Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Cottage Cooking Club - September Recipes

The month of September marks the seventeenth month of our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. As a group, recipe by recipe, we are cooking and learning our way through a wonderful vegetable cookbook written in 2011 by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, entitled „River Cottage Everyday Veg".

The Cottage Cooking Club is meant to be a project aimed at incorporating more vegetable dishes into our everyday cooking, learning about less known, forgotten or heritage vegetables, trying out new ways to prepare tasty and healthy dishes, and sharing them with family and friends.

One of the declared aims of our cooking group is to make a decided effort to use as much regional, organic and also seasonal produce as is reasonably possible.

Since I cooked eight recipes, I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.

My first recipe for this early fall post is the colorful Chard and new potato curry (page 24) from the chapter "Comfort Food & Feasts“ that we made back in August 2014 and that I had missed.

Every time I cook with bright colored veggies, like the amazing rainbow chard I came across the other day, I realize how much I really enjoy preparing vegetables in all kinds of color and how much they enhance my dishes, not only by adding tons of flavor but also by appealing visually to all, making them all enjoy the dishes I prepare even more.

This is a hearty variation of a curry with chard, onions, garlic, ginger, chili, and new potatoes and with spices such as garam masala, mustard seeds, cumin, tumeric, cardamom, and then some tomato purée and yogurt. I topped it all with my current favorite cress form the Netherlands – the red beet cress which has a rather earthy sharpness and add another layer of flavor to this already very flavorful fallish curry.

For the second recipe for this month I chose is the forever delightful Leek and cheese toastie (page 202) from the chapter "Bready Things", again. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall describes this leek-based, cheesy topping as „the simplest and most midweek-friendly“ of his leek toppings and right he is.

As I mentioned before, the delicious and easy topping consists of but a few ingredients, namely some good quality butter, sliced fresh leeks and fragrant thyme - cook gently for about 10 to 15 minutes and then all that is left to do is to stir in some double cream, simmer some more, fold in some grated cheese such as Cheddar, add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, then toast a few slices of sourdough bread (or other bread that you prefer), spread with the still warm topping and top with more cheese, then grill until golden - pure midweek deliciousness if you ask my family and me.

Fresh thyme grows in my garden, fresh leeks can be easily found locally, the bread is from my favorite bakery nearby and the cheese I used was Emmenthal. We were all more than pleased with this with its sweetness from the leeks, creaminess from the cheese and cream and just the right amount of woodsy herb flavor from the fresh thyme.

This time I served the toasties with a autum pear and rocket salad on the side – not too shabby! And I am presently rather delighted with the quality of the local rocket – it is sharap and mustardy and just plain delightful!

The third recipe that go my attention, again, this month was my personal favorite soup from the book, the Chestnut and sage soup (page 158), from the chapter „Hefty Soups“ that we made back in November 2014.

There is a chestnut tree in our garden and every year I look forward to the harvest season. I use the chestnuts for baking my favorite chestnut cake, make this amazing soup and keep the remainder for roasted chestnuts.

This is such an elegant and velvety soup, I cannot get over the taste – the finished soup got a nice garnish of sage leaves from my garden, fried in some light olive oil, a tiny trickle of oil, chives and foamed milk, cappucciono-style – serve this soup nice and hot and you will know what I mean – it is absolutely fabulous and perfect for serving to guests. Make sure to make some „Vegetable Stock“ (page 130) beforehand and serve some nice bread alongside.

And, yes, this time I could not help myself and served the chestnut soup in these „seventies soup bowls" that I found at a tag sale. These kinds of props just make my day!

Recipe number four is another perennial favorite at our house, the New potato salad „tartare“ (page 79), from the chapter „Hearty Salads“ that we made back in June 2015. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall describes this salad as "a simple, deconstructed version of good old tartare sauce" that is used "to dress freshly cooked, earthly little new potatoes".

Since I have written about this salad at length before, I will keep it short this time – this is now our favorite way to enjoy potato salad and I even served it as part of our „Oktoberfest spread“ – I believe that says it all!

The fifth recipe was semi-new for me. The Quinoa with courgettes and onions (page 279) from the chapter „Pasta & Rice“ that we made back in May 2014 – is a fabulous recipe that I have made with couscous and white quinoa before but never with red quinoa (my newly discovered favorite grain to use in our salads).

With the tender courgettes, the sweet onions, some lovely thyme from the garden and a bit of young garlic, this is such an unbelievably tasty salad. It even becomes nore flavorful if it had a few hours "resting time" in the fridge prior to serving.

The recipe calls for flat-leaf parsley, I also added some fresh cress and basil and left out the pine nuts – my taste testers do not really like nuts in their salad – but other than these minor changes, I stayed true to the recipe and really enjoyed it.

Just remember if you are planning to make this salad  a few hours ahead of serving it, you will have to taste for seasoning again just before serving. I ended up re-seasoning with some freshly ground pepper and fine sea salt and a lot of lemon juice – and I always  served some fresh lemon wedges on the side with this salad – it really tastes fabulous with a last-minute squeeze of lemon juice.

My sixth recipe for this September post is the Pearl barley broth (page 160), from the chapter "Hefty Soups“ that we made back in May 2015.

Again, the base of this soup is  Hugh´s Vegetable stock (page 130). This soup recipe is one of those recipes in this book that I keep coming back to on a regular basis. The finely diced vegetables in this pearl barley broth include onions, celery, carrots, and parsnip. The spices used are ground coriander, nutmeg, cayenne pepper and mace. Then as herbs some fresh thyme and a bay leaf from the garden and, of course, medium sized pearl barley. Around here, the stores carry pearl barley in three different grades, the medium one being my favorite to use in substantial soups like this one. There was lots of flavor from the spices, the veg and the soup base. Just remember that the pearly barley will absorb quite a bit of liquid and you will end up with a rather thick soup if you prepare it in advance.

This time when I made this comfort-style soup, I decided to add the tender leaves of some lovely „butter cabbage“ or „Butterkohl“ as we call this around here – a regional specialty that I come across but once a year at the agricultural fair that we attend in September.

The second to last recipe for this September post  is the Curried Bubble and Squeak (page 228 ) from the chapter „Store-cupboard Suppers“ that we made back in January 2015.

The name refers to the appetizing sound this stir-up of cooked potatoes and greens makes as it cooks. As kitchen recycling goes, this is probably the most useful of all, neatly dispensing with those most difficult of leftovers. I used cold cooked potatoes and Brussels sprouts as the main stars of this dish – then some finely sliced onions, salt, pepper and a mild curry powder. Kids loved this, it is not unlke the pan-fried potatoes (sans curry) that we make around here, except that you can add just about anything edible to it that strikes your fancy. Delicious. Easy. Fool-proof.

The last September recipe is the Roasted brussels sprouts with shallots (page 352) from the chapter „Roast, Grill & Barbeque" that we prepared in October 2014.

What is not to love about this hearty dish – Brussels sprouts and shallots seem to be a match made in heaven, roasted with tons of fresh thyme from my herb garden, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper, sea salt and olive oil, these tiny cabbages turn into a sweet delight that everyone gobbled up.

In summary, another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – this month we were delighted to enjoy a number of early and hearty fall recipes for lunch and dinner. What can possibly be better than to cook with fresh ingredients at this time of year.

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the wonderfully talented and enthusiastic members of The Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book. Better yet, do make sure to join us in this cooking adventure! There is still time!

To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please visit here. They would all appreciate a visit!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dutch Boterkoek with Autumn Apples

Yesterday I made a variation of one of my favorite traditional Dutch afternoon cake treats, the "boterkoek“, roughly translating as “butter cake”. The boterkoek can be considered to be a bit like a cross between a tart and shortbread, with its crunchy sides and soft heart. I have not found a similar cake in other European cuisines and although there is a wonderful French gâteau breton or even the gâteau basque which I also love to bake every so often (you can take a look here), this is an entirely different treat and one that is decidedly Dutch in appearance and taste.

From what I was told, this cake first appeared in the thirties and was considered to be a confection for the more „common folk“ and therefore could not be found in any of what can be considered the "high-end bakeries". But it made and still makes a regular appearance in the kitchens of the homebakers and to this day remains a welcome afternoon treat with a cup of good strong coffee.

As its name implies, this lovely Dutch treat has lots of butter and the original has an almond flavor, reminiscent of frangipane. Given just how butter is the key flavor of this recipe, really, really try to use the best, freshest butter you can, and do not even consider of using any substitutes here.  If you are trying to be healthy, make it properly, then just enjoy a small slice of the real thing.

It is also very simple to make, so perfect if you have got to produce something at short notice. It is also one of the first cakes that Dutch children learn how to make at home – so if your are looking to show your kids some delicious and easy baking, this is a great recipe to get them started.

Dutch Boterkoek with Autumn Apples

Ingredients for the Boterkoek Base
  • 150 g butter, unsalted
  • 200 g caster sugar, also called superfine baking sugar (if you cannot find superfine baking sugar at your grocery store, you can grind standard granulated sugar in a food processor or blender for about a minute)
  • 1 1/2 tsps pure vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg (M), organic or free range
  • 200 g plain wheat flour
  • a generous pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Ingredients for the Apple Topping
  • 3 baking apples (L), preferably a regional variety with red peel, sliced
  • 2 tbsps caster sugar
  • a pinch of Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla sugar
  • 2-3 tbsps apple jelly (preferably homemade)

In addition
  • a springform baking pan (about 23 cm/9 inch)
  • baking parchment

Preparation of the Boterkoek with Apples
  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
  2. Line your 23cm (9 inch) springform pan with baking parchment.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Pour the egg into the mixture, and stir well.
  5. Add the flour, salt and baking powder, and mix until you have a smooth dough.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the baking pan, and pat down with the back of a spoon until smooth (you might find it easier to use clean hands to smooth the mixture).
  7. In a medium bowl mix together the sliced apples, the sugar, vanilla sugar and cinnamon.
  8. Arrange in a nice pattern on top of the base.
  9. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the apples appear to be baked and the dough around them is just golden and firm to the touch and the sides start to brown.
  10. Remove from the oven and while still warm, brush the top with warmed apple jelly, then let cool almost completely in the springform pan and until the jelly has set up again.
  11. Then remove the ring and the base and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely and serve on the day it was made (although it was still pretty delicious the day after it was baked).

Cut into small slices and serve plain or with a bit of Greek yogurt – while that is not traditional, we found that the tanginess of the yogurt cuts well through the delightful buttery sweetness of the cake. And do not forget to serve with some really good coffee or tea, if you prefer.

And while I veered off the traditional boterkoek by adding some wonderful regional autumn apples and homemade apple jelly as a topping, boterkoek is a really simple recipe with surprisingly good results for something so easy. Definitely give this one a try!

If you are looking for a traditional, more simplified version, without apples, by all means visit my previous boterkoek posts here and here!

Whether you choose the apple version or the plain almond version, this cake is great to mix up in a hurry when you have surprise visitors! And apart from being the perfect afternoon pick-me-up-treat, it also makes a great mid-morning delight!

Eet smakelijk!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cooking Classes & Quince-Muffins with Pumpkin Seed Brittle - Kochatelier Sankt Augustin & Quitten-Muffins

Last Friday I attended a cooking class, or more specifically, a BBQ cooking class, at the cooking school in Sankt Augustin, called "Kochatelier" - it seemed to me that it was high time that I hone my bbq skills.
Am Freitagabend habe ich einen Kochkurs bzw. einen Grillkurs im Kochatelier Sankt Augustin gemacht - es schien mir höchste Zeit meine Grillkünste in einem Kurs über Herbstliches Grillen etwas zu verbessern.

We were guided through the evening by the kind and knowledgeable chef Robert Rechman - who happily and patiently assisted us in the preparation of the evening´s autumnal bbq menu: slices of duck breast that were marinated in mulled red wine and accompanied by an apple-walnut chutney and served on lamb´s lettuce; followed by mini focaccia with rosemary and chilli-salt; then rainbow trout with roasted chestnuts and pumpkin; wild game sausages with homemade mustard & cranberry ketchup that were accompanied by stuffed mushrooms and a slice of grilled potato bread. And for dessert we indulged in an autumnal quince crumble that was served warm with pumpkin seed ice cream and pumpkin seed brittle.
Unter der fachkundigen und äußerst freundlichen Leitung von Koch Robert Rechmann haben wir im Einklang mit dem Motto des Abend "Herbstgrillen", die Menüfolge des Abends vorbereitet und auch später dann genüsslich verspeist: in Glühwein marinierte Scheiben von der Entenbrust auf einem Feldsalat-Bett mit Apfel-Walnuss-Chutney und Mini-Focaccia mit Chili-Salz und Rosmarin; Lachsforelle und Maronen-Kürbis-Gemüse; Wildwurst mit selbstgemachtem Senf & Preiselbeeren-Ketchup, dazu gefüllte Champignons und Kartoffel-Brotschnitte. Zum Nachtisch gab es Quitten-Crumble mit Kürbiskern-Eiscreme und Kürbiskern-Krokant.

After we had completed our bby cooking class, we were given copies of the recipes that we prepared during the evening. As I was quite taken by the dessert - I took the school´s recipe for Quince Crumble from the BBQ and turned it into Autumnal Quince Muffins with Pumpkin Seed Brittle.
Nach dem Kurs gab es Kopien der Rezepte für alle Teilnehmer - ich habe das Rezept für den Quitten-Crumble vom Grill nachgebacken und den Teig mit dem Streuseln in Muffinformen gebacken und mit dem Kürbiskern-Krokant serviert.   

Autumnal Quince Muffins with Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Ingredients for the Muffins
  • 100 g soft butter, unsalted
  • 120 g light-brown sugar (such as the one available from Tate & Lyle)
  • 2 eggs (L), organic or free range
  • 150 g wheat flour
  • 50 g almond meal
  • 8 g baking powder
  • 20 g dried cranberries (previously soaked in warm rum for at least 30 minutes)
  • 2 quinces (L) - or use 3 firm pears (M) 
  • juice form 1/2 lemon (organic)
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
  • some freshly grated tonka bean (which can be replaced by pure vanilla sugar) 

Preparation of the Muffins
  1. Peel the quinces. Core and grate on the fine grates of your box grater.
  2. Add 1 tbsp of sugar to the grated quince, together with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and late macerate for about 30 minutes.
  3. Separate the eggs and whisk the egg yolks together with the butter, sugar and the spices until the mixtures is light and foamy.
  4. Whip the egg whites to almost firm peaks with a pinch of sea salt.
  5. Whisk together the almond meal,, the flour an dthe baking powder and add to the butter mixture.
  6. Drain the grated quince mixture and add to the batter - fold in the egg whites.
  7. Fill your mufiin tins 2/3 full - the batter will be enough for about 14 muffins.

Ingredients for the Streusel Topping
  • 50 g butter, unsalted
  • 50 g light-brown sugar (see above)
  • 65 g wheat flour
  • 20 g almond meal
  • 20 g coarse oats

Preparation of the Streusel Topping
  1. Mix together all the ingredients and add on top of the prepared muffins.
  2. Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius (356 degress Fahrenheit).

Quitten-Muffins à la Kochatelier Sankt Augustin

Zutaten für den Teig
  • 100 g weiche Butter, ungesalzen
  • 120 g hell-brauner Zucker (z.Bsp. von Tate & Lyle)
  • 2 Eier (L), Freiland oder Bio
  • 150 g Weizenmehl
  • 50 g gemahlene Mandeln
  • 8 g Backpulver
  • 20 g getrocknete Cranberries (in warmen Rum eingelegt, zirka 30 Minuten)
  • 2 Quitten (groß) oder 3 feste Birnen (M)
  • Saft von 1/2 Zitrone (Bio)
  • eine Prise feines Meersalz
  • 1/4 TL Ceylon Zimt
  • etwas geriebene Tonka-Bohne (oder 1 1/2 TL Bourbon Vanille-Zucker)

Zubereitung der Muffins
  1. Die Quitten schälen, Kerngehäuse entfernen und fein raspeln.
  2. Mit 1 EL Zucker und Zitronensaft marinieren, gut durchkneten und 30 Minuten stehen lassen.
  3. Dann die Eier trennen und die Eigelb mit der Butter, Zucker und den Gewürzen schaumig schlagen.
  4. Eiweiß mit Salz halb-steif schlagen. 
  5. Das Mehl mit Mandeln und Backpulver mischen und zur Butter-Ei Masse geben.
  6. Wasser von den Quitten abgießen und zuletzt die Eiweiß unterheben.
  7. In Muffin-Formen füllen - das Rezept ergibt zirka 14 Muffins.

Zutaten für die Streusel
  • 50 g Butter, ungesalzen
  • 50 g brauner Zucker (siehe oben)
  • 65 g Weizenmehl
  • 20 g gemahlene Mandeln
  • 20 g Haferflocken

Zubereitung der Streusel
  1. Zutaten vermengen und auf den Küchlein verteilen.
  2. Bei 180 Grad Celsius (356 Grad Fahrenheit) Ober-und Unterhitze ca. 15 bis 18 Minuten backen

Ingredients for the Pumpkin Seed Brittle
  • 30 g pumkin seeds (try to get the dark-green Styrian ones from a good source)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • a good pinch of Ceylon cinnamon

Preparation of the Pumpkin Seed Brittle
  1. In a non-stick pan, roast the pumpkin seeds until they are warm and fragrant - do so by shaking the pan occasionally.
  2. At the same time, put the sugar in another heavy skillet or saucepan and melt - taking care not to stir the pan but to only swirl the sugar around until it melts properly.
  3. As soon as the sugar has turned a light-brown, slowly add the butter - tilt the pan and do no stir until the very end.
  4. Add the warm pumpkins to the warm caramel and then stir with a wooden spoon.
  5. Very carefully spread out the mitxure on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let the brittle cool and add some cinnamon (optional).
  6. Break the brittle into large pieces and serve alongside the quince muffins. Or chop and stir into homemade vanilla or pumpkin ice cream.
Zutaten für den Kürbiskern-Krokant
  • 30 g Kürbiskerne (wenn es geht aus der Steiermark)
  • 1 EL Zucker
  • 1/2 EL Butter
  • etwas Ceylon-Zimt

Zubereitung des Kürbiskern-Krokant
  1. Die Kürbiskerne in eine beschichtete Pfanne geben und unter häufigem Rütteln rösten, bis sie duften.
  2. Gleichzeitig den Zucker karamellisieren. Dabei nicht im heißen Zucker rühren sondern nur die Pfanne bewegen und den geschmolzenen Zucker verlaufen lassen.
  3. Sobald der Zucker hell-braun ist, die Butter hineingeben und langsam schmelzen lassen.
  4. Die heißen Kürbiskerne in den heißen Karamel hineingeben und vorsichtig verrühren, am besten mit einem Holzlöffel.
  5. Vorsichtig das Karamel auf ein mit Backpapier ausgelegtes Backblech geben und völlig auskühlen lassen - auf Wunsch mit etwas Zimt verfeinern.
  6. Das Krokant in Stücke brechen und mit den warmen Quitten Muffins servieren. Oder das Krokant zerkleinern und in selbstgemachtes Vanille-oder Kürbiskern-Eis geben.

Finally, I owe a big Thank You to the kind team at the Kochatelier cooking school for a lovely evening, delicious food, kind company and many priceless cooking and bbq tips and tricks and recipes! I already have my eye on the next cooking class I would love to attend...but in the meantime I shall practice my bbq skills at home...

For more informatiom on the cooking school (they also offer classes in the lovely English language in the cities of Bonn, Duesseldorf and Bergisch Gladbach) - please consult their comprehensive website here:
Herzlichen Dank an das Kochatelier-Team für einen wunderbaren Abend, leckeres Essen, liebe Gesellschaft und wertvolle Tipps, Tricks und tolle Rezepte! Ich habe mir da schon Mal den nächsten Kurs rausgesucht...in der Zwischenzeit übe ich noch etwas an meinem Grill...

Für mehr Informationen über das Kochatelier Sankt Augustin (übrigens eine Dependance des Bonner Kochateliers - weitere gibt es in Düsseldorf und in Bergisch Gladbach) bitte hier schauen:

Saturday, September 12, 2015

In an Ottolenghi State of Mind

A few years ago a friend of mine invited me over for dinner. When I arrived at her house it smelled absolutely wonderful. All those aromas wafting at me and I was sitting comfortably in her kitchen enjoying myself and taking it all in.

She lived in Thailand for about fifteen years and she had brought back all those wonderful recipes. Thai cuisine is her favorite cuisine and when she invited a group of us over for dinner that evening, Thai cuisine it was.

Back then Thai food was uncharted territory for me and I was curious – after the first bites, I fell in love with the way it tasted and when I turned around to tell her how much I enjoyed her food, she smiled at me and answered „you know of course that Thai food is addictive, my dear!“.

Over the years I have often thought about that sentence and while I have quoted it many times on many different occasions, I must say that many years have passed and things have changed a lot since. I have dived with utter gusto into Italian, French, Dutch, Belgian and German cuisine. I have attended more cooking events and classes than I can count, I have collected so many cookbooks and magazines over the years that I have considered renting a place with just shelves.

I have come to grips with the fact that it is not possible to embrace one cuisine and please all those happy taste testers at home all the time – there is a definite need for variety at our place – over the years I have always searched for another cuisine that would stick with me like another addiction, like the Thai food – to this day I leave that cuisine up to the experts like my friend.

I was as pleased as can be to be cooking along with the French Fridays with Dorie group and introduce my family and myself to French cuisine, family-friendly delicious French cuisine and I took pleasure in seeing our kids taste everything from mussels to pâtés. I have also  happily turned my family into part-time vegetarians while cooking my way through Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstalls River Cottage Veg Everyday and watch our kids dive into everything from lentil soups, pearly barley salads and oven-roasted veggies – their lunchboxes are stuffed with left-over ratatouille and not peanut butter sandwiches. The Cottage Cooking Club is a wonderful outlet for all our daily vegetable inspirations.

My kitchen heroes hail from many different countries, I have a definite soft spot for those British cooks, have extensively reviewed traditional and non-traditional German cookbooks, I still enjoy cooking from my North-American cookbooks aand I do feel reasonably comfortable about translating Italian and Dutch recipes and making them my own. It is fun and it is educating to say the least – knowing a few languages does help, even today.

And let´s not forget about that blogging thing and the fact that I constantly ask people about recipes and ways they prepare a certain food – always looking for that extra something special. I cannot say that I have gotten very far though – for some inexplicable reason collecting cookbooks and recipes and magazines and watching endless cooking shows does not mean people are cooking more, let alone decide to experiment in their kitchens more. A collection of recipes does not make you a good homecook I guess.

The other day I talked to my friend again on the phone, she lives a few hundred kilometers from where we live (for Germans that is still a lot) and I asked her about her now famous sentence – it still makes her laugh when I talk about it and I told her „you know, I have found another addictive cuisine“  - „you must have heard about Yottam Ottolenghi, we all have“. She agreed, we have all heard about him or adore his recipes and have collected a few of his books  I know, I know. „But how many of his recipes have you actually gotten around to cooking?“, I asked. There is a new cookbook that was published two days ago, on September 10th, it is called NOPI:The Cookbook and includes over 120 of the most popular dishes from Yotam's innovative Soho-based restaurant Nopi.

It's written with long-time collaborator and Nopi head chef Ramael Scully, who brings his distinctive Asian twist to the Ottolenghi kitchen. Whether you're a regular at the Nopi restaurant and want to know the secret to your favourite dish or are an Ottolenghi fan who wants to try out restaurant-style cooking, this is a collection of recipes which will inspire, challenge and delight“.

During the last two days, I have managed to make four of the recipes from his new book called "NOPI"and one from his book „Plenty“ and one fron his book "Jerusalem" – considering that Ottolenghis recipes can be considered somewhat „involved“, not too bad at all.

The first recipe I tackled while waiting rather impatiently for the delivery of the new book, was the Very full Tart from Plenty – a fantastic Mediterranean feast, full to the brim with roasted vegetables.

Pre-bake your homemade shortcrusty pastry base and then continue with delicious roasted vegetables including fennel, sweet potato, courgette, aubergine, red and yellow plum tomatoes….

… and a filling with goat´s cheese, cream, eggs and fresh thyme. The recipe is easily adaptable to different vegetables according to season (leeks, aubergines, broccoli, mushrooms) and you can keep or omit the cheese if you want – I would not though.

Then finally the wait was over and the long awaited cookbook arrived - onto my first recipe from the NOPI cookbook, the utterly delightful Corn Cakes with Feta - as suggested by Ottolenghi for that "restaurant look" I used the corn husks (rather than baking parchment) to line the muffin tins. They look lovely, like little bamboo baskets and are filled with lots of incredibly wonderful ingredients such as fresh corn, banana shallots, garlic, fennel seeds, ground cumin, celery seeds, tarragon leaves, good unsalted butter, farm fresh eggs, a bit of flour, Greek feta (you could also use a Dolcelatte here instead of the feta) sea salt and a rather good grinding of black pepper.

My second NOPI recipe was the very seasonal and colorful Butternut Squash with Ginger Tomatoes and Lime Yogurt. This is one of the most delicious salads that I have ever eaten. My kind of soul food, my kind of addiction.

With roasted wedges of butternut squash, and plum tomatoes that get roasted for a two hours (!) with fresh ginger, red chilli, garlic cloves, and dark muscovado sugar and a cooling drizzle of Greek yogurt boldly flavored with ground cardamom, lime zest and juice as well as a finish of fried banana shallots, it is impossible to resist!

My third NOPI recipe the Celeriac Puree with spiced Cauliflower and fried Egg was simply amazing. The puree works well on its own as an alternative to hummus, but, combined with the other elements, makes a substantial starter or even a meal in itself if served with warm, crusty bread or white pita.

The Celeriac Puree is made with onion, garlic, bay leaves, a fresh seasonal celeriac, homemade vegetable stock, tahini paste, lemon juice, ground cumin and coriander, sea salt, black pepper and a sprinkling of Spanish sweet smoked paprika.

For the Spiced Cauliflower topping that will forever spoil you taste buds, you will need a good olive oil, a large onion, three garlic cloves, my current spice obsession „ ras el hanout“ which is a spice mix from North Africa (the name is Arabic for "head of the shop"  and implies a mixture of the best spices the seller has to offer), a coarsely grated cauliflower (a new technique for me),  finely diced preserved lemon, toasted and chopped almonds, and lots of fresh Italian parsley. This dish is a true revelation!

My fourth recipe from the NOPI book was Pearl barley risotto with watercress, courgettes and pecorino – Ottolenghi comments this lovely green dish with the following remark „Risotto made with pearl barley has a bite and texture that work very well with this smooth, leafy puree“.

First cook the pearl barley, then make the green puree with watercress and fresh spinach. Fry some portobello mushrooms and some leeks and make a side salad of asparagus ribbons (or courgettes as the asparagus is not in season anymore) and shaved Pecorino Romano. Then serve a dollop of the incredibly green pearl barley risotto and top the dish off with the delightfully tangy salad that you should prepare just before serving so it keeps its crunch - which is a nice contrast to the creamy risotto.

And last but not least, Savory Sesame and Fennel Cookies (Ka´ach Bilmach) from "Jerusalem, A Cookbook", by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Ottolenghi recipes open up a whole new world of flavors and combinations and textures and spices that you will not encounter anywhere else. Once you have gotten over the "involved part" of his recipes and set aside enough time for the shopping, prep work, and the cooking and when you keep in mind that this is NOT an everyday kind of cuisine, and once you have gotten into the rythm of his recipes, you are very likely to fall head over heels for his cuisine.

Now I have another problem - I need to move to a place with more spice racks AND book shelves...And although I still love my friends cooking, there is another addiction that I indulge in these days – I am definitely in an Ottolenghi state of mind!