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Recipe in the Guardian

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January

Our first column for Slow Travel Berlin. See the complete version on their website, here.

 

After the excess of the Christmas feasts, January calls for food that is healing and cleansing. For me, this means dishes sharp with citrus flavours, fragrant with herbs, and perhaps a little kick of chilli.

 

Asian food hits the spot perfectly, particularly Thai or Japanese-influenced dishes. They feel so clean. I don’t just mean that they are healthy, although of course many of them are; but that the acidic sharpness of lime juice, the spice of ginger and chilli, or the aroma of lemongrass seem to cut through all the dairy, sugar and heavy carbohydrates in which so many of us will have over-indulged during December. They make you feel as if you’re achieving a New Year’s resolution without even having to make one.

 

 

And in addition to all this, such dishes can be beautifully warm, savoury and comforting on a cold winter’s day. Try making a Thai green curry: there’s a long shopping list, but you should be able to pick up everything you need for the green curry paste in one of those wonderful little Vietnamese stores that abound in Berlin. I like to go to Vinh Greengrocery, where they have a wonderful selection of fresh herbs, in addition to the harder-to-find Asian ingredients like fresh peppercorns, Thai aubergines, birdseye chillies, lime leaves and galangal. Once you’ve got your ingredients, you can make your green curry paste in a matter of seconds, whizzing up everything together in a food processor. Then it’s just a matter of frying some appropriate seasonal vegetables and adding the paste and some coconut milk. The vegetables suggested are mainly based on what’s good at the moment in Germany; feel free to substitute for others if you want a more authentic version.

 

 

Japanese cuisine is a bit less forgiving to the amateur cook than Thai food, and unless you’re lucky enough to live close to one of the Frische Paradies stores, getting hold of spankingly fresh fish can be a bit of a mission in Berlin. I’d leave sushi and sashimi to the professionals, such as Gingi’s Izakaya, or Sasaya. If you’re craving ramen, try Cocolo, but other Asian-style noodle soups can easily be made at home. Some good stock, a handful of aromatics and you’re already more than halfway there. Adding the noodles and a few little meatballs turns a hot, clear soup into a refreshing yet satisfying main course.

 

 

When it comes to dessert, I must say I find Asian ones are generally too sweet for my palate. This is where I divert back to Europe, but not away from sharp flavours. There’s a grand tradition here in Europe of using sour fruits in desserts: think of the French tarte au citron, the German sour cherry cake, or the wonderful orange and lemon sorbets and gelati of Italy. Passionfruit and citrus fruits are in season at the moment; it makes sense to use produce while it’s at its best. The recipe below is a based on a classic English posset recipe, but is a little different in that it uses the juice of a passionfruit rather than the more usual lemon, and is enriched with a little white chocolate.

 

Noodle soup with meatballs

Thai green vegetable curry

White chocolate and passionfruit pots

 

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Photos by Kristi Korotash

 

Posted by Caroline on 7 January 2013 | 0 Comments

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