Thursday, November 4, 2010

We've moved!

Expat Kochen has moved - check out for more!

Dear Foodie Friends,

Extra, extra, read all about it: Expat Kochen has a new address!

Going forward, each new post, chock full of helpful tips, inspiration and colorful photos, will be available at Be sure to bookmark our new URL or follow Expat Kochen with Google Friend Connect. You'll find this option in the right-hand sidebar of the new website. Following our blog means that you'll be notified each time Expat Kochen shares a story, posts an event or tempts you with a delicious recipe. Make sure you don't miss out!

So, come on over to Drop us a line in the comments section to let us know you've made it!

See you in the kitchen,
The Expat Kochen Team

Inspiring you to cook, wherever home may be...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Apple Jelly attempt...& success!

Expat Kochen makes Apple Jelly

A couple of weeks ago a small group of us met in Bettingen and walked to the barn there to collect apples for our foray into jelly making. We selected a couple of varieties, Boskoop and Topaz. A bit of quick research into these indicates that both are strong flavored and tart, and according to the apple journal the Boskoop bites back and may be too strongly flavored for Americans who are used to a bland diet. Not too strong for this American. And the Topaz apples are a beautiful rich color, both perfect for jelly. So, we walked back up the hill to my apartment and put up some jelly.

Expat Kochen makes Apple Jelly

First you chop the apples roughly and put all the pieces (including skins and cores) into a large pot with lots of water, and cook to make the juice that will turn into jelly. The whole mess (and a beautiful one at that) sits and drains for three hours or overnight, and then the juice is cooked down to make the jelly. I had cooked some apples the day before so we were cooking down the juice to make jelly in one pot, and getting ready to cook apples for batch number 2 in another pot. So far so good.

Expat Kochen makes Apple Jelly

But ahh, then we took the wrong turn. Somehow in the mix of a several cooks, great conversation, lots of laughter, the 10 cups of water that was supposed to be for cooking the apples got poured into the apple juice. We didn't even notice. We started boiling the apple juice (or water with apple flavoring at this point) and boiling and boiling, and it really didn't start to thicken like we imagined it would. More great conversation, food talk, and good times, when luckily one (the clever one) of our guests figured out what we had done. By this time we had boiled the water/juice mixture down to a syrup of sorts, and gave up. Our group was not a critical one; we were all about cooking together and having fun, and that goal was still accomplished, if not the one of actually making jelly!

We sent everyone home with a jar of syrup and asked them to get creative and write to let us know what they came up with. I heard murmurings of apple martinis and more as people were leaving. We are eager to hear the results.

Expat Kochen makes Apple Jelly

Meanwhile the group left me with lots more juice for trying again. After everyone was gone I boiled my syrup down some more, and then had to run out the door for a date with my husband (priorities after all). I left the stuff in the pot with the lid on and went out for about 3 hours. I came home to find...a pot of jelly! Only, 6, 7 hours after we had started!

Expat Kochen makes Apple Jelly

Ok, but I can't leave you there, lest you think making jelly is hard. It isn't!!! The next day I took batch two of beautiful juice and cooked it down according to directions. As it cooked the juice which had been a rich cloudy pink color began to clear and thicken, transforming into a vivid jewel like color, and the results were, well especially after all that, very satisfying.

Thanks much to David Lebovitz for inspiring us into this adventure with his wonderful post about making apple jelly. You can find the recipe we used there.

And thanks to all the game participants who were so willing to "go with the flow" even when it got a bit watered down! We appreciate you and your attitude tremendously. Our goal at Expat Kochen is to "inspire you to cook, wherever home may be." Maybe for this post we should say, "inspiring you to cook and keep cooking, whatever mistakes may be made!" Oh, and don't forget to let us know what you did with your apple syrup!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Suffering from the Sugar Blues?

Are you constantly craving sweets and want to understand why?

Do you want to gain control without deprivation?

We’ve designed this workshop to permanently change your relationship with sugar.

You will leave this class understanding the causes of your sugar cravings and you’ll receive practical tools for dealing with them.

It’s not about deprivation, it’s about freedom – the freedom to eat foods you love and have sweetness in your life without the side effects or the guilt.

What: Sugar Blues Workshop
When: Wednesday, November 3rd, 6:30 - 8 p.m.
Where: Centrepoint Library, Im Lohnhof Basel, Switzerland
Cost: FREE
RSVP: vanessa (at) gatelein . com

As space is limited in the library, please RSVP to Vanessa! Thank you!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Apple Jelly Anyone?

Expat Kochen does Apple Jelly

It's canning season again and David Lebowitz has inspired us (once again) with his latest post about apple jelly. Therefore we are doing a last minute event and would love company. Please join us at Rylla's house next Friday afternoon for some canning and kibitzing. We'll begin with a walk down the hill to buy some apples from the barn in Bettingen, then put up some jelly.

What: Apple Jelly Making
When: Friday, October 22, 2:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Where: Hauptstrasse 138, 4126 Bettingen
Cost: None

Friday, October 1, 2010

Signs of the Season

Recently I was talking with a friend about the upcoming mushroom hunt he was happily anticipating. What I really wanted to do was invite myself along, but that wouldn't work for various reasons (politeness among them) and so I did what I thought was the next best thing. I invited him to "guest blog" all about it. As we begin to discuss the value of eating seasonally and locally here at Expat Kochen, how perfect it seems to hear about a walk in the nearby woods to gather some mushroom bounty. Maybe I (you too?) can join him next year!

And so it is with great pleasure that I present Alan Hochberg and his mushroom adventures. Thanks for your informative and inspiring post Alan!

On (a recent) Saturday I took part in the mushroom-picking excursion in the woods at St. Chrischona, led by Peter Kaupp of the Basel Pilzkontrolle department. There were 15 of us in the class, and there was quite a range of age and experience. There were a few other newcomers like me, but many of the class members recounted fond memories of going with parents or grandparents to pick mushrooms when they were children. Mushroom-picking seems to be something that it is easy to get sentimental about, as well as downright fanatical. As we walked through the woods, we ran into a number of other mushroom collectors, all of whom were very excited to run into Peter and his class of neophytes, and they wanted to show us what they had in their baskets.

With the cool, damp weather we've been having, conditions were perfect. After a brief introduction, Peter sent us off into the woods for about 15 minutes just to find samples of whatever was out there. It was impressive to see that we found about 30 or 40 different varieties of mushrooms just in that short time. Using our finds as illustrations, Peter gave us a mushroom anatomy lesson, and taught us some of the features that are used to classify the different varieties. A lot of it has to do with looking at the underside where the spores are, but it also involves feeling, smelling, and even tasting. There is one variety where you need to put a small piece in your mouth. If it tastes mild, keep it, if it tastes spicy, toss it. (Warning! This is not a general rule, and is only for one variety, called Täubling. Tasting random mushrooms is dangerous!)

It turns out that one couple in the class had found a nice bunch of Eierschwamme (chanterelles)--a real prize—and some of the rest of us had found other edible varieties. We had also found some poisonous varieties as well, including a beautiful specimen of the deadly Amanita phalloides, which Peter casually tossed on the ground after showing us all how to identify it. I will say that having an expert right there really took the worry out of mushroom-picking, even after he shared some hair-raising tales of mushroom poisoning. Fortunately, Switzerland has a network of Pilzkontrolle offices whose job is to inspect what the professionals and amateurs have collected. I absolutely plan to take anything I find in the future down to their office!

The mushroom population of a forest depends on the types of trees that grow there. So nobody in St. Chrischona was finding the treasured Steinpilze (cepes). We were told they are more common in the Black Forest where there are more pine trees.

I brought home some Parasolpilz (Marcrolepiota procera), and some Violetter Lacktrichterling (Laccaria amethystina). The latter don't have much flavor, but their violet color has eye appeal.

On the night of the mushrooming excursion, I put them into a frittata along with some snow peas.

I also brought home some nasty-looking paper-like little black trumpet-shaped Herbst-Trompete (in the first photo), which Peter told us were edible. I was dubious, so I only grabbed a small handful. On Sunday night, I chopped them into small pieces and threw them into a sauce for a braised Falsches Filet. They were delicious! Now I'm kicking myself for not grabbing more of them when I had the chance. (There is a one-kilogram quota for mushroom pickers, but that's actually an enormous quantity for personal use.)

At any rate, I think I'm addicted to mushroom-picking now. I treated myself to a beautifully illustrated handbook (Pilzführer Schweiz, by Markus Flück), and I'm hoping I can get in another trip or two into the woods before the first hard frost ends the season.