Friday letters

Hello everyone! This week has confused me again. I had to go into work on Tuesday and I spent half the day convinced it was Friday (not as weird as it sounds – I alternate between going on a Tuesday and a Friday, and Monday was incredibly busy this week!). Today really is Friday though, and that means time for letters!

red postbox

Dear birds. We don’t really need to feed you as much now it’s getting warmer but if we keep the lard balls until next winter they will only go mouldy so enjoy!

Dear tree by the balcony. I see your little buds! Soon you will have leaves again 🙂

Dear spring flowers. You are so pretty! Hoorah for you 🙂

Dear online sellers. How is it possible that two items coming from the UK can both be marked “sent” on the same day but one arrives within days and the other takes 2 weeks. Me thinks one  of you is telling porkies about when the “sending” actually happened…

Dear St. Patrick’s Day. Apparently you are today? I had entirely forgotten about you this year!

Dear cheese. You are so tasty, but so many calories! I couldn’t believe how much of my daily allowance a sandwich with you took up the other day!

Dear scales. I have been really good recently and finally you have decided to agree with me. 1kg down this week (probably a lot of that is water weight, but whatever. At least the number is going down!)

Okay, that’s all for today. Must eat lunch (leftovers from last night) and get back to work. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Friday letters

I know I keep saying this, but where is this year going?! We’re more than half way through June already! Unbelievable. At this rate it’s going to be December and I’m going to realise I’ve achieved nothing all year!

But enough about that… letters!

Basel-postbox

Dear weather. You have a week to improve ready for me to show my visitors around Basel!

Dear mam/brother. Speaking of which… one week til I see you! I’m looking forward to it 🙂

Dear new wardrobe. Can’t wait for you to finally arrive next week!

Dear scales. I’m still not impressed with the number you’re showing me, but at least now it’s moving in the right direction!

Dear cheese. Somebody posted an article on Facebook recently claiming you had been proven to be addictive. Not sure how scientific said article was but I can well believe it!

That’s it for today. I’m off to the shops to find something for tea. Happy Friday, everyone!

Sausage and fennel pasta bake

Pasta bakeRecently I’ve been experimenting with adding fennel to my dishes. I’d seen it in the shops countless times, but never really knew what to do with it. Finally, I decided to just buy some and find out what happened. This is a nice, comforting dish for autumn/winter and has the added bonus of being quick and easy enough to make in the evening after a long day at work. This amount serves 3-4 (me, Jan plus some leftovers for me to take to work for lunch, but Jan eats more than I do – it would be enough for 4 of me).

Ingredients:
Olive oil for frying
1 clove garlic
500g pork sausages (Germany residents: I would normally buy “grobe Bratwurst” but the supermarket didn’t have those this time)
1 fennel bulb
Any small pasta (I like penne, but fusilli or farfalle would also work)
1 400g tin of tomatoes
Cheese (one with a fairly strong taste, like Cheddar or Bergkäse)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (roughly 390°F). Heat some olive oil in a pan.

2. While the olive oil is heating, chop the sausages into bite-sized chunks. Once the oil is hot, crush in the garlic clove and fry for about a minute before adding the sausages.

Sausages and garlic
Sausages and garlic

3. While the sausages are cooking (stir them once in a while so they cook on all sides), chop the fennel into chunks. Once the sausages are mostly brown, add the fennel to the pan. Stir occasionally.

Add the fennel
Add the fennel

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it’s just short of being ready (with mine, that took 8 minutes). Drain the pasta then add it to the frying pan with the sausages/fennel.

5. Add a tin of tomatoes to the frying pan, stir everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the entire mixture into an oven-proof bowl.

6. Grate cheese all over the top – how much is up to you – and place in the oven until the cheese has all melted. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven and exactly how melted you like your cheese.

And there you have it – meaty, cheesy, comforting goodness… and it’s even pretty healthy (as long as you didn’t go too overboard on the cheese). If you wanted, you could add extra vegetables (leek might be nice), replace the sausages with a tin of tuna or, for a vegetarian version, use aubergine or tofu in place of the sausages. It’s entirely up to you!

First Friday letters of 2015

I’m finally getting round to writing my first Friday letters of the year and I realise I actually have very little to say! It hasn’t been the most eventful of weeks. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll think of something…

letter box

Dear cheese. Why are you so tasty? It makes resisting you very difficult!

Dear tax advisers. I hope you can answer all our questions so we can get on with things soon!

Dear flats. I’ve already found a few of you online, so as soon as we figure out which side of the border we’ll be living on I’ll make some appointments to come and see you.

Dear time. Please could you stop going so fast? January is half over already and I feel like I’ve made no progress on the moving to (probably) Switzerland thing.

That’s all for today. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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!

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!)

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!