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!

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

Herrmannsdorf farm and workshops, Germany

Herrmannsdorf is only two kilometers from Glonn in Bavaria, Southern Germany. When I last visited, long-necked ducks ran over the courtyard and you had to watch where you walked. The lovely buildings from the early 20th century are protected as a monument and any additions need authorization. There are the main living quarters, the large market building, the west and east sheds and stalls, the central restaurant building, more pig stalls and a few mobile chicken coops which can be pulled to other locations.

The pigs that are bred are strong and compact with a black head and hind part and a pink middle. A piglet weighs only a few pounds, a “teen” about 50 kg and a fully grown pig about 110 kg. You should reconsider before dreaming of a pet piggy! Herrmannsdorf offers workshops to learn how to make sausages, Weißwürste and ham. Turkey and other kinds of meat are bought from local producers.

The sows and piglets have their own building. Sows are “easy-care” animals, they will give their little ones milk, but they do not count them if they get lost. The stronger ones fight their way to the front tit with the most milk, the smaller ones take what they can get. The male pigs don’t do much more than lie in the shade or eat, they save their energy for the dating rounds with the ladies. The females are rather willing after less than a week after delivering their litter.

The chickens always have a rooster nearby to make them feel comfortable. They love taking “sand baths” to be rid of the mites in their feathers. In 2018 the foxes couldn’t find enough mice to eat and therefore raided about half of all chickens on the farm. For a while they had to stay within their coops. The chickens with the blue feet and the elegant cocks are French “bleus” that are cross-bred with an Austrian species with ruffled feathers on their heads. The goat seemed unruffled while munching on all the twigs, the sheep maintain a nice short lawn around the coop.

Naturally you can also learn baking and how to fold pretzels (Brezen). They do their own milling for whole grain bread types. Processed flour is bought elsewhere. Coffee beans are bought green and roasted in their own torrefaction machines. The coffee and espresso is very good.

The Kindergarten which originally was intended for their employees’ children has been “outsourced” for other local children. Oddly enough, it is right next door to the distillery… The market has only ecological food, meat, cheeses, olives, canned goods, bakery wares, coffee and tea, fruit, vegetables and fresh herbs. All the employees (more then 200) we saw were cheerful and very proud of their work.

The restaurant has a large Biergarten under trees. Inside the large room with beamed ceiling there are many tables on different levels. The menu is not large, but all ingredients are ecological and fresh, of course pork is never missing. Prices are rather high, but the guide argues that taking good care of animals and not using chemicals costs a little extra.

Painting with the ground we stand on

Should you live in or be visiting Munich, don’t miss out on the show of paintings next weekend, with Sunday brunch. Trisha Kanellopoulos has experimented with different styles and for some years has experimented with different colored soils which she collects wherever she goes.

In the end, my main goal is always striving for the ultimate color and the perfect surface”

Trisha Kanellopoulos

Studio: Hellabrunner Str. 30

81543 München



Summer in the City (of Munich)

My dearest hubby took this photo and I find it amazing the way the water of the lake mirrors the clouds in the sky at “Evensong”‘s time of day (fond memory of London’s St. Paul’s). These are “a few of my favorite things” (to quote The Sound of Music).

Summer in the City doesn’t have to be hot and sweltering. there are so many cool places to go to, like one of the many lakes which are all more than suitable for bathing, dining, playing beach volley, hanging out, BBQing in one of the earthen pits, staring at the FKK area (if you can’t help it, I prefer looking at the old trees and the young ducks), snorkeling (rather dark and ugly-looking fish in the Feringasee).IMG-20180717-WA0001.jpg

Summer in the City can also be a lifestyle thing. Whereas some like lazing in the sun and others in the water, some prefer walking their dogs or hanging on a sofa indoors.  We had a BBQ party yesterday, loads of kids and, just as I had remembered from my two kids, mostly sausages, Brezen and ice cream, Mom said NO COKE. That was unfortunate, cos’ that’s my party drink. 20180723_065516.jpg

Today I am off on a photo safari that goes by the name of “With the correct color temperature you can take better photos”. Well, we had something like 30° on the parking lot where we were told to practice taking photos of the other participants. It was highly interesting knowing that you are able to turn your photo into a masterpiece simply by observing the tricks of lighting an object or person properly and getting a “warm-toned” photo of approx. 5200 Kelvin on a scale of lighting.


Other summer breaks, if you are not into standing in endless traffic jams on the Autobahn or waiting long hours in a plane trying to get to the opposite end of the world, are taking the car on an off day during the week and cruising towards your destination, letting chance take care of your sense of adventure.20180724_140655.jpg

If you’d rather stay indoors and have a good breathable “climate”, be sure to include certain plants all over the house to freshen up your air:  spathiphyllum (Einblatt), ficus benjamina (Birkenfeige), aloe vera (a friend of mine brings them back from Crete), Chlorophytum comosum (Agavoideae, orig. from South Africa, also called ribbon plant if the variegated kind, in German : Grünlilie) and  also Epipremnum aureum, of the family of Araceae, native of French Polynesia (in German:  Efeutute). I am always happy to share my home with spiders and green lacewings (insects of the family Chrysopidae, here they are called Florfliegen) and, not to forget, an occasional grasshopper or baby bird that flutters in. I have a lot to do carrying each and every one out again, but I need extra exercise.

Once a few years back, I unfortunately got all the exercise I wanted or not when I discovered that certain wasps, tiny and unobtrusive, were flying in and about my tool-chest cum bench. It is white plastic and usually only the field mouse lives inside when it gets too cold outdoors.  It always chews up something (amazing what it can find ! all sorts of ropes and bags and fertilizer boxes even – yuck. Every year in March I must clean out the chest of the empty hazelnut kernel husks it leaves in a nice heap and survey the chewing disaster should I have forgotten some item in there.

So that year I had forgotten a macramé sisal hanger for my petunias and the mouse had consistently chewed it up nicely and made a nice heap under (sic) the tool-chest and thus the earth-loving yellowjacket wasps (Vespula flaviceps) had added some finely chewed erath to the rope fibres and construed as dandy a nest as ever, about 3 cm high and big and flat, qith loads of baby yellowjackets of course.

mouse 2018.jpg

A call to the fire department : nada.  Not our business.

A call to the Bund Naturschutz (Association for the Protection of Nature): nada. Don’t you dare touch the poor creatures, they are under stiff regulated Protection with a capital P.

So who I call now? Definitely not the insect exterminator, or I’ll have to justify my actions before the Bund Naturschutz and the Firemen and the Government or what not.

So – I grab a spade, roll up my sleeves, pull the sitting tool-bench carefully out of the corner it has always  sat in, check to make sure I have the center of the nest and carefully lift up the main part with the spade. About 12 – 15 steps out of the garden, there is a dry patch under the roof of the opposite house, loads of room for a colony of yellowjackets and no one living there to be in their way, I settle down the nest, go back for leftover nest  bits and presto! all over if it weren’t for the panicky wasp that got tangled in a corner of my blouse and decided to sting in the tender underarm flesh. But I did survive that attack, as so many other yet to come. “Was einen nicht umbringt, macht einen nur stärker.” (If something hasn’t killed you, it will make so much the stronger)

Ah yes, the baby blackbirds are fluttering in their nest waaay up high in the vine that grows  on the south-western house wall. As green as I can get! (not me, the house!)

20180729_201918 wine wall.jpg

Have a great summer! We’re off traveling, to Bregenz, to Elba, to Argentina and Uruguay and Chile. Hope to meet you soon!