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Carnival fever in Germany

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Tomorrow (8th of February) in Germany many streets will come to life with colorful parades, loud music and celebrations around every corner since it’s carnival time. Even if you’ve experienced Carnival in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, there is still a lot to learn about how the German-speaking countries have fun. Here are five popular carnival celebrations throughout Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

But first of all what is “Fasching”?

Actually, a more precise question would be: What is Fasching, Karneval, Fasnacht and Fastelabend? They are all one and the same thing: pre-Lenten-Spring festivities celebrated in grand style mostly in the predominantly Catholic regions of the German-speaking countries. The Rhineland has its Karneval, Austria, Bavaria and Berlin (the capital of Germany) call it Fasching however the German-Swiss celebrate Fastnacht. I have found other names as well for Fasching such as: Fassenacht, Fasnet, Fastelavend, Fastlaam stc..Nicknames Fünfte Jahreszeit (fifth season) or Narrische Saison!

When is it celebrated? Fasching officially begins in most regions in Germany on Nov 11 at 11:11 a.m. or the day after the Three kings day, on Jan. 7th. However, the big bash celebrations are not on the same given date each year. Instead the date varies depending on when Easter falls. Fasching culminates into Fasching week, which begins the week before Ash Wednesday! (this year the carnival period is from 8th of February till 15th)1011033_10152634173905830_2094941595_n

How is it celebrated?

Soon after Fasching season opens, a mock government of eleven guilds is elected, along with a Carnival prince and princess, who basically plan the carnival festivities. The biggest events are held the week before Asch Wednesday as follows:

Weiberfastnacht (women carnival): This is mainly an event held in the Rhineland (but also in München, Bavaria) on the Thursday before Asch Wednesday. The day begins with women storming into symbolically taking over city hall. Then, the women throughout the day snip off men’s ties and kiss any man who passes their way The day ends with people going to local venues and bars in costume

Parties, celebrations and parades: People celebrate the carnival in costume at various Carnival Community events and individual parties. Carnival parades abound. It is the weekend for people to live it up!

Rosenmontag-Rosen Monday: The largest and most popular Carnival parades take place on the Monday before Asch Wednesday! The origin of these parades come mostly from the Rhineland region. People throughout the German-speaking countries will tune in to watch the biggest German Carnival parade of all, which is held in Cologne (television channels broadcast the festival)

Fastnachtdienstag-Carnival Tuesday-Mardi Gras: Besides some parades that are held on this day, there is an other event it is called burial or burning of the Nubbel. The Nubbel is a life-sized puppet made of straw and embodies all of the sins committed during Carnival season. It is burned through a great ceremony on Tuesday evening before everyone parties one more time until Asch Wednesday arrives

What is the root or origin of the celebration? Fasching celebrations stem from various beliefs and traditions. For Catholics, it provided a festive season of food and fun before the Lenten fasting period began During the medieval times, plays were performed during the Lenten period called Fastnachtspiele. In pre-Christian times, Carnival symbolized the driving out of winter and all of its evil spirits. Hence the masks, to scare away these spirits. In southern Germany and Switzerland reflects these traditions.

Furthermore, there are Carnival traditions that can be traced back to historical events. After the French Revolution, the French took over Rhineland. Out of protest against French oppression, Germans from Cologne and surrounding areas would mock their politicians and leaders safely behind masks during Carnival season. Even today, caricatures of politicians and other personalities can be seen boldly portrayed on floats in the parades. Farsangi fánk 021



Hungarian trifle

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The traditional presentation of this typical Hungarian sweet is to scoop three balls of this dessert into a bowl or on a plate, dollop with whipped cream and garnish with chocolate sauce. A modern presentation is to cut it into squares so the different layers are evident. Rum is traditionally used in the simple syrup and chocolate sauce, but it can be omitted.

Ingredients: Walnut Sponge Cake and Cocoa Sponge Cake Plain Sponge Cake 1 recipe Vanilla Pastry Cream

For the Rum Simple Syrup: 3/4 cup sugar 3/4 cup water, 1 (3-inch) strip ​orange zest, 1 (3-inch) strip lemon zest, 1/3 cup golden rum

For Assembly: 1/3 cup apricot preserves 1/2 cup walnuts (finely chopped) 1/2 cup raisins (golden or dark)

Garnish: 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (Dutch) 

For the Rum Chocolate Sauce: 3/4 cup water, 3 tablespoons golden rum, 6 ounces chocolate (good-quality bittersweet, chopped) 3/4 cup sugar

For the Garnish: whipped cream (sweetened)

Directions: Prepare Plain Sponge Cake Recipe, Cocoa Sponge Cake Recipe, and Walnut Sponge Cake Recipe. Prepare Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe or just buy ladyfinger package and soak the ladyfingers into rum and milk mixture.
Meanwhile, make the rum simple syrup by stirring the sugar, water, and orange and lemon zest if using, in a small saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Continue to boil without stirring until the syrup has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Cool completely and stir in the rum, if using, and remove the zests, if using.
To assemble: In a small saucepan, boil apricot preserves over medium heat and keep warm. Combine walnuts and raisins in a small bowl and set aside.
Place walnut sponge cake in the bottom of a 13×9-inch rectangular pan. Brush with 1/3 rum simple syrup, then spread with warm apricot preserves. Spread 1/3 pastry cream over the preserves and 1/2 the walnut-raisin mixture.
Next, place the cocoa sponge cake in the pan, pressing down lightly. Brush with 1/3 rum simple syrup and 1/3 pastry cream. Sprinkle remaining walnut-raisin mixture on top.
Top with plain sponge cake, pressing down lightly. Brush with remaining rum simple syrup and remaining 1/3 pastry cream. Sift 3 tablespoons cocoa powder over top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
To make the Rum Chocolate Sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring 3/4 cup water, 3 tablespoons rum (if using), 6 ounces chopped chocolate and 3/4 cup sugar to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and cook at a brisk simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm.
To serve: the traditional presentation is to use a 2-inch ice cream scoop and place three “dumplings” in a bowl or on a dessert plate, then pipe with sweetened whipped cream and drizzle with the Rum Chocolate Sauce. A modern presentation is to cut the dessert into squares to show off the layers, and then garnish with whipped cream and sauce.



Pineapple flan

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This recipe for pineapple lovers is a must!

Ingredients: 3/4 cup sugar, 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk, 1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, cubed, softened, 1 can (6 oz.) pineapple juice (3/4 cup), 5 eggs

Directions: Heat oven to 350°F.

Cook sugar in small saucepan on medium heat 5 min. or until melted and deep golden brown, stirring constantly. Immediately pour into 9-inch round pan; tilt pan to evenly cover bottom with syrup.

Blend remaining ingredients in blender until smooth; pour over syrup in pan. Place in larger shallow pan. Add enough hot water to larger pan to come halfway up outside of 9-inch pan.

Bake 1 hour or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool slightly. Carefully remove flan from water. Cool completely. Refrigerate 4 hours. Invert flan onto platter just before serving; carefully remove pan. Top with vanilla ice cream and decorate with a very narrow/shaved slice of pineapple.

pineapple flan

Battle soup at the Pot-au-feu restaurant in Belfort

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Belfort is a city in northeastern France, situated between Lyon and Strasbourg. It is the biggest town and the administrative town of the Territoire de Belfort département in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region (Belfort is 400 km (249 miles) from Paris, 141 km (88 miles) from Strasbourg, 290 km (180 miles) from Lyon and 150 km (93 miles) from Zürich). On our way back to Münich from Belgium we decided to stop there for a while.

The residents of the city are called “Belfortains”. Because the city is located on the Savoureuse, on the strategically important natural route between the Rhine and the Rhone–the Belfort Gap (Trouée de Belfort) or Burgundian Gate (Porte de Bourgogne) it arouse people’s interest. The fortress was finished in 1880 and it’s entirely made of red sandstone. The blocks is made from were individually sculpted then moved under Belfort castle to be assembled. The colossal work is 22 meters long and 11 meters high and dominates the local landscape.

The lion symbolizes the heroic French resistance during the Siege of Belfort, a 103-day Prussian assault (from December 1870 to February 1871). The city was protected from 40,000 Prussians by merely 17,000 men (only 3,500 were from the military) led by Colonel  Denfert-Rochereau. Instead of facing Prussia to the east as was intended, it was turned the other way because of German protests.

Since July 2007, a tourist sight of the citadel has been open to the public – with a sound-, video- and light-animated trail in the moats and the big underpass of the citadel. Its name: “La Citadelle de la Liberté” (Citadel of Liberty).

But why we stopped here partly because of the view: by climbing on a tall building or going up the nearby mountains on a clear day, the ice-capped mountains of the Alps in Switzerland can be seen. Grand souterrain de la citadelle de Belfort-An underground passage of Belfort Citadel.

Moreover Belfort is also well known for hosting the annual Festival International de Musique Universitaire (FIMU) held in May each year. FIMU usually involves over 250 concerts at different locations around the city and around 2500 musicians, most of them students or amateur groups from countries across Europe and the rest of the world. Music styles performed are extremely diverse and include traditional, folk, rock, jazz, classical and experimental.

In the Pot-au-feu

After visiting the citadel we became very hungry. So that we decided to search a restaurant as quickly as possible. And our wishes came true when we discovered the Pot-au-Feu! The restaurant was located in the old town, a short walk from the “Le Lion de Belfort” from that magnificent sculpture. At the first sight it seemed to me small and intimate but one with a real French character. A lively little place so we stayed there. When we sat down at a comfortable table we checked the menu. The offer was quite limited which is always a good sign for me. And then we haven’t even made our orders but we have already got the Anis de Pontarlier aperitive which was a great surprise. Entirely different from its Provence “cousins”. This gesture made me feel very welcome. Then I chose a nice, little amuse bouche-a fish terrine -which was served with fresh bread in a little paper bag. A big jar of fleur de sel was placed on the table. Nice touch. It was mushroom time so my husband had a huge plate of girolles in a rosemary-flavoured cream followed by a coq au vin with about 25 morilles in it and with a bottle of chilled local light red wine (Côte de Jura). Of course I chose the Pot-au-feu it was excellent, the vegetables which were cooked in the soup were served as a main dish, with some remoulade, then we shared the dessert a very tasty and light Créme brulée flavored with Jura yellow wine. The portions were huge. The service was fine, prices well in range so we were satisfied with everything. The food was traditional with a beautiful simplicity. So I can describe that my experience in the Pot-au-feu was memorable. Here are two recipes from the master chef

Battle soup

Ingredients: 2 carrots, 2 asparagus, 1 red onion, 1 leak, 2 tbsp oil, 300 ml milk, 600 ml water, salt and pepper to taste

Soaté the finely chopped onion and carrots. Pour over bouillon and add peeled asparagus and finely cut leak. When the vegetables are tender make purée with a blender.

Cabbage soup a la Belfort

Ingredients: 350 gr smoked spareribs or 250 g lard, 200 gr chorizo or some dry sausage, 1 small head of a white cabbage, 200 gr potatoes, 2 carrots, 3 turnips, 1 onion, 3 l of vegetable soup or bouillon, salt and pepper to taste

Bring to a boil the smoked spareribs with the water in a big pot. When it starts to boil, get rid of the foam, put the cabbage (cut into four pieces) and let it simmer for 90 minutes. In half time of the cooking time add the potatoes, sausage, other vegetables, and cook everything together until they are tender. Serve the cabbage and the meat and the vegetables apart.pot-au-feu-au-menu-des-chasseurs


My lost Monday in Leuven with an apple dumpling

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Lost Monday or sworn Monday (French lundi perdu or lundi parjure) is a Belgian tradition that is generally celebrated on Monday after Sunday after Epiphany- on 6th of January. This tradition is particularly steadfast in the province of Antwerp and remained in Tournai. In Aalst lost Monday was held in early October and “Hot sandwiches” were eaten, more precisely bread loaves which were still warm from the oven. In Sint-Truiden lost Monday is celebrated on the Monday before Ash Wednesday; then the annual carnival procession will travel through the streets of the city. In Belgium, especially in Flanders in the province of Antwerp, the tradition is to eat sausage loaves and apple dumplings on that day. Many stories and urban legends circulate about the origin of this use, one more accurate with the historical information than the other. A number of very likely hypotheses can be put forward on the basis of historical facts.
In archival documents mentioned this day as a “sworn Monday”: for instance a certain Lorraine document from 1231 speaks about of the “lundi parjuré“, the day on which some civil servants took their oath. This indication, however, was not limited to the Monday after the first Sunday after Epiphany. After all, there is also an other idea of the “sworn Monday of Easter” or the “sworn Monday of Christmas”. In Antwerp this is mentioned in a church account from 1431, and later also in a city account from 1513. However the first “lost Monday” is only encountered in 1730, in Leuven. Here too it would be a day that was “lost” which meant that there was no work on that day, because of the festivities on the occasion of the swearing in of civil servants. Such ceremonies were sometimes followed in Antwerp by a party. To keep that party affordable for the city, people were given a cheap meat sandwich. Since the civil servants did not work for the rest of that day, that day was soon christened  as “lost Monday”.


A variant of this story is that in former times around the beginning of the 18th century very powerful guilds organized their New Year’s Eve party on “lost Monday”. The celebration lasted in the whole day, and the craftsmen did not go to work. Also the reading of guild books, containing the rights and duties of the craftsmen, would have led to a “lost Monday”. After this, it has been stated, that the patron would have gassed his guild members after a drink. This use was reportedly in vogue especially in Antwerp. In other municipalities guild members went door-to-door to offer New Year’s wishes in the name of their patron. It seems fairly safe to assume that this also led to hostel visits and absenteeism. In other regions, other names apply to similar days: “weaver’s Monday” in the Westhoek, “kopermaandag” in the Netherlands. “Kopperen” had the meaning: “to feed with food and drink”.

Haven of Antwerp

Haven of Antwerp was a famous hostel. And in the 19th century one of its hostel inspector came up with a brilliant idea to the innkeeper. For example, they would have strived to keep their customers in their business for as long as possible, for example by ensuring a (salt and thirsty) snack. In collaboration with butchers and bakers, they also treated their customers to roast meat and freshly baked bread. To keep it cheap, one used mainly fatty meats, processed into sausage and packaged in dough. The innkeepers ate the sausage, and the fat-permeated bread was given to the dog! Other sources refer to the port of Antwerp. Traditionally, the dock workers were allowed to drink on the Monday after the first Sunday after Epiphany at the expense of the nation’s bosses. They were offered something warm to eat, composed of ‘unsalable’ meat and bread. That “lost bread” would then be the origin of the specific name of that day.

Sausage bread and Apple dumpling

The eating of real sausage bread, as we now know, it is first mentioned in 1913 in the book by Edward Poffe: “Pleasant men in a pleasant town.” According to him, the use would only have arisen after 1880. Only after the Second World War did the sausage bread at the bakery cause a great influx of “lost Monday.” To this day this tradition has been maintained and in some traditional Antwerp catering businesses, treating customers to sausage bread and / or apple dumplings!

Artificial light

The Aalst (it is the biggest carnival town in Belgium) tradition would result from the use in early October of cleaning the kerosene lamps in the factories and filling them because, due to the shortening of days, artificial light had to be worked. As a result, it was not possible to work that day and the workers also received no wages: a lost Monday. The tradition lasted the longest in the De Kat district (Vredeplein), with their Kattekermis, but is now completely extinct.




Broccoli flan

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Ingredients: 2 1/2 cups broccoli florets, 2 6-ounce bags baby spinach leaves, 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, 1/4 cup all purpose flour, 2/3 cup whole milk, 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Chicory or asparagus tarts with roquefort

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This dish can be a very good Xmas starter!

Ingredients: 4 rectangular shaped pastry sheets, 6 chicories, halved, 100 g walnuts, coarsely chopped, 200 g roquefort, 1 egg yolk, 100 g mascarpone, 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp thyme, pepper and salt to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 200 °C.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a frying pan. Taste the chicories with pepper and salt and fry for two minutes on both sides on high temperature. When they are ready, place them to a kitchen paper.

Stir the mascarpone and add the thyme and 100 g roquefort and the coarsely chopped 50 gram walnuts.

Place the rectangular shaped pastries to a baking tin. Smear them with the mascarpone mixture and top them with 3 halves of chicories. Roll the edges of the pastries in order to keep the mascarpone cream inside.

Crumble the rest of the roquefort and the coarsely chopped walnuts over chicory. Add some more thyme for an intensive flavor and spray the whole stuff with the olive oil. Finally glaze the pastry edges with the egg yolk.

Place the baking tin into the oven and bake until the pastries are golden brown, about 25 minutes or so.

If you choose the asparagus version then instead of walnut you must use sesame seeds and decorate with lemon slices.P1070347