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A Travelling Cook: October 2014

A Travelling Cook

A Travelling Cook: October 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Homemade gingerbeer


I recently got reunited with my love of ginger beer due to drinking Moscow Mules at an Irish pub here in Leipzig. I used to make a lot of ginger beer back in Melbourne and also teach others to make it. It's a tasty drink and very nutritious for all that ails you. You can add more or less sugar to taste although I wouldn't reduce the sugar by more than half.

 Making ginger beer takes a couple of weeks minimum. You need to have sterile plastic/glass bottles to decant your ginger beer into. We have had glass bottles explode during a hot Melbourne summer and it's not pretty, shards of glass were embedded in the walls and even the ceiling. You can of course use glass bottles with swing tops as another option. The main issue is that your bottles need to be very clean and sterile. We used to buy our bottles at a beer making shop and use sterilising tablets to ensure there was no mould. This is very important, you do not want mouldy ginger beer, weeks of waiting will have gone to waste!

Follow this recipe through and you'll be left with a delicious tasty ginger beer. It won't be continually bubbly, it is more like a dark pressed french cider. If you want it fizzy it can be mixed with soda water or you could use champagne yeast in exchange for the dried yeast. It goes lovely with a drop of gin or vodka and a sprig of mint.

Ginger beer Plant
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 rounded teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 rounded teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • Fresh ginger diced, to taste (no need to peel)

  1. Mix all together in a jar, cover with a piece of muslin and secure with a rubber band.
  2. Each day for the next week, add 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon ground ginger.
The plant:

  1. Divide the plant left in the muslin into two halves. 
  2. Place one of these in a glass jar with a cup of warm water. 
  3. Then next day start feeding as before, that is, one teaspoon of ginger and one of sugar each day. The other half of the plant can be discarded, or you can have two plants ‘on the go’.

To make up the Ginger Beer:
For the syrup, mix together:

  • 4 cups of sugar (or to taste)
  • 24 cups of warm water
  • 1/2 cup strained lemon juice
  1. Strain the ginger beer plant through two layers of muslin/cloth
  2. Pour the resulting liquid into the syrup and mix well.
  3. Bottle and seal. The ginger beer should be ready to drink by the end of a week. But the longer you leave it, the more potent it will be. 
Quick tips
  • Be aware that bottled ginger beer can be explosive as the yeast keeps growing within the bottles and the build up of carbon dioxide can create the explosive effect.
  • Plastic bottles are preferrable as the bottles can explode
  • Be aware that artificial sweeteners won’t work. Yeast is totally fine with honey or agave however. It just can;t eat the dextrose that the artificial sweetener is made out of.
  • Double the ginger and add a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Cut a few strips of lemon peel and muddle with the sugar. The sharp sugar grains will draw the oils out of the lemons and you’ll have lemony sugar
  • Mash 1/2 cup berries or handful of mint sprigs with the sugar then proceed as usual.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

50 foodie musings for a small space, low budget travelling cook

I recently enjoyed reading Dinner A Love Story's 100 rules of Dinner. I don't write lists as a form of writing all that often so I decided to create my own food musings. They're in no particular order, but are geared at those of us who like to cook, travel and eat in whatever order:

  1. Toast is perfectly acceptable for dinner if it is accompanied by cheese, pasta sauce or tinned soup
  2. Butter (non-dairy or whatever you choose) makes everything better. If you don't believe me, try Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce
  3. Sriracha and a handful of chopped mushrooms make instant noodles practically gourmet
  4. Learn a really simple but tasty dish that you can cook anywhere in the world: dahl, spag bol, tofu and vegetable laksa. 
  5. Don't offer your Vegemite to people for a taste. You'll regret it when the jar is empty and a tiny one is €5 plus posting.
  6. Buy good salt and pepper. 
  7. A jar of homemade preserves or pickles is always a great thank you gift to a host, paired with some lovely fresh bread or cheese. 
  8. Staying in a hotel? Don't be that person who boils eggs in the kettle.
  9. Making your own bread is easy, especially if you whip up a no knead dough the night before.
  10. Cereal for breakfast again means you can buy another bottle of wine with the proceeds
  11. Treat yourself to one really fancy meal in each country. We had a wonderful four course meal for our wedding anniversary last year in Hamburg. 
  12. Carry a small knife (obviously not on the plane), a bottle opener/corkscrew and spork for impromptu picnics.
  13. Always eschew the eateries near the tourist sites and go back a few streets to where the locals eat.
  14. Trying to deal with a small fridge and leftovers? Pastas and macaroni cheese can work really well for breakfast. 
  15. Never underestimate the enjoyment of eating a homemade hamburger or veggie burger made just the way you like it. 
  16. Depending on your taste preferences, have a handful of easy to make groceries in your cupboard for quick meals that can work with or without added ingredients in a pinch: pasta and tinned pesto or jarred pasta sauces, rice noodles and miso paste; rice, tinned asian vegetables and coconut milk. 
  17. A great herb/spice collection expands your meal  repertoire. My quick 10: cumin, curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cayenne pepper, paprika, lemon grass, oregano, thyme.
  18. Potted hydroponic herbs smell great in the supermarket but are impossible to keep alive if you don't replant into a real garden. 
  19. Pre-cook brown rice and store in ziplock bags pressed flat in the freezer. 
  20. The idea to make your own hummus from dried chickpeas seemed great until you got around the soaking, boiling the chickpeas (the smell terrible boiling),  hulling the outer skin then blending. Just buy a tub or use tinned chickpeas instead.
  21. Two minute ramen noodles can be tempting when you're poor but they're full of msg and salt. Try making up your own version. 
  22. The likelihood of using kitchen appliance increases if they are readily accessible.
  23. Most people in a small space cannot fit a blender, slow cooker, rice cooker, bread maker and juicer on one kitchen bench. 
  24. Tempted to buy an inclusive machine? (I'm sure you can think of one). All in one equipment is great until it breaks, especially if it has to be posted somewhere far away.
  25. Decided to go without a microwave? You'll miss it when you burn another pot or pan trying to reheat pasta or risotto.
  26. Tinned soups are always better than instant in a packet.
  27. Add fresh chopped vegetables to tinned beans or soup for a quick, cheap meal.
  28. You can never use too much garlic. 
  29. Visit a local farmers/growers market and try a vegetable you've never eaten before. That's how I fell in love with kohlrabi
  30. A plate containing a really nice cheese, some cucumber, cherry tomatoes and great bread is always more interesting than a store bought sandwich. 
  31. Root vegetables are always better roasted than boiled.
  32. Always carry a ziplock bag for impromptu foraging or taking away leftovers.
  33. Airbnb is way cheaper than a self catered apartment in a hotel as you typically don't have to buy salt, spices, olive oil, sugar etc.
  34. Realistically, a packet of biscuits will almost always be cheaper than homemade. 
  35. Do you drink lots of tea? Pop your used teabags in a jug of water with lemon and mint to make iced tea. 
  36. Bottled lime juice is far cheaper than buying limes in most instances and works fine. 
  37. Most of the time plain old white sugar works as well as icing sugar. 
  38.  Buy fresh chillies when cheap and dry on string to use all year round. 
  39. Puree leftover cooked vegetables with stock and herbs to make a quick soup. 
  40. Self catering accommodation can mean yet another cheese sandwich as you don't want the groceries to go to waste.
  41. Red wine, stock cubes, no-dairy spread and a pinch of flour makes a great simple red wine sauce.
  42. Good coffee and a plunger is always cheaper than buying coffee each day when you're out. 
  43. If you've moved to a new country and are setting up a new kitchen, make a list of 5 meals you most commonly cook each season and what you equipment you need to cook them. 
  44. Garlic and onions are a happy duo.
  45. Plastic containers reduce your reliance on cling film (glad wrap).
  46. Vegetables don't have to be peeled.
  47. You may be tempted to forgo a toaster but toast burns incredibly under the grill.
  48. Not enough big mixing bowls? A saucepan works fine in a pinch.
  49. A shelf full of interesting sauces can lift any meal. We like: Sriracha and hot sauces, barbecue sauce, liquid smoke, mushroom sauce, mustard, asian rice wine. 
  50. Treating yourself to a great meal out? Opt for something you can't cook at home. 

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Food for thought

Life goes on busy, busy in Deutschland. It gets dark earlier in the evening and I wake up in the dark each morning. Last week we celebrated Lichtfest Leipzig, 25 years since reunification. It was a great event with a light festival, public buildings open including the archives of the records the Stasi had kept of the people of Leipzig (these are open anytime, you just make an appointment), public theatre and a ballet performance. 

It's funny how it's the little things that really make a place feel like home. We've found an amazing Vietnamese restaurant and supermarket, and two bars which we call our locals. One of which used to be a butchery and is absolutely gorgeous, will definitely take some photos next time I am there! I have my residency permit for 5 years at last, although I have to go to the Auslander (Foreigners) Office next month to get a residency card. It was quite stressful last time we were there, luckily Chris came with me as he has many more years experience speaking Deutsch to me, as everything was in Deutsch. I know this sounds terribly obvious, but I can't help comparing it to multicultural Australia where everything is available interpreted in Government bureaucracy and interpreters are plentiful. Of course, this part of Eastern Germany is still far less developed with less migrants than places like Berlin. 

I have Deutsch class Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 11:45am. It’s a good group with people from Russia, Turkey, Greece, Vietnam, England, Syria, India, Spain, Brazil. There’s about 15 of us, although not everyone turns up all the time. We have two teachers. They do half a week each. One speaks completely in Deutsch, the other in Deutsch with a little English. It is definitely an advantage having English as those without can’t ask questions as the teachers don’t speak Arabic or Greek. It’s a difficult language to learn in that grammatical rules are not so much about logic but ‘just because’. But it is definitely easier going to class every day as you pick things up faster and remember things better. I've been learning to tell the time in Deutsch which is rather confounding. For example 10:30am is half 11, not half 10. 

I'll be keen to feel more confident with speaking Deutsch. I really need to get my hair cut but haven't had an English speaking hairdresser recommended to me yet. Little things that you do all the time like ringing and making an appointment are very difficult when you don't speak the language well. It's even worse when you try and speak but they still don't understand because of your accent!  I'll be writing down what I want to say and bringing a picture of my hair when it was shorter so fingers crossed! 

I've another Apartment Supper Club the weekend after next for Oktoberfest which is booked out. After that I'll be doing a Herbst (Autumn) extravanganza using Autumn seasonal produce. I haven't decided on the menu for this one yet, but there'll be no pumpkin soup, surely it's a seasonal dish that's done to death?

Things I have been reading:
What if you just hate making dinner, Virginia Heffernan, New York Times Magazine

Why personal blogs can never really survive monetization, Jennine Jacob, Independent Fashion Bloggers

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Salted caramel and pear pie


I realised I had some soy milk in the fridge that was about to go off. I don't like soy milk to drink but I like to cook with it. So I decided to make some caramel. Depending on thickness and how long you cook it, this recipe can make either a caramel sauce or more like a caramel custard or Dulce de leche. I wanted to use it as a pie filling so I opted for the latter. I want to make a tart using some tinned pears (as the fresh ones aren't quite ripe yet). But I realised I didn't have a pie dish or tins! I didn't want to use a cake tin as the square shapes were quite unwieldy and I didn't have quite enough filling for a galette. So I used an oven proof ceramic bowl. It doesn't look the prettiest as a result, but the taste is divine! I used a sweet shortcrust pastry but a biscuit base or even puff pastry would work really well.


To make salted caramel:
  • 1 litre soy milk
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste, you can always add less and build up if you wish)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  1. Combine ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
  2. Whisk well and cook on a high heat for 5 minutes. You want the mixture to bubble but not overflow or burn so you need to watch it carefully. 
  3. Turn the heat down by half and cook for 2 hours or until the mixture has reduced by at least half and thickened. 

To make pastry:
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C) cold non dairy spread, diced
  • 2-3 tbsp cold water
  1. Sieve flour, sugar and salt to a bowl. 
  2. Rub in spread untl the mixture resembled large crumbs.
  3. Slowly add the cold water until the dough just comes together into a ball. 
  4. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour before use.
  5. After refridgeration, roll out pastry and place in pie tin or small pie cases. 
  6. Pin prick the bottom/s and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
To assemble pie:

  1. Warm caramel in a saucepan or microwave until pourable but not boiling.
  2. Pour into pie case.
  3. Arrange tinned or fresh pears on top
  4. Brush pie edges and top with soy milk
  5. Place in a 180c oven for 40mins or until pastry is cooked. 
  6. Allow to cool and remove from pie case.


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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jackfruit bournignon

 Have you ever tried jackfruit? I was looking for something different as an alternative to tofu or beans to make pies (aka puff pastry parcels) for the last Supper Club dinner party. Savoury pies don't seem to be all that big here in Germany. I've been hearing about jackfruit for ages and when I found some at the Asian supermarket in Leipzig I decided to give it a go. According to wikipedia:

The  jackfruit tree is a widely cultivated and popular food in tropical regions of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, SriLanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Phillipines. Jackfruit is also found across Africa and throughout Brazil. Jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh. 

Image from here

I bought jackfruit in tins with brine rather than a syrup. Once drained it looks like this:

You can see already some stringy kind of bits that when cooked and shredded, resemble pulled pork. Thus the fruit is a great option as an alternative to meat in vegan dishes. You could use it in tacos, pies, pasta, casseroles...many options! And of course, it can be added to sweet dishes to make pies and cakes. I decided to make jackfruit bournignon. Here is my recipe.

  • 2 cans jackfruit 
  • 3 tablespoons olive/canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons dairy free spread
  • 500 grams mushrooms 
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1  onion, finely diced
  • 1 celery stick, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 cup  red wine
  • 2 cups  vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn flour


  1. Drain and rinse jackfruit
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and fry the jackfruit on both sides until it is lightly browned. Remove from the pan and place in a bowl. The fruit with come apart and can be shredded.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot and cook the mushrooms until they start to brown. 
  4. Add the carrots, celery, onion, thyme, salt and pepper  and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. 
  5. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  6. Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the vegetable stock. 
  7. Return the jackfruit to the pot.
  8. Once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 30 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender and the mix has a stew like appearance.
  9. Sprinkle corn flour into the mix and stir well. 
  10. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Oktoberfest Vegan Dinner Party with Apartment Supper Club Leipzig

I'm working on the recipes for our Vegan Oktoberfest Dinner Party: This is the menu:
Garden crudités
Homemade vegan cheese platter

Soft pretzels
First course
Assorted pickles


Second course
Reubens on rye bread with all your favourite sides
Corn dogs
Warm potato salad

Chocolate bier cake
Caramel sauce

Each course will be matched with German beer (or a mocktail). To get your ticket go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/vegan-octoberfest-celebration-tickets-13375918733

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