Tag: meet in my kitchen

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 | Erik Spiekermann’s Lemony Mushroom Risotto

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’m incredibly chaotic and I’m incredibly precise. When I do work like typesetting and stuff, I’m 100% precise. I do the shittiest detail that nobody would ever know, but I’m also incredibly chaotic in my approach.” – Erik Spiekermann

Erik Spiekermann‘s greatest gift is that he never stopped thinking like a child. He’s still driven by the same stubborn persistence, by a tireless curiosity, and the imperturbable will to find out what lies underneath the surface. The acclaimed designer and typographer, responsible for the corporate looks of brands like Audi, Bosch, and Deutsche Bahn, creator of Meta – the Helvetica of the 90s – and the man who decided that the BVG, Berlin’s public transportation system, needs to be yellow, is basically still a child, just in the body of a man.

“My curiosity is my biggest feature. I’ve always been curious, so much so that I have been careless. I mean I’ve done things like hitchhike to fucking Norway at 9, which is stupid, it’s the dumbest thing to do if I look back now but I was curious and I was innocent, and innocent and curious are the same. You’re innocent about something so you wanna find out how it works. And I’m still curious and I will try everything because it’s interesting and I think curiosity is one of the greatest human features otherwise we wouldn’t have invented the wheel nor the fire.” – Erik Spiekermann

When Erik was nine years old he hitchhiked to Norway on his own. He was part of a Boy Scouts group, his older travel companion didn’t show up so he decided to go up north on his own. I asked what his mother said, and Erik’s brief answer was “She didn’t know, only when I came back weeks later, rather tanned.”

As a teenage boy, he was already fascinated by press printing. He got his first printing machine from his father, a mechanic who Erik thinks passed his strong passion for heavy machinery and their mysteries on to him. Whenever he got the chance, he sneaked into a friend’s printing firm at night, trying to figure out how all of this works. Setting type and ruining one plate after the other until he internalized the concept – letting any proof of his failed attempts vanish by dawn – but when he finally filled the white pages with his own hands and ideas he was hooked.

Post-war Germany wasn’t an easy playing field for a pubescent boy and young man, chances had to be made by yourself and Erik created plenty of them. First in Berlin, then he moved to London in the 60s with his young family, always managing to convince the people around him that he has the ideas that they need.

“We need to make things, we need to touch things with our hands, otherwise we’re gonna become very funny sort of reptiles or robots.” – Erik Spiekermann

It only takes a few seconds to understand how Erik always manages to get people’s full attention – and their trust. He is very charming but he is also a road roller. For the podcast recording at my place, he ran up the stairs with his racing bicycle on his shoulder (mind he’s born 1947), he wasn’t out of breath at all but ready to dive into hours of talking about design, life, and food. Erik used to often bake with his mother, never measuring anything, but sensitively adjusting texture, taste, and smell by feeling. Even then he didn’t need anyone to tell him what to do, just a mother who taught him to refine his senses and listen to them. He is still very protective of his ideas and visions, fighting for them if need be, summed up in one of his many popular quotes: “Don’t work for assholes. Don’t work with assholes.

After years of designing and teaching, Erik decided to go back to his roots. All his printing equipment burnt in a severe fire in London in the 70s. A painful chapter that he never felt he had closed, a story he still wanted to continue writing, so he founded p98a a few years ago. It’s a Berlin based non-profit experimental letterpress workshop stuffed with old equipment dedicated to letters, printing, and papers. Together with a group of designers, he passes his knowledge and skills on to the next generation and enjoys the play of old traditional analogue equipment and new digital techno­logies. You can order books, or posters and postcards with Erik’s quotes and wisdoms, and join workshops with the master himself.

Although Erik would have loved to share his no-recipe-cantuccini recipe with me, I was worried that no one would be in the mood for cookies in January so instead, Erik and his wife, Susanna, shared the recipe for their delicious Lemony Mushroom Risotto with me.

The podcast episode with Erik Spiekermann 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 Erik on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Mushroom Risotto with Lemon and Thyme

by Susanna and Erik

Serves 4 to 6

For the risotto

  • Fine sea salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 420g / 2 cups Carnaroli rice, or Arborio rice
  • 240ml / 1 cup dry white wine
  • 70g / 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 60g / 2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated, plus 30g / 1 ounce for serving
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste

For the mushrooms

  • 450g / 1 pound cremini or white mushrooms, trimmed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 30g / 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 medium sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 small garlic cloves, crushed (optional, Susanna loves it, Erik doesn’t)

For the risotto, bring 2.5 liters / 10 1/2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan then remove the pan from the heat, cover, and keep warm.

In a large pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes or until golden and soft. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the wine and let it simmer for a few minutes then add a ladle of the hot salted water, the rice should be covered. Let it simmer very gently and, as soon as the liquid is almost fully absorbed, add more of the salted water. Keep adding a little water at a time, stirring gently once in a while. When the rice is al dente and the liquid is more or less absorbed, you might not need all the salted water, take the pan off the heat, and stir in the butter and Parmesan. Add more of the salted water if the texture isn’t creamy (not soupy!) and season to taste with additional salt if necessary. Gently stir in the lemon juice, adding more juice to taste, then cover the pan and set aside.

For the mushrooms, heat a generous splash of olive oil over medium-high heat, briefly cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until browned and still firm (not mushy!). Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the butter, 6 sprigs of thyme (keeping 2 sprigs for serving), and the garlic then reduce the heat to low and cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms are al dente but not soft.

Divide the risotto and mushrooms among bowls, sprinkle with a little Parmesan, some ground pepper, and the leaves of the remaining 2 thyme sprigs, and enjoy 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 Kitchen | Champagne, Scallops & Squash Soup with Vitalie Taittinger

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 love. It’s the attention we can give to the people we are sharing life with.” – Vitalie Taittinger

48 hours in the Champagne with Vitalie Taittinger – many bottles were popped and no dessert was missed in the making of this podcast episode!

Vitalie was born in Reims, she’s the great-granddaughter of Champagne Taittinger‘s founder Pierre Taittinger and now she is the President of the champagne house. Two years ago, she took over from her father, Pierre-Emmanuel. When I first met the young woman a few years ago, I asked myself if it’s a gift or a burden to be born into one of the world’s most famous champagne families, if it’s freedom or pressure.

“The fact that today we are both responsible for the company, I think this is something very strong in terms of complicité.” – Vitalie Taittinger

Clovis is Vitalie’s brother, he’s the company’s Managing Director. When it came to the decision who of the two children would follow into their father’s footsteps, the father specifically didn’t want to be part of the final decision making process. Instead, for a whole year, the entire team, including the two siblings, pondered on what would be best for the company. For them it was neither about ego nor about clever career moves. It was simply about finding a solution that would be best for Champagne Taittinger; that would be best to keep a tradition alive and thriving. This story says so much about a family and about a region and its mystified product. It says so much about what champagne is about.

The Champagne region is a tiny cosmos built on history, values, tradition, and trust. It goes beyond family although the families that founded the big houses and cultivated champagne over hundreds of years are at the core of this cosmos. It’s important to understand that all the champagne houses on their own can’t cover the demand of grapes for their production just by using the produce from their own vineyards. It’s just not enough. They depend on a large network of small independent growers in the region. There are contracts yet if the growers don’t want to cooperate with a champagne house, the champagne house won’t survive. They both depend on each other, which is fruitful and only works when their cooperation is built on trust, respect, and the same values. Land is precious and limited – and a UNESCO world heritage since 2015. It’s one of the most expensive in the wine world. € 1 million per acre, only topped by Bordeaux’s and Burgundy’s top appellations.

“A company is a human adventure and when you’re a family you stay very close to these human values.” – Vitalie Taittinger

When Taittinger was sold by the extended family in 2005 – a step Vitalie’s father didn’t agree with – it only took him a year to have the support from a local bank and the backup from the growers to buy the company back and be assured that he would manage to keep producing outstanding champagne.

So when Vitalie joined the company in 2007 quite spontaneously, after studying art and establishing a life independent of Taittinger, she was aware of the responsibility given into her hands but also about the chance she got to keep the story of her family’s champagne alive so that one day she could pass it on to the next generation: “The fact that we are a family running the company puts the adventure into a longterm process. I think we are not fighting for figures we fight to make this adventure last and transmit it to the next generation. We want to transmit the best terroir to the next generation and we want to pay attention to the health of the next generation.” 

“Déjeuner en l’Honneur de Madame Meike Peters” – Merci beaucoup, Vitalie!

The past is deeply woven into the region, it’s constantly present, contributing to the mystique of the Champagne: no matter if your in Reims visiting Notre-Dame de Reims, the cathedral chosen for the coronation of the kings of France; if your in Taittinger‘s cellars 18 meters underground in the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise built in the 13th century in Roman chalk pits dating from the 4th century; or driving to the family’s Château de la Marquetterie, an 18th century residence 40 minutes outside Reims, which Vitalie’s great-grandfather Pierre bought in 1930. He had fallen in love with this place, a headquarter during World War I, when he spent time there as a cavalry officer in 1915.

It’s not a surprise that Pierre was smitten. When I drove passed the vines and through the chateau’s gate to visit Vitalie in her kitchen, and record our podcast episode in one of the salons, I was smitten, too, with Vitalie and the chateau.

Vitalie shared a recipe with me that’s both cozy and sumptuous, Squash Soup with Chestnut Purée and Scallop Carpaccio with Spinach Pesto and Caviar – easy to prepare in advance and perfect for a New Year’s Eve dinner!

Bonne année!

The podcast episode with Vitalie Taittinger 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 Vitalie on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Squash Soup with Chestnuts, Scallop Carpaccio and Caviar

by Vitalie Taittinger

The scallops are eaten raw and need to be very fresh. If this seems too risky for you, sear the scallops quickly in a little olive oil over high heat on both sides (this takes 2-3 minutes) and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

For the scallop carpaccio

  • 10 very fresh scallops
  • Caviar, adjust the amount to your budget

For the spinach pesto

  • 1 large handful fresh baby spinach leaves, plus 16 small spinach leaves for serving
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • Fine sea salt
  • Ground black pepper

For the soup

  • 1 liter / 4 1/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeds removed, and cut into cubes
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fine sea salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Crème fraîche, to taste

For the chestnut purée and topping

  • 200g / 7 ounces vacuum-packed whole cooked chestnuts
  • 120ml / 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped until stiff
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated, or very finely chopped, orange zest

For the scallop carpaccio, keep the scallops in the freezer for a couple hour; this will make it easier to cut them.

For the soup, bring the broth to a boil then add the squash, star anise, and bay leaves, season to taste with salt and pepper, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the squash is soft. Remove and discard the star anise and bay leaves. Using a blender stick or blender, purée the soup until smooth then season to taste with salt, pepper, and crème fraîche and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches the desired taste and texture; cover the pot and keep warm.

For the chestnut purée, set 3 chestnuts aside then purée the remaining chestnuts until smooth (add a little water if necessary) and, using a spoon, gently mix with the whipped cream.

Crumble the 3 reserved chestnuts. In a small, heavy pan, heat the sugar over medium-high heat until caramelized then add the crumbled chestnuts and orange zest; stir and keep warm for serving.

For the spinach pesto, purée the spinach leaves and a little olive oil in a blender until smooth. Add more olive oil until the texture is quite runny then season to taste with freshly squeezed lime juice, salt, and pepper.

Take the scallops out of the freezer. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the scallops very thinly; if they are too hard to cut keep them at room temperature for a few minutes.

Arrange the scallop slices on 4 large plates, drizzle with a little spinach pesto (you might not need all of the pesto), sprinkle with a few spinach leaves and a little caviar. Fill the soup in 4 deep bowls and arrange the bowls on the large plates with the carpaccio. Arrange the caramelized chestnuts and a dollop of the puréed chestnuts on top of the soup and serve 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 | Cynthia Barcomi’s Pecan Pie with Chocolate and Cranberries

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 do feel that with time I have learned the necessity to calculate my risk. In the beginning I was uninterested in calculating risk, I wasn’t even necessarily interested in spending the time of thinking How risky is this. I was much more focussed on what I wanted to do.” – Cynthia Barcomi

Before I moved to Berlin I used to have a little ritual, every time I came here I made it a point to visit Cynthia Barcomi‘s Deli at Hackescher Markt. I was in love with this place, obsessed with her chocolate cherry muffins, with her tuna sandwich made with the juiciest potato bread, and the world’s best New York cheesecake. Whenever I set on the black and white leather benches in the tall lofty room of her Deli, Cynthia managed to make me feel home and taken care of but at the same time hungry and excited for everything that was new to me in this big city.

There was a lot that this American lady taught me – without ever meeting her: my first carrot cake was hers and the frosting of that cake seemed like a miracle for a German girl in the nineties, almost impossible that something tasting so good is only made of cream cheese, lemon, butter, and sugar. Four simple ingredients creating sweet magic. No one masters the genius simplicity of comforting American-style baking like she does, at least in my world. She approaches her recipes like everything else in her life: with curiosity, discipline, passion, and stubborn persistence. Cynthia only stops working on a recipe – be it for her café, for one of her nine books, or for her TV shows – when she’s 100% sure that she nailed it. She never compromises.

“There was definitely a time when I was like I have to do this and this, more and more, and now I kind of feel like it is really important for me to stay focussed. And it is really important for me to protect this part of myself, which feels incredibly inspired and curious and creative and all these different things, where I know if I get too bogged down by the many other things that are going on in the world or in my life that I cannot access that.” – Cynthia Barcomi

Cynthia came to Berlin in the nineties, tumbling out of a rather protected childhood in Seattle, Washington State, and a few wild years in New York City, studying philosophy, theatre and drama at Columbia University and becoming a dancer at the same time. Those were the eighties and Cynthia lived the Flashdance-life. Although it can’t really get much better than that Cynthia felt pulled to Europe, to Pina Bausch, Paris, Florence, and at one point to Berlin.

Always moving, she can’t stand still. With two kids, she started looking for a more steady life in the food world (maybe the only thing she ever miscalculated), so she decided to roast her own coffee beans and open her first café in Kreuzberg. Today this wouldn’t be such an adventurous career move, but back in 1994, this was a risky endeavor. There were no American-style cafés, people didn’t really care much about American cakes, pies, and cookies, there was simply no demand for it. Germans drank their old-fashioned filter coffee in questionable quality, and were happy with it, and enjoyed their German cakes for their Kaffee und Kuchen. So now Cynthia popped up in the city, ready to conquer and change it all – and she succeeded.

“I think it’s really important that you do stay true to yourself and that you spend less time comparing yourself and your work to other people, which I think is going down a rabbit hole that will suck all the energy out of you. And I really do encourage especially women to kind of not have quite so much shit in their head and just do it.” – Cynthia Barcomi

Three years after starting her first café, she opened her Deli, which is the reason why I moved to the area where I live now. I had to be close to that place. Almost 30 years ago, Cynthia changed they way people eat in the capital. Less competition may make it sound easier compared to today but this also meant that the risk was much higher. She had to pioneer a market that was so unfamiliar with her vision that even the banks told her “Look lady, if this were a really good idea, we’d already have it.” Her answer was “What are you talking about. Society lives from new ideas. We wouldn’t have washing machines, we wouldn’t have cars, we’d be lighting fire, we’d be cavemen. I mean come on. Jesus!” So she just put a plate of her cookies on the guy’s desk and at one point she got the loan.

Sometimes in life you have to swim against the current, ignoring the anxious voices around you. It worked out in Cynthia’s case but it wasn’t always a smooth journey. Last year she had to close her Deli to save her business. A decision so painful that it still hurts her to talk about it. A chapter came to an end, after writing a beautiful story that will always be a part of Berlin, but Cynthia wouldn’t be the person who she is if she didn’t get back on her feet to write another story – to be continued.

Cynthia shared the ultimate Christmas or New Year’s Eve dessert with me: Pecan Pie with Chocolate and Dried Cranberries.

The podcast episode with Cynthia Barcomi 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 Cynthia on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Pecan Pie with Chocolate and Dried Cranberries

by Cynthia Barcomi

Makes one 23cm / 9″ – pie

For the crust

  • 125g / 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 25g / 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 180g / 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 25g / 3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or wholegrain flour
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 75ml / 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice cold water

For the filling

  • 100g / 1/2 cup muscovado sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 25g / 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 100g / 3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 100g / 3 1/2 ounces dried cranberries or dried cherries, lightly floured
  • 200g / 7 ounces pecans, left whole

For a light and flaky crust, cut the butter and the shortening into small pieces and chill in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, starch, sugar, and salt. Blend in the cold butter and shortening with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cold water and stir with a fork until a dough just forms. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and quickly knead the dough into a circle. Wrap the dough in parchment and chill for about 2 hours (the dough will keep in the fridge for several days and in the freezer for several months).

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (convection setting). Have a 23cm / 9″-pie or tart form at your side. No need to butter it.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to about 3mm / 1/8″ thick. Work with a light dusting of flour on your rolling pin and on your work surface. Do not use too much flour or the crust will become hard and dry. Place the rolled-out dough into the pie dish and gently press into the sides. Trim the edges to an about 5mm / 1/4″ overhang. With your fingertips, crimp the edges. Chill while you make the filling.

Make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar with the eggs, then stir in the syrup. Add the salt, vanilla extract, and melted butter and stir to combine.

Place the chopped chocolate onto the bottom of the pie dough, followed by the dried fruit, and the pecans. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the pecans. Bake for 10 minutes at 200°C / 400°F, then reduce the heat to 190°C / 375°F and bake for another 10 minutes. If it seems to be getting brown too quickly, cover the pie with parchment. Reduce the heat once again to 180°C / 350°F and bake for another 14–16 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on a rack for several hours before serving.