eat in my kitchen

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

Tag: lemon

Langostini al Cartoccio cooked in seawater

Langostini al Cartoccio

I’m sure I spent more time in the water than on land in the past few weeks. When I’m in Malta, I turn into a fish, I practically live in and from the sea. Crystal blue water, secluded bays, and hidden caves under limestone arches are my very own little Mediterranean paradise. And once I’m out of the water, there’s often the freshest seafood on my plate. Simplicity rules Malta’s summer cuisine, a whole fish or pink crustaceans from the grill seasoned with a squeeze of lemon and some parsley from the fields, tender octopus in an aromatic stew – great quality ingredients don’t need much to shine.

Although I enjoy visiting the islands’ villages on Malta and Gozo a lot, walking down the quiet alleys and stopping for a cappuccino or ice cream at one of the old cafés, if there’s a chance to put my goggles on and snorkel, you can be sure to find me in the water within a split second. In the first week, I went to my beloved Fomm ir-Riħ to sadly find the gravel beach considerably narrowed by clay swept down from the steep hill behind it. The sea was rough, so we didn’t even bother walking down the hidden track along the cliff face. We went to Sliema’s city beach instead and I finished the day with my obligatory sun-downer – a glass of Ricard at the Exiles bar. Sitting on the warm rocks and smelling the salty air – after a dip in the sea of course – is one of the best ways to end a day in the Mediterranean.

Another trip took us to Marsaskala, a seaside village that I never really gave the attention it deserves. It’s a very Maltese place, not many tourists, old houses, bars, and palm trees lined up along the promenade where the young and old meet after sunset. I had a Ftira sandwich for dinner, but before we dove into village life we discovered a beautiful rocky beach north of the Xrobb l-Għaġin Temple. It was so peaceful, the endless sea framed by chalk-white cliffs softly sliding into the water. We were alone there, my Maltese family, my man and I snorkeled and Mama tried to catch our dinner – without success.

On one of our trips to Gozo, I discovered a recipe that I’d love to share with you today. Noel, the excellent chef at his open-air restaurant at the deep Mgarr ix-Xini bay – which is a bit tough to find – cooked the sweetest langostini al cartoccio in seawater. He doesn’t have to go far, a few steps from his place he finds the cleanest Gozitan sea, always at hand to cook seafood in his preferred method: wrapped in a package, al cartoccio, with a splash of seawater, on the grill. Don’t worry if you don’t happen to live at the sea, just use normal water mixed with the best sea salt you can find, that’s what I did in my Maltese Mama’s kitchen. We got Maltese langostini, which are the sweetest I know. Noel’s crustaceans were a little smaller than ours and tastier, however, my fish monger only had the larger size. You just have to add some lemon wedges to the package and cook it on the grill for a few minutes (or in the oven). They cooked to perfection, with a gentle touch of the salted water. I used Gozitan salt, which I find not only subtle in saltiness, but also tastier than any other I’ve tried. Choose a good one, it’s worth it when you follow simple cooking.

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

Seawater cooked Langostini al Cartoccio from the Grill

You can cook the langostini on the grill or in the oven.

Serves 2

extra wide aluminium foil
medium langostini, fresh and uncooked, 8-10
sea salt 1 tablespoon
water, warm, 300ml / 1 1/4 cups
olive oil
organic lemon, cut into wedges, 1

Start the grill or preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting).

Lay 2 pieces of aluminium foil on top of each other, large enough to wrap the langostini.

Stir the salt into the warm water and let it sit until the salt dissolves. Or, if you happen to live close to the clean sea, use the same amount of fresh seawater.

Lay the langostini in the middle of the aluminium foil and fold up the sides. Add the salted water / seawater, a generous splash of olive oil, and the lemon wedges. Wrap the package and seal the ends well.

Cook the langostini for about 3-5 minutes on the grill (I closed the lid of the grill), or in the oven, until they are just done.

Serve immediately with fresh bread and, if you like, a glass of chilled white wine.

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

Crêpes au Citron

Crêpes au Citron

Rough seas, endless beaches, and food that kept me happy from the morning till the night. I went to France and it was a feast.

I got spoiled with a spontaneous trip to Normandy, to the picturesque seaside village of Le Touquet. Five nights, five days and luckily, I didn’t have much time to make plans beforehand or to build up expectations. This kept me relaxed and the activities very basic: I went from my bed to the opulent breakfast table, then straight to the beach for long walks, a quick snack on the ‘high street’ before teatime or an aperitif at our hotel’s beautiful old bar; at 7pm I was dressed pretty and ready for the French way of dining – luscious feasting that makes you forget about everything around you and lets you sleep like a baby. Those were my days in Normandy.

We couldn’t have organized our arrival at the majestic Le Westminster any better. We were hungry and stepped out of the car just in time for lunch. The hotel’s bistro offered a French classic, Steak Tartare, and a fantastic dish of potatoes, cut thinly and cooked like risotto, with smoked eel and truffles. A glass of Sancerre and our French immediately came out more fluently. It was the beginning of a culinary trip that couldn’t have satisfied my taste buds any better: the freshest oysters, lobster, large rock crab, prawns, and sea snails, Breton Cotriade (fish soup with potatoes) topped with half a lobster (preferable enjoyed at Perard on Rue de Metz), Moules Frites, oeufs a la neige (floating island), and wonderful salads, all very simple combinations with only a few ingredients, but the results were superb.

During our first walk through the village I spotted a fantastic pâtisserie. My instinct is very reliable when it comes to sweets, I can ‘smell’ where I can find the best éclair au café, croissants, little tartes Tropéziennes, brioche and baguette. The bakery’s staff saw me daily. The farmers’ market on Saturday is a weekly celebration in the village, fruits and vegetables, salamis and patés, the most fragrant (and pungent) cheeses, the fishermen’s catch from the night, honey and jam, all laid out in front of us. We were like kids in a candy store and bought bags full of delicacies, which we then stored in the car for a couple days. It was quite cold outside so it didn’t harm the food. However, the cheese infused the car with such a distinct aroma that I’m sure we’ll enjoy it for a few months.

As much as I love a glass of Champagne and a plate full of Atlantic oysters sprinkled with mignonette (chopped shallots in vinegar), the simple pleasures are sometimes the best in life. Le Touquet has an excellent Crêperie, Aux Mignardises Saint Jean, where you can watch the masters of crêpe cook such delicious creations as crêpe au caramel or au citron (both tested and approved). The simple yet so genius addition of a good squeeze of lemon juice really hit me. It was totally new to me, how could I miss it? You just have to cook a thin crêpe, sprinkle it with a little sugar, and drizzle it with the sour juices of the citrus fruit. First I started with a few drops, but then I learned that you can be generous, the more lemon aroma, the better! Back home, I already made it twice and here’s the recipe for you. If you feel like a quick, but scrumptious breakfast, or if you’d like to impress your guests at your next dinner party, flip some crêpes in the pan and buy a bunch of lemons.

Another treat, a savoury buckwheat galette, was just as good and included ham, cheese, and an egg. It was actually so good that I might also share this recipe with you in the near future.

And if you’re not into citrus, try one of these recipes:

Crêpes Caramel au Beurre Salé

Crêpes Suzette

Crêpes with Sweet Sour Cream

Crêpes au Citron

 

Crêpes au Citron

Crêpes au Citron

Makes about 15-20 crêpes

plain flour, sifted, 260g / 2 cups
granulated sugar 50g / 1/4 cup, plus more to sprinkle the crêpes
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
organic eggs 4
milk 1/2l / 2 cups and 2 tablespoons
butter, to cook the crêpes
fresh lemons, cut in half, about 2-3
fresh mint leaves, a small handful (optional)

In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, mix the flour, sugar, salt, eggs, and milk until smooth; let the batter sit for about 10 minutes (at room temperature) to 1 hour (in the fridge).

In a large, heavy or non-stick pan, melt half a teaspoon of butter on medium-high heat. Pour in a ladle of the dough, holding the pan in your hand and turning it so that the dough spreads evenly and very thinly. The crêpes won’t need more than 30-60 seconds on each side once the heat is set right. When the crêpe is slightly golden on both sides, sprinkle with a little (!) sugar, fold twice so that it forms a triangle, and transfer to a large plate. Cover with a large plate or lid. Continue with the remaining batter until you have about 15-20 crêpes. You should always melt 1/2 -1 teaspoon of butter in the pan before you cook the next crêpe.

Serve the crêpes warm, sprinkled with additional sugar to taste, drizzled with freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste), and decorate with a few mint leaves. Bon appétit!

Crêpes au Citron

 

Crêpes au Citron

 

Crêpes au Citron

 

Crêpes au Citron

 

Crêpes au Citron

 

Crêpes au Citron

 

Crêpes au Citron

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

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

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

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

Have a peaceful and joyful start into the New Year!

Meike

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

Serves 2

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

For the pesto

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

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

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

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

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

pastalemonpistaSpaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufalachiopesto6

Marina’s Lemon Marmalade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

A month has passed and I have to leave my beloved archipelago in the deep blue Mediterranean Sea behind. This is the last recipe from my Maltese summer, but I’ll be back soon, in October, to present my ‘baby’ at one of my book launch events, at the fabulous Villa Bologna in Attard.

It’s been a summer full of emotions, with lots of work during the day and family gatherings or evening swims afterwards – the fun began as soon I closed my laptop and put my phone aside. I’ve been busy organizing the book launches in Europe and the US, I survived my first interviews and photo shoots and I met so many wonderful people who’ll be helping me over the next few months. To my surprise, I’ve been enjoying everything that comes along with being a cookbook author. I love giving interviews (I love talking!) and I’ve been quite lucky, I’ve only met very interesting and entertaining people to talk to so far. Photo shoots are still a bit challenging for me, I prefer to stay behind the camera. Usually, I ask my man to accompany me, he manages to make me laugh in the weirdest situations – the result is that we have lots of photos with a big smile on my face. We had a fun shoot with my friend, the great photographer Luke Engerer in Malta. He put me on the roof terrace of his house, the sea in front of me, sparkling in the light of the sinking sun. It was so amazing that I didn’t even mind getting naked on the roof to change (I just hope that none of the neighbours had a camera at hand).

The problem with such a busy schedule is that time flies even quicker. It feels like we just arrived, on that hot night in July and now it’s already mid August and I’m sitting at our dining table, back home in Berlin. For some reason, my home city must have misunderstood the season, Berlin welcomed us with autumn weather, I had to pull out the wool pullovers from the far back of my wardrobe. To ease the pain, I keep looking at the hundreds of pictures I took during the past 4 weeks and I remember every single second that I see in the pictures. I can smell the salty air, I can feel the hot wind on my skin, and I can even taste the ice cream that Marina made for us when we met in the kitchen and gardens of Villa Bologna. It was very lemony and it tasted so good – it was also the first recipe Marina ever made for me, back in the summer of 2015. This recipe is genius, it’s only made with lemon marmalade, heavy cream, milk, and the juice and zest of a Maltese lemon. We were so impatient, that she took it out of the ice cream machine as soon as the motor stopped. It was an early afternoon and so hot, that the ice cream started to melt as soon as we scooped it into the glasses. Marina topped it with caramelized pistachios and lemon zest and I can’t think of a better ice cream for summer – it was divine!

Whenever I have to exchange my Malta life for my Berlin life again, I tend to get a little stressed during our last two days on the islands. There’s a lot of packing to do, but this time we had to sort out the transportation of 33 pounds (!) of sea salt from Mr Cini’s salt pans in Gozo – and we managed. I also had to put away numerous packages of ottijiet cookies from Busy Bee and there were many fragile shells collected from the bottom of the sea waiting to be brought to Berlin to find a place on our window sills. Although they are already covered in shells, I can’t stop collecting more and more of them. When the packing is done, we have a long goodbye ceremony with the family at our granny Edith’s house, accompanied by a few tears and food. And when we’ve waved the last goodbyes and I’ve finally gone through security at the airport, I usually feel exhausted. I just want to get on the plane and relax, which always works out perfectly, thanks to the country’s national airline, Air Malta. I love their cute looking planes, their friendly staff, and the fact that I don’t have to worry about the weight of my luggage. Everyone gets 20kg (44 pounds) for free, just like in the good old days of flying.

Thank you Malta for another amazing summer! xx

And my last tip for the islands: I found a new old bakery in Rabat, they work traditionally and their baked goods are to die for!

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

 

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

Lemon Marmalade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios 

Makes about 1.5l / 6 cups of ice cream.

heavy cream 500ml / 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons
milk 500ml / 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons
lemon marmalade 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
juice and zest of 1 lemon

For the topping

granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
pistachios (or almonds), roughly chopped, 50g / 2 ounces
freshly grated lemon zest

For the ice cream, chill all the ingredients and churn in an ice cream machine until creamy. If it’s still too soft, keep it in the freezer until completely frozen.

For the topping, add the sugar and pistachios to a frying pan and stir over low heat with a wooden spoon until melted. Quickly transfer the caramelized pistachios to a baking sheet and break into pieces when cool.

Divide the ice cream between bowls and sprinkle with caramelized pistachios and freshly grated lemon zest.

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

 

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

 

lemonmarmeladeicecream9

 

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

Cod al Cartoccio with Olives, Parsley and Lemon

Cod al Cartoccio

Whenever I cook fish al cartoccio and I enjoy the tasty fillet’s firm perfection, I ask myself, why should I ever cook cod, salmon, trout, or monkfish any other way? If the timing and seasoning is right, the texture will be flaky and the meat infused with whatever aromas you decide to add to the paper bag. Fresh herbs, warming spices, fresh or preserved lemon, olives, capers, thinly sliced vegetables or prosciutto even, there are endless possibilities to turn dinner into an exciting package of flavours. However, when I’m in my Maltese mama Jenny’s garden in Msida, I feel the same about barbecued fish: Why should I ever turn on the oven again when there’s a nice catch from the fisherman on the table?

When we set up our BBQ in Berlin, there’s mainly meat and vegetables on the roast, fresh fish is a rather rare occasion, it stays in my indoor kitchen most of the time. In the city, I never plan my seafood meals, I buy what looks fresh and yummy and then I decide what’s going to happen with it. My thick piece of cod from the Atlantic got wrapped in a package, but before I closed it, I added lots of fresh parsley, green olives, white wine, and lemon slices. It was a beautiful Mediterranean lunch, which you should enjoy on a Saturday or Sunday, when there’s no more work waiting for you and you can pull a bottle of crisp white wine out of the fridge (without feeling guilty). Just relax and break chunks off an oily loaf of ciabatta to dip into the juices – summer perfection!

Cod al Cartoccio

 

Cod al Cartoccio

Cod al Cartoccio with Olives, Parsley and Lemon

Serves 2 for lunch

olive oil
cod fillet (or any firm, white fish, such as monkfish or halibut), preferably a thick center piece, about 350-400g / 12-14 ounces
fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 medium bunch
green olives, with pits, 14
organic lemon, rinsed and scrubbed, 2 slices
white wine 2 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
fine sea salt
ground pepper

Set the oven to 200°C / 400°F (convection setting).

Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper large enough to wrap the fish and lay them on top of each other. Brush the top sheet with olive oil, place all but 1 sprig of the parsley in the middle, and lay the cod on top. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put the remaining parsley on top of the fillet and finish it off with the lemon slices. Arrange the olives around the fish. Whisk the wine with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the lemon juice and pour over the fish. To close the package, fold the sides over, twist both ends of the parchment paper, and fold the top twice so it’s well sealed. Place the parchment package in a baking dish and bake for 10 minutes. If you can flake the fish gently with a fork, it’s done. If not, close the parchment again and continue baking for up to 5 minutes. The cooking time can vary depending on the fillet’s thickness, but mind that you don’t overcook it.

Cod al Cartoccio

 

Cod al Cartoccio

 

Cod al Cartoccio

 

Cod al Cartoccio

 

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codalcartoccio9

Cynthia Barcomi’s Cheesecake with Mint and Aniseed Crust

Mint Cheesecake with Aniseed Crust

This recipe comes from a woman who is a great inspiration in the kitchen and for life – and she’s also one of the reasons why I live where I live. I used to visit Berlin quite often in my twenties and on one of those trips, I discovered Barcomi’s Deli right in the heart of the city’s old Eastern part. The moment I walked through the hidden Sophienhöfe for the first time, I fell in love with its peaceful backyards and the tall brick walls covered in vine. When I opened the glass door to Cynthia Barcomi’s cozy café, I found my place. Amazing coffee and the best American cakes, muffins, and sandwiches I had ever tasted, I was hooked. So I decided that if I ever moved to this city, it would have to be close to Cynthia’s kitchen. And that’s what I did.

Cynthia is from New York. In the late 80’s, she came to Berlin to live and work here as a professional dancer. Today, she’s one of Germany’s most successful women in the food business. She started roasting her own coffee beans long before it became a trend, and she introduced the people in her new home city to all the scrumptious treats she grew up with: bagels, New York cheesecake, fruit pies, and luscious sandwiches made with the juiciest potato bread. It became a great success. When you meet Cynthia, you can see right away that she’s not the kind of person who would rest if something works out. She’s constantly on the move, her enthusiasm is impressive, and she jumps from one project to the next project. She started a flourishing catering business, became a popular TV host, sells her own bakeware collection (she has the most perfect pie dishes!), and she wrote six best selling cookbooks. And all this as a mother of four children – sometimes I wish I had her energy.

Mint Cheesecake with Aniseed Crust

It’s only a year ago, that Cynthia published her last book Cookies, which includes the best brownie recipe I know: chocolate and peanut butter. They are divine. Her new masterpiece is just as packed with deliciousness and focuses on Cheesecakes, Pies & Tartes (in German). It’s a very special book, as Cynthia, for the first time, shared her signature cake, the best New York cheesecake in town. Her fans have been bugging her for years to share it with them, but she declined. So finally, after 20 years, she had mercy on us and opens her new book with this exact recipe. When I decided to write about Cynthia’s new creations, I felt so tempted to bake this cake and share the recipe here with you, but I wasn’t even sure if I feel quite ready to bake this cake at home in my kitchen. I’ve ben enjoying it for so long at her café, do I want to know how this piece of magic is actually made? I think for now, I want to leave it this way, I just jump on my bike whenever my appetite calls for it and roll down the hill to her Deli.

But as I thumbed through the pages of her new book, reading about such tempting treats as Blueberry Pocket Pies, Peanut Butter Townie, Sweet Potato Spice Bars with Potato Chip Crust, and Honey Almond Goat Cheese Cheesecake, I got excited. And then I spotted a recipe that made it impossible to read any further: A Spanish Cheesecake or Flaó from Ibiza. The pie is made with ricotta and mascarpone and refined with lemon and mint – this is genius! The filling lies on an aniseed short crust base and it’s the most aromatic, fragrant, and light cheesecake I ever had on a plate. Two days ago, we shared the last pieces of it with some friends and there was happy silence at the table. I never even thought of adding mint to a cheesecake and it’s actually the best thing that could happen to it. Cynthia learned about this combination from a friend’s aunt, Maria, an eccentric art collector from Spain, living in New York. I have to start thinking about what else I could do with the mint plant outside my window.

Mint Cheesecake with Aniseed Crust

When I sipped on my creamy cappuccino at Barcomi’s many, many years ago, it would have never crossed my mind that one day, the woman who created all this would become more than an inspiration in my life. Cynthia gave me the best tips for my book when I started working on it. She shared her experiences with me and helped me so much during the whole process in the past year. And then, when I asked her if she’d like to write a quote for my book, she didn’t hesitate. I emailed her the pages of the Eat In My Kitchen book, and I have to confess that I felt a bit nervous to share it with her. When I read her words, it brought me to tears:

“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!”

Thank you Cynthia!

Mint Cheesecake with Aniseed Crust

Cynthia Barcomi’s Mint Cheesecake with Aniseed Crust

Serves 6

For the pastry base

plain flour 200g / 1 1/2 cups
granulated sugar 2 teaspoons
aniseed, finely crushed in a mortar, 1 1/2 teaspoons
salt 1/2 teaspoon
freshly grated zest from 1/2 lemon
unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes, 90g / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon
vegetable shortening, cold, cut into cubes, 30g / 2 tablespoons
egg yolk 1
olive oil 1 tablespoon

For the filling

fresh ricotta 250g / 9 ounces
mascarpone 250g / 9 ounces
granulated sugar 200g / 1 cup
eggs 4
freshly grated zest from 1/2 lemon
fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, 2 tablespoons

For the topping

fresh mint leaves 12
granulated sugar 1 tablespoon

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, aniseed, salt, and lemon zest. Add the butter and vegetable shortening and rub them into the flour mixture with your fingers, or use the dough hooks of an electric mixer and quickly mix until you have a crumbly mixture. Whisk together the egg yolk and olive oil in a measuring cup and add water until the total is 100ml / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon. Add to the dough and mix until just combined; don’t knead the dough. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film, and put in the fridge for 2 hours (or longer).

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F and butter a 23cm / 9″ pie or tart dish.

For the filling, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer, whisk together the ricotta, mascarpone, and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and stir in the lemon zest and chopped mint leaves.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll our between cling film, large enough to line the bottom and sides of the pie dish. Line the pie dish with the pastry, press it into the dish, and leave about 5mm / 1/4″ of dough hanging over the rim.

Pour the filling on top of the pastry and decorate with the 12 mint leaves (arrange them like a clock). Bake for 50 minutes or until golden. (Cynthia suggests that you check the cake after 30 minutes and cover it with aluminium foil if it gets too dark, I skipped this, the colour was fine.) Take the cake out of the oven, sprinkle with the sugar, and let it cool.

Mint Cheesecake with Aniseed Crust

 

Mint Cheesecake with Aniseed Crust

 

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Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka

Blueberry Cheese Babka

One of the first recipes that caught my attention as I thumbed through the pages of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem, was their gorgeous looking chocolate krantz cake – also known as babka. It’s a Jewish classic – a sweet, soft twisted yeast cake that can be filled with chocolate, ricotta, cream cheese, almond paste, nuts, poppy seeds, or fruit butter. I knew this cake from Cynthia Barcomi’s German book Backen, she sprinkles the loaf with crumbles and adds marzipan to the filling. I never tried it but the pictures in both books looked so tempting that I decided to give babka a go. I didn’t even mind the overnight-preparation that Ottolenghi recommends – if you time it well, it’s not a big deal. Yotam and Sami use water for the dough, Cynthia goes for milk, which I also did. It makes it rich like a brioche.

However, I didn’t feel like dark chocolate but cream cheese, blueberries, and lemon zest. A bit of spring feeling packed in a Sunday breakfast treat. The cheese makes the yeast dough nice and juicy, the berries make it fruity and fresh. I can only imagine how wonderful this would be at an early summer picnic in May but let’s not think about that for now. I made the dough in the evening before I went to bed and gave it a good 10 minutes of kneading until the soft butter, eggs, and milk were well combined and I held a silky, smooth ball of dough in my hands. After a night in the fridge it had risen slightly by the next morning, but hadn’t doubled in size. Rolled out thinly and spread with the filling, it was a bit fiddly to roll it up into a log without loosing the blueberries. I wanted to add even more berries but it would have made it too stressful to keep them inside – so I went for less fruit and a chilled out mood instead. Twisting was next: If you have Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem book at home, you can see how he does it, his technique is too complicated to explain and impossible if you want to fill your babka with cream cheese enriched with stiff egg whites and fruit. I followed Cynthia’s method instead: I closed the roll into a ring and twisted it about seven times. When it comes to this kind of fragile kitchen projects, it’s best to transfer your piece of art quickly and with confidence to a buttered pan – insecurity and hesitance would just make it harder to succeed. When this is done, the cake has to rise for an hour once again, so if you want to enjoy it for breakfast, you should get up in time. Once it’s nice and puffy, the babka bakes in the oven for about 1 hour, but then it smells and tastes so wonderful that you don’t mind the hours of work.

Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka

 

Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka

Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka

Mind that the babka has to rise twice, the first time overnight (for about 8 hours) in the fridge.

Makes 1 loaf cake.

For the dough

plain flour 260g / 2 cups
granulated sugar 50g / 1/4 cup
fast-acting yeast 1 1/2 teaspoons
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
milk, lukewarm, 60ml / 1/4 cup
organic egg 1
organic egg yolk 1
butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces, 75g / 1/3 cup
oil, for the bowl

For the filling

organic egg whites 2 plus 1 egg yolk
a pinch of fine sea salt
cream cheese 250g / 9 ounces
granulated sugar 30g / 2 tablespoons
vanilla pod, scraped, 1/4
freshly grated lemon zest 1 heaping teaspoon
fresh blueberries 150g / 5 1/4 ounces

For the glaze

organic egg yolk 1
milk 1 tablespoons

For the yeast dough, in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Whisk the milk, egg, and egg yolk and add along with the butter to the flour mixture. Knead for about 10 minutes, starting with the dough hooks of an electric mixer and continue kneading and punching with your hands for a few minutes until you have a soft and silky ball of dough. Transfer to a clean, oiled bowl, cover with cling film and put in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, for the filling, beat the egg whites and salt until stiff. In a large bowl, whisk the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, vanilla seeds, and lemon zest until creamy. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites until combined.

Butter a 11 x 24cm / 4 x 9″ loaf pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

Punch the dough down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for about 30 seconds. On a floured counter top, roll out the dough with a rolling pin into a 28 x 40cm / 11 x 16″ rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 2cm / 3/4″ rim, and sprinkle with the blueberries. Brush 1 of the shorter sides with cold water. Starting from the other short side, roll up the dough tightly into a thick log. Press to seal the end onto the roll and place the seam at the bottom. Gently stretch the roll a little and close into a ring, pushing the dough of both ends together to seal the filling inside (see the 5th row of pictures). Leaving the ring lying on the counter top, push the ring gently together, and, starting from the middle, carefully twist the roll about 3-4 times on the left side and then on the other side. The more you twist it, the more layers it will have, don’t worry if it tears a bit. It should look like a thick spiral (see the 2nd row of pictures). Lift the roll with a large knife and quickly transfer to the prepared pan. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm place (I put it on the heater) for about 60-90 minutes or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (conventional oven). For the glaze, whisk the egg yolk and milk.

Brush the loaf with the glaze and bake in the oven for 35 minutes, then cover loosely with aluminium foil and bake for another 30 minutes or until golden brown and almost firm on top. Check with a skewer, it should come out almost clean. Take the pan out of the oven and let the cake cool for at least 10-15 minutes before you remove it from the pan. Enjoy slightly warm or cool.

Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka

 

Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka

 

Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka

 

Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka

 

Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka

 

Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka

Ricotta Polenta Almond Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

Polenta-Almond Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

No flour again! After my Spanish Almond Tart with Blood Orange, I got a little hooked on no-flour cakes. I don’t follow a gluten-free diet – luckily, my diet is far from this – it’s just for the fun of it. The texture is different when you work with ground nuts instead of wheat or spelt, it’s more juicy, and here, the polenta adds some crunchiness. I’ve already experimented with a few polenta-almond combinations and enjoyed this one a lot: poppy seeds, ricotta, and lemon. I use ground poppy seeds, they don’t look as pretty in the cake but they have a richer aroma than the whole seeds. The juice and zest from the citrus fruit makes it nice and fresh and helps me to forget that the variety of fruits that I can use for my baking projects is still quite limited. It’s mainly citrus, apple, and pear but I’m coping. Only a few more months left and all those berries will be back in my kitchen.

This weekend, I’m spending some quality time with my mother. It’s carnival and, according to our annual family tradition, we all meet in the countryside to make Berliner (jam filled German doughnuts). We dress up funny (some of us) and listen to silly music, it’s actually so silly that it’s better to drink some wine or Champagne while it’s on to stand its distinct humour. Two years ago, I wrote about this family feast and shared the recipe for our sweet treat. If you’re up for it – carnival isn’t over yet – here’s the recipe. And if you prefer the Greek version, here are my Loukoumades with Honey, Cinnamon, and Pistachios.

Polenta-Almond Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

 

Polenta-Almond Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

Ricotta Polenta Almond Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

ground skin-on almonds 150g / 5 1/2 ounces
fine polenta 80g / 3 ounces
baking powder 2 teaspoons
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
unsalted butter, at room temperature, 100g / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons
granulated sugar 200g / 1 cup
organic eggs 4
fresh ricotta 100g / 3 1/2 ounces
freshly grated lemon zest 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 tablespoons
poppy seeds (preferably ground) 50g / 2 ounces

For the topping

icing sugar, sifted
freshly grated lemon zest 1 teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (preferably convection setting). Butter a 20-cm / 8-inch springform pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the ground almonds, polenta, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between until creamy. Add the ricotta, lemon zest, and juice and beat for about 1 minute until combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the almond-polenta mixture and the poppy seeds until well combined. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes (slightly longer if using a conventional oven) or until golden brown and firm on top. If you insert a skewer in the centre of the cake, it should come out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then take it out of the pan. Dust with icing sugar and sprinkle with a little lemon zest.

Polenta-Almond Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

 

Polenta-Almond Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

 

Polenta-Almond Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

 

poppyseedlemonricottacake7

 

poppyseedlemonricottacake10

 

poppyseedlemonricottacake9

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