It’s Christmassing! Well, almost 😉
The 2017 edition of our Christmas Market book – Vienna and beyond – is available as eBook.
When I started blogging about Christmas markets in winter 2012, I never thought it would become a book, let alone I would be publishing a second edition three years later.
After it was first published, I still wanted to go to new markets or revisit old ones, and I took my camera and Mick with me, to be safe. The plan was to update it for 2014, but we moved house and the project landed in the queue.
I was sure though, once the new opening dates and times were published I would manage a 2015 edition – and here it is! 🙂
Updated infos, seven new markets, and many more photos!
Smashwords (and many more…)
For the May holiday weekend, we took a trip to Prague with a couple of friends, one of whom is Slovak and thus fluent in Czech as well. This helped a lot, especially when it came to finding nice and not-touristy spots to eat. On top of that, Prague is also excellent when it comes to cafés and the selection of cakes you can find there.
Overall, the city is much cheaper than Vienna for eating out. In Vienna you can seldom go out and pay below 40 EUR for a meal for two, but in Prague we paid about the same for the five of us.
Other than Prague being a really great city, I decided to write a bit more about the restaurants and cafés we visited there. Important to know are two words – in case the menu is only in Czech – knedlík (dumplings) and spek (bacon). That’ll get you through most menus 😉
Pod Dračí Skálou
Karlštejn 130, 267 18 Karlštejn
Our first stop on the way to Prague was the town of Karlstejn, south west of the city, location of a great castle. The restaurant is not easily accessible, you either park at the town’s car park and walk for half an hour since the whole town and the way up the castle is a pedestrian area, or you try to drive through the masses of people by car. Either way, it’ll be worth it. Hearty Czech cuisine, duck and bacon dumplings, pork roast with more dumplings and skewers with… dumplings. Washing it down with Kofola, the Czech/Slovak version of coke, and pancakes with fresh berries as dessert.
Vítězná 124/5, 150 00 Praha 5
Once we arrived in Prague, it was time for coffee and cake. The café Savoy is located in the “Small Town”, is a beautiful café with tasty cakes and on the way to the toilet you can even see their kitchen and watch the bakers at work.
Václavské náměstí 42, 110 00 Praha 1
I admit it, if there is a ‘Paul’ in town, I will go there. This French bakery can be found in many large cities in France and across Europe, but not in Vienna. I’ve been to their branches all over France for breakfast, so when I heard there was one in Prague as well, we had to go there. For croissants, and breakfast eclairs, and breakfast mini quiches and and and…
Cihelná 2b, Prague 1
Going to lunch at one of the prime spots next to the river with perfect view of the Charles Bridge is just as fancy as it sounds, but by far not as expensive. Whilst I had fantastic salmon and home-made ice tea, my beloved went for the octopus monster that’s coming out of the black sea. It tasted much better than it looked!
Kavárna Obecní dům
Náměstí Republiky 5, 110 00 Praha 1
That afternoon, the rain was pouring, but we found shelter in this huge and beautiful Art Deco café. We “had” to try almost all the cakes because the rain took a very long time to stop, but this was the very place where I discovered honey cake. Honey in the dough, honey in the cream, many layers, crunchy, moist, delicious!
Valentinská 11, 110 00 Praha 1
Another day that started with French breakfast, though some of us went for an English one (not who you think!); it was delicious! The only problem we had was that it only opened at 10am, which is a bit late when you are under-caffeinated and hungry.
Posezení u Čiriny
Navrátilova 1632/6, 110 00 Praha 1
For lunch, we went for the native’s suggestion again and ate in this small and cosy restaurant. There were spaetzle with bacon and cheese on the menu at which point we didn’t even bother to read more. As usual, it was fantastic!
Grand Café Orient
Ovocný trh 569/19, 110 00 Praha
This cubistic café – though I’m not sure why it was supposed to be cubistic – was full of people, twice. If you have the patience to wait for a table and for the attention of a waiter (who seem to be even more aloof than Viennese ones), you will be rewarded with great café and even better cake. The honey cake was even better than the one we had the day before.
School Café Restaurant
Smetanovo nábřeží 205/22, 110 00 Praha 1
Our last breakfast in Prague was also by far the most lavish one. There was savoury breakfast and pancakes, accompanied by fresh juices and a lot of coffee. Some even had two courses of breakfast. Another great start to a busy day!
U třech čertů
Starobrněnská 7, 602 00 Brno
Driving back to Vienna, we stopped in Brno, a town close to the Austrian border. After going for a small walk, we came across a restaurant with two devils as a logo, that looked intriguing. Inside, there were people eating from huge pitchforks, so we knew we were at the right place. Somewhere between very stinky cheese and a comfy pub atmosphere, we ended up pretty stuffed for our drive back home.
Vive la France! The next cookbook is an ode to French cuisine and ingredients. As I mentioned in the first post, one of my favourite cookbooks is a French one, so many of the classics are well known to me. This is why it wasn’t too easy for me to find something I hadn’t tried before with the additional challenge to add vanilla. All the savoury dishes were out, but I had my eyes on something special anyway. I’ve always loved eclairs and so does Mick. My problem with eclairs was always that I was a bit too picky about the filling and icing. So making them myself seemed like a great idea. Even though they have the reputation of being a tough thing to make, choux pastry and all.
2 Egg yolks
100g icing (I made a lemon-sugar icing but you can also use chocolate icing)
2 Egg yolks
It’s best to start with the crème pâtissier, so it can cool down and be firm when you fill it into the eclairs. For the crème, put the eggs, the egg yolks and the sugar into a bowl and mix it until it gets foamy. Sieve the flour in and mix it through properly.
Pour the milk and butter into a large pot and add the vanilla. Bring it to the boil. Turn the temperature down and slowly add the egg-flour mix whilst constantly stirring for about 10 minutes. The mass will thicken and get the consistency of vanilla pudding. Sprinkle sugar over the top so the milk won’t get a skin. Then take itoff the heat and put the whole pot in the fridge to cool it down.
For the choux pastry, bring the water with the butter to a boil. Pour all the flour in at once and stir it thoroughly until the dough separates from the pot. Take the pot from the stove to add the eggs. Add only one egg yolk at a time and mix it in completely before adding the next. This requires a bit of strength and can get quite exhausting after a while. The dough now needs to rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C.
For the icing I mixed the juice of a lemon with icing sugar until it gets thick and put it to the side. Put the choux pastry dough into an icing bag with a round nozzle and dress them onto a tray covered with baking paper. I left about two finger width between them, and admittedly, they looked a bit weird at first. Whilst baking they smooth out but it’s important to leave them in one piece and not be tempted to add more dough to an already dressed eclair if it’s smaller than the others.
Coat the dough with mixed egg yolk and put it into the oven for about 20 minutes. Open the oven door for a bit and bake for another 10 minutes.
Cut the eclairs carefully in half with a bread knife so they don’t tear. Put the crème pâtissier in an icing bag and fill one half of the eclair. Coat the other half with the icing and let it dry. Then assemble the two halves of the eclair and serve it. If you have crème left over you can freeze it and use it to fill macarons for example.
Eclairs are always awesome, but when you fill and coat it with exactly what you want, they are just fantastic. The mixing of the dough was more physical work than I had expected, but it wasn’t a problem. I also learned a lot of dressing the eclairs – I am sure with every time I make them they will look more even. But that’s really just details in the looks and I’m sure they’ll look better and better each time I’ll make them. Which I’m sure I will. I am already thinking a bit about what to put in them next – thinking fresh berries.
In Paris, I got a lot of very specialised cookbooks. I got the Crème Brûlée one, which I already had as a challenge and also one for Macarons. I have eaten macarons in France a few times but never cooked them before. For this challenge, I even got a special macaron baking mat for 10 Euro. The extra challenge was that whatever I made had to go well with coffee, that was going to be easy I figured.
Caramel Macarons & Vanilla Macarons
190 g almond powder
310 g icing sugar
150 g egg white
95 g caster sugar
Caramel Sauce or
Vanilla crème patissier (see next recipe for eclairs)
Preheat the oven to 150C. Sieve the almond powder and icing sugar into a bowl and mix them together thoroughly. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff whilst slowly adding the caster sugar. When the egg whites are stiff, add the sugar-nut mix and stir it through properly until it’s a shiny mass. No need to worry about breaking the egg whites. Unlike many classical macarons, I stayed away from food colouring which would’ve been added into the egg whites.
To make sure the macarons fitted together, I got a dedicated mat to bake macarons for 10 EUR. If you have good aim and can make dots that are the same size, you probably won’t need it. For the first batch I used the wrong nozzle for the icing bag. They evened out nicely enough but would’ve been smoother with a plain round one.
Put them in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes. When you take them out, let them cool off before taking them off of the tray so that the inside will be smoother. I didn’t wait long enough, but since you fill it in the middle, the look of the inside isn’t terribly important. It does make doing a second batch easier if the tray is cleaner.
In the end, they were crispy on the outside, and still slightly soft in the middle – just fantastic! I’m not sure if that’s how macarons are supposed to be, but that’s surely the way I like them! If you want them crispy in the middle, it might need a few minutes more.
The first batch of macarons I made with store-bought caramel sauce. Even though it tasted fantastic, it didn’t have the same consistency that one is used to with macarons. In the next challenge, where I made eclairs, I had some vanilla crème patissier left over, so I ended up making another batch of macarons and filling them with the vanilla creme. Also fantastic taste and much more photogenic! Plus that already proves the point that I would make them again, given I did only a few weeks later.
The next challenge was Jamie at Home, a very down-to-earth and seasonal cookbook. I went straight to the autumn recipes, to be able to get the ingredients which were in season already. I was drawn to the mushroom risotto – I love eating it even though I’ve never cooked risotto. Knowing it’s not easy, I was aware that it would test my patience more than anything else… 🙂 The extra challenge was to add something red so… BACON! It’s red enough…
Smoked bacon, chopped into small cubes
1,5 litres hot chicken stock
0,5 kilo of mushrooms (no champignons! I used chanterelle)
1 small onion, chopped into small pieces
2 celery (I’m not too fond of celery so I used 3 spring onions)
400g Risotto Rice
150ml white wine
2 handful grated parmesan (about 100g)
This time, I learned I need to label the things I froze… What I thought was chicken stock was actually pepper sauce… Anyway, onto the recipe.
Bring the chicken stock to the boil and keep it on the heat so it keeps bubbling. Clean the mushrooms, chop a small handful and put the rest aside. In a big pot, heat up olive oil, add the onions and spring onions and sweat them for about 10 minutes without them getting brown. Turn up the temperature, add the risotto rice and stir it all through.
Add the wine and stir until the rice has absorbed the fluid completely. Then add the finely chopped mushrooms and salt. Reduce the heat again.
Now the biggest challenge starts – at least it was for me – which has to do with patience. Add a ladle full of stock to the rice and stir until it has absorbed the liquid completely. This now goes on for at least half an hour. Always adding only a ladle full of stock and stirring until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. The rice is done when it’s still firm but not hard in the middle.
Cut the rest of the mushrooms in half or smaller, depending on the size, and fry them in a separate pan. Add the bacon, salt, pepper and parsley to the mushrooms. They will lose a lot of water so you might want to drain them a bit whilst frying them.
When the risotto is done, take it from the heat, add the butter and most of the parmesan and mix it through properly. Leave some over to sprinkle over the top. The rice should be creamy and you can add more stock if necessary. Put a lid on the pot and let the risotto sit for about 5 minutes. Then try it, maybe add more salt or pepper if necessary.
Put the risotto in a soup plate and add the fried mushrooms with a bit of parmesan over the top.
This recipe really tested my patience. I should have taken even more time, but the rice was really good. Maybe a tiny bit longer on the stirring side. The risotto tasted fantastic, all around. It wouldn’t necessarily NEED the bacon and the original recipe didn’t have it either, but it added an extra nice flavour to it. The mushrooms in the rice itself gave it a great flavour. With rice and good flavourful mushrooms even I can go vegetarian. So far, Mick was always the risotto cook, mainly because he has more experience and patience. Nevertheless, I was very happy with the result and would surely make it again. Maybe experiment more next time. A fantastic autumn recipe, all around!
Going with the Brit- theme, I decided to make the whole meal out of or inspired by the same book. For the main course I went with a pork belly roast and pan haggerty. Since we had guests over, the amount was just about right…
Pork Belly and Pan Haggerty
1 pork belly with rind
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
600g firm, waxy potatoes
3 large onions
100g strong cheddar (i used strong Tyrolean mountain cheese. if you like cheese a lot, you might want to use more than that)
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
20g butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 190C. Cut lines into the rind of the bork belly, first vertically then horizontally, about 1 cm apart. Pat the belly with kitchen cloth to make sure it’s dry. Put oil in a tray with garlic and put the belly in, rind up. Make sure no oil gets on the rind, if you want it crusty. Put a lot of salt on the rind – this draws out the water and makes a nice crackling. Put the pork belly into the oven, after 30 minutes reduce the heat to 170C and roast for another hour. I put more salt over the crust after about 45 min, to make sure it would be extra crackly.
The pork roast will take about 90 min in total in the oven, whereas the pan haggerty needs about 30. Make sure you can fit both in together, so you can serve both hot and fresh.
Thinly slice the potatoes, grate the cheese and put it aside. Heat oil in a pan and sweat the onions for about 8 minutes, until they are soft. Put oil in a pan or oven form (I don’t have a pan that fits into the oven, so I just made it in an oven form), then put in a layer of potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, then put a layer of onions and a layer of cheese on top. The recipe suggests brushing the potatoes with melted butter, but I advise to go easy with it so that they won’t get too greasy. Put the layers on top of each other until you end up with a layer of cheese on top of the form.
If you make it in a pan, put it over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes until the bottom layer is brown. Then transfer it into the oven. If you did it in an oven form, put it into the oven straight away. Bake them in the oven for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender. If the cheese isn’t golden brown, increase the heat for a few minutes or turn the grill on. 15 minutes before everything was done, I added peppers in the tray with the pork roast.
Both dishes turned out super. I will use less or no butter in the potatoes next time, but it wasn’t really a bother. They tasted great and the cheese was nicely melted and crispy on top. The pork was fantastic. The crackling was firm and stayed like this even until we had the leftovers cold.
Once more, I go back to Blighty, with Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Pub Food cookbook. As always, I didn’t follow the recipe to the dot, so you’ll see what I actually did and how. One reason was that fresh sea fish is hard to come by in a landlocked country like Austria. For some reason, I was drawn to a Scottish recipe again. The challenge was alcohol in the recipe, which was a bit of a challenge for me since I don’t drink it and only seldom cook with it. But since I was drawn to a fish soup, a bit of white wine would go just fine in there.
500g smoked haddock filets (I had to use frozen white fish for the lack of haddock)
500ml whole milk
5 shallots, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
600g waxy potatoes
500ml chicken or fish stock
100ml double cream
100ml dry white wine
salt, pepper, olive oil, parsley leaves
Put the fish in a big pan, cover it with milk and add the bay leaves. Heat the milk up to a simmer and cook the fish for about 5 minutes until it is firm. Take the pan off the heat and put it aside.
Sauté the shallots and the garlic in the melted butter. Cut the potatoes in small dices and add them to the pan. Pour the stock and the wine in, cook for about 10 minutes and stir until lightly golden.
Take the fish out of the milk and flake the flesh. Make sure there are no skin and bones left. Pour the milk over the potatoes, and cook it on a simmer until the potatoes are soft.
Add a quarter of the fish and the cream to the soup, then remove it from the heat. Blend it with a hand blender, then put it back onto the heat. Reheat it and add the rest of the fish. Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle olive oil and parsley over it and serve with dark crusty bread on the side.
It is really a comforting, autumn or winter soup. For summer it’s a bit too warm and heavy. As soon as it gets cooler though, I’d happily make it. I like fish soup, and the potatoes and the milk just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
A cookbook full of crème brûlée recipes, straight out of Paris, that must be a winner. I was incredibly intrigued by the different flavours they suggested to put in. That being said, I’m usually rather conservative with my crème brûlée. I once had a lemongrass one, and it wasn’t my piece of cake. So I was going to make sure I’d make one that fits – at least in my head – better with the vanilla and caramel flavour of the original recipe.
The extra challenge was to change an ingredient – since I didn’t have vanilla extract at home, I just used vanilla sugar instead. I moved past the savoury crème brûlées – I wasn’t THAT adventurous – and settled on a coffee one.
Crème Brûlée au Café
10 cl milk
30 cl liquid crème fraîche
1/2 tea spoon liquid vanilla (i used vanilla sugar, but fresh vanilla is possible too)
10 cl of strong, fresh coffe
3 egg whites
100 g of icing sugar
1 spoonful ground coffee
50 g castor sugar
80 g brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 210C.
Heat up the milk, cream and vanilla sugar in a large pot and bring it to the boil. Then add the coffee and take it off the heat.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs with the icing sugar until it’s even and foamy.
Mix it into the pot with the milk.
Put the forms for the crème brûlée into a water bath and pour the mix in.
The crème needs about 30-45 min in the oven, depending on the size. Turn down the heat after 10 minutes because the water from the water bath shouldn’t boil. With a toothpick you can test if the crème is ready – if you stick it in, there should be no soupy cream stuck to it anymore. The top usually ends up brown.
When it’s finished, take it out of the oven, let it cool down and then put it in the fridge for about two hours. It’s not an absolute necessity, but it helps the crème settle.
For the crust, mix the castor sugar with the ground coffee and spread a layer on the crème brûlée. Afterwards, put a layer of brown sugar on top of it. Caramelise it under the grill for about 5 minutes or with a crème brûlée torch. The crust gets darker with the coffee grains in it, at first I thought it was a bit burnt.
This is where my biggest criticism of the cookbook comes in – the time and temperature in the oven were completely off. According to the book, it would’ve been 45min at 110C. I lost track of time, and when I checked after 55min, it was still a caramel soup. Since I had put them in glass forms, it was clearly visible that there was still a lot of foam on top an it hadn’t settled at all. Then I went back to my La Bonne Grand Mère cookbook (one of my favourite ones, which I mentioned in the introduction), where it states actually 210C. So I turned the heat up and about 15min later they were finally ready. The quantities were spot-on, but the timings were off. Luckily, I had made crème brûlée already multiple times, I knew what to look for as far as consistency is concerned and how to check. I would use the cookbook again, but rely more on experience than their suggestions when it comes to the oven.
The crème brûlée itself was really nice with a subtle hint of coffee. The taste of coffee might get lost if you have it with a cup of coffee, so you might want to have it with something else. It can always taste more like coffee in my opinion, but that’s a thing of taste. Crème brûlée is one of my favourite desserts so I wouldn’t have gone too crazy with it. I certainly enjoyed it with the coffee flavour and would definitely make it again.
Next up is the Austro Tapas cookbook: basically classical Austrian dishes in small and handy versions. The added challenge, which Mick gave me, was to make it with breadcrumbs. Since they are very prominent in Austrian cuisine, I thought this was going to be easy. I could just pick some kind of Schnitzel, since it was going to be used for lunch, and do that in tiny. Boy, I was wrong.
For some weird reason there weren’t any Schnitzel dishes in it, and though some desserts had breadcrumbs on it – and battered mushrooms which isn’t much of a lunch in itself – there wasn’t much I could pick from. What I did find was a cheese cordon bleu, which I decided to use as inspiration. In general I felt that it was an Austrian (ish) cookbook where everything was just smaller. It feels a bit like the new cookbooks for the small pots – same thing but smaller. Not too inspiring. I think it works for desserts better though, where you can then prepare a range of smaller desserts. So I think I’ll have to come back to this cookbook for a dessert recipe, which then I shall follow a bit more…
But now onto what I ended up making:
Rustic Cordon Bleu
4 pork escalopes (you can use veal too which is the classical one, but pork is more flavourful)
Breadcrumbs (made out of dry white bread or bought if you can get decent ones)
4 big slices of cheese (something with lots of flavour, I used smoked cheese)
Slices of Smoked Bacon (not what you’d get as ‘bacon’ in the US or the UK. I mean proper smoked bacon. I used smoked garlic bacon.)
Half a Lemon
Red Wine Vinegar
Pumpkin Seed Oil
First up, tenderise the meat with a meat hammer. It needs to be properly beaten so the slices get a bit thinner. Then, depending on the size, you can use two Schnitzel or fold one up. Since I was making Tapas (ish) Cordon Bleu, I folded them. After hammering the meat was thin and larger, so it was still decent sized even in half.
Spread the bacon out on the meat, covering it up. Then the cheese in the middle. It shouldn’t be filled too thick, or it would just fall apart when you make the batter. A classical Cordon Bleu is made with ham and cheese, so you can vary the filling.
Fold the Cordon Bleu and use toothpicks to hold them together. Then hammer once more to get them a bit flatter. For the batter put flour in one bowl, two eggs mixed with salt on the second, and the breadcrumbs in the third. Use deep bowls if possible, as the flour and breadcrumbs may end up everywhere. How much you’ll end up needing, largely depends on the size of the Cordon Bleu. The same is true for Schnitzel, which you can also make following this recipe. Just don’t stuff anything in it.
First, the meat goes into the flour. Make sure it’s properly covered and shake the excess flour off. Next up is the egg-salt mix. Again, the whole Cordon Bleu should be covered. If you rub your hands in the flour before starting, you’ll avoid your fingers getting clogged up with eggy crumbs!
The last step of the batter is the breadcrumbs. Cover the Cordon Bleu completely, and apply some pressure to make sure the breadcrumbs stick to it. Make sure to cook them straight away; if you leave them lying around too long, the batter will end up coming off the meat. Once you press the whole thing a bit, the toothpicks can come out again.
Use a deep pan with about half a finger thick of oil. Wait until it’s sizzling hot – best checked with some loose breadcrumbs – and put the Cordon Bleus in. If the fat isn’t hot enough, it will just soak into the batter and leave it greasy. Bake it about 3 minutes on each side, until the batter is golden brown.
As a side dish I prepared a traditional green salad. The one I made is customary for the South of Austria. After washing the salad leaves, you put some salt, red wine vinegar and pumpkin seed oil on it. The latter is a speciality from my home region of Styria. It’s a very dark green thick oil, which can be used for many dishes but not as oil to fry food in.
All in all, the cookbook was a good inspiration, and like I initially said, I will probably try one of their desserts next. The Rustic Cordon Bleu though was fantastic. I usually have it with a sprinkle of lemon over the top of it. I should’ve used more cheese though – maybe two slices each or even goat cheese if I had managed to cut it thinly enough to get it in. I did enjoy it a lot though, the garlic bacon went very nicely with… well, really everything. I cannot believe I had never made Cordon Bleu before – I always thought it was more complicated than this!
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