Mackerel with salted cucumber, horseradish, onion & capers

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Mackerel is one of the fishes I have a hard time passing at the fishmonger’s especially when they are filleted, saving me fiddly deboning and offering near-instant gratification. Grilled or pan fried mackerel is piled along with a nose-clearing dollop of fresh horseradish, soothing softened cucumber, zippy red onion rings and a few salty capers on crispy rye crisp bread.

There is nothing more satisfying than the first (and second and third) bite of this kind of smørrebrød and my version is ready in about 10 minutes. For this is one of the quickest and most delightful lunches you can make after you just passed the fishmonger and found this treasured fish, not to mention the smugness appeal for all the health benefit boxes it will tick. Not that that is my primary interest here. We are from the Live to Eat (great food) camp, which minds what we Eat to Live and values taste over fanatic nutrionism. Continue reading

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Purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy sauce

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The beginning of a new year always seems to call for some sort of detox, cleanse or diet (or all three together) and generally imposing on us an imperative to repent for our ‘sins’ aka holiday excesses. This requires some will for martyrdom and in most cases sets one up for failure within a few days anyway. A big part of the phenomenon called French paradox is the absence of regret and the ability to savour (and indulge in) the food without fretting constantly. So, why not leave all the guilt where it belongs and just eat a few more greens? Especially when those greens are purple sprouting broccoli and come with this wonderfully assertive dipping sauce that is reminiscent of bagna cauda and gentleman’s relish. Continue reading

Salad with smoked trout and pickled mustard seeds

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One of my favourite starters this year, a delicate herb salad of beautiful reds & greens supports smoked trout with piquant pickled mustard seeds – each one a tiny caviar pearl bursting with flavour. Is there a better combination than dill, trout and mustard as a start to a nice dinner, oh – did I mention quails eggs yet? Cooked to waxy-soft perfection (achievable in just 2½ minutes!) they are my favourite part of any starter. A quick but quite elegant salad with minimum hassle and no tweezers, easy to prepare in advance if you so wish and light enough not to completely fill you up before anyone has even mentioned the main course. You know, just a little something that awakens your appetite and does not extinguish it, a real appetizer. Continue reading

Spiced date dip

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There is a curried cream cheese dip circulating the German party scene since several years and for a while you could not escape a version of Sultans Freude (= Sultan’s delight*) anywhere. Luckily, in food as in fashion fads disappear and good things are periodically rediscovered and reborn as new classics. Here’s my plea for this warm curry-spiced date dip to return to this seasons party buffets since it is a perfect companion to most of the autumnal fare around. Think pumpkins, squashes, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, parsnips, topinambur, beets, root vegetables and spiced breads like zucchini bread, banana bread – its clever seasoning & subtle sweetness allows it to oscillate easily between savoury and sweet dishes. Continue reading

Zucchini beignets with chive-lemon yoghurt

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We are inundated by a glut of zucchini and facing something of the usual dilemma what to do with them. It wasn’t really planned to be like that: I did not get a wheelbarrow full from a generous neighbour neither has my Mum been to visit with the bounty of her garden but I went to the store, loaded the basket and consciously bought the whole 3+ kg (and hauled it home) and was about to start a major pickling session. Well, my husband came home, sighed heavily while staring with blank eyes at the tiny mountain for minutes before he asked with a hollow, croaky (we have a cold) but strangely calming (the crazy?) voice whether we really needed half a ton of zucchini pickles? Nope, maybe not. He has a point.

So, here I am, with my self-inflicted zucchini glut and neither very sad about nor repented of it: Continue reading

Gougères

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Every year we swish through Burgundy on our way to Provence & the Côte d’Azur, only interrupting our journey to spend the night – plus a nice dinner, no question – and continue extremely well fed & refreshed in the morning. Not at snails pace, mind you, who wants to miss the morning opening time at Valrhona and spend some quality time amongst like-minded freaks connoisseurs at the holy grail of chocolate and stock up on ‘essentials’, certainly not me. Though every time I wish we could stay a little longer, explore this village and that wine cellar, revisit places I have been to eons ago on a Romanesque architecture research tour, soak in the smells of the vines, ancient abbeys and dark forests, snoop around in tiny hamlets to find a cheese maker advertised on the side of a narrow country road.

Well, this summer we did! Burgundy is stunningly beautiful and boasts – apart from wine (obviously) & recently granted Unesco World Heritage status (July 2015), first class architecture & art – an excellent cuisine with great eateries and a cornucopia of one, two, three Michelin star restaurants in nearly every, or every other village. The food is remarkable and does not take any prisoners with its use of butter, cream, cheese, more butter, eggs, garlic to anoint snails, Bresse chicken, Charolais beef, frogs legs… deep sigh. Of course all minimum three, no arguing, courses of a delicious menu are washed down accompanied with (properly swirled, sniffed and gargeled) exquisite wines. It is the proverbial Schlaraffenland or land of milk and honey cheese and wine. And that those two go very well together, is known especially in Burgundy where Gougères, little savoury cheese puffs with a crunchy outside and a soft cheesy doughy centre, are served with a glass of wine or as an amuse bouche while you contemplate which delicacy to choose for dinner. I think we’ll make a habit of that. Continue reading

Chilled pea shooter + Green peas with pea shoots

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Just back from a little rest (aka bask in the short bout of summer sunshine and blissfully doing nothing much except enjoying myself) and finally getting this out, I can’t say why but it lingered a bit while I had to get on with a few other things – one is a guest post about a fresh & crunchy chickpea salad with cucumber, tomato & peppers – perfect for a bbq, picnic or weeknight summer supper –  at / on / for my friend Jeanette’s Surf Cook blog.

Basically a two-in-one recipe for an elegant-rustic but super simple side dish and a vitamin packed chilled green shot or – here comes the pun – shooter. I’ll throw in some near-instant gratification gardening (grow your own pea shoots in 10 days!), which makes the whole thing extremely satisfying and ultra-local: window sill to table. Continue reading