Category Archives: Food

On This Day – A Black Forest Festival

The festival of Fasnacht is a carnival in Alemannic folklore that takes place in the few days before Lent in Southern Germany, Switzerland and Alsace. The Alemanni were German tribes who lived in this part of Europe nearly two thousand years ago and this area remains characterised by a form of German with a distinct dialogue called Alemannic.

The celebration literally means ‘Fasting Eve’ as it originally referred to the day before the fasting season of Lent. The schools are all closed for this festival and all over the Black Forest there are six days of parties and making merry.

Read The Full Story Here…

Postcards From France

More memories, this time from Family Holidays in Northern France (1978-2017)…


On This Day – Valentine’s Day Blunder

So I continue to look back through the archives and am reminded that on Valentine’s Day in 2015 I was in the Polish City of Warsaw…

After a first look at the Old Town and completing a circuit just to get our bearings and identify some potential restaurants for later we found a bar with a vacant table and ordered our first Polish beers. The waiter tried to persuade us to eat but we said it was too early.

He was rather persistent and told us this would be a good time because later everywhere would be full. Kim wondered if we should book a table somewhere but I passed this off as opportunist salesmanship and persuaded her that there really was no need.

This was a decision that I was going to regret later!

Read The Full Story Here…

Black Forest Gateau – Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

The station at Triberg was a little way out of town so we caught a bus with lots of other people into a busy main street full of activity but whatever was going on must have just finished because within only a few minutes Triberg was just as quiet as Villingen.

With more snow today we thought we might visit the waterfall again and climb higher this time but more snow was a problem and the paths were closed even lower down than two days previously so we walked along footpaths under pine trees that would occasionally give up their covering of snow in a dramatic little avalanche that fell on us as we walked along the snow covered trails.

On account of the blizzard the cuckoo clock house was closed and so were most of the other souvenir shops. The Black Forest Museum was open but didn’t look very thrilling and certainly not worth €5 each entrance fee. So we did what we had really come here to do and found the Café Schäfer, which since 1867 is Triberg’s oldest patisserie, for a slice of authentic Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte or Black Forest gateau.

Not only does the Café Schäfer serve Black Forest Gateau but it claims to have invented it. There are alternative conflicting claims about the origin but we were in Triberg in the Black Forest so I am sticking with this one.

The café is where the owner is the son of the apprentice of the chef who first invented the famous cake in 1915 and who continues today to bake to the original recipe and just to prove it there is a photograph of the recipe hanging on the wall.

Waiting for it to be served I was reminded now about dining out in England in the 1970s. There was a chain of steakhouses called the Berni Inn and if you were out to impress this was the place to take a girlfriend on a first date or later on, if the date worked out to any sort of anniversary. If you ever dined at a Berni Inn then for sure you will remember the most popular combination on the menu – Prawn Cocktail, Steak Garni and Black Forest Gateau.

A Berni Inn Black Forest Gateau almost certainly came out of the freezer but here they were clearly freshly baked.

Typically, Black Forest gateau consists of several layers of chocolate sponge cake sandwiched with whipped cream and cherries. It is decorated with additional whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate shavings. This all sounds rather straight forward to me but the most important ingredient is kirschwasser, a clear spirit made from sour cherries and in German law any dessert called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte must have kirschwasser.

I am not especially fond of cake but I have to say that it was delicious and lived up completely to expectations, full of dark chocolate sponge layers, juicy morello cherries soaked in the liquor, chocolate shavings that melted in the mouth and lashings of dreamy fresh cream which was quite magnificent and nothing like the grotesque Sarah Lee frozen variety of 1970s bourgeois dinner parties when trying to recreate a Berni Inn feast in our own dining rooms.

After the cake and with the town closed we walked back through the snow bound streets to the station and caught the train back to Offenburg.

On This Day – The Blue Boats and Doors of Essaouira

In 2016 our post Christmas travel was to Morocco. On 25th January we were in the port of Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast…

It was once the most important ports in West Africa where there was a monopoly in trade with Europe for spices, precious metals, sugar and molasses and in the slave trade to the Americas. Later it was overtaken in importance by Casablanca and Agadir but today it remains a lively, thriving fishing port and the local centre of the boat building industry.

Read The Full Story Here…

Seafood Pasta

Mine is not a food blog but I thought that I might share this one with you.

Tonight I was allowed into the kitchen and prepared a seafood pasta…

Ingredients..

Spaghetti for 2
packet of cooked mussels from ALDI – £1.79
Ten scallops from ALDI – about £1.50
Frozen Seafood selection from ALDI – about .70
Frozen Clams from ALDI – about £1.00
Half a large onion
Little bit of garlic

Homemade Focaccia Bread – about .25p

Sweat the onions and the garlic
Prepare the spaghetti
Add the seafood to the onions
Add the spaghetti
Total cooking time – about 10 minutes

Serve immediately with a slice of lemon and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

And a bottle of Primitivo from ALDI – £4.95

Delicious, If I close my eyes I am in Puglia.

On This Day – Essaouira in Morocco

On this day in 2016 I was in the Moroccan city of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast…

I really need to be careful about making bold statements because upon returning from Morocco in December 2011 I said that I would never return there.  This is what I said…

“I enjoyed the experience of Fez, the Riad was excellent, the food was good, the sightseeing was unexpected and we were treated with courtesy and respect by everyone associated with the Riad but I have seen Morocco now and I think it may be some time before I return to North Africa as we resume our travels through Europe.”

Well, now I have to eat my words because our first overseas trip in 2016 was to Essouria on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.

Read The Full Story Here…

On This Day – Amsterdam in The Netherlands

I continue to raid the archives for pictures and past travel stories. On 22nd January 2004 in the early days of low cost flying I was in a bitterly cold Amsterdam…

My first visit to Amsterdam was in 1980 and it was on an organised coach tour paid for by exchanging Persil washing powder vouchers and I can only imagine now that I must have done an awful lot of washing to get enough vouchers for two people to go to Amsterdam for a weekend.

This was my first time back to The Netherlands this time with my son Jonathan on my very first Ryanair flight and on this occasion the city was in the grip of a Winter squeeze. We walked the canals of course but it was so cold that we did most of our sightseeing indoors in the city museums.

The first of these was the Scheepvaartmuseum or Maritime Museum which was a short walk from our hotel, the Amsterdam, on Damrak and told the story of the Dutch association with the sea through an interesting collection of maps, atlases, charts, paintings and scale models but best of all a full sized replica of the three masted ‘Amsterdam’, a ship of the Dutch East India Company, which in its maiden voyage sank in a storm in the English Channel in winter of 1749.

To sink on a maiden voyage always seems rather wasteful and sad to me, ships like Henry VIII’s Mary Rose, the German battleship Bismarck and most famous of all the passenger liner RMS Titanic; all that money, blood and sweat just for the ship to go to the bottom of the sea in a much shorter space of time than it took to build it.

Admission to the museum included entry to the ship and we wandered around the decks and cabins completely alone because this was an early morning in January and the temperature was some considerable way below zero.

In the old town we warmed up when we visited the Rembrandt house museum and visited the reconstructed rooms and historically correct restoration based on the artists own sketches and drawings. In the afternoon we walked to the Van Gogh museum which is the most visited museum in the Netherlands and contains the largest collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh in the World.

Together with those of Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh’s works are among the world’s most expensive paintings ever sold and some of the most valuable ever. Actually, I found the museum rather disappointing because there were lots of gaps where paintings were on loan to other galleries around the World and some of his best known works that I would like to have seen are tucked away in private collections and vaults.

I like Van Gogh paintings and the museum shop was full of prints and reproductions but I am not an art critic and have to confess that alongside those I find brilliant I find some that quite frankly are not so good (shock, horror). The sort of things that my children used to bring home from school, I’d say well done and give them words of patronising encouragement and then after they had gone to bed I’d tape it up inside a kitchen cupboard!

More From Budapest

On This Day – An Unexpected Meeting With Marilyn Monroe

January 15th 2011 and I was in the Norwegian City of Haugesund on the North Sea coast…

In the morning by a minor miracle the rain had stopped and the pavements had been dried off by the piercing wind so when we woke and discovered this we were hopeful of a dry day.

Breakfast turned out to be an excellent affair with a good cold buffet and a hot egg and bacon selection as well. There was a lot of chopped up fish, which, quite frankly, I could have happily managed without and some brown cheese, which is apparently quite popular in Norway, so I tried some and regretted it almost immediately. I think brown cheese is what you call an acquired taste and quite clearly two days was not going to sufficient time to get anywhere close.

We stepped out of the hotel into a drab world of semi-darkness that was just overwhelmingly grey and sad. Along the waterfront boats bobbing gently on the calm waters and except for the occasional piercing squawk of a seagull it was eerily quiet for a Saturday morning.

The best thing to do was to walk back towards the centre and soon we were on Haraldsgate, the main shopping area and the longest pedestrianised street in Norway but even though it was the weekend the streets were empty and the shops were seriously short of customers.

Even at midday it was still quite dark and although the Christmas lights were still twinkling this was doing little to lift the gloom and the overall impression on this mid January Saturday was that this is a town teetering on the edge of  terminal dullness.

I amused myself by taking pictures of frost picked windows…

We didn’t spend much longer in the shopping centre and were soon back on the main street where we noticed that the people seemed to be outnumbered by the statues. Every few yards there was a bust or a figurine of some kind or another and I was left with the impression that the city council must spend a considerable amount of its budget on sculptures and street art.

There were a few spots of rain now so we headed back in the direction of the waterfront and the hotel just in case we might have to make a run for cover and down at the harbour side we came across a statue of a young and flirty Marilyn Monroe.

The reason it seems that she should surprisingly turn up here is that her father, Martin Mortensen lived in Haugesund before emigrating to America in about 1880. After abandoning his family after only six months of marriage, he was killed in a motorcycle crash without ever seeing his daughter – Norma Jean Mortensen.  There is some dispute about this I am  obliged to add and there are alternative theories about Marilyn’s paternal heritage – no one really knows for sure.

The rain was getting heavier so as we had been walking for a couple of hours or so we went back to the hotel to shelter. Another really good thing about the Hotel Amanda was complimentary tea and coffee throughout the day so we were saving money all the time as we sat in the lounge to warm up and enjoyed a hot drink.

I usually prefer a beer at about this time when I am on holiday and because I thought it was rude not to sample a genuine Norwegian brew I slipped back to the co-op and spent my children’s inheritance on three small cans at a massive £3 each and returned with my purchases just hoping that the Frydenlund Pilsner and the original Hansa Fatøl would be worth every øre.

Suddenly the sky brightened a couple of shades of grey and the rain stopped so not having travelled eight hundred miles to Haugesund to watch television we found our coats and returned to the streets.

The wind buffeted us about and rearranged our clothing as we crossed back over the bridge and slipped into the shelter of the shopping streets again. Old photographs of Haugesund show Haraldsgate as a row of attractive timber buildings but over the years some of these have disappeared and have been sadly replaced with later inappropriate concrete and glass additions, a bit like any modern English town scarred forever by 1960s town planners.

It was still light and dry so we went on a rather pointless walk to a pretty church and then returned to the warmth of the hotel via the waterfront. We opened the wine and I had a can of Norwegian beer, taking care to enjoy every expensive drop and when the waffle machine was wheeled into action at three o’clock we were first in the queue at the trough of batter mix and prepared ourselves a tasty snack. I finished the Norwegian beer and I instinctively knew that I should have bought more.

Tonight the dining room was busy with Norwegian guests most of whom looked as though they were attending a tribute band retro rock concert, especially the men with their pony tails and platted beards. We were the only English people in the hotel and the Norwegians treated us with a sort of arms length curiosity because they were probably wondering what on earth we were doing there.

It was pouring with rain now so this ruled out any evening walk option so instead we made ourselves comfortable in the lounge, claimed possession of the television remote controller which put us in charge of channel selection and choose an English speaking film. Some Norwegian guests turned up but didn’t stay and this time unlike the Scott of the Antarctic story – arriving second at the south pole after the Norwegian Roald Amudsen, this time the English were there first and we were staying put.