A Photo an Hour: 20 February 2016

A small miracle happened this weekend… I actually remembered to take part in photo an hour! (Unlike in January, when I remembered it right up until the night before then ignored my camera entirely in the morning). It was Fasnacht day in my small town, so I actually did something other than sit on the sofa for a change. It still wasn’t the most exciting of days, but you can’t have everything 😉

10 a.m. Awake… ish. Can’t function until I have a cup of tea!

11 a.m. Cross stitching. Can’t show you what I’m working on yet 😉

12 noon. Finishing cuppa number 2 before going for a shower.

1 p.m. (ish). I was actually in the shower at 1, so more like 20 past. Getting dressed for the day.

2 p.m. It was raining and not much was happening, so we decided to eat something before the parade started. I chose meat on a stick (sorry vegetarians).

3 p.m. Parade time! And the rain had actually stopped.

4 p.m. “Who’s going to clean up all the confetti before the trams get going again?”

4.30 p.m. Bonus photo because I didn’t take an even number. My loot from the parade! A group with an anti-vegan float gave me the sausage 😀 Not pictured: the world’s smallest carrot and my flowers (which were already in vases). Jan got even moooore sweets, two oranges and a leek.

5 p.m. We thought we’d pop back out to see what was happening post-parade. It turned out there wasn’t much point in being there if you weren’t part of one of the groups, so we quickly came home. This is my hat after I removed the confetti! Some lingered…

6 p.m. Back home drinking more tea. The yellow flowers in the background are from the Fasnacht parade.

7 p.m. Time to make tea!

8 p.m. Tea time! Bratkartofflen (potato fritters) with sausage plus fish and spinach. An odd combination, but it worked.

9 p.m. Having a beer while watching what turned out to be an awesome episode of Farscape. We’re nearly finished now… what will I do when there are no more episodes?!

10 p.m. Off to read a book in bed. I love my starry PJs!

I should really have taken another photo at 11, which is when I put down my book and turned out the light, but the camera was across the room and I was lazy… hence the bonus photo earlier in the post to keep things even 😉

What did you all get up to on Saturday?

 

Advertisements

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 ErdĂ€pfel – 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.

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!

German foods I love and loathe

Recently, Deanna at From Casinos to Castles wrote a post on the German foods that she really cannot stand. This has inspired me to write my own list, but to balance things out a bit, I also want to talk about the German foods that I love and will really miss if I ever leave here. I’ll do the ones I hate first so I can end on a high note…

German Foods I Loathe

1. Wurstsalat. I have talked about this abomination that dares to call itself salad before, here. My boyfriend loves it, but I cannot stand it. Firstly, I’m not keen on the meat it’s made with (some kind of soft, mushy stuff), secondly I don’t like the vinegar-based dressing it’s drowned (yes, drowned!) in, and thirdly, it nearly always comes with raw onions, which I also can’t stand. YUK! This is a German food item that I definitely don’t need in my life!

2. Weizenbier (wheat beer). Sorry, sorry, sorry. I know this is practically sacrilege, but I just cannot get on with wheat beers. I don’t like the taste of them at all. Too bitter… too wheaty. Give me a Pils any day (but please not Becks! I don’t like that stuff either…)

3. Mett. The boyfriend insists that good Mett is really nice, but the one time I tried it, I was nearly sick. And now you’re probably all wondering what Mett is. Well, it’s minced pork. Raw minced pork that Germans like to spread on bread. Did I mention that it’s raw! Bleurgh… keep that stuff away from me!

4. Leberknödel. Literally meaning liver dumplings, Leberknödel consist of ground liver that’s mixed with bread crumbs and egg to form a ball. They’re usually served in the form of Leberknödelsuppe (liver dumpling soup), which is basically a bowl of beef broth with Leberknödel floating around in it. I don’t like liver anyway, and it doesn’t taste any better floating in beef stock. Sometimes, Leberknödel also turn up on meat platters, where they are friend rather than drowned in stock. Still not tasty…

5. Erdnussflips. These are basically peanut flavoured corn snacks. They’re shaped like Wotsits (UK – I think Cheetos are the US equivalent), but instead of being flavoured with deliciously morish cheese, they’re covered in peanut dust. The Germans love these, but I find them really dry and the peanut taste is weird… not like real peanuts. It’s a bit like eating vaguely peanut-flavoured cardboard. I definitely will not miss these if I find myself back in the UK.

German Foods I Love

1. Bratkartoffeln. Literally fried potatoes, my family always called these “fritters”. In their most basic form, Bratkartoffeln are potatoes sliced very thinly and fried in oil until they’re crispy. In less basic versions, bacon or onions are fried in with the potatoes to give them flavour. Either way, they are delicious! (Technically, I wouldn’t actually miss these if I left Germany as I often make them myself anyway, but they’re definitely one of my favourite German foods!).

2. Maultaschen. Usually translated as Swabian Ravioli, this sourthern German dish consists of filled pockets made from a pasta-like dough. The traditional filling is a spiced minced pork, that I find very similar to English sausages. You can also get Maultaschen in other varieties, such as vegetarian, beef, turkey or even salmon. They are usually served in one of three ways: in broth as a soup, cut into slices and fried along with scrambled egg or “geschmĂ€lzt” – fried in butter along with onions that have been caramelised in the same butter. In Karlsruhe, the third variety is often sold alongside potato salad for a carb overload!

Sausages
Om nom nom

3. Sausages. Obviously they need to be on the list… after all, that is what this country is all about! Little mini NĂŒrnberger Bratwurst, huge ThĂŒringer Bratwurst, KĂ€sekrainer (a type of boiled sausage filled with cheese) or even Currywurst – I’ll take them all! The only German sauage I’m not too keen on is Weißwurst – literally “white sausage”, a veal sausage that is boiled and then eaten by removing the skin and eating the filling. The traditional way of doing it is to suck out the filling… errm, no thanks. I ate mine “normally” with a knife and fork, but wasn’t too keen on the flavouring (cardamom and lemon, among other things)

4. Schupfnudeln. A Schupfnudel, meaning rolled noodle, is a type of dumpling or noodle similar to Italian Gnocchi, in that it is made using potatoes. Unlike Gnocchi, Schupfnudeln are fairly long and thin, with pointed ends. In my region of Germany, they’re sometimes called “Bubenspitzle “, meaning little boys’ willies. It’s probably best not to ask! Schupnudeln are prepared by frying them in butter and can be served alongside sweet or savoury foods. At Christmas markets and the like, you’ll usually find them friend up with Sauerkraut (I never eat Schupfnudeln at markets because I don’t like Sauerkraut!).

5. Kartoffelpuffer, or potato pancakes. Are you sensing a theme here? I may be slightly obsessed with potatoes. Kartoffelpuffer are pancakes made by mixing together grated potatoes, flour, egg and seasoning, forming them into a pancake shape and then frying said pancake. The traditional way of serving them is with apple sauce, but at fairs you can sometimes get them with other things, like garlic sauce or sour cream.  I almost always eat Kartoffelpuffer at the Christmas market.

And there you have it. I could go on forever, but I think five of each will do. Are there any German foods you love or loathe? Or, if you’re living somewhere else that isn’t your own country, what foods do you love and hate in your adopted home?

Autumn eats: Pumpkin and Potato Stew

StewNot exactly a quick meal this one with the amount of peeling and chopping it requires, but it’s colourful and warming on a dark autumn evening. All times are very rough, based on what I seem to remember doing – basically it’s a case of going by what you think seems right. We got four large-ish bowls out of the ingredients below, but amounts will differ depending on the size of your pumpkin and how much water you put in.

Ingredients

Olive oil
1-3 cloves of garlic (depending on size of cloves and how garlicky you like things), chopped or crushed
1 leek, chopped
1 pumpkin, cubed (I used Hokaido)
2-3 potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
350 ml vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Method

  1. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan then fry garlic for about a minute.
  2. Add the chopped leek and continue to fry for another 2 minutes or so.
  3. Add the cubes pumpkin and fry for 3-4 minutes. In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes.
  4. Add the potatoes to the pan and continue frying for another 3-4 minutes. If stuff starts to stick to the bottom at any point, add a tiny bit of water to the pan and use it scrape the stuck bits back into the mixture.
  5. Add the sliced carrots to the pan and fry for another 2-3 minutes, then season with black pepper and a bit of cayenne pepper (if using).
  6. Pour 350 ml of chicken stock into the pan and stir well, scraping anything that’s stuck to the bottom back into the mixture.
  7. If the vegetables aren’t submerged in liquid, add water to the pan until they are then place a lid or cover on the pan and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes
  8. Taste your stew and add extra seasoning, if desired, then serve.

Bowl of stew

Finally Friday

It’s been a log, long week, despite the fact that I had Monday off work (we went to visit Jan’s dad) and I’m unbelievably glad it’s over. For some reason I just couldn’t concentrate. Everything seemed to take three times as long as it should have, then we had a customer complain and spent 2 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday sorting that out. Yep, that’s one week I’m pleased to see the back off.

Baby Ellie’s funeral was yesterday. I wish so much that I could have been there to support her parents – well, her mum mostly, I’ve only met her dad once – but for obvious reasons that wasn’t possible. One of the disdvantages of living in Germany. I know they had lots of friends and family there for them though, and I hear she had a good send off.  Quite a bit of money was put in the donation tin as well, and Ellie’s memorial page on Just Giving has already raised more than 1,500 pounds for the Tiny Lives charity! Not bad considering it was only created a little over a week ago. You can see the page here: http://www.justgiving.com/Naomi-Warburton Please pass the link on, even if you don’t feel you can donate to total strangers. They are trying to get the message out to as many people as possible and every little helps.

I must go and finish cooking tea now – we’re having fish and chips the healthy way (home-made and oven-cooked) and I really don’t think the potatoes are going to peel themselves!

Science and Sunday dinner

I made a sort of Sunday dinner yesterday. Why “sort of” you ask? Well, there werre no Yorkshire puddings and the meat (pork steaks) was fried rather than roasted because I don’t trust my oven at all (there’s something wrong with the thermostat – no matter how high a setting you put it on it always claims to be at most 150°C. And I really don’t want to risk putting meat in an oven that I don’t actually know the temperature of…). We did have both roast and mashed potatoes though. And after my recent trip to England I have actual proper gravy granules. German “Bratensosse” is just not the same. Sure, it goes well enough with wild boar or Schnitzel but for a proper Sunday dinner you’ve gotta have English gravy!
We had a starter as well. I’m currently doing an Open University short course called Science Starts Here and this weekend I had to do an experiment which involved putting sliced potatoes in the oven and weighing them every hour to find out what percentage of a potato is water. The end result was something that looked a lot like those potato skins you get as a starter in restaurants so we covered them in salt and pepper and ate them. I also dipped mine in allioli (garlic sauce) which was dee-licious. While we were waiting for the main course to finish cooking I happened to mention to Jan what a shame it was I had no dessert to offer him. You see, one of the things on my 101 things list is to cook a three course meal for my boyfriend (3 times!) and as I had done all the work with dinner I thought if I had dessert I could let this count (even if the starter was originally a science experiment). Having had the thought I naturally couldn’t rest until I’d at least tried to carry it out, so I got onto Google and started looking up recipes that only use ingredients I actually had in the house. It being a Sunday in German I would have had no chance of getting anything that was missing – only the petrol stations and the tiny little shop at the train station are open. Luckily I found a recipe for golden syrup dumplings, so I made that. Mine looked nothing like the picture on the website but they tasted good and that’s all that matters, right?

We were going to go to the cinema after dinner to see the German film Der Weisse Band (The White Ribbon – read about it here) but Jan decided he was too tired, so we stayed home and watched two episodes of ER instead. We’re up to season 3 now. I love the old ones – Noah Wyle (Carter) looks so young!