Monthly Archives: March 2014

Bread Flowers

On my way home from lunch today, I spotted this original bread display outside the local bakery:

Flower bread

Reminds me of giant daffodils, spring has arrived! But… who’d want to break those works of art?!

And here’s an angled view, so you get a better sense of proportions, as well as a glimpse of the bakery’s interior:

Bread shop

I mentioned lunch, didn’t I? Here is what I had:

A delicious vegetable moussaka :)

A most delicious vegetable moussaka with hummus on the side 🙂

Now, before anyone comments, “What, no cake??”, let me assure you, I DID have cake for afters. It just wasn’t very photogenic, and, sadly, not overwhelming in the taste department either. Sigh. I’ll just have to wait until they start making their courgette cake again… now THAT was good.

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A Cake Rant: Strudelgate

Apple strudel. It’s a simple concept. You roll out some pastry as finely as you possibly can (it may be flaky pastry or non-flaky strudel pastry, we don’t want to be too fussy here), you spoon on the apple filling, and then you roll it up into a foot-long tube shape. In the oven it goes, and plated up, a decent slice should look something like this:

Applestrudel

See the swirly whorl?

“Strudel” is a German word that can mean any of following things: whirl, swirl, whorl, whirlpool, vortex, eddy. If you look at the pattern of a strudel slice in cross-section, it’s quite obvious why this delectable dessert item bears this name.

There is a point to all of this pastry preamble, as you’ll see in just a tick. The actual story goes like this:

On Sunday, Maria and I were out and about in Madrid, desperately hunting down some exciting cake after a fabulous luncheon (more on this in a subsequent post). Now, Maria isn’t normally all that much into sweet stuff, but *somebody* has been a very bad influence on her…

Eventually, we located a promising café. It happened to have apple strudel on the menu. As you can probably imagine, I was as surprised as I was delighted, and promptly ordered it. But then, this arrived:

Streuselkuchen

Exhibit A: Does this look like strudel to you???

You don’t need to have an advanced patisserie degree to know that this ain’t no strudel, this is streusel. Apple streusel cake (Apfelstreuselkuchen), to be exact. “Streusel” comes from the German verb “streuen”, which means, of course, to “strew” or “sprinkle”.

The evidence speaks for itself: This thing the waitress shoved under my disbelieving eyes and flaring nostrils was all streuselly and not even a bit strudelly.

Granted, streusel and strudel have a fair few letters in common, but so do duck and dick. Not at all the same thing.

I was getting myself ready to stomp into the kitchen and give the chef’s streusels a bloody good strudelling, but gluttony got the better of me. Before the forensics team had any chance of bagging the evidence, my fork had invaded the crime scene, and a great big chunk of the offending article was making its way down my gullet.

And… it turned out to be a really fine piece of streusel, dammit!!!

Maria ordered a brownie, which was also pretty good

Maria ordered a brownie, which not only looked like a brownie and tasted like a brownie, but which was, indeed, a brownie. And a pretty good one at that.

Got any pastry impostor stories you care to share…? Or other menu items that were sold as one thing, but turned out to be something else entirely?

[Here’s a pic of my favourite kind of streusel cake 🙂 ]

My Friday Treat: Dulce De Leche

Imagine my outrage: I walk into my habitual Friday afternoon café here in Toledo (i.e. the one with the best cakes) looking forward to delicious torrijas. And…no torrijas!

The last two have just been sold. I turn around and give those two cackling bitches customers, who are gobbling up MY PRECIOUS, seemingly without a care in the world(!), the most evilest glare I can summon from the acrid depths of my displeasure.

Scanning through the cake display, I settle for a dulce de leche cake, which I have had before and quite liked.

“Dulce de leche” (doce de leite in Portuguese) is what you get when you boil sweetened/condensed milk for long enough for it to caramelise. It’s a really popular component of all manner of sweets and desserts across Latin America.

Dulce de leche

Ironically, the actual dulce de leche part of this cake is the glossy top layer, which I don’t like, and I just peel it off. It’s not the flavour that I find disagreeable, but the fact that it’s like a rubbery film that instantly fuses with the roof of your mouth.
What lies beneath, though, is glorious – a caramel-infused mousse followed by a creamy vanilla custard layer and a slightly chocolatey biscuit base… heaven 🙂

As much as I enjoyed it this with my cup of Earl Grey, I do hope there’ll be torrijas again next week. The torrijas season is short, and I’ve not had my fill of them yet. Here they are again, if you missed that post.

Hey, Why Don’t You Follow Your Own Advice For A Change?

I’ve not written a language post for a while. The reason being that I’m in a rut the size of the Ethiopian Great Rift Valley.

As an old friend of mine is fond of saying, at times like these, it pays to “have a word with oneself”. Nothing to lose by giving it a go, I suppose…

*    *    *    *    *

I: I’m frustrated as hell. I’ve been trying to learn Portuguese for an entire year now. I’m getting nowhere with it. I started way too early, I should have waited for my Spanish to solidify enough before tackling this. I feel like shelving the whole project for a couple of years.

Me: If you abandon this now, you’ll have to start from zero again a couple of years down the line. Is that what you really want? Your teacher tells you that you speak quite well.

I: I pay her. It’s in her interest to stroke my ego. But I see her rolling her eyes all the time, because I can’t work the present tense of even the most basic regular verbs.  

Me: And why can’t you?

I: Because I’m not putting in enough time.

Me: Aha. What is it that you tell all those people who come to you every week to practise their English and their German?

I: I tell them that for every hour of formal class, they need to put in three more at home. I tell them that they should spend at least half an hour every day practising/studying their target language, rather than cramming it all into one two-hour session once a week.

Me: And what did you do with your Portuguese last week?

I: I… rushed through all of my homework on Monday, a couple of hours before class.

Me: I see.

I: But I do my Duolingo lessons every day. And I have been for ages. I’m on a 146-day unbroken streak!

Me: And how long does it take you to do one of those?

I: ten, fifteen minutes…?

Me: Aha. I can’t help but wonder… if you’d also been practising those pesky verbs for 15 minutes a day for 146 days, don’t you think you’d be running rings around them by now, and your teacher wouldn’t need to be rolling her eyes quite so much. Just sayin’…

I: I hate verbs.

Me: I know you do. What else do you suck at?

I: Listening comprehension. My teacher plays me a dialogue, I hardly catch anything. She implores me to listen more at home.

Me: And you’re doing that?

I: Nope.

Me: There’s this one girl you see fairly regularly. Her spoken English is quite good, but she has real trouble understanding what’s being said to her. What’s your advice to her?

I: That she needs to listen at home. I’ve given her links to some good podcasts. She nods her head every time I broach the subject, but she doesn’t follow through.

Me:  Do you roll your eyes at her?

I: I do.

Me: I know you’re fond of dead people’s quotes. Here’s one by some medieval German scholar called Thomas von Kempen, it goes like this:

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”

I: Ahrwgh… sod off, will you!

Me: Just sit down and get on with those bloody verbs, will you!?!

Blue Flower

Have you ever had to have a word with yourself…?

Great Cajun Food… In Madrid!

Yup, you read that right…the culinary delights of steamy New Orleans right in the dusty heart of Spain… who’d have thunk it?!

So, Saturday night, my pals Carmen and Olga hauled me into Madrid to check out this restaurant called Gumbo. Not the most original name, granted, but I shall forgive them, because the service was so good, it almost made me forget that I was in Spain!

Carmen had eaten at this place before and survived, so we knew it was unlikely to be a disaster. We hadn’t booked a table and we were really lucky to get in…

Gumbo

Any guesses as to what we had for our first starter?

Fried green tomatoes, of course!

Fried green tomatoes, what else?! Olga’s allergic to tomatoes, so she was forced to pass on those, but she mopped up the 1000-calories-a-droplet sauce with great gusto.

Our second starter: Baked mussels, lovely and cheesy :)

Our second starter: Baked mussels, all lovely and cheesy 🙂 Could have done with a tad less salt, perhaps, but otherwise perfect.

Carmen and I both had the Jambalaya for our mains. Just look at those glorious blackened giant prawns! Olga had a beef dish, which was fantastic, but, unfortunately not very photogenic.

Carmen and I both opted for the jambalaya for our mains. Just look at those glorious blackened giant prawns perched on top of the rice (which had quite a kick to it, let me tell you!)
Olga had a beef dish with creamy mashed potatoes. The meat was as flavourful as it was tender, but, unfortunately, it didn’t rank as the most photogenic of entrees. You can just about make out a glimpse of it in the back.

Banoffee pie. It had to be. A more humble (but not at all bad) carrot cake in the background.

Dessert…? Absolutely! Banoffee pie. It had to be. A more humble (but not at all bad) carrot cake in the background.

Would we go back there?

Hell, YES!!!

[Here’s the link to Gumbo’s website, in case you want to check it out for yourself.]

Madrid Town Hall By Night

I took this picture last night, while out and about in Madrid with Team Tapas.

Madrid Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)

Madrid Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)

Am trying to fall in love with a city, which, at first glance, I didn’t really take to. It will soon be my home, so I better make an effort. I think it’s slowly happening…

There will be a food post to follow…

 

My Friday Treat: The Return Of The Torrijas

Oooooh, torrijas… how I love thee! Let me count the ways…

OK, let’s settle for chewy round the edges, squishy (but not soggy!) in the middle and sugary & cinnamony all over.

Torrijas are a seasonal Spanish dessert, which makes its annual appearance during lent. They are simply slices of bread soaked in milk and honey, dipped in egg, fried in olive oil and sprinkled liberally with sugar and cinnamon. Recipes vary, some involve soaking the bread in wine.

Just imagine my delight when I discovered them glistening under glass on the counter of my usual Friday afternoon haunt! I ditched my habitual hankering after the infamously messy apple pie without even a second’s thought.

I declare the torrijas season officially open!

I declare the torrijas season officially open!