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

Spring for spring pasta









Just this morning showed again how rapidly fast nature starts to blossom and bloom and spring back into life. The surrounding fields are a carpet of furrowed rich brown earth, lush green wheat and bright yellow rapeseed while the apple trees are dressed in clouds of white blossom. Buttercups have appeared overnight, red poppies are dotting the green and whispy grasses sway on wonderful sunlit meadows. I’ve seen a pheasant this morning and the first butterfly of the season – I am overflowing with joy & gratitude & general happiness (while engaging a little sporting activity).

Overwhelming bliss caused by everything spring – or La Primavera if you speak Botticelli – is mirrored in this delightful pasta dish where indecisiveness and immoderation are a good thing. Continue reading

Pea, spinach & mint frittata with ricotta salata


Brunch or lunch. An egg frittata makes a superb lunch or light supper – together with a crisp salad of bitter leaves and a few slices of bread. It is the Italian cousin of a Spanish omelette minus the potatoes. The classic combination of mint & peas is especially nice for spring and summer dish. Add some baby spinach for extra greenness and another flavour component and finish with the crumbled ricotta salata. Feta would make a fitting substitute if you can’t get the firm salted ricotta.

In comparison to the mighty Spanish omelette, a frittata rather veers toward a thinner pancake-type of omelette, which in this case furthermore underlines its lightness & fresh character; plus, it cooks much faster than a tortilla. Adjust the cooking times to your chosen skillet size and the intended level of doneness.

As it does not really matter at what temperature you eat this (it is great hot, warm or at room temperature), a frittata is a great brunch dish that can be prepared in advance.

Rezept auf Deutsch am Ende des Beitrages

Continue reading

Octopus in the Sardinian way

Octopus in the Sardinian Way

There we are, the 100th post. Whistler might have named this ‘Harmony in pink and green’ for its stunning colours. The delicate pink of the octopus is contrasted by the vivid green of the freshly podded peas & once you lift the lid with a flourish (Ta-daa!), everyone will be engulfed in the most aromatic smells. Naturally, the taste matches its visual splendour.

I only had Octopus alla catalana before: Octopus cooked in its own juices with cubed potatoes which (inevitably) gets quite salty. Last summer my friend Anke (who took all the photos) came to visit and I had to grab the opportunity by the tentacles to eat seafood when I can (because some people here, I am not naming any names, are a bit suspicious of tentacles & suckers…) and to try a different approach. Valentine Warner’s fantastic recipe is close to perfection, the added vegetables prevent excessive saltiness and turn it into a very fine dish to celebrate the arrival spring. We thought though, that it needed a lot more fresh peas and spring onions than he started out with – and now, no hard feelings, it is one of the best ways to treat an octopus. Just add a glass of Tavel (rosé) for a summer supper. Now the first pea pods have been sighted, this might be on the weekend menu soon, who’s coming? Ähem, I saw fresh peas this week, thinking about it now: that does seem a bit early, doesn’t it? Anyway, maybe a freak occurrence or some hotter climes candidates and we’ll have to wait a few weeks longer for the early varieties, so keep the octopus in mind until then.

Octopus & garlic

Notes on how to prep an octopus: Do not be disheartened by the task of dismembering the octopus nor of the thought of tentacles on your plate. Re the operation: here is a handy site, which will guide you through the process step-by-step. I found it extremely helpful when faced with my first octopus and even if you do not speak German, the pictures and video are both illustrative & self-explanatory.

There are two ways to soften an octopus: get out your flute and start playing… Just kidding. Either tenderise the dead body with a heavy object (with the flat side of a mallet or a heavy pan) or smash against the stone steps leading to your Italian summer villa (no, me neither). You even could go the easy route and freeze it for 1-2 days which as the same effect and is less messy. Ideally, you could prepare it before you do that but I always get home from the fishmonger and bury it into the freezer to be dealt with later. I do not know why all my descriptions & puns sound like an old CSI script, I am a little worried. Where are my sunglasses? Sharpen your knifes!

Octopus with peas and spring onions – the Sardinian way

Serves 6-8, adapted from Valentine Warner’s What to eat now. More please (now reissued as What to eat now. Spring & Summer), also here, with tiny upgrades & adjustments in the herb & vegetable department (doubled onions and added even more peas to have enough of these delicious tasting veg to serve everyone as a side)

1 octopus, ca. 2kg or 4 ½ lbs (freeze for 1-2 days to soften; or prepare and freeze then)
1 head of garlic
50ml (¼ cup) olive oil
25 large spring onions, white bulbs
juice of 1 lemon
2 fresh bay leaves, tear or crumple to release oils
3-4 sprigs of thyme
8 black peppercorns
500-700g or 1-1½ lbs fresh peas (shelled weight, depending on how many people are there; Warner uses 300g peas, unpodded weight)
pepper (& salt)
good knob of cold butter (or olive oil)
fennel fronds or chives
Prepare the octopus: separate the head from the body (underneath the eyes), discard head & innards, turn the armed body over with the beautiful pattern facing you, remove the hard beak by pressing it through the centre point of the arms. Freeze at this point or prepare your defrosted octopus like this.

Cut the tentacles & body into bite-sized chunks and halve the head of garlic with a horizontal cut, another beautiful pattern. Heat the olive oil a braising pan over high heat, when the oil is smoking hot, fry the garlic halves on their cut sides, throw in the onions and brown. Add the octopus, stir and fry on high for 30 seconds, reduce the heat to low, add lemon juice, herbs & pepper and cover the pan with its lid. Stew the octopus on very low heat for 1¾ – 2 hours. Shell the peas and reserve. Check the octopus after 1¾ hours for tenderness (pierce like potatoes with a knife). Take of the lid, add the shelled peas and cook them uncovered for 8 minutes in the wonderful aromatic juices released by the octopus, season with black pepper and check if any salt is needed. Stir in the butter for a delicious sauce and serve immediately sprinkled with the fennel fronds or chives for optical reasons. Serve with a rustic Italian country loaf.


Oktopus mit frischen Erbsen & Frühlingszwiebeln – Pulpo auf sardinische Art

Für 6 Personen, adaptiert von Valentine Warner’s What to eat now. More please. (auf deutsch: Frisch & Einfach kochen): ich habe die Menge der Zwiebeln verdoppelt und deutlich mehr Erbsen hinzugefügt, die sind so gekocht sehr lecker und hat man das Gemüse gleich schon dabei!

1 Oktopus, ca. 2kg (Krake oder auch als Pulpo verkauft; für 1-2 Tage einfrieren, damit er weich wird oder erst vorbereiten und dann einfrieren)
1 Knoblauchknolle
50ml Olivenöl
25 große Frühlingszwiebeln, nur die weißen Zwiebeln
Saft von 1 Zitrone
2 frische Lorbeerblätter, an einigen Stellen einreißen oder zerknüllen um die aromatischen Öle austreten zu lassen
3-4 Zweige Thymian
8 schwarze Pfefferkörner
500-700g frische Erbsen (gepalt, je nach Anzahl der Personen, Warner: 300g frische Erbsenschoten)
Pfeffer (& Salz)
ein nicht zu kleines Stückchen kalte Butter (oder Oliveöl)
dunkles Fenchelgrün oder Schnittlauch

Operation Oktopus: Den Kopf unterhalb der Augen vom Körper trennen und zusammen mit den Innereien entsorgen. Den sternförmigen Körper mit der schönen Unterseite nach oben drehen und ausbreiten, dabei die harten Kauwerkzeuge im Zentrum von unten nach außen drücken und so entfernen (hier ist der Prozess sehr genau beschrieben, Fotos illustrieren jeden Schritt, obendrein gibt es noch ein hilfreiches Video). Entweder an diesem Punkt für ein bis zwei Tage einfrieren oder den aufgetauten Oktopus wie beschrieben vorbereiten.

Die Tentakel und den Mittelteil in mundgerechte, aber nicht zu kleine Stücke zerteilen und die Knoblauchknolle horizontal aufschneiden. In einer schweren Schmorpfanne (mit Deckel) bei großer Flamme das Olivenöl stark erhitzen und den Knoblauch mit der Schnittfläche nach unten kurz anbraten, gleichfalls die Frühlingszwiebeln bräunen. Die Oktopusstücke unter Rühren ½ Minute anbraten, dann die Hitze auf die kleinste Flamme reduzieren und Zitronensaft, Kräuter & Pfefferkörner hinzugeben. Den Deckel auflegen und den Kraken für 1¾ – 2 Stunden bei sehr niedriger Hitze schmoren. In der Zwischenzeit die Erbsen palen und beiseite stellen. Nach 1¾ Stunden den Oktopus auf Zartheit prüfen (mit einem kleinen Messer pieksen), die Erbsen hineinschütten und ohne Deckel 8 Minuten in der aromatischen Flüssigkeit kochen lassen. Mit schwarzem Pfeffer würzen und eventuell salzen, dann die leckere Sauce mit der kalten Butter abrunden und mit dem dunklen Fenchelgrün oder Schnittlauch bestreuen und sofort servieren. Lecker mit frischem italienischem Bauernbrot und einem kalten Glas Tavel (Rosé).