Friday, September 30, 2011

School Lunches are On My Mind

I really enjoy playing along with Rhonda's On My Mind.

Making school lunches is always a bit of a dhallenge.

There are so many products out there that are targeted at this away-from-home meal: brightly coloured, creamy textured snacks in plastic and foil individual packets. These over-packaged, over-priced, nutritionless 'foods' make their way into trolleys and then into lunch boxes.

I find it a challenge to get the balance just right between nutritious, appealing food and something that doesn't make the other kids say, "What it that!" There is nothing worse than a child being too embarrassed to open their lunchbox for fear of peer comments.

Making food from scratch is the way I manage to get that balance. Homemade ANZACs or cakes, where I know exactly what has gone into, are options that work for me.

I have always found the tubs of fruit in juice a strange addition to school lunches. Pieces of fruit, swimming in juice (apparently) served in a plastic and foil container. Have you watched many children open these successfully? Make sure you don't forget the spoon. What's wrong with a piece of fruit. Bananas and apples seem to fit perfectly well into lunch boxes and rather then adding to landfill, the scraps are great for compost.

There are so many other products (cheese, yoghurt...) that I could rant about but I'll stop there and head to where I was going with this.

I found a great little recipe for making the most devine lunchbox sized bread rolls. We are now onto the third 16-roll batch.

These do contain yeast as the kiddies are taking a little while to acquire the taste for sourdough.

As there are no preservatives, I have been freezing these and they freeze beautifully.

I know that a roll or a sandwich is nothing original or exciting for a lunch-time snack, but I feel better knowing exactly what is being eaten, and how and when each of the things were made.

I'm sure these rolls would go wonderfully well with a hearty warming soup.

Take care

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Simple Sprouts

Liz got me thinking after the last post about the wonders of sprouting. This is something that I have done before but had forgotten (do we see a pattern here?) about it.

I found a great guide to help me get back on the sprouting bandwagon.

There are some great sprouting containers out there and I thought about spending 12 euros but then decided against it. I had great success last time with a jar and a fabric cover, so why purchase more 'stuff'.

The only thing I need was some muslin to put over the top. Everything else was already here. As I didn't want to buy a great length of fabric, I figured that some hankies would do the trick just as well. I particularly like the Nanna-esque style of these.


These little jars are now on the kitchen bench waiting to be emptied and rinsed later this evening. In a few days we should have lovely fresh sprouts to add to our sourdough sandwiches.

Do you sprout? What do you sprout? What method do you use?

Take care

Friday, September 23, 2011

Container Gardening is On My Mind

Rhonda's seed post got me thinking.

My Mum has been an avid and skilled gardener for as long as I can remember. It is a carry over from growing up on a farm I'm sure. It has only been the last few years that I have started to feel the desire to get my hands dirty and become a little more focussed with growing anything.

I started with herbs on pots and then graduated to a few tomato plants in a small plot out the back.

With my Dad's handyman skills a new vege patch was created and a second soon followed. These aren't in the best position but they get enough sun that I can extend my growing knowledge bit by bit.

I am already thinking about where I can build some more beds when I am back in my garden. (Shhh, don't tell Dad)

While I am away I have my kitchen garden with a few little plants for me to tend. I had envisaged myself germinating seeds and getting some leafy greens growing but that doesn't seem to be going to happen. The need for soil, space and sunlight have made me think that Bio-Mart and the farmers market at Wittenbergplatz will be a more practical solution.

For now I will look after these little beauties that provide yummy flavours at dinner as well as delicious pots of warming tea.

I am pretty sure that there will be a few more added to this little group in the next few days. I have a hankering for something with some oregano.

What window sill herbs do you grow?

Take care

PS I just walked in from the market with a little oregano plant. Whoops.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Humble Crumble

Over the past few weeks we had been developing a bit of a collection in the bottom of the fridge. It seemed that we had been buying apples a little faster than we had been able to eat them so as a result, the fruit were losing that appley crunch. The apples from the fruit bowl that had been deemed 'No Longer Edible' had been banished to the crisper drawer to be dealt with when there were enough to do something worthwhile. To the eye, much of the fruit seemed fine but as soon as it was picked up, the wrinkly skin and squishy texture were evident.

As far as I am concerned, a soft apple is a cooking apple. (Pears, according to 2 people this household, are best eaten soft, but that is a whole other story.)

Years ago I collected a little recipe book that had been published by the Health Department with fabulous suggestions for getting more fruit and veg into the diets of kiddoes. My favourite from this booklet was the Apple and Rhubard Crumble. The crumble mix on top is fabulous and suitable to any type of fruit.

I remembered that the recipe included rolled oats and honey along with other typical crumble recipes but the quantities had all been forgotten (Oh my. Is there a pattern emerging?)

If you have ever Googled 'apple crumble recipe' you will know that if someone gave you a dollar for every result, you would just about be a millionaire.

Reading through, it was easy to disregard many of the options. With the amount of sugar and butter some of these required, I could make an 'Old Boot Crumble' taste fabulous.

I decided on this recipe (p. 15) as it included simple ingredients in decent amounts. The sultanas were omitted as I didn't have any.

The smell of cooking apples is one of those aromas that just takes me back to being a kid again. Mum would make her own pasty for an apple pie and it would be decorated with pastry leaves on top.

It cooked maybe a little too long and was not one of my küche success stories, but everyone attacked the backing dish vigorously within minutes of it emerging from the oven. By the time dinner was over and we were ready for our fruity dessert there had been some serious dents made.

I know that leaving the skins on for an apple crumble is probably a big no-no, but I can't see that wonderful part of the fruit be discarded.

Within a day or two, after additions of the apple to breakfast and afternoon snacks, the dish was empty.

So my question (plea) to you is how do you make your crumble topping?

Take care

Friday, September 16, 2011

Remembering, oh wait a minute... I forgot

Each weekend I sit and write a bit of a menu for the following week. The meals aren't extravagant but it is just so that I am a little more focussed at meal times. Although the menu is planned once a week, the shopping is done every few days. I find this to be a great way to eat as the veg is always fresh. But the main reason behind shopping so regularly is that we don't have a car, and children will only carry so much.

Three times this week I have gone to do the shopping and three times this week I have left the supermarket without one of the main ingredients for the evening meal. Firstly it was corn chips that were needed for the nachos. The second time it was the mince that is generally a pretty important ingredient for hamburgers. Luckily on these two occasions I remembered before we were more than a few metres from the shop. With cash in hand, a child was sent back in the make the necessary purchase.

I realise you are probably thinking that some sort of list is called for but I did write a list! I just happened to leave it on the lounge chair at home.

Today my memory didn't do it's thing until I was already home. My selection of root vegetables had been unpacked and were out by the chopping board ready to be sliced and diced up for the evenings curry. Did someone say 'curry'? Whoops. As I know we are here for a limited time I have been buying a few convenience foods as I don't want to end up with a cupboard full of different herbs and spices. Curry sauce in a jar (tastes so much better than it sounds) was the one vital ingredient that would transform this veg into a spicy feast, and it was still on the shelf at the supermarket.

There was no way I was heading back out the door so a change on plan was needed. I had a sourdough loaf cooling on a rack so the decision was a bit of a no-brainer: soup.

Amanda Blake Soule's new book had just arrived in the post and one of the first entries is regarding soup. I figured that this was reinforcing my alternate menu plan.

All of the curry ingredients went into the pan with some sautéed onions. Water, some stock and a handful of red lentils (shhhh, don't tell the kiddies) covered the veg and it was all left to simmer.

Give it a blend. Add some grated cheddar. Cut off some sourdough, and there you have dinner. The grownups even added some a kick of chilli as we were feeling a little daring.

Not quite the curry I had planned. I console myself in the knowledge that it is always best to let something spicy sit for a day or two anyway. It just wasn't meant to be, today.

Take care

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hello Etsy

I am very excited about an Etsy event that is happening this weekend here in Berlin. Although I have never created anything to sell on Etsy, I have bought a gift once because I was after something handmade and something local. It was so local that the creator dropped it in my letterbox rather than posting it. I love the idea of supporting local businesses, especially those who are trying to break into the market.

It wasn't actually the idea of conference run by Etsy that sparked my interest, it was really the theme that got me excited: A Summit on Small Businesses and Sustainablitiy.

After reading that one of the speakers is Marco Clausen from Prinzesinnengarten, I knew I had to go. I also think that running into one of the organizers of the Hello Etsy event at a screen-printing exhibition was a sign that I needed to get organised and buy a ticket.

I now have my ticket printed (after a trip to the internet cafe) and a bit of a list of speakers I would like to listen to.

I am planning on being a little sneaky and doing some Sow. Give. Grow. trans-plants while I am there. I am experimenting with a new envelope design but need to get these reprinted, which is always tricky when you don't have a printer.

Take care

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bottling Beans

A lovely few hours were spent at Prinzessinnengarten today. Walking through the gates is such a wonderfully relaxing experience, not that being in Berlin is stressful at all, but in the words of Darryl Kerrigan, "How's the serenity?"

Today there was a choice of two jobs. One was to move some compost and the other was to pick and bottle some beans. Being up for a new experience I went with the latter and was so glad of my choice.

There were a variety of beans that were harvested along with some herbs.

I would love to be able to tell you all about the different variety and be full of fabulous information, but my lack of German makes that a little difficult.

The first job was to top-and-tail the black beans and the yellow beans. These were then cut into pieces that were a little smaller than the height of the jars that the beans were to be stored inside.

Some of the larger beans were shelled.

These Fire Beans where shelled similarly to how you would shell a Broad Bean by taking off the outer layer. My phone camera does not do these little beauties any justice. The colours speckled over each little bean were gorgeous.

The little pieces of beans were blanched in batches and I was amazed to see that the black beans lose all of their dark colour and become green within second of being placed into the simmering water.

After a cooling bath and being place in a sieve to drain, the beans were stood up in the jars. Some of the herbs that we picked were added to the jars and the beans were packed as tightly as possible, without squashing them.

With all of the harvest, there ended up being 7 jars of bottled beans.

Some of the longer pieces of bean needed trimming so a few little adjustments were made. The bonus was that we were able to munch on the offcuts. Delicious!

A salted water mixture was brought to the boil and this was to be poured into the jars to assist in the preservation. We were unable to stay until the end of the process but I am sure that the final product would be fabulous.

Bottling beans is not something that I would really have thought to do, but after today, I will definitely have a go on my own.

What sorts of vegetables do you bottle?

Take care

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

After a quick visit to the random number generator I am back with the magic number, and it is


so a big congrats to Clare.

I will send you an email, Clare, to get your details and get your parcel in the mail this weekend.

Thanks to everyone for playing along. I would love to have sent you all a little gift but know that I appreciate all of your comments and sentiments.

Take care

PS The Pav went down a treat. All were impressed and it tasted great. Phew!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Does This Make Me a Grownup?

It has been a while since I played along with Rhonda's On My Mind, but here goes.

There are handful of recipes that I just think of as a Mum job. And by Mum, I don't mean me. I mean my Mum. Those recipes that I just don't think I am ready for yet. One of the recipes that fits into this category is a Pavlova.

Friday is the last day of Deutsch lessons and we are having a bit of a party at the end of the session. Each person is bringing something from their own culture so I decided on a Pav.

I have never attempted one before so was a little worried. I would have to go this one alone as there wasn't time to get Mum to make one and then send it to Berlin. (I'm not sure if Australia Post or Deutsche Post would be big fans of this idea). There wasn't even time to email and ask for the recipe that she uses from a 1971 Woman's Weekly magazine. (I didn't think she would appreciate a midnight call for a recipe - I am such a considerate daughter.)

After a bit of Googling I decided on this recipe as I was pretty sure the ingredients would be easy enough to find. After a quick late night trip to Bio Mart, following consultation from my new BFF, Google Translate, I was ready to tackle this beast.

I have followed the instructions to the letter and now have a Pavlova sitting in the oven cooling with the door open.

Please cross fingers for me on Friday as I'll attempt to get the Pav to the class via public transport. I think I will top it with cream, strawberries and kiwifruit once I get there.

What was I thinking!

I must admit that there is a little plan in case disaster prevails. When we had to list what we were going to bring, no one knew what a Pavlova which was quite lucky for me. If it all goes horribly wrong, I can really take anything along and call it a Pavlova. No one will know the difference.

Take care

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


After nearly two months of not having a garden of my own and noticing that my fingernails are constantly clean, I was feeling the urge to get out of doors again and into a vegetable garden. 

We are feeling fairly settled in our Berlin apartment and I have been looking for a community group to get involved in so I can to get out and meet people. It would be so easy to just keep to 'us' and not contribute to the neighborhood. Becoming part of the community is such an important part of this whole overseas experience for me, otherwise I may as well have just stayed home.

A few weeks ago I came across this amazing community participation garden, called Prinzessinnengärten, not too far from where we live. I love the history and philosophy behind this place. 

Twice a week there are community planting days, so last Saturday I covered myself in sunscreen, grabbed my hat and went along.

I was a little anxious at first, just like being back in Year 1 again, but this time a little different as I didn't speak the language. We were given the job of picking cabbage moth eggs and caterpillars from the kale, which was a very relaxing way to spend an hour or so. Quite a few people were bilingual, which was lucky for me. I did go along thinking that I may be the only non Deutsch speaker so it was a welcome surprise to be able to chat while I picked. 

Off to the next job.

With shovels in hands, three of us headed over to the compost bays to start layering some of the older compost in with some of the not-so-composted vegetation. Compost is something that I love tending to so I was happy to get right into it. The worms are a personal favourite and always bring a smile to my face. They were working busily and it almost felt wrong to disturb them. At least we were providing them with a new food source.

The afternoon tasks were complete and lunch at the cafe was calling me. I am not exactly sure what it was, but I can tell you it was delicious. The main part was made from the beetrrrot out of the garden and was a bit like a stew. This was topped with potato that had been mashed with some salt and pepper, along with a delicious addition of coconut cream.  It was so nice to eat this under the shade of some trees with a girl that I met on the day. 

It felt satisfying to wander home with some dirt under my fingernails.

Take care

Don't forget the giveaway.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sourdough Update

I am now about 3 weeks into my 30 day sourdough challenge and I am actually really enjoying myself.

The starter came along nicely and there have certainly been many more successes than failures.

For a basic loaf recipe I am following this one and have been thrilled with the taste and the texture. The honey is a great little touch and ever so subtle.

On most days I am organised enough to get the starter out of the fridge and get it to room temperature, ready for adding the other ingredients later in the day. Yesterday I seemed to lack to energy/enthusiasm for loaf making so I thought a little pancake making was called for. This happened to double as and experiment and a Fathers' Day breakfast.

Blueberries were added during the cooking as I was following this recipe.

With a little maple syrup added these light and fluffy pancakes were a perfect way to start a beautiful Berlin day.

If you are in Perth and are interested in sourdough, you might like to know that Yoke at Wild Sourdough is launching her new book on September 25. I am sure you could email her at for more information.

Don't forget about the giveaway.

Take care

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Milestone and a Giveaway

100th post

At the beginning of the year I tentatively jumped into the world of blogging, something that for so long I had just sat on the side and watched. I am so glad I did.

Well I thought I should celebrate this little milestone with a bit of a facelift, and more importantly, a Berlinesque giveaway.

This Ampelmann tote and cookie cutter set are up for grabs. 

If you are a follower, regular visiter or first-timer (welcome), leave a comment on this post by 8pm on Freitag (Friday) 9 September Berlin time and a winner will be selected at random.

Take care

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Market Munchies

Every Tuesday and Friday one of the local streets turns into the most amazing market I have ever seen. The sights, sounds and smells are make it something that anyone visiting Berlin should experience.

We generally visit around meal time as the gozlemes are amazing. One of these is enough to keep you going all afternoon. There are a few varieties but Spinat und Käse is still my favourite.

We have luckily discovered another great little treat from the same vendor. The longer, thinner pieces are called sigara borek and I am sure that many of these will be consumed over the coming months to keep out the cold. (Everything on the board had been cut in half for sharing so the portion sizes are quite big.)

For our little sweet treat, we are loving a serve of tulumba tatlisi. These are delicious to eat while still warm, but I still manage to go through quite a few once they have cooled. The sugary syrup soaks right through but the outsides are still a little crunchy.

Roll on Friday!

Take care

PS Just wondering if anyone is going to be out on Thursday playing along with Sow. Give. Grow.?
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