Baked plum porridge

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As the days get shorter I am so happy to switch to a warm breakfast again and even since I did not grow up eating porridge (or Haferbrei as the German equivalent is called) I am a total porridge-freak. I prefer a very simple, near ascetic version of oats cooked in water and some salt and not too smooth mind you, I’ve got all my teeth – but then I top it with blueberries and a little golden syrup. Bliss. Of course, on the weekend a more glamorous breakfast is called for: bring on the baked porridge / oatmeal, a concept totally new to me but I am a convert if you need a healthy and yummy breakfast dish for a few weekend guests or a stress-less brunch.

Lusciously juicy red plums not only lend their marvellous purple-pinkish and yellow colour to this baked porridge but I think their taste is transformed from a sometimes rather watery fruit to a real sweet & warm plummy plum. Add the almond studded delicately maple-sweet oatmeal with the slight tartness of the kefir, a fermented thickened milk, and a hint of lemon for a great, great breakfast dish that could please a crowd for brunch as well as just two. Continue reading

German apple torte – gedeckte Apfeltorte

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I did not even plan to make an apple cake this weekend – weird, right? After all, autumn is apple time and therefore apple cake time. Well, luckily these apples found me. My go-to vegetable & fruit lady at the local market told me about these heirloom apples, an old cooking apple variety which is best for cakes and suddenly I was totally set on apple cake. I got a few Golden Nobles (Gelber Edelapfel), a variety that was found around 1800 in Norfolk and has been cultivated since 1820. It is an excellent cooking apple, very low in sugar and, according to Dr Wikipedia, suitable for diabetics. Above all it is beautiful in its yellow-pale green colour. Peel it as thinly as you can and discover why it is also called Wachsapfel (wax apple) since the skin comes off like a fine shaving of a candle and the pale yellow-green skin colour stays on the apple flesh.

Anyway, this noble apple demands a special cake, a traditional German gedeckte Apfeltorte which is covered apple torte where a magnificently juicy soft apple layer studded with raisins and almonds is encased in a soft (yes) shortcrust pastry and covered with a lemon-sugar glaze. It does not get any more German than this. Sourcing recipes, I found one in a cookbook from 1894 (I love old cookbooks) for a Hamburg apple torte that sounded like the one I was searching for and was about to start when my Mum rang – excellent timing. Naturally, I told her about the market, the apples and that I was about to embark on baking (we talk about food a lot) and she told me about this old family recipe that she had been given by my grandmother’s twin sister and swore that Tante Martha’s apple torte is the best apple cake ever. As I said, excellent timing. Danke, Mama!

The recipe arrived post-haste (well, email) and my Mum is right, it is the BEST apple cake EVER, the apple slices melded together into a soft apple layer, juicy but not runny, tart and sweet with plump raisins and little almond nuggets (I’ve added those since I love raisins and almonds in an apple cake, soak them in rum if you like a boozy note but of course water is fine, too), a well tempered hint of cinnamon (not too much). This fabulous apple filling is balanced by the soft & crumby pastry and finally, the sweet lemony glaze – serve with lashings of whipped cream after that first autumn walk in the forest. Best on Grandma’s china, if you’ve got some, for the true German experience. Continue reading

Tarte aux apricots d’André Lerch

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This apricot tart is a little different, sure there is a heavenly buttery pâte brisée sucré base (aka sugary short crust) and juicy apricots with nearly charred but wonderfully caramelized tips but there is more! – an extra filling for the apricots to nestle in, vanilla scented, buttery batter that amalgamates with the sugary apricot juice into something otherworldly. Thanks to this batter the cake stays moist and juicy for days, I thought I mention this, just in case you are thinking of baking it just for yourself… Continue reading

Rote Grütze

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In early July when the red currants are ripe my grandmother always made Rote Grütze. We picked the shiny, glassy currants and other berries from the garden and she cooked her own version of this Northern European dish. I am still in awe of every bunch of sparkling red currant jewels and they should really be worn as edible earrings like you do with a pretty pair of cherries.

My grandmother did not bother much with strict adherence to the original Northern German recipe where she came from and that limits the fruits to red currants but used what was available and at peak though she insisted on only red fruit. Strawberries or raspberries for a sweet flowery note, sometimes bright red cherries were included and if a few last rhubarb stalks were leftover from the previous harvest, they got used too. Accordingly the colour of the pudding varies between bright red leaning on pink or dark ruby red if darker cherries, raspberries and a few black currants or black berries dominate later in the summer. Continue reading

Rhubarb-almond-orange loaf cake with streusel

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Spring is not really spring without asparagus, strawberries, may bugs, sweet woodruff, peas, broad beans – ok, the list is endless. But what would spring be like without rhubarb and rhubarb cake? In my book a proper rhubarb cake is absolutely essential when the crisp air turns balmy and fragrant with all the sweet, fresh vernal scents while daylight returns. Just what I need when I have been working hard moving flower pots and planters about, scrubbing the terrace without ANY help – human or machine (I am not bitter, though) – and after the immediate danger of frost has waned, planting herbs and other delicate plants outside.

We are almost slipping over into early summer now, so while this cake comes a bit late to the party it is crammed with extra flavour that lives up to the challenge: almonds and oranges with a dash of ginger in a dazzling almond streusel topping. Continue reading

Green mango salad

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Can you believe it, until a few months ago I never had a proper green mango salad! A botched version once made from a fruit caught in limbo between unripe and tasteless was quite off-putting but let’s just forget the sad & sorry thing. This Thai classic is glorious, a revelation, it’s like a refreshing bath in a cold mountain pool or the ice-bucket challenge, it wakes all those slumbering taste buds and is an absolutely wonderful companion to seafood.  Continue reading

green tomato, apple & zucchini chutney

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P.S. Recipe in English und Deutsch.

A recent visit to my Mum saw me return laden with a veritable bounty from her garden: several large zucchini / courgettes with aspirations to be full-grown marrows, apples, butternut squashes, lavender offshoots, super ripe tomatoes which hardly survived the journey and one giant white cabbage, where half of it still lingers in the fridge. I had bought green tomatoes to make us fried green tomatoes again and delayed, so they needed to be used too. The situation could have not been more auspicious for chutney.

I love preserving and the taste of a richly & warm spiced, fruity chutney is one of the most delightful things to be made from surplus of a summer’s glut or from what is normally thought of inferior un- or overripe produce destined for the compost. This green tomato & zucchini chutney is excellent with a strong-ish Cheddar and English biscuits or crackers for cheese. Continue reading