The characterful and colourful chef from Luxembourg is releasing a series of recipes that represent the very best of Luxembourg's recipes. Out on Saturday 1 June, Tastes Of Luxembourg is a wonderful selection of the well-known and the less well-known dishes that the Grand Duchy has to offer. RTL Today got the chance to find out what went into the mix in getting this collection ready to serve.
What was it that first got you into cooking and when did you know it would be a passion that formed a career?
When I was little I was in the scouts, and I only ever got two badges: the cooking - and the reporter badge. So I think I knew from a pretty early age that I’d want to go into food journalism! Before uni, I played with the idea to go to hospitality school, but decided against it, as I preferred the idea of working as a journalist, with a focus on food. During my studies in London, I took an evening course in ‘Food & Drinks journalism’ – which eventually led me to my restaurant critic job at Time Out London. For me, food and media have always been equally important: you need good storytelling to convey recipes and a great food photo wants you to jump right in and make the recipe!
This book, why now and why in English?
I’ve written all my books in English, and we translated them into German and French to reach a maximum of Luxembourg’s population. This little book is only published in English, as it clearly targets the expat community and tourists, who want to find out more about Luxembourg cuisine.
The idea for the book came to me when I was visiting friends in London, and eating a packet of M&S crisps. It was adorned with a little label reading ‘Tastes of the British Isles’… This immediately struck me, and I was like ‘why don’t we have something with Tastes of Luxembourg?!’. And that’s how the idea for this book started.
How did you decide on the recipes?
The idea for the book was to give a first taste of Luxembourg, with our most traditional recipes. But, it felt a bit stale for me to just offer classic recipes, which can be found in similar adaptations in other books. So I decided to pair each classic with my personal reinterpretation of it. Like that, you find typical Kniddelen with bacon followed by a vegetarian version of Kniddlen with a Kachkéis sauce.
Once the recipes were laid out, I got my sister involved, who hand-wrote/lettered the book title and all recipe titles. She also painted blue and pink watercolour strips, used as background for the recipe titles, so that one can immediately spot if a recipe is traditional (blue) or a twist (pink). My mum, a former teacher, tested all the recipes to make sure they are clearly written and actually work smoothly. So, this book is a real family affair!
Did you have to leave many out?
Yes! Once I got started I realize there are many more classics that I could play with. Luxembourg cuisine really has a lot to offer! So if this book does well, there could be a Tastes of Luxembourg Volume II soon.
How long has it taken to get it finished?
The idea came to me at the end of 2017, but I only started actively working on the book in autumn 2018. It took a few months to write and test the recipes, shoot the photos, complete the layout and find a printer. All the while giving cooking classes and working on many other projects too.
What are you most proud of?
What I’m generally proud of: when I have an idea, I go for it and make it happen!
What’s the most interesting cuisine you’ve experienced?
That’s a hard one. A recent trip to Israel was eye-opening – we ate so much delicious vegetarian and vegan food without even realizing it didn’t have any meat in it. But if there’s one cuisine that just keeps on fascinating me, it’s Thai. I’ve been going to Thailand on a yearly basis for the past 10 years and am still discovering new foods every time. It’s such a complex cuisine with exceptional regional differences – forget what you know as Thai food in Europe, over there it’s a whole different world.
What’s the most surprising thing someone has offered up to you to eat?
While filming in Istanbul for my second season, we went to a dessert parlour that specialized in milky puddings. One of them was slightly gritty – turns out it was made with chicken to add texture…
But the weirdest one was in Thailand, on a road trip with my friend Chin. We stopped at a little restaurant hut in Isaan, and they served us this beautiful spread of vegetables with many dipping sauces. One of the dips was a darkish brown, and tasted very earthy. It wasn’t unpleasant and I had quite a bit of it before I asked what it was. Turns out, it was pounded water-bug!!!
Do you need a bells and whistles kitchen with all the equipment to cook well?
Not at all. My kitchen is actually tiny and I didn’t even have a dishwasher until I moved back to Luxembourg three years ago… I always write my recipes with regular people in mind – so I steer away from using gadgets or hard-to-find ingredients, as I know it will deter them to make the recipe. Still, the one thing I’d recommend everyone to have in their kitchen is a decent food processor – to whip up a quick hummus, blend a soup or chop onions without crying.
Are you able to eat in restaurants with a foodie hat on and not a chef’s hat?
Yes and no. I worked as a restaurant critic for Time Out London for over two years, and that has seriously affected me. I always analyze everything… That doesn’t mean I think of how to make the meal better (well, sometimes I do), but I register the presentation, the balance of flavours and textures and the general atmosphere of a place... It’s part of the eating out experience for me.
Do you think a revised Masterchef style program would work in Luxembourg?
Hell yes! In previous years, we ran three seasons of ‘Mastercook’ on RTL (looking for Luxembourg’s best home cook) on which I was a judge. It was really fun!
I’ve already had many expats approach me with the idea of doing an English-speaking version of Mastercook in Luxembourg – and I hope that RTL can produce that at some point in the future! The demand is certainly there.
Do you but into the deconstructed/reconstructed food fad?
Nah, not for me. I’m generally steering away from food that’s been tinkered with too much and presented in a faffy way. Bring me a good stew in a bowl and I’ll be happy!
Have any of your family and friends experienced the ‘fear’ when cooking for you?
Erm… yes! I hear quite regularly that people are slightly scared of cooking for me – which is really silly, as I love being invited for a meal. Just make me a home-cooked meal and put a glass of wine in front of me and I’ll be a very good dinner party guest!
Who are your biggest chef-ing influences / heroes?
I learnt cooking by reading cookbooks, and this mostly started when I went to university in the UK. Hence, I’m deeply influenced by British cooking magazines like Delicious Magazine and BBC Good Food. I love Anna Jones’ vegetarian style and Diana Henry’s incredible no-nonsense food repertoire. I think I’ve made about half the baking recipes in Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’. And, last but not least, I find myself reaching for Yotam Ottolenghi’s books over and over again – they never fail to inspire me!
© RTL - Anne Faber
What are the most common ‘kitchen’ mistakes in beginners and even in pros?
Attempting to do too much in too little time, and forgetting to taste the food before it goes out…
If I were to cook for a dinner party, eight people and I’m not sure whether one is vegetarian, what should I do?
Either cook a veggie-only meal (like the smokey spinach lasagna from my blog, that one’s always a winner!) or do a meat main with a few different hearty sides that could bulk up as a veggie main (think a giant couscous salad with lots of herbs, roasted vegetables with a harissa crème fraîche dip and hummus). My dinner parties are generally buffet-style – so I cook a bunch of things and people help themselves to what they like.
How good are your Omelettes?
Erm, pretty good I’d say – but not in the classic way! I love to add some Indian curry paste and coriander to mine, and serve it with mango chutney and naan bread…
Tastes Of Luxembourg
64 pages, English
Metric and imperial measures
Out from 1st June in all bookstores