jeudi 16 février 2012

Frozen land

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It's the tips of my ears and nose that told me it was going to be a brutally cold day. Poking out from the warmth of the covers, they felt the first chill of the air and I knew that the bedroom windowpane, thin and cracked, would be covered in ice patterns (or Eisblumen in German) just like the kitchen one too. It's hard to make an effort to get up when Berlin is still sleeping but they promised a gloriously sunny day like the rest of the week when the explosion of colours above the rooftops first thing makes me regret having to go to work. There was the first cup of tea and a bowl of muesli with warm milk before slipping on the lined winter boots which unfortunately give me blisters, a skirt, thick tights and my Sarah Lund jumper. I decided to walk close to the water in the hope of catching reflections of the morning and took the underground to Schönleinstraße in Neukölln, a district I barely even know. The weather forecast was wrong though; a grey, colourless day but nevertheless, it still felt good to be there, walking along the frozen Landwehrkanal. Apart from the odd jogger and some car headlights in the distance, I saw no signs of life, just groups of seagulls taking off and landing at regular intervals. Taking pictures in these kind of temperatures (-14°C at 8am) is hard; I have learned to remove and replace the lens cap with my gloves on but after an hour and a half there was an unbearable numbness in my fingers and I had to return home for fresh coffee.

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Stockings for everyone

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Snow on my windowsill

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Taking pictures in frozen Mitte

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Carrot cake - nice to look at but too heavy and unfortunately with cream instead of cream cheese on top

Last Sunday was different - milder without the bone chilling wind that makes your cheeks hurt - and with plenty of sunshine. On the Spree icebreakers travelled by and groups of birds huddled together on the few bits of the river which remain unfrozen. Treptower park still looks eeriliy beautiful in the morning light with the snow gilmmering in the first rays. Winter days are good for comfort food; thick soups with plenty of cheese melted on top, hot desserts with fruit bubbling out and most all a spicy stew. The one below is simple but truly heartening and exactly what is needed when the thermometer hangs around zero.

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This post is dedicated to H. who loves Streuselkuchen - recipe here. We'll miss you on Saturdays!

  Spiced aubergine stew (adapted slightly from Nigel Slater's Tender)

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I'm going to shamefully confess to having chosen ready ground spices for this recipe despite Nigel's advice to freshly grind your own for the simple reason that I don't posess a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. But if you do and feel like grinding your spices for better flavours, please do so. I also left out the chillies because when it comes to really hot food, I'm a total wimp. It was still a deliciously comforting dish though, one of my favourites for winter and even more delicious the following day when all the ingredients had had time to blend.

Makes generous portions for 2

1 large aubergine
2 medium onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp cardamom powder
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely sliced
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
4 medium tomatoes (tinned whole ones are also fine in winter)
1x  400ml tin coconut imlk
a small bunch of mint
a small bunch of coriander

1. Wash the aubergines, remove the stalk and cut them into chunks. Place them in a colander in the sink, sprinkle with a little sea salt and leave for at least half an hour to get rid of the bitter juices.
2. Heat the oil in large pan and fry the sliced onions until transluscent and soft.Stir in the crushed garlic and finely chopped ginger, followed by the ground spices. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan.
3. Rinse the salt off the aubergine and pat dry. Without oiling it, heat a ridged grill pan and griddle the aubergines until streaked on each side and softer.
4. Add the aubergines to the onions and pour in the coconut milk and allow everything to simmer gently until the vegetables are tender. Salt as needed and serve with flatbread or rice.