Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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A photo an hour: Saturday, 21 March 2015

I managed to quickly upload these photos last night before Jan took the computer apart so that I could spend my lunch break writing up Saturday’s photo an hour. The chosen date happened to be the day of our leaving party, so for once the photos aren’t just drinking tea, cross stitching and doing housework! However, I also forgot to take any more photos after the party started so the day ends at 9 p.m. ;-)

8:30 a.m. Faaar too early to be up on a Saturday, but I have loads to do. But first a cup of tea is needed! (Will there ever be a photo and hour day that doesn’t start with tea? I doubt it!)

9 a.m. (switching back to on the hour because I prefer it). Trying to find a recipe for the evening’s vegetarian option. It shall be curry, but which one?

10 a.m. Showered and dressed. How amazing are these tights?! I fully expected them to be ripped by the end of the evening, but they lived to see another wearing. Woo hoo!

11 a.m. Crushing biscuits, a.k.a wishing I owned a food processor!

12 noon. Melt chocolate, melt!

1 p.m. Taking a break from the kitchen to put together another box to be filled with things from the spare room.

2 p.m. Back to baking. Mixing flour and cocoa powder together.

3 p.m. The dairy-free chocolate and coconut cupcakes are out of the oven. Now they just need to cool so they can be frosted. Also, look at my fabulous new cupcake holders!

4 p.m. Switching to savoury food. Time to make cheese scones. (And immediately after taking that photo came the thought “Aaargh, it’s 4 p.m. and I haven’t even started peeling the potatoes for the curry yet!)

5 p.m. The potatoes are peeled and chopped, so I’ve decided to make a start on the chilli while I wait for Jan to return from the shops with the remaining curry ingredients.

6 p.m. Curry and chilli coming along nicely. (Please ignore the stack of dirty bowls in the background that I hadn’t got round to washing yet.)

7 p.m. First batch of sausage rolls done!

8 p.m. Moving things over to the table.

9 p.m. Finally everything’s ready (ages after our guests arrived)… let’s eat!

Aaaand that was it as far as photos are concerned. I didn’t get to bed until 3 a.m., but a photo an hour ended there. A very busy day, but the food was yummy! (I’m just glad the chosen date wasn’t the next day, otherwise this post would have consisted of 12 photos of half-packed boxes with different contents!)

You can see who else joined in this time on Jane’s and Louisa’s posts. Thanks for hosting, you two!


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Gnocchi with leek and sausages in a creamy cheese sauce

DSCN0692At this time of year, all I want to eat are hearty, warming, comforting foods, like cottage pie, stews, pasta bakes and chilli. (This “phase” usually lasts from October until around Easter). This particular dish combines three of my favourite things: leek, potatoes (in the form of gnocchi) and cheese. It was actually supposed to be a recipe for gnocchi with vegetables in a creamy cheese sauce, but somewhere between doing the shopping and starting to cook, I managed to lose my courgette! It’s on the receipt, but it’s not in my kitchen. How on earth does one lose a courgette?! So I had a rummage in my fridge and improvised with a packet of Wiener-type sausages instead. Sorry vegetarians – my original recipe would have been for you!

Gnocchi with leek and sausages in a creamy cheese sauce

Ingredients (serves 2)
Butter (for frying)
400 g gnocchi
1 garlic clove
1 leek
4 Wiener (or Frankfurter, if that’s what you want to call them) sausages OR one large courgette/zucchini
1 pot of cream
Cheddar or other strong cheese (I used Swiss mountain cheese this time, because that’s what I had)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper

Method

1. Heat some butter in a frying pan. While it’s heating, chop your garlic into smallish pieces then fry it in the butter.

garlic

2. Put some water on to boil in a pan. Chop the leek – I usually cut off fairly thick slices then quarter the slices – then place the it in the frying pan with the garlic. (If using courgette/zucchini, you should also dice that it this point and put it in the pan at the same time as the leek).

leek

3. Chop the sausages into bite-sized pieces.

4. Once the water has boiled, pour in the gnocchi and boil it for as long as the instructions for your brand say to (usually until bits start to float)

5. Drain the gnocchi then add it to the frying pan along with the sausages. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

food

6. Pour the cream into the frying pan, stir it in and heat for a bit until it and the sausages are warmed though. Grate the cheese over the mixture, pausing every once in a while to stir it in. Keep adding cheese until the cream/cheese mixture forms a thick sauce/you think there’s enough (personally, I like a lot of cheese!). Stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper. Also add more salt/black pepper if you think it needs it.

7. Enjoy carbs covered in melty, cheesy goodness (see photo of the final product at the top).


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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!


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A photo an hour: 14 December 2014

This month, Jane’s photo an hour took place on a Sunday. The day before, I had been out and about, but on photo an hour day I didn’t actually do a great deal, so it’s another boring one I’m afraid ;-) I didn’t even go grocery shopping because everything’s closed on a Sunday in Germany!

11 a.m. We were out watching a friend’s band the night before, so my day got off to a late start. First things first, must make a cuppa!

12 noon. Turning a cross stitched design into a Christmas card.

1 p.m. Back stitching.

2 p.m. Another card finished!

3 p.m.(ish) Out of the shower, time to get dressed.

4 p.m. Time to clean the kitchen.

5 p.m. Starting to cook tea. This is the second month in a row that this picture has shown a pumpkin – I swear we do eat other things!

6 p.m. Time to eat.

7 p.m. Second attempt at reading a book by a local author for the winter reading challenge. This time it actually does have enough pages.. I checked!

8 p.m. “If I’m going to post these cards tomorrow I should probably actually address the envelopes…”

9 p.m. I’ll just try and get one more card finished before I go to sleep…

10 p.m. Bed time! (Except I forgot to actually take a photo so here’s a bonus one of another completed card to avoid ruining my symmetry…)


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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…

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