Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas dinner

Merry Christmas to everyone! I was responsible for the Christmas eve menue this year and here is what we had:

Mache salad with foie gras, quince gelée and salted hazelnuts

Steamed wolffish with browned butter, pumpkin and sweet potato gratin, quince purée and salted hazelnuts

Homemade chocolat pudding with a praliné bottom, caramel and salted hazelnuts

Recipes on demand!

copyright of all photos j.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It's that time of the year again...

It's that time of the year again. Those lovely cold december days when you will find millions of photos taken of food in some Eastern European market hall on this blog!

This year, Riga was the destination. Tallinn and especially the food there swept me away a couple of years ago and now that I've been to Riga as well, I feel like I have this thing for the Baltics?!?

Can you imagine the smell of all these fermeted goodies? It was like "give me a bucket of each, oh the heck, make that two buckets!"

Cukura dekori? Seriously? So even the language is cute? I think I'm moving to the Baltics!

The central market consists of 4 or 5 huge former Zeppelin hangars and each has a different focus. The last one in the row is where the fish mongers are. And I don't know if it makes me a person with a vivid imagination or with bottomless bad taste, but when I saw these golden smoked fish, my first thought was "mm, wouldn't this make a lovely christmas tree decoration?" ...

What you might think of as undefined red junk actually is red caviar! It's like: "I'll have all of it pretty please! Do you ship to Berlin?"

Now, small eel might be the schlachtplatte of my fish... Known for eating almost everything, I must say that small eel is not really my thing (but then how would I know? I don't recall ever eating it).

After several hours (well, maybe it was also an entire morning...), I was finally able to part from the central market and explored the rest of Riga. So of course here is the mandatory cute-old-house-with-lovely-christmas-tree-photo!

The art nouveau architecture is marvelous and gives you an idea of the wealth of this city at the turn of the century (the last centuries...).  I feel like this face pretty much sums up how I feel about 2016...

Can I have that window pretty please? 

Oh look it's my migraine face!

 How about that window? Pretty please?

But Riga does not only offer Art nouveau architecture but also nordic wooden houses and sometimes, the two styles are only one street away. 

Some more food pictures just because I can!  And since this post would not be complete without my verdict on the nutcracker performance that was the actual reason for this trip here we go: stage setting: marvelous, because it was locally inspired (art nouveau!), the performance though: meh ... I've seen way better performances already (Budapest! Prague!) but also worse performances (Tallinn!)
So I might not go to the Ballett next time I go to Riga, but I will definitely go to Riga again. Acutally thinking about another weekend in the summer, when one can also enjoy the Baltic sea! Then I will definitely also go to Valtera Restorans for dinner again. The pike perch with quince mousse and browned butter I had there was so good, I have been googling quince mousse recipes ever since my return to Berlin!
And one last thing, in case you are not yet fully convinced to travel to Riga: the bread! The dark rye bread! With so much caraway you think they lost their mind until you taste it and think, my gawd, how can I ever eat bread without caraway ever again?!?

copyright of all photos j.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Carrot Cake

Though it looks like I am no longer cooking or baking but travelling instead, I do actually still stand in the kitchen regularly. By popular demand, I am actually posting a receipe today, hooray, fanfare, hooray!

Though Rübli-Torte is the nicer word, I have actually always preferred the American carrot cake over the Swiss kind. I learned about this recipe through my knitting buddies many many years ago and it has since become a staple, so I could hardly believe it when two friends said that they wanted to bake "my" carrot cake but couldn't find the recipe on the blog! 

I was dead sure I had taken photos of it some time ago. And indeed, I found them on an external hard drive that weighs 1 kilo and can probably store no more than 100 MB?!? I'm not even kidding. Needless to say, I didn't like the photos anymore, but what a perfect excuse (not that i needed one...) to make carrot cake this weekend!

Carrot cake with cream cheese lemon frosting

150 gr of brown sugar
2 eggs
150 ml of oil
2 tablespoons of milk
a pinch of salt
250 gr of flour
1 large tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
200 gr of grated carrots
60 gr of chopped walnuts 

250gr of cream cheese
50 gr or less of confectioner's sugar
lemon juice

Grate the carrots and chop the walnuts. Preheat the oven at 180°C. Mix the brown sugar, the eggs, the oil and the milk then add the salt, flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the carrots and the walnuts and pour into a baking pan. Bake for about 30-40 minutes.
Let the cake cool completely. Mix the cream cheese with the confectioner's sugar and some lemon juice (I like my frosting more tart than sweet) and once the cake has cooled completely, add the frosting. 
Tastes best with a cup of tea (at least I always think that carrot cake doesn't go well together with coffee...).

copyright of all photos j.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A pâtisserie class chez les Schmitts in Gérardmer, France

There are blog posts that I start to write, but then a million things come in between and then I post more recent stuff and then, by the time I get back to them, I am no longer interested enough to actually post them. 

And then there are posts like this one, where I walk around with a bad conscience for months because I didn't get around to writing and posting them immeadiately. So even if this pâtisserie class happened several months ago, I absolutely had to write about it!
Almost exactly one year ago, when we re-discovered the French Vosges-mountains, we also discovered the outstanding Pâtisserie Schmitt in Gérardmer. When I decided to spend a week this May down there again, I checked their homepage in anticipation, only to discover that they actually give classes!

In French, I should add. I'm not as fluent in French as I am in English, but I'm fluent in food, so I took the chance, and, mon Dieu, was it worth it!!! The class was called dessert sur l'assiette which translates into a dessert on a plate and what we made was a sablé breton bottom with a ganache topping, add to this a more mouse like ganache montée, some raspberries and a to-die for mint gelée
First, we added 14 grams (not more, not less, baking and pâtisserie in general is a science where every gram, every second matters, do you read that, Mom?) of mint leaves to lemon juice and rum. Later, we incoporated the sieved fluid to chocolate for our mint ganache!

The ganache montée was by choice either lemon or passion fruit flavored (of which I of course chose the latter) and packaged in piping bags ready to take home with us.

The bretons sablés were flaky and buttery and in itself a real treat.

In all classes I have taken so far, I am always fascinated with the craft-part of cooking and baking. The swift movement of hands, the movement of hands and arms to make perfect shapes, the embodied know-how - all this cannot be learned over night! I learned how perfectly round chocolate decorations are made. I learned how to hold a piping bag in order to make nice little mountains of ganache (but still failed miserably at it. Which proves once again what a difficile craft pâtisserie is, where every movement takes years of practice until perfected)!

To the left, you can see how a pro shapes ganache. To the right, you can see my turds...

This is how the pro decorated the assiette.

As my miserable turds were rather ugly, I needed to cover them up. So I quickly placed a disc of chocolate on them and added raspberries. I don't know if it is my Black forestian heritage coming through here, but to me, my creations looked like Bollenhüte!

At this point, we tried our création and packed the rest of them (5-6 per person) in a box, along with the two kinds of ganaches and the gelée to be devoured at home.

This was how I improvised the mise en assiette at home, quite alright, isn't it? 
I am so glad I took part in this class as I learned a lot about pâtisserie! If you are on vacation in the region and speak fairly good French, go ahead, don't be shy, the Schmitts are super nice and since all participants speak the language of food and indulgence, communication is not a problem!

It was a long day, and once I got over the sugar high and the full moon, it was time for bed!
copyright of all photos j.