Pit-stop in Doha

So back in 2012 when I still worked in SE-Asia I made it a habit to fly back to Europe twice a year. Most of the time via Doha in Qatar – that would cut the otherwise excruciatingly long flight precisely in half. Besides, Qatar Airways with its home base in Doha is a phenomenal airline with the newest planes that they maintain to the highest standards. Service onboard is way better than most airlines I had flown with and so is their customer service. The list goes on.

Shame on me: I have never made it out of the airport. And I must have been there half a dozen times. The pull to Europe was just always too strong.

Nevertheless I wanted to share a few great pictures I took from the plane: Mostly the periphery of the city, refinery, desert, the sea and the airport.

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Approach to Singapore

Back in 2011 a short trip from the assignments in Southeast Asia needed to be taken. I had flown into Changi airport numerous times before but never was the light this great. Neither was the technology of cellphone cameras…

I just think the haze between the skyscrapers, the glowing light of the sun burning down behind the horizon, the ocean and the ships are just caught at the right time.

Here really just some snapshots – going into detail on Singapore would simply require some more posts.

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Bavarian Mountains

Just a few photos of a very short trip to Bavaria in August 2011.

These photos are taken at an alpine mountain hut in the Allgäu somewhere southwest of Munich. The Kenzenhütte as it is called offers food and drinks for hungry hikers as well as rustic accommodation for this who want to spend the night.

It is not accessible by car but from the small village of Halblech the hike is only about 3 hours. You can choose between an asphalt road or more windy hiking trails.

The whole region of Ostallgäu by the way offers great outdoors activities such as hiking, biking, sailing, skiing, ice skating and a whole lot of culture. The world famous “disney castle”, Neuschwanstein is only 15 minutes by car from Halblech.

Apart from that Füssen is about 20 minutes south-west on the B17. Füssen is a gorgeous medieval town that is, amongst other reasons, worth visiting for its century long history of violin and lute building since 1562. Just briefly why exactly this craft came to flourish in exactly this town: For one it was supported by the nobility and the clergy in the region. Secondly, the maple and especially yew trees are abundant in the surrounding alpine valleys. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly Füssen was built on the old Roman Via Claudia Augusta connecting Venice (in the south) with Augsburg (in the north), two great centers of music and the arts.

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New Jersey–Better than You Think

When thinking of New Jersey what springs to mind? Jersey City, Newark airport, the shore. Some might know of the state’s tomato-growing tradition; some might know it definitively as the armpit of the US.

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Sure, the cities in New Jersey close to New York City are not where one would visit, except for business or en route to the airport or to Manhattan.

After all, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country, with 1,200 souls crammed onto each square mile! It’s hardly seems like a place to escape to.

And then there is the Jersey Shore: A beautiful stretch of wide, sandy beaches that are home to many charming seaside towns. Unfortunately, many of them suffer from the overcrowding of day-trippers and tourists. And of course there is always the disappointing portrayal of the shore by a certain MTV reality show a few years back.

But as with so many things, these are just the negative perceptions of an otherwise great state.

One could generalize and argue that the further away from the coast–and especially from Manhattan–you go, the prettier the state is. Here is another New Jersey: rolling hills, vast forests, and well-groomed farmland form the picturesque backcountry of the Garden State.

In fact, there is some great fly fishing just an hour or so west of New York. Just south of Califon, on the Raritan River’s South Branch, is the Ken Lockwood Gorge. The river there is stocked by local efforts–mainly the folks at Shannon’s.

Shannon’s, by the way,  is the single best fly fishing shop in all of NJ that I know of. Not only do they have a great selection of flies, many of them tied in the back of the shop, they also are very helpful in choosing the right pattern on any given day, or suggesting a good spot for some guaranteed fishing success. Guided trips in the area and fly fishing classes are available, and you can purchase your NJ fishing license there. Other than that, the people at Shannon’s are very active in the preservation of the local fisheries, such as the Musconetcong and the Pequest river.

A tributary of the North Branch Rarity River is the Lamington River. This is another prime example of a picturesque central New Jersey. It’s source is somewhere west of Morristown, then it flows mostly south through the Black River WMA, Black River County Park, and Hacklebarney State Park. From there, it meanders through private farm lands between Hunterdon and Somerset County.

The Lamington or Black river is a beautiful little trout stream with some easy access to the water. It allows for many relaxing hours in nature since it is tucked away from major roads and noisy settlements. A private fishing club in Hacklebarney Park manages a stretch of the free-stone river for trout fishing. Though not always easy to find, there are wild trout throughout the course of the river.

In the hot summer months it is not recommended to fish there, as high water temperatures put a lot of stress on the fish, which must not be exacerbated by additional fishing pressure. As a matter of fact, this July and August, sadly, I have seen many dead Salmonoids in various locations along the Lamington. In my opinion, there are two possible reasons for the agglomerated deaths: One is the high water temperatures and the other one may unfortunately be unnecessary stress on the fish by fishermen.

So get out there and explore New Jersey with rod in hand–just remember to respect the fish and the nature that surrounds you!

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Baked Ham in Sourdough Crust

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Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:
  • 1,5 kg boiled pork ham (flank or loin)
For the bread crust:
  • 375 g whole rye flour
  • 375 g whole wheat flour
  • 40 g fresh yeast
  • 450 ml water, lukewarm
  • 10 g sugar
  • 150 g sourdough starter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • salt
Preparation:

Combine the rye and wheat flour in a bowl, make a well in the center, and crumble the yeast into it. Add about 4-5 tbsp. of lukewarm water, carefully dissolve the yeast in it, add the sugar, and mix in some flour from the rim of the crater. Dust the paste you created with some flour, cover the bowl with a clean cloth, and let it rest in a warm place until the surface of the dough starts to show cracks.

Now add the remaining water, the sourdough starter, and a pinch of salt and knead it with your clean hands until it easily comes off the side of the bowl and is a homogenous dough. Form a ball and let the dough rise in the bowl for another 30 minutes.

Pat the ham dry and pre-heat it in the oven at 100°C for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, knead the dough once more, dust your working surface with flour, and roll it into a 1 cm- thick rectangle about 38 x 40 cm big. For the garnish, slice off a strip of dough 10 cm wide so that a rectangle of approx. 28 x 40 cm remains.

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Next, wrap the warm ham into the dough as shown in the step photos. Combine the egg yolk with a little lukewarm water to create an egg wash and “glue” together the dough on the overlapping sides together to enclose the ham. Cut off any excess dough and fold the remaining dough under the ham. Combine all of the remaining dough and roll it out once more for the garnish: a rectangle about 5 millimeters thick and bout 32 x 50 cm wide. Then use a straight or fluted pastry cutter to cut strips about 1,5 cm wide. This should yield about 18 strips. Brush the wrapped ham with egg wash and decorate as shown above placing the dough strips in a criss-cross fashion over and around the ham, then egg wash again.

In a pre-heated oven, bake the ham at 200°C for about 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C and bake for another 80 minutes. If it gets too dark, cover the ham with aluminium foil.

Once fully baked slice the ham with a sharp serrated knife and serve with a mixed salad and a classic Cumberland Sauce or a Madeira Sauce.

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Madeira Sauce

A fairly easy sauce that goes well with various kinds of grilled meat, lamb, roasted deer or this Baked Ham recipe.

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:
  • 50 g shallots
  • 10 g butter
  • 1/2 L veal stock
  • 1/8 L Madeira
  • salt, pepper
  • 50 g cold butter, diced
Preparation:

Peel, finely dice and sauté the shallots in 10 g butter until translucent. Deglaze with the veal stock, bring to the boil and let it reduce to about half. Add the Madeira, reduce some more to the desired viscosity and season with salt and pepper.

To finish the sauce remove the sauteuse from the heat, add the cold butter cubes and mix with an immersion blender until creamy.

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Classic Cumberland Sauce

Cumberland Sauce is a traditional savory sauce of British and French cuisines. Its main ingredients are most often red currant jelly, port wine, and spices. British food writer Elizabeth David discovered that the name Cumberland Sauce first appeared in the French cookbook La Cuisine Anglaise in 1904, but it was Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) who helped the sauce to its fame in French cuisine. Sauce Cumberland goes very well with patés, venison, cold roasts and hams, and even lamb. The following recipe is very close to the original.

Ingredients:
  • 1 untreated orange
  • 1 untreated lemon
  • 5 cl red wine
  • 250 g red currant jelly
  • 1 tsp english mustard powder
  • salt
  • a pinch cayenne pepper
  • a pinch ginger powder
  • 2 cl red Port wine
Preparation:

Wash and thinly peel the orange and lemon. None of the white part of the skin should come off. Then thinly slice the peels. Alternatively, you can use a zester as shown below.

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In a small saucepan quickly bring the red wine to a boil and remove from heat. Add the orange and lemon zests and let steep for about 10 minutes, or until cool.

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Add the red currant jelly and spices and mix well until all is incorporated. Fold in the Port wine and season to taste. The sauce will keep well as long as it remains refrigerated.

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Florida Keys

Located south of the tip of Florida, the Keys are a coral cay archipelago forming the southernmost tip of the continental United States; they also separate the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean. The chain of over 200 islands is over 290 kilometres long and connected by the 42 man-made bridges called the Overseas Highway. The Florida Keys have a tropical climate with average annual high temperatures of 28,3°C, lows of 23°C, and total precipitation of circa 1000mm.

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This summer we took all 42 bridges down to Key West and would like to share some of the sights we discovered with the help of a veteran Keys-visitor and hobby fisherman. The practically turquoise Caribbean waters surrounding the coral islands are home to various great game species: In the flats and mangroves closer to the shores, there are tarpon, bone fish, and red fish which are often caught on a fly from flat boats. But venturing further out into the Atlantic, the game changes to mainly trolling for the big game fish: swordfish, sail fish with their spectacular tail walks, and of course the magnificent mahi mahi (or dolphin fish).

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Guided fishing trips can be arranged at literally any marina, with boat sizes varying drastically. A good place to start looking is always one of the numerous bars and grills where the captains hang out after a morning of deep-sea fishing–at the very least, the local wait staff is sure to know where or with whom to arrange a fishing expedition. The general atmosphere in the area is just very laid back and social statuses seem to  vanish with the burning red sunsets over the ocean. As our guide told us, you’ll never know if you’re sitting next to a bum or a billionaire in the Keys.

Here are some of our favorite–and very Keysy–places we visited on our trip:

Island Grill at Snake Creek

The Island Grill in Islamorada sits on a small waterway of the Atlantic just off of the highway. The fare is simple, but it’s a good spot to stop for a diner-like breakfast or lunch with pretty views of the water and, especially, the mangroves.

Lorelei Cabana Bar

The Lorelei is a casual bar and restaurant in Islamorada that serves food and drinks all day in classic Keys style: no frills, live music, unpretentious people, and a great view of the back bay. The sunsets are beautiful here, especially with a cold one in hand.

Morada Bay Beach Cafe

Morada Bay sits right next to the Lorelei and is one of the more upscale options for dinner and drinks on the Keys; that being said, you can still show up in shorts and a t-shirt for dinner. Set under twinkly lights and palm trees, tables are scattered over a deck and the sand-covered backyard overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. There’s often live music and always a bevy of little kids running around and playing on the sand. It’s a great family spot and one of the most beautiful spots to watch the sun go down. Plus, the food and cocktails are quite good!

Sparky’s Landing

Sparky’s is a Keys classic on Fat Deer Key for all-day dining or drinks with live music and a great view of a marina. Come here less for the food (though it’s not bad) than the atmosphere, which is fun, lively, and full of locals. Also worth a visit for the large fishing boats in the marina. Bar staff will be able to point you to the captains of the boats for a fishing trip.

Louie’s Backyard

Amid the raucous bars and dining spots overrun with tourists in Key West, Louie’s is a high-end dining spot with a great view of the ocean looking south toward Cuba. The food, especially the fresh fish, here is excellent, and so is the service. Sit outside on the deck if it’s a nice day, though the inside also has a nice atmosphere with views of the water. On the lower deck, there’s a nice bar to sit if you’d just like a drink.

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Creamy Dill Sauce

This sauce (bowl on the left) goes well with any kind of steamed fresh water fish such as trout or salmon.JD8-1 (1)

Ingredients:
  • 80 g onions
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 250 ml milk
  • 200 ml cream
  • 1 bayleaf
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 bunches fresh dill
  • dash of lemon juice
Preparation:

Peel and chop the onions. In a sauteuse heat the butter and sweat the onions. Dust with the flour, constantly stir and sweat until translucent without taking colour. Add the milk and cream, add bayleaf and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer, on very low heat, for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile wash and shake dry the dill and chop it finely. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and stir in the chopped dill. Season more if necessary.

Apple-Onion Sauce

This sauce (bowl on the right) is traditionally served with pikeperch and can replace the Riesling sauce in this fish recipe.

Ingredients:JD8-1 (1)
  • 3 regular sized, sour apples (Boskoop, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Cox)
  • 200 g onions
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fresh marjoram, cut
  • 250 ml fish stock
  • 125 ml cream
Preparation:

Peel and quarter the apples, remove the core and then slice the quarters. Peel the onions and dice roughly. In a hot sauce pan melt the butter and sweat the onions together with the apples. Season with salt, pepper and marjoram. After adding the fish stock and the cream cover and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce and let thicken on low heat. Season more if necessary.