German Birthday Cake (Marmorkuchen)
So the Germans are very specific about birthdays. It is strictly forbidden to wish someone a happy birthday before the day itself (unless you are actually intending to curse them).
As far as cakes go, there is only one option. There is only ONE German birthday cake: Marmorkuchen.
I made one for Felix’s birthday, and it was apparently absolutely perfect, the right texture, the right taste, the right consistency. Since then I’ve repeated the recipe twice and both times it hasn’t come out ‘just right’ according to the German experts.
I’ve always used the same recipe, so maybe you can help me figure out what I’ve done differently each time.
Regardless, this is basically a delicious pound cake with vanilla and almond extracts, very simple but perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2-3 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-3 tsp almond extract
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 2/3 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 cup milk
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 3 heaping Tbsp cocoa
- 3 Tbsp milk
- Cream softened butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs, vanilla and almond extract.
- In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Add this mixture to the butter mixture alternating with the 1 cup milk.
- In a separate bowl, mix together 3 Tbsp sugar, 3 Tbsp cocoa and 3 Tbsp milk. Add 3-4 heaping Tbsp of white dough to this cocoa mixture.
- Put 1/2 of white dough in a greased & floured bundt pan. Smooth chocolate dough evenly on top. Add the remaining 1/2 of white dough on top.
- Use a fork to fold the chocolate through the white dough.
- Use a rubber spatula to flatten out the top so that it bakes evenly.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 1 hour.
- If you realize that the top is browning too much, cover it with foil. Do not shorten the baking time nor turn the heat down.
Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks
This is a Sunday meal.
It takes for-absolutely-ever; basically 3 hours start to finish, which is perfect for Sundays, and not possible any other day of the week.
I served it with parsley and rice on the side. I suggest letting everyone plate for themselves, as everyone has different opinions about the sauce to solids ratios. I prefer mine like a soup and others may wish it was all about that hunk of meat.
- A large glug of olive oil
- 4 lamb shanks
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1 stick celery, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 250ml full bodied red wine
- 250ml lamb stock
- 1 can plum tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig thyme
- Chopped flat leaf parsley
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan (Le Creuset if you have one!), add the lamb shanks and brown well on all sides.
- Reduce the heat and transfer the shanks off to a plate. Add the onions, carrot and celery to the frying pan and cook for about 5 minutes, until starting to soften and turn golden. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
- Pour the wine into the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 3 mins. Add the stock and tomatoes and bring back to the boil.
- Season with salt and pepper and add the bay leaf and thyme.
- Put the shanks back in to the pan, nestling them into the sauce.
- Cover, and cook in the oven at 320f/160c for 2 hours, turning the shanks every 30 minutes.
- When ready to serve top with chopped parsley and serve over rice.
Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato & Farro
This is hearty and delicious, and comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson.
It should be noted that it’s topped with a salted lemon yogurt that is an out of this world combination with the deep flavors of the soup.
- Splash Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Large Onions, Chopped
- 1 Cup/125g peeled and diced sweet potato
- 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp Indian Curry Powder
- 2/3 cup/125g whole or semi-pearled farro
- 1 ¼ cups /255 g green or black lentils, rinced
- 7 cups broth or water
- 1 cup greek yogurt
- Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
- Head the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions and the sweet potato. Add a big pinch of salt, and sautee until the onions soften (a few minutes). Add the curry powder and stir until the vegetables are coated and fragrant.
- Add the farro, lentils, and broth. Bring to a boil, decrease to a simmer, and cook covered for 50 minutes, or until the farro is cooked through. Taste and season with more salt.
- While the soup is cooking, mix the yogurt with a large pinch of sea salt and the lemon zest and juice.
- Serve each bowl topped with the lemon yogurt, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Napa Cabbage Slaw with Ginger Dressing
This is one of those recipes that is invented just because the ingredients were the last things in our fridge before a weekend away.
When this happens, and the stars align, a new recipe is born.
- 3 large spoonfuls rice vinegar
- 1 large spoonful sesame oil
- 1 large spoonful rapeseed or salad oil (any light oil designed for cold preparations)
- 1 1-inch cube ginger, peeled and grated
- Grated zest of 1 lime
- Fresh juice from 1 lime
- A pinch of Aleppo chile
- 1 Half Napa cabbage, washed and chopped
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
- 4 scallions, sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, canola oil, lime zest, lime juice, and aleppo chile. Set aside.
- In a different bowl, mix the cabbage, carrots, scallions, and cilantro.
- Pour the dressing into the cabbage mixture and toss again. Let stand for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Spring Vegetable Soup with Pistachio Pesto
I’m in a big pistachio pesto mood. It just goes with everything. Smear it on a piece of toast. Put it on pasta. Put it in soup. Eat it with a spoon.
The soup is really versatile you can basically throw anything in there.
If you really want to make something special out of this for dinner make the ‘no-knead bread’ on the side!
- A large glug of olive oil
- 2 leeks, washed and chopped
- A handful of green beans, chopped
- 1 large courgette diced
- 1.2l hot vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1 400g can cannellini beans
- A handful of vermicelli
- 25g pack basil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 25g pistachios
- 25g Parmesan
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Heat the oil, then fry the leek until softened. Add the green beans and courgette, then pour in the stock and season to taste. Cover and simmer for 5 mins.
- Meanwhile, make the pesto: put the basil, garlic, nuts, Parmesan, oil and ½ tsp salt in a food processor, then blitz until smooth.
- Stir the tomatoes, cannellini beans and vermicelli into the soup pan, then simmer for 5 mins more until the veg are just tender. The soup and pesto can now be chilled for up to a day.
- Reheat the soup, if necessary, then stir in half the pesto. Ladle into bowls and serve with the rest of the pesto spooned on top. Eat with chunks of crusty bread.
German Apple Pancakes
Our pancake philosophies are different, but we still respect the preferences of one another. I’m a die hard maple syrup girl, and Felix is more of a fruit topped pancakes kind of guy.
In reality we all know that both schools of pancake are created equally delicious.
So these are German pancakes with apple and pear. I went totally wild and also dipped them in maple syrup #noregrets.
If you like your pancakes extra fluffy, you can either add a splash of sparkling water, or separate the egg yolks from egg whites, and whip the egg whites before adding them to the batter.
The suggestion to use an apple and a pear is a guideline. You could add a banana or some blueberries. Whatever is your best fruity combination/ whatever is in the fridge.
- 1 Cup flour
- 1 Cup buttermilk
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Packet vanilla sugar
- 1 tsp white or fruit sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 1 Apple
- 1 Pear
- Sprinkle of Powder sugar
- Sprinkle of Cinnamon
- Whisk the first 6 ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Peel and slice the fruits thinly.
- Heat some salty butter in a medium-high frying pan. When the pan is hot, pour about a quarter of the batter into the pan, and immediately lay out the fruit slices on top, gently pressing down so that they are embedded in the dough.
- When its golden brown on the bottom flip it over.
- Have the fruit side cook for another 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from the pan, add powder sugar and cinnamon on top and serve !
Parsley-Tomato- Bread Salad
This recipe was created one day when I was having a crisis looking for something in between tabouleh, salad, and a slightly carby side.
This is actually nothing like Italian Panzanella, it’s really a different beast.
What I think is so amazing about it is that there is no vinegar. You don’t need it as long as you are using ripe and flavorful tomatoes.
You can serve in a variety of ways- with the croutons separately so everyone can top themselves- bonus- you can just sit around and eat croutons all night.
OR if you like having the croutons just a bit soft from the salad juices, add directly and serve as one dish.
I love when the bread cubes are still hot, so I choose to eat immediately. Regardless this isn’t the type of dish that is delicious the next day. But I don’t think you’ll have anything to worry about.
- 3 Very ripe tomatoes (get the tastiest ones), chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1 Cucumber, cut lengthwise in half, again lengthwise in half, and into tiny half moon shapes
- 1 bunch of parsley, washed and chopped
- 2 large slides of stale bread, cut into cubes (the same size as the tomatoes)
- 2 Cloves of garlic, crushed
- A large glug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- A large pinch of high quality salt
- Combine in a large bowl the tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, salt, and olive oil. Stir together and let sit at least 1 hour.
- In the meantime, sauté the bread cubes in another glug of olive oil, and another pinch of salt. When they start to get crispy throw in the garlic. Stir until well browned, but do not burn the garlic.
- Add the bread cubes to the salad, stir, and serve.
Swedish Dream Cookies (Drommar)
These cookies are legitimately like a dream.
They are painfully difficult to describe.
Picture a combination of a sugar cookie with a texture you just can’t identify- it’s melt in your mouth yet crispy. The secret is an ingredient called bakers’ ammonium, which you can find in pharmacies sometimes, but it’s not that easy to come by. I found mine in Bulgaria during my last visit and stocked up big time.
Ever since the first day I tasted these I’ve been wanting to bake them. Thank you Diane for the recipe!!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon crushed ammonium carbonate (also called baker’s ammonium)
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
- Sift together flour and salt.
- Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in ammonium carbonate and almond extract until combined well. Mix in flour mixture at low speed just until blended, then stir in coconut. Form dough into a disk and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Roll dough into 1-inch balls and arrange 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets.
- Bake cookies in batches in upper third of oven until pale golden around edges, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.
Beer-Can BBQ Chicken
My ma used to make the most delicious chicken ever when we were growing up. The chicken stood upright in the oven, and we called it ‘chicken on a stick’. It was so tender and juicy and flavourful.
While home this summer I got a bee in my bonnet about buying the apparatus to recreate this recipe. In my googling I discovered the amount of recipes for beer can chicken. Basically the whole world knew about this for a very long time. Everyone is doing it.
So I bought myself a really special apparatus that basically serves as an infuser- you can put beer in the capsule, or herbs, or cider, or whatever you like.
I return to Belgium to find out… it doesn’t fit in my oven… it’s too large. So this serves as a disclaimer for those of you looking to invest. Measure your oven, they are smaller than you think!
In any case, you actually don’t need an apparatus for this- you can absolutely put the chicken right down on the can itself, he’ll sit there happily.
This was so delicious that I didn’t manage to get any pictures after it was cooked, because the entire chicken was devoured very quickly by 3 people.
- 1 organic chicken
- Olive oil
- ½ can of beer
- A Good grind of black pepper
- 2 tbsp Sea salt
- 1 tsp Garlic powder
- 1 tbsp Brown sugar
- 1 tbsp Paprika
- 2 tsp English mustard powder
- 1 tsp Cayenne
- 2 tsp Thyme
- To make the rub, mix all the ingredients together. Drizzle the chicken with the oil, sprinkle over the rub and massage it into the skin. I recommend doing this as early as you can. If you have time in the morning before dinner, do it then to let the rub and oil really infuse into the chicken.
- When you are ready to cook, open a can of beer and drink half (or pour it into a different glass).
- Pop the can into the chicken’s bum, legs down, so that it looks like it is sitting upright.
- Stand the chicken and can upright in a Pyrex tray, or on a baking sheet.
- Cook for 1 hr 20 mins at 200C/180C fan.
- Remove the chicken from the oven, cover lightly with foil and leave to rest for 20 mins before serving.
Spicy Fennel & Green Bean Soup
This recipe came about because I wound up with a great deal of extra ingredients left around when my recipe plan for the week was thwarted after we accidentally at all of the Beer-Can BBQ Chicken, which I had planned for leftovers.
In any case, I was able to make a broth, and that led us here.
This soup is spicy from the ginger and the cardamom, but light as it’s tomato based.
Perfect for when autumn starts.
- 1 onion, thinly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 fennel head, thinly chopped
- A large handful of green beans
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 cup chopped tarragon
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Put the onion and garlic in a pot with a small amount of oil over medium heat, and cook for a few minutes until the onion begins to brown. Add the fennel and green beans, and cook a bit more.
- Add the tomatoes to the pot, along with the salt, pepper, ginger and cardamom. Top with enough broth to just cover the vegetables, and bring to a low simmer. Cook until the green beans are soft.
- Once cooked, stir in the fresh chopped herbs.