Monday, April 30, 2012

...And Delicious Crusty Bread

First crusty pork roast with caraway, now crusty bread with caraway... 
I seamlessly follow my last post here.

I have to admit, even though I cook and bake a lot, I have never baked bread before. I always wanted to, though. Maybe I was scared and thought it's really complicated or I just never found the right occasion.

But last weekend was the right time, and I can assure you, it won't be my last. Baking bread is really simple and so so satisfying once you pull that beautiful thing out of the oven.
I decided to go for a crusty sourdough bread with rye and wheat flour. It's my favorite bread, cause it is crusty outside and all soft inside.

For the sourdough I used Seitenbacher's "Natur Sauerteig" which you probably may not be able to get if you don't live in Germany. But you can make sourdough starter yourself really easily. It just takes a few days time to develop the starter. But you pretty much mix flour with water and let it sit... you can find a recipe and instructions for it here and/or here!

The sourdough I used. I did it cause I was simply too impatient to wait another few days. And this one here is real sourdough with all natural ingredients. Not one of these extracts or fake "just like"products.


300g wheat flour (ideally self-raising flour, in Germany Type 550)
200g whole wheat flour
500g rye flour
150g sourdough
2 pckgs à 10g dry yeast
650 ml warm water
1tsp sugar
3 tsp salt
1-2 tsp ground caraway


1. In a bowl mix rye, wheat and whole wheat flour.
2. Using a standmixer on low, mix sourdough, yeast, sugar and salt and ground caraway with the warm (not hot!) water in a second (big) bowl.
3. Slowly add the flour mix and start kneading the liquid with the flour until it is an even dough. Don't add all the flour at once.
4. With dough it is important to knead it really well and long. Once everything is mixed I kneaded it for probably another 6-10 minutes. Of course you can use your hands for kneading also! It's just more work.
5. Form the dough to a ball and place it back in the bowl. Sprinkle some flour over it and cover the bowl with a wet  towel (not soaking wet, just damp...). at a warm place let dough rest and rise for 2 hours.
6. Once the dough has doubled in size, knead it well. Then brush it with warm water, and using a knife, cut in the surface diamond-shaped if you like (makes it look more dramatic!).
7. Sprinkle with flour and let it rest and rise another 30 minutes.
8. Place the dough in the middle of the cold oven. You can do it without a pan, just place it in the middle of the oven on a sheet of baking paper. But there are also some fancy loaf pans you are welcome to use. I decided to use a springform tin. I greased the sides with some oil and put a round-cut piece of baking paper on the bottom.
9. Don't forget to place a small oven proof bowl filled with water at the bottom of the oven. The evaportaing water will keep the dough moist!
10. Turn the heat up to 250°C and bake the loaf for 20 minutes.
11. After that turn the temperature down to 200°C and bake for another 35 minutes.
12. Remove the loaf from the oven and let it cool down a little bit.


That's my 'proud' face. I look completely insane, I know...

The bread tastes best when fresh and still warm...

Of course you can add all kinds of things to the dough or experiment with different flours and amounts. You could for example add flax, sunflower or pumpkin seeds or dried herbs or use all rye flour instead of a mix. altering the flour amounts may have an impact on the dough, though,and it may get dryer...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Crusty Pork Roast

Except for bacon, ham or salami, I'm not the biggest pork eater. I find pork is often gets too dry and yes, it has this particular pork-flavor that, depending on its preparation tends to give me a hard time. 

We most of the time go for beef. So I decided it's time to try something different and give it a try with a pretty Bavarian style crusty pork roast. I took the idea and the original recipe from the current issue of the German magazine BEEF! and altered it a little bit. They got a pork special right now and all the recipes in there sounded pretty delicious.

For my first crusty pork roast it turned out pretty well. Not dry at all and with nice flavors (beer, caraway and maple syrup). And we have so many leftovers... Pork sandwiches it is!

Here is what you need for 6 people or tons of leftovers:

2.5kg pork roast from the shoulder (we got thigh/ham, that's fine as well)
1l beer (Lager, Pilsner)
1 tsp caraway
2 garlic cloves roughly chopped
2 onions roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
3 juniper berries
maple syrup (approx. 3-4Tbsp)
salt, pepper


Preheat oven to 175°C

1. Pour water in a wide pot or pan to about 3cm height. Bring to boil.

2. place the pork roast, skin side facing the bottom, in the pot and brew it for about 15 minutes.

Be careful not to accidentally burn the skin while brewing already, like I did...

3. Now with a sharp knife cut the skin horizontally and vertically to create little skin cubes...

4. Put the roast with the skin side up in a deep baking tray or oven proof pan or pot and place the onions and garlic around the roast.

5. Bake for 2.5 hours.

6. After 15 minutes in the oven add about 1l of the water used for brewing the meat and add caraway, bay leaves, juniper berries, salt and pepper.

7. About 60 minutes later, crack the first beer (0.5 l) and pour over the roast.

8. 30 minutes before end pour the other 0.5 liters of beer over the roast.

9. 10 minutes before end brush the skin of the roast with maple syrup and turn the heat up to max. (be careful not to burn the roast!)

10. Remove roast from the oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

11. In the meantime take some of the beer-onion liquid, blend it until smooth and reduce over heat to a nice sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper and maple syrup if necessary.

Oh yeah, and pair with a bottle of good ice cold beer.
Serve the roast cut in slices with potatoes or green beans and sauce.

Notes: We served it with white asparagus. That was not the best fit. The asparagus tastes weird with the beer sauce. Better go with something more neutral like potatoes...

PS: I really miss my camera. Those cell phone photos are something else...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stinging Nettles Soup

As most of you may have already noticed, Wil and I have been making trips to the countryside fairly regularly in the last weeks and months. After picking mushrooms last fall we began looking into self-sufficiency and are now really curious of what else can be found in nature that is edible and for free. Don't worry, we are not turning into hippies. But once you experienced picking your own food, rather than buying it in the supermarket, you get kind of addicted. For example, at one of our last trips we found chive growing like weeds everywhere we walked. There were also tons of wild strawberry plants that hopefully soon, will carry delicious berries. And we cannot wait to find a mustard, horseradisch or wild garlic plant etc. Yes, all these things can be found, probably a few miles away from your doorstep, and I'm not talking about your local grocery stores here...
well, maybe that is a little bit hippie just without the tree-hugging.

Best is to pick the fresh young nettle leaves.

So in front of Wil's studio, there are tons of nettles. Most people hate them cause they sting and grow like crazy. But, in fact, they also get used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes, for example as a remedy for arthritis and intestinal problems, as well as for purifications and fasts. Nettles are really good for your liver and gall bladder and they help controlling dandruff and make your hair all shiny...

You can also just eat them. When prepared they almost taste like spinach 
(but they contain more iron than spinach!).
Wil found this recipe here for Stinging Nettles Soup, and we couldn't resist, but had to try it out.
It was delicious and really simple to make! Just remember wearing gloves when picking and preparing them...

The purple thingies are wild violets, which we found in the forest, as well.
They smell wonderful, are edible and upgrade every meal!

What you need:
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 lb. potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or water
  • 1/2 lb. stinging nettles
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Sour cream, yogurt, or horseradish creme

Our alterations: 
We added one chopped carrot as well as one chopped garlic clove, and left out the nutmeg.
But that was just because we didn't have nutmeg at home, anymore...
And we decided to already stir in a spoon of horseradish and garnished with sour creme/creme fraiche.

  1. In a large pot, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook 15 minutes.
  3. Add nettles and cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 Tbsp. butter, pepper, and nutmeg.
  4. Puree soup with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processer in batches. For a silken, less fibrous texture, run mixture through a food mill or sieve.
  5. Stir in cream, if using. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if you like.
  6. Serve hot, garnished with sour cream, yogurt, or horseradish creme, if you like.

It tastes way better if you use homemade chicken or vegetable broth rather than the powdered one.
I find the powdered stuff often way too salty and chemical/msg tasting...

They grow everywhere!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pigeons with red wine sauce

Yesterday Wil and I were incredibly lucky at Galerie Lafayette. The woman in the meat section was kind of confused and sold us two pigeons for the price of two corn-fed chicken. Sounds weird? Yeah, that's what we thought as well, when we went to a market a couple of weeks ago where they wanted to sell us two tiny pigeons for almost 30€. Pigeons and doves, or so-called squab (for less association issues), seem to be ridiculously expensive. Don't get me wrong, I'm not considering eating those sick and scruffy looking city pigeons. But pigeons are everywhere on the countryside and should be quite easy prey. I don't understand why they have to be more expensive than corn-fed chicken...Well, the ones you buy are most often bred. So that may be why. But still...

Anyways. We got two for less than 9 bucks. So we went home, filleted the breasts and legs and removed hearts and livers from the carcasses.

From the carcasses, wings and organs we made a stock. We browned the carcasses and wings in a big pot with some olive oil and deglazed them with 250ml red wine. We then added water and some leftover game stock until everything was covered by liquid, added the chopped up organs as well as 1tsp dried thyme, 2 rosemary twigs, 2 juniper berries, 2 bay leaves, 1 big crushed garlic clove and a dash of nutmeg, pepper and all-spice and let it simmer for 60 minutes with lid closed.
We then strained everything to separate the stock from the bones and spices.
Afterwards we reduced the stock to make a sauce to serve with the pigeons. We didn't use all of the stock for it. That would have been to much. A third of the total amount should be enough. After reducing I seasoned it with salt and for a bit of sweetness added 1/2 to 1 tsp of red currant jelly.
To thicken the sauce and in order to make it richer (pigeon meat is very lean) I also stirred in some small ice-cold cubes of butter in the end.

While making the sauce we fired up our cast iron pan to medium heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil two rosemary twigs and another slightly crushed garlic clove. Once the oil was hot enough we placed the breasts and the legs in the pan and fried them for a total of 5-6 minutes; 3 minutes on the skin side to give it a nice sear and 2 to 3 minutes from the other side.
It's important that the meat is still medium rare. Otherwise the meat gets too tough. In France they even it their pigeons raw.

Let the breasts and legs rest for another 5-10 minutes before serving. We wrapped ours in aluminium foil for that. 

Serve with the sauce and pair of heavy red wine. The meat of pigeons is a bit like duck meat, just with less fat. It's very dark in color and has a gamey and quite organy flavor to it..

PS: We had chive and sour cream mashed potatoes with it and a glass of French Malbec.

PPS: I'm sorry for the crappy photos. Unfortunately my beloved camera broke and therefore iPhone it is for now...