Next to experimenting with new flavor pairings and techniques, thinking about classic dishes and transforming them into new and more interesting forms is my biggest passion in cooking. Sometimes I start meditating about a classic dish, its ingredients, the involved techniques and the possibilities behind them. The ideas pop up and evolve during this creative process. Some other times I keep thinking and enhancing distinct single ideas, which I quite suddenly assemble into a new dish or a reinterpretation of a classic. This time I combined several ideas and applied it to a Hungarian classic: the lecho (orignally: lecsó). Traditionally lecsó is a mix of onions, long bell peppers and onions simmered similarly to a stew and served either immediately or stored in glasses for the forthcoming winter. Sometimes lecsó is enhanced with garlic, Hungarian sausage (kolbász), sweet paprika powder or lard. Lecsó is usually served mixed with rice or eggs, or it can be eaten simply with a few slices of bread. I prefer the version with rice and – very nontraditionally – a lot of cinnamon, which works especially well with chorizo-like sausages.
You might ask now: why to serve a lecsó in form of a sushi? Well, I figured out how to make endless variations of nori algae sheet substitutes (the sheets you wrap your sushi into), how the texture of tomatoes and peppers can resemble soft fish meat and how to replace the wasabi by another traditional Hungarian ingredient. With the combination of the ideas described below, serving a sushi with lecsó flavor surely will make sense to you as well. So read on below for the birth story of the Lechosushi.
Ratatouille consists of a well-known pairing of zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and herbs. All these ingredients reach their peak in August and each one of them resembles the pure taste of summer. Unfortunately when prepared as a ratatouille, the classic vegetables lose both their vivid color spectrum as well as their distinct textures. For this dish I wanted each and every ingredient to stand for its own with it’s unique taste, color and texture. Of course in the final result the flavors didn’t melt together as in a classic ratatouille. But served in this decomposed way, many different combinations of the vegetables can be discovered and enjoyed.
During the last month I finally managed to finish a huge project. Some of you, who might have seen me on Hungarian or German television might already know, that for the last 5 years I was working as a research assistant at the local university here in Erlangen. Next to teaching students about the beauty of computer science, I also worked on my PhD thesis. The final oral exam took place two weeks ago, where I did pretty well and so I finally extended my name with a Dr.! Of course the exam was followed by celebrations lasting more than 3 days, which seemed to be a little bit too much: I spent the next few days in bed with a flu.
The first PhD celebration is traditionally held just after the final oral exam with my family and my fellows. Since my colleagues know that I love cooking, I had to come up with some original ideas for my menu. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to cook on the day before my final exam, so I searched for a local catering service willing – and able – to cook the ideas I had in mind. The catering I picked did a tremendous job. Everybody loved the appetizers, main courses and desserts – which were mostly not only vegetarian, but vegan. It’s funny, that unless a dish is not explicitly emphasized as vegan, people don’t really seem to miss the meat from their plates. One of the appetizers was this simple, yet very tasty terrine made of bell peppers and eggplant.
Sour cherries and poppy seeds are a traditional pairing and work really great together. Usually, you can find this combination in the form of crépes, muffins or cakes – so in most cases, they are served as dessert. Since I love to include fruits in savory dishes, I was thinking about a way of using sour cherries and poppy seeds in a more salty environment. Cherry sauce is a classic pairing for duck breasts, so I thought it might work with pigeon breasts as well. Additionally, I enhanced the plate with a few more ingredients that pair similarly well with sour cherries, which took the resulting dish into a very exciting Asian direction.
During summer the youth division on3 of the Bavarian Television (BR) is touring across Bavaria and broadcasts each week from a different city. Last week their tour bus stopped in Erlangen, the town I live in. Fortunately, the program directors decided to talk about foodblogging and invited 3 local foodbloggers from the surrounding area: Kathi (Kochfrosch), Sylvia (Rock the Kitchen) and me. It was nice to meet Kathi and Sylvia, since until recently I didn’t even know that there were other foodbloggers so close nearby. We were asked some questions about foodblogging and in the second part of the show we had to prepare some “food porn” using a few provided ingredients. The show was recorded on last Wednesday and aired both on the BR-alpha and BR channels. If you missed the show: it is available online at the on3 website.
Before the live show, Kathi, Sylvia and I were asked by the tv crew to join a skype meeting, where we helped one of the shows hosts prepare and cook a menu for his guests. The whole dinner was filmed and the resulting short film screened during the live show. I had to provide a recipe for the main course, so because I knew the show would air sometime in July, I planned a refreshing summer dish. The guests seemed pretty amazed, so hopefully others might would want to prepare this dish as well. Because I started myBites in last August, the recipe for the basil-trout rolls was featured on my (long-running) Hungarian foodblog only. Since now it’s exactly the right season for this dish (and due to the recently aired show on BR) I decided to share the recipe in English, too.
Pimm’s & Lemonade is probably the most famous and most popular cocktail of Britain. Its main ingredient is a liqueur called Pimm’s No. 1, which recipe is unchanged – and still kept secret – since 1823, when James Pimm invented and served it as medicine for digestion problems. Pimm’s No. 1 is made with gin, but several other variations exist, like No. 3, which is made with brandy, or No. 6, which is based on vodka. Pimm’s & Lemonade is served in almost every English pub. According to taste it’s usually prepared either with lemonade or with ginger ale. Due to its fresh ingredients – such as strawberries, mint, cucumber, lemon, lime and orange – it is a perfect summer cocktail. While I was thinking about how this combination of ingredients might have developed into the final cocktail, I also thought about transforming Pimm’s & Lemonade (or to be exact in this case: Pimm’s & Ginger Ale) into a plated dessert. After planning each element thoroughly, I ended up with this colorful and extremely refreshing summer dessert.