Tolga von Klein doesn’t limit himself: not in travels, not in influences and definitely not in what spices go into his cuisine.
As he kneads dough for the Indian-style focaccia he’s preparing as part of an FvF Team Lunch, he talked to us about his diverse background and the best approach to eating.
Drizzling oil over the simple mix of yeast, flour and water, he comments, “I don’t have an area of speciality, I like to play with all different kinds of cultures. My parents are Turkish, Greek and Bulgarian, but I was born in Germany. I traveled a lot, and Japanese and Indian cuisine became some of my favorites. I do Ayurvedic and macrobiotic cooking and I do different things with my own mix of spices.”
He moved to New York at the age of 21 to study at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food, known for its local, season and fresh whole foods approach. It was there that he learned about “health supportive cuisine,” which became central to his cooking. “I’m not a detox chef,” he remarks, “but when I cook, it’s not just an indulgence, it should also make you feel good. In the beginning I looked for the best system: Ayurveda, low carb, high carb, paleo. There is no best system. That’s why I do so many different things.”
His vegetarian meal was the team’s first outdoor lunch of the year. With the sun shining, plates laden with marinated cauliflower, chana masala, General Grey’s mango chutney and cucumber mint raita, were empty in no time. Followed by basmati milk rice pudding with rose bloom water, coconut and pomegranate then topped with a pistachio crumble, the sense of satisfaction couldn’t have been more complete. The lunch was representative of the meals he serves at his pop-up in Berlin, Super-Marmita, the only difference is that at Super-Marmita, the meals are normally served up in tiffins – traditionally used to deliver food to office workers in Mumbai.
Chana Masala with Steamed Cauliflower and Homemade Pita Bread
What makes this recipe so special is the homemade Chana Masala. But, for those of you who don’t have much time on your hands, Garam Masala is a perfect ready-made alternative to Channa Masala. This sauce can be used for many recipes and lasts for up to three months when you store it in a dark place in an airtight container.
Chana Masala Mix (6-8portions)
3 tbsp whole cumin
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
6 dried, medium-hot red chilies
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp black peppercorns
10 green cardamom pods
6 black cardamom pods
½ cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
1 tbsp dried pomegranate seeds
- Put all the spices in a pan and dry roast them under a medium heat, stirring intermittently. Do this for around five minutes or until the spices begin to give off an aroma.
- Don’t let them burn!
- Crush the spices either with a pestle and mortar or in an electric coffee grinder, then sift it through a sieve and take out any large, hard lumps.
The mixture is now ready for…
50g coconut oil
1 large onion
1 tbsp Himalayan salt or sea salt
30g ginger, finely grated
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
3 small green chili peppers, finely chopped
3 tbsp Channa Masala mixture
800g canned, chopped tomatoes
800g canned, boiled chickpeas, rinsed under tap water and drained
1 bunch of mint, finely chopped
1 cauliflower head, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch of coriander
- Put the coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat, then put in the onion and leave to brown. Stir occasionally. This will take around ten minutes. Flavor with salt.
- Add the ginger, garlic and chili. Brown them for another three minutes.
- Put in the spices, thoroughly stir them into the mixture and then add in the tomatoes.
- Reduce the temperature and leave to simmer for ten minutes to reduce.
- Stir in the chickpeas and pour in enough water so that the chickpeas are just covered. Leave it to simmer for 15 minutes.
- In a separate pan, boil water with 2 tbsp of salt. Reduce the heat and put in the chopped cauliflower, cook until al dente – for around seven minutes. Then drain it, leave it to cool a little and carefully mix in the lime and coriander.
- Add the mint to the Channa curry and serve hot.
Pita Bread (6-8 Portions)
1 packet (7g) dried yeast
325ml lukewarm water
500g white flour
1 tsp salt
50ml olive oil
2 tbsp nigella seeds
olive oil for brushing
- Dissolve the yeast thoroughly in water and leave for five minutes
- Put the flour and salt into a large bowl. Mix in the yeast water, 50ml of olive oil and form a dough with your hands. (If needed, at a spoonful more flour or water)
- When the dough is formed, lightly flour a surface and knead the dough for ten minutes and put back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a lightly damp cloth and put it in a warm place, and leave it untouched for 45 minutes.
- Brush olive oil over a baking tray and take the dough from the bowl and evenly spread it along the tray.
- While the oven is heating to 200C, leave the dough covered for 30 minutes.
- Spread olive oil over the dough, sprinkle it with nigella seeds and place the baking tray on the middle rung of the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately.
Coconut Milk Rice Pudding and Pistachio-Cardamom Brittle (10 Servings)
For the pudding
200g basmati rice
1l coconut milk, unsweetened
50g palm sugar or coconut sugar
¼tsp sea salt
1 pomegranate, deseeded
For the brittle
75g unsalted pistachios, shelled and roasted
3 cardamom pods, seeds removed and freshly crushed
- Put the Basmati rice, coconut milk, sugar and salt into a small but deep pan, bring to boil and simmer at a low temperature.
- Regulate the heat so that the mixture is boiling very lightly and there are hardly any bubbles.
- Occasionally stir to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- After 20-25 minutes, the mixture should be a thick liquid. Take it off the stove and leave to cool.
- Stir in the rosewater.
- Melt the sugar in a pan at a medium-high temperature until it becomes a light brown color. Don’t stir, otherwise the sugar will crystalize!
- Fold in the pistachios and cardamom pods and coat them with the sugar.
- Pour out all the mixture onto a tray lined with baking parchment and spread it flat before it completely hardens.
- Leave it to cool.
- Break it up in a food processor.
Fill small bowls with the rice pudding. Top each portion with the brittle and the pomegranate seeds before serving.