Gulasch. Because autumn is arriving fast.

Do you also have an obsession of going to supermarkets in foreign countries? Personally, I think it’s exiting to see what’s similar, what’s different and to find things I’ve never seen before.
When I was on vacation in France in September, I found fresh “Piments d’Espelette”, or Espelette pepper. Espelette is a small town in Basque Country, near the Spanish border and famous for the houses covered with festoons of drying peppers. When the peppers are fresh, they are bright red and look like regular Hungarian peppers, but are definitively hotter. When they dry, they get darker until they look almost black. They are not extremely hot, but definitely too hot to be eaten as such.

Somehow in my mind, the visual similarity to the Hungarian bell peppers made me think of Gulasch, the perfect dish for cold autumn evenings. And it’s true what they say, Gulasch tastes much better on the next day!


750 g / 1,5 pounds beef
500 g / 1 pound onions
1 small garlic bulb, peeled
4 piments d’Espelette or bell peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons paprika powder
6-8 tablespoons tomato paste
750 ml / 3 cups / 1 bottle red wine
250 ml / 1 cup water
1-2 teaspoons salt

You won’t need much knife skills here, everything is cut into chunks. Cut the meat into dice – I like them in the 2.5 cm / 1 in range.
Peel the garlic and leave the cloves as they are. Maybe you could half one or two if you have very big ones.
Also, peel the onions, then dice them very coarsely. I only had rather small onions, so I halved them and cut the halves into quarters.

Now it’s the time to get out your latex gloves – especially if you are wearing contact lenses. Imagine rubbing all the capsaicin into your eyes while trying to get out the lens. No fun! By the way, capsaicin in hydrophobic, so use something fatty to make the burn less painful – like heavy or sour cream, cheese or olive oil.

Depending how hot the peppers are, remove the seeds completely or just some of them, then cut the flesh into nice little strips.

Get out your favorite large and heavy pot – mine is a blue Dutch oven I bought in France. They are called “cocotte” around there and “mini-cocottes” absolutely in this year. You see them anywhere, even at gas stations.

Heat the put up while it’s empty on medium-high heat, test if a drop of water “dances” around, then put in the oil. Let the oil get hot too, you’ll see ripples and just a tiny wisp of smoke, then put in a third of the beef cubes at max. Leave them alone and don’t try to turn them until you find that the sizzling noises sound a bit differently. Then try to turn the meat gently, if it still sticks, leave it alone for another minute or so. Maybe it just needs to get a little bit browner, then it won’t stick to the bottom any more.
When the meat has a nice brown color, put in the next few meat chunks and go on as above. Then repeat with the rest of the meat.

I like to brown the meat in 3 to 4 installments, because putting all the meat in the pot at once makes the temperature of pot and oil drop very quickly – and that results in the meat cooking and losing too much juice, and not frying.

If you have a pot that is big enough, you can simply add the onions and the garlic and let them brown with the meat. But in this case, my meat bits were getting in the way, so I put them out and then the onions in. Let it all get a nice touch of color.

See how the onions release a little bit of water and dissolve the brown bits from the bottom of the pan? This is why I always fry the meat first, and then the onions. I’ve tried it the other way round and ended up with onion coals and the meat not browned at all.

OK, get the meat back into the pot and and add the peppers, too. Then the paprika powder and the tomato paste and let it all get a tiny little bit of color.

Open the bottle of red and put it all in. No, this is no waste. You don’t have to by a Grand Cru for that, just something dry and red and heavy, like a Chianti, Shiraz or Rioja.
And don’t forget the salt…

Now, all you need is time. Cover and let it simmer (on low) for several hours, until the meat is soft. In fact, it should be so soft that you can separate the meat with a fork. Add a little bit of water if the meat is not covered any more.

See, no knife needed! And the onions and garlic are all cooked down to a thick and aromatic sauce.
Serve the Gulasch with potatoes, pasta or whatever else you like. And of course you remembered to buy a second bottle of that red? Then pour yourself a nice glass to go with it.

Hummus. Yet another middle-eastern dip.

This may sound a bit silly, but the first time I tasted hummus was in New Zealand. The reasons for this: My co-worker was vegan and loved it. And it was available in the supermarket in dozens of varieties. From plain to lime & jalapeño to sun-dried tomato. With Turkish salsa was my favorite. It was great just sitting on the Auckland pier at lunchtime and having a little pick-nick with hummus and a fresh bread.

When my husband and I returned to Germany, we still had the craving for hummus, but it was nowhere to be found in supermarkets around here. Luckily, hummus is incredibly easy to make.


1 (400 g / 14 oz) can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 lemon, juice only
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon harissa
1/2 teaspoon ras-el-hanout (seasoning for cous-cous)
1 teaspoon tahini

Open the can (haha), drain the chickpeas and put them in a high mixing bowl. Unless you have a food processor, then put them in the mixing bowl of your food processor. But have an immersion blender so I use the highest vessel I can find in my kitchen.

Add the rest of the ingredients and then stick the blender in (or hit “go” on your food processor). Blend it as long as you want, you can make it light and fluffy or – if you’re like me – leave some bits and pieces for an more interesting structure.

Done! But wait, this looks a bit boring. Let’s make a little topping:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ground paprika

Heat up the oil and the paprika powder in a point just until it starts to bubble and starts to smell intensively like paprika.

Pour the hot oil over the hummus and enjoy the taste.

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.

Salad. Suitable for male humans.

This is a little salad I like to make, because it’s quick and tasty. And not to forget: it’s a light lunch or dinner, but not so light that you’re hungry again after half an hour. Depending on your hunger, you can make it even more filling by adding nuts or Parmesan cheese. Or both.

Another thing: You’ll save washing some dishes, as the salad dressing is made in the pan with the chicken. I like dressing. My husband likes it so much he even drinks it. So don’t be surprised if it looks a little bit too much. If you prefer having less dressing, start with the half amounts of soy sauce and vinegar or let it cook longer.



2 garlic cloves
1 sprig of rosemary
4 slices bacon
3 tablespoons olive oil
300 g chicken fillets
3 tablespoons soy sauce | tamari
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 package lamb’s lettuce or romaine salad


Put olive oil, garlic, rosemary and the bacon into a wide pan and let the bacon sizzle on low until it turns reddish and crunchy. Take out the bacon and let it cool on some kitchen roll sheets. Now you have a nicely flavored oil which is a good basis for the dressing.

Cut the chicken fillets into small bits – either bite size or finger-thick strips.


Turn the heat on medium-high, toss in the chicken bits and let them fry, cook through and get some golden brown spots.
They don’t really have to get brown, as there is already pretty much taste from the bacon and the meat will get brown enough when you put in the soy sauce and the balsamic vinegar.


Speaking of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. When your chicken is cooked through (chicken should always be cooked “well done”), pour them into the hot pan, reduce the heat to low and let it all cook until it thickens a bit and looks somewhat syrupy. When you pour in the vinegar, move your head away from the pan – vinegar vapors are not the most pleasant thing for your nose.

While the salad dressing thickens, go wash the salad. And if you like, heat up some French bread (my favorite is baguette) in the oven.

Put the salad on a plate, arrange the bacon and the chicken on the side (so that the salad won’t go flat because of the heat – lamb’s lettuce is very fragile) and slowly drizzle the dressing over the salad. Tastes best with a hot french bread and a nice cold beer.