Pesto. Not from a supermarket shelf.

I love pesto. It tastes great on pasta, you can use it on pizzas or chicken, it even helps putting some taste in an otherwise boring tomato or bechamel sauce.

Problem is, once you have tasted the homemade stuff, you’re never going back to the jars and plastic bags from the supermarket. On the other hand it’s very simple to make at home. You can also use a blender or food processor instead of pestle and mortar, but personally I like to see some bits and pieces.

Parmesan cheese is practically lactose free – like the most hard cheeses. Check the carbohydrates section on the nutrition facts: If a cheese (or any other dairy product without added sugar) has less than 0,5 grams of sugars/carbohydrates per 100 grams, then you can consider it lactose free (for me, even up to 1,5 grams is OK). If you are hyper-lactose-intolerant, better leave the cheese out or substitute it with toasted bread crumbs. Then it’s even vegan!



2 plants of basil
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3 cloves garlic cloves
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese/toasted bread crumbs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
a nice jar with tight fitting lid

First, buy 2 plants of basil. Make sure the leaves look all fresh and green and that the stems are standing more or less upright. DO NOT WASH the basil. It takes away a good bit of flavor and – more importantly – you’ll end up having too much water in your paste, which reduces shelf life drastically. Don’t worry, most plants nowadays have grown up in greenhouses and were never in contact with exhaust gases and such.

Time to be brutal. Cut off all the stems right above the earth, then separate the leaves from the stems. Place the leaves in your grinding vessel. I use pestle and mortar made of granite. It weighs over 6 kg.


Add 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt, then start pounding/mixing/pulsing (depending on the tool you use) until all the leaves are squished but still some big parts left.. It’s important to add the oil and the salt to the leaves in the beginning, as the oil prevents oxidation (i.e. the leaves turning into a ghastly brown goo) and the salt helps as a grinding agent.


Now put in the garlic cloves and the pine nuts and pound/mix/pulse them with the basil oil until you have the consistency you like. As I said, I like it when there are still some bits left. Put in the Parmesan cheese and now just stir it in. Unless of course, you want to have a homogeneous paste, go on pulsing it down… Add some more olive oil if you like or if the pesto seems crumbly.


Fill the pesto into a nice little jar and try to get as few air bubbles as possible. Flatten the surface by hammering the jar (lightly) on the counter, then top it off with some vegetable oil. Why not olive oil? The oil serves as air barrier to prevent oxidation (that is your nice green pesto turning brown). Olive oil crystallizes in the refrigerator, so chances are that your oxidation barrier will break.

Macarons. First take.

As I have said in my Carbonara post, I have tons of egg whites in my freezer. And that gets even worse when I make Pasteis de Nata (a sweet that reminds me of vacations), you need 6 (six!) yolks for one muffin tray. So I’m looking for ways to use those egg whites, apart from the plain white meringue. Quite a few food bloggers post about macarons, about how delicious they are and how difficult they are to make. A way to use those egg whites and a challenge – what could be better?

Have you ever eaten macarons? It’s a French sweet, a bit like a sandwich made of almond meringues and with ganache in the middle. I first tasted them last September in Bordeaux, so apart from being delicious by themselves, they taste like holidays for me… The drawback is that they’re really expensive and they’re – of course – only available in France. There also seems to exist a Swiss variant, named Luxemburgerli.

After reading several posts and recipes, the one presented by David Lebovitz seemed the most reasonable one – hey, he gave it seven tries! Click on this link for the RECIPE and INSTRUCTIONS

This is my first try – doesn’t look too bad:


Well, not perfect either. I must say that in my case, 2 egg whites may not have been enough – the batter was quite hard and I could hardly squeeze it through the pastry bag nozzle. Nothing like the described “lava consistency”. Also, tapping the baking sheet several times did not make the macarons any flatter; I had to use my moistened finger tips to make the tops more even. They came out pretty thick: the macaron pictured here is 5 cm high. And I only had enough batter for 7 pairs.

But: preheating the oven a bit hotter than you actually need it (and then reducing the temperature when putting the meringues in) really helps generating the little “feet”, i.e. the crumpled meringue you see in the picture.

Needless to say, the chocolate ganache was really easy to make and tastes delicious, maybe because I added 1 teaspoon of rum. As I did not have enough macaron shells, I made truffles as described by Alton Brown.

No question I will make macarons again, as they are really really tasty!

Carbonara. Quick comfort food.

One of my all-time-favorite comfort foods is Spaghetti Carbonara. It’s quick, simple, I almost always have the ingredients at home – and most important of all – it’s delicious. How could you not love noodles with a creamy, cheesy sauce and bacon? The recipe I use is a very traditional Italian one, although I like it best with capers. Yes, I know it’s not the classic combination (some might even shout “blasphemy!”), but I like the acidity of the capers in contrast to the creamy sauce. Please don’t kill me, try it. If you don’t like it you can still use the traditional chopped parsley.



250 g spaghetti, linguini or other thin, long Italian noodles
8-10 thin bacon slices (200 g)
2 egg yolks
100 g cup cream
50 g fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper

Bring enough water to boil, put plenty salt in it so that it tastes like sea water and cook the spaghetti.


Cut the bacon into fine strips and let it get crisp in a pan, then add the butter.

Pour the cream into a small bowl (or just leave it in your measuring jar), stir in the egg yolks and the grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, but keep in mind that the bacon and your spaghetti are already quite salty. I also like to add 1 tsp of the caper brine, that gives the dish a very subtle flavor and deepness. Or maybe it’s because I use lactose-free cream which tastes a good deal sweeter than regular cream.

As soon as the spaghetti are done (al dente), drain them and put them into the pan, letting them brown a tiny little bit. Now – this is very important – kill the heat and move the pan to a cool surface. If your pan has a very thick sandwich bottom, pour the bacon and spaghetti into a glass bowl. If you don’t do this, you’ll get scrambled eggs instead of a creamy sauce (in case that happens, tell the people its a rustic version). Back to the hot spaghetti in a cool place: pour the cream-cheese-egg mixture on top an quickly mix it with the spaghetti. Ready to eat!

Serve with capers or fresh chopped parsley. And don’t forget some freshly ground pepper.

As I make this dish quite often, I end up with tons of egg whites. I freeze them and still have to think of ways of using them (macarons and pavlovas come to my mind).

Quiche. With tons of leeks.

In winter in Germany, you often get to buy leeks in 1 kg bundles. It was cheap, but I only needed one leek for a stir-fry. Every time I opened the fridge I was wondering: “What the hell should I do with all those leeks?!?” Then I remembered the Swiss cheesecake my mom used to make – it has tons of onions in it and I thought I should try and substitute the onions with leeks. It was a full success!

Though I really liked the dense leek flavor, but somehow missed the sweetness of the onions. I guess I will make it 50/50 the next time.

By the way, this is NOT suitable for people trying to loose weight! There’s tons of cheese, eggs and bacon… On the other hand, it’s quite low on carbs, if that is your thing.

The cake is easiest to cut on the next day (like any cheesecake), but I like it piping hot and straight from the oven.


makes one pie with 28 cm in diameter, ca. 5 cm height

1 package flaky pastry (or savory pie crust)
5-6 leeks, cut into rings (original: 4-5 onions, diced)
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
5-6 eggs
1-2 tsp caraway seeds
200 g cream
200 g sour cream
200 g cream cheese
400 g Gouda cheese, grated
400 g Emmental cheese, grated
100 g Parmesan cheese, grated
400 g lardons/bacon, diced

Butter and flour a pie springform pan, line the bottom and the sides with the flaky pastry and punch some hole in the bottom. Preheat the oven to 180°C.


Heat up a pan, melt the butter and throw in all the diced onions (you can also cut them up into rings half rings or whatever you like. Just don’t make the bits too small). Add a little bit of sugar and sauté the onions for a couple of minutes. Don’t let them get too soft, you want the translucent with some brown bits, but also some bite to them. Let it all cool down.

Put the eggs in your mixer (whisk attachment) and beat until fluffy. Add the spices, then turn the speed down and add the cream, the sour cream and the cream cheese SLOWLY. Otherwise, you’ll get a terrible mess. Continue mixing until you have a smooth, thick liquid without any cream cheese bits left, then remove the whisk and change to the hook (or don’t and use a large wooden spoon and your hands instead). Again, on low speed, gradually add the cheese bits, the bacon cubes and the leeks/onions. Check that the leeks/onions have cooled down, so the eggs won’t curdle if you stir it into the mixture.

Pour it into your pie dish, flatten the mixture a bit and put it into the preheated oven (180°C) for about an hour.

Yes, the top NEEDS to get brown, that’s what makes it so tasty. Just be sure it won’t turn black. Cut it up immediately for a hot, gooey and messy (but heartwarming) dinner, maybe with a nice green salad. Or let it cool down and you have great lunch for work (either cold or heated in the microwave).

Favorite kitchen helpers

Hi there,

been a while. Today I wanted to show you my favorite kitchen helpers:

my favorite kitchen helpers

From left to right:

  • Blender: 25 years old Osterizer, but still works like new. I just ordered a new blade and can’t wait to test it out. Basically, I use it for smoothies and chopping nuts etc.
  • Kitchen Aid: brand new and I love it! Was my dream for many years… I had several other machines, but it’s no fun if the thing starts to smell like burnt plastic if you run it for more than 10 minutes. But this one: runs forever. I also got several attachments as gifts from my parents, of which the ice cream maker is my favorite.
  • Pestle and mortar: nothing beats homemade pesto! The thing weighs 6kg and is made of granite. And the pestle is a great ersatz ice crusher.
  • Microwave: nothing beats the fast heat. Great to melt chocolate or to sauté onions if you can’t be bothered with heating up a pan. Just chop the onion, but it in a bowl with a generous amount of butter and nuke it on high for 2 min.
  • Henry: he’s my cat, always there and always watching what I’m doing – he really is into cooking! He even stays when I cut onions, poor thing blinks because of the tears building up in his eyes. One crazy cat…


Gugelhupf. With new-world twist.

A couple of days ago, the weather turned cold and bad and I had a craving for traditional cake made with yeast. Then, I browsed through my pantry and my collection of cook books and found just the right things: a packet of dried yeast, candied lemon peel and dried fruit. And this is what it looked like when I was ready:


(see here for a better picture: Gugelhupf)

Now you might think: so, what’s the new-world twist? oh, I felt creative that day and put in pecans and dried cranberries…

Here’s the recipe:


500 g flour
125 ml / 1/2 cup milk, body temperature
100 g sugar
1 packed dried yeast
2 eggs
100 g / 1 stick butter, room temperature
lemon peel
50 g shaved almonds
50 g pecans, chopped
100 g raisins
100 g dried lemon and orange peel, mixed
50 g dried cranberries
3 tbs rum

Put flour in mixing bowl, make a dip and pour in the sugar, the tepid milk and the yeast to “wake up” the yeast. Add the eggs, the butter cut into pieces and the lemon peel and mix/knead until the dough doesn’t stick anymore to the bowl (do that either by hand or with the dough hook of your food processor). That takes about 10 minutes. Cover and let it rest/rise in a warm place until it reaches the double size (if you have the time, place it in the fridge for 24 hours – the taste will be much finer).

Cover the dried fruit with rum and put it in the microwave for 3 minutes and let cool (saves you soaking them over night). Knead the fruit and the nuts into the dough until they are evenly distributed and put it into a greased bundt cake pan (mine is made out of silicon). Bake for 1 hour at 190°C, remove the cake from the pan and sprinkle with powder sugar. Enjoy!