Falafel!

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A little while ago I made falafel for dinner, served in pita breads with a yoghurt, tahini and garlic sauce, and a crunchy vegetable, feta and mint salad (inspired by this one from smitten kitchen! I used carrots, shallots, yellow peppers and cucumber, and omitted the seeds, mainly because I forgot to buy them. It’s a super yummy, easy peasy, healthy but filling salad, and I urge you to try it! I had a bit left over for lunch the next day, and it was delicious, even though the feta had sort of merged with the dressing, the vegetables were still crunchy and I wished I’d made more).

As is usually the case, because I was hungry, and because the light wasn’t good, and because I just wanted to get dinner on the table, I only managed to snap these few pictures in the process (please excuse the poor lighting!):

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THE SAUCE was just about a cup of full fat yoghurt with a small clove of crushed garlic, 2-3 tsp tahini, a bit of ground cumin and a dash of salt (both to taste), put ’em all in a bowl and give it a good stir. Set aside.

I made the falafel based on a recipe by Rachel Allen, but I didn’t really measure things out carefully, just blitzed everything together. I also doubled the recipe, even though it said it serves 2. And even though we should then have had enough for 4 people, we only had a few left over (hello lunch and breakfast).

Although it sounds super garlicky, it really wasn’t at all overpowering (and didn’t linger afterwards, either), but if you have some very potent garlic on your hands/aren’t a huge fan, you can always dial it down a notch 🙂 I also find that removing the green bit in the middle of the garlic clove really helps to remove the bite/’after burn’ that garlic can otherwise have (but it’ll still be plenty garlicky!) – especially in the sauce, where the garlic stays raw.

FALAFEL
Eyeballed/adapted from Rachel’s Favourite Food
Yield: 16-18 little falafel, or however many bigger ones you want 🙂 serves 2-4 people, depending on how hungry you are!

  • 2 x 400 g tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 big cloves of garlic, crushed/very finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper and ground cumin (1/8 of each)
  • A generous sprinkling of sea salt
  • about 2-3 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour + a bit more for flouring your hands when you shape the falafel
  • Olive oil, for cooking

In a big bowl, use a hand/immersion blender to blitz together the chickpeas, minced garlic, chopped parsley, spices and salt (or throw the lot into a food processor). Give it a good stir with a spoon, then taste to see if the mixture needs a bit more seasoning. If using a food processor, transfer to a bowl and stir in the flour; otherwise just stir the flour into the chickpea mixture with a spoon.

Lightly flour your hands, then shape the chickpea mix into little patties (about 1 1/2 tbsp for each) by rolling into a ball and flattening the ball a little between your hands, flouring your hands lightly for each one.

Heat a couple of tbsp of olive oil in a pan over medium heat, then add half of your falafel to the pan. After a few minutes, when the falafel are nice and brown on one side, flip them over (a little carefully, they are firm but very smushable!), and let them brown up on the other side for a few minutes. Add a little bit more oil if the pan seems too dry. Squish the cooked falafel a little with the spatula, then transfer them to a dish/plate, and proceed to cook the remaining falafel.

Heat your pita breads in the oven or toaster, smush a couple of falafel in there, drizzle a bit of yoghurt sauce on top and stuff as much of the salad in there as you can! The mint/feta/garlic/tahini/cumin combo is really good. I might make the falafel a bit chunkier next time, by blitzing them less! But then again maybe not, I like them like this, a little velvety, with a few chickpea chunks and parsley here and there. They also make a great base for a veggie burger, maybe add a bit of chilli, some kidney beans, a bit of sweet corn… and some garlic mayo or sweet chilli sauce on top!

P.s.: they taste just as good cold for breakfast, with an orange and a cup of tea!

P.p.s.: I also made these flourless peanut butter and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies last night, using Ela’s recipe from over at Ela’s Home Patisserie, they are very peanutbuttery and wholesome, and satisfied my craving for something ooey-gooey. They’re also super quick to make when you have a major craving on a Friday night (I didn’t have the patience to cool the dough before baking, and they still turned out fine). I only had enough peanut butter for half a portion, and ended up with 9 beautiful little cookies.

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Tebirkes (Danish Poppy Seed Pastries)

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I bought a big bag of poppy seeds the other day, thinking I’d try this lemon drizzle and poppy seed cake recipe out over the weekend. But this morning I woke up feeling like I wanted something less sweet, more bready and breakfasty.

Tebirkes are the Danish pastry, a Danish institution if you will. So it’s funny that they aren’t to be found anywhere other than in Denmark, since Danish pastries are kind of a worldwide thing .

They’re basically a Danish with a sweet filling and lots of poppy seeds on top. The also come in a twisted variant called a ‘frøsnapper’ (a frog snapper). Who the heck knows why. In Belgium they actually have a type of frøsnapper, called a tortillion (a ‘twisty’), it’s as close as I’ve gotten to a tebirkes outside of Denmark, but they don’t always come with poppy seeds, alas (sometimes they even decide to put raisins in them, blegh).

Tebirkes are generally made with puff pastry, but really, who has time for puff pastry in the morning. These are kind of a pastry-roll hybrid – the slightly flakey dough, and the butter and sugar remonce filling make them something between a Danish pastry and a cinnamon roll/scone. Which is a lot of goodness in just one little roll.

A lot of recipes say to put marzipan in the remonce filling, but since I didn’t have any on hand, and this particular recipe didn’t call for it, I decided to opt for marzipan-free remonce. I am going to try it with marzipan though, because I like for my pastry to have even more ‘gunk’ in it than this one! But I am definitely going to make these again, they’re so delicious and easy to make, and taste so so good split open with a thick lashing of salted butter.

In fact, I’m gonna go eat another one.

Tebirkes (from bageglad.dk)

For the dough:

  • 100 g (just under 1/2 cup, or 0.45 cups) butter
  • 100 ml (just under 1/2 cup, 0.42 cups to be precise) milk
  • 12.5 g instant yeast, 25 g active dry yeast, or 50 g fresh yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 350 g (2 and 4/5 cup) flour

(Since the original recipe is Danish and uses grams and ml to measure, it really doesn’t convert all that well to cups and I’d advise you to use kitchen scales if you have them! But since it’s bread, and thus less ‘fiddly’ than cake, I’m sure it would still turn out delicious if eye-balled…!).

For the remonce/filling:

  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar/vanilla extract

Topping:

  • 1 egg, beaten, for brushing
  • about 4 tbsp poppy seeds

Melt the butter, add the milk and sugar, and making sure the mixture isn’t too hot (so it doesn’t kill the yeast), add the yeast (I used instant). Stir, and leave to bubble up for a bit (I left mine for 15 minutes, but that’s because I forgot about it 😉 ).

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Add the lightly beaten egg to the mixture, then the salt, and then one third of the flour. Stir it in to the wet mixture with a fork, then another third, and then the final third, until it won’t absorb any more flour. Now go at it with your hands, kneading until you have a soft, smooth dough (at least a few minutes).

Roll the dough into a big rectangle, about 15 x40 cm (5×15 inches). You won’t need to flour your work top, the dough isn’t at all sticky.

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Smush together the butter, sugar and vanilla, then spread onto the middle third of the rectangle, in a long line. Fold one of the sides of dough over the middle covered in remonce, then the remaining side over again, so you have three layers. Cut into about 12 pieces, and place on one or two baking sheets covered in baking parchment.

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Cover in a clean kitchen towel, and leave to rise for about half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 215°C/430°F (for a convection/fan oven – if yours isn’t convection, bake at 225/450, but watch the rolls closely in case they start to burn). Beat an egg, then brush the pastries with egg and sprinkle them generously with poppy seeds. Bake in the middle of the oven for 8-10 minutes, until they’re nice and golden.

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Place on a cooling rack, and eat as soon as they won’t burn the roof of your mouth (or cool, if you prefer), with or without salted butter. 🙂

 

Beautiful Berlin (Or: That Time I Ate All The Food)

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Last weekend I went to Berlin to visit some friends and family (my brother and sister in law live there, so I try to go once a year). And boy did I eat. This also happened the last time I went – I don’t think Berlin is famous for good food, but it should be!

The sun shined gloriously most of the time I was there, and we even had to take our coats off at one point as we sat in the sun drinking an apfelschorle, after walking around for hours playing tourist (Checkpoint Charlie: check; The Jewish Memorial: check; Under den Linden: check; East Side Gallery: check).

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I’m not very good at remembering to take a picture of my food before I eat whatever I’m about to eat, so alas, I have no photographic evidence. But I have addresses! And some were just too good not to share. So here goes 🙂

DINNER

I’ve been to Berlin twice before, and last time I went, for my brother’s birthday, we had THE BEST Mexican food this side of the equator. I kid you not. I find that good Mexican food really isn’t all that easy to come by in Northern/Western Europe, none that I’ve tried anyway, other than really mediocre Tex-Mex that could very likely give you salmonella (true story).

But thankfully Maria Bonitas is nothing of the sort, and I highly recommend that you try it, should you find yourself in that neck of the woods. It’s a tiny sort of ‘hole in the wall’ restaurant, with a few seats inside, if you’re lucky, and two or three tables outside during the Summer months. Located in Prenzlauer Berg, their motto is ‘Eat More Tacos’ – and we did. I had the tinga de pollo burrito (slow cooked chicken with caramelised onions and refried beans), with guacamole and tortilla chips. Portions are massive, almost so much so that I wish they had a ‘I’m very hungry but maybe slightly more medium-hungry than that’-sized portion, because as good as it is, I didn’t manage to finish, this time or last. Although the boys seemed to have less trouble. Long story short: well worth the trip, and I’m most definitely going back 🙂

Tacos

BREAKFAST

On Saturday we had breakfast in a lovely little place that is well worth a visit, Malinikoff, a sort of German-French café on Helmholtzplatz. I had a croissant with butter and blackberry jam which I’m still dreaming about, blackberry jam is my jam (pun intended). I also had a big old cappuccino, a fresh pear juice, and lots of bread and butter. The others had soft-boiled eggs and fresh fruit with yoghurt, but I was too wrapped up in my carb-fest to try any of their stuff. Apparently their food was also delicious, and the service was super friendly (a rare treat in Berlin 😉 ).

SNACK TIME

Another little gem is the Hokey Pokey ice cream parlour, which just happened to reopen after the Winter hiatus on the very Saturday we were there! We had the salted caramel ice cream, which was so good that we’d planned on going back the next day. But then it rained and we got side-tracked by other culinary delights. I’m told they also sometimes do a salted caramel with sour plums ice cream, which is apparently to die for. Next time!

LUNCH

We also visited the street food fair in the KulturBrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg, which is on every two weeks on Sundays – and luckily for us fell on the Sunday we were there. We had these amazing pulled pork burgers from a big green van, the name of which I’ve unfortunately forgotten (but it’s this green one, at the bottom!). The others had the Southern pulled pork burger with coleslaw and BBQ sauce, and I had the Classic: homemade burger bun, BBQ sauce, succulent pulled pork with green salad and slices of crisp apple. It was the bomb.com, and totally made up for the rain and wind and frozen legs and feet, and we ate them huddled around a gas heater under a parasol. No regrets.

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LOPPIS (flea market) AND GLÜHWEIN

After the street food fair we strolled around the flea market in Mauerpark, and I unexpectedly found a stall selling Danish salty licorice (!!!!), so I was VERY happy. I also bought some fridge magnets with dancing cows and robots on them, and some old tins. Although I’ve imposed an ‘old tin-embargo’ on myself, because I have such a ridiculous amount of old tins in my apartment that it’s becoming a problem, I feel as though all bets are off when you’re abroad. The Mauerpark flea market is on every Sunday, and includes an outside food area with a little inside bar, where we took refuge from the rain and wind and had a glühwein. When we came back out the sun had reappeared, and we had the market mostly to ourselves compared to how crowded it normally is, so the rain had done us a service. Although it wasn’t on this Sunday, during the Summer months there’s also outside karaoke right next to the flea market, which is really fun and entertaining and well worth a visit, and provides a nice break from the usually very crowded flea market lanes 🙂

MORE DINNER

Berlin is divided into a number of boroughs, and although we walked around a lot of Berlin, for some reason most of our meals were consumed in Prenzlauer Berg (probably because we were staying there, and also because there’s a lot of good food around that area, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it?). But for our last meal in Berlin (this time around), we ventured all the way to Mitte, for cocktails and burgers at Hans Im Glück. This is apparently a chain, and is a bit gimmicky, but what it lacked in ‘artisanal feel’ (I’m sorry I just said that), it made up for in cocktail and burger originality, so who gives a hoot. We were seated amongst a bunch of tree trunks that go from floor to ceiling, and which serve to break up the massive restaurant and make it feel a little more homey than I imagine it otherwise would, and although the place was super crowded and there was a long line of people waiting to be seated, we had no problem hearing each other over the hubbub. I had a spicy veggie burger with garlic mayo, and a ginger and elderflower virgin cocktail (I decided to go forego the boozey cocktails because we had to get up at 4.30 to catch a 5 am train the next morning). They also had a really delicious burger with goat’s cheese and fig sauce, and I’ve definitely been inspired to up my burger game at home.

So that is the story of how I ate my way around Berlin 🙂

 

P.S. / A FEW OTHER EATS WORTH A MENTION: Last time we also went to The Bird (there are two of these, the original one in Prenzlauer Berg and a second one in Kreutzberg which opened a year ago, but I would recommend the Prenslauer Berg one. The Bird is known for making some of the best burgers and steaks in Berlin, and I had the best club sandwich in my life there, and was really sad not to be able to fit one in this time around – but I just didn’t have any space left in my belly, and it’s such a popular place that you usually have to reserve a table well in advance); and Due Forni (according to my brother, the best pizza and pasta he’s had outside of Italy, Due Forni is a kind of grungy/punky cantina-style Italian restaurant with a massive terrace, slow service, but really good and cheap food, and very good tiramisu! My sister-in-law had the spaghetti carbonara, and it was seriously good). Both very much to be recommended!