Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Sablés du Mont-Saint-Michel for Michaelmas - Normannisches Buttergebäck zum Michaelistag


Today, the Feast of Saint Michael (Heiliger Michael), also known as 'Michaelmas' (Michaelistag) is celebrated in the Western churches. In the Roman Catholic Church, Michaelmas is now more commonly celebrated as the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the three archangels (Erzengel), in the Anglican Church, its proper name is the 'Feast of St. Michael and All Angels'. September 29 was originally dedicated only to St. Michael, with St. Gabriel formerly on March 24, and St. Raphael on October 24. The 1969 reform of the General Roman Calendar combined these feast days for today's triple feast.


As Michaelmas falls near the equinox, the day is also associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid



St. Michael is considered to be one of the principal angelic warriors, protector against the dark of the night and the Archangel who fought against Satan and his evil angels. It was believed that negative forces were stronger in darkness and so families would require stronger defences during the later months of the year. 





The veneration of St. Michael began in the Eastern Church in the 4th century and had spread to Western Christianity by the 5th century. The feast date of May 8 commemorates the dedication of a sanctuary to St Michael at Monte Gargano in Italy in the 6th century



During the Middle Ages, Michaelmas was a great religious feast and many popular traditions grew up around the day, which coincided with the harvest in much of Western Europe. In England and Germany it was the custom to eat goose (Michelgans) on Michaelmas, which was supposed to protect against financial need for the next year. In Ireland, finding a ring hidden in a Michaelmas pie meant that one would soon be married. In Germany, there was also the tradition of baking a special bread called Michaelsbrot with sourdough, rye and wheat. In France there are the so-called 'Sablés du Mont-Michel', delectable sandy butter cookies with hail from Normandy, hence the recipe calls for salted butter from Normandy and takes its name from the world famous Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey.



The long history of Mont-Saint-Michel began in 708, when Bishop Aubert of Avranches erected a first sanctuary on Mont Tombe in honor of the Archangel Michael (the island was originally called Mont-Tombe but became known as Mont-Saint-Michel in the 8th century). According to legend, in 708 the Bishop received, during his sleep, three times the order from St. Michael to erect an oratory on the Mont Tombe . The archangel was reputed to have left his finger mark on Aubert's skull. On October 16, 709, the Bishop dedicated the church and put twelve chanoine there.

It rapidly became a pilgrimage center, and in 966 a Benedictine Abbey was built there. In 1203 it was partly burned when King Philip II of France tried to capture the mount. He compensated the monks by paying for the construction of the monastery known as La Merveille (The Wonder).

The island, which was fortified in 1256, resisted sieges during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France (1337-1453) and the French Wars of Religion (1562-98). The monastery declined in the 18th century, and only 7 monks were living there when it was dissolved during the French Revolution (1787-9). It became a state prison under Napoleon I (reigned 1804-14/15) and remained a prison until 1863. In 1874 it was classified as a historic monument and restored.

The abbey church that towers over the island has a 11th- and 12th-century Romanesque nave and a choir in Gothic style (1450-1521). The tower and spire, crowned by a statue of St. Michael, were added in the 19th century. The church is built over 3 crypts, the oldest dating probably from Carolingian times (8th-10th century). The exterior walls of the Gothic monastery La Merveille (built by 1228) combine characteristics of a military fortress and the simplicity of a religious building. The most striking sections are the refectory (Refektorium) with its high, narrow windows, and the cloister, with its sculptures. There is a panoramic view of the bay from the medieval walls (13th-15th century) on the Southern and Eastern sides of the Mount. The residential houses (now mainly hotels or tourist shops) along the narrow street winding up to the abbey date in some cases to the 15th century

Since 1979, the site (the Mont-Saint-Michel as well as its bay) has been a UNESCO world heritage site. With more than 3.5 million visitors, the Abbey is among the most visited cultural sites in France. Since 1998 the Mont-Saint-Michel is part of the French Saint James' Way (Jakobsweg).


Sablés du Mont-Saint-Michel

(yields about 35 cookies, depending on their size)

Ingredients

  • 125g lightly salted butter, room temperature (I suggest a lightly salted French butter from Normandy like the Beurre d’Isigny, demi sel)
  • 100g superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 200g AP (plain) flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp milk, room temperature (I like to use full fat milk which means 3.5% around here)
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar

Preparation

  • 1 egg yolk (L), organic or free range 
  • 2 tbsp milk, again I like to use 3.5%

Preparation

  1. Melt the butter on medium heat, add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved.
  2. In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour with the baking powder. Then add the flour mixture to the butter mixture together with the milk and the vanilla sugar. Very carefully mix the dough just until it comes together.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap it into, flatten it lightly into a disk and leave it to cool in the refrigerator – best overnight but if stressed for time, two hours will also do.
  4. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, pre-heat your oven to 180°C (356°F), and line 2 cookie sheets with baking parchment. 
  5. In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk with the milk.
  6. Using 2 sheets of parchment paper (NOTE: using additional flour here would make the dough tough), roll out the cookies to a 5mm (0,2 in) thickness. Using a glass or cookie cutter (ø 5 cm/2 in) cut out as many rounds as possible and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets.
  7. Brush all cookies lightly with eggwash and score the cookies with the tines of a fork. Then transfer the cookie sheets to the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.
  8. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely – these cookies will keep for a few days if kept in a cool place in an airtight container.



Sablés du Mont Saint-Michel (Normannisches Buttergebäck Mont-Saint-Michel)

(für zirka 35 Kekse)

Zutaten

Für den Teig

  • 125g Salzbutter, Zimmertemperatur (wie ‚Beurre d´ Isigny, demi sel)
  • 100g feinster Backzucker
  • 200g Weizenmehl (Type 450)
  • ½ TL Backpulver (Weinstein Backpulver)
  • 3 EL Milch, Zimmertemperatur, (ich nehme immer Vollmilch)
  • 8g Bourbon Vanillezucker

Zum Bestreichen

  • 1 Eigelb
  • 2 EL Milch (Vollmilch)

Zubereitung

  1. Die Butter schmelzen lassen, den Zucker hinzugeben und rühren bis er sich aufgelöst hat.
  2. Das Mehl mit dem Backpulver mischen, dann die Butter-Zucker-Mischung zusammen mit der Milch und dem Vanillezucker dazugeben und vorsichtig zu einem glatten Teig verkneten.
  3. Zu einer Kugel formen und in Frischhaltefolie wickeln, etwas flach drücken und am besten über Nacht aber wenigstens 2 Stunden kalt stellen.
  4. Den Backofen auf 180°C vorheizen.  Zwei Backbleche mit Backpapier belegen.
  5. Das Eigelb mit der Milch verquirlen.
  6. Den Teig zwischen Backpapier ausrollen (5 mm dick) und mit Ausstechern oder einem Glas, Kreise (ø 5 cm) ausstechen. Am besten kein weiteres Mehl nehmen, da das Gebäck sonst zu trocken/hart wird.
  7. Die Kreise auf ein mit Backpapier ausgelegtes Backblech setzen, dabei zwischen den Kreisen etwas Platz lassen. Kreise mit verquirltem Eigelb bestreichen und mit einer Gabel mit Mustern verzieren. 
  8. Dann im vorgeheizten Backofen bei 180°C auf der 2. Schiene von unten 10 bis 12 Minuten goldgelb backen.
  9. Kreise vom Backpapier lösen und auf einem Kuchengitter auskühlen lassen.


Please note that this blog post is part of my series for a local/regional 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)
  • for St Hildegard's feast day these wonderful spice cookies called Cookies of Joy (Nervenkekse)(HERE
  • for Michaelmas (Michaelistag) buttery Sablés du Mont-Saint-Michel (Buttergebäck)(HERE)- more delicious treats to come very soon.






Thursday, September 17, 2020

Hildegard's Cookies of Joy for St. Hildegard's Feast Day - Nervenkekse nach Hildegard von Bingen


St. Hildegard, also called Hildegard of Bingen (Hildegard von Bingen), was born 1098 in Bermersheim (Rhineland Palatinate, Germany) and died on September 17, 1179, in Rupertsberg, near Bingen (also in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany) at the age of 81. She was canonized on May 10, 2012 and her feast day is today, September 17, the day of her death. She was a German abbess, visionary, mystic, and composer.



Hildegard was born of noble parents (Hildebert and Mechthild von Bermersheim) and was educated at the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg (Kloster Disibodenberg) by Jutta von Sponheim, a religious recluse. Hildegard was only 15 years old when she began wearing the Benedictine habit and pursuing a religious life. After Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard succeeded her as prioress. Having experienced visions since she was a child, at age 43 she consulted her confessor, who in turn reported the matter to the archbishop of Mainz. A committee of theologians subsequently confirmed the authenticity of Hildegard’s visions, and a monk was appointed to help her record them in writing. The finished work (Scivias aka Liber scivias 1141–52), consists of 26 of Hildegard's visions that are prophetic and apocalyptic in form and in their treatment of such topics as the church, the relationship between God and humanity, and redemption. After having lived at Disibodenberg for 39 years, in 1147 Hildegard left the Disibodenberg monastery with 18 fellow nuns to found a new convent at Rupertsberg (Kloster Rupertsberg).




Hildegard was also a talented poet and composer, she collected 77 of her lyric poems, each with a musical setting composed by her. Her numerous other writings included lives of saints, two treatises on medicine and natural history, reflecting a quality of scientific observation rare at that period, as well as extensive correspondence. She traveled widely throughout Germany, evangelizing to large groups of people about her visions and religious insights, which earned her the description of a Prophetissa teutonica, a German prophetess. In the year 1165 she founded a second convent, this one accepted women with non-aristocratic background, the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard (Abtei St. Hildegard), a community of Benedictine nuns in Eibingen near Rüdesheim in Hesse, Germany. 

Miracles were reported during her life and at her tomb. However, she was not formally canonized until May 10, 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI declared her to be a Saint and later that year (on October 7, 2012) Benedict proclaimed Hildegard a doctor ecclesiae (Kirchenlehrerin) of the church, one of only four women to have been so named.

As one of the few prominent women in medieval church history, Hildegard became the subject of increasing interest in the latter half of the 20th century. Her writings were widely translated into English and several recordings of her music were made available.


Hildegard of Bingen believed food nourished the soul. She recommended having one of her spelt cookies every day to enrich and bring joy. According to Hildegard, these spelt cookies strengthen the nerves and improve the mood. However, due to their high concentration of cinnamon and nutmeg in the original recipe (2 tablespoons each cinnamon and nutmeg), Hildegard recommended  consuming them in moderation. Depending on their size, children may eat up to 3 cookies a day, adults may eat 5. However, to accomodate modern tastes, I usually reduce the amount of freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon used in the original recipe - the cookies still smell and taste like spice cookies, they still contain spelt and almonds and the trinity of spices called for in the traditional recipe but we can be a bit less cautious when enjoying them and still benefit from the nutritial value that spices do have.

Around here, you can even depend on a ready-made organic Hildegard von Bingen spice mix called 'Kuchen und Keks Gewürz' (cake and cookie spice mix) that contains the three spices nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves and, if I may add, comes in a very pretty package which, together with the recipe for the cookies, makes for a formidable gift.



For Hildegard, spelt (Dinkel) soothes the mind, and nutmeg (Muskatnuss) brightens the mood. These two ingredients account for a large part of the positive effects of Hildegard's spelt cookies with spices. The addition of nutmeg has a stimulating effects, due to the essential oil myristicin. In moderate doses, myristicin serves as a mood enhancer but in large quantities it acts as a psychoactive drug, so always use caution when adding nutmeg to your dishes.




Cookies of Joy According to Hildegard von Bingen

recipe adapted from St Hildegard's treatise Liber simplicis medicinae (Buch der einfachen Medizin) aka Physica (Heilkraft der Natur), 1150-58

Ingredients

(yields about 80 cookies, depending on their size)

For the Cookie Dough

  • 150g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 200g raw cane sugar, fine (or use soft brown sugar)
  • 2 eggs (M), free range or organic (room temperature)
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 300g spelt flour
  • 200g almond flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5g Ceylon cinnamon 
  • 5g freshly grated nutmeg 
  • a generous pinch of ground cloves (about 1g)
  • grated zest of 1 organic lemon

To Finish

  • 1 tbsp milk, full fat 
  • 1 egg yolk (M), free range or organic
  • almonds, slivered or sliced, or both (optional)

Preparation

  1. In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs and salt, beat well.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the spelt flour with the almond flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and grated lemon zest.
  3. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and mix just until the dough comes together.
  4. Wrap the dough in kitchen wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for about an hour.
  5. Then take the dough out of the fridge and form logs with the dough, wrap the logs in kitchen wrap and place in the refrigerator again overnight (at least an hour will also work if you are short of time).
  6. The following day (or after an hour), take the dough logs out of the refrigerator. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (356°F), cut the dough into slices and place on prepared baking sheet.
  8. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with almonds (optional).
  9. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Let cool on wire racks.



Nervenkekse nach Hildegard von Bingen

Zutaten

(für ca. 80 Plätzchen, je nach Größe der Kekse)

Für den Teig

  • 150g Butter (Zimmertemperatur)
  • 200g Rohrzucker
  • 2 Eier (M), Bio oder Freiland (Zimmertemperatur)
  • eine Prise feines Salz
  • 300g Dinkelmehl (Type 630) 
  • 200g Mandeln (geschält und gemahlen)
  • 1 TL Weinstein Backpulver
  • 5g Ceylon Zimt, gemahlen
  • 5g Muskatnuss, frisch gerieben
  • 1 Msp Nelken, gemahlen (zirka 1g)
  • Abrieb von ½ Bio-Zitrone

Zum Bestreichen (optional)

  • 1 EL Milch 
  • 1 Eigelb
  • Mandeln, gestiftelt oder gehobelt

Zubereitung

  1. Die Butter schaumig rühren und mit dem Zucker, den Eiern und Salz gut verrühren.
  2. Das Mehl mit den gemahlenen Mandeln mischen, dann Backpulver, Zimt, Muskatnuss, Nelken und Zitronenabrieb dazu geben und nochmals gut mischen. 
  3. Die Mehlmischung zu der Buttermischung geben und zu einem homogenen Teig verkneten. 
  4. Den Teig in Folie wickeln und im Kühlschrank für etwa 1 Stunde kaltstellen.
  5. Dann den Teig zu Rollen formen (Durchmesser 4 Zentimeter), die Teigrollen nochmals in Folie wickeln und nochmals kaltstellen, am besten über Nacht.
  6. Am nächsten Tag den Backofen auf 180°C vorheizen. Zwei Backbleche mit Backpapier belegen.
  7. Die Teigrollen in 0,5 Zentimeter dicke Scheiben schneiden, auf die vorbereiteten Backbleche legen, mit Milch und verquirltem Eigelb bestreichen, dann wahlweise mit gestiftelten oder gehobelten Mandeln dekorieren.
  8. Im vorgeheizten Ofen etwa 12 bis 15 Minuten backen oder bis die Kekse goldbraun sind.
  9. Danach auskühlen lassen und in einem verschließbaren Glas oder Dose aufbewahren.



Please note that this blog post is part of my series for a local/regional 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)
  • for St Hildegard's feast day these wonderful spice cookies called Cookies of Joy (Nervenkekse)(HERE
  • for Michaelmas (Michaelistag) buttery Sablés du Mont-Saint-Michel (Buttergebäck)(HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Zucchini Dip with Summer Veggies & Toasted Bread


When days are long and dinner is still in the works, I like to serve something to nibble on. This can be as simple as cheese or nuts, but if I’m feeling creative, this can range all the way up to savory pastries or a selection of dips.



I had a few zucchini looking somewhat forlorn in the kitchen and some hungry kids waiting for dinner, so a dip was the obvious answer. This is a summery, roasted zucchini dip, which is both luxurious and easy to make, inspired somewhat by that famous dip called 'Baba Ganoush', the famous smoky roasted eggplant (aubergine) dip of Levantine origin, which happens to be one of my favorite dips to serve in summer and which I like to make with a bit of a chunky texture.




This zucchini (courgette) dip is a breeze to make, provided you can be organized. The one thing to remember is that it really is best done the day before, but this is something I would happily also eat the same day it was made - I have also made it the same day, and it still tastes really good.

Once the dip is done, put it in a bowl and serve it with the freshest August produce you can find. Go with carrot batons, baby corn, fresh multi-colored cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery sticks. Big fat olives. Toasted bread slices. Or both. Or all. 

As I visited the farmers market in the beautiful city of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle/Germany) the other day, I came across some gorgeous organic produce, a selection of peppers, including black ones and an assortment of chilis - the farmer told me that they have specialized in growing a variety of chilis with different levels of heat - I happily bought a selection of both the paprikas and the chilis and served them alongside the dip and toasted slices of baguette.




As far as the herbs that I use for the dip are concerned, I use so-called hard herbs for roasting the veggies to infuse them with their herbal flavors. Hard herbs often grow through the winter and have woody stems. They include bay, rosemary, thyme and sage. These herbs are hardier and  keep their flavor throughout prolonged cooking or roasting. They are the herbs that are added at the beginning of cooking.



After roasting, I remove the hard herbs and I add so-called soft herbs just before serving. These usually include herbs such as basil, coriander, thyme, tarragon, dill, marjoram and parsley. They are added at the end of cooking to finish off the dish. And for this dish, I like to use multi-colored (and flavored) basil with their blossoms. Sometimes I have a few tender arugula (rocket) leaves and will add them as well. Just go with what you like and what is available to you.




Summery Zucchini Dip

Ingredients
  • 3 zucchini (courgette) or more (depending on the size you use), washed, dried and cubed
  • 6 garlic cloves - do not peel them (you can omit garlic if you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (suitable for cooking)
  • sea salt to taste
  • fresh garden herbs (I suggest rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon thyme, sage – go with what you have on hand and what you like)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon (or more, depending on the size of the lemon you use)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • fresh basil or arugula (rocket) to serve 

Prepartion
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (356°F). 
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the prepared zucchini, garlic cloves (unpeeled), olive oil, salt and herbs.
  3. Place the zucchini mix on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast it in a hot oven for about 60 minutes at 180°C (356°F) or until the zucchini is cooked through and has some lovely brown spots from roasting.
  4. Once cooked allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. Remove the herbs and the garlic cloves from the roasted zucchini mix. Discard the herbs. Keep the garlic cloves and squeeze them from their skin.
  6. Then transfer the zucchini to your work surface and using the tines of a fork, squash the zuchhini well. If you are unable to squash some of the zucchini pieces (because the skin might be a bit too tough), use a knife to cut them.
  7. Next, scoop the flesh into a bowl and add the garlic, freshly ground black pepper, lemon juice, and salt to taste and mix well. 
  8. Leave overnight in the fridge to set and allow the flavors to develop.
  9. The next day, taste the dip and season to taste with more pepper, salt and lemon juice. Serve cold or at room temperature with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil olive and finish with torn basil leaves or arugula. Accompany with toasted bread and veggies.


This dip is a very tasty way to use some of the glut of zucchini that is available just about now. And, personally, I believe it's a very nice change from the dips that I usually serve this time of year. I like that it is still a bit chunky and that the fresh lemon juice makes for a wonderful flavor balance to the natural sweetness that August zucchini have. Enjoy.


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.