Picadillo. With cinnamon and raisins.

Picadillo is one of the most versatile ragús in South American cooking. You can simply eat it with rice, preferably accompanied by a fried banana. Or use it as a filling for empanadas or pastel de papas – which is best described as the Argentine version of Shepard’s Pie. But more on that in another post, first we are going to make the Picadillo.


1 cup carrots, finely diced (2-3 carrots)
1 cup onions, finely diced (2-3 onions)
1 cup bell peppers, finely diced (1-2 small peppers)
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
750 g / 1.5 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine (or Martini rosso)
2-3 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coriander
salt and pepper
1 cup green olives, chopped
1/2 cup raisins

Dice up all the vegetables, I like 5 mm / 1/4 inch cubes. No need to measure them exactly, just make sure you have roughly the same amount of onions, carrots and peppers.

Heat up a big pan (or heavy pot), then pour in some oil and start frying the ground beef.

Don’t dump in everything at once or the pan will cool down instantly and you’ll be cooking the meat instead of frying it. Which is not good, as many of the juices will come out, making the meat tough and the water will prevent browning. And in my opinion, the brown stuff is what makes the sauces taste so good. Seems I’m not alone, as there’s even a scientific name for it: Maillard reaction, meaning the caramelization of of sugars and proteins by high heat.

So just put in a quarter to a third, wait till it is all cooked through and then add the next batch. Then let that cook together and add the last third…

Once the meat is cooked through and has some nice browned spots, add the vegetables and let them fry together.

Let it cook for some minutes more, depending how much time you have and how patient you are. Just make sure there are some browned bits. That may sound a bit obsessive… I admit it, I’m obsessed with Maillard reaction.

Make a little room in the middle and add the tomato paste, let that also fry for a bit. Again, sugars will caramelize and add some subtle flavors. Then add the wine and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. The will dissolve and make everything very tasty. Then add some water, just short of covering it.

Now add all the spices: oregano, chilies, paprika, salt and pepper. And yes, you heard right: cinnamon and ground coriander. At first, it seems very weird to add cinnamon to a savory dish, but believe me it will blend perfectly with the other spices…

Then add the olives and the raisins and let it all cook on low for 30 minutes minimum. Why yes, raisins. They’re traditional. No point in arguing about that.

Give it a taste, maybe add some lemon juice and more salt and serve. 

Jalapeño poppers. Some like it hot.

Funny how people react to different kinds of hot. Some people don’t mind hotness at all, even search the kick of new levels of hotness. Others flinch at even the slightest amount – I once knew someone who broke into tears and sweat because of a couple of drops of Tabasco someone sneaked into his burger. I guess I’m in the middle: liking the hotness of chilies, unless it totally overwhelms the taste of your food.

This recipe is a work of genius. So incredibly simple, you don’t even think about measuring the ingredients. Delicious beyond description. The chilies are reasonably hot, the cream cheese will even that out a bit. And bacon can never be a bad thing, can it?

(adapted from Pioneer Woman)

fresh jalapeños
cream cheese
salt and pepper
latex gloves, optional

Before you start anything, put on the latex gloves. Trying to get our your contact lenses with capsaicin-stained fingers is no fun. Let alone touching other – ahem – sensitive areas. So do yourself a favor and wear protection.

Cut the chilies in half lengthwise, then use a spoon, a melon baller or a measuring teaspoon to scoop out the the white stuff and the seeds. The white stuff is where the most of the capsaicin lies.

Then simply take the cream cheese and smear it into the jalapeños, filling them to the brim. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper, if you like.

Cut the bacon slices in half and wrap them around the filled chilies. Either put them on the BBQ or – if you happen to live somewhere downtown like I do – bake them in the oven at 180°C / 350°F for 20-25 minutes.

Sorry I don’t have a picture of the finished jalapeños, they were so good the were simply gone too fast!

Steak au poivre. Even purists will love it.

When it comes to steak, I’m a purist. Salt, pepper, maybe a tad of herb butter and I’m happy. No crazy marinades, no BBQ sauce, no oysters, thank you. Oh, and medium rare, please.

But sometimes you may need a tiny bit more, maybe a little sauce to make the fries go down easier. And this is where Alton Brown comes in. In his show “Good Eats” he did not only present how to manage to get steaks out of a whole fillet, he also made a very minimalistic sauce. Just cream, cognac and pepper. It’s a dream, it goes perfectly well with a steak without totally smothering its taste. Just what I like.

adapted from Alton Brown

2 tenderloin steaks, 4 cm / 1.5 inches thick
coarse salt
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
80 ml / 1/3 cup Armagnac or Cognac, plus 1 teaspoon
250 ml / 1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon veal fond, powdered
1 teaspoon maple syrup
a dash of lemon juice
small packet of (frozen) fries

First, the steaks. Marvelously marbled, aren’t they? Make sure you have steaks at least 1 inch / 2.5 cm thick, but if you like them medium rare (the only way to go, really) have them cut 1.5 inch / 4 cm thick.

Get them out 30 to 60 minutes before you start cooking as you want to get them to room temperature. I think it’s horrible if a steak is nearly burned on the outside and almost frozen in the middle…

Crush the pepper quite coarsely, either with pestle and mortar or the biggest setting on your pepper mill.

Sprinkle the steaks with salt and cover them with the coarse pepper. Press it on lightly with your fingers, but no need to worry if some pepper corns fall off.

Meanwhile, start making the fries with your preferred method.

Heat up your pan (I prefer cast iron) on medium-high, melt the butter and add the olive oil. Nobody knows why, but a bit of oil prevents butter from going brown so quickly.

Put in the steaks and set the timer for 4 minutes. 4 cm and 4 minutes results in medium rare. Genius! Turn them over and give them another 4 minutes.

Then get them out on a warmed plate and cover them lightly with aluminum foil. Takes quite a bit of patience, but if you were to cut into the steaks right away, all the good juices would run out and leave you with a dry bit of meat. Not good.

Pour in the Cognac or Armagnac, then start scraping on the bottom of the pan to remove all the pepper corns and delicious crusts.
DO NOT SET TO FIRE! 80 ml is quite an amount of alcohol and I would nearly have set my kitchen to fire. Instead, let it cook down slowly until it’s nearly gone.

Pour in the cream, dissolve the fond powder and let it cook for 5 minutes until the consistency is slightly thicker than regular cream.

Give it a taste and add salt, maple syrup and lemon juice if you like, then serve.

Serve the steak, the fries and the sauce on a nice plate and pour in a nice glass of red wine. Or beer.

Spinach Salad. Like breakfast in the evening.

This is not even a recipe – just a combination of ingredients. Basically, it’s almost everything you would eat for an English Breakfast: bacon and eggs, fried tomatoes and some spinach. OK, the mushrooms and the breakfast sausage are missing, but mushrooms are out for me because of their sorbitol content – and there is no way I will ever eat a breakfast sausage again.

Just arrange everything a bit differently and you’ll have an excellent lunch or dinner salad.


per person:
2 bacon strips
1-2 eggs, hard boiled or poached
2-3 handfuls baby spinach
1-2 tomatoes
1 tablespoon cider or red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and pepper
a handful of grated Parmesan

First, cook your eggs. This is always said so easily, but I find it kinda difficult to get them just how I like them – with an itty bitty bit of the yolk still runny. Anyway, always punch a little hole on the round end and cook them for 7-10 minutes, depending how “done” you like your eggs. 8 minutes seem to do the trick for me.

Cut the bacon into inch-wide strips and fry it slowly until it is as crispy as you like it. I like it very crunchy. Then get them out and place them on a paper towel so that they get even crispier.

Meanwhile, wash the greens. I always give the salad a quick rinse – no matter if the package says you should or not.

Cut the tomatoes lengthwise in half and blot the cut side dry (with a paper towel or something like that). Fry them just like you would for breakfast – on high and just for a minute or two. You want the cut side to get brown and caramelized, but not a soggy tomato.

Get the tomatoes out of the pan, remove from the heat and deglaze the pan with vinegar, salt, pepper and vegetable oil. No need to cook the dressing, you just want the bacon flavor on your plate, not in the dishwasher.

Arrange spinach leaves, tomatoes, eggs and bacon on a plate, drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle on a generous handful of freshly grated Parmesan (or your favorite cheese). And serve with toast or a nice and fresh bread.

Elivs’ Meat Loaf. Pure Rock’n’Roll.

Meat loaf is a classic dish in German and American culture and there are tons of variations: my grandma used to put in a hard-cooked egg, my mom puts in tons of herbs and spices and my friend Nadine makes kind of a Greek version with rosemary and feta. But somehow I have settled on the version mentioned in my mother-in-law’s Elvis cookbook: glazed with ketchup and with bacon on it. It somehow tastes like home and it tastes even better with a cold beer and some loud rock’n’roll.


1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup / 125 ml cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic gloves, crushed
2 celery sticks, finely diced
1 kg / 2 pounds ground beef
500 g / 1 pound ground pork
2 eggs
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce | tamari
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 hard boiled egg (optional)
vegetable oil
1/2 cup ketchup
4-6 bacon strips
1 kg / 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and halved

Soak the oats in the cream and let them sit for 15 minutes. And preheat your oven to 180°C / 350°F.

Meanwhile, chop up the parsley, onions, garlic and celery and cook everything except the parsley in the butter on low heat until they everything starting to get soft. Then set aside to let it cool.

Get a large bowl (the Kitchen Aid bowl is just perfect) and fill in the meat, eggs, all the spices and sauces (except the ketchup), the soaked oats and the softened onions.

This is the hot sauce I used – it’s really crazy hot, that’s why I reduced the amount to a 1/4 teaspoon.

By the way, I like to keep my measuring spoons separated – I only have one set and I don’t see why I should put everything into the dishwasher when I used just one spoon. So each one got it’s own keyring and they hang right next to my stove.

Mix the meat with the other ingredients either by hand – or if you have RSI like me from using the computer all day – use the paddle attachment on your Kitchen Aid on the lowest setting. Let it mix for a minute or so, it should just be combined.

Take a big casserole dish (mine is a Pyrex lasagna dish) and and lightly cover the bottom with oil. Then form a loaf out of the meat mixture and place it in your casserole dish. And if you were my grandma, you would place a peeled, hard-cooked egg inside the meat loaf. She called it “Falscher Hase”, meaning something like bogus bunny – traditionally served for Easter.

See the crack on the side? Make sure to seal all the cracks or all the beautiful meat juices will run out and leave you with a dry meat loaf. Nobody really likes that.

Next, cover all the surface of the meat loaf with ketchup. This will result in a nice, caramelized crust. And remember, everything caramelized is good by definition.

Lay on some strips of bacon and arrange the peeled potatoes around the meat. Put it into the oven for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours – until the crust is golden brown and (if you happen to have a thermometer) the internal temperature is over 65°C / 150°F.

Get it out of the oven and let it sit covered for 15 minutes – like any roast, all the good juices would run out if you cut right away. Cut into slices and serve with roast potatoes and ketchup. And sneak some of the brown stuff from the bottom of the pan on your plate.

And the next day, make sandwiches: toasted ciabatta bread, some homemade mayo, more ketchup, a slice of meat loaf and some lettuce.

Parmesan-crusted chicken. Perfect with salad.

This is one of the recipes I found on the internet, lost it and then found it again on a totally different site. Turns out I found the original recipe. And turns out, there’s no such thing as Italian-flavored breadcrumbs in Germany – so I just decided to add some Italian herbs myself. And some chili flakes for an extra kick.

I imagine this chicken would also work very well with a Caesar Salad – in fact, this chicken basically is a Chicken Caesar Salad without the salad…

for 2, adapted from Hellman’s

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 250 g / 1/2 pound)
1/8 cup | 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup | 4 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used homemade)
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
dash of Worcestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons bread crumbs

1 package/head of your favorite salad, in this case lamb’s lettuce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce | tamari
6 tablespoons cream

Cut the chicken breasts into nice medallions, about finger thick. I’m super picky about fat, silver skin and veins, so I cut it all away.

Place them in an oven-proof dish, for example a non-stick pan or a glass/ceramic casserole. And set your oven to 425°F / 220°C.

Mix together Parmesan cheese and the spices. Be creative! Maybe some sun-dried tomatoes or fresh rosemary would be nice.

Measure in the mayonnaise, I prefer homemade.

Stir it all together and give it a taste.

This is also a great dip. And you can make awesome garlic bread with it. Just smear it thickly onto the bread and pop it into the oven until golden brown and delicious.

But back to the chicken. Spread the mayo-cheese mixture onto the chicken bits. Try to coat everything evenly.

Then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and pop it into the oven for 10-20 min. – until it’s golden brown and cooked through.

Ah. Golden brown deliciousness!

While the chicken is in the oven, wash your favorite salad (Romaine lettuce would also be nice).

And it’s time to make the dressing. Super simple, really! Just mix together soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and cream.

Just mix them together and you’ll have a perfect salad dressing.

And if you think about it, it’s even low-fat… You will say: “Cream? Low-fat? Yeah right.” But look at it this way: Oil is 99% fat, cream has 30% fat. Do the math.

Arrange salad, dressing and crunchy chicken on a plate and tuck in!

Spaghetti Bolognese. Hearty, chunky, highly aromatic.

Isn’t curious that half the world eats Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, except the Italians? They think we are all crazy eating fine, delicate noodles with a thick and chunky ragú. Or even worse: with meatballs.
I admit, getting the appropriate amount of pasta and sauce into your mouth is not really easy with this combination. Either you roll the spaghetti on your fork and all the ground beef falls off. Or you try to scoop up some sauce and the long pasta strands falls of. Feel free to cook rigatoni, ruote, conchiglie or whatever you like. But I stick with Spaghetti, because nothing beats the taste of childhood memories.


1 kg / 2 pounds ground beef
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
6 thick slices bacon, diced
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup / 250 ml red wine
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper
Parmesan rinds
bay leaves
rosemary and thyme
chili flakes
a splash of balsamic vinegar
125 g / 1/2 pound of your favorite pasta per person

This depends on what you like – I prefer buying grinding the meat myself. That’s because I recently had the bad luck of getting gristle and bone bits on store-bought ground beef.

Cut the onion and the bacon into chunks. No need to chop everything into tiny bits. Also, cut the carrots into cubes. I like to quarter them and cut away 5 mm thick slices.

Take your biggest and heaviest pan and heat it up on medium-high on the stove.
This one: Le Creuset. I love it.

Fry the ground meat. I like to put in half of it and then the other half. I sometimes happens if I put all in that the pan cools down too much – and that results in water being sucked out of the meat. That’s bad.

If the meat is cooked done and you see some brown bits, add the bacon, the onions and the carrots. It’s getting kinda full, but that’s OK. Let it all cook for a couple of minutes until the onions are getting soft.

Now add the tomato paste, the red wine, sugar, salt and pepper, the herbs and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Top off with enough water to cover it all. Let it cook at least 30 minutes on medium-low and add more water if too much evaporates. Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted water.

The Parmesan rinds simply the rest of your cheese pieces that not even a Microplane grater can persuade to give away tinier bits. I collect them in my fridge in a Tupperware container and they keep for ages. They not a must in this sauce, but if you cook the sauce for quite a bit (more than an hour), they will give the sauce a deep, complex flavor – just like the bay leaves. So it’s kind of a secret ingredient.

Serve the pasta along with the sauce and top it off with huge amounts of Parmesan.

Tortellini. Simply with cream and ham.

Cream? Again?


500 g / 1 pound / 2 packages fresh tortellini, either filled with meat/ham or spinach/ricotta
1 large onion, diced
200 g / 1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into strips
200 ml / 1 cup cream – maybe more
60 ml / 1/4 cup white wine, optional
nutmeg, freshly ground
salt and pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Dice the onion your favorite way. Not too fine though, you still want to taste it afterwards.

Next, cut the ham into strips, I like them 2 cm / 1 inch long and 5 mm / 1/4 inch wide. It’s really easy: cut the ham slices into inch-wide long strips, stack them on top of each other and start cutting away 5 mm slices.

Get out your largest non-stick pan, heat it up on medium-low and let the butter melt. While you’re at it, heat up a pot with lots of salt water for the tortellini.

Gently cook the onions in the butter for several minutes, you want the soft and translucent, but no color. Add the ham and let it heat up in the pan – no need for browning here, either.

When the water boils, throw in the tortellini and cook them. The ones I bought were fresh and only needed 2 minutes. Tortellini are so easy, they start floating to the top when they are ready.

Fish the floating tortellini out with a slotted spoon and put them into the pan. Mix with the ham and the onions.

If you have a little rest of white wine sitting in your fridge, now’s the time to use it. Add to the pan and let nearly everything of it evaporate, then add the cream. If you’re not using wine, just add the cream. Yeah, all of it. And a couple of glugs extra.

Season with salt, pepper and quite a bit of fresh ground nutmeg – and let it cook for a couple of minutes until the cream thickens a bit. If you like, you can season with a dash of lemon juice.

Sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!

Zürcher Geschnetzeltes. Stroganoff the Swiss way.

Did you know that sweet sherry is a total pain to clean up? Some years ago, a bottle broke with less than half a cup of sherry left. It might not sound so much, but it was a tremendous disaster. Sweet syrupy drops rolling down in slow motion, sticking to everything in their way and running into every little groove. Photo albums, books, shelves, parquet floor, the TV set and various video game consoles got their share. Up to this day, the reset button of the Nintendo N64 still needs a bit of extra persuasion. Not to mention that some weeks ago, when I disassembled book shelves to replace them with new ones, I found various remnants of the sherry fiasco on those hard-to-reach places.

Sherry is a key ingredient in this dish, though I – ahem – stick to the medium-dry variety nowadays. You can leave the mushrooms out if you want to, even the green pepper corns if you must. And binding the sauce with cream cheese is such a clever trick: it brings a certain discreet acidity and as it is thick and often contains a little amount of starch, that saves you from stirring up a slurry. In my hands, corn starch always makes a mess. Luckily, no comparison with sherry.

for 4

1 package cream cheese (200 g / 7 oz)
1/4 cup / 60 ml medium-dry sherry
500 g / 1 pound chicken, turkey or pork, cut into strips
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 jar / tin of mushrooms – or 250 g / 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, diced
2-3 tablespoons paprika powder
1-2 teaspoons green or red pepper corns in brine

Put the cream cheese into a bowl and stir it with the sherry so that there are no lumps left and it has the consistency of a good mayonnaise.

Drain the mushrooms if you’re using a glass or can. And peel and slice them if you’re using fresh ones.

Dice the onion. And cut the meat into finger-thick strips.

Heat up a non-stick pan on high, then add the oil and just before it starts to smoke, add the meat and let it brown on all sides. Be patient, the meat will come loose as soon as it is brown enough. When the meat is done, get it out of the pan and onto a plate.

You may be wondering why I always heat up pans and pots empty. I don’t know how and why this works, but if you’re using non-stick pots, this is the way to have a quasi non-sticking surface: heat up empty and once in while, drop in half a teaspoon of water. If it just boils, the pot is still too cold. If if looks like a bubble and hovers of the surface, then you have the perfect temperature – pour in the oil, let it heat up and add the things you want to cook. And if the water splits up into dozens of hovering little balls, the pan is too hot. Remove from the heat and let it cool down for a minute.

In go the mushrooms and onions – let them also get a bit of color.

Now, the meat goes back in, then add the paprika powder and let the paprika get a tiny bit of color until you can smell the paprika. Be careful not to burn it though, or the whole dish will taste terrible.

Add enough water to just cover everything in the pan, season with salt, peppercorns, nutmeg and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Reduce the heat and stir in the cream cheese.Then let it cook for another minute or so. It should thicken up nicely.

Give it another taste and season it. And then you’re ready!

Serve with your favorite carbs – there’s a never-ending discussion between my husband and me: pasta or potatoes? My very nice mother-in-law settles it by cooking the favorite side for each of us.

Pork tenderloin with onions and red wine. Heaven.

A couple of years ago, there was a cooking show on TV, called “Schmeckt nicht, gibt’s nicht” – which translates to something like “no yummy, no way”. Host was a guy named Tim Mälzer and I liked the 20-minute show because he actually managed to have his meals ready in 20 minutes, mostly without saying the dreaded sentence “and here we have it prepared in advance”… It gave you a kind of down-to-earth feel when a TV cook actually starts to peel an onion in front of the camera, instead of being surrounded by an endless number of thick-rimmed glass bowls, one for each cut and measured ingredient. What a waste!

Sadly, because the show was canceled some time ago, all the recipes were taken off the TV channel’s website – not even the wayback-machine could bring them back. I was really happy when I found a printout of this recipe when I browsed through my binder! I hope I remember to print out more recipes from the Internet, they vanish so quietly…

Adapted from Tim Mälzer

300 g / 10 oz / 1/2 pound red or white onions
3 garlic gloves
4 tablespoons olive oil
500 g / 1 pound pork tenderloin
salt and pepper
125 ml / 1/2 cup red wine
80 ml / 1/3 cup port
1 tablespoon honey
2 bay leaves
fresh rosemary

Peel the onions and cut them into 1,5 cm / 1/2 inch thick slices. It seems a bit crazy, but no this is not too thick! Be careful with them so that they stay intact.

Peel and mince the garlic and measure the wines. Oh, and preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.

Cut the pork tenderloin into 5 cm / 2 inch thick slices and flatten them a bit. Gently.

Heat up your largest and ovenproof skillet – or even a roasting pan if you’re doubling the recipe – on high, then add the oil and then quickly sear the meat on both sides. And don’t worry if the meat is not done, we’ll get to that later…

Get the meat out of the pan and let the onion slices get some color on both sides. Let the garlic get the tiniest bit of color.

Then add the honey and let it bubble up and caramelize for half a minute or so. Sounds strange, but honey and garlic together smell divine!

Now deglaze with port and red wine, put the tenderloin slices back into the pan (wiggle them in so that they touch the bottom of the pan) and add the spices – salt, pepper, bay leaves and rosemary. Cover with some foil or parchment paper and put it in the oven for 15 minutes.

Serve with your favorite kind of carbs, mine favorite being oven-roasted potatoes.