Skúffukaka – Icelandic Chocolate Cake

August 24, 2018

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I can’t believe that I didn’t experience Skúffukaka until our 7th visit to Iceland, considering it is a traditional dessert. Indeed nearly every Icelandic family has their own version of the recipe, complete with closely guarded secret ingredients. Basically it is a dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkled with coconut flakes. It isn’t fancy per se – in fact skúffukaka means “oven pan cake” or “baking tray cake”. They have a similar version of this recipe in Sweden which is called Kärleksmums (love-yums), but folks in Iceland are pretty practical, so they’ve decided to call it Baking Tray Cake. But don’t let its rustic name put you off, this cake is delicious! I was served my first slice at The Garage Apartments by our lovely host Anna. The Husband and I didn’t know we were eating Skúffukaka at the time, we just knew we loved it!

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The Skúffukaka baked for us by our lovely host Anna at the Garage Apartments.

Anna served us wonderful baked goods every day of our visit. The first being that amazing Varmahlíð Apple Cake that I told you about in my previous blog. I was able to search around the internet and figure out that the chocolate cake she served was called Skùffukaka and then I researched a recipe, which I will share here with you today.

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But let me also take this opportunity to both tell you more about that fantastic trip to Iceland that the Husband and I went on last September as well as alert you to a new feature on my blog. If you look up at the top navigation bar, there is now a “travels” section you can choose. I have organized all of our travel posts here. So it will be much easier to find that trip we took to Prague way back in 2013, should you be searching. These posts not only feature a delicious dish that we experienced on our trip, but are also chock full of lovely pictures and recommendations with links for hotels, restaurants, guides, shops etc, should you be inspired to visit the destination yourself. But back to this Iceland trip from 2017. After we had so much fun on the South Coast, we headed towards the East Fjords. The East Fjords are really a hidden gem in Iceland. Well, I guess they aren’t really hidden. They are right there in plain sight. They are just often overlooked by tourists. Most visitors don’t venture that far from Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. That, and the fact that only roughly 3% of Iceland’s population lives in this area of the country, ensures you will be able to experience some peaceful, beautiful isolation.

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On our way north-east, we stopped by the stunning  Jökulsárlón. Actually we stopped by on our way north and then again when we came back south. We just can not get enough of its breathtaking beauty.

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Jökulsárlón is a large lake which was formed by a glacier. It is located in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Bits of the Vatnajökull glacier break off (calve) into the lake, forming icebergs. These icebergs float around until they melt enough to fit through the narrow opening of the lake and drift out into the ocean,

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though some do wash up on the nearby black sand beach, known as Diamond Beach.

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The first time we visited it was in December of 2013. It was really chilly that day, I’m talking like 12°F (-11°C). We braved the temps as long as we could, but we were pretty dang cold! So visiting in September was quite a different experience. It was sunny and warm both days. We really lucked out!

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A couple of seals swimming about

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Once we were able to finally tear ourselves away from Jökulsárlón, we continued on our northeast journey, taking a bit of time out to soak up the beauty that is Vestrahorn. Vestrahorn is one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland. It is located on the Stokksnes peninsula. One of Iceland’s earliest settlement farms was located in this area. The 454 meter high Vestrahorn mountain rises up from the lava dune strewn shore line. Truly a photographer’s paradise!

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We spent the night in an adorable little cabin

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where we were lucky enough to see a quick glimpse of the Northern Lights through the clouds.

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The next day we continued on towards Seyðisfjörður where we would be spending several days. On the way, zigzagging along the fjords on route 1, we saw many sleepy fishing towns surrounded by rugged mountains and dramatic coastlines. When we reached Egilsstaðir, we ventured off the ring road, up and over the Fjarðarheiði mountain pass, descending down into charming Seyðisfjörður (population 675). Nestled at the end of the fjord and surrounded by often snow peaked mountains and cascading waterfalls, picturesque Seyðisfjörður delights. Populated by many artists, musicians and craftspeople, this friendly town feels so welcoming.

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On our second day there we set off on a hike to see Tvísöngur, the sound sculpture created by german artist Lukas Kühne.

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This concrete structure consists of five interconnected domes, each with its own resonance that corresponds to a tone in the five tone harmony of traditional Icelandic singing.

After exploring the structure, we continued hiking on the Tvísöngur loop which took us up onto a plateau where we were treated to a bird’s eye view of the town and the fjord.

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Later that night we were delighted when the Northern Lights again made an appearance.

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After leaving Seyðisfjörður we headed south again, stopping at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon where the Aurora put on an amazing show. It was so intense, it was actually difficult to get a good picture because rather than a wispy trail of green against the black sky, the entire sky turned green.

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Our final adventure on this action packed trip was going on a glacier walk on Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell National Park with Icelandic Mountain Guides. They showed us how to use crampons and ice axes and then off we went.

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Svínafellsjökull glacier is where the scenes that took place “beyond the wall” in Game of Thrones were shot.

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So I’m sure you must be really inspired now to plan your own adventure in Iceland. Please take a look at the helpful links below if you need some assistance in planning. And do whip up some moist and decadent Skúffukaka while pouring over maps and booking sights. With a slice of that chocolatey goodness and mug of coffee, hepped up on all that sugar and caffeine, there’ll be no stopping you!

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Skúffukaka

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe adapted from: Belle -ÆÐISLEG SKÚFFUKAKA

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 280 grams sugar
  • 125 grams butter- room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs – room temperature
  • 200 grams flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 50 grams natural unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 100 ml milk

For the Frosting:

  • 130 grams salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 250 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 grams dark chocolate, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons cream
  • 1 -2 Tablespoon strong coffee – cooled
  • coconut flakes to sprinkle over the cake

Directions:

For the Cake;

Preheat the oven to 355° F (180°C).

Butter and flour one 9X9″ baking tray.

In a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together for 1 -2 minutes. Add the eggs, mixing well after the addition of each egg. Add the vanilla extract. Mix on medium high-speed for 6 -7 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the dry mixture to the butter & sugar. Mix until just combined.

Add the milk and mix until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking tray and spread evenly. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Set on a wire rack to cool before frosting.

For the Frosting:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter and egg together until combined. With the mixer on low-speed, add the confectioners sugar slowly, 1/4 cup  at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the cocoa and vanilla. Add the melted and cooled chocolate and continue mixing.

Mix in the cream and 1 – 2 Tablespoons of the cooled coffee to taste. Continue mixing until the frosting is smooth. If the icing is not the correct consistency for frosting the cake you can either add a bit more confectioner’s sugar or refrigerate for a short time to allow it to set.

Spread frosting over the cooled cake. This recipe makes a good amount of frosting, so you may not use all of it on the cake. Add as thick a layer of frosting as you prefer. Sprinkle with coconut flakes.

Enjoy!

Skúffukaka brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Skúffukaka:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Nesting Measuring Beaker Set

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Links for Planning your vacation in the East Fjords Iceland:

Accommodation:

Bragdavellir Cottages: located 10km from Djúpivogur, just off of Route 1, these cottages are clean, cozy and offer a fantastic view. Our only regret is that we had just one night’s stay.

Lónsleira Apartments: located in Seyðisfjörður these apartments are perfection! Stylishly furnished, sparklingly clean with amazing location and view!

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon: We loved this hotel! So chic and stylish, not only are the rooms beautiful, but it is also located between Jökulsárlón and Skatafell National Park, two amazing destinations. We can not wait to visit again!

Restaurants/Bars:

Íshúsið Pizzeria: Located in Höfn, right on the harbor, this friendly pizzeria serves up some outstanding pies! We stopped on our way north and again on the way back south.

Kaffi Lára – El Grilló Bar: Located in Seyðisfjörður. Warm and friendly, you will love relaxing in this local bar/restaurant. Everything we tried here was very good, burgers to barbecue, but there was one standout item….they serve the BEST baked potatoes I have ever eaten. I kid you not. One night when we were there, we saw a couple who had just finished their meal. The lady ordered a slice of pie for dessert and her companion ordered another baked potato! Amazing!!!

Tours:

Icelandic Mountain Guides: Want to go on a glacier adventure? Contact these professionals! They won’t let you down!

Rental Cars:

Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!

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Varmahlíð Apple Cake

August 12, 2018

 

 

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Last September the Husband and I went on an amazing trip to Iceland. It was our 7th time visiting and we just can’t get enough of the place! Indeed since this trip we have visited again in February 2018 and are planning another visit this Fall! But let me not get ahead of myself. I’m just going to tell you about the September 2017 visit right now. Believe me, there be more to come. So last September, we were mostly focused on visiting the East Fjords, but we did spend some time revisiting the South Coast. Although we had been there several times, there were still plenty of things in the area that we hadn’t experienced. I first encountered this Varmahlíð Apple Cake

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at The Garage Apartments, which are an absolutely wonderful base of operations if you are visiting that area of the country.

P1010297 (1)These lovely modern rustic apartments are found in former old garage that is located on a family farm belonging to Anna & Siggi. This picturesque homestead is nestled right up to the foot of the mountain topped by the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, under which the famous air traffic interrupting volcano resides.

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Varmahlíð actually means “warm hill”. There is another Varmahlíð in North Iceland. With all the geothermal activity on the island it is easy to see why there would be more than one place known as Varmahlíð. But here I’m referring to an area on the South Coast near the Ejyafjallajökull volcano.

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Siggi’s family has been living on this land for over 200 years. Now Anna & Siggi are operating a “gentleman’s farm” on the site as well as managing several apartments for Iceland’s ever-expanding tourist market.

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Located exactly between the two famous waterfalls Skógafoss

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and Seljalandfoss,

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You can walk behind Seljalandfoss for an alternate view!

these exceptional apartments are the perfect central location for taking in all the South Coast of Iceland has to offer. We of course visited the waterfalls, not our first visit but they never seem to get old. We spent some time on the black sand beach near Vik

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and visited the plane wreck at Sólheimasandur.

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Next we travelled out to the breath-taking Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar).

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Once there we met the adorable Tóti, Vestmannaeyjar’s famous puffin

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and saw the whole town turn out to rescue baby pufflings at night (for more info on the pufflings and Westman islands (see Iceland links below). We went on an exciting rib safari tour around Heimaey.

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The Famous Elephant rock

Drank some local beer at the Brothers Brewery,

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visited the Eldheimar museum which documents the story of the surprise 1973 eruption of the volcano which caused the roughly 5,00 locals to flee on fishing boats in the middle of the night to the safety of the mainland. The eruption, which lasted for 5 months, buried 1/3 of the town in lava and destroyed over 400 houses and businesses. The resilient islanders did return and rebuilt the thriving community you will find today. Fascinating stuff! You really should consider visiting.

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One of the recently uncovered houses which had been buried by lava & ash during the eruption.

And if all the gorgeous scenery hasn’t convinced you, we had the best meal we have ever had in Iceland, which is saying something because the food there is fantastic. The restaurant is Slipurinn. Located in an old machinery shop this family owned eatery features seasonal local sourced dishes often including herbs and seaweed foraged right there on the island. Simply divine food in a friendly and casual environment. Don’t miss it!

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The Husband and I atop the newly formed volcano – Mt. Eldfell

Back on the mainland, we hiked the magnificent Fimmvörðuháls trail, a big accomplishment for us. This challenging 13 mile hike took us up over a mountain (approximately 3,600 feet elevation), past 22 waterfalls,

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past the still warm lava fields from the most recent eruption,

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between two glaciers,

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over the Kattarhryggur (cat’s spine)

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and down the other side through Goðaland (the land of the Gods),

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finishing in Thorsmork (Thor’s Forest).

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It was just jaw dropingly gorgeous and occasionally somewhat terrifying! – Narrow paths with steep drop-offs are not for the faint of heart!

And not only was the Garage Apartments location ideal for all our explorations, but Anna was also such an amazing host, so friendly, warm and welcoming. Her spacious apartments were stylishly decorated, sparklingly clean

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and filled with thoughtful little touches,

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Adorable mice on the bed side table!

and as if all of that was not enough, she served us scrumptious freshly home-baked desserts every day! This delicious Apple Cake was one of them.

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This particular Iceland trip was chock full of activities and I can not tell you how happy we were to come back to find home baked treats waiting for us. What a pleasant surprize! Moist and tender and not too sweet, it was just perfect with a nice hot mug of tea. Anna kindly shared the recipe with me, which I will now share with you.

 

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I must admit, I had to do a few conversions before baking this cake. I don’t have any measuring devices marked with deciliters – but I was able to figure it out pretty quickly. I baked the cake in an 8X8″ pan, but you could also use a 9X9″ – just make sure you adjust the baking time.

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And if you are planning a trip to Iceland anytime in the future and want to visit the South Coast, you’ll know exactly where you should book your accommodation. As a matter of fact, the Husband and I are taking our parents to Iceland this fall. It will be their first trip so we will be playing tour guides for them. And guess where we’ll be staying…That’s right! We are very much looking forward to our upcoming stay at the cozy Garage apartments. For further Iceland recommendations, see my guide at the bottom of this post. In the meantime, try this recipe and enjoy a slice of Varmahlíð Apple Cake while you plan your upcoming adventure.

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Varmahlíð Apple Cake

  • Servings: 9 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Anna, owner of the Garage Apartments

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams soft salted butter
  • 2.5 Deciliter Sugar (1 cup + 1 Tablespoon)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Deciliter Cream (100 ml)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 -5 green apples – sliced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 355° F (180°C)

Place the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add the cream and vanilla. Stir to combine.

Add the flour/baking powder mix to the batter. Mix until just combined.

Place the batter in a buttered deep 8X8″ baking pan and top with the apples. ( I sprinkled the top of my cake with cinnamon sugar, but this was not included in Anna’s recipe. If you love cinnamon like I do, just mix 1/4 cup sugar with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples before baking.)

Bake for 45 -50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean at 355°F (180°C).

Enjoy!

Varmahlíð Apple Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Varmahlíð Apple Cake:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Nesting Measuring Beaker Set

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Links for Planning your vacation in Iceland:

I have tons of links, as well as some lovely photos, and delicious Icelandic recipes in previous blogs that I have written about our adventures in Iceland. For some inspiration take a look at:

December 2012 Visit to the South Coast & Reykjavik featuring White Chocolate Skyramisu

December 2013 Visit to the South Coast, Jökulsárlón & Reykjavik featuring Kanilsnúðar

July & December Visit to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, The Westfjords & Reykjavik featuring Ástarpungar aka Love Balls 

Here is a fun video that show you some of the beauty Iceland has to offer, which will surely get you excited for any upcoming Iceland visit. And it will teach you a few words in Icelandic as well. It is known as “The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World”! Sing along to Inspired by Iceland’s “A – Ö of Iceland”.

If you enjoyed this video, take a look at Inspired By Iceland’s site. They have great little videos showing you gorgeous scenes from each area of Iceland, while teaching you a few more Icelandic words along the way.

Westman Island links:

To Buy tickets on the Herjólfur Ferry as well as read about all the things to see and do take a look at: Visit Westman Islands.

Hotel Vestmannaeyjar – Great accommodation on the Islands.

Stofan Bakhús – Great bakery! Got the best kanilsnúðars there that I have ever had in Iceland! We also got some great sandwiches to take on a hike. Everything there looks delicious. Go be tempted!

On puffins: If you travel to the Westman Island at the end of August/beginning of September there is a good chance you will see baby puffins (pufflings) being rescued by the local children. At this time of year, the pufflings leave their nests but get confused by the lights of the town and rather than flying out to sea, they end up flying into town. The children go out at night with flashlights to find them. They take them home in cardboard boxes for the night. The next morning they take them to the Saeheimar Aquarium to be measured and weighed and the children can have their pictures taken with their little charges as well. Once done, the kids take the little birds to the shore and release them back into the wild during daylight hours so that they won’t become confused. We were lucky enough to be there when this was happening and it was unforgettable!

*On a sad note: Tóti the Puffin passed away in July. He was a great ambassador for Vestmannaeyjar and brought joy to many. The Husband and I are so glad we were able to meet him. He will be sorely missed.

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Interested in hiking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail? See here:

If you are interested in hiking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, you can go all on your own. However, we strongly recommend going with a guide.  Weather at  the top of the mountain is very unpredictable and many tourists have ended up having to call ICE-SAR to be rescued. Don’t let this happen to you! We absolutely love the tour company Midgard Adventure and have gone out with them on many exciting adventures. They not only provided us with a knowledgeable and engaging guide but when we descended down into Thorsmork after our epic 9 – 10 hour hike, the folks from Midgard had grilled some hot dogs and were waiting for us with a cooler of beer as well as other snacks. It was just perfection! Check out their other tours as well. They are an amazing company! And they now offer cozy accommodation as well. Take a look at their basecamp where you can find a restaurant, cafe and bar as well.

 

 

 

 


Königsberger Klopse (German Meatballs)

February 18, 2014

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So you know how I pulled that disappearing act back in the Fall? Well there were just a whole bunch of reasons that happened, some fun and some not so fun. But this post is going to be about one of the fun things. My husband had to go to Berlin for business and I got to tag along! Well, what I actually did was wait until all of his work stuff was nearly done and then flew over and met him. I worked out really well. I avoided all of the stressful icky work stuff and turned up just in time to do all the fun vacation-y, touristy stuff. The only thing I was really sad I missed out on was the Donor Kebab shop that turned into a full on disco suddenly at 3 a.m. My husband took me back to the scene but it failed to make it’s dance-tastic transformation for me. But luckily the Disco Donor Kebab wasn’t the only sight to be taken in whilst in Berlin. What a great city!

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We only had a couple of days to play the tourists there, but we made the most of them. Folks were really friendly and we couldn’t have been anymore impressed with the public transportation system. It was so well thought out, it just made it incredibly easy to speed all about the town. The weather was just perfect, warm but not too warm during the day and jacket weather in the evening. We stayed over in the part of the city that had been “East Berlin” before the wall came down, in the Mitte neighbourhood. If anyone is headed over that way, I have to tell you, we stayed in a great little boutique hotel, Casa Camper. Yup, it is owned by the same folks that do the Camper shoes. Our room was  a bit quirky, sleek, modern and spacious. The hotel is in a great location close to tons of shops, restaurants and the Weinmeisterstraße underground station is right across the street. One of the best things about the hotel is that they don’t do those silly little mini bars in your room, instead they have a lounge located on the top floor which is open 24 hours a day. You can always get a snack there and they have a fully stocked honor bar that you can help yourself to any time of the day or night. Makes you feel right at home! On the weekend they serve their generous breakfasts until 2 pm! It was a great find and as far as I’m concerned the place to stay in Berlin. We spent most of what little time we had in the city checking out the various museums at Museumsinsel (Museum island…that’s right a whole island of nothing but museums!), the Fernsehturm (tv tower – tallest structure in Germany),

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the Berlinerdom (Berlin Cathedral)

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and visiting a pub or two or three…

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Statue of St. George in front of Brauhaus Georgbraeu

Besides the many pints of beer we quaffed (uh…there really were quite a few…) we had some really tasty meals. (Good thing or we really would’ve been in a state with all that beer on empty stomachs…) My husband loves meatballs. Seriously. He likes those little appetizer cocktail meatballs, he likes them perched on top of spaghetti, stuffed into subs or just all on their lonesome. So you can imagine how delighted he was to find them on the menu of pretty much every restaurant we visited! When we got back home, he was somewhat despondent that his meatball access had been curtailed. So I set out to find a recipe for Königsberger Klopse (German Meatballs), just like we had in Berlin. These savoury meatballs cooked in a creamy white sauce came close and definitely brought a smile to his face. Cooked in a broth, rather than grilled, these meatballs are very tender, a bit spicy and have a fresh zing from the lemon zest. The original recipe called for veal, but I went with beef, though I think pork would also work well.  Also there seems to be some folks out there who are quite insistent that capers must be included in this dish for it to be authentic. If that is true, I have fallen a bit short here as there wasn’t a caper to be had in my house on the day I prepared them. If you are a caper fan, feel free to toss a bunch into the mix.

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I served these meatballs over Spaetzle, which I made from scratch. I’m afraid though that I don’t really have that recipe down yet. Certainly not enough to share with you. I’m thinking at this point that a Spaetzle maker might be a necessity here, cause I tried a variety of methods from colander, to potato ricer to strainer and often just ended up with some sort of mutant uber-spaetzle blob. So I’ll put that one on hold right now. I will mention though that after struggling with my homemade spaetzle demons, I found a lovely box of Authentic German Spaetzle at the grocery store, just hanging out there with all of the pastas. That might be the way to go to save yourself a bit of frustration if you haven’t already acquired mad spaetzle making skills. Rice or parsley butter potatoes would also be a good alternative as an accompaniment. And don’t forget a tall frosty beer. I went with one of our all time favourite beers, Pinkus Ur-Pils,  which happens to be brewed in Germany, so that worked out just perfectly. As they say in Germany, “Prost!”

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Königsberger Klopse (German Meatballs)

recipe adapted from: Craig Claiborne at The New York Times

yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 4 teaspoons butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped with additional for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions:

Put beef in mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper and mix to combine.

Heat 1 teaspoon of butter in saute pan. Add onion and garlic. Cook until softened. Add onion mixture to beef. Add breadcrumbs, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and zest, paprika, parsley, chives and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly. Shape mixture into equal sized balls.

Heat remaining butter in saucepan and add flour, stirring with whisk until smooth. Add broth, and wine, stirring continuously. Add meatballs to simmering sauce. Stir gently from time to time so that they cook evenly, about 25 minutes.

Beat sour scream with egg yolk and lemon juice. Add mixture to meatballs. Heat briefly without boiling. Serve hot with spaetzle.

Enjoy!


Newfoundland 2011

August 31, 2011

Lea & Jay at Petty Harbour Newfoundland

Back in the last week of July, Jay and I took a fantastic holiday to St. John’s in Newfoundland, Canada. We have been a couple of times in the past (see my previous posts: Off to Newfoundland Again, Ant in a Teacup, and Out with the Old) and absolutely love it there. We’ve always gone at the end of July, beginning of August and it is a truly blessed relief from the sweltering Virginia summers. Although the temps were 102°F (39°C) in Falls Church, the mercury never went over 65°F (18°C) in St John’s, for the entirety of our visit. Bliss! Now, I will say, one does see quite a bit of fog (even when it is sunny)

Sunny Fog over Signal Hill

and certainly more than a couple of raindrops have been known to fall in Newfoundland. For me that weather is right up my alley, whereas I understand it may not be desirable for some. However, the temperature isn’t the only thing that brings us back to St. John’s that time of year. The George Street Festival is also a huge attraction for us. For six days each year, they close George street off to traffic and hold the festival. There is a big main stage in the middle of the street where featured bands play until about 11:30 pm. However, the party doesn’t end there. George Street is a fairly short street-about 3 blocks-but it is jammed packed with pubs and bars of all sorts-literally about 45! To aid festival goers in being able to quickly get liquid refreshments, “speed bars” are set  up outside all of the pubs. I mean you wouldn’t want to have to walk all the way inside a bar to refresh your cocktail…would you?  Once the main stage activities end, bands in most of the bars start playing. The fun goes on until daybreak! This year one of our favourite bands, Great Big Sea, was opening the Festival.

The guys in the band are from the great island of Newfoundland, so we knew excitement would be running high and that was definitely the case. Even though it poured down rain for a good bit of the show, spirits were not dampened.

It was great fun. We did a lot of hiking on this trip as well, up to Signal Hill

Jay on the way up

Lea at the Queen's Battery

and out to Cuckold’s Cove

Cuckold's Cove

a long hike (perhaps a little longer than we intended) from Ft. Amherst to Freshwater Bay

Jay at the beginning of the trail

Still hiking...

a hike around Petty Harbour

Petty Harbour

and a hike out to Quidi Vidi lake

Quidi Vidi Lake shanty

and a hike up in the clouds.

It was a wonderful holiday. Great weather, great music, great food, and gorgeous surroundings.We’re just sorry it was over so soon! We’re hoping to spend more time there next summer. Don’t miss all of the rest of the great photos we took on our trip. Click here to see our Newfoundland photo gallery.

Food will once again be the focus of my next blog. Think boozy cupcakes….YUM!


Back to New York-Finally!

May 27, 2011

Jay and I travelled up to New York a few weeks ago. Jay’s work is headquartered there and it had been quite some time since he’d stopped in. We were a bit nervous they’d forgotten what he looked like! To smooth his long absence over a bit, I made a batch of Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip cookies for him to take along with him into the office.

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip cookies

We stayed at the Standard hotel as usual and as usual it was fantastic!

Standard King Room

While poor Jay slaved away at work, I strolled all around lower Manhattan. The weather was perfect. Once he finished up his day, we met back up and went out to Fig and Olive for a really wonderful dinner.

Truly it was great in every way. The food was delicious and for once, the atmosphere was great – beautiful decor, not crowded, not ear splittingly loud and no detectable attitude. Amazing! Jay and I have not had great dining history in New York in the past. One restaurant we visited previously had some of the best mexican food I’ve ever tasted, but was a nightmare of an experience – crowded (sitting butt-cheek to butt-cheek with strangers crowded- on the verge of a panic attack crowded – and loud to the point we even gave up trying to talk to each other, we just stared across the table at one another in disbelief. One other restaurant had made us wait for over an hour for very bland, yet very expensive dishes. How disappointing! So we were so incredibly happy to find Fig and Olive, which was such a breath of fresh air (another unique experience in NYC)! This restaurant serves Riviera and Coastal Cuisines from the South of France, Italy and Spain. You definitely feel the Mediterranean ambiance as soon as you walk into the restaurant -stucco walls, rosemary and olive trees throughout, lots of candles, olive oil and wine bottles. The restaurant was really quite spacious, but our table felt very warm and intimate. And let me say the food did not disappoint either. We started off with their crostini with three different toppings – mushroom artichoke truffle parmesan, eggplant basil and sundried tomato, and manchego fig spread and almond. They were all great but our favourite was the mushroom artichoke. Jay ordered Penne Funghi Tartufo with Grilled Chicken – cremini mushroom, parmesan, black truffle paste, fresh parsley and scallions with a white truffle olive oil. I had the Grilled Truffle Chicken Paillard – a free range chicken breast marinated with thyme and served with truffle mashed potato leek confit. We washed it all down with an Abruzzo Montepulciano wine. YUM!  Truly a spectacular dinner! I can’t believe we didn’t save room for dessert, but I have no doubt we will definitely be visiting this establishment again. Sorry I didn’t get any photos of the food. The candlelight contributed immensely to the mood but not so much towards any viewable food photography.

The next day, I dashed out to Chelsea Market first thing in the morning on a mission for coffee and some fabulous bread from Amy’s Bread in particular.

The mission was easily accomplished and I returned to the room with caffeine in hand as well a a mouth-wateringly delicious chocolate sourdough twist and a hunk of brioche toast. Sorry no photo of these item either, we ate them too quickly! What a wonderful bakery. It took amazing restraint on my part not to purchase one of everything they had. I’ve recently gotten very interested in trying to bake my own bread. I’ve been pouring over Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and scheming. Amy’s Bread in Chelsea market is fun because you can actually watch the bakers at work through these huge glass windows. I spent quite a bit of time gazing in the day before, so I knew I had to get over there for breakfast and get some of that awesome bread.

Bannetons Stacked-Up at Amy's

Before we left to catch the train we were able to grab a burger for lunch at the good old Standard Grill at the hotel. These burgers are the best! We always try to budget in some time for them!

The Standard Burger

All in all a great visit! Looking forward to the next.


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