burnt toast

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Quince Jelly, Queen of Jellies

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Quince jelly is the epitome of sophistication in the jam world. No jam will ever be as fancy or as florally seductive as this one. Not even that lemon grass and lavender jelly your aunt Ruth gave you last Christmas. It is also dead simple to make, despite you may think scrolling through my instructions. I like to know what I’m doing when I’m making jelly, with all those boiling points and whatnot. So this is my simplified, non-candy thermometered version for you (but really for next year me). No other jelly will make you feel as emancipated as this one. You cook it for an hour and then pouf! It’s jelly. I know, magic.

This will take a bit of time, so it will require a bit of planning and / or a rainy day or two.  I like to boil and drip the quince on an evening, so that I can turn the liquid into jelly the following day.

Quince Jelly

Enough quinces to fill a big pot, about 6, depending on size

Water

A medium-meshed sieve

Large bowl

Measuring cup

 

500g sugar per 600ml quince liquid

½ large lemon per 600ml quince liquid

a saucer

small sieve

(another) big pot of boiling water (for sterilizing the jars)

Jam jars (with well-fitting lids)

Tongs (to remove the hot jars from the boiling water)

Soup ladle

 

You can tell that this is a bit of a “wing it” job by reading through the ingredients list, so if you’re feeling panicky already, I suggest you have plenty of sugar and lemons on hand, just in case you end up with way more than planned. On that note, the quince water will happily wait for you for a few days in the fridge. I get just over 1200ml of quince water per batch if that’s any help.

The leftover quince can be kept in the fridge for a few days. There are a bunch of things you can do with it, quince paste being one of them. But I’ll get to that recipe in a bit.

Chop the quince into chunks. To start off, I usually cut through the top where the stem is, as I find it can be pretty hard to slice from the side. Don’t worry about size or shape here. The smaller the pieces, the faster it’ll cook, but you’ll also be chopping longer. If you come across any worms or weird growth, just cut it away.

Fill your pot with the quince chunks and fill up with water, 2-3 cm shy of the edge. Top with a lid and bring to the boil. Move the lid slightly so some of the steam can come out, and reduce the heat a little. Let it cook until done – this will vary, depending on how enthusiastically you cut the fruit. I’d say between ½ to 1 hour. The quince is done once it’s very soft when pierced with a knife.

Let everything cool to room temperature. I wouldn’t suggest you rush this part, as I feel the liquid really benefits from hanging with the fruit for a few hours. Once cool, grab your sieve and prop it over the large bowl and gently pour the water and quinces into it. This helps get rid of any grit or seeds that may have got loose during the cooking process. Press down slightly on the fruit in the sieve and place something slightly heavy on top to help coax out the rest of the juices (I usually stick it in the fridge overnight).

Measure the liquid: Per 600ml quince liquid, you’ll need 500g of white sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Transfer all of this back into the pot you used at the beginning. Bring to a soft boil. Now the watching, waiting and skimming part begins! Once the mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat. Use the small sieve to scoop away any white froth that forms. All up, I’d say this part takes about one hour. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over, but also so it doesn’t stop boiling.

While waiting for the liquid to thicken, put your saucer in the freezer. You’ll use this for testing the doneness of the jelly later. Once the jelly starts to turn a beautiful reddish colour (at about 40 min), take your plate out and drop some hot jelly on it with a teaspoon. Wait a few seconds, then drag your finger through it. If it starts to form wrinkles, it’s nearly ready.

At this point, get your Big pot with boiling water ready. Fill the glass jars about halfway up with hot water and fit them snugly in the pot. Slip the lids in too. Let them boil away for at least 10 minutes.

Once you feel the jelly is ready (don’t be afraid of letting it boil a little longer – it takes a while for it to get super stodgy), take the tongs and pick out one of the glass jars, emptying any of the water inside it back into the pot. Place it down in front of you, making sure all the water has evaporated, then take the ladle and scoop some of the hot jelly slowly into the jar. Pick out the right lid from the water bath and screw it on. Repeat with the rest.

Once all your jars are filled and screwed tightly shut, turn them around and pop them on their head for about half an hour, then turn them back over again (this is the moment of truth – if some of the jelly starts seeping out from the sides, you know the lid is crap. Open and pour back into the pot while you go off looking for a new jar) The jelly will thicken as it cools. You’ve made quince jelly!

Besides bread and butter, it’s especially great with cheese on toast, or even stirred into a fruity herbal infusion, or for glancing at admiringly from time to time.

Berry Bircher Muesli with Toasted Walnuts

img_7926Oh hey kids. Ready for some super delicious, comforting breakfast fare? Then read right on. A well-known Swiss staple, folks eat it in all kinds of combinations at all times of day, knowing that besides Rösti and Fondue, this too will give them enough stamina to wrestle a herd of cows any day. The exciting lives we lead, people.

In all honesty, and I do say this a lot, this might be my favourite version ever. I’ve had my fair share over the years and can give you a few pointers of what I think should be included (or excluded):

  •  Always add a grated apple. And try to let it sit overnight. It sort of melts into the mixture by the following day, and forms a lovely flavour base together with the dates.
  • Only add fresh fruit when ready to serve, or else make a compote or jam. I hate fresh fruit going mushy, but I do like the flavour they add. To intensify this flavour, compote is the way to go.
  •  If adding nuts, roast them and do so at the end as well. Soggy blandness is never the answer.
  •  Don’t go crazy on the sweetener at the beginning. The rest of the ingredients will omit their own share of sweetness during the resting period, so let them do that first. You can always add more later.
  • Stick to only a small number of different fruit, about 2-4, but don’t add anything ridiculous like kiwi fruit or pineapple. This isn’t a fruit party.
  • And last but not least, add that pinch of salt, to everything, always. It makes it taste so much better.

 

Berry Bircher Muesli with toasted Walnuts

Serves 4 – This’ll keep nicely in the fridge for a few days. Just give it a good stir when you get it out.

150g instant oats

350 ml full fat milk

350g plain yoghurt

2 Tbsp cream or sour cream (optional)

1 Tbsp maple syrup or honey

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 pinch of salt

1 large apple, grated (with skin on)

6 dates, quartered and chopped into small pieces

20g (small handful) of cranberries, roughly chopped

 

200g berries, I used blueberries and strawberries, chopped if needed

2Tbsp raw sugar

¼ tsp vanilla essence

 

100g walnuts

1-2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey

sprinkling of salt

 

more berries, to serve

 

This is best made the day before, or at least two hours in advance, so plan accordingly.

Get a big container that comes with a lid and combine the oats, milk, yoghurt and cream in it. Give it a good stir, then add the maple syrup, cinnamon and salt, as well as the apple, dates and cranberries. One last stir, then pop the lid on and transfer to the fridge.

In the meantime, combine the berries with the sugar and the vanilla in a small pan. Cook over low heat until it starts to thicken into a delicious smelling, syrupy fruit jam. Remove from the heat and pour into a little jar. Let it cool at room temperature before screwing on a lid and packing it into the fridge to join his oat friend.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper, and add the whole walnuts, spacing them out. Bake for about 5 minutes, then drizzle over the maple syrup and sprinkle over the salt. Give it all a good stir, then return to the oven for about 10 more minutes – you might need less, so keep your eyes peeled. The nuts are good when they have taken on a slightly darker colour, and the maple syrup has more or less “evaporated”. Remove from the oven and cool. Chop into small pieces and transfer to another jar.

A couple of hours or even a day later, Take out your oats. Give them another stir before adding the berry jam and about half of the nuts and most of the fresh berries. Gently combine them so that you can still see a few streaks of purple from the berry jam. Top with the remaining nuts and whatever berries remain. Eat.

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Yes, I really love using this bowl. And no, unless you gift me with a better option, I won’t stop using it in my shoots.

Spring Fizz

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It’s summer guys! Confusing Swiss summer. I’m surprisingly okay with that. No sweating! No sunburn! And lots of happy green trees having a ball of a time. Gentle monsoons is where we’re at.

In order to celebrate the very agreeable climate had here, I thought I’d serve you up a nice little tipple. This is what I’ve been nipping at in the past few months, at first because I was in the mood for something a little less heavy, and then later because there was an inordinate need for something refreshing and citrusy to reflect the parasol- and gumboot clad world outside.

 

Spring Fizz

Adapted from this recipe . Serves 1.

Ice

2 tsp orange, lemon and vanilla syrup – recipe below

2 tsp lime juice

3 shakes bitters

15 ml sweet vermouth

30 ml gin

1 strip lime rind

30 – 60 ml sparkling water

Fill a tumbler with ice. Drizzle over the syrup and juice. Add the bitters, vermouth and gin. Rub the lime rind around the rim of the glass, give it a bit of a squeeze and drop it in. Give everything a good stir and top it with as much sparkling water as you’d like.

 

Orange, Lemon and Vanilla Syrup

1 orange

1 lemon

½ tsp vanilla seed paste or ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped

250g sugar

300ml water

Using a vegetable peeler, remove as much of the orange and lemon peel as you can. Transfer to a small saucepan. Juice the orange and the lemon, adding that to the peel. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes (maybe more), until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and let it cool. When it’s reached room temperature, remove the peel and pour into a large jar. Keeps for a few weeks in the fridge.

Salad

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Let’s talk about salad. Nah just kidding, let’s talk about salad dressing. I do love me a good salad here and there, with crumbled bits of toasted stuff and juicy bursts of caramelised and vine-ripened vegetable shards literally jumping onto the fork with vitamin-spurred enthusiasm. Those salads are fantastic. But really, a salad is nothing without it’s dressing.  Sometimes, when I’m less in the mood for a frilly salad, I’ll go for something  simpler, dressed in a creamy outfit, something that’ll accompany my meal of carb on carb and turn it into something that resembles a balanced food pyramid if you squint. For once no chia seed and watermelon oil dressing kittens, but a dressing your grandma would make if she were Swiss, lived on top of a mountain and yodelled her chickens awake in the wee hours of the morning. It’s a dressing that would make most picky grandchildren lick their plates clean.

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Oma’s Salad Dressing

4 Tbsp mayonnaise (all my Australian friends – the good stuff ok? None of that sweet gunk)

4 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp white balsamic (replace with white wine vinegar, but add a pinch of sugar to balance out the flavours)

3 Tbsp milk

1 shallot, finely chopped

  • ½ tsp vegetable stock powder

½ tsp mild curry powder (more would make it too exotic for Oma, and we can’t have that)

a few grinds of black pepper

Whisk the ingredients together, adding the liquids slowly to the mayo so it becomes smooth. Done!

This will keep in the fridge for three or so days, but depending on the amount of salad you’re making, you might need all of it.

 

If you want a few ideas of how to use it, here are two:

One of the most frequently eaten salads here in Switzerland would be the “Nüsslersalat”, or lambs lettuce. It has a delicate, tear-shaped leaf and is known for its nutty flavour. If you can’t find it, replace with anything else that’s green that you’re in the mood for. All we do is finely dice a few hard-boiled eggs and toss them with the lettuce and the dressing. Serve immediately, because the greens don’t like to stand around for too long.

If you’re wanting to jazz up your carrot salad, thinly slice a head of fennel with half a kilo of carrots, throw some of the springy green fronds in, a few chopped parsley leaves if you have some, and mix with the dressing.

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Saffron and Kale Soup with Chipotle Buttered Toast

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Almost four weeks ago, I got on a plane with two very heavy suitcases, two packets of tissues and a heart full of excitement. After six absolutely wonderful  years in Australia, I returned to Switzerland, my other home. It’s great to be back. This time round it’s a little easier getting used to my “new” home, because everything is familiar. Yet there are so many subtle differences I’m having to accustom myself to, such as not adding a “how are you?” after the initial “hello” when speaking to a stranger, having to look up when waiting for a green light when crossing the street because it doesn’t make a clicking noise when it’s okay to go and remembering that most of the shops are definitely not open on Sundays. And at the same time I can’t help but miss the smell of eucalyptus, the friendly cats everywhere, the affordable restaurant food, the lovely friends left behind. Sigh.

Before I get all mopey and nostalgic, let me share with you a recipe I used to make about once a week back in the Melbourne era. It’s not really a recipe per se, more an assembly of ingredients, one I’d fall back onto when my five a day count was near non-existent, when I felt that I needed to give myself and my suffering immune system some pampering. It’s a simple vegetable soup, with the addition of saffron, for a little special hint of sunny warmth. You can add pulses, pasta and any herb you like, but I usually like to keep it simple and stick to the veggies in my fridge. The actual star of this dish is the chipotle butter, which I used to have on toast, now on fresh, crunchy, chewy bread (gasp!). It’s spicy and wonderful and very very morish, so be sure to make more than you think you’ll need.

To cold days, to winter, to warm hugs and memories.

 

Saffron and Kale Soup with Chipotle Buttered Toast

Serves 4

 

olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly

2 tomatoes, sliced thinly

1/6 celeriac, finely chopped

2 carrots, quartered, finely chopped

3 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes

4-5 kale leaves, very thinly sliced

1.5 litres of vegetable stock

1 big pinch saffron threads

a dash of soy sauce

a few drops of lemon juice

salt, pepper

In a large saucepan, fry the onion in the oil until translucent. Add the garlic, stir for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are soft, add the rest of the vegetables, the stock and the saffron. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until all vegetables are cooked through. Brighten the soup with the lemon (you don’t need much) juice, add the soy sauce for a boost of umami, and season to taste. Serve with crusty bread or toast and chipotle butter (below).

 

Chipotle Butter

100g butter, softened

2 tsp chipotle chilli powder

salt

a tiny squeeze of lemon juice

In a bowl, beat the butter with a fork to loosen it up. Add one teaspoon of chipotle and a few pinches of salt, as well as the lemon. Give it a good stir. Have a taste, then add more or the rest of the chipotle. It will seem quite spicy at first, however it will soften as it rests.

If you really don’t like spicy, I suggest you only use ¼ tsp of chipotle and replace the rest with smoked paprika powder.

Cucumber Gimlet

cucumber gimlet

Oh hey. Listen I’m sorry about all this not posting stuff. First there were the holidays, which had to be spent doing jolly things, no question. Then there was Cambodia, and then there’s this heat wave that is threatening to fry, or indeed melt the majority of the people who call Melbourne home. So you know, I’ve been busy.

Without further ado, and because it’s just so incredibly hot, here a delicious something which I feel everyone should know about really. We all know cucumber and gin have always been best friends, we just need to be reminded about it every now and again. Throw in some mint and lime and hey, you’re the coolest cat of the dead-end street. I love this tipple. It is the most frequently drunk cocktail in our house, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be at yours.

more gimlet

Cucumber Gimlet

Serves 1

2 thin slices cucumber, plus one extra for garnishing

15ml sugar syrup

15ml fresh lime juice

60ml gin

2 mint leaves, shredded, plus extra for garnish

ice cubes

Got a jam jar with a screw top? Good. Chuck your two slices of cucumber in there, and muddle them with the back of a knife or a rolling pin or an actual muddling utensil, until decently smashed. Add the sugar syrup, the lime juice, gin and mint leaves, and throw in about 4 ice cubes. Screw on the lid and give it a good shape. Now, get some more ice, and fill up a tumbler with ice. Pour the contents into the glass, by holding the lid slightly askew so as to catch any unwanted pulped cucumber. Get your saved cucumber slice and mint leaf and add to your drink in whatever way seems most appropriate.

Santé darling. It’s good to see you again.

White Russian

white russian

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I used to like coffee. I had a great love for it, made even greater by the fact that I worked at a café, which was known by its locals for its coffee.  One shot late, one sugar, or sometimes even a mocha, depending on my mood. Then one day, during my “at least three coffees a day” – phase, I decided to quit. What followed was a week of headaches, and a taste for coffee no more. I can’t exactly pinpoint what it is, but I would say that it’s the combination of aroma and flavour that makes my tummy turn just a little. Maybe also the fact that that’s what you can smell on people’s breaths first thing in the morning on the tram to uni. That off, bitter fragrance of unbrushed teeth wafting through the tightly packed carriage.

All is not lost though. I still like kaluha. That counts as coffee in my books. Delicious, sweet, alcoholified coffee.

You already know I’m a sucker for a good cocktail, although mind, purists will say this isn’t.  To which I will agree and say of course not, it’s sophisticated dessert. Now do you want one or not.

I find most of the time, White Russians are a rather neglected drink, usually resembling a careless coffee milkshake – ice, Kahlua, milk, done. No, no, no.

I tasted this version almost a year ago in this little cellar bar called Abflugbar in Bern. If you’re ever there – go. It’s great. The barmen come have a little chat with you to determine what cocktail would suit you best. Anyway.  What I was served then was an incredibly pleasant surprise: A two-layered drink, dark and strong down the bottom with a  white cloud of cream floating on top. Delish.

So what you first need is a fancy glass, preferably a coupe. To this, add, shaken at different intervals, ice, Kahlua, vanilla vodka and cream – by which I would just like to mention – what is it with this “thickened cream”  Australia? How about pure cream? Does thickening it make it easier (and so much more time efficient – “takes only one minute to whip instead of two! Wow!”) for lazy people to whip it? If that’s the case, you should wear a bag over your head and get the pre-whipped sweetened can of cream from the back isle. Shame on you.

If you’re in a big enough supermarket, chances are you’ll find cream without any thickeners in it. That, or you add a splash of milk to your cream before shaking. Your choice.

White Russian

 Serves 1

45ml Kahlua

45ml Vanilla Vodka

60ml cream

splash of milk if using thickened cream

ice

Find a jam jar with a tightly fitting lid. Add the Kahlua, vodka and 3 cubes of ice, screw the lid on and give it a good shake. Pour into your coupe glass, making sure you catch all the ice. Throw the ice into the sink, give the jar a wash, then add the cream (and milk) and 2 ice cubes. Give it a good shake. Gently pour over the back of a teaspoon onto the Kahlua vodka, making sure you catch the ice again.

Happy dessert time.

In case you were wondering how to drink this – just sip it. You’ll get a nice mixture of the two layers with every sip.

Also, you can use as many ice cubes as you want. We always seem to run out, so I’ve adapted my needs to our ice cube tray.

Elderflower and Basil.

3 am sunrise

Hey there beautiful.

I’ve missed you. Come, sit down with me, in the green velvet armchair. Tell me all, what’s been going on in your life – tell me about how a ticket inspector randomly started talking to you, saying how you reminded him of his granddaughter, how you saw a young bearded woman lovingly hold her boyfriend’s hand near the 2-dollar shop, how you made smores with your housemate for the first time and you’re still kicking yourself for having waited this long to taste them.

And I will gently press a delicate coupe glass into your hand, a little basil leaf floating atop a fragrant moonstone – coloured liquid, and you will ask me what it is, and I will tell you to take a sip. A “Wow.” is all I get from you before you dive in for another nip. This little beauty is called a 3 am sunrise. I too reacted quite similarly to you the first time I had it, at this beautiful place called Lily Blacks in Melbourne. This strong, fragrant little tipple with elderflower and basil completely mesmerised me. It made me feel like there was nothing more important than the here and now, same as now.

3 am Sunrise

makes one cocktail

This drink has nothing to do with the sunrise you might be accustomed to. It is strong and subtly floral, the sweetness cut by a squeeze of lime, completed by the subtle basil undertones. Beautiful. If you can’t be bothered going out to get the Zubrowka vodka, replace it with any other good-quality vodka and add a drop of vanilla essence. I find all vodka tastes like nail polish remover, so I like spending a little more on it so I can actually enjoy it. Zubrowka is also known as bison grass vodka, it’s flavour described to have woodruff, almond, vanilla and coconut notes.

4  ice cubes

30ml gin

30ml Zubrowka vodka

20ml elderflower cordial

1/4 lime, juice

1 large basil leaf, bruised with the palm of your hand, and another smaller basil leaf, for decoration

Got an empty glass jar lying around? Fantastic. Place the ice cubes, gin, vodka, cordial, lime juice and bruised basil in it and screw the lid on. Give it a good shake for about 15 seconds and strain into a coupe glass. Float the remaining basil leaf on top and serve.

My pleasure darling.

Avocado

guacamole

Oh guacamole. It feels like we’ve known each other for ever. No matter where I go, or what I do, you will always sneak your way into my life. I have loved you, and hated you, as well as looked at you in pity. You have been good, bad, and extremely average. Before however I continue what could end up being a novel about the many facets of your personality, answer me this. What’s the go with that jarred version of you one finds at supermarkets next to the salsa and corn chips? Do people actually eat that or is it just to please the eye, to complete the colour composition of the snack isle? If it were, I’d pat you on the back and go “Nice one! But between the two of us, keep an eye on the natural flavoured corn chips. The two of you might clash a bit…” But whom are we kidding. I don’t know what you are but you will sure as hell not get the honour of being called guacamole. I have not dared look at your list of contents, but I assume it would include hydrated lettuce, tapioca, MSG and concentrated synthetic diluted reconstituted imitation guacamole extract. I know baby, I know. But I really appreciate how much effort you put into being perfect at home with me on the table, in that delicate white and blue bowl. You look beautiful together with those corn chips, they really bring out your smooth side. The slight bite of the lime, the tangy saltines of the goat’s cheese, the aromatic bouquet of the garlic and the spices. I will dare go as far and say baby, in my eyes, you are perfect.

Guacamole

2 large or 3 smallish ripe avocados

½ lime, juice

2 Tbsp sour cream

2 large garlic cloves, chopped finely

1/3 tsp ground cumin

1/3 tsp ground coriander

½  tsp salt

1 bunch coriander, leaves and stems, chopped finely

50g soft goat’s cheese or soft feta, crumbled, plus more to decorate

fresh chilli, as desired

Scoop out the beautiful avocado flesh into a bowl and mash roughly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, adding as little or as much chilli as you’d like. Top with a little more cheese and maybe a few leaves of coriander for added prettiness. Bring out the tortilla chips and start that party.

Halloween

I don’t care much for Halloween. This is why I present you instead a picture of mouldy tea. It’s the beauty in the details that gets me. I hope you’ll find some beauty somewhere today too.

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