Monthly Archives: June 2009

Things this blog has reminded me

Anna is a genius.

Worcestershire sauce on grilled cheese is really, really tasty. I used to spread a little pesto on the bread before grilling, but this is way better.



Still a foreigner

Nothing makes you realize how much you’ve come to learn about a place then when the time comes to explain it to someone else. I had a friend in town last weekend (Hi Andrea!) and I was feeling positively bilingual translating the questions in the British edition of the Friends game in a pub one night. (Side note: after untold thousands spent on my education, with attempts at three foreign languages, the only languages I now speak are two kinds of English. My parents must be so proud.)

On the food front I’ve long been assimilated enough to recognize the superiority of digestive biscuits over graham crackers. I even offered my visiting friend a glass of elderflower cordial with a straight face. But last night, able to contemplate food again after a day of, um, “rejecting” it, I was fresh-off-the-boat American all over again. All the neighborhood takeaways sounded harsh, weird or both, and none of the supermarkets had what I wanted – something bland, creamy, comforting, overprocessed and fast. I wanted American food.

If comfort food is defined by what your mom cooked for you when you were sick as a kid, this looks set to mark me different the whole time I’m here. I guess I’ll have to throw a couple boxes of Kraft mac and cheese  in my suitcase next trip home. Deluxe, of course.


More North London favourites

I could go on more about how amazing Cinquecento is, but I was told off to not spread the message anymore, otherwise we’ll never get a table again.

But time to point out that there are more hidden gems around Holloway Road that might not look much from outside but make up for it with affordable wonderful food.

Up first is Nid Ting on Holloway Road (Number 533) near Archway station. Fantastic Thai food, I have eaten my way through the menu and not a single dish on there I didn’t like. Affordable, quick service and really good for takeaway as well.

Second up is Le Rif on Seven Sisters Road serving Moroccan food. It’s nothing special inside but their tagines (both veggie and chicken and olive) are absolutely fantastic. My Moroccan friend, rather fussy with her tagine, commented that the lamb tagine was as good as her grandmothers, high praise indeed. Closer to Holloway Road tube station, it’s 10minutes walk only.

– Stef

Hit and miss in Lake District

Running the risk of sounding like the most arrogant city slicker possible – eating outside London is always bit problematic. There is a reason why English food has such a bad reputation, I once spent 48hours in the Peak District and I’m still traumatised. But Lake District has a reputation for foodie heaven so I had high hopes.

First good signs were an abundance of adorable food shops, from specially dedicated chocolate shops (yumm) to organic grocers.

Chocolate shop in Ambleside

Chocolate shop in Ambleside

Local produce is a favourite there anyways , and delis litter the street of every village (which are all ever so beautiful, it’s frightening, and people are so nice – unsettling!). It all started well with breakfast at our B&B  Denehurst being absolutely divine, I can only recommend it. The full English was good (again, why the sausage, I just don’t know) but the muffin with salmon and scrambled eggs absolutely fantastic.  I also had the most wonderful pork belly confit at a bistro called Francine’s, really, just melted off the bone. Again all signs on go.

Pork belly confit at Francine's, Windermere

Pork belly confit at Francine's, Windermere

But Day 2 and things went downhill. The highly recommended Postillon in Bowness had fishcakes that essentially were ginger only, you could not taste anything else. The chocolate fondant was NOT a fondant but a chocolate muffin warmed up. And the starter was a not very good sausage wrapped in bacon and chorizo, meat overload. And as you’re paying London prices easily, I was mightily disappointed. Onto the cake show in Windermere, clearly telling us that enough was enough by serving us a non-finished scone with chocolate  in it. The carrot cake was at least two days old and still cost 4 quid. Not impressed, not impressed at all.

Luckily it’s so damned beautiful up there you forget that eating good food is hit and miss. But don’t let it deter you.

– Stef

Baking is easy- honest

And don’t think it’s easy to admit it because I do enjoy the compliments, I really do. Especially as I can’t cook normal food, so it’s nice to not be thought of being a complete domestic disaster. But there go, baking is easy, really not much to it. It hurts to admit it but it’s time to dispel the myth.

To prove it I briefly list a few of my favourites from BBC Good Food, all of which are dead easy and fast.

First up is a baked cheesecake. The baked versus non-baked cheesecake debate is one for another day, but as a good German girl I bake my cheesecake. So I made this yesterday for the office, and it went too quickly for me to take a picture. It’s easy, you can use any berries, or none at all if you don’t like them (!!), bit of creamcheese and sour cream and Bob’s your uncle (never understood that saying). I haven’t quite figured out how to ensure that the base doesn’t get soggy from the berries but you live and learn.

And talking of sour cream and berries (all nicely in season) leads me to blueberry sour cream cake , sounds weird but bear with me. Again, easy and I left off the icing, which is really not necessary (not a bit icing fan myself) but looks great and is bit different!

I’m just gonna stick with the season theme and list another easy one, cherry cake with cinnamon. Easy to transport, easy to make and easy to eat.

– Stef

Shh! Don’t tell Jesse

Living with a perpetually hungry man has been my biggest motivation to cook more. When I lived alone, there were a lot of tuna melts, boring pastas and the occasional soup I could eat for a week straight. Not very inspiring.

Then I married someone who is not only always hungry, but likes (or claims to) everything I cook no matter how bland, ill-conceived or poorly executed. What more encouragement could I ask for?

I’m slightly concerned Food, Inc is about to ruin this for me. He’s already turned away from some meat, but we pretty much live on (organic farmers’ market) chicken. And if produce is now going to inspire fear, my days of cooking for two may be numbered.

So please, don’t tell Jesse. Keep the man away from the movie!


Lentils lentils lentils

Bit like a broken record me where swabian food is concerned, but I did have to put my care package to good use. So for the first time in my life I made Swabian classic lentils and spaetzle from scratch. Well almost, because the spaetzle were ready made, because that in itself is a blog for the future.


Without any attention span to speak of, I usually stay away from lentils (and let’s face it, it’s not as if I know anything else about lentils nor what to make of them), but this was the happy exception.

First fry some onions, add bacon cut in little pieces and fry for a bit longer until bacon crispy and onion soft. Then add vegetable stock and chuck in lentils. That boils or simmer (what is the difference? I just don’t know) for about 30min or so until it boils down. My brother warned me to not add any salt or normal seasoning, and I of course listened.

Lo and behold it barely needs any spices or seasoning thanks to onion and veggie stock. The only thing I did add at the end is a splash of vinegar and paprika. Then bind it all with some cornflour. That’s it. But of course all it needs is more meat and hurray the sausages. Afraid that needs German sausages, unless you have access to German deli you should stick with Frankfurters from Herta which you can get in most supermarkets. And there we are, Swabian comfort food though I have to admit visually not the most appealing :-).