eat in my kitchen

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

Tag: Champagne

What it means to write a cookbook – the EAT IN MY KITCHEN book is ready for pre-oder!

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It’s coming to life: my book cover is out, the pre-order link is out, and I’m the happiest person in the world!

Writing a cookbook feels like being on a rollercoaster for months. It reveals emotions that I didn’t even think I’d be capable of. Creating a book throws you up to the highest highs and drops you back to the ground, it makes you crawl into the deepest holes to bring out the best that you can possibly do – because it’s a book. But it’s all worth it, as it’s one of the most exciting and satisfying experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

Usually, a book starts with an idea, a script, that the author thinks is worth sending into the world, or at least to an agent or a publisher. In my case, it was different, I was so busy with my blog eat in my kitchen, to keep the constant flow of a new recipe every day in the first year, that a cookbook didn’t even come to mind. It felt strange seeing myself as a blogger, let alone calling myself an author. Some of my readers mentioned a book, or kept asking when I’d start working on a physical version of the blog, but I never saw myself as a cookbook author. I wrote about my recipes, that felt natural, as I’ve always been inspired by food, so coming up with new ideas in my kitchen is quite an easy task for me. My love for good food keeps the ideas flowing. So when Holly La Due from Prestel Publishing send me an email from her New York office a bit over 1 year ago to ask if I’d like to write a cookbook, I felt surprised, shocked, and overwhelmed. But then, after a few days, when the idea had sunk in, there was just happiness and gratitude for this great chance, and so I started working on what has become my first book:

EAT IN MY KITCHEN – To Cook, to Bake, to Eat, and to Treat is a collection of 100 mainly new recipes plus a few blog classics and six meet in your kitchen features (with Molly Yeh, Yossy Arefi, the Hemsley sisters and some more). I cooked and baked everything myself, alone in my kitchen at home, I took all the pictures, and wrote the book in two languages, in English and in German. To see it come to life more and more every day is rather overwhelming, and then, when I read the quotes about my book from two people whose work I admire so much, I was close to tears:

“Eat in my kitchen is a wonderful selection of recipes, bursting with colour, beauty and flavour. Each page offers a new temptation”. 

– Sami Tamimi, head chef, Ottolenghi restaurants, co-author of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and Jerusalem

“Great food like great art speaks the truth. Meike’s recipes and photos are pared down, honest and revealing – I love what she does! She goes right for the sensory jugular leaving you wanting and needing more. Void of superfluous detail, Meike’s all about delicious food – brava!”

– Cynthia Barcomi, pastry chef, founder of Barcomi’s, and author of six cookbooks

The EAT IN MY KITCHEN book will be published by Prestel on the 4th October (in English and in German) but if you’re as impatient as me, you can already pre-oder it online:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.de (the German pre-order link will be available on 8th May)

In the past 12 months, my life has been more than crazy. I pity my boyfriend and I can’t thank him enough for sticking with me, despite my countless nervous breakdowns and the fact that he put on weight due to my excessive cooking and baking. But we managed, all together, with my fantastic publisher team in New York, Munich, and London, and first and foremost, with my inspiring, patient, visionary Holly. I can’t thank you enough.

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What it means to write a cookbook:

I had lots of doubts at the start of this process, not so much about my recipes, but mainly about my photography. I’m not a professional photographer, I’ve always been far more passionate about the food, and I hate editing pictures (thank you so much Jennifer Endom for taking over this job for my book). So in the first days of shooting recipes for the book, I questioned every little detail and I was sure it wouldn’t be good enough. Luckily, I got over it at one point, I had to, and then it became much easier. I developed all the recipes in a relatively short amount of time, it felt like they’ve always been inside me, just waiting to be turned into a book. After a few skype calls with my mother – the best food consultant I could ask for – and with Holly, my recipe collection was set.

Being well organized is essential when working on a book, and luckily, that’s how my mind works. I can be a bundle of emotions, but if needs be, my head is clear and focussed. It helped that I studied architecture, those days at university taught me how to structure my working steps well and keep an overview (at least most of the time). Lots of lists, excel files, and notes lead to a cooking and shooting plan, including information when certain ingredients are available, which tableware I would use, and which recipes I would cook together in one day. The cooking/ shooting process took me 6 weeks and I was done – and exhausted. I had a strict weekly plan for grocery shopping, working on the blog, as I still posted 3 recipes a week at that time, test cooking, final cooking and shooting, and for writing. There were two moments during the whole process of working on my book when I felt like I crossed my limits, physically and mentally. Taking pictures of food means you’re constantly rushing, to shoot the dish quick enough so that it still looks fresh, and to catch the right light (I only work with daylight). I felt constantly stressed, running out of time, and I was willing to keep the weirdest positions for the prefect shot for longer than my back would normally manage. After those 6 weeks I felt 10 years older.

Believing that the worst – or let’s say, the hardest part was over – I went to Malta for 4 weeks, as I wanted to write the stories and final recipes in my Maltese mama’s house in Msida. It was a great time, not very productive, but we had fun. I went snorkeling every day, we met our friends and family, and my mother came to visit for my birthday. I couldn’t complain. And then I finally met Holly for the first time in person. She came to Malta to make the final selection of the pictures for the book together with me and while I had her on the island, I showed her around. It was beautiful and I wish that working on a book would always feel this way. But my rather relaxed Mediterranean schedule soon came to an end.

Writing didn’t work out as easily under Malta’s burning hot sun as I had expected, too many distractions, day trips, dinner parties, and the sea of course, left me with a manuscript that I wasn’t that happy with. Back home in Berlin, I had to sit down at the desk – our dining table – and re-write almost everything. But then after a few weeks back in the North, I was happy with the results and my boyfriend was happy, who’s the most critical when it comes to my book, which helps me a lot. So I sent everything to Holly and our copy editor Lauren Salkeld, who helped me put the recipes in a proper, professional cookbook approved, form. And this – to my surprise –  took months. We emailed back and forth, changed grams to cups and rucola to arugula, rewrote instructions to avoid misunderstandings, added spaces and deleted spaces, and then after 3 months, we were done and I felt close to a breakdown. From the start, I’ve been quite paranoid that there could be mistakes in the book. Be it in the writing, measurements, conversion, or whatsoever. Like a maniac, I read these pages countless times to avoid mistakes, and then every time we changed something again, I was so worried that more mistakes might sneak in (which did happen). The fact that I did the German translation right away didn’t make it any better. Now, I worried about two books and not just one. You don’t write a book that often in your life, and if you get the chance to do it, you want to do it right. People have expectations, they will be willing to spend their money on this book, and I want to give them something that they enjoy working with in their kitchen, a book that is inspiring, and that’s also nice to look at. Everybody has been telling me from the start, “Meike, there will be mistakes, like in any other book,” and I’m aware of this, but I want to keep them as rare as possible. Thanks to my proof-reading friends in LA and Berlin, we made it: Kisses to you, Pattie and Ursula!

There is one part of working on a book that I actually enjoy a lot, and that’s when the designer comes in. I’m so glad to have the amazing Jan Derevjanik at my side, I trust her eyes and taste, we seem to speak the same visual language. Whatever she does, feels right and I never had to explain any of my visions to her. Be it the fonts she chose, the layout of the pages, colours, or the cover – which I love so much, it feels so much like me – Jan took a lot of weight off my shoulders as I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about anything she does. Thank you for that!

So finally we’re almost done and I slowly understand that there will be a printed book soon, my book. It still feels a little strange, and the moment I truly understood that “it’s a book”, was the moment when Holly sent me the cover design. When I saw EAT IN MY KITCHEN and my name written on the cover, and the picture of this salad that I can still taste in my mouth, I knew that we had created something great all together.

In autumn, we’ll have book launch events in New York, Washington, London, Malta, and Berlin and there might be a few more, we just started working it out. So the journey continues, and wherever it may take me, I’m grateful for every single experience.

And now, the biggest thank you goes to you, you wonderful eat in my kitchen readers, for being a part of this adventure! You made all this possible and I wish that you’ll enjoy my book as much as I already do.

Meike xx

I’ve never shared a post on my blog without giving you a recipe, and although I intended not to write about food this time as the book is already so exciting, I can’t help it:

This is not really a recipe but it’s my favourite food – although some people can’t believe it. I love juicy white bread with olive oil, or dark German bread with butter. I need my daily dose of bread, I can’t live without it. So to celebrate my appearance on Amazon as an author, we popped open a bottle of Champagne, broke chunks off a soft loaf of ciabatta, and drizzled them generously with fine Italian olive oil – I couldn’t have asked for more!

Serves 2, when 2 want to celebrate

the best ciabatta bread you can get hold of, 1 loaf
the best olive oil you can get hold of, a few tablespoons
the best Champagne you can get hold of, 1 bottle

Enjoy with a special person!

A visit to Reims and the Mystique of Champagne

Paris Reims

Paris, Reims and Champagne, I had an exciting start to the week! I was invited by Champagne Jacquart to join a Vins Clair tasting in Reims, the pure, still wines which form the foundation of every Champagne and I was happy to get a little insight into the mystique and the making of this wonderful sparkling drink from the northeast of France.

Paris Reims

I was lucky, my trip started with a bright Sunday in Paris. Warm and sunny, it couldn’t have been better, I walked down the boulevards, along the Seine passing the beautiful Musée d’Orsay. The charm of this city is contagious, it just puts a smile on my face! I took a rest at a romantic bistro on Rue du Bac in the VIIe arrondissement and enjoyed an amazing Terrine de Canard accompanied by a glass of Sancerre. Life at its best, wonderful! A visit to a boulangerie and patisserie reminded me of my love for the French baking tradition. I left with bags full of bread, a delicious dark loaf and a fine Pain Platine and, of course, some sweets. I’m obsessed with Éclairs au Café, so as soon as I stepped out of the boulangerie, I opened the bag and had a big bite of my favourite éclair. It was delicious, as expected! In the evening, I joined a few other bloggers and journalists at dinner who were also invited to learn more about Champagne. We were all excited about what the next day would bring!

Paris Reims

 

Paris Reims

 

Paris Reims

Diane from Jacquart welcomed us to their headquarters in Reims. Her sweet and lively way and her love for Champagne made me curious to find out more about this legendary place. Reims is located in the Champagne-Ardenne region, 130km / 81 miles northeast of Paris. We took the TGV high-speed train and arrived just 40 minutes later! After a short drive we turned into the Boulevard Lundy in the center of historic Reims. We stopped in front of a beautiful villa, with a curved pebble stone driveway surrounded by boxwood bushes. I walked through the iron gates and entered another world! The house, called “Hotel de Brimont”, was simply stunning. It was built in 1896 and is surrounded by all the other prominent Champagne houses. In this prestigious neighborhood, a few houses form the center of the Champagne world!

Paris Reims

Jacquart’s history is different to other big Champagne houses, it was written by a few visionary growers who decided to form a cooperative to launch their own Champagne instead of supplying their grapes to other Champagne houses in 1964. In the late 90’s, 3 regional cooperatives of growers united to form the Groupe Alliance Champagne and bought the established Jacquart brand. Today, 1800 growers make up this alliance, all together owning more than 7% of the surface area of the Appelation Champagne, 60 crus (villages) in the Côte des Blancs, Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Bar. 10 of them are classified as Grand Crus and 22 as Premiers Crus assuring grapes from the finest terroirs in the Champagne! It started as a vision and led to great success, the growers holding shares in the brand guide its direction and development!

The grapes used for Champagne are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, they ripen on the slight hills, rich in chalk, and make the cuvée, the blend for the Champagne. The secret of each cuvée lies in the composition which is where Jacquart’s oenologist Floriane Eznack comes in, she’s young but very experienced, open minded and absolutely passionate about her product. Together with her team she finds the right composition for the different cuvées every year, mixing them in graduated tubes, trusting their fine senses to feel the wines’ temper and style, to let them express themselves within the blend carefully, without letting a single one becoming too overpowering. It’s a science but above all, an art!

Paris Reims

 

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Directly after the harvest which is made by 100.000 pickers every autumn, the grapes are pressed separately for each cru and filled in stainless steel tanks. The first fermentation creates the Vins Clairs (clear or still wines) after a filtering process. Around 4 months later, the oenologist assembles the different Vins Clairs to create the cuvée. For example the Cuvée Brut Mosaïque, is made of 50 different wines. I tasted 7 different Vins Clairs at Jacquart and it’s hard to imagine how one can develop a memory for so many different tastes! When the right composition is found, the wine is filled in bottles together with a small amount of yeast and sugar. In the following 8 weeks, gas starts to develop in the bottles turning the still wine into sparkling wine. After more than 15 months (or 3 years for the Brut Mosaïque and 5-6 years for vintage wines) in a horizontal position, the bottles are repeatedly shaken for 21 days (the remuage or riddling), gradually tilting the bottle neck down and drawing the sediments into the neck. These sediments are eventually removed by freezing the bottle neck through a quick cooling process. This forms a plug of ice which shoots out when the bottle is opened leaving behind a bottle of sediment free wine. Sealed with a cork the Champagne is ready to be sent into the world!

Paris Reims

I learnt so much about Champagne, the grapes, Vins Clairs, I could write about so much more but Champagne is best when experienced personally, the region, its history and of course, the drink as well. So I can only recommend a visit to Reims!

As we enjoyed a wonderful lunch together, Floriane declared that Champagne is the celebration of the moment. I agree!

Here’s the wonderful menu we enjoyed for lunch, created by Maison Schosseler in Taissy, and the accompanied selection of Champagne 

Oysters in cucumber jelly with Aquitaine Caviar
Champagne Jacquart Blanc de Blancs 2006

Butterflied roasted langoustines, with a citrus and coriander infused olive oil
Champagne Jacquart Rosé Mosaïque

Braised sea bass with shellfish sauce and French garden vegetables
Champagne Jacquart Cuvée Alpha 2005

Finely sliced Comté with rocket
Cuvée Champagne Jacquart Nominée 2002

Apple pear and lemon éclair
Cuvée Champagne Jacquart Demi-Sec

Paris Reims

 

Paris Reims

 

Paris Reims

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