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Wild garlic soup with crouton

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Ingredients: 25g butter, 2 (roughly 275g) medium potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes, 1 (about 150g) medium onion, chopped, 1 liter vegetable stock, 4 big handfuls (about 200g) of wild garlic leaves, chopped, 100ml double cream

Directions: Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. When foaming, add the potatoes and onion, then toss until well coated. Season. Reduce the heat, cover and cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Add the stock, bring to the boil, then add the wild garlic and cook for 2 minutes until wilted. Immediately stir the soup with a hand-held stick blender, then return to the pan, stir in the cream, taste and season. Serve hot with crusty bread. You can replace the wild garlic with spinach or watercress!

Chess flower for Easter

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P1110317.JPGI bought a chequered lily last week (Fritillaria meleagris) as I decided to choose it for being our major Easter decoration. I discovered it couple of years ago in Germany and since it has been my favorite flower of the Lent. It is a Eurasian species of flowering plant in the lily family. Its common names include snake’s head fritillary, snake’s head (the original English name), chess flower, frog-cup, guinea-hen flower, guinea flower, leper lily (because its shape resembled the bell once carried by lepers), Lazarus bell, chequered lily, chequered daffodil, drooping tulip or, in northern Europe, simply fritillary.

The name Fritillaria comes from the Latin fritillus meaning dice-box, possibly referring to the chequered pattern on the flowers although this derivation has been disputed. The name meleagris means “spotted like a guineafowl. The common name “snake’s head” probably refers to the somewhat snakelike appearance of the nodding flower heads on their long stems. Vita Sackville West called it “a sinister little flower, in the mournful color of decay.

The flower has a chequered pattern in shades of purple, or is sometimes pure white. It flowers from March to May and grows between 15–40 cm in height. The plant has a button-shaped bulb, about 2 cm in diameter, containing poisonous alkaloids. It grows in grasslands in damp soils and river meadows at altitudes up to 800 m.

Fritillaria meleagris is native to Europe and Western Asia but in many places it is an endangered species that is rarely found in the wild but is commonly grown in gardens. In Croatia, the flower is known as kockavica and is associated by some with the country’s national symbol. It is the official flower of the Swedish province of Uppland, where it grows in large quantities every spring at the meadows in Kungsängen (Kings meadow), just outside Upsala, which gives the flower its Swedish name, kungsängslilja (Lily of Kings meadow). It is also found for example in Sandemar Nature Reserve, a nature reserve west of Dalarö in Stockholm Archipelago. It is also a symbol of the Italian Botanical Garden Alpino di Pietra Corva.P1110301.JPG

Simple herb baked sweet water trout

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P1110297.JPGIngredients: 2 whole rainbow trout, (it was a freshwater trout, I bought at the Seebald fishery, it was a farmed rainbow, which has pretty, spotty skin) gutted and cleaned, 1 tbsp olive oil,  salt and pepper to taste, 1 lemon, finely sliced, sprigs of various herbs (parsley, thyme and dill or lemon melisse, would all work well), fresh horseradish, grated, to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Lay the trout over a lightly oiled baking tray and stuff the fish cavity with slices of lemon and herbs. Season generously all over and drizzle with the remaining oil.
  2. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the fish is cooked through – the eyes will have turned white and the flesh will be soft to touch. The trout can be served as they are with your favorite seasonal vegetables, but for an added extra touch, peel away the top layer of skin and grate over fresh horseradish before serving.
  3. I served with cooked potatoes and fresh green asparagus (I fried the asparagus in sesame oil then flavored with 2 tbsp of Japanese vinegar (Mirin) salt and pepper and it was done)

 

Gratinoise with or without bacon or sausage

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P1110167.JPGIngredients: 2.5 kg potatoes, cooked, peeled and thinly sliced, 1 small knob butter, 200 ml semi-skimmed milk, 300 ml double cream, 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 small handful Parmesan cheese , freshly grated, 3 tbsp olive oil, 6 rashers higher-welfare streaky bacon or Spanish chorizo, fried , 1 teaspoon thyme

Methods: Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Butter the inside of an ovenproof dish, around 30cm x 30cm, and at least 6cm deep.

Pour the milk and cream into a wide pan with the bay leaves and garlic. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Add some grated Parmesan cheese to sauce. Fry the bacon in a little olive oil until crispy and golden. Add the remaining thyme and stir in.

Add the potatoes and most of the thyme leaves and stir well. (I cooked the potatoes in their skins then peeled and diced). Make layers from the potatoes and the bacons then spoon into pan or baking tin the gratin dish and shake to even everything out. Sprinkle with the leftover Parmesan cheese then cover with an oiled piece of foil. Bake for 30 or 45 minutes. When your gratin is ready, remove the foil and spoon the bacon over the top. Pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes until gorgeous and crispy on top.

 

Strawberry and beer

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Strawberry shortcake

Two more weeks to go then I’m going to Belgium again and I’ll stay there for a while, on the one hand because of the Easter holiday, and on the other hand in order to participate in the Trolls & Legends festival!! This year the topic is the Vikings and Rollo (Clive Standen) will be the special guest!!! I’m so looking forward to the big event.

But because of the strawberry season is also coming as the first fresh fruit of the season it occurred to me the Strawberry museum in Belgium, which is housed in the former gardener’s home in Wépion/Namur, built in Mosan style. I think I’ll visit it again!

Wépion, is a village within the city boundaries of Namur, Belgium. Located 8 kilometers south of the city centre, it’s considered as Belgian’s strawberry capital. The strawberry has been cultivated there for more than 150 years, because Wépion benefits from a micro-climate, sun-exposed plantations on west sloping ground and has a perfect ground for this type of culture. The city produces a strawberry beer under the brand name La Wépionnaise.

The Strawberry empire

Plunge into the ancient history of the strawberry,  inseparable from Wépion and discover its origins, its culture and its spot on the sunny slopes of the valley of the Meuse. Walk along the enchanting world of the Small Fruits Garden: follow the guide and learn to recognize some of the many species of native or exotic varieties. Look, smell and taste the delights that nature offers us in this magnificent garden of 60 acres,-that was what I did last year in June!

For many Belgians, Wépion has long been synonymous with strawberries. Carefully picked berries from this village, which has been in the strawberry growing business since the mid-17th century, are renowned for their fully ripe flavor. In Brussels, 50 miles to the northwest, Wépion berries fetch a premium price, roughly twice what the competition is going for. In recent years, though, the Wépion strawberry has faced stiff competition from growers within Belgium as well as from producers in the Netherlands, Spain and elsewhere. Yet despite being outgunned in both volume and price, the Wépion growers maintain a strong hold on their small share of the regional strawberry market.

The growers rally around their brand, La Criée de Wépion, and remain a presence in supermarkets in Brussels and area outdoor markets during the late spring and much of the summer. The growers’ big selling point is that with a limited distribution radius they can wait to pick berries at peak ripeness then quickly ship the fruit to stores in refrigerated trucks. Stocks of Wépion berries often sell out.

I spotted my first box of strawberries with the distinctive Wépion logo a year ago in May in an outdoor food market in Brussels. I bought that first half-kilo box for 6 euros. Given how much I was enjoying the Wépions —I was averaging a box or more a week —and their intriguing context, I decided to visit the village on the Meuse River last June to discover what all the fuss was about.

The strawberries come from the region’s cooperative production center and auction house (in French, “la criée”). My Sunday trip coincided with its annual open house. I arrived at the village around 10.00am, just before the opening. I walked into the warehouse, filled with two waist-high stacks of strawberries in flat wooden trays, a few minutes before Paul Gobiet, the Criée auctioneer and spokesman, greeted the visitors.

During the one hour long tour, Mr. Gobiet explained how the cooperative began in 1962 to organize the mom and pop strawberry growers in the region and standardize prices. Despite those efforts, family berry patches gradually disappeared.

Regional strawberry cultivation endures on about a dozen large farms in the southern French-speaking Wallonia region, not just around Wépion and Namur but in the neighboring provinces of Hainaut and Liège.

The Wépion and Namur farms produce about 400 tons of berries a year, the Wallonian region about 4,000 tons. Both are dwarfed by the 40,000 tons grown each year in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern half of Belgium

While the north produces “really good berries,” Mr. Gobiet acknowledged diplomatically, Wépion berries from La Criée are picked “at full maturity,” resulting in superior sugar levels and taste. He discounted myths that Wépion berries benefit from the region’s soil or fog rolling in from the Meuse.-“It’s the way we pick them,”- he insisted.

When fully ripe on the vine, the stems are carefully severed by the picker’s (deliberately) long fingernails and then rolled into boxes without finger contact to prevent bruising. Mr. Gobiet dismissed the strawberries that enter Belgium from Spain, China and elsewhere as “full of chemicals” and colored water, and beneath contempt.

Picked in the morning, regional berries are trucked to La Criée in late afternoon each day. After the evening auction the berries are placed in the refrigerated trucks, chilled to about 46 degrees Fahrenheit and travel overnight to supermarkets and stands.

After the tour ended, I left with a box of berries to munch as I headed into town to the Strawberry Museum, Musée de la Fraise. The small museum is in an old cottage on the town’s main street, the Chaussée de Dinant, featured vintage photos showing pickers in the fields, wholesalers in town proudly posing by their strawberry trays, the annual strawberry parade and a 1933 photograph of Wépion’s first organized strawberry market.Belgium 2013 june 191 - Copy

 

Wörishofen, the secret capital of health

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Last week I visited Wörishofen, a small village in Bavaria. The reason was because each time when I went to my hairdresser, she couldn’t stop talking/praising this place. She likes thermal bathes and this small town became famous for the water-cure-hydrotherapy, which was developed by Sebastian Kneipp (1821–1897), a Catholic priest, who lived in the village for 42 years. That made me curious.

Since Bad Wörishofen is just 80 km/50 miles from München where I live (frontier of Baden Württemberg) so that in spite of the bad weather we decided to go. And we didn’t regret it. Arriving at the town we saw many of the resort hotels and boarding-houses offer their guests treatment using Kneipp’s methods.

By the way the new spa complex out of town is called Therme Bad Wörishofen. The Time Magazine called the city “The secret capital of health.”

I also learned that from the local museum that after World War II, with south-western Germany belonging to the American occupation zone, Bad Wörishofen was the site of a displaced persons camp.

What I’ve learned of Sebastien Kneipp and his methods

Kneipp was a Bavarian priest and one of the forefathers of the Hydrotherapy water cure movement. He is most commonly associated with the “Kneipp Cure” form of hydrotherapy, the application of water through various methods, temperatures and pressures which he demonstrated to have therapeutic or healing effects, thus building several hospitals in Bad Wörishofen. Although most commonly associated with one area of Nature Cure, Kneipp was the proponent of an entire system of healing which rested on 5 main tenets:

Hydrotherapy – Kneipp was able to heal many people with water

Phytotherapy – The use of botanical medicines was another of Kneipp’s specialities

Exercise– Promoting health of the body through movement

Nutrition – A wholesome diet of whole grains, fruits & vegetables with limited meat.

Balance – Kneipp believed that a healthy mind begot a healthy person.

Kneipp was born in 1821 in Bavaria. He studied theology in the University of München but he had to stop his studying in 1847 because of his serious illness (TBC).  While he was ill, he began reading many books and found his illness described in a book about water cures. In 1850, Kneipp met a student in the Georgianum seminary in Munich that was also ill and shared water cures with him. Both Kneipp and his friend at the Georgianum recovered from their illnesses and with his renewed health Kneipp was able to complete his studies. He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1852.

In the 19th century, there was a popular revival in the application of hydrotherapy, instigated around 1829 by Vincent Priessnitz, a peasant farmer in Gräfenberg, then part of the Austrian Empire. This revival was continued by Kneipp, “an able and enthusiastic follower” of Priessnitz, “whose work he took up where Priessnitz left it”, after he came across a treatise on the cold water cure. At Worishofen, while serving as the confessor to the monastery, he began offering treatments of hydrotherapy, botanical treatments, exercise and diet to the people who lived in the village. Some of his suggested treatments included “ice cold baths and walking barefoot in the snow” and other “harsh” methodologies. In 1893, M. E. Bottey described Kneipp’s water cures as “dangerous in most cases”.”. Worishofen became known as a place with a reputation for spiritual healing. In addition to “peasants”, Kneipp’s clients also included Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his father, Archduke Karl Ludwig as well as Pope Leo XIII. Others took Kneipp’s processes back to their home countries to found alternative therapy spas and colleges.

Kneipp began developing his healing methods in 1849 after contracting tuberculosis and experimenting with the water treatments developed by Sigmund Hahn. After being ordained in 1852, he continued to experiment with water treatments in his parish. Kneipp began working with the cures developed by Vincenz Priessnitz but developed a more complicated and gentle method. His gentle cures contrast the earlier water cures that he referred to as horse cures for their strenuous nature. Kneipp’s treatment of patients also contrasted that of hospital medicine because it was personalized and took into account the patient’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

Kneipp’s approach comes from his theory that all diseases originate in the circulatory system. This theory is similar to humoral theory. Like those that believed in humoral theory, Kneipp asserted that breathing miasmatic or excessively hot air would lead to disease. While it may deal with one humor instead of four, his theory still asserts that an imbalance in the blood whether it be circulation or foreign matter is the root of disease. Under Kneipp’s depiction of disease, water cures work by affecting the blood. They dissolve foreign matter, cleanse the blood of this matter, aid in circulation, and strengthen the body as a whole.

In addition to specific cures, Kneipp had prescriptions with regard to food, drink and clothing. He believed that food should be dry and simple and should not be spicy. He also believed that people should drink primarily water but also allowed consumption of alcohol in moderation.As for clothing, Kneipp preferred self-spun clothing made of linen or hemp over wool.10373715_717659778290732_7418151021632883911_n

Kneipp’s approach to medicine was not independent of his Catholic faith. His focus on water and herbs stems from the idea that remedies are naturally provided by God. HIs emphasis on plain food, drink, and clothing comes from the theory that humans should live in accord with nature. He used scripture as well as references to Roman practice to support the reasoning behind his cure and admitted that his treatments did not fall in line with current scientific understanding. The fact that his treatments were not based in scientific theory did not bother Kneipp because they were seen as able to succeed where scientific medicine could not. Sebastian Kneipp had a particular dedication to helping the poor and those that physicians can’t help. His suffering early in life caused Kneipp to develop a deep sympathy for those less fortunate than him. He turned down many patients that could feasibly recover on their own but claims to have never refused to treat a patient that is poor or untreatable by other methods.

Kneipp’s book ,My Water Cure was published in 1886 with many subsequent editions, and translated into many languages. He also wrote “Thus Shalt Thou Live”, “My Will”, and The Care of Children In Sickness and In Health. Summer

Waffles from the 21st century

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A waffle is a dessert made from leavened dough, that is cooked between two plates that are patterned to give a characteristic size, shape and surface impression. There are many variations based on the type of waffle iron and recipe used. Waffles are eaten throughout the world, particularly in Belgium, which has over a dozen regional varieties. Waffles may be made fresh or simply heated after having been commercially precooked and frozen. In America, the waffle serves a similar function to the pancake.

It is directly derived from the Dutch wafel, which itself derives from the Middle Dutch wafele.

Waffles remained widely popular in Europe for the first half of the 19th century, despite the 1806 British Atlantic naval blockade that greatly inflated the price of sugar. This coincided with the commercial production of beet sugar in continental Europe, which, in a matter of decades, had brought the price down to historical lows. Within the transitional period from cane to beet sugar, Florian Dacher formalized a recipe for the Brussels Waffle, the predecessor to American “Belgian” waffles, recording the recipe in 1842/43. Stroopwafels (Dutch syrup wafels), too, rose to prominence in the Netherlands by the middle of the century However, by the second half of the 1800s, inexpensive beet sugar became widely available, and a wide range of pastries, candies and chocolates were now accessible to the middle class, as never before; waffles’ popularity declined rapidly. By the early 20th century, waffle recipes became rare in recipe books, and only 29 professional waffle craftsmen, the oublieurs, remained in Paris. Waffles were shifting from a predominately street-vendor-based product to an increasingly homemade product, aided by the 1918 introduction of GE’s first electric commercial waffle maker. By the mid-1930s, dry pancake/waffle mix had been marketed by a number of companies, including Aunt Jemima, Bisquick, and a team of three brothers from San Jose, Calif. – the Dorsas. It is the Dorsas who would go on to innovate commercial production of frozen waffles, which they began selling under the name “Eggo” in 1953. Belgian-style waffles were showcased at Expo 58 in Brussels. Another Belgian introduced Belgian-style waffles to the United States at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, but only really took hold at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, when another Belgian entrepreneur introduced his “Bel-Gem” waffles. In practice, contemporary American “Belgian waffles” are actually a hybrid of pre-existing American waffle types and ingredients and some attributes of the Belgian model.

P1100326.JPGIn the 21st century, waffles continue to evolve. What began as flour and water heated between two iron plates are now popular the world over, produced in sweet and savory varieties, in myriad shapes and sizes. Even as most of the original recipes have faded from use, a number of the 18th and 19th century varieties can still be easily found throughout Northern Europe, where they were first developed.

A common waffle recipe according my patisserie coach is listed as follows:

1 ¾ cups of milk, 2 eggs, ½ cup of oil, 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of baking soda, 4 tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

Each ingredient contributes to waffle texture and quality.

An appliance called a waffle iron is used to cook waffles to the optimal golden brown coloring and crispness. The iron consists of a plate with checker pattern divots that serve to hold the waffle batter when it is poured and create the waffle’s unique shape. Some waffle irons can prepare more than one waffle in the form of a double waffle maker that can be swiveled by hand 180 degrees. The stand sits on a supportive base

Brussels waffles are prepared with an egg-white-leavened or yeast-leavened batter, traditionally ale yeast; occasionally both types of leavening are used together. They are lighter, crisper and have larger pockets compared to other European waffle varieties, and are easy to differentiate from Liège Waffles by their rectangular sides. In Belgium, most waffles are served warm by street vendors and dusted with confectioner’s sugar, though in tourist areas they might be topped with whipped cream, soft fruit or chocolate spread. Variants of the Brussels waffles – with whipped and folded egg whites cooked in large rectangular forms – date from the 18th century.

Toppings: butter, choco chips, apple butter, dulce de leche

Fruits: bananas, blueberries, boysenberries strawberries, raspberries, blackberries etc., honey, jam or jellies, powdered sugar, chocolate spread,

Syrups: maple, chocolate, caramel flavored, whipped creamP1100325