See? Strawberry Sorbet. What more prove do you need?
See? Strawberry Sorbet. What more prove do you need?
Last summer Peter and I spent a week in Kraków. It was his suggestion and at first I wasn’t that enthusiastic. I didn’t know what to expect, had never ever thought of going on vacation there, but the moment we arrived I started to love it.
Just a few notes before I start my list of where and what to eat when you’re in Kraków:
– Don’t worry about the language. I couldn’t speak a word of Polish before I got there, but everyone speaks English there, you’ll get English menus in restaurants and bars, so there’s no need to worry at all. (In case you were wondering, I could say about four things in Polish when we left, so there was not a lot of improvement there.)
– Try to find a hotel or an apartment that’s close to or preferably right in the middle of the old town of Kraków. Our apartment was on Grodzka Street, which was perfect, because we had everything in reach. You wouldn’t want to take the train, tram or bus to the center every day, because – let’s face it – the old town (Stare Miasto) is most likely where you’ll spend most of your time.
– Don’t think that you’ll get to know Kraków by staying there a few days – or even a week. Sure, you can walk around the old town in one day and pass every street, but that doesn’t mean you actually saw everything. We recently had brunch at some friends’ apartment, who coincidentally spent ten days in Kraków last October and will return there this fall. We exchanged our Kraków food and restaurant memories and there was about one restaurant that both they and we went to. So, you can get out your little map of Kraków and think you will know it all within a few days, but you’re wrong. There are fantastic restaurants, amazing cafés and exciting jazz bars on every corner. So, if you decide to actually go there (based on my mouth-watering recommendations, I am sure), be prepared to be overwhelmed.
It’s been awfully quiet here for some time. I know it has been awfully quiet here before, but this time there’s actually a reason. My cooking adventures have come to a halt for the time being. I do cook every now and then, but when I do, it’s more or less out of necessity than out of true inspiration.
But don’t worry, everything is fine. The reason I’m never in the right mood to cook up something really inspirational is because we’re moving. Yes, you’ve heard right. Peter and I started looking for apartments in DÃ¼sseldorf in June and we actually got lucky very fast. For some reason when it comes to apartments, the third one’s always the charm with me. Or at least it has been that way for the only three times I actually had to find one.
We’re insanely happy with what we found and we sealed the deal after we came back from KrakÃ³w. Did I mention we bought the place? So naturally I’m still freaking out about that from time to time, but most of time I’m just looking forward to finally moving there. We already brought most of our books over, plus some shelves and a new big dining table we got from IKEA.
Well, anyway that’s why it’s been so quiet here. I don’t really have the energy to make anything special for dinner these days, since all I can think of is how awesome life is going to be once we are at the new place, which – have I told you this? – has a 40 square meter roof terrace, by the way. If you hate me right now, I’d totally understand.
Now of course there’s a kitchen to plan. In Germany kitchen’s are not a part of an apartment. Sometimes you are lucky and you’ll get an apartment or house with a nice kitchen already built in. Sometimes you’re not so lucky and the kitchen is really ugly or there’s no kitchen at all. Although I can’t decide which is worse… a really ugly kitchen or none at all?
Well, we have none at all. So after going to three different kitchen stores and have someone plan a kitchen and tell us how much it’s going to cost and one crazy trip to OsnabrÃ¼ck about which I will write no more, because I just don’t have the words to properly write about it, we finally settled on what we want to have and who we want to do it. So the deal goes to…. my uncle, who happens to be a cabinetmaker and therefore we get all the customized furniture we need.
There are so many ways to plan a kitchen. I know it’s modern these days to put the oven a bit higher so that you don’t need to crouch down to get anything out. But alas, we’ll have nothing of that. We’re just having a U-shaped kitchen with a beautiful wooden countertop and no freaking kitchen cupboards hanging on any wall. I hate these things. Plus, I’m very accident prone, so I know if some cupboard hangs at forehead level, I’m just going to hit my forehead there again and again, and does that hurt or not?
I don’t know how long it’s going to be until I can dive head first into my first kitchen adventures in the new kitchen and I’m trying to steer my thoughts away from how much it’s going to cost, because I like to stick to happy thoughts these days. But I’m sure it’s going to be great and then – naturally – I’m going to take pictures right away to make you all even more jealous. Because that’s the kind of nice girl that I am.
Germans are crazy about bread. A typical German bakery will have lots of different breads, made with regular flour, rye flour, whole wheat flour, you name it. There will be very dense, moist types of breads, with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, bread made with potato flour, various kinds of rolls, pastry with or without fruit, cakes and more.
While we don’t have any arguments about it, Peter and I have different tastes when it comes to bread. I prefer a very plain Graubrot (“grey bread”), one with a dark and crunchy crust and a very soft inside. It’s a very humble bread, one that doesn’t stand out in taste from the line of breads on the counter, but which will be incredibly good with just a bit of butter. On the downside this type of bread does lose is greatness after a very short time, so it’s best bought fresh and immediately devoured, though unfortunately this will never happen in a two-person household. He prefers breads with a high percentage of rye flour. Those are usually a lot darker and quite moist and their taste is not that subtle, but still not overwhelming. I usually let Peter decide what to get, because he is home more often than me and therefore more responsible for eating all the bread we buy.
Maybe the focus on supposedly healthy grains and dark breads is what makes us Germans so suspicious when it comes to the varieties of very white bread that are so popular in a lot of other countries. Take the French baguette, the Italian ciabatta or any English toast. They are so white, so soft and full of air. Surely there must be something wrong with it.
But of course there’s not. Okay, I still have problems getting used to the concept of not using any salt when making bread like we experienced in Tuscany. But apart from that, I love a French baguette or a soft white American toast just as much as the next (French and/or American) girl. Both the baguette and the toast have a special place in my little food-loving heart. The toast because it is the very essential ingredient for making wonderful sandwiches. The baguette because of how it feels, tastes and smells when you buy it still warm and break the crunchy crust for the first time and just inhale.
Today it might have been just one ordinary (German-made) baguette that saved me from going insane or at least from getting very whiny and annoying the hell out of Peter. After an exhausting shopping trip to Cologne we went to a computer store in the outer suburbs to get Peter’s computer back from a trip to the computer doctor. When we got there we tried to go grocery shopping as well, but the supermarket was so big and scary that I just couldn’t bring myself to buy a single peach, let alone do all my weekend shopping there. So, exhausted and cranky as I was, I just bought a baguette and the moment I held it to my nose and sniffed the very comforting smell of fresh white bread, I immediately got better. I didn’t complain a moment when the supposed short trip to the computer store turned into a much longer stay. Whenever I got bored or mildly impatient I just held the bread up to my nose once again and sniffed. That did the trick.
Sure, it wasn’t as fantastic as the smell of a real French baguette coming right from the oven, still warm, but it was good enough. And now I believe very much that, yes, bread cannot only still your hunger, it can also save you from insanity.
I might have been obsessed with American style pancakes ever since my first trip to California back when I was thirteen. It was then and there I had my first original pancakes, all soft and tasty, drenched in maple syrup, most likely with a side of crisp bacon.
For years now I’ve been trying to make the perfect pancakes. I admit that I haven’t been trying the whole time, there’s been phases. I also admit that I have used pancake mixes, partly because there have been enough lazy mornings and partly because some of those mixes are actually really good. I have also had my fair share of disappointments, mornings when the pancakes didn’t turn out even close to perfect, quite the opposite actually. And then there were mornings when they turned out pretty fine, sometimes even exactly how they’re supposed to be. Light, fluffy, amber colored, ready to soak up the syrup I was going to pour over them. Even better with a bit of butter and a large spoonful of sour cream on top of it.
Recently those perfect pancake mornings were pretty common around here. It could be a lucky streak, but I’m optmistic and would rather say that I have finally found the right way to make American pancakes and so I wouldn’t want to keep it from fellow pancake lovers anymore. I’m not sure what exactly the secret is, the long whisking of the eggs, the right amount of baking powder or maybe just the bit of patience you need to let the mixture stand a while before actually making the pancakes. Whatever it is… I can only hope I finally found it.
1 tablespoon sugar
A pinch of salt
250 ml buttermilk
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
120 g flour
1 tablespoon butter
Serves 2 good pancake eaters.
So Peter came back from Malta and brought various Maltese cans and jars for me, erm… us (of course) to explore. Tonight we had Maltese water crackers with Maltese cheese (I forgot the name, but I’ll look it up), Maltese mixed and pickled vegetables (I detected peppers, onions and olives – I think), and of course: Maltese white wine.
The German blog SchÃ¶nes Blog recently featured the amazing Fluffernutter Sandwich. Of course I have made myself some bagels with peanut butter before. And of course I had noticed the tempting jars of semi-liquid marshmallowy stuff. How could I not? Still I never actually had imagined that you could combine peanut butter and marshmallow fluff and two slices of toast and get something so utterly hilarious and tooth-achingly sweet, yet oddly satisfying as the great and unique Fluffernutter sandwich.
It’s sweet, it’s bound to drive your husband or boyfriend – he, who (for all I know) combines jam and cheese, so how dare he judge my tastes! – to a whole new level of insanity1, it’s made in about 45 seconds.
To make this short: I love it.
With Peter being in Malta for four weeks, I suddenly was challenged to cook for only one. How long has it been since I had to do that? (Well, actually not so long. I remember a lovely dinner for one I had one time Peter was away in Frankfurt for a few days, but still.)
I was kind of confused at the supermarket and suddenly couldn’t decide what to buy. For some reason, those tiny potatoes caught my eyes. They looked cute and lovely and just perfect for my dinner for one. I hardly ever buy potatoes, usually I just get some when I have a recipe calling for them, so I don’t have a lot of potato experience. But nevertheless I decided to go crazy and just figure out what to do with them later at home.
You can’t go wrong with cute little potatoes, can you? I think I even might have had a little crush there.
What I had in mind was roasted potatoes, probably with garlic and a side of green salad and tomatoes. Tonight I got out Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat for some great tips of this domestic goddess. There was a recipe for roasted poatoes with garlic infused oil and herbs which I adapted to my taste (and what I had in the pantry). The result was better than I thought. Dessert will be a slice of the tarte tatin I made last night. So, all is well so far.
As it turned out, my family and friends are very supportive when it comes to my food obsessions. I figure they either understand, know that they sooner or later will profit from it or just gave up hoping for some change.
A few days before Christmas my mother called and told me they were about to go to a store that sold KitchenAids and get one for me and if I had any specific wishes for it. I trust my mother enough to make her own decisions so after I mentioned that I kind of like the pink one and Peter’s reaction from the couch was a loud “No!” I told her just to buy what she thought was best.
When I unpacked my presents on Christmas Eve, I found myself with a beautiful shiny white KitchenAid (matching my white Le Creuset pot and iPod) and a Le Creuset Tarte Tatin dish Peter got me. He tried to trick me leading me around the cook book shop in Cologne and having me point at cook books I liked and then later supposedly heading of the book shop alone. Instead he went to the kitchen supplies store. But I could guess what he got me by the shape of the box – way to big for a cook book. Or at least the ones I pointed at.
I also got a package from Caitlin in Chicago filled with helpful kitchen tools and ingredients. American baking soda and baking powder, vanilla extract, potholders and… (imagine a drumroll here, please) measuring cups! This was especially great because the day before I got the package I was talking to a co-worker about maybe finally buying me some measuring cups. It was like telepathy or something. Only across the ocean and back in time. So even more fabulous!
My aunt’s present was an invitation to a supposedly great restaurant in Cologne we had talked about before. The name is La Cena and it’s a small place in the so-called SÃ¼dstadt, close to where she lives and the special thing about it is that they have no menu at all. There’s one seven-course tasting menu every evening and you simply just eat what they bring you. I have only heard and read about it. One evening Peter and I wanted to try it out but they were booked out for the evening, so we’ll wait until my aunt takes us, possibly in late February, no date set yet. I’m already excited and will write about the experience once we’ve been there.
PS: The camera isn’t back yet. We’ll probably get it back in one or two weeks, but I don’t know for sure.
I hope you all had a great Christmas. As for us, this year we spent it at my aunt’s house, together with my two cousins, my parents, one of my aunt’s friends and the friend’s son (sounds complicated?), so this year I didn’t have to worry about cooking up a four course Christmas dinner for two so much and could let other people do the work.
We had an uncomplicated, but really tasty pre-Christmas dinner on the 23rd instead, with warm goat cheese salad as an entrÃ©e, rumpsteak with grilled tomatoes and french fries as the main course and chocolate chestnut cake with vanilla ice cream as dessert. I had baked said cake for my goodbye party at my old company and there was some left, so I froze it. It’s a recipe by my beloved Nigella Lawson, a not-so-sweet chocolate cake, which uses pureed chestnuts instead of flour. It’s very filling, so I usually cut it in small pieces, but it’s really tasty as well. It also can be frozen easily, which is a great plus with any cake.
However I was surprised at how easy this more or less improvised dinner came together. The hardest part was actually the steak, since Peter wanted to try the step-by-step instructions he found in one of my cook books. Mind you, but these step-by-step instructions for roasting the steak consisted of about 20 steps, telling you to turn the steak over approximately 30 times. It was good, though, so I should probably stop complaining.
On Christmas Eve (which is the most important day of Christmas here in Germany) we had the table laden with food, roast beef, pasta, carrots, brussels sprouts, snow peas and a lovely dessert made by my aunt, raspberry’s topped with a deliciously sweet curd cheese cream, a recipe she was only willing to share reluctantly and which I of course forgot to write down. Stupid me.
Yesterday we had dinner with my parents, grandparents and another aunt at my parents place, with shrimps and salad as an appetizer. Then came a roasted goose, more brussels sprouts, red cabbage, SemmelknÃ¶del (bread dumplings), Chinese cabbage salad and a lovely sweet sauce made with lingonberries and chestnuts. Dessert was Tiramisu. I don’t have to tell you what this is, do I? I love Tiramisu, but mostly for the thick mascarpone cream. I don’t actually need the alcohol and coffee drenched sponge fingers, so I usually try to get a piece which consists mostly of cream.
Today we’re not cooking up anything. Partly because we’ve been stuffed with good food these past three days and partly because both me and Peter are sick. I caught a flu and generously infected him with it, so we’re both busy sniffling, coughing and whining at each other. It’s very cute actually. Kind of.