A Blueberry Windbeutel

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This has to be one of my favourite German Cakes.  I have to say German, as I don’t think I can  restrict it to Bavaria alone – but Bavaria is the only place I have enjoyed one (alright several) so far.   I think its origins are French however, but boy do they know how to make them here too!  En Francais I imagine this particular gateaux in its many guises to be called something elegant and descriptive.  Down here, it’s descriptive alright – windbeutel roughly translates as wind bag, which always makes me laugh.

There’s none of that French daintiness to worry about in terms of the cake itself either, here, when you can find them (and there are restaurants dedicated to them as we found with the very fabulous Berg Gasthof Almhuette near Garmisch) they are more often than not ENORMOUS, and if you are extra lucky, some of them are fashioned into elaborate swans and the like.    I say when you can find them, as I picture them as autumn cakes as apart from the specialist restaurants it seems to be the only time of year I have found them, but then again my head might have made that up…

Anyway, if you are partial to a lot of choux pastry, fruit and cream, then this is for you.   I promise it’s not as complicated as it might seem either.  This is truly a case of if I can make it, then so can you! And if you don’t like blueberries, then cherries are a typical filling here. Raspberries would work well too, as would strawberries.

Ingredients:

For the Windbeutel
250ml Water;
100g Unsalted cubed butter;
125g plain organic flour;
a small pinch of salt, a larger pinch of sugar;
4 medium organic eggs.

For the Blueberry Cream:
85g chopped blueberries
150ml Whipping Cream;
40g Icing Sugar;
1tsp Vanilla Extract

Heat the oven to 200DegC.   In a heavy bottomed pan, bring the water to a boil.   Add the cubes of butter to the water to melt, then bring to a rolling boil.   Sift the flour, salt and sugar, and add to the pan.   Beat the dough until thickened, and it easily leaves the side of the pan clean.   Set aside to cool. Beat the four eggs in a separate bowl and stir in drop by drop to the cooled dough mixture until you get a consistency that isn’t too runny (you might not need to use all the eggs!) and that can easily be piped.     Spoon into a piping bag and leaving at least two inches between each windbeutel (to allow for rising) then pipe four ovals measuring roughly around 5×3 inches.   If you are not that greedy you might prefer to create six smaller windbeutel instead of four larger ones!

Place a small ovenproof dish of water in the bottom of the oven (to create a nice steamy environment for the choux pastry!) and then bake the windbeutel (WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN) for 25-30 minutes).   Once baked, move to a cooling rack and split the windbeutel open to allow to cool in the middle whilst you get on with making the cream.

Whip the cream together with the icing sugar, the vanilla extract, and the chopped blueberries.  Only when the windbeutel are completely cool should you generously spoon the cream into the buns, dust with icing sugar, begrudgingly share with your family and stuff your face.   Enjoy!

Wildpark Aurach – Austria

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I think Wildpark Aurach would win a place in the top ten of all the wildlife parks in the entirety of the world, if just for the setting alone.    It would be truly safe to bring people that detested animals with a passion, as they would be more than content to park themselves on a bench, and just sit and look and look some more at the views for hours on end.

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For those of you a little more in touch with your inner Dr. Doolittle, there are of course plenty of animals to chat with.  From agile alpine goats, to roaming regal stags to yaks.  Yes, yaks!  Not all of the animals here are natives by the way, there are a few surprises!   And all with the most idyllic alpine pastures to munch on…

Stag

There’s a petting barn too for the smaller members of the family – with resident teeny tiny squeaky baby guinea pigs plus plenty more besides.    You will also find a great adventure playground and a decent (and very pretty) place for lunch if you are hungry.  Well worth the short detour from Kitzbuhel.

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Address:  Wildparkweg 5, 6371 Herzogenaurach;

Price: €8 for adults,€5 for children;

Open from 10-5 daily from March – November.

*  (7-legged) Stag photograph courtesy of my father in law – my camera was well and truly on its way to camera heaven here, plus he was braver than I in getting closer!

PS.   Comment problem still persists (I can still see if you leave a comment by the way, you just can’t read them!).  Should be sorted soon enough!

Travel Notes & Beyond

The Partnach Gorge

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A few vistas from our trip to The Partnach Gorge (or Klamm as it is better known in these parts!), a place we have had on our list for months, if not years.

This is not somewhere we will be taking Granny given past experiences however, and I shall most definitely be ignoring any suggestions from her as to how much she fancies taking photographs there herself… Carved through high alpine rock, thousands of years ago by an incredibly loud glacial river, there are quite spectacular photographs to take too (tough)!

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The closest parking is actually just outside the 1936 Winter Olympics Stadium in Garmisch Partenkirchen, which of course we have all seen in various film footage and photographs, and really is in itself worth a visit if only to admire the vastness of the ski-jump and wonder at the craziness of some people (and not just the athletes!).

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From here, it takes 20 minutes or so (perhaps a little longer if you are with dawdling children) to walk to the gateway.  Then, depending on what time of day you visit, you might have a tiny wait until you reach the ticket office. Tickets are hardly extortionate – costing around €4 euros per person, less if you can prove you are a tourist (for once my appalling German did some good)!  And then, just beyond this, a beautiful wild world awaits.

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The walk through the Klamm takes around forty minutes – possibly longer in frozen conditions – that’s if you are not stopping behind people taking pictures every few seconds. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the patient people stuck behind me (thankfully most of them were actually my family – not usually patient, but awestruck on this occasion I reckon!). You can of course carry on and walk for miles on the other side, as once through the gorge, various serious-hiking options await.   We turned back on this occasion as we had two small people with us who were periodically declaring that they were hungry, and with no guarantee of the closest food option on the hiking route being open, we thought it the safest option.   And I am glad we did, or we wouldn’t have spotted this!

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  • Do bring a rain coat, not necessarily for the weather, but for the highly prolific waterfalls… You will get a soaking otherwise.
  • Do bring a torch if you don’t like the idea of walking through the tunnels and galleries in the pitch black. Whilst at times we found this quite amusing (reminiscent of playing “murder in the dark” at parties as a young child – just without intentional tapping or any exaggerated “dying” noises!).  I can understand why others might not – especially when it’s busy.
  • Do wear sensible footwear, so you don’t slip if anything else. We did witness persons in ambitious footwear attempting the walk, I would like to know how long it took them. Likewise, for obvious reasons push-chairs and wheelchairs can’t get through either.
  • Do bring people here that you don’t particularly like very much, or perhaps an awkward first date?  The roar of the river is so loud you won’t need to talk as you won’t be able to hear a thing.
  • I know this is my standard advice, but do visit first thing in the morning to get it more or less to yourselves, or over lunch time.  Mittagsessen is sacred here and most people will be busy eating.

Never fear, we will be back in the winter months (i.e. not all that far away!) for further admiration opportunities.

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PS.   I am experiencing some technical difficulties with my comments section…   I can see comments, and you can see how many I have, but they can’t be displayed for some stupid reason.   I have the experts currently looking at the problem though so hopefully they will be visible again soon (the comments not the experts, although they are very lovely too!)…

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Vineyards, Best Restaurants and Nectarines – Santorini

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It’s easy to spot fields full of the strange flat vines that produce the grapes for Santorini’s wines, they are everywhere.  Forget any eye-scrunching, mouth drying experiences you might have had with Greek wine in the past, as along with cherry tomatoes, fava beans, white aubergines and pistachios, wine is what the island is growing increasingly famous for in the culinary world.

The vines themselves are quite beautiful when you look at them closely.  Trained into a basket shape, the grapes grow on the inside to protect them from the harsh island winds. This also helps the vines retain moisture from the sea mists that sweep in from time to time (more on them later!)…

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We just happened to drive past Argyros Wine Estate, having sampled a bottle of their finest a couple of nights previously, so we thought we would just pop in to buy a bottle or two – which you are positively encouraged to do by the way.

So whilst the Small People chatted happily with the resident canaries outside in the courtyard (with the cat-whisperer trying his hand at a spot of bird-whispering), and inspected an ancient vine or three at close quarters, we were able to sample a small selection of outstanding wines.  Or at least I was – Mr R had forgotten to put me on the licence of the TFC (Trusty Frog Car) when we hired it, which meant that whilst he got to drive everywhere, on this occasion I had the honour of approving any purchases by sampling them beforehand – which I think was a pretty good deal!    The chocolate they sell here received vigorous nods of approval too (the small people were presented with a tiny square each!)  – finest quality dark stuff filled with Vin Santo soaked raisins and produced not too far from here in Austria no less.

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Our morning of wine appreciation was followed by a little further cultural admiration at the insistence of the Small Girl – an hour well spent at the Museum of Prehistoric Fira – it’s not big, you don’t really need that long – but you will see some of the most beautiful wall paintings taken from sites such as Akrotiri and Ancient Thira, and perhaps most precious of all – a tiny golden Ibis found at Akrotiri – which precedes even that by thousands of years.

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Χάνι (pronounced Chani) beckoned for lunch that day.  We had driven past countless times, and it always looked packed full of locals (which in my book is always a good sign)!  Obviously there are great Caldera view restaurants to be found all over Santorini, but if you want something really authentic (and usually at a fraction of the price) head to the quieter less touristy streets and you can eat really well.  Χάνι is one of these places!   The name simply means “traditional inn”, and the welcome we received from owner Evangelos certainly suited it.   Here we dined on the freshest Greek Salad, Saganaki and Souvlaki, and all four of us were able to eat like royalty for less than €25.   And if this wasn’t enough, Evangelos sent us on our way with a paper bag overflowing with the sweetest juiciest nectarines from his back garden… We took them to the beach and didn’t even care about the sand that stuck to the juices that ran down our chins.

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Much later (and still really full from lunch) we retired to the villa for a simple supper of tarama and pita, and yet another sunset. Oh, and a bottle of that excellent wine from the Vineyard we had visited earlier that day of course… Bliss!

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Treasure – Sweden

1-The hills of KullenIt’s my pleasure to introduce my friend Heather, who I guess is my first real guest blogger!   I met Heather when we lived in Denmark, and she’s still happily ensconced there.  She’s completely larger than life, incredibly creative, and so far has had the best most varied career in fashion, art and design I think I have ever heard of.   On top of all that and dealing with busy family life, she’s somehow found time to write her first book recently – Rice Pudding in a Duvet- which combines great stories with food.   In this beautifully written post she writes about an amazing discovery she recently made in Sweden…

Warm summer days beckoned us with a languid finger to southern Sweden. I’d noticed the blue hills of the Kullen peninsula many times, looking out across the Kattegat from the northern reaches of Sjælland. The idea was to forsake the flat lands of our home in Denmark for something hilly, mysterious, rugged… and cheap.

Great intentions, but sadly that lack of budget forced us to pack the aged family saloon with camping equipment. Also, to leave all trace of negativity, and the internet at home – all while wealthier friends posted golden Aegean sunsets on Facebook, slurped rosé wine from chilled glasses and toyed with the challenge of spearing another morsel of marinated squid.

But the hills of Kullen were a marvel; the sunlight was honeyed, the gradients were steep, the Swedish kroner gave us a good return and our three children writhed in social media withdrawal symptoms, and then meekly wandered into a new and sparkling internet-free world. We camped for a few nights, but the hard ground, our barking dog and mutual ratty moods soon forced us to forsake rustling canvas in search of a wooden stuga (hut). Nice idea, but not in peak holiday season. We drew a blank, declined more loathsome camping and opted to simply have a jolly day by the sea… then drive the 80 minutes rapidly home for the comfort of our soft Danish beds, and the internet.

Our hopeless stuga search brought us to a bleak looking campsite outside the fishing village of Torekov. We gathered our beach towels and headed past caravans with picket fences for the sea. Only to be met by a miserable stony beach, a scattering of fat campers and screaming blonde children. We walked onwards, sure that we didn’t need to settle for a pocketful of fluff and small change. The hunch paid-off, and we sighed with relief as the charming mediaeval village of Torekov filled our pockets with gold and my camera full of delight.

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The treasure trove that ticked all the boxes for me was the Sjöfarts (sjö means maritime and farts translates as travel) museum. With my happy family devouring crisp pizza by the tinkling harbor, I wandered into a dark shed stuffed with shipwreck paraphernalia. All tragically driven and destroyed on the sharp rocks of Hallands Väderö, the rugged island that made this coastline so hazardous for shipping for thousands of years.

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The faded information from the 1930s told of more than two hundred ships wrecked and countless souls lost from 1800 to 1910. A badly stuffed crocodile hung from the rafters whose story was hard to guess, and all around the shed the exquisite nameplates of Scandinavian, French, Dutch, Russian, English and American merchant ships bleakly stated their tragedy. A bosun’s chair, anchors and brass compasses were casually attached to the walls; silent now, but if you listened hard enough you could capture the screams, the sound of splintering wood and the fist of the sea slamming into the stricken vessels.

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Amongst all these treasures, the figureheads glowed. Along the North sea coast they have long been seen as the holder of the spirit of the ship, in Friesland as the Kaboutermannekes. The spirit guarded the ship from storms, rocks, and sickness. If the ship sank, then the kaboutermannekes guided the sailors’ soul to the Land of the Dead. I peered into the figureheads luminous eyes and walked back into the bright day.

(Thank you very much for inviting me to be a guest blogger on your site Emma. And no, I never resented you for having a fabulous vacation in the Greek islands…honest!)

You can find Heather on her blog at http://heathergartside.wordpress.com/   Buy her first novel at:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/RICE-PUDDING-DUVET-Heather-Gartside-ebook/dp/B00K8BMEV4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406964887&sr=8-1&keywords=rice+pudding+in+a+duvet  and find out a little more about here here: http://www.rudlinghouse.com/authors/a-to-z-of-authors/     She’s also on facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/H-Gartside/190136241110188?ref=hl    and is, in her own words (and mine!) completely addicted to Instagram: http://instagram.com/gartsideheather   I absolutely insist that you pop over! 

 

 

Two Days in Kitzbuhel…

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We went through a bit of an Austrian phase at the start of the Summer hols…  I guess it’s a little like popping to France when you live in the UK – you don’t have to go too far to find a slightly different world!

This time we had family visiting, so we gave them free reign to decide on whereabouts we should visit for a couple of days. Kitzbuhel was the popular choice, and was more than fine with the rest of us, as none of us (apart from my ski freak husband) had been there before.

We actually stayed nearby in Brixen im Thale straight from the pages of a Johanna Spyri book (except in Austria not Switzerland!). The very lovely family run Hotel Hubertus did us proud with typical flower laden balconies, and rooms filled with stylish but traditional Alpine  furniture.  Sadly, we managed to time our visit on a Monday/Tuesday, when the highly recommended hotel restaurant is closed.  But, if the excellent and varied breakfasts are anything to go by, it’s a good indication that it’s a pretty special place to eat.   Small Boy had fourths in the breakfast department each morning!!

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Brixen im Thale itself has a few small Gasthofs and restaurants to deliberate over, and it’s definitely worth an investigational walk as some of the traditional wooden houses here are just stunning – and had Mr R and I peering into the windows of various estate agents from time to time!

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Apart from the gloriously green mountain views, another truly special thing that Hotel Hubertus has to offer guests is its natural swimming pool – filtered and cleaned by plants instead of chemicals.    This completely intrigued my Floridian Swimming Pool business owning In-Laws, who had yet to set eyes on such a thing.  Somehow I am not sure it will catch on in the land of snakes and alligators, although I wouldn’t mind one with a manatee in it!   The chilly weather meant that whilst we might not have been tempted for a dip,  the Small People (who are used to Bavarian lake swimming) most definitely were!  They loved it, especially with the odd water boatman or frog to say hello to as they swam on by.

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We made it to Kitzbuhel on the second day, where we managed to catch part of the Trans Alps Challenge which coincided with the UK going Tour de France crazy.   I am of the opinion that this race was of equally tough terrain however, covering 19,000 vertical metres which quite frankly sounds like hell to me!  I bet the spectators in Yorkshire didn’t have any samples of wurst chucked at them by the PR cars too!   We felt so sorry for the riders as they wound their soggy way through Kitzbuhel’s rain drenched streets.   Infact, the weather cut short our visit and curbed our exploration of Kitzbuhel itself (you know it was really bad if an English person tells you that!), but undoubtedly we will be back to investigate another day…  Perhaps when it’s all white next time?   The snow stuff is beginning to appear in the shops already, so I doubt it will be that long…

Ps.  Forgive the state of my pictures in this post. They were all taken just before my camera sadly conked out!

Hubertus Hotel;
Strobl Ahornweg 4
6364 Brixen im Thale,
Tirol, Austria

Email: info@hubertus-brixen.at
Tel: +43 5334 81870