Sunday, August 2, 2020

Summer Lasagne with Spinach & Ricotta


It’s August, a wonderful month to cook summer lasagne with all sorts of seasonal vegetables. There are so many vegetables that can be added to a lasagne including zucchini (courgettes), summer squash, eggplants (aubergines) and mushrooms. As spinach and ricotta is such a winning combination, why not put a twist on the classic lasagne and create my vegetarian version with alternating layers of a creamy spinach and ricotta filling, a bold tomato sauce and lots of grated mozzarella for that extra deliciousness.

Whenever I serve lasagne, I make sure to serve fresh bread alongside to mop up any sauce and most of the times I also prepare a mixed green salad alongside or a variety of herb and citrus marinated olives and caper berries. And just before serving, I always add freshly picked basil leaves from the garden on top of the warm lasagne - love the way that smells when I bring the lasagne to the table. And when I have fresh arugula (rocket), I make sure to fry a bunch in olive oil, drain them well and season them lightly with sea salt - the pretty green curled-up leaves will add brightness, delightful bitterness and crunch to the dish.




Spinach & Ricotta Lasagne 

Ingredients
  • 800g spinach (I recommend fresh baby or young spinach leaves), washed well, stems removed
  • 4 spring onions, washed, dried, sliced thinly (you can substitute 2 diced onions here)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed (you can omit the garlic if you prefer)
  • freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, a few peperoncini flakes
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 x 400g cans of quality Italian plum tomatoes
  • ½ a bunch of fresh basil (or more to taste)
  • 2 x 250g ricotta cheese (you can also use homemade ricotta if you prefer)
  • 200ml cooking cream 
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 50 g)
  • grated zest of 1 organic lemon
  • fresh lasagne sheets (use fresh homemade pasta sheets or good-quality storebought ones)
  • 2 x 200g grated mozzarella (you can use low ft mozzarella if you prefer)

Preparation
  1. Place the spinach in a large pot of boling water and blanch very briefly (about 1 minute) until the spinach has just wilted. Drain into a colander and set aside to cool a little while you prepare the tomato sauce.
  2. For the tomato sauce heat a drizzle of olive oil and gently sweat two thinly sliced spring onions (or 1 diced onion), 2 cloves of crushed garlic (if using) and peperoncini until soft (this will take just a few minutes).
  3. Cut the tomatoes in their cans before adding them to the onion mixture, add a few basil leaves with their stems (make sure to remove the stems after cooking and before assembling the lasagne) and then let it gently simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Now squeeze the moisture out of the spinach, place the spinach on a board so you can chop it up. 
  5. Heat a drizzle of olive oil and gently sweat the remaining two sliced spring onions (or 1 diced onion) and 2 cloves of crushed garlic (if using) until soft. Turn off the heat then stir the ricotta, cooking cream, grated Parmesan and the grated lemon zest into the spinach. Season to taste.
  6. In the meantime preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
  7. Now spoon some tomato sauce over the base of a large baking dish (mine measures 24cm x 30cm/9.5in x 12in) then cover with slightly overlapping lasagne sheets. Pour over a third of the ricotta-spinach mixture, then dot with some tomato sauce and sprinkle over some of the grated mozzarella. Cover with another layer of lasagne sheets and repeat. Finish with a layer of lasagne sheets topped with tomato sauce and some more mozzarella, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.
  8. Place in the oven and cook for 30 to 35 minutes or till the top is golden and the pasta tender (if the top browns too fast, cover the dish with foil).
  9. Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes (I recommend about 15 minutes) before serving with the remaining basil leaves or olive oil-fried arugula (rocket).




If you like to plan ahead or prepare your lunch/dinner ahead of time, the lasagne can be assembled up to a day ahead. Cool, cover and keep chilled. Or you can freeze it, well wrapped, for up to 3 months and you can then cook from frozen until the lasagne is golden on top and piping hot throughout (a large dish will take around one hour).

Also, if you prefer to use fresh summer tomatoes instead of canned, feel free to do so - make an X on the bottom of your tomatoes, place them into a pot of boiling water for no more than a minute. Carefully take them out using a slotted spoon, plunge them into a bowl of cold water (or an ice bath), lift them out and peel back the skin with a knife and chop. 

Actually, you can also make the lasagne sheets from scratch and the ricotta that you use can also be homemade if you prefer but if time is of the essence or the kitchen is rather warm during the summer months, this lasagne will taste just as wonderful if you chose to use lovingly selected, good-quality ingredients and not make everything from scratch.




Enjoy August cooking as much as possible with the best vegetables the season has to offer. If you can, serve your lasagne for an alfresco lunch in the garden. 

For more inspiration with respect to your summertime cooking, you can also visit my instagram account or my facebook page and take a look around there. There are quite a few culinary delights that can be discovered there, such as my Sweet Potato Hummus with spicy Chickpeas, grilled Carrots and baked Tortilla Chips or my Cherry Tomato and Goat's Cheese Tart, to name but a few.




Unfortunately, I do not always find the time to post the entire recipes for all those dishes that I make during the week but I do make a point of posting lots of pics and tips on my insta and fb sites. If you happen to have a question with respect to any recipe, I encourage you to contact me and I will get back to you asap.




Sunday, July 19, 2020

St Margaret's Cake for St Margaret's Feast Day - Margaretenkuchen zum Margaretentag


Margaret (aka Margherita, Marina, Margaritha or Marine), known as Margaret of Antioch in the West (feast day July 20) and as Saint Marina in the East  (feast day July 17), was a virgin martyr and one of the 14 Holy Helpers, a group of saints (Vierzehn Nothelfer). She was also one of the most venerated saints during the Middle Ages.




It is said that her father named Aedesius was a pagan priest in Antioch of Pisidia, (modern Turkey). Her mother died when Margaret was an infant, and the girl was raised by a Christian woman. Margaret’s father disowned her, her nurse adopted her, and Margaret converted, consecrating herself and her virginity to God.




According to one legend, during the reign (284–305) of the Roman emperor Diocletian, a Roman prefect by the name of Olybrius saw the beautiful young Margaret as she was tending sheep, and asked her to marry him. When she refused, the official denounced her as a outlaw Christian, and she was brought to trial. When she refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods, the authorities tried to burn her, then boil her in a large cauldron but each time her prayers kept her unharmed. She was finally martyred by beheading. According to another legend it was her father who renounced her to Olybrius and her destiny took a similar route.

Part of her story involves her meeting the devil in the form of a dragon, being swallowed by the dragon, and then escaping safely when the cross she carried irritated the dragon‘s innards; this accounts for this virgin’s association with pregnancy, labor, and childbirth and her emblem, a dragon. She was one of the saints who appeared to Saint Joan of Arc (Jeanne d‘ Arc).





There are many well-known personalities and churches who were named after her. Too many to list them all, but I would like to point out a few. There was Saint Margaret of Scotland (1045- 1093) an English princess and a Scottish Queen who was cannonized in 1250 for her charitable work . Or Margaret I ( 1353-1412) the queen who founded the Kalmar Union of the Kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, spanning Scandinavia for over a century. And Margaret II, the current Queen of Denmark. There are hundreds of churches around the globe named after St Margaret, one that many of you might know is St Margaret's Church between Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament in London, UK.

And, of course, closer to (my) home, Margarete is a German feminine given name. It is derived from Ancient Greek 'margarites', meaning 'the pearl', via the Latin 'Margarita', it arrived in the German Sprachraum and related names include Gretchen (Faust) and Gretel (Hänsel und Gretel), to name just two. And then my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my daughter carried and carry that beautiful name as well.




The cake in honor of St Margaret was devised at the Master School for Bakers and Confectioners (Kölner Meisterschule für Konditoren) in the City of Cologne (Germany). The cake is in the shape of a marguerite flower. After baking it can either be left unadorned, simply dusted with powdered sugar, or glazed with apricot jam and then finished with a simple sugar glaze or even decorated with marzipan of fondant 'petals'. Because the cake mold is so pretty, I much prefer the plain look. Due the finely grated marzipan in the batter, the cakes is moist and has the most wonderful almond flavor.

If you are interested in my 'carrot cake version' of the St Margaret's Cake pictured below, just take a look at the recipe HERE. The Gâteau aux Carottes (Carrot Cake) was inspired by a recipe from Pierre Hermé, the famous French pastry chef and chocolatier.




St Margaret’s Cake
(either use a special cake mold in the shape of a marguerite flower ø 26 cm/10 in, or use a springform pan)

Ingredients

For the Cake
  • 250g unsalted butter (plus some for the mold), room temperature
  • 100g finely grated marzipan (suitable for baking)
  • 140g superfine (caster) sugar
  • 6 egg yolks (M), organic or free range
  • finely grated zest form 1 lemon (organic and/or un-treated)
  • scraped seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 6 egg whites (M), organic or free range
  • 1 pinch of fine sea salt
  • 120g plain (AP) flour, plus some for the mold
  • 80g corn starch

For the Glaze (optional)
  • 100g apricot jam
  • 8 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp freshly queezed lemon juice

Preparation
  1. Butter and flour your mold. Set aside.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 190° C (375°F).
  3. In the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter, marzipan and 1/3 of the sugar, beat until light and foamy. Gradually add one egg yolk at a time and beat each until well incorporated into the butter mixture, then add the lemon zest and the vanilla. Beat again.
  4. In another bowl beat the egg whites together with the salt until foamy, then gradually add the reamaing 2/3 of the sugar and continue ot beat until stiff peaks form.
  5. Sift together the flour with the corn starch.
  6. Now add the beaten egg whites alternating with the flour mixture to the butter mixtuer, taking care to gently fold them in, do not stir.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared mold.
  8. Bake the cake for about 50 to 60 minutes, covering the cake during the last 15 minutes if it gets too dark.
  9. Take the cake out of the oven, place on a cooling rack and let it rest for a few minutes, then turn it out onto the rack.
  10. In the meantime heat the apricot jam with 2 tbsp water, strain (if necessary) and glaze the cake, let dry for about 30 minutes.
  11. For the sugar glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar with the lemon juice and glaze the cake, let dry again and serve.




Margaretenkuchen
(für Margaretenkuchenform oder Springform ø 26 cm; wird traditionell zum Margaretentag am 20. Juli gebacken)

Zutaten

Für den Teig
  • 250g Butter (etwas extra für die Form)
  • 100g Marzipan-Rohmasse, fein gerieben
  • 140g feinster Zucker
  • 6 Eigelb (M), Bio-oder Freilandlandhaltung
  • Abrieb von 1 Bio-Zitrone
  • Mark einer halben Vanilleschote
  • 6 Eiweiß (M), Bio-oder Freilandhaltung
  • 1 Prise feines Salz
  • 120g Weizenmehl Type 405 (etwas extra für die Form)
  • 80g Speisestärke

Für die Glasur (optional)
  • 100g Aprikosenmarmelade
  • 8 EL Puderzucker
  • 1 EL Zitronensaft

Zubereitung
  1. Eine Margaretenkuchenform oder eine Springform mit Butter ausstreichen und dünn mit Mehl ausstreuen.
  2. Den Backofen auf 190° C Ober-Unterhitze oder 175-180° C Umluft vorheizen.
  3. Die Butter mit der Marzipan-Rohmasse und einem Drittel des Zuckers schaumig rühren, nach und nach die Eigelbe, den Zitronenabrieb und die Vanille dazugeben.
  4. Die Eiweiße mit der Prise Salz schaumig aufschlagen, den restlichen Zucker einrieseln lassen und dann steif schlagen.
  5. Das Mehl mit der Speisestärke sieben.
  6. Den Eischnee abwechselnd mit der Mehlmischung unter die Butter-Marzipan-Masse heben.
  7. Die Teig in die vorbereitete Backform füllen und die Oberfläche glatt streichen.
  8. Den Kuchen auf der 2. Schiene von unten 50 bis 60 Minuten backen, eventuell in den letzten 15 Minuten abdecken.
  9. Nach dem Backen auf ein Kuchengitter stürzen, etwas abkühlen lassen und dann für den Guss die Aprikosenmarmelade mit 2 EL Wasser erwärmen, event. durch ein Sieb passieren und den Kuchen damit dünn bestreichen (aprikotieren), 30 Minuten trocknen lassen.
  10. Für den Guss den Puderzucker mit dem Zitronensaft verrühren und den Kuchen damit anschließend glasieren, austrocknen lassen und servieren.





Please note that this blog post is part of my series for a local radio station, where, throughout the years, I present festive bakes that are closely tied to various holidays and seasons. If you are interested, have a LOOK & LISTEN (in German) HERE.

The various recipes of my series can be found here:
  • in January, for Three Kings Day (Dreikönigstag) two kinds of Galette des Rois (Dreikönigskuchen) (HERE)
  • for Lent (Fastenzeit) Lenten Soup with Lenten Beugel (Fastenbeugel) (HERE)
  • for Good Friday (Karfreitag) the delicious Hot Cross Buns (HERE)
  • for Pentecost /Whitsun (Pfingsten) the fun Allgäu Bread Birds (Allgäuer Brotvögel) (HERE)
  • for the beginning of the summer vacation, the lovely Sacristains (Almond & Sugar Puff Pastry Sticks) (HERE)
  • for St Christopher's Day (St Christophorus), the energy-packed Müsli Power Bars (Müsli Energieriegel) (HERE)
  • for Mary's Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt) my Tear & Share Herb Bread (Kräuterbrot) (HERE)
  • for Mary’s Birthday (Mariä Geburt) some very pretty Mary’s Sweet Rolls (Süße Marienküchlein) (HERE)
  • for Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) a delicious and seasonal Thanksgiving Apple Tart with Frangipane (Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme) (HERE)
  • for Halloween a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake (Kürbis-Gewürzkuchen)
  • for St Martin's Day (Martinsfest) the cheerful Sweet Dough Men (Weckmänner) (HERE)
  • for St Andrew's Day (Andreastag) a classic Petticoat Tails Shortbread (HERE)
  • for Christmas Day (Weihnachten) these Traditional German Gingerbread (Elisenlebkuchen) (HERE
  • for New Year's Eve New Year's Eve Pretzel (Neujahrsbretzel)
  • for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE)
  • for Carnival Season (Karneval) these lovely Carnival Doughnuts (Karnevals-Krapfen) (HERE
  • for St Patrick's Day a traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread (Irisches Sodabrot)(HERE
  • for St Joseph's Day a long-forgotten but thankfully re-discovered Sweet Cotton Bread (Baumwollbrot)(HERE
  • for Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) these very pretty Palm Pretzels (Palmbrezel) (HERE)
  • for Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) an Easter Brunch at Home with Tarte Flambée (Flammkuchen) (HERE)
  • for the Month of May (Marienmonat Mai) these elegant Visitandines de Nancy (HERE
  • for Pentecost/Whitsun (Pfingsten) festive Beignets (Heiliggeistkrapfen) (HERE
  • for St John's Day (Johannistag) these sweet St John Cakelettes (Johannisküchlein) (HERE)
  • for St Margaret’s Feast Day (Margaretentag)the delightful teacake called St Margaret’s Cake (Margaretenkuchen) (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.



Thursday, July 16, 2020

Oven-Roasted Tomato Soup with Basil & Chickpeas - Ofen-Tomatensuppe mit Basilikum & Kichererbsen


This subtly spiced Oven-Roasted Tomato Soup recipe is at its most delicious made in summertime when tomatoes are at their best. To further intensify the flavor of the soup, it is a good idea to take the time to roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet together with red onions, garlic and thyme before cooking the tomatoes further with some stock. That way, you get all the ingredients cooked down and caramelized before you simmer them with your stock and then purée them.






As far as the stock is concerned, either go vegetarian and use a vegetable stock or use chicken stock here. If you can, use a homemade one or chose a good quality storebought stock. If you use homemade, you might have to add a bit more salt in the end as homemade stocks tend to be less salty than the ones you buy ready made.




It is also worth noting that adding roasted red onions will add a very nice touch of sweetness here while the chili flakes add a bit of brightness and punch. If you do not want to add garlic to your soup and/or out of red onions, you can go with a bunch of shallots instead.

Personally, I think the soup tastes just like summer in a bowl. Although at this time of year some of use would rather not consider soup to be a summer food but rather eye salads and foods that are generally consumed cold, I believe that no matter the season, soups always makes us feel good - and this soup in particular celebrates the glorious tastes of summer - fresh sweet tomatoes and red onions, glorious fresh herbs from the garden to add color and even more flavor and oven-roasted, slightly spicy chickpeas to add a crunchy texture. Bliss.





Oven-Roasted Tomato Soup

Ingredients for the Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
  • 10 to 12 ripe plum (or use regular) tomatoes, washed, cored and halved widthways – if you use regular tomatoes, they will excude more liquid while roasting, making the soup a bit less concentrated
  • 2 red onions, peeled, sliced NOTE: keep the red onion skins
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed NOTE: if you chose to skip the garlic, substitute a few shallots for the garlic and red onions OR just omit the garlic altogether
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper and some chili flakes (optional)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (suitable for cooking)

* red onion skins: keep them and make my Grissini (Italian Breadsticks) with Red Onion Skins (HERE) OR my Quiche with Onion Skins in the Crust (HERE)

For the Soup
  • 1 liter (or less) chicken or vegetable stock (depending on the tomatoes and how thin or thick you like your soup), preferably homemade - as a general rule, the roasted veg should be covered with stock before you continue with the recipe and boil the soup
To Serve

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh basil leaves
  • warm oven-roasted chickpeas
Preparation
  1. For the oven-roasted tomatoes, preheat your oven to 220°C (450°F) degrees.
  2. In a large bowl toss together the prepared tomatoes, red onions, garlic, chili flakes (if using) and olive oil. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Then arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (roasting tray), arrange the thyme sprigs amongst the veggies and bake until most tomatoes and onions are wrinkled and brown in spots, about 35 to 40 minutes. NOTE: it does not matter if the baking sheet is crowded.
  4. Lift the baking sheet from your oven, rest on a cooling rack and remove the thyme sprigs.
  5. Carefully transfer the cooked vegetables including all the pan juices to a large dutch oven or heavy pot.
  6. Add stock (homemade if you have some) and bring to a rapid boil. Then turn down the heat and continue to cook, uncovered, until slightly reduced and the tomatoes are really soft, about 25 minutes.
  7. Purée until smooth – I like to use an immersion blender here - (use caution when blending hot liquids).
  8. Season with salt and pepper and if necessary thin with additional stock.
  9. To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls.
  10. Top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil leaves (different colored ones are nice) and some warm oven-roasted chickpeas (recipe follows).




Oven-Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients
  • 1 or 2 cans of chickpeas
  • olive oil (suitable for cooking)
  • fine sea salt 
  • after 30 minutes of roasting, add some sweet or hot smoked Spanish paprika to taste, mix well and roast for a further 5 to 10 minutes (optional)

Preparation
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 225°C (400° F) with the rack positioned in the middle.
  2. Drain the chickpeas from the can, rinse in a colander and pat the chickpeas dry or place the chickpeas in your salad spinner, lined with a kitchen towel, then spin and remove any white outer layers as chickpeas will take on more color in the oven without them. OR leave the chickpeas to air-dry on the towel for a few minutes, just to make sure they are totally dry.
  3. Transfer the chickpeas to a baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and toss well to combine. 
  4. Bake the chickpeas, shaking the pan once or twice, for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are dry to the touch
  5. If you would like to dress the chickpeas, you want to be careful with delicate spices. If it is a spice that needs toasting like Spanish smoked paprika, chili or curry powder, cumin, coriander or turmeric, make sure to add it towards the end (for the last 5 to 10 minutes). If it is something that you would sprinkle on your food straight from a jar like za‘atar or dukkah or fresh herbs from the garden (like rosmary or thyme) or freshly grated zest from an orange or lemon, mix that with the chickpeas once they have emerged from the oven but are still warm. That will help it stick.
  6. Let the chickpeas cool on the baking sheet, then transfer them to a container with the top ajar and keep them at room temperature, that way, they will retain their cripsyness throughout the day. NOTE: if you have leftover chickpeas, you can snack on them by the handful, or scatter them on salads or roasted vegetables or creamy dips, or mix them into pasta at the last minute.




This velvety soup makes for a simple and elegant meal. Enjoy as is, make ahead, freeze some or chill it and serve it cold – and if you feel up to it, make some Oven-Roasted Chickpeas to serve and top and alongside.



Tuesday, June 23, 2020

St John Cakelettes for St John's Day - Johannisküchlein zum Johannistag


When the sun sets on 23 June, it's St John’s Eve also known as St John’s Night (Johannisnacht) and thus the eve of celebration before the Feast Day of St John the Baptist (Sankt Johannes der Täufer). In medieval times the feast of St John was one of the most important festivals of the year. Midsummer celebrations pre-dated Christianity all over Europe, it’s the time when the day is longest and night is shortest. And to this day, there are elements of pre-Christian nature worship, of the midsummer festival, and of summer solstice celebrations (Sommersonnenwende) interwoven with the festivities around St John.





In Germany, too, the summer solstice is celebrated. As in the Scandinavian countries, huge bonfires are lit on St John’s Eve (Johannesfeuer), around which people dance, often going along with a ritual, that young people had to jump over the fire. The custom dates back to the 12th century. It was thought that the summer solstice was a time when spirits roamed freely, so bonfires were lit to ward off and protect from the evil spirits that cause illness and harm livestock, and to avert bad weather.

In some areas straw dolls are thrown into the fire and certain regions still uphold the custom of a woven wreath or crown of twigs and leaves decorated with flowers and ribbons (Johanniskrone). In earlier times, the wreath was hung up on the village green and danced around every night until the greenery died. The circular shape of the wreaths suggested both the sun and the cyclical nature of the seasons, again going back to old Pagan beliefs.





Always celebrated on June 24th, St John's Day celebrates the birthday of St John the Baptist. Usually, a saint's feast day is celebrated on the day that the saint died. St John along with the Virgin Mary are the only two saints whose birthdays are celebrated. According to St Luke’s Gospel, John was six months older than Jesus, this allowed the church year to assimilate the far older customs associated with the summer solstice on 21 June and the winter solstice on 25 December. It is still celebrated as a religious feast day in several countries, such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Germany and it is also celebrated in Québec as the Fête Nationale du Québec.

To farmers, this is also a turning of the growing season tide. After the solstice, the days will gradually become shorter. Therefore, some farmers would spread the ashes from the fires over the fields in hopes of more bountiful crops.

And around here, St John's Day marks the end of the asparagus and rhubarb season as well as the beginning of the sweet cherry season.





Collecting medicinal herbs or plants held to have magical properties was also customary on St Johns Eve. The flowers represented the fertility of the earth, just as the fires stood for the sun. The flowers associated with the feast of St John include fennel (Fenchel), rue (Weinraute), rosemary (Rosmarin), lemon verbena (Zitronenverbene), mallows (Malven), laburnum (Goldregen), foxgloves (Fingerhüte) and elder flowers (Holunder). It was especially important to gather the perennial herb St John’s Wort (Johanniskraut) - named after the saint - with those small, star-shaped yellow flowers. Since medieval times, this herb has been hung over doors, windows and icons to keep witches and evil spirits away, and was once known as ‘chase-devil’.

Yarrow (gemeine Schafgarbe) has been used since ancient times for healing wounds, and its essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties, it was also used as a ward against evil, and traditionally it was burned on the eve of St John’s Day. Bracken (Adlerfarne) was also collected as its minute spores were reputed to confer invisibility on their possessor if gathered at the only time when they were said to be visible, i.e., on St John’s Eve at the precise moment at which the saint was born.





This day is representative of so many things that most people can find a reason to partake in the local traditions. As far as the Christian faith is concerned, John the Baptist is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River. Most scholars agree that John baptized Jesus by wading into the water with Jesus from the eastern bank of the river. John is probably best known for foretelling of the Messiah, which in the New Testament predicted the coming of Jesus.

According to the Gospel of Mark, John is imprisoned by Herod for denouncing Herod's incestuous marriage. John condemned Herod for marrying Herodias (his niece) in violation of Old Testament Law. After Herodias's daughter Salome has danced before Herod, he grants her a favor. Herodias tells her to ask for the head of John the Baptist, which is delivered to her on a plate.





This lovely recipe is meant to celebrate St John’s feast day in a sweet way. You can ask your kids to help you with this recipe. Maybe they could peel the eggs for you, or scrape the eggs through the sieve, knead the dough, cut out the dough rounds and place them on the baking sheets. The recipe is quite easy and the results are sweet.




St John’s Cakelettes
(these small cakes are traditionally baked for St John’s feast day on June 24th – the recipe yields between 15 to 20 cakelettes)

Ingredients
  • 250g white spelt flour (you can substitute AP/plain flour here), plus some for the work surface
  • 125g, unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 50g raw cane sugar (OR natural light brown sugar)
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar (OR use vanilla extract)
  • 5 eggs (M), hard-boiled, cooled, peeled, forced through a sieve
  • 1 pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • eggwash (1 egg yolk mixed with a bit of cold water or milk)

For Serving
  • Red and black currant jelly or jam (preferably homemade)

Preparation
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170°C (335°F).
  2. Mix all the ingredients together until you have an elastic dough.
  3. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1cm (0.4in).
  4. Using a round shape cookie cutter or a glass (about 3 in Ø), cut out about 15 to 20 cookies and place them on parchment lined baking sheets. Gather any dough scraps and re-roll them. Since the cakelettes do not expand much, you can place them realtively close together.
  5. Brush each cakelette with some egg wash.
  6. Bake each batch about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.
  7. Transfer to a cooling rack.
  8. Liberally spread red and/or black currant jelly or jam on each cakelette and serve.




Johannisküchlein
(werden traditionell zum Mittsommertag bzw. Johannisfest am 24. Juni gebacken, ergibt ca. 15 bis 20 Stück, je nach Größe des Ausstechers)

Zutaten
  • 250g Dinkelmehl (Type 630), plus etwas Mehl für die Arbeitsfläche
  • 125g Butter, Zimmertemperatur
  • 50g Rohrohrzucker
  • 8g Bourbon Vanillezucker
  • 5 Eier (M), hart gekocht, abgekühlt und dann durch ein feines Sieb gestrichen
  • 1 Prise feines Salz
  • ein TL Zitronensaft, frisch gepresst
  • Eistreiche (eine Eigelb, vermischt mit etwas Wasser oder Milch)

Zum Servieren
  • roten und schwarzen Johannisbeergelee oder Johannisbeermarmelade

Zubereitung
  1. Den Ofen auf 170°C (150°C Heißluft vorheizen).
  2. Alle Zutaten zu einem homogenen Teig verarbeiten.
  3. Den Teig mit einem Nudelholz auf einer mehlierten Arbeitsfläche 1 cm dick ausrollen.
  4. Entweder mit einem Keksausstecher oder einem Glas (7 bis 8 cm Ø) runde Küchlein ausstechen.
  5. Teigreste wieder zusammenkneten und neu ausrollen.
  6. Die Küchlein auf zwei mit Backpapier ausgelegte Backbleche geben. Da die Küchlein nicht viel aufgehen, kann man sie ruhig mit relativ wenig Abstand auf das Backblech legen.
  7. Dünn mit Eistreiche bepinseln.
  8. Dann die Bleche nacheinander im Ofen bei 170 °C (150 °C Heißluft) goldgelb backen. Das dauert ca. 15 bis 20 Minuten.
  9. Auf einem Kuchenrost abkühlen lassen.
  10. Dann wahlweise mit rotem und/oder schwarzem Johannisbeergelee odeer Marmelade bestreichen und am besten noch am selben Tage servieren.




Please note that this blog post is part of my series for a local radio station, where, throughout the years, I present festive bakes that are closely tied to various holidays and seasons. If you are interested, have a LOOK & LISTEN (in German) HERE.

The various recipes of my series can be found here:
  • in January, for Three Kings Day (Dreikönigstag) two kinds of Galette des Rois (Dreikönigskuchen) (HERE)
  • for Lent (Fastenzeit) Lenten Soup with Lenten Beugel (Fastenbeugel) (HERE)
  • for Good Friday (Karfreitag) the delicious Hot Cross Buns (HERE)
  • for Pentecost /Whitsun (Pfingsten) the fun Allgäu Bread Birds (Allgäuer Brotvögel) (HERE)
  • for the beginning of the summer vacation, the lovely Sacristains (Almond & Sugar Puff Pastry Sticks) (HERE)
  • for St Christopher's Day (St Christophorus), the energy-packed Müsli Power Bars (Müsli Energieriegel) (HERE)
  • for Mary's Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt) my Tear & Share Herb Bread (Kräuterbrot) (HERE)
  • for Mary’s Birthday (Mariä Geburt) some very pretty Mary’s Sweet Rolls (Süße Marienküchlein) (HERE)
  • for Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) a delicious and seasonal Thanksgiving Apple Tart with Frangipane (Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme) (HERE)
  • for Halloween a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake (Kürbis-Gewürzkuchen)
  • for St Martin's Day (Martinsfest) the cheerful Sweet Dough Men (Weckmänner) (HERE)
  • for St Andrew's Day (Andreastag) a classic Petticoat Tails Shortbread (HERE)
  • for Christmas Day (Weihnachten) these Traditional German Gingerbread (Elisenlebkuchen) (HERE
  • for New Year's Eve New Year's Eve Pretzel (Neujahrsbretzel)
  • for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE)
  • for Carnival Season (Karneval) these lovely Carnival Doughnuts (Karnevals-Krapfen) (HERE
  • for St Patrick's Day a traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread (Irisches Sodabrot)(HERE
  • for St Joseph's Day a long-forgotten but thankfully re-discovered Sweet Cotton Bread (Baumwollbrot)(HERE
  • for Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) these very pretty Palm Pretzels (Palmbrezel) (HERE)
  • for Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) an Easter Brunch at Home with Tarte Flambée (Flammkuchen) (HERE)
  • for the Month of May (Marienmonat Mai) these elegant Visitandines de Nancy (HERE
  • for Pentecost/Whitsun (Pfingsten) festive Beignets (Heiliggeistkrapfen) (HERE
  • for St John's Day (Johannistag) these sweet St John Cakelettes (Johannisküchlein) (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.










Friday, June 19, 2020

Red Rhubarb & Wild Strawberry Tart l Rote Rhabarbertarte mit Walderdbeeren


This tart is meant to celebrate the humble rhubarb and the delectable wild strawberry (aka the wood strawberry) that happily grows in our garden. The tart has a buttery crust and a custardy filling with plenty of summery flavors.




Serve it for tea or, as I often do, for breakfast, rhubarb is a vegetable, after all. The rhubarb stalks can be used raw, when they have a crisp texture - one of my fondest childhood food memories involves eating a stalk of fresh rhubarb that we picked in my grandmother's garden and dipped in white sugar - but stalks of rhubarb are most commonly cooked with sugar and used in pies, crumbles and other desserts. Or, if you prefer your food to be on the savory side, use rhubarb to make a chutney, or a BBQ sauce, salad dressing or ketchup. Cooked or raw, rhubarb stalks have a strong, tart taste. But if you can, choose the brightest red stalks that you can find over the green ones, as the red ones tend to be a bit sweeter and have a more complex flavor - some people around here call the red stalks 'strawberry rhubarb' (Erdbeer-Rhabarber) because of the vivid color and relative sweet taste.

When I make this tart, I always add a few tiny yet amazingly flavorful wild strawberries but if they are not in season while the rhubarb already is, I go with all rhubarb. Not so much that the strawberries are a dominant flavor, but they add a little extra something to this tart. Plus they are very pretty in a cake.




Around here, the growing season for rhubarb officially ends next week, on June 24th to be exact, so it is high time to be baking this tart. Before that date, the plant has lower levels of oxalic acid and less sourness and the stalks tend to be less coarse.

Remember to wash and trim the rhubarb stems before you intend to use them and make sure to discard the leaves as they are poisonous. If you cook with outdoor-grown rhubarb, remove any stringy outer layers. And, as a general rule, you should cut it into equal-sized pieces to ensure even cooking.




This is also a great tart to make ahead of time, it tastes just as good the day after making. If you wanted to serve it with whipped cream or a good vanilla ice cream, by all means do so, but I think it is fine as is, maybe with just a slight dusting of powdered sugar.




Whether you take the time to make a geometric pattern or simply scatter your stalks, it’s your choice, any way you bake it, this tart is easy and utterly delicious.




Rhubarb and Wild Strawberry Tart

Ingredients

For the Pastry
  • 225g plain (AP) flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 25g ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 140g cold butter, unsalted, cubed
  • 1 egg yolk (L), organic or free range
  • 1 to 2 tbsps cold water
For the Filling
  • 50g pistachios, unsalted, ground
  • 500g red rhubarb, trimmed and peeled
  • a small handful of wild strawberris (you can omit these and substitute with regular small strawberries or more rhubarb)
  • 2 eggs (M), organic of free range
  • 125ml milk (I like to use 3.5%)
  • 125ml cooking cream (or use all milk, for a 250ml total)
  • 2 tbsps superfine (caster) sugar
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar (or use 1 tbsp vanilla extract)
  • a pinch of fine sea salt

Preparation
  1. To make the pastry, put the flour, almonds, icing sugar and butter in a food processor.
  2. Blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. While the motor is running, add the egg yolk and dribble in 1 to 2 tbsp cold water.
  3. Tip onto your lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to bring the mixture together to form a dough.
  4. Wrap in kitchne wrap and chill for about 30 to 60 minutes.
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 190°C.
  6. Remove the pastry from the fridge. If it is a little hard, leave it at room temperature to soften for 10 mins or so.
  7. Roll out to on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 23cm fluted tart pan. Cut a round of baking paper bigger than the pan and place in the pan with baking beans on top.
  8. Bake blind for 15 to 20 mins, then remove the beans and bake for a further 5 to 10 mins until lightly golden.
  9. Remove the tart from the oven and turn the oven down to 160°C.
  10. While the tart is in the oven, prepare the filling. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla sugar and salt.
  11. Sprinkle ground pistachios over the bottom of the case, arrange rhubarb pieces on top, scatter wild strawberrie in bewteen and pour the cream mixture over the fuit.
  12. Place the tart on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until it is just set.
  13. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before cutting into slices.




Rhabarber und Walderdbeertarte

Zutaten

Für den Teig
  • 225g Weizenmehl, Type 405, plus etwas zum Ausrollen
  • 25g gemahlene Mandeln (Mandelmehl)
  • 2TL Puderzucker
  • 140g kalte Butter, gewürfelt
  • 1 Eigelb (L), Bio-oder Freilandhaltung
  • 1 bis 2 EL kaltes Wasser
Für den Guss
  • 50g gemahlene Pistazien (ungesalzen)
  • 500g Rhabarber, rot, geputzt
  • eine kleine Handvoll Walderbeeren (man kann auch kleine reguläre Erdbeeren nehmen oder mehr Rhababer
  • 2 Eier (M), Bio- oder Freilandhaltung
  • 125ml Milch (3.5%)
  • 125ml Sahne (zum Kochen geeignet)
  • 2 EL feinster Zucker
  • 8g Bourbon Vanillezucker
  • eine Prise Meersalz

Zubereitung

  1. Alle Zutaten zu einem glatten Teig  verkneten, zur Kugel formen, in Klarsichtfolie wickeln und 30 bis 60 Minuten in den Kühlschrank legen. 
  2. Den Backofen auf 190°C vorheizen. 
  3. Den Teig aus dem Kühlschrank nehmen. Teig auf der bemehlten Arbeitsfläche ausrollen (23 cm Durchmesser). Falls der Teig sich noch nicht so gut ausrollen läßt, gute 10 Minuten bei Zimmertemperatur liegen lassen. Tarteform einfetten, mit Teig auslegen. Teig mehrmals mit der Gabel einstechen. Mit Backpapier auslegen und mit Backbohnen beschweren und für 15 bis 20 Minuten blind backen, dann das Backpapier entfernen und weitere 5 bis 10 Minuten backen.
  4. Die Ofentemperatur auf 160° C herunterschalten.
  5. Die gemahlenen Pistazien über dem Boden verteilen, dann die Rhababerstücke und die Walderdbeeren darauf verteilen.
  6. Für den Guss die Eier, Milch, Sahne, Zucker, Vanillezucker und Salz verrühren. Eierguß auf den Rhabarber und die Walderdbeeren gießen.
  7. Tarte auf der 1. Einschubleiste von unten 30 bis 35 Minuten zu Ende backen.
  8. Nach dem Backen auf einem Kuchenrost auskühlen lassen.






For more rhubarb inspiration, take a look at some of my other recipes:

  • Springtime Baking: Yogurt Rhubarb Bundt Frühlingsgugelhupf mit Jogurt und Rhabarber (HERE)
  • Old Viennese Topfen Cake & Oven-Baked Rhubarb - Altwiener Topfentorte & Ofen-Gebackener Rhabarber (HERE)
  • Rhubarb Cordial and Rhubarb Almond Bundt - Rhabarber Sirup und Rhabarber-Mandel Kuchen (HERE)
  • Spring Rhubarb Tart - Frühlings-Rhabarbertarte (HERE)
  • Nigel Slater´s Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake (HERE)
  • Fresh Rhubarb Upside-Down Baby Cakes (HERE)
  • Hungarian Shortbread with Homemade Rhubarb Jam (HERE)



Friday, June 12, 2020

Filo Tart with White Asparagus, Goat Cheese & Meadowsweet Blossoms l Filotarte mit weißem Spargel, Ziegenkäse & Mädesüßblüten


Asparagus season is said to last only until June 24th in these parts, so before the season for the most tender white asparagus comes to an end, here is one more recipe for a dish with white asparagus. This is a delicate, pretty tart that easily serves four as an appetizer or two for lunch if served with a seasonal side salad or lovely summertime soup.





White asparagus has a mild, delicate flavor, with a hint of nuttiness. It is grown under mounds of soil to protect it from the light that would turn it green, and the spears are usually harvested early in the morning and, as mentioned above, asparagus season is short, running only from mid-April until early June, much to the dismay of many white asparagus enthusiasts.




The spears range from very thin to very fat and no matter their size, you have to peel the tough outer layers of the stalks, leaving the tips. After carefully peeling the spears, you need to snap the tough root end from the spears, as these can be stringy when cooked. White asparagus takes about twice as long to cook as green, and requires about 10 to 15 minutes of cooking, depending, of course, on the thickness of the spears.





White asparagus is traditionally served with boiled potatoes and topped with Hollandaise sauce around here. Or with chopped boiled egg and vinaigrette in Belgium (asperges à la flamande). After having eaten my share of white asparagus prepared the traditional way, I really enjoyed it paired with a fresh local goat cheesemeadowsweet blossoms and fresh dill from my garden on a crunchy filo base. 




The meadowsweet, or filipendula ulmaria, is a herb which has some fascinating medicinal uses including its ability to reduce pain, it is also known as a traditional hangover remedy. It is a perennial herb from the rosaceae family and can be found growing wild all over Europe and Western Asia. The most likely place you will find them growing are damp meadows where they often cover vast areas with their fluffy plumes of off-white flower heads. Meadowsweet is sweetly scented (a bit like almonds) and when you pass a large area of them, the scent is almost intoxicating.

It is no wonder then that meadowsweet has been long used as a 'strewing herb', meaning that this fragrant herb was strewn on floors to scent a room, dwelling places or buildings. It is said that meadowsweet was the favorite chamber flower of Queen Elizabeth I, as she was particularly fond of meadowsweet, it was regularly strewn (scattered) over the floor of her chamber where it gave off a pleasant smell.

The most interesting thing about this plant though is its use in the culinary world. The plant itself is edible and has many uses in the kitchen from making beer, wine and vinegars as well as adding the flowers to jam.

The Tudor herbalist and botanist John Gerard called this wild flower the 'Queene of the medowes' and described how it was used to scent people's houses and 'delighteth the senses'.(John Gerard, Gerard's Herbal)



Filo Tart with White Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Meadowsweet Blossoms
(serves 4 as an appetizer or side dish or 2 as a main dish when served with a side dish)

Ingredients
  • 5 layers of filo pastry dough (stack them up and cut out a circle that will fit your baking sheet, this is best done using kitchen scissors)
  • unsalted butter, melted (if you prefer, you can use olive oil)
  • 100g fresh goat cheese (preferably locally sourced), or use more if your tart is larger
  • about 10 white asparagus spears, depending on the size of the tart and the asparagus, you might need more or less
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (you can also use white pepper if you prefer)
  • mild olive oil
  • a few meadowsweet blossoms or other edible flowers
  • fresh dill or other fresh herbs
Preparation
  1. Boil in salted water and cook the peeled white asparagus until they are soft yet retain a bite, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and let cool for a few minutes.
  2. In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 180°C (365°F).
  3. Lay out the first layer of filo pastry on your baking sheet lined with baking parchment, brush with some melted butter, add the second layer of filo pastry, brush with more melted butter and do the same with the remaining filo pastry, until all 5 layers are brushed and stacked.
  4. Spread the goat cheese evenly over the top layer, leaving a 0.5 inch border around the edges (an offset spatula will come in handy for this).
  5. Top the filo tart with the cooked and cooled white asparagus.
  6. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  7. Drip a little olive oil over the entire tart.
  8. Bake the tart for about 15 to 20 minutes in your pre-heated oven, remove from the oven, place the baking sheet on a cooling rack and let the tart cool down for a few minutes. Then transfer to a serving platter and just before serving, sprinkle fresh dill (or othre fresh soft herbs) and meadowsweet blossoms (and/or other edible flowers) on top.
  9. Serve right away.


Filotarte mit weißem Spargel, Ziegenkäse & Mädesüßblüten

Zutaten
  • 5 Filoteigblätter (aufeinander legen mit einer Küchenschere in der Größe des Backblechs zuschneiden)
  • etwas geschmolzene Butter (wer möchte nimmt Olivenöl)
  • 100g Ziegenfrischkäse (wenn möglich regional), oder mehr falls die Tarte größer ausfällt
  • zirka 10 Spargelstangen, oder mehr
  • Meersalz, frisch gemahlener Pfeffer
  • Olivenöl (mild)
  • einige Mädesüssblüten oder andere essbare Blüten
  • frischer Dill oder andere frische Kräuter
Zubereitung
  1. Den Spargel schälen, kochen und etwas abkühlen lassen.
  2. In der Zwischenzeit den Ofen auf 180°C vorheizen.
  3. Für die Tarte ein Teigblatt dünn mit etwas Butter bepinseln, zweites Blatt darauflegen und dünn mit Butter bepinseln, dann das dritte, vierte und fünfte Blatt darauflegen, jeweils dünn mit Butter bepinseln. Teigblattstapel vorsichtig auf ein mit Backpapier belegtes Blech legen, dabei darauf achten, dass der Teig nicht reißt.
  4. Den Ziegenkäse auf den Teigstapel streichen (dabei einen 1.5 cm Rand aussparen).
  5. Den Spargel auf den Ziegenkäse legen.
  6. Pfeffern und salzen.
  7. Ein wenig mildes Olivenöl über die Tarte tröpfeln.
  8. Die Tarte zirka 15 bis 20 Minuten im vorgeheizten Ofen backen. Aus dem Ofen nehmen, etwas abkühlen lassen und dann auf einer Platte anrichten, dabei kurz vor dem Servieren mit Mädesüßblüten (und/oder anderen essbaren Blüten) und etwas Dill (oder anderen frischen Kräutern) bestreuen und sofort servieren.



A little fresh white asparagus, herbs and edible flowers/blossoms go a long way in this seasonal dish.


For more Filo Tart inspiration on my blog, have a look at:

  • December Filo Tart with Mini Brussels Sprouts (HERE)
  • Filo Tart with fresh Figs & Prosciutto (Schinken-Feigen-Filotarte) (HERE)
  • Crispy, Crackly Apple-Almond Tart (HERE)