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Thursday
Dec252014

merry christmas

season's greetings from frankfurt! well, from cape verde actually as we've escaped for a bit of sunshine, but i'll soon be back and in the meantime, please enjoy frankfurt's beautiful tannenbaum and römer.

Wednesday
Dec242014

weihnachtsmärkte

as you might expect, i’ve been surrounded by christmas markets in every german town and city that i’ve visited in the past month. the christmas markets – weihnachtsmärkte – are a real focus from the last week of november up until christmas, with people visiting regularly to meet friends, enjoy the food and glühwein that is available as well as to stock up on gifts and baubles or go the fairground rides that are scattered among the stalls.

the largest markets i have visited have been in frankfurt and hamburg, which are both similar in that there is a concentration of stalls and activities in the main square in front of the town hall but also plenty of offshoots around the city centre, in side streets, squares and pretty much every open space where a small wooden hut can be plonked ready to share some festive love.

we also visited aschaffenburg, a small town nearby which had a lovely little market in schlossplatz in front of the city hall and the johannisburg palace, and a much smaller market in eschborn, which was along one little street and had a much less commercial feeling, with stalls being run by the local rotary group etc.

the food and drink available varies a little but not by that much. hot drinks are the focus with glühwein being most common – a spiced red or white version is almost always available but i also saw flavoured glühweins where fruit brandies gave an extra kick and a different flavour. egg nog is also available and in some cases slightly odd concoctions such as hot aperol (aperol spritz is a summer favourite but i can’t imagine it hot).

the food is often sweet – stollen, lebkuchen, gingerbread cookies with festive messages piped on in icing, chocolate-coated fruit, lots of traditional cakes plus popcorn and other candies – or deep fried. the most common deep fried foods involve potatoes – thin crips, french-fry style chips and kartoffelpuffer (a deep-fried potato pancake, usually served with apple puree).

wurst is also widely available – eaten as you’d expect peeking out of a small bread roll and smothered in ketchup or mustard that has been dispensed from enormous udder-like sauce containers - no retro squirty bottles here, it’s almost industrial in its approach!).

garlic mushrooms and plain/topped garlic breads are things i’ve seen in most markets. my favourite – and to be honest the only thing i’ve managed to eat more than a mouthful of as i’m not a fan of this kind of streetfood – is dinnele, small freshly baked flatbreads breads with a scattering of toppings and which reminds me of turkish pide.

there is also a abundance of hot sweet dishes – crepes with all sorts of fillings, as you’d expect, plus stodgy steamed puddings served with oodles of custard and jam

the weihnachtsmärkte are a lovely seasonal feature of life in germany (a good follow on to the summer of fests) and i’m looking forward to exploring further afield next year – nuremburg is often said to have the best market in germany and i’d also like to pop over the border to see strasbourg's christkindelmärik, which a friend absolutely fell in love with, when she visited it a few weeks ago. 

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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