Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kraut Rocks!

Krautwickel mit Kichererbsen
(Cabbage Leaves Stuffed with Giggly Peas)

for Bloggeraid

It has bothered me for quite some time that here we are, blogging away in foodieland,not just feeding ourselves and families (too much in my case), but arranging food, photographing it, celebrating it as an art form, and virtually sharing it and our food-related verbosity, when out there – in the real world – people are still dying of starvation. According to Wikipedia, there was an increase of 80 million since 1990, despite the fact that the world already produces enough food to feed everyone - 6 billion people - and could feed double . Every second, 1 person dies as a result of hunger, which accounts for a staggering 58 % of all deaths. Every 5 seconds, 1 child dies as a result of hunger - 60% of all child deaths.

(I'll let you digest that for a moment)

So, I was more than pleased when I stumbled over an organisation called Bloggeraid.

This international group of food bloggers - the brainchild of Ivy, Val and Giz - is trying to address the problem of World Famine by raising awareness as well as money throughout the food communities and beyond. One of the ways to achieve their mission of "helping to make a change in a world where starvation affects such a profound number of people" is to publish a cookbook, the entire profits of which will be directed to the School Meals programme of the World Food Programme (WFP - the UN's front line agency).The School Meals programme does not just target the issue of famine, it simultaneously addresses poor school attendance. How? The chance of at least one meal per day will, it is hoped, motivate parents to send their children to school, rather than keep them at home to work. Girls in particular are often relied upon to look after younger siblings and thus denied a chance to obtain an education. The "take-home ration" - for instance a sack of rice or a can of cooking oil - which the pupil can take home for the family, benefits particularly such girls. Programmes such as this one can double the attendance in Primary Schools in the poorest countries in the world.

What an absolutely marvellous campaign to be involved in! Ivy, Val and Giz have been extremely busy collecting fellow bloggers' recipes since January, in order to have the Bloggeraid cookbook for sale at Amazon by November/December 2009. Today is the deadline, so let's see, why I have chosen cabbage for my recipe.

Well, the call was for an original recipe, maybe inspired by your home country. I am originally from Germany, and what could be more fitting than something made from 'Kraut', i.e. cabbage? Stuffed Cabbage Leaves are very traditional, typically served at home, or, if you're lucky, at lunchtime (the usual time for a hot meal in Germany) as one of the hearty dishes on the specials menu of a pub or restaurant. However, this is normally a meat dish, and I had long wanted to create a vegetarian version, in particular one where the stuffing did not include rice, which The Boy does not eat.
So, this was the outcome:

The stuffing

... made from chickpeas and mushrooms. The irony being: he doesn’t eat mushrooms either, and isn’t too fond of chick peas (not even the translation to “giggly peas” made him feel more inclined towards them).

The 'olives'/'roulades'/'parcels'

Unaware of the ingredients (oh, you have to be so crafty with teenagers sometimes...), he rated them as ‘very good’, something I have never achieved with a Vegetarian dish before!

This is all I am going to say about the recipe at this point. If you want to know exactly how it is done, you will have to wait for the cook book.

PS: Thank you to Angela who reminded me only recently that chickpeas are funny in German, on Lola's site.

Your garden or mine?

Well, clearly yours, as mine is
a) only a stretch of grass to be used for rugby in winter and cricket in summer, and
b) right at the moment even less inviting, as the neighbours can walk straight into it, because yet another couple of fence panels have been blown over.

So, hopefully, you are, what I am not: a giardiniera. -- The
Italian word 'giardiniera' is derived from the root giardino ("garden"), and literally translates to "female gardener."


And this is what has been said about the condiment called giardiniera , which I mentioned in my last post:
Giardinera is a wonderful Italian sandwich topping made from olives, cauliflower, carrots and peppers packed in a mixture of oil and vinegar (mostly oil.) It can be mild or hot. Sometimes you can find it chopped and it may be called muffalata. (1)
This is what most Italians think of when they hear the words Sotto Aceti, a collection of mixed pickled vegetables. The standard Italian antipasto misto wouldn't be quite right without these, and they also work very well with boiled meats in the winter months.
... For many Italian beef eaters in Chicago, a lode [sic] of giardiniera atop the beef is as essential as the beef itself. ... giardiniera should not be mild!
This Italian condiment is a Chicago staple. It’s a mixture of pickled vegetables and hot peppers that’s marinated in olive oil and vinegar. Refrigerated, it’s [sic] shelf life is practically unlimited. It’s the best on an Italian beef sandwich but I put it on everything from toast to pasta.

My recipe, once again,
is an amalgamation of many. Googling and comparing 7 recipes, the following standard ingredients were revealed and ranked in descending order:

Olive oil: 7/7

Onions*: 7/7

Olives: 4/7

Cauliflower: 6/7

Carrots: 6/7

Peppers: 6/7

Vinegar: 5/7

Garlic: 5/7

Peppercorns: 4/7

Oregano: 4/7

Salt: 3/7

Jalapenos: 2/7

Red pepper flakes: 2/7

Lemon juice/caper brine: 1/7

* Pickling/yellow/red

Other possible vegetables include baby mushrooms, celery, green beans, zucchini, baby cucumbers, or artichoke hearts. It's clearly a recipe for experimentation.

Giardiniera (G&T recipe #3)

1 tbsp green olives
½ cup cauliflower florets
1 carrot
1 red pepper

1 green pepper
½ onion
½ zucchini
1 stick celery
1 green hot chilli
1 cup white vinegar
Blitzed vegetables and
1 bay leaf
tsp pepper corns
1 tbsp dried oregano

Boil for 15 minutes Add:
2 tbsp of chopped capers
1 tsp of dried chillies and

1 tsp salt
1/3 cup of olive oil

Fill into sterilised glass jars. Don't put it all into one big jar, you'll be better off using several smaller jars because the contents of an open jar lose their freshness. As I wanted to keep the mix indefinitely, I topped them up with more vinegar, so that everything was well covered. Most recipes will advise you to leave the giardiniera to mature for 48 hours to 1 week before using.
Mine is pretty vinegary, which I love, but some people would probably be happier with less vinegar and more oil.

PanNan on Recipezaar recommends giardiniera with cream cheese on a cracker. I tried it with mine but found it's too vinegary for that.

PS: The photograph of the flowers along the garden path was taken in Monet's Garden.

(1) I mentioned it as 'muffuletta' here (Feb, 17th) - see more here about the bread, salad and sandwich, and the endless spelling variations.

Monday, March 30, 2009

BBD#18: Nothing but Waffle...

Mediterranean Waffles with Olives and Herbs

...wouldn't quite do. So I served them with tomato salad and various antipasti, such as pickled red peppers, artichoke hearts, asparagus spears, green olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and my own home-made giardiniera (recipe to follow). The waffles I made were adapted from "Waffeln und Crêpes, knusprig, süß oder pikant" (waffles and crepes, crisp, sweet or savoury) by G. Poggenpohl (bought in Germany for the princely sum of €5, back in the good old days when the £ was worth something).
This is my contribution to BBD#18, the theme of which was Quick Breads. The event was hosted by Mansi of Fun & Food this time. Thanks, Mansi!

Mediterranean Waffles with Olives and Herbs
You need a waffle iron to make these.

70ml olive oil
4 eggs
100g corn flour
100g plain flour
120 ml milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
4 cloves garlic
50g olives
3 tbsp mixed herbs (or whatever is at hand, I used lemon thyme)

Mix plain and corn flour with baking powder and salt. Mix eggs and olive oil. Using one spoonful at a time, add egg mixture and milk to the flour mix and stir until smooth. Chop the olives, garlic and herbs and add to the dough. Heat the waffle iron and bake. I set mine to mark 5.

Makes about 6 rounds of hearts.

I thought they worked really well with the tomato salad (mine was very basic, I just added a few capers; a tomato, mozzarella and basil version would have been good, too), and the giardiniera. The waffles enable you to mop up all the tasty liquid, so they'd make a great accompaniment to all sorts of dishes, especially as so many variations are possible. I think I'll get that waffle iron out more often now. I can see waffles as an alternative to bread with soups, and even a quick solution if The Boy finds himself without a Naan for his curry. I'd like to work on a potato version and also on cutting out eggs and eventually dairy, too, for a Vegan-friendly waffle.
They can be eaten warm, straight from the waffle iron, kept warm as a stack in the oven,
or cold. They also freeze well and can be de-frosted/heated in the toaster.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dinner and A Movie: Moonstruck

Steak Diane
As explained here and here, and here, Marc and Susan run this brilliant event, called Dinner and a Movie.

This month's film was MOONSTRUCK.
An exuberantly Italian romantic comedy, it immediately - immediamente (1) - conjured up a quintessential Italian family meal. In particular one I've been meaning to cook for ages: Ossobuco. But you have to be fast (i.e. early) at Birmingham's market to get hold of the right cut of meat, and, yes, you've guessed it, 'fast' and 'early' are not in my active vocabulary.
So, back to my BH's suggestion of Steak Diane.
WHY? Well, the MOON, as in the title, plays an important role in the film, in particular the effect a full moon (2). Here, "she brings the woman to the man", which ties in with lunar deities being female in the Romance languages (3). Amongst the Roman Moon goddesses is not just Luna, but also Diana, hence Steak Diane.
As she is also known as the goddess of the hunt, I expected Steak Diane to feature a sauce containing mushrooms. But only 3 of the first 5 googled recipes did. Otherwise, they only differed in terms of quantities, herbs and methods used.

This is my amalgamation: (G & T Recipe #2)

Steak Diane (Serves 4)

4 small fillet steaks
2 -3 banana shallots, finely diced
100g button mushrooms
1 fat garlic clove
Worcestershire sauce, splash
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp brandy
150 ml single cream

1 tbsp chives, snipped (7)
lemon juice, splash; optional
olive oil
salt, pepper

Season the steaks on both sides and smear with some of the mustard. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the steaks for 1-2 minutes, then set aside. In the same pan, saute the shallots, minced garlic, and mushrooms. (I sliced mine finely because The Boy hates them, but I think you could leave them whole if they're tiny.) Cook for 2 minutes, tossing and stirring. Add the remaining mustard, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Season. To add the brandy, you tilt the pan slightly away from you, and keep it at the far side. Ignite the brandy and wait until the alcohol has burnt off before incorporating it into the mixture. Pour in the cream and stir carefully , then heat steaks in the sauce for 2-3 minutes (or longer, depending how thick they are and how you like them).

I served them with potatoes sauteed with rosemary, and a lamb's lettuce salad with balsamic vinegar and hazelnut oil. (I have to add: nice as it was, the taste was too overpowering for the more delicate flavours of the Steak Diane.)

A steak was, of course, fitting because it is what Loretta (Cher) cooks for Ronny (Nicolas Cage) in the film when they first meet. Earlier, however, we see her in the family kitchen where her mother makes something that inspired my (strictly no-diet) starter.
Ciabatta Breakfast Starter
I used ciabatta bread slices, and immediately found that they had to be much larger for this fried bread-cum-egg. With larger slices, one could probably have used a circular cutter for the hole that is needed for the egg. As it was, a lot of the egg-white was left on top of the fried bread, and I had to stick it under the grill to finish it off. Apparently, this is called 'One Eye' (un occhio?), and you need the right kind of bread (which??) and you butter it before it goes into the pan (this information is from You Tube comments).

Having a starter, I felt I needed a dessert as well. With both dishes being highly calorific, this had to be low in calories. I like to experiment with Müller light for such desserts, and I chose their new Vanilla with Chocolate, which made me think of Stracciatella ice-cream. Espresso Dessert
To stay with the Italian theme, I also incorporated Espresso, coffee liqueur, ratafias and toasted hazelnuts. What's Italian about hazelnuts, I hear you ask. Ah! They remind me of a visit to Napoli, and our friend R.'s lovely parents. R's Mum had baked the nuts in their shell, which gives them this intense flavour of roasted, toasted hazelnuts without any burnt surface area. An absolute revelation!

I'm not going to add the recipe of the above dessert because it still needs further experiments in terms of quantities, textures, and - as you can see - presentation.

I can't wait to see everyone else's ideas! Thanks, Susan, in advance, for the round-up!
Alla Familia. Salute!
(1) No, I'm not trying to show off, I don't actually speak Italian; if anything I want to show off the usefulness of the old lingua franca Latin, and how a word derived from it, spoken in another language, can help with the spelling obstacles in English.
(2) There are a number of effects attributed to a full moon, see here under 'lunar effect'. In Germany, the full moon is also referred to as 'Säufersonne', the drinkers' sun.
(3) Mani of the Germanic tribes, Nanna or Sin of the Mesopotamians, Thoth of the Egyptians, the Japanese God Tsukoyomi, the Finnish Rahko and the Aztec Teccizacatl, are all male moon gods. Typically, these cultures feature a female sun goddess. Which explains why it is der Mond(m)/die
Sonne (f) in German, but la luna (f)/il sole (m) in Italian (la lune/le soleil in French).
= googled and tested; i.e. the essence of the recipe after googling, comparing the constituent elements, and tweaking them to our taste/requirements. Also, see January 22, Burns' Treatment here .
Most of the recipes suggested sirloin but personally, I'd rather have a small fillet than a larger sirloin.
Most of the recipes used double cream but I found single cream quite sufficient.
Alternatives: (flat-leaf) parsley, none

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

And this is what he made for Mothers' Day

It's apple and yellow plum compote with sultanas and cinnamon on a Scottish pancake, served with vanilla ice-cream and apple wedges. He did this without a recipe, simply inspired by watching masterchef. (I think 'au pif' will be his method of choice, don't you?) It was delicious, and sweet enough without the addition of any sugar. The Boy said knowingly that he had used good quality apples! The photograph (1) was taken by Dopey who, on Friday night, had agreed to make a starter, but arrived on Sunday, asking: What starter? (See what I mean??!!!)
Ah well, he's made me a music compilation, and two of the bands even have food related names: Farmers' Market, and Charming Hostess. And my BH cooked us a chicken curry of such gigantic proportions that I felt forced to ask how many other mothers he had invited. (I know, I know, what else is new? After all, he is the reason that there is frequently A Lot On My Plate!)
(1) To quote him verbatim: You take crap photos, Mom! (PS: This is not a spelling mistake, in the Midlands, you're a Mom!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

And these are his muffins!

Raspberry, Strawberry and Blueberry Muffins

I had fresh blueberries in but just blueberries, that was not unusual enough for The Boy (see below), so we de-frosted some 'summer fruit'.

This is what he had to bring to his Food Technology (1) class:

280g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
100g sugar
1 egg
240 ml milk

85g butter
140g fruit

My guess is that they were baked in a pre-heated oven at around 180-200 degrees C, for about 20 minutes.

I thought they were very nice but he was disappointed. Not sweet enough, not quite as sensational as he'd hoped for. But believe me, had I not taken these pictures immediately, there wouldn't have been anything left to photograph.

I'm wondering whether I can enter this for BBD # 18 over at funandfood , because right at the moment I can't see myself getting round to making the savoury waffles as there are so many deadlines looming. But I suppose 'guessing' a recipe isn't quite on!
(1) Technology! I ask you! First they pretended they were actually teaching you something about household management - Home Economics - then they wanted to be associated with even more serious subjects by calling it Domestic Science, and now it's technology! For a linguist, the naming and re-naming processes which are going on in the world are a matter of never-ending amusement! My favourite in terms of school subjects, however, has to be Resistant Materials!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

That's My Boy!

My little one in his Greater Birmingham kit. It's a shame you can't see his team-mates (I didn't want to ask for permission, so I cropped the photo) because without the comparison, you can't quite appreciate his thighs, which are almost double the size of theirs.
What might be part of a 'great physique' on a rugby player, used to look seriously out of place on the girl he inherited these from (poor little me!). Their circumference was only a few inches short of that of my waist, and my calves were equally 'impressive', giving rise to my Dad gleefully referring to them as footballers' legs. - He was equally charming about my backside, but that's another story (1). - As there was no girls' team in our area, their usefulness in this respect was never further tested than playing on an open field with the neighbours' son (who, nonetheless, became a professional footballer later). Since my main sporting outlet is pushing a trolley along food aisles as fast as the other shoppers will allow, a less muscular outfit would have sufficed. However, all the years of distress over my deformity melt away when I see The Boy putting his physical inheritance to such good use in the pushing and 'driving' required in scrums and what I have recently found is called a 'ruck', not a 'rook' as I erroneously called it here. Well, I had never seen it written down, and believe me, the way they say it in this region, it sounded like the latter. Still does.
'Ruck', of course, makes far more sense, being a nice Anglo-Saxon word. Apparently, it is believed to be of Scandinavian origin, meaning a pile of combustible material! In German, 'der Ruck' is a jolt, jerk, tug or yank, and 'Hau ruck' means 'heave ho!'
What a shame I've been banned from shouting anything from the side-lines...
(1) My behind, apparently, was as broad as the Krämpfer Tor. No, this didn't mean anything to me either. In fact, it is only now, courtesy of the weird and wonderful web, that I have found what it refers to.
Once upon a time, in the days of the Cold War, behind the Iron Curtain, there was a town called Erfurt. This town, in existence since the 8th century, was keen on defending itself, building massive city walls in 1066 (had they by any chance heard of William the Bastard?!), and by the 15th century, the walls had several gates. The Krämpfer Tor is one of them, and I guess it was big.
Considering that I fitted into a size 8 at the time (which would probably be a 6 these days - UK sizes), I daren't think what he'd say now - Marble Arch? Arc de Triomphe?
Come to think of it, had he not been quite so unsupportive... - maybe, just maybe, I would never have tried to weigh as little as a waif and therefore wouldn't have had any weight problems later. (More about that some other time...)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bloody steak...

...bloody film?

Clarabela at justchickflicks has asked the interesting question why Men LOVE certain films.

But she starts out with the date-night-scenario - dinner and a movie - involving a bloody steak and an even bloodier film; which made me ask myself quite another question:

Have I been dating only WEIRD men? (Don't answer that!) Or have I been just incredibly good at vetoing crap - sorry - unacceptable films?

When I think back of films I've gone to see with boyfriends, it doesn't actually look too bad at all. Of course, maybe my memory does not serve me well, it all seems so long ago!! Maybe I've completely blocked out any action/horror movies I had to endure? (1)

No 1: Did we ever even make our way into the cinema?
No 2: 'Papillon' I remember, and that he was incredibly fond of cartoons. (2)
No 3: 'Lord of the Rings', 'Taxi Driver', 'The Empire strikes back', 'Midnight Express'
No 4: 'La Cage aux Folles' (3), and various James Bond films (4)
No 5: Roman Polanski's 'Macbeth', 'Blazing Saddles'

I'm married to the last one, and comedy and Shakespeare still play a dominant role. Probably not surprising after acting in school productions and studying English as part of his first degree. He will watch any costume drama, his favourite film is 'Brazil' and while not completely averse to what he calls 'boys' films (his own definition: involving car chases and/or guns) and not at all interested in what he calls 'porn for women' (5) (soaps and anything involving shopping - he moaned all the way through 'Sex in the City', and I don't mean Samantha type moaning!), he does not want to see blood, gore and horror. Doesn't see the point of it.
Although my boys (20 and 14) play unnecessarily brutal games on their Play-Thingy (X Box currently, but in the same way that a father I know called every boyfriend of his daughter's 'Bob', I might as well give it a more generic term as these things also seem to need frequent up-grading) -- in terms of films, they both list 'Amélie' amongst their favourites.

So, not everything is lost! We all love JB, Brazil and Amélie, and none of us love (or even like or rate!) Scarface and The Godfather, and I'm not even sure we know who Will Ferrell is.

Then again, none of my boys/men like their steak bloody. (In descending order: medium rare/doesn't like beef/well done.)

PS: I didn't have a photograph of a bloody steak, and I couldn't work out how to upload someone else's. Probably just as well, it's not a pretty sight!
(1) Nah, I can see all my friends shaking their heads vigorously, "You never endured any action movies!!"
(2) This fascination did elude me at the time, and even though something has happened (my BH would argue it's probably the depleted oestrogen levels, also accountable for being a lot better at throwing and catching than in my youth....) whereby I do now find them very funny, Clarabela's last paragaph on a comedian reminded me that there must be differences in female/male types of humour. There is a certain silly-absurd element which tickles them, but leaves me cold, while there are other strains of humour that have me in stitches, but don't do anything for them.
(3) Some people will only be familiar with the '96 American re-make The Birdcage.
(4) He totally converted me to JB. At the time, it was Roger Moore, and the films were so tongue-in-cheek that I could forgive the genre. AND ever since, I have probably seen every JB film as soon as it came out, except for the last one. Oooh, and I so agree with Clarabela, I LOVED Pierce Brosnan as JB.
(5) Actually, that's what he calls House Make-Over shows, all that easy peasy carpentry and other DIY that give women the totally wrong impression that men LOVE IT.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Le Rou(x)ge et le Noir

Marc @ norecipes and Susan @ Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy started a brilliant blogging event - the first Dinner and Movie of the Month, and I managed to miss it. Well, when I say 'miss', I actually mean, I had to give up, eventually. But let's start at the beginning:
The idea is that you watch the film of the month, then cook/bake a dish inspired by it. Well, I thought, that's almost like my RED SHOES film club that I never quite got off the ground (1), or the online book-inspired recipe exchange I initiated and then abandoned (2)! So, this was right up my street, and, with someone else running it, probably not destined to end in failure as so many of my projects do. Alas, a few of the reasons that make me so accomplished a failure junkie, came into play in this instance, too.
The film was CHOCOLAT - hence the above 'Roux' reference. As you may know/remember, the protagonist's (J. Binoche) love interest, played by Johnny Depp, was a river gypsy called Roux (3). Needless to say, I started fantasizing (and salivating) instantly. (I have a friend who fancies both, Johnny and Juliette, so with all that divine chocolate thrown in, this film makes her melt as if she were made of the sinful substance herself.)
My own fantasies revolved more around ambitious plans of what to make (honest!):

- A gypsy stew, enriched with Mayan chocolate, whose spicy smells immediately conjure up black cauldrons over an open fire, flickering flames and gold and silver flashes from earrings and tambourines?
- A chocolate cake with truffles on top, made to look like a presentation box of chocolate, each decorated individually, with dark and white chocolate stripes and squiggles, walnut halves, and pistachio brittle?
- A raspberry chocolate cake made to look like one giant truffle, in its own chocolate casing, topped with a raspberry mousse and a red lacy caramel fan?

The latter idea came partially from my eldest, admittedly, when I related the scene I remember most vividly, namely the one when Judi Dench (Armande Voizin) lifts her drab skirt to reveal the bright red lace of her petticoat, something I was desperate to incorporate.

As I’m as far away from being a masterchef as Gregg Wallace is from an elegant grasp of the English language in terms of pronunciation and correct grammar (4), all these ideas kept me running back to the PC.
Yep, downfall No1: research. It seems to be my raison d'être. Research, of course, with all the resources at one's fingertips, can be endless these days, and Endless (or was that 'Expansive'?) is one of my middle names. It's the reason why nothing ever comes off the ground, why the house is in the state it’s in, why there is often nothing on the plate - as opposed to A Lot! - for my hungry boys. The research and the fantasising seems to be more important than the actual activity in the kitchen (hmm, sounds familiar from other areas, too!).
So, I ended up with all my cake baking books cluttering the dining table, and documents cluttering my desk top. File after file were filled with information on gypsies (or Roma, Sinti etc, etc) and their food, plus a few more on Olla Podrida and raspberry cakes and cup cakes (‘caramel lace’ brought up Elle McPherson and lacy bras, by the way!), but nothing as yet was filling my plate. Which brings me to downfall No2: sense of timing and logistics, or rather, my lack of it.
I felt I had to watch the film again in order to feel justified in saying "inspired by the film" -- only, we don't own it.
Not to worry, I thought, I know a woman who does. Well, she did, but it was not to be found anywhere. Neither was it to be found in the library, (my BH came back with "Sex in the City" instead...) nor in the plethora of charity shops in A.G. Fine, I thought, Blockbuster it is -- only to discover that my membership card was missing from my purse.
By the time the glorious idea of checking out You Tube was put to me, I had already given up the idea of making and posting anything in time, even though I had actually cooked a delicious gypsy stew, and had bought all the ingredients for some sort of raspberry chocolate concoction, based on 55 different versions. But a) the photograph of the stew had not come out right, b) I had not yet turned my gypsy research into a suitable article, and c) there was no more time to get any baking done, let alone all the fancy fiddly stuff dreamt up earlier in the week! Even the simplest recipe seems to take at least 2 hours, once I enter my time-warp kitchen, so something like a triple decker cake with filling, ganache and complicated topping would take me all day, and we had to leave at 5ish because we had tickets to see Antony Sher (best known as The History Man) in The Tempest at Stratford, and parking space near the Courtyard Theatre (5) is at a premium.

So, there you have it, another instalment of my memoirs, the current working titles of which include: Adventures of a Failure Junkie; How to fail at everything - the 10 step approach; and Too Blonde and too Ambitious to Succeed?
But hey, as my cousin D. said about the East German experiment, “The original ideas were good.” And unlike the GDR version of Communism, my ideas and experiences are usually a lot of fun.

So, now we can come back to the title and photograph of this entry.
Le Rouge et le Noir, 1830, is of course a a Bildungsroman by Stendhal (Henri Beyle, (1783 – 1842, from Grenoble, a town which has been twinned with Essen since 1976) about the upwardly mobile Julien Sorel, an early version of Joe Lampton of "Room at the Top" by John Braine.
I have already explained the roux and the red lace, and while I was most surprised at the absence of the aforementioned scene on You Tube (can anyone explain this to me?), I noticed that there was a lot of use of this colour throughout the film, while other bright colours did not feature at all. There are the red capes at the beginning, of course, Vianne (our heroine) also wears red jumpers, or a red apron, and Joséphine wears a red jumper after her liberating use of the skillet. The red is often more the shade of lobster bisque than crimson, however. For instance Vianne's top and the stripes in Roux's shirt when they're dancing on the boat, or the blanket on Anouk's bed, or the balloon at the end of the film. But it still seems to symbolise the bit of fun and life and sin (?), the dark matter, the brown, almost black (magic) stuff (6) has brought to the people of the village.

PS: See here for the round-up and some seriously yummy looking recipes!
(1) The Red Shoes:
a) a fairy tale by Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen; b) a legendary film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (1948); c) a ballet based on the film and the story by Jochen Ulrich, with music by Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten, premiered May 6th 2006 at the Aalto Theater, Essen, as: Die roten Schuhe.
We watched the film, wore red shoes, ate red food and had a red cocktail. Sadly, similar events never got beyond the planning stage.
(2) I had the idea after I came across a book group who did just that: they read a book, and when they next got together, they all brought a dish inspired by the book. It seemed like the ideal thing for Chocolate & Zucchini, and we started with “Life of Pi” .....
(3) Ah, a number of points here. Roux, in Joanne Harris’ book and in the film, means ‘the redhead’. There is also a hotly tipped band called La Roux, because of the female singer's red hair. A question to the French speakers: is this even correct, or should it be La Rousse? (Yes, I know, this is also slang for The old Bill, according to this dictionary.
Of course, foodies think immediately of the basic technique for starting a lot of sauces, and/or the brothers Roux.
For me, it has a fun element, too. Depp playing Roux, in my mind, turns into "oaf playing sweaty flour". A roux, in the typically German way of naming things, becomes the rather uninspired, prosaic, but nail on the head "sweated flour", or "flour sweat", and "Depp" is German slang for dork, fool, moron, oaf, plonker, retard, shmuck, twit.
(4) Pars pro toto: when he followed the preposition "for" with the nominal form "John and I", I would have felt too queasy to slice a carrot, let alone cook something "elegant" for his ever so educated palate! Such a shame that his palate has only superior taste-buds, but is not capable of forming "elegant" sounds, and that his education does not include basic grammar.
(5) The theatres in Stratford are undergoing major refurbishment, unfortunately, we don't seem to see provision for more parking spaces on the plans, and for some reason, there isn't a late train back to Brum. I'm seriously considering a campaign! - Oh, by the way, this production of The Tempest is sensational!
(6) The chocolate in the photograph, as you can probably tell, is 100% coco from Hôtel Chocolat.