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!