Ireland, Germany, Salmon and Christmas Cookies

I have had two main cultural influences in my life, the Irish culture (mainly given that my parents are Irish) and the German culture (my childhood in Switzerland, my education in a German school and my very German partner!). Christmas becomes a big mesh of the two cultures because so many of the family friends are one or the other. Many celebrate Christmas on the eve of the 24th, however we still stick to the token Christmas Day 25th celebrations.

One of the German-influenced build-ups to Christmas is the baking of Plätzchen, a German word for something in between a cookie or a biscuit, but not exclusively either one. In our house we take the phrase lightly and have over the years experimented with a variety of delicious Christmas treats to have for guests, gifts and anyone suffering from the nom-nom-munchies. Many of the recipes come from a tattered well worn Swiss Plätzchen cook book, old scribbles on sheets when friends of ours hastily jotted down a recipe, or my mothers immense cook book collection that takes up its own bookshelf unit in the kitchen.

The point? We love baking these biscuits. It’s a sign Christmas has arrived, it’s time to whip out the Plätzchen. Obviously, you think cookies or biscuits of any kind aren’t particularly healthy or ideal if you’re on a diet, but I have always found that in comparison to “normal” or “conventional” desserts like bought tins of biscuits, or tins of Roses, Christmas Pudding with Custard or whatever other Christmas goodies you eat – I invariably over-eat on those treats. When I bake my own biscuits, or even eat other peoples there is something quite rich and filling about one or two biscuits, and more often than not I am able to leave it at that.

So what’s on the menu you ask? Well. At the far left corner there are Hazelnut and Vanilla Logs from Rachel Allen’s Bake. Right in front of them are the Almond Gipfeli (A swiss name for a croissant) a favourite in our house. Behind them are Chocolate and Hazelnut Chunkys and behind them in the far right corner are the Raisin and Shortbread Coins (these are one of my favourites. Nom) In front of the coins is a new addition this year, my mom has always wanted to bake her own Biscotti and this was the year, nuts, chocolate and double baked goodness. In the middle there’s a basic Lemon Biscuit and a Crunchy Iced Oat Plätzchen in the front right corner. And  in the middle at the front a Crunchy German Jam Bake (credit for which must go to the brother girlfriend). By the time I got the camera, five of the last six mince pies had been eaten by my teenage brothers. 

So, Plätzchen are delicious, everyone makes their own variety of cookies and biscuits at this time of year – the most important thing is that you enjoy the process of making, baking and feeding yourself and others.

For a while now I’ve been on this loss-weight get-fit regime that involves primarily no-carbs and a balance of protein, fruit and veg. MUCH MUCH easier said than done. [For those interested in this stuff, it’s a healthier version of the Dukan Diet, with a dash of that weird Caveman diet on the side. ie. reduce intake of processed foods, and don’t eat carbs. So it is working, although I have hit a bit of a plateau on the losing weight, but definitely feeling better etc.]

Anyway I have often found difficulties waking up in the morning and needing a good breakfast to get me started for the day (and given the lack of carbohydrates allowed this means no cereal, toast, porridge or most of the normal nice hot warm breakfast things I’d normally have coming into the cold season!). However, I have found a way around this. Eggs.

Now eggs are just amazing things in themselves. I love eggs, you can do so much with them. I am an avid supporter of if you’re going to use an egg, you better not split it “because the yolk is too fatty and high in cholesterol” or you “don’t like the white” – it’s this ridiculous fallacy that only the white is good for you. The yolk does contain cholesterol, but it also contains huge amounts of vitamins A,B,E and K and essential fatty acids. So please don’t get rid of the yolk or the white (except of course in baking, meringue or custard etc.)

Not only do I like eggs, but Christmas time seems to bring some things into the house more than others. Guests for one. But guests often bring gifts – big tins of Roses or Celebrations. But more importantly there is always more Smoked Irish Salmon floating around the fridge than normal. It’s a weird one to point out, but our fridge always seems to have at least one pack of it on a shelf somewhere. (It is after all the easiest starter to whip up, sliced lemon, smoked salmon on buttered soda bread. Boom. Started/nibbles sorted.)

I love smoked Irish salmon, and I’m going to be picky here. The Irish Dept of Food and Agriculture require food producers to specify where the food came from (ie. country) with a small little stamp (IE  for Ireland, UK for United Kingdom, GE for Germany etc.) THEY DO NOT require a producer to be specific in the naming of their food produce.

As a result “Smoked Irish Salmon” is NOT the same as “Irish Smoked Salmon”. The latter being Norwegian salmon for example, caught in Norway, shipped to Ireland and smoked in a warehouse outside of Dublin. NOT an authentic Irish product, but the unknowing consumer may be fooled. Although personally the fact that the location of the smoking procedure in itself can determine the naming of the product baffles me, unless the smoking were unique to said location. Anyway one of my pet peeves.

So with my love for eggs, all this Salmon swimming around and me on a no-carb diet, my breakfasts are looking better and better. I love eggs, have I said that already? Boiled, poached, cobbled, not too keen on fried but whatever. I am very fond of the baked egg.

Line a ramekin dish with butter, if you want, I don’t. Diet etc. Take a couple of table spoons of smoked salmon shredded, with a knife, I tear it myself and pop it in to the bottom of the ramekin, lining the side of the dish. Crack one egg (or two if you’re hungry) on top. If you’re feeling naughty add a knob of butter, or as I have seen some people do a drop of cream, or milk. I am a mad fan of pepper so a nice scatter of it on the top. Often depending on how I’m feeling I’d throw on some cayenne or some chopped chives from the garden. Make sure the egg white is cooked through. It’s quite a feat to have the egg white cooked and yolk still soft and runny so practice with temperature and timing in your oven.

Serve steaming hot with a slice of toast, or some fruit salad as a nice solid healthy breakfast.

That’s one of my warm winter breakfasts using the Salmon we always have around at this time of year.

Nom nom and out.

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