Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trotter Gear, by Fergus Henderson

If you like pies and stews, and if you like adding that little bit of extra flavor to your hearty winter meals, then you should always have a jar of trotter gear in your fridge.

What exactly is Trotter Gear?
Trotter Gear is a rich gelatinous stock made out of pork trotters.

By adding Trotter Gear to stews, sauces or soups they become richer, creamier and more flavorful.

pig's trotters - they are in fact good for something.

I know, some of you may be grossed out by this, but I share Fergus Henderson's opinion of using all the parts of an animal, rather than just picking favorites or the best looking ones. 
A piece of steak to most people does not appear to be disgusting, at all. But pig's ears, bone marrow or beef tongue are? In the end you are eating parts of an animal, whether it is a filet mignon, trotters or gummi bears.

Don't get me wrong. I would never force someone to eat something they don't feel comfortable with.
In fact, I would have a hard time eating eyes for example. Actually, I don't think I could at all...

But I do think that by being aware where your steak and BBQ-ribs come from (a whole animal with eyes, a heart, organs and, yes, feelings) it allows you to respect and appreciate (animal) life and therefore your daily piece of meat much more.

So, here is what you need for Fergus Henderson's recipe of his so-called "Healthy Jar Of Trotter Gear":

pigs' trotters (all hair removed) 6
onions 2, peeled
carrots 2, peeled
celery 2 sticks
leeks 2, split
garlic 1 head
thyme a bundle
peppercorns a handful
Sercial Madeira ½ bottle (Sherry works fine, as well)
chicken stock enough to cover the trotters


Shave the trotters! You want to get rid of all the stiff hairs...

Place the trotters in a large casserole. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes then drain. This removes the initial scum given off by the trotters. 

Now place the blanched trotters in the pot with the vegetables, thyme, peppercorns and Madeira and cover with the stock. Cook for at least 3 hours until the trotters are totally giving. At this point, strain the cooking liquid and keep. 

After 3 hours the pig's trotter has mutated into an alien and is ready to get pulled apart...

When the trotters are cool enough to handle (but don't let them go cold, as they become much harder to deal with), pick all the flesh, fat and skin off them tearing the skin to shreds. 

I love pulling all the flesh, skin and fat off the bone

Add to the cooking liquid, seal in a jar and refrigerate. 

You now have trotter gear – giving, wobbly trotter captured in a splendid jelly.

For more information on Fergus Henderson and how to eat the whole beast check out his books
'Nose To Tail Eating: A Kind Of British Cooking' and 'Beyond Nose To Tail', as well as his restaurant St. John in London.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Duck Breast With Winter Spice Rub And Maple Syrup Glaze

If Wil and I were to create a hitparade of meats, beef would be No.1 directly followed by duck  at second place, game ranging somewhere in the middle...
Anyways: DUCK!
We've been eating so much duck breast lately and have constantly been trying to perfect our cooking method.
Oh, how much I love duck!

We served the duck breast on arugula salad.

Preparing a duck breast is pretty simple.

First thing to do is to throw on the broiler in your oven cause we want to crisp up the skin in the end.
Now prick the skin of your duck breast with a fork. The easiest way to do this is to lift up a section of skin with two fingers and push one of the fork tines through the lifted skin horizontally. That way you avoid damaging the meat.

After you have pricked the breast skin several times rub with salt, pepper and/or a spice rub. You can be completely creative in this. Given that christmas is approaching we decided to rub it with a mix of ground cinnamon, clover, salt, pepper and crushed juniper.

Heat up the pan to the lowest temperature possible. That would be 1 on our oven.
Now place the breast skin-side down in a pan. Greasing the pan is not necessary, but if it makes you feel better, you can slightly grease the pan with olive oil...
It is very important that the temperature stays low. We don't even want to hear a sizzle!
We just want to let the breast sweat out all the unnecessary fat. Sear for approx. 20 minutes.
Flip the duck breast and sear on the other side for 3 more minutes.

Remove all the surplus fat from the pan by draining it into an empty jar. 
Slightly brush the skin with some maple syrup, honey or orange jam (approx. 1-2Tbsp)

Now put the duck breast skin-side up in the top shelf of the oven and let it broil on high upper heat for about 2-4 minutes. Watch carefully because the skin will easily burn.

Pull the duck breast out of the oven and let it rest for about 6-10 minutes. Then slice and serve.
The duck breast should now be perfectly medium to medium-rare!



While the duck breast is resting, you can make a nice quick sauce from some of the remaining fat and spices in the pan.

Just add some red wine (and broth if you have some) and some mustard powder and let reduce over medium heat until thickened. Season with salt, pepper and other spices if necessary.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Making yoghurt!

One of the first things I realized after moving to Canada was that it seems to be incredibly hard to find good yoghurt here. 
Whether you look at the dairy section at Coop, Sobeys or Safeway, most yoghurts here either have 0% or 1% fat. 
You can even get Greek Yoghurt with 0% fat (???). That, my dear friends, is not yoghurt. This is bullshit.
Well, I can hear you saying: But we do have 10% Greek Yoghurt, as well! 
That is correct, but have you risked a look at the ingredients list? 
Most of them are made with skim milk (powder) and other awful things. 
No whole milk or cream at all! 
I even once bought a vanilla yoghurt that didn't have vanilla aromas in it, but caramel flavoring (???).

Ok, yoghurt should always, ALWAYS be made of whole milk, means the fat content should be at least at around 3.5%.
I read that you can use milk powder to thicken the yoghurt and make it creamier.
I prefer letting the culture grow for longer, straining it and/or replacing parts of the milk with cream.
Homemade yoghurt can be a bit runnier, indeed. But it's still yoghurt and tastes fantastic.

Making your own yoghurt is fairly easy. And no, you don't need one of those bulky yoghurt machines to do it.
All you need to do is to make sure that you follow the instructions correctly, that your preserving jars are clean and sterilized,
and that you use exceptional good yoghurt and whole milk.

For 1l of homemade yoghurt all you need is:

2-3 tbsp plain yoghurt made of whole milk
1l whole milk
preserving jars

Sterilize your preserving jars and the lids by putting them in a sink with boiling water.
A few minutes should be ok. You can also wait until the water has cooled of a bit.
That way you don't burn your hands. Let them dry completely.

Heat up the milk to about 35-38°C/95-100°F.

Then stir in the yoghurt.

Fill everything in the preserving jars, close the lids and put the yoghurt at a warm spot for at least 8 hours.
I usually let it sit for about 24hours. That helps making the yoghurt firmer and thicker.
You can wrap the jars in a towel and put it next to the heater or even put them in your bed with a hot-water bottle next to it.
Just make sure that the yoghurt doesn't get hotter than 50°C/122°F!

Once you have yoghurt, you may want to strain it (not always necessary) to get rid of surplus whey,
in ordert o make the yoghurt firmer.
Let it chill in the fridge for a couple of hours and it's ready to be enjoyed.

Eat it plain or add fruits, granola, sugar or maple syrup...whatever you prefer!

The yoghurt cultures you grew by making your own yoghurt will last 5-7 yoghurt-making sessions.


As you can see, making yoghurt is really easy. Still, sometimes it just won't work, for a reason. Could be the milk, could be that the yoghurt you bought wasn't fresh enough, the jars were dirty or something went wrong with the temperature. I don't know.
Just try again! I promise it works.

Instead of using store bought yoghurt you can use yoghurt cultures.
They come in a bag, are usually more expensive, harder to get (I saw them on ebay), but the result may be firmer and more dense and intense...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Pie and Northern Lights

As you all know from one of my earlier posts I made a ton of pumpkin puree the other day.
In order to give all that left-over puree a good home I decided to be a good North american immigrant and bake a classic pumpkin pie.
Therefore I dug out a pretty good recipe on the internet, for both, a crunchy pie crust that won't get soggy and a delicious pie filling and topping.
I altered the pie filling and topping a tiny little bit, and it turned out delicious!

For the pie crust you'll need:
(the pie crust can be made two weeks ahead)

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup (or more) ice water

  • Combine first 3 ingredients. Add butter. Using your hands, knead everything until crumbly. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup ice water; mix until dough is even, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. For two 12-inch round crusts, divide dough in half. Roll out each dough half on floured surface to 12-inch round. Wrap each crust in plastic, then foil, and freeze. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before using.

    When preparing the crust, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Transfer crust to 9-inch pie dish. Fold edges under and crimp decoratively. Evenly prick crust with a fork several times. Freeze crust 20 minutes. 

    Line crust with nonstick foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 20 minutes. Gently remove foil and beans. Return crust to oven and bake until partially cooked and golden brown around edges, pressing down on crust with back of spoon if bubbles form, about 15 minutes. Cool crust on rack. Maintain oven temperature.

    For the pie filling of one 30cm/12inch pie crust (which will fit into a 20-24cm/9inch pie dish) you'll need:

    1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
    • a dash of allspice
    • a dash of ground nutmeg
    • a squeeze of lemon juice
    • 1 cup pumpkin puree
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

    Whisk brown sugar, eggs, sea salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract, allspice, nutmeg, lemon juice and cloves in medium bowl. 
    Add pumpkin and cream and whisk until well blended and smooth.
    Pour filling into crust. Bake pie until filling is firm, covering crust with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 30 minutes.

    For the topping I used roasted and ground pumpkin seeds and some leftover dough for decoration.
    But as the original recipe suggests you can also use walnut pieces or any other nuts...

    Sprinkle topping evenly over top of pie. Reduce oven temperature to 160°C/325°F; continue to bake pie until filling is set and slightly puffed in center, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely. 



    I know it's not as orange and bright colored as the pumpkin pie fillings you get when using canned pumpkin puree. But it tastes way better, and you actually know what you're eating...


    We saw Northern Lights over Calgary last night! So beautiful...

    Friday, November 2, 2012

    Meanwhile In Our Garden...

    This morning we had a visitor in our garden. It's not the first time him or his other friends popped by. 
    But today I was actually able to capture him with my camera.

    Him and his buddies are after the last crabapples hanging in our tree. 
    For the winter we decided to tolerate the visits. 
    But in spring we'll need to figure out how to keep them from eating our veggies...

    If he only knew how much we like deer...for dinner...

    Wednesday, October 31, 2012

    Dear Deer&Moose Goulash With Prunes&Walnuts

    So Kevin, co-worker of Wil's dad and a passionate hunter gave us a whole bunch of moose and deer meat the other day.
    With all that game in our freezer I decided to make one of my all-time favorite winter dishes.
    My mum gave me this recipe years ago, and she got it from one of her colleagues. Originally it is made with venison, but really any deer-like game can be thrown into it.
    I decided to mix deer with moose for this.
    One thing you should know: Moose can sometimes be a bit too 'gamy'. Buttermilk usually takes care of that. just soak the raw moose meat in buttermilk for an hour or longer and it should be less extreme.

    I was so busy cooking that I totally forgot to take any pictures in between. Sorry about that.
    anyway, here is what you need:

    600g/22oz. deer/moose/venison/elk etc. (lean or with a bit of fat on it) cut in goulash cubes
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    2 medium-sized onions cut in thin rings
    1 tsp garlic finely chopped
    2 tsp flour
    250ml/8.5oz. red wine (preferably cabernet sauvignon)
    60g/2.2oz. prunes (pitted)
    2 bay leaves
    3 slices of bacon, coarsly chopped
    275ml/9.5oz beef broth (preferably home made)
    2tsp butter or margarine
    100g/3.5oz walnuts, coarsly chopped
    3 celery stalks, chopped in slices
    salt, pepper


    On a stove heat up olive oil in an oven-proof casserole.
    Add the meat in small portions and sear each portion over high heat for about 1 minute.
    Remove the browned meat from the casserole.
    Reduce heat.
    Add onions and garlic to the remaining meat juices and sautee for about 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
    Stir in the flour and cook for 1 more minute.
    Remove from stove and slowly stir in the red wine.
    Add meat, prunes, bacon, bay leaves and broth and bring everything to a boil again.
    Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    Put the lid on the casserole, or aluminium foil if you don't have an appropriate lid for it.
    Cook everything in the oven for about 1.5 - 2 hours at 170°C.
    A few minutes before serving melt butter/margarine in a pan, add walnuts and cellery stalks and sautee at medium heat for about 5 minutes.
    Season with salt and pepper and toss over the goulash.

    Serve with potatoes or mashed potatoes and a glass of red wine.

    Monday, October 29, 2012

    Pumpkin Buttermilk Muffins...with snow and Stevia

    We had a snow storm the other day. The temperature dropped from 15-20C to -5°C, and we had about 15 cm of snow. I love snow, so I have no reason to complain. Even the fact that we spent most of the past few days at home doesn't bother me at all. I finally set up my blog, did some research, cooked and cleaned the house. Just like a proper housewife, I know. But it certainly helps making this new place our new home.

    The first mission of my day off was to make pumpkin puree.
    Here most people prefer the canned ready-to-use version. 
    I was curious if it is really that much effort to make it yourself, also because I think homemade is always better than canned.

    And, surprise: It was pretty easy. The hardest part is probably to cut the pumpkin 
    and to pull out all the seeds and the strings (I recommend a big sharp knife...). 

    It is actually pretty easy and not as messy as it may look like.
    All you need is a good sharp knife.

    You cut the pumpkin shell in equal sized pieces, then brush some oil on the skin part and place them skin side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with some water, so that the tips won't burn and bake for approx. 20-25min. at 200°C. Remove from oven and let cool down for ten minutes. It should be quite easy to scoop out the softened pulp and remove it from the harder skin part now. Throw everything in a blender and mix until you have puree. 

    You may wanna add some water if it is too dry. But be careful not to make the puree to liquid. 
    Should that happen, just strain it through a cheese cloth afterwards.

    Et voilà: homemade pumpkin puree! So much better than out of a can!

    This leads me to my second mission of the day: Baking with Stevia.

    Back in Berlin I was asked by Lisa from SteviaKaufen.com to test the new natural sweetener Stevia. 
    So one of my first baking-in-new-home tasks was to test how Stevia compares to conventional sugar.

    Here are a few excerpts from what I found on the internet about this ancient/new miracle sweetener:

    Liquid Stevia

    ...The leaves of the stevia plant have 30–45 times the sweetness of sucrose (ordinary table sugar)...
    The plant was used extensively by the Guaraní people for more than 1,500 years, and the plant has a long history of medicinal use in Paraguay and Brazil. The leaves have been traditionally used for hundreds of years in Paraguay and Brazil to sweeten local teas, medicines and as a "sweet treat"...
    ...native to subtropical and tropical regions from western North America to South America. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.
    With its steviol glycoside extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, stevia has garnered attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose, it is attractive as a natural sweetener to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets.

    (source: http://www.thunderbaycountrymarket.com/)
    ...Stevia has been said to have many health benefits, such as: weight control (it controls cravings), can be used during pregnancy, it is known to be beneficial to the pancreas, does not contribute to tooth decay, can reduce high blood pressure, assists digestion, and so on. 
    Unlike most artificial sweeteners, Stevia does not break down and can withstand high temperatures while cooking and cold temperatures when frozen. It is also compatible with salt and organic acids and natural sweeteners such as barley malt, honey, fructose and sorbitol. 
    Stevia can be used safely and effectively as a substitute for sugar in all recipes where sugar and low calorie sweeteners would be normally used.

    Having made all that pumpkin puree I decided to bake pumpkin-buttermilk muffins. One batch usually makes twelve muffins. Therefore I decided to divide the ingredients in half and bake six muffins with regular sugar while I used liquid Stevia for the others. 

    I used following recipe: 


    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2/3 cup packed brown sugar*
    1/3 cup granulated sugar*
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon all spice
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    a dash nutmeg
    1/2 cup butter melted
    1/2 cup pumpkin puree
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten

    • 1/3 cup buttermilk
    • *according to the Stevia conversion chart, you replace one cup of sugar (ca 200g) with 1 teaspoon of liquid concentrated Stevia.


    PREHEAT oven to 400° F. Grease or paper-line 12 muffin cups.

    COMBINE flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and ginger in large bowl.* 
    Combine butter, pumpkin, eggs and buttermilk in medium bowl. Add to flour mixture, stir just until moistened. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.

    BAKE for 15 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely. 

    *In order to replace the bulk of consistency that sugar normally would add, I mixed more pumpkin puree into the Stevia batter.


    Front: Stevia-muffins, Back: sugar-muffins
    You can clearly see that the Stevia batter didn't rise as much... 

    Both muffin versions weren't as fluffy as I hoped, but I blame that on the higher altitude (Calgary is 3500ft/1066m above sea level) which is known to have quite an effect on baking...
    However, the Stevia-muffins were certainly more dense than the sugar-muffins.

    The texture of the Stevia-muffins was kind of rubbery. Whether it was the lack of sugar or the pumpkin replacement, I found that quite unpleasant. 

    3. Both muffins had a nice pumpkin spice flavor. The Stevia-muffins weren't as sweet as the sugar ones. For people who don't like their treats being so sweet, that's probably ok. I thought the Stevia-muffins were too bland, whereas the sugar in the sugar-muffins rounded out the flavor. The other downside to the Stevia-muffins was that they coated the back of your mouth with a lingering aftertaste.
    This aftertaste seemed more extreme to Wil than to me, though. It's comparable to what licorice does
    (my husband Wil hates licorice, I love it. So there is that). 

    My opinion

    Although the results with the Stevia-muffins weren't that great, Stevia is an interesting alternative for people who want to or need to watch their diet, like diabetics for example. 

    What I find people underestimate when replacing sugar with alternative sweeteners is, that sugar is not just a sweetener. It adds volume, it feeds and reacts with yeast and other baking-involved bacteria and cultures. Last but not least, when sugar melts in high temperatures it caramelizes, and that also adds flavor to any baking goods.
    Therefore when using Stevia I would highly recommend to not replace the whole amount of sugar with Stevia, but maybe only half or a third.

    I will definitely stick with sugar, though...


    On a Stevia- unrelated note: 
    I also roasted the leftover pumpkin seeds. 

    before                                                                               after

    Try to remove the major chunks of  strings and pulp attached to the seeds. 
    Toss pumpkin seeds in a bowl with some melted butter or oil and salt. 
    In a single layer spread seeds on a baking sheet.
    Bake in the oven at 180°C for about 45 minutes. 

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    Welcome to the prairie!

    Yes, meat&chocolate is still alive. It just went through a hibernation and metamorphosis process.
    New home, new plans, new name!

    A little more than one month ago Wil, my pet rabbit Beule and I moved from Berlin to the Canadian prairies. We traded our little tiny apartment in the vibrant capital city of Germany for a life on the countryside south of Calgary.

    As you can probably imagine, this is a huge change for us, and quite an adventure.
    There are tons of things we need to learn and have to get used to.
    For example, we are now completely dependent on a car. The town of Okotoks is 5km away and it takes us about 45 minutes to get to downtown Calgary. I didn't drive for over 12 years  because I always lived in big cities with a good public transport system. Now I have to drive in order to buy groceries or to get to work, and I have to practice being a hoarder buying enough food in advance.
    So that's definitely a little challenge, because I'm used to just popping downstairs to the grocery store next door for some spontaneous wine, chocolate etc.

    But there are also a lot of good things about living on the countryside. Rather than listening to drunk party folks yelling in front of our house at 4am in the morning, we get to fall asleep to coyotes howling in the fields, and wake up to deer eating the crabapples in our garden. And then there is wide-open space, beautiful sunsets and a breathtaking view of the Rocky Mountains.

    Here are some impressions of our new home:

    Our little house on the prairies, including our temporary
    but mandatory pick-up truck. 

    Our property with the big red barn!

    Our future vegetable garden - photo taken from our kitchen window

    The view we wake up to every morning. I love the rockies!

    We even got a little barn cat. We named her Schröder, after my maiden name.
    She is still a kitten, but very hungry and growing quickly.

     Schröder, the kitten

    And yes, before you ask, my rabbit Beule arrived safe and sound and is enjoying his Canadian home....

    The rabbit loves Canada!

    ...especially his new favourite spot in front of the fireplace.

    With so much space and freedom we made tons of (food-) related plans. 

    But first of all we need to build up our lives here. 
    A few days after our arrival I took on a part-time position at the Kensington Wine Market to learn more about wine, beer and whisky. I've also been helping out as a production assistant at photo shootings for HeroImages. The last time I worked for them I was asked to do some spontaneous food styling for one of their "Christmas"-shoots.

    Food styling for HeroImages...The Christmas Ham

    So two jobs within the first two weeks of being here...I guess that's not that bad!

    You see, I've been quite busy the last couple of weeks and I'm still pretty overwhelmed. Therefore cooking and blogging didn't really happen, also because we didn't have well-functioning internet.
    Well, we cooked, but not really anything new...

    One of our standard meals for the past four weeks:
    scrambled eggs from hutterite eggs with tomatoes, chive from our garden
    and maple bacon.

    This is going to change very soon! I'm so excited and motivated to try out new recipes and get to know our new kitchen a bit better. But I also want to focus more on the self-sufficient aspect of living on the country side. Wil and I want grow our own fruits and vegetables, hunt, forage, make cheese, smoke meat and maybe have livestock of some sort.

    Hibernation is over, my friends. I'm awake and ready to throw myself into new food adventures!
    Welcome to Our Little House On the Prairie!