Red lentils. Vegetarian soul food.

This is the stuff that gives this blog its name – at least half of the name. Lentils are very nutritious, they contain carbohydrates, proteins, fibers and – very important in stressful times – folate, vitamin B1 and iron. I like to prepare them as a thick soup, but I don’t puree them as I like the soft bite they have. This is an Indian-inspired version of lentil soup, but basically I just put in all the exotic spices I have in my kitchen. And the best thing is, you have a heart-warming dinner in just 20 minutes!

RED LENTIL SOUP for 3 (or 2 hungry ones)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
(1 small carrot, diced)
2-3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 small sprig of rosemary
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup red lentils
3-4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon each, dried and ground: ginger, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili, pepper
1/2 teaspoon each: garam masala, ras-el-hanout
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 cardamom pods
1 clove
1 bay leaf
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
salt to taste
full-fat yogurt to taste (leave out for a vegan dish)

Chop onion and garlic into small dices, and do the same with a small carrot if you like.

Heat up a nice wide pot and pour in the oil. Always heat up your cooking pots first before putting in any fat, this will prevent your stuff from sticking to the bottom of the pot – this is especially effective if you want to brown meat in a no-nonstick pot.

Let the onions, the garlic and the rosemary sweat for a couple of minutes, until they are soft and translucent. Then, put in the tomato paste and let it heat up for a minute or so, this will take away some acidity and some of the “metal can taste”. Add 3 cups of water and the red lentils and bring to a simmer.

Here come the spices. Just grab everything that looks exotic and/or smells like Christmas.

Add all the spices, the lemon and orange juice and give it all a good stir. I know, this looks like there’s way too much spices, but trust me: it will taste good. And DO NOT add the salt now, or the lentils will take more like double the time to get done.

Let it all simmer for 20 minutes and then give the lentils a taste. If they are soft, but not mushy and some split open, then you’re good to go. Add the salt – I think I took about a teaspoon – and serve with a good dollop of yogurt. Or cream cheese. Or crème fraiche.

Risotto. Great to use the rests in your fridge.

Risotto was – just like many other famous Italian dishes – invented by poor people. The goal is to use the stuff you already have, like vegetable rests and leftovers. I very rarely shop for ingredients for risotto, so when I make one it is different every time. First of all, I search my fridge, pantry and freezer of things I can use and then I decide if I want to make a red or a white version, that is with tomatoes or without. Today, I found some chorizo and a rest of red wine, so that really screamed for a red risotto.

RISOTTO for 3 (or 2 hungry ones

3 tablespoons olive oil
250 g mushrooms, cut into thick slices
15 cm chorizo or salciccia, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 cup risotto rice
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
2-3 cups water
1/2 cup peas (I used frozen ones)
salt and pepper
2 olives, cut into rings
50 g / 1/2 stick butter
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
some fresh basil leaves

Heat up a wide pot (you’ll need the room to stir later), put in the olive oil and the mushrooms. Let them fry on medium-high heat until they are golden brown, then fish them out of the pot.

While the mushrooms are in the hot oil, you can cut up the chorizo as well as the onion and garlic. When you have removed the mushrooms from the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low and throw in the chorizo bits. They will render quite a bit of fat and that is perfect for sweating the onions and the garlic. Wait until the chorizo bits are much smaller and a bit crunchy, then add onion, garlic, rosemary and the bay leaf.

Stir occasionally until the onions are translucent, then add the rice. Continue stirring until the rice is covered with oil and getting a bit translucent as well. Add the tomato paste and let it fry a bit, too. This will caramelize some sugars and reduce some acids. Pour in the red wine and let it cook until it is nearly vanished. Then add 2 cups of water, the peas, the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Keep the heat on medium-low and stir every minute.

In my opinion, there’s no need for the classic (and terribly exhausting) risotto method, that consists of adding just 1/2 cup of liquid and stirring ALL THE TIME until everything almost evaporated, then adding the next batch. I get the same creamy risotto when I add all of the liquid and stir it every minute (so that it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot). Plus, much of the creamy texture comes from the starch in the round rice and the fat in the butter and Parmesan cheese.

Test the rice for doneness, if it is still hard in the center, add a little bit more water (ca. 1/2 cup) and let it cook in. Test again. It depends on so many factors how much water you will need (the water content in the rice, how wide your pot is and how much water evaporates), but I use 2 1/2 cups for 1 cup of rice as a thumb rule.

When the rice is done – that is no more hard center, but not yet mushy – add the olives, stir, then add the butter, stir until it is completely dissolved and then the cheese. Stir and let it also melt completely. Feel free to add more cheese and/or wine until you have the desired consistency and taste. Remove from the heat and then sprinkle with more cheese and some basil leaves, either whole or cut into strips.

Carbonara. Quick comfort food.

One of my all-time-favorite comfort foods is Spaghetti Carbonara. It’s quick, simple, I almost always have the ingredients at home – and most important of all – it’s delicious. How could you not love noodles with a creamy, cheesy sauce and bacon? The recipe I use is a very traditional Italian one, although I like it best with capers. Yes, I know it’s not the classic combination (some might even shout “blasphemy!”), but I like the acidity of the capers in contrast to the creamy sauce. Please don’t kill me, try it. If you don’t like it you can still use the traditional chopped parsley.



250 g spaghetti, linguini or other thin, long Italian noodles
8-10 thin bacon slices (200 g)
2 egg yolks
100 g cup cream
50 g fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper

Bring enough water to boil, put plenty salt in it so that it tastes like sea water and cook the spaghetti.


Cut the bacon into fine strips and let it get crisp in a pan, then add the butter.

Pour the cream into a small bowl (or just leave it in your measuring jar), stir in the egg yolks and the grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, but keep in mind that the bacon and your spaghetti are already quite salty. I also like to add 1 tsp of the caper brine, that gives the dish a very subtle flavor and deepness. Or maybe it’s because I use lactose-free cream which tastes a good deal sweeter than regular cream.

As soon as the spaghetti are done (al dente), drain them and put them into the pan, letting them brown a tiny little bit. Now – this is very important – kill the heat and move the pan to a cool surface. If your pan has a very thick sandwich bottom, pour the bacon and spaghetti into a glass bowl. If you don’t do this, you’ll get scrambled eggs instead of a creamy sauce (in case that happens, tell the people its a rustic version). Back to the hot spaghetti in a cool place: pour the cream-cheese-egg mixture on top an quickly mix it with the spaghetti. Ready to eat!

Serve with capers or fresh chopped parsley. And don’t forget some freshly ground pepper.

As I make this dish quite often, I end up with tons of egg whites. I freeze them and still have to think of ways of using them (macarons and pavlovas come to my mind).

Quiche. With tons of leeks.

In winter in Germany, you often get to buy leeks in 1 kg bundles. It was cheap, but I only needed one leek for a stir-fry. Every time I opened the fridge I was wondering: “What the hell should I do with all those leeks?!?” Then I remembered the Swiss cheesecake my mom used to make – it has tons of onions in it and I thought I should try and substitute the onions with leeks. It was a full success!

Though I really liked the dense leek flavor, but somehow missed the sweetness of the onions. I guess I will make it 50/50 the next time.

By the way, this is NOT suitable for people trying to loose weight! There’s tons of cheese, eggs and bacon… On the other hand, it’s quite low on carbs, if that is your thing.

The cake is easiest to cut on the next day (like any cheesecake), but I like it piping hot and straight from the oven.


makes one pie with 28 cm in diameter, ca. 5 cm height

1 package flaky pastry (or savory pie crust)
5-6 leeks, cut into rings (original: 4-5 onions, diced)
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
5-6 eggs
1-2 tsp caraway seeds
200 g cream
200 g sour cream
200 g cream cheese
400 g Gouda cheese, grated
400 g Emmental cheese, grated
100 g Parmesan cheese, grated
400 g lardons/bacon, diced

Butter and flour a pie springform pan, line the bottom and the sides with the flaky pastry and punch some hole in the bottom. Preheat the oven to 180°C.


Heat up a pan, melt the butter and throw in all the diced onions (you can also cut them up into rings half rings or whatever you like. Just don’t make the bits too small). Add a little bit of sugar and sauté the onions for a couple of minutes. Don’t let them get too soft, you want the translucent with some brown bits, but also some bite to them. Let it all cool down.

Put the eggs in your mixer (whisk attachment) and beat until fluffy. Add the spices, then turn the speed down and add the cream, the sour cream and the cream cheese SLOWLY. Otherwise, you’ll get a terrible mess. Continue mixing until you have a smooth, thick liquid without any cream cheese bits left, then remove the whisk and change to the hook (or don’t and use a large wooden spoon and your hands instead). Again, on low speed, gradually add the cheese bits, the bacon cubes and the leeks/onions. Check that the leeks/onions have cooled down, so the eggs won’t curdle if you stir it into the mixture.

Pour it into your pie dish, flatten the mixture a bit and put it into the preheated oven (180°C) for about an hour.

Yes, the top NEEDS to get brown, that’s what makes it so tasty. Just be sure it won’t turn black. Cut it up immediately for a hot, gooey and messy (but heartwarming) dinner, maybe with a nice green salad. Or let it cool down and you have great lunch for work (either cold or heated in the microwave).