Thursday, 13 December 2007

Menu for Hope #4

Working my way through a whole lot of projects before I finally leave for my Christmas break (which is not even 48 hours away, how on earth am I going to finish everything...), I know one thing that's definitely on my priority list: Menu for Hope #4.

I take the reason mentioned above as an excuse not to explain everything in detail as I did last year - Lara of Cook & Eat has done it much better anyway! I'll just say that this is a very worth while way to spend some money during Christmas time supporting people in need: feeding starving children in Lesotho with food produced locally using sustainable farming methods. And to make it even better, it gives you the opportunity to win incredible prizes donated by bloggers all over the world! Please donate now!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Lemon Meringue Tartles - A Sugar Fix, quicker than you'd think

SHF#38: Fool-proof Chocolate Pudding

It might not come as a great surprise when I say that I haven't been posting much lately - or cooking for that matter (the "quick, I'm hungry" kind of cooking doesn't count here). However, I didn't want to miss out on this month's Sugar High Friday hosted by Zorra of 1x umruehren. Alas, due to work commitments, there was no way I could possibly make the sticky date pudding that I had already started dreaming of... It's one of the real Aussie desserts and to be found on many a restaurant menu in Sydney. I've had it only once so far and since then, always wanted to recreate it myself. This is what it would look like but it will have to wait until next year.

However, what does one do when coming home from a long day at work and craving for some comfort and food or comfort food so to speak? You skip dinner, of course, it's past 11pm after all, and rather go straight for dessert instead. In my opinion, there's not much a warm, smooth pudding couldn't fix - even if it actually is a custard, technically speaking.
This really fool-proof recipe fits perfectly into Zorra's theme "The proof is in the pudding" or "The proof of the pudding is in the eating", as the original version of the saying goes.

As I've mentioned before, I quite like the ready-to-use custard mixes you can get in Germany and always make sure to take some with me when visiting my family. However, in order to qualify for SHF#38, this one would have to be made from scratch. It's not quite as fast as opening a sachet but it's dead easy nonetheless. And in case I haven't said it yet, it's truly delicious!

Warm Chocolate Pudding (or Custard)

The ingredients

1/2 l whole milk
40g cornstarch
50g sugar
40g cocoa, dutch-processed
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 egg yolk (optional)
1 tbsp dark rum (optional)

The yield
2 big servings or 3 smaller ones

Pour 6 tablespoons of the milk (I like to use more) into a mixing bowl. Bring the remainder of the milk to a boil.

Add cornstarch, sugar, salt, vanilla bean paste, and cocoa to the reserved milk. Mix thoroughly with a balloon whisk until smooth.

Once the milk has reached boiling point, take it off the heat and pour in the cocoa mixture. Keep stirring while doing this.

Let the pudding come to a boil once more and let it cook for a minute, stirring all the time. The pudding will thicken quickly.

While still hot, whisk in add egg yolk and rum. You need to keep whisking until you are ready to pour the pudding into serving dishes or a skin will form on top.

The source
Adapted from Hedwig Maria Stuber: Ich helf Dir kochen

The hint
This recipe states a lot of cocoa. Unless you're fond of a bittersweet, dark chocolate taste, either decrease the amount of cocoa to 20-30g or add more sugar (can be done at the last step). I've added more sugar but afterwards thought that the original amount is enough.

If you like a lighter texture, fold in a stiffly beaten egg white.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

This photo is a Winner!

The "Droolworthy Blogger" Award must have been a good omen. When entering the CLICK photo competition with this "floating noodles" picture, I was really excited about it but simply hoped for the best. After all, over 70 people had submitted their photos to this month's installment. Little did I know that this photo would be such a winner!

It not only scored second place in the "best photo" categorie but got also elected as most original capture and even won the reader's choice award!

First of all, I would like to thank Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi for hosting the competition, all the judges, and last but not least all the readers who voted for my floating noodles.

Knowing that there are so many talented photographers out there, I can't help but to still perceive myself as a learner. However, this kind of recognition is a wonderful reward and it gives me the feeling that I've learned a thing or two in the meantime!

Please check out all the other winners and have a look for next month's CLICK competition at jugalbandi!

PS: Thank you, T, for helping me decide which photo to submit! I couldn't make up my mind between the one above and this one...

Monday, 26 November 2007

My first "Daring Bakers" Challenge: Tender Potato Bread

Everyone who is as addicted to food blogs as I am, must have noticed a new group showing up, many months ago. As the word spread across the food blogging universe, the group began to grow and I secretly started wondering if it were possible to join in. It took a little while but finally Nora from Life's Smorgasbord convinced me that we definitely should become part of The Daring Bakers - and a quick look at their official blogroll proved that they are always happy about new members! While starting off with Yvonne and Lis as the founding members about a year ago, the group now has more than 300 members.

In short: Each month, one member chooses a particular recipe (for its beauty, difficulty or both) and the others have to bake it, too, without changing anything so they can compare and discuss their results afterwards. This is not for the ones who can't leave a recipe alone, I'm afraid. So there are some rules to it but in turn you'll get to extend your baking knowledge plus the wonderful support from all the other bakers. Which is not a small thing considering the elaborateness of some challenges like this or that or have a look at this extravaganza!

This month's challenge was not quite as involved (it can be accomplished in one day) and luckily not as calorie-laden (I'm trying to be good, these days): Our host Tanna had chosen Tender Potato Bread. Having baked my fair share of breads in the last two years, I tackled this challenge with some confidence and everything worked out pretty well. Usually, I'm only baking for two people so I halved the recipe as I didn't want to end up with bread going stale (I hope that's not against the rules??). Apart from that, I behaved like a good girl and followed the recipe to the t. In contrast to other challenges this recipe had some room for improvisation, though. The amounts of mashed potato and flour were flexible and I ended up using 290g of potatoe (weighed before cooking) and a little bit less than 500g of bread flour (including the flour for kneading).

In between the kneading phase of ten minutes I decided to give the dough a little rest of 15 minutes so the gluten strands could relax and after that, I didn't have any trouble with the formerly rather sticky dough. "Unleashing my inner baker" I made potato bread pockets with a spinach and feta filling for dinner, and the remaining dough simply got baked in a loaf pan. There's no exact recipe for the filling (I'm so daring...), I just sauteed onions and garlic until translucent, stirred in some spinach, added a splash of milk, and some salt/pepper/nutmeg. Once the filling was cooked, I stirred in a few spoons of sour cream and a leftover eggwhite (hoping that it would solidify the filling but I'm not sure if it really made a difference). I topped the filling with feta chunks - and that's about it!

I really enjoyed this challenge and already look forward to participating next month!

Friday, 23 November 2007

Food Photography - an award and a competition

There's something I've been wanting to tell you, dear readers, for a long time. It's a little bit embarrassing that I didn't do so straight away. No, it's no embarrassing secret, rather an unexpected honour: Dear Nora from Life's Smorgasbord has kindly given me an award! The "Droolworthy Blogger" Award, to be precise. And to be even more precise, she did it, well, ages ago... Since then, I've been pondering about the ultimate picture to use for a post that would praise my photography skills. If you get caught bragging about yourself, you might want to rise to the occasion, right? Well, to tell you the truth, none of the pictures of the following weeks quite lived up to my own expectations (wrong focus, bad lighting, too simple setting and other things to complain about) and I kept delaying this post until today. Luckily, Nora is still friends with me...

So, in an attempt to come up with something that's at least very fitting (even if not mind-boggling), I decided to blog some photos picturing homemade lemon curd because the respective lemons were given to me by Nora! They were so juicy and fragrant that even T who's not into sweet spreads at all, happily devoured everything. And finally, I'm proudly displaying this wonderful badge on my blog (and on my sidebar once I've figured out how to do this):

This award is to be passed on to five other food bloggers with outstanding food photography. With so many talented photographers out there, this is not an easy task. Although I have a few all time favourites, I thought it might be more appropriate to give it to some food bloggers who are probably not quite as loaded with awards and public recognition but have lovely photos nonetheless. In no particular order:

Kate of Aapplemint

Deinin of Cloudberry Quark

Anh of Food Lover's Journey

Maci of Macikonyha

Rose of 64 Ft Sq Kitchen

Congratulations to all of you!

Last but not least, a couple of days ago, Zorra of 1x1 umruehren bitte who is the host of this month's DoesMyBlogLookGoodInThis (DMBLGIT) Event, asked me if I liked to act as a judge alongside her, Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, Hedonistin of Low Budget Cooking, and Sandra from Un tocco di zenzero. I happily accepted and really look forward to being a judge! Please check out all the wonderful entries in the DMBLGIT gallery and, if possible, enter the competition yourself. You still have time to do so until 30 November!

PS: The bread is Dan Lepard's Wheat Germ Bread - very hearty and very healthy!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Playing around with Light and Shadow ...and Noodles

When reading about Anh's quest for the perfect photo picturing noodles, I thought I better hurry or this food photo competition will finish without me... Having not much time left, there was no way I could create a beautiful and elaborate dish as Anh did. Not that I don't eat noodles all the time but so far I could never get these sloppy little bastards to really look good... Or maybe was I just too hungry and started shoveling in straight away? Well, let's not get into details, right?

So I had to come up with something different. Luckily, I had been reading the food photography lessons Nika and Curt are currently putting together - thanks so much for all your effort, guys! In lesson #2 Nika had shown a wonderful picture of a tomatilla plant on a black background. I used her technique: the noodles dangle from a coat hanger on strings that were later stamped out in Photoshop. Playing around with this set-up was great fun, however, I now think that Nika's green plant is more suited to this play with light and shadow than noodles. Nonetheless, I like this picture and I hope that some of the people looking at the click gallery will like it, too!

PS: One of the links was wrong, now you'll find lesson #2!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

A little Tart and another Anniversary

What do you do when you realize that you have never ever celebrated the anniversaries of your own relationship? After all, this is about being with the One And Only, right? There should be something to celebrate, right? Well, I am growing older, ahem, and I tend to forget a little bit here and there. Haven't I said that before..;-) Luckily, my boyfriend is no different in that respect. Not that he keeps forgetting things (big difference between us as he likes to point out) but when it comes to anniversaries he's just your average bloke who doesn't care much about these things. However, when approaching our - gasp - fourth anniversary, I decided that things finally had to take a turn for the better.

So off we went to Sydney's Observatory Hill that overlooks the harbour including Harbour Bridge, lots of boats, lots of lights, and other things necessary for some romantic atmosphere. After eating our way through crispy chicken pieces, Greek salad, foccacia, brie cheese, and hummous, there was almost no room left for dessert. However, who could say no to a creamy coffee chocolate ganache in an almond hazelnut crust? We certainly didn't!

To make the pastry cases I only had to defrost some leftover shortcrust pastry. For the filling, I had been keen for a while to try these tempting little tarts. However, after fully baking my tart shells, I didn't dare baking them again with the filling inside. I figured that halving the dairy components and not using any eggs might give me a creamy consistency that's still sufficiently stiff. With just a little cream and milk, I only used a quarter of the original amount of coffee. This way, the coffee flavour was nice but already very subtle on the second day. Next time, I might go back to only halving the amount of coffee.

These Vietnamese coffee chocolate tarts made for a fabulous ending of our anniversary picnic and will always remind me not to ever forget it again...

PS: I didn't want to prove this particular point any more but I have to add something I ... forgot ...: This tart is my entry for WTSIM#11 "Waiter, there's something in my...topless tart!" hosted by Cooksister!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Happy Birthday!

Have you ever forgotten your own birthday? Whilst this has happened to me with other people's special days - luckily not too often - so far I was at least able to remember mine. However, it almost happened to this dear blog. Just by chance, I asked myself yesterday when its first anniversary would be. I quickly checked here and - oh my gosh - only one more day to go!

After one year, it's almost hard to believe that there was a life without food blogging. Not that I create something blog-worthy everyday - but all this thinking about food, making food, and photographing food turned out to be much more than a mere hobby. For some people, it might not look like a creative outburst having to wait for dinner whilst I'm busy taking pictures from all angles. However, it gives me an unexpected sense of inner satisfaction when one of my creations not only tastes good but also photographs well. And the best part? Lots of nice people, completely unknown to me, stop by, have a look around and sometimes even drop me a line. This thrill I get when I read new comments, still hasn't worn off. Whenever I'm feeling moody, all I have to do is looking at my stats and smiling at the idea that someone from the Maldives or Ghana or some other very remote place payed my little blog a visit... Nora, I'll always feel indebted to you for introducing me to this new world!

But back to the birthday - there has to be a cake, right? Being only one day ahead of time, I couldn't possibly make a layer cake, try my hands on macarons or do any other fancy stuff. However, I still wanted to do something I'd never made before. One idea popped up in my head that had been lurking somewhere for quite some time: financiers. They're quick to make but still have something mysterious about them. At least for me because in German cookbooks you would never see a cake that doesn't contain any egg yolks, almost no flour (let alone baking powder) but lots of butter, sugar, and almond flour instead. I was a little bit suspicious how such a cake should rise and brown nicely. However, I decided to go with a recipe I had found at Feeding my Enthusiasms - it's originally from David Lebovitz so I figured you can't go wrong with that.

And all my worries proved absolutely unnecessary. After very little work, these tiny cakes began to fill the kitchen with their almond perfume - and they looked so cute with their golden brown tops peeking out of the paper garments. They even made my boyfriend utter an appreciating "hmmmm"...

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Exploring Pappa Al Pomodoro

Okay, this one won't be loved for its looks. It's used to be seen as just some leftovers - thrown together into a pot and forgotten on the stove. Stale bread soaked in tomatoes. Peasants' food.

I've always wondered if there's something worth knowing about Pappa Al Pomodoro. After all, it's still around, and not only in Tuscany. So, when leafing through "Jamie's Italy", I always went back to the page with this tomato and bread stew. No matter how many other (more) beautiful dishes were pictured in this lovely book, it was time to finally find out about Pappa Al Pomodoro.

And I'm pleased to say that Jamie didn't promise too much: The oven-roasted tomatoes provided sweetness and concentrated flavour, the bread made for a smooth and silky texture, and the garlic gave it that little extra kick. Instead of the usual basil, flat-leaf parsley had to stand in and did a pretty good job.

For this recipe it's crucial to use good bread, in my case it was the "Heart of Wheat" Bread by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I left the crust on in order to retain some texture - otherwise this stew could easily turn into baby food. I had to add a little more liquid, it was still not quite as soupy as Jamie's version but never mind. Jamie stresses the importance of using good olive oil for this dish. Whilst I'm not using anything fancy or overly expensive, mine has a nice fruity smell to it that certainly contributed to the overall flavour.

It might not have the looks but this dish has a lot going for it.

Pappa Al Pomodoro

The ingredients

500g ripe tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes (cut into pieces if using bigger ones)
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, stalks and leaves chopped (or use basil instead)
2 cans of whole peeled tomatoes (400g each)
500g of stale bread, crust on, torn into pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil

In a roasting tray, toss tomatoes with some olive oil, the slices of one clove of garlic and a quarter of the herb leaves. Season with salt and pepper and prick tomatoes all over. Roast in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (or 150 degrees fan-baked) for 20 minutes.
Note: I covered the herbs and the garlic with the tomatoes to keep them moist during the bake.

In a big pot, saute the parsley stalks and the remaining garlic in some olive oil until soft but not coloured. Add the canned tomatoes. Fill both cans with water and add it, too. Let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot. Mix and season to taste. Add the remaining parsley leaves (reserving a little for garnish) and let stand on very low heat for up to ten minutes.

Remove the roasted tomato mixture from the oven and add to the pot, scraping everything off the tray. Stir thoroughly and add some more water if necessary (depending on how soupy you like it).

Check the seasoning, stir in some olive oil (Jamie suggests 6-7 tablespoons but this seemed too much for me) and serve sprinkled with herbs.

The source
Adapted from Jamie Oliver: "Jamie's Italy"

Monday, 22 October 2007

Cheese Cake, German style, and more Bread

This years World Day of Bread on 16th October has been a complete success. Zorra of Kochtopf the creator of this blog event had to be really busy: check out her round-up of 184 entries with more than 200 bread recipes from 28 different countries!

And it looks like that this streak of bad bread baking luck has finally left me. Since then, I've been able to make the crusty bread rolls pictured above which was quite a miracle in itself. I started off with a recipe by Peter Reinhart and realized mid-way through that I didn't have certain ingredient. So I switched to a Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe - all the way ignoring the difference between dry active yeast (that's what I have at home) and instant yeast (that's what these guys are using). Luckily, I noticed it early enough and could adjust fermenting and rising times accordingly...

For the ones who were interested in a traditional German-style cheese cake, I've finally managed to inquire about the recipe (after baking I had simply forgot to jot it down). Over the years, I've tried many a recipe for this kind of cake which is one of the most popular in Germany. I've also gotten very good results using a few tablespoons of semolina as a stabilizer but the following recipe is the favourite of my family.

Usually, the recipe calls for rum-soaked raisins which also act as a stabilizer. However, this time we had run out of them - but I'm not fond of raisins anyway. That means, most of the time, two cakes have to be baked to make everyone happy..;-)

Shortcrust Pastry
The ingredients

150g butter, softened
100g sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 sachet vanilla sugar (equals a heaped tablespoon)
1-2 tbsp rum
250g all-purpose flour
1/2 sachet baking powder (equals 7.5g)

Cream butter with both types of sugar and the salt until pale and fluffy.

Incorporate the egg and the rum, mixing thoroughly.

Add flour and baking powder mixing on low speed until it all comes together.

Take the dough out of the mixing bowl and briefly knead together. Shape into a ball, cover with foil and chill in the fridge until ready to use (at least 30 minutes).

The hint
This dough will be softer than shortcrust pastry that is made by cutting the butter into the flour. However, it should not be sticky. Don't add anymore flour otherwise you'll end up with concrete and not with a tender crust.

The filling
The ingredients

(suitable for a springform 28 centimetres in diameter)

60g butter, softened
200g sugar
2 sachets vanilla sugar
pinch of salt
4 eggs, separated
1 kg quark (can be substituted with ricotta)
50g all-purpose flour
1/2 sachet baking poweder (7.5g)

If using a springform of 26 centimetres, only change the following amounts:

50g butter
150g sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 sachet vanilla sugar
750g quark

(the amounts for flour and baking powder stay the same)

In a dry, fat-free bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In another big bowl, cream butter with both types of sugar.

Mix in egg yolks until thoroughly incorporated.

Mix in quark. To make sure that everything is evenly distributed, use a spatula to scrape down sides and bottom.

Scrape egg whites on top of quark mixture, sift flour and baking powder atop. Gently fold everything together.

Butter your preferred springform pan and line it with the shortcrust pastry. I usually don't roll it but rather tear off pieces and press them into the tin. I make the rim by rolling pastry into little rolls and pressing them onto the sides of the tin.

Pour in the filling and fan-bake at 150 degrees Celsius for up to an hour or until well-set. The crust should be golden-brown and the filling should be speckled with brownish dots.

The hint
After turning off the oven, let the cake rest in there for at least another hour. That way, the quark filling won't collapse as much.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Crusty Bread Rolls

Maybe it's just me. After my latest attempts at bread making, I should have known to pay attention where attention is due. But no, I did not read the recipe carefully enough and I did not convert the measurements properly. In hindsight, I did just about everything wrong that you can do wrong. However, I was lucky enough not to ruin it this time. Okay, the following is an account of how-not-to-bake.

I started off with Peter Reinhart's Kaiser Rolls. In his book "The Bread Baker's Apprentice", they make a very shiny appearance and simply looked so inviting that I instantly knew which bread rolls to make this weekend. I started on a Saturday night with the pate fermentee. Unfortunately, the book doesn't state the ingredients in grams. Not wanting to convert the whole thing I quickly decided to simply use the included baker's percentage. You can simply read 100 per cent as 100 g of flour and go further from there, right? Well, it's not quite as easy. Just after stirring the pate together, I realized that the baker's percentage tells you about the relation between the ingredients in the entire recipe and not just the pate fermentee.

Pate Fermentee or Biga or whatever

200g bread flour
130g water
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp dry active yeast


All of the above
230g bread flour
1 tsp dry active yeast

Luckily, this time the stars were aligned properly,

Friday, 19 October 2007

High Tea at the Intercontinental

Sometimes you need a little indulgence... Inspired by Anna's account of High Tea at the Intercontinental Hotel, my dear friend Nora from Life's Smorgasbord and I went there, too. We hadn't been able to meet for quite a while so there was a lot of news to catch up on. And what's better than doing this with a nice pot of tea and some sweet little treats! The Intercontinental Hotel was the perfect backdrop for a cozy yet elegant afternoon and thanks to the Good Food Month we could sample a High Tea tasting plate including a hot beverage for the very reasonable price of 15 bucks.

In comparison to Anna's photo you'll see that they more than doubled the amount of vanilla sauce to go with the muesli slice. Good idea, otherwise it would have been a pretty dry experience. Flavour wise, my favourite was the praline stick (according to Nora, it reminded her of Nutella which I like quite a lot) and the sauces were pretty nice as well. Although I can't say that the sweets blew me away, they served a decent cuppa and the atmosphere in the courtyard was just perfect. We spent a wonderful afternoon and I hope to do something like this again in the near future!

Wanna know more about what's going on during the Good Food Month in Sydney? Check out Anna's round-ups of week one and week two and share the experiences of other food bloggers! Some time this weekend, another summary of the third week will be available at Morsels&Musings.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Baking and Cursing and Baking

I don't know what I did to deserve this. For months, I've been feeding my little sourdough culture dutifully. I (almost) never poured the surplus down the drain, having found another way to deal with it. Batch after batch after batch, my loaves turned out tasty even if sometimes mal-shaped. And now this. If there are any gods of the crust and crumb, I must have offended them in a really terrible way. At least, this is the only explanation I can come up with after suffering not one but several set-backs during my recent bread baking adventures.

It started off with what seemed to be child's play. One should not have any trouble with reproducing one's own recipes, right? After several trips, I decided not to bother with sourdough just yet. Instead I turned to an old favourite, a buckwheat bread with sunflower seeds. Well, let's just forget about this one, ok? It was the blandest bread I've ever made and I'd like to blame rancid buckwheat flour - but truth be told, I don't know for sure. Maybe, this was just too easy? I set to work with another favourite, my pain de campagne. Well, it could have been okay, if I had been able to properly use my new bread peel which is hand-made by my father (thanks again, Dad!). Instead of sliding the loaf elegantly onto my pizza stone, it stuck to the peel and I eventually plunked it into the oven, top-down of course. The carefully water-brushed side baked to a very, very crusty bottom; and the top with the remaining polenta sticking on didn't bake to anything crusty at all. Needless to say, the bread didn't rise properly.

But the worst was yet to come: my sourdough culture is playing dead! Before leaving for overseas, I had frozen three portions of rye mother. The first one got defrosted and bubbled nicely on my kitchen counter - until I realized that it's getting already too warm in Sydney. The top was mouldy. I took out the second portion. Slowly, I was getting a little bit nervous. After all, World Bread Day was approaching fast - and so far, nothing photo-worthy had happened. I now kept the culture in the fridge but there wasn't much action going on. It smelled sour but that was it. Before feeding it for the umphf-time, I decided to at least try to bake something with some of the culture mixed in. Since the last library foray, I was reading Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Bakers's Apprentice" and if I wasn't able to tackle one of the elaborate recipes, I should be capable of modifying the easiest recipe of the whole book, his light wheat bread. I added 500g of my lazy sourdough culture, added another 150g of bread flour to make up for the increased water content and used an 8g-sachet of dry active yeast for roughly 1.6kg of dough. A little more salt, some pumpkin seeds, olive oil instead of butter, and off you go into the fridge for almost ten hours (instead of rising at room temperature).

At least, this time I got the loaves off the peel properly. However, after baking they stuck so stubbornly to the pizza stone that I almost ruined my new bench scraper trying to remove them. Again, not enough polenta... Currently, the (long ago broken) pizza stone and the baking sheet are soaking in hot water. And whilst my light rye bread tastes quite all right, it simply isn't the real thing. Maybe it'll all work out in a few days. Let me just go and check on my sourdough culture.

PS: This morning, I discovered mould on the second batch of my sourdough culture - while storing it in the fridge. I always thought that the wild yeast inhibits exactly that!?! Something must be seriously wrong with my culture. With now only one last batch waiting in the freezer, I will probably get the opportunity to try Dan Lepard's method of cultivating sourdough - much sooner than I had planned...

Friday, 12 October 2007

Good Food Month: Market in Pyrmont

Planning is not my strong point, unfortunately. Neither is keeping various things in mind. Sometimes, I secretly wonder why this seems to get even worse lately. However, it is at least a - somehwat meagre - explanation why it took me almost two years to visit the Pyrmont Growers' Market for the first time. After having seen several mouthwatering accounts of the going-ons and with the "Good Food Month" currently running in Sydney, I thought this time it has to happen. To have some company when foraging for food (and in order not to forget it again) I invited two friends to come along.

After a 45-minutes walk we finally reached our destination and I felt instantly overwhelmed by the masses of people. Of course, on a bright, sunny day this was to be expected. Anyway, after a little while I lost all shyness, simply looked over shoulders and peeked with my camera through queues of waiting customers to get shots of all the lovely produce on display.

Remarkably many people had not grocery supplies sticking out of their bags but flowers. They were beautiful indeed!

Pretty soon we all felt pretty hungry. Although the bacon-and-eggs guy was truly impressive with his fast turn-around technique...

...I opted for a nice sourdough roll instead. Can't resist a crusty roll...

...while one of my friends chose a savoury tart to start the day. As you see, my focus was on the sweet ones...

Perousing all the food, it was pretty clear that this market had little to do with the small town farmers' markets I was used to. With plenty of fruit and vegetables stalls and the occasional beekeeper or baker inbetween, these markets are very local. Here in Sydney, the focus was on gourmet fare: smoked fish...

or rare cheeses...

even chocolates...
and unusual honey...

and even christmas cakes...

on this colourful stall:

After a first browse it was pretty clear that I had to prioritize in order not to splash out money triggered by all these visual stimuli. So I concentrated on the really important things and bought wattle seeds (finally, I could get my hands on them), lemon myrtle (its odour slowly permeates my fridge, need to think about proper storage), a jar of blackberry jam (it's a bit weird, looks and tastes more like blackberry honey), lots of fresh herbs and a few other odds and ends.

It was a very enjoyable way to spend a Saturday morning. With a little bit of envy we watched the people participating in the slow food brunch, a "Good Food Month" event that took place at the market. However, it was so hot that I wasn't too disappointed to get back into the shade after a while. Not sure how much this canine visitor enjoyed his market stroll in the blazing sun. With roaring breath and sticking out his tongue, he tried to cool down, poor little bugger...

In any case, if my friends happen to remind me in time, I'll go again next month!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Enjoying German Specialties

After processing all the pictures I've taken while traveling through Germany, I came to realize that I didn't photograph that many meals at all... Anyway, here are a few food related memories. A little bit late, I know - having just arrived in Australia again, I went to Western Australia for work. I was already looking forward to paying another visit to my favourite Australian grocery store as I did last time. However, my only day in Perth turned out to be a Sunday. All I could do was staring through the shop window at the huge bags filled with millet flour, pearl barley, and other hard-to-get foods. Of course, it should be possible to get the same stuff here in Sydney - however, they'll cost me an arm and a leg, I'm sure...

Where was I? You see, no matter how much I've enjoyed the stay in my home country, as soon as I had set my food on Australian earth, the daily life just sucked me in again.

One of the first things I did at home was baking a real German Cheese Cake (pictured above). Made with real quark instead of cream cheese or ricotta, it has a slightly tarter taste and a much lighter texture than American cheese cake. Eating it on a sunny terrace made it taste even better...

After having eaten my way through this and this, I attended the next feast, the wedding of a dear friend.

Another opportunity to indulge in Bavarian doughnuts (a very local food, this version from another part of Bavaria looks slightly different from mine), layer cakes, and God know what else. I'd rather not list all the cakes I've tried and I haven't even said a word about the savoury dishes...

At my parents' place, I used the occasion to watch once again how to make a real Bavarian pork roast. For traditionalists, this is the only way to celebrate a proper Sunday lunch. Whilst I'm not against having something else for lunch, I really enjoy it once in a while. So far, I didn't dare to try my hands on it. Provided I'm still able to decipher my handwritten notes, I'll dare cooking it some time soon. Hopefully, this time I'll be able to take a nicer picture - this one was taken just before shoveling in...

Furthermore, I made some pralines to give away as a birthday present. The cutest ones were these pistachio marzipan hearts - the recipe will follow soon. For some reason I thought using couverture would save me the tedious tempering process. First, I didn't want to go through all this trouble. Secondly, I don't have a candy thermometer. However, this was a misconception and the chocolate coating lost its shine after three or four days. However, they still tasted pretty good; even though I usually don't like marzipan. But who wouldn't love anything heart-shaped?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Back again - with a very festive Lunch

Even the longest visit at home must come to an end... I've enjoyed my stay back home in Germany thoroughly. One reason was for sure the endless number of feasts and parties I was able to attend. This will be just the first account of many more to come!

I was lucky enough to attend a very festive lunch which turned out to be a wonderful lesson in food styling - amost every dish had edible flowers as a colourful and tasty garnish. I also enjoyed taking pictures in full natural light (with just a little fill-in flash bouncing from above) - a completely new experience...

The feast started off with shrimp ravioli on braised fennel (pictured above).

The second course was a satisfying pumpkin soup garnished with pumpkin seeds and their oil. On the side a crispy grissini wrapped in Parma ham.

The third course was a creamy spaghetti dish with Oyster mushrooms and zucchini (unfortunately, morels hadn't been available as planned).

The main course was roasted duck breast served with crispy potato roesti and chanterelle mushrooms.

The sweet final was white poppy seed mousse served with caramelized apricots.

Truly delicious!