Tag: Berlin

Meet In Your Kitchen | Berlin’s Best Beet at Vadim’s Otto

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

That was probably the most intense time of my life. It was the restaurant I looked up to the most. I thought this is the best restaurant in the world. – Vadim Otto Ursus

Smoky pans and blazing fire at Noma‘s Pop Up in Tulum, screaming and rushing, the air filled with adrenalin like a ballon ready to burst, tweezers in your hand to arrange plates to fragile perfection – Vadim Otto Ursus wanted to experience all of this and he got it. Born in Berlin, raised in Berlin, and he even returned to his city although he had the chance to keep working at Noma and other illustrious restaurants.

Vadim’s parents lived in a squat in Berlin Mitte, one of the many empty houses in the 90s that people just moved into, put a lock on the door, and called it their home. It was common, no one cared. You payed one D-Mark, symbolically. There was no heating or warm water but lots of freedom and all the possibilities in the world. Vadim’s mother is an artist, his father is a media historian, the wall had just fallen, and they decided to move to Berlin. Galleries popped up all around their apartment, there were exhibitions at every street corner – and young Vadim was right in the middle of it.

“You did the same thing most of the time, just when everything worked smoothly, the chef, René Redzepi, would say OK, change positions! to keep the adrenalin level at 120% so that you wouldn’t rest but always be pushed to maximum pressure.” – Vadim Otto Ursus

Before he even had a chance to get lost in Berlin’s party world, which he loved and that was equally exciting at that time as the art world, his mother involved him in her art projects and his father introduced him to a little restaurant on Schönhauser Allee. A bunch of young chefs, pioneers in Berlin’s – at that point – culinarily wild and not very refined East, sparked something in Vadim. After having been surrounded by the arts, boundless creativity and freedom, he was hungry for a life that was a bit more structured, where cause and effect were a bit more predictable; less interpretation, more facts. Cooking is a craft, you cut your ingredients, you choose a technique, you improve your skills, and at one point you can pretty much say what the result is going to be like. Vadim liked that idea.

For an art project, the mother-son duo went on a trip to Mexico together. For two months, Vadim cooked in a food truck at a market in Mexico City and his mother curated a flow of people from different backgrounds bringing ingredients to the truck, or just their stories, all of them coming together at the table for lunch. Working with local produce, working with fire, using techniques he had learned in Germany, the puzzle slowly started to come together.

“The plates, the dishes were delicious and looked almost perfect but I don’t understand how anything good should come out if it was created with so much hate, anger, and fear.” – Vadim Otto Ursus

The freedom and harmony that had surrounded him all his life was something the young chef never took for granted. He was curious about the other side where chefs scream in steaming kitchens, where pots are flying, and single leaves are meticulously arranged with tweezers for hours. So he ended up at Quintonil, no. 27 in the World’s 50 Best, and just at that time René Redzepi and his team visited Quintonil‘s kitchen right before their Noma Pop Up started in Tulum. Coincidence or destiny, Vadim joined their team and cooked at the world’s most famous Pop Up. Vadim calls it one of the most intense experiences of his life, teaching him bold techniques and wild freedom in cooking he had never seen before, but also introducing him to a way of working that he didn’t want to assimilate in his life.

Koks on the Faroe Islands, Maaemo in Oslo, Loco in Lisbon, Vadim got his fair amount of Michelin stars, flying pots, and tweezers – and he missed Berlin. In 2019, at the age of 25, he opened his own restaurant close to where he grew up, in Prenzlauer Berg: OTTO. The ingredients are local, the techniques are international, the atmosphere is very relaxed, and community – on both sides of the kitchen – is at the core of this restaurant. Various plates to share with each other fill the tables, honest fireworks, almost humble and not pretentious, convince your palate within split seconds that the best often lies very close to us.

“I knew it before I went there but Mexico made it so clear to me: eating together, plates often placed in the middle of the table, huge piles of tortillas, using your hands, it can get messy, it’s spicy, bold flavors, that’s so much fun!” – Vadim Otto Ursus

And what does Otto taste like? The smokey, earthy note of a whole grilled butterflied boneless brook trout from a local farmer served with garum – a fermented fish sauce made at the restaurant of the fish’s leftover bones and fins. This dish combines strong flavors from two culinary worlds: earthy local German trout and a fish sauce packed with umami, originated in Asia but made from a very common German fish.

Beet, cooked twice in sloe berry juice and dried in between, with a unique texture close to prunes meets labneh and brown butter (this is also the recipe Vadim shared with me, see below). Grilled sourdough bread from a local bakery is served with koji butter, fermented buckwheat that lends the fat a very ripe, cheesy note and that you can also buy from them online. Grilled kale is tossed with a green salsa made of herbs that Vadim harvests in the countryside outside Berlin. So what do we learn? Traveling and experiencing the world outside of our box doesn’t detach us from ourselves, from our roots, it refines who we are and makes the bond even closer.

The podcast episode with Vadim Otto Ursus is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Vadim on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Beet, Sloe Berry, Labneh and Brown Butter

by Vadim Otto Ursus

Mind that you have to start preparing the beet and labneh a day in advance. The beet is cooked then it sits overnight, is dried in the oven for 7-8 hours the next day, and then briefly warmed up in the juice again.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1kg / 2 1/4 pounds medium beet (with skin)
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1l / 4 1/4 cups sloe berry juice – alternatively, you can use 700ml / 3 cups plum juice mixed with 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, 100ml / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 500g / 17 1/2 ounces full-fat yoghurt (cow milk or sheep milk)
  • 100g / 1/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • A few leaves of Belgian endive, radicchio, or sorrel, torn into bite size pieces, for serving

Day 1

Add the beet to a large pot and cover with water then add 3 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Cook for about 50 minutes or until tender. Transfer the beet to a colander placed in the sink and, while you keep the water running, use your hands to rub the skin off the beets. Cut each beet into 6 wedges and transfer to a large bowl then mix the sloe berry juice with 2 tablespoons of salt and pour over the beet. Cover the bowl with a lid and let it sit overnight at room temperature.

To make the labneh, line a colander with a cotton kitchen towel or muslin cloth then place it over a large, deep plate. Mix the yoghurt with 1 tablespoon of salt and transfer to the lined colander; let it sit overnight at room temperature.

Day 2

In the morning, preheat the oven to 70°C / 155°F. Line 1-2 baking sheets with baking paper.

Transfer the strained yoghurt to a bowl and keep it in the fridge, discard the liquid. Remove it from the fridge and keep it at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving.

Reserving the juice, transfer the beet to a colander to drain for a few minutes then spread them on the prepared baking sheet(s). Leaving the oven door slightly ajar by using the stick of a wooden spoon, dry the beet in the oven for 7-8 hours, or until they resemble soft (and not too dry) prunes. Season the reserved sloe juice with a little salt and set aside.

Just before serving, slowly cook the butter in a large pan over medium heat until it is golden brown and smells nutty (it shouldn’t burn!); set aside and keep warm.

Transfer the dried beet to a large pot, add enough of the reserved sloe juice so that the beet is almost covered then bring to a boil and immediately remove the pot from the heat.

Arrange some of the beet and a little of the sloe juice that it’s been warmed up in, in the middle of a deep plate. Drizzle with a couple spoons of the brown butter and place a generous dollop of the labneh next to the beet. Arrange a few pieces of Belgian endive (or other leaves) on top and serve immediately.

Meet in Your Kitchen | Kristiane’s Kaiserschmarrn, Pars and Pralinés

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

“I thought I wasn’t allowed to do something that was different from what I had learned. I felt trapped in the traditional framework of the patisserie. I was very nervous to dive into a new scene where I felt I didn’t belong to.” – Kristiane Kegelmann

Whenever we create something we use our senses. No matter if it’s about the arts or crafts, we see, we feel, we smell, and when it comes to food, we also use our taste. Kristiane Kegelmann loves working with the whole sensory spectrum, in her art and in the food she creates – and especially when they both merge.

During her early years as a pastry chef in Vienna, at the traditional Demel confectionery founded in 1786, Kristiane often pushed the boundaries of her craft. Although the budgets for customized cakes, torten, and gateaux were often almost bottomless, the freedom, the expectation of how a sweet creation should look like was limited. In size larger than herself, the costs sometimes reaching the price of a small car, yet her creativity was forced to stay within a certain range, the rigid range of the classic patisserie, of its craft and creations, defined over hundreds of years.

There was no tolerance when her aesthetic feeling, and her curiosity, left the frilly cream toppings and sugary ruffles and roses behind. Kristiane likes cubistic shapes reminding of the concrete architecture of the 60s and 70s, of brutalism, Le Corbusier and Gottfried Böhm, or the angular shapes of Daniel Libeskind’s buildings. Her approach is far from sweet, cute, and superficially pleasing. Her aesthetic is definitely challenging for the stubborn pastry traditionalist.

It was only through the arts that she felt able to free herself, to go beyond her own expectations in her craft. Working with an Austrian sculptor, experimenting with architectural forms and structures, combining edible and non-organic material both in her art and in her pastries and chocolates, and in the end leaving Vienna to move to Berlin, were the necessary steps to become the artist and pâtissière she wanted to be.

“Chocolate allowed me to fill a shape with a surprise. I felt, seeing that this is what I’m good at, I’m allowed to turn it into art.” – Kristiane Kegelmann

Growing up in Munich in a family where food in general, but each ingredient in particular, was given a lot of attention, a huge effort was made to strive for quality and track the origin of the products that ended up in her mother’s kitchen. Kristiane knew about buckwheat – and wasn’t particularly fond of it – when the other kids were still munching on soft wheat bread sandwiches with flappy cheese. Her sense for flavors, for quality, started to become more and more refined even before she became aware of it.

Arriving Berlin in 2015, all of a sudden Kristiane had all the freedom, and the space, to create art and food according to her own ideas. Some of her works are edible, like her chocolates and pralinés, some aren’t, which turned into a new conflict: where are the two disciplines interwoven, where shouldn’t they, where does one start and the other one end? It’s an ongoing process and the price you pay for creative freedom.

“In our traditional food, we used to be much closer to the original produce than we are today. It’s a process of simplification, of industrialization.” – Kristiane Kegelmann

At least at her pars pralinés shop, you can eat everything the pastry chef puts in front of you – and that is spectacular. Kristiane puts the same attention into her sweet creations’ fillings as she puts into their shapes and (natural) coloring. Once you bite into the delicate chocolate shell, you might be surprised by a fragile crunchy dill flower, or pear combined with sesame – which is a fantastic combination. Hops and lavender also go very well together, and a classic hazelnut praliné impresses with the intense, pure taste of hazelnuts that come from Kristiane’s home region, from Bavaria.

We would have loved to share a praliné recipe with you but unfortunately, the preparation is too complex, so instead we went for a very comforting Austrian breakfast/ brunch/ teatime/ dessert classic: kaiserschmarrn – a torn pancake – with hazelnuts and apple purée.

The podcast episode with Kristiane Kegelmann is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Kristiane on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Kaiserschmarrn with Hazelnuts and Apple Purée

by Kristiane Kegelmann / pars

Kristiane uses her own pure hazelnut spread (Nussmus) for serving, which you can buy online from her shop, but you can of course replace it with any other quality hazelnut spread (although hers is particularly delicious!).

She refines the apple purée with cherry blossom sugar (fresh cherry flowers mixed with sugar and stored in a jar, it’s divine!) but you can also use regular sugar.

Serves 4

For the cherry blossom sugar (optional)

  • 1kg / 5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 handful fresh cherry blossoms

Combine the sugar and cherry blossoms, rubbing the sugar and blossoms with your hands to intensify the flavor, and store in a large jar.

For the apple purée

  • 50g / 1/4 cup cherry blossom sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 120ml / 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 4 medium, sour, firm apples, cored and cut into small pieces (don’t peel the apples)

In a large pan, caramelize the sugar over medium heat then add the apple juice and stir until the caramel dissolves. Add the apples and cook until soft then sweeten with sugar to taste. Using a blender or a blender stick, purée the apples until smooth. If you prefer the apple purée a bit thicker, transfer it to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches the desired texture.

For the kaiserschmarrn

  • 1 ounce / 25g whole hazelnuts with skin
  • 4 large eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • 30g / 2 generous tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 350ml / 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 160g / 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Unsalted butter, to cook the kaiserschmarrn
  • About 4 tablespoons hazelnut spread, whipped until soft, for serving
  • 1-2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted, for serving

In a medium pan, roast the hazelnuts, stirring constantly, over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until fragrant; let them cool for a few minutes. Using your hands, rub the skin off the hazelnuts then chop them roughly and set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites and salt for a few minutes until stiff then transfer to a large bowl and whisk the egg yolks and sugar for a few minutes until light yellow and creamy. Using a wooden spoon, gently fold 1/3 of the milk into the egg yolk mixture, followed by 1/3 of the flour. Repeat with the remaining milk and flour, folding until combined, then gently fold the egg white into the batter just until combined.

In a large pan, heat a generous tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat, add half the batter, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for a few minutes or until the bottom of the pancake is golden. Cut the pancake into 4 pieces, add a little more butter to the pan, then flip each piece and cook until the bottom is golden. Using 2 forks or spatulas, tear the pancake into chunky pieces. Sprinkle with a little sugar, add a bit more butter if necessary, and cook the torn pancake, stirring, for a few more minutes or until golden brown then transfer to a large platter, cover, and cook the remaining batter in the same way.

Divide the kaiserschmarrn between 4 plates, sprinkle with the hazelnuts, drizzle with the hazelnut spread, and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Add a dollop of the apple purée and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Meet In Your Kitchen | Rhinoçéros Bar, Jazz and Béné’s Shrimp Cocktail

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

“Music is love, food is fun.” – Bénédict Berna

From French rap music via Berlin’s club scene right into jazz: Bénédict Berna‘s musical journey reflects the chapters in his life. Each musical genre is woven into his work projects, musical fragments becoming the tune of his life.

As a music producer in France, it was the beat and the political message of rap pulling him into the studio. This, and the fact that there was no place to go to as a teenager, made him organize concerts and parties at the age of 16. He admits that it wasn’t an altruistic move, he wanted to play in bands but the other kids wouldn’t let him. So at his parties and concerts, Béné would add himself on the lineup – and place himself at the drum machine – and the other kids had to give in.

He was hooked, he loved the energy bursting out of these events. Creating a place, a period of time, that makes other people simply happy became his passion and profession.

Berlin was like a huge kindergarten. There was space, air to breathe, you didn’t have to fight for your place. – Bénédict Berna

Born in Valence and growing up in Donzère, a small and not too exciting town in the Rhone valley between Lyon, Montpellier, and Marseille, Béné got used to moving around, networking, and organizing concerts wherever the crowd was hungry for it. His appetite also grew yet he felt the creative limitations of the smaller towns and cities. Paris wasn’t an option for him. He says it’s too snob and rigid, all places have been taken and occupied a long time ago. But Berlin was the exact opposite to that.

In 2003 things were still rather wild in Germany’s capital, especially in the party world. So when Béné arrived it didn’t take too long for him to find his way straight into the clubs, soon taking care of the set lists, bands, and DJs of Club Maria and Club Chez Jacki. The clubs and bars were the pumping heart of a city that didn’t know any limits or regulations. It was total freedom – and innocence – at least for a little while.

 “I don’t want to become an icon, I don’t want to be an institution. I want people to have a good time.” – Bénédict Berna

Berlin changed and grew up, at least a little bit, but change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Béné left the clubs behind and became the manager of a wine bar, Brut on Torstraße. It was one of the earlier places where finally wine, cheese, and bread all tasted fantastic. Something that shouldn’t surprise but back then it did because the general quality level in the city was just so bad. At Brut, you were never really sure who was a guest and who worked there. It was one big family.

All those years and experiences shaped the formula for Béné’s own bar that he opened in 2017 together with his wife, Martina. So it’s not a surprise that Rhinoçéros is a bar that does everything right. French wine and cheese, crunchy baguette, Japanese whiskey, the atmosphere warm and intimate, it feels a bit like home, just more special.

All this would already be enough to win my heart but Béné’s love for jazz, vinyl, and vintage hi-fi sound systems – and for organizing events – made him turn towards a Japanese phenomenon: the Tokyo Jazz Kissa. It’s basically a bar (or coffee shop) where people listen to vinyls while drinking tea – or whiskey, or wine. So at Rhinoçéros, they have special nights, curated listening sessions, where no one talks but sits still in front of 1976 wooden Bowers & Wilkins speakers, kind of like at a concert, to peacefully listen to the whole length of legendary jazz recordings. Béné says that he himself is surprised at times by the intimacy that these nights create. But that’s the power of great music, food, and wine – and great hosts.

When I asked Béné which recipe he’d like to share with us, he suggested a Shrimp Cocktail. First I was surprised then I indulged in nostalgia. So thanks to this dinner party classic, we’ll have a proper 80s revival in the kitchen (Béné says it’s actually from the 60s). Béné’s version is super quick to prepare, perfectly balanced, and, thanks to tangerines giving it a hint of acidity, it’s even refreshing. And it goes extremely well with oysters and champagne for lunch, that’s what we did – just don’t expect you’ll get anything done after this so save it for the weekend.

The podcast episode with Bénédict Berna is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Béné on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Shrimp Cocktail

by Bénédict Berna

Serves 4

  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons cognac
  • 4-5 drops Tabasco
  • Freshly grated orange zest, to taste
  • 450g / 1 pound medium shrimps or prawns, cooked and peeled, cold
  • 2 large Belgian endives, very thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tangerines, peeled (skin and white pith removed) and cut into segments

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, cognac, Tabasco, and a pinch (or more) of orange zest. Add the shrimps and toss to combine.

Divide the Belgian endive, shrimps, and tangerines among 4 bowls (or wide champagne glasses) and serve immediately.

Meet In Your Kitchen | Alfredo Sironi’s Pizza with Cima di Rapa and Salsiccia

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

“Food means a lot, not everything, but a lot. I enjoy cooking more than eating.” – Alfredo Sironi

There are two things Alfredo Sironi does all the time: chatting and eating while constantly moving around. When I sat with him outside his Sironi La Pizza restaurant in Berlin’s Goltz Kiez, an endless flow of children, neighbors, staff, and guests stopped by to talk to the baker, always having his full attention. When we were at his Sironi il Pane di Milano bakery, at Kreuzberg’s Markthalle Neun, he grabbed the pepper grinder from one of the stalls next to him, exchanging it for a piece of pizza and a quick chat with the chef. He nibbles bites of warm salsiccia from a tray while passing by and allows himself a couple minutes to indulge in the pizza bianca that we just baked together, but he won’t sit still. Only quick moments of pleasure, before the man moves on to the next venture.

Alfredo says he’s a better cook than eater. He blames his childhood. When you basically grow up right in a family restaurant you’re always on the run, always looking out for problems that need to be solved and people who need to be taken care of. You have a quick nibble in between chats but you barely sit down to eat. It runs through his family, he says.

“Everything we describe as tradition is fake. There weren’t potatoes in Germany, there weren’t tomatoes in Italy. Noodles, pasta come from China. It’s a cultural process, every day rewritten over and over again. – Alfredo Sironi

Growing up on a farm in Lombardy – between Milan and Como, close to northern Italy’s buzzing industrial center yet at the same time, you’re surrounded by lush green fields, paddocks, and horses – his life was about his parent’s restaurant, his family and friends, and the restaurant’s regular guests. Women always played an important role in his world. Although his father started the business, and he’s also the most passionate cook in the family, it was Alfredo’s mother who kept the motor running smoothly. Due to the region’s economic success, the women in northern Italy already ran thriving businesses in the 50s. The cliché of the mother, cooking and staying at home in the kitchen, wasn’t Alfredo’s reality.

The Sironi family comes from Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna so the family’s home cooking mirrors the best of what the four regions bring to the table. Bread and pasta is a staple, always homemade and part of every day’s lunch and dinner. Everyone knows how to make it, it’s in their blood. And exactly this would become one of Alfredo’s greatest assets.

“You can’t prepare yourself for your failure but you have to be prepared for your success. When you start a business, you only focus on avoiding that it crashes. You hope that customers will come, that you can pay your bills, and that it will all work out. But in reality, everything can be totally different, that you are successful. And then the bakery was too small, I hadn’t considered this option in the beginning.” – Alfredo Sironi

Until Alfredo moved to Berlin at the age of thirty, he never questioned his cosmos circling around the food and the people that were simply there all his life. It could have been so easy for him to just stay there, to take over the family business at one point, to live this beautiful life in this beautiful place with all the people he loves – but he was hungry for something else. So when Alfredo came up north to move to Germany’s capital, he used his memories of the people and the food in Italy, the memories of his daily life, to found his own bakery. Although he studied history in Milan and already saw himself following an academic career, things changed.

In 2010, Berlin’s food scene was buzzing and hungry for the new. Carbs are Alfredo’s passion. Every day, bread was freshly baked and pasta freshly rolled at his family’s restaurant and he helped out whenever a hand was needed. For him, good bread isn’t science, it’s knowledge and experience. He knew Berlin didn’t have anything like the Milan-style bread he grew up with and felt the city would love it yet he was also aware of the risks.

In the end, there was nothing to worry about. It only took a few months for the Berliners to fall in love with the baker and his goods. Right from the start, you could always find Signor Sironi on the annual Berlin’s Best Bread lists. His sourdough loaves are praised, his sheet-pan pizza is the reason for ongoing pilgrimages of the carb loving crowds to his bakery in Kreuzberg and to his new pizzeria where the pizza is round. Alfredo Sironi knows his dough, maybe it’s as simple as that.

Alfredo shared the recipe for his Pizza Bianca with Cima di Rapa and Salsiccia with me. It’s a recipe that I love so much that when I first ate it a few years ago, I came up with my own take on it for the blog. It proves that reducing the toppings for pizza often leads to the best results.

The podcast episode with Alfredo Sironi is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Alfredo on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Pizza Bianca with Cima di Rapa and Salsiccia

by Alfredo Sironi

Makes 2 to 3 pizza sheets (using 30 x 40cm / 12 x 16“ baking sheets; if you make 3 sheets the pizza base will be thinner and crunchier, 2 sheets will lead to a thicker, softer base)

For the dough

  • 700ml / 3 cups water, lukewarm, plus more as needed
  • 10g / 1/3 ounce fresh yeast, crumbled
  • 1kg / 7 2/3 cups high gluten wheat flour (German flour type 1050)
  • 20g / 1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (or rice syrup, or molasses)
  • 20g / 4 teaspoons fine sea salt

For the topping

  • 4 – 6 salsiccie (or any other coarse sausage), skin removed, sausage torn into bite size pieces
  • 800g – 1.2kg / 1 3/4 pounds – 2 2/3 pounds cime di rapa, blanched or sautéed (you can also use drained jarred cime di rapa or replace it with broccoli)
  • 500 – 750g / 1 – 1 2/3 pounds drained mozzarella, cut into french fries-shapes
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the hook attachment, whisk together the water and yeast and let it sit for a minute. Add the flour, syrup, and salt and knead well for about 5 minutes or until smooth; add more water if the dough is too firm. Cover the bowl and let the dough sit for 10 minutes (the ideal ambient temperature is 26-30°C / 80-86°F; you can use the oven or place the bowl on a heater).

After 10 minutes, leaving the dough in the bowl, grab the dough from underneath and fold it on top of itself then turn the bowl by 90° and repeat folding and turning the bowl for 4-5 times. Let the dough sit for 15 minutes then repeat the same procedure once again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or put it in a rubbish bag and close it; you can also use a container with a tight fitting lid. Keep the dough in the fridge for 18-24 hours.

After 18-24 hours, divide the dough in 2 or 3 portions, roll out each portion so that it’s roughly the size of your baking sheet then oil 2-3 baking sheets and arrange the prepared dough on top and cover with kitchen towels. In a warm place, let the dough rise until it roughly doubles in size; depending on the ambient temperature, this will take 30-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to the highest temperature setting (at least 250°C / 480°F).

Divide the salsiccia, cime di rapa, and mozzarella among the prepared baking sheets and bake for about 10-13 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some pepper, and enjoy immediately!

Meet In Your Your Kitchen | Husarenkrapferl – Stefanie Hering’s Christmas Family Cookies

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

Innovation – but always based on tradition. Never neglect tradition. – Stefanie Hering

There’s something very calm and focussed about this woman. Stefanie Hering is the opposite of agitated. Things feel possible, manageable, even in times of disruption she doesn’t forget that the potential to create joy and beauty always lies in her hands, literally.

Stefanie is the founder of Hering Berlin, a traditional Berlin based ceramic manufacturer who changed the way we experience porcelain tableware. Lenny Kravitz, Nicole Kidman, Oprah Winfrey, and the chefs of more than 250 Michelin starred restaurants fall for her bold and uncompromising design. Tom Aikens, Heinz Winkler, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, they all trust the designer’s vision to present their culinary creations, allowing her to create a frame for their food that’s anything but shy yet doesn’t distract from the chefs’ work.

“We were at the fair in Chicago and there were Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller talking, saying It’s bloody expensive but damn good.” – Stefanie Hering

The first plate from Hering‘s manufactory that I held in my hands many years ago gave me a sense of a designer who had traveled into the future and came back with an approach to design that dared to question the prevalent, established ideas of porcelain. It was a plate of the Cielo collection, the rim perforated with a pattern of small holes that are drilled into the unglazed biscuit (or bisque) porcelain by hand.

It takes 80 steps to make this plate. So, 80 times, this plate can break or crack, but also, 80 times, the craftsperson gets the chance to approach perfection in a plate that seems so fragile, so delicate, but that is so robust. When I anxiously asked Stefanie how to clean it, she answered “Just put it in the dishwasher.” She’s pragmatic and never forgets that good design should work but also create and accumulate fun and satisfaction in your kitchen.

Hering‘s success came sudden, almost too sudden. When Bergdorf Goodman ordered their products for their NYC department store, when MoMA put a picture of one of Stefanie’s objects on their annual catalogue, she became famous and noticed that she would soon reach the limits of her manufactory’s oven capacities. The time had come to expand and grow, which she managed to do several times in her career, which also included setbacks. But somehow Stefanie always manages to connect with that deep trust in herself and her work that she was already aware of when she was young.

Stefanie is her hardest critic, she wants to excite and surprise her customers with her creations, she wants to impress them with her high standards of hand-crafting, but most importantly, when she started her career, she said to herself “I’ll stopp doing this job as soon as it bores me and I don’t enjoy it anymore. That’s 30 years ago and it never bored me a single day.”

Food is love. It’s an elixir. It’s something I could never live without.” – Stefanie Hering

It’s tempting to romanticize a career like Stefanie’s. Working with a craft that is so rewarding in the process of creating and also in the final products that become a part of many people’s everyday life all over the world, yet Stefanie doesn’t hide the tough times and painful decisions. The more successful a company becomes, the higher the risk, the more people are affected by your decisions. You do need to stay calm within yourself to deal with the pressure, the uncertainties, the fact that the final responsibility will always be on your plate.

Stefanie shared one of her Christmas family cookie recipes with me, the Husarenkrapferl that she’s been baking for her children for years, can now fill your pretty cookie jars. These are Austrian-style thumbprint cookies, however, Stefanie doesn’t use her thumb but the stick of a wooden spoon and she fills the cookies twice, before and after baking them.

The podcast episode with Stefanie Hering is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Stefanie on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Husarenkrapferl

by Stefanie Hering

Mind that the dough needs to cool in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Makes about 40 cookies

  • 140g / 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 70g / 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon ground hazelnuts (or almonds)
  • 70g / 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of salt
  • 140g / 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 150g / 5 ounces black currant jelly (or any other red jam or jelly)
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting the cookies

In a large bowl, combine the flour, ground hazelnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the butter and egg yolks and, using a knife, chop the butter and egg yolks to combine them with the flour mixture until crumbly. Quickly crumble the dough with your fingers and squeeze and form it into a ball and then into a thick log. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a saucepan, briefly warm up the jelly over medium heat, whisking constantly, until liquid; this will make it easier to fill the cookies.

Cut slices of dough off the log and, using your hands, roll each piece into a ball, around the size of a small walnut. Spread the balls of dough on the prepared baking sheets, leaving enough space between them as they will expand during baking. Using the stick of a wooden spoon, make a small hole in the middle of each cookie.

Using a teaspoon or an icing bag with a small tip, fill the cookies with the jelly then bake for 15-18 minutes or until the cookies are golden and tender; mind that they don’t get dark. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes then transfer to a large plate or cooling rack. Dust them with confectioners’ sugar and fill up the holes with a little more jelly. Let them cool completely then enjoy them or gently layer them in a cookie box or jar.

Meet In Your Kitchen | Kiduk Reus’ Bonanza – The Perfect Coffee

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

There was no movement there. We were the movement.” – Kiduk Reus

When a friend took me to Bonanza Coffee on Berlin’s buzzing Oderberger Strasse back in 2006, I felt disturbed and suspicious about the whole thing. This had nothing to do with my beloved old-fashioned Italian-style espresso places where I’d usually have a cup of the dark, thick, bitter drink, a bite of flaky sfogliatella, while Italian opera was soothing my mind, playing in the background. It took me years to understand this new kind of coffee, to taste, to smell, and appreciate the whole complex flavor and aroma profile; to accept that an old tradition was taken in the hands of a bunch of young people to experiment and to create something different with the good old coffee bean that’s been a part of our culinary heritage since at least the 15th century.

Young Kiduk Reus, one of the founders of Bonanza, was one of those kids – curious, brave, and fearless, and ready for a new chapter in his life. After studying design at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and at the Rietveld Academy of Arts in Amsterdam, after successfully working in the advertising industry, he felt that Berlin was calling his name in 2004. He packed his bags, the vague idea of starting a speciality coffee shop at the back of his mind. That was the beginning of a time that would later become known as the worldwide Third Wave Coffee Movement.

I did it all myself. I fixed it. It wasn’t like the machines were actually working. I had figured out how to get them running and put modern equipment into it so it ran even better. And honestly, that even also took off. That actually saved our business in the end because what happened one day, it became a trend this thing with the cast-iron machines. And then I had a whole side business on that in the evening, which financed the whole Bonanza thing. I must have helped over 250 roasteries worldwide getting their equipment. It was huge.” – Kiduk Reus

Born in Seoul, South Korea, adopted at the age of 4 by an American mother and a Dutch father, Kiduk grew up in the Netherlands in a town famous for cheese, in Gouda. Food played an important role. He remembers being a picky child knowing exactly what he wanted to eat and what he didn’t. His palate was already refined, a skill that would come in handy later in his life. In the following years, Kiduk learned what would become a mantra in his life: I need this, it needs to be better, I improve it. And then, miraculously (or not), other people pick up on it.

Understanding that he has to be the motor to bring movement to his ideas, he always had the soul of an entrepreneur. Not waiting for others to come up with something great or to improve something existing, he jumped in first to create what he needed to move on and fulfill his mission. So when he started the first Bonanza coffee shop together with his partner he knew he wanted to roast his own beans as soon as possible to simply reach and keep the quality that he had in mind.

Coincidentally, Kiduk noticed that some old cast-iron equipment – stored in an old airplane hangar by a friend of his and that he had access to – was the best possible equipment for roasting coffee beans. So he jumped on the occasion and spontaneously started a business that would in the end finance Bonanza for a long time. He bought the old parts and machines, added new parts to make them work even better, and became the Berlin man to supply roasting machines to all the big names in the speciality coffee roasting business worldwide. Blue Bottle, Seven Seeds, and about another 250 coffee roasters went to Kiduk Reus’ workshop and got their vintage equipment, customized by Kiduk himself and his growing team of mechanics.

Kiduk says he listens to his mind more than to his feeling. His intuition is definitely absolutely reliable. Many of his decisions seem random at first but then turn into something great. The street where his first shop is on, on Oderberger Strasse, was called Street of Death by house owners and estate agents as none of the businesses lasted long. This street changed a couple years after Kiduk arrived. Leading to Mauerpark – a park that would become famous and turn into a weekly festival scene attracting 30,000 people on a Sunday, all passing by Kiduk’s coffee shop – this street would become one of the most buzzing spots in the city. In hindsight, he couldn’t have chosen a better location.

I get also pushback from my staff because they are again more like It should be like wine, it should be the terroir, it should be the way we’re roasting it, you should be tasting the processing and the varietal! And I’m like But this is so boring, we’ve been doing that all the time, can we not do this! But no, that is not a serious drink! and then I look at the cashier and I’m like Aha, you didn’t sell any of it! No, we recommend them away from that drink, and I’m like Ok.” – Kiduk Reus

When you pay so much attention to each single bean, when you know the farmers, when you set the quality bar so high, you want your customers to taste the whole range of flavors packed into that little bean by nature. Bad beans strongly roasted taste bitter, which covers up bad taste, but you don’t want that to happen with good beans.

And now coffee geeks like Scott Tedder from Leeds (pictured below during a coffee tasting to prep for a coffee competition), Bonanza‘s head roaster and green bean buyer for years, come in to define the perfect roasting process that each bean will go through so that I can actually enjoy the complete complex flavor profile. This means that I have to – or rather want to – question my rigid ideas of how an espresso should taste. I want to give people like Scott a chance to show me something I haven’t experienced before and to allow my taste to develop. And I must admit, it did change. The coffee beans that I buy now aren’t as dark, aren’t roasted as strong anymore. I’m slowly discovering the profiles of good coffee beans.

Kiduk and I might always be a little more experimental and willing to compromise than Scott when it comes to creating new drinks including espresso or hand-brewed coffee, but that’s fine. A baker will always tell you to eat the warm bread just with butter, a farmer will recommend to enjoy the soil-studded carrot on its own, the wine maker wants you to stand in between the vines to feel the terroir when you take the first sip. It’s an appreciation for nature and its miraculous creations, for the pure flavor. Maybe there’s also a little pride involved – which isn’t a bad thing – that they all manage to make nature’s produce shine without distracting from the inner qualities.

Kiduk showed me how to hand-brew the perfect coffee with affordable equipment (you can find the recipe below). You can work with the most basic equipment you have in your kitchen but it’s definitely worth investing a) in a digital gram scale and b) in good coffee beans from a coffee roaster who understands what you’re looking for in taste and who will also grind the beans for you. However, go for small quantities as ground beans will lose their aroma quicker. You will slowly discover flavors in a hand-brewed coffee that you never tasted before and that’s quite an experience. It turns making and drinking coffee into a ritual, like making a cup of special tea.

The podcast episode with Kiduk Reus of Bonanza Coffee is in English. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Kiduk on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

The Perfect Hand-Brewed Coffee

by Kiduk Reus / Bonanza

Makes 2 small cups, or 1 large cup

Equipment

  • 1 coffee paper filter (such as Melita, Hario or Kalita)
  • Coffee dripper / filter (such as Melita, Hario or Kalita)
  • Glass hand drip coffee pot (or any other heat resistant glass pot)
  • Digital gram scale (Kiduk uses an Acaia scale)
  • Kettle with spout (or pour the boiling water into a tea pot with a spout)

Ingredients

  • 220g water (at 95°C / 203°F)
  • 16g coffee, medium grind (most speciality coffee shops will grind your coffee beans if you don’t have a coffee grinder at home; the baristi at Bonanza will happily grind the beans for you if you happen to be in Berlin)

Type of coffee* used by Kiduk (which is also Scott Tedder’s competition coffee)

  • Country: Costa Rica 
  • Producer: William Mora
  • Varietal: Geisha
  • Processing method: natural / anaerobic (anaerobic coffee is fermented / processed in an environment that lacks oxygen)

* Ask your local speciality coffee shop for recommendations for coffee beans suitable for hand-brewing.

Place the paper filter in the coffee dripper, put the dripper on top of the heat resistant glass pot then place the pot on top of the scale.

Fill roughly 240ml / 1 cup of water into your kettle and bring to a boil. Let the water cool in the kettle for a minute until the temperature drops down to roughly 95°C / 203°F.

Add the ground coffee to the paper filter. Tare the scale so that it’s on zero then wet the coffee with a little of the hot water. Wait a few seconds then pour 110g of water on top of the coffee in the paper filter, pouring circular, and wait a minute. Pour the other 110g of water on top, this time straight in the middle. Don’t pour the water in at once, let it drip through the coffee gradually and evenly and make sure that the ground coffee doesn’t swim in water. The brewing time (or water to coffee contact time) should be around 2:20 minutes.

Pour the coffee into 2 cups and enjoy immediately.

Meet In Your Kitchen | Cookies & Co’s Ricotta Lemon Cake with Yuzu Cream

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

Food is existence. It’s therapy. In our case, food is a way of expression. It’s a reflection of our personalities and our believes. Food in general is pure pleasure. – Mira and Ori

She loves baking, he loves coffee. She grew up in the Soviet Union before it became Russia, he grew up under the hot sun of Israel. She calls herself a lazy perfectionist – she’s anything but lazy – and dances around with her two little kids while preparing filigree cakes for the bakery, tired but happy. He tells you about the most painful moment in his life and how it became one of the most beautiful moments of his life. Mira Koretsky and Ori Kidron of Cookies & Co are two opposite poles, two planets orbiting and dancing around each other. There’s so much energy, so much trust. They are one of the most positive couples I’ve ever met and together they are riding life’s turbulent waves as they come.

Cookies & Co is one of Berlin’s highly praised cafés / bakeries. The two owners never compromise to please everybody. Instead, they attentively take care that their place keeps its unique soul. A lot comes from Mira’s style of baking, which – despite its perfect look and taste – never loses its charm. She’s a professional baker with the soul of a flexibel home baker. Unpredictable influences cause that not every pastry looks the same. Taste and texture vary slightly according to the seasons or changing weather conditions, which means that every cookie, every cake, and croissant is unique. This is not a baking factory, it’s the opposite. All pastries are made by Mira and her assisting pastry chef, Lior – who is at least as passionate about baking as he is about Beyoncé. The two bakers share the same quality standards and values and also curiosity to dive into unexplored baking adventures.

Once you move your body, you’re moving forward. That’s the circle of life. As long as there is movement something is happening.” – Mira

Maybe it’s because Mira grew up in a political system that didn’t allow culinary abundance but had a strong baking tradition, her recipes simply work and impress even if she left out the firework. However, let her start her firework and you will see the most colorful sweet feast. Fascinated by Japan’s modern baking culture, she tops her perfectly moist Ricotta Lemon Pound Cake with a flowery-sour Yuzu Cream (recipe below). Her Black Forest Cake is refined with miso and the bakery’s popular Compost Cookies stay true to their name: take a thick and chewy cookie and add chunky pretzels, chocolate, and potato chips to it. It sounds funky but it’s so good!

One of the masterpieces from the Cookies & Co bakery, it’s like the movie star that everybody wants to take a picture of, is their glorious, beautifully laminated Croissant with Yuzu Filling and flamboyant purple Italian Meringue. It’s a diva, you’re almost too shy to cut it. It’s dramatic, it’s loud but it keeps its promise: it looks like something that will excite you and it definitely does. And then the husband comes in, serving you a cappuccino or espresso that is just right. Ori is the barista in the family, obsessed with good coffee, and also taking care of the guests while his wife is getting creative in the kitchen. Sometimes Ori has to slow Mira down otherwise the guests would never see their beloved Cookies & Co classics on the menu again. If she could, Mira would change the menu every day. Luckily, he stops her so that we can enjoy her creations more than once.

“And you’re thinking to yourself, how do I deal with this now, how do I go on, how do I make the most out of this, how do I optimize myself ’cause this requires so much more out of me, out of us as people, as parents, actually being there for someone who needs you so desperately. And you don’t even know in what sense, what is going to be required of you. Then all of a sudden came a song by Sade. It’s called Long Hard Road and the chorus says There’s a long hard road ahead but a voice inside me said it’s gonna be alright. It was just exactly what I needed at that point. And I just started crying right there in the street and as emotional as all of this was, I remember telling myself this is one of the most beautiful moments I have ever had in my life.” – Ori

There are many bakeries offering perfect pastries all over the world but the ones we stick to, we keep going back to, are the ones that touch us, the ones that have a soul. Mira and Ori do almost everything on their own, keeping the quality level they once defined for themselves without compromises. Even if their energy is running low, they keep the motor running constantly. They are young parents, their youngest daughter was born with trisomy 21. The situation challenged them but they decided to face it with the same stubborn energy and positivity that they, individually and as a couple, activate every day to deal with all facets of life. They are honest, they know the gifts they got. They don’t look for the easiest way but they always find a beautiful way to enjoy life as it is: an endless circle of ups and downs. And in Mira’s and Ori’s case it’s a dance.

Mira shared the recipe for her Ricotta Lemon Pound Cake with Yuzu Cream with me. You can either bake the cake in a loaf tin and serve it with dollops of the fruity cream or go for the pâtissier-style serving and bake the cake in a deep baking dish, cut out circles, and pipe the cream delicately on top. Just like they do at the Cookies & Co bakery.

The podcast episode with Mira and Ori is in English. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Mira and Ori on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Ricotta Lemon Pound Cake with Yuzu Cream

by Mira Koretsky / Cookies & Co

It’s best to prepare the yuzu cream the night before you serve the cake.

For the yuzu cream

  • 2g / 2/3 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 80g / 3 ounces white chocolate
  • 120ml / 1/2 cup heavy cream (divided into 2 x 60ml / 1/4 cup)
  • 70ml / 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon yuzu juice

For the pound cake

You can either bake the cake in a 26 x 12cm / 10 x 5″ loaf tin or for the pâtissier-style serving, cutting the cake into circles or squares, use a baking dish of roughly double the size.

  • 170g / 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 350g / 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (or 300g / 1 1/2 cups sugar if you prefer it less sweet)
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 360g / 13 ounces ricotta, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 200g / 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the yuzu cream, stir the gelatin into the water in a small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. In a small saucepan, melt the white chocolate in 60ml / 1/4 cup of heavy cream over medium heat, whisking constantly; remove the pan from the heat. Add the cream mixture to a blender (or leave it in the saucepan and use a whisk), add the remaining 60ml / 1/4 cup of heavy cream, the yuzu juice, and the gelatin-water mixture and blend, or whisk, until smooth; cover and let sit overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 160°C / 325°F. Butter and line a 26 x 12cm / 10 x 5″ loaf tin with parchment paper, or a baking dish of roughly double the size.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg before adding the next one, and continue beating for a few minutes until creamy and light yellow. Mix in the ricotta and lemon juice then add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until smooth and shiny. Transfer the dough to the prepared loaf tin or baking dish and bake for around 40-50 minutes, checking after 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden; if you insert a skewer in the middle of the cake it should come out clean. Let the cake cool completely.

For serving, whisk the yuzu cream to fluff it up. You can either cut the cake into slices and serve the yuzu cream separately or cut the cake baked in a baking dish into circles (using a round cookie cutter) or squares and, using a piping bag, pipe the yuzu cream on top.

Enjoy!

Meet In Your Kitchen | Sebastian Frank’s Horváth – Austrian Roots in Berlin

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

“When there’s a feeling coming up like Can this dish compete with the one before, did I go a step further? then I try to push it away. It does come up, there’s nothing I can do to avoid it, especially when I remove a dish from the menu that was the bomb. That’s just the way it is, the quality in developing new dishes can’t always be the same. If I were a machine and I could only create dishes that are the bomb, I’d do it, but I can’t.” Sebastian Frank

Two worlds fruitfully combined in the midst of Kreuzberg: Austria and Berlin. His home country, Austria, feeds the chef Sebastian Frank with the knowledge, passion, and inspiration he needs to create unique dishes of rare honesty. He built up one of the capital’s most praised restaurants, he has been rewarded with 2 Michelin Stars but when you talk to him, he makes it sound so easy. And somehow it is. Some people have a genius mind and still manage to keep their feet on the ground.

Together with his partner, Jeannine Kessler, Sebastian moved to her home city, Berlin, 10 years ago and thanks to fortunate circumstances they both took over the Horváth restaurant and turned into the gem it is today.

“Women are just better chefs and I’m convinced that every man who is a good chef has a strong feminine side.” – Sebastian Frank

For a long time, the Austrian chef thought he missed out on international experiences, that he couldn’t compete with other chefs who did work abroad, particularly the chefs who worked in French kitchens celebrating haute cuisine. Little did he know that exactly this would become his greatest asset.

Although Sebastian started to learn in kitchens at a young age, at 14, it was only in his late teens and twenties that he learned about all those praised culinary luxury products, about a way of cooking that could possibly be rewarded with Michelin Stars and Gault Millau rankings. He was hooked but he still needed time to find himself in the vast culinary universe and all its possibilities. Yet when he stopped looking outside but opened up towards what he already had inside himself, he found the answer he was looking for. He says that he only discovered the confidence to trust himself and work with what he had found inside himself when he was 30, when he started working at Horváth.

Growing up in eastern Austria, close to the border to Hungary, only experiencing the local cuisine until he reached his twenties, smelling, tasting, and working with just local produce and products of exceptional quality, left a mark deeper than he expected at that time. Sebastian noticed that when it comes to the cuisine and the products that he up grew with, no one can fool him.

Being limited opened up his mind – and the flood gates – to a more profound knowledge and understanding of the food that he had had on his plate all his life. He experienced a much deeper level of tastes and textures by working with just a small range of vegetables. He wasn’t distracted anymore. He could study a celery root, carrots, beets, potatoes until he totally understood their flavor profile. He could dive into the regional recipes until he totally understood what makes or breaks them. And at that point, he could start playing. Sebastian also had another great advantage, he already had the emotional connection that you need for true inspiration. And this emotional connection took him right back to his childhood, to his own roots and memories.

Today, Sebastian Frank plays with an imperturbable down-to-earth confidence that is impressive. He only needs to visit his culinary archive in his head to find an endless source of old knowledge and new ideas to feed his kitchen repertoire. It’s not arrogance, he is open to other opinions and criticism, but he himself knows best when something is right – and then he makes his decision within seconds.

Usually I’m a rather chatty person when I go to restaurants but when I indulged into a 9-course dinner at Horváth, accompanied by non-alcoholic drinks based on vegetables, fruit, and broth that were just as refined as the compositions on the plates, even I had to keep my mouth shut and just enjoy the full range of tones that Sebastian plays with; sometimes they are harmonic or a harsh contrast, familiar or a surprise, quiet or loud, sometimes they build up slowly but then explode so vibrantly that it makes you smile.

The recipe Sebastian shared with me is called Celery, Young and Aged. One part of this recipe is a celery root that has aged in salt dough for a year and that’s being grated over the dish. It looks like white truffle, is packed with umami, tastes like concentrated salted celery, and looks absolutely stunning. The crusty salt dough shell, when it’s cracked open, looks a bit like Parmesan rind. You automatically feel a lot of respect for this product that needed so much time to age and that people have been taking care of for a whole year. You can’t really detach this feeling from this dish. However, if you don’t feel like waiting a year to try out Sebastian’s recipe you can either make the alternative celery salt (which I bagged him to come up with) or order an aged celery from the Horváth shop (which I highly recommend).

The podcast episode with Sebastian Frank is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Sebastian on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Celery, Aged and Young

by Sebastian Frank / Horváth

(from his book KuK – cook, published by Matthaes Verlag, 2019, in German, you can order the book here)

The aged celery in this recipe ripens in salt dough for 1 year*. Alternatively, you can order an aged celery from the Horváth online shop or use celery salt instead – you can find both recipes for the aged celery and celery salt below! You can buy the celery seeds used in this recipe in spice shops or online.

Serves 2

* For the aged celery in salt dough

You’ll only need some of the aged celery for this recipe. Please weigh the ingredients for accuracy and don’t use cups.

  • 250g / 9 ounces instant flour (doppelgriffiges Mehl)
  • 165g / 6 ounces fine salt
  • 160ml / 2/3 cup water, at room temperature
  • 1 whole knob celery, roughly as large as a fist, with skin but without the green

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and water until smooth. Form into a ball, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest, at room temperature, over night.

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

Rinse the celery, pat dry, and cover evenly with the salt dough then transfer the celery to a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C / 350°F and bake for another 40 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely (don’t remove the salt dough crust!).

Store the celery in the salt dough crust in a place with a constant temperature of about 15-20°C / 60-70°F. In the first 2 months, flip the celery every second day so that the moist bottom side is at the top. In the following 6 months, turn the celery once a week. In the last 4 months, you don’t need to turn the celery at all.

For the celery salt

  • 2 tablespoon celery seeds
  • 5 tablespoons Maldon sea salt flakes (or another flaky sea salt)

In a medium, heavy pan, toast the celery seeds for a few seconds; they shouldn’t get dark. Transfer to a mortar and crush lightly with a pestle, add the salt, and mix to combine. Store the celery salt in an airtight container.

For the chicken soup

You’ll only need 200ml / about 3/4 cup of the soup; you can use the remaining soup for other recipes.

  • 500g / 18 ounces chicken carcass
  • 300g / 11 ounces chicken skin
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 garlic bulb, with skin, cut in half
  • 100g / 4 ounces carrots, peeled and diced
  • 150g / 5 ounces celery, peeled and diced
  • 100g / 4 ounces leek, cut in half
  • 30g / 1 ounce parsley stalks
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 3 star-anise
  • 10 cloves
  • 5 juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves

In a large pot, bring the chicken carcass, chicken skin, and 2.5 liters / 10 1/2 cups of cold water to a boil.

In a small pot or pan, sear the onion and garlic, cut side down, until very dark then transfer to the pot with the chicken carcass, along with the carrots, celery, leek, parsley, and spices, and gently simmer for 90 minutes.

With a large spoon, remove the chicken fat on top of the soup, transfer to a bowl, and set aside (you’ll need the chicken fat warm and liquid for serving). Strain the soup through a very fine sieve and muslin towel and set aside.

Young celery

  • 1 knob celery, roughly as large as a fist, with skin but without the green

Rinse the celery and, using a mandoline slicer, carefully cut into paper thin slices. Steam the celery slices for 2 minutes at 90°C / 190°F or until tender but al dente. Let them cool.

Toasted celery seeds (for serving)

  • 20g / 3/4 ounce celery seeds

In a hot, dry pan, toast the celery seeds briefly until dark.

For finishing the chicken soup

  • 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the chicken soup
  • 30g / 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Salt

In a small saucepan, warm up the chicken soup and butter until hot, it shouldn’t start boiling (it should be 80°C / 175°F). Remove the pan from the heat, whisk in the egg yolks to bind the soup, and season to taste with salt.

For serving, arrange the steamed celery slices on a large, deep plate. Pour a little bit of the whipped chicken soup around the celery slices. Sprinkle with the toasted celery seeds, and drizzle some of the chicken fat on top. Break open the salt dough crust of the aged celery, remove and discard the salt shell, and grate some of the aged celery all over the plates. Alternatively, sprinkle with a little celery salt. Enjoy immediately.