eat in my kitchen

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

White Bean Hummus and Lomo Prosciutto Sandwich

White Bean Hummus, Lomo Prosciutto and Tomato Sandwich

I’m sorry that the blog wasn’t reachable this morning, my web provider had some technical issues. It’s fixed now and the food is back!

My first hummus sandwich was a luscious recipe which our Godchild’s father passed on to me. Last year Guy introduced me to the amazing Sabih, a popular snack from Israel where he grew up. It combines velvety hummus, grilled aubergine and hard boiled eggs packed between two slices of juicy bread. It’s the kind of sandwich which makes you lick your fingers afterwards as you don’t want to miss out on the tiniest crumb. Shockingly enough, it’s been a year since I wrote about it and it’s time to play around with some hummus variations. It can’t just be chickpeas, big white beans puréed with tahini paste, fresh garlic and lemon juice create an equally delicious dip, maybe a bit softer so you have to go easy on the tahini as it can easily be too overpowering.

Although I had decided to go for white bean hummus for my new Sandwich Wednesday creation I wasn’t sure about the further additions until my aunt Ursula asked me if I would be interested in some of her party leftovers. She’s a gourmet, so I never refuse whatever she brings to my kitchen! She came with a plate of the finest Serrano and Lomo (meaning pork loin in Spanish) prosciutto, both of extraordinary quality. I chose the Lomo for the sandwich as it had the perfect balance of an expressive character without dominating the other ingredients. The Spanish delicacy merged perfectly with the white bean flavour, I just added some cherry tomatoes for a bit of freshness, another one of my aunt’s culinary gifts.

White Bean Hummus, Lomo Prosciutto and Tomato Sandwich

 

White Bean Hummus, Lomo Prosciutto and Tomato Sandwich

White Bean Hummus and Lomo Prosciutto Sandwich

For 3 sandwiches you need

rustic buns, cut in half, 3
Lomo prosciutto (or San Daniele) 15 small or 6 large thin slices
ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered, 6
butter beans, canned, rinsed and drained, 250g / 9 ounces
tahini paste 1 – 2 tablespoons
garlic, crushed, 1 clove
freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 tablespoons
water 1 tablespoon
salt
olive oil

Purée 200g (3.5 ounces) of the beans with the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water and salt in a blender. Season to taste, add more water if the mixture is too dry.

Spread the bean hummus voluptuously on the bottom half of each bun and arrange the prosciutto, the remaining beans and tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with a little olive oil, close the bun and enjoy!

White Bean Hummus, Lomo Prosciutto and Tomato Sandwich

 

White Bean Hummus, Lomo Prosciutto and Tomato Sandwich

 

White Bean Hummus, Lomo Prosciutto and Tomato Sandwich

 

White Bean Hummus, Lomo Prosciutto and Tomato Sandwich

 

White Bean Hummus, Lomo Prosciutto and Tomato Sandwich

Potato and Endive Gratin with Chèvre and Thyme

Potato and Endive Gratin with Chèvre

A gratin has the same effect on me as pizza or lasagna, I just want to cuddle up on the sofa and get cosy. This dish spreads such a beautiful aroma of baked cheese and herbs through my flat, it instantly relaxes me. Sometimes I just sit in front of the glass oven door, enjoying the scene of bubbling cream and cheese that turns from an unspectacular pale white to a landscape of golden brown peaks. They look like tiny volcanos with dark tips ready to burst. It’s just a gratin but when you look at it long enough it carries you away!

I don’t remember how many different potato gratin recipes I have tried out in my kitchen, there were so many. I shared the ones with dried porcini, black pudding, apples or parsnips and today there will be a new addition to the selection: Potato and endive gratin with chèvre and thyme! The combination is great, quite strong with sweet, bitter, milky and woody flavours. I wanted a quick dish, so I boiled the potatoes and sautéed the endives before I baked them with cream and milk in the oven. You could easily come up with some variations and use raclette or blue cheese instead of the chèvre, or add some slices of pears or apples, mix in some chopped rosemary or whatever comes to mind to suit your cosy dinner.

Potato and Endive Gratin with Chèvre

 

Potato and Endive Gratin with Chèvre

 Potato and Endive Gratin with Chèvre and Thyme

For 3 – 4 people you need

potatoes, boiled, peeled and sliced, 700g / 1.5 pounds
endives, cut in half, 4
heavy cream 100ml / 3.5 ounces
milk 60ml / 2 ounces
freshly grated nutmeg
salt 1 teaspoon
pepper
chèvre 125g / 4.5 ounces
thyme, the leaves of a small bunch
olive oil
butter 2 teaspoons

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F and butter a round 28cm / 11″ gratin form or baking dish.

In a pan, heat a splash of olive oil and butter and sauté the endives for 2 minutes on each side on medium-high. Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk the cream and milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Arrange the potatoes and endives in the buttered dish and pour the cream and milk mixture over the vegetables. Sprinkle with chèvre and thyme and bake for 18 minutes. Turn the oven down to 160°C / 320°F and bake for another 5 minutes or until golden brown. Let the gratin cool for a few minutes before serving and season with pepper to taste.

Potato and Endive Gratin with Chèvre

 

Potato and Endive Gratin with Chèvre

 

Potato and Endive Gratin with Chèvre

 

Potato and Endive Gratin with Chèvre

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

As a child I went through different sweet phases with quite an obsessive persistence. There were times, if not years, when I bought a scrumptious short crust ring topped with gianduja cream and chocolate at least once or twice a week from my hometown’s confectionery, it’s a decadent treat called Nougatring in German. When I fell in love with a cinnamony cherry crumble cake from a French bakery as a young teenager I bought a piece of it every day after school. For months I wanted nothing more than this buttery pleasure, it felt like the best culinary discovery of my young life. Luckily, I was always quite tall and didn’t have to worry much about the effect of my obsessions on my weight, my culinary enjoyment was always greater than my vanity!

I remember that my family, especially my mother and aunts, used to tell me that I should enjoy it to the fullest as with age, I wouldn’t be able to eat these amounts without repentance. They were so right! I simply can’t eat so many sweets anymore, a fact which I regret, especially when I have to refuse a piece of tempting cake, this would have never happened in my early years! The only thing that didn’t change is my excitement for these treats and my complete misjudgment of the amount of cake that two people can actually eat. I prefer my baked sweets well sized, you never know if an unexpected guest may appear at the door step. The same happened to me a few days ago when I decided to make a traditional German poppy seed cake. This was another one of my childhood favourites, soft and spongy yeast dough wrapped around a juicy poppy seed and raisin filling. In the North Rhine Westphalia area where I grew up, this rich strudel is topped with sweet and buttery crumbles which is simply amazing in combination with the seeds and pastry. When I prepared all the ingredients on the kitchen counter I remembered how much I used to love this cake and decided to make a huge strudel, ignoring the fact that my partner isn’t too fond of poppy seeds or yeast cakes for that matter. I didn’t expect guests either but I had a rustic picture of a huge strudel in mind, with impressive proportions.

I got what I asked for! The strudel woke up all the culinary memories of my childhood and tasted exactly how I wanted it to be, even my partner liked it a lot, but still, after 2 big slices we just looked at each other and thought “what are we going to do with this massive strudel?”. Luckily, I can always rely on my family. My aunt Ursula came for a quick visit, she is as much a fan of this cake as I am. She replaced her dinner with two slices of my strudel monster and she looked very happy when I offered her to take half of it home. The lesson is, a cake can never be too big, there will always be friends and family who enjoy it as much as the baker does!

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

 

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

For a huge strudel for about 10 people you need

For the yeast dough

plain flour 480g / 17 ounces
sugar 80g / 3 ounces
dry yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounces)
a pinch of salt
butter, melted, 80g / 3 ounces plus 1 tablespoon to brush the strudel
milk 175ml / 6 ounces

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Mix the milk with the melted butter (the mixture should be lukewarm) and add to the dry flour-mixture. Mix with the dough hooks of the mixer for a few minutes, the dough will be quite moist. Dust the kitchen counter with a little flour and continue kneading and punching with your hands for a few minutes until you have a soft and elastic dough ball (if the dough sticks to your fingers add more flour). 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!).

 

For the poppy seed filling

milk 420ml / 14 ounces
sugar 100g / 3.5 ounces
cinnamon 2 leveled teaspoons
orange zest 2 teaspoons
poppy seeds, cracked, 250g / 9 ounces
raisins 80g / 3 ounces

In a sauce pan, bring the milk, sugar, cinnamon and orange zest to the boil. Stir in the poppy seeds and let the mixture cook on lowest heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. When the filling is thick and the milk is soaked, add the raisins, mix and let it cool.

 

For the crumbles

Prepare the crumbles shortly before baking the strudel.

plain flour 100g / 3.5 ounces (plus more if the crumbles are too sticky)
sugar 60g / 2 ounces
cinnamon 1 teaspoon
butter, melted, 60g / 2 ounces (plus more if the crumbles are too fine)

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the melted butter and mix quickly with the hooks of your mixer, stop as soon as the mixtures crumbles. If it doesn’t form crumbles, add a little more flour and sugar, if the crumbles are too fine add a bit more melted butter.

 

The strudel

Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F (top/ bottom heat).

Take the dough out of the bowl, punch it down and knead for 1 minute.

Dust a piece of parchment paper (big enough to cover a baking sheet) with a little flour. Roll out the dough on the parchment paper until it’s roughly 35 x 35cm / 14 x 14″. Spread the poppy seed filling on it evenly, leave a rim of 1 – 2cm / 1/2 – 1″. Roll the dough up tightly, gently pull off the parchment paper while rolling the dough. The fold should be at the bottom. Close the sides well, cover with a tea towel and let it rise for 15 minutes (on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper).

Brush the strudel with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Prepare the crumbles, spread them over the strudel and gently push them into the yeast dough. Bake for 50 minutes or until the yeast dough is golden brown.

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

 

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

 

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

 

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

 

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

 

German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles

Seared Tuna with Ginger, Lemon, Butter Beans and Onions

Tuna with Ginger, Lemon, Butter Beans and Onions

A tuna salad with white beans and onions is a wonderful light treat on a warm, summery evening, unfortunately, this is not exactly the kind of scene I find in wintery Europe at the moment. However, with a few minor changes, this dish can become something that can satisfy the needs of a cold day in January. Replace the canned fish with a fresh steak, add some warming ginger and crushed black peppercorns to it, and you’ll see it in a different way. Instead of the small cannellini beans which are perfect for salads I went for a can of butter beans. The big, velvety legumes are rich and quite filling, a small plate is more than enough and you won’t feel hungry for hours! This is why I prefer them in the cold season, for hearty dishes like my butter bean and fennel soup, although they are often featured in Mediterranean summer dishes.

The preparation didn’t take any longer than the salad: I seared the firm steak for just a minute on each side as I wanted it to stay slightly pink inside, if you leave it on the heat too long it becomes dry. Some like to cook tuna for a few seconds to keep it completely raw but that’s not my thing, other recipes recommend finishing it in the oven for a minute after it’s been pan-seared. My piece was about 2 1/2cm / 1″ thick and it was cooked to perfection. I sprinkled the tuna with freshly grated ginger and lemon zest and put it on top of the beans mixed with thin slices of red onions. The vegetables had a fruity dressing made with olive oil, freshly squeezed orange juice, white Balsamico vinegar and some of the grated root and citrus peel to pick up the aromas. It felt like a far away summer memory in a different setting which is great as long as it tastes so good!

I also don’t want to miss out on telling you some great news: I’m so excited, eat in my kitchen has been featured in the German food magazine Lust auf Genuss! In the February print issue you can find an interview with me and an orange and lemon recipe I developed for the magazine with lamb chops and mashed potatoes. You can read the feature in the press section of my about page (you have to scroll down).

Tuna with Ginger, Lemon, Butter Beans and Onions

 

Tuna with Ginger, Lemon, Butter Beans and Onions

Seared Tuna with Ginger, Lemon, Butter Beans and Onions

As a lunch for 2 you need

tuna steak (about 2 1/2cm / 1″ thick) 200g / 7 ounces (take 2 steaks for 2 hungry people)
canned butter beans, rinsed and drained, 240g / 8 1/2 ounces
small red onion, cut in half and very thinly sliced, 1
olive oil 3 tablespoons plus more for frying
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
white Balsamico vinegar 1 tablespoon
lemon zest about 1/4 teaspoon
ginger, grated, about 3/4 teaspoon
salt and pepper

Whisk 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the orange juice, vinegar, half the lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon of the grated ginger and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix the beans and onions with the dressing and arrange on plates.

Heat a little olive oil in a pan and sear the tuna for 1 – 1 1/2 minutes on each side, the inside should stay pink. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the remaining ginger and lemon zest. Serve on top of the beans.

Tuna with Ginger, Lemon, Butter Beans and Onions

 

Tuna with Ginger, Lemon, Butter Beans and Onions

 

Tuna with Ginger, Lemon, Butter Beans and Onions

A messy Sandwich with Roasted Shallots, Grilled Gruyère and Chutney

Roasted Shallots, Grilled Gruyère and Chutney Sandwich

I’m in a mountain mood again, losing myself in thoughts of a warm wooden hut with an open fire place and wide snowy views. This calls for onions and cheese on my sandwich, or rather, tiny shallots roasted in their skin until they turn sweet, sticky and juicy, almost caramelised with aromatic gruyère, grilled until golden brown and bubbling. With these two pictures (and flavours) in my mind, I knew that I wouldn’t need much else for today’s messy sandwich.

I bought a crunchy sourdough bread, a rustic French loaf, strong enough to compete with the final addition to my hearty sandwich, homemade chutneys and marmalade. Our kitchen table was covered in jars with plum, rhubarb, red pepper and apple chutney, and in a moment of culinary cockiness, I decided to try it with some of my tangerine jam. I started by roasting the delicate onions for less than half an hour before I snipped the ends off and squeezed their juiciness onto the hot grilled cheese. One bite after the other, I tried all the different fruity spreads to come to the conclusion that the golden citrus fruits are interesting but quite a challenge for the taste buds and my plum chutney is the winner. Onions, gruyère and plums simply can’t go wrong!

Roasted Shallots, Grilled Gruyère and Chutney Sandwich

 

Roasted Shallots, Grilled Gruyère and Chutney Sandwich

 A Sandwich with Roasted Shallots, Grilled Gruyère and Chutney

For 3 sandwiches you need

rustic sourdough bread 3 or 6 slices (if you want a closed sandwich)
small shallots, in their skin, 9 – 12
gruyère, or another strong, hard mountain cheese, thinly sliced, 200g / 7 ounces
a fruity chutney, for the topping
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, for the topping
olive oil

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (I used the Rotitherm setting).

Coat the shallots in a little olive oil and roast in the hot oven for 25 minutes or until soft, turn them after 15 minutes. They should feel soft when you push them down gently.

Spread the gruyère on the slices of bread and put them under the grill for 1 – 2 minutes until the cheese starts bubbling. Snip the ends off the onions and squeeze them onto the cheese. Sprinkle with chutney and pepper and enjoy!

Roasted Shallots, Grilled Gruyère and Chutney Sandwich

 

Roasted Shallots, Grilled Gruyère and Chutney Sandwich

 

Roasted Shallots, Grilled Gruyère and Chutney Sandwich

 

Roasted Shallots, Grilled Gruyère and Chutney Sandwich

 

Roasted Shallots, Grilled Gruyère and Chutney Sandwich

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

My fennel carpaccio with salty capers and lemon is one of my favourite winter salads, I always have a couple bulbs in the fridge to prepare this 2-minute lunch or dinner for us. The vegetable is a tasty alternative to cabbages because, for whatever reason, it retains its strong aroma even when it’s out of its (natural) season. It’s always strong and present, be it baked in the oven as a gratin with parmesan sprinkled on top, with butter beans in a hearty soup or as a crunchy addition to salads. I would definitely suffer much more from the absence of summery tomatoes, zucchini and bell pepper if there wasn’t fennel in the house!

It’s been a while that we had a plate of pasta on our table, which is quite unusual for us. Inspired by my carpaccio, I pulled the linguine package out of the pantry and mixed it with thin fennel slices sautéed for just 2 minutes, a handful of capers from Gozo, lemon zest and juice. It was a quick and light dish, tasty and simply good!

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

 

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

For 2 people you need

linguine 200g / 7 ounces
medium sized fennel bulb, bottom cut off, very thinly sliced, 1
capers, rinsed and dried, a small handful, to taste
lemon zest to taste
freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1-2 tablespoons, to taste
salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, to taste
olive oil

Cook the pasta in salted water al dente, keep some of the water in a mug and set aside.

In a pan, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the fennel for 1 minute on each side on medium-high heat. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir in a splash of the water used to cook the linguine and the lemon juice. Sprinkle with capers and season with salt, pepper and lemon zest and juice to taste.

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

 

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

 

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

How to make your own Pretzel Buns

Pretzel Buns

When I made my Bavarian sandwich with pretzel buns and Obatzda camembert spread last week I completely underestimated how many people would actually be interested in a recipe for the buns rather than the spread (which is absolutely delicious nonetheless!). I bought the pretty Laugenbrötchen (their German name) which I used for the recipe from my favourite pretzel bakery in my area which, in my opinion, can compete with the products from their origin in the south of Germany. However, there is an ongoing discussion about the pretzel’s (and the bun’s) quality produced here in Berlin, and if you ask anyone from the Bavarian or Swabian region, they will all agree that it’s impossible to find acceptable results anywhere in this city. I disagree! I lived in the South, I still regularly enjoy some of the best pretzel buns from my step father’s Swabian hometown Stuttgart, an unchallenged stronghold of pretzels, so I consider myself an experienced critic. The buns you saw last week on the photos were soft and spongy inside, they taste slightly buttery, wrapped in a thin brown crust with coarse sea salt sprinkles. That’s all I can ask for!

Motivated by the last sandwich, excited and a bit nervous, I made a brave decision a few days ago, I wanted to make my own pretzel buns! I started some research, learnt about lye, washing and baking soda solutions for the crust, the right yeast dough mixture and the final shaping of the buns and here are my conclusions:

The dough has to be made with a bit of butter for the rich taste, it has to rise twice and once the buns are shaped with the right technique (which I describe in the recipe), they have to cook in boiling water mixed with baking soda for one minute before baking, basically like bagels. The soda solution provides a high ph-value, not as high and strong as lye solution which is often used in professional bakeries, but it’s safer and creates a similar browning effect.

When I pulled a piece off my first warm pretzel bun freshly out of my own oven, I was impressed, the texture was right, the crust perfect and the taste was fantastic. I also made a few pretzels which were nice and juicy and not dry (which I don’t like at all), but here I still have to improve. The look wasn’t right, I know this is not so relevant and, usually, not important for me at all as long as it pleases my taste buds, but we’re talking about pretzels! The top part with the knot wasn’t slim enough. They looked quite puffed up and out of shape, but they tasted amazing with some butter spread on them so I forgot about that completely. I prefer buns anyway!

Pretzel Buns

 

Pretzel Buns

 Pretzel Buns

For 1o pretzel buns you need

plain flour, white spelt (type 630) or wheat, 500g / 1 pound
dry yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
salt 2 teaspoons
water, luke warm, 300ml / 10 ounces
butter, melted and cooled, 40g / 1.5 ounces
baking soda 3 tablespoon, for the solution, to boil the buns before baking
coarse sea salt, for the topping

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Mix the water with the melted butter (the mixture should be lukewarm) and add to the dry flour-mixture. Mix with the dough hooks of the mixer for a few minutes, it shouldn’t be too sticky, add more flour if necessary. Continue kneading and punching with your hands for a few minutes until you have an elastic 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 60 minutes (top/ bottom heat and not fan-assisted!).

Punch the dough down, take it out and knead for 1 minute. Divide it in 10 portions, each about 80g / 2 3/4 ounces. Dust your hands with flour, put a portion of dough on the palm of your hand and roll with the other hand, holding it like a dome. Turn the dough for about 1o seconds on the flat hand until its top is round and firm. This process builds up surface tension and prevents the buns from becoming flat. Continue with the remaining dough. If you make pretzels, roll each portion into a 50cm / 20″ long sausage shape, the ends should be thinner than the rest, and twist to a pretzel shape. Cover the buns/ pretzels with a tea towel and let them rise for 20 minutes in a warm place.

Set your oven to 220°C / 430°F top/ bottom heat and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large pot, bring 1l / 4 cups of water and the baking soda to the boil, watch it as it will start bubbling. The pot should be wide enough for 2 buns to fit in, they don’t need to be completely covered with the solution.

Gently put two buns with a slotted ladle into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Mind that they don’t stick to the bottom and turn them after 30 seconds. Take them out after a minute and put them on the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and continue with the remaining buns. Bake for 16 minutes or until golden brown, the pretzels need just 12 minutes.

If you want to freeze the baked buns / pretzels, don’t sprinkle them with salt.

Pretzel Buns

 

Pretzel Buns

 

Pretzel Buns

 

Pretzel Buns

 

Pretzel Buns

meet in your kitchen| A Greek dessert creation by the Grand Hyatt’s Pastry Chef

Ben Donath Hyatt Berlin

This young man is a sweet genius in the kitchen! His creations open the door to new culinary experiences, but with such respect and care for the single ingredients that besides its spectacular visual effect, the result tastes as comforting as your favourite cake. Benjamin Donath is the Grand Hyatt Berlin’s executive pastry chef and furthermore, he’s responsible for the dessert creations for German chancellor Angela Merkel and her guests. If that weren’t enough, he managed to make me fall in love with a dessert made with Retsina. The Greek resinated wine is rather difficult to appreciate, at least for my taste, but when we met in the Hyatt’s kitchen Ben turned it into a fantastic composition called Griechischer Wein. Apart from being a quote from a famous German pop song in the 70s,  this means Greek Wine and describes a complex composition which Ben created for eat in my kitchen: fluffy retsina honey sorbet, buttery almond financier, sour apple terrine, light yoghurt espuma, crunchy yoghurt meringue and caramelised amaranth pops. It tasted as impressive as it sounds!

I first met Ben at a Christmas event in December, he helped me to decorate a gingerbread house. The result was so satisfying that it even got a place of honour under my Christmas tree. The chef’s patience combined with a determined sense for perfection fascinated me, and I must admit, being the pastry chef of an internationally renowned hotel dedicated to savouring on the highest level made me curious. Ben is the kind of person who follows a goal with a passion once it’s in his head. Although he seems too down-to-earth to be obsessed, he is extremely focussed. He won an award as the pastry chef of the German Culinary Team and gathered experiences abroad before he was asked to become Hyatt‘s executive pastry chef back in 2010. Ben is honest, he admits that he had to learn a lot in the beginning, creatively but also logistically. The responsibility given to him was quite a challenge but he grew into this new position with time and through the trust he received from his team. If you cater to 1500 people and present a selection of dessert creations to the chancellor for her official dinners,  you simply have to believe in yourself and that’s what Ben does. When he talks about his sweet creations, about contrasting flavours, combining dishes of different textures and temperatures, you can easily hear his dedication, and when you look into his eyes you can see the artist’s passion and love for the ingredients he uses to bring his visions to life.

Ben says that he found his own style over the years, his signature, but that’s an ongoing journey for him, one that leads him to work ever more minimally. He wants to work with less ingredients and concentrate on maybe four nuances, simple and pure. His creations speak for his creativity and he has many ideas for the future. He would love to involve more herbs in his desserts, so maybe one day he’ll take over part of the hotel’s roof garden in the name of sweet savouring and turn it into Ben’s herbal oasis, we’ll see!

Ben Donath Hyatt Berlin

 

Ben Donath Hyatt Berlin

Greek Wine by Benjamin Donath

For 4-6 people you need

For the Retsina honey sorbet

water 190 g / 7 ounces
Retsina wine 320g / 11 ounces
glucose syrup 40g / 1 1/2 ounces
sugar 50g / 1 3/4 ounces
pectin (pectagel rose) 3 1/2g / 1/10 ounce
chestnut honey 50g / 1 3/4 ounces
lemon zest
a pinch of salt

Combine the sugar and pectin.

In a large pot, bring all the ingredients with 125g / 4.5 ounces of the Retsina wine to the boil, cook for 2 minutes. Take off the heat and mix in the remaining Retsina wine. Purée in a blender, filter through a cloth strainer and freeze in an ice cream machine.

 

For the almond financier

sugar 80g / 2 3/4 ounces
egg white 75g / 2 1/2 ounces
ground almonds, roasted, 30g /1 ounce
plain flour 300g / 10.5 ounces
beurre noisette (brown butter), melted and cool, 80g / 2 3/4 ounces
honey 1/4 teaspoon
lemon zest
a pinch of salt

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

Combine the flour and almonds.

Beat the egg white and salt until stiff, adding the sugar gradually. Gently stir in the honey and lemon zest and fold in the flour-almond mixture. Let the beurre noisette drop slowly into the dough and mix carefully. Pour the dough into a baking dish lined with parchment paper, it should come up to 1 1/2 cm / 1/2″. Bake the financier until golden on top and baked through, it should stay juicy inside.

 

For the yoghurt espuma

You will need a cream whipper for the espuma.

milk 25g / 1 ounce
Greek yoghurt 50g / 2 ounce
sugar 2 teaspoons
chestnut honey 1 teaspoon
a pinch of salt
lemon juice 1 teaspoon
egg white, beaten, of 1/2 egg
gelatine 1/3 sheet

Soak the gelatin in cold water and dissolve in a little yoghurt. Mix with the other ingredients and fill 2/3 of a cream whipper with the mixture. Screw on the cream charger and let the espuma soak overnight.

 

For the yoghurt meringue

egg white 1
sugar 25g /1 ounce
icing sugar, sieved, 25g /1 ounce
Greek yoghurt 20g / 1 ounce
salt
lemon juice 1 teaspoon

Beat the egg white and salt until stiff, adding the sugar gradually. Fold in the icing sugar, yoghurt and lemon juice and stir gently until combined. Spread on parchment paper (about 4mm / 1/4″ thick) and let it dry in the 40 – 50°C / 105 – 120°F warm oven.

 

For the Retsina syrup

apple juice 25g / 1 ounce
water 25g / 1 ounce
Retsina wine 75g / 2 1/2 ounces
lemon juice 1 teaspoon
lemon zest
sugar 3 teaspoons
chestnut honey 2 teaspoons

In a sauce pan, bring the apple juice, water, half the Retsina wine, lemon juice and zest, sugar and honey to the boil and cook on low temperature (simmering) for 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool to 70°C / 160°F, stir in the remaining Retsina wine and filter through a cloth strainer.

 

For the apple terrine

sugar 40g / 1.5 ounces
water 2 teaspoons
baking apples, peeled, cored, quartered and cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices, 250g / 9 ounces
a pinch of salt
lemon zest
calvados 1 teaspoon
cinnamon stick 1/4

In a wide sauce pan, bring the sugar and water to the boil. When it turns into a golden caramel add the apple slices, salt, lemon zest and cinnamon. Close with a lid and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, turn the apples once every minute. Take the apples out with a slotted ladle and set aside. Keep the juices in the pan, add the calvados and bring to the boil. Cook down to a thick sauce and gently mix with the apple slices. Line a baking sheet with cling film, pile the apples on the cling film (a few centimetres / inches high), cover with cling film and a second baking sheet. Press together with weights for 10 minutes. Put the compressed apples wrapped in cling film in the freezer. When they are frozen, cut out circles with a round 5 cm / 2″ cookie cutter (or cut into 5 x 5cm / 2 x 2″ squares). They should be at room temperature when served.

 

For the yoghurt sauce

Greek yoghurt 25g / 1 ounce
salt
sugar
lemon juice

Whisk the yoghurt and season with salt, sugar and lemon juice to taste.

 

For the caramelised amaranth

popped amaranth 50g / 2 ounces
icing sugar 30g / 1 ounce
butter 1 teaspoon
salt

In a sauce pan, warm up the amaranth with 1/3 of the icing sugar on medium heat. When it starts to caramelise, slowly add the remaining sugar (the amaranth will turn glossy). Add the salt and butter and spread on parchment paper. Crumble into small pieces.

 

The Greek Wine

Spread the yoghurt sauce on a large plate, place the apple terrine in the middle and top with a scoop of Retsina honey sorbet. Spray the yoghurt espuma on top of the sorbet and sprinkle with amaranth pops. Arrange the broken meringue and financier around it and pour some of the Retsina syrup on the plate.

Ben Donath Hyatt Berlin

 

Ben Donath Hyatt Berlin

You have been the Head Pastry Chef at the Grand Hyatt in Berlin since 2010. What are the differences between working in the kitchen of a hotel, a restaurant or a confectionery and why did you choose to work at a hotel?

The difference is clearly the size of the operation as well as the versatility of the daily business. Here you need a mix of skills like being creative, being organized and being focused on leading a team and controlling costs. All this is on a bigger scale than it is in an à la carte kitchen. Even though my heart still beats for restaurants, I rather see myself in a company like Hyatt.

Before you settled in Berlin, you also worked in Australia, Mexico and Malta. How important is traveling for your culinary inspiration and what did you learn from the experiences abroad?

To me, this is where a lot of inspiration comes from. You know when you are away from home or your comfort zone that you want to open your eyes to get along and soak up all the different cultures and influences of a certain place. Even though I often don’t realize it right away, ideas for new dishes evolve from places I´ve been to, may it be a weekend in Vienna or a few months in Asia.

What are your memories of the time you worked at the Intercontinental hotel in Malta? Did you learn something about the island’s traditional cuisine?

I have to admit that a competition brought me there. I went there to support my former colleague, who was a member of the Turkish national culinary team and after the competition, we supported the Intercontinental Malta for its preopening phase. Unfortunately, my stay did not last for too long, but for me, it was a great experience diving into new and unknown international cuisine.

Who or what inspired you to become a pastry chef? Do you have a kitchen idol?

Thats easy to answer. At the age of sixteen, I didn’t have a clue what to do or even where I could see myself in the future. I just knew that I wanted to learn a craft. In the end I decided between two apprenticeships, so it was carpenter vs. pastry chef. You can make an easy guess which decision I made. And what can I say, I am still very happy with my choice and haven’t regretted it since.

The idol thing is something that I can’t really support, there are people by my side for a certain period of time, who I might look up to, but then our ways separate and there will be other people. To be creative in a good team is far better than having idols, in my opinion.

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

The first thing I baked was Christmas cookies with my mom. We peeled almonds for it, kneaded the dough and cut it into stars, Christmas trees and all that. I think my first dish was a classic one: spaghetti with tomato-basil sauce. Not my brightest moment, I must admit, but very tasty and simple indeed.

Do you have a sweet tooth or do you prefer to create but not to savour your creations?

I can’t really bring this to a point. I love to create and try afterwards, but I am not a “I always have a bar of chocolate at home” type of guy. Although I would rather go for a good sausage, I still have my sweet moments and when I eat in a restaurant, I often have dessert to try, especially when eating at good places.

How do you develop new recipes? What inspires you?

My recipes are always made to complement each other on the plate. You will always find light sweetness with an acid touch to it, there will be something baked as well as something creamy, something iced and something warm. So all in all it is about textures, temperatures and the main thing: the original taste of a product. My inspiration comes from people who surround me in my daily life, be it colleagues or friends. It can be from travels or eating at different places. Sometimes it happens when I just stroll through a market but there are times when there is just nothing in my head. That is when it is time for a day off.

What are your three favourite baking ingredients?

Herbs, Spirits and Chocolate.

When you bake in your own kitchen, what’s your favourite recipe and why?

I actually don’t bring work home but the last thing I did was gingerbread with the kids. Sometimes we make some ice creams at home, more in summer than at this time of the year. I usually spend more time cooking savoury things.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become a pastry chef?

Go ahead and work in many places such as classic pastry shops, restaurants or hotels with different multicultural teams. Be open for anything and don’t be afraid to fail… if you do, try again. Develop your own style after a while.

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

This would be any good weekend market. I love to be outside, taking my time, sip a cup of coffee and decide on what to cook while looking around, so relaxing.

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

The recipe is called Greek Wine and is made of Retsina wine, honey, Greek yoghurt, apple and almonds.

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

It would be Luke Burgess from the Garagistes, Hobart and it would be any of his tasting menues. What I really like about his dishes is the simplicity while they still seem to be so well combined.

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

Mixed starters (olives, dips, veggies, sausage, pita), the main course would contain plain mashed potatoes, red wine shallots, and a big piece of meat, and for dessert I imagine chocolate cake, nuts, toffee and vanilla ice cream.

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

My mom’s tomato sauce. Today I love any good piece of fish like sea bream, sea bass or cod, combined with risotto, greens and good olive oil. All I need to be happy.

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

Definitely for others or even better with others.

Thank you Ben!

Ben Donath Hyatt Berlin

 

Ben Donath Hyatt Berlin

 

Ben Donath Hyatt Berlin

 

Ben Donath Hyatt Berlin

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

This dish combines the two culinary worlds which influence my kitchen activities the most, Malta’s Mediterranean cuisine and Tyrol’s cosy comfort food. I cooked a warming minestrone the way I know it from my Maltese granny Edith, with lots of pumpkin, zucchini (qarabaghli in Maltese) and kohlrabi. This soup can take the most varied collection of vegetables so I also added some cauliflower, celery stalk, potatoes and carrots. It’s a deliciously sweet broth of all the strengthening  fruits of the season, and once the vegetables are chopped, it only takes 15 minutes !

Whenever I sit in Edith’s kitchen in Msida enjoying this comforting soul food, she sprinkles freshly grated parmesan over the steaming dish, but here in the North, I wanted to add something richer to satisfy our strong appetite. In the cold season, I’m a big fan of saturating additions to light and healthy soups, Tyrolean frittaten, called Flaedle in the Swabian region in southern Germany, are one of my first choices. They are made of thin crêpes refined with chives, rolled up in a tight wrap and cut into slim strips. Frittaten look like pancake snails and turn a minestrone into a special treat, the eggy pastry adds a hearty feel to this meal which I absolutely love about wintery soups!

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

 

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

For 4-6 people you need

For the frittaten

plain flour, sieved, 70g / 2.5 ounces
salt 1/8 teaspoon
organic egg, beaten, 1
milk 120ml / 4 ounces
chives, snipped 3 tablespoons
butter, to fry the crêpes

Mix the flour, salt, egg and milk to a smooth dough (with an electric mixer) and let it sit for 15 minutes before you mix in the chives.

In a non-stick pan, heat a teaspoon of butter. Pour in a ladle of the dough, holding the pan in your hand and turning it so that the dough spreads evenly and very thinly. The temperature should be on medium-high as the crêpes won’t need more than 1 minute on each side once the heat is set right. When the crêpe is golden on both sides take it out and continue with the remaining dough. Always heat a teaspoon of butter before you add new dough to the pan. Roll up each crêpe very tightly and cut into thin strips (snails).

 

For the minestrone

medium sized onion, chopped, 1
cauliflower, cut into small pieces, 160g / 5.5 ounces
butternut squash, peeled, cut into small cubes, 160g / 5.5 ounces
zucchini, cut into small cubes, 160g / 5.5 ounces
kohlrabi, peeled, cut into small cubes, 50g / 2 ounces
carrot, peeled, cut into small cubes, 80g / 3 ounces
potato, peeled, cut into small cubes, 100g / 3.5 ounces
celery stalk, cut into small cubes, 1
medium sized tomato, cut into small cubes, 1
broth, hot, 1.5l / 3 pints
garlic, crushed, 2 cloves
bay leaf 1
spring onion, thinly sliced, 2
salt and pepper
olive oil

In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the onion for a few minutes on medium heat until golden and soft. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add a little more oil and the chopped vegetables (apart from the spring onions), stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the hot broth and the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and cook for 15 – 20 minutes. Stir in the spring onion, season to taste and serve with the frittaten.

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

 

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

 

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

 

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

 

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

A Nordic Herring Sandwich with Beetroot, Pear and Walnuts

Herring Sandwich with Beetroot and Pear

A few years ago we went to a green island in the Baltic sea called Rügen. It was one of those spontaneous holidays that turned into four perfect days of beach and forest walks, late breakfasts and long nights by the fireplace with a mug full of steaming mulled wine on our laps, it was great. A friend offered us her cute little house right behind the cliffs, the cottage was surrounded by dense trees and total silence. Although the strong November storms had just started we wrapped ourselves in our warm jackets and scarves up to our eyes to discover this quiet island. One of our culinary finds was Rügen’s delicious seafood,  fresh, smoked and pickled, especially the herring is of excellent quality!

When I went on an aimless shopping trip a few days ago, I made a great discovery! With excitement I spotted jars with Rügen’s pickled herrings in one of the grocery stores in my area. Within a split second I could see it right in front of me, a pink sandwich, Nordic style with a sour herring and beetroot salad, thick beetroot slices, pear, walnuts and dill. I chose some crunchy potato buns at the bakery and, back at home, I put the roots on the hob immediately. My kitchen impatience called for a sandwich!

Herring Sandwich with Beetroot and Pear

 

Herring Sandwich with Beetroot and Pear

 A Nordic Herring Sandwich with Beetroot, Pear and Walnuts

For 4 sandwiches you need

hearty white buns, cut in half, 4
beetroot (with skin) 200g / 7 ounces
bay leaf 1
pickled herring (of good quality!), boned, drained and cut into thick strips, 200g / 7 ounces
sour cream or yoghurt 2 heaped tablespoons
olive oil
salt and pepper
crisp pear, cored and sliced, 1
dill, snipped, a small bunch, for the topping
walnuts, broken into small pieces, 4-6, for the topping

Cook the beetroots in salted water with 1 bay leaf for about 50-60 minutes or until al dente. Peel the roots and purée 1/3 of the them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a blender and season with a little salt. Cut the remaining roots into thick slices and coat with olive oil.

Mix the herring with the sour cream and 1 heaped tablespoon of the puréed beetroot.

Brush the bottom of the buns with a little olive oil and lay 3 slices of beetroot on top. Put some of the herring salad and a bit more of the puréed beetroot on top. Gently cover with pear slices and sprinkle with walnuts and dill.

Herring Sandwich with Beetroot and Pear

 

Herring Sandwich with Beetroot and Pear

 

Herring Sandwich with Beetroot and Pear

Gozitan Pizza with Ricotta, Goat Cheese and Potatoes

Gozitan Pizza

This is one of my favourite summer treats whenever we visit the island Gozo in the Mediterranean: the fabulous local pizza! It’s shaped like an open galette, the rim fold up to hold the richest filling a pizza has ever seen: ricotta mixed with goat cheese and eggs, topped with potatoes and crushed black pepper. I love it!

Every year, when I pick up my first Gozitan pizza of the summer from my beloved Maxokk Bakery in Nadur I open the box with hungry impatience to start the feast. We always drive to a near-by park above San Blas beach to savour our pizzas, it’s tiny but full of pine trees and oleander. The few wooden benches allow the most amazing view of the bay! While they others wait to get there, I’m often the only one nibbling on the first piece. No matter how hot is, it can be noon, the sun at its peak turning the inside of the jeep into a sauna, but nothing can stop me from enjoying this moment that I always long for like a child. The bakery calls this pizza a Ftira, not to be confused with the popular Maltese Ftira sandwich that I wrote about in July while we stayed on the islands. The bread for this sandwich and the pizza are made of the same dough, hence the same name.

Back to the pizza, I decided that the time had come to give this recipe a try, here at my home, to have  some sunshine on our plates at least – and it worked! I used my normal pizza dough and baking technique, I just folded up the sides for the authentic look and to hold it all together. The filling is rich, there is no way around it, it needs lots of ricotta and it doesn’t make sense to spare on calories in the wrong situation (and here, it would be wrong!). Luckily, my Maltese sister Emma had just given us a package of Gozitan cheese while she was here to visit us, the strong peppered Gbejna made from local goat milk. As long as you don’t live on the Islands of Malta, you will have to miss out on this treat but you can use any other strong, firm substitute.

If you get in the mood for pizza, here are some more recipes:

Pizza Bianca with Preserved Lemons, Chèvre and Rosemary

Spinach Pizza

Pizza with Grilled Aubergine and Pecorino

Gozitan Pizza

 Gozitan Pizza with Ricotta, Goat Cheese and Potatoes

I start to prepare the dough 2 hours before I bake the pizza to give it enough time to rise and I bake it on a hot baking sheet which has a similar effect to a pizza stone.

For 2 round pizzas you need

For the dough

plain flour 350g / 12.5 ounces
dry yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
water, lukewarm,  190ml
olive oil 5 tablespoons
salt 1 teaspoon

Combine the flour with the yeast and salt, add the lukewarm water (you might not need all of it) and olive oil and mix with the dough hooks of the mixer for a few minutes. The dough shouldn’t be moist and sticky at all, more on the dry side. Continue kneading and punching with your hands until you have an elastic 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 45 minutes (top/ bottom heat and not fan-assisted!).

When the dough is well risen, divide in two parts, and roll them out in two circles on a very well floured working surface. Each should fit on a baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for another 10-15 minutes.

 

For the topping

ricotta, 500g / 1 pound
firm, aromatic goat cheese (peppered Gbejna is best), finely chopped or grated, 150g / 5.5 ounces
parmesan, grated, 70g / 2.5 ounces
organic eggs 2
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, to taste (if you don’t use peppered cheese)
medium sized potatoes, boiled, peeled and thinly sliced, 6
olive oil

Whisk the ricotta, goat cheese and parmesan and season with pepper to taste before you mix in the eggs. Add a little salt if necessary.

 

The pizza

Set your oven to 260°C / 500°F. My oven has a pizza setting but you can also use top / bottom heat. Put the baking sheet on the bottom of your oven to heat it (for about 10 minutes).

Take the hot baking sheet out of the oven, turn it around and place it carefully on two stable wooden boards or mats as it will be very hot. Quickly put one of the risen dough discs on the baking sheet, spread with half the ricotta filling leaving a rim around it. Arrange the potato slices on top and fold up the rim, gently pushing it onto the outer potatoes. Sprinkle with a little pepper and olive oil and bake for about 8 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the ricotta filling is set. Repeat with the second pizza.

Gozitan Pizza

 

Gozitan Pizza

 

Gozitan Pizza

 

Gozitan Pizza

 

Gozitan Pizza

Madeira Cake with Caramelised Tangerines

Tangerine Madeira Cake

Weekend baking is my meditation, my time to relax and reflect, to slow down my pace and review the past few days. I enjoy the peaceful silence in the kitchen when I place bowls and butter, eggs and flour on my marble kitchen tops before I get started. My mother prepares her pastries in heavy ceramic bowls in black, green and blue and when I moved into my first flat she passed one of them on to me. Her old black bowl is my baking companion, this is where my sweet mixing and tasting begins, traced with scratches and cracks.

In the winter months I’m quite a coach potato on my lazy Sundays, I love my cosy afternoons on the sofa, with piles of books, magazines, pillows and blankets to defy the uncomfortable cold outside. Just give me a cup of tea and a warm cake freshly out of the oven and I’m happy. At the moment I love simple tea time treats that you can eat with your fingers, nothing too complicated. A spongy Madeira cake is perfect, the dough refined with the zest of tiny tangerines and their sweet juices. I could have stopped at that point but I went a bit further and topped it with caramelised slices of the citrus fruit which is easily done in five minutes. They were soft and sticky and brought even more fruitiness to this wonderful English treat which is, despite its name, not made with Madeira. Traditionally, it used to be savoured with the sweet Portuguese wine which led to its name, I skip that tradition and stick to my tea.

Tangerine Madeira Cake

 

Tangerine Madeira Cake

 Madeira Cake with Caramelised Tangerines

I recommend using small, firm organic tangerines for this recipe as they are easier to grate and sweet in taste.

For an 18cm / 7″ springform pan or a 1l / 2 pint loaf tin you need

plain flour 250g / 9 ounces
baking powder 1 teaspoon
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cinnamon
tangerine zest 2 tablespoons
freshly squeezed tangerine juice 3 tablespoons
butter, at room temperature, 200g / 7 ounces
sugar 200g / 7 ounces
organic eggs 3

For the topping
small organic tangerines, rinsed and very thinly sliced, 4-5
sugar 100g / 3.5 ounces
water 4 tablespoons

Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F (fan-assisted oven) and butter the springform pan.

Combine the dry ingredients and rub the zest into the mixture with your fingers.

In a large bowl, mix the butter until fluffy, add the sugar and continue mixing for a few minutes until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, mix well in between. Quickly mix in the flour-spice mixture and the tangerine juice, it should be well combined. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 60 minutes or until golden and firm on top. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. If you bake the cake in a loaf tin, check after 45 minutes. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes before you take it out of the pan.

I caramelised the tangerines in 2 batches. In a sauce pan, bring half the tangerine slices, half the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water to the boil and cook on high temperature for 3-5 minutes. The water should bubble and evaporate. Take the pan off the heat immediately when the sugar starts to turn golden and caramelises. Quickly arrange the citrus slices on top of the cake as the caramel will become hard after a minute. Cook the remaining fruit slices to finish the cake. Use a very sharp kitchen knife to cut the caramelised top of the cake.

Tangerine Madeira Cake

 

Tangerine Madeira Cake

 

Tangerine Madeira Cake

 

Tangerine Madeira Cake

 

Tangerine Madeira Cake

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