Archive | September 2016

Water – The Elixir of Life !

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Dear Reader

Just to let you know that I will be away from my desk for a few days – but look forward seeing you again next week.

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Have a good and peaceful week-end.

PS: The pictures of the water-feature were taken at Vivanta by Taj Malabar, Willingdon Island, Cochin.

Carina

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A FISHY TALE . . . . .

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So that’s it – ONAM (and all the other combined Festivals which come up every year around this time) is now over and everything in our beautiful State of Kerala, where the people are blessed with an abundance of Coconuts, Spices and most of all with the Treasures of the Sea, has returned to the usual normality.

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This year we did not make our own Sadhya of 18 delectable dishes – instead we went out visiting!!!

But when JS went out to our little local market ‘around the corner’ to visit his ‘friendly fish man’ – you know the kind who quietly lets you know of some special kind of fish coming in, when the price of prawns will go up or down! Who takes trouble in cleaning your order etc. etc. – in order to maybe get some extra treats for the long ONAM week, he not only succeeded in getting some lovely looking Karimeen (Pearl spot)

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which he and the girls love fried with just the right amount of his ‘secret’ masala massaged into the fish, but he returned home with also a special surprise for me!! A whole THIRUTHA (Grey Mullet).

This is a fish extremely popular especially with the visiting Tourists, who love to order this fish whole so it can be shared amongst two to three people.
Thirutha is available normally in abundance, but because of its very delicate taste any catch gets snapped up by Hotels, Restaurants and even certain vendors, especially in places like Fort Cochin, where domestic and foreign tourists can choose their own fish, have it grilled right there and then and enjoyed ‘al fresco’ mainly along the seafront by the famous “Chinese Nets”.

But now I have to confess something here to you – when it comes to fish I am just a little bit squeamish. I am certainly not a female Rick Stein, the seafood master himself, and so looking at and handling a large fish, head, eyes, etc, does not come easy for me. But surely . . . one is never too old to learn, right!?

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And so, with JS’ help and under his guidance, I set about in tackling this nice, fresh, slippery ‘friend’. This being my first attempt of cooking Thirutha I decided to keep it simple and just steam the fish in foil with some vegetables (after all – it’s healthy, too) – and here now is the result!

It turned out to be a really delishes meal and now I want to think up a different recipe using the same kind of fish– there is of course always a curry!!

This fish may look big for you – but in the end it was just enough for the two of us. Unfortunately I did not weigh him, just as a matter of interest.

And here is what I did:
1 x whole Thirutha, scaled and gutted by “Friendly Fish Man”
At home washed and dried thoroughly.

I made 5 incisions into the back of the Thirutha and then rubbed a mixture of salt, pepper and 1 tsp of dried Dill all over the fish (including the inside).
Sprinkle fresh lemon juice over the whole fish incl. the inside.

Prepare vegetables: I used carrots, leeks, onion slices and parsley
I blanched the three vegetables in photo for just 2 minutes, not more!! Drain well.

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Preheat oven to 180/200 C
Put fish onto a double layer of foil, drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil around fish, add blanched vegetables incl. a couple of half cooked potatoes.

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Now make the foil into a parcel and leave in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes – check!!! Ovens vary in temperature.

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When done open foil carefully, averting your face – steam is really hot! Taste and when cooked (fish should not be dry) keep fish parcel open on top of oven in order to cool down slightly.

Carefully take the fish off the bone from one side first and put on a plate with the vegetables and just a few plain boiled potatoes.

As an edition I served separately some dill-lemon-butter-sauce.

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There is a saying in German, my mother tongue, which goes:

……Uebung macht den Meister”. (Meaning: Practice maketh the Master) – so now I will try and make fish more often!

But for now, THAT’S IT!

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Guten Appetit!
Carina

HAPPY ONAM 2016

It is the biggest Festival Season in the State of Kerala right now.

With a good number of holidays over a stretch of 10 days (including the week-ends) people are engaged in the various multi-cultural and multi-religious festivals during those days with ONAM being the main festival of the year.

Please check my old post of 16 August 2012.

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So for this year once again I send ONAM Greetings to all my readers, near and far, with this beautiful greeting card which JS especially designed for my Blog on this occasion.

The background of JS designs represents a model of the traditional Kerala Saree with the Pallu on both ends decorated with the time-honoured Kasavu (Jerry).

The illustrations shown within the Saree represent the famous Pulikali (Tiger dance), Pookalam (floral designs which are exclusively for ONAM) and the customary Banana leaf (a.k.a. Vazhayila/Kerala Plate) on which the sumptuous ONAM Sadya (a meal of more than 30 Vibhavangal !!! (different kinds of delicacies)) are served.

Namaskaram Carina

VEGETABLE ROULADE

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This is a beautiful Vegetarian dish – delicious and stunning to look at when gracing a buffet table or served as (maybe) first course at a dinner party and perfect as a main course for a light summer lunch! I know in many parts of the world at this time, ‘Summer’ is slowly saying good bye for now, but…….

Despite what many people may think, the “job” of being the wife of an Ambassador (or that of a very Senior Diplomat) abroad does not mean GLAMOUR 24/7 with an unlimited Official Budget to spend on Entertainment. Far from it – first of all those budgets are as tight as they come and if you could listen to the talks away from strangers, you would quickly find out, that this applies to more or less all diplomatic representatives. Here is where the “job” of a wife comes into full force – she will have to be able to come up with a wonderful menu plan suited for each of their many many dinners and luncheons – and since frequently the same people will/have to attend any of those functions, the menu of course cannot be a repetitious one.

And so, since I always enjoyed having people around, serving them nice food, good wine, trying to make them relax, laugh and be happy, this part of my then ‘job’ was not too difficult to deal with. I was also fortunate to have during all those years met a great number of kind and wonderful people who helped me to learn and gain the necessary experience which was needed for me to become a good representative of my own country – a very good Hostess.

But what do you do when you are in a country where most of the (food-) items you need are not available and your Government will or cannot fly them in (i.e. West Africa)– you simply improvise!!! And you would be surprised to find out, how very much the simple but delicious “home cooking” for example, is appreciated by most of those guests who often get ‘wined and dined’ on Beluga Caviar and Vintage Champagne.

Yes, of course, I too like Caviar and Champagne, but not every day, lol – lol!!! Give me a delicious sandwich and a cup of home-made vegetable soup or just a bowl of ‘Spaghetti e limone’ any time.

So, enough of this for the time being. I just like to bring you a few recipes of dishes which over the years have appeared on one of my buffet tables and for which I had a ‘repeat order’ by the same guests, who tasted it for the first time in my house.

Today’s Roulade has always been and still is, one of my great easy Buffet Stars. Occasionally I made 3 separate sheets of Spinach but for the actually filling I used 1 x red, 1 x yellow and 1 x green capsicum and laid the finished slices out in alternate fashion – looks very attractive.

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Ingredients:
This once again is for 2 people plus some left-overs.
At least ½ kg spinach (or green jeera – 4 x bunches) – picked, well washed, kept aside and left to drain.
1 x large red capsicum ( sweet pepper), all seeds taken out, slightly cooked for a few minutes, drained, kept aside.
Some grated nutmeg
A good dollop of unsalted butter
4 x Tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese (or sharp Cheddar)
4 Tbsp of double cream
Salt, pepper and some sprinkling of paprika
Garlic bread seasoning
2 eggs – separated and kept aside –
250 g of cream cheese or better Quark (I used my own home-made Quark – for recipe look at Quark-Glorious Quark of 16.08.2016 – mixed with garlic bread seasoning, salt, pepper and paprika)

Method:
Heat oven to 200 C
Cut grease proof paper to size of your Swiss roll tin (or any other).
Cook Spinach just for a few minutes.
Take off flame and let cool slightly.
Take clean Tea-towel, put spinach in middle and now ‘wring’ as much water out as possible – and then chop spinach finely.
Now mix this with nutmeg, softened butter, parmesan cheese, cream and some seasoning. Beat in the egg yolks.

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Separately whisk egg whites into soft peaks and gently fold into your spinach mixture. Spread this onto the prepared tin, smooth out and bake in pre-heated oven for 15 minutes or so until firm (but not hard!)

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When done, turn spinach upside down on another clean tea towel and let it cool, without removing tin, for maybe 30 minutes.
In the meantime ‘blitz’ capsicum lightly (do not make it into purée).

Mix with cream cheese or better, Quark!! – season well.

When spinach is cool, peel off paper. I find this is the only tricky part – so do it very slowly.

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Spread this with the earlier prepared capsicum and Quark mixture.

Now carefully, using the towel to lift baked spinach etc. up, turn this into a fairly tight roll.
Let it rest for 20 minutes or so, cut (best with a serrated knife) into thick slices and serve.

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That’s it – enjoy!
Namaskaram, Carina

PS. This keeps well inside your fridge, and is also delicious used just as a spread on toast, crackers, stuffed inside Hoops (Arabic bread) etc.

‘Schmorgurken’ in a Mustard Sauce

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Today again I post a dish which my Mother loved when I was growing up – and so did I. But, like with so many “old fashioned” recipes I had put this onto the back of my memories as well joining a whole lot of others, only to be reminded of this again a few days ago when I realised I was left with a lot of cucumbers in my fridge, due to a few work related Restaurant meals recently. And since they were far too many to eat as a salad (with dill and crabsticks) in a couple of days I had to come up with something else quickly. That’s when my friend Heidi in Berlin during our weekly ‘what’s-up-chat’ reminded me again of this famous German dish. The recipe I am posting here is my own mother’s; Heidi – living in Berlin – of course has a slightly different version which contains amongst other things onions and ham.

There are of course so many different recipes for regional “Schmorgurken” and I have no idea if my one here is typical of the part of Germany I was born or……?
Never mind really, I love it and I am glad it got somehow ‘unlocked’ in my brain and so I am happy to post this here for you in the hope, you too will like it.
It is a perfect Vegetarian meal – Basmati Rice, mashed potatoes or Indian flat bread is just wonderful with this.

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And for you non-vegetarian friends out there simply just add a Hamburger or Sausages.
Ingredients for 2 people and ready in 20 minutes
I used, as seen in my photographs:

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4 x small cucumbers (Vellarikka)
1 x Tbsp of butter (Venna) – do not use oil here –
¾ x Tbsp of Wheat flour (Atta)
¾ cup of Vegetable broth (from a good stock cube)
¼ cup of cream – optional – but it does add tremendously to the taste!
2 x Tbsp of good made mustard (I like coarse grain)
Salt and Pepper to your own taste
Plenty of Spring onion green only

Method:
1. Wash and peel your cucumbers
2. Cut those in half lengthwise and with small spoon remove inside.
3. Cut cucumbers into (half-moon) rings

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4. Melt butter on medium to low heat, add cucumbers, and stir gently.
5. Dust flour over the vegetable, add Stock and cream.

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6. On low heat and without a lid, cook vegetable gently, stir occasionally.
7. Cut as much spring onion greens as you like (I prefer to do this with a scissor) and add those with the mustard to the cucumbers.

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8. Add salt and pepper.

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That’s it – quick, easy and so delicious.

Namaskaram, Carina