Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pico de gallo

Pico de gallo is a Mexican salsa eaten with tacos, but to be honest I could eat it all the time.
This salsa convinces me every time that fresh coriander is one of the greatest herbs ever! You just cannot leave the coriander out in this recipe, or in any other Mexican recipe.

Pico de gallo
serves 2
2 tomatoes, without seeds, diced
1 small shallot, diced
1 chili serrano, chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
juice of 1/2 orange
1 tbsp chopped coriander
some oil

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Celeriac and walnut gratin

I found the recipe for celeriac and walnut gratin at BBC Good Food but adapted it a bit as blue cheese is not my favourite (cannot look at the mold and eat it). I also grated the celeriac and loved how it turned out.

Celeriac and walnut gratin

adapted from BBC Good Food
one 900 gr unpeeled celeriac
one 600 gr peeled celeriac
3 dl vegetable stock
150 gr chopped walnuts
6 tsp walnut oil

Coarsely grate the celeriac, put in a baking dish (mine holds 1,3 liters) and pour over the stock. Bake for 45 minutes in preheated oven (180 C). Sprinkle with walnuts and bake until walnuts get a bit of colour, around 15 minutes. Take out of the oven, cut in squares, put on a plate and drizzle some walnut oil over.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quince and pear strudel

Fall is one of my favourite seasons. And fall in Central Europe is really beautiful, all colours in the nature and mild weather is more than perfect. Then there are all delicious fruits of the fall, cannot be better.

One of my favourite fall fruits is quince. My grandmother used to make quinces in sweet syrup and I love that stuff. Taste is very aromatic and quince turns into a lovely red when cooked. So when I found the recipe for quince and pear strudel I had to make it.

But what I really was curious about was agave syrup that the recipe calls for. I have never used agave syrup before and thought this was a great recipe to try it. Agave syrup is made of agave plant so it belongs to the natural sweeteners, like maple syrup. It is very mild in taste, sweeter than sugar and it is thinner in consistency than honey.

Quinces cooked with agave turned out really great and strudel was excellent! So agave syrup has joined muscovado and whole cane sugar in my baking cupboard.

This time I made strudel with store bought phylo-dough, but next time will definitely be homemade. After all Bavaria is Germany's strudel-region and they definitely know their thing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mexican drinking chocolate

The very first chocolate in the world was not eaten, it was drank. The Mayas ground cacao beans into a paste and mixed it with water, spices and the beverage was thickened with cornflour.

In Mexico even today the tradition of drinking chocolate is bigger than eating chocolate bars. But drinking chocolate it self has changed somewhat since the time of Mayas. These days it is made of ground cacao beans, sugar and cinnamon. The mixture is then made into discs and dried until hard.

The discs are dissolved in milk or water and the froth is made with a molinillo, a traditional Mexican froth maker.

Today chocolate discs are made commercially and the one I like the most is made of organic cacao beans by Wolter. It is not overwhelmingly sweet and when you finish your cup of chocolate all ground cacao beans are waiting for you for the last indulgence.

But in small towns in the areas where cacao beans are grown you can even buy small packages with cacao beans, sugar and cinnamon for mixing as you like and making your own chocolate at home. Yes, nothing can beat that!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Krautfleckerl is an Austrian dish. The ingredients are very simple, but the way you prepare the dish gives it its delicious taste.

The name Krautfleckerl means "Cabbage spots". Spots refer to the egg-made pasta that is traditionally used in this dish. It is shaped in squares so it reminds of spots. I could not find it so I used wide pasta that I cooked and then cut in smaller pieces, spots.

The funny looking cabbage is called Spitzkohl in German. Dictionary says that "pointed cabbage" or "sweetheart cabbage" is its name in English. Other types of white cabbage can be used for this dish as well.


Krautfleckerlserves 2
400 gr cabbage
150 gr pasta
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground caraway
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
some olive oil (butter)

Boil pasta, drain and add some olive oil. Cut cabbage in small squares and dry cook it in a pan until it gets brown around the edges. Or more if you would prefer stronger taste. Cook it without any oil in the pan! Take out the cabbage and set aside.

Put some olive oil in the pan and fry onion until light brown. Add caraway and sugar and as soon the sugar caramelize add vinegar and cabbage. Cook for about 5 minutes, add pasta, season and serve!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Munich Weißwurst

This sausage is so Munich. It was invented in 1857 in the heart of Munich (Marienplatz) and this important event is still announced at the entrance of the restaurant.

White sausage is made of veal meat, pork rind, herbs and it is eaten with a pretzel, sweet mustard and white beer. This combination simply screams Munich! It has been included in the Bavarian law of protected food where every single detail about the sausage has been specified. One of them is that the veal meat content has to be at least 51%.

Special thing about this sausage is that it is not boiled but rather steeped in hot water for about 15 minutes. If the water would boil, the skin (pork intestine) would break, the taste would get spoiled and it would also be very hard to peel the rest of the skin. The skin is not eaten.

Munich and Bavaria are very proud of its sausage, it has a very high status in this region. In the rest of Germany, not so much. One day I was in a store and I found this:

It is a tool to pick up the sausage from the hot water. The official name "White Sausage lifter". It is made of stainless steel and costs about 20 euros. No I did not buy it. A booklet called "Saving the skin of the White Sausage" comes with it explaining every single detail about the white sausage. That's a privilege of being a sausage with origin in the heart of Munich.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Pan de muerto

Day of the Dead is one of the most important holidays in Mexico. Although everything is about death, this is one of the most colourful holidays I have ever experienced. It was completely new to me as in Europe death is shown with dark colours.

Celebration takes place on 1st and 2nd of November and during these two days the spirits of the dead are expected to visit their homes. And the family members are doing different rituals to welcome the souls of the dead on their visit. The celebration is a mixture of pre-Hispanic and Roman Catholic traditions.

On November 1st families build altars with offerings, colourful adornments, like fresh seasonal flowers and colourful paper cut-outs. These altars have a picture of the dead family members and around them all their favourite things are arranged, including food and drinks. Town squares have also altars with the offerings to the souls of the dead.

"Pan de Muerto" or Bread of the Dead is a sweet type of bread made of yeast dough with a touch of orange and anise. It is baked for the dead and put on the altar. The important thing about this bread is its shape. The small ball in the middle symbolizes the skull, and the figures on the side symbolize skeleton bones. Unfortunately I did not manage to take a picture of the bread after being baked.

On November 2nd families visit the graves and arrange second ofrenda. Some families even bring mariachis (traditional musicians) who sing the favourite songs of the dead person. Graveyards are adorned with the most colourful flowers and paper cut-outs, very beautiful. The same type of flowers have been used by Aztecs when honouring the dead.

The symbol of the death in Mexico is La Catrina, fancy dressed female skeleton.