Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I'm off to Abu Dhabi for holidays and don't know whether I will be able to post something on this blog. But I will be back next year and then you can see lovely photos of super soft camels in the desert :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sri Lanka-ish Beetroot Curry

When Shaheen from Allotment2Kitchen had her beetroot frenzy she also tried a recipe she saw on TV and later in a book called 'Feast for a Fiver'. The author got the recipe from a Sri Lankan, so it should be somehow authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. I've never been there, so I can't verify it. But I know that I love beetroots and this recipe is really really worth trying. I think it is already worth trying just for the colour's sake. It is a pure optical pleasure when  the dark velvety red of beets turns into a dark pink curry when you add the coconut milk :)

These are the main ingredients

And these are the spices used in the recipe

Preparing the onions

Frying the beets

Topping with kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

And the end product

Sri Lankan Beetroot Curry
(serves 3 - 4)
adapted from Allotment2Kitchen


4 beetroots
1 tablespoon red palm oil
2 onions
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
2 red chillies
salt to taste (if you can get your hand on Himalayan salt, by all means use it)
2 tablespoons kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk

What to do

First prepare the spices. Fry the seeds in a large pan without adding any oil. You have to stir continuously in order not to burn them. The fenugreek will be the first you can smell, then the cumin, and at last there will be a hint of poignant mustard. That's when you take them out of the pan and cool them down. Coarsely grind them in a mortar and set aside. And yes, you have to be nearby all the time and ideally hold your head over the pan! I can cook without tasting the food, but not without smelling it; so it's time to sensitise your olfactory sense :)

Prepare the vegetables. Peel the onions and slice them (see photo above); peel the beetroot and slice them into strips about 1 cm wide. Heat the palm oil in the pan you used for the spices and add the onions. Fry for a couple of minutes, then add spices, sliced chillies, and salt. When everything smells nicely add the beetroot and kasuri methi and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes on medium heat. When the beetroot starts to become tender (don't overcook it) add the coconut milk and heat through for a couple of minutes.

Serve with Basmati rice.

Since I believe that it is at least Sri Lanka-ish, I'm sending my Beetroot Curry to Flavors of Sri Lanka hosted by Mharo Rajasthan. This event is part of the "Flavours of" Series 2 Asia on simplyfood.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Beetroot-and-Potato Stuffed Paratha

I think the best thing about India is not the Taj Mahal

nor her colourful temples

but most definitely the food :)
Not only are there a lot of vegetarian dishes, it is also soooo yummy. We stuffed ourselves with masala dosa, rasam, daal, and all kind of goodies while we were in Delhi. One thing I wanted to try out at home were dosa and lately I learnt about paratha and desperately wanted to try them out. So when Vatsala's Let's Go Stuffed Series

featured stuffed parathas for this month, I couldn't resist and finally tried my hand on them.
The idea to feature stuffed parathas came from Vardhini who also hosts the December event. For my very first paratha I used Radhikas (Just Home Made) recipe as a base and Indian friends from a friend (complicated isn't it?) sent me a video for the 'how-to-do'. Thank you Madhu :)
First I prepared the beetroot and potato filling:

Then you put the filling in little dough bowls

While carefully trying not to squeeze the filling out, roll out the paratha

and fry, ideally in a tawa, but since I do not own one, I used my fry pan

and then serve; we had  chickpeas and spinach with it. 

Beetroot-and-Potato Stuffed Paratha


for the filling
  • 1 medium beetroot, grated
  • 2 medium potatoes,  boiled and mashed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1-2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2-3 teaspoon coconut oil
  • salt to taste
for the dough 
  • 3 cups wheat flour
  • additional wheat flour for rolling and dusting
  • salt
  • hot water
  • oil for roasting
Mix the flour and salt with hot water and knead into a soft dough. You should be able to knead it, but it should still be quite soft (careful, it will be hot at the beginning). Cover and set aside for at least 30 mins.
Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and let them pop; add the other spices and the beetroot grates. Sauté for 5 to 10 minutes until the beet root gets tender. Add the potato mash, garam masala, and salt and mix everything. Set aside and let it cool down somewhat.

Knead the dough well again and roll it into lemon sized balls; shape the dough ball into a bowl. Put a spoonful of the filling into the dough bowl. Close the edges well, put on flour dusted surface and carefully roll out. Don't use too much force or the filling will ooze out.
Heat some oil in the frying pan and add your flattened paratha. Fry until it gets brown spots on the surface; turn around and fry the other side.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

London's Canary Wharf and Cheese 'n Onion slices

When in London I went to Canary Wharf; one reason was, because I was interested how the former West India Docks, once a very busy port, have been transformed in the last decades (the port was closed in 1980) by heavy development work. Well, the other reason was that I needed to get the DLR (Dockland Light Railway) from Canary Wharf station to get to the Royal Observatory. But still ...

Today, Canary Wharf is not only linked to the London tube, but also the National Rail, London City Airport, and river services but on top became a huge business district and lately also a new housing area.
Huge high-rise building dominate the area. But there are also some more quiet zones, like the Jubilee Park. The park actually sits on top of Canary Wharf underground station:

You can also enjoy some art in front of the station:

With all the offices and new apartment buildings there of course followed shopping malls (there is an underground one down at the tube station) and restaurants. Among them Jamie's Italian that mushroom up everywhere nowadays:

In summer it must be quite beautiful near the river

Walking through the underground mall I stopped at WHS and bought the BBC Good Food Christmas Vegetarian special edition of it's Good Food magazine. And I decided to try out the cheese & onion slices featured in the magazine but also available online.

I used, however, purple potatoes:

The recipe asked to roughly mash the potatoes, which I did, but wasn't such a great idea. Next time I will do this for about a third of the potatoes and leave the other ones in cubes, since the pie collapsed a bit during baking. But still the mash looked beautiful in purple :)

Served with  a lambs lettuce salad and a tomato jus it was really delicious. You have to up the spices a bit. I generously added herb salt, freshly ground black pepper and a good dose of cayenne. I also skipped the egg and brushed the phyllo dough with oat cream, worked beautifully :)
But otherwise a stuck to the recipe; it was my first home-made cheese 'n onion pie after all.

I'm thinking about how I could veganise this .... any ideas?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Cannellini Bean Puree - A Tessa Kiros Recipe

Falling Cloudberries - A World of Family Recipes is a real coffe table book by Tessa Kiros, and a very intimate one, too. The book is filled with memories and photos of her life. Coming from a mixed (Finnish and Cypriot) background she can add an Italian husband, a childhood in South-Africa, and a Peruvian housekeeper; so the title 'A World of Family Recipes' is not a hollow promise.

Therefore, when I heart cooking clubs dared bloggers to check out Tessa Kiros' recipes and recreate a bean recipe from one of her books I took up the challenge, even though these are not vegetarian cook books. Many of her recipes are actually vegetarian, and the one I made -Cannellini Bean Puree- is even a vegan one. I don't think I would buy one of her books though, the bulk of recipes is after all heavily on the meaty side (that's what Greek and Finnish cuisine is after all).  But I really enjoyed the bean puree, a very simple yet nourishing dish. We really loved the spiced oil topping. For this I heated about 1/3 cup of good olive oil, added a teaspoon of rosmary and minced garlic cloves. In the original recipe Tessa crushed the garlic, but I rather liked it minced since the little pieces became a bit crunchy. And you can actually reduce the oil further (the original recipe called for 1/2 cup of olive oil).

I served the bean puree with pan-roasted carrots, soy sausages, and an endive salad. I would probably use less fatty side dishes in future (Tessa recommended Italian sausages) to make the whole meal somewhat lighter. Nevertheless we loved the combination, after all we had cold and stormy weather with rain and hail all day. So some comfort food can't hurt ;)

You can find this recipe in Tessa Kiros, Falling Cloudberries - A World of Family Recipes, 2009, page 322.

You can find the round-up at I Heart Cooking Clubs: Bean There, Done That

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Curry Fried Edamame with Tomatoes

Edamame are young soybeans. In Japanese texts they were mentioned for the first time in AD 1275 when the Bhuddist saint Nichiren Shounin sent a thank you note to a devotee who sent him edamame beans. Should you be interested in the history of edamame, there is a whole book (free download!) available from the SoyInfoCenter.

In Japan edamame (枝豆) refers mainly to the boiled and salted pods
but outside East Asia, the unripe beans are sold shelled and cooked in packets or cans.

I adjusted the 'curry fried edamame with tomatoes' recipe after a Japanese recipe (which I can't find anymore, it was probably taken from the cookpad site).

Curry Fried Edamame with Tomatoes


a piece of ginger (ca. 2-3 cm)
1 bunch of green onions, sliced
4 tomatoes, quartered (if large cut into 6 or even 8 pieces)
1 packet edamame beans
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala (next time I will use sweet curry)
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for frying

What to do

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add cumin seeds and ginger until fragrant. Add the green onions

and fry until they become slightly tender.

Add the tomato pieces and sauté until they start to soften.

Add the strained edamame beans and heat through. Add the spices and season to taste.

Serve on toasted bread.

We had it for a yummy and quick brunch. And because it was really done so fast and yet very tasty I am sending this recipe to Vardhini's  'Dish it Out' - event.

The ingredients for November are soy and tomatoes. There are lots of delicious recipes posted for this event, so please check it out.

I am also sending it to Smita's The Healthy Cooking Challenge which this month is hosted by Kavi with the theme: Healthy Lunch.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

London - Vauxhall Bridge

I went to Vauxhall, not really to admire the architecture of the bridge, which I have to admit is quite interesting,

but rather to have a look at the Mesolithic posts they found last year near Vauxhall Bridge.

In 2010  archaeologists from the Thames Discovery Programme investigated the Thames foreshore and made this exceptional discovery. They found six timber piles of up to 30 cm in diameter. They are part of a Mesolithic structure which is more than 6000 years old.  Radiocarbon dates from the timbers showed a fell date between 4790 and 4490 calBC. At this time the river level was lower and this might have been a circle, supporting structures for a building, or even the timber piles from a small platform reaching into the water of the river Thames. Offerings from later periods indicate that this area was a place of worship:

When the tide is low (0.3m-ish) you can see the timbers looking out of the water. Although I went to Vauxhall Bridge at the lowest possible tide (1.0 m-ish) I couldn't see them, which makes somehow sense;  because they are not preserved up to a substantial height,  70 cm  would submerge them easily. I guess I have to come back in February :) However, this is roughly the area where they should be, just underneath the MI-6 headquarters:

Other prehistoric and historic timbers were visible, as the Bronze Age jetty:

or a more recent structure (18th or 19th century?):

On the opposite side of the river, London's Duck Tours launched its vehicle:

Hm...maybe next time I'll go for a ride on the duck :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Illuminations 2011

After having been in London just at the right time for her Christmas illuminations, I thought I would show you some pics to get you into proper Christmas spirit :)

First a photo from Heidelberg's main shopping promenade:

You are right, it is not really overwhelming for the main shopping street :(

And here some photos from London:

Covent Garden Apple Market

Covent Garden Christmas Tree

Covent Garden
It looks also nice in bright day light :)

Covent Garden
Kingly Court, Carnaby

Oxford Street
Harrods is famous for its beautiful window decorations. This year is no exception. Even with Topshop reflecting in the window I think the tree elf is just gorgeous!

Harrods Department Store, Knightsbridge

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

London - Pret a Manger, Hampstead Theatre (Skåne), and London Underground

Yesterday evening I arrived in London. My favourite town/city IN THE WORLD :) I will be attending a conference on Thursday and Friday, but I arrived earlier because I need some time in London where I am at one with the world. I rented a small studio in the Bloomsbury area and slept long. Funny, since I should spent every minute outside. But the studio is really nice, the area quiet, and I didn't want to rush anything. So the first thing to do was having lunch at Pret-a-Manger, a nice eatery with stores all over London. I went there mainly because they always have a vegetarian soup of the day. Today I enjoyed a sweet potato and lentil curry soup. Just lovely; I wish we had these coffee shops and lunchtime eateries in Germany.

Coincidentally, I found some drawings from the time they constructed the London Underground at Baker Street Station.

Coincidentally, because I'm just reading a book with poems and stories about the London Underground. So looking at all the old drawings was very illuminating :)
A short stop at the London Stone, a fragment of a limestone stone or menhir of unknown age and purpose. Even though we don't know exactly how old it is, we can see its importance by the many references given in literature, e.g. Shakespeare mentioned it in his 'Henry VI', as does William Blake in his poem 'To the Jews':

And the Druid’s golden knife       
Rioted in human gore,
In offerings of Human Life?
They groan’d aloud on London Stone...

At least, as long as the London Stone is safe, London will flourish. They are rebuilding the house in which London Stone is inserted, so I really hope they will not harm it, for the sake of London ;)

In the evening I went to the theatre, and it is astonishing that there are still theatres I have never been to. But here we go, it was my first time being at the Hampstead theatre. The play was called 'Skåne' by Pamela Carter and directed by Tim Carter. If you want to watch the play (it is still running till november, 26th) you should stop reading now (spoiler alert!), otherwise read on :)

There is already an excellent review on Ian's blog 'There Ought to be Clowns', so I will try to keep it short and to my personal impressions.

The play was about how two families, both with teenage children, cope with the adultery one of the parents each commited. It starts with a communal family conference in which Malin and Kurt agree to not see each other anymore because they don't want to give up on their families. From then on the story winds backwards. We are presented with different episodes, marked by the moving around of the furniture between two sliding doors at each end of the 'stage'. You can't really call it a 'stage', because it was such a small room that you were actually feeling as an intruder, someone hiding in their living room and unwillingly becoming the witness of their argument. On the photo you can see how close the audience were to the stage.

I'm not quite sure whether the episodes were really in a linear chronological order or not. Especially the last scene in which Christian and Malin could be seen in a hotel (the one they met for the first time?) where they confessed their eternal love to each other. Now, I consider this a bit odd for a couple in their late 30s on a sort of one-night-stand. So there is an actual chance that this scene is the most recent one and the lovers broke their promise to never see each other. The scene was graphic, which I didn't like at all, since it was simply not necessary. I already believed them they had sex with each other. Scenes of graphic nudity, just because it is on vogue is not really something I appreciate, sometimes it might be appropriate and important, but not here.

Much more interesting were the scenes that showed how differently each family member reacted. The oldest son, although behaving really angry on the outside probably understood his mother best. Not being loved enough and bored in rural Scania, he thought she went away in search for the love she couldn't find at home or else she would have commited suicide (he actually stages this for a school project). His younger brother Olle, only eight years old, desperately tried to keep up normality, forgiving his mother everything, as long as she loves him. He can't see any betrayal, as long as you are honest to yourself, promises can be 'un-promised' if you don't feel like it anymore.
The wife of Christian, Siri, probably took it worst. At first desperately spying on her husband, she unloads any feelings of guilt on her teenage daughter: 'If he left me, he left you, too .... he doesn't love us anymore'. She eventually turns to revenge and sleeps with Malin's husband Kurt. In a 5-star hotel, mind you, to outplay the adulterers which only stayed at a 3-star hotel.
Malin's husband Kurt was the one thinking hardly anything about the cause for Malin's behaviour or how he could save his marriage. He just wanted everything back to normal. After the family conference he said to Malin: 'You don't have to do the dishes, you know, ...not immediately' and 'dinner would be fine'. Actually this strenghtens my idea that the last scene with Malin and Christian in the hotel room must be the most recent one, because I would have taken Olle and immediately go back to Christian.

Did I like it? The play: yes, the actors were superb, including the kids; however, the setting: no. As I already mentioned I felt like an intruder and especially during the nudity scenes I felt like a stalker, you could have stretched out your hand and touched the actors. Maybe it was done in this small room on purpose, but I rather have some distance. I have my own problems, I don't have to be involved this intimitely in other peoples'.