Christmas cookies: Springerle

I’ve always hesitated to write about Christmas cookies because, honestly, they’re kind of boring to read about unless you’re specifically looking for a recipe. And everyone already has their favorites anyway. But I figured Springerle are different because they’re so pretty and old fashioned. I know Springerle as a Southern German cookie, but Wikipedia says they’re eaten in Switzerland, Alsace, parts of Austria and Hungary too. Although they basically taste like an anise-flavored sugar cookie, the process for making them is different than a standard sugar cookie. And not just because of the beautiful molds used to shape them.

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Grilled Greek Salad

When brainstorming dinner plans (as we drank our breakfast coffees) I said I was thinking of perhaps roasting vegetables. Fronx said he would rather have something crunchy, like a Greek salad. Vegetables and low effort was the main motivation for me suggesting roasted vegetables, so I agreed that Greek salad was also good.

But thinking about romaine lettuce reminded me of the fantastic grilled meal we’d had over at Ole’s in the summer …

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Biángbiáng noodles

The only thing I wanted to eat when I was in NYC was Chinese food that I can’t get in Berlin. I succeeded.

This was exactly what I wanted.

A photo posted by theophani (@theophani) on

In addition to a lunch stop at Congee Village, I ended up having what is my new all time favourite Chinese dish, Biángbiáng noodles, from the Shaanxi province, brought to New York by Xi’an Famous Foods in 2005. I have since learned, from this great post on Lady and Pups, that “Xi’an famous foods” is a known phrase in Chinese referring to a collection of dishes from Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province. The chain has been so successful and influential that is even has its own Wikipedia entry.

Upon my return – actually, no, it was when I was still at Newark waiting for the plane home – I looked up how to get these amazingly sloppy, slippery wide noodles in Berlin. And the only way was to make them myself. Using the Lady and Pups recipes as my guide, I made a vegetarian version using a trio of mushrooms instead of lamb.

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Mapo tofu

Morgan has been on a mapo tofu kick since he went to Mission Chinese when he was in San Francisco. Even before he got back from that trip, the Lucky Peach newsletter landed in his inbox, including the mapo tofu recipe from Mission Chinese!

The very tasty recipe is here:
http://luckypeach.com/recipes/mission-chinese-foods-mapo-tofu/

After sourcing all the ingredients (except the beef fat), Morgan invited me over to prepare it. We made it using a technique best described as “pair cooking”, a reference to “pair programming”. In pair programming, often one person is at the keyboard doing all of the typing, and the second person formulates and talks over ideas with the person typing.

Mapo tofu going in for a close up
Mapo tofu going in for a close up

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Lion’s Mane

I joked recently that I wished third wave mushrooms was a thing in Berlin so that I could have access to a wider variety of wild and cultivated mushrooms. Seeing the exotic ones that are available in London made me envious. My envy heightened when Kristin and Sebastian gave me a cookbook titled Shrooms that has sections dedicated to mushrooms I‘ve never seen in person.

Well, yesterday, while visiting my favourite Saturday market, Boxhagener Platz, for the first time ages, I spotted a man selling mushrooms I’d never seen before, including ones that looks like cauliflower florets.

My hand for scale
My hand for scale

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Kimchi Chicken Stew

Our friends Mike and Morgan made an experimental batch of kimchi which I personally found lacking the crunch of previous batches. I pumped up its fizz and flavour by keeping it closed up tight in the fridge for a week, but it was still on the soft side.

What do you do with a jar of lovingly made, perfectly tasty, but slightly underwhelming kimchi? Make a stew! Kimchi stew was something I had heard of, but never had. The closest thing I’d had was a chicken version of gamjatang, from the Korean restaurant Core, which I occasionally crave.

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