beetroot and goat’s cheese carpaccio parcels

beetroot is such a wonderul vegetable, it is sweet, it is earthy, it is colourful, it is healthy and it is mega-yum! i especially like it raw as then it is most flavoursome and crunchy too.

BEETROOT AND GOAT’S CHEESE CARPACCIO PARCELS

beetroon

ingredients (serves 2-3 as a starter):

  • 1 fresh beetroot (raw and uncooked)
  • ca. 150 g soft goat’s cheese
  • cress
  • chili flakes
  • high quality olive oil

wash and peel the beetroot and then thinly slice it. arrange half of the slices on a plate and spread some soft goat’s cheese on each slice then sprinkle some creass and chili flakes and top it off with a dash of olive oil. cover each with another slice of beetroot and voila, it is ready to be served. it makes a great start to a meal.

the earthiness of the beetroot combines splendidly with the slight sharpness of the goat’s cheese, which gives it a milky richness as well. the cress adds some pungency and the chili some piquancy. a good greek olive oil, which is mild but fruity, rounds it all off. it is a simple starter but full of flavour – and most of all you can prepare it in less than 10 minutes … this is ‘fast food’ for the soul!

back with a vengeance … and a martini

oh dear … it has been nearly 12 months since my last post. i am still alive but the last year was incredibly busy (both in a good and in a bad way) – but i must get back to sharing culture and tasty things 🙂

as it is friday now, which means martini day, let’s start the new recipes with a

CUCUMBER AND ROSE MARTINI SLUSHY

cucumber-martini

as you can probably see in the back, i  acquired a smoothie maker … and apart from smoothies, it makes splendid cocktails too. here we go for the recipe:

  • 3 cl gin (best use hendrick’s for this, as it is already infused with cucumber and rose)
  • 0.5 cl dry vermouth
  • 0.5 cl rose water
  • a handful of diced cucumber (peel it before dicing), chilled
  • three ice cubes

add it all to a smothie maker or a high powered blender and whizz it well … it will come up deliciously frothy and flavoursome. like a liquidy sorbet!

i admit that rose water adds some perfumey floweryness to the drink, which i personally find enticing but some might find bothersome. if you don’t like floral notes that just skip the rose water and use more vermouth instead.

the taste of that cocktail is green and wonderfully cool on the palate, but with a heady fragrance. and what better to start a friday evening?

sip it and enjoy and fall in love!

 

a rosy gin and tonic to chill and enjoy

sometimes it is good to revisit old friends and spice up the friendship with something new. a gin and tonic is always a good and safe choice and something to play around with …

a rosy gin & tonic

g&t with rose

ingredients (for one cocktail):

2cl hendrick’s gin

4-6cl doctor polidori’s cucumber tonic

1-2tsp rose water

2-3 ice cubes

put the ice cubes in a martini glass (as it just looks prettier!), add the gin and the rose water and stir. pour over the tonic water and decorate with a slice of cucumber. drink. chill. perfection!

one absolutely and under all circumstances MUST use hendrick’s gin for this recipe, as it already has a subtle aroma of rose and cucumber which will be magnified by the addition of the rose water (ensure that you use a natural, organic variety … and none that has added artificial rose flavouring – the difference in taste is immense!). the polidori’s cucumber tonic adds more earthiness of the cucumber and it all becomes a very rounded and rich taste on one’s palate – what more could one wish for in a cocktail? you’re welcome 🙂

PS. i discovered the polidori tonic by pure chance – if you cannot find it near you, you can get the details of the distributor here. if you need to substitute the cucumber tonic, fever tree elderflower tonic would work, but it will make the result slightly sweeter and less clean in taste – if you use it then add a couple of  cucumber slices to the glass.

a zesty dish: lemon risotto with tarragon

a new job means much less time to cook and less time to blog … but still a passion for food and culture!

i find making risottos very fulfilling – you only need one pot which gets filled with lots of different flavours and ends up as a heartwarming dish. plus one can get very creative in the cooking process, i used up small batches of left-overs from the fridge for this (like the chilli, tarragon and gorgonzola) and the result was amazing in its creamy richness! personally i have not found a good way to make vegan risotto, as i find it lacking in depth and butter plus cheese are just essential to get a perfect result. but if any of you have tips, i am always open to turn this from vegetarian to vegan 🙂

lemon risotto with tarragon (and gorgonzola)

lemon risotto

ingredients (about two to three servings, depending on appetite):

1 chopped shallot

1 chopped clove of garlic

1 deseeded and chopped red chili

ca. 400ml vegetable stock

ca. 200ml dry white wine (i used riesling)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

150g risotto rice (i used arborio)

ca. 75-100g diced gorgonzola (depending on taste)

2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon

1 organic lemon (zested and juiced)

3 tbsp pine nuts, slightly toasted

fleur de sel & freshly ground white pepper (plus chili flakes for decoration)

the vegetable stock needs to be piping hot, so you need to heat that first.

in a big pot shallow fry the onion, garlic, chili and half of the lemon zest with a pinch of fleur de sel in the olive oil – they should not brown but only soften. add the risotto rice and stir. shallow fry for another minute, constantly stirring until the rice smells nutty. be careful not to burn it.

add about 100ml of the wine and let it cook on a moderate heat – it should constantly bubble. you need to stay near the pot as you need to stir often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. once the wine is absorbed, pour in a soup ladle of vegetable stock, keep stirring and cooking until that is absorbed as well. continue with the rest of the stock the same way until it is all used up. this will take about 20-25 minutes.

then add the rest of the wine and turn the heat to low and let it gently simmer so the rice can absorb the wine as well – it will by now be thick and creamy. the rice might still have a slightly hard centre but don’t worry, it will be perfect in the end. keep on stirring!

now add the lemon juice and the rest of the zest and stir it in, then immediately add the butter and the diced gorgonzola and stir it in as well. should the mixture be too thick, add a bit more wine – the texture of the risotto should be like a thick soupy stew. season with fleur de sel and freshly ground white pepper and stir in the chopped tarragon. take from the hob and let it stand (with the pot covered) for a minute or two before stirring in half of the toasted pine nuts.

serve in nice bowls or soup dishes and decorate with the rest of the pine nuts and chili flakes! you might even add another dollop of butter to give it a nice shine. the taste and smell is zesty and very fresh, with a green hint from the tarragon. it looks as colourful as it tastes…

serve with some green lettuce on the side and a glass of wine. it is mediterrania on a plate!

a little gem of blueish colour: aviation

the art of cocktail making comes in so many shapes, aromas and colours, which is a real pleasure not only to the tastebuds but also the eye! whenever you are feeling blue, why not go for a blueish pick-me-up. it is a classic and with a classic you can never go wrong!

aviation

aviation

ingredients:

2cl gin (tanqueray is a good choice here)

0.5cl lime juice

0.5cl maraschino liqueur

2 tsp creme de violette or violet liqueur (i used the bitter truth variety)

combine all in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice – then strain into a martini glass. garnish with some lemon or lime zest or (as i did) with a frozen strawberry!

what i really like about the aviation is the complexity in taste. taken on its own, maraschino liqueur (which is made from marasca cherries) and violet liqueur are quite sweet but the gin and lime juice nicely balance the sweetness and you have a wonderful slighly perfumed aroma in your mouth with flowery and fruity overtones combining well with the tartness of the lime and the herbal touch of the gin. the ‘original’ recipe (but what is original nowadays?!) only asks for one tsp or barspoon of creme de violette, but i find the ‘perfume’ it adds so nice that i always use a bit more – don’t overdo it though as otherwise you might end up thinking you took a sip from grannie’s old perfume bottle instead 🙂

 

a cultural musical journey – part II

time to continue with some musical culture – or whatever one considers culture. after all it is always deeply personal and what i find musical, others might classify as noise!

nonetheless here are some more favourites of mine:

TORI AMOS – night of hunters

this is tori amos’ most classical album, which is fittingly influenced by classical music pieces which she has taken as inspiration and/or reworked into heartwrenching works of art. there is really no real way to describe this album other than saying put it on, close your eyes and listen. it goes from simplicity to monumental and back and is full of gems (and you get to hear tori’s daughter singing on several tracks as well!). the highest recommendation possible – this is no easy listening but it shoots right to your emotional core!

night of hunters

good place to start: star whisperer, your ghost, job’s coffin

UTE LEMPER – punishing kiss

ute lemper always divides opinion and here she is at her most ‘kunstdiva’ possible, which i mean as a great compliment. she interprets modern songwriters such as nick cave, elvis costello and the divine comedy and adds her own inimitable flavour to it – as well as throwing in a classic by kurt weill (in a duet with neil hannon from the divine comedy). this is cabaret in its most progressive form and ‘kunst as kunst can’. artful but in no way artificial.

punishing kiss

good place to start: little water song, tango ballad, you were meant for me

CYNDI LAUPER – at last

whoever still considers cyndi lauper a pop-relic from the 80s, should listen to her take on standards and classics from burt bacharach, edith piaf, etta james or nina simone (just to name a few) from 2003. i promise you that your jaw will drop as her vocal abilities make them sound fresh and anew and the arrangements go from sparse and faithful to slightly cooky. it feels like a breath of fresh air blown all over you and the whole album is full of highlights (and her version of piaf’s hymn to love is simply to die for).

at last

good place to start: hymn to love, at last, unchained melody

HILDEGARD KNEF – knef

in germany, everyone knows hildegard knef who has been immortalised through songs such as ‘fĂĽr mich soll’s rote rosen regnen’ (who still remembers that she was the first german to have a hit in a long-running broadway musical with ‘silk stockings’ though…) – ella fitzgerald once called her ‘the greatest singer without a voice’. admittedly she was not your usual singer, but more an interpreter and the way she used her smoky voice via enunciation and accentuation was shere perfection, as her phrasing was always immensely musical and intelligent.

in 1970 she took on modern ‘vibes’ and created an album that was both forward looking as well as tradiotional, both avantgarde and highly unique. the lyrics are witty and critical (as in ‘herren dieser welt’) and are typically knef. this is german chanson at its very best!

knef

good place to start: ich brauch’ tapetenwechsel, herren dieser welt, friedenskampf und schadenfreude

MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND – all things will unwind

if you like sufjan stevens, you might have come across my brightest diamond before, as shara worden (how she is known in real life) has collaborated with him frequently on his albums, so you might have heard her voice before. her own style is, quite similar to sufjan stevens, highly personal and quirky and combines many different musical styles. this is a singer/songwriter at her most developed stage with a voice that seems both angelic and earthy and comes right out of heaven.

all things will unwind

my brightest diamond live on youtube

good place to start: we added up, high low middle, i have never loved someone

THE TIGER LILLIES – shockheaded peter

whatever one considers to be ‘twisted cabaret’ or ‘dark cabaret’, the tiger lillies are it to a 1000%! nothing about them is conventional – from the high-pitched vocals of martyn jacques to the orchestration of ukulele, piano, harmonica and more, it is just what defines the genre. it is quirky and alternative without sounding arty-farty and it makes you smile even when the stories told are dark and gruesome. ‘shockheaded peter’ is called a trash opera and based on ‘der struwwelpeter’ (a book of moralising children’s tales that is very well know in germany … and you wonder why we have a word such as ‘schadenfreude’????!!!) and i first discovered it as a stage play (of course with the tiger lillies performing). the mere aural version on its own still conveys much of the stories, as you see poor harriet burn in front of your inner eye and robert flying away in a storm. it is truly exceptional and so much worth a listen (should you ever see it being performed live, i implore you to book a ticket straight away!)!

shockheaded peter

excerpt from shockheaded peter on youtube

good place to start: flying robert, bully boys, the dreadful story about harriet and the matches

 

stay tuned … more music to follow in the near future as one can never have enough cocktails or culture!

 

simple vegan pleasures … potatoes with chervil

if you fancy a simple dish that is nonetheless full of flavour, slightly roasted potatoes are always a good option – especially when herbs are added.

lightly roasted potatoes with chervil

potatoes

ingredients (for one):

4 medium sized potatoes

1 shallot

1 garlic clove

1 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil

bunch of fresh chervil (chopped)

sea salt

chili flakes

peel the potatoes and dice them, then slighly steam them (or boil them in water, they should not be fully cooked but only pre-cooked). meanwhile chop the shallot and the garlic and lighly fry them in the oil. transfer the potatoes with the shallots and garlic into a baking dish, season with sea salt and chili flakes and stir well.

put them into the oven at a moderate heat for about 20 minutes, they should only be ever so slightly brown around the edges and still very much golden in colour. add the chopped chervil, stir and tug in.

this will make a light but carbohydrate-rich lunch and goes well served with a green salad on the side. the chervil will give the potatoes a nice green hint (and aroma), making the dish as pleasant to the eye as it is easy to digest!