Friday, December 23, 2005

Was mache ich mit dem Eigelb?

Or: what to do with the yolks?

One of the delights of the internet (at least now, since about google) is that you can just type in anything and get an answer. (I won't at this point go into details over what sort of things I've tried in the small parts of the hour...just for fun, you understand...).

But when I'd baked my hazelnut macaroons, this is exactly what I did - I typed in: Was mache ich mit dem Eigelb?
And what was the answer? "Eierlikör, natürlich!"

Well, not so naturally to me. Sure, I make advocaat more or less every Easter, when I end up with masses of egg from blown out shells - but for that I use the whole egg, not just the yolk. But, after looking at recipes on the net, it seems that this is actually more the exception than the norm - a lot of them use the yolk only.

Excellent. Another wonderful bit of information is the fact that there are many, many ways of achieving this quintessentially Dutch liqueur (Or is it?? See below!), and I am delighted to find that I don't necessarily need evaporated milk - which my Mum's recipe asks for but which isn't the sort of thing I normally keep in my cupboard and which they don't sell at Lidl (just over the road from me - too close for comfort, i.e. I resent having to actually DRIVE somewhere for my food...).

The only question remains: can one buy 'Weingeist' (oh, wine spirit, oh spirit of the wine...) in this country, as one can in Germany, at the pharmacy? (Where one can also buy Haushaltnatron for Brezeln, of course, but that's another story...)
If yes, that would be incredibly useful (as we seem to have actually used up [drunk???!!!] all the Pott 54, and don't quite know how to light the Feuerzangenbowle this year... but I'm digressing as usual....).

However, with an alcohol %age of 90 odd, that seems highly unlikely - as clearly the Brits cannot be trusted with alcohol... ;-)

ANYWAY, this is the easy peasy way, using brandy and evaporated milk.

Eierlikör /Advocaat

3 eggs (or in this case, 4 egg yolks)
3 tbsp of sugar
6 tbsp of evaporated milk
lemon juice (optional)
1 cup of brandy

Blend all ingredients in a blender. Pour into sterilised glass bottle.

Opinion as to how long this stuff keeps in the fridge seems to be divided. But in my experience, this is totally irrelevant, as it is ready to be drunk immediately... and does not tend to survive any of the parties it was made for... if indeed, it ever makes it all the way to the party... hic

My bottlle is half way empty as we speak, and what is left is not worth taking anywhere... I rest my case.

According to Wikipedia, this alcoholic beverage derives its name from avocado:
The natives of the Amazon region had a drink called 'abacate', made with avocado, which the Europeans discovered in the 17th century. When they added rum and demerara sugar, 'advocaat' in its original form was invented - apparently the egg yolks were simply a substitute for the avocado!!!

Hmm, I wonder what it would be like with avacado? - Not exactly less calorific but better for the cholesterol conscious.

Anyway, there are lots of variations on this. A lot of recipes use cream instead of evaporated milk, icing sugar instead of caster sugar and add vanilla sugar; the alcohol used also varies - it seems a lovely field for experimentation!!!

For a chocolate and/or moccha variant: add nutella or cocoa and/or instant coffe or Camp (a chicory & coffee essence).

Some people claim that egg nog (or egg flip etc) is superior to advocaat - see a very illuminating entry over at the traveler's lunchbox under the heading: Top Nog.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Biscuit Bonanza

Oh my goodness, did we eat!!! And chat, and laugh, and drink...

Saturday was my first blogger meeting (Celia, Jeanne, Jenni, Joanna, Johanna, Martina, Melissa and Melissa's friend Wampe) and what a feast it turned out to be! Johanna, the host, treated us to Sauerkraut, Bratwurst and various Austrian dips. But that was only the 'amuse bouche'! We continued with a sumptious cheese fondue, complete with smoked hams and gherkins, washed down with white wine. Just in case we were still short of a calorie or two in this first instalment of the annual 'put on a stone in one month' marathon, we were then treated to mulled wine/cider and the complete array of Christmas cookies that everyone had brought! (The variety shown above is only plate 1...) Of course, every single one had to be sampled and swapped! YES!!! We all went home with containers full of the most delicious homebaked creations!
Just opening my tin, the smell catapults me back to a gappy toothed little me, singing Christmas songs by the light of the candles on the advent wreath, with my Mum and my brother, just as Johanna had conjured up on Saturday... Thank you so much Johanna for bringing back such happy memories, for hosting this event, and for all the hard work that went into it. Thank you to everyone else, too, for being absolutely marvellous company and such terrific biscuit bakers. Particular thanks must go to Melissa for her driving me down to "Twickers", and Joanna for driving me to High Wycombe.

I won't go into all the details of my semi-catastrophic cookie making, suffice it to say that OH had already noticed the mark on the dining room table and had inspected it and found a whole piece missing underneath... ooops!I've also got muscular ache, though why in my left arm, that remains a mystery.
Anyway, here's the recipe I followed:

Haselnussmakronen – Hazelnut Macaroons

Recipe says, it will make 70, my empirical research says: 50 at the most...

4 egg whites
200g caster sugar
1 pinch of cinnamon
1 pinch of salt
300g ground hazelnuts (for best taste, grind just before making macaroons)
50-70 whole hazelnuts (just in case)

Beat the egg whites until stiff, add the sugar in batches and continue beating until the mixture stands in stiff peaks, then carefully fold in the rest of the ingredients, except the whole hazelnuts. With two wet teaspoons, drop walnut sized heaps of the mixture on to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Place whole hazelnuts in the middle of each macaroon. Allow to stand. (Some recipes suggest letting them rest at room temperature for an hour...)

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 130º C for ca 20 minutes.

It is important at this point that you don’t go up into the attic to search for your nice Christmas tin...

Will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.
Apparently, they can even be frozen...

variations I found:
4 drops of bitter almond essence/vanilla essence
100g desiccated coconut & 200g ground hazelnuts
a mixture of ground and flaked hazelnuts
1 teaspoon lemon juice
icing sugar instead of caster sugar
grated lemon rind

I also found that it might be possible to ‘grind’ the hazelnuts in a food processor...

My Mum used to make coconut macaroons all year round, but I never took to those as much, they were just too sweet for my liking. Of course, it would also be dead easy to make them with almonds, for which I might try the ground/flaked mixture for a more varied texture.

The suggested temperature in the recipes ranged from 120º C to 300º C, and the suggested baking time from 8*-30 minutes, making it the ideal recipe for me, operating with a mini oven where the temperature cannot be determined (at least not by you - you get what you’re given), and where the heat can disappear despite of the stepladders’ valiant efforts...

* 8-10 minutes at 185º C, for soft macaroons, suggests one recipe

Soon to come:
Was mache ich mit dem Eigelb?
What do I do with the yolks?

I wonder how similar my advocaat is to Johanna's home made Bailey's?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Round Robins

Last year, amongst the Christmas books Tom buys me every year, was one by the otherwise well appreciated Simon Hoggart, which annoyed me enormously.
The book came in a manageable format, a pretty red and silver sleeve, which features a funny seasonal cartoon and the intriguing title, ‘The cat that could open the fridge’. Moreover, the blurb promises an ‘inimitable funny commentary’, and attests that the writer has wisdom and humanity, with a touch of class. (Yes, you’ve guessed it, such accolade can only come from a fellow journalist, one who has worked for the same paper and who is still a colleague in broadcasting…)
Well, I only recall laughing out once, namely at the quote on page 92, when an extremely miserable circular letter, describing all the disasters and mishaps of one family, ends thus: ‘On this note, we wish you an equally contented and peaceful 2004’. As the comic element was provided by the sender himself it did not need SH’s commentary at all. As for the rest of the book: it didn’t even put me into the agreeable state of mild amusement, which is all any of the other books that have the undeserved praise “hilariously funny” heaped on them have ever managed to do. In fact, it thoroughly frustrated and angered me. So much so, that I have decided not to send any more Round Robins.

And to those of you who might see the book around, or - heaven forbid - the follow-up, I'd like to say:

Do not buy this book. Its 145 pages consist almost entirely of quotes from Christmas letters, all of which have been sent to SH by readers who declare to absolutely loathe them, who find them excruciatingly boring and/or disgracefully smug and boasting. At £9.99, SH has added nothing worthwhile. In fact, everything he says/implies about the so-called round robins – the writers don’t know when to stop, the letters aren’t really funny, not really entertaining, not really enlightening, not really insightful, and really, really, really could have done with radical editing… – aptly applies to his own book. Only difference being that the poor betrayed writers of those letters did not claim to be funny and insightful, they had the decency to use their own words and didn’t ask anyone for payment!!!

If you’ve ever felt like SH’s contributors about someone’s Christmas circulars – namely that they’re “boasting, whingeing, ... miserable, ... nit-picking, testy and grandiloquent, ... packed with facts without information and information without knowledge", their writers "often blissfully lacking in self-awareness” – don’t be as cowardly as they were! Don’t shop those people (whose only ‘crime’ is to think that staying in touch is a nice trait) to SH so that he can publish another book, with 95% of the work done by the very people he insults. One page, for instance, contains less than 18 words by the author himself. Instead, do the decent thing: Tell them that you don’t want to be bothered with their annual whinge.

And another thing: Reply to Christmas greetings! Only horrible people like those who write to SH, and include such lines as, ‘my oldest and dearest friend, but oh dear, what a plonker!’ think that not replying for a decade is a hint that they don’t want your Christmas cards, the rest of us think that you simply can’t find the time, but that you still appreciate hearing from us!

I for one have decided not only to give up writing Round Robins, but also writing to people who do not write to me. I used to think such tit-for-tat attitude was rather silly and small-minded and petty, but the thought that there could be just one person out there who thinks of me as someone “trapped in a forest of self-delusion” who forces other people to plough through "thousands of words describing every detail of someone’s life" (as if free will and bins didn't exist...), has resulted in this resolve. Instead, I'll point people into this direction, my blog.

Blogs, of course, will undoubtedly receive the same loathing as Round Robins by fans of Simon Hoggart, are they not, after all, certainly by those people's definition, the very epitome of wearisome self-important drivel, detailing every boring development in some non-entity's life: from what they've cooked/eaten to their nostalgia for 80s punk, let's say?

Well, to all of those (who might as well call for the undertaker now, as they're clearly already dead inside) I have to say, I have 'met' more people via blogging who are tremendously kind and generous, interesting and exceptionally educated (which says quite a lot considering I have worked at Universities in Germany and the UK for longer than I care to admit to), not to mention talented, funny and original, than in 'real life' for yonks and yonks and yonks!!!

And tomorrow I'm going to meet some of them in the flesh, and I can't wait!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Middle Eastern Delights

This time, my food parcel came from ISRAEL, from my lovely friend Simona, and the organic look of the contents and the previous art meme inspired me to lay them all out as a picture. It looked quite spectacular - unfortunately, my camera doesn't do it justice.
The totally delicious goodies are:
"hair halva" (halva=lit. sweetmeat; made from sesame seeds, honey or sugar syrup; other ingredients may be added, for instance rosewater, dried fruit, nuts, spices), two different types of Hummus snacks (savoury but not spicy-hot), chocolate coated (white and dark) raisins, caramel liquorice (!), candied strawberries, mini oranges, pomelo and papaya, and quince paste. Not in the picture are mini chocolate and halva snacks, and I also left out - for obvious reasons - the absolutely FANtastic handcream Simona sent.
What an absolutely thrilling, exciting and exotic parcel! Thank you ever so much Simona!!!
It's difficult to say what I like best - judging from what has been eaten most of, it would be the hummus snacks. But I think that's got something to do with the fact that it's not sweet, so you don't feel so guilty. Also: you can eat more savoury food in one sitting than sweet. The boys love the strawberries best, but I think I prefer the pomelo, I love the lush combination of citrus and sweet perfume. The hair halva is also absolutely gorgeous, and I could gobble it up in one go, as I adore the taste as much as the odd consistency of this sesame-honey concoction, which demands finger licking - surely one of the definitions of yummy food.
But I have to say that it was the quince paste which excited me most - simply because of this year's unsuccessful Quest for Quince... I will write more about this in The Quince Connection...
-- I know, I know, promises, promises; I never seem to get round to anything I announce. I still haven't added all those recipes from the Childhood Meme..., and, and, and, ad infinitum. But you never know - now that there are 5000 other things more urgent than the blog, I might just feel the urge to ponder the wonder of quinces...

Monday, December 12, 2005

meme: art & gastronomy

I'm not quite sure whether this is my favourite food related picture, but it is Bacchus, after all, painted by Caravaggio, no less, who IS one of my favourite painters. More of his paintings on (where I swiped this...).

Oh yes, this is the tag:

And the invitation came from SaoMai