Tag Archives: food

The most wonderful time of the year

4 Oct

You might be thinking that this post is about Christmas. You’d be wrong. I am definitely not the type of person to be already counting the days until Christmas.

For me the most wonderful time of the year is when the outside temperature is cooling and the dark nights are drawing in. Because that can only mean one thing. It’s Raclette and Fondue season. Cheese is as Swiss as the Matterhorn and Toberlone and, since becoming a Swiss Miss, I am a big fan.

I’m so pleased that it’s that time of year again and I have wasted no time in tucking into the cheese. Of course, you can have Raclette and Fondue in the summer but only tourists really do that. Plus, it is far too hot to be eating melted cheese when it’s 20-plus degrees outside because you end up melting yourself.

To begin with I wasn’t too sure about just eating melted cheese and bread for dinner but I could eat easily eat it for breakfast now.

Apart from my obvious cheese addiction, there are other downsides to this time of year. If you are not careful, the apartment ends up constantly smelling strongly of cheese that lingers for days irrespective of how long you leave the windows open. You end up getting so used to the smell that you only realise how back it is when you come back home and smell how bad it is.

Therefore, it’s always best to be invited to someone else’s house or a restaurant to avoid nasty odours at home. Or you could do what we did and brave the colder temperatures and sit outside!

Things I learnt in August

31 Aug

Another month is almost over and I have been having a think about what interesting things that I have learnt this month.

1. A flying fox and a fruit bat are the same thing. This made my brain hurt when I found this out this week. I ‘m not sure exactly what I thought a flying fox was. I didn’t think that it was a type of bat though. bat-2639114_960_720If you look at this picture though, you can see that it does look a bit like a fox so I can understand where the name now comes from. It’s always confusing when people use different words for the same thing. Like the whole debate about what a small bread roll in English is called. I’m not even going to open that can of worms.

2. According to my knee doctor, my knee is (and I quote) perfect. I don’t want to sound like I am showing off but he did use the word perfect several times when talking about the cartilage, tendons and ligaments in my right knee. He was able to “show” me this because I had an MRI scan for a knee problem that I’ve had a bit of trouble shaking off. So I had the MRI as a precaution to make sure that everything in my knee was still in one piece. It was reasserting to know that after playing so much sport over the years, running a marathon and trying to be a regular runner hasn’t had a negative effect on my joints so far. Which means that I have no fear about training for one of my next challenges – to run an Ultramarathon.

3. I am a turophile. I love eating cheese. I really could sit and eat cheese until I made myself sick and then I would probably carry on eating again. Not being able to eat cheese was the hardest part of my vegan challenge. I looked up the etymology of the word it comes from the Greek word for cheese which is “turos”. Interesting stuff!cheese-1972744__340

4. Patience is a virtue. Recently I have been waiting for news and I have realised that I’m just got good at it. As much as I try to not think about it and distract myself by doing other things, I still end up checking my emails every fifteen minutes. I am not even sure if it is possible to train yourself to be more patient. If someone does know if it is possible, please feel free to get in touch!

5. Classic novels are wasted on youths. In the last month I have read a few classic novels that I have been meaning to read for an age. I have also just started reading Northhanger Abbey by Jane Austen and I will probably read Wuthering Heights next. When I was at school, I hated reading all of these classics. It wasn’t because I had to read them for an exam but I just found them boring. Perhaps it is an age thing but I do enjoying reading these novels now. At school students shouldn’t be forced to read classics but be encouraged to read whatever they find interest.

And that is the 8th month of 2018 finished! I hope you have also learnt some interesting things this month.

Spain and Andorra

29 Aug

Last weekend we went to visit some of my boyfriend’s friends just outside of Barcelona. It was a nice short break and we managed to eat, drink and see a lot.

After collecting our rental car, we drove to Montserrat, a mountain range just outside Barcelona. The views from the top were nothing short of stunning. It is possible to walk to the top but we took the cable car to save our legs!

There is an impressive Basilica at the top and even more impressive queues to go into the church and pray to the Madonna at the top of the High Altar. Because of the heat, we decided not to wait but to go and have some lunch.

Later we drove to Manresa, where we would be staying. We found an amazing jamón shop where we tried some jamón, tomato bread and red wine. The wine was only 1.50 Euros and I was expecting it to taste like vinegar but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. When we met up with our hosts, we got ready to go for evening meal and then onto a club where there was a jazz festival. It was a great atmosphere but after food and an early flight we were happy to go home for some rest.

The next day we went to Andorra. If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I have a #40Before40 challenge, in which I have challenged myself to do 40 challenges before I turn 40 (I have a few years to go yet!). One of my challenges is to visit 40 European countries and Andorra is one that I haven’t been to before.

Andorra wasn’t what I expected. It is a shoppers’ paradise because there are no taxes on the goods. It felt like every shop sold tobacco, booze, perfume and shoes and nothing else. I thought it had a bit of a weird atmosphere – like a place that’s in between here and there. I can’t imagine living there. It also took a long time to get in and out because so many people were crossing the border to get a bargain. However, I have been and it’s one less country to visit.

The next day we went to Sitges, a coastal town near to Barcelona. I had visited once before as part of a business trip but it was nice to go back again, especially for the delicious paella! I think Sitges is a bit like Blackpool for Spanish people. It was packed with lots of people who were just there for the weekend.

And then it was time to come home to Switzerland. I’m sure that weekends go quicker than weekdays – the secret is then to enjoy the weekends more!

Challenge #25 update

11 Aug

I am continuing in my quest to cook every recipe from one cookbook. As I also recently took up the challenge of eating a vegan diet for three months, I chose a vegan cookbook for this challenge.

As the challenge stands I have now cooked and eaten 57 recipes out of a possible 100. The end is getting closer. Here is a quick review of the recipes that I have recently completed.

Tuscan Bean Salad

This was a really easy recipe to make. I have never cooked with Haricot Beans before so it was good to get familiar with another ingredient. I made enough of this to feed about 30 people so it was good that it kept in the fridge for a while which enhanced the flavours.

Arabian Lentil Salad

After finally perfecting the art of cooking green lentils, this recipe was also easy to make. It is a good accompaniment to vegetables because we ate it with grilled peppers and sweet potatoes but you could also eat it on its own as a big salad.

Vegan Mayonnaise

This was my second attempt at making this; the first time went horribly wrong and I had to throw it all away. Although the consistency was like mayonnaise, I found the taste a bit odd and it took me a while to get used to it. I must say that there are much easier recipes for vegan mayonnaise on the internet and on Youtube with fewer ingredients and processes so I am not sure that I would use this recipe again. Also a lot of supermarkets now have the vegan equivalent for mayo. I’m inclined to be of the opinion that life it too short to be making mayo from scratch anyway…

Tartare Sauce

I had no idea that tartare sauce had capers in it. You learn something new everyday. The base of this sauce was the vegan mayonnaise and then cucumber, herbs and capers were all added. It was easy to make and surprisingly tasty.

Thousand Island Dressing

Again the basis of this sauce was the vegan mayonnaise and then tomato ketchup, chilli and herbs were added. A really delicious sauce that would be a good addition to a sandwich.

Smoky Paté

I wasn’t too sure about this. Part of the problem was that my blender wasn’t quite big enough for all of the ingredients and the resulting mixture ended up being a bit on the coarse side. However, it was nice on the top of some bread and some vegan crackers that I found.

Spinach Tofu Scramble Wrap with Rocket

This is possibly the greatest triumph so far. When I presented this to my boyfriend, he asked when I had gone to buy eggs. That is how convincing the tofu scramble was as an egg scramble substitute! I had some tofu left over from another recipe to use to make this so it is a simple way to use up some leftover ingredients.

Homemade Hot Dogs

The whole way through this recipe I was thinking, “There is no way that this is going to remotely resemble a hot dog at the end. It was fairly complicated and it was only when I came to cook them that I realised that you had to steam them to cook them. We don’t have a steamer. Luckily, Google was on hand to help me “build” one at home and that did the job. I was very surprised at how well they turned out and they tasted better than I thought they would.

Homemade Currywurst

The recipe used the Hot Dogs from the recipe above and was basically a sauce to eat with the hot dog. The curry sauce really was delicious and I could see me making it again and again for vegetable and meat dishes.

Mezze Green Beans

Such a simple dish but tasty, especially as now is the season for green beans so you can get them in the supermarkets for a reasonable price. As the recipe called for garlic, I think I might have put too much in the dish (definitely more that what was stated in the recipe) so it kept the vampires away at night!

Redcurrant and Coconut Turnovers

I left out the coconut in this recipe because I am not a big fan of coconut. It is also coming to the end of the redcurrant season so I knew it would be good to get this recipe finished or I would have to wait a year for this to come into season again. Although this is a dessert, we actually had some of them for breakfast. I am still amazed that it is possible to make pastries and cakes without dairy products. This recipe used baking soda, bicarbonate of soda and lemon mixed with plant-based milk as a raising agent.

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Juicy Mandarin and Chia Seed Muffins

As I couldn’t find mandarins in the shops, I used a blood orange instead. The recipe called for three different types of flour in this mixture and the cake itself is heavier than a traditional sponge recipe but it was yummy to eat.

Raspberry and Chocolate Windmill

This was a disaster and such a pain to make. I had to use fresh yeast (for the first time) and the dough itself ended up ok. The problem was that the recipe needed vegan custard powder which I couldn’t find here in Switzerland. So I made my own vegan custard. I think that the custard wasn’t thick enough and it didn’t end up looking like it did in the book. I was disappointed with the result because the cake ended up being heavy and too rich. I might try this another time if I can find vegan custard powder because I think it could be a good recipe for parties and so on. But with my substitute custard powder it definitely wasn’t a crowd pleaser!

Vegan BBQ

27 Jul

Last weekend to celebrate the end of my vegan challenge, I invited some friends round for a vegan BBQ. I say vegan but there was steak and chicken on offer for those who wanted it. However, all of the other dishes that I prepared were vegan (and that included not one but two desserts).

I was glad that everyone was keen to come round and see what food would be on offer and no-one backed out because they thought that the food would be so bad that they would go home hungry.

There is no way anyone was walking away from the party hungry because I grossly over-estimated how much food that I needed to prepare for 10 people. Here is a list of the food that I prepared:

  • Vegan Bratwurst
  • Green Lentil Salad
  • Tuscan Bean Salad
  • Guacamole
  • Hummus
  • Courgette Spaghetti
  • Greek Green Beans
  • Spicy Salsa
  • Smokey Tofu Pate
  • Homemade flatbreads
  • Orange and Chia Seed cupcakes
  • Raspberry and Custard Whirl
  • as well as a range of vegetables for on the BBQ.
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Everyone was complimentary about the food. However, I was really disappointed about how the Raspberry and Custard Whirl turned out. I think that the custard wasn’t thick enough and I was happy to admit that it was a failure (which I guess you shouldn’t technically say to your guests but it was true).

To make things a bit more fun, I asked everyone to bring an exotic vegetable to go on the grill. I was so surprised about how everyone was happy to get involved. People turned up with vegetables that I have never even heard of before. Have you ever heard of a dodi, for example, or a zebra tomato?

There was a unconventional prize for the winner. I am not sure how to describe it so I will just show you this picture here.

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Hanna was the lucky winner of Mister Melonman. She was literally lost for words!

Thank you to everyone who came to the BBQ and to Stefan who took the photos because I forgot to take any!

It just goes to show that you don’t always have to put meat on the grill. I have found that there are lots of alternatives that you can find which are just as good if not better!

 

V is for Victory (and Vegan) – Part II

17 Jul

As I mentioned yesterday in this blog post, I have now completed Challenge #14 on my #40Before40 list. Although the challenge is over, I will be continuing to eat vegan (at least part-time) for a while into the future. And these are the reasons why:1.If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that I have been simultaneously this challenge along side my challenge to cook every recipe from a cookbook which is the 25th challenge on my list of #40Before40 challenges. I am about half-way through this challenge so there are still plenty more dinners, desserts and salads that I need to eat in order to complete this challenge as well. Come back soon to hear how I have been getting on with the latest recipes I have cooked.2. In order to celebrate my achievement, I will be having a vegan BBQ for some of my friends to enjoy some of the new recipes that I have learnt over the past few months. I really do think that this is an achievement. Before I started the challenge, I was a meat-eater and I went cold turkey for this challenge. (Possibly not the best turn of phase in the instance – perhaps cold tofu is more apt?) There will be some meat options at this BBQ party but more than 90% of the food will be vegan.3. I recently read an article on BBC about the growing rise of flexitarianism, which is people who eat vegan or vegetarian part-time. As my other half is keen to get back to eating meat (even though he has not gone hungry during this time), it seems like this would be a reasonable solution: I can chose to eat vegan but when we eat together we can eat meat and dairy products.4. I have lost quite a lot of weight during the past three months. I am a little worried that if I switch back to my diet from before that I will put all of the weight on again. However, I haven’t felt like I have been starving myself in the same way as I have felt when I have been on other diets. Being at least a part-time vegan would mean that I would be able to continue to control my weight.5. It may sound arrogant to say it but I know that this challenge has had a positive impact on the environment. I have been eating a lot more locally grown products. I won’t bore you with details about how much water, carbon dioxide and grain I have saved during this time. But there are lots of details about this on the internet if you are interest. This alone is motivation for keeping to a vegan diet for at least some of the time.6. I haven’t found it too difficult to refrain from eating meat. My Achilles heal is cheese. Living in Switzerland with the thought of not eating cheese during the winter fondue season would feel like Hell on earth for me. This is the reason why I chose to do this challenge in the summer months. So never having cheese again is not something that I could contemplate. If you hear news from Switzerland by the end of the week that there is a cheese shortage then you know that I have been making up for lost time!7. Being a vegan isn’t that bad. It can be tricky to eat out sometimes but more and more restaurants are catering for people with different dietary requirements. As I have said, I have never been hungry (apart from the very first week) and there are definitely lots of options, if you can plan ahead and are creative!Those are the reasons why I will be sticking with veganism for the moment. Come back soon to see if I do manage to complete my 25th challenge of cooking every recipe from a (vegan) cookbook!salad-2756467__340.jpg

V is for Victory (and Vegan) – Part I

16 Jul

After 3 months or 13 weeks or 91 days, I have finally completed my 14th Challenge on my #40Before40 list. I have spent the last 3 months eating a vegan diet which means I have completely abstained from eating anything that is produced from animal products. That means no meat, no dairy products and no honey.

Rather than feeling relieved that this challenge is over, I am actually a bit sad. Although the challenge hasn’t been always easy (mainly when eating in restaurants), I have really grown to like preparing a lot of my meals from scratch and learning new recipes.

So, for the last time, here is what I have been eating this week.

Mastering Lentils

I have always struggled to cook lentils properly, which sounds a little bit strange because you just put them in a pan and boil them. But mine have always turned to mush and, although they have been edible, they haven’t had a really nice texture and don’t look good either. Thanks to my friend, Melina, I have now completely mastered the art of cooking lentils. Her advice to me was not to put salt in the water and it has worked a treat. I also read online that you don’t need to aggressively boil the lentils in the water, which I was probably doing the whole time. With the combination of these two gems of advice, I ended up with these perfectly cooked lentils for a salad this week. Finally!

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Korean pancakes

Melina also gave me a packet of Korean pancake mix which is vegan (depending on what you add into it). I added some diced red pepper, spring onions, coriander and some garlic. The pancakes weren’t very round but I think perfection is overrated. They tasted good which was the main thing. I ate them with a spicy salsa dip that I made.

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Pomegranate Debacle 

I had a recipe for a chickpea and pomegranate salad which I wanted to make. It seemed like it would be a nice alternative, especially as the weather is so hot and the recipe didn’t need any cooking. I have had pomegranate before but I have never bought one and prepared it myself. Perhaps there is a specific way that you should prepare it because I found it a complete hassle. I also found that whenever I cut into it juice would squirt out and all over the kitchen. By the time I was finished, the kitchen looked like it had been the location for the filming of a slasher movie. Also I was wearing a white T-shirt so that went straight into the washing basket as soon as I had cleared up the “blood” splatters! I did enjoy the salad but I think that I will be buying the pre-prepared pomegranate from the supermarket next time, even if it is a bit more expensive.

Amazing Homemade Sandwich

I made an amazingly good sandwich this week. It was so full of flavour and only took a few minutes to make. It was tomatoes, cucumber and a thin layer of vegan cream cheese, with a smoked tofu that had been cooked in a mixture of maple syrup, soy sauce and a pinch of chili powder. I will be making this again in the future!

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And that is the challenge over. Tomorrow I will be reflecting on this challenge and what is means for the future so come back and find read Part II soon.