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A Travelling Cook: September 2014

A Travelling Cook

A Travelling Cook: September 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Our first dinner at Apartment Supper Club Leipzig


We had our first Apartment Supper Club dinner on Saturday night. I was pretty excited! We had a lovely evening with five guests besides Chris and  I. 


I chose a range of dishes that suited the autumnal weather although I tried to steer away from the traditional Deutsch fare but also Asian and Italian food as it is so common in vegan cooking. The menu:


Baked spiced chickpeas
Elderflower and cucumber champagne cocktails

Cheese platter:
                                                              Fresh baked bread
Linseed crackers

Baked water crackers
Herbed 'butter'
Smoked coconut cheese
Sunflower seed cheese
Vegan colby cheese
Chickpea cheese
Pickled beetroot
Pickled spicy cucumbers

Jackfruit bourgnigon pies
Caulliflower and potato mash with truffle oil
Baked carrots

Amaretto Tiramisu

We completely forgot to take photos during the event as we were so busy chatting to people and organising bits and pieces. I have a few before photos and some pics of the leftovers!

I really  need to work more on my food presentation. I spent so much time deciding on the menu that I didn't really think about how to make the food look it's best on the plate. It probably sounds ridiculously obvious but it just wasn't something I thought about and I should have. Next time I will try to stack the food for example, rather than placing the mash next to the pie for example. I also had a bit of a challenge with the tiramisu. I cut it in 'strips' instead of squares and it was spectacularly difficult to get out of the dish and looked quite mushy. It tasted good fortunately. 

Our next event is a Vegan Oktoberfest dinner, can't wait to get recipe testing (and food presentation testing)! 

(My new apron after the event!)

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Moving countries and moving kitchens

When you move countries you have three choices. You can ship everything. You can pick and choose between essentials and sentimentals, or you can take very little. When moving to Germany we sat somewhere between the last two options. We took with us, two suitcases, two bicycles, five boxes and of course, the cat, Mr Pablo. That's everything-books (we took very few, sold most and digitized our favourites on our e-readers), clothing, jewellery, shoes, games, medication (I took 6 months worth with me), ornaments and bits and pieces.We digitised our books, movies and music months ago,  scanned all our documents and kept only the essential originals and had a exhausting amount of garage sales. We sold and donated so much stuff from clothing to food in our cupboards left over.  Most of the stuff  we bought with us besides the practicals, were small ornaments or gifts.

We had our bikes and boxes flown from Australia which cost a fair bit (I can't remember how much but waiting 3 months seemed rather impracticable, especially if we hated Leipzig and wanted to move. I'll ask Chris and edit this accordingly). The hardest thing was complying with the weight limit in each box. We ended up having to pay a little extra for extra weight. Flying our goods took about a week and we had to go to customs at the airport in Leipzig to receive them and pay a small fee. They were then delivered.

We knew we were coming to a furnished apartment but we weren't entirely sure what would be in it. For example, we found out during transit that there would be no towels or bedding as the tenant we were sub-letting off was taking them with him. It meant that were the first things we had to buy, but luckily we arrived in summer so it wasn't too much a hardship.

I cook a lot as most people know and I thought people might be interested in how I have coped with creating a kitchen in a new place. I also had a lot of equipment at home for Green Renters workshops like bowls, cutlery, knives, boards etc which was donated to community groups when we left. It's been a challenge, as finding some things in a new place can take longer, especially when you are used to them costing different prices in different countries! For example, finding affording bedding took ages as we didn't want to pay 60€ for a pillow so we ended up ordering a heap of stuff from Ikea. I used to laugh at Ikea in Australia as being a hell hole, here it's far more affordable than anywhere else as well as stocking some things that are hard to find elsewhere.

I want to outline a bit about stocking a kitchen so I've decided to include some links to items in case people like them or whatever. I cook a lot of different recipes at home, especially vegan recipes and recipes I am writing for events or workshops in the future. I've chosen Amazon links as it's generally accessible to every country. This is not a paid advertisement by Amazon, just stuff I like or have bought.

What was here when we arrived:
  • cutlery and bits and pieces of cooking utensils
  • small 3 in one blender
  • 4 bowls
  • 8 plates (dinner plates and bread plates)
  • lots of glasses
  • 4 mugs
  • 6 wine glasses
  • 2 ceramic baking dish
  • 2 small mixing bowls
  • tea towels
  • fry pan and three cooking pots

What I brought with me
  • Chefs knives
  • Small wooden chopping board (a gift)
  • Plastic chopping boards
  • Cake tin x 2
  • Some favourite tablecloths
  • Cloth bags for shopping
  • Pastry brush and spatula
  • Ladle
  • Pasta spoon
  • Bottle opener
  • Cake server
  • Immersion blender
  • Norpro 600 Jar Lifter (These are great for preserving things in jars)

What I've bought here in Germany
  • Plastic/tin plates and cups
  • Ceramic plates and bowls
  • An apron
  • Storage containers for leftovers
  • Can opener
  • Wooden spoon
  • Roasting tray
  • Cake tin
  • Potato masher
  • Peeler
  • Tongs (took me ages to find, ended up going to Ikea)
  • Funnel
  • Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Slicer
  • Rolling pin

I still need to buy:
  • Sieve
  • Cloth napkins -I used to get all mine in second hand shops back in Australia and miss having the choice of so many thrift shops. 
  • Reusable lids for preserving  
  • More wooden spoons
  • Stock pot/big saucepan
  •  Portable Burners. 

I found these invaluable when I did cooking classes in Australia and as I am keen to do some classes here they are essential, especially if I do some classes at home as our kitchen is quite small and couldn't fit more than two people. They are quite common here and really easy to find. It also means that I can cook without facing the wall and maybe do some videos!
  • Stainless steel Mixing Bowls. I really miss having loads of these from cheap Asian shops. They just don't seem to be around all that much. 

  • OMNI V Blender . I've heard great things about the Omniblend, especially it being a great affordable but quality alternative to the Vitamix at a third of the price. As I teach stuff like making your own nut cheeses, a good blender is a must, if not two.

Luxury items I want more than need:

  Camco 42803 Picnic Blanket  These kind of picnic blankets are great as they have a waterproof cover on one side, so are suitably for wet ground!

All In One Picnic Travel Backpack Plates Cutlery Set. Whilst these don't have the romanticism of a lovely wicker picnic basket, they are much easier to transport, especially when you don't drive and are cycling or using public transport.

  EasyLunchboxes 3-compartment Bento Lunch Box Containers . Seriously can you ever have enough containers? Many of the containers we had back home would be too big for our little fridge and tiny freezer here.

NutriBullet 12-Piece High-Speed Blender/Mixer System ( I had a magic bullet at home and it was really useful for a small kitchen and also for travelling. I'd often take it to workshops in council chambers where there wasn't much of a kitchen). This is quite similar.

Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker

I've always wanted a crockpot. Chris has a strong aversion to them after a childhood of less than palatable meals but I'm hoping I can change his mind when I have the cash!

I wonder if people know about the experience of rental properties and kitchens in Germany? In many instances it is quite common for a property to be rented out without a kitchen. It will have a room for a kitchen but no actual kitchen. This means you have to bring (or buy) not only your own fridge and microwave as in Australia, but also a stove, benches and sink. Some tenants even remove the light fittings and kitchen flooring which the next tenant replaces. I still find it quite strange and am grateful for our contained kitchen!

Because of this (and the fact that many people live in apartments with smaller kitchens, portable stove tops and small fridges are quite popular. I really miss having a bit fridge and freezer, it's a definite lifestyle change, and I find myself needing to water bath preserves every time rather than just popping them in the fridge as there's no cold storage space. 

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quinoa, eggplant and mushroom balls

I made up this recipe as I wanted to make something with eggplant. This is one of those recipes with a few steps but it would be a great way to use up any leftover roast veggies and quinoa. I originally intended on adding walnuts to the recipe, but I've not found a cheap source of nuts in Leipzig yet. In Australia I used to buy mine at a wholesalers in bulk but they don't seem to be so easy to find. I had an opened packet of quinoa so I decided to use that instead to add bulk and crunch when baked. They are really tasty and work really well with a yogurt based or chilli dip.


  • 2 large eggplants, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup black fungi (available dehydrated at Asian grocers) or you could of course use button mushrooms
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs 
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil, parsley and/or herbs of choice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Soak black fungi in hot water until expanded and soft. Finely dice either by hand or with a food processor
  • Place quinoa in a saucepan with 3 cups of water. Cook until water has evaporated and quinoa is soft (add more water if needed)
  • Place eggplant in the oven with a good shake of olive oil and bake until soft
  • Fry garlic and onions
  • Place eggplant in food processor and blitz until combined. It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth. 
  • Place garlic, onions, bread crumbs, eggplant, cooled quinoa, fungi, herbs and salt and pepper in a bowl. 
  • Mix well and shape into small balls.
  • Spray very lightly with olive oil and place on a lined baking tray
  • Bake for 30-40mins at 200c until baked, turning once to ensure they are evenly cooked. 
  • Serve with mustard or dips of choice.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Food for thought


Did you have this book at home when you were a kid? I always loved, especially the duck and swimming pool cakes:      



Some of the cakes are rather tricky. I'm crap in general at making cakes, twice I've tried to make novelty cakes for my husband for this birthday but due to his birthday being close to mine it's generally a fairly emotional time so I tended to have a few wines whilst baking and the cakes looked rather....creative.

The front page popcorn train cake is also a favourite. You can watch a series of Australian Women's Weekly videos to show you how to make it (whilst sober I think):


I've been very busy testing recipes for next Saturday's Apartment Supper club dinner and also brainstorming for next month's Vegan Oktoberfest dinner party. I'm also hoping to launch some apartment based cooking classes for small groups of expats and tourists. We've also sorted out our expat health insurance at last and are getting ready to apply for residency- My other time is spent in German class. I'm trying hard to get my head around it but there are certainly challenges as this table attests!

Things I've been reading:

Hot new careers for creatives, Carlin Flora, McSweeneys

Toast with Vegemite aka Australian Breakfast (I am seriously mourning my lack of Vegemite as Chris bought me some in London but it was confiscated by customs as they considered it a liquid).

An Englishman's home is his prison, Sophie Heawood, The Guardian

I love this style series based on college women of the 1950's. You can see more pictures here

I've been participating in Vegan mofo 2014. Here's some recipes I am loving and looking forward to cooking:

Cheezy spaetzle

Raspberry Tiramisu

Raspberry chocolate dream

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Apple custard danish


I've always enjoyed a good danish pastry so I was keen to have a go at making a vegan one. Before I write out the recipe, I would like to stress that if you think vegan food should be healthy food always, don't read any further. Like the original Danish pastries, this is not a low fat, low sugar recipe! Call it a sometimes food or just sheer decadence if you will!

This is a generous recipe that makes two large 'family size' danishes (about 6-8 serves each). You could of course, halve it. 

 I made my own pastry using a recipe I've used before but I wanted to try making a tofu custard. To be honest I don't like the flavour as much as my usual custard (of custard powder, sugar, vanilla and non-dairy milk). I found the taste rather soy heavy so I added some lemon juice for flavour. I think next time I will stick to the conventional custard I like to make. The custard  and apple mix can be made before hand and the pastry needs a good few hours to rest, so you need a bit of planning before you start this recipe

Pastry Dough

  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (or one 7 gram packet)
  • ½ cup non-dairy milk, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons chickpea flour
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ cups flour
  • ¾ cup non-dairy butter, cold and sliced

  • Pastry Coating

  • 2 tablespoon dairy free butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoon  milk (add extra if too thick)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 

  • Apple Filling

  • 3 large cooking apples, cored, sliced (and peeled if you wish)
  • 1 tablespoon non-dairy butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pinch of cinnamon
  •  1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste

Tofu Custard:
  • 3 Tbsp melted extra virgin coconut oil
  • 300gram silken tofu
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract
  • 1/3 tsp  salt 
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
To make soy custard:
  1. Add the tofu, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, tumeric and melted coconut oil to a blender. Blend on low until smooth.
  2. Add in 1/4 cup of sugar and blend until smooth. Do a taste test and add more sugar as desired.  
  3. Blend until well combined.
  4. Place in the fridge. 

To make the pastry dough:
  1. In a  large cup combine the warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir to combine and then set aside to allow it to foam. 
  2. Pour the salt, flours and butter into a bowl.  Rub the mix with your fingers until it resembles very thick bread crumbs. 
  3. Add the yeast mix, water and milk and lightly stir the two together until just combined. You want to see large flecks of the butter showing through.  
  4. Tear off a piece of cling film wrap and lay it on  bench. Plate the dough on it. Wrap the dough up and place it in the fridge to chill out for at least four hours or more.

To make the apple mixture:

1. While the dough is chilling place some ½ cup water and a tablespoon of butter in a fry pan. 
2. Add apples, cinnamon and sugar. Allow to bubble until apples are about half cooked. 
3. Add cornflour to thicken if needed. Allow to cool.
To assemble:
  1. After the dough has thoroughly chilled, it's time for the next step in the process, referred to as "rolling and folding".  Pour a light layer of flour over a work surface. Keep some extra flour nearby because the dough is sticky and you're going to be using your hands with this. Use a floured rolling pin to flatten the dough. 
  2. Roll it out into the shape of a rectangle.  
  3. Next fold one end of the rectangle shaped dough toward you and fold the other end over that (like you're folding a letter). 
  4. Now repeat that process by rolling it out into a 15" rectangle and fold both ends over like a letter. Repeat that process one more time, but after this last time, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge to chill out again for at least 30 minutes.
  5.  Once the dough has chilled again, remove from the fridge and cut it in half. Return one half of the dough to the plastic wrap and put it back in the fridge. With the remaining half, place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it out into the shape of a rectangle.
  6.  Place on a big piece of baking paper (easier than transferring a unbaked Danish)
7.  Spread half of the custard filling in the center of dough topped by the apples. Cut slanted strips along both sides. 
8.  Beginning at the bottom, "braid" the dough, sealing the piece at the bottom. Repeat with other piece of dough. 
9.  Allow the braids to rest for 15-20 minutes as you preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius.
10. Prepare the pastry coating by stirring together 2 tablespoon of melted butter and 2 tablespoon  milk and 1 tablespoon sugar. Brush the top of both pastries with the pastry coating.
11. Place the danishes in the oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until that pastry coating has turned golden brown.
12. When done, remove them from the oven and cool for several minutes.
13. Drizzle the top of both danishes with the leftover butter, sugar and milk mix.


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        Saturday, September 13, 2014

        Food for thought

        This ad makes me laugh!

        What's the longest you think you could go without the Internet? How would it change your life? These articles really made the think:

        I'm still here: back online after a year without the Internet, Paul Miller, The Verge

        What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the Internet, Quartz

        What a cute vintage style kitchen in Israel! I especially love the tin crockery.

        How gorgeous is this bedding? It was part of a successful Kickstarter campaign in Australia. If i had the money i would have opted for the kitty bedding! 

        Love this studio visit of Lisa Congdon

        When journalists go missing, Steve Coll, The New Yorker

        The Law school scam, Paul Campos, The Atlantic

        As you might have guessed, I'm doing Vegan mofo this year. I've never done it before so it's a bit of a challenge to get lots of posts done. I've been enjoying reading everyone's posts. Here's some of my favourites:

        I've started a Facebook Page for The Travelling Cook and also one for Apartment Supper Club. Perhaps you might like them?

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        Thursday, September 11, 2014

        Spicy pickled cucumbers


        It's quite difficult to find 'pickling' cucumbers in Australia where I lived. They are more of an heirloom speciality product to be found at a higher price at Farmer's Markets. I love the look of pickling cucumbers with all the little pimply prints on on the other skin. They taste great and are lovely and crisp, so of course, I simply had to make pickled cucumbers! I used to teach this recipe, it's one of my favourites. 


        Spicy pickled cucumbers
        1 kg continental cucumbers thinly sliced
        1 brown onion thinly sliced
        1 chilli of choice per jar (optional)
        1/4 cup salt
        1/2 cup water
        1 cup white sugar
        2 cups white vinegar
        1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
        2 teaspoons freshly chopped dill
        1/4 teaspoon turmeric
        1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


        1. Thinly slice the cucumbers and and layer place in a large bowl. Add salt and stir well. 
        2. Leave for 10 minutes
        3. Rinse cucumbers and drain well
        4. Top and tail the chillies. Place one in each jar. 
        5. Place all the remaining ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.
        6. Pile up cucumbers and chillies in the jars
        7. Add hot liquid
        8. Apply lids and process in a water bath for 10 mins or store in the fridge. Best eaten after 1 week.

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        Tuesday, September 9, 2014

        Chocolate chilli self saucing pudding

        I love chocolate puddings so I decided to make up a vegan one. It's funny when I think that I used to buy these as a packet mix when I was younger, they are so easy to make from scratch! 

        1 cup self raising flour
        1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
        3/4 cup white sugar
        1 teaspoon vanilla powder/essence
        2 tablespoon cocoa
        70 grams dark chocolate, diced
        Handful roast hazlenuts
        2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes*
        1/2 cup milk

        3/4 cup brown sugar
        2 tablespoons cocoa powder
        2 cups boiling water
        30g non dairy spread

        1. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and cocoa
        2. Add chocolate, hazelnuts and chilli flakes
        3. Stir in milk slowly and mix until combined
        4. Add to baking dish

        1. Melt spread in water in a saucepan
        2. Add sugar and cocoa powder and stir until sugar is dissolved
        3. Pour sauce over pudding and place in oven.
        4. Bake for 45 minutes
        5. Serve with cream/sorbet/ice cream and fresh fruit if desired.
        *Add chilli flakes to taste based on what you'd normally put in your favourite savoury dish. Or you can leave them out of course!


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        Monday, September 8, 2014

        Vegan Summer Day Leipzig 2014


        On Saturday Chris and I went along to the local Vegan Summer Day. It was a great festival although no where near as big as the one in Melbourne. This is not surprising as World Vegan Day in Melbourne has been running for over 10 years and last year had over 10,000 people so it's hardly fair to compare as this is Leipzig's second Vegan Day. I went along to WVD last year in Melbourne and found the whole experience intensely stressful. MASSIVE crowd and queues everywhere. 

        By comparison this was lovely and relaxed. Once we worked out that the venue was at a  park we cycled along and caught up with some friends, looked at stalls and lots of food. 

        The food was plentiful, lots of stalls with the usual suspects, burgers, curry, smoothies etc. Lots of seitan based mock meat dishes. Only one tofu dish that I could see and no tempeh which is an interesting difference. Chris tried a seitan roulade served with red cabbage, potatoes and a wine sauce which he enjoyed. 


         I had food from an Asian stall which reminded me a lot of food I've eating in Shanghai. Vinegar based eggplant and a saucy vegetable dish (5€). I've had serious cravings for good Asian food and this was good. We also had chocolate cake (2€) which was nice and reminded me of the chocolate cake the used to be sold at the Food Coop at Melbourne Uni Student Union! I also had a kombucha based drink which was nice enough although I was dying for water. It's really hard to get tap water to drink in Europe, as in you have to know and remember to ask for tap water (Leitungswasser bitte).


        The vegan sushi stall was really popular. Inspires me to make some! Haven't made sushi for ages


        I saw lots of dogs!

        There was also cooking demonstrations. They had cameras but they were positioned at people's faces rather than the food so I couldn't entirely see what was going on. I've done cooking lots of  demonstrations myself and I know how hard it can be to get the configurations right! 


        Wilmersburger Käse also had a stall selling their cheese, with cheese tastings. They also sold vegan croissants and cheese rolls. I bought some of their pizza cheese last week to serve with my quesadillas and it kind of tasted of....nothing. Really bland. Here's what it looks like.


        The ingredients are water, non-hydrogenated coconut oil (23%), potato starch, modified starch, salt, stabilizer: sodium polyphosphate, sodium citrate, flavoring, preservative sorbic acid, coloring agent: beta caroten, separating agent: potato. I guess I thought it might be closer in flavour to the biolife cheese everyone in Melbourne raves about that I never had a chance to try before I left. 


         I'm really keen to buy some lupin based products, we tried these and they were delicious! 

        There were also lots of activist stalls including Animal Liberation, Sea Shepherds and BUND (The German version of Friends of the Earth). I would have chattered to them but my German is not good enough yet! Same for picked up many brochures. I did buy some nutrtional yeast though. 




        Really pleased to see some gardening stalls, I miss having a garden!

        I was disapppointed not to have my fliers back from the printer for the Apartment Supper Club Leipzig to hand out as the next two dinners are both vegan including a vegan Octoberfest extravaganza but I will be doing the rounds next week! I'd like to make them all vegan if I can get enough people to cover costs.

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