Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Red Cabbage makes a festive side dish

Dear all,

We have made it through another eventful year. Let’s remember Paris as the city of love and abstain from hate and violence. I believe that violence creates new violence. Only love can disrupt the circle of hate. Light defeats darkness – at least I prefer to believe so.

Let’s remember to face all difficulties with an open heart and let’s nourish our bodies and mind with the good things Mother Earth has to offer. Red cabbage is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can find. I have chosen it for my Christmas newsletter because it can be prepared as a festive side dish, fit for any celebration.

In Germany, red cabbage with chestnuts is traditionally served with turkey, goose or duck on Christmas. Here in Goa it is impossible to reproduce this dish as edible chestnuts are unknown. That’s why I have modified the recipe. I replace the chestnuts with walnuts that deliver a mild crunch to this soft cooked vegetable.

I sincerely hope that you have passed a good year. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you all the best for the holidays and the New Year.

Merry Christmas and happy cooking, always!

Kornelia Santoro with family

Festive red cabbage with walnuts

red cabbage with walnuts
(for 4 servings)
  • 1 medium size head or 2 small heads of red cabbage
  • 3 medium onions
  • 500  ml red wine
  • 100 grams walnuts
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 cloves
  • salt
  • pepper
Remove the outer layers of the red cabbage, cut the head into quarters and remove the trunk.
red cabbage quartered
Finely slice the cabbage leaves. Clean and chop the onions.
sliced cabbage
Heat the oil in a pot and add the onions.
frying onions
Fry the spring onions until translucent.
onions translucent
Add the cabbage, the bay leaves and the cloves and give it a good stir.
cabbage in pot
Pour in the red wine. I take Merlot but any red wine will do.
red wine poured into pot
Cover the pot and cook for around 60 minutes until the red cabbage is tender. Season with salt and pepper and mix in the walnuts.

Merry Christmas everybody!

May you feel love and peace during the holidays!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Wealth of nutrition: Citrus skins

chocolate covered orange rindsIf you have a source for organic citrus fruits in Goa, India, where we live, please let me know. I would eat citrus skins regularly if I could find an organic source.

The skins of citrus fruits provide a wealth of nutrition, more than the fruit itself or its juice. They are rich in flavonones, antioxidants that fight free radicals. Orange peel is loaded with histamine suppressing substances making it great for people suffering from allergies. These substances reduce irritation all over the body, especially in the lungs. Citrus peels are also beneficial to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol, relief heartburn and indigestion.

The skins of citrus fruits are also packed with vitamins, especially vitamin C and A, and minerals like calcium, manganese and zinc. However, if you don’t use organic citrus fruits, I do not recommend consuming big quantities of citrus rinds.

Candied Orange Rinds

I had to make candied orange rinds because it is an essential ingredient for the German Christmas sweet Lebkuchen, the subject of my December newsletter.

In Germany, you can buy orangeat, as candied orange peels are called there, in every supermarket. In India we have to make them ourselves. Luckily, it is very easy to do. I have surfed the net and found wildly different recipes. This recipe is the result of trial and error.

My only concern is that I did not manage to find organically grown oranges, although I tried. The skin of commercial oranges tends to be polluted by pesticides and industrial wax to prolong the shelf lives. That’s why I immersed the oranges in a vinegar-salt-solution for several hours before using them.

If you can, use organic fruits. You can use this recipe to make candied lime or lemon rind also.

Wishing you happy cooking, always!

Kornelia Santoro with family
Candied orange rindsIngredients (for around one cup):
  • 2 oranges
  • ½ cup synthetic vinegar
  • ½ cup salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • water

I keep the oranges in a vinegar-salt-solution to remove as much wax as possible from the skin.
oranges soaking in vinegar-salt-solution
Place the vinegar and the salt in a bowl, add one cup hot water and stir until the salt has dissolved. Keep the oranges three hours or up to one day in this solution, turning them every couple of hours because they float.
peeling the oranges
Peel the oranges with a potato peeler.
orange rinds cut into shapes
If you want to coat the orange rind in chocolate or use it for other decorative purposes, cut the skin into shape now.
oranges blanching
Place the rinds into a pot, cover them with cold water and bring the water to the boil for one minute. This is called blanching. It reduces the bitterness of the skin. Drain the peels and repeat the process. Two times is enough for me. If you are very sensitive to bitterness, you might want to do it three times. However, blanching diminishes the taste of the rinds.
sugar syrup in the making
Place the sugar with one cup of water into a pot. Switch on the fire and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. When the syrup is boiling, add the orange rinds and reduce the flame to low.
orange rinds simmering
The rinds have to simmer gently.
If the sugar gets too hot, it will crystallize leaving you with an orange mess. If you see that the sugar syrup bubbles wildly, switch off the heat for a little while or use a heat diffuser.
Avoid stirring the rinds frequently because movement can also cause the sugar to turn into crystals. You want the orange rinds covered in smooth syrup.
translucent orange rinds
How long you boil the rinds, depends upon your taste. Recipes vary from 15 minutes to several hours. I think 1 ½ to two hours gives the best results.
When the orange rinds have turned translucent, switch off the heat and let them cool down for a quarter of an hour. Don’t handle hot sugar if you can avoid it. Hot sugar is very dangerous. It clings to the skin and causes terrible burns. I write from experience.
drying orange rinds
Remove the rinds from the syrup and put them onto a non-sticky surface. I have used my chopping board. You can also use a silicone sheet or wax paper. Let them dry overnight. Place them into an airtight container. You can keep them for several weeks in the fridge.

Some people like to coat orange rinds with molten chocolate. I personally hate the combination of orange and chocolate but like everything in life this is a matter of taste.

History of Lebkuchen: From the Emperor's bee garden

Lebkuchen thanks to the Empire’s bee garden

Actually, I am not allowed to call my sweets ‘Nürnberger Lebkuchen’. This term is protected by law. If you see a packet with Nürnberger Lebkuchen, you can be sure they are made in Nürnberg itself.
The history of Lebkuchen goes back to the Middle Ages when similar sweets were made all over Europe, called spiced bread in various languages, for example pain d’épices in France or pan forte in Italy.
Nürnberg owns its glory as Lebkuchen city to its position at the crossroads of ancient salt and trade routes. Spices from Asia arrived via Venice and Genoa on the way to Northern and Eastern Europe. The second essential ingredient for the Lebkuchen grew in the dense forest around Nürnberg that was called ‘The German empire’s bee garden’.

The city of Nürnberg bought the exclusive rights for the honey and the wax from the beekeepers in 1427, a clever strategic move because Lebkuchen is still an important source of income for Nürnberg.

  sign of Lebkuchen factory
Catholic monks in Franconia, the region around Nürnberg, developed the recipe, using oblaten as a base to avoid that the dough stuck to the cookie sheets. Oblaten are normally distributed during mass symbolizing the flesh of Jesus Christ.
The Lebkuchen became famous in 1487, when Emperor Frederick III held a national congress in the city. All the 4000 children of the city received a Lebkuchen with the image of the Emperor, an impressive PR tactic often remembered today.

Nowadays, sugar has replaced the honey but Lebkuchen are still going strong. They are only sold during the extended Christmas season and shipped all over the world.

Nürnberger Lebkuchen

Dear all,

We are gearing up for Christmas. I hope you look forward to the holidays with joyful expectations. If not, maybe you could take some time out to contemplate what is going wrong with your life. The end of a year and the start of a new one is a great time to take an inventory and check what makes us happy and what we can omit.

For me, the past year has been an exciting one with many ups and quite a few downs as well. I believe, the way we face problems shows the stuff we are made of. If we tend to be too fluffy, we can toughen up. If we are too brittle, we can mellow down.

Remember, happiness starts in your own mind. I dare say I am entitled to vent my opinion about this subject. A few weeks ago, I finished writing my new cookbook with the working title Cooking for Happiness and I am looking forward to see it in print in 2015. Unfortunately, writing is only part of the story, then comes editing and editing… But let’s not jump ahead, let’s enjoy the spirit of Christmas.

For the last newsletter of this year I have chosen a traditional German Christmas sweet, Nürnberger Lebkuchen. I have grown up in Ansbach, a small town close to Nürnberg, a city famous for its Christmas market (see the title picture). Christmas without Lebkuchen would have been unthinkable. I tried my hand this year at the queen of Lebkuchen, the Elisenlebkuchen, thanks to my dear mother who sent me her recipe.

Lebkuchen are largely made from nuts, sugar and candied orange and lemon rind, as described in my November newsletter. The common Lebkuchen also contains flour, but the Elisenlebkuchen does away with the wheat and is made only from almonds, hazelnuts, sugar, eggs, spices and citrus rinds.

Normally, the Lebkuchen dough is spread over a base called oblaten, round, paper like wavers. These wavers guarantee that the Lebkuchen does not stick to the cookie sheet. As you cannot get oblaten in India, I have used a thickly buttered silicon sheet and cut the Lebkuchen after baking in diamond shaped pieces.

Unfortunately, here in Goa, India, it is also very difficult to find hazelnuts. That’s why I substituted the hazelnuts with almonds. The Lebkuchen taste slightly different, but still delicious. For my chocoholic men I coated them with chocolate, but you can also leave them plain or cover them with icing sugar mixed with a tiny bit of water or rum.

Wishing you wonderful holidays and happy cooking, always!

Kornelia Santoro with family
Nürnberger Lebkuchen
Chocolate covered Lebkuchen
(for one cookie sheet, around 45 pieces)
  • 250 grams almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 75 grams candied orange and/or lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla essence
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 grams chocolate for coating
Grind the almonds and the citrus rinds. Mix the almonds with the baking powder.
ground almonds
Because I don’t like to bite on pieces of citrus rinds, I chop them to a paste in my mini blender. If you don’t mind more texture in your Lebkuchen, just chop the citrus rinds roughly.
ground orange rinds
Prepare the cookie sheet. I have used my trusted silicone-baking sheet that I covered generously with butter. You can omit the silicone sheet; just make sure that you spread plenty of butter over your cookie sheet because the dough is extremely sticky. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
butter covered silicone sheet
Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Beat them and gradually add the sugar until you have a thick cream.
egg and sugar cream
Add the rum, the vanilla essence, the cinnamon, the cloves, the citrus rinds and the ground almonds. You should have thick, sticky dough that you can spread out.
Lebkuchen dough
Pour the Lebkuchen dough onto your cookie sheet and spread it out evenly. It should be very thin, about three millimetres or so. I have flattened the dough first with a spatula and then evened it out with a knife dipped in water.
Lebkuchen before baking
Bake the Lebkuchen for around 40 minutes, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less. They should turn a little bit brown around the edges and they should not feel sticky any more when you touch the surface. I gave them five extra minutes from the grill in my gas oven to ensure that the surface is well done.
baked Lebkuchen
When you remove them from the oven, you have to work fast. Slide the sheet of Lebkuchen onto a flat surface and cut them immediately. You only have a window of a few minutes before they toughen up while cooling down.
Lebkuchen in diamond shape
Let the diamonds cool down. If you want, melt the chocolate in a double boiler (a small pot stuck into a bigger one with some water) and cover the Lebkuchen with the chocolate.
covering Lebkuchen with chocolate
I used a knife to spread the molten chocolate like a sandwich spread. Enjoy!

Friday, 27 November 2015


Dear all,

Sometimes we have to accept defeat. Failure can even lead to a liberating feeling of relief.

This year, I have been working hard: I have finished the manuscript for my new book that will be released by HarperCollins India in June 2016. The past week I have spent at the Film Bazaar in Goa, pitching my idea for a TV series to producers and directors.

The Film Bazaar is a yearly event in Goa that happens at the same time as the Film festival. It is a great opportunity to meet people from the film industry but it is also exhausting. Normally I spend my time writing in front of my screen. Meeting people and selling my ideas does not come naturally to me. However, I got to know some people interested in my humble endeavours. Let’s see, if something comes from it.

Still tired, I tried to realise a dream of mine. For years, I have been wanting to make a gingerbread house. I had done my research, cut out a template and yesterday everything went according to plan. My house seemed to hold together until it collapsed and broke. I don’t know what went wrong. Maybe my royal icing was too liquid. In the beginning, it seemed to stick. Then the gingerbread softened and broke into pieces.

There was no way I could fix it. So I tried a piece and decided that the taste is good enough for my newsletter. I cut out some cookies and decorated them with the coloured sugar pieces meant for the house. Honestly, I was quite happy I did not have to fiddle with decorating a full gingerbread house. It was so much easier just to bake some cookies.

That’s why my newsletter for the Christmas season features a recipe for gingerbread. I admit defeat and I don’t know if I will ever try my luck with a gingerbread house again. Maybe in a couple of years…

Wishing you happy cooking, always!

Kornelia Santoro with family


Gingerbread cookies
Ingredients (for three dozen cookies):
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup raw sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 100 grams butter
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons cacao powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • pinch of salt

Royal icing:
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 ½ cups icing sugar

Use the butter at room temperature. If you don’t have time to wait, 20 seconds in the microwave will do the trick. Beat the butter together with the sugar. You can do this in a food processor. I use my hand mixer for this job.
creaming butter with sugar and spices
Add the eggs and the spices and beat the mixture until you have a creamy substance. I add cacao powder to enhance the colour. Because I like gingerbread spicy, I add a lot of cinnamon and ground ginger. If your taste buds are sensitive, you might want to cut down a bit on the spices.
making dough
Work in the flour. In the beginning, I use the hand mixer and then I knead the dough by hand until it is smooth.
dough in cling film
Wrap the dough in cling film and let it rest. My recipe for the gingerbread house suggested resting it overnight. However, if you only want to make cookies, the usual half hour in the fridge should be enough.
rolling out dough between cling film
When you need to roll out dough that tends to crumble like this one, using cling film is the way to go. Place the dough between two sheets of cling film and roll it out. When it flattens, you have to lift off the cling film several times to give space to the dough.
template for gingerbread house
If you want to make a gingerbread house, you need a cardboard template like this. Use three times the amounts given above for the dough.
pieces for gingerbread house
Lift off the upper sheet of cling film. For a gingerbread house, now is the time to cut out the template pieces. Keep the piece on the cling film and turn it upside down onto a cookie sheet that has been buttered. I use a silicone sheet that works great.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the oven at 190 degrees Celsius. It should brown slightly.
making royal icing
For the royal icing, beat half of the icing sugar with the egg white. Then add the rest of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
royal icing
When you want to make a gingerbread house, bake all the pieces of the template and then stick them together with royal icing. Use glasses or tins to prop up the pieces until the royal icing has set.
gingerbread house in the making
I thought my gingerbread house was quite stable. I removed the props and it seemed to hold. But one minute after it collapsed.
gingerbread house collapsing
First one part and then the rest.
gingerbread house collapsed
So I rolled out the rest of the dough – luckily I had some leftovers – and cut out cookies with a cookie cutter. At this point, I did not even feel like attempting to cut out a gingerbread man by hand.
gingerbread cookies
Bake the cookies and then decorate them as you wish. I stuck on the coloured sugar pieces meant for the house with a bit of royal icing.

Please tell me, if anybody of you ever managed to make a gingerbread house.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

#Empirekred - the place to be

Why I have joined Empire.Kred and its Leaders


I consider myself a professional writer. With two awards for published cookbooks and numerous publications in newspapers and magazines you could call me fairly successful.

However, my social media presence left a lot to be desired. I had plenty of friends on Facebook, but all my post never seemed to attract any attention.

Then a friend sent me the invitation to Empire Avenue, how it was called then. That was in February. Since then, my social media activity has skyrocketed.

I near the 1.000 mark on Twitter and my Facebook page. Now I know that I can get more than 10 likes for a Facebook post if I really want to.

How? Thanks to Empire.Kred and its missions. When I create a new post, I advertise it on Empire.Kred with a mission and people are drawn to my Facebook page – or wherever I invite them to go. The best: It does not cost me a penny.

A few months ago, the owners of Empire Avenue changed. Although Empire Avenue had loyal supporters, it did not create the expected revenue.

With Empire.Kred, there is hope now. The people behind the Kred imperium belong to Peoplebrowser, a fairly successful enterprise with money to spend.

At this point, I wonder, why Empire.Kred is still not making money. It is the most useful tool for social media that I have come across.

Among its members you find first class social media experts – and they are all willing to give you a hand.

I have joined Leaders, the elite community of Empire.Kred, because I loved the supportive spirit present in the Empire.

Come and join us, you will not regret it.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Millet Heaps

Dear all,

At the moment, my body hovers at a crucial point: I still have to lose a bit of the holiday weight and I need to do it now, before the Christmas and new years celebrations hit again. Do you also know these cycles? Luckily, it is only a matter of a few pounds…

I am always interested in news about weight loss. The number of diets never ceases to amaze me – and the number of people following and swearing on them. In this newsletter I want to have a closer look at two popular diets that have cropped up recently: alkaline and paleo diet.

For the purpose of weight loss I usually turn to high fibre food. In combination with avoiding sugar and alcohol I usually succeed in maintaining my figure.

This month, a friend of mine inspired me because she cured her stomach ulcer with alkaline food. This reminded me of millet, the only grain with alkalizing properties. Recently, I have found organic millet in many supermarkets. What better way than to use it in a healthy snack?

I call this recipe millet heaps because of their look. The added vegetables deliver vitamins and phytonutrients and keep the heaps moist inside. The crunchy exterior is reached by baking them on a cookie tray laced with plenty of olive oil. You can serve millet heaps as a healthy snack, a light meal with a salad at the side or a guilt-free addition to a Thanksgiving dinner.

This recipe ticks all the boxes of the alkaline diet but does little for the paleo lovers. Hard core paleo fans consider millet as poison.

Like always, I listen to my body. I like millet. It tastes great and keeps my insides running smoothly. These millet heaps are so easy to make, you can call them fool proof.

Wishing you happy cooking, always!

Kornelia Santoro with family
Millet Heaps
millet heaps
Ingredients (for 20 pieces):
  • 1 cup millet
  • 4 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 big cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • salt
  • pepper

Place the millet with double the amount of water and one teaspoon salt into a pot.

millet in pot
Bring it to a boil and let it simmer until the millet has absorbed all the water. This takes 10 to 15 minutes.
cooked millet
Clean and skin the carrot. Wash the zucchini. Grate them into a big mixing bowl.
grating vegetables
Add the spices, the crushed garlic, the eggs, the whole-wheat flour and the millet. Mix everything well and season with salt and pepper.
millet mixtures
Spread olive oil over a cookie tray and place heaps of the millet mix onto the tray. I use an ice cream scoop for this job.
forming millet heaps
Place into the oven and bake for 45 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.
millet heaps baking
If you use a gas oven, turn them after half an hour to get them crunchy all around. If you use an electric oven, this might not be necessary. Enjoy.