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Portugese Patterns

portuguese tiles

ceramic tile

Portugal has been one of those few European countries to which for some reason both my husband and myself never had been to. We had often been very close by, in Spain, we had seen pictures, heard recounts and read articles though. According to them, every pore and place of this history laden little country sounded fantastic, and a few weeks back we finally decided to go see for ourselves and travel to Portugal.

What a great decision this was! Even though our expectations were high, we did not get disappointed in any way. The cities are charmful and pictuesque, full of art and beauty stories, the villages and landscapes ever changing, rural and genuine. There’s colors and gardens and architectural styles, orchards and green spaces and traditions. The people act calm, friendly and helpful towards strangers, and seem like a happy and serene bunch between themselves.

pulpo

vineyards in the duoro

And the food, oh the glorious food, is an entire story on its own. Portugese food is down to earth and does, what food first and foremost used to be and (at least there, how refreshing to witness) still is intended to do: It nourishes. Both the body and the soul, and abundantly so. There is little Froufrou in Portugese food, and much honesty. Animals and plants are used in their entiety. So one will get served pig ears instead of just the loin, turnip greens instead of just turnip, or tiny, whole fishes, eyes, fins and all. Continue reading “Portugese Patterns” »

Chuchi Schwitzer Dütsch (Swiss German Kitchen Vocabulary)

chichi, kitchen

If you are interested in a) all things kitchen, b) languages, c) Switzerland and / or d) traveling in general, chances are that you have heard the word “Chuchichäschtli”, the Swiss German term for “kitchen cabinet”.

Don’t worry if you are not able to pronounce it – yet. There’s countless other words you can practice with. They might be a bit shorter, a bit less twisted, maybe (maybe!) a bit less glutteral, but fun nevertheless.

Please note that the following collection whether is complete nor should be your single source. It simply is a list of  kitchen and food related terms common in the region and dialect I grew up in and with (and, to the delight of my kids, still am speaking after having lived abroad 20 years). It is a collection of words in “bärndütsch”, the language spoken in the Seeland region of Bern.

Have fun, enjoy, practice – and hopefully go use some of the words in pretty and tasty Switzerland at one point!

tempting pizza

aamächelig: inviting.

abchüele: to cool down.

abschmöcke: to season to taste.

Änischräbeli: A traditional Christmas cookie. Rock hard, bone white, shaped into little crescents, heavy in anise flavor.

swiss style mac & cheese

Äuplermaggrone: The Helvetic take on Mac & Cheese. Consisting of left over boiled potatoes, hollow pasta, well melting cheese and cream.

blodere: to boil.

Bluemchööli: Cauliflower.

chacheli

Chacheli: Bowl

chätsche: to chew.

Chegele: Chestnut.

kastanie, edible chestnut

chnätte: to knead.

Chnöfpli: Literally translated: Little buttons. A hand made pasta, for which the dough is cut into random pieces straight into the boiling water. Delicious with saucy meats or tomato sugo.

chöcherle: to lightly cook.

Chochhäntsche (or: Pfanneblätz): Oven glove.

Chrosle: Gooseberry.

chrüsch: crunchy, crusty.

crunchy texture

Chuechebläch: Baking sheet.

Chüeuschranktür: Fridge door.

Drü-Chünigs-Chueche: The Swiss contribution to the vast collection of Epiphamy pastries is a ring consisting of several small, sweet bread buns. The buns are decorated with coarse sugar crystals and in one of them hides, well, the king.

Düüri Bohne: Dehydrated grean beans. Even after soaking and cooking them, they remain wrinkled and concentrated in flavor.

Swiss version of Empanada, meat filled hand pies

Fleischchräpfli: The Swiss version of Empanadas. Handpies filled with ground beef.

Fotzuschnitte: Slices of bread drenched in milk, then egg mixture, and baked in a skillet. Often dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with apple compote. Comparable to French Toast.

füürheiss: hot as fire.

hot as fire

Ghüderchessu: Trash bin.

Griesspfluute: Sweet version of Grits. The Swiss sweeten theirs with sugar and serve it with a plum (or other fruit) compote.

gruusig: disgusting, gross.

Guguhupf: Bundt cake, yeast based.

Härdöpfutätschli: Fritters made of left over mashed potatoes, pan baked.

Hörnli und Ghackets: A simple, traditional peasant dish. Elbow Macaroni with ground beef and its juice.

Hundeli: Literally: Little dog. Cervelats with their ends cut crosswise, about 2 inches deep. When cooked, the ends will separate and make the sausage look like a dog (in case you have enough imagination.)

iifüue: to fill.

Iigmachts: Preserves (sweet or savory).

preserved cheese

lääi: luke warm.

Löcherbecki: Colander.

Meertrübelischlee: Red currant jelly.

Metzgete: The “slaughtery”. It describes a party held at a restaurant or farmhouse in the fall, when all harvests are done and some animals just have been slaughtered. Classically served are ham, bacon, blood and liver sausages, roesti and apple sauce.

Miuchcaffe: Old time “latte”. Combination of (about) half hot coffee and half steamed milk.

Miuchchanne: Milk vat (made of metal).

milk vats

Panierti Plätzli: Thin, breaded pork cutlets. A cheaper version of the Wiener Schnitzel.

panierti platzli

Pfanneribu: Sponge

pfluderig: mushy.

rüehre: to stir.

rüschte: to peel.

schnätzle: to chop.

schprützig: prickly.

Schüttubächer: Mixing jar.

süüferli blöderle: to carefully boil.

sauerkraut

Suurchabis: Sauerkraut (or: Fermented white cabbage).

Täfeli: Candy.

Teigtrööler: Rolling pin.

tünke: to dunk.

verbrösmele: to crumb up.

vermodere: to rot.

Wurscht-Chäs-Salat: A classic, rustic salad prepared of Cervelat slices and cubes of hard cheese (often Appenzeller). There can be onions, pickles, tomatoes, etc. added. Summer fare.

zääi: tough.

Zapfezieier: Cork screw.

Zigerschtöckli: A truly one of a kind cheese produced in one single dairy. It is made of whey, a secret mix of dried and powdered herbs, aged eight months and shaped into a little cylinder (to which the term “schtöckli” refers). Ziger comes in a light green hue, is mighty sharp and usually grated on or into foods.

Zuegge: Spout

spout, zuegge

Swiss Kiss #10 – Läbchueche (Ginger Bread)

Gingerbread, traditional Christmas pastryKids usually don’t have a developed sense for time. And because they live in the moment, they are not very interested in time either (except when it’s “time” to go to bed – then they become extremely uninterested). There’s phases though throughout the year, when even kids become alert of specific days. Birthdays, for instance, seem to tickle an instinct slumbering within them. Suddenly they are bright awake and can tell exactly how many days or how many night sleeps their big day is away. Christmas tends to have the same effect.

And for me, as a child, Chlouser (Santa Day) did, too. It was the day when we went to the little fair in town, straight from school, when my mother baked Grittibänze (bread people) for supper and we even were allowed to have chocolate with it. – And there was Läbchueche! Even though the bakeries started to offer them earlier every year, in my family we never touched them before Chlouser. They rang in the Holiday season, and – as every thing restricted or limited – tasted already good just because we had had to wait for them.

verzierter lebkuchen mit zuckerguss

Each region of Switzerland prepares its own version of Läbchueche, and they even go by different names. While I grew up with the very light, yet sticky Bäremutz of the Bern area (the bear in the name and in form of a sugary decoration referring to the name of the Swiss capital, Bern), others were used to slabs – or more elaborate shapes as hearts, flowers or animals – containing nuts, honey, almonds, chocolate and more.

It took me half a century, and a move across the big pond, until I learned about what I now call Barbara’s Läbchueche. I met this wonderful Swiss lady and market goer through cheese – who would have guessed – and immediately was impressed by her energy, wit and, especially, her baking skills. The first time we met she brought me the Läbchueche from Obwalden, a region deep in central Switzerland, where once her home had been. The squares were undecorated and unpretentious, and their texture and flavors down right addicting. Moist, fluffy, springy, chocolatey and spicy all at once, long lasting on the palate yet not too heavy in the belly. Barbara’s Läbchueche are easy and quick to prepare and become even tastier after a few days. What else would one wish for during the busy Holiday season?

gingerbread, wrapped as gift

Continue reading “Swiss Kiss #10 – Läbchueche (Ginger Bread)” »

Eggs Peru-Dict (or: How Aji and Benedict Found Each Other)

Version of eggs Benedict

I love Ceviche. And even more than the common citrusy one, I love Tiradito. This is the Peruvian interpretation of a Japanese Sashimi, so to speak, where the fish is cut into thin slices and served raw, in a creamy, dreamy, slightly hot sauce called Aji or Aji Amarillo. – Ah, Tiradito, yes, I adore you so much, I might suffer a case of obsession…

And still, when I was gifted with a big basket full of bright little yellow peppers that turned out to be Aji Dulce, or Peruvian Lemon Drops – the main ingredient of Aji -, it was not fish that came to my mind. It was a plump, sexy, poached egg that suddenly was dancing in front of my inner eye. Eureka! – I would provoke my Lemon Drops into a hefty flirt with Eggs Benedict. In a way, that ultimately would lead to marriage. She would take on his last name, but still keep hers. Eggs Peru-Dict. Perfect.

aji amarillo pepper

Aji is very easy to prepare. Aji Dulce – don’t let you fool by its name – is a hot pepper with bright, citrusy flavors that can be substituted with Tabasco or Cayenne peppers, or also with the dried Lemon Drop, Aji Mirasol. In case you get your hands on a copious amount of fruit, simply fill the sauce into small containers or ice cube trays and freeze it, so that you can pop it out whenever the craving strikes. The one for Tiradito or the one for poached eggs. Depending on your mood.

paste of lemon drop peppers

Aji Amarillo Paste

(makes 8oz)

  • 1 lbs Aji Dulce
  • 2-4 tbsp vegetable oil

Put Aji into a large pan, fill up with water and bring to a broil. Let boil 5 minutes, drain. Repeat twice, using fresh water each time.

Cut off the stems of the peppers, cut into halves lengthwise. Remove the seeds and glands.

In a food processor, purée Aji, adding the oil in stages, until the paste reaches the desired consistency. Store in the fridge or freezer.

lemon drop peppers, cooked

Tiradito

(makes plenty for 1 serving of Eggs Perudict)

  • 1 tbsp Aji Amarillo Paste
  • 1 pce Peruvian Lemon Drop pepper, washed, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients into a smooth, not too thin sauce and set aside.

poached eggs on a green bed

Eggs Peru-Dict

(makes 1 serving)

  • 2 handful Arugula, washed and dried
  • 1/2 pce Avocado
  • 1/2 pce Lime
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp Tiradito
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Arrange the Arugula in the center of a large plate.

Cut Avocado into slices, drizzle Lime on each slice and arrange on the Arugula.

Fill large pan with water and bring to a boil. Crack the eggs open and carefully slide into the water. Cook 2-3 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and put on paper towel. Carefully pat the eggs dry.

Arrange eggs on top of the Arugula-Avocado nest, pour Aji Amarillo on top. Add salt and pepper to your liking. – Bon appétit!

whole peruvian lemon drop peppers

messy poached eggs with greens

 

 

Stop Complaining Already!

key lime panna cotta dessert served

The beginning is always exciting. When you move to another country – where things are much different to what you are used to -, you first set out to explore everything new. And of course “everything”, for folks like me, first and foremost means food. While you become accustomed to fruits you never had seen before, meat cuts that sounded bizarre, cans that make you shiver, vegetables who’s names you can’t pronounce and baked goods that don’t resemble the ones you used to make back home – very, very slowly the euphoria shrivels and makes space for your longings.

There were a lot of foods, after I had moved across the big pond, that I missed early on. Cheese, for one. (Which, looking back, is ok. I turned that lack into a business that I still passionately love. And that provides me with nothing but the best cheeses.) White asparagus. Reineclaudes and mirabelles. Horse meat (and yes, i know some can’t believe that). My mom’s quince gelée. Lattich. Mangold. Apples and cherries and red currants I actually could see grow and ripen on the tree or bush, rather than just have it shipped from some far away place. I missed foraging for mushrooms and wild herbs. I missed my daily walk to the bakery and the über fresh breads for breakfast.

squeezed key limes for dessert

I still miss those (and other) things. But I made a point to stop complaining, and instead start enjoying all the many goods available here and now. I use tomatillos, star fruit, various citrus, mangoes. I experiment with boniato and yuca, lemongrass and long beans. I tend to bake more than I ever used to, and to find local and regional producers who offer edibles that make sense. It is a challenge, and to me that’s a good thing.

To this day, I see bountiful plum orchards in my dreams every now and then. And, as every early fall, I start practicing to imagine fire roasted chestnuts – eaten straight out of a paper bag on the street – without falling into a light to medium depression. But I am getting better. By now I can read recipes for stone fruit tarts or gourd soups without stumbling.

By now I also am able to remember an old, familiar recipe for Panna Cotta* with a Mixed Berries & Honey Coulis and, instead of start day dreaming, to immediately translate it into one that features Key limes instead of the (unavailable). Because there’s a box full of Key limes – grown right here where I am – waiting in my kitchen. – So, yes, always look at the bright side. And stop complaining.

forms for panna cotta

Continue reading “Stop Complaining Already!” »