Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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Carrot and ginger soup with coconut milk

soupAs regular readers will know, I have recently been having some problems with my stomach. For over a week, the only foods I could eat without immediately being in pain were plain porridge made with water (yuk!) and plain couscous with a bit of spinach stirred in. Exciting, no? Towards the middle of week two, I started to feel able to introduce slightly more flavourful foods to my diet, so I decided to make some soup. Being already blended, I thought it would be easy enough to digest while allowing my taste buds to get some action again! I enjoyed the soup so much that I knew I would have to make it again. So  when my stomach started playing up again yesterday (apparantly greasy fish and chips at the Irish pub weren’t its friend), I did, and this time remembered to record it for my blog. So here is my recipe for Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk (completely made up by me – if there are similar soups already on the internet it’s entirely coincidence!). I apologise in advance for the crappy photos (even more crappy than usual that is). My camera is in the process of dying a slow and painful death…

Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk

Step 1: Gather your ingredients

Step 1: Gather your ingredients

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main meal with bread)
5 or 6 carrots (750g)
1 medium potato (200g)
Fresh ginger
1 tin of coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Put some water in a pan and set it on to boil (or boil some water in the kettle and pour it into a pan)
2. Peel the potato and all but one carrot (two if they’re small ones) and dice them into small pieces, then place them in the boiling water and cook until soft.

Dicing

3. Drain out the water then place the potatoes and carrots in a blender (or back in the pan if using a hand blender) and blend to a purree.

Blending

4. Return the purree to the pan and grate in about a teaspoon of fresh ginger – sorry I can’t be more precise with the measurement. I just chopped a chunk off and grated it! – (or stir in some powdered ginger if that’s all you’ve got – I won’t tell anyone), then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
5. Place the pan back on the hob on a low heat and stir in the tin of coconut milk
6. While the mixture is heating, peel the remaining carrots then grate them into the pan. Once all the carrot is grated, stir it in and immediately remove the pan from the heat.

Grate in the remaining carrot

7. Check the seasoning, add more if required, then serve the soup along with some bread.

The step with the grated carrot is optional – if you prefer, you can purree all the carrots. Personally, I like the texture the grated carrot adds and I like to kid myself that it makes the soup more healthy because it ends up practically raw so none of the vitamins can have been cooked out yet ;-)

This soup is gluten free, dairy free and both vegetarian and vegan, so basically perfect for almost everyone.


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A taste of home: Corned beef hash

corned beef hashI got the idea to post a recipe for corned beef hash when Charlotte mentioned she’d had some in New York that, despite being tasty, resembled no corned beef hash she’d ever seen before. She then went on to say that the baked beans were missing, leading to my response that I make corned beef hash with baked beans, too! And thus the idea was born that I would post a recipe for corned beef hash on my blog so we could compare versions. Of course, that meant first waiting until I actually decided to make corned beef hash again, which doesn’t happen all that often because corned beef is just sooo expensive in this country! But last night I needed to use up some potatoes, which presented the perfect corned beef making opportunity… Of course, I could have posted the recipe without making it first (I know this one by heart… it’s ridiculously easy!) but then there would have been no photo. And who wants a recipe post without a photo?

Corned beef – along with sausage rolls and toad in the hole – is one of the English meals I make that Jan likes so much he occasionally requests that I make it. In fact, I think corned beef hash may even be the only English meal that he’s made himself when cooking for the two of us (usually his fall backs are either some kind of spaghetti or chilli con carne), so it must be good.. right? ;-)

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Corned Beef Hash

Ingredients (serves 2):
1 onion, chopped
3 medium potatoes,peeled and  diced
1 tin corned beef, roughly cubed
1 tin baked beans
freshly ground black pepper
cayenne pepper (optional)
tabasco sauce (optional)
oil or butter, for frying

Method

1. Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling water until they are just starting to go soft (they should be slightly less soft than if you were planning to make mashed potatoes – they’ll soften up further during the rest of the cooking process)

2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil or butter in a frying pan and then fry the onions until they start to go brown

3. Add the potatoes to the frying pan with the onions and cook for about a minute, then add the cubes of corned beef and use a potato masher or fork to slightly mash the corned beef and potatoes together then stir until they’re nicely mixed through

4. Cook the onion/corned beef/potato mixture for about 3 minutes, stirring once in a while

5. Stir in the baked beans then add some black pepper to taste. You can also add some cayenne pepper and/or tabasco sauce at this stage if you like your hash a bit spicy (I used cayenne pepper only as I currently have no tobasco)

6. Spread the micture out evenly in the frying pan and leave it to cook for 3-4 minutes, so it forms a crust on the bottom. Stir in the crusty bits then repeat the process so it forms a new crust. You can do this a third time, if you want (Jan likes the crust best, so we usually do want)

7. Taste the corned beef hash to see if it needs any more spices or seasoning. You can also add some salt if you think it needs it – I tend not to as I find corned beef salty enough as it is!

And that’s it… easy peasy! Instead of the allowing it to form a crust in the pan part, you can also spoon it into a heatproof dish after stage 5 and stick it under the gril until it goes crusty on top. There are no grills in Germany, so this isn’t an option for me but I believe it’s how it’s traditionally done! You can also leave out the baked beans if you’re not into them or substitute them for a tin of spaghetti hoops. Once, when we had no baked beans, Jan suggested putting carrots in the mixture and that was quite nice, too. Basically, you can adapt it as you wish!


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What can go wrong with tinned tomatoes?

The above was the question my sister asked me on Facebook last night in response to the following status:

Just had to make tea twice because there was something wrong with the tin of tomatoes I used. First attempt in the bin.

tomato_canI had decided to cook three bean chilli, because I’d got home late due to working an extra hour (customers… grrr) and that’s a nice, quick and easy dish. I’d already fried the onion, garlic and chilli, poured in the beans and added some spices. Things were going swimmingly. Then it was time to add the tinned tomatoes. They looked perfectly normal in the tin. Then I poured them into the frying pan, stirred things around a bit, went to give the mixture a try and discovered it tasted funny. Odd! It hadn’t tasted funny before I added the tomatoes. I called Jan (who had come home early) over to give it a try just in case it was something weird with my tastebuds. Before he’d even picked up the fork, he remarked “This  smells… strange”. Hmm, not good. Not good at all. He then tasted it and confirmed my suspicions: “It doesn’t taste mouldy, but it doesn’t taste right!” I, meanwhile, had thought it tasted somehow plasticky or metally… definitely not like something food-related, anyway. I fished the tin (which I had already washed) back out of the bin and we both agreed that it smelled a bit fishy (as in like fish, not suspicious. Although the latter applies too).

That tin of tomatoes had been my last one, but luckily we had a jar of pizza sauce in the fridge (it came with one of those ready-to-roll pizza dough sets, but the dough went out of date before we could use it), and the cupboard yielded another tin of white beans and one of chick peas (which are technically beans, I think) so I was able to create a replacement meal and didn’t have to waste the rice, which was already read. And that’s the story of how I ended up having to cook tea twice. Not exactly how I had planned to spend my evening!

And the moral? Probably something along the lines of “Don’t be lazy and rely on tins… chop your own damn tomatoes!” Like that’s ever gonna happen…


9 Comments

Chicken, leek and bacon mashed potato topped pie

I made this delicious pie for the second time the other day, and this time I remembered to take photos, which means you, my lovely readers, get a recipe (and I can actually look up how to do it next time instead of guessing and hoping it comes out as nice as the time before… always a danger with made up recipes!). This is perfect as a comfort food or for a warm, hearty meal on a cold day.

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Mashed Potato Topped Pie

You will need:
450 g chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large leek, chopped fairly small
1 packet bacon pieces
1 tub crème fraîche
4 large potatoes, diced
About 1 tsp tarragon
Salt and black pepper
Nutmeg
Butter, for mash
Optional: Grated cheese

The above amount serves two, but could be stretched to more if you add a side dish of salad or vegetables.

What to do:

1. Heat some oil (I use olive oil) in a pan and fry the bacon bits for about a minute. Meanwhile, place some water on to boil in a saucepan.

2. Add the chicken to the pan and continue frying, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is almost completely cooked through.
Also, put the diced potatoes in the water as soon as it starts to boil.

Chicken and bacon

3. Add the leek to the pan with the chicken/bacon and fry until soft, stirring occasionally.

Pie filling

4. Drain the potatoes then place them back in the pan and mash them with some button and about a teaspoon of the crème fraîche.
Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg.

5. Stir about a teaspoon of tarragon into the frying pan with the chicken, bacon and leek (fresh is best, but you can use dried if that’s all you’ve got…
I use a a jar with fresh tarragon in oil), then stir in the remainder of the crème fraîche. Add salt and pepper to the mixture to taste.

Tarragon in oil

6. Place the chicken, leek and bacon mixture into two small or one medium-sized oven proof dishes and spread it out so it covers the bottom.

Pie filling

7. Cover the chicken, leek and bacon mixture with the mashed potatoes and spread it out to complete cover the chicken, etc. layer.
You can then add some grated cheese to the top if you want I did – I used Cheddar).

8. Place the pie in the oven on around 180°C (350°F) until the cheese has melted, then sit back and enjoy your pie. Caution: It will be very hot!

The finished pie


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A Day in My Life – 7 February 2014

I’ve done a few Photo an Hour posts now, but all of them have been on Saturdays. So I decided to take part in Manda from Break the Sky’s Day in the Life linkup again this month… and this time do it on the actual day. That way, you can all get an insight into what I do on a typical day. As it happens, the day of a link up was a Friday, but they’re not really much different to any other week day.
*Note* Unlike with my photo an hour posts, there are large chunks of this day that I didn’t take photos for. I mean, I couldn’t exactly keep whipping the camera out while I was supposed to be working…

Elmo slippers and red pyjamas

Elmo slippers and red pyjamas

After hitting snooze a couple of times, at 6:05 am I’m finally up and on my way to the bathroom. Not even my Elmo slippers can make the earliness of the hour bearable… (supposedly people get used to waking up early after a while, and even wake up stupidly early at weekends when no alarm is set. I’d love to know who these people are, because I’ve certainly never met one!)

Once I’m showered and dressed, it’s time to dry my hair. Then I brush my teeth and get my bag packed for the day. Pictured above, waiting to go in my bag, are breakfast (a yoghurt) and lunch (some instant mashed potato thingy… the height of good nutrition, I know ;-))

Early morning in Karlsruhe

Early morning in Karlsruhe

At 7:20, I say goodbye to the boyfriend (so jealous that he’s still in bed) and head to the train station. The street lights are still on, but at least the sky is showing signs that daytime is just around the corner. Soon, I will actually get to see sunlight on week days!

By 7:40 am, I’m on the train and the sun is rising. It’s pretty much impossible to get decent photos of the sun rise from a moving train (especially with a camera as crappy as mine!), but I tried. The above two are the best of a bad bunch. After taking the sunrise photos, I did what about 90% of the people I commute with do on the morning train… closed my eyes. (In case you’re wondering, the remainder mostly read or get started on the days work. I hope I never, ever have a job where I need to do the latter! Starting work before actually arriving at work is just wrong!)

Apologies for the incredibly crappy photo...

Apologies for the incredibly crappy photo…

For the first time in ages, I managed to get on the bus at my destination (it’s supposed to leave precisely when my train arrives). I got to work at 8:10, and the first thing I did was fetch a spoon so I could eat my yoghurt ;-) After putting in the corrections for a small job that was due in the morning, I spent the rest of the morning working on an urgent translation due that afternoon (a horrible job that I didn’t understand a word of! Thank goodness for terminology.). At around 8:30, a colleague came and asked if anyone would like a tea. We had no Erkältungstee (tea for colds), so I chose one that called itself “Hol dir Kraft” (Rough translation: Get some power) and claims to be “enlivening”. The Germans have a tea for everything…

Feeeed me...

Feeeed me…

At 12:30, it was time for lunch. I ate at my desk so I could read the news (and blogs, of course). I was watched by a hungry looking giant flesh-eating bacteria (photo above especially for Aussa Lorens). After lunch it’s back to work – this time on a longer translation that I started yesterday. The text is IT-related and actually quite interesting. At 2 pm my proofreader sends me the corrections for the horrible translation from the morning and I enter those and prepare the job for delivery before returning to my nice translation for the rest of the afternoon.

Waiting for the train to leave

Waiting for the train to leave

4:45 is home time! Usually I leave at 5, but because I caught the bus this morning I can go a little earlier today. I have plenty of time, so I walk back to the train station and have a browse in one of the shops there. Then I go and stand in my usual position just inside the door of the train. Once everyone is on and the doors have closed, I’ll sit down on the step. There’s no point in even trying to get a seat on the way home… especially not on a Friday evening when all the people who usually take the next train are on mine, making it even more full!

Reusing an Amazon box...

Reusing an Amazon box…

Back in Karlsruhe, I briefly stop off at home to pick up a package I need to send then head to the post office. On the way home, I do a bit of shopping. Usually Saturday is shopping day, but since I’m in town anyway I might as well do it now!

It’s 10 to 8 by the time I get home, so once I’ve unpacked the shopping it’s time to make a start on tea. Not until after I’ve washed the dishes though…

Apologies vegetarainas/vegans for the photo of meat...

Apologies vegetarians/vegans for the photo of meat…

Jan and I have an agreement that I’ll make food for 8:30 pm-ish and if he’s not home and I haven’t heard from him then I’ll eat alone. Usually I make an exception for Fridays since I don’t have to be up as early the next morning, but this time I told him in the morning that I would want an early night and wouldn’t be waiting for him. I’m making a turkey  and chickpea curry (it would have been chicken but the shop had run out) in the hope that the spiciness will cause my cold to do one so I can actually enjoy my weekend! I get a text from Jan just after I’ve started cooking saying he won’t be leaving work for another 45 minutes, so it looks like I’ll definitely be eating alone. While I’m cooking, I intermittently pop into the spare room to do things on the computer… because apparantly I don’t spend enough time staring at a screen at work?!

Yes, I eat from my lap despite the fact that we have TWO tables...

Yes, I eat from my lap despite the fact that we have TWO tables…

Tea time! As expected, Jan is not here so I eat mine alone while reading a book. I’m a multi-tasking genius ;-)

Once I’ve eaten, I decide to put my pyjamas on and head to bed with my book… not how I usually spend a Friday night, but I’m trying to get rid of a cold, remember? I’m still reading in bed when Jan gets home, half an hour later, and fills my hot water bottle for me.
And that’s basically it for my day. Jan went to heat up his food and I continued reading til about midnight, then refilled my water glass, said goodnight to Jan and switched out the light. And now you know exactly how unexciting my life really is… ;-)

The link up is open all month, so feel free to join in on any day in February! You can read Manda’s Day in the Life post here: http://breakthesky.net/2014/02/07/day-life-february-2014/

A Day in the Life: A Linkup by Break the Sky

 


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Tuna Pasta Bake – for days when you REALLY don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen!

I had plans to make some elaborate meal involving chicken and garlic sauce for tea, but my local supermarket foiled me by having no chicken breasts left – the supermarket running out of things is a common occurence when I’m forced to go shopping after work! I had no plan B, and after dragging my disappointed self all the way round the supermarket then carrying the far too heavy bags home in the dark I really wasn’t in the mood for slaving over our evening meal anyway, so we’re having my usual “can’t be bothered to cook properly but don’t want to just shove some crispy chicken in the oven (plus there is no crispy chicken in the freezer)” fallback meal: Tuna Pasta Bake. Here’s how to make it:

The ingredients:
Pasta – something like penne or farfalle works best
Whatever vegetables you have to hand and can be bothered to deal with (I used courgette and leek today. On less lazy days, I might chop an onion. Lazier days involve a tin of peas or kidney beans)
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of tuna (in water/juice, not oil)
Freshly ground black pepper
Mixed herbs
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Cheese (preferably Cheddar, but any strong cheese will do. The mild type where you need practically a whole block just to be able to taste anything won’t work here!)
Ready salted crisps

The method:
1. Place enough pasta for the number of people you are in a pan and add boiling water. Cook for about half the time the packet says to – it will continue cooking in the oven later and you don’t want it to go mushy!

2. While the pasta is cooking, chop up your vegetables – or just open the tins if you’re going for the really lazy method – and place them in an oven-proof dish.

Vegetables

Vegetables

3. Add the tinned tomatoes and tuna and stir everything together, then add herbs and spices.

4. Add the pasta and stir until most of the pasta is covered with tomato. If there isn’t enough tomato for all your pasta, add another tin (I make pasta for 2-3 people and one tin is enough for that)

Pasta

Pasta

5. Grate cheese all over the top of your pasta/veg mix. Or use ready-grated stuff.

Cheesy!

Cheesy!

6. Crush a handful of ready-salted crisps and sprinkle them over the top of the cheese.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

7. Place the dish in the oven at around 180° for about 20-30 minutes, until the cheese has melted and top is starting to go golden brown.

8. Dish out and enjoy

If you’re vegetarian or just don’t like fish, you can leave out the tuna and add extra vegetables for a vegetarian version – I’ve done it before and it works well. Oh, and the usual reaction I get when I mention the crushed crisps is a look of disgust, so if you’re currently sitting pulling faces at your computer then I would like to say try it first! It’s nice, honest!


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Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat’s Cheese Risotto

I would like to share with you what the boyfriend and I ate for tea tonight because it tasted absolutely amazing even if I do say so myself ;-) Plus, the recipe was made up entirely by yours truly with no input from my usual recipe websites.

Here’s what you’ll need (serves 2):
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
Olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
Risotto rice, however much your packet says makes 2 portions
Vegetable or chicken stock
100g soft goat’s cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Herbs/spices to taste
White wine, about half a glass (optional)

And the method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (you should do this before chopping your squash really), then put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large bowl (I never claimed this recipe was low calorie!) and add one clove or garlic, then stir in the butternut squash until it is all coated in garlic/olive oil mix. If there isn’t enough olive oil, add a bit more. Then add freshly ground black pepper and some other herbs/spices to taste. I used a bit of cayenne pepper and some dried mixed herbs (called “italische Kräuter” in Germany)

2. Place the butternut squash in an oven-proof dish and place it in the oven. You’re going to want to roast it for between 30 and 45 minutes, taking it out half way through to give it  a stir and check on the spices (I ended up adding salt plus more black pepper at the halfway point).

Some bits of squash are slighty green because it wasn't 100% ripe yet. It still tasted good though!

Some bits of squash are slighty green because it wasn’t 100% ripe yet. It still tasted good though!

3. Place some butter in a large saucepan and melt it then use it to fry the second garlic clove and the red onion. Once the vegetables are almost done, add your risotto rice and continue frying until the rice is glassy looking.

4. Make up the amount of stock your rice’s instructions tell you to (I used chicken stock because I had run out of vegetable, but vegetable would also be good) then pour the stock into the saucepan, stir and allow to simmer.

5. When the rice has soaked up almost all the liquid, add the goat’s cheese to the saucepan and stir it in. You should end up with a lovely creamy looking mixture.

6. By this time, your squash should be ready. Remove it from the oven, check the spices again then, when all is good, stir it into the saucepan with the other ingredients.

The squash all roasted

The squash all roasted

7. Once the squash is stirred in, add some white wine to the saucepan. I used roughly half a glass. Stir everything together and simmer until the white wine has mostly been absorbed and you’re left with a colourful mixture with a creamy consistency.

8. Enjoy your meal!

The finished article

The finished article

p.s. Looking at this post and any of my previous recipe and baking posts will probably tell you exactly why I’m not a food blogger!

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