eat in my kitchen

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Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

We spent our Christmas in the Mediterranean, a premier for me, we normally stay in the cold North. I decorate our tree and the rest of the apartment according to my annual passion for wintery kitsch, and I eat duck, German potato dumplings, and usually (always) too many cookies. 2016 was different, we decided to go to Sicily first and spend a few relaxing days in the heart of the Archaeological Park of Agrigento (I’ll share my impressions with you next week). Malta was next on our itinerary, and with it came along lots of sunshine, rough seas, long walks in the countryside, and my wonderful, crazy Maltese family. It was loud and silly, we ate and drank too much wine in front of my Maltese Mama’s gorgeous crib in Msida, and I was happy.

I learned that a proper crib is an important part of the Maltese celebration, and I’m talking about cribs of rather large dimensions, well equipped with colourful figures, various animals, a real stable setting made of rocks, and most importantly, an impressive light installation to represent the firmament. Every house leaves the main door open, so that passersby can peak through the glass door to admire the re-enacted scenes of Jesus’ birth. I’ve seen impressive installations that leave no doubt that the Maltese take Christmas very seriously.

Being under the hot Mediterranean sun in the coldest season of the year has many advantages, my vitamin D resources are definitely recharged. Everything is fine as long as you stay outside the house, inside it’s freezing cold. A country where the temperature barely drops below 16°C (60°F) doesn’t really have to think about those few days of sharp chill. But a person who’s used to central heating – me – has to get used to the fact that the bedroom (and the bathroom!) can actually feel much colder than the air outside. I coped and complained, but our sunny walks along the lush green Dingli cliffs definitely made up for it.

And I’ll never forget our New Year’s Eve in Gozo, we stayed at a beautiful farmhouse at the border of the village of Qala. We had a gorgeous room, with a large terrace and the most stunning views of the islands of Comino and Malta. We ordered 3 (!) pizzas from the local Maxokk bakery, bought a bottle of local red wine from my friends at Meridiana, and just sat on the sofa, amazed by the peace in front of our eyes.

I had never seen Malta like this, so green and in full bloom. My past travels covered everything from March to October, but I always avoided the winter months. I’d love to show you pictures, but I was on a mission, I didn’t touch my camera, I stayed offline most of the time, and I slowed down my pace drastically. So there are no pictures, but lots of beautiful memories of time spent in nature, silent, without any disturbing technical devices.

However, when we came back to Berlin, I noticed a slight feeling of dissatisfaction, I missed my Christmas. To make up for my nostalgic longings, I decided to have a Christmas week in January. In the past few days, I baked Christmas cookies and my boyfriend had to listen to me singing along to Christmas carols. My celebrations found their festive peak in a Christmas dinner for two with slow roasted duck (I used the recipe from my book), red cabbage with spices and apples, and German potato dumplings. Now I’m cured and we can move on with our lives – also in the kitchen.

My latest post-Christmas kitchen project led to a hearty yet airy focaccia, topped with thickly sliced red onions roasted on top of the dough in lots of olive oil and a generous amount of aromatic Swiss Gruyère cheese. It’s pure comfort food. I cut a thick slice off the warm bread and enjoyed it on a chair that I placed close to the heater. I doubt I ever appreciated central heating as much as I do now.

If you’re looking for some more focaccia inspiration, take a look at these recipes:

Fig, Chèvre and Honey Focaccia

Emiko Davies Florentine Grape Focaccia

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini, Aubergine and Parmesan

Focaccia with Grapes, Rosemary and Sea Salt

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Makes a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ focaccia

For the dough

plain flour 500g / 3 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons
fast-acting yeast 1 (7g / 1/4 ounce) envelope
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
granulated sugar 1 heaping teaspoon
water, lukewarm, 260ml / 1 cup and 2 tablespoons
olive oil 120ml / 1/2 cup, plus 1-2 tablespoons to oil the baking sheet

For the topping

Swiss Gruyère cheese, or any aromatic hard cheese, coarsely grated, 100g / 7 ounces
red onions, thickly sliced, 2
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

For the dough, combine the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the lukewarm water and half the olive oil (60ml / 1/4 cup) and knead on medium-high speed for a few minutes until well combined. I mix it on ‘4’ on my KitchenAid. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Transfer the dough to a table or countertop and continue kneading and punching it down with your hands for about 4 minutes or until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough back in the mixer bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C / 100°F warm oven (conventional setting), for about 60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Oil a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ baking sheet.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for 1 minute. Using your hands, stretch and spread the dough on the oiled baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F (convection setting).

Using the round bottom of a wooden spoon or your finger, punch around 6 x 7 holes into the surface of the dough. Arrange the sliced onions on top of the dough, pushing the slices gently into the dough. Pour the remaining olive oil over the dough and onion and into the holes. Sprinkle with the cheese and a little flaky sea salt and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and light brown. Sprinkle with crushed pepper and enjoy warm or cold. The focaccia tastes best on the first day.

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich

Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich

The changing of the seasons, the short gap before the next season takes over, is a great gift. It’s a time that tends to fill me with great excitement. Autumn’s waiting in the wings, yet summer isn’t ready to say goodbye. There’s no need to rush, I can indulge in Vorfreude – the German word for the happiness and excitement that we feel before a special event. The idea of coziness and comfort food, long walks in the forest and snuggly sofa time is already more than appealing. I replace my flowery dresses with a pair of jeans and a cardigan and spend just as much time outside as I did in the past few months. The sun is lower and wraps the world around me in a gorgeous golden glow, everything looks softer and warmer. My appetite shifts from lighter treats to the richer pleasures of the kitchen, and my mood is full of joy and curiosity for everything that the next couple months will bring into my life.

Cooking plums with spices is a celebration of late summer, but with a subtle nod towards the festive season. I had this aromatic duo in mind when Leerdammer asked me to create a new sandwich, a sandwich that fits my current mood. The fruit caramelized in sugar, cinnamon, and coriander seeds, sits on top of a rich cheese omelette. This whole juicy joy is layered in a soft ciabatta bread, sprinkled with a bit of fresh thyme. Just one bite and I’m ready to celebrate the season. I love to indulge in the produce that every month of the year offers, especially when there’s fresh bread on the table: Be it in my Cheese, Bacon, and Egg Sandwich with Garden Vegetables, a summery light creation in June, or the pleasures of zucchini cheese fritters and strawberries piled between two slices of bread. Maybe I should come up with a sandwich calendar one day.

I usually spend late September and October experimenting with roots and winter squash, with grapes, plums, and apples. I try out new meat dishes and enjoy my trusted classics. But this year, I’ll ‘lose’ a month in the kitchen. I’ll be traveling through Europe and the US pretty much all of October to launch my book and to finally present my recipes, printed on paper, physically and not just in the digital spheres of the world. As much as I know that I’ll miss my kitchen, I can’t say that this circumstance fills me with sadness. I’m nervous, excited, even a bit hysterical at times, but I can’t wait to finally open the pages of the Eat In My kitchen book and show it to all the people who I’m going to meet soon.

To make up for the kitchen break ahead of me, I spent the past few weeks cooking and baking with all the ingredients that I’ll miss out on. Plums are at the top of my list – for sweet and savoury dishes. If I had to choose one flavour to describe this time of the year, it would be plums. I love their sour fruitiness, especially cooked, in combination with aromatic spices. Add them to a bowl of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream and you can still taste summer, turn them into a fragrant chutney and stir them into the thick sauce of a venison stew in a couple months and you’re ready for winter. Dumplings, jam, cakes, or sandwiches, there’s no recipe that this fruit can’t deal with.

The preparation of a little sandwich masterpiece is usually not particularly time-consuming, but the result can easily be unforgettable. Leerdammer came up with a website where you can choose a sandwich that fits your own or a friend’s mood and send it as a greeting card to your loved ones. You might not share your sandwich, but you can at least share the good feeling that it creates.

This post has been sponsored by Leerdammer.

Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich

 

Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich

Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich

Makes 2 Sandwiches

For the caramelized plums

granulated sugar 2 tablespoons
unsalted butter 2 tablespoons
coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon
large plums, cut into quarters, 4

For the omelette

organic eggs 3
heavy cream 60ml / 1/4 cup
freshly grated nutmeg
fine sea salt
ground pepper
butter 1 teaspoon

For the sandwich

lettuce leaves 2-4
small ciabatta bread, cut into 2 buns, each cut in half, 1
Leerdammer cheese, thinly sliced, about 60g / 2 ounces
a few fresh thyme leaves
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

For the caramelized plums, in a medium, heavy pan, heat the sugar, butter, and spices over medium high heat, stir, and add the plums as soon as the butter is golden and sizzling. Cook the plums for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden and soft. Turn them gently one by one, and mind that they keep their shape. Take the pan off the heat.

For the omelette, whisk the eggs and heavy cream and season with nutmeg, salt, and ground pepper. In a small, heavy or non-stick pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Pour the egg mixture into the pan, scramble very lightly and fold onto itself. When the bottom side starts to become golden flip the omelette around. Cook it shortly from the other side for about a minute or until the omelette is just set. Take the pan off the heat and cut the omelette into large chunks.

Arrange the lettuce on top of the two bottoms of the buns. Divide the warm omelette between the buns, spread the cheese on top, then finish it off with the warm caramelized plums. Pour the buttery juices from the pan used for the plums over the fruit and sprinkle with thyme and a little crushed black pepper. Close the bun, squeeze a little – gently! – and enjoy!

Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich

 

Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich

 

Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich

 

Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich

 

Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich

 

spicedplumscheeseomelettesandwich10

Roast Garlic and Gruyère Sandwich

Roast Garlic + Cheese Sandwich

Garlic roasted in its skin is one of these things I can never have (or make) enough of. No matter how many of these little cloves I throw into the hot oven, I always feel like I could have made more. They cook in their delicate peel like in a little parchment pouch, steaming, softening and unfolding all of their wonderful flavours. It tastes less spicy than raw garlic but yet so aromatic, almost sweet and the texture is smooth, a bit oily. It’s a great spread on bread!

Garlic is considered a natural antibiotic which has lots of positive effects on the body. It strengthens the immune system, stops free radicals and slows down the aging process. A tiny bulb that does a lot of good for our body! I strongly believe in the healing and strengthening powers of natural and good quality food. This is one of the reasons why I buy organic food as much as possible. I want natural food which is kept natural, no GMOs, no pesticides, food attuned to the ecological system and not against it. A few years ago I started to drink organic green tea with freshly squeezed lemon juice every morning, since then I haven’t had a cold or become sick!

There must be something in garlic that my body loves and when it comes to roast garlic I feel like I could eat it with a spoon, in strong doses like in this sandwich made with 14 cloves of garlic for just 2 buns! I baked medium sized cloves of garlic in their skin in a 210°C / 410°F hot oven for about 12 minutes until golden and soft (you can cover them with aluminum foil if they start to get too dark). They were so soft that I could mash them with a fork, I just added some salt and spread the paste on the buns. I put a couple slices of Swiss Gruyère cheese on top (120g / 4.5 ounces for 4 halfs) and let them melt under the grill for 1-2 minutes until golden brown. I finished my sandwich off with crushed black pepper and some watercress sprinkled on top.

An oily and dense Ciabatta bread would have been good too but when I saw the Swiss Buns at the bakery which have a similar texture to the Italian bread I thought they would match the Gruyère cheese perfectly, it became a delicious and healthy Swiss sandwich!

Roast Garlic + Cheese Sandwich

 

Roast Garlic + Cheese Sandwich

 

Roast Garlic + Cheese Sandwich

 

Roast Garlic + Cheese Sandwich

Cheese Spaetzle, a Swabian Feast

Cheese Spaetzle

This meal is a feast, one of my all time favourite foods! It’s luscious, rich and simply stunning. I am talking about Cheese Spätzle – originally from Swabia in the South of Germany. Spätzle are little noodles made of flour, durum wheat semolina and egg. They are thick, with bite. You press the Spätzle dough through a potato ricer into boiling water and then you layer the cooked Spätzle noodles with lots of good mountain cheese and fried onions –  just addictive! Whenever our family comes together for a few days Spätzle is one of our dinners.

I make Spätzle with a ricer. Originally they are “cut” into pieces by placing the thick dough on a little chopping board, letting it run into boiling water and cutting pieces off. I must admit that I never tried this. I prefer to stick to my ricer.

Yesterday I had a big dinner for ten at mine and Cheese Spätzle were my first choice. They are so easy to prepare, hearty and perfect for the cold season and – to me – there is nothing more beautiful than placing a big bowl of food in the middle of my long wooden table. It was a true feast, savoured by us all!

Cheese Spaetzle

 Cheese Spätzle

You need a potato ricer with large holes or a special Spätzle ricer.

I served the Cheese Spätzle with a wintery salad with beetroot on the side. As there were 10 of us yesterday I made the Spätzle dough with 27 eggs! Usually I calculate 5 eggs for 2 people.

For 2 people you need

plain flour (I use spelt flout type 630) 130g / 4.5 ounces plus more for mixing
durum wheat semolina 180g / 6.5 ounces plus more for mixing
organic eggs 5
salt 1 teaspoon

onions, medium sized, cut in thin slices, 5
olive oil for frying

strong cheese (like Appenzeller or Raclette), grated, 200g / 7 ounces

salt and pepper

Put the flour, semolina and the salt in a big bowl, add  the eggs and mix with a wooden spoon until everything is combined. Whip the dough at bit harder until bubbles appear on its surface. Add more semolina if necessary until you have a thick, viscous dough which drips slowly off your spoon. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to the boil.

Place an ovenproof dish (big enough for all the Spätzle) in the the oven and set to 100°C / 210°F.

Fry the onions in some oil on medium heat for 10-15 minutes until soft and golden brown. Grate the cheese.

Fill your Spätzle or potato ricer with some of the Spätzle dough, press into the boiling water and cut off the dripping ends with a long knife. Let the Spätzle cook for 30 seconds, drain and place them in the warm dish from your oven. Season carefully with salt and pepper as you must season every Spätzle layer. Sprinkle the top with some of the grated cheese and fried onions. You have to divide the onions and the cheese depending on how many batches of Spätzle you make. Place the bowl with the Spätzle in the warm oven again and continue with the next batch, always seasoning each layer and topping with cheese and onions.

Place the bowl with your Cheese Spätzle on the table – you can offer some freshly crushed pepper and more salt with it.

Enjoy your Spätzle feast!

A small but important note: Clean the cooking ware that was in touch with the Spätzle dough only with cold water. Don’t use warm water as it will make the bits of dough as hard as concrete.

Cheese Spaetzle

A Mountain Bun

Mountain Buns

When I was a child we used to go to the Italian Dolomite Alps. Every year, in December, we stayed in a beautiful village in the Alta Badia region called Corvara. I loved being there as it looked like a wintery fairy tale (I always had a weak spot for places like this). Old wooden houses, trees packed with thick snow and the most amazing Tyrolean food – my childhood heaven. Yesterday I thought about how much I would love to be in the mountains again, in a wooden hut with an open fire and lots of snow outside. I would sit at a rustic old wooden table and eat rustic food.

Although I will not be visiting Corvara this winter, at least I have the wooden table and the hearty food. Therefore, my Wednesday Sandwich has to be a mountain sandwich – kind of – rich, with ham and cheese, homemade plum chutney and ground pepper. This morning, I baked my own buns with coriander and aniseed and I got some nice ham and cheese.  I made a plum chutney with lots of spices a couple months ago which is great together with cold cuts and mountain cheese. You could also use any other chutney or even plum butter, you just need something that adds a bit of fruity sweetness to this sandwich.

Mountain Buns

A Mountain Bun

For 2 sandwiches you need:

2 buns or 4 thick slices of bread, 2 slices of ham, 6 thin slices of strong mountain cheese like Swiss Appenzeller, plum chutney, a few leaves of lettuce (I used field salad as I had some left) and some crushed pepper.

Set your oven to grill (highest temperature).

Cut the bun in half, spread the chutney thinly on one half and put a slice of ham on top. Cover with 3 slices of cheese and put in the oven until the cheese starts to melt. Take the bun out, sprinkle with pepper, add some lettuce and put the other half of your bun on top.

I know it’s a bit of work, but baking your own bread or buns is definitely worth the effort and I’m sure you will agree after your first bite of the warm and fluffy buns. I prepared mine last night and let the dough rise overnight. Then you just have to put the buns into shape the next morning, let them rise for 40 minutes and bake them. If you want them plain just leave out the coriander and aniseed, they are still delicious!

Buns

This recipe makes 12 fabulous buns or milk rolls:

plain four 550g / 1.1 pound
dry yeast 1 package for 500g / 1 pound of flour
milk, lukewarm,  300ml
butter, melted, 50g / 2 ounces
organic egg 1
sugar 1 teaspoon
salt 1 1/2 teaspoon
coriander, crushed, 1 teaspoon
aniseed, for the topping, 1 teaspoon

Combine the flour with the yeast, coriander, sugar and salt. Mix the milk with the melted butter and the egg. Mind the temperature as the mixture should be lukewarm. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour and start mixing with your dough hooks for around 10 minutes until you have an elastic dough ball. Put the dough on a floured working surface and continue kneading with your hands for a couple minutes.

When I prepare the dough in the evening I place it in a clean, buttered and covered bowl in the fridge and let it rise overnight. You will have to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before you can continue with the next steps.

In case I want to bake my buns the same day, I put the dough in a clean and buttered bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let it rise in the 35°C / 95°F warm oven for 60 minutes. This works really well but make sure that your oven is set to top/ bottom heat and not to fan.

Set your oven to 220°C / 430°F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

When the dough is bigger and puffy punch it down and knead for 1-2 minutes. Cut into 12 pieces and roll them in your hands into a round shape. Place the buns on your baking sheet, sprinkle with anisseed and give them another 40 minutes in a warm place to rise again (covered with a tea towel).

Bake the buns for 6 minutes, take the temperature down to 200°C / 390°F and bake them for another 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool for a couple minutes.

Mountain Buns

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