Dienstag, 30. April 2013

Asparagus cream stew

Nearby the farmers sell each day "this mornings harvest of asparagus" - super fresh, because I live in an asparagus area. It is called "Deutsche Spargelstraße", the german asparagus street which is leading to all the villages with asparagus farmers (some sort of a tourist attraction). So what we do around here is to eat asparagus - as much as possible - until the short season ends. Asparagus is still a little expensive, this years season started later due to the very long winter, but prices are dropping daily.
Today I bought 750 g 3rd grade Asparagus: the stems are a little too slender, shorter and not as straight as the 1# grade ones. Best thing to do is to make a stew, because therefore stems are cut into pieces. The asparagus will taste as good as the 1rst grade, anyhow it is the look which makes the grade. This is some kind of stew my grandmother and mother used to made (the family of my grandmother owned an asparagus farm in Schwetzingen/Southern Germany) so I think it is a southern german recipe:

Asparagus cream stew with meat balls

First I peeled the stems and cut off the ends and the heads and set them aside separately.  I cut the stems into 3-4 pieces and washed the peels and asparagus ends in running water .

I cooked the peels and ends in 600 ml water just for 2 minutes and strained the water into a bowl (don't boil longer or it will taste bad). Then I boiled the cooking water up again with a good pinch salt and a good pinch sugar  and the asparagus stems added. This has to simmer just for a few minutes. The pieces should stay firm. I added the heads and simmered for 2 more minutes. Afterwards I scooped out the vegetable and set it aside.
I made the meat balls mixing:
  • 1 small shallot cut into very tiny dices and steamed with a teaspoon butter in the microwave until translucent (45 sec.)
  •  250 g ground pork/veal
  • 1 slice baguette soaked in water, squeezed and finely crumbled
  • 1 small egg
  • 1 good pinch salt
  • pinch freshly ground pepper and nutmeg
  • pinch sweet chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
 and formed small balls (walnut size).
I dropped the balls into the hot asparagus cooking water with a little bit more salt and simmered for 10 more minutes (lower temperature). Afterwards I scooped out the meat balls, set them aside covered with a plate. I sieved the cooking liquid through a fine mashed metal strainer and measured the cooking liquid: 400 ml and added 400 ml milk.

Now I heated up 1 good heaped tablespoon butter in a larger pot until sizzling hot and melted. I added 1 tablespoon wheat flour and whisked it well (while still cooking) until the flour became white and foaming and a scent reminding on cookies emerged. Quickly I added the milk-liquid mix (600 ml) in a small flow  and whisked until everything was smooth and runny. This I let simmer for 15 minutes without a lid. During this time I added about 100 ml liquid again - depending on the grade of thickness of the cream sauce not too thick not too thin.

At the end I seasoned with:
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon (fresh harvest from a new plant I planted)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest  (about 1/2 lemon)
  • freshly ground pepper (some say use white pepper for white sauces but white white pepper tastes *yuk*)
  • a little bit more sugar
  • a few drops Worcester sauce
  • salt 
and added the meat balls and the Asparagus. This should be reheated a little and done with it. Goes nice with rice or young potatoes and some squeezes lemon juice.

Sonntag, 28. April 2013

Gardening - building a raised bed using gabions

I had lots to do the last weeks. There was work and a sick cat too. No time for anything, but today I decided to give it my all starting the new planting season.
It was sunny again, but not that warm anymore, mere 15 degrees Celsius - but last week we had up to 25 degrees Celsius: The best weather to do some nasty and heavy jobs.
I wanted to build a raised bed for some salad greens and vegetables which are rather hard to find and buy.
  • Asian mustard leave mix
  • beet root in a funny shape
  • chard with colourful stems
  • summer squash (green and round)
  • edible chrysanthemums, shiso (seeds not in the picture) and spring onions
  • at the sides of the bed I am going to plant some dangling ever-bearing strawberries (my own breeds) and a japanese pumpkin

First I ordered the gabions, some steal wired baskets, most of the time in use to build walls or to secure hills (you quite often see them near the Autobahn - motorways, to keep the slopes in place).
First I had to build the baskets: each basket 100 cm x50 cm x 50 cm

Then I had to prepare the ground: I digged round about 15 cm deep, removed and set aside the sods and made the ground even. Here I placed some basket bottoms for measurement:

Afterwards I placed the baskets and layered the sides of the baskets with a weed and root proof gardening fleece. I kept the fleece in place with pegs.

Now I filled in the bed layers:
1. twigs, wood from of last years pruning and stems and cut down plant material
2. halfway rotten leaves (mostly wisteria)

3. grass sods placed upside down
4. wilted grass from mowing
5. Soil from digging mixed with last years soil taken from the planting pots
6. old aged rotten compost
7. planting soil (bought some huge bags)

Raised bed 1.50 m x 1 m

The ground is a little bit steep. I had to build the bed into a small hill, so the upper side went deeper into the ground. It was a part of the lawn were the grass always was growing in a bad shape (too dry) so "Good bye meadow" and "Hello vegetables". After planting the strawberries into the sides it will look much nicer...
I took me 6 hours and now I am feeling very tired and somwhow old aged and I got a little bit sun burned too. There are several plants I was planning to plant today to as some new lilies, a few cranberry shrubs but this has to wait until first of May.

I will build another raised bed (1m x 1m) in another part of the garden.

Sonntag, 7. April 2013

Beef tenderloin and some side dishs

Here are the leftovers: 1 steak covered with an onion slice, stir-fried mustard greens, vegetable curry, rice

I prepared a few small pieces of thick cut beef tenderloin in a big cast iron pan without much fat - just a teaspon roasted sesame oil. Besides the steaks I put some onion slices and spring onion slices, a big ginger slice and a crushed garlic clove and let this run over medium high heat.
It is done in 5 minutes by just flipping the steaks once they are nicely roasted and tossing the other ingredients from time to time. When the steaks were done (medium rare), I sprinkled some pepper and deglaced the pan with a little sake, soy sauce and mirin. Just a few spoons (3:2:1 - srt of).

I made stir-fried pickled mustard greens: Washed the greens and squeezed a little, cut the greens into chunks, stir-fried the greens in sesame oil, seasoned with sesame seeds, chili pepper flakes and seasoned with some soy sauce and mirin. Did not measure anything, just the usual.

Vegetable curry:
Stir- fried carrot sticks (1 carrot), summer squash sticks (1 squash), red bellpepper sticks (1 bellpepper), 2 handful edamame (fresh peeled green soy beans) until a little tender. Added 1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste and 1 minced garlic clove and 1 spring onion (slices) and roasted this a little, sprinkled a teaspoon curry powder, and a few drops fish sauce, salt and stirred in 100 ml thick yoghurt with a little starch and simmered until the custardy thickness formed.

Samstag, 6. April 2013

Tarte au citron

It is saturday and I had to bake my cake for the coffee table.

Tarte au citron

Fortunately husband surprised me yesterday with a new plant: a Meyer Lime (lemon) tree. Guess what, harvest time, the small tree came loaded: 4 lemons were rolling around in the transportation box and 1 was still attached to the tree.
As you may know Meyers are thinner skinned and scented like tangerines, very juicy with a certain sweetness and almost no were to be found outside the USA:

The tree has to stay inside until it is getting warmer
I simply had to use the lemons for a lemony cake and what could be more lemony than a tarte au citron, here we are:

The tarte

First I baked the short cake crust / pie crust:
200 g flour
100 g butter, diced
75 g sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk

Rub ingredients together, form a ball and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes - I just stored it outside, temperatures are still low at 4+ C.

Roll dough out to a circle a little bit bigger than the tarte mould. Cover bottom of the mould with a circle of baking paper, grease the mould edges and layer the bottom with the dough circle,  build a nice rim, cut the edges clean. Pinch the cake dough with a fork, many times..
Layer another baking paper upon the dough and fill in dry beans. Bake for 12 minutes, remove paper layer with beans, bake for another 12 minutes until golden. Lose the cake edges with a knife, let cool down and unmould.

Next filling:
4 lemons, zestes and juice only
4 eggs
100 g butter, cold but cut into cubes
150 g sugar
1 pinch salt

Heat up zestes and juice in a saucepan.

heavenly scent

Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt until fluffy and creamy. Add the hot lemon juice little by little and keep up the beating. Fill egg cream in the saucepan, set on medium heat first, keep beating until somewhat warmer but not bubbly hot, lower heat to medium low and keep whisking the cream until it gets thicker. Check thickness by dipping in the back of a wooden spoon, blow on the cream skin,  it schould build a rse and stay rose shaped. The cream is done:

Beat in the butter, cube by cube. Fill cream into the cake crust and let cool for 2 hours minimum. Dust with icing sugar.

Freitag, 5. April 2013

Sardine Snack

Returned home from another journey: I was really hungry but I did not want to cook something, so some snack will do. Bread with a nice spread:
Bread topped with sardine spread and cucumbers

I used:
1 can (100 g) sardines in oil, crushed the drained sardines with a fork
1 tablespoon hot coarse mustard
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch pepper (freshly ground)
a few drops Worcester sauce
1 tablespoon creme legere (fat reduced creme fraiche)

Just stir together

1/2 red onion, diced into very small cubes
1 pinch sugar
1 teaspoon mild vinegar
1 smaller pickled cucumber (pickled in salt brine fermented with lact. bacilli), diced into small cubes

Just stir together and mix with the first mixture.

Put some of the spread on a slice of healthy whole grain bread.
Sprinkle 1 pinch sweet Paprika (mild chili powder) for garnish - nice with some more pickled cucumbers aside. 
Stored the leftover spread (2/3) in the fridge for tomorrow.  (update - there is nothing left, husband finished it)

Donnerstag, 4. April 2013

Hidden little restaurant

Today I was in a fulltrottle work mode again and as always on a little journey. This time I had to hold a lecture in Oldenburg, a very lovely city in northern Germany: not too big, not too small, nice old buildings, a good place to spent a day (or more).
For lunch I stayed in a small italian restaurant, hidden in a narrow pedestrian road. See this small house in the center, Restaurant is named Chianti classico - a very stupid name but who cares...:

It is built with wooden framework, really old, a classic. I think most of the tourists visiting Germany and looking for this kind of buildings will be delighted - a jewel.

With wooden ceiling and wooden beams, mudwalls, colourful painted glass windows.

The restaurant offers Pizzas, pasta and such. We had a Lasagna al forno - not excellent but ok and not expensive at all. It was the flair and interior which made my day.
First flour is kitchen area and second guest rooms, stairway to the guestrooms:

Dienstag, 2. April 2013

Pizza quattro stagioni

Looks like a mess but it is a big pizza with four different types of topping. Each part (1/4) has a layer of its own = quattro stagioni.


Baked for 15 min

1 part: Tomato spread, red bellpepper, onions and salami, mozarella and gruyere, pepper, chiliflakes, oregano
2 part: Tomato spread, mozarella, after baking 1 slice air dried bacon, rocket, pepper
3 part: Tomato spread, blanched spinach leaves spiced with onion, salt garlic, herbs and pepper, sliced hard boiled egg, mozarella
4 part: Tomato spread, onions, anchovis, olives, goat cheese, oregano, thyme, pepper.

For the tomato spread I reduced 1 small can chopped tomatoes, spiced with garlic, oregano, pepper,salt, a little sugar and 2 tablespoons tomato paste to the half.
Each part was spread with 2 tablespoons tomato sauce.
It is fun to create different toppings and it is a nice way to use up whatever has to be used up as the leftver easter egg.
I fried the onion slices and bellpepper rounds (1 onion, 1 pointed bellpepper) in a little olive oil beforehand just to get them a little softer and blanched 2 handful spinach leaves and squeezed them dry before adjusting the seasoning and placing them.
I used 1/2 knob Mozarella, 2 small slices Gruyere and 1 small round medium fresh goat cheese.
2 slices Salami
1 slice bacon
1 handful rocket
1 egg
10 Anchovis
6 olives
olive oil for sprinkling

Pizza dough was made out of a cup wheat sourdough and 150 g wheat flour, olive oil and salt. Mixed in the morning and stored in the fridge, adjusted to room temperature for 1 hour. The dough layer was very thin and crisp, not an american style Pizza. Therefore the oven has to be heated up to the maximum.

Montag, 1. April 2013

Little apple-celery salad with leftover easter egg

As usual I cooked some hard boiled eggs for easter and decorated them - or not. The eggs for easter breakfast I simply put into felt-egg-warmers which my cats adored a little bit too much.

Doesn't it look ridiculous - I love it.

I put the hard boiled eggs into easter baskests together with the chocolate eggs and hares for the traditional easter decoration. The hare stands for fertility and virgin mary and eggs are a symbl of rebirth and the empty tomb of jesus but this is just a nice season tradition to me.

one of the baskets

 So what to do with the hard boiled eggs afterwards?

One I dumped into a small salad we had together with some leftover roast beef.
1 sour aromatic apple, sliced (wedges cut into slices)
1 heart of celery (5 young and slim stalks and leaves) cut into slices
1 hard boiled egg, peeled and diced
1 teaspon lemon juice
3 tablespoons yoghurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
some salad herbs (chives, parsley) chopped
Just mix, Very refreshing.

Easter walk

From the ice they are freed, the stream and brook,
By the Spring's enlivening, lovely look;
The valley's green with joys of hope;
The Winter old and weak ascends.
Back to the rugged mountain slope...
 (easter walk; J. W. Goethe)
Not really freed from ice, in shadowy patches there is still some left and tonight the temperature may drop to -8 C, but we did have our easter walk. Walking in the sun, wearing a warm coat, was really nice - wish it were a little bit warmer. Found one lonely heron standing near a round temporary pond in a meadow. This pond is sometimes filled with water and sometimes not, depends on the rain during summer. But it always hosts lots of frogs each and every year. Sadly the smartphone camera is not good enough to catch a better glimps on the bird.
Afterwards we watched some deers too. They strolled out of the wilderness behind.
This is a look at the black moor, which surrounds our rural village. Good to watch the nature - at least there are always lots of birds of prey to be seen but the brown wintery colours are still depressing.