Category Archives: New Food Concepts

Sous vide’ing an octopus

I didn’t take this photo today, but nevertheless, it gives the feeling you get when you walk out onto the balcony of our rental apartment. Quiet, peaceful, maybe you can’t tell, but also breezy. One thing I love about this place we’re living in is that you can open up 10 sky lights all at once and allow the sun and the wind to shine it. In the morning we get this amazing fresh breeze coming through. It’s possible to live on a top floor and not suffer, you just need to rent the apartment belonging to two architects. Hmmm…that’s actually what we did last time too. So maybe they have to be the right architects, willing to put enough money into the place.

Anyway, we can enjoy the fresh breeze for around 7 more weeks and then…it’s back to our apartment. Unfortunately, we will likely be living in chaos, as our place will still not be complete. We’re hoping it will only last a few further weeks. We’ll be eating a lot of take out food, I guess.

But…I do look forward to seeing my kitchen again, although it’ll take some time to get it back in. I can imagine unpacking all the boxes again and putting plates back into cupboards, silverware back into drawers. The kitchen here is not bad, however, and the space is beautiful. Thankfully it was more or less outfitted with most of the things I need to cook, and I brought over a bunch of things, and I received…way back at my birthday last year…a new device, which has been added to the ever-increasing roster of tools I cook with.

One of those fancy cooking wands called a “sous vide stick.” Looks like a giant…uh, well, use your imagination.

This is not the brand I have, but no matter, mine works the same. The idea is that you clamp the wand into a pot and use it to bring the water inside to an exact temperature and hold it there. Then you put your food into a plastic bag, lower it into the water and let it sit there for x number of hours until it has reached that temperature. I think most recipes take about 4 hours or so. Some of them take 3 days, but I will never be doing those.

I haven’t used this present as much as I would like, and last weekend I was determined to try something out. We just got back from Sicily a few weeks ago, so seafood was still on my mind. I found a recipe for octopus, which I love when it is cooked right. So I went out and gathered the ingredients on Saturday, prepped a bit (you need to blanch the octopus in a broth for a few seconds and then sous vide it), and on Sunday afternoon and evening, pulled everything together.

Blanching the octopus

cool it down in an ice bath briefly.

Vacuum it up into a plastic bag.

Cook for four hours at 81 degrees C.

While all this was happening, I made the bean salad that went with the octopus. Giant corona beans that I had soaked overnight and then also cooked for about two hours to get them creamy and soft. Tossed with a vinaigrette and some chorizo sausage and mini corn cobs. The octopus comes out of the bathtub and gets briefly cooked either on a grill or in a pan, to give the outside some texture and crunch.

Results? Good, but not great, unfortunately. The octopus was tender and tasty, but the salad maybe a bit too strong in flavor.

Next try…maybe this weekend…a sous vide steak. 🙂


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Cozy up to your mushroom

Ready or not…fall is here. At least for those of us shivering away in Munich. We all keep hoping it’s just the phase of the moon or a bad luck moment…but the cool days seem like they’re here to stay. I find the biggest telltale sign is the type of recipes I am pinning over on Pinterest. Cool breezy fruity drinks? Still summer. Spinach salads? Fig tarts? Corn? Getting to the end of summer. Lentils? Pasta? Mushrooms? Pasta and mushrooms? Fall has arrived. Accept.


It’s not so bad, really, as long as you love fungus. I didn’t as a kid. Now I can’t get enough of them and I was like a little kid in a candy store at the viktualienmarkt on Saturday buying up various mushrooms. Crimini, shitake, three kinds of oysters, chantarelles…no porcinis here, but I’ll get those too soon.

The challenge (I challenged myself) was to make a pasta dish that used Japanese flavors but made the eater feel like it was Italian pasta. Not just the noodle, the whole dish. I love the satisfied feeling I get from a simple bowl of pasta with a rich tomato sauce. I wanted that feeling. But with Japanese flavors, which generally just don’t do it for me when it comes to pasta. I decided to make soba noodles as the base.


I found a recipe that called for a mix of flours for the noodles. 2/3 buckwheat, 1/3 farina. Apparently this makes the noodles easier to handle – adding the flour with the gluten – which buckwheat lacks – makes it easier to work the dough. But it keeps much of the flavor of soba, and is not quite so “slimy” when you’re done.


After mixing the dough (calculate 100 grams flour and 50 grams water for every person eating and use the ratio above for making the dough), I let it sit while I went for a run. Came back and rolled it out with my pasta machine – you can see from the cracks on the edges that the dough is a bit harder to work and a bit drier than a typical semolina. I just sliced off the edges and added them back into the rest of the dough. Cut the noodles by hand so I would have a bit of natural shapes, as well as thicker noodles. I let them lie out for the rest of the evening before making my sauce.


In the end, after they’ve dried for a bit, you can just roll them all up in your towel and dump them in your boiling water when you’re ready to cook them. These took about 5 minutes to boil because of their thickness.


For the sauce, I decided to roast the chopped mushrooms in the oven with a handful of fava beans, a handful of reconstituted wakame seaweed, a couple cloves of thinly sliced garlic, a few glugs of olive oil, and a fair shake of two spice mixes my sister brought me – a Japanese herb and spice mix (citrus, seseme, chilis, etc.) and an umami salt mix (salt, essence of mushroom, who knows what else). Left everything in the oven at about 200 for a good 15-20 minutes until the mushrooms crisped up a bit on the edges.


Meanwhile I made the sauce. More of the same (more mushrooms, garlic and the spice mixes), but also onions, spinach, cream, white miso paste, a dry white wine. It all came together well – the umami salt punched up the flavor a lot.



Finally, for the protein (beyond the buckwheat) I wanted something still reasonably light – so I went for tiny quail breasts. They’re great sauteed lightly in a pan for a few minutes and then roasted on low heat for about 10 minutes more to finish them off.



After draining the noodles – I cooked them in a broth with a porcini mushroom base – I began to carefully toss them with all the components.


And it worked. I really had the feeling as I ate the dish that it had the richness of an Italian pasta (ehem, cream? :-O) but had captured also the flavors of Japan. At least many of them.  To finish the dish, I sprinkled it with toasted sesame and some sliced sheets of nori.

Will try out the soba noodles again with some other combos. Perhaps just a simple tomato sauce.




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Steamy buns


Nice poster, no? 😉 It was in the bathroom of a bar in Cologne I went to two weeks back. I couldn’t resist taking a photo. It was one of those evenings where just walking around outside left you covered in a fine sweaty film – the humidity must have been about 95%. So the poster certainly looked…refreshing. Haven’t tried the drink advertised though.

It is barbeque season over here and for some reasons we’ve been more enthusiastic about barbequing this year. We don’t have a balcony or our own yard, but there is a lovely shared garden downstairs with a built-into-the-wall hand-made grill that one of the neighbors apparently crafted many years back. And during the summer the picnic table comes out – another neighbor – and sometimes there are spontaneous grill parties.

And while I like a juicy burger or bratwurst, I’m generally trying to think up something more interesting to put on the grill. A couple weeks back I invited a bunch of friends over for a korean taco barbeque. Two nights later I tried out some thai meatball sliders. In each case, the standard German bread option wasn’t really a great pairing and getting fresh brioche buns is difficult here. The packaged hamburger and hot dog buns in the grocery stores leave something wanting here as well. On a whim, I decided to test out a momofuku bun recipe (thank you, David Chang!) with the thai sliders. And that was a major win.

The buns are meant to be for pork belly bites. But they work really well with any spicy meat. They’re a bit of work to make, so make sure you have a couple hours at your disposal to tend to them. They need to rise three times. But if you’re doing other stuff around the house, the active time to create them is not terrible. Make sure to make an entire recipe – it’s worth it and you can freeze them.

Based on David Chang’s recipe, but slightly modified.


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1.5 cups water, room temp.
4.25 cups bread flour (sorry – I know this is a miserable measurement – it should be by weight, but this is what Mr. Chang thought was good enough, I think you could go with even a bit more flour.)
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Rounded 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup rendered pork fat or veggie shortening at room temp


1) combine the yeast, water and sugar in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes and foam. Add the flour, salt, baking powder and soda and fat and mix (in a mixer or with your hands) for about 8 to 10 minutes, kneading as the dough comes together. I used my bread machine to do it for me and that worked perfectly. The dough gathers into a neat ball, a bit shiny.
2) Lightly oil a medium bowl, put the dough in it, cover with a dry kitchen towel. Let it rise about 1 hour 15 min.
3) Cut out 50 squares of baking paper, each about 3 inches square.
4) Punch the dough down and turn it out on your work surface. Divide the dough into 50 pieces, each about 25 grams. Don’t be lazy, use a kitchen scale. You want these things uniform in size. If you can’t get 50 pieces, go with what you can – I only got about 38.
5) Put the balls/pieces to the side somewhere to rise for 30 min.
6) Roll out each piece into an oblong oval shape about 4 inches in length. Take a chopstick, coat with a bit of grease – oil or shortening – and gently fold the oblong oval in half over the chopstick and then slide the chopstick out. You want to create a little hollow in the middle of the bun where it can easily be separated later after steaming. Place on a square of baking paper. Put each one to the side as you roll.
7) Let the buns rest again 30 minutes. They should look something like this.


8) Get your steamer ready. I have one with two layers. More convenient. Place the buns – perhaps about 10 per layer in my case – in the steamer and let steam cook for about 10 minutes. Work in batches. Remove and let cool.

After they’re all done and cool, simply bag the buns you won’t eat and freeze. They keep for months.

For the barbeque – you can take frozen buns and put directly on the bbq – they’ll quickly defrost and get nice little grill marks. But if they’re fresh you can choose to put them on the grill or not – or even resteam them for a few minutes to defrost them if you like.

Pair with a meatball or other spicy alternative, a few green onion slivers, perhaps a slice of cucumber, a little kimchi – whatever you fancy.




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The last kitchen gadget

Madiecam Magic

Madiecam Magic

The photo up there? I’ll explain at the end of the post.

So starting again. You could interpret the title of the blog post (“The last kitchen gadget”)  in really all different ways:

  1. The last kitchen gadget…I will ever buy…
  2. The last kitchen gadget…I bought…
  3. The last kitchen gadget …that anyone needs…
  4. The last kitchen gadget…I have room for.

And actually in my case it’s kind of a combination of all of those things. Except probably #1. I’m continuously tempted by new kitchen tools – most recently a friend told me about this device which is about to go into production (The “Nomiku” – essentially a home-cook’s sous vide machine):

Do I need this thing? No. Am I curious about it anyway? Yes. Sigh. Very. Will I buy it? No. Very doubtful. For one, I don’t cook all that much meat and I think that sous vide is probably best for cooking meat. Although I can well imagine cooking eggs and fish too. But just like a dozen other cool new cooking devices out there that I could well imagine trying to cram into my already over-packed kitchen (see #4 above), I just can’t imagine the value add being all that high. And the girl in the video is a little too happy about her device. You’d think it did more than just “cook food perfectly.” 😛

But I finally bit the bullet on another kitchen gadget a couple weeks back. Nothing very sophisticated or new: a coffee grinder. I already had a coffee grinder because I am a bit snobby about having freshly ground beans in the morning for coffee. But in the last years I have been continuously frustrated whenever I cook Indian food. You can’t put your spices into the same coffee grinder that you grind coffee with or you get curry-flavored coffee. Or alternatively coffee-flavored curry. Neither of which sounds good to me.

A few weeks back I was fed up with it all on a Saturday afternoon, and I walked into Saturn and bought a second grinder to grind spices with. Not really a big deal – only about 20 euros or something. The struggle was more about…”am I so lazy that I can’t continue to pound the spices by hand?” combined with…”do I really have room for this thing?” And apparently the little devil sitting on my left shoulder answered “yes” to both of these questions. And when a friend recently sent over a fish recipe for me to try out, which called for “madras curry powder,” there was no longer a reason to wait to use my brand new gadget.

Homemade Madras curry powder…here we go. There are all kinds of recipes for it online and I used this one, I think (Tumeric is missing in the photo below – added in at the end).

Madras curry powder ingredients

Madras curry powder ingredients

Let me tell you: it was worth it. In about 5 minutes (after roasting the spices in a hot pan to release some of the oils), I had freshly made Madras curry powder.

Finished Madras curry powder

Finished Madras curry powder

I packed up the leftovers in an empty spice jar for the next time. But there was a major difference in flavor. I made some brown rice to go with the fish..a kind I don’t think I’ve tried before – norwegian skrei – but which was good with the curry.

Fish with tomato curry

Fish with tomato curry

So there might be a bit too much blogging in the next weeks about various curry powders and combinations. I apologize in advance.

Oh, and the photo at the top? Just a gimmick to get your attention. That’s a cute little app called “Maddiecam” that you can use to put the image of a dog (various versions of her) on top of any photo you take with your camera. Created by the guy who posts this tumblr blog. Quite famous by now. The photo in the background was a quick snap of the Isar from one of my more recent runs.

Have a great weekend!


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Chocolate Döner at Tollwood

Really? Did the world need this particular thing?

Chocolate Döner stand at Tollwood

Chocolate Döner stand at Tollwood

Wandering around one of the local Christmas markets a couple days back, I ran into this new concept: chocolate döners. A döner, for those of you who don’t live in Germany and don’t know, is a “Turkish” sandwich made insanely popular here – probably by Germans, not Turks. Shavings of lamb or other meat mixed with fresh salad and tomatoes, garlicky yogurt sauce, slivers of onions, and wrapped up in a flatbread or a roll. Runs you about 5 euros and 700 calories…In the US we would call them “Gyros.” And they would be considered Greek, not Turkish. Same concept though.

Now you can get the sweet version of the tasty sandwich: the chocolate version. Instead of scraping meat off a rotating stick, the lady there scrapes chocolate. And mixes it with things like fruit and whipped cream and sweet sauces…rolls it up in a waffel or something…and voila – your chocolate döner. I couldn’t even get closer than this to take a better photo, the place was overrun with people waiting in line to grab their piece of chocolate paradise.

I think…if I indulge…I would go for a crepe. The chocolate döner will not appear on my “die, die, must try” (Singaporean for “gotta have it”) list…


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The pearls that aren’t

Back home, and as expected the brain fired like crazy all night and then woke me up at 4 in the morning for the routine jetlag. I was dreaming of frying donuts, god knows why. So after catching up on the most recent episode of “The Good Wife” from 4:30 to 5:15 and then emptying my email box for about an hour, I read a few blogs and the news, etc.

It’s time to get cracking on my piece of the final (?) workshop (back on a plane on Sunday, but thankfully just a quick one-two day trip again) for the never-ending-but-still-interesting project. Today will be a day at home. The weather out there looks nasty so I refuse to go out in it. Probably about 2 or 3 degrees and wet snow is flying through the grey sky. Thanks for the nice welcome home Munich. You could have tried harder.

But...this looked interesting and reminded me of a project I had wanted to try some time back but then never got around to doing.

Pixo Pearls

These are apparently tiny droplets of apple cider vinegar encased in a kind of seaweed film. I just looked to see if I could order some to try out, but it seems like I should have read about them about a week ago so I could have ordered them in the US before I left. They don’t seem to ship to Europe. The article suggests adding these little pearls to drinks or to top canapes and such. They just look like they would be a fun sort of touch on a dish. A little surprise. The project that they reminded me about was a similar “pearl.” Below is a photo of pomegranate juice “pearls.” Made most likely in a way no unlike how the vinegar pearls above are made. This blog described the process. I had wanted to try making them but then never got around to it or forgot.

Pomegranate “tears”

I still have the packages of agar agar needed in a drawer. So still curious to try. Maybe try it out after the workshop.

Meanwhile, my two kitties will be delivered back to me in a few hours and I can look forward to them terrorizing me while I work here at home. Who was it – one of my friends asked if we have a “laser pointer robot” – just a little machine that shoots out a beam of light that moves around the room – apparently drives cats crazy. I need Sophie to lose around 2 kg, it’s getting ridiculous, she is turning into butter. I walked into the Brookstone store at the airport on the way home and asked if they have it, but the guy there said that it is only available online or at their large stores. So missed out on ordering that as well. The hunt is on…

hehe. Loved this one. No tree here. No, we have SOFAS! Nice scratchable sofas! (D*** cats. But I did bring something back from the US that might solve this little problem…let’s see. Need to try it out and then report back.)

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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Cats, Cooking at home, New Food Concepts


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The London Food Truck Scene?

Umbrellas for rainy London

Umbrellas for rainy London

Let’s be clear, it is not New York. I have yet to see San Francisco’s food truck scene, and I hear that it is truly something to see, but London cannot compare with the creativity I saw in New York earlier this year. I flew in to London yesterday for a bunch of meetings today and my colleague took me over to the little street where a gaggle of trucks and street-food set-ups are gathered. The place was swarming with London businessmen and the like, waiting patiently in line for their wrap or their dumplings or their curry. It all looked and smelled quite good and I was rather hard-pressed to decide what to eat. In the end, we decided to share, so I got to try two things, but it was difficult to walk away with just one lunch. 😉

It’s not New York because the trucks are ordinary, not the brightly painted humorous ones you see cruising around there. And the food, while it all looked and smelled great, still lacked a bit of the creativity you see in New York – the crazy combinations and unexpected dishes to try.

Nevertheless, I was more than happy to cozy up to the Morrocan wrap place and breathe in the scent of their tagines before choosing one for my wrap.

Moroccan wrap fillings

Moroccan wrap fillings

It’s a pity this is such a lightning fast trip. We were busy working until late last night and we’ll head to the client in less than an hour for the day and then will be back home before I can blink an eye.

But I enjoyed lunch yesterday.


Lunch - Moroccan kofta wrap

Lunch – Moroccan kofta wrap

Didn’t come close to finishing it though. 😛

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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in New Food Concepts, Work Lunches