on the move: blood orange and cacao nib muffins

To my left are a pair of ballet slippers. They are the first pair that I have bought in years. Unlike the pair I just threw out, they look unbelievably delicate without any stains, holes, or strange black smudges. I just need to sew on the elastics. To my right is a pile of books. A couple have bookmarks stuffed in pages towards the end and one is so new that it makes squeaky sounds when you open it.

When I was in high school my classes in math and English were flanked by dance classes, mostly ballet. I went to a performing arts school, so I studied anatomy and ballet terminology just as much as I studied punctuation and fractions. Ballet is, therefore, something that I very much associate with school in general. 

After high school, I continue to dance for a couple of years during university. I packed my leotard and tights when I moved to France, Denmark and then back and forth to Canada, but at a certain point my dance clothes lost their spot in my suitcase. 

But now it feels like I've come full circle. You see, last year I dug out that old leotard and started dancing again. It has been just over a year, and now I find myself with a tote bag full of books, notepads and ballet clothes. As of yesterday, once again I am a student. It feels right that as I start studying once again, ballet is a part of my week. 

So I should be sewing or reading, but instead I'm writing about muffins. 

Homemade muffins are as good as it gets when it comes to snacking on the go. I'm always impressed by how they require minimum effort to bake and yet it is oh-so deeply satisfying to be on the bus, or in between meetings or classes and pull a muffin out of your bag to snack on. To me, anything baked in individual portions and is easy transportable is money in the bank.

The most popular recipe I've ever shared here is for Chocolate Banana Muffins made with left-over almond pulp. I'm excited and humbled that so many have used this recipe to confront the masses of almond pulp in their own freezers.

So I thought that it was time to share another muffin recipe: Blood Orange and Cacao Nib Muffins. This recipe skips the almond pulp (although you could certainly substitute half of the flour with it) and relies on blood oranges, instead of bananas, to freshen things up.

These muffins are hearty, thanks to the whole wheat flour, bright, because of the blood orange, and just a little sweet with the maple syrup. They taste best slightly warm with a very generous slab of butter or coconut oil.  

Blood Orange and Cacao Nib Muffins

yields 9 large muffins


2 cups (260 grams) whole-wheat flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup (54 grams) coconut oil, plus more for the pan if needed
3/4 cup (175 ml) maple syrup
grated zest of 1/2 blood orange
1/2 cup (118 ml) freshly squeezed blood orange juice
2 eggs
1/3 cup (75 grams) cacao nibs

Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C / gas mark 4. Either line a muffin tin with muffin cups, grease the muffin tin with coconut oil, or get out thick muffin cups (as pictured).

In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.

Melt the coconut oil and whisk in the maple syrup, blood orange zest and juice and eggs. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until just combined, making sure not to overmix. Fold in the cacao nibs. 

Spoon the batter into the muffin cubs, dividing it evenly.

Bake until the tops of the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.

Let the muffins cool. If you are using a muffin tin, let them cool in the pan for ten minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack. Once cool, store in an airtight container for a couple of days. 


notes on toast

Toast doesn't seem to generate a lot of debate or opinions. Toast is assumed to be just toast, with limited variation. 
Unlike the multiple answers that follow the questions "How do you like your steak?" I've never been asked how I like my toast. This is why I'm now writing about it because not all toast is equal. Toast, my friends, is not just toast. We should stop taking this kitchen staple, this saviour for stale bread for granted.
It has been years since I've had a toaster. Living toaster-less was the first spark for thinking about what makes toast best. As a kid, I lived in houses with toasters and toaster ovens, which is why I never had to think much about toast.
When I worked in a restaurant in Copenhagen, we served toast with breakfast and toasted breads for sandwiches at lunch but, typical to all restaurants, there was no toaster to be found in the kitchen. We just threw bread on the grill and called it toast. Lesson #1: Grilling bread to make toast is always a good idea.
Since then, I've mostly used the broiler to make toast. I turn the broiler on, throw in some slices of bread, and flip them once the top side takes on some colour. Business as usual.
Then I courted the stovetop method for making toast. You melt some butter in a pan, add a piece of bread and then weigh the bread down with a heavy lid. After two or three minutes, you remove the lid, flip the slice of bread and repeat. You can use coconut oil or olive oil instead of butter and it yields pretty great toast.
I took a break from the broiler, but then I read Edna Lewis' classic The Taste of Country Cooking. What follows is what she calls Country Toast: "We would slice some bread from our homemade loaf, butter it liberally, and place it in the oven. When cooked it would be browned in the areas where there was no butter and the buttered part would be golden and soft. This was the most delicious way of toasting bread. It can be done under the broiler as well, especially if the bread is placed on a hot broiler pan. That will crisp the underside of the bread and the top will be brown and crisp in spots where there is no butter. The combination of crispy brown and soft buttered bread is simply heavenly, (233).
Edna Lewis wasn't the type of woman to throw around words like heavenly. When she writes heavenly, she means it. The top is crispy and the bottom is soft. Who knew that bread and butter alone could yield toast that almost tastes like custard? Lesson #2: Butter bread before toasting.

I too don't throw around words, especially ones like game changer, so I think the next time you make toast, you should practice the wisdom of Edna Lewis.

I use the broiler and don't bother spreading the butter beforehand with a knife. I find that as it melts it spreads itself, plus this makes sure that some parts are without butter and get extra crispy. If you aren't into butter, coconut oil works as well.

Just like different methods yield better toast, so does bread. This method (and toast in general, I believe) works best with white sourdough. Dark breads just don't crisp up in quite the same way. 

My favourite bread in Munich come from the French bakery Dompierre. If you are lucky enough to snatch up a loaf of their dried fig and walnut bread, cut off a couple slices, butter them, turn on your broiler and be prepared to have a well-formulated answer to the question of how you like toast. 

* * * * *

If you fancy eating toast while drinking tea, then take a look over at MUNCHIES where I wrote about Rangoon Tea House in Yangon, a tea shop that celebrates the tradition of Burmese tea shops while refining the food. 


a pot of beans and a glass of wine

Although, one by one, the days are becoming warm enough to brave shoes without socks, the nights make it clear that it is not quite spring. 
It is the one time of year where it makes sense to eat a salad out in the sun for lunch and then crank up your oven at night to make roasts, crisp up root vegetables, or just melt a lot of cheese on your stove top, add some white wine, eat it with bread and call it dinner.
 In other words, it is the perfect time of year to make beans. Beans taste just as good at room temperature as they do hot from the pot. And they taste very good when cooked with red wine, rosemary and bacon, not to mention when matched with a glass of wine.

I came across this recipe over at the Casa Yellow, a blog that I think has writing that is equally as delicious as its recipes. Sarah wrote about a Melissa Clark recipe, one that forgoes the flavours that we usually pair with pinto beans (tomatoes, cilantro, spices and the like) and instead employs Mediterranean flavours. She is one smart lady.

The recipe begins with letting bacon, carrot, celery, garlic and onion sweat it out in the fat rendered from cooking the bacon for a couple of minutes ahead of the rest. Then you add the beans, water, salt and rosemary (or any other sturdy herb like sage or thyme) and let the beans cook. 

But what makes these beans sexier than most is, while the beans cook, the recipe has you reducing red wine in another pot into a thickened syrup and then stirring it in to the beans.

My pantry may have a lot of different dried beans, but pinto beans are not currently part of that collection. So I used lighter coloured kidney beans that I bought in the Republic of Georgia. They did not let me down. 

Red Wine Beans with Bacon

makes 4-5 servings


1 cup dried beans, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
3 slices of bacon, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 - 4 cups water
1 cup red wine 

for serving

a drizzle of good olive oil
freshly grated Parmesan
black pepper
a pinch of red chile flakes

In a heavy bottom-pot, add the diced bacon and cook over medium-high heat until the bacon begins to turn golden but isn't totally cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, garlic and onion and stir occasionally until the vegetables become tender, about another 5 minutes. 

Drain the beans that you've been soaking and give them a quick rinse. Add them to the pot, along with the rosemary, salt and water. Give everything a good stir and then let it come to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Let simmer gently until the beans are cooked through, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Pour the red wine in a small pot and then place it over medium heat. Once the wine comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook until the wine has been reduced to about 1/3 of a cup. This takes about 20 minutes.

Once the beans are tender, remove the rosemary branch, add the reduced wine and stir well to combine. Bring the beans back to a simmer and let cook for another 10-20 minutes more for the flavours to meld.

To serve, spoon beans in a bowl (on their own or with polenta or rice or any grain). Drizzle with some olive oil and top with freshly grated Parmesan, black pepper and a pinch of red chile flakes.
Store leftovers in the fridge for a couple of days. Either serve warm or at room temperature. 

* * * * * 
Remedy Quarterly just released a new issue around the theme of taste. Between stories about adventurous eaters and those who are afraid of mushrooms, I've written about the genealogy of taste and an Icelandic cake made with prunes. 

The digital spring issue of Chickpea was also just released and the print issue will follow in just a few weeks. It is another beautiful issue, and one that will make you forget all about winter. Germans celebrate spring by obsessively eating white asparagus and, if you want to follow their lead, I have contributed a couple of vegan recipes for green sauces to drown your asparagus in: Wild Garlic Pesto and Frankfurt Green Sauce.

When I was in Delhi, I met up with owner of Mizo Diner, the only restaurant serving food from the state of Mizoram in the capital. If you're interested, you can read about how offering pork on the menu goes hand-in-hand with creating cultural awareness of India's North East over at MUNCHIES


on tea and travel

The henna on my left hand is fading. The patterns - intricate grids and swirling lines - are now just bursts of marbled orange, no longer legible as a design. 

This fading means that a week ago I got back from India. It amazes me that one word - with a mere five letters - refers to so much space, so many cultures, so many people.

India is complex, chaotic and challenging, and that's why I hope to be able to keep returning again and again. Amongst all of its dust, traffic and honking, I always seem to manage to find a certain calm.

Maybe it just takes lots of noise for me to find quiet? 

Maybe it is because it forces me to let go. I like to be organized, prepared and neat. I try to be on time and to know exactly when I need to leave my apartment to catch the bus. But India forces me to let go of that. It forces me to relax and to be okay with being late for a meeting, or unsure of how to get from point A to point B. 

It never makes me feel like I'm too rushed to stop for a fresh coconut water or cup of chai on the side of the street.

Being stuck in Delhi's traffic jams gives me time to think and reflect.

It used to be my aim to share a recipe, or at least some words and images, every week, but now I'm aiming for a slower pace.

I continue to value having this space to just write, to write about food and travel, to tell stories and ask questions, and anything else that strikes me, really. To write without word counts or deadlines or checklists. To just write. 

If you haven't read it already, Heidi has churned out some thoughtful words about maintaining a long-term blog. She brings up a lot of important points, as does Tim in "You're Boring." The former is about the potential of blogs, an ode to the creative space that they provide. The latter is a call to critically think about the stories we decide to tell in those spaces and how this relates to the main narratives in the food world at large.

As the food industry has grown, so has the uniformity in which we talk about food. But it shouldn't be like that! Food writing should tell as many different stories as possible. After all, food is the most democratic medium we have. Everyone has to eat. Yet, we hear so many stories about the same kind of eaters, the same kind of food.

When I travel, I find that strangers always want to talk to me if I ask a question about food. To be curious about food is to be curious about culture and people. It demonstrates interest and respect

No matter where I am, food is always my entry-point. It always opens doors for me and starts conversations.

This is why I love writing for MUNCHIES. Leave it to VICE to try to challenge the boring standards of food writing. MUNCHIES isn't just about food, it is about the stories around food. 

Over at MUNCHIES, I just told a story about peanuts in Myanmar. One single legume brought up so many questions about agriculture (industrial and subsistence agriculture), the role women play in it, and how changes in food mean changes in society. 

So although I plan to be posting here a bit less than I once did, I hope to be able to tell even brighter stories, share the thoughts and recipes I want to remember (and question why I don't want to remember others), and to keep developing my perspective on food. 

Thank you so, so much for joining.


seasonless: bittersweet brownies with salted peanut butter frosting

The culinary traditions that follow the holidays are so predictable. And kind of crazy.

Christmas is the season for feasting. That I get and agree with. However, what follows confuses me. 

Eat yourself silly over the holidays, detox yourself to a "new you" in January and then get your sugar high on with February's Valentine's chocolate. 

Even though I like green juice as much as the next gal, I need more than juice in January. It's cold! There's snow! 

This is all to say, that there are some foods that I think shouldn't be bound to seasons. They make sense year round. Green juice is one of them (some times of year it makes more sense as a meal, other times only as a beverage, you know, a glass of juice). Brownies are another.

A good brownie recipe just doesn't go out of style. It is something that will always spark chocolate-covered smiles and attract complements.

So if you're celebrating Valentine's Day or not, make some brownies. There is never a wrong time. 

And if I think that brownies are generally a good idea, then I think that bittersweet brownies with salted peanut butter frosting are a very good idea. 
When I first came across this recipe on the Wednesday Chef I had barberry-fennel scones on my counter and bits and pieces of an Icelandic Christmas cake in my fridge. So the idea of baking brownies and adding them to the kitchen seemed both indulgent and irresponsible. So I did the next best thing: grocery shopping. I went and bought everything that I needed to make these brownies, so as soon as a bit of pantry real-estate became available I could start melting butter immediately. Which is exactly what I did.  

The recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, which is a rarity in Germany. So Luisa uses 70% chocolate and reduces the amount of sugar. I did the same, except I used brown sugar instead of white.

If you use salted butter for the frosting, make sure you taste it before you add any salt. You can also use unsalted butter, which is what I did, and add flaky sea salt to taste, plus a bit more for sprinkling.

Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

Adapted from 'Date Night In' via the Wednesday Chef

makes 16 square brownies 



3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
3 ounces (90 grams) bittersweet chocolate (70%), chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (170 grams) unrefined, brown sugar (or granulated)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder
1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour 


6 tbsp (85 grams) salted butter (or add a generous pinch of salt, to taste, to unsalted butter), at room temperature
3/4 cup (100 grams) smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup (40 grams) confections' sugar
flaky sea salt for sprinkling 

Preheat the oven to 325 F / 160 C / gas mark 3. 

Grease an 8-inch square pan (or a rectangular pan with a similar size) with butter. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper, so that a couple of inches hang over the edge, and then grease the parchment paper with some butter too. 

Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium-high heat. Let the butter cook until the milk solids bubble up and then settle in the pan and caramelize. Cook until the milks solids are golden and the butter smells nutty, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. 

While the butter browns, chop the chocolate and place in a heat-proof, medium bowl. Once the butter is ready, pour the hot butter over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for one minute to melt. and then whisk together. While the butter mixture is still warm, whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, and salt until well blended. Sift in the cocoa powder and flour. Use a spatula to fold together the ingredients until just combined. 

Pour the batter into the parchment-lined pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges are set. Don't over-bake! Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

For the frosting, use an electric mixer, or a whisk and a sporty hand, to whip together the butter, peanut butter and confectioners' sugar in a large bowl. Mix until well combined and the frosting has lightened in color. 

Frost the cooled brownies. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if you wish. Cut into squares and serve.

The brownies can be made 1 to 3 days in advance and the frosting can be made up to 1 week in advance.


* * * * * 
For those who read German, I'm thrilled to announce that I confronted my fear of the writing in the language by penning an article about food in it. A good appetite conquers all - grammar included. In issue 16 of the charming publication the Weekender, I write about Canadian food and share three Canadian recipes. You can find out more about the issue here.

Another good idea, beyond baking brownies, is to book a last-minute trip (or relatively last-minute when visa applications and irregularly sized passport photos are included). After baking the former, I booked the latter and in a few days I'm flying to India. When I get back, I look forward to sharing more tales of chai


old grains, new tricks: breakfast semolina porridge

Oatmeal and I have a good thing going. It is never a bad idea to have plenty of rolled oats on hand. It means that you're never too far away from homemade granola, a big pot of stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal, or cookies spiked with chunks of chocolate.

I also know how to really make oatmeal. You might be wondering what could I possibly mean. Doesn't everyone know how to make oatmeal? Our world would be that much more delicious if the answer were yes.

Years ago I worked as a cook in Copenhagen. It was a weekend gig and, no surprise, I worked the brunch shift. Because Saturdays and Sundays I worked from 8-4, my weekend nights did suffer slightly (but hey! I was a student and one of the many perks of being a student is being able to treat weekdays like weekends). However, my weekends were that much more full of strong coffee (Scandinavian strong), cake, huge batches of freshly made hummus and individually deep-fried French fries now and then throughout the day.

It also taught me some good tricks. For example, an Icelandic co-worker taught me to put a knob of butter on a hot bowl of oatmeal. Brilliant.

Years later I become a loyal reader of Marion Cunningham's the Breakfast Book. She sure knew a trick or two about breakfast, but my favourite of hers is to toast rolled oats before cooking them (or adding them to a recipe for any kind of baked good). She suggests toasting them on a baking sheet in the oven until they crisp up and take some colour, but I tend to use the stovetop.

In my books butter is always golden, but I really love to melt some coconut oil (a generous tablespoon) in a pot, add rolled oats and let them cook for a minute or two before adding water and or milk.

That is just the first step for my oatmeal. The second step is dried ginger or maybe cardamom. The next is good maple syrup and the last is a mix of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and maybe another little knob of coconut oil.

Like I said, oatmeal and I have a good thing going. However, sometimes I need a break from even good things and I'm currently calling that break fine semolina porridge.

I was recently testing a recipe for a semolina tart with chocolate ganache. It made me buy fine semolina and I'm sure glad I did.

Semolina is quite common in desserts here in Germany and the recipe I was testing was an Italian tart, where the filling is cooked semolina dotted with lots of fresh lemon zest. A semolina tart may not sound that sexy, but the filling made me even more excited than the chocolate ganache. This, of course, got me thinking about breakfast. 

Since it is winter, pomegranates and honey and almonds are a winning combination, but do use any toppings that you like.

Breakfast Semolina Porridge

serves 1


1 cup milk
pinch of salt
1/4 cup fine semolina
zest of 1/2 a lemon (preferably organic)

to serve

a handful of pomegranate seeds
a small handful of almonds, chopped

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a light boil over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and reduce the heat so the milk is at a simmer. Add the semolina slowly and use a whisk to stir it into the milk. Whisk continuously until the semolina is thick and the consistency of porridge, about 7-10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Serve right away, topped with honey, pomegranate seeds and whatever else you fancy.



winter minestrone

Hello out there. Hello! 

I'm ready to clear the cobwebs from this space, look January in the eye and give up my routine of salads and juices in Myanmar for soups and roasts in Munich.
Myanmar was all that I ever hope for a vacation to be. It was the type of trip that makes me wish that I was always traveling. It made me forget that there were plants waiting for me at home to be watered and deadlines to be met.
It got me up early in the mornings to watch the sun rise, stroll through ancient temples, eat mohinga and go on long hikes. It fed me well, slowed me down, taught me new tricks and gave me a long list of foods to try my hand at at home and topics to read about. I hope to tell you more about it all soon. 
I came home to a city dressed up in winter. As it often happens, the drop in temperature combined with nearly three weeks of mostly rice and a stomach ache from a long flight home made me crave Italian food. 
The first thing I made was a bit pot of minestrone. It sat on the stove for a couple of days and kept me good company at lunchtime, with some toasted sourdough on the side. I followed Tamar Adler's advice in An Everlasting Meal: "Minestrone is the perfect food. I advise eating it for as many meals as you can bear or that number plus one. (112)"
Minestrone needs no introduction. It is a classic, but that is not to say that it is always well executed. It is a soup that can range from boring and bland to rich and extraordinary. What separates the two? Good ingredients is a no brainer. Lush ingredients are going to yield a lusher soup, which is the great thing about minestrone. It is a soup for all seasons, since the idea is to cook it with whatever vegetables are in season. Because January calls for a heartier soup than say April, I've used potatoes and leek and Swiss chard. A springier version could include green onions instead of leek and beans and peas instead of Swiss chard. 
The other difference comes down to garnishes. A good bowl of minestrone should have lots of them - always a drizzle of fruity olive oil, a pinch of crunchy sea salt, fresh herbs and a generous amount of cheese, be it Parmesan or Pecornio or even ricotta. A dollop of fresh pesto can bring the whole bowl to life. Same goes with really good olive oil. 
And one last trick: a Parmesan rind. Whenever you are down to the rind, wrap it up in some plastic wrap and throw it in the freezer, saving it for the next time you make soup. This adds richness and more flavour to any soup. 
Add a pinch of chile flakes if you want some heat and some pancetta if you want some meat.
Minestrone often includes pasta, of the small variety such as tiny tubes or orecchiette. Because after a vacation I fill enough of my meals with pasta as I get back into the groove of cooking, I decided to leave it out of my soup. Personally I find beans and vegetables enough.  

Winter Minestrone
serves 5


1 cup dried beans (such as borlotti or cannellini)
4 cups (1 liter) water + more as needed
3 tbsp olive oil 
1 large red onions, diced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 leek, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
4 small potatoes, chopped into chunks
a Parmesan rind
a handful of fresh basil
1 cup Swiss chard, or any other leafy green, roughly chopped
1 can tomatoes
for serving
freshly grated Parmesan
a drizzle of good olive oil
fresh basil or parsley
Soak the dried beans in water for a couple of hours or overnight. Drain and rinse them well and then put them in a large pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the beans are tender. Set aside.
In another large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the red onion, carrot, garlic, leek and zucchini. Cook until everything begins to soften and is fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Then add the chunks of potato, Parmesan rind, fresh basil, Swiss Chard and the can of tomatoes, juice and all. Give it a good stir and then add the beans and their cooking liquid. The liquid from the beans plus the tomato juice should be enough to cover, but if not add more water.
Bring the pot to a simmer and then leave to simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, the tomatoes have melted (crushing them with the back of a spoon if necessary) and the broth is flavourful, about 60 minutes. Discard the Parmesan rind and add salt to taste.
Serve warm and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan, a drizzle of your best olive oil, salt and pepper and fresh basil.

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