Sunday, April 3, 2011

Baked Fennel with Green Olives

I have a confession to make: I stole this idea. Yes, stolen, point-blank, from an especially lovely German family who had me over to dinner shortly before I left Germany. I'm back in Australia, soaking up lovely weather and sunshine, and as soon as I get myself settled, I'll be making this dish again. I'm still barely cooking; I've been home for just over a week, after a lovely visit to Singapore, and I've been eating at friends' houses on a regular occasion. So, needless to say, this blog has been sorely neglected. But that's okay; I'll get back into cooking very shortly.

This dish is incredibly easy; it does take some oven time, but it's simple and delicious. I like it on its own, though I'd recommend some crusty bread to soak up the extra juices. It would probably also be delicious over pasta, rice, risoni, polenta, semolina or couscous. Name your carb of choice, really. I'll be trying it as a pizza topping when I next decide to make pizza dough from scratch; I think the slices will need to be thinner, but the flavours are unbeatable.

A note on the olives: I recommend using marinated. I mean, the extra flavour isn't going to hurt! I liked the extra large green olives from a stall at the Dom Markt; marinated in masses of garlic, some parsley and stuffed with whole blanched almonds, those olives were to die for. Of course, you could always use plain green olives, or black olives, but go by the basic rule: if you don't want to snack on 49825749857 olives while you're making this recipe, then don't bother using them.

Baked Fennel with Green Olives

olive oil
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 x 15cm spring rosemary
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
2 fennel bulbs
about 10 green olives, halved lengthwise, possibly marinated*

Preheat your oven to about 200 degrees; this is a guess, because my German oven was so unreliable. Take a guess.
Slice fennel into halves and then thin slices, keeping them joined at the base so that the segments hold together. I slice mine so that they're about 1cm at the thickest point. Arrange in a large baking dish; you want them to fit closely but to avoid too much overlap.
In a cold pan, add a splash of olive oil and the garlic slices. Sautee until the garlic is fragrant, then add the rosemary leaves, which have been separated from the stem. When the garlic is starting to colour just a little, add the tomatoes and water. Season to taste with salt and pepper (and a little dried savoury or thyme, if you like).
Carefully spoon the tomato mixture over the fennel, so that it's evenly covered. (If you like things saucy, I recommend doubling the volume of sauce.) Scatter with olives.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until fennel is very tender. Scatter with fresh parsley, if desired. Eat eat eat!

*I use extra large green olives, marinated in masses of garlic, and some herbs. I recommend olives stuffed with almonds, too.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My apologies.

I realise I haven't been around as much lately; both here and as a commenter on other people's blogs. I'd like to simply blame the Winter Blues for keeping my camera out of the kitchen (my hands are wrapped around a hot cup of tea at all times, which makes it difficult to multi-task!) but sadly, I'm not able to write it off so easily. There are other stresses involved in my life, and while all of them appear to be overcome (fingers crossed!) there's still a lot of organising to be done.

Today is my one-year anniversary of arriving in Germany. In 13 days, I fly home to Australia.

Aside from the obvious stresses of shipping suitcases home, packing up my room, finding friends to take clothes/shoes/bed linen etc, and closing bank accounts, there are the immediate worries: finding time to say goodbye to everyone before I go. Making good on all the times I told people that we'd catch up soon. Eating all the food that I keep in the pantry... that's no mean feat. And, of course, uni.

My entire year here has been working towards one goal: the DSH Exam. It's what enables foreign students to study at German Universities in German language... and it's the exam that I'll be sitting on Friday. I'm confident that I'll pass it; I get some of the best marks in my class, and secretly (well, not anymore) have hopes that I might be able to reach DSH-3, which is the top level, and one higher than the DSH-2 needed for most courses. (DSH-1 doesn't let you study much of anything; Paderborn Uni doesn't accept it. DSH-3 means they'd let you study Medicine or Law in German.) It's a long shot, but it's worth a try.At the same time, I've been organising for people to buy the books and readers that I need for my courses at Flinders University, back home in Adelaide. My Dad has been scanning my readings for me and uploading them to my Mediafire account so that I can read them here. Said courses have already started, so my days are filled with German mornings and English afternoons. It's all a bit much sometimes; especially knowing that instead of celebrating the end of the German course, I'll be writing assignments to hand up before I even get back into the country. It's anti-climactic.

So, this is a plea for you to go easy on me these next few weeks, while I get all the necessary preparations underway. I have every intention of getting back to Adelaide and being able to hit the ground running; I'll even be going to uni on the same day day that I fly back in, jet-lagged and sleep deprived. So when all my recipes are based on the same cake mix, or another vege stir-fry, or when I don't post for a couple of weeks, just trust me: when my life finally settles down again, I'll be back with more recipes, ingredients that I couldn't access here (tempeh!!!) and prettier photos, I promise.

In the meantime, everyone stay safe, and I hope to stay in touch by reading your blogs, even if I'm too slack to comment. ;) xoxo

Goodbye, Kitchen. You've (mostly) been nice to me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Marinated Mushrooms

This is a really easy way to brighten up a simple salad. Take 250g mushrooms, toss in 2 Tbsp balsamic, a little salt and pepper, a finely chopped garlic clove and a handful of chopped herbs, and leave to marinate for a few hours. They were still fresh and firm inside, with a tangy balsamic outer, and went perfectly with cherry tomatoes and avocado. If you want soft mushrooms, slice them really thinly, up the balsamic and leave them overnight. Then use the balsamic and mushroom-moisture pond that they'll be soaking in as salad dressing. Little ways to make the day a little brighter...

Speaking of things that are making my day a little brighter, tomorrow I'll be heading to the North Sea for the weekend, with my lovely housemate. Keep your fingers crossed that I don't freeze! :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cabbage and Orange Slaw

This is something incredibly basic and yet also incredibly tasty, which rates it pretty highly, in my humble opinion. Finely shredded red cabbage, mixed with little chunks of orange and a light dressing. Really, you can't go wrong. My only recommendations are that a) you use a food processor or mandolin to slice the cabbage, because I found it a little thick when I did it by hand, and b) leave it overnight to marinate. Yes, a marinated salad. I'm serious. The flavour develops and the orange juice seeps into the cabbage, softening it just a touch, without taking away too much crunch. To make simple into pretty, just scatter with a handful of toasted pistachios or cashews before serving.

Cabbage and Orange Slaw
1/4 head small red cabbage, finely shredded
2 large oranges, peeled and cubed*
salt & pepper
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
(1 tsp wholegrain mustard, optional)

Mix dressing ingredients together in a jar, and shake until emulsified. Pour over cabbage and orange, and mix well to combine. Sit overnight in the fridge, and serve the next day, as a side dish or on your favourite burger.

*When you peel the oranges, squeeze any extra juice from your peel into the dressing.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Olives

You know what's awesome? Olives marinated in chillies. It's only a pity that these weren't half as spicy as they look. Must have been adapted for the local tastebuds... :(

Cornbread Muffins

Aren't these pretty? Golden yellow cornbreads, just waiting to be nibbled up... which is precisely what happened, and the reason why there's only 4 left. I confess to having eaten half, and the housemate had another two, so it's not all my fault. What is, however, entirely my fault, is the use of cupcake papers. Don't do it. You might think you're saving yourself the trouble of washing the pans, but really, you're just going to end up with near-impossible to remove papers. Don't waste those precious crumbs of cornbread! Just grease your tins. This recipe speaks for itself; dead easy, pretty quick to bake, and delicious. I had a couple with vegemite, but my housemate recommends them with syrup.


Cornbread Muffins
(makes 12 small muffins)

1/2 cup plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1 cup coarse polenta
1 tsp rosemary or thyme, optional
1/4 cup olive oil
1 scant cup soymilk
1 Tbsp syrup (I used maple, but agave would also be great)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Grease your muffin moulds of choice.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. It will seem quite liquid, but don't stress.
Allow to rest for 10 minutes, so that the polenta can soak up some liquid. It'll be thicker when you come back to it.
Distribute evenly within 12 small muffin cups and bake, 20-25 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Eat with your favourite Southern fixings, or better, with Vegemite. ;)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kitchen Tales.

These are the tulips that I bought for my incredibly lovely housemate while she was writing her final paper. She was stressing out, and we'd just discussed how much we loved tulips, and then at the markets, I decided to do my good deed for the day. As luck would have it, a lovely flower stall had an amazing offer: 20 tulips for just 5 euro. I know, phenomenal! Flowers here are so much cheaper than at home; I imagine that relies on two factors: a) People give flowers here more frequently than at home, and b) It's probably a hell of a lot easier to keep flowers alive when the weather is so cold. Practical, but true. Ever tried to keep flowers from wilting when it's 30 degrees outside, even if you're only outside for 5 minutes while you get them home? More difficult than it sounds. Loose bunches you can hold upside down, but arrangements... sigh.

I'll point out that the lovely housemate also found a great supermarket special with giant pots of herbs (in terracotta! how cute!) for just 2 Euro each. So we now own rosemary, thyme, savoury and sage. The parsley in the corner of the photo is the lovely stuff that I buy from my favourite market lady. I buy two bunches every week! Who'd have ever thought I relied so heavily on parsley? I suppose the giant plants that I had at my old house probably didn't get enough use, but rest assured, next time I grow parsley, I intend to make full use of it! Helloooo, tabbouli.

So, this post is a tribute to the little things that make life so much happier. Herbs and tulips and my quiet Saturday mornings, market trips and hanging out in the kitchen cooking breakfast. When I go home to Australia, I won't miss the weather, but I hope I've gained a new-found appreciation for those occasional rays of sunshine that bring warmth and light to my kitchen... :)
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