Monday, 27 June 2011

Berlin Cooking Club: July Meetup

Photo by Alex Trebus

Last Saturday, Berlin Cooking Club got together for another meetup. This time we were fortunate that Shannon, owner of The Dairy, graciously offered us the use of his kitchen and space for the night. We met a few days before the meal to finalise our menu and plans. Here's what we ended up with:

Cocktail (Kelsie): Negroni
Antipasto (Xesus): Bruschetta
Primi (Felix): Mussels in tomato broth
Secondi(Rene): Wild Boar with polenta
Dolci (Mel): Pine Nut Tart

Here's some photos of the evening.


For more info about Berlin Cooking Club visit our posterous page, or email

The Dairy
address: Raumerstrasse 12, Berlin 10437

Mitte Meer
address: Gotlandstr. 6-10, 10439 Berlin

Strawberry Risotto (Yes, it's savoury)

June is almost over and i can't let this month pass without a nod to the current Berlin food obsession: strawberries. All the Beelitzer spargel stands have been replaced by cute Erdbeer huts selling local strawberries. These are definitely strawberries worth waiting for. These aren't those huge but tasteless things your local supermarket tries to pass off as a strawberry. These are the real thing. Every bite gives you that strawberry taste you remember from your youth but never found again....until now!

You can buy generous 1kg crates from a hut for 4.50Euro Not a bad deal at all in my opninion.

So what to do with all these strawberries? Make Strawberry Risotto of course! People's first reaction when i mention strawberry risotto is to ask -- is it a dessert? When i tell them no, it's a savoury dish they still look skeptical. But trust me, this dish definitely works as either a nice starter or even as a main. I used Tessa Kiros' Strawberry Risotto recipe from her fabulous book Twelve.

Risotto alla Fragola
from Twelve by Tessa Kiros
serves 6

1.5 litres meat or chicken stock
60g butter
1 medium French shallot, peeled and very finely chopped
250g ripe strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
3 Tbsp good quality brandy
500 risotto rice
50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for serving

  • Heat the stock in a large saucepan and keep it on a gentle simmer.

  • Heat half of the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Saute the French shallot on a low heat until it has softened and add half of the strawberries. Cook gently for a couple of minutes, then add the brandy. When it has evaporated, add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon to coat all the rice. Season with salt and pepper and add a ladleful of hot stock, stirring almost continuously to prevent the rice from sticking.

  • When the rice has absorbed the liquid, add another ladleful and continue stirring, making sure you move all the rice at the bottom of the pan with the spoon. After about 20 minutes, taste the rice. It should be soft yet firm, and the texture should be creamy and slightly liquid. You may have to continue cooking it for a few more minutes.

  • Add the remaining straweberry halves, the butter and the 50g of Parmesan cheese and stir in . Serve immediately with a grinding of black pepper and extra Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Meatless Monday: Megadarra (or what to cook when your fridge is empty)

We had a short 1-week holiday in Scotland last week. Prior to that, most of Northern Germany was in the grips of E.Coli paranoia and we were no exception. After days of no progress on finding the source we decided to play it safe and ditch the fresh lettuce, cukes, tomatoes and other vegetables that we had in the fridge. When we returned the source was somewhat inconclusively nailed down to a bean sprout grower. Our fridge however was still relatively bare, and, it being a holiday weekend, we had limited options for stocking up. (Note: as of today the E.Coli has been traced back to a stream in Frankfurt.)

What we did have was a bag of onions, some lovely brown lentils that I picked up on our trip to Spain, and rice. Being an ex-vegetarian I knew I'd get a proper protein with the lentil-rice combo and a garnish of lemon/garlic/cumin spiked yoghurt would help in that regard too.

I used Claudia Roden's recipe featured on Food&Wine online. It's pretty straightforwards and quick to make. Perfect for a mid-week meal and great as leftovers for lunch!

Brown Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions
from Claudia Roden in Food & Wine online

5 Tbsp olive oil
750g onions, thinly sliced
265g brown lentils
5 cups water
255g long grain rice (i used basmati)
1 cup yoghurt
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cumin (i used about 1 tsp cumin + 1/2 tsp cayenne)

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring from time to time, until the onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.

  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat until the lentils are partially cooked, about 15 minutes. Stir in half the onions, the rice and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat until the rice and lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Add more water if needed to prevent sticking.

  3. Meanwhile, cook the remaining onions over high heat until dark brown and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Stir the onions frequently so they don't stick to the bottom of the skillet and burn.

  4. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt with the garlic, lemon juice and cumin. Transfer the lentils and rice to a shallow bowl and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over them. Sprinkle with the caramelized onions and serve. Pass the yogurt separately.