Tag: rosemary

Grilled Raclette with Rosemary Kumquats, Coriander Apple & Star Anise Pear

The light dimmed, tall candles casting flickering shadows on the ceiling, the room filled with the dry heat from the crackling fireplace and the smell of burnt wood and cheese lying in the air like a heavy cloud. When it’s time for Raclette at my mother’s house in the countryside, it’s a celebration of everything that I connect with coziness. Surrounded by family and friends, everybody gathers around the sizzling Raclette grill to watch the magic happen: aromatic cheese melting and dripping, golden bubbles bursting and splashing as they touch the glowing grill, and the rind turning into smokey charred bites.

When you eat Raclette at a snow covered hut in the mountains, you would most likely enjoy it the classic way, with boiled potatoes, raw spring onions, pickled vegetables like gherkins (cornichons) and pearl onions, and lots of crushed or coarsely ground black peppercorns. The cheese needs added acidity, which can come from the pickles but it can also come from fruit.

So here’s the fruity way to enjoy the fragrant melted cheese on a crusty baguette: I skip the pickles and go for Raclette with rosemary kumquats, coriander apple, and star anise pear. Kumquats cooked with honey and fresh rosemary turn the tiny citrus fruits into soft and caramelized bites. Pear wedges seared in star anise butter taste like Christmas and apple wedges softened in coriander butter are sweet, aromatic, and slightly sour. That’s the colorful trio to complete my rustic Raclette table but you could also add roasted grapes or plums, or juicy persimmons. Whatever fruit you would normally eat with cheese will fit; it can only become better with a little heat, either in the pan on the hob or under the grill. The heat softens the fruit’s texture and makes the flavor even more concentrated. I would keep the side dish simple, you can serve the grilled Raclette with a quick green salad.

My mother always uses a very old Swiss made grill that’s rather large. It can hold half a wheel of Raclette, melting the surface where the cheese is cut in half, and then you scrape the melted layer right off the wheel onto your plate. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s heavy, you need a lot of people to eat up half a wheel of cheese, and you can only feed the hungry crowd in batches – around two people every time you scrape the top layer off, then the half-wheel needs to go under the grill again. This is not necessarily a bad thing seeing as we’re talking about a meal that’s rather rich and filling. A break once in a while doesn’t harm the hungry cheese lover, but if I want to throw a cozy Raclette party just for my man and myself (and maybe a couple friends), I go for my more practical tabletop grill with single Raclette dishes instead. Then I opt for sliced cheese and grab Le Rustique‘s Raclette l’Originale. It’s aromatic yet not overpowering and melts like butter. When I use sliced cheese I remove the rind, and if you’re after that smokey burnt touch you can just leave the Raclette on a little longer until the charred bubbles burst under the grill.

Thanks to Le Rustique for sponsoring this post and reminding me of the coziest celebration of cheese: watching – and eating – bubbling and crackling Raclette.

Grilled Raclette with Rosemary Kumquats, Coriander Apple and Star Anise Pear

You’ll need a Raclette grill for this recipe.

Serves 3 to 4

For the fruit
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles (whole needles, not chopped)
12 fresh organic kumquats (or canned kumquats, drained), cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Unsalted butter, to cook the pear and apple
3 star anise
1 large, firm pear, cored and cut into thin wedges
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 large baking apple, cored and cut into thin wedges

For serving
About 500-600g (18-21 ounces) sliced Raclette cheese (for a tabletop grill with single Raclette dishes), rind removed
1-2 crunchy baguettes, sliced
Crushed or coarsely ground black peppercorns

Optional
2 large handfuls mixed small leaf lettuce (young spinach and chard, mâche or corn lettuce)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fine sea salt
Finely ground pepper

For the kumquats, in a small, heavy pan, heat the honey over high heat until bubbling. Add the rosemary, kumquats, and orange juice and cook, turning once, for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and soft – mind that the kumquats don’t burn. Set the pan aside and keep warm.

For the pear, in a medium, heavy pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the star anise over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the pear wedges and sauté, turning once, for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Set the pan aside and keep warm.

For the apple, in a medium, heavy pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the coriander seeds over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the apple wedges and sauté, turning once, for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Set the pan aside and keep warm.

Melt the cheese, one slice at a time, under the Raclette grill until bubbly then scrape onto a slice of baguette, top with kumquats, apple wedges, or pear wedges and season with crushed black pepper.

You can serve the grilled Raclette with a simple green salad on the side: Divide the mixed lettuce leaves among the plates, drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Enjoy!

Roasted Grapes and Camembert Sandwich with Rosemary

My love for cheese is deep and passionate. I embrace the whole variety of soft and hard, young and old, of cow, goat, and sheep milk cheese without skipping a bite. However, I always had a particular pull towards the oldest, runniest, and strong-smelling examples.

In my late teenage years, I spent a romantic weekend in Paris. Aside from the usual sightseeing spots, the strolls through the stunning Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, long walks along the Seine and busy Boulevard Saint-Germain, I went straight for the city’s boulangeriespâtisseries, charcuteries, and fromageries. It was my first proper food trip, constantly carrying – and nibbling from – bags filled with baguette, croissants, pâté, tartes, éclair au café, and cheese. Whenever I spotted a bench or a park, I declared it my picnic zone and made it a moveable feast. It was summer and I bought so much cheese that I had to find a way to store all these rolls, rounds, and triangles. Our hotel room’s mini bar seemed like the only suitable place to keep my fragrant treasures. Just as we left, as I collected my food and other belongings, I noticed a particularly strong odor of a very aged camembert escaping the tiny fridge. In that moment I pitied the future guests of our room, and it dawned on me that it would take days for it to recover from my visit.

Camembert always had a very special place in my heart. When it’s young and firm, still a bit white and crumbly in the center, I enjoy it at breakfast on crunchy baguette. The flavour is mild and still developing.  But when it’s aged and so soft that it practically melts inside the white rind – my favourite – the cheese is at its tasty peak. Then it needs a glass of full-bodied Bordeaux, or ripe fruits or concentrated chutneys. Le Rustique manages to capture this quality of rich ripeness perfectly, the cheese is strong and creamy, packed with a sharp taste that makes it so special.  So when the cheese makers from Normandy asked me to create a sandwich recipe for their famous round product wrapped in red gingham cloth, I knew it would need a potent partner. Grapes and cheese are a common couple, but when you roast the little fruits in the oven until they shrivel, their flavour concentrates beautifully. I balance their sweetness with fresh rosemary to add woody tones to a rather opulent sandwich of ripe camembert and roasted grapes.

Thanks to Le Rustique for sponsoring this post and reminding me of the little culinary adventures that I have in my life through one of my favourite treats: the wonderful world of cheese.

 

Roasted Grapes and Camembert Sandwich

Makes 2 sandwiches

300g / 2/3 pound seedless red grapes, on the vine
6 small sprigs fresh rosemary
Olive oil
Flaky sea salt
100g / 4 ounces aged, aromatic camembert, such as Le Rustique, cut into thick slices
2 rustic, white buns, cut in half

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

Place the grapes and rosemary in a medium baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, gently toss to coat, and season to taste with salt. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until the grapes are soft and a little shriveled.

Divide the camembert among the bottom halves of the buns. Snip the grapes off the vine and arrange on top of the cheese and sprinkle with the roasted rosemary. Place the top on each bun and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tart

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

I allowed myself a few treats during our Mediterranean summer in Malta. I went snorkeling far more often than in the past few years, when my cookbook determined my schedule, I had a few girly shopping moments, and my man and I relaxed at the stunning – and newly renovated – Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta. We enjoyed stunning views from their infinity pool with a glass of crisp Maltese wine close at hand and indulged in lush breakfast buffets and fine French inspired cuisine on their gorgeous terrace overlooking the gardens.

Malta treated us well, the Mediterranean pace and hot climate force me to slow and calm down, something I only truly manage there. Nothing feels as heavy, as worrying or threatening as it might feel anywhere else, everything feels manageable and enjoyable. It’s not so much about duties, but about collecting and treasuring the good moments in life. This also reflects in my cooking. If I spent a couple more hours at the beach, we just cooked dinner a bit later, or kept it simple by throwing a fish on the grill and drizzling some fresh lemon juice over it. It’s pure, it’s good, and it allows me to have more time to chill and chat with a friend, to sit on the rocks a little longer and see the sun disappear into the sea’s faded evening-blue.

Another one of my lazy summer recipes is this lovely little sweet and savoury tart: ripe peaches, soft chèvre and Mediterranean rosemary spread on top of (store-bought!) puff pastry. You could also make your own, or use short crust pastry, but my lazy self just went to the supermarket and bought frozen Maltese puff pastry – the best I know.

The tart turned out even better than expected, offer it to your friends who don’t have a sweet tooth at teatime, or slice it up for a relaxed late summer dinner in the garden or on the balcony and pop open a bottle of wine. Heaven.

This recipe also works with grapes!

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

 

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tart

Makes 1 (28cm / 11″) tart, serves 4-6

frozen puff pastry, defrosted, 320g / 11 ounces (you can also use short crust pastry)
large ripe peaches, cut into wedges, 4-5
mild soft chèvre, crumbled, about 150g / 5 ounces
fresh rosemary, finely chopped, 1 generous tablespoon
liquid honey 2 1/2 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F and butter a 28cm / 11″ tart pan.

Line the tart pan with the puff pastry, pushing the pastry into the pan, and put in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Spread the peaches in a circle on top of the pastry, sprinkle with the chèvre and rosemary, and drizzle with the honey. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp at the edges (mind the heat, I use a gas oven in Malta, which is not as precise as my oven in Berlin).

Let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving and enjoy!

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

 

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

 

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

 

Peach, Chèvre and Rosemary Tarte

 

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Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Roast poultry is always a feast. Nothing beats a whole roast chicken, the skin golden and crisp, the meat succulent and tender. And when it comes to seasoning the chubby bird, there are no rules to obey. Sweet or sour, fruity or veggie-focused, spiced-up or plain, a chicken can deal with everything. Lemon butter sounds fresh, tastes fresh, and turned my chicken into a perfect summer lunch. Italian peaches lend juice and fruitiness, a little sweet, but not too much, and rosemary brings in woody tones. Seeing as we’re talking about feasting, there had to be wine on the table. The bird didn’t necessarily need it, but my mood called for a German Riesling, chilled, fresh, and fruity.

If you love wine, here’s a little experiment for the next time you open a bottle: choose a good bootle of white or red wine and pour it into three to five different wine glasses. You can also go for champagne, if you’re in the mood for bubbles, but take your time and consciously taste the wine, its complex tones and colours, revealed by the dimensions of each glass, its shape, volume, height, and curves. If you have three glasses, you’ll taste three variations of the same wine.

My mother – who loves wine at least as much as she loves food – introduced me to this kind of wine tasting in my early twenties. She has a huge crystal glass collection handmade by 260 year old glass maker Riedel, not only for white, red, and sparkling wine, but also for different regional wine and grapes. The taller Bordeaux glass, the rounder Burgundy that opens at the mouth, the elegantly shaped Syrah glass, they all bring out the best, the typical characteristics of these wines. That doesn’t mean that a fine Chablis can’t be enjoyed out of a glass that was made for a Riesling, but it might miss certain nuances that give it the final touch, the magic that goes beyond words.

After my first lesson in the art of wine glasses, I decided to follow my Mama’s food steps and invest in a basic collection, my first machine-blown Riedel glasses. My budget was a bit more limited than my mother’s, I focussed on shapes that work well for various grape varieties. Riedel’s Rheingau glass, for example, is quite an allrounder, it flatters crisp and fruity whites like my beloved German Grauburgunder (pinot gris), but I also found out that a bubbly Crémant d’Alsace doesn’t mind this shape either – in case a Champagne glass isn’t at hand. When it comes to the reds, I’m a fan of body, weight, and depth. The classic Bordeaux shape goes quite well with a few of my favourite wines. These wine glasses were the start of my ever growing collection, which also led to ever growing kitchen shelves, but that’s another story.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Falling for wine glasses is a passion, it makes sense once you start investing in finer wines. A glass collection grows and changes every year, like a wine collection, there will be losses and new additions. It’s alive, like the wines that they’re filled with. It’s always sad to lose a precious glass, but it’s also so exciting to see a new shape added to the shelf.

When Riedel asked me, if I’d like to try out their new Fatto A Mano range, handmade at their headquarters in Kufstein in the western Austrian province of Tyrol, I could already hear my mother’s ecstatic voice. Fatto A Mano is a beautiful collection, thin and light at the top, tall and elegant, and it introduces a new feature. Inspired by the Venetian tradition of glass making, a coloured handmade stem is the base of each glass of this collection. The bowl, however, sitting on top, is machine-blown and then fused with the stem, a process developed by Riedel. The colour scheme, including bold yellow, red, blue, and green, and more minimal black and white, adds fun to the table. The art of wine making is a science, but the art of wine drinking is first and foremost a pleasure that allows us the luxury to relax and let go, to taste and just smile at life.

Setting up the table for a dinner party or a weekend lunch feast with friends – especially now, in summer – doesn’t need to follow strict rules anymore. We play with the arrangement and mix and match tableware, colours, shapes, and materials. Whatever mood I’m in, the food I choose, but also the way I lay out my table, reflects how I feel. The table is the stage for the feast, where we gather with the ones we love to enjoy a few hours of good food and wine, of closeness and conversation.

Thank you, Riedel, for introducing me to your artful Fatto A Mano collection. It has already created quite a few hours of pleasure at our table – for me and my friends.

In the pictures you see the Riedel Riesling glasses from the new Fatto A Mano range, the stemless Viognier / Chardonnay glasses from The O Wine Tumbler collection, which I used for water, and the perfectly shaped round-bellied Marne wine decanter.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

You can use leftover meat, sauce, and fruit to stir into warm pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Serves 2-3

unsalted butter 60g / 4 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 75ml / 1/3 cup
whole free-range or organic chicken, about 1.5kg / 3.3 pounds, 1
flaky sea salt
ground pepper
medium sprigs fresh rosemary 6
large lemon, cut into 8 wedges, 1
large, not too soft peaches, cut into 8 wedges each, 3

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (convection setting or Rotitherm setting, if available).

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and pour into a medium baking dish, large enough to fit the chicken in. Whisk in the lemon juice, then transfer the chicken to the baking dish and toss in the lemon butter until coated on all sides. Season the chicken with salt and pepper inside and out and lay 2 sprigs of rosemary inside the chicken. Arrange the remaining rosemary, lemon and peach wedges around the bird. Roast, spooning the juices from the pan over the chicken every 15 minutes,  for 45-55 minutes or until the juices run clear when you prick the thickest part of a chicken thigh with a skewer. Turn on the broiler (grill) for a few minutes or until the chicken skin starts sizzling, mind that it doesn’t burn. Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes.

Carve the chicken and serve with the peaches and baguette to dip into the juices – and with a glass of chilled Riesling of course.

If you’re looking for a starter, or a dish to accompany the roast chicken for an easy lunch or brunch, try my leek, tomato, and thyme quiche or basil ricotta and tomato quiche.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

A Summery Berry and Bacon Panzanella with Rosemary

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

A Tuscan Panzanella salad had been on my mind for weeks, I could clearly picture the colourful composition: Dark red cherries, crunchy bacon, crisp arugula (rucola), and chunks of spongy ciabatta dripping with olive oil and thick Balsamico vinegar and then sprinkled with woody rosemary. I was just waiting for the fruits to arrive at my Turkish vegetable shop around the corner.

Unfortunately, the day I planned to throw the salad together, my trusted vegetable man didn’t have cherries and – what worried me even more – the weather was dull and grey. The first problem was easily solved, I replaced sweet cherries with even juicier strawberries, blueberries, and figs, which made the whole thing even more mushy and luscious. It tasted great, but the soggy look made it rather difficult to catch a pretty picture. Even more so as they just put scaffolding in front of my kitchen window, which means the light situation in this room is far from ideal.

In these moments I always know why I love food so much and why photography, sometimes, drives me crazy. Food either tastes good or it doesn’t, of course it should look appetizing, but I believe what tastes good also looks good. But photography has its own rules and mysteries, to be able to capture a dish’s yumminess in a picture, the conditions need to be right, especially the light. So please, when you look at the pictures in today’s post, think of summery-sweet fruit juices, porky saltiness crisped in the pan, the freshness of green leaves, and the confidence of Mediterranean rosemary. Buon appetito!

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

Berry and Bacon Panzanella with Rosemary

Serves 2-4

For the dressing

olive oil 3 tablespoons
Balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
white Balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
fresh rosemary, very finely chopped, about 2 teaspoons
fine sea salt
ground pepper

For the Panzanella

olive oil
bacon 4 slices
arugula (rucola) or mixed lettuce leaves, torn, a large handful
ciabatta or rustic white loaf, cut into chunks, 2 large handfuls
strawberries, cut in half, a handful
blueberries, a handful
figs, quartered, 2

For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Panzanella, heat a small splash of olive oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for a few minutes on both sides until crispy and golden brown. Take the bacon out of the pan, let it cool for a few minutes, and break into large pieces.

In a large bowl, spread the greens and lay the chunks of bread on top. Arrange the fruits and bacon on top of the bread and pour the dressing all over the Panzanella. Serve immediately, preferably for lunch, accompanied by a glass of white or rosé wine, and think of your next holiday.

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

Beluga Lentils with Grilled Cherry Tomatoes, Orange and Rosemary

Lentils, Orange and Cherry Tomatoes

Spontaneous weekend trips are the best way to calm the weary mind after a busy week. I don’t have to travel far, I don’t even need to stay overnight, just a few hours in a nearby forest or at one of Berlin’s beautiful lakes and I’m back on my feet.

My mother brought many wonderful things into my life. My love for food and cooking was definitely sparked by her own passion. She also fed my need for snuggly Sunday afternoons on the sofa. I sink in a pile of cushions and wrap myself in a cozy quilt, preferably listing to Prokofiev, and a plate of warm waffles on my lap. This used to be one of our favourite weekend rituals. Unfortunately, we haven’t made waffles together in a while, but there’s another tradition from my childhood days that she introduced me to, which both of us still hold dear. Mother and daughter grab their jackets, hop in the car to find a nice spot in the countryside, and go on a short weekend adventure. We prefer relaxed walks that allow us to chat a little and enjoy the scenery around us. In all these years we must have walked hundreds of kilometres. We walked down narrow paths meandering through the darkest woods, jumped over tinkling waters, and crossed the fields on windy hill tops, where the sky feels endless and the views take your breath away. Mud, rain, heat, or darkness never stopped us from our next adventure.

When Volkswagen asked me for a new recipe, I had to think of one of my favourite places in Berlin for long walks, the gorgeous Müggelsee Lake. Be it spring, summer, autumn, or winter, this lake is a quiet beauty in every season. It’s a peaceful place, my beloved weekend get away. Usually, we go to the local bakery and butcher and grab some sweets and a sausage. But this time I had another idea: wrapped in scarves, wool beanie, and a big jacket, sitting on a bench at the lake, we can have a little picnic date, even in winter. I went for a recipe that tastes just as good as a warm lunch and as a cold salad: nutty beluga lentils with sweet and smokey grilled cherry tomatoes and woody rosemary oil. It’s a scrumptious trilogy.

Lentils, Orange and Cherry Tomatoes

 

Lentils, Orange and Cherry Tomatoes

Beluga Lentils with Grilled Cherry Tomatoes, Orange and Rosemary Oil

Serves 4

For the lentils

beluga 
lentils (no soaking required) 280g / 10 ounces
fresh thyme 1 small bunch
fresh rosemary 1 sprig
bay leaf 1
fresh orange peel 4 long strips
balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
fine sea salt
ground pepper

cherry tomatoes, on the vine, 20

For the rosemary oil

olive oil 6 tablespoons
fresh rosemary, needles only, 4 sprigs

For the topping

freshly grated orange zest, about 1 tablespoon

Preheat the oven to grill / broil (quicker method) or preheat to 220°C (425°F).

Place the lentils in a saucepan with plenty of (unsalted) water, add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, and orange peel and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until al dente (or follow the package instructions). Remove any excess liquid with a ladle, if necessary, and the spices. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt, pepper, and additional vinegar to taste.

Place the tomatoes in a baking dish and grill / broil for about 12 minutes or roast at 220°C / 425°F for about 35 to 45 minutes—their skins should start to burst and turn partly black. Leaving the tomatoes on the vine, divide them into 4 portions.

For the rosemary oil, in a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the rosemary and, as soon as it starts to sizzle, remove the pan from the heat. Cover and let the herb infuse the oil for at least 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the rosemary from the oil and set aside.

Stir the rosemary oil into the lentils and divide between plates. Arrange the grilled tomatoes and rosemary on top and season with fresh orange zest to taste. Enjoy warm or cold.

Lentils, Orange and Cherry Tomatoes

 

Lentils, Orange and Cherry Tomatoes

 

Lentils, Orange and Cherry Tomatoes

 

Lentils, Orange and Cherry Tomatoes

 

Lentils, Orange and Cherry Tomatoes

 

Lentils, Orange and Cherry Tomatoes

 

Blood Orange and Rosemary Upside Down Cake

Blood Orange Rosemary Upside Down Cake

I already had my post written for today’s bright orange Sunday cake, but then, yesterday’s news from the US hit me. It felt so wrong to just write about a recipe, my mood, my day; why should I write about me and my food, when on the other side of the Atlantic, a single man throws everything away that our so called civilized world claims to stand for. How can we, or the president of the United States, ban citizens from certain countries (Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria) from putting their feet onto American ground?

I’m German, my country’s history shows what happens when we tolerate and support the insane actions of a single man. Didn’t we learn anything? Is it still possible for us to allow a man to run a country who doesn’t show the slightest feeling of compassion? Didn’t we, in the western world, hypocrites, arrogantly accuse other countries of exactly that?

Before I was sad, now I’m concerned.

And yes, I baked a cake. It’s an upside down cake – for an upside down world – made with Sicilian blood oranges. It looks like a glowing Mediterranean sunset, peaceful. Some prefer to cut off the citrus fruits’ peel, I leave mine on for a tangy touch. I first sliced and then cooked three fruits in sugar water with a sprig of fresh rosemary to infuse the pulp. About half an hour later they were soft, ready to become the fruity base of a light and fluffy upside down cake, thanks to beaten egg white folded into the batter. The citrus is very present, which I like, the herbal note is subtle. If you prefer you can use less fruits, but I recommend creating a thick juicy layer of orange slices. They keep the cake wonderfully moist and fruity, also on the second day.

Blood Orange Rosemary Upside Down Cake

 

Blood Orange Rosemary Upside Down Cake

Blood Orange and Rosemary Upside Down Cake

Makes 1 (20 1/2cm / 8″) cake

For the oranges

water 120ml / 1/2 cup
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
organic blood oranges, rinsed, scrubbed, and the ends cut off, 3
medium sprig of rosemary 1, plus a few needles finely chopped (optional)

For the dough

plain flour 200g / 1 1/2 cups
baking powder 2 teaspoons
butter, at room temperature, 80g / 1/3 cup
granulated sugar 150g / 3/4 cup
organic eggs, separated, 2
vanilla pod, split and scraped, 1/2
milk 100ml / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Butter and line a 20 1/2cm / 8″springform pan.

For the oranges, in a large saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil over medium high heat. Stir and let the sugar dissolve. Cut the oranges into thin slices. Reduce the heat to medium, layer the orange slices in the sugar water, and simmer gently for about 25-30 minutes or until soft, but still in shape. Using a slotted ladle, transfer the orange slices to a large plate and let them cool for a few minutes. Add the rosemary to the pot with the orange syrup and set aside.

For the dough, in a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla seeds and continue mixing for about 1 minute or until well combined. Quickly beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk. Beat the egg white and salt until soft peaks form and fold into the dough.

Arrange the orange slices on the bottom and sides of the prepared pan, fold some of the slices into the corners (see 2nd picture). Scrape the dough on top of the fruits, even it out and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and spongy. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the cake cool for a few minutes before you flip it over, gently remove the parchment paper.

Bring the rosemary orange syrup to a boil over high heat and let it cook for about 2 minutes, let it cool for a couple minutes. Brush the top of the cake with the syrup and arrange the rosemary sprig on top. Sprinkle with a little additional chopped rosemary and enjoy!

Blood Orange Rosemary Upside Down Cake

 

Blood Orange Rosemary Upside Down Cake

 

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Pear and Blue Cheese Tart from my cookbook and a picnic in Valletta

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

The sky was refreshingly bright and October’s sun was still hot, it was a glorious Saturday morning when we met our friends at my Maltese mama’s house in Msida. The air was filled with the usual chatting and laughing before we hopped into our cars to drive up to Valletta. We brought along the obligatory guitar and our picnic baskets packed with sandwiches, fruits, and a buttery pear and stilton tart sprinkled with rosemary – a popular recipe from my Eat In My Kitchen book. And off we went to Malta’s capital.

We had planned this day trip weeks in advance: to have a picnic with our friends in Valletta, high up on the bastions opposite The Three Cities, to park Michelangelo’s beautiful Volkswagen beetle in the shade of one of the old olive trees, and set up a little table right next to this blue beauty on four wheels. It was a luscious brunch in the most stunning surroundings and to bake a savoury tart was the best choice for this occasion. You can prepare it in advance, it’s delicious even when it’s cold, and it fits perfectly to a sip of chilled sparkling wine. The topping is minimal, but the combination of baked pear, melted Stilton, and roasted rosemary is so good that it became one of my favourite recipes this year. The creation almost didn’t make it into my book. I had a different tart in mind, but I couldn’t find a certain vegetable on the day of the shoot and I decided that I could also just fill the pastry with fruit, cheese, and herbs. It was a wise choice that I don’t regret.

The choice of our setting was as spectacular as our nibbles. If you ever visit Valletta, you have to go to the St. Barbara Bastion and enjoy the breathtaking view overlooking the Grand Harbour and The Three Cities, Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea. Then walk down to the Valletta Waterfront and take one of the little ferries to Cospicua. It only takes a few minutes and it allows you to enjoy two of the most stunning places in Malta, on land and from the sea: the golden beauty Valletta and the three fortified cities.

Thank you Matt, Michelle, Jessica, Michelangelo, Luke, and Jamie for making this day so special!

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

From the Eat In My Kitchen book.

Serves 4 to 8

For the pastry

2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (130 g) unsalted butter, cold
1 large egg

For the topping

2 large, firm pears, cut into thin wedges
3 ounces (85 g) aromatic blue cheese, such as Stilton, Roquefort, Fourme d’Ambert or Gorgonzola, crumbled
3 medium sprigs fresh rosemary, needles only
3 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky sea salt
A few black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle

For the pastry, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until combined. Add the egg and mix with the dough hooks of an electric mixer until crumbly. Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and freeze for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

On a table or countertop, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll out into a disc, large enough to line the bottom and sides of a 12-inch (30 cm) quiche dish. Fit the dough into the quiche dish, pushing it into the dish, especially along the edges. Let the dough hang over the rim a little or cut it off with a knife. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden. If the dough bubbles up, push it down with a fork. (If you blind bake the pastry under parchment paper and dried legumes, remove the paper and legumes after 15 minutes and bake uncovered for a few more minutes until golden.)

Arrange the pear wedges in overlapping circles on top of the warm, pre-baked pastry, sprinkle with the cheese and most of the rosemary, drizzle with the olive oil, and season to taste with flaky sea salt and crushed peppercorns. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the pastry is crisp. Sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and enjoy warm or cold.

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart with Rosemary

 

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