Monday, September 15, 2014

Baked Farro Tomato Risotto

This dish is not the most prettiest dish in the world but it is easy to prepare and very tasty. The dish is prepared on the stove first and finished in the oven later. You can easily make it ahead and pop it in the oven 45 minutes before you want to serve it. You can buy the tomato sauce which makes it even easier or use your own if you have more time on hands.

Baked Farro Tomato Risotto

You can bake this in an oven-proof casserole. As far as grains go, I used semi-pearled farro, but I can imagine making this with semi-pearled barley as well. Beyond that, arborio rice would be an logical and easy-to-find alternative. Different grains will likely affect the consistency of the risotto in the end, some might end up drier or more fluid, but you can adjust the baking time accordingly, and I don't think you'll be too far off using this amount of broth/water.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking pan & drizzling
zest of one lemon
1 medium onion
fine grain sea salt
1 ½ cups / 10.5 oz / 300 g uncooked semi-pearled farro
1 cup / 8 oz / 225 g tomato sauce*
2 ½ cups / 600 ml good-tasting vegetable broth or water
1 ¼ cups / 2 oz / 60g freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

Preheat oven to 400F / 205C, with a rack in the top third. Rub olive oil across an 8x8-inch baking dish, or equivalent, and sprinkle with lemon zest.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat combine the olive oil, onion, and a couple pinches of salt. Cook until the onions soften up and begin to become translucent, a few minutes. Add the farro, stir until well-coated, and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the tomato sauce and the broth. Bring just to a simmer, remove from heat, and stir in about 3/4 of the cheese.

Carefully taste a bit of the brothy liquid, and adjust the seasoning if needed. Transfer to the prepared baking dish, cover with foil, poke a few slits in the foil, and bake for about 45 minutes or until the grains are cooked through.

You can uncover in the last few minutes to get a bit of color on the top of the farro. Alternatively, you can brown the top carefully under a broiler for a few minutes, which is what I did. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese, the fresh oregano, and a drizzle of good olive oil.

*You can use your favorite tomato sauce here, but the following sauce is easy to make from scratch. It is bright and vibrant tasting - perfect to play off the grains. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, stir in a clove of garlic smashed into a paste with a couple pinches of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Cook just until the garlic starts to take on color, not more than 10-20 seconds, and stir in 1 cup / 8 oz / 225g of crushed tomatoes OR crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, from a can. Simmer for a few minutes more and remove from heat. Taste and add a bit more salt if needed.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tomato Ricotta Tart

Recently I discovered this Irish guy named Donald Skehan on YouTube. I had never heard of him before but he seems to be quite popular. He was so funny and when he made his food on the video he got so excited that I simply had to try some of his recipes. 
The first thing that caught my eye on his webpage was this Tomato Ricotta Tart. 
It turned out beautifully and absolutely pretty. 

The other thing that I made was an Irish Soda bread, that I had never tried before. He claimed that it would be the easiest bread ever and I think he was right about that. Unfortunately soda bread needs a lot of butter in order to taste really good. So I think it was as moist as it could get for a soda bread but I must admit that I do prefer a yeasted dough with a proper rising time and a little bit of kneading. 

Tomato Ricotta Tart

This surprising little dish makes the most of the last of this year’s tomatoes. Serve it as a light lunch or dinner with a side salad.

serves 4-6
300g of cherry tomatoes
250g of ricotta cheese
A few sprigs of thyme
A small handful of oregano, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Chili Pepper Flakes, Herbs (optional)

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
170g very cold, butter (cut into small cubes)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
30ml ice cold water

Place the flour and butter in a bowl and using a butter knife, cut the butter into the flour until you have a rough pebble mixture.

Whisk together the egg with the balsamic vinegar and sea salt. Add this to the butter and flour and using two forks gently toss through until the dough begins to come together.

Add a little cold water to bring the dough to a rough ball. Turn the pastry out on to parchment paper or cling film, parcel up and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

While the pastry is resting preheat the oven the 190˚C.

Slice the tomatoes in half and place in a bowl. Toss with a little olive oil, thyme, oregano and season with sea salt and ground black pepper.

Mix the Ricotta with a little bit of salt, pepper and chili flakes according to your taste. You could also add some herbs.

When the pastry has rested, roll out on a clean well floured work surface using a rolling pin, until you have a large round which will fit a 23cm tart tin with a removable base and is about 5mm in thickness.

Transfer the pastry to the tart tin and cut off any loose edges. Prick the base surface with a fork and then spread with ricotta cheese.

Place the tomatoes on top and bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes until the tomatoes have reduced in size by half, slightly charred and the pastry has turned a nutty brown.

Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving with a side salad.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce

One of the dishes that my kids request all the time is this Tomato Sauce from Nigella Lawson. It doesn't contain more than six ingredients (spices included) and it is a very light and fresh dish for hot summer days. Your tomatoes should be fully ripe and sweet in order to get the right taste. It doesn't take more than 15 minutes to make the sauce but the sauce should sit for a while in order to melt the flavours.

Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce
(Nigella Lawson)
serves 4

2 ½ lbs. ripe tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
Maldon or other sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. uncooked spaghetti

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add tomatoes, simmer for 10 seconds and drain. Peel, core and halve tomatoes, discarding seeds and liquid. Chop tomato pulp finely and place in a medium bowl. Add sugar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add garlic and olive oil, and whisk until blended. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours. Discard garlic.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, and add spaghetti. Cook until al dente, and drain well. Add tomato mixture to hot pasta, and mix until pasta is evenly coated with sauce. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 15, 2014


A Focaccia is the Italian counterpart of a French Fougasse that I posted earlier this year. The dough is filled with tomatoes and olives and is flavored with rosemary, sea salt and olive oil. It makes a great appetizer or light dinner with a simple salad and glass of crisp white wine. 


400 g / 3 cups of Bread Flour
100 g / 4 oz Semolina Flour
1/2 T Sugar
1 t Salt
300 - 325 ml Water
8 g Yeast
250 g / 1/2 pint of Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup Olives
fresh Rosemary, chopped

Mix the water with the sugar and add the yeast. Mix the flours and salt together and make a hole in the middle. When the yeast gets bubbly add the water to the flour mixture and slowly mix it in. Knead until you have an elastic dough.

Let the dough rise for at least 30 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Spread some olive oil on a baking tray and sprinkle with sea salt. Preheat your oven to 425 F / 220 C. Gently pour the dough onto the baking tray. Let it rest for a couple of minutes, then gently spread it out with your hands. Try not to deflate the dough.

Spread some olive oil over the dough and with your fingertips press it in and make some holes.
Add the tomatoes and olives into these holes.
Sprinkle with the chopped rosemary and some sea salt and bake for approx. 20 minutes. If the dough seems to light after 20 minutes, switch on the broiler and let it broil for only a couple of seconds

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Shrimp - Güvec

Recently, I bought a Turkish Cookbook (in German) called Pismek -Kochen auf Tuerkish that I absolutely fell in love with. The pictures are stunning you learn about the country and the recipes sound delicious. This is the first dish that I picked out of the book. It is a shrimp casserole with feta that is perfect for a hot summer day or when you entertain. The dish is flavored with red pepper, oregano and a hint of allspice. Serve lots of rustic bread with it to soak up all the lovely juices.

Shrimp - Güvec
from Pismek
serves 6

80 ml / 2.7 oz Olive Oil
2 Big Onions, 1.5 cm / 1/2 inch diced
2 Red Peppers, 2 cm / 3/4 inch diced without skin and seeds
1 Yellow Pepper, 2 cm / 3/4 inch diced without skin and seeds (I used the peppers with the skin on)
4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped (I left it out)
1 T Sugar
4 t Red Wine Vinegar
500 g / 1 Pint of Cherry Tomatoes
2 T fresh Oregano, chopped (I used dried Oregano)
1 T Paprika
pinch of Piment
2 Pounds Shrimp
175 g Feta Cheese, crumbled
3 T Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Bread, Salad to serve with

Preheat your oven to 180 C / 350 F (I heated it to 400 F).
Heat olive oil medium high heat in an ovenproof dish until hot and add the onions with a pinch of salt. Cook until they start to soften about 4-5 minutes. Add the peppers and garlic cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Add sugar and vinegar, stir and place into the oven. Let cook for 15 minutes until the vegetables start to brown. Add the tomatoes, Oregano, Paprika, Shrimp, Feta, Salt and Pepper and stir carefully.

Place back into the oven and cook until the shrimp are cooked all the way through about 15 - 20 minutes. Scatter fresh parsley over the dish and serve with bread and salad.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cherry Pie

Plumb and juicy cherries are one of summer's best crops and there is no better way to use them than in a pie. This is a superb recipe for a cherry pie. The almond flour makes the crust flaky and tender and the filling is just gorgeous.

Cherry Pie

⅓ cup almond flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
All-purpose flour for surface
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of kosher salt
3 pounds fresh sour cherries, pitted, or 6 cups frozen sour cherries
1 large egg, beaten to blend
Demerara sugar or granulated sugar (for sprinkling)

Pulse almond flour, granulated sugar, salt, and 2½ cups all-purpose flour in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
Whisk egg yolks and ¼ cup ice water in a small bowl and drizzle over flour mixture. Pulse, drizzling in more ice water as needed, until dough just comes together (a few dry spots are okay).
Gently knead dough on a lightly floured surface until no dry spots remain, about 1 minute. Divide dough in half and pat each piece into a disk; wrap in plastic. Chill at least 2 hours.
DO AHEAD: Dough can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Preheat oven to 425°. Let dough sit at room temperature to soften slightly, about 5 minutes. Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12” round. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill. Repeat with remaining disk of dough.
Combine granulated sugar and lime zest in a large bowl, rubbing together with your fingertips to release oils in zest. Whisk in cornstarch and salt until there are no lumps in cornstarch. Add cherries and toss to coat.
Carefully transfer 1 crust to a 9” pie dish. Lift up edges and allow dough to slump down into dish. Trim edges to even out crust if needed. Scrape in cherry filling.
Using a ¾”-diameter pastry tip or cookie cutter, punch out holes in remaining crust, covering an area just smaller than the diameter of pie dish. Place over filling. Fold edge of top crust underneath edge of bottom crust and press together to seal. Crimp as desired. (Alternatively, assemble pie, then cut X’s 
or slits into crust.)
Brush crust with egg and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Chill pie until crust is firm, 20–30 minutes.
Place pie on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake, tenting with foil if crust is browning too quickly, until juices are bubbling and crust is deep golden brown, 50–60 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 4 hours before slicing.

DO AHEAD: Pie can be baked 1 day ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Perfect Burger Bun with Tofu Burger

There is a very popular Vegan chef in Germany right now called Attila Hildman. What makes him so famous is that he used to love junk food so he tries to make all of his recipes taste just as good.
I tried his tex mex burger and must admit that I was really impressed at how much they tasted like they were made at a German Butcher Shop. I gave them to my family for lunch and they thought they were amazing too.
The burger bun was fun to make, of course you can always buy them but these came very close to perfect in taste and consistency. So if you have some extra time on hand try them and see for yourself.

Light Brioche Burger Buns
Adapted from Comme Ça restaurant in Los Angeles, via the New York Times

Makes 8 4 to 5-inch burger buns

3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Sesame seeds (optional)

1. In a glass measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, well-floured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be on the sticky side so it can be a bit messy, but keep in mind that the more flour you knead in, the tougher the buns will get. Try to leave them tackier than you would a round loaf.

3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, one to two hours. (Mine took only 30 minutes on a very warm day)

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for one to two hours.(Mine took only 20 minutes)

5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely

Tofu Burger
for 2 people

10.5 ounces tofu (300 g)
2 onions
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley
¹/ ³ cup canned corn (50 g)
¾ cup canned kidney beans (50 g)
½ cup breadcrumbs (60 g)
2 level teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 level teaspoon locust bean gum
(If not available, you can use guar gum.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 t chili flakes (optional)
¼ cup vegetable oil (70 mL)
Lettuce for the burgers
2 sesame buns

Mash the tofu with a fork. Peel the onions. Wash the parsley, shake dry, and purée together with the onions in a blender.
Rinse off the corn and kidney beans and allow to drain.
Combine all of the ingredients for the burgers, except for the vegetable oil, and knead well for 2 minutes. The dough should be quite dry, if it seems to wet add more breadcrumbs.
Then form 3 burgers from the mixture (the flatter they are, the crispier they will turn out).
Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the burgers for 2 minutes on each side over high heat.
Reduce the heat to medium and fry the burgers an additional 4 minutes on each side until golden brown.