Tummy Thursday: Around the World in 5 Courses

On New Year’s Eve we held our traditional dinner where we all draw our courses and continents. With only three families left, two families had to do two courses each while one (we as the hosts) had to do one. You never know how much you can miss somebody’s bad cooking until they’re gone.

The first course takes us to Africa, to Ghana in specific:

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It’s a leek and peanut soup and damn delicious. I think this will become part of our culinary repertoire

The second course jumps across the Atlantic to México:

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Pimientos con queso y beicon. Bell peppers filled with garlic cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. They were delicious.

Back across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean, straight to Italy:

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Classic lasagna and never a bad choice.

Now we travel east and south to Oceania for the fourth course:

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Chicken Fa Fa, a popular dish from Polynesia. This was my course and I didn’t want to do something from Australia or New Zealand, since those are very European cuisines. Of course I didn’t get taro leaves to make an authentic chicken fa fa, but several recipes said to substitute with spinach. You fry the chicken, then simmer in tock until mostly done, add spinach and coconut and thicken with a bit of starch and it’s so damn delicious. the chicken was tender as butter, the spinach creamy, and I had a lot of trouble not eating the whole thing before the guests arrived.

For the final course we didn’t have to travel quite that far, our dessert from Japan:

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Macha petit fours: Small coconut cakes with red bean paste and a macha frosting, served with green tea. Those were delicious. The “cake” itself is made from “Butterkeks” a not overly sweet biscuit, coconut and butter with no added sugar, while the frosting is basically just sugar and macha. This makes for the perfect amount of sweetness with the bitter macha notes.

All in all we had a delicious and nice evening, right before the crying started at midnight. You see, January the first is Uli’s birthday. For almost 20 years we celebrated together. She’d spend Christmas with her family, but New Year’s Eve with us. I remember celebrating with her back when I was still living at home, bringing out a cake at midnight with the whole neighbourhood bursting out in “happy birthday”. Or partying in way too small student flats, sleeping on a floor so cramped it was difficult to go to the loo. We said that she would host this year. Damn, Uli, why didn’t you just say that you weren’t comfortable with hosting so many people right after moving in? Don’t you think that dying on us is a bit extreme?

Tummy Thursday: It’s Pokémon Birthday Cake Time

The kid’s birthday was already at the start of the month, but of course with my body being an asshole again I couldn’t make a cake for her actual party. Thank goodness teenagers mostly require insane amounts of food and not attention, so she could have her friends over for a small party.

Last weekend we celebrated with our friends and she got her cake for that day. She went for her favourite Eevilution, Leafeon.

©Giliell, all rights reserved      The eyes are not my best work.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Yes, that’s a ton of individually cut and applied grass blades

The inside of the cake is a standard vanilla cake with a cream cheese and cream filling. The filling was really easy and tasty: I used a packet of lemon flavour jello to mix with the cheese and the whipped cream, added some lime zest and cut canned peaches. The only problem that I had was cooling it down quickly enough for the jello to work so it wouldn’t run all out on me. I then covered the whole thing in a thin layer of buttercream before adding the fondant.

Because a German buttercream (butter with custard) has too much liquid for fondant and an Italian meringue buttercream (my usual go to buttercream) was too much work for the state of my recovery, I made an American buttercream. I usually consider American buttercream the symbol of everything that is wrong with American cake making: It’s just butter and sugar, too heavy and too sweet. I love watching cake videos, but quite often the American ones leave me a bit puzzled: Yes, this looks amazing, but all you have in there is cake and buttercream. Where’s the flavour? Do Americans really spend 200 bucks on a cake that looks great but doesn’t taste of anything but butter and sugar? Please do tell me.

It did work well here, btw, because it was only a small layer to get the surfaces even and it contrasted nicely with the tart lemony filling.

Tummy Thursday: Making Saitan

I think I mentioned before that I’ve reduced our meat consumption drastically over the last year or so. I’m not trying to become vegan or vegetarian (and no, I don’t want to hear why I should or how I should. This is not your post. Go somewhere else), but I think that meat should be a special treat.This is also possible since meat replacements have become so good that the family will eat them, when a few years ago they still tasted like underseasoned cardboard. One problem remains, though, and that is that many alternatives are based on soy and I’m allergic to soy. But I can totally eat gluten, so I tried making saitan.

You can just buy gluten by the pound, but you can also make saitan from scratch. add one part water to two parts flour and knead for 5 minutes. Let it rest for 30 minutes and then wash out the starch, This is messy and will lose you most of your mass. There are apparently people who then try to recover the starch from the washwater but not me.

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This is the gluten left from 2 kgs of flour and yes, it looks like a pig’s stomach used for wrapping roasts. At this point you can add seasoning and some salt and then you have to cook it. It can be baked or steamed, but I like to cook it in a mason jar with spices in a salty brine.

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Each jar contains about 500 ml in total, so you see that it’s not much, but one is also a good size serving for us. It needs to cool completely to get to the meat like consistency. This time I made pinchos. They were nice, I just used a little too much salt.

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It is pretty neutral in taste, which is why it’s often compared to chicken, so you can season it to your heart’s desire. Enjoy your meal.

Tummy Thursday: A Rainbow for the New Year

Usually we spend New Year’s Eve with our friends, and for the last years we always did a culinary world travel. Now, travelling has been banned, parties as well (for good reason), so we stayed at home, wondering what to eat. #1 gave me a challenge: A rainbow dinner! I accepted and delivered a three course meal:

Starter: Tomato coconut soup with a cheese stick, red and orange

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The soup was delicious, and dead easy: Pureed tomatoes, coconut cream, onions, garlic, molasses, spices, butter. We also used grandma’s good china.

Main course: Cornbread (savoury) and spinach (and some meat), yellow and green:

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The cornbread was  a little dry, sadly, but the lamb was not so I simply soaked up the juices with the cornbread.

Dessert: Petit Fours with cherry jelly and lemon curd, blue, indigo and purple:

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

Petit Fours are always sweet as hell, but the lemon curd balanced it nicely. Still nothing where grown ups will ask for a second piece. Teenagers otoh…


Tummy Thursday: Espeon for the Win

I recently read the following on Twitter:

My 2020 diet tip: If you want a snack, think about whether you’re really hungry, or whether you just want a snack to compensate for the horrors we live through. Then have a snack, it’s the only joy we have left.

And, yeah. We couldn’t celebrate the little one’s birthday as planned, but she got her cake nevertheless.

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Two layers of vanilla cake with added lime zest, a filling of lemon and lime curd in an Italian meringue buttercream ring with added blueberries. I can tell you, it’s a combination to die for. The sweet buttercream offsets the tartness of the curd, and the blueberries add flavour.

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If your husband tells you that this surface of the moon crater landscape of a cake looks perfect, he either:

a) loves you very much

b) has no clue about cakes

c) both

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With a fondant espeon, glitter, sugar pearls  and silver stars. I’m quite proud of my Pokemon cakes by now.

Tummy Thursday: Tahin Caramel Shortbread

As mentioned before, our holiday plans this year is meeting in each other’s gardens, so this Sunday we went to our friends’ place (their pool is already filled and delightful) and I made some shortbread for the coffee table. Because maybe the most German food tradition is “Kaffee und Kuchen”, coffee and cake, in the afternoon.

I started out with Yotam Ottolenghi’s Oriental Millionaire’s Shortbread and adapted it for my needs.


  • 40 g icing sugar
  • 35 g cornstarch
  • 40 g sugar
  • 175 g molten but almost cooled butter
  • vanilla
  • 250 g flour
  • a pinch of salt plus some fleur de sel

Mix sugars and starch in your kitchen machine, add butter and vanilla while it’s running, turn to slow, add flour and just mix until it’s blended. That’s what I like about shortbread: it’s quick and easy.

Prepare a 20 X 20 cm baking tray (as per recipe) or use a 12″ round one as I did, heat oven to 200°C. Bake until golden brown. The original recipe said 25 Min, but mine was much thinner and baked in 10. Let cool completely.

The original recipe says to add a layer of crushed halva, but I didn’t have halva at home for the simple reason of being really allergic to peanuts, which is often a main ingredient in commercially available halva, so I simply moved on to the caramel.

  • 200 g sugar
  • 120 ml water

Boil until dark copper brown, remove from heat

  • 80 g cream
  • 100 g butter

Add to the caramel. I hope you used a pot that’s got some space because it bubbles up and splashes at this point. When it’s a nice homogenous mass, add

  • a generous spoon of tahin

Pour the slightly cooled caramel on top of your shortbread and sprinkle with some more fleur de sel.

I finally added a very thin layer of dark chocolate. Cut into pieces and enjoy. It’s really sweet but damn delicious.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved


Tummy Thursday: You Gotta Eat it All

Yes, I know, that’s similar to the post in October about the little one’s cake, but we are in for another Pokémon themed cake. It was #1’s birthday on Sunday and she wanted a Zorua cake. Well, actually she wanted a Reshiram cake, but I balked at the idea of trying to make one. There’s being ambitious and there’s being stupid. I think it was my most complicated motive cake so far as it does not have a simple geometric form as a basis but the cut out of the Pokémon and the decoration took me almost three hours.

The cake is vanilla and cherries, the filing is German mango buttercream and roasted almonds. I then covered everything with Italian buttercream and added several layers of fondant. It was delicious and pretty.

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Tummy Thursday: About that Allspice…

As I mentioned, I needed allspice to make Jamaican jerk, only of course that’s just a vague description of what I actually made. For one thing, jerk is more like a marinade. We don’t eat much meat, but have ample use for all kinds of sauces and condiments, so I made something more like a steak sauce.

I started out with the Jamaican jerk recipe CD gave me some years back: allspice, garlic, soy sauce, only no soy sauce because I’m allergic to soy, molasses, only no molasses because you cannot get it here but boiled down sugar beet syrup, cinnamon, spring onions, only I skipped them because I later added onions, nutmeg, dried fruit like cranberries, only that I used fresh nectarines and chillis, thyme, all blended together.

Yep, that’s me. If the survival of planet earth hinged on my ability to follow a recipe you’d better start packing. For the chillis I bought some Habaneros and I wanted to throw one into the blender, but then thought that it was prudent to start with half a Habanero because you can always add more. Good decision. It instantly went to the level of hot I like (which is probably too much for the rest of the family) and it’s got such am agreeable hotness. I don’t know if I’m explaining this well, but sometimes chillis have this hotness that lingers for ages. Your mouth keeps burning even if it wasn’t that hot in the first place until you have some milk and this detracts from the actual taste of the food. These are hot, but 10 seconds later it’s gone. I actually kept spooning it into my mouth to see if the taste needed refinement without actually adding anything in between…

To turn it into a sauce I peeled and deseeded a pound of tomatoes, lightly fried onions in olive oil, added the tomatoes and let it stir for a while. Then I partly strained the jerk so there wouldn’t be too many coarse particles and let everything simmer for about half an hour. Interesting things happened. For one, the jerk turned very dark. That happened almost instantly, probably because the air boiled out. After about 10 minutes my disappointing nectarines picked up and gave some real fruity aromas to the whole thing. After 20 minutes the tomatoes vanished completely. I’m sure they’re adding taste and structure, but you would never guess it has tomatoes in it. Finally, the hotness was greatly reduced. Maybe Mr could eat some now. All in all I have two glasses of sauce now and I tried it on some vegan burgers yesterday and it’s just all I ever wanted.

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And because the light and the bubbles in the pot were just too pretty, here#s a video:

Tummy Thursday: Zucchini Cake

When we went to the wholesale supermarket I bought a whole crate of zucchini, which means we’ve been using them in a whole lot of dishes, and since they are true neutral, I also decided to make zucchini cake. It turned out really, really nice and it would be a shame not to share.

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Uhm, yeah. our easter brunch…

For the cake you need:

  • 500g zucchini
  • 250 ml oil. I used butter, though, because I only have olive oil at home
  • 5 eggs
  • 350g flour
  • 1 packet of baking powder
  • 250g sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200g grounded hazelnuts (I used almonds)
  • spices (I used a bit of cinnamon and allspice and vanilla extract)

Grate the zucchini, mix wet ingredients (including the zucchini), mix dry ingredients, combine, bake a 160° with ventilation.

One thing that made me wonder about the recipe was that they told you to bake it in a 26cm (10″) round tin. Every experienced baker can see from the amount of ingredients that this is way too much and I’m sorry for the inexperienced bakers who flooded their ovens with cake batter. I baked it in a tray for about 30 minutes.

Another thing is that there’s really little sugar in the recipe. This means that it’s perfect for a sweet topping. The original recipe had a chocolate ganache, but I went for lime and cream cheese with fresh strawberries on top and it was just perfect. If you don’t want to add a topping I’d recommend adding something like another 100g of brown sugar for extra flavour and sweetness. Or you leave out the sugar completely, add more salt and grated parmesan, which should work as well.

Tummy Thursday: Go Frothy and Multiply

Yes, I know, but what are days of the week anyway…

One of the things people have been hoarding/panic buying is yeast. I speculate that lots of it is rotting in fridges, since bakeries and supermarkets are indeed still open, though others will use the time for baking, as does yours truly. Part of it stems from my inability to plan for bread. Usually we eat pretty little bread so i buy like a pound of bread that lasts for the week. Now we need bread every single day, so different forms of frybread have been our new best friend. And who doesn’t love fresh frybread? Some days I use baking powder, but i also like yeast bread, and I was running low on yeast.


Thankfully, as long as you have some yeast and a freezer, you can be helped. Simply mix your fresh yeast, lukewarm water, a tablespoon of sugar and a cup of flour and let it rest for 15 minutes. Fill into ice cube trays (or mini muffin trays or whatever, I used my French canéles silicone tray) and quickly freeze. Put something frozen on top and don’t overfill the tray.

Freeze solid and ta-daa: lots of readily frozen yeast.

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Working with this yeast means means you need more time, but that makes a yeast dough all the better anyway.

And to prove the concept that “you can multiply yeast indefinitely”, I washed down the sides of the mixing bowl and started a sweet yeast dough. I let it rest in the cool hall over night and let it catch up speed again this morning.

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He is risen.

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Nobody in my family ever said no to cinnamon rolls.

And did I mention that I’m bad with “how  much bread do we need” and the days of the week? Well, I’d forgotten that today is a holiday and no bakery van will come, so I took some of my frozen yeast and made naan. You could cook it in a hot pan, but I prefer the pizza stone in the oven. I also need to increase the amount we pay for electricity or there will be lots of crying come January (we pay an estimated amount for water and electricity each months and then get the detailed bill in January. Usually it’s “we ow you 20 bucks / you owe us 20 bucks, but we’re home a lot more, won’t go on holiday and keep baking)

Look at this:

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That’s what the kids left us. Because fresh naan, who doesn’t like it? BTW, if you ever try to make frybread, regardless of what your raising agent, put away that rolling pin. Just gently stretch it over your hands or you’ll press out all that nice air your raising agent worked so hard to put into your dough.

Tummy Thursday: Tamales

I promised a more in depth thread on the tamales we had for New Year’s Eve. I’ve been wanting to make them for a while, since they a re one of my favourite Latin American street food, and just in time I found an online shop specialised in Mexican food where I could get the most unusual (for Western Europeans) ingredient: dried corn husks. I also go some quality corn flour and frijoles negros (which are from Canada…) so I could also make refritos (fried mushed beans).

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I chose a recipe with chicken filling, so I started by cooking the chicken. Well, actually it was the second step if you count soaking the corn husks. I thought it was daring from the people who wrote the recipe to tell folks to cook the chicken in liquid and later mention chicken stock but not to mention that of course you just made the world’s best chicken stock. Once I had that it was time to cream the butter for the batter. The original recipe called for lard, but the local Aldi doesn’t stock any lard any I won’t set food into the megamarkets before/during the holidays. You are supposed to add some of the stock and I swear this was the first time I made chicken buttercream. I then added the flour, more stock, salt and seasoning and let it rest for a while. The batter is quite fluffy at this point.

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I used the resting time to prepare the filling. I deboned my chicken and minced it a little. I then prepared salsa with onions, garlic, tomatoes and seasoning and added the chicken. The filling needs to be well flavoured or it will be lost in the batter.

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Yes, I’m a messy cook, why do you ask?

Then it’s time for preparing the tamales. You use your soaked corn husks and spread some batter onto them. You add a spoonful of filling, close the batter around it and then wrap the corn husk like it’s a burrito.

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You then put them into a pot with a steamer and steam. The recipe calls for two hours, but my pot and steamer don’t actually fit one another so I cannot close them properly. The test run was therefore a bit soggy and for the New Year’s Eve dinner I probably steamed them for 4-5 hours. Looks like another piece of kitchen equipment that I need to upgrade.

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They were yummy with that particular flavour of actual corn flour and so savoury that the dog begged for the leftovers.

Tummy Thursday: Around the World in 5 Courses

This year we had our traditional (a tradition means “at least twice”) New Years Eve dinner of five continents in five courses. The way we do it is that we draw continents and courses and then nobody knows who’s got which or what the others are bringing. This year we had the second main course and the Americas, so while I knew what I#d be serving, the guests brought their own. courses.

Let’s begin with the first starter: Asia, a salad

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Ruccola, persimmon, avocado and sesame. While I’m pretty sure that nobody in Asia ever created that dish it was delicious and a good light starter.

Second starter: Africa: Tunnesian pea meatballs and pastry filled with goat cheese and lime and two dips.

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The friend who made these is a professional cook and everything was delicious. The lime added freshness and it was a bit spicy, but not enough.


First main course: Oceania: Australian meat pies with peas

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Well, the concept was good. Unfortunately the friend who made them is a really bad cook. How bad you ask? well, she brought a bag of frozen peas and then asked me if I had any ideas what to do with them…

Second main course: Americas: Mexican tamales

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

Once with their protective corn husks, once without. No, you don’t eat the corn husks. Served with guacamole and refritos. They’ll get their own post in the future explaining how they’re done. They’re quite filling, which meant that we had some leftovers for the brunch next day.

Dessert: Europe: Scottish Cranachan 

Well, there are no pictures because we ate it all before we remembered. Although it’s dead simple: raspberries, cream, roasted oats, it is also extremely delicious.

Somehow in my thirties the focus of New Years Eve definitely shifted from alcohol to food…


Sweet Dreams: A Tummy Sunday

At our house we divided the Christmas days up between the families. In Germany “the big day” is Christmas Eve. That’s when the kids get their presents and the tree is lit (at least back in the days when you still used real candles) and the first years as a family we tried to do right by everybody. Back then my grandparents were still alive and I wanted to spend time with them, but “of course” you couldn’t say “we’ll visit Giliell’s family on Christmas Eve but not you”. The result was lots of unhappiness. My in laws would make very sad eyes at us for leaving early* and my family would complain about us being late. The kids would get so many presents in a short amount of time that they ended up exhausted and crying and unhappy. And then of course they wanted to negotiate about the two other days (in Germany you have two Christmas Days) as well…

At some point we decided to tell them all to gently fuck themselves and set down some rules and if you are ever in such a situation, especially with young kids. On Christmas Eve NOBODY leaves the house or enters the house. We spend the evening together, just the four of us. We have hot stone/raclette for dinner, which is really quick and easy to prepare and then the kids get their presents (and us as well).

The 25th is the day when Mr’s family meets. Out of the 5 siblings 3 of them take turns to host the whole party, although we have taken over from my  in laws since they’ re not getting younger and we have more space (and it is less exhausting and more rewarding to do it myself than to listen to my mum in law’s complaints. Sorry if I’m sounding uncharitable towards her. I really love her, there’s just some areas where she’s as exhausting as a toddler). Since that family is already in charge of cooking for about 20 people, the guests bring cake and dessert, which is actually the point of this post.

The 26th we visit my parents and since it’s the time of miracles, for the last few years my sister’s husband has been showing up as well.

But back to dessert. I made a Pavlova. I’ve been wanting to make one since forever and thought that this was the perfect occasion:

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Uhm, sorry for the crap image. I’ll do better. But the Pavlova was amazing: I sprinkled roasted pine nuts on the meringue before baking and prepared butter caramel baked apples with raisins and spices a few days in advance. On the 25th I prepared pomegranate seeds only transported the dry meringue “cakes” as well as the fruit and unwhipped cream to my uncle and aunt in law’s place where I whipped the cream and assembled everything there. I even added edible gold leaves.

I looked like a Christmas Dessert is supposed to look: lavish and opulent. It tasted like heaven. The sharpness of the Pomegranate balanced the sweetness of the meringue and the whipped cream was just right. If you’re ever asked to bring a spectacular dessert i can only recommend a Pavlova as you can adapt it to the occasion and don’t need to worry about transporting a fully assembled cake.


*My mum in law is one of those people whose only way to get what she wants is by making others feel bad. Sad comments along the lines of “I would really love if somebody …., but nobody cares enough…”