Thursday, 23 August 2012

I Am No Expert...

I will say it right away - by no means do I claim to be a coffee expert...
I was over 30 before I started drinking this dark liquid and still today I only drink the milkiest cappucino/latte. Therefore, I never thought it mattered much what type of coffee I drank as half of the drink would be milk...
Let me tell you - it matters.
While in Venice The Professor and I got hooked on an Italian brand with the very German name Hausbrandt (apparently from Trieste in Italy). It was simply divine... even to my very limited coffee palate. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be able to get Hausbrandt here in the UK (without paying a small fortune in shipping fees). But I have a cunning plan - I am shortly off to Zurich and I hope they might have Hausbrandt in the supermarkets!
Oh, and we have got a new coffee machine.
Again, not claiming to know much about these gadgets, we were sold this Delonghi when we were in our favourite department store. As I had a wallet full of gift vouchers, this machine cost me only £10! A bargain, if ever I saw one! I didn't want a machine that only takes one type of pods so we would be bound to buy from only one company. This one takes any brand and you can grind your own beans. I don't have a bean grinder, so I buy ready ground coffee (might be a gadget on the Christmas wish list...?). So, we are busy testing out the types of coffee available here. We have liked "Black & Beyond", and also "Illy". We didn't care much for Costa's ground coffee (too bland). I don't drink more coffee than before (max 1 or 2 cups a day and still with loads of milk), but I do like a good cup of quality coffee...
So, I am hoping to serve my dearest a lovely cup of Hausbrandt next week...
Any other suggestions out there for good coffee brands?

Friday, 17 August 2012

Come To Lido!

Summer memories from Lido Di Venezia:

Just outside Venice is the island of Lido with a lovely, looong beach. We only had a couple of days on the beach when we visited Venice, but I think I would stay in Lido if we go back to Venice. It is just a short vaporetto ride in to Venice city.

Life is slower there than Venice (and cheaper). One of the days we rented a sort of tandem bike for two people and squeezed ourselves in (the 4 mans bikes were all taken) and rode around the island.
It was mad!
3 people squeezed in: two were biking, one relaxing (guess who!) and one steering (again, guess who!). Not the most efficient bike, but it was oooooh, so fun!
I had the biggest fit of giggles while we were making the roads unsafe for the rest of the islanders... I am just glad we didn't tip over in the curves...! It felt like we were 'racing' around...
There was also a "flee market" by the beach, but that was the most expensive flee market I have ever encountered. Ridiculous prices, to be honest. But still fun to browse!

And yes, we did a bit of what you normally do on the beach, too

We fell in love with Lido, to be honest.
I can see us going back one day...

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Tried and Tested: Russian Danishes

Ok, so the name comes out a bit funny in English.
Here is the background for my translation:
A 'Danish' in Norwegian is called a "wienerbrød" or directly translated "Viennese Bread", so when Tulip put the recipe for "Russiske Wienerbrød " (Russian Viennese Bread) the English translation naturally should be

Russian Danishes
Are you still with me?
Obvious, isn't it...
Oh, languages can be such fun...
However, I should check with my Russian friend if this is anything she recognises...?

Anyway, here is the recipe that we tried in our house yesterday.
The Russian Danishes did not last long in our house with hungry bikers around!

This is the full recipe that Tulip (click on the link for the recipe in Norwegian) provided, but I halved it. I still got 24 Russian Danishes...

Melt 300 grams of butter and
add 9 dl of milk and bring to the boil

Add 375 gram of flour and mix it in with a mixer.
Leave the batter in the fridge to cool down completely.

Whisk 6 egg together and blend in well

Use two table spoons and drop generous dollops on a baking sheet

Bake in the oven on 180 degrees for 25-30 mins (Tulip said 30-40 mins, but mine were done after 25 mins)

Cool and drizzle over powder sugar mixed with water/lemon juice.

Very moooooreeeeish!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Tried and Tested: Homemade Fresh White Cheese

I have often made yoghurt (taught by my Iranian father-in-law) in the past, but this weekend I was inspired by Lakeland to make soft white cheese. I am working my way through their recipes in the book by Gerard Baker called "How to make soft cheese - seven step-by-step recipes". Last week I made mozzarella, but found it was a lot of effort for very little outcome...
Tasted nice, though.
The Fresh White Cheese recipe gave a satisfying portion (the picture showes half of the cheese I made) out of the effort and ingredidents used. It is very mild in taste, like a nice cream cheese. We liked it a lot and I can see it go well mixed with some garlic and herbs and some nice bread or crackers.
Below is how I made it. It might sound like there are many steps to it, but it was not complicated:

Heat 2 l of full fat milk to 24 degrees (C) in a stainless steel pan. Use a digital thermometer to monitor the temperature.
Add 300 ml live yoghurt or cultured buttermilk (I used buttermilk)
Mix 1/4 rennet with 1 tablespoon boiled water and add to the milk/yoghurt base. You can buy rennet from Lakeland or in some countries from the pharmacy.
Stir briefly and then leave it at room temperature overnight (1 left it for about 7 hrs.).

Cut the curd with a sharp knife into 2 cm strips and then across again the same way making 2 cm squares.

Place a colander over a bowl and line the colander with a muslin square and ladle the curd into it. The curd should be left to drain for another 2-3 hours.

Mix some salt into the curd and pile it into a muslin-lined cheese mold (I have a plastic one with lots of holes in it to allow further drainage). I placed the cheese mold in a colander on a plate and then left it in the fridge overnight.

The cheese is now ready!
Apparently, it lasts up to 5 days in the fridge.

PS: Just to make it clear - I am not sponsored by Lakeland, I am just a great fan

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Colourful Burano and Wishful Thinking

We made good use of the water buses (vaparetto) while we were in Venice this summer. I get restless in these lovely sunny and hot places as with my freckly and fair Scandinavian skin there is a limit to how much time I can spend on a beach so we try to go to places where there is lots to see and do.

Venice was a perfect combination of city/culture/history/beach. One day we took the vaparetto to the island of Burano. Most people have heard of Murano where they make glass (yes, we went there too), but a little further on you come to the island of Burano where they make beautiful lace. Little old ladies were sitting in the numerours lace shops making lace. So intricate and amazing they see these small stiches and thread... Each lady specialises in one particular knot so each piece of lace is made by many hands and takes MONTHS to complete!

But the quiet car free island of Burano which is also criss crossed with canals like Venice was also a sight to see and we wandered all over (it is very small) looking at the amazingly colourful buildings.

There doesn't seem to be any rules as to which colour you can choose...
these buildings are not sinking (I think)... we can only blame the photographer :-)
The place was so peaceful and obviously with a lot less tourists than Venice.

I started thinking perhaps I wouldn't mind spending a year there, perhaps writing a book of sorts and spending the days just 'thinking'... It was that kind of place.
a tile on one of the colourful walls of Burano...
Ah, well, just as well this is mere wishful thinking.
It isn't only Pisa that has a leaning tower... Not sure I would dare to live too close to this church tower...
Knowing me, I would probably get bored...

Could you spend a year in a quiet, secluded place away from your normal life?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Tried and Tested: Old Fashion Plain Coffee Cake

I haven't done much baking this summer since we have been too much "on the go", but this weekend we were all a bit housebound with minor colds (as well as watching the Olympics!) so a cake was desired. I have chosen to call this old fashioned Norwegian cake for "Old fashion Plain Coffee Cake" (Formkake) as I couldn't think what else to call it in English. I remember I found the recipe on the baking powder tin many years ago. It might still feature on the tin for all I know! This is double the original recipe. It kind of looks like a simple "Battenberg", I guess
The Professor is a man of simple tastes who thinks most cakes have too much 'going on' in them.
This is his favourite cake of all times and what the man wants, the man gets (some times)

250 gram butter
250 gram sugar
4 eggs
140 gram potato flour
140 gram plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Whisk well the butter and sugar and add in the dry ingredients and the eggs alternate times.

Bake in the middle of the oven at 175 degrees for about 40 mins.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Our Olympic Weekend

Thursday afternoon all three of us went off to London to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and for The Professor and Our Boy to go and watch the rowing finals at Eton Dorney.

We started off in Notting Hill browsing the rather empty shops. It was sooo quiet and so not like the London I tend to find too stressful.

It was rather peaceful looking in the shops...
Aren't these soap dishes beautiful? Too bad we don't really use soap bars in our house but instead liquid soap...

We stopped at Hummingbird bakery for a "small" taste, but tried to contain ourselves for dinner which we had in a Lebanese restaurant in Edgeware road . That is apparently were all the people were! It was really packed, but no wonder as the food was lovely and abundant!
We then headed to our hotel in Slough, chosen because it is close to Eton Dorney where the rowing was taking place early Friday morning. I can't really say anything about Slough since our hotel was right next to the train station (no noise, actually) so we didn't really see much of the place.
As I didn't have a ticket for the rowing, The Professor and Our Boy took off early in the morning while I enjoyed a leisurely lie-in before I took the train into London and spent 4 (!) hours in the Victoria and Albert museum. Those of you who follow me on Instagram might have seen some of the pictures I posted there. It was my first time at the V&A and I so enjoyed getting lost there. Amazing museum and building! I also discovered that exploring a museum is best done alone...!

The Olympic games have really taken over the country and there is little talk of anything else in our house. London was as I said very quiet. I think all the warnings about 1 million extra visitors a day had scared people off and the expected pandemonium led those that could to escape from town. It was evident that many shops had geared up with extra staff for a crowd that never reached them. However, I think the games will still be good business for the country long term and the tourists will come after the games.

I managed a quick trip to a bead store in Covent Garden before the guys called and said they were exhausted, happy and wanted to go home. So, I got on the tube to King's Cross train station where the troop reunited and they told me all about their adventures while we sat on the train back home.

And we all agreed it had been a great trip!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

More Summer Projects...

I am truly in a crocheting phase at the moment

When we went to Venice I had thrown some left over yarn and a crochet hook in the suitcase thinking I might find something to make in a quiet moment. No need to bring any patterns when you have access to the web! With no TV (that I could easily understand) I ended up making various things (actually ran out of yarn!), among them this light cover for jam jars. Many bloggers have made lovely light covers for jam jars and here is my version.

I found the pattern for the cover here. I then found a pattern for the flower, but I can't find the link to the flower anymore... But it wouldn't take much to find suitable instructions for the flower or get a lesson on YouTube if you don't know how to crochet. I learnt to crochet by myself when I was a child by looking at instructions in a magazine (imagine, there was a time - not too long ago - when there was NO Internet...!). My mother was very good at knitting and an excellent seamstress, but she didn't know how to crochet but I figured out the basics myself.

I don't have much of what I have made over the years as I tend to make things to give away, and this was the case now as well. The cover and flower stayed in Venice as a small 'thank you' to our lovely hostess who had seen it when cleaning the flat and in truly elaborate Italian style exclaimed her fondness for it. So, this is my little contribution to spreading Scandinavian style handicraft in Italy!

We have just finished a couple of jam jars in our house, so I think I will make a couple, for myself this time!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

First Summer Project Done!

I have just completed crocheting a baby blanket for a new little friend expected mid-October.

Using the internet I came across a pattern I liked, but could not find instructions anywhere. I emailed a couple of Norwegian magazines (Hjemmet and Allers) asking for their help and to my amazement I received a free copy of the pattern by email the next day! Talk about service!!! The pattern had actually featured in the magazine Familien back in 2006. 
I bought the cotton yarn in Norway earlier this spring and when I ran out I found a place here in the UK where they sell the same Norwegian yarn.
The new little friend's parents are moving abroad and I wanted to finish it before the left. It became much larger than I had planned (the pattern said 80x120, but I think it ended up 100x140), but I hope they will find good use for it.
I am very happy to share the pattern if anybody is interested. It is written in Norwegian, but that shouldn't matter too much as you mainly need to see the pattern and I can help with any minor translation issues. Just leave me a message here on the blog with your email and I can send it to you.

Now my hands are "itching" to find a new project