Herzlich willkommen!

This is the personal webpage of Andie Gilmour.

I am a seasoned IT professional who together with my partner and cats upped sticks from the UK in 2008 and moved to live just north of Berlin.

Why did we make such a momentous move? Surely we must have been crazy? As the traditional song goes: Du Bist Verrückt, mein Kind, du musst nach Berlin, wo die Verrückten sind!

Well yes, we were crazy - crazy about Berlin. There is no city like it, and Land Brandenburg around it is also a beautiful thing.

On this page I have incorporated the most recent posts from my blog, which has chronicalled our move to Berlin and our lives and discoveries since. I hope you read it and can share with us our love for this crazy place.

Alternatively, you can subscribe to the Best of das Blog newsletter and get a periodic digest of the best monthly posts sent direct to your email box!


Mit freundliche Grüße!

Andie Gilmour

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1. Spargeltorte! Asparagus Tart Recipe

It's Spargelzeit in Germany and everyone is going asparagus bonkers! For a few weeks during much of May and early June there is hardly a lay-by or car park where a wooden cabin selling bundles of asparagus hasn't sprung up. Their stalls are mostly laden with chunky white spears of forced white or violet asparagus, but you can also get the more delicate (and tastier in my opinion) green asparagus too. The better planned outlets will also sell you eggs to make hollandaise sauce, and Spargelkartoffeln (potatoes to have with asparagus) which I didn't even realise was a thing.

After you've nibbled your way through heaps of lush, green asparagus, par-boiled and dripping with butter, it is inevitable that you will want to try out different ways to consume asparagus before the short season is over. There are lots of recipes, but one of my favorites is to make an asparagus tart, which I shall share with you now.

For the pastry, I start with a basic shortcrust. For that, start by weighing out 225g of standard flour (Weizennmehl, type 405) and a good pinch of salt into a mixing bowl.

I'm going metric here, but in my head I'm thinking 8:2:2, or 8oz flour, 2oz hard fat, 2oz margarine. Actually, I want a really short and crumbly pastry, so I am being indulgent and using butter as my hard fat instead of white vegetable fat or lard. So, into my bowl I add 50g of diced butter, and 50g of margarine. I then rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. The secret here is to work the mixture as gently as possible, so use the tips of your fingers only, and run cold water over your hands beforehand to keep the fat from melting too much.

To the flour/fat/salt mixture I next add a couple of tablespoons of ice-cold water, then gently stir it in with a spatula. If the mixture doesn't start coming together into a dough, then you might need to sprinkle on a little bit more water, but you definitely don't want it to get too soggy and squelchy or it will burst apart in the oven as the water expands as steam.

When the pastry dough has started to come together, I turn it out onto a flour-dusted surface and press it together into a ball. Then I wrap it in a sheet of cling-film to stop the dough drying out, and pop it into the fridge to chill for at least half an hour.

After a bit of chilling out time, I warm the oven up to a moderate heat - 180 degrees C is fine.

Now I flatten the pastry dough into a disk on a floured work-surface and begin to roll it out with a wooden rolling-pin. I find if I start the process whilst the pastry is still in the cling-film then it lessens the stress and handling of the pastry. Then I unwrap the pastry, and finish off with a rolling-pin (actually a 1 inch wooden dowel I got from the DIY store) until I have a large, thin circle of unbroken pastry large enough to lay into a lightly-greased, round flan tin with removable bottom.

I then lay the pastry into the flan tin, and press it down, leaving an excess of pastry overhanging the edge. The extra width will stop the pastry shrinking into the tin whilst it bakes. I prick the pastry with a fork, then cover with a sheet of baking paper, fill with ceramic baking beans, and slide it into the oven on a tray. It now bakes for fifteen minutes until a light golden brown, when I next take off the paper and beans and bake for a further five minutes.

Meanwhile, on with the filling. I take about 400g of asparagus spears, break off and discard the woody stems at the bottom, wash them, then place them in a large frying pan with a lid that is half-filled with boiling water and gently bubbling over a low heat. The spears are steamed for about four minutes until they have gone a bright green and are starting to go limp. Then I whip them out and plunge them into a bowl of ice-cold water to stop them cooking further and retain their colour. I then slice the spears up into one-inch (2.5cm) sections, making sure I keep the delicate tips separate.

Next I take about half of the asparagus, but none of the tips, and puree them with a hand blender. In a separate bowl I crack in three large eggs and beat them up with a whisk. To the eggs I add a carton of cream or Schlagsahne (about 284ml) and 50g of a grated strong hard cheese such as Emmental, or preferably English cheddar if I can get it. I add a twist of pepper and a pinch of salt, then introduce the pureed asparagus and whisk it all together.

By now, the pastry case will be baked. The overlap of pastry needs to be trimmed, easiest done by rolling the rolling-pin over the top of the flan tin and letting the tin itself cut through the pastry. Tidy off with a knife.

I evenly spread about half the remaining asparagus (still not the tips) onto the base of the flan case, pour on the eggy, cheesy, asparagus custard, then arrange the rest of the asparagus (tips!) onto the top of the mixture. The flan is returned to the oven and baked for about 35-40 minutes until set and with a dark, golden top.

We will be impatient to eat the flan as soon as it is done, but it is best left to cool slightly, and can be eaten cold as well if preferred on a hot Summer's day. Push out of the flan case and serve with a salad or whatever takes your fancy. Or even with salty, buttered Spargelkartoffeln sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Guten Appetit!

Posted on 28 May 2016 | 2:25 am

2. Wisteria on the Terrace

The wisteria on our terrace is looking particularly spectacular this year, and smells divine!

In German it is called Blauregen, or 'blue rain', which is a wonderful description (except ours is more purple).

Posted on 12 May 2016 | 8:49 am

3. Papagei Kopf

Because this is Berlin.

Posted on 29 August 2015 | 9:02 am

4. Bamberg - Mediaeval Jewel of North Bavaria

The old town in Bamberg is the largest, preserved historic centre still in its intact state in Germany. For this reason it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1993, and in a Europe where so many Altstadts are anything but (having been mostly destroyed in WW2) Bamberg provides the visitor with an authentic feel of what a mediaeval German town was like.

It is not a day-trip destination for Berliners though. It is situated in northern Bavaria (Bayern), and even on a high-speed ICE train takes five hours to get there, via Fulda (though once a day direct) and changing onto a regional train at Würzburg for an hour.

The long journey is worth it for the architecture and history of the city. It has strong links with Slavic culture (particularly Polish and Hungarian) and with the German-speaking Franks, as well as being the seat of power of prince bishops of the Holy Roman Empire. Bamberg was also a centre for the flourishing of Enlightenment ideas in southern Germany, and philosophers and writers such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and E.T.A. Hoffmann lived here. Claus von Stauffenberg (the would-be Hitler assassin as played by Tom Cruise) has associations with the town as well; he began his military career with the local cavalry regiment, and married his wife Nina here in 1933.

Whether you are a great fan of the baroque or gothic, or are attracted by Bamberg's rich religious heritage, or are a beer connoisseur (Bamberg has nine historic breweries - try the local Rauchbier), or just like wandering around twisting mediaeval streets, Bamberg will not fail to please.

To further get a feel for Bamberg, please check out my gallery of photos of Bamberg.

Posted on 2 August 2015 | 5:01 am

5. Unter Dampf! Up the Brocken by Steam Train

I shouldn't really like steam trains. Noisy, dirty, fossil-fuelled monsters from a past age, with no place in an eco-considerate world. But I find a beauty in their precise engineering; how so many parts work together so skilfully and, using only the power of boiling water, can move a mass of many tonnes of metal and freight and passengers up a mountain.

So, when a short stay in Wernigerode in the Harz Mountains gave us the opportunity for a trip on the narrow-gauge Harzer Schmalspubahnen steam railway up to the top of the Brocken, how could I resist? I might be drummed out of Greenpeace for this traitorous action, but please allow me this guilty pleasure.

Here are a few photos from the trip. Unfortunately, none are from the top of the Brocken mountain, because the summit  was shrouded in rain and mist. They say there are lovely views from the top, but there could have been a coven of sky-clad witches dancing on the flat summit and we wouldn't have seen them for the descended cloud. Still, a lovely experience, and a nice shot of schnapps on the train to keep us warm.

Posted on 14 July 2015 | 12:09 pm

6. Teddy ist im Krankenhaus!

Oh nein!

Posted on 30 June 2015 | 9:12 am