Figs, Figs, Figs, and 7 Pears in Three Chapters


The other day, my friend Liesel came over bearing gifts, late summer presents from her garden, pears and figs. Two pears have since been consumed, but the ripe figs required a little more detailed attention. What do you do with a kilo of figs, if you’re not really interested in making jam? Easy, you make chutney!

Searching online for a recipe, I came across the website of Traci Antonovich aka “The Kitchen Girl“. Low and behold, her most recent post was titled Serrano Spiced Fig Jam – auspicious, right? Developing my own recipe with ingredients I happened to have around, I was nevertheless heavily leaning on The Kitchen Girl’s recipe. Thank you, Traci!



Let’s get the ingredient list out of the way, shall we?


  1. 50 ml blood orange juice, freshly pressed if possible
  2. 1 Kg ripe figs, trimmed and quartered
  3. 2 Espelette chiles, seeds & ribs removed, sliced thinly
  4. 1 heaped tsp grated ginger plus 1 chunk about 2 x 2 x 1 cm
  5. 1 heaped tsp grated lemon zest
  6. 20 g light brown sugar, or less to taste
  7. 0.5 tsp of powdered cinnamon, or more to taste
  8. pinch of salt
  9. 0.5 tsp powdered Curcuma [Turmeric]
  10. 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  11. 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  12. 20 g butter


For a spice package to be cooked with the figs, you need a Tbsp of toasted coriander seeds, 5 cloves, and a small thyme & laurel bundle.

Slicing and dicing all these ingredients is a little annoying, but once you’ve assembled everything the rest is a breeze. Start out by toasting the coriander seeds at medium-low temperature, which then go with the other aromatics in the flexible rubber turkey leg or any more boring spice satchel you have at hand. Then pour the orange juice into the still hot pan [watch for the splash!] and immediately add the figs and chiles. Now turn the heat all the way down and relax. Stir the pot lazily while incorporating ingredients 4. through 8.


Gently simmering, let it all turn into a soupy slush, occasionally scraping the sides and bottom of the pot while excess moisture evaporates. Oh, I almost forgot, put the turkey leg in the center of the fig soup and turn it ever so often to release the aromas.


While we’re hanging out in the kitchen, let me tell you about the Piment d’Espelette, the bright red peppers we’re using in this recipe.



These pretty chiles are fairly spicy, but a lot milder than Serranos. They are cultivated, who da thunk it, in Espelette, a town in the Basque Country not all that far from us in the SW of France, right in the Pyrenees mountains separating France from Spain.


The region is very beautiful


with many small villages where one finds local specialties like yaourt au lait de brebis [incredibly creamy sheep-milk jogurt] to be enjoyed with a dollop of rich, black cherry preserve, also a regional product. As you see in the close-up above, the chiles carry the AOP label [Appellation d’Origine Protégée] which means that only the Espelette community may sell peppers under this name.

And, if you will indulge me, staying with these chiles a little while longer …


DO NOT PROCESS THEM WITHOUT GLOVES! The scorched skin capsaicin effects are NOT pleasant.


Once you are satisfied with the consistency of your chutney, add ingredients 9. through 12.


Then turn off the heat and let your chutney rest for a little bit before ladling it into jars or similar.



Now that we have all that lovely chutney, what are we going to do with it?


As we also happen to have a large, hairy sweet potato and a nice chunk of reblochon melty cheese, we might as well bake a deep dish pie. I’m a notoriously inept baker, but as silly as my creations look, they do usually taste alright.


We recently bought a fancy new kitchen machine and I’m still learning how to use it. Our lovely Morning Glory project thus offered both kneading and slicing teaching moments for me. The dough was just a simple bread dough of flour, water, salt, and yeast, to which I added one egg before the second proofing. It rose quite nicely but was such a sticky mess that I ultimately had dough up to my elbows. And I left the high rim in the baking dish much too thick, resulting in a lumpy skyscraper of an awkwardly towering crust, oh well. While the dough was fermenting, I ran the tuber through the slicing disk of the machine, thankfully not encountering any problems. The pie filling consisted of alternating, irregular layers of chutney, sweet potato, and cheese.


The baking time for such a monster is considerable. I left it in the oven first for 45 mins at 180C [convection] plus another 30 mins at 160ºC, plus a few mins of broiling to brown the cheesy surface – and the sweet potato slices were still ever so slightly underdone. Better than a totally mushy mess, I hope?



And then there was the third Chapter: PLAIN-TOMATO-PIE

As it happened, I had some dough left over. Loath to throw anything away, I made a second, very simple small pizza pie consisting of a thin base spread with mustard & olive oil, over which I layered sliced tomatoes and topped them with a little grated parmigiano and spices. Basta! That was it!



I have to admit, I do have a great affinity for tomatoes and cheese – and the right wine to complement them 🍷 For our Double-Pie-Fiesta, I opened a bottle of nicely chilled Châteaux Penin 2017 Bordeaux Clairet. For just a second, it looked like we might enjoy an elegant dinner …


… when we moved operations back into the kitchen to eat in front of the TV.


It was, after all, college football night!

[* Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, are in the Morning Glory family of Convolvulaceae]


Aillets & Orange sanguine, really?

Aillet is a typical southern French vegetable, possibly falling into the category of an aromatic. It’s akin to green onions or Spring onions or scallions [Allium cepa, Allioideae] but based on tender garlic shoots [Allium sativum, Allioideae] sometimes called “green garlic”. I don’t know if they are available in the Americas, but aillets are being sold all across our produce market stalls here in Saintes lately.

I was perambulating through the market on Saturday morning, enjoying the near-Spring sunshine while hoping for inspirations for our weekend dinners. Watching one of the fishmongers rapidly shucking coquilles Saint-Jacques for his customers, a menu began to take shape in my mind.

At a stall dedicated to citrus fruit, I picked up blood oranges and at another stall two heads of lettuce, to last through Monday, a small fennel, one red pepper, some flat parsley, a half-a-kilo of Brussels sprouts, and two bundles of aillets. Inside the Market Hall, I went to the beef butcher to buy 500 g of bavette which translates to flank steak, followed by a trip to a dairy counter to get locally produced sweet butter and three varieties of cheese. A section of brie from a nearby farm, one nice wedge of cheese made from raw sheep milk in the Basque country, my favorite, and a chunk of Savoie Emmental. And yes, I also stopped at a bakery counter to buy two Rosinenschnecken – you work out yourselves what that is 😎 Lastly, I bought eight coquilles Saint-Jacques before heading home with my treasures.

As is my want, I took pictures of all the stages of the preparation and cooking processes to create a record of the proceedings. But a funny thing happened on the way to the table, actually after dinner. I discovered that my camera hadn’t recorded a single picture. The card contained one solitary image taken two days earlier. That day, I had changed several camera setting and subsequently took a number of shots to compare these new parameters against the previous settings. I transferred the test images to my computer immediately and, satisfied with the results, kept the new camera settings. Ominously, every picture I took subsequently did not record. Oh well, I’ll work it out! But sadly, I have nothing with which to document my newest kitchen endeavor:

Scallops with Blood Orange Confit

  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 stalks aillets [green garlic] finely sliced
  • 1 small fennel, roughly diced
  • chopped flat-leave parsley for decoration
  • 2 blood oranges: zest of one orange plus its juice, the second orange peeled and sectioned, the sections skinned; they will separate into uneven bits, all of it collected in the same bowl
  • 2 – 3 Tbls of Vermouth
  • salt, pepper, powdered ginger to taste
  • 8* freshly chucked and cleaned coquilles Saint-Jacques, or similar sea scallops. If you have to buy them from a supermarket, make sure they’re “dry” scallops. So-called “wet” scallops were injected with a phosphate solution that plumps them up to bright-white splendor. And a slightly soapy flavor. And it makes them heavier (!) And they will be impossible to pan-sear because they’re filled with fluid.
  • Ghee or clarified butter; sweet butter; olive oil
  • A side dish of your choice, like mashed root vegetables or potatoes, rice, etc.

*  I bought only 8 scallops because I was planning to use them for our appetizer. If you want the scallops as your main dish, adjust the number of scallops up and the amount of the other ingredients accordingly. Also, the very best and most costly are diver’s scallops, definitely worth the expense for a special occasion.

Keep the scallops dry on paper towels and let them come to room temperature before cooking. Prep all the vegetables and have ghee & butter at room temperature & your chosen side dish ready to go.

Heat some ghee and olive oil to medium in a frying pan, add onions, turn down the heat to low and cook gently, stirring often for about 10 min. Add the aillets, cook for another 5 mins before adding the fennel. Add a little salt and a dusting of ginger. Total cooking time roughly 20 minutes.

Turn up the heat to medium-high and pour the Vermouth over the veggies. creating a satisfying sizzle. After a minute, add the blood orange juice and meat all at once, stirring vigorously before turning down the heat to medium-low. Allow the witches cauldron to bubble and burp for a few minutes before adding a few chunks of butter to thicken the melange. Turn the heat off and transfer the blood orange confit to a bowl to keep warm while you cook the scallops.

For the scallops, simplicity rules. In a frying pan, heat ghee to almost smoking hot. With tongues add the scallops to the hot ghee quickly, making sure to leave spaces between the bivalves. Once the underside is golden brown, about 2 minutes, turn the scallops over one by one, turn down the heat a fraction and let them fry another minute. That’s all.

Like so many fruits de mer, for example, squid and octopus, our scallops turn rubbery either when overcooked or left sitting around for too long after cooking. It is, therefore, imperative to have everything ready to serve – and your guests ready to enjoy – before dumping the little devils in the hot ghee. Proper planning is the key to an amazing dish! We had a little left-over Risotto Milanese from the previous night, revived with a dollop of butter & freshly ground Parmigiano, to go with our scallops and confit, perfect in size and flavor composition …

… except for the vanished pictures. Désolée mes amis ! Tomorrow night, it’s the turn of the bavette, the red pepper, and the Brussels sprouts. Are you curious?







Shakshuka may look like a well-wish after someone sneezes, but it doesn’t mean “Zay Gezunt”. Far from it, it means a mixture of things tossed together. As such, it’s a North African dish, sometimes spelled the Frenchy way as Shakshouka. Shakshuka seems to be one of those recipes that are based on a small number of key ingredients, but the execution differs slightly from region to region and even from family to family. According to Wiki, the dish originated in Tunisia – or possibly the Ottoman Empire, or possibly Yemen. We do know that it is a popular dish all across the Arab world and especially in Israel. It may be served either as breakfast or as dinner, often with bread to sop up the juices.

My cousin Andreas recently published a shakshuka recipe on Facebook that he gleaned from the Student Nutrition Association of Bastyr University in Seattle, WA, USA, published in 2016. The recipe had been adopted by Alyssa Siegel and it looked nice and easy. Andreas’ maternal grandfather was Tunisian so it would be very special to think his grandpa dipped his chunk of bread in a shakshuka that his mother prepared. On the other hand, his grandfather grew up quite privileged so his mom may not have cooked the family shakshuka herself ☺️

Either way, I cooked my version last Sunday. I do have to say ‘my version’ because I omitted the main protein providing ingredient, the eggs. Instead, I prepared a duck breast we happened to have in the fridge. Therefore, my Shakshuka was more a Shakshoucanard. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any cayenne pepper in the house, so I substituted the cayenne with piment d’Espelelette, the Basque chili pepper used in the South of France. And to addle things even further, I added garlic, lemon juice, and coriander seeds to the list of flavorings. My lineup of ingredients looked like this:

Fresh ingredients

  • 2 medium onion, halved then sliced very thinly
  • 3 very large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed & diced
  • 1 large red sweet pepper, seeds & white ribs removed, sliced
  • a heap of spinach, stalks & mid-ribs removed, torn into pieces, washed, spin-dried
  • juice of 1 small lemon

cooked separately: 1 boneless duck breast with skin, 410 g or 14.5 oz

Processed ingredients

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 400 g/14 oz [drained net weight] of canned, peeled whole tomatoes, juices reserved
  • 2 tsp honey
  • ‘Maille’ Velours Balsamique, a very thick balsamic vinegar syrup
  • Confit d’oignons [onion jam]


  • salt to taste
  • 1 heaped teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered piment d’Espelette chili pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder


After slicing, dicing, draining and washing my ingredients, I had to dash to the window for a quick shot across the river because it was the last evening of the season with twinkling Christmas lights and the early evening atmosphere was altogether too eerie to pass up.


Back in the kitchen, it was time to gently toast the coriander and the cumin seeds in a dry pan to release their aromas.


Coriander develops a warm, citrusy bouquet, while cumin adds a darker, more earthy scent. Once you can smell the heated seeds, add the oil to create a fragrant bath,


not for the enjoyment of the Queen of Sheba, but in which to sauté the onions.


Sautéing onions takes patience and very low temperatures, lest they burn. The same wisdom applies to garlic, added next.


Followed by the red peppers.


This melange should be slightly softened before the distribution of aromatic powders, the paprika, piment d’Espelette, the cinnamon, and some salt.


After the spices have had a chance to heat up and distribute their flavors through the vegetables, it’s time to let the tomatoes join the fun.

Whilst these guys got to know each other, I had the leisure to crisp the scored duck skin at a low-medium setting in a dry pan. The rendered fat was collected into a small jar for other uses.


Now the spinach needed to be added to the shakshoucanard, to wilt quietly while the duck breast browned in the oven.


Just before serving, I added the juice of half a small lemon to the stew and had more lemon juice at the table, together with the confit d’oignons and the balsamic velours.


Slices of roasted duck breast over radicchio with shakshoucanard on the side …


… enhanced with some Velours Balsamique, lemon juice, and confit d’oignons.

Lessons learned:

  • Buy cayenne pepper! The shakshoucanard was not spicy enough. I actually had harissa paste in the fridge but didn’t think of it at the time. This mild version was a tasty companion for the duck, however, I would prefer a lot more oomph preparing it with eggs, as it is intended.
  • Make at least twice the amount listed. We had pathetically few leftovers and this dish is perfect to freeze in portions before you add the lemon juice.


Flavorful and tasty, I highly recommend this dish. Thanks, cuz!!




To Ragù or to Sugo ?

Just one post ago I was talking about soothing my heartache with tomato sauce when a reader suggested I should publish my recipe. Hell, why not!


However, this recipe is neither new nor special, simply a recreation of a sauce I posted some time ago. A Winter version of the Costa Rican dish you might say. There, we were blessed with an abundance of fresh tomatoes, but now that autumn has descended upon us in Europe, we have to reach in the pantry for canned, peeled and crushed tomatoes instead. This iwas my original post:

Homemade Tomatenkompott à Tim Mälzer,

whilst below you’ll find the new writeup – in German!! I received the request from a German language group, so I thought it might be fun to actually write in German for a change.

Ragù Chez 2 Lions

Was drin ist

  • 1 850 gr Dose “geschälte Tomaten in ihrer eigenen Flüssigkeit”

     [tomates entière pelées au jus, 800 gr netto Gewicht*]

  • 1 400 gr Tetrapack “Tomatenbrei”

     [Pulpe de tomates*]

[*Ich lebe in Frankreich, daher diese Produkte. Man nehme die lokalen Lieblingsprodukte.]

  • 350 gr grobes Rinderhack 5% Fettanteil
  • 2 ordentliche Möhren, geschält & drei-kantig grob gewürfelt
  • 1 faust-große, jugendliche Fennelknolle als Aromaverstärker, kleingeschnitten wie’s kommt
  • 3 oder mehr Knoblauchzehen [ungefähr 3 gehäuft Teelöffel, also mindestens 20 gr – frische Ernte, nicht das altersschwache Zeug aus China!]
  • 350 gr gelbe Zwiebeln, grob gewürfelt [Fleisch- und Zwiebelmengen sollten ungefähr gleich schwer sein]
  • 1 gestrichener Eßlöffel getrockneter Koriandersamen
  • 1 gestrichener Eßlöffel getrocknete “Provençal Kräutermischung” oder schlicht getrockneter Thymian
  • frisch gemahlener Pfeffer

            weiß für die Zwiebeln

            bunter oder schwarzer Pfeffer für’s Fleisch

  • 100 – 150 ml trockener Rotwein, Bordeaux oder Côtes du Rhône, mittlere Preislage
  • 1 gehäufter Eßlöffel Tomatenmark

Salz nach Geschmack – ich benutze unser lokales Meersalz der Île d’Oléron, was man bestimmt woanders nicht so ohne weiteres bekommt. Da all diese unterschiedlichen Salzvarianten ja ein relative neuer kulinarischer Spaß sind, würde ich sagen, einfach Meersalz tut’s schon. [Whatever rocks your Everest! Salz aus dem Himalaya ist ja angeblich das gesündeste!!]

ODER statt Salz:

1 Teelöffel Anchoviepaste. Einköcheln lassen, probieren und vielleicht noch ein bißchen mehr zugeben.

Anchoviepaste schmeckt eigentlich viel besser als Salz. Leider hatte ich aber keine Tube im Haus. Anchovies bereichern eine Tomatensosse enorm und verstärken den eigentlichen Geschmack ohne fischig zu sein. Ruhig mal ausprobieren!

  • Pflanzenfett, wie z.B. Sonnenblumenöl – die ‘HeartSmart’ Variante, oder
  • Olivenöl mit etwas Butter – die mediterrane Variante, oder
  • Graisse de Canard* [Entenfett] – meine Variante, die wie die Fischchen das Aroma hebt.

Auf geht’s zum Herd

Man nehme seine beste Sauteuse und setze sie liebevolle über die Gaskochstelle ohne jene vorerst anzuschmeißen. Die Koriandersamen und den getrockneten Thymian oder die provençalischen Kräuter muß man im Mörser ordentlich zerstampfen und reiben, bevor man Selbige über den trockenen Kochboden des Topfes verteilt, das Gas entzündet und auf ‘mittel-klein’ einstellt. Dies dient der Aktivierung ethærischer Öle in den Gewürzen, die vorerst nicht in Fett schwimmen dürfen. Wenn der Topf etwas erhitzt ist, sollte man die Gaszufuhr auf das Minimum zurückdrehen. Sobald man die herben Aromen schnüffeln kann wird es Zeit die Zwiebeln dazu zugeben. Nein, nein, kein Fett! Nur die Zwiebeln, und unbedingt weiterhin minimale Hitze beibehalten.

Ach, Ihr wolltet ein schnelles Ragù zaubern? Bitte Rezept wechseln! Für mein Ragù sollte man sich am besten schon am Nachmittag die Schürze umbindet.

Während die Zwiebeln leise vor sich hin schwitzen hat man Zeit den Salat zu waschen und den Wein zu probieren. Es genügt völlig, die Zwiebeln ab und zu per Spachtel in der Sauteuse umher zu schieben, so daß sich alle Zwiebelchen gleichmäßig erwärmen. Wenn die Zwiebeln anfangen glasig auszusehen, nach etwa 10 Minuten oder so, ist es Zeit sie mit etwas Fett zu füttern. Wie schon erwähnt, die Alternativen sind jederman’s Wahl. Ich zieht Entenfett vor weil ich mir einbilde es fördert den Geschmack der Zutaten. Ausserdem braucht man weniger Fett, da 2 Teelöffel durchaus ausreichen, diese Zwiebelmasse glücklich zu machen.

Wenn das Fett schön geschmolzen ist, den Knoblauch einrühren und für ein paar Minuten erhitzen und mit den Zwiebeln vermischen. Jetzt kann man auch ruhig mit Pfeffer und einer Prise Salz würzen. Die Hauptidee hier ist die Zwiebeln und den Knofl nicht zu bräunen, sondern zu karamelisieren so das sie zuckerig miteinander verschmelzen. Nach ein paar weiteren Minuten dürfen dann Karoten und Fenchel in die Sauna hüpfen und genüßlich mitschwitzen. Geduld, Geduld, solch eine Aromaentfaltung dauert einfach ein Weilchen! Wenn man dann das Gefühl hat die Gemüse sind genüßlich vereint in ihrer Pfanne – das dauert schon so 30 min –  Dann muß die Masse aus der Sauteuse in ein Töpfchen transferiert werden, um Platz zu machen für’s Fleisch.

Übrigens, wer kein Fleisch mag kann diesen Schritt problemlos übergehen! Einfach die Zwiebeln im Topf lassen und zum übernächsten Schritt avancieren 🙂

In der gleichen Sauteuse, die gerne noch Spuren der karamelisierten Zwiebeln zeigen darf, sollte nun ein wenig mehr Fett geschmolzen werden, vielleicht ein gestrichener Teelöffel, dem man dann ganz schnell das Hack zugibt. In meiner unbeschichteten Sauteuse muß ich geduldig sein und das Hack in aller Ruhe bei mittlerer Hitze bräunen. Dann löst es sich ohne weiteres und man kann es drehen und wenden bis der ganze Fleischbatzen angebraten ist, bevor man die Masse mit zwei Holzlöffeln zerpflückt. Ein bißchen frisch gemahlener Pfeffer und eine Prise Salz darf da ruhig auch mitmachen.

Der nächste Schritt ist echtes Action-Kino. Hitze aufdrehen und wenn das Fleisch brutzelt den Wein in die Sauteuse gießen und jene schütteln und rüttlen um die Flüssigkeit zu verteilen. Dann ganz schnell das Tomatenmark und die Anchviepaste verteilen. Mischen, mischen, mischen und das Feuer wieder runter drehen. Wow, das war kritisch!

Die Tomaten hinzufügen, etwas einköcheln, dann die reservierten Zwiebeln und ihre Gemüsefreunde unterrühren und die Flamme auf klitzeklein stellen. Von jetzt an wird’s gemütlich, denn der Herd besorgt das restliche Kochen. Für die nächste Stunde sollte man nur ab und zu mal das Ragù ein bißchen agitieren, dann wieder Deckel drauf und vergessen. Man kann auch ruhig den Herd abstellen und die Sosse durchziehen lassen, bis es Zeit wird alles wieder aufzuwärmen, entweder am Abend oder am nächsten Tag. Wenn man das Ragù übernacht kühl, und dann wieder erhitzt schmeck’s noch besser! Es läßt sich auch prima portionsweise einfrieren.

Guten Appetit!