Thursday, February 13, 2014

Eating My Way Through A German Christmas

People always talk about traveling to Europe in the summer and I wouldn't have it otherwise. Leave the sweaty awful Mumbai heat and get away to lush mountainous next to perfect weather Europe with green meadows and lakes. The winter on the other hand is brutal and cold and bleak. And such is the weather my younger sister chose to tie the knot with her husband in his hometown Dresden. Of course the very bright side of it all was that we would spend our Christmas with the German family and do as the Germans do. So presenting - Eating my way through a German Christmas.

1. The Christmas Market
The most fun way to keep warm is to get a glass of hot piping Gluhwein at the massive Christmas market held in the main town square. Stick close to the crowd and slowly browse beautiful wooden toys, jewelery, and brightly lit stars. Follow your nose to a bratwurst stand and enjoy a hot freshly grilled brat on freshly baked loaf of bread with the spiciest mustard on top. Our bratwurst on freshly baked roll was no less than 1/2 a meter long. We had some Kreppelchen- sweet dough deep fried, hot out of the frier and straight into the cutest patterned paper cone and Heurekraner- freshly baked bread with bits of bacon, cheese, sour cream and spring onion. Oh and not to forget some German Shish kababs. Can Christmas get any better. The markets open late November and last till 23rd December.

Hot gluhwein, cool paper for hot keppelchens
The German Sheekh
Beautiful dolls- perfect gifts
1/2 meter long bratwurst
Heurekraner- Freshly baked bread with bits of bacon, sour cream and cheese

2. The Thuringer Rostbratwurst
This sausage is one of the most unique sausages that originates from the state of Thuringia. It is very finely minced beef or pork or veal spiced with salt, pepper, caraway seeds and garlic. More than 50% of the ingredients need to come from Thuringia. It was hot, straight off the grill and served with spicy mustard. Cannot complain- a quick, cheap lunch as we walked around.

An outstanding Thuringer rost bratwurst
3. Fruhstuck- The most important meal of the day
I was very glad to learn this word. And boy did I make sure that I woke up bright and early not to miss this spread. Christian's mom made sure she had a spread many hotels around the world would envy. Fresh breads from the baker, pumpkin seed buns, poppy seed buns, sesame seed buns, crusty buns, freshly cut cold cuts, salamis, freshly minced beef and pork to be had raw, cheeses from the neighbouring farms, blue cheese, cheese with pineapple, cheese with walnuts, , yogurts, fruits, spreads, jams, mustards,  juices, coffee, teas. Sigh! Nothing short of spectacular.

Fruhstuck with the family

4. Traditional German meal no. 1
Christmas time is the perfect time to try some of the traditional meals.
We went out to two lovely German restaurants and had very interesting food. The first was on top of the hill called Luisenhof. They are known for their Christmas brunch buffet and the view over the River Elbe. This is a great way to try out many traditional foods. I particularly enjoyed my deer with gravy also known as Rehruken- also known as 'deer- back-roast', potato dumplings, red cabbage sauerkraut. Of the buffet had an array of cold cuts, salads, egg preparations, juices, and not to mention all the desserts.

breads, meat wrapped in bacon, salads and chocolate covered cake
My plate of deer and gravy- bottom right
More dolls and doughnuts

Family portrait- From L to R
Uncle Thias, Ise, dad, mom, Tommy, Gine, Janu, me
Aunty Inge, Rossi, Christian, Ella with Tapanooka
Gorgeous view of Dresden

5. The traditional German meal no. 2
The next day we went for another wonderful meal with Christian's grandparents to one of the most traditional restaurants in Dresden called the Gasthof Weisig. This meal is a family tradition that Opidad and Omidi (grandparents) invite the family to the day after Christmas. We were honored to be invited this year.
I ordered the ganse after a salad of duck carpaccio. The duck was thinly sliced perfectly soft that melted in your mouth with dabs of balsamic vinegar. The leg of ganse or goose was the most delicious bird I have eaten. The skin was crisp and all the fat was drained and the flesh was delightful. This was served with buttery potato dumplings which is basically boiled potatoes, dipped in corn starch and garlic and fried. Sweet and sour red cabbage sauerkraut. Of course I washed this down with a glass of cider + white wine cooked with spices and a glass of cold crisp Paulaner beer.
A Russian salad, and a perfectly crisp beer
duck carpaccio, pork steak, and my favourite- roasted leg of goose
All gone- yes it was that good. 

6. Gebratener Apfel mit Vanillasosse- Baked Apple with Vanilla Sauce
This dessert needs a special mention of its own. Its an entire apple backed with core filled with vanilla sauce and seated on a plate of vanilla sauce. The core sauce thickens and seeps in the apple center while as the sauce on the plate is a perfect consistency to enjoy the baked apple with. Yes, this I had after the ganse.

Baked apple with vanilla sauce

More family portraits. From L- R
Alex, Christian, Opidad, mom, Omidi, dad, Janu, Stefan, Ise
Ella, me, Robbie, Caroline
6. Gluhwein
The saving grace of walking around in cold cold German winter weather. Hold a cup of hot Gluhwein. Forget coffee just drink up this amazing red wine cooked with sugar and spices such as cinnamon, anise, cloves, ginger, honey and oranges. YUM! Keeps you very happy and warm inside.

7. German Beer
Last but not the least German beer. So what if it was below freezing - even better. Keep the beer in the yard and not your fridge. And though the biergaartens were shut, it was only a reminder of why we must visit Germany in warmer weather.  Despite the cold we had a beer almost everyday. Here are Christian's favourite five that we tried

The tantalizing beer shelf
An unfiltered kind- Zwickelbier

Some gorgeous views of the city of Dresden. A remarkable city, bombed twice and risen again. A city that demonstrates so much resilience and yet is so soft spoken, gentle and gracious. It welcomed us with a big heart and made sure we felt more than at home.
The view of Altstadt across the Elbe. The city was bombed twice and rebuilt
With our guide and Christian's father- Stefan

The history of Saxony kings wall - a timeline of portraits made of porcelain tiles
Beautiful Dresden
L to R Mom, Anjum, me, dad
In front of the castle
The Zwinger Palace - in my opinion a must see. There is a 12' Raphael in there!

The world famous Semperoper- Opidad was a conductor there so was Wagner
Beautiful town square at dusk
The gorgeous bride and groom. Congrats Janu & Christian

The piece of music that goes so well with this post is a modern version of German Baroque composer Johann Pechelbel. The very popular Canon in D Major. Mr. Fox once said to me this is what love sounds to him.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Breaking bread & Happy Thanksgiving!

This post is way overdue. But it is such a treat. Every thanksgiving I make a mental note of all the people and things I am thankful for in my life. My family, friends, people I meet, my little doggy Walter and all the lovely experiences and of course all the meals I shared.

Earlier this year my younger sister tied the knot with her beau of several years. We were all excited to welcome Christian in our family. In the midst of throwing her a surprise wedding, I got a chance to watch Christian make some fantastic breads. This one was my favourites. Its a thick, grainy, nutty, superbly textured, goes well with cheeses and tomatoes or olive oil and balsamic vinegar, makes a great cold cut sandwich bread. Its even yummy just by itself given its innate sourdough flavour.

Whats also amazing is how wholesome, fresh, local all the ingredients were. The final bread perfectly encapsulated the goodness of what it was made of.

So presenting Christian's Brown Rye Bread with lots of grains and seeds

Christian, Janu, mom & dad

Brown Rye Bread with lots of grains and seeds

Sourdough Starter Culture
Stir the Sourdough Starter Culture with a spoon
Transfer culture to jar big enough to fit at least 1 liter
Add warm water to 1 L
Mix thoroughly
Set 100-200 ml aside -> this will serve as your next sourdough starter culture

Feeding and Storing the sourdough starter culture
Add 1/4 cup of rye seeds/berries to the saved starter culture
Add 3/4 cup of rye flour 
Fill with warm water to 500 ml total
Mix thoroughly
Transfer to glass jar, cover with saran wrap and leave out on the counter for 6-8h (in winter or a cold apartment warm up the oven just a tiny bit - not more than 40ºC, shut it off and place the culture in the oven to grow)
I'd advise the place the glass jar with the starter culture in a bowl in case the culture is super active and it spills a bit

Preparing the dough
In the kitchen aid bowl, add the remaining ~850 ml from the diluted starter culture
Add 2 cups of dark rye flour
Add 1cup of white flour (unbleached)
Add 1/4 cup of flaxseed flour
Add 1 cup of 7 grain cereal (whole foods, bulk section)
Add 1/4 cup flax seeds
Add 1/4 cup of millet
Add 2 handful of sunflower seeds
Add 3 teaspoons of salt
Allow to mix in kitchen aid
Consistency should be like thick cake batter - if too thick, add a bit of water
Preparing the baking form and the bread for baking
Oil the stoneware bake form
Add rolled rye flakes to it
Pour bread batter into stoneware form and distribute evenly with spatula
Add rolled rye flakes on top of batter
Push down some rolled rye flakes to the side of the stoneware bake form - this will prevent the bread from sticking to the form after the baking and allows for easier removal of the bread from the baking form
Cover the top with another baking form

      TIP: layer the top baking form with parchment paper to prevent stickiness
Let the bread rest for 6-8 h

Baking the Bread
Bake the bread at 350ºC or 180ºC for 1.5h, DO NOT preheat the oven
Remove bread, let it cool a bit and remove bread from the bake form
Place the Starter culture back in the fridge

Note: I found a step by step recipe on how to make the Rye sourdough starter culture

Some local breadmakers I follow in Mumbai:
Saee's My Jhola 
I recently ate Nikhil's Olive bread. See his recipes here on Nonchalant Gourmand
Or pick up a fresh loaf from The Baker's Dozen

This video making the rounds on the internet bought a smile on my face. It such a heartwarming combination to see Jon Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift and none other than Prince William groove it out on Livin' on a Prayer. See for yourself.