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!

unnamed-4.jpg

gimme beer

unnamed-1.jpg

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

unnamed.jpg
unnamed-3.jpg

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:

IMG_1826.jpg
  • 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.

IMG_1827.jpg
  • 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.

IMG_1854.jpg
IMG_1853.jpg
  • Go to HobbyShop Rüther in Schoneberg for art supplies, embroidery thread and explore the neighborhood. Soo pretty

IMG_1825.jpg
  • 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






Ode to Autumn

 

And so it is this way every year.

One day you´re waking up basking in the late summer rays, and the next in comes the gusts of Autumns' cold breath- our annual reminder that Winter is just around the corner.

Berlin has grown cold yet again and thoze lazy, hazy days of Summer are long forgotten.

Alas! It´s not time to lament this period of eternal cloud (its started already, nooo), but rather to celebrate all that we have in store.

Pumpkins. Cinnamon Schnecke. Piping hot soups with crusty brötchen. Glühwein and iced star-shape cookies. The Christmas markets and their ubiquitous Raclettes.

The shorter days are not to be afraid of, but embraced. It's time to make the most of the hibernation to read our favourite books, finally learn how to crochet and of course to enjoy our most comforting foods.

If we can however, find it in us to crawl out of our cozy havens and venture into the dark, damp depths of the City, (and we do, I remind myself many times a day), then here is a list of some of my favourite spots to have a munch or a slurp.

They´ll be sure to warm your soul and give you that little spring in your step we need during these colder months.

Hirsch- the cosiest of cosy. Traditional South-German fare. A schnitzel and a schnapps will be sure to warm your cockles.

Michelberger hotel- exquisite yet unpretentious. Seasonal, local cuisine. A rustic countryhouse that lost its way and became a restaurant in Berlin. (Fantastic vegan options available).

Perlin- wine and tapas bar where you pay what you think it was worth. You can´t get more welcoming than that!

Victoria bar- step back in time to the 60s and enjoy joyful service and equally as pleasing cocktails.

IMG_0850.JPG

Fraulein Kimchi- spicy, fermented cabbage will always warm your bones and add that to an awesome ramen burger with the BEST fries ever and you´ll be golden. (Fantastic vegan options available).

Beusters- beautiful Beusters and their beautiful cocktails. The Sloe-gin fizz is nectar of the gods.

 

 

Berlin's best Currywurst

The ubiquitous Currywurst with its sweet ketchup, dusting of curry powder and classic German sausage, is synonymous with Berlin and food. Perhaps not a 'refined' delicacy, but this little wurst stands proud within the Berlin food scene and definitely fulfills its purpose as good street-food.

A product of a dark and desperate time and a devastated city, where the resources were low but perseverance high, when a lady named Herta Heuwer obtained ketchup and curry powder from some neighbourly British troops in West Berlin, (they received alcohol in return, I say no more!), and combined it with what she had to hand, the traditional German sausage.

The interesting concoction was immediately successful and remains very much a firm favourite of Berliners today.

There are thousands of Currywurst vendors to choose from today in Berlin, and of course the quality can vary considerably, so I am going to share with you some of my favourite places to enjoy this tasty little plate of food fusion.

Konnopke's Imbiß

This is widely regarded as one of the best Currywurst in Berlin and they definitely win on the historical front. A sausage-maker since 1930 and the first Currywurst vendor in East Berlin, and also the creator of the skinless Currywurst sausage. Great sauce, great fries, a great place to start.

http://konnopke-imbiss.de/Home.html

Konnopke's in the 1960s

Konnopke's in the 1960s

Curry Mitte

By far one of my favourites in Berlin. The meat in the sausage is locally sourced and they have an extra spicy, garlicky sauce you can order if you want a little more kick to your curry. They even offer a beef currywurst but I'd go for the original pork if I was you.

http://www.currymitte.de/

Curry 61

I always enjoy this Currywurst, a fairly sweet sauce which I think works very nicely with the curry powder. Be sure to ask to have your wurst 'scharf', meaning spicy, for that zing you need in a Currywurst. These guys even have a vegetarian sausage for those plant-eaters among us that don't want to miss out on this authentic Berlin experience.

http://www.curry61.de/

Curry Baude

On the advice of a friend of mine, a true Berliner, this is the best Currywurst in Berlin. All the key ingredients are perfectly balanced, great fries and they even have something called 'Zigeunersauce' which translates as 'gypsy sauce'. How can you go wrong.

http://www.curry-baude.de/

Guten Appetit!