Wednesday, 27 April 2011

My Version of "Wild Wilma"

Actually, I have no idea whether there is such a dessert as "Wild Wilma", but there is one called "Wilde Hilde" in German, and since that rhymes only in German but not in English, I have decided to call it "Wild Wilma" and show you my own version of it.

The classic way to prepare a "Wilde Hilde" is with raspberries, but this time of the year is closer to strawberry season in my area, and I prefer using seasonal products whenever possible. Also, the classic recipe calls for either amarettini or meringues; I chose the biscuits sometimes known as sponge fingers or ladyfingers - simply because I had enough leftover from the last time I had made a Tiramisu.

Last year, I was at a friend's birthday party, and someone brought a "Wilde Hilde" (made the classic way). I really liked it, and so I decided to make one when my mother asked me to bring dessert for our family gathering on Easter Sunday.
It is very easy to make, does not involve baking and only takes about half an hour to 45 minutes.

You need
- minimum 750 g of berries (strawberries, in my case; and next time I will use more)
- 3 packs of cream

- an unspecified amount of dry cookies such as amarettini or biscuits; they need to "crumble" easily
- vanilla sugar and cream stabilizer (sold worldwide under the German name of "Sahnesteif" by a leading brand of baking ingredients)
- a large bowl

Wash the berries, remove stalks, cut into pieces if necessary - my strawberries were a bit on the large side, so I quartered them.
Break or crunch the biscuits into small bits; they should end up similar in size to the berries. Whip the cream with vanilla sugar and stabilizer until stiff.

Now take your large bowl and place a layer of crumbled cookies/biscuits on the bottom.
Add one layer of berries.

Spread a layer of cream on the berries.

Repeat until you have used up all the ingredients, ending with a layer of cream.

There is no need to press the layers in any way; they will soften or merge a little if you leave t
he bowl in the fridge long enough (minimum 3-4 hours), but the layers will and should still be discernible.

Remember that you will need more biscuits, berries and cream for the second layer than for the first, as your bowl is most likely wider towards the top than at the bottom, so do not use one entire half of the ingredients for the first layer, or you will run out of everything for the second. Leave a few berries to decorate the top layer of cream.

Cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours or until needed :-)

Everyone who was there on Easter Sunday enjoyed my "Wild Wilma" - there wasn't a single crumb left! My parents had prepared everything in their garden, and we were lucky with the weather; it wasn't very warm, but nice enough to sit outside and enjoy the sun for the afternoon.

When we arrived, the table was laid like this:

I did not take a picture in a "before" and "after" style, but rest assured there was plenty of delicious food - plus chocolate bunnies for everyone!

Friday, 22 April 2011

A Good Time

Summer certainly is "my" season, as I am a confessing sun worshipper and my ideal range of temperature is between 25 and 35 Celsius (75 to 95 F).

But spring is, I think, my second favourite season - there is something so optimistic to it, when everything around comes alive again, with blossoms on the trees, hours more of daylight, and a lot of animals having their young at this time of the year.

Although I do not celebrate Easter in any religious sense, I like this holiday because it gives me a nice long weekend and extra time with the family - not to mention all the chocolate ;-) (a lot of which I brought back from my short stay in Yorkshire with the family: everybody gave me something to take home with me so that I needed an extra bag as it did not all fit into my suitcase!)

In my flat, I have put up a few bits of decoration; generally, I prefer empty surfaces, so there won't be much more than that.

Happy Easter to everyone - I hope you will all have the chance to enjoy a long sunny weekend!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Read in 2011 - 8: Talk to the Hand

This extraordinary little book (just about 200 pages) by Lynne Truss I found in a "treasure chest" - a friend of mine gave me three boxes full of books that were to be thrown away from a US Army base library here in Germany, for me to play with - i.e. to decide which ones I wanted to keep, sell or throw away.

The subtitle reads "The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everday Life (or six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door)" - and it was that subtitle that made me keep this one along with a pile of others I intend to read and keep.
Essentially, it is a rant about precisely that: the utter bloody rudeness of everyday life, but it is spiced with so much humour and at the same time so very, very true that I couldn't help but giggle and nod at the same time while I was reading it.

We all know them - shop clerks who talk to their colleagues while "serving" us without even so much as looking us in the face; parents who let their children run amok in places such as supermarkets, and woe to the person who dare speak up; people who drop their sweets wrappers without any thought for the environment and/or their fellow humans, passengers on the train who have loud and private conversations on their mobile phones, and so on.

Of course, one can choose to be either very annoyed at all this, seething inwardly and longing to the peace and quiet of their own home, or tell them off and risk verbal (and sometimes even physical) abuse from the offender.

Lynne Truss has chosen yet another option: to write a book about it.
She not only describes many a scenario that probably everyone can relate to, she also cites numerous other authors, sociologists, anthropologists and others, some of whom wrote on similar subjects decades ago.
She reaches her own conclusions as to what the reasons for all this rudeness is, but the book is not (nor is it meant to be) a manual on how to deal with it, there are no lists of suggestions on what one could do or say in those situations.

Although from my short description it may sound glum and as if written by a very angry and frustrated person, the author has truly managed to make this a very fun book to read - I recommend it, and will probably try to find her earlier book "Eats, Shoots & Leaves".

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Read in 2011 - 7: Scandal Takes a Holiday

When my mum kindly fetched three of Lindsey Davis' books for me from the library, I did not expect to take so long to finish them - I have never been such a "slow" reader as this spring, but then again, never before have I been leading such a pleasantly busy and colourful life as during the past weeks and months, especially since I was released from all duties at my former work place until I will start my new job on the 2nd of May.

This one is the last of the three books my mum brought: Scandal takes a Holiday.

You can catch up on what happened in the one before here; in that older blog entry, I also talk about the non-fiction book "Daily Life in Ancient Rome" which I am still reading at the same time (I am just about halfway through with that one).

Falco and his family are on holiday in Ostia, Rome's wealthy seaside town, where all the luxury goods from all over the empire arrive by the shipload. Or so it seems - of course, Falco wouldn't be Falco if he was there really just for fun and leisure.
He is on a case: the reporter who pens the hugely popular gossip column of Rome's Daily Gazette has gone missing and was last known to have travelled to Ostia to "see his auntie" - something most men would say with a nudge and a wink, meaning that auntie was not really a relative.

Our detective finds out more about said auntie and LOTS more about who holds Ostia in a firm grip of corruption and fear. He visits the numerous temples of the town, ventures out into the countryside to find a very rich old man with a colourful past, shares a drink with his father and his uncle (who he had not seen for 25 years), attends a pompous funeral and even takes a dip in the Mediterranean (he can not swim, by the way).

Only at the very end, he finds the missing scribe, but along the way, a series of kidnappings is solved and the old question whether there are still any pirates about, even after Emperor Pompey's efforts to eradicate them, is answered.

This book sees Falco rather depressed several times, and we fully understand why. There is also a lot of Lindsey Davis' trademark humour in it, and her fascinating little details about Roman life are in abundance, making one really delve into the atmosphere of a summer by the sea in AD 76.

It certainly won't be the last of Falco-books for me - just for now. There are already a pile of books waiting to be read on my shelf, but I have not yet decided which is going to be my No. 8 this year.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Gone Crazy

Today's weather, that is.
And actually, it is only what we can expect in April in this part of the world; there is a German saying: "April, April, der
macht was er will" (April does what it wants - which does not rhyme in English, that's why I put it in German) and it is certainly true today!

When I left the house this morning at a quarter to nine, it was raining and rather chilly at only 11 Celsius or so (as opposed to 23 ye
sterday, with everybody walking around short-sleeved and the ice cream parlours in town having every seat on the pavement taken plus queues at the counters for takeaway). In Fahrenheit, that's 51 today and 71 yesterday.

During the morning,
the sun came out, so when I left the office of a friend where I work for a few hours every now and then, I did not need my umbrella. It is merely a 15 minute walk from there to my house, but that was enough for the wind to pick up to almost storm speed and the sky turning from blue to slate grey - I only just made it to my front door when the rain started again.

While I was taking a break and finally catching up on my weekly paper (it was last week's issue I had not even touched yet), guess what - the sun decided to come back, which prompted me to take a few pictures:

The view from my kitchen window

Lilac in all its beautiful shades (and the scent!)
Cherry blossoms, only inches from my window (which means I can pick cherries directly from my kitchen when they are ripe - very convenient!!)

Not much later, when I was just wondering whether to take advantage of the sun and go to the gym now instead of tomorrow, all of a sudden the sky turned so dark I had to switch the light on, and thunder was rumbling somewhere in the not-so-far distance.

Well, it's all in a day's work :-)

Oh, and before I forget - here is an update on the tiny pots of forgetmenots I wrote about some time ago:

They look ready for being transferred into more spacious quarters, don't they?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

I am puzzled... some of the functions here on blogger.
Why, for instance, is it possible to become my own follower?

When I noticed that someone had sent me a friends request (probably some time ago - I simply never realized it was there, sorry!), I saw that I can invite my google contacts to follow my blog. I did so with two of them, and found out I can even add myself to the followers here at my "Library".

Well, it seems a bit silly, doesn't it? For now, I appear to have 13 regular readers - including myself... and I am quite sure that some of the twelve hardly ever actually do come here to read, they p
robably lack both the time and the inclination.

Every now and then, I have a look at my blog stats (I wrote about these
before), and I find it most interesting to see that my visitors really come from all over the world (Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and China featuring in the "audience list" this week), as well as how they actually happened to come across my blog.
One recent
search keyword is shown as "how many calories in tira mi su" - an information you will never find in my blog (because I absolutely do not care to count calories - I simply enjoy my food), but you can find the recipe here.

Not really related to the topic of this entry, I still want to show you my new old bike - similar to
my new old armchair, something old and dear to me has been given "new life", which fits in rather nicely with the general theme of spring itself, don't you agree?

My husband and I bought a pair of old (and I really mean old!) bikes years ago at a second hand bikes sale here in town; if I remember correctly, mine was 70 Euros and his 85 or so - no comparison to what a new, "proper" bike costs, but it was what we wanted and within our budget.
This bike is more or less the same age as I (43), and for one and a half years now, it was stored outside under a ro
of to the side of the house, not even in a shed. It looked ready for the scrap heap, until a friend of mine took pity on both me and the bike and had it restored to more than its former glory, and brought the gleamingly polished bike (complete with new tyres and breaks) to my birthday party as his gift, gold ribbon around the handlebar inlcuded!
Yesterday, it had its first outing - an easy 25 km in the beautiful Neckar river valley, at a very relaxed pace. My legs and my bum have not complained, and I am sure my new old bike will be the perfect addition to all the outdoor fun I intend having this summer!

Friday, 1 April 2011

"Cold Dog" - a 50s' Classic

Only last week, I wrote about my birthday and mentioned this delicious "cake": Kalter Hund, which literally means Cold Dog. It is not actually a cake, as you do not bake it, but a dessert - and a very sweet (and fattening) one at that! In Germany, Kalter Hund has been a classic since the 1950s when it was regularly served at children's birthday parties.
My mum usually makes one for my birthday, and this year was no exception. Those of you who understand German are welcome to look at the original recipe, posted by my mother on the cooking forum where she is one of the moderators.
And for everyone else, here is the recip
e in English:

You need
- 2 packs of the flat, square type of butter biscuits shown here
- 300 g of coating chocolate (couverture), dairy milk
- 300 g of coating
chocolate, semi sweet (do not just use the dairy milk type - it will be too sweet for anyone to eat, trust me!)
- 150 g coconut fat (in Germany, this is sold under the name Palmin. It is white and solid, not coconut oil - that won't work.)
- 200 g cream (not whipped)
- small bag of vanilla sugar
Use a bowl big enough to melt the couverture, coconut fat and vanilla sugar in the microwave, at a low setting; it should take about 10 minutes. Be careful and do not set the microwave's temperature too high - the chocolate burns easily and you really don't want to smell that!!
While the melting goes on, prepare an oblong baking form (my mum uses one that is about 26 cm long). If you have one of those modern silicon forms, you do not need any preparation; if it's a metal one, put baking paper in to avoid sticking.
When the mixture is ready, stir in the cream. And now you have to work fast, before the mixture cools down and sets:
Fill the form with layers, starting with the chocolate mixture, then biscuits, then chocolate again, then biscuits again and so on until you have used it all up, ending with a thin layer of chocolate. The biscuit layers should be complete with no gaps in between them; if necessary, break the biscuits to fitting size. Now cover with aluminium foil and leave it to set and harden in the fridge, preferably over night.

To serve the Cold Dog, make sure to take it out of the fridge about 1 hour before; you need a VERY sharp knife and it is still likely that you won't be able to cut clean slices - never mind, a Cold Dog can be a bit crumbly and it will still be delicious :-)
Decoration is, of course, up to you - my mum used ready-made sugar flowers this time, but it can go entirely without decoration, too.

(All pictures by my mum)