Sunday, October 31, 2010

Carrot or stick?

Taking down the trash. Going to the dentist. Getting your annual tax declaration ready. Tidying up your room. Everyday life is full of things that we don't really feel like doing, but we have to do. Right now, for instance, instead of writing this bloggpost I actually should be winterizing my balcony. I should also do the dishes. And while we are at it, there is also this large pile of laundry waiting for a ride in the washing machine carousel. So, what to do about all the "shoulds" in our lives? 
How about the good old carrot-trick? A reward that you can look forward to while being busy with the "shoulds"?
Today's recipe takes the carrot literally, and for me, the trick really works! Luxurious buttered vanilla carrots make me look for an unpopular chore so that I have an excuse for a reward! 

What's your culinary reward that serves as your carrot (or do you prefer the stick)?

copyright of all photos j.

Buttered vanilla carrots

one medium size carrot per person
1/2 of a vanilla bean
1 tbsp of butter
1 tsp of brown sugar

Peel the carrots and cut them into thin slices. Boil the slices in salt water for 5 minutes then drain them. In a pan, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and the vanilla which you scratched out of the bean. Then, add the carrot slices. Let caramelize for 1-2 minutes.
Buttered vanilla carrots are an excellent side dish during fall. They go very well together with fish, but I also like them along with heartier meals, such as duck.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Mom's Plum cake

I wish I was the one who had made today's treat, but, to tell you the truth, I opted for the easy way and had my Mom bake it for me. It's our family's traditional plum cake which we savoured every late summer/fall when the plum trees in our garden where full of ripe plums. My Dad always had to shake the tree stem just a little, and a million violet plums were giving in to gravity. He picked them up, brought them into the kitchen and my Mom cut them open, took the stone out, and placed them neatly on top of the crust which she had prepared while my Dad picked up the plums. The funniest were always the piercing shrieks from the kitchen when once again, a worm stuck out its head (or its tail, who can tell?) from one of the plums...
As a child, I didn't like the crust at the edge of my piece of plum cake, nowadays however, I really don't know what could have possibly been so gross about it!

copyright of all photos j.

Plum cake

For the crust:

250 gr of flour
125 gr of butter
1 egg
100 gr of sugar
a pinch of salt

Mix the sugar with the flour in a big bowl, add the butter cut into small dices, mix until crumbly, then add the egg and the salt. You should get one solid big ball of dough. Roll out the dough and place it into a cake pan (diameter 28 cm or similar).

For the topping:

enough plums (Seriously, this is what my Mom wrote. Only a baker who doesn't need recipes anymore but bakes by heart would write something like that)
300 gr of crème fraiche
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
Some cinnamon

Cut the plums open, take out the stone, and line them up on the cake so that you get a spiral-pattern. Mix the crème fraiche, the eggs, the vanilla sugar and the cinnamon lightly and pour the mixture over the plums.
Bake at 160° C for about 45-55 minutes.
The best  thing is how the sugar in the plums will caramelize and coat the dough around the edge! 75% of our family prefers this cake with whipped cream, but I like it best without whipped cream! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The drowning apples' cake

Finally, I am posting about what I made with the apples which I brought home with me from my excursion to Lake of Constance! I sure hope you will feel like it has been worth the wait, but I promise you, this recipe is so easy-peasy (I spare you the word pun: making this cake is a piece of cake!), you'll end up with a great cake before you know it!
The recipe for this apple cake is from my magic book which is a handwritten cookbook with my favorite recipes from back home. Sort of the thing that you would make sure to take along when running out of your burning home. Apple cakes have a special place in my culinary heart. The problem is: I love them all! There is apple cakes with crumbles, tarte tatin, italian apple cake, tarte aux pommes etc. etc. I consider myself somewhat indicisive, so you might understand the dilemma I am in when I want to make an apple cake: which one should it be? This time, though, another important factor had to be considered: the cake had to be easy to eat without plates and forks! Thus, I was already able to eliminate some of my favorite apple cakes and I finally came to the conclusion that the drowning apples' cake would be my pick of the day. Why drowning apples? Because the apples which you lightly place on top of the dough will, in the end be almost entirely covered in the dough just as if they were drowning in the dough!

The drowning apples' cake

With this recipe, you have to do the math yourself. Don't hyperventilate, it's easy!

You need:

2 or 3 eggs
flour weighing as much as the eggs
sugar weighing as much as the eggs
butter weighing as much as the eggs
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp. of baking powder
a pinch of cinnamon (optional)
2-3 apples

Weigh the eggs. Now, take that number and use an accoding amount of all the other ingredients. If you use 2 eggs, and they weigh 120 gr together, take 120 gr of flour, if you take three eggs weighing 180 gr, take 180 gr of flour. See, it's easy, I told you!

Preheat the oven at 150-160 °C. Mix the butter with the sugar and beat until they are creamy and light. Add the eggs and the salt. Add the flour and the baking powder (and the optional cinnamon). Spread the dough into a baking pan, it should cover the entire pan and be about 2-3 cm high. Now peel the apples. I know, I know, how dare I cut away the peel, the place where all the apple's vitamines live. Listen, folks. We are talking cake here. If you want healthy food, go eat a salad! So, again, peel the apples. Quarter each apple and cut out the core. Then, take a quarter into your hand, with the outer side of the apple facing toward you. Take a sharp knife and quickly cut into the apple, so that it looks like fine slices, but do not cut all the way through! Take the quarter and place it on top of the cake. Coninue accordingly until the entire cake is covered with apples. There should be a 1 cm space between the apple-pieces, so that the dough can rise around them. Put the cake in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.
If you feel funky, you can also sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar and/or cinnamon once it has cooled off.

Update: I have entered this recipe in Damaris' November cook off over at her fabulous blog kitchen corners! Quick, go check it out and all the other tasty apple-recipes! Note: this recipe was not typed in using an apple-mac.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Culinary hide-and-seek: fisk&gröönsaken

It all started with an article in a magazine about supper clubs. For those of you who have never heard the term before: supper clubs are dinners prepared by skilled foodies in private homes. The menu is published in blogs, the location is secret and seats are limited. Ever since I read about them, I wanted to visit a supper club. The first one I learned about was Palisaden Supper Club and for about 6 months, I tried to make it to one of their evenings. Bad luck was on my side though, since it just so happened that every time they had one of their monthly dinners, I couldn't make it. Sometimes, I was out of town, sometimes I was busy, well you get the point. Before I had the chance to make it, Palisaden Supper Club went public and opened a restaurant, taking away all the hide-and-seek fun! So I started to look around some more and that's when I found Fisk&Gröönsaken! This time, luck was on my side, since I was able to snatch their last available place for their "Asian Delight" dinner on 2nd October. I was getting excited when two days before the actual dinner, I learned where the dinner would be.
On Saturday, I headed for the location, full of anticipation, but also a little bit worried: what if there was nothing to talk about? An evening of stony silence? What if I didn't like the food? What...if? 
When I got to the front door, I was warmly welcomed by Mrs. Fisk&Gröönsaken and immediately got the feeling, that this would become an evening to remember, so I left my worries at the door. 
All the other guests (there were a total of six, two more just didn't show up, quite rude, I think considering all the care put into the evening by our hosts) had already arrived and we were all seated at one long table, which had been nicely decorated with flowers. While sipping at our aperitif, a nice Prosecco from Venetia, we all got to know each other. The average guest had southern German roots, had travlled the world considerably before finally settling in Berlin. 
The menu had alreday been published on Fisk&Gröönsaken's blog, so we knew what to expect, but to begin with we were surprised with a very refreshing and light Green Papaya Salad. It was the perfect start, and I especially liked the fact that for those who like it spicy, extra strong chilly vinaigrette was served on the side. That way, sissies like me didn't have to suffer from severe chilly-burning. 

courtesy and copyright of Fisk&Gröönsaken

Next we had a really tasty bouillon, served with prawns. Equally delicious and let me already say at this point that the portions served were perfect! They were neither to small, nor too big, they simply fitted perfectly into a several-course menu, very professional I must say!

Mrs. Fisk&Gröönsaken made sure that all the guests felt happy and also made sure that all our glasses -water and wine- were always filled, if we so wished. The service was impecable, and if Mr. and Mrs. Fisk&Gröönsaken might have had some busy and stressful moments in the kitchen - the guest did not notice anything!

Next on the menu was the main course: Stuffed Calamari with Thai-style Vegetables. The Calamari was stuffed with wolffish, and again, what can I say, it just simply tasted great. I had eaten Calamari before, but that was a very long time ago, and it certainly ain't a dish which you prepare only for yourself, so I was especially glad to have someone else prepare it for me!

courtesy and copyright of Fisk&Gröönsaken

Last but not least: the dessert! One word: sticky rice! Ever since I had sticky rice the first time in China town in New York I fell in love with it. This time, however, it was the sweet version, prepared with coconut milk and served with mango and home-made coconut icecream. The idea to visually spice up the dish by using both brown rice and white rice was brilliant, it also added some crunchyness to the rice.

 courtesy and copyright of Fisk&Gröönsaken

During the dessert Mrs. and Mr. Fisk&Gröönsaken  joined us at the table, and while we enjoyed tea, espresso and some more of the delicious choices of wine we chatted away several hours, all feeling as happy as well-fed little pigglets! Thanks again, Mrs. and Mr. Fisk&Gröönsaken for a warm welcome, a delicious meal and and evening full of laughter and joy! Supper Clubs are sometimes also called secret restaurants, although I clearly prefer the first term: The atmosphere is so much homier at supper clubs than at restaurants!
So, my dear readers, make sure to book your seat now! I promise, you will not be disappointed!

Two of the dear guests, Mrs. and Mr. Thyme are also hosts of their very own supper club and I can't wait to have dinner at their place! So stay tuned for some more covering on Berlin's undercover foodie-community! And also for the apple pie recipe which I promised in last week's post...

And just in case you think that I am gushing too much about Fisk&Gröönsaken, you can also check this and this review, but I warn you, they are equally euphoric!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Meals on wheels - Part IV

I have been on the road again! This time, however, instead of going all the way to California, I went to southern Germany, where I spend a few relaxing days. We made many excursions, one of them to the Lake of Constance, which in this time of the year is on its best behaviour! Autum's long sunbeams send glitter  and sparkles all over the lake, temperatures are moderate, the sky is bluer than blue and everywhere, farmers try to sell this harvest's products. We learned that electrocuted dogs  (see sign below) are not welcome at the local farmers' market, had oldstyle-buttercream cakes, cut dahlias at local self-service plots (remember: only flowers which you paid for will make you happy! So always make use of the little cash box provided!), learned that Lake of Constance fashion must mean parasols, stripes and pelargonium-pots, and meandered through beautiful apple orchards! There were so many apples on each tree, you could almost hear the trees moaning and groaning!
Of course I couldn't resist and bougth some red cheeked apples! If you want to know what I made with them, you will have to be patient though and wait until next Sunday! Ain't this the cliffhanger of the year??

copyright of all photos j.