February 1, 2014


It was Tom's birthday a few days ago and I threw myself into the preparation of a surprise Kaiseki - the traditional multi-course Japanese dinner - for the occasion. I drew inspiration from the recipe book "Everyday Harumi" by Japanese TV personality Harumi Kurihara as well as the blog Christine's Recipes - and highly recommend both sources for the recipes they present are not just reliable and delicious, but also very authentic while accessible to any proficient home cook. As I was expecting, the very methodical approach and attention to detail in Japanese cooking greatly appealed to me, and I found real pleasure preparing this series of small and delicate dishes. The meal turned out to be a feast for the eyes just as much as for the tastebuds, and I'm now happy - and quite proud - to share some photos here.

January 26, 2014

Candied mashed sweet potatoes

As often, I am very late with my posts and it is now high time to finish this Thanksgiving series. This being said, nothing prevents you from preparing these recipes outside the festive season, and it was actually early February when I sampled this lip-smacking side dish for the first time. Tom and I were staying at our friends' Dianne and John in Edmonton, Canada, where the Winter is very long and cold, and Dianne cooked a wonderful dinner for us and the family, featuring, among several other sides, this sweet potato casserole. I found this being the ultimate gourmand side dish, and couldn't possibly not ask Dianne for the recipe.

The dish was so popular among our guests at Thanksgiving (especially those who eat no or little meat), I am now pleased to further share Dianne's recipe on my blog. I have to admit, I did cut quite significantly on the butter and the sugar, as the recipe calls for, um, generous amounts let's say :-) However this is up to each one and also depends on what else you are serving together with this dish. So here's the original recipe, all the way from Alberta!

Ingredients for the sweet potato mixture
3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potato
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter (~75g)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients for the topping
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup soft brown sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/3 cup melted butter (~75g)
1 cup coconut (optional)

Mix the ingredients for the sweet potato mixture together and spoon into an oiled ovenproof dish.
Combine the ingredients for the topping and sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture.
Bake at 375°F, or 190°C, for 25 minutes or until brown on top. This can be made ahead of time and put back in oven prior to dinner.

December 29, 2013

Pecan pie

In the continuation of my Thanksgiving/Christmas series, here's a fairly easy recipe for a rich and very nutty pecan pie. For my first attempt baking this American classic, I referred to the recipe featured in the gorgeous book "Cake Days" by the Hummingbird Bakery, and left aside the chocolate chips as I wanted my pie as traditional as possible for our Thanksgiving party. It was so popular among our friends, I decided to prepare it again for my family this Christmas in Strasbourg, in place of the usual "bûche de Noël". This is when I had to bring a couple of variations (detailed below) as products such as golden syrup and soft sugar can be tricky to find in France.

Ingredients for the pastry
110g butter, softened
225g flour
80g caster sugar
1 large egg

Ingredients for the filling
100g butter
225g soft brown sugar (or regular brown sugar if soft sugar cannot be found)
110g golden syrup (or agave syrup, in which case sugar can be reduced to 150g as agave syrup's sweetening power is greater than golden syrup's)
3 large eggs
260g pecans, roughly chopped, plus 16 halves

Place the butter and flour in a bowl and rub together using your fingertips until crumb-like in consistency. Stir in the sugar, followed by the egg.
When a dough starts to form, take it out of the bowl and knead gently on a floured work surface to bring it together. Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 20-30 minutes.

In the meantime, grease and flour a tart tin. Once the pastry has rested, roll it out on a lightly floured worktop so that it is about 5mm thick. Line the tart tin with the pastry and using a sharp knife, cut away any excess pastry so that it is level with the edge of the tin. Prick the base of the pastry a few times with the point of the knife and put the tin in the fridge to rest for another 20-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Once the pastry case has rested, line it with baking parchment, fill with baking beans and place in the oven to bake 'blind' for 10 minutes (dry lentils or split peas work fine too). Carefully remove the beans along with the parchment, and bake the tart case for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together. Once melted, set aside to cool. Whisk together the eggs in a bowl, just to break them up, then pour the melted ingredients into the eggs, stirring continuously until everything is combined.

Scatter the chopped pecans over the base of the tart case and pour the liquid filling on top, then decorate with the pecan halves. The liquid filling should naturally settle between the chopped pecans. If not (in case the pecans are too thinly chopped or a thicker syrup such as  agave is used), carefully mix the pecans and the liquid filling together using your fingers or a spoon.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140°C and bake for another 20 minutes. Let cool and serve thin slices (the pie is very rich!) with a dollop of cream.

December 27, 2013

Roast turkey stuffed with clementines and rosemary

Okay both Thanksgiving and Christmas are over, but turkey can be eaten anytime after all - and I feel this precious recipe should be written down and shared before it gets lost. A big thanks to our friend Hendrik (once a cook at Berlin's famous Adlon Hotel!) for preparing this incredibly moist and tasty turkey for our Thanksgiving feast last month. The recipe may be inspired from Jamie's Christmas turkey, Jamie himself can't possibly have achieved a better result!

Ingredients for the marinade
1 cup of salt
2 cups of cranberry juice
1 ground nutmeg
Peel and juice of 1 orange
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
4 tablespoons of olive oil

The day before, place the turkey in a plastic bag. Fill in the marinade, squeeze the air out of the bag and store in a cool place overnight.

Ingredients for the stuffing
Some clementines, cut into halves 

Preheat the oven at 180°C.
Wash the turkey to remove the rest of the marinade and dry it well.
Massage the turkey with olive oil, and season with salt (possibly mixed with paprika powder) and pepper.
Place in the oven and roast for 30-35 minutes per kg of turkey (ours was 8.8 kg and was in for a little more than 4.5 hours).
Regularly collect the out coming liquids with a spoon and pour back over the turkey.
For the last half hour, chop some rosemary and sage, mix it with some olive oil and brush the turkey with this preparation.
Insert a meat thermometer in the biggest part of the breast. When the thermometer indicates 72°C, remove the turkey from the oven. Cover with foil and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
Cut out the breasts and put the legs back into the oven for another 10 minutes per kg of turkey (whole).

December 9, 2013

Easy puff pastry

Epiphany is in a month and even though Christmas is still to come, I'm already thinking of inviting some friends over for a "galette des rois" party one afternoon early January - perfect way to stay warm and cosy in the middle of the freezing Berlin winter... Last year I even took up the challenge of making my own puff pastry, and did not regret it a second. I found a simplified version of the classic puff pastry recipe, and my galette turned out even more delicious as the previous years, and just as amazing-looking as those from the fanciest pastry shops :-)

I referred to the "rough puff pastry" recipe in "Pastry" cooking book by French chef Michel Roux. As the book says: "This quick puff pastry rises well - almost 75% as much as classic puff pastry, and it saves an incredible amount of time. Once you have tried making rough puff pastry, you'll probably opt for this easier method every time. Tightly wrapped in cling film, it will keep for 3 days in the fridge, and for at least 4 weeks in the freezer."

Here's the very recipe, to which I look forward to give another go soon. As to the instructions for the galette des rois filling, you'll find them in my older post "Galette des rois, or kings cake".

Ingredients for 1.2kg pastry (enough for 2 galettes, or 4 tarts) 
500g plain flour
500g very cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 tsp salt
150ml ice-cold water (the book states 250ml but 150ml proved way enough)

Put the flour in a mound on the work surface and make a well. Put in the butter and salt and work them together with the fingertips of one hand, gradually drawing the flour into the centre with the other hand.

When the cubes of butter have become small pieces and the dough is grainy, gradually add the iced water and mix until it is all incorporated, but don't overwork the dough. Roll it into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Flour the work surface and roll out the pastry into a 40 x 20 cm rectangle. Fold it into three and give it a quarter-run. Roll the block of pastry into a 40 x 20 cm rectangle as before, and fold it into three again. These are the first 2 turns. Wrap the block in cling film and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.

Give the chilled pastry another 2 turns, rolling and folding as before. This makes a total of 4 turns, and the pastry is now ready. Wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

December 8, 2013

Happy Sängsgiwinn!

A big thank you to our friends who came over last week to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, and made our potluck a particularly successful one. Unfortunately our American/Canadian friends could not make it - but our party of German, French, British, Dutch and Italian took up the challenge quite superbly!

I will be sharing recipes soon - here are a few photos in the meantime. A special thanks as well to our dear friends from north America who sent over their favorite recipes.

Roast turkey stuffed with clementines and rosemary - Recipe here

Candied mashed sweet potatoes

Cornbread muffins

Pumpkin pie

Pecan pie

October 27, 2013

[Corn]Bread of Heaven

…or heavenly cornbread, as non-Welsh readers will probably not get my tentative play on words (which hopefully will at least amuse my dear in-laws).

5 days ago. Harlem, NYC. Red Rooster restaurant.
I am eating cornbread for the first time (or if I had some before, it wasn't memorable) - served warm along with honey butter and tomato chutney on the side.
Impression: Wow! To me, the ultimate comfort food - understand soft, moist, light yet indulgent, delicately sweet and spicy, all at the same time. So simple and so delicious.

Today. Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Home.
I am baking cornbread for the first time, following Red Rooster's chef Marcus Samuelsson's recipe itself, and praying to successfully reproduce the melt-in-your-mouth experience...
Verdict: More rustic in texture but just as scrumptious, "even tastier than the original" according to my loving husband.

Here's the recipe, found in the chef's cooking book that luckily happened to be sitting on the shelf right next to our table. As I'd still like to reach the velvety consistency that appealed to me so much in Harlem, I'm thinking of trying some of the following next time: replacing part of the flour with starch, adding an egg, reducing the amount of fresh corn, discarding the bain-marie. But anyway, this is all fine-tuning and I've now got the major Thanksgiving staple ready for next month!

Ingredients for 2 loaves
4 ears fresh corn (shucked)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup polenta
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon mild chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 red chiles (seeds and ribs removed, chopped)
Butter to grease the pans

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain. When the ears are cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob. Place 1 cup of the corn kernels in a bowl and set aside. Place the remaining kernels in a blender and puree. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F, or 190°C.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, ginger, cardamom, and nigella seeds. Stir in the brown sugar, chiles, corn kernels, corn puree, and 2 cups water. Mix to combine.

Butter 2 loaf pans and divide the batter evenly between them. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Place the pans in a shallow baking tray filled halfway with water and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour. Cover with aluminum and bake for another 30 minutes.

Turn the loaves out onto a cooling tray and let cool. Serve with tomato chutney.

Red Rooster Harlem
310 Lenox Avenue, Harlem, NY 10027
(212) 792-9001

September 30, 2012

Mexican tostadas

Over six months have gone already, since I discovered the joys of Mexican cooking and shared my new fondness with a series of articles on Global Gourmande (see ¡Viva ceviche!, Rustic Mexican cooking in Sierra Norte, Chomping on churros, Perfect pastries in Mexico).

Among the many delicious specialties we had the opportunity to sample on our trail, there is one local snack in particular which I promised to myself to try and reproduce shortly after we would be back in Europe. It is tostadas - deep fried tortillas spread with pureed black beans and topped with lettuce, fresh cheese, avocado and occasionally shredded chicken.

Shortly it was not, but I finally gave it a try a few weeks ago - which did not just result in a very satisfying lunch but also brought back a good deal of happy travel memories to our table. Although I baked the tortillas instead of deep-frying them - easier and healthier after all - and used mozzarella in place of queso fresco, it tasted great and fairly authentic.

Rather than providing a detailed recipe, I will roughly describe how I proceeded - so anyone feels welcome to further play with the method as well as the ingredients according to their own taste and cooking style. You'll see that in spirit, putting together a tostada is actually very similar to making a sandwich!

First thing first: tortillas. As I could not find any corn tortillas in our usual supermarket, I used some wheat ones, brushed them with a little olive oil and baked them on parchment paper in a hot oven. I was surprised how fast they turned crispy and brown - so keep an eye on it as just a couple of minutes should be enough.

For the bean spread, I used kidney beans from a can, drained them and warmed them up in a pan with a little water on low heat, until they got soft enough to be mashed into a coarse puree using a fork. In case the mixture has got a bit stiff by the time you're ready to spread it over the tortillas, you can just add a little water to make it soft again.

I boiled some chicken breast until cooked through, and rinsed it with cold water to cool it down a bit before shredding it with my fingers.

Putting the tostadas together now - child's play:

Spread some bean puree over your toasted tortillas

Top with shredded lettuce, shredded chicken, thinly sliced fresh cheese (mozzarella makes a decent substitute to Mexican queso fresco - and although saltier, halloumi cheese would probably work too), sliced tomatoes and avocado. To prevent the avocado from oxidizing once cut open, splash the slices with some lime juice.

Squeeze some lime and garnish with fresh coriander to bring on the full flavor of Mexican cooking, and if you like it a bit hot, sprinkle some chilli powder on top to finish.

¡Buen provecho!

July 8, 2012

Express chocolate raspberry tartlets

I had been thinking about putting such tartlets together since a friend visiting from Australia last month mentioned turning her leftover Lindt Easter bunnies into cakes. I still hadn't broken the one Tom got me this year like every year now since that Easter we spent in Hong Kong, where chocolate bunnies have not yet become a big enough tradition to pop up in a plethora of variations like I remember it being the case in my hometown Strasbourg ever since I was a little girl - when my father was the one hiding a chocolate bunny in the house for me before I would wake up..

The Lindt Gold Bunny may be industrial chocolate, it still tastes really good! So yes I was tempted to use my bunny into some sweet recipe, but preferably one that would keep its taste pretty intact. I had come across those lovely looking tartlet bases at Lindner in Berlin Mitte, a fine deli full of gorgeous products, and although I always prepare my own pastry, I quite fancied making an exception and giving them a try. Lastly, I bought some raspberries at the market since they are now perfectly in season, as I thought they would bring a nice crisp and summery touch to my tartlets.

So here we are for the ingredients:
- one (leftover) milk chocolate Lindt Gold Bunny
- a little bit of single cream to help it melt smoothly
- some ready-made good quality tartlet bases
- a few raspberries to to top it up, rinsed and dabbed dry with care

And then it's child's play!

Place the bunny in a saucepan (!) and melt it over low heat. When it starts turning into a paste, add some cream to obtain a soft shiny texture. With a spoon, divide between the tartlet bases (I managed to make 6 tartlets with a decapitated medium-sized bunny - I had to have a little bit of it as is...). Pop the raspberries hole down in the chocolate and place in the refrigerator for a little while until the chocolate is set.

Sieht toll aus und schmeckt so lecker! Rainy weekends in the German capital don't have to be sad...

April 22, 2012

Yummy Yum Cha in Berlin

Likely to become our new residence soon, Berlin scored a solid point upon our recent visit, with some mouthwatering dim sum which will definitely make an efficient remedy, should symptoms of Hong Kong home-sickness appear..

Walking past Yumcha Heroes in Mitte around lunch time, we thought - why not give it a chance and see how our much loved steamed bites are interpreted and reproduced here in the German capital..

Our surprise was all the greater as we were ready to show leniency under such circumstances. Despite a slight fancy look, the dumplings proved remarkably authentic and toothsome, of a finesse worthy of our favorite teahouses back in Hong Kong. Bis bald Berlin !

Weinbergsweg 8
D-10119 Berlin-Mitte
+49 30 76 21 30 35

April 6, 2012

Thank you Katz's

Thank you Katz's for rewarding me at last with the wow effect I have been seeking during my whole stay in New York - and on my last day too! In spite of having tried a good number of the supposedly "not-to-be-missed" spots in the Big Apple, I was often left a little disappointed, or just satisfied at best. That was until I finally walked through your doors in the Lower East Side..

The reputation of the 125-year old delicatessen of Houston Street need not be repeated, but I am thrilled to confirm that their legendary cured meat sandwiches do taste as unbelievably good as they are said to by so many fans around the globe.

I did not try Katz's celebrated pastrami as I really fancied a Reuben that day, but oh my… what a Reuben! I have been let down so many times in the States by sandwiches making up for using average quality meat and insipid cheese by sinking it all under a massive quantity of bad ready-made sauce, but here I was served a sandwich using only the best ingredients in perfect proportions: some out-of-this-world corned beef, seasoned to perfection and melting in the mouth despite being surprisingly lean, good "real" cheese (not the sweaty industrial stuff), fresh sauerkraut, still slightly crunchy under the tooth, and an honest Russian dressing to top it all off, evidently homemade. Thinking about it, calling that marvel of flavours a sandwich almost seems like an insult!

Food set aside, Katz's can also pride itself for having kept its original decor over the decades - even the "Send A Salami To Your Boy In The Army" sign hanging behind the counter (a service still available nowadays!) - retaining this way the genuine atmosphere of a former era...

205 East Houston Street
New York City
(212) 254-2246

March 14, 2012

Perfect pastries in Mexico

Whoever thinks croissants and other pastries are a French affair has never been to Mexico. I don't consider myself especially patriotic when it comes to baking: I'm a big fan of German bread, love British scones and Irish soda bread, remember some perfect cinnamon rolls in Sweden, and keep even sweeter memories of the bread I would have every morning of that Summer I spent in Benin, freshly baked at the communal oven… Still, I was certainly not expecting to find such a variety of delicious baked items in Mexico.

From the widely known cuernos (croissants), chocolatins (chocolate croissants) and roles de canela (cinnamon rolls) to more local and less familiar conchas (brioche buns with a swirled vanilla or chocolate sugar coating), roles de anis (anis seeds rolls) and panes de nuez (pecan-filled buns) - fresh pastries are omnipresent in Mexico, from street vendors to popular pastelerias (cake shops) and fancy restaurants.

Out of all the places we sampled the confections from along our journey, it is with no doubt at top-notch El Cardenal in Mexico City that we were served the best ones. El Cardenal is an institution in the Mexican capital and I could not wait to give it a try. Luckily we were staying just a minute away from the original location (the establishment has expanded into a few other branches which appear not to quite live up to the reputation of this first branch) and it quickly occurred to me upon our first visit that going to El Cardenal for breakfast is a little like going to Ladurée in Paris for tea and macarons - a tradition for the locals and a not to be missed highlight for any visitor in town. We tried a few of their pastries over our two visits and without much surprise but for our greatest delight, every single one proved remarkably fresh and fluffy. I fell for the concha de vanilla and the rol de anis above all, not to mention the frothy hot chocolate stirred and poured from the jug right at your table - another specialty of the house, on the richer side but a definite must!

Here lies the irony: although El Cardenal instantly became our favourite at first bite and sip, we suspected the personnel of thinking that we did not appreciate the food as we noted their astonishment every time we asked for the check.. The truth is: while we were perfectly satiated and ready to start strolling around the city after such a wholesome breakfast, Mexican people appear to be much hungrier in the morning as we noticed later that these delicious pastries are just what keeps them waiting for the real thing - generally a full cooked breakfast including eggs, black beans and tortillas at the very minimum!

Palma 23 (between 5 de Mayo and Francisco l. Madero)
Centro Histórico, Mexico City

March 7, 2012

Chomping on churros

We are leaving Mexico tomorrow and believe it or not, until this afternoon I still hadn't succumbed to the temptation of the fluted sticks of fried dough inherited from the Spanish over a century ago..

In order to rectify this shameful negligence as soon as possible, we saved room for dessert and headed towards la Churrería "El Moro" after lunch. An institution here in Mexico City, "El Moro" is famous for its scrumptious churros freshly made 24/7 - the only food item on the menu next to a variety of chocolate caliente and café con leche, dunking optional.

We sat at one table of the obviously historic establishment - which doesn't seem to have undergone much renovation since its opening in 1933 - and ordered coffee and a couple of the deep-fried snacks...

Perfectly golden and sprinkled with caster sugar, crunchy on the outside but slightly chewy inside at the same time - these churros set the standards to which all others should be compared.

Phew... I can now say goodbye to Mexico with a light heart!

Churrería "El Moro"
Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 42
Centro, Cuauhtémoc
06000 Ciudad de México, Distrito Federal

March 2, 2012

Rustic Mexican cooking in the Sierra Norte

We returned yesterday from a wonderful three-day trek in the mountainous Sierra Norte, north-east of Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico. Not only did this excursion allow us to explore the gorgeous scenery of the region and learn about the plethora of plants growing here and their respective usages in traditional medicine and cooking, but it also gave us the opportunity to sample some delicious Mexican food in a particularly remote setting.

We passed through three of the "Pueblos Mancomunados", a community of eight Zapotec villages cooperating in an excellent ecotourism program: Benito Juárez, Cuajimoloyas and Llano Grande - all three situated at around 3000 meters above sea level. In each village, we were greeted with comforting home-style cooking at the local canteen or "comedor" - all the more appreciated after hours of strenuous hiking at such elevation.

We were offered nothing but wholesome food, though I especially enjoyed the tostadas which were served to us for dinner in Benito Juárez - lightly spread with pureed black beans and beautifully garnished with shredded lettuce, crumbs of queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese) and chunks of delicious avocado.

What better way to start a day in the mountains than with a bowl of Oaxacan-style steaming hot chocolate, where cinnamon and ground almonds wonderfully round off the primary mixture of ground-up cocoa beans and sugar? I have been lucky enough to taste some of the finest chocolate drinks through my work or in famous salons de thé in France, but I have to say the rustic Oaxacan recipe enchanted my tastebuds and my heart just as much and maybe even more…

Our meals in Cuajimoloyas were livened up by the presence in the comedor of Joana and Leslie, four-year old little angels quietly keeping themselves busy while their mums were cooking for the whole neighbourhood. Not to mention our admiration when we saw Joana devouring green beans along with a bowl of coffee for breakfast! - while I had declined the full Mexican desayuno that morning and given myself up to the simple pleasure of dipping a bread roll into a frothy hot chocolate, a very frenchie brekkie you would think but the traditional way to have it here too!

We came back a bit sore but delighted by our wilderness escape, one that we would highly recommend to anyone looking to experience the indigenous village life up close. We organised our tour with Expediciones Sierra Norte and were very happy with everything - their website is quite unclear and very incomplete though so you're better off visiting them directly at their office downtown Oaxaca.