Inane Whittering #15

Ooh, look! 2 posts in one day :O

No, hell hasn’t frozen over. I thought I’d post this now before I forget.

Seeing as I was moaning earlier about how cold Munich has gotten over the past few weeks, I decided to have a go at cooking something to warm me up.

I had no idea what I was doing, and had the strangest of ingredients, but I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised with the results. Naturally, I decided that you, dear reader, would want to know about it.

If you don’t, tough. I’m going to tell you anyway.

Aunty Roo’s “Mystery Soup”

Anyone who has ever watched me cook a main meal will tell you that I am perhaps the worst person to ask for the recipe. I can only give you a few exact amounts; everything else I do to taste.

250g mince (here in Munich it’s invariably a mix of beef and pork, but I would generally go for beef out of preference)
3/4 medium sized onions
any veg you have in the fridge
green lentils
2 large cloves of garlic
a beef oxo cube
tomato purée
3 cups of water

To season
Aunty Roo’s secret ingredients
salt
pepper
paprika (the spice, not the capsicum pepper)
curry powder

I told you it would be vague.

First off, wash and rinse the lentils – I didn’t put an amount because I always do these things based on how famished I’m feeling at the time. I generally cook several portions at once, so that I can take something into work with me the next day, so I often use half of a 250g packet.

Once you’ve washed and rinsed them, place them in a pan and add water – as a rule of thumb, whatever the quantity of lentils, I double it for the water. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft.

Whilst the lentils are quietly burbling in the corner, chop the onions and fry them lightly in another pan (this one needs to be deep enough to hold everything) in oil with the crushed oxo cube and a dash of curry powder.

I do this all by eye, so I can’t tell you how much I added. (I also can’t tell you what kind of curry powder – I simply found a mysterious jar of yellow powder with the word “Curry” printed on it and decided to play culinary Russian roulette.)

Once the onions have softened, add the mince and whatever vegetables you’ve decided to use. You can use literally anything. In this version, I used a handful of button mushrooms and a couple of small parsnips.

I told you the ingredients were bizarre.

Once the mince has browned, then add the tomato purée (also to taste – I personally don’t like an overpowering slap in the face of tomato), more seasoning and the water.

Hopefully by this point, the lentils should be ready and you can drain them off and bung them in too.

You then need to play the waiting game and cook it all (either boil if you want to stand over it or simmer if you want to go to sleep/on facebook have other things to do) until it’s the right consistency:

Soup simmering

You then need to taste and season accordingly.

Now, I could pretend to be sophisticated here and sound like I know what I’m talking about. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I got the seasoning horribly wrong and it was awfully bland.

I also repeatedly burnt my tongue and uttered several words rather unbecoming of a young lady.

Once I managed to vaguely sort out the lack of flavour, I realised it still needed that “oomph”. So I then added 2 ingredients of which I’m personally quite proud of having thought. I only ask that you don’t judge me.

The first ingredient is lemon juice.

The second, was 2 heaped teaspoons of Marmite.

The result, was this:

Result
Hmmm, tasty

Yes, I know how appetising it looks.

Not bad for pottering about in the kitchen when it’s cold, I thought.

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Travellings: Deutschland #21/Inane Whittering #14

Apologies for the radio silence – and for the fact that I will probably end up posting a series of posts of various episodes from Roo’s adventures abroad (I’ve just made that name up, but it already sounds far more interesting than Year Abroad) and then may well end up with another dry spell – I will try to avoid it, but I do need a break from being witty from time to time…

The first blindingly obvious observation I would like to make is how sodding cold it’s gotten. During the day here in the rather bemusing Bavarian Beer Monster, it’s around -15 degrees at the minute. At night it drops between -20-25 degrees. Friday night dropped down to -27, apparently.

It’s enough to give you goosebumps on your goosebumps.

As a result, I now resemble an onion in terms of the number of layers I’m wearing; I’ve had to break out my Matrix coat (it’s woollen, floor-length and black) and I’ve been knitting all kinds of weird and wonderful things for my wardrobe.

So far, I’ve made neckwarmers, scarves and wristwarmers. My current project is a pair of thigh-high legwarmers.

Now there’s a mental image for you.

Pictures will follow.

(Of the finished products, of course – not random pictures of my thighs. That would just be weird. Anyway, on to saner ground…)

My other recent habit is baking. Now, this happened when I was feeling a bit blue and was in one of my moods where I just wanted to go home and curl up on the sofa with the cat. Now, seeing as that wasn’t possible, and I don’t have a cat, I decided that some comfort food was in order.

But what? I already have huge quantities of teabags stashed in my room (I kid you not, my current total is around 5 kilos of the stuff) and I have marmite for my usual marmite on toast pick-me-up. But for some reason, it just wasn’t enough. No amount of B vitamins and caffine were going to pick me up out of this particular rut.

The much-needed solution?

Scones.

Up until now, I have never made them. 2 minutes of googling revealed that they’re suprisingly quick and (theoretically) easy to make.

Explaing to my flatmate what a scone is, however, proved to be rather more challenging. Needless to say, there is no German equivalent for scones. The dialogue resembled something like this:

(rough English translation of the actual German conversation)

Becca: I’m going to bake scones.
Cathrin: Scones? What are scones?
B: *looks shocked* What do you mean, “what are scones”?
C: *blank look*
B: *with a look of disbelief* You’ve never eaten scones before?
C: *shakes head*
B: *somewhat agitated* B-but, you’ve not lived!
C: *bewildered and somewhat frightened look*
B: Okay, um, they’re about this big *gestures with hands*, and can be eaten sweet or savoury. Traditionally, you eat them with *upper class accent* “Afternoon Tea” and you generally make them with sultanas.
C: *look of utter disgust*
B: …or not. The sultanas are optional.
C: *look of relief* How do you make them?
B: Well, you kind of make a dough-
C: So they’re cakes, then?
B: Well, not exactly…
C: Ah, so more like bread then?
B: Umm, more of a cross between the two.
C: I get it – like Brioche.
B: No, no – nearly the opposite of Brioche. Scones are heavier and denser.
C: So they’re cakes then.
B: *noise of protest swiftly followed by resignation* N-yes, I guess you could say they’re like cakes.
C: So, what do you eat them with?
B: Traditionally, clotted cream and jam.
C: What’s clotted cream?
B: …you don’t have clotted cream here?
C: …I don’t think so.
B: ah. Think of double cream but thicker.
C: Double cream? You mean Schlagsahne?
B: *head in hands* …probably, yes.
C: So, you only eat them in the afternoon?
B: Traditionally, yes. But I some people who munch them for breakfast too.
C: *absolute bewilderment* You people eat cake for breakfast?
B: No, I didn’t say that, they’re not really cak-
C: You eat cake for breakfast. God you English are weird.

So, in a bid to demonstrate to my flatmate that 1) they are not cakes and 2) us English aren’t that weird, I had a go.

My first attempt looked like this:

scones with jam
My children, my beautiful NON-CAKE-like children.

Whilst being far from perfect, it’ll do. For those interested, the recipe is as follows:

For glazing
1 egg beaten with a little milk added

The dough
55g of cold butter
(a generous) 150ml cold milk
225g (2 cups) self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Optional
50g (1/4 cup) sultanas

Because you can’t seem to buy SR flour here in Munich, I used the following substitute (and didn’t add any extra salt as stated above): for each cup of flour, I added 1/4tsp of salt, 1tsp of baking powder and 1/4tsp of baking soda (Natron auf Deutsch).

On a important note, it’s best to have the ingredients as cold as possible – and it’s also better to have cold hands; you want to avoid melting the butter.

The first thing is to sieve the flour into the mixing bowl – you will need a big one for this. If you’ve not had to recreate your own SR flour, then add the salt and baking powder now. Then add the cold butter.

Come to think of it, this recipe can get rather messy, so maybe implementing the use of little people here would be a good idea.

You need to stick your hands in and combine the butter and the flour so that its consistency resembles that of breadcrumbs.

Yes, it will stick to your hands and get under your nails. The things we do for food, eh?

Once you have a lovely floury buttery mess, it’s time for perhaps my favourite part. You know when you have bangers and mash as a kid and you used to make a well in the potato and then pour gravy into it and create your own mashed potato and gravy volcano?

That’s exactly what you do here. Create a well in the flour and pour in the milk, brave the sludgy feeling and stick your hands in to combine it all into a smooth dough.

DO NOT overwork the dough.
Or they won’t rise :(

Once you’ve combined everything, roll the dough out on a floured surface so that it’s around 2cm thick, and then cut them out. I don’t have a rolling pin so have to use my hands and I don’t have any cutters, so I use a glass tumbler.

Then place your beautious creations on to a greased baking tray, glaze them with the egg/milk mixture and bung in a hot oven (preferably near the top) at around 180 degrees C for 5-10 minutes.

It will depend on your oven, but Holger (our oven) seems to enjoy burning things to a cinder.

Et voilà! You have scones. Eat with with jam etc and enjoy.

Except don’t be surprised, if, like me, you decide to snaffle several for breakfast/afternoon snack/out of boredom and then discover that your trousers no longer fit.

I learnt the hard way :(

Hubble bubble, toil and trouble..

fire burn and cauldron bubble.

So, I returned from a whirlwind trip to Munich on Friday and with a clump of exams coming up, the natural thing to do was to spend today lounging about relaxing and avoiding work of any shape or form. Besides, what better a way to work through any pre-exam nerves and stress than to spend a couple of hours wrestling with unwieldy bread dough?

So I decided to try something interesting. I didn’t want to go along the boring “I’ve never baked bread in my life, so I’ll stick to something simple”. Bugger that for a laugh.

I decided to make a plait – far more interesting. Fortunately, I found a book on baking bread that we had lying around the kitchen (as you do), so I had some vague guidance – ish.

So, after a tentative hour or two of mixing, kneading, proving, deflating, reshaping, proving again, deflating and reshaping, I managed to plait my dough so that I ended up with these 2 baby-sized creations:

Loaves before baking
Before

So that you have an idea of proportions, I managed to make about 1.6kg of dough.. so each loaf is about 800g.

After finding a bread-baking setting on the oven and leaving my small children in there for ten minutes, they’d transmogrified into this:

Loaves 10 minutes into baking
10 minutes later..

This resulted in much squawking and yelling, “IT LIVES” at my father (and everyone else I came across, but particularly at him), all the while making what can only be described as ecstatic chimpanzee-like noises and running around the house.

This was duly repeated, when, after another half an hour, my beautiful creations were complete. I then felt the urge to take some supposedly “arty” photos of the finished product. That way I can kid myself that this entry can sort of look like it ought to belong in some kind of cookery book-thing.. somewhere.

Arty photo 1

Arty photo 2

Ooh, and whilst I was making a complete and utter mess of the kitchen (flour just seems to get absolutely EVERYWHERE) mum made brownies :D There won’t be many of these left by tomorrow, rest assured:

Chocolate brownies
BROWNIES :D

So, 3 guesses what my back-up career’s going to be..
Yup, you got it – raccoon tamer.

Raccoon
...Rawr.