food

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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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!

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!

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                 

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.  

Tales of pickles and 'Ostalgie'

On the day to commemorate 25 years of German reunification, it seems only right to recognise the beloved Spreewälder Gurken (Spreewald pickles) and the concept of Ostalgie. For this little gherkin, represents a wealth of German history and political, even emotional conflict. He is more than just a pickle and encapsulates the essence of Ostalgie, the longing or nostalgia for the East German regime, the GDR.

Ask today's Berliner how they feel about the German reunification and of course, the majority are relieved and positive about the end of the GDR (and their country becoming whole again). However, there are some who lament the loss of the communist era and with it, the social system and the feeling of being part of a community.

This longing, affectionately termed 'ostalgie', a play on the words 'ost' meaning east and 'nostalgie' meaning nostalgia, encompasses the sentiment felt by some East germans that it was better in the days of the GDR. 'Die Mauer im Kopf' (wall in the mind) represents the divide, east from west, that continues to be felt by some. The remains of the Berlin wall may have been swept away, but it could take another generation for its effects to be fully forgotten. 

Walking around Neukölln, where I live, the difficult past of this city can be so easily forgotten, but enter Mitte or walk by Ostbahnhof and the remnants can be seen. Walk along Bernauerstraße on your way to Mauer Park, pass the Eastside gallery on your way to Berghain, Berlin's struggle is tangible, though it may now be brightly coloured. 

The Spreewald pickle, hailing from the damp, swampy forests of the Spreewald region just outside of Berlin, are one of the last remaining 'Ostprodukte' (Eastern products) to survive the fall of the wall. Flavoured either with dill, mustard seed or spices, they help satiate this nostalgia and represent a little win over the dominant West.

A popular delicacy in Berlin for centuries, stemming back to the 1740s when Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, brought both potatoes and cucumbers to Germany. He was a good man- I have no idea what Berliners would do without potatoes and pickles!

Other OstProdukte that can still be found in today's German supermarkets are Rotkäppchen, Vita cola and Berliner Pilsner. Rotkäppchen sekt (sparkling wine) is still very much the favoured Berliner bubbles of choice. A few days ago, in my local Späti, (corner shop), a lady was forced to buy a bottle of Mumm as the Rotkäppchen was sold out and this clearly pained her no end. Rotkäppchen actually now owns Mumm, but she wasn't to know.

If your interest has been piqued, go to Ostpaket in Mitte here in Berlin, which is an Ostalgie paradise. 

The authentic way to enjoy this juicy, fruity little Spreewälder pickle is with a hunk of good German bread and a lick of schmalz (dripping). If, like me, dripping gives you the fear, then you can find veggie options as shown in the photo. 

Enjoy with a nice Berliner Pilsner or a glass of Rotkäppchen and raise your glass to the German Reunification.

Prost!



Berlin restaurant inspiration- Dr.To's

I love to cook. Cooking is always a very creative process for me, it feels akin to painting or singing. Often in my kitchen cooking and singing go hand in hand, its quite a spectacle, 'Don't cry for me Argentina' anyone?

Anyway, I take a great deal of inspiration from many of the dishes I have tried while eating out in restaurants in Berlin. Ranging from Palestinian food to Pan-Asian to traditional German and with the truly delicious ones, I attempt to recreate at home.

So I'm happy to introduce these restaurant inspired recipes and my take on some of my favourite dishes I've discovered from Berlin's eclectic food scene. Berlin, like other capitals, is a melting pot of vibrant cultures and this is reflected in the diverse choices when it comes to food and therefore eating out has truly enhanced my own kitchen.

Let me begin with this dish of udon noodles with tomatoes, aubergine and tofu. This was born out of sheer admiration for the exquisite tomato, aubergine and coriander salad at the insurmountable Dr. To's.

The Original. Dr.To's tomato, aubergine and coriander salad

The Original. Dr.To's tomato, aubergine and coriander salad

Dr. To's is an all time favourite of mine and somewhere I always take anyone that comes to visit. They offer Pan-Asian tapas and this little salad is a show stopper. So simple but so good.

Now let me just say, I do not profess to be cooking in accordance to how Dr.To's prepare their salad. I have taken the delicate flavours that I tasted and created this udon noodle treat. Adding these ingredients makes it a meal in itself and it is a warm dish rather than a cold salad. Udon noodles and tofu are usual contenders for my Dr. To's menu picking, so it seemed an appropriate ensemble. This recipe is my interpretation and attempt to honour the dish I enjoy so much there.

And if I do say so myself, it's great. One of my go to weeknight suppers. Deliciously fragrant, healthy and satisfying. Enjoy!

Shopping list:

Serves 4

5 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 aubergine, cut into large chunks
600g of Udon noodles
200g firm tofu
bunch of coriander, roughly chopped, stalks and all
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
soy sauce
2 inches of ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp of good quality vinegar

Add olive oil to a large pan and cook the aubergine for 5 minutes on all sides. Liberally add soy sauce and cook for a further few minutes and then add the vinegar. Cook until evaporated off.

Now add the tomatoes, coriander stalks and ginger and cook until softened.

Add the sliced onions and stir until they are warmed through, you still want a nice crunchy freshness to them.

Now add the udon noodles, and with your hands, crumble up the tofu and stir into the vegetables and heat through.

Finish off with some more soy sauce and a large handful of roughly chopped coriander and serve.

And don't forget to try the original at Dr.To's!

Dr.To's, Weichselstraße 54, 12045 Berlin