Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Give Some Time And Make Some Christmas Sweets

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

In this festive period, we have been asked out to various families for drinks, or the kids out to parties.  And the question always is what to give people in a period of giving.  So yesterday, the kids and I spent a happy day making sweets, much as we have done before.  So there was a kitchen full or sugar, ground almonds and the smell of chocolate.  Our clothes were covered in the light white snow of icing sugar and there was a healthy crunch of caster sugar beneath our feet on the kitchen tiles.

Our Kitchen Table Covered In Homemade Sweets

Our Kitchen Table Covered In Homemade Sweets

But why bother, when you can buy sweets in the shops.  And where they are way cheaper as well – excluding the ingredients, our time would cost each sweet at about 50p, and that’s sweet and not box of sweets.  The answer is in part that they taste much nicer as we use better ingredients like organic Fairtrade sugar, and are much more generous in the luxury components like chocolate and vanilla.  But also, it is the giving of our time.

In an age where everyone claims to be so time poor, giving excuses like I am far too busy to play with my children or cook a meal from scratch or to make sweets or bake, what is more generous than giving over some time to make something for friends and family.  And they taste pretty damn delicious as well.  Think if I were a hedge fund manager or big corporate fat cat, I could perhaps even get the cost per sweet up to £18 or more per chunk of fudge – think how generous my time would be then.

So I say, please give some time and make something for your friends and family and show how generous you can be by releasing some of your precious time to show how much you love and care.

Enough of that and down to the nitty-gritty, we made marzipan kugeln (or marzipan balls dipped in milk chocolate), peppermint creams (shaped as circles and stars and dipped in chocolate), milk chocolate shapes (Merry Christmas tablets, santas and stars), vanilla fudge and chocolate fudge.  There was something about the fudge that made it extra soft and velvety this year and less crystalline and tablet like.  I think it was the patience and extra diligence over the stirring, but it could just have been the recipe, which was tweaked for the ingredients I had to hand.

Homemade Chocolate Fudge

900g / 2lb caster sugar
100g / 3¼oz unsalted butter
1 large tin of evaporated milk (410g/ 14½oz)
¼ of evaporated milk tin of cold water
250g / 9oz milk chocolate

Prepare a tin, by lining the base with some baking parchment.  We use a 2cm (½ inch) deep pan that is 30cm by 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch).

Put the caster sugar, unsalted butter, evaporated milk and cold water into a heavy bottomed pan.  Put the pan over a medium heat and with a wooden spoon stir the mixture until it is fully dissolved.  While the sugar mixture is melting, melt the milk chocolate over a pan of boiling water, then when melted switch off but keep warm by keeping over the pan.

Turn up the heat a tad and let the sugar mixture boil rapidly, stirring consistently all the while.  When the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (114C/238F), remove from the heat immediately.  I reckon this part takes around 20 minutes, but many books seem to claim it is much quicker.  Now you need to vigorously stir the mixture until it starts to thicken and begins to become rough – this takes 10 to 15 minutes and is quite tiring on the old arms.

Pour the fudge mixture into the baking tray, smooth over with a spatula.  Then using a sharp knife, cut the fudge into whatever sized cubes you want.

Leave to cool for 3 hours, then turn out of the baking tray, break off the fudge pieces, eating a few along the way to ensure the taste and texture are spot on, then put into an airtight container or some pretty gift boxes for pressies.

Homemade Chocolate Fudge In Gift Box

Homemade Chocolate Fudge In Gift Box

Recipe For Nurnberger Christmas Cookies – German Lebkuchen

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Following on from the spekulatius blog, we have been having fun trying to make German lebkuchen cookies.

There really is something Christmassy about the spices used in these Christmas biscuits – it’s that glorious mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and that extra richness from the cloves.  Everything about Christmas smells seems to revolve around cloves whether it is the Christmas cake, lebkuchen cookies or making your pomander.  And cloves are such a tricky spice that can completely overpower many spice blends, but seem to conjur up the right flavour for this festive period.

After a few goes at this recipe, this is where we have gotten to this year, but just like for the spekulaas I need to invest in some festive cookie shapes for next year.  Also, I think it would work well with a light chocolate glaze as an alternative to the icing sugar glaze.

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Lebkuchen Cookies

Lebkuchen Recipe

Working On The Lebkuchen Recipe

Working On The Lebkuchen Recipe

The ingredients bit:

250g / 9oz / 1¾ cups plus 1tbsp organic plain flour
85g / 3oz / ¾ cup ground almonds
2½tsp Steenbergs lebkuchen spice mix*
1tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
175ml / ¾ cup clear honey (or golden syrup)
85g / 3oz softened unsalted butter
½tbsp lemon juice (this is lemon from ½ lemon)
½ lemon, finely grated zest (or combine to 1 lemon zested)
½ orange, finely grated zest
Some flaked or half blanched almonds (optional)

For the icing:

100g / 4oz / 1 cup icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
1 egg white, beaten

The recipe part:

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Warm the honey and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter melts, then pour these into the flour mixture.  Add the lemon juice and lemon & orange zest.  Mix well with a hand held whisk until the dough is throughly combined.  Cover and leave to cool overnight, or for at least 2 hours. to let the flavours meld together and work that festive magic.

Heat oven to 180C/ 350F / Gas Mark 4.

Roll the lebkuchen dough in your hands into around 25 balls, each 3cm wide (1 inch wide), then flatten each one slightly into a disc.  Into the centre of the discs, place an almond flake. 

Divide the lebkuchen mixture between 3 baking trays lined with baking parchment, or ideally with an edible baking paper, with a decent amount of room for them to expand into.

Bake for 13 – 15 mins, or until when touched lightly no imprint remains, then cool on a wire rack.  While still warm, glaze the lebkuchen with the icing glaze, made as below.

Brush The Lebkuchen With Glazing Icing

Brush The Lebkuchen With Glazing Icing

While the cookies are baking, make your glazing icing: mix together the icing sugar and egg white to form a smooth, runny icing.

Brush the top of each biscuit with the glazing icing.  Leave to dry out.  I then glazed the top of the icing to give the lebkuchen a shinier lustre, but this is optional.

For the glaze, I took 100g (½ cup) caster sugar and 50ml (¼ cup) of water, melting these in a pan.  Then, I boiled the mix to 90C/200F, when I added 15g (1 tablespoon) of icing sugar.  This glaze was then bushed over the icing.  Granted that it is extra fussy, but then it is Christmas.

You should ideally, allow these Christmas cookies to mellow.  To do this, you should store the lebkuchen in an airtight container for a day or two to allow the flavours to mellow and the cookies to become softer.  To improve the flavours, you could include a few pieces of sliced orange or lemon, but make sure that they are not touching the lebkuchen as this will make them soggy and change the fruit every day to stop them going stale or mouldy.

* To make your own lebkuchen spice mix: ¼tsp ground cloves, ½tsp allspice powder, ½tsp nutmeg powder, 1¼tsp cinnamon

Recipe For Speculaas Biscuits – A Dutch Christmas Treat

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

One of my favourite Christmas cookies are spekulatius biscuits, or speculaas as they are called in the Netherlands.  I remember we always used to get a special parcel from Lebkuchen Schmidt in Nürmberg from my Granny.  In amongst all the beautiful tins and lebkuchen would be a few packs of their spekulatius cookies.  I loved their different shapes.

Then yesterday, our children had friends around before the School Christmas Disco, so to give them something creative to do between the pronouncements of “we’re bored – when is the party”, I made some spiced cookie dough using our Steenbergs koekkruidden spice mix and left the kids to cut out shapes.  Here are the recipes we tried; they are remarkably simple to make and the spice mix brings on those classic clove heavy aromas of the festive season.

Speculaas recipe – version 1

A Few Speculaas On A Plate

A Few Speculaas On A Plate


200g / 7oz self-raising flour
100g / 3½ oz light brown caster sugar
100g / 3½ oz softened butter
2-3 tbsp full milk
3tsp koekkruiden spices*
½ tsp baking powder
Zest of half an orange

For the top:

1 egg white, beaten
3tsp light brown caster sugar
2tbsp flaked almonds 

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F. Grease a baking tray.

Mix together all the ingredients in a mixer or blender until throughly mixed together.  Shape the dough into a ball and cover the dough ball with clingfilm and set aside for 1 hour in a cool place.

Flour a work surface and press the dough into an even, flat layer.  Using a cutter, cut shapes from the dough and place on the greased baking tray.

Brush with the egg white, then sprinkle with light brown caster sugar and flaked almonds on top of each speculaas biscuit.

Bake for 14-18 minutes and the biscuits are turning a slightly darker shade of brown. Remove from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Speculaas Recipe – Version 2

This recipe for St Nicholas Spiced Shortbread is based on a recipe from Elisabeth Luard’s excellent book – “European Festival Food”.  In it, Elisabeth Luard writes “Speculaas moulds themselves are made of wood – traditionally beech, pear, or walnut – shallow and relief-carved on the same principle as those used for Scottish shortbread.  They are usually 6 – 12 ins/15 – 30cm long and feature the Bishop himself, his donkey, or his servant Black Peter.  Smaller ones might be evergreen leaves and Christmas wreaths or little figures of children.”  We had none of these so just used normal cookie cutters, but I might invest in something for next year as these are really easy to make.

Round Christmas Cookies

Round Christmas Cookies - Speculaas


250g / 8½ oz self raising flour
125g / 4½ oz light brown caster sugar
3tsp koekkruiden spice mix*
50g / 1¾ oz ground almonds
100g / 3½ oz softened butter
1 egg, lightly whisked
1tbsp full milk

For the top:

1 egg white, beaten
3tsp light brown caster sugar
Flaked almonds
 (I bashed them a bit in a mortar and pestle to make them a better shape)

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F. Grease a baking tray.

Mix together all the ingredients in a mixer or blender until throughly mixed together.  I used the “K” blade on the Kenwood Mixer.  Shape the dough into a ball and cover the dough ball with clingfilm and set aside for 1 hour in a cool place.

Flour a work surface and press the dough into an even, flat layer.  Using a cutter, cut shapes from the dough and place on the greased baking tray.

Brush with the egg white, then sprinkle with light brown caster sugar and flaked almonds on top of each speculaas biscuit.

Bake for 14 – 18 minutes and the cookies are turning a slightly darker shade of brown. Remove from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

* To make your own koekkruidden spice mix: ½tsp ground cloves, ½tsp allspice powder, 1tsp cardamom powder, 1tsp cinnamon

My Most Well Worn Cookbooks

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

I don’t know whether it is when you really learned how to cook that determines what are your favourite books, or whether some books are just better than others.  However, I noticed recently how I still keep on going back to a few cookery books that I have simply had for ages.  They are really well worn, with the stains of tried and tested dishes on really special and popular recipes.

For me, the classics that I still find irreplaceable are: “Floyd on France“, “Floyd on Britain and Ireland“, Sophie Grigson’s “Meat Course“, a few books by Maddhur Jaffrey’s “Indian Cookery”, and then I use Elisabeth Luard’s “European Peasant Cookery”, Reader’s Digest “Farmhouse Cookery”.  Then for Christmas and other special occasions, I turn to – Claire MacDonald’s “Celebrations” and Delia Smith’sChristmas” for inspiration.

I’ve got stacks of cookery books, but were I to go to a desert island these are the books that I would take with me, plus perhaps some books by Ray Mears, so I would be actually be able to build a shelter, forage for food and practise my survival skills.

What books could you not live without?

North Yorkshire Beef Stew

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
Yesterday, I had a cracking headache, so decided that a warm kitchen and some homely fare was what was needed.  I went out early to the Newby Hall Farm Shop and chose some decent looking braising steak that had a good colour, together with a lovely amount of marbling.  Then, I bought some cream, some shallots and some pears.  Back home, I put the radio on to listen to the football and cook.  It was a good listen as Newcastle drew with Manchester United – sometimes the luck falls the right way.

As for what to do with the beef, I decided to start with the idea of beouf à la bourguignonne, however our kids do not like onions, or at least they do not like to see the onions that they are given.  So a true beef bourguignon was not on the cards as these need some baby onions plus we need to dilute the winey flavours a little by adding some cream – that certainly does not make it less rich, but it does take some of the boozey notes out of the stew.

For those wondering about the pears, I stewed them in Madeira on the lines of my Pears In Rooibos, Vanilla And Saffron Recipe.

North Yorkshire Beef Stew

1.5kg / 3lb Braising steak, cut into 2cm cubes (the key is a decent amount of marbling on well-hung beef)
5 Slices streaky bacon, cut into 1cm cubes
25g /1 dessert spoon Unsalted butter
2tbsp Olive oil
250g / 8 oz / 5 large shallots, finely chopped
2 Garlic cloves, finely sliced
250g / 8 oz Button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
4tbsp + 1tbsp Olive oil
5 Sprigs of thyme
2 Bay leaves
1 Handful of “proper” fresh parsley, finely chopped (not the flat leaved stuff)
10 Red peppercorns
1 bottle / 750ml Red wine
200ml / 7 fl oz Madeira
Salt & black pepper, to taste
200ml / 7 fl oz cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 160C/ 300F.

Ina a heavy bottomed frying pan, melt the unsalted butter and olive oil together.  When hot, add one-third of the steak and brown off, turning when a side has become sealed.  When the steak is sealed, transfer with a slotted spoon or fork to an ovenproof plate and keep warm in the oven.  Continue to brown off the steak pieces until all have been sealed. 

While you are browning the braising steak, prepare the stock.  In a heavy bottomed casserole, add the 4tbps of olive oil and heat up.  Over a medium heat, sweat the escallions (shallots) and garlic until translucent.  When cooked remove with a slotted spoon and place on an ovenproof dish and keep warm in the oven. 

Add a little extra olive oil if needed and heat up the oil, then tip in the button mushrooms and sauté in the olive oil.  Fry until lightly browned.

Take the cooked shallots and garlic and return these to the casserole, mixing into the browned mushrooms.  Add the red wine, Madeira, herbs, salt and spices.  Place a lid on the pot and heat up to simmering point.

Transfer the sealed braising steak to the casserole pot and heat the stock until simmering.  Take the casserole off the hob and transfer to the oven.  Cook for 3 hours.  At the end of the oven cook, remove from the oven and stir in the cream; this is optional as real boeuf bourguignon does not contain cream, but I like it.

North Yorkshire Beef Stew

North Yorkshire Beef Stew

Mint Choc Cupcakes

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Weren’t we all brought up on the luxury of After Eights or Elizabeth Shaw Mint Crisps or Matchmakers, those quintessentially 1970s pieces of sophistication?  Or was it just me?  So using our new mintier Organic Peppermint Extract, I decided to create these Mint Choc Cupcakes that bring together the luxury of chocolate cupcakes with a 1970s feel of mintiness coming from the peppermint flavours in the cake, chocolate topping and then sprinkled Matchmakers over the top.

Simple, delicious and so retro.

Mint Choc Cupcakes By Axel Steenberg

Mint Choc Cupcakes By Axel Steenberg

Mint Choc Cupcakes

80g / 2¾oz organic butter (at room temperature)
175g / 1 cup / 6oz Fairtrade caster sugar
1 large free range egg (at room temperature)
170g / 1 cup / 6oz organic self raising flour
1tbsp Fairtrade organic cocoa powder
100ml / ⅓ cup full fat milk
1tsp Steenbergs organic peppermint extract
150g / 5¼oz Fairtrade milk chocolate
50ml / ¼ cup double cream
¼tsp Steenbergs organic peppermint extract
Some Matchmakers or other crispy mint chocolate

1.  Preheat the oven to 160C / 320F.  Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake papers.

2.  Using an electric hand whisk cream together the butter and caster sugar until light.  Add the large egg and mix well.

3.  Add the self raising flour and cocoa in two halves and mix in thoroughly.  Add the milk and Steenbergs Organic Peppermint Extract until well mixed in.

4.  Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake papers.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until firm to touch.  Allow to cool for a couple of minutes then cool on a wire rack.  They must be totally cool before putting on the topping.

5.  Over a pan of boiling water, melt the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Allow to cool a little, then thoroughly mix in the cream, the Steenbergs organic peppermint extract and allow to cool and thicken.

6.  Spread the chocolate frosting neatly over the cupcakes, then decorate with broken Matchmakers or other peppermint crisp.

Lamb Stew With Rosemary & Lemon

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

I was pottering around the shops the other day and their was some good looking shoulder of lamb.  They called out to me “Cook me, take me”, so I asked the butcher for them and popped them in the basket.  Back at home, I found some lemons that need using up, picked some rosemary from the garden, then set to it. 

The key on this versatile stew is to cook long and slow, which gives time for the collagen and tougher bits on these cuts of lamb to break down, while the fat keeps the meat deliciously moist.  It  tastes even better if you cook it slowly one day, then come back to it the next night, when the flavours really do infuse throughout the meat.  The other thing is the temperature of 160C, since as the lamb gets to this temperature the collagen liquifies into gelatin, giving the meat that “melt-in-the-mouth” tenderness, as well as killing off any bugs that might be in the meat.

Lamb Stew With Rosemary & Lemon

2kg / 4½lb stewing lamb, ideally on the bone – shoulder is good
6tbsp olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
1 glass of dry white wine
2tbsp fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
2 cinnamon quills
Salt & pepper

Prepare the lamb if it is shoulder by cutting off most of the meat and chopping into 2cm x 2cm (1 inch x 1 inch) cubes.  Keep some of the meat on the bone as this will become easy to cut off after cooking.  Put the meat pieces and bones into a large pot.

Add the olive oil, juice of the lemons and glass of white wine to the meat.

Add the cinnamon quills, chopped rosemary, one or two grinds of black pepper and a pinch of salt.  Give it all a stir around.

Lamb Stew Before Cooking

Lamb Stew Before Cooking

Put the oven on to 160C / 320F.  Put the lid onto the pot, then heat the meat over a gentle heat on the hob, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Open the lid, give the stew a stir, then replace the lid and put into the oven.  Cook for 2 – 3 hours.

Lamb Stew With Lemon And Rosemary

Lamb Stew With Lemon And Rosemary

Either eat straight away or the next day.  Serve with rice (we had saffron rice) and vegetables, then use some freshly baked bread to soak up any of the dripping on your plate.

Gorgeous and so, so very simple.

A Couple Of Simple Recipes Using Steenbergs Peppermint Extract

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Using Steenbergs relaunched organic peppermint extract, I made a few peppermint flavoured sweets the other evening for a Diwali meal that we were treated to by some good friends.  They are really simple and quite delicious; the hostess loved the Peppermint Chocolate Biscuit Cake the most, but none of these sweets was left over by the end.

Peppermint Creams

Peppermint Creams

Plate Of Peppermint Creams

450g / 1lb organic icing sugar, sifted
125ml / ½ cup condensed milk
4-5tsp Steenbergs Organic peppermint extract
200g/ 7oz dark chocolate

Sieve the icing sugar into a mixing bowl, then add the condensed milk.  Mix the condensed milk thoroughly into the icing sugar.  To mix it in use a spoon and your fingers to mix it through.

Then add the Steenbergs Organic Peppermint Extract and work the peppermint flavour thoroughly through the mix.

Roll the peppermint cream mix out on a clean surface until about 4mm thick.  Using a small circular cutter of around 1.5cm in diameter, cut out circles and leave these on a plate or piece of baking parchment.  Leave to dry out for about 1 hour.

Melt the dark chocolate over a pan of boiling water, then dip the peppermint circles into the melted chocolate to half cover the peppermint.  Place onto some baking parchment to let the peppermint creams cool down and harden.

Peppermint Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Peppermint Flavoured Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Peppermint Biscuit Cake

160g / 5½oz butter
4tbsp golden syrup
16 digestive biscuits
200g / 7oz milk chocolate
1tsp Steenbergs Organic peppermint extract

Grease a small baking tray then line the base with some baking parchment.

Break the digestive biscuits into crumbs (easiest to do this in a plastic bag tied at end, then bash with rolling pin).

Put the butter and golden syrup in a heavy bottomed pan and melt together over a low heat.  Add the broken biscuit crumbs to the butter syrup and mix well.  Scoop into baking tray and press into the tray.  Chill in fridge.

Break the milk chocolate into a bowl and gently melt them over a pan of simmering water.  Remove the bowl from the pan carefully (it will be hot).  Allow the melted chocolate to cool for 5 minutes, add the Steenbergs Organic Peppermint Extract and mix into the chocolate and then spread over biscuit base.  Chill in fridge.

Turn out the biscuit cake, then cut into 2cm x 2cm squares.

Four Days In Munich – Some Traditional Restaurants (19 – 22 August 2011)

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

I went to Munich with our eldest, Jay, the other weekend ostensibly to show him Germany and visit my aunts and uncle.  However, we managed to sneak in a match at the Alliance Arena between FC Bayern Műnchen and Hamburger SV, where Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and team blew Hamburger apart 5:0 and should have had more and the Boulder World Cup 2011 at the Olympia Stadium.  The weather was blisteringly hot at 35oC in the day and 25oC at night; way too hot for country boys from the North of England.  We enjoyed ice creams on the Starnberger See and lolled around the Ungererbad in Munich.  We were not the only people suffering as the locals were packed like sardines along the shoreline of the Starnberger See and covered almost all the lawns and edges of the swimming pools at the Ungerer Bad.

But it was the changes that struck me more than the heat.  I have been coming to Bayern all my life, yet have not been back for maybe 7 or 8 years, seeming to go to Nűrnberg, which while technically part of Bavaria is so very different – a bit like North Yorkshire being significantly different culturally from South Yorkshire, i.e. same county but different ways of life.  Everyone was more cosmopolitan in style, so where the Bavarian style of dressing had its own look which often seemed jarring – bright orange jackets, dark grey trousers and white socks – nowadays the way of dressing was international urban chic, so the young could almost have been from any US or British TV show.  Yes, there were still a few people wearing lederhosen and dirndls, but they were largely for tourists or dressing up for special occasions like some young ladies out for a hen party that we saw at the Chinesischer Turm in the Englischer Garten.  However, this change in style did mask little difference in racial make-up which was largely white German with a smattering of Turkish and Vietnamese, but few African, Chinese or Indian.  So while in London, you get every language being spoken, in Munich it remains a German sound, albeit with a thick Bavarian accent.  Another example of our shrinking world was the ice creams we had from a kiosk by the Starnberger See, where the ice cream was sold in as local (which it probably was), but is actually made by part of Richmond Ice Cream via Roncardin Ice Cream that is based near us in North Yorkshire and is now the largest private label ice cream manufacturer in Europe – Jamie Lambert has come a really long way since he set it up as a way to utilise the excess milk available in the UK and won a contract from own label ice cream with a small, but growing Morrisons Supermarket.  The local mineral waters are all owned by Nestlé.

Nuernberger Glockl Am Dom

Nuernberger Glockl Am Dom

Then there was the change in cuisine.  Speaking to my aunts and uncle, they have said that most of the traditional restaurants have shut and opened as ethnic restaurants with the ubiquitous burger bars, pizzerias, Chinese, Indian and Turkish restaurants.  There are fewer local style restaurants about, but the tourist driven ones like the Hofbräuhaus and Nűrnberger Bratwurst Glockl am Dom will probably survive.  We wandered through the Hofbrauhaus, enjoying looking at the huge hall upstairs with vaulted roof, and ate 8 bratwursts with sauerkraut at one of the tables outside.  My father and mother ate 4 weiβwűrst, which were lovely but I was not in the mood.  The good bratwűrsts were excellent, but 2 of them were charred to hell by the chef, who was cooking them without much love or care over a barbecue inside, which was disappointing as was the brusque service and a refusal to give us some potatoes with the sausages.

Nurnberger Sausages With Sauerkraut

Nurnberger Sausages With Sauerkraut

Osterwaldgarten Restaurant In Munich

Osterwaldgarten Restaurant In Munich

We stayed at the Hotel Biederstein in Schwabing, so we ate a few suppers at Osterwaldgarten, which is another traditional restaurant, where we once again ate outside.  Here, we had several delicious simple meals, including: schnitzel, fried potatoes and salad; pfifferlinge and lightly-fried Serrano ham salad and baked saubling with fries and salad.  The beer is Franziskaner and Spaten beer.  All were delicious, the atmosphere was wonderful and friendly (geműtlich) and genuine rather than the slightly touristy style of the restaurants in the centre of Munich.

This style of cuisine was continued at Sankt Emmerams, which is on the northern side of the Englischen Garten.  This is on the site of an old mill that was here from the 1400s until 1866 when the owners started selling beer and breads, then by 1890 it had become closer to its current style of restaurant.  Here, we ate: roast pork in dark beer sauce (dunkelbier) with potato knodel and cabbage with speck salad; roast shoulder of pork in dark beer sauce, potato knődel and salad and roast duck with knodel and red cabbage.  All washed down with Franziskaner weiβbier, Spaten pils and spezi – a Bavarian speciality of cola mixed with orangeade, which is delicious yet curiously not drunk elsewhere.  Sankt Emmerams is an excellent location, hidden away from tourists.  On the downside, the food was heavy on the salt, especially the jus, but the pork and duck were excellent, while the potato knodel were fine, even if still an acquired taste.

On the Sunday, we took the S-Bahn out to Starnberg.  Usually, we go on to Tutzing and enjoy a meal at the Hotel Am See in Tutzing.  From Starnberg, we took the short round trip, alighting at Leoni near to where mad-King Lűdwig died in mysterious circumstances while swimming the lake in 1886.  The Starnberger See is a gorgeous lake and so close to central Munich.  You have the Alps lurking in mysterious blue towards the South, then all manner of different boats floating around the lake from motorboats to sailboats, or canoes and stand-up surfboards.  We ate at the Seehotel Leoni which is a fabulous luxury hotel right on the lake.  Kids were diving off the side of the hotel balcony and from the wooden piers into the lake, and having a whale of a time.  We ate: gazpacho; spaghetti with tiger prawns; homecured herrings with apple (Matjesfilet mit Apfelspalten) and new potatoes; and renke (a local lake species close to trout) on tabouleh with courgettes.  The cuisine was mostly nouvelle Bayern cuisine, bringing local ingredients and local food to a more modern style.  Light, tasty and exciting.  We liked it all.

Marinaded Herrings With Apple Plus New Potatoes And Salad

Marinaded Herrings With Apple Plus New Potatoes And Salad

Renke With Courgettes On Tabouleh

Renke With Courgettes On Tabouleh

For me, Seehotel Leoni showed me some of the way.  What makes Bayern special is its local culture and food, created by its traditional isolation, adherence to its own culture (for good and ill) and the Alpine climate.  It must keep what is unique, but modernise wherever necessary and possible, so if this means renke direct from the Starnberger See that is good, or roast pork in dunkelbier jus that is perfect, but where it falls flat is when you get burnt bratwurst with bad service and a unbalanced plate or too much salt in the gravy.  In much the same way that Britain has rediscovered its traditional food heritage, so must Bavaria play to its strengths – excellent beer, great freshwater fish and pork, sometimes amazing sausages – and reduce the times it fails like the barely warm, industrial bockwurst and bratwurst that we had at the Kleinehesseloher See or the Ungerer Bad.  McDonalds and KFC are here to stay, but not all of us want to eat industrial food that has no soul.

The Better Supermarket Beefs In The UK – More Thoughts On Burger Making

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

For the supermarkets, I have reviewed their offerings (see below) and made an initial selection of meats, going for beef from Booths, Sainsbury’sTesco and Waitrose

Next, we needed to make some burgers from these suppliers, so I chose the following: from Booths, chuck and rib eye steaks; from Sainsbury’s, rib eye steak and braising steak; from Tesco, rib eye steak and casserole steak; and from Waitrose, rib eye steak and braising steak.  To these, I then made simple burgers following my core recipe from my blog earlier in July 2011 without the onions to let the meat speak for itself.  The meats were ground through a 4½mm mincer and shaped using the Italian burger press from Weschenfelder. 

Tasting Beefburgers Made From Supermarkets' Steak

Tasting Beefburgers Made From Supermarkets' Steak

They were lightly fried in deodourised sunflower oil then tasted with fork & knife rather than in bread rolls.  We tasted them en famille so the results are across ages and sexes and the ranking was Booths and Waitrose first equal then Sainbsury’s and last Tesco.  However, it is important to state that Booths, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose were clearly good with Tesco’s quality lagging a long way behind.

As for Booth’s and Waitrose, the differences were that Booths had the best general flavour and mouthfeel, while Waitrose had a deeper, richer flavour.  I reckon this was because the Waitrose meat was hung for longer and so had more beefiness coming through whereas for Booth’s I was able to get exactly the cuts that I desired, so perhaps the ideal is as I argued in my previous blogs for a 1:1 mix of chuck and rib eye that has been matured for 21 – 28 days rather than a relatively quick 14 days as was the case for Booths.

As an aside, we also taste tested Sainsbury’s versus Waitrose dry aged sirloin and the Sainsbury’s beef was a clear winner, so it is not a case of Booths & Waitrose being clear winners across the board nor was the older beef the better as Sainsbury’s was 21 day and Waitrose 28 day aged.

Review of supermarket beef

At Asda, the choice of beef was from British or Irish meat with most coming from Ireland.  Mince was Irish beef and £6.08 for 1kg (in 500g amounts) or 2 for £5, braising steak was £8.75/kg and rump steak £7.00/kg (currently down from £11.48/kg) and from Ireland.  In ribeye steak there was the biggest choice – organic (£16.99/kg), Irish 14 day matured (£14.49/kg), British (£15.00/kg) or Yorkshire Dales steak (£21.94/kg).  Overall, I was impressed that they had Yorkshire sourced beef and some organic, but too much was from Ireland rather than Britain and very little provenance was given.

At Booths, they have a good minced steak at £4.00 for 700g which is very good value compared to Morrisons in spite of Morrisons claiming to be the value store and Booths having the reputation for being expensive.  They have a much smaller selection than the big highstreet multiples but the quality is much better, and I went for a mix of traditional chuck steak (£8.00/kg) and rib eye steak (£20.00/kg) with marbling a little light at around 10%, but I compensated with some beef fat that I took off another sirloin steak.  The beef at the butcher’s counter is hung for 21 days, but the instore staff did not know whether the steaks in the chillers were the same age, but presumed they could be.  If you go to one of their stores, try and get their 28 days National Trust beef, which often comes from Fountains Abbey for the Ripon store – it is just amazing kit and the best beef in any supermarket but that is for another blog.

At Morrisons, you can get either minced beef or steak, where I suggest that minced steak at £5.56/kg for 720g is a good bet or for the Butcher’s Mince at £6.99/kg.  Alternatively, you could buy from the Family Butcher rib eye steak (£14.49/kg) and braising steak (£7.99/kg) then cube them both up and grind them at home.  We tried their The Best Scotch Beef Quarter Pounder Burgers and they were tough, rubbery and full of gristle, plus lots of liquid came out during the cooking process, which left me feeling mighty suspicious.  Anyway one of the key reasons to make you own burgers is to look at the ingredients: beef (86%), breadcrumbs, beef fat, roasted onions, seasoning, then the horrors of sodium metabisulphite (horrible stuff!), sodium ascorbate and trisodium citrate.  Note that all supermarkets use heavy preservatives as they need to maximise the length in store to minimise wastage, so all superamrkets use these nasty chemicals.

For Sainsbury’s, there was beef mince (£4.40/kg), braising steak (£8.75/kg), Taste the Difference rump steak (£13.99/kg), sirloin (standard = £19.99/kg; 21 day dry aged Taste the Difference = £21.99/kg), rib eye steak in various guises – scotch beef (£16.30/kg); North Highland rib eye (£20.40/kg) and 21 day dry aged Taste the Difference (£23.99/kg).

At Tesco, there was steak mince (£5.74/kg) or organic beef mince (£5.75/kg)casserole steak from Britain or Ireland (£8.00/kg or £9.00/kg at the butcher’s counter even though it looked the same style of beef), rump steak (£11.79/kg for standard and £13.49/kg for Tesco Finest), sirloin (standard = £15.97/kg; Tesco Finest = £15.99/kg; organic sirloin £17.99/kg), rib eye steak in various guises – standard beef (£14.49/kg)Tesco Finest (£13.00/kg – should be £15.99/kg per but was mispriced in store at £13.00/kg so I got a bargain) and organic rib eye (£16.00/kg).

At Waitrose, there was beef mince from Aberdeen Angus cattle in 10% fat and 20% fat forms, with the 20% being £6.58/kg and the most appropriate for making burgers; there is a beef mince that is organic at £13.16/kg for their Duchy Original brand.  There is an organic rump steak from Duchy Originals (£16.49/kg) and sirloin (£21.99/kg).  Non-organic beefs are Hereford diced braising steak (£10.47/kg), 14 days aged sirloin (£23.99/kg) and rib eye steak (£26.99/kg),  plus 28 day dry aged Aberdeen Angus beef from the butcher’s counter – sirloin (£25.99/kg) and rib eye steak (£26.99/kg).  The butcher at the counter in Harrogate was really helpful and the best of all the supermarkets for knowledge and courtesy.

I make no warranties or claims on pricing or availability in store.  They are provided as guides, but as I visited the supermarkets at different times and in different places, these could have gone up or down or done some somersaults while some products may even have been delisted.  Booths prices at 28/6/2011; Morrisons prices at 26/6/2011; on 1 July 2011, I got prices for Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.  I went to Harrogate for Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose; Ripon for Booths; Morrisons in Boroughbridge; and Tesco in Thirsk.