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

Anthony Bourdain: A tribute

  Anthony Bourdain. Acrylic on Canvas. By me.

Anthony Bourdain. Acrylic on Canvas. By me.

2003. Lying on the couch. Procrastinating from the 10 000 word dissertation that awaits me, my brother & I watch Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations on UKTVfood. Unaware at the time, this is not long after he burst into the culinary TV world and his brilliance was truly recognized.

Enthralled and beguiled, we would watch this rock star chef on his travels, munching on delicious morsels in between a drag of his cigarette and a shot of the local liquor.

He had it all. Eloquent, engaging, hilarious and just cool. Most of all, he was simply a fantastic story teller.

He made an impression on my brother and me. 

And it stuck.

Wil (my little bro) is now a chef in Stockholm and here I am in Berlin telling the food stories of this city to whoever wishes to listen.

In the early days of my food touring in Berlin, a compliment was paid to me in the form of my being a cross- between Shakira and Anthony Bourdain. There could be no higher praise in my book.

Learning that Anthony decided to die just over a week ago struck me to my core.

That this man of such magnificence, effervescence and a seeming lust for life, could be taken from us on account of his own choice, was hard to comprehend. 

Today, it seems unimaginable that we live in a world that he is no longer a part.

This may all seem very dramatic and hyperbolic, and perhaps it is. I didn't actually know Anthony, we weren't friends. But somehow, that doesn't seem to matter.

That was part of his magic you see. He told us his food stories as if talking to his peers, letting us into those secrets he uncovered. He took us along for the ride.

He was the friend berating me for going vegan, thrusting his unctuous osso buco into my face. Slurping the bloody flesh from his spicy Morcilla sausage provocatively. But I loved him anyway.

He educated us not only on the cuisine of those countries he visited, but what was happening politically. He often gave a voice to those who most needed it.

We could all relate to him. This slightly flawed, yet still impossibly brilliant character that had a past, but found his way to the top. He was, and remains an inspiration to any of us that feel our potential has not yet been reached. (Anthony was 44 when Kitchen Confidential was published.)

His shows welcomed us into his world and we were his friends- he was the best friend we never had.

Goodbye Anthony, thank you for everything. I hope you have found the peace you deserve. 

 

Positivity for the self-employed

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Welcome to the world of self-employment.

This is a place that can offer you many beautiful things.

The joy of being your own boss, the ability to not have to answer to anyone else, perhaps the chance to plan your own work schedule and to inject creativity into your working day.

However, there is another side to this shiny, detailed coin. This other side includes a constant struggle to self-motivate, sometimes overwhelming self-doubt and procrastination. Note to self- staying in bed/ watching Gilmore Girls or reruns of Rick Stein eating around the globe is not a productive use of your time. (Well Perhaps watching Rick Stein is, at least its food related!)

So how does the self-employed individual keep focused on all the fantastic things working for oneself can entail and not fall down the rabbit-hole of these latter- mentioned demons?

In a nutshell, it can be very, very hard. It seems to be a dilemma I personally encounter on a regular basis, with positivity flowing through many peaks and troughs.

Today I was thinking of a few things that definitely help me and thought it a good idea to share here.

Some of these tips may seem glaringly obvious, but the key is to truly stick to them and they may actually just help. If it isn’t obvious, this is really just an affirmation to myself in the hope that I may actually head the advice I give, but if it helps anyone else in the meantime? Then all the better. Its perhaps also a good challenge for me to try and stick to my tips below.

If you’re the type that already does all these things then get in touch and share your secret for commitment!

Good luck my self-employed friends!

Tip 1- Wake up, get up!

When you wake up and you don’t have to be somewhere at a certain time, it's quite hard to be proactive. So get out of bed, make it, get dressed and go make the coffee, green juice or whatever else you like to start your day with. Baby steps here but it makes a difference.

Tip 2- run, walk, fresh air, yoga- get blood flowing- when I go for a run it gives me that natural high and feeling I can do anything. If I don’t fit it in, my day is all the worse for it.

Tip 3- have a designated work space- the difference getting away from your 'bed' office is unreal. I have stuck to this all week for the first time ever. And the effect on my productivity and mindset holds no bounds. Complete revelation, no more work in Cosyville for me.

Tip 4- stick to a few goals at a time- if I was to show you my lists of goals and 'things to do' you would laugh out loud/ be horrified all at the same time. Stick to a few feasible goals each week and try to get them done. I guess also don’t beat yourself up if you don’t succeed. But having a million and one tasks at once can seem overwhelming and means you end up doing sweet fanny adams.

Tip 5- ask for help, socialize. Self- employment can be lonely. Call your Mum, speak to a friend. Get involved with community- based events. Here in Berlin there is Vostel which helps connect you with local based volunteering activities.

Tip 6- mix it up- one goal to another. Struggling with something? Then move onto the next goal for a bit, have variety to your day.

Tip 7- Get creative- drawing for me. Writing a blog or guitar for you- something you enjoy- its good for the soul.

Tip 8- keep work and play separate- my biggest downfall. I wake up checking my phone and go to sleep doing the same thing. My partner is forever telling me to stop this and he’s right. Put your phone on flight mode when it hits 8:30. And don’t start again until you’ve woken up, washed/ had coffee etc

Will I be able to do this? Answers on a postcard…

Tip 9- Don’t compare yourself to others. This will never bring you joy. Focus on yourself and what makes you tick, nobody else.

Tip 10- take a break. Sometimes getting away from it all, the area you live in- having a change of scenery helps to get the creative juices flowing. Hopefully this is part of one of the joys of being self- employed, the ability to schedule some time apart from what you do.

Anyway, I’m going to take a break now to watch a bit of Ricky Gervais’ Humanity- I mean it's just become available on Netflix…ok?

 

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Green Juice recipe in order to feel most self- righteous

3 celery sticks

1/2 cucumber

1 green apple

1 peeled lemon

big bunch of parsley

even bigger bunch of spinach/ kale etc

thumbsize piece of ginger

pinkie size of turmeric

Put it all through the juicer, (cucumber last to flush all the excess through) and enjoy. Drinking juice this green= immediate sense of self-righteousness and smugness.

 

 

 

 

Down by the river...

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As this moody mist descends upon Berlin, it is a refreshing change from the typical January blanket of anaemic cloud for as far as the eye can see.

The fog lends a romantic, atmospheric vibe to the city, a far more enjoyable version of the bleak winters day.

And while I am one of those weirdos that run willingly, even happily, in the cold and the rain, jogging through this fog acts as a very welcome setting. There is a certain dramatic edge and mystery when you can't see past 10 meters ahead of you. With the right music blasting from your headphones, you can be the hero of your own horror/action movie. The apocalypse is in your hands!

Those endorphins sure are a powerful drug...

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The 'Molecule Man', the colossal aluminium structure that overlooks this eastern section of the river Spree, slowly materialized on the horizon like otherworldly spectres. Were they friends or foe?

Going too far now?

Speaking of running, somehow and quite unexpectedly, over the last few years, it has become one of my great loves. At the moment, I am attempting to run every day in January as part of RED that is raising money for Mind, a mental health charity. This challenge struck a chord with me as my main incentive for running is for mental fitness rather than anything else. To donate click here.

Running in Berlin is a fairly dramatic experience whatever the weather. With ghosts of its tumultuous past scattered across its pancake flat plains, it makes for an impressive sightseeing tour. If you enjoy history, jogging and want to combine the two, click here to come run with me! Or email info@biteberlin.com for more details.

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Happy New Year!

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So Christmas has come and gone and the January blues are settling in. It can be difficult to maintain a positive mindset when you haven't seen the sun in what feels like eternity and the excitement of the festive season is over. 

But alas! We have much to be thankful for and to look forward to. The first buds of Spring, the days growing ever so slightly longer with each one that passes and new beginnings! The start of the new year is always a good time to revaluate what's going on in your life, set fresh goals & aspirations and to wipe the slate clean.

I have a bunch of things I have to get on with this year, admittedly many of which are left over resolutions from 2017, but don't let that hold you back.

A more steadfast commitment to blogging sits among my 2018 goals and in particular, including some of my go-to recipes I have concocted. 

So I thought I would kick off 2018 with a fresh and yummy salad I knocked up last week using some rather melancholy looking veggies all but forgotten in the depths of my in-laws fridge. The star of the show is my all-time favourite veg- Kale. 

I regard this wondrous superfood with an almost religious fervour since it has such a limited shelf life here in Germany. For the most part, we can only find it in stores between October and February, so this is the time to celebrate it and make the most of the time we have together.

The salad is super easy, super healthy and perfect for this time of year after all the indulgence and hours slaving over the stove.

Enjoy!

New Year Kale Salad- serves 2-4 depending on your appetite

Shopping list

  • Kale, a nice, healthy bunch to fill a salad bowl
  • 1 small butternut squash (pumpkin or sweet potato will work but butternut is my favourite)
  • tahini
  • lemon
  • pomegranate molasses
  • 1 medium beetroot, fresh and raw
  • 1 avocado
  • alfalfa sprouts (any fresh sprouted seeds or cress will do)
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • quinoa cooked to cooking instructions (freekeh/couscous would work too)
  • toasted & chopped almonds (walnuts/pine nuts would work too)

Method

  • Cut in half & de-seed your butternut squash. Chop into slices or cubs (as you wish) and pop into a baking tray. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika, cumin & salt. Roast in the oven at 200 degrees celsius for 25 mins or until golden and soft.
  • While this is happening, wash your tomatoes and chop into cubes including the seeds etc.
  • Peel the beetroot, cut in half and chop into cubes.
  • Clean your kale & roughly chop into bite size pieces if necessary (some come in bags pre-chopped) and pop it all into a large salad bowl. 
  • Drizzle roughly 1tbsp of olive oil over the kale, a little onto your hands and start massaging your kale. Yep that's right- massage your kale, every little bit of it and this will help encourage the sweetness within. I'm sure there is scientific explanation behind why this happens but just trust me :)
  • Once the kale is feeling chilled and zen after its rub down, throw in the chopped toms & beets.
  • Peel and de-stone your avocado and cut into cubes, douse with a little lemon juice and chuck this in with the other veg.
  • To make the dressing: in a bowl, pour in a liberal amount of tahini paste. Roughly 6 tbsp. Gradually add water, just a little at a time and mix until you have a smooth, creamy and pale consistency. At first it will appear that something has gone wrong and the tahini has curdled but have faith and keep on watering & mixing. You want it to be pourable but not too thin. Add the juice of 1 lemon. salt & pepper and a good drizzle of pomegranate molasses for sweetness. Roughly a tbsp of pomegranate but check the taste and adjust accordingly.
  • Add the cooked quinoa into the salad and mix.
  • Pour over enough of your dressing to comfortably coat each part of the salad , mix well.
  • Lastly add your roasted butternut squash, sprouts and toasted nuts, give it a quick stir and serve with any of the remaining dressing. I always like a little extra on the side to dip my squash in.

Frohes neues Jahr!

My New Years Day on colourful Brighton beach:

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A Berlin Christmas Gift Guide

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It's that time of year again!

The fresh scent of pine, glüh wein and sugared almonds perfume the air. The sharp, icy days nip at your cheeks. And the Sun disappears for its annual slumber... hmm...but don't despair...

The Weihnachtsmann is coming!

Well... that's as long as you've been good this year?!

Now, I have always liked to think myself a good present planner. I try to tap into peoples wants and desires and have the memory akin to an elephant. So this year I thought it a good idea to put together a festive little list to help others during this time of hectic christmas shopping, last minutes woes and 'one day left to go' desperation.

I'm basically one of Santa's little elves.

Christmas is after all, all about sharing, so here are some of my favourite (of course mostly food related!) Berlin gifts to help you plan your 2017 Christmas gifting.

Gifts are appropriate for Berlin locals and visitors alike. Not sponsered.

All suggestions are small, local businesses, so by following these tips you can feel very virtuous in the fact that you're supporting small businesses. Therefore it's kind of a present to you too. 

1. Stollen from Lindner. Christmas isn't Christmas without this sugary, buttery German classic. Will be found in every German home at this time of year.

2. 'Winter Light' tea from Paper & Tea. This gorgeous store sells wonderful tea blends and stunning stationary. Either would be a perfect Chrimbo gift.

3. 'Rhubarb & Mint jam' from Zeit für brot. Perfect for making toast a little more exciting.

4. Pralines & Truffles from Sawade. Scrumptious chocolates handmade by Sawade, Berlin since 1880. A delicious little piece of Berlin history.

5. Classes at Ceramic Kingdom. Learn how to make your own bowls and mugs here! I had the most fun and am now the owner of some very 'unique' pieces shall we say! Variety of courses available. One off daytime events also possible so could be part of a special Berlin stay!

6. Spices from the Turkish Market. A little bundle of vibrant spices for the avid cook would make a lovely present and at the Maybachufer Turkish Market you can find spices in abundance and for great prices. Perhaps team these with an interesting wooden spoon/ chopping board that can also be found at this market.

7. Candles at Oblique. Who needs Jo Malone (now part of the hellhole that is LOreale) when you can support such a beautiful, local brand. Candles to die for. 

8. Gift Voucher for Goldhahn & Sampson. The foodie's dream pressie. Can be used for goodies including food items, kitchen utensils or cookbooks. Or even for one of the regular cookery classes that are available. Check website for details.

9. Crazy Bastard Sauce. A gift for those that like to eat alllll the scovilles, or at least say they can. This sauce will put them to the test. Details for buying online and Berlin stockists available on the website.

10. Bite Berlin food tour Gift Vouchers...ahem...Gift vouchers are always a great idea. Pretty effortless for you but all of the enjoyment for the receiver. BUY YOURS NOW :-)

11. Bonanza Coffee. Truly special coffee perfect for the Coffee fiends we know. Perhaps head to Mauer Park and find yourself a vintage coffee bean grinder and this would be some gift!

12. Our/Berlin vodka for the boozers amongst us. Perhaps find a Spreewalder Gurke in a can (local pickle) to accompany it and you have a pretty cute gift!

13. Aventyr Not so much a specific gift idea as a wonderful little spot where you can find truly unique pieces from all over the world. Homeware to underwear. For all ages & preferences.

14. Bite Berlin tote bag anyone? Number 13- lucky for some! I drew the Frenchie!!! <3 #shamelessselfpromo Contact me at info@biteberlin.com to purchase.

15. Berlin Museum Passes for one of the cultured souls you know. Either the annual one for someone that lives in Berlin or day passes for those just visiting. 

16. Christmas cookies at the Markthalle9 Christmas market or if you aren't here during the advent weekends, then head to the Kadewe food hall where you'll find food heaven on earth.

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

World Hummus Day

Hummus.

I could happily eat hummus everyday. That creamy chickpea nectar is not only good for your health, it's good for your soul.

Well, my soul at least.

You know that question that people ask, usually in magazine interviews, a question that I find sometimes keeping me up at night, racking my brains- 'what would your last supper be?' That death row meal. I think mine actually might be the glorious hummus, teamed with its great friends: fresh bread, pickles and fiery white onion that I inevitably regret munching later on.

Perhaps it was in fact hummus that Jesus and his disciples dined on during the principal Last Supper, its origins are found in that part of the world after all.

First recordings of hummus were discovered in cookbooks from the 13th Century in Cairo and it is a significant part of cuisine across the Levantine world. 'Hummus' means literally chickpeas in Arabic.

It is a dish that has been enjoyed by ancient rulers and despots, spanning a milennia, so you know it has to be good and deserves respect.

Upon my nerdy food googling this morning, I learnt that tomorrow (May 13th) is World Hummus Day!

So it is only right that we celebrate this wondrous and ancient dish and with this post I share with you all my favourite spots to enjoy it in Berlin tomorrow.

Akroum

Though not found on the menu above the counter, their hummus is delicious and fresh. Just ask for hummus 'gemahlen' (ground).

Azzam

Just opposite Akroum on Sonnenallee, you'll find the famous Azzam. Busy and sometimes a little hectic, their hummus always hits the spot. I like to have it with the spicy potatoes.

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Sababa

Gorgeous Israeli dishes, their hummus with aubergine is always a triumph.

€€

,Zula

Another Israeli restaurant, the hummus with mushrooms is my go to, but they have a variety of toppings to join their super creamy hummus.

€€

Kanaan

A perfect place to go in the Summer with their funky outdoor space in Prenzlauer Berg. A Palestinian and Israeli run restaurant, which just touches the soul. As well as the hummus, the Sabich with a Yemenite pastry is fantastic.

€€

Brunch at Refugio

This cafe is part of a Sharehouse for refugees and homeless in Neukölln. The cafe is run by volunteers and offers a weekend brunch with Levantine fare. The hummus is beautiful. Citrusy fresh, it will brighten up your heavy head on a Sunday.

 

Rhubarb season means Rhubarb Hummus

This is a crazy little hummus recipe I came up with some two years ago, as rhubarb began to decorate the supermarket shelves and we realised Spring had finally sprung.

It was then chosen for one of the Telegraph's rhubarb reader recipes and I cannot describe the excitement I felt. My name on the Telegraph website was one of my proudest moments.

Then just two days ago a friend notified me to the fact it had been featured again in the latest Telegraph article on the Hummus crisis back home in the UK.

So as I sit here, glowing in the fact that I am now a seasoned cookery writer, (I mean I'm basically Nigella, right?), I thought I would share this recipe that has come to mean so much to me. Plus rhubarb has returned to us, so its perfect timing.

The idea for this slightly unusual hummus popped into my head one day on considering the similarities between rhubarb and the vibrant spice Sumac. I find both flavours tart with citrus notes and since I love to add a little sumac to my regular hummus, I decided to give a rhubarb version a try- and it's great! The addition of roasted rhubarb gives the humble, earthy chickpea dish a tangy undertone that is delicious. I served it simply with fresh vegetable crudités but it would work equally well with flat bread or perhaps as a side with some taboulleh.

Enjoy!

3 sticks of rhubarb

Large can of chickpeas (800g or 2x 400g)

Rapeseed oil 1 tbsp

paprika 1/2 tsp

sumac 1/2 tsp

cumin 1tsp

coriander 1 tsp

salt to taste
lemon to taste
1/2 orange or satsuma
tahini
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped


To start, chop and trim your rhubarb into 1 inch pieces, removing any stringy fibre as you go.

Throw the rhubarb into a baking tray and drizzle over the rapeseed oil, spices, a little salt and squeeze over the juice of the orange half. Mix with a wooden spoon so that the rhubarb is evenly coated.

Pop in the oven at about 200 degrees Celsius and roast until soft, this will take roughly 15/20 minutes.

While this is happening pour your chickpeas into a saucepan, liquid and all, along with the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil and then a low simmer until the garlic has softened. (I find this makes the garlic mellower).

Drain most of the chickpea liquid away into a small bowl as you may wont re-incorporate some liquid when you get blending later.

Once your rhubarb is softened remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, reserving a couple of pieces to garnish. Now tumble the rhubarb into the pan with the drained chickpeas and garlic. Drizzle in about 1/2 tbsp of tahini, (you can adjust this to your preference, adjusting my hummus can become almost obsessive!), add your lemon, a little sprinkle of cumin, sumac and also the juices from the pan the rhubarb was cooked in.

With a hand blender/ processor etc blend until you have the consistency that pleases you. I prefer something creamy but with still a little body to it.

Adjust the flavours to your liking- perhaps more salt or lemon or even some more of the spices.

To finish, spoon the hummus into a serving bowl and drizzle with a little more of the cooking juices, some olive oil, sumac and serve with crudités.