Monday, February 09, 2009

No more blogging...at least for a while

So, I guess you know what I'm gonna right based on the title....I'm hanging up my blogging, at least for the foreseeable future. It's very sad but life is just too busy at the moment and I just don't have enough time to do it all. Between a new job, a wedding to plan this summer, making the most of the snow with countless skiing weekends, pottery classes, yoga, cooking and crafting, I have no time to sit down and write. But still, I always feel like I should in the back of my mind, which is why this post should help make things a bit more final.

So thank you all for reading and commenting, it's been a great few years and I've learned and gotten so much inspiration from the blogging world out there! Perhaps one day I'll be back but for the moment I say goodbye.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On culture and cheese


I'm determined to stay with the blogging at the moment but let me explain why I haven't posted for two weeks. Last weekend we had a three day trip to Vienna which was amazing. A beautiful city filled with fabulous buildings and museums, a bustling Christmas market, comfy coffee houses with tasty cakes and a delicious food market filled with many cafe's. After our stay, the feet were very sore from all the walking, the bellies full of the delicious tarts and sausages and the senses overloaded with their plethora of museums.


Then this weekend has been filled with dinners and meeting friends with at the top of it all, a scrumptious cheese fondue in a friends vineyard this afternoon. It's a small plot of land that first her father and now her brother work as their hobby. We walked up there around 3.30 in a snowy winter wonderland. Once we got to the little house they have, we cooked the cheese on the wood stove and drank their white wine....the most perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon if you ask me! The way down was a bit more challenging as it had started snowing again and there was a fierce wind making it very exciting in the dark.


Finally, a little bit of crafting with this year's dinner table light decoration. Still sticking with a natural theme like last year but using a different plant. And the little leaves swing happily around if you have some candles lit on the table.

Cheese Fondue a la Bischof
(calculate between 150-200g cheese per person depending on the appetite)

600g of cheese (equal amounts of Gruyere, Vacherin Fribourgeois and Appenzeller - or what you have at hand)
3 cloves of garlic (making for a fairly garlicy taste so reduce if you don't like it too strong)
300 ml of white wine (and plenty more for drinking!)
grated nutmeg
2tsp cornflour
a small glass of Kirsch (again, have some extra on hand to sip as it aids the digestion)
black pepper
a pinch of bicarbonate soda
plenty of your favourite bread (we had potatobread with walnuts and also half white)

Chop the garlic roughly and put it in the pan, add the cheese, wine and cornflour and place on the heat. Stir until all is dissolved and then stir in the kirsch, nutmeg and pepper. Mix well and just before serving add the bicarbonate soda and mix well. Serve with the bread whist stirring in the shape of eights - this prevents the cheese from burning at the bottom and makes for a fantastic "Grossmutter". This is the crust that forms at the bottom and make sure you have some room left as it's the best bit of the whole fondue.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

First pottery piece..


...that I made in my new course (started in April). The progress i this course is much slower but the pieces are finished better and I learn a lot more then before. One down side is that the glazes are a lot less spectacular then in my last class. But at the same time it's nice to glaze thing simply and make a form that suits that.

This cake stand is the the perfect piece to present these small savoury tarts on (made with some delicious Cashel Blue and left over beer and coconib jam)and it was soon empty again.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Where have I been?



It's been quiet on the blog for the last few months but real life has been busy and bustling. We've had a summer of fabulous sunshine and Rhine swimming coupled with friends visiting, music festivals and mountains. Interspersed there have been many dinners, bbq's, crafting, pottery and testing Japanese recipes.

In addition, some life changing events have taken place: I finished my job at the university at the end of July. After months (even years) of doubt I finally made the decision to change careers. After 2 months of job searching (a wonderful week at home and lots of the above mentioned Rhine swimming) I found a new position and have very happily transited to the pharmaceutical industry since the start of October.

Last but by no way least, there has been a very unexpected but welcome proposal on the middle of a glacier a few weeks ago followed by a very swift OF COURSE! filling life with lots of champagne,celebrations and this incredible happiness. Who would have thought this would change so much in our happy living together state ...says the Dutch girl always skeptical of marriage, I guess I have to eat my words but boy, they taste sweet :-). With that comes lots of planning/organizing to be done in the next few months.

So with all that I fear the blog will suffer even more!

I had great plans of overhauling it this summer which obviously hasn't happened and have now decided to merge the two back here and abandon the other one. So this will see a bit more craft which will be interspersed with some more food and general ramblings. Thanks for hanging in there and look forward to sharing the experiences with you...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas and more excitement

So I had a whole series of posts planned but the last few weeks have just flown and not it’s boxing day! And in an hour we’ll be getting onto a bus to get to a plane and another one and another one and then in about 26 hours we’ll be landing in Melbourne to start our 4 week holiday! I’m so excited! Good friends of both Barry and me are getting married in Tasmania in January and we decided it was a great opportunity to catch up with them, see them on their special day, meet other friends who are attending and spend some time on what promises to be a fabulous island. So there won’t be so much posting done although I'll definitely be enjoying lots of nice food and wine. I hope you all have a fabulous New Years Eve and see you in 2008!

ps...a fab tip I found in one of my cookbooks, if you have any mulled wine left over, freeze it and serve it as a sophisticated granita

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A wintery pizza


Another brief post as this week we are in Ireland visiting Barry's family. We're getting all are family visits sorted now as we won't see them for Christmas. The reason?? We're going on a 4 week holiday to Melbourne and Tasmania! I'm so excited as we haven't had a holiday all year and we've been saving days for this one! Anyway, more about that in a later post.

With all the traveling, socializing and getting presents organized, the cooking has been somewhat limited recently but I still wanted to share this recipe with you. Its another one from my friend Simone who is a source of great recipes that are often easy but totally delicious! For this one we were lazy and bought a ball of pizza dough at the local store, which here is as good as home made, topped it with thinly sliced potato and Taleggio cheese. After baking it in the oven for about 20 min at 220°C on a pizza stone the cheese was melted and golden. Topped with some truffle oil to give it a nutty earthy smell, it was an incredibly tasty dinner that we'll be making much more this winter. I also think my little bottle of truffle oil won't last very long (even though a little goes a long way) as we've already been using it on this pasta and I think it would work well on something like a mushroom bruchetta.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

In a pickle...


...that's what happened to these baby onions, herbs and spices using this recipe. I've made this recipe for the last several years and they are great! so much better than the store bought ones. They make a lovely present or are great to keep and eat with fondue, raclette or meat. I normally make half the liquid suggested in the recipe or use twice as much onions...whatever you fancy. This is my entry for A Spoonful of Christmas hosted by Zlamushka I know it's a bit short but am in the Netherlands up to my ears in Sinterklaas poems and surprises.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On Snow, Parsnips and SHF



How fitting that my 100th post is about one of the most perfect days I've had in a long time! Last Sunday I went to the mountains in my friends new camper van. After an early start we arrived in Lauterbrunnen, took the gondela up and walked to Mürren. This is why I moved to Switzerland!

The weather was perfect, sunshine, blue skies and the most amazing snow I've ever seen! About 70 cm deep and covered with a layer of crystals several cm big, they were like little Christmas trees. We made a beautiful walk, played in the snow, built mini snowmen and ate lunch in the sunshine.



When it comes to walking food, I'm just not one for sandwiches. I always find that by the time you get to eat it its squashed, cold and often tasteless. Therefore, I prefer home baked lunches, preferably with nuts and cheese for lots of flavour and energy. For this walk I used parsnips as they are back in season! I developed quite a liking for this root vegetable whilst living in Scotland. Before that I'd never even seen a parsnip as they are very hard to come by. However, this year the local supermarket has started selling them as an "ancient vegetable" so we'll hopefully be eating a lot more of them. I know parsnips mostly as a savoury vegetable but they also go well with sweet (think honey roasted) flavours and I'd heard that they can also be used in cakes, like carrots, but that this somehow fell out of fashion after the WWII.

I adapted this recipe (a firm favourite for summer walks) as I wanted to make a savoury and a sweet version to take along and use some of the walnuts from my parents garden. They were a great success. For the savoury I used gruyere, walnuts and fresh herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme), whereas the sweet ones had raisins, nuts, nutmeg and ginger. Both yummy and with lots of energy to keep me going on the walk, hopefully the season will be good, there will be many trips and I can make them loads. This post my entry for this months sugar high friday - The Beta Carotene Harvest - hosted by Definitely not Martha



Sweet or Savoury Parsnip Muffins (makes 6)

1 cup flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 eggs
2 parsnip - grated
1 tbsp creme fraiche
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Sweet
60g raisins
60g walnuts - chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Savoury
60g gruyere - grated
60g walnuts - chopped
2 tbsp fresh herbs
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the over to 180°C, in a large bowl, mix the creme fraiche, oil and eggs. Then stir in the flour and grated parsnip. Finally, add the extra fillings and the spices. Or at this point you can divide the mix in two and make both (make sure to halve the amounts given above). Pour the mixture into buttered molds and top with either raisins or walnuts. Cook for 30 min or until a needle comes out clean. Leave to cool and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Nigella's express mousse


I'm not sure if you've been watching the most recent Nigella Lawson series? Titled Nigella Express she promises you ideas to make good food fast with her usual "fantabulous" style. Don't get me wrong, I watched every episode but can't help feeling a bit cheated after every show. Yes, the recipes she shows are fast and no doubt tasty but a lot if somehow pre-made or bought and for me it takes the joy out of cooking a bit. Plus all the hair-flicking, flirting with the camera and vocabulary seems a little out of place to me.

Not that I want to slave over a hot stove every time but when having a dinner party, it's nice to make a bit of effort. But I appreciate that I can be a bit of a masochist when it comes to these things and she definitely has some nice ideas. I've become pretty addicted to her bean mash and when she made her no worries chocolate mousse, I knew I had to try it as I had the perfect occasion/audience.

A friend of mine has been organizing girlie weekend get-togethers in the Lake District for the last 4 years. They are weekends to catch up with her friends (and mine both from before and through this) and they are always fabulous. How often do you get the chance to spend a weekend with up to 20 women your own ages from all backgrounds, nationalities, professions in a wonderful setting?! Most make it every year and we chat lots, walk, have been known to treasure hunt and eat and drink lots of nice things. On Friday night it's casual pizza but on Saturday night all the stops are pulled out for a pot luck dinner. Everyone always makes a real effort and there is always to much food.

And this year was no exception, as I was traveling from Switzerland this year, I didn't want to make something very complicated but still wanted it to shine and I figured these would do the trick. And indeed they are a breeze to make (although I was a bit worries about pouring the hot chocolate mix into the beaten cream which totally deflated of course), set very fast and tasted lovely although it was incredibly rich and perhaps a bit too much after a 4 course meal! I paired them with some wafers inspired by the Essence cookbook I bought recently (fantastic! a definite recommendation and will blog about it soon!). These are very easy to make and look spectacular. The perfect dessert for another perfect weekend, I already look forward to the next one.

Rice paper and cocoa nib tuiles
50 g sugar
50 ml water
rice paper (from Asian supermarket;the white ones for making fresh spring rolls)
handful of broken cocoa nibs (or anything you want to use)

Boil the water and sugar together to make a syrup, then leave to cool. In the mean time line a baking tray with parchment paper, cut the rice paper into pieces and dip one into the syrup. Place it on the tray and sprinkle with some cocoa nibs. Repeat this process till you run out of rice paper. Dry these tuiles in the oven at 80°C for 3-4 hours, they will keep in an airtight container so are easy to make in advance.

And for the people who wanted the flat bread recipe:
Flatbreads (±15)
2 tsp dried yeast (or 30g fresh)
450-475 ml water
750 g strong white flour
2tsp fine sea salt
black pepper freshly ground
50 ml olive oil
extra flour for rolling

Start about 2-3 hours before required and you need quite a bit of space to make these. First mix the flour, salt, pepper and olive oil then add in the yeast and mix well. Finally stir in the water bit by bit to make a soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean. Knead for about 10 min till elastic - you can do this by hand or with a mixer, whatever you prefer - cover the bowl with a lid/moist towel and leave to rise in a warm place. to speed things up you can partially fill the sink with lukewarm water and place the bowl in there. Alternatively, heat the oven to 50°C, turn it off and place the bowl inside. When the dough has doubled in quantity, knock it back and divide in to 15 pieces. Roll each piece out on a floured surface shaped like a large pita bread. Cover loosely and leave to rest for 3 min. Barbecue over fresh hot coals for 1-2 min each side (the bubbles that pop up are great!). You can also try making them in the oven as it's not really barbecue weather, I would guess at 225°C for 4 min each side. If you can use a pizza stone that will make them puff up nicely.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Preserving summer....

We're well in to autumn here with the Basler herbstmesse (autumn fair) starting last weekend, most of the leaves on the ground and chilling temperatures at night. So here are a few of the things I made this summer an just haven't gotten around to post about and as they're mostly preserves I can still enjoy the summer flavours a bit longer.

First up is this lovely gooseberry curd recipe that was in last years delicious. magazine. I'm not a fan of gooseberries at all, I've always found them to bitter but Barry is a huge fan so I decided to make it for him. I found these dark red/pink ones here that seem to be just as common as the green ones. It gave the curd a lovely pink/salmony colour and I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. It was creamy and sweet but with a nice tart contrast making it much more palatable and I have to admit that with the help of a few jars of this, I'm even craving gooseberry curds now!

Second, is this elderflower curd I made from heads I picked on one of our walks in the Jura. Elder flower is something I learned you could eat whilst living in Scotland. I really enjoy the fresh "green" taste of it both on bread or in desserts. For this recipe, I basically soaked the cleaned heads in apple juice overnight and then boiled this the next day with pectin sugar.

Third up are mirabelles, these are little plums that are only in season for 3-4 weeks in August. We've always had a tree in our garden so their taste is very sentimental but it's hard to resist these sweet little fruits anyway. As the season is so short, I try to make the most of them. We eat them in clafoutis, tarte tatins or just on its own or with some yoghurt for breakfast. To preserve the flavours for the rest of the year I also made jam (800g sugar per kilo of cleaned fruit) and liqueur (equal weights fruit, cleaned fruit and alcohol-I tend to use vodka as it doesn't have a strong flavour).

Last but not least are these flatbreads. I picked up the recipe in a free leaflets from Harvey Nics when I was in London in May. Incredibly easy to make they definitely gain something special by being cooked on the BBQ. Yummy with kebabs, salad, burgers or just on its own. So that's it, I'm all up to date and will blog about some more autumnal food next