Dienstag, 27. November 2012

Christmas market first buy

Today we went to the market during lunch break. Had a nice little salmon bread, just shredded grilled salmon on a nice ciabatta bread roll with a little cream-mustard dressing and some salad. The salmon was grilled near the open fire, attached at wooden boards. After drinking one cup mulled wine for children (in fact very delicious hot norwegian berry juice mixed with tea - not too sweet, no alcohol) we went on a little stroll and there, in a kitchen tool stall, I found my first bargain:

Just a small very traditional kitchen knife (Windmühle/Windmill, Herder, Solingen, carbon steel) - reasonable price, fabulous. My friend took one too. And nearby was a stall with wind chimes and window decorations. I found a really funny and pretty chime made of small porcellain cups, teapots, spoons and forks (sounds weired) but it was too crowded, no chance to buy something. Have to come visit again.

Montag, 26. November 2012

Christmas Market - yeah!!!

Yes, it is the season. Christmas Market opened today! A little bit early this year but no complains, - except from the churchs (but who cares...)
Doesn't it look magic?
Me and my collegues are going to visit during lunchbreaks until it will close . We will meet with old collegues from fomer departments and retired friends too. End of the Christmas Market season is just a few days before Christmas.
Usually we will eat such sort of food during the season:
grilled sausages, grilled spicy cheese in flat bread with cabbage salad, chinese fried noodles, mushrooms in garlicy cream sauce, fish in breadrolls, deep fried sweet yeast dumplings, grilled marrons, stews, crepes, roasted sugar coated almonds, steamed potatoes, meat skrewers, roasted meat from the big metal skewer and, and, that depends Lots of mulled wine or hot cocoa, tea too...  Tomorrow I am going to have a closer look at the food stalls and I want to buy some christmas decoration and spices and maybe some smaller gifts as handmade soap, candles.
It will be nice and fun and comfy as every year. I just had a small quick walk on my way back to have a look at the illuminations.

crappy pictures with my iPhone

Sonntag, 25. November 2012

Tofu skin rolls with pork, cabbage and bamboo shoots

Whenever I visit the asian supermarket, I buy at least one thing I never had bought before, without thinkig twice.  I am curious as a cat... Afterwards I start a research in the net, on what to do with this little friend. 
Recently I bought frozen tofu skin sheets. I knew fried Tofu skins from preparing Treasure bags, but you can buy the tofu skin bags ready made in a broth and sealed in a plastic container. To make it short: Never had plain Tofu skin sheets before, a chinese product.
Today I decided to make a little kitchen experiment with those sheets - Tofu skin rolls stuffed with pork and vegetables.
rice, roll cut into pieces, vegetables
First I defrosted the sheets by placing them on a wooden cutting board covered with a damp towel. 
I started with the stuffing:
400 g ground pork (lean)
125 g bamboo shoot, already  cooked, sliced and chopped finely
½ small cabbage, shredded, roughly chopped, blanched and squeezed (this guy lazed around in the fridge and I thought: well Gyoza stuffing...)
5 Shiitake, soaked, minced
1 big egg
1 tablespoon starch (just to keep everything together)
1 pinch Chinese 5-Spice powder - I love this
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 heaped teaspoon grated ginger
1 garlic glove, minced
lots of black pepper
1 pinch chilli flakes
1 pinch salt
1+ tablespoon soy sauce
1+ tablespoon oyster sauce

I mixed all the ingredients until well combined by hand. For seasoning it is good to try the stuffing in it's raw state. There is nothing unhealthy in this, I took just a little bit for a taste adjustment check. Actually it was ground pork to be eaten raw, a german speciality (some call this kind of pork craftsmen marmelade because it is eaten raw, heaped on bread, sometimes together with an raw egg yolk and onions, beer fits perfect, very well liked by the males). 
I cut Tofu skin sheets to the size of a small paper handkerchiefs and filled each sheet with 2 good tablespoons filling and wrapped them up.
first the sides than up from one small end ->

8 rolls...

I fried each roll on both sides in oil until golden and made sure to place the rolls on the side with the ends of the wrapping first. Afterwards I layered them on paper towels to get rid of the oil.
Heated up 450 ml dashi with 40 ml soy sauce, 40 ml mirin, 40 ml sake.  Layered the golden fried rolls into this stock, covered them with a drop lid and simmered the lot about 25 minutes. 

simmered rolls

Meanwhile I cooked rice and a vegetable sidedish, actually we had just carrots and summer squash match sticks simmered in a little dashi with a hint of soy sauce. 
The rice was very tasty with the roll broth (not as fat as I thought) and my husband had the rolls with sweet chilli sauce. Due to a jaw surgery (2 freshly made tooth implants) I am no good with hot and spicy sauces at this time. Hurts like hell. Never do this I can tell you. 

I thought the thin skins would become more soft. Actually they stayed quite firm but tasty.

Donnerstag, 22. November 2012

Daikon cake with prawns

This is a dish I make now and then, when there is daikon available and I feel like it. Preparation seems to be a little time consuming, but in fact, it takes only a little grating, chopping, striring and steaming.
Just one of these chinese dim sum dishes I love to eat.
Whatever you put in a Daikon cake depends on what is in storage.
There are a few basics:
  • Chinese turnip or Daikon (radish)
  • rice flour
For more information see Wikipedia

And this is what I took:

 All in all:

300 g daikon (1/2 daikon the back with the green part), grated into thin stripes
4 Shiitake mushrooms soaked in a bit of water, chopped
1 tablespoon bacon dices, finely diced cubes
5 bigger Tiger prawns,  raw, peeled, chopped (keep the peels..) - actually they were frozen but raw
1 tablespoon freeze dried shrimps, soaked, chopped
1 larger scallion, chopped
1 ½ cup rice flour - I take glutenious rice flour because the cake turns out more chewy
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 pinch of salt
Pepper, chilli pepper (a few rounds)

Honey BBQ-Sauce (strange, yes but I like it) 

just to show how all is grated, minced

Heat dark sesame oil in a Wok or pan. Sear the prawn peels/shells in sesame oil until they turn to pinkish red, remove but keep the oil.  Add the minced /chopped  ingredients into the pan and stir fry for 2 - 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside, season with salt, a few rounds with the pepper mill, chilli and soy sauce (all in all 1 small rice bowl of chopped things see above).
Refill pan with daikon, soaking liquid from the mushrooms and from the dried shrimps (about 200 ml).  Steam the daikon covered on medium heat until the stripes turn translucent, this will take just 3 minutes. Fill and squeeze all of the daikon and liquid in a colander and catch the liquid.  Measure: You will need 300 ml of cooking liquid. If there is not enough, add some water.
Mix squeezed daikon with chopped ingredients.
Stir rice flour with 300 ml cooking liquid until there are no more lumps to be seen.
Mix with daikon-mix. And there you are, the batter!
batter in the foil
Fill batter into a 22 cm diameter form, I just used the steamer seave layered with an oiled foil.
Set the steamer in a pot over boiling water, cover. Steam the cake about 30 minutes over low-medium heat (there has to be steam...) - the rice flour has to develop and if you check the cake wether it is ready or not, it has to be elastic but firm when touched.
cake hot and steamy (pictures blurry) flipped over on a plate
Flip cake on a plate and remove foil. Let cool down, cut into pieces (rectangles, diamonds) and fry the pieces in a pan, in a little sesame oil, on both sides. Serve with some sauce to your liking: Sweet chilli sauce is nice, Tonkatsu sauce is fine, dark thick Honey-Mustard-BBQ sauce is my favorite.

just two pieces...

Chinese chopsticks

I am not that bad with chopsticks, actually I exercised a lot. While visiting China I simply had to cope and learn fast or it would have been embarrassing.
Yes, they will give you forks and spoons most of the time - in fact they always may be thinking you are a westerner not knowing how to eat properly with chopsticks, but we don't offer asian tourists chopsticks in our restaurants (unless it is a Sushi-Bar, Ramen-Shop, Chinese restaurant) and they have to work it out with knife, fork and spoon, so I thought it would be fair and square to have my meals with chopsticks during my stay in Beijing (laugh). After two days I was able to eat single sweet corn grains using chopsticks or to roll up a thin pancake filled with Beijing duck and spring onions. My chinese friends had lots of fun...
I bought quite some souvenirs for the kitchen and dining table. As you can see, some table decoration: a cute frog mother with kids in a lotus leaf made from porcellain (I think it is a brush washer) bought on a flea market for about 2 Euros and for the kitchen I bought tea, rice cookies, rice wine, dried fruits, spices and chopsticks! So the question was, do I have any other chopsticks than chinese? No, but except the plain white ones and chopsticks made of bamboo, I got those too:
This are really common souvenir shop chopsticks

Black laquered and with golden heaven dragons on it. They were really cheap but they are good looking and whenever I have guests and I am preparing something asian they have to use those (or fork and spoon). I think chopsticks are great souvenirs: they don't break, they don't use up much space and their wheigt is low. So I am looking forward to buy some more in Japan.

each pair came with a nice sheath 

Dienstag, 20. November 2012

Beef Rendang

Sissi showed how to make a great Redang with beef cheeks. It looked so good, I had to prepare it too. I nearly followed her recipe, just applied some minor changes due to some circumstances .

My supper, vegetables, basmati rice and meat stew
1.  I skipped the lemon grass and lime leaves and used lime rind instead. Why so? Husband hates, hates, hates lemon grass. Last week we were dining in an very good Thai-Restaurant and he suffered quite a lot. The taste of lemon grass reminds him on toilet cleaning products - there is no helping. And I had no kaffir lime leaves in storage. Peels from green limes are a great substitute, just a few stripes will do.
2. I used Macademia nuts.
3. I used ginger instead of finger ginger.
4. I used less chilli peppers, 3 red dried sechzuan chilli peppers had to do.
5. I used my electronic blender to blend the spice paste which turned out more finely so nut bits or chilli pieces are not to be seen in the sauce. And I roasted the paste in a little sesame oil before adding the coconut milk.
6. I used palm sugar
7. I used ox meat from the upper leg cut in shorter trimmings. This I had in storage. Therefor cooking time all in all took 3.5 hours only. 
So that is all, my supper: my most beloved Basmati rice, carrots and broccoli steamed in dashi and spiced with ground sesame-salt and beef in spicy coconut sauce. For the rest visit Sissi following the link above.

Meat in close-up

Pear Compote

This is nothing new, a very common type of compote, I prepare once in a while during autumn and winter times.

For my compote I used an old well known pear variety growing in my region called “Köstliche von Charneaux” (the “delicious” one from Charneaux). This pear should be eaten green while showning red cheeks. If the colour of the peel  has turned yellow it is overripe, and shows a mashy, floury, darkening flesh – no good for nothing.
Actually this pear is light green, it is a sunny day
It’s perfume is excellent - pear at is best, to be eaten raw, the flesh creamy white, only very small stone cells, juicy. Not the best for compote because it is done too fast. So it has to be cooked for a very short time only. The taste is very light/fragant, the texture turns buttery, creamy, but I hade no other in storage.

For the compote:

  1. Wash 6 aromtic pears
  2. Fill water in a bowl and add the juice of ½ lemon
  3. Peel a pear, half, remove the core and the attached strings (there are nasty strings running from the core to the bottom and top of the pears)
  4. Immediately soak the pear halves in the lemony water to prevent oxidation. Peel the next one and so on. 
  5. In a bigger pan heat up 200 ml white wine or sparkling wine (I used a small bottle sparkling wine), add 250 ml of the pear soaking water, 3 tablespoons sugar, ½ vanilla pod, 1 star anis (I use this whenever the pear has a very light too light flavor), 1 small cinnamon stick, a few squeezes lemon juice from the leftover lemon part and the pears. 
  6. Heat up until it comes to a rolling boil. Close the pot with a lid, turn of the heat and let rest 10 minutes, try to cool it down quickly (I put the pot outside). This is the method for quick cooking pears. Other pears may take some minutes simmering and don’t have to be treaten so delicately. 
  7. Remove pears with a slotted spoon. Reheat the cooking liquid and cook down to half.
Soaking while peeling

ready to be eaten

Serve as they are with a little cooking liquid

  • or sliced into wedges as addition  to blue cheese, 
  • or filled with creamy blue cheese, 
  • or serve topped with chocolate custard, chocolate sauce, 
  • or cut into chunks and mixed with yoghurt or white cheese 

and so on – there are many ways to use this compote.

There was a bit of a discussion on Hiroyuki’s blog concerning what tastes better Nashi or European pears and I would like to add a few thoughts.
No offends, I like Nashi, if I would not, I would never have planted a small Nashi tree in my garden.  But the main reason for planting a Nashi was to plant a slow growing and stay short tree, which provides a small amount of nice fruits. Why a small amount?  Nashi pears have no shelf life at all. You harvest them and  you have to eat them in a week. There is only a short period of time between nearly unripe (firm and cucumber taste) and overripe (sweet but darkening flesh with a floury texture). So Nashi has to be eaten raw just at their optimum. I tried several dishes with Nashi but they did not went right. Their texture allows no cooking or baking. Those procedures will destroy their good points: crispness, juiciness, elegant but light flavor. We have to eat lots of Nashi in a short time until we are really done with Nashi for a whole year.
For more economic reasons in terms of usage: If my garden would be any bigger,  I would rather have planted 2 pear trees. Old and nice varieties for many types of dishes as in: compotes, jams, juice making, baking, cooking, eating raw, for drying and such. And pears with a better shelf life (harvested unripe and store while continuing their ripening process in the basement during early winter).

There is no way that old and good pear varieties loose in terms of flavor to Nashi, sorry to say so. If somebody tells you the Nashi flavor is better than the pear flavor he/she had not eaten the really good pears yet.
But their texture is different. Many pears have melting flesh when ripe at their optimum. Crips pears are unripe (most of them). Many (old variety) pears have little stone cells in their flesh which gives a rather uncommon mouthfeeling for people not used to eat pears. 

Sadly enough most stores sell a small amount of varieties, most of them are boring, because they are raced for the looks, transportation issues and shelf life only - commercial use. This is the sad reality nowadays with most of the fruits and vegetables. But there are organic fruit farmers and farmers markets which provide the better ones. There are persons trying to prevent that old varieties, which have no commercial use, from getting extinct. So I am going to plant 4 trees in our community yard next year called Streuobstwiese (managed grassland with fruit trees). This is a heritage program of our community / city to safe the old varieties - whoever wants to plant may plant and has the patronage.

If you are looking at planting recommondations you will find lots and lots of varieties for one special region depending on soil, water, temperatures. Let alone for the Taunus-Region I found 23 varieties, this region is more sunny and warm. Our region is more cold and rainy and there are at least 12.  So pears go well in Germany while having a very  long tradition. See the list of varieties / cultivars sadly in German language only (german cultivars)

Sonntag, 18. November 2012

Quick and easy Apple Strudel with an arabian touch

Weekend, in need of some pastry for the coffee table. What to do, what to do. I was not eager to bake anything big and showy. Searching my kitchen cupboards and fridge I found:

3 big apples (baking / cooking apples variety Boskoop)
150 g dried dates
60 g almonds, already peeled and cut into small sticks
italian almond cookies (Amarettini)
1 layer fresh puff pastry dough, near expiring date

Perfect for a puff pastry strudel.
It is best to use strudel dough but puff pastry dough is a good enough substitute once in a while.

First I peeled and cored the apples and sliced the apple quaters into thinnly slices. I tossed the slices with a little lime juice to prevent oxidation. I pitted the dates and cut them into thin slices which I soaked in 2 tablespoons homemade quince liqueur and roasted the almonds until golden.
I crumbled a small handful almond cookies (Amarettini) into bigger crumbles.
Finely I rolled the puff pastry layer into a layer 1/3 times bigger than before. Big enough to cover a medium baking sheet.

Finally I mixed apples, dates and soaking liquids, 1 heaped tablespoon firmer honey, cookie crumbles and 1 pinch Quatre Éspice (french spice mix containing cinnamon, ginger, gloves, nutmeg) and spread this mix over the puff pastry dough - just leaving a little space at the edges. I rolled the layer into a firm roll, pinchend the dough at the ends together and made a few horizontal cuts into the upper side, basted a little oil on top and sprinkled with brown sugar.

That was all, baking time 25 minutes at 200 degree Celsius. Very good still warm with wipped Cream.

Air drying Persimmons - after one week

The fruits are still up and doing fine. They started to shrink but the texture is still firm.

Sonntag, 11. November 2012

Dried persimmons again

This year I am going to dry persimmons al fresco using threads. Looks funny. Husband calls it early X-mas decoration...
I don't know if this will work out. We always have strong winds and birds or the fruits may fall off - already happend twice while tying them up.
I simply peeled the fruits and made a shallow cut around the stem section (calyx base) to have something to tie the thread around (read about this in an korean expat blog). I dipped the fruits in boiling water containing a litte citric acid to prevent mold, before hanging them up.

Samstag, 10. November 2012

Death by choclate Rum balls - Rumkugeln

Not for children:  contains lots of alcohol

Rumkugel tossed in chocolate flakes

Rumkugeln is a common product in german bakeries and pastry shops all the year round, not connected to any seasons. Rumor has it that it is made out of cake and bread crumbs they found by sweeping the floor and trays in a bakery.
Basic ingredients: crumbs of (leftover) sponge cake, pound cake, any pastry, cookies, chocolate, fat, sugar and "we don't want to know" and rum.  The quality of Rum balls depends on the quality of the ingredients. Without lots of real rum they are bad, that is a given.
I don't have Rum balls that often. It is a question of an sudden urge, visiting a bakery, looking at Rum balls and starting to think about it: When was the last time I had one, and oh no, they are really bad, unhealthy, I wonder if they will taste good... doesn't matter! Happens only once in five years or so. Today was such a Rum ball day but I did not buy any. I prepared them on my own. 

I had a leftover chocolate sponge cake layer (made a blackforest cake some time ago) in storage. Rumkugeln are made from leftover cakes, perfect!
I crumbled the layer into fine crumbs (180 g), soaked 200 g damaszene plums in Meyers’s Rum (1/2+ much more cup),  cooked a chocolate custard  (100 ml milk and 1 very heaped tablespoon chocolate custard powder and 1.5 tablespoons brown sugar) – resulted in a very stiff custard and let it cool down to room temperature. I beat in 100 g soft butter, spoon by spoon until a nice soft chocolate buttercream (custard based german buttercram) formed. See, I faked the use of a leftover buttercream pastry...
Next I pureed the plums together with the soaking  liquid (aka Rum), mixed this with the crumbs and buttercream. I added 2 tablespoons roasted almonds, chopped finely and another sip rum.
I stored this mixture in the fridge for a few hours until getting firm enough to be formed. I formed 8 balls and tossed them in chocolate flakes and another batch in cocoa powder. These Rumballs have to be stored in the fridge, they are not too firm and very addicting.

There are lots of basic recipes available, most call for melted chocolate and firm white coconut fat. I had a lot of chocolate in the black forest sponge cake layer so I skipped this and went with chocolate buttercream and I don’t use coconut fat (it is really unhealthy). All in all my recipe has less fat and sugar than others because I substituted some of the crumbs, fat and chocolate with the plums but that is fine because in reality there exists no perfect and balanced recipe for Rum balls, a Rum ball takes what you have on leftover pastry and anything else, even fruit pies...