Tag Archive | Monsoon

Kohlrabi Gratin

Kohl-01

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!

Kohl-02

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.

Kohl-03

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:

Kohl-04

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.

Kohl-05

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.

Kohl-06

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.

Kohl-7

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

Advertisements

Hot and Sweet Chicken-breast

CHPenne-01

This week has been a bit crazy – in other words, there were never enough hours in the day to do even a fraction of the things either of us wanted or had to do.
Frequent power-cuts (due to the heavy onset of the refreshing monsoon) did not help either – and today, when I am writing this, it is only Thursday – so more to come.

So therefor I will not keep you busy as well by having to look at a long post, instead here is another one of my “speedy-gonzales” recipes (kitchen is not being used that much right now).

It will take you maximum 20 minutes from start to finish.

For 2 people I used:

CHPenne-02

2 x Chicken breasts, cut into nice cubes

CHPenne-03

A few pieces of fresh pineapple, cut into cubes

CHPenne-04

2 x heaped Tbsp of Peanuts, crushed
1 x Tbsp liquid honey
1 ½ Tbsp of mustard (coarse grain)
1 shot of cream (or 2 if you like it creamier)
1 good sprinkling of curry powder
1 x Tbsp of Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

How to do:

Wok on medium heat, add oil and cubed chicken.

CHPenne-05

Stir and quickly fry for couple of minutes. Add honey, mustard, curry powder, salt and pepper and whilst stirring keep on cooking the chicken.

CHPenne-06

When ready carefully add the cream (don’t let it curdle) and the crushed peanuts. Simmer for a couple more minutes.
That’s it – serve with Rice or as in my pictures, with Penne and maybe some blanched spinach or broccoli.

Tips:
Place unsalted peanuts into your Mixy and ‘blitz’ only for a couple of seconds. Don’t make them smooth, you will want a slight bite.
This sauce is really simple but so nice, maybe you like to make a little bit more!?
If you have no fresh pineapple, then use tinned one.

CHPenne-07

Enjoy your meal and have a wonderful safe week-end wherever you are in the world, my friends.

Carina

Kerala Style “Pachadi”

1 Cooking-Today
( ….. and how to beat the heat!)

No doubt about it, summer is here; the days are still getting hotter and I am dreaming (yes, it has to be a dream for now!) of a dip into the clear cool waters of the Sea or if that’s not possible, at least into a swimming pool.

Pachadi-a

And everywhere I go; people keep talking about the heat and how they long for June when the Monsoon is due to arrive here in our State, bringing the long-awaited rain and coolness.

Pachadi-b
But to be more realistic for now I have to just be contend with a good working air conditioner (set to near ‘freezing’) hoping as usual that there will be not another powercut and a nice big bowl of delicious Sambar Cucumber (Vellarikka) Pachadi.

Pachadi-d

What is this, you who never had this, might ask. To put it simply: lightly boiled yellow/green striped Cucumber mixed with tasty (sour) Yoghurt (Curd) and only a very few spices. And it is made literally in a jiffy – JS and I always have a jar of this ready in our fridge especially now during this hot season.
Pachadi is not only sooo very cooling, but healthy, too. I can easily give you a long list of health benefits using this vegetable, from keeping you obviously hydrated – after all a cucumber is 96 % water!

Cucumbers help to relieve stress, since they are extremely rich in Vitamins B and for Energy lavishes you with Vitamins A, B and C which give you energy and keep you looking radiant.

Of course for all of us with find we have those dreaded “bags-under- the-eyes” – from sitting much too long at the computer staring at our screen and thereby straining our eyes far too much, the age-old remedy of putting a slice of cool cucumber on your eyes whilst resting, really works!!!!

Cucumbers are a wonderful aid in weight loss – and don’t we love our healthy salads with plenty of this vegetable?

Cucumbers contain Erepsin, which is an enzyme that helps in protein digestion and also supplies your body with skin-friendly minerals like magnesium, potassium, silicon. This is maybe one of the reasons why Spa’s use plenty of cucumber based treatments.

The list is “endless” – it is even said, that to cope with the dreadful hangover the morning after it is advisable to eat a cucumber before going to bed!?
I suggest that you make double the amount of Pachadi since you will find that this dish is quite Moorish and you will want more and more.

Pachadi-c

Follow my guiding steps – it’s easy:

1. Peel skin of a Vellarikka, cut in half lengthwise, discard seeds with the help of a small spoon and then cut into cubes. Wash and cook the cucumber with just a little water, salt and some curry leaves for appr. 10 minutes or until they are soft, but don’t overcook them, since a little ‘bite’ is just nice. Keep aside.

2. Now in your Mixy grind ½ cup of grated coconut, 3 green chillies, ½ tsp of mustard seeds and 4-5 peeled pearl onions (Ullis) to a fine paste using maybe a little bit of yoghurt (Curd) or water. Keep aside.

3. Take a Wok (or any other deep pan) and on low heat gently fry the coconut- etc. paste, for appr. 5 minutes, stirring all the time.

4. When done, remove from heat and let it cool down (I switch on my ceiling fan for this to speed things up).

5. Take 1.5 to 2 cups of Yoghurt (Curd), add to a bowl with ¾ cup of water and with a small whisk ‘beat’ the yoghurt until nice and smooth.

6. Now mix all his with your cooked cucumber and gently stir. Check on salt.

7. In a small pan heat not more than 2 Tbsp. of coconut oil, add ¾ tsp of mustard seeds and let them splutter (avoid your eyes – the seeds are like dangerous little ‘bullets’ and can hurt); 1/3 tsp of Fenugreek seeds and then add 2-3 red dried chillies (stalk removed and halved) and some curry leaves, stir only for a few seconds and finally pour all this over the Pachadi.

Pachadi-d
That’s it, dear friends. I do so hope that you enjoy this as much as we do.

Carina

Divine Intervention……. or not !?

6a
As I mentioned in my previous Umbrella article, the Monsoon brings much needed respite from the scorching heat to farmers, animals, humans etc.

When I heard the hour-long rumbling of thunder the other night, I did not think that there would be any damage to houses or trees in our city – the ‘thunder’ sounded more like the noise which normally comes with weather lightening in the tropics, but…… I obviously was wrong.

And just so that you know, I dislike shopping; I really do and always did. Normally I more or less know what I want when I ‘breeze’ into the shop and if the Assistant tells me the item I am looking for is not available I am normally out immediately. No hanging around, being followed at every step I take by the said Assistant trying to sell me something I really do not want or need, for that matter.

Shopping for food items is a slightly different matter – after all this is a necessity to one’s daily life.

I think we all have our favourite Supermarket/Shop and I am no different in that respect. Although there are Supermarkets and Shops not too far from my area, I still like to do my fortnightly food shopping in Ernakulam itself, at the “Supermercato Ashis”, which is managed and run by a very nice group of people for many many years.

But even here, where I am really well looked after regarding ‘customer service’ and where certain members of staff know my shopping list more or less in advance (!) I do not like to linger around for too long.

It is a very busy place, right on one of the most important roads in our city; finding a car parking space is like trying to win the lottery and for walking on the pavement…….

There are not too many fully grown trees gracing our city streets any more due to partially much needed developments, like the METRO.
But this tree, like all the others, gave slight shade to pedestrians, birds etc. and now, I found this …..
6b

When I talked to Security –on- Duty I was told, that the storm a few days previously had brought this tree crashing down, but….no one got hurt, nor a car damaged. Sheer luck!

I will miss that tree!
6c

Carina

Scheiss Wetter! . . . and the friendly Umbrella

1
Something woke me up in the middle of the night – it was a noise I had not heard for many months – the sound of rolling thunder, sometimes near, sometimes a bit further away so it seems and then……Rain!!!

A quick peek at my bedside table clock told me that it was just after 2 am – and the thunder and the heavy rain ‘stayed’ over our area for the next few hours, bringing the temperature from the previous day down quite a bit to a more tolerable level – oh, what Bliss!!!

We are at the end of February (by the time of writing) and it normally never rains in February – after all the refreshing Monsoon does not arrive here until June and then normally stays with us for 4 months, bringing much relief from the scorching heat to the farmers, their cattle and for us humans too (never mind the chaos on the waterlogged roads etc.).

Lying now half-awake on my bed I started “daydreaming” (I do not think the word “night dreaming” really exists in this context, or?).

Many many years ago, in my previous life in fact, we had just arrived in Berlin/Germany from a nearly 5-year posting to a certain West-African country. Berlin – this beautiful city I had visited so many times during Fashion Week and on other occasions seemed to welcome us with open arms.
2
Our official house, smaller than all the previous ones but very comfortable, was near the famous Olympic Stadium in a very nice area, the streets lined with plenty of beautiful trees, a sight which pleased our eyes tremendously.
3
4
The house had a standard sized city garden at the back and I could not wait to get “my hands dirty” digging in the soil and planting roses, roses and more roses. But my hopes for a lovely ‘English rose garden’ were soon to be shattered, due to the extremely poor i.e. neglected soil condition.

In the first few days after arriving in the house I used to sit quite frequently on the terrace nurturing a decent cup of hot German coffee and trying to visualise 2 main things; who were our neighbours right and left of the property and where should I plant this and that.

The neighbour on our left turned out to be an old lady who lived all alone in her big house and who’s main concern was a possibility of a number of small children running freely in our garden screaming their heads off (she softened a bit when she realised that there were no children to disturb her precious peace!) She softened even more over the following months when she found out that in fact I was born in Germany and therefore actually spoke her language.
But it was the property on our right which stirred up my curiosity somewhat. And before I actually ever saw my neighbours our dogs, their 2 beautiful German Shepherds and our big black Labrador, whom we had flown in from West-Africa, had made friends, ‘talking’ through the dividing chain-link fencing. Then one day I saw her, a nice looking blond woman my own age, standing in one of her upstairs windows and when she saw me looking she waved with a big welcoming smile, signalling me to come down to our mutual fence, so we could talk.

Herzlich willkommen, Frau Nachbarin (welcome, Mrs Neighbour) I am Heidi “ she said extending her hand over the fence. And then something very strange indeed happened to me (and to her as well, as she later told me) by shaking her hand and introducing myself to her I suddenly had this feeling, like I had known her most of my life – something I only had felt with one other person previously.

Of course I invited her immediately to my house for “Kaffee und Kuchen” (Coffee and Cake) according to German custom. The next day she came over and we sat, chatted and generally enjoyed each other’s company.

By the time she had to leave and walk just a few steps to her own house next door, the heavens had opened and it was pouring with rain – so I lent her one of our big golf umbrellas to see her home safely.

The next morning our Security –on- duty brought me a nice little thank you note returning my own umbrella and a gift. What was it? Wrapped tightly, decorated with a big big bow and suspiciously looking like a stick of some sort.

But, when we unwrapped this ‘stick’ it turned out to be yet another umbrella.

Quickly I rushed into the garden and only there did I open the gift, since I was brought up that one must never open an umbrella inside the house – bad luck indeed!! And then seeing the writing I just burst into laughter, so much in fact, that a tear or two ran down my cheek, since I had neither heard nor seen this quite standard phrase “Scheiss Wetter” for what seemed to be an eternity, but soon I got used to hearing this every time the rain, snow, fog or just cold came.

In fact it seemed that all the Foreigners posted to Berlin have learned this phrase right from day one of their arrival in the city.

Over the years this umbrella has brought so many happy smiles and even comments while living in London and now here, too. After all we do get quite a number of German speaking tourists into Kerala.

Of course all this is now a long time ago, the umbrella is still with me, having survived all those years, all those moves but most of all, my friendship with Heidi and her lovely family. We do write to each other frequently and talk occasionally on the telephone. She is still very much in my heart and I pray that one day JS and I can fly over to Berlin and we can all meet again

Tschuess for now, Carina

5
PS
According to the German/English Dictionary “Scheiss Wetter” literally means “Shit weather

…so ein Scheißwetter! what awful etc weather! …

Rain, rain go away…….. (but do come back another day)

As most of you will agree with me the topic of “weather” (like in Sunshine or Rain) is without any doubt still the most common topic whenever people meet or talk on the telephone. Who has not talked to somebody at one time long-distance and inevitably the question comes “how is the weather over there with you?”

Here in Kerala we are now smack in the middle of the Monsoon Season. Having complaint about the heat for a few months we now have a new topic – Rain! (as in … too much) surely bringing much needed relief to the people, animals, agriculture etc. But, like everything else, too much of one good thing turns easily and quickly into something negative.

The heavy monsoon rain has been pelting down for a few weeks now turning our beautiful Kerala into an even greener oasis. But a more or less uninterrupted extremely heavy downpour over the week-end also brought even bigger traffic chaos, landslides, etc.

On Monday morning we had to drive to the Airport for something which could not be put off and it simply became a sort of “mini journey to hell”. We passed many flooded houses, churches, temples etc. on our way. Many of the low-lying fields were completely flooded; the cattle grazing there were standing in flood water nearly up to their stomach.

On route we had to cross the bridge over the mighty river Periyar. The rain was hitting us hard – the windscreen wipers on our car could hardly cope with the deluge and there was absolutely no way that we could stop and get out to photograph the raging river, which had risen considerably and now looking brown, muddy and quite dirty, bringing the water from the mountains down to Ernakulam (Cochin).

Flood1

So this is the reason my friends, why for once you will not see any photographs from our own “manningtreearchive”. But luckily I was able to get this impressive photograph (which also appeared over 2 pages this morning in the paper) from the picture desk of our newspaper Malayala Manorama Daily. My thanks goes out to them.

Carina

Monsoon Football

Wonderful – the Monsoon rains bring much needed relief from the heat, but of course, amongst other things, creates havoc on the roads!

But look here, those youngsters in Fort Cochin were not put off by the heavy downpours (I was – I stayed in the car, :)) and played their football games with vigour.

DSC_4668

 

DSC_4675

 

DSC_4676

It was great fun just to sit in the car and watch them.

Carina 🙂