Sometimes I feel like I am in the Import and Export business. I'm pretty sure this is a common feeling many Expats experience because there are always food things you miss from your old 'home' and things from your new 'home' that you are excited for friends in your old 'home' to try. Whenever we have house guests from overseas there is always a list of things we'd like them to bring too... I don't do all the work myself, I do delegate sometimes.
I started importing and exporting way before we even moved away from the UK. We would take potato chips and Indian food items from the U.K. to Switzerland and return with delicious Swiss Chocolate and Cheese for our U.K friends.
The quantities were never huge, often just enough for one meal... unless its chocolate - then the whole office wanted some, so I'm pretty sure no laws were being broken, and often one small packet of un baked Naan bread or a large pot of yeast could make you a welcome house guest.
The I&E business continued when we lived in Hong Kong.
Cheese was always high on the list of things to bring back. There was a miserable selection of cheese at the time and it was certainly one of the things my husband really missed. When we lived in Singapore it was wine. Wine was outrageously expensive. House guests would bring wine and leave with Laksa spice kits or Beef Rendang curry sauces.
In the USA it was trips to Canada that supplied us with proper back bacon... that streaky stuff is just not what Bacon Butties should be made with. Trips back to Switzerland ensured we had Gruyere Cheese and Chocolate as anyone European in the USA knows 'Swiss Cheese' and anything from Hersheys is completely unpalatable.
Trips to the UK would allow me to stock up on Coleman's Mustard and HP Sauce.
Requests for things from the USA often meant trips to Nike and Michael Kors before a flight to Europe.
My Last trip to the UK I managed to find the stash of goodies in the picture above. Thankfully I wasn't travelling alone as I would have gone straight over my luggage allowance...those tins of treacle are fairly heavy.
Luckily now in 2017 I can buy 'most' things in Switzerland but there are a few things that are so expensive that I always throw them into my luggage when returning such as Baking powder and yeast. In Switzerland they are only sold in sachets. These sachets are too much for one bake but never enough for two. In the UK I can buy tubs, for a fraction of the cost. Made by the same people but in much more user friendly sizes for a fraction of the cost.
But best of all is my current favourite import, Prawn (Shrimp) Crackers. I can buy these in Chinatown in London for a couple of pounds for a big bag but somehow these have never made their way to Switzerland even though there is a strong Thai community here.
They are by far superior to the puffy Chinese Prawn Crackers which I can buy in Switzerland but are not even a close substitute.
I buy as many of these as I can fit in my suitcase.....
Before a Thai curry and with some sweet chilli dip whilst enjoying a Tiger Beer there is nothing better.
I accept that we are completely spoiled and that this has lead to the movement of food around the globe in my suitcase. If we didn't travel so much I would have no idea that the tonkatsu sauce bought in the supermarket in Tokyo is by far superior to the ones I attempt to make myself, And once you have eaten proper Thai Prawn Crackers on a beach in Thailand, nothing else really hits the spot.
So, whilst I am thankful that we get the opportunities to travel as much as we do... it has made me an accidental international grocery trader.
There isn't a lot a I don't like about the Trip Advisor travel map. There have been a few times over the years that I haven't been able to pin the places I've been to, but that is usually because they are more remote places we travelled through in Tibet for example, but apart from that its hard to find fault with it.
I LOVE the ability to pin cities I want to visit.
I usually only do the cities I am actively planning to visit, otherwise the whole map would be filled with green pins.. Using the green pins is a great way to plan journeys.
We have just booked flights for a trip in August to Sweden. I pinned all the cities we would drive through on our trip and then it was easy to see if there were any other cities nearby that we could easily get to, this is how we added Copenhagen and Oslo.
I zoomed into the map and printed it out and then using google maps I put in the driving distances between the cities to estimate how many days we would need. Easy Peasy.
I'm in the process of planning a 5 week trip to India early 2018 and I'm doing something similar. Hubby has gone through a few websites and come up with some cities or sights he wants to visit. I've pinned the map. I've printed the map and will write on the cities and using a guide book and various websites I will check to see what else is nearby each of the pins.
On my paper map I've added all the local airports and can start to come up with a rough 'plan'
I have also asked a few friends who have visited India several times to take a look at my map and suggest places I may not have thought about... I can see their travel maps and ask questions about places I can see they have travelled to... This only works if your friends keep their maps up to date too... but since its such a fun thing to do - why wouldn't you ??
There is something very satisfying about turning those green pins into orange ones :)
My Map tells me I have been to 750 cities and want to go to 43... and that I've only visited 43% of the world.... My Travel Map
I'm lucky that I've seen a lot more than many people... but also VERY aware that there is a lot of places I have yet to get to... and my list of places to visit is constantly grows.
Whilst I am still in the planning stage of both of these two trips - any advice or thoughts regarding any of my green pins would be most welcome :)
Do you use Trip Advisor or any other travel maps ?? I haven't really looked into any other Maps and would be interested to hear about any other sites or apps...
Before you begin to make sourdough you need to make your starter or Levain (as it is often referred to in other recipes)
It is an easy process, BUT you need to look after it everyday during these first stages so it is best to start when you know you are going to be at home.
I LOVE the taste and it's really worth the effort it takes to make it. (it is quite time consuming - why I said in the title that it has taken over)
This recipe makes 2 loaves, You can freeze one loaf if you need to, but I rarely have more than a few slices left after a weekend. I usually make it on Friday. It makes great toast to go with poached eggs for breakfast.
It will last for about 4-5 days and keep its taste, but in our house it doesn't last that long, even though there are only 2 of us.
I tried a couple of other recipes that didn't work out and the one below has given me great results the last 5 or 6 times I have used it.
Making the Starter.
Sourdough Starter replaces yeast. Its a mixture of flour and water and it uses the natural yeast in the air.
You can change the quantities but keep the proportions the same as I have used and you should be OK.
You need 125g organic wholemeal wheat flour and 190g slightly warm water.
Mix the ingredients in a glass container until smooth and then cover with a cotton tea-towel leave at room temp undisturbed until the next morning.
The Next Day.
In the morning, give the mix a good stir and replace the tea-towel.
Day 3 - 8
The next morning pour away half of your starter and refresh with 125g organic wholemeal wheat flour and 190g slightly warm water. Repeat this everyday for a week.
When it starts to bubble then you know things are going well.
When it is bubbly with a 'yeasty' smell or its a bit frothy you can move on to the next step. If its only just starting to bubble, give it a stir, cover and check again the next day, or repeat the above step.
This could be 6 days or may even be 8 days.
Feeding the starter.
Having a starter is a little like having a pet. If you don't feed it weekly you risk it dying. Your starter can be refrigerated with a lid on the glass jar and then before you use it the starter needs to be 'fed'. Bring it out and let it get to room temp before adding 125g organic bread flour and 190g slightly warm water and leaving it for at least 12 hours. It can then be used or returned to the fridge.
Whatever recipe you choose will tell you how much starter to use. always use the starter when it is bubbly. So don't forget to revive it a day before you need it. When you have used the starter, you also need to replenish it so there is enough for the next round of baking.
Making the bread
975g of organic white bread flour
75g of organic wholemeal flour
680g of water (20c to 25c)
22g of Salt
250g of the above Levain
You can play around with the quantities of flour and water depending on the type of flour used, some absorb more water than others. You can also reduce the above amount of White bread Flour - maybe 900g to 850g and then add 50g organic Wholemeal.
I use this white bread flour...
1. 24 hours after your starter was last fed put 75g into a separate bowl and add 75g of organic wholemeal flour and 75g of organic white bread flour and 150g of water.
Mix this by hand until smooth and then cover and leave for around 7 - 10 hours.
2. After around 7 to 10 hours, mix 900g of organic white bread flour, 680g of water and mix together in a large bowl. Let this rest for 30 mins and then add the salt and 22grams of salt and 250grams of the starter.
Wet your hands before mixing as this helps to stop the dough from sticking to your fingers.
If you have the time fold the dough 2 or 3 times during the first 90 mins.
This isn't necessary, but I find it gives me a more manageable dough.
Leave the dough overnight (around 14 hours) until it’s tripled in size. You can play around with adding more starter if you find you don't get enough rise.
3. The next day divide the dough in two equal pieces. Trying not to deflate the bubbles tip the dough onto a floured surface and use a scraper to 'slice' the dough.
Shape the two pieces of dough into reasonably firm balls, and place in proofing baskets or bowls lined with tea towels. Before use, dust the baskets or bowls in flour. Put these into plastic bags and leave at room temp for around 3 to 4 hours.
4. Around 30 minutes before baking you need to preheat your oven to 245c. If you have a Dutch oven/Le Creuset put this in the oven to preheat too.
Tip your proofed loaf into your floured hands then place in your Dutch Oven. - taking care because it will be very hot. Return to the oven with the lid on.
Bake for 35 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to bake for another 20 minutes or until the loaf is dark brown.
I have 2 ovens so I bake both loaves at the same time, but if you don't you can put the second loaf in the fridge until the first loaf is finished.
So the timetable I usually work from looks like this...
Day 1 - feed starter in the morning (10am)
Day 2 - take out amt for bread 24 hours after it was fed (10am)
Day 2 - 7-10 hours later mix bread (5 - 8pm)
Day 3 - after 14 hours split dough in half (7 - 10am)
Day 3 - 3-4 hours later bake bread.
Once you get the hang of it there are lots of other recipes you can find online that use the sourdough starter. I have eaten sourdough pizza at a Jason Atherton restaurant and it was amazing so that is on my list to try.
It takes a bit of practice to get the perfect loaf, and the right quantities of flour and starter etc but all the 'mistakes' can be eaten so its not normally a big disaster. Enjoy baking and let me know how it works out.
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