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Thursday, March 28

Supporting private businesses for everyone's good

Shopping for food is an experience here, an enjoyable one at that. I especially like that there’s a butcher shop with a variety of meats, a bread bakery/shop with many types of (German) breads and a farmer that sells eggs and poultry.

As you can guess, the butcher shops have a lot of pork products but there are few other things as well. I’ve been going to one in the city. It’s in the ubahn station to which my friend jokingly asked “who doesn’t want to get meat upon exiting the train?" Laugh it up but it’s very convenient. They have all the pork and beef cuts and some poultry. If they don't have something, they will order it for the customer. They have some lamb however it’s pricey so I get that at the Turkish market. For reasons unknown to me, lamb imported from Greece (sold at the Turkish market) is cheaper than lamb at a German butcher shop. I also haven’t figured out all the different types of fresh & dried wursts (sausages) and deli meats. However we have been trying some at random, most have been good. One thing we haven't grown to like is Sülze (headcheese). Not only is it odd looking (meat pressed in a terrine with aspic), it tastes strange.

They have a hot counter with freshly cooked food for the lunch crowd on the go. The food ranges from sausages to wings to stews served with rice or potatoes. At this particular place the butchers know me and it’s pleasant going there.

I recently read an article that many butcher shops are gradually closing. There is a downward shift in the business in Germany. One reason is the demand for trained professionals in these fields is decreasing. The younger generation is buying meats at large boxed supermarkets and therefore don’t need to go to butcher shops. That’s unfortunate because the personalized service is rare. And, it would be a shame to lose highly skilled individuals that are a wealth of information in their line of work. I’d like to think I know my way around a pig, but that's not the case; I prefer to leave that to a German butcher that’s studied years on the subject.

For bread I haven’t found a good source. I often went to one in the main city square. A woman that worked there was really helpful and even spoke some English for explanations. I later learned they’re part of a franchise so now I only go there when in a pinch.

Then I tried another bread bakery, also in the city square; one I had heard good things about from a local. From the inside, it looks like it has been around a long time and has been in the same family for multiple generations.

But both times I’ve left feeling out of place or cheated. First time, they weren’t very helpful. A note on German bread- there are many varieties and unless you’re familiar with the types you have to ask questions. For example, there’s 100% rye bread, another that’s 60% rye with whole wheat flour, one with just whole grains and etc. During the first visit, I bought my bread, exchanged money, took some photos and left. I noticed they were friendlier with locals with fluent German.

At the second visit I asked for a price of the baguette, 1.30, then requested to buy a half loaf. When I bought the half I paid 0.90. Although I was confused I didn’t question it before handing over my money. My own fault. Once I got my change back, I asked why the price of the half wasn’t half of the whole price? They were disgruntled in answering the question. I suspect the woman that quoted me the price for the whole baguette was incorrect. However a clear explanation of the mistake would’ve been much friendlier than, “this is the price!”

I will say when I asked to photograph, they permitted. The older owner even joked he’d charge me 1 Euro for photos. Unfortunately due to other reasons I won’t be returning.

I buy my poultry from a family that comes to the farmer’s market Fridays & Saturdays. They sell eggs, chicken, turkey, duck and other bird creatures. During Christmas, they sell whole Geese. And around Easter they sell boiled, colored eggs.

It's a make shift tent they assemble each Friday & Saturday.

I've been going to them for eggs and poultry(sometimes) since moving here so they know me well. I forgot my wallet today and the mother gave me my eggs for free and asked me to come back later with the money. And I got two Easter eggs! That's friendly! They also sell egg noodles that I am not sure are homemade or bought from another producer.
Note- German vendors (and supermarkets) store their eggs at room temperature. I did not freak out at the sight of this, unlike some I know. Eggs are laid in room temperature environment so it's not insane to leave them on the counter. For longer shelf life however refrigerating is the way to go.

Saturday, March 16

Cauliflower Gratin

As I sit here with my stuff in front of me, ready to depart for a flight to one of my dream countries. I’ve dreamt of Spain for so many years I can’t believe it’s actually happening. You will hear about Spain once we’re back. Now, I want to share a recipe that I’ve loved and enjoyed repeatedly, especially during this cold winter. It’s Cauliflower Gratin. Gratin sounds fancy but it’s just cauliflower baked in a white cheese sauce.

I’ve made this with Broccoli with great success. I bet this would work with partially boiled and cubed potatoes too. Simple recipes like these deserve high praise for ease and rich flavors.

Cauliflower Gratin
Yield- 2 servings

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
Salt & large pinch of freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese
3/4 lb or 300 grams frozen cauliflower florets (these are often cooked and ready to use)
2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375°F or 190°C.

If using raw cauliflower, bring water to boil in a large pot. When water is bubbling, add cauliflower florets and cook for 4 minutes. Remove the florets from water and drain.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring often and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in heavy cream and milk into the butter-flour mixture. Whisk constantly and make sure to get rid of all the lumps. Cook for 3- 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the liquid is thickened, turn off the heat. Stir in salt to taste, pepper, nutmeg, and cheese.

Butter 1 quart square or oval baking dish. Pour 1/2 of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Add the florets to the dish and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top, sprinkle with salt and pinch of pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot.

This is supposed to serve 2 but I’ve cooked this for one many times. No one’s looking, or judging. 

Tuesday, March 12

It's here or I hope at least...

A close friend got a new camera recently.  She suggested a stroll through the city with our cameras.  The day we strolled couldn’t have been a more perfect day.  We are beginning to see 3- 4 hours of sun, shining, and the weather is warming up.  I am happy the weather is turning because there were few days in the middle that I was struggling with staying motivated.  I am grateful for the changing seasons.

Even with bare trees, this was a great trip for photographing. I hope to continue to make these outings.

Thursday, March 7

Irish Soda Breads for Stew

A friend of ours recently had a baby boy couple weeks ago. Not insane, right? Except this is her second baby and the first baby turned 1 last week.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Two little ones under around 1. The first baby was born late February and the 2nd at the end of the same month.  

When both babies came home we friends delivered meals.  Last year, I made Indian food.  Everyone requests Indian food when they have an option. I don’t mind it.  This year, I chose to make beef stew.  I’ve had beef stew requested by clients, however I almost never taste the beef.  I don’t eat beef if I can help it.  It’s sort of religious but mostly because I’ve gone this long without it so it’s not pressing to change.  It’s on principle.  Sadly, I just learned one of my favorite wursts (sausages) here, Weißwurst, is made of veal and some pork.  Mind you, I won’t stop eating Weißwurst.  But when a menu item says Rindfleisch (beef) I don’t order it.  

I digress.  Not eating beef, intentionally, doesn’t stop me from cooking it.  I made this stew and it’s reliable and solid for winter.  And to go along with the stew I made cheese soda breads.  Initially I wanted to make Irish soda bread with the stew but then it evolved into mini cheese soda breads.  The base is still soda bread.  

After tasting one I concluded this is a solid recipe for a stew or to eat with butter and honey but it lacked an oomph.  I believe it needed butter in the recipe for that oomph.  I am sharing this to keep in the biscuit files and also as a memory of cooking food for a friend in Germany with two little babies.  

Mini Irish Soda Breads
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup grated Emmentaler cheese (cheddar would work)

Preheat oven to 425°F or 220°C.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add in the grated cheese.  Stir in the buttermilk and honey.  Stirring just until everything is moistened.  (Do not overmix or the bread will be tough)
Divide the dough into 10 equal sized pieces.  I weighed each to 2.10 ounces.

Place baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until golden brown on top and bottom.  Wait few minutes before tasting the bread because the steam will burn the roof of your mouth.  Not that I would know, I’ve heard.  

In addition to making her food, I told our friend she’s brave and offered help.  And because I love seeing the 1 year old, she’s adorable!