27 December 2009

Ham Steak. Diner classic goes uptown.

My mother-in-law is a big Elvis fan and some years ago, she bought an Elvis cookbook. With all the stuff the king was allegedly fond of. Like Banana cream pudding, fried peanut butter sandwiches and German bratwurst. The book also says the was a fan of diner food and listed a recipe for ham steak with red eye gravy. When we first cooked it, it tasted horrible. Coffee too thin, too bitter, too salty. Terrible.

After some time, I came across another recipe for red eye gravy, this time with the addition of red currant jelly. Which absolutely made sense to me as I always drink my coffee very sweet (undrinkable, my husband would say). And out of nowhere came the inspiration to use Crème de Cassis (French black currant liqueur) and grenadine syrup instead.

Though nobody believes this is a good combination, all the guests that I made it for were totally impressed. Since then, this has become our meal for special occasions.

20 December 2009

Risotto alla Milanese. Spiced up a bit.

Basically, there is red risotto and white risotto. The red variety mostly contains tomatoes and bold flavors, whereas the white one goes better with more subtle flavors like mushrooms, asparagus and such. But as you might suspect, I like going for the intense flavors, so I took a classic recipe for Risotto alla Milanese and spiced it up a bit with chilies and peas.

This was on a evening shortly after my foot got operated on, so going shopping for groceries was out of the question. So risotto is once again a nice way of getting a nice meal out of the rests in your fridge and freezer.

12 December 2009

Pecan Pie. Fructose free and delicious.

Around Halloween, I was surprised of all the Pecan Pie recipes popping up in all the food blogs. I really love pecans - they were unknown in my childhood in Germany, and even nowadays they're not available in every supermarket. But most of the recipes also called for corn syrup which rules out for tow reasons - also basically not available in Germany and also potentially containing too much fructose. So I searched around the internet and found that there are recipes for pecan pie with maple syrup. Now that was right up my alley, as there is basically no fructose in it and the taste is just marvelous. And this pie is really tasty, a crunchy buttery crust, maple syrup and pecans that taste like the candied ones from the fair.

06 December 2009

Chocolate Banana Sheet Cake. My husband's favorite.

This is my husband's traditional birthday cake. His mother got the recipe out of a magazine a long time ago and since then he HAS to have this cake - otherwise it's not a proper birthday.

29 November 2009

Pot roast. With carrots and red wine.

Last weekend I wrote about spaetzle, and how well they go with Sunday roasts. Well, this is a very classic pot roast, though I like to give it my twist and added some mushrooms. And of course, I like to be generous with the red wine, something my frugal grandma would never have done.

And if you're not a fan of spaetzle (or just have eaten enough), then serve the roast with baked potatoes, pasta or - just as in this case - potato dumplings.

27 November 2009

Please update your bookmarks


Please update your bookmarks to this blog to

I have decided to use my own domain from now on, but fear not:
You will be automatically redirected from blogger to the new web address.

Mel P.

24 November 2009

Mozzarella salad. Close, but not caprese.

Do you also hate tomatoes in winter? As much as I love a fruity tomato salad on a hot summer day, tomatoes around here are terrible after September. They will be bland, sour and almost "green" tasting. I think it's awful.

Instead, I used some jalapeños I planted in spring which are now getting a very nice red color. The plants were growing quite nicely on my balcony until it got too cold. Now they live inside and every couple of days I get to pick a red chili. They're not really hot, just a tiny little bit spicy, just the right amount to go very well with mozzarella. You'll have the classic color combination of a caprese salad, but definitively a very different taste!

21 November 2009

Pizza. How to make it from scratch.

Most curiously, I hear so many people are afraid of yeast dough. They don't dare even try it out - I mean, what is so bad if you really should end up ruining 2 cups of flour and a packet of yeast that are worth 50 cents together? In my opinion, building a dough with the creaming method, eg for cupcakes, starting with butter, then eggs, requires much more attention to timing, sequence and accuracy than a simple yeast dough. And with the dry yeast you can by nowadays there's no fussing about with slurries, sugary water and what not.

17 November 2009

Spaetzle. The secret to the fluffy pasta.

My grandma was from Southern Germany and was always very strict on traditions. Every - I mean every - Sunday there would be a huge roast on the table, alongside with a little salad, lots of gravy and spaetzle. As my family lived some hundred kilometers away, those Sunday feasts were quite a rare thing that I looked forward to. In total contrast to my dad who grew up having a roast on Sundays and having to eat the rests throughout the following week.

06 November 2009

Ganache. When chocolate simply isn't enough.

My husband is a chocoholic. Dessert is not dessert if it's without chocolate. His chocolate consumption is only topped by his Nutella consumption: a small (400 g) jar lasts a week. But mostly it's more like 4 days. So one evening, I saw him rumbling and rustling through the kitchen and the pantry. Like a tiger in a cage - going back and forth and looking again at the same places for chocolate or something similar. Luckily, he doesn't touch my chocolate stack - I only like the darker varieties, which he despises. Though he seemed desperate, he refused to eat the 60% chocolate (quite a low percentage for my taste).

Finally, I had mercy with him and made a ganache. With the 60% chocolate. And he ate the entire bowl. Just like that. Gone in a couple of minutes. This stuff is magic.

25 October 2009

Cheese Fondue. Gooey and delicious.

People who have visited me might know that I own more than 60 cookbooks. Yes, I collect them, yes, they are sorted by color, and what surprises most people: I read them. Really. From beginning to end. OK, not every single recipe, but I do open every page, look at every picture, read every recipe name and skim over the ingredient list and - once in a while - I read the entire recipe. If it sounds interesting, it gets a little pencil cross as a reminder. When I have the time (and the ingredients) I try a new recipe - and either the little cross will be erased (for example in the case of the cranberry brisket fiasco) or it gets a circle around it as sign of approval.

18 October 2009

Aurora. Pasta for the undecided.

Pasta Aurora. Just the name sounds smooth and velvety. I call it pasta for the undecided, as my husband and I often argue, if we should have pasta with a tomato-based sauce or rather a cream-based sauce like carbonara or al limone. So most times if we can't convince each other, we settle for a compromise: cream and tomato in equal parts.

It's easy, it's delicious and consists of things I always have at home. This is just a very basic recipe - you can change it and go as minimalistic (just tomato paste, cream, salt and pepper) or as exorbitantly creative as you like. This time, I went for onions, garlic and red wine - just because I had those things within reach and find them delicious...

28 September 2009

Gulasch. Because autumn is arriving fast.

Do you also have an obsession of going to supermarkets in foreign countries? Personally, I think it's exiting to see what's similar, what's different and to find things I've never seen before.
When I was on vacation in France in September, I found fresh "Piments d'Espelette", or Espelette pepper. Espelette is a small town in Basque Country, near the Spanish border and famous for the houses covered with festoons of drying peppers. When the peppers are fresh, they are bright red and look like regular Hungarian peppers, but are definitively hotter. When they dry, they get darker until they look almost black. They are not extremely hot, but definitely too hot to be eaten as such.

26 September 2009

Blackberry Muffins. Last remnants of summer.

In September, I spent vacation in France. Right in the middle of nowhere between Bordeaux and Biarritz, to be exact. The landscape consists mostly of pine forests that have been planted 200 years ago and the understory is overgrown with ferns, erica and blackberry bushes. As it was exactly the right season for blackberries, my husband and I went for a little picking and photo tour. We came back with 122 photos and 2 cups of blackberries.

13 September 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies. Need I say more?

I must say, I really like cooking and baking, but cookies (especially those for Christmas, named in German "Weihnachtsplätzchen") never seemed to be right. Either they're bland and boring. Or burned.
So when I first made this recipe, it was for Cookie Dough Ice Cream, not cookies. But after making a whole batch I realized I only needed half of it for the ice cream. Then I decided to give it a try and bake the rest of it - and to my surprise, it was a full success! Since then, I like baking cookies, at least based on the recipe below.

06 September 2009

Hummus. Yet another middle-eastern dip.

This may sound a bit silly, but the first time I tasted hummus was in New Zealand. The reasons for this: My co-worker was vegan and loved it. And it was available in the supermarket in dozens of varieties. From plain to lime & jalapeño to sun-dried tomato. With Turkish salsa was my favorite. It was great just sitting on the Auckland pier at lunchtime and having a little pick-nick with hummus and a fresh bread.

30 August 2009

Baba Ghanoush. Dip for eggplant lovers.

Basically, I hate eggplants. Especially if they are soggy, mushy, bland and/or bitter. Or even soaked with oil floating in a boring tomato sauce. Horrible.
A year ago I discovered that eggplants - also called aubergines - actually CAN taste good, as long as you cut them in 1 cm thick slices, lace them with garlic and put them on the BBQ until they are dark brown and soft.

20 August 2009

Tzatziki. Greek for dip.

Summer is the best season in my opinion. I don't mind the heat - on the contrary, I love it - and I enjoy sitting on the balcony in the evenings, feeling a light breeze and waiting for the thunderstorm to break loose. Yesterday we had one of those evenings, and we decided on a light dinner with some pita bread, olives, hummus (recipe coming soon), feta and some taramasalata for my husband (I don't eat anything that comes from the sea, except tuna).

08 August 2009

BBQ chicken. Somewhat Indian.

Summer finally arrived here in Munich - at least for the next two days, then it will be raining again. So I enjoy it while I can... And additionally, it's the last week before my summer vacation! Just 5 more days to go, then I'll be staying for 3 weeks in a small house in south-western France, just a 10 minute's drive from the beach. And I'll be spending the days at the beach and firing up a real barbecue every night. I really miss barbecues. Because there's a law and/or regulation for everything in Germany, we're not allowed to have a BBQ or just a gas grill on the balcony. So I have an electric griddle, but it's really not the same.

04 August 2009

I'm back!

Sorry for not posting for 2 months, but I'm back again after such a long time. There were 2 things my doctor diagnosed that somehow killed my appetite and my desire to cook: gastritis and fructose malabsorption.

The first thing meant taking antacids and not eating all that is worth living: hot food, acidic food, fried food, lots of proteins, alcohol. So, no chili, no tomato sauce on pasta, no fries, no steak, no red wine. The stomach pain is getting better now, but I still have to take the antacids for the rest of the year.

The fructose malabsorption is more of a long-term thing. The diagnosis alone took 6 days of hydrogen breath testing and it seems I will have it for the rest of my life. It's not such a big deal, but it's kind of unsettling if you believed for years you were lactose intolerant. It's a more of a double edged thing: I'm terribly happy that I can eat dairy products again, but on the other hand I have to skip apples, cherries, honey and some other tasty things. So many foods I believed were good and healthy are now "bad" for me . Quite confusing. Plus, I'm back to reading every single ingredient list when grocery shopping.
Oh, and additionally: If you have fructose malabsorption, you automatically have an intolerance against sorbit (sorbitol) and other sugar alcohols (mannitol, xylitol), as they block the the few fructose transporters still left - and it's impossible to eat 100% fructose-free.

Anyway, things are getting back to normal, I started cooking and reading recipes again and you will soon see some new stuff here. Oh, and summer vacation is not far, I'll be traveling to France for 3 weeks.

04 June 2009

Flammekuchen. The lazy version.

The weather around Munich is changing every day, from sunny and warm to cloudy and cold. And back. Twice a day. This roller coaster ride really gets me tired. Plus taking some medicine that makes me feel nauseous all the time doesn't help at all. So yesterday evening, all I wanted was a quick bite, watch a bit of TV and a hot shower before going to bed.

27 May 2009

Al limone. Even quicker comfort food.

Pasta. Again.
Having a husband who wants to eat pasta every single day, I end up cooking pasta quite often. Today, it was pasta al limone - even simpler and with less ingredients than carbonara, most of which I always have at home. That is cream, lemons and garlic. The pasta doesn't look very spectacular - some might even say boring - but the taste is fantastic. And the biggest plus: the whole meal just takes as long to prepare as the pasta needs to cook. That means: hot dinner in 10 minutes. Try and beat that.

02 May 2009

Red lentils. Vegetarian soul food.

This is the stuff that gives this blog its name - at least half of the name. Lentils are very nutritious, they contain carbohydrates, proteins, fibers and - very important in stressful times - folate, vitamin B1 and iron. I like to prepare them as a thick soup, but I don't puree them as I like the soft bite they have. This is an Indian-inspired version of lentil soup, but basically I just put in all the exotic spices I have in my kitchen. And the best thing is, you have a heart-warming dinner in just 20 minutes!

29 April 2009

Risotto. Great to use the rests in your fridge.

Risotto was - just like many other famous Italian dishes - invented by poor people. The goal is to use the stuff you already have, like vegetable rests and leftovers. I very rarely shop for ingredients for risotto, so when I make one it is different every time. First of all, I search my fridge, pantry and freezer of things I can use and then I decide if I want to make a red or a white version, that is with tomatoes or without. Today, I found some chorizo and a rest of red wine, so that really screamed for a red risotto.

19 April 2009

Mayonnaise. The real thing.

Mayo. Who doesn't love it? The best flavor enhancer I can think of - deviled eggs, ham, salad, fondue, sandwiches, cooked vegetables all taste much better with a glob of the white stuff.

29 March 2009

Chimichurri. My favorite BBQ sauce.

My mom was born and raised in Argentina - and learned to cook from an Italian family. So despite growing up in Germany, I almost never had typical German meals at home. Instead, there was often homemade pasta, gnocchi, lasagna and cannelloni. And the occasional BBQ in the summer that was impossible without this sauce. Everyone has their own recipe, and even mine is very different from the chimichurri my mom makes. There must be millions of variants: red or green, hot or mild, sweet or sour, thick or thin.

This is for Ben and Bryan - my New Zealand mates who liked to eat it straight from the jar with a spoon...


28 March 2009

Sausage salad. The Bavarian beer garden classic.

You heard right: sausage salad. Salad made from sausages. Ham sausage to be exact. This may sound weird, but it's really delicious.

It's a Bavarian beer garden classic and I guess that's why this dish was invented: the sausage keeps fresh longer when you put it in a sour and salty solution. And you needed that when the only available air condition was chestnut trees... By the way, most beer gardens in Bavaria are still "cooled" with old chestnut trees and are BYO ("bring your own"), but a little differently as you might expect if you were born in an English speaking country: you're allowed to bring your own food, but you have to buy the beer there.


13 March 2009

Salad. Suitable for male humans.

This is a little salad I like to make, because it's quick and tasty. And not to forget: it's a light lunch or dinner, but not so light that you're hungry again after half an hour. Depending on your hunger, you can make it even more filling by adding nuts or Parmesan cheese. Or both.

Another thing: You'll save washing some dishes, as the salad dressing is made in the pan with the chicken. I like dressing. My husband likes it so much he even drinks it. So don't be surprised if it looks a little bit too much. If you prefer having less dressing, start with the half amounts of soy sauce and vinegar or let it cook longer.


11 March 2009

Pesto. Not from a supermarket shelf.

I love pesto. It tastes great on pasta, you can use it on pizzas or chicken, it even helps putting some taste in an otherwise boring tomato or bechamel sauce.

Problem is, once you have tasted the homemade stuff, you're never going back to the jars and plastic bags from the supermarket. On the other hand it's very simple to make at home. You can also use a blender or food processor instead of pestle and mortar, but personally I like to see some bits and pieces.

Parmesan cheese is practically lactose free - like the most hard cheeses. Check the carbohydrates section on the nutrition facts: If a cheese (or any other dairy product without added sugar) has less than 0,5 grams of sugars/carbohydrates per 100 grams, then you can consider it lactose free (for me, even up to 1,5 grams is OK). If you are hyper-lactose-intolerant, better leave the cheese out or substitute it with toasted bread crumbs. Then it's even vegan!


01 March 2009

Macarons. First take.

As I have said in my Carbonara post, I have tons of egg whites in my freezer. And that gets even worse when I make Pasteis de Nata (a sweet that reminds me of vacations), you need 6 (six!) yolks for one muffin tray. So I'm looking for ways to use those egg whites, apart from the plain white meringue. Quite a few food bloggers post about macarons, about how delicious they are and how difficult they are to make. A way to use those egg whites and a challenge - what could be better?

Have you ever eaten macarons? It's a French sweet, a bit like a sandwich made of almond meringues and with ganache in the middle. I first tasted them last September in Bordeaux, so apart from being delicious by themselves, they taste like holidays for me... The drawback is that they're really expensive and they're - of course - only available in France. There also seems to exist a Swiss variant, named Luxemburgerli.

After reading several posts and recipes, the one presented by David Lebovitz seemed the most reasonable one - hey, he gave it seven tries! Click on this link for the RECIPE and INSTRUCTIONS...

This is my first try - doesn't look too bad:


Carbonara. Quick comfort food.

One of my all-time-favorite comfort foods is Spaghetti Carbonara. It's quick, simple, I almost always have the ingredients at home - and most important of all - it's delicious. How could you not love noodles with a creamy, cheesy sauce and bacon? The recipe I use is a very traditional Italian one, although I like it best with capers. Yes, I know it's not the classic combination (some might even shout "blasphemy!"), but I like the acidity of the capers in contrast to the creamy sauce. Please don't kill me, try it. If you don't like it you can still use the traditional chopped parsley.


24 February 2009

Quiche. With tons of leeks.

In winter in Germany, you often get to buy leeks in 1 kg bundles. It was cheap, but I only needed one leek for a stir-fry. Every time I opened the fridge I was wondering: "What the hell should I do with all those leeks?!?" Then I remembered the Swiss cheesecake my mom used to make - it has tons of onions in it and I thought I should try and substitute the onions with leeks. It was a full success!

Though I really liked the dense leek flavor, but somehow missed the sweetness of the onions. I guess I will make it 50/50 the next time.

By the way, this is NOT suitable for people trying to loose weight! There's tons of cheese, eggs and bacon... On the other hand, it's quite low on carbs, if that is your thing.

The cake is easiest to cut on the next day (like any cheesecake), but I like it piping hot and straight from the oven.

11 February 2009

Favorite kitchen helpers

Hi there,

been a while. Today I wanted to show you my favorite kitchen helpers:

my favorite kitchen helpers

From left to right:
  • Blender: 25 years old Osterizer, but still works like new. I just ordered a new blade and can't wait to test it out. Basically, I use it for smoothies and chopping nuts etc.

  • Kitchen Aid: brand new and I love it! Was my dream for many years... I had several other machines, but it's no fun if the thing starts to smell like burnt plastic if you run it for more than 10 minutes. But this one: runs forever. I also got several attachments as gifts from my parents, of which the ice cream maker is my favorite.

  • Pestle and mortar: nothing beats homemade pesto! The thing weighs 6kg and is made of granite. And the pestle is a great ersatz ice crusher.

  • Microwave: nothing beats the fast heat. Great to melt chocolate or to sauté onions if you can't be bothered with heating up a pan. Just chop the onion, but it in a bowl with a generous amount of butter and nuke it on high for 2 min.

  • Henry: he's my cat, always there and always watching what I'm doing - he really is into cooking! He even stays when I cut onions, poor thing blinks because of the tears building up in his eyes. One crazy cat...

28 January 2009

Gugelhupf. With new-world twist.

A couple of days ago, the weather turned cold and bad and I had a craving for traditional cake made with yeast. Then, I browsed through my pantry and my collection of cook books and found just the right things: a packet of dried yeast, candied lemon peel and dried fruit. And this is what it looked like when I was ready: