The spice contest

A really quick & dirty post today to fulfill my bet with Katha (whose blog esskultur you should be reading if you speak German).

It all started on twitter – after winning an impromptu “competition” about the number of dried pasta shapes we have in the kitchen (27), I felt too secure and accepted Katha’s dare about the number of spices we each have. What was I thinking? Why didn’t anyone stop me? She is the daughter of a spice dealer!

My number is: 148! Not bad, but short of her winning 167! (Rules were: any single or mixed spices, herbs, etc, but no pastes, no oils)

Short breakup of my spices: 13 different red paprikas/chilies (1 up from the last time I counted), 12 peppers, 12 salts. Things that I assume are rare in other kitchens (maybe even Katha’s?): mentuccia (a Roman mint type), mirto leaves (of the myrte tree from Sardinia), salade du pêcheur (a mix of sea algae from Japan), roses, zahter (like the famous za’atar but not the same) from Turkey, sahlep (salep, not the ready-mix to make the drink that is full of chemicals but the real thing, the milled flour of the root) and damla sakizi (gum mastic). The fresh and good mint and sumak she misses, I have in abundance (the Turkey connection!).

So I bow my head in shame – I have lost! Katha, I’ll be bringing you a good wine to October meeting. And I see the time has finally come to organize my spices in these nice tins that I have ordered!

How many spices do you have?


Menu For Hope 6 – Donate and Win (a wine tasting for 8!)


Update: Bidding just became easier! This nifty little form will help you choose your items and transfer it directly to the donation site – remember my code is EU23.

Menu for Hope is an annual fundraising campaign hosted by Chez Pim and a revolving group of food bloggers around the world.  For the past three years, Menu for Hope raised nearly a quarter of million dollars in support of the good work of the UN World Food Programme, helping to feed hungry people worldwide. We, food bloggers from all over the world, join the campaign by offering a delectable array of food-related bid items for the Menu for Hope raffle. Anyone – and that means you too – can buy raffle tickets to bid on these items. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on an item of your choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim.

Once again we’ve chosen to work with the UN World Food Programme. This year, we are supporting a new initiative at the WFP called Purchase for Progress (P4P). P4P enables smallholder and low-income farmers to supply food to WFP’s global operation.  We food bloggers understand the importance of buying locally and supporting our local farms, P4P helps do the same for farmers in low income countries around the world.  More on the campaign, the donation system and the programme we are supporting can be found here.

This year, I am again offering a bid-item:


(EU23) My Italians wine tasting in Rome for 8! A great opportunity for wine lovers – beginner or expert – to get an overview of Italian wines, learning about and tasting 7 of them. Let yourself be guided by sommelière Hande (me!) through this fun and informative 2-hour tasting that gets rave reviews! Offer is valid for up to 8 persons, so gather your family, friends or colleagues and hop on a plane to Rome!

Small print: Tasting to be taken within 2010 and date to be arranged with vinoroma. No guarantee on exclusive, private date – there may be others taking part in the tasting, especially if your party is less than 8. Winner may not “sell” remaining places if his party is less than 8. Shipping N/A. Worth of bid item is (up to) €400 / $600 (for a group of 8), non-redeemable.

There are many food and wine related items out there that you can bid for. Over at David’s blog you can see the other bid items offered in Europe and at Alder’s vinography you can see other wine related items. For the master list of all bid items you can win with a donation of only $10, have a look at Chez Pim. And if you want to win the wine tasting in Rome, don’t forget to state EU23!

To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from our Menu for Hope main bid item list over at Pim’s.

2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation.

3. Please specify which bid item (EU23 for the wine tasting in Rome) you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item if bidding for more than 1, and please use the bid item code.

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02, so write: 2xEU01, 3xEU02.

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Menu For Hope 5 – Donate and Win


Update: The deadline has been extended to 31st December – You can still donate and win! Unbelievable that we already have the 5th year of Menu for Hope, the annual fund raising campaign hosted by Chez Pim and a revolving group of food bloggers around the world. Each December, food bloggers from all over the world join the campaign by offering a delectable array of food-related prizes for the Menu for Hope raffle. Last year we raised almost $100K! Anyone – and that means you too – can buy raffle tickets to bid on these prizes. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of your choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim. Click here to read more about the UN World Food Programme (school lunches in Lesotho) we are donating to and how donations are handled.

This year, I am again offering a prize:


(EU18) My Italians wine tasting in Rome – A great opportunity for 2 wine lovers – beginner or expert – to get an overview of Italian wines, learning about and tasting 7 of them. Let yourself be guided by sommelière Hande (me!) through this fun and informative 2-hour tasting that gets rave reviews! Tasting date (within the year 2009) has to be arranged directly with vinoroma. [Shipping: N/A] [Worth €100 / $140]

There are many food and wine related gifts out there that you can bid for. At Ms. Adventures in Italy you can see the other prizes offered in Europe and at vinography you can see other wine related prizes. For the master list of all prizes you can win with a donation of only $10, have a look at Chez Pim. And if you want to win the wine tasting, don’t forget to state EU18!

How to donate & bid:

1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at Chez Pim.

2. Go to the donation site at firstgiving and make a donation.

3. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you’d like in the “Personal Message” section of the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize and please use the prize code!

For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU18 (my prize!) and 3 tickets for UW05. Please then write “2xEU18, 3xUW05”

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone!

The Omnivore’s Hundred – Surely a 91/100 makes me an omnivore?

In Laos

In Laos

See if you are an omnivore. The rules:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at Very Good Taste (the initiator) linking to your results.

91/100 – My Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (only alligator)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (not a whole one, though!)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava (and I mean the real thing, at the source)
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (had clam chowder, but not in a sourdough bowl)
33. Salted lassi (and ayran, too)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float (yuck!)
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (I drink cognac, but the cigar, never!)
37. Clotted cream tea (by mistake!)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (I had the opportunity in Kambodia and chickened out. Am not completely dissing, though)
43. Phaal (In Germany, though. Not sure if that comes near the original)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (in the right place, anytime!)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (hey, I was a teen, too!)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV (Nockerberg, yey!)
59. Poutine (only thing on the list that I didn’t know existed)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (what, never been a kid?)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (unless I am really starving)
76. Baijiu (never again!)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam (never again!)
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I would add some more items: Pajata, sheep’s testicles, snake blood, eggplant jam, octopus…..

I acknowledge that my time in the US and Asia have helped me a lot to score high on this list.

The picture was taken 2,5 years ago in Vientiane, Laos. Excuse the quality, but be aware that I could have posted way yuckier pictures!

What is your Omnivore score?

Great Chefs and Their Quirks: Vissani

Gianfranco Vissani and Aldo Sohm

This is, according to some, the best and most important Italian Chef, Gianfranco Vissani, currently 2 Michelin stars (he is being helped into his chair by the soon-to-be best sommelier in the world, Aldo Sohm from Le Bernardin in New York). See his scarlet shoes, the matching belt and the red thingies (what are those?) on his jeans hems? The guy has an attitude!

Seen on May 24th in Rome, during the “World Best Sommelier” Competition, about which you can read a very interesting post at the vinoroma blog.

Ratatouille, Byaldi, Imam Bayıldı

Imam Bayıldı

On Friday the Pixar movie Ratatouille starts in the USA (watch the trailer, and a preview – unfortunately, we in Germany have to wait till October for the movie!) and you already know that, as a foodie, you have to go see this animation film about a talented rat who wants to become a chef in a Paris kitchen. The “final dish, the one on which the entire plot hangs … is the movie’s namesake, and needs to be so special it will impress the restaurant critic”, this french dish called byaldi, a version of ratatouille, has actually its origin in a turkish dish: Imam bayıldı, “the imam fainted”.

As I am sure you will come out of that movie wanting to recreate the dish, I would like to suggest you make the original, which is very easy to prepare with scrumptious and mouth-watering results. It is really easy, its secrets are slow cooking (active cooking time is not that long though), a lot of good extra virgin olive oil and some sugar. Such “zeytinyaǧlı” (literally: “with olive oil”) dishes can be cooked with any vegetables (classics are green beans with tomatoes and artichoke bottoms with fava beans) and are traditionally eaten either at the end of a succession of meze or right after the main dish. As they are always eaten cold, or at least at room temperature, they would also make for a perfect summer main dish if you like. Although I am a carnivore, note that this dish, like all the other “zeytinyaǧlı”, is vegan. And remember: They always taste best on the second day!

Drink a crisp dry white wine without oak with this dish. We drank a Chablis 2004, which is a Chardonnay from France, with yeasty aromas.

Oh, why the imam fainted? He came home and saw the dish his wife had prepared and as he realized how much of the precious olive oil went in it, he fainted!

Imam Bayıldı
classic Turkish recipe, as learned in my mom’s kitchen
serves 6

prep: 20 mins
cook: ca. 1 1/2 hours unattended, 15 mins active

eggplants, 6 long thin ones (ca. 1 kg)
tomatoes, 6 (ca. 600g)
green peppers, 3 small ones (ca. 200g – you can use bell peppers or long thin but not hot ones, as well)
onions, 6 (ca. 450g)
garlic, 3-9 cloves (to taste, the more the better!)
flat leaf parsley, a small bunch
olive oil, 1/2 – 1 cup (extra virgin)
sugar, 1 tbsp, heaped

(Click on the small pictures below to read detailed explanations of each step)

Trim the “heads” of the eggplants. Do not cut them completely off. Peel the eggplants in stripes. Put the eggplants in salted water. Blanch and peel the tomatoes, cut into cubes. Dice the green peppers. Peel and cut into half the onions, slice thinly. Peel and slice thinly the garlic cloves as well. Mince the parsley very fine.

Take the eggplants from the salted bath, squeeze them lightly and pat dry. Cover the bottom of a heavy pan with olive oil. Start with half a cup, you could get away with it, but more could be necessary. When the oil is hot, brown the whole eggplants from all sides till they have softened a bit, but not thoroughly cooked, ca. 8 mins. Do this in batches, do not overcrowd your pan. Lay the fried eggplants in a single layer in a wide pan or pot with a lid.

In the remaining olive oil in the pan, start roasting the onions. Turn the heat down to medium, you want to slowly brown the onions. Sprinkle the sugar on the onions and let them caramelize and get soft. Add the garlic, roast for a couple minutes, then add the green peppers and tomatoes, sprinkle salt over it. Let cook over low heat, with the lid closed, until the vegetables have gone soft and juicy, around 20 mins. Add the minced parsley at the very end.

Slit open a pocket in each eggplant. Spoon the cooked vegetable mix into and over the eggplants, there will be more than enough filling, cover the eggplants and the space between them. If the filling is not juicy, you may want to add half a cup of warm water into the pan. Cover and let slowly cook for at least an hour over very low heat, till the eggplants are really soft and cooked through. Alternatively, you may put the pan with the filled eggplants in a warm (but not very hot) oven for an hour.

Imam Bayıldı Ingredients Trim the Eggplant Peel the Eggplants in Stripes Salt Bath Blanch the Tomatoes Fry the Eggplants Lay out the Eggplants Roast the Onions Add the Peppers and Tomatoes Make Pockets Fill the Mixture Final Product

23 Answers About Cooking and Eating

I got tagged by Sebastian for this (until now) German-speaking meme about eating habits.

1. Can you cook? If yes, do you actually like to cook?

I can cook. So many guests wouldn’t be coming again and again just for my beautiful black eyes (Turkish saying), I assume. And I love to cook. I love the food-shopping, I love the idea-finding, I love the tackling of difficulties and the meditation-like quality of simple tasks, I love eating the results and I love seeing that others like it as well.

2. When does your whole family come together to eat?

My family being just T and me, we always eat dinner together on weeknights and on weekends every single meal.

3. What do you have for breakfast?

Weekdays breakfast is usually rather late (after an initial couple of hours in front of the computer) and in my favorite cafe of the moment (right now Herbertz). If all is well, some kind of sandwich (at Herbertz rye bread with smoky raw German ham); if I am on low-carb, scrambled eggs with some veggies. Always a cappuccino. Weekend breakfasts may be at home, then some fresh fruit and cereals (no milk, no yogurt) or eggs in case of low-carb need (yes, I do eat a lot of eggs when I am on low-carb and yes, I have excellent blood cholesterol levels). When we are on the road, breakfast can be anything. I mean anything.

4. When, where and how do you eat during the week?

Breakfast as above; lunch kind of gets lost (I know, shame on me!), it is very late due to the late breakfast (eggs do fill you up) and is usually some left-over vegetable from the night before or some cocktail tomatoes or cucumbers at home, in front of the computer (I work at home). If not low-carbing, it can also be some sushi, Thai, Lebanese or French lunch in our neighborhood. T has the choice of crappy Italian, crappy Chinese or crappy German in the vicinity of his workplace. As breakfast he takes some fruit with him to work. Both meals are for him a lot earlier than for me. Dinner is around 8 (if an experiment hasn’t taken unexpected routes and forced us to wait till 10). I admit that if I haven’t prepared something elaborate and if we are without company, we do eat in front of the tv. The foodie gods will be furious!

5. How often do you eat out?

Well, depends on what you count as eating out. Is eating over at friends’ houses eating out? In Munich we have a great circle of foodie friends, so we have at least twice a week guests over for dinner and are over at friends’ places also once or twice. Restaurant visits (other then lunch, see above) are maybe once or twice a week. In Stuttgart we have less company (we live here only temporarily), so restaurant visits can be more often, especially if the weather is nice.

6. How often do you order-in or take-away?

We order very rarely, once in 3 months maybe, and then it is either from a certain Indian place or a certain sushi place (both in Munich). Take-away might be also once in 3 months and then only from a certain pizza place with a wood-burning stone oven (also in Munich) . The quality of 99,9% of order-in or take-away places is not acceptable, and if the food is good it is almost always better to eat it in the restaurant. Of the above three, only the sushi place is a solely-delivery business. Almost always the reason to eat foreign food at home will be a soccer game on tv combined with a total laziness on my side.

7. (re. 5 and 6:) If money was no question, would you like to do it more often?

Money is no issue, we like to spend our money on food and wouldn’t do the above more often. Maybe we would go to higher level restaurants more often than we do now (like check out all the three star restaurants in Europe), but the total outings per week wouldn’t increase.

8. Are there any standards that make regular appearances on your table?

Oven-roasted vegetables are very common on our table, especially as breaks between periods of having-friends-over, being-over-at friends’ and eating out. Also a high-end Brotzeit, i.e. a cold dinner featuring excellent bread with various cold cuts and cheeses, with some fine wine can be found very often at our home. On these occasions, the table looks like an international (at least European) gathering place. We don’t mind serving this to company, either! And T and I wouldn’t mind eating pasta everyday but I do try to slow this down a bit.

9. Have you ever cooked for more than 6 people?

Other than buffets where I have fed up to 40 people, I regularly cook sit-down dinners for 8 (this is the physical limit in our apartment), 8 or 9 courses being the maximum, 3 to 5 courses more regular.

10. Do you cook daily?

As you can see from the above answers, no.

11. Have you ever tried a recipe from another foodblog?

I constantly get inspirations from a lot of foodblogs, but it is rare that I actually carry out a concrete recipe. This also has to do with my style of cooking: Almost never do I follow a recipe! One great exception that comes to my mind is the Crème Brûlée I have made various times according to the delicious:days recipe, only I make a plain version of it, just the custard with vanilla. It always works and gets raves.

12. Who cooks more often in your family?

I do. Today at lunch T announced that he feels like cooking and wants to cook dinner one of these days. He said, “maybe in April, when my project is over and I have the muse”.

13. And who cooks better?

I do. Although, T once, and only once, made a porcini risotto for company which was just loved by everyone present and keeps being recalled year after year. Maybe that is the material of which legends are made.

14. Are there any quarrels because of food?

No. I only get bugged by T every once in a while because of the amount of food I buy, cook and we eat. Also, taking a slice of prosciutto, folding it and eating it up in two bites! without bread! is unbelievable for him and will always, always result in a raised eyebrow.

15. Do you cook totally different than your parents?

Yes. A lot more international. Although I did get my love of food and cooking at home, my parents cook almost only Turkish and traditional German dishes.

16. If yes, do you still like to eat over at your parents’?

Oh yes! My mom is a great cook who went through the hard kitchen-school of her Turkish mother-in-law, aunt-in-law, sister-in-law, father-in-law and husband. We even at times fly her in to cook Turkish for us and our friends. Yes, we are very lucky.

17. Are you vegetarian or can you imagine living vegetarian?

I am not a vegetarian and I can’t imagine living as one, as I do love meat in almost any form. But I do eat a lot of vegetables.

18. What would you like to try out that you haven’t dared yet?

Butchering a whole sheep or pig and make use of every morsel, like make sausages, headcheese etc. Having grown up in a Muslim country, I have often witnessed the ritual killing of sheep & cattle and have no problems with the notion of killing a healthy animal to eat, with the blood and with eating interesting parts as well. I would like to do all this myself, sometime.

19. Do you rather cook or bake?

Definitely cook. As I said above, I do like to improvise and that doesn’t go that well with baking, at least if you are not an expert yet. I can bake basic cakes, pies etc., sticking reverently to the recipe but do not attempt to make anything too elaborate.

20. What was the most terrible mess you made in the Kitchen?

A couple of years ago I decided to make my own birthday cake according to a recipe from Fran Bigelow’s “pure chocolate” cookbook. It was supposed to be a 3-layered ice cream cake (my birthday is in the height of summer); with dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate as the layers and caramel-glazed hazelnuts as decoration (my combination, idea stolen from Keiko). It took me two days to make the cake. Every single step of it went wrong. The recipe refused cooperation. The ingredients turned on me. Every second of it I swore I would never ever do something like this again. I finished the cake because I can be stolid, even mulish, when I start something. In the end it tasted good and everyone liked it but I have never made anything out of that book again. Pity, because the pictures are just lovely.

21. What do your kids like to eat best?

I don’t have any kids (the question is not unresolved, Sebastian, it is resolved thus), but if I had any I am sure they would love plastic, sliced, so-called orange cheese, just to shame me publicly.

22. What would your kids never eat?

See above. I guess they would eat no vegetables, no proper cheese; only soft-cooked spaghetti with ketchup!

23. What do you dislike most?

Unshelled horse beans. It is the only thing on earth which is commonly excepted as food that I won’t be in the same house with while they are being cooked and 24 hours thereafter. Unfortunately, they are very common in Turkey. Now you know why I don’t live there anymore.

Now I would like to know what Cenk over at Cafe Fernando and Véronique from Wie Gott in Deutschland love to cook, bake and eat!