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






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.

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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!



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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