Tummy Thursday: Me gusta la cocina mexicana

Earlier this week I told you about our trip to the Sagrada Familia and that we wanted to see it at night time. This meant that after we left the cathedral we went for dinner. Of course a tourist city like Barcelona has restaurants galore, many of them trying to push the menu into your hand while you’re walking past them and for me that’s the most failproof way to make me avoid a place. Yet still you find lots of small places that offer good food, especially if you love international cooking. For this meal we found a nice Mexican place where we ate while it got dark.

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Starters: Frijoles refritos (mushed baked beans) and nachos with cheese.

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My main course: marinated grilled beef, cactus, pumpkin flower and sweetcorn, guacamole and stuffed habanero, served with tortillas.

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Dessert: Guayaba marguerita. I love guavas and they’re so rare here that I consume them whenever I can find them or their derivates. It was delicious.


Tummy Thursday: Senegalese Food

There’s a saying in German that states that “the farmer won’t eat what the farmer doesn’t know”. It’s again this intersection of class and culture, where the educated classes take pride in “discovering” new tastes, while certain parts of the working class take pride in never trying anything new, especially no “furrin food”. Of course, both positions come with their racism, where the latter is more obvious than the former. I was lucky to be raised in a family that loved food. My grandparents could never travel the world in person, so they tried to travel it with their tummy, even though some of grandma’s creations would probably not have been recognised by the people who actually invented them. Mr, on the other hand was raised in a family that sees lasagna as exotic and his parents have never eaten a single Döner. Mr has tried to shed that attitude, but mostly ended up in a position where he will eat foreign cuisines, but only after they have been thoroughly approved by white people. Italian is standard, Chinese is ok, Greek is high end. So when we came upon a tiny Senegalese restaurant in Mataró, he was not happy when I proposed to eat there and the kids enthusiastically agreed.

Guess who enjoyed his meal the most?

The restaurant was tiny (less than 2m from side to side and probably 8-9 m long). The cook prepared three different dishes, as Senegale food is stews that take time to prepare, and starters, so we simply ordered one of each and shared among us.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Fish cakes. they were absolutely delicious and already hinted at an enormous amount of onions to come.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Yassa: chicken in an onion and veggies sauce with rice.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Thiéboudienne, the national dish. Seasoned rice with veggies and fish. Sorry for the blurry pic, I was hungry.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Mafé, a beef stew with peanut sauce.

I’ll definitely try to cook some of these, hopefully with better results than grandma…

Tummy Thursday: Churros con Chocolate

One of the kids’ favourite places in the city of Mataró is the Xurrería, which absolutely does not offer tourists an authentical churros experience. It’s simply the real thing, as evidenced by the fact that is was closed for holidays during the second half of our stay, something no tourist oriented business would do at the height of the season. That’s something to say about the city in general: tourism is a factor, and a welcome factor, but it’s not a big enough factor for businesses, especially bars and restaurants to rely on it exclusively. This means they need to provide a service that makes regular customers come back. I understand that I’m the worlds biggest hypocrite here when I want to go for a holiday but not where there are too many tourists, but I can live with that. It means good food.

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Here you see “porras”, a thicker variety of churros with my “cortado”, an espresso with a bit of milk. Traditionally you eat them with “chocolate” as in the next picture:

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These are the more commonly known churros with their typical shape. The chocolate is thick and dark and not overly sweet, so you can dip your churros in and enjoy the whole thing. It’s more like custard in that respect, only that it’s delicious.

Tummy Thursday: Cumpleaños feliz

Before we left for our holiday, we celebrated #1’s 12th birthday. From my short experience with having a 12 years old at home I can confirm that all the “what are you? 12?” remarks you throw at people with a dirty twist of mind are completely accurate. But you’re here for the cake, aren’t you?

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Lamas are currently very much en vogue, so she asked for a lama cake. The cake is the ultimate banana-chocolate-coconut-combination: Banana bread with chocolate chips and grated coconut. Vanilla buttercream and sliced bananas as filling, popcorn curls and since I forgot to make ears, laminated paper ears.

To go with the lama cake there were cactus cupcakes:

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These have a butternut squash-almond-raisin base (I simply love that recipe) with lemon curd frosting. I never made lemon curd before, but I so love it. The cacti are rice crispies with lemon curd buttercream.

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Jack’s Walk

Yum, Yum ©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s a hot one here today and Jack and I didn’t get out as early as I hoped – a bit of extra gravity from the humidity slowed me down. Instead it was about noon and Jack was obviously anxious to go out so I decided the shade of the woods was our best option. Jack wanted to go swimming in the river, but there isn’t enough shade there for me so I pulled rank and we went to the forest. For once we didn’t run into any strange happenings, but we did find a patch of ripe wild black raspberries. YES! I picked and ate until my fingers were black and Jack was making the “Come on Mom” noises. I offered him a berry, but he looked at me like I was offering him poison and then he made the sad little whimper again. Sheesh! I’d pretty much denuded the patch by this point, but there are oodles more berries still to ripen so I think next time we come (very, very soon!) I’ll bring a bowl and maybe come home with enough wild, “organic” black raspberries for a pie. I know just how to make it good.

I’ll be back (with a bowl) ©voyager, all rights reserved

The Art of Book Design: The Epicurean

Today’s book comes to us from Marcus’ collection (stderr) and it’s a classic. Published in 1920, the book is a complete culinary encyclopedia written by a master chef. Its art deco binding is beautiful and being a first edition, the book is quite rare. It’s in excellent condition, too, with its colours still bright and its tactile cover still inviting. It looks delicious.

Charles Ranhofer. The Epicurean: A Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art. Including… a Selection of Interesting Bills of Fare of Delmonico’s, from 1862 to 1894. Chicago, Hotel Monthly Press, (1920).

The book  has been republished countless times since 1920 and remains a comprehensive guide to cooking and entertaining, The book contains 800 illustrations, including some that are full-page. I’ve included a sampling below the fold.

The book is available to read at The Internet Archive.

[Read more…]

Tummy Thursday: a Sweet Surprise

Well, do you remember this?

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Which got turned into this:

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And sent off to Germany, where it got turned into this:

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Again, thank you very much, voyager. It is most delicious and no comparison with what you can buy here as maple syrup, no matter how often they say “Canadian grade A”.

And I swear that one day you WILL have the opportunity to share it with me in person.

Tummy Thursday: Omas Faasekiechelcher

That translates into grandma’s little carnival cakes. It’s that time of the year, and while I have tired of the whole carnival culture (alcohol and sexual assault), I still love Faasekiechelcher. pastries fried in oil are a traditional treat at carnival and they come in many varieties all over Germany. The best known is the “Berliner”, which is very similar to our recipe, now available all year round (you never hear people complain about that, but heavens forbid you publicly enjoy a Lebkuchen in September).

Since I now have a deep fryer and carnival break (you may have noticed the increased amounts of posting), I decided to make grandma’s faasekiechelcher myself, and I’m willing to share, at least the recipe. You need:

1kg flour

120g sugar

150g butter

8g salt

450ml milk

75g yeast

The secret here is that the yeast dough needs a lot of rest. I first gave the starter 15 min, then kneaded the dough, let it rest for an hour, knead it again and the let it rise for three more hours. The yeast’s got to be very happy.

Commerical bakeries and many people will fry their Berliner and then fill them with jam a pipe bag. Grandma had a different secret. You roll out half of the dough, about 0.5cm thick and mark your circles with a glass.

I used Nutella in some of them.

Then you roll out the second half, same size as the first and place it on top. You push the dough down between the little heaps of filling and then you take your glass and cut through both layers. Since the dough is very soft it now sticks together. Let them rest again for about 30 minutes. Since this was my first try I wasn’t sure on the amount of filling and erred on the “too little” side.

Fry in hot oil (about 170-180°C). I learned that you need to turn them over after about 1 minute or there will be large air bubbles on the top side and you won’t be able to turn them around anymore.

This recipe yields two big bowls fuul of delicious Faasekiechelcher, but this is all that was left today:

You need to roll them in cinnamon and sugar.


Tummy Thursday: Gumbo or what makes an easy meal

Since I told you all in depth about our New Years Eve dinner, here’s the recipe for my American main course.

I searched the internet for a gumbo recipe that seemed doable and delicious and then had a trial cooking.

The first problem was to get some sausage that resembles Andouille. As you can see at that link, there is a sausage called anduille in France, but it sounds very different from the creole version and actually I detest it. I decided to go with smoked polish sausage that was very hearty, but did not have caraway seed (Eastern European sausages often have generous amounts of caraway seed and I don’t like that either). I think it made a great substitute and got used both times.

Next was the okra. I had never used okra before, and I even went to a Turkish supermarket to get some fresh okra especially for this, but, let me tell you, they aren’t called “slime fruit” in German for nothing. The little “stars” looked nice, but I don’t think they added much taste and really, I can do without the added consistency of slime, so they got left out the second time.

I changed the seasoning somewhat, leaving out the “hot sauce” but adding a “Cajun” spice and pepper mix that I quite like and the result was simply to die for.


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This is the trial version before i added the shrimp.

Making the gumbo got me thinking of how the idea of “easy meal” probably changed with women’s work shifting to the outside (I hate the insinuation that housewives “didn’t work”. I want to to see those people scrub the laundry). I can imagine that for a woman who had to do all the chores and probably some farming on the side, this gumbo would have been an “easy meal”. Sure, the roux requires a bit of your attention, but you can use that time to chop your veggies. Then you just hang it high above the fire or put it on the side of the wood stove and go about your day and do your work, while the meal is cooking itself. And you can make a big serving and don’t have a lot of dishes afterwards. Perfect meal for getting your family through a busy workday.

Nowadays, the idea of making something that needs to stew for three hours screams “festive meal” to any person who work outside.


An autumn walk

I’ve been taking up daily walks whenever possible. Because fresh air is good and the outdoors is free and also I have taken up Pokémon Go again. This even means that sometimes the kids will come with me, but most of the time I am alone and take the camera with me.

I usually take the wrong lens.

This time I had the wide angle and the small tele (55-250 mm) and kept changing.

Cat outside

One of the neighbourhood kitties
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Da pond.
Not that impressive at 55mm
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Wide angle: the creek
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I basically dangled the camera over the creek here.
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long tailed tit

Change of lens. I found my long tailed tits. I hope they will return to the garden soon.
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Spider web

Fairy lace
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Tummy Thursday: Under the Sea

Last weekend was the kid’s birthday party. I asked her what kind of party she wanted and she said “surprise me!”.

I went with “Under the Sea” and basically started the preparations a month ago with googling ideas, ordering moulds and fossilised shark teeth, trying out recipes and watching videos for inspiration.

The results were:

Ocean macarons


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Sadly the colours didn’t bake too well. The purple ones are filled with lavender buttercream, the blue ones with white chocolate buttercream.

Macarons, close up

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The seashells are white chocolate with a bit of cocoa powder. I must say the silicone moulds worked perfectly.

Next are the sea foam cupcakes, on a pumpkin muffin basis:

cupcakes with mermaid tails and shark fins

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The topping is marshmallow fluff: Lightly caramelised sugar poured into beaten egg whites, like for an Italian meringue. I then added some gelatine for stability. Tails and fins are fondant.

Cupcakes on a plate

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The sand is grounded almonds

And last but nor least, the cake:

Cake with fillings

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This is what it looked liked before being frosted. I baked the cake on Thursday and needed to get it layered and frosted on Friday, and that day, everything went wrong. The fillings are on a cream cheese, whipped cream and fruit basis with gelatine, but despite stirring in the gelatine as you should, it became lumpy. In the end, the lower filling was still lumpy, but you didn’t notice when you ate it. The lower filling is with fresh pomegranate seeds and I can only recommend that. They are delightfully sweet and sour and add texture. The top filling is blueberries, which are a safe bet for taste.

Also my muffin batter separated and when frosting more shit happened, but in the end it went well. I frosted it with Italian meringue buttercream and let it cool over night. In the morning I popped it into the freezer for a few hours to prepare it for the mirror glaze.

cake with blue glaze

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This time the sand is brown sugar. I had already made the mermaid tails the night before, though I should have made them earlier to let them dry out more. Then I made corals by pouring caramelised and coloured sugar over ice cubes. This worked hmpf but ok. My cups were too small, my ice cubes not the right shape and the sugar started to crystallize again, but I got a few suitable pieces. I added those and more chocolate sea shells and this is the result:

decorated cake

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decorated cake

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decorated cake

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Tummy Thursday: Rfissa

Recently I talked to one of my colleagues about how my kid had better been born in a society where you eat with your fingers. This made her drool about Moroccan food, which you do eat with your fingers (though there are of course strict rules of hygiene and politeness), and she mentioned something she really needs to make again. Of course i asked for the recipe and because you’ve all been very good kids, I share.

Flat bread:

600g soft durum wheat semolina

300g flour

1 tsp salt

at least 400ml of warm water.

Mix until there’s a rubbery dough, let rest for 10 minutes. Form small calls with lightly oiled hands, let them rest for 20 minutes. Roll/pull until they#re almost translucent, fry in a lightly oiled pan, let cool and tear apart.

I only used half the recipe and that was more than enough for 3 adults and 2 kids. Making the bread was a hello lot of work and I think I’d prefer to make it for a dinner where its role is more prominent. I also didn’t tear it into pieces.

Flat bread frying in pan

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flat bread

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Wash a chicken and cut into pieces, fry for a few minutes in a large pot with some oil. Add two large onions in not too small strips. Fill the pot 3/4 with water and season. The recipe says “to taste” and suggested ginger, ras el hanout, fenugreek, cumin, stock, coriander.

After 30 minutes add lentils and keep cooking. About 10 minutes before the lentils are done, add two more roughly cut onions and some parsley.

I didn’t use a whole chicken but chicken legs because 1 chicken is exactly too little for 5. For seasoning I used beef stock, fenugreek, cumin, black caraway seed, orange pepper, garlic and chili. I used small red lentils because they nicely fall apart and make a velvety sauce. I also only added my parsley after the cooking. And I cried a lot because onions.


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The picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s very delicious and savoury. And since the sauce was basically onions and lentils, #1 ate two big servings. With her fingers.