Bakalar is dried cod and is most definitely not to be confused with Lutefisk- the gelatinous stinky white fish that my Scandinavian family recall from the all-white Christmas smorgasbord of childhood. Bakalar is the Croatian name for the dried white fish that is imported from the Nordic region and is very popular in Croatia. It is also a traditional Christmas Eve dinner on the Dalmatian coast, where Miljan is from. Bakalar (or Klippfisk) is treated with lye and then becomes Lutefisk, but it’s not quite the same thing.
The first time I saw the dried fish hanging on a rack in the market, I certainly didn’t imagine I would (ever) eat such a thing, and I was at a loss of words when I sarcastically remarked “oh yum” and Milo replied “oh yeah, that is delicious.” I wasn’t sure whether or not he was serious. But then I figured out, oh yes, he was quite serious, and I have eaten (and enjoyed!) bakalar numerous times, but this was the first time Milo made it himself.
First, we soaked a piece (about one-third of the fish) in water overnight. Then we boiled it for 2 hours, and this is where it gets stinky. Despite the cold, we opted to leave a few windows open.
Then he flaked the meat off, and put it back in the pot with some garlic, onion, tomato paste, potato chunks, bay leaf, and oregano. This cooked for about one more hour.
Delicious- light broth with nice pieces of fish and potato, and finished with olive oil and sea salt. Dobar tek!
I love candy canes at Christmas time and for some reason, I just don’t see many of them around here- it’s mostly chocolate, gummy candies, black licorice. Well, I did see a small jar of them (1.50 each!) at the candy hut on the Bonn Christmas Market, but in Siegburg we have a medieval Christmas market, and apparently candy canes did not exist in medieval times. Luckily I received an ample supply in the mail (thanks Mom!) and then I got to thinking — are Candy Canes an American invention?
There seem to be two claims floating around the internet. The first, that they were invented by a candy maker in Indiana, shaped like a J for Jesus and white to represent his purity and red to represent his suffering just doesn’t seem that exciting to me.
I like this story better: Back in the day (in Europe, before Indiana existed) people made all sorts of sweets and treats at holiday time – one being a white sugar stick. About 350 years ago, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral had the candies bent into the shape of shepherd staff, and gave them to the children to keep them quiet during the Christmas services.
Apparently, the bribe worked, and many years later a German immigrant to America used the canes to decorate his Christmas tree, along with other cookies and candies. The peppermint flavor and red stripes came later, probably as an American update to the traditional sugar stick. (Possibly from a candy maker in Indiana, who knows?)
So there you have it, and here we have our tree, decorated with candy canes and chocolate ornaments. If it’s looking a little sparse, I know nothing about it. Although I may have seen some elves sneaking around…
Happy Christmas Eve!
Or maybe I should more accurately describe it as Nutella fudge with sea salt sprinkled on top. I was in a holiday baking mood, and who doesn’t love fudge, so I thought I would give them a try. They were really easy to make, no marble countertop required! The funny thing is this:
Sweetened condensed milk is not quite as popular in Germany as in the US, but I was able to procure some…in a TUBE. Yes, I took a picture just so you could see what I mean. I used two tubes worth, hoping that was about equal to one can. I think it worked just fine. The easiest ingredient to find was Nutella, seeing as how that seems to be the breakfast spread of choice around here.
I don’t have a brownie pan, but I fashioned my own mold out of a cereal box and tinfoil. It worked out perfectly because there was no baking involved, just refrigeration (after it was all melted together of course). I brought some fudge to work today and the verdict was: “Oh YUM, they taste like chocolate!”
If you also want to make some, you can find the recipe here.
Yesterday I found this kale at the market. I asked for about 500 grams, because that’s what a euro would buy me. The farmer grabbed an absolutely ridiculously large bunch and plopped it on the scale. Umm…a slightly smaller bunch please? I like kale, but the whole plant is not necessary. I still walked away with enough for at least two meals.
After perusing my cookbooks and a few recipe websites, I decided to go with Alice Waters’ Curly Kale and Potato Soup (pg 254 in The Art of Simple Food). It turned out to be perfect for the first snowy day in Siegburg. Just what I needed–warming, healthy, and delicious! Its a nice mix of chunky potato and kale in a light broth flavored by onions and garlic. Finished of course with a sprinkle of parmesan, sea salt, and drizzle of olive oil. So it was gourmet Sunday light and healthy style.
Have a great week!
Or shall I say my attempt at German Christmas cookies. I was all geared up to bake my favorite gingerbreadmen and sugar cookies. Milo requested Zimtsterne and Vanillekipferl, so I figured it was a good chance to learn something new.
Vanillekipferl can best be described as a russian tea cake shaped like the letter C. Ingredients are flour, sugar, butter, and ground hazelnuts. I am not sure if it was because I halved each recipe, or because the last time I used a metric scale to measure flour was 20 years ago with Leslie from upstairs in Frat 154. For some reason, Milo says they don’t taste “right.” I’m not really sure what they are supposed to taste like, but I admit they aren’t as yummy as I hoped. But maybe that’s a good thing.
Milo helped cut the shapes out. Apparently I was not clear when I mentioned, “space them evenly on the cookie sheet.”
The “cinnamon stars” (Zimtsterne) turned out as “almond fish and airplanes.” That was my fault because we didn’t have almond liquer, so I made my own with some grappa and about 20 drops of almond essence. Turns out 2 drops would have sufficed for the entire recipe. Needless to say, the cinnamon was a bit overpowered. And we don’t have any star-shape cookie cutters, but that’s beside the point. They aren’t bad, just different. They are covered with a merengue icing.
Almondy airplanes and fish
We still have a week ’till Christmas. Gingies might make an appearance.
crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside
Happy Baking and Merry Christmas!