It’s no coincidence that the posts of two of the best brownies I’ve ever made, this one and this one, have crappy pictures. When these fudgy monsters come out of the oven, the only thing I want to do is dive right in and treat myself on a piece of sticky chocolate gooeyness, but just when I’m about to do that, I have to remind myself that I should take pictures first. The little self-control I have just allows me to take a couple of lucky shots before I take a piece, or two, ok, maybe three. And as you can actually see – busted – I couldn’t even restrain myself from slicing the whole thing up and snatching a couple of pieces before taking the pics.
After having to take two trains, two plains and a cab ride to get from Amsterdam to Beijing while being sick, I arrived in my dorm room completely exhausted and jet lagged, but luckily these fudgy miracle workers helped me feel better. The caramel gave me the energy kick my body needed and the chocolate helped me to get over the pity party I was having. And I’m pretty sure they’ll help you feel better whatever problems you’re having, but let’s be honest, no one needs an excuse to take a little bite of these salted caramel brownies.
I know the brownie in this picture doesn’t even come close to the looks of the beautiful original, but it sure tasted amazing. They already taste wonderful immediately after taking them out of the oven (watch out not to burn your mouth on the dangerously hot caramel), but they taste heavenly the day after.
For the last couple of months, Beijing has been trying really hard to make me feel sick. There is food filled with whatever flavor enhancers/antibiotics/growing hormones etc. which wouldn’t be legal to sell anywhere in in Europe, fake alcohol (it makes you feel so good when you drink it, but oh so bad the morning after), people spitting and blowing their noses on the street and making those bullets of gunk drop down right in front of you, the hygiene in restaurants and food stalls leave much to be desired and of course days in January when the air quality due to the smog wasn’t “hazardous” can be counted on one hand.
So I think it’s quite interesting, but mostly just really annoying, that I didn’t get sick under these circumstances, but after staying for three days in a country with fresh and clean air, good cooking (I’m so humble) and loads of vitamines, I got sick.
But I will not let my stuffed nose (maybe I should try blowing it on the street) or headache get me down and I will continue my cooking marathon. Hopefully the dishes I’m cooking in the next couple of days will turn out just as a good as this chicken pot pie and will make me feel better, so I’m healthy again when I return to the unhealthy city.
If you’re going full in for this pot pie, which I totally recommend, it takes quite some time and effort, but you’re ensured to end up with a highly comforting chicken pot pie with the most flavorful and appetizing filling and flaky and buttery crust possible. In case of lack of time, there are some shortcuts you can take and I’m sure you’ll also end up with something really good.
I arrived at my parents’ place late last night. My dad made me bitterballen (a Dutch snack) and then they sent this tired jet-lagged girl to bed. I woke up before 6 am and immediately was energetic, it was already 1 pm in Beijing after all, so I got up and started my first day back home.
I think it goes without saying that one of the first things I did was baking a cake, or at least make an attempt. It didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped though. It started with using the wrong chocolate. I only realized that I had been chopping up milk chocolate when it was too late, so I decided to just use that one. And just when I patted myself on the shoulder for not letting the butter burn, I clumsily poured some of the sizzling hot butter over my own hand – ouch. I ended up whisking the eggs with my right hand and having my left hand under the cold tap to stop the cooking process of my fingers (sorry for killing your appetite).
But despite these small (painful) setbacks, I ended up with a delicious cake that has a crunchy outside, a soft inside and is filled with soft pieces of pear and chunks of chocolate. Having baked my first cake since almost 6 months makes me feel better than I’ve felt in a long time and it makes up for any burning fingers or mean jetlags.
Chinese all over the world celebrated Chinese New Year’s Eve last Saturday. I celebrated it here.
Like I had expected, there was a lot of food; three dinners in one night to be precise. It started with an early dinner at my friends’ paternal grandparents’ around 4, a second dinner at his aunt’s around 7 and we ended at midnight with the dumplings I had wrapped with his grandma that afternoon.
A lot of firecrackers were fired at New Year’s Eve, especially around dinnertime and midnight, but the biggest bangs were still to come. On New Year’s Day I woke up by something that sounded like there was a small army firing machine guns all over town, but especially around the apartment, around 5(!), apparently most of the firecrackers are being lit early in the morning. Reminder for next time: don’t forget to bring earplugs.
I filled the rest of the week with sleeping in, reading, joining for family visits, learning how to play Majiang and getting my ass kicked by a couple of old pros, a lot of eating, watching and trying to learn from my friends’ mom cooking, practicing my Chinese with his family and also one unfortunate (not a fan at all) visit to a karaoke club one afternoon.
Being able to celebrate Chinese New Year the Chinese way is another awesome China-experience I can add to the list.
This lucky girl is going on two amazing trips in the next three weeks. Today I will take a train from Beijing to Henan province to spend the week with a close Chinese friend, his friend and his Chinese family, which means I’ll be celebrating Chinese New Year with Chinese people in China, how cool is that. I’m not sure what to expect, but I think I can be sure it will involve a lot of eating (not complaining at all) and also some major awkwardness when I’m trying to have conversations in my crappy Chinese. After I return to Beijing I will spend one night here before flying home. Home! Unfortunately it’s not just fun and games, since my granddad had a nasty fall and ended up in the hospital. He’s doing ok, but I really want to spend some time with him (and bake some cakes for him) and that’s why I decided to make a short visit home before the second semester starts. I can’t deny that I’m also really reallyreally looking forward to seeing my best friends and my family again and I will, of course, spend some time in the kitchen. And to make everything even better, I will have my two loyal travel companions with me on both trips.
This couscous salad is the last dish I’ve made before coming to Beijing at the end of August last year. Of course it’s not a Dutch salad and it’s also not the first dish that would pop up in my mind when I’m craving a soothing winter dish, but when that moment comes when you’re starting to doubt if the weather will ever get better again and you need to be reminded what summer feels like, this salad full of fragrant herbs, crunchy nuts and a pungent dressing Is the perfect thing to make.
It often happened that when I told friends and family that I would do my two-year masters in Beijing, they would react amazed, carefully telling me that two years is a long time and that it would be hard; being away from friends and family, in a country with a completely different culture and language and.. the list goes on and on. Every time this happened, I would react totally casual, like I knew what I was in for. Oh boy, what was I naive. Looking back on last year, on my preparations for the big trip and the expectations I had, there isn’t anything that turned out like I had expected. The experiences I gained during my first semester have learned me a lot about myself and of course I’m still learning more every single day. There are parts of me that I’m proud of, I’m doing things that I never thought I would be capable of, but I also discovered parts of me that I’m not too pleased about. We (except for Hermione of course) might not be able to turn back time and make things undone, but we can learn from our mistakes and make sure to never make the same mistakes again.
In case you’re wondering why I’m being so dramatic instead of just telling you how incredibly flavorful this fish is – no, I’m not drunk and it’s not the time of the month – it’s because the first semester has come to an end, there are two big trips coming up in the next three weeks (more on that another time) and I have all the time in the world to think about all my sins and fortunes.
One of my favorite experiences in Beijing so far has been learning to cook Chinese food. Firstly because food is such a big part of Chinese culture and secondly, who am I kidding here, because I love eating it and I want to be able to cook it myself. Before attending the cooking class, I thought this fish would be difficult to make, but just like so many other things in life, you just have to give it a go and you’ll see that it isn’t as hard as you thought it would be.