eat in my kitchen

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

Category: MEAT

Meet In Your Kitchen | Médoc’s Wine and Food at Château Larrivaux

Fine gravel crackled and crunched under my feet, I felt a little dizzy, still overwhelmed by the beauty that I had just witnessed as I drove through the Médoc. If this region were a minimalist painting you’d see a block of green at the bottom and bright blue with white brush strokes at the top, divided by a gentle curve, the horizon. The vines grow in hard parallel lines, covering valleys and hills, and in between you see the most beautiful châteaux, majestic and elegant, the sturdy walls built of bright sandstone reflecting the sun. The grapes are plump, their juices seem ready to burst their skins at any moment, protected by large leaves hanging over the fruits like umbrellas. The region is praised for its food and wine, but its landscapes seduces your senses.

The gravel that I walked on was surrounded by oleander and boxwood shrubs, shaped like pregnant cones. It was a narrow path framing green lawns in geometric patterns, the garden of one of the dreamiest places I’ve seen in my life, the park of the mystic Château Larrivaux – home of the inspiring winemaker Bérangère Tesseron and her family. The estate is famous for its outstanding wines, thanks to the women who took care of the land since the château’s cornerstone was laid on the grounds of Cissac-Médoc in 1580. Château Larrivaux was always in the hands of women, strong women, like Bérangère and the generations before her, her mother, aunts, and grandmother. They are passionate women, they love the family and traditions, and they taught Bérangère the sense of these values. They taught her to create something special at Larrivaux to pass it on to her own sons one day. “I’m just a little person, Larrivaux exists for five centuries, I’m here to take Larrivaux and give it to the next generation. You have to be passionate to work at the château, without passion you can’t work here.” There’s just one problem, the winemaker has four sons. Her brother has a daughter, so the future will show if it will be female or male.

Bérangère’s husband, Basile Tesseron, also comes from a wine dynasty, the equally famous Château LafonRochet, just a couple miles further east. Both of them create the same product, the couple exchanges information about the weather, the harvest, but their businesses are separate. The two estates have different terroirs and approaches and therefore create different wines. “Making wine is all about feeling, intuition. I have more merlot, he has more cabernet, our wines are totally different.” Château Larrivaux makes full-bodied wines, round, with a lot of fruit. “When I drink my wine, I want to eat something. It’s a wine you want to share and finish the bottle.”

Bérangère’s life can easily seem perfect, like a picture book ideal, but it’s tough, making wine is hard work. She learned to love the weather forecast, she has five apps on her phone. “We always think about wine, looking at the sky, thinking if it will affect the wine, that is stressful, but that’s a part of the game.” Due to the frost in April 2017, she only produced half the amount of bottles that usually fill the estate’s wine cellar.

The family loves food and finds relaxation in their charming countryside kitchen inside the château’s thick old walls. The worn kitchen table has been there since Bérangère laid her hands on it as a child. When she chops the vegetables from her garden, she has a beautiful view of the peaceful park. Everything in this room has a story to tell, every polished copper pot, every detail seems to have found its place through the twists and turns of life, not through a plan. The château is a labyrinth of long corridors with creaking floors and more rooms than one can count, full of antiques, velvet covered chairs, old paintings and drawings, wooden toys, and a deer head watching the scenes in the green painted living room for centuries. It’s a fairy tale turned into a house.

The Tesserons love the French cuisine for celebrating the simple things, fresh fruits and vegetables, good meat and seafood. “When you have your plate in front of you, you know what you’re going to taste, and when you have it in your mouth, you recognize all the different flavors.” The kitchen plays an important role in their life, the kids who are 9, 7, 4, and 1 year old, love cooking with their maman, cleaning mushrooms or forming meatballs. They also bake chocolate cake on their own, “I never touch anything, but I watch them,” says the trustful mother. And when she makes her famous Sunday classic, the family’s recipe for Quasi de Veau de Larrivaux (tender veal roast with crunchy bacon topping), the family gathers happily under the ancient tree in the garden, enjoying food, wine, and life.

In the next months, I’ll share many Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

 

Quasi de Veau de Larrivaux

By Bérangère Tesseron – Château Larrivaux

Serves 4-5

1 boneless quasi de veau (veal rump roast), about 5cm / 2 inch-thick, 1kg / 2 ¼ pounds
6-8 shallots, thinly sliced
1 large lemon
Around 150g / 5 ounces bacon, cut into small cubes,
A handful breadcrumbs
Ground black pepper
Fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F.

Place the veal in a casserole or baking dish, just large enough to fit the meat. Spread the shallots on top of the roast and cover with the bacon. Squeeze the lemon over the meat, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Season with pepper to taste and roast for 50 minutes. Add a splash of water and continue roasting for about 10 minutes or until the meat is tender. Let the meat sit, covered, for about 10 minutes before serving. Cut the meat into thick slices, depending on the bacon’s saltiness season with a little salt, and enjoy with a glass of red wine.

 

Can you tell us a little more about the story behind Chateau Larrivaux? 

We found out that we have produced wine since 1850, so it’s one of the oldest properties in the Médoc. And it is unusual that it is run only by women. And I have four boys!

So you have a problem!

I have a problem! But I have a brother who has a little girl, so maybe it will be the little girl.

Was there always active wine production here at the estate?

Yes, it never stopped but a long time ago there was not only wine. We had a lot of cows and it is a really big property, so we had different activities. But wine has been produced since the beginning. For us it is a family tradition. When I was young, on Sundays for lunch, we kids would have a brugnon (nectarine) – peaches with some wine and some sugar, and a little bit of water.

White wine?

Red wine!

To introduce the children to the tradition of wine drinking!

Yes, maybe!

Did you like it?

Yes! (Laughing)

Your husband also comes from a family that produces wine…

It’s totally separate. I have my property, he has his property. But it’s a family story. We work together because my husband and I, we have the same problems when we make wine, so we exchange a lot, but it’s totally separate.

Do you ever keep secrets, if you have a really, really good wine, do you keep it from him? 

(Laughing) We don’t have the same terroir so we don’t have the same wine. Making wine is really a feeling, and we don’t have the same feeling. I have more Merlot at Larrivaux, and he has more Cabernet at Lafon Rochet. So the wine is totally different – you can’t do the same thing at Larrivaux and Lafon Rochet.

Do you see each other as competitors?

No, no, no.

Do you talk a lot about the weather, about the harvest? 

Yes, every day. I love the weather forecast! It’s awful for me now because I have three or five apps on the iPhone for the weather forecast: “Oh my god, tomorrow it’s going to rain 2mm! Oh no, it’s going to rain 5mm!” We are always thinking about wine and everywhere we are, we are looking at the sky to see if maybe it will influence the vines.

Does it stress you?

Yes, but it’s normal when you work in agriculture. You’re always stressed by the weather. It’s a part of the game.

Have you ever considered producing organic wine?

For me, it’s really important to produce wine without or with little pesticides. Because I have four sons, and we live and spend a lot of time at Larrivaux I think it’s important for my kids to be able to come and run in the vineyard and not to be sick after. But for me, organic wine is not the real issue. It’s a step, it’s a good step but it’s not the final issue. The final issue is not to put any pesticides. When you make organic wine, you add cuivre (copper) or bouillie bordelaise (Bordeaux mixture) which is a product you can use in organic wine but it’s not good for the earth. So for me, producing organically is a good step but it’s not the final issue.

So it’s not important for you to get the certificate, the organic certificate, but you also use methods that are used in organic wine production.

Yes, at Larrivaux we prefer not to use a lot of added substances. Sometimes, if you have to use 1 liter of a certain product, we decide to only use half a liter. We accept that we’re going to have some disease in the vine but it’s not a problem. We’re not going to have lovely vines but it doesn’t matter. We want to make a good product but without a lot of bad substances to protect it.

How old were you when you knew you wanted to continue the tradition, when you also wanted to become a winemaker yourself?

When I was young I wanted to be a doctor. So not wine! I studied law at university for four years. In my fifth year, I decided to go into wine law. My aunt was working at Larrivaux but only on the weekends – it was not her principal job. Basile and I got married at Larrivaux in 2005. We went on honeymoon and when I came back, my aunt had a problem and she couldn’t work anymore. I said ok, I’m studying wine, and I want to work in the wine industry but maybe not at Larrivaux. But Larrivaux needed someone, so I decided to stay for a few months… and I never left!

You love it!

Yes. It’s really a passion. When you work on this kind of property, a small property and everything is old, you can’t sell your wine very expensively. It’s not an expensive wine, so it’s very difficult. So you have to be passionate!

How many bottles do you produce a year?

60,000. It depends on the year. This past harvest, we only produced half of what our production normally is because of the frost in April.

Where can people buy your wine? Do you sell it online on your website?

Not on our website, but I work together with some websites, so you can find it online without any problem.

Is there a certain characteristic of the women at Larrivaux? Is there something, when you look at the women before you – and you are a very strong woman – is there something characteristic where you can say, “That’s a Chateau Larrivaux woman?”

Passion! All of my aunts, my mother, my grandmother – the Chateau Larrivaux Woman is a strong woman. They are passionate, they love their family, they love tradition, and they really give me this sense, the family tradition. I really want to make something with Larrivaux to give it to my sons. I think it’s important. I’m a little person and Larrivaux has been here for 5 centuries. So I’m just here to take care of Larrivaux and to…

…give it to the next generation.

Yes!

And what if the next generation is a boy? Is that ok for you if there isn’t a girl?

I only want for my kids to be happy. If I only have one kid, or no kid who loves wine, it doesn’t matter. At Larrivaux, you have to be passionate to work at Larrivaux. If they are not passionate, they can’t work here. So, we’ll see!

What makes the Chateau Larrivaux wine special? 

It’s a wine that’s full-bodied with a lot of fruit. Because we have a lot of Merlot, it’s a round and sweet wine. For me, when I drink wine from Larrivaux, I want to eat something. Which is perfect for me because I love to eat (laughing)! For me, it’s a wine you want to share and to finish the bottle.

What is the essence of French cuisine for you?

For me, it’s simple things: good vegetables, good fruits. You don’t have to add a lot of things. For me, French cuisine is when you have a plate in front of you and you know what you are going to taste. And when you have it in your mouth, you recognize the different tastes of the things you have on your plate.

Do you produce your own fruits and vegetables here at Chateau Larrivaux?

Not all of them, but I do have some vegetables, yes. And it’s not organic – I don’t put anything!

That’s organic!

No, it’s more than organic!

Did food always play an important role in your family? Wine was always there, but the food?

Yes.

Did you always cook with the family?

Yes, yes, yes. I always saw my grandmother cooking, my aunt and my mother too. I always saw people working in the kitchen.

What do you love about the Médoc?

The place itself because there are a lot of places in the Médoc. You have the vineyards, but you also have the seaside. You have the countryside, but it’s only one hour from Bordeaux. There are a lot of things to do in the Médoc, but it’s a secret spot for the moment. So it’s great. It’s good for us. You have a lot of things to do in the Médoc – there’s not only the wine.

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

I can only choose one person?

Ok, two! You can choose two.

Two? Ok. Alors… only two?

Ok three! Starter, main, and dessert!

Ok, my grandmother because she makes a huge sort of gougère – it’s a little choux with some cheese. And she makes a big gougère with béchamel and it was delicious! She’s the only person who made this like that. Then, I choose my husband, because for my birthday he sometimes makes paris-brest and I love the paris-brest! I think it’s difficult to have a good paris-brest. So every year I ask him to make one for me.

And one more person for the dessert?

Maybe my mother, to make some profiteroles – some choux with some vanilla cream inside and some caramel on the top. Like a pièce montée. Here at Larrivaux, not every Sunday, but often, we have some choux with caramel.

Do you prefer to cook on your own or with other people?

It depends on the recipe. For family recipes, I prefer to be with my family: my children, my husband, my mother. For recipes I find in a book, I think it’s really important to share them with someone. Everyone has their fashion, they own way of doing things – I think it’s important to learn and to share.

Do you prefer improvised meals or planned meals?

Improvised. I can’t make a recipe and read everything. I always put a little bit, a little more, a little less…

Did you ever cook a meal that was so disastrous that you said I’m never going to cook that again?

Macarons! I’ve never made good macarons! But I want to learn. There is a dessert in Bordeaux – a strawberry macaron – inside you have whipped cream with vanilla and fresh strawberries. It’s very good!

Thank you, Bérangère!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet In Your Kitchen | Taka’s Japanese-Italian Fusion Cuisine in Kyoto

Taka Kyoto

Eating at Taka‘s restaurant in Kyoto feels like having a Japanese feast celebrated with your exuberant Italian family. The place is tiny, it’s in a narrow old house tucked into a small secluded alley right in the old city’s busy heart. An L-shaped counter separates the celebrated chef from his hungry guests, however, there’s a lot of interaction going on. The kitchen is open so you can follow all of Chef Nishimura Takashi’s steps, how he grinds the fresh wasabi in smooth circles on a shark skin-covered wooden board (the only proper way to grind the green root as I’ve learned). The charming chef looks like a versed dancer. He quickly grabs pots and spices from the shelves behind him and then, in the next second, turns around to briefly cook tender chicken sashimi (see the recipe below) in the flames of his little grill; or local beef, or mackerel until it has a crispy golden crust all around. The restaurant’s menu is a revelation, sea urchin spinach and tempura lotus root sprinkled with matcha salt are simply divine. Sitting at the counter and enjoying Japanese tapas is a feast in its true meaning: You eat, drink, and share delicious treats with old and new friends.

Kyoto born Chef Taka has lived and worked abroad for years, in Australia, Denmark, and in Italy, in Milan, where he also met his wife Akane. Before they opened their gastro pub in Kyoto, Taka worked at Armani’s Nobu Milano restaurant for 10 years, which explains why you can also find wonderful organic Tuscan wines and Mediterranean style dishes on the menu, like the fruitiest eggplant slowly cooked in an aromatic tomato sauce. It’s the combination of these two worlds that makes the couple’s restaurant in Kyoto so exciting, yet at the same time it’s so relaxed. It’s the kind of place where you end up chatting with the guests sitting next to you, exchanging stories and dishes, saying Kanpai (cheers) with a glass of red wine in your hand or ending the night with an extensive sake tasting involving everyone in the room.

Taka and Akane love food and people, the people who visit them, their guests, and the people they work with, their kitchen team, but also the suppliers who deliver fresh produce and products of the best quality to this tiny kitchen in the heart of Kyoto. The couple knows all of them personally, they’ve been working with them for years, most of them coming from the area. Having lived and worked in two food meccas in the world, Italy and Japan, the restaurateurs say that they can only create fantastic food, if the ingredients are perfect, vegetables picked at the peak of their season, the meat coming from animals that were bred and fed with care and respect. Japanese and Italian cooking is similar, both cuisines are very simple and focus on good ingredients, and at Taka, they create a very complete fusion.

In the next months, I’ll share many Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

Grilled Chicken Sashimi with Wasabi

By Taka Nishimura

Chef Taka uses chicken of outstanding quality, he knows the farmer and he can guarantee the meat’s quality and freshness, which is why he can serve this dish almost raw. However, it is highly recommended to cook chicken until it’s cooked through.

Serves 2

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast tenderloins, sashimi grade
Freshly grated wasabi
Rock salt
4 wooden skewers

Heat the BBQ.

Cut each chicken tenderloin into 6 pieces and thread onto the 4 skewers. Grill lightly until just done.

Spread the chicken with freshly grated (!) wasabi and season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Nishimura Takashi. I lived in Italy for a long time, about 15 years. I worked in a world-renowned restaurant called NOBU. And about 2 years ago I moved back to Kyoto, my hometown, to open this small restaurant.

What is your most cherished childhood memory connected to the kitchen?

A cherished memory would have to be, when I was a child, all I watched were shows about food on TV. All I watched were cooking TV shows, and I remember cooking a lot with my siblings when we were small. No one in my family is a cook, I’m the only one who followed a career as a chef. And it was when I was in primary school that I decided to become a chef, it was then that I decided to learn how to cook Japanese cuisine.

Why did you decide to move to Italy and work in Italy as a chef?

Well, I had always made Kaiseki cuisine in Kyoto, I trained in Kyoto Kaiseki for about 15 years. And so then, at that time, Kyoto was amazing, it was a narrow entrance into Japanese cuisine. Now foreigners come here to learn how to cook Kaiseki, but it wasn’t like that at all back then. So I wondered why? Japanese people go to Italy to study Italian cuisine, and to France to study French cuisine. So I thought, why don’t foreigners come to Japan to study Japanese cuisine? I figured that if that was the case than I wanted to go abroad to teach Japanese cuisine, that’s what I felt I wanted to do. And I remember feeling that I’d been a chef for 10 years, I’d learnt a lot in that time and wanted to share my knowledge abroad. So I chose somewhere that had similar food. I first chose Italy because I thought they had a simple way of cooking, and ingredients that had a lot of umami, where Japanese cuisine would be accepted by Italian tastes. And then I worked at NOBU in Italy.

Now, in the last 10 years, things changed. Many chefs come to Kyoto and Osaka, Tokyo, studying the Japanese style.

What changed over the years? 

That was probably because Japanese chefs became more open-minded. I think one reason is that they began to look outside Japan more. Also, famous chefs wanted to learn more about the mentality behind Japanese Kaiseki cuisine and how to make it. Making each course and slowly serving one small plate after another is Japanese Kaiseki’s style. That’s how you draw people to your restaurant. You’re delicate even when you serve the food, there is even a special orientation for each plate.

Every country’s cuisine is wonderful, but in Japan it’s all about the cut. For example, how sashimi is cut, how the vegetables are cut, how the meat is cut. These cuts create an excellent style of cooking, it’s Japanese cooking. It’s “katsuru” which means “cuts”, which is what gives it such a high aesthetic. Even with sashimi the chefs cut them beautifully. It creates a very unique Japanese aesthetic. The kitchen knife cuts amazingly, every day you need to sharpen your knives, and sharpening them is one part of a chef’s training, and I think even foreigners now sense this beauty. That’s what I think. Vegetables cut straight, how they’re beautifully peeled into hexagons, all kinds of shapes, the manual work that goes into it is amazing.

What makes a good knife? What are the important features of a good knife?

Of course how it cuts, the better it cuts the more beautiful the cut is. Also, how it feels when you hold it. You might have the same knife, but their weights can be different. Or there are knives that suit only you, so Japanese chefs will always buy their own knives. There’s also a balance to them. And chefs are using them for a long time, for the entire day, so it needs to not get worn out, it needs to not be a burden for chefs that work for a long time. I think all of these things are considered when knives are made, there’s a long history for this. Japanese knives are very particular. Fish is fish, vegetables are vegetables, meat is meat, and we divide them as such, but I think a knife that can be used for all of these is amazing.

What is special about Kyoto cuisine compared to other parts of this country?

I’d say how we compose the meal. There are a lot of difficult things about it but the best thing is how you can enjoy it as you like. Next is how the plates match. There are a number of Japanese meals where you look at the plates as you eat, and there are lots of regions that can make great plates. There’s also the matter of gathering good ingredients. Of course each region of Japan has its own wonderful ingredients, but among those, you have Kyoto chefs who will search all over the place to find the best ingredients of the season and who will think of their customers’ faces as they make them. That mentality is unbroken, it’s passed down from generation to generation, there’s always been this fantastic culture. That’s why there are so many things that I think are amazing.

In Kyoto, it’s really easy to distinguish between the 4 seasons. So when autumn comes you can use autumn ingredients and incorporate their beauty into the food. Kyoto chefs understand this sensibility.

How close is the relationship between you and your suppliers?

That’s a great question. You can do that really easily in Kyoto. I’ve been working… since I was young, so I’ve been working with suppliers since the beginning. There are fishmongers and vegetable suppliers that I’ve known for over 30 years. People also introduce me to people they know, like butchers. I’ve used a lot of connections, and I try to use Kyoto wholesalers as much as possible, and I want to use them more. I have my restaurant in Kyoto right now. We say “local produce for local consumption”, and it was the same in Italy. There are ingredients specific to regions and I try to incorporate them in my cooking as much as possible. Now I get requests from the Ministry of Agriculture and other chefs help out too. I want to help revitalise the area, so I get introduced to a lot of different people, and I can get hold of good ingredients. That really makes this job easier.

What was your vision for your restaurant?

I wanted a small restaurant where I could be close to customers sitting at the counter, so they’re closer to the chef too. That way everyone can enjoy themselves as they eat, that makes the meal even more delicious. That way people’s circle of friends could grow too. I want to make a restaurant like that and introduce everyone to it. And if I get any foreign customers, I want to help give them a place where they can make wonderful memories of Kyoto. I really wish from the bottom of my heart that I can help them make memories.

 Thank you, Taka and Akane,  for creating wonderful food and memories!

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

Meet In Your Kitchen | Nik Sharma’s Goan Coconut Curry

Nik Sharma

Spices, aromas, and flavors, and a great portion of tradition paired with curiosity create an exciting mix in Nik Sharma’s kitchen. Two worlds woven into his life feed the man’s inexhaustible creativity: India and the USA. The first country marks his roots, the land where he was born and raised, the latter represents his life since he was 19 and decided to leave the known behind and start an adventure that lasts till today.

Nik established a renowned food blog over the past few years, standing out from the start, visually and culinarily. A Brown Table  is loved for its eclectic recipes and stunning pictures. As a cook, Nik makes you hungry, as a photographer, he creates a unique mood that is captivating, appealing in a way that you want to frame his photograph and hang it on the wall and at the same time go straight to your kitchen and cook and eat the dish. He won Best Photo Based Culinary Blog awarded by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) two years in a row, quite an astonishing career for someone who only grabbed the camera professionally in his mid twenties.

The fact that his dad was a successful photographer in advertising might have influenced the young man’s feel for light and compositions, but Nik says there wasn’t that much of an exchange about his work between father and son, he only learned how to use a camera after he left home. But despite his parents’ warnings – they told him not to follow their footsteps – the photographer, blogger, and soon to be cookbook author did what many kids do: he did it anyway. His mother worked in hotel and restaurant management, she didn’t like cooking, but she had a huge folder full of recipes collected from newspapers and magazines. Nik was fascinated by the world of cooking and baking at an early age, he loved spending hours reading through Indian and western creations, he joined the family’s cook in the kitchen, and eagerly followed his maternal grandmother’s culinary activities. Her Goan heritage is still very present in many of his own recipes.

Reading the titles of Nik Sharma’s recipes makes your mouth water, you can literarily smell the warm aroma of cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and rosewater filling the kitchen: Imagine Masala Chai Pumpkin Cake, Khasta Kachori (Edamame-stuffed Fried Indian Bread), Honey Sage Turmeric Wings, Goan Coconut Cake, Cherry Black Pepper Cake, or his Toasted Pistachio Cake with Blood Orange Sauce. The recipe he shares with us for our Meet In Your Kitchen feature is a vibrant explosion framed in comfort food: Goan coconut curry with tender game hen and aromatic spiced rice.

The cook’s approach to food is scientific, Nik has an analytic mind and way to think about dishes, but at the same time he looks at things from a “feminine standpoint”, he likes curves and his styling reflects that. “I always think of ballet dancers when I shoot, I envision the dish being a solo dance performer on stage, the light’s only focused on the dance and everything else is dark. I always think of dance and curves, I find them very sensual, I find straight lines and diagonals a little harsh. Even if I do introduce them in my composition, you’ll see that there’s a circle cutting through, like a tangent. Again, I bring math into it because I’m a geneticist by training”.

You can be a gourmet, an aesthete, and share the beauty of life, but if you’re a critical mind, you know that there’s always more to talk about at the table: You can often see Nik’s hands in his photographs, to show the technique of a recipe, the preparation and instructions, but also to showcase that there are people from different backgrounds, that there is diversity behind the scenes of a restaurant. Nik says “We don’t really see them because they are never brought to the front”. There’s an imbalance in our society, a hierarchy in the way who works in the front or the back of a restaurant, and in the way people are paid and it’s our responsibility to talk about this imbalance and solve it.

Every Sunday you can find one of Nik’s beautiful recipes in his A Brown Kitchen column printed in the San Francisco Chronicle (if you don’t happen to live in the Bay area you can also grab some inspiration online on the newspaper’s website) and on October 2nd, 2018, his first cookbook Season will come out. Reflecting Nik’s unique style, the book combines the author’s roots and fascination for flavors with his journey as an immigrant in the US who lived in different states and experienced the culinary heritage from people coming to this country from all over the world.

And if you also want to eat in Nik’s kitchen, check out his supper club!

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Nik Sharma

 

Nik Sharma

Nik Sharma’s Goan Coconut Curry

Serves 4

2 medium red onions, peeled
2 cups grated coconut (unsweetened)
1 cup (240ml) boiling water
1 inch-piece (2.5cm) peeled ginger root
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
8 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
6 cloves
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
2 whole garlic pods
2 Cornish game hens, patted dry
Kosher salt as needed
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
Boiled rice or bread (to serve)

Cut one onion into thin slices and keep aside until ready to use. Take the second onion and cut it into quarters.

Place coconut, water, ginger, turmeric, peppercorns, cayenne, cloves, cinnamon, and the quartered onion in a blender and pulse on high speed until smooth and combined.

Melt the ghee in a medium-Dutch oven (or a heavy pot) on medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté until golden brown for about 8 to 12 minutes. Peel any extra paper off the garlic pods and trim about ½ inch (1 cm) off the top to expose the garlic. Add the trimmed garlic pods to the onion and cook for about 1 minute. Then add the ground coconut spice mixture into the pan and cook stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Place the two Cornish game hens in the pan snuggly and fill the pan with enough water to just cover the two birds. Increase the heat to high and bring the contents of the pan to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the birds are completely cooked and tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Garnish with the chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot with rice or bread.

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma11

 

Watch my interview with Nik in San Fransisco in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Nik!

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma10

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma13

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma14

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma12

 

Nik Sharma

 

Nik Sharma

Meet In Your Kitchen | David Kurtz & the best Cubano Sandwich in San Francisco

David Kurtz

A food loving friend of mine who lives in San Francisco told me, if you come to California, you must (!) meet David Kurtz and visit his Homage restaurant in Downtown. I trust my friends, especially when it comes to food, so I emailed David that same evening, not only receiving an answer that he was looking forward to cooking with me, but also to showing me around his hometown and spending a day together to give me an insight into his charismatic city that has so many faces.

The first thing that people think of when it comes to San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge and – if you talk to bread obsessed foodies and Instagrammers – the famous Tartine Bakery. The bakery is a temple for baked goods that one shouldn’t miss, the bridge, however, is a moody diva that is hard to catch. San Francisco is a place of extremes when it comes to the weather, a fact that I had totally forgotten about and wasn’t really prepared for. You can be spoilt with blue skies, sunshine, and summery temperatures in one second, then walk two blocks and be swallowed by mist and end up shivering in the cold. It was a bright afternoon as we drove to the famous bridge, impatient excitement in our faces ready to capture its majestic elegance, yet to find ourselves fighting against thunder and rain as we arrived was sobering. Needless to say there was no bridge in sight, but seeing the clouds climbing the hills behind the bridge and filling the bay with darkness and lightning faster than one can run was just as impressive.

David Kurtz

The day we met David offered this exact spectrum of experiences, in food, weather, and sceneries. We started at the chef’s wonderfully relaxed, casual, yet elegant Homage restaurant, a culinary gem tucked in a little side road surrounded by high office buildings. It’s a tranquil oasis in the center of the vibrating buzz of this city. Sitting outside at one of the bistro tables, with a glass of Californian wine in my hand and a scrumptiously dripping sandwich on a chopping board right in front of me, was one of the best memories that I took home with me from this trip. This sandwich, the Cubano, is truly addictive and so famous that, according to David, it would cause a riot if he ever dared to take it off the menu. Imagine the best homemade baguette brushed and grilled in tasty pork fat (homemade lard), filled with succulent anise braised pork shoulder, hot smoked ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, dill pickles, and even more pork fat. It’s the best sandwich I ever had in my life.

But before I could take a big bite of this unforgettably delicious lunch snack, David and I met two days before to prepare the dough for the bread in his kitchen and give it time to rise and rest. It was a Saturday morning and David and his lovely assisting, coordinating, and always helping ‘right hand’ Anja welcomed me and my film crew at Homage. David has the kind of voice and aura that calms you down immediately, whatever instructions he gave, I gladly obeyed and followed, enjoying to learn how to make the restaurant’s beautiful baguettes and also being introduced to David and Anja’s friends and suppliers at the utterly stunning Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. The market is their weekly shopping date, it’s a mecca for fresh produce. I’ve seen quite a few markets in my life, but this one is impressive, not only due to its setting right at the bay, but first and foremost because of the freshness and variety of the produce that the farmers offer at their stands:

Tomatoes kissed by the sun in all shapes, sizes, and colors; a sea of polished peppers; fragrant bundles of cilantro, basil, bay leaves, mint, and purslane; farmers’ stands specialized in beans (like Romano and Cranberry Beans), or figs, 8 or 10 different kinds of figs gently laid out in baskets, or a stand putting the spotlight on plums, peaches, and nectarines, run by a woman with the sweetest smile, Aomboon Deasy. Each person, each stand at the market focuses on the prettiest crisp fruits and vegetables, celebrating its taste and beauty. One stand in particular left me in an awe: piles of Baby Curly Kale, Red Russian and Dino Kale, green and red dandelion, each leaf packed with so much pungent flavor that you want to nibble them straight out of the baskets (which we did).

I found the perfect partner for my market visit, David and I love food so much so that when Anja gave me a beautiful flower bouquet at the market, both David and I started eating the petals. Like I said, when he tells me in his trustful voice “Meike, you can eat this”, I’ll eat it! But apart from flowers and greens, I also tried the crunchiest spicy kimchi, candy-sweet September strawberries (a luxury for a German girl who’s used to a rather short season of this fruit in her own country), ripe dates right off the vine, and the Rebel Within, a savory muffin filled with a soft boiled egg, sausage, Asiago cheese, and spring onions. It was heaven.

David Kurtz

After the ‘hard work’ at the market and in the kitchen, we spoilt ourselves with a little feast at Nopalito, David’s favorite Mexican restaurant. They cook delicious organic classics, like ceviche verde, enchiladas de mole con pollo (shredded tender chicken in a deep rich chocolaty sauce), and grilled fish tacos, all washed down with Michelada, Mexican beer with tomato, jalapeno, orange, lime, and salt – which was quite an experience. And after the meal we went for a walk at Golden Gate Park, where we were supposed to forage for forest snacks that one can find in a city if you keep your eyes open, but we chatted the time away. Wrapped in dense mist hanging heavily in the air, I was amazed by the beauty of the ever changing weather and the surprising scenes that it causes, and by David’s philosophy and thoughts about the food that he celebrates at his restaurant.

Homage is a very, very special place that I’ll always go back to when I’m in San Francisco, because of David and Anja, because of the food that’s created and put together by the chef and his team with so much love and attention to detail in every single ingredient, because of this warm atmosphere that welcomes you as soon as you open the heavy door flanked by the restaurant’s black facade, an atmosphere that makes you never want to leave again. And if you want to take a piece of it with you, you can grab a jar of the homemade pickles, jams, or a bottle of the wines and beers brought to Homage by David’s friends, a bunch of people who find satisfaction in creating products of outstanding quality, just like David. And thanks to them we enjoy treats that taste so good – maybe because of the last ingredient that David listed in the recipe for his Cubano sandwich that he gave me: Love.

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey,  for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

David Kurtz

David Kurtz’ Baguette and Cubano Sandwich

David mills the grains for the flour that he uses for this recipe himself, however you can also use store-bought flour. It’s recommended to work with grams instead of cups, as it’s important to use precise measurements for this recipe.

For the baguette

Makes 3 baguettes

519g water (lukewarm)
30g honey
23g SAF instant yeast
875g all purpose flour
60g fresh whole wheat flour
Or if available
23g hard red wheat flour
23g soft white wheat flour
14g rye flour

157g good quality lard (cold)
20g sea salt

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, using a fork, combine the water, honey and yeast, let it sit for a couple minutes.

In a large bowl, combine all the flours, add to the yeast mixture and, using the hook, mix for a few minutes or until well combined. Add the lard and, using the hook, continue kneading for a few minutes or until the dough has come together. Add a little more flour if it’s too sticky or, if it’s too firm, add a little (!) more water. Add the salt and continue kneading until well combined and firm. Form a ball, place in a clean bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Let the dough sit in a warm place for 1 hour. Turn the dough completely over releasing built up CO2 and let rise again for another hour, covered with a damp towel.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Punch the dough down, take it out of the bowl, and divide equally into 3 pieces. Roll into smooth balls and let bench rest for 10 minutes under a damp cloth. When fully rested, take one piece of dough and stretch and pull it into a longish rectangular shape (about 14×5.5″ / 35x14cm). Carefully flip 1 long side over until it reaches the middle of the rectangle, mind that no air is trapped in the fold. Then flip the opposite long side over, so that you end up with 3 layers of dough folded on top of each other. Using your fingers, pinch the fold all the way to seal well. Gently roll the dough into a long, thin sausage shape, then carefully, but quickly transfer to the lined baking sheet (the pinched fold should be on the bottom side). Continue forming the remaining 2 baguettes and transfer to the lined baking sheet. Cover with a damp kitchen towel, transfer the baking sheet to the fridge, and let the baguettes rest in the fridge overnight, further developing flavor and retarding the yeast activity.

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C (convection setting). Take the baguettes out of the fridge when the oven is hot and ready.

Spray the baguettes with a little water and bake for 6-12 minutes or until the crust is golden, spraying them with water once or twice while baking. Internal temperature of the bread should be 210°F / 100°C when fully baked.

For the Cubano sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

1 large piece of fresh baguette, cut in half
Dijon mustard
Whole grain mustard
2-3 thin slices hot smoked ham
1.5 ounces / 40g Swiss cheese (one that melts well), thinly sliced
2-3 anise pickled spring onions (or fresh spring onion), thinly sliced
2-3 dill pickles (gherkins), cut in half
5-7 ounces/ 150-200g braised pork shoulder (preferably cooked with anise and citrus), pulled or shredded
Good quality lard (pork fat)
Love, most importantly

Heat two heavy pans, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat.

Spread the inside of the baguette with Dijon and whole grain mustard. Lay the ham on the bottom and topside of the opened baguette. Arrange the cheese, spring onions, and pickles on top of the ham. Spread the braised pork shoulder on top and close the baguette. Brush one pre heated pan with fresh lard, carefully place the Cubano onto the pan’s surface and brush more lard onto the top of the baguette. Squeeze, or press the Cubano with the other preheated pan directly on top of the sandwich. Cook in the pan, on medium heat, turning once, for a few minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust of the bread is golden brown and crunchy.

Prepare with love and serve immediately with a large sliced pickle.

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

Watch my interview with David in San Francisco in September 2017:

Thank you, David!

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

Meet In Your Kitchen I Maria Sinskey’s Culinary Take on Napa Valley

Maria Sinskey

The air is hot and dry in Napa, not the slightest movement, it stands still, wrapping the hills and vines in a magical silence.

We first stopped at a lake, Lake Hennessey, on our way to meet the Sinskeys at Robert Sinskey Vineyards. The scene was too peaceful and beautiful, as perfect as a postcard, the calm water spread out in front of us. A man sat at the sandy bank staring into the bluest sky reflecting on the water’s surface, I walked through the swaying grass and my film team made jokes about unseen alligators. Later, Maria Sinskey told me that there are rattlesnakes in the area – sometimes it’s good not to know the danger around you and enjoy the moment.

I had seen the wines of the Robert Sinskey Vineyards on the menu of some of the best restaurants in San Francisco, friends praised the quality of their reds and whites, so there were enough reasons to pick this particular wine maker in Napa on my culinary trip through California. But what struck me goes beyond an excellent bottle of wine: it’s the Sinskeys’ philosophy of making honest wine, their work ethics oblige them to take care of their team, who also hold shares of the company and have been with the wine making couple for decades. Maria and Robert create an environment of togetherness, they cherish people, nature and its gifts, they live a good life and share it with the ones around them.

Robert Sinskey was a photographer in advertising, he’s an artist, a philosopher, he never went to a wine school, but maybe that’s the reason why he makes good wine. It was a call from his father 25 years ago that changed his life, Sinskey senior needed help at his wine business, and young Rob fell in love with his new obsession for grapes and what you can do with them. He turned the 200 acres of premium vineyards into an organic, biodynamic ecosystem at a time when this step wasn’t as popular as today, he was a pioneer, inspired by Rudolph Steiner’s 1928 “Agriculture” manifesto. Believing that, if you harvest grapes of outstanding quality, you don’t actually have to do much, you can let nature do its thing and trust. In that respect, the Sinskeys feel closer to the European than the American tradition of wine makers. Rob says “wine should not be a quick study, but rather, sneak up on you, seduce you, and evolve in the glass and in the bottle. The goal is to make pure wines of character that pair well with cuisine.” And now, his wonderful wife Maria comes in.

Maria Sinskey is an acclaimed chef and cookbook author from New York, she’s the cooking soul of the winery. She worked at Michelin starred restaurants in France but when Rob won her heart, she moved to Napa and set up her beautiful open Vineyard Kitchen right in the heart of the winery’s rustic stone building, next to the wine tasting room. It’s not a restaurant, you can only book and enjoy her exquisite culinary compositions along with a tasting experience (a visit and reservation is highly recommended). Maria and Rob follow the same credo: nature is good, trust her, treat her well and you’ll be gifted. Organic fruits and vegetables come from the garden, sheep grazing the vineyards provide wool and meat, beehives pollinate the orchards and bring the most delicious honey to Maria’s kitchen.

You could call it a utopia, you could call the Sinskeys dreamers, but decades of creating fantastic wine and food with and not against nature that people praise all over the world, living and working harmoniously in a community with love and passion, and feeling – as a guest – the spark of happiness and dedication jump over, would prove you wrong.

Maria spoilt us like kids with her elegant, deliciously cozy comfort food. Her duck confit was a revelation and her herb marinated rack of lamb with sun-ripened tomato and herb blossom salad tasted just heavenly, thankfully she shared the recipes with us.

Check for visits: robertsinskey.com

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Sinskey11

 

Maria Sinskey

Sun-ripened Tomato and Herb Blossom Salad

________________

Herb Marinated Rack of Lamb with

Buttered Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes, and Lamb Jus

By Maria Sinskey

 

Sun-ripened Tomato and Herb Blossom Salad

Serves 6

Capture the flavor of ripe, just-picked tomatoes at their peak with this simple salad. The sweet tomatoes are gently scented with herb and arugula flowers that provide small bursts of intense flavor. Blossoms can be gathered as herb and arugula plants bolt. If herb blossoms aren’t available use small herb sprigs and leaves instead.

6 ripe garden tomatoes, about 2 pounds, assorted colors and sizes
Extra virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar
Flaked sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (a handful) mixed herb blossoms – dill, arugula, basil, chive

Core and slice the tomatoes into ¼-inch / ½-cm thick slices and fork-size wedges. Arrange the tomatoes on a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt and grind a few grinds of black pepper over. Scatter the blossoms over the top. Serve with simple crisp flatbread if desired.

________________

Herb Marinated Rack of Lamb with

Buttered Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes, and Lamb Jus

Lamb Jus (to serve with the rack of lamb, can be prepared in advance)

Yield: 2 cups (470ml)

1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup (240ml) red wine
4 cups (950ml) lamb stock
1 medium plum tomato, fresh or canned
1 3-inch / 8-cm sprig rosemary
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Wrap garlic in aluminum foil and bake until garlic is aromatic, soft and caramelized, about 45 minutes. Reserve.

Heat a 3-quart / 2.8-l saucepan over medium-high heat, then add 1 tablespoon butter. When the butter starts to brown, add the shallot and cook for about 2 minutes until the shallot is wilted and starting to turn golden.

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until wine is almost dry, about 10 minutes. Add the lamb stock, roasted garlic head, tomato, and rosemary spring. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until stock is reduced by half. Strain the jus into another pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve at room temperature for up to 4 hours otherwise refrigerate.

To serve: Return sauce to a simmer. Check seasoning, then whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter until emulsified. Serve immediately.

 

Herb Marinated Rack Of Lamb

Serves 8

The herb marinade for the rack really perfumes the meat if it is done a day or two ahead of time. The same marinade can be used for many other cuts as well. It is best to remove as many of the herbs and garlic before roasting as they will burn and create off flavors.

2 lamb racks, 8-9 ribs each
¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoon for roasting the meat
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled and crushed
2 4-inch / 10-cm rosemary sprigs, crushed
6 thyme sprigs, crushed
4 rosemary sprigs for garnish
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Clean the rib bones well by scraping off meat and sinew with a small sharp knife. Cut the racks in half so that each has four ribs. Mix together the olive oil, crushed garlic, crushed rosemary and thyme sprigs in a large bowl. Add the lamb and coat well. Grind some coarse black pepper over all. Wrap well and marinate the racks overnight.

The next day prepare the roasted potatoes first, then continue roasting the lamb.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove the lamb from the marinade and scrape off as many herbs as possible.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the lamb well with salt; no additional pepper should be necessary, and sear fat side down until golden, about 7 minutes. Turn over so that the fat side is up and roast in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes for medium-medium rare (120°F / 50°C internal temperature). Let the rack rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Prepare the beans while the meat is resting.

To serve, cut each lamb rack half into 2 equal pieces, two bones per chop, and serve on individual plates or a platter with the roasted potatoes, beans, and lamb jus.

 

Olive Oil and Sea Salt Roasted Potatoes

Serves 8

2 pounds yellow potatoes, Yukon Gold or similar
Sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Peel the potatoes and cut into ½-inch / 1.25-cm pieces. Reserve in a bowl of cold water to keep from browning.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil, season well with salt. Add the potatoes and boil for 7 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes into a colander. Make sure they are very dry.

Place the well-drained potatoes in a large sauté pan and toss them with the olive and butter and additional salt to taste. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the potatoes are golden and crispy on the edges. Keep them warm.

 

Buttered Green Beans

½ pound freshly picked green beans or haricot vert
Salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Trim the stem off of the beans but leave the slender pointed tips. Reserve.

Ready a medium bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt until the water tastes of the sea. Add the beans and cook until tender about 3-4 minutes. The thinner and fresher the beans the faster they will cook. Remove the beans from the pot with a pair of tongs or skimmer and plunge into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When beans are cool, remove from the ice bath and let rest in a strainer or colander to drain.

To serve: melt the butter in a large sauté pan and add ¼ cup (60ml) water. Bring to a boil to emulsify, season with salt to taste. Add the beans and toss until heated through. Remove with tongs to a serving plate. Serve immediately.

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Watch my interview with Maria in Napa in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Maria!

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

Maltese Fennel & Coriander Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

A few weeks ago, I received a message from someone excitedly telling me that she visited my ‘fennel lady’ in Malta. I often wrote about this lovely farmer, on the blog and in my cookbook, and I can’t imagine cooking without her aromatic harvest anymore. Every Sunday, she spreads her fennel and coriander seeds on the wooden table at a tiny stand at the farmers’ market in Marsaxlokk, a picturesque fishermen’s village in the south of my beloved Mediterranean island. It seems like this is what she’s done all her life, picking and selling seeds, always with a happy smile on her tanned face. The person who wrote me the email did what I always do in summer: she bought bags of fragrant seeds to fill the spice box in her pantry.

Malta is the reason why fennel became so prominent in many of my recipes. It grows wild all over the islands, the plants dig their sturdy roots into every patch of soil they can find. I guess its abundance is one of the reasons why you can find fennel in many traditional dishes in Malta’s Mediterranean cuisine – and its wonderful sweet taste of course. If you visit the small local restaurants, you often find baked fennel potatoes as a side dish on the menu.

When Leerdammer asked me if I’d like to create a recipe with their new Toast and Burger Cheese, I didn’t think twice. I love a good cheeseburger. I live in Berlin, a city where new burger joints pop up at every street corner like mushrooms. Although I like to try a new spot once in a while, I still have my favourite place when my meaty cravings creep over: The Bird. I always go for a perfectly cooked steak burger topped with a slice of Swiss cheese. However, in my own kitchen, I’m a little more experimental.

Leerdammer’s aromatic cheese tastes slightly sweet and it melts on top of a warm, juicy burger like butter. The cheese has a fine taste, but it’s not shy, it can easily take a generous amount of warming spices stirred into the burger mixture: fennel and coriander seeds, alongside lots of garlic, fresh parsley, and spicy black peppercorns crushed in a mortar. I felt inspired by the famous Maltese sausage, which is coarse, rough, and so tasty. It features all the spices that you can find in my burger. When it comes to flavour, Malta’s traditional sausage is one of the richest and most delicious I know. And what works in a sausage, can’t go wrong in a burger.

The burgers are bedded on a thinly sliced fennel bulb that adds freshness and crunch, a few red onion rings and arugula (rucola) instead of a lettuce leaf brings a sharp note. Usually, I prefer to buy my cheese in one piece, but when it comes to cheeseburgers, I don’t mind working with sliced dairy products. This way it looks like a proper American style burger, one with a Mediterranean make-over. You could pack the whole thing in a bun, but what about trying something new and layering it between two thick slices of toasted white bread? And instead of using the toaster, make use of the burgers’ buttery cooking juices and crisp the bread in the pan.

Thank you Leerdammer for inspiring me to make a Maltese cheeseburger toast. You can find more Toast & Burger recipes celebrating regional treats here.

Last year I created a few scrumptious sandwiches together with Leerdamer, here are some of my favourites:

Egg, Bacon and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables
Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich
Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Makes 4 burgers

For the burgers

minced meat (beef and pork) 500g / 18 ounces
dry breadcrumbs 30g / scant 1/4 cup
organic egg 1
garlic, crushed, 2 large cloves
fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, 1 medium bunch
fennel seeds 1 tablespoon
coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar, 1 tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, 2 teaspoons
flaky sea salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
butter, to cook the burgers
olive oil, to cook the burgers

To assemble the burger toast

fresh white loaf, 8 thick slices
medium fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced, 1
medium red onion, cut into thin rings, 1
Leerdammer cheese (or another aromatic cheese that melts well) 4 slices
(I used Leerdammer’s ‘Herzhaft-Intensiv’ Toast & Burger cheese. If you prefer a smoky note, go for ‘Rauchig-Würzig’.)
arugula (rucola), a small handful
olive oil
fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar, for the topping (optional)

For the burgers, in a large bowl, using your hands or a stand mixer, mix and knead the minced meat, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, parsley, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, pepper, and salt until well combined. Shape the meat mixture into 4 thick burgers.

In a large, heavy pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and a generous splash of olive oil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the burgers, and, turning them 2-3 times, cook until medium rare. You might have to turn the heat down to medium after a few minutes if the burgers turn dark. This takes about 10 minutes. Add more oil if the pan becomes too dry.

Transfer the burgers to a plate (cover them with a lid), leaving the fat in the pan, and turn the heat up to high. Add the bread slices to the pan and toast each slice on just one side until golden and charred at the corners.

To assemble the burger, lay a slice of bread on a plate (toasted side facing down) and lay a few fennel slices and red onion rings on top. Arrange the warm burger and a slice of cheese on top, then finish it off with some more onion rings and a few rucola leaves. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some fennel seeds, and close the sandwich with a slice of bread (toasted side facing upwards). Squeeze and enjoy!

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Roast poultry is always a feast. Nothing beats a whole roast chicken, the skin golden and crisp, the meat succulent and tender. And when it comes to seasoning the chubby bird, there are no rules to obey. Sweet or sour, fruity or veggie-focused, spiced-up or plain, a chicken can deal with everything. Lemon butter sounds fresh, tastes fresh, and turned my chicken into a perfect summer lunch. Italian peaches lend juice and fruitiness, a little sweet, but not too much, and rosemary brings in woody tones. Seeing as we’re talking about feasting, there had to be wine on the table. The bird didn’t necessarily need it, but my mood called for a German Riesling, chilled, fresh, and fruity.

If you love wine, here’s a little experiment for the next time you open a bottle: choose a good bootle of white or red wine and pour it into three to five different wine glasses. You can also go for champagne, if you’re in the mood for bubbles, but take your time and consciously taste the wine, its complex tones and colours, revealed by the dimensions of each glass, its shape, volume, height, and curves. If you have three glasses, you’ll taste three variations of the same wine.

My mother – who loves wine at least as much as she loves food – introduced me to this kind of wine tasting in my early twenties. She has a huge crystal glass collection handmade by 260 year old glass maker Riedel, not only for white, red, and sparkling wine, but also for different regional wine and grapes. The taller Bordeaux glass, the rounder Burgundy that opens at the mouth, the elegantly shaped Syrah glass, they all bring out the best, the typical characteristics of these wines. That doesn’t mean that a fine Chablis can’t be enjoyed out of a glass that was made for a Riesling, but it might miss certain nuances that give it the final touch, the magic that goes beyond words.

After my first lesson in the art of wine glasses, I decided to follow my Mama’s food steps and invest in a basic collection, my first machine-blown Riedel glasses. My budget was a bit more limited than my mother’s, I focussed on shapes that work well for various grape varieties. Riedel’s Rheingau glass, for example, is quite an allrounder, it flatters crisp and fruity whites like my beloved German Grauburgunder (pinot gris), but I also found out that a bubbly Crémant d’Alsace doesn’t mind this shape either – in case a Champagne glass isn’t at hand. When it comes to the reds, I’m a fan of body, weight, and depth. The classic Bordeaux shape goes quite well with a few of my favourite wines. These wine glasses were the start of my ever growing collection, which also led to ever growing kitchen shelves, but that’s another story.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Falling for wine glasses is a passion, it makes sense once you start investing in finer wines. A glass collection grows and changes every year, like a wine collection, there will be losses and new additions. It’s alive, like the wines that they’re filled with. It’s always sad to lose a precious glass, but it’s also so exciting to see a new shape added to the shelf.

When Riedel asked me, if I’d like to try out their new Fatto A Mano range, handmade at their headquarters in Kufstein in the western Austrian province of Tyrol, I could already hear my mother’s ecstatic voice. Fatto A Mano is a beautiful collection, thin and light at the top, tall and elegant, and it introduces a new feature. Inspired by the Venetian tradition of glass making, a coloured handmade stem is the base of each glass of this collection. The bowl, however, sitting on top, is machine-blown and then fused with the stem, a process developed by Riedel. The colour scheme, including bold yellow, red, blue, and green, and more minimal black and white, adds fun to the table. The art of wine making is a science, but the art of wine drinking is first and foremost a pleasure that allows us the luxury to relax and let go, to taste and just smile at life.

Setting up the table for a dinner party or a weekend lunch feast with friends – especially now, in summer – doesn’t need to follow strict rules anymore. We play with the arrangement and mix and match tableware, colours, shapes, and materials. Whatever mood I’m in, the food I choose, but also the way I lay out my table, reflects how I feel. The table is the stage for the feast, where we gather with the ones we love to enjoy a few hours of good food and wine, of closeness and conversation.

Thank you, Riedel, for introducing me to your artful Fatto A Mano collection. It has already created quite a few hours of pleasure at our table – for me and my friends.

In the pictures you see the Riedel Riesling glasses from the new Fatto A Mano range, the stemless Viognier / Chardonnay glasses from The O Wine Tumbler collection, which I used for water, and the perfectly shaped round-bellied Marne wine decanter.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

You can use leftover meat, sauce, and fruit to stir into warm pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Serves 2-3

unsalted butter 60g / 4 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 75ml / 1/3 cup
whole free-range or organic chicken, about 1.5kg / 3.3 pounds, 1
flaky sea salt
ground pepper
medium sprigs fresh rosemary 6
large lemon, cut into 8 wedges, 1
large, not too soft peaches, cut into 8 wedges each, 3

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (convection setting or Rotitherm setting, if available).

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and pour into a medium baking dish, large enough to fit the chicken in. Whisk in the lemon juice, then transfer the chicken to the baking dish and toss in the lemon butter until coated on all sides. Season the chicken with salt and pepper inside and out and lay 2 sprigs of rosemary inside the chicken. Arrange the remaining rosemary, lemon and peach wedges around the bird. Roast, spooning the juices from the pan over the chicken every 15 minutes,  for 45-55 minutes or until the juices run clear when you prick the thickest part of a chicken thigh with a skewer. Turn on the broiler (grill) for a few minutes or until the chicken skin starts sizzling, mind that it doesn’t burn. Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes.

Carve the chicken and serve with the peaches and baguette to dip into the juices – and with a glass of chilled Riesling of course.

If you’re looking for a starter, or a dish to accompany the roast chicken for an easy lunch or brunch, try my leek, tomato, and thyme quiche or basil ricotta and tomato quiche.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

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