Friday, June 28, 2013

Afternoon tea: King's Crown cherry/banana

After so much food-related posts, it is time for having a relaxing tea, isn't it? Even though the weather this week was not what you may expect to have for the summer, I tried to avoid drinking too many spicy drinks - the choice for the winter - and go on with some fruity options.
The choice for more than one afternoon was a simple cherry-banana tea bag from King's Crown, another product available at a good price at Rossmann
It can be prepared relatively easy, without too much waiting time. I tried it at least twice and either after 5 minutes or 2 minutes of waiting, the concentration does not change and you don't risk to have only a colourful and tasteless water if you don't keep the bag for too long. It is good cold - including refrigerated - or hot. However, after I tasted a left tea from the day before, I did not like too much the taste; it was like some little pieces of sand were inappropriately added to the otherwise pleasant concoction.
It goes relatively well with sour and sweet foods: with chocolate muffins or crackers, and even with some Pringles, if you really want it too. I had it without sugar, but with brown sugar you will ad more pleasant taste.
Nothing unforgettable or unique, just a pleasant drink that you can end up by always love to have it in your kitchen, especially for the writing or reading afternoons. Some some spices added it can go very well for the winter. 

Bio chocolate soy pudding

Another product I tried this week was a Soy Chocolate Dessert, purchased from the same Rossman store, from the bio counter. It is distributed in a pack of four and thus I had other testers that had at least one spoon of the product. The first impression is...tasteless. It looks very concentrated and with a pleasant colour, but there it is not too much sugar - as you would expect, and it is a raw chocolate experience. 
The cover is very attractive and loved the colours and the design of the little cups in general. 
Soy does not (always) have an extremely pleasant taste, and I do not fancy it too much in sweets. In this case, the predominant taste - that I started to feel after 4 spoons - is of raw cocoa. If you would love more sugar, you might add some home made whipped cream, with brown sugar, eventually. Otherwise, if kept in the fridge at least one hour before use, it can turn into a healthy and low calories desert for the summer afternoons. With coffee or tea, the choice is yours. 
I am not sure I would like to try this product once again, but I would be curious about more products of this kind. Sooner or later I will find my favourites.

Bon Appetit!

Cooking with bio smoked tofu

Once the week we have in the menu pasta, but each time I should find out a new combination. During the summer, I like to add a lot of cherry tomatoes and vegetables in general, while during the winter I am more tempted to use a lot of cheese or fish, especially salmon.
As I recently had a good tofu meal at a vegan restaurant - with vegetables and coconut - I wanted to repeat the adventure and have my own pasta with tofu at home. Without any other available options, I tried a special bio smoked tofu, that I've found at a local Rossmann drugstore. (PS: In Germany, you may find a lot of gluten-free, bio products alongside with beauty and cleaning products, especially in the Rossmann or DM stores).
I've used this type of tofu at least once before, with eggs and some vegetables, and I was relatively satisfied - did not like the taste too much - so I was not extremely worried that a product with such a colour might be a failure. The smoked smell is moderate and in combination with vegetables - I added cherry tomatoes and some local spices I received from a friend from the Middle East that I should need to read more about before dedicating a post, together with olive oil drops. I finely chopped both pieces, enough for the 500 gr. of pasta, plus 250 of cherry tomatoes.
The overall impress was, as in the first case, moderate, but not unhappy either. It is not extremely tasty or leaving me with such pleasant memories that I cannot eat anything else for the next weeks - it happened with some good tofu products before. It is the choice for some boring summer days, when I do not spend too much time at home and I need to do something healthy and relatively cheap in due time. 
Maybe the next time I should try the recipe recommended in the picture from the cover, it could be a good choice for a summer salad. 

Bon Appetit! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book review: The Sharper the Knife, the Less you Cry

I must recognize that Kathleen Flinn's (first) book: The Sharper the Knife, the Less you Cry took me a long time to finish. It might be considered both as an advantage and disadvantage of the book. I started to read it in March, probably, and ended up a couple of hours ago. Why this big gap, somehow unusual for someone like me easily reading a good book a day, if the time allows me?

Nothing to complain against the book: it is well written, with many interesting recipes (even though I would not be able to prepare more than 75% of them) and a lot of insights about the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. Le Cordon Bleu, made up of chefs with similar CVs: early age trainings in small or big restaurants, followed by intensive work at Michelin restaurants, eventually ending up in teaching school because of burn-out, was created in the 19th century in...of course, Paris. It started as a cooking magazine started by Marthe Distel offering free cooking classes for subscribers. Nowadays, even though the magazine is no more since the 1960s, it has a wide network of around 27 schools in 15 countries. 

To be honest, I completely dislike the military-style of that famous and expensive school. As a chef by choice, I decided that I should discover how to cook - and this book showed me how far far away from the objective of being a decent chef - completely by pleasure. I don't want to be lectured, penalized and criticized - officially, as at home I am coping almost daily with various inappropriate observations in this respect - and even humiliated for my lack of achievement. Again, I do it completely for fun and if I would have to pay a lot of money for a fantastic cooking class where I am regularly ridiculed I would react in a very unpleasant way. Cooking is an art and not everyone has the qualities of a chef-from-birth, but I prefer to be treated respectfully and taught with love and attention. The logical conclusion is that in any case I will not want to be part of such a top notch project, preferring rather small cooking class of specific meals. Kathleen Flinn is more disciplined in this respect: "Cooking is a physical job; it requires strength, endurance, and the ability to do what you're told without complaint, even if you disagree". Not my piece of cake. 

I must confess though that I need to learn more about cutting the veggies correctly and being more dedicated in terms of following the directions of the recipes: "To be good food soldiers in the kitchen, we must be trained to follow orders, to produce consistent results. That's why we are drilled to cut our vegetables with the same military precision, to hit the same basic notes of flavor". As for me, I am rather the kind of person that strongly belief that 'sometimes, life doesn't follow the recipe, either'. Everyone with its own cooking style, isn't it?

The big advantage of the book that helped me not to feel guilty for keeping it half-read for month was the good writing style: honest, simple even when it has to do with complicated recipes, somehow impossible to translate from French. 

Beyond the stylistic challenges and considerations, I also appreciated as well the optimism that it is never late to start cooking. Especially this Julia Child's quote made me feel better about my previous failures: 'I didn't start cooking until I was 32. Until then, I just ate'. (It is also available for me, except the part with eating, as until 32 at least, I was not eating too much either). What awaits me and the late cooker in general, is a long journey of discovering which knife is the best, how to cut the meat and to have good sources at the meat market, or how to prepare the almost perfect pastry. 

The similar career patterns of the chefs is mirrored by the similar careers of the attendees: most of them, including Kathleen Flinn herself, left or are looking for a subterfuge of their corporate life and follow an old dream. The book is also an exploration of the local expat life, of coping with the difficulties of my beloved French language, as well as of life and love. As I am heading soon to Paris, I also found some interesting good travel tips and ideas to visit specific markets and corners. 

If you were looking for the inspiration for your next career steps this summer, you should read this book and carefully take notes of the recipes generously included at the end of each chapter. 

Boiled Words tasted a sunflower seeds+cherry tomatoes salad

The next innovation of the menu was an unique recipe created out of what I found in the kitchen, mainly: 500 gr. sunflower seeds, 250 gr. cherry tomatoes, 100 gr. sesame seeds and 3 tbs. olive oil. As the girls from the house are decided to follow a strict diet in the next days and weeks (expect reviews about diet books and other useful tips in the next weeks), this salad looks as healthy and with a high nutritive value. I had the sunflower seeds for over a week, as one of those products you can't resist to buy: found them in a cute Russian store in my neighbourhood and bought them without a specific recipe in my mind. Was simply thinking that either will consume them raw, as I was suggested several time, or I will introduce in one of my many spontaneous salad equations. The result can easily feed 5 hungry persons.

My observation is that probably using less sunflower seeds was better, but in this way I can fully feel the richness of the seeds. After one big portion, I don't feel like eating anything more in the next 10 minutes. At least, no more bread needed. Today, I will try to add some boiled eggs and olives and the summer lunch is ready!

Bon Appetit!

Boiled Words prepared a pineapple and tuna salad

I like to have at least one fish meal on Shabbes but at least for the next weeks, when the summer is officially in town, we try to limit as much as possible the unnecessary heating. Let's welcome the fine selection of salads into our menu then!

As I am still learning how to match tastes and different kind of foods, I find challenging to find the right combination for tuna fish. I tried with avocado, with lemon slices, with cherry tomatoes and even without any other companion than some drops of olive oil. In the last case I was told that maybe I am trying to feed my dear family cat's food. 

Long time ago, I tasted a delicious tuna and pineapple salad and had it in my mind for a long time. Fortunately, the last week I also had it in my fridge. The preparation is very fast, the mixing of the ingredients without pain and the taste good to pleasant. If you plan to save some money for the summer trips, you might be delighted to know that it is very cheap too.

What you need for a salad for 4 persons:

250 gr. tuna fish, preferably without oil
250 gr. pineapple with a low concentration of sugar
1 tbs. olive oil
1 pinch of Cayenne pepper

Mix the ingredients well and keep it in the fridge at least 1 hour before serving. It goes as an independent meal at the beginning of the eating. It goes with a fresh lemonade or with a nice white wine!

Bon Appetit!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Feta cheese and watermelon

I was requested for a long time to prepare for Shabbes a light good watermelon and (feta) cheese salad. Overwhelmed by some extra work and with the head in the clouds because of the summer, I was more than happy to try something new the last week and I was once again reminded to prepare this combination. At the end of the day, it was for my own good, as it is a relatively simple meal, that does not require too much preparation.  

Instead, as I would found later but too late to change something, it requires a good knowledge of the various types of feta cheese, an information that is apparently missing from my cooking luggage. I bought a quarter of watermelon, looking pinky - meaning that it is not extremely sweet, this feature being associated in my mind with the red-looking watermelon. I did not think too much about the feta though and simply took a sort acceptable in my opinion from the point of view of the ingredients. The last time when I had a feta cheese was years ago and I completely forget that some cheeses can be saltier than others. 

For my combination of feta cheese and watermelon I needed some non-salty creamy sort, that was not necessarily the type I bought. But as the melon was not extremely sweet, the final combination was refreshing. Sometimes, as I remember following my tasting of Norwegian salty-sweet chocolate, the extremes can be attractive and more personality on both sides of the products would have bring more taste into our afternoon treat. The verdict was that the next time I will need to pay more attention to the feta cheese or at least to buy a more interesting watermelon. 

A life of learning is what I am always longing for, especially when it comes to cooking! 

Looking for inspiration (in predictable places)

Between cooking and travel, I will always chose travel. I can be happy with a nice piece of black bread and a simple coffee, but if I don't travel for one month, or one week went away without I discovered some nice corner in my city, I am sad and lacking the necessary energy to survive the daily chores. Thus, I try to focus for the moment on my travels, with a modest creativity in the kitchen. However, wherever I go I keep an eye for the food products and local cuisine and as much as the time allows me, I will do my best to share some of the recipes and local insights about food and eating habits that I learn about during my travels. 

My problems in the last days are a relative lack of inspiration. I do have a couple of books to read and review, I have some new recipes that I tested lately, but because of the summer and holiday mood, I don't succeed to spend too much time in the kitchen. And my ideas of salads are as regular as possible, without creating anything outstanding. 

What you can do in such cases, when the cooking inspiration left you? Very often, I do make a tour of my favourite food bloggers. As I am on Twitter, I have access to lots of ideas and good food writing. When I want to leave my computer and get out in the real world, I am reading carefully the menus of the restaurants that I pass by. I am interested especially in the Vegetarian/Asian options. My latest passion is the Vietnamese cuisine: my first encounter was not extremely pleasant, as I did not enjoyed too much carrots in the veggie spring rolls, or some of the tofu combinations. However, I was invited recently to taste a coconut milk+peanuts+rice+tofu+beans+carrots+lemongrass and I loved the taste and the fine combination of vegetables. The spices were  As most Vietnamese restaurants I've seen are not exactly Vietnamese, the cooks being mostly from China, maybe I should pack and visit Vietnam for a real flavour of the local cuisine. And, most probably, when I am out of inspiration, I should consider taking more cooking classes or watching more food videos. For now, writing again on the blog was enough to boost my creativity for the next days.

Keep in touch!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Design trends for the kitchen - Overview of DMY Berlin

The last week I had the chance to visit the International Design Festival Berlin and I did some interesting research about the state of arts of ideas in terms of home and kitchen design. Poland was the special guest of the festival and there were many interesting ideas brought at the festival, by young designers from schools all over the country.
The products presented at the Festival were quite simple, with many practical features and ideas. Nothing out of the norm or over luxurious, even there were some big brands present. Here are one of the objects that caught my attention, after more than 2 hours of wandering.
For more details and photos, feel free to visit my Pinterest dedicated folder:
A short video about DMY on YouTube:

The works of Polish designers were simple, somehow inspired by the local tradition. The  white set can be used for coffee or tea or some hot drinks during the long summer.

Silver light always give a certain elegance to the objects.

It looks practical yet good looking and elegant, especially with the yellowish corners of the heating machine.

An interesting adornment for the table.

A classical design with a modern practical emphasis.

When you have a small kitchen and you are always in a hurry, it looks like the perfect way to have things done fast and in an organized way. I love this setting, the trademark of Swedish design.

More and more people prefer to cultivate their own plants and vegetables at home. What you can do when you are lacking the proper space? The Swedish designers might have a (good) idea.

Not only squirrels gathers provisions for the winter. But we, as humans, we have the chance to do it with style.

Simple cups with a former Communist touch.

One of my favourite objects by far, especially for the gracious presence of the ballerina.

I am a big fan of strollers and this one is not only practical but makes you feel happy when  on shopping/

What about assorting the glasses?

Grace and tradition, made Villeroy and Boch.

When you like to eat your home made food during the lunch break, this ingenious  snack set will  help you. 

The combination of wood and glass is special.

Good choice of colour for classical objects at the table.

The traveler in my loved this bottle, that it is also ecological.
There were the only models of fridges at the exhibition. The models are adapted to various space constraints, a reality of many German kitchen - which are very small.

It looks like some Snow white and the seven dwarfs setting.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A little bit of tasty history: Halloren Kugeln

Very often, I am curious not only to taste some products, but also to find out more what is behind the history of some. Sometimes, even if I don't taste, I am still curious about brands and their stories. I must confess that I did not pay too much attention to Halloren Kugeln, as I am not too much impressed by the products offered for sale in the 1 Euro shops. Invariably, if you enter one of those shops in Germany, you will find at least 2 sentiments of the Kugeln usually at a price under 1. 
Seriously, who is serious enough to put on the table such things when you are ready to pay at least 10 times more for box of fine chocolate available in any quality goodies store? However, as I am interested nowadays to read about the history of some German products - related to my travel writing project -, I stumbled several times about Halloren and decided that it can be a good opportunity to discover the Halloren to some of my friends. 
The feedback received was quite good: the products are creamy, sweet enough to accompany a light tea - Jasmin and Green tea, for instance. There are also good for the morning coffee or for an afternoon snack. With a bit of imagination, you can add them to a neutrally sweet ice cream, such as vanilla or mint. There are many sortiments available, such as: Strawberries, Liomoncello, Latte Macchiato, Stracciatella, Marzipan. The boxes look colourful and explicit about what you are about to taste. The little kugeln are packed in a plastic tray with plastic inserted and this bring a bit of elegance and distinction to a product that may be too cheap to be bought for some snobs. 
Halloren is producing chocolate in Germany, at Halle an der Salle, since 1804, being considerede one of the oldest factory of that kind in the country. From 1905, it is present on the stock exchange. At the beginning, they were producing only pralines, but the portfolio diversified and expanded permanently. The famous now Halloren globes were inspired by the buttons of the salt workers. Because the then owner Friedrich David was Jewish, the production was affected by the anti-Semitic legislation at the time and the production was stopped in 1943. It was restarted seven years after, when the factory was now to became one of the most popular brands in the former German Democratic Republic. More than 120 products were offered during those times. 
Once Germany reunited, Halloren repositioned as a product for the entire country and since then it tried to enter the easy market of sweets and quality chocolate. In terms of marketing strategy, offering a good product at a low price might be a good move.