Thursday 29 August 2013

My 'Four Thieves' concoction

I've been busy gathering the ingredients from my balcony herbs for this wonderful but slightly nasty looking concoction. I needed to get it finished and brewing before the sore throat season starts.

A couple of years ago my good friend and talented acupuncturist from California (but now living in the road opposite me) made a jar of this and told me to give a spoonful of it whenever anyone has a sore throat and is feeling flu-ish. Since then, none of my family have been to the doctor or needed any antibiotics. Maybe a coincidence, who can tell!

According to French folklore, when the Black Death plague was rife in Marseille, there were a group of thieves who were raiding the graves of plague victims for their fortunes. Noone understood how they were avoiding becoming victims of the plague themselves and when they were finally captured they were forced to give details of how they gained immunity against the disease in exchange for a less gruesome death.

There are many versions of the recipe, but this one seems to work for my family.

250ml organic apple cider vinegar
1tbsp fresh lavender flowers
1tbsp fresh sage leaves ripped in half
1tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
1tbsp mint leaves picked off the stalk
1tbsp fresh marjoram leaves
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and then squashed down by the flat side of the knife.

Mix all the ingredients together in a glass pickling type jar and leave for it to ferment for a few weeks where it will become an awful looking brown colour. Store at room temperature like any other vinegar. Take out a spoonful whenever you need it and keep topping up over the Winter with more organic apple cider vinegar. Apparently you can clean with it too but Im not sure I'd want the house smelling of herby vinegar! Make it now while the herbs are readily available.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Yarn Along

In the past year I've become slightly addicted to knitting and find it an easy way to relax whilst actually making stuff that my children want to wear (and a couple of things they won't touch...). Now the weather has started to change, i'm beginning to step up my knitting activity level a notch. I'm currently making a cardigan for Lola. She's insisting on blue having at age 5 decided to take a step towards leaving the pink phase. I approve!

I've just recently finished knitting my first ever lace shawl for Lola which she is loving and doing a great impression of Little Red Riding Hood in. Here's some pics. She was tired hence the thumb sucking...

Oh and the reading! The girls and I have started reading Little House on the Prairie. This kind of bypassed me as a child growing up in the UK. We are loving it so far. I love imagining us travelling across half of America and my husband being able to build a house in the middle of nowhere. He has trouble with any kind of Ikea project but it's fun to imagine!!

What are you knitting and reading this week?
Joining Ginny at Small Things

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Pumpkin Soup

The children are back at school here in Zurich and the glorious weather we experienced over the Summer has become very Autumnal. I was embarrassingly excited after spotting the first load of Swiss pumpkins arriving in the Supermarket this week. We tried very hard to grow pumpkins in our vegetable garden this year but the slugs had other ideas for us.

So anyways, I'm relying on Migros, Coop and Jucker Farm to help keep our family stocked up. This was our first pumpkin soup of the season. I'll try to share the recipe but I fear I am not great with measurements. This may improve with time!

A tablespoon of olive oil for frying
Half a small sized pumpkin (skin peeled off, seeds removed, chopped into 3cm pieces)
1 small onion (finely chopped)
a dash of mild curry powder
a dash of cinammon
a fine grating of fresh nutmeg (grate until you can smell it!)
half a can of coconut milk
200ml chicken stock

Heat the oil and then fry the onion slowly until transluscent. Then add the pumpkin and the spices and fry gently for around 10 minutes until the pumpkin is going a little squodgy (is that an actual word?). Then add the coconut milk and the chicken stock. The liquid should only just cover the pumpkin. Bring to the boil, bring down to a simmer and put a lid on your pan. Leave for about 20 minutes. Check now and then that it's not sticking to the bottom and there's enough liquid. Take off the heat, leave to cool for a bit and then liquidise. I like the consistency to be slightly thick like baby food but maybe that's just me. Season to taste and reheat if you like it hot rather than warm. Enjoy!

Monday 26 August 2013

A Year's break!

So I had a break before I got started! My son developed a gluten intolerance and life became slightly challenging as I attempted to sort his gut out. Oh and how time consuming is cooking everything from scratch? I'll call it my paleo period.

A year on and he's back to normal and I've discovered gluten free pasta and bread and he can eat the odd bit of wheat without being constipated for days. My oldest is now in second grade, my middle child in 2nd year Kindergarten and the boy has started Spielgruppe (playgroup) a couple of times a week. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Migros or Coop? (or shhhhhh....Aldi)

In this country, you tend to either be a Migros or a Coop fan. I find Swiss supermarkets have limited choice compared to other countries but stock high quality produce. Migros sells one lot of brands and Coop sells a different load, meaning you often end up in both at some point in the week. And weirdly, the largest amount of milk you can buy is in 1 litre bottles. Which makes me think they'd like you to come in every day for your milk or they just like the thought of you having to do alot of recycling. My kids can drink 3 litres of milk a day between them. Sometimes I wish we could arrange to have a cow live on the balcony.

Often, when it gets to the end of the month I find myself in Aldi. Nothing wrong with Aldi. I tend to avoid the meat and check the veg thoroughly but you can find bargains. People complain that Aldi makes you feel like you are shopping in a foreign country. Well I am so nothing new there. Also, I spotted two Maserati's, one Ferrari and a handful of Porsches in the carpark on the last visit. Therefore I feel no shame.

Anyway, I had to share this. Tortilla wraps cost 5fr10 in the Coop. I found these beauties in Aldi for 1fr20 on Monday. Almost five times less. Quesadillas for lunch anyone??

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Swiss school lunches.

So why am I making my children's lunch every day?
It is the norm in the Swiss school system for your child to walk home (preferably without the parent) to your house at midday (helps build up the appetite!) and walk back at around 1.30pm, full and ready for the afternoon's activities. In my children's school there is no canteen. They can stay for lunch but the parents pay for the food (brought in by an outside supplier) AND for the teacher's time of looking after your child between midday and 1.30pm. So normally 20 francs a day. I'll translate, £15 a day. Per child. I have 3.
Because of my husband's job, I have the opportunity of being a stay at home mum. This was part of the reason why we decided to move to Switzerland and something I'd not have been able to do in the UK.
So I cook instead. A lot. From scratch. And healthily (most of the time).
And I have 3 children with 3 very different tastes.
The eldest is Betsy. She's almost 7, extremely tall and likes to eat meat (having been a vegetarian till age 4) but won't touch sauce (unless it's pesto) or soup or yoghurt.

Next is Lola. Aged 4, Lola likes fruit and vegetables and green tea. Her favourite food of all is pomegranate. Lola never gets ill. She's seen the doctor once in her life. Maybe we could all learn from Lola.

Last of all is Zak. He is 2 and hates fruit or veg. I spend hours hiding the stuff in cakes, sauces, soups and yoghurt. Sometimes out of nowhere he'll eat a banana or some melon or corn on the cob but it is quite an event when it happens. He eats mostly carbs, but appears to have a gluten issue. And is also what you'd call a milk-aholic.

I refuse to cook different meals for each of my angels. I produce one meal and they take what they want and there's nothing else. Food is very expensive in Switzerland and I find that lack of other options for the kids helps avoid pickiness. Meat is also incredibly expensive. I am currently standing next to a normal sized chicken in the kitchen and it cost 14.50 Swiss francs (almost £10). And that's a 'non-fancy' 1 kilo chicken. So I cook with meat once a day if we are lucky. Which is good for the health and environment as well as the pocket, so I won't complain.

So my plan is to blog about my culinary adventures with my young ones in Switzerland and hopefully we will all learn a few things on the way.