Month: January 2013

Masquerade ball in Vienna with Mira Sorvino

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imagesCA8E5P46With the snowdrop, tiger lily, tulip, roses and fresia decorated salon, feathered hats, cilinders, masks scatter everywhere foreshadowing a piquant adventure in the prom of the Opera ball in Vienna. Before reading further this blog be aware of the danger of nostalgia!

Just 140 years ago happened when empress Elizabeth of Austria and queen of Hungary fell in love with the young Fritz von Pacher Theinburg ministerial employee at the Vienna Academy of Music’s masquerade ball. The romantic love story was captured by the Austrian novelist Hubert Wittenbach who wrote the next about it (I didn’t cite it word by word)

dekoráciok 020“The famous masquerade ball of the Vienna Academy of Music was regarded the most exclusive ball of the party season. To increase the excitment, papers, magazines reported every day who would wear what and who would participate on the ball so it was no wonder that everyone in the upscale city were speaking of the season opener masquerade parade.

In 1873 late January, the 36-year empress Elizabeth was bored to death in her study. A nasty, rainy winter hit the capital, snow did not fall, so due to the bad weather she could not go for a ride and could not leave the city for warmer lands either, until Franz Joseph, the emperor returned to the capital. On one gloomy day Elizabeth was just sitting in her room and tried to concentrate on her book, but she couldn’t because the inaction tortured her so deeply like never before. Until that point when she discovered the programs of the ball of the Academy of Music in one magazin. The big event was due on that evening! Elizabeth became totally thrilled with the news, decided that at all costs but she would go to the ball in incognito. Her Hungarian abigail (lady’s maid) Ida Ferenczy initially opposed the plan, but eventually Elizabeth managed to convince her that no one will recognize them under masks, so Ida decided to go with the queen. One more person had to be involved in the adventure, the hairdresser madam Schmidl. She dressed up Elizabeth of a brocade yellow dominoe dress, put a strawberry blonde wig to her gorgeous hair, covered her face with a black lace mask so her white face, long swan neck was not be recognizible. However Ida Ferenczy dressed in red dominoe cloth, with a black wig. Half-hour later the two excited ladies in the dominoe costumes managed to get into the hall of the Academy of Music unobtrusively. They took the gallery seats and watched the cheerful, debutante crowd for a while. Elizabeth in her gorgeous costume was still excited and was eagerly waiting for that someone would discover her, but when nothing happened until midnight she became totally depressed, and finally said to Ida:” if I had to come to the ball, I want to dance, please bring someone up to me”. At the beginning of the ball she had already picked out a good-looking blond man, who was standing next to a “shepherd” girl. So she pointed at that guy and sent Ida down to him, wanted to know who he is. As it turned out the man’s the 26 year-old Fritz von Pacher Theinburg ministerial official, who willingly followed the mysterious lady’s maid to her mistress. After a few polite words, Pacher immediately guessed that the woman could not be other than Empress Elizabeth because of the way of talking and as she held her head, as she waited to broach the people out of the way when they started to dance, so he was absolutely sure about her identity”.

Masks 005When later love was consummated in Pacher suites, the Empress was still in the faith that Pacher didn’t recognize her. The love affair lasted about 3 months, and during all that time Elizabeth believed that no one knows about the relationship but it could not remain a secret because Fritz Pacher von Theinburg was not very discreet man, he even captured the adventure with the Queen / Empress in a poem, which Elizabeth, if she had ever read it, would have found out the truth, namely, how much wrong was she when she thought that Theinburg loved her head over heels, and was completely fascinated by her beauty etc, but probably she realized that 3 months later when she ended the unilateral adventure because Elizabeth did not like that he did not dance the way she wanted, anyway, the banter just entertained the Empress but did not the young man. ”

A lot of water had flown down the Danube river since Elizabeth’s love affair, and many people have fallen in love at the Viennese balls, but Vienna had to wait until 1992 to draw the attention to the world again of the Vienna Opera ball. Thanks to Richard Lugner, the Austrian shopping mole owner, investor, industrialist tycoon, who organizes every year a charity connected ball at the Vienna Opera House, where world-famous celebrities waltz to Strauss’s music, and every year’s sensation, who will be the guest of honor! This year the ball will be held on February 7 and the guest of honor of the prom will be the Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino!

Perfect illusion in Hollywood style

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Lights! Camera! And the Oscar goes to…

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Create your own glamour on Oscar night with a vintage Hollywood bash at home. An evening that takes guests back to an era. To the glamorous thirties? Fifties? It’s your choise! In addition to sleek decorations and a decadent meal-eaten in front of the TV, of course-that suggest trivia and prizes that will keep guests on their toes from arrivals to after-parties coverage on TV. So invite your own rat pack people over and let the fun begin!

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Setting the scene in black and white? According to the golden era? In art nouveau style, with silver, sparkling jewels, feathers, with a huge poster of Ginger and Fred in the living room..or..as you wish!

Send invites in film canisters with an awards ballot tucked inside. Copy the nomination list of the top categories from the newspaper or download it from oscar.com. Ask guests to show up a half-hour before airtime with completed ballots, and to dress a bit glamorously.

The Décor: white and black, gold accented with Old Hollywood ambience. Use a gold runner or a black tablecloth on the buffet table, tie the napkins with gold ribbon. Move the biggest TV into the living room, provide plenty of seatings. Clear off coffee tablets and side tables to make room for plates and glasses.

Flowers: You need vases of varying heights to fill in with white tulips and fresias.

Music: Le Miserable (this year hit musical) or best song nominees from years past.

And the winner is…Oscar ballots: place a tray for completed ballots near the front door. after guests arrive, pass out pens and have each guests pick another guests”s ballot to score during the show.

Trivia contest: during commercials, test guests tinseltown knowledge with trivia questions. For instance What does Oscar stand on? (a film reel) what film and sequel both won a best picture Oscar? (The godfather and the Godfather part II:) What was the first X-rated film to win the best picture? (Midnight cowboy)

Prizes: A bottle of champagne or a DVD

The menu

Olga bread

Oscar 006Ingredients: 1 baguette, 200 gr crème fraiche, 100 gr sour crème, 1-2 tbs horseradish, lemon juice, pepper, 50 gr black caviar, smoked forel or salmon, red caviar

Cut the baguette into nice slices, toast them slightly. Mix crème fraiche with the sour cream and horseradish, squeeze lemon juice and ground pepper. Smear the baguettes with the cream, place on the top the salmon, garnish with caviar and ciboulette..

Duck liver terrine

Ingredients for the duck liver parfait: 200 gr butter, 1 shalotte, 1 apple, 10 gr ginger, 1 orange, 3 tb portwine, 3 tbs redwine, 100 ml duck fond, 1 rosemary sprig, 2 thyme sprigs, 250 gr duck liver, 1 egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg, 2 spoons of pistache, portwine jello, white gelatine, 80 ml portwine, 30 ml cassis

Cut away and discard any large sinews from the livers, then set the livers aside. Heat about a third of the butter in a large frying pan, then gently fry the shallots and garlic for 3-4 mins until soft. Turn up the heat, add the livers, then fry until just browned on all sides. Add the brandy and port, boil down as quickly as possible – if the sauce catches light for an instant, then all the better. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool completely.

Season the livers generously, then tip the contents of the pan into a food processor with the remaining butter, and blitz until smooth. Push the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, taste for seasoning, then tip into a serving dish, banging the dish down on the tabletop to smooth out the surface. Place in the fridge to set.

Once the mixture has set, make the topping. Gently melt the butter in a small pan or in a bowl in the microwave, then leave for a min to settle and separate. Pour the yellow butter that has risen to the top into another bowl and discard the milky liquid. Leave the yellow butter to cool slightly, then mix in the thyme and peppercorns. Pour the mixture over the parfait and leave to set in the fridge. Serve with plenty of toast, sliced gherkins and chutney. Will keep for 2 days in the fridge.

Salmon and fresh cheese Timbale

Ingredients: 8 slices smoked salmon, 225 g thick cream cheese, 100 ml sour cream (or 2 tbsp lemon juice tbsp mayonnaise), 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 100 g crabmeat (or 100g chopped prawns), 2 teaspoons chopped dill, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon brandy (optional)

Ingredients: for the dressing: 2 tbs white vinegar, half tbs mustard, salt, sugar, pepper, 2 tbs of olive

Grease 8 (100ml) ramekins with a little oil then line with a piece of plastic wrap, making sure to leave enough overhang. Place a slice of salmon in each ramekin. Beat the cream cheese with the sour cream, stir in crab or prawn, add dill, mustard and season to taste. Spoon into moulds, fold over overhanging salmon then fold over the plastic wrap to cover. Chill at least 3 hours. It can be made 24 hours ahead!

Plum and peach in bacon ham coat

Ingredients: 8 dry plums unpitted, 8 almond seeds, 8 dry peaches, 8 sage leaves, 16 smoked bacons, such as Pancetta.

Preheat the oven for 200 grades. Place sage leaves on smoked bacons, roll over almonds, plums and peaches with bacon slices. Bind edges with a tooth stick and place on the baking tray and bake them for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Champagne sorbet

Ingredients: 2 lemons, rind, 2 egg whites, 500 ml champagne,

Cook together sugar, lemon and juice in a saucepan for 5 minutes, let it cool, pour over champagne .

Whisk egg whites until stiff, stir in the champagne carefully. Place sorbet into fridge for 4 hours. Serve in silver ice cream bowls. Stylish and handy..

 

The solo career of the black pepper

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mld105140_1209_ship_ornament_xlBlack pepper has been known to Indian cooking since at least 2 BC and along with other spices had changed the course of world history. Probably the pepper was that led to the Portuguese efforts to find a sea route to China during the Age of discovery and later on it became so popular that adventurers had risked their lives to sail to the “Pepper coast” (Caribbean coast) in the hope of becoming rich from selling it. The popularity of the pepper had grown fast and by the time of the 17th century aristocratic feasts, dinners, receptions, practically couldn’t exist without it thus the tropical peppercorns became a much-prized trade, more expensive than the salt. In that time it was often referred to as “black gold” and used as a form of commodity money as well. According to doctors the pleasant, exotic fragrance of the pepper with its stimulating effects caused a positive mood, and the Epicureans claimed that the different types of peppers were a real pleasure same as the enjoyment of a noble wine.

Probably the saying ”as expensive as the pepper” is also originated from that century but on the other hand because of a peppercorn’s individual size, the term “peppercorn rent” referred to a token payment made for something that is in fact being given. And the expression Pepper sack was used to those businessmen who amassed a huge fortune trading the spices….well

Until the 21st century the pepper with the salt was the happiest duo in the kitchen but in the last decade the pepper started a solo career. That pepper the one that lived with the salt in symbiosis for so long it has turned out that the pepper could be not only used for stews, marinades, meat seasoning, and of course for the meat broth, but it goes excellently well with fruit, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla ice cream and with other sweets.

Nowadays we may obtain the most special sort of peppers in the bio/reform or oriental shops duly for the development of the transport. We can find among the black and white peppers the most unique breeds such as the Assam long pepper, the Javanese cubeb pepper (with eucalyptus flavor), the Tasmanian mountain pepper, the Brazilian pepper, the Chinese Sichuan pepper, etc.. so we can fully enjoy the flavor of the different varieties from the spicy ones to the sweet ones.

Recipes

Pork chops, with peppery cream sauce

Ingredients: 4 slices pork loin or leg, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 onion, 100 ml dry white wine 200 ml stock cubes cooked soup, 100 ml cream, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 tablespoon green peppercorns, fresh grapes about 12 berries

Preheat oven to 120 degrees. Season the meat with salt and pepper then fry in 2 tablespoons of the oil for 2 minutes on each side. Remove pork from the pan and place into the oven for 20 minutes with its own fat.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion and simmer in a little oil, pour over the white wine and the 200 ml of broth. Simmer everything together for 5 minutes, then pour in 100ml of cream flavored with mustard, add grapes, season with pepper. Remove the meat from the oven and add to the onion mixture, heat it up together, and toss some fresh peppercorn. Season with trimmed spring onion pieces and serve with fries or mashed potatoes.

Vitello di tonnato

Vitello di tonnato, a popular Italian dish, which is made from thiny sliced of veal, marinated in white wine, flavored with onion and celery, and enriched with tuna fish with a sauce and with peppercorns (egg yolk, sardines, olive oil, white wine, lemon juice and a mixture of tuna, capers and peppercorns added).

Ingredients: 750 gr veal, 2 carrots, 3 potatoes 2 celery stalks
2 medium-sized onions 1 clove, 2 bay leaves, oil, parsley, 1 glass of white wine
to the sauce: 3 egg yolks, 1.5 cc of lemon juice, 2 dl oil, 200 g tuna (can), 50 g caper with juice, 3 p anchovy or paste, salt, pepper

Peel the onions, the carrots and the celery. Wash and peel the potatoes. Make a broth on the usual way from 2 liters of water, vegetables and meat, pour in soup white wine and flavor it with the bay leaves. After 15-20 minutes, strain the soup and remove meat, cut into thiny slices. Keep the vegetables for garnishing.

Prepare the sauce (it should be mayonnaise like), but instead of sour cream a little bit of water should be added.

Beat the egg yolk, press the lemon juice and season with a little bit of salt. Pour lemon juice over egg and continue to stir with a fork until smooth, then add the oil, very slowly, almost drop by drop. When the sauce begins to thicken, add the remaining oil. Break the tuna fish with a fork, add the anchovies and capers, (chopped), but set aside some nice pieces. Place the cooked meat on a plate with the tuna then pour the sauce over and serve with the cooked vegetables (potatoes and carrots).

Goat cheese with pepper and tarragon, pepper and pear beefsteak

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons olives, 1 tablespoon carraway seeds, 3-4 cloves, 4 tablespoons black pepper, 4 slices of goat cheese, 1 packet of fresh tarragon

Mix the honey with the oil and add the 4 tablespoons of peppercorns. Cover the goat cheese with this honeyed-pepper mixture. Wash the fresh tarragon and sprinkle on the cheese.

Pepper and apple chutney

Ingredients: 1 tablespoon green pepper, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, 2 Limettes, 1 kg of apples, 150 g sugar, 12 juniper berries, 1 tsp salt, 100 ml of apple juice

Crush the Sichuan peppercorns in a mortar. Then roast all pepper sorts in a pan, except the Sichuan peppercorn, without adding any fats or oils. Wash the lime under hot water, grate the rind onto wine, then squeeze the lemon juice into wine. Peel the apples and grate them. Cook in a saucepan the lemon-wine and apple juice with a pinch of salt, flavored with sugar, juniper berries, and add the grated apple too it. Then cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. When the time is up spoon chutney into a jar (when it is still hot) and cover.

This apple chutney makes excellent side dish of venison and goat cheese appetizers.

Choco mousse with peppercorn

Ingredients: 150 gr choco fondant, 100 gr cream, 100 gr egg whites, peppercorn

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water). Stir until melted. Remove bowl from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Place eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat with electric beaters for 5 minutes, or until mixture is pale, thick and doubled in volume. Fold in cooled chocolate and cocoa powder until combined.

In a separate bowl, whip cream until thickened (be careful not to over-beat) add peppercorns to cream. Use a large metal spoon to carefully fold the cream into the chocolate mixture, trying to keep the mixture as light as possible. Spoon into 6 serving glasses and chill in fridge for at least 1 hour. Remove from fridge 15 minutes before serving, then top with extra whipped cream, grated chocolate to serve.

Currently Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pepper

Was the pomegranate the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden?

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220px-Girl_with_a_pomegranate,_by_William_BouguereauPomegranates and their other-worldly beauty have captured imaginations since ancient times. The goddess Demeter lost her daughter Persephone to Hades, lord of the Underworld, because of this scarlet fruit, and some biblical scholars believe it, not the apple, led Eve to temptation but the pomegranate.

In Egypt as the symbol of fertility and eternal life, this ruby-hued jewel beguiles with more than just the huge burst of sweet-tart juice from every tiny seed. It’s also full of vitamin C and potassium, as well as polyphenols, the same cancer-fighting and heart-healthy antioxidants found in red wine. (Go for fresh juice to really reap the benefits.) If you think pomegranates are only for eating out of hand, refer to the following recipes for a little divine inspiration.

Braised chicken in pomegranate juice

This whole roast chicken is flavored with a pomegranate-juice glaze and decorated with thyme and pomegranate seeds.

First clean the pomegranate: after the pomegranate is opened by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open, the arils (seed casings) are separated from the peel and internal white pulp membranes. Separating the red arils is easier in a bowl of water because the arils sink and the inedible pulp floats. Freezing the entire fruit also makes it easier to separate. Another very effective way of quickly harvesting the arils is to cut the pomegranate in half, score each half of the exterior rind four to six times, hold the pomegranate half over a bowl and smack the rind with a large spoon. The arils should eject from the pomegranate directly into the bowl, leaving only a dozen or more deeply embedded arils to remove.

Ingredients: 1 cup pomegranate juice, 3-pound whole chicken, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, 1 cup pomegranate seeds

for the marinade: 1 cup pomegranate juice, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne red pepper (depending on your preference), 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preparation of the marinade

Add the pomegranate juice to a small nonstick saucepan and bring to a boil. Keep it at a gentle boil and let the juice reduce down to around 1/3 cup. Let the juice cool for about 30 minutes.

Add remaining marinade ingredients to the saucepan with the pomegranate juice and whisk until blended.

Add your meat and all of the marinade to a sealable gallon plastic bag. Place bag in a bowl or dish and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, shaking the bag occasionally to make sure all surfaces of the meat are in contact with the marinade.

Remove meat from the marinade and start to cook the chicken.

Directions

Heat pomegranate juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup. Set aside. Meanwhile, let the chicken come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Brush chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper. Tie legs and transfer to a large ovenproof skillet.

Roast chicken, turning once, until golden and cooked through, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and brush with reduced pomegranate juice; let stand 10 minutes. Deglaze skillet over medium heat with stock, scraping up brown bits with a wooden spoon. Cook until reduced by half. Strain fat. Add thyme and pomegranate seeds. Serve with chicken.

Turkey with pomegranate

1 turkey, rinsed, patted dry, necks reserved, giblets discarded

Ingredients:1 cup Pomengranate Marinade, 2 onions, chopped, 2 carrots, chopped, 2 celery stalks, chopped, 2 heads garlic, separated, 1 bunch fresh thyme, 4 fresh bay leaves, 1 pomegranate, halved, for garnish, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, roasted Cipollini Onions and Treviso, pomegranate Gastrique, pomegranate seeds, for garnish, 1 head Treviso, halved, for garnish

Directions

Trim excess fat in and around cavity of the turkey; remove wing tips and reserve. Generously season cavity and exterior of turkey with salt and pepper. Reserving 2 tablespoons, rub turkey with marinade and refrigerate, covered, for 6 hours.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees with rack in upper 1/3 of oven. Place onions, carrots, celery, garlic, reserved wing tips and necks, thyme, and bay leaves in a large roasting pan. Position turkey on top of vegetables so it is not crowded and tail ends meet in center of pan. Roast until the juices run clear in the legs when pricked with a fork, 45 to 60 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of roasting, baste turkey with reserved marinade mixture.

Remove turkey from oven; let rest 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over high heat. Using a pastry brush, brush cut-sides of pomegranate and treviso with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Place cut-side down on grill pan, and cook until grill marks appear.

Transfer some of the onions and treviso to a large serving platter. Top with turkey and remaining vegetables. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons gastrique. Garnish with grilled pomegranate and treviso. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, if desire

  

Pomegranate braised ribs
 
You can braise ribs a day ahead; let cool in liquid, then refrigerate. Discard fat before reheating in a warm oven.

Ingredients: 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, 4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces (8 to 12), Salt and pepper, 1 large yellow onion, cut into wedges, 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled, 10 sprigs thyme, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3 cups pomegranate juice, 1 cup dry red wine, such as Merlot, 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, for serving

Directions 

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a large heavy pot heat 2 tbspoons of oil over high. Season ribs with salt and pepper. On batches brown ribs on all sides. Transfer to plate pour off oil, and wipe loose bits of out of pot. Reduce heat to medium-high and add remaining 3 tablespoons oil to pot. Add onion, garlic, and thyme. Cook, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, until onion is softened, 5 minutes. Add flour and stir to coat. Whisk in pomegranate juice and wine and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Return ribs to pot, cover, and transfer to oven.

Bake until ribs are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 3 hours. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer ribs to a large platter. Strain liquid into a fat separator, let sit briefly, and return to pot, discarding fat (or, skim off fat with a spoon). Bring to a boil over medium-high and cook until reduced to a sauce-like consistency, 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, season with salt and pepper, and pour over ribs. Top with pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate all over the world

Pomegranate juice has long been a popular drink in Armenian, Persian and Indian cuisine, but began to be widely distributed in the United States and Canada only in 2002.

The entire seed is consumed raw, though the watery, tasty aril is the desired part. The taste differs depending on the subspecies of pomegranate and its ripeness. The pomegranate juice can be very sweet or sour, but most fruits are moderate in taste, with sour notes from the acidic tannins contained in the aril juice. Grenadine syrup is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice and is used in cocktail mixing. Before tomatoes (a New World fruit) arrived in the Middle East, grenadine was widely used in many Iranian foods, and is still found in traditional recipes such as fesenjān, a thick sauce made from pomegranate juice and ground walnuts, usually spooned over duck or other poultry and rice, and in ash-e anar (pomegranate soup).

Wild pomegranate seeds are used as a spice known as anardana (from Persian: anar + dana, pomegranate + seed), most notably in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, but also as a substitute for pomegranate syrup in Persian cuisine. Dried whole arils can often be obtained in ethnic Indian subcontinent markets. These seeds are separated from the flesh, dried for 10–15 days and used as an acidic agent for chutney and curry preparation. Ground anardana is also used, which results in a deeper flavoring in dishes and prevents the seeds from getting stuck in teeth.

Dried pomegranate arils, found in some natural specialty food markets, still contain the seed and residual aril water, maintaining a natural sweet and tart flavor. Dried arils can be used in several culinary applications, such as trail mix, granola bars, or as a topping for salad, yogurt, or ice cream. In the USA chocolate covered arils may be added to desserts and baked items.

In the Caucasus, pomegranate is used mainly as juice. In Azerbaijan, a sauce from pomegranate juice (narsharab) is usually served with fish or tika kabab. In Turkey, pomegranate sauce (Turkish: nar ekşisi) is used as a salad dressing, to marinate meat, or simply to drink straight. Pomegranate seeds are also used in salads and sometimes as garnish for desserts such as güllaç Pomegranate syrup or molasses is used in muhammara, a roasted red pepper, walnut, and garlic spread popular in Syria and Turkey.

In Greece, pomegranate is used in many recipes, including kollivozoumi, a creamy broth made from boiled wheat, pomegranates and raisins, legume salad with wheat and pomegranate, traditional Middle Eastern lamb kebabs with pomegranate glaze, pomegranate eggplant relish, and avocado-pomegranate dip. Pomegranate is also made into a liqueur, and as a popular fruit confectionery used as ice cream topping, mixed with yogurt, or spread as jam on toast. In Cyprus and Greece, and among the Greek Orthodox Diaspora, is used to make koliva a mixture of wheat, pomegranate seeds, sugar, almonds and other seeds served at memorial services.

In Mexico, they are commonly used to adorn the traditional dish chiles en nogada, representing the red of the Mexican flag in the dish which evokes the green (poblano pepper), white (nogada sauce) and red (pomegranate arils) tricolor.

The three kings cake

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The 3 kings day or Epiphany Eve falls on the January 6 which is a public holiday in the German-speaking lands, when groups of young people called “Sternsinger” –Star singers travel from door to door. They are dressed as the three Wise Men, plus the leader carrying a star, usually of painted wood attached to a broom handle. Often these groups are four girls, or two boys and two girls for the benefit of singing their songs in four-part harmony, not necessarily three wise men at all. (They sing: “If the eve of Epiphany is bright and clear, it fortells a good wine year.”). The star singers will be offered treats at the homes they visit, but they also solicit donations for worthy causes. As a sign of gratitude, the young people then perform the traditional house blessing, by marking the year over the doorway with chalk. The special treat of the day is the Three Kings cake which may be a golden pastry ring filled with orange and spice representing gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Most often studded with citron, and baked as seven large buns in a round rather than square pan (picture), forming a crown. Or they may be made of typical rich Christmas bread dough with cardamom and pearl sugar in the same seven bun crown shape. These varieties are most typically purchased in supermarkets with the trinket, and gold paper crown included. In Germany as in other countries, the person who receives the piece or bun containing the trinket or whole almond/bean/small porcelain figurine becomes the king or queen for a day.

However in Eastern countries such as Iran, Israel this day is considered the first day of the New Year, when people look back once again to the old year and greet the new one with a modest feast in a festive atmosphere.   

In Cyprus and in Greece the feast is colloquially called the “Phōta“- Light and customs revolve around the Great Blessing of the Waters. It marks the end of the traditional ban on sailing, as the tumultuous winter seas are cleansed of the mischief-prone the goblins that try to torment God-fearing Christians through the festive season. At this ceremony, a cross is thrown into the water, and the men clamour to retrieve it for good luck.

In Italy the word “Epiphania” was transformed into Befana, and on that day there is a great fair, when sigillaria of terracotta or baked pastry are being sold. (In popular folklore, Befana visits the children of parts of Italy on the eve of January 6 to fill their socks with candy and presents them if they had been good or a lump of coal or dark if they have been bad). 

In Romania and Moldova, Epiphany is called Boboteaza, and the celebrations take on a unique tone. Following religious services, men participate in winter horse races. Before the race, the men line up with their horses before the priest who will bless them by sprinkling them with green branches that have been dipped into Epiphany holy water.

In parts of southern India, Epiphany is called the Three Kings Festival and is celebrated in front of the local church like a fair. Families come together and cook sweet rice porridge called Pongal. This day marks the close of the Advent and Christmas season and people remove the cribs and nativity sets at home.

Recipes for Epiphany from Iran and Israel

On 6th of January the Jews and the Arabs dress the table with lots of pomegranates, because the flowering pomegranate is the symbol of prosperity. Well after the great damask tablecloths are laid, the golden candles are lit they can start to prepare the menu, which contains a spicy vegetable terrine, followed the traditional cinnamon chicken ragu (with sesame seeds and with figs, mint tea and red wine yammy), but the highlight of the evening is undoubtedly when the 3 kings cake, is placed on the table with a crown on top.  

Recipes: Vegetable terrine

Ingredients: 200 g spinach, 250 g broccoli, 1 onion, 2-3 tablespoons of olive, 150 g ground hazelnuts or almonds, 3 eggs, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, cashew nuts, butter, blueberry jam, yoghurt 250 g

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Cut the broccoli into bite-size pieces, wash the fresh spinach (or use the frozen one), and throw it into the boiling salted water. Cook the vegetables for 6-7 minutes. Then sieve them and make purée. Simmer the onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the vegetables, along with the seeds. Beat the eggs and pour over the vegetables, then toss 6 tablespoons of bread crumbs on top. Season with salt and pepper, and also scatter the cayenne and nutmeg. Finally, sprinkle the coarsely crushed cashew nuts on it. Pour the vegetable mixture in the usual paté form, then place it in the oven, and cook in Bain Marie bath for 1 hour. When serving, stir in the yogurt the cranberry or blueberry jam and offer the vegetable slices with this.

Cinnamon Chicken

Ingredients: 4 chicken breast (130 g / person), salt, pepper, 16 with cinnamon, 20 dried figs, 10 mini onion, 3 celery stalks, 3 tablespoons peanut oil, half teaspoon cumin, 1 tsp coriander 200 ml of dry red wine, 200 ml chicken stock, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds and fresh cilantro for garnish

Wash the chicken breasts and wipe dry with a kitchen paper. Salt and pepper, place one or two cinnamon stick in each chicken breast (on the middle) and roll them, if necessary tie them with a string. Cut the figs in half, chop the onion, and celery into fine slices. Heat the peanut oil in a pan simmer the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side. Add the chopped onion, celery to chicken season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with cumin and coriander. Add the figs, then pour over the red wine and the chicken broth. Simmer everything together for 15 minutes without stirring. Then removed the chicken breasts and set aside, then add the honey to the juice (chicken’s) and sesame seeds. Return the fillets and bring to a boil  everything together once more (on low heat). Serve with fresh cilantro.

Three kings cake

This is a kind of cake, with a trinket (usually a porcelain figurine) or a bean hidden inside. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes “king” or “queen” for a day.

Ingredients: 125 gr butter 100 gr almonds, 40 gr pistachios, 125 g sugar, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of almond extract, 2 tablespoons orange flower water, 2 puff pastry or other ready to bake dough, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons milk, peanuts, pine nuts for garnish

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Mix the butter with the minced almonds and pistachios and sugar. Beat the eggs with the addition of bitter almond extract, and with the orange water. First roll the out and lay on the waxed paper, and then smear the cold almond cream and butter on it from the center to the edge (half-inch far). Then placed on top the cream and cover with the second dough. Mix the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of milk then smear it on top of the cake. Before baking the cake sprinkle it with plenty of almonds, hazelnuts and pine nuts pieces, and then insert into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Hamburger with golden leaves

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File:Hamburg Rathaus.jpg

Last week I visited my friends in Hamburg and when we ate a very good Hamburger in downtown it crossed my mind that the Hamburger received its name from Hamburg. However it reached its popularity when the food was introduced in the United States of America. Since Hamburg was the busiest harbour, from where the emigrants set out, the junk food was named on its basis.

I have to admit I’m not fond of hamburgers. I eat very rarely for instance when I bike a lot (80 or 100 kms a day) I stop at a Mc’Donalds and I order a beef burger however my favorite burger happens to be my home made turkey burger with celery and Granny Smith apple (featured on the Oprah show twice – this is very, very good and special with a cinnamon flavor twist). Actually my family became sort of addicted to that kind of burger so I have to make it quite often (see the recipe below)

Short history of the hamburger

The hamburger meat-ball was invented by a Roman restaurant proprietor (BC). Later on in the 4th century a Roman historian, certain Ammianus Marcellinus made the first reference about the “hamburger” in connection with the Huns whose habit was to soften some meat (horse) under the saddle. When there wasn’t any other food available they fried it and ate it (it was previously flavored with the famous Hungarian paprika, salt and other by now not known spices). This idea spread as the characteristic of the steppe folks’ food, fairly much in the New Age and it got into the European public consciousness.

Later on in the Middle-Ages the Tartars (in the 13th century) liked this kind of food as well and they made a meal of raw meat, (cut up, spiced-today we Hungarians call Tartar’s beef steak) which became popular among the Russian folks. Then this food was introduced into the German mercantile’s cities. Thus by the time of the 19th century the old version of the hamburger was already widespread all over in Europe.

So that was the story of the origin of the burger but the other half of the hamburger’s, the basis was discovered by John Montagu, an English noble man, who was the count of Sandwich. Since lord Sandwich was a very conversant gambler, he did not take the time to have a meal during his long hours playing at the card table. Consequently, he would ask his servants to bring him slices of meat between two slices of bread; a habit well known among his gambling friends. Because John Montagu was the Earl of Sandwich others began to order “the same as lord Sandwich!” – thus the ‘sandwich’ was born. The variant of this became specially popular in Germany and Austria where they used French brioche for this aim.

The hamburger started being served up in New York in the 19th century as a minced meat which was smoked, salted and was served with onion and with bread. Actually it became really popular when the price of the meat decreased due to the increase of the cattle breeding, and at the turn of the century it was available for everybody.

Its popularity grew on the time of the big Great Depression since it cost only five cents. That fact was perceived by Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1948. They sold hot dogs initially, but they realized it soon though that the largest part of their income originates from the hamburgers so they quickly reorganized their business as a hamburger stand and the first McDonald was opened in 1955 in Chicago. 

From the 5 cents burger to the golden burger

When I lived in California, for one year, I was gob smacked at the fact that how much cheaper and skimpier were the American McDonalds comparing to the Europeans, where to eat (in the nineties) there it was regarded as a status symbol. But I think it is also exaggeration when a hamburger costs more than $100. Don’t laugh because it is a fact, well in USA everything is possible.

“It started out as a joke,”- says chef Kevin O’Connell of the $175 burger he serves at New York’s Wall Street Burger Shoppe, a retro diner house better known for $5 sandwiches than gourmet offerings. Created purely in an attempt to one-up the $150 double-truffle patty served at Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne, O’Connell’s burger-the Richard Nouveau-boasts 10 ounces of Kobe beef, foie gras, exotic mushrooms, cave-aged Gruyère, and fresh truffles packed in a brioche bun. O’Connell added one more exorbitant topping: golden leaves.

– “It needed an extra kick,”- he says of the decision to mix gold flakes with his truffle mayonnaise. Additional gold is sprinkled atop the burger, serving up a total 750 milligrams of the precious metal with each of the two Richard Nouveaus ordered a week. Here’s to deep pockets and full stomachs.

Chef Kevin O’Connells $175 burger he serves at New York’s Wall Street Burger Shoppe

Interesting facts about hamburgers

A $777 Kobe beef and Maine lobster burger, topped with caramelized onion, Brie cheese and prosciutto, was reported available at Le Burger Brasserie, inside the Paris Las Vegas casino.

New York chef Daniel Boulud created an intricate dish composed of layers of ground sirloin, foie gras, and wine-braised short ribs, assembled to look exactly like a fast-food burger. It is available with truffles in season.

On September 2, 2012, the Black Bear Casino Resort near Carlton, Minnesota made the world-record bacon cheeseburger that weighed 2,014 pounds. Guinness World Records verified the record for biggest burger.

In Las Vegas, Nevada at the Heart Attack Grill there is a Quadruple Bypass Burger. The burger weighs two pounds and the name is derived from the fact that the burger is very unhealthy. The restaurant is known for being honest about the fact that their food is unhealthy. Interestingly, they allow people that weigh over 350 pounds to eat for free!

Oprah’s burger recipe

Ingredients: 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion, 1/2 cup finely chopped celery, 3 granny smith apples, peeled and diced, 1/8 cup canola oil, 4 lbs ground turkey breast, 2 teaspoons Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce, 1 lemon, juice of, after zest is grated, 1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped, 1/4 cup major grey’s chutney, pureed, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons black pepper, 1 Anjou pear, peeled and diced, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1 1/2 cups major grey’s chutney, 1/4 cup dried currants or 1/4 cup raisins, mustard with estragon and pickles (my addition to it)

Directions:

1. Saute the scallions, celery and green apples in the canola oil until tender. Let cool. 2. Place the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl. Add sauteed items and the pepper sauce, lemon juice and zest, parsley, chutney. 3. Shape into 8-8 oz burger patties, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. 4. Season the turkey burgers with the salt and pepper. Place on a preheated, lightly oiled grill and grill for 7 minutes each side or until the meat is thoroughly cooked. 5. To make the side of pear chutney, toss peeled and diced pear with cinnamon and sea salt. 6. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Let cool. 7. Add pear to chutney and currants/raisins. 8. Serve alongside turkey burgers. 9. Serves 6. 10. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Smear the bread with mustard and add finelly chopped pickles.

A really good vegetarian treat

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Xmas 2012 Belgium 041I spent the Christmas with my relatives in Belgium. On december 27th I invited some of them to a vegetarian dinner. After it I got lots of compliments which meant (I hope) that they liked the taste of everything very much. Here is the menu:

Starters: Kohlrabi cream soup with beetroot

Kohlrabi has always been a popular Eastern European vegetable since it tolerates frost well and can be stored a long time in a root cellar. Since I have never seen and eaten in Belgium I decided to introduce it to my Belgian relatives. In Hungary it exists in white and purple varieties (the white are more flavorful and tender when small and have a hint of radish and cucumber flavors. Purple Kohlrabi tends to have a slightly spicier flavor) but in Germany (where I live at the moment) I could find only the white one. And what was the result of my kholrabi cream soup? With one word a hit!

Xmas 2012 Belgium 176Prep Time: 15 minutes, Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons butter, 1 medium onion, chopped, 1 pound kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and chopped, 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, 2 1/2 cups milk, 1 bay leaf, salt and black pepper

Melt butter in a large pan with a lid. Add onions and peeled and diced kholrabi, cook gently about 10 minutes. Add a pinch of sugar and wait until kholrabi gets a brown color. Bestrew with pepper. Add vegetable stock, milk or water to pan, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes or until kohlrabi is tender. Let cool a few minutes.
Using an immersion blender or conventional blender or food processor, puree soup until smooth. You may want to strain the soup through a fine sieve if the kohlrabi is especially fibrous. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in heated bowls with hearty bread of choice and decorate with beetroot slices which was sprinkled with pumpkin oil, or balsamic vinegar.

Note: If your kohlrabi come with the green tops, blanch them and clean as you would for spinach, stripping the leaves down off the tough center stem. Roll the leaves and slice across as for a “chiffonade” of basil.

Indian palak paneer (spinach with quark and chapati bread)

Many of the best loved vegetarian punjabi dishes are the ones where paneer is combined with a vegetable. Paneer is widely used and very popular in punjabi due to the abundance of milk and milk products in the area. This combination of spinach and paneer is not only highly nutritious, but is a splendid blend of taste, texture and flavor. The paneer in this recipe has been fried to add some extra flavour. You can however add the paneer pieces without frying if required.

Preparation Time: 20 mins Cooking Time: 10 mins Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:10 cups chopped spinach (palak), 1 1/2 cups paneer, cut into 12 mm ( 1/2″) cubes, 2 tbsp oil, 3/4 cup finely chopped onions, 4 cloves garlic, grated, 25 mm (1″) piece ginger, grated, 2 green chillies, finely chopped, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi), carraway seeds, salt to taste, 1 tsp punjabi garam masala, 2 tbsp fresh cream

Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, refresh with cold water and keep aside to cool for some time. Blend in a mixer to a smooth purée and keep aside. Heat the oil in a kadhai, add the onions and sauté on a medium flame till they turn translucent. Add the garlic, grated ginger, green chillies and turmeric powder and sauté on a medium flame for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the spinach purée and 2 tbsp of water or cream and mix well and cook on a medium flame for 2 minutes. Add the salt, garam masala and left of the fresh cream and mix well. Add the paneer (I used the Italian Ricotta cream cheese or Cottage cheese is also excellent with the spinach), mix gently and cook on a medium flame for another 1 to 2 minutes. Serve it hot (4 bunches of spinach will approximately yield 10 cups of chopped spinach).

Prepare chapati bread (wrap) in an oiled casserole fry chapati on each side for one or two minutes.

Main course: Hungarian mushroom stew with Hungarian noodle

Ingredients: 1 shallot, chopped, 1 kilogram button mushrooms, halved (2 lbs), 2 cups dried mushrooms (500 ml), 2 cloves garlic, minced, sour cream (30 ml), salt and pepper, 1 bunch of fresh chopped parsley

In a cast iron casserole on medium heat, heat oil and add shallots. Sauté for about 5 minutes until it softens. Add button mushrooms and continue cooking for another 5 minutes until brown. Add garlic, red pepper powder and continue cooking for a few minutes. Drain the rehydrated mushrooms and keep the liquid aside. Give the rehydrated mushrooms a quick chop and add to the pan. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add the reserved liquid from the rehydrated mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Before serving stir sour cream into stew let it cook for a minute together.
For serving: Garnish with parsley.

The stew can be varied with a seemingly limitless list of mushrooms. Substitute hedgehog, lobster, black trumpet, porcini, portobello, or hen of the woods, so long as you have a total of 2 pounds.

Prepare Hungarian galuska-noodle or nockedli..or just simply serve with spagetthi.

Dessert: Greek fruit plate

In many Greek restaurants, this dessert is served compliments of the house. Both yogurt and honey are great for the digestive system, and the combined tastes are delicious. It’s worth the effort to find the original thick Greek yogurt available at Greek and ethnic markets, or make your own thick yogurt using regular, low fat or nonfat regular brands.

Ingredients: 3/4 cup of strained Greek yogurt per serving, apples, oranges, brown sugar, cinnamon, Greek thyme honey per serving, crushed walnuts, almonds (optional)

Peel fruits and cut apple into wedges, orange into round slices. Place them nicely into a plate and sprinkle them with a bit of cinnamon. Add walnut flavoured honey to Greek jogurt and serve in a glass bowl.

Enjoy!