Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A summer of eos beautiful lips

I am very careful when it comes to lips care, as either summer or winter, I do have once in a while issues with dry lips. I am usually the kind of person who needs a lot of time to find the right product, but once I am done, I'm stuck with it as long as possible, because it might work beautifully. Especially a frequent traveler as me needs products suited for various temperatures and weather conditions. Therefore, I was very interested in testing the newest limited edition product by the famous American company eos, distributed by the huge German drugstore retailer Rossmann
Recently, I was offered to review two lip balm products available in a Rossmann near you in the next months. They were delivered in a cute package, packed with product information and looking just cute yet small enough - each package weight 7g - to carry with you at work, at the beach or wherever your summer plans lead you next. As usual when it comes to product testing, I wanted to use them for at least two weeks before a review in order to cover all the aspects related to them.
I am not a big fan of fragrance and flavours infused products, therefore, the lemon twist - yellow box - and the fresh grapefruit taste weren't so impressive. But put aside those aspects, there is nothing else that might vouch against those cute lip balms. 
They offer UVA/UVB protection spf 15 - the lemon - respectively 30 which is perfect for the hot summer days - which I am still waiting to experience in the rainy Berlin. In both cases, the 100% natural flavor is enriched with antioxidant-rich vitamin E, jojoba oil and shea butter. The products are hypoallergenic, tested by dermatologists and paraben and petrolatum free. 
Once applied on lips, it gives a freshness and wellness feeling and you just feel how, at least for a couple of hours, it works hydrating and embelishing the lips. The egg shape allows a very practical and easy application, on the go. I wonder how will it be when it is almost over, but still have to wait some good weeks and maybe months to see.
The overall view is that despite my taste issues, it is a very efficient and recommended product for this summer. On eos website there is a wide range of similar products, some of them with exotic tastes such as blueberry acai, coconut milk or vanilla mint.

Disclaimer: Products offered by Rossmann via their program for bloggers, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

For the Love of Curry. Interview with Dan Toombs aka 'The Curry Guy'

Curry is tasty but not everyone can understand and cook it properly. Especially when you didn't grow up with the original flavors and meal textures. A British favourite, this food is a delight and a challenge for chefs. Dan Toombs, aka The Curry Guy, dedicates most of his professional time to explore this delicious meal. His latest book, available at Watersones, treats extensively about it, and he promises it is not his last. In an interview for Boiled Words he shared some of his thoughts and love for this exquisite dish. You can follow him on Twitter as (predictably) @TheCurryGuy or you can read more about his adventures on his blog.

How did your love for curry start?

I grew up in California and loved Mexican food. I cooked it all the time so cooking with different spices and chillies has always been something I enjoyed. When I moved to the UK, I was introduced to Indian food. It was new and exciting. I had to learn how to cook it. I liked it because so many of the spices and chillies that are used in Mexican food are also used in Indian food. It was so different to me but also strangely familiar.
What is your favorite curry recipe?

My favourite curry changes all the time. I’ve learned and developed so many recipes since starting my blog so I’m always finding new curries I really like. My current favourite is lamb nihari which is in my cookbook. I make it all the time for dinner guests. I love the spice mixture and the lamb shank meat that is fall off the bone tender.
At what extent the original curry recipes were adapted to the Western tastes? For instance, while traveling on Thailand, I noticed how different the original Thai food is from the usual meals labelled as such served in European restaurants...

The origin of curry house style food as we know it in the UK dates back to the late 40s when many immigrants from the Indian subcontinent purchased bombed out fish and chip shops after at the end of WW2. They served mainly British food but also began serving Indian inspired dishes to other immigrants. Spices were difficult and expensive to come by so often a curry might just be a beef stew with some curry powder stirred in. This ‘Indian’ food began to catch on with some of the general public.
In the 60s, 70s and 80s, restauranteurs began catering to the after pub crowd. The pubs had to close at 11pm, but at restaurants where food was being served, people could continue drinking. Going out for a curry after the pub closed became the thing to do, more for the drink than the food but the food did begin to catch on. With more and more people going out for a curry after the pub, restaurateurs needed to develop a way of serving people quickly and cheaply. They tailored recipes to the British taste cooking meat off the bone and using a lot of sauce. They developed a base curry sauce which was used in almost every curry from mild korma to the spiciest phaal. These recipes were passed down from chef to chef which helped standardize the recipes. This is why if you order a chicken korma in Edinburgh or London, you have a good idea what your curry will look and taste like.
What was the most challenging part of writing this cookbook?

I think it was trying to make all the essential preparation for cooking curry house style curries, both interesting and something people would want to try. The only way to match the flavour and texture of a British curry house curry is to prepare a base curry sauce. It is one of the things that make British curries different to what you would be served in the Indian subcontinent. The sauce is bland like a chicken stock but it can be used in so many different curries. Also the idea of pre-cooking meats and vegetables can seem like one step too far for some, but it must be done to get that flavour and ensure you can cook curries quickly and easily just like the chefs do at your local curry house.
What are your next plans as a chef?
I am currently writing my second cookbook. It will be published by Quadrille Publishing in May 2018. The working title is ‘Curry Guy Easy’ though that might change. The book featured over one hundred more curry house style recipes. Curry house cooking was developed for ease, efficiency and economy so it has been a bit of a challenge making the recipes even easier to make while not compromising flavour. I think I’ve done it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Makeup review: Soft eyeliners from Studio London

I love using eye-liner a lot. Sometimes, I only need a line around my eyes and I feel like nothing else matters. Especially when I am so busy all round the day, I would also love that the eye-liner lasts more than a couple of minutes, therefore, I don't need to refresh the makeup every couple of hours.
My latest addition of Studio London eyeliners is the perfect ingredient for a fashionable summer, without too much effort. 

The four nuances of my pencils - brown, beige, blue and grey - are pastels, easy for the morning, middle of the day and the evening too. You can easily match them at the beach, for a shopping spree or an early hiking - yes, I am that kind of person who uses a little bit of make-up even when about to embark on a camping adventure - or a glamorous date. They are soft and you can use them together with light, pastel make-up eye shadows. A good Mascara accentuates the colourful effect and makes your eyes shining brighter in the colours of the summer. 
The blue might be a bit too strong nuance, if you are not so brave when it comes to make-up, but you can soften with some light shades. The grey and beige do have some nice metallic shades which are both distinguish and elegant. 
Although are bigger than the usual eyeliners, you can easily carry in your makeup purse, so no extra space needed. 
My only inconvenience was that after so much - almost daily - use, I needed to sharpen them and as they are quite big, I had to find the right sharpener. Fortunatelly, I've found a two-size - very big and small - sharpener by Rival de Loop at Rossmann's, which was perfect to get them back in shape.
Overall, I recommend the soft eyeliners, especially if you like some special nuances on your eyes. Easy to apply and to match, this 4-pencil collection is a good addition to your makeup studio, especially if you want to try something completely different this summer. Or, to keep the summer on for the rest of the year.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The thing with the kosher salt

Morton is a famous kosher salt in USA. Photo: Walmart website
'What is the big deal of using kosher salt?', 'What it is so special about this?' I am often asked by non-Jewish friends, intrigued that even the salt should be kosher in order to be accepted in a clean kitchen. 
In fact, things are easier as they look like. The confusion and questions would have been avoided if instead of 'kosher salt', it would have been named 'koshering salt'. This coarse-grained salt made from salt crystals and usually not iodized is used to kosher the meat, meaning it is strong enough to absorb the blood, therefore his qualities. Structurally and chemically, there is not a big difference between kosher and the usual table salt, as both are close to the composition of 100% pure NaCl. Eventually, the kosher has some traces of additional elements. 
Besides this, due to its special processing, it has noteworthy qualities every good cook appreciates. For instance, it disolves more quickly, it is less refined, versatile, is recommended for seasoning meat, and last but not least, it can be easily pick between your fingers and thus, you have a tighter control over seasoning. 
As for the kosher stamp, some brands do have the required Rabbinical approval when it comes to highly observant people, especially during Pesach - Passover - when should be sure that no crumbs fell during the preparation process. But otherwise, as salt is a mineral, regardless of the brand and the kashrut supervision, it is always kosher. 
In case you are looking for some good kosher salt brands, Morton and Diamond Crystal are the best known and recommended.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Some inspiration to set up your perfect kitchen

Building up your perfect kitchen is a big challenge, especially if you cope with the restrictions of the small spaces assigned to this part of the room in most of the old style Berlin apartments. Most probably people here were not used to have big families and do not cook at home that much, therefore no need to waste a big room for that.
Which means that, from the beginning, when it comes to setting up your kitchen, you need to take into consideration your needs, including your habits as a cook. For instance, if you have a family of 5, and you cook all the meals, you definitely need a big space and a lot of appliances for your kitchen. Somehow, I discovered that if you are smart enough, you can easily adapt to what you have too. Me, I started to cook when I already had the current home where the kitchen is quite narrow, but I did a better space management. When I have to cook a lot, especially for the holidays, I am using the big table from the living room and it served perfectly my purposes.
If you are kosher conscious family, you might need some additional restrictions, as you need a sink and a counter separate for meat and milk.
I am personally a minimalist, but I still need some special requirements: a fridge, a heater, a good light - very useful especially when I have to cook during the short days of autumn and long winters, a special space for the three sorts of garbage - plastic, paper and usual, a counter with the toaster, coffee machine, an area where I have my basic utensils, a big space for my cleaning tools and substances, some space for my cooking books. a counter for my basic ingredients and dried foods - at least three separate types of pasta. I also need a special space for my many spices and another one for the pans and other cooking vessels. 
As I am still in the middle of the home redesign I still have a lot of things to set up in the kitchen, the floor covering is not yet decided, but for cleaning reasons, I prefer the vinyl, preferably a black - dark colour. Other possible options are wood or tiles. I will never ever have a carpet in the kitchen. Another element I need for my kitchen is a big window - at least one - as after a lot of cooking, you always need fresh air in the house. Especially if you are during the festival of Hanukkah, when you have to cook with a lot of oil. If you have a smoke detector in the kitchen - as I do - be aware that it might start sounding worry after the 3rd batch of latkes.
A lot of aestethic considerations are also important for creating a kitchen where you feel good and you can cook safely: the colour of the walls and how does it matches the furniture - for instance, light colours are creating the impression of a bigger space; the electricity settings that should always checked properly with a professional; creating a special counter for flowers and various fresh pots of basilicum or parsley among many others; a clock on the wall to count the time. I also added some nice photos on the wall, and some inspirational quotes, to make me feel good and entertain me intellectually during my kitchen chores. 
A table with chairs for the kitchen is a luxury, but it can create a family ambiance during the week, and a nice family space for sharing the daily plans and the achievements of the day.
If you have little children you should take seriously into consideration various safety standards, including by avoiding to set up in accessible places items that might be harmful. 
Generally speaking, setting up a kitchen is a serious, long-term and expensive adventure. But it can be a life-long investment and should be seriously considered, including by hiring the right specialists for the electric details, interior design and safety issues. 

Photos made at the Poggen Pohl store at Stilwerk, Berlin, Germany 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

My first yellow curry noodles recipe

It is not a secret that I usually create my meals based on foods I taste and like in restaurants. As someone who dealt for a long time with various eating disorders, I avoided for a long time to touch many foods therefore, creating my own recipes was impossible at the beginning as I did not know how to match the tastes. Those times are hopefully long gone, but there are still a lot of combinations I am unfamiliar with and at a certain point it is normal, especially when it comes to foods I haven't grow up with.
A couple of days ago, exhausted after too many baby tantrums and home chores, I decided to eat out, at a new Vegetarian street food Vietnamese restaurant around the corner. I ordered a yellow curry with veggies and was delighted and a couple of days after, I tried to recreate my own recipe (I added okra and eliminated the tofu).
Here is my (relatively) limited success:
1 pack Mie Asli Indonesian noodles - they are spices with turmeric, quick to cook and suitable for any kind of noodle dishes
400 ml. coconut milk
1 medium onion sliced
100 gr. okra cut in rondels
150 gr. sweet corn halved
one medium sized yellow pepper cut into small pieces
two tablespoon corn oil
1/2 teaspoon of rasped ginger
3 tablespoon yellow curry pasta

In a pan, add the curry pasta and the oil and mix well at 250C, until it gets a sauce consistency. If necessary, add some water and mix well for around 5 minutes.
Separately, boil water and add the Mie noodles. After 5 minutes, pour the water out, mix the noodles and eventually add some cold water.
In a pan, at 250 add the coconut milk and mix until it boils, for around 3 minutes. Add the onion, okra, pepper, the yellow corn and mix until is boiling - an average of around 10 minutes. Continue with the yellow curry sauce and the noodles. Mix well for another 3 minutes.
Serve it hot.
My only problem was the choice of the yellow curry pasta which was not the best quality, therefore the taste was not a bit different of what I had at the restaurant but also a little - but only a little bit - rancid.
As a first time experience it was great to test my cooking abilities and probably I need to do more documentation the next time when I am trying, especially when it comes to the choice of the curry.

Preparation time
15 minutes

Cooking time
20 minutes

Serves 4

Bon App├ętit!