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D J U V E C – my first ‘fast food’

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(Tomatoes, Capsicums, Meat, Paprika and Rice – all in one pot!)

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When I grew up in Bonn the words “Fast food” and ‘Street food” were so not used to us – they simply had not entered my generation’s vocabulary – yet!

Nor was the myriad of Middle- and Far Eastern spices known to any of us – yet!

But it introduced me to the wonderful world of spices – and I certainly have not left this ‘spice world’ – yet!

In our schools and colleges we started to learn about different countries in the world, especially on our continent, although hardly any of us had ever ventured out of Germany – yet!

For us Youngsters, a special treat after a visit to the cinema was normally a (newspaper-) cone filled with freshly made ‘fries’ with a dollop of ‘mayo’ on top.

Places like any of those now well-known Burger places, Mo-Mo Restaurants, Pizza Parlours, various Coffee- and Tea Bars, etc. etc. did not even exist in our country – yet!

But all was going to change one day – the first “foreign” Restaurant opened, just opposite the Main Train Station, in our still sleepy little town, by then already the new Capital of Germany.

My memory plays a little dance in my head – it annoys me that I cannot remember the real name of this restaurant, even searching through my box of old old notes from around the world, did I not come up with the right name. So, I herewith name this place “The Balkan Restaurant” (you never know, it just might have been its name all along).

Of course, like Youngsters all over the world, we had to explore en bloc after school/college before heading home. We thought we were in heaven no less – delicious smelling foreign food, big portions, relatively little money and when sharing a plate between 2 or even 3 people it was not a ‘budget killer’.
After having sampled through the menu once or twice soon we established a dish called by the strange name of DJUVEC was our favourite.

The word Đuveč derives from the Turkish word Güveç, which means casserole (traditionally cooked in an earthenware pot).

Having typed this so far I now feel sort of peckish (nothing was left over from yesterday when I prepared this dish from memory, more or less).

Ingredients for 2 pretty hungry people or
Ingredients for 4 with big salad and flat bread on the side

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½ kg lean Meat (see notes), cleaned and cut into small pieces
1 x large onion, chopped
4 x garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 x large green chillies, cut finely
½ x large red Capsicum (known as Paprika in Europe), cut small
½ x large yellow Capsicum, cut small

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½ x large green Capsicum, cut small
3 x large Tomatoes – skin and seeds removed and cut small
300 x g long grain Rice (I like to use top Basmati rice), wash and keep aside
1 x tsp of mild paprika powder
1 x tsp of chilli powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 x Tbsp of tomato paste
2 Tbsp Oil
1 ltr of good meat broth, keep aside

Method:
In a wide pot heat oil, add your chosen meat (see notes) and fry very quickly, stirring all the while. Take out and keep aside.

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Add onion and garlic to the oil in pot and then all the Chillies, Capsicums (Paprika) and now let all this cook on low heat for a few minutes. Keep stirring often. Now add the previously fried meat, salt, pepper, paprika powder, chilli powder and the tomato paste – stir and add enough meat broth so that it just covers all this.

Cover and now let it simmer for 30 to 45 minutes (depending on the meat you are using – keep checking!) If needed just add some more broth – don’t let it go dry or even burn!!!!

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Halfway through add the tomato pieces. Stir once gently. Now mix your washed rice into all this and add more of your meat broth. Keep simmering for maybe another 20 minutes or so without stirring; but towards the end of your cooking time check to see if more broth is needed.

Rice should still have a nice soft ‘bite’ and the whole dish is meant slightly on the moist side rather than dry.

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That’s it – all done – serve and enjoy. Guten Appetit!

Notes: You can use Pork, Beef, Veal.

I have eaten this also with some wonderful very hot sausage like ‘Chorizo’ – and it was quite delicious, too.

Namaskaram
Carina

Out with the Old – in with the New

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2016 – Nothing good is to write about that year (at least from my perspective) and so I will not dwell on all the sad, bad and unpleasant things – they came and went and now I want to leave those behind and just concentrate on the New Year ahead.

JS and I wish you all a better, happier, healthier and safer

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And to put you into the right mood tonight I like to give you all a little musical gift – one of the most famous musical pieces for this occasion

AULD LANG SYNE

so beautifully (and heart rendering) performed by the Band of the equally famous Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

I just know that, just like me, quite a number of you will need a handkerchief and I also know of at least one friend in Canada who will actually need 2 of them, – yes, this music is especially for you, Rebecca!

And if THE PIPES are not for you, you might like Rod Stewarts rendition live from beautiful Stirling Castle

or you, who still remember the 1940 film “Waterloo Bridge” (starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor), might enjoy listening to Michael Buble’ and Kylie Minogue’s version of AULD LANG SYNE.

Whatever – come midnight lets join hands through cyberspace and hope and pray for a more peaceful and happier NEW YEAR.

Carina
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Leg of Lamb

– Part of our memories of England, Tuscany and now India –

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The dish I served at one of my first dinner parties I gave way back in England to introduce JS to some of my friends was, at his request “English Leg of Lamb with all the trimmings” and he still keeps talking about it. He absolutely loved it and I could have made this for him quite easily once a week then.
When later we went to Florence, this beautiful city, I happen to mention to some of our Italian friends the “English Leg of Lamb……” story and guess what! Yes – right, one day at a beautiful Lunch in the Tuscan Countryside they served “Tuscan Leg of Lamb with a spread of beautifully oven roasted vegetables” from their garden – both JS and I thought we had gone to heaven.

But with all this incredible deliciousness maybe secretly a few of Indian spices were missing? So, it happened that when we returned home to South India we managed to get a nice piece of Lamb from one of our meat suppliers in town and set about making for a change an “Indian Leg of Lamb….

All this happened nearly 14 years ago and over time all three variations merged somewhat and we came up with our own Lamb dish.

We managed to get this piece of meat, just around 1 kg, from our new Hypermarket and …… forgot about it for some time in our freezer, until the other day when I had some sort of clear-out.

So in order not to keep on talking about all this, here is what we did earlier this week. But be warned, the “heat” is on (to suit our own taste), but of course, as always, you can turn it down a bit – not too much, though!!

For 2 people I used:

1 x Leg of Lamb, just around 1 kg
6 x green chillies (1 x cut into very thin rings, the rest cut in half)
3 x Onions, peeled and cut into quarters
6 x Carrots, peeled and cut into little chunks (see photos)
6 x Tomatoes, skin removed and cut into quarters
6 x Potatoes, peeled and cut into halves
1 x whole garlic bulb
8 – 10 x garlic cloves, peeled
Some slices of fresh ginger
1 ½ x tsp of Fennel seeds
1 ½ x tsp of Cumin powder
2 x Tbsp Chilli powder
1 ½ Tbsp Garam Masala powder
Salt and black pepper, to your taste
Some Bay leafs
1 whole bunch of fresh Coriander, washed, roots removed
1 x small bunch of fresh Mint, washed, roots removed
1 x handful of olives (from a jar)
1 x Tbsp good Balsamic Vinegar
1 – 2 x Tbsp of Malt Vinegar (check for your taste)
1 – 2 x cups of Water (mixed with the 2 vinegars)

How to prepare your Leg of Lamb:

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On a large baking sheet (big enough to hold the whole leg) put the following: chilli powder, cumin powder, garam masala powder, some salt and black pepper; mix this well, take your Leg of Lamb and just lay it on top of all your above spices and cover the whole leg well from all sides.

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Then, with a sharp knife, cut as many gashes into the meat as you like, (I cut 10) and stuff each one with a whole peeled garlic pod (remember, our garlic is small and so I use more here in India then I would back in Europe). I also cut 4 more gashes which I stuffed each with a sliver of fresh ginger. Cover lightly with a clean cloth and keep aside.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C.

How to prepare the “bed” for the Leg of Lamb:

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Take a baking pan (as in the photograph) – line the base loosely with a number of bay leaves, add all the green chillies, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, the garlic bulb, olives.

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Sprinkle some salt over the vegetables and then lay your Leg of Lamb on top of all this.

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And now here is something we learned in Tuscany, cover the meat with all your fresh mint and coriander. This not only gives your meat a subtle flavour but also protects it from coming in direct contact with the foil.

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Mix your 2 vinegars with the water and pour all around the meat and a couple of teaspoons of olive oil (you can of course also use vegetable oil) directly over the meat.

Now cover the whole lot loosely with foil and put it in the pre-heated oven for some time.

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Some time’ I say here, because it all varies from meat to meat and from oven to oven – never the 2 are the same!! So start of as usual, but keep checking after 1 ½ hours.

I checked this time after 2 hours but the meat was not quite ready, so back in it went again for another 20 minutes, checked, done! The smell was enticing – the meat came nearly off the bone.

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I let it rest, with cover on, for 15 minutes and then we were able to sit down for our Lunch.

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N.B. We also like to add some (frozen) green peas, but unfortunately I had non in the freezer this time.

Re the spices, of course you can tone this down a bit, but remember, this is not a traditional ‘European Leg of Lamb’.

Since I do not eat much rice, but enjoy lots of vegetables, I will include more carrots, onions and tomatoes next time.

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So, that’s it! Guten Appetit.

Namaskaram
Carina

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

‘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