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.

Cherry cupcakes

What can be more delicious than some cherry cakes from scratch? And it is really simple.

So here goes:

about 3 handfuls of cherries, pitted  or  one jar drained

one large cake pan lined with paper or two cupcake pans lines with paper cups

Mix in a large baking bowl, till fluffy:

200g margarine or butter

200 g sugar

aroma: vanilla sugar or 1 tsp. of Grand Marnier

2 – 3 eggs, one by one till fluffy

 

Sift on top:

200g flour

2 tsp. baking powder / soda

Stir in carefully, making sure all ingredients are well-mixed. Put spoonfuls into your cups or tin. Bake at approx. 190° C / 375 ° F or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Personally, I am like a Poppins and can always sniff out a finished cake or tart a few minutes before my timer can ring. Cool down slowly, the cakes can be left in the warm oven with the door opened.

Frost if desired or if you are making it as a whole cake, try out some Streusel:

100 g each of flour, sugar and butter, mix till you have a crumbly mixture and crumble it over he top of your unbaked cake. Along with whipped cream, deeelicious!

Ah yes, my latest fun line:

Und wenn ich die Schokolade im Dunkeln esse, finden mich vielleicht die Kalorien nicht.

(If I eat chocolate in the dark, the calories will perhaps not be able to find me)

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cherry cupcakes

 

 

Hedwig’s Hundred Household Helpers – deep drain drainage

Meet my wise white owl Hedwig (whom we all know from Harry’s Owlery). She has flown in to help us with quick-fix, inexpensive and (last but not least) ecologically-friendly ways to get our household in better shape. Our problem was the kitchen drain. The plumber warned us never ever to use Drano et alia again, as that would inevitably and eternally damage our water pipes made of concrete. We tried to coax our drains not to get clogged again – the repair cum cleaning job is rather time-consuming and not so cheap – but Ollivander’s wands refused to do the trick. A friend stumbled over a nice online article the other day and – it works! So here goes:

In a mug or cup mix equal parts of salt and soda. Pour into your previously cleaned drain and wait a moment.

Then pour in the same amount of clear vinegar essence (Essigessenz) and watch the white foam bubble up.

Wait for a bit and wash it all down with a goodly amount of hot water.

Enjoy your bath and basins again!

Have you heard this one already?

  • “From my bedroom, I can watch the sun set .”
  • “That’s nothing. From my bedroom, I can watch the kitchen sink.”

If you’re not grinning, you should work on your double meanings….

Astounding Asparagus – quick + healthy

“Der Spargel, der wächst hoid noa so guat” – said the farmer’s wife just two days ago. (“Our asparagus is still growing so well” from the Bavarian dialect Oberbayrisch, i.e. almost a language of its own). Our best asparagus comes from the best soils called “Gauboden”, especially from the areas Pörnbach, Schrobenhausen, Abensberg, etc. to the north and east of Munich. True, meanwhile I can understand the people if I am thoroughly awake and concentrated, but I shall never be able to pronounce the phrases the way I ought, guttural and and with a certain inflection entirely strange to my U.S.-attuned-tongue.

Ah yes, asparagus! The season – which also applies to home-grown strawberries, so make sure to some as topping on a simple shortcake or make your own strawberry limes (strawberries crushed with sugar, lemon and vodka)   –  is over by June 24th, aka St. John’s Day or summer solstice, so almost everybody gorges themselves on them and then pauses till next season.

Delicious when eaten fresh, full of fibre and vitamins and Bavarian warmth (pun), you can peel them yourself or buy them ready to cook. Lots of good cooks own a special pot to keep them upright and just steam the tips a bit, since they are seasonal and my kitchen tiny, a skillet will also do the trick with the water only covering the stems and a teaspoon of salt. Choose only fresh stalks (check the cut end, must be moist and not mouldy) and of equal thickness. Depending on size, approximately 8 to 11 minutes suffice, undercooked asparagus are hard or squishy when overcooked, a bit like pasta. You can stick in a fork to test.

Leftover cold  asparagus make a tasty salad paired with tomatoes, chopped spring onions and/or chives, Italian olive oil, French white wine vinegar, a dash of sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

Great accompaniments are tiny gem potatoes, cooked ham (such as Butterschinken, lemon pepper ham, also Parma and Bayonne), also delicate sausages or veal scallopini,  fresh crunchy French bread, butter sauce with lemon or a real French-style sauce hollandaise with lemon. If I am in a hurry, I buy one from Thomy’s or in deli shops. Then again, nothing beats the real thing!

A crisp white wine (Franconia and Baden are the best in Germany or France) helps to wash it down with an ahhhh! Enjoy it all while the season lasts!