Friday, September 30, 2005

Cheese, Cloves & Cake

from Amsterdam!! Yes, my parcel has just arrived, and it's all absolutely wonderful and so spot on (as in: so many things that I absolutely love)!
Chocolate Cake (in fact: Chocolate & Zucchini Cake - how good is that?!)
Clove Sausage
Sheep & Goat's milk Cheese
& Dune Thorn Berry Jam (a completely new food to me)

And can you see the little black faced sheep? Talia who sent me this parcel, says that's what her name means, and it's the most wonderful, sweetest thing you can imagine! (I think even in my dreadful picture - I must do something about that camera! - its character comes across!)

All those items came from the weekly organic food market, and from the back of Talia's cupboard: UDON NOODLES and Japanese Barley Iced Tea. And I already know what I want to do with the noodles - only: WHEN???

I haven't even posted my own parcel!! I'm so sorry Andrew! Apart from nearly burning the house down (see below), all sorts of things have gone wrong, too. The damson jam turned out too thick, the nectarine & amaretto jam turned out too runny, the curtain rail came down, the printer is out of order (which I need to complete my parcel - don't ask!!) and I have a major problem with Frank on my hands! I shall try to get everything sorted asap, and do a proper write-up, but now I must rush back into the kitchen...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Not so much waxing lyrical as burning the house down...

Bramble vinegar

I made this with blackberries, picked at Bilberry Hill (bilberries are wild blueberries or huckleberries), in the Lickey Hills, just outside Bromsgrove on the last day of the holidays, which has become quite a little tradition for Ozzy, and Sally's kids. The blueberries are made into blueberry muffins (eaten while still warm!), and the blackberries into jam. Some of the jam and some Chardonnay and some vinegar essence made the bramble vinegar, which will form part of the "something fruity, something autumnal" offering of BBBP2.
Now, I thought it would add a nice professional touch if I sealed the cork with wax, especially as this item will travel. I have a small melting pan which is ideal for the purpose, and I chose a burgundy red candle to match the colour of the vinegar. Sparing you all the boring details, I'll just say it was more difficult than anticipated, and even though I managed to abuse an Irish Coffee contraption as a sort of vice to hold the bottle steady, the procedure required several melting periods. As I was also trying to meet the deadline for the tax credits (so as to avoid losing money, and - more importantly - OH's wrath), I scampered off to the living room to sort through the piles and piles of admin trash (i.e. opened but un-sorted envelopes ranging in importance from Inland Revenue to "Last opportunity to buy...., pay nothing until next Autumn!" ), in order to find clues for apparently crucial snippets of information such as PAYE numbers, employers' tax reference and exactly how much my husband earns... - leaving the wax to melt away in the pan on the open gas fire...
You've guessed it, when I got back into the kitchen, I was greeted by a huge flame, and had I taken any longer, I'm sure I would have burnt the kitchen down (which at least would have prompted an immediate replacement...), the handles of the eye-level grill pan were already in the process of melting...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Cupboard Love

This is the content of cupboard number 1, mainly bakeware. And as I had quite correctly anticipated (see 'I'm swimming...'), virtually everything was out of date, including my plain flour!! I filled a whole box (one of those collapsible ones) with items to throw away. In fact, my cupboard number 1 would be virtually empty now had I not selected another box full of food to regain their place in said cupboard under the persuasive premise: "I reckon 'Best before...' simply means the item isn't quite as potent as it could be...".
It was quite an experience, at once nostalgic-melancholic and cathartic.
There were two distinct 'areas' of neglected foods:
a) items for elaborate cake creations: icing (rock hard), small containers with decorations (colour faded and tasteless), food colouring, glycerine, liquid glucose (without exception out of date).
I haven't made any spectacular cakes since..., since..., well, not since Ozzy was quite little. All his recent birthday cakes were bought ones (M&S to the rescue...). When before, there would have been Thomas, and Gordon in the ditch (surrealistically incorporating Batman...), and even Henry in the tunnel (with moveable brick wall)!
Though my favourite ones were for adult birthdays (Big Zeros): a huge crab for a Cancerian friend, and for my darling husband the idyllic riverside scene, with a Burberry clad (or so I fancy), flatcapped man fishing from a bridge. I even took photographs... alas, this was before digi cams...

b) items purchased in Germany without which I can't live (or so I seem to believe every time I visit), the vast majority of which appear to have been produced by Dr. Oetker. Only - just how many packs of vanilla sugar does one need?!! Clearly none, as I've got packs going back to the year 2000!

But if you think that's out of date - think again! Apart from my pièce de la résistance, which is so old it dates back to the Dark Ages when food did not even carry bb or eb dates, there were two packs of sheet gelatine from 1994!!!

Needless to say, I didn't find much in cupboard number 1 that I can send to a fellow food blogger without running the risk of being prosecuted for indirect manslaughter by means of mailing without due care and attention!!
Not to worry - I've got two more -- equally large and equally overcrowded -- cupboards to go through, surely not every area of my culinary life can be quite so finito?!!.

At any rate -- this is a good exercise... Without EBBP 2, I would not have sorted through my cupboards at this point in time (I REALLY have far more important, pressing things to do...). And although it has all the painful elements of the "7 up" series which has just been on tv again (and yes, come to think of it, I'm currently approaching one of those 7-year-boundaries...), it also makes me feel as if I'm finally making some progress towards a new kitchen, a new cooker (!!!), and a completely new phase in my life! (Though Frank's 'Let's get a new cooker before Christmas!' seems preposterously optimistic considering this family's habitual time-frame!)

So, Andrew, can we have a 'freezer raid' next? Followed maybe by 'Hidden treasure in your garage' and 'What's lurking in your cellar?'

Yours sincerely,
Ms Frazzled-Disorganized
"The Shambles"
Big City

PS: I have a photograph of my pièce de la résistance, but it wouldn't upload (though the programme said it had done it...), so you'll just have to guess what it was and how old it is .... A little clue: the price tag reads 3 1/2 pence!!!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Strasbourg Terrine with Gewurztraminer

What a phantastic day I've had today! (Well, apart from being woken at 7 am, that is.)
First, I met a friend of mine for lunch who had a present for me: a plastic coffee filter -- an item which will finally restore coffee happiness in this house. It is our favourite method of brewing the hot, brown caffeine injection, so desperately needed in the morning. Ever since I broke my ceramic Melitta filter, we've been suffering from having to make do with the infinitely more inferior method of using a cafetière.
Then I had a time-tabling meeting with my head of department, into which I went with the goal of persuading him to give me a "compact teaching load", i.e. not one and two hour slots scattered over the whole week - which we achieved (provided enough students enrol on the respective courses).
Afterwards, we had the usual departmental meeting for old and new tutors, followed by a cheese and wine party, at which I actually managed to do some net-working, quite unlike my usual inclinations.
But the best thing was when I found a lovely surprise in my pigeon-hole: the above mentioned Terrine Strasbourgoise Marinée au Gewurztraminer (20% de Foie Gras d'Oie -- I know, I know...) and a card, which reads: To a special teacher. Now, Primary School Teachers get such things all the time - but it doesn't happen that often in the Tertiary Sector, so I was really pleased and quite, quite touched.

PS: I'm making pear chutney at the moment. (Well, something had to happen to all those jars..., when Syvvy suggested throwing them away, I knew I had chutneys, pickles and jams coming on, and after all, the EBBP2 theme is "something fruity, something autumnal"...)

Pear Chutney
4lbs pears, 1 pint vinegar, 2-3 cloves garlic, 1 1/2 lbs brown sugar, ginger, grated, mixed spice, salt, cayenne pepper, nigella seeds, fresh coriander

Peel, core and chop the pears, cook with 1/2 pint of vinegar and the crushed garlic until thick and pulpy. Add the remaining vinegar, the sugar, ginger, mixed spice, a good pinch of salt, and chopped coriander; continue cooking for a further 20 minutes or until thick. Pot and cover. Makes about 5 jars.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Meme: Childhood Memories

Mettwürstchen, Waldmeister Wackelpudding, Ahoij Brausepulver and my Mum's Mocca set, which was used on my birthday, for a proper "Kaffee und Kuchen" party. We had Gestreifter Affe and drank Caro Kaffee (A coffee substitute made from chicory, caffeine-free and therefore suitable for children; it was called Mocca Faux in French which mutated into Muckefuck in German - just thought you'd like to know...).

Childhood Food Memories

I have greatly enjoyed everyone’s stories on this meme which has been running from about mid August, I think, and every single one triggered a new slice of memories for me, and like so many others, I don’t know how to restrict myself to just 5 items. Choosing, selecting, deciding... not exactly my strong points... I’d like to give you a big spread, the whole spectrum, from the foods which get you excited because you remember them (or something similar) yourself, via foods that amuse you because of their names, and foods that you’ve never heard of and seem ‘exotic’ to you, all the way to foods that achieved mythical status over the years.
Looking at my long list, I think I shall divide them into three categories:

Sweets & Cakes, (Savoury) Home Cooking, Eating Out

Sweets & Cakes

Some of the sweets I used to love secured their place in my heart purely by the power of their names (so, well done, the marketing department):

Liebesperlen“Love pearls” (tiny, multicoloured sugar balls)

Katzenzungen“Cats’ tongues” (flat, elongated pieces of chocolate, supposed to look like cats’ tongues)
[See also footnote 1]

Katzenpfötchen[1]“Cats’ paws” (small balls of licorice with a soft centre)

Mäusespeck “Mice belly fat” (marshmallows)

Götterspeise/Wackelpudding/Wackelpeter[2]“Food of the Gods”/ ”Wobbly Pudding”/”Wobbly Peter” (jelly/jello)

Dr. Oetker Eselchen Zitronenspeise[3]“Dr. Oetker’s Little Donkey Lemon Dessert” (a lemon mousse dessert; lemon meringue without the meringue)

Gestreifter Affe oder Kalter Hund oder Kalte Schnauze - “Stripey Monkey or Cold Dog or Cold Snout”

This was the cake for kids’ birthday parties. It’s made with coco fat, cocoa powder and biscuits and doesn’t require any cooking. By layering the cocoa mixture and the biscuits, one achieves the stripey effect when cutting slices. (Recipe to follow)

Zitronensuppe“Lemon Soup”

This was one of my favourites when I was little, it’s just the juice of lemons, egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon. The egg whites are beaten stiff and float on the soup like fluffy swans. (Recipe to follow)

Mohnkuchen “Poppycake”

My grandmother used to bake the best poppy cake ever, followed closely by my ex-mother-in-law (first marriage). Unfortunately, neither recipe has survived. I once ordered all the ingredients from Germany to embark on a poppy cake adventure (I had gathered several recipes) but if I remember rightly, I never even got round to baking a single one. Every bakery in Germany sells Mohnstreusel (poppy crumble), but none are ever as moist and sumptious as my Oma’s.

Home Cooking


My Mum brought this recipe back with her from Hamburg where she had lived for a few years. Our version did not look anything like the picture. It was a very quick mixture of mashed potato, onions and corned beef, with the possible addition of some herring (either Matjes or Grüner Hering), which my Mum had to cut into minute pieces as I hated anything fishy. I think I loved the name as much as the association with sailors and its reputation for being a dish for ‘rough men’.

Kohlrouladen“Stuffed Cabbage Leaves”

Very much a staple dish of Germany, and indeed, with some variations, of Central and Eastern Europe. The way the cabbage soaks up all the flavours is inimitable. A very underrated vegetable, cabbage. (But I would say that, wouldn’t I? - Recipe to follow)

Linsensuppe mit Mettwürstchen“Lentil Soup with Smoked Sausages”

Hmm, another dish I never cook because the boys don’t like lentils. I, however, liked this dish so much that I asked for it to be cooked on my birthday. (Mind you – it is in winter!). The best thing about it are undoubtedly the Mettwürstchen (as opposed to the Wiener, which they seem to have in the picture), which everyone in the family love. I can’t get anything like it here, so I import and freeze them. As I de-frosted a pack for this picture, I think I have a yellow split pea soup coming on, which they will just about tolerate for the slices of sausage immersed in it.

Königsberger Klopse“Meatballs à la Königsberg[4]

This was probably my very favourite dish as a child. Small meatballs (pork & beef & a small portion of herring) in a light sauce flavoured with capers. Sounds peculiar perhaps, but it is soooo yummy! And it’s one of the few German recipes that my children actually like.

Süße Specksoße“Sweet Bacon Sauce”

Now, this is something that I absolutely hated as a child – my grandmother’s salad dressing. She used Speck (best translated as a piece of bacon fat, I suppose), which she diced very finely and then fried until crips and brown. White vinegar (very basic vinegar, made from vinegar essence and water) and sugar would be added to this, and the still warm sauce would be poured over the lettuce. I remember it as a pretty gruesome combination. But my brother thinks we should try it sometime, our palates might have changed!

Eating Out

OMG, I have spent so much time writing and researching this, I’ll have to do this very briefly. This is the type of food which I mentioned in an earlier post, dishes which have achieved myth status. One of them was a Jägerschnitzel (an escalope, usu. pork, “hunter’s style”), but unlike the one which you can still eat at virtually any German restaurant, this one came with a sauce of chanterelles (unlike the button mushrooms you get these days). And for some reason, these chanterelles have never been matched (and I’m very jealous of someone here in the food blogging community who reported on being able to buy them fresh and in bulk...).
The others all originate in Carinthia (Southern Austria) and/or Slovenia where we used to spend
our summer holidays. Next year, I’m planning to go back there with my brother (and spouse and sprogs, of course) and try to find them still on the menu...
Karawankengeheimnis (Secret of the Karawanken, which is the moutain range between Carinthia and Slovenia), Husarenspieß (Hussar’s kebab), and of course, that Wiener Schnitzel of all times, on the road to Kranska Gora...

So, all that remains is for me to find people to tag who haven’t been part of this meme yet... Not an easy undertaking... I shall try Jenni of Pertelote, and Andrew of spittoon, and Mona of Mona’s Apple. This is how it works:

Below is the meme tree. When it’s your turn, move down the list, drop number one from the top spot, move the numbers down, and place yourself in the number five spot. Don’t forget to link the blogs (except yours).
1. Nami-Nami
2. The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz
3. 80 Breakfasts
4. Bucaio
5. A Lot On My PLate

[1] Trying to find a link/photograph, I stumbled over a very funny blog, which I can only recommend to
anyone who reads German, which not only came up with the following (quite disgusting) recipe for Hot Cats’ Paws,

1 bag Katjes Katzenpfötchen
Put a few Katzenpfötchen on a plate in the microwave, briefly heat at maximum temperature, make sure the Katzenpfötchen don’t melt completely. Serve immediately.

but also a discussion on Katzenzungen (see above), which they described as “this auntie prezzie consisting of rather inferior chocolate” – this statement was then hotly debated, culminating in the emergence of more examples of chocolate creations based on inferior chocolate and/or being an offence to the senses:
jaffa cake, Erfrischungsstäbchen and Mon Chéri. The latter, a brandy soaked cherry in dark chocolate, is a distinct favourite of mine and of most of my fellow expats. One of my friends also asks for Erfrischungsstäbchen (‘refreshment sticklets’) to be brought back – which I have to concede, are a bit sickly: small sticks of chocolate, filled with some sugary crust containing either lemon or orange flavoured syrup. In the discussion mentioned above, the jaffa cakes were consistently referred to as jaffa scheiße (i.e. shit), and one participant pointed out that “jaffa cake” when pronounced in German sounded like Jaffakacke anyway...
They also reminded me of another very popular “auntie prezzie” (the only time, apart from birthdays, Easter and Christmas that we’d get any chocolate) was Eiskonfekt , lit. ice confectionary, which comes in rainbow coloured mini aluminium cases and somehow tastes cool (lit., not figuratively). Apparently – I’ve just learnt this from the link (which is a ‘chemistry in action’ site) – this is achieved by a large amount of coco fat and the addition of sorbitol. To intensify the cool effect, it is often kept in the fridge.

[2] Of particular note is the green variety. The flavour is supposed to be Waldmeister (asperula odorata; galium odoratum; woodruff; reine des bois; belle etoile). It's a herb which flowers between April and June. Apparently, for the jelly, only artificial flavours are used because of the bitter taste. It is also used to make the syrup that goes into Berliner Weisse, and it is the key ingredient for Maibowle (a white wine punch).

[3] It seems ‘Eselchen’ doesn’t exist any more, but ‘Aranca’ is similar – the website is also another opportunity to cringe at the art of machine translation...

[4] Königsberg is called Kaliningrad today, and is the capital city of a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania. It used to be the capital of the German province Ostpreußen (East Prussia), the earlier fiefs of Ducal Prussia, and before that the Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights. Immanuel Kant, E.T.A. Hoffmann and Lea Rabin (a.m.o.) were born there, and Hannah Arendt grew up in Königsberg.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I'm swimming..., I'm drowning...

...yes, that’s actually me, the tiny blue speck (pun absolutely intended) in the middle of the picture... but I wasn’t drowning then, I was simply enjoying the crashing waves at Plage Verger.
Before I digress[1], what I meant to say was: I’m drowning because of all these things I’ve signed up to do ... not to mention all the depressing things I really ought to do.

And on top of it all, Ozzy insists that he really does want to go to grammar school – even though he has so far not put in any effort whatsoever and is struggling on all fronts, even with the non-verbal reasoning – which had me tearing my hair out and trying to find a tutor with whom he’d hopefully not throw a tantrum, argue over semantics and claim that the tests’ authors needed their heads examined.
When really, at this stage in the proceedings, we ought to give up. When really, at this time of the year, I should get down to sorting through my own piles of teaching materials. When really ..., no, I won’t own up (yet) to what really, really, really needs doing and has been waiting to be done for... ehm, 3 years? 4 years?

Still, at least there won’t be any apple or pear harvest this autumn (both the apple and the pear tree had to be sacrificed), and therefore no chutney making (not that this has slowed me down in terms of holding on to every glass jar our family has managed to empty in the course of the year...). Which brings me neatly to the fun things I’ve signed myself up for.

Something fruity, something autumnal

– that’s the theme of Euro Blogging By Post 2, organised again by Andrew of spittoon.

Or rather, that’s one half of the theme. The other being a cupboard raid – to rummage around at the very back of it for an ingredient which you may have bought in a mad flurry of high spirited culinary inspiration only to find your enthusiasm dwindling into nano crumbles faced with your piles of ironing to do/essays to write/admin to sort. In other words, an ingredient you have never got round to using. In an ingenious twist to the care parcel idea, you add one such ingredient, AND – this is the exciting bit – your recipient has to create something with it. (I expect it is supposed to be something edible, not making a collage, or using it for urgent wall plastering – which is probably all my back-of-the-cupboard-ingredients are good for, suspecting that they’re so alarmingly beyond their use-by-date that the World Health Organisation is probably issuing toxic waste warnings as we speak.

To pass something on that you thought you wanted to use but then lost interest in, to someone else to wrestle with, is an excellent idea, which could work for me in many different areas. “Wouldn’t a yoghurt maker be of use to you? Part of the symptoms of an unfamiliar strain of domesticity I seem inexplicably to have caught last summer”. “Here are a few rolls of wallpaper I bought during a bout of decorating fever which befell me all too briefly in 1998”, “How about a batch of wool? I must have acquired it during a spot of earthmotherly delusions in a former life.”

In fact, I can feel lots of ‘Secret Santas’ coming on – which is the just the cue for another thing I’ve signed up for: a parcel exchange between people on Chocolate & Zucchini.
Similar to the Euro one, except there are no country restrictions and we’ll talk about it on C&Z, as opposed to a blog.

On the same forum, initiated by me, and deadlined for next Wednesday – so there really is no excuse!!! – will be the Life of Pi book review and menu presentation . I have to hang my head in shame, but I’m not even half way through the book, and worse still, so far it hasn’t succeeded to tickle the parts which ignite culinary invention, or at least the parts which conjure up food memories...

The latter can induce involuntary salivating, as I’m sure you all know, and is probably what will happen when you read about other people’s food memoirs – which you have the opportunity to do when you follow through the following meme[2], which I was privileged to have been tagged for by a lovely new acquaintance from C&Z: KAI whose blog is bucaio.

NEXT: Childhood Food Memories, THEN: Cupboard Love

[1] “I’m swimming” was an expression serving staff used at the Mövenpick restaurant when they weren’t coping with the amount of orders in their ‘station’. As you may know, the second law of thermodynamics commands people to feel the urge for dining out at exactly the same time, and when they turn up at the same eatery in bulk, a subcategory of the centrifugal force compels them to seat themselves in the relative confines of only one waiter’s ‘station’ – totally oblivious to the fact that other loitering waiters and waitresses aren’t actually supposed to take orders outside their ‘station’, unless a colleague with piles of plates in their hands gallops by with barely concealed panic, and hoarsely hisses the above idiom. (If you’re young and female, and you’ve got Italian colleagues, they might actually approach you at the first sign of your gazelle like sprint, and volunteer to help... ah, those were the days!)

[2] From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The term meme (
pronounced [miːm] in IPA; from the Greek word μνήμη for 'memory') first appeared in the 1976 book by Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene. ... Different definitions of the meme generally agree, very roughly, that a meme consists of some sort of a self-propagating unit of cultural evolution having a resemblance to the gene (the unit of genetics). ... In casual use, the term meme often refers to any piece of information passed from one mind to another. This usage more closely resembles the analogy of "language as a virus" than Dawkins' analogy of memes as replicating units. This definition has come into popular use on the Internet.