Cocktail Science: Is Tap Water Ruining Your Homemade Cocktails?

Broken faucet

This is a link to a review by Kevin Liu, from Serious Eats and is a very interesting read. It’s also quite similar, but does not go into the same depth as Jeffrey Steingarten’s article about water in his book “The Man Who Ate Everything”. which is a brilliant compillation of all of his food essays for the food and wine section at Vogue Magazine. Anyway, this article is all about minerals in water and how they affect it’s overall taste.

Herman the German

Herman the German is quite a new discovery of mine which you probably haven’t heard of before and is obviously, the subject of this new post.

My Granddad got given a split of culture recently from his very good friend and hairdresser Mike, and he grew it and made a delicious German sourdough cake with it, and quite successfully. When the time came for him to split his culture, he passed some on to me and I have been having great fun cooking with it.

What is it?

It’s essentially just a yeast culture that you grow for ten days and you have to remember to stir it daily and you have to feed it twice with 1 cup of milk, flour and sugar. Then you can make a cake with it. At the end of the ten days you split the culture into four and give two to your friends. You keep the other two to yourself, one to start a new culture with, the second to bake a cake. Each time you split the culture, you have to start it as on day one of the instructions.

It’s really easy and is a great excuse for people to go and see family members and friends face to face (as you have to find some people to unload your split cultures on) and you can talk experimenting, give tips and exchange advice and so on.

And it is made all the more worthwhile by its delicious results.

I also think that this would be a fantastic project to start with small children, especially in winter. If you like to grow herbs and small plants with them in Summer, then why don’t you grow culture and bake cakes in Winter with them? It makes great sense and seeing that it’s alive, it bubbles and gets bigger each day, it should definitely be very exciting for them to play with.

To start –

You can easily make a Herman culture at home and grow it to be used in a cake; or you can wait for a friend to give you a quarter of their culture for you to grow yourself.

How to make the culture –

Ingredients –

  • 140 g / 5 oz plain flour
  • 225 g / 8oz castor sugar
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast (2tsp)
  • 235 mls / Half a pint of warm milk
  • 59 mls / 2 fl oz. of warm water

Method –

  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes then stir.
  2. Add the flour and sugar then mix thoroughly.
  3. Slowly stir in the warm milk.
  4. Cover the bowl in a clean cloth.
  5. Leave in a cool dry place for 24 hours
  6. Now proceed from day one of the 10 day cycle.

Now that it’s made, you can start growing it!

The Herman the German Cake Instructions –

I recommend that you bake a double cake if you can’t find enough/or any people who want some of the culture. But if you don’t want to do that, then there is still hope. You can actually freeze the culture for a couple of months. Just ensure that you take it out and give it a day or two to thaw so you can see it’s still bubbling, because if it isn’t then it’s dead! Then use as on day 10.

Or restart it on day 1 if you’d like. It’s a pretty cool culture.

If you’d like to find out more about Herman then simply type him into your search engine and it should come up with the official Herman the German Friendship Cake website, which is dedicated to the cake and gives you tips and new recipes, even ones for bread!, and it allows you to engage with other bakers and talk experimenting.

This is just the recipe for the basic cake. My Granddad and I have adapted it though as we found the recipe on the official website to be far too gluey and, actually, not very nice, so we’ve dropped the quantity of flour by half. That’s all we did.


Recipe –

Ingredients –

2 cups of flour, sugar and milk (skim or full-fat. DO NOT USE TRIM THOUGH! Trim is beyond revolting and tastes like watered down white wash. Honestly, use slim milk! I cannot say this in enough capitals.)

Method –

Stir each day for 10 days. Leave uncovered on your kitchen bench, or somewhere where it won’t get knocked over. Leave covered with a paper towel (if you have cats or rabbits in the house, also cover with a wire cooling rack. It should keep them off it). On the fourth and ninth days also add 1 cup of flour, sugar and milk and stir thoroughly.

On the 10th day split the mixture into 4, give two parts away, keep one to start a new culture and use the last to bake a cake. See recipe below.

Note –

If you are not very confident in the prospect of forcing two spare cultures onto your friends and relatives, or in being able to hand it over and have it received gladly even; then there is hope! You don’t have to just bake a double cake and freeze some if you don’t want to. I came up with the idea of not adding the cup of flour, sugar and milk on day 9 and splitting into two on day 10. You effectively have two cultures as opposed to four and the weights roughly add up. I pulled this off quite successfully. But if it doesn’t for you then please comment at the bottom.
German Sourdough Cake
Ingredients –
1 cup of raw or brown sugar (225g, 8 oz)
1 cup of plain flour, sifted (150g, 5.3 oz
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of flowing salt
2/3 cup of oil
2 eggs, pref. free-range and at room temp.
2 tsp of vanilla extract
2 tsp of cinnamon
1 cup of raisins or sultanas
Large handful of crystallised ginger cut into chunks (it may say glacé ginger on the packet)
1 split Herman the German (on day 1)

To top – (optional)
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of melted butter

Vary by adding whatever you’d like. Walnuts, apple chunks, dessicated coconut, citrus peel, anything you have on hand that you think would suit. Change essence to compliment.

Method –

Combine everything in a large bowl, preferably in that of a cake mixer, and mix well to combine. Line your chosen baking tin with baking parchment and pour in the mixture. Drizzle over the butter and brown sugar, if using, and bake at 180 degrees C, 350 degrees F in a fan-forced oven for 45-60 mins. When it’s been in for 45 test with a skewer to see if it’s cooked (so no bits of gungy mixture) and if it comes out clean – you’re away laughing. A nicely cooked and delicious cake! If not, pop it back in for a few mins, check again and keep checking until it’s ready.

Important to note –

If you notice that the top of your cake is looking a little too brown  or just perfect and you don’t want it to brown further, simply cover with either baking paper or tin foil. This will prevent it from colouring further.

This cake freezes well and should be kept for no longer than 1 year. Check on it after 3 months though. Wrap carefully.


This is a really simple and sure to be delicious dessert from cookbook author Grace Parisi, that I found on her food blog.
After university, I really want to be a food writer like her, Jeffrey Steingarten, Nici Wickes. It sounds like a really cool career.

Grace Parisi

Making my way through the farmers’ market in August puts me into stone-fruit sensory overload on (healthy) par with my annual pre-Halloween trip to Economy Candy. Of the peach variety, there are Saturn, yellow, white and donut peaches (also yellow and white). Nectarines are yellow and white as well. Plums are even more diverse: there’s Damson, Greengage, Mirabelle, Golden Sugar, Yellow Shiro, Italian prune plums, Metlley and Santa Rosa. Then there are apricots, and apricot-plum hybrids: pluots, plumcots and apriums—each one more delicious than the next.

Peaches and nectarines are easily my favorite for eating out of hand, but unfortunately, I must wait until I get home to peel them first or cook them. A fairly recent development, relatively speaking, I developed a sensitivity to stone fruit about 10 or so years ago which I noticed after eating a few handfuls of cherries. My lips, mouth and throat had become…

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Bruschetta con Pomodori e Peperoni

Hi everyone, this weeks post is featuring a lovely Italian recipe called Bruschetta (pronounced – brew-skett-ah), which you’ve probably already heard of. This is the recipe that my family use when we make it, and it came from the Green, River Cafe Book, a brilliant, really posh recipe book by the way, and it is absolutely beautiful. It’s one of those simple, yet so fantastic dishes. Something that you’ll want to make again and again and again, like my Mum’s orzo salad recipe that I posted not long ago. Give it a go anyway and tell me what you think. I’d love to hear your ideas for variations. One thing that I thought could be added to the recipe would be some really mild red and yellow chillies. I think they’d work very well. Anyway, have a great week this week and get yourself into the kitchen to give this a go, unless of course you’re reading this where it’s still winter and capsicums are shockingly expensive, then you should probably wait a while till Summer. Besides, vegetables always taste better when they’re in season anyway!


Bruschetta con Pomodori e Peperoni – Serves 6
From the River Cafe Cook Book Green by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers)
Ingredients –
12 ripe, medium tomatoes
3 large ripe, rosy red peppers (capsicums)
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Decent extra-virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar
6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tbsp of fresh purple basil leaves, rough chopped (green leaves would also be fine)
6 slices of sourdough bread, or an equally suitable toasting bread about 1.5cm thick (0.6 in)

Method –

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F.

Cut the peppers in half and then each half into thirds. Remove the seeds and any thick fibres from the inside. Place in an oven-proof dish, season generously with salt and pepper, then roast in the pre-heated oven for 15 mins. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil all over and dribble on some balsamic vinegar. Return to the oven and roast for a further 15 mins until the skin is crisp at the edges and the peppers soft.

In a separate small roasting tray, place the tomatoes and  garlic cloves. Pour over a little extra-virgin olive oil and 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar. Roast in the oven ’til the flesh is soft and the skin burst, about 10 mins. Turn the tomatoes over in their juices, then add the basil and yet another tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Toast the bread and both sides, either in the oven or toaster, and rigorously rub over with a clove of garlic. Be very thorough. Drizzle with either extra-virgin olive oil (there’s a lot, I know!) or avocado oil and spoon on the peppers and tomatoes.

Serve hot either on its own or maybe accompanied with a few cheeses and a fresh salad. Have fun with it.

Note – This recipe freezes really well. I’d leave it in for absolutely no more than a year, I once tried one that was two and a half years old that we’d forgotten about and it tasted ok but I also couldn’t help thinking while eating it that it wasn’t a good idea.

Homemade Hummous

Hello there! Time for another post and todays one’s on hummous.
A lot of people these days probably don’t think that making their own hummous is worthwhile as there’s so much good hummous readily available at the supermarket, like jam or peanut butter are, but in my opinion, these people are dead wrong. There is scarcely any dip, or even any snack about as good as freshly made hummous. It goes beautifully with crackers of course, and bread. It’d look really cool next to a platter of olives, tomatoes, crackers and bread at a party. And the best bit – it’s so very, very simple to make. Everyone should make their own hummous!

People in the Middle East have done it for hundred and hundreds of years, what one Earth is stopping everybody today?

Also, I found this recipe on a tin of chickpeas and I’m very glad I did. It’s the best one I’ve found to this day and I am entirely able to say this without even a hint of embarrassment. Very little needs to be done to fix the flavour as well.A few important things to note –

Tahina/Tahini – It is very necesary to get good tahina for this hummous. Preferably the real, authentic stuff from Lebanon, but if you can’t get your hands on this then just get the best quality tahina you can afford from your local Pak ‘N’ Save or other supermarket; or you could just do what I did – befriend the owner of a Lebanese/Mediterranean restuarant and buy the stuff he/she imports into the country to make their own hummous with. It’s so easy.

The extra-virgin olive oil specified in this recipe should be a good one. I don’t mean an $80 bottle, but something that’s a little more expensive and that you might have to get from the gourmet food section at your supermarket.The use of it will make your hummous taste far better.

In fact, while I’m on the subject of olive oil, I would definitely like to recommend that you always buy olive oil made in your country of residence. For me, I always get NZ made stuff, as opposed to oil imported from Spain or Italy. Oil made in your own country is far fresher as it has less distance to travel compared to oils from Europe. They often turn rancid during the time it takes for it to get all the way to you supermarket, and then it’s warehoused for a while. End result – rancid, revolting olive oil. I also consider it to be far more patriotic to get olive oil from your own country.

If you live in Europe though, absolutely buy the stuff from Italy, or Spain, or Greece; for obvious reasons.
Store in the fridge for no more than a week and a half.

Recipe – Homemade Hummous

Ingredients – 1 can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed thoroughly100g of tahina paste2 cloves of garlic, crushedExtra-virgin olive oil to loosen mixtureSalt to tasteJuice of 2 lemons (rolled hard on a counter top to extract more juice)Paprika to garnishOlives (green or black) ”                ”

Method –

Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste, then pour in a little olive oil and turn it on for a few more seconds.

Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Turn into an attractive serving bowl or plate and sprinkle over paprika. Scatter over a few olives and swirl on more olive oil.

Note – Sorry there’s no picture. I’m getting right on it and you should see it up there soon enough.