merry and bright

Clothes for two different climates have taken over my bed and there is a large suitcase staring at me from across the room. I guess it wants me to get to it. I am off for a very German Christmas in Saarland and then a very sunny New Year in Morocco.

May your travels this year be safe and delicious and your holidays merry and bright. Eat well, drink well, and be well. I will be back next year with more tales of breakfast, postcards, travels, and recipes. As always, thank you for joining me as I write my way through each year.



winter baked oatmeal with cranberries and pear

December is certainly a sneaky month. Hitting the half-way mark makes the whole month feel nearly over. Today, the third Advent, is a serious reminder that I need to frequent more Christmas markets, bake more cookies, and drink more mulled wine before January shows up.

Just like the Christmas markets, fresh cranberries will vanish with the start of the new year. The dried version is always hanging out in my pantry, but like most other dried fruits they feel like a distant relative as opposed to a sibling when compared to its fresh counterpart. Although dried cranberries are wonderful in rice and cookies, with yogurt and lentils, they just can't do the things that fresh cranberries can. Fresh cranberries love meat (beyond the usual suspect that is cranberry sauce and turkey, fresh cranberries are just as good with slowly braised beef). And as we all know, they are pretty wonderful in everything baked.

I've written about baked oatmeal before, but that recipe feels quite sober compared to Winter Baked Oatmeal with Cranberries and Pear. It actually did include both cranberries and pears; however, the cranberries were dried and the pear was cut into thin, humble matchsticks. That recipe also only served one. This one, however, has more fruit than oats and serves plenty (and even more if you double it). It feels like more of a celebration of winter fruit as opposed to an effort to jazz up your regular morning oatmeal.
Cranberries and pears are a classic pairing, and one that I am not going to try to come in between. Cranberries are the sour to a pear's sweetness.

This baked oatmeal has everything going for it - it is a little sweet and a little salty, it is custardy, but also crunchy. Thanks to the cranberries, it is also a little sour, but just a little. So, sweet, sour, salty, creamy and crunchy - is there anything else you could possible want from your breakfast oatmeal? I think not. Hell, this is so good you could even serve it for dessert - just call it a Custardy Cranberry and Pear Crumble. 
Although this might seems like a weekend breakfast, you can bake it, save the leftovers in the fridge and then simply reheat it in the oven the next day, or even the next, next day, thus making it the perfect breakfast to make on a Sunday and then enjoy during the week. 

Also, if your making this for a festive morning with friends and family (which you'll probably want to do), you can easily double the recipe. 

Winter Baked Oatmeal with Cranberries and Pear

serves 4


150 g fresh cranberries (1 1/2 cups)
2 large pears, chopped into cubes
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup + 1 tbsp
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 tsp coconut oil, room temperature + a knob for greasing the dish

Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C / gas mark 4.

Grease a baking dish with coconut oil and in the baking dish, mix together the cranberries and chunks of pear.

In a small bowl, mix together the rolled oats, a pinch of sea salt, baking powder, and ground ginger. 

In another bowl (or measuring cup), mix together the milk, egg, vanilla extract and 1/4 cup maple syrup.

In a third small bowl, mix together the walnuts, coconut oil, 1 tbsp maple syrup and a large pinch of coarse sea salt until the walnuts are well coated (use your hands if you like).

Pour the rolled oat mixture over the cranberries and pear and make sure it is spread evenly. Next, pour the wet mixture evenly over the oats. Finally, top the oatmeal with the sweet and salty walnut mix. 

Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes. The walnuts should be lightly golden and crispy and the oatmeal should be set. Underneath the layer of oats, you should see the cranberries bubbling very temptingly. Let cool slightly and then serve.

If you have leftovers, cover the dish and store in the refrigerator. The oatmeal keeps for about four days in the fridge. To reheat, preheat the oven to 275 F / 135 C / gas mark 1 and bake for about 10-12 minutes.



postcards from paris

Sometimes eating is easier than talking and dancing comes more natural than thinking. Words are my go-to medium, but that doesn't mean that they are always there when I need them. Just because they are often effortless, doesn't mean that they don't require me to work. And to work hard.

This post isn't about Paris. I already told you about how the city treated me. Instead, it is about postcards. However, it isn't about how postcards represent a particular place. Instead, it is about their length. A postcard is shorter than a letter, but always long enough to make you feel thought of, remembered, loved.

So dear reader, I'll be back soon and I'll be back with lots of words. Those words will be about a breakfast that is worthy enough of Christmas day (but also good for every winter day). They will also be about Amsterdam. And there will probably be some words about the best hotel breakfasts I know. And I certainly hope that there will be some about Christmas cookies too.

But for now, let's toast to what is short and sweet (like weekend trips). May your December be cozy and bright.  


between wine and coffee: paris

In addition to catching my second cold this fall, I keep catching the travel bug. I blame it on Korea. My diagnosis at first might sound strange, but there was something about all of the adventures I had there that made me want to always be on the road. 

And to be more specific, being in Korea made me want to go Paris. Don't get me wrong. This lust for Paris had nothing to do with what I thought of Korea. You could never compare Seoul and Paris. As the Germans say, they are two different pairs of shoes; however, Korea loves Paris. It loves the city's skyline, its pastries, and its je ne sais quoi. Even small Korean cities have chain bakeries inspired by France, such as Paris Baguette, and a lot of Korean stationary pretends to be French.  

Because food is increasingly a field I work in (or at least work with occasionally) and not just one that I obsess over, it the now often the last thing I read about before going to bed. Okay, this is true for before as well. 

Currently Adam Gopnik's Table Comes First is my companion for my commute to work and the voice that tucks me in before calling it a night. The book researches exactly what I just described. What makes us so obsessed with food? Why do we care about it more now than ever before? Why do we want to read about it and not just eat it?

The first section is devoted to the two dominant forces when it comes to food, the two Rs - restaurants and recipes. Addressing the first, "who made the restaurant?" he asks. Well, simply put the answer is Paris. So on to the next question: How was the restaurant made? Well, the answer is one of the first laws that was made after the revolution by the National Assembly in 1789, which allowed for wine, spirits and coffee to be sold at the same place. Gopnik argues, in a nutshell, that the concept of the restaurant is simply the filling of a sandwich and that its bread is wine and coffee.

His wording is much more eloquent: "For modern restaurant cooking is first and foremost a boat that, as in a Saul Steinberg drawing, steams its way downriver from the thousand dreamy islands of alcohol to the wide beckoning current of caffeine, from the stress-busting drink to the reawakening demitasse . . . A modern meal is a drama unfolding between the Opening Drink and the Concluding Coffee, with the several acts passing between the libations.(33)"

All of this is to say that my weekend in Paris, already two weekends ago, certainly felt like a boat ride that gently rocked back and forth between wine and coffee. I ate well. I drank well. And I felt well. 

I ate white chocolate bread from 134 rtd. It was so good that I took off my gloves, let the cold air nibble at my fingers and ate it for breakfast while walking around the Marais. It was so good that I brought a small loaf back to Munich.

I drank Poilly Fumé and feasted on oysters in the afternoon. Another lunch was a salad of humble mixed greens that were made less humble with chicken liver and thin slices of mango.

For dinner I ate a buckwheat galette with pear and blue cheese and I washed it down with cidre. Another night I went to Le Mary Celeste, where I am lucky enough to a) know the chef and b) to have discovered that tamarind is the best thing that has ever happened to endives. Here I also learned that smoked salt makes a great cocktail even greater.

 Because it was Paris, I made sure to pay just as much attention to the sweet as to the savoury. A chocolate and pistachio escargot from Du Pain et Des Idées. A bacon and prune pastry. Chocolate and foie gras (!) macarons from Pierre Hermé. A matcha and chocolate chip cookie from Bob's Juice Bar. Pain au chocolate. Hot chocolate and apple strudel from a Jewish bakery. 

Back to that theory about wine and coffee and the origins of the restaurant - Gopnik writes that alcohol is a myopic drug. "A little glass of wine, and all there is in the world is the date and the table . . . the world and its stresses flee for a moment into a vague blur of the background. Caffeine, on the other hand, is the far-sighted drug. Several sips of cafe noir and the sipper feels charged up, the corners of the cafe gleam, and we look around the room, ready to take on the world again.(35)" Wine opens the curtain that reveals the meal and coffee is what draws it shut again.

Luckily days in Paris never have their curtains drawn completely. Paris always makes time for a good meal. It is a city where food never fails to perform well and that is what makes it always so hard to leave. 


a little spicy, a little sweet, and very nuts

It is that time of year when photographing food becomes difficult at best and impossible at worst. I am not sure when the last time was I saw the sun, but that should tell you enough why things have been quiet around here, recipe wise. Even at midday the light in my apartment just isn't enough. Daylight doesn't exist independent of electricity around here and nothing kills the potential of a good food photograph more than artifical light (not even to mention the serial killer that is flash). 

Do you know where your sunshine is? I'm employing substitution and am using fresh flowers to light up my apartment. They also do a good job at lighting up a photograph, but a food photograph is another story.  

Excuses, excuses - I know. But do trust my word that despite the lack of sunlight and the general busyness that has been my day-to-day as of late, there is a list of recipes I would like to share. It is short, I admit, but this blog is just as much about making food as it is about traveling and eating food.

So in celebration of craziness (both in terms of crazy schedules and crazy-making greyness), let's talk about nuts. Spicy and sweet nuts. The type of nuts that you can roast and dress up anyway you please. Rosemary? Honey? Maple syrup? Olive oil? Chipotle? Sea salt? Smoked Salt? Cayenne Pepper? Cumin? Like I said, anyway you please. And beyond how they taste and look, they are the perfect snack. Serve them to friends for aperitivo. Eat them when you are on the metro and find yourself looking desiringly at the sad sandwiches fast-food-bakeries sell. Snack on them when you are craving something sweet. Snack on them when you are craving something salty. Throw them into a salad to make it a little sexier. Put them in a jar, tie a ribbon around it and give them as a gift.

I've been making different versions of spiced toasted nuts for years and this version is the one I like best. I never turn down an opportunity to use maple syrup, so my Canadian pride and joy is what makes these nuts sweet. Same goes with rosemary. 

Also, this recipe easily doubles and triples if you find yourself in need of lots and lots of spiced nuts. 

Rosemary and Maple Nuts

makes 3 cups


3 cups mixed nuts (I usually go with cashews, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts)
3 tbsp maple syrup
1.5 tbsp olive oil
large pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary, plus more if desired

 Preheat oven to 350F / 180C / gas mark 4.

In a bowl combine all of the ingredients and toss well, making sure to coat the nuts evenly. Line a baking sheet with baking paper, and spread the nuts on the sheet in a single layer.

Roast for 20 minutes, or until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Stir once or twice in between to make sure that the nuts are evenly browned. Remove from the oven. Let cool slightly and then taste. If desired, add more salt and more fresh rosemary. Toss well.

Serve the nuts while they are still warm, or wait for them to cool. Once the nuts are cool, transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature.




As more and more independent food magazines pop up, there are certainly a few that stick out from the bunch. Gather Journal is one of them. It is nerdy and charming. It is also nice to look at and to cook from. Each recipes comes with a story - anything from historical remedies for hang-overs to the invention of punch, and from awkward romances to classic summer films. 

Their 2014 Fall/Winter issue is out today. "Cocoon" it is called and it is an ode to all that is cozy and warm, as well as silky and transformative.
I'm thrilled and then some (and then even some more) to be a part of this issue. Pick up a copy here and read my article about food and texture.
May your autumn be silky and warm.


the good life

I ate cucumber sandwiches three days in a row this week - in other words, I've been busy and it hasn't been in the kitchen. 

Last weekend I was drinking prosecco with lunch and cicchetti bar hopping in Venice. I went back to my favourite fish market - Rialto - and feasted my eyes on the selection and then my tummy on a fish cooked in a parcel of parchment paper. The weekend before that I was in Berlin. I was there just long enough to get out of the city to snack on pickles and kayak through Spreewald. Two short but sweet trips. Sweet food and sweet friends.

And next weekend I'm off to the city of macarons and raw, salted butter. I'm off to eat my way through Paris - a city that is hard not to love and one that I haven't seen in far too long.

I'll be back soon with a recipe, but for now I'll just say that life is good. And I hope that your weekend is too. 


the black and white world of truffles

Exactly this time last year I was in Venice. This year I keep photographing the reddest of leaves as if it has been years since I've seen fall. "But I was in Italy last fall," I say to myself and then it makes sense. Venice is a city of bridges and canals, of prosecco and risotto, of chandeliers and shutters. It is not a city of trees.

However, it doesn't take long to drive out of Venice to experience the Italian fall at all its glory and in a couple of weeks it will be a year ago since I did that precisely. Fall in Italy means forest floors weighed down by chestnuts. It means fresh olive oil that is monster green and tastes fruity. It means a new wine season and, perhaps most mysteriously, it means hunting for white truffles.
I'm happy to share that the article that I wrote for the first issue of Honest Cooking Magazine - "The Black and White World of Truffles" - is now available to read on their website. So all of you without iPads (ironically, myself included), you can read the article here.

Because life travels in loops and circles, I'm actually headed back to Venice this weekend. The city might not be a place to hunt for truffles or to watch the leaves turn from gold to rust, but it is a city well worth a visit no matter the season. 

* * * * *

In other news, I'm thrilled to announce that I've been nominated for the 2013 Canadian Weblog Awards in two categories: Ex-pat and Food & Drink. Since the awards are judged by a jury, instead of asking you to vote for me, I'll ask you to do as the Germans do and press your thumbs for good luck. Danke!


the speed of gratification: fig and walnut jam

Autumn is the most charming season I know. Fruity olive oil that is so fresh that it is verges on being an alarming shade of green. Newly bottled wine (including wine so young that it hasn't even been corked). Crisp apples and plump figs. It is probably the most romantic season as well. 

To celebrate autumn, figs, and romance, I highly suggest that you make some fig jam with walnuts, lavender and thyme. It is as dreamy as it sounds and will surely sweep anyone you serve it to (including yourself) off their feet. It is the kind of jam that you'll eat spread on whatever bread or toast you can find (who am I kidding? you'll even eat it straight out of the jar). Standing up in the kitchen and licking that spoon clean, you'll feel pretty smitten with yourself.  

The gratification of cooking operates at very different speeds. Sometimes that gratification is slow, like a jar of pickles or kimchi that need a good week before you can grab a fork and dig in. Other times it is instant, like the 20 minutes it takes to make cacio e pepe. And with jam, it is somewhere in between. You can eat it right away, but you can also save it and eat it six months from now when the trees are nearly unrecognizable compared to how they looked before.

I halved the original recipe, another gem from My New Roots, and used maple syrup instead of honey (as I may be poor in honey - and money - but I'm very rich in maple syrup at the moment with no less than 4 liters of unopened bottles).

The flavours of this jam are subtle, but pleasant. A few years ago, a friend had me over for dinner and made a full Fergus Henderson menu: bone marrow served with toast, parsley salad, and a red salad. The red salad came with a healthy dollop of creme fraiche. My friend repeated Fergus's instructions for the creme fraiche: it should be just next to the salad like a friend, he described, and not on top of it like a lover. This description also applies to the flavours of this jam. However, if you'd prefer a more lover than friend relationship between these flavours, I say go for it. Double the thyme. Double the lavender. Add more walnuts. Go all in. But for now, I'm happy if they're just friends.    

Fig Jam with Walnuts, Thyme and Lavender

adapted from My New Roots

makes about 1 cup


1 pound (450 g) figs
2 thyme branches, leaves only 
1/2 tsp dried lavender
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp walnuts, chopped

Wash and dry figs and cut off their stems. Leaving the skins on, chop them into small chunks.

Place a small plate in the freezer.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the figs, thyme, lavender, sea salt, and maple syrup. Turn on the heat and increase it gradually to a gentle simmer. Stir regularly while the mixture continues to simmer, breaking the pieces of fig down with a wooden spoon. Cook until the jam is thickened, the figs collapse and the flavours taste bright. The time will depend on the water content of your figs, but should take around 20-25 minutes.

Remove the plate from the freezer and spoon a small bit of jam on the plate. Return to the freezer and check it in about a minute. The jam should be firm (it won't gel); if not, cook it a bit longer.

Once cooked, lower the heat to very, very low and add the walnut. Stir regularly and cook for another five minutes.

Remove the jam from the heat and spoon into a clean, sterilized jar. The jam will keep in the fridge for two weeks. Alternatively, process the jar in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.



the korean food diaries, part II: savoury

I only spent one night in Busan, but it was enough to really taste the city with the world's fifth largest port. Food is obviously one of the biggest attractions for me when I'm traveling, and street food in specific. Perhaps this is because I grew up in Toronto where street food isn't much more than a hot dog with relish. Sure, food trucks have tried to revolutionize that, but - excuse me for being old fashioned here - food trucks are food trucks and street food is street food. They just aren't the same. 

Busan knows street food, which is part of why I warmed to the city in such a short time. That one night we wandered around and we ate. Close to the colossal fish market are alleys and alleys filled with food stalls. Dumplings and french fries, fruit smoothies and steamed dough curling around sticks dipped in soy sauce, sweet and fatty hoddeok, freshly rolled gimbap.  

Beyond the usual suspects, what made street food in Busan so good was the seafood. After snacking promiscuously, we sat down at one of dozens of fish stalls. Two men were to our right. Following Korean tradition, they poured each other glass after glass of soju and invited us to join in. They pointed at the tiger prawns and told the woman cooking at the stall to make us some too. While we waited, we ate orange slices and thick pieces of cucumber smothered with gochujang. We sipped our shot glasses of 1 euro soju and toasted the men. And then the tiger prawns arrived. It is no surprise that seafood tastes best when you have a view of the sea. We paid small change for a feast and just as we were finishing our soju, the men bought us two green melon ice pops from another food stall. Street food just brings out different possibilities.

Busan is obviously a seafood city, but so is all of Korea. The fish market in Seoul is just as colossal and a good place to hide away and spend all afternoon feasting on hweh (Korean sashimi) and spicy fish soups.  

In Italy, a drink is often shadowed by a small bowl of chips or pretzel sticks. In Korea, a drink comes with a bowl of dried anchovies. I am partial to chips, but anchovies as bar food made me realize that these dried fish are an equally good snack. From dried anchovies to raw fish to live octopus (yes, you read that right) and to grilled mackarel, Korea knows seafood.    

 And, obviously, it knows barbecue just as well. All of my expectations were met, and then some. Barbecue has never looked as sexy as it did in Seoul. Copper fans. Wood tables. Perfect cuts of beef.

But one my best meals was at a Buddhist temple in Gwangju, where the food was vegetarian, organic, and so, so good. There was nothing modest about this lunch. From wild mushroom and chestnut soup to a cold, cucumber vinegar soup, and from cold wild blackberries garnishing small potato dumplings to bibimbap made with the freshest vegetables, it was filling and luxurious.

Eating is very much a communal experience in Korea. Whether you are sitting on the floor or up tall on a chair, eating is done in groups, with company. It is an experience to share. And this I loved. If you want to eat alone, there is always street food and cafes, but barbecue is to be shared. Food is to be enjoyed together, with strangers and with family alike.

The island of Jeungdo, which I mentioned before, was the country's best surprise. In fact, I went there twice. It is the only designated slow food region in the country. Between dramatic strips of beach, there are fields of chiles, salt and plump looking vegetables. There are archways where heavy squash grow and hang. There are few restaurants on the island; instead, it is a place where people grow food and then cook that food themselves.

My first visit to Jeungdo, I was hard at work harvesting sea salt and then rewarding my harvest with salt ice cream. My second visit wasn't for the salt, but for the beach. I read, rolled across the waves of the water, and ate hamcho tempura. I would have never known that such an ordinary looking plant on the island could be transformed into crunchy and delicious tempura. But then again, most things are convincing as tempura. I even ate a tempura egg in Seoul.

I make pajeon now and then at home, but the one I ate just a stone's throw away from the border with North Korea proved that I had not yet mastered it. It was an intense day. I spent most of it on a bus and then the rest of it seeing an art exhibition that takes places in the demilitarized zone between North and South. Why the most militarized border wears the name demilitarized, I do not know. 

It is one thing to see a photograph of a soldier. It is another to see a soldier with a gun next to that photograph. It was intense and surreal, upsetting and, in some ways, inspiring, and now I associate pajeon with all of those things. 

The women with the food stand in the parking lot just before the border make pajeon everyday. They've mastered it and no matter what happens at that border and further north of it, they keep on flipping and frying those green onion pancakes. 

 My last week there, a friend asked me if I would recommend Korea to others. A lot of the people that I met there said that were likely not to. I wasn't sure how to answer. I have never traveled to a place that I haven't liked, but I think that is always a combination of destination and traveler. As they say, it takes two.

Korea felt both familiar and different. It surprised me with little things like raspberry wine and meals interrupted to eat raw, wild ginseng. It has some of the juiciest grapes I've tasted. It also comforted me with big bowls of fresh noodles in clam broth and serious barbecue sessions. Also, Korea is obsessed with sweet potatoes, and so am I.

Without a common language a lot of the time, the people were friendly and generous. From those men in Busan who gave me extra tiger prawns and a green melon ice pop to a farmer on Jeungdo island who picked a cucumber from her field and motioned that it was a gift, it was a country that made me feel welcomed and safe, but traveling there still felt like an adventure. And if I can't recommend that, then I'm not sure what I can. To feel both lost and looked after is a good way to travel and, of course, a good way to eat.    


to go for the first or for the last

Last week I found myself in my kitchen making a tomato sauce with four ingredients. Like so many others, I read about Marcella Hanzan's death and then opened a can of tomatoes, cut an onion in half, and threw the two into a pot with an indulgent amount of butter (and some people still spread the lie that Italians don't use butter . . .), added some salt and then called it dinner. This simple tomato sauce takes up a fair chunk of the legacy that she leaves behind. It is simplicity at its finest, which means that the whole is much, much more than the sum of its parts.

Well tonight I'm at it again. Because this sauce is so easy and basically makes itself (no chopping, barely any stirring, the most effort involved is occasionally poking at a collapsing tomato with a wooden spoon), I started to clean up the mess of post-it notes and grocery lists and receipts next to where I keep my cookbooks. Somewhere next to my grocery list from last week and a list of things I want to make this week, I found a recipe for Peach Ketchup. It was just the reminder I needed. I certainly did not forget about this peach ketchup. It is just that sometimes it takes me a while to get around to sharing a recipe, but I'm getting to it before its too late. And not only did I find that recipe - I also found a crumpled piece of paper that reminded me to tell you about the perfect peach jam. So here is to the last of the peaches. And here is to both savoury and sweet. Peach Ketchup and Perfect Peach Jam.

My local market makes it obvious what season it is, but no matter how orange the pumpkins are, I'm not budging. Not yet at least. As much as I'm tempted to bake them into pie and roast them into gratins (the former which I will inevitably do for Canadian Thanksgiving, I'm sure), I'm staying strong. This is because I know that it will be a long winter. And last winter was painfully long, so long that by the end of it I could no longer look at beets, and I love beets. It was just that the sight of a root vegetable made me want to scream. I know that I will eat my share of pumpkins this winter, which is why I'm holding onto summer produce a little bit longer. 

It is definitely the very, very end of peach season. There are still a good supply hanging out at my local markets, but I know that their days are numbered, which is why I think this is really the best time to get canning. When peaches first showed up in the summer, the temperatures were in the 30s. I was too busy drinking Bellini and making peach salads to even consider making them into jam. Canning is all above preserving the flavours of one season to eat in another. So when is the best time to make peach jam? At the start of the peach season (when we're just so excited to see them and want to make sure they last forever), or at their season's very end (when we've probably eaten enough peaches over the sink, juices dripping down our chins, that we can accept that it will be a while until we have a raw one again). I say that it probably depends on how hot your oven makes your kitchen and what the weather is like outside. In other words, I'm partial to the latter. 

The peach ketchup is adapted from a recipe from another Munich food blog: Delicious Days. I had more peaches than the original recipe called for, so I adjusted the ingredients accordingly. I also really went for it when it came to the chili and its seeds (I added a whole Thai chili), but do listen to your own taste-buds when it comes to the chili. And bonus - this recipe does not involve any canning. It keeps in the fridge for a few weeks, but it probably won't last that long if you use to make this pulled chicken, which I think that you probably should (if you eat chicken of course, that is). 

The recipe for perfect peach jam comes from Liana Krissoff's Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry. This book is a gem. It is a collection of classic recipes (like this one) that use much, much less sugar than usual and then very contemporary recipes with loud flavours (like Pineapple Jam with Chinese Five Spice). It also is a pretty thorough introduction to canning. All and all, it is a good book to have around. The original recipes makes 5 half-pint jars, but I halved it. In fact, I tend to half most recipes in this book and this is because I live in a small apartment (with a small kitchen) with my partner and as much as we love jam and pickles and most homemade things in jars, there is only so much room that we have in our tummies and our kitchen has in its shelves. But if you have room for more, do double this recipe for the original.

I'm not normally into things that are perfect. I find them rather boring. But I can't think of a better word to describe this jam. It is slightly chunky, which means that it isn't perfectly smooth looking jam, but how it tastes is just perfect. I really can't think of anything that would make it better, but because I'm being bossy tonight, when you decide to open one of the jars of the jam (to borrow Marcella's favourite word) you must bake some buttermilk biscuits. Eat them still warm with a generous amount of peach jam. Listen to Bille Holiday while you're doing it and you might just fall in love with yourself.   

Peach Ketchup

adapted from Delicious Days

makes 2 cups

1.4 pounds (640g) peaches (about 4 large)
2 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 Thai chili pepper, seeds removed if you like
1 heaping tbsp oil
3 bay leaves 
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
70ml white wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Use a pairing knife to cut an x on the bottom of each peach. Add the peaches to the boiling water and then after a minute transfer them to a cold water bath. Once the peaches are cool enough to handle, peel them. Cut the peaches in half, remove their pits, and chop them into coarse chunks. 

Peel and finely chop the shallots and garlic. Finely chop the chili. 

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and chile and saute them until they just soften. Add bay leaves, cinnamon, brown sugar, curry powder, and tomato paste and give it all a good stir. Cook until you just start to smell the spices and the tomato paste darkens, but do not let it burn. Add the vinegar and the chopped peaches and cook over medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly. It is ready when the soft touch of a wooden spoon easily causes the chunks of peach to collapse.

Remove the pot from the heat. Let cool slightly and then remove the bay leaves. Either transfer the mixture to a blender, or use a hand-blender to blend until completely smooth. Give it a taste and add more salt, chili, sugar and the like to your liking. 

Transfer ketchup to a jar and store in the fridge for a couple of weeks. 

* * * * *

Perfect Peach Jam

adapted from Liana Krissoff's 'Canning for a New Generation'

makes 2 half-pint jars


6 ounces (170g) Granny Smith apples (about 1 large)
2 pounds (900g) peaches, peeled (instructions above) and pitted, and diced (about 3 cups)
1 cup (200g) sugar
1.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice, strained

2 jars
1 small piece of cheesecloth

Sterilize your jars, put their lids into a heat-proof bowl, and put a saucer in the freezer.

Cut the apple into quarters and core it. Place the seeds and core into a small piece of cheesecloth and tie the cloth tightly to make sure that the seeds and core are properly enclosed.

Place the peaches and sugar into a wide, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, making sure to stir frequently, and cook until the juices cover the peaches. Remove the pot from the heat. Set up a colander over a large bowl and pour the mixture into the colander. Set the peaches aside and return the juice to the pan. Add the apple quarters and the cheesecloth bag. Bring to a boil over high heat. Let the mixture continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the syrup reduces and is thick.

Add the peaches and any of their juices to the pan. Add the lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently while the mixture continues to simmer until the peaches are very tender, about 15 minutes. Test to see if the jam is ready by removing the saucer from the freezer and spooning a small dab of the jam onto the chilled plate. Return the plate to the freezer and check after about a minute. The jam should be somewhat firm (but it will not gel). 

Once the jam passes this test, remove the pot from the heat and give it a gentle stir. Remove the apples (save them for a dessert, or eat them with yogurt and lots of nuts and granola) and the cheesecloth bag.

Spoon some of the boiling water for canning into the bowl with the lids. With a jar lifer, remove the jars from the canning pot and place them upright onto a folded tea towl.

Spoon the hot jam into the jars, making sure to leave about 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the rims of the jars with  a damp paper cloth and then secure the lids onto each jar. Return the jars to the pot of water, making sure the water covers the jars by at least once inch. Bring the water back to a boil and then boil for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and return them to the folded tea towel. After one hour, check to see if the lids have sealed. If they are properly sealed, label and store. If not, transfer the jars to the refrigerator and eat that jam quickly. 



the korean food diaries, part I: sweet

Today is the last day of Oktoberfest, or Wiesn as the folks around here call it. These three weekends and the weekdays between them bring out the best and the worst of Munich and of beer. Each year six million very excited people visit Oktoberfest in a city with a population of only 1.5 million. In other words, things around here have been crowded, messy, and heaps and heaps of fun. But as of tomorrow, things will be getting back to normal around town and my Dirndl will go back into my closet for at least a while.

With the distraction of the world's largest beer festival nearly over, I once again have time to think about things that one eats and not only drinks. So it is high time that I tell you about Korea. And in lots of detail because quite frankly the country fed me extremely well. 

It has been nearly a month since I boarded my return flight in Seoul, but my memories of the food that I tried and the landscapes that I saw are still sharp and clear. Korea is far from a popular tourist destination, but because of a well-wired economy, a demand for English teachers, and an art scene that is becoming more and more international, it is a popular destination for business. And although I do have a handful of friends that have made Korea home for a spell, I didn't personally know anyone who went to Korea with only the objective of being a tourist. No work. No conference. No business of any sorts. My trip wasn't an exception. I was there to participate in a course, but because I had heard so many stories about this country from friends and friends of friends, I knew that I wanted to squeeze some time in for being a tourist as well. And a tourist who was very busy with her camera, and deciding where to eat next.  

Korea in general and Seoul in particular are often described as being a dynamic contrast between ancient and modern. I can't think of a story that better exemplifies this than when I visited a temple outside of Gwangju. The temple wasn't quite old enough to be called ancient, but its several hundred year history qualified it to be called old. A young monk led a tour. He spoke of his turn to spirituality in his 20s and his studies at the temple. He spoke of Buddha and mediation and the purity of the vegetarian food that we had just eaten for lunch. At the end of tour, he gave us his email address. "I love Google," he said as our group jotted it down and chuckled. He then pulled out his phone: a new Samsung Galaxy, which made my phone look exactly what it is: ancient.

The contrasts I encountered didn't end with technology or architecture or lifestyle. Ordering food was always completely different. A few times I was given a menu that was only in Korean with pictures. That always yielded a fun game of Point and Try Your Luck. This method yielded wonderful meals and ones that were certainly less wonderful. Another time I was given a menu that was only in Korean with no pictures. The method I employed there was Try Your Luck minus the point. I replaced the Point with Smile Sweetly and Motion With Your Eyes that You"ll Eat Whatever They Bring. Once again, this yielded both wonderful and not so wonderful results. And then other times, I would ask a question and then receive an answer in English more perfect than mine.

Ordering was always an adventure, but a very good one no matter the results of the meal. Sometimes it involved language and other times only hand gestures, but either way it was humbling and always a surprise. It was refreshing to not be able to take a common language for granted. And it was inspiring to see how much it is possible to communicate without language. Curiosity, a smile and some hand gestures can bring one pretty far. That and letting go. When I'm at home there are certain foods that I don't eat, but when I'm on the road I make this an option as opposed to a rule.     

  My better half prepared for our trip by learning the Korean alphabet. With only sixteen letters, he was able to teach it to himself the first few days we were in Seoul just by comparing signs in English and in Korean in the metro. In comparion, I'm much lazier. Instead, I prepared by asking friends for their best tips and for reading as much as I could (without making myself crazy starving) about Korean food.

Michelle lives in Jeju, takes beautiful pictures and has an excellent guide for Seoul. I did really try to eat my way through the city based on her recommendations. Although I did not cross everything off the list, I came pretty close. Hongdae was by far my favourite neighbourhood, so much that I kept having fantasies of calling it home one day. It is jammed with cute cafes, great restaurants, quirky bars, vintage shops, and stores that take stationary very seriously. Next to the art university, it feels like a dream come true for every young creative person alive. Yes, it is a place that I would like to call home.

My favourites from Michelle's list include the grapefruit and peach ice pops at Molly's Pops, the roasted salmon onigiri at Kamome, the grapefruit makgeolli at Mui Mui, l'éclair caramel beurre salé at Publique Bakery, the giant salads and sweet stationary at Spring come, rain fall, and the homemade ginger ale and postcards at Millimeter Milligram. Last but not least, I'm crazy about the ice cream at Fell + Cole. My first taste was roasted banana. Brilliant. And then I had green tea and whiskey ice cream with chunks of plum. Also brilliant. And then honey and lavender. If I were to ever live in Seoul, I'd make sure to find an apartment close to one of Fell + Cole's two locations.

Katie's guide over at Design Sponge also has lots of gems, but if you do use it make sure to google everything first as some of her recommendations have sadly closed. But what is still open is generally excellent. The green tea cake at Kukje Gallery tastes even better than it looks. Art Space Pool is the type of art centre that should exist in every city. Their staff are energetic, passionate and focused on nurturing community and their exhibitions show this. I feel the same way about Artsonje Centre, which has a pretty dangerous book store to boot. Small print publishing is alive and well in Seoul and my suitcase was all the heavier because of it. Selected Bookshop Your Mind is also an excellent place to stock up on all things printed. 

I also got lovely tips from my friends Kate and Cat, both who have lived in Korea and who are excellent cooks, curious eaters, and beautiful friends. Who needs the local alphabet when you have lists and lists with tips like these? Okay, I probably could have done with both, but the lists got me pretty far.

I'm drinking green tea with brown rice as I type and it calms all of these memories of new flavours. Korea loves green tea and I think I've now had it in every form. I hiked through green tea fields in Boseong, I drank it hot as traditional tea and cold in lattes, I ate it as cake and noodles and ice cream. I even bathed in it. 

 It is kind of overwhelming to remember all that I ate, as if all of the tastes come rushing into my mouth at once. If these pictures haven't already made it obvious, Seoul is very much a foodie city, but food culture doesn't stop there. It takes coffee very seriously and probably has more cute cafes than all of Germany (and there are definitely a lot here). It has sleek bbq restaurants, spicy street food, and everything in between. But beyond Seoul, Korea itself is a country obsessed with food, which made me feel right at home. 

However, Seoul did not have salted ice cream. It does have Fell + Cole, but the two are, like the Germans say, two different pairs of shoes. The very south of the country is its agricultural core. Off of the western coast, there is an island with a sea salt farm: Jeungdo

I can now say that harvesting sea salt in the mid-afternoon sun in 35C is very hard work. I can also say that it is very much worth it for the salted ice cream that you eat afterwards. The ice cream is made with more salt that usual and it is dreamy. As we all know, salt brings out the flavour in everything and the staff at Jeungdo Salt Farm have cracked the code when it comes to the ratio of salt and sugar in their ice cream. Each ice cream is then served with a salted flavour topping. Options include chocolate, tangerine (perhaps my favourite), pumpkin, coconut, green tea, blackberry, and pomegranate. Like I said: dreamy. And once again that ice cream tasted even better than it looks (and that is saying a lot considering just how fine it is).

Street food in Seoul is both spicy and sweet. At the same stall, you can find a cup full of fresh cherries next to hot dogs. At the next stall, there is a man selling dried octopus and then at the next one there is a woman frying up hoddeok. I first tried these sweet pancakes that are stuffed with a brown sugar filling in Insadong and they were hot and sweet and greasy and totally indulgent. A week later I was in Busan and the one hoddeok stand at the market had a half an hour long line. One bite and it was no wonder why. 
And to end with all things that are sweet and delicious, let's talk about patbingsu. Some Korean foods I was already quite familiar with. When I lived in Gothenburg, I started making Korean food at home because I couldn't find it out in the city, but my knowledge of this cuisine was still rather basic. For example, patbinsgu was completely new to me. In its most basic form it is ice shavings. In its most elaborate it can include anything from green tea ice cream to beans, from dried jujube to toasted nuts, from fresh fruit to a spicy fruit syrup, and from pieces of rice cakes to condensed milk. It is the best way I know to cool off in 35C weather. 

Korea was certainly sweet.

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