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Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

I think spring is my favourite season – until I feel the same in summer, autumn, or winter, depending on my mood. Spring offers a lot of drama and surprises. The changeover from the cold season is so drastic, so abrupt. There’s so much energy around and inside me all of a sudden without even knowing where it’s coming from. The temperature rises, nature’s sprouting and flourishing at every corner, adding colour to a scene that was brown and grey only a few weeks ago. I welcome these changes with gushing excitement and open the doors to my kitchen for all those greens that are soon to come to my cooking space.

In the past couple weeks, the fragile leaves of fragrant ramps brought Mediterranean pesto back to our table. And crisp asparagus is next. The official harvest start of the white asparagus from Beelitz happened last week, so let the feasting begin! When I eat the white stalks, I’m quite a traditionalist. Young potatoes, ham, and Hollandaise sauce is all I need. But when it comes to green asparagus, I become more experimental.

This little lunch was as simple as it was stunning: I added the green stalks, boiled and very thinly sliced, to a plate of warm spaghetti, burrata (mozzarella di Bufala would also work), and ramp pesto. You could also go for a basil or arugula (rucola) pesto, but I enjoyed the subtle oniony flavour in my green creation. In case you disagree, you’ll find the links to all three pesto recipes below. Buon Appetito!

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto

Serves 2

For the ramp pesto
(here you can find alternative recipes for basil or arugula pesto)

ramps or ramson, leaves only, 1 medium bunch (around 60g / 2 ounces)
parmesan 30g / 1 ounce
olive oil 60ml / 1/4 cup
salt 1/4 teaspoon

For the pasta

green asparagus, the bottoms cut off, 1 pound
spaghetti 150-200g / 5-7 ounces
olive oil
burrata (or mozzarella di Bufala) 200g / 7 ounces
ramp pesto about 4 tablespoons
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar

For the pesto, purée the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth and season with salt to taste.

Cook the asparagus in plenty of salted water for about 3 minutes or until al dente. Using a slotted ladle, transfer the asparagus to a colander (leave the water in the pot), rinse the stalks briefly with cold water, and drain. Using a sharp knife, lengthwise, quarter each stalk into 4 long pieces (including the heads).

To cook the pasta, put the pot you used for the asparagus back on the heat, bring the water to the boil (add more water if necessary), and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, transfer back to the pot, and stir in a tiny splash of olive oil.

Divide the pasta and asparagus between 2 plates, folding the vegetable into the spaghetti. Break the burrata in half and place in the middle of each pasta plate. Drizzle with pesto and a few drops of olive oil (optional) and season with salt and crushed pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

Ramp and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish with Spring Peas

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

I didn’t have many cookbooks when I was younger, I learned all about cooking from my mother. She’s my mama bird in the kitchen, I just watch and follow her. Then, in my late teens, she gave me my first cookbook, a detailed introduction to the most important basic techniques covering everything from eggs to soups, meat, seafood, and vegetables. It felt like she wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t starve when I moved out. The book was published in the 80’s and beautifully photographed. Quite minimal. I think, in regards to food photography, this book influenced my style of capturing food in pictures more than any other publications.

It was my only cookbook for a long time, but I collected and wrote down recipes myself whenever I got the chance to sneak a kitchen classic from a friend or my family. Even in restaurants, I was never shy to ask, if they’d share a recipe with me (the ones that really hit me). This strategy led to a bursting folder packed with notes, snippets, and sheets torn out of magazines. I still haven’t cooked and baked all of the treasures collected in more than 30 years. It’s a steadily growing project.

As I got into collecting cookbooks, Jamie Oliver’s books were one of the first added to the shelves. First as a present from friends, but later on I bought a few myself. I liked his style of playing with food. I was in my early twenties, I had seen and tasted many German, French, and Italian traditional classics cooked to perfection, by my mother and in friend’s kitchens, or at restaurants. But I felt like a younger voice. And Jamie’s voice felt just right at that time. In the end, I might have only cooked about 15 of his creations in all those years, but he inspired me a lot. And at least 5 of his recipes became staples that I still embrace today.

There’s one recipe that I’ve been wanting to try for more than 15 years. And again, I didn’t use it to follow, but to play with: Jamie wraps monkfish filets in prosciutto spread with pesto. It’s so simple, it looks stunning. As spring is in the air, or at least the smell of ramps as you enter the woods, I decided to wrap my firm white fish fillet in ramp leaves and prosciutto di Parma. Thanks to Jamie, the cooking time and temperature were perfect. The fillet was tender yet firm. And the wrapping was spot on: green, fresh, and slightly salty.

If you’re still looking for an Easter menu, what about skipping the traditional lamb roast and go for seafood? This dish is so easy, serve it with a bowl of lemony ramp peas and baguette (for the lazy ones like me) or Mediterranean mashed potatoes (either from my book, or try this recipe). And what about an eggnog sponge cake for dessert?

Have a wonderful Easter time with your loved ones!

xx

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

Ramp and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

Serves 2

olive oil
monkfish fillet, a thick center piece, 250-300g / 9-11 ounces
fine sea salt
ground pepper
prosciutto di Parma (or San Daniele or Serrano) 10 very thin slices
fresh ramps leaves, a small bunch
peas, fresh in shells (about 400g / 15 ounces) and peeled, or frozen (170g / 6 ounces)
freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoons

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting) and brush the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil.

Cut the monkfish in half (lengthwise) and, using your hands, coat it in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

On a large chopping board, spread out half the prosciutto (overlapping slices). Arrange a layer of ramp leaves on top (laying across the prosciutto), then lay one half of the monkfish on top (see 5th picture). Roll and wrap the fish tightly and transfer to the oiled baking dish. Prepare the second fillet the same way and lay next to the first fish wrap. Brush the prosciutto with olive oil and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the fish is tender.

While the fish is baking, prepare the peas: Cut 12 ramps leaves into thin strips, set aside. Cook the peas in plenty of salted boiling water for 1 minute or until al dente. Drain and briefly rinse with cold water. In a small saucepan, heat a splash of olive over high heat, add half the chopped ramps, and take the pan off the heat. Stir in the peas and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

When the fish is done, using a sharp kitchen knife, cut the fillets into thick slices and divide between 2 plates. Serve with the peas sprinkled with the remaining chopped ramps, crunchy baguette, and chilled white wine.

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

Sometimes I am asked by a reader to come up with a certain recipe. Quite often it’s a dish connected to a childhood memory of theirs, a food experience saved many years ago, and now they’re hoping to find this specific flavour again. But it’s a tricky thing, it’s almost impossible to relive something as an adult and expect the same satisfaction that we felt back then when we were young.

I used to love Dutch coconut sheets for breakfast, which is as weird as it sounds. This is compressed dessicated coconut, pressed into thin sheets and, to make it even more appealing, they were either pink or pale white. I was obsessed with them. After a culinary break from this delicacy, I tried them again years later and I was so disappointed. But there’s another Dutch classic, which still lives up to my memories, and I enjoy it with the biggest passion whenever I pull it out of my oven: sticky honey cake.

At the end of this winter, I got asked to share a traditional German hot chocolate recipe, which my reader, who lives in the US, connects with the time he spent in Germany as a child. Somehow, I never felt in the mood for it, and my hot chocolate is also a rather simple creation made of milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, and ground cinnamon and cardamom, which is not a traditional German take on this drink. I’m sorry, I’ll try to write about it next winter.

But last week, someone dropped a comment on Instagram, telling me that I haven’t made a soup in a long time – and this person was right! She lives in Asia and asked for a soup that she can have with her morning rice. I don’t think that someone who lives in Asia, needs a German girl to tell her how to make a fragrant broth with ginger, spices, and lemon grass, so I thought about something that I could share from my background. Our summers spent in Malta made me fall for minestrone, and when I cook this warming soup with just green vegetables – like fresh beans, peas, and zucchini – it tastes like spring. To turn it into a full lunch, I add tiny meatballs refined with lots of chopped arugula and lemon zest. The strong aroma of the citrus fruit reminds me of the Mediterranean but at the same time, it adds the same lemony freshness that you know from a clear broth made with ginger. Enjoy!

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

 

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

Serves 2-4

For the meatballs

ground beef 400g / 14 ounces
fresh arugula leaves, finely chopped (with a knife or in a blender), 1 large handful / 50g
zest of 1 lime (1 heaping teaspoon)
garlic, crushed, 2 cloves
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
a generous amount ground pepper

For the soup

olive oil
garlic, cut in half, 1 clove
green vegetables (a mix of trimmed green beans, peas, and zucchini), beans and peas cut into bite size pieces, about 350g / 12 ounces
vegetable broth, hot, 1l / 4 1/4 cups
freshly squeezed lime juice 1 tablespoon
bay leaf 1
fine sea salt
ground pepper

For the topping

ramp leaves, thinly sliced, 2
and/ or
spring onion, thinly sliced, 1

For the meatballs, in a large bowl, combine the ground beef, chopped arugula, lime zest, garlic, salt, and pepper and mix until well combined. Wet your hands and form the mixture into tiny meatballs.

For the soup, in a large saucepan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the vegetables, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth, lime juice, and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper to taste, and bring to the boil. Add the meatballs and bring to the boil again. Reduce the heat to medium, cover with a lid, and simmer for 4 minutes. Split 1 meatball to check if it’s done. Season the soup with salt, pepper, and additional lime juice to taste.

Serve the soup in deep bowls, sprinkled with ramps and / or spring onion, and enjoy warm.

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

 

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

 

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

 

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

 

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greenminestronelimemeatballs13

Swiss Potato Roesti with Ramp Feta Dip

roestirampfetadip1

It’s back! Before I even saw it, I could smell it: the oniony, fresh, green aroma of ramp.

I can’t say what excited me more last weekend, Berlin’s summery temperatures that brought city life back into the parks, cafés, and restaurants, or my beloved ramps. Large bunches of the springy leaves tucked into little buckets waited for me at the market and I couldn’t stop myself – I already used more than a dozen of them. Mainly for pesto, as it tastes so unbelievably good and my boyfriend is convinced that it calms his pollen allergy. Soups are next, seafood, burgerssandwiches, ramp’s season is short but my inspiration to use it is unlimited.

Another one of my spring classics is roesti (or Röschti). It’s a rustic Swiss dish made of grated raw and preferably young potatoes fried in a heavy pan like crisp latkes, there’s no flour or egg, only salt and pepper for seasoning. Last year, I shared a recipe with you that added lemon zest and rosemary, which made it feel quite summery. This time I go for a rich dip: feta whipped with lots of chopped ramp leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice. The spicy green melts into the cheese’s saltiness, it’s divine. I made a large batch of the dip as it’s also fantastic in combination with juicy ciabatta or crusty dark bread.

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Swiss Potato Roesti with Ramp Feta Dip

Serves 2 for lunch

peeled waxy potatoes, cut into small match sticks, 400g / 14 ounces
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
olive oil

For the feta dip

feta 150g / 5 ounces
fresh ramp leaves 30g / 1 ounce
olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
ground pepper

For the dip, in a food processor or blender, pulse the feta, ramp leaves, olive oil, and lemon juice until smooth. Season with ground pepper to taste.

Heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a 22cm / 9″ cast iron pan on high heat, add the potatoes, quickly spread them evenly, and push them down with a spatula. Turn the heat down to medium / medium-high and cook for about 5 minutes, mind that the potatoes don’t burn. Using a spatula, loosen the roesti from the sides of the pan and lift it gently from the bottom, but don’t flip it over yet, it should be golden and light brown at the bottom. To turn the roesti, cover the pan with a large lid and flip the pan over, carefully but quickly. You should end up with the roesti on the lid. Put the pan back on the heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and let the roesti slide off the lid into the pan. Cook for 5 minutes or until golden brown and crisp on the bottom side. Loosen the roesti from the sides and the bottom of the pan and slide it onto a large plate (if you prefer, flip it over onto the lid first). Season with flaky sea salt and crushed pepper to taste and serve with a generous dollop of the feta dip. You can eat the roesti romantically from 1 plate or cut it in half and serve it on 2 plates.

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Bean and Ramp Quiche

Bean and Ramp Quiche

Quiche is one of those dishes which makes me feel good, always, no matter what my day has been like. As soon as I see a quiche in my oven and smell its buttery aroma spread through the kitchen I have to smile. Maybe it’s the butter, or the eggs or the fact that I can look forward to another tart on my plate! That’s why I’ve already written about a couple of my quiche recipes, my classic with leek, tomatoes and thyme, the Italian one with fennel and parmesan and here is another one, packed with greens. I fill this savory tart with beans, ramp (wild garlic) and spring onions and it has a deliciously light spring feeling!

I’ve praised its short crust at length which is so crisp and buttery, to me it’s just perfect. My quiches always have a thin layer of an eggy and creamy mixture to keep it light and to leave space for the vegetable filling. Some recipes focus on the creamy filling which can make a quiche too rich and heavy, at least for my taste. I want to be able to eat a piece of quiche with my fingers, a tart for a picnic!

Bean and Ramp Quiche

Bean and Ramp Quiche

For one quiche you need a round (27cm / 10.5″) or oval baking dish or tart pan.

 

For the short crust base

flour 250g / 8.5 ounces
(I use spelt flour type 630 but you can use any other plain flour)
butter, cold 125g / 4.5 ounces
organic egg 1
salt 1 teaspoon

Combine the flour with the salt. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and work the butter into the flour until combined (there shouldn’t be any lumps of butter left). Add the egg and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

 

For the filling

green beans 200g / 7 ounces
ramp (wild garlic), just the leaves, cut into slices, 30g / 1 ounce
spring onion, cut into slices, 1/2
organic eggs 3
heavy cream 125 ml
crème fraiche or sour cream 125ml
salt 1 teaspoon
ground black pepper
nutmeg, freshly grated, a generous amount

 

The quiche

Set the oven to 210°C / 410°F top/ bottom heat.

Blanche the beans in plenty of salted water for a couple minutes until al dente.

Mix  the eggs with the heavy cream, crème fraiche, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Roll out the dough between cling film and line your baking dish with the flat pastry. Prick it with a fork and blind-bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes.  Take your baking dish out of the oven and set the temperature down to 180°C / 355°F.

Spread the beans, ramp and spring onions on top of the pre-baked pastry base and pour the liquid mixture over it. Put the quiche on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden, the top should be firm. Let it cool for 10 minutes.

Bean and Ramp Quiche

 

Bean and Ramp Quiche

 

Bean and Ramp Quiche

Wild Garlic Soup to start off the Spring

Wild Garlic Soup

Walking through the forest is one thing I miss the most living in the city. Its earthy smell, the musty air captured by the trees changing with the seasons makes me feel at home. Especially in spring, when the green comes out again and everything smells light and fresh with the first flowers starting to blossom. I want to walk on soft soil watching nature unraveling around me!

One of the most distinct smells you can find at the moment when walking though a European forest close to a river or lake is the smell of garlic, wild garlic. Coming from a little plant which covers the ground in large areas and looks similar to lilies of the valley. It’s a wild relative of chives also known as ramps, ramsons, buckrams, wood garlic or bear’s garlic as they must be quite taken by it. In taste it’s similar to chives but with a unique touch to it, spicy, a bit like garlic but fresher, more “green”. The leaves are best when young and fresh, great in pesto, soups or to spice up other vegetables and meat.

I’m totally with the bears, I love cooking with it and when I spotted it at the market I got excited and had lots of recipes on my mind. Inspiration for the weeks to come! I will start with a tangy but smooth soup, the leaves of two bunches of wild garlic, potatoes, onion and a few spring onions on top. It doesn’t take much to make this springy soup of the forest!

Wild Garlic Soup

Wild Garlic Soup

For 4 people you need

wild garlic, rinsed and stems cut off, the leaves of 2 bunches (around 100g / 3.5 ounces)
potatoes, cut into cubes, 750g / 1.5 pounds
onions, chopped 2
water 1500ml
heavy cream 180ml
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying
spring onion, cut into thin slices, 1 for topping

In a large pot, bring the water to the boil and cook the wild garlic for 2 minutes. Take it out with a slotted ladle, rinse under cold water for a few seconds but keep the boiled water! Fry the onions in some oil until golden, add the potatoes, some salt and the water used to cook the wild garlic and cook for 12 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add the wild garlic and cream and mix in a blender till smooth. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with spring onions when served on plates.

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