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With a title like this, what do you think the main ingredients of this bento are? *grins*

The small container contains wholewheat pasta spirals with pumpkin seed pesto (from a dry mix) and some crushed pumpkin meat. Parmesan and thai basil as decoration.
The thermos contains lovely pumpkin cream soup decorated with a splash of cream, a splash of pumpkin seed oil and another sprig of thai basil.

This pumpkin cream soup is the Austrian style recipe as opposed to the asian-inspired one I have made previously, but it’s just as delicious!
I used up the rest of the pumpkin that hadn’t made it into the pie and risotto yet, about a pound or so.

Recipe:
Chop 1-2 red onions and sauté in a deep pot with some butter and olive oil. Add the coarsely chopped pumpkin meat and stir.
After a few minutes, add vegetable broth (I use an organic bouillon cube), a teaspoon of salt and some pepper. I also added some nutmeg and put in a glass of some dry white wine that I had in the fridge. Cover and steam the pumpkin until it is soft, adding more water if necessary (and depending on the thickness you want the end result to have).
When the pumpkin is soft and cooked, puree everything finely in a mixer. Add cream (or if you want it vegan, coconut cream) to it to smoothen the texture and taste.
Serve hot with some cream (or whipped cream or sourcream) and pumpkin seed oil on top.

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Happy new year 2008!
For myself, 2007 was entirely too stressy for my own taste. I hope that 2008 brings, if not relaxation, then stress of the positive, challenging kind!

While Christmas is pretty much the same everywhere (the only difference being that the presents are opened on the 24th evening in Austria and Sweden, and not the morning after as is the case in most English speaking countries), new year has a lot of different traditions everywhere.

The Austrian one (“Silvester”) includes (amongst other traditions):
The operette “Die Fledermaus” will be played on TV sometime during the evening
Typical new years eve dinner includes: fondue, meat table-cooked in soup, water or oil, with various sauces and pickles.
The new year starts with the giant bell in St. Stephan’s church in Vienna ringing, followed by The Blue Danube waltz on the radio. It is mandatory to waltz!
Little cheap talismans are exchanged with friends and family.
In the morning, the new years concert will be played on TV (see the embedded video – my first time embedding, I hope it works!). Also mandatory, but not to waltz this time because most people will be too hung over.

The Swedish one includes:
A black and white version of the theatre skit “Dinner for one” will be played on TV sometime during the evening.
Just before midnight, there will be a recitation of a poem (always the same poem) on TV. It always ends at exactly 00:00, at the first ring of the bell. This is mandatory to watch, but not to cite.

And of course both include fireworks, cheering and clinking of glasses, partying and staying up late!

I hope you had a lovely new year’s eve, whatever it included. And if your country has any different new year traditions, please tell me! I’m incredibly curious to learn about different traditions that I never heard of!

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I could write a long post listing the ways I love Vanillekipferln, one of my favourite and most traditional christmas bakeries.

But then, Meeta from What’s For Lunch, Honey? has already written an article about them to which I can’t add much more. And the photos are making me want to lick my monitor, too…
Check it out here!

I’ll post something about different sorts of gingerbread instead, soon.

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Sorry about the post confusion just before. Something in WordPress isn’t working as I thought it would…

The typical contents of a St. Nicolas present bag! Nuts of all sorts, mandarines and other citrus fruit, apples and candy. The only thing missing is a chocolate Nicolaus – I didn’t manage to buy one.
Chocolate St. Nicks look quite similar to chocolate santas, but lack some aspects. While Claus is wearing a fur-lined coat and hat, St. Nick is wearing more proper bishop’s attire – complete with the chess-figure hat and spiraling bishop’s staff. But the colours are mostly the same!
Even though I remember him coming to visit to Kindergarten when I was small – he was wearing a “real” bishop’s clothes. All in white, like Gandalf! That was a scary experience. ;)

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December 5: Devil’s Day

It’s the dark time of the year, and the devil is stalking the street, stealing children! Is everything lost?

Oh no, not this time.
The devil, or Krampus, as he is known in Austria, is only the helper of good old St. Nikolaus, or as the English know him, Santa Claus.
Now Mr. Nick doesn’t come on the 25th in Austria, but on his saint’s day, the 6th of December. And he does not bring the christmas presents, either! That honor is reserved to the “Christkind”, or child Christ.
But he is bringing presents. Only to the good children, of course. To those who were naughty, the devil comes and puts them into his big wicker basket which he carries on his back so they are gone when Mr. Nick comes around!

The picture shows how you can imagine one such devil. Him, as well as Mr. Nikolaus, who is wearing a bishop’s outfit, are pictured often in this style on the typical red bags in which nice children can find nuts, oranges and apples, and candy!

More about Mr. Nick tomorrow. Today, the devils will be roaming the streets in their furry suits and heavy wood-and-horn masks, striking fear (and delight!) in the heart of men.

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Back from work-related travel once more. I’m going to post an advent calendar of sorts – probably won’t make every day, but it should be enough with all the special days in December to at least get an interesting short article every other day or so!

December 4: St. Barbara

This is an old custom from my catholic home country, but probably has its roots in much older religions. It brings spring in the middle of winter in 2 easy steps!

Step 1: On the 4th of December, the day of St. Barbara, go and cut some twigs from a fruit tree. They should have buds on them. In my family, we used cherry twigs, but apple, plum or flowering bushes like forsythia also work.

Step 2: Bring them into your warm home, put them in a vase with water and wait. By Christmas, they should be blooming!

A lovely custom to brighten your winter days with something fresh and flowering. Don’t you think?

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I guess it’s just fair that after poking fun (or at least amazed amusement and amused amazement) at Swedish food I should also take a shot at Austrian food, my home kitchen.
What do you get when you take an empire, let it span from Italy over several slavic states to Hungary, and let them all come together in one capital in the middle that speaks neither of those languages?
Interesting food, of course!
There’s only one hitch, and that is that I’m vegetarian and most Austrian food.. well.. isn’t. But oh well. I’m starting with one vegetarian comfort food that I just have to have sometimes.

Eiernockerln
Eiernockerln or “flour dumplings with egg” is a typical “leftover food” – the Nockerln, flour dumplings, are usually eaten with hungarian Goulash. I guess making a giant batch of them and warming them up with some egg when the goulash was eaten was a way of dealing with not having meat every day in those days. But in my family, it’s a great comfort food and we usually make the dumplings on purpose just to have them with egg!

How to make Nockerln:
For 2 persons (or one person that is very hungry):
1 egg
1/8liter milk
250g flour (that is what the recipe said, but I added more flour when mixing because the consistency was definitely not thick enough with just that)
A pinch of salt or two

Get a big pot of water with a pinch of salt in it boiling.
Meanwhile, put the flour in a bowl, make a depression in the middle and crack the egg into it. Pour the milk on top, add a pinch of salt and start mixing from the depression on out. Or be lazy, don’t care about depressions and use an electric mixer.
Add more flour if it seems too runny. I don’t have a mixer and the rule of thumb is that if your hands don’t hurt while mixing, the dough isn’t thick enough. :) It should be sticky, but get off the side of the bowl easy.
When the water is boiling, take half a spoonful of dough at a time from the bowl, and scrape it into the water with another spoon. It’s not a beauty contest – the dumplings don’t need to be pretty, but half a spoon is about the right size for them. Boil until all dumplings have risen to the top, then pour them out into a sieve or fish out the ones already done with a ladle if you want to be complicated.

Eat with your favourite Goulash or read on below:

Now we add the eggs!
In a big pan melt butter or heat some corn oil (any tasteless oil). Pour in the fresh, steaming Nockerln. In a bowl, mix 3-4 eggs with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Pour over the Nockerln and fry, stirring occasionally.
(Now that’s a question of taste – some households serve the stuff with some eggs still runny. For myself, I’m a definite enemy of runny eggs. I fry them good and crispy all the way through.)
Serve on a plate with some sweet hungarian paprika powder, ground pepper and chives on top. The paprika powder is a must for me – my parents brought me that original Hungarian sweet paprika that you see in the bag in the picture from a spa in Hungary and it’s just phantastic! It’s not strong, but has an irresistible taste.
The best side for this is green salad with a vinaigrette, chives and maybe some onion.

My verdict to the dish above? Lovely, but just… not Mom’s!

Next I guess I should try making those things with cheese instead of eggs – that makes them Tyrolean kasnockerln!

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