Month: August 2012

My grandma’s gooseberry’s fool

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Gooseberries for me taste of a sweet tangy mixture of pineapple and kiwi. The fruits make an interesting addition to salads, cooked dishes, and as a garnish. Cook with apples or ginger to make a distinctive dessert, or poach them with a little sugar and water to make a traditional accompaniment to mackerel.

Although gooseberries are now abundant in Germany and France, it does not appear to have been much grown there in the Middle Ages, though the wild fruit was held in some esteem medicinally for the cooling properties of its acid juice in fevers; while the old English name, Fea-berry, (still surviving in some provincial dialects), indicates that it was similarly valued in Britain, where it was planted in gardens at a comparatively early period. William Turner, botanist describes the gooseberry in his book the New Herball, written about the middle of the 16th century, and a few years later it is mentioned in one of Thomas Tusser’s quaint rhymes as an ordinary object of garden culture.

“The Barberry Respes, and Gooseberry too, Look now to be planted as other things do”.

It is not exactly known when the gooseberry became an object of cultivation in this country, but it had become a garden fruit in the reign of Henry VIII.; Soon after this period descriptions were given of about a dozen varieties – and among the rest, one called the Blue, a colour not now found among the hundreds of varieties in cultivation. The fruit was apparently very small when the plant was first brought under cultivation, resembling the small tasteless fruit which is still found in the south of Europe; and in point of size, at least, it does not appear to have improved much for more than a century after Tusser’s time, as may be inferred from the surprise expressed by Samuel Pepys (was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament in the 17th-18th century, now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man) at seeing gooseberries as big as nutmegs. Improved varieties were probably first raised by the skillful gardeners of Holland, whose name for the fruit, Kruisbezie, may have been easily corrupted into the present English vernacular word. Towards the end of the 18th century the gooseberry became a favorite object of cottage-horticulture, especially in Lancashire, where the working cotton-spinners have raised numerous varieties from seed, their efforts having been chiefly directed to increasing the size of the fruit. It is a good source of Vitamin C.

It seems the flavour of the berries to improve with increasing latitude. In Norway (where it’s named “stikkelsbær” — or “prickly berry”), the bush flourishes in gardens on the west coast nearly up to the Arctic circle. However the dry summers of the French and German plains are less suited to it, though it is grown in some hilly districts with tolerable success. It is also widely found in villages throughout the former Czechoslovakia and in Hungary.

Gooseberry fool

Smooth, timeless and soothing dessert, the fool is simply crushed fruits folded into whipped cream – perfect for summer-. That said I like my fools to have a slightly rough texture, with crushed, cooked fruit in among the cream. This is easy to do if you crush the cooked berries with a fork rather than sieving them. The seeds add important contrast to the general creaminess.

Some twist

Elderflower, (in the form of flower heads) simmered with the gooseberries or a drop of cordial stirred in with the cream, is also a classic. However red gooseberries will produce a sweeter, slightly murky-colored fool. The best twist is to ripple a spoonful of lightly crushed, cooked berries through the finished fool to give a ripple effect, adding texture and interest.

1.Wash the berries and remove the stems and tops with scissors before eating or cooking. To cook them put the prepared berries in a pan with a little water and 1 tbsp sugar per 100g (1/2 cup) fruit (taste, and add more sugar if you need it once the fruit has softened). Cover and cook gently for 10-15 min until soft. Once cooked, the gooseberries can be used in sweet dishes and for savory sauces or for the gooseberry fool.

Gooseberry and Elderflower ice cream

450 gr gooseberries, 3-4 heaped tbs of sugar, 300 ml double cream, 1 natur yoghurt

Top and tail 450g of sharp cooking gooseberries. Tip them in a pan with 3 or 4 heaped tbsp of sugar and one or two of water. Then bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the fruit has burst. Cool then chill. Crush with a fork. Whip 300ml double cream till thick, but stop before it will stand in peaks. It should sit in soft folds.

For the custard

2 egg yolks, 1 tsp arrowroot, 150ml/5fl oz milk, 30g/1oz sugar, 150ml/5fl oz double cream, Fresh elderflowers, to decorate

Top and tail the gooseberries. Put them into a pan with the elderflower cordial. Bring up to the boil and then simmer gently until soft and pulpy. Leave to go cold, and then place in a serving dish.

Make the custard heat the milk up in a pan to the point of boiling. Beat the egg yolks, arrowroot and sugar together in a jug and pour the hot milk into the jug.. Mix well and then return to the pan. Heat gently until the custard thickens, but do not boil. Strain into a clean bowl and cool.

Whip the cream to the same consistency of the gooseberries.

Gently stir the cream into the gooseberries and then fold in the custard. Try to give it a marbled effect in the serving bowl. Place a few elderflowers on top to decorate.

Put the gooseberries and sugar in a pan with a splash of water. Heat gently, stir, then bring to a simmer and cook until the fruit starts to burst. Squash the gooseberries with a potato masher or fork until pulpy. Cool then chill until cold in the fridge.

Put the yoghurt in a bowl and beat with the icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. Gently whisk in the cream (it will thicken as you whisk so don’t overdo it). Ripple through the gooseberry pulp then spoon into pretty glasses or bowls to serve.

Gooseberry muffin

Ingredients:

225g self-raise flour, 1 tsp  baking powder, 200g golden caster sugar, 3 eggs,150g pot natural yoghurt, 4 tbsp elderflower cordial (Bottle Green) 175g butter, melted and cooled

For  the  fool

330g gooseberries, topped and tailed, or use frozen or jared, 50g golden caster sugar, 1 tbsp elderflower cordial, 200g crème fraîche, icing sugar, for dusting

Method: Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Put 12 muffin cases into a muffin tray. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat the eggs, yogurt, elderflower cordial and melted butter together with a pinch of salt, then stir into the dry ingredients. Spoon into the cases (they will be quite full), bake for 18-20 min until risen and golden then cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, put the gooseberries and the sugar into a frying pan, then gently cook for 10 min until most of the berries have collapsed, but there’s still some texture. Taste for sweetness (add more sugar if you like, but remember that the cakes are sweet), then stir in the elderflower cordial and allow to cool. Once cool, fold into the crème fraîche.

To serve, cut a section out of the top of each cake using a small, serrated knife – heart shapes look sweet, but if that’s too fiddly simply cut off the top and cut in half, like a butterfly cake. Spoon a dessert spoonful or so of the fool into each cake, top with the piece that you cut away, then dust with a little icing sugar.

Some tricks

Use sharp cooking gooseberries, not the sweeter, fat dessert varieties. Other than that, it is all in the whipping of the cream. Put the bowl in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before you pour the cream in. Whip slowly, with a hand whisk. Stop once the cream starts to feel heavy on the whisk and will lie in soft, undulating folds. Fold in the fruit only when it is cool. It will curdle if still warm. Don’t leave it uncovered in the fridge for long otherwise it will absorb all the other flavours in there.

The gooseberry in the south of England will grow well in cool situations, and may be sometimes seen in gardens near London flourishing under the partial shade of apple trees; but in the north it needs full exposure to the sun to bring the fruit to perfection.

Christmas ornaments in August and a Japanese dinner

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With a month before, when my Japanese sister-in-law informed me about her coming to Münich, I had already started making plans. Thousand ideas flashed through my brain where we should go to and what were we going to do. I compiled some programs roughly and I sent it to her by mail because I wanted to be sure that if it would liven up her expectations.

She responded next day saying that she was ready for everything what I’d suggested, and she also expressed that it would be her pleasure if I took the lead along in Bavaria, but added it into the footnote, that her sole wish, that she wants to buy Christmas ornaments somewhere in Bavaria.

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Xmas decorations in August? Where on earth I could find them. That was a challenge! Then suddenly it crossed my mind that when I was in Neuschweinstein in June, I saw a shop loaded with tones of Christmas ornaments. For that matter it was among my plan, that we would devote a day to viewing of Ludwig’s Bavarian castles, so we might join the pleasure with the useful. And it happened so. After we “completed our mission”, visited the fairy castle, we found the Xmas shop at the foot of the hill. I was gob smacked. All decorations were rich in fantasy, mouth-blown and hand painted, believe me they were able to fulfill any customer’s desires. From the legendary Green Pickle to Hans and Gretl and other characters from the brother Grimm’s tales. And besides among the special ornaments they were of course the typical symbols of Bavaria, the pretzel, the Edelweiss-(alpine cudweed), beer mug, king Ludwig, Sisi and her Franz Joseph all made of glass (see the slide show) Shizuka spent almost one hour with browsing and finally she bought angels, animal ornaments etc.. I was also not able to resist to the temptation and I bought a white frog with an ermine and the well-known fictional character the Pinocchio (see the slide show).

Japanese dinner by Shizuka

Last evening of Shizuka’s staying she offered us to prepare a Japanese dinner. We welcomed her proposal enthusiastically with one condition, we would buy the ingredients and she would do the cooking. She agreed. Around 5 pm she started to prepare the three courses menu, the gyoza, the umen soup, and the dumpling with vegetable filling.

If I had known that she would be slaving away through 2 hours in the kitchen, while she insisted to make the dumplings as well, I would rather said no and ‘d went onto the lake Starnberg to take a bath and after that we would have had supper in a beer garden. But everything turned out distinctively, except that I was sorry for her, how much effort she had made after an exhausting day.

I can not express how much we enjoyed Shizuka’s delicious dishes. Let it be enough to say that two foods tasted especially good: her mum’s soup recipe and the green tea and black sesame seed ice-creams.

Dille and Kamille, a store like no other

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Imagine that you are in the Netherlands, in the early seventies. In the cities there are many uniform stores when in this climate, in an empty yard in Utrecht basement of only 130 square meters Dille & Kamille opens its first shop. A store with wonderful combination of products: antique furniture and baskets of dried flowers, kitchen appliances, utensils, bake wares, cookwares, culinary products such as: pasta, oil, vinegar, herbs and spices, wine, chocolate, liquorice, wine and cheese and numerous tea blends. For the bathroom: towels, soaps and massage oils, beeswax and mirrors sold China. Everything is made ​​from natural materials, because the password is: plastic is forbidden.

That was new, that was different from the other conventional shops. No wonder that it was an immediate success. Since then, the Dill & Kamille has conquered twenty cities in the Netherlands and 5 in Belgium. The concept of that first store, the wonderful mix of products that are still great together and the belief in natural simplicity, standing still as a rock. During 36 years Dille & Kamille has survived all fads, economic crises and changing ideas but it is flourishing….

The pleasure of good service, the convenience of kitchen appliances, the seductive scent of herbal tea and lavendel,- that was my first impression when I entered the Dill & Kamille store in Bruxelles. On the shelves there were plenty of products what make life more enjoyable. Rattan baskets and wooden chairs, pots & plants and garden tools, children’s toys. A range that simplicity radiates with a preference for trade, crafts and natural materials. There was no superfluous decorations or fancy shapes, because natural simplicity is the core of Dille & Kamille. And hospitality. A casual atmosphere, a place where you can be yourself.  And Hospitable. Advanced cooking for friends. Carefully set the table. Or just spoil yourself with a bottle of wine or with a delicious tea. Or a personalized gift.

No more word is necessary because at Dille & Kamille the products spoke for themselves. Living in harmony with the environment was the message here. Between the hustle and bustle in the streets Dille & Kamille was a relief. No frills, garish displays, neon, fashion statements or piercing music from the speakers: classical music and the seductive scents of soaps, oils and spices filled the room.

Dille & Kamille opened its shop in Brussels in 1995, in Bruges in 2001, in Roeselare in 2002, in  Aalst in 2004, in Turnhout in 2005…

The most delicious Hungarian stuffed kohlrabi

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Stuffed kohlrabi is a traditional Hungarian dish based on minced meat, kohlrabi, rice and sour cream. It is eaten summer and winter equally.

Ingredients: for each person one medium kohlrabi, 1 pound ground beef, veal, pork mixture, 200 grams of rice, 1 large finely chopped onion, 1 1/2 tablespoons butter-oil mixture, 2 large eggs, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1 1/2 cups broth of choice, 1 cup sour cream, salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon dill

Preparation:

1. Peel kohlrabi get rid of the tough, outer skin. Cut a bit off the root end so they will stand straight. Cut off the tops and reserve, and scoop out the flesh of the bottoms and chop it finely.

2. In a medium skillet, sauté onion and chopped kohlrabi flesh in butter until tender (add a pinch of sugar). Sauté garlic in two spoons of oil, add rice. Pour over a little bit of water and simmer until liquid evaporates. Transfer rice to a large bowl, and combine it with meat, eggs, paprika powder and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Fill kohlrabi bottoms with the meat–rice mixture, place in dish and place kohlrabi tops on. Pour the broth over the kohlrabi and season with lots of dill. Bake for 40 minutes or until kohlrabis are tender.

4. Remove kohlrabis to a serving platter and keep them warm. Skim fat off pan juices. With a fork, blend sour cream with flour. Temper with a few ladles of hot pan juices, whisking constantly. Pour tempered sour cream into pan juices and cook until thickened. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve stuffed kohlrabi with sauce on the side.

Invitation for a Grand Aioli party in Provence

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Preface: Pliny, (AD 23-AD 79) the famous Roman naturalist hated the garlic so much that once in his anger he told that the garlic carries the darkness and evil alone, but later, when he had learned that the garlic chases away the worms and poisonous animals, he suggested to his friends to peel it, crush it into wine and drink it. All this occurred to me, when I was in Toulon last summer. 

The grand aioli party

With the Mount Faron (542 m,) in the background, and opening out onto a magnificent harbor “designed by Mother Nature”, Toulon was a city of contrast. On the one hand it was an old picturesque city of ancient fountains, cathedrals (St Marie’s was built in 1740), opera and a colorful daily market with the smells and sounds, typical of Provence but on the other hand it’s a large military port, (it was the French Navy’s war port for all of the Mediterranean countries). But before anybody would sentence Toulon I can assure you that Toulon offered a complete choice of activities: music festivals, the contemporary art museum, the naval museum, the dance festival at Château Vallon, but in my case a grand aioli party as well!

Being always curious to other nation’s cuisine I was so excited when Morgane, (my French friend) invited me a grand aioli dinner which took place at her parents house. She called me on the phone two hours before the dinner and draw my attention onto a French tradition that (which concerns the dinner) I should bring some vegetables, fruits, meat, fish. Until that day I didn’t know that the grand aioli is a kind of old favorite fest for garlic lovers especially for the people of the Provence region of France. Viz. in this event hand-made garlic mayonnaise would be served as a wonderfully pungent accompaniment to platters of poached cod and a variety of seasonal vegetables (alongside with a nice rosé wine).

I arrived around 7 pm at he Morgane’s and instead of a bunch of flower I gave a “bunch” of spring onion, carrots, broccoli, and some shrimps to her mother. Half an hour later, when approx. twenty guests’s stomachs felt the pangs of hunger (the French, like the Mediterranean people in general, like late dinner, with good company, wine and good humor) we all cheered up when Morgan’s father appeared with mayonnaise, garlic, salt, pepper, extra virgin oliva oil in his hand. We, like children, surrounded him in order to look at it how the garlic sauce had to be prepared:

First he brought a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat, then he added the onion, reduced the heat to medium-low and kept the water at a slow boil. He added the potatoes and cooked them until they were tender and just was cooked through about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, he removed them to a serving platter.

Next he added the carrots to the liquid and simmered them until they were just cooked through, usually around 7 or 8 minutes. He removed them with a slotted spoon and arranged them neatly next to the potatoes.

Then he added the green beans and let them cooked until they were done about 5 or 6 minutes. He set them nicely next to the carrots on the platter.

Finally, he added the cod filets and let them simmer until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. He removed to the platter. He added the hard-boiled eggs to the platter. Covered the platter loosely with foil and set aside.

The aioli: he added the garlic cloves and a big pinch of salt to a large mortar and used a pestle to mash the garlic cloves to a puree. He added the egg yolks and ground them into the garlic puree until the mixture was smooth. Then he dribbled the olive oil down the side of the mortar very slowly, grinding the pestle all the while and always in the same clockwise or counterclockwise direction. The sauce started to begin to thicken. After about half of the olive oil had been added, he squeezed in the lemon juice (or vinegar). Then resumed adding the olive oil. (You can pour it a little faster at this point). The egg yolk and olive oil formed a thick emulsion. Finally he seasoned with salt and pepper. And the food was ready!

-Á la table!-he whooped. It was not necessary to say it twice, believe me! We were all like hungry wolves, immediately attacked the food. I packed my plate with the freshly steamed vegetables, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot and dipped every bite in the garlicky sauce. The aioli sauce, together with the shrimp and the cod fish, not to mention the excellent Rosé, for me it was the perfect dinner.

To Prepare the Aïoli in the Modern Way: Place the garlic, egg yolks, lemon juice or vinegar and salt in a blender and puree until smooth. Then, with the blender running, slowly dribble the olive oil into the yolks. This will make a firmer, smoother aïoli, but it won’t have quite the character of one that is handmade.

Le grand aïoli is especially popular at large village gatherings. Sometimes called l’aïoli monstre or simply l’aïoli.