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This brilliant recipe was given to us by James, one of this weekend’s diners, and had he not reminded me that I was looking for recipes, I would have forgotten to get the guest book out once again… so thank you James, for reminding me, for bringing a recipe, for bringing your wife and for being such lovely guests.
Taken from ‘The Stag Cookbook’, a 1922 classic which teaches cooking to men ‘weakened by a fire of feminine raillery & sarcasm’, I give you (via James):
Hudson Maxim – Spaghetti
Take one package of vermicelli or spaghetti, and put it into a saucepan, crushing it in the hand, then put in hot water, and salt a little more than will suit the taste, and boil for an hour.
While the vermicelli or spaghetti is cooking, take a quart of milk and heart three-quarters – or 24 ounces – of it until it boils. Then stir into the eight ounces of cold milk a level cupful of flour, or two tablespoonfuls of flour, pretty well heaped, and then stir the thickened milk into the boiling milk and cook slowly for ten minutes.
Then add three-quarters of a pound of good, ripe, old American cheese, and about half a pound of butter. Then drain the water off the vermicelli or spaghetti and put in from one and one half pints to a quart of canned tomatoes. Heat the vermicelli or spaghetti to the boiling point; and while the mixture of cheese, butter, milk and flour is still hot, stir the two together, then keep hot and serve hot. Do not boil any more, because further boiling would tend to cause the tomatoes to coagulate the milk in the mixture. I prefer to use a mixture of vermicelli and spaghetti instead of all spaghetti or all vermicelli.
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Well, I’m not sure what the health authorities would say about ‘ a little more salt than will suit the taste’, but I think any recipe that calls for ‘good, ripe, old American cheese’ has got to be a winner. Picture me, later in the week, in my local German supermarket asking for ‘old American cheese’. Wonderful. I’m also pleased to see that they advice against cooking the pasta for longer than an hour. Because, quite clearly, 60 minutes is the perfect length of time to boil pasta.
I promised you ‘Mammy’s Lemon Cake’, and it IS coming – I just need some more time to translate it from the original German.
If you’ve just found us via the New York Times, welcome - pleasure to have you here! We’re a small secret supper club in the heart of Berlin, serving up a five-course meal for absolute strangers every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There’s a little more information about us here, and you can read what other guests have to say about us here. And if you’d like to make a reservation, just go here!
I’m going to post another guest recipe a little later today, so stay tuned for another charming treat – ‘Mammy’s Lemon Cake’…
(Update: I got a little busy with the cooking, so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the recipe - to compensate, there might even be two…)
What is your favourite book on food – that isn’t a cook book? Do you have a cherished tome you turn to when your culinary intellect needs stimulating?
I love Alix Kates Shulman’s Drinking The Rain - in fact so much that I have read it over fifty times in the last ten years – which is not really a book about food per se, but food is definitely a theme; finding it, preparing it, enjoying it.
Other people have recommended Isabel Allende’s Aphrodite, which I haven’t read yet, and I’ve also heard that Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table is supposed to be wonderful (and if it’s anything like her blog, Orangette, it definitely will be).
Have you got any favourites?
Another interesting (read: slightly strange) recipe from this weekend comes from Viola, born and raised in the Treptow district of East Berlin. Viola and her friend headed into the Berlin night with Johan (of the ‘summer soup Granny style’) and his friend after dinner on Saturday, and from what I gather it was a pretty late night. Love it when that happens.
Unfortunately, I think Viola was struggling a little to write by the candle light from the table, and so this recipe is somewhat of an approximation of the actual thing (and also translated from the German…) – forgive me if it doesn’t totally make sense (and thank you Viola)!
- 1-2 green gherkins
- 3-4 tomatoes
- low fat bacon
- mince meat
Fry the bacon, add the tomatoes + pepper and salt, cook for a long time, add the gherkins, at the end add meat balls (mince meat + onions + eggs shaped into balls) -> ready! Guten Appetit!
Though I do enjoy the brevity of this recipe – it’s so easy! Just add some things, cook for ‘a long time’, and then, suddenly, it’s ready! – there are just one too many question marks over this one… Like, don’t you have to fry the meat balls first? Or do they just go in with the tomatoes? And what about the eggs?
It is a pretty well known fact that those East Germans loved their Spreewald Gurken (you can read a little more about them here) but I’m still not wholly convinced. Maybe you had to be there. Or maybe someone can enlighten me on the enduring lure of the Gurke?
With the weather here in Berlin at an all-time low, what you really need on a cold Sunday evening is a nice, hearty pot of lovely ‘chicken alla left-over’ (well, what you really need is an excuse to open that bottle of 2005 Volnay you brought back from last year’s holiday in France). And voila! Sunday is saved.
For two really hungry people, you will need:
- four chicken breasts
-fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
-about 250g fresh vine tomatoes
-two glasses of white wine
-a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
-a couple of bay leaves
-about five slices of Serrano ham
-three small anchovies
-salt, pepper, chili powder
-two fat cloves garlic
-dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for about 15 minutes
Turn your oven on to 200 degrees.
Halve your chicken breasts and fry them in a little olive oil until lightly coloured but not cooked all the way through. Set aside to cool a little.
Quarter your tomatoes and put in a lidded casserole (I love my Le Creuset wannabe from Ikea). Throw in your herbs, crushed garlic, wine, mushrooms, balsamic vinegar and anchovies, mix it all up and season well.
Once your chicken has cooled a little, wrap each piece in some Serrano ham and tuck in to the casserole. Put the lid on and bung it in the oven for about an hour.
Open a bottle of wine you’ve had for much too long and enjoy a glass whilst the sweet, rustic cooking smells fill your kitchen. Maybe put some jazz on that your lovely friend in Barcelona sent you in the post. Or the final movement of Mahler’s 7th.
Set the table and marvel at the fact that the sun finally came out to show its face, just before 8pm. Serve with bread, mashed potatoes, quinoa, pasta – whichever carbs take your fancy (we had leftover bread from last night – very nice to soak up the lovely liquid left in your casserole). Be transported to the south of France. Remember the earth, and the colour of the water in the Tarn, and the sun on your skin.
Afterwards, if you’re not too full, you might stroll down the street and buy an ice cream from the tiny shop with the bright pink facade, or you might just sit on your sofa and dream and relax and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Last night Johan, one of our diners visiting Berlin from Finland with his friend Oliver, left this wonderful recipe in the guest book:
Summer soup Granny way
- new potatoes
Boil in little water
- add peas and other seasonal vegetables
-add milk and a lot of dill and season lightly
Something like that, make it work
I just love that last line, ‘something like that, make it work’. I think this might be proof that asking people to remember and write recipes at the end of a long meal with lots of wine might be a little ambitious… Thank you so much Johan, we will definitely try this!
We do have a few more recipes to share – East German, American and Costa Rican - so check back later in the week…
Just had a last minute cancellation for four places tomorrow night (Sat) at 8pm. Get in touch if you’re up for some food and wine in the company of at least three different nationalities!
Great night tonight. It’s a lovely feeling sending eight full and happy people out into the Berlin night (though it is an awfully cold night – three degrees! THREE! This is supposed to be summer, right?). Such a good crowd – and there’s some recipes coming up as well!
Here’s some weekend food inspiration to brighten your days until we’re back on Monday, hopefully with some recipes and stories from our dinners!
Here is a lovely recipe for sea bass gravlax from Keiko at the beautiful food and photo blog Nordljus – just the sort of thing to bring back the sunny weather.
I am dying to try Clotilde’s Lemon Thyme Creme Brulee. And she makes it all sound so easy…
Have a great weekend, and drop us a line if you’d like to come over for dinner!
(Update: here’s Jorge’s post on secret restaurants!)
Wednesday is market day for us – actually, in Berlin, pretty much any day is market day if you want to go to them all, but the Turkish market at Yorckstrasse S-Bahn is our closest one, and I love it because it’s noisy, messy and ridiculously cheap. The Thursday market at the Paul-Lincke-Ufer is bigger, and the Saturday morning market at Winterfeldplatz is fancier, but I like our small, slightly haphazard one the best.
We don’t really buy any of our supper club supplies here, because Wednesday is a bit early to start shopping for the weekend, but we do buy oranges for fresh juice in the morning, and bundles and bundles of fresh mint, which lasts for over a week and makes our kitchen smell like an Algerian cafe.
They also have great fabrics, coffee and taramasalata, which happens to go very well with the sesame seed bread from the same stall.
The weekend ahead is looking really interesting so far, with guests from the US, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland. Hopefully they will enjoy the food and share some recipes!
First up in our Foodie Blog Recipe Swap is Jorge from ‘Diario del Gourmet de Provincias y del Perro Gastrónomo’, an excellent blog about Spanish food and dining. If you’re ever going to Spain, Jorge’s blog is a brilliant resource for anything to do with eating out in style.
Unless you have a basic grasp of Spanish, you can always have some fun by translating his recipes and recommendations using Babelfish, which always makes for hilarious reading (I translated Jorge’s most recent Twitter update and laughed so much I almost wet myself. Apparently, the standard Galician greeting is ‘You days!’, which is especially funny if you happen to have spent some time amongst London teenagers).
I gave Jorge my recipe for Toast Skagen (keep your eye out for it on his blog) and in return, Jorge gave me not one, but THREE great Spanish seafood recipes – thank you so much!
I decided to share the one Jorge describes as the more traditional one – a twist on an old regional dish called vieiras á galega (or scallops Galician style) from Jorge’s 90-year-old grandmother.
VIEIRAS DE MI ABUELA (Grandma’s scallops) 4 servings
- 8 scallops
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 Sanmarzano tomatoes (or any other good ripe type), skinned, chopped and deseeded
- 1 bay leaf
- 100 ml. white wine (we use Albariño, but any young white with a hint of acidity and a fruity aroma will work)
- 2 thin slices of Serrano Ham (Parma, Bayonne or San Daniele if you can’t get a good serrano), chopped
- Breadcrumbs, finely grated
- Olive oil
Clean the scallops under running water. Rinse them and reserve.
Sautee the chopped onion and garlic in a frying pan with some moderate hot extra virgin olive oil. After a few minutes, when the onion gets tender and translucid, add the chopped tomatoes and sautee for another 10 minutes.
Add salt (keep in mind you are going to add some salted ham) and the bay leaf and continue cooking for another 3 minutes.
Add the wine and turn up the heat for a couple of minutes. 1 minute before ending this step, add the chopped Serrano ham. Reserve.
Put the scallops in their concave shell, cover with a spoonful of the tomato and Serrano sauce, add some breadcrumbs to top it and put into hot oven (180º) for about 10 minutes or untill the breadcrumbs begin to toast. Serve inmediately.
Ta-daa! Great, isn’t it? I love scallops, so I’m definitely trying this one. Jorge’s other two recipes are no less delicious-sounding, but I will save them up to share with you on a rainy day. Because that’s exactly when you’ll be wanting to think about Spanish food, right? I thought so.
(photo courtesy of ‘Diario del Gourmet de Provincias y del Perro Gastrónomo’)