Tuesday, October 8, 2013

At Patrizia's Calabrian kitchen (pork, figs and wine)

"Let's go see the garden" Patrizia walks us down a steep mountain path. I completely fell for her from the first sight. Gorgeous at her sixties she was harmony itself. Married to Enzo, the head of Barbieri family, hostess of the kitchen of the family hotel, mother of three adult children, many times grandmother, she was always shining with genuine care for each and everyone around her. My lovely friend Alina brought us to Barbieri hotel this August. "You just have to meet her" she said, and as soon as I saw Partizia I knew exactly why. We instantly started thinking about bringing a cooking tour there.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Red onion marmalade (confit d'onions)

Onion marmalade 006

I didn't notice how this month passed so full it was on everything and especially on cooking. We kept receiving guests and cooking for them, visiting friends and cooking for them, giving cooking classes and doing guess what there... While packing after one of those classes we found a bowl of sliced red onions left uncooked for some reason. Quite a large bowl of crisp red onions, which are now in season. That's how the time came for me to try making French onion marmalade. And I'm so glad I did.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Crustless almond melon tarts

These almond tarts hardly take over half an hour to make because they are crustless. I suddenly found that this way I like them way more that the classic version in short pastry shells. You can use more traditional apples, pears or cherries instead of melon. I never thought about using melon here before a month ago. Turned out that it does a great job here, everybody seems to love the dessert, but I'll better tell you the whole story.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lunch at Strudel cafe (Moscow)


That was my first visit to Strudel cafe and quite a happy one. Besides a wide selection of strudels it does offer a full body European menu. I did get quite suspicious at first when I saw Caesar salad and pasta carbonara on their menu as both are trite for Moscow. However as I read further I saw some very tempting options like crispy poached egg with prosciutto and truffle sauce as well as goat cheese creme brule. In reality these two as well as lemon strudel surprised me very pleasantly. I would come back to have them again. As it often happens in Moscow cafes though, not all the dishes on a the menu are created equal, so I'll give more details below so that you can make a safer choice.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Romantic day in Venice


I visited Venice three times before but I can't tell you how different this time was from all the others. It never felt this way without someone I love and I don't think I'll ever dare to return there without him. We had a day only and I was nervous preparing it. I so much wanted him to like it. To me Venice has always been about beauty with subtle romance in the air and, needless to say, about unique local food. I really wanted us to taste it despite Venice's thick touristic cover. And it worked luckily and magically. I would so much want to return...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hünkar Beğendi - Turkish lamb on eggplant mash


I love lamb overall and this particular way to cook it just became my absolute first choice. I first tried the dish couple of months ago at Hünkar restaurant in Istanbul. Simple and intense melt in your mouth lamb stew with smoky and creamy eggplant mash made a truly perfect combination. I started researching and it turned out that Hünkar Beğendi was a well known dish. There were many recipes around, but none really resembled the version I had at Hünkar. It took quite some time to replicate it, but finally it worked. Now it seems that at home it comes out even better.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Khachapuri (Georgian cheese pastry)


I always loved khachapuri, this incredibly Georgian pastry filled with cheese. Especially the Adjarian version, which is shaped as a boat and holds a gently cooked egg over the melted cheese. Khachapuri cafe is one of my favorite Georgian places in Moscow and a couple of days ago I got lucky to learn to make khachapuri from their chefs. It turned our absolutely doable at home, which felt like magic.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Kulichi (Russian Easter cakes)


I rarely go into baking yeast cakes or bread, but sometimes there is definitely room for that in life. Exactly like I do enjoy making my own cakes for Christmas, some years I do like baking my own kulichi for Easter. They are not really labor intensive, but they certainly are time consuming. However there are times when spending a thoughtless half a day around the kitchen making something homey the same as times and times before feels just right. Especially given that proper home made kulichi are incredibly good. None of the bought counterparts will ever get close to them.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pascha (Russian Easter cheesecake)


This coming Sunday everybody in Moscow is going to celebrate Easter. I was never religious, but Easter for me is a good old family tradition. And above all it's about food. I do not go into egg decorating affair, which is popular around here, but I have to have kulichi and pascha. Kulichi are special yeast fruit cakes and pascha is a kind of dense cold cheesecake. Together they produce a wonderful festive breakfast. Pascha tastes very fresh and complements the warm soft cake as a delicious spread. I do not bake my own kulichi every year, but pascha I always make myself. I do think it deserves to be made more often than once a year. It only takes half an hour but tastes really special.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Turkish eggplant salad #1002

In Istanbul they told me many times: we are experts in one thousand and one way to cook eggplant. And indeed they are. Eggplant salad on a menu can stand for a dozen different things. One of our dinners included two eggplant starters plus one eggplant side dish and so different all these were that nobody felt overwhelmed by eggplant. However there is much beyond the classics. My favorite eggplant starter in Istanbul was a chef's special at Meze by Lemon Tree restaurant - spicy fried eggplant with sweet tomato sauce and creamy yogurt topping. I couldn't trace it in google, but I still found a way to make it. Trial and error method always works if you go on with it long enough.

Turkish baked halva (sicak helva)

Before I came to Istanbul I heard about sicak helva - a kind of custard made of crushed tahini halva mixed with cream and baked. The dessert is traditionally eaten after a fish main as it removes fish aftertaste completely. The idea really resonated with me, so the evening we did visit a fish restaurant I was more concerned about my dessert than about my fish main. I ended up loving it and cooking it at home. It turned out to be very practical in Moscow, as tahini halva is very common around here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Eating in Istanbul

A little over a week in Istanbul and I'm in love already. It is proud yet humble. Old yet live and full on energy. Like a wave you caught and can’t jump off. There is no way to get enough. My Istanbul is yet little, but each and every piece of it is precious as it lets you feel some more of this city in a very special way. Not many big names, but these you’ll find without me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Baked camembert with thyme and lingonberry jam

This is a stunning guilty pleasure. Not only it tastes as good as classic fondue. It also is three times easier to make. You unwrap a wheel of camembert cheese and stick it into the oven. Once you take it out all you need to do is deep your slice of baguette in. But if you are feeling more sophisticated than that, you add some sweet and sour jam, some thyme or rosemary and the whole thing gets romantic.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Christmas Black cake (Rum cake)


Late in November I felt like being sad and doing nothing, so I set down with a random cookbook from my bookshelf and it randomly opened on Christmas chapter. It was saying that late November is exactly when one is supposed to make English Christmas cakes, so that they have time to mature before the big day. That's how I came to making those for the first time. That felt somehow proud to undertake this kind of month long baking venture. It turned out to very enjoyable and rewarding too, so I well might continue with it next year.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Schnecken (German sticky cinnamon buns)


I remember saying something about baklava just recently. Forget. These sticky cinnamon buns are the most powerful piece of anti stress baking (and eating) I ever tried. They might well be the best piece of pastry I ever produced. You will smell the nuts bubbling in sticky maple syrup and all the sweet cinnamon richness, while watching how the spiral buns puff out of their cases, catching each others' sides and crisping up on top. Twenty minutes later that one of them looking right at you will be just yours. And so will be the maple nutty goo left over at the bottom of the baking dish (which is, as often happens in life, the best part of the exercise).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gravlax (Swedish marinated salmon)


I was not at all aware about Swedish cooking before I got a request for a private Swedish cooking class last November. It looked like no chances to make for me. However at the end of the story the class went well and I became attached to many Scandinavian dishes among which gravlax goes first. Gravlax is home marinated salmon served with special mustard sauce on rye bread toast. It requires hardly any work and is a killer appetizer. For those like me, who can't really stop eating it halfway, it often tends to become a self sufficient lunch or dinner.