Plum Season

What I like about living in Europe is that you can still pick fresh fruits for free, even in urban areas. All you need to have is an attentive eye for splattered, rotting fruit underfoot and you begin to notice which fruits are in season.

I was going about my normal jogging route when I noticed black fruit flies congregating on sticky-looking mush on the pavement. I looked up and saw a tree laden with huge yellow egg plums! They deserve the name, it really are as huge as small eggs. I returned with a net and a basket after my jog and hauled a total of five kilos of fruit. My basket was only a fourth full!

The plums were tart with their skins, but they were super sweet with the skins peeled off. And the seed just separated itself so easily, which is a big advantage for fruit. I baked a plum cake, and I still had a kilo left over. Unfortunately, plums don’t keep well, so I had to throw the rest away, despite snacking on them non-stop since last weekend. The cake is safely stored in the freezer, and I now have cake to feed unexpected guests with.

Plum and mirabelle season is  in full swing in Europe, so I reckon you should get out there and pick them plums!

Burger Cravings–Faust Food, Erfurt

I sometimes get these unbelievably intense munchies for meat. Like caveman cravings. Like I could eat a whole plate of ribs in one sitting. And when I do there is one place I go to where I could reliably get a good plate of ribs: Faust Food (in English, Fist Food, a play on Fast Food. No it doesn’t translate well does it?).

It is located in a 400-year old former warehouse, spartanly (manly?) decorations, kind of on the hipster side. It is not easy to find, but I swear it is worth it. The grill is located by the door, and grill everything in front of you. They do mostly American fare, but they also have steak, and Thuringian Bratwurst. They do uncomplicated, real food, manly food.Me likey. And with late opening times, it is perfect for pre-gaming meals before hitting the town. So for your protein munchie needs, I can heartily recommend this place.

Faustfood

Waagegasse 1

Tuesday to Saturday 11 am to 11 pm

Sunday 11 am to 7 pm.

faustfood.de

 

Cherry Cupcakes!

Another recipe from North & South are these fabulous cherry cupcakes that you really just have to try!

240 g unsalted butter                                   210 g self-raising flour

200 g caster sugar                                      90 g plain flour

3 large eggs                                                 36 or more fresh cherries, stoned, halved and                                                                        de-stemmed

Zest of half an orange                                  12 fresh cherries, stoned, with stems intact

 

Line a muffin tray with cupcake inserts. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until white and fluffy. Add eggs and orange zest, mix well. Fold in the flours gently, then add the cherries. DO NOT OVERSTIR! It’s ok if there are still patches of flour here and there, overmixing will make your cupcakes dry!

Divide the mixture  among the hollows in the cupcake tray, placing a cherry on top of each cupcake just before baking. Bake at 200°C or 180°C on fan bake for about 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes clean. Allow to cool and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

While the recipe says it is enough for 12 cupcakes, I was able to bake 16 cupcakes total. The cupcakes do not keep well, so consume within 48 hours. I haven’t tried refrigerating them but the article warned against it. 

Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Cherry Salsa/Chutney

 I had never really thought of cherries as a savory food, but after harvesting a bucket full of cherries and already filled three and a half jars full of jam, I was kind of under pressure be creative.

The thing is that cherries tend to attract insects and their offspring while on the tree. While swallowing a maggot or two never harmed anybody, I didn’t fancy getting a belly full of maggots. That, and cherries tend to mold quickly so that you had a three day time window to consume them. The secret is to not wash the cherries until just about the point that you are to consume or use them!

I spotted a recipe from a colleague’s North & South, a monthly magazine from New Zealand, in their February 2008 issue.  It featured a family’s cherry farm, and also shared some recipes of their own, which included a cherry salsa

All you need to do is to mix together 36 stoned and diced fresh cherries, ½ diced red onion, 174 handful flat-leaf parsley, Zest of half a lemon, 100 ml olive oil, 25 ml vincotta, Sea salt, and cracked pepper.

Because I didn’t have vincotta, a sauce made from sticky grape extract, I decided to play around this recipe a bit and made a chutney instead, using the pan drippings from the accompanying beef steak that night.

So I sautéed the onions in low heat, added the cherries, added all the seasonings and sprinkled the parsley just before serving. It tasted great and was a good contrast to the salty beef steak. A great way to use cherries!

Cherry, Cherry Cherries!

20140624_061308

This year is turning out to be a good year for fruits. It’s not so hot, not so dry, and the rains have come at the right time. And because of the hot spring/cool summer we are having in Germany this year, the sweet cherry and sour cherry varieties arrived almost at the same time, instead of the sour varieties coming in this July. This may differ from region to region, so I cannot speak for the whole country.

So I have a bucket full of cherries. The darker ones are sour cherries from the backyard, while the lighter ones are from the tree I spoke of last year. I believe the tree is a Royal Ann cherry, but I am not sure what kind of cherry is the one from our backyard. It is not really sour, it’s more tart-sweetish, and quite juicy.

I’ve made three jars of jam, and one wonderful cherry chutney so far. I hope to make cherry cupcakes today, and maybe freeze the rest, if I am not able to harvest any more this weekend.

What amazes me is the difference of the cherries from the backyard tree from this year and last year. It was pruned this spring, and the cherries are huge and juicy! I wish I could learn more about tree pruning, but I guess that is for when I have more time.

 

 

Salisbury Bistek a la Burnt Lumpia

I always have ground meat in the fridge because it is versatile, and I am sure that my boy would eat it. Problem is, I cannot only eat Spaghetti Bolognese and Hamburgers. A solution must be found!

That solution came after searching the web and came upon this recipe from Burnt Lumpia, one of my favorite Filipino Food blogs on the net. I added some breadcrumbs to  extend  the meat, since I only bought 250 g.

The results were great. I should have followed the recipe more closely because I overcooked the steak, for fear of eating raw meat. I should not have worried so much and followed the recipe to a T.

And because it is kid-approved,  this will be in dinnertime rotation!

 

 

Bab & Bab Erfurt

Sometimes, I am not sure if something is delicious because it is delicious, or it is because of nostalgia.

One of the things that I have sorely missed is a good Chapchae, Korean glass noodles made from mung bean. Last time I ate it, I made it myself. Or was it in Manila? Nevertheless, Korean food is finally making its way to the provinces of Germany, with San in Weimar, and now, Bab & Bab in Erfurt!

It is run by 2 very nice German-speaking Korean ladies. It is very close to the hospital and the university, right in front of the tram stop “Klinikum”. I made a mental note to drop by as soon as I got the chance, and ordered a big bowl of Chapchae that I inhaled, slippery metal chopsticks be damned.

They have € 5.50 lunch specials, and they don’t serve much outside of the hits of Korean cuisine (Bibimbap, Chapchae, Kimchi). The Kimchi, which they make themselves, is delicious. Just the right amount of tang and spice that added that welcome kick to the Chapchae.

So to settle things, I will have to make another visit. I am encouraged by their assertion that they have a very busy lunch crowd, because I really want them to stay!

 

Bab & Bab

Nordhäuserstr. 72, 99089 Erfurt

0361 7896 0440

Open Mo-Fri 10:30 am- 9 pm

Sunday 11 am- 9 pm

 

A Hankering for Home–Arroz Caldo

We have had a spell of cold weather lately, which kinda sucks because it was already so warm! I always want a bit of home when I get the blues, so I made Arroz Caldo. It is basically the Filipino version of Congee, that much-beloved Chinese rice porrige. It is normally served during cold days, for breakfast, or when one is having a meh day.

It is quite easy to make, the only thing that you need to look out for is the kind of rice that you are using. Filipinos normally use a mixture of normal and sticky rice, but risotto rice or German Milchreis is also an acceptable variety.

First, finely mince three cloves of garlic and dice an onion finely. Chop about an inch’s length of ginger into matchsticks. In a large, deep casserole, sauté the onion and garlic in about four tablespoons of oil, then add half of the ginger and about three to four pieces of chicken in the pot and slightly brown them. When the chicken pieces are slightly brown, throw in a small amount of water (about fourth of a cup) into the pot and let the juices seep out of the chicken (this is a technique I picked up from Burnt Lumpia), about 10 minutes. Season the chicken with salt or fish sauce and soy sauce for some color and pepper, then wait another five minutes to let all the juices seep out because of the salt. Then I add enough water to fully submerge the chicken, and wait until the water comes to a boil. 

When the water starts boiling, add a cup or two of rice and the rest of the ginger and lower the heat. Cover the pot. Stir occasionally to check if the rice is done, about 30-40 minutes. Boil a little longer if it is too watery, or conversely, add more water if the porridge is too thick. Season with salt or fish sauce and pepper, and garnish with chopped chives, safflower, and a sliced hard-boiled egg. Sprinkle the porridge with a touch of calamansi (lemons and limes are acceptable substitutes) and more fish sauce, and you have the Filipino comfort food in a bowl!

And there are many different variations to this basic recipe. If you take out the chicken pieces from the stock before adding the rice, and omit the soy sauce and fish sauce, you are making lugaw, which is what we feed babies, the elderly, and the sick. Use pig or cow intestines instead of chicken, it’s called tripa, because of well…tripe. The local version of Blutwurst can also be used as a garnishing.

As for me, I prefer eating one-day old re-heated Arroz Caldo.

 

Bee Blues

The Garden has been discussing keeping bees, and I have expressed interest in becoming one of the garden’s beekeepers. One of our affiliated organizations, The Fuchsfarm, held an Open Day at their garden and let guests watch while they harvested the honey and filled them up in jars.

It was so interesting to find out how equipment and time-intensive beekeeping is, especially in the summer. Keeping bees are really like keeping pets!

bee1

So first, the beekeeper takes the honeycomb out of the wooden hive and sprays the bees away with a smoker. The cells are waxed shut by the bees when they are full, so, they won’t spill. They are then put in a bigger box, then taken inside.

With a small fine-toothed rake, pry off the wax covers on the cells on an easel that is propped over a tray.

bee2The combs are put into a steel drum, which has a crank that turns the frame that holds the wooden honeycombs. The centrifugal force flings the honey to the sides of the drum and drips down to the funneled bottom of the drum. The bottom of the drum has a tap, which is then flipped open and the honey trickles into a sieve-topped pail which catches the last bits of wax that is still in the honey.

bee3The pail itself has a tap at the bottom, and the honey is filled into glass jars that are sold on-site.

But of course, bee keeping is not without its risks. As I was taking off my protective gear in the shed, an unseen bee stung the palm of my hand! As they took out the stinger, I was given a homeompathic pellet to minimize the swelling, then another pressed a cold onion half-globe onto the swollen area.

A bit later I rubbed crushed Spitzwegerich on the area. It still smarts, but it feels much better now. I am still thinking if I should get into beekeeping, since I may not have the time to invest in it. But I would still like to try!

Salmon Bärlauch Bordelaise

Have you ever tried the recipes from boxes and can labels? I once had a collection of those as a child,. After buying a slab of frozen salmon, I spied a recipe on the box flap that suggested a good use of the ramsons I had purchsed from the farmer’s market.

I am a big fan of frozen fish a la bordelaise, so this was something  similar to that. In absence of ramsons, Chives would be a good substitute.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Defrost a 200 gram slab of salmon. Wash, pat dry, then finely chop a handful of ramsons, and grate the peel of half a lemon (or about 4-5 calamansi). Halve 300 g of cherry tomatoes, and chop three shallots or one small white, sweet onion into four.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a shallow pot, and sauté the ramsons, 30 g panko crumbs, grated lemon rind and 30 g pine nuts (roasted sesame seeds are a good substitute). 

In a small baking dish, spread the tomatoes and onions evenly on the bottom and drizzle generously with olive oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper, place it on the veggies, then evenly spread the ramson mixture on top. Bake for 20 minutes.

So I spent 40 minutes total from start to finish. Not bad! The outcome was surprisingly good and I’ve committed the recipe to my print-out book.