Eating Around the Globe: Germany

I know what you are thinking:

“Lien, you are on Erasmus in Germany! When are you finally going to write about the German cuisine?”
Well, your patience has been put to the test, but your waiting will be rewarded! Especially for you this article contains two recipes instead of one 😉 and I have some more good news for the sweet tooth amogst you:

Today I am baking German winter cookies with my wonderful buddy: Vanessa!

12405265_1086090121415195_1707645135_oI must say, the people who organize the Erasmus buddy pairs have done a great job in matching me to Vanessa. She is an amazingly caring person, who made me feel welcome in Essen even before I arrived. She’s funny, sweet, enthusiastic and a wonderfully talented painter.

Born in Germany to Chinese parents, she identifies strongly with both cultures.
Interesting to see how two cultures can be so divergent and yet they can learn so much from each other. For instance, one of the most important values in chinese culture is respect: respect to older people, respect to strangers… For exemple, when people don’t know each other very well or have just met, they IMG_1645tend to keep a certain distance in order to show each other respect. Keeping your distance has a fairly negative connotation in western culture, but in my opinion it is a use we have forgotten to appreciate. Keeping a certain distance gives the other person space. It allows us to get to know each other more slowly and not to judge too quickly.



On the picture above: Vanessa with her mothers’ cooking chopsticks, one of the two unmissable tools in the Asian kitchen! (The other being a quite impressive, large chopping knife)

By the way, how do you like my house slippers? 😉

Vanessa is currently studying French and arts at the university of Essen to become a teacher. She can speak German, Mandarin Chinese, French, English and is also recently starting to learn Spanish!

She likes to teach me German expressions. Some are particularly funny! Thanks to Vanessa I know now that I was ‘built close to water’…

Ehmm.. what?

Yes, indeed. I was built close to water. Ich bin nahe am Wasser gebaut. This means that I am a sensitive person, who cries quickly when something sad or moving happens.

Or do you ever hear people having a conversation and you ‘only understand trainstation‘?
Well, Germans do. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof is an expression used when you cannot understand anything of what is being said.


Or – to stay in the food metaphor – did you know that in Germany something can be ‘stewing in the gossip kitchen’? I don’t think this expression needs an explanation, the image speaks for itself 😉 Da brodelt die Gerüchteküche…

But we are busy in a different kind of kitchen today: We are baking two kinds of Weihnachtsgebäck  (christmas pastries) plätzchen and Zimtsterne. 

The two of us are not very experienced bakers and on top of that I cannot eat gluten or milk, so we have to change some of the basic ingredients…

Be prepared 😉

As soon as we start baking, Vanessa puts on some christmas music and we don’t stop listening till we are finsihed! It’s all about the atmosphere 🙂

What you need for the Plätzchen:

  • 100 gr. Buckwheatmeal and 50 gr. oatmeal (or you can use 150 gr. of plain white flour)
  • 1 egg
  • 100 gr. coconut oil (or butter)
  • 30 gr. sugar and 30 gr. agave nectar (or 60 gr. sugar)
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla sugar (about 10 gr.)
  • lemon zeste

Mix all the ingredients togehter in a large mixing bowl. Let the dough rest in the fridge for about an hour. When you take it aout of the fridge, spread out your dough and flatten until approximately 0,5 centimeter. Use your favourite cookie moulds to shape the Plätzchen!

Bake them in a preheated oven of 200°c for 10-12 minutes.

The cookies turned out to be a little bit dry, so I suggest you use a little more of the coconut oil.


For the Zimtsterne:

  • 250 gr. ground almonds
  • 150 gr. powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • cinnamon

for the frosting:

  • 70 gr. of powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white

Whip the egg whites with the powdered sugar, then carefully add the ground almonds and the cinnamon. Spread the dough on a flat surface and roll it until it’s about a cenitmeter thick. Use star moulds to shap the cookies. And then you get these beautiful little stars!!!



Well, that didn’t go according to plan…

Be sure to add enough ground almonds!  Just add some more of it when you see the dough is too soft, otherwise you’ll end up with these little monsters… hihi 🙂

Guten Appetit!



Eating Around the Globe: Belgium (Limburg!)

“Waar in ‘t bronsgroen eikenhout, ‘t nachtegaaltje zingt,
over ‘t malse korenveld, ‘t lied des leeuweriks klinkt,
waar de hoorn des herders schalt, langs der beekjes boord:
Daaaaaar is mijn vaderland, Limburgs dierbaar ooooooooord!
Daaaaaar is mijn vaderland, Limburgs dierbaar oord!”

Forgive me this sudden outburst of patriotism 🙂
There’s namely a very good reason for it! This evening I am making a speciality of my hometown region ‘Limburg‘ together with Fatma.
Limburg is one of the ten provinces of Belgium, it is situated in the north-east, close to the German border.
The song I embedded above is the regional hymn of Limburg.
The inhabitants of my region are mostly very proud of their province and I figured that a little regional folklore won’t hurt 😉

Since Fatma was so generous to show me a piece of her culture, I promised her to do the same.

The first of November was all saint’s day, which made me think about a common traditional dish of my region in Belgium:
Boekweitpannenkoeken met spek!
Buckwheat pancakes with bacon!

All saints is a solemnity celebrated on the 1 of November by the Roman IMG_1513Catholic Church. The celebration has been adopted from the celtic traditional ‘Samhain’, a day on which the deceased were honoured. Catholic church made it into a day to commemorate the souls of the deceased who have attained heaven, who are ‘saint’ in other words.

The tradition to bake ‘buckwheat pancakes’ around all saint’s day comes from the ancient use to give bread to the poor people on these days to IMG_0869ask them to pray for the deceased. Later on, this evolved into the baking of pancakes instead of distributing bread. This tradition developed further into the present day celebration of all saints in Limburg: usually, the family gathers together to visit the graveyard and spend the afternoon or evening baking buckwheat pancakes.

Buckwheat pancakes are very specific for my region. The Buckwheat grain (if we want to be scientifically correct, we have to say it is a seed actually) is best grown on poor ground. The sandgrounds of my birth place are especially apt for cultivating this plant. That’s why this kind of pancake is not so much a national speciality, but a regional one: Lèmbörgsj!

This is the recipe :


  • 150 gr. buckwheat flour
  • 50 gr. plain white flour (or I am using oatmeal)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 dl milk (I’m using soy milk, but you can perfectly use normal milk)
  • bacon (2 strips for each pancake)
  • 3 apples

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut the apples in IMG_0884thin slices and fry them in a pan. In another pan fry the bacon strips until they are crispy, then add some batter on top of the bacon, so it forms a nice pancake.

Carefully turn the pancakes around, they can break easily because of the bacon. Or you can try to flip them (which is way more fun 😉 )


Serve with the fried apples and any topping you like! I would recommend some apple and pear syrup (another delicious regional product!). Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any here in Germany, so we topped our pancakes with honey, goji berries, raisins and the fried apples.



Eating Around the Globe: Sri Lanka


“Traveling without a book is like cooking curry without spices”
Tell them I said so.

With Oliver Twist as my travel companion, I am taking the U-bahn to Vino’s student residence in ‘Margarethenhöhe’, a lovely neighbourhood in Essen. Lots of trees and an early 19th century architecture make it a very picturesque district.

I am so exciteIMG_1057d! He is going to show me how to cook chicken curry, one of my favourite dishes of all time.

Vino knows how to make people smile, whether it is by telling an anecdote from his endless list of crazy party stories or by taking care of his friends.
In the chaotic cosiness of his room, every object is in some way typical of his personality. A short list of items, just to give you an idea:

A massive Black Tea bag, which is actually a shopping bag with wheels.

An untuned guitar.

An impressive painting of two books playing chess. This was a birthday gift from a russian friend with whom he used to play. He couldn’t defeat Vino and therefore painted this in honour of his chess skills.


IMG_1108Lots of candles!

And finally, ‘la pièce de résistence’: a fork, rendered completely unusable, because Vino and his flatmates use it to open their doors when they forget their keys inside…



Vino was born and raised in Sri Lanka. Six years ago he came to Germany and is now studying biomedicine at the university of Duisburg-Essen.
His mother tongue is ‘Tamil’, a language belonging to the Dravidian family, mainly spoken by people from Sri Lanka, Singapore and the southern part of India. It has a fascinating script in which a consonant is always accompanied by a vowel in order to form a character. “The vowels are the soul of the character,” Vino says, “whereas the consonants represent the body. Without vowels, the consonants are dead.”

I guess it’s high time to begin cooking, because I can hear your stomach growling from all the way overhere 😉
Grab all spices you can find in your cupbord, let’s get started!

What you will need for 4 persons:


– 2 onions
– 3 cloves of garlic
– a little piece of ginger
– 1 red pepper (paprika)
– 1 big tomato
– approximately 1 kilo of chicken meat
– coconut milk
– Rice
– the spices:
mustard grains
cumin grains
clove buds (2)
Madras curry powder
Chili powder
cinnamon powder
coriander powder
– aromatic spices to cook with the rice:
clove buds (2)
black cardamom (1)

This is how you prepare it:

Fry the spices in a little bit of coconut oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and paprika and give it a stir.
IMG_1090When this has all combined together into a nice curry paste, you can add in the chicken and fry until the skin has a nice golden brown colour. Then put in the tomatoes.
When these have become soft you can pour in the coconut milk.
While that is simmering away, you cook the rice together with the aromas in another pan.
Make sure the chicken is well cooked through, before you serve it.

Enjoy your savoury, lip-smacking curry!

நல்லா சாப்பிடுங்கோ. Nallah Saappidungo!



Eating Around the Globe: Turkey

It’s Sunday morning and that means time for a rich breakfast!

Fatma hIMG_0805as invited me to her apartment to have a traditional Turkish breakfast together.
She lives in the same student dorm and on the same floor as I am, so I don’t even have to put on shoes to go there ^^

She is an Erasmus student from the university of Ankara, where she studies sociology. She has a very sweet, warm and open character and I feel particularly comfortable talking with her. It’s funny how our conversations always flow towards cultural and linguistic topics. “Do you believe that once, all people in the world spoke the same language?”

We are cooking menemen, a Turkish speciality which includes fried tomatoes, eggs and onions. There are many possible varieties of this dish: you can add other vegetables and season it the way you likIMG_0813e. I have to admit: in contrast to this attractive plate, our common Belgian breakfast -consisting of bread with cheese or jam- seems quite boring. The average Belgian never cooks in the morning. Eggs for breakfast? Only on very special occasions and holidays (quite sad, isn’t it? 🙂 ) She explains to me that she doesn’t cook every morning, but in her family they like to do it on Sunday mornings, when they have the time. A quick breakfast on other days consists of bread with some cheese, olives or sucuk, a spicy kind of sausage.

And of course, no Turkish breakfast without tea!
Whereas we, Belgians, love our ‘kopje koffie’ 🙂 (=cup of coffee), they prefer a nice hot cup of black tea to start their day. Did you know that the Turkish word for ‘breakfast’ kahvaltı literally means ‘before coffee’?IMG_0820

This is the recipe for menemen (2 persons). It’s really easy to make and so delicious!

YouIMG_0810IMG_0811 will need:

1 small onion
2 tomatoes
3 green peppers (you can buy them in a Turkish supermarket)
1/2 red pepper (paprika)
2 eggs
sunflower oil
spicy paprika/chili mix

IMG_0818This is how you make it:

Chop up all the vegetables.
Put some sunflower oil in your saucepan and fry the onions, green and red peppers together.
Add the tomatoes.
When the tomatoes have become soft and juicy, add in the eggs and stir.
Season with a pinch of salt and the spicy mix.

Or you can add more of the spicy mix and the salt if you like it very tasty, like Fatma 🙂
“I always add too much of it!” she says, laughing, “I think it’s so delicious!”

And there you have it! A lovely and easy authentic Turkish dish.


Or in Turkish: Afiyet olsun!

-Lien & Fatma