Friday letters

Good morning! I hope you’re all well and that those of you who haven’t guessed already are busily wracking your brains for guess the Christmas cross stitch round 3! I’ve been suffering from a horrible cold all week. It started on Sunday with a bit of a sore throat, on Monday I didn’t feel any worse, which gave me hope that a sore throat was the worst I was going to get. Then on Tuesday I had to actually go into work for various meetings, which involved two hours on a freezing train. Why must Deutsche Bahn turn the air conditioning up so much?! I’m sure that didn’t help matters at all, because by the time it came to the journey home swallowing really hurt and I could not get warm at all! I went to bed with a cup of Lemsip and woke up feeling so terrible that if I was still actually going into the office regularly I would have called in sick. But since my “office” is only a few metres from the bedroom and my colleague was already off sick (for the second week), I wrapped up warm and powered through with the help of ALL the hot drinks and several packets of tissues (I could not stop sneezing!). It seemed to work as yesterday I wasn’t sneezing as much and my throat was back to being more scratchy than sore. How today will go remains to be seen, but I’m consoling myself with the fact that it’s almost the weekend and then I only have to work Monday and after that I’m on holiday – finally! Apart from one day for my cousin’s wedding, I haven’t had any time off since April, when I took a week to move! This cold just better have gone by the time I have to get on a plane… Anyway… sorry to ramble on so much. I know you’re only here for the letters 😉

Mail boxDear cold. I was serious with what I said up there. I fly on Thursday and you had better be gone by then! My ears hurt enough on planes without a half blocked-half runny nose getting involved in matters!

Dear British food. I am coming to eat you, oh yes I am!! Proper chips, pies, decent bacon, pasties and yummy crisps… get in my belly!

Dear godson (and your mum). It’s been far too long! I can’t wait to see you.

Dear October. I’m actually not going to complain that you’ve arrived far too quickly (even though you have) because with you comes holiday!

Dear rugby matches we’re attending. Please be as exciting as the South Africa vs Japan match. We want some action! (For reference, that’s the three that are taking place in Newcastle. Now get on it, rugby Gods).

Right, that’s all from me for today. Keep placing your guesses on this week’s cross stitch post and I’ll get the next picture up for you soon. In the meantime, have a fantastic weekend!

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Foodie penpals July reveal

I am a terrible blogger and forgot to get my foodie penpals post ready for the big reveal on the last day of July. Oops. In my defence, I received my parcel relatively late in the month and I had a wedding to attend. In the UK. Those are my excuses and I’m sticking to them! Anyway, my foodie penpals this month were both in UK. I sent a parcel to the lovely Selina and received one from Kate (I would provide links if they had blogs…). Here’s what I got from Kate:

Foodie package

What? You can’t see everything? Here – I took the items out of the box for you!

Foodie parcel

I have to confess, I very cheekily requested the beef Hula Hoops. I love beef Hula Hoops! (Also Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch, Skips, Bacon Fries, Mini Cheddars and Wotsits, just in case anyone was thinking of sending me a care package 😉 ).

This month I actually managed to restrain myself for long enough to take individual photos of some of the items, so here’s what I received in detail:

Foodie penpals

Baking stuff, specifically mini loaf cases, chocolate honeycomb decoratey type stuff and cardamom pods. I’ve never used a cardamom pod for anything in my life! Research shall have to be done…

Foodie penpals

Yummy sweet treats! Fruit crumble sweeties, treacle tart flavour chocolate and raspberry flavoured pieces of dried coconut. SO TASTY!

Foodie penpals

Beefy stuffs! The aforementioned Hula Hoops and some sweet/sour/spicy flavoured beef jerky. Kate is a vegetarian but she sent me meat. How nice is that?! The beef jerky was yummy.

Foodie penpals

Smoked chilli flavoured mayonnaise. I haven’t tried this yet – it’s sitting in my fridge waiting for an opportunity. What does one serve spicy mayonnaise with?

And that was this month’s package. Yes, I took my photos on the floor. So what?

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, here’s what I sent to Selina:

Foodie penpalsSwitzerland in an envelope, so to speak.

The matches for August came out today, so if you haven’t already I’m afraid you’re too late to sign up for this month, but you can sign up right now to take part in September. To read the rules and sign up go here. (This is the European version, for those of you in the US/Canada, the original Foodie Penpals on The Lean Green Bean is here.)

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

A taste of home: Sausage rolls

I’d been living in Germany about 5 years, buying sausage rolls every time I went home, before it finally occurred to me that I could make them myself! I’ve made them a few times since (Jan loves sausage rolls!) so when I was trying to think of something to bring to a party on Saturday, sausage rolls seemed like the obvious answer… easy, fairly quick and I knew nobody else would be making them! I thought other ex-pats who are craving sausage rolls might like to know how to make their own, too, so I decided to share mine. There are loads of recipes all over the Internet, of course, but mine comes with instructions on what to do if you live in Germany 😉

Vegetarians and others who are disturbed by the sight of raw meat might want to look away now…

You will need the following:

  • These are the sausages you need
    These are the sausages you need

    1 packet of pre-made puff pastry – Blätterteig in German (yes, I’m that lazy!)

  • 500g sausage meat or pork sausages that you can easily remove the filling from (in Germany, you need to buy the fresh “grobe Bratwurst” type… Nürnberger and things like that won’t work!)
  • About a teaspoon of dried parsley (or chopped fresh parsley if you have that stuff around. I never do, unless I buy it specially)
  • About a teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • A dash of cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. If using sausages, remove their skins then place your skinned sausages or sausage meat in a large bowl. My bowl contains a lot of sausages because I tripled the above ingredients to make sure there would be enough…

Skinned sausages
Skinned sausages

2. Add the crushed garlic and mash/stir it into the sausage meat until it seems evenly spread.

3. Add parsley, thyme, a small dash of cayenne pepper (seriously… just a small dash, unless you want spicy sausage rolls, in which case feel free to add more) and as much freshly ground black pepper as you like and combine everything together well.

The sausage meat mixture
The sausage meat mixture

4. Unroll your pastry and place a thick line of sausage meat close-ish to the edge, leaving a gap slightly larger than the width of your sausage strip for rolling.

sausage meat and pastry
sausage meat and pastry

5. Fold the edge of the pastry over the sausage meat and cut the pastry just past where it comes to, then roll the pastry around the sausage meat. If the end doesn’t stick by itself, use a tiny bit of water. Repeat this step until you run out of pastry (hopefully you will also run out of sausage meat at the same time).

Rolled

6. Cut the rolled-up, sausage-filled pastry into whatever sized pieces you would like. I tend to make mine fairly small because I’m paranoid about poisoning people and think if they’re small they’re more likely to cook through properly.

All ready for the oven
All ready for the oven

8. Brush the top of the sausage rolls with a little milk, if you want (I didn’t because I knew at least one person attending the party is lactose intolerant) and bake them at the temperature shown on your pastry packaging for about 15-20 minutes.

The finished article...
The finished article…

9. Leave the sausage rolls to cool for a bit before enjoying. I’m serious… they may look tempting, but those things are hot when they come out of the oven!

My first ever Banoffee Pie!

Two food posts in a row seems like a bit of a cop out, but to be honest I haven’t been doing anything else worth blogging about… and I have been promising you this one for a while, so here you go.
There are more banoffee pie recipes on the Internet than you can shake a stick at (not sure why you would want to shake sticks at recipes?), but I actually ended up using a combination of three to get my amounts/ingredients/methods, so I thought I would add my recipe to the mix… including a pointer or two on how to find said ingredients in Germany.

Banoffee Pie

Ingredients
1 tin of condensed milk (you need sweetened condensed milk, gezuckerte Kondensmilch in German; Nestle do one under the brand name Milchmädchen.)
300g chcolate digestives (if you can’t find actual digestives, DeBeukelaer does some called Granola that work just as well)
75g butter
400 ml whipping cream (some recipes use double cream, but the closest equivalent here is expensive so I decided to go with plain old Schlagsahne. It works for the Germans…)
2-3 bananas

Method

The scary part... please don't explode!
The scary part… please don’t explode!

1. Lie the tin of condensed milk on its side in a sauce pan of water – make sure the water is covering the whole tin! Apparantly if the tin becomes exposed, explosions will happen!
2. Bring the water to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer the tin in the hot water for 2-2.5 hours. After that time, remove the water from the heat and leave it to cool for about half an hour before removing the tin from it.
3. While the condensed milk is still heating, crush up your biscuits (use a blender if you have such a thing, or place them in a food bag and hit them with a hammer/rolling pin) and melt the butter in a sauce pan.
4. Mix the biscuit crumbs and butter together, then use the mixture to line a 23 cm cake tin. The biscuit crumbs base should go across the bottom and part way up the sides. Tip: Use a metal spoon to press down the biscuit crums – they’ll only stick to a wooden spoon and refuse to spread out properly! Once the base is firmly pressed down, stick the cake tin in the fridge until the condensed milk is ready.
5. Open the tin of condensed milk. The contents should be a pale brownish colour (caramel colour!). Take your biscuit crumb base back out of the fridge and spread the caramel over it.

Wiaitng to be decorated
Wiaitng to be decorated

6. Slice 2 bananas and use them to make a layer of banana slices on top of the caramel. Save the rest of the banana.
7. Whip the cream until it stands up in soft peaks when you pull up your whisk, then gently stir in as many slices of banana as you think appropriate
8. Cover the sliced banana layer of the pie with this cream/banana mix and then place the pie back in the fridge.
9. Shortly before you want to serve the pie, remove it from the fridge again and decorate it with more banana slices and some chocolate flakes.

That’s it! Easy, peasy! And once you’ve made the caramel, it doesn’t even take that long.
I had never made this before, but it turned out delicious and the Germans I served it to loved it. Success!

The finished article, chilling in the fridge (sadly, I forgot to take a decent photo of it once we arrived at the party so this is all you're getting..)
The finished article, chilling in the fridge (sadly, I forgot to take a decent photo of it once we arrived at the party so this is all you’re getting..)

Now you see me, now you don’t!

I am very briefly back in Germany. Today, we shall be unpacking the suitcase then repacking it ready to fly to Madeira tomorrow. A flying visit home, you might say. Christmas with the family was full but fun. While in England, i managed to munch my way through a tonne of bacon, some chips and battered sausage (sadly no gravy because the chip shop had run out), a Sunday roast, Galaxy Minstrels, several packets of McCoy’s crisps, Christmas dinner, trifle, banoffee pie, some good old English sausages and mash inside a giant Yorkshire pudding, corned beef and potato pie and gallons and gallons of tea! A successful trip, I think.

As for Christmas gifts, my friends and family seem to have been conspiring this year. Much as I love owls, I don’t think I’ll be needing any more for a while!

A parliament of owls?
A parliament of owls?

None owl related gifts included a food package from a friend, the film Philadelphia on DVD, a poppy dress from Jan (which I had very unsubtley asked for), a gorgeous snood from my mum, a book and a bracelet. Jan and I also received a sheep doorstopper that I asked my dad to buy for us when M&S had them on sale. Basically I was spoiled rotten 🙂

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas full of tasty food, great gifts and festive cheer!

Friday letters (holidays are coming)

Today is my final day at work, then we’re closed for a whole two weeks. Hooray! I am certainly in need of a break after all the overtime I’ve been doing recently! Just a few more things to sort out tonight, then it’s off to England tomorrow to spend Christmas with the family…

Letter to Santa
Letter to Santa (Photo credit: katerha)

Dear flights. I’m counting on you to not be delayed or cancelled this time. I’ve had enough stress recently without dealing with that, too!

Dear boyfriend. Can’t wait to spend an entire two weeks with you without any work or other commitments! Please not getting ill this time though…

Dear suitcase. I know I have a lot of gifts to put in you, but I would appreciate it if you could stay within the weight limit anyway!

Dear British food. I am coming for you!! First up: a bacon sadwich with decent bacon!

Dear family, friends and godson. Can’t wait to see you. And I hope you like your gifts.

Dear readers. I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to get on WordPress while I’m in England, so I’ll wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year now. “See” you in 2014!

Weihnachtsmarkt 2013