Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter Sunday brunch


Our first ever Easter Sunday brunch was yesterday, and we had such a great time. Today we keep having a great time by doing absolutely nothing, ignoring the sunshine and eating leftovers: rhubarb pie for breakfast, chocolate biscotti and mac'n'cheese for dinner :) What else can you do on a Monday, when everything is closed? Maybe plan next year's brunch! Or what we're going to do the next time it's sunny again, and we have nothing to do... Maybe go to Teufelsberg or Müggelsee... One day.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Easter sun waisted


It's been insanely sunny and warm in Berlin for the past week. Today was +22°C and full-on sun! I, on the other hand, was baking biscotti.

On our last Easter in Dublin we got invited to a traditional Polish Easter Sunday breakfast with our friends. Not knowing what to expect, we were so impressed by this tradition: a four course meal with mimosas, wine, beer and vodka in the morning! The sun was shining, there was plenty to eat, the company was good – we had a great time.  Ever since then I've wanted to have a similar Easter tradition, so we'll try to launch it this year by doing a super chilled Easter Sunday Brunch: mimosas, brunch, music - and sun on the balcony.

However chilled I always plan our parties to be, I can't help but stress a little. I want to make all these great dishes, have a lot of food, enough to drink, and a respectably tidy house – somehow this is not as easy as it sounds. But tomorrow should actually be under control, as long as we keep cooking tonight; egg salad with chili (!), tomato and asparagus quiche, mac'n'cheese, bulgur salad, lemon squares...

I'm looking forward to having those mimosas, for sure!

Chocolate pistachio biscotti (makes about 35)
500ml organic wheat flour
4 tbsp dark Fair Trade cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda + 1 teaspoon salt
OR 2 tsp baking powder (soda is hard to find in the shops here, or I'm looking in the wrong places...)
200g Fair Trade dark chocolate, chopped; half finely, half chunky
200-300ml peeled pistachios, chopped
4 eggs
350ml granulated sugar
+1 egg white

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, pistachios and the finely chopped half of the chocolate together. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they're light and fluffy: when ready, the whisk should leave a trail on the surface for a few seconds when lifted. Add the other ingredients, also the chunky chocolate, and beat until they're properly combined – try not to overwork the dough.

The original recipe suggests you turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface to divide it into three equally sized pieces and shape them into logs. I found that there was no way I could work the sticky, gooey dough into anything, so I spooned the dough to the shape of logs onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. It really doesn't have to be that pretty – just not too flat, since the dough will melt in the oven. Brush the logs with egg white and sprinkle with sugar, if you like.

The Latin origin of the name 'biscotti' means "twice baked", so these biscuits literally are baked twice. First round for about 20 minutes, or until the logs are just firm to the touch. Take the logs out of the oven and let cool for another 20 minutes. When cooled off, cut the logs into 2 centimetre thick slices. Arrange the slices, laying down, on the a baking tray and bake them for another 10-12 minuter, until the biscotti are firm and dry, then let them cool off again.

Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the biscotti will keep for about a week.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Obsession

I have developed a new obsession – I suspect it is to counter-balance all the excessive partying and beer-drinking I've been doing lately.

Last week we sowed the seeds of sweet peas, courgettes and garlic chives to grow on the balcony this summer. Now I'm obsessed. It's been a week and tiny little heads of green are beginning to sprout. When I get up in the morning it's the first thing on my mind, I have to go and look. I can sit and stare for minutes, sure of changes and growth.

I still want to buy a few strawberry plants and flowers, and was promised a few chili plants by friends who over planted. I am hoping to give them a few courgette plants in exchange.

I think this grandma hobby allows me to party and act like a teenager for a few more weeks, while the sun is shining and we're waiting for the crops...

April 13th – sowing.

Six days later things are finally happening!

Today, eight days later.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Barbecue season opening

S and D suggested the first barbecue of the season. The weather was great today, especially considering it's not even mid-April yet: +15°C and full on sunshine. After the rough weekend we had, we took the lazy approach to vegetarian bbq: Halloumi in Brot. A also made a bulgur salad, quick and easy. We only brought two beers, to be on the safe side...

When we got to Treptower Park it took us forever to find our friends: everyone and their aunt was there today! Well, except for the hipsters who were at Mauerpark or Görli. When we'd cycled throught most of the park and still hadn't seen anyone familiar setting up a grill, I realised I'd gotten an sms explaining their whereabouts: not on the Insel, but on the left side of the bridge – what? We hadn't even cycled through half of the park yet! We rode along the Spree a bit further still and saw the pretty bridge and the pretty island and found our friends. How come we had never known Treptower Park is so nice? Shame on us! It was such a nice afternoon and evening that I want to bbq every day now!

Insel der Jugend.

The shoestring budget

After a trip to London we decided to tighten our belts and spend less money. On Monday we went to our local Bio Company branch and bought ingredients for pita breads (with hummous, tomato, avocado and smoked tofu), a miso soup, a potato salad with salmon, and a bulgur salad. No more shopping needed this week, we decided. But what happened budget-wise? On Wednesday I went for a coffee, that turned into beers, with S. On Thursday I drank posh blueberry smoothies over a Sprachtandem in Prenzlauer Berg. On Friday we had invited friends over for dinner, and as the last two girls standing, M and I spontaneously decided to go clubbing at 4am! I suspect that it's not the occasional sushi from downstairs, or midnight pizzas that use up the money. But a good social life is worth paying for :)

Kaffee und Tee on Frankfurter Allee.

Monday, 4 April 2011

London revisited


We got home from London late last night. It was our third time there and this time around we loved it! When we visited London from Dublin it was just too similar. This time around, too, it almost felt like being back in Dublin, so we got super nostalgic about everything: left-side-traffic, narrow streets, low buildings, Marks & Spencer's food hall, sandwiches, fry-ups, pubs, cidre and friendly people who smile and say 'sorry' a lot (even if not as much as the Irish!).

The reason I got yet another holiday was H&C's wedding in London. Our flights with easyJet were about €170 (two return flights, one check-in bag), and booked a room at the City Road branch of Travelodge – near the chapel where our friends were getting married. From comparing experiences with the other guests at the wedding, it sounded like we got a really good deal on the hotel: the room cost about €64 per night.

We took it really easy the whole weekend, which might of also have contributed to why we liked London so much this time around. We skipped breakfast every morning and slept in. Then we'd go out to find a pub or a café to eat at. All we managed in four days was pretty much to take a stroll around Camden on Friday, attend the wedding on Saturday and walk through a few markets around Brick Lane on Sunday (foodie heaven!) – and to eat and shop at M&S's Foodhall.

Our room at the City Road Travelodge: simple but adequate.

Camden High Street in Camden Town.

Ordnung muss sein, oder?

A vegetarian fry for breakfast at The Master Gunner on Old City Road, where we got amazingly nice service from a bar maid who looked a lot like Phoebe from Friends.

Brick Lane on Sunday.

Brick Lane on Sunday.
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