Maultaschen. Not pretty, but very tasty.

What are “Maultaschen”? Well, think of giant ravioli, filled with a meat and spinach. Almost everywhere in Germany, especially in the South, you will find them in the supermarkets and as soup in many traditional restaurants. I have always liked them, but when I visited my aunt and uncle a while ago, the homemade ones were a total revelation. My aunt was so kind to give me her recipe:


1 tablespoon oil
100 g bacon
1 cup diced onion
1 cup sliced leeks
500 g / 1 pound ground beef
500 g / 1 pound sausage meat or Leberkäsbrät (very finely ground)
250 g / 1/2 pound frozen spinach leaves
2 day-old rolls or 6 slices toast, cut into cubes
4 eggs
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
nutmeg, freshly ground
2 packages ready-made pasta dough or wontons

First of all, when you’re buying sausage meat, look for the very finely ground and well-seasoned stuff. Ask your butcher for it. It’s really easy when you live in Bavaria, because then you just buy a raw Leberkäse.

Nobody really knows why it is called “Leberkäse”, ie liver cheese – it contains neither liver nor cheese. It’s more like a regular sausage, but it is baked in this aluminum pan until it is cooked through and has formed a thick dark crust. Then you cut it in slices and serve it in 2 halves of a regular white roll, along with mustard. Bavarian fast food.

This is all about preparation – the French call it “mise en place” – so while the spinach thaws, set up your meat grinder. Then chop and drain the spinach.

Mine is a Kitchen Aid attachment, but feel free to use whatever you have. I have no experience in this, but maybe if you bought ground meat, you could also use a food processor.

Cut the onion into cubes, no need to be exact here. It will go through the meat grinder anyway.

Same with the leeks, just cut them into rings. I had some left from those 1 kilogram packages they sell around here. So I just let it thaw.

And also cut the parsley. It was a whole plant I bought at the supermarket.

Don’t forget about the bacon. Just cut it into strips. Cut the rolls into 1-inch cubes and have the rest of the ingredients ready.

Heat up the oil in your biggest pan and cook the bacon until it has rendered most of the fat but is not yet crispy. Add the leeks and onions and also cook them until they are soft, but are not getting any color. Set it all aside and let it cool.

No it’s time for the meat grinder. I like to make my own ground meat, so I bought a nice piece of beef, cut it into long strips and put them in the freezer for 30 minutes. Then the meat is cold but not frozen, perfect for grinding. Some people also recommend freezing the whole meat grinder (maybe not the handle if you’re using a hand-powered one).

Anyway, once you have ground meat, fill the bacon-onion mixture into the grinder and work it through. And after that, give the bread a ride.

By the way, this is a great way to clean your meat grinder, whether you use bread in your recipe or not. The bread soaks up quite a bit of the fats and juices that stay behind in the mechanism. And cleaning all the nooks and crannies is definitively easier with bread crumbs instead of gooey meat pieces.

Now for the rest of the ingredients: add sausage meat, parsley, chopped and drained spinach and eggs. And of course salt, pepper and quite a bit of ground nutmeg.

Pleeeeeease always buy whole nutmeg and grind it yourself when you need it. It’s no work at all and it tastes so much better than the pre-ground stuff.

Mix it all, either with a big spatula or using the paddle attachment of your Kitchen Aid. Just give it a couple of turns on the very low setting. Great if you’re having RSI (repetitive strain injury) or carpal tunnel problems.

See, I should have chopped the spinach more finely.
If the filling seems too soft, add a handful of breadcrumbs.

The store-bought pasta dough I bought was a fiasco – though it worked great in the lasagna. As it was Sunday, I had to make a quick pasta dough myself and without a pasta machine or even a decent rolling pin, well, the looked more like the “dumplings of Doctor Caligari”, as Alton Brown puts it.

Cook them in batches in hot salty water or broth and serve them with the broth and a potato salad.

I had tons of filling left, so I shaped it into half domes with my regular measuring tablespoon, set them on a freezer drawer and froze it over night. Then you can easily bag and tag the little meat balls and use them as a filling later on when you found a decent pasta dough at your supermarket. Or a pasta machine.

Koenigsberger Klopse. Not for capers haters.

cut open meat ball
This is a real granny dish. My grandma cooked it, telling me it reminded her of her own childhood – and I also found similar recipes in my oldest cook book, which dates form 1926. Seems it’s named after the town of Königsberg, which is now in Russia and called Kaliningrad. Quite a bit of history, ain’t it?

Anyway, basically you make meat balls, cook them in a savory broth and serve them in a Béchamel sauce with capers. Tons of capers. So please, do not make this for anyone who hates them.

sardine can
And the secret ingredient is – if you like to call it like that – anchovies. I know, they’re gross. I mean, really. And this might seem totally unreal coming from me, who absolutely despises every food that comes out of the ocean: you MUST put in anchovies! Otherwise it just won’t taste good. Trust me, you won’t taste any fishiness, instead this small amount of fish acts as a flavor enhancer (unless, of course, you are allergic to fish protein. Then leave it out, for heavens sake!). And why are sardine packagings always so pretty? 

OK, let’s travel back in time:

for 4, adapted from “Basic Cooking”

1 day-old bread roll or 3 slices toast, cut into cubes
125 ml / 1/2 cup milk, hot
1 egg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 anchovy fillets (OR 1 sardine OR 1-2 tablespoons anchovy paste)
2 shallots, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon butter
peel of 1/2 lemon, very finely grated
5 sprigs parsley, chopped
500 g ground veal (OR beef)
salt and pepper
nutmeg, freshly ground

1 liter / 4 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
250 g / 1 generous cup cream
100 g / 3.5 oz capers

bread, egg, mustard and sardine paste
Soak the day-old bread cubes in the hot milk, then mix in the egg, mustard and the chopped anchovies. I know, it looks and smells disgusting, but bear with me…

Also, sweat the chopped shallot in a little bit of butter, just until they are getting soft.

ground beef with condiments
Mix the bread mixture into the ground meat and season everything with salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg (thank you, inventors of the Microplane grater!), lemon peel (again, Microplane grater) and chopped parsley.

Do not worry if you can’t see the parsley, I simply forgot to buy some. So, not a crucial ingredient, but parsley is always nice.

If you don’t like tasting raw meat (or just aren’t allowed to), here’s a trick: just take a tablespoon of the meat mixture, roll it into a ball and fry it in butter in your smallest pan or pot. So you can taste the finished meat balls without realizing too late there’s salt missing.

Time to form the meat balls. You want them as uniformly as possible, that’s why I use a #16 disher. You could of course eyeball it or – if you’re really OCD, use a scale.

rolled meat balls
To roll the meat balls, always moisten your hands after each one, so that they will all be nice and smooth.

broth for cooking the meat balls
Bring the broth to boil and add the bay leaves and some pepper corns – the wider the pot, the better. Then reduce the heat to low, gently put in the meat balls and let them simmer for 10-15 min.

Then fish out the meat balls with a slotted spoon and let them rest on a plate. Also fish out the bay leaves and peppercorns and throw them away. And do keep the cooking liquid, it’s the base for our sauce.

sweating onions
Grab a new pot and start your basic Béchamel: sweat the onion in some butter until they’re soft, then add the flour.

Stir with a whisk and let it all cook until it looks light golden, then add your meat ball cooking liquid (about 2-3 cups of it) and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes – while stirring every minute or so.

finishing the bechamel
You should now have a very delicious sauce, which you will make even more delicious by stirring in a cup of cream. Give it a taste, maybe a little bit more salt or lemon juice?

reheat meat balls in sauce
Gently put the meatballs into the sauce and make sure they are all submerged. Add the drained capers and let it simmer for a couple of minutes until you are sure everything is hot.

serve with rice
Serve with buttered rice and lots of sauce.

In the very unlikely event you should have leftovers: freeze them in a muffin tin (works best with silicon), one meatball per cup and distribute the sauce evenly. Once everything is set hard, plop them out of the muffin tin and put 2 each in labeled bags. Homemade convenience food!

Burgers. It’s a celebration!

This blog now exists for 2 years – amazing how time goes by. And what had started as experiment and more of a recipe catalog for myself, now has lots of regular readers and over 100 facebook fans. Thank you so much!

My life is about to change drastically: I have quit my job (which I had for 11 years) and will now be a student again. I will be concentrating on web design, so don’t be surprised if appearances or features of this blog change once in a while. Please don’t be afraid to tell me what you like – and maybe don’t like.

Real burgers have become some kind of celebratory meal for me, so while most of you watch the Superbowl, I will celebrate this blog’s second anniversary and the changes that lie ahead.

makes 4

500 g / 1 pound beef, freshly ground
salt and pepper
4 burger rolls
8 slices bacon
1 large onion, cut into strips
4 thick slices Gruyère
mayonnaise (homemade)
Dijon mustard
4 cornichons / gherkins

Since you never really know what stuff goes into store-bought ground meat, I like to process it myself. I simply buy stewing meat, cut it into strips and freeze them alongside the meat grinder for 30 minutes. Then process the meat, this makes it much easier.

Season the ground meat with salt and pepper, stir it all around and divide into 4 equal parts.

I like to shape the burgers by hand and then get them as flat as possible by squeezing them with something flat (like a cutting board) between layers of plastic wrap. Then let them rest in the fridge, as long as you’re preparing the rest.

Cut the hamburger rolls in half and toast them in the dry and medium-hot pan. These were getting a bit darker than usual, but I like toasted bread. I basically toast every kind of bread.

Once all rolls are toasted, in goes the bacon. Lay out the strips and let them get nice and crunchy, then get them out of the pan and let them rest on some paper towels.

Uh, this is the part I like most: crank up the heat and brown the onions in the bacon fat. They should get soft and caramelized, but I like when they still have a little bit of bite in them.

Once you’re done with all the preparations, very gently place the burgers in the hot pan and leave them completely alone until you see the edges browning and the juices coming out on top. Flip them over and immediately lay on a slice of cheese. Once the patty is also browned on the underside, assemble your burger. Serve with a nice cold beer and some rock’n’roll.

Paella. Bringing some summer into your kitchen.

Winter really is harsh this year – it has now been snowing for at least 24 consecutive hours and it doesn’t seem to stop. I haven’t seen the sun in a while, and if, it’s so bitter cold outside, it feels like the cold is cutting into the skin. Hence the yearning for some summer vibes, easily delivered by a Paella. 

Similar to Risotto and Djuvec, Paella is a Mediterranean rice dish. They all have in common that you first fry the rice in some oil and only then add water to cook the rice. For me, Paella absolutely tastes like summer, reminding me of some very nice days in Bilbao. So whenever I come to Spain, I buy some smoked paprika powder, some saffron and of course, Paella rice:

Paella rice is a small grain rice, very similar to risotto or Abrioro rice. So don’t worry if you can’t find special Paella rice in your supermarket – I have also made very tasty Paellas with risotto rice, even milk pudding rice. Hell, in my opinion, better make a Paella with long grain rice than no Paella at all!

for 4

4 chicken thighs
8 large scampi, fresh or frozen
(200 g / 7 oz chorizo, cut into thick rounds)
(2 bell peppers, seeds removed and diced)
2 tomatoes or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup risotto or paella rice
3-4 cups chicken or beef broth
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon (smoked) paprika powder
a pinch of saffron

Somehow, I always start with chopping onions and garlic. In this case, also the carrots. Set them aside, you will need them a little later.

This would be the right time for your Paella pan. But of course, almost nobody has a special Paella pan. Doesn’t matter, just use the biggest pan you have, in my case a cast iron Le Creuset.

Heat it up to medium, pour in some oil and gently fry the chicken legs until they are golden brown. No need to cook them through, we’ll deal with that later.

If you like, you can also fry the scampi one minute on each side, just so that they get a nice red color.

I simply forgot about the chorizo, it’s an integral part of this dish. Nevermind, just cut it into thick slices and also fry it for a bit. Set it all aside.

Speaking of nice red color: dissolve the saffron in a little bit of hot water. Smell the divine fragrance.

After getting the scampi out of the pan, start frying the carrots, onions and garlic. Not too much color, they should just get a bit soft. Then add the rice.

Stir it around in the hot pan until the kernels start to get translucent. You don’t want brown, you don’t want them fried, just a nicely coated by the oil.

Then add the broth and the dissolved saffron.

By the way, this was homemade vegetable broth. And frozen in a silicon muffin tin. Even if you are not a fan of silicon baking ware, think about getting a muffin sheet just for freezing things. Frozen stuff is very easy to extract from the silicon – just plop it out – and 2 muffin cups are one serving in most cases.

Add the rest of the spices and the peas, then arrange the chicken parts and the scampi on top. Let it simmer on the stove or in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until the rice is done – do not stir!
Serve piping hot with lemon and tomato wedges.

Pork Wellington. Another tribute to Alton Brown.

Guess you already know that I really like watching Alton Brown’s show “Good Eats”. Since I had access to Food Network in New Zealand, I’m hooked. And when he made a modernized (and affordable) version of Beef Wellington, I was totally smitten. Apart from one thing: he uses dried apples.

Apples are pure poison to me. Since I was diagnosed with fructose malabsorption, I have cut out nearly all fruit, except bananas, citrus and papaya from my shopping list. You don’t want to be near me when I have eaten apples. Honestly. Right now, I’m carefully testing various berries and to my great delight, I found that cranberries are totally compatible to my digestive system.

So I changed the fruit, took Bayonne ham instead of prosciutto and Dijon mustard instead of the coarse variety. Not because I am a manic individualist, just because I happened to have those things at home. Be creative and don’t follow recipes to the letter!

 for 3-4 persons, adapted from Alton Brown

1 whole pork tenderloin, approximately 450 g / 1 pound
6 large slices Parma, Bayonne or Schwarzwald ham, thinly sliced
30 g / 1 ounce dried cranberries
1 packet (450 g / 1 pound) puff pastry, thawed completely
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 whole egg
1 tablespoon milk

Take a nice pork tenderloin, place it on your cutting board and remove all the white stuff. Then half it lengthwise and flip one side over. This is to even out the thickness so the meat will be cooked at the same time.

And I should finally buy a bigger cutting board…

Measure the cranberries – I have a very handy scale that can switch between ounces and grams. Then chop them coarsely.

Place the ham slices with a bit of overlap on some kind of parchment paper (I used baking paper) and give it a few passes with the rolling pin – this is to glue the the overlap together.

Then place the tenderloin on top and sprinkle the dried cranberries between the two halves.

Use the paper to roll it all up very tightly. Then set it to the side – you’ll need a bit of room for the next step.

Roll out the puff pastry into a big rectangle. It should be wider than the tenderloin is long and large enough to cover it completely.

Smear on the mustard, while leaving a 1 inch / 3 cm margin and sprinkle on some salt and freshly ground pepper.

Place the tenderloin on top and roll it all up. Then squeeze the edges shut.

Mix the egg (or just an egg yolk) with a little bit of milk. You will not need all of it – give the rest to your cat, he will be very grateful and purr for you.

Place the rolled up meat onto a baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. Then bake at 200°C / 400°F for 30 minutes. Then, let it rest for 10 minutes and cut into thick slices. Serve with a little salad on the side, or some sauteed vegetables.

Rouladen. German classic, nothing more to say.

According to the wikipedia, Rouladen are “bacon, onions, mustard and pickles wrapped in thinly sliced beef which is then cooked”. This is basically correct, but tells you nothing about the taste and texture. Let alone the sauce. And of course, there are millions of recipes – almost every German hausfrau has their own. I, for example, like to keep the onions in the sauce, not in the rolls. And the sauce is based on red wine, which I happen to like very much and have known since childhood.

My mother-in-law on the other hand, makes the sauce with tons of mustard. And my grandmother used to make a simple brown sauce. Over the years, I have developed quite a mixture of all of those recipes. Serve it with any starch you like, but I prefer either mashed potatoes or spaetzle.

for 4-5 people

9 very flat pieces beef, from the round
9 tablespoons Dijon mustard
9 slices bacon
9 cornichons or small gherkins
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bottle red wine
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup cream

This is really easy: lay out the meat slices and smear on the mustard. Not too thick, but you want to use quite a bit. Then lay on 2-3 slices of bacon and some gherkins.

I know, all my cooking boards are too small. Well, sometimes it gets messy.

Then just roll it up like a spring roll and secure the end some way or another. There are tons of ways of doing this, but I like to simply use a wooden skewer. But you could also go for butcher’s twine, metal skewers or those special Rouladen clamps they sell in every German household store. But those look more than torture devices than actual useful cooking items.

Then heat up your favorite large pot on medium-high, drizzle in some oil and sear the rolls nice and brown from all sides. No need to get the meat done, it will be cooked long enough later. Get them out on a plate and set it aside.

Chop up the onions and carrots roughly and brown them in the same pot you just seared the meat.

Drop in the tomato paste and let it bubble up for a minute or so. This is to caramelize some sugars. And caramel is always good.

Then deglaze with a glass of wine or so. Deglazing means: pour in the wine and let it bubble up. Then scrape around the bottom of the pot until you have loosened all the brown stuff. The brown stuff makes the sauce yummy. That’s the whole secret.

OK, fill in the rest of the red wine – and remember: never cook with anything that you wouldn’t drink. No need to to go for the expensive stuff. But if you don’t like the wine, you’ll probably won’t like the sauce.

Then park the meat rolls in the sauce and add the rest of the mustard as well as salt, pepper and bay leaves. Let it cook/simmer on low for around 2 hours.

The meat should be tender and slightly fall apart. Get it out of the pot – again! – but this time on a heated platter.

Time for the cream and the immersion blender. Well, first get the bay leaves out and throw them away, they have given all they got. Then hit it with the blender and make a nice and creamy sauce. Give it a taste, maybe some more salt? Some drops of lemon juice? A bit more red wine?

Tastes good? Then serve the Rouladen with LOTS of sauce. And perhaps a glass of wine. You remembered to buy a second bottle? Right?

Grilled cheese and tomato salad. Dinner for one.

Cheese and tomatoes have always been a great combination in my eyes. And a grilled cheese sandwich is some of the easiest soul food I know. Here’s a little secret: put some drops of Kirsch (Kirschwasser) on the bread slices and it will taste just like cheese fondue.

for 1 person

4 slices toast
some drops of Kirsch, optional
4 slices cheddar cheese
cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce | tamari
2 tablespoons olive oil

Take the toast slices out of the package and butter them all on one side. I like to keep toast packages in the freezer and I don’t bother thawing the slices – they will be heated enough later.

Now this is key – turn 2 slices over so that the butter is facing down. If you want to, you can now drizzle some drops of Kirschwasser onto the bread, then lay on some slices of cheese. Make sure they don’t go until the edge of the bread. Or you’ll have a big mess to clean up.

Lay on the other slices so that all buttered sides are facing outward.

Preheat your sandwich toaster and put them in for 2-4 min., depending how dark you like them.

While the sandwiches are toasting, let’s make a quick tomato salad. Just slice some cherry tomatoes in half.

And the super quick dressing: just 1 part balsamic vinegar, 1 part soy sauce, 2-3 parts olive oil. Done. OK, maybe a little bit of fresh ground pepper.

Mix in the tomatoes and you’re ready. Dinner for one in 5 minutes. Who could ask for more?

Chili. Hot stuff for cold days.

Chili. I guess there is not much to say. Of course, there are different beliefs: beans or no beans, ground meat or pieces, vegetables or no vegetables. This may sound totally crazy, but I like all kinds of chili. But depending on my mood, I sometimes prefer one variation over the other.

What’s really much more important: the spices and liquids you add. And in my case, it’s whiskey (with a nice amount of peat), red wine and dark ale. Fresh and dried chilies are a must.


1 kg / 2 pounds beef (from the round)
100 g / 3,5 oz bacon
1/4 cup lard or olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped (2 cups)
3 carrots, diced (2 cups)
100 g / 3.5 oz tomato paste
1/4 cup whiskey
1 cup red wine
1 cup dark ale
1 can peeled tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1-5 fresh chilies, eg 1 habanero, 1 jalapeno, 1 Thai chili
3 tablespoons chili tequila
1 teaspoon dried chili
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
1 can kidney beans, drained (optional)
1 lemon, just the juice, to taste

To serve:
cheddar cheese, shredded
spring onions, cut into thin slices
sour cream

Cut the meat into the size you like for a chili – anything between 1-inch cubes and mincing it. Then peel and cut the onions and carrots into large dice.

I like to start with the bacon, getting it brown and rendering the fat. When it is nice and crunchy, get it out and put it into a bowl.

Then add the lard or oil, let it get hot and start sauteing the onions and carrots. When the edges start to get brown, also get them out into a bowl.

Get your stove to medium-high and let it get really hot for some minutes. Don’t dump all the meat in – better start with just a few handfuls. Just let it brown for a couple of minutes, then start stirring it around. When all the sides of the meat are brown, add the next few handfuls. And so on until all the meat is in the pot and browned nicely.

OK, now the bacon and the vegetables go back in, and also the tomato paste. Add the whiskey, stir and scrape the bottom until nearly all is evaporated. Then add the wine and the beer – and top it off with water (or even some coffee you have still standing around).

Next add the can of tomatoes. Don’t worry if it looks like too much liquid, most of it will cook off anyway.

Time for some heat: Add the chilies – either whole or cut into pieces. I like to buy big bunches of fresh chilies and preserve them in alcohol.

Just cut away the green stuff, fill them in a glass jar and top it off with your favorite 40%-spirit. I like to use either Sherry, Cognac or Tequila. Keeps nearly endlessly and is a great addition for all kinds of tomato-based meals.

Add the rest of the spices and let it cook on very low for around 2 hours. Or longer, if you have the time.

Serve with spring onions, shredded cheese, crème fraîche and a nice toasty bread. Not to forget: a nice glass of cold beer to kill the heat.

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.

Djuvec. Rice and chicken the Croatian way.

First of all, how do you spell that? I’d say something like “jouwetch”.

Secondly, what is it? Very, very roughly said: It’s like a paella, but from the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. In Germany, you will get it most likely in Croatian restaurants, but I got this recipe from an Armenian colleague, Gemille.

Third, why should I bother? It’s incredibly tasty, it’s totally versatile and can even be made only with pantry items – or vegetarian if you leave out the chicken. And the best thing: it practically makes itself.


1 cup rice
1 cup peas
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup bell peppers, diced
1 cup onions, diced
4 tablespoons tomato paste
5 garlic gloves, crushed
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika powder
3 tablespoons Vegeta (or vegetable broth powder)
1 cup cream
500 g / 1 pound chicken (your favorite parts or a whole chicken)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika powder
2 tablespoons Vegeta (or vegetable broth powder)

Vegeta is the allround spice and salt for Croatians. In Germany, you can find it in every supermarket – but keep a lookout in the international isle. If you can’t find it, just use regular vegetable broth powder.

Preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F. Then take your biggest pan or – if you only have pans with a plasic handle – use a rectangular baking dish. Fill in the rice, the vegetables, tomato paste, oil, paprika and Vegeta and mix them together.

Flatten the mixture a bit, put the pan or baking dish into the oven and only then fill in enough water to cover it all by 2 cm / 1 inch. That way, if you’re clumsy, you will only spill water and not have lots of oily vegetable bits floating in your kitchen.

Bake for 30-45 min and do not touch or stir. Just try after half an hour if the rice is getting done.

In the meantime, cover the chicken bits with oil and season with more paprika powder and Vegeta. I like chicken breast in rather thin slices. But if you prefer drumsticks or a whole chicken, you should cook it first in water to get the meat done. Then toss in oil and spices.

When the rice is almost done, pour the cup of cream over it – no need to stir it in, it will dissipate by itself. Distribute the chicken parts on top and give it another 10-15 min. until it all looks golden brown and delicious. Bring the whole pan to the table and serve with a really big spoon.