eat in my kitchen

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

Category: BREAKFAST + BRUNCH

Meet In Your Kitchen | Deb Perelman – Smitten Kitchen’s Berry Ricotta Galette

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

Last week I went to New York and I had three wishes on my mind:

1. I wanted to win the James Beard Award (I had strong doubts that that would happen).
2. I wanted to eat oysters at April Blumfield’s The John Dory.
3. I was hoping that Deb Perelman would open the doors to her famous Smitten Kitchen for a Meet In Your Kitchen feature.

And what can I say, I was a lucky girl. I won the award, I had a fantastic pre-award oyster treat just for myself (if you like oysters, book a table at April’s restaurant next time you visit NYC!) – and I met and baked together with Deb!

Smitten Kitchen was the only blog I knew about when I started Eat In My Kitchen in November 2013. I discovered many more in the past three years, but not many managed to keep my attention with such persistence as Deb’s. She knows how to entertain, impress, and inspire me with calm ease. Her love for food jumps out of all of her recipes, out of every picture she takes and every line she writes. She’s a perfectionist, but she knows how to hide it. She’s a charmer.

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

Deb’s blog is a staple in the blog world. She started in 2003 writing about her life in general and focussing on recipes since 2006. When you ask yourself how a single person can build up such a successful food platform on her own and keep it running like a smooth motor, you just have to meet her and you’ll know why. Deb is full of life and energy, at the same time down to earth and humble. She’s not interested in the blunt surface, in superficial attention, she wants to explore a recipe in depth and present it in all its glory. And here lies her secret: all her recipes make sense, from a cook (or baker) and an eater’s point of you. She calls herself a fussy eater, picky like her children, she doesn’t mind baking the same cake 14 times until it’s just right. This leads to a habit of excessive note taking whenever she’s at the cooker. To learn, to improve, and to develop the right formula that she and her readers can totally trust. This trust is what a food blog is built on. Mrs. Perelman takes this task quite easily as she loves what she does, she only cooks the food that she craves herself and that she’s curious about. She’s like a passionate scientist, working late at night, while everyone else is already in bed, and she’s still there, solving culinary problems.

Her journey into and in the kitchen was influenced by her work at a bakery as a teenage girl, by her family with roots in Germany and Russia, Jewish baking, and American cooking. Her mother’s cookbook by Julia Child added some French extravagance to the palate and sparked her interest. When you read Deb’s blog, you can see that she has a weak spot for comfort food. She might be a fussy eater but she’s not into fussy cooking.

After hundreds of recipes developed by herself and shared online, it was time, in 2012, to turn this treasure into a physical publication. When Deb’s first cookbook – The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook – entered the book shops, it happened anything but quietly. It was a success that screamed for a follow up book. A second child (the cutest baby girl!) and obsessive recipe tasting caused a few delays in the schedule, however, Deb’s confident that it’s going to happen this year. Her new book will come out soon, including more global influences than in the predecessor’s recipes. It’s a collection that represents how we cook and eat today. Different cultures from all over the world inspired Deb to experiment with ingredients that are relatively new to our kitchens. The frame, however, is Deb, her style, and her love for American comfort cooking.

We baked the most wonderful berry ricotta galette together, it tasted divine, and the fact that Deb baked it for me made it taste even better.

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

Deb also made a couple small galettes (as you can see in the picture above), but if you aim for the star-shape it’s easier to make one large galette. The smaller ones opened in the oven.

Berry Ricotta Galette

Recipe by Deb Perelman / Smitten Kitchen

Leakage is almost inevitable when making galettes but you shouldn’t sweat it because I’m convinced that it’s more distressing for the baker (who knows exactly how much jammy deliciousness has been lost) than anyone eating a wedge (it will taste like nothing is missing at all).

Here’s the PDF template I made to help you form a star shape, if desired. As should be abundantly evident, I’m no graphic designer, but it will hopefully give you a start.

Makes one 7.5 to 8-inch (19-20cm) galette

For the pastry

1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Zest of half a lemon
8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup (60g) ricotta, yogurt or sour cream
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

For the filling

2 cups raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
3 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (use the lower amount if your fruit is especially sweet)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of salt

For the glaze

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1 heaped teaspoon turbinado or coarse sugar for sprinkling

For the dough, whisk the flour, salt, sugar and zest together in the bottom of a large bowl. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Stir ricotta and 3 tablespoons water together in a small dish and pour into butter-flour mixture. Stir together with a flexible spatula as best as you can, then use your hands to knead the mixture into a rough, craggy ball. Wrap in plastic and flatten into a disc. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 48 hours, or you can quick-firm this in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a large round-ish shape, about 14 to 15 inches (36-38cm) across. If you’d like to form your galette into a star, as shown, use the red dashed outline of the PDF template mentioned above. It will print smaller on an 8.5×11-inch (DIN A4) piece of paper than you need, but you can use it as a rough guide to cut as large of a pentagon shape as your dough will allow.

Transfer round or pentagon-shaped dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet; I like to fold my dough gently, without creasing, in quarters then unfold it onto the baking pan. If you’re making a star, cut a 1-inch (2.5cm) notch in the center of each side, angling it toward the center, as shown in the blue dashed lines of the template.

Stir together all of the filling ingredients and spread them in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch (5cm) border. If you’re making a round galette, fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. If you’re making a star shape, fold each of the 5 corners into the center, along the green dotted lines of the template. Pinch the outer corners closed, to seal in the filling and the shape (see 6th and 10th picture).

Whisk egg yolk and water together and brush over exposed crust. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes, or golden all over. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature, preferably with vanilla ice cream.

https://smittenkitchen.com/2016/06/the-consummate-chocolate-chip-cookie-revisited/

The ever-growing number of Smitten Kitchen’s followers has now trusted you for over a decade. What’s your secret?

I have no idea how I got so lucky with this. When I got started food blogging in 2006, there was no such thing as turning it into a career so it wasn’t even in the remotest corner of my mind. All I wanted to do was create a collection of recipes I considered perfect so once I got a dish the way I liked it, I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time I was hungry for it. I still feel exactly this way. Having an audience makes it way more fun, but I often wonder if I’d still be doing this in a vacuum because I will always want to cook new things and get them right.

You call yourself a perfectionist, do you feel the drive to perfection just in the kitchen or also in other fields of life? Does the perfect recipe really exist, when do you know you have to stop?

I think near-perfect recipes exist. I don’t think every recipe is going to work with every set of ingredients, in every kitchen, at every altitude, at all times but I think when the recipe is very strong, it withstands these variations well. If I think a small thing will throw a recipe immeasurably off though, I won’t publish it because I’ve found in 10+ years of comments that if something can go wrong with a recipe, it sooner than later will for someone.

As you’ve seen my fridge and freezer (since cleaned, but only under duress), I think you know my perfectionism does not extend everywhere in my life. But I do want things the way I want them and I hear from my parents I have been this way from the beginning (sorry guys).

Which of your recipes do you love the most? Which one does your husband and two kids love the most? 

We all love the Leite’s Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie, especially now that I’ve updated them in a way that I can make them more often (I like to stash them in the freezer, bake whenever we remember). And not to be too much of a tease but because this is something I’ve been working endlessly on for the last couple years, there’s a grandma-style chicken noodle soup and a crumb cake in my next cookbook that everyone is nuts for. They never go to waste.

Where do you find inspiration for new recipes?

Oddly, never inside the kitchen. The kitchen is where I test out ideas and pay close attention to what happens, but it’s not where new ideas come to me. They come to me when I’m on a train or in a car going somewhere far enough that my mind wanders off, or at a restaurant when I like the flavor intersection of ingredients and want to apply it to something else at home.

How do your family’s roots in Germany and Russia influence your cooking and your personal culinary journey?

From my husband’s Russian family (he was born there but doesn’t remember it), an appreciate of garlic, pickles, sour cream, dill, wafer-y cakes, syrniki (cottage cheese pancakes), as well as the value of a freezer full of pelmeni, vareniki (filled dumplings), and at least one bottle of vodka. From my mom’s German side, spaetzle, schnitzel, bretzel, bienenstich (popular German cake), and every type of almond paste/marzipan confection you can dream up.

What do you enjoy about writing a cookbook and what do you hate about this project? Do you prefer working on your blog or on a book?

I love both for different reasons; the blog is my favorite place to be, to try out ideas, chat with people in the comments, field questions and more. The speed of output and feedback is faster, it lends itself well to cooking whims and streaks; it makes me very happy. Books are less balanced. You spend years (5 years, even!) working through recipes and ideas behind the scenes with an additional layer of design — I don’t know how your book experience was, but I seem to always go 20 rounds with the cover, 45 rounds with the title, 10 rounds with page layouts, and am making recipe swaps until the day I’m cut off, like being at a bar at 2am — all to yield one (hopefully) wonderful thing that you hope people will want to take home and read and cook from but you have no idea and so, perhaps, the stress is also much greater. But so are the rewards (or is it relief?) should people be as excited about it as you were. I loved getting to book tour last time, and hope to do more this fall.

You have a large cookbook selection in your apartment, what makes a good cookbook in your eyes?

So many things. While I love, like anyone with eyes, looking at beautiful pictures, it’s never made a just-okay cookbook a great one. What I love even more is feeling like I’m stepping into a story, a world, with recipes. I love a funny anecdote about how a recipe came to be or a small tidbit I wouldn’t have known about a dish. I want the recipes to be airtight, even though I know how hard this is, but to me this is the baseline of a cookbook. And I’m always hoping to see something I hadn’t seen before; to feel the creativity bursting from the page.

Do you enjoy being cooked for? On a special night, do you prefer to eat at home or dive into New York’s vibrant food scene?

I love being cooked for! I love going out; we used to do it so freely before kids and I do miss it, it’s just more complicated with noisy people with early bedtimes. I get so inspired going somewhere teeming with fresh ideas, and it makes me want to come home and cook immediately, so eating out fuels eating in.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?

I’ve always enjoyed Julia Child’s tenacity, Marion Cunningham’s defense of home cooking against drudgery, and Gabrielle Hamilton’s unapologetic embrace of her food vision.

When it comes to school events or a friend’s party, do you get requests to bring a dish or are people shy to ask Deb from Smitten Kitchen to bring a birthday cake or sandwiches?

Absolutely not.

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

Brownies, I think. Not very different from My Favorite Brownies on my site, but I’d forgotten to add the flour. They were a little burnt at the edges and very mushy in the middle and yes, we still ate them. They weren’t even bad, but I never heard the end of it.

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

Union Square Greenmarket for vegetables and fruit and everything; Murray’s or Saxelby for cheese, Kalustyan’s for spices and around-the-world ingredients, Buon Italia in Chelsea Market, mostly to load up on the Setaro pasta, Faicco’s for spiral sausages for grilling weather, which are always a huge hit, can I go on and on? I could go on and on.

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

I think my kids should wake up early to make me pancakes this weekend for a change. (I am joking, of course. They are 1 and 7 and our apartment would be in ashes.)

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

Spaghetti with clams or mussels and fries or assemble-your-own steak salads with a side of roasted potatoes.

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

Solo if I’m working on a new recipe or one I haven’t ironed out yet, because I want to be able to pay attention and take notes and make tweaks. If I’m throwing together the above meal for 10 friends, they better be hanging out in the kitchen and drinking wine with me.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

Improvised; I like the challenge. 

Which meal would you never cook again?

Anything where I’ve ended up cooking things individually over a stove for many people; I have bad memories of making Fake Shack Burgers for 10 people (so much hamburger grease from head to toe when I was done) as well as an early brunch party where I made French toast for everyone as they trickled in.

Thank you Deb!

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron & we won the James Beard Award!

James Beard Awards 2017

Last Tuesday we won the James Beard Award. I flew to New York thinking that I had no chance of winning – Ina Garten was nominated in the same category as me: General Cooking. I was sure that this was not going to happen.

And now I’m sitting here at JFK airport, writing these words while waiting for my flight back to Berlin. Trying to think clearly, but I can’t. I wish there were words to describe how I feel, or at least give you a vague idea of what this means to me – but I can’t. It’s almost impossible to talk about a feeling that still shakes me up every time the memories come back and makes my heart fall as if I’m jumping of a cliff. It’s not just in my mind. I feel physically overwhelmed. Just like I did when I went on stage to fall around our host Andrew Zimmern’s neck, to kiss and squeeze him, and to receive the James Beard Foundation medal from his hands (watch my speech here).

When I say we won and not I won, you need to understand that this book, Eat In My Kitchen, would not exist without a bunch of people who gave me all the help, love, support, and inspiration I needed whenever I thought I wouldn’t manage. These people believed in me before I did myself, they were the ones who convinced me to trust and follow my instincts:

Nothing would be as it is without my man, Jamie; my editor Holly La Due who guided me through the past two years since we first spoke about a cookbook – and she held my hand in these endless painful seconds before my name was announced at the awards ceremony by legendary Andrew Zimmern; my mother who passed her love for food and wine on to me, the seed out of which Eat In My Kitchen grows every day; everybody at Prestel Publishing and our external experts Lauren Salkeld, Jan Derevjanik, and Ron Longe, who gave everything to make this book look as it looks and stand where it stands. And my family and friends all over the world, your belief in me makes me grow every day. Thank you for trusting me, and for waiting for me patiently.

When your work is recognized and awarded by one of the most critical juries in the food world, a jury who’s not interested in numbers or celebrity status, but in the quality of recipes, it can easily feel intimidating. But that rainy night at New York’s Chelsea Piers was not intimidating at all, it was magical. I was in a room together with so many talented people who all love what I love so much – food – and I experienced the warmest welcome to this family (a word that winner Dori Greenspan used). There’s a lot of respect, a humble appreciation of the work of the others. Ronni Lundy, Dori Greenspan, Andrew Zimern, Pierre Koffmann, Naomi Duguid, Judith Jones, Keith Pandolfi, Francis Lam and many more (here’s the full list of winners), we were awarded for our work, and everybody who came to this event came to celebrate us, but also a passion that we share and that connects us, no matter what part of the world we come from. I want to thank the James Beard Foundation and all the inspiring people who I met that night, a night that I’ll never forget in my whole life.

Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to cook or bake anything to share with you when I came back, I made a galette (twice actually because it’s so good) just a few days before I left. It’s a spring treat and it’s quite a spectacular one. A crunchy short crust base made of corn flour and spelt flour (you can also use wheat), topped with sour rhubarb and the most fragrant saffron sugar. Cookbook author Yossy Arefi introduced me to this golden spice sugar and inspired me to use it for various sweet pies. Last summer I wrote about her berry galette and I will never forget how the addition of saffron to fruit and buttery crust hit me. It’s a true celebration cake.

And now I want to thank you for always pushing me to try out new things in my kitchen, to keep cooking, baking, and writing about what we all love so much. Food!

Photos of the James Beard Award Ceremony by Kent Miller Studios, c/o the James Beard Foundation.

James Beard Awards 2017

 

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

Mind that it’s best to prepare the dough for the galette the day before you bake it to give it enough time to chill in the fridge.

Makes one 23cm / 9″ galette.

For the pastry

very fine corn flour / corn meal (not corn starch) 90g / 1/2 cup
plain flour (or white spelt flour) 90g / 2/3 cup
granulated sugar 1 tablespoon
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
unsalted butter, cold, 125g / 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon
water, cold, 2 tablespoons
cider vinegar 1 teaspoon

For the galette

granulated sugar 75g / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon for the topping
vanilla bean, scraped, 1/2
saffron threads about 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon
plain flour (or white spelt flour) 1 tablespoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
trimmed rhubarb 280g / 10 ounces
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
organic egg, beaten, 1

For the pastry, in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine the corn flour, flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until combined. Add the water and vinegar and, using the hooks of the stand mixer, mix until combined. Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge overnight (or for a few hours) until hard, or freeze for about 20-30 minutes.

On a table or countertop, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 30cm / 12″ circle. Pull off the top layer of plastic wrap and replace with a piece of parchment paper. Flip the pastry circle over, transfer to a wooden board, and pull of the remaining layer of plastic wrap. Store the pastry (on top of the wooden board) in the fridge while preparing the topping.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the sugar, vanilla seeds, and saffron until the saffron is fine and the mixture is well combined. Stir in the flour and salt and set aside.

Cut the rhubarb into 10cm / 4″ long pieces and quarter each piece lengthwise. In a large baking dish, using your hands, toss the rhubarb, saffron-sugar, and lemon juice.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and arrange the rhubarb, overlapping, in a circle on top of the dough, leave a 5cm / 2″ rim all the way around the fruit (see 10th picture). Sprinkle with any remaining saffron-sugar. Fold the edges of the pastry over the ends of the rhubarb, press to seal the folds. Chill the galette in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is firm.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting). Place a baking sheet in the middle of the oven while preheating.

Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Take the hot baking sheet out of the oven and pull the galette with the parchment paper onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let the galette cool for about 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or cold.

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

 

James Beard Awards 2017

 

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

 

James Beard Awards 2017

 

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

 

James Beard Awards 2017

 

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

Nominee – Winner:

James Beard Awards 2017

 

James Beard Awards 2017

 

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

I think spring is my favourite season – until I feel the same in summer, autumn, or winter, depending on my mood. Spring offers a lot of drama and surprises. The changeover from the cold season is so drastic, so abrupt. There’s so much energy around and inside me all of a sudden without even knowing where it’s coming from. The temperature rises, nature’s sprouting and flourishing at every corner, adding colour to a scene that was brown and grey only a few weeks ago. I welcome these changes with gushing excitement and open the doors to my kitchen for all those greens that are soon to come to my cooking space.

In the past couple weeks, the fragile leaves of fragrant ramps brought Mediterranean pesto back to our table. And crisp asparagus is next. The official harvest start of the white asparagus from Beelitz happened last week, so let the feasting begin! When I eat the white stalks, I’m quite a traditionalist. Young potatoes, ham, and Hollandaise sauce is all I need. But when it comes to green asparagus, I become more experimental.

This little lunch was as simple as it was stunning: I added the green stalks, boiled and very thinly sliced, to a plate of warm spaghetti, burrata (mozzarella di Bufala would also work), and ramp pesto. You could also go for a basil or arugula (rucola) pesto, but I enjoyed the subtle oniony flavour in my green creation. In case you disagree, you’ll find the links to all three pesto recipes below. Buon Appetito!

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto

Serves 2

For the ramp pesto
(here you can find alternative recipes for basil or arugula pesto)

ramps or ramson, leaves only, 1 medium bunch (around 60g / 2 ounces)
parmesan 30g / 1 ounce
olive oil 60ml / 1/4 cup
salt 1/4 teaspoon

For the pasta

green asparagus, the bottoms cut off, 1 pound
spaghetti 150-200g / 5-7 ounces
olive oil
burrata (or mozzarella di Bufala) 200g / 7 ounces
ramp pesto about 4 tablespoons
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar

For the pesto, purée the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth and season with salt to taste.

Cook the asparagus in plenty of salted water for about 3 minutes or until al dente. Using a slotted ladle, transfer the asparagus to a colander (leave the water in the pot), rinse the stalks briefly with cold water, and drain. Using a sharp knife, lengthwise, quarter each stalk into 4 long pieces (including the heads).

To cook the pasta, put the pot you used for the asparagus back on the heat, bring the water to the boil (add more water if necessary), and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, transfer back to the pot, and stir in a tiny splash of olive oil.

Divide the pasta and asparagus between 2 plates, folding the vegetable into the spaghetti. Break the burrata in half and place in the middle of each pasta plate. Drizzle with pesto and a few drops of olive oil (optional) and season with salt and crushed pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

Kwareżimal – Maltese Easter Sweets without Eggs and Butter

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

No eggs and no butter, but lots of spice and flavour and a soft and chewy texture. Maltese Kwareżimal are an almost guilt-free pleasure that tastes so good, that I ask myself why I didn’t bake them earlier.

This ancient treat dates back to the medieval times, when the Knights in the Mediterranean traditionally baked Kwareżimal during Lent. The little dark brown loaves are made without dairy products, just ground almonds (or hazelnuts in my recipe), spices, and honey create a beautifully fragrant cakey sweet. Sugar was allowed, as it was seen as a spice in those days. It’s not a healthy bar after all.

The name derives from the Latin word quaresima, the 40 days of the Lenten season. Although you can find Kwareżimal in some confectionaries on the Maltese islands throughout the whole year, my favourite bakery for sweet treats, Busy Bee, only pulls them out of the oven as Easter is nearing. The problem was that I have never been to Malta around this time, so I had no idea how good Kwareżimal tastes. I knew that I wanted to try them at Busy Bee first and thanks to Jessica and Luke this day has finally come. Our friends visited us a couple weeks ago and gave me – besides many other goods – this plain looking miniature cake as a present. It only took me 12 years to have my first bite of Kwareżimal and it was pure enjoyment. I didn’t share a piece with anyone.

So I finally knew what I was aiming for, I felt ready to give it a go. My Kwareżimal are made with ground hazelnuts, as my Maltese man doesn’t like almonds, but feel free to use whatever nut you prefer. I mixed in some white spelt flour (plain flour woks just as well) to lighten up the texture. But don’t worry, it’s still as soft and chewy as it should be thanks to the juice of half an orange.

The texture is divine, almost moist, it reminds a bit of rough marzipan. And it tastes so rich, nutty, and citrusy, with strong tones of rather Christmassy spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, citrus zest, and flowery orange blossom water. I went for a crunchy pistachio topping, bedded on sticky honey running down the sites of my little Kwareżimal. You can also chop almonds or hazelnuts. When you buy this sweet from a shop, you get a single bar, not more than 12cm / 5″ long, that was my measure. To serve, I cut it in thick slices – it’s a bit like a cookie with a chewy feel.

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

Kwareżimal

Makes 2 small bars (serves 2-4)

finely ground hazelnuts (or almonds) 120g / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
plain flour (I used white spelt flour / type 630) 100g / 3/4 cup
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
cocoa powder 1 teaspoon
baking powder 1/8 teaspoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon
cloves, finely ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
vanilla bean, scraped, 1/4
freshly grated orange zest 2 generous teaspoons
freshly grated lemon zest 2 generous teaspoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 60ml / 1/4 cup
honey 1 tablespoon
high quality orange blossom water (preferably organic) 2 tablespoons
candied orange peel, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon

For the topping

honey 2 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 teaspoon
shelled unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped, a small handful
freshly grated orange zest 1/2 – 1 teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (preferably convection setting) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the ground hazelnuts, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla seeds, orange zest, and lemon zest.

In a small saucepan, heat the orange juice and honey over low heat and whisk until the honey has melted. Take off the heat and whisk in the orange blossom water. Let it cool for a couple minutes, then stir into the dry mixture. Add the candied orange peel and stir until well combined. The dough will be soft, but you should be able to form a bar; if it’s too soft, add a little more ground hazelnuts.

Wet your hands lightly, divide the dough in half, and form 2 bars, about 5cm / 2″ wide and 2cm / 3/4″ tall. Mind that they aren’t too flat or they will dry out in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, the top of the loaves should still be soft and just slightly baked.

While the Kwareżimal are baking, prepare the topping: in a small saucepan, heat the honey and orange juice over medium heat and whisk until combined. Take the pan off the heat.

Brush the warm Kwareżimal with the warm honey and sprinkle with the pistachios and a little orange zest. To serve, cut into thick slices. Wrapped in cling film, it stays fresh for days.

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

15 Recipes for your Easter Brunch Table

Tsoureki Easter Bread

Hunting Easter eggs in the woods was one of my childhood’s spring highlights. The sweet smell of blossoms and sunlight in the air, the trees’ leaves presenting their most fragile green, and – in a lucky year – I could even replace boots and jacket for shirt and jeans while searching for golden wrapped chocolate eggs and bunnies. I always loved the sprouting energy that comes with the change of season, when winter’s shades of grey and brown give way to vibrant colours. Easter is a changing point in the year, there’s the promise of summer in the air.

Is there a better way to celebrate this day than gathering your loved ones around the table and treating them to a luscious brunch? Here’s some inspiration (click the titles for the recipes):

Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread with Aniseed and Orange Blossom Water

greekeasterbread18

 

Traditional Maltese Figolli

figolli20

 

Eggnog Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream

eggnogeastercake19

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

 

Rhubarb Tartlets with Cinnamon Oat Crumble

rhubarbtartletcinnamonoatcrumble16

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Gruyere Onion Focaccia

 

Pistachio Orange Blossom Muffins

Pistachio Orange Blossom Muffins

 

Crescent Milk Rolls with Poppy Seeds

Poppy Seed Crescent Milk Rolls

 

Bean and Ramp Quiche

Bean and Ramp Quiche

 

Rhubarb Chocolate Cake

Rhubarb Chocolate Cake

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Cheesecake Swiss Roll with Mascarpone and Blackberries

Cheesecake Swiss Roll

 

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

Roast Rosemary Lamb

 

 Spinach Ricotta stuffed Conchiglioni on Grilled Cherry Tomatoes

Spinach Ricotta Conchiglioni

 

Spring Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks

Spring Timpana

 

There will be two new Easter recipes coming up this Sunday and next Wednesday!

 

Eggnog Easter Cake

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

Pink and spring green! Today’s dish celebrates this vibrant colour combination and I can’t really say that I expected the result to taste that good. My green asparagus stalks found a perfect companion in a screaming pink hummus. I adjusted its colour and taste by adding a generous amount of boiled beetroots. At first I was worried that the roots’ earthy tones would dominate, so I started with one root for a small can of chickpeas. But there was no need to worry. The beetroot easily found its place in the nutty dip, in fact, it’s a fine sweetness that comes through the most.

Before the roots kicked in, I used my basic hummus recipe to start with. It perfectly balances out the flavours of chickpeas, rich tahini, sour lemon, and the punch of fresh garlic and ground cumin. It was a recently published cookbook that inspired my to turn my hummus pink. Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison’s book called Batch, a comprehensive collection of pantry recipes, caught my attention and made me wish I had a whole room and not just a shelf to store my jars of preserved goods. Their book covers various methods for canning, dehydrating, fermenting, cellaring, salting, smoking, and infusing. As I thumbed through the pages, I noticed that there are still a lot of preserving techniques I have to learn more about. I cook my own jams and chutneys, preserve my gherkins, lemons and other fruits and vegetables, I learned to make gravad lax from my mother (a recipe that comes to use at least once a year), but I’ve never made my own sauerkraut or smoked mussels.

Batch is a book that needs time and attention, a book that gives you lots of basic recipes to follow and not to experiment with. It’s about learning the right techniques to be able to fill the shelves in your pantry with pride and satisfaction. However, the duo also included quite a few creations that allow you to play with your preserving results and be creative. In the beet chapter, Joel and Dana write about a pink beet hummus, which is different to mine: they don’t add chickpeas, it’s the pure red root that shines. Below you can find both recipes, my chickpea and beet hummus and Joel and Dana’s pure beet hummus. Try both and enjoy. I just love my chickpeas. But don’t forget to add green asparagus cooked al dente, it’s too good. And use the leftover dip to spread on dark spelt bread.

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

Serves 3-4

For the beet and chickpea hummus

medium to large beetroots, unpeeled, 2
bay leaves 2
olive oil 2 teaspoons
drained and rinsed canned chickpeas, 240g / 1 1/3 cups
tahini 150g / 5 ounces
water 120ml / 1/2 cup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 6 tablespoons
garlic, crushed, 2 large cloves
ground cumin 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon
fine sea salt about 1 1/4 teaspoons

green asparagus, the bottoms cut off, 1kg / 2 1/4 pounds
olive oil
flaky sea salt
white sesame seeds

Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil. Add the beetroots (with their skin) and bay leaves, cover with a lid, and cook the roots over medium heat (simmering) for about 45-55 minutes or until tender. Rinse with cold water and let cool for a few minutes. Peel the roots and weigh 200g / 7 ounces, use any remaining beetroot for another recipe. Using a food processor or blender, purée the beetroots and 2 teaspoons of olive oil until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

For the hummus, using the same food processor or blender, purée the chickpeas, tahini, water, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and salt until smooth. Add half the puréed beetroot to the hummus and purée until well combined. Add more puréed beet until the hummus has the desired taste. I added the whole 200g / 7 ounces of beet. Add more lemon juice, salt, and cumin to taste.

Cook the asparagus in plenty of salted water for about 3 minutes or until al dente, rinse briefly with cold water, drain, and transfer to a large plate or divide between the plates. Serve warm or cold, drizzle the asparagus with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with sesame and salt. Dollop a few teaspoons of the hummus over the green stalks and enjoy!

Alternative beet hummus recipe:

Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison’s Beet Hummus 

from Batch, published by appetite by Random House

Serves 2-3

garlic, peeled, 3 cloves
tahini 120ml / 1/2 cup
ground cumin 2 teaspoons
sesame oil 2 teaspoons
fresh lemon juice 2 tablespoons (add more if you wish)
canned beetroots 1l / 1 quart-jar (you can find a recipe for pressure canned beets in the book, but you can also use my recipe above to boil the beets)
beet stock (preserving / boiling liquid) 60ml / 1/4 cup
olive oil (optional)

Place the garlic in a blender and chop until fine.

Add the tahini, cumin, sesame oil, and lemon juice to the blender. Scrape the sides to make sure the garlic is incorporated and blend for 10 seconds.

Add the beets and blend until smooth. Add the beet stock, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the hummus achieves the texture you like (you may not use the whole 60ml / 1/4 cup or you may have to add more). Chill in the fridge for a few minutes before eating (optional). Serve in a bowl and a drizzle of olive oil.

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

Chocolate Baby Cakes with Peanut Butter and Banana

Chocolate Baby Cakes

Bittersweet chocolate and peanut butter is a divine duo that I often come back to. When juicy stone fruits and berries aren’t in season yet and it’s time for my beloved citrus to say goodbye, I gladly experiment with the little nuts and a bar of dark chocolate. It’s one of those treats that, despite its rather filling qualities, still manages to make me grab for another piece. It’s heavy, you know it, but it’s too good to stop.

My little baby cakes are no exception in that respect, they make a perfect dessert after a light dinner that still leaves some space in your tummy (I wouldn’t serve them after a cheese spaetzle feast). But you can also see them as a chocolaty addition to your Sunday teatime table. Keep in mind, these cakes are rich. I’m not a big fan of cocoa powder in baking, I want real chocolate in my cake batter. If you’re a chocolate lover, you know what I’m talking about. There’s a certain depth that you can’t achieve with cocoa powder. I always use the same chocolate for my baking, it has 55% cocoa, it’s well balanced – semisweet, but still smooth, and it literally melts in your mouth. I like to call it a grown up treat, bittersweet and rich.

To give the chocolate-peanut combo a new touch, I mixed the nutty butter with half a pureed ripe banana, and this lifts the whole experience onto another level. I see a great future for this trio in my kitchen! This time I went for a sweet, nutty, and rich filling wrapped in a chocolate cake that is still partly molten. Depending on your preference, you can bake the cakes even shorter to leave them a bit more liquid. I found a thin layer of hot chocolate batter laying on top of the soft peanut-banana center just right.

If you’d like to dive more into chocolate and peanuts, try

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Bittersweet Chocolate Muffins filled with Peanut Butter

Cynthia Barcomi’s Peanut Butter Brownies

Chocolate Baby Cakes

 

Chocolate Baby Cakes

Chocolate Baby Cakes with Peanut Butter and Banana

Serves 6.

butter, soft, 60g / 1/4 cup
granulated sugar 65g / 1/3 cup
vanilla pod, scraped, 1/2
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
organic eggs 4
plain flour 45g / 1/3 cup
bittersweet chocolate (I use 55%), melted and cooled, 280g / 10 ounces
peanut butter, creamy, 80g / 3 ounces
ripe banana 40g / 1 1/2 ounces (about 1/2 banana)

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (fan assisted oven). Butter 6 6-ounce ramekins. Cut out 6 circles of parchment paper, large enough to fit the bottom of the ramekins. Then cut out 6 strips of parchment paper, long and tall enough to fit the sides of the ramekins. Line the ramekins with the pieces of parchment paper.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla seeds, and salt for a few minutes until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between. Add the flour and mix for about 1 minute or until well combined; then add the melted chocolate, mixing well until smooth and well combined.

In a food processor or blender, mix the peanut butter and banana until smooth. Divide into 6 portions and roll into balls.

Divide about 2/3 of the chocolate batter between the 6 ramekins. Lay 1 peanut butter-banana ball on top of the chocolate batter in each ramekin, pushing it down a little (see 1st picture). Top with the remaining chocolate batter and even out the surface. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until the tops start to become spongy, they should still be a little soft and partly liquid. You can also bake them shorter, if you prefer the chocolate center to be more liquid. Enjoy warm or cold.

Chocolate Baby Cakes

 

Chocolate Baby Cakes

 

Chocolate Baby Cakes

 

Chocolate Baby Cakes

 

Chocolate Baby Cakes

 

Chocolate Baby Cakes

 

Chocolate Baby Cakes

Crêpe love Part II: Green Shakshuka Crêpes and fantastic news

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

Sometimes life does funny things, these unexpected surprises that hit you with such impact that you can’t even say a word anymore. Short circuit in the mind. A few days ago, I experienced one of these moments and I’m still recovering from this mental hangover. If I had written this post back then when it hit me, I would have shouted out the news hysterically, but I calmed down, so today, it’s a civilised announcement:

The James Beard Foundation has nominated the Eat In My Kitchen book for the prestigious James Beard Award 2017 in the General Cooking category, alongside Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey and Cook’s Science’s How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients

This is crazy, I thought I was going to faint! Thanks to my man I didn’t loose it completely. So what can you do, when life does these funny things that make you speechless? You just sit there, quietly, silently, wait until it sinks in – and you book a flight to New York where the award ceremony is going to take place in April. I’ll keep you posted.

Once my adventurous trip was booked and I felt my stomach again, I made crêpes. You remember that, last week, I shared my new favourite pancake passion with you: crêpe au citron. When I went to Normandy and I found that wonderful Crêperie in the village of Le Touquet, I new there would be lots of thin crêpes on my own kitchen table in the near future. After the citrusy dessert, we can move on to the main course: green shakshuka crêpes. I didn’t find this particular recipe on the menu of my little French village restaurant, but another hearty treat that was also a pure pleasure. It was a galette (buckwheat crêpe) filled with ham, cheese, and a soft egg. It was the best comfort food you can think of, especially when you can smell a salty breeze in the air and you have an endless long beach right in front of you.

Personally, I prefer a normal crêpe over a galette, it works just as well in combination with a savoury filling (however, in my recipe below you find both options). First I just wanted to share the classic with you – ham and cheese – but then I saw a green shakshuka somewhere and I could already see it in my mind, wrapped in a crêpe. As the pancake filling shouldn’t be too soggy, I only went for peas, spring onion, and parsley stirred in cumin-garlic oil. Arugula leaves and Gruyère cheese sprinkled over the cracked egg cooking slowly on top of the crêpe, and it was done. It’s aromatic and fresh, slightly eggy with a soft hint of cumin, and the greens taste like spring. I seasoned it with another souvenir that I brought home from France: peppery Piment d’Espelette (Gorria chilli pepper powder).

We enjoyed this green beauty for lunch and dinner, but I can also see it on a Sunday breakfast table!

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

If you prefer to make galettes (buckwheat crêpes), replace half the plain flour with buckwheat flour.

Makes about 4 large crêpes

For the crêpes

plain flour, sifted, 130g / 1 cup
granulated sugar 1/2 tablespoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
organic eggs 2
milk 250ml / 1 cup and 1 tablespoon
butter, to cook the crêpes

For the filling

olive oil 2 tablespoons
large garlic clove, cut in half, 1
ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon
fresh or frozen green peas, blanched for 1/2 minute, rinsed, and drained, 200g / 7 ounces
spring onions, thinly sliced, 2
fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped, a small handful
fine sea salt
ground pepper
organic eggs 4
aromatic hard cheese (like Gruyère), finely grated 80g / 3 ounces
arugula (rucola), a small handful

Piment d’Espelette (optional)

For the crêpes, in a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, mix the flour, sugar, salt, eggs, and milk until smooth; let the batter sit for about 10 minutes (at room temperature) to 1 hour (in the fridge).

For the filling, in a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil, garlic, and cumin over high heat and cook until it starts sizzling. Take the pan off the heat immediately and stir in the peas, 3/4 of the spring onions, and the parsley. Season with salt, pepper, and additional cumin to taste and set aside.

In a large, heavy or non-stick pan, melt half a teaspoon of butter on medium-high heat. Pour in a large ladle of the batter, holding the pan in your hand and turning it so that the batter spreads evenly and thinly. Cook the crêpe for 30-60 seconds or until golden, flip around, and take the pan off the heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Carefully crack an egg in the middle of the crêpe, gently swirl the egg white a little so that it spreads a bit, don’t break the egg yolk. Spread 1/4 of the cheese and 1/4 of the shakshuka filling, and 1/4 of the arugula around the egg yolk (see 1st picture) and fold up 4 sides of the crêpe so that your end up with a square shape. Leave the egg yolk uncovered. Put the pan back on the heat and let the egg white set, the yolk should stay runny. If the bottom of the crêpe gets too dark, turn down the heat. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the remaining spring onions and season with Piment d’Espelette or ground pepper to taste; serve immediately.

Continue cooking and filling 3 more crêpes, you should always melt 1/2 -1 teaspoon of butter in the pan before you cook the next crêpe. You can use any remaining batter (made of plain flour) to make crêpe au citron.

Bon appétit!

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

 

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

 

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

 

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

 

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

 

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

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