For the Love in Food

A month ago I had a group of bakers staying with me for a baking weekend, in which they all tried out different recipes and were taking notes of each others comments. While watching them at work I learned how dependent cooks and bakers are on our senses. But while for a cook apart from eyes and nose his tongue is his main  instrument, for a baker the tactile bit of feeling the dough is as important.


Off course the most important sense to use while baking or cooking is the sixth, your stomach. When I did my chefs training my teacher used to say: ” forget cooking times, you have to know, feel, understand what is going on inside your pan”. Never been one for textbook guidelines, this was a lesson I easily took to heart. For me it’s the zen bit of cooking, zoning in on what your doing, centering yourself (which for me is in my stomach) and be in the moment with, for instance, your wilting spinach in the pan. Yep, that hurts! But at the same time they are fresh leafs sprouting from the ground, glistening drops of  water hanging on them, turning into this radiant green full of life.


I noticed my baking guests doing it, “being with” the dough. They had their basic technic knowledge, their lists of percentages of ingredients,  but in the end, while kneading it, they might decide that they “felt” that they had to alter it, because the air is too humid, or the temperature is too low for the leaven to do its work.

We’ve lived in an age where food became more and more functional, broken down to a list of ingredients, nutritional values and technical instructions how to prepare it. Down to the milligram we can know what is on our food. But it doesnt say on the package how much love went into our ready made meal. Luckily there are signs that an holistic approach to cooking gains ground. Watching Masterchef these weeks I noticed how often it is mentioned that contestants have to put love and passion into their food, apart from being technologically skilled chefs who can cook something tasty.


I often get the question if I try out dishes. That would be an immense task with a weekly changing menu. I trust my stomach and my basic technological knowledge enough now to just give a recipe a go. I use cookery books for inspiration, not to find that technological perfect recipe. One of the first books to give me that, because of the love for food with which it was written, is ‘New Basics’ by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.  It looks the most well used out of all the cookery books in my collection, and not without a reason. To honour them, and to urge you to trust your stomach as a New Basic of your cooking, this week a menu with a selection from that book.

Variation and Fermentation

Flaedlesuppe – vegetable broth with pancake rolls
Pork Schnitzel
Blue Cooked Trout
Zwiebelkuchen – onion cake
Horseradish Coleslaw
Apple and Leek Salad
Wild Garlic Spaetzle
Rhubarb Cake

This week a German theme, Sometimes I feel that German cuisine is slightly underrated. Instead of making fun of their love of wurst, we should  take note of the creativity behind the enormous variety of sausages. Because  it is a challenge to turn a cheap ingredient like pork off cuts into something different all the time.


It is a challenge I recognize at the moment, with wild garlic, growing in abundance in the countryside around here now. I like the fresh pungent spring taste of it, but I have to use it sparingly, and in different ways, because you don’t want everything have the same garlic taste all the time.
Wild garlic grows in shaded places like woodlands and riverbanks but poisonous lily of the valley might be mistaken for it. Just tear a bit of a leaf and smell, and you will immediately know which one you’ve got in your hand.
It is a cross between chives and garlic, and as such is a perfect combination with creamy flavours and eggs. My neighbours who recently went on a trip around Europe said that the best thing they had was a Pretzel with cream cheese and wild garlic. It is a fantastic addition to an omelette. You can make a classic pesto with it, and I would use sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts then.


In this week’s menu I use it to flavour Spaetzle,  the German version of egg pasta.  Basically make a batter of 4 medium eggs, 125 g of flour and 2 tbsp of milk. The batter should be thick, but drop off the back of your wooden poon. Then press it through your spaetzle maker (see above) or through a colander with wide holes which is placed on top of  a pan with plenty boiling water.
My favourite way with Spaetzle is to cool them down and then fry them till golden and crunchy in plenty of butter.

As with pasta, there are plenty of discussions about the right way to make spaetzle.  But if you’ve put your heart in it you’ll love this doughy worms, even if they haven’t been made technically perfect. I found this blog helpful:


Kraut is another association with German food. I love sauerkraut,  it has that gentle flavour of fermentation, which can also be found in Korean Kimchi and Japanese Miso. Strange how refreshing these things can taste and feel, while they basically have started rotting. It makes me realise how much food and cooking (a pre digestion aid) are part of the cycle of life.
No better example then the medlar tree I will plant this week, of which the fruits first have to rot -‘blet’- before you can eat them. Life is a continuous process, from planting a tree, harvesting the fruit to consuming it.
It is the ripening of the fruit, the pre digestion nature does itself, which makes it all te more sweeter and refreshing.

And so it is with memories and experiences.  A bit of ripening and digesting, and they turn out sweeter. Therefore I think of my dad with fondness this week, when I am producing Schnitzels the seize of a plate, which were the summit of German cuisine for him.