Monday, January 25, 2010

Mornings - Bagels

Mornings are not my friend. Only through routine do I manage to make it to work. Sometimes routine fails but normally, it works out fine. Part of my auto-pilot program is the breakfast bagel that I never manage to eat at home. I wrap it in foil, run for the train & let my bagel sit in the office for a few hours until I remember that it's there. The last few days, I've been sleeping in and running late. Today, I finally found the time to make my breakfast bagel.

There is a wonderful tradition in this country of 2nd breakfast. This is the sandwich or other snack eaten at 10am, after one has already eaten breakfast at 7 or earlier. The second breakfast is normally more than a piece of fruit. It's a sandwich, sometimes with just a slice of cheese or a few coldcuts, but when I was in university, most students packed a mid-morning snack. School children also often have their mid-morning snack. This is enough to tide people over until lunch, when they have the main meal of their day.
Germany is apparently the land of over 600 different kinds of bread, none of which is Wonderbread. Most of these are incredibly healthy whole-grain loaves that really make you count your blessings with your daily bread.

There are a few things I haven't grown used to yet. I haven't yet converted 100% to dark breads, but I enjoy 4-grain bagels. I haven't grown used to having my main meal at lunch, so I often eat again with the workaholic in the evening. But I'm all about this mid-morning snack thing.

The breakfast bagel is fairly simple (it must be easy enough for a zombie to prepare)

1 4-grain bagel
1 small tomato, sliced
1 Tbsp goat cream cheese (thicker and tastier than regular cream cheese)
1/2 Tbsp green pesto
1/2 tsp capers
1/2 tsp green peppercorns

Split bagel. Smear pesto on 1 half. Smear cream cheese on the other. Place tomatoes, peppercorns & capers on the side with cream cheese. Place pesto-smeared side on top. Slice into halves, wrap in foil & run out the door because you're late for work again.

This morning, I finally managed to take a photo of the breakfast bagel. And with the list of ingredients, maybe my coworkers will stop begging me to bring more in to feed them.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I am a Jelly-Filled Donut!

In 1963, John F Kennedy stood in front of the Berlin wall & supposedly proclaimed that he is a jelly-filled donut. The problem with this theory is that the citizens of Berlin do not call jelly-filled donuts Berliners. They call them "Pfannkuchen", which translates as pancake everywhere else in the country.

I don't understand why these delicate baked goods are called "Pfannkuchen" in Berlin, because they are fried in lots of fat or oil. Yes, fat. Lumps of yeast-risen dough swimming in boiling rendered pig or chicken fat - that would be a Berliner. Originally, they would be cooked in whatever oil you could get and up until maybe 100 years ago, animal fat was much more prevalent that vegetable oil. These sweet doughy balls of goodness were originally only consumed during Karnival, the prelude to Lent, or the period of fasting.

There are certainly trials and tribulations involved with living in a foreign country. Sometimes, I sigh & say that something is just so German. Yet, there are things that I love. I am fascinated by the differences in language in such a small area (just a few minutes ago, a friend from Berlin corrected my Facebook status to tell me I'm not in love with Berliners but with "Pfannkuchen"). I love the fact that there are bakeries everywhere. I love not having to drive. I love the Berliners. They are breadier than doughnuts, not as sweet, and the filling is real jam. What's not to love?

I know I should be fasting after the period of Christmas and New Years. I'm trying to be good. I realize that I am no longer the girl who could eat 5 Berliners on her own and not have her clothes shrink. Still, a girl's got to eat. It's not my fault if the bakery didn't have any good-looking sandwiches. It's not my fault if the Berliners look adorable, is it? But beyond looks, it's somehow a part of cultural heritage. At least I can tell myself that as I eye up the rest of them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daring Cooks - January - Satay Chicken

"The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day."

Words that should inspire me. Instead, they filled me with one of the most regretful sentiments, nostalgia.

Last year, the Workaholic and I found ourselves in the night market of Kuala Lumpur. It was an adventure that was slightly outside of our comfort zone, if only because we both had fears of eating undercooked anything and spending a day not able to leave the hotel. After scouring the street hawkers, we decided to nibble on small things, and the first thing we had were satay skewers. I've never been a huge fan of satay anything in the past, but they were there, they were small, they were non-committal. We ordered our skewers, the man told us how much it was while holding the meat-covered wooden sticks in the fire and just as we completed the financial part of the transaction, we got our meat. Were we afraid that this was undercooked & going to force us to make use of our international health insurance? Yes. We tenatatively bit in, dipping the meat in the little plastic bag of sauce that came with it. We were delighted. They were fantastic, succulent flavourful pieces of meat that, most importantly, dissolved all fear of hawker food. I fell in love with the food, the scenery and would so love to go back. I think the Workaholic would like to as well.

The satay skewers I made were 1) doomed to never be the satay skewers of my memories, 2) not grilled because my grill is covered in snow, and 3) not on skewers. I don't really think that the skewers made much of a difference, as the idea is to tenderize the meat through the marinade, and the meat was juicy and tender. They just weren't the same spices. This should come as no surprise, the recipe was a British interpretation of Thai, not potentially frightening Malaysian flavour that I had in mind.

The Workaholic bit into his dinner and asked, "Shouldn't they be spicier?" I had to agree. I followed Cuppy's recipe but it just didn't work out for us. The peanut sauce, on the other hand, was fantastic. The Workaholic found it to be too sweet (we don't eat any sugar any more) but I have been eating spoonfuls of leftover sauce out of the fridge (don't pretend as if you never do that!).

We may try other recipes for satay skewers that actually involve me going out to the grill and getting the burn marks I should. I might add fish sauce and chilis. Whatever I do, I'm waiting until the snow melts.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Okra in Coconut Sauce

I only needed green onions, nothing else. But I saw the okra in my local green grocer & I couldn't leave it behind. Just a handful, I thought to myself. When I got home, I realized that my hands had suffered from some mutating growth dysfunction in the store because they had apparently grown. Thankfully, they've since returned to normal.

One of my first posts was about okra, and then I said that my next okra would be different. Well, let's be honest, there's not too much you can do with okra but this is pretty good. Double frying might not be the best thing for you, but it makes it very crispy, and it's a vegetable. How bad can it be?

250 g okra
oil to fry
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c shredded coconut
1/2 cup milk

Slice okra in 1/4" slices. Fry in hot oil until brown. Remove from oil, drain, and fry again.

In a skillet, warm mustard seeds until they pop. Add curry powder, chili powder and garlic, stirring not to burn. When smell of curry powder hits you, add the coconut.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Duck Into the Year

I wanted to ring in 2010 quietly. My original plans fell through & then I thought, my ideal would be to stay at home with take-out Chinese food. This is what I would have done if I was at home in Canada, where there is good Chinese take-out that is open on New Year's Eve. In Germany, however, there's little Chinese take-out, and I think the only thing open on NYE is the local Donair shop. While I like a good donair, it's not the "pick out the container food that is going to last me until 11pm" food. I decided I was going to make my own. And if you're going to do anything, you might as well do it right. Hence my decision to make a Peking Duck. For 2 people. With homemade Mandarin Pancakes.

Peking Duck
Here I managed to find a 1kg wild duck, which was perfect for 2 people. I thawed it, and plucked it, because my duck still had lots of feathers attached. It reminded me that I should make an appointment with my aesthetician.

Then I dipped the duck into boiling water. I think this is to make the skin taught. I then let the duck dry. After it was dry, I brushed a mixture of:
5 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp 5 spice powder
2 Tbsp brown sugar
4 Tbsp rice wine
The duck got coated in this & it was poured into the cavity.
Next, the duck is supposed to dry, and I read about putting it in front of a fan. When I brought out the fan, the workaholic grew concerned. He suggested I use the "fan only" feature of the oven. A good idea. My only concern was, how did he know there's a fan only feature and I didn't?

After 6 hours, the duck was dry, so I filled the pan with water, left it on a grate & roasted it at 200°, starting with the breast side down, then up, then down again. I think it was in there for about 1 hour. Let the bird rest & then slice.

Homemade Mandarin pancakes (I'm not going to give a recipe because I'm not good at them), stuffed with Hoisin sauce, green onions, cucumber & carrots, as well as slices of duck. A good way to bid 2009 farewell. Things I'd do different next time: get a bigger duck. It was really good.

As it turns out, we didn't ring in the new year quietly. I got a text message & at 11:40pm, ended up in a bus on the way to a bar where a few friends were getting sparkling wine ready. Oh well, I tried. At least the duck worked.
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