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Feta and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

My latest discovery of a barley recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s stunning Jerusalem cookbook was a life changing event in my kitchen. I finally like barley!

For years my mother has been trying to convince me of the little grain’s qualities – unsuccessfully. I’m not a huge fan of orzotto or risotto, I can enjoy both of them for lunch but I wouldn’t call them a great source of inspiration. But then, as I thumbed through the pages of Jerusalem, page number 81 caught my attention: Parsley & Barley Salad. The title doesn’t mention the ingredient that changed everything for me, feta. The two London chefs marinate the cheese in spiced oil before they finish off their composition with barley, lots and lots of parsley, and spring onions. They also add cashews but I skipped them, I’m not too fond of nuts in my cooking.

So what happens is that, when I really like a recipe, my mind starts spinning looking for variations. First I added much more barley than mentioned in the recipe to turn it into a richer meal befitting these cold winter evenings. Then I stirred in raw, thinly sliced fennel, blood orange juice, mint, and honey-caramelized kumquats (an inspiration from last year’s celeriac salad). Ottolenghi and Tamimi use za’tar for their spice oil, which I replaced with ground cardamom and fennel seeds. Crushed coriander seeds and allspice berries are taken from their recipe and add a warming touch to it.

You’ll end up with quite a vibrant dish that can be eaten cold, as a salad, or slightly warm, as a main or side dish. Although the spiced oil, salty cheese, and sour kumquats are quite prominent, the nutty barley and crunchy fennel aren’t shy here either. What’s great about it, is that you can play with it, add and change spices, fruits, and vegetables according to your mood and the season. Just stick to barley and marinated feta, that’s the secret.

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

Feta and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

Serves 3-4

pearl barley 100g / 1/2 cup
olive oil 5 tablespoons, plus a splash
coriander seeds, ground in a mortar, 3/4 teaspoon
allspice berries, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
fennel seeds, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon
ground cardamom 1/4 teaspoon
feta, cut into cubes, 150g / 5 ounces
medium fennel bulb, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced, 1
freshly squeezed blood orange juice 4 tablespoons
fine sea salt
ground pepper
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

For the caramelized kumquats

honey 2 tablespoons
kumquats, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed, 12
(or 12 orange fillets, peeled)
freshly squeezed orange juice 4 tablespoons

Cook the barley in salted water until al dente, drain in a colander, and rinse briefly with water.

In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil, coriander, allspice, fennel seeds, cumin, and cardamom. Add the feta and mix gently until the cheese is coated with oil and spices, set aside.

For the caramelized kumquats, in a small, heavy pan, heat the honey over high heat until liquid and bubbling. Add the kumquats and orange juice and cook for about 2 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom, turn and cook for another 1 1/2 – 2 minutes or until soft and caramelized; mind that they don’t become too dark.

Transfer the barley, sliced fennel, orange juice, and feta with the spiced oil to a large bowl and stir gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir in a little more olive oil if it’s too dry. Sprinkle with mint and arrange the kumquats on top. Enjoy warm or cold.

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

16 Recipes for Winter Salads

Celeriac Kumquat Salad

Despite the grey skies and frosty temperatures that come along with Berlin’s long lasting winter, I’ve been in the mood for salads surprisingly often this January. Cozy soups, stewy and rich, would have been more obvious, but no, my appetite longs for winter salads. Celeriac, cabbage, beans, roots, and potatoes inspire my cooking and satisfy my longings for fresh vegetables. And thanks to the addition of citrus fruits, fresh coconut, or turmeric root I never get bored. If you feel the same, take a look at these scrumptious compositions collected on Eat In My Kitchen over the past 3 years (click the titles for the recipes):

Celeriac Salad with Cardamom-Yoghurt, Caramelized Honey Kumquats, and Walnuts

Celeriac Kumquat Salad

 

Blood Orange, Olive, and Red Onion Salad with Rucola

Blood Orange Olive Rucola Salad

 

Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Turmeric and Mint

Bean Pea Kumquat Salad

 

Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil, and Prawns

Potatoes Hummus Prawns

 

Beetroot Carpaccio with fresh Coconut and Coriander

Beet Root Coconut Carpaccio

 

Mediterranean Octopus, Fennel and Orange Salad

Octopus Fennel Orange Salad

 

Beans and Peas with Tahini Lemon Mayonnaise

Bean Pea Tahini Mayonnaise

 

Orange and Fennel Couscous with Orange Blossom Water and Mint

Orange and Fennel Couscous

 

Belgian Endive and Radicchio Salad with Persimmons

Radicchio Endive Persimmon Salad

 

Mozzarella di Bufala, Rucola, Orange, and Chervil Salad

Orange Mozzarella Rucola Salad

 

A Salad with Winter Purslane, Sautéed Mushrooms, and Nasturtium Flowers

Winter Purslane, Mushroom and Flowers

 

Belgian Endive, Pomegranate, and Orange Salad with fresh Turmeric

Endive Pomegranate Turmeric

 

Green Beans, Pear and Walnut Salad with Bacon 

Bean, Pear and Bacon Salad

 

La Ratte Potatoes with Roast Lemon Peel, Olives and Parsley

Potato and Lemon Peel Salad

 

and from my book:

Radicchio, Peach, and Roasted Shallot Salad with Blue Cheese (you can replace the peach with ripe persimmon or pear)

Radicchio Peach Shallots

 

Bavarian Cabbage Salad with Crispy Bacon

(I’m sorry, there’s no picture to share, the quality is too bad. It was one of my early blog recipes …)

Enjoy!

Celeriac Kumquat Salad

meet in your kitchen | The Temples of Agrigento and Sicilian Caponata

villaathenasicily1_dd

We went to Sicily and it was heavenly – as always in Sicily. But what makes this place so special? Is it the magical light, the outstanding food, the heart warming people? Was it the endless Scala dei Turchi beach, or the breathtaking temples of Juno and Concordia that happened to be right in front of our hotel room? Why did it feel like being close to the Gods when we stayed at the stunning Hotel Villa Athena in the lush, green valley of Agrigento?

Our hotel was luxurious and in a more than fortunate position. The old villa once owned by a noble principessa in the 18th century, is situated in the fascinating Archeological Park and Unesco World Heritage Vale dei Templi. Thanks to the efforts of archaeologist Domenico Antonio Lo Faso Pietrasanta, the Duke of Serradifalco, we can admire the stunning remains of Akragas, one of the most important Greek colonies in Sicily. Founded in 581 BC, this ancient city was spread over 1300 hectares laying graciously on top of two soft hills. Today many traces of its history and rich culture are still present, most spectacularly in the form of a group of temples dating back to the 5th century BC. Best preserved are the Temple of Concordia, the Doric style building is in a surprisingly good state thanks to its transformation into a Christian Basilica in the 6th century AC, and Juno. And this temple literally took my breath away. The Temple of Juno is magical, the atmosphere, the light, the setting, it’s mesmerizing. I couldn’t take my eyes off its sturdy columns, glowing golden in the afternoon sun. The light seemed unreal, dimmed and dramatic. You can see it in the first picture, it looks like a painting, but it’s a photograph.

Villa Athena Sicily

I came to Agrigento to cook together with Hotel Villa Athena‘s renowned chef Salvatore Gambuzzo. Thanks to his verve and dedication, the hotel’s restaurant, La Terrazza Degli Dei, is mentioned in the Michelin guide and the first star doesn’t seem too far away. Salvatore is deeply connected with Sicily and the region of Agrigento, he was born just a few hills away from his restaurant, in Porto Empedocle. He loves his island, he adores its original produce and culinary traditions. Salvatore is a true Sicilian at heart. Inspired by his nonno Giuseppe, a fisherman, and his mamma Giuseppina, he always felt passionate about his home island’s food. Becoming a chef was a wise choice made at the young age of 14. Working in Piemonte and Monte Carlo, and then later, becoming the executive chef of the prestigious Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea in Taormina, made him gather fruitful experiences. But it also made him realize how close he feels to the soil where he was born, so he moved back and joined the team at Villa Athena.

Salvatore loves experimenting with new recipes, using the freshest fish from the sea right in front of his door step and the meat from the butchers who he’s known for years. In the warmer months of the year he can pick the fruits and vegetables right from the villa’s garden, he has absolute control over the produce and products that he uses in his kitchen. Local or regional, mainly organic, and in accordance with the island’s inspiring culinary traditions. He feels the duty to protect his culture and pass it on to future generations. As the president of the Associazione Cuochi Agrigento he’s an ambassador for his country’s regional treasures. We need people like Salvatore to keep our traditions and food culture alive, all over the world.

The chef also has another, quite impressive passion: Savatore falls for food art and creates spectacular sculptures made of potatoes (and other food) preserved with salt and turned into rock-hard everlasting pieces of art. It’s unbelievable, he manages to make potatoes look like marble! With pride in his voice, he told me that he brought home eight gold medals from world wide competitions. The preparation takes weeks, but when you hear him talk about it – especially in Italian – it sounds like he’s talking about a woman.

It was relatively warm and the Sicilian sun was still strong during our stay just a few days before Christmas. The branches of the citrus trees in the beautiful gardens were lusciously filled with plump lemons, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit. And as Salvatore showed me his own ‘little‘ garden, I couldn’t help but feel envious. Bushes of mint, rosemary, green and violet sage, marjoram, oregano, various kinds of thyme (including thymo alpino), borage, sorrel, basil – it’s an orchestra of flavours, always at hand to refine (almost) every creation that leaves his kitchen.

Villa Athena Sicily

We enjoyed three dinners and two lunches prepared by Salvatore and his team, all of which were rich in aromas and creative in style, never forced or pretentious, and most importantly always heavenly delicious. The chef shows great respect for nature’s creations in his recipes, he works with nature’s gifts, but never tries to distract from their original taste and quality. The first dish on my plate was Sicilian Caponata, one of the best I have ever had the pleasure to dig my fork into. It was fruity, sweet, and juicy, so thick and chunky that it stood on the plate like a dome. Caponata is a Mediterranean classic, zucchini, eggplant, and pepper, tomatoes and vinegar, it’s a simple dish, but this one was so good that I asked Salvatore to share the recipe with me so that I could share it with you. The addition of celery is great and the topping of sugary-sweet dehydrated date tomatoes makes it irresistible. My humble chef was so kind to also share the trick that turns the tomatoes into little addictive bites (see the recipes below).

To give you a little idea of our unashamed feasting, these are some of the dishes we had on our plates:

Insalata di Mare (so simple, divine, I had to eat it twice!), Herb Risotto with Prawns, Spaghetti in Salsa di Cozze e Vongole, Sicilian Cannoli (of course), Mackerel with Citrus and Clams, Taglierini Pasta with Lobster, Belgian Endive and Sheep Ricotta, Spinach Dumplings with Rosemary Squid Ragout, Sicilian Stuffed Red Mullet, Bean Soup with Gragnano Pasta, Lamp Chops in Honey with Sweet and Sour Pumpkin, Sweet Variations of Prickly Pear, Swordfish alla Messinese, Panelle (golden fried Sicilian chickpea fritters)…

And the wine! I must say I’m quite lucky – most of the time – when it comes to picking local treasures from the wine menu, even without guidance. But this time I knew we were in good hands, sommelier and maître d’ Salvatore Di Carlo took great care of us and introduced us to one of his favourites, the fantastic Planeta Chardonnay from the territory of Menfi close to Agrigento. We fell in love with this golden, lush wine, so much so that we had to order it again on our last night. And once in a while Salvatore Di Carlo would stop by at our table, just to smell the aroma, and he’d smile. Our red favourite was the dark Baglio del Cristo di Campobello Lusirà Syrah, also a precious local find.

I’m a huge fan of good bread, I call it my favourite food for a reason, so despite all the culinary highlights that caressed my taste buds, I’ll never forget the bread served at the villa at lunch and dinner time. Still warm and cut into thick slices, generously sprinkled with the villa’s own olive oil, accompanied by a glass of Prosecco and a good chat with our Salvatores – it couldn’t get any better. The bread is made of the indigenous Russello durum wheat semolina. This Sicilian grain is dark, golden, and almost red in colour, like the soil around Agrigento. The baked loaf has a beautiful crust, a light crumb, and its nutritious value is much higher than that of wheat. For a sweeter version, we spread it – thicker than necessary – with the hotel’s scrumptious pistachio paste, one bite and you’ll never ask for chocolate spread at the breakfast table again. I want to work on a recipe to share with you, one of my 2017 kitchen projects.

Villa Athena Sicily

We met so many lovely Salvatores at Villa Athena, which is not a surprise, as we learnt it’s one of Sicily’s favourite names. If you go there, it’s most likely that this will be the first name you either hear or see engraved in the rocks on a beach (it happened to us). All our beloved Salvatores, be it the chef, the sommelier, or the kind and caring waiters, they were all the reason that we left the villa in sadness – we didn’t want our paths to separate. We laughed so much together, they all did everything possible to make us feel fantastic. We can’t thank you enough for giving us an insight into your culture and cuisine, for making this wonderful stay at your hotel unforgettable, and for spoiling us so much. Thank you Salavatore (s), Roberto, and Claudia!

Hotel Villa Athena is a member of the group of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, it’s the right place to treat yourself under the Mediterranean sun for a couple nights. I find that the colder time of the year is best to enjoy the hotel’s extravagant comfort and amenities, it’s all quiet and peaceful in the low season. Even the Vale dei Templi was all for us, we were almost the only visitors, however, the hotel offers an exclusive entrance to the Archeological Park, which means you can skip the long line of tourists even in the summer months.

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

Salvatore Gambuzza’s Sicilian Caponata

Serves 10

eggplants 10
vegetable oil, for cooking the eggplants
celery 800g / 1 3/4 pounds
olive oil
onion, cut in half and sliced, 1.1 kg / 2 1/2 pounds
green olives, pitted and chopped, 300g / 2/3 pounds
capers, rinsed and drained, 200g / 7 ounces
fresh tomato sauce 1.2kg / 2 2/3 pounds
tomato paste 200g / 7 ounces
salt and pepper
vinegar 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
granulated sugar 180g/ 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons

Rinse the eggplants and remove the stems and the ends. Peel the eggplants (optional), cut off the skin as thinly as possible. Cut the eggplants into large cubes and cook them in a generous amount of hot vegetable oil until golden and soft. Transfer to kitchen paper to remove excess oil and set aside.

Trim the celery and remove all the leaves and discard them. Cut the celery into small pieces and blanch in salted water until tender.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large, heavy pan and cook the onions until golden and soft. Add the celery, olives, and capers, cook for a few minutes, then add the tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat. When it’s all soft and thick, add the eggplant to the sauce and simmer until soft and mushy.

In a medium saucepan, add the sugar and vinegar and let the sugar dissolve over medium heat, then pour the vinegar over the caponata. Let it simmer until the mixture is thick.

This dish is best eaten cold, topped with candied cherry tomatoes:

Candied Cherry Tomates

(for the topping)

cherry tomates 20
fresh marjoram 5g / 1/4 ounce
fresh thyme 5g / 1/4 ounce
fresh oregano 5g / 1/4 ounce
icing sugar 200g / 2 cups

Preheat the oven to 100°C / 200°F.

Fill a large bowl with cold water and a handful of ice cubes.

In a saucepan, bring water to the boil, add the tomatoes, and immediately transfer them to the bowl with the ice water. Using your fingers, remove the skin, then cut the tops off and discard.

Spread the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients in a large baking dish, mix well, and dehydrate in the oven for 2 hours until the tomatoes are soft and a little shriveled.

Once cool, keep the tomatoes in a jar filled to the top with olive oil.

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

 

Villa Athena Sicily

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken, Red Coleslaw & Bacon

Sponsored by Volkswagen.

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

We drove down the winding road to the Grand Harbour in Valletta and stopped our cars in front of an old garage. The wooden door must have seen many storms, the green paint faded and the hinges rusted, it’s the salt in the air that takes over whatever it gets hold of. Our friends Michelle and Michelangelo came down to the harbour in the cutest Volkswagen beetle the world has ever seen – in baby blue (Michelangelo would correct me and say it’s Diamond Blue). Built in 1968, the car only changed owner once, when our friends bought it in 2010 from an elderly lady from the village of Qormi. It was in mint condition despite its 110,000 original kilometres. The previous owner’s name was Teresa and she became the eponym of our friend’s little love bug, since then, the beetle is affectionately called Terez.

Terez – and her original 1300cc single port engine, a fact that Michelangelo points out with pride in his voice – has seen a lot since she found her new owner: four overland trips, the latest being our friend’s honeymoon trip last summer. The three of them (including Terez) attended the Le Bug Show 2016 in Spa and crossed half of Europe to get there. Malta, Sicily, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Germany added 5,400 kilometres to the tachometer and seemed to have made the bond between the car and its owners even stronger.

Every car needs a check up once in a while, especially when it’s nearly 50 years old, and to make it a little more fun, I joined my friends and brought some food and my camera. While Michelangelo laid hands on the tires, I kept mine busy preparing sandwiches for all of us. It’s the peak of winter, a time of year when I usually have to confront Berlin’s seemingly endless, yawning grey sky for weeks and months, but here in Malta I’m spoilt with sunshine and vibrant colours. This inspired me to come up with a snack as fresh and bright as the Mediterranean world around me. It’s a chicken sandwich, the meat tender and thinly sliced, with purple coleslaw and orange wedges, sparkling pomegranate seeds (some of which I turned into a sticky syrup), crunchy bacon bites, and pungent green onions. The composition is rather difficult to eat, but trust me, the pleasure that you’ll feel when you taste it, is absolutely worth it. And the solution is simple, just squeeze it until the sticky juices run out of the sandwich and soak the soft bread – it’s a heavenly mess.

Thank you Michelle, Michelangelo, and Terez for a wonderful morning in Valletta!

For more delicious recipes and kitchen inspiration, visit Volkswagen’s Pinterest community board Food Bloggers for Volkswagen.

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken, Red Coleslaw, Orange and Bacon

Makes 6 sandwiches

For the coleslaw

cored red cabbage, cut into thin strips, about 230g / 1/2 pound
fine sea salt
yoghurt 5-6 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice
ground pepper

For the pomegranate syrup

pomegranate juice 180ml / 3/4 cup
granulated sugar 4 1/2 tablespoons

For the sandwich

olive oil
chicken breast 400g / 14 ounces
fine sea salt
ground pepper
bacon 6 slices
lettuce leaves 6
white buns (or ciabatta cut into buns), cut in half, 6
oranges, peeled and cut into filets, 1-2
the seeds of 1 pomegranate
green onions, the green part cut into thin slices, 1
freshly grated orange zest, about 1 tablespoon

For the coleslaw, in a large bowl, mix the cabbage and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and, using your fingers, rub the salt into the cabbage. Let it sit for about 15-20 minutes. Add the yoghurt and orange juice, mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F.

For the pomegranate syrup, in a saucepan, bring the pomegranate juice and the sugar to the boil and cook over medium-high heat (it should bubble) for about 7 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Set the syrup aside.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat and cook the chicken breast for a couple minutes on each side until golden, you might have to reduce the heat to medium-high. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer the chicken to a baking dish. Roast in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Check with a skewer, only clear juices should come out. Let the chicken rest in aluminium foil for about 5 minutes. Cut the chicken into slices (about 18 slices for 6 sandwiches).

In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the bacon for a few minutes on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towels, let it cool for a few minutes, then break the bacon into pieces.

Divide the lettuce leaves between the bottoms of the buns and arrange the chicken on top, drizzle with a little of the pomegranate syrup. Spread a heaping tablespoon of coleslaw, 2-3 orange filets, and some pomegranate seeds on top of the chicken. Sprinkle with the sliced green onion, bacon bites, and orange zest, and drizzle with additional pomegranate syrup. Close the bun, squeeze, and enjoy!

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon-2

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

chickenpomegranatecabbagesandwich9

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

I love to end the year with a plate full of spaghetti. It gives me the kind of comfort that pasta masters to perfection. Its beauty and magic lies in simplicity – and in many happy carbs. This year’s combination is tangy, a bit creamy, and nutty –  it makes me feel good and that’s all I need. So here’s my Mediterranean creation to celebrate the changeover from 2016 to 2017: spaghetti with lemon pistachio pesto and mozzarella di Bufala.

In the past 12 months of this turbulent year I felt my limits quite often and I flew higher than I thought I could ever fly without burning my wings. I saw my first cookbook being born, being celebrated during my book tour in Berlin, London, Malta, New York, and Washington. I saw the Eat In My Kitchen book reaching the New York Times’ list of ‘The Best Cookbooks of Fall 2016’, which I still can’t really believe. So much love and support came into my life, so much happiness has been spread through this book that feels like a baby to me. There were unbelievable highs, so many wonderful moments, moments that I will feel thankful for for the rest of my life. But there were also lows and losses that tore trenches into my heart that will hurt for the rest of my life. I lost a person who’s been so close to me that I sometimes can’t even say who’s me and who’s him. He was my mentor, my supporter, my biggest critic, my challenger. He was my friend, my most beloved Swabian, and my step father. I wouldn’t be who I am without him, and I’ll never again be who I was before he left this world. Eat In My Kitchen wouldn’t be what it is without him.

I want to thank all of you for supporting me and my book, for being there and for coming back to these pages here on the blog. Eat In My Kitchen makes me grow every day, this blog makes me go back to my kitchen and experiment more than I would do if I didn’t write about it. Thank you for being on this journey together with me.

Have a peaceful and joyful start into the New Year!

Meike

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

Serves 2

dried spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
olive oil
mozzarella di Bufala, torn into bite sized pieces, 125g / 4 1/2 ounces
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

For the pesto

freshly grated lemon zest 4 tablespoons, plus more for the topping
freshly grated young Parmesan 4 tablespoons, plus more for the topping
finely chopped shelled pistachios (unsalted) about 1 tablespoon, plus more (roughly chopped) for the topping
olive oil 3 tablespoons
fine sea salt

In a large pot filled with salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and stir in a little splash of olive oil.

For the pesto, in a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, Parmesan, pistachios, and olive oil and use the back of a spoon to press the Parmesan into the oil until well combined. Season to taste with salt.

Divide the spaghetti and mozzarella di Bufala between plates. Sprinkle with pesto, additional lemon zest, Parmesan, and pistachios. Season to taste with flaky sea salt and crushed peppercorns, serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

pastalemonpistaSpaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufalachiopesto6

Fillet of Beef, Walnut Butter and Beetroot and scrumptious menus for Christmas

Beef Filet, Walnut Butter and Beetroot for Christmas

There are many ways to celebrate the holidays and a lavish feast is my way of creating a festive culinary frame when the Christmas bells start ringing. To fill the bowls and platters with roast and gravy, stuffed duck or goose, dumplings and various cabbage dishes may take some time, but these hours spent in the kitchen are so precious to me, that I gladly dedicate a few days to the preparation of some of the most unforgettable meals of the year.

But I’m honest, this year is different, this year used up my batteries. As much as I enjoy every second of shopping for the ingredients for any meal, cooking, baking, and waiting for my creations to be done, I know when I have to slow down. Even if it’s Christmas. A meal isn’t special just because of the money that’s spent on it, or the time put into its preparation. A meal is special when it sparks a firework in the mouth; when we enjoy smelling it, looking at it, and tasting it so much, that we almost feel like children again. Memories and traditions turn a meal into something greater that sets it apart from our everyday foods. The cookies baked on December’s snowy weekends using trusted family recipes are different to the sweets that we stir up during the rest of the year. The beloved duck served on Christmas Eve tastes better when the room is lit up with countless candles and the smell of fir is heavily hanging in the air. I love my traditions and I hold them dearly, but Christmas 2016 calls for a break: lots of time for myself and my loved ones, no plans, no duties, just the pleasure of a little laziness at the end of the year. Cooking is fun and it should always reflect the mood that we’re in, and now, I’m going to be as slow as a sloth.

Last week, I kind of unfurled my Christmas menu from the end, starting with the dessert as I shared my Crème Brûlée Tangerine Cheesecake in a Jar. It’s a dish that can easily be prepared a day or two in advance, meaning more time on the sofa, unwrapping presents, eating cookies, and listening to Christmas carols. My main dish doesn’t need elaborate preparations either, it’s a rather minimal composition of honest, pure flavours. The most tender fillet of beef topped with a slice of walnut mustard butter, served along with sweet and earthy beetroot cubes. The red root is cooked al dente, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with Mr. Cini’s flaky sea salt from Gozo. Sometimes, simplicity tastes best.

To finish my Christmas menu, I should share a starter with you next week, but I will allow myself to take a few days off and stay offline. As I don’t want to leave you and your guests hungry, I have a few recipe suggestions for you from the blog and from my cookbook, not just for starters.

I wish you a peaceful Christmas! Enjoy this precious time with the ones you love!

Meike xx

Here’s some more inspiration for your Christmas menu:

Starter

________________________

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup with Caramelized Plums and Whipped Gorgonzola Mascarpone (Eat In My Kitchen book, page 75)

Sicilian Blood Orange, Olive and Red Onion Salad

Celeriac Salad with Caramelized Honey Kumquats and Walnuts

Sautéed Belgian Endive wrapped in Prosciutto

Chickpea Potato Soup with Rucola Pesto, Lemon and Fried Chickpeas

Artichoke Ricotta and Orange Ravioli (this dish is time consuming, but can be prepared in advance and then frozen)

Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil and Prawns

Herbed Polenta with Parsnip Chips and Maple Butter

Saffron and Mussel Tomato Soup

Mediterranean Octopus with Fennel and Orange

Main dish

________________________

Slow Roasted Duck with Ginger, Honey and Orange (Eat In My Kitchen book, page 171)

Beef Shank and Caponata Stew (Eat In My Kitchen book, page 169)

Salt Baked Salmon Fillet with Dill, Black Pepper and Juniper

Duck Confit with Roast Potatoes, Chestnuts, Plums and Star Anise

Thyme and Lemon Ricotta Stuffed Pork Roll

Lamb Chops with Orange-Herb Crust

Seared Tuna with Ginger, Lemon, Butter Beans and Onions

My Granny’s Beef Rolls with Potato Dumplings

Vegetarian main dish

________________________

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Roquefort Sauce (Eat In My Kitchen book, page 100)

Potato and Apple Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Walnut Butter and Gruyère

Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter

Pumpkin Crespelle with Ricotta and Sage

Orange and Fennel Couscous

Spinach Gnocchi with Creamy Mushrooms

Dessert

________________________

Bittersweet Chocolate-Olive Oil Bundt Cake with Candied Orange Peel (Eat In My Kitchen book, page 221)

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart with Rosewater

Provençal Pine Nut, Date and Honey Tart

Crêpes Suzette

Apple Strudel

Maltese Ricotta Pie with Lemon Syrup and Pistachios

Cherry Chocolate Tart with Cardamom Whipped Cream

Marina’s Lemon Marmalade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

Tiramisu

Lemon Meringue Pie

Austrian Crème Malakoff

Beef Filet, Walnut Butter and Beetroot for Christmas

Fillet of Beef, Walnut Butter and Beetroot

Serves 4

fillets of beef, trimmed, 4 (each about 140g / 5 ounces and 4-5cm /1 1/2-2″ thick)
olive oil
unsalted butter 2 tablespoons
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

For the walnut butter

shelled walnuts 50g / 2 ounces
butter, at room temperature, 50g / 2 ounces
Dijon mustard, about 1 teaspoon
fine sea salt

For the beetroot

large beetroots with skin 2
bayleaves 2
flaky sea salt
olive oil
shelled walnuts, broken into pieces, a large handful

Take the meat out of the fridge, rinse and pat it dry, and let it come to room temperature.

For the walnut butter, finely grind the walnuts in a blender or food processor, add the butter, mustard, and a little salt, and pulse until combined. Adjust the seasoning. Scrape the butter onto a piece of cling film, roll into a thick sausage shape, and keep in the fridge (or in the freezer for just a few minutes until hard).

For the beetroot, bring a large pot with salted water to the boil and add the bay leaves and beetroot. Close with a lid and let it simmer for about 50 minutes or until the roots are al dente or tender, depending on your preference. Rinse with cold water, peel, and cut into cubes.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil over high heat and sear the fillets for 1 minute on each side. Take the pan off the heat, lower the heat to medium, and add the butter to the pan. Put the pan back on the heat and cook the fillets for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side (for ‘medium rare’), spoon some of the butter over the meat a couple times. Season the fillets with flaky sea salt and crushed pepper, wrap in aluminium foil, and let them rest for 2 minutes. Set the pan with the juices aside.

Divide the beetroot cubes between the plates, drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with walnuts and flaky sea salt. Cut the walnut butter into thick slices. Transfer 1 fillet of beef to each plate and lay a slice of walnut butter on top. Drizzle with the juices from the pan used to cook the meat, serve immediately.

Merry Christmas!

Beef Filet, Walnut Butter and Beetroot for Christmas

 

Beef Filet, Walnut Butter and Beetroot for Christmas

 

Beef Filet, Walnut Butter and Beetroot for Christmas

 

Beef Filet, Walnut Butter and Beetroot for Christmas

 

Beef Filet, Walnut Butter and Beetroot for Christmas

 

Beef Filet, Walnut Butter and Beetroot for Christmas

 

Beef Filet, Walnut Butter and Beetroot for Christmas

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

If you decide to make your own homemade pasta, be prepared that you’ll never be able to eat store bought pasta again (you’ll feel less satisfied with it at the very least) – and that you won’t feel your arms and abs for a couple days. To knead the dough by hand is necessary and labor-intensive. I had moments when I felt slight doubts about whether the crumbly mixture in front of me would ever turn into a smooth ball, but it worked. I needed all my patience and muscle power to get there, but the result tasted so good that I’d do it all over again (after my muscles got some rest).

My pasta project started last Friday and ended on Saturday afternoon. I first tried a recipe by Sicilian chef Dario Cammarata who only uses plain flour, durum wheat semolina, salt, egg yolks, and olive oil. The result tasted amazing, but getting there was so much harder than what I remembered from when I visited the chef in his kitchen in Frankfurt earlier this year. What seemed so easy in Darios’s hands, didn’t want to work as smoothly in my own.

Dario taught me that ravioli are best when they are made with egg yolks and not whole eggs. I have no doubt that this is true, the texture is light and perfectly al dente. But to knead my own dough made of 10 egg yolks, flour, and semolina almost made me cry. The mixture was so hard and fragile, I needed an alternative that was less stressful. I still used my egg yolk dough to make a few ravioli, which were perfect, and I made tagliatelle. And these were the best tagliatelle of my life – taste, texture, and thickness were spot on!

Early the next morning I went back to my kitchen. More eggs in the bowl (this time including the egg whites), with a fresh and open mind and a quenchless appetite for fresh pasta, I felt optimistic. Kneading the dough still required some serious muscle power (maybe it’s just me, my arms are not the strongest), but it was manageable. And this time I totally enjoyed pulling the thin layers of fresh pasta through my KitchenAid pasta attachment. I needed about two test sheets, but then I was in business. They were so thin that I could see my hand through them.

For my first homemade ravioli, I chose a filling that still allowed me to enjoy the fine taste of the egg pasta. After all this work it didn’t feel right to knock it out. The combination of preserved artichokes and fresh ricotta refined with a little orange zest was just right, present, but not overpowering. I served it with melted butter and golden artichoke hearts, briefly seared in the sizzling fat. A little crushed pepper and some more orange zest, and my work was done.

My KitchenAid has three pasta attachments and I’m particularly fond of the tagliatelle cutter. Once I was done with the ravioli, all the shorter pieces and leftover dough went through this attachment and they were perfectly cut into the thinest, tastiest pasta. Cook it al dente and add a knob of butter, freshly grated aromatic hard cheese, and black pepper, and you’ll have the best meal ever. Buon appetito!

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

Homemade ravioli are time and labour-intensive. They are a great starter or main dish for a dinner party, but I recommend preparing them a day in advance to keep it stress free. Freeze them (uncooked) and cook them in boiling salted water just before serving for 4 minutes. I recommend using a pasta machine for this recipe.

Makes 20-24 ravioli / serves 2-4

For the pasta dough

plain flour 150g / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
durum wheat semolina 150g / 5 1/4 ounces
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
large organic eggs 3 plus 1 egg yolk
olive oil 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
water, cold, 1 tablespoon

For the filling

preserved artichoke hearts, drained and squeezed, 160g / 6 ounces
fresh ricotta 125 g/ 4 1/2 ounces
olive oil 1 tablespoon
freshly grated Parmesan 25g / 1 ounce
a pinch of freshly grated orange zest
fine sea salt
ground pepper

For serving

butter 4 tablespoons
preserved artichoke hearts, drained and cut into 6 pieces each, 2
Parmesan
black peppercorns, crushed
a little orange zest

For the pasta dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough attachment, combine the flour, semolina, and salt. Add the eggs, egg yolk, and olive oil and knead for about 5 minutes (I set it on ‘4’ on my KitchenAid). If it’s too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water, but not more. If it’s too sticky, add a little semolina and flour. On the counter top or on a stable table, using your hands, continue kneading the dough for about 15 minutes until smooth. It will still be firm. I find it easiest to leave it in the shape of a thick disc for the first 5-7 minutes, punching and kneading it, and scraping the crumbs together. Then I knead it and roll it into a ball (see pictures below). Form a ball, wrap it in cling film, and let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

For the filling, purée the artichoke hearts, add to a bowl along with the ricotta, olive oil, Parmesan, orange zest, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth and adjust seasoning.

Divide the dough into 4-8 portions (depending on the width and power of your pasta machine). Roll out 1 portion with a rolling pin until it’s thin enough to fit into your pasta machine. I started using position ‘1’ on my pasta attachment, using the speed setting ‘2’. Pull the dough through the pasta machine twice, fold it in the middle, flatten it a little with the rolling pin if necessary, turn it 90°, and pull it through the pasta machine. Continue 2-3 times. Change to a thinner setting (I used ‘3’) and pull the dough through the machine about 3 times, without folding it. Using a knife, straighten the sides of your pasta sheet and cut off excess dough. Continue using the thinner settings of your pasta machine until you can see your hand through the dough (I used ‘5’ and then ‘6’ at the end). If the dough is too sticky, use semolina, but no flour.

Sprinkle the rolled out pasta layer with semolina, fold it gently, and cover with cling film. Continue rolling the remaining dough.

Sprinkle a large baking sheet with semolina. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to the boil.

Lay out a layer of pasta and mark it with circles, using a 7cm / 3″ round cutter (or whatever size and shape you prefer). Add a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each marked circle. Dip your finger in water and wet the rim of the circles. From a second sheet of pasta, cut out circles of the same size, lay on top of the filling, and using your finger, push around the rim (see picture above). Using the cookie cutter, cut out the ravioli and press a little fork all around to seal the rim (see picture below). Transfer the ravioli to the prepared baking sheet.

In batches, cook the ravioli in the simmering water for about 2-3 minutes or until al dente.

To serve the ravioli, in a saucepan, heat the butter over high heat until golden brown, add the artichoke hearts, turn gently, and sauté for 1 minute.

Serve the ravioli sprinkled with the butter, Parmesan, orange zest (optional), and crushed pepper and lay the sautéed artichokes on top.

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

artichokeorangeravioli12

 

artichokeorangeravioli11

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

7 Meat & Roast recipes to indulge in on Thanksgiving

porkrollricotta2

A meal at a festive table, in the dimmed light of flickering candles, all our loved ones around us, is always a gift, it’s a feast of love and sharing. These are very precious memories of our lives, we’ll never forget the food we smelled and tasted, the grateful happiness in the eyes of our family and friends, the room filled with music and laughter.

Let’s talk about meat and roast recipes to make our Thanksgiving table complete and accompany my 10 pumpkin recipes that I shared with you a couple days ago. I love my juicy Roast Rosemary Lamb or the tender Thyme and Lemon Ricotta stuffed Pork Roll. You can also find a recipe for a delicious German pork roast with crackling in my cookbook, on page 163. Slow roasted duck, preferably cooked together with fruit, will always find a special place in my heart, the meat is so tasty and tender, the skin crisp, it’s definitely one of my favourites for a special feast at the table.

Besides the classic roasts, there are other scrumptious recipes that I could indulge in with the greatest pleasure, also on Thanksgiving: Coq au Vin, tiny Lamb Chops with Orange and Herb Crust, or Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Butter Beans.

(Click on the titles to get to my recipes)

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes:

Roast Rosemary Lamb

 

Thyme and Lemon Ricotta stuffed Pork Roll:

porkrollricotta1

 

Slow roasted Duck a l’Orange with Lingonberry Port Gravy:

slowroastedduckalorange1

 

Coq au Vin:

Coq au Vin

 

Roast Chicken with spiced Peaches:

(you can replace the peaches with plums)

Peach Chicken

 

Lamb Chops with Orange Herb Crust:

Orange Lamb Chops

 

Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Butter Beans and Mint:

spicechickenbeansmint1

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