Making a Meal of it

Caroline, Hamburg, Germany

Good morning lovely people. Breakfast. Some keep it simple… muesli with milk (hello fellow Germans), some consider coffee a substitute for food and some go all out: Hash browns, baked beans, scrambled eggs, toast… A full English break-feast. Way to kick-start the day! In Germany we have this great expression “Morgenmuffel” which does translate as morning grouch but a) I have never heard one actually say that and b) without the M&M alliteration it just loses all its beauty. I am a Morgenmuffel. Always have been, always will be. Therefore I am incredibly grateful for whoever invented brunch. More food choices, longer lie in and more time to enjoy it. What is not to like? Perfect way to spend a Sunday morning. It’s this weird meal type where basically anything goes. So instead of boring you with some avocado on soda bread or quinoa porridge recipe (do try that though – recipes can be found on basically any of those hundreds of trendy foodie blogs) I’ll share with you the culinary creation I am most proud of. PIMM’S CAKE. If you are not yet familiar with Pimm’s o clock, you are missing out big time. If you are, I don’t have to tell you how unrivalled a chilled glass of Pimm’s in the summer sun is. Now combine that with chocolate cake and you are in food heaven. Last summer for the birthday of a very dear friend of mine I attempted this deliciousness. As google literally did not come up with any good recipe I made up my own. Rules are there to be broken and recipes are there to be changed…. Correct? So what did I do? I took a basic chocolate cake recipe and replaced all liquid (milk and water) with Pimm’s. I think it might have been the BBC chocolate cake recipe.
And the best part? The icing is Pimm’s mixed with icing sugar. Decoration? Cucumber und the usual Pimm’s fruits. Simple as that and yet so very special. And now here’s my challenge for you: Take a normal, boring, recipe and replace a key ingredient with something you absolutely love and maybe just maybe you’ll create your new signature dish. You won’t know until you’ve tried it. Culinary adventure. GO GO GO!!

Pimms cake

Hannah, Modesto, California

Those who know me intimately are well-aware of my quirks and passions and might concede on these points: I am terrible at sharing a bed, I strongly believe that Beyoncé is my spirit animal, I drive unreasonably close to the steering wheel and I love to put eggs on all things. On their own, these facts are relatively banal, but bound together in an approximately Hannah-size package, they create a woman who loves nothing more than to wake up from a glorious sleep to feast on brunch while Bey sasses up the morning.

But this flavor of beautiful paresse (the French word for “laziness” makes it sound so much more divine) was not even close to my reality on Sunday morning. The Mec was visiting, and he loves to “embrace the day” or whatever those fallacious early-bird types ramble about, so I was awake early. Not only that, but we were on a mission; along with the bumbling fambam, we were headed to Yosemite (*cough* for my first time *cough*). No delayed snooze button. No fierce Yoncé. No homemade brunch treasures. Breakfast was an affair of efficiency and may or may not have included a stop at Denny’s.

However, in my still-slumbering mind, an entirely different cast of brunchsters were parading around à la the furniture characters in Beauty and the Beast. Smug little egg yolks winked at me, curvaceous red onions flirted with the virile cucumber and Sir Everything Bagel bustled around in his charmingly useless manner.

These are the players that I fantasize about for my saucy 50 Shades of Breakfast. When expertly reunited, said ingredients create my most favorite morning treat: an open-faced egg sandwich, pure pleasure in your mouth. I’ll leave it to you to resist the temptation of yolky glory.

One half, toasted everything bagel (or whatever bagel you please)                                      One egg, sunny-side up                                                                                                        4 slices of crunchable cucumber                                                                                  Several slices of red onion                                                                                                    3 slices of tomato                                                                                                           Cream cheese

Assemble at will, but my prefered order is: cream cheese on the bagel, red onion, cucumber, tomato and then egg. Possible variations: avocado, capers, other cheeses, kale, etc.

While some of you will embrace the chaos that ensues upon first biting into this institution, others might commiserate with the plight of my sister-in-law who is constantly frustrated by the ever-tumbling pile of edible delight. If this is the case, feel free to secure the goods with an extra half of bagel.  Happy morning, you naughty bagel-er, you. 

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Clare, London, United Kingdom

The Sunday Roast is a common affair in many a British household. Personally, I find the idea of eating a similar type of (often overcooked) meat at the same time as everyone else around the country somewhat Orwellian so look away if you were expecting a British roast!

I used to love cooking, I’ve worked in restaurants and I do enjoy a good meal, especially when there is no washing up. Being allergic to dairy makes it all slightly boring though and I’ve had too many of those glances which just say ‘it’s not as good as…’. However, lacking the self-control to give something up for lent (milk is enough right?) I decided to adopt something, namely making a new recipe once a week to try and expand the go-to options.

My current trusty friends are Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Light and Easy, conveniently dairy-(plus wheat-)free and Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana. I love this last book which has taught me how to use spices in a completely new way; I will never go without cinnamon again. So far, lent, the traditional time of fasting, has been rife with kidney bean chocolate cake, amazing chicken pastillas, and hummus soup. This week it was the turn of the baked eggs, ideally as in Persiana. Except that I spent all morning working, and when we finally made it to the supermarket at around 2pm I forgot half of the ingredients on the list but I did learn something new and it tasted GOOD!

So here is my adapted recipe for spicy baked eggs:

Chop 3 onions and 3 crushed garlic cloves. Heat up a good amount of olive oil and fry them until they are on the point of turning brown. Add in 1tsp of ground coriander and ground cumin, 2 tsp of turmeric (love), ½ tsp cinnamon and cook for a minute or so longer. Then add 1.5 tbsp chilli sauce (I grew up eating spicy food) and 7 chopped, in hindsight probably skinned, tomatoes, cook for a couple of minutes, then a tbsp of tomato purée and a cup of water plus seasoning. Leave it all to reduce for 20 minutes.

Get an oven dish and put the spicy tomato and onion mix in it, add coriander to the top (for me) or cheese (for Man), then make 4 wells and add an egg to each of the well. Season. Then put it in the oven for 15 minutes at 180 degrees (or just watch it).

Kirsten, Hawzein, Tigray, Ethiopia

3 Reasons Why Cooking is Important to Me

1. It reminds me of my childhood

My parents both cooked for my family. They forced my sisters and I to sit down and eat together every night for dinner. I didn’t understand until college that some families would eat separately or spend time together eating while watching TV. Of course some dinner times were not always laughs and good food, but looking back I realize this simple ritual is foundational to my family’s cohesiveness.

2. It reminds me of my best friends

hannah and memika and food

Mika, you taught me how to cook. And to always salt the water. I love food because you love it! Thanks for sharing your know-how, letting me in on the Giacomo/Reiko food fest, and going to Eataly with me!

Hannah! Remember sophomore year when we made those onion bacon tartlets and we were so proud? You helped enforce our weekly dinners together (both while we were apartment mates and not) and I am really thankful we shared so many good laughs, conversations, food, and of course, red wine. (It’s nauseating how cliché that last sentence was, but hey, ain’t our fault if life is that good!)

Sonam, I gravitate to Indian food solely because your mom always insisted I have third helpings of her delicious naan, pickled cauliflower, yogurt, and samosas. So good!

Sandia, I’m not allergic to seafood. That was an outright lie. Thanks for calling me out on that one and teaching me to love the weird stuff. I owe it to you and your parents for showing me that sautéed shrimp and fresh sashimi really is outright delicious.

3. It brings odd groups together

I cook for people because it brings people together who sometimes can’t tolerate each other. We’re all human and we all need to eat. I like cooking for people because if you invite people, chances are, they won’t say no to free food (maybe I’m still too close to the college demographic…). So I trick people into hanging out with each other by offering my various cooking experiments. Haha!

Maybe I’m being too idealistic… world peace solved by dinnertime? Well if anything, I hope people’s stomachs go home happy…

Here is one of my recipes I made this past Sunday. Luckily I was with friends in the larger city, Mekele, for a four-day training. Otherwise I would be alone at home cooking this… no salt needed, because my savory tears of loneliness and despair would suffice.

Enough of the dramatics… I hope this recipe makes your stomach happy. Let me know what you think!

Kirsten’s Simple yet Satisfying Stuffing


Day old Bread (French bread, wheat bread, white bread, any kind you want!)           Onions                                                                                                                             Garlic cloves                                                                                                                    Italian Seasoning (Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Marajoram)                                      Salt                                                                                                                                    Red Chili Pepper flakes                                                                                                 Chicken Stock (from package/bouillion cubes)                                                                Dried Cranberries/Craisins                                                                                              Bacon bits (or actual bacon)


  1. Heat oil/butter in pan and caramelize onions. This means very low heat and patience. Should take 20-30 minutes (depending on how patient you are, the slower the better!). Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, chop up bread into cubes. Heat oil in separate pan. Throw in red chili pepper flakes to flavor oil. Add garlic and wait until slightly golden brown. Add bread pieces and sprinkle Italian herb seasoning on top. Fry bread (stir often!) until golden brown.
  3. Add caramelized onions and chicken stock to fried bread mixture (mixture should not be fully submerged with chicken stock, unless you want overly soggy stuffing). Wait for the stock to almost evaporate. Once only a little liquid remains, throw in the dried cranberries and bacon bits. Stir mixture and add salt to taste.
  4. Goes well with soups or by itself.

Ella, Llangefni, Wales

            Wind howling through the air vents and rain hammering against the windows. Yet another spring evening in North Wales… yuck. As much as I like to complain about the weather over here (it is a sort of British national pastime) it does make indulging in little comforts such as hot chocolate and a hot bath even nicer. Comfort food means different things to each of us, some love nothing more than to curl up with a nice bowl of home made soup, for others it’s fresh bread, or perhaps something sweet. For me, nothing’s more comforting than a local dish called “tatw pum munud” (pronounced tattoo pim minid) it means five minute potatoes, which is hugely misleading, though the prep can be done in this time. It’s a traditional Welsh dish (though technically this recipe is for a version known as tatw popty, meaning oven potatoes, as tatw pum munud is usually cooked on the stove, nevertheless, my grandmother called it by this name and that’s what I’m sticking to) and I’m completely convinced that anyone can make it, all you need is bacon, potatoes and onions in stock.

It’s not the prettiest of meals, but it was one of my favourite things for my Grandmother to make me when I was a little girl, and whenever I eat it now I’m taken back to the days when I would bound into her kitchen after playing outside (even in weather like today’s) to be greeted by her preparing this in the kitchen. She was a great woman, and I miss her every day, so this international women’s day, it seems fitting to bring you something she used to make me.
It’s really simple to make, I’ve never even used a proper recipe to make it, so feel free to experiment with it as you see fit, as a guide however:

  1. Slice a large white onion, and fry it over a low heat in a casserole dish or similar (I put half in a cast iron skillet as an experiment and it turned out perfectly)
  2. Remove the onions and put them to one side. Then add 6 slices of bacon to the pan and cook through. When these are done remove from the pan and keep with the cooked onions.
  3. Add around 500g peeled and sliced potatoes to the pan and cook for around 2 minutes in the remaining juices. Then add the bacon and onions and cover with chicken stock (I usually use around 500 ml but go along with your own preference)
  4. Cover and bake in the oven at 180˚C for around an hour, or until the potatoes are tender.
  5. Serve in a big bowl, and enjoy. It goes well with some crusty bread to dunk in, if you like.

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Lindsay, Bordeaux, France

Eating in France is a serious affair. If you are invited to a family dinner, especially on a Sunday, you can count on being at the table for a minimum of three hours, often four.  It’s a whole process: first there’s apéro with normally some sort of alcoholic drink and chips/nuts/finger foods, then you move on to the main course accompanied by wine bien sûr, after that comes the salad, then cheese (and more wine – definitely a red), then dessert (with champagne), and finally a little digestif like cognac, or a coffee. Or both.

It’s madness. Or heaven. Or both.

If this seems overwhelming to you, have no fear. I’ve been asked to provide a dinner recipe, and for the sake of brevity I am only going to give you a main course recipe. I mentioned before in my “Goodbyes” entry that duck is a big thing here in the southwest of France, and so my recipe for you today is Parmentier de Canard.  It’s a bit like a French version of Shepard’s Pie: savory, tender duck meat mixed with sautéed onions and carrots, covered with a fluffy layer of mashed potatoes and topped with grated cheese, then popped in the oven to be grilled to golden perfection.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Here’s what you need:

2 medium onions, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
750g (1.5lb) duck confit (duck legs cooked and canned in their own fat)
6-8 potatoes, peeled
Shredded emmanthal/gruyère (or any firm white cheese you like)
Whole milk, butter, salt & pepper (to taste)

Put some water on to boil and when ready, cook the potatoes until tender (about 20 minutes).

Take some of the duck fat from the can and melt it in a large pan.  When hot, add the carrots and onions with some salt and pepper and cook about 10 minutes.  While waiting, remove skin and bones from duck legs and chop up the meat into small pieces. Toss the duck in the pan with the carrots and onions and “cook” until some pieces become a bit crispy.  Transfer the mixture to an oiled baking dish and spread out in an even layer.

Mash up the potatoes with some butter, milk, salt, and pepper.  Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes if you want it extra smooth. Spread this on top of the duck layer, then sprinkle with cheese.  Pop it into the oven for about 20 minutes at 180C/350F, then turn on the grill for about 5 minutes to really get the cheese to crispy golden deliciousness.

Serve with some veggies on the side or a small salad. And a glass of red wine, obviously, à la française. Cheers!

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