eat in my kitchen

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

Category: TO COOK

Langostini al Cartoccio cooked in seawater

Langostini al Cartoccio

I’m sure I spent more time in the water than on land in the past few weeks. When I’m in Malta, I turn into a fish, I practically live in and from the sea. Crystal blue water, secluded bays, and hidden caves under limestone arches are my very own little Mediterranean paradise. And once I’m out of the water, there’s often the freshest seafood on my plate. Simplicity rules Malta’s summer cuisine, a whole fish or pink crustaceans from the grill seasoned with a squeeze of lemon and some parsley from the fields, tender octopus in an aromatic stew – great quality ingredients don’t need much to shine.

Although I enjoy visiting the islands’ villages on Malta and Gozo a lot, walking down the quiet alleys and stopping for a cappuccino or ice cream at one of the old cafés, if there’s a chance to put my goggles on and snorkel, you can be sure to find me in the water within a split second. In the first week, I went to my beloved Fomm ir-Riħ to sadly find the gravel beach considerably narrowed by clay swept down from the steep hill behind it. The sea was rough, so we didn’t even bother walking down the hidden track along the cliff face. We went to Sliema’s city beach instead and I finished the day with my obligatory sun-downer – a glass of Ricard at the Exiles bar. Sitting on the warm rocks and smelling the salty air – after a dip in the sea of course – is one of the best ways to end a day in the Mediterranean.

Another trip took us to Marsaskala, a seaside village that I never really gave the attention it deserves. It’s a very Maltese place, not many tourists, old houses, bars, and palm trees lined up along the promenade where the young and old meet after sunset. I had a Ftira sandwich for dinner, but before we dove into village life we discovered a beautiful rocky beach north of the Xrobb l-Għaġin Temple. It was so peaceful, the endless sea framed by chalk-white cliffs softly sliding into the water. We were alone there, my Maltese family, my man and I snorkeled and Mama tried to catch our dinner – without success.

On one of our trips to Gozo, I discovered a recipe that I’d love to share with you today. Noel, the excellent chef at his open-air restaurant at the deep Mgarr ix-Xini bay – which is a bit tough to find – cooked the sweetest langostini al cartoccio in seawater. He doesn’t have to go far, a few steps from his place he finds the cleanest Gozitan sea, always at hand to cook seafood in his preferred method: wrapped in a package, al cartoccio, with a splash of seawater, on the grill. Don’t worry if you don’t happen to live at the sea, just use normal water mixed with the best sea salt you can find, that’s what I did in my Maltese Mama’s kitchen. We got Maltese langostini, which are the sweetest I know. Noel’s crustaceans were a little smaller than ours and tastier, however, my fish monger only had the larger size. You just have to add some lemon wedges to the package and cook it on the grill for a few minutes (or in the oven). They cooked to perfection, with a gentle touch of the salted water. I used Gozitan salt, which I find not only subtle in saltiness, but also tastier than any other I’ve tried. Choose a good one, it’s worth it when you follow simple cooking.

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

Seawater cooked Langostini al Cartoccio from the Grill

You can cook the langostini on the grill or in the oven.

Serves 2

extra wide aluminium foil
medium langostini, fresh and uncooked, 8-10
sea salt 1 tablespoon
water, warm, 300ml / 1 1/4 cups
olive oil
organic lemon, cut into wedges, 1

Start the grill or preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting).

Lay 2 pieces of aluminium foil on top of each other, large enough to wrap the langostini.

Stir the salt into the warm water and let it sit until the salt dissolves. Or, if you happen to live close to the clean sea, use the same amount of fresh seawater.

Lay the langostini in the middle of the aluminium foil and fold up the sides. Add the salted water / seawater, a generous splash of olive oil, and the lemon wedges. Wrap the package and seal the ends well.

Cook the langostini for about 3-5 minutes on the grill (I closed the lid of the grill), or in the oven, until they are just done.

Serve immediately with fresh bread and, if you like, a glass of chilled white wine.

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

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

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers from my cookbook & a short trip to Malta

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Old cities and beaches, seafood and wine! When Condé Nast Traveler asked me to take over their Instagram Stories last weekend and share some of my favourite spots in Malta, I immediately booked the flights. There’s no way I would miss a chance to visit my second home!

I’m in the Mediterranean for just a few days at the moment, but it’s enough time to visit my personal hot spots. An early morning boat ride starting in Sliema took me to Valletta to enjoy my first espresso of the day at the beautifully old fashioned Prego Caffe on the capital’s narrow South Street. It’s a beloved morning ritual of many locals, nibbling on buttery breakfast pastizzi filled with ricotta surrounded by the café’s original 60’s decor. A quick visit to the Baroque Saint Francis of Assisi Church (1607) and then I strolled through the streets – one of the most relaxing things I can imagine. If it had been a Sunday, I would have gone to St. John’s Co-Cathedral‘s early morning mass, which is held in Latin accompanied by the most heavenly sounding choir.

On the way to my next destination, Casa Rocca Piccola, I stopped by at the peaceful Lower Barakka Gardens. This place always manages to overwhelm me with its stunning views over The Grand Harbour and The Three Cities – and its almost meditative atmosphere. Frances de Piro was so kind to show me around the 400 year old private Valletta palace Casa Rocca Piccola, where she lives together with her husband, the 9th Marquis de Piro who’s a Knight of Malta, and their family. Many of the private rooms can be visited during guided tours and are a must see for everybody who loves art, history, and architecture.

My man joined me for lunch, which turned into a little feast at Scoglitti right at the sea at the Marsamxett Harbour facing Sliema. Pasta with Maltese prawns, swordfish from the grill, and a bottle of Meridiana Wine Estate‘s fruity white. Maltese Mqaret filled with dates for dessert and we were ready for a nap. Only the thought of an afternoon swim in Malta’s deep blue waters could stop us from having a siesta. We chose the secluded Delimara bay, limestone rocks and crystal-clear turquoise sea are the best conditions for a good snorkeling trip.

My perfect day in Malta wouldn’t be complete without having dinner at Legligin, my favourite restaurant in Valletta offering the most delicious Maltese tapas cooked by our friend Chris. And if it’s a Friday night, you can stroll over to Bridge Bar for their weekly open air Jazz concerts. Sitting on red cushions on the capital’s ancient stairs in front of the bar, sipping on a glass of pastis, and listening to good music make me ask myself why I should ever leave the Mediterranean (sorry Berlin).

As a part of the Instagram takeover, I also shared a recipe from my Eat In My Kitchen cookbook on Condé Nast Traveler‘s website. It’s a Maltese classic: stuffed bell peppers. Stuffed vegetables are a staple in every Maltese home. Tomato, zucchini, eggplant, pepper are filled with meat, seafood, or other vegetables and turned into the coziest treat to please a large Mediterranean family’s appetite. In my version, which you can find below, I go for green peppers cooked al dente – I don’t like them too soft and soggy – stuffed with white fish like cod, tiny zucchini cubes, tomatoes, and parsley refined with a shot of vermouth.

If you can’t travel at the moment, just cook a dish that reminds you of your favourite holiday spot, close your eyes, and you’ll almost be there.

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

 

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers with Cod, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

from Eat In My Kitchen, To cook, to bake, to eat, and to treat

Serves 4

4 to 5 medium green bell peppers
Olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons butter
510g / 18 ounces cod fillet (or any firm, white fish, such as monkfish or grouper), preferably 1 thick center piece
Fine sea salt
Ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
340g / 12 ounces zucchini, cut into very small cubes
60ml / ¼ cup dry white vermouth, like Noilly Prat, or dry white wine
1 medium tomato, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for garnish

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

Cut the tops off the peppers. Scrape out and discard the seeds and fibers, then rinse the peppers and set aside.

In a heavy pan, large enough to fit the fish, heat a generous splash of olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat. Sear the fish, turning once, for 1 to 3 minutes per side or until golden and flaky—mind that you don’t overcook it. Remove from the heat, break the fish into chunks, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Pour in a little more olive oil, add the zucchini, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté for about 4 minutes or until soft. Add the vermouth and cook, stirring and letting the alcohol burn off, for about 10 seconds. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the tomato and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To combine the filling, spread half the zucchini-tomato mixture on a large plate, lay the fish on top, and finish with the remaining vegetables. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Season the inside of the bell peppers with salt and pepper. Using a large spoon, generously stuff the peppers with the zucchini-cod mixture without pushing on the filling too much. If you have leftover filling, stuff the fifth bell pepper. Place the tops on the peppers and place them in a baking dish. Add a splash of water to cover the bottom of the dish and bake for about 25 minutes or until the bell peppers are al dente and the tops turn dark. Take the peppers out of the oven, sprinkle with more parsley, and serve warm.

Malta

 

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

A Summery Berry and Bacon Panzanella with Rosemary

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

A Tuscan Panzanella salad had been on my mind for weeks, I could clearly picture the colourful composition: Dark red cherries, crunchy bacon, crisp arugula (rucola), and chunks of spongy ciabatta dripping with olive oil and thick Balsamico vinegar and then sprinkled with woody rosemary. I was just waiting for the fruits to arrive at my Turkish vegetable shop around the corner.

Unfortunately, the day I planned to throw the salad together, my trusted vegetable man didn’t have cherries and – what worried me even more – the weather was dull and grey. The first problem was easily solved, I replaced sweet cherries with even juicier strawberries, blueberries, and figs, which made the whole thing even more mushy and luscious. It tasted great, but the soggy look made it rather difficult to catch a pretty picture. Even more so as they just put scaffolding in front of my kitchen window, which means the light situation in this room is far from ideal.

In these moments I always know why I love food so much and why photography, sometimes, drives me crazy. Food either tastes good or it doesn’t, of course it should look appetizing, but I believe what tastes good also looks good. But photography has its own rules and mysteries, to be able to capture a dish’s yumminess in a picture, the conditions need to be right, especially the light. So please, when you look at the pictures in today’s post, think of summery-sweet fruit juices, porky saltiness crisped in the pan, the freshness of green leaves, and the confidence of Mediterranean rosemary. Buon appetito!

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

Berry and Bacon Panzanella with Rosemary

Serves 2-4

For the dressing

olive oil 3 tablespoons
Balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
white Balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
fresh rosemary, very finely chopped, about 2 teaspoons
fine sea salt
ground pepper

For the Panzanella

olive oil
bacon 4 slices
arugula (rucola) or mixed lettuce leaves, torn, a large handful
ciabatta or rustic white loaf, cut into chunks, 2 large handfuls
strawberries, cut in half, a handful
blueberries, a handful
figs, quartered, 2

For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Panzanella, heat a small splash of olive oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for a few minutes on both sides until crispy and golden brown. Take the bacon out of the pan, let it cool for a few minutes, and break into large pieces.

In a large bowl, spread the greens and lay the chunks of bread on top. Arrange the fruits and bacon on top of the bread and pour the dressing all over the Panzanella. Serve immediately, preferably for lunch, accompanied by a glass of white or rosé wine, and think of your next holiday.

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

I found a new duo that comes close to perfection: chorizo and strawberry. It’s an unexpected match, the fruity sweetness and slightly hot, porky sausage merge beautifully, as if they had just been waiting to meet.

It started as a quick snack while we were cooking, we filled our glasses with our favourite summer wine and looked in the fridge to see what we could nibble on while chopping and stirring the ingredients for our dinner. The red sausage and berries caught my man’s attention and – in these moments he’s a little more brave than me – he sandwiched them and stuffed a rather large portion of it in my mouth. We immediately discussed what we could do with this new find. A salad? I’m not a big fan of meat in my salad. Pasta? I don’t like the combination of pasta and strawberries. I tried it, but it just tastes wrong. An open sandwich seemed like the right answer, a golden Italian bruschetta drizzled with good olive oil, crowned with thick slices of the peppery salami and juicy berries. Some fresh basil, salt, and pepper, and you have the perfect snack for summer on your plate.

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

Serves 2-4

medium baguette, sliced, 1
olive oil
chorizo (salami, not fresh chorizo sausage) 1/2 ring, about 150g / 5 ounces
ripe strawberries, cut in half, about 18
fresh basil leaves, a small handful
peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
flaky sea salt

To roast the bread, set the oven to broil (grill). If your oven doesn’t have a broil setting, toast the baguette in a hot cast iron pan.

Brush the baguette on both sides with olive oil and, if using your oven, spread them on a baking sheet and roast for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown, but not burnt. If you use a pan, in batches, spread the bread in the pan and toast on both sides until golden.

Depending on the size of your bread, pile up 2 slices of chorizo and 2-3 strawberry halves on each bruschetta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with basil, crushed pepper, and salt. Enjoy!

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

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

Ramp and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish with Spring Peas

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

I didn’t have many cookbooks when I was younger, I learned all about cooking from my mother. She’s my mama bird in the kitchen, I just watch and follow her. Then, in my late teens, she gave me my first cookbook, a detailed introduction to the most important basic techniques covering everything from eggs to soups, meat, seafood, and vegetables. It felt like she wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t starve when I moved out. The book was published in the 80’s and beautifully photographed. Quite minimal. I think, in regards to food photography, this book influenced my style of capturing food in pictures more than any other publications.

It was my only cookbook for a long time, but I collected and wrote down recipes myself whenever I got the chance to sneak a kitchen classic from a friend or my family. Even in restaurants, I was never shy to ask, if they’d share a recipe with me (the ones that really hit me). This strategy led to a bursting folder packed with notes, snippets, and sheets torn out of magazines. I still haven’t cooked and baked all of the treasures collected in more than 30 years. It’s a steadily growing project.

As I got into collecting cookbooks, Jamie Oliver’s books were one of the first added to the shelves. First as a present from friends, but later on I bought a few myself. I liked his style of playing with food. I was in my early twenties, I had seen and tasted many German, French, and Italian traditional classics cooked to perfection, by my mother and in friend’s kitchens, or at restaurants. But I felt like a younger voice. And Jamie’s voice felt just right at that time. In the end, I might have only cooked about 15 of his creations in all those years, but he inspired me a lot. And at least 5 of his recipes became staples that I still embrace today.

There’s one recipe that I’ve been wanting to try for more than 15 years. And again, I didn’t use it to follow, but to play with: Jamie wraps monkfish filets in prosciutto spread with pesto. It’s so simple, it looks stunning. As spring is in the air, or at least the smell of ramps as you enter the woods, I decided to wrap my firm white fish fillet in ramp leaves and prosciutto di Parma. Thanks to Jamie, the cooking time and temperature were perfect. The fillet was tender yet firm. And the wrapping was spot on: green, fresh, and slightly salty.

If you’re still looking for an Easter menu, what about skipping the traditional lamb roast and go for seafood? This dish is so easy, serve it with a bowl of lemony ramp peas and baguette (for the lazy ones like me) or Mediterranean mashed potatoes (either from my book, or try this recipe). And what about an eggnog sponge cake for dessert?

Have a wonderful Easter time with your loved ones!

xx

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

Ramp and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

Serves 2

olive oil
monkfish fillet, a thick center piece, 250-300g / 9-11 ounces
fine sea salt
ground pepper
prosciutto di Parma (or San Daniele or Serrano) 10 very thin slices
fresh ramps leaves, a small bunch
peas, fresh in shells (about 400g / 15 ounces) and peeled, or frozen (170g / 6 ounces)
freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoons

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting) and brush the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil.

Cut the monkfish in half (lengthwise) and, using your hands, coat it in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

On a large chopping board, spread out half the prosciutto (overlapping slices). Arrange a layer of ramp leaves on top (laying across the prosciutto), then lay one half of the monkfish on top (see 5th picture). Roll and wrap the fish tightly and transfer to the oiled baking dish. Prepare the second fillet the same way and lay next to the first fish wrap. Brush the prosciutto with olive oil and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the fish is tender.

While the fish is baking, prepare the peas: Cut 12 ramps leaves into thin strips, set aside. Cook the peas in plenty of salted boiling water for 1 minute or until al dente. Drain and briefly rinse with cold water. In a small saucepan, heat a splash of olive over high heat, add half the chopped ramps, and take the pan off the heat. Stir in the peas and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

When the fish is done, using a sharp kitchen knife, cut the fillets into thick slices and divide between 2 plates. Serve with the peas sprinkled with the remaining chopped ramps, crunchy baguette, and chilled white wine.

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

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