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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Let the barbecues begin...

This past week the weather finally caught up with the calendar and everywhere you went the sweet smell of barbecues was hanging in the air. As a vegetarian barbecues are always a time when you and your food are being scrutinised by carnivores. Obviously you don’t want them to pity you for your choice so you need to step it up. Therefore, my favourite thing to bring to a barbecue are bread and spreads because who isn’t going to have bread. Most of my friends don’t bake their own bread and they seem to appreciate home-baked breads. I have yet to take leftover bread home.

This recipe for Naan is one of my go-to recipes for days when I don’t want a lot of fuss. A lot of people are afraid of using yeast but nothing is so rewarding than seeing your dough perfectly raised. I only use fresh yeast which you can get in any supermarket in Germany but I know that it is harder to get in Britain for example. I don’t know whether it is hard to get in the US, do you? My tip for Britain is to ask in the local bakery. The usually sell it very cheap and fresh and buying it feels a little bit like guerrilla baking.

The herb butter is one of my family’s all time favourite and we make it for every possible occasion. The hummus is new in my repertoire and is excellent for many reasons, one of them being that it is vegan.

Naan recipe: (makes 8-12 Naans)
42g fresh yeast
325ml/11 fl oz warm water
250g/2cups flour
250g/2cups strong flour (I use spelt flour for both and it gives it more taste and a rustic look)
1tbsp. rapeseed or olive oil
1tsp. salt

-       -put warm water and yeast in a bowl and cover it with a towel for up to 15 min (I have this special yeast dough bowl which is perfect for this and the dough requires a lot less time rising in it)
-       if it is too cold or drafty in your kitchen  preheat your oven on a very low temperature, turn it off and put the bowl in there
-       once it foams up (or doesn’t ...don’t panic fresh yeast has never let me down so far) add the flour, oil and salt and knead it until everything is incorporated and the dough is smooth
-       put it back in the bowl with the towel on and let rise for an hour until the dough has doubled in size (with my bowl you just have to wait until the lid pops off and it usually takes half an hour)
-       divide the dough into 8-12 even balls and using a rolling pin roll them out until 0,5cm thick (1/4 of an inch)
-       let them rise again for 10min (no need to cover) while heating up your heavy bottom frying pan
-       bake the Naans in the frying pan without using oil, turn them over once big bubbles have formed
-       2-3 min each
-       let them cool down in a towel or eat them hot (they can easily be frozen or kept in the fridge)

Roasted Pepper and Garlic Hummus
1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained (480ml or 14oz)
3 garlic cloves roasted (I roast them while baking the Naan in the same pan)
3-4 roasted peppers (I bought a jar of pickled roasted peppers from a Russian supermarket)
2tbsp tahini
Juice of half a lemon
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp black pepper

-       put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor
-       pulse until smooth
-       remove to a bowl and refrigerate for at least ½ hour
-       serve and enjoy

Herb butter

250g/2sticks of soft butter (or half the butter and same amount of low fat cream cheese for a lighter option)
2 garlic cloves, minced (roasted or not)
½ tsp salt

-       chop the herbs finely
-       add everything to a bowl and beat with a mixer until very smooth and airy
-       serve

Monday, July 16, 2012

Berlin's Oasis

Berlin's oasis is called Mutter Fourage. Walking through the gate you enter a little cosmos of tranquility. Mutter Fourage is located on the borders of Berlin in Berlin Wannsee. It contains a café/restaurant with excellent food that is supplied by their organic farm shop, bakery and food store (also on the premises). The tables of the café are in the middle of the courtyard surrounded by the luscious flowers and plants that belong to Mutter Fourage's flower shop. You can find some pretty extraordinary spices there like pineapple mint, lemon basil, or red basil.  On the premises are also a gallery, a small but well stocked kitchen supply shop, a barn that hosts all kind of events and a sculpturer's atelier. Definitely worth the journey!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Post-exam celebration at Wonderpots

Finally all exams are over, all presentations given and we treated ourselves to some frozen yogurt at Berlin's very own Wonderpots. Maria (picture below) recommended it and we all really enjoyed our delicious yogurts.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer's last harvest

Strawberry time is almost over in Germany and all the little strawberry-shaped stalls in Berlin's streets will soon disappear. I haven't had time to enjoy the summer's harvest so far except the occasional bowl of cherries. Exams, presentations and life kept me busy. Today after I had finished my last exam I went to the Farmers Market and bought all the ingredients (and more) for strawberry tarts. The idea came from my friend Josi who asked me to give her a recipe for strawberry tarts. Josi, here is your recipe!

First I should say that until today pastry seemed to violently hate me. Everytime I dared to attempt making it it turned out less than desirable let alone perfect. Last week my friend and fellow Foodie Maria recommended The great unshrinkable sweet tart shell  by Smitten Kitchen to me. I tried it and it worked perfectly and broke the pastry curse I must have had on me.

Sweet tart shell recipe (adapted from Smitten Kitchen )
200g flour
60g icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
125g super cold butter (mine was in the freezer for 40min)
1 large egg


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon super cold unsalted butter
1 large egg

Creme Patissierre

1 vanilla bean
1 cup/250ml milk
 2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup/60g sugar

- put flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and just quickly fork through to break up any lumps
- cut the butter into small cubes and add them to the flour
- using a knife, a pastry blender or a food processor cut through the butter until you have oatmeal-like flakes
- add the egg and cut through the flour and butter until it starts forming big clumps
- knead the dough lightly in the bowl until all the dry ingredients are incorporated (be cautious not to do it too long as you don't want the butter to get too warm)
- now either press the dough into the tart shell and put it in the freezer for 30-40mins or wrap the dough in cling foil and put it in the refridgerator for 2hrs or longer ( I mixed this up: I first refridgerated it for an hour and then rolled it out and put it in the mini tart shells then they went into the freezer for 30mins which worked really well for me)
- preheat the oven to 190 degrees C or 375 degrees F
- before baking butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and put it shiny side down onto the tart shell (butter prevents it sticking)
- you won't need any baking beans as the dough was frozen (in case you didn't freeze it you will need them)
- bake for 20-25min
- take out and take off the foil
- it will need another 10min to fully bake, filled or not
- let it cool off before taking it out of the shell

creme patissierre

- first cut the vanilla bean open and put the seeds and pod into a pot with the milk
- heat gently until bubbling and leave it to bubble approximately 5 minutes while stirring
- take off heat and leave for 10min for the vanilla to infuse the milk
- put egg yolks, flour and sugar into a bowl and mix together
- add milk mixture and stir until well combined
- pour back into the pot and heat up again while stirring

- it will only take seconds to firm up (as soon as it reaches the consistency you want take it off the heat)
- pour into the prepared shells and put the fruit of your choice on top

Monday, July 9, 2012

Food walk through Notting Hill

This past weekend I went to England (instead of cramming for next week's exams). Having done most of the touristy stuff already I thought I should take it to the next level, and explore London's food. After some internet research I found a food walk through Notting Hill (here) which sounded enticing to my taste buds. So off we went to Notting Hill for a food-filled day!

The Diamond jubilee bunting is still everywhere.

I should mention that we went on a Saturday, and this meant that Portobello (or Portobelly) Market was on, and what felt like all of America and Germany was there. My plan to avoid touristy stuff was not working out ... due to my lack of London knowledge. By the time we reached our first food destination both of us (Oliver was there as well) were pretty annoyed. An instant sugar rush was what we needed and the Hummingbird Bakery delivered it. The Red Velvet cupcake (me) and the Jaffa Cake cupcake (him) were excellent and the world (and the other tourists) seemed a lot nicer.

We did the entire food walk but some of the best places were definitely:

Books for Cooks (opposite the Notting Hill Bookshop.... yes the one from the film Notting Hill... in case you wonder Hugh Grant was not there):

The Spice Shop (opposite Books for Cooks with shelves bursting with all kinds and varieties of spices):

El Camion (Very very good mexican food and great interiour):

Dri Dri Gelateria (which was surprinsingly empty especially for the superb ice-cream they had ... must have been because of the very British weather):

Left salted caramel, right sesame vanilla cream.

Our day in London ended with a visit to the Royal Albert Hall to see Laura Marling perform. It was fantastic. The building seemed so grand but once she was on stage it suddenly felt very intimate. Almost as if you were sitting right next to her rather than high up in the ranks. At times she was all alone on stage just her and her guitar. A perfect end to a very good day.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The easiest and yet best cake ever...Lemon Polenta Cake

This is an absolute fool-proof and yet scrumptious cake. It will take you no longer then 10 minutes of preparation, 8 ingredients and 30-40 minutes of baking.

I have yet to find a person who doesn't like this cake. Generally the people living in my proximity tend to be very cake-spoiled to the point of being cake snobs. However, this cake from Nigella Lawson's Kitchen has won them over. My mother even contemplates calling this her favourite cake!

It is very moist and lemony and for this summer wheather it's ideally served cold and/or with ice-cream or whipped cream. Since the cake doesn't require flour or dairy products it would be an excellent choice for people who are lactose-intolerant, gluten-free diets or vegans (granted you substitute the eggs with bananas for example)

Enough said about the cake... now the recipe (taken from Nigella Lawson's Kitchen):

200g soft margarine (or unsalted butter)
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
100g polenta
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten-free if required)
3 eggs
zest of 2 lemons

for the syrup:
juice of 2 lemons
125g icing sugar

1 cup of soft  margarine or 2 sticks of butter
1 cup caster sugar
2 cups of ground almonds
3/4 cup of polenta
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 eggs
zest of 2 lemons

for the syrup:
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup icing sugar

- line the base of a cake tin with baking parchment
- preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, gas mark 4 or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- will take between 30-40 minutes (know your oven!)

- beat butter and sugar
- mix polenta, almonds and baking powder and add gradually to the butter-sugar mix
- add the eggs one by one
- add lemon zest
- pour into cake tin and put in the oven
- the cake is done when it shrinks from the sides of the tin, is golden brown or a cake tester comes out clean
- prick the top of the cake with an uncooked spaghetti (! don't push it until the bottom of the cake tin as you want the syrup to stay in the cake)

- put lemon juice and icing sugar in a pot and heat until it thickens
- pour on the cake (if you have a spring form you can leave the cake in it for this step, for other cake tins I would take it out before hand)
- EAT it!

Final tip: If you use peeled ground almonds the cake will look more golden, I used unpeeled ground almonds and mine is a bit on the rustic side. Tastes the same.