A full version with recipes can be found at the Slow Travel Berlin website. more...
Full version with recipes can be found at Slow Travel Berlin. more...
I've been a big fan of Felicity Cloake's Perfect column for the Guardian ever since it started. more...
Full version with recipes can be seen at Slow Travel Berlin, here.
February is probably my least favourite month of the year. It’s dark, cold and depressing yet without any of the excitement of the festive winter months, or the optimistic fresh start of January to brighten those bleak days a little. February is a month that calls for comfort food of the highest order.
And yet, what comfort food? If you’re anything like me, you’re probably getting a bit fed up with the endless root vegetables and pumpkin, but spring produce is still some way off. The answer – at least for me – is cheese.
And Berliners seem to be in agreement. Last year saw the first (though hopefully not the last) Cheese Berlin in Markthalle Neun, organised by Slow Food Berlin and the Berlin cheesemonger Ivo Knippenberg. Knippenberg’s in Kollwitzmarkt is where I usually go if I want something a bit special. You’ll find them at other weekly markets as well. Their sales staff are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, always eager to make recommendations and push you in the direction of something new. The enthusiasm pays off: Knippenberg’s usually boasts the longest queue of any stand in the market, and it’s not due to understaffing.
I adore cheese and I love it when someone says to me: “have you tried…?” and offers me a sample. I’m a sucker for such sales tactics; I never yet met a cheese I didn’t like. And when it’s teamed with carbohydrates of some nature, I am practically in heaven.
Think of baked potatoes, with crispy skin and the soft mealy insides mixed with butter and cheddar. Or risotto with its last minute addition of pungent, savoury parmesan. Or any one of the myriad pasta dishes with cheese added in to provide soft, melting lubrication.
Two of the most famous cheese dishes, fondue and raclette are a problem to make at home unless you have the special equipment. In any case, the sharing nature of such food probably make it best to enjoy such with a group of friends in a cosy restaurant. You could try Ars Vini, Feuer und Flamme or la Raclette. But a “cheat’s” fondue can easily be made at home, by baking a whole cheese in a box. The cheese itself is so simple, it almost feels like a scam to give a “recipe” for it. The accompaniments to dip can be as simple as crudités and bread, or you can dress it up with baby roast potatoes and pieces of meat.
Classic pasta and cheese dishes include German Käsespätzle (Imbiss 204 has a great takeaway version) or American mac ‘n’ cheese. Both are forgiving dishes, that will happily welcome practically any old lumps of cheese lurking at the back of your fridge. Add pre-cooked pasta, a creamy white sauce, whatever else you fancy (mustard? nutmeg? herbs? tomatoes?), bake for 20 minutes or so, and you’re done. Every version will be slightly different, depending on what you put into it, but part of the beauty of such recipes is that you can make them with whatever you have lying around.
Although I’m perfectly happy with a big bowl of cheesy stodge in February, I also cook for other people, many of who are a bit more health-conscious and at least like to make a nod towards including some vitamins. If you’re one such, you can make simple pasta dishes with broccoli and blue cheese, for example; or goats cheese with chilli and pumpkin. The cheese pasta recipe given below takes things even one step further by adding a combination of vegetables to the mix, along with a few extra flavours and cutting out the stodgy white sauce.
I don’t have a very sweet tooth and would often forego dessert for – you guessed it – a cheese board. Throw in some crackers, a few grapes and walnuts and I won’t have the slightest food envy of even the most delectable chocolate dessert.
But for the sugar fiends amongst you, I’ve included a cheesecake. It’s a German-style cheesecake with quark, rather than the heavier New York variety with a biscuit base. The cake itself is extremely versatile, and you could try topping it with almost anything you fancy. As it’s February and we all need brightening up, I’ve chosen a zingy pomegranate topping: both beautiful and seasonal.
All photos by Kristi Korotash