Some weeks ago, before that outburst of infernal heat, we longed for something spicy, something hot, and something that would really satisfy us—we were really very hungry that day some weeks ago. Some green asparagus with graped parmigiano just wouldn’t do the job. And so we remembered a very rich meal that was very popular in Germany in the 1970s, Gefüllte Paprikaschoten, which translates to Filled Peppers. We always thought of this dish as typically Hungarian a recipe, its origin seemed quite clear to us, as in these days everything served with peppers or even just remotely seasoned with paprika was considered Hungarian, and as Hungarians are very fiery people this meal should actually be a very fiery one. Germans, however, tend to prepare it very, very mild. Overly mild. I’ve said it before, and I say it again, Germans don’t like spices. Therefore, the grounded paprika for the sauce comes from Switzerland, I imported vast amounts of it, not from some posh fine delicatessen, but from a very ordinary supermarket, from Coop, from their cheapest range, Qualité & Prix, and is wonderfully hot. Just perfect. The Swiss love fine dining, and therefore you get the best spices there. Actually, I should call this dish Swiss Hunger Treatment…
When you are supposed to put rosemary on a cake, you know it’s going to be different from your usual hazelnut extravaganza. Truth be told, this fine herb was the only exceptional ingredient of this recipe, all the rest, puff pastry, plums, sugar, cinnamon, and quince jelly, sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? But once you’ve put the plums casually on the puff pastry and sprinkled the rosemary on it, your eyes won’t believe it’s not butter, sorry, they won’t believe it’s not pizza. Only when it’s out of the oven and into your mouth, its case is closed. It’s cake. No doubt. A very yummy, very Mediterranian cake. If you want to challenge your eyes, do try this at home!
For family dinners, I’m always in charge of dessert. Today, it’s going to be raspberries with cream. It’s easily prepared, I open the fridge for the cream and the freezer for the raspberries, and I’m done. And then, all while sipping Chardonnay, I witness the rest of the meal being prepared, artichokes are being cooked, a vinaigrette is being composed, lots of French mustard and Italian olive oil form a beautiful entente cordiale, parsley from the garden is being “haché-menu”-ed, ever so fresh chanterelles are being cut, not from the garden but from the grocer, the table is being set, by whom actually, my father, I suppose, gee, that Chardonnay is really drinkable, and all of a sudden, I’m the last one missing at the table, I better join them, hey, they’re are having red wine, okay, fine with me, bon appétit.
Normally, for a nut cake, I need lots and lots of grounded almonds and some chopped walnuts, but yesterday I only had a tiny sachet of grounded almonds, just a mere 100 gramms, some bitter joke of an amount, so to speak, and if I weren’t as stress-resilient as I am, I might have burst out into tears. But then, out of hunting destiny down and kicking its ass, I decided to replace the grounded almonds with caramelized hazelnuts, the brittle priorly reserved for the glaze, and, while I was at it, use whole pine nuts as a substitute for the chopped walnuts, lots and lots of whole pine nuts. The result? Best nut cake ever! Unchanged recipes are for losers!
Luxembourg is known for gathering politicians from the European Community, some tax-friendly banking and its Grand Duke. It’s much lesser known for its flour. Why that is, I cannot tell you. It’s perfectly fine flour. Admittedly, neither wholemeal nor organic, at least the packaging gives no indication of it, just a fancy crown, meaning it’s of somewhat aristocratic origin, maybe the Grand Duke has a mill, who knows, Louis XVI was into crafts too, he loved making keys, metalworking or milling, where’s the difference, anyway, I’m very fond of this flour, however politically incorrect, and as for organic baking ingredients and political correctness, my apples take full responsability, they’re totally organic, all seven of them, and they take the lion’s share of that cake anyway, so it probably won’t pose a health hazard. Alerted as I was, I tasted the rum at large, just to make sure its aroma would complement the other condiments, vanilla pulp and cinnamon, finding myself totally at ease with my partially conventional, inorganic and man-made apple cake. Totally.
The minute temperatures start rising, our dining table falls into some kind of hibernation – is there actually a term for hibernating in summer? It can’t be summernation, that sounds like a Tommy Hilfiger fragrance. Anyway, we declare the sombre mahogany totally useless, and adjust ourselves to teak. From then on, we not only have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the garden, we also prepare the meals outside, at least any part of the dish whose prepping doesn’t require gas or running water and allows us to enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine alongside cutting, peeling, trimming, snapping, or whatever you do with it. Asparagus, green and white, but the white ones especially, is the best example, peeling those bastards is such a pesky business, it makes you want to employ a cook, for my sake even with a staff of her own, but since nobody can no longer afford servants, we have to blame socialism, no doubt about that, we have do to such things ourselves, however tedious. But when sitting in an apple tree’s shade and sipping some red wine, the whole undertaking suddenly makes you feel blessed. And while I’m peeling away another spear’s tough outer layer, I hope autumn will come late this year, a week before Christmas will do.
Instead of posting another yummy dish or even yummier dessert, I give you the place where I cook and eat: my kitchen. Don’t get fooled by the current cleanliness, it’s just because the maid has just left (the maid being me…) and I’m off for some days, normally you find the place filled with pots, bowls, vegetables, cereals, flour, nuts, fruit, spices, herbs (sage, rosemary, and basil), bottles (olive oil, vinegar, wine, Coke Zero, and Evian) and lots and lots of coffee mugs, tea cups, glasses of all kind, candles (not scented, never in the kitchen), plates and tureens, and some Italian opera going on on iTunes (a cliché from the 1980s that just keeps sticking…). Anyway, this is my kitchen and I hope you like it.
I am a devout devourer of jam, marmalade, jellies, confiture, and all other kind of preserves. First, because they all taste so very good, second you can eat them on/with almost everything, orange marmalade especially. Lately, I tried it on French pâté which looks like German leberwurst but is in fact some fine pâté, some ducks died for it, which always makes me sad as I love ducks, but every once in a while somebody brings duck confit or pâté de canard in order to amuse my taste buds and instead makes me mourn and cry out loud for the poor creatures. But since I don’t want them to have died in vain, I spread the pâté on baguette or German bread and always eat it up, every last bit of it—call me a hypocrite. Anyway, whatever concerns you might have, you should forget all about them and try some pâté with some (or even lots of) fine orange marmalade, it’s just too yummy. I understand, they make pâté from less lovely creatures, too…
What was that film called again? The one with Julia Roberts and all these pizzas? Mystic Pizza? It was Mystic, wasn’t it? Not Messy Pizza? Well, the one I ordered today was both in a way, mystic and messy. Messy, because it made me think of some sort of midcentury action painting, as if Willem de Kooning was responsible for the topping, heavy white brushstrokes of buffalo mozzarella, counteracted by frantic splashes of basil. Mystic, because the blend of aromas was quite intriguing, it tasted quite unexpectedly vegetarian despite all the salami, actually, it didn’t taste like pizza at all. I’ve been trying to come up with a description of what it tasted like since noon, but I failed… Messy and mystic, that’s all I could come up with.
What is happiness all about? The calm happiness, I mean, the one without any adrenalin rushes, just the kind that’s keeping your serotonine levels on a pleasant high, is it really just something good on TV, say The Crown, or Feud, that tour de force that made me love formerly hated Susan Sarandon, and grow soft on Joan Crawford, that mess of a woman, although she was right about those wire hangers, granted, that was actually Faye Dunaway’s version of Crawford, but still, wire hangers are not an option, and something to keep you alive during binge-watch, salami, baguette and some champagne, is that really as good as it gets? Yes, believe you me, it doesn’t get any better, this is how our life was meant to be, lions rest in the sun, birds fly high in the sky, we do this. So, as a piece of simple advice, you better quit the gym, your friends and your job, gracefully or cold turkey, that’s up to you, just make sure they stop calling, and stock up on Bollinger. Season 2 of Killing Eve is on and demands all attention.