Dienstag, 24. Dezember 2013

Merry Christmas

Yes, today is the day and I am preparing christmas dinner since early morning. First thing I did was cooking the ragout for the ragout fin, next thing I did was preparing the dessert.
There is nothing much to do right now so at least I will let you have a peek view at the dessert.

Tata... Bouche de noel.
Chocolate sponge cake, marron cream, whipped cream with a little brandy, covered with chocolate and cocoa.
Have a nice Christmas!

Montag, 23. Dezember 2013

Soft old-fashioned toffee candies

Yesterday I prepared candies made from butter, cream and sugar. I still remember my mother telling a story from her childhood when she and her sisters tried to make candies all alone at home. It happened a few years after world war II ended. Butter and sugar were still very expensive and there were no candies for the children available - only on special occasions. So the girls thought it would be a good idea to make some candies on their own, using margarine and sugar they found in a cup board. It ended in a destroyed sauce pan, heavy smoke filled kitchen and some burned fingers followed by some serious scolding and spanking after grandmother returned. It went very wrong but they are still telling the story always giggling a lot.
So I went and made candies, using a recipe and some more knowledge as those elementary school girls.

For the shape: I cut the toffee simply into rectangles but some of the toffee I pressed into a small flower shaped mould: fancy ones to be used as presents. The mould is about 2,5 cm in diameter.

flower shaped candy

They are chewy but not that sticky and the taste is directed towards grown-ups: tonka-bean-sea salt.

150 ml cream (cream for whipped cream)
200 g butter, diced
1 big tablespoon evaporated milk (sweet and thick)
150 g brown sugar
125 g golden caramel sirupe
Good pinch grated Tonka bean

Let simmer on low heat until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved (6 minutes)

Caramel base:
150 g sugar
2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes

Let sugar and water simmer in a heavy sauce pan until the sugar is liquid and turns amber (medium low heat). This is quite tricky: whenever the sugar becomes crumbly solid again just continue stirring until melted again, watch out for the color (use a wooden or silicone spatule to make sure to scrape the pan bottom while stirring)! Once it turns amber stop and quickly add the hot butter-cream-sugar mix but keep some distance because it will bubble and splatter and boil vividly, keep stirring.
Stick in a sugar thermometer. Sorry but there is no way it will turn out any good without...
Once the heat will reach 121 degrees Celsius (~10 minutes) turn of the heat, stir in sea salt and quickly fill the toffee into an already prepared oiled metal tray of baking mould.
Let cool down for some hours at room temperature.
Cut the toffee into the shapes you like (heavy knife recommended). The toffee is medium firm but elastic and only slightly sticky. It is quite easy to press small amounts of toffee into a mould. First I covered the mould with cling film, then I added a piece of toffee, covered it with another piece of cling film and smoothed it into the mold using some thump pressure. Afterwards I just removed the cling film and wrapped the toffee into cellophane.

Mittwoch, 18. Dezember 2013

Civet coffee

Today, for the first time in my life, I had civet coffee, brewed using the typical german drip method. And I was so surprised, I never had a coffee with such a deep (mocha - toffee- chocolate???) flavour - while smelling like incense, before. The brew was strong, mild and super tasty. A totally strange and different coffee experience. I must confess, first I hesitated. As you may know (or not) the coffee beans have to be fermented by a rather unusual method: they just have to make their way through a palm civet (looks like a big weasel). The crap will be collected, the beans are washed and roasted afterwards.
 We joked quite a lot wether I should feed my cats green coffee beans too, but I think they would not be amused. We also thought, for mass production it is way better to use elefants instead of palm civets. This coffee is really very good and a rare delicacy (the production methods are sometimes cruel too) I am never going to buy some though.

Dienstag, 10. Dezember 2013

Indonesian style noodles

During weekdays most of the time I am a lazy cook. Therefore I am a huge fan of asian dishes because the only things you need is a big pan and a pot for rice or noodles and a fridge containing some vegetables... As long as everything can be chopped and stir-fried in a wok or pan, it is only a question of minutes and you may eat to your hearts content.
Today I prepared Mie (chinese noodles) with some colourful vegetables, ham and omelette stripes - I had some sort of Bami-goreng in mind.

The spices I used are a mix of thai and chinese.
For 3 persons:
  • 150 g ham (lean), sliced into strips
  • 3 eggs (had to use the up)
  • 2 red bell peppers sliced
  • 1/2 cup small green peas (frozen, heated up in the microwave)
  • 1 bunch slender spring onions, trimmed, sliced
  • 1 garlic glove, minced
  • 1 knob ginger root minced
  • 1 tablespoon red Thai curry-paste (for real Bami goreng it should be Sambal oelek - but I like Thai curry paste better)
  • 1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter
  • salt
  • a few dashes oyster sauce (may be subsituted with soy sauce)
  • sesame oil
  • oil

First I heated up the big pan with a little oil/sesame oil mix. I stir-fried the spring onions and bell peppers together with ginger and garlic and a tablespoon Thai curry paste until it became fragrant, reduced the heat and let the vegetables get a little softer - at this point I stirred in peanut butter.
Meanwhile I prepared a thick and fluffy omlette using 3 eggs and a dash water, salt and sliced the omlette into thicker strips.
I tossed the omelette and ham with the vegetables, seasoned with salt, oystersauce (it is very important to not overcook the ham and omelette so just mix them into the hot vegetables but don't stir-fry any longer).
I cooked the mie in salted water until chewy soft and tossed them (drained but still a little wet) with the rest. Finished.

Samstag, 7. Dezember 2013

German Wurstsalat - salad made of sausage

I promised to post a recipe. Here we are:

This is a typical southern german dish, often sold in inns - note: not in high class restaurants. I have seen it in every tourist trap in Munich too.
The main ingredient is a sausage, not a small Wiener but some sort of boiled sausage, sold in rings called Lyoner. Wurstsalat using the sister called Fleischwurst (looks the same) doesn't taste the same. It has to be a Lyoner. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wurstsalat
Or a 50:50 mix of Lyoner and Blutwurst (firm black pudding), did not had any Blutwurst in storage.

I made a salad for 1-2 persons (it has tons of calories so for me half the amount is ok, I could have easily eat all of it on my own but I shared...):
Cut 100g Lyoner into slender strips. Cut 2 german style vinegar pickled cucumber (gherkins) into slender strips, slice 1 small mild onion on a mandoline.
For dressing:
  • 1/4+ teaspoon salt (good pinch)
  • 1 small pinch sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mild (red or wite wine) vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cucumber pickling brine
  • 2 teaspoons oil (canola, sunflower)
  • 3/4 teaspoon mustard (coarse would be fine)
  • 1 small pinch dried majoram
  • pepper, freshly ground

Stir dressing, add sausage, cucumbers, onion and toss well. Let sit for 30 minutes. It is served with bread.

Freitag, 6. Dezember 2013

Dried fruit pies - mince pies

Today I baked very small pies, the size of a medium cookie, filled with minced dried fruits (mince meat).
These pies are not that sweet at all:

For filling:
  • 1 handful soft dried damaszene plums,
  • 1 handful dried figs
  • 1 handful dried dates
  • 1 handful toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons dried currants
  • 1 big apple, grated
  • 1 tablespoon ginger root, grated
  • 1 lime, zestes and juice
  • 1 tangerine, juice
  • 1 pinch dried orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1/3+ cup bourbon - the bourbon lazed around in the kitchen because husband forgot to put the bottle away, so I used it, brandy would be fine too.
  • icing sugar
(I only used half of the filling, for more sweetness honey or brown sugar may be added)

For dough:
  • 200 g flour
  • 100 g cold butter, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 pinch salt

The day before:
Chop the dried fruits roughly, mix with the other ingredients (except almonds) and simmer covered, on low heat for 25 minutes. Add  more bourbon if there is not enough liquid. Stir from time to time to prevent burning. Let cool down, mix in almonds and keep it in the fridge. The filling can be kept for quite a while so I made a good amount.

Pie crust:

Rub flour with butter, salt until coarsely crumbled, add water and knead a dough, let sit, wrapped into cling film, in the fridge for 30 min.

Put the pies together:
Divide dough into two parts. Roll out one part - thin a possible und cut cookie sized circles for the pie crust bottom (I always roll out the dough between two sheets of cling film using a marble rolling pin - no sticking, no additional flour in need). Place "cookies" into small moulds (I used a silicone one containing 15 small round moulds). Make sure the dough lines the moulds from bottom to top.
Pinch the bottoms with a fork, fill 1 teaspoon dried fruit mix into each and make it eaven.
Roll out second part of the dough, cut cookie sized circles, use a very small cookie cutter (I used a star shaped) and cut out the middle parts.
Place each circle on top of the filling and lightly press the edges to the pie crust.
Bake at 175 C for 25 minutes.
Unmould and dust with icing sugar - lots of icing sugar for the sweet tooth.
After one bite:

Mittwoch, 4. Dezember 2013

Spicy something related to mapo dofu

Yesterday was fridge-cleaning day and I just had to use some leftover vegetables and tofu. The only ingredient I bought, was the ground meat.
Doesn't look special but it was very lovely together with fragrant basmati rice, just something yummy to warm up the innards on a nasty winters day and it serves for 2-3 days:

 I used
  • 2 carrots cut into sticks
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1 handful okras, ends trimmed, rubbed with salt and rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small red bellpepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger root
  • 200 g firm tofu, cut into bigger chunks
  • 400 g ground pork
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sichzuan pepper corns
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon fermented black soy bean sauce (Sichzuan style) - hot!!! maybe try less if you are not used to hot spices
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • roasted sesame oil

I seared the meat and sichzuan pepper corns (prickling ash) in sesame oil  until the meat was lightly browned and crumbled, added the vegetables and stir-fried some more time until the onions were translucent/roasted. Added mirin, soy sauce, black bean sauce, water and a little salt and pepper and simmered, covered, until the vegetables were nearly done with some bite left. I added the tofu, stirred and let it sit, covered for 5 minutes. Served with rice.

Sonntag, 1. Dezember 2013

Shokupan japanese milk loaf

Because I did not buy enough bread I had to bake some - it is sunday and the bakeries are closed. I was intrigued of the idea to bake a bread similiar to the bread I often had in Tokyo, a very spongy soft white bread. I would like to prepare some egg-salad sandwiches for my office lunch break tomorrow and I had this kind of bread in mind.
So I did it. I think it is near - maybe I will try some adjustments next time, but it near.
nice spongy soft texture with small bubbles

Most recipes call for milk powder - milk powder is something I usually don't have in storage, so I used plain milk and a little butter.

For one loaf:
  • 400 g wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 300 ml milk
  • 50 g butter, diced
  • 1 bag instant yeast
I stirred the flour and starch with sugar, salt, yeast and heated up the milk with the butter until the butter melted. I let the milk sit for a bit but poured it still hot (but not boiling hot) over the flour and started the machine. The flour will soak up the heated milk in a very short time and the dough will come together really quickly. Let the machine run for 10 minutes on medium speed.

I lshaped the dough into a ball, covered the bowl with clingfilm and let the dough rise until doubled - in fact it will rise quickly but give it one hour at least.
On a baking board I squeezed the ball into a rectangle and folded the dough from each side one time and formed a roll. I cut the roll into 7 thick slices and formed a ball from each slice as in making dumplings. The balls were placed in the baking tin each next to another and basted the surface with a little milk. I let the loaf rise again for 45 minutes (until nearly doubled ):

The tin was covered with clingfilm and the dough rose a bit too much so the clingfilm clinged to the dough, ruined a perfect smooth crust..
First I baked the loaf for 10 minutes at 200 C and afterwards for 30 minutes at 175 C. 
I am very satisfied with the result concerning taste and texture but the bread lacks a little bit moisture. Next time I will try a hot flour mix (for humidity, before adding yeast), add more milk. Definitely less baking temperature at the beginning and maybe I will give the dough some other turns while shaping to form a swirly texture. I still don't think I will have to buy some milk powder.

Typical german christmas market in a very small rural village

During christmas season there are always small christmas markets for just one day. These markets are planned by village peoples: often the fire brigade, the sport community, church and so on. This year we visited a small market because a friend ran a food booth selling sausage in spicy sauce called Currywurst and hot cocktails and we promised to visit. This is a typical rural surrounding for our area:
Old red brick stone houses with wooden framework:

Some village people..
Christmas market (part of) in the church yard near an small castle, surrounded by old farm houses:
There was a small booth selling wooden handcrafted christmas decorations (there where some more selling honey and honey soap, beewax candles, cookies, old fashioned candies, crepes - had one, fish, grilled sausage, mulled wine, cakes, woolen puppets and toy animals, advent wreaths..)

Hot cocktail booth:
Hot cocktail (Zombie) - I felt a little bit dizzy afterwards:
Another booth selling grilled or smoked salmon:

 This is how the salmon was grilled - attached to wooden boards near the fire:

The grilled salmon was delicious
The sausage in spicy sauce too..

Samstag, 30. November 2013

Advent wreath

Finished it just in time... what is left to do, is to bake the first christmas cookies...
Last week I looked around for a wreath but was quite annoyed about the costs. 12,50 Euros for a small wreath built on a ring of straw or styrofoam - are they serious???
 I decided to make my own using whatever evergreen shrub my garden is providing at this time of the year. So I went and cut some cypress, hollies, boxwood, mahonia and juniper. The center of the wreath is made of some wisteria wood which can be easily tied to a ring. I simply attached the other greens with thin gardening wire, layer by layer. I did not add much ornaments because I like the more natural look the most. I simply took some dried lantern flowers and hydrangea blossoms I used for an autumn decoration (which is now gone) and some small items. I think it is quite ok and it did not cost one cent. I just have to add the candles I am going to buy today.

Just some sort of spring roll

Yesterday I bought some so called "strudel" dough, the same as Filo dough. It comes in square thin sheets.
I prepared the filling using some ground meat, vegetables and mushrooms. This is quickly done, the only thing left to do is to wrap it up and bake for 20 minutes.
I was delighted to find a mushroom mix with different kinds of oyster mushrooms: bright yellow,  orange-brown and greyish. They also sell a new type of enoki: "golden enoki" and shimeii, besides the more "common" mushrooms as button mushrooms and shiitake. The product range is getting better and better these days...

I took:
6 sheets dough

  • 1 carrot, diced into small cubes
  • 1 smaller celery stalk, diced into small cubes
  • 1 onion, diced into small cubes
  • 250 g pork, ground meat
  • 200 g oyster mushrooms (different varieties), diced
  • 150 g white cabbage, diced
  • 1 knob (half my thumb size) ginger root, minced
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon arrow root starch
  • Sesame oil for frying and basting
  • sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste
  • 3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • black pepper

I stir-fried meat and vegetables, mushrooms in a huge pan, and after the meat turned white and the cabbage soft, I added mirin and soy sauce and let is simmer for a few more minutes until the liquids were evaporated. I added the Hoisin sauce and chili paste, pepper and arrow root starch (stirred in a little water). Heated it up once and let it cool down a bit. I filled the rolls and basted the rolls with a little roasted sesame oil and sprinkled some sesame seeds. Baked the rolls at 200 C about 20 min (or until golden-brown and crunchy).

Prepare filling:
Wrap it up:
Put it into the oven:


Sonntag, 24. November 2013

Salmon and potato-pumpkin pancakes

Friday I bought a piece of a salmon half with the skin on and pickled it with brown sugar, coarse sea salt and some spices. I did not measure the pickling ingredients but I guess it was just 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon coarse salt, pinch grated yuzu peel, red and black coarse pepper .
The fish was then wrapped in clingfilm, placed in a dish, some weights went on top (2 cans of tomatoes) and I stored it in the fridge - flipped it over once at saturday night.
This is a method to pickle salmon the scandinavian way called graved lachs - burried salmon. In former times the salmon (rubbed with sugar and salt) was burried in soil to keep the fish fresh. No need to do this in the time of refridgerators, maybe the temperature is slightly too cold. The fish will not be as fermented as in former times.

Today I rinsed the fish, patted it dry with paper towel and sliced the fish into thicker slices (yes did it with the vegetable knife I bought in Tokyo)

I prepared potato-pumpkin pancakes to go with. Therefore I grated (into medium stripes):
  • 5 medium small potatoes 
  • round end of a smaller butternut squash (peeled, seeds scraped out)
and mixed in:
  • 1 egg, 
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped, 
  • 1 bunch parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • some pepper
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch

I chopped the spring onion and the parsley with the new vegetable knife, went very smooth..

I fried the pancakes in 3 batches in a pan in a good amount of oil:
I took 1 very heaped teaspoon of the mixture for one small pancake and pressed the mixture into a flat round shape. The oil should not be too hot to start with, medium high heat is recommended, because the pancakes should roast nicely and slowly to become crisp and not turn out roasted outside and raw inside. The potatoes will take some time.  After one side was roasted and the edges crisp I flipped the patties over and fried the other side.

I placed the fried pancakes on paper towels to reduce the fat content.

How to serve:
I placed some slices salmon on top of each pancake and added a small amount of horse radish cream (whipped cream mixed with grated horse radish)

Samstag, 23. November 2013

Crunchy sesame cookies

I bought some very small new cookie cutters in Tokyo at the Kappabashi dori, could not resist because there was a sakura shaped one included.


Now I had to bake some cookies. I decided on not too sweet sesame cookies. They are really tiny just a little bit bigger than a thumb nail:
Sesame cookies

For 2 baking sheets it took:

100 g butter (cold and firm)
160 g flour
70 g sugar (brown sugar)
1 small egg yolk
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons sesame paste
3 tablespoon black and white sesame seeds (toasted)

Mix salt, sugar and flour, cut butter into small cubes and rub the cold butter into the flour. Add seeds, egg yolk and sesame paste and quickly knead into a dough. Form a ball, wrap in clingfilm and let rest in the fridge for 1 hour. Roll half of the dough into a thin layer ( between clingfilm) and cut out the cookies. The dough has to be cold or it is too soft to deal with, store in fridge again whenever it feels to soft. Prepare the next batch.
Bake at 180 degree C about 12 minutes.

Sonntag, 17. November 2013

Day #13 in Tokyo

This is my last day in Tokyo. Today I went to Akihabara and Kanda.
At Akihabara I did what all did, looked at the new electronic devices as tablet PC and smartphones and bought me new headphones for my I - Phone. I strolled some streets, found some of these famous maidens catching some young  or not so young and stupid guys, did not find an intersting Manga store and went to see a shrine or two. On my way into the Kanda area / book quarter I found a very beautiful calendar for my office. Went back to Akihabara main station and visited a flea market near the JR tracks. Sadly they did not sell figurines of my favorite mangas. Lots of Otaku stuff but right now I don't have any space in my luggage left.
Jumped in the JR line to Ueno, searched for an opportunity for a snack at the mall but it was crowded, went back to Asakusa via Ginza line. And that is all. I will have a little walk in Asakusa and buy me some food around here. The train is running in the late afternoon.

Maiden in the waiting:
Yushima Seido - shrine under construction:
Kanda Myojin Shrine:

Samstag, 16. November 2013

Day #12 not in Tokyo

Where is it

It is at the sea.. splendid weather..
I have seen the weather report on my hometown: actually fog and 2 degrees Celsius. Today at the sea it was warm and pleasant about 19 degree Celsius. Hard to believe I will soon be home again. Must remeber to to wear a warm sweater on the flight back.

Today I jumped into the train and left Tokyo. Last chance to see old houses and shrines and temples to my heart's content.

Some 'mums

Cute little fellows

Old houses
And the sea 

Kamakura was very lovely, sadly I did not have time enough to take the hiking route from shrine to shrine. But I had a wonderful hot bun at one temple, filled with eggplant, mushrooms and I walked all of that beach and town.

Freitag, 15. November 2013

Day #11 in Tokyo

The weather is bad, lots of rain, so I decided to go into an area where I can spend most of my time inside. First I crossed the Nihonbashi and went into the Mitsui Memorial museum. There was an exibition on pottery: national treasured tea bowls and plates, incense burners. Very interesting, the most famous looked rather raw, simple and out of shape ( Oribe) but that is the art behind it. At the entry all visitors got a list with the names and numbers of the objects and with marks about their importance. So I was able to see the most expensive tea bowls of Japan. Needless to say I was the only foreign tourist.

After this I wanted to visit an antique market mall in Ginza. I searched the location by google maps but that lead me wrong. As much as I strolled around, I did not find it. It is in a street without name, just numbers. I tried the I-phone map but the map said there is no such adress. After 1 hour I gave up. I walked down the Ginza shopping streets and did some window shopping at Tiffany and such. I walked some underground malls because of the rain, the eateries where crowded and I was not inneed to buy some lingerie. At the end I found the Ginza line station and went back.

In Asakusa I went into a Pasta restaurant and had some spaghetti with a touch of autumn, means different kinds of japanese mushrooms in cream sauce with tomatoes and cheese. Very good. Tasted not really italian. At an small artisan bakery I bought a peace of soft white yeast cake with a green tea swirl and red pean paste swirl for my afternoon cup of tea. Very yummy too, not that sweet at all.

Donnerstag, 14. November 2013

Day #10 in Tokyo

This time I left the cosy quarters and went downtown. First I visited Tokyo main station and then went to the imperial palace.
Shiploads of chinese tourists... nothing much to see, the palace area and gardens are not open to the public. Yes I stood on the bridge..

Missed some modern buildings?

Somewhere there is an emperor hidden..

I walked along the water way around the palace area and walked, and walked on one side is the palace area on the other side is an express way. Not the nicest place to be, had a look at the national theatre. OK.  Finely I reached the war memorial shrine. Did not enter because there were huge crowds of japanese elder people and no tourists at all, just had a glimpse.
Behind I crossed a waterway and train tracks to the backside of Shinjuku, at least I think it is part of Shinjuku. I headed to Kagurazaka. Walking up the Kagurazaka there are many shops and eateries with reasonable prices. Went into a Kimono- Store to watch their goods and bought an hairpin. Bought iced double dripped coffee at a coffee house founded 1933 in Kobe ( whatever) the coffee was not to my liking but the place terrible crowded.
There was a reason why I wanted to visit Kagurazaka: in the small backstreets there are some old Geisha houses which survived the war and modern times, fantastic. I strolled around and decided next time I have to visit Kyoto.

Main street
The areas behind

I went down again and walked through the Kanda area until I found a metro station. Early supper: Japanese beef hamburga with demiglace, mixed autumn salad. They put slices of steamed potato, sweet potato, pumpkin and crumbled marrons, walnuts to the mixed leaves-carrot-radish, very good.