Puy lentils with tomatoes, tahini & cumin









Happy New Year and lots of luck with this flavourful and surprisingly snazzy lentil dish! Hopefully you had an amazing Christmas and a great start to this new & shiny year full of miracles and joy.

I don’t know about you but the holidays seem to have just rushed past in one big swoosh: plenty of balmy days spent celebrating, feasting & relaxing and we enjoyed every minute of them. Cooking wise, we’ve had a few ups (these lentils, Christmas goose with all the trimmings, bean chilli) and more than a few downs lately (burnt mince meat and no mince pies, the ‘Spanish’ chicken, yesterday’s supper to name the worst) since a stray swarm of tsetse flies must have settled nearby (odd, the forest does not look in the least like Kalahari) and I could hardly keep my eyes open past 9 o’ clock. Unfortunately, that’s a point where cooking ambition switches into sheer survival mode and explains a certain lack of Internet presence & participation. But, discounting yesterday’s meagre plate, I am getting back to normal and the hunger games might be over.

Whatever this year brings to you, it is always good to have a nice lentil supper up one’s sleeve and this Middle Eastern answer to dal is a real keeper as far as we are concerned. Ottolenghi – who else should wonderful dish be from? – mashes them for a more porridge-y consistency though I prefer the lentils intact in this dish where vibrant lemon & tomatoes deliver upbeat notes and tahini adds a touch of creaminess. Finish with zingy onion slices, fresh coriander and a dusting of warm paprika – a feast for all the senses that should bring lots of luck and keep even the sleepiest awake for dinner (me). Even on its own it is a thoroughly satisfying meal (add hard-boiled eggs for additional sustenance) but the lentils are also a spectacular side to pan fried fish we found one evening.



Puy lentils with tomatoes, tahini & cumin

Puy lentils with tomatoes, tahini & cumin

Serves 4. Adapted with small changes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More


200g Puy lentils
30g butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1½ teaspoons cumin
1½ tins chopped tomatoes (or 4 medium tomatoes, blanched, skinned and diced)
½ bunch of coriander, chopped (30g), save some 1-2 tbsp. for finishing
60g tahini paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt & pepper
½ red onion, sliced into thin half moons
olive oil
½ teaspoon paprika

optional: 2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
Cook lentils for about 20-25 minutes until done, drain and set aside until needed.

Heat butter & oil in a large sauté pan over a medium-high flame and cook garlic and cumin for a scant minute before adding tomatoes, nearly all of the chopped coriander (save some to sprinkle over the finished dish later) and the lentils. Stir and cook for a few minutes, add tahini, lemon juice, salt & pepper and 70ml water. Reduce the heat and continue to cook & stir for 5 minutes until the lentil dish has thickened and is hot. At this point Ottolenghi smashes the lentils a few times with a potato masher in order to achieve the consistency of a chunky porridge / hummus but I liked my lentils unmashed.

Garnish with thinly sliced onion, the reserved coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of paprika. For a more substantial main course add halved hard-boiled eggs.




Deutsches Rezept:

Puy lentils with tomatoes, tahini and cumin

Puy Linsen mit Tomaten, Tahini & Kreuzkümmel

4 Portionen, adaptiert und abgewandelt von Yotam Ottolenghi’s Linsengericht aus Plenty More. Sehr lecker als Hauptgericht (dazu die hartgekochten Eier) oder als Beilage zu gebratenem Fisch.


200g Puy Linsen
30g Butter
2 EL Olivenöl
3 Knoblauchzehen, gepresst
1½ TL Kreuzkümmel
1½ Dosen gehackte Tomaten (oder 4 mittelgroße Tomaten, blanchiert, gehäutet und gewürfelt)
½ Bund Koriander, gehackt (30g), 1-2 EL zur Dekoration zurückbehalten
60g Tahini (Sesampaste)
2 EL Zitronensaft
Salz & Pfeffer
½ rote Zwiebel, in dünne Halbmonde geschnitten
½ TL Paprika

optional: 2 hart gekochte Eier, halbiert
Linsen für ca. 20-25 Minuten gar kochen, abgießen und zur Seite stellen.

Butter und Olivenöl in einer großen Sauteuse bei mittlerer Hitze schmelzen und Knoblauch sowie Kreuzkümmel für eine knappe Minute erhitzen. Tomaten, Koriander und die gekochten Linsen hinzufügen, umrühren und für einige Minute kochen, dann Tahini, Zitronensaft, Salz & Pfeffer sowie 70ml Wasser unterrühren. Die Hitze leicht reduzieren und für ca. 5 Minuten weiterkochen bis das Linsengericht eingedickt und heiß ist. An dieser Stelle zerdrückt Ottolenghi die Linsen mit einem Kartoffelstampfer um die Konsistenz eines stückigen Hummus zu erreichen, ich bevorzuge die Linsen intakt.

In einer flachen Schale mit dünnen Zwiebelscheiben, gehacktem Koriander, etwas Olivenöl und einem Hauch von Paprika servieren. Zusammen mit hart gekochten Eiern wird dies ein noch gehaltvolleres Hauptgericht.


summer holiday clams (with linguine)









Despite being back for a few weeks (wow, really?) I am still in holiday mode & mood and clinging (like a limpet) to the serenity of lazy days lounging on deck chairs with endless glasses of nice Burgundian whites – hence the … ‘crickets’. To me, nothing says summer & summer holidays more than clams, especially if they are called palourdes or vongole and are brought by a friendly waiter to a table overlooking the Mediterranean Sea or … maybe the Venetian lagoon. But at home they taste just as good tossed with barely melted ripe tomatoes, herbs, garlic and a mountain of linguine. Continue reading

Oregano bucatini with tomatoes









There are days when I feel uninspired, sluggish and my normally sunny disposition tends to be more on the grumpy side. I want to have good food (fast), something delicious and healthy without a lot of pottering around. So, please do not ask me to make ‘something simple’ (without naming one ‘simple dish’ or offering specific suggestions) or let me start the huge complicated dinner project originally planned for that evening – better not ask me anything if you value your life since this state is quickly followed by a hefty side of hangry-ness. Generally carbs, pasta in particular, are a like a St. Bernard for me and these wonderfully aromatic herby, silky, satisfying oregano & tomato bucatini are about the fastest cure for anything Continue reading

Pan bagnat

Pan bagnat

recipe in English & auf Deutsch (s. u.)

Pan bagnat is by far the best picnic food, beach or summer outing sandwich EVER. Once tried, you will not get enough of it (might as well join the pan bagnat appreciation & defense society right now). Originating from the South of France, Nice to be precise, this filled bread shares a lot of ingredients with the eponymous & equally iconic Salade Niçoise – like everything else: the amount & preciousness of the filling used to depend on your affluence. Like other recipes Pan bagnat started out as a way of using old bread: refreshing hard & stale bread with an invigorating bath (pan bagnat is literally ‘bathed bread’).

Other than steeping bread in liquid as in Pappa al pomodoro the outside of the whole loaf is sprinkled with a little water, juicy tomatoes and other garden vegetables (what is not abundantly in season at the Côte d’Azur??) moisten the inside of the bread. Being mainly a vegetable or vegetarian sandwich with small black olives, basil, green peppers, little onions (cébettes), fava beans, cucumbers etc. either anchovies or tuna are added, never both at the same time. Having tuna & egg together, pure luxury. Just a tiny drizzle of olive oil, no vinegar, no salad leaves. Continue reading

Mexican meatballs in chipotle-tomato sauce

Something spicy and thoroughly warming for chilly November evenings: moorish meatballs which have an extra vegetable bonus hidden inside. But this is no sneaky way of hiding vitamins, I found that they add extra moisture and lightness to the meatballs which I will try out soon in other combinations. Cooked in this – admittedly – quite spicy sauce make them a real winter warmer. You can reduce the amount of chiles chipotles en adobo in the sauce and start with one or two and adjust the amount to your taste.

We still remember the first time I brought a tin home from my favourite Mexican market in Sunnyvale, CA (former home of Atari) and eating them as pickles. Well, don’t if you are not a serious chili-eater. Omitting them from the sauce or replacing them would be a mistake though. They provide a smoky, dusky, spicy, mesquite flavour and an instant depth to the sauce which is the real warmer in this dish.

And if you are in the market for trying something new, pick up some epazote at the same time you are buying the chiles for Esquites (corn cooked with epazote) to go with the meatballs.

Mexican meatballs in chipotle-tomato sauce
adapted from Diana Kennedy’s The Essential Cuisines of Mexico

340g (12 oz) ground beef
340g (12 oz) ground pork
1 medium or 2 smaller zucchini / courgettes
1medium onion
2 eggs
¼ – ½ teaspoon dried oregano (we liked a bit more)
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds (if you like, lightly toast them in a dry pan before grinding – total different flavour)
8 peppercorns
salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)

2 tins of organic chopped tomatoes (Kennedy uses fresh tomatoes, cooked for 5 minutes)
3-4 chipotles en adobo
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
185ml (3/4 cup) chicken broth
salt & pepper

Finely chop the zucchini and the onion, grind the cumin seeds & pepper corns in a pestle & mortar. Place all the meatball ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands. Form ping-pong ball sized balls (4cm or 1½ inches), cover with cling film and keep in the fridge until needed.

Blend the tomatoes and chipotles to a smooth sauce. Heat the oil in a wide saucepan (large enough to fit all the meatballs), add the tomato-chipotle blend, bring over high heat to the boil and cook for a few minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and bring the sauce back to a simmer. Gingerly place the meatballs in the sauce, let it come back to a simmer again and close the pan with a lid. Reduce the heat and cook for about 50 minutes. Check the seasoning.

confiture aux tomates vertes – green tomato jam

I remember trying this jam the first time for the first time when we had come back from visiting the family in England. We stayed in a small chateau in Normandy and the homemade green tomato jam was served with croissants for breakfast at the large wooden table in the kitchen dominated by a inglenook fireplace. It was tart, slightly lemony and reminded me a little of gooseberry jam. A few years ago I tried Christine Ferber’s fantastic green tomato jam, brought back from her charming shop in Niedermorschwihr, Alsace along with her big tome on jam making. I did not follow her recipe here since the book was far, far away (upstairs) and I had some jam sugar to use up. But I maybe there will be more green tomatoes around and I might make another batch soon to compare. The jam does look a bit greener though than in this particular photo.
Confiture aux tomates vertes
1 kg green tomatoes
500 g of jam sugar (german Gelierzucker 1:2, to make a fruitier version) or ordinary caster sugar for a traditional jam (in this case I would use equal amounts of fruit and sugar)
100 g sugar
1 organic lemon, zest & juice
4 x 250g jam jars
Chop the tomatoes in small pieces and stir in a large sauce pan with the jam sugar and extra sugar. Cover and leave overnight to develop the juice. This way one gets a jam with a few chunkier bits in – if you prefer a finer, more even texture, then blend it next day.
Rinse jars in hot water to sterilize and place in a hot oven until they are needed. This way they stay hot and clean until needed. One could run them in the dishwasher as well, although I find that a bit of a palaver.
Pour your fruit puree back into the saucepan, add the zest and juice of the lemon and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes or until a little amount of jam dropped on a saucer and briefly left in the fridge stays firm-ish = is not runny. Using a funnel and a ladle or if you are super deft, pour the hot jam into the prepared glasses and close the lids immediately. Leave to cool and label.