Year of Grace, Day 94. A morning moon and a sweet experiment with buckwheat

Three minutes to 8 this morning and, surprisingly, the moon still graced the sky, hanging rather low westwards. Twenty minutes later it had slid out of view behind the thicket beyond the garden. Meanwhile eastwards, the sun had yet to rise, though already sending subtle hints – the palest of pinks and yellows – that today it had every intention to do so. It is now a cheeringly bright sunny day, btw. I managed a few photos of the moon, though without a tripod. Thank you, dear morning moon, for such a rare start to my Saturday!

Yesterday I finally did what I’d been putting off for some days now – I made another batch of chocolate-caramel tartlets. (And I’m rather glad I did because although I wasn’t feeling okay when I began, I felt better once I’d finished. There must be something to the German cookbook title, Backen macht Freude — baking brings happiness, and of course happiness brings well-being and health.)

There are recipes – and more tellingly, their photos  – that are totally beguiling, and these tartlets from David Lebovitz most definitely are. They’re truly addictive. Deconstructed, it’s really rather simple: a chocolate crust, a caramel filling, and a chocolate topping. Nothing extraordinary, right? Ah… but, as they say, the devil is in the details. This is an adult’s chocolate fix; it is most likely not to appeal to a child, no matter how much he or she likes chocolate. It delivers such a wallop of chocolate, it is quite overpowering, and perhaps it is a blessing that it comes in small servings. Two at a time is my absolute limit. The strangest thing is that M, who does not really like chocolate, adores these!Gooey tartlet

So what is it that makes this tartlet my temptation of the montht? Its crust is deeply chocolatey, with a grainy crunchiness from the rice flour, tempered by a gooey fudge filling, and smoothed to a silky finish by creamy chocolate ganache. (Sounds almost like one of those Marks & Spencer commercials, doesn’t it?) The great thing about this is that it only needs 10 minutes of baking. You could make these within an hour. Nearly instant home-made chocolate fix!

I’ve made these now twice since New Year’s Day.  Yesterday, I thought of substituting the wheat flour with buckwheat (Buchweizen in German or soba in Japanese). Buckwheat is not related to wheat nor is it a cereal grain, which is why it is often suggested as a gluten-free substitute for flour. It grows well in cold, damp soils where wheat would not, and thus is a common staple in Russia, Brittany, and Japan. I’ve even had a buckwheat “porridge,” once a common dish in the snow-bound mountain villages of the Japanese Alps (Nagano Prefecture). An artist-neighbour in Mejiro, Tokyo once invited M and I to share with her this now forgotten traditional delicacy: raw soba flour mixed with water and salt.

I’ve been experimenting with buckwheat since reading the Perfect Health Diet. Gluten seems to affect many who have hypothyroid problems, and this experiment is part of my continuing quest towards well-being. I must say that buckwheat has worked rather well in this recipe. I have adapted David Lebovitz’s recipe by reducing the sugar to half (I don’t like my sweets too sweet) and the salt as well, increased the butter and cream just a tad, and used a different mixing method for the crust. I tried sprinkling a few tartlets with salt crystals or fleur de sel, as David Lebovitz does, but even without, they are divine. I also used butter fudge candies, as they were the closest to caramels that M could find in our nearest supermarket (Netto) in Bonn. If you wish to make David Lebovitz’s Chocolate-Caramel Tartlets, please click here. To make this adhere to the Perfect Health Diet, you’d have to use palm or other non-refined sugar. (I might experiment with that next time.) Chocolate above 70% and no more than 20g a day is okay in the Perfect Health Diet. (The only hitch is the refined sugar in the caramel candies.)


Chocolate-Butter Fudge Tartlets (Gluten-free )

Adapted from David Lebovitz, makes 24 tartlets

 Butter a mini-muffin tin with 24 holes and dust thinly with 1 tsp cocoa powder. Or, better still, fill with mini-muffin liners.

Prepare the cocoa crust.

 Cocoa crust

In a large bowl, mix well:

115g buckwheat/soba flour (or wheat flour if you’re not bothered about gluten)

35g rice flour (I used Indian puttu podhi flour; if you can’t find rice flour, use in all 150g buckwheat or wheat flour)

¼ tsp salt

50g (1/4 cup less 1 tablespoon) sugar

40g cocoa powder (unsweetened).

Rub in:

125g cold diced butter.


1 tsp vanilla essence

1 large egg, beaten,

and mix with the butter-and-flour mixture to make a dough.

The dough will be slightly sticky. Cover the bowl with cling film or put the dough in a plastic bag and let rest 20 minutes in the refrigerator, or until firmed up.

The above steps can be done in a food processor, pulsing briefly, or just until the ingredients come together.

Shape the dough into small balls of about 18g each (about ¾ inch) and place in the prepared muffin tin.

Press the balls with your thumb to fit into the holes.

Don’t worry about smoothing the tops of the crusts – the charm of these tartlets for me lies in their slight ungainliness.

Bake in a preheated oven at 160ºC (325ºF, with convection; 180ºC or 350ºF without convection) for 8 – 10 minutes, or until firm. (I turned the pan around halfway for more even baking.)

Turn off the oven, remove the pan, and use the handle of a wooden spoon to press down gently on the puffed-up crusts.

Return the pan to the still warm oven with the door slightly ajar for 15 – 20 minutes. (I found that buckwheat needs this to firm up properly.)

Remove pan from the oven. Gently pry off the crusts and let them cool on a grid.


Caramel or Butter Fudge Cream

Meanwhile, prepare the cream filling by warming over very low heat in a small pan:

120g caramels or butter fudge candies

45 ml (3 tablespoons) whipping or double cream.

When the candies start to melt, stir to prevent them burning.

Continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.

If the mixture is too dense (i.e., to drop from a spoon), stir in a tablespoon more cream. I like the filling to be gooey and thus the added cream, but there’s no harm done if the filling turns out to be solid. It will still taste divine.)

Remove from the heat at once and spoon the cream into the crusts.

Chocolate ganache

Prepare the topping by warming over low heat in a small pan (I used the same pan as for the cream filling, unwashed but scraped up):

95 ml whipping or double cream.

When the cream is heated through, but before it starts to boil, turn off the heat and stir in until smooth:

150g bitter chocolate (at least 70% chocolate content, I used 81%), broken into pieces.

Spoon the ganache over the cream filling in the crusts.

Let cool completely at room temperature.

You may wish to sprinkle each tartlet with 3 – 4 crystals of fleur de sel, as the original recipe calls for.

Guten Appetit!

For culinary experiments that turn out well, I am thankful! And as well for my lovely amaryllis, whose slow, slow unfolding keeps me in a state of blissful anticipation.



















Liver is good for you


Liver is one of those foods that were forced on me as a child: that and green vegetables. Liver then to me was so bitter, and so were the vegetables:  one of which is actually named bitter gourd. No surprise then that I didn’t particularly like eating these foods when I was younger. But fast forward several decades and… surprise, surprise! The hated have become much loved, and liver and green veggies are on my favourite foods list! Ok, I have to qualify that a bit: chicken or other poultry liver; other types of liver, unless gently cooked, become quite tough and so are not high up on my liver preferences.  For the past few years however, liver has been saddled with such a bad rep that I haven’t cooked it in ages. When a craving for liver strikes, I indulge with the occasional liverwurst or pâté, but feel slightly guilty because of all the added fat and who knows what other waste meats go into it during processing. I know, I know, and I realize the inconsistency in my logic: I banished liver from my kitchen and have no hesitation buying processed liver with diverse additives. Such a pity, because I adore chicken liver.

The Perfect Health Diet (PHD) encourages liver once or twice weekly (at least 115 grams per week) as an excellent source of copper.  And what pleases me no end is that, if one eats chicken, duck, or goose liver, an additional 30 grams per day of dark chocolate ensures adequate copper intake. Now there’s another excellent reason to indulge in chicken liver!

The other day I made chicken livers pan-fried with garlic and spring onions in duck fat, partnered with curried vegetables and rice. For dessert, M and I shared 3 chicos (Manilkara zapota, also known as naseberry) and a large Navelina orange. There were enough leftovers for one person’s lunch. To drink, I had 200 ml of red wine and M had 200 ml of carbonated mineral water. As a newbie to PHD, I’m curious to see how this meal breaks down into its macronutrient proportions.


Weights for fruits for this meal (rounded to nearest whole g): 3 chicos 183 g for 2 persons or 92 g per person; 1 large Navelina orange 355 g for 2 persons or 178 g for 1 person;  Total: 538 for 2 persons; 270 per person. Vegetables for this meal, including garlic cloves  (rounded to nearest whole g):  925 grams; for 2 persons (~2 lb); 462.5 grams, rounded up to 463 grams (~ 1 lb) per person.


Chico (Manilkara zapota)

Total fruits and vegetables for this meal: 1463 g for 2 (3.2 lb); 731.5 g per person (1.6 lb). Safe starch (short-grain rice) only for me: 150 g (1/3 lb). Total plant foods (safe starches, sugary fruits, green vegetables) for me for this meal (731.5 + 150):  881.5 g or 1.9 lb.

The weight of the leafy vegetables (Chinese cabbage and rocket) of 286 g for 2 persons or 143 g per person, and the garnish of basil leaves can be ignored,  as the PHD considers the caloric intake of greens and fermented vegetables roughly equal to the energy required to digest them. So, my amended total plant foods for this meal is 881.5 g minus 143 g, which comes to 738.5 g or ~1.6 lb.

N.B. Metric conversions:



Leftovers from dinner made enough for a lunchbox the next day


Garlicky Chicken Livers à la Vivian

I usually marinate chicken livers in vinegar and garlic:  a method I learned from my friend Vivian, whose signature dish this was, when we were students in Tokyo. I remember her fondly every time I prepare liver in this manner. Vivian’s method firms up the liver and neutralizes any unpleasant smell or bitterness.  The added spring onions and use of duck fat are my variations on Vivian’s recipe. Serves 2.

 350 g chicken livers

3 tablespoons any vinegar, but not balsamic

4 cloves garlic, chopped

3 stalks (45 g) spring onions; white parts sliced thinly crosswise, green parts sliced in 1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths (keep them separate)

salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons duck fat (substitute butter or olive oil)

4 sprigs basil or other herb leaves for garnish

Preparation: rinse the livers in cold water, place in a bowl, and pour the vinegar over them. Ensure that the vinegar comes into contact with all the surfaces. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes. Quickly rinse the livers in cold water, drain, and return to the rinsed bowl. Stir in the garlic, white spring onion slices, salt, and pepper.

Cooking: heat the duck fat in a heavy-bottomed frying pan with a cover at medium heat. Put in the livers (be careful as the hot fat will splatter) and quickly cover the pan. Don’t move the livers about at this point or they’ll stick and tear. When they have firmed up sufficiently, after about 3-4 minutes, gently turn them over and arrange them to lie in one layer.

Cover the pan again, reduce the heat, and continue cooking for 10 – 15 minutes more, or until livers are no longer bloody but still tender. You will notice blood oozing out of them; once the oozing stops, the livers are quite done. Slice through to make sure.

Sprinkle with the green parts of the spring onions. There will be a small amount of flavourful juices in the pan. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve.


Curried Mixed Vegetables in Coconut Milk

I made this with the vegetables that were rattling around in my fridge before I restocked. You don’t have to use the same ones in this recipe; the beauty of mixed vegetable curry (and that goes as well for a mixed stir-fry) is that you can use any you’ve got on hand.

I noticed from the comments on the PHD site that a number of people are daunted by cooking from scratch or without a recipe. I’m detailing my way of cooking vegetables to make it easier for others to create their own dishes with whatever veggies they’ve got on hand. Seasoned  cooks may want to skip this and the following paragraph. The order in which I cook vegetables depends on the texture and colour that I want for the result. In general, I put the harder vegetables, that is, those that take longer to cook first, like carrots. However some people prefer their carrots crunchy and rather raw, so they can put those in fairly close to the end of cooking. I wanted the sweet pepper flavour to infuse the coconut milk, so I put them in early as well. But there’s no reason not to add them last, as sweet pepper can be eaten raw. And they’re perfectly sweet that way.

The size of the slices also determines how long vegetables take to cook. I had fairly thick slices of broccoli, but cut a lengthwise slit along the stalks to enable heat to quickly reach in. Obviously thinner, smaller slices will need less time. Leafy green vegetables are usually added last, as I like their colour to be bright green and not faded and unappetizing. The Chinese cabbage stalks take a bit longer than the leaves:  those go in a minute or two earlier. Leaves, especially tender ones, take just seconds to cook. Often there is sufficient residual heat to cook them, so you can turn off the heat as soon as they’re in.

I’ve provided weights for the vegetables I’ve used, but not so that you should use the same quantity, but rather for my own reference as I begin being more mindful of the PHD. The vegetable ingredients in this dish total 913 grams (roughly 2 lb). For 2 servings


1 teaspoon Thai green curry paste (more if you like it really spicy and hot)

1 cup (~200 ml) thick coconut milk

¼ cup (50 ml) water (or as needed)

fish sauce or salt to taste

8 cherry tomatoes, chopped or halved, 101 g

1 carrot, sliced into 2.5 cm (1-in) long strips,107 g

1 sweet red pepper, sliced into strips, 236 g

small section broccoli, sliced into florets,138 g

4 leaves Chinese leaf (aka Chinese cabbage), stalks sliced crosswise in thin strips, leaves quartered lengthwise, 256 g

generous handful rucola (arugula, rocket), 30 g


Prepare the curry-coconut cream sauce: in a saucepan, whisk or mix the curry paste into the coconut milk. Stir in the water to have about 1 cm (½ inch) of liquid in the pan. Turn on the heat to low. When the mixture starts to simmer, taste it and add fish sauce or salt.

Add the tomatoes, carrots, and red pepper. Cover the pan and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes until the red pepper and carrots have softened slightly.

Stir in the broccoli and the stalks of the Chinese leaf. Turn up the heat to medium high and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender but still crisp and bright green (note that it will continue to cook further, affecting the colour). Reduce the heat if necessary, if the coconut cream is starting to catch.

Stir in the leaves of the Chinese leaf and cook another 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Turn off the heat and stir in the rucola. Serve at once, with rice or other safe starch (potato, yam, taro).

Calculating Macronutrient Caloric Values

Plant foods

The PHD rough calculation gives: fat = 9 calories per gram; carbohydrate = 4 calories per gram; protein = 4 calories per gram.  Alcohol = 7 calories per gram. For the starchy and sweet plant foods  for this meal, I  use the PHD calculation.

My plant food portion = 738.5 g (1.6 lb). Instead of calculating each fruit and veg separately, I’m converting to total calories by multiplying X 4 (4 calories per gram carbohydrate) =  2,954 calories.

Additionally I used coconut milk, which (according to, has 445 calories for 226 g (or 1 cup), apportioned into fat 403, carbohydrate 25.8, protein 15.8.

Animal foods

What about the caloric values for the chicken liver and duck fat?  My calculations are based on data from The chicken liver at 350 g totalled 602 calories: protein 385, fat 203, carbohydrate 13.65. To my amazement, chicken liver does contain carbs. Duck fat totalled 224 calories for 2 tablespoons. The total for animal-sourced fat: 427 calories.  Animal-sourced protein: 385 calories.

Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins

There are carbs of 39.45 calories from the liver and coconut milk which need to be added to that from plant foods of 2,954. Grand total carb calories = 2,993.45.  Definitely over the 600 calories of carbohydrates recommended by the PHD! But hang on, there were leftovers from this dinner which went into my lunchbox.  Rather than dividing the totals by 2 persons, it would be more accurate to divide into 3 (meals). Thus, for each meal the macronutrient calories consumed were: fats = 276.66; carbs = 997.82; protein =133.6.  Each meal thus provided 1408 calories.

Daily Caloric Intake

The PHD recommends 3/4 of daily calories to be sourced from plant foods  and 1/4  from animal foods. gives my ideal daily intake at 1800 calories, (actually 1829 calories but I’m sticking to whole numbers for ease of calculation), thus 1350 ought to come from plant foods and 450 calories from animal foods.

Calorie-wise, this evening meal of 1408 calories per person meant I would still be able to consume an additional 392 calories to meet the total of 1800 per day. On average, over a day I have two rice crackers (64 calories), 2 pats of salted butter (72 calories), 1 medium banana (105 calories), and 2 mandarin oranges (106 calories), which altogether total 347 calories. Still within the limit. However, 20 g of dark chocolate at 120 calories would push me beyond by 75 calories. Coffee, which I take black, does not contribute any calories.

Balance of Plant Foods and Animal Foods

How do the calories work out in terms of plant foods to animals foods for this meal? Total calories from plants were 2954 from the vegetables and 445 from the coconut milk, thus 3399 for 3 meals, or 1133 calories for 1 meal per person (recall that I had the leftovers for lunch the following day). From above, the recommended proportion of plant-sourced calories for me should be 1350. Adding the calories from rice crackers, banana, and mandarin oranges as above (275) bring my total plant-food calories to 1408 or 50 calories over the recommended proportion. I could’ve done without that second mandarin at 53 calories!

And animal-sourced calories? They came to 427 fat calories and 385 protein calories, for a total of 812. I divided that by 3 meals and got 270.66 calories, animal-sourced per meal.

After those tedious and long-winded calculations, my results came to 1408 plant-based calories added to 270.66 animal-based calories: a total of 1678.66 calories for the liver meal and snacks. This is well within my daily recommended calorie intake of 1800. If, however, another meal, say the lunch box, with the left-overs from dinner were to be considered, I would definitely be over the limit.

The lesson I have gleaned from this meticulous accounting is that I need to limit my sweet fruit and other carb intake. I have confirmed that I consume too much of the former, in particular of sweet fruits. Time to consider more leafy greens! If you have been following thus far, congratulations. And by the way, I left out one item from the calculations. I just couldn’t face another round of calculations. Any guesses as to what the missing item is?





Apple and teff cake

I love having something sweet when I drink coffee, and I’m certain that so do many other people. And when I think of something sweet, it usually means cake or cookie. This is my biggest challenge when contemplating going completely 100% gluten-free and refined sugar-free. I experimented recently with teff (Eragrostis tef), also called tef, a grain originally from Ethiopia and Eritrea which goes to making the traditional flat bread called injera. Although teff is a cereal grain (among the smallest), it does not stimulate the same negative response in people with celiac disease, as found by Liesbeth Spaenij-Dekking and colleagues from Leiden University in the Netherlands (see Spaenij-Dekking L et al., 2005, The Ethiopian Cereal Tef in Celiac Disease, New England Journal of Medicine What this means is that although teff contains gluten, it is not the same kind as that found in wheat, barley, or oats. (Please note that my mentioning this does not constitute a recommendation to use teff for those who do have celiac disease.)  I do not have celiac disease, and am currently experimenting with  teff and other low-gluten or gluten-free ingredients, because of autoimmune issues from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. My immune system has been extremely vulnerable lately, and I’m hoping that following the Perfect Health Diet (PHD) and its suggestions to eliminate gluten and sugar may help.PHD APPLE TEFF CAKE WHOLE APPLES TEFF FLOUR PACK_8935

Teff flour is Teffmehl in German, and is available at some organic food stores (Bioladen). I found this in the organic shop near Bonn Central Station. It ranges in colour from white to dark brown: I used a beige-coloured one. PHD TEFF FLOUR_8954As refined sugar substitutes, I used honey and a Belgian fruit spread, called Delice de Liege, made from apples, pears, and dates. The fruit spread is not, however, entirely sugar-free: there is a small amount: how much, though, is unstated on the package. For every 100 grams of fruit spread, the product claims 180 g of pears, 160 g of apples, and 60 g of dates.BELGIAN FRUIT SPREAD

I am in gradual transition from my normal diet to the PHD, starting with eliminating wheat. At the same time I am also trying to reduce my refined sugar intake, by substituting honey or other products that do not contain sugar, and I must confess to not entirely succeeding, as I do love baking and eating pastry. Thus these experiments with suitable wheat-free and refined sugar-free alternatives.

This is a not-too-sweet cake that goes well with coffee, tea, or any hot drink and, may I add, also cool or cold milk.  It can be served with yogurt or cream, and goes perfectly well with vanilla ice cream (for those not eliminating refined sugar entirely from their diet): especially while the cake is still warm, making for a nice apple-teff cake à la mode. The teff and apples produce a moist crumb, so best to give the cake sufficient time to rest before slicing. If you wish to bake this in a different shaped pan, such as an 8- or 9-inch (20 – 22 cm) square or rectangular baking tray,  reduce baking time to 25 – 30 minutes.

Apple and Teff Cake


3 apples, peeled, cored, and diced

½ cup / 70 g sultanas or raisins

¼ tablespoon cinnamon

½ cup Belgian fruit spread, honey, or sugar-free jam

3 ½ tablespoons / 50 g melted butter

1 cup /140 g teff flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

4 ½ tablespoons / 65 g butter, diced

2 tablespoons honey

1  egg, beaten

¼ cup milk or yogurt

2 tablespoons butter, diced (optional)



Butter a round cake pan, 8 in diameter x 4 in deep / 20 cm diameter x 9 cm deep, and dust the surface evenly with 1 – 2 teaspoons teff flour. Shake off the excess. Preheat oven to 325°F /165°C.

Prepare the fruit: in a bowl, combine the apples, sultanas, fruit spread, cinnamon, and butter. Set aside.

Prepare the dough. In a large bowl, mix well by rubbing with the fingers or in a food processor or mixer the teff, baking powder,  baking soda, salt, vanilla essence, butter, and honey. The resulting mixture will resemble coarse meal. Make a depression in the middle of the dough mixture and mix in gently the egg and milk until completely incorporated.

Mix two-thirds of the apple mixture with the dough and spoon the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Spread the remaining apple mixture on top. Dot with diced butter, if you wish.

Place in the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 45 – 55 minutes, or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out dry. Leave the cake inside the turned-off oven with the door ajar, to rest and firm up for 30 to 45 minutes before slicing.

Bon(n) appetit!


Beautiful soup & bone broth

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,

Waiting in a hot tureen!….

Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

 Beautiful Soup!/ Who cares for fish, Game or any other dish?….

 Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland



I have no idea why the words “soup” and “broth” conjure up such homely comfort. Could it be because warm liquids —mother’s milk and other semi-liquid hot foods like porridge— constituted our first meals? Soup and broth bring to mind concentrated flavours of meat and aromatic vegetables, piping hot and steaming with wholesomeness. A bowl of bone broth twice or thrice weekly is Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminets’ recommendation for adequate intake of calcium, collagen, and magnesium. The fear of osteoporosis makes  high-dose calcium supplementation very attractive for older women, but rather than being beneficial, in many cases supplementation has increased rates of hip fractures and strokes,  as noted in their book, Perfect Health Diet (PHD). Other than that included in my multivitamins, I’ve never taken any additional calcium. I’ve stopped taking multivitamins since starting the PHD but do take 200 mg magnesium and 800 IU of Vit. D3. The benefits of collagen, particularly for back pain, which I have from time to time, convinced me to try the Jaminets’ grass-fed beef bone broth.

Where would I get grass-fed bones for broth in Bonn? Do I even know how to say that in German? I do now: “Gras gefüttert.” That makes for quite a mouthful: Gras gefütterten Rindsuppenknochen (grass-fed beef soup bones).  The supermarkets in my neighbourhood are quite basic, and though  the meat section in my local Edeka has ox tail and other slices of bone-in meat,  I’ve never seen any labelled specifically as “soup bones”  (Suppenknochen). The butcher shop on Bonner Talweg came immediately to mind, but unfortunately they had none. What they had was one meaty flatrib, which I was happy to take, as there was no other butcher shop in the vicinity, at least as far as I know.  “It’s more flavourful than just bones,” the woman cheerily assured me as she wrapped it up. Around the corner, Rewe turned out, on closer inspection, to have organic soup beef (Bio Rindsuppenfleisch). Funny that I missed seeing it when I checked earlier before going to the butcher. Alas, there was just one piece, so I added another non-organic pack.  Altogether the soup meat totalled about 1.17 kg (~2 lb). I shall have to investigate where in Bonn one can get grass-fed beef soup bones.

For some reason, the rib meat from the butcher was a bit whiffy and greyish-maroon so I rinsed it thoroughly in cold water. You can see the difference clearly in the photo above:  the butcher’s meat is on the bottom left.  I didn’t rinse the other pieces as they looked and smelled wholesome. I put all the meaty bones into a pressure cooker without the lid for this preparatory stage, added enough water to cover (about 2 liters or 2000 ml; 8 cups, with 1 cup = 250 ml), and brought all to a simmer. A bit of scum rose to the surface, and I lowered the heat further to encourage more scum to be exuded. This time a fair amount filled the surface: I raised the heat to quickly bring all to a boil and turned off the heat at once. I rinsed the parboiled bones to get rid of all blood and other residue. There was a lot of congealed brown residue at the bottom and sides of the pot, which needed a vigorous scrubbing. The liquid smelled good and meaty even at this point, and I was rather sorry to throw it out as I hate wasting food. I was tempted at first to just skim off the scum, as I have seen my mother do when she made beef soup. In the end, I decided to follow the Jaminets’ directions, threw out the parboiling liquid, and returned the rinsed meat into the pot.

 However, I departed from the Jaminets’ pure bone and water broth recipe by adding aromatics: leek and ginger. I didn’t peel the ginger — just cut it into three and pounded them with the flat side of a cleaver. As long as it’s been washed, there’s no need to peel ginger for stock or soup. I secured the lid of the pressure cooker, set the pressure to low, and turned the heat to medium. Once the steam started to hiss from the vents (signalling that the designated pressure has been reached), I reduced the heat to a minimum and let the pressure work its magic for an hour. (It’s a totally different pressure cooker from the one I had in the UK, so I’m still a bit wary of using it.)

The reason that the Jaminets do not add any flavouring vegetables to their broth is to make it keep longer under refrigeration. I’m following my taste buds: as the Jaminets themselves say, if it tastes good, it will also be good healthwise. As well, my “soup bones” were actually mostly meat with very few bones. The broth was indeed very tasty even without salt, and I also added it to other dishes during the week. It kept very well for 10 days in the fridge. It could probably have lasted longer, but M and I finished it all by then. The meat, despite the hour’s pressure cooking, retained plenty of flavour. As the Jaminets make as many as 3 batches of broth from the same bones, I froze the few bones from this batch and intend to reuse them when I can find more bones.

The forbidden pleasure of Quarkbällchen

Recently I found myself succumbing to temptation, gustatory that is. There are certain pastries that I have such a weakness for, and one of them is vanilla cream-filled Quarkbällchen, of which I scoffed three pieces on Mardi Gras. Naughty me, but rather apropos for the day, don’t you think?  Some foods are simply irresistible. Quarkbällchen are like the  “holes” cut out of ring doughnuts.  However they resemble them only externally for they are made with Quark or sour cream and eggs, which give their insides a richer, more delectable texture and golden colour than the yeast dough used for standard doughnuts. They are a no-no for me for two reasons:  wheat flour and cream.  I am trying to eliminate wheat and other gluten-containing items  and cream, for lactose-intolerant me, requires that I take a lactase tablet. I probably caved in because it was mid-afternoon, when my blood sugar level is low.  I justified my downfall by the fact that these were my first and only taste of these since last year.

The only place in Bonn I’ve ever seen these heavenly balls filled with vanilla custard is at the bakery at Rewe Supermarket in Weberstrasse, and they’re only available during Carnival.  I wonder if they’re available elsewhere in Bonn? Perhaps I’d rather not know. My other excuse is that it was my first day to be well since getting the flu. In future, I shall try and stick to the permitted pleasure foods of the Perfect Health Diet (70% and above chocolate!).

Over a kilo of plant foods daily

NACHTIGALLEN FRUITS 25 FEB_3854In their eye-opening book, Perfect Health Diet (PHD), with its radical approach to a greater percentage calorie-wise of fat than carbohydrate or protein, Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet recommend a daily intake of about 1.4 kg (~3 lb) of plant foods and 1/4 to 1/2 kg (1/2 – 1 lb) of animal foods.

That seemed like an awful lot to me.  I began to weigh what I had in the house and was amazed that those pictured above already totalled over 1 kilo (2 lb). The PHD recommended intake is .45 kg (15 oz or almost 1 lb) of fruits per person per day.  I haven’t accounted for the peel or other discarded bits like seeds. (For instance, a 178-gram apple’s stalk and core can weigh 13 grams; for a 175-gram banana, the peel and stalk can equal 56 grams.) I must say though that this attention to meticulous weighing will only be in the beginning, as I certainly don’t see myself obsessively weighing every item as I journey towards health-conscious eating.

I do find it interesting that 5 portions of fruit (the UK-recommended daily allowance) can weigh over half a kilo (1 lb). I realize that not everyone will eat chico (the brown round fruits above, also known as naseberry, sawo, chico zapota, Manilkara zapota )  or other exotic fruit on a regular basis. It just so happens that M and I are always ready to try any food item that is out of the ordinary.  For a more typical year-round fruit, the handful of black grapes above, for instance, weighs about 100 g.  The banana is 126 g, the pear 130 g; half of the grapefruit 185 g; and the chico 61 g.  (Rough equivalents for non-metric readers are 100 g = 3.5 oz; 450 g = 16 oz or 1 lb; 1000 g or 1 kg = 2 lb.)

How am I doing for vegetables then? Those pictured below are  intended for curry for two.


They include 4 pieces of Chinese cabbage (also known as Chinese leaf) 256 g; 1 section of broccoli 138 g; 1 carrot 107 g; 3 stalks spring or green onions 45 g; 1 red pepper 236 g; and a handful of arugula (also called rucola or rocket) 30 g. I also added 8 cherry tomatoes 101 g. In total they came to 913 grams; thus one equal portion would be 456.5 grams, rounded up to 457 grams (roughly 1 lb). In reality, however, I consume much less than one half of any dish I make for M and me.

The total weight of fruits and vegetables above for one person came to 1,140 grams or roughly 2.5 lb. The actual consumed weight is less, as there was enough of the curry left over for my lunch, and to account for wastage during preparation. As for starchy plant foods, my average intake is 165 grams, consisting of 15 grams of rice crackers and 150 g of cooked short-grain rice or boiled potato. So altogether the above combination of plant foods for one person for one day would be 1,305 grams, just under the 1.4 kilos (~3 lb) recommended intake.

I’m quite heartened that I do manage an intake of 1.4 kilos of plant foods on average per day.  If anything, I perhaps eat well over the recommended intake, as I can very quickly gobble up 4 or 5 mandarin oranges at one sitting! Just for reference and then I shall shut up: one mandarin can weigh 100 grams. My objective now is to observe the proportions (calorie-wise, that is) of 55% fat, 30% carbohydrate, and 15% protein. But that’s for another day, dear reader.