eat in my kitchen

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Maltese Fennel & Coriander Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

A few weeks ago, I received a message from someone excitedly telling me that she visited my ‘fennel lady’ in Malta. I often wrote about this lovely farmer, on the blog and in my cookbook, and I can’t imagine cooking without her aromatic harvest anymore. Every Sunday, she spreads her fennel and coriander seeds on the wooden table at a tiny stand at the farmers’ market in Marsaxlokk, a picturesque fishermen’s village in the south of my beloved Mediterranean island. It seems like this is what she’s done all her life, picking and selling seeds, always with a happy smile on her tanned face. The person who wrote me the email did what I always do in summer: she bought bags of fragrant seeds to fill the spice box in her pantry.

Malta is the reason why fennel became so prominent in many of my recipes. It grows wild all over the islands, the plants dig their sturdy roots into every patch of soil they can find. I guess its abundance is one of the reasons why you can find fennel in many traditional dishes in Malta’s Mediterranean cuisine – and its wonderful sweet taste of course. If you visit the small local restaurants, you often find baked fennel potatoes as a side dish on the menu.

When Leerdammer asked me if I’d like to create a recipe with their new Toast and Burger Cheese, I didn’t think twice. I love a good cheeseburger. I live in Berlin, a city where new burger joints pop up at every street corner like mushrooms. Although I like to try a new spot once in a while, I still have my favourite place when my meaty cravings creep over: The Bird. I always go for a perfectly cooked steak burger topped with a slice of Swiss cheese. However, in my own kitchen, I’m a little more experimental.

Leerdammer’s aromatic cheese tastes slightly sweet and it melts on top of a warm, juicy burger like butter. The cheese has a fine taste, but it’s not shy, it can easily take a generous amount of warming spices stirred into the burger mixture: fennel and coriander seeds, alongside lots of garlic, fresh parsley, and spicy black peppercorns crushed in a mortar. I felt inspired by the famous Maltese sausage, which is coarse, rough, and so tasty. It features all the spices that you can find in my burger. When it comes to flavour, Malta’s traditional sausage is one of the richest and most delicious I know. And what works in a sausage, can’t go wrong in a burger.

The burgers are bedded on a thinly sliced fennel bulb that adds freshness and crunch, a few red onion rings and arugula (rucola) instead of a lettuce leaf brings a sharp note. Usually, I prefer to buy my cheese in one piece, but when it comes to cheeseburgers, I don’t mind working with sliced dairy products. This way it looks like a proper American style burger, one with a Mediterranean make-over. You could pack the whole thing in a bun, but what about trying something new and layering it between two thick slices of toasted white bread? And instead of using the toaster, make use of the burgers’ buttery cooking juices and crisp the bread in the pan.

Thank you Leerdammer for inspiring me to make a Maltese cheeseburger toast. You can find more Toast & Burger recipes celebrating regional treats here.

Last year I created a few scrumptious sandwiches together with Leerdamer, here are some of my favourites:

Egg, Bacon and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables
Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich
Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Makes 4 burgers

For the burgers

minced meat (beef and pork) 500g / 18 ounces
dry breadcrumbs 30g / scant 1/4 cup
organic egg 1
garlic, crushed, 2 large cloves
fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, 1 medium bunch
fennel seeds 1 tablespoon
coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar, 1 tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, 2 teaspoons
flaky sea salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
butter, to cook the burgers
olive oil, to cook the burgers

To assemble the burger toast

fresh white loaf, 8 thick slices
medium fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced, 1
medium red onion, cut into thin rings, 1
Leerdammer cheese (or another aromatic cheese that melts well) 4 slices
(I used Leerdammer’s ‘Herzhaft-Intensiv’ Toast & Burger cheese. If you prefer a smoky note, go for ‘Rauchig-Würzig’.)
arugula (rucola), a small handful
olive oil
fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar, for the topping (optional)

For the burgers, in a large bowl, using your hands or a stand mixer, mix and knead the minced meat, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, parsley, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, pepper, and salt until well combined. Shape the meat mixture into 4 thick burgers.

In a large, heavy pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and a generous splash of olive oil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the burgers, and, turning them 2-3 times, cook until medium rare. You might have to turn the heat down to medium after a few minutes if the burgers turn dark. This takes about 10 minutes. Add more oil if the pan becomes too dry.

Transfer the burgers to a plate (cover them with a lid), leaving the fat in the pan, and turn the heat up to high. Add the bread slices to the pan and toast each slice on just one side until golden and charred at the corners.

To assemble the burger, lay a slice of bread on a plate (toasted side facing down) and lay a few fennel slices and red onion rings on top. Arrange the warm burger and a slice of cheese on top, then finish it off with some more onion rings and a few rucola leaves. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some fennel seeds, and close the sandwich with a slice of bread (toasted side facing upwards). Squeeze and enjoy!

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

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

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

In a couple weeks we’ll be off to Malta and my heart is already there. There isn’t a single day that passes without thinking of my family and friends in the Mediterranean. With every month that summer gets closer, I feel the urge to go there and the pain of not yet being there becomes almost unbearable. As much as I love Berlin – it’s my home – I see myself spending far more time on my beloved archipelago south of Sicily.

You can ask any Maltese person living abroad what he or she misses the most and almost everybody will tell you the sea and family. I’m not Maltese, but I agree. With every passing year I feel closer and closer to the life we live there. Being surrounded by the sea and the people who are so important in my life is a great gift I don’t really want to let go off, but it’s also the food, the pace, the culture and lifestyle that makes me miss this place so much.

In two weeks I’ll be starting my days with a cup of tea in my Maltese mama’s garden, sitting under her citrus trees. Then I’ll pick some honey sweet fruits and crisp vegetables from my favourite mobile vegetable truck in Msida and prepare a luscious breakfast. For whatever reason we started the ritual to have very opulent and rich breakfast sandwiches when we live in the South. If we leave out my spontaneous (but very regular) visits to bakeries, cafés and pastizzi shops, we only eat twice during the day: before we go to the beach and afterwards, and both meals are little feasts. We end our days with Mediterranean inspired dishes but we start the day following the small country’s British tradition. There are fried eggs, different kind of cheese, and a bit of meat on the table. Be it crisp bacon or a selection of course sausages from our butcher in Sliema – classic Maltese style with fennel and coriander or English sausage with apple and sage – our breakfast is quite a hearty affair, often sandwiched between two slices of Malta’s amazing sourdough bread. But what comes with baked beans in the cold North is served with fresh garden vegetables in the South. Juicy cucumber and tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, or sautéed zucchini – qarabali in Maltese – there are always the freshest fruits from the garden involved. You could easily leave out the meat and keep it light and vegetarian, sliced fennel bulb, sautéed onions, or a juicy caponata are nice too, but the current star of the toast scene – thinly sliced avocado – made it into my creation, along with cucumber and red bell pepper.

This is the third sandwich of the tasty trilogy I created for Leerdamer:

Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

Zucchini Cheese Fritter Sandwich with Strawberries and Lemon Balm

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

 

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

Egg, Bacon and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

Makes 2 large sandwiches

olive oil
breakfast bacon 8 slim slices
organic eggs 4
flaky sea salt
peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
large rustic buns, cut in half, 2
Leerdammer cheese, or another mild hard cheese, very thinly sliced, about 170g / 6 ounces
small red bell pepper (and or tomato), cut into rings, 1
small organic cucumber, rinsed and scrubbed, very thinly sliced with a mandoline or cheese slicer, 1
medium ripe avocado, very thinly sliced with a mandoline or cheese slicer, 1

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the bacon until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper, but leave the fat in the pan.

In the pan used to cook the bacon, cook the eggs for a few minutes until the egg yolk is still liquid, season with flaky sea salt and crushed pepper.

Divide the cheese between the bottom sides of the buns and arrange the bacon and vegetables on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Finish it off with 2 eggs for each sandwich and close the bun. Squeeze and enjoy!

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

 

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

 

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

 

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

 

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Zucchini Cheese Fritter Sandwich with Strawberries and Lemon Balm

Zucchini Cheese Fritter and Strawberry Sandwich

A lusciously filled sandwich will always excite me. It only needs the right combination of flavours and textures to lift this comfort treat to new heights. Playing with contrast is a good way to start: soft and crunchy, fresh and creamy, sweet and salty – there are endless possibilities to create a little firework between two slices of bread.

If you follow the seasons, you can find inspiration in the pantry during the colder months of the year or while strolling through the farmers’s market to see what nature offers as soon as it gets warmer. And that’s what I did. Although I can find zucchini all year round, it’s only at the peak of spring that squash is finally packed with sweetness again. Mine comes straight from the fields in Italy and it has all the qualities it needs to become golden fried fritters. Mix in some cheese and lemon balm and you have a fragrant little snack on your plate. My cheese of choice is Leerdammer, which worked so wonderfully well in my Grilled Persimmon, Ham, and Cheese Sandwich. It’s not too overpowering next to the zucchini yet adds its particular subtle sweetness. Bringing in lemon balm makes it fresh and citrusy. And don’t be distracted by the strawberries graciously arranged on top, it may seem a bit brave but their sweet-sour fruitiness makes the composition complete.

This sandwich is just right for a decadent breakfast, a springy lunch, or a cozy dinner enjoyed on the sofa. And it works just as well without the bread: arrange the warm zucchini cheese fritters on plates along with fresh strawberries, sprinkle with lemon balm, and scatter some grated cheese and pink peppercorns all over this colourful feast.

This post is sponsored by Leerdammer.

Zucchini Cheese Fritter and Strawberry Sandwich

Zucchini Cheese Fritter Sandwich with Strawberries and Lemon Balm

Makes 3 sandwiches

For the zucchini cheese fritters

zucchini, grated, 450g / 1 pound
fine sea salt
spring onions, the green only, thinly sliced, 2 (about 2 tablespoons)
mild hard cheese, freshly grated, 30g / 1 ounce
organic egg, lightly beaten, 1
fresh lemon balm, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon
a generous amount of ground pepper
plain flour 40g / 1/3 cup
olive oil, to cook the fritters

fresh ciabatta, about 6 slices
rucola 1 handful
Leerdammer cheese, thinly sliced, about 6 slices
ripe strawberries, hulled and cut in half lengthwise, 6
pink peppercorns
fresh lemon balm, about 9 leaves

For the zucchini cheese fritters, in a large bowl, combine the grated zucchini and 1 teaspoon of salt. Rub the salt into the squash and let it sit for 10 minutes. Drain the zucchini and squeeze it in your hands. Spread the zucchini on a kitchen towel, cover with a second towel, and squeeze out any remaining liquid.

In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, spring onion, grated cheese, egg, chopped lemon balm, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add the flour in batches and mix with your hands or a large spoon until well combined.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add 2 tablespoons of the zucchini mixture for each fritter to the pan; give the fritter a round shape and flatten it lightly. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown, flip the fritters over, and turn down the heat to medium. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the fritters to paper towels and cover with a lid while cooking the remaining fritters, add more oil if necessary. This makes about 6-7 zucchini fritters.

For the sandwiches, spread a little rucola on 3 slices of bread. Cover each slice with 2 slices of cheese and 2 warm fritters and finish it off with 4 strawberry halves. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns and a few lemon balm leaves and close with a slice of bread. Squeeze the sandwich – gently – and enjoy.

Zucchini Cheese Fritter and Strawberry Sandwich

 

Zucchini Cheese Fritter and Strawberry Sandwich

 

zucchinicheesefritterstrawberrysandwich6

 

zucchinicheesefritterstrawberrysandwich7

Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

grilledpersimmonhamcheesesandwich2.2.2

Cheese sandwiches have long been one of my favourite lunchtime snacks. The most basic version features dark German bread, thin slices of young hard cheese, cucumber, salt, and crushed pepper, you could call it my first sandwich creation, born in my early childhood days. But over the years I got a little more experimental: various fruits sneaked in to add their sweetness to ripe cheese, soft cheese, or blue cheese. Mozzarella di Bufala or ricotta are great to bring in some creaminess, and sometimes, I like to take whatever herb or vegetable my eyes catch in the kitchen and turn it into a runny pesto or smooth dip to dollop lusciously on a crusty bun.

When Leerdammer asked me to create a cheese sandwich for them, I decided to go back to my sandwich roots and think about what a great sandwich should be. I always say that I prefer to focus on a few strong flavours rather than distract my taste buds with too many ingredients. It’s all about the right play of contrast and harmony, in taste and texture. I like Leerdammer for its mild and nutty taste, it’s almost sweet, and it melts fantastically under the broiler. A grilled ham and cheese sandwich felt like the perfect choice but another German sandwich classic came to mind: Toast Hawaii. This child-pleasing creation was a hit in my early sandwich years, pineapple and ham covered in cheese on a slice of toast and grilled. People loved it, including myself. I like pineapple but the market has far more to offer at the moment, so I went for honey-sweet persimmon. The fruit has to be ripe and soft as jelly, in combination with the ham and melted cheese, it almost felt like jam, or a chutney without the sourness. A few basil leaves sprinkled on top give it the spring feeling that I crave so much and make this sandwich feel light and fresh. Follow #wirkäsebroten for more delicious sandwich recipes made with Leerdammer cheese!

You’ve seen many sandwiches on my blog for my Sandwich-Wednesday series, but there has never been a giveaway competition – this is a premiere! Leerdammer gave me five of their cute and robust metal sandwich boxes that are perfect to wrap up your sandwich safely for your next city picnic or lunch break. If you’d like to be the lucky owner of one of them, send me an email (eatinmykitchen@eatinmykitchen.meikepeters.com) or leave a comment at the bottom of this post and share your favourite cheese sandwich combination with me. Tell me about your secret ingredient, it can be a fruit, meat, sauce, anything you like. I’ll get in touch with you as soon as we have 5 winners. Good luck!

This post is sponsored by Leerdammer and reminded me of a childhood favourite of mine. Thank you! 

6th April: The competition is now closed. Thank you for all your delicious ideas!

Grilled Persimmon, Ham, and Cheese Sandwich

 

grilledpersimmonhamcheesesandwich4.2

Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

Makes 2 sandwiches

rustic white buns, cut in half, 2
ham 4 thin slices
large ripe persimmon, peeled and torn into chunks, 1
Leerdammer cheese 4-6 thick slices
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
fresh basil leaves 6

Set the oven to broiler or preheat to the highest temperature.

Divide the ham between the bottoms of the buns. Lay the persimmon on top and cover with the cheese. Grill the sandwich in the oven until the cheese starts melting and sizzling, mind that the cheese doesn’t burn or slip off the fruit. Sprinkle the grilled cheese with crushed pepper and basil, close the bun, and enjoy.

Grilled Persimmon, Ham, and Cheese Sandwich

 

Grilled Persimmon, Ham, and Cheese Sandwich

 

grilledpersimmonhamcheesesandwich1.2

 

grilledpersimmonhamcheesesandwich13

 

grilledpersimmonhamcheesesandwich12

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