Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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35 Before 35: Eat fondue in Switzerland

KäsefondueFondue is technically more of a winter food (for obvious reasons!), but when we took my brother to Basel for the day I was determined to find some despite the fact that it was July! Amazingly, I actually managed to find two restaurants in Basel that serve fondue year round. The first place we tried turned out to be closed as the owners were on holiday, so we ended up at a restaurant called Steinbock. (Steinbock, by the way, is the German name for the star sign Capricorn).

The restaurant was a fairly unassuming place on a busy street near the Schweizerische Bahnhof (Swiss railway station – there is also a Badische Bahnhof, which is the German train station, meaning you can travel there from Germany on a German rail pass). If I hadn’t discovered beforehand from the Internet that this was one of very few restaurants in Basel that does fondue year round I doubt we would have stopped there! However, it turned out to be a good choice. Apart from the many different types of fondue (including meat ones), the restaurant also had raclette and several different dishes involving Rösti, as well as some other traditional Swiss dishes and some pasta/gnocchi dishes. Jan initially wanted to order cheese fondue for three, but I suggested it might be better for just the two of us to get fondue, that way my brother could try a little bit but wouldn’t be left without any food if he didn’t like it. So we ordered fondue for two, while my brother went for the Schnitzel.
Just look at all the cheese in this pot… and remember, that’s for two people:

You can’t even tell what it is I’m dipping in! (For those who aren’t familiar with fondue, it’s bread).

The fondue was nice enough, although it had a little too much alcoho for my taste (cheese fondue is not just melted cheese – it actually consists of cheese, white wine, “Kirschwasser” – a kind of cherry schnapps – and usually some garlic). Most of the times I’ve eaten fondue, it’s been at work (we have a Swiss costumer who likes to send us fondue cheese), and obviously we’re sparing with the alcohol there. I prefer my fondue to taste more of cheese! It was still nice though, and Jan enjoyed it. But I do have to admit, my favourite part of the meal was the bread basket they brought out before we’d even ordered… filled with warm bread rolls that I’m sure had a hint of cheese in them I would go back there just for those! And for the record, no we did not finish the cheese! We used up all our bread and decided we were both too full to ask for more (trust me, it was a loooot of cheese!)

The food was fairly expensive – Jan spent nearly all of the 100 Swiss francs (just over 82 euros) he had on him just on our three meals plus three drinks! But by Swiss standards it was actually quite reasonable… I have seen Swiss cafés that charged 15 Swiss francs (about 12 euros) for basically cheese on toast! If you ever find yourself in Basel, I would certainly recommend Restaurant Steinbock. But do make sure you have plenty of cash on you – the waiter said they didn’t accept credit cards, and Switzerland is far from cheap!

And there’s another thing crossed off my 35 before 35 list. Just 31 left to go!


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Café Pan, Karlsruhe

On the first day of my brother’s visit, we decided to go out for brunch. I had been to Café Pan, an organic café and creperie, once before and really enjoyed it, but had then promptly forgotten its existence until it was reviewed on Karlsresource. They are closed on Sundays, which limits the opportunities for me to visit, but being off work during the week meant I could actually go there. On my first visit, we sat outside in the courtyard, but as it was raining off and on the day my brother and I went, we decided to see what it looked like inside.

Inside Café Pan

Inside Café Pan

The menu mainly consists of numerous crepes, both sweet and savoury, but there are also cakes and a soup of the day. We, of course, opted for crepes. The savoury ones are made without egg and milk, so are suitable for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Sweet ones are not vegan friendly, but on request they will make a sweet crepe using the vegan batter from the savoury crepes. Here’s the list of sweet crepes, photo courtesy of my brother:

cafe pan menuMy brother went for the Schokolade crepe, which was topped with Nutella. Meanwhile, I decided to start my day with something savoury and had a spinach crepe, consisting of spinach (obviously), tomato and cheese… I asked for it without the egg.

Spinach crepe

Spinach crepe

To drink, we both opted for coffee, although various freshly squeezed juices were available. Maybe I’ll try one of those next time. My brother and I both thoroughly enjoyed our crepes and I will definitely be going to this café again… hopefully it won’t take me several years this time!

 


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A taste of home: Crumpets

A while ago, my dad’s cousin – who lives in America – gave me a recipe for homemade crumpets, so while my brother was over we decided to give it a try. I’m not sure where she got the recipe from, so apologies if it’s yours. I’m going to be explaining how to make the crumpets using German ingredients though, so it’s not a direct copy.

First of all, you will need something to use as crumpet rings. Mine was actually a set of two round silicone fried egg moulds that I discovered in a shop in Strasbourg. I think they might have a slightly larger diameter than your average crumpet ring, but they worked really well! And the little handles were useful for removing the rings between crumpets.

Frying the crumpets

Frying the crumpets

Ingredients:

350g (12 oz) strong, plain flour (I used type 1050 because it said on the back it’s the typical flour that baker’s use)
1 level teaspoon salt
1 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast (can be found in the baking section, with the flour and baking powder. Use the Dr Oetker Hefe with “Kein Anrühen. Gelingt sicher.” written on it. There is also a Ruf one, but my supermarket didn’t have that)
300 ml full fat milk
300 ml boiling water
Sunflower oil for frying and greasing

Method:

1. Tip the flour into a bowl (no need to sieve) and add the salt and yeast

2. Pour 300 ml of boiling water over the milk and check that the mixture is luke warm. Ours was not, so we let it stand for 5 minutes before continuing.

3. Add the warm liquid to the flour and beat well for 5 minutes until the mixture is a soft and spoonable consistency.

4. Grease the base of the frying pan and the crumpet rings (if necessary – silicone ones don’t need greasing!), place the rings in the pan and heat until the pan and crumpet rings  (if using metal ones) are hot.

5. Fill the rings about half to three quarters of the way up with batter and cook over a gentle to moderate heat for 8-10 mins. If the bubbles that form fail to pop (which is what creates the little holes), you can gently burst them with a cocktail stick. Then remove the rings and turn the crumpets over.

6. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes until golden, then remove from the pan and enjoy!

We got 10 crumpets from the mixture, but our rings were slightly larger than the size given (6×7 cm). The scones can be left to cool then toasted and can be frozen in bags for up to one month. Allow frozen crumpets to defrost before toasting.

The finished article

The finished article


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Animals and mazes in Vienna

My brother left this morning,  so now I can get back to my regular blogging. I’m so behind on the things I wanted to write about! So now I shall go back in time to the end of June and continue where I left off with Vienna…

On our second to last day in Vienna, we decided to head to the Schönbrunn area. Schönbrunn is the name of the palace, but that wasn’t what we wanted to see! Our first stop was the zoo, called Tiergarten Schönbrunn (Tiergarten is an alternative German word for zoo, and literally means animal garden). It’s the oldest zoo in the world that’s still open, having started as an imperial menagier in 1752, and as far as zoos go, it’s a really nice one. They have both red and giant pandas, rhinos and, most excitingly, a tropical forest house with flying foxes! Also known as megabats, these are right up there among my favourite animals ever! Those of you who don’t like the idea of animals being locked away in cages should look away now. For the rest of you, here are some animals to admire. Our first stop involved reptiles and sea creatures.

I spent ages standing in front of a giant fish tank trying to get a photo of one specific fish. Eventually Jan managed to get one for me. It’s not the best of photos cos that damn fish was fast and also seemed to be the only one of its kind (there were millions of the plain yellow ones), which meant catching it while it was actually in sight was difficult, but hopefully you’ll be able to see why I was so excited by it… (hint: I’m not talking about the blue fish!)

Vienna

Not sure whether you can tell, but the fish in the middle has a yellow body with a red and black striped fin. I have no idea what kind of fish it really is, but it doesn’t matter – to me, it will forever be Germany fish!

After leaving the acquarium/reptile area, we wandered around looking at some of the animals who were in their outdoor areas. There were various babies among them, including elephants, a young giant panda and even baby mongeese! Also, if you click on the flamingo picture to make it bigger, you should be able to spot some young (not really baby any more) flamingos. They fascinated me because I had never seen a flamingo that wasn’t fully grown (and pink!) yet.

Next stop: Tropical house. It was warm in there… and humid (well duh!). There was even a sign outside warning people of that. It was well worth it though, because flying foxes! (Flughunde in German – literally flying dogs). I’d never seen one before, and now I want to see one up close. Way too cool! There were also various tropical birds in there and some cool frogs – some of them were so shiny they looked almost plastic!

After leaving the tropical bit, there was a kind og walk through the woods over bridges. Below the bridges there was a huge crater, which the information said was from where a bomb had hit the zoo during World War 2! Then, in the wooded area after the bridges, came bees! Mostly there was just a huge information board explaining the lifecycle of bees, how a bee hive works, etc. The actual hives were mainly behind in an area you couldn’t get to, but in some places there were glass panels where you could see in. It was incredibly difficult to take a photo of the bees, but I tried! And I then also had to take a photo of one of the items in the small play area nearby, because that too was a bee! I may have got a little overexcited…

Just past the bees, we came past a little girl and (presumably) her grandfather. Grandad was reading while the little girl stood near him with a bag of buts. As we went by, we saw a squirrel come running up to the girl, whol held out a nut. The squirrel then took said nut right from her hand before running back into the trees to bury it, then running back, getting a new nut and burying that one in a different place. Watching the squirrel and attempting to get photos must have kept us occupied for a good five minutes!

Vienna

Fiiinally moving on, we ended our trip to the zoo with a visit to the penguins and the polar bears.

After the zoo, we stayed in the Schönbrunn area. I had seen on the map that there was a section of the grounds labelled “Mazes and labyrinths” and I really wanted to go and check them out! First up was a simple maze where you just had to find a viewing platform. There were two entrances next to each other, so Jan and I decided to take an entrance each and see who could find the platform first. I won! ;-)

Maze

Next was a labyrinth containing various activities (for want of a better word)… a square of rectangles that could be stood on to make music, a kind of pump to spray water and a kaleidoscope of mirrors. A second labyrinth had a pole with a bell a top (which I failed to climb) and a mathematical puzzle that kept us occupied for far too long! At only €3.50 for an adult it was certainly worth the entrance fee :-)

The ultimate mirror selfie!

The ultimate mirror selfie!

We were forced to leave the maths puzzle unfinished when it was time to leave (well, we managed the simple version at least…), so we headed into town to watch the Germany vs USA match. Then we decided to have dinner at a place that our Dialog im Dunkeln guide had recommended - Jonathan and Sieglinde. Everything on the menu involves Äpfel or Erdäpfel – apples or potatoes (Erdapfel, literally earth apple, being the Austrian word for potato). Since potatoes are one of my absolute favourite meals, this was right up my street! I chose the baked potato with a spinach sauce, and it was positively green! Jan went for potato and wild garlic pancakes. I tried a bit of one, and let me tell you it was delicious! Of course, we both had to drink fresh apple juice. There were so many tasty looking things on the menu… if I’m ever back in Vienna I definitely have to go there again!

And thus concludes our penultimate day in Vienna, and my June 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge.


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Chicken and gnocchi bake

This isn’t exactly an earth-shattering recipe. Anybody could have made it up (in fact, lots of people probably already have.. I didn’t check, but I bet there are similar recipes all over the Internet!). It was very tasty though, and pretty quick to make. So I give you chicken and gnocchi bake. The amount below serves two.

FoodIngredients:
400g chicken breast, chopped (I bough the pre-chopped variety, because I’m lazy)
400g gnocchi
1 courgette, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, tarragon, etc. I used dried mixed herbs
Grated cheese
Oil for frying

Method:
1. Heat the oil in a frying pan then add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. While the oil is heating, put on the water for the gnocchi.

2. Fry the chicken until it’s almost cooked through then add the courgette to the frying pan. Put the gnocchi in the water once it’s boiling then, when it’s ready, drain it and add it to the frying pan.

Chicken, courgette, gnocchi

Chicken, courgette, gnocchi

3. Add some herbs then stir in the tin of tomatoes.

4. Place the contents of the frying pan in an oven-proof dish then grate cheese all over it – as much or as little as you want.

5. Bake on 180°C/350°F for about 20 minutes until the cheese has melted, then serve.

Look at all that cheesy goodness!

Look at all that cheesy goodness!

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! This is also a recipe that could easily be modified, for example by using spinach instead of courgette or leaving out the chicken and using other vegetables to make a vegetarian version. It’s great comfort food! (Although not really recommend as a summer dish… it was 36°C the day Jan and I had it and we were boiling by the time we’d finished eating!)


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Bratislava, Slovakia

Since we were going to be near water in Vienna, I was determined to go on a boat. Then we discovered that there are regular boats between Vienna and Bratislava… and Jan had never been to Slovakia (I’m pretty sure I was there with my grandparents on a European tour as a teenager, but it was only a stop for lunch and I remember literally nothing!).

On the advice of Steven, who had coincidentally been in Bratislava the day we met up with him, we decided to take the train there and the boat back. He also recommended a free walking tour (the kind where you give tips at the end), which he had taken and enjoyed. The tour was at 11 and we wanted to buy tickets for the boat back first so we decided to get the train at 8:20 a.m.! The train journey takes roughly an hour and, unsurprisingly, I slept most of the way! On arrival in Bratislava, the first thing we did was take a bus into town (public transport was included with our train ticket). It was immediately apparant that we weren’t in Austria any more:

Bratislava

To be fair to Bratislava, we did see some more modern looking buses driving around, but we managed to get on one of the old, shabby ones ;-) It turned out we could have actually walked into town from the station, but whatever. We were there now, and it gave us plenty of time to find a bank, get some money out, purchase boat tickets and then find the square where the guide was supposed to be waiting. The tour was very interesting, but loooong (a little over 2 hours), especially in the hot sunshine. I tried to stand in the shade whenever I could, but it wasn’t always possible and I ended up sunburnt. *Sigh* On that same day, it was actually raining in Vienna ;-) Here are some random photos I took on our walk around the city. The first few are from before we met our guide and the rest were taken during the walk (the statue of Hviezdoslav was the meeting point for the tour).

The second to last stop on the tour was my favourite! Apparantly the guides like to take groups there because otherwise no tourist will ever find it! Our guide kept telling us she was taking us the “the blue church”, and once we arrived we understood why:

She wasn’t lying about the blue! It’s real name is the Church of St Elisabeth (Kostol svätej Alžbety in Slovakian), and even though it looks like it might be Russian Orthodox, it isn’t (we asked). It’s actually a Catholic church, built in the Hungarian Art Noveau style. Next to it is a secondary school built in the same style (designed by the same architect)… our guide assured us that most schools in Slovakia, don’t like that, but more like the abandoned communist era hospital opposite the church… a horrid, spooky-looking concrete monstrosity (sorry, no picture).

I wish my school had looked like this!

I wish my school had looked like this!

After the walk, we wanted to go for lunch (and I desperately needed a drink, having finished my bottle of water about an hour earlier!). The tour guide had recommended a place along the route that was toruisty but inexpensive and with good food, so we and another German guy from the tour (who it turned out lives just down the road from Karlsruhe!) decided to go there. We were told to try Bryndzové Halušky, a type of potato dumpling with sheep’s cheese and bacon. Jan and I went for a sharing platter which included that, a dish with the same kind of potato dumpling but served in a cheesy Sauerkraut mixture and Bryndzové pirohy, semi-circular dough pockets filled with the same sheep’s cheese. All very delicious! The bacon was extremely crispy, but also melted on the tongue.

Bratislava

It may not look like much for two people, but it was extremely filling!

By the time we’d found the restaurant again (we’d walked quite a bit after passing it), ordered and eaten our food, and paid the bill, time was getting on a bit, so we ended up heading straight for the boat without heading up to the castle or seeing the cathedral. According to our tour guide, we didn’t miss much not seeing the castle itself (apparantly it’s empty inside), but the view from up there is good. Oh well, some other time…
Our boat left Bratislava at 4 and took an hour and a half, leaving us with plenty of time to head back to the hotel, drop things off, grab the concert tickets and head out to see Pearl Jam…

**I am counting Vienna and Bratislava as my June 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge.**


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Vienna: Day two

Most of our second day in Vienna was spent at Dialog im Dunkeln, which I’ve already posted about, but I would now like to reiterate that it’s a really cool experience and you should give it a try if there’s one near you. (Also, we are now planning to visit the one in Frankfurt while my brother is here). Before we headed over there, we stopped at the station to buy train tickets for a day trip to Bratislava the next day. Once we’d done that, it turned out we still had some time left before our tour was due to start, so we popped into a church. I don’t remember the name of it…

We also had time to stop for a coffee, which I just had to take a photo of because art!! Having a pretty picture on your coffe may be an everyday occurrence for some, but it’s not something you see much of in Karlsruhe so I still get very excited about it.

Vienna

Once we’d done Dialog im Dunkeln, we decided to head to the Natural History Museum, stopping on the way for lunch. We ended up stopping at a cafe where we both had Mango Lassis to drink and ate the Indian Dal (spicy lentil soup).

Vienna

After walking for aaaages, we reached the Natural History Museum only to discover it was closed! We later found out that a lot of places had closed for the afternoon, although at that point we didn’t know why. The cute elephant outside the museum kind of made the wasted walk worth it:

Vienna

Next, we decided to try going to the butterfly house. On the way, we randomly discovered another exhibition, so we had a look at that. It was something to do with cables as art and featured a lot of extension plugs and wires, plus a weird video. I didn’t really get it…
By the time we reached the butterfly house, it was 5:30 p.m… 45 minutes after closing time. *Sigh* Since it seemed like museums were a lost cause, we decided to find somewhere to sit and watch the football instead, seeing as it was the day of England’s last match in the World Cup! (Yeah… we suck and didn’t make it past the group stage.) We found an Irish pub, where I drank Stiegl, a Salzburg beer.

As we were leaving the pub, we found out the reason for various things closing early… Putin was in town and there were various demonstrations/protests going on because of it. Here’s one that we saw for LBGT rights (I know there is sometimes a Q in there, too, but the sign we saw only had the four letters):

Vienna

We were both hungry by this time (even more so after watching people eating burgers and nachos at the Irish pub), so we went looking for something to eat. Jan found a brew-pub called Salm Bräu that had good reviews on TripAdvisor, but mostly from tourists. It turned out to be an okay place, but not somewhere I would recommend. The food was nice but forgettable, and my beer mostly tasted of yeast. Jan had a dark beer, which I tried but can’t even remember what I thought of. Never mind, have a photo of our beers anyway:

Vienna

By the time we’d eaten, it was pretty late, so we decided to head back to the hotel. On the way, we passed some kind of monument/memorial with cyrillic writing on it that had been cordoned off earlier in the day. Jan was curious, so we went to have a look at it. It didn’t take me long to get bored with his attempts to interpret the cyrillic, so I turned my attention to the fountain opposite that was all lit up.

I also took a photo of it in green, but I think two photos of the smae fountain is enough for a blog post ;-)
After I went back to Jan, a Russian couple came up to us and helped with the translation of the cyrillic so we could finally get on our way! ;-) I wanted to get some sleep as we had an early planned the next day…
And that was Tuesday. Coming up next: A day in Bratislava, Slovakia.

*I am counting Vienna (and Bratislava) as my June trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge*

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