Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everybody

Me at Hubbart Glacier

I hope you all had a great year and wish that the coming one is an even better one.

On my side it has been a very good year. It is the first full year that I am writing the blog and I must say that it is more and more fun, just to write about the travels, the destinations and the recipes. My new Years resolution is that I will have more recipes in the Blog. If there is anything in particular you would like to see, let me know, I know Ilze wanted a chocolate cake recipe from me and has never received it, so I will put it in the Blog, sorry Ilze!
Sunset in Sitka, Alaska

It has been a good year work wise too. I am enjoying my new job with Celebrity Cruises, especially this contract. It will be a bit of a longer contract as we will sell the beautiful Mercury to our sister company TUI at the end of February. We are all a bit sad, but we know that she is in good hands and it looks like that the Mercury (in future Mein Schiff 2) Will look stunning after the revamp in Dry dock is finished.
The least a part of it

That means that I will be on a different ship for my next contract. I have no idea which ship, but we will see, every ship has something that is beautiful, so I don't mind which one it will be.

Anyway, I am off to work, I made already my round this morning at 06.50 AM, had a lovely Latte from Cova Cafe, now just wanted to write my Blog quickly and then the day really starts. Meetings, Cooking show, Special Lunch for our Cruise Critics Guests, Captains Club Celebration, then the formal evening again and after that the New Years Party with Canapes, plenty of Canapes.........
Me in Panama Canal

See you all again "next" year. Keep on reading the blog and any comment is welcome!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everybody. I hope you all have a peaceful time, or at least can relax a little in this usually hectic time.

Here on the beautiful Mercury everything goes well, it is a great 14 day Caribbean Cruise and the guest seem to enjoy very much. We have less guest than expected as a whole big bunch of them got stuck in London, due to the cold weather and loads of snow, but still there are plenty guest on board.

I just want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Here some photos from our "Tree Trimmer" Buffet which we served just before Midnight last night

It is amazing to see when a team comes together. We had one hour to set up a full dessert buffet with ice carvings and everybody helped.....then the call comes from the freezer "Chef, the carvings are all stuck to the floor, we can't get them up!" You can imagine my answer and only a couple of minutes later the first carving came up. Then another one and........a Dragon tail? No that is not one of the Christmas carvings, send it back.
Look at how delicate the carvings are. We have a special decorator on the ship who does all the carvings, he is a real master and I did write his name on my "wish list" of the top crew I have worked wit, just in case I have the need one day.....

Our Master Baker from Germany, Bernd, went totally wild and made wonderful Panetone, Stollen and other delicacies. His show pieces are amazing, I love every single one.
Lito, our Executive Sous Chef Pastry did the same on his side, amazing all the good his team produces and they were enjoyed by everybody.
So again to all of you, I wish you a Merry Christmas, enjoy this wonderful time and indulge in cookies and other treats

Friday, December 24, 2010

Braised Veal Cheeks

They are cheeky little things, the veal cheeks (or one can take as well beef cheeks) Not too many attempt cooking them, maybe because they are cheeks?????

Anyway, everybody who had the pleasure in trying cheeks will love them forever. They need to be cooked slow and careful and for a very long time as it is a muscle that is used a lot.....literally, but therefore it is a lot more flavourful than, lets say a fillet or sirloin.

I just love the cuts which have to be cooked slowly and for a long time, they just develop such a beautiful flavour, they get tender, are tasty and even on warmer days they are nice to eat. Apart from that they are the perfect party food as they can easily be cooked a couple of days in advance and then just need to be re-heated, cheeky!!!

And I thought after all the starters and sweets, it is about time to have some nice hearty main course. The combination with the Gnocchi goes really well, just make sure the potatoes are really soft and then dried in the oven for about 10 minutes at 100 o C. To get the best result the flour must be mixed in while the potatoes are still hot .

As for braising the cheeks, I am a bit cheeky too and give approximate weights or just ingredients, I don't believe in exact amounts for braising, sometimes one needs a bit more liquid, sometimes a bit less, just never be stingy!

  • Veal Cheeks
  • Oil
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Tomato paste
  • Red wine
  • Veal stock or jus
  • Pepper corns, bay leaf, 1 clove, rosemary
  • Salt (very little as the sauce will reduce and flavor will intensify
trim and braise beef cheek in red wine and veal stock cook till tender reserve stock to make sauce…make gnocchi …roast celeriac peel and roast carrots peel and roast shallots….pick spinach…

1 kg of cooked mashed desire potato
300gm flour

Gently fold the ingredients together to form soft dough
Blanch in boiling salted water until they float, Then refresh in ice water.

Then you need the following vegetables, but feel free to swap and change (root veggies are good so for this dish)
  • Baby Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Spinach
  • Shallots
To Serve reheat cheek in some of reserved liquid…pan fry gnocchi adding finely chiffonnade sage heat shalots carrots and roast celeriac sautéed spinach slice cheek into 3 pieces construct dish and sauce liberally….

Now if you like to know exactly how to braise properly, watch this space I as I will over time part with some chef short cuts so, that I am not fond of short cuts

And then of course.....enjoy the meal, best with friends and maybe a nice bottle of Brunello, especially the Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino...just drink it with good friends, it is not the cheapest wine available, but man, it is gooooooooood!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beauty Contest in St. Maarten

I just have to tell you about this one, a beauty contest in a different way. St. Maarten or Philipsburg was packed, totally packed as 4 cruise ships were there and to of the latest and most beautiful ones were next to each other, tell me which one you like more. Is it the Norwegian Cruise Line’s EPIC or Celebrity’s ECLIPSE?
I am totally hooked by one of them. I call them the beauty and the beast, the beauty being the ECLIPSE. I think her forms are a lot nicer, slimmer, and sexier, what do you think? I was on the Equinox for 20 days, she has the same interior like the Eclipse and have to say that at the moment it is most probably one of the nicest ships on the seven seas, not just because I work for Celebrity, but being a Foodie and seeing what they have on offer in the Specialty Restaurants is just fantastic. No Franchise Restaurants, but all in house with home made goods.
Of course there was as well the Disney Magic. She would win any beauty contest hands down. The shape of the ship reminds me a bit of the Nautilus from a book of Jules Vernes. Then the small ship between all of them, yes that is us!!!!! The other ships are a lot bigger than we are, I mean a lot.

I made some more photos of St. Maarten, just to show you the beauty of this island; it is the Dutch side with Phillipsburg.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Celebrity Mercury, Formal Evening

Just a quick Blog today, we are on the way back to Baltimore and I believe it is snowing there. The whole cruise was a bit on the fresh side as there was a huge cold front everywhere, even in the Caribbean. So if it is snowing or we see snow in Baltimore I will make some photos and post it on the blog

But today's entry is all about the formal evening on the beautiful Celebrity Mercury. It is a big event with the baked Alaska Parade where all the waiters are coming down the stairs and having the burning Baked Alaska trays in their hands. I is always something special and I thought I will NOT put a photo in it, not because I don't want to, but because I am part of the parade, standing on the stairs as I get introduced, together with my second in charge and the Pastry Chef with his second in charge.

But why I mention that evening is that my Culinary Administrator told me that there is plenty of videos on You Tube about that evening, so all you have to do is go on to You Tube and search for Celebrity Mercury, Formal Evening and you will be surprised how many videos there are.

The evening is like the Grand Finale of the Cruise, we serve a lovely menu with Lobster Tails, Fillet Mignon with Foie Gras and many more delicious meals.....hungry? stay tuned for more to come

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Key Lime Pie in Key West, Florida

Yes, we are in Key West, it has been a long time since I have been here last and I still have fond memories of this place, going through town to buy fresh fish early in the morning when everybody is still sleeping and there are no tourists around.

This time it was a little different, I am here in the afternoon, it is boiling hot and the streets are full of tourists and I just want to go back to the ship where it is beautifully air-conditioned. But I still enjoyed the capital of the Conch Republic, the epicenter of the world famous Key Lime Pie.

There is a difference in the Lime Pie compared to other lime pies. The Key Lime is a little smaller and extremely fragrant, so the pie is of course very fragrant too. I will give you my recipe of a Key Lime Pie, one I know it works and is tasty. The Pie is very light and easy to prepare.
Key West is a lovely town, humid at times, but beautiful and tropical at the same time. Amongst other the famous writer Ernest Hemingway lived here for a long time and many other
There is a lot to see, many museums, restaurants, the butterfly farm, the southern most point and so much more. It is such a relaxed place, just to put your feet up and enjoy your time here. It is quite a way to drive from Miami but worth it and if you have time, make an overnight stop and drive back the next day as night life here is fantastic, exciting and plentiful, something for every taste.


16 graham crackers, crushed
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cube (1/4 lb) margarine or butter

4 large or extra large egg yolks
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (approximately 12 Key limes)
2 teaspoons grated lime peel, green portion only

4 Egg whites
6 oz Castor Sugar

Mix the ingredients and press them into a 9" pie plate. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 10 - 12 minutes until lightly browned. Place on a rack to cool.

Pie Filling
Use an electric mixer and beat the egg yolks until they are thick and turn to a light yellow, don't over mix. Turn the mixer off and add the sweetened condensed milk. Turn speed to low and mix in half of the lime juice. Once the juice is incorporated add the other half of the juice and the zest, continue to mix until blended (just a few seconds). Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake at 350F for 12 minutes to set the yolks

Beat the egg whites with a quarter of the sugar to soft peak in an electric beater, add the rest of the sugar and beat till all the sugar has dissolved and the mix is nice and solid.
Pipe the mix on the cold pie and then burn the top with a torch.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cold Weather in Baltimore

Yes you see right, we are back in Baltimore, just for a turn around and then off for the next cruise, 9 days this time with some exciting stops, one of them will be Key West and I think there will be a nice recipe. As for now I am freezing nearly to death, it is just too cold and I have to check all the produce that has arrived. At least there is no wind, so I am just ok. You can imagine how much it needs to feed everybody for 9 days, this is loads of food. Just Hamburger patties for example, I will use around 1400 lbs (700 kg) in this cruise. That is a lot of Hamburgers, let me tell you. The Pool Grill is a very busy place to be and as it is open from around 11 AM till at least 6 PM, there are a lot of guest (and crew) coming to enjoy our burgers.

So yes, it is freezing cold here and I can't wait to be back south where the sun shines and it is nice and warm. When we went to Baltimore we had 3 days at sea and it got colder every single day.

Anyway, just another couple of days and you will get the latest news about Key West.......yes the recipe will be a love key lime pie, mmmmmm.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Celebrity in St. Maarten

St. Maarten, a beautiful Island in the Caribbean, beautiful and different to many other Islands as it belongs to two countries, France and Holland and everybody lives in peace next to each other. The beauty is that there are two very different cultures so close to each other living in harmony and giving so much Charm to this Island.

Due to the size of our ship we are in Phillipsburg, the Dutch side. Only smaller ships are allowed to dock on the French side but I have to say, I love it over there, it is like France in the Caribbean, small coffee shops, nice shopping and the French flair.

Philipsburg is a bit more commercial, there are plenty of electronic shops and all sorts of duty free shops, but be careful and shop around. We looked for a cell phone and the same phone cost anything between $160 with free chip and pouch to $190 with no extras..... I never bought a cell phone and most probably never will, but it just shows that it is really important to compare the prices.

The restaurants are plentiful here and mostly average, but one can always find something nice if one looks around a little bit. Last time we had this lovely sandwiches, Prosciutto and goats cheese, ah was that good. I love being out there and have some different food.

Of course there is plenty to do here on St. Maarten like para sailing and our favorite, Jet ski. I love to go full speed over the waves, it relaxes very much and all one can think of is the thrill of riding the Jet Ski, yes St.

Maarten is a special place. I am glad that we will be back here a couple more times.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Celebrity Mercury at Sea

It takes us 3 days to sail from Baltimore down to the Caribbean to our first Destination, the beautiful Island of St. Thomas. You might think that 3 days is  along time but it passes so quickly as there is much to do on board the beautiful Mercury.

This time I want to elaborate a bit more on what is happening on the second day of the cruise, still everybody is new on the ship and many guest walk around a little bit like lost sheep. That is when any of the crew members jump in and help the guest, usually with a "How may I assist you?" and then we guide everybody to their final destination.

That morning we have as well the galley tour, or heart beat of the operation as we like to call it. Usually we have around 250 to 300 guests joining us, first for a glass of Champagne and then for the tour. The galley is stainless steel from top to bottom, so it is really nice and shiny, imagine, even the walls and ceiling are polished stainless steel. Of course it is not just for prettiness, but a USPH (United States Public health) requirement as it is easy to clean. So we get all the guest happy through the galley and they can see where we actually prepare all the 9000 meals every day. And it is heart beat as there are many chefs in the galley working away and producing all the dishes for the day. Usually the guest are really impressed with what they see.

Then there is one event after the other, Bingo, Life Music up at the Pool, there is the buffet for lunch on deck 11, or the possibility to have a small a la carte in the dining room, Pizza station, Pool grill and, and, and.....the eating frenzy begins

In the evening we have Captains Toast in the Theatre, so all the top officers have to go on stage.....yes me too and we get introduced to our guest, we do that twice this evening, one time for each seating in the restaurant, so usually the day ends around 2300. So yes, they are long days, but of course I still have my break to relax a little, usually the day starts for me around 730 in the morning, then it is still nice and quiet in the galley and then slowly the noise level rises for breakfast, then goes down a bit, goes up high during lunch, gets very quiet during the afternoon (my break time) and then culminates in the evening service when we push out all the meals, cooking, the waiters getting the plates and of course the dish wash getting everything clean again, a total mad house, but for me the best time of the day

Anyway, next time I tell you more about one of the ports we go to!

I am off to bed as it is usual, but I had just another good day in Paradise, so there is no complaints

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Marinated Artichokes

We are back in Baltimore, our home port for the Caribbean Season. As usual turn around days are hectic for everybody, but exciting at the same time. We have around 1800 guest leaving the ship after having had a great vacation (the weather was great, the ports beautiful and the beach BBQ stunning) and then after the ship gets cleaned from top to bottom, another 1800 guest are joining us, looking forward to a nice vacation. This time we will be out for 12 days doing the Eastern Caribbean with ports like St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Kitts, St. Johns and St. Maarten........looks like we are visiting all the Saints in the Caribbean!

Anyway, this time in Baltimore we had to go out and get some special dishes for the ship, we have a Tapas station in one of our outlets and need to get more plates....not an easy thing in Baltimore. We were driving around for quite a while till we found everything and instead of just popping out for a short while it became a mission and a half, but we got what we needed, now we can continue doing our Tapas which are serve with live music, it is either our String Quartet that plays or we have a great Piano player

So my question to all the people in Baltimore, where can I find a really fantastic Kitchen Equipment store that has a great variety of China ware????? Help me here, please.

I still haven't gone to explore Baltimore, but what I could see so far is that it is a beautiful City, close to Washington DC. Two of my chefs went out to visit family and went all the way to see the White House....what an amazing experience I hope one day I can get there too!

So talking about Tapas, I got another Tapas Recipe, again, nice and simple, but very tasty

Marinated Artichokes
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) Artichoke quarters (Tinned)
30 g (1 oz) Shallots
15 g (0.5 oz) Garlic
A little bit Tarragon
A little bit Oregano
Kosher salt
White pepper
Olive Oil

Drain artichokes
Chop herbs finely
Mix all ingredients carefully
Season to taste
Marinate over night

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sailing and working on one of the most beautiful Cruise Ships

Yes I am bad, I have not written in one month and feel bad about that. I have been busy but just need to make a little more time to write. So what I will do now as well is just to tell you where I am and what I do, then of course still the recipes, but I want to tell you a little bit about the life at sea.

As you know, I am working on the beautiful Celebrity Mercury, a wonderful ship and we have every cruise around 1800 guests. Nowadays that is considered small, but yes we are still producing over 9000 meals a day. The great thing is that we make everything fresh, this is nice for a chef as we love to work with fresh products.

We are sailing out of Baltimore and then doing trips to the Caribbean, usually between 9 and 12 days. I love this length of cruise as one has everything, a couple of relaxing days at sea, then some islands and then some relaxing days again. So I will tell you a little more about the where abouts and what one can do on the ship and of course what we do on the ship. Ship life is very interesting and there is never a dull moment.

So anyway, we are sailing into Baltimore once again, a lovely city just a stone throw away from the port. I will sit down and tell you more in the next Blog. As for now, I am off to bed, there was a talent show  this morning, then  we did a cooking show, just after that we had something called an Officers Picnic where the officers stand behind the buffet and serve the guests, a lot of fun. Then we had a Cruise Critics Lunch, specially for all the guest who are part of this Blog Site. We usually do a lovely lunch always ending with a nice and scrumptious Chocolate Souffle....yes there will be a recipe of it....sometimes, you need to keep on reading.

So I see you all soon again


Monday, November 1, 2010

Charleston, South Caroline

OK, I just have to write a little travel blog about Charleston in South Carolina. It is the first time that I am here and I have to be honest, I didn’t expect much. So to my great surprise, Charleston is a beautiful city with so much history and historical building, just amazing. I think Charleston is the perfect place to spend a coupe of relaxing days, take in the Southern charm of this city, have some very fine meals and rnjoy life.

After being on board for far too long without going out (all my mistake) I was really looking forward to explore Charleston a bit and wow, it is amazing. It is a very romantic old town with little alleys, loads of trees and plenty of little restaurants, pubs and bars. Everything is beautifully renovated and all one wants to do is sipping on a Latte, have a Croissant and sit in one of the beautiful cafes.

I think Charleston is a paradise for art lovers, so many galleries and as well for photographers. There are plenty of picture opportunities so one is absolutely in heaven.

It is Halloween at the moment cannot see it when strolling through the old town, it is just so picture perfect, one can really feel the history in these walls. The weather is a lot warmer than just 2 days ago in Baltimore, so everybody enjoys the warm days, especially so late in the year. It is just perfect to relax a bit in the park close to the ship. So Charleston really has surprised me and I have to say that it is a great and beautiful city.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Marinated Kalamata Olives

Let's do some Tapas and start very, very easy. I love Tapas, it is not just good in summer, but simply every day, something to nibble with a good glass of wine. We are doing Tapas on our ship and it is very popular in the late afternoon in Cova Cafe. There is beautiful life Music, one can of course still have coffees too, but there is a very nice selection of wines too and what could be better then listening to some wonderful music, fresh Tapas and a glass of wine.

So, here is the recipe, really very simple

2 lbs Kalamata Olives
2 Quart Olive Oil
1 Bunch Thyme
4 Lemon zested
4 Orange zested
4 oz. Shallots chopped
4 oz. Garlic chopped

Drain the olives
Add all ingredients
Marinate for 1 day

By the way, just some travel updates. We just finished a beautiful Caribbean Cruise sailing out of Baltimore and going down to Labadee in Haiti for a great beach BBQ, then to St. Thomas, St. Kitts, San Juan and St. Maarten. Yes I am spoilt to be able to go to all these places, great weather and it is nice and warm. Always when we get to Baltimore I get a hint of winter....big hint as it can get feezing here.Life is good here on one of the beautiful Celebrity Ships, especially as a chef as food and wine is one of he high lights here on a Celebrity Cruise.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Tiramisu is one of my all time favourites. You might say now that it is not an In-Dessert but I could not agree on that. A good Tiramisu is still something absolutely beautiful, a delight with a very light Mascarpone Mousse and sponge (or Finger biscuits) soaked in strong Espresso, Kalua Liquor and a hint of Amaretto. Unfortunately there is too much mediocre Tiramisu around out there that we actually don’t know anymore how wonderful Tiramisu can be. I had many Tiramisu in Italian restaurants and often I am very disappointed. This recipe has no gelatine in it, it is very important that the egg yolk and icing sugar are properly beaten, to ensure the Tiramisu will not be too runny.

I researched a bit about the history of this now famous dessert, but there is not too much one can find. The one thing that is clear is that it is not an Italian Classic as in a dessert made since centuries. There are different years of when it apparently has been made the first time; I found dates from 1969, 1972 and 1983. It looks so as it comes from the Italian Town of Treviso. It is very similar to Zuppa Inglese another Italian Dessert, this one is older so. But in general in Italy they made layered desserts since many centuries.

If anybody has more information, please share it with me as I would love to know more about one of my favourite desserts, or write your favourite version in the comments, there is no such thing as the “only” or “perfect” Tiramisu recipes, many ways lead to Rome.....

I like to serve it with a marinated Strawberry salad to give the dessert a bit of a fruity zest to it. If the Tiramisu is done properly on can cut it is squares which makes the plating a bit nicer. I make it as well one day in advance as the flavours are coming out better.

6 Each Egg yolk

150 G Icing sugar
Vanilla essence
600 G Mascarpone
500 Ml Whipped cream

Biscuit bottoms
Coffee reduction

Whip the egg yolks with the icing sugar and vanilla till very foamy and hard
Add the mascarpone and mix quickly
Add the whipped cream carefully
Put one layer of biscuit then pour some coffee reduction and amaretto on it.
Then make a layer of the mascarpone cream
Repeat the same once more
Leave the tiramisu overnight in the fridge.
Sprinkle cocoa over it before serving

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Clam Chowder in San Francisco

Yes, the blog got a new outfit. I thought after one year it needs a little face lift and I am actually very happy with it. We were sitting in the office trying out new templates and everybody gave me opinions, so that is the new face of the Country Gourmet Traveler. Let me know what you think. I still want to play a little more with it, but that is the start.

After the last Blog I just have to give you my recipe of the Clam Chowder, because I am still dreaming of this delicious soup I had in San Francisco. Sitting outside and enjoying this soup in the crusty sour dough bread was just a dream, so here it is, my Clam Chowder Recipe.

New England Clam Chowder

4 slices bacon, diced

1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
ground black pepper to taste
3 cups half-and-half
 tablespoons butter
2 (10 ounce) cans minced clams

Place diced bacon in large stock pot over medium-high heat. Cook until almost crisp; add onions, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in water and potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.

Pour in half-and-half, and add butter. Drain clams, reserving clam liquid; stir clams and 1/2 of the clam liquid into the soup. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until heated through. Do not allow to boil.

By the way, I have to admit that I am already back in the Caribbean, yes it goes fast. We had a 17 day cruise back to Baltimore and I will tell you a bit more with some photos as well. I love the cruising and especially Panama Canal was amazing, but more about that in the next blog

Friday, October 8, 2010

San Francisco and Sour Dough Bread

After cruising in Alaska for a couple of days seeing Hubbart Glacier, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka we made our way south and have arrived in San Francisco after two rough days at sea. Yes the weather was not great and we had even snow in Alaska, but now here in San Francisco we have beautiful sunshine and it is lovely warm.

We are here for two days, but of course my time is very limited to go out and explore much, on top of that I need to get new plates for our Tapas in the evening, so all I actually could do is to go out to Pier 39 and indulge in a wonderful New England Chowder served in a San Francisco Sour Dough Bread.

Of course there are plenty of sights in town already, never mind the proximity to the Californian Wine Lands, something one must explore while here on the West coast. But like I said, all I did was going out to Pier 39, a lovely place full of restaurants and shops, the Aquarium is there and some museums are close by.

Being hungry I went on in my search of local cuisine and found something really interesting close by, a shop selling a sumptuous Clam Chowder served in traditional San Francisco Sourdough Bread. Wow, was that nice, the soup just had the right amount of spice and the bread was soaked with the soup, I had every bit to the last crumb. After that I had a leisurely walk through Pier 39, relaxed a bit in the sun, before going back to the ship. So of course being here in San Francisco I have a lovely recipe for the Sour Dough Bread. Try it out, it is the artisanal way of doing the bread, you will enjoy every bite
San Francisco Sourdough
Makes 1 loaf


For the starter:
3 tsp dried yeast
450ml (¾pint) water
375g (13oz) strong white flour, sifted

For the dough:
175g (6oz) strong white flour
75g (2½oz) wholemeal flour
2 tsp salt
75g (2½oz) “old” dough (see below)


1. To make the starter Sprinkle the yeast into the water in a large jar. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve.
2. Stir the flour into the jar of yeasted water using a wooden spoon. Cover with a tea towel and leave to ferment at room temperature for at least 3 days and at most 5 days before refrigeration. Stir the mixture twice a day; it will be bubbly and and pleasantly sour-smelling.
3. To make the dough Mix the flours and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Spoon 500ml (16floz) of the starter into a liquid measuring jug. Replenish the remaining starter for the next time you make bread. Tear the “old” dough into tiny pieces then add the starter and the “old” dough pieces to the flour well.
4. Mix in the flour to form a firm but moist dough. Add more water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the dough it too dry or crumbly.
5. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
6. Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Knock back, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.
7. Pinch off a 75g (2½oz) piece of the dough for your next bread making. Wrap the piece of dough loosely in greaseproof paper and foil and refrigerate or freeze the dough until the next time you make bread.
8. Shape the remaining dough into a round loaf. Place on a floured baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and prove until doubled in size, about 1½ hours.
9. Cut three parallel slashes, about 5mm (¼in) deep, across the top of the loaf, then three more slashes in the opposite direction to make a criss-cross pattern. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Rising: 2 hours
Proving: 1½ hours
Oven temp: 220C / 425F / Gas 7
Baking: 1 hour

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

British Airways, back to work in Alaska

I am on the way back to work, yes it was a long and fantastic holiday, done a lot, been in beautiful places, but now it is time to work again, earn some money......and see some more of the World. I just had a long flight from Cape Town to London with British Airways, 8 hours in Heathrow and then another long haul flight to Vancouver. That is quite a change in scenery. I am joining Celebrity again for another 4 month contract, starting here in Canada and then going over Alaska and then down the West Coast to San Francisco and San Diego. Then we will go through the Panama Canal back into the Caribbean with some exciting new ports, so there is a lot happening in the next four month with many new recipes.
As so often my journey starts in Cape Town Airport. Since the renovation it became a really beautiful and practical airport. There is plenty of parking and everything is easy to find. Check in is central and quick, there are plenty of shops, and restaurants so there is enough to do while waiting. The shops in the duty free are fine, but nothing special, after all it is not a huge airport, but has everything one need. The design is beautiful, so well done on this airport.

As a little farewell treat I went to “Mugg and Bean” for a Bagel Breakfast with smoked Salmon Trout and Scrambled Eggs, it was as usual in this restaurant a big portion and delicious. Everything here is nearly over sized, the Muffins, Scones and if you attempt a slice of cake, you will need someone to help you.
I am no fan of British Airways, maybe because I had two bad experiences quite a few years ago and am still grumbling about them; it was that they run out of drinks and bad service. Especially bad service I can’t stand. As usual the seats are tight together and one has hardly enough space to move, the flight was pretty full, so one is stuck in the seat. The food looked........not very appetizing but in its defence I have to admit that the chicken was really tasty. The pudding was straight out of the desert, just dry and crumbly and the next morning breakfast, let’s say I will not gain weight on this journey, I didn’t eat the breakfast, just not as nice as on many other airlines.
But this is only the first leg of the journey; I am now in London waiting for my connection to Vancouver. I am in terminal 5 and must say that it is very nice. Loads of overpriced shops, many restaurants and some of them are actually pretty interesting like the one of Gordon Ramsey. I am no fan of him, but like some of his cook books very much. The restaurant is called Plane Food and I just made a photo of the Menu, I think it is a really good idea, unfortunately the menu is only served from 12 lunch and that is the time I need to check in otherwise I would love to spend the 19 Pound for the three course meal, it looks very appetizing. For a Foodie, this is a place to go.
Then there is of course Prunier, Caviar House. This is another good place to eat some Seafood and have a glass of Champagne. It is very upmarket, but nice! So everything is available here, fom the quick take away to the upmarket deli dining, a good place to be stranded for a couple of hours between flights.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Abalone in South Africa

Abalone, this mystical seafood that fetches sky high prices on Asian markets (and other markets) is the theme of this blog. I was very fortunate that some friends had a whole lot of legally caught Abalone or Perlemoen as they are called in South Africa in the freezer. When they cooked some they turned out totally tough and like leather, so they wanted to know how to prepare them.
There is nothing nicer for a chef to “play” around with food, see how one can get the best out of it and that is exactly what I was doing for a whole evening. So I made 3 different dishes with the 6 Abalone I had.
But before that I had to get the Abalone ready. It is quite a bit of work to make sure they are really nice and tender. First they have to be cleaned properly, I washed them for about 10 minutes under cold water.

Then the funny stuff around them has to be cut off, careful that one doesn’t cut off too much, then I had to wash them again before cutting them in about 5 mm (sixth of an inch) slices. Hey have to be more or less gently hammered between 2 plastic bags. Too much and they rip apart, too little and they will still be tough, so take your time and patiently hammer them till you feel that now they must be tender. Only now they are ready to be cooked. Don’t forget, there are different types of Abalone, these ones were rather big, so they needed a bit more treatment than a small one would need.

For any reader in San Diego, not too far away from you there is a huge centre of Abalone and Sea Urchin, they are actually farmed in Ensenada, Mexico. So if anyone get’s there, go out and buy some Urchin and Abalone, a fantastic treat!
The one was just plain marinated with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, then flash fried for about 10 seconds, yes 10 seconds only, you need to be fast as otherwise the Abalone gets very tough again.

The second way was a little bit Asian, I marinated the Abalone with Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Sesame Oil, Garlic and Ginger, and then again, flash fried for 10 seconds, again the meat was lovely and tender
The last, and my favourite way was that I made an egg batter with whole eggs and self raising flour, like a thick crepe batter without milk. I seasoned the Abalone and then put them in the batter. Then I fried them quickly on each side till golden, following the rule that the shorter the cooking the more tender they will, they were stunning as they were cooked very gently.

So the next day we all met at the friend’s house. One person made the starter, a lovely shrimp cocktail, beautifully presented and very tasty, what a great start for the evening. He really outdid himself, it was one of the nicest prawn cocktails I had in a very long time.
Then we had the main course, Abalone two ways, with lemon and Asian, I served it with lemon scented mash potatoes and roasted vegetables.

Dessert was a traditional Roly Poly pudding. It was actually the first time that I had a Roly Poly pudding and I think I need t make it once myself, it was just divine. Unfortunately I have no photo of it, but boy, it was really good. So with the great company, the good food and wine, we had a wonderful evening at the friend’s house. Thank you so much again for the hospitality and the Abalone, a treat one only has very seldom.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sinigang Baboy, Bohol, Philippines Part 4

We have gone away for a break to an island called Bohol. It is a good hours flight from Manila and easily reachable with either Philippine Airways or with Cebu Pacific. Bohol is the home of the Tarsier, the smallest primate in the world and has a national park with the “Chocolate” Mountains.

I checked the net a bit about information of Bohol and found a lot. I can see that most people stay for just a short while and do one huge day trip, writing proudly that they have seen 14 sights in one day.......where is the holiday feeling?

We stayed for two nights at the Bohol Bee Farm. It is close to Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol. The accommodation is simple but nice, there is a lovely restaurant and everything is organic and grown on the farm. There is free wireless, if anybody is interested and needs to check on Face Book or can’t get away from the busy everyday life. Our flight left at 5 AM in the Morning, so we were awake the whole night, luckily we could check in a 8 AM already and actually just slept and relaxed the first day. 

We had room service and just organized the tour for the next day, at 8 AM as we thought we rather go earlier than later. We had only 6 sights for the day, we really had no intention to rush from site to site.
So we were ready at 8, but there was no driver and we were told that the tour only leaves at 9 AM, shame, could have had another hour sleep. But then shortly after 9 we went off on the tour. First we would drive to Chocolate Mountains as it was the furthest away, about 1 and a half hours drive. During the drive we would pass all the other sights, all of them lovely but the highlight is the chocolate mountains, just the shape is already incredible. As we had nice time we could stay for long and just enjoy the view. It is an amazing site to see.

Then we went to the river cruise with lunch, traditional Philippine fare wit loads of prawns, which means here that they are generous, prawns are expensive. There is nothing European on the buffet, so one needs to like the local fare which I do. There is live music and cool drinks are included. It is not a booze cruise, but a very relaxing time sailing up the river till one comes to a small waterfall, there the ship turns around. The river is beautiful and it is definitely something one should do while on Bohol.
Then the third highlight is the Tarsier, the smallest Primate on the world. Unfortunately it is just a small place, tourist attraction; make a photo of the Tarsier, then buy a souvenir and good bye. Compared to the butterfly sanctuary it was not great, but it is just nice to see the Tarsier even when captured. As I have mentioned the Butterfly sanctuary is really great, very informative and one has plenty of opportunities to see beautiful examples.

Back in the hotel we just relaxed a bit, had a lovely dinner, of course as everything, there is honey on all the food, lol, even the dip for the French Fries.

The next morning we could check out late as the flight only went in the afternoon. I have to say that they were extremely accommodating here on Bohol Bee Farm and I can only recommend them. I have put a link to their website if anybody is interested.

Yes Bohol is worth a trip and don’t do too much on one day, relax, have 2 days of exploring, hire a bike and travel around, enjoy the beautiful beaches and take it easy. Life is still normal here, not like in the big tourist centres, and so are the prices. There is accommodation for any budget from the simple room to the fancy resort, anything one is looking for, you find in on Bohol. There are plenty of flights and the flights in Philippines are very reasonably priced.


450 g (1lb) boney pork
3-4 medium tomatoes – sliced
1 big onion – sliced
1 Tbsp sea salt
1-2 green chilis – pointed ends cut off [optional]
6-8 cups water
souring agent (tamarind puree, lemon and/or lime)
1 aubergine (eggplant) – sliced 1 inch thick and quartered
1 bunch long string beans – cut into 2 inch pieces
2 taro roots (gabi) – peeled and quartered
spinach leaves or kangkong – washed and plucked from stems
• Combine tomatoes, onion, and sea salt in a big pot. Mix and mash them a little bit with your fingers. Add chilis and pork.
• Pour just enough water to cover them and bring to boil. Cook for about 3 minutes. Mash the tomatoes with a cooking spoon.
• Pour in the rest of the water, bring to boil and simmer until pork is tender (about 1 1/4 hours). Add taro, aubergine and sitaw. Bring to boil and simmer until taro is almost cooked (about 5 minutes).
• Add the souring agent and spinach (for tamarind puree I use about 1/2 cup of it plus a squeeze of lemon/lime). Cook for 1-2 minutes. Taste soup and adjust seasonings accordingly.

There is ready mix Sinigang available in specialty shops, one can use that instead of Tamarind

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pork Afritada, Philippines Part 3

Like I said, food is very important here in Philippines and people eat out often. Generally it is cheap to eat out, especially in the fast foods and local restaurants. As soon as one goes to a special restaurant it can get costly, but still cheap compared to the US or Europe.

One of the best known fast food chains here is JolliBee and Chow King. To feed 4 people it will cost about 10 USD in total, which is nothing. The fast foods are very popular and often one just orders and pays the food at the till, then gets a number and the food gets brought to the table, even if the restaurant is pumping.

Of course I was into the Halo Halo again and we had it several times. The traditional one is with the shaved ice and all the condiments on top ( sago, sweet cooked corn, red bean paste, flan, jelly, Caramelized Bananas, Coconut and of course Ice Cream) and once we got an “organic” one with fresh papaya, mango, coconut, banana and ice cream, on the shaved ice. Instead of the condense milk they used coconut milk.

During my time here in Philippines I was fortunate to have a lot of home cooked meals, all traditional and made from scratch. During a getaway to the beach in Batangas we had another highlight; we made fresh coconut milk for a traditional dish, spicy chicken in coconut milk. It was fascinating to see how the older coconuts get peeled and then cut in half, just to get all the white flesh out. The flesh is then pressed out to get the real coconut milk. Often the rest is then mixed with some water, boiled up and then pressed out. This coconut milk is not as flavourful, but still very good for cooking.

Batangas is beautiful, very tropical and we had a house not even 50 meters from the beach, totally secluded from anybody. That means we had to bring all our food and drinking water for the three days we stayed there, that is a lot of stuff to feed the 6 of us and then we bought enough to cook with our friends who live there and look after all the beach houses. The pork stew, the recipe is below is cooked on fire, very traditional and tasted just delicious, a real treat. The ladies were cooking half the day as everybody was invited, so we ended up to have about 15 friends and family all enjoying the food tremendously. Then there was a birthday too, the little baby boy was one year old, there must have been about 30 people in total and the cooking went on and on and on.

One has to be careful as there are plenty of mosquitoes, but they are everywhere in the Philippines, especially here at the beach. With us living in the mountains (300 m above sea level) it is a bit better and the temperatures are a little cooler, just a little but one can feel the difference. The air is much better too, not like in Manila where there is just plenty of pollution.

Pork Afritada

Ingredients :
• 1 lb. pork, cut into serving pieces
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/8 tsp. pepper
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 onion, sliced
• 1 tbsp. patis (fish sauce)
• 4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup tomato sauce
• 1 red bell pepper, sliced
• 1 green bell pepper, sliced
• 2 tbsp. fine breadcrumbs (or flour, or cornstarch)
• vegetable oil
(Cooking Conversion Chart)
Cooking Procedures :
1. Put pork in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let stand 10 to 20 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir-fry pork pieces until no longer pink in color and turn lightly brown.
3. Add and sauté garlic until fragrant. Stir in onion until soft and translucent. Season with patis and then add potatoes, stir-fry for a few minutes.
4. Pour in water and tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer covered for about 25 to 30 minutes or until pork is cooked and potatoes are tender.
5. Add in bell peppers and stir to blend. Correct seasonings. Thicken sauce with breadcrumbs (or flour, or cornstarch, if using). Stir and blend and let simmer for another few more minutes.
6. Remove from heat. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot.
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