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?

©voyager, all rights reserved

Which got turned into this:

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

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

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

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.


©Giliell, all rights reserved

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
©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


Da pond.
Not that impressive at 55mm
©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


Wide angle: the creek
©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


I basically dangled the camera over the creek here.
©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

long tailed tit

Change of lens. I found my long tailed tits. I hope they will return to the garden soon.
©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Spider web

Fairy lace
©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

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


©Giliell, all rights reserved

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

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The sand is grounded almonds

And last but nor least, the cake:

Cake with fillings

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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

©Giliell, all rights reserved

decorated cake

©Giliell, all rights reserved

decorated cake

©Giliell, all rights reserved


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

©Giliell, all rights reserved

flat bread

©Giliell, all rights reserved


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.


©Giliell, all rights reserved

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.

Tummy Thursday: Plum Liqueur

This week’s recipe comes thanks to kestrel. Hmmm, too bad we don’t have plums this year. I’ll let kestrel take over:

This time of year I am overrun with plums and like to find ways to take advantage of the bounty. Way back in 1984 I got this recipe from a friend, and over the years I’ve tweaked it a bit to make it more to my own satisfaction. I want to let people know that one of the first things I did was to cut the amount of sugar in the original recipe in half! If having LOTS of sugar is important to you, remember that you could double my amount and still be in line with the original recipe.

Ingredients and tools needed

Very neat setup

ere I have all the things I’ll need to make plum liqueur: plums, spices, empty jars, brandy and sugar. This is the basic recipe:

1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) plums
3/4 cup (255 grams) sugar
12 cloves
Piece of cinnamon stick
750 ml plain brandy

The original recipe called for vodka, but I felt it was not as smooth as I like when finished, I think brandy gives a better taste.

cut plums

Destoning plums. Probably everybody’s least favourite part…

Start out by cutting the plums in half and removing the pits. If you are busy, what you can do instead is take a fork and pierce the skins to the pits, in five or six places on each plum. That will work just fine and is a lot faster.

plums in a mason jar

Looks good already

This is a half-gallon (1.89 liter) jar. I’ve put in plums, 3/4 cup (255 grams) of sugar, plus the spices.
the jars are filled with brandy now

No, don’t think about it

Now I’ve put the 750 ml of brandy in the jar. Put the lid on securely, and shake the jar. Shake it for a minute, wait, shake a bit more, until the sugar is more or less dissolved.
closed jars

I’m not going to wait those three months, whatever kestrel says

After 24 hours, you can already see the wonderful color developing. Leave the jar(s) on your counter, giving them a shake now and then. This is the hard part: wait three months (I know, it’s very hard to wait so long!) and then strain the contents into a jar. By then it will be a lovely deep purple color. Not only is this nice for sipping on a cold winter evening sitting by the fire, it also makes a nice base for a stir fry. It’s a wonderful gift for the holidays; use a fancy pen to write up the recipe, put the plum liqueur in a decorative bottle, and there you have a memorable and welcome gift.

I only have one question: Would it not be easier to dissolve the sugar in the brandy first so you don’t have to shake the whole jars?

Here a Nut, There a Nut…

Everywhere a nut, nut!! This year has been extremely generous in the nut department, but knowing the distribution schedule, we’ll be out by christmas.

And also, as mentioned previously, the world’s giantest squirrel diligently seeking out those nuts causes a certain percentage loss per windy day. More on that later… Have some nuts!

The first nuts! They are now about two weeks old. Or would be, if we hadn’t et them. ©rq, all rights reserved.

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Tummy Thursday: Mirror Glaze

The little one told us to surprise her with a party for her birthday later this month. I decided to go for a party “Under the Sea” and I want to make a special cake with a “mirror glaze” frosting. Mirror glaze is a special type of frosting which is, you may guess it, very smooth and shiny. Since I’ve never done this before I decided to make a cake for Mr’s birthday last Sunday and try it out, since he can cope with “delicious cake that looks like roadkill”, just in case that things don’t work as they should, but they did.

Actually it turned into two cakes, because I had too much batter for my pan, so he got a galaxy cake with a strawberry cardamom filling and a Ferrero Rocher cake.

Small cake

Ferrero Rocher cake
©Giliell, all rights reserved

Blue and purple cake

Galaxy cake
©Giliell, all rights reserved

For a “how to”, click below the fold

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Slavic Saturday

Today I wish to share traditional Czech and Slovak recipe, although I do not think it is exclusively ours or exclusively slavic. It is called “smaženice” in Czech and “praženica” in Slovak. Both of those names could be translated as a “fry up”, but in our language it is only this one meal and not a generic name. There might be some local variations to the recipe (in fact, I would be suprisede if there wer not), so this is not “the” version.

It  is a very simple meal specific for this season, because it is best made from freshly collected mushrooms. I was personally not mushroom hunting this year, because it was too dry when I had the time. But one of my mothers friends brought us this Tuesday a basket of mushrooms as a payback for tomatoes, plums and walnuts we let her take from our garden.

In my opinion best species for this are blushers (Amanita rubescens), closely followed by various boletes that are not suitable for drying – like suede boletes, larch boletes, birch boletes etc. So I collected all of such species from the basket, cleaned them and cut them into a thumbnail sized chunks and I added then bay boletes and ceps  until I had a overfilled soup-plate of such chunks. It looks like a lot, but it is only one, albeit generous, serving – the mushrooms will lose most of their water during the process. Now is also the time to add salt – sprinkle an “adequate” amount of it on the shrooms, stir and wait a while. You can also add other spices of your liking, I only add shredded cumin and black pepper.

After the chunks are cut and salted, it is time to start frying. That starts with an onion cut into cubes being fried at high temperature – the best fat for this meal is therefore lard, second best is butter, after that are the vegetarian options. I still had a chunk of lard from my dubbin-making experiment, so I have used lard. The onion is fried until it starts to look glassy, and just when some smaller chunks start to turn yellow, it is time to add the mushrooms. After stirring the mushrooms into the fried onion, put a lid on it and let it stew for at least twenty minutes, checking it and stirring every minute or so.

Both of those things are important. The time to make sure that the meal is really edible – even edible mushrooms can be slightly poisonous when raw and all are rather hard to digest when not cooked long enough. And the stirring of course to asses the situation and to mix things up. Sometimes it is necessary to add a bit of water during the process, sometimes even more than once. This time I could do without it and the mushrooms stewed very nicely. Towards the end I had to stir more often and for the last two minutes or so I took the lid off and stirred continuously so the mushrooms do not burn.

Maybe you can see now that the mushrooms have lost more than a half of their volume and they all turned into the same yellowish color. The color depends on used species – the yellowish was brought in by the yellow boletes (similar to larch boletes, but these were different species). Had I used dottet stem bolette, the mass would all be dark grey or even black like a boot polish. Had I used only blushers, it would be whiteish-pink-grey.

The final ingredients are eggs, two in this case, and a generous glass of non-alcoholic beverage of your preference. Why the beverage, you ask? To drink before the meal, during cooking. Do not underestimate this – this meal can lie rather heavy in the stomach and drinking after it a lot is not recommended, because it impedes its digestion. So it is recommended to drink generously before eating it, otherwise bad dreams might ensue. The eggs are simply stirred into the mass and fried until done. The meal is traditionally served with bread, but I had two whole-grain buns so I went with those this time – more photogenic. I enjoyed the meal and slept well afterwards.