A Very Berlin Sunday

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Starting off with a jog towards Treptower Park under cornflour blue skies. Cold war ghosts at every turn.

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Spot of fancy brunch at Oliv Eat near Potsdamer Platz. Then onto the KunstGewerbeMuseum for a trip back in time, through the ages of fashion.

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Connecting the dots…this is a plaque near Potsdamer Platz that’s dedicated to the Soviet soldier that stopped in the midst of the Battle of Berlin on this bridge to help a little girl, risking his own life. The Soviet Memorial at Treptower Park depicts this soldier in all its bombastic glory.


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Snacks with Tacos at MarktHalle 9, check out for their various Sunday events that run each month.

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Bibimbap for dinner at Mercosy. Fresh & tasty with some beautifully fragrant tea blends.

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Finishing the day with a movie at one of Berlins’ gorgeous cinemas

FIN

Summer survival kit in Berlin

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So we spend half the year scorning the cold weather, cursing the icy breath from the East and lamenting the scorching summer days from yesterday- when just like that, Summer is once again upon us and our longing for the sun is long forgotten. 

The clammy heat, inability to sleep and chafing in areas best left unmentioned, have us dreaming of frozen-off faces and miniature icicles clinging to our lashes.

However, I say we should be careful of what we wish for and try our best to relish these hazy summer days, because those Berlin winters are brutal and always only just around the corner...

So here are some of my favourite things to do on hot Berlin summer days like these.

Enjoy!

1. HEAD TO THE LAKE. Lakes, lush, green and cooling, are scattered across Berlin in abundance. Easy to get to via public transport or one of the car sharing services, they are a soothing tonic to the blazing inferno that is the city centre. Grab a french stick, pot of hummus and some water and go enjoy. The water is perfectly good to swim in and indeed, you must. Don't let the FKK scene startle you, naked bits and pieces is totally normal here in former East Germany :) My favourite is the Krumme Lanke/ Schlachtensee both on the u-bahn/s-bahn. Krumme Lanke- U3, Schlachtensee- S1. And you must rent a rowing boat to go for a little paddle!

2. Don't fancy the lake but still want to get wet? Head to one of the awesome outside pools in the city. Sommerbad Olympiastadion kills two birds with one stone- some splash down time merged with a historical tour of one of the only remaining pieces of Nazi architecture left in the city. Alternatively, Columbiabad in Neukölln is awesome, or Badeschiff in Kreuzberg.

3. Grab some shade in one of the beautiful, leafy parks in Berlin, my go to would be Treptower Park. Here by the little Treptower Hafen (harbour) makes for a wonderful stroll. The boardwalk now hosts numerous kiosks to grab a bite. Over time it has become extremely diverse offering Thai, Italian and even Israeli cuisine amongst a fish smoker and classic flammkuchen. Plus the Soviet memorial in the park is another historical highlight- so another couple birds taken down. Another very Berlin thing to do is to set up your own little BBQ in a park, grab a disposable one from a supermarkt and go to town. BUT PLEASE, PLEASE clean up all your MESS! <3     Treptower Park- S-bahn S41, S42, S8, S85 and S9

4.Make the most of these warm, long and dry days by going to an open air cinema, there are quite a few in the city and often show some true classics. A few years ago we watched Metropolis as the sun went down. Check them out here

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5. Ice cream. Of course. As soon as there is even a touch of sun, Berliners hit the icecream parlours in their droves. It's quite normal to see a queue of people waiting for an inordinate amount of time for scoops of frozen milk. My favourites are: 1. Vanille & Marille, 2. Fraulein Frost, 3. Hokey Pokey, 4. Eiscafe Caramello (Wühlischstraße 31, 10245).

6. Drink as the locals and grab a beer from a 'Späti' (short for Spätkauf- lit. 'late-buy' akin to an off-licence) to keep you hydrated on the go. Alkoholfrei Erdinger or a Rhubarb lemonade is always a good choice, we don't want drunken mayhem in the middle of the day after all.

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7. Head to the Dong Xuan Centre for some gorgeous Vietnamese food like a nourishing Pho. It gets you away from the city centre and I was told its good to slurp hot things on a hot day. Science apparently.

8. Summer is the time for beergardens in Berlin so go make the most of them. The best in the city are: Prater, Cafe am Neuen See, Birgit & Bier and BRLO but there are usually crackers near the many lakes I mentioned earlier- Fischerhütte Schlachtensee for instance.

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9. For the night owls and clubbers amongst us, then open air clubs are all the rage in Berlin. Club de Visionäre by the water puts you instantly into holiday mode and About Blank has a fun vibe.

10. Get on the water! Take a boat trip along the Spree and see the city this way. Feel the river breeze in your hair and wave at the locals as you pass them by. I'm sure they'll wave back. Well, some of them at least.

11. Find a roof-top bar to chill in. The Amano hotel has a nice one or for a more funky, Berlin vibe, head to KlunkerKranich at the top of a shopping mall in Neukölln. You have to walk through a car park to get there, it may seem strange but I promise you it's there. So KEEP GOING! Sometimes you can catch live music and it provides one of the best views of Berlin.

12. On Tuesday and Friday pop along to the Turkish Market and grab yourself and refreshing raw sugar cane juice- it's a superfood I'll have you know. Plus the market is spectacular and being right beside the canal, there may just be a cooling breeze. (Don't be like me, skip the straw.)

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Keep cool friends! <3

Sketches of Berlin

Doodling is one of my favourite pastimes and so when I find myself with a little extra time, I try to create some characters that could well live here in Berlin.

Often, as with their creator, they are found with food on the mind.

Food in Berlin is wondrous.

Diverse and affordable, eating well in Berlin is pure joy.

That is the main reason I started giving food tours here, so I could share this wealth with others that may be new to the city.

A food tour tells you so much about a city, where it has come from- where it is going and that is exactly the case for Berlin.

In this blog, I introduce you to some of the people in Berlin on a quest for good food that may or may not be a figment of my imagination.

Enjoy!

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gimme beer

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to booze, or not to booze, that is the question…

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Berlin restaurant inspiration- Azzam

Azzam holds a special place in my heart for introducing me to the delights of Palestinian food. Creamy musabaha, zingy foul and divine gingerbread falafel. (They may not agree about the gingerbread but I taste it, I swear.)

The guys there are super friendly and it's a popular spot among locals with Arabic roots and Hipsters alike to come, sit back and enjoy some beautiful, homemade houmous.

Watching them in action, making the houmous and other Middle Eastern classics, simply with a pestle and mortar, is mesmerizing and invoked in me the inspiration to try and recreate some dishes at home.

Houmous is something I have been making myself for years, but musabaha and foul was unchartered territory, so I decided to give it  go. I bought all my Azzam reenactment ingredients from their supermarket next door to keep it as authentic as possible but any Turkish or Arabic store will have the essentials.

Musabaha, (there are variations of the spelling, this is how they spell it at Azzam), is basically a deconstructed hummus. Lashings of tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, garlic and of course chickpeas. The main difference I can see, is that it is served warm and the majority of the chickpeas are left whole.

Foul is fava beans cooked and then tossed with garlic, lemon juice, vinegar , cumin and lots of fresh parsley.

the Original at Azzam

the Original at Azzam

These dishes are a perfect match as the musabaha is a creamy and rich concoction due to the tahini and the fresh, tangy foul cuts through this perfectly. A ton of hot- pink pickled turnips, fresh tomato, raw onion (you'll regret it later but that's part of the experience) and fragrant mint with some good bread, are essential accompaniments. Flatbread is the popular choice, but I found some darling little wholemeal pittas studded with sesame seeds that I couldn't resist.

Typically a breakfast dish, for me it also makes a perfect dinner or next day lunch.

I have used canned beans as I decided to make this meal the same morning that I cooked it, but I am sure that both dish would be improved, both in taste and authenticity, if the beans were soaked overnight etc and then cooked. However the canned goods ticked the boxes for me. This was pleasingly quick and easy and though not identical, tasted as good as the real thing.

Shopping List- serves 4

1x large can of chickpeas
1x small can of fava beans
tahini
lemon
cumin
fresh parsley
fresh mint
white wine vinegar
garlic
pickles such as turnip and gherkins (from Turkish grocers)
wholemeal pitta bread or flatbread
tomatoes
white onion

As this was a dive into the unknown for me, I tried to be as organised as possible and began with some serious prep. This involved mincing 2 cloves of garlic, squeezing the juice of two lemons and slicing the tomatoes and pickles that will be served alongside the dishes.

I then cleaned the mint and left in bunches to be served later. Quarter the white onion, this will also be served like the tomatoes and pickles.

Set your bread aside ready to serve.

Now to assemble the ingredients for cooking.

Pour into a small bowl 2 tblsp of lemon juice and 1tblsp of white wine vinegar and a little parsley. Set aside for the foul later.

Pour about 30 grams of tahini into a bowl, add a little water and good glug of olive oil, 1/2 clove of the minced garlic, salt, tbsp of lemon and mix. Set aside for the musabaha.

To begin, pour the can of chickpeas into one saucepan and the fava beans into another with the liquid they come in the can with. Start to heat the chickpeas first until they are completely warmed through. You do not need to cook for too long if you are like myself, using the canned goods. If you have been organised and have soaked and boiled your legumes from scratch, then just heat in water accordingly.

Once warmed through, strain the chickpeas, reserving the hot liquid in a large bowl. Put just over half of the chickpeas back into this hot liquid and cover to keep warm.

With the other chickpeas mash into a regular hummus, I have to admit, I used a stick blender but to be truly authentic, use a pestle and mortar. To your chickpeas, add a little tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, the other minced garlic half and cumin. Check for seasoning.

For the next steps you need to make good of both your hands and work on the two dishes at the same time.

Place the hummus into a large bowl.

Drain the warm chickpeas and pour them on top of the hummus, holding a tablespoons worth back.

Pour over the tahini mixture you made earlier, a little of the hot chickpea water and mix. Finally add the remaining chickpeas, a generous sprinkle of parsley, a healthy glug of olive oil and dusting of paprika over the top.

Now get the fava beans on and warm the beans through as you did the chickpeas.

Once completely warmed through, drain and toss with the remaining clove of minced garlic, cumin and olive oil. Pour in the lemon juice and vinegar mixture and stir. Add extra parsley and this is ready to serve.

Serve both dishes with the bread, pickles, mint and fresh vegetables.

Try the original at Azzam, Sonnenallee 54, 12045 Berlin



Berlin's best falafel

Falafel in Berlin is as ubiquitous as the currywurst, the ampelmann and dog poop on your shoe. Popping out for one is akin to going for a curry or to the chippie back in the UK. And they are awesome.

Due to the prominent Arabic community here in Berlin, the majority of whom were refugees from the Middle East, in particular those escaping from the Lebanon Civil war during the 70s, Berlin is blessed with vibrant and delicious Arabic food.

Lebanese, Palestinian and even Egyptian restaurants offer a wealth of dishes such as everyones favourite - hummus, creamy musabaha, earthy foul and of course the one and only falafel. The choice of places to find such delicacies in Berlin is endless, and so too the quality.

Here I have collected my personal favourites for you and awarded them the medals they deserve, along with an honourable mention as it was really pretty hard to narrow these choices down.

You would be more than satisfied with each one of these falafels, but it is Mo's that steals my falafel loving heart.

A tip for your falafel quest- though you can find offerings across the city, Neukölln or 'Little Beirut',  is mecca for them, hence why the majority of my choices are in this neighbourhood.

So enjoy, and happy falafel hunting!

 

Honourable mention:

1001 falafel

1001 falafel will always hold a special place in my heart as it is one of the very first falafels I ever tried in Berlin and the first one my Mother tried when she came to visit.  She still talks about it today. Super scrummy falafel im brot with a lusciously tangy tahini sauce, this wrap is a perfect falafel fix. The makali here is also awesome. Not much space to sit down, more of a place to grab it and go or perch on one of the benches. You can find these guys on Stargarder strasse in Prenzlauer Berg and also in Kreuzberg at Oranienplatz.

Stargarder Str. 73, 10437 Berlin, and Oranienstr. 196, 10999 Berlin

Bronze:

Al Andalos

This colourful Lebanese restaurant on Sonnenallee in Neukölln may not offer the best falafel but the hummus and sides of warm tomatoes and green beans, sauteed potatoes, pickles, rice with lentils and spinach elevates their falafel plate to one of my all time favourite things to eat in Berlin. Seriously delicious. Ask for the Vegetarisch Teller (vegetarian plate).

Sonnenallee 40, 12045 Berlin

 

 

Silver:

Azzam

Just a few doors down from Al Andalos (this area really is the place for falafel) is Azzam. It was with difficulty that I placed these guys second, as their food is truly awesome and it was Azzam that introduced me to the world of beautiful Palestinian cuisine. The service is dreamy (last time they gave me some baklava on the house!) and the food authentic. Watching the hummus made by hand is mesmerizing and shows how everything here is made fresh and to order. The taste reflects this, with spiced falafel that I think has a delicate flavour close to gingerbread. That sounds a bit strange actually, but either way they are great. Go with a friend and share the falafel plate and a musabaha. You'll be happy, I promise.

Sonnenallee 54, Berlin

 

 

Gold:

Mo's Kleiner Imbiss

Their slogan reads 'The King of Falafel' and they do not lie. The falafel wrap here is bursting with freshness. Roasted vegetables, spicy harissa, hummus and their gorgeous falafel. Here, there seems to be extra greens in the falafel mix and they taste somehow juicy, succulent. Another place to grab it and go, this will satisfy all your falafel dreams and desires. Go, go now.

Urbanstraße 68
10967 Berlin

 

 

 

The Best Christmas markets in Berlin

It's that time of year again.

The time of year that the heady scent of Glühwein and Bratwurst fills the air and you cannot help but wonder how it can be Christmas again already.

Every year seems to go faster than the last, the year's 'to do lists' left incomplete yet again, we'll do better next year.

So while you're here in Berlin, take a break from the trials and tribulations of the festive season to enjoy all the good things that come along with this time of year.

Roasted chestnuts. The ubiquitous Raclette with its melted ooziness over toasted bread or potatoes with pickled onions and gherkins. And the sometimes too sweet, but always warming Glühwein- mulled wine with oranges and cloves and of course the customary shot or schuss of rum. Just to make sure you don't freeze from the cold, naturally.

There is somewhere between 60 and 80 Christmas markets in Berlin and it could be said that once you've seen one, you've seen them all.

They do tend to have the same offerings of food and general bits and pieces, however some of the markets here in Berlin just cannot be missed and here I have put together a list of my favourite ones.

Merry Christmas!! Frohe Weihnachten!!

1. WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt- situated at one of, if not the, most beautiful squares in Berlin. This market is sure to put even Ebenezer in the Christmas Spirit. One of few that you have to pay to go in (just 1 euro), it is worth every penny. Carols fill the air, great food and drink, overlooked by stunning cathedrals and the concert house. Duration: 21.11.16-31.12.16

2. Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in der Kulturbrauerei- within an old brewery, this Scandinavian themed market is a must! Try the Swedish Glögg with a shot of rum and a sprinkle of sultanas and almonds. Duration: 21.11.16-22.12.16

3. Weihnachtsmarkt in der Sophienstrasse- something for the weekend, this market is only on Saturday and Sunday. I love its simplicity as it just runs the length of the street. Duration: Each Advent weekend

4. Weihnachtsmarkt Charlottenburg Schloss- another one in a beautiful location with the backdrop of Charlottenburg Palace. Currently covered in scaffolding, it still makes for a gorgeous Christmassy Setting. Duration: 21.11.16- 26.12.16

5. Spandauer Weihnachtsmarkt in der Altstadt- this one is a little further out but very much worth the trip. One of the oldest Christmas markets in Berlin in the old town of Spandau. Duration: Tue, 13.12.2016 till Tue, 27.12.2016                 

6. Rixdorfer Weihnachtsmarkt in Neukölln- THIS WEEKEND ONLY!

One to miss- Weihnachtmarkt am Alexanderplatz. I hate to be a snob but this one is just a bit much in my opinion. Heaving with people, it doesn't have the charm of the other markets.  

Berlin restaurant inspiration- Sabich

'Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.' Harriet Van Horne

One of my greatest joys in life is to cook here in my little Berlin kitchen.

Exploring the vibrant neighbourhood of which I live and sourcing ingredients- fresh turmeric root from the Vietnamese Supermarket just down the road or pomegranate molasses from the Turkish market on the corner from my house, or fantastic organic produce from the Biomarkt across from me.

A cuisine that has become more and more present here in Berlin is that of Israeli origin. As someone that follows a largely vegan diet, Israeli food is a dream.

In my mind, tahini is nectar of the gods and an ingredient found in abundance within the Israeli kitchen.

Sabich is something that was introduced to me by some of the amazing Israeli restaurants we have here in Berlin such as Kanaan and Sababa. It is essentially a sandwich with unctious roasted aubergine, luscious tahini sauce, sliced boiled egg teamed with a crunchy salad.

The ingredient which makes this dish altogether magical is the 'amba' sauce, you will not always find it included, but in my opinion, is what makes Sabich so special.

'Amba' is a fragrant mango sauce made with cumin and turmeric and its flavour reminds you that it is also used in Indian cuisine with the name 'amba' derived from the Sanskrit for mango. It is also present in Iraqi cuisine and with Israel being a melting pot of many cultures including Iraqi, this is likely how it came to be part of their cuisine today.

With this blog I shall share with you my interpretation of this wondrous dish, taking aspects of all those I have sampled here in Berlin and putting them together.

Enjoy!

Serves 2

Shopping list:

2 eggs (omit for a vegan version of Sabich)

bunch of fresh parsley

1 yellow pepper

2 tomatoes

1 cucumber

2 spring onions

vinegar

olive oil

pitta bread

tahini

1 fresh mango

300g dried mango

cumin (1 tablespoon- whole seeds or ground)

turmeric (1 tablespoon of ground)

fenugreek (1 teaspoon of ground)

2 cloves garlic

rice syrup 

2 aubergines

pickles (gherkins, turnips etc) to serve

Method

First get your aubergines on the go by slicing them either into 1cm thick rounds or simply each aubergine slice in half length ways, scoring the flesh and then (either way) placing them on a roasting tray and rub with olive oil. Roast for roughly 25 minutes or until soft and golden in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius.

While this is happening, its time to make the amba sauce.

Prepare your fresh mango by slicing in half around the stone and removing the flesh with a spoon and roughly chop.

In a small saucepan add 1.5 cups of water, 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of rice syrup and the juice of 1 lemon and put over a high heat.

Add the fresh and dried mango, bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the mango is softened.

Pop your eggs onto boil according to how you like them!

Roughly chop the garlic and then fry in a small pan until soft, adding the cumin seeds, turmeric and ground fenugreek. Add to the mango.

Take it off the heat and carefully pour into a blender, adding salt and pepper, whizz until smooth.

For the salad- roughly chop the tomato, onion and pepper to bite-size pieces. Peel the cucumber and de-seed, roughly chop as the other ingredients and add everything to a bowl. Roughly chop the parsley and throw into the salad. To dress- add a glug of olive oil, vinegar, lemon, salt and pepper.

Tahini sauce- into a small bowl, pour in a cup of tahini. Add a little water and with a fork mix into the tahini until it looks like something has gone very wrong and its curdled. Keep stirring in a little water at a time until it is creamy, smooth and lighter in colour. It should be of a pourable consistency. Add a good squeeze of lemon and salt.

Toast or heat your pittas in the oven. Once the aubergines are nicely roasted, take from the oven and assemble your Sabich. You could simply just stuff the pitta with all the ingredients and munch away, but I like to make it pretty by placing the whole aubergine half on top of the warm pitta, drizzle with the sauces, scatter over the sliced boiled egg and a little salad on the side, pickles, eating it with a knife and fork. Perhaps this is sabich sacrilege but it makes me happy.

בְּתֵיאָבוֹן! (enjoy your meal!)

Vegan version without the egg- just as yummy in my opinion!

Vegan version without the egg- just as yummy in my opinion!

Day in the life of a Bite Berliner

Need some ideas on what to get up to when you find yourself in Berlin? Want to go against the grain and live like a local?

I thought I’d start this little blog series documenting some of the things I do in a week that could help fulfill these Berlin desires.

So without further ado, my 48 hours (or so) in Berlin:

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  • Walking around your ‘kiez’ (hood) and experiencing Berlin’s wealth of funky street art like this piece by well know Berlin street artist- El Bocho.

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  • Hit up Tabeyo for some decent sushi. First time here, questionable decor but enjoyable food!

  • Play pool in a former brewery, (Kulturbrauerei) now a centre of different cultural activities.

  • (next morning) Go for a run through the many parks, along the canal as in my case towards Treptower Park.

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  • Go to HobbyShop Rüther in Schoneberg for art supplies, embroidery thread and explore the neighborhood. Soo pretty

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  • Green smoothie at Goodies

  • Watch latest movie at Cinestar (in my case- Halloween).

  • (next morning) Yoga at Studio Sonne

  • Some pretty awesome and meditative jazz at Zigzag.

  • Sleep