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Monday
Dec222014

a weekend in budapest

last year, when we were making the decision about whether or not to move to frankfurt, close friends were making a similar decision about moving to budapest. we both decided to make the move and last month we finally managed to catch up and share our stories about moving and getting settled in a new city.

it was david and my first time in budapest and while the focus was more on catching up, we did manage a bit of sightseeing and exploring the budapest food and drink scene. an hour in the budapest central market quickly showed a similarity with germany – a shared love of all things pork-based. however, unlike in frankfurt it seemed much easier to get a decent flat white coffee – espresso embassy and my little melbourne both hit the spot (any and all frankfurt tips welcome!).

we had a lovely relaxed supper at terminal – a modern bar/restaurant in a converted bauhaus style bus station. the food was light and full of fresh flavours ( which is apparently not particularly easy to find in the city). they also served delicious cocktails. not that we needed them, having had a lovely time sampling some lovely hungarian wine at divino and doblo (both of which serve a wide range of local wines by the glass). the palinka (the local fruit brandy) that we tried was less enjoyable – pear and quince were the two flavours we tried at divino and paint stripper really was the thing that they evoked!

our final meal was at da mario, a pasta and pizza restaurant with relaxed (albeit quite slow) and very child-friendly service. the pizza and pasta dishes were great but the mixed seafood salad less so (frozen deep fried flavourless calamari and prawns, which was a real surprise given how delicious the homemade pasta sauces were).

it was a fleeting visit and we barely scratched the surface of the city - we enjoyed an afternoon learning about hungarian history and the city’s architecture, courtesy of the excellent english language free walking tour - but i expect we’ll be back at some point in the coming year, which i’m really looking forward to.

Monday
Dec152014

chicken and chickpea harira

it’s been a quiet blog in recent weeks – i’m sorry for that. a combination of travelling, visitors and dark days have all distracted me and reduced my interest in cooking new things.

having said that, i have not been entirely idle in the kitchen. my love of hearty soups continues – ribollita, white chilli and minestrone are all well-established favourites - and recently i’ve been dabbling with harira recipes.

my last attempt at a vegetarian version wasn’t particularly successful so i decided to try a version with chicken, to use up some leftover meat and stock that i had made. i looked at lots of recipes and chose bits from several of them, while also trying to keep things simple. a lightly spiced fresh flavour and nothing too stodgy were the things i was after.

the result of my efforts was good – a little heat from harissa and ground ginger plus a spice combination of cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and saffron. it also had chickpeas in abundance (i’m really loving them at the moment), a bit of potato for comfort, tomatoes and carrot for sweetness plus a combination of lemon, coriander and yoghurt to freshen everything up at the end. the recipe below is not prescriptive, more a record of how things developed, to act as a starting point for you.

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Tuesday
Nov112014

autumn slaw with apple

i made this with pulled pork in mind, having been inspired by chatting about it with a friend. in fact i ended up eating it as a filling in a chicken wrap – leftover chicken pieces warmed through with a little chilli sauce for kick plus a sprinkling of grated cheddar and a smear of yoghurt. plus lots of the lovely fresh slaw – red cabbage, carrots, radish, spring onions, coriander, toasted sesame seeds and, for a lovely hint of sweetness, granny smith apples. the dressing is a mix of cider vinegar, lime juice, olive oil and a bit of sugar to balance the flavours.

so delicious, such a lovely combination with the spicy chicken and a wonderfully light and healthy option for an easy meal.

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Friday
Nov072014

citrus with ginger snow

this has been my favourite desert of the past few weeks - i’ve made it for several sets of friends and david and i have also enjoyed it on our own. part of the reason it’s so easy to make with great frequency is that once you have some ginger snow in the freezer, it’s just a matter of preparing the citrus fruit and sometimes (you don’t have to do it every time as often there is some left from the previous time) making the citrus syrup to go with it.

i think it’s a perfect pudding for this time of year as it’s light enough to follow even the heaviest of meals while also being full of fresh flavours to brighten your day.

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Tuesday
Nov042014

vanilla chocolate marble cake

this is a lovely simple cake and especially good if you can eat it still warm from the oven - i like to make it in the morning if i'm expecting friends later that day.

 apparently getting a marbled effect can be a bit tricky but the approach used here is one that makes it a bit easier:

“swirls of rich chocolate marbled through a vanilla cake seems straightforward enough, but with a few secrets you can make this even easier. you may notice that the large quantity of chocolate folded through the batter thins it – potentially a concern. but a curious thing about chocolate is that the cocoa solids dry the cake batter as it bakes, so the final texture stays balanced. spooning the mixtures in alternately means that when it comes to swirling everything together, you're already halfway there. this makes it much more likely each slice will contain dark and white cake.”

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