Hot pumpkin soup. Getting ready for Halloween.

Here in Germany, some people started to celebrate Halloween – nowadays, you can even go to parties. But 15 years ago, living in a small town, my friends started the tradition of cooking American food, preferably something hot and watching horror movies. Over the years, we made tons of different things – chili, homemade burgers, spaghetti with meat balls. But one thing remained consistent over the years: pumpkin soup as a starter.

This one is creamy, meaty and bacon-y and of course: hot. But let me assure you: except for the crème fraîche I used for serving, it’s vegan!


1 Hokkaido pumpkin, about 1 kg / 2 pounds
1/4 muscat pumpkin, about 1 kg / 2 pounds
1 large onion, diced
4 red potatoes, peeled and diced
2 fresh chilies, cut into rings
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika powder
1 tablespoon vegetable broth powder
1 can peeled tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
chili sauce
lemon juice
crème fraîche for serving

Preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F and search your kitchen for some kind of ovenproof vessel you pumpkin will fit in. In my case, a 9×13 inch pyrex form.

Cut the Hokkaido pumpkin in half and scoop out the innards – personally, I think an ice cream scoop is the best tool for the job. Then place the pumpkin halves in the form, sprinkle with oil, salt, sugar and maybe a little bit paprika powder.

Place the in the oven for about half an hour. Or until the flesh is soft and you have a nice brown crust.

OK, now we can concentrate on the soup itself:

Remove the seeds and peel from the muscat pumpkin, then dice it coarsely. Peel and dice the rest of the vegetables and slice the chilies.

Heat up a big pot, then pour in the oil and start browning the vegetables. Stir often; you’ll want some brown bits for taste.

When the vegetables are starting to get soft, sprinkle with curry and smoked paprika powder.

Look out for this stuff – I bought it in Spain during my vacation, but I’m sure you will find it elsewhere, too.

I don’t like the expression, but this is the “secret ingredient” to the soup. Basically, it gives kind of a subtle bacon flavor.

Next, pour in the peeled tomatoes and enough water to cover and let it cook for around 20 minutes or until you can just mash the vegetables with the back of a spoon.

When it looks like this, puree it with your favorite method – mine being a stick blender. But a stand mixer or food processor will also work fine.

Give it a taste and add salt, pepper, chili sauce and lemon juice accordingly.

To serve, get the pumpkin halves out of the oven and each into a bowl. Fill the soup into the pumpkin bowl and (if you’re not vegan), garnish with a healthy spoonful of crème fraîche.

Carrot dip. The mean brother of baby food.

This looks so innocent, doesn’t it? I really reminds you a bit of baby food, if it weren’t for the olives, right? Go ahead, take a bite. At first, you think: “What is she talking about? Just regular carrots. A bit on the sweet side.” And then it will hit you: the tartness of the lemon juice. The slight bitterness of the olive oil. The complexity of the spices. And last, but not least: the slight burn of chili in your throat.

This is a great dip and it goes very well with all those other oriental-inspired dips, hummus, baba ghanoush and tzatziki. Just serve them all with some pita bread and olives and you have a simple, but very satisfying dinner.


250 g / 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ras-el-hanout (or ground cumin)
1 tablespoon harissa
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus some for garnishing

Around here, you always get carrots in 1 kilo / 2 pound packages. Minimum. So most times, I take the rest of the package I did not use and eyeball the amount of the rest of the other ingredients.

Peel the carrots, cut them into finger-thick slices and cook them in very salty water for about 20 minutes. They should be soft, but not falling to bits.

In the meantime, mix together lemon juice, crushed garlic, ras-el-hanout and olive oil. Hold the salt, there will be already enough in the carrots.

I like to use my immersion blender for this, so I start in a rather high and narrow mixing bowl. But feel free to use a food processor if you happen to own one.

Drain the carrots and put them over the harissa-mixture. Then puree them as fine as you want them. Personally, I like some bits left, otherwise it reminds me too much of baby food…

Serve in a nice bowl when it is cooled down, garnish with some olives and olive oil. Then dig right in.

Iced Tea. Thirst quencher for hot days.

There are few things more refreshing than iced tea on a hot summer day. And I don’t mean those over-sweetened soft drinks laced with artificial flavors, preservatives and other stuff you don’t really want to know about. Better make it yourself, it’s ready in 5 minutes. Go ahead and time it, I’m not exaggerating. And another thing: it helps against those mean headaches.


1 liter / 4 cups water, boiling
1/2 kg / 1 pound ice cubes
6 teabags or 6 teaspoons black tea
0-4 tablespoons sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Take 6 teabags or 6 heaping teaspoons of loose black tea. Bring the water to boil and when it’s really bubbling, pour it over the tea.

Let it steep for exactly 4 minutes. Then the tea will be strong, but not too bitter. Take out the tea bags or strain the tea if you used loose tea. Then dissolve the sugar in the hot tea – the amount depends on your taste.

Weight out the ice in a big pitcher. You need half the amount by weight as you have tea.

Slowly pour the hot, sweetened tea over the ice cubes. Then add the lemon juice – also according to your taste – and you’re done! Grab a big glass, maybe a straw and sit outside in the sun with your feet up.

Chickpea salad. Great for summer.

Do you know those people who can eat anything at any time? Like pork roast and sauerkraut in summer or gazpacho when it’s snowing. I can’t. I am one of those who can’t eat warm and heavy stuff when it’s hot outside. I like to have a light lunch in the summer heat. But a normal green salad is never enough for me – I always end up hungry half an hour later. So this number here is a great compromise: It tastes fresh like a salad, but the chickpeas bring along some carbs and proteins, just the right amount to make you feel satisfied but not stuffed… And it’s ready in minutes – literally – so you’ll have more time to go outside and catch some rays.


1 can chickpeas
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic glove, crushed
1 lemon, juice only
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Open a can of chickpeas and drain them well. I even like to give them a quick rinse with cold water, but that’s just because the brine has a distinctive smell I don’t like.

Dice the onions and crush the garlic, then mix with the chickpeas in a bowl.

Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, then add lemon juice, salt, pepper and spices. I only had dried ones, but please use fresh if you have.

Somehow no plant survives my care more than a few weeks. Except orchids. Those are growing one flower after the other. Since December.

Give it all a stir and a taste. You should have about the same amount of tomatoes as chickpeas and some crunchy onions. When it tastes good, go out on the balcony, sit in the sun and eat straight out of the bowl.

ANZAC biscuits. Cookies from down under.

Are you also obsessed with foreign supermarkets? When I came to New Zealand 3 years ago, I spent hours in the supermarket, inspecting every row and wondering about many products, looking desperately for others. And of course buying quite a lot to try them out. And everywhere around NZ you will find ANZAC cookies next to the well-known classics like chocolate chip and oatmeal-raisin cookies. After wondering and reading the package, I found out that these cookies were originally sent from families to members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) abroad. I guess they were made without eggs so that they would keep better when being sent halfway around the globe. But nowadays you can make vegan cookies by substituting the butter with a good margarine. 

These cookies are a bit on the hard side, so don’t give them to your granny. Unless of course you don’t mind dipping them into hot coffee or tea. Oh, and by the way: tomorrow (25. April) is ANZAC day!

adapted from Lottie + Doof

1 cup flour
1 cup oats
1 cup shredded dried coconut
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 untreated lemon or orange, just the zest (optional)
100 g / 1 stick butter, melted (or good quality margarine for vegan cookies)
2 tablespoons honey or golden, rice or maple syrup
1 tablespoon boiling water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate/natron)

Preheat your oven to 190°C / 375°F, as this recipe is really quick.

Grab a big mixing bowl and fill in the flour, the coconut and the oats. 

Add the sugar, the lemon or orange zest if you like – and don’t forget the salt! Mix all the dry stuff together.

It sounds a bit crazy, but sweet stuff tastes better with a little bit of salt – and salty stuff tastes better with a little bit of sugar. Think of tomato sauce: a little bit of sugar makes a huge difference.

Melt the butter together with the honey or syrup. Be gentle, don’t let it cook or burn. You just want it liquid, not boiling.

Dissolve the baking soda in a tablespoon of hot water. Then mix it with the melted butter. It will foam up a bit, nothing to worry about.

Now you can pour the butter mixture into the dry mixture. Mix it with your favorite tool – mine being an old wooden spoon.

Now try if you have a good consistency. You want a crumbly mixture that will somehow hold its shape when you press it together. If it doesn’t yet keep together, add a bit more melted butter – not water, as they would become terribly hard and impossible to bite through.

I like to form the cookies with my measuring tablespoon, so that they are all round and have about the same size. You can also use a disher / ice cream scoop or simply roll balls with 1.5 inch / 4 cm diameter to make much bigger cookies.

For baking, you will have to set them at least an inch / 3 cm apart. Here, they are much too close because I froze them and bagged / labeled them as soon as they were solid. There’s no need to do that, but I find that this recipe makes much too many cookies for 2 persons to eat. That’s why I like to make a full – or even double – batch and freeze most of it. But you go ahead and bake it all.

So for baking, set them a bit apart on parchment paper or on a silicone mat and pop them in the oven for 15 minutes.

Get them out of the oven and let them cool. Eat them alongside your favorite caffeinated hot beverage.

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.

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.

Baba Ghanoush. Dip for eggplant lovers.

Basically, I hate eggplants. Especially if they are soggy, mushy, bland and/or bitter. Or even soaked with oil floating in a boring tomato sauce. Horrible.
A year ago I discovered that eggplants – also called aubergines – actually CAN taste good, as long as you cut them in 1 cm thick slices, lace them with garlic and put them on the BBQ until they are dark brown and soft.

And then we went to a Persian restaurant and ordered a mezze platter. There were all those incredibly tasty dips: hummus, some kind of tzatziki, spinach with yogurt, olives, feta and this really tasty dip where I couldn’t place what it tasted like or what it contained. Can you believe my shock when the waiter told me it consisted mostly of eggplant! Since then, I always have to remember myself that I like eggplant, at least in some very specific preparations.


1 large eggplant
1 lemon, juice only
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon tahini (or peanut butter)
1 package / 200 g / 1 cup yogurt (Greek style if possible)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin or ras-el-hanout (seasoning for cous-cous)

Heat up your oven to 200°C/400°F. Stab the eggplant several times with a knife, then put it in the oven and leave it there for 30 min or until the skin is shriveled and black and the whole thing feels soft.
By the way, always punch a few holes in vegetable skins before putting them into the oven, many people report exploding vegetables (just have a go in Google). Not that this would terribly dangerous in a closed oven, but imagine having to clean every nook and cranny!

Get the eggplant out of the oven, grab a large knife and split it in half. Let. It. Cool. I burned my fingers because I was too impatient.
Now it’s time to scoop out the “meat” and I found that the ice cream scoop you see in the picture is perfect for the job. Or just use a regular large spoon.

Once you have removed the skin, place the “meat” into a tall container, add the rest of the ingredients and puree it with an immersion blender until everything is smooth. As I don’t have a food processor I use this method, but feel free to give it a few spins in the food processor if you have one.

I know, it’s not a pretty sight. But don’t let that intimidate you, the taste is great!
Serve with nice pita or focaccia bread, some olives and a glass of cold white wine. Perfect snack for hot summer evenings.

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.

Chimichurri. My favorite BBQ sauce.

My mom was born and raised in Argentina – and learned to cook from an Italian family. So despite growing up in Germany, I almost never had typical German meals at home. Instead, there was often homemade pasta, gnocchi, lasagna and cannelloni. And the occasional BBQ in the summer that was impossible without this sauce. Everyone has their own recipe, and even mine is very different from the chimichurri my mom makes. There must be millions of variants: red or green, hot or mild, sweet or sour, thick or thin.

This is for Ben and Bryan – my New Zealand mates who liked to eat it straight from the jar with a spoon…



1 large glass jar (best is an open-mouthed jam or gherkin jar)
boiling water
1 large onion
5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon paprika powder
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
5 tablespoons dried Italian herbs (basil, rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme)
salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons white or cider vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup ketchup

Place the jar and its lid in your kitchen sink and fill both with boiling water. Leave it like that for at least 10 minutes – this is for sterilizing the jar, so that the sauce keeps longer (not that it ever lasted in my fridge that long so that it would have gone bad…).


Meanwhile, finely chop the onion and the garlic cloves. Empty the glass jar – be careful not to burn your fingers – place it on your working surface and fill in the garlic and onion dices.


The onions should come up to 1/3 to max. 1/2 of the height of the jar. Bring more water to boil and just cover the onions – that makes them softer and less harsh in taste.

Yeah, the label is still on the jar, my brother and I were too lazy to remove it.


Add all the dry spices and give it all a stir. Then pour in the ketchup, the vinegar and the olive oil. Give it a taste and then place it in the fridge till you need it.


Oh, and it’s one of the most versatile sauces: apart from tasting great with grilled stuff (like steaks, sausages, mushrooms, vegetables, etc.) you can also use it as marinade for chicken and as a salad dressing. Or simply dip in some bread or your finger…