Category Archives: Recipes
Creamy Chestnut Soup with Mushroom Croutons & Fried Sage Leaves
Although I’ve been living here in Hamburg for a couple of years now, I find that I rarely cook German recipes.
German cuisine, much like British, gets a pretty bad rap. And that’s a real shame, because there is a tantalising selection of traditional German dishes just itching to be discovered: Labskaus, Spätzle, Veal Schnitzel, and, of course Sauerkraut, whose health benefits are equal to that of the popular Kimchi, are better known German foods, and are as tasty as any of the more popular cuisines.
Chestnuts are also included in traditional German cooking. Often foraged during the cooler months, these versatile brown gems – which were introduced into Germany by the Romans along with grapes and asparagus – are an integral part of traditional German home cooking, Hausmanskost. Roasted as a snack in winter, served with Brussels sprouts or braised red cabbage, made into jams, ground into flour for baking (try my Chestnut flour Walnut bread) and, added to stews and soups.
This is my interpretation of the traditional German chestnut soup. It’s comforting and incredibly simple to make. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken, and you will create an equally delicious vegetarian version. Guten Appetit!
You Will Need
1 Can Chestnuts Drained – 280g or there about
1 Celery Stick – Chopped
1 Shallot – Chopped
2 Portobello Mushrooms – Chopped, half for the soup, half for croutons
2 Cloves Garlic Crushed – 1 for soup, 1 for croutons
12 Sage Leaves – 4 Chopped for the Soup, the remainder left whole for frying
300ml Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1 tsp – Celery Salt
1/2 tsp – Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp – Ground Nutmeg, plus extra for garnish
100ml Cooking Cream
Heat a large heavy based pan over a med-high heat, then add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the chopped shallot, celery and 1 crushed clove of garlic to the pan, cook until softened but not browned. Add half of the chopped mushrooms and cook for a few minutes more before adding the chopped sage leaves, nutmeg, celery salt and pepper. Add the chestnuts and combine them with the other ingredients and cook for a few minutes more. Next add the broth, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes to allow all of the flavours to infuse. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and set aside to cool for a minute or two, before blending thoroughly with a stick blender.
Put 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil into a heated frying pan, add the remainder of the garlic and mushrooms, and fry over a highish heat until the mushrooms are dark golden brown and slightly crispy. Set aside.
Pop a clean pan over a high heat, add a generous amount of olive oil, when the oil is hot fry the sage leaves. This will only take a minute or two.
Ladle the soup into four individual bowls, and carefully spoon on the mushroom croutons. Serve with the fried sage leaves and a generous sprinkling of nutmeg.
This past summer has been long, hot and extremely humid here in Hamburg. So much so, that I have found myself brooding for cooler evenings and the chorus of rich autumn colours that beckon cozy and comforting food. Which brings me to this recipe.
Whilst browsing the food stalls of Budapest‘s great market hall – Nagyvásárcsarnok – the oldest and largest market in the city, I came across this savoury strudel nestled among the more well known sweet strudel flavours of apple and sour cherry. I know a savoury cabbage strudel doesn’t immediately look and sound as appealing as the sweet varieties, but surprisingly it tastes really good.
Strudel has a long history in Hungary dating back, it is believed, to the Habsburg empire. The traditional filo-like dough used for strudel has a high gluten content which gives it enough stretch to allow it be rolled out super thin, a technique borrowed by the Turks.
There are numerous filling options for strudel; from meat to plum to Quark (German for cream) to hazelnuts and poppy seeds. And here is my interpretation of one of Hungary’s best known foods. Instead of filo pastry I’m using shortcrust pastry ready bought for ease. And, although it’s not necessarily associated with one season or another, as far as I’m aware, it seems to fit the autumn menu quite nicely. Jó étvágyat!
You Will Need
Savoy Cabbage Finely Shredded 400g
Medium Onion finely chopped
1 Sheet Shortcrust or Puff Pastry
Caraway Seeds 1tsp
White Pepper 1-2 pinch
Hungarian Sweet Paprika 1 pinch
Salt for season
Butter 50g approx.
Pre heat oven to 160 Degrees Celsius.
Finely shred the cabbage removing any firmer pieces and place in a pan of salted water. Par boil until just tender, but don’t over cook. Drain in a colander removing as much water as possible and set aside. Place most of the butter in a large non stick frying pan (put a little aside to glaze the pastry), add the onion, paprika, caraway seeds and a pinch or 2 of white pepper according to your taste. Saute over a low-medium heat for a minute or 2 before adding the shredded cabbage. Thoroughly combine the ingredients, cook until the cabbage is tender then set aside to cool a little.
Gentling melt the remainder of the butter, lay the pastry out on baking paper and brush around the edges with melted butter. Put the cabbage mix on the first 1/3 of the pastry, and using the baking paper to assist, roll away from you ensuring the strudel is evenly rolled. Cut away any excess pastry. Place the baking paper and strudel on a baking tray, brush all over with melted butter. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. After baking allow the strudel to cool little. Cut in to thickish slices and serve with sour cream.
I don’t normally write two recipe posts together but, the unusually hot weather has brought with it an abundance of flowers and foliage already this year, so a bit of foraging seemed like a very pleasurable thing to do to make use of this bounty. Elderflowers are one of my favourite foods for ‘wild’ cooking, and as the season seems to be drawing to an end, this week may be the last chance to make use of the delicious blooms. This is another simple and tasting recipe, that’s quick to prepare and makes a lovely snack or dessert.
You will need
20 Elderflower Blossoms
1 Cup Rice Flour plus extra
2 Cup Sunflower Oil
1 Cup Ice water
1 tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
Icing/Confectioner’s Sugar for dusting (Optional)
Trim away the leaves, leaving a short stem on each flower head, then bathe the flowers in cold water to remover any bugs. Make sure to dry them thoroughly before frying.
Pop the extra of the flour in bowl, you’ll need this to coat the flowers before dipping them in the batter. In a large bowl add the cup of flour, egg, baking powder and salt and combing with a balloon whisk. Then slowly add in the ice water making sure the batter has no lumps.
Heat the oil until it’s nice and hot (about 190 degrees). Take a flower head coat in flour, then dip into the batter gently shaking off the excess. Drop into the hot oil and fry for a minute or two until lightly golden. Drain onto kitchen paper, and repeat with the rest of the flowers.
Serve with a light dusting of icing sugar and cream.
I still remember the feeling of absolute awe when I first arrived in Morocco. And in spite of its flourishing tourist trade, Morocco still holds a sense of mystic and seductive allure. Hearing the early morning call to prayer, watching the celebrations as pilgrims return from Mecca. The fields of mint and coriander, emerald coloured oases and stunning casbahs conjure images of Arabian tales and epic movies.
We stayed at a nomadic camp in the Sahara. Our host an older gentleman, who wore his life on his weathered yet pleasant face, welcomed us like old friends, his voice deep brown and gravely. At dinner we were served the most delicious tagines and salads, all vibrantly coloured like platefuls of jewels.
The colourful food of the Arabian lands are among my favourite world cuisines. This Moroccan inspired recipe is fresh and light and so simple to make. It’s equally delicious as a sweet dessert or as a side to savoury dishes – a slow cooked lamb tagine perhaps!
Serve with the syrup for a dessert, or a dusting of ground cinnamon as a side dish.
You will need
For the salad
3 Medium Size Oranges
3 Medium Size Blood Oranges
1 Extra Orange for the Juice
Seeds from 1/2 Pomegranate
6 Fresh Mint Leaves
Ground Cinnamon (Optional)
For the Syrup
2 Tbsp of Orange Blossom Water
200g Light Cane Sugar
3 Tbsp Freshly squeezed Orange Juice
250 ml Water
To make the syrup, pop the water and sugar in to a medium pan. Simmer over a med-high heat, continually stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved and it begins to thicken in to a syrup. This will take about 5 minutes or so. Stir in the orange blossom water and orange juice, continue to simmer until you get a thick, viscose syrup. Remove from the heat, place a lid on the pan and set aside to allow it to cool and the flavours to infuse.
Peel the 3 oranges and 3 blood oranges for the salad, also removing the white pith. With a sharp knife cut the oranges into thin slices but not too thin. Arrange slices on a serving plate alternating orange and red slices. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and mint leaves and spoon over the syrup. Alternatively, put about a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon in a fine mesh sieve, and lightly dust over the fruit.
Serve with cream or natural greek-style yoghurt.
There were many inspirations for the syrup in this recipe, but most notably – Colour of Morocco by Rob & Sophia Palmer
One of the many pleasure about travelling to a country or city is experiencing new flavours and new aromas, and every place seems to have something that’s uniquely theirs. Although I often buy souvenirs when visiting somewhere for the first time, nothing reminds me of a favourite destination more than the taste of a dish I first tried there. So, when I recreate those favourite dishes at home, I’m immediately transported back to those places, those tastes and those memories.
During my recent visit to Porto, I come across this very simple but very delicious sweet squash dessert, Doce de Abobora, a compote like dessert native to Portugal. The original recipe is quite sweet and jammy, consisting of pumpkin and sugar, with the occasional addition of spices and coconut. My version of this recipe uses less sugar, but more of the flavours that remind me of this beautiful city and country.
Porto was built on Port wine, not literally of course, but the city did thrive because of the success of the industry. So I think it would be criminal not to add a splash of port to this dessert. I’ve also added toasted almonds for crunch and texture, and the hint of orange zest which gives each mouthful little bursts of sunshine. Served with a dollop of mascarpone cheese, the sweet and slightly savoury flavours create a magical combination. Although the deep orange, sweet squash compote feels a little autumny, it is just as enjoyable during the spring.
You will need
1 small pumpkin or squash – about 800g or so
light brown cane sugar 1 cup – 200g
1/2 cinnamon stick or cassia bark
finely grated zest 1/2 small orange
50ml white port wine
flaked almonds about 40g
Remove the skin and seeds from the squash, and cut in to pieces about 2 cm in size but no smaller. Add the squash to a heavy based pan along with the port and sugar and stir to coat the squash pieces thoroughly. Add the cinnamon stick or cassia bark and orange zest, and bring to a simmer without a lid over a med-high heat for about 2-3 mins. Next, turn down the heat to med-low and simmer for about 50-60 mins, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon. It’s cooked when the compote is slightly jammy looking and all of the moisture has evaporated.
Set aside to cool slightly while you toast the almonds. Place the flaked almonds in a large heavy based frying pan or shallow pan in a single layer and, over a medium heat toast until they are lightly browned.
Serve the compote with a sprinkling of toasted almonds, a generous helping of mascarpone cream and a dusting of ground cinnamon.
During my stay on Zanzibar Island, I would often sit on the beach quietly taking photos of the village women of Jambiani as they dug for clams on the shoreline. This took place mainly in the early evenings, just as the sun began to set. The vibrantly dressed women against the pale blue of the sea, and the golden hue of evening light was a vision to behold.
I asked a local man – the women did not speak to mzungu much – how the women prepared the clams they were gathering. “The clams are cooked in coconut with lime and salt” he told me.
Eating on the island was an absolute pleasure for the scenes. There are very few fridges in local cafes and restaurants, so everything is freshly prepared–fresh fish, fresh coconut, mango, passion fruit, limes, Thai basil and spices grown on the island were frequently used giving dishes the most delightful flavours and scented aromas.
This simple dish is an adaptation of the recipe given to me, but with a few additional ingredients which were abundantly used in the dishes of local restaurants.
You will need
clams 500 g
coconut milk 400 ml
zest & juice 1/2 lime
2 dried lime leaves
2 inches finely grated ginger
1 clove garlic crushed
1 level tbsp of tamarind
handful (20 g) of fresh Thai basil leaves roughly chopped*
salt & black pepper for seasoning
To begin, soak the clams in a large bowl of cold salted water for about an hour to remove any sand. Pour clams into a colander and rinse thoroughly under the cold water tap. Then swoosh around in the colander to remove excess water. Discard any clams that are fully open.
Place the coconut milk, dried lime leaves, ginger, garlic, tamarind, lime juice and zest and a generous pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper in a large pan and simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes. With a slatted spoon remove the lime leaves and any large bits of tamarind that hasn’t dissolved. Pop the chopped Thai basil into the sauce reserving a little for garnishing. Turn up the heat slightly, pour in the clams, place a lid on the pan and let the clams steam for 5 minutes or so. Check to see if they are all open, if not give them a few minutes more. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Discard any clams that have not opened. Spoon the clams and sauce into dishes and garnish with the reserved Thai basil leaves. Serve with dense white bread or white rice.
Serves two as a main dish or four as an appetiser.
*It has to be Thai basil as regular basil doesn’t work as well
I wanted to create a warming drink for the winter season, and as we are currently living in northern Germany, a Glühwein recipe seemed a natural choice. But, I’m just not in the mood for the abundant choice alcoholic seasonal drinks right now. So a Mexican friend introduced me to a drink that is on the stove top of pretty much every Mexican home during the holiday season – Ponche.
Traditionally made with Jamaica flower (Hibiscus), spices, Tamarind, dried fruits, cane sugar and Tejocotes, a fruit native to Mexico which is part of the Hawthorne family of plants. I’ve substituted some of these ingredients for ones that you may already have on hand. For example, I’ve used dark brown granular sugar instead of cane sugar which still gives a sweet warming taste to the punch, and Quince instead of Tejocotes, which adds a light aromatic flavour and are more readily available.
The punch is really simple to make, and will create a very inviting fruity, spicy aroma in your home. You can keep it warm on the stove, so that you have something warming to offer guests as they pop by during the holiday season, and as its alcohol-free kids can enjoy it too. Feliz Navidad!
You will need
40 g of Dried Jamaica flowers
40 g Raisins
30 g Tamarind (from a block of fruit or
you can use the fruit from about 8 pods)
40 g Dark brown sugar
2 Cinnamon sticks
6 Star Anise
2 Litres water
2 Clementines, chopped
1 Small Quince, cored and chopped
1 Small yellow apple, cored and chopped
Put the Jamaica flowers, spices, Tamarind, prunes, raisins, sugar and water into a large saucepan, bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove all of the ingredients with a slatted spoon. Add the chopped fruit and simmer for a further 20 minutes. The punch will absorb all of the lovely juices from the fruit. Serve with the pieces of fruit in mugs or punch cups.
I’ve found over the years that when it comes to cooking, like most people, I’m constantly re-adapting or re-inventing a recipe to suit my family’s taste, make it more seasonal or to use up any ingredients I have left over. These dishes often become favourites in themselves. But even classic, much loved recipes invite a little adaptation from time to time. I was initially going to make a tarte au citron a classic lemon tart, exchanging the usual pastry base for a gluten-free almond crust. However, with the bounty of citrus fruits available right now, it seemed fitting to create something more in keeping with the season. So, for the custard filling for my – not at all like a tarte au citron tart, I’ve opted for clementines, a delicious deviations from zesty lemons, with the addition of a little orange blossom water which enhances the delicate notes of the fruit. For the base, a combination of almond flour, fine oats and ground whole almonds gives the tart a bit of gluten-free texture. The result is a delicately aromatic tart, with a little crunch that gently lights up the taste buds.
You will need
For the crust
100 g Almond flour
50 g Fine Oats (Gluten-free)
150 g Almonds
1 egg yolk
50 g butter, melted plus extra for greasing tart tin
1 tbsp honey
23-24 cm tart tin
For the custard
5 med size eggs
Zest of 2 Clementines
Juice of 2-3 Clementines – you’ll need 100ml
150 g of brown caster sugar
1 tbsp of Orange blossom water
65 g of butter, melted but not hot
To begin, grease your tart tin. Pop the whole almonds in a food processor and grind to a medium texture. Mix all of the crust ingredients in a bowl and combine until it resembles a moist crumble. Empty the mixture into the prepared tart tin and, with your fingers or the back of a spoon press the mixture out evenly from the centre to and around the edges of the tin to form a base of even thickness. This may take a little patience, but persevere. Place in the fridge for about half an hour to set.
Pre-heat your oven at 180 C with convection. If you are using a loose-bottom tart tin, place on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly.
Turn the oven down to 160 C. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Zest the clementines with a fine grater, then squeeze the juice into a measuring jug and add the orange blossom water. Put the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Add the zest then slowly add the melted butter and then the juice. Pour the filling into the tart base, put it in the oven for 20 minutes or until the filling is golden and just set. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar and a little mascarpone.
The base for this recipe was inspired by – Food and Travel Magazine May 2017 edition.
For the longest time and for reasons unknown to me, I have been utterly seduced by all things Middle Eastern–the music, decor, architecture and, of course, the cuisine.
I especially love the way ingredients such as rosewater and orange blossom water are added to foods and drinks giving them a delicate, sensual, almost other worldly nuance. So when I’m in the mood for a little dreamy reminiscing about my previous trip to Morocco, I reach for this beautifully fragrant, easy to prepare aromatic coffee and date recipe.
You will need
For the coffee
Strong, freshly brewed coffee – 4 cups
20 Green Cardamom pods
Saffron, a generous pinch
For the dates
Medjool Dates – 12 pitted
Ground almonds – 3oz
Rosewater – 2-3 tablespoons
Soft brown caster sugar – 1 1/2 oz
Put the brewed coffee into a saucepan, bash open the cardamon pods in a Pestel and Mortar and remove the seeds, stir them into the coffee along with the saffron. Keep the coffee hot by placing the pan over a medium heat, pop a lid on and leave for about 8-10 minutes. This will allow the spices to infuse into the coffee while you prepare the dates.
Mix together the ground almonds, sugar and 2 tablespoons of rosewater and make into a paste. Squeeze the paste together by hand to form a ball. Add more rosewater only if needed, as the natural oils from the almonds will help bind the paste together.
Take just less than a teaspoonful of the paste, roll it into a ball between the palms of your hands, then form a sausage shape. Fill a pitted date with the paste. Continue until you have filled all twelve dates.
Pour the coffee into cups through a tea strainer to remove the spices, and serve with the dates. The aromatic coffee is delicious either black or with a splash of cream. Enjoy!
Date recipe inspired: Tamarind & Saffron by Claudia Roden
This is one of those non-recipe recipes, the ones you turn to again and again when, although you have tons of cookbooks, you haven’t a clue what to make. I usually make this dish with quinoa, but this time I’ve chosen to use freekeh, a grain I’ve been meaning to try for an age.
Freekeh (pronounced free-kay) also known as frikeh or farik, is a green durum wheat used in Levantine and North African cuisines. The roasting of the grain gives it a traditional smoking flavour which pairs beautifully with the roasted vegetables in this dish. I’m sure there are a myriad of recipes similar to this, but I’m rather partial to this one. Enjoy.
You will need
100 g freekeh
500 ml chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 medium butternut squash
1/2 fennel bulb – reserve leaves for garnish
1 med red onion
2 red peppers
1 med aubergine
100 g cooked chickpeas
4 sprigs each of fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley
3 black cardamon pods seeds removed and ground
6 tbsp olive oil plus extra for frying
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
To begin, preheat your oven at 200C or equivalent. Put the Freekeh in a bowl and add enough cold water to just cover. Soak for about 20 minutes.
Chop all of the vegetables in to chunks an inch or so in size. Remove the herb leaves from the stems and roughly chop reserving a little of each to garnish along with the fennel leaves.
Place the chopped vegetable in a large bowl, add the herbs, black cardamon and 6 tablespoons of olive oil and toss the vegetables until completely covered. Line a large baking tray with foil and spread all of the vegetables out in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper and pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Drain the freekeh, place in a saucepan, add the broth and simmer for 14 minutes.
Add some olive oil to a small non-stick frying pan and bring to a med-high heat. Fry the chickpeas until lightly crispy, then place on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
When the vegetables are roasted allow them to cool slightly before adding the freekeh. Mix together thoroughly.
Serve garnished with the fried chickpeas and the reserved herbs.