Cookies Cream, Berlin

Cookies Cream is a classy, high-end vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Berlin and it has been one of those interesting experiences we’ve had while travelling around Europe. With it’s exposed brick walls with interesting art pieces on them, it truly is an amazing place in an unusual way. It’s so underground and the place doesn’t even look like a restaurant until you are upstairs and facing a huge wall art saying “ficken” in the middle and American Express logo at the bottom right corner. Well, I’m guessing you know what “ficken” means in German.

The tricky part with Cookies Cream is finding it. Having the address in this situation won’t cut it Peoples and there are no flowers to follow —or breadcrumbs for that matter — like they have on their website. We knew that it would be difficult to find, we decided to have a test run during the day —actually it was John’s idea —and the exercise was well worth it. It really is tricky to find. To get there, you have to walk down a couple of alleyways with big dumpsters and wooden planks behind Westin Grand Hotel which makes you feel like you’re in a movie and you might be attacked by a villain any minute. I think it’s a loading dock for the hotel. Anyway, you walk until you see that huge, glamorous chandelier which is totally out of place, hanging from a concrete slab in the ceiling. You are then very close because it is now easy to spot the doors. It’s the one on the left with bulbs above it (see photo at the end of this post). Now, you need to hit that nondescript buzzer and wait for someone to open the door and take you upstairs to the restaurant.

Let’s talk about food now… Cookies Cream offers an innovative and contemporary menu. It may not be a big menu nevertheless it is an interesting one. We love the tasting menu option with wine pairing so we went for the Classic Menu. For 48 € per person, you get two starters, one main and a dessert and 32 € extra per person for wine pairing option. You might find the prices a little steep, however, this is pretty normal for a place like this.

Now, let me show you what we had:

Starter number 1: Seaweed caviar and ricotta cheese, bergamot, dill and buckwheat

Seaweed caviar and ricotta cheese, bergamot, dill and buckwheat

This is seriously the best vegetarian caviar I have ever tried in my life. Even the texture was like real caviar as if a Russian mob smuggled it into the country. Bergamot drops were extra refreshing.
Wine: Samuel Billard Le Grands Terroirs Chablis from France.

Starter number 2: Quail egg in brioche, port wine shallot, potato foam, truffle jus

IMG_4881 (1024x901)Quail egg in brioche with port wine shallot, potato foam and truffle jus was quite a complex dish. Here you have a tangy and sweet port wine shallot with a rich, soft and creamy brioche on top. The interesting part of this dish a lightly cooked quail egg was hidden inside the brioche. The dish was finished off with a fluffy potato foam on top and truffle jus drizzled around it. Surprisingly, the whole ensemble looked a lot richer than it actually was. I loved it!
Wine: Geiger & Sohne Grauer Burgunder 2014 Franken, Germany

Main Course: Parmesan dumplings with crème of artichokes, tomatoes, tandoori herbs

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The dumplings were soft and fluffy, sitting on a bed of crème of artichokes. There was an extra tandoori tomato sauce which came in a carafe. The sauce itself was very much like tomato rasam and wasn’t too overpowering. The whole dish was topped up with an interesting bouquet of herbs: fennel, mint, basil.
Wine: Chateau de Luc Corbieres Corbieres U. V. from Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Dessert: White bubble chocolate and pistachio, homemade cassis ice cream and mascarpone

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And, we finished off with white chocolate and pistachio with homemade cassis ice cream and mascarpone as a dessert. It wasn’t a heavy dessert and the presentation was great.
Dessert Wine: Charles Hours Jurançon Uroulat 2012 from Sud-Ouest, France (south-west France)

Overall, the food at Cookies Cream is well presented, flavours are well balanced and wines are well matched. The service at Cookies Cream was great, too. Our English-spoken waitress, Stef was quite attentive, efficient and incredibly helpful. She even let us try an extra glass of dessert wine with no extra charge.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

When you’re in Berlin, try Cookies Cream. You now even know how to get there…

Cookies Cream
55 Behrenstrasse
10117 Berlin, Mitte
Germany
Phone: +49 30 27 49 29 40
Website: www.cookiescream.com

The door.

Ottolenghi Islington, London

Yotam Ottolenghi has been my inspiration since the day I discovered him. I could safely say that he is one of my cooking gurus. Visiting one of his restaurants in London, as you can imagine, has been one of the highlights for me. Well, the other highlights were catching up with friends like Alec and Michael as well as JCC, seeing my favourite painting in real; The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck at The National Gallery.

Back to the subject… Ottolenghi Islington was the one we had the pleasure of trying. It caters for 50 people and some of the tables are communal. We booked a table one month in advance because we knew it would be difficult to get a table. This place is so popular with a capital P as you can imagine although they don’t take bookings for breakfast or lunch. So, booking for dinner is essential Peoples.

Food was exceptional but their wine list absolutely, totally blew us away. I have had the most interesting orange wine of my life. They are the big thing at the moment but getting a good orange wine is still a challenge. Well, in Australia anyway.

Here’s what we had:

Roasted aubergine with sorrel yoghurt, turmeric pickled radish, spring onion and almonds £9.00

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Poached peaches, mixed bitter leaves, spicy pecan nuts, Roquefort and orange blossom dressing £9.50

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Tempura sweet potato with peanut and coriander vadouvan and lime yoghurt £11.00

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Pea and mint croquettes with yuzukosho mayonnaise £11.00

As for the wine… I started off with white from Loire, France. Touraine Le Tesniere is a bio-organically produced wine with flinty minerality (not my word, I stole it like an artist :)) combined with lemon, white fruits and a hint of dry honey as they say on the wine list. Then I moved on to an orange wine called A Demua from Italy. It was a stunningly unusual wine with dried apricot and almond. This one was quite complex as it is made with five local grape varieties (bio-organic, again). John on the other hand decided to stick to orange wine only and had Dinavolo and Vitovska. Both bio-organic, both from Italy.

When it was time to consider dessert we were both full yet didn’t want to miss the opportunity so we had desserts to go. John had a tart and I had one of those berry meringues I had my eyes on since I walked through that door (see photo below).

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Before I forget, I also bought Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest cookbook Plenty More while I was there and like all my other Ottolenghi cookbooks, this one is signed too!

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Ottolenghi Islington
287 Upper Street
London N1 2TZ
Tel: 020 7288 1454
Website: Ottolenghi

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Turkish Coffee and Galeri Set

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Placemats in this photo were made by my mother who passed away four years ago.

I know, I haven’t been around for some time but I am not ignoring or neglecting VegFusion Peoples. The truth is I just got home from a five-week trip to Istanbul, London, Paris, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Istanbul again. The main reason for this holiday was Toto concerts. We bought tickets to go and see them live some time ago after exhausting our hopes of seeing them play in Sydney –by the way we went to two concerts in the end (Paris and Berlin). So the whole trip was shaped up around their concert dates. Now that I have done my laundry, got over my jet-lag although it keeps coming back and even sorted out some of the holiday photos (only some though), I am ready to share my culinary experiences with you.

In today’s post, I have goodies from Turkey. Four years ago, during one of my trips to Turkey, I was flying from Istanbul to Izmir and reading an in-flight magazine during take-off. In that particular issue there was an article about a shop at Spice Bazaar in Istanbul called Galeri Set. They sell hand-made Turkish coffee cups –among other porcelain objects. What’s so special about them is they are made using traditional methods which means it takes twenty-one days to make one coffee cup.

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A postcard from Istanbul.

Before I left Sydney, I watched videos about the shop, history of Turkish coffee and these particular cups as well. When in Istanbul, we had to track down Galeri Set in Spice Bazaar –thank God, Spice Bazaar is not as big as Grand Bazaar. I must admit, I still find that part of Istanbul quite confusing but anyway we found the place and bought a set of two for us and a set of two for our dear friends in Sydney (as promised). While talking to their sales person, one of the owners started chatting with me. He turned out to be Uğur Atik –the very person in the videos I watched on YouTube before the holiday! He is an incredibly polite and soft spoken person just like he is in the videos. He offered us a special cologne –produced only for the Sultans, not for common folks like us. It was different to straight forward lemon cologne which is widely used in Turkey. Mr Atik then told us a little story about a Sultan who used this cologne and the story came with a demonstration too. In the end, he gave us a pack of Turkish coffee as present, a pack of rose flavoured Turkish delight and a DVD of his TV appearances. We are also invited to have coffee with him next time we’re in Istanbul.

OK, let’s talk about the shop. Galeri Set was established in 1972 and it’s at number 78 in the heart of Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı). Every object they sell there is hand-made and produced with the same techniques used 650 years ago. You could safely say that there is a long history behind everything. Obama, Queen Elizabeth, George W. Bush, Fidel Castro, King and Queen of Jordan, President of the Republic of Austria, Beşar Esad, President of Syria, Zeid Al Suderi, Prince of Saudi Arabia, and Kevin Costner are among their clientele.

IMG_4919 (908x1024)Now, let’s talk about the coffee cups or ‘fincan’ as we call them in Turkish. The ones I have are 17th century, coral red ones. I was going to get yellow fincans but a friend of mine from Turkey gave me a beautiful yellow set as a present (photo above) so, I decided to get the red ones instead.

Colour
Colours represent a certain era or century in Ottoman history. For example:
Turquoise and pink: 16th century
Coral and midnight blue: 17th century
Yellow and green: 18th century

Shape
A good quality Turkish coffee fincan (cup) should be wide down the bottom and narrow at the top. This way, the foam will not disperse easily. The handles have a special angle so whether you are left-handed or right-handed, this particular angle makes it easy for everyone.

How to make Turkish coffee
First of all, you need to know how everyone has their coffee which means how much sugar you will need to use as there is no add-sugar-later-on kind of thing in the making of Turkish coffee. There are four sugar levels:
• Şekersiz or sade: no sugar at all
• Az şekerli: with little sugar (½ Turkish teaspoon)
• Orta şekerli: medium (1 Turkish teaspoon)
• Şekerli: 2 Turkish teaspoon

Note: 1 Turkish teaspoon equals 1 level teaspoon.
Second, you will need a ‘cezve’ to make Turkish coffee. Cezve is a narrow necked pot with a long handle. Usually made out of brass.
Turkish coffee should be quite fine and you can only achieve that by using a traditional grinder. Regular electric grinders don’t do the job properly. It’s better if you have a brass one and do it yourself but you can buy your coffee already ground too. I have my grandmother’s antique coffee grinder (photo below) in case you’re wondering what it looks like. However, all of that is not practical; I can hear you. In that case, you can buy pre-packaged ones from Middle-Eastern stores.

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My grandmother’s coffee grinder.

Preparing Turkish coffee in a cezve:
Add coffee and sugar to the cezve (1 heaped teaspoon of coffee per person).
Top them up with cold water and stir. Always use your fincan as a measuring cup for water.
When stirring the mixture of coffee, sugar and water, the spoon should be held with an angle to create finer foam, not bubbles. If you hold the spoon in a 90 degree angle, you get bubbles.
Bring it to a boil, quickly remove from heat and pour the foam into your coffee cup. Return the cezve to the heat. Boil again and quickly pour more coffee into your fincan but not all of it. Boil the coffee one more time and pour the rest of it into cup. Do not, under any circumstances cook your coffee.

How to Drink Turkish Coffee
First of all, you start by drinking water which is served with your coffee to cleanse your palate. Then, wait for the sediment to settle to the bottom of your cup which should take about 30 seconds. I remember the first time my husband tried Turkish coffee. Of course, he didn’t know and thought he was drinking mud. He still hasn’t recovered from that memory.
Afiyet olsun Peoples!

So, if you ever find yourself in Istanbul, go to Galeri Set and get yourself some Turkish coffee fincans. Next time, I’ll get a tray too!

Galeri Set
Mısır Çarşısı İçi No: 78
Eminönü – Istanbul
Website: www.galeriset.com

Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

A shop at Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

Turkish Rice Pudding or Sakızlı Fırın Sütlaç

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I honestly do not know how to explain this pudding if you’ve never had it before. It is a rice pudding basically although it is still nothing like rice pudding you might be familiar with. On top of that, it is not traditional sütlaç either. It has been one of my husband’s favourite desserts. Every time I cook Turkish for guests, this is the dessert I serve because he asks for it. Well, I hope you enjoy it as much as my husband does.

Recipe Notes:
I use a kind of gum (damla sakızı) in this; not for binding but to add flavour. That’s what gives this pudding its unique flavour. If you can’t get the Turkish ones, use the Greek variety although the Greek one doesn’t melt well; it needs to be crushed (you could use mortar and pestle however, line your mortar with cling film first).

Ingredients:
4 cups full-fat milk
½ cup medium-grain white rice, washed and drained
¾ cup castor sugar
1 tbsp corn flour
3 egg yolks (one separated)
1 tsp sugar vanilla
2 pieces damla sakızı

Method:
• Cook rice in a small pot with enough water.
• Meanwhile, place milk and sugar in a large pot and heat.
• When rice is done, drain and add to the pot of milk and sugar –it should be boiling at this stage. Add damla sakızı and make sure it melts.
• Mix corn flour with cold water. Add 2 egg yolks and whisk well with a fork. This will need to be added gradually in very small batches to the milky mixture. Cook for 2 minutes.
• Just before you remove the pot from heat, add sugar vanilla.
• Put aside 1 ladle of the pudding mixture making sure that you have more liquid and no rice. Add the remaining egg yolk to it and mix well.
• Pour the pudding into 4 heatproof ramekins and cool.
• Once you have a crusty layer formed, thinly cover the surface with egg yolk and pudding mixture.
• Place the ramekins under the grill and burn the top.
• Serve chilled.

Vegan Pepper Steak

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This is the classic pepper steak recipe veganised by me. Although I used Viana Cowgirl Veggie Steaks here, the pepper sauce goes nicely with Lamyong Vegetarian Chicken too. The recipe below serves 2.

Serving suggestions:
Mashed potatoes
Salad
Roast potatoes
Peas
Steamed vegetables

Ingredients:
2 pieces Viana Cowgirl Veggie Steaks
Vegetable oil for frying the steaks

For the sauce:
1 tbsp light olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
150ml vegan mushroom stock
2 tsp green peppercorns in brine, drained
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbs (1/4 cup) soy cream

Method:
• Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the steaks according to packet instructions. Set aside and keep warm.
• Add the vinegar and light olive oil to the pan and heat gently.
• Reduce heat to medium, add the peppercorns, and then whisk in the mustard and soy cream. Continue to simmer for until the sauce is slightly thickened which doesn’t take long with soy cream.
• Spoon the sauce over sauce veggie steaks and serve immediately.

Nilgiri’s Masala Dosai

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Peoples, this is really cool: I have Nilgiri’s masala dosai recipe for you, with courtesy of Ajoy Joshi. Ajoy was kind enough to give me permission to publish his own recipe here. Although we tried dosais at other restaurants including some authentic ones both in Australia and in India, we still think that Nilgiri’s dosais are the BEST. We love them so much even Dad started making them at home after taking one of Ajoy’s cooking classes a few years ago.

But first things first, let me begin by telling you what dosais are: They are thin, crisp on the outside, moist on the inside crepes made out of rice and black lentil flour. Although, there are some plain varieties, these ones are rolled and stuffed with spiced potatoes with mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves and traditionally served with sambhar (lentil broth) and coconut chutney.

It’s a lot of work to make dosais but if you think it’s too much hassle to make your own, masala dosai is on both Nilgiri’s and Tellicherry’s menus. For those of you who would like a little bit of challenge, here’s the recipes:

Dosais

Ingredients:
3 parts medium to coarse rice flour
1 part split black lentil flour
Water for the batter
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil (for vegan version) or Ghee (clarified butter), to pan-fry the dosai

Method:
• Mix the rice and lentil flours with just enough cold water to form o thick fine paste.
• Add salt to taste and leave the batter in a warm place overnight to ferment.
• Mix the batter thoroughly the next morning.
• Heat the griddle till it is hot.
• Pour a ladle of the batter in the centre of the griddle and spread evenly in concentric circles till it reaches the edges of the griddle.
• Baste the dosai with ghee or oil and cook on medium heat till the dosai is golden brown.
• Place a filling of your choice in the centre of the dosai and roll or fold as desired.
• Serve hot with fresh coconut chutney and sambhar.

Potato Pallya (Masala for Dosai)

Ingredients:
20-25 ml vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp split chickpea lentils
1 tbsp split black lentils
4-5 whole dry red chillies
¼ tsp asafoetida powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
2 medium-sized onions, sliced
Salt to taste
1 kg potatoes, boiled, peeled and roughly mashed
½ bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Method:
• Heat oil in a thick-bottomed pan.
• Add the black mustard seeds and allow to splutter.
• Immediately add the two lentils and cook on a medium heat stirring constantly, till the lentils turn a light golden in colour.
• Add the whole dry chillies and the asafoetida powder and cook for a few moments.
• Add the turmeric powder and the fresh curry leaves and cook for a few moments.
• Add the sliced onions and salt and cook till the onions turn translucent.
• Add the roughly mashed potatoes and mix well.
• Cook on a medium heat for a few minutes and check the seasoning.
• Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and use as a filling in the ‘Masala Dosai’.

Sambhar

Ingredients:
300 gr yellow lentils or toor dal
1 tsp turmeric
500 gr tomatoes, quartered
3 medium-sized onions, diced
2 tbsp Nilgiri’s Sambhar Powder
½ tbsp tamarind concentrate
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
Salt to taste
½ bunch Fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Method:
• Cook the lentils with the turmeric in approximately 2 litres of water till soft and mushy.
• Add the tomatoes and the onions and cook further till they are soft.
• Add Nilgiri’s Sambhar Powder, tamarind concentrate, fresh curry leaves and salt to taste and bring to a boil.
• Check the seasoning, garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot.

Wellbean Instant Soup Series

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During one of the Cruelty Free Festivals, someone from one of those stalls gave me a sachet of instant soup to try at home. It was Pumpkin Mushroom Soup. And I did try it; it wasn’t too bad. I thought I would mention the company here. Anything to make a vegetarian/vegan life easier is welcomed here.

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Apart from Pumpkin Mushroom Soup they have 3 more vegan varieties:
Instant Pumpkin Soy Milk
Instant Sweet Potato Soy Milk
Instant Pumpkin Mushroom Soup with Black Pepper

And Italian Style Tomato Soup is the only vegetarian one.

Instant soups are not my cup of soup but it might be yours and you can order online. They deliver too.

Nilgiri’s Sunday Buffet

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Let me tell you, Nilgiri’s Sunday Buffet is another kind of feast. Every Sunday this all-you-can-eat buffet serves an incredible variety of dishes. Some of the foods are like breads and masala dosai are even cooked in front of you. Especially those flying rotis are a must see when they happen.

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Menu for Sunday Buffet changes every month, focusing on a different region, community or different style of cooking. It is an incredible opportunity to try interesting dishes. However, sometimes the theme is based on a traditional festival, like Diwali (the festival of lights).

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Prices for Sunday Buffet:
$37.50 per adult
$3.00 per year of child for children between 3 & 11 years of age (both inclusive)
Children under three years are free.

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Diwali desserts from Nilgiri’s.

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Nilgiri’s
Fully licenced and BYO (bottled wine only)
Address: 82 Christie Street St Leonards 2065 NSW
Website: www.nilgiris.com.au
Phone: (02) 9966 0636

Kinda Bacon

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Kinda Bacon is an Australian made vegan and gluten free product. It is made out of organic coconut with smoky and salty notes. As for the texture; crispy comes to mind. It kind of works as a flavour enhancer when added to dishes.

Ingredients
• Organic coconut flakes
• Tamari
• All natural liquid smoke (natural hickory smoke)
• Salt
• Pepper
• Spices

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Where to Use
• Sprinkle it on salads (potato salad is the best for this but any fresh salad would get the benefit too)
• Great as a pizza topping (just burry Kinda Bacon into your cheese and bake)
• Sprinkle on baked or jacket potatoes.
• Use it in savoury muffins.
• Great addition to any omelette mixture.

Price: A$ 12.75

Where to Buy
Full list of stockists can be found here.

Breaded Cauliflower with Garlic Yoghurt and Burnt Chilli Dressing

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Can deep fried food be light and fluffy? With the help of right ingredients, the answer is yes. The “right” ingredients here are lemon juice and Pellegrino. Somehow, they add this lightness to a breaded and deep fried cauliflower or any other vegetable without the unbearableness. I hope you know which book/movie I’m referring to…

This recipe is originally vegetarian and it has become one of Dad’s favourite dishes during his trip to Sydney. The trick here is adding lemon juice to boiling water to blanch the cauliflower. This way, you don’t stink up the kitchen with that sulphurous smell and you keep their white colour white, too.

Here’s the recipe:

Breaded Cauliflower with Garlic Yoghurt and Burnt Chilli Dressing
Ingredients:

1 medium sized cauliflower, broken into florets
Juice of ½ lemon
Sunflower oil for deep-frying

Batter:
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup Pellegrino
1 tbsp lemon juice
¾ cup plain flour
Bread crumbs (I use a Jewish brand which is the best I’ve tried so far: Solomon)
Salt and pepper

Garlic Yoghurt:
250 grams plain yoghurt (Greek style)
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
A little water in case yoghurt is too thick

Burnt Chilli Dressing:
15 grams butter
1 tsp dried chilli flakes

Method:
• Wash the cauliflower and break it into florets.
• Boil enough water. Add juice of ½ lemon. Drop the cauliflowers into the water and blanch for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them from further cooking. Drain again and set aside.
• Heat the oil to 180 degrees C.
• To make the batter: mix together the flour, beaten eggs, lemon juice and Pellegrino. Season with salt and pepper and whisk until it is smooth.
• To make garlic yoghurt: mix together crushed garlic and yoghurt and add water if necessary (it should be runny but not too watery). Set aside.
• Drop blanched florets into batter first. Allow any excess to drip off and then roll into bread crumbs.
• Deep fry all of the breaded cauliflower until golden brown and place on a large flat plate lined with kitchen paper. This’ll absorb excess oil.
• Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan and add the chilli flakes. Heat it until it is slightly smoky.
• Arrange deep-fried cauliflowers on a serving plate. Cover with garlic yoghurt and drizzle with burnt butter.
• Serve warm.