A bite of...

Culinary Delights from Around the Globe

I want to share my passion for food, but especially for the ingredients and the people behind them who prepare them.
The blog not only deals with foodporn but also with various and conflicting topics around food and food production.
The joy of culinary delights should be in the foreground, but without being insubstantial. I would like to incorporate my scientific expertise as a food chemist and my humanistic education to draw and create an organically coherent overall image of food in this blog.



Blog Posts:


Plov, Pilaw, Pilaf, Pilav, Palau oder Pilau?

Das ist Kabuli Palau, ein afghanisches Reisgericht mit Lamm, Rosinen und Möhren, welches durch die Gewürzkombination aus Garam Masala, Kardamom und gemahlenen Koriander einen einzigartigen Geschmack erhält.
Das ist Kabuli Palau, ein afghanisches Reisgericht mit Lamm, Rosinen und Möhren, welches durch die Gewürzkombination aus Garam Masala, Kardamom und gemahlenen Koriander einen einzigartigen Geschmack erhält.

Ein Gericht, das viele Namen trägt und dennoch eines gemeinsam hat: seinen Ursprung in den Gebieten des Orients.

Gemeint ist, ein Reisgericht, oftmals mit Zwiebeln und Fleisch. Das klingt für manche Lesende so wie Biryani? Da liegt ihr nicht ganz falsch, jedoch mit einem essentiellen Unterschied, denn beim Biryani wird der Reis vor dem Kochen zunächst angebraten. Dies resultiert, anders als beim Plov, in einem etwas nussigerem, popcorn-ähnlichen Reisaroma beim Biryani.

Grundsätzlich gilt für die Zubereitung von Plov, dass Reis in etwa mit der doppelten Menge Brühe aufgekocht wird und anschließend im abgedeckten Topf gedämpft wird. Je nach Zubereitungsart kommen weitere Zutaten, wie Lamm- oder Rindfleisch, Fisch, Gemüsse, Nüsse oder Trockenobst während des Kochvorgangs oder beim Servieren hinzu. 

 


Geschichte, Verbreitung und Bedeutung

Usbekischer Plov mit Pferdefleisch, Karotten, Zwiebeln und Lammfettstücken. Zubereitet wurde das Essen von einer Bauernfamilie, nahe der kirgisischen Grenze, bei denen ich für ein paar Tage übernachtete.
Usbekischer Plov mit Pferdefleisch, Karotten, Zwiebeln und Lammfettstücken. Zubereitet wurde das Essen von einer Bauernfamilie, nahe der kirgisischen Grenze, bei denen ich für ein paar Tage übernachtete.

Das Wort Plov, Pilau und Palau etc., geht ursprünglich auf ein Wort zurück, auf das persische پلو / polow, auch pollo - "Reis".

Wahrscheinlich handelt is sich aber auch um eine sprachliche Übernahme aus Indien, wobei die Kochtechnik selbst erst mit der muslimischen Eroberung nach Indien kam. Die älteste bekannte Erwähnungen der Pilaw-Technik finden sich in arabischen Büchern aus dem 13. Jahrhundert, welche in Bagdad und dem heutigen Syrien geschrieben wurden. Dort sind Zutaten wie Fleisch, Hülsenfrüchte (z.B. Kichererbsen) und Früchte aufgeführt. Als nachweislich ältestes Rezept gilt das oben gezeigte Kabuli Pulau (qabuli pulaw), das ursprünglich nur mit Fleisch und Kichererbsen, heute meistens auch mit Mandeln und Rosinen gegnossen wird.

Das Gericht gilt übrigens heute als Nationalspeise von Afghanistan.

Das Reisgericht ist in vielen Ländern verbreitet und hat daher verschiedene Schreibvarianten bzw. Bezeichnungen in den unterschiedlichsten Sprachen. So findet es sich in nahezu allen Ländern des ehemaligen Persiens, der osmanischen Reichsgebiete und dem heutigen Zentralasien - mit einer entsprechenden Vielfalt des Namens bzw. der Schreibweise.

  • usbekisch: Palov/Osh
  • kirgisisch: Paloo
  • albanisch: Pilaf
  • armenisch: Pilav
  • aserbaidschanisch: Plov
  • bosnisch: Pilav
  • griechisch: Pilafi
  • persisch: Polow, Pollo
  • rumänisch: Pilaf
  • russisch: Plow
  • serbisch: Pilav
  • türkisch: Pilav

Nach Europa kam der Plov wahrscheinlich durch die Osmanen, durch ihre Eroberungszüge im 16. bis 19. Jahrhundert.

 


Meine Erfahrungen mit Pilaw, oder Plov, oder wie auch immer, stammen vor allem von meinen Reisen nach Zentralasien, wie Usbekistan und Kasachstan, aber auch in die heutige Türkei und Albanien.

Was besonders spannend daran ist, wie dieses scheinbar so simple Gericht, so eine starke Bedeutung für die Bevölkerung hat. Fragt man einen Taxifahrer (ja, hier maskulin, da es wirklich bis dato nur Männer waren), wo man guten Plov essen könne, erhellt meist ein breites Grinsen ihr Gesicht und sie erzählen begeistert von ihrem Lieblingslokal, wo es den besten Plov der Welt gibt. Den besten Plov, abgesehen natürlich dem ihrer Ehefrauen und Mütter.

So zeigen sich feine regionale Unterschied. Wird im Norden Usbekistans und in Kasachstan oftmals Pferdefleisch und Pferdewurst verwendet, so finden sich im Plov entlang der ehemaligen Seidenstraße meistens Rindfleisch, selten Hähnchenfleisch, und dafür häufig Rosinen, getrocknete Aprikosen und Mandeln.

Eine Besonderheit stellte der Plov in Bukhara, Usbekistan, dar. Dieser wurde anstatt mit tierischem Fett, zusätzlich auch noch mit übermäßig viel Leinsamenöl gekocht. Die Folge: das Öl oxidiert während dem Kochen, polymerisiert eventuell sogar leicht, was zu einer leicht dickflüssigen Ölmasse führt, die die Reiskörner nicht nur schön dunkel schimmern lässt, sondern gleichsam auch mit einander bindet. Die Folge ist ein herrlich herzhaftes, leicht harzig-nussiges Aroma, das ich so nirgendwo sonst gefunden habe.

 

In vielen Ländern des ehemaligen Persiens und Zentralasiens ist Plov eine Hauptmahlzeit, wohingegen er sich in den Gebieten des ehemaligen osmanischen Reichs, der heutigen Türkei und des Balkans, zu einer wertgeschätzten Beilage entwickelt hat, die meist weniger gehaltvoll, dafür etwas tomatiger und fruchtiger schmeckt.

 

Das Gericht klingt so simpel, und so mag man sich fragen, was denn nun das Besondere daran ist? Es ist die kulturelle Verankerung in der Gesellschaft, das Leuchten in den Augen der Menschen wenn sie davon erzählen, der herrlich lockere und fluffige Reis, in Kombination mit würzigen, oftmals leicht fettigen Stücken Fleisch - sei es nun Rind- oder das sehr faserige und aromatische Pferdefleisch. Was den Pilaw so besonders macht, sind die Vielfalt der Zutaten und damit die unzähligen Variationen: mit Rosinen, mit Aprikosen, mit Mandeln, Kreuzkümmel und so vielem mehr.

Hier in Deutschland fehlt mir dieses reichhaltige und gleichsam bodenständige Essen manchmal - und dann denke ich zurück an das Pamirgebirge, an einen Bauernhof in Kasachstan, an den Taxifahrer in Bukhara, an den Wirt in Berat in Albanien und an all die lieben Menschen und ihre Liebe zu diesem wunderbaren Gericht.

 

Sara


Plov in Tashkent, Usbekistan. Mit Kichererbsen, Rindfleisch, gelben Möhren, orangen Möhren, reichlich zwiebeln und dunklen Rosinen. Für umgerechnet etwa 1.5 € gekostet und es macht nahezu zwei Personen satt. Genoss im Schatten der großen Maulbeerbäume.
Plov in Tashkent, Usbekistan. Mit Kichererbsen, Rindfleisch, gelben Möhren, orangen Möhren, reichlich zwiebeln und dunklen Rosinen. Für umgerechnet etwa 1.5 € gekostet und es macht nahezu zwei Personen satt. Genoss im Schatten der großen Maulbeerbäume.
Bukhara, Usbekistan: der Plov besticht durch seinen Glanz und das dunkle, aromatische Leinsamenöl des Tellers. Zubereitet wurde er mit Kichererbsen, dunklen Rosinen, reichlich Möhren und fettiger Rinderbrust. Was für eine Geschmacksexplosion!
Bukhara, Usbekistan: der Plov besticht durch seinen Glanz und das dunkle, aromatische Leinsamenöl des Tellers. Zubereitet wurde er mit Kichererbsen, dunklen Rosinen, reichlich Möhren und fettiger Rinderbrust. Was für eine Geschmacksexplosion!
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Leo Fong, a Canadian traveling the world

Leonard Fong, professional photographer and globetrotter, enjoys a coffee during a flood in Venice.
Leonard Fong, professional photographer and globetrotter, enjoys a coffee during a flood in Venice.

Sara: We first met in Myanmar, which was 2017, right? Do you remember how we met?
Leonard: Yes, I remember, we met the Hostel in Yangon. It was during Songkran. (Water festival)

Sara: You travel around the world a lot. How is it for you to get to know new people, countries, and cultures again and again?
Leonard: Talking to locals and other travels come easy, all you have do is open up and talking to them. I know that's not a common thing to do in Germany, but it works. Currently, I've traveled to 113 countries and deputed territories. In my experience, the poorest countries are some of the friendliest. Everybody wants to be recognized and treated equally. Opening your mind and trying to understand is the key. You may agree or disagree but knowledge, understanding, cultures, and people, sharing views is the best way to get along.

Sara: What is your profession?
Leonard: I'm a photographer; I use to work in fashion but later started to shoot Travel.

Sara: You take beautiful photos of your travels. What is your favorite motive? Excluded cats this time!
Leonard: Thank you, my motive is to share what I've seen and show how beautiful different places and cultures are.

Sara: You grew up in Canada. How was your childhood there?
Leonard: Growing up in Canada shaped who I am today. Some people say Canada is a new country, and it has no culture, but In my opinion, it has the best culture in the world. It has the world's culture in one. In high school, my friends where Canadian but their ethnic origins are from everywhere. My friends did not care.

Sara: What was your favorite food as a child?
Leonard: My favorite food growing up was Chinese (Dim sum) Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Romanian, Persian, and Caribbean.

Sara: And what dishes do you miss on your travels or what do you long for when you are far away?
Leonard: When I travel what I miss most is good ethnic food diversity.
Japanese (Soba, Raman, Sushi, izakaya, tonkatsu), Vietnamese (Pho, vermicelli bowls, Thai (Papaya salad, anything with Thai basil, Thai omelet with rice), Italian, (fresh Pasta, NYC Pizza.), Caribbean, Jerk chicken, Trini Roti, and Doubles). Chinese (Dim sum, pretty much all dumplings). I love (Polish/ Ukraine perogies).

Sara: How do you think the food of your childhood and youth influenced you, how you eat today, and which preferences do you have?
Leonard: Omg, having access to great authentic food from around the world at your doorstep! I get so bored eating the same thing every day. I have a lot of friends who just eat anything brown, meat and potatoes, chicken fingers, french fries; no sauce on anything! I'm so glad growing up with so many good options.

Sara: To put it bluntly: what is your favorite food?
Leonard: In order, I would say my favorite Asian, Italian, and the Caribbean.
If someone asked me if I can only eat one type of food for the rest of my life? Without hesitation, I would say Japanese. Most people think Japanese is just sushi and ramen; it's a lot more than most think.


My personal vivid memories with Leo: having dinner at the side of the street, somewhere in Yangon, Myanmar. 2017
My personal vivid memories with Leo: having dinner at the side of the street, somewhere in Yangon, Myanmar. 2017

About Leonard Fong:

 

Leonard Fong has spent much of the past decade photographing and trekking through more than 108 countries on all 7 continents. He is a professional photographer. His portfolio displays a vast array of captivating portraits, exotic landscapes and intimate looks into cultures. During his time in NYC,  He has assisted photographers Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, Sebastian Kim. Leonard currently is working remotely. 

 

Instagram / www.leonardfong.com


Leo's shot of Kaindy Lake in Kazakhstan inspired me to go there myself. I am so grateful, as it was one of my best trips!
Leo's shot of Kaindy Lake in Kazakhstan inspired me to go there myself. I am so grateful, as it was one of my best trips!

Sara: Do you cook yourself? Does that even go on journeys?
Leonard: When I had a "home" NYC, I use to cook maybe 3 times a week. Does making granola for breakfast count for cooking?

Sara: Haha, for sure. Mixing ingredients somehow count for cooking already. Hence, maybe not the most skillful one.
Leonard (goes on): I use to work on set we always had breakfast and lunch catered to us.

Sara: Do you sometimes long for a conventional home and a fixed center of life?
Leonard: You mean living in the suburbs and having kids working a 9-5? Not at all!

Sara: What would you say about me, if you had to describe me?
Leonard: Is this really a question, or are you fishing for compliments?


Sara: Well, well, well... let's skip that. Where can someone follow your travels and beautiful photographs?
Leonard: I guess on Instagram @Lfong, I'm planning on updating my website this year.

Sara: Thanks for sharing insights into your life. I'd love to meet you again, someday, anywhere out there, around the globe. I wish you safe travels, and always good food!


Some impressions of Leo's work:


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Bavarian Food from a US-American's perspective

Author: Brian Siedenburg, MSc Nutritional Biochemistry and Biomedicine


Food and wine are best to be enjoyed with family and friends.
Food and wine are best to be enjoyed with family and friends.

Food. What first pops into your head when you hear that word? Your favorite comfort food that your mom used to make you. A recent incredible restaurant dining experience you had. Or the joy and community you feel when family and friends gather in your home for a home-cooked meal and a glass (or 5) of wine. Regardless, it’s clear that food, whether directly through consumption, or indirectly by bringing people together, brings joy. 

 

    I’m Brian Siedenburg, a nutritional consultant and personal chef that helps people reverse their chronic conditions or maximize their performance through the food they put in their body, through guidance and/or personal preparation of food. My love for cooking was born from two older roommates I lived within my early 20’s. They’d always cook these fantastic dishes and talk about food like it was sacred. It was the first time I caught the bug to transform single ingredients synergistically into amazing creations. One of my favorite things to make has to be sushi; just because of how creative you can be with it. I like to go way out of the box when it comes to sushi. Some may say this is a bastardization, but I like to look at it as evolution. Breakfast sushi, for example; bacon, eggs, a thin slice of baked ham and sautéed onions and garlic. Or a beef carpaccio roll – thinly sliced rare beef with capers, olive oil, fresh parsley, parmesan cheese, and a slice of cucumber for added crunch and texture. 

One liter of Bavarian beer, referred as "one Mass" in Bavarian dialect.
One liter of Bavarian beer, referred as "one Mass" in Bavarian dialect.

I first met Sara a few months after I had moved to Bavaria in late 2016. I knew we’d be friends when we’d only had one or two conversations, and she invited me to see one of my favorite bands, unbeknownst to her. A beautiful night of wine, fantastic music and my first party experience in Munich ensued. The love of food and exploration of different culinary delights was another thing we had in common. 

 

    Having lived in Germany for 2.5 years, I had the pleasure of traveling all over Europe, which means different cultures, which means different foods. Now, through modern technology (internet, television), we can type in a few words and get recipes from any culture. Immigration throughout the past 100 years also allows us to experience authentic ethnic food from other cultures. But the minute you leave that restaurant, you walk back into familiarity and fall back into the groove of habit. However, the culinary experience is vastly different when one immerses themselves in the culture where the food originates. You get to live their culture; you see the people, how they act, and how they were raised. You see the geography of what foods grow locally, their local wild game meat, and how they raise their livestock. Through observation of what’s grown locally and the collective cultural personality, you can really observe just how the staple dishes materialized over the years. When you’re sitting in Florence, and an Italian proudly serves you a Bistecca de Florentine and pasta with wild boar sauce, the experience can’t begin to compare to cooking it yourself or even having it at a restaurant. 


About Brian Siedenburg:

Founder of Siedenburg Culinary Nutrition and Consulting. He empowers and guides individuals to bring themselves out of chronic ailments and disease through nutrition and lifestyle intervention. He also helps people achieve their best bodies and maximize their athletic performance with nutrition: Disease prevention and mitigation, Aesthetics, body composition, strength and endurance performance; Pre and post-natal nutrition; Child nutrition

Instagram / Facebook


Schweinshaxe, a Bavarian-styled roasted pork knuckle.
Schweinshaxe, a Bavarian-styled roasted pork knuckle.

Now, I’m a heavy meat eater, which was a huge benefit when living in Germany. Some form of meat is the star of almost every single dish. Although the vegetarian/vegan movement is making its way there, the ancestral cuisine is a combination of meat, fermented cabbage (sauerkraut), potatoes in various form, and/or bread. My favorite dishes ended up being Krustenbraten; a cut of pork with the skin left on that is roasted and subsequently broiled for the top skin to be crispy. And Schweinehaxe; an enormous cut of pork knuckle that gives the meat surrounding the bone an extreme amount of flavor and tenderness. I miss lots of things. I miss Krustenbraten. I miss the slow, relaxed pace and environment of dining. And although the food itself was quite delicious and many dishes unlike anything I’d had in the states, the thing that I miss most is both the price and quality of ingredients. 

 

    After living in that culture, you can clearly see why there’s an extreme obesity epidemic in America. Thanks to being a small country (relative to the united states) with excellent agricultural resources, Germany is able to grow much of their own produce, and when they do import, most food does not have to travel far. Walking through a grocery market in America, you see 4 oz (112g) of spinach for $3-4, red or orange bell peppers for $2 a for a single pepper, while things like breakfast cereal and other refined foods are dirt cheap. In Germany, you can get over a pound (500g) of spinach for $1.75, and other vegetables follow suit with similarly low prices with even higher quality. I think the only things equal in price were avocados, understandably. Walking through a cereal aisle; most of the cereals are imported from America, so they’re quite expensive, a deterrent for purchase. I very much miss being able to walk out with several days’ worth of vegetables and meat for ~20 euro (and I eat a lot), where it would have cost around $45 in the US. Okay, rant/tangent done.

 

Fresh ingredients are quite cheap in Germany, compared to the US.
Fresh ingredients are quite cheap in Germany, compared to the US.

 I have to say that Germany and Europe, in general, has the US beat by a long shot when it comes to food culture. If we were only talking about types and tastes of cuisines, the US would be the winner given that you can find delicious, authentic food from every single culture. But that’s not the whole picture when it comes to food culture. The pace of dining out, the respect for food, the fact that food is an opportunity to gather and share stories and joy, and the overall attitude towards food, in general, all plays into the culture of food. Sadly, the stereotypical picture of the American eating a microwaved dinner in a plastic tray in front of the television is more accurate than I wish and illustrates just how far the US has fallen when it comes to food culture (this is why I’ll always have a job).

 

    But all is not lost with the US when it comes to food. Where it lacks in the food culture of everyday American life, it makes up for with some of its incredible and innovative dining experiences. A straightforward example would be Café ArtScience outside of MIT in Boston. To make cocktails, they use centrifuges, time-released flavored ice cubes, Bunsen burners to char garnishes, and other lab-like methods. This may sound gimmicky or kitschy, but one visit to the bar will show you why it’s lasted. Or SkyGarten in Philly (which I know Germans might appreciate…Or make fun of). It’s a full, outdoor Biergarten on the 51st floor of a skyscraper, complete with German-accented communal wooden tables. 

 

    Both places have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to food. Food culture, quality, and ingredient price are vastly superior to the US. Food ingredient availability, the number of eclectic cuisines available in a given city, and innovation in cuisine are all things the US has on Germany. As to which I prefer? Well, you’ll just have to guess. 


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Italian Food: Mugello Region

I just drove along the country road and discovered this motive: An old Fiat 500 in front of an old country house. This moment opened my heart and wanted me indulge in la dolce vita.
I just drove along the country road and discovered this motive: An old Fiat 500 in front of an old country house. This moment opened my heart and wanted me indulge in la dolce vita.

Italy has a deep place in my heart. 

 

Since I can remember, my family and I went to Italy during the holidays. Sometimes even twice a year. A reason is for sure that my dad loves Italian cuisine, wine, the beautiful landscape & the culture. As he also works for an Italian company and speaks Italian - so traveling to Italy was evident.

 

Be that as it may, since I was little I have had many rich emotional memories connected to Italy. Sun, the scent of pine forests, the sound of the sea, pizza, pasta.  When I think of Italy, I think of sun, tomatoes, mozzarella and refreshing cold white wines. 

I think of a food that lives from its ingredients. A kitchen that succeeds or fails depending on the quality and aroma of the food. A very down-to-earth cuisine that has its roots in poorer times. Pizza, for example, was used to be a leftover meal in which the leftovers were rearranged. Nowadays, pizza is a worldwide enjoyed and loved culinary delight.

Due to the unique climate, the love of the Italians for food, and the millennia-old culture, an excellent eating culture has developed in this charming country. This food culture is so diverse - each region has different specialties and approaches to traditional recipes such as pasta with meat sauce (al ragù) or previously mentioned pizzas. 



Tortelli di Patate. A local speciality: pasta filled with a creamy paste made of potatoes and Parmesan cheese.
Tortelli di Patate. A local speciality: pasta filled with a creamy paste made of potatoes and Parmesan cheese.

In this article, I would like to focus on a region that is hardly known and often underestimated, because it is part of the most famous Tuscany. I am talking about the Mugello region, which is located in the north of Tuscany and borders on Emilia Romagna. To the geographical clarification: Mugello and Alto-Mugello can be found somewhere between Florence and Bologna. 

Officially, the Mugello still belongs to Tuscany but has developed quite a variety of dishes. 

Its cuisine is much more influenced by the earthy aromas. People there often cook wild boar, gamey meat, lots of mushrooms, truffles, potatoes, and cereal products. Entirely different from southern Tuscany, where there is a much stronger focus on seafood and fresh fish. 

 

The Tortelli di patate Mugello, for example, is a delicate delight and unique for that area of Italy. The tortelli are rectangular shaped and filled pasta, stuffed with a wonderfully mild, creamy mousse of aromatic potatoes. Freshly grated parmesan is added to the potato cream. The tortelli are boiled briefly so that they still have a bite (al dente) and served with warm, liquid butter. The butter is often lightly flavored with garlic and sage. Before serving, fresh parmesan cheese is added to the tortelli. A heavenly dish. So simple. So aromatic. The cuisine lives on its three main ingredients: potatoes, cheese, and butter.  



The moment, before digging into this culinary delight: Pizza bianca con porcini. Pizza with local, fresh mushrooms. So cheesy and aromatic.
The moment, before digging into this culinary delight: Pizza bianca con porcini. Pizza with local, fresh mushrooms. So cheesy and aromatic.

Another great dish is the Pizza bianca con porcini. The pizza dough is not quite as thin as in the Neapolitan pizza, but also has a nice toughness and a wide rim that is nicely fluffy and fine-pored. It is essential that the pizza comes from the wood stove. This gives it this unique aroma, the extraordinary tough and juicy texture of the dough. Besides, the high heat of the wood fire creates these beautiful little black spots on the top of the pizza — these aromatic, roasted bubbles, which I particularly love.

The pizza is called bianca, which is white in Italian because there is no tomato sauce on the bottom, but pecorino and mozzarella di bufala.

On it comes fresh porcini mushroom from the surrounding soft forests of the Mugello. So much taste, thanks to the soft, rich and moist forest soils of the region.

The pizza is perfect with a dash of local olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a little pepper.

 

It goes well with a glass of heavy, full-bodied Chianti, with a note of wild berries. Those who like it easier can also try the Riesling of the region. It has beautiful notes of apple and pear due to its location. This taste of sweet, ripe stone fruit goes so well with the heavy cheese and the earthy mushrooms on the pizza.

 



Dinner with my host. Grilled chicken, crispy ciabatta, salumi, locally farmed olives and tomatoes. What a dinner. Simple and delicious.
Dinner with my host. Grilled chicken, crispy ciabatta, salumi, locally farmed olives and tomatoes. What a dinner. Simple and delicious.

Of course, you don't only have to eat in restaurants. The nice thing about Italy is that the supermarkets have such excellent ingredients. That's why, of course, I went to all kinds of supermarkets and bought some food there. Since I was in an AirBnB during my penultimate stay when the pictures were taken, I was even able to cook properly. Nevertheless, I often prefer salumi, cheese, crispy, fresh ciabatta, and of course small tomatoes, artichokes — everything the surrounding agriculture has to offer.

You can find the pictures at the end of this article. I have included: prosciutto cotto, pecorino, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, good wine and a lot of joie de vivre.

 

My host was even so nice and sat down one evening with me in front of his country estate and indulged in the food together. It enjoys itself best together. He also opened a bottle of very tasty Chablis for us.

 



City center of Scarperia in the early morning.
City center of Scarperia in the early morning.

When I visited the Alto Mugello in February this year, I was in a cute little hotel in Scarperia (Locanda San Barnaba). When I arrived late in the evening, it was already 9 pm, the chef was so kind and conjured me a formidable menu.

I ordered a starter plate, with cold specialties from the area — food from regional butchers, cheese dairies and so on. The chef preliminary warned me that this was something too much for one person. I just laughed kindly and told him he better bring me a bottle of white wine so I can flush it all down.

 

I loved the appetizers. The highlight was the small roasted Ciabattini with a spread of warm roasted liver pâté and a hint of fresh truffle. What a great dish. Besides mature cheese, with a tangy aroma, a subtle saltiness and a milky taste that only raw milk can produce. The best thing about the appetizers was their generosity. For only 20 USD I got an appetizer plate that easily satisfies two to three people. Or just one single Sara. 

But of course, I had to keep eating. When I asked him what he could cook particularly well and, he recommended pasta stuffed with duck and orange butter sauce. So, I tried the Tortelli all'anatra al profumo d'arancia. This is pasta filled with tender, juicy duck breast. The tortelli swim in butter that has been perfumed with orange juice and orange zest. A small portion of roasted, chopped hazelnuts and pine nuts and a large portion of parmesan are added to the dish.

 

After that, I was full and drunk, from the bottle of wine I did not want to spare. And very happy.


Some more impressions which did not fit into the article:

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Deep Down Bavarian Food: Allgäu, Southern Germany

Brown cows somewhere in the mountains in the Allgäu, Southern Germany. Credit: Ikiwander / Wikimedia Commons
Brown cows somewhere in the mountains in the Allgäu, Southern Germany. Credit: Ikiwander / Wikimedia Commons

My mother was born in 1956. She grew up in the somewhat underdeveloped, infrastructurally weak region called Allgäu.

 

It lies in the southwest of Bavaria and is a very mountainous area. The Allgäu is known for its unique brown cows, the excellent milk and the great "Bergkäse" (Engl. mountain cheese). The Allgäu is also known for its beautiful mountains, the smooth landscapes, a lot of lakes and green grass.

 

Her parents are both, like me, food chemists. My grandpa, in particular, is what you would call a foodie today. I am going to dedicate an article and podcast to him. My grandpa is a skilled chef, a very intelligent and well-educated person, for which I am very grateful, because he teached me a lot.

Kässpätzle, a traditional dish from the Allgäu. It is somehow comparable to pasta with cheese, in a Soutern German way. It is very important to use fresh eggs and milk, and aged aromatic cheeses - three of a kind.
Kässpätzle, a traditional dish from the Allgäu. It is somehow comparable to pasta with cheese, in a Soutern German way. It is very important to use fresh eggs and milk, and aged aromatic cheeses - three of a kind.

My grandmother was very talented in simple cuisine from previous decades and centuries. At that time everything was scarce, except grain and potato products and the milk and milk products of the cows. Accordingly, my grandmother was particularly good at pastries and milk-based dishes. The everyday simple meals. Semolina porridge, rice pudding, deep-fried "Auszogene" (comparable to a donut, deep-fried only in clarified butter and sweetened only with granulated sugar).

 

Besides she could cook a staple dish of the Allgäu region: outstanding "Kässpätzle." (comparable to Mac ‘n Cheese). This is comparable to pasta, so it is a kind of German or South German pasta, with a lot of cheese and onions. “Spaetzle” are button-sized noodles consisting of a dough, made of flour, egg, and salt, which are put into the boiling water with a specific kitchen tool to shape it. When the Spaetzle float on the surface of the water, they are ready and put into a casserole dish. The cheese is now added to the Spaetzle. This must be at least three different varieties when making a traditional recipe. Emmentaler, Limburger (a very smelly, aromatic, soft cheese, comparable to a St. Albray) and Bergkäse. The cheese and pasta are well mixed and roasted in the oven or a cast-iron pan to create roasting aromas.Then onions are stewed in plenty of butter or clarified butter and slightly roasted. All this is garnished with fresh chives.

 

A bowl of piping hot semolina porridge, made from fresh cow's milk, some sugar and semolina. It is best eaten with some berries or plums and a lot of Cinnamon-Sugar. Credit: Oleechka / allrecipes
A bowl of piping hot semolina porridge, made from fresh cow's milk, some sugar and semolina. It is best eaten with some berries or plums and a lot of Cinnamon-Sugar. Credit: Oleechka / allrecipes

My Mother

Back to my mother. So, she comes from an educated, well-off family where food, cooking, and food were always important. But also, from a time when meat, citrus and drop fruits were rare or unattainable. This lack has strongly influenced my mother's cooking habits. She preferred simple cooking. Pure, in the sense of few ingredients, without much bells and whistles. This made it possible for my mother, despite her job, to cook for us three children in everyday life. Because her way of cooking was fast, effective and unpretentious. You have to imagine: my mother works as a primary school teacher, comes home at 1 o'clock at noon, just like her three children. Of course, we children were hungry, my mother was tired and yet she cooked fresh for us every lunchtime.

 

Childhood Memories

Dishes from my childhood? Turkey slices in cream sauce, shashlik, noodles with roasted ham, semolina porridge, rice pudding, rice casserole, boiled potatoes, noodles with tomato sauce.

As you can see, a relatively simple, but always delicious cuisine. Another parallel can be seen: my mother took over my grandmother's dishes. Many pastries and milk dishes, such as semolina porridge, etc. As a child, I loved the warm semolina porridge, with a delicate milk skin on the surface, cinnamon sugar, and raspberries. Unfortunately, I do this far too seldom myself.

 

A Bite of My Mother's Food: Kässpätzle

On days off or on weekends my mum often made her Kässpätzle. She got the recipe from her mother, my grandmother, and she got it from her mother and so on and so on. When I think of a dish: then the perfectly tender cheesy Kässpätzle of my mum. With lots of pungent cheese, mildly sweet and buttery onions. A meal for which I would travel halfway around the world today to get it. Important for perfect Kässpatzle: fresh eggs, and many of them. Fresh milk, preferably raw milk. Cheese that has matured a bit (no fresh cheese, otherwise the Kässpätzle have no aroma) and a good pinch of salt, in every step.  Because the dish must be very spicy and hearty.

 

 

Auszogene: a deep fry pastry, made of yeast dough. Similar to US donuts, however more basic. Only sugar is added to the surface. Best be eaten when they are still warm. Credit: Jörn Rynio / GU / kuechengoetter
Auszogene: a deep fry pastry, made of yeast dough. Similar to US donuts, however more basic. Only sugar is added to the surface. Best be eaten when they are still warm. Credit: Jörn Rynio / GU / kuechengoetter

Her impact on me, culinary wise

I am incredibly grateful to my mother for providing us children with fresh food and for giving me so much on my way through life. So my love for donuts and fried pastries comes from my mum and her preference for the "Ausgezogene" of my grandma, or the German Berliner (in southern Germany these doughnuts are Krapfen in Southern Germany).

 

 

Thank you, Mama.

My Mum
My Mum
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