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

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

chickpea salad with cucumber, tomatoes & peppers

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This is my go-to-salad for a barbecue. It is rather quick to make (once chickpeas are cooked or substituted by tinned) and its bold, punchy flavours pair extremely well with anything grilled or charred: robust skirt steak and herb-marinated lamb, flash-griddled squid (1), red mullet or snapper (2) or as my husband would hasten to point out: sausages & ribs. The chickpeas provide substance as well as a nice bite and take it far away from limp and watery while cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes add crispness and crunch all the way. Seasoned with a little dose of spice and woodsy-ness (3) from wonderful Piment d’espelette, a dash of cumin, parsley and a final flourish of mint and lemon to deliver another boost of freshness. In short, it is the opposite of boring. 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

Duck eggs with almond dukkah

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Oh dear, holiday, Mum visiting & computer issues, time flies and this rather quick but exquisite dish took a while to get here… It would not be an exaggeration (or eggsaggeration) to say that I have gone a bit nuts about eggs this Easter, I’ve bought beautiful powdery-blue Aracauria eggs, extra-grand goose eggs, tiny spreckled quail eggs & off-white marble-shelled duck eggs which I’ve used in this appetite-whetting spring starter. Duck eggs with extra-buttery yolks get a dot of mayonnaise & a sprinkle of aromatic almond Dukkah, an Egyptian nut and spice mix that tastes fantastic when mopped up with a bread dipped in olive oil. Add green asparagus spears for a more substantial (& frankly the ultimate spring) starter – nothing else says ‘Spring has sprung’ except for a gambolling lamb. 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

Lettuce cups with red pepper lentil balls

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Vibrant colours, bright flavour hits and warm spicy notes – all combined in these wonderful Turkish red pepper & lentil balls served on emerald green baby romaine lettuce. Turkish mercimekli köfte make a fabulous appetizer for a crowd, great finger food for a party, brilliant brunch fare or vegetarian meal and look stunning while being super easy to prepare and assemble. In the interest of stability when served as finger food I’d go back to its original shape of a small köfte, an oblong loaf shape, rather then the admittedly prettier balls which only pretend to remain stationary but suddenly start to roll on the lettuce like a fast spinning roulette ball Continue reading