The Night I Went to Brewdog Beer School

A gift voucher for Brewdog Beer School gave me the excuse to drink lots of beer on a school night.

I like beer.

I don’t drink very often or very much, not because of any particular health or sobriety reasons, but because when I go out I’m usually driving and when I’m at home I’m more likely to feel like a cup of tea. Continue reading “The Night I Went to Brewdog Beer School”

Borough Market – A Photo Essay

Prosecco, goat ice cream and tales of marauding Vikings are just some of the things waiting to be discovered at Britain’s oldest market.

Good markets are getting harder and harder to find. The traditional markets with cheap clothes, dish cloths and ‘3 for a pound’ fruit and veg are even rarer. The traditional markets were good for a bargain, but not so great for a day out. These days when you do find a market it’s far more likely to be of the artisanal type and to be expensive, but lovely for a day out. Continue reading “Borough Market – A Photo Essay”

13 Things to Eat in The Netherlands

This is the post where I disclose my liking for weird foods like chips with peanut sauce and mayo. And oily balls. Yes, really.

What would be the word for someone who is a bit obsessed with the Netherlands and has an affinity with all things Dutch? If my country of obsession was France I’d be a Francophile; England and I’d be an Anglophile. But Netherlandsophile just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Continue reading “13 Things to Eat in The Netherlands”

Friday Flickr – Borough Market

I’m so glad I don’t live near Borough Market. I’d spend all my money on cheese and licorice.

Last Saturday morning I arrived in London far too early for my afternoon tea at the Ritz, so to while away a few hours I went to Borough Market. I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long to pay this foodie haven a visit. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – Borough Market”

Friday Flickr – Coffee

Enjoying a good cup of coffee is one of life’s simple pleasures.

As a trained barista – I went to coffee school in Hong Kong of all places and ended up managing a couple of coffee shops, but that’s a whole other story – I know a good coffee when I get one.

One of my pleasures in life is to tuck myself up in a comfy seat, with a good book and a cup of strong coffee and I like nothing better than unexpectedly coming across a quirky coffee shop that prides itself on the quality of its coffee and doesn’t mind if I hole myself up there for a while.

Coffee paraphernalia intrigues me as well. I like small cups and little coffee pots and learning different ways of brewing and serving coffee. I love the way a local Armenian restaurant serves coffee in tiny cups encased in a silver surround with matching silver lid.

When I travelled throughout Sweden two years ago you can imagine my delight when I discovered fika. It’s kind of like elevenses but doesn’t have to be in the morning. It’s more of a national institution than a mere coffee break and partaking of it is almost a cultural obligation. Of course, I obliged.

In many countries coffee comes served with a little extra. In Sweden, fika is always coffee and cake with the cake most often being a little cinnamon bun. In the Netherlands, I’d feel quite put out if my coffee didn’t arrive with a koekje (little biscuit, usually spicy) on the side and in Crete I quickly developed a raki (aniseed liquor) habit as every time I ordered a coffee a shot of raki was would appear alongside it.

Of course, stopping for coffee is always a good excuse to have cake as well. The two just compliment each other so well as you’ll see in the photos below.

Now, I think I need to go and make a coffee. Enjoy.

Click on the image to access the Flickr album.

Coffee

Jammin’, jammin’ (hope you like jammin’ too)

I should be on the boat to Shetland now. Instead I’m making jam in Manchester.

I should be on the boat to Shetland now. Instead I’m making jam in Manchester.

I want to avoid driving in the heat so had intended driving up to Aberdeen yesterday evening and then catching tonight’s overnight ferry to Lerwick, but, the best laid plans and all that … I keep finding things to do here and although I’m aware that my time for travelling in Shetland and Orkney is ticking away, I’m feeling good about getting so many things sorted out at home. My life is usually completely chaotic with far too many things going at once, and so I end up with piles of papers, books, camping gear, etc, all over my house and feel completely disorganised. For once, I’m working through those piles and getting everything sorted out. I’ve even been picking all the fruit from my tiny garden (white currants, blackcurrants and gooseberries) and had a go at making jam. For the last few years I’ve tried this without success, as I always misjudge the setting point and it turns to toffee. This year I’ve bought a jam thermometer and it seems to work. Finally I have my own home-made jam.

I’ve had chance to catch up with a few friends as well. Yesterday a friend called round with a bag of goodies for lunch and we were able to sit out in the yard and enjoy a relaxing few hours round a table of salads, garlic bread and home-made lemonade (yep, even had time to make my own lemonade!). And then this morning I was able to have a nice chat on the phone with my friend who lives in Oman. She’s just arrived in the UK to spend a few weeks with her parents and if I had left on time, I wouldn’t have been able to chat with her. Unfortunately we won’t get to meet up, but I’ll be seeing her soon enough when I go to Oman in October. I’m already getting excited about that holiday and I’ve not even got started on this one yet!

Wild Food Cafe

A restaurant that doesn’t cook the food.

Over the New Year holidays I had a day in London. I was staying with friends in Kent for a few days and caught the train in on the 2nd. I had a long list of things I wanted to do, but when I researched them I found many places were still closed for the holidays and so that limited my choices somewhat.

One of the decisions I had to make was where to have lunch. I like trying out new places, but also have a lot of old favourites that I like to have the chance to get back to. The first few places I checked out were closed, so I decided to go to an old haunt, The World Food Cafe in Neal’s Yard. This was run by a couple who have travelled the world taking amazing photographs and researching recipes. They have published a couple of beautiful cookbooks combining photos and recipes and also displayed some of their photos on the walls of the cafe. The food was always great and the menu consisted of a range of dishes from around the world.

Yes, I’m talking past tense. The World Food Cafe is no longer and has been replaced by The Wild Food Cafe. It looks the same, except the photos are gone. The concept of the new establishment is to serve food that hasn’t been heated to anything above 39 degrees. Most of the food on the menu is served raw although the grains they serve with some meals have been cooked properly before being cooled down. They refer to their way of preparing and serving food as ‘sunfood’.

I’d heard of this way of eating before, but can’t say it has ever really appealed. However, I’m always up for a new experience and so was happy to give it a go.

I ordered a burger made from mushrooms and I think some kind of sprouts or seeds. It was served with salad, home-made ketchup, mustard and sweet potato wedges (these had been cooked and cooled). Instead of bread it was on a cracker made from seeds and things, all dehydrated and squished together. The cracker was really tasty. The burger was ok but I won’t list it amongst my favourites; if anything it was overpowered by the mustard and this spoilt the taste a bit.

I finished lunch with a coffee (hot and normal) and a piece of chocolate with high cocoa solids and made without cooking or heating.

So what’s my opinion overall? I quite liked it, but not enough to make it a ‘haunt’. It was interesting to try a different type of food and the staff were really friendly and happy to answer questions and explain the products. If I didn’t have so many other places that I like to go to in London, then I probably would go back, but as I have alternatives, I probably won’t.

Maultaschen

More German comfort food

 

Maultaschen (singular = maultasche) are a German type of ravioli known particularly in the Swabian region of southern Germany. They are large pasta parcels and traditionally have a meat filling. It’s now possible to buy them with a variety of fillings, including fish, mushroom and vegetable (gemuse). Each maultasche is quite large being at least 8cm long.  
My favourite maultaschen are those made by ‘Burger’. This is one of the cheaper brands and can be found in most supermarkets. However, it is also one of the tastiest brands.
 
The easiest way to prepare them is to boil them in vegetable stock and eat them with the resulting soup. They can also be fried. A popular way to serve them is to boil them first, and then slice them and fry them up with eggs. Keep stirring so the eggs scramble. Another way is to boil them and then place them in a lasagne dish. Cover them with a sauce made from single cream and tomato soup powder. Slice mozzarella over the top and bake them till the mozzarella has melted and the sauce is bubbling.
 
A popular story about the origin of maultaschen is that they were invented by monks from Maulbronn Monastery to hide the fact that they were eating meat during lent. This dish has the nickname of Herrgottsbscheißerle which roughly translates to “little ones who cheat the Lord”. Although maultaschen are readily available and enjoyed throughout the year, they are particularly seen as a traditional food during Easter week.


“Schwäbische Maultaschen” has been recognized as a regional specialty by the Gazette of the European Communities. This means that genuine Maultaschen have to be produced in Swabia, Baden-Württemberg, or the Swabian speaking areas of Bavaria.

Spaetzle

German comfort food

Spaetzle are a type of noodle commonly found in southern Germany. They can easily be bought ready made in supermarkets, in the same way we can buy ready made fresh pasta in the UK. I like them fried up with finely chopped onions and then lots of gruyere stirred into them. They’re great with some added chilli sauce.

I found the recipe below on Jamie Oliver’s website.

Swabian Spaetzle

Ingredients

500g white wheat flour
5 large eggs
1-2 tsp salt
1/4 l cold water

Spaetzle are a famous Swabian / South German (side) dish, served with all kinds of roasts and much gravy. Gratinated with cheese and served as a main dish with fried onions, they are called ‘Kässpätzle’ .

Method

Make the spaetzle dough by mixing all ingredients (flour, eggs, salt, and water) with a wooden spoon. Beat the dough until it shows blisters. Let it rest for 10 min.
Bring a big pot with water to boil and then add salt.
It’s very traditional to hand-scrape the spaetzle into the boiling water by using a cutting board and a knife or palette. But I use my Spätzlehobel, you could use a colander with rather big holes instead. Just let some tbsps of the dough drop into the boiling water.
The spaetzle are done, as soon as they begin to swim on the surface. Remove them from the boiling water and start again until all dough is used up. If you serve it as a plain side dish, you may want to fry the spaetzle gently in a bit of butter.

Bretzels

Delicious German food with not a sausage in sight.

bretzelGermany has some great food. Ok, so a lot of it is meat and of no interest to me, but the meat-free food can be delicious. Take bretzels for example. Big bread pretzels. Bought at the right bakers they are mouth-wateringly divine. The bread is so light and soft on the inside, yet the outside is really crisp and crunchy. They have a sprinkling of large salt crystals scattered across them. They usually cost about 50 cents, though I did find them in Lidl for 29 cents – the bakery ones are better though.

 

Bretzels get their brown colour from lye. This used to be used as a cleaning agent and disinfectant. Some time in the 18th century a baker accidently dropped a batch of bretzel dough into his bucket of lye. He decided to bake them anyway and the modern lye bretzel was born. Lye bretzels are particulaly popular in Southern Germany and the name ‘bretzel’ is just a variation of the more common ‘pretzel’.

 

They are bought everywhere here as a quick snack and the children love them. When I do see them in the UK they’re more of an expensive treat and not nearly as nice.

 

I’ve heard about an Australian guy who’d liked them so much he started importing the dough to Australia and baking them there. He’s now a millionaire. Now there’s a business idea I could follow up on …