eat in my kitchen

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

Tag: Berlin

Laurel Kratochvila’s Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

I don’t even remember how it started. It must have been a few years ago when my man and I welcomed a new tradition: coffee dates. Whenever we find time to take an hour off work, we squeeze in a dark Italian espresso or a creamy cappuccino, happily enjoyed in one of the countless cafés in our area. And on Saturdays – overly excited by the luxury of having plenty of free time – we often stretch it into a lunch-teatime-aperitif date. Just the two of us, chatting about whatever’s on our mind, no plans or duties, just lingering until we decide to move on.

On one of these dates, we went to the new Shakespeare and Sons / Fine Bagels. The book shop and bakery used to be close to where we live, but the two owners, Roman and Laurel, had to transfer their cafe and literature business to a new location. That was the first time I tried Laurel’s absolutely outstanding chocolate rugelach, which blew my mind and made me want (or rather have to) meet the woman behind this treat.

When we met, our chat led to a Meet In Your Kitchen feature (including my beloved rugelach recipe), but most importantly, I found a woman who’s a great inspiration. Laurel loves food, she’s obsessed with baking, she’s gifted with an unbelievable amount of energy, and when you talk to her, you can see her beautiful soul. She’s honest, critical, and crazy enough to overcome her fears and jump into the next adventure. Nosh Berlin is her new baby, a Jewish food week, starting March 17th. It’ll be a week packed with talks, feasts, and Jewish food. I already booked my tickets for two events, Molly Yeh is coming on the 22nd and I didn’t dare to miss The Gefilte Ball on Thursday. You can find the program of all the events below or on the Nosh Berlin website.

When I met Laurel for a coffee a couple weeks ago to hear everything about her exciting events, I nibbled on my obligatory rugelach and she chose a new creation, her current obsession: a marzipan-ribboned challah knot. She looked so happy whenever she took a bite of her yeast bun that I thought, I need this recipe. Laurel is a nice person who loves to share, I didn’t even need to beg her. And here it is, fluffy yeast buns, not too sweet, generously filled with marzipan, and so good, that I ate five of them in a day and a half. Laurel only uses egg yolks, melted butter, and water in this recipe. She uses bread flour, however I replaced it with white spelt flour that comes to use in all of my baking recipes. I had to add a little more flour and I think that a bit more wouldn’t have harmed the texture, but helped the knots to keep their shape a bit better and avoided cracks on the surface. As you can see in the pictures, my knots turned into roundish buns in the oven. I didn’t mind, challah knot or bun, I love Laurel’s latest creation.

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

Nosh Food Festival

– Friday, March 17th – Kiddush: North African Jewish dinner by Yuval Belhans and Mayaan Meir

– Sunday, March 19th – The Nosh Market at Markthalle Neun
Oma and Bella: Movie and a Nosh at Babylon Berlin

– Monday, March 20th – The JCC Krakow presents Jewish Polish Food History. Talk and a tasting

– Tuesday, March 21st – What Jew Wanna Eat? Amy Kritzer, visiting chef from Austin, Texas, presents creative Passover cooking. 

– Wednesday, March 22nd – Molly Yeh and Luisa Weiss: Cookbooks, Blogs, and Jewish Baking

– Thursday, March 23rd – Nosh Berlin and Shtetl Neukölln present The Gefilte Ball. Talk and demo with Jeffrey Yoskowitz of The Gefilte Manifesto followed by a klezmer ball.

– Friday, March 24th: Night of Shabbat Supper Clubs

There will also be a couple talks on various Jewish food topics at the Fraenkelufer Synagogue and a showing of Cafe Nagler with a presentation on pre-war Jewish cafe and restaurant life. Additionally, there are Jewish cookery classes all week at Goldhahn and Sampson in Charlottenburg.

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

If you decide to double the recipe, use only 9 egg yolks, which is Laurel’s original recipe.

Makes 7 challah knots

organic egg yolks 5, plus 1 egg white, beaten, for the glaze
butter, melted and cooled, 40g / 3 tablespoons
water 175ml /3/4 cup
bread flour (or white spelt or unbleached wheat flour),  410-480g (3 cups plus 2 tablespoons – 3 2/3 cups), plus more if the dough is too sticky
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
fast-acting yeast 1 1/4 teaspoons
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
marzipan, cut into 7 pieces, 150g / 5 ounces
poppy seeds 1 tablespoon, for the topping

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and butter. Add water and whisk until well combined.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour (410g / 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons), sugar, yeast, and salt. Add the liquid mixture and, using the paddle attachment, mix for about 1 minute until combined. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and knead for about 10 minutes. I use setting ‘4’ on my KitchenAid. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky, but mind that it should stay soft. If you prepare the dough by hand, keep kneading an extra few minutes. Transfer to a clean, oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C / 100°F warm oven (conventional setting), for about 60-70 minutes or until spongy. When you poke the dough, the indentation of your finger shouldn’t spring back.

Punch the dough down and then turn out onto a floured work surface. Give it a quick knead to form it back into a ball and then cut 7 equal pieces. Cover with a tea towel and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Once rested, roll the dough into logs (about 25cm / 10″ long) and then gently press flat. Lay a strip of marzipan lengthwise down the middle of the flattened log (using my hands, I first rolled each piece of marzipan into a long log) and then fold the log lengthwise in half, so you have a marzipan-filled log (see first picture). To fold the log into a knot, make an overlapping circle and then wrap the upper end under and then up through the middle (see first picture).

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F (convection setting).

Once all 7 knots are folded, transfer to the lined baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg white. Laurel puts a little simple syrup in the egg glaze to add some extra sweetness, I left mine plain. Let them rise for about 30 minutes or until puffy. Glaze the challah knots with egg whash a second time then sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the challah knots are golden brown and shiny.

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

German Apple Pancakes and my Berlin Book Launch Event

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

The BOOK is out and I’ve done so many things for the first time in my life in the past three weeks that I’m still a little shellshocked. I’ve been on TV, which I never ever thought I’d be able to do and to say that I was nervous doesn’t even come close to the feelings that shook me up inside (thank you Ben for being such a patient host!). I held more speeches than in my entire life before the book came out. My natural styling and rather casual dress code of jeans and shirt got replaced by pretty dresses, uncomfortable shoes, and more make up. And I changed planes like buses in the past few days. Once (it feels like a long time ago) I was scared of flying, but I’ve seen so many airports recently, that I think my phobia gave up. Now, I’m back in Berlin, I have a little break to breath deeply and to get some rest before the craziness continues and takes me across the Atlantic, to New York.

In the next few weeks, I’ll share some impressions of my book launch events with you. We’ll start in Berlin, my home town, and then we’ll move on to Malta, London, New York, and Washington.

Berlin is my love, I’ve felt at home in this city since I first opened the door to my apartment almost 12 years ago. One of my favourite spots in this vibrant melting pot is the roof terrace of the stunning Hotel de Rome. It was around a year ago that I decided to have my first book launch event on this terrace. It’s a tranquil oasis, it allows you to enjoy the whole city with all its prettiness and construction chaos from afar, but most importantly, you’re right under Berlin’s clear blue sky. We were lucky, on that early evening on the 26th September, the temperature was mild and the sunset was golden. I couldn’t have asked for more.

The day before the event, in the early morning of a quiet Sunday, my family from Berlin and Malta – thank you Ursula, Alexandra, Emma, Julia, and Matt – joined me in my kitchen to help me bake the cakes for my event. I made a wise decision a few months ago, I only took care of the sweets for my event, the Hotel de Rome‘s fantastic chef, Jörg Behrend, and his team prepared the savoury recipes from my book. They did an amazing job, they actually managed to make me speechless. The food looked like the dishes in my book and tasted like the creations from my own kitchen.

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

What I’ve learned during the past three book launches in Berlin, Malta, and London is that you can plan every single detail of an event, but you have to accept that it will be unbearably stressful in the last 20 minutes. During these minutes it may feel like it’s never going to work, but then, all of a sudden, in the last minute, everything falls into place. At 6pm sharp, our buffet was set up and Karl Chetcuti was ready to pour the glasses behind the table where he presented five delicious wines from the Meridiana Wine Estate MaltaCynthia Barcomi – who gave me a heart touching quote for the back of my German book – looked gorgeous in her pink dress and we were both ready (maybe she was a little more ready than me) to have a public talk about my book. My pulse was pumping, wine, food, and the view was enjoyed to the fullest by our guests, and our roof top party got going.

It was the first time that I held a speech about my Eat In My Kitchen book, the first time that I stepped out into the spot light to talk about the process of working on this book. I couldn’t have been more thankful for Cynthia guiding me through these exciting minutes, though this new experience, like a sister. My voice and knees were shaking, but my heart was full of joy. The first sip of Meridiana‘s crisp Astarte white wine after our talk was maybe one of the best sips I ever tasted in my life. I felt relieved.

I want to thank all my guests who came to celebrate with us. I’ll never forget the amazing support I keep getting from Türkan, Jörg and the whole Hotel de Rome family, from Karl and Meridiana, from all my family and friends who are there for me no matter how crazy my life is at the moment. Thank you! I want to thank Jules Villbrandt for taking all these beautiful pictures, through your captures I can relive that day again and again. Prestel Publishing, and especially Pia Werner who came from Munich for our celebration, thank you for working on this book together with me.

You might have realized that I sneaked in a few pictures from my own kitchen. I can’t write on this blog without sharing a recipe with you, it feels strange. So I decided to come up with very, very simple recipes while I’m on the Eat In My Kitchen book tour, recipes that fit into my tight schedule and that also have a connection to each country we celebrate in. Today’s recipe is a childhood classic of mine: German apple pancakes. They aren’t light or fluffy, these are thick, dense, eggy German pancakes, rich and filling. And – following my family tradition – they have to be topped with sliced sour apples and lots of cinnamon sugar. Enjoy!

You can see all the pictures of the book launch in Berlin taken by Jules Villbrandt here.

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

German Apple Pancakes

Serves 2

plain flour 130g / 1 cup
ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon for the topping
milk 240ml / 1 cup
organic eggs 3
granulated sugar 2 tablespoons, plus 2 tablespoons for the topping
a pinch of salt
firm sour apples, peeled, cored, and sliced, 1-2
butter, about 3 tablespoons

Sieve together the flour and 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the milk, eggs, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and salt for about 1 minutes. Add the flour mixture, gradually, and continue whisking  until well combined. There shouldn’t be any traces of flour left.

For the topping, combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large, heavy or non-stick pan over high temperature. Reduce the heat to medium, pour in half the batter, arrange half the sliced apples on top. Cook for about 2 1/2-3 minutes until golden at the bottom and just set on top, mind that it doesn’t get too dark. Flip the pancake onto a large lid, add 1/2 tablespoon of the butter to the pan, and let the pancake slide off the lid into the pan. Cook on the other side for about 2 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar to taste. Enjoy immediately, the pancake tastes best when it’s warm.

Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to the pan and bake the 2nd pancake in the same way, adding the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter before you flip the pancake. Sprinkle with sugar and enjoy.

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

 

Eat In My Kitchen Book Launch in Berlin

meet in your kitchen| Shakespeare & Sons, Berlin and Laurel’s Chocolate Rugelach

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

“They both slow you down. They’re both transportive. They both smell good. They can both be enjoyed at the same time” – Laurel’s words, when I asked her what she likes about the connection of food and books.

I’ve enjoyed sweet treats made by Laurel’s hands for many years, but it took a while for us to meet personally. Together with her business partner Roman, the young woman from Boston runs Berlin’s popular Shakespeare & Sons and Fine Bagels – a heavenly place for English books, bagels, cookies, rugelach, and cakes – all in one store! Originally, they started their Berlin business in a cozy space in Prenzlauer Berg that was, conveniently, quite close to where I live. But two years ago they had to move and I lost my dear store. A recent coffee date at their gorgeous new store in Friedrichshain brought back memories and awoke the idea to meet the stranger behind all these amazing sweet goods. It was actually a chocolate rugelach – possibly the best rugelach I ever ate – that made me get in touch with Laurel that same day. Her rugelach is gooey, chocolatey, sweet and juicy, it’s so good that you basically have to order one after the other. When we met later, Laurel told me that her dear friend Sanam used to say that every rugelach sticks to your hips for seven years. If something tastes so good, I don’t care about my hips, it’s worth every pound!

Laurel is a self-taught baker with a weak spot for anything baked and sweet, a trait of her food loving family. Especially the women are quite gifted and know how to impress the hungry crowds at their kitchen tables with homemade cookies, cakes, and breads. Luckily, for generations, this passion has been passed on to the young ones.

Although she calls herself a shy bird who prefers to stay behind the scenes, when I saw her roll out the puffy yeast dough, dishing out stories about Israeli and American rugelach, I didn’t believe it at all. Laurel sounds like a pro who must have a cooking show one day. I enjoyed watching her spread the dark chocolate filling lusciously over the orange flavoured dough so much, that I almost forgot how hungry I was. Luckily, it only took 15 minutes and she pulled out the most fragrant warm rolls in front of my camera – and then they went straight into my mouth.

Shakespeare and Sons also have the English Eat In My Kitchen book on their shelves!

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

Laurel’s Chocolate Rugelach

For the dough

7 cups / 910g bread flour
2/3 cup / 130g granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup / 225g butter
1 1/3 cups / 315ml milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
zest of 1 orange

For the filling

3 cups / 600g of sugar (this can be substituted for demerara or even muscavado for a stronger flavor)
2 1/4 cups / 270g unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cups / 415g butter

For the egg wash

2 eggs, lightly beaten

In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and yeast. When that is mixed in, add salt and whisk again. In a saucepan, melt butter on low heat and then remove from heat. Add milk and whisk. Add vanilla and eggs and whisk. Pour liquid mixture into the flour mixture. If using a mixer, mix until incorporated with the paddle attachment, then switch to a dough hook. Knead with the dough hook for 5 minutes. If mixing by hand, mix well with a wooden spoon and then turn out onto a floured surface and kneed well for about 7 minutes. It’s a very stick dough however, so it’s best to use a machine. Put the kneaded dough into a well-greased bowl, cover with a wet cloth or plastic wrap, and let rise for about an hour or until your fingerprint in the dough doesn’t spring back.

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

While your dough is rising, make the filling. Mix sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon. Melt butter and pour on while hot. Mix well. Set aside to cool. You can cool it faster in a refrigerator, but be careful not to let it sit in the fridge for too long. It will turn into a solid block.

Turn out your dough onto a floured surface and cut it into 3-5 balls, depending on how large you want your rugelach. There’s no need to punch down the risen dough, as the rolling will do that for you. Roll out one of your dough balls into a perfect circle about 1/2cm / 1/4″ thick. Spread your filling evenly and thinly across the dough, being careful not to tear the gentle dough. Use a pizza cutter to trim the edges and to divide the dough circle into about 12 triangles, like pizza slices. Now starting from the outside of the circle, roll up your rugelach so they look like little croissants. Place on a baking sheet.

When you’ve done this for all of your dough, brush your rugelach with an egg wash and bake for about 15 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, drizzle with simple syrup. Oh damn, now you get to eat them.

This recipe also freezes beautifully. I usually bake up as many as I want and put the rest of the unbaked rugelach in the freezer to take out and bake as I need them. (Think about the possibilities here. Seriously. Lazy winter weekend mornings in bed and then…poof…15 minutes later you’ve got gooey hot rugelach in your kitchen? This is a maximum pleasure recipe so it’s a wise move to keep them on hand). Just give them a few minutes to thaw before you throw them in the oven.

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

How does an ex-physicist decide to start a bagel shop? When did you come up with the idea? Did this idea grow over years or was it a spontaneous decision?

Ha, I don’t know if I’d call myself an ex-physicist. I’d say I got the physics degree and ran. The bagel shop happened out of pure, selfish necessity. I found myself living in the first-class bagel desert of Berlin and, frankly, I was hungry. I tried to assimilate, I swear. Ate broetchens, croissants, muesli…you name it. What can I say? They weren’t doing it for me like a bagel and cream cheese does. I’ve always been a home baker, wasn’t particularly focused on anything else at that point in my life, and it just struck me as something to do. So pretty spontaneous.

At your peak, you baked 350 bagels every day on your own before you put your team together. You offer 25 different bagels at your shop, sweet and savoury. What fascinates you about this popular bun with a hole in the middle?

The bagel is a creature of the diaspora. At this point, it’s as much American as it is Polish-Jewish. It’s spent the last hundred years moving out of the basement-level New York bakeries, getting softer and bigger, and landing on breakfast plates the world over. At the same time, bagels are no longer created with the same reference point or even a nod to their history, and I think it’s important to maintain standards. What I like about a proper bagel is the deliberate chewiness and the impractical hole. The hole serves only to gush cream cheese and soil your clothes. And yet it’s got to be there. More surface area for the flavorful skin. So it’s not an easy food. But it’s such a good food.

Both of us share a passion for rugelach, can you tell us a bit about the difference between American style rugelach and the traditional recipes rooted in Israel?

Ok, so the kind of rugelach I’m familiar with from back home (Boston) are more of a gently flaky cookie made with a cream cheese or sour cream dough and a filling of jam, chopped nuts, raisins, and cinnamon sugar. The dough is a royal pain to work with, but worth it. Meanwhile the rugelach you’d find in Israel are generally from a yeasted dough and reach the level of chocolate-y gooeyness that solicits involuntarily obscene vocals from those eating them. Or maybe that’s just me. This is disloyal to my upbringing, but I’m just going to say it: there is nothing better than an Israeli rugelach. The clouds of bees in the shuk in Jerusalem agree with me.

What makes the Ashkenazi baking tradition so special to you?

A hundred years ago, my great-great grandmother and her sister made their living baking breads and challahs in a village on the outskirts of Warsaw. All the women in my family are wonderful bakers and this is a way of maintaining and honoring a longstanding food tradition. The mandelbread recipe I use in the store goes back at least four generations. I’m not sure how the ancestors would feel about the double-whammy of reverse migration and return to the kind of baking that for them was a tough necessity and for me a cutesy, artisinal hobby-turned profession, but that’s 21st century privilege for you.

What’s the hardest part of running your own bakery?

Not eating all the cookie dough.

Are there any Shakespeare and Sons plans for the future, apart from books and bagels?

Right now I’m working with several other people to organize a Jewish food week called Nosh Berlin. It’ll be from March 19-26 2017. There’s never been an event like it here and people are really coming together. To kick it off, we’re partnering with The Breakfast Market at Markthalle Neun to have a Jewish breakfast market with everything from bagels to blintzes to jachnun to Ethiopian dishes, and more. The idea is to get as much wonderful Jewish food together in one place as possible. We’re drawing from local chefs and home-cooks as well as folks from abroad. Then throughout the week there will be events all over the city, from popup dinners to cooking classes to film showings to readings. So everyone should set aside a lot of tummy real estate for that week.

You grew up in Boston, you’ve lived in Kathmandu and in Prague, and you’ve called Berlin your adopted home for more than 5 years. What do you like about the capital? What inspires you in this city?

What I like about this city is how easy it is to do your own thing here. It’s a place with very little open judgement about life choices and success seems to be measured differently than where I grew up. And that has provided me and a lot of other people with the room to make slightly unorthodox dreams reality.

What do you like about the connection of food and books?

They both slow you down. They’re both transportive. They both smell good. They can both be enjoyed at the same time.

Can you tell us a little about the history of the house and store where you opened the new Fine Bagels/Shakespeares and Sons shop?

So the building in Friedrichshain where we’re currently located was built in 1962 as a bookstore and apartment building. Since it was in East Germany, it was a state-run bookstore until the fall of the wall, at which point it was privatized. To this day, old Berliners are always popping in to wax nostalgic about their memories of the bookstore from back in the day. If you walk into the store, you’ll noticed a raised portion to your left. It sits on top of a Cold War bunker that was built-in. Meanwhile, all of the built-in bookcases are original. They were covered in terrible particle board from the early ‘90s and when we tore it down, there was the beautiful original wood shelving. It’s a big space so we’re able to accommodate the bakery kitchen, the cafe, and the bookstore. It was a stroke of luck to get it.

You say that many women in your family are passionate home bakers, what did you learn from them? And what about the men in your family?

We’ve got some sort of cruel genetic predisposition to a sweet tooth running down both the paternal and maternal branches of my family. So there was always someone baking sweets. Cookies, cakes, quick-breads. My mother in particular is a home-made obsessive and passed that on. Particularly chocolate chip cookies, kugel, and zucchini bread. One grandmother was always making the most divine Toll House Cookies you’ve ever tasted and the other one was all about blueberry pies and cheesecakes. Would you believe it if I told you my maternal grandmother was an early adopter of the Weight-Watchers program? Shocking.

As for the men, well, at least a lot of them are good dish washers. That’s all I’ll say.

If you had to name one dish from where you grew up, back home in Boston, that you miss the most, what would that be?

Honestly, just an onion bagel and cream cheese from Rosenfeld’s in Newton Center. I’m absolutely devoted. They’re the best. And good seafood, of course.

Which are your favourite baking cookbooks and why?

My absolute favorite is Inside the Jewish Bakery. There are no pretty pictures, but it’s the most accurate and comprehensive survey of Jewish-American bakery recipes I’ve ever seen. It’s full of history and storytelling and extraordinarily detailed instructions. And that’s what it should be. The authors, Norman Berg and Stanley Ginsberg, both made their careers in these very bakeries and know better than anyone what they’re talking about. It’s my ultimate reference point.

Where do you find inspiration for new recipes for the Fine Bagels’ menu?

Mainly I try to wheedle old family recipes out of the elderly. Other than that, I go home and visit the old-school bakeries and delis around where I grew up. I’m not really trying to do anything so innovative. I’m more interested in preservation.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?

Meike, this is entrapment! If I told you it was someone outside of my family, what would the family say? If I told you it was someone within my family, they’d think I was playing favorites. I’ll whisper it in your ear, but you can’t tell the internet. It’s my own neck I’ve gotta think about.

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

Chocolate chip cookies with my mother. You hang around hoping to lick out the bowl long enough you inadvertently learn to bake.

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

The fairly new Bread Station on the Maybach Ufer does the best sourdough loaves I’ve ever had. They’ll schmear up a hot broetchen with salted butter and comte for you and it’s heaven. Merle’s Roti and Rum near Yorkstrasse is divine…piles of hot roti, spicy curries, and homemade ginger beer. Heno Heno in Charlottenberg is worth the trip across town. Homey don buri, sour plum onigiri, and herring nigiri appetizers. Lon Men’s Noodle House on Kantstrasse and Agni on Prenzlauer Allee are two other favorites.

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

Joan Nathan. She’s the queen.

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

A proper Nepali dal bhat tarkari. It’s the most wonderful food in the world. I bothered a lot of people into teaching me to cook while I lived over there and it’s still my favorite thing to make. A shout out of gratitude here to Saraswati Pangeni, Sudeep Timalsina, and Nirajan Tuladhar.

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

Childhood favorite? French toast. Grown up favorite? French toast.

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

I’m a kitchen misanthrope. Mainly because I’m clumsy. My ideal cooking scenario is having a friend hang out a safe 4 feet away from the cooking. They will gossip to me and drink wine while I make everything. Some days, like yesterday, this is not far off from the reality of my professional kitchen. Can’t say if that’s a good thing or not.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

Planned. I live in permanent fear of not making enough food for my guests. This has never happened, but I gotta stay vigilant.

Which meal would you never cook again?

Latkes for 100 people. I smelled like a fry trap that fell into an onion field and my skin broke out in zits like a pubescent boy. Brutal.

Thank you Laurel!

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

meet in your kitchen | Capri, Lobster & Pasta e Patata at Hotel de Rome in Berlin

Pasta e Patata

I always had a weak spot for grand hotels. It must have been my mother who planted this seed in the early days of my life. We used to travel a lot together, to Europe’s old cities, Mediterranean getaways and snowy villages in the mountains. And wherever we went, we fell for the splendid charm, beautiful architecture and culinary excitement of a luxurious hotel – we’re girls after all. Be it for a few nights, or just a cappuccino or glass of wine at the bar, these places tend to take us into another world as soon as we walk through the revolving door.

In Berlin, you can find one of these magical houses at a beautiful piazza framed by the imposing buildings of the Humboldt University and the Berlin State Opera, right on one of the city’s most prominent boulevards – Unter den Linden. Walking into Rocco Forte’s Hotel de Rome reveals a house full of elegance and history. The former Dresdner Bank Headquarter was built in 1889, thick stone walls, marbled columns, gold leaf mosaics, and Berlin’s prettiest ballroom covered by a huge skylight, are symbols of an era of grandeur. The bank managers’ former offices have been turned into chic suites, and in the basement, where the hotel’s spa is located in our days, you can still see the rooms secured by heavy iron doors where the bank once held its gold deposits. Its a piece of the city’s history, preserved and turned into a place to relax, enjoy and savour. My personal highlight is the spacious roof terrace overlooking the city, it’s one of Berlin’s best locations to enjoy a sundowner on a warm summer’s night. I can’t wait for them to come back.

Pasta e Patata

The Hotel de Rome combines two cultures – Germany and Italy – and especially in the kitchen, the Mediterranean side took over. The legendary Tuscan Michelin-stared chef Fulvio Pierangelini, Director of Food responsible for the honest approach to Italian cuisine in a few hotels of the Rocco Forte family, has a fantastic team here in Berlin. Jörg Behrend, Executive Chef, and his Sous-Chef Davide Mazzarella create such delicious treats at the La Banca Restaurant that I decided to meet them in their kitchen. On an icy-cold and snowy morning, I walked into the hotel’s bar in desperate need of a warming tea. After a chat with the Bar Supervisor, Jörg Wischner, I found out that the choice wouldn’t be easy. He offered me a selection of 40 delicate leaf compositions, which you can also enjoy at a traditional afternoon tea ceremony at the hotel’s cosy Opera Court, inspired by their London sister, the Brown’s Hotel. While I was sipping on a fragrant golden green tea, he explained the extensive cocktail menu, which made me wish I had come in the evening. But I was here to cook and learn about Capri’s cuisine.

Davide’s family used to have a renowned restaurant on Italy’s little island in the Gulf of Naples, when Capri was still the place to be for Europe’s high society and American movie stars. He says those days are over, but the traditional recipes he learned to cook from his family, the time spent with them in the kitchen, peeling potatoes and chopping vegetables, made the young man want to become a chef and take his home’s scrumptious food out into the world. Jörg Behrend is from western Germany but he feels strongly inspired by Italy’s culinary treasures. Through traveling and working with his Italian-German team for many years, he has almost become Italian himself. So it didn’t take long for us to decide what we’d like to cook together: Pasta e Patata all Astice. It’s a Capri classic that was completely new to me, thinly sliced potatoes and spaghetti cooked like a risotto and topped with a lobster. The everyday basic version is made without seafood, which isn’t necessary, but it turns it into an extravagant treat. Pasta e Patata is often served as one of many courses during a special family lunch.

Needless to say, the meal was perfect, it’s one of the secrets of Italian cooking, you don’t need many ingredients to create something outstanding. I find it even better than risotto. To make our Italian lunch complete, we enjoyed it with crisp white wine at a big table together with the Hotel de Rome family. This is how it feels at this hotel, it’s a family taking care of you. Thank you Jörg, Davide, Türkan, Sebastian, and Jörg (at the bar) for a bit of Capri in Berlin!

Pasta e Patata

 

Pasta e Patata

Pasta e Patata all Astice

Serves 4

olive oil
garlic, crushed, 1 clove
onions, peeled, 220g / 8 ounces
red chili pepper, seeded and thinly sliced, 1/4 – 1/2
waxy potatoes, peeled, quartered, and cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices,  500g / 17 1/2 ounces
vegetable broth, about 1 1/2l / 6 1/4 cups, more as needed
dried spaghetti spezzati (broken into 6cm / 2 1/2″ pieces) 400g / 14 ounces
cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters, 10
Parmesan, freshly grated, 180g / 6 1/2 ounces
fresh basil, a handful, torn into pieces
fine sea salt
ground pepper
lobster, cooked, removed from its shell, 2 (each about 500g / 17 1/2 ounces)
butter 1 tablespoon
a few thyme leaves

In a large, wide pot, heat a generous splash of olive oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic, onions, chili, and potatoes for a few minutes until the onions are golden and soft. Cook like a risotto, add a little vegetable broth to cover the potatoes, let the potatoes soak the liquid, and add a little more when it’s all soaked, stirring occasionally. Repeat until the texture is velvety thick and the potatoes are almost soft. Add the spaghetti and more broth and let the spaghetti cook, stirring, until al dente. Add more broth as necessary. In the last few minutes, let the dish thicken like a risotto. Stir in the tomatoes, Parmesan, basil (leave out a few leaves for the topping), and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and let sit for a few minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the lobster: In a medium, heavy pan, heat the butter and thyme over medium heat, add the cooked lobster, and cook until golden.

Divide the pasta e patata among plates, lay the lobster on top, and sprinkle with fresh basil leaves.

Buon Appetito!

Pasta e Patata

Jörg, you are Chef de Cuisine at Rocco Forte’s Hotel de Rome and the La Banca Restaurant where the kitchen is run by a German-Italian team: Sous-Chef Davide Mazzarella is from Capri and Fulvio Pierangelini, Director of Food and founder of the famous – but now closed – Gambero Rosso in Tuscany, was born in Rome. Did this experience make you a little Italian? How important are different cultural backgrounds in the kitchen?

Jörg Behrend: My Italian side grew considerably through working in our team. To understand the philosophy, the easiness, and the purism of the Italian cuisine, it’s important to have this constant exchange with my Italian colleagues. It helps to create delicious dishes.

Davide, you worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy, the L’Olivo in Capri and Davide Scabin’s Combal. Zero in Rivoli, before you decided to work abroad. What are the differences between working as a chef in restaurants in Italy and in Germany?

Davide Mazzarella: I don’t think that the differences between Italy and Germany are that big. It’s important to work professionally, in both places. There is a difference regarding the availability of ingredients and products, it’s much easier to get them in Italy. Always fresh and seasonal, it’s possible to buy whatever you need twice a day. In Germany you have to trust your suppliers and hope that they bring you what you need.

Jörg, you are from Limburg, a picturesque town in the west of Germany. Does your home region’s cuisine come through in your work sometimes?

Jörg Behrend: Unfortunately not, my home’s cooking is quite rich and rustic. There are also a few popular combinations that might be hard to understand if you’re not a local, like potato soup with plum cake.

Davide, you grew up in Capri where your family ran a renowned restaurant for decades. How did this restaurant influence your life? How did Capri change over the years?

Davide Mazzarella: I learned the kitchen basics in our family restaurant and I have to thank my grandmother and parents that I’m a chef today. They inspired me and they passed their passion for this job on to me. Capri is beautiful, and famous, but it had its glorious days between the 50’s and late 70’s. In the past 20 years, the island became too touristy and, with time, we lost many traditions.

How important is the food and the cuisine that we grow up with as children for our adult life?

Jörg Behrend: The cooking of our childhood is essential and a guidance for the rest of our life. Looking back, I’m very thankful for my mother, giving us fresh, homegrown vegetables, freshly squeezed juices from the fruit from our own trees. The meat and cold cuts we ate came from butchers and farmers, where the animals were treated well. My grandmother was the queen of preserving. Be it sauerkraut or raspberry jam, all year round, she was busy preserving fruits and vegetables. It came with age, that I understood how – unknowingly – conscious my mother used to cook. This is a guideline for me and my wife, which we’re trying to hand down to our own kids, and to show them the recipes from our childhood.

Davide Mazzarella: It’s everything. What we eat as a child and what we like is saved as a memory for the rest of our life. The smell is also important. The smell of tomato sauce still excites me as it did then, when I lived at home.

How did the German and the Italian cuisine change over the past 10-15 years?

Jörg Behrend: The old recipes were forgotten. Then Nouvelle Cuisine took over, followed by a renaissance of the Deutsche Küche (German Cuisine) with the most modern techniques. Today, we cook regional, seasonal, and sustainable. We use the most simple products to create culinary highlights. We also use the entire animal again, rather than single parts. Back to the roots.

Davide Mazzarella: After the Nouvelle Cuisine, and the Spanish cuisine – with Ferran Adrià and the Molecular Cuisine – the Italian cuisine found it’s way back to its roots. Many recipes from the 18th century have been re-discovered and newly interpreted, with new cooking techniques and methods.

How important is seasonal and local produce for your creations?

Jörg Behrend: The quality is important, if you can’t find the right quality in your region, you have to search for it outside the regional borders. We use seasonal produce for our creations.

Davide Mazzarella: It’s very important. To work with seasonal and local produce is a MUST in our days. I love it, when our suppliers bring the produce from small producers from the countryside to our kitchen, it makes cooking more fun.

How do you develop new recipes? Where do you find inspiration?

Jörg Behrend: There’s a growing influence through social media, and through travels to Italy, looking for original recipes.

Davide Mazzarella: Tradition, experience, personal technique, and knowledge. Inspiration comes naturally, and sometimes you have to take a peek at what others do.

Who has been your biggest inspiration in the kitchen? Who or what inspired you to start a career in food?

Jörg Behrend: Friends of my parents owned a hotel with a very good restaurant. I used to work there during my summer holidays and I was fascinated by the kitchen processes and the dishes they created. They offered me an apprenticeship and I gladly excepted.

Davide Mazzarella: My family, but especially my grandmother and my mama.

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

Jörg Behrend: My earliest memory is the smell of fresh jus in the cooling room. I can never forget about it. Unfortunately, I don’t remember my first dish.

Davide Mazzarella: I think it must have been spaghetti aglio e olio. It was disgusting.

And I can never get the smell of O’ Rau (Neapolitan Sunday and holiday dish) out of my head.

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

Jörg BehrendRestaurant Grünfisch in the Gräfekiez, the farmers’ market at Karl-August Platz in Charlottenburg, Frischeparadies on Morsestrasse, Cafe Set´s on Schlüterstrasse, Küstlichkeiten in the Markthalle Neun.

Davide MazzarellaVitaminchen at Oliver Platz, Frischeparadies on Morsestrasse, Masaniello Pizzeria on Hasenheide.

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

Jörg Behrend: Beef stew, together with my mother.

Davide Mazzarella: Neapolitan Salsiccia wrapped in fig leaves and cooked in ashes, together with my father.

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

Jörg Behrend: Everything that I can find in the fridge, and everybody should bring something to the table.

Davide Mazzarella: There will definitely be something on the table, I just don’t know what yet.

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

Jörg Behrend: Spinach, potatoes and egg in my childhood. Salt-baked fish with artichokes and a salad of bitter lettuce leaves whenever I can get it. Or pasta sugo in all its variations.

Davide Mazzarella: Riso e lenticchie (rice and lentils) in my childhood. Today: spaghetti aglio e olio my way.

At home, do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

Jörg Behrend: At home, I let my wife cook. When we have guests, everybody is involved.

Davide Mazzarella: I don’t like cooking at home. And if I did cook, it would have to be for a beautiful woman. 

Which meals do you prefer when you cook privately, improvised or planned?

 Jörg Behrend: Improvised.

Davide Mazzarella: Improvised.

Which meal would you never cook again?

Jörg Behrend: Snails. I had to cook them during my apprenticeship.

Davide Mazzarella: Once I got a sturgeon, alive. It’s an experience I don’t need ever again.

Thank you Jörg and Davide!

Pasta e Patata

 

Pasta e Patata

 

Pasta e Patata

 

hotelderome10

meet in your kitchen | Laura’s Apricot, Caramel & Buffalo Ricotta Cake

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

Laura is a modern city hippie, with a big heart for people and sweets. The mother of four lives in the centre of Berlin with her family and created a peaceful oasis in this vibrant city. Her kitchen faces a little veranda and if you walk down a few steps you’re right in her fruitful garden. Pots are lined up densely, filled with the most beautiful flowers and vegetables, rucola, peas, herbs and potatoes – it’s a green paradise, as calming and gorgeous as the lady of the house.

When I visited Laura’s kitchen to chat and bake together, it felt like a Bohemian farm house scene set in summery Provence. The light that falls through the small window in the thick wall is a bit dimmed and adds a Mediterranean flair to the family’s home-made kitchen. It’s a very personal room and you can feel that this is the creative space of a woman who completely falls for her passion to bake. Her oven and fridge impressed me with their huge dimensions, the walls and shelves are filled with baking tools, pans and ingredients. Laura doesn’t need to show off with overly designed furniture, its her personality, her honest kindness and charming smile that makes you want to sit at her kitchen table all day, to watch her work on her amazing cake creations and listen to her family stories.

Growing up in Germany with her parents from Chile and Bolivia this woman is gifted with a rich multicultural background and a great sense for quality. Laura calls her mother and father two hippies, early pioneers of the organic, sustainable and self-sufficient food movement. They introduced her to this now rising trend. Growing your own vegetables in the middle of the city, using old pots, jars and bags to plant the seeds for your own produce became popular all over the world.  In Laura’s yard, it’s a very unspectacular reality, if you want to know what you have on your plates it’s best to farm it in your own ground.

This fascination for food in general, but for baking with the best ingredients in particular, led to a business which is one of Berlin’s best kept sweet secrets. Laura started Tausensuend a few years ago to offer her individual and luscious cake creations which are honestly out of this world. She follows her interest in raw vegan cakes (her ‘healthy cake line’) but she also makes the most decadent layered cakes with creams, meringues, fruits and caramel, spectacularly topped with huge flowers. This is eye candy in its literal sense.

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

Apricots, Salted Caramel and Buffalo Ricotta Cake with Flambéed Meringue

Set the oven to 190°C / 375°F (top / bottom heat). Grease an 18cm / 7″ cake pan (tall) and line it with baking paper. You will need a tall cake ring of the same size to assemble the cake and a candy thermometer and blowtorch for the flambéed meringue frosting.

For the sponge cake

organic eggs, separated, 6
a pinch of salt
superfine sugar 240g / 8 1/2oz
vanilla pods, scraped, 2
plain flour (wheat or white spelt), sieved, 240g / 8 1/2oz

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt on high speed for about 5 minutes until very stiff. Add the sugar and continue mixing for 5 minutes until stiff and glossy. Quickly mix in the vanilla. Whisk the egg yolks with a fork and gently fold them into the stiff egg whites. Once it’s combined, gently fold in the sieved flour. Scrape the dough into the lined cake pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes, if the top of the cake turns too dark, cover it with baking paper. When it’s done, take the cake out of the pan and let it cool completely.

For the salted caramel

heavy cream 200g / 7oz
superfine sugar 300g / 10 1/2oz
butter (at room temperature), 240g / 8 1/2oz
fine sea salt or rock salt 1 heaped teaspoon

In a sauce pan, warm the cream on low heat (don’t bring it to the boil), set the pan aside.

In a large pan, melt the sugar on high heat, watch the pan as the sugar burns quickly. Whisk once in a while and try not to let the sugar forms large lumps. As soon as the colour changes to a light amber, reduce the heat, keep stirring until all the sugar has melted. Add the butter in batches and keep stirring. Carefully pour in the warm cream at the end, mind that it bubbles up and creates steam. Stir in the salt once the caramel is well combined, pour into a jar and set aside.

For the apricot purée

very ripe apricots, pitted, 10-12
a squeeze of lemon juice
lemon zest 1 teaspoon

Purée the fruits, lemon juice and zest in a blender until smooth and set aside.

For the buffalo ricotta cream

fresh buffalo (or sheep) ricotta 250g / 9oz
heavy cream 75ml / 1/3 cup
sugar 75g / 2 1/2oz
vanilla pod, scraped, 1
a pinch of tonka bean (scraped)

Whisk the ingredients until creamy and set aside.

To assemble the cake

Cut the cake into 5 layers and lay 1 slice into the cake ring. Spread thinly with the apricot purée and sprinkle generously with salted caramel. Spread the bottom side of a new cake layer with the ricotta cream and lay on top of the cake in the ring. Continue layering the cake in the same order (cake-apricot-ricotta) until all the layers are used up, finish it off with a cake layer.

Put the assembled cake in the fridge and let it cool for at least 2 hours (overnight would be even better), the cake should soak up all the liquid of the filling.

For the meringue and decoration

For the flambeed meringue

very fresh organic egg whites 6
superfine sugar 300g / 10 1/2oz
a pinch of salt
vanilla pod, scraped, 1

For the decoration

fresh winter or bladder cherries (Physalis) 8
large edible flowers 3

Place a large metal bowl in a large pot with boiling water. Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl and whisk lightly. Leave the egg whites on the heat until the mixture reaches 60°C / 140°F, check with a candy thermometer. There’s no need to whisk while heating the eggs. Take the bowl off the heat once the right temperature is reached, add a generous pinch of salt and beat with an electric mixer until thick and glossy. When it forms stiff peaks, stir in the vanilla.

Carefully take the cake out of the ring and cover it generously with the stiff egg whites. Flambé with a blowtorch until golden and decorate with fresh winter cherries and flowers.

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

 

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

Tausendsuend is one of Berlin’s best kept secrets for the most luscious cake creations, when did you start using your fantastic baking skills professionally? What was the impulse that got your business started?

Oh thanks a lot, Meike! Working and playing around and experimenting with food, textures, colours and flavours has always been one of my greatest passions, even when I was a child. But baking, I would say, is my greatest love, and also the thing I always had the strongest connection to, due to the baking skills of my fantastic grandmother. It’s probably the mix of the smelling and tasting of the fresh ingredients and this sculptural way of putting a cake together, making the colours match, arranging the flowers, all the decorating, that interests me. A friend of mine, an artist from Los Angeles, once said, she has a strong feeling that we have the same approach to our work, and that is probably true! I worked as a cook for a couple of years, and then got asked if I wanted to take care of the sweets department in that place because I was somehow famous for my cheesecakes at that time. So I did that and it was a crazy success! Really cool! That was the point, when I started to focus on baking. I started Tausendsuend when I moved to Berlin in 2008, but it was really a long process of defining my own style and making the right connections. Also, I gave birth to 2 children within that time I must admit.

You pay a lot of attention to the quality and origin of each ingredient you use, for your healthy raw cakes as much as for your more traditional layered cream and meringue cakes. Is there a different approach in the creative process for these two kinds of cakes, how do you develop the recipes – healthy and conventional?

I personally love the raw cakes. It’s just great to develop something that satisfies this craving for sweetness and is so good and healthy and nourishing for your body and soul at the same time. I have 4 children and it is the greatest bliss to feed them a raw avocado and lime cake in the morning and make them really happy with it! This is also something that I suggest to parents of children who don’t eat any fruits or vegetables. I’m really lucky not to be one of them, I’m blessed with children who eat almost everything, from seaweed to artichokes to raw avocado lime cake.

The ‘traditional’ cakes are in fact more of a piece of art to me. Of course, I have the same high standards in everything I create, I want all my ingredients to be top quality and I’m pretty sure that these high standards are crucial to the final product. I want my cakes not only to look perfect, but most importantly to taste perfect. And of course, my children get their 5 layered, buttercream covered birthday cakes thickly coated in tons of sprinkles as well. I really don’t think there is something particularly bad about eating sugar, how could I … (laughing)

You were born in Hamburg and grew up in Germany but your father is originally from Chile and your mother from Bolivia. How do your South American and German roots influence your cooking and baking? What did you learn from these different cultures?

My grandmother, originally from Hamburg, lived in Bolivia for over 30 years. I loved her stories about shopping at the farmers markets in La Paz, the enthusiasm you could hear in the way she described the Indian women in their traditional garb. She told me a lot about the Bolivian habits, how the Indians made the Chicha, a traditional schnaps (spirit) that is made by chewing white sweetcorn and spitting it into a bucket to let it ferment. Or the kilo bags of dried Bolivian chili peppers of which she used to make the extremely spicy traditional Aji Sauce. And the Yerba mate of course, a herbal tea that you drink out of hollowed dried pumpkins with a pewter straw. This you do in Chile as well.

My father has always been the one who cooked most of the time for us as a family. He made a million empanadas for every occasion, school treats, dinners with friends and so on, one of the national dishes in Chile and Argentina, traditionally filled with beef, onions, raisins, black olives and boiled eggs, that everybody loved, and still does. My children go crazy about them. I think my favourite dish as a child was Pastel de Choclo, a casserole dish made of minced beef and mashed sweetcorn with a sugar crust, so good!! My father is an incredible cook, definitely the person I feel the strongest similarities with in the way I create food. A freestyler and always super curious about discovering new flavours and combinations. I’m very lucky that I have always been surrounded by people who had a very strong interest in food.

Your parents were early pioneers in the organic, sustainable and self-sufficient food movement that is so popular today. How did this affect your relationship with food and your definition of quality of life in general?

My mother was always the one who had the more ecological, political attitude towards how to consume and produce food. She went to shop in small organic grocery shops that were really rare at that time and she had a strong focus on whole foods. She used a lot of millet, quinoa and amaranth in her cooking, things that, at that time, were totally unknown to most people. This curiosity and trying out new and unknown things is something that influenced me extremely. In general my parents were very political and taught us to call things into question. That had a strong influence on all fields of activity in my living and working.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?

I find a lot of people inspiring, for very different things. My father is still one of my biggest inspirations, because he is such an artist in juggling with flavours, but there are also a couple of books that I bought in the last years that I find very inspiring, Tartine Bakery for example makes great classic stuff! And the Canadian raw food cookbook author Emily von Euw is so great as well, what an artist!

Which are your favourite Chilean, Peruvian and German dishes?

Oh, that is so difficult to say as I love eating so much and it’s really hard for me to say what dish I like more than the other. As I’m from Hamburg, I have a strong connection to seafood and I still enjoy to go to the Fischmarkt (fish market in Hamburg) on a Sunday morning so much, to grab a sandwich overloaded with the freshest shrimps and rémoulade or some matjes (herring) with tons of fresh onion! I would say I prefer the simple, yet flavourful over the super sophisticated kitchen. My sister, who moved back to Chile after finishing school which is now almost 20 years ago, makes the most incredible ceviche which totally became my favourite Chilean dish. The Bolivians make small super spicy pasties filled with chicken called salteñas that are pretty amazing! But to be honest, there are really only very, very few things that I do not eat.

Where do you find inspiration for new creations?

Absolutely in nature. Strolling through organic farmers markets, smelling fresh fruits. I just visited a friend who moved from Berlin to the Uckermark (an area in the countryside), being in nature, in the countryside fills me with energy and inspires me a lot.

Why do you like to decorate your cakes with giant flowers which became your signature style?

I have a strong love for flowers which I most probably got from my grandmother. She used to live in the suburbs of Hamburg which almost felt like being in the countryside. There was a small farm within walking distance from where she lived and she taught me all the names of the flowers, wild berries and herbs, of all the small insects and butterflies. She also had edible flowers on her terrace and told me how to use them. My first job as a teenager was at a flower shop. If I had not focused on working with food I’d most probably be a florist today.

Do your kids join you in the kitchen? How do you introduce the younger ones to the world of food, how do you spark their interest?

Absolutely. I let my kids join me in the kitchen whenever they want. We do the shopping together, I let them select the vegetables, I let them help me with the cleaning and cutting and they always get a bit of dough when I bake. The older ones (my kids are 4, 6, 10 and 11) even start to cook on their own now with our help. To let the kids take part in the process of buying and creating food and to let them develop their own likes and dislikes and their own taste is the greatest and most successful way to raise their interest in food and eating.

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

My very first steps in cooking were with my grandmother. She always took me to the farm, which was close to where she lived. The old farmers couple loved me and let me slip into every little corner. I was allowed to pick berries, to take the eggs out of the henhouse, they even allowed me to be present when the little yeanlings were born. My grandmother made little crocheted shopping bags for my sister and me where we put in all the treasures that we got at the farm. I must have been around 3 when my grandmother first suggested to make scrambled eggs out of my freshly collected eggs. I remember it being a mix of heartache and excitement to break the little eggs into this cute little pan that my grandmother bought for us. I still have that pan.

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Berlin

I still like the small organic farmers market at Kollwitzplatz on Thursdays right around the corner from where I live. Some say, this market became too touristy within the last years, but still, it provides a great variety of organic locally produced goods. There, I also buy the edible flowers for my cakes from two lovely old ladies who have their own flower garden in Marzahn.

Only a few hundred steps from my house I have a fantastic small delicacy store (Le Flâneur) that sells the best cheese I’ve ever tried and a small assortment of really good Champagne (yes, I love Champagne!).

Every couple months I ride my bike to the Dong Xuan Center in Lichtenberg, an Asian food market, where you can buy every single Asian ingredient you could ever dream of. I travelled through Asia for a while and this place really reminds me so much of it. It’s a bit like plunging into another small world. You also get an incredibly good pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) there.

Frischeparadies Lindenberg is a safe address for fresh, high quality and rather rare products. Even if they don’t have an ingredient in stock, you can always ask, their staff is very helpful and friendly, and they will do their best to try and get what you’ve been searching for. I recently searched for the very rare and hard to get fresh Scandinavian cloudberry, Lindenberg was the only place that could help me to get the fresh berries.

And then there is this fantastic organic butcher in Berlin Wilmersdorf (Bachhuber). That place…wow!

You shared your Apricot Salted Butter Caramel Meringue Cake on eat in my kitchen, what do you like about this combination?

Well, it was freestyle mostly. When I did the shopping the day before we met I just could not resist the floral smell of the fresh apricots. Apricots are also just such a winner with salted caramel, don’t you think? And the flambéed meringue is always my ace in the hole, when I really want to impress somebody!

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

I would love to meet the biodynamic Champagne producer David Léclapart and his daughter Sylvie Gerard Maizieres. She runs a small boutique museum dedicated to Champagne where she organizes Jazz concerts and cooking courses as well, called Pré-en-bulles.

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

I would definitely ask my dear friend Malin from The Bread Exchange for bread. Since we know each other, I bake her cakes for special occasions and she bakes her outstanding sourdough bread for my dinners in return. I would get a variety of good cheeses and butter, fresh artichokes with a light vinaigrette, make a cold or hot soup (I love soup) and a big bowl of fresh salad. And yes, of course, there would be a cake. That’s what everybody expects when being invited to my house.

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

My grandmother’s caramelized apple pancakes were a total hit, unbeatable! Right now I would say everything that is produced freshly and with a whole lotta love. At the Bite Club (Berlin street food event) I recently had a pancake made of cabbage, okonomiyaki, wow! That was so good! I love spicy food, I love Asian food, I love fresh veggies, I love a good organic sausage, I love seafood … the list goes on and on! Oh and I could live off ice-cream for a very long time, my favourite parlour is Rosa Canina.

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

I love to have people around me, but to be honest, I tend to be a bit bossy in the kitchen, so it’s more the question if others want to cook together with me.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

Improvised, definitely!

Which meal would you never cook again?

I can not think of any, actually. Well, I’m not fighting to make empanadas, that is a shit load of work, the dough is made of boiling saltwater, screaming hot fat and flour which you have to stir together with a wooden spoon and then knead it while it’s still really hot. My father is a lot better at it anyways …

Thank you Laura!

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

 

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

 

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

 

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

 

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

Spicy Mango Salad and the Thai Park in Berlin

Mango Salad with Coriander + Roasted Cashews

A small path lined with trees and dense bushes led me to one of Berlin’s most highly praised culinary hotspots which I’ve wanted to visit for ages. Last Sunday I finally made my way to the city’s famous Thai Park! The air was hot and sticky and I enjoyed the short walk in the shade, I was excited as many of my friends had told me so much about this place and its amazing food. A big meadow surrounded by a green wall of trees opened in front of me, with people sitting on blankets under little umbrellas savoring delicious looking food, playing cards or just daydreaming. It was a peaceful scene, Sunday afternoon calm.

Mango Salad with Coriander + Roasted Cashews

On Sundays when the weather is nice and sunny, women from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia come to the Preußen Park in the heart of Berlin and make it their kitchen. They sit on the grass behind colourful cooling boxes, mobile grills and gas cookers and chop vegetables or fry tempura. While they offer golden fried pork belly, shrimp and dumpling sticks, the ladies chat and laugh between their mobile kitchens. On a tiny patch of grass they cook delicacies which I would hardly manage to create in my kitchen! I was astonished, by the beauty of the food and of the women, the utter satisfaction in their faces touched me. Their passion for cooking and for their traditional recipes is the reason they gather in this park thousands of kilometers away from the recipes’ origin to create the meals they grew up with and to share with people like me. I was so impressed by the quality and variety of the dishes they offered!

Mango Salad with Coriander + Roasted Cashews

Needless to say that I bought lots of plates and boxes with salads, meat and fish, spring and summer rolls and dumplings. I found a little spot in the shade and enjoyed all the different dishes, flavours and combinations which I rarely use in my own kitchen. There was far too much food so we enjoyed the leftovers at home where I also came up with the idea for a mango salad with a few changes to the one I enjoyed at the park.

To begin with I didn’t have green mangos but a very ripe yellow one which I didn’t grate (the traditional way) but cut into slices. I mixed it with lots of coriander, roasted cashews and spicy red chili pepper. For the dressing I used the sesame oil I had bought for my Korean Bibimbap, soya sauce, honey, lime and lemongrass. I didn’t try to create an authentic Thai mango salad, it’s my own variation on this classic. When I want to eat the traditional one which I won’t even try to compete with, I will go to the lady in the park and ask her to prepare a portion for me, the best Thai salad I have ever had!

Mango Salad with Coriander + Roasted Cashews

 Spicy Mango Salad with Coriander and Roasted Cashews

For 4 people you need

ripe yellow mangos, sliced, 2
coriander, the leaves of 2 bunches
roasted cashews, chopped, a handful

For the dressing
sesame oil 2 tablespoons
sunflower oil 1 teaspoon
soya sauce 1 teaspoon
honey 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed lime juice 1 teaspoon
zest of 1/4 lime
red chili pepper, finely chopped, 2.5cm / 1″ piece
lemongrass, finely chopped, 2.5cm / 1″ piece
a pinch of brown sugar

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing and adjust to taste.

Spread the mango and coriander leaves on 4 plates and sprinkle with the cashews and dressing.

Mango Salad with Coriander + Roasted Cashews

 

Mango Salad with Coriander + Roasted Cashews

 

Mango Salad with Coriander + Roasted Cashews

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