Quick and healthy: asparagus with potatoes and ham

Here in Central Europe May is the month of asparagus and strawberries and rhubarb! In France they tend to eat more of the green kind that is only peeled at the bottom end. Here in Germany both kinds are sold, but the fat, white stalks are the most common, from Pörnbach, Abensberg or Schrobenhausen, although they are also sent up from Greece. The first ones arrive in April and the last harvest is traditionally towards the 24th June, Johannistag (St. John’s).

One kilogram usually costs about €12. I’d suggest buying about 5-6 stalks per person. I use a special peeler (cf. photo) and peel first the ends, then the top end while staying away from the shoot which doesn’t necessitate anything. The yellowish in-between layer must also be peeled away. Then the bottom end is cut off, a little more if the end is tough.

My asparagus are cooked in a large skillet, but professionals use special cylindrical pots so the bottom is cooked longer than the bud. I cook mine for approximately 10-11 minutes in salted water, some people add in a bit of sugar, some like them more al dente and cook them a minute less.

Meanwhile wash some potatoes with flaky skin and cooked them in salt water for about 20 minutes depending on their size. I poke them after 18 minutes or so to check the degree of softness.

You can make your own sauce hollandaise out of butter, shallots, egg yolks, vinegar, salt & pepper, whisked creamy in a bain-marie. Or you simply buy a packet of sauce hollandaise, also as fat-reduced, and heat it along with the asparagus, adding a splash of lemon.

Delicious accompaniments are cooked honey, smoked, lemon-pepper or serrano ham, also small veal scallops or beef tournedos.

Strawberry-rhubarb delight

This cake is light and refreshing, just the thing for a warm summer day. You will need some time in between the different steps of making it, but you can space it out and do other things, as each step is fairly quick. Here in Germany the strawberry and rhubarb season is from May to June 24th, St. John’s Day or summer solstice. After that you should no longer cut the rhubarb stalks.

If I am hard pressed for time, I buy a Biskuitboden at the supermarket. You can also bake the cake layer:

  • beat 3 eggs light and fluffy
  • slowly add 125 g sugar until the batter stiffens
  • carefully fold in 125 g flour, 75 g starch and 1 tsp. baking powder
  • bake at 175°C on the 2nd lowest rack for about 18-22 minutes

Meanwhile peel 3-4 rhubarb stalks, cut off the ends, cut into pieces and gently heat them with the juice of half a lemon and 150 g sugar for about 8 minutes until tender.

Pull the pot from the stove and add in 500 g strawberries, washed and without leaves, cut in half if you wish.

Take a packet of gelatine which has soaked for ten minutes in 3-4 Tbsp. of water or juice and stir the gelatine into the warm (not hot!) fruit. Let the fruit and gelatine cool until almost cold and not quite jellied.

Whip 300-400 ml heavy cream, add in some sugar if you wish. Fold the whipped cream into the cold fruit. Pour the fruit and cream onto the cake layer with a cake ring placed firmly on top. Put the cake into the fridge and let the fruit topping set over night.

Enjoy with hot coffee or iced tea!

A walk along lake Starnberg : from Tutzing to Seeshaupt

We set out with about 40 participants to walk approx. 12 km (7.5 miles) around Lake Starnberg near the German Alps. The reason there are so many lakes at the foot of the Alps is because the glaciers moved down and ground out many depressions and moraines which gradually filled up with water, rocks and pebbles. (Anecdote: when Napoleon and Montgelas came to Munich, they would have liked to clear the pebbles out of the river Isar, only they couldn’t, as they continually wash down from the Alps.)

Our walk started in Tutzing, down to the swimming areas, on a path winding past houses and through high hedges, sometimes along the main road. The famous Buchheim Museum is here at the water’s edge, with interesting modern art and sculptures.

Most often we walked through lovely parks like the Bernrieder Park with blooming meadows, very old oak trees, a babbling brook, at times a wooden bench near a path leading down to the water.

Wilhelmina Busch-Woods, an heiress of a brewery (Anheuser) in St. Louis, Mississippi, bought large parts of Baron von Wendland’s property near Bernried. She and her first husband owned two large farms with horses, she had her own ship and finally furnished a small castle with antiques in Höhenried. Oh, not to forget, she accumulated three husbands as well. She later created a Foundation to allow the general public to walk through her Bernrieder park after her death in 1952.

When we finally reached Seeshaupt at the south end after three hours of walking, we were quite happy to enter the restaurant for a very good lunch. I had a look at the small church nearby with its light yellow and white hues.

We then drove on to Gut Kerschlach, a very large farm with many horses, dog training, horse carriage rides, meadows, gardens, an empty specialty shop, sausage production, a bakery and a large café. As we were tired from our long walk, we were especially glad of the coffee and cakes on offer!

China – The Dazu Rock Carvings of Mount Beishan

The Dazu Rock Carvings are actually about 75 sites scattered throughout the steep hills. This World Heritage Site depicts Buddhas and gods with Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist influences. They are in the Dazu District about 2 hours away from the large city Chongqing.

Some carvings are shrines but by far the largest part are carved into the open rock face. What is unique is their exceptional coloring which has often been preserved. The biggest site is on Mount Beishan. The oldest carvings are from the mid 7th century in the Tang dynasty.

It is a refreshing walk through green trees and bushes to see the outdoor carvings of Buddhas.

Palm Beach – Our favorite salmon recipe

Many years ago we passed through Palm Beach and had dinner at an amazing restaurant with this amazing dish. We enjoyed it so much that I have been preparing it quite often. It is so quick and easy to make so that you might want to try it.

Added to that, salmon is one of the very best kinds of health food with its omega acids and non-saturated fats. These elements are also good to build up a good, optimistic mood. So, go with the bears and enjoy more fish!

For 2 servings:

  • 2 generous slices of salmon, with the skin
  • 2 portions of spaghetti
  • 1 packet of chunky tomato sauce
  • 1 jar of capers
  • lemon juice

Rip off a large square of aluminum foil for each slice of salmon. In the middle I always place a bit of sulfurized paper so the fish won’t stick. Roll up the sides of the foil to make little packets and place them on a baking sheet. Cook on the middle rack of your oven at 200° C/ 390° F. for about 12 – 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

Meanwhile bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti at middle temperature for about 9-11 minutes, depending on how al dente or cooked you like them.

Whenn the spaghetti are finished, drain them and heat the chunky tomato sauce with the warm pot. Salt and pepper according to gusto.

Serve the salmon with lemon juice drizzles over it and a sprinkling of lemon pepper. Serve the tomato spaghetti dotted with capers.

Enjoy! Bon appétit! Que aproveches!


The Cake Fairy in Alling

The Tortenfee is the name of the pagoda-like structure in Alling not far from the B2 on the way out towards Augsburg from Munich. The owner formerly had a restaurant, but revised and renovated the building into a café -only that specializes in wedding cakes. All the cakes look scrumptious, you can choose from passion fruit, raspberry, strawberry, chocolate truffle, champagne cake and many more. A special deal is the combination of three half slices on one plate, garnished with fresh berries and dusted with powdered sugar. There is a large selection of beverages.

The tables outdoors offer sun and shade, loads of bushes and bamboo, a large playground and a big bus converted into a coffee kiosk. Unfortunately, quite a lot of through traffic nearby make for a noisy background

Peking duck and the Hutongs

One of our first meals was Peking duck, of course. As we were a group of 16, we always sat around two large circular tables with a kind of Lazy Susan in the middle. All the vegetables, soup (rather tasteless), fluffy rice and meat dishes would be placed there and everyone could take as much as he liked. In the photo you can see the chef carving up the duck.

We entirely preferred the food which can be seen in the second row, cooked by a professional cook who lives in a hutong – a sort of narrow alleyway near the Forbidden City. She makes a little extra money cooking on her tiny double stove for foreign guests. Unfortunately, the authorities would like to tear down the old, low houses and replace them with high-risers. We read a newspaper article that some houses had their doorway cemented closed, leaving the inhabitants to climb in and out of a window.

We also took a ride in a bicycle riksha through several hutongs. Although they are not very pretty, they still have the right size for a neighborly lifestyle. We did not see many dogs on a leash, nor cats. Instead, it is normal to keep chirping birds and singing crickets in cages near the door.