Archive for the 'All recipes' Category

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German Christmas Cookies No. 1 – Linzer Stars

I know this must come as a bit of a surprise, but I have decided that it is time for a new post after a nearly 4-month absence from the blogging world. Your encouragement has been much appreciated, and ideas kept popping up in my head, unfortunately without the time to either realize them or document them on foodvergnuegen. Most of my energy was spent getting ready for our upcoming move to Beijing, which as most of your know is far from our first move, but it is definitely the hardest yet. We have left Perth a couple of weeks ago, the house is empty, the cars and white goods sold, the container fully loaded and our good-byes said. It’s been really busy and exhausting and my cooking was reduced to the bare minimum. So now that we are in our hide-away spot in the Berkshires to decompress until the end of January, I hope all this will change and I am looking forward to re-acquainting myself with the stove and the oven just in time for the holidays.

As to our future in Beijing, I am looking forward to exploring a whole new world of food, markets and recipes. I have sourced a few organic farms around Beijing which I’ll be sure to tell you all about. I am grateful they exist in a land were mass-food production is a top priority to feed the large Chinese population. For the rest, it is either imported for a large premium or I will have to bring it in my suitcase. I am sure we will be fine and well-fed as usual.

But for now, I’ll stick with what I know, which today is German Christmas cookies.  I use a trusted and much-loved collection of recipes that I have made for years now. These cookies make great gifts and brighten up our days waiting for snow and Santa to finally arrive. A scale is needed as I haven’t even tried to measure everything out in cups, tablespoons and ounces. This is a good reason to buy one; you can get them quiet cheap and even IKEA sells them. Make sure it has a lbs./oz. function as well as grams. You also need a round cookie cutter, about 2″ in diameter, a small star shaped one and the best raspberry jam you can find.

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Yellow Split Pea Dal

My favorite meal this winter here in Australia has been dal. Every time we go out for Indian food, I order one of their dals and lately I have started to cook my own. So far I have made a Chana Dal and this Split Pea Dal. Both turned out wonderfully flavorful and deliciously satisfying. They are quick to make, very economical and left-overs are easily frozen and re-heated in a pinch. I have ordered an Indian vegetarian cookbook online, so expect more fantastic Indian food soon.

The main ingredients here are yellow split peas, which are loaded with fiber and protein, and a range of aromatic spices and vegetables which add a depth of flavor. All are easy to get and make excellent pantry/fridge staples. If you haven’t cooked with ghee before, try it out. It is clarified butter, a staple of Indian cooking and highly regarded for it’s healing properties in Ayurvedic medicine. Ghee keeps well in the fridge. Use olive oil instead, if you are cooking dairy free.

This recipe makes a large pot of food and fed the 5 of us on two nights. You can easily use only half of the ingredients or save the rest for another night.

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Markets worth a visit

Wherever I live or travel, one of my favorite things to do is visiting farmer’s markets. Before I leave to go on a trip, I usually have my visit(s) to the local markets all planned out. After a long distance flight, I once arrived with the kids at the San Francisco airport at 10 am on a Saturday, knowing that the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market would close at 2 pm. We took a taxi to our hotel, quickly unloaded our belongings, and rushed to the market in time for a scrumptious lunch and several punnets of berries (in December!). Yes, the kids were tired, but they know there’s no stopping me when there is a new market to be explored. Never mind if I am in a place for only a day or two, staying in a tiny hotel room with no fridge, I will always buy at least 2 bags full of produce.

French markets have got to be my favorite. I love how all the vendors offer generous tastes of salami, cheese, olives and other mouthwatering delicacies. Their salamis/saucison are the best, my favorite being made from wild boar (sanglier) meat or stuffed with hazelnuts. We always buy trays of delicious peaches, fragrant apricots, to-die-for melons and berries of all colors. And don’t get me started about the cheeses. At our usual market in Lamastre, Ardeche, the local speciality is Picondon, a small round cheese made from goat’s milk and available in all stages of ripeness. I got totally carried away on our last visit, thinking it would be safe to bring it back into Australia. The rule is that you can bring in cheeses from ‘foot-and mouth disease’-free countries. I didn’t think however about the lack of labels on my cheeses, which wasn’t appreciated by the quarantine lady, who threw them in the bin. Arrrgh!

 

 

Another great one I keep going back to, is the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC. It offers a wonderful selection of local produce, mushrooms, breads, pastries, cheeses and even duck meats. Of course the surroundings add to the attraction and there is a price to match.

 

 

On my last visit I ventured to Smorgasburg in Williamsburg/Brooklyn to sample some of the adventurous treats I had read about in the New York Times. This market is set right on the waterfront of the East River with a great view of the Manhattan skyline. It is a foodie’s paradise and I was truly overwhelmed by the choice. The food is artisanal, local, seasonal, comforting with a twist, multi-cultural, wholesome, frequently organic and more. I had a very tart hibiscus and honey lemonade, Mexican creamed corn, kale and cranberry salad, pulled pork on a roll, a mini carrot and maple cupcake and an ice cream sandwich that almost finished me off. Yes, I was very full, even so I saved some of it for the plane ride later that day. The selection of fresh produce is still quite small and for now it’s more of a ‘go let’s have lunch and enjoy the scenery’ kind of market.

 

 

The market that truly impressed me most this summer, was the “Porta Palazzo Market” in Turin, in the Piedmont reagion of northern Italy. It is the biggest market in Europe and I have never seen so much produce. And it was cheap, really cheap. I bought one kilo (2.2lbs) of blueberries for 5 Euros and 4 bunches of ruccola for 1 Euro. The selection was fantastic with some stalls specializing in snails or tomatoes in all shapes and sizes. I wish I had more time there.

 

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it to those markets I have taken pictures of while traveling this summer. No doubt I’ll add other markets as I go. As I mentioned in previous posts, the farmer’s markets here in Perth are well worth a visit and I buy almost all our produce there. The Subiaco Farmer’s market on Bagot Street is continuing to get better. I recently discovered wonderful granola bars at “Food Well Thought” and another organic veggie grower next to the apple lady. Something new seems to show up almost every week. The Mt. Claremont farmer’s market is quite established now and I love the biodynamic produce, the small growers who come with their plums, asparagus, blueberries or avocados and of course the fresh goat’s cheeses from Ringwould.

I hope I inspired some of you to venture out to the nearest farmer’s market when you get a chance. There’s always some new food to discover. I bought live marons yesterday, but you can read about those in the days to come… Stay tuned and eat well!

 

Mysterious Brownies

Looking at the title, you might wonder if you should even consider reading this post. How can brownies be mysterious, if all it takes is flour, butter, sugar, eggs and chocolate to make them. It really doesn’t get much more straight forward.  To my excuse, I am in a state of frantic pre-holiday chaos and with my brain crammed with to-do-lists, I had to come up with something quick, and this was it. The title actually does fit the brownies quite well, since they got a few untypical ingredients that are best not mentioned when it comes to picky eaters. I assure you however, that no one will ever be able to tell what exactly they are and these brownies will be devoured in no time. There’s no way you can detect the pumpkin (even if you want to) and my family thinks they are just delicious. Guilt free snacking at it’s best!

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Kicking Carrot Soup

I am back, albeit only for 2 posts, before I am heading on a 4 week holiday to 4 countries. Crazy I know, but hopefully this way we’ll be able to catch up with as many relatives and friends as possible plus see some beautiful sites and eat delicious food all at once.

Since I am still in my pyjamas in the midst of the pre-holiday packing chaos,  I’ll make this short and just share a couple of recipes from my recent cooking classes. The carrot soup is simple and tasty. It gets it’s kick from the ginger and a hint of citrus from freshly squeezed orange juice. The color is magnificent and makes this soup quite appealing to small children.  

I’ll take lots of pictures on our vacation and will share some of our adventures when we get back in a month. Be well and enjoy the summer or winter, depending which side of the planet you’re on.

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Watercress with Orange, Grapefruit, Persimmon, Pomegranate, Hazelnuts and fresh Goats Cheese

Last December, the day after a gigantic blizzard blanketed most of the north eastern United States with tons of snow and caused major traffic and air travel delays, I was scheduled to attend a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. With a maximum speed of 30 mph, I drove myself into the city, braving slippery roads, gusty winds and minimal visibility. The drive that normally takes two and a half hours took almost twice as long. My family thought I was crazy, but I had my mind set to it and the thought of a few days in the city all by myself was just too tempting. I had bought myself a last minute Broadway ticket to make the most of my evening, parked the car right outside the theater, knowing policemen had other things on their mind, and enjoyed the show. Arriving at my hotel, with a lobby full of tourists desperate for a place to stay, I soon found out that the cooking class for the next morning was canceled.

What is a girl to do in New York City with all this free time? Well the holiday sales were in full swing and I dove right in. I needed a new pair of skinny jeans, not an easy feat right after a week of gluttony. I must have tried on every single pair and finally out of shear desperation, bought one that was promptly returned when upon inspection a few days later, both my husband and oldest son made comments that included hips and shapely behind.

Like every year, the highlight was the Crate & Barel post holiday sale, were I filled my bags with all things Christmas. For the rest of the day, I wandered around, marveling at my favorite city completely covered in snow and looking forward to my dinner at COOKSHOP

I had the most lovely evening at this beautiful “farm-to table” restaurant in Chelsea. Not surprisingly it wasn’t busy and I had a quiet table with just enough candle light to decipher the articles in my magazine. I ordered a salad of watercress, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, persimmon, pomegranate and buffalo ricotta for starters and duck crepes for mains. Both were delicious, but the salad was truly spectacular and I have dreamed of making it ever since. A few days ago, with all the right ingredients finally in season here in Australia, I recreated it to the best of my memory and it was just like I remembered it. Beautiful, unusual and delicious!

I hope you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did.

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Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

This is a really lovely dessert I have made several times during the past few weeks. It is a breeze to make and tastes delicious. The hint of spices, beautiful creamy texture and mild pumpkin flavor make it the perfect dessert for a holiday meal or a dinner party. My favorite part is that I can make this a day or two ahead and not worry about it again until everyone has finished their main course. I just take it out of the fridge, fire up my blow torch and within minutes it’s ready.

I like to serve it in 1/2 cup ramekins, which is just the right amount of dessert after a big meal. The first recipe I followed used larger cups and less eggs, therefore increasing the cooking time in the water bath to more than an hour. Although I only had my 1/2 cup ramekins, I didn’t expect there would be a great difference in cooking time. Oh, how wrong I was. I thought I had plenty of time to pick my kids up from school before returning to a perfect dessert. So upon opening the oven door about an hour later, my beautiful crème brûlées had turned into a wrinkly and solid and completely uneatable version of what they should have been. Lesson learned –  check the size of your ramekins and adjust accordingly. And after about 30 minutes of cooking time, check your custards and give them a little shake. They are ready when they still have a slight wiggle in the center.

Another near mishap occurred when we made this crème brûlée in one of my “cooking get-togethers”. We accidentally used 2 instead of 1 cups of pumpkin puree, with the same amount of sugar, eggs and cream. It still turned out wonderful, just a bit more pumpkiny and took a few minutes longer to set. The recipe below asks for only one cup of pumpkin puree for 2 cups of cream, but if you like a stronger pumpkin flavor, go ahead and use more. Continue reading ‘Pumpkin Crème Brûlée’

Savory Pumpkin Crumble

It feels like a small eternity since my last post, and the person who threw away this recipe is partly to blame. I was so upset for having lost it and close to giving up my search, when I found it in the trash can of the bathroom. Who knows how it got there and what exactly made me look in there, but I am so relieved for having found it.

I made this crumble last week and while eating it, I said to my family that this is the recipe I want to be famous for. I had searched google forever to find a good savory pumpkin crumble recipe, but found mostly desserts and a few savory recipes that I didn’t really fancy. So I came up with this and I was so surprised and excited at the result that I made the above-mentioned, self-glorifying remark. You see, it doesn’t always work this way. I spend many hours in the kitchen experimenting, with frequent mediocre results. I usually keep trying until I am satisfied, but it takes a lot of time, patience, good will from the family and money. So when I get something right straight away (actually it was the second try in this case) I am thrilled.

Crumble until recently has meant dessert for me, usually with apples, rhubarb, berries or a combination of all. My mother-in-law taught me the basics years ago, which is flour, oats, brown sugar and butter. Simple, yet delicious. Since I am a nut-lover, I have alwyas added chopped almonds to this and experimented with walnuts, pine nuts, dairy- and sugar free versions, but the traditional version is still the best.

Last year, I have learned something invaluable from 101 Cookbooks. If you melt the butter before adding it to the dry ingredients, mix it all up and then put the mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes, you get the crunchiest crumble topping. This method also allows for less butter with the same fabulous effect. So now instead of using one stick butter (113g) I use only 2/3 of it. I am so happy with this new technique, I might never go back to the dairy-free option.

So go ahead and try this. I would love to hear what you thought of the crumble. Don’t be shy…

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Pumpkin, Maple and Walnut Bread

Pumpkin has entered center stage in my kitchen over the past few weeks. I love it in in all shapes and forms, in soups, salads, sides, mains and especially deserts. I have been trying out lots of recipes recently and this pumpkin bread is one of my newest inventions. I had some roasted pumpkin left over from a major Sunday dinner experiment – a whole stuffed and roasted pumpkin. I filled a rather big white (also called “Ghost” or “Casper”) pumpkin with rice, Moroccan spices, chickpeas and apricots and roasted it for 2 hours. As this was an experiment, I had no clue how much time everything would take to cook, which led to an overcooked pumpkin and undercooked stuffing. Aside from that, the pumpkin also ruptured and all the lovely juices escaped. Not good! I salvaged the whole thing by cooking the stuffing with some of the pumpkin and more chicken stock and turned it into a Moroccan pumpkin risotto. Unusual, not overly attractive, but delicious nonetheless. My kids warned me however to not post this one on my blog, which I reckon was good advice.

The left-over pumpkin was delicious, beautiful dark orange in color and very sweet. Perfect for pumpkin bread. I added some lovely spices to it and sweetened it with maple syrup. It turned out delicious and I can’t wait to make it again. It’s great for breakfast with maple sweetened yogurt or afternoon tea with a dollop of whipped cream.

Note: I made this recipe again with roasted butternut squash. The squash was much moister than the pumpkin I used initially and the bread turned out very “soggy”. My advice would be to either drain the roasted pumpkin/squash over a towel-lined colander for an hour or to use less of it. Another option is to use raw grated pumpkin (a food processor does the trick) the same way you use carrots in a carrot cake. I used this method successfully with 3 cups of raw grated pumpkin. Good luck!

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Chicken and Pumpkin Curry

This is a version of my favorite go to curry recipe. The base is so versatile and can be used with fish. shrimp, tofu, beans and yes, chicken. It comes together easily and if you are a quick chopper, will be ready in no time. What makes this taste so good are a few essential ingredients – fresh garlic, ginger, lemongrass, Indian curry powder, coconut milk and coriander (cilantro). For the rest you can add what is already in your fridge or freezer. I try to use many different colored vegetables and herbs, which make this meal just as appealing to the eye as to your stomach.

Bear in mind the different cooking times for the vegetables, particularly if using pumpkin. I added it to the pan roughly 10 minutes before the remaining vegetables. Zucchini usually goes in at the end, as it quickly looses its texture and color. 

As to the chicken, here’s a tip that you might or might not know yet. If you cut the chicken breasts into bite size pieces and marinate them in buttermilk for a couple of hours in the fridge, the meat won’t turn tough and dry during the cooking process. It makes such a difference in texture. I can’t stand dry chicken breast and this is what I do to avoid it. Another option is to use a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, especially if you want to cook a whole breast in one piece. If you want to keep this recipe dairy-free, omit the buttermilk, or make your own using 1 cup soy milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or try the lemon juice and olive oil marinade.

You can make this as spicy as you like. I add a chili if I have one, otherwise  a bit more curry powder or cayenne pepper can spice things up. Here’s one last tip for cooking lemongrass. Only the lower 5-6″ (12-15cm) are soft enough to be eaten once you have removed the tough, outer husks. Slice the light green sticks into very thin rounds and then mince. You want them to be as fine as possible, otherwise they might not soften in the pan and you’ll end up with some chewy lemongrass bits in your curry. Use the left-over husks to make delicious lemon grass tea. Add the ginger peel as well, if you like.   Continue reading ‘Chicken and Pumpkin Curry’