top, heavenly! And here my mother’s recipe comes in again, I mixed the minced meat with lots of fresh thyme, rosemary and garlic to give it a rich Mediterranean touch. And not to forget grated parmesan, 3 heaped tablespoons melted into the tiny balls added the cheese’s wonderful aroma to the meat. For the sugo, I used tinned tomatoes, full of summery flavour and sweetness, at this point the fresh ones aren’t an option yet. I added some red wine, Balsamico vinegar, a tiny bit of fresh orange juice and chopped rosemary to end up with a concentrated red sauce full of beautiful flavours. It looked stunning and tasted just as good.

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

 

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

 Thyme, Rosemary and Parmesan Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

For 3-4 people you need

spaghetti 300g / 10 1/2 ounces

For the meatballs

minced beef 500g / 1 pound
organic egg 1
breadcrumbs 40g / 1 1/2 ounces
medium sized onion, finely chopped 1
garlic, crushed, 2 big cloves
fresh thyme leaves 2 tablespoons
fresh rosemary, finely chopped, 1 teaspoon
freshly grated parmesan 3 heaped tablespoons
salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
pepper
olive oil, for frying
butter 2 tablespoons, for frying

For the tomato sugo

red wine 75ml/ 2 1/2 ounces
fresh thyme 1 small sprig
quality tinned tomatoes 600g / 1 1/4 pounds
Balsamico vinegar 1 1/2 tablespoons, to taste
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 1/2 tablespoons, to taste
fresh rosemary, finely chopped, 1 1/2 teaspoons
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in lots of salted water al dente.

Mix the ingredients for the meatballs with your hands or an electric mixer until well combined. Wet your hands and form walnut sized meatballs. In a large pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter and fry the meatballs for about 6 minutes on medium heat, turning them so that they can brown evenly. Take the meatballs out and set them aside, cover them with a lid. Put the pan back on the heat and deglaze with the red wine, add the thyme sprig and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tinned tomatoes, chop them and add the Balsamico vinegar, orange juice, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes (bubbling) or until it starts to thicken and season with salt, pepper, orange juice and vinegar to taste. Add the meatballs to the sugo and cook for another minute on low heat. Serve with the spaghetti in warm plates.

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

 

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

 

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

 

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

Blue Cheese Omelette and Rosemary Prosciutto Ciabatta Sandwich

Blue Cheese Omelette and Rosemary Prosciutto Sandwich

An especially luscious sandwich for an especially fun occasion: Anna from Pinterest asked me to join their March Breakfast Campaign with an eat in my kitchen sandwich board on my profile. After 65 creations on the blog dedicated to all the delicious culinary wonders that can possibly happen between two slices of bread, it’s time to give the sandwich the attention it deserves.

I started my Pinterest profile around the same time as the blog, in winter 2013, to spark my own inspiration but also to share all my finds from the wide spheres of the web. All the wonderful dishes from all over the world that tickle my taste buds, the kitchen pictures that made me want to remodel parts of my own creative culinary space a couple weeks ago, and the endless great ideas you can find for interior design, fashion, architecture, gardening and traveling. I enjoy the time that I spend on this network as it gives me useful information directly connected to the original creator, that’s fantastic! So, if you’ve followed my Sandwich-Wednesdays over the past 15 months and you’re looking for a summary, and some more great recipes from other sandwich lovers, you can take a look at my new Pinterest Sandwich board here!

The celebration of this amazingly easy (most of the time) and highly loved snack called for a voluptuous recipe that combines a few ingredients which almost guarantee a scrumptious result: blue cheese, omelette, rosemary prosciutto and rucola on oily ciabatta bread. The sharp cheese definitely takes the egg to another level, even if you want to leave out the bread, you should try this duo one day. Rosemary prosciutto is my all-time favourite ham, thin slices of the finest Italian art of butchering refined with the woody herb, this is perfection made complete with the slight sweetness of the light and fluffy eggs  and the salty cheese. It can’t get any better when it comes to the easy enjoyments at table!

Blue Cheese Omelette and Rosemary Prosciutto Sandwich

 

Blue Cheese Omelette and Rosemary Prosciutto Sandwich

 Blue Cheese Omelette and Rosemary Prosciutto Ciabatta Sandwich

For 2 sandwiches you need

medium sized juicy ciabatta bread, cut into 2 pieces, 1
organic eggs 3
heavy cream 50ml / 1 3/4 ounces
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
blue cheese, crumbled, 50g / 1 3/4 ounces
Italian rosemary prosciutto, very thinly slices, 2 – 4 large slices
butter 1 tablespoon
olive oil 1/2 – 1 teaspoon
rucola, a small handful
fresh rosemary, a few sprigs, for the topping
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, for the topping

Whisk the eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a pan and pour in the egg mixture, scramble very lightly and fold onto itself. When the bottom side starts to become golden flip it around. Brown it lightly from the other side for about a minute. Take the pan off the heat and sprinkle the blue cheese on top of the warm omelette.

Cut the ciabatta pieces in half and brush each bottom half with a little olive oil, lay a few rucola leaves on top. Divide the blue cheese omelette in half when the cheese starts to melt and lay on top of the green leaves. Sprinkle with a few rosemary needles and pepper and cover with the rosemary prosciutto. Close the sandwich and enjoy!

Blue Cheese Omelette and Rosemary Prosciutto Sandwich

 

Blue Cheese Omelette and Rosemary Prosciutto Sandwich

 

Blue Cheese Omelette and Rosemary Prosciutto Sandwich

Green Bean, Artichoke and Grapefruit Salad with Kalamata Olives & Rosemary

Green Bean, Pink Grapefruit and Artichoke Salad with Kalamata Olives

The change of season is nearing (finally!) and the first spring vegetables are back in my kitchen, green beans! They aren’t locally grown and had to travel a bit to reach my cooker but their crunchy green gave me culinary proof that the end of winter is near!

The recipe is easy, I went for a quick bean salad with bittersweet pink grapefruit and a light rosemary orange dressing. I had a colourful plate in mind with lots of different flavours, antipasta feeling combined with sharp freshness. I pulled out a few pantry treasures to mix with the fruit and vegetable: preserved artichoke hearts and juicy Kalamata olives. A strong composition without a single overpowering ingredient, the perfect salad to get prepared for all the summery, culinary pleasures ahead of us!

Green Bean, Pink Grapefruit and Artichoke Salad with Kalamata Olives

 

Green Bean, Pink Grapefruit and Artichoke Salad with Kalamata Olives

Green Bean, Artichoke and Pink Grapefruit Salad with Kalamata Olives and Rosemary

For 2 people you need

green beans, the ends cut off, 300g / 10.5 ounces
pink grapefruit, cut into fillets, 1
preserved artichoke hearts, quartered, 4
Kalamata olives 8
olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 3 tablespoons
fresh rosemary, finely chopped, 1 heaped teaspoon
salt and pepper

Blanche the beans in lots of salted water for 4-5 minutes or until al dente, rinse with cold water for 2 seconds and drain.

Arrange the beans, grapefruit, artichoke and olives in a large bowl. Whisk the olive oil, orange juice, rosemary, salt and pepper and season to taste. Sprinkle the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

Green Bean, Pink Grapefruit and Artichoke Salad with Kalamata Olives

 

Green Bean, Pink Grapefruit and Artichoke Salad with Kalamata Olives

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