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Tuesday
Feb242015

dark chocolate puddings

i don’t tend to make rich or heavy puddings, preferring something light and fruity most of the time. however valentine’s day was a good excuse to try something different and i was intrigued by the description of these dark chocolate puddings as having “a dense, satiny texture and a fudgelike flavor from the combination of bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder and brown sugar” and the video that made it look very easy to make. it also coincided with finding a frankfurt source for dark muscovado sugar – yay!

they ticked all the boxes i was expecting and hoping for – easy to make, interesting dark chocolate flavour plus a rich and creamy texture. all kinds of delicious.

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Sunday
Feb222015

tunisian chicken

this dish reminded me of the spicy chickpeas with ginger that i made recently – they both have a rich tomato and red pepper sauce which packs a real flavour punch. the chickpea version uses fresh ginger to great effect, with underlying flavours of garlic, cumin and coriander; this version uses cinnamon and cloves to add a rich spiciness plus pomegranate molasses which emphasises the rich fruity tomato flavours.

the recipe is based on this tunisian chicken recipe - i kept most of the ingredients as listed but adjusted the proportions to suit my taste (more tomatoes, red pepper added, extra spice, more pomegranate molasses and some fresh mint in addition to the coriander) and simplified the method. the result was great and this is a dish i’ll definitely make again.

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Thursday
Feb192015

dal with crispy sweet potatoes and coconut

this is a fabulous recipe, from anna jones’ a modern way to eat. i bought this book in the autumn, at the same time as diana henry’s a change of appetite - whilst i was in the bookshop i couldn’t choose between the two, but once i got home it was diana henry’s recipes that pulled me in and which i have been enjoying in recent months (i am still particularly smitten with her citrus fruit with ginger snow).

however, i am branching out and have started to try some of anna jones’ recipes.  they are all vegetarian and while both books share a similar desire to eat lighter healthy food, i think anna often goes a step further with replacing ingredients in traditional dishes – the (now) ubiquitous cauliflower base for a pizza, for example. i do want to try some of these dishes but have started with ones that are closer to my comfort zone, not least so i can see what i think of the book and the quality of the recipes.

this is a definite hit (there have been some misses) and one that i’ve already made a couple of times. the dal is enriched with coconut milk and also has spinach and coriander for freshness (which gives it quite a green tinge!) but the spicing is mild and warming, including quite a lot of cinnamon, which works surprisingly well.

i really like the addition of the crispy sweet potato topping flavoured with fennel and cumin seeds, which means that you don’t need to serve this with rice (i’ve had it with flatbreads each time), but which is delicious in its own right so worth making extra of it. i’m keen to try the coconut and ginger chutney with fresh coconut, but the version using desiccated is definitely good enough to be worth the effort in its own right.

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Thursday
Feb052015

luxembourg

when we were thinking about moving to frankfurt, several people commented on how well-connected the city is (“the best thing about frankfurt is how easy it is to get away from it” were someone’s words…) and we’re trying to take full advantage of that. exploring within germany is one priority but i’m keen to also travel further afield – luxembourg was my first choice of places to visit in 2015.

i have to admit that i didn’t have any particular reason for choosing luxembourg other than proximity, the fact that i doubted we’d visit otherwise plus a general curiosity about small countries (yes, liechtenstein is also on my list). we stayed in luxembourg city, the centrally located capital which is often just referred to as luxembourg, making it more than a little confusing as the single word can obviously refer to the city or the country.

it’s a tiny city with its heart, the old town, located on a rocky plateau which is surrounded by a deep ravine and a couple of rivers. we spent most of our time in this area but did head to the bottom of the valley into the lower town area of grund (there is an elevator, don’t spend time winding up and down the steep slopes unless you really want to).  it is definitely worth heading down here as you get to see a lot of the city’s ruined fortifications as well as look up and down the valley and towards the city (apparently it’s also a great spot for taking photos but a lot of the bridges and battlements were covered with tarpaulin and scaffolding while we were there).

if you are in grund, brasserie bosso is a good stop off point for lunch – we both had really delicious homemade soup (the traditional french onion soup with croutons for david and a traditional french fish soup for me with a wonderfully rich rouille). the food we saw other people eating looked quite plain but based on the soups it should be good quality.

back in the old town, there is an abundance of restaurants, bars and food shops. our exploration of the city during included a number of these. first stop was lea linster delicatessan. owned by a local michelin-starred chef, this is a good place to stop for coffee and a snack or pick up some treats to takeaway - i bought some of their hazelnut cookies (so light and crumbly) and a jar of alsatian raspberry and violet jam from the celebrated french jam-maker christine ferber.

we then called in at boulangerie grevig which had been flagged as a good place for savoury pastries – i chose the local speciality pâté au riesling (similar to a posh sausage roll!).  i also loved their little beignets – light and fluffy sugar-coated fromage blanc doughnuts.

another good option if you want something savoury to eat is the cheese and wine half of the two kaempff kohler restaurant and shops – the cheese looked and smelt fabulous and there is a wide range of local and other wines available.

there are a lot of lovely chocolate shops in luxembourg. we had sunday breakfast at chocolate house (located opposite the grand duke’s palace) which has an amazing treasure trove of sweet delights (including some fabulously ott cakes) in its ground floor shop, as well as their full range of  around 50 flavoured chocolate pops which are cubes of chocolate which you dissolve in a mug of hot milk. it’s a complete gimmick but great fun nonetheless - i had an 85% choc-spoon which created a lovely dark and bitter drink; david’s tiramisu was much sweeter; you can also add shots of alcohol if you need a little extra warming.

established in 1863, namur was the most traditional chocolate and pastry shop we saw and oberweis (where we bought some delicious and imaginatively flavoured chocolates) the most glamorous. cakes at cathy goedert were tasty – i had a lovely coffee éclair that wasn’t too sweet; david chose their carrot cake – and they also have a good selection of chocolate bars to buy (i chose two white bars, one flavoured with pistachio and candied orange, the other strawberry and green pepper). a stop at laduree was essential as i do love their macarons, and we also called in at several of the other delis scattered around the city. it is very easy to spend all your time bouncing from food shop to café to bar to restaurant!

speaking of bars and restaurants, our two evening were spent in very different places. first we went to apoteca, an italian restaurant that is sometimes also called ristorante essenza. regardless of this confusion, we had a mostly good meal. we started by sharing a delicious mixed plate of fish and seafood carpaccio – tuna with orange and bottarga, octopus with citrus marinade, swordfish with lemon, pomegranate and pine nuts plus salmon with herbs. unlike some other items on the menu, this wasn’t flagged as a sharing dish but there was more than enough for two, especially given the lovely bread which we used to mop up all the juices and marinades. we followed this with small portions of pasta – raviolini with braised beef and parmesan for me, carbonara with guanciale and pecorino for david. the pasta was excellent and we kept stealing mouthfuls from each other’s plate. once again portion size was large which meant that the shared main we had chosen – a mixed fish plate with king prawns, sea bass, tuna in sesame seeds and sword fish involtini – was real struggle to eat. it was also a struggle as it wasn’t very good – dry and flavourless in several places. despite this, we had enjoyed our meal and i’d return, but stick to starters and pasta in future. if you do visit, the luxembourg crémant that they serve is excellent and a good choice of aperitif.

our second evening was spent at a relatively newly-opened wine bar called dipso (presumably from the word dipsomania which describes a compulsive desire to drink alcoholic beverages). the food menu is very simple – mixed platters, mostly of meat and/or cheese, but also including a vegetarian and sushi option. we had a mixed platter of local meats and cheese plus some pata negra ham (ask for a half portion if you want to mix and match). the wine menu is much more complex – everything is available by the glass and the range of sources are varied. we tried two types of the local crémant, spanish, italian, french and uruguayan wines. we enjoyed everything we ate and drank (although i didn’t manage to eat much of the pungent cancoillotte cheese) and it was a lovely relaxed way to spend an evening.

our final stop-off in luxembourg, before heading back over the border, was vianden castle, pictured at the start of this post. there was nothing particularly food-related about but it was very beautiful, as were the snowy views we saw as we drove to and from luxembourg!

Tuesday
Feb032015

spicy chickpeas with ginger

one of the things i love about blogging is being reminded of dishes i’ve previously cooked, either as i update the “this time last year” buttons, or via comments from readers who’ve also tried the same thing. it was a comment, about the lovely cumin flavour of the moro moroccan eggs with tomatoes and cumin that prompted me to cook this. plus a glut of peppers in the fridge.

i decided to use chickpeas instead of the eggs in the moro recipe, plus the combination of chopped garlic, ginger and chilli which a friend taught me (over a decade ago) was a great starting point for a spicy tomato sauce - by chopping the ginger and garlic you create little flavour bombs in the sauce.

the resulting dish has a lovely rich tomato flavour, with sweetness from slow cooked onions and peppers, and a freshness from ginger and fresh coriander. i ate this with brown rice and some greek yoghurt on the side, which is lovely as it 'melts' into the chickpea mixture.

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