Grilled corn Cafè Habana style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, we know this! you might say and of course you do. Everyone remotely familiar with Mexican, Cuban cuisine has had a combination of corn, crema, cheese, chile and lime. Blogs have waxed lyrically for years about classic Mexican street food staples like Elote en vaso (corn in a cup) is classic Mexican street food and the famous grilled corn of Café Habana in New York or it’s West Coast outlets. Understandably people don’t mind queueing for this delicious comfort food and tuck into these with abandon although there is no elegant way of eating the creamy-spicy-limey-salty-cheesy charred corn ears.

This heavenly combination is the reason for my constant return to these and since NY and the nearest Café Habana is not exactly round the corner one has to come up with an approximation of the original. Continue reading

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Corn, zucchini & tomato soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh corn tastes magical, barely cooked and cut from the cob it has an almost grassy sweet lightness that is otherwise totally lost and catapults it far, far away from possible associations with chicken feed. It only needs a minimum of dressing (butter & salt; lime & chilli; epazote) or other ingredients as company to shine like in this perfect summer salad or today’s soup. This simple dish has become an instant hit at supper time with even the most demanding of customers (small Michelin testers, only ‘slightly’ less well-mannered) and is my go-to summer soup this year.

What I originally only intended for the children is a real winner for all of us when the temperatures are high and even the thought of dinner feels like a lead weight in the stomach. Basil gives it a deserved kick and apart from salt & pepper there is no other seasoning necessary. Served lukewarm or even cold like a Gazpacho it transports well in a Thermos for a picnic or beach/pool day and can be spooned (in it’s thicker version) or sipped from cups.

Measurements or proportions are intentionally given in a lackadaisical way since the sizes of these veg can vary and I tend to use the stuff I’ve got in my veg box and anyway, who wants to fuss about a soup on a hot day?

 

More summer soups & salads: corn-tomato-basil salad; pea shooter, chickpea salad with cucumber, tomatoes & peppers, broad bean bruschette, lettuce cups with red pepper-lentil balls;

 

Corn zucchini tomato soup


Sweet corn-zucchini-tomato soup

 

2-3 ears of sweet corn
1 zucchino / courgette
3-6 tomatoes or 1/3 bottle tomato passata
chicken or vegetable stock
salt, pepper
basil

 

Cut the corn of the cob and chop all other ingredients. Place in a saucepan with a little chicken stock to taste and cook for the briefest of time, maybe 10 minutes. Season, add freshly torn basil, puree and pass through a sieve to get rid of all the corn kernel skins for a smoother soup. Serve a thicker puree/soup for small babies and a thinner version for more adult eaters at room temperature or even cooled.

 

Spinach-ricotta gnocchi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I was going to write another quick post soon after the last one but… – who would have thought that having twins means not only, to employ the well worn but nevertheless true cliché, double the joy but also double the work, double no time & double no sleep. Lucky the people who have grandparents, aunts & uncles and the whole extended family around to alleviate the daily grind and provide small pockets of breathing space. We don’t, so it has been a hard year with fantastic experiences, precious moments coupled with absolutely back (& spirit) breaking times. I thought we had it covered. Continue reading

Chocolate-almond cake

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There are chocolate cakes and they are great chocolate cakes. Then there are flourless chocolate cakes. Total different ball game. Ground nuts stand in for the flour and while lending support & substance they also keep the cake moist. Butter, of course, lends extra flavour and richness where egg whites keep it airy, light and tells you to have your cake and eat it too. Let’s start with two slices each… Continue reading

Cumin-chile lamb skewers with lemon yoghurt

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We ate those gorgeous spiced lamb skewers since they were on the cover of Bon Appétit’s Grilling Issue basically all through summer and haven’t stopped since. Why not, caraway & cumin are as much winter players as summer spices and their warm tones are welcome in cooler weather, just as heat & floral notes are provided by Sichuan, Aleppo and black pepper. Most importantly if you have two hurricanes, ahem babies, playing havoc with longwinded supper plans: they are super easy to prepare and quick to make (if you have your butcher debone and cut the lamb shoulder, of course, which you definitely should) and reward you with an explosion of flavour that revives the taste buds after a long, long day. Continue reading

Pebronata aux aubergines

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Miniature veg

Resisting a picturesque vegetable display abundant with the best of summer’s crop is not something I am particularly known for – I usually can’t control myself and buy ways too many things (some might say). With two (rapidly growing) babies to carry three flights of stairs in their car seats (mine seem to be made from lead) I am trading market chatter and instant gratification for a weekly organic box delivery. Though there are moments when I cave in and these tempting finger-sized aubergines were just too pretty and just the right size for a vegetable Pebronata. A hearty stew lingering between summer and autumn: the vegetable sauce is perfumed with herbs & resiny juniper berries reminding me of walks in the hills of the southern Provence and Côte d’Azur where the sun dried air is full of earthy, wild herb scents while a strong red wine pushes the sauce towards more autumnal flavours.

Always assuming that Pebronata was a Provençal dish since seeing John Thaw and Lindsay Duncan facing butcher and customers discussing the finer details in Peter Mayles’s A Year in Provence: ‘Ça ne vas pas non, Felicieng, c’est quattre poivrons rouges et un poivron vert’ – ‘ Je dis, et je repete, quattre poivrons verts et un poivron rouge’… I was puzzled why I never came across it there but apparently the Pebronata sauce originally hails from Corsica and the aubergines replacing the customary pork is Anne Willan’s great idea. My favourite version.

 

 

 

Aubergine pebronata


Pebronata aux aubergines

Serves 6. Adapted from Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France.

 

700g / 1½ lbs. small aubergines / eggplants (mine were the size of a large man’s thumb)
about 120ml / ½ cup olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1.35kg / 3 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into strips or 4 small tins diced tomatoes
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leaf)
2 red peppers, cut into narrow strips
1 green pepper, cut into narrow strips
4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
250ml / 1 cup hearty red wine
 

Cut aubergines lengthwise into quarters and halve those for two-bites-sized pieces (about 5cm / 2 inches long). Sprinkle with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse and dry with paper towels. Meanwhile make the sauce:

Pebronata sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sweat the onion until it is beginning to turn brown, ca. 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a scant minute before adding tomatoes with the bouquet garni, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15-20 minutes until you’ve got a coulis. Heat another 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large casserole and sauté the peppers with juniper berries until softened (ca. 10 minutes). Season, pour the wine over the peppers, bring to a boil and reduce, simmering slowly, to roughly half the amount. Add the tomato coulis and continue cooking over low heat into a thick, rich sauce vegetable sauce (about 15-20 minutes).

Sauté aubergine pieces over medium heat in the remaining 60ml olive oil until they are browned on all sides. Best to do in two batches to ensure browning and avoid steaming the aubergines. Decant into the casserole with the pebronata sauce, cover with a lid and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the aubergine pieces are tender. Season again if necessary and serve hot or at room temperature.
 

 

 

Deutsches Rezept:

 

Aubergine pebronata


Auberginen-Pebronata

6 Portionen. Nach Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France.

 

 

700g kleine Auberginen (meine waren so groß wie der Daumen eines großen Mannes)
ca. 120ml Olivenöl
1 Zwiebel, gewürfelt
4 Knoblauchzehen, gehackt
1.35kg Tomaten, gehäutet, entkernt, in Streifen geschnitten oder 4 kleine Dosen Tomatenstücke
1 Bouquet garni (Thymian, Petersilie, Lorbeerblatt)
2 rote Paprika, in schmale Streifen geschnitten
1 grüne Paprika, in schmale Streifen geschnitten
4 Wacholderbeeren, leicht angedrückt
250ml kräftiger Rotwein
 

Auberginen der Länge nach vierteln, diese dann halbieren (ca. 5 cm lange Stücke). Großzügig salzen und 20 Minuten stehen lassen (um ihnen Flüssigkeit zu entziehen). Dann abspülen und mit Küchentüchern abtrocknen. In der Zwischenzeit die Sauce kochen:

Pebronata sauce: 2 EL (30ml) Olivenöl in einer Pfanne bei mittlerer Hitze erhitzen und Zwiebel anschwitzen bis sie zu bräunen beginnt (ca. 5 Min.), dann Knoblauch hinzufügen und 1 Minute später ebenso die Tomaten und das Bouquet garni. Würzen und 15-20 Minuten simmern lassen bis man ein schönes Coulis hat (eingekochte stückige Tomaten/Sauce). Weitere 2 EL (30ml) Olivenöl in einer großen Kasserolle erhitzen und die Paprikastreifen mit den Wacholderbeeren sautieren bis sie weich sind aber noch ihre Form behalten (ca. 10 Minuten). Würzen, dann den Wein hinzufügen, zum Kochen bringen und dann langsam köchelnd bis auf die Hälfte reduzieren. Tomatencoulis hineingeben und weiter bei niedriger-mittlerer Hitze zu einer dicklich-stückigen Gemüsesauce einkochen (ca. 15-20 Minuten).

Währenddessen die abgespülten und abgetrockneten Auberginenstücke bei mittlerer Hitze im restlichen Olivenöl (60ml) sautieren bis sie auf allen Seiten angebräunt sind. Um ein Dämpfen der Auberginen zu vermeiden, dies am besten in zwei Portionen machen. Dann die angebräunten Stücke in die Kasserolle mit der Pebronatasauce geben, mit einem Deckel verschließen und für 10-15 Minuten köcheln lassen bis die Auberginen weich sind, aber nicht auseinanderfallen. Wenn nötig, nachwürzen und warm oder bei Zimmertemperatur servieren.

 

 

Pistachio gelato

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In the matter of ice cream flavours I am not, never have been a strawberry-vanilla-chocolate kind of person but a faithful pistachio lover. Ever since the day I could make my own gelato choice from the sleek, shiny case behind the espresso machine and food elevator at the end of the central bar in the restaurant. The prospect of the delicious after-dinner treat made me forget my toddler timidity and march alone through the dining room to choose amongst the flavours (classic Italian gelato varieties and special ones like Stracciatella and Pistacchio– we are talking 1970s!) and always choosing the one. Continue reading