Friday, June 29, 2007

Gone Fishing...


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... well not quite yet and not quite fishing. But as of tomorrow I'll be taking a short vacation. I am so looking forward to this as we all (my little family) need the break. We are planning on enjoying every single day on the beach, in the sea, going on long bike rides, picnicking and just getting as much of each other as possible. Which during the usual routine of the week falls short.

What you see above is my entry to this month's Monthly Mingle. As I won't be around next week thought I'd show you all that I did actually make my ice-cream creation for the event. The recipe however, will be shared when I return.



If you want to take part then send me your entries by July 4th. You can read all about the details here.
I won't be taking my notebook nor do I plan to check mails - as a matter of fact both Tom and I have promised each other to leave all this behind. Even the photos I take will be first reviewed when I get back. So, I won't be able to answer your mails. But when I return I hope to see some of the most gorgeous ice-creams ever. I can tell you the entries I've already got are incredible!

In the meantime you are all welcome to take a guess at what fruit I used in this ice-cream. Those are the lovely orange-yellow bits you see. No you do not win anything for that.

But you will, if you can guess where I am going to on vacation. That's right take a look at the satellite shot below and give your guesses in the comments section of this post. The first one to leave the correct answer can choose their very own favorite picture taken by me. Pick out any photo you particularly like on my blog here or on my Flickr Phototstream and I will send you a small/medium sized poster (depending on the crop of the photo) of the original picture (without the frames, titles and copyright). You are welcome to leave multiple answers, but I'll pick the first one from the list ;-)!


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Photo courtesy Google Maps


You do not have to give the exact name of the city/town, but I would like the region/area and the country. So, say if you think I am going to Italy then I need the area or region - Tuscany, Italy. Of course, if you are sure then you are welcome to leave the name of the city/town too - Florence, Tuscany, Italy. Got it?

There are a few close blogger buddies I have already told where I am headed. You lot should not leave a comment - you can of course help me and mislead the rest of the folks LOL!

I am quite happy that the last time I did this the gorgeous Pille won. She already chose her fave picture and I will be sending it out to her as soon as I get back.

If you still need things to keep you busy in my absence I'd like to direct you to the brilliant The Daily Tiffin. I say brilliant because if you have not been regularly reading the blog you might have missed a few fantastic articles written by the DT team, some of the lovely ladies you might just recognize from their own awesome blogs. A few recent posts you might enjoy:I wish those who celebrate it - Happy July 4th. To all of you I'm missing you all already!

Hugs!




All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Real Honest Jewish Purist's Bagels

Daring Bakers June Challenge

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It's almost the end of the month and that usually can only mean one thing - it's time to join the Daring Bakers and our adventures in baking. This month it was the lovely Quellia of All Things Edible who was supposed to choose our challenge. As always we waited impatiently for the June's challenge to be posted on the Daring Baker's blog. After May's challenge I admit I was feeling invincible and was on such a high as I had conquered and tamed a few tough processes in every pastry chef's career. Then the hammer fell!

Quellia spilled the beans ... or should I say the bagels! She had chosen pure, honest, Jewish bagels, just as they are supposed to be made, as our challenge. My first thought: "UGH!! Yeast - all that kneading and rising!!" I am not a bread/dough maker - avoid it whenever I can and with the exception of pizza dough never wanted anything to do with yeast. But I am a Daring Baker, so I rolled up my sleeves and decided to take the challenge on.

I decided to do this early on in the month as I had the perfect occasion - my birthday! There would be many guinea pigs around for me to try this challenge on!

As with each challenge, we have to stick to the exact recipe given by the host and are allowed only a few modifications. The allowed modifications for the bagels were:
  • Topping of our choice, savory recommended, for the outside of the bagels only. No added ingredients or flavours inside the bagels.
  • Filling or spread of ou choice for the outside of the bagel. (i.e. flavoured cream cheese or peanut butter)
  • Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient is not available or cost prohibitive in our region.
So, what are real, honest, Jewish bagels? Most of us know that bagels came to the US from the Jewish shtetls of Eastern Europe, however the exact origin of this roll with a hole in the middle cannot be pinpointed.

Legend has it that the first bagel was created in 1683 when a baker in Vienna wanted to pay tribute the Polish King Jan III Sobieski for saving the people of Austria from Turkish invaders. Since the king was known to have a passion for riding, the baker made rolls in the shape of a stirrup, known in German as beugel. The roll soon became a hit throughout Eastern Europe.

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In the 1880s as hundreds of immigrants of Eastern European Jews came to New York, they brought the bagel with them. They were widely sold throughout the city, with the vendors threading the hole-shaped bread onto dowels and hawked them on street corners. Then in 1907 the International Bagel Bakers Union was founded in New York City. The members of this group fiercely safeguarded the recipe for bagels. These were usually boiled or "kettled" in vats of boiling hot water before baking. Traditionally the bagel bakers worked in teams of four, two men making the dough and shaping the bagels, one boiling them and the fourth baking them.

After World War I, Meyer Thompson, the son of a bagel baker in Winnipeg, Canada experimented with several bagel baking machines in his workshop above the family bakery. None of the models he invented actually made it as they all had major flaws. However, in the 1960s his son, Daniel, picked up where his father left off and finally invented the Thompson Bagel Machine. This machine was capable of making 200 to 400 bagels an hour, causing the bagel to enter mainstream America with such popularity that within a few years bagel consumption in the US skyrocketed. Unfortunately the tradition of hand formed bagels virtually vanished as did the purity and simplicity of the roll. Bagels are now available with all kinds of flavors added to the dough and are frozen in large packs available in supermarkets around the world.

This probably makes the old members of the Bagel Bakers Union shudder in their graves. But here we are, a group of Daring Bakers who have decided to take bagel baking back to it's old tradition. No added flavors, no machines and 100% hand made.

More interesting resources:
Wikipedia: Bagel



Basic Bagel Recipe

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Ingredients

600-800g (6-8 cups) bread (high-gluten) flour
30g (4 tablespoons) dry baking yeast
130g (6 tablespoons) light honey - you can also use granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups hot water
vegetable oil
water to boil the bagel in
3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar - I used the sugar as I was unable to get malt syrup
a couple handfuls of cornmeal

Equipment:

Large mixing bowl
Wire whisk
Measuring cups and spoons
Wooden mixing spoon
Butter knife or baker's dough blade
Clean, dry surface for kneading
3 clean, dry kitchen towels
Warm, but not hot, place to set dough to rise
Large stockpot
Slotted spoon
2 baking sheets




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Method

Step 1- Proof Yeast:
Pour three cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can't bear to put your fingers in it for several seconds at a time. Add the sugar or honey and stir it with your fingers or with a wire whisk to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and stir to dissolve.

Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to revive and grow. Skipping this step could result in making bagels with dead yeast, which will result in hard and potentially dangerous bagels. The yeast is good if it begins to foam and exude a sweetish, slightly beery smell.

Step 2- Make Dough:
At this point, add about three cups of flour as well as the 2 tsp of salt to the water and yeast and begin mixing it in. Use your hands for this as you really get the perfect feel for the consistency of the dough. If you are not keen on using your hands then a wooden spoon will also work.
When you have incorporated the first three cups of flour, the dough should begin to become thickish. Add more flour, a half-cup or so at a time, and mix each addition thoroughly before adding more flour. As the dough gets thicker, add less and less flour at a time.

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Step 3- Knead Dough:
Knead the dough in a big and shallow bowl or on a clean, dry, flat counter top. Sprinkle your work surface or bowl with a handful of flour, put your dough on top, and start kneading. Add bits of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, to the bowl or counter top. Keep kneading until the dough is nice and stiff. This may take 8 to 10 minutes. It will be quite elastic, but heavy and stiffer than a normal bread dough. It should not be too dry, however, it should still give and stretch easily without tearing.

Step 4- Let Dough Rise:
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with a clean and damp kitchen towel. Swish the dough around in the bowl to coat the whole ball of dough with a very thin film of oil. This will keep it from drying out.

Place the bowl with the dough in it in a dry, warm (but not hot) place, free from drafts. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume. Some people try to accelerate rising by putting the dough in the oven, where the pilot lights keeps the temperature slightly elevated. If you choose to do this, remember to leave the oven door open or it may become too hot and begin to kill the yeast and cook the dough. An ambient temperature of about 25 degrees C (80F) is ideal for rising dough.

Step 5- Prepare Water for Bagels:
While the dough is rising, fill the stockpot with water and set it on the heat to boil. When it reaches a rolling boil, add the sugar (or malt syrup) and reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers; the surface of the water should hardly move.

Step 6- Form Bagels:
Once the dough has risen, turn it onto the work surface, punch it down, and divide immediately into as many chunks as you want to make bagels. With this recipe, I got 12 bagels. Begin forming the bagels. There are two schools of thought on this. One method of bagel formation involves shaping the dough into a rough sphere, then poking a hole through the middle with a finger and then pulling at the dough around the hole to make the bagel.

This is the hole-centric method. I used this method, as the dough is so easy to work with and allows you to shape and punch holes into the balls very easily. What I did was punch my thumb through the center of each roll and then rotated the dough, working it so that the bagel is as even in width as possible.

The dough-centric method involves making a long cylindrical "snake" of dough and wrapping it around your hand into a loop and mashing the ends together. This method seems to be a little trickier as care must be taken that the ends do not come undone when boiling the rolls so, that you have bagel loafs instead of rolls.

Remember not to give in to the temptation of using a doughnut or cookie cutter to shape the bagels. This will push them out of the realm of Jewish Bagel Authenticity.

Do not worry if the bagels are not perfectly shaped or symmetrical. This is normal. The diversity adds to the rustic look of the bagels and each bagel is unique.

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Step 7- Pre-heat Oven:
Begin to preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400F).

Step 8- Half Proof and Boil Bagels:
Once the bagels are formed, let them rest for about 10 minutes. They will begin to rise slightly. Ideally, they will rise by about one-fourth volume. This technique is called "half-proofing" the dough. At the end of the half-proofing, drop two or three bagels into the simmering water, making sure not to overcrowd them in the pot.

The bagels should sink first, then gracefully float to the top of the simmering water. Mine did not sink very much, they floated. But it did not bother me at all as I was so happy I had managed to get so far without blowing it. Apparently if they are "floaters", the texture is more bready rather than bagely.

Let the bagel simmer for about three minutes, then turn them over with a skimmer or a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, and then lift the bagels out of the water and set them on a clean kitchen towel that has been spread on the counter top for this purpose. The bagels should be pretty and shiny, thanks to the malt syrup or sugar in the boiling water.

Step 9- Bake Bagels:
Once all the bagels have been boiled, prepare the baking sheets by sprinkling them with cornmeal. Then arrange the bagels on the prepared baking sheets and put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn them over and put them back in the oven to finish baking for about ten minutes more. This will help to prevent flat-bottomed bagels. Something I forgot to do!

Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. Do not attempt to cut them until they are cool. Hot bagels slice abominably and you'll end up with a wadded mass of bagel pulp. Don't do it.

My Bagel Toppings

Bagels can be topped with anything you like. Just remember that bagels are essentially a savory baked good, not a sweet one, and so things like fruit and sweet spices are really rather out of place. I made my bagels with two types of toppings. I used my muesli mix and some hazelnut slivers.

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1 egg white
3 tablespoons water
Mix of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, soya kernels and pine nuts - this mix is what I usually make every weekend to add to my muesli/cornflakes during the week.
Finely sliced hazelnut slivers

After boiling but before baking, brush the bagels with a wash made of 1 egg white and 3 tablespoons ice water beaten together. Sprinkle the bagels with the toppings and then bake in the oven.

Useful tips:
Allrecipes - Forming Bagels




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Verdict
This was the easiest dough to make and to work with. I never thought it would be so simple. It rose beautifully and fast.

I was expecting it all to be more complicated and also expecting a few things to go wrong along the way. I was worried about the yeast and then about forming them, then about boiling them. But it all went smoothly. Even the fact that the bagels did not sink when placed in the simmering water did not bother me too much. For this first time I was working for results. The next time I make these I will be working for perfection.

In the taste department they were not that bready as I expected them to be due to the floating issue. They tasted great. As I said, I made these on the Saturday of my birthday. We had a few sleep over guests and on Sunday I served them for breakfast. I toasted a few in the toaster and re-warmed others in the oven. They were brilliant and my guests loved being pampered with fresh baked goods for breakfast. They were eaten with jams and honey, however I made a great filling for the bagels which was devoured to the very last bite. That will be revealed in a separate post!


Would I make these again?
Yes, I would. I would not change anything here maybe cut the recipe in half for the three of us. Otherwise, this recipe is one that will be made often in my kitchen. Nothing like fresh homemade bagels. You know what? I will also be kneading with my hands the next time round too. No machine. There was something so therapeutical about kneading the dough. I was able to punch my frustration out. The bagels did not mind they still tasted fantastic. What I will do next time is to take more care by making sure I really get as much air out of the dough as possible to get them to really sink. Let's see how it work.

What did I learn from this challenge?
I do not need to be frightened of yeast. Nor do I need to dread kneading. This challenge provided an easy and workable method, taking my fears of yeast away. As I mentioned earlier, the results was a wonderful dough that rose beautifully and was always easy to work with. Now, I am dying to try several recipes I put aside and feel confident enough to master a few.

Am I still feeling invincible?
Yes!!

I thank Quellia for this brilliant challenge. For all those who want to see the results of the rest of the group head on over to Quellia's or to co-host, Freya's for a roundup of this months challenge. Alternatively, you can simply click your way through my Daring Bakers blogroll.

Hope you all enjoyed making bagels with us and I look forward to seeing you next month with a new challenge.

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All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sweet Strawberry Sin - Mille Feuille

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Well, my variation of the Mille Feuille.

There are certainly many pastries and desserts I love and regular readers of this blog will know that I do have a very sweet tooth. However, I would say I have a kind of top 5 (ummm ... top 10, 15, 20!) and if I was ever to kick the bucket and had one last wish, I think I would definitely wish to have all my top 5 (10, 15, 20) spread out in front of me so I could indulge my sweet tooth one last time. Without a guilty conscious, no repents and no calorie counting.

One of the items on the table would be the Mille Feuille. I just love this flaky cream filled pastry. Layer upon layer of delicious bites. As I spent a larger part of my younger life growing up in some grand hotels with excellent cuisine, I also was lucky enough to be able to savor some great desserts. The Swiss pastry chef at the Sheraton in Doha was an ace! He made the most tempting Mille Fueille ever. It was his chocolate Mille Fueille that had me go into a frenzy every time. One of the best moments of my life was when he surprised me on my 16th birthday with a Mille Fueille cake. It was incredible.

So, when The Domestic Goddess told us to make The Sweetest Thing to satisfy our craving for this round of Sugar High Friday, which actually is back home with its creator, I kind of already had a good idea of what I would be doing - a chocolate Mille Fueille.

OK, so you all are probably looking at the picture and thinking "Where did she hide that chocolate?" Right? Well don't bother looking - because there is no chocolate there.

I decided to play around a little. I thought I can do chocolate anytime, but it would be such a shame not to use the bounties of summer. Fresh fruit and berries were literally shouting at me to be creative with them. The puff pastry was covered thanks to this recipe. I had plenty left over in the freezer. With a rough idea in my mind I set of to the Farmers Market.

I returned with a huge crate of fresh juicy self-picked strawberries and with a perfect idea of how my Mille Fueille was going to look.


Strawberries

StrawberriesInFloweredPot01


Strawberries scream summer to me. Nothing compares to popping a juicy strawberry that has been ripened to perfection in the early summer sun. Strawberries, however, are a lot more than satisfying that berry sweet tooth. They are filled with tons of health benefits, making it a nutritious fruit for the mind and the body.

Strawberries contain several nutrients, with vitamin C heading the group. In fact, one cup of fresh strawberries provides about 88 milligrams of ascorbic acid, which more than meets the Recommended Daily Dietary allowance of 45 milligrams for the average adult. Vitamin C is well retained when the strawberries are handled carefully. Capping, injuring, cutting, or juicing, however, will reduce the vitamin content.

They also contain significant levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants, which fight free radicals. These antioxidant properties are believed to be linked to what makes the strawberry bright red. Free radicals are elements that can damage cells, and they are thought to contribute to the formation of many kinds of cancer.

In addition to vitamin C, strawberries also provide an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese, as well as folic acid, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, copper, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Strawberries are low in calories with one cup of unsweetened strawberries having only 55 calories.

The first thing that generally comes to the mind when strawberries are mentioned is strawberry and cream. However, strawberries are so versatile they can be used in baked goods, salads, beverages, dipped, but they taste best when eaten plain.

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Unfortunately, strawberries are quite perishable. So it is advisable to purchase fresh strawberries only a few days before they are to be eaten. When strawberries are in season locally this is rarely a problem. But at other times of the year, it may be necessary to make due with frozen strawberries, which lose much if not all of their nutrition.

Choose strawberries that are plump, firm, free of mold and have a deep red color. Unlike other fruits, strawberries do not continue to ripen after they are picked, so choose the ripest and reddest strawberries. These will provide the best taste and offer the highest nutrient density. Often medium sized strawberries are sweeter and more flavorful than larger ones. When buying pre-packaged strawberries, make sure that the berries have not been packed too tightly. This could cause them to be crushed or otherwise damaged.

Before using or storing, sort through the strawberries and separate the soft ones from the firm, fully ripe berries. Discard any mushy or spoiled berries. The best way to store them is in a colander in the refrigerator. This will allow the cold air to circulate around them. Do not cover them. Remove caps from strawberries only after washing.

Prepare strawberries for serving by rinsing with caps still attached under a gentle spray of cool water; pat dry with a paper towel. Removing the caps before washing will cause the water to break down the texture and flavor inside the berries. Wash the berries just before you plan to use them.

Puff pastry, strawberries - check, check. For the cream I thought I would do something similar the the cream I used in this dessert. With all this in my head I set out to make my own Mille Feuille creation.



Reminder!


Send me your ice cream creation for July's MM - Scream For Ice Cream over to me soon.
Deadline is July 4th!








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Ingredients

450g homemade Puff pastry - you can also use store bought
A small handful flour
3 tablespoons icing sugar
250g mascarpone
250g Quark
1 vanilla bean - insides scraped
100g icing sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime
200g fresh strawberries - coarsely chopped




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Method

Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C. Prepare a baking tray, by lining it with a sheet of baking paper. Keep your second baking tray nearby.

To make the puff pastry circles spread the dough on a floured counter top and roll into a large enough rectangular form. Using a cookie cutter, small tart form or a glass, cut approx. 10 to 12 circular forms. Place each circle on the baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with another sheet of baking paper. Using the second tray, place this on top of the tray with the pastry circles to weigh them down. Bake the circles for 8-10 minutes. Take out, remove the tray and the baking paper from the pastry, which should be golden and crispy.

Sprinkle each circle with some icing sugar. Using the grill function of your oven allow the sugar to caramelize on the puffy pastry circles. This normally takes just a couple of minutes so make sure you keep a close watch, otherwise they'll burn quickly. Take out of the oven, flip over, sprinkle this side with icing sugar and once again caramelize under the grill. Take out and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the mascarpone, quark, vanilla, lime zest and juice into a smooth cream. Gently fold in the strawberries. Do not mix too vigorously or else the strawberries will get mushy.

To assemble your treat, spread a nice helping of the cream and strawberries on one of the caramelized puff pastry circles. Cover with a second circle and ever so gently press it down to fix together.
Serve immediately and fresh.

Et voila!
My take on the Mille Feuille.




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Verdict

Yes, this satisfies all my cravings for a sweet flaky pastry with a creamy filling and fruity berries. How awesome is that? Both Tom and Soeren just loved these little weekend treats. The recipe makes a perfect amount of 5 or 6 and unbelievably they disappeared really fast. I was lucky I could get a few shots of these. To really enjoy the crispy flaky texture of the puff pastry, they must be eaten on the same day otherwise, the pastry turns soggy.

Hope you enjoy them!

More strawberry sensations:
Refreshing: Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
Strawberry Kisses - Strawberry Almond Muffins
Fruity - Strawberry Mango Jam
A dessert with a twist - Strawberry Asparagus Salad with Orange Filets


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All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Poppy Passion

Poppy Passion

Last week I went on a bike trip with Soeren and found a gorgeous Poppy field. Red and pink almost as far as the eye could see. It was an amazing sight. Luckily I had remembered to bring my camera with me.

Soeren picked a few to make a lovely bouquet for his teacher and I started shooting with my camera. A few men headed our way with mowers and tractors looked at me strangely, then they started their machines and began to cut the poppy field down.

It was a real shame but I still got a few nice shots. Thought I'd share one with you. Isn't summer just great?

Have a great Sunday!




All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

Friday, June 22, 2007

An Indian Breakfast

Bollywood Cooking: Spicy Egg and Mushroom Roll & Masala Chai

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Indians love their breakfast. Each region of India has a marvelous variety of hot and cold dishes to start the day. Although in the modern cities today, with most family members working, breakfast has usually come to mean a simple sandwich or increasingly cornflakes, you will still find many families enjoying a hot breakfast every morning.

The south offers steaming hot rice cakes called idlis and pancakes called dosas. These are served with an assortment of colorful relishes made with coconuts, mangoes or hot chillies.
In Bombay (Mumbai) spiced rice slivers called pawa are cooked with onions, potatoes and green peas to provide a nutritious start to the day.

The north provides big hearty breakfasts. As farming is the main occupation of the people living here, breakfasts need to be more robust. Housewives and mums will serve their families different varieties of stuffed bread called parathas, which is accompanied with a refreshing relish and washed down with cooling lassi

Other popular dishes include fried bread served with spiced potatoes - the classic puri-bhaji, scrambled eggs and omelettes made with spices, potatoes and onions and served with flat breads or porridge made from cracked wheat or oats and served either sweetened with sugar or accompanied by hot spicy pickles.

And, not forgetting fresh fruit. Mangoes, papayas, watermelon, sapotas (chikoo in Indian), pomegranate, apples and many other types of fruit are always served at breakfast, making an excellent start to the day.

Although tea is the more common drink in many parts of India, in the south of India, coffee is the caffeine provider of choice. Many people buy the beans raw and roast them at home. Both tea and coffee are flavored with aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg.

I remember when we would visit my grandparents in New Delhi, indulging in the breakfasts prepared by my grandma was always the highlight of each day.

The day for my grandparents would begin early - at 5 AM. Once, I was about 9 or 10, I too decided to get up early and accompany my grandparents on their early morning ritual, when the rest of the family were still fast asleep. My granddad and I collected two steel containers from the kitchen and set out on the short walk to the milk depot, where every morning fresh milk was delivered. My grandfather, tall and elegant, personified a respectful figure in the community and was greeted by everyone we passed.

"Sasriakal, Bhagwan Singhji!" (Good morning, Bhagwan Sigh sir). Even his name matched the names of Gods. See, in Hindi/Punjabi Bhagwaan means God! I was always left in awe of him. He was my idol in every way.

As we arrived at the depot there were already a few people lined up, waiting for the cracked wooden doors to open. In the meantime, important chit-chat and small talk was made.

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Returning home, we delivered the fresh milk to my grandma and her house-help in the kitchen, both busy with the preparations of breakfast. My granddad poured himself a large glass of the white liquid in one of the steel glasses and gulped it down in one go. That gave me the shudders as I never was the one to drink pure milk. He looked down at me, wiping the remains from his white beard and mustache.

"Come, it's time to go to the Gurdwara."

The clock had just struck six and my granddad, grandma and me quickly washed ourselves and walked to our temple. I loved going to the Gurdwara and still do whenever I visit my parents. I would look up at the pictures of our Gurus in awe, then looking at my grandfather I would smile with pride. The resemblance to our Guru Nanak Dev was uncanny.

As we got home it was still quiet around the house. My grandfather would sit on the porch and unfold his daily newspaper. Our house-help brought him a cup hot masala tea and few biscuits. It was almost seven and breakfast was not going to be ready for another hour. As I joined my grandma in the kitchen, she was busy kneading dough for fresh bread. The house-help was cutting steamed potatoes for the stuffing and I got to lay the table.

Just after eight the larger part of the family was seated at the table. My cousins, my aunts and uncles, mum and dad - all visiting from the US or Qatar gathered around to enjoy a wonderful traditional Indian breakfast. Stuffed bread, eggs, relishes, tea, milk, yogurt and fruit was plentiful and the chatter was lively. Glancing at my grandparents, I saw them nod and smile at each other, wordlessly they both knew what the other was thinking.

To honor two of my favorite people and to the memories of those wonderful times, I would like to serve you a lovely Indian breakfast.




Spicy Egg and Mushroom Roll


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Ingredients

6 large eggs - beaten
Salt and pepper
Canola oil
1/2 teaspoon black cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
150 g mushrooms - I used button mushrooms - sliced
Fresh cilantro leaves - chopped




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Method

Season the beaten eggs with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a heavy pan add the oil and heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry till they change color and spread a wonderful aroma.

Add all the spiced powders and then immediately add the mushrooms. Stir until the mushrooms have softened. Remove from heat and reserve.

Using a kitchen paper towel wipe the pan. Pour about a quarter of the beaten egg in a thin layer, swirling it around to even it. Once it turns golden at the bottom, flip it over and cook the other side. Keep warm and make the rest of the omelets in the same way.

Season the mushrooms with salt (adding salt to the mushrooms earlier makes them watery). To assemble the egg roll, place an omelet on a serving dish. Spread a quarter of the mushroom mixture down the middle. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and fold both sides to make a roll.

Serve warm with toasted bread or a typical Indian flatbread (coming soon) and hot masala tea as below.



Indian Masala Chai

Tea in India is often flavored to provide a variety or to make it more healing. Brewing for fragrance and flavor, you will often be served tea with many spices and herbs. Generally, Indian tea is made by boiling the tea leaves in water and adding milk to the saucepan before it is taken off the heat. You will never see an Indian adding cold milk to their tea, as it reduces the temperature of the tea and also leaves the milk "uncooked".

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Ingredients

4 small pieces fresh ginger - crushed
4 shavings nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks
4 green cardamom pods - lightly crushed
5-7 teaspoons good quality black tea leaves
Dash of milk
Pinch of sugar



Method

In a small pot bring about 4-5 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add the ginger and the spices to the water and reduce the heat. Simmer for approx. 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and add the tea leaves. Let it steep for 5 minutes. Bring the pot back to the heat and add a dash of milk and sugar. Warm through making sure that the liquid does not boil again. This turns the tea leaves bitter.

Using a strainer, strain the brewed tea into a teapot. Enjoy hot!



IndianBreakfast06


Verdict

In my little family our breakfast ritual is normally reserved for the weekend. Then Tom and Soeren go down and lay the table and go to the bakery for fresh bread. In the meantime I will cook up breakfast. Whatever the craving might be. Scrambled eggs, omelets, French toast or just boiled eggs with cheese and a variety of spreads like fruit jams and honey. Sometimes, I go back to my roots and cook up a nice Indian breakfast like this. It satisfies my desire to get in touch with my roots and also takes me back down memory lane. Tom and Soeren thoroughly enjoy this kind of breakfast. Different to the usual Continental breakfasts, this is spiced and flavorful. At our table there is also chatter - about what's on schedule for the weekend. I can't help but sit back, sipping my masala tea and hope that my grandparents are looking down on us, smiling and nodding at each other knowingly.

More great breakfast ideas:


My entry to Weekend Breakfast Blogging created by Nandita and hosted by Trupti. The theme this month Spice It Up





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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Melt In Your Mouth Beef Ragout

JamieBeefRagout04

This is going to be the best beef ragout you'll ever make and ever eat. I promise you that! My two judges at home promise you that! Jamie promises you that!

Although we are full blown into the summer with temperatures hitting over 30 degrees C, when I set eyes on this recipe I knew there was no waiting till the seasons changed where a dish like this would be more appropriate in the cooler months.



No, this could not wait. I needed to make it as soon as I read it. It put me in a trance and I just could not stop thinking about it. My thoughts would wander to the ingredients and to the cooking method. I kept wondering if I added this or that how would it taste. See that is the effect this wonderful cookbook has on me at the moment. I am, of course, talking about Jamie Oliver's Cook With Jamie (not available in the USA yet). I raved about the book when I first tried that amazing trout and after this rich ragout I was addicted.

The flavors of this dish are incredibly intense, the meat is unbelievably soft, the sauce deliciously rich and together it melts in your mouth in perfect harmony.

For a change I am not going to go on here and get straight to the recipe. Just remember: as soon as you read this, a supernatural urge to savor the flavors of the dish will take over and you will not be able to think about anything else (vegetarians not included).

I did make a few changes to the recipe, nothing too drastic, as we are not too hot on celery, I substituted it with parsnip.



Melt in Your Mouth Beef Ragout
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Cook With Jamie

JamieBeefRagout02


Ingredients

1 kg beef brisket - try getting organic beef, removing as much fat from the piece and cut into approx. 5 cm cubes
2 cans (each 400 g) good quality tomatoes
2 red onions - coarsely diced
3 carrots - coarsely diced
3 parsnips - coarsely diced
4-6 garlic cloves - unpeeled
a few rosemary twigs
2 dried bay leaves
1 handful dried porcini
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon flour
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 l Chianti
Olive oil




JamieBeefRagout03


Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. In a large, heavy, oven-proof casserole dish or pot add a good squirt of olive oil and allow to get hot. Add the onions, carrots, parsnip, garlic, herbs, porcini and the cinnamon and sauté for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are slightly softer.

In the meantime place the flour in a ziploc bag and add the beef cubes, which you generously salted and peppered before. Close the bag and give it a good shake so that the meat is lightly coated with the flour.

Add the meat to the vegetables and stir together. Add the tomatoes, wine and more salt and pepper. Give it all a good stir and bring to a boil.

Cover the casserole with extra-strong aluminum foil and then place the lid firmly on top. Put into the oven and leave to simmer for approx. 3 hours. Resist yourself from opening the lid and peeling the foil back to taste. It'll be hard because the aromas that fill your kitchen will be irresistible - but please do try. It'll keep all those yummy flavors sealed in the ingredients.

When it's done the meat should be extremely tender and you should be able to cut through it with a spoon. Remove the bay leaves, rosemary and cinnamon stick.

Serve immediately.




JamieBeefRagout01


Verdict
We had this just the way Jamie suggests - with mashed potatoes and fresh baby spinach that I lightly sautéed. Both Tom and Soeren were lured into the kitchen by the aroma of the ragout long before it was finished. They kept asking "What is that?" "It smells great!" "Can we peak and have a tiny taste?" It did get a bit tiresome but when we all sat at the dinner table we were all looking forward to this so much we actually had to take a few deep breaths to relax and stop ourselves from gorging it down.
It was everything I had expected and more. It melted in the mouth and the flavors in this are indescribable ... you'll just have to go and make it yourself to see what I mean.

You'll love every bite - I promise!


Reminder!


A few of those ice-creams are looking good. Send me your creation for July's MM - Scream For Ice Cream over to me soon.
Deadline is July 4th!






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Monday, June 18, 2007

Potato Salad Lite - My Way!

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When I first moved to Germany, I thought that the potato salad was a staple side for the Germans. Any restaurant, cafe, food stall or fast food place, regardless if they were 3 or 5 star places, all served the kartoffelsalat. Almost all of them had one thing in common they were made with thick, heavy mayonnaise! It's served with all kinds of things here - the bratwurst, meat patties, fried fish pan fried pork steaks and grilled meat to name a few. There are also a few variations to this basic dish, but I never really fancied the thought of all that mayo clotting my arteries!!

I am not a huge fan of mayonnaise. Never was, even the type I make at home once every two years. I cannot even remember when I last ate mayo to be honest. So, imagine my distress when I first moved here I would get served potato salad everywhere I went. "Try some traditional potato salad!" I was told. SPLAT! A huge ladle was spooned onto my plate before I could even say a word. There were many occasions when this type of potato salad seemed to be wicked and followed me. Any party or barbecues I was sure to bump into the the ole spud covered in a thick white coating. Pot lucks were the worst, then I was sure to find two or three different varieties!

Then one day I decided to retaliate. I decided to make my own version of the potato salad. My goal: not to use any mayonnaise! I think I did well the first time, but I needed more then just potatoes. So I started to experiment with a variety of different vegetables and substitutes for the mayo ... and I really did come up with a fantastic tasting potato salad.

The key for a good potato salad is finding the perfect potato. Potatoes that have a high moisture content and are waxy, like the red potato or the Yukon Gold, are perfect for salads. The next step is boiling them - the potatoes need to be cooked to the perfect point and then it is important to get them right out of the hot water. Potatoes can be boiled whole or cut into smaller pieces. The boiling time is reduced the smaller the pieces. I prefer boiling them whole with the skin left on. Furthermore, add salt to the water before the potatoes are placed into water. When the potatoes are tender enough to bite through, but before they turn mushy, it is time to remove them from the water. Drying the potatoes is very important as they are not supposed to cook any further and also need to soak in the dressings, oils and seasonings. This is done best when they are dry. Potatoes also soak up flavors the best while they are hot. However, care needs to be taken while adding anything that can be spoiled by heat. While the potatoes are hot it is best to season them with a light mixture of oil with whatever herbs and spices being used. Once the salad has cooled it can be completed with other ingredients.

As I think I have a perfect, not so heavy and ever so yummy salad here I'll be joining Lisa and Kelly and anyone else at their Salad Stravaganza!


Music to my ears



Pink ft. The Indigo Girls - Dear Mr. President
Controversial and thought provoking. This is a song that gets under my skin.









Reminder!


Get your scrumptious ice-cream creations for July's MM - Scream For Ice Cream over to me soon.
Deadline is July 4th!







Ingredients

500 g red potatoes - washed and left unpeeled
2 eggs - hard boiled
100 g frozen or fresh peas - blanched in salt water for 3 minutes
100 g carrots - coarsely diced
1 red or orange bell pepper - diced
2 large pickled gherkins - sliced
2 tablespoons of the gherkin vinegar - from the jar the gherkins were in
1 red onion - finely chopped
100 g yogurt
75 g Quark or substitute with low-fat sour cream
Handful of chives
Salt and pepper




PotatoSaladYogurt02


Method

Cook potatoes with their peels on, depending on their size for approx. 15 to 20 minutes. Take out of water when done and dry well. Peel the potatoes and slice in thickish slices.

Place all of the ingredients, except for the potatoes, in a large bowl and mix well until incorporated and all the vegetables are coated in the dressing. Salt and pepper generously. Add the potatoes while still warm and gently toss, making certain the potato slices do not break up. Allow the potatoes to absorb the dressing for 10 to 15 minutes, then sprinkle with chives and serve.



Verdict

My issue with the mayo ladened potato salads resolved itself as soon as I started serving this salad to my friends. It knocked their socks off and ever since then they too have been making their potato salads similar to my version. My dad always did say I was very diplomatic LOL! I really like this style of potato salad. It's not heavy and with the addition of fresh vegetables it is not only colorful to the eye but also healthier. The yogurt gives it a wonderful smooth flavor and the quark lends the salad dressing it's thickness making the salad more refreshing. Perfect for barbecues and picnics.


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Friday, June 15, 2007

Fresh Ginger and Tangy Lemon Ice Cream




... and the winner is ....

Pille. Pille was actually the first one to comment on my last post and imagine my surprise (and to some extent horror), when it was the correct guess too. After that though I sat back and enjoyed reading your guesses.

So, Pille it seems you'll be getting mail from me again, good thing I still have your address ;-). All you now need to do is send me the name of the picture you would like and I'll rush it to the photo shop and get it developed for you. Congratulations!

To all of the others, I thank you for playing along and don't be discouraged I might do this again.


Now on to the dreamy ice cream. It certainly was Ginger Lemon ice cream and from none other than the newly crowned king of ice creams - David Lebovitz and his luscious The Perfect Scoop. I have been going through this incredible compilation of delicious ice creams and I cannot get over it. Each one tastes better than the one before!




Not long ago I wrote about ginger and its wonderful aromatic and healing effects it has on us humans. I love ginger. I love it in my tea, my food and even in desserts, but I had to admit I had never had ginger ice cream before. As soon as I saw David's "Fresh Ginger Ice Cream" I knew I had to change this and decided to give it a try. David recommends a few variations to this recipe and I picked the one that includes lemon zest. In my opinion, lemons and ginger go so perfectly together and combining them in an ice cream is soooo ingenious.

Lemons are aromatically fragrant citrus fruits. A perfect choice for Marta's new food event Fresh Produce of the Month.



Lemons

Greek Lemon Tree

A Greek Lemon Tree. Taken in Olympia on our vacation last year


Maybe not something one would snack on in between meals, but they certainly add a wonderful zingy flavor to any recipe. It's been known for its therapeutic properties for generations and is the basis of any home remedy. As a matter of fact Nero, who feared being poisoned, consumed a great deal of them!

Although lemons are available throughout the year, their peak season is around May, June and August.
Lemons contain powerful antioxidants that slow the aging process. Doctors often recommend lemon to fight a wide range of illnesses such as urinary infections, kidney stones, bronchitis, colds, constipation, heartburn and pyorrhea. Additionally, they are an excellent source of vitamin C, one of the most important antioxidants in nature. The juice of one lemon supplies 35% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C.

It is believed that lemons actually originated in the Northern Indian subcontinent. Trees came to Europe by way of Asia Minor and were first grown in Greece and then Italy. According to Greek Mythology, oranges and lemons were a symbol of fertility and love.

There are 47 known varieties of lemons. The two basic types are sweet and acid, which are more commercially available. These are either large Eureka or smooth-skinned Lisbon. I won't be listing all 47 lemons here but a few I have used and particularly like.

EUREKA LEMON
Eureka lemons are probably the most widely grown lemon variety in the world. It is a true 'bitter' lemon with a high juice and acid content. The fruits of this variety should be thin-skinned and virtually seedless.

LISBON LEMON
Lisbon lemons are of a better quality bitter lemon, than the Eureka type, with high juice and acid levels and thin skin.

MEYER LEMON
This very popular variety of 'lemon' is actually not a fact a true lemon at all. It is a natural hybrid between a lemon and either an orange or a mandarin. Therefore, it has a lower acidity level, reduced bitterness and softer internal texture.

FINO LEMON
Although the origins of the Fino Lemon are unsure, it is believed to be derived from an old Spanish variety. The fruit is of good quality, juicy with a thin rind and high acid levels.

FEMMINELLO OVALE
This is one of the oldest Italian varieties and one of my favorite types of lemons. It is of medium size and tender, juicy, very acid and of excellent quality. These fruits are available all year but mainly in late winter and spring.

Lemons come in a variety of shapes and sizes and colors. They can be very large or very small, with thick or thin, smooth or rough skin; but they all have one thing in common: their skin contains aromatic essential oils that are used in a variety of ways.

Selecting and Storing
Look for lemons that are thin-skinned since those with thicker peels will have less flesh and therefore be less juicy. Buy lemons that are fully yellow in color. Green tinges will give you a more acidic due to the fact that they are not fully ripened. Overmature fruits will be wrinkled, soft or have hard patches and dull coloring. Fresh lemons are available all year round.

Kept away from sunlight and at room temperature, lemons will last for up to a week. They can also be stored in the refrigerator crisper where they will keep for about four weeks.
Pour freshly squeezed lemon juice in ice cube trays until frozen, then place them them in plastic bags and store in the freezer. Dried lemon zest should be stored in a cool and dry place in an airtight glass container.

Tips & Tricks
  • Lemons will yield more juice when they are warm. A great way to get more juice is to place the lemons in a bowl of warm water for several minutes or roll them under the palm of your hand on a flat surface.
  • If your recipe calls for lemon zest, make sure that you use fruit that is organically grown. Most conventionally grown fruits will have pesticide residues on their skin. Wash and dry the lemon thoroughly. Use a zester, paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the zest. Do not remove too much of the peel as the white pith underneath is bitter and should not be used. The zest can then be more finely chopped or diced if necessary.


Great lemon resources:
Hormel Foods - All About Lemons My tip
Wikipedia - Lemon



Music To My Ears


Timbaland ft. Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake - Give It To Me
I bet you'll be dancing to this while whisking away at the cream. I certainly was! Hottest trio in music biz at the moment.




GingerLemonIceCreamPREP


Ingredients

85 g fresh unpeeled ginger - thinly sliced
zest of 2 lemons
250 ml whole milk
500 ml heavy cream
150 g sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks



Method

In a medium saucepan place the ginger slices and enough water to cover the ginger by about 2 cm and bring to a boil. Boil for approx. 2 minutes, then drain and discard the liquid.

In a blender or food processor, grind the sugar with the lemon zest.

Return the ginger slices to the saucepan, add the milk, 250 ml cream, lemon-sugar and a pinch of salt. Warm the mixture thoroughly, then cover and remove from heat. Allow to steep at room temperature for approx. an hour.

Rewarm the mixture, then remove the ginger slices with a slotted spoon and discard. In a separate bowl pour the remaining 250 ml cream and set a fine strainer on top.

In another separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Using a tablespoon add some of the warm ginger-lemon mixture into the yolks, whisk and then add another tablespoon of the warm mixture. Do this until the eggs have tempered, then gently pour in the remaining warm mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. Then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Over a medium heat stir the mixture constantly with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir. Do this until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer into the cream and stir well. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly - at least 6 hours if not overnight - in the refrigerator, then make the ice cream according the the instructions of your ice cream maker.

Serving idea:
Chop up some fresh strawberries and add a small dash of honey. Mix well and top the ice cream with a nice helping of strawberries.




GingerLemonIceCream04


Verdict

Tangy, zingy and refreshing. This is such a perfect dessert after a big meal. It works like a digestive and I am sure seconds are always allowed. I was unsure how my boys would take to the flavors of this ice-cream, but Soeren straight away loved the lemony refreshing flavor the ice cream offered. Tom was unsure with the first helping but by his second helping he too was raving about the combination. For my fellow Indians (and those who have tried it) to me, I found the flavors slightly reminded me of Kulfi. Just perfect.



Reminder!


A perfect reminder for you to send me your scrumptious ice-cream creations for July's MM - Scream For Ice Cream
Deadline is July 4th!








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All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Guessing Games - this time you could win a prize!

Guess


It sure has been awhile since I played guessing games with you! Far to long actually! Since I am in a bit of a playful mood today, I thought you might enjoy jogging your minds and playing with me.

In the picture above, you will see two ingredients - lemon and ginger. Both make up the main flavors of my upcoming dish. Can you guess what I made with them?

To make this really exciting I thought I'd actually go ahead and put up a prize with this guessing game. So, the first person to get the answer correct on this can choose their very own favorite picture taken by yours truly. Pick out any photo you particularly like on my blog here or on my Flickr Phototstream and I will send you a small/medium sized poster (depending on the crop of the photo) of the original picture (without the frames, titles and copyright).

I'll be posting the recipe and announcing the winner sometime tomorrow (CET) so you all have plenty of time till then.

Good luck!




All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lavender Love

Lavender Love


I realized there are many of you out there who share my love for lavender. So, I thought I'd share a little something especially for you. These are currently growing full bloom in my back yard.

Come with me on a trip to the heart of the Provence. Close your eyes and imagine we are sitting on a lovely French patio sipping some chilled Chablis. Take a deep breath and allow the lavender scented air to take control. The entire sky is reflected in a deep shade of purple-blue from the huge lavender fields all around us. Enjoy the stillness around you. Open your eyes!

Glad you could come away with me and take a short break to rejuvenate your senses.




All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nostalgic: Italian Chicken & Vegetables

ItalianChickenVegetables02


It was love at first sight. It was beyond my control and there was absolutely no fighting against the powerful emotion that took over me. I was only 16, but I already knew then that this would effect my entire life. I would never be able to let go of this passion. The sights that I encountered and the more I discovered all kept me tangled in it's sweet grasp.

It was true, I never was able to let go. Even today, just a thought is enough to take me back to those places, those feelings and those sounds. I'm also going to admit, whenever I can, I still have my love affair. It never stopped and I know it never will!

To think - my father is to blame for all this. A summer love affair with repercussions.

Living in Qatar we had extremely long summer vacations. They'd last most of the time from end of June till beginning of September and everyone who could would leave the country to get away from the blistering heat. In my family we had a kind of tradition. Each parent would take one child and spend a two week vacation in Europe and then all of us would meet up in the US for the remaining of the vacation. So, one summer I would spend two weeks with my mum touring the Loire, while my brother and dad discovered England. The following summer, my brother would be in Paris with my mother and I would tour through Italy with my dad.

It was that particular year - my dad took me to Italy for the first time. I was 16 and my dad had put together a fantastic tour. Florence, Milan, Rome, Capri and Naples, in two weeks. My experience of Italy that summer at the age of 16 would remain unforgettable. That is when my wild love affair with this lively, passionate and warm country began and has been a part of my life ever since. To some extent it has even shaped me into the person I am today.

Italy captivated me the moment I stepped off the plane. The ancient architecture interconnecting with modern Italian life, the scents that wafted through the streets from the homes and the restaurants, the incredible beauty of this artistically, culturally rich and colorful country captured my heart forever in it's eternal embrace. My mind grabbed out at all the sensations, devouring them as quickly as they came.

Our trip was filled with all those colors, sounds and aromas that capture your attention, win you over and seduce you. It is alive with wonderful passion, elegance and warmth.

We started in Rome. A unique city due to the completely opposite styles of art and life that have found a way to live side by side there: Imperial Rome and Baroque Rome, sophisticated Rome and working-class Rome. The hustle and bustle of the tourists and the serenity of a quiet piazza. Then we headed to Naples. Sunny, lively, sassy and simply intoxicating. Naples is music, theatre, Vesuvius, coffee, pizza and the sea. Next stop Capri, high society par excellence! An island that enchanted not only little me, but also the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onasis. You can feel the aura of elegance all around you in Capri. We headed to Milan - an overwhelming, frantic and restless city. A city full of contradictions, ancient and modern, trends and counter-trends, fashion and underground, middle class and working class, but always simply “cool”. Finally we arrived in Florence. Firenze - stole my heart. An open-air exhibition of art and culture. My dad and I wandered around the city, both with gleaming eyes, discovering the hidden wonders and the most charming spots in Florence. As we sat in a small restaurant towards the end of our trip, overlooking the red roofs of Florence, I said to my dad,

"I want to come back here again. Maybe when I turn 30!"

I do not know why I said 30. Probably because for me 30 was the mark in my life that I knew I would have made it in my life. Out of university, well positioned in my job and maybe with a partner.

Fourteen years later, Tom surprised me with a trip to Florence on my 30th birthday. I was 6 months pregnant with Soeren and life was exactly how I had envisaged it to be that day at the age of 16, with my dad. Although I had been to Florence a few times after that trip, coming back here at 30 was special. Because Tom fulfilled a wish I had made and sort of stashed away at the back of my head and almost forgotten.

Impressions of An Italian Holiday

ItalianImpressions03


ItalianImpressions02


ItalianImpressions01


That summer I climbed all the stairs to the top of the tower of the Duomo, my huge stomach would not stop me from getting that magical glimpse of this city. Finally on top, I smiled to myself at the ecstatic feeling that took over me. A sea of red. Florence shone with all it's glory - just for me - on that June summer day, the red roofs glistening in the hot sun. Even Soeren felt the empowering feeling this city had on me and let me knew he too found this fantastic.

"60!"

"What?" asked Tom

"I'll be back here at 60!"

Tom nodded, put his arm around me and smiled a knowing smile.

Until then, I'll be cooking my favorite Italian meals that offer a bit of solace to the heart and looking at a few pictures of many Italian vacations gone by.



Reminder!


How loud can you scream for ice-cream? WHAT? I can't hear you.
If you want to be heard send in your scrumptious ice-cream creations for July's MM - Scream For Ice Cream








ItalianChickenVegetables01


Ingredients

1 free range chicken approx 1.5kg - cut along the spine
4-6 rosemary twigs
120g cherry tomatoes - halved
5-6 garlic cloves - slightly crushed and peel left on
2 small zucchini - sliced
1 large red bell pepper - sliced
10 shallots - quartered
100g mange-tout/snow peas
1 can (425 ml) big white beans - drained
150g small new potatoes - halved
1 lemon - sliced + juice
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil




ItalianChickenVegetables03


Method

Pre-heat oven at 200 degrees C. Line a large baking tray with aluminum foil.

Place the chicken flat on the tray, breast side facing up, and with your hands press down to flatten. Salt and pepper generously. Pull away some of the skin of the chicken and place a few slices of lemon in between the chicken meat and the skin. Remove the needles of the rosemary and spread half of them also in between the meat and the skin. Roast the chicken in the oven for approx. 1 hour.

In a large bowl mix together all the vegetables with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and the remaining rosemary. Allow to sit for 20 to 30 minutes.

After the chicken has been in the oven for 30 minutes, take out and arrange the vegetables around the chicken on the tray. Roast for a further 30 minutes.

Serve with fruity chianti and crispy ciabatta




ItalianChickenVegetables04


Verdict

This is a wonderful down-to earth meal. No fuss and no hassle. Typically for Italian meals, while meats or poultry are moderately spiced, it is the vegetables that take canter stage in the dish. So is the case in this dish too. The chicken is soft and juicy but by no means does it steal the full-bodied flavor of the vegetables fresh from the Farmer's Market. Rosemary, lemon and tomatoes give the entire dish a wonderful fruity, tangy and herby aroma. Just perfect to sit back and reminiscence of those warm, wonderful Italian holidays.







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