mushroom and barley ‘risotto’













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

Chilled pea shooter + Green peas with pea shoots










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

Roasted parsnip & Jerusalem artichoke soup















Parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes (otherwise known as topinambour or sunchoke) married together in a piquant, rich tasting, velvety soup that is not only nourishing & healthy but delicious at the same time; especially when we all are aiming to atone & make up for December’s excesses – at least I am (trying…).

Roasting enhances the savoury, aromatic sweetness of the parsnips and the equally sweet but nutty flavour of the Jerusalem artichoke while both provide a creaminess that just needs a tablespoon or two of cream to perfect the soup. Lemon & thyme eradicate any heaviness, add a nice zing and underlines the allusive artichoke flavour. Continue reading

Red lentil curry coconut soup








Thursday I drove through an absolute spectacle of autumn colours in the Palatinate region (Germany) and the northern Alsace: rows upon rows of yellow-orange tinted vines rivalled by copper-coloured or flaming red trees and shrubs, interspersed with flecks of bright yellow and little specks of green. The sun was shining and the sky was mostly blue, what a marvellous day – and hopefully an auspicious one, too. Imagine all these autumnal colours mirrored in this equally warming & exciting soup. It is hearty, not too mushy but with a bite, creamy coconut and bursting with warming ginger & curry with the occasional raisin-sweetness. A sprinkle of fresh spring onion for a little zing and coriander, invigorator extraordinaire complete this bright & beautiful soup which lights up even the dreariest of murky autumn & winter days. Continue reading

Blueberry soup








Recipe in English & German / Deutsches Rezept am Ende

The blueberry season draws to a close and these last berries are ripe, beautifully sunshine-sweet and laden with the floral, heathery taste of their smaller wild relatives from the woods. The best thing to do with these is to make blueberry soup.

A traditional Swedish (& Finnish & Danish) dish, this cold fruit soup, is on the thin side and rather fruity than sweet, which I prefer (add more sugar to taste, if you need to bolster the sweetness of your blueberries). Best know in our house as the soup that Emil of Lönneberga (Michel in Germany) lands in face first after crashing on stilts through a window and then pouring the rest over the fainted hostess Fru Petrell. Maybe, as a child you had a similar crush on idyllic Swedish country life Continue reading

Bärlauchsuppe – wild garlic soup

Bärlauchsuppe (deutsches Rezept s. u.) – Wild garlic soup

Since a few days we are spoilt by sunshine & blue skies, spring seems to have arrived. In my book spring starts officially when bunches of Bärlauch with its chive & garlic scented dark green leaves are turning up at the markets. Wild garlic, ramsons, Allium ursinum or in German: Bärlauch bears its name for the brown bear’s penchant for the tasty bulbs of this vegetable & herb plant. I am fond of such telling names (like last weeks Pissenlit or the lovely Meadowsweet), they provide us with a story that connects us to a time when foraging was practiced en famille, the properties and effects (and edibility) of any plant, herb & mushroom were common knowledge.

Anyway, not to impress here as the master forager (which I am not, quite the opposite): stocks of wild garlic are depleted here and I am always a little afraid of picking the wrong plant by accident, although I think wild garlic and the beautiful but poisonous (!) Lily-of-the-Valley can be distinguished easily. Plus, I would feel deprived of my weekly visit to the market, having a quick chat and see what’s fresh, enticing and inspiring.

Friday the first wild garlic had turned up, just in time for the weekend: This is a very light, fresh and invigorating starter to a dinner. It hardly is a real soup, more akin to a tisane (guess who’s watching Hercule Poirot at the moment) or infusion, just a little something to set the tone and entice the taste buds. Best served in small amounts either in a little bowl or cup.

Update: My wild garlic soup is in the Guardian, yipee.
Is a bunch a bunch? – sizes: There has arisen a question about weight or size of a or this bunch of wild garlic. Bunch sizes vary according to country, shop or stall or season or if you harvest yourself. This recipe is totally flexible and how much you use depends on your taste as well: use more for a vivid green colour & super intense wild garlic taste, less if you prefer a less in your face spring experience. The bunches I have bought this year fitted comfortably in my hand, holding the bunch like a bouquet. I weighed it, too: 173g (6.1oz) with stalks, rubber band & the occasional flower; 126g (4.4oz) just the leaves.


Wild garlic soup
for 4 or 6 diners

1 (large) bunch of wild garlic (see comment above about size guide)
1 shallot, minced
a knob of butter
500ml or a pint of chicken or vegetable stock (add more or less to taste)
salt & white pepper
a dollop of cream (single, double, whipping, crème fraîche, crème double, anything)

Wash and chop the wild garlic leaves. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and let the shallot turn slowly translucent. Add the chopped leaves and the stock, cook for a few minutes, then blend to a vivid green liquid. Season with salt & white pepper and add a dollop of cream.

für 4 bis 6 Personen

1 (großes) Bund Bärlauch (Kommentar oben in Englisch zur Bundgröße, paßt wie ein Blumenstrauß in die Hand)
1 Schalotte, fein gehackt
1 Stückchen Butter
500ml Hühner- oder Gemüsebrühe (mehr oder weniger nach Geschmack)
Salz & weißer Pfeffer
ein Schuß Sahne (oder Crème fraîche, crème double etc.)

Die Bärlauchblätter waschen und hacken. In einem kleinen Topf die Butter bei mittlere Hitze schmelzen und die Schalottenwürfel glasig werden lassen. Den zerkleinerten Bärlauch sowie die Brühe hinzugeben und für ein paar Minuten köcheln lassen, dann pürieren. Das intensiv grüne Süppchen mit Salz & weißem Pfeffer abschmecken und mit einem Schuß Sahne verfeinern. In kleinen Tassen servieren.

Artichoke soup

Artichoke soup by the james kitchen
Artichoke soup, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.
What shall I say? I love artichokes in any way possible and this is a great way to employ them in a winter warmer soup. My Mum is visiting at the moment and since we share the passion for this thistle-y thing this had to be our lunch.Artichokes from a tin add a slight lemony tang which I love in this soup, a floury potato is responsible for the creamy & velvety texture and some well-needed heartiness. No heavy cream needed – and you could treat the swirl of crème fraîche as optional but I recommend adorning your bowl with just a small dollop of crème fraîche for aesthetic reasons (and a little more lightness).

Need more reasons for this soup? Quite low in calories I might imagine, extremely low if you tweak butter, oil & crème to absolute minimums but the main attraction to me is that most of the times I have either a tin of hearts or frozen bottoms (Hello Dr Lecter) in stock and since the other ingredients are pretty much staples, I am able to whip this up quickly if the need arises. Makes a great starter to a dinner, too.


Artichoke soup
serves 2 as a main for lunch or 4 as a starter

1 large banana shallot or onion, chopped
1 knob of butter & 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large potato (Russet or baking), peeled & diced (literally)
1 small tin artichoke hearts in brine, replace by frozen artichoke bottoms if you like (400g/14oz, 220g/7.7oz drained weight), quartered
½ litre vegetable stock
salt & pepper
crème fraîche (optional)


Chop the shallot & dice the potato and quarter the artichoke hearts. Melt the butter & olive oil in a pot and sauté the shallot over medium heat until translucent. Add the potato & artichoke pieces and cover with stock. Add more if your vegetables are not covered, simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Finally blend into a velvety soup (with an immersion hand blender or in a blender) and season with salt & pepper. Add a swirl of crème fresh if you like.



für 2 als Hauptgericht oder 4 Personen als Vorspeise

1 große Bananenschalotte oder 1 Zwiebel, gehackt
1 Stückchen Butter & 1 EL Olivenöl
1 große Kartoffel (mehlig kochend), geschält & in Würfelgroße Stücke geschnitten
1 Dose (400g, 220g Abtropfgewicht) Artischockenherzen (man kann auch gefrorene Artischocken oder Böden benutzen), geviertelt
500ml Gemüsebrühe
Salz & Pfeffer
crème fraîche (optional)

Die Schalotte hacken, die Kartoffel schälen und würfeln, sowie die Artischockenherzen vierteln. Butter und Öl in einem Topf schmelzen, die Schalotte darin glasig andünsten. Dann die Kartoffel- und Artischockenstücke hinzugeben und mit Brühe begießen, eventuell etwas mehr hinzugeben falls das Gemüse nicht ganz bedeckt ist. 15-20 Minuten köcheln lassen, dann zu einer samtigen Suppe pürieren (entweder mit einem Pürierstab oder im Blender) und mit Salz & Pfeffer würzen. Mit einem Löffel crème fraîche verfeinern.