Earrings and castles.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I like me some earrings. Big dangly earrings, cheap and cheerful or whatever you’d call them. So I’ve recently bought myself a few tools and supplies and I got a-making. I was pretty unsure of how they’d turn out so I didn’t get any progress photos, but here’s the finished product, what do you think?

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Well consider this just the first little bit of what may become an addiction, home-made earrings, uh-oh! More to come 🙂

But the other thing I wanted to share was from a couple of weeks ago when Dom and I went to Bavaria for the weekend. We went here:

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Wait, here’s a version without those people getting in the way…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

Yes we went away for our anniversary, down to south Germany to the alps in Bavaria, and it was just spectacular. This is Castle Neuschwanstein (new swan stone, named after the swans that were a symbol of the ruling family at the time), which I always think of as the Disneyland castle. I can’t believe I took that photo! We had a long weekend of hiking and good food in a beautiful part of the world, which I highly recommend.

Summer is over now, there’s a real feel of autumn in the air. The leaves have even begun to fall. Does anyone have suggestions for good autumn-y things? Recipes, seasonal decorations, anything? I’d love to hear from you!

Cheers,

Luci

 

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Rainy Day Blueberry Pancakes

August is supposed to be the hottest part of summer here, but I think the weather is trying to remind me of back home in Oz, because it’s been cold and rainy and really Melbourne-ish weather here for the last week or so. Bad weather makes me hungry, so on Sunday morning I decided that gorging on pancakes was the way to go.

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Summer?

We’d been to a little farmer roadside fruit and veg stand the day before, hoping to find fresh strawberries, but they were out. And we got caught in a sudden freezing downpour. But on the upside, we got half a kilo of fresh delicious blueberries. And so of course they had to be incorporated into breakfast on Sunday!

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Basic pancake mix is: 

1 egg

1 cup self-raising flour

1 cup milk

pinch salt

That’s it! But I embellished on this mix and added:

about half a cup of blueberries

1 tablespoon icing sugar (or castor sugar, I just used what  had)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Mix ingredients (minus berries) thoroughly, adding milk if it’s too thick and making sure to get out any big lumps. Once mixed, add the blueberries and stir through.

Add a little butter to a medium-hot pan. Ladle some batter mix onto the pan and tilt the pan back and forth a little, until you get a fairly even spread of mix. Cook for a couple of minutes, then flip. I keep my pancakes on a plate in a 50 degree oven until all are done, so they stay warm.

To serve, my absolute favourite topping is maple syrup with whipped cream, and adding any leftover blueberries (or any fruit, we had some raspberries in the fridge so they go in on the pancake love too). A squeeze of lemon juice and a little sugar sprinkled over is pretty yum-o as well. Here’s a gratuitous condiment shot:

kinda arty

So enjoy, I know I did!

Sorry for not posting last week by the way. Never fear, I’m not going anywhere. Scheduling is back to normal 🙂

Cheers,

Luci

Addictive Chocolate Fudge Brownies.

fudge

Hi there! It’s been months since my last post so this is just a short-ish one to try to get me back in the habit of writing. My plan is to try for weekly posts so bear with me, and as a thanks for those who do, here’s the most delicious, addictive (seems that way anyway!), easy chocolate fudge recipe that I know.

Ingredients:

500g dark cooking chocolate
75g butter
400mL sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
pinch of each cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)

Method:
In a heatproof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water, melt butter, chocolate and condensed milk.
When melted, remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and spices. Pour into a lined baking tray, and put in the fridge to cool.
Cut into squares (it’s extremely rich so small squares will be best!) and serve.

It’s really that easy. Enjoy!

I’m really hoping to get back to creating and blogging again and I hope you’ll join me 🙂

Cheers,

Luci

Wild Garlic Pesto.

The weather this weekend has been spectacular. Sun shining and birds singing and a lovely puff of breeze. It’s what Nick Cave referred to once as ‘the dirty end of winter’, but the snow doesn’t seem to think so – it snowed for a week in mid-January and since then it’s been getting a little more like spring every week. Last week I saw the first wildflowers of the season!

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Something else that happens at the start of the spring is that the wild garlic (in German: Bärlauch, pronounced bear-lock) starts to grow in the forest, which means when I go for a run through there I come home ravenous because it smells so good. So today I finally went and collected some. I got a few good handfuls and brought them home.

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After a good rinse, I dried the leaves and used my stick blender to mush them up. I then got some cashews for the mix but decided to crush them a bit before using the stick blender on them. Like so:

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Ta-da!

So I poured about three quarters of these in and blended them well, then poured the rest in and added a bit of lemon juice and a good bit of olive oil, blended a little more (not too much, I like a little bit of crunchy cashews in my pesto), added salt and pepper, and that’s it! 

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This stuff is a bit hot when raw, so cooked is probably best unless you like the taste of raw garlic. Mix it through cooked pasta with some grated parmesan, or however you like your pesto.

So to summarise, here’s the recipe:

2-3 good handfuls wild garlic leaves

about 1/4 cup olive oil

juice of 1/2 a lemon

cashews

salt and pepper, to taste.

Blend and eat!

The great thing about wild garlic leaves is that they taste like yummy garlicky goodness but don’t leave you with garlic breath!

Hope you had a great weekend, 

Cheers,

Luci

Apple Sauce.

I bought some apples recently and while they looked and smelled apple-y and wonderful, when I bit into one it was soft and squishy and just the wrong texture. There’s nothing worse than a Disappointment Apple. Well, as far as apples go, anyway. So I decided to cook the apples up, because they still had such a wonderful flavour and aroma. I peeled them because the internet recommended it, but actually I think next time I wouldn’t. I’m lazy, and anyway there’s tons of goodness in the peel.

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So I chopped up the peeled, cored apples (I used three), put them in a saucepan and added a little water, maybe 5mm in the bottom of the pan. It’s better to add less and top it up than to make it too watery. The recipe goes something like this:

3 apples, cored and peeled (optional)

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon maple syrup (or sugar)

a good few shakes of cinnamon

about half as much nutmeg

a little dash of salt

Put everything in a saucepan, cover and heat on low to medium, so the water gently simmers. Don’t let it dry out too much, add more water as needed but only a little at a time. Stir regularly and when the apples squish when pressed lightly with the back of a spoon, you’re done. Mash with a fork, masher, back of spoon, whatever. Taste and enjoy! I ate some of it with greek yogurt as a snack, and some more with the roast pork I made. Yum. 

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I love simple warming winter recipes! Do you have any favourites?

Cheers,

Luci

Pho Bo – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup.

AKA completing my New Year’s Resolution on January 4th! Maybe I should have set a larger resolution, but this one sure was tasty.

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This is a recipe I made once, years ago, when I was living with someone who only ate cheese and bread and fried potato. This meant I was the only one who tasted it and so I wasn’t sure if it was any good. Being that I used beef broth from a packet, it wasn’t as authentic as this version, that’s for sure. This time I made the broth myself, boiling bones and all that fun stuff. I worked using a combination of the recipe I had stored in my head from last time, and this recipe I found through my trusty friend Google. 

There are two main stages to this recipe: making the broth and assembling the soup. I say assembling because once you have your broth there’s no cooking to speak of, just adding all the fresh items to the bowls (OK, you have to cook the noodles first, unless you’ve bought them fresh), and pouring the broth over. Then adding a few fresh items on top and yumming it up with a combination of chopsticks and a spoon.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the ingredients. If you’re making this please scroll all the way down to get the other ingredients sections so you don’t have to go to the shops twice!

Broth Ingredients:
2 large brown onions

10cm piece ginger

2.5kg beef soup bones (including marrow, that’s where most of the flavour comes from!)

5 whole star anise

6 cloves

1 cinnamon stick, ~10cm

500g beef chuck steak

1.5 tablespoons salt

4 tablespoons fish sauce

Palm sugar – I used 2x 2cm cubes

Making the Broth:

Put the bones in a large pot (I used my largest pot which is about 6 litres, but if you’ve got bigger use that! I had to add extra water at the end to get the concentration right).

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Cover with water and bring to the boil. Allow to boil only a minute or two then dump all into the sink, scrub the pot clean and return the bones to it. This step removes impurities from the bones.

While water is heating in the above step, cut the onion and ginger in half (lengthways for ginger). Put under the grill on the highest setting and as close to the heat as possible without touching it. Let roast for 15 minutes then pull out, remove blackened parts under cool running water, skin the ginger carefully and set aside. 

Add 6 litres of water to the bones (I could only add 4 so I put two litres in later once the bones were removed). Bring to the boil them reduce heat and simmer. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Add other broth ingredients and simmer for 1.5 hours.

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(assembled broth ingredients)

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(scum on surface. Skim off with a spoon and discard, being careful not to scoop up any cloves or star anise when you do!)

After 1.5 hours, remove the chuck steak pieces, put in a bowl of cool water for 10 minutes, drain and put in fridge. This will go into out soup at the end and the cooling with water stops the meat drying out and becoming discoloured.

Let remaining soup simmer for a further 1.5 hours (3 hours total cooking time). 

Strain the pho broth through fine strainer. If desired, remove any bits of gelatinous tendon from bones to add to your pho bowl. Store tendon with cooked beef. Discard bones and other solids. At this point I added the two extra litres of water that didn’t fit in the pot at the start.

Use ladle to skim as much fat from top of the pho broth as you like – I removed some but by no means all – fat is where the flavour is! (Cool it and refrigerate it overnight to make this task easier; reheat befofe continuing.) Taste and adjust flavor with additional salt, fish sauce and yellow rock sugar. The pho broth should taste slightly too strong because the noodles and other ingredients are not salted. 

You will end up with about 4-5 litres of soup stock. 

Bowls Ingredients:

(this was to make enough for two hungry people, not to use up all the broth. Adjust quantities as needed!)

About half a pack of rice stick noodles, fresh or dried.

100g raw beef filet. I used sirloin. Use anything good enough quality that it will taste good when served very rare.

Spring onions, white and green sections, cut very thinly. I used about two whole stalks.

Sliced fresh bok choy.

A handful of fresh coriander leaves.

Ground black pepper to taste.

Preparing the bowls:

The key is to be organized and have everything ready to go.

Cook noodles if using dried. Set aside and keep warm while preparing the other ingredients. 

Slice the filet very thinly. Slice cooked beef and tendons (if using), also thinly. 

Add a scoop of noodles to each bowl. Add slices spring onions and bok choy. Arrange a mixture of cooked and raw beef and tendons on top of the greens. Pour boiling hot broth over the top, carefully. It is important that the broth is boiling hot at this stage as it slightly cooks the raw beef. This looks cool as it’s happening, by the way. Sprinkle coriander leaves and black pepper over the top. 

Optional ingredients, to be arranged on a plate and placed at the table:

(I used all of these!)

Sprigs of spearmint and/or Thai basil 

Bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)

Red hot chillies, thinly sliced

Lime wedges

Serving and eating:

Add as much of the above optional items as desired. The chillies we bought were pretty fiery so we didn’t need too much! Squeeze the lime wedges over the top and enjoy. Dom was super-impressed with this one and I think it will be oft-requested 🙂

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and have also had a successful start to the new year, or at least a happy start!

Cheers,

Luci

Sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut is one of those German dishes that always seems like you should make it yourself, and I had decided a long time ago to give it a try – but I must admit I was a bit intimidated to try it out on actual real Germans. I managed to get up the courage a few weeks ago though and got it started. It’s pretty simple – cabbage, salt, vinegar, sugar – it just takes some time to get it ready to eat.

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You can use any type of cabbage, but the traditional ones are the plain green ones sold here (and maybe everywhere?) as white cabbage. I had also stored in my mind a long time ago the very useful advice that caraway seeds are a necessary addition to the fermenting process of sauerkraut making – they remove the, ahem, bubble-forming process in one’s belly after you eat it. Good to know, right? So I chopped up my cabbage into thinnish strips and sprinkled caraway seeds through – I used about 3 tablespoons to a one kilogram cabbage which was probably a bit too much, one to two would have been sufficient. I sprinkled through a good couple of tablespoons of salt, too, a tablespoon of sugar, and poured about half a cup of vinegar through and mixed it all together. I got some good open-topped glass containers and split the mix through them. The trick with sauerkraut, I’ve learned, is that you need to have liquid covering the whole mixture to allow the fermenting process to get going. This means having a weight on top of the cabbage mix to push out the air. I had some big jars of fruit which were only slightly narrower than the opening of my jars and squished them down. Weight and container should both be glass or ceramic, or at least not metal.

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I’d been told that the liquid will seep out of the cabbage a bit and you just have to check it a few times in the first 24 hours. After then, top it up with salt water if needed, to cover all the cabbage. Then wander off for two or three weeks. Well, actually you should check it every couple of days to make sure it’s not drying out. It should therefore be stored somewhere you’ll see it but that it won’t be in your way. I had mine up on a shelf in my kitchen. Keep it out of the sun, too.

After a few weeks (actually it ended up being three and a half weeks, oops I almost forgot it…) I opened up the kraut and cooked some up. There is TONS of this from one cabbage, so I put the rest in the fridge in a airtight container and I’m assured that it will be fine for months there.

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I cooked it up and served it alongside potatoes and schnitzel in a super-German traditional meal. Dom loved it! Me too, to be honest 🙂

Fermented vegetable meals are supposed to be amazing for the digestive system, so that’s a plus, too. Yummy and good for you is my favourite combination. Sauerkraut is tangy, salty, crunchy tastiness. If I do say so myself. Lecker, as they say here. Tasty.

OK that’s enough self-congratulation for now, sorry about that! Have you ever made homemade sauerkraut, or other traditional foods? How did it go? Got any tips for me?

Cheers,

Luci