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!


Walnut Wedges of Decadence

Walnut Wedge of Decadence

Walnut Wedge of Decadence

This is what one of our friends at our international Thanksgiving Dinner called these. Let me tell you, they really are decadent. There is nothing healthy or low-cal or low-fat in these. But tastewise, they are one of the best desserts I had in some time.

The walnut wedges came about because of my laziness and incapacity, I might say. See, I am pastry dough-handicapped. I fear pastry dough, I fear the mixing (under-mixed? crumbly! over-mixed? stone-hard!), the rolling out (it will stick, no matter how much flour I use) and the transferring to the pie dish (it will tear no matter which method – drape over the rolling pin or fold loosely in quarters)… No matter which lovely blogger takes me through it with a magical recipe, step-by-step, sometimes even in person and live, I am afraid of the pastry dough (actually any dough that I have to roll out, including pasta though, which I guess makes me a failure among all foodies – and I live in Italy, of all places!).

Imagine my joy then, when years ago I came by a pate brisee /sucree (short crust pastry) recipe – I think it was on Clotilde’s blog – where I read the words “no need to roll out, just press the dough/crumbs with your fingertips into the pie dish”. Since then, whenever I can (actually even when I can’t) I go back to that kind of dough when I want to make a pie. For this recipe I used brown sugar instead of regular sugar and changed the proportions a bit – usually I use a bit less butter and sugar for that amount of flour.

And the filling? Years ago, for another thanksgiving party (in Germany, mind you), I had researched the perfect pecan pie. The 10 or so recipes that sounded best to me I threw together and came up with mine. And this year, since pecans were hard to find and very expensive I wanted to substitute them. And since I have about 2 kilos of shelled organic walnuts from my father’s very own plantation in Turkey, I didn’t think too long! But go ahead, if pecans are cheaper in your neck of the woods, or any other nuts (I imagine almonds would be good, too), use them. They will still be Wedges of Decadence.

Walnut Wedges of Decadence
own creation
serves 12 (at least!)

prep: 20 mins
bake: 45 mins

for the crust:

all purpose flour, 180 g
brown sugar, 110 g
butter, 110 g (very cold and cut into pieces/cubes)
salt, pinch

for the filling:

walnuts, 200 g (toasted and coarsely chopped)
cream, 250 g
sugar, 100 g
brown sugar, 60 g
honey, 3 tbsp
butter, 3 tbsp
bourbon whiskey, 2 tbsp
orange peel, 3 tsp
caraway seeds, 1 tsp
aniseed, 1 tsp
salt, 1 tsp

for the topping:

dark chocolate (70%), 100 g (broken into little pieces, or use chips)

Heat the oven to 180°C.

Mix all ingredients for the crust. You can do this with a food processor, a pastry cutter or with your hands (as I did). Knead till you have a crumbly dough that doesn’t hold well together. You can add just a sip of milk or water if you think it doesn’t come together at all. Dump the dough into a 28cm pie dish and press with your fingers into the dish. Try to press it to a uniform thickness. It will run up the sides, for this recipe you don’t need this, whatever goes up the sides, patch it back on the bottom of the dish/form. Put the form on an oven tray (this is a precaution against possible spillage later on) and put in the oven (middle rack) and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, till golden, but not dark. If it has puffed up, push it gently down after you take it out of the oven. Keep the oven temperature.

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling. Mix all the ingredients for the filling except the walnuts in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat (it will bubble up considerably). Let boil for ca. 5 minutes, stirring every once in a while. You want everything to dissolve and thicken together.The mixture will be very hot, be careful!

Take the oven tray with the form on it out of the oven. Distribute the walnuts evenly on the crust. Pour the cream/sugar mixture evenly over it, paying attention to cover every area while pouring – you don’t want to be forced to correct later on, since then the walnuts will come to the top. Put the tray with the pie form on it in the oven again. Bake for 25 minutes. The filling will bubble up and may (doesn’t always do it with me) spill, that is why you want the pie form on an oven tray! After 25 minutes, the filling should be thick and dark golden-brownish. Take it out of the oven with the tray, as it will be unstable and soft till it cools down.

Right after you take the pie out of the oven, distribute the chocolate pieces evenly over the pie, paying attention to not touch the filling with your fingers (hot!). Let sit for a minute or two, till you see that they are melting down. Take a fork and plow through the chocolate (try to keep to the surface only, not the whole filling!) to create a thin layer of chocolate all over the pie. Run a knife along the circumference. Transfer pie-dish first to a cooling rack, later to the fridge (cover with foil) to allow the whole pie to get stable and hard.

Serve very slim wedges, at room temperature. Go to heaven.

Walnut Wedge of Decadence - the profile

Walnut Wedge of Decadence - the profile

Giuda Ballerino! What an Unexpected Dinner in Rome!

Tepid octopus, cold burrata cheese and smoked eggplant puree - heaven!

Tepid octopus, cold burrata cheese and smoked eggplant puree - heaven!

Ever thought about combining octopus, burrata cheese and smoked eggplant puree? Well, think again. Overcome your initial reaction and think about all these elements, all the best of their kind, and imagine the aromas, the textures and the temperatures playing around each other. Once you taste it, it makes you lament the 38 years where you had the possibility of this dish at your fingertips but the idea nowhere in the vicinity.

panzanella con tonno - bread salad with tuna

panzanella con tonno - bread salad with tuna

After 11 months in the Eternal City, we decided it was time to indulge in some serious fine dining. We would like to have something other than the ordinary carbonara or trippa (tripe) or carciofi (artichokes). Sorry folks, yes, I just wrote “ordinary” and “trippa” together. I know any food lover outside of Rome is hating me, but these yummy dishes we have just 5 minutes and 10 Euros away from us – or just a trip to the market and some time in the kitchen. And we do love “our” Roscioli, but there is still so much to try out there.

Fried muscles with sepia crunch and carrot puree

Fried muscles with sepia crunch and carrot puree

I have been eye-ing Guida Ballerino! (literally “jumping Judas”, an exclamation of surprise with origins which I refuse to write in depth here, on a FOOD blog. The relevance to the restaurant is that it is an exclamation used often by the famous Italian comic figure Dylan Dog, of which the owner & chef seems to be very fond of) for over 1,5 years now. Yes, your maths is right, even before coming to Rome I was interested in paying a visit to this place.

Foie gras terrine with whitefish, spicy apple and candied almonds

Foie gras terrine with whitefish, spicy apple and candied almonds

And it really has been worth it. T. and I chose the “classic” menu (6 courses, €65), where we were allowed to substitute one dish with Shrimps because of T.’s allergy. Other than the 6 courses we got 4 amouse courses, 1 pre-dessert and a mignardise plate. We loved (or at least liked) almost everything we ate. Exceptions was the dessert – we found it strangely bland and just too sweet.

Squid ink tagliolini with monkfish cheeks and crispy greenbeans

Squid ink tagliolini with monkfish cheeks and crispy greenbeans

We also had the accompanying wine pairing (4 glasses, €28) to the menu, because we like to test better restaurants in that aspect. Unfortunately, the wines, although good in their own right, were not the best matches to the food. Next time we’ll definitely get a bottle or two of wine that we choose ourselves from the extensive list. A word on the wines: This was the wine list with the highest mark-up we have seen in Italy up to now! Kind of a bummer for us wine lovers.

Vitello tonnato inside out - genius!

Vitello tonnato inside out - genius!

We will definitely go back to Giuda Ballerino!, the food was creative, the products used were very good quality and the results very enjoyable in most cases. This small restaurant (seating only 16 – all taken by Romans on this night) on the outskirts of Rome has great service and a very interesting atmosphere, with the emphasis on the right things (the food!). At the same location there is also a more informal osteria, which is open for lunch as well and has more accessible prices, which we’ll visit soon, too.

desPS: Excuse the pictures, I wasn’t expecting to be able to take pictures and had just my compact camera with me – no proper adjustings!

Pumpkin Soup Indian Style

Pumpkin Soup Indian Style

Pumpkin Soup Indian Style

Hello World!

Oh, I can still blog! Who would have thought, after (I have to go check) – wait, what, 2 months??? No way! How did that happen? I promise, dear readers (if there are any of you still out there!), that I won’t let my business (which, by the way, is becoming a huge success, thank you for asking) get in the way anymore. I have been cooking and eating delicious food, so blogging will continue.

Delicious food like above, from delicious days, the book. Now, I do have a love affair going on with pumpkins (or squash, or gourds) as you might remember, so this recipe from Nicky’s book (I am friends with a real cookbook author, how cool is that?) was one of the first I tried – aside from the recipes I was lucky enough to receive months earlier to test and have been going back to all summer long. I made a lot of diners here in Rome very happy, I might add.

One of the best aspects of Nicky’s recipes is that they are suitable for seasoned cooks and absolute beginners alike. If you have been in a kitchen for more than just a couple of times, these recipes deliver a great base, a new idea that you can build around and vary according to what you have on hand and still get great results. And if you don’t feel adventurous or this is the first time you are using your kitchen (this book is definitely a good one to start cooking with) just follow the recipe and surprise yourself.

Pumpkin soup Indian style
slightly altered from original recipe in delicious days, the book
serves 4

prep: 10 mins
cook: 20 mins

hokkaido pumpkin, a smallish sized one around 1000g
onion, 1
garlic, 1 clove
ginger, fresh, a 2cm piece
ghee, 2 tbsp
yellow curry paste, 1 tbsp
garam masala spice mix, 1 tbsp
coconut milk, 1 can (400ml)
vegetable broth, 600ml
brown mustard seeds, 2 tbsp

Wash and cut up the pumpkin. Get rid of the seeds and the fibers. If you are using a hokkaido, no need to peel. Cut the pumpkin into chunks. Dice the onion and the garlic, finely mince the ginger.

In a big pot, heat up the ghee. Roast the onion and the garlic, add the ginger, curry paste and the garam masala mix, wait till the aromas are released. Add the chunks of pumpkin, roast for a couple of minutes. Add the coconut milk and the broth. Cook for about 15 minutes, till the pumpkin pieces have become soft. Mash finely with a stick blender, till no chunks are left.

Dry roast the mustards seeds in a pan and decorate the soup in individual bowls with them. Definitely eat with good, heavy, country bread (or naan, if you can lay your hands on some) and drink a full bodied and aromatic white wine with it.

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?

Hot Days, Cold Food

watermelon granita

watermelon granita

It is so hot in Rome that we choose the gelateria on our once, twice, thrice daily visits according to the shadow/sun ratio of the route to get there.

And sometimes, we just have to stay at home and eat one of these:

melon granita

melon granita

chocolate sorbet

chocolate sorbet

watermelon granita unveiled

watermelon granita unveiled

These are all so easy to make. For any granita, you just need any ripe, real fruit. Puree, add a tiny bit sugar (do this even if your fruit is very sweet, sugar helps with the crystallization of the granita) and a little bit lemon or lime juice. Mix and put in the freezer. For a granita you absolutely don’t need to mix it in between, just before serving, take it out and scrape with a (stable!) fork to obtain the fluffy mountain of cold goodness. Of course you can add alcohol, herbs, just be creative!

For the chocolate sorbet, I used David’s recipe (via Smitten Kitchen). Serve with some pistachios, hmmm!

These were not the only ice creams and granitas in my kitchen. I also adapted David’s Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream (via Cafe Fernando). Just mix a can of condensed milk, one can (use the milk can) of strong espresso, add the fabulous cajeta you have in your fridge (I omitted the ground coffee as I dislike the gritty texture), mix and put in your freezer. You will have to mix this every couple of hours to get a nice, smooth ice cream without ice crystals.

Another great quick ice cream was fig ice cream. Boil a pound of figs with some brown sugar, grated lemon peel and some juice and a dash of homemade vanilla vodka. After it cools, mix it with 250 ml of cream, add some more lemon juice and freeze, as above, working it every once in a while with your stick blender. Serve with little pieces of candied orange peel!

And here are some tips for making very quick ice cream from none other than Harold McGee!

Keep cool!

melon granita - scratch with a fork!

melon granita - scratch with a fork!

Eat Fish Week: Trout Strudel

I will be on an island all week, and a bad conscience has been nagging all the time. Have so much stuff to blog about but so little time. So here you are: my folders give enough material for a whole fish week. You won’t find exact recipes for anything, just an idea of what I threw together. It is meant to inspire you. And if I find a begging comment about some real recipe when I come back, I might think about it!

trout strudel

Let’s get fancy. This is the signature dish of an Austrian restaurant I used to love and have already written about. Used to, because last time we were there with some blogfriends, the experience was less than stellar and I am not very keen on taking my hard earned money there soon. But this dish, it is really good. So I researched and found this recipe online, it was authorized by the cook himself, but it wouldn’t work. Believe me, I am not a novice in the kitchen and I can notice and fix broken recipes, but this one, no. So no recipe here, not even a source, but just an inspiration: Make a strudel, fill it with a farce of mushrooms and a piece of fresh trout fillet. Let me know if you have a great experience!

inner life

Excuse the bad picture, it was sooo late as I was finally done with this un-obeying recipe!