Frau Kuchen

cooking and eating in Berlin (and elsewhere)

Archive for the ‘Herbs & Spices’ Category

Lemon Verbena cake

with 6 comments

Some time ago I posted a link to some Verbena recipes I’d bookmarked in Delicious. A friend of mine had a glut she needed to use up so I nosed around the internet adding recipes that looked worth trying.

My own verbena is now growing like wildfire along with the rest of my balcony plants, so I asked which of the recipes she had used.  The Lemon Verbena Bread came back as a clear favourite.

Image 1: Verbena                          Image 2: Cherry Tomatoes       Image 3: Peppers

I have to say I agree, it’s a lovely light sponge with a light lemony taste, although I’ve no idea why it’s called a bread – there’s no yeast and nothing bread like about it.  The first time round I made it without nuts; the second time I threw in a couple of handfuls of nibbed almonds. I couldn’t tell you which I preferred, both were good – the first went down stormingly well at a house warming party.

The recipe is unclear on a couple of points:

  • I recommend warming the glaze ingredients slightly to dissolve the sugar
  • A large loaf tin is a 2lb tin (or 1 kilo), small is 1lb (or 500g) and mini are 8oz (or 250g)

Image 4: Adding the syrup

This isn’t a cake Hudson’s will be able to sell – I can’t grow enough Verbena – but I do urge you to try it out at home. And if you don’t have Verbena it’s a good adaptable sponge recipe.

Written by hudsons

August 30, 2009 at 2:10 pm


leave a comment »

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while – I’ve been away in London for work. Luckily whilst I was there my hosts – both fantastic cooks – made me numerous tasty meals, and in the process introduced me to za’atar.

Za’atar (also known as satar, zahatar or zatr) is a mix of spices used most frequently in middle-eastern cookery.  My friend made Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar and Lemon, a recipe which he’d adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.  The recipe and some pictures of my version of the same are below.

I’m a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi and have frequently used his New Vegetarian recipes in The Guardian.  I’ve just ordered my own copy of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi) – so I’ll let you know what it’s like when it arrives. Apparently garlic and lemon are involved in nearly every recipe (presumably not the baking) – perfect for me, I already use both in nearly everything I make.

If you can’t find za’atar in the shops don’t fret, there are plenty of recipes on-line. I used this one which seems to be quite representative. Like many  spice mixes there seem to be many variations, although the basic ingredients for this one always seem to include thyme, marjoram, salt and sesame seeds.

Image 1: Making Za’atar

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Lemon & Za’atar

(serves 4)

  • 1 free range chicken cut into four (I used 4 legs, you could also use thighs – chicken on the bone is is definitely better for taste)
  • 2 red onions thinly sliced
  • 4 crushed garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced (mine were small so I used 2)
  • 200 ml chicken stock or water (I used my favorite Reduced Salt Marigold Vegetable Bouillon)
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp za’atar
  • 20g butter (I didn’t use this)
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 4 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley


  1. Combine the chicken, onions, lemon, garlic, oil, spices (bar the za’atar), stock and salt & pepper in a large bowl
  2. Marinate overnight, or at least for a few hours
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C
  4. Transfer the chicken (skin side up) and marinade to an oven tray and sprinkle with the za’atar
  5. Roast for 30-40 minutes, basting regularly towards the end
  6. Fry the pine nuts in the butter (I dry fried mine).
  7. Serve the chicken with the nuts and parsley.

We ate ours with what’s known in our house as, Egyptian Rice (recipe below); and a greek style salad made of cos lettuce, cucumber, tomato and red onion dressed in an olive oil, lemon juice, sumac and salt & pepper dressing.


“Egyptian” Rice

I have no idea whether this is really egyptian or not – a housemate in my long past student days taught me how to make it.

(serves 4)

  • 1.5 cups rice
  • 3 cups water
  • a good dollop of butter
  • a glug of olive oil


  1. Wash and soak the rice for 30 mins (I really do find this helps)
  2. Heat the olive oil and butter together
  3. Drain the rice
  4. Measure out the water
  5. Add a couple of tbsps of rice to the butter/oil mix
  6. Fry the rice until it is a nice nutty colour, as soon as it’s brown throw in the water (it only takes a minute to catch and go over) and add the additional rice
  7. Bring to the boil then cover with foil and the lid and simmer
  8. When nearly all the water has disappeared turn off the heat, cover the pan with a tea-towel and the lid and leave it (for about 10  minutes)

  9. Fluff up with a fork
  10. Hopefully you have fluffy rice with lovely little nutty brown nuggets.

Written by hudsons

August 15, 2009 at 5:49 pm

€5 dinner: risotto & granita

leave a comment »

A group of friends recently started a recession busting supper club – the theory being that you cook two courses, for four people, for five euros.  (Actually there are 5 of us, so it’s a €6.25 dinner, but that doesn’t sound quite as catchy).

Last night was the turn of my partner Jim (author of the popular blog He came in slightly over budget at €6.60, but we decided to forgive him, mainly because we were all hungry – but with the condition that he comes in €0.35 under next time…

It’s particularly difficult because you have to count the entire pack of any ingredients you buy, regardless of whether you use them or not – although you are allowed to use store-cupboard ingredients such as herbs, spices and oil. Thankfully the Türkenmarkt is close to our house, so a 5pm visit gave him almost everything he needed.

He served up:

Summer vegetable risotto

500g risotto rice – €.90
2 courgettes – €0.70
about 100g fresh peas €0.75
1 lemon (zest and juice) – €0.15
1 onion –  €0.20
1 large bunch mint (also used for dessert) – €1.00
150g parmesan – €1.80

store cupboard/free ingredients:
Vegetable stock powder (Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon) [1]
Fresh herbs from the balcony – chervil, parsley, chives
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
The rough ends from the green asparagus we had for tea the previous night, peeled and chopped, and we used the water we cooked last night’s asparagus in.

Pod the peas and put the shells in a pan with last nights asparagus water, heat until simmering – this will be your stock.  Chop the courgettes and steam them over the simmering stock. Set the courgettes aside and add the vegetable stock powder to the liquid until it tastes right. Keep the pan with the stock over a low heat (you may want to remove the pea pods).

Make the risotto using your usual method. His was:
Heat the oil and cook the onions until soft, add the rice, freshly ground pepper and lemon zest, and stir until coated in oil. Add the stock a couple of ladels at a time. Five mins before the end add the peas and the chopped asparagus (plus a glass of wine if you have one – this was out of his budget). At the end add the courgettes and grated parmesan and season to taste. Serve with additional parmesan on the side.

Melon, Ginger & Mint granita

1 melon (he used a galia, but canteloupe or honeydew would work) – €0.50
Small bunch of mint – chopped (see risotto)
25 g fresh ginger, unpeeled, grated – €0.15

store cupboard/free ingredients:
125g sugar
150ml water

Place the sugar in a small pan with 150ml water and heat gently to melt the sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes to make a sticky sugar syrup. Add the grated ginger and leave over the heat to steam (no bubbles) for five minutes. Strain to remove the ginger pulp and set aside to cool.

Whizz the melon in a food processor until smooth. Then stir in the chopped mint and sugar syrup.

Pour into a shallow freezerproof container. Freeze for 45 minutes, then take out and scrape the sides into the middle to blend soft and hard. Refreeze. Repeat until it forms a fairly solid spoonable slush (softer than sorbet, harder than slush puppy)- this should take about 3 hours.

Jim’s was still pretty slushy after about 5 hours, so perhaps the sugar syrup wasn’t thick enough, or it could be that our freezer is a bit rubbish. It was still really tasty though, the ginger gave it a good warmth that came through after the melon and stayed in your mouth for ages.

We finished the meal with fresh mint tea – made with the remainder of the huge bunch of mint we got for a €1 in the market.

All in all a great meal – it’s amazing what you can do for a few euros. It’s my turn in about a month, I’ll report then.


[1] This is the best instant stock I’ve ever found, and is often quoted by UK chefs as the only one worth using if you don’t make it fresh. If anyone knows where I can buy it in Berlin please let me know, as at the moment I bring it over from the UK. Although I bought a kilo last time so it will be sometime before I need to restock.

Written by hudsons

July 6, 2009 at 9:27 am

Rose syrup

leave a comment »

I’ve been planning to try out a cake with a rose syrup for sometime, and I thought I had the perfect sponge recipe to try it with. An almond and yoghurt based sponge, which seemed to have the middle eastern connotations that matched the rose water I planned to use.

Unfortunatley, despite it looking beautiful, the sponge was just too heavy.  I’ll try it again with a lighter one – probably the one I base the Hudson’s Lemon Drizzle Cake on, as I know it works really well.

The syrup was a great success though, so I  thought I’d include the recipe here.  Last night I tried a splash of it topped up with sparking water and ice; I loved it, but my parter, who tells me “rose isn’t a flavour, it’s a flower” isn’t so keen!

The syrup was made up a as I went along, so the quantities here are rough.


150ml water
175g sugar
juice of 1 lemon
8 cardamom pods
1 tsp rose water
dried rose petals
sprig of lemon verbena leaves (or you could use lemon zest)

Crush the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar and place them in a pan with the sugar and water.  Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, stir occasionally to help it along. Add the verbena leaves and the rose petals and leave on a low heat (no bubbles) for 5 minutes for the flavours to infuse. Take off the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.  Strain to remove the cardamom, petals and leaves (I use a paper coffee filter in a funnel for this). Add the lemon juice and rose water to taste – I was aiming for something that reminded me of turkish delight.

Store in a jar or glass bottle in the fridge, sterilise the bottle if you want to keep it for some time.

Use to flavour drinks, drizzle over ice cream, moisten cakes, etc.

I made holes in the two sponges with a skewer and drizzled the syrup over. I then sandwiched them together with turkish rose jam.  It’s topped with a simple lemon icing (sieved icing sugar + lemon juice), a sprinkling of rose petals and a couple of lemon verbena leaves.

Written by hudsons

July 3, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Lemon Verbena

leave a comment »

Last night I had a conversation with a friend about what you can do with a glut of Lemon Verbena.

I had a search today and found quite a few recipes, all of which I’ve bookmarked on Delicious (tag: verbena).

Most are for sweets – jellies, ice lollies, puddings, cakes – and drinks.

I’ll try some out and let you know how I get on.

Written by hudsons

June 26, 2009 at 6:28 pm