mexican hot chocolate

It is getting dark, murky and cold outside and I am longing for a fireplace and hot – preferably a little alcoholic – drinks like mulled wine, cider, Grog, glögg or hot chocolate, a cup of tea. Most Friday nights we’ll have some fun food (as my husband names it) like these salad, bean & beef tacos (we are in love) for supper and since I was already assembling Mexican ingredients I had to have a hot Mexican chocolate. There is no immediate need for a cold & dark winter evening but it helps. Possibly snow, sleet or rain & husband coming late from work, too.

Grate some Mexican chocolate (Mayordomo or Ibarra is what I have found here so far) or if you have none of these handy, just mix dark chocolate with piloncillo sugar or dark brown sugar & cinnamon. Add a dash or two of Cointreau to upgrade to some orange spirit and since we have all seen Chocolat – a pinch of chile for spice. Ground ancho chile in our case. Before I forget, you might want to save some for that hard working husband and not drink it all! Sorry.

If you want to go the extra mile, top the steaming hot chocolate with a dollop of lightly whipped cream, some more grated chocolate & chile and stir with a cinnamon stick.

Mexican hot chocolate
for two…

2-4 pieces of Mexican hot chocolate or dark chocolate or cacao (add dark sugar & cinnamon)
2 cups of milk
a pinch of ground chile
a pinch of extra cinnamon
Cointreau or Grand Manier

extra: lightly whipped cream, grated chocolate, chile, cinnamon stick

Grate the chocolate or cacao. Heat the milk in a small sauce pan, add the chcolate and spices. When piping hot pour into Grog glasses and add a dash of Cointreau to each. If you want to go that aforementioned extra mile, top with a dollop of lightly whipped cream, some more chocolate & chile and stir with a cinnamon stick.

Pedro Ximénez Sherry raisin ice cream

I have been dreaming about this ice cream since I read the recipe in the formidable Diana Henry’s book Crazy Water Pickled Lemons. How can one resist a book by this title, full of wonderful recipes from the Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa, brimming with fragrant, exquisite ingredients and flavours?

There are many different sherry styles around and with rediscovery of the Spanish cuisines comes a renewed appreciation of the fortified wine, pairing the different styles of sherry with different dishes, cooking with other than “cooking sherry”. If you like to find out more, I thought the short introduction to the different styles and brands of sherry in Sam & Sam Clark’s Moro. The Cookbook very helpful and it provides a lot of sherry-based recipes, too.

This ice cream is made with the sweet, raisiny, almost treacly Pedro Ximénez sherry where the name giving sun-dried grapes add complex brown sugar notes. Raisins have soaked it up and both are mixed into a custard base for a really luscious ice cream that stays soft because of the small amount of alcohol. This ice cream might be called a relative of the Malaga ice cream of distant days (after all these years still my Mum’s favourite variety; mine will be forever Pistacchio but that is a entirely different story). A close relative but a more gutsy one: the Daphne Guinness or Isabella Blow to your shy second cousin. Pedro Ximénez anyone?

Pedro Ximénez sherry raisin ice cream
adapted from Diana Henry’s Crazy Water Pickled Lemons
makes 0.7l  ice cream (with a little testing…) = 3 cups

85g (a heaped ½ cup or 3 oz) raisins
120ml (½ cup or 4fl oz) Pedro Ximénez sherry
420ml (1¾ cups or 14fl oz) of milk
1 vanilla pod
5 egg yolks
100g (½ cup or 3¼ oz) caster sugar
300ml (1¼ cups or 10fl oz) cream (single or whipping cream)

Previous day: Measure the raisins in a jar with a lid and pour over the Pedro Ximénez sherry. Close the lid and keep until needed. Could be made several days or weeks in advance but I would hide it to prevent excessive “tasting”.

Pour the milk into a saucepan, split the vanilla pod and scrape with the back of a knife blade the seeds out and add both seeds and pod to the milk. Heat the milk until it is just about to boil, take of the hob and leave to infuse for at least ½ hour or until needed.

Make the custard in a bain-marie: Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl to a pale yellow cream and add the reheated vanilla milk while constant stirring with a wooden spoon. Move the bowl over a pan with hot water, careful not to have the water touch the bowl. Gently heat the mixture and keep stirring until the custard has thickened slightly and is covering the back of the spoon. Leave it to cool.

Add the sherry raisins and liquid to the custard and fold in the (lightly whipped says the recipe, I just added it in its liquid form) cream. Keep in the fridge to cool down further and churn in your chosen ice-cream maker (mine is an Italian Gaggia). Pour the soft ice cream into a container and keep in the freezer to ripen and firm up a little more. Since it contains a little alcohol the ice cream does not become totally hard in the freezer, so it can be scooped out immediately – a bonus if for a party.

Mustard chive potatoes

A super side dish for a festive dinner (if you have one coming up…) or a simple supper, a great party thingy and it makes extremely nice leftovers for a quick lunch the next day. Add a sardine (which is why I did because I forgot about my smoked mackerel in the fridge) and one could even name it a sort of deconstructed Caesar’s salad. The savoury mustard-parmesan potatoes, seasoned by a little garlic and a sprinkling of chives on top make this a very pretty and very tasty side dish that adds a lot of flavour to anything it is served with. Yummy at any time of year but maybe a welcome update if you want to forgo serving all the trimmings and are looking for a side dish that even comes with its own sauce. Good as or with leftovers, too.

If you fancy more of the sauce and who am I to judge you on that (I just had quite a heaped plate myself with baby spinach & sardine), just double the ingredients and leave the potatoes as they are.


Warm mustard & chive potatoes
for about 6 persons

900g (2lbs) small potatoes, leave skin on, well scrubbed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, grated or pressed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano reggiano or Grana padano
2 tablespoons of finely chopped chives
salt & pepper


Leave the skin on the potatoes, scrub them well and halve. Cook in salted water for about 10 to 15 minutes until done, the cooking time obviously depends on the size and newness of the potatoes. In the meantime, mix the mustard, garlic, olive oil and cheese in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Give the dressing a final stir before you tumble in the hot drained potatoes. Mix to give them an even coating of the sauce and sprinkle with the chives.



Kokosmakronen – coconut macaroons

Kokosmakronen by the james kitchen
Kokosmakronen, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

Gosh, I am legging so far behind in all the Christmas baking while other people are churning out cookies left, right and centre and I have not done a thing yet. There was some snow already, well, flakes and nothing stayed but I am getting a bit freaked out with Christmas baking & blog/cooking-stressed here, how are these people doing it with one post a day??? And all these other recipes in the queue which would work quite well for those who are celebrating Thanksgiving: a nice potato side dish (hopefully tomorrow), sherry-raisin ice-cream (raisins soaking already) and a good way to use up egg-whites (at least 3 of the 5 for the ice-cream) in form of snow white macaroons.

Anyway, coconut macaroons are one of the many traditional German Christmas cookies and they would either make a nice hostess gift or simply getting the prime spot of being this year’s first cookie. These have had to take a back seat while everybody was busy making Macarons, but for Christmas, I think they should go back into the classic line-up of Vanillekipferl, Lebkuchen, Honigkuchen, Engelsaugen, Berliner Brot, Basler Leckerli, Marzipankartoffeln, Zimtsterne…. If that does sound all exotic German to you, well, let me tell you this name-dropping conjures up the full Christmas market idyll and we will try to do them all.

So in honour of yesterday’s first attempt at snow, snow white coconut macaroons like my grandmother Anni used to make them. See, I am even a little bit earlier than last year.


Kokosmakronen – coconut macaroons
makes about 50

3 egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pinch of salt
225g (8oz or 1 ¾ cup) Icing sugar / confectioner’s sugar (Puderzucker)
60g (½ cup) plain flour
200g desiccated coconut (Kokosflocken)
50 round baking wafers or white rice paper wafers (4cm or 1 ½ inch in diameter; Backoblaten)

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300° F), fan oven: 130°C (260° F), gas mark 1.
Beat the egg whites together with the lemon juice and salt until really firm. Pass the flour and icing sugar through a sieve onto the stiff egg whites, add the coconut and fold all carefully into the egg mixture. It should be firm and dry, not runny or wet nor should it loose its shape.

Spread the baking wafers out on baking tray / sheet and either using 2 teaspoons or a small ice-cream scoop (I used a heaped #70 disher) place little mounts of macaroon mass onto the white paper rounds. They should about cover the paper and have little mountain tops which is like we used to have them or you could follow the other school and flatten the tip to get a round mount. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until slightly golden. Leave to cool on a separate tray or wire rack.

Tip: It might be a bit fiddly to place the mass onto the gliding wafers and you want to hold one side of the wafer while placing the macaroon mass on it.

Keep in an airtight container or the classic biscuit tin. If they tend to get rock hard, just add a slice of apple or peel to the container and exchange after a few days. This way they are definitely staying soft.




autumn / winter slaw

autumn slaw by the james kitchen
autumn slaw, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

Red cabbage for me is the epitome of autumn & winter vegetables, braised with apples and spices in red wine is something that should not be missed when having duck or goose in Germany / Europe. You can buy it marinated in jars or tins but it is a million miles away from the real stuff and I will be making my own shortly before Christmas.

Here the cabbage is fresh & crunchy and part of a wonderfully orange-purple coloured autumn or winter slaw garnished with specks of fresh green herbs and the dark jade pumpkin seeds. Chervil and tarragon add a nice anise and green-grassy taste, both herbs are part of the French fines herbes and essential ingredient in my favourite but seldom eaten sauce: Bernaise. A great spin on an English coleslaw and in my opinion much nicer with a sharp mustard-yoghurt dressing than the usual mayonnaise one. I could eat this any time – as a starter, lunch or a glorious colourful side dish to poultry (chicken, duck or what about turkey?) or great as accompaniment to falafel or part of a vegetarian plate.


Autumn or winter slaw
makes enough for 4, easy to adjust quantities for more people

½ head of red cabbage
4-5 carrots
2 tablespoons coarse Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper
250ml or 1 cup Yoghurt, either Greek or full fat or 1,5%
2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons of nut oil, rape seed oil or olive oil
a generous handful of chervil
a little bit of tarragon (a sprig or two)
dark green Austrian pumpkin seeds or pepitas

Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the thick stalk end with a diagonal cut and finely slice the cabbage into thin ribbons. Grate the carrots on the coarse side of a box grater. In a Monk-ish way I like to have roughly equal amounts of both vegetables, other proportions won’t harm the taste though. Make the dressing in a big bowl: mix the mustards, salt & pepper, yoghurt with the vinegar and add the oil. Chop the chervil and a little tarragon and mix the herbs with the vegetables and the dressing. Sprinkle over quite a generous amount of pumpkin seeds and add a few to each plate.


Nigella & caraway seed sticks

Going away for a few days and am leaving you with this:
The quickest of snacks to make for Friday night drinks. You might be using puff pastry for one or two dishes anyway (chicken pot pies for supper, sausage rolls for the abandoned-husband weekend), the oven is hot already and you are in hurry to produce a few nibbles, then these are your new friends. I used caraway seeds and Nigella seeds here, the next batch will have sesame, poppy seeds, rosemary on it.


Nigella & caraway seed sticks

puff pastry
nigella seeds
caraway seeds

Oven: 200°C (400°F).
Cut your sheet of puff pastry in thin long strips, place on parchment paper and a baking tray, sprinkle one portion with Nigella seeds and the other with caraway seeds. Lightly press the seeds down with your fingers, so they stick to the pastry. Add some salt. Ready. Bake for about 10 minutes until lightly brown.



Griesspudding with raspberries

Griesspudding by the james kitchen
Griesspudding, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.
Another way of serving Griesspudding (semolina or Cream of wheat pudding). Just increase the Griess portion by adding an extra tablespoon to your pudding base (recipe), grease a small mould or fluted tin with a little butter and pour the warm pudding mass into your chosen receptacle. This one here, I believe, might be a remnant of my childhood baking set.
Leave the pudding to set for a few hours or better keep it in the fridge overnight. Warm the tin with a little warm water (either bathe the mould in it or pour a little warm water over the sides) and loosen the top. Turn it over and place on a plate. It should come out eventually, maybe it needs a few smacks. Doesn’t it look pretty?