Thursday, 16 September 2010

Plum crazy!

The local plum season is here again! I love the German plums here – they’re about the size of goose eggs and are wonderfully sweet with just a hint of tart. They’re great for snacking, but they’re even better to cook with.

Now last year I went a bit crazy and ended up with three buckets full of plums. I made plum jam, spiced plum cheese (something akin to overcooked jelly) and plum and apple chutney. As you can imagine, we are still eating these preserves off. Therefore this year I will to be more controlled. At the moment, I only plan to make a few cakes.

As the neighbourhood children have stripped the wild plum trees of their fruit already, we headed off to the nearest pick-your-own orchard, Obsthof Schneekloth on Sunday. This is one of our favourite local haunts during the summer fruit season – we ramble around the orchards, stop in the café for a dreamy cake, then my daughter runs around the playground or the small animal petting area (guinea pigs, rabbits, and goats galore).

We gorged ourselves on these:
We hauled home just over a kilo of these:
Of which I made this, a plum, almond and ricotta cake:
Hmmmm, I don’t think I can just stop there. Maybe a bottle or two of plum cordial is in order. Or maybe a pan of plum leather. Or maybe a jar or two of pickled plums…..

In other news, I did finish my project for the DOW Wednesday Stitch Along. I chose Floresita’s “Bear in Mind” pattern. Sorry, couldn’t find a maker or pattern number. As I admitted, I did start this a bit early – I was too eager to wait. The phrase “a nice stitchy indulgence” got my brain going. I’ve been sitting on these fabrics for awhile waiting for a useful project, so what better use than a cover for my book of stitches? The poor book does get bashed about a bit in my embroidery bag, as I take my embroidery with me when I can.

The stitching turned out all right, although I learned that I need to practice my blanket and satin stitches. I had to redo the eye and spool a few times. As you can see, I gave up and used good old backstitch. I am practising satin stitch on my current project and am slowly improving.

In all, I enjoyed this stitch along and can’t wait for the next one!

Friday, 10 September 2010

My verdict on German foood

Can you name this veg?, originally uploaded by Tea Potty.
I love to cook and, having lived in Germany for the last three year, I am frequently asked what I think of German cuisine. Sad to say, I have added very few German recipes to my repertoire. This isn’t because I don’t like the food here, it’s just that I’ve experienced few traditional German meals that I’ve wanted to recreate and many of those were either beyond my cooking ability or ability to translate. The German influence shows up in other aspects of my cooking.

To put it simplistically, German families have a different approach to eating from our experience. Breakfast is a continental affair – cold cuts, cheeses and fresh rolls are a must. Lunch, the largest meal of the day, is served hot and those that can go home for a meal with the whole family. (Note of interest: German schools, except kindergartens, do not serve lunch.) Dinner is small, similar to our lunch, and features more cold cuts and cheeses. Between meals, Germans snack often – second breakfasts, cafes with strong coffee and gorgeous bakery, and eis cafes (Italian-influenced ice cream parlours) provide irresistible temptation. Failing that, sweets are always on hand. My mother was astonished that our grocery store’s sweets section was larger than the canned fruit and vegetable section. This speaks volumes about the national diet – high in fat, sugar, salt and beer. I think what saves them is self-control and that Germans are much more into exercise than either Britons or Americans.

As with any cuisine, when German food is good, it’s very, very good, but when it is bad, it is appalling. The worst offenders include:
  • Currywurst: This favourite fast food will horrify any British curry lover. Take an indifferent sausage, fry it, drown it in sweet and mildly spiced ketchup, and sprinkle any old curry spice, neat, over the top.
  • Mett: My neighbour and her family rave about this one and were the first to introduce me to it. It’s an open sandwich comprised of raw pork mince on a buttered roll, topped with raw onion. Enough said.
  • Minor offenders (I just don’t like these because of personal preferences): Pickled red cabbage – this sweet and sour dish appears as the vegetable side of most restaurant main courses. Matjes – pickled herring in a cream sauce. Thinking about it, the Dutch may be to blame for this one.
That’s enough of the negatives. Since moving to Germany I have changed my shopping and meal-planning habits for the better. I now shop seasonally and locally as I depend on our bi-weekly market for fresh produce. The markets here are fantastic – friendly and helpful, they provide not only great local and seasonal products, but also an excuse to meet friends for “café and kuchen” (coffee and cake) in the town centre.

For me, the best of German food must include:
  • Bakery: The bread here was an epiphany for me. It is fresh, wholesome, and comes in a huge variety. I know hope to avoid buying a loaf of pre-packaged, gluey, sliced white bread ever again, so much so that I am learning to make my own bread. Beyond bread, the bakery, cakes and tortes are to drool over.
  • Eis Cafes: mmmmm, lovely Italian gelato!
  • Hearty Soups: one of these split pea, lentil or potato soups will keep you warm through a cold, dreary day. I am currently perfecting my own version of lentil soup with sausages.
  • Christmas Cookies: the reputation is well deserved. Store bought is OK, but for the real deal, find a generous soul who’ll let you sample her stash. A neighbour took pity on me last Christmas and gave me a crash course in cooking making. When the season nears, I’ll clean up my notes and share them.
Really, in all, it’s a miracle that I haven’t put loads of weight on while living here.

My final advice to those planning a visit here – do your research beforehand to locate a good traditional German restaurant before travelling as they are worth seeking out. If you can’t find one, save your money and buy your staples from bakeries, butchers and markets. Splash out on cafes instead. You are more likely to stumble accidentally upon a good café than a good restaurant.

What do I miss from Britain? Good quality cheese, sausages, brown sugar, mayonnaise, affordable lamb meat, fish ‘n chips, curries, gastro pubs, cider. What do I miss from America? Good bagels, peanut butter cups, and my favourite restaurants.