Sunday, April 22, 2012

spring herbs salad

Coming home from the last market stand and unpacking everything, I was shocked: only a cow eats so much green leaves. I couldn't possibly have bought that all, so once again, the dealers seem to have put more into the bags than told. That happens quite often: I guess they didn't want to toss the remaining goods so gave an extra portion for free. Or they were grateful to find such an undemanding buyer in me - may the leaves be as giant as palms, I take all without complaints (yet).

Washing the leaves was the only time-consuming part and I realized that I might not be mature enough to grow an own garden (contrary to my boasting with friends during Easter ;)): to find a tiny snail, a tiny worm and some insects alive and kicking in the salad spinner was quite tough for a city girl.

Out of the wild garlic I will make these pancakes. The garden cress and sorrel will be turned into these pancakes.

The smallest leaves made up a fine salad together with spinach leaves (the saved heart part of big spinach bands), arugula, radish green, spaghetti of a very sweet apple, little crumbles of goat cheese, an orange dressing (fresh orange juice, zest, fleur de sel and olive oil, no pepper) and toasted hazelnuts.

Friday, April 20, 2012

sweet-pumpkin-curry or goodbye-winter-soup

Pumpkins are (next to aubergines, leeks, onions and carrots, closely followed by porcini, chard and celery :)) my most beloved veg. Like Nigel Slater describes in his book, just looking at the vivid color of a pumpkin puts you in a good mood. Throughout the cold seasons I keep at least one on hand and store it as long as possible. Cooking with the last pumpkin of winter even provokes little wistful sighs yet looking at the new spring greens, it is nonsense ;)
Since learning to make this delicious paste, I don't buy Thai curry paste from the groceries anymore.

A goodbye-winter-hello-spring-meal: not consistent but to my liking :)

1. Sweet Pumpkin Curry Soup

Sweat some onions in a huge pan. Add water and pumpkin cuts. When the pumpkin is cooked through, puree the soup. Add 2-3 tbsp curry paste, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 kaffir lime leaves (optional), potato and carrot cuts and let all cook gently. Add one chopped red onion (for additional color :)) and a handful pre-cooked chickpeas. Turn off the heat and add fresh spinach leaves. They will cook in the remaining steam and heat. Serve with fresh coriander (optional).

2. Rhurbarb Crumble Tarte according to this recipe
the vanilla cream filling is great but even better, add lemon juice and lemon zest (rhubarb demands lemon juice for a round taste - I don't remember from whom I learned this but this is for sure). You can leave out the breadcrumbs when you pre-bake the tarte crust for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

creamy polenta with mushroom ragout

The first recipe I tried from River Cottage Veg was a home run.
The book encourages you to cook with rapeseed oil instead of olive oil and to use olive oil just for the finish - totally buying into that. Besides, dairies are used sparingly, mostly for flavoring what I welcome.

As timeless and classic this dish is, it was featured in the River Cottage series for a wedding menu so there was an unconventional approach behind it :)

The ragout is insanely delicious and as any ragout it is as good / even better the next day. So processing double of the amount of mushrooms as suggested (at least 1 kg but you won't regret 2 kg - they shrink after cooking) in order to yield to leftovers (for a sandwich, a salad or a quick polenta*) is a must!

You can find the recipe here

Additional remarks: it only serves 4 if served within a five-courses-menu :) 
For a single-course meal it serves 2, at most.
If you prefer a creamy polenta use 50 g less polenta than suggested in the recipe.

*How to cook instant polenta: bring water with a generous amount of cream to boil (400 ml water, 100 ml cream for 90 gr polenta). Add salt and pepper. Add the polenta, turn down the heat, stir for a couple of minutes until all water is absorbed. Add grated parmigiano. That's it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Silverware @ Antique Flea Market, Ostbahnhof

This is Klaus. Say hello to Klaus! Klaus is a Berliner and since 25 years he passionately collects antique silverware. Now he owns a huge collection and during the warmer seasons he sells part of it (what he calls "the tip of the iceberg" - hope that wasn't bragging :) ) at the antique flea market behind Ostbahnhof.

Although a charming notion, I never thought of buying silver cutlery at a flea market. You hardly find two pieces of the same set and I have no knowledge to distinguish the good from the bad.
You won't face these troubles when dealing with Klaus: he sells complete sets, he tells you everything what you want to know on historic cutlery (even if you don't buy anything, its interesting to listen :)) and he remembers what you have bought from him in former times when you cannot recall it on your own (THAT is service)!  Finally his goods are so low priced that really, bargaining would be out of place. 

Attentive readers might have noticed from here that I got new cutlery (WMF series 2300 from 1930) and it doesn't come as a surprise that I am totally happy with it!

Klaus Beulich, Silverware from over 100 years

He runs a booth at the antique flea market behind Ostbahnhof and at other flea markets (Straße des 17. Juni, Fehrbelliner Platz).
The flea market at Ostbahnhof takes place every Sunday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Contact beforehand to order a special set:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

catching up on cookbooks

Judging by culinary literature the Brits know how to cherish their veggies. 
I ordered three new cookbooks and next to Simon Hopkinson's, Alice Hart's and Ottolenghi's book that I own, they all come from the isles.
Despite of a big interested audience (concerning the considerable vegetarian population in Germany) there is a market niche of likewise enigmatic cookbooks on this side of the channel. 

Two short notes and a long one:
  • "New Complete Vegetarian" by Rose Elliot (as I understand she is in the UK what Elisabeth Fischer is in Germany - the queen of vegetarian cookbooks): a compendium of more than 1000 recipes from mostly European cuisines, rarely pictured. Contains a healthy amount of vegan recipes, too.

  • "Tender, A cook and his vegetable patch" by Nigel Slater: a comprehensive, philosophical book on all things grown in the own garden. In almost each of the numerous personal notes of the author you will find words of wisdom. Besides, I have never seen such atmospheric food pictures before and photographer Jonathan Lovekin proves that dark pictures can be fine, too :) The only flaw in my view is that the recipes depend on massive amounts of dairies and eggs. It's not a light cuisine.

  • River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Normally books with an author's pic on the cover are daunting, especially when it is supposed to accompany you day by day. But now I am so delighted at HFW's mission and his recipes (which can be found here as well) that the blemish can be overlooked. This is the first book that I want to cook through entirely and I think, will do :) The correspondent television series are the best that I have seen on this subject (next to them all other cooking shows appear out-dated). It really embraces all aspects of a delightful and responsible way to live and feed on the natural resources around. Hard to say which scenes I liked most but the marrying couple tramping plums, the butcher scene, the boat fishing scene, the gardening according to Buddhist philosphy - all those scenes were unique, moving and always moderated by HWS's British humor.
Now that I have to check tons of new recipes, don't wonder when I hang around less here in the next weeks :)

Tuna Kimchi Jjiggae or a Hangover Dish from the Can

This duo-post is a dream for any food esthete: pancakes hidden as butterflies, paper-cabbage-kimchi in a jar and all linked by telepathy :) Can't take my eyes off these delicate and metaphoric pictures. Can you?

Tina, illustrator of the newest pretty Korean cookbook claims to like tuna kimchi jjiggae. That reminded me of the two tuna-cans that I have set aside since a year. I love them so much, the ones preserved only in olive oil from the Italian groceries. If you get hands on them and have fermented kimchi ready, you can make the simplest but perfectly glorious dish: dump both in a pot, bring to a boil and serve it with rice. That's it*.

It's a great recovering dish after a hangover (which almost never happens to me :)) for it is strong in flavors, invigorating and demands zero dexterity to make.

Although tuna involves difficult issues I will keep allowing myself to those cans once or twice a year - reserved for this favorite kimchi jiggae of mine. And because this dish is screwed anyway in regard to sustainable cooking principles, I might serve an artificial shik hae as desert. Be warned though that the canned drink never comes up to the homemade one!! 

*Additional notes on making kimchi jjigae: originally it is a stew so it should be cooked with additional water and more ingredients to taste
The version described here is a bit eccentric. It is less soupy, more oily and like kimchi fried rice it can be mixed and eaten in a single bowl :)

Cook tuna, kimchi and some kimchi juice around 10 minutes until cooked thoroughly. The cooked kimchi should be tender. A good kimchi doesn't demand additional condiments to cook with but add a little sugar when it has got too sour. At most one little tuna can will be sufficient for one cabbage of kimchi.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Avocado, Lime & Coconut Cheesecake with Matcha Tea for Easter

Easter would be a more suitable day to post this impeccable luscious cake but I rushed so that you get aware of it in time :) 
It's been almost a year since my last cheesecake, so it's high time to continue the quest for the perfect cheesecake. Which thanks to Sybille, I think I have found.

Usually I prefer recipes that ask for only a few ingredients but this cake is the famous exception that proves the rule. Did you ever think that a New York style cheesecake without a topping is a tad dull in taste and "tastes too heavy"? If so, this cake could be the solution. 
Avocado, lime and coconut - we know that these combination works out anyway, right? But also they bring flavor, freshness and a wonderful easter-spring-pastel-green color in here.
During my search for cheesecake recipes, I had already found out that the unbaked ones are creamier so I bought into this recipe. Besides using ladyfingers instead of other dense cookies promised a lighter crust. I always have excess sourdough bread crumbs and used them as well which contributed to additional aroma in the crust.

For a pretty finish I used matcha (like everybody does) and crushed pistachio (like Sybille). I would have equally liked lime zests but had no more. 

Serve together with matcha tea and celebrate spring or easter!

Directions (you won't need any measuring for this cheesecake, I didn't need either):

1. For the crust: line the bottom of a cake mold with parchment paper.
Crush a package of ladyfingers together with dry old bread crumbs in the food processor. Add melted butter and a little salt. Knead all together and press into a cake mold. Let it rest in the fridge.

2. For the filling: mix the dairies of choice (I used one small package mascarpone cheese, equal amount of curd, half the amount cream cheese and yoghurt). 

Grind 3 tbsp of coconut flakes with 3 tbsp sugar in a food processor until it becomes as fine as flour (this step is crucial in order that no flakes disturb the creamy texture of the filling).

Mix flesh of 2 avocados with the juice of 2 limes and add the grated zest of the limes.

Mix all together.

3. Heat a little amount of cream with agar-agar and mix well into the cream mixture.

4. Pour the filling into the cake mold and let the cake rest in the fridge for 6 hours. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Roquefort and Pear Cake with Radicchio Salad and Walnut Dressing

Much less risky than the vegetable spreads experiment was this dish inspired by my dear friend and frequent Paris-traveler Lea. The cake hype there seems to originate from Sophie Dudemaine's book.

Pears, radicchio, walnuts - everything that goes well with blue cheese thrown together on a plate.

Ingredients for the cake batter:

200 gr flour
3 eggs
100 ml milk 
100 ml olive oil
1 tbsp baking powder
100 gr hard cheese
100 gr blue cheese
2 pears, cut
1 red onion, chopped and pre-roasted,
chopped herbs,
salt, pepper.

Baking time: 45 min at 180 °C.

Bread Mania and Vegetable Spreads

I have gone further with serious bread baking: it has turned back to freestyle baking and still the results are getting more and more predicable. Will post a summary of my personal tips soon...

So far so good. Next to facing a little dilemma*, I am stumped about how to eat the massive amounts of bread. My eating habits have changed such that consuming butter or cheese day by day wouldn't satisfy anymore. So I am in search of all-vegetable-spreads.

(*Normally I love eating food more than preparing it but here it is the opposite: bread baking is so much fun while I don't like to eat it as much. It seems that bread alone cannot be a real meal for an Asian :) )

My first adviser was no surprise, Sybille-Anna: after decades of following a food journal she now writes one of the loveliest blogs herself and is my go-to person for cooking tips.
Sybille suggested jams with either red peppers, beetroots or parsnip - each one sounded great but encouraged by her guidelines, I started to experiment on my own.

At first place it was a beetroot-and-orange-spread which was disappointing. I think orange is almost never compatible with other flavors and it was no exception here. Don't ask me why I tried that out...

The pictured spreads are the results of my second trial:

  • parsnip, peas, lemon and cinnamon spread
  • beetroot, shallots and apple spread
  • toasted walnuts and pumpkin seed butter.
In theory (i.e. according to the flavor bible) the ingredients are all supposed to go well with each other but the result did not meet the criteria deep, savory and balanced.
Besides, the looks were so poor (the cinnamon screwed the faint green of the peas spread and turned it into the color of mungbean paste...), though in reality not as poor as in the pictures.

The parsnip paste is thus gladly dedicated to Heike, who never ever presents poor food pictures but incites such by others :).

I won't experiment with vegetable spreads on my own any time soon but will keep hunting for good recipes! :)

Meanwhile I can live on the combo beetroot-spread with a bought champagne-ginger-mustard and chives or ramsons on top.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

32nd Berlin Half Marathon, 1st of April 2012

It was just hours ahead that I knew that I would run at the 32nd Berlin Half Marathon, Germany's biggest half marathon and my very first race!
The weather offered brilliant conditions: sunny and cloudy, not windy and not rainy, not to warm and not to cold.
And boy, was it exciting. In the morning I picked up a Danish friend and her colleagues at the Park Inn Hotel at Alexanderplatz. Turned out that the place was full of other runners from around the globe, speaking numerous languages and getting prepared - an amusing scene to watch.
After two hours or so waiting in the area between Alexanderplatz and Café Moskau next to around 30,000 participants, our slot was ready to go.

And once you were on the road, you got the impression that the whole city was running next to you or at least was watching from the roadside or from the countless balconies. Among the participants there was a couple running with a stroller and a world champion; besides, there were very old people, serious athletes, colleagues and friends. And among the viewers there were the average walkers, tourists, children, musicians and fans.
The all-flat course involves Alexanderplatz, Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten, Charlottenburg, Kurfürstendamm, Leipziger Straße, Karl-Marx-Allee.

I finished in approximately 2:10 - having no athlete ambitions I took pictures, spotted new neighborhoods and partly walked along the road :).

Altogether it was a well organized and friendly event to start with races and a wonderful chance to see the city, its people and visitors at once!

Berlin Half Marathon: Takes place end of March or beginning or April. Capacity: 30,000 participants. To be booked a couple of months in advance with registration starting in May. Fees: 30-45 €.

Berlin Marathon: Takes place last weekend of September. Capacity: 40,000 participants. To be booked right after registration starts with registration starting in October. Fees: 60-100 €.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Corn Salad with Grapefruit, Avocado, Dates and much more

This salad is as sweet as a refined candy, its colors (and flavors) are as balanced as in a still life. The ingredients' list is long and although everything is available in a single season, it is said to be missed out easily. There seems to be some truth in it because it took me until spring to get every ingredient together. It was so worth to catch up but imagine, you could have had it throughout the winter, too! To faciliate learning the ingredients' list by heart I made a shot of it :)
What you need for a

Winter Salad with Dates
(by Alfred Biolek & Witzigmann, Unser Kochbuch, 2001):

1. corn salad, thin slices of endive and fennel

2. filets of grapefruit and orange, cuts of avocado

3. toasted almond splits, cuts of dates

4. for the dressing: zest and juice of lemon, zest and juice of orange, chives, white wine vinegar, mustard, honey (I took agave), olive oil, salt, pepper.