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Food Porn from the kitchen of a Stuttgart architect

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Food Porn from the kitchen of a Stuttgart architect

Keeping it Sexy - Sometimes it's just better to do it at home ;-)

I live for a dinner party, so when my brother-in-law setup a dinner party battle between his friend Johannes & I, I saw blood in the water and I was ready to strike. But in all seriousness, I'm not at all competitive (insert sarcastic smiley here) - just kidding, I'm a maniac when it comes to competition - just ask anyone I have ever played exploding kittens with (Yoga Niki). Competition aside, I was happy to have someone else throw a dinner party for a change. And Johannes was really into food and he knew his stuff, French techniques and all.  It's rare to find other home cooks who enjoy cooking as much as I do, are passionate about great produce, and who are constantly working on acquiring more food knowledge & perfecting their techniques. 

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It all started under the dim red lights & over a few plates of Sauerbraten at Fisch Labor in Stuttgart-West . Boris invited Kahlil & I to join him & some friends for the once-a-month Swabian specialty, Sauerbraten (Sour or pickled roast; traditionally made with beef).
The Sauerbraten was great, but the company & conversation were even better. I mean how could it not be? It was all centered around food . Johannes & I instantly connected over conversations about our favorite foods, best restaurants - fine dining & otherwise. He showed me pictures of the beautiful food he enjoyed on his most recent trip to Croatia with his girlfriend Katherine and a group of friends. We chatted about food for hours while the others entertained themselves with conversations about... who knows what? We were focused on the food and being able to indulge in our obsession without boring uninterested parties. But, let's not forget that all this friendly conversation is simply a preamble for a dinner party war & I wasn't planning on taking any prisoners. I was in for a clean kill. But for now, it was up to Johannes to strike the first blow & my knives were sharpened and ready to spilt a strand of hair in mid air. Bring it on Johannes - the ball is in your court. 

Check out Johannes' interview and this delicious recipe below. 

Recipe - Crème de petits pois à la menthe

Crème de petits pois à la menthe

Crème de petits pois à la menthe


Ingredients

4 servings
200 g small fresh peas (you can also use frozen peas)
1 shallot
20 g butter
250 ml of veal stock
4cl of white port
150 ml of cream
salt
sugar
lemon zest (of half a lemon)
lemon juice (of half a lemon)
100ml milk (1,5% fat)
fresh mint4 thin strips of pancetta

 

Method

Preheat the oven to about 140 degrees; place the strips of pancetta on a sheet of baking parchment and place a second piece of parchment on top (you can use a second baking sheet to weigh down the pancetta so it will stay nice and flat). Put it in the oven for about 15-20 mins until the pancetta is crispy.

In a large saucepan add the butter and shallots, cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until softened.

Add the (frozen) peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. If you're using frozen peas it will only take 2-3 minutes. Don’t overcook the peas or they will lose their fresh green color.

Add the white port and some salt.

Add the stock and increase the heat to allow the mixture to come to a quick boil.

Taking the pot off of the heat, pour the mixture into the blender and blend until the entire mixture is creamy.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and put it in a fresh saucepan.

Add the cream, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt and adjust for seasonings (Don’t let it boil after adding the cream)

Heat up the milk in a small saucepan, add the fresh mint and some salt froth up, using an immersion blender until you get a nice (very lightly green) mint foam.

Using an immersion blender, froth up the soup before serving.

Serve in a small glass; put some of the mint foam onto the soup; garnish with some fresh mint and the crisp (warm) slice of pancetta.

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OK, I was impressed by the first course and quickly realized that I had a serious competitor on my hands and it wasn't going to be quite the slaughter I had imagined. On to the second course: a beet salad that could put many restaurants to shame in terms of presentation, technique, & flavor. 

Roasted beet salad with crispy pancetta and goat cheese cream

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Salmon with pumpkin puree and peas in a teriyaki cream sauce

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The salmon was cooked perfectly and the puree was silky smooth. I was happy and would have gladly paid to have this meal in a restaurant. I'm having flashbacks about a "fancy Stuttgart restaurant" that served me a piece of salmon with soggy skin and scales on my fish. I paid 30€ for that piece of fish and would have gladly eaten a Döner kebap instead (by the way, I don't eat Döner kebap, so you know this food was horrible when I'd rather have pressed mystery meat instead of a nice piece of fish. But, I digress. It was delicious and we all wanted more. Thank goodness Johannes offered us seconds. 

Pumpkin parfait with mini apple tart and blueberries

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This dessert was prepared by Katherine and it was the perfect way to end the meal. The blueberries were swimming in a tart cherry sauce. The pastry for the apple tart was crisp and flaky & the parfait, the parfait, the parfait... it was to die for. Well done Katherine. Johannes you cheated a bit on this one. 

When Johannes isn't busy whipping up gourmet meals or drawing up architectural plans, he's playing a super hero and saving us all from 1 bad meal at a time. Find out where this Stuttgart architect gets his food swag from in my interview below. Check back next week for part 2 of this dinner party challenge when I bring a little bit of Singapore & SE Asia to the dinner table. 


Super hero Johannes

Super hero Johannes

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Interview

LEXIE: Do you consider yourself to be a foodie?

JOHANNES: I take a great interest in food and wine, spend a fair amount of my free time preparing, experimenting with, and learning about food. If I look up the definition, I guess I am a foodie.

LEXIE: What is your definition of the term foodie?

JOHANNES: I don’t really have my own definition, but I would say people who like food, or enjoy cooking, or enjoy knowing about cooking. The difference to a gourmet/gourmand, being that it doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around haute cuisine, the most expensive wines, and high end products, but well prepared and delicious food and drinks.

LEXIE: What's your earliest childhood memory involving food?

JOHANNES: I guess that would be mashed potatoes mixed with carrots. My mom never bought those little glasses with baby food; instead she cooked those very simple meals for us. I don’t know whether I actually remember eating them as a baby, but to this day I love eating those very basic dishes.

LEXIE: Did you grow up in a household where your parents cooked often? If so what was your favorite dish and can you cook it?

JOHANNES: I partially answered that with my previous response. My mother is a great cook. Eating together, to this day, plays an important role in our family life and my mother prepared most of those dishes. Since she is a teacher and wasn’t around every day during the week, my grandmother used to cook for my brother and I. We also had Au Pairs from around Europe so we were exposed to home cooked food from Spain, France, Poland, Denmark and other countries. My dad, on the other hand, never touched a stove as far as I can remember. One of my favorite dishes is a crispy pork roast that my grandmother used to prepare on the 26th of December for the whole family. I have actually never tried to prepare it myself.

LEXIE: Out of all the places you've traveled to, what was your favorite country in terms of food & why? Can you recommend some great restaurants in your country of choice?

JOHANNES: That would be France and I know that is a boring answer. It is not that I haven’t been anywhere exotic and exiting, but in terms of food and eating, France is unbeaten. It doesn’t matter whether you go to a small restaurant in a little village and have the “menu du jour” or you go to one of the many great restaurants. I have had very few disappointing experiences in France - most of them in Paris.

A great Restaurant and as close as restaurants in France come to Stuttgart is

Le septieme Continent

35 Avenue du Général de Gaulle

68170 Rixheim

 

LEXIE: What's your favorite type of cuisine?

JOHANNES: That would probably also be French cuisine. In my eyes, that is still the foundation of most European gourmet cuisines.

LEXIE: If you could go anywhere in the world and eat in any restaurant, where would it be? What would you eat and why?

JOHANNES: I would love to go to Copenhagen and try Noma. I love the new Scandinavian kitchen for their fresh and local theme and the playful look of the food. Also, the way they tie in the overall design of the restaurant and tableware appeals to me. Noma is probably the best place to try that.

LEXIE: Where did you learn how to cook?

JOHANNES: I mostly taught myself with a fair amount of trial an error. To this day I am not a big fan of recipes. In terms of techniques I enjoy cooking shows on TV. If you have basic knowledge about cooking that is a great way to learn.

LEXIE: What does an average dinner consist of for you?

JOHANNES: During the week we mostly have bread, cheese, and cold cuts - usually with a salad and sometimes soup.

LEXIE: Is there a correlation between how you approach your professional career as an architect and how you approach food?

JOHANNES: I don’t think that it is too farfetched to say that there are certain similarities between design and cooking. For me, it is the ability to imagine how certain components come together to form a whole. You have to taste how certain ingredients will fit together much like you have to see what a building or an object will look like before it actually physically exists.

LEXIE: What are your insider tips for shopping in Stuttgart? For example, where can you buy the best produce, fish, meat, etc., and what makes each place good?

JOHANNES: A great place to buy fish and meat is the Frischeparadies in Bad Cannstatt, great value for money in Stuttgart. For fresh produce there is “Paraskevas Kirpas Obst- und Gemüseladen” (in Stuttgart-West, Kornbergstraße) quite expensive but in the tiny store they have the best produce I have found in Stuttgart so far. For Asian cooking I go to “Asia Markt Thai-Lam” (in Stuttgart-Ost, Rotenbergstraße), the atmosphere in there reminds me of Chinatown in Vancouver.

LEXIE: What is your favorite type of German Juice (beer)?

JOHANNES: That would be “düsseldorfer Altbier”.

LEXIE: What's the worst experience you've had dining out & why was it terrible?

JOHANNES: A couple of years ago I was on a road trip along the west coast of Canada. Towards the end of the trip we were on Vancouver Island and a friend suggested a “Restaurant” in a little town on the way from Vitoria to Nanaimo. I tried to look up the name but apparently and not very surprisingly it doesn’t exist anymore. The minute we walked all my instincts told me to leave as quickly as possible but since it was a recommendation of a friend we stayed. It was a tiny place, the interior more like a diner and supposed to serve mostly fish.  It turned out to be a horrible experience with unfriendly waiters and close to inedible food. The next day we were both out sick, on a roadtrip…

LEXIE:  What's your favorite kitchen tool?

JOHANNES: Just a good and sharp kitchen knife and I am good to go.

LEXIE: What food item is always a staple in your kitchen? (type of cheese, fruit, vegetable, protein, etc).

JOHANNES: I always have Dijon mustard in my fridge and I use it in dressings, dips and sauce. 

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Thank you for a lovely evening Johannes and Katherine. We're all looking forward to round 2. Try out Johannes' recipe and comment and let us know how it went. Thanks for setting me up Boris! I'm bringing my A game!!! ;-)

 

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Recipe: Slow-cooked Jamaican Oxtails

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Recipe: Slow-cooked Jamaican Oxtails

Thank the Gods for Beef & The Big Bang for Beer

(Scroll down for recipe)


You don't have to be rich to eat like a king. Cheaper cuts of beef are the best for slow-roasting and stews. Chefs like Henry Harris, Karam Sethi, Jeremy Lee, Chris Cosentino, Fergus Henderson, and many more, embrace the nose-to-tail movement and so do I. Some of these chefs have elevated what was previously considered "poor people food," like offal, to Michelin-star status. And although oxtails aren't quite offal, it is definitely a "poor man's cut" and I love it.

I often crave rich stews and my Jamaican version of oxtail stew is definitely at the top of the list.  If you haven't eaten oxtail stew before, you're missing out on a whole world of gorgeous, succulent, delicious, gooey, finger-licking freaking yumminess. By now, you know I have a love affair with beef, and if you love it like I do, you know that there's nothing more satisfying than a tender piece of meat falling off the bone. You know that there's nothing like BBQ beef ribs or a juicy and tender piece of smoked Brisket. You know that there's nothing like a filet cooked to medium-rare perfection and just melts in your mouth - these are the things my dreams are made of. This slow-cooked Jamaican oxtail recipe is the kind of dish that makes you want to lick your fork, knife, plate and ask everybody at the table if they're going to finish theirs. It's the kind of dish that Anthony Bourdain travels the world for, hoping to be invited to dinner at the house of an old auntie whose home is filled with the scent of this etherial goodness we call beef. It's the kind of dish you can get lost in. Screw being polite; it's just too good to be focused on etiquette or anything else other than savouring every single morsel. No talking please. Let me enjoy my meal in peace, with dignity, a glass of rich dark ale, and a choir of mmmm's. That's the only music I need. And let me thank the Gods, and/or the big bang, for giving us beef & beer. You simply have to try it. You'll love it & so will your friends, family, and lovers. Find the recipe below. It's easy to make.

Slow-cooked Jamaican Oxtails
 

Super yummy Jamaican oxtail stew


INGREDIENTS
(serves 4)

1kg Oxtails
2 large onions
1 large bell pepper
3 large carrots
6 cloves of garlic
1 thumb of ginger root
10 or more sprigs of thyme
15 Allspice berries
1 tbs freshly ground pepper
1 tbs himalayan salt
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs smoked Paprika
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs tomato ketchup
3 cups of beef stock or cold water (2/3 of a litre).
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper

Note: Where to buy Oxtails?
First ask your local Metzger (butcher)
If you reside in Stuttgart, Galleria Kaufhof Supermarkt usually has it. 

You can also use cheaper cuts of meat like chuck, round, flank, brisket, or shank.

If you're buying meat in Germany, you can use Suppenfleisch, Nacken, Bauch, Keule...
 

PREPARATION
(Cook time - 5 hrs)

Finely chop garlic and ginger then set aside. Pick thyme and set aside. Chop carrots into 3cm chunks and set aside. Cut tomatoes into chunks and set aside. Slice onions and bell peppers into rings and place into a large mixing bowl.

Preheat oven to 200ˆC/392ˆF

Add the oxtails, soy sauce, salt, paprika, and black pepper to the mixing bowl with the onions and bell peppers. Rub the spices and seasoning into the oxtails  and combine by massaging the mixture for approximately 2 minutes. You can also use a wooden spoon but it's better to use your hands. 

Next, add 2 tbs of olive oil to a large cast iron pot and set it on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, remove the pieces of oxtails from the mixture and sear them in the pot. Continue to turn them to get an even sear on each side. Add the remaining mixture from the large mixing bowl to the pot with the oxtails and stir periodically until onions are transluscent. Once the onions are transluscent, add the garlic, ginger, allspice, and thyme to the mixture and stir for 2 minutes (be careful not to burn the garlic). Add tomatoes, ketchup, and sugar, then stir. Press the chunks of tomatoes to release their juices and stir. Wait approximately 10-15 minutes for the tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers to caramelize. Add the 3 cups of beef stock or cold water and stir. Add the whole scotch bonnet to the mixture. Cover the pot and place it in the oven. Set the timer for 3.5 hrs. 

Remove the pot from oven and pour 2/3 rds of the mixture into a sauce pan. Once you've poured the sauce into the sauce pan, cover the pot with the oxtails and put it back in the oven for another hour or until tender. 

Next, put the saucepan on the stovetop and set the flame to low heat. Let the sauce simmer until the desired consistency is reached. It should be able to coat a wooden spoon.

Once you remove the oxtails from the oven, pour the sauce that was simmering in the saucepan over the oxtails and give it a gentle stir to combine the mixture. 

*Note*
If you have a low tolerance for spicy food, you can leave the scotch bonnet out altogether or cut a very thin slice. 

If you don't have a cast iron pot, you can use a pan & then transfer the contents to a casserole dish for the oven. 

I served the oxtails with rice & peas which is a Jamaican tradition but it's also great with mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables. 

Enjoy...


Slow-cooked Oxtails


Strong Suffolk Dark Ale

Of course, no meal would be complete without some German juice to complete the experience. Since heavy-malty ales typically pair well with game and red meats, we chose Strong Suffolk Dark Ale. It was given to me in a sampler from some friends of mine. If you like Malty beer with fruity flavors this one might be up your alley. The aroma is fruity with notes of oak, cherry and dark fruit. It's soft, plummy and a too sweet for my palate. It lacks roundness and the finish is a bit sharp. I would have preferred a much smoother finish with a little less noticeable presence of alcohol to accompany the oxtails. Try it and let us know what you think. 

German Juice - Beer

I hope you enjoy this recipe, beef, and beer as much as I do. Let us know in the comments how it goes if you try it at home. We love hearing from you and if there's anything you'd like us to cook for you, let us know. Eat well, drink well, and share a good meal with a great friend. You deserve it.

 

 

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Getting Dirty & Loving it

I don't want just a little - Gimme the whole sha-bang!

When I’m in Germany the thing I miss most about living in SoCal (Southern California) is the food. Just driving on only one street in LA, you can find a variety of amazingly delicious food from different parts of the globe in every price range. Take Melrose for example, within a 3 mile radius there are more than 10 restaurants that I can just pop into & be guaranteed a foodgasm. I can have anything from modern Italian fusion at Fig & Olive to Argentinian grilled steaks at LaLa’s, and if I really want to get serious & splurge on a fine dining experience, there’s Providence, where dinner for two will easily set you back at least a couple hundred dollars per person. If you’re low on funds after dropping some serious dough at Providence, you can head over to the corner of Melrose & LaBrea to get a hotdog from Pink’s.

But when it comes to cravings & ultimate, unadulterated food pleasure, nothing beats The Boiling Crab.

Photo courtesy of The Boiling Crab Brookhurst

Photo courtesy of The Boiling Crab Brookhurst

Photo courtesy of The Boiling Crab Brookhurst

Each Boiling Crab location in Southern California is located smack dab in the middle of one of LA’s many Asian communities. My Boiling Crab of choice is the one in Korea Town. Sure, you’re guaranteed to wait for up to 2 hours for a table if you go there on a weekend, especially at the Korea town location, but it’s well worth the wait. And forget about take-out, you’ll end up overheating your cell phone & burning your ear after you call repeatedly and you’re greeted with a busy signal each time. When you finally get seated & your waiter ties that bib around your neck, you know you’re in for some serious food & it’s gonna get messy.

My standard order for 2 people:

Fried oysters
Cajun fries
steamed rice
2 pounds of shrimp
1 pound of king crab legs
2 cobs of corn

Photo courtesy of The Boiling Crab Brookhurst

Photo courtesy of The Boiling Crab Brookhurst

Photo courtesy of The Boiling Crab Brookhurst

Photo courtesy of The Boiling Crab Brookhurst

And of course such a decadent meal wouldn’t be complete without a beverage. My drink of choice is an ice-cold imported beer, preferably German. But the ordering process isn’t complete without choosing the most important part of the meal, THE SAUCE. I opt for the holy grail of all the sauces at Boiling Crab: The Whole Sha-bang! (I didn’t just add the exclamation mark for effect, it’s written on their menu)
The final step is choosing how spicy you want it & for me that’s medium. I tried the XXX once and trust me, as a lover of all things ridiculously spicy, you don’t want to go there. The intensity of the heat overwhelms the delicate flavor of the seafood. But don’t take my word for it, if you’re feeling woman/man enough, be my guest and give it a go.

So you’re done ordering & now it’s on to the meal. If you’re waiting for utensils, forget it. At The Boiling Crab, you eat with your hands. The table is covered in a white paper tablecloth coated in plastic. Your seafood is delivered in huge plastic bags full of saucy goodness. The servers dump about a pound of lemon on the table to either squeeze onto the seafood or cleanse your hands with after the meal, and there you have it. But don’t worry, there’s always a napkin dispenser nearby.

Having grown up in a household where I learned to use a knife & fork properly by the age of 4, it was a bit off-putting. When I was a child in Jamaica, formal dinners & lunches were a must in our house & they were accompanied by running commentary from my mom, who intermittently commanded me to get my elbows off the table & sit up straight, so sticking my fingers into a bag of seafood swimming in deep-red-buttery sauce seemed a bit uncivilized. But after a few bites all caution was thrown to the wind, the rules of etiquette were thrown out the window, & I stuck my fingers into the bags of pure ocean goodness and it was glorious.

Since the very first time I tried it, whenever I’m in LA, I have Boiling Crab at least once a month, sometimes two. So what do you do when you’re craving The Boiling Crab but you live in Germany? You cook it yourself! Having no recipe & left with only the distant memory of perfectly cooked shrimp smothered in a rich scrumptious sauce, I stopped by my local organic store for spices & seasonings, picked up some prawns from Frischeparadies, & was determined to cook my way back to Korea Town. Armed with nothing more than my palate & a French load of butter (a lot), I set out to recreate one of my favorite dishes, shrimp with THE WHOLE SHABANG sauce!

Ingredients (serves 2)

1. 2 lbs whole prawns

2. 1 thumb of Fresh Ginger

3. 1 bulb of garlic

4. 1/2 yellow or white onion

5. 3 tbs Paprika

6. 1tbs cayenne pepper (or more – to taste)

7. 1/2 tsp lightly toasted cumin seeds

7. 2 whole lemons

8. 6 bay leaves

9. 1 pinch of oregano

10. 250 – 350 grams of butter

11. 3 tbs brown sugar

12. 1tsp sea salt (salt to taste)

Instructions:

Put bay leaves & 1 lemon cut in half in a large pot filled with water. Bring water to a boil & add prawns. Cook prawns for approximately 2-3 minutes until they have turned red & then remove from pot and set aside. Place garlic, onion, and ginger into a food processor and chop finely or by hand. Put the butter in a large pot on medium heat. I usually use a wok. Add dried herbs & spices to the butter once it has melted (Paprika, Cayenne pepper, oregano). Next add the ingredients from the food processor to the butter & spices, season with salt & sugar & let it simmer for approximately 5-8 minutes. Once the sauce is ready add prawns and stir then serve with the extra lemon cut into wedges for garnish. It’s best if you are able to add the prawns to the sauce immediately after you’ve removed them from the boiling water so be aware of your timing. The pics below should give you an idea of each stage of the process. You can serve it with rice, potatoes, seasoned fries or whatever you like. Good luck. Let us know how it turns out by leaving a comment.

The result: it was spectacular & tasted just like the one I had in K-Town. Here’s to you Boiling Crab. As Yoda would say “In the mind only, distance is. In my belly and heart, The Boiling Crab is.”

All photos were taken by Lexie

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Asian Inspiration – Chili Beef Lettuce Wraps

The Three F's of Summer: Fresh, Fun, & Flavorful!

Summer is here & much like the seasons change so do my taste buds. No more heavy winter stews or plates of pasta; it's all about eating fresh & light right now. These Asian inspired chili beef lettuce wraps hit the three F's of summer: fresh, fun, & flavorful. I make them at least twice a month. Thanks to Gordon Ramsay for this great recipe. Wanna try making this dish yourself? Click here to cook along with Gordon. 

Fresh

Fresh

Fun

Fun

Flavorful

Flavorful

Have fun cooking along & let us know how it turns out in the comment section.

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