Upside down citrus cake. Blood oranges and kumquats.

Hello, my name is Mel and I have fructose malabsorption… Imagine reading all those wonderful strawberry recipes this time of year and and not being able to eat even one little strawberry. Same with apples, pears and cherries. Don’t feel sorry for me – leaving fruit away is better than a hurting stomach afterward.

As a coping strategy, I started looking for fruit cakes with citrus and/or banana – fruit I can definitively eat. And stumbling through flood blogs I found this upside down cake – sweet, tangy, fruity and a very good ersatz for all the fruit desserts I missed in the last year.

for a 10-inch / 26 cm pan
adapted from running with tweezers

butter and flour for the pan
1/2 cup / 115 g sugar
1/2 cup / 115 g brown sugar
5 small blood oranges, peeled and cut into wheels 1/4 inch / 5 mm thick and seeds removed
10 kumquats, cut into wheels 1/4 inch / 5 mm thick and seeds removed
1 cup / 150 g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup / 125 ml grapefruit, orange or cranberry juice
1/2 cup / 125 ml vegetable oil, e.g. canola

Preheat your oven to 190° C / 375°F and butter and flour your cake pan. As with all upside-down cakes, I recommend to use a pan that’s made of one piece and not a springform pan. Imagine all the juice and caramel dripping into your oven… Cleaning up that mess is no fun.

Take a small bowl and mix the brown and the white sugar together. Then sprinkle half of this mixture onto the bottom of your pie pan.

Peel the oranges and cut them into 5 mm thick slices. And leave the kumquats unpeeled (of course!) and also cut into 5 mm thick slices. And remove all the seeds, they tend to taste terribly bitter when you accidentally bite on one.

Arrange all the citrus slices on top of the sugar – if possible in one layer. You could also arrange them in intricate ornamental patterns, but I was lazy that day so I let chaos reign.

Luckily, that was the hardest part. The dough is made with the really easy muffin method.

Take a medium bowl and mix in there all the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. And no need to sift the flour, just stir a couple of times with a wire whisk.

Now get another bowl (I like to use a measuring jug) and mix in there the liquid ingredients: egg, vanilla extract, juice and oil.

The original recipe says to use orange or grapefruit juice, but I only had cranberry juice – and it tasted great.

Very quickly mix the liquid with the flour mixture – just 15 strokes, no matter if there are some flour blobs left – and carefully fill the dough on top of the citrus slices. Bake at 190° C /375°F for 45 min and then let it cool. Completely. Don’t be impatient or your beautiful orange layer will stick to the pan and destroy your cake.

Take this cake to work and be amazed how quickly it vanishes. Be sure to save a piece for yourself…

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!

Fruit smoothie. Throw in whatever you like.

When I was a child, my mom often made fruit smoothies for me and my brother. At that time, that kind of drink was completely unknown in Germany and my mom called it “liquado” because of her past in Argentina. She bought a US-made blender and that’s the one I’m still using today!

I’m not on a diet – heavens no! – but on the Good Eats episode “Live and let diet“, Alton Brown has some very interesting points on making smoothies:

  • Buy overripe bananas in bulk, then peel and freeze them. 
  • When turning on your blender, start on the lowest setting and move your way up slowly. 
  • Make sure you always see a “vortex” – if not, start over at the lowest setting.

And if you don’t have a blender, then use a tall vessel and a stick blender. It’s a bit messier, but the taste is the same…

I always liked bananas in my smoothie – it’s what I use as a base – and then I add everything fruity I have at home. If you’re lactose intolerant, leave out the milk and use water or soy milk instead. If you’re vegan, leave out the honey, too. If you think you need some extra protein, add a raw egg or just the egg yolk.
And if you have fructose malabsorption, use the fruits your stomach is comfortable with. In my case, bananas and oranges are fine. And I’m still testing the red fruits.

for 2

1 banana (frozen or not)
1 orange, cut into segments
1 cup frozen red berries
1 tablespoon honey or sugar
1 cup of milk or water

Peel the banana and put it in the blender. Peel the orange and cut it into segments. That’s just me, I don’t like the white stuff. If you don’t mind it, just make sure you don’t have any pits left, they’re bitter.

Grab a cup of frozen berries, in this case, red and black currants and blackberries.

Put the berries into the blender, top off with milk, soy milk or water and start your engine. Begin on the lowest setting and work your way up to high speed – and mix it for a couple of minutes. Divide onto 2 glasses and serve with a straw. Drink slowly, unless you like ice cream headaches.

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.

Sauerbraten. With the brine, you’re halfway there.

Sauerbraten is a very traditional German roast, the sweet and sour brother of the pot roast. And to make it, just put the meat into the brine for a couple of days (check and turn over every day) and then follow the directions for pot roast, but instead of the wine and onions, use the brine. And when making the sauce, add a handful of raisins and almond slivers. And then you’ll have a very nice dish that goes very nicely with potato dumplings or spaetzle.

Of course you can also use this brine for any other kind of meat, especially venison and other game would work pretty fine.


375 ml / 1,5 cups red wine
375 ml / 1,5 cups red wine vinegar
375 ml / 1,5 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
8 peppercorns
3 bay leaves
4 cloves
8 juniper berries
2 onions, cut into rings
2 carrots, cut into thin slices
1/4 celery root, cut into matchsticks

Put all together into a large pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Let the brine cool off and pour over your meat, which can stay in there covered for 2-5 days in your fridge.

Beef and Guinness Stew Pie. Sort of.

My dad went for a business trip to Zwickau – that’s in the Eastern part of Germany. And he brought back several bottles of “Mauritius” beer. And it was very tasty stuff. Dark, slightly sweet, not too bitter. As I stayed with my parents over new year’s, we drank quite a bit and suddenly I was remembering the taste of Guinness in the Irish Pub in Auckland, New Zealand. And my husband’s tales of the pub in Hamilton, where he had a dish called “Beef in Guinness”, a very dark, rich stew with fork-tender meat, served with garlic bread and – of course – a pint of Guinness. And so we made “Beef and Guinness” the next day, but with Mauritius. While we were cooking, my mom remebered having eaten pot pies on a trip to UK – and so we covered the stew with flaky pastry. The perfect winter food – and with the perfect timing, as it just stared to snow…

adapted from Epicurious and Food Network 

2 cups carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 parsnips, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 kg / 2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups / 375 ml Guinness (or other dark stout)
fresh thyme
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup mushrooms (I used sliced champignons)

1 package flaky pastry (from the freezer, thawed)
1 egg, beaten
fresh parsley

Peel the carrots and the parsnips and cut them into nice big chunks – in this case, slices 1 inch thick. And also cut the beef into 1-inch pieces. No need to be too exact here. 

Also, cut the garlic and onions quite coarsely, I like the garlic in slices. Leave the thyme as it is. And save the parsley for later.

This is a neat little trick: Pour the oil on the raw meat and toss until all the pieces are covered. And then add the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper and toss again. When you now fry the meat, it will get a nice brown crust, but without flour lumps or too much flour so that it would feel breaded.

Heat up a large pot on medium-high until it is really hot, and only then pour in some oil. Fry the meat in batches until all sides are brown, then get it out and keep on a hot plate.

Throw in onions, garlic, carrots and parsnips and fry them in the hot oil until they have softened a bit. Add the tomato paste and also let it fry for some moments.

Letting the tomato paste fry makes for a caramelized flavor and gets rid of some of the sour edge.

The meat may now return to the pot. Mix it well with all the vegetables and add the thyme. Also, put in the mushrooms.

And now comes in the beer. Just pour it in until the meat and vegetables are just barely covered. Season with salt and let it cook covered until the meat is tender. That should take about 2 hours – or 1/2 hour when you’re using a pressure cooker.
Add more liquid if too much is evaporating.

Remove the thyme and give it another taste – more salt, maybe a splash of Worcestershire Sauce? If you’re really hungry, you can eat it just like that, just make sure you have some bread to steep up the sauce. It’s delicious.
Maybe even some garlic bread straight from the oven…

But if you want to make little pot pies, fill some 1-cup ovenproof dishes 3/4 full. Then cover with the thawed flaky pastry. Trim the edges with a knife and crimp the dough on the edges.

Then brush it very lightly with a beaten egg and bake it for 25 minutes at 200°C / 400°F until the crust is dark golden.

Now grab a spoon and dig right in.

And of course you have some bottles of stout left. Right?

Chorizo and Potatoes. Minimalistic in every way.

When I visited Spain some time ago, we went into a tapas bar. At first, I thought: “Do I really want to eat here?” It was really dark, from the ceiling were hanging dozens of whole hams, the interior was shabby and the floor was covered with used toothpicks. But at a closer look, all the people inside were having a good time, the whole 10 meters of the bar top were laden with snacks of all kinds and it all smelled incredibly good. So we ordered some sherry and took from the bar what we liked. We had planned to eat dinner afterward, but we came out of the bar feeling slightly tipsy and incredibly full.

One of the classic tapas is chorizo and potatoes cooked together and you won’t believe how easy this is. It tastes complex, the sauce looks like it has been cooked for hours and it warms your soul. But all you need is found in all kitchens, even that of a student that has just moved in. As for cooking skills: if you can hold a knife and know how to turn up the heat on your stovetop, you’re good to go.


1/2 – 1 chorizo or salsiccia sausage, hot if possible
450 g / 1 pound potatoes
1 large onion
garlic (optional)
olive oil
salt and pepper

This is basically all you need: chorizo, potatoes and an onion. Garlic is optional and you should be able to find some kind of oil or fat in your kitchen. And I really do hope there’s salt and pepper around. Oh, and you’ll also need water. I don’t know why, but nobody mentions water in the ingredient list in cooking but always in baking.

As for the hardware, you’ll only need a knife, a spoon to stir and a pot or pan. OK, maybe a cutting board, but that’s it. Even the most rudimentary equipped kitchen will have all this.

Cut everything into nice, big chunks. No need to be exact here, just cut it the way you like.

I like my potatoes in 1 cm cubes, no matter if I fry or cook them. Again, cut them any way you like, but they should be somehow bite-sized.

If you peel them is up to your tools and skills, your taste – and your laziness…

Heat up your pan or pot on medium, then add the oil and the chorizo. Let the sausage fry until you see a dark crust forming on them.

Add the onions and the garlic and also cook them in the oil until they are soft and the edges start to get brown.

Add the potatoes and let it cook on medium-low for about 25 minutes, until the potatoes are done and most of the water has evaporated.

Fill into your favorite bowl or plate, or eat it just right out of the pot. No garnishing.

Tastes best with a glass of red wine and some green olives. Think of your visit to Spain ages ago.

Ham Steak. Diner classic goes uptown.

My mother-in-law is a big Elvis fan and some years ago, she bought an Elvis cookbook. With all the stuff the king was allegedly fond of. Like Banana cream pudding, fried peanut butter sandwiches and German bratwurst. The book also says the was a fan of diner food and listed a recipe for ham steak with red eye gravy. When we first cooked it, it tasted horrible. Coffee too thin, too bitter, too salty. Terrible.

After some time, I came across another recipe for red eye gravy, this time with the addition of red currant jelly. Which absolutely made sense to me as I always drink my coffee very sweet (undrinkable, my husband would say). And out of nowhere came the inspiration to use Crème de Cassis (French black currant liqueur) and grenadine syrup instead.

Though nobody believes this is a good combination, all the guests that I made it for were totally impressed. Since then, this has become our meal for special occasions.

for 4-6 people

4-6 large potatoes
vegetable oil, lard or duck fat for frying

4-6 cooked ham slices, 1 cm thick
1 cup / 250 ml strong coffee
1/2 cup / 125 ml Crème de Cassis (French black currant liqueur)
1/2 cup / 125 ml grenadine syrup
tiny pinch of salt
cranberry sauce for serving

First, peel and cut the potatoes into 1 cm / playing dice sized cubes. Heat up your largest pan with some vegetable oil or lard and put the potato cubes into the pan, if possible in one layer. Generously salt, because potatoes need lots of salt. Very slowly fry them and turning them often until they are golden brown and delicious on all sides.

In France, I learned and tasted that the best fried potatoes are made in duck or goose fat. Fried on very low heat for over an hour. The potatoes will get a very delicate golden crust and the center is melting in your mouth. Absolutely delicious.

Cut away all the fat on the ham slices, cut the fat into little pieces and gently fry to render the fat. Fish out all the bits (don’t throw them away!) and fry the ham slices in the ham fat. Again until they are golden brown and delicious. Keep the fried slices warm and fry the next batch.

Oh, and please don’t use a non-stick pan for frying the ham – it’s impossible to build a pan sauce in a non-stick pan.

Next stop: coffee. I only have this espresso can, so I made 3/4 cup of espresso and thinned it with 1/4 cup water. As with almost everything in cooking: If you don’t like to drink it, don’t cook with it.

See the brown bits on the bottom of the pan? That’s the good stuff. Get out the last batch of ham slices and keep them warm with the rest. Now, pour in the coffee and cook and scrape the bottom until you have loosened all the bits.

Remember the little bits I told you not to throw away? Put them into the hot coffee and let them cook out for a bit. Why? Because they have plenty of the good brown stuff on them that will give your sauce even more taste. Add the currant liqueur and the grenadine syrup. Add a tiny pinch of salt – not too much because coffee with salt tastes really funky. Fish out the bacon bits with a slotted spoon.

If the sauce seems to thin, you can also thicken it with a slurry made of 1 tablespoon corn starch and some tablespoons of water. Let that cook for a minute.

Serve the ham with sauce and fried potatoes alongside with a good helping of cranberry sauce. Relax and enjoy!

Pot roast. With carrots and red wine.

Last weekend I wrote about spaetzle, and how well they go with Sunday roasts. Well, this is a very classic pot roast, though I like to give it my twist and added some mushrooms. And of course, I like to be generous with the red wine, something my frugal grandma would never have done.

And if you’re not a fan of spaetzle (or just have eaten enough), then serve the roast with baked potatoes, pasta or – just as in this case – potato dumplings.


2 kg / 4 pounds beef for braising
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion
3 garlic gloves
1 Anaheim chili
4 large carrots
250 g / 8.8 oz mushrooms
1/2 bottle red wine
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper
8 thin bacon slices

First of all, the meat. Find a heavy pot like a dutch oven that is large enough for your piece of meat and where the knobs will survive several hours in the oven. My knob on the lid did not the last time and I had to invent some Rube Goldberg contraption with a potato ricer disk, some string, a cork and a bamboo skewer. Call me MacGyver.

OK, back to the roast. Heat up your pot on medium high, then pour in the oil and finally put in the chunk of meat. Let it brown on all sides. If it has a nice color all around, get it out on a plate and set it aside. Yeah, it will get cold, but who cares. It’s not cooked through anyway. 

Next stop, vegetables. Half the chili lengthwise and get out all the seeds.
Coarsly dice the onions and the garlic.
Peel the carrots and cut them into 2 cm / 1 inch chunks.
Peel the mushrooms.

I know, there’s much discussion about peeling vegetables such as carrots and mushrooms, but I don’t like to eat the skins. I know, I’m picky. Instead, I freeze the skins and when I have enough, I cook a vegetable broth.

Heat up the pot again, then throw in the carrots and mushrooms. When they have a nice color, add the onions and the garlic and cook it until the edges of the onion start to get brown.

Now comes in the red wine! And the spices! If you like, you can also add 3 cloves and 3 juniper berries for a more “winterly” or “chistmasy” taste.

Place the meat on top of the sauce and kind of wiggle it right in. Then lay the bacon slices on top of the meat, it doesn’t matter if the ends hang into the sauce. Put on the lid with your cork and string handle, then put it all into the oven for 2-3 hours at 150°C / 300°F.

When the time in the oven is over, get out the meat, the carrots and the mushrooms and put them on a heated plate. Also get out the bay leaves, cloves and juniper berries if you have put some in and throw them away.
Grab your immersion blender and mix the onions into the sauce, binding it that way. Give the sauce a taste and add some more salt, red wine and perhaps a little bit of cream.

When you’re done with finishing the sauce, cut the meat into finger-thick slices. And when you read somewhere “against the grain”: this means looking where the fibers in your meat go and cutting it in a 90° angle to the fiber. Because short fiber means tender meat.

Serve it all on a plate and with the rest of the bottle of red.
After eating, fall asleep on the couch.