The food you grow up with, the taste of home, stays with you for ever. Mum did all the cooking – she loved it, and so did my brother Oliver and I, not least because Dad’s culinary repertoire consisted solely of cheese sauce over vegetables or Marmite on toast. It was in Wales that my brother and I were born to a German mother and a Welsh father, and it is Wales that I call home, but the food we grew up with is rooted in Germany. I often wonder if what came out of the kitchen during my childhood wasn’t solely to quash the feelings of longing that had taken hold in Mum while living away from her motherland. Consequently, as a child I felt far more German than anything else. The first 10 years of my life were pretty nomadic, with time split living between Wales, Africa and Asia – most holidays were spent with our grandparents in Germany. The only constant in daily life, as well as immediate family, was the food that came out of the kitchen.
Spiced roast cauliflower with coriander leaf
A gorgeous, sticky, earthy-red mixture of spices which sort of caramelise on the bottom of the baking tray, turning this from something ordinary into something very special.
Serves 2 as a main meal, or 4 as a light meal/starter
cauliflower 1, broken into bite-sized chunks
onion 1 medium, finely sliced
smoked paprika 1 tsp
ground cumin 1 tsp
ground coriander ½ tsp
garlic 3 cloves, crushed
olive oil 4 tbsp
fine sea salt ½ tsp
butter beans, haricot or cannellini 1 tin, drained and rinsed
Juice of half a lemon
fresh coriander 1 small bunch, leaves only
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Put all the ingredients except the beans, lemon juice and fresh coriander into a mixing bowl and mix together with your hands until everything is evenly coated with oil and spices. Transfer to a baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until just tender and starting to crisp around the edges.
Remove from the oven, add the beans and lemon juice, toss everything gently, then return to the oven for a few minutes, just until the beans are warm.
Divide the coriander between the plates and place the cauliflower on top, making sure you scrape all the juices and spices off the tray. Serve with chunks of fresh bread.
A variation of this dish is eaten all across Germany. In terms of snack popularity, it ranks equal to a toastie in the UK. Like a lot of recipes, this depends on personal preference. Should you use white or brown bread? Fry the bread in butter or just butter the bread? Should it be made with cured ham or cooked? Cheese? And if so, does it go under the ham or on top? Here is my version.
Serves 1, multiply as needed
unsalted butter ½ tbsp
sunflower oil ½ tbsp
rye bread 1 slice
fresh sage leaves 3
cheese of your choosing 2 slices
Black Forest ham 2 slices
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
gherkins 2, to serve
Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan. When it starts to bubble, add the bread and sage leaves and fry for about 1 minute on each side, until the bread is crisp. Put the bread on a plate and lay the cheese directly on top, followed by the crispy sage leaves and the ham. Fry the egg in the same pan, slide it on to the sandwich, and season with a lot of black pepper and a pinch of salt.
Serve immediately, with 2 gherkins on the side.
Pork chop with sweet paprika
The butter added to the pan at the end of cooking creates a satisfyingly instant gravy. You can swap the marjoram or thyme for caraway seeds if you prefer.
sunflower oil 2 tbsp
pork chops 4, around 275-300g each
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
sweet Hungarian paprika 1 tbsp
unsalted butter 80g, softened
garlic 3 cloves, crushed
fresh marjoram leaves, or thyme 1 tbsp
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. While the pan is heating, season the chops generously and coat each one with sweet paprika.
Using a pair of tongs, hold the pork chops vertically with the rind in the hot oil and sear the edges all the way round. Fry the chops over a high heat for 1-2 minutes on each side, so they are nicely browned, then turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook for around 8 minutes, turning occasionally to make sure they cook evenly.
While the chops are cooking, mix the butter with the garlic. Once the chops have had 8 minutes, turn the heat down low, dot the butter around the chops, sprinkle with the marjoram or thyme, and fry for 2 more minutes, turning halfway through. You’ll end up with 4 perfectly cooked chops and lots of delicious brown butter which has picked up the flavours from the bottom of the pan.
Serve with mashed potato, the butter spooned over, and some greens such as chard or kale.
Speedy apple cake
While I was growing up, a version of this apple cake sat on the work surface of our kitchen day in day out. From Monday to Friday it was tucked into our lunchboxes, wrapped in brown paper, when all my brother and I really wanted was a KitKat like everyone else. My dad used to take it to work with him in a dish, with cream sloshing about, on the back of his bike every morning; good cake, he would tell my mum at night, good cake, to which my brother and I would roll our eyes at each other. We didn’t know it at the time, but this cake was to become one of the things we missed most about home and one that now sits on our kitchen work surface, too.
Makes a cake to serve 6
For the batter:
butter 175g, plus extra for greasing
golden caster sugar 150g
plain flour 200g
baking powder 1 tsp
eggs 3, beaten
fine sea salt ¼ tsp
To top the cake:
small apples 6, peeled, cored and halved (I prefer to use cookers for their tart flavour, but eaters hold their shape better)
vanilla sugar 1 tbsp
ground cinnamon ½ tsp
You’ll also need a 23cm flan dish or tin with a removable base
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Butter the flan dish. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then turn off the heat and add the sugar. Beat for a minute, then add the flour, baking powder, eggs and salt, and stir with a wooden spoon until a smooth batter is formed. Pour the batter into the flan dish or tin.
Put the apple halves flat side down on a board and cut into them at about 3mm intervals, but not all the way through, so they are in slices but still hold together.
Arrange flat side down on the batter. Scatter over the raisins and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar and cinnamon. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-45 minutes, until golden on top. Cool in the dish or tin. I tend to slice it straight from the dish, but if you have baked it in a tin you can remove it once cooled.
It is best eaten the day it is made, but is still fine the next day if wrapped in foil.
Strudel, Noodles & Dumplings by Anja Dunk is out now at £26. Buy it for £22.10 at theguardianbookshop.com