Mutzenmandeln – German almond dough nuts

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Mutzenmandeln, almond cookies or veritable dough nuts, if you so will, are almond cake dough bits shaped in the form of almonds, fried and rolled in sugar while still hot. Eaten warm, licking sugar covered fingers they are still a rare treat to me 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

Meyer lemon risotto with green asparagus

Meyer lemon risotto with green asparagus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even before our container arrived at our new Sunnyvale house, I had bought an orange & a lemon tree for the terrace. Without even knowing that this was a special lemon variety I had chosen a Meyer lemon tree and went on experimenting. Easy in a place like California where ingredient choice is limitless and all my favourite things like artichokes, green asparagus & (the outside of Europe extremely rare) white asparagus, tiny potatoes, mesclun & the latest fashionable greens are at your fingertips. And so this risotto came about and it is still one of our most loved recipes & the top-of-the-heap of the lemon trials. Green asparagus is incorporated in the Meyer lemony (zest & juice) risotto and the tasty tips that would fall to pieces if they were in it are seared in a pan to add another texture and flavour to the dish. Upgrade the creamy-ness with grated Parmigiano (no need to add a ton of butter) and you have a wonderful (vegetarian) supper. Add extra shavings of cheese or a few slices of Parma ham for an impressive dinner version.

I might have lamented already the comparative cheapness of green asparagus in the States when faced with the gingerly harvested & accordingly priced bunches of the first local green asparagus but this risotto is sooo worth it.

 

What do I do if I don’t have a Meyer lemon? If you can’t get Meyer lemons where you live (not that easy outside the U.S. and even the trees are hard to find in Europe), just mix the juices and the zest (separately) of both an organic lemon & organic mandarin/tangerine/clementine to get to an approximation of the warm lemony taste without the extreme sourness as I have done here, too.

Deutsches Rezept unten.

 


 

Meyer lemon risotto with green asparagus risotto
for 2

1.5l good stock (chicken or vegetable), you may not need all of it
1lb or 500g green asparagus
olive oil
1 knob of butter
1 shallot, minced
1 small glass of white wine (about 100-150ml, preferably a crisp & slightly acidic Riesling)
170g risotto rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)
juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon
50g Parmigiano reggiano
salt

Bring the stock to a slow simmer and keep it this way next to the designated risotto pot. Prep the asparagus: peel the hard skin of the lower third of the asparagus spear, cut into 1.5 cm pieces until you reach the upper third with the tip and put those aside. If you have thin & thicker asparagus, cut up the thicker ones and leave the thin ones for frying. While you are cooking the risotto, slowly fry the asparagus tips or thin spears in medium hot pan with a little olive oil until browned.
For the risotto melt the butter over medium heat, sweat the minced shallot until translucent then add the risotto rice. Stir for about 3 minutes or so until the rice grains show a shiny shimmer, deglaze with a generous splash of white wine and when the rice has absorbed it add a ladle of stock. Stir from time to time and add more stock each time the previous ladle has been absorbed. You might not need to use all the stock but better safe than sorry.
Do not let the risotto get completely dry, always add the stock when the rice still seems to be quite moist. Try the rice a few times: it should still have some bite before you add the asparagus pieces (depending on your rice this might take about 15-20 minutes). Stir in the small asparagus pieces & Meyer lemon zest and cook for another 5-7 minutes not forgetting pouring in the stock at intervals. Finally round of the risotto with the parmesan, season with Meyer lemon juice to taste (I use the whole) and possibly a little salt right before the end. Serve with the pan-fried asparagus on top. If you have a little Parma ham on your hand, add a few slices for an equally good combination & even more luxurious plate.

 

 

Risotto mit Meyer Zitronen & grünem Spargel
für 2 Personen

1,5l gute Brühe (Hühner- oder Gemüsebrühe)
1 Pfund grüner Spargel
Oliveöl
ein Stückchen Butter
1 Schalotte, fein gewürfelt
1 kleines Glas Weißwein (100-150ml, Riesling oder ein anderer Wein mit angenehm frischer Säure)
170g Risottoreis (Carnaroli oder Arborio)
Saft und abgeriebene Schale einer Meyer Zitrone (alternativ Mischung aus Zitrone & Clementine)
50g Parmigiano Reggiano
Salz

Zuerst die Brühe zum Kochen bringen, neben dem designierten Risottotopf platzieren und auf kleiner Flamme leise weiter köcheln lassen. Dann den Spargel vorbereiten: die Enden schälen um die holzige dicke Haut zu entfernen und die Stangen bis zum obersten Drittel in 1,5 cm große Stückchen schneiden. Das Spitzenstück ganz lassen und beiseite legen. Sollte man dünne und dicke Stangen haben, dann die dünnsten ganz lassen und die dickeren aufschneiden. Während das Risotto kocht, ein wenig Olivenöl in einer Pfanne über mittlerer Hitze erwärmen und die Spargelspitzen darin rundherum langsam anbraten.
Für das Risotto die Butter in einem Topf mittlerer Größe bei leichter bis mittlerer Hitze schmelzen lassen und die Schalotten darin glasig andünsten, sie sollten keine Farbe annehmen. Den Risottoreis hinzugeben und für ein paar Minuten anschwitzen bis der Reis schimmert, dann mit dem Weißwein ablöschen. Wenn beinahe die gesamte Flüssigkeit verdampft ist, eine Kelle Brühe hinzugeben. Ab und zu umrühren und immer wieder die Brühe kellenweise hinzugeben – der Reis sollte niemals trocken werden. Gelegentlich probieren und wenn der Reis noch etwas Biß hat (das dauert ca. 15-20 Minuten, kommt auf den Reis etc. an) die Spargelstückchen & die Zitronenschale unterrühren und die letzten 5-7 Minuten mitgaren. Abschließend den Parmesan hinzugeben und mit Zitronensaft & Salz abschmecken. Mit den gebratenen Spargelspitzen servieren. Falls etwas Parmaschinken zur Hand ist, passt der auch ganz wunderbar dazu.

Sonoma chicken salad

Sonoma chicken salad by the james kitchen
Sonoma chicken salad, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

 

And what to do with all the chicken leftovers? If you haven’t got any, you might want to cook an extra chicken (or grill some breasts) just for this chicken salad. I do not know anything about the origin of the name, several other recipes by this moniker use grapes which is quite logic since Sonoma is of course the beautiful wine country in California. Anyway, we used to buy the salad at Trader Joe’s (Whole Foods has a different version though for me the honey is a bit much) when we used to live in the Bay Area and the name stuck.

Sweet cranberries and pecans add a taste of the States, savoury celery brings crunch and the admittedly rich but tart & fruity dressing unites all of these flavours. Great with a few raw vegetables on the side to pick at, it unfolds its potential as prime picnic fare. Especially, when served with soft, dark malted bread and all the California sights at your doorstep to choose for lovely picnic spots (not that I ever took food into the big National Parks, the idea of wild bears ripping the roof of the car like the lid of a tin of sardines freaked me out quite a bit…).

Since we are about 5681.515 miles away right now we had to come up with our own recipe for this salad to transport us back to the balmy weather (Sunnyvale, says it all, I think), the toasted-wood smell of Redwood trees & the crescendo of strong waves crashing onto the beach at Half Moon Bay and our favourite, less crowded spot at Montara. As I said, this is great picnic fare and if you are in the area, here are a few suggestions for hikes & great scenic drives.

If you are further away (something like 5681.515 miles but who is counting), pack your hamper, crank up the underfloor heating and unfold your blanket. That this salad goes very well with a lovely white wine from Sonoma goes without saying.

 

Sonoma chicken salad
serves 6
The measurements are a little on the vague side here since most of the ingredients are to your own preferences and it is best to find your own mix: if you prefer pecans to cranberries, add more of those and fewer of these. My advice is though to go for roughly the same quantities with a little more chicken and celery.

Cold leftover chicken or cold grilled chicken breasts (around 450g or 1 lb)
2 handfuls dried cranberries, unsweetened
pineapple juice
3-4 celery ribs, diced
2-3 handfuls whole pecans
½ cup (ca. 120ml) mayonnaise (add less or more to taste or substitute a part by sour cream or yoghurt, if you want to make it a little less rich)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
salt & pepper

Macerate the cranberries in pineapple juice for about 20 to 30 minutes until they have plumped up a little. Keep the juice for the dressing. Pick over the carcass of your leftover chicken or chop the grilled breasts into bite-sized pieces. Add them to a bowl along with the cranberries, celery and pecans. Make the dressing by combining mayonnaise, cider vinegar (see if you need a little less or more depending on the kind of mayonnaise you are using, the sauce should have a tart apple-y taste), some of the reserved pineapple juice, poppy seeds and season with salt & pepper. You want to have quite a runny dressing for the chicken and other ingredients will suck up quite a lot of liquid while the salad rests. Mix with the chicken & co. and let the salad rest for about 1 to 2 hours for the flavours to meld & mingle. Adjust the seasoning and add some more pineapple juice if necessary. There is of course a lot of tasting required while the salad rests, naturally.

 

Auf deutsch: Sonoma Hühnchensalat
für 6 Personen, lecker für ein Picknick im Freien oder auch im Wohnzimmer.
Die Mengen der Zutaten variieren, man kann die Mischung nach eigenem Geschmack gestalten, so z.B. wenn man lieber Pekannüsse als Cranberries mag, nimmt man davon mehr und vom anderen weniger. Ich versuche ungefähr nach Augenmaß gleiche Mengen zu nehmen, aber ein wenig mehr Huhn und Bleichsellerie hinzuzugeben.

Kaltes Hühnchen oder gegrillte Hühnchenbrust (ca. 450g)
2 Handvoll getrocknete Cranberries, ungesüßt wenn möglich
Ananassaft
3-4 Stangen Bleichsellerie, in Würfel geschnitten
2-3 Handvoll ganze Pekannüsse
½ Tasse (120ml) gute Mayonnaise (weniger oder mehr nach Geschmack, man kann auch einen Teil durch saure Sahne oder Yoghurt ersetzen um das Dressing etwas weniger reichhaltig zu machen, ich würde keine light-Produkte verwenden)
1 EL Apfelessig
2 EL Mohnsamen
Salz & Pfeffer

Die getrockneten Cranberries für ca. 20 bis 30 Minuten in Ananassaft einweichen, den Saft aufbewahren. Hühnerfleisch von der Karkasse ablösen falls Sie etwas vom Brathähnchen oder Suppenhuhn übrighaben oder die gegrillte Hünchenbrust in mundgerechte Stückchen schneiden und zusammen mit dem Bleichsellerie, den Cranberries und den Pekannüssen in eine Schüssel geben. Aus der Mayonnaise, dem Essig (mehr oder weniger Essig hinzugeben je nachdem was für eine Mayonnaise verwendet wird, das Dressing sollte schon etwas Apfelgeschmack und Säure haben), etwas von dem Ananassaft, dem Mohn sowie Salz & Pfeffer eine relativ flüssige Salatsauce herstellen, da die Zutaten einige Flüssigkeit aufsaugen werden. Die Sauce mit Huhn & Co. mischen und für ca. 1-2 Stunden ruhen lassen, damit sich die verschiedenen Geschmäcker miteinander verbinden können. Dann abschmecken und wenn erforderlich noch etwas mehr Ananassaft hinzugeben. Natürlich ist es absolut notwendig, daß der Salat während der Ruhezeit regelmäßig probiert wird – dies nur falls Sie jemand fragt.

 

rosemary & parmesan wafers

One year in my annual Christmas magazine perusal I came across a recipe for crispy cinnamon coconut waffles with pretty patterns on each square and there was a special iron for those. Of course, if you know me, this sounded like a very useful specialist but multifunctional kitchen tool and would be a super thing to own, I was intrigued, ran out and got one. A few weeks ago I even found an antique cast-iron model with long handles to be used over an old wood oven (note for husband: Don’t worry, it was from a charity shop and very, very, very cheap). Although I have made the coconut thingys last year and we liked them, most of the time this waffle iron is used to produce these savoury crispy waffles. Especially yesterday while trying frantically to get the house into Christmas mode on 1st of December and making an Advent calendar for the both of us and decorating the traditional German Adventskranz there was a need to provide some sustenance for the glasses of Crémant d’Alsace (a sparkling wine / champagne from the near Alsace) consumed…

An Adventskranz or Advent wreath is commonly made – although many variations exist – from fir, spruce or other green twigs and has four candles on it to represent the four Sundays of the Advent period leading up to Christmas. Every Sunday a candle is lit until at the last Sunday before Christmas all candles are burning. The Advent wreath is an essential part of the German Christmas, traditionally the Advent period was a time of fasting before the feast, though these days there are parties or coffee & cake invitations galore where Glühwein (mulled wine) and Christmas cookies are served aplenty and the lovingly decorated Adventskranz is the centre piece on every hosts table.

 

Cheese wafers with rosemary
enough for about 50
100g (3.5oz) butter
¼ l (about 1 cup) warm water
125g (1 cup) plain flour
65g (about ¾ cup) grated Parmigiano reggiano or grana padano
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
a few fresh rosemary needles, finely minced

Melt the butter in the warm water and leave to cool. Mix the flour with the cheese, add the eggs, salt and rosemary and stir while pouring in the liquid. You want to have more a batter than a dough, with the consistency of cream. If your batter is too firm loosen it with a little more water.

Preheat a wafer iron (iron for thin cinnamon waffles), spoon only a little batter into the moulds and bake for about 3 minutes for lightly browned crispy wafers or waffles. All the water in this batter will escape as steam and you want to wipe the iron frequently with a paper towel. When cool, break into smaller pieces and serve. If you want to keep them try a airtight container to ensure crispyness but the need has never arisen in our house since they always go quite quickly.

 

 

Pedro Ximénez Sherry raisin ice cream

I have been dreaming about this ice cream since I read the recipe in the formidable Diana Henry’s book Crazy Water Pickled Lemons. How can one resist a book by this title, full of wonderful recipes from the Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa, brimming with fragrant, exquisite ingredients and flavours?

There are many different sherry styles around and with rediscovery of the Spanish cuisines comes a renewed appreciation of the fortified wine, pairing the different styles of sherry with different dishes, cooking with other than “cooking sherry”. If you like to find out more, I thought the short introduction to the different styles and brands of sherry in Sam & Sam Clark’s Moro. The Cookbook very helpful and it provides a lot of sherry-based recipes, too.

This ice cream is made with the sweet, raisiny, almost treacly Pedro Ximénez sherry where the name giving sun-dried grapes add complex brown sugar notes. Raisins have soaked it up and both are mixed into a custard base for a really luscious ice cream that stays soft because of the small amount of alcohol. This ice cream might be called a relative of the Malaga ice cream of distant days (after all these years still my Mum’s favourite variety; mine will be forever Pistacchio but that is a entirely different story). A close relative but a more gutsy one: the Daphne Guinness or Isabella Blow to your shy second cousin. Pedro Ximénez anyone?

Pedro Ximénez sherry raisin ice cream
adapted from Diana Henry’s Crazy Water Pickled Lemons
makes 0.7l  ice cream (with a little testing…) = 3 cups

85g (a heaped ½ cup or 3 oz) raisins
120ml (½ cup or 4fl oz) Pedro Ximénez sherry
420ml (1¾ cups or 14fl oz) of milk
1 vanilla pod
5 egg yolks
100g (½ cup or 3¼ oz) caster sugar
300ml (1¼ cups or 10fl oz) cream (single or whipping cream)

Previous day: Measure the raisins in a jar with a lid and pour over the Pedro Ximénez sherry. Close the lid and keep until needed. Could be made several days or weeks in advance but I would hide it to prevent excessive “tasting”.

Pour the milk into a saucepan, split the vanilla pod and scrape with the back of a knife blade the seeds out and add both seeds and pod to the milk. Heat the milk until it is just about to boil, take of the hob and leave to infuse for at least ½ hour or until needed.

Make the custard in a bain-marie: Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl to a pale yellow cream and add the reheated vanilla milk while constant stirring with a wooden spoon. Move the bowl over a pan with hot water, careful not to have the water touch the bowl. Gently heat the mixture and keep stirring until the custard has thickened slightly and is covering the back of the spoon. Leave it to cool.

Add the sherry raisins and liquid to the custard and fold in the (lightly whipped says the recipe, I just added it in its liquid form) cream. Keep in the fridge to cool down further and churn in your chosen ice-cream maker (mine is an Italian Gaggia). Pour the soft ice cream into a container and keep in the freezer to ripen and firm up a little more. Since it contains a little alcohol the ice cream does not become totally hard in the freezer, so it can be scooped out immediately – a bonus if for a party.