Sunchokes (Topinambur in German) are funny little creatures. They have a mildly sweet, nutty flavor with a hint of artichoke, which is how I think they got their name – actually they are a type of sunflower. When making this soup, make sure to use fresh sunchokes, they keep in the fridge only for a few days. In any case, the pairing with very bright citrus flavors works perfectly for the sunchokes, especially during this endless winter…
The first snow, in Bavaria right after Christmas! Now we’re back to our typical grey rainy Berlin winter, but it was nice while it lasted. This is a soup I made during the holidays using celeriac, or celery root. I love that vegetable, even though it’s often overlooked. I paired it with pears here to add some freshness and acidity, because celeriac on its own can be a bit too earthy I find. The lemon juice and honey help to soften those flavors. Have this soup with some fresh baguette and a nice glass of crisp white wine…
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Did you read this article the other day, about children’s breakfast around the world? The differences are so fascinating. Here is a recipe for upma, a typical South Indian breakfast dish. It’s savoury and simple but has a lot of unexpected flavor. It’s based on this traditional preparation. For variation, you could add vegetables such as peas, tomatoes or even spinach during the cooking process (after the onions, before the semolina). But even in its plainest form, upma is delicious.
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Finally I was in enough of a holiday mood to bake some cookies. I had this planned for a while – after all, Germany is famous for its abundance of x-mas sweets and bakery, even though I’m usually just glad when this season is over :) These vanilla flavored cookies are shaped like little half moons and one of the classic types of cookies for x-mas. I made them vegan, using coconut oil instead of butter. You may have seen this very useful post on baking with coconut oil. It’s indeed a bit tricky and I’m still experimenting with the right consistency. What I found in this case is that it’s important to bake the cookies at relatively low temperature so they don’t dry out too much, and to store them in a warm place so they stay crumbly and soft. I used a ‘real’ vanilla pod here and would really recommend it, but using a bit more vanilla flavored sugar or a few drops of vanilla extract is an alternative option. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!
It’s been ages since I posted a recipe here – apologies. I’ve been missing it though, and I’m happy I got to make this little winter salad. Radicchio has a delicious bitterness but also a mild nutty flavor that only comes out when it’s grilled or braised. In fact, this article from the New York Times from 1988 (!) says it all – time to eat more radicchio, for sure. Here I combined it with creamy avocado and a tangy lemon-mustard dressing to balance the bitterness and bring out the sweetness. It’s nice to mix the warm grilled radicchio with the fresh ingredients. A little ricotta salata adds some salt but is not absolutely necessary. Same with the almonds – which can be replaced with hazelnuts or even cashews I guess.
I got three lovely quince last week and since then they had been sitting on my kitchen table spreading their wonderful aroma. Quince are an odd fruit. Depending on the type, they can be tough, and at least the ones that grow in Central Europe can’t be eaten raw. Maybe that’s the reason why they have become quite rare. But they have a distinctive, slightly tart flavor, which I found perfect for a savoury galette. Usually we (meaning our grandmothers) use quince for jams or jellies, or to make what is called quince-bread, aka membrillo. But I have to say, this galette was sooo good. The quince and the goat cheese, plus some dried thyme and fresh lavender – loved it. I made just a small galette, as the quantities below would show (using a great Food52 galette pastry recipe), so in the end I used up only one quince. But while you’re at it, poach some more and eat the rest with yoghurt for breakfast. Or in a salad. Or in savoury dishes, like a stew for example. Or in a sweet tart? So many options :)
P.S.: Update: if you don’t have quince, you could also use pears for this – in that case, no need to poach or even peel anything, you could just core them, slice them, and use them right away.
My kitchen is by no means complete – I don’t own a cast iron pan for example, nor a proper food processor and not even a set of tea cups. But I happen to own a special mill to grind poppy seeds. I sort of inherited this from my grandmother, who as I’ve mentioned before was an amazing baker. I also happen to love poppy seeds. So now the time had come to use this little mill and make a poppy seed cake, or what we call Hefezopf, a simple yeasted cake with poppy seed filling, rolled up, then cut in half, braided and baked. I think this type of pastry is common all over central Europe, I’m not even sure where it originates from. It can be eaten just like that for breakfast or tea, or with a little butter or margarine and jam or honey. Note that poppy seeds are so tough that it’s difficult to crush them with anything else than a special grain mill. So when you buy them, make sure to get the ones that are already ground. Apart from that this cake/roll is quite straightforward. It can be made vegan or non-vegan, both are equally good. If you don’t like raisins, use dried apricots or dates instead.
Ok, this is maybe not the most exciting dish, but it’s extremely comforting and has a great depth of flavor. It’s a very traditional thing to make, all year round, with the vegetables adapted according to the season. I must have eaten this a thousand times growing up but I still like it and should actually make it more often. It’s so healthy – filling but super light at the same time. The base is always the same: vegetable stock made from a bunch of stuff we call Suppengrün – carrots, an onion, a leek, celery root, celery leaves and parsley root. After that, it’s all optional and you can throw in whatever you have. It’s a perfect way to use up those leftover vegetables sitting in the fridge, too!
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Something that’s really in season right now here in Berlin is apples. I got these rosy and pretty ones yesterday, so it was kind of obvious to try baking rose apple tarts. I’d seen and admired pictures of those but had no idea how to make them. After some research, I learnt that there are different methods, of course – the one I chose here seemed to be the easiest, as demonstrated in this lovely video. For the dough, I went back to my trusted olive oil mix and it worked well, again – it’s admittedly not the easiest dough to roll out thin (in the pictures you can see the parts that look a little chunky), but with patience and a bit of force I managed to get it in shape. The result were tiny and delicious tartlets, perfect for a Sunday afternoon.