Chipotle-lime mix

Chipotle-lime mix by the james kitchen
Chipotle-lime mix, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

We have got friends coming for New Year’s Eve and we are planning a great feast. No need to say that for a proper party one needs nibbles to go with the cocktails and drinks and since we are all spice-lovers and the food is sort of American/Mexican (write a blog and your husband only needs to point), logically the nuts should match the theme, too. Originally I had planned to make Lisa Fain’s recipe for Chipotle lime Texas trash but in the end used it as a pattern and fiddled to get a hot and spicy chile chipotle-lime nibble with more chiles, lime and no cinnamon. And let me say, this is quite something: it is smoky, spicy and hot, has a depth in flavour from the garlic, Worcestershire sauce and several layers of lime taste and is quickly becoming a real favourite in our house. I am just hoping there will be something left for our guests.

You may use it as a blueprint (as long as you stay within the 8 cups-formula), too and change the ingredients or quantities of nuts, pretzel & cracker around.

Ups, I just wanted to make those again and couldn’t find the recipe… I am not sure where the text had gone, if I had published it correctly in the first place or there were just too many tests to remember, so here it is. You live and learn, sorry to keep this from you.

Chipotle-lime nut mix
yields 8 cups, inspired by and adapted from The Homesick Texan

3 cups mini cracker & pretzel (Salzbrezel) mix (I used something called a Knabbermischung in Germany with little poppy seed crackers, alphabet pretzel pieces etc.)
1 cup unsalted cashew nuts
1 cup unsalted pecans
1 cup walnuts & hazelnuts
1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1 cup unsalted almonds
1 stick (114g) butter
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon (75ml) lime juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika (Pimentón de La Vera)
1½ teaspoon ground chipotle chile
2 teaspoons ground chiles (I use our mix of ancho, pasilla, chipotle & mulato chiles, make your own or use any other ground Mexican chiles)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
½ heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lime (roughly 1 tablespoon)

To finish:
1 tablespoon lime juice
zest of 1 lime

Preheat the oven to 120°C (250° F), 110°C for fan oven is what I used and prepare baking sheets with parchment paper.

If the crackers and little pretzel pieces (like the Knabbermischung I used) are hardly salted mix them together with the nuts in a large bowl and set aside.
If your cracker & pretzel mix is already quite salty, place it in a separate bowl from the nuts so that a part of the seasoned butter can be added without the salt while the nuts are salted & seasoned in the other bowl.

Melt the butter over a low heat, add the lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and all the spices (see if you need to salt parts separately), reserve the lime zest. Stir to combine and pour it over the nut-cracker-pretzel mix. Mix well until everything is coated with the seasoned butter, add the lime zest and stir again. This should happen swiftly otherwise the crackers will get a bit too soggy.

Spread your spicy nut mix immediately out on the baking sheets and bake them in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Rotate your sheets after half an hour and stir the mix from time to time. When everything seems lightly browned & toasted dry take the mix out of the oven, sprinkle with the lime juice & zest and toss to spread the final lime flavour evenly. Leave to cool if you can.


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

I do not know why we never cooked these fabulous vegetable pancakes since the Tasting Table mail arrived in May and someone literally had rushed out to buy Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise and that very same person had to throw it out two weeks ago – tja, should have eaten it (Best) before August 2013… Je m’accuse: Yes, dahhrrrling, you are so right, again, I admit it, that larder of ours is a little full with impulse purchases.

Anyway, a fresh Kewpie squeeze bottle & okonomo sauce crossed my way recently in a newly discovered Asian food shop in Frankfurt and finally, we have made these extra yummy pancakes.

They are super easy and quick to throw together since they are basically just shredded veg in batter: a grater, one bowl, one pan. Ingredient wise just follow the name “as you like it” quite literally and use what you have or add what you like. Comparing other reliable sources for the best recipe: some people add dashi to the batter or tempura bits, use less eggs, drizzle the pancake with wasabi mayonnaise and sprinkle bonito flakes, aonori (seaweed flakes) or nori fumi furikake (rice seasoning blend) over them.

We used napa cabbage (Chinakohl) and the dark leaves of choy sum (Chinese flowering cabbage, pretty) instead of cabbage and lacinato kale (Cavolo nero, Schwarzkohl), topped the individual pancakes with a thin lattice of Kewpie mayonnaise & okonomo sauce as well as a shower of coriander, spring onions (scallions) & Shichimi togarashi (listen, I can’t justify buying everything).

My okonomiyaki were in the March, 1st edition of the Guardian. Nice.



Okonomiyaki – japanese vegetable pancake
makes about 8 smallish pancakes: enough for 2 people for supper and at least one extra for lunch
adapted from this Tasting Table entry, garnished with a little Smitten Kitchen and sprinkled with some Splendid Table and our own additions:

½ napa cabbage or 1 small napa cabbage (Chinakohl)
a small bunch of choy sum (Chinese flowering cabbage) or any other bitter dark greens like kale
2 larger carrots
4-6 spring onions (scallions)
¼ cup of plain flour
shichimi togarashi seasoning
salt & pepper
3 eggs
oil for frying
Kewpie mayonnaise
okonomo sauce (substitute tonkatsu or BBQ sauce)
coriander (cilantro), chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
more shichimi togarashi (or bonito flakes, aonori or furikake)

Cut the napa cabbage and choy sum leaves (use stems in a stir fry) into fine slices, cut the carrots into julienne or grate them (I use a super sharp Benrhiner, you might have a box-grater or mandoline), thinly slice the spring onions and mix all shreds in a bowl. Add the flour and season with shichimi togarashi, salt & pepper. Stir in the eggs and congratulate yourself. Heat a frying pan or skillet on medium heat, pour a little oil into it and dollop medium or small sized vegetable fritters or pancakes onto the hot surface. Cook about 3 minutes for a small pancake (adjust if you are making larger ones) on one side and gingerly flip the thing over with a spatula or two. Fry lightly on the second side for the same time until both sides are nicely browned and cooked. Cover the finished pancakes with tin foil (aluminium foil) and keep in a warm oven if you are making a lot more.

To serve: either let everyone do their own (safest way and fun for the whole family) or dress each pancake with a thin criss-crossed pattern of Kewpie mayo, okonomo sauce, sprinkle with a little more shichimi togarashi chilli-mix and add spring onions & chopped coriander.

I had another one cold for lunch the next day with a salad on the side (baby spinach leaves & other stuff with vinaigrette), just to brag about my vegetable consumption here.

salmon tartare & salmon tartare


Tartare might be considered déclassé now or is it back again? Whatever the verdict, I do not care and proudly pronounce myself a tartare lover, always have been, always will be: steak tartare, salmon, tuna, sea bass, anything; Classic, carpaccio, sashimi or ceviche what have you, bring-it-on (with toast, please). Do you remember the chopped beef surrounded by all the trimmings on lemon slices and topped with the egg yolk in a shell?

Anyway, salmon tartare is such a wonderful starter or amuse-bouche for a party – a little lighter & fresher than beef and maybe more accessible to people who have qualms with raw meat and egg unlike my Mum who will not eat raw fish though beef is totally fine. I like both versions here and often have both at the same time (so hard to decide sometimes) though if pressed, I’d say the shallot, dill & lemon combo is my favourite.

Dill seems such an underused herb if it is not particularly ingrained in your cuisine or culture (I am thinking of Skandinavian countries, Germany, Russia and Turkey, sorry if I forgot other dill-afficionados) but is for me not only a comforting taste (childhood memories of feasts in the garden with my Grandpa, cucumber salads with a sweet cream & dill sauce or herings with dill-potatoes) but these days a more unusual ingredient in herby salad mixes when a rather large amount of fronds is tumbled together with chervil and other leaves. And above all I remember a really nice soup my friend Dirk and I cooked for a party in his Russian Restaurant.


Salmon tartare & Salmon tartare
for 2-4 as a starter or 10 as amuse-bouche

A piece of absolute fresh salmon (about 200g)
one medium shallot, finely chopped
a few sprigs of dill, chopped
one lemon, zest and juice to taste
a mellow oil like a mild olive oil or a nut oil
salt & pepper

sesame oil
soy sauce
shichimi togarashi or sesame seeds and small nori flakes

Check the salmon for any bones and remove them before you slice and chop it into fine dice. Divide the salmon tartarte into two bowls, adding a little more shallot to the one which will get the dill, some lemon zest & juice, oil and salt & pepper. The salmon with a less shallot receives soy sauce, sesame oil, shichimi togarashi and maybe a little spritz of lemon juice, too. Mix and serve both with warm white toast, crisp bread, crackers or pure on a fancy china spoon.



Chicken chile verde

Chicken chile verde by the james kitchen
Chicken chile verde, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

Not the prettiest of pictures I admit and I am happy to have a very good reason to cook this again very soon – just for the picture, you know, but this is such a tasty dish that it would be a shame to wait since it will be a good thing to use up turkey leftovers, too. I might be wrong but there might be a time in the near future where plenty of those will be available and this you do not want to miss out on.

When we lived in California we used to buy a chicken chile verde from Trader Joe’s and loved it so much that back here – where no TJ’s exists – we needed to make our own and after a few trials & fiddles we had our own chicken chile verde: it is even better, fresher and dead easy to make. It is best to cook the whole amount even if you are just two people, freeze the rest and you’ll have more ready to go when you need a quick fix.

I buy the whole chicken (to make sure it is not so much tempered with, at least free-range, long-lived, traceable and so on, no Frankenbird), roast it one day and use the leftovers for salads, chicken Fricassée (with loooots of capers for me)… and surely this chicken chile verde. If you start from the beginning then either roast a chicken along side something else (if you have the oven on already, might just squeeze a chicken in) or cook one  in this sort of mexicanized court bouillon (recipe below).

Not be too missionary & evangelical about it but I really recommend a whole chicken with bones & dark meat from free-range, long-lived birds (that is the healthy part with all the omega 3 & 6) for a proper chicken taste and succulent meat as opposed to the rather reduced one-dimensional taste of only breast meat. If you are squeamish about a whole bird use chicken pieces by all means, although there is a lot of flavour coming from the carcass and little tasty bits & pieces of meat that you are missing out on. Like the Oyster or Pfaffenschnittchen (the best piece for the priest…), in French it is adequately called Sot-l’y-laisse – “A foul who leaves this behind”.

Chicken chile verde
for about 6 portions

1 cold roast chicken or 1 cooked chicken (see below) or leftovers from the previous roast chicken dinner, picked and torn into not too little pieces
1 large tin / can (790g or 28 oz) of tomatillos (about 12)
3 cooked or broiled garlic cloves (I use the ones from my roast chicken or the cooked chicken)
1 small tin (220g or 110g drained weight) of sliced Poblano peppers, reserve a few and chop
2 jalapeño chiles, seeds removed, chopped
1 bunch of coriander / cilantro, roughly chopped
salt & pepper
olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
½ l (2 cups) good chicken stock (or use some of the chicken cooking liquid, check for saltiness though)
1-2 whole cloves (Nelken)
1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt & pepper
green Tabasco (if you need more spice)

Either roast a chicken (rubbed in olive oil, stuffed with two bay leaves & at least three garlic cloves – though why so stingy, they are the best to eat with the chicken – and seasoned with salt, pepper & dried thyme) in the oven at 200°C or 400° F for about 1 hour and leave to cool OR make the chicken one day for dinner and use the leftovers for this OR get a cold rotisserie chicken. Pick the meat of the bones and tear into bite-sized shreds (as for Fricassée).

Place the drained tomatillos, soft garlic cloves, most of the sliced Poblano peppers, jalapeños & coriander in a blender or food processor and chop with quick pulses to a chunky purée. Sweat the chopped onions in a little olive oil until translucent, add the chopped garlic cloves and stir for a scant minute to cook these, too. Add the chicken pieces, the tomatillo sauce, chicken stock, cloves and dried oregano. Let the whole thing cook on a low flame for a while (minimum 10 minutes or much longer until you need it) – this is mainly to get the flavours to mingle and to reduce the liquid in the sauce to a nice saucy consistency. Season with salt & freshly ground pepper and if you like green Tabasco.

Serve with rice and I think green vegetables of your choice, we have snow peas or broccoli or something along those lines with it.

Cooked chicken for chicken chile verde:

1 whole chicken
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion, quartered (no need to peel)
1-2 celery stalks, halved
a few coriander stalks (use the leaves for something else)
one or two or a few parsley stalks
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
10 (1 teaspoon) whole black peppercorns
1 small dried chili (peperoncino, piquin etc.)
1 tablespoon salt

If you have a large stock pot leave the chicken whole otherwise cut it into quarters and put it along with the other ingredients into the pot. Cover with water and bring over high heat to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook it for about one hour. Remove the chicken from the bouillon and leave to cool. Take of all the meat when it is cool enough to handle and shred into bite-sized bits.

quick tom yum soup

quick tom yum soup by the james kitchen
quick tom yum soup, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

Last week at a party we were talking about this quick tom yum soup and I am fulfilling my promise to write about it (Hi Francisca and Sabrina!). I do not claim this to be the original recipe of the hot & sour soup from Laos and Thailand but we use the readily available tom yum paste to make a super fast & furiously invigorating dinner when we are in desperate need for some fast, tasty and healthy sustenance and really can not be bothered to cook much (can’t eat pizza everyday).

The fragrant, lemony sour and fresh but spicy tasting paste is made from Kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, chili peppers & oil comes in a jar and is a super stand-by in the fridge. All other ingredients might be on hand at home already, stocked in the freezer or quickly picked up, then chopped and briefly cooked in the spicy & sour broth within a few minutes, it could be even varied according to preference: vegetarian for one, mussels for another one, chicken for the next. Just make the base and let everyone add what they want.

So treat this recipe more like a blueprint and use what you have got or fancy – just pick and mix: edamame beans, green beans, peas, bok choi, choy sum, napa cabbage (Chinakohl), savoy cabbage (Wirsing), bean sprouts, sweet corn, carrots, mangetouts / snap or snow peas (Kaiserschoten), champignons (button mushrooms), dried shiitake, rice noodles, soba noodles, instant noodles, rice, brown rice, filled noodles, tortellini, vegetable dumplings, cooked chicken, prawns, fish, mussels, clams, scallops, calamari, tofu…. As I said: there are endless possibilities.

Quick tom yum soup
Ingredients for one, multiply & vary according to your stocks

½ l (2 cups) water
1 teaspoon organic vegetable stock powder or ¼ little cube
3 teaspoons Tom Yum paste
about 30-40g brown rice noodles or any other noodles, rice, dumplings
cooked chicken or prawns or vegetable dumplings (fresh or frozen)
10 mangetouts, snow or snap peas (Kaiserschoten), cut into stamp sized pieces
2 brown champignons (button mushrooms), sliced
4 stems of choy sum or bok choi, rougly choppped
2 spring onions, chopped
a few coriander leaves

Gather, wash, chop & prep or precook your ingredients.

Pour cooking water into a small saucepan, add stock powder and tom yum paste, the prepared vegetables & noodles and other ingredients like cooked chicken or mussels or what you might want to add. Cook for a few minutes, mainly to heat everything through and the vegetable still keep a little crunch. Sprinkle with coriander leaves and eat.

Brussels sprout salad


Update: Rosenkohlsalat (deutsche Version s.u.)

Please don’t go, this is a really nice salad – you have never tasted sprouts like this, I am sure. Saturday I got talking at the market and promised to put up my recipe for a salad from raw Brussels sprouts (Rosenkohl) with a lemony poppy seed dressing. I have no problem with Brussels sprouts and love them in any shape or form, cooked to perfection like my Mum does with butter and nutmeg, as this lovely (british) Christmas side with bacon, chestnuts, lemon & Marsala or like the Hashed Brussels sprouts from the New York Times which has been all the rage a few years ago and made a comeback this year. I also think it very interesting to discover new ways of preparing old favourites and to steer a bit of the already well-trodden paths of traditional recipes. This is the way to created new traditions and forge new friendships, maybe even with the much maligned sprout.

Here raw Brussels sprouts are more treated rather like a coleslaw (Krautsalat) than the usual (over)cooked sprouts that seem to frighten people beyond belief. I think the sharpness of the mustard, the intense two-tone lemony flavour of juice and oil together with the nuttiness of poppy seeds and hazelnuts are perfect company to the freshness of the whisper thin sprout ribbons and will hopefully add many more converts to the sprout fan club.

Brussels sprouts salad with poppy, lemon & mustard dressing
for 4 persons
1 pound small Brussels sprouts
1 handful chervil
1 handful hazelnuts, sliced
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (it has to be Dijon, not German nor English mustard)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt & pepper
3 tablespoons lemon-olive oil
Cut the Brussels sprouts finely on a mandolin or truffle slicer, to get almost paper thin confetti ribbons. Pick the chervil leaves of the stems and sprinkle together with the hazelnut slices over the Brussels sprouts and add the poppy seeds. Make a dressing by mixing the Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper and lemon olive oil to a tangy and sharp sauce and pour over the sprout salad.


 deutsche Version:

für 4 Personen

1 Pfund (500g) Rosenkohl, kleine Röschen wenn möglich
1 Handvoll Kerbel
1 Handvoll ganze Haselnüsse
2 EL Mohn
1 EL Dijonsenf (kein Düsseldorfer, kein englischer)
1 EL Zitronensaft
Salz & Pfeffer
3 EL Zitronen-Olivenöl (Limone)


Den Rosenkohl waschen und mit einer Mandoline oder einem Hobel in feine, papierdünne Streifen schneiden (Scheiben in Ringe trennen).  Vom Kerbel die Blättchen und dünnen Zweiglein abzupfen, die Haselnüsse in Scheibchen schneiden und zusammen mit dem Mohn zu den Rosenkohlbändern geben. Senf, Zitronensaft, Salz & Pfeffer verrühren, dann das Öl hinzufügen, abschmecken und mit dem Salat vermischen.