February 27, 2012
I found this gem of a recipe in the most unlikely location. As much as I love shopping for food, I am not a big fan of supermarkets: I don’t like being in an overcrowded, artificially lighted environment for long, if I can avoid it. They are convenient though, so a trip there now and again is almost inevitable. One of the most annoying features are those piles of products on offer, luring you into buying, buying, buying.
A ready-made soup from the New Covent Garden Soup brand caught my eye: the flavour combinations looked quite inviting. I did not buy any however, for fear of being disappointed, once more, by a nice packaging and some clever marketing. I have not tried their soups to date, so I can’t judge their products. But when I stumbled upon a cookbook published by them, entirely devoted to soups, I could not resist having a good look at it. And indeed, although the editorial form is nothing short of irritating (no ingredients index, a “hand-written” font that is almost impossible to read on the dark green background), there are many recipes worth trying in this little book. I started by recreating the lentil, tomato and coriander soup that had caught my eye. It is a very simple soup, with no other ingredients than the named ones, plus a sautéed onion, a bit of cumin, coriander and pepper: it tastes rich and satisfying, it can be made with products probably already sitting in your pantry, and it comes together with five minutes’ active time.
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May 9, 2011
It is again that time of the year where white signals of smoke dot the valley.
Germans love grilling. Even at Christmas markets there is always a grill stand, with a spectacular round grill hanging from the ceiling, suspended over glimmering charcoals. They grill the much-loved Wursts in all varieties, but also Frikadellen (the über-fatty original of hamburgers), and pre-marinade steaks, mainly pork. There was a recent article on the local newspaper about how local political representatives decided to volunteer for grilling for charity – the CDU, the right-wing, conservative party, has decided to take care of the Würstchen, while the SPD, the more left-wing party, is going to barbecue pork steaks. Whether the Greens were offering a vegetarian option was not reported, but highly unlikely in my opinion. It was specified however that in order to simplify the organisation, the public should bring the drinks – that is, beer. Both parties are quite moderate in their positions anyway, and the newspaper made it clear that no political connotation would be given to food choice. Here is the picture appearing on the original article:
Another different grilling contribution is given by the numerous Gastarbeitern (guest workers) of Turkish origin who live here. I recently read a book written by a German-Turkish journalist, who grew up in Duisburg, a stone’s throw away from where I live. The title is sweet – “Einmal Hans mit sharfer Soβe”, Hans being the archetypical German boy. The title can be translated as : ‘A Hans served with hot sauce, please’. A phrase you’d use to order a kebab. Such a pretty way to capture the author’s torn identity between being German and Turkish, especially when it comes to finding the right man. She herself does not cook, but devotes pages and pages to her mom’s epic cooking and her dad’s equally epic barbecues. Allegedly in Berlin the Turkish habit of grilling in all spaces of public green, particularly in front of the Parliament, has caused some initial grumbles among the Germans, who, after an adjustment period, have actually joined the Turks in their grilling frenzy.
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December 26, 2010
And finally, trifle time. I was intrigued by Ivonne’s choice for the next theme of Sugar High Friday. In Italy we have a pudding called ‘zuppa inglese’, literally English soup, and I was quite curious to find out what the English name for it was, if there was any. It turned out the closest dessert is trifle.
Zuppa inglese is a dessert prepared in most restaurants and in many homes, in the Northern region called Emilia Romagna, and neighbours. A concoction of lady fingers or sponge cake, soaked in the typical bright red sweet liquor called alchermes; a thick layer of custard, heavy with egg yolks and cream, often in two versions alternating – chocolate and cream. The visual impact is definitely tacky, with its red, yellow and black striped effect; it has its rustic charms but it is as heavy as a stone, particularly after a proper meal from Emilia – from salumi, among the best in Italy (think culatello and prosciutto di parma, but don’t forget mortadella, just to name a few), to meat-filled tortellini or lasagne, to finish off with some meat dish like roasted pork or boiled poultry.
I have eaten my share of zuppe inglesi, and wanted to go the opposite way with this challenge. I decided I wanted to turn to the most English version I could find. And in order to do that, I turned to the most English of my sources – Jane Grigson, ‘English food’. I did think of Nigella first – you know I have a weakness for her fantastic accent – and there are indeed many nice ideas of hers in form of a trifle. Nigella, being the sensible woman that she is, is of course a fan of this good-looking, easy and versatile dessert you can effortlessly assemble with store-bought ingredients. But I was charmed by the original recipe. Ms Grigson laments that trifle is often tacky with its glaced cherries decorations, and rarely ‘a pudding worth eating’. Her recipe would bring the joy back to eating it. Macaroons, soaked in fortified wine and brandy, a layer of totally unflavored custard, a layer of raspberry jam, and on top, the ‘Everlasting Syllabub’ by Elizabeth David. I was bound to try it. The recipe is so old fashioned, so imprecise, and it totally works. Just the kind of recipe I love.
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October 28, 2010
I am not a vegetarian. Why? Mixture of things – laziness, difficulty in planning, a hectic lifestyle so environmentally unfriendly that honestly I don’t think the amount of meat I eat makes much difference. I should stop catching all those planes first. And in general, I am not too keen on giving up on anything completely.
Anyway, I am quite aware that mass-produced meat is not good for the environment. I eat as little as I can, which usually means I have meat once or twice a week. This is something I am not very proud of, because it does not stem from any considerable effort: it is natural to me because I just love vegetables. Vegetables are the sexiest things ever.
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October 12, 2010
No, I am not referring to the broccoli – I am talking about the Italian region, Calabria. The other day I borrowed a beautiful cookbook on Jewish cooking all around the world. The book (this is the UK edition – I have it in German) is laced with beautiful pictures by Peter Cassidy and contains sad and interesting stories. The numerous recipes come literally from all corners of the world. Actually the sweets looked like you could die for them, but I am trying to lose weight, so no cakes, for a while (sad, sad world, I know). So I leafed and leafed drooling over the sweets and trying to ignore them at the same time, until I found a stew that looked a bit unfortunate, because it had no picture. The recipe background sounded interesting. Originally from Syria, the family moved to the UK. The story behind the recipe is a funny one: a mother in law trying to sneak some aubergines into the food prepared for her daughter’s husband, who did not like them. Apparently if you peel the aubergines and cook the stew long enough, you are not able to tell what is in it anymore.
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April 8, 2010
I might claim I’m done with lemon dessert, and I might also be convinced to be honest. But in my heart I know that this is false: as soon as I have lemons at hand, it’s dessert time. This time I made a quite light and bright dessert, a bit old fashioned. I wanted to make a variation on my all time favourite strawberries and cream theme, and I thought: why not add some lemon? (of course. Addiction signal.).
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March 21, 2010
The winter semester is over. This means that also my German classes take a break for a while, and so we had to have a party to celebrate, natürlich!
My Japanese friends offered to organise a sushi party, that turned out to be as fun as it sounds. Also from the food point of view, I am won over by Japanese cooking. In Italy sushi was extremely hip a couple of years ago, and is still quite popular because, well, if you are that cool, what else can you eat without getting fat? As it often happens, there is much more to Japanese cooking than sushi (of course I advise you to have a look at these beautiful sites, if you don’t know them; and for some great pictures and entertaining reads, if you read Italian, go here). And also in the world of sushi, there is much more than raw fish.
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January 17, 2010
Orange trees in Piana di Gioia Tauro
If I had to pick a forbidden fruit, I’d go for citruses. Nothing speaks of Heaven like an orange or lemon garden to me. I expecially have a crush on lemon trees – I find there is something magical and sacred about them.
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