Berlin reflections

pretzels, bagels, bratwurst, currywurst…and erm, more currywurst

To make my flight €100 cheaper, I stopped off in Berlin for a few days before heading back to London. I found that Berlin had few concrete, fundamental dishes and ingredients that sets it aside from the rest of Europe. The capital certainly has the rest of Germany’s predilection for meat, particularly sausages. But, I was disappointed I couldn’t try the dish most ranted and raved about – that is bratwurst sausage with curry toppings, or ‘currywurst’ – because of dietary requirements. There’s even a museum dedicated to the phenomenon that is ‘currywurst’.

I fell in love with the city; it lives to reflect and learn from its controversial past, with the effect that it now exists as a liberal and lively hub. In the process, it has accumulated a vast array of multicultural cuisines. I ate in authentic Turkish, Italian and Asian restaurants (and many modern vegan eateries that are dispersed throughout the city).

The German bakeries are the city’s redemption. Think pretzels galore. Here’s a ‘streuseltaler’ – a fine yeast dough pastry with a refined butter crumble. It’s essentially an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.

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In East Side Berlin, there was a substantial selection of vegan eateries, to match the cool and hip ambience of this side of the city. Just past the East Side gallery, I came across a building hosting Veganz (a supermarket), Goodies (a vegan café dedicated to great coffee), The Bowl (a clean eating restaurant for the best, beautiful bowls of goodness), and a vegan shoe shop.

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The Bowl boasts a 100% plant-based kitchen, producing gluten and sugar free bowls for a little over €10. I tried went for the ‘California’ bowl from the menu; this was lemon quinoa, deep fried sweet potato sticks, sesame tamari leaf spinach, raw apple carrot salad, avocado slices, tomato coriander salsa and teriyaki hibiscus sauce. (But I also pinched a spoonful of the ‘Buddha’ bowl too from my travel buddy). The ingredients are simple, but the sauces and dressings bring the ingredients to life.

This restaurant refreshed me from a 3 hour urban art walking tour of the East Side gallery and beyond. And it has given me inspiration for new healthy, filling and vegan recipes.

 

 

Rosemary & dark chocolate buttons

Rosemary & dark chocolate buttons makes 1 gift; vegan

feeling inspired by the ultra-fancy chocolatiers ‘Rausch Schokoladenhausin’ the heart of Berlin. This is a simple, yet beautiful gift to give to someone special. The rosemary is freshly picked – no need for cooking

Ingredients:

  • 100g fine dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder (if needed)
  • 1 long sprig of rosemary, trimmed

Method:

  1. On a sheet of baking parchment, use a circular stencil to draw the outline of 9 circles, evenly spaced apart.
  2. Break the dark chocolate into pieces and melt over
    a pot of boiling water.
  3. If the cocoa percentage is low, stir in some cocoa powder for extra richness.
  4. Leave for 1 minute to cool slightly. Using a desert spoon, fill the circles with chocolate. Place trimmed rosemary sprigs in the middle before they begin to set.
  5. Set in the fridge for at least an hour. Snap off the baking parchment and gift in a small cardboard box, with ribbon.

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Carob and fig ice cream

Carob and fig ice cream serves 4; vegetarian 

making use of the carob powder and syrup I brought home from Cyprus, I thought I’d try combining some awesome Cypriot flavours into this indulgent dessert. These ingredients are easily found in all well-stocked Turkish food shops. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 large free range eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 200ml double cream
  • 2 figs, peel removed
  • 1 heaped tsp carob powder
  • 1 tsp carob syrup

Method:

  1. figggg.jpegWhisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until stiff peaks are formed.
  2. Slowly whisk in the caster sugar, continuing until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
  3. Whisk the cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed – be sure to not whisk too much otherwise it’ll curdle.
  4. Fold in the cream, egg yolks, the inside flesh of 2 figs, carob powder and syrup into the mixture until well combined.
  5. Pour into a plastic container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Serve with more fresh fig, and carob syrup, according to taste.

 

Chewing over Cyprus

rose, pistachio, almonds, vine leaves, tahini, baklava, halva, olive oil, carob, figs

Embarrassingly, I had to increase my baggage allowance to bring Cypriot delicacies home for recipe testing. I was looking forward to the trip for the stuffed vine leaves, but I underestimated how a 4 hour plane journey would reveal a whole new world of cuisine.

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The goodies I managed to accumulate from the trip and fly back home included carob syrup, carob powder, tahini, black and green olive paste, Cypriot delight and traditional coffee.

Staying with my Cypriot friend and her welcoming family, I luckily experienced the cuisine the traditional way, through bustling family meals. I arrived on the Greek nameday for Maria, 15th August, and we celebrated with a kolokasi (a vegetable only grown in Cyprus) stew and fresh pitta smothered in tahini, hummus and olive paste.

Something amazing about Cyprus: I was able to sample the fresh produce by picking it off the trees.

Another amazing thing I found out: olive paste is the paste of Gods. This black olive paste was enveloped in a thick fresh pastry evenly smothered in sesame seeds. We bought a huge package of bite-sized pastries from a bakery in Limassol, in preparation for a day trip crossing the border into the North of Cyprus, the Turkish side.

Further fillings found in the pick ‘n’ mix pastry bag:

  • Creamy almond paste
  • Spinach
  • Halloumi
  • Feta and roasted pepper

Crossing the border was a surreal experience in the sense of the very sudden, dramatic change of culture and living circumstances; a change that occurred in a matter of minutes, once our passports were checked and the day car insurance purchased in order to pass the barrier. The food changed too. Food became territorial. Stemming from the tension from the country’s divide in 1974, when Turkey invaded the North. Cypriot delight became Turkish delight, Cypriot coffee became Turkish coffee…

The most momentous meal I had was made by Natasa’s grandma, which was stuffed vine leaves and courgette flowers. I’ll be experimenting with flavours and fillings in an upcoming recipe for stuffed vine leaves.