Lasagne Bolognese

This recipe from The Silver Spoon cookbook is a recipe that I could very well get behind. It is very easy to make, the ingredients are not hard to find, even in the Philippines. It also emphasizes the simplicity of Italian cooking.

The recipe serves 4.

3 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped onion, 300 g ground meat. 100 ml dry white wine, 250 g tomato sauce, 25 g butter, plus extra for greasing, and Bechamel sauce. 

Make the noodles beforehand. While waiting for it to rest, make the sauce by sauteeing the carrots and onions in low heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add the meat and stir until browned, then pour the wine and cook until evaporated. Season the salt, add the tomato sauce, and simmer for 30 minutes. Then season with pepper. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Grease a small baking dish (9×11 inches approximately) with butter.

Meanwhile, roll out the pasta to appropriate thinness, and into 4 inch squares (10 cm). Let dry for 2-3 minutes and then cook in a pot of salted water in a rolling boil, a few at a time. Take out with a slotted spoon and place on a damp tea towel.  Arrange a layer of lasagne, meat sauce, and bechamel sauce on top. Sprinkle with parmesan sauce and dot with butter flakes. Repeat the layers until the dish is full, ending with a layer of bechamel sauce. Bake for 30 minutes.

 

Noodles Toodles

The summer of my 11thyear was spent poring over my aunt’s cookbooks and made my own noodles. I think I even had noodles as an afternoon snack, since I made so many noodles,  with the obsessiveness that only an 11-year old kid can muster.

So I find it surprising that it took me over twenty(!) years to make my own noodles again using the recipe in the book “The Silver Spoon,” which I got as a present last Christmas.

So basically it’s just two eggs, 250 grams of flour, and a bit more to dust the surface. Create a depression in the middle, crack one egg in the middle, add a pinch of salt, mix. Crack the next egg, and mix. The dough should turn shiny and elastic. If it is too dry, wet your hands and knead. If too wet, add a bit more flour on your mixing surface. Form into a ball, then let it rest for fifteen minutes to an hour in the fridge, or use it the next day after covering the ball with plastic wrap.

I don’t have a pasta machine. People are surprised that I don’t have one, nor a rice cooker. I have tiny kitchen syndrome, so I am trying to avoid buying something that is so specialized. Rolling the dough manually was much easier with a plastic pastry rolling pin rather than a wooden one. I first rolled the ball as flat as I could, then halved it, rolling it as flat as I could, then halving it…you get the pattern.

As you see, the results are indeed quite thin. We made Farfalle, my son’s favorite. And since the noodles are fresh, they only need to be cooked in boiling water for one to two minutes. Unfortunately, the dough does not keep well for over a day or after it has been rolled, so it has to be eaten almost immediately.  Serves four.

The Mouth is Willing, But The Stomach Is Weak

Photo by TQE

A side trip to Berlin for TQE’s belated 30th birthday party was one of the more satisfying and jam-packed 24- hour whirlwind trips I have ever taken in my lifetime.

I decided to ignore my body and my subconscious’ signal to SLOW DOWN (if a dream about being almost sucked into a tornado is a sign for someone to slow down, I don’t know what is) just for this one weekend and headed over to Berlin, where Adam and I finally went satisfy my years-long Ethiopian food munchies at Betje Ethiopia, which a former colleague of his recommended.

First of all, I would like to praise TQE’s unbelievable Panasonic Lumix camera (I think it is a GF 6?), which took still life photos with amazing picture quality in low-light conditions. Really, if I have ever envied one of Adam’s toys, it was this one.

So we had this great lentil soup as a starter, which tasted like munggo guisado without rice. We ate it with injira, the traditional unleavened bread that Ethiopians eat with everything.  And we downed it with tej, traditional honey wine. I got pleasantly buzzed but not drunk, and I know now after reading Cooked that fermented sweet things with an over 2% alcohol content does not occur in nature. But I digress.

I came to regret even ordering appetizers. For 22 euros, we shared a huge platter about a foot and a half across that had this massive injira pancake on it, dotted with several vegetarian and non-vegetarian dips. We tore that injira bit by bit with our smelly, greasy Ethiopian-food stained hands hands until we said i no mas! with half a plate of dips still left over. Seriously though, I would have eaten the whole thing, especially since I especially didn’t eat lunch in anticipation. However, since we didn’t reserve a table, we had to leave by 7:30, and miss the traditional Ethiopian coffee roasting ceremony the restaurant has at 8. Seriously, guys, if you want to eat here, reserve a table, and come with an empty stomach.

After hitting the Berlinale Film Festival for a movie and coming home to a fitful night’s sleep at around 1:30 am, I woke up to be fashionably late at Adam’s brunch party, which was held at a restaurant called 12 Apostel. You take the S-bahn to Savigny Platz, take the exit to Bleibtreu Strasse, and you’re right there.

If there is any German city that takes brunch to another level, it is Berlin. 12 Apostel is a growing Italian chain restaurant in Berlin, and for 18 euros, you have the brunch experience, bar none. They have bread. They have scrambled eggs. They have fruit, deviled eggs, bacon, and did I mention the panna cotta? And the crepe station? And the juice and water station? They really had everything, and an amazing cheese selection to boot. A warm drink, a glass of Prosecco, and the juice and water bar is included with the meal. Really, I just wanted to have one little bit… more, but sorry, I was so full. I even took a walk in between courses just to pace myself.

pannaI swear by the panna cotta. How they are able to mass-produce such an awesome panna cotta is beyond me. TQE credits Snooker in Berlin for the amazing restaurant find.

It was the perfect party. Great company, good food, what more can you ask for? Thank you Adam, for hosting such a great weekend!

 

Betje Ethiopia

Zietenstraße 8, 10783 Berlin

S-bahn and U-bahn Nollendorf Platz

030 2625933

 

12 Apostel

Bleibtreustraße 49
10623 Berlin Charlottenburg

Brunch only Sundays from 10 am-3 pm, 18 €

Giardino/Weimar

Is it wrong to like a restautant for its atmosphere rather than its food? This is what Giardino, located in Weimar’s Oppel’scher Garten is really good at. Located in a picturesque garden, the highlight is the historic 19th-century pavillon, with a ruined fresco painted on the dome.

salmone giardino

We tried the noodles in cream and salmon sauce, and the Capricciosa pizza. While they were well prepared, they weren’t anything to write home about. Maybe I was distracted by the scenery and the warm summer night? The restaurant wasn’t cheap, as a meal would set you back at least 10 euros.

Another thing I like about this restaurant is that it is very kid-friendly, and they hand out lollipops to the customers’ children, just like they do in Rome.

They also hold cultural events in the garden, which is very typical of Weimar. Come for the music, stay for the garden.

Giardino

Oppelschergarten, Seifengasse, Weimar

Open from April-September, 9 am-11 pm

This Year’s Harvest

This year’s harvest is quite a disappointment. We had a long winter, then floods, then a very dry spell, all at the wrong times! The potatoes didn’t and couldn’t get water just when they needed them, and thus are quite small. My tomato plants in my balcony haven’t been generous either, though the ones in the garden are doing quite well.

The picture above is the first salad made from this year’s first tomato harvest from my balcony and the garden. Tomato mozzarella salad is a classic of German kitchens, and is normally seasoned with olive oil or balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil leaves. Since I couldn’t decide between vinegar or oil, I used both!

I also got zucchini and squash blossoms too, and with that the garden sponsored fried zucchini blossoms. Today’s Italian night was magnifico!

Fiori di Zucca

So, as you know, my zucchini plant is in full bloom, and during my personal Italian night, I made Fiori di Zucca, or filled zucchini flowers, battered then deep-fried to a crisp.

Now, I first read about this dish in Eat, Pray, Love. (Yes, I will own up to reading that book and liking it. So there.) When I visited Rome for the first time in September last year in my own Eat, Pray, Love moment, I ordered fried artichokes and zucchini blossoms. I really liked it. It seemed simple enough to make.

anchovyMy kababayan Kuya Francis (my friend, not only from Facebook), who works as a chef, gave me a small jar of anchovies preserved in oil during my second visit last December.

So now that I was all set, I bought mozzarella cheese, fizzy water, and downloaded this recipe. Like their recommendation, I got firm mozzarella chesse. Mozzarella di Bufala, or Buffalo Mozarella, tends to have a creamy/milky interior. I didn’t want oil splatter, so I went for normal mozzarella.

Mixing the egg with fizzy water made the liquid very foamy, to the point that I asked myself is this normal? But it made the crust really crunchy.

As I said, really easy to make, and it is a great appetizer. Think of this as zucchini tempura. However, this has to be eaten quickly. I prepared seven flowers for myself, eating the last ones prepared first. Eating the first flowers at the end, I noticed that the crust had turned soggy. But it was the same taste of sweet, salty, and creamy all at once. I highly recommend this to anyone. Up next, make Fiori di Zucca with chili tinapa!

Cheese Risotto

When I am down, what I really like to do is sink myself into a good book, or lose myself in the kitchen. When I get into my introverted phases, I emerge more willing to engage and socialize. Some may not understand this, but sometimes, my wanting to withdraw and actually being alone is the best way to recharge my batteries.

My zucchini plant had started to flower, and I finally got to make an Italian recipe I’ve been dying to try since December of last year, so I called off all social engagements and got to work on my own personal Italian dinner.

The first thing I tried out was Nigella Lawson’s Cheddar Cheese Risotto recipe.(It seems that this blog is turning into Nigella Central. Maybe I should re-name it the Cathy/Nigella Project. But I digress.)

I had spinach broth sitting in my freezer, and it was a good way to rid myself of last year’s veggie broth. I also used Bärlauch Senf from Gaumenfreude, and it complemented the dish, since I was using leeks and chives.  It was relatively easy to cook. Letting it stand over the cold stove after cooking while I was preparing a second dish was actually a good way to let the rice absorb all the liquid and thoroughly cook the risotto. I have never been good with risotto, and the rice kernels end up with a hard center. Being Asian, I am used to cooking rice by steeping it over low temperatures, when the secret of risotto is actually setting the heat to medium-low to get the rice al dente. I think this is the first time I finally got risotto right!

It was a good vegetarian dish. The cheese with the risotto rice highlighted the creamy consistency of the dish.  But being a meat eater, the dish for me lacked a component that made me say hmm, that was filling. I guess that’s how eating only starches feels like. I ate this the next day with crispy bacon bits and all was right with the world again.

Mediterranean-Style Roasted Chicken

If you are the lazy or busy sort, I’ve got the perfect, let’s impress the in-laws recipe for you: Roasted Chicken with herbs and Potatoes. Fairly typical recipe from Mediterranean countries like Italy or Greece, it is so easy you can make it up as you go along.

With this year’s herbs planted on my balcony, it was time for me to rid my shelf of last year’s dried oregano, thyme, and rosemary. What better way to get rid of them than Roasted Chicken? I bought a 400g packet of chicken legs and got to work, although to be quite honest, any kind of chicken part will do.

Peel four medium-sized potatoes, slice them into quarters. rub salt, pepper, and herbs onto the skin and into the nooks and crannies of the chicken. Place everything into an 8 inch by 12 inch pan. Crack some salt and pepper over the potatoes with a mill  Drizzle over 5 tablespoons of cooking olive oil on everything. Bake in a pre-heated oven in 200° C for 20 minutes, until the chicken and the edges of the potatoes turn brown. Enjoy the low-fat crispiness of the chicken skin on top, and the savory oil sauce that emerges from the bottom.

Eat Your Heart Out in Berlin!

Unlike my last few visits to Berlin, which could be described as pit stops rather than visits, I finally had more time to explore Berlin and visit places that I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. and That Queer Expatriate’s Adam was a very gracious host and toured me around the best eats in his ‘hood or Kiez.

One of the first things I did upon landing in Berlin was make a beeline for Pan, the only Filipino restaurant in Berlin. I ordered Sinigang, a traditional Philippine sour soup/stew that is eaten with rice. It can be filled with pork, fish, and shrimps. Although souring agents for sinigang nowadays comes from a packet, it is traditionally soured with unripe tomatoes, kamias, sampaloc (tamarind), or other sour fruits.

Ok, it was not exactly his turf, but Berlin was freezing, and I needed comfort food. Does it hit the spot? I dont’ know what to make of it. It smelled Pinoy, it looked Pinoy, but there was   something different about the texture of the veggies. It wasn’t cooked to death!

Saturday was jam-packed with activities. Adam and I woke up early to get to the Schöneberg Winterfeld Market. It was freezing cold in Berlin, I thought I was gonna freeze my toes off, despite my winter shoes. It didn’t stop us from eating this wonderful, luxuriously covered Tiramisu from an Italian street vendor.

I would’ve lingered over this tiramisu if it weren’t so damned cold out. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet, and the mild cherry amaretto wasn’t alcoholy-tasting at all! It really tasted like cherry.

I was looking for earrings, so Adam bought me food-themed ones (thanks Adam!) and then he went over to a stall to buy freshly-made spaghetti and other produce straight from Italy.

I would’ve bought a load of food from the stall if I hadn’t just come from Italy. Oh well, maybe next summer.

After a quick brunch at a Cafe, where Adam played around with his fancy new camera toy, I left to attend a conference. I already had planned to eat Ethiopian that evening, but the weather and Adam’s ketchup-stained shirt had other plans for us.

A trip to Berlin for me would never be complete without a stop at my favorite Asian supermarket in Berlin, which we did Saturday evening. Because Adam’s pants were too thin for the cold weather, we decided to eat at Chay Village, a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant in his Kiez.

Now, I’m skeptical of vegetarian Vietnamese dishes. Vietnamese food has a lot of vegetarian dishes, but I was in the mood for soup in a very cold winter day. I couldn’t imagine eating Pho without beef broth. I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant. I was first baffled by the sauce they served us with the dimsum. I thought it looked like apple cider vinegar, but it wasn’t sour enough to be that. I thought it could be fish sauce, but it wasn’t salty enough to be that, either. It turned out to be home-made soy sauce!

And the Pho had fried Tofu, mushrooms, and scrambled egg strips in it. It tasted just like normal Pho. Yum!

After that we just stayed home and watched Magic Mike. Thoroughly enjoyable film.

I gorged myself full on Dunkin’ Donuts while waiting for the bus that would take me home.

I would like to thank Adam for so graciously hosting me!

Bolognese Sauce

A good Bolognese sauce recipe is invaluable. It is very versatile, it can also be made as Lasagna sauce. It can be frozen and re-used, especially when coming home tired from a long day.

I’ll post something on Lasagna some other time. I had just made it when I read Regensblog’s Lasagna recipe. I also make mine from scratch, but damn, making your own noodles? That’s dedication right there.

This recipe comes from The Italian Kitchen Bible. This is one of the many recipes that I use, but this is the one that I use most often since once you’re done with the sauce, it  has to simmer for a couple of hours to get the full flavor, freeing me up to do other things.

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, 1 finely chopped onion, 1 finely chopped carrot, 1 finely chopped celery (although 1 use a slice of celery root most of the time), 1 crushed garlic clove, 350 g minced beef, 150 ml red wine, 250 ml milk, a can (400 g) chopped tomatoes, 15 ml tomato paste, salt and freshly ground pepper, shredded basil leaves and grated Parmesan cheese to garnish.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized and deep casserole. Stir in the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in medium-low heat, cooking gently and stirring frequently until the veggies soften. Add the minced beef, and cook until it changes color. Stir constantly to break up any lumps.

Pour in the wine, bit by bit. Stir frequently until it evaporates. Add the milk bit by bit and also stir until it evaporates, too. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste, season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for at least 45 minutes.

According to the book,  you need at least 3 hours simmering time to get it to reach full flavor. I agree. This is the kind of sauce that tastes better the day after cooking, that’s why I always keep some in the fridge for re-heating if we aren’t able to finish it the day before.

Serve with tagiatelle pasta, shredded basil leaf and grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!