Liebe geht durch den Magen (Love goes through the stomach)
Is there a similar saying in English? So true, isn’t it? There is nothing better than sharing an intimate dinner with a loved one, exchanging the latest gossip with a good friend over lunch, or having a noisy and joyous holiday dinner with the entire family.
One of the good things of not having an office job is that I actually have time to cook lunch. When I still worked I used to come home at nine in the evening, and the only thing I managed to do was open the refrigerator and eat whatever looked appealing. Then I had my baby, and ate whatever had stuck to his bib after I fed him :).
Although my lunches have improved since then, I really need to become a better cook. I tend to stick with the dozen or so dishes I know how to cook well, and it’s time for more variety.
So I was thinking about doing a self-imposed cooking challenge. One new dish every week, a dish that I have never cooked before. I don’t know if I will have the time to do it every week, but at least the intention is there.
Yesterday, I pulled out a mouth-watering recipe book of Middle Eastern dishes. Most recipes are Mezze, little appetizers, but a few of them can also be eaten as a full meal.“Apricot chicken with pistachio couscous” looked especially yummy, and called for ingredients I could actually get in my local supermarket.
Ingredients (Serves 2 for lunch):
400ml fresh orange juice
½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 pinch of chili powder
1-2 pinches of paprika powder
100g of dried apricots
1 large chicken breast (250-300g)
3 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
fresh coriander for garnish
1 small twig of fresh rosemary
1 ½ teaspoon of dried green pepper
1 spring onion
50g of pistachio kernels
100g instant couscous
¼ teaspoon of ground turmeric
150ml chicken broth
1. Warm the orange juice and season with cinnamon, chili and paprika powder. Add dried apricots and let them soften for 2 to 3 hours.
At this point, I really regretted to not have read the recipe before, as it was 12 o’clock and I was already hungry. Luckily I had bought very moist apricots and letting them sit for one hour in the juice turned out to be ok.
Strain apricots, thereby catching the juice. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Cut a pocket into the chicken breast from the short side. Season inside and out with salt. Fill chicken breast with half of the apricots. Fry chicken breast in two tablespoons of olive oil, then transfer frying pan to the middle rack of oven, cook 10-12 minutes until done.
I also put kitchen thread around the chicken breast to close the pocket, which held the apricots in place during frying.
3. Wash and dry herbs. Pull off coriander leaves. Pull off and finely cut rosemary leaves. Pound green pepper in a mortar (which I don’t have, used an old coffee grinder). Clean spring onion and cut very fine. Grind 30g of pistachios very fine, and hack rest coarsely.
4. Heat seasoned orange juice, add rest of the apricots, and puree with a blender.
You cannot imagine the mess in my kitchen after I pressed the on-button on my hand blender. The sauce pot was obviously not made for blending. After wiping off a quarter of the sauce from my stove, kitchen cabinets, coffee machine, and floor, I turned off the oven as the chicken breast was already done but the rest of the dish wasn’t… oh well.
Add one tablespoon of rosemary and one teaspoon of crushed green pepper to the sauce. Cook in an open pot for 10-15 minutes until sauce has thickened.
5. Mix couscous with ground turmeric, finely ground pistachios, half a teaspoon of crushed green pepper and one tablespoon of olive oil. Fry onion in olive oil until soft, add chicken broth, and cook until boiling. Add couscous, and let sit for 5-7 minutes.
6. Loosen couscous with a fork, and add coarsely hacked pistachios. Put into cups and turn over onto plates. Cut chicken breast into pieces and put next to couscous. Add sauce. Decorate with fresh coriander leaves.
Hold your applause… this is the cookbook picture, reality is down below. I left out the “put couscous into cups” part, and forgot all about the “decorate with coriander leaves” before taking the picture below. Don’t say anything, I know it looks not as pretty as the picture in the book, but I bet their food was already cold when they had finished all the arrangements. I also think they cheated on the couscous. Mine looked a lot greener from all the pistachios. Heck, I need to become a better photographer too.
But please believe me, it actually smelled and tasted good, which is the really important part, isn’t it? The sauce especially is a keeper. Although there is rosemary and green pepper in it, I could also imagine it to be a good accompaniment to sweet desserts. The fruitiness of the orange juice and apricots go really well together with the spiciness of the green pepper.
Ideas for next week anyone?
The recipe is from a German cookbook called “Mezze – Ein Genuss” by Bettina Matthaei and Mohamad Salameh, 2005, Graefe und Unzer.
The audience seems a bit shell-shocked at first :D. It’s not everyday, you see a singer jump on the piano keys during a Cole Porter interpretation! But I absolutely love his style, the whole album “Twentysomething” is marvelous, full of unorthodox interpretations and songs written by his brother Ben and himself. Must be quite something to see Jamie Cullum live.
One of my son’s kindergarten friends celebrated his fifth birthday today (Big cheers!), and his mom organized a wonderful outdoor party with all the trappings. Lots of noisy games, a big cake with blue icing and five candles on top, and champagne for the parents.
We were quite a colorful bunch of kids and grown-ups from all around the globe, which made for a fun time and interesting conversations. And I won a sack race against an Australian daddy. Yeah!
So this Da Count is to a sunny day filled with lots of silliness and laughter, and to happy childhood memories. They are so important, and I bet my son’s friend will remember his special day for a long time to come.
Nana Mouskouri is known in Germany for her an entirely different style of music, catchy German Schlager (hits) that are mostly played on radio stations for slightly older folks. Her biggest hit in Germany was Guten Morgen Sonnenschein (Good Morning Sunshine)download by right-clicking and selecting Save Link As, which gets played every sunny Sunday morning.
So imagine my surprise when I found Nana Mouskouri in New York, an album full of wonderful jazz songs which she recorded in 1962 and was produced by Quincy Jones. Hopeful to find other gems of hers, I also listened to later jazz recordings by her, but they come not even close to this one.
:) Thank you so very much Shy Rocket! Agent Cosima wrapped herself in a trenchcoat, put on her fedora and sun glasses, and went to the Mandarin Oriental to pick-up the package. First, they were a bit hesitant, but I let them have a look at my Walther PPK, and suddenly they were convinced ;). I will view the information tonight.
Afterwards, I went to see fellow agent James Bond saving the world. I know I am a little bit late, but better late than never. Firstly, I have to say that the sound system of the cinema was amazing. You could feel the low basses on your tush, which made for some interesting sensation during gun fire… and boy do they shoot a lot in this film. Secondly, he is hot, alright. Thirdly, Europe has some amazing real estate. But what was wrong with the Bond girls? All whiny dolls… remember Michelle Yeoh? She kicked some serious butt. Now James… next time just call us girls in Asia, and no one will even dare to tickle your balls.
These two women raced along deserted Friedrichstrasse in Berlin during the World Cup final between Italy and France this summer. Most people were either sitting in front of the TV or following the match on large screens along the Fanmile in front of the Brandenburg Gate, which made streets safe enough for non-motorized speeders.
Shhh… come a bit closer… ::looks left and right:: …even closer! Today, I will take you to the underbelly of Hong Kong…
No, sorry not this one… they don’t allow cameras inside.
When you see Hong Kong Island’s skyline with its gleaming high-rises or visit one of the high-end shopping malls, it’s easy to overlook the places, where normal people live and work, the areas that the tourist brochures don’t show.
In my former profession, I was one of the office bees in Hong Kong’s glitzy financial district, but quite regularly I had to take a taxi or subway through the cross-harbor tunnel and visit the industrial areas of Hong Kong at the opposite side of the harbor in Kowloon and further north in what is called the New Territories. Now, that I have my own company, I go there even more often.
These days, most of the actual manufacturing is done across the border in Mainland China, but a lot of the administrative, developmental, and marketing functions are still located here. These areas don’t look very beautiful, but I feel that it is the honest, hard-working side of Hong Kong, the side where the wealth of this city was and is still made.
If you travel further North on Hong Kong’s very efficient subway and train network, you arrive in the New Territories, where the majority of Hong Kong’s population lives. As more and more people crossed the border from Mainland China into Hong Kong after the war, the British colonial government was confronted with a housing dilemma of mega proportions. The recently arrived refugees from the communist north lived in shanty towns precariously located on hill-side slopes and other inadequate housing. After several landslides and fires, Hong Kong embarked on a giant subsidized housing scheme. More and more public housing estates where built on the peninsula bordering Mainland China. To this day, approximately half of all housing in Hong Kong is subsidized. Which ironically makes the Hong Kong government, known for its laissez-faire attitude in anything business-related, the world’s largest landlord.
I haven’t posted a Da Count for quite a while, and it’s not because I have nothing in my life to be thankful of… It’s just that sometimes the words don’t come easily, and day-to-day life is a little too hectic to lean back and reflect.
Yesterday, I went to bed early… thanks to the aftershocks of jetlag… and woke up at 5.30 this morning. After brewing coffee and booting up my notebook, I looked out of the window of my study, which has a wonderful view of the Hong Kong harbor. It was still dark outside, and I could see the lights of the city.
I was thinking about how strange life can get. I am sitting here in Hong Kong, thousands of miles away from where I was born, and while growing up in Berlin, I certainly didn’t think that one day I would be living here. I always wanted to travel, see and experience different places, and grabbed every opportunity that came along, but I am still amazed that things actually worked out the way they did.
Living abroad sometimes has its challenges, especially in the beginning when you have to adapt to a different way of life than you are used to. I am no saint and on my cranky days I bitch about the supposed and real shortcomings of my adopted home. But then, no place is perfect, and Hong Kong is certainly one of the very comfortable and interesting cities to live in on this planet.
I am thankful for the experiences I had while living here and traveling through Asia, the pictures and memories I have in my mind, and to which I am still adding new ones. And I am also thankful for the different perspective on life that living abroad gave me. The realization that things can be handled slightly differently, but need not be better or worse because of it. It would be so very boring, if every place on this earth were the same.