Archive for September, 2011

I Needed A Fix Of Vegetable Curries

Sunday, September 25th, 2011
A Glut Of Vegetables From Riverford Farm

A Glut Of Vegetables From Riverford Farm

I’ve been remarkably uninspired recently, cooking for fuel and nothing special.  However, this weekend saw a bit of space in the hurried ferrying around of kids, allowing some time to think rather than simply cook to feed the gannets – usually, a rushed matter of speed and practical cooking.  It coincided with a glut of vegetables courtesy of Riverfood Organic from our weekly box scheme.  I fancied vegetarian food and something spicy.

The first thing I came up with was a Tofu & Tomato Curry and then secondly a Keralan Style Vegetable Curry.   These were eaten with a classic dhal and saffron rice.  All were packed full of a broad range of classic Indian spices – earthy flavours from coriander, cumin and turmeric, then rich sweetness via the cardamom and cloves.  In the Keralan Curry I used a bit of asafoetida to give the curry a curious onion-like spiciness.  Then in the Tofu & Tomato Curry, I added some extra texture through black mustard and black onion seeds (often called nigella or black seed) and some fruitiness through lemon and orange juice.

Starting with the Tofu & Tomato Curry, I started with the curry spiced tomato sauce, while preparing the tofu.  Then made the Keralan Style Vegetable Curry while preparing the dhal.  These recipes are given below.

Tofu & Tomato Curry

Tofu And Tomato Curry

Tofu And Tomato Curry

250g / 9oz Tofu (when wet)
1tbsp Sunflower oil
80g / 2¾oz Onion, finely chopped
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
400g / 14oz Tinned tomatoes
2tsp Turmeric
2tsp Coriander seed powder
1tsp Cumin powder
¼tsp Chilli powder (optional or more if you can take the heat)
1tsp Black onion seeds
1tsp Black mustard seeds
Juice of ½ lemon
Juice of ½ orange
1tsp Garam masala
1tbsp Chopped fresh coriander leaves

Prepare the tofu by putting the tofu in a bowl, then place a plate on top of it together with some weights.  This will squeeze most of the water out of the tofu, giving a better texture to the tofu.  As the tofu dries out, pour off the water.  When dried through, chop the tofu into chunky 5cm pieces.

Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy based pot.  When heated up, put the onion and garlic into the pan and cook until translucent.  This will take around 4 – 5 minutes.  As they turn clearer, add the ground spices and stir into the onion-garlic mix.  Cook for around 1 minutes, then add the tinned tomatoes.  Cook the tomato mixture for 5 minutes.  At this stage, your need to blitz the tomato sauce either using a hand held blender or transferring the sauce to a food blender and whizzing it up.  When smooth, transfer the sauce back to the pot.

At this stage, add the black onion seeds, black mustard seeds and fruit juices to the sauce and cook for 2 minutes.   Add the tofu chunks and simmer for 10 minutes.  Around 2 minutes before the end, add the garam masala and the chopped coriander leaves.

Keralan Style Vegetable Curry

Keralan Vegetable Curry

Keralan Vegetable Curry

2tbsp Sunflower oil
½ Onion, chopped finely
125g / 4½oz Cauliflower florets
125g / 4½oz Green beans (I used a mix of fine and chunkier beans)
125g / 4½oz Carrots
250g / 9oz Potatoes
1tsp Coriander powder
1tsp Turmeric
400ml / 14 fl oz / 1¾ cups Coconut milk
Juice of ½ lemon
2tbsp Chopped freshly cut coriander leaves
Sauce:
3 Tomatoes, chopped roughly
2 Cloves of garlic, chopped roughly
1tsp Cardamom powder
½tsp Cloves powder
1tsp Turmeric
1tsp Coriander powder
¼tsp Chilli powder (optional or more if you can take the heat)
¼tsp Asafoetida (optional)
1tsp Garam masala
Pinch of sea salt
2tbsp water

Prepare the vegetables as follows: break small florets from the main head of the cauliflower; chop the green beans to about 3cm long pieces; chop the carrots to 3cm chunks; cut the potatoes into 5cm chunks and keep fresh under some cold water in a bowl.

Start by preparing the sauce.  Put the tomatoes, garlic, spices and the water into a food blender or bowl, then using a hand blender or the Magimix, blitz it all up to a smooth sauce.  Set aside for a bit.

Add the sunflower oil to a heavy bottomed casserole pot.  When hot turn down the heat, add the onion and cook gently for 3 – 4 minutes until translucent.  Add the spices and stir into the onion, then put in the carrot pieces and the tomato sauce.  Put the top onto the pot and cook at a gentle simmer for 2 – 3 minutes, then add the potato chunks.  Cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the green beans and cauliflower and stir in.  Pour in the coconut milk and heat the curry to a boil, then put on the lid and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.  About 2 minutes from the end, add the lemon juice and chopped coriander leaves, stirring in.

South Indian Vegetable Curry

South Indian Vegetable Curry

Kaffee Und Kuchen In Munich

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The other thing I always remember about trips to Bavaria and especially Munich was the cakes, or Kaffee und Küchen, either with my Granny or Aunts or in the posh cafés in the centre of town.  So we indulged with a visit to Kreutzkamm, but did not get to my other favourite Rottenhőfer (opposite the Residenz), with the latter being my father’s favourite place for truffles and fancy chocolates.  I have always loved Kreutzkamm – I suspect it is simply nostalgia, as I remember sitting smartly with my Grandmother for a polite afternoon of delicious cakes and I would drink a lovely hot chocolate covered in lashings of whipped cream.

We went quite late – at around 4.30pm; the Bavarians have always eaten really early, although they might sit out for ages in the balmy evening air, supping on a pils or glass of wine, or perhaps strutting down Leopoldstraße or sitting out to have an ice cream at Gelataria Gino or a light snack in Schwabing.

Kreutzkamm on Maffeistraße had shrunk since I was last here, and is now roughly one-third of its former size, such that the lavatories were a really tight squeeze.  They must have sold off space to the high class designer boutiques that have overrun this part of town, pushing out traditional places.  However, they have now expanded to 4 coffee shops, including one back in Dresden where they originated from in 1825, but had shut down after the Second World War. 

Cake Counter In Kreutzkamm

Cake Counter In Kreutzkamm

We had tea, iced coffee and cakes.  The cakes still looked and tasted to die for.  I could not resist the Prinz Regenten Torte and was sorely tempted by the Zwetschgendatschi.  Also, Kreutzkamm is well known for their Baumküchen.  The Prinz Regenten was as I can always remember – delicious and indulgent.  It is a delicate balance between the cake layers and the intense sweetness of the chocolate filling between the layers, then the chocolate coating.  I tasted another Prinz Regenten later from Karstadt and it was just not the same – in part there were fewer layers and then each layer had risen too much and become to airy and floaty, rather than have a more dense texture.  

Prinz Regenten Torte In Kreutzkamm

Prinz Regenten Torte In Kreutzkamm

Prinz Regenten is one of those cakes that I am not sure I could be bothered to do as it is so faffy to do all the layers, but to eat, now that’s someting much more enjoyable.

Four Days In Munich – Some Traditional Restaurants (19 – 22 August 2011)

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

I went to Munich with our eldest, Jay, the other weekend ostensibly to show him Germany and visit my aunts and uncle.  However, we managed to sneak in a match at the Alliance Arena between FC Bayern Műnchen and Hamburger SV, where Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and team blew Hamburger apart 5:0 and should have had more and the Boulder World Cup 2011 at the Olympia Stadium.  The weather was blisteringly hot at 35oC in the day and 25oC at night; way too hot for country boys from the North of England.  We enjoyed ice creams on the Starnberger See and lolled around the Ungererbad in Munich.  We were not the only people suffering as the locals were packed like sardines along the shoreline of the Starnberger See and covered almost all the lawns and edges of the swimming pools at the Ungerer Bad.

But it was the changes that struck me more than the heat.  I have been coming to Bayern all my life, yet have not been back for maybe 7 or 8 years, seeming to go to Nűrnberg, which while technically part of Bavaria is so very different – a bit like North Yorkshire being significantly different culturally from South Yorkshire, i.e. same county but different ways of life.  Everyone was more cosmopolitan in style, so where the Bavarian style of dressing had its own look which often seemed jarring – bright orange jackets, dark grey trousers and white socks – nowadays the way of dressing was international urban chic, so the young could almost have been from any US or British TV show.  Yes, there were still a few people wearing lederhosen and dirndls, but they were largely for tourists or dressing up for special occasions like some young ladies out for a hen party that we saw at the Chinesischer Turm in the Englischer Garten.  However, this change in style did mask little difference in racial make-up which was largely white German with a smattering of Turkish and Vietnamese, but few African, Chinese or Indian.  So while in London, you get every language being spoken, in Munich it remains a German sound, albeit with a thick Bavarian accent.  Another example of our shrinking world was the ice creams we had from a kiosk by the Starnberger See, where the ice cream was sold in as local (which it probably was), but is actually made by part of Richmond Ice Cream via Roncardin Ice Cream that is based near us in North Yorkshire and is now the largest private label ice cream manufacturer in Europe – Jamie Lambert has come a really long way since he set it up as a way to utilise the excess milk available in the UK and won a contract from own label ice cream with a small, but growing Morrisons Supermarket.  The local mineral waters are all owned by Nestlé.

Nuernberger Glockl Am Dom

Nuernberger Glockl Am Dom

Then there was the change in cuisine.  Speaking to my aunts and uncle, they have said that most of the traditional restaurants have shut and opened as ethnic restaurants with the ubiquitous burger bars, pizzerias, Chinese, Indian and Turkish restaurants.  There are fewer local style restaurants about, but the tourist driven ones like the Hofbräuhaus and Nűrnberger Bratwurst Glockl am Dom will probably survive.  We wandered through the Hofbrauhaus, enjoying looking at the huge hall upstairs with vaulted roof, and ate 8 bratwursts with sauerkraut at one of the tables outside.  My father and mother ate 4 weiβwűrst, which were lovely but I was not in the mood.  The good bratwűrsts were excellent, but 2 of them were charred to hell by the chef, who was cooking them without much love or care over a barbecue inside, which was disappointing as was the brusque service and a refusal to give us some potatoes with the sausages.

Nurnberger Sausages With Sauerkraut

Nurnberger Sausages With Sauerkraut

Osterwaldgarten Restaurant In Munich

Osterwaldgarten Restaurant In Munich

We stayed at the Hotel Biederstein in Schwabing, so we ate a few suppers at Osterwaldgarten, which is another traditional restaurant, where we once again ate outside.  Here, we had several delicious simple meals, including: schnitzel, fried potatoes and salad; pfifferlinge and lightly-fried Serrano ham salad and baked saubling with fries and salad.  The beer is Franziskaner and Spaten beer.  All were delicious, the atmosphere was wonderful and friendly (geműtlich) and genuine rather than the slightly touristy style of the restaurants in the centre of Munich.

This style of cuisine was continued at Sankt Emmerams, which is on the northern side of the Englischen Garten.  This is on the site of an old mill that was here from the 1400s until 1866 when the owners started selling beer and breads, then by 1890 it had become closer to its current style of restaurant.  Here, we ate: roast pork in dark beer sauce (dunkelbier) with potato knodel and cabbage with speck salad; roast shoulder of pork in dark beer sauce, potato knődel and salad and roast duck with knodel and red cabbage.  All washed down with Franziskaner weiβbier, Spaten pils and spezi – a Bavarian speciality of cola mixed with orangeade, which is delicious yet curiously not drunk elsewhere.  Sankt Emmerams is an excellent location, hidden away from tourists.  On the downside, the food was heavy on the salt, especially the jus, but the pork and duck were excellent, while the potato knodel were fine, even if still an acquired taste.

On the Sunday, we took the S-Bahn out to Starnberg.  Usually, we go on to Tutzing and enjoy a meal at the Hotel Am See in Tutzing.  From Starnberg, we took the short round trip, alighting at Leoni near to where mad-King Lűdwig died in mysterious circumstances while swimming the lake in 1886.  The Starnberger See is a gorgeous lake and so close to central Munich.  You have the Alps lurking in mysterious blue towards the South, then all manner of different boats floating around the lake from motorboats to sailboats, or canoes and stand-up surfboards.  We ate at the Seehotel Leoni which is a fabulous luxury hotel right on the lake.  Kids were diving off the side of the hotel balcony and from the wooden piers into the lake, and having a whale of a time.  We ate: gazpacho; spaghetti with tiger prawns; homecured herrings with apple (Matjesfilet mit Apfelspalten) and new potatoes; and renke (a local lake species close to trout) on tabouleh with courgettes.  The cuisine was mostly nouvelle Bayern cuisine, bringing local ingredients and local food to a more modern style.  Light, tasty and exciting.  We liked it all.

Marinaded Herrings With Apple Plus New Potatoes And Salad

Marinaded Herrings With Apple Plus New Potatoes And Salad

Renke With Courgettes On Tabouleh

Renke With Courgettes On Tabouleh

For me, Seehotel Leoni showed me some of the way.  What makes Bayern special is its local culture and food, created by its traditional isolation, adherence to its own culture (for good and ill) and the Alpine climate.  It must keep what is unique, but modernise wherever necessary and possible, so if this means renke direct from the Starnberger See that is good, or roast pork in dunkelbier jus that is perfect, but where it falls flat is when you get burnt bratwurst with bad service and a unbalanced plate or too much salt in the gravy.  In much the same way that Britain has rediscovered its traditional food heritage, so must Bavaria play to its strengths – excellent beer, great freshwater fish and pork, sometimes amazing sausages – and reduce the times it fails like the barely warm, industrial bockwurst and bratwurst that we had at the Kleinehesseloher See or the Ungerer Bad.  McDonalds and KFC are here to stay, but not all of us want to eat industrial food that has no soul.