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White asparagus with Turkish beetroot dip

Spargel and Turkish sauce

Spargel and Turkish sauce

This is a simple and slightly quirky way to enjoy your asparagus. White asparagus is superior, here in Berlin, to its green brothers and can take a little more time to prepare as the stalks are very woody. Take the time to trim them so you do not end up with a tough spear but the clean, silky texture of this much beloved vegetable.

I have teamed them with this vibrant and garlicky Turkish dip which works perfectly as a side dish or starter.

Enjoy!

Serves 2.

Shopping list:

2 medium beetroots

2 cloves of garlic

Turkish yogurt

juice of half a lemon

olive oil

cumin powder

500g white asparagus, trimmed

black sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

First heat the oven to 180C and rub your beetroot with a little olive oil and salt and roast until soft and easily pierced with a knife. This should be about an hour or so. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the tough skins and discard. Roughly chop the beetroot and set aside.

Fill a saucepan with water, put on to boil and steam your asparagus until tender.

While they are steaming pop the beetroot, garlic, lemon juice and cumin into a blender and blitz. While the motor is running pour in about 2 tbsp of olive oil. Next spoon in roughly 3 tbsp of soy yogurt, salt and pepper and blitz until everything is well blended and you have a gloriously vibrant magenta.

Taste for seasoning, perhaps you need more salt, cumin or lemon and adjust accordingly.

Once the asparagus is cooked, serve drizzled generously with the Turkish sauce and the black sesame to garnish.

Creamy Kofta Curry- my take on an Indian classic

Creamy Kofta Curry

Creamy Kofta Curry

 

Scrolling through the foodie world of twitter recently, I stumbled across a tweet displaying a delicious bowl of creamy Kofta curry.

I suddenly was starving with a hunger that only this particular curry could satisfy. I tweeted the owner of said tweet, who very sweetly informed me that as of yet, there was no recipe and that a book full of her recipes would be coming soon.

Fantastic news, but would hardly help me on this Saturday night. So with a little internet exploring, teamed with the knowledge of Indian cooking I have gathered the last few years, I went about putting together my interpretation of the dish.

Lamb is the typical choice of mince meat, but this is incredibly hard to find in Berlin, so I settled with the ubiquitous hackfleisch (mixture of beef and pork) and this actually worked very well, creating a soft, delicate meatball.

Ground cashews is usually used but alas, my local supermarkets did not offer such delicacies so I opted for ground almonds. The dish did not lack for this alteration.

I enjoyed my creation thoroughly and would cook it again, perhaps going a little further to find some lamb.

As it is a very rich and creamy curry I served it with a fresh mango and cucumber salsa to cut through it somewhat.

What is more, this is an amazing leftover lunch the next day.

Enjoy!

kofta bowl closer

 

Shopping list:

for the kofta:

1 pack of minced beef/pork (around 400g)

minced garlic (2 cloves)

finely chopped red chili

2 tblsp of breadcrumbs mixed with a little milk to soften

1 finely chopped shallot, sweated until translucent

1 egg

salt

for the curry:

1 blended red onion

1 minced garlic clove

1/2 cup of tomato puree

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp tumeric

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp coriander powder

1tsp chili powder

240 ml double cream

ground almonds

for the salsa:

1 mango

1 cucumber

1 red chili

1 lemon

 

In a large mixing bowl add your meat, sweated shallot, garlic, chili and milky breadcrumbs and with your hands mix with the egg until everything is thorughly combined.

Create koftas to the size of golf balls with lightly oiled hands so the meat effortlessly forms balls and doesn’t stick to your hands. Place the balls on a baking tray.

Once all the meat mixture has become balls, pop them into a fridge while you make your curry.

Fry your blended/finely chopped onion in a pan on a medium heat for a few minutes and add the garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes. You do not want to burn the garlic, just warm through.

Now add your spices APART from the garam masala, stir and add the tomato puree and cook through for 3-4 minutes.

Next add roughly 3 tblsp of the ground almonds and stir until you have a nice creamy paste.

Add the cream.

Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the garam masala and 25-50 ml of water depending on the thickness of the sauce and of course your own preference.

Stir so everything is combined.

Cover and turn the heat to medium-low.

Now take your little kofta babies from the fridge and pan fry (in batches if need be) until nicely browned all over.

Pop them into your gently simmering curry sauce and re-cover.

Cook for roughly 20 minutes until the koftas are cooked through and the sauce has slightly reduced. You want a creamy, yet still loose, curry sauce.

Meanwhile, pop your rice on.

While the meatballs are cooking, make the salsa.

De-stone and skin your mango and chop into cubes. Throw into a bowl with the juice of a lemon and finely chopped chili.

Chop your cucumber in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Chop these halves in half again and then slice.  Add this to the mango mixture and stir.

Once the koftas are cooked and the sauce is seasoned and cooked to your liking, sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and serve with the rice, mango salsa and perhaps a nice lemon wedge.

 

Creamy goodness

Creamy goodness

 

Going Koko for Kokolores

beetroot crepe

beetroot crepe

 

A few weeks ago now my parents were visiting and due to catch their flight home to London after a wonderful, busy, ‘do all the best bits’, ‘eat ALL the food Berlin has to offer’ trip.

We pretty much achieved this within the four days they were here and coming from a family of the food obsessed, it was extremely important that their last meal of the trip was a good one.

I chose to take them to Kokolores, a cosy and quintessential Berlin restaurant just five minutes from where I live in Neukoelln.

It was one of the few restaurants in my area that I’d yet to visit and on the recommendations of a few friends, I was looking forward to it. Of course the fact it was five minutes from my house was another deciding factor, but yes I was excited.

We were off to a good start when I called just an hour before we needed the table and able to reserve. Granted, I was reserving for 1800 on a Tuesday, as soon as they opened, but it pleased me. Considering my parents had this flight to catch and Berlin has of late adopted those accusing glares of ‘what do you meaaan you havent booked a table, bitch’ kind of place.

koko

 

Anyway. Kokolores offers Polish-German fare and pleasingly the menu changes daily in accordance to what they have found at the market etc that day.

I hear Gordon Ramsay and all the others screaming that almost boring slogan regarding food,  ‘ its gotta be SEASONAL, LOCAL, RUSTIC…’ in my ear, but they speak the truth, its a good thing.

The server was extremely friendly and accommodating. We weren’t exactly difficult but the way he handled the fact we were still waiting on a person who ended up being fairly late with such ease, wasn’t particularly indicative of Berlin restaurants in my honest opinion. Sorry Berlin. I do love you.

My parents and I shared a main as a starter while we waited for our missing person and it was gorgeous.

A crepe made with beetroot so it became a glorious pink, stuffed with roasted vegetables, pesto and goats cheese served with a giant and beautifully dressed salad abundant with unusual sprouty things that I love. This is exactly my kind of food.  My unhealthy obsession with goats cheese was fulfilled.

For the mains, my parents had steaks, salad and roast potatoes. This should have been served with a potato and celeriac mash (which I would have loved) but as I am with goats cheese, my father is with fried potatoes.

My boyfriend (the latecomer) and I chose the pumpkin and ricotta cheese maultaschen which was again served, to my delight, with the wonderful salad and a pot of sour cream.

koko 1

The steaks were most impressive and cooked to perfection, however the maultaschen was a disappointment. Wonderful in theory, but they tasted very floury and under done. The salad and sour cream were most necessary.

Prices were extremely fair, mains between 6-9 euro on average and affordable drinks.

The restaurant had a great ambience, fresh flowers, moody Berlin lighting and quirky tables made from old front doors. All you would expect from a Neukoelln eaterie.

Great service, good food, lovely atmosphere, I’d recommend a visit.

koko 2

moody lighting results in moody food photos

 

Kokolores, Weichselstraße 3, 12043 Berlin, Germany
+49 30 25744568

Tempura prawn tacos with slaw and guacamole

 

tempura prawn tacos

tempura prawn tacos

 

For the past few months I have been on something of a vegan odyssey.

Exploring all sorts of weird and wonderful recipes such as cashew cream pasta sauce, pine nut béchamel and tofu hollandaise. My new found obsession with vegan has not only to do with wanting to live healthier (since turning thirty this has become a more acknowledged goal) and helping the environment, but also I find the challenge of making a delicious meal without the help of cheesy goodness or meat, very exciting.

I have quite a few of my vegan escapades to talk about but I will be putting these together in a separate blog very soon, so watch this space.

Despite my vegan appreciation, I have not given up meat and dairy completely and last Saturday it was prawns that were playing on my mind. This led to the idea of prawn tacos, which continued to the prospect of frying them in a little batter, batter led to tempura ( tempura is the japanese method and lighter)…yum. You get the idea that most of my waking moments is spent dreaming of food and pondering the possible things I can put together and then scoff. Easter is coming up…

So, this is about how I put together my tempura prawn tacos. They were pretty impressive considering my lack of deep fryer, the tempura batter very light and crisp and the prawns succulent. I served it with a fresh slaw of carrot and red cabbage, shop tortillas, guacamole, salsa and sour cream.

This was good Saturday night eating and surprisingly easy as I was a little scared at the idea of deep frying!

Enjoy.

 

2014-04-12 21.28.46

Shopping List:

bag of frozen king prawns defrosted, about 250g (or fresh if you can get them)

flour or corn tortillas

tempura batter:

corn flour 100g

plain flour  150g

fizzy water

baking powder 10g

salsa:

bunch of coriander, chopped roughly

cherry tomatoes, very finely sliced

green chili, very finely sliced

1 lime

sour cream

guacamole:

2x avocados

1 lime

Slaw

1/4 head of red cabbage

3x carrots

creme fraiche

balsamic vinegar

1x red onions, finely sliced

2014-04-12 21.28.32

As I said, the notion of deep frying without a fryer was a little daunting so in order to feel on top of it I made sure that everything else I was serving with the prawns was prepared.

Get your frozen prawns in defrost mode (in my case, the bag in a saucepan of cold water with a large mug to keep them submerged), they should only take 20 minutes max.

First start with the slaw. I have a food processor but if you don’t then you can grate or finely slice the veg.

Process 3 carrots (don’t worry about peeling) on the grater setting. Finely chop the red cabbage and red onion and throw all this into a bowl and mix with balsamic, creme fraiche, lime juice and coriander. Season and adjust all ingredients until it tastes right and has a good consistency. You want fresh and zingy, not claggy. I also added a few drops of chipotle sauce to emphasise the Mexican influence we have here. Set the slaw aside in the fridge or in my case outside on the window sill, anything to keep it chilled.

Next peel and de-stone your avocados and place in a bowl, douse with the juice of a lime, add salt and mash away. Toss in a little of the chopped coriander. Test for seasoning and pop to the side for later.

Now for the salsa or pico de gallo. As finely as possible chop the red onion, green chill, coriander, cherry tomatoes, combine with the juice of a lime and a little salt. Set to the side.

pico de gallo

pico de gallo

 

Put your condiments out ready, i.e. chipotle sauce, sour cream and the above.

Wrap your tortillas in foil and get the oven on to warm them through, it all gets a bit quick now.

Drain the prawns, pat them dry.

Get the oil on, I used vegetable oil and filled a large pot just over a 1/4 of the way with oil. I don’t have a thermometer so I played by ear, and tested with little droplets of batter until it fried nicely. Nothing too aggressive is the key.

While your oil is heating, pop the tortillas in the oven and get the batter going.

Pour all the flours and baking powder together in a large bowl and mix. Slowly add the fizzy water to the flour mix and whisk. Add enough water until it coats your finger, so it isn’t too thick or too liquid. If its still lumpy, that is fine, after some research the key is not to over whisk.

I started by coating the prawns one by one but this grew tedious and slow so I ended throwing in all the little suckers to the tempura mix and making sure all were well coated.

Then off you go, pop them carefully into the hot oil. You will have to do this in batches depending on your pot size, remove them, again carefully, with a slotted spoon.

As I’m sure you can imagine, HOT OIL IS DANGEROUS, so please take care.

Place the finished prawns on kitchen paper or a clean towel to remove excess oil.

Get moving, we don’t want cold prawns.

Grab the tortillas from the oven, the prawns and take to the table with the awaiting goodies.

Stuff everything into a tortilla and munch.

 

2014-04-12 21.29.03

 

2014-04-12 21.28.57

Goats cheese, pumpkin and spinach lasagna

Goats cheese, pumpkin and spinach lasagna

Goats cheese, pumpkin and spinach lasagna

One of my favourite things to cook is a risotto with goats cheese, butternut squash and spinach.

Goats cheese and squash are, in my opinion, two of the best ingredients on the planet and together a match made in heaven.

Last Sunday with the typical sinking feeling of dread that tomorrow is Monday and with the shops shut, I decided to cheer myself up, raid the kitchen for goodies and see what I could put together.

With my gatherings, I decided to do a lasagna version of my favourite risotto dish.

Sweet pumpkin (instead of butternut squash), tangy goats cheese, spinach and the addition of some creamy leeks, it was a delicious veggie take on the Italian classic.

Lets hope they’d agree!

mole 917

Shopping list

1 small hokkaido pumpkin (or even a couple sweet potatoes/1 butternut squash)

bag of baby spinach

4 leeks

1 medium red onion

small tub of mascapone

parmesan

soft goats cheese

1 lemon

2x 400g canned tomatoes

dried lasagna sheets

ball of mozzerella

Firstly chop your pumpkin/squash into bite- size chunks and put on a roasting tray with olive oil and salt and roast until tender at about 200 degrees C.

mole 919

Now set about making a tomato sauce. Finely chop a couple garlic cloves and in a large saucepan, fry in some olive oil. Add the cans of tomatoes and stir. Simmer on a medium heat until reduced. Season.

mole 920

Finely slice the onion and leeks, sweat in a pan until softened and add the mascapone; goats cheese and a squeeze of lemon. Cook until eveything is well amalgamated.

mole 925

Wilt the spinach in with the leeks and take off the heat.

NOW to start the layering.

Spoon a 1/4 of the tomato sauce into a large oven-proof dish and then layer on about 4 lasagna sheets.

Spread over a portion of the leek and spinach mixture, and some of the roasted pumpkin.

Add some more tomato sauce.

Repeat the process until everything is used up, finishing with a layer of lasagna sheets, tomato sauce and the sliced mozzerella and a generous grating of parmesan.

The oven should still be on from roasting the pumpkin so cover the lasagna with foil and bake for about 20 minutes and then remove the foil and bake until golden on the top. The foil is essential, at least in my oven, which attempts to obliterate anything I place inside it.

special guest, purple cloth

special guest, purple cloth

Serve with a simple green salad or, as I did, with some very simple slices of cucumber. You need that fresh crunch to cut through this extremely rich and creamy dish.

Enjoy!

mole 931

Mole with bulgar, coconut vegetables and guacamole

Mole

Mole

It is always disappointing when going out for food you come away disgruntled and annoyed, knowing that you would have been far more satisfied had you stayed in and cooked yourself.

Paying for bad or even mediocre food hurts my feelings and I have been known to go into a dark and dreary place upon leaving an establishment with an unsatisfied tummy.  A gross exagerration and a ‘first world’ problem, I admit, but still it does suck.

Such a situation occurred last Sunday here in Berlin when a friend suggested having a late lunch at a reasonably popular Mexican restaurant in Friedrichshain, Ta’ Cabron, Taqueria.

The place seemed authentic enough with happy colours, pretty tequila bottles holding bright daisies and the inevitable stuffed pinata hanging from the ceiling. The service was just fine.

We ordered a selection of tacos which included blood sausage, a spicy pulled pork with some sharp pickled red onions, and chicken with mole sauce.

I must say now that the food was not too bad on the whole, it just seemed to be lacking a little something, a little love. The mainly upsetting thing was the Mole taco, which was horrendous.

 

Mole?

Mole?

As a lover of Mexican food I have heard about mole, and I have heard only good things, ‘A rich, deep sauce flavoured with pepper and spices.’ The mole and chicken I received at ‘Ta’Cabron, is not what I expected from one of Mexico’s best loved sauces.

Evidently from the colour this mole was made with the addition of cocoa and spices, however it tasted how I would imagine pouring the oldest and mustiest of your spices from the forgotten depths of your larder into a pan then adding cocoa, water and pouring over chicken.

Not good.

Anyway this post was not so much a restaurant review as a blog on how I interpreted mole,  convinced that Ta’Cabron had given mole an injustice, I went about doing it myself.

With a little internet research and advice from my wonderful American flatmate, I salvaged the Mole.

Using kidney beans, cocoa, cumin, paprika and garlic, a rich and luxuriously deep sauce emerged to coat the beans. I served it with bulgar wheat, guacamole, some courgettes and mushrooms cooked in coconut oil and a little natural yogurt. Another little touch were some quick pickled red onions, sprinkled over adding a wonderful tangy sharpness to this intense sauce.

Beautiful, healthy and quick, another perfect dish for the Meatless Mondays that everyone keeps going on about.

Holy Mole.

Shopping list

serves 2

1x 400g can of red kidney beans

real cocoa (not drinking chocolate!)

cumin

sweet paprika

1 clove of garlic

bulgar wheat

1 courgette

6 mushrooms

1 red chilli

6 cherry tomatoes

1 avocado

coriander

lime

natural yogurt

1 red onion

Good herb vinegar

get chopping

get chopping

Firstly to make the pickled onions, finely slice the red onions and put into a small bowl. Douse them with the vinegar until completely covered and set aside. The longer they sit in the vinegar the better so simply drain once everything else is ready.

mole 1054

Finely chop the garlic and fry in a medium saucepan.

Add a teaspoon of cumin and paprika and a tablespoon of cocoa powder and fry off for a couple of minutes.

Now add all the contents of the beans, including the beany liquid, no need to drain,

Stir and fill up the bean can with water and add to the pot.

scary

scary

Stir and cook until the liquid has reduced.

Season.

Meanwhile cook your bulgar wheat according to instuctions on the packet.

Chop your courgette and mushrooms fairly small and finely chop the chili.

In another pan add a tablespoon of coconut oil/butter and fry off the vegetables and chili.

To make the guacamole, scoop out the avocado into a bowl, add juice of the lime, quartered cherry tomatoes, a little salt and roughly mash. Add a liberal amount of fresh coriander.

 

guacamole

guacamole

 

The beans should be reduced and ready. Add the coconut veggies to the bulgar wheat and mix, leaving a little extra to tumble on top.

 

mole 1065

 

Serve in separate bowls and bring to the table with the yogurt, pickled red onions and extra coriander so everyone can dig in.

Enjoy!

dig in

dig in

 

Ta’Cabron, Wühlischstraße 12, Ecke Gryphiusstraße, 10245 Berlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aubergine stuffed with butter beans

dinner for one

dinner for one

Home alone last Friday night, (on a Friday I tell you!), I wanted to make myself something both yummy and healthy as I had the good intentions of going to the gym the following morning.

The gym on a Saturday morning is not a past time I often partake in but I was adamant this weekend it would be so.

This translates as no wine and no heavy cream for Sam.

So ‘yummy and healthy’ resulted in my scooping out the insides of a well roasted aubergine and mixing the creamy flesh with onions, butter beans, tomato and chili. Topped with a ‘healthy’ portion, (i.e. small), of feta cheese, it ticked all the boxes.

Interesting and tasty enough for a Friday night dinner, (eaten alone, poor me) yet wholesome. I served it with a simple well dressed green salad.

The butter bean filling would also be delicious served on its’ own as a stew with some bread.

Butter beans are gutsy and the feta punchy, so this dish would make for a great ‘meatfree monday’ meal.

Gotta keep with the trends.

Enjoy.

Shopping list (serves 1-2)

1 aubergine

1 400g can butter beans

passata

1 red chili

1 red onion

feta cheese

Cut the aubergine length-ways in half and coat liberally with olive oil.

Roast for about 30 minutes at 200 degrees. My oven tends to obliterate things so check on your aubergine as you may need longer/less time etc.

roasted, not burnt. promise

roasted, not burnt. promise

Once roasted pull out of the oven and carefully scoop out the insides. Take care to keep the skin intact as you need to refill it and you don’t want any holes.

scoop

scoop

Put your aubergine to the side.

Roughly chop your onion, chili and fry over a medium heat until softened.

Pour in the drained butter beans and the aubergine and cook for 5 minutes.

Next pour in a little passata, just enough to coat everything and give a hint of tomato.

aubergine 013

Season.

After 5 minutes or so, take a potato masher and roughly mash the beans and aubergine mixture.

Its nice to have a few beans still whole within the mash so you don’t have to go crazy here, just enough to give a creamy texture to the beans.

Stir in a little crumbled feta cheese.

Now refill your aubergine skins with the bean mash.

well stuffed

well stuffed

Crumble a little more feta on top and pop back into the oven until the feta has slightly melted and become golden.

aubergine 028

Serve with a fresh green salad.

P.s. I actually made it to the gym, all hail the aubergine.