Lentil Curry by Chef Carol Waithira Mühlenbrock, H&S Chef Of The Month
H&S Chef Of The Month
Interview With H&S Magazine
Who Is Carol Waithira Mühlenbrock?
I am a mother of 2 and an Entrepreneur. I trained as a chef here in Germany, have been cooking for the last 12 years and running my own Restaurant LA KULA Restaurant in Haus Mühlenbrock for the last 6 years. In Kenya, I had studied Law and so when I came to Germany, I wanted to continue in this line. I first had to learn the language and since I am not the kind of person who sits at home and does nothing, I looked for a job. The only Job I got that didn’t require me to speak German, which I had not learnt at the time, was cleaning dishes in a restaurant. Since I was a child, I have always loved cooking, and so being in the big kitchen fascinated me. I used to clean the dishes fast, so that I could go into the kitchen and see what they were doing. Before long, I was being called in to help in the Kitchen.
Type Of Cuisine?
I do African dishes in my Restaurant, I cook all kinds of foods including Chapatis, Mukimo, Samosas,
Curries and much more.
What Inspired You To Become A Chef?
2 Months into my job, my boss asked me to go and serve as a waitress. Mind you, this was 4 Months after coming to Germany and I couldn’t speak much German. I saw this as an opportunity to learn the language, and so I indulged into it, while waiting for my papers to be approved, awaiting college. My Love remained in the Kitchen and since it wasn’t working out the way I had hoped for with the studies, I gave up the hope of going to university to study as a Lawyer in Germany. It didn’t bother me that it didn’t work out, in fact, as it turns out, it was a blessing. After my daughter was born in 2009, I was sure I wanted to be in the Kitchen. I immediately started my apprenticeship as a Chef, had to pause in between as I gave birth to our son. In January 2012, I topped my class in the final exams in our district, presenting the best dish to the examiners in that year! But I should say, my Law studies in Kenya were not lost because my apprenticeship time was reduced by one year.
What Is The Biggest Challenge You Have Faced In The Culinary Industry?
The biggest challenge we face here in Germany is getting people to work. We have been forced to reduce our working hours because we are not getting personnel. As a mother, being in the kitchen is challenging because of the working hours. I am always torn between my love for the kitchen and the love for my children, especially in the evenings when I can’t read them bedtime stories, it is not easy! This is why I try to make time by reducing our opening hours.
What’s Your Biggest Achievement In The Culinary Industry?
For me, my biggest achievement in the culinary industry is being recognized by the German Community and even German Star Chefs as an African Chef doing African Cuisine. I have had the honour of cooking with some famous German Star Chefs and also being on German television because of my African Cuisine. Mr Berthold Bühler, a German 2 Michelin Star Chef, came to cook with me in my restaurant, and when the press asked him how he liked my food, he said, “She is a perfect ambassador of the African Cuisine”. Some of my other achievements include winning The African Women in Europe Entrepreneur of The Year Award in 2009, and in 2021, my Restaurant won the AFRO NEWS Best African Restaurant in Germany Award.
When It comes To Cooking, What Is More Important To You, The Technique, The Ingredients Or The Creativity?
When cooking on a professional level, I think you need these 3 things, technique, good ingredients and creativity. If I could implement the best techniques but didn’t have good ingredients and the creativity to do some magic in the kitchen, I wouldn’t be in a position to serve my guests food that would make them remember me. And if I had the best Ingredients but didn’t have the technique to prepare them in a way that they remain vibrant, appetizing, nutritious and delicious, then, I wouldn’t be doing those good ingredients any justice. Creativity is what differentiates between a chef and a fantastic chef.
Food creates memories, we are emotional about our food, we drive to places just to have these wonderful food experiences, and so, when I cook, I want my guest to feel that I made that plate for her/him with lots of love. I want my guests to remember how my food made them feel…’joyful’!
I also have an online platform called Karibuni Jikoni, where I invite people to my kitchen to cook with me and I also show people how to make easy, delicious and nutritious plant-based foods. I know that, we as human beings can change a lot of things including our health and also the environment, if we adopt a healthy eating habit which includes a lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. I have been on a plant-based diet for about 2 years now, and I want to preach its Goodness to everyone.
I feel that we are forgetting our traditional nutritious foods and turning to western diets, which are not good for our bodies. I also realized that many people have no idea when it comes to making meatless and dairyless foods. I am not against eating meat, I am FOR eating what I call PLANT-BASED Goodness.
Recipe Of The Week: Lentil Curry With Basmati Rice & Crispy Mushrooms
The Lentil Curry
• 500g brown lentils
• 1 onion
• 2 tbsp vegetable Oil
• 600ml coconut milk
• 1 ½ tbsp curry powder
• 3 cloves of garlic
• a small piece of ginger
• ½ bunch of coriander
• Salt, pepper & cayenne pepper (to taste)
• Water for cooking
Cook the lentils in water till soft, about 20 minutes. Dice onions, garlic and ginger & clean and chop the coriander. Put the oil in a pot and fry the onions till translucent, then add the garlic & ginger and fry on low heat for about 2 minutes. Then add the curry powder and fry for a minute. Next, pour in the coconut milk and the lentils, season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper & let this simmer for about 5 minutes., then remove from heat and add the chopped coriander.
The Basmati Rice
• 2 cups basmati rice (about 400g)
• 4 cups water
• 1tsp salt
• 1 cup cooked green peas
In another pot, boil water with salt. Add the basmati rice, first bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat and cover & cook till all the water has been absorbed by the rice. Add the cooked green peas and stir well.
The Crispy Mushrooms
• 20 brown mushrooms
• ½ cup wheat flour
• ½ cup water
• ½ tsp dry basil
• ½ tsp dry thyme
• ½ tsp salt
• Pepper & cayenne pepper (to taste)
• 200g breadcrumbs
• Oil for deep-frying
Clean the mushrooms with a soft brush. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl, except breadcrumbs, you can add some water if the batter is too thick. First dip the mushrooms in the batter and cover them well, then coat them with breadcrumbs. Deep-fry the mushrooms till they become golden brown.
To serve, put the lentils in a small bowl, I like serving in coconut shells. On a plate, nicely spoon some rice or use a ring to neatly place the rice, then place the mushrooms on top and garnish with coriander & serve hot!