Thursday, December 22, 2016

Weihnachten and the Christmas Season

The decorated basket above sits in a corner of the Gasthaus Engel in Dörlinbach.

I haven't written a blog post for some time as noted by many of my readers.  I do appreciate all your feedback and queries.

First, I had a very busy summer and fall, both in Nova Scotia and here in Germany, thus the time slipped away.  Then, I had a painful hip and was in treatment for that, along with a recent tooth episode.  Things have settled down somewhat, although the four weeks of Advent have been filled with activities, parties and celebrations.

Now Christmas is almost upon us once again with baking preparations for Christmas Eve and Day ongoing.  We are doing a little less this year but still keeping up with our traditions.

One of our important celebrations in December was an anniversary.  Hans did himself proud with a beef Wellington, a dish he has prepared before and one that always is a lot of work.  I wrote about this in detail in my blog post of 5 May 2011.

A reader asked me whether Hans used one large piece of puff pastry or two.  He uses two.  This reader has made this dish a number of times but doesn't want to use truffles so asked what she could use instead.  Truffles are, of course, the important part of this dish; however, Hans says that you could substitute Pfifferlingen (chanterelle) mushrooms, although the taste would be changed.  Our fillet was 2 lbs/1 Kg in weight and he used 20 grams of truffles. (They come from the Perigord region of southwestern France.) They are expensive, but for a special occasion well worth the price.

In the following picture you can see the medium-rare fillet of beef and the cooked truffle farce surrounding it.
We accompanied the beef with fresh carrots, fresh green asparagus and Pfifferlingen (chanterelle) mushrooms as well as boiled potatoes and a great sauce.

As every year, we attended the Christmas market held in the hills about 30 minutes from us.  Fischer's traditional German clothing store is the site of this yearly event.

The lady and the gent below have been there for all the years we have gone.  She sells little coupons for charity and the gent sings Christmas songs, both adding to the Christmas spirit.  I sang along with him at one point.  The picture with me is not that clear but here it is below.

It was cold that day so I was dressed warmly.

 Lots of sausages

Lots of Schnaps, wine and liqueurs as well.

 I am enjoying a mug of Glühwein below--the traditional hot red wine served at many Christmas markets--along with Flammenkuchen that is made right there in a small enclosed area.

One of Hans' favourite suppers is cheese.  It is easy to have as no preparation is needed other than getting a couple of things ready and putting out the boards.  We enjoyed this meal in mid December.

This week we headed to the farm we go to every year for our Christmas tree.  We haven't as yet put it up but will tomorrow, the 23rd.  As Christmas goes right into mid January it is up for quite some time.

The small hut below has a wood stove and a table with a bench on each side.  There they offer a glass or two of Schnaps on the house! One reason we chose this place!

Also this week we enjoyed our traditional noon dinner with friends at the Bruckerhof in Reichenbach.

The waitress, a daughter of the Bruckerhof family.  You won't find a better one!

Slices of stuffed roast pork with various freshly cooked vegetables

My filled plate

 The Wirt and Chef, Herr Brucker, a great cook!

A small  house that we bought many years ago from the gentleman who made it.  Two views:  one with flash and the other without.  This sits on a corner table in the living room throughout the year (but without the lights and Christmas scene except during this season).

As well this past week, we visited the Deutscher Hof in Biederbach.  A group of us meets there every second week.  This was the Christmas get-together.  Ruth, the Wirtin and owner, is below.
The tree below is small but this weekend, just before the big days of Christmas, a large one will replace it.  This one will likely grace another area of the Gasthaus.

Earlier in December we had dinner at the Engel with friends.

This is the Ziguener Schnitzel served at the Engel.  It is the best we have had.  It comes with a salad and croquettes.  It is Schnitzel that is breaded and a sauce filled with mushrooms, red peppers and onions.

Martin, the chef and owner

Martin's brother Uli, who looks after the main Gasthaus and the beer and also helps to serve.

Last but not least was the great Christmas party at our friends, the Schlagers, in mid December.  I couldn't get my flash set up properly so the pictures are darker than they should be.


Sylvi is known for her cakes and they are wonderful!  Hans is known for his guitar and singing!  Below is her raspberry torte and it was oh, so good!

Her cherry cake was also outstanding along with the others she served.

One last cake picture, one from the Gasthaus Kreuz up on the hill above our town.  It is closing at the end of December so we shall go once more.  His Schwarzwälder Kirchtorte (Black Forest Cherry Cake) is excellent and we shall sorely miss it, especially Hans who says it is the best he's ever had.  In fact, the Wirt phoned Hans to tell him he was baking that day and it would be the last time for his cake.   So up we went and took three large pieces home (after eating a piece each there!).  The picture is of one of the pieces of cake we took home.

Fourth Advent was this past Sunday.  Here is our Advent wreath.

The Christmas trees in Wallburg and Ettenheimmünster

Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten and Joyeux Noel!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fish Tales

I grew up beside the sea. In Prince Edward Island, fish was a household staple and certainly at least a once-a-week main meal.  I can still remember the fish man stopping in front of our house in Charlottetown and my mother choosing what we would be eating that day from the back of his horse-drawn wagon
Boats moored at the Charlottetown waterfront, in the city where I was born and became a teen.
There were no such things as home freezers--at least I never knew of any in those early days; in fact, not everyone had a fridge, including our family.  We had an ice box where ice was put into the top of the chest with a pan beneath it on the floor to catch the water that drained down through it.  So fish was often kept in salt.  Of course the fish trucks and wagons delivering the fish were not refrigerated either although they did have ice. 

On fish days, cod was often the choice--and even more certain, salt cod.  I hated salt cod nights.  It didn't matter how Mom cooked it, I didn't like it. Cod cakes were probably the least worst in my eyes.  Even then it wasn't a supper I looked forward to and Mom usually did serve them for supper, probably because we'd had the cod for dinner that day or the day before and these were the leftovers.

Since those days I have learned to love fish cakes.  My sister Paula in Nova Scotia makes wonderful ones, similar to our mother's.  They are the best I have ever had. However, she never makes them with cod, but with haddock or soleMom, of course, didn't always use salt cod for them but quite often she did.
I made fish cakes this week; this is one of them.
Note J:  Fresh fish must be fresh as it decomposes quickly.  If using frozen, the fish should be well frozen and then thawed slowly in the fridge. Use it as soon as possible after thawing.  

Paula's recipe for fish cakes:  Saute 3 or 4 pieces of fresh or frozen (thawed) haddock, sole or other white fish until it is cooked through.  Drain and flake (break apart)(You can, of course, use fresh unsalted cod as well.)

Peel and then boil until tender 8 or 9 medium-size potatoes; mash them well.  Saute some diced onion in butter so that it is a bit soft but not fully cooked.

Mix the flaked fish, mashed potatoes and onion together.  Add some butter (enough to make a nice consistency) and about a teaspoon of celery seed; also, McCormick's herb and garlic (I used some herbs and fresh garlic, minced); or, you can use a little Italian parsley, garlic powder to taste, salt and pepper.  Paula says the salt and pepper are important for fish cakes; I found that she was right as I added more salt later.  Better to add salt than use salt cod I say!

Mix everything really well and if need be add 1 to 2 tablespoons cream to make combining it all easier.  (I used enough butter and didn't need cream.)  The mixture will be fairly soft.  Form it into thick patties.  Cover them and place them in the fridge to rest and firm up.   

Note J:  I used only 4 small potatoes and less fish and had two large fish cakes from that.  

(The two at left are cooking in butter in my small black iron frying pan.)   

When you are ready to cook them, place fine bread crumbs into a bowl with some salt and pepper and some McCormick's herb and garlic.  Gently beat two eggs in another dish (I needed only 1 egg for mine--with egg left over--as I had less potato).  Dip each fish pattie in the egg and then dip into the bread crumbs until all the patties have been covered with the crumbs.

Paula says to fry the fish cakes in lots of butter--the key to fine-tasting fish cakes--and fry on both sides.  You want them nicely browned with a bit of crispness.  Serve with butter.  Salt and pepper them to your own taste.
Fish and chips is a favourite dinner throughout Great Britain and Eastern Canada as well as on the Eastern seaboard of the USA.  Along the coastline of the Maritime provinces  you will find them everywhere.

Hubbards, on Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast, has a neat Fish n' Chips take-out place that is busy in summer.  On the left in the picture above, my sister Carol is ordering and our brother-in-law Stephen is checking out the menu.  We ordered dinner for several of us that day.

Sometimes Mom bought fresh haddock or fresh cod and that meant our favourite meal of fish and chips that night.  It always seemed special, probably because we seldom had French fries in those days.

Here is a simple recipe for batter should you wish to make your own.  This batter is also great for onion rings.  A good friend, Joan Lapointe, gave me this recipe many years ago.  She now lives on Vancouver Island. We were neighbours in PMQs in Lahr in the mid to late 1970s and are still in touch with each other today.

Beer Batter for Deep Fried Fish (or onion rings)
(The recipe can be doubled)

3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 eggs
1/2 cup regular beer

Mix dry ingredients together.  Add eggs and beer.  Beat until smooth.   It is now ready for the fish or onion rings.

 (J: I am not sure how much fish this will cover, but it should be enough for 1 pound.)

My method:  Allow the batter to rest for 30 minutes although you can use it immediately.   

Fish:  Rinse the fish pieces in cold water and then dry them well.  Dip them thoroughly into the batter so they are well covered.  Deep fry 2 or 3 pieces at a time in hot oil (about 375F/190C on a thermometer) for about 4 or 5 minutes or until golden brown, turning them occasionally.

J:  Another method:  For a lighter batter, just add the egg yolks with the beer to the dry ingredients.  Then, beat the whites until they form unwavering peaks on the beater when it is lifted from the bowl.  Gently but thoroughly fold the egg whites into the egg yolk and beer batter.  

J:  There are many recipes for fish batter but this one is simple and quick to prepare.

For onion rings, just dip the sliced onion into the batter until well covered and then deep fry them until golden and crisp.

A restaurant at Mavillette Beach on the French Shore, beside Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy, offers a variety of seafood with a view of the water and the lighthouse.

The prices might have changed somewhat from when I was there a couple of years ago, but the food, no doubt, is still very good and plentiful.

Here I am below at about age 14 in a row boat in the Georgetown Harbour just beyond the shore.  At that time, ships still docked at the wharf in the harbour.

I still remember the tantalizing whiff of fresh-caught sea trout frying in a big pan, greeting me on a summer's morning in my grandmother's kitchen in Georgetown, P.E.I.  

My uncles would have caught the fish early that morning.  The butter sizzling in the pan with the trout crackling as it cooked and the wonderful aroma emanating from it were almost unbearable until that first one was put on my plate. 

Homemade bread and butter would be served with it.  Perhaps my grandmother served other things, too, but all I really remember is the trout. The flesh was pink and the skin crisp.  That trout would be gone in a flash.  I have always compared every trout with those I had when I was a child visiting in Georgetown and I have eaten many good ones since then. 

Grandma Tillie in about 1950

The trout shown below is certainly not from those long-ago days, but a trout I was served at the Restaurant Dammenmühle near Sulz just outside Lahr in our area of Germany.  It does bring back those memories of early summer mornings, though, when the trout was served by my Grandma Tillie.

In the Schwarzwald a whole trout, as shown above, is always served with the head and tail intact.  That tells you that it is really a trout that you have been served!

I wrote about trout in my blog post "Two Special Offerings:  Forellen (Trout) and Steak" on December 5, 2010.  As mentioned in that post, trout in the Schwarzwald (known as the Black Forest around much of the world) is usually offered as either Forellen Blau or Forellen Müllerin.  Blau means blue and they usually do have a blue tinge, thus the name.  They are poached in water.  Forellen Müllerin indicates that it is fried or sauteed.  

We do have fish at home from time to time.  The two pictures below show recent meals that Hans served:  one of white fish with an herb sauce; the other, on the right, perch with a dill sauce.  


Almonds make a great addition to a trout or white fish, whether served with a sauce or just sauteed in butter.  The pictures below are of a trout filet with almonds, a dish I enjoyed at the Bürgerstuble in Kippenheim. 

To add to a fish dish yourself, just sautee the almonds in butter and add them to the fish on the serving plate.  You can also place the almonds on a baking sheet, heat them in the oven until they are golden and then add them to the fish before serving.

Served with boiled potatoes and a salad, it was a delicious meal.
Guten Appetit!