Friday, October 28, 2011

Camembert Tarte with Pears

With the change of the seasons the smell of change is in the air and this means busy, busy times over here in Berlin. That's why I haven't been cooking much new stuff lately.
But I thought I share this nice recipe here with you. I made the tarte shortly after the calvados chicken (previous post) cause I had plenty of cidre left. And there is some of it required in this tarte, as well.
I found the recipe in the lates issue of Lust auf Genuss mag, again.
I love tartes and quiche and savory cakes! They look pretty, taste good and are so French!
Also camembert in combination with apples and/or pears is so, so good, 
and the tarragon (I LOVE TARRAGON!) is so aromatic and adds a wonderful flavour to it. 

What you need:

either a square (28x12cm/11x5inch) or round (∅28cm/11inch) tarte baking tin.

250g / 2 cups all-purpose flour
salt, pepper
75ml / 1cup water
50g / 2oz. cold butter
dried pulses for blind-baking
2 sprigs tarragon
3 pears (à approx. 100g / 4oz.)
1-2 tsb lemon juice
250g / 9oz. Camembert 
200g / 7oz. sour cream
4 Tbsp cidre (alternatively apple juice)
2 eggs


Mix flour with 1/2 tsp salt. Cut the butter in flakes and mix into the flour.
Add 75ml water and, using your hands, knead everything to a smooth dough.
Form the dough to a ball, wrap it up in plastic foil and cool in the fridge for at approx. 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Grease the baking tin.
On a floured surface roll out the dough so that it is a little bigger than the baking tin.
Place the dough in the baking tin and press on the edges. Prick the bottom with a fork several times.
Cover the bottom with baking paper and place the dried pulses on top of it.

Pre-bake/blind-bake in the middle of the preheated oven for approx 15minutes.
Take the dough out of the oven, remove the pulses and baking paper and let it cool down.

Pull off the tarragon leaves from the sprigs. Wash the pears, halve them, remove the cores and cut them along their length into thin slices. Sprinkle the slices with lemon juice.
Remove the rind from the camembert and cut the cheese into slices.  Mix sour cream, cidre, eggs and tarragon leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place first the pears then the camembert slices on the bottom of the pre-baked dough. Pour the egg-tarragon-cream over it and let the tarte bake in the middle of the oven for about 20-25minutes.
Last but not least, let the tarte cool down for 5 minutes before serving.

Et voilà!

Even though this tarte is more of a savory meal, the pairs add quite a bit of sweetness to it. Therefore you're actually best to have it for dessert, paired with a nice digestif or dessert wine.


I thought the dough tasted pretty bland. Next time I definitely would add more salt and some sugar to it, and maybe use whole wheat flour. I could have also baked it longer...both just the dough, 
and the whole tarte.

The other thing was that it was far too much egg-tarragon-cream for the tarte. It almost felt like a quiche.
I'd rather pour less over the dough or use a bigger baking tin. Maybe it works better with a square one. 

Last but not least, I would always recommend to take nicely riped camembert. It's harder to remove the rind, cause it's so soft. So what you don't get removed I would just leave on. But I was thinking that a second strong cheese would be a nice addition, as well. I was thinking about grated gruyere or parmesan to sprinkle on top...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Poulet Vallée d'Auge" or Chicken legs with Calvados

Wil and I have been eating a lot of red meat in the past and with the end of my vegan week experiment I decided to bring more "healthy" variation in our culinary life's. Steak, roast beef and filet is great. 
But I'm slowly running out of ideas how to wrap them in a blogpost. That also counts for our mushroom picking madness. Therefore I looked through some cook books and food magazines 
and found this wonderful recipe in "Lust auf Genuss"
a German magazine I've been posting a few recipes from already.
I also haven't cooked with Calvados before and you actually SET IT ON FIRE...
...sorry: you flambee it.
It turned out super-delicious and was something completely different from what I normally cook.

You'll need:
for 4 servings

2 shallots
5 sourish apples
5 Tbsp butter
4 chicken legs
salt, pepper
approx. 5cl (1.7oz)  Calvados
100ml (3.4oz) chicken stock
200ml (6.8oz) cidre
1 bouquet garni (2sprigs of thyme and parsley, such as 1 bay leave tied together)
1tsp sugar
200ml (6.8oz) cream


Peel the shallots and quarter them. 
Divide one apple into eighth pieces and remove the core.      
Melt 3 Tbsp of butter in a casserole or deep pan.

Rinse the chicken legs, dry them and season them with pepper and salt. 
Sauté the legs in the butter from both sides until golden brown, then take them out and set aside.

Sauté the shallots and apple in the dripping, place the chicken legs on top of them and pour the Calvados over it. By using a long match or one of these longer lighters, carefully lid the Calvados on fire. While you flambé, slightly shake the casserole so that the all the calvados catches fire. 

As soon as the alcohol has dissolved and the fire has extinguished and deglaze with chicken stock and 100ml/3.4oz of cidre. Add bouquet garni, cover the casserole up and let stew for about 30 minutes. In the meantime cut the other apples in each 8 pieces and remove the cores. In a pan melt the 2 leftover Tbsp butter and sauté the apple slices in it, pour the sugar on top and lightly caramelize. Deglaze with the  other half of the cidre (100ml/3.4oz). Add the apples to chicken legs in the casserole.

Mix in the cream and bring to the boil shortly. 
Season to taste with pepper and salt and serve with bread and a glass of white wine.

This guy obviously knows how to use his legs, still...


Next time I'll do this recipe again, I will add less cream. I had so much sauce and it was a little to creamy for me, which I think is unnecessary. Just add the cream step by step and decide yourself how much you want.

I will also remove the chicken legs before I add the cream and apples next time. They were just in the way when I wanted to mix everything together. And it looks nicer, too, when the legs aren't all covered in cream sauce...

The only downside to this recipe is that the skin of the legs isn't very crisp. If you have a broiler you probably could broil the legs on maximum heat for 5 minutes after cooking, before serving them with the sauce.

And, of course, you can replace the calvados and cidre with apple juice and not flambé the whole thing. But it certainly doesn't taste as good as with booze and it is far less fun.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Vegan Experiment Day 8 - the finals

Ok, a little late, but here it is: day 8, the last day of my temporary veganism.
Since it is fall and there are pumkins everywhere I decided to try out two vegan pumkin recipes that I found on

I started the day with a pumkin banana orange smoothie for which I mixed 

1 cup (240ml) vanilla soy yogurt
1 cup (240ml) pumpkin puree, chilled
1 cup (240ml) orange juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 ripe banana
dash of ground cinnamon as optional garnish    


You don't have to be too correct about the measurements. Just vary the ingredients however you prefer it! I think with real yoghurt it may taste a bit better. The soy yoghurt just doesn't do it for me.
But besides that, the smoothie was alright. Maybe a bit more allspice and cinnamon to bring out the pumkin flavour. 

For dinner I took the leftover pumkin purree from this morning's breakfast smoothie and made pasta with a nice pumkin pistacchio pasta sauce.

That's what you need for about two servings:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3-5 fresh sage leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 lb. penne, fusilli or other pasta
  • 3 TBS. minced fresh parsley leaves as optional garish
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios
                                              Saute the onion and red pepper in a small frying pan.
    When the onion becomes soft and glassy, add the garlic and lightly saute it also.
    Place the pureed pumpkin in a pot and add the sauteed vegetables.
    Add the vegetable bouillon, red pepper flakes, nutmeg and water.
    Optionally add the sage leaves if desired.
    Cook the mixture until it is warmed.
                                          Puree he mixture once again to form a smooth consistency.
    Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
    Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil.
    Add the pasta and cook until it is al dente.
    When the pasta is ready, drain and return to the pot.
    Mix 1/2 the pumpkin mixture into the pasta and stir to evilly coat the pasta.
    Serve the pasta garnished with pistachio nuts and optionally minced parsley leaves.
    Serve the other 1/2 of the sauce in a “gravy boat” for people to add on top of their serving.
    Optionally if you would like a creamier flavour you can add soy cream.

    I added a dash of each cinnamon and allspice to the sauce, as well. It tasted pretty good, but still a little bland. Next time I think I might add something more acidic to it, such as lemon juice, white wine or vinegar. I could also imagine to mix in some carrots to the puree to add more flavour to it and the juice of one orange.

    Cooking these two wonderful dishes on the last day of my experiment certainly helped me to forget about my dairy/egg/meat cravings for a while. I actually managed to stay vegan one day longer.
    But I ate all the leftovers. so there nothing new to tell you.

    On the 10th day Wil and I celebrated with two nice pieces of Entrecote and a glass of decent red wine. Boy, that meat tasted so good! And I can assure you it came from a happy cow!

    My final conclusion to this experiment is, that being a vegan is not even that hard these days. There are plenty of options and organic stores offer a lot of alternatives to meat and dairy products, whether those are good or not as good... I didn't feel better healthwise, which I thought was weird. I kind of thought I would sleep better, have an excellent digestion (no lactose) and feel more awake and energetic during the day. But nada. Everything was normal. Maybe I am just healthy already...
    I did get a lot of inspiration for more vegetable based dishes. we have been eating a lot of red meat lately. It's just very easy to prepare and you get so much flavour! 
    But hey, there are good reasons to eat less of it, environmentally and from a health perspective.
    We have been more conscious about where our meat/eggs and dairies come from already. Still I think we can improve on that. It just makes you feel better to know that you are eating something for which no animal had to suffer or go through unnecessary pain.
    I will not become a vegan or a vegetarian in the near future, that's for sure. But I have big respect for people who decide to dedicate their life to these kind of diets. I wish some of them would stop being so damn militant about it, though. Veganism is simply not for everyone and it's also not about joining the latest and hippest club. Sorry, but that's often the impression I'm getting. 
    I think it is more important to figure out ways to consume less but therefore better and ethically unquestionable animal products from preferably small local business.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    The Vegan Experiment Day 7 - the big withdrawal

    At day 7 of my vegan experiment the big withdrawal hit me. Nothing could really satisfy me that day.
    I wasn't craving meat, but something rich, creamy and fatty, that is not oil, but butter, cream and cheese. Or simply REAL milk.

    I still had one bag of "vegan chicken nuggets" with sesame oil and was kind of suspicious on whether those will be any good. Especially after my vegan convenience food shock of day one...

    But to my surprise they tasted pretty good. The consistency was kind of rubbery but I didn't mind that too much. It didn't taste like chicken at all. Rather like some sort of savory dough? I sprinkled some sweet soy sauce over the nuggets which added a nice flavor to it. 


     Maybe it's just because I'm getting used to the whole non meaty stuff and don't taste the soy anymore.
    But later that day I pretty much inhaled the rest of the vegan cookie dough ice cream, searching for satisfaction, and, as mentioned, that didn't work...

    Earlier that day I had a vegetarian/vegan wantan soup at the one Asian place my colleagues always go to at lunch break.  There is a lot of Asian dishes that are vegan or at least vegetarian. So, if you decide to become a vegan you will always find something to eat there. Careful wth Indian food, though. They often add cream and gee (clarified butter) to their dishes.

     There is only one more day of my experiment left and, since it is fall here, 
    it will be all about pumpkins!

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    The Vegan Experiment Day 6 - The best chocolate-cherry muffins ever! And they happen to be vegan...

    Having had pretty mediocre and bad vegan cakes, muffins, ice cream and chocolates in the past days I decided to take on the challenge and make sweet baked goods that actually taste yummy and not like "the vegan version of...". Therefore I searched the internet for cakes that happen to be vegan, but were not necessarily intended to be vegan (you understand what I mean?). 
    Again was the website were I was lucky to find this fantastic recipe! 

    They are so dark, it's even hard to photograph them!

    I modified it a bit and made probably the best chocolate-cherry muffins in the whole wide world! Seriously! I will definitely make them again. So, so good!
    They are so easy and quick to prepare, and you probably have (almost) all the ingredients at home already. The dough is incredibly moist and almost creamy. 
    It's rich. It's dark. It's how a good chocolate cake has to be like.
    What is interesting is that, except for maybe eggs, a lot of cakes don't even need animal products like milk or butter. Don't get me wrong, I love butter. But butter  burns quicker and makes cookies, cakes & co turn out crispier. I learned that in order to get a moist and soft cake, you're better to use margarine. The best results I had so far were with oil, though.
    Eggs are responsible for the density in a cake. They add flavour and color and are part of the maillard-reaction, as well. But it won't make the dough rise or anything. That's what you use the baking soda,  baking powder or yeast for. 
    There can be dough without eggs.

    And here is the proof!

    ...and they were so soft that it was tricky to remove them from the pan without having them fall apart.

    All you need for the basic recipe is:
    • 2 1/4 cups (270g) organic all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups (450g) organic cane sugar
    • 1 cup (120) organic unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon organic vanilla extract
    • 2/3 cup (160ml) organic canola oil
    • 2 teaspoons organic white vinegar
    • 2 cups (480ml) cold water - I  the juice of canned morello cherries instead and added the cherries to the dough, as well.

    Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans, or place liners in 2 muffin pans for 24 cupcakes. Set aside.
    In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Set aside.
    In a medium bowl, mix the vanilla extract, oil, vinegar, and cold water.
    Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix. 
    The mixture will be quite wet, but this is okay.
    Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. 
    For cupcakes, the baking time is 24 to 26 minutes.
    Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool. 

    The ones on the top are the coffee muffins, the ones on the bottom are with cherries.
    Instead of the two cups/480ml of water, you can use whatever liquid you want. This time I used cherry juice. But I also tried it with strong coffee, which turned out really good, as well.
    Or how about orange, cranberry or banana juice? Or even red wine? Yum.

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Vegan Experiment Day 5 - Mushroom-Walnut Burger

    As I already mentioned in my previous post, I searched the internet for some vegan recipes. I wanted to cook something that is not too crazy ingredients-wise, but also not too common, like pasta with tomato sauce. It had to be something I wouldn't normally cook, or let's say, I haven't cooked yet.
    I did find a lot of vegetable based burgers and patties. 
    This seems to be a very popular thing when cooking vegan.
    The reason is probably that those burgers are quite savory and substantial. You actually eat something that fills you up, whereas just salad as a main dish can be quite unsatisfying.

    On (a great recipe-website!), I found this recipe for Mushroom-Pecan Burgers.
    They turned out pretty well , even though I had to adjust a couple of thing.
    I didn't have sage, hoisin-sauce and pecans.
    Therefore I decided to leave out the hoisin sauce and took a bit more soy-sauce instead. No sage but I decided to add dried thyme instead. I also added some chopped up rosemary (needles of ca 4 twigs) to the parsley mushroom mix, since rosemary is always a good choice when cooking with mushrooms. 
    Oh yeah, and I replaced the pecans with walnuts. You won't really taste the nuts in the end anyway. They just add a nice crunch. You could probably also try it with other kinds of nuts or seeds.

    Last but not least, I have to say that after frying the patties for 3-5 minutes at medium heat from each side the inside was still very soft and creamy, or one could say "medium rare". If you like that, fine. I thought it was a little groce. Therefore I cooked them in the oven afterwards for another 20 more minutes at approx. 160°C, and ate them "well done".

    I served them with a salad of arugula, tomatoes, radish, cress and figs. 
    The figs added a nice subtle sweetness to the rather savory burger patties.

    Anyway, here is the full  original recipe!

    • 1 1/2 pounds (685 g) cremini mushrooms
    • 1/2 cup (30 g) fresh parsley
    • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, divided
    • 2 large-size yellow onions, finely chopped
    • 3 large-size garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 1/2 to 2 cups (165 to 220 g) bread crumbs or cracker meal
    • 3 tablespoons (45 g) tahini
    • 2 tablespoons (30 g) hoisin sauce
    • 3/4 cup (85 g) toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped
    • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) tamari soy sauce
    • 1 teaspoon (2 g) dried oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
    • salt and ground pepper, to taste


    In a food processor, mince mushrooms and parsley. Remove and set aside.
    In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil and cook onions and garlic for 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to a large-size bowl, and combine with minced mushrooms and parsley, bread crumbs, tahini, hoisin sauce, chopped nuts, tamari, oregano, sage, salt, and pepper.
    Place mixture in refrigerator for at least half an hour. Mixture will be soft, but you should be able to form patties. Add additional bread crumbs or tahini, if needed.
    Create patties using your hands. In a sauté pan, warm remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil, and fry patties over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and crispy. 
    Be careful to keep patties intact.

    For dessert I had a vegan version of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

    I didn't like it at all. The soy milk flavour is very dominant, the cookie dough bits are mushy and don't taste very good either, and the chocolate tastes like cheap chocolate. The ice cream itself is not creamy at all and is completely lacking the richness that you would want in ice cream.

    Completely disappointing!

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Vegan Experiment Day 3&4

    Two days passed, and I still haven't eaten animal.

    Day 3

    Day 3 started with my beloved vanilla soy coffee (yak) and a pink grapefruit.
    So far so good.

    For lunch I had a fried lentil-pastry roll which was pretty delicious, I have to say. Nicely spiced and crispy.
    I also bought one of my favorite vegetarian/vegan spreads "Allos Classico Gourmet Pastete". That went on a pretzel roll and tasted expectingly good, as well.

    Allos Gourmet Pastete Classico tastes a bit likeliverwurst...
    ...just without the liver and the wurst
    But the best part of the day was definitely dinner. I sauteéd some vegetables and had some rosemary crispbread  (it's new from WASA and I can highly recommend it!) with a white bean spread. My friend Ingrid who had been a Vegan for a few years in the past gave me some tips on what to cook and how to keep yourself motivated, and the white bean spread was one of the recipes she gave me.
    Hell, that was delicious!

    Sorry bout the crappy photo. But it was dark outside
    and I only had my iPhone and some bad lamp to use as a spot.
    But I'm sure you get an idea...

    It's so easy to make. Just buy a can of white beans, strain them and collect the marinade/juice in a separate bowl. Put the beans in a mixer and mix them with 1-2 garlic cloves, olive oil and lemon juice. Season it with salt, pepper and a dash of sugar and if it's not creamy enough add some more olive oil or the white bean marinade/juice. Be careful with the garlic. I used two garlic cloves for half the amount and it was a little too much. The spread is a little bit like hummus but milder and easier to make. I find making good hummus quite a challenge. The steps are the same as with the wite beans but seasoning it is a little trickier because the chickpeas flavour, especially when using canned chickpeas, is much more dominant than with white beans.

    Day 4

    On day 4 I met up with lovely friend Anna and drank tons of latte macchiatos with soy milk. 
    I'm definitely getting used to the taste of soy milk, so strange.
    Anna and I had lunch at Maya's Deli, a small vegan bistro on Pappelallee in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin.
    While Anna picked an Avocado sandwich I decided to try the warm tempeh sandwich. 

    Both came with sourdough bread and were really good. I was surprised by the tempeh, a soy product, made by fermented soybeans formed to some sort of cake. It reminded me a little bit of Nattō, just not as strong.

    Very tasty!

     For dessert we tried their home baked cakes. 
    Anna chose a chocolate cream cake I went for the red currant crumble.

    Unfortunately the chocolate cake didn't taste like chocolate at all.So that was quite disappointing. My crumble cake was good. I think the crumbles contained oatmeal, as well, which has a nice flavor when roasted. 
    I only missed the butter in the crumbles. 
    They are just so much richer and satisfying with butter than with margarine!
    And the whipped soy cream was...strange.

    My dinner was pretty unspectacular and not worth mentioning. It was vegan, after all.
    But get prepared for the next days. 
    I digged out some recipes and will try to bake a vegan cake and some mushroom-nut balls/burgers...

    So exciting!