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.

gumbo

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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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pond

Da pond.
Not that impressive at 55mm
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creek

Wide angle: the creek
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creek

I basically dangled the camera over the creek here.
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creek

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creek

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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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thistle

Thistle
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drops

Droplets
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drops

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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

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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Chicken:

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.

Rfissa

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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.

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
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Blue and purple cake

Galaxy cake
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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.

 

Tummy Thursday: Staples

No fancy pics this week, as cooking was very plain, which brought me to today’s question for you: What are staples in your kitchen, and by that I mean dishes that you’ll (almost) always be willing to make and (almost) everybody is going to eat?

We had French Toast tonight and pancakes earlier this week (they can be small and American style or large and flat, more like crêpe). Various pasta with tomato sauce have never been turned down here, as well as meatball marinara pasta gratin (thank you, Ikea). Pizza goes without saying and wraps (to be filled at your own discretion) are also always ok.

What’s cooking in your kitchen?

Tummy Thursday Special: Dreaming Unicorn Cake

As promised, this Tummy Thursday will be a big one.

#1 finally decided to celebrate her birthday and wanted a unicorn cake. I’m always happy to oblige. One of the nicer aspects of having kids is having an excuse for fancy caks.

This time I’ll actually walk you through all the steps and recipes, which means a ton of pics, so be warned when you click below the fold.

Finished cake

Dreaming Unicorn Cake
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Tummy Thursday: Applesauce

Admittedly, not the most exciting recipe, but it’s the time…

This year is the first one where we’re getting apples from our trees, or at least one tree. The whole thing looked quite ridiculously kitschy in summer, like my garden was trying to mock my disdain for people like Kincaid by throwing this at me.

Apple tree with white flowers underneath

Lovely, right? The pic doesn’t even get how violently bright everything was.
© Giliell

Now the apples are getting ripe and some are falling down, the ones not yet ripe enough to pass on to neighbours and family, so on Sunday I went to pic them up. I gave up when my basket was getting too heavy to lift and I wasn’t even halfway done. The next hour and half Mr and i spent together peeling and cutting apples and we reminded me of my grandparents, but in a good way. See, they were from a time where making your own preserves was a matter of survival, and even though those times were long gone during my childhood, they kept it up for as long as they could. And actually, the work was nice. It wasn’t very demanding physically or intellectually, but we were grounded to the kitchen table without any media and could just spend the time talking about this and that.

Applesauce:

Peel and cut apples

Microwave with some cane sugar

Add cinamon

Bowl full of applesauce

Nomnomnom
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Optional: Have a very nice neighbour who makes you potato pancakes.

small potato pancakes

She’s 89 years old, by the way.
The neighbour, not the pancakes.
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Tummy Thursday

Today’s post is less a recipe than a post about cake making.

I love making cakes. I especially love making the “big cakes” where you can go wild. Chances are that if you invite me to an event above “kiddie birthday” and ask to bring a cake, I will use it as an excuse to turn approximately 100.000 calories into a cake.

The excuse for the following cake was my friend’s kids holy communion (the family’s catholicism has been puzzling to us for generations. Girl, I know what you did in your 20s and 30s).

The cake base was a red velvet cake with cherry filling, which I frosted with chocolate ganache. This was pretty not spectacular although already delicious. I went for two layers, though. If you do, use a cakeboard or a wrapped piece of cardboard supported by some sticks because otherwise the very heavy second layer will sink into the soft first layer.

Choclate frosted cake

It didn’t have to be very even because there’s a second frosting to come. I always wanted to do an Italian meringue buttercream, but I never tried because my old kitchen machine was designed by an engineer who put the motor below the bowl and the gears into the middle of the bowl. Don’t ask. Regular buttercream regularly ended in a disaster because everything just melted, so after a particularly annoying instance I decided to get a new one and Mr convinced me (I’m using that word in a very loose sense here) to get something decent and I went for a Kitchen Aid. I never looked back. The only problem was that I could have done with a second one to keep whipping the meringue while I was creaming the butter, but that was possible to do by hand. In the video, Yolanda just adds the butter, but I was following a different recipe.

Since communions are in spring I went with green, first a light one to cover the whole cake and then a darker one for the grass.

cake covered in green buttercream

But that’s only about 80.000 calories, so the next step was to break out the fondant and go crazy. I love that silicone forms have become quite affordable. The trick is to dust them with starch, as well as the finger you use to push the sugar into the form.

I was quite pleased with the result.

Finished cake

Tummy Thursday

Or “never trust a recipe over experience”.

Last year, the blackberries fell victim to a hungry deer that ate all the flowers. This year, they#re getting ripe and are delicious, so I decided to make muffins.

I googled a basic recipe for cream cheese and blueberry muffins and came up with the following:

  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 0.25 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • blueberries

OK, I exchanged the oil for butter and the buttermilk for Greek yoghurt (which was only a quarter cup), yet still it seemed to be a lot of liquid, but well, that#s what the recipe said. The taste was delicious, but they did what muffins do when they are too wet: they crawled all over the baking tray.

Next time, less yoghurt.

unbaked blackberry muffins in a tray

Looks good
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Baked blackberry muffins.

Tastes good
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