Cumin-chile lamb skewers with lemon yoghurt

img_6481

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We ate those gorgeous spiced lamb skewers since they were on the cover of Bon Appétit’s Grilling Issue basically all through summer and haven’t stopped since. Why not, caraway & cumin are as much winter players as summer spices and their warm tones are welcome in cooler weather, just as heat & floral notes are provided by Sichuan, Aleppo and black pepper. Most importantly if you have two hurricanes, ahem babies, playing havoc with longwinded supper plans: they are super easy to prepare and quick to make (if you have your butcher debone and cut the lamb shoulder, of course, which you definitely should) and reward you with an explosion of flavour that revives the taste buds after a long, long day. Continue reading

Pebronata aux aubergines

img_6491

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miniature veg

Resisting a picturesque vegetable display abundant with the best of summer’s crop is not something I am particularly known for – I usually can’t control myself and buy ways too many things (some might say). With two (rapidly growing) babies to carry three flights of stairs in their car seats (mine seem to be made from lead) I am trading market chatter and instant gratification for a weekly organic box delivery. Though there are moments when I cave in and these tempting finger-sized aubergines were just too pretty and just the right size for a vegetable Pebronata. A hearty stew lingering between summer and autumn: the vegetable sauce is perfumed with herbs & resiny juniper berries reminding me of walks in the hills of the southern Provence and Côte d’Azur where the sun dried air is full of earthy, wild herb scents while a strong red wine pushes the sauce towards more autumnal flavours.

Always assuming that Pebronata was a Provençal dish since seeing John Thaw and Lindsay Duncan facing butcher and customers discussing the finer details in Peter Mayles’s A Year in Provence: ‘Ça ne vas pas non, Felicieng, c’est quattre poivrons rouges et un poivron vert’ – ‘ Je dis, et je repete, quattre poivrons verts et un poivron rouge’… I was puzzled why I never came across it there but apparently the Pebronata sauce originally hails from Corsica and the aubergines replacing the customary pork is Anne Willan’s great idea. My favourite version.

 

 

 

Aubergine pebronata


Pebronata aux aubergines

Serves 6. Adapted from Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France.

 

700g / 1½ lbs. small aubergines / eggplants (mine were the size of a large man’s thumb)
about 120ml / ½ cup olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1.35kg / 3 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into strips or 4 small tins diced tomatoes
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leaf)
2 red peppers, cut into narrow strips
1 green pepper, cut into narrow strips
4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
250ml / 1 cup hearty red wine
 

Cut aubergines lengthwise into quarters and halve those for two-bites-sized pieces (about 5cm / 2 inches long). Sprinkle with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse and dry with paper towels. Meanwhile make the sauce:

Pebronata sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sweat the onion until it is beginning to turn brown, ca. 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a scant minute before adding tomatoes with the bouquet garni, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15-20 minutes until you’ve got a coulis. Heat another 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large casserole and sauté the peppers with juniper berries until softened (ca. 10 minutes). Season, pour the wine over the peppers, bring to a boil and reduce, simmering slowly, to roughly half the amount. Add the tomato coulis and continue cooking over low heat into a thick, rich sauce vegetable sauce (about 15-20 minutes).

Sauté aubergine pieces over medium heat in the remaining 60ml olive oil until they are browned on all sides. Best to do in two batches to ensure browning and avoid steaming the aubergines. Decant into the casserole with the pebronata sauce, cover with a lid and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the aubergine pieces are tender. Season again if necessary and serve hot or at room temperature.
 

 

 

Deutsches Rezept:

 

Aubergine pebronata


Auberginen-Pebronata

6 Portionen. Nach Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France.

 

 

700g kleine Auberginen (meine waren so groß wie der Daumen eines großen Mannes)
ca. 120ml Olivenöl
1 Zwiebel, gewürfelt
4 Knoblauchzehen, gehackt
1.35kg Tomaten, gehäutet, entkernt, in Streifen geschnitten oder 4 kleine Dosen Tomatenstücke
1 Bouquet garni (Thymian, Petersilie, Lorbeerblatt)
2 rote Paprika, in schmale Streifen geschnitten
1 grüne Paprika, in schmale Streifen geschnitten
4 Wacholderbeeren, leicht angedrückt
250ml kräftiger Rotwein
 

Auberginen der Länge nach vierteln, diese dann halbieren (ca. 5 cm lange Stücke). Großzügig salzen und 20 Minuten stehen lassen (um ihnen Flüssigkeit zu entziehen). Dann abspülen und mit Küchentüchern abtrocknen. In der Zwischenzeit die Sauce kochen:

Pebronata sauce: 2 EL (30ml) Olivenöl in einer Pfanne bei mittlerer Hitze erhitzen und Zwiebel anschwitzen bis sie zu bräunen beginnt (ca. 5 Min.), dann Knoblauch hinzufügen und 1 Minute später ebenso die Tomaten und das Bouquet garni. Würzen und 15-20 Minuten simmern lassen bis man ein schönes Coulis hat (eingekochte stückige Tomaten/Sauce). Weitere 2 EL (30ml) Olivenöl in einer großen Kasserolle erhitzen und die Paprikastreifen mit den Wacholderbeeren sautieren bis sie weich sind aber noch ihre Form behalten (ca. 10 Minuten). Würzen, dann den Wein hinzufügen, zum Kochen bringen und dann langsam köchelnd bis auf die Hälfte reduzieren. Tomatencoulis hineingeben und weiter bei niedriger-mittlerer Hitze zu einer dicklich-stückigen Gemüsesauce einkochen (ca. 15-20 Minuten).

Währenddessen die abgespülten und abgetrockneten Auberginenstücke bei mittlerer Hitze im restlichen Olivenöl (60ml) sautieren bis sie auf allen Seiten angebräunt sind. Um ein Dämpfen der Auberginen zu vermeiden, dies am besten in zwei Portionen machen. Dann die angebräunten Stücke in die Kasserolle mit der Pebronatasauce geben, mit einem Deckel verschließen und für 10-15 Minuten köcheln lassen bis die Auberginen weich sind, aber nicht auseinanderfallen. Wenn nötig, nachwürzen und warm oder bei Zimmertemperatur servieren.

 

 

mushroom and barley ‘risotto’

IMG_6229

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typical April weather calls occasionally for, no, demands the food equivalent of woolly jumpers or cashmere cardigans: soups and stews to keep warm and cozy when the temperature drops suddenly from 20 to 5 degrees. My grandmother’s vegetable and barley soup usually fits that bill being nurturing and full of great memories at the same time, though I’ve had plenty of vegetable soup already in past couple of weeks (my back-up lunch when I could not be bothered). There were bags full of various mushrooms from my last market trip and so a mushroom & barley ‘risotto’ or ‘pearlotto’ was just the thing to go for.

I love the different textures of these mushrooms, especially the intensity and sylvan notes of the trompettes de mort while king oyster deliver bite as well as substance and shiitake a decidedly mushroomy taste. It doesn’t always have to be porcini although I would be the last person to prevent you from adding a few. Continue reading

Lingonberry cake

IMG_6134

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a marvellous winter cake: a rich, flourless chocolate-hazelnut base is topped with the mildly sweet compote of wild lingonberries. The tart, acetous berries have a bitter note that reminds of heather and forest and provides such a wonderful contrast to the toasted nutty notes of the cake while both are balanced by a layer of cool, silky whipped cream and a final sprinkling of chocolate shavings (or for sentimental reasons: sprinkles). Don’t be tempted to use any other chocolate than dark, rich, bittersweet chocolate high in cocoa solids (60% plus) and Dutch processed cocoa, no milk chocolate or sweet cocoa shall touch this cake for it lives of these adult smoky flavours that call out for a strong cup of coffee (or something even stronger) – perfect for a post Christmas afternoon with coffee, hot chocolate and tea to battle the fog, ice and snow. Continue reading

Mimi’s potato pie

IMG_5423

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is hard not to rave about the current weather: I am in love with this autumn, its colourful leaves sailing slowly to the ground (you might have noticed) and the rising fog which makes staying in or returning home after a bracing walk through fresh air filled with the scent of burning wood fires (or even better the local butcher smoking his sausages) and a certain mossy dampness promising the appearance of mushrooms everywhere. Well, finally weather to indulge without a smidgen of guilt in rib-sticking, rich dishes with lots of molten cheese, bacon, potatoes, polenta, pastry, dishes I always associate with Alpine cuisine. You know, stuff you’ll eat after a long day skiing. Or after spending considerable time somewhere in the cold, foggy exterior… like standing around a fire watching effigies of Guy Fawkes being burned on Bonfire Night for example. ‘Remember, remember, the fifth of November / gunpowder treason and plot…’ Continue reading

Spiced date dip

IMG_6069

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Kimchi

IMG_5311

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn can be glorious, the trees blazing in fiery reds, dark greens, burnt oranges, gold and yellows. Crisp mornings invite to a brisk walk in the woodland, where rays of sunshine are breaking through the thinner tree canopies, chestnuts and acorns are dropping and deer browse on misty clearings. But autumn can be murky, grey and nondescript as well, it is not yet cold, but not really warm anymore, not dark but not bright either, some days are just murky. Though these days are not to be sniffed at, they are perfect for preserving, pickling or making the adequate antidote to the feeling of ambivalence: Kimchi. A pickle extraordinaire, the Korean condiment awakens any dish and tired taste buds, it is punchy without being too spicy, has a funky note from a short term of lacto-fermentation and dazzles with vibrant colour and flavour. Continue reading