Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oven Toasts

I was going through my refrigerator looking for food I should eat as soon as possible and found a mozzarella which should be eaten by the day after tomorrow. So I had the idea to make some oven toasts to use it because I was not planing to cook anything with mozzarella in the next few days. It was one of those 5-minutes-dishes because it really took me just a few minutes to make the toasts and then I put them for about 10 minutes to the oven. Here's the result.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Rescue Cast Iron

A few years ago I was helping my neighbour with cleaning up her basement and we found an old cast iron roasting tray there. It looked like grey and oxidized. My neighbour told me she got that roasting pan years years ago from a friend's mother and it must be something from the beginning of the 20th century. It is really an old cast iron without enamel. My neighbour wanted to throw it away and I asked if I could have it, because it looked nice and I thought it would be a great flower pot for my basil or other herbs. I got it, put it to my basement and for the next years I forgot about it. In the Summer of 2008 I wanted to throw it away but then I luckily read an article (which I can not find anymore) how to rescue old and oxidized cast iron. I had to "burn it out/in" how we say in German.
  • First of all I did what the instruction said: I washed it with water (and remember one thing never ever use dish liquid for washing cast iron or put it to the dish washer - one except: if it's 100% covered with enamel it would be dish washer safe) and scrubbed with an iron steel brush. 
  • As soon I was ready I dried it with a towel before it could start oxidizing again. 
  • Than I oiled it with olive oil and put on both of the gas burner of my stove. I continued this action also after it started smoking. I was burning that cast iron roasting tray from every side always on the highest power of the burner. I don't know how long it took me, maybe an hour. Because I was afraid one of the neighbours could call the fire brigade seeing so much smoke I was doing it in the middle of the night when everyone was sleeping.
  • I did the same thing with the lid.
  • After burning my pan out it got a wonderful patina which you can see on the pictures. It reflects the light of the camera. This patina makes the roasting tray like a non stick pan, it's nearly like glass.
  • After using a cast iron pan just wash it with water, dry it as soon as you can and oil it a little bit.
As far as I know there aren't a lot of producers of cast iron ware left in Europe. That's also why the stuff is so expensive (starting at 80 Euro up) but as you can see you really buy it for centuries and quality always had it price. High-quality and best producers are Le Creuset from Picardy/France (mostly with enamel) and the other is Skeppshult from Sweden (without enamel). Cast Iron is starting to be more and more popular since people started cooking on induction ovens (a great hit in Germany), but it works as well wonderful on a gas stove. I've never tried cooking with cast iron on a typical electric stove. Here are the pictures of my 2 gallons big (40 cm wide and 14 cm deep) cast iron roasting tray after the "operation RESCUE". The reflects are the great patina it got.

If you have an iron steel pan, READ THIS LINK. Okay, it's in German but you can see on the pictures what they're doing. They use potatoes and salt for burning out an iron steel pan. I wouldn't do it with my cast iron but with a steel iron for sure.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Urban Style of Dining

To be honest I feel a little bit misunderstood sometimes. I mean a lot of my friends think it's sweet that someone in their age, in the late 20s, early 30s still enjoys cooking by himself but their way of eating is far away from what I would call healthy. It's that new urban style of living which arrived us from i.e. U.S., where junk food is the cornerstone of the modern city cuisine. I live in a big city in a region with more than 3 millions residents. You pass one city border without realising it, where one city starts at the exactly end of the other. From my apartment I've got a great view to the "cathedrals" of our times of the "most American city in Germany" how Frankfurt am Main is called and I must say I am different than the others. Maybe it's because of my vegetarianism or maybe it's just my energy to swim against the tide and to say "no".

As everyone I'm dining in the city from time to time but I try to go to a restaurant and not to a fast food restaurant. So far so good. I'm trying to avoid eating French fries or other stuff which comes nearly ready for eating. I never had a microwave oven in my kitchen and I know only two other people who also does not have one. First of all I don't think that's healthy. Maybe I am wrong but as long such thinking makes me happy and since I am not a militant anti, I do not try to force other people to live the way I do. But yes, people are always wondering that they can't find a microwave oven in my kitchen. If you want to make your food warm - take a pan I am used to say. It takes only a few minutes longer and a gas stove is a great invention for this. As use it everyday to warm my cereals for my breakfast.

And so I am at my second topic: breakfasts. I do not know what kind of breakfast you are used to take. I am used to that casual continental breakfast. With some bread or rolls and marmalade, a cup of coffee or coco or a croissant. It's the way I handle it on holidays or on days I know I can spend at home. When I know I have a long day at the university or I am going hiking or on trips, I usually have a large bowl of cereals with a pint of milk. But I always kept one rule my mom told me since I was a child: "son never leave the house without eating breakfast". I prefer to get up 20 minutes earlier but having my breakfast. It's my golden rule. And I know a lot of people who never eat anything before leaving the house. That's something I call strange. Really. How do you want to spend the first ours i.e. at the university, how do you want your brain to have energy when your last meal was a day ago? I see a lot of people in the morning walking in the city or sitting in the underground and having "breakfast" out of a paper bag. Well, I so enjoy a croissant in the city the same way but only because I do feel I need some sugar. It's never the first meal of the day in a sticky underground with a lot of people around me. Horrible. So please, take your twenty minutes in the morning, have a normal meal and give your body the energy it needs so much.

I am not going to tell you what my opinion about junk food "restaurants" is. You can see it in the way I call and wrote it. I will probably never understand people who enjoy this. I suppose they never tried to cook something by themselves and the only taste they know must be that synthetic one they're used from such kinds of "restaurants". Maybe they even do not realize that's synthetic... I don't know.

But there is also a great deal of living in a such huge and urban area I do. You have the chance to watch outside your own box and try other tastes or other dishes. We've got a lot of Italian, Greek, Turkish shops on nearly every corner and if one's interested to try something new, he can easily do it. The way my regular cuisine is, is what we call here Mediterranean. It's totally different of what my ancestors were used to eat or people in Northern Europe would cook. And it's interesting to see that the changes in the way of dining is happening right now - in my generation. Older people like the generation of my grandparents do not know a lot of dishes my generation is used to have. We're traveling along, bringing new ideas home and sometimes also my old grandmother likes dishes I cook and she never tried before. That's one of the things I love in being European - the diversity of cultures and cuisines and so many ideas...


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lasagne Express I

As always: I was hungry, I had no time for shopping, what can I cook? I always have some bags of deep frozen vegetables in the fridge, so I cooked them, used yoghurt again instead of tomato sauce and threw it to the oven for 30 minutes. It was delicious.

Update: I've posted the recipe in a later post which you can find HERE by clicking this link

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pizza with Yoghurt

I wanted to make some home made pizza but I had absolutely no time for making the tomato sauce. So I used yogurt instead of it, and guess: I WILL DO IT AGAIN! It was really tasty!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Non-Metric Units vs. Metric System

The non-metric system a system from hell?

For whom is this article for? Well on the one hand for all readers who aren’t common with the imperial/customary units and for all who use it everyday on the other. The first get the opportunity to learn it an easy way, the second can see which problems the rest of the World might have trying to cook/bake something from an American recipe.

Let’s go!

My dear readers grown into the metric system, have you ever seen an American recipe? Or maybe you’ve tried to cook something out of it and gave up, starting swearing? You are not the first and not the last. I did it as well. The Internet gives us the great chance to look a little bit outside the borders, there are a lot of great websites with recipes, with colourful pictures and there’s still this little problem with the volumes and masses: pounds, ounces, pints, cups… If you see it for the first time, you just think “what the hell?”. I did it as well. But then I tried to think inside the imperial World and not giving up like I did before. And believe me or not: I learned it. It is not difficult just different. You might say: I can use a calculator and convert the units. It’s okay but it’s easier to learn it once to get the feeling of how big a dish or cake might be. If you learn some of the units you will be able to convert it ad-hoc in your head right when you are reading a recipe or cooking out of it. It's a common custom that Americans use cups instead of using mass units in their recipes. I always check and convert it for myself using the great instructions from King Arthur Flour (you can find it on "Websites I like" in the links section under "Common Ingredient Weights (Cups to lbs/oz conversion)". There are a lot of other websites who offer you an automatic conversion also into the metric system. I wouldn't use it, it never works the right way and the guys from King Arthur Flour seem to understand the "cup-instead-of-ounce/pound"-problem. They even wrote a great article about it: Read it here!

Now to you my American readers: imagine a European Internet user who finds a great recipe on your websites and tries to use it. You’re not making it easy to us. I would say it’s really diabolic. The problem I see is that you are not using kitchen scales for masses in your recipes. You tell us to take “a cup of flour”. Well a cup of flour could be three, four, or even ounces… You are not very precise defining the ingredients. Why don’t you just write “take 5 oz of flour”? We would be able to convert it an easy way into our system. Fife ounces are always fife ounces and a cup… Well. And believe me it would be really easier for us because the most of our European kitchen scales can switch easily between grams and ounces/pounds. Please, think about it buy kitchen scales and stop using cups for flour, sugar or other dry ingredients. Thank you.

Let’s get back to our course in reading American recipes. Dear metric Europeans, don’t think that the metric system is the only one and truly best one. Units of measurements are only a deal someone told us. Yes, the metric system is easy to use, 10 gram make 1 dekagram, 1000 grams or 100 dekagrams make 1 kilogram. 1.5 kilogram is 1500 gram or 150 dekagram. 1000 millilitres make 1 litre etc pp. For masses we use the grams or kilograms, for measuring liquids we use millilitres and litres. The conversion between the units is something a 10 years old child can easily do.

The U.S. Customary Units sometimes also called the Imperial System (and no, it’s not connected to politics, it’s because the Americans took the Imperial System from the United Kingdom) works a different way. First of all you should learn the units and how to convert them. I am not going to teach you all of the units, only the most important in my opinion you should know. If you want to learn all of them, you can easily find a lot of websites asking uncle Google a question.

Units of Mass

For our culinary needs, you should learn what an ounce (oz) and what a pound (lb) is. Start without converting to grams; just try to understand the system itself. If you will understand it, you can start converting it.

1) 1 pound is equal 16 ounces or let’s say it an other way, there are 16 ounces in 1 pound. 2 lb = (2x16 oz) = 32 oz, 3 lb (3x16 oz) = 48 oz. Easy? Yeah. 18 oz will be 1 lb and (18-16=2) 2 oz, or 1 2/16 lb which is 1 1/8 lb. You have to remember fractions. There’s no other way. But in general, remember that there are 16 ounces in 1 pound and the world will be okay.

2) So what is 1 ounce and what is 1 pound in grams? 1 ounce is 28,35 g, and 1 pound is 453,59 g. As we know, there are 16 oz in a 1 pound, so 16 oz x 28,35 g is exactly 453,6 gram which is 1 pound. Easy? Yeah! There’s no magic just mathematics.

For your purposes you can remember that an ounce is around 30 g and a pound around 450 g. If you have a recipe where someone tells you to take 7 ounces of something, you just multiply 7 oz with 30g and you know you need around 210 g. You really do not need a calculator in the kitchen.

Units of Liquid

The U.S. American Customary Units do not measure liquids in millilitres or litres they use fluid ounces, gallons, quarts, pints and so on. In recipes you’ll find fluid ounces (sometimes just called “ounces”), pints, sometimes quarts or gallons. I would say, you should remember the following ones:

Fluid ounce (fl oz) – cup (c) – pint (pt) – quart (qt) – gallon (gal). The fl oz is the smallest one here, the gallon the biggest.

Wikipedia teaches us that “The United States liquid pint is equal to one eighth of a United States liquid gallon. It is used commonly in the United States.“

1 U.S. liquid pint 
U.S. liquid gallon

U.S. liquid quart

U.S. cups

U.S. fluid gills

U.S. fluid ounces

U.S. customary fluid ounce is 1/128 of an U.S. liquid gallon.

    1 US fluid ounce 
US gallon

US quart

US pint

US cup

US gill



US fluid drams

For American recipes you just need to know what one fluid ounce and what one pint are. So 1 fluid ounce is something about 30 ml (exactly: 29.6 ml) and 1 pint is around 475 ml (exactly 473,18 ml). Two pints are around 50-60 ml less than one litre.

Pay attention that there is a difference between the Imperial System (UK, former British Empire) and the U.S. Customary Units of Fluid Volume. One U.S. pint consists of 16 fluid ounces (473 ml - American recipes) and one Imperial pint consists of 20 fluid ounces (568 ml). If you have an American recipe, remember that one pint is 473 ml and one fluid ounce is around 30 ml and if you use a recipe outside of the United States, one pint is 568 ml and one fluid ounce is 28,4 ml, so a little bit less than the easy to remember 30 ml in the U.S. Customary Units. 

If you use a measuring cup which uses both systems (widely in use in Europe), check if the pint consist of 16 or 20 fluid ounces. If of 16 (it's the American fluid ounce) and if of 20 (99% of the European measuring cups), it's the Imperial/British fluid ounce.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Yeast Dumplings

I've already shown you pictures of yeast dumplings. Today I will show you how to make, cook and serve them. This dumplings were a wish of my granny this week. Long story short: once a week, Saturday or Sunday I am having lunch with my granny. I've started this tradition more than a year ago after she turned 91. I thought it would be a nice idea to spend some time dining with her and serve her once a week something different and home made which is far away from that meals on wheels she gets during the week. This dumplings are known as Germknödel (Bavaria), Dampfnudeln (Germany wide), Buchten or Buchteln (Silesian Germans and Silesians) or Knedlicky (Czechs) in all the South German regions as well in Bohemia, Moravia (Czech Republic) and Silesia (Poland). There are different ways of preparing and serving them but they are very similar. Some eat them with meat and sauce instead of potatoes some serve them with compote or melted butter. In my family all three ways are known and practiced but I prefer to eat it the way my mom's family does it - with huckleberry/blueberry compote. So here we go.

  1. First of all you need to make a yeast dough. Take 3/4 oz (about 20g) fresh yeast, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 1/2 cup (300 ml) of milk. Mix it well in a BIG bowl until the yeast is mixed well with the milk and sugar.
  2. Add one egg, 3/4 oz (30 g) of melted butter (the butter must not be hot anymore!!!) and a pound (450 g) of flour (all purpose). Mix it, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and leave it for about 1,5-2 hours in a warm place to rise. If you have a bread machine you can put the ingredients the way I wrote and choose the dough programme. It should take about one hour and a half until it's ready, the machine makes all the job for you.
  3. After the dough is risen, roll it out with a rolling pin to the thickness of about 1 1/2 inch (ca. 3 cm). You'll maybe have to add one or two spoons of flour is the dough is too wet, you will know how much to add to roll it out without having a gluey dough on your hands.
  4. Take a glass and cut out the dumplings.
  5. Put them on a with flour covered chopping board or large baking pan. Cover them with the kitchen towel and allow them to rise for about 30-40 minutes or an hour.
  6. Cook the dumplings covered with a pan or a big bowl ON STEAM (see the pictures) for about 5 minutes on every side.
  7. Serve them hot.
  8. It took me about 10 minutes to put the ingredients to the bread machine, then after the dough was risen about 10 minutes to make the dumplings.

If you have some dumplings left keep them covered and you can also toast them and serve with butter and marmolade or roast them gently with some butter and serve them with marmolade. They're also very tasty the next day.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The World Outside the Window - Spring is Coming

The Spring is coming! The days are longer and the sunsets start around 6 PM. In a few weeks it will be highest time to plant some herbs and flowers in the garden or balcony. I just can't wait to sit on my balcony and have some good coffee and watch the sunsets. That's what I saw today in the afternoon.

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