eat in my kitchen

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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

21 recipes for Christmas Cookies

Rosemary & Lemon Heidesand Cookies

There are few things as relaxing as baking Christmas cookies during the busy days of December. Mixing and kneading pounds of dough while the air in the kitchen is soaked in fragrant sweetness is the best anti-stress remedy. Cinnamon, cloves, citrus fruits, and cardamom, chocolate, almonds and hazelnuts, you don’t need many ingredients to give a cookie an extra christmassy touch.

We still have 10 days to go – for the German Christmas on the 24th December, and 11 days for the English and Maltese Christmas. So we have enough time to throw a few more trays of delicious cookies in the oven, to fill the jars, and make our hips happy. Here’s some more inspiration from the last three years of Christmas cookie feasting on Eat In My Kitchen. Happy baking!

Click on the titles for the recipes:

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Rosemary & Lemon Heidesand Cookies

 

Ginger Chili Double Chocolate Cookies

Ginger Chili Double Chocolate Cookies

 

Christmas Chocolate Panettone (let’s see it as a giant cookie)

Chocolate Panettone

 

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

 

Maltese Lemon Christmas Cookies

Maltese Lemon Cookies

 

German Elisenlebkuchen

Lebkuchen

 

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

 

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Cookies

Chocolate Spice Cookies

 

Claire Ptak’s Pecan Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

 

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

 

Linzer Cookies

Sandwich Cookies

 

German Chocolate Baumkuchen

Chocolate Baumkuchen

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

 

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

 

Maltese Essijiet Vermouth Cookies

Essijiet Cookies

 

Espresso Chocolate Biscotti

Espresso Chocolate Biscotti

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Dark Chocolate and Apricot Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate Cookies

 

Vanilla Kipferl

Vanilla Kipferl

 

Red Currant and Oat Cookies

Redcurrant and Oat Cookies

 

Buttery Blue Cheese Crackers

Buttery Blue Cheese Cookies

 

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Crème Brûlée Tangerine Cheesecake in a Jar for Christmas

Crème Brûlée Cheesecake

Eat In My Kitchen turned 3! So much has happened around me in the past few weeks that I forgot my blog’s birthday on the 23rd November.

I usually create a recipe for this special day – at least in the past 2 years – but now we’re all so busy contemplating lunch and dinner menus for December’s upcoming festivities, that I decided to skip the birthday bash and move straight on to Christmas. I came up with a dessert that’s delicious, gorgeous, and practical in equal measure, a crème brûlée cheesecake in a jar. Its shiny golden prettiness is the perfect finish for a festive table. You can easily bake the cake a day in advance and keep it in the fridge. Sprinkled with sugar, it only needs a few seconds under the hot flame of a blow torch before you and your guests can indulge in the sweeter things in life.

My cheesecake base is made with oat cookies (you can find a recipe for oat cookies in my book on page 234), the filling is a mixture of rich mascarpone and cream cheese refined with tangerine, cinnamon, and vanilla. You could also bake one big cake in a 20cm / 8″ springform pan, but it’s so much more fun to present these beautiful little jars to your friends and family.

Before you jump to the recipe, I’d like to ask you for two favours:

Food52‘s cookbook competition, the famous Piglet Tournament, is now open. You can nominate your favourite cookbook and I’d be jumping with joy if you consider giving your vote to the Eat In My Kitchen book. 2016 has brought many wonderful cookbooks to the shelves, but luckily you can vote for more than one book. You can find the form to nominate here, the deadline is the 30th December.

And here’s my second question:

It would be fantastic if you could also drop a review for my book on Amazon, here are the links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Germany

Thank you so much! Happy 3rd Advent!! xx

Crème Brûlée Cheesecake

Crème Brûlée Tangerine Cheesecake

You’ll need 10-12 maison glass jars or ramekins for this recipe.

Serves 10-12

For the base

oat cookies 210g / 7 1/2 ounces
unsalted butter, melted and cooled, 60 / 1/4 cup

For the filling

cream cheese, at room temperature 300g / 
11 ounces
mascarpone, at room temperature 250g / 9 ounces
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
vanilla pod, split and scraped, 1/2
3 large organic eggs 3
cornstarch 1 heaping teaspoon
freshly grated tangerine zest 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed tangerine juice 3 tablespoons
ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon

For the topping

granulated sugar
tangerine zest (optional)

For the base, crush the cookies in a food processor or blender until finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl, add the melted butter, and stir until well combined. Divide the cookie mixture between the glass jars or ramekins, using the bottom of a shot glass to press it firmly and evenly into the jars, especially along the edges. Freeze for 20 minutes.

Place a deep roasting pan, large enough to fit the glass jars comfortably, on the lowest rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 160°C / 325°F. Fill a kettle with water and bring to the boil.

For the filling, in a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar, vanilla seeds, eggs, cornstarch, tangerine zest, tangerine juice, cinnamon, and salt until well combined.

Pour the cheesecake batter on top of the chilled cookie base and transfer the jars to the roasting pan in the oven. Slowly pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes about one third to half way up the sides of the jars. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the filling is just set but still slightly wobbly in the center. Turn off the oven, leave the oven door slightly open, and let the cheesecake cool for about 5 minutes, then take the cheesecake out of the oven and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, the cheesecake can be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. Or, you can finish the crème brûlée topping right away for serving. (Don’t refrigerate the cheesecake when it’s still warm, or the base will turn soggy.)

For the topping, sprinkle a generous amount of sugar on top of the cheesecakes, about 1 teaspoon for each jar. Using a blow torch, burn the sugar until golden brown. Let it cool for a couple minutes until the burnt sugar is hard, sprinkle with tangerine zest, and serve immediately.

Crème Brûlée Cheesecake

 

Crème Brûlée Cheesecake-2

 

Crème Brûlée Cheesecake

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

Post sponsored by Volkswagen.

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

I used to have a huge spice box in my kitchen that didn’t look very pretty and also wasn’t particularly practical. For whatever reason, I decided in my early kitchen years to store all my spice filled glass jars and tiny metal tins in this box and that’s where I kept them for two decades. This beaten and buckled box still exists, I just use it for potatoes at the moment (even a box has to stay flexible in life). I used to arrange my spices in two layers of jars, so when I needed juniper berries from the bottom, I would always have to empty the whole thing. Rather impractical.

Around two years ago, I renovated my kitchen, I changed the sink and cupboards on one side of the room. When everything was set up, I had a skype call with my Maltese mama Jenny to proudly present my work to her. Not that she’s particularly experienced in kitchen renovation, it’s rather the opposite, she still works in her gorgeous sea-blue kitchen gem from the 60s. I don’t remember why, but we started discussing the spice-situation in my kitchen. There’s a slim cupboard with two sliding drawers next to my sink, so when we had our video chat, we both looked at this drawer and decided that it should become my spice cupboard. I arranged everything that same day and since then I’m more than happy to have such a luxurious overview of my spice collection.

The spices I use the most, right at the front when you open the door, are Maltese fennel and coriander seeds, the whole range of peppercorns in black, green, white, and pink, cinnamon, and cardamom. Jars of cumin, cloves, aniseed, allspice, juniper berries, and mustard seeds are right behind. Then there’s the hot section, with cayenne and urfa chilli, plus sumac and a few spice mixtures. I love this cupboard, it’s a bit chaotic, and it’s still a colourful collection of various jars and containers, but it smells beautiful.

Although I generally prefer a certain order in my kitchen, there are zones and tools in this room that seem to follow their own rules. Cookie cutters, for example, tend to end up in places where I don’t even know how they got there. I bought a large metal ring at one point to get my growing collection under control. Every year I buy a couple new ones to add to the classics, to stars, angels, and Santa. I tend to have annual favourites. Squirrel, sausage dog, and deer were popular for a long time, which might speak for my love of cute animals. My collection of three beetles is relatively new, maybe I need a car? Who knows. But apart from giving my cookies a cute look, a cutter should be practical. For example, I barely use the deer anymore because the cookies tend to lose their antlers in the oven, so it looks rather sad. My beetles however are very cooperative, roundish, no narrow parts, and they are even big enough to get a proper royal icing decoration.

I must admit that decorating sweets is not one of my best talents. But I thought it would be nice to bake some cookies at this time of year that you can decorate – especially if there are kids around the baking table. And if you’re as lazy as I am and you have a soft spot for citrus, I have a great alternative for you. Decorate half the batch of these delicious chocolate spice cookies with royal icing (I recommend you trust the pros and buy the mixture from a baking shop) and make your children happy. For the other half, caramelize lemon peel until sweet and crunchy, sprinkle this sticky golden mixture over the remaining cookies and make yourself happy. These are the adult cookies. They aren’t as pretty as the cute hand decorated ones, but the combination of dark chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, aniseed, and candied lemon peel makes up for it. They taste so unbelievably good that you won’t even mind the looks.

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

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

 

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

Makes about 50 cookies

For the cookies

plain flour 260g / 2 cups
unsweetened cocoa powder 50g / 1/2 cup
baking powder 1/4 teaspoon
freshly grated lemon zest 1 tablespoon (from 1 large lemon)
ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon
cloves, ground in a mortar, 10 (about 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves)
coriander seeds, ground in a mortar, 2 teaspoons
aniseed, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
allspice berries, ground in a mortar, 4
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
butter, at room temperature, 130g / 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon
icing sugar 120g / 1 1/4 cups
organic egg 1

For the decoration
(if decorating half the cookies with royal icing and the other half with candied lemon peel)

royal icing mixture, whisked with a little water, about 60g / 2 ounces
granulated sugar 50g / 1/4 cup
water 2 tablespoons
very thin strips of fresh lemon peel, 1 small handful

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, aniseed, allspice, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and icing sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and mix for about 1 minute or until well combined. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook, add the flour-spice mixture to the bowl with the butter, and mix until well combined. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In batches, roll the dough out thinly (about 3mm / 1/8″ thick) between cling film and cut out cookies in whatever shape you like. Keep the remaining dough in the fridge while cutting the cookies. Arrange the cookies on the lined baking sheets and bake, one baking sheet at a time, for about 6 minutes or until golden. Let them cool for a few minutes before you transfer them to a cooling rack.

For the royal icing, whisk the royal icing mixture with a little water (following the instructions on the package) and, using a piping bag with the smallest attachment you can find, decorate half the cookies.

For the candied peel, in a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to the boil. When it starts to caramelize add the lemon peel. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the peel is golden and soft—mind that it doesn’t burn. While the caramel is still liquid (you can leave the saucepan on lowest heat), quickly sprinkle the remaining cookies with the candied lemon peel.

Happy baking!

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

 

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

 

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

 

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Around this time last year, I came up with a recipe that took my beloved persimmons and turned them into streusel bars – it was nothing less than divine. I’m a huge fan of this gorgeous fruit, especially when it’s overly ripe, soft as jelly and honey-sweet. To use it in Christmas baking is tricky, as it can easily get lost under spices and butter, it needs a balanced composition that allows its fine fruitiness to shine.

When I last bought a bunch of persimmons from my local vegetable man, I could have just turned them into another batch of streusel bars. But I love creating new traditions and I decided to challenge myself to come up with a new persimmon Christmas cookie recipe every year. So in 2016, I’m celebrating my young tradition with a cookie classic, jam filled thumbprint cookies, called Husarenkrapfen in German. The buttery shortcrust is refined with hazelnuts, cinnamon, and vanilla – at least in my kitchen. The fruity filling in the middle is usually red, made of red currants or raspberries. But as I looked at the orange coloured fruits on my kitchen table, I decided to purée and cook the pulp of a persimmon with a generous amount of vanilla to enhance its flavour. It’s an unfussy jam, a spoonful of honey, just a tablespoon of sugar, and 5 minutes on the heat. Perfect for my slightly nutty Husarenkrapfen.

Happy 2nd Advent!

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

You can either bake the cookies filled with the jam or bake the plain cookies first and drop a dollop of the jam into the holes once they are cool (which I prefer). It looks prettier and the taste of the fruit is more present.

Makes about 50 cookies

For the dough

plain flour 300g / 2 1/3 cups
ground hazelnuts 100g / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
baking powder 1/2 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
butter, soft, 150g / 2/3 cup
granulated sugar 130g / 2/3 cup
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1/2
organic eggs 2

For the jam filling

large ripe persimmon, peeled, 1 (250g / 9 ounces)
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1/2
honey 1 teaspoon
granulated sugar 1 tablespoon

icing sugar, for dusting

For the dough, in a large bowl, combine the flour, hazelnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla seeds until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well in between. Add the flour mixture, change to the hook attachment, and mix until combined. The dough will be quite soft. Scrape onto a long layer of cling film, form a thick disc, wrap it, and put in the freezer for about 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350 (preferably convection setting). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

For the jam, purée the persimmon and vanilla seeds in a blender or food processor. Transfer to a small saucepan, stir in the honey and sugar, and bring to the boil. Cook over medium-high heat, it should be bubbling, stirring once in a while, for about 4 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Set aside and let the jam cool.

Cut off a slice off the dough, roll into a sausage shape, and cut off pieces, keep the remaining dough in the fridge. Using your hands, roll the pieces into 3cm / 1 1/4″ balls. Press the end of a wooden spoon into the middle of each ball, pushing almost through to the bottom and leaving only a thin layer at the bottom of the cookie (otherwise the holes might close during baking). Transfer to the lined baking sheets and bake, one sheet after the other, for about 14 minutes or until golden. Let the cookies cool completely, then fill with the persimmon jam and dust with icing sugar.

If you want to store the cookies in a cookie box, I recommend adding the jam filling before serving. They become a bit softer after a day if they are filled and it’s also easier to store them without the filling.

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

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

A Christmas treat – the famous German Chocolate Baumkuchen

Chocolate Baumkuchen

A few days ago, I walked through a little park that’s close to our apartment. It’s a very quite place, you don’t see many people there. I like to go on my own when I need a break from the world, to feel some fresh air on my skin and think clearly again. That afternoon the air was crisp, the last golden leaves fell off the trees, and a trio of squirrels was busy collecting their nuts. I felt a bit chilly and as I pulled my scarf closer to my neck, I noticed a change, I could smell winter.

Winter brings many changes, I could sleep more, eat more, and bake more. Baking always plays an important role in my life, especially on the weekends, but during the Christmas season I become excessive. There are so many recipes on my list, my classics, but then I also want to try out new creations. The fabulous Baumkuchen has been on my mind since summer, I love this traditional German Christmas cake that’s usually baked on a spit. The name means tree cake, referring to the fact that it looks like the growth rings of a tree. This cake takes time and it’s a bit of work to prepare. First you bake a thin layer of batter for just a few minutes, then you brush on the next layer and continue until you end up with up to 20 layers (mine has 12, that’s more than enough). It’s a hit at Germany’s Christmas markets where you can see it being baked on rotating spits, close to a grill (broiler) or wood fire.

Baumkuchen has always been one of my Christmas favourites, especially to sweeten my teatime in December’s dark and cold afternoons. I usually buy the cake from the store, but then I had an idea. It was in summer. I don’t remember why I gave it a thought in the heat of July (I guess I felt some Christmas longings), but never mind. It dawned on me that I don’t need a spit and wood fire to enjoy this treat, that I could also bake it in a normal cake pan under the grill (broiler) of my oven. Cut into squares, it almost counts as Christmas cookies, but if you prefer, you can cover the whole Christmas beauty in chocolate and serve it as a cake.

My Baumkuchen is moist, refined with cinnamon and orange, with a strong taste of marzipan. If you have a free afternoon, get cozy next to your oven and bake a tree cake. I wish you a peaceful 1st advent!

Chocolate Baumkuchen

 

Chocolate Baumkuchen

Chocolate Baumkuchen

Makes about 20 Baumkuchen squares

plain flour 60g / 1/2 cup
cornstarch 30g / 1/4 cup
organic eggs, separated, 6
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
marzipan / almond paste, crumbled, 120g / 4 ounces
unsalted butter, soft, 200g / 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon
brandy 2 tablespoons
granulated sugar 200g / 1 cup
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1
ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
freshly grated orange zest 1 teaspoon

For the topping

bittersweet chocolate 100g / 3 1/2 ounces
butter 1 teaspoon
orange zest (optional)

Turn on the grill (broiler) of your oven or preheat to 220°C / 425°F (this only works if you can set the heat to come just from the top). Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm / 8″ springform pan or a tall 15 x 20cm / 6 x 8″ cake pan with parchment paper.

Sieve together the flour and cornstarch.

Beat the egg whites and salt until stiff.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the marzipan, butter, and brandy until creamy. Add the sugar, vanilla seeds, cinnamon, orange zest, and egg yolks and continue mixing for about 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well combined. Gently fold the egg white into the flour-butter mixture until combined.

Add about 3 generous tablespoons of the batter to the lined springform pan, it should only be a thin layer to cover the bottom. Using a wide spatula, spread the batter evenly. Place the springfrom pan in the top third of the oven and bake for about 3-4 minutes or until golden/ light brown, but not dark. Watch well and mind that the batter can burn within seconds. Take the pan out of the oven, add 3 tablespoons of the batter on top of the first baked layer of cake, spread well, and bake for 3-4 minutes or until golden / light brown. Continue the same way until you have used all the batter, you should end up with about 12 layers. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, take it out of the pan, and let it cool completely. Once cool, cut the cake into little squares.

In a small saucepan, heat the chocolate and butter over low heat or in a bain marie. Let it cool for a few minutes before you decorate the cake.

Drizzle the Baumkuchen squares with the chocolate and decorate with a little orange zest.

Chocolate Baumkuchen

 

Chocolate Baumkuchen

 

Chocolate Baumkuchen

 

Chocolate Baumkuchen

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart from my cookbook and a picnic in Valletta

Post sponsored by Volkswagen.

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

The sky was refreshingly bright and October’s sun was still hot, it was a glorious Saturday morning when we met our friends at my Maltese mama’s house in Msida. The air was filled with the usual chatting and laughing before we hopped into our cars to drive up to Valletta. We brought along the obligatory guitar and our picnic baskets packed with sandwiches, fruits, and a buttery pear and stilton tart sprinkled with rosemary – a popular recipe from my Eat In My Kitchen book. And off we went to Malta’s capital.

We had planned this day trip weeks in advance: to have a picnic with our friends in Valletta, high up on the bastions opposite The Three Cities, to park Michelangelo’s beautiful Volkswagen beetle in the shade of one of the old olive trees, and set up a little table right next to this blue beauty on four wheels. It was a luscious brunch in the most stunning surroundings and to bake a savoury tart was the best choice for this occasion. You can prepare it in advance, it’s delicious even when it’s cold, and it fits perfectly to a sip of chilled sparkling wine. The topping is minimal, but the combination of baked pear, melted Stilton, and roasted rosemary is so good that it became one of my favourite recipes this year. The creation almost didn’t make it into my book. I had a different tart in mind, but I couldn’t find a certain vegetable on the day of the shoot and I decided that I could also just fill the pastry with fruit, cheese, and herbs. It was a wise choice that I don’t regret.

The choice of our setting was as spectacular as our nibbles. If you ever visit Valletta, you have to go to the St. Barbara Bastion and enjoy the breathtaking view overlooking the Grand Harbour and The Three Cities, Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea. Then walk down to the Valletta Waterfront and take one of the little ferries to Cospicua. It only takes a few minutes and it allows you to enjoy two of the most stunning places in Malta, on land and from the sea: the golden beauty Valletta and the three fortified cities.

Thank you Matt, Michelle, Jessica, Michelangelo, Luke, and Jamie for making this day so special!

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

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

From the Eat In My Kitchen book.

Serves 4 to 8

For the pastry

2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (130 g) unsalted butter, cold
1 large egg

For the topping

2 large, firm pears, cut into thin wedges
3 ounces (85 g) aromatic blue cheese, such as Stilton, Roquefort, Fourme d’Ambert or Gorgonzola, crumbled
3 medium sprigs fresh rosemary, needles only
3 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky sea salt
A few black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle

For the pastry, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until combined. Add the egg and mix with the dough hooks of an electric mixer until crumbly. Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and freeze for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

On a table or countertop, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll out into a disc, large enough to line the bottom and sides of a 12-inch (30 cm) quiche dish. Fit the dough into the quiche dish, pushing it into the dish, especially along the edges. Let the dough hang over the rim a little or cut it off with a knife. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden. If the dough bubbles up, push it down with a fork. (If you blind bake the pastry under parchment paper and dried legumes, remove the paper and legumes after 15 minutes and bake uncovered for a few more minutes until golden.)

Arrange the pear wedges in overlapping circles on top of the warm, pre-baked pastry, sprinkle with the cheese and most of the rosemary, drizzle with the olive oil, and season to taste with flaky sea salt and crushed peppercorns. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the pastry is crisp. Sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and enjoy warm or cold.

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

pearstiltontart10

 

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