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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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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

Kohlrabi Gratin

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Kohlrabi Gratin (In memory of Mutti)

When I woke up this morning I, at first, was a little bit ‘confused’; for a couple of minutes I believed it was still in the middle of the night.
Instead of bright sunshine finding its way into the house it was like I was back in England – dark, gloomy and wet!!!

Looking out of the window I found:
Sky as dark as a sky gets when ready to burst open and pours rain down on us.
Clouds hanging so low that one can easily imagine being able to touch them.
Cooler climate, less daily use of A/C’s or Fans in the house and offices.
All this and much more goes with the momentary season here and what is known as

MONSOON!

All this made me change my mind in the last minute what to post this time.

For the past few weeks I wanted to post a few dishes from my home country, Germany, especially using some of my late mother’s recipes. Although she was an average cook (but a very good and keen baker) who kept very few recipes written down (hence the reason why I have to make most of her dishes from memory with a few of my own in-puts here and there) she always brought food, including vegetables, to the table which as a child I hardly ever disliked and in fact have still very fond memories of, even today. Her food was simple, nothing too fancy, and by today’s standards certainly not highly photogenic, but always delicious – mainly great comfort food!

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So todays dish for example would be something she would quickly make in the morning before going to work and all it needed later was appr. 30 minutes in the oven to heat through.

Thanks Mutti – I know we both liked this casserole! Especially on a miserable rainy day.

Kohlrabi Gratin

I used 2 separate bowls this time since in one I added Chilli for Jo, but not in mine.

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So, for those 2 dishes I used the following:
4 x medium sized onions, peeled, cut into fairly thin slices
6 x medium Kohlrabi, peeled, cut into fairly thin slices
4 x potatoes, peeled, cut into fairly thin slices
1 x tub of pre-washed Spinach, just over 2 hand full
1 x + Tbsp dried Thyme (if you can get fresh, use this)
200 ml Vegetable Stock (from a cube)
¾ of a small tetra pack of double cream, (app. 200 ml)
2 x tsp of sunflower oil
A generous lump of butter
Salt, pepper and nutmeg (use to your own liking)

For the topping:

Simple: I just put 3 x slices of bread, grated cheese (I had to use Mozzarella, nothing else here)
(Any hard cheese like sharp Cheddar is good), 1 x small sprinkling of Paprika (hence the colour of the gratin), a little bit of softened butter into my Mixy and blitzed this for a few seconds– ready!!

How to make:

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Take a wide pan or wok (so useful), add oil and butter, and let it foam on medium heat only. When it’s done add all the onions and sauté those gently, with a pinch of salt, for maybe 10 minutes until they slightly change colour.

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Now add the kohlrabi, potatoes and thyme and, best with 2 spoons, mix carefully. Add more salt and black- (or white) pepper. Cover with lid and continue cooking for 5 or so more minutes.

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Add cream and stock, cover again, and simmer for another 15 minutes or so. When liquid has reduced a bit add spinach. Stir once more carefully, cover with lid, switch off heat and move container to side.

Preheat oven to app. 190 C, butter lightly your casserole dish or 2 smaller ones, as I did, and fill them with the cooked mixture.
Top all this with the cheese/breadcrumbs- mixture made earlier.

Put dish or dishes on baking tray and continue baking the gratin in the oven. Keep a watchful eye on this, oven heat various and you do not want a burnt gratin.

That’s it really but do take time to read my notes:

In the distant past I also have used medium sized individual ramekin dishes for lunch- or dinner parties and they were always a great success.

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Mutti sometimes added sliced sausages (anything she had in her kitchen at that moment, i.e. Frankfurter’s, Fleischwurst, Ham etc.)
Don’t skimp on the cream here, using just milk will not do, it will be bland.
Of course you can use as much or little of the 3 main ingredients as you wish.
Glamorous for a photo session this dish might not be, but it is nevertheless a good, satisfying comfort dish!

Guten Appetit!
Carina

Ulli Theeyal (Little Onion Curry)

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This is a wonderful sidedish to our Kerala Cuisine, mostly associated with part of the traditional Onam Sadhya, but if you like onions, and we certainly do, I promise you it is very difficult to resist not having it fairly frequently as a side dish to any curry or just with some rice or even just with a couple of freshly made chapattis or parathas. The choice is yours – all I am asking is that you please do give this dish a try.

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Before you start your preparation make sure you have a small face towel near you (to wipe away the ‘tears’ which will come from peeling a small heap of tiny onions), some music to while away the time needed for peeling and also assemble all the remaining ingredients within easy reach.

For the Theeyal you see in the final dish I used 2 heaped cups of peeled onions – and as you can see there is not too much to show for in the end and that’s the reason why I normally make 2 or 3 times the amount for us two!!

Soak a small lump of Tamarind pulp in luke warm water for 15 mins, squeeze, discard the pulp but retain the brown water for later.

Over medium to lowish heat gently fry 1.5 cups of grated coconut*, 5 dry red hot chillies*, 1.5 tsp of coriander seeds, 1-2 Tbsp of sliced onions, 1 Tbsp of broken cashewnuts*, – keep gently stirring all the time, if anything burns throw away and start afresh.

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The coconut should take on a dark! Colour (I personally prefer just a slight shade lighter).

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When done, let it cool down a bit and then in your Mixy grind all this to a very fine paste, adding a spoon full of water if needed. Keep aside.

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Now in a large deep pan or wok heat up 2 tsp of coconut oil* or vegetable oil if preferred, still working on low heat now, add a dash of turmeric powder, mix and then add all your washed little onions and at least 6 green chillies*, slit in half.

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Keep stirring until everything is well mixed, turn up your heat to medium, keep stirring and once the onions start taking on colour add the tamarind water. Bring this quickly to a boil, add all the ground masala from your Mixy, check for salt and also add some more plain water, maybe ½ cup or so. Stir once more, cover with a lid, turn down the heat a bit and let it cook until the gravy thickens. This might take anything from 15 to 20 minutes – just keep checking. At the very end, when everything is cooked, add 1-2 tsp of brown sugar*, mix and serve.

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Now in a small pan heat 1 tsp of coconut oil, add just ¼ tsp of mustard seeds and a tiny pinch of fenugreek seeds (rubbed between your fingers to release their beautiful flavour) and 1 or 2 dried red chillies, and when the seeds finish crackling, pour this over your Ulli theeyal.

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Bring to your table and watch the smile on the faces of all who are eating this – like we do shortly when we sit down for our lunch.

Notes:
• Try to use very small onions, otherwise cut in half.
• Frozen grated coconut is fine but never use dehydrated!!
• You can of course use less or more of those red chillies, but 5 are just right (I think).
• Use broken cashewnuts, they are cheaper than the whole once – after all they go into the Mixy.
• Personally I only use a tiny amount of Sweetener.
• If you can get coconut oil use it, it brings out the flavours more – otherwise vegetable oil is fine.
• And by the way – it tastes even better the next day IF you have any left.
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Carina

Caribbean Sweet and Sour Mango Chicken

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As I have mentioned somewhere before, when I lived for 3 years in the Caribbean (in Port-of-Spain/Trinidad), I too, like many of the other ‘diplomatic wives’ on this Island, went for a couple of weeks to a charming old Chinese Lady to learn the basics of ‘Chinese-cooking-with-a-wok’. Her name was Suzie Wong! Yes, film buffs of course will immediately connect this name with the very beautiful young actress Nancy Kwan, starring in her first film “The world of Suzie Wong”.

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Wok cooking is so quick and easy to do – then why did I put this onto my kitchen back shelf for quite some years once we had left Trinidad, I kept asking myself. Maybe because I had nearly worn out my own Wok in those wonderful three years – and of course, living on the Island with its multi-racial population, who did not like Chinese food???

So now that I started writing easy to follow (I hope) recipes for elder daughter, living away from home, and her friends, my Wok has come into his own again – certain weeks with a vengeance!.

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So here now a recipe which includes two of our favourite main ingredients – Chicken and Mango. I found this scribbled down note in my box of loose “Recipes from around the world” and immediately I decided late at night to make this for today’s Lunch.

Caribbean Sweet and Sour Mango Chicken

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I used for 2-3 portions:

3 x Chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1 x very large ripe mango peeled and cut free from its large seed and then cut into nice longish strips. Keep aside.
2 Tbsp good sunflower oil
12 x biggish shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1.5 x tsp of fresh ginger, cut into long thin slivers
Some leeks, washed thoroughly and cut into thin rings
3 x garlic cloves, crushed well
1 x cups of green gram beansprouts

To make Sweet and Sour Sauce
2 x Tbsp white wine vinegar
4 x Tbsp of water
2 x Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 x Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
2 x Tbsp clear honey
2 x Tbsp very good tomato ketchup
1 x tsp cornflour
2 x chicken stock cubes (I used KNORR), crumbled

First start making your sauce.

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Combine all the above mentioned ingredients in a jug incl. the cornflour, which will slightly thicken the sauce. Set aside.

Heat up your Wok (or large frying pan) on medium flame, add oil and after 1 minute also the prepared chicken. Quickly brown the meat for maximum 3 minutes (keep stirring). Transfer with a slotted spoon into a small bowl and keep aside.
Into the same oil add the shallots and the ginger, stir for a couple of minutes only, after which you add your sauce and the mango.
Bring gently to the boil and continue simmering for another 2 minutes.

With this particular dish we like to alternate between long-grain basmati rice and Chinese noodles.

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请享用
Qǐng xiǎngyòng = Enjoy your meal
Carina

Mango Relish – Companion for Mushroom and Okra Curry

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Yesterday I decided to “blitz” the inside of my 2 refrigerators – clearing out an array of containers with bits and pieces which by now most definitely were beyond their ‘best- sell- by- date’.

And when I came to my bottom vegetable drawers I knew that this was the end of a lazy Saturday afternoon for me. I know, I know – I should have attended to this matter in hand a week earlier, but….for one reason or another I never got around to it. Please do tell me, how often do you actually clear your own vegetable drawers?

Once I had started I decided to fill a number of boxes with cleaned and cut up vegetables. Beans – top and tailed, cauliflower and broccoli – cut into florets, the usable stalks of those cut into small pieces and kept for my soups, Carrots peeled and cut into nice little ‘matchsticks’ – ready to be nibbled on whilst writing on my computer or/and late night snack when watching a movie; I am sure by now you get the picture. By the time all this was done, labelled and put back into the fridges after having thoroughly cleaned them I was in no mood to start cooking much.

But since we do like Mushrooms, Okra and Mango – we decided that I would make this little light Lunch for us – its quick, nutritious and most of all delicious. I peeled the Mango and onion and put some nice music on whilst I quickly did the rest.

Mango Relish – Companion for Mushroom and Okra Curry

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I did not weigh anything, so just go as well by how hungry you are.

I used for the 2 of us the following:

2 handfuls of nice firm Okra (Ladyfingers), topped and tailed and cut lengthwise in half (or rounds, if you prefer)

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1 pre-packed button mushrooms, wiped clean with dry cloth, (never ever use water!)
1 biggish onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
4 small garlic pods, sliced
2-3 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
3 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped into small cubes
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander seeds (or ½ Tbsp coriander powder)
1 handful of coriander leafs (cilantro), washed and chopped
1 Tbsp of Vegetable oil
½ cup of water
Salt to taste

How to cook:

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Take a Wok and over medium heat add oil and when hot add fenell- and coriander seeds and allow them to sizzle for only a second (or they will burn).
When this is done, add turmeric- and ground cumin powder and stir quickly.

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After only 1 minute add onions and cook for another 5-6 minutes and then add garlic, ginger, tomatoes and little bit of water (so that Masala will not stick), stir and now add all your mushrooms and okra.

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Stir carefully again, cover and let it simmer for maximum 10 minutes.
Check for salt and maybe add just another Tablespoon or two of water to this and uncovered let it cook for just another 5 minutes or so. Keep checking the ‘bite’ on the okra – you want them just a little bit crunchy but not soft or mushy.

When ready, take off the flame, stir in some of your chopped coriander leafs and serve.

It is delicious with just plain (long grain) Basmati rice and some of the mango relish on the side.

For the mango relish you will need:

1 or 2 large ripe Mangos, washed, peeled and cut away from the big stone inside
1 medium sized onion, chopped into small pieces
1 small piece of ginger
2 red chillies (or more!) – deseeded
Pinch of each salt and sugar

How to make:

Add the chopped mango(s), garlic, chilli, ginger and onion into your Blender and ‘blitz’ this for a couple of seconds until the relish is quite smooth.
Check your seasoning: you may want to add more salt since the mangos are quite sweet.

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Note:
I used the famous Alphonso Mango, which Jo brought back from the market. The Mango season has just started and so the kitchen is never without this delicious fruit right now.

According to Wikipedia, Alphonso mango is a seasonal fruit, considered to be among the most superior varieties of the fruit in terms of sweetness, richness and flavour.

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The variety is named after Alphonso de Albuquerque, a Portuguese general and military expert who helped establish Portuguese colonies in India. The Portuguese introduced grafting on mango trees to produce extraordinary varieties like Alphonso.

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The fruit was then introduced to the Konkan region in Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and some parts of southern state of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

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