A very special day with floating islands

Hungarian floating islands from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchenThere are some days when you have the strange feeling watching a movie instead of living your own life. Yesterday was that kind of day. It started as normally but finished extraordinary. I was in the kitchen early in the morning to prepare the subject of the current blog post, floating islands, obviously according to my mother’s recipe. If you visited my little restaurant, Bistro 181 several years ago you could have tried this dessert which is known as madártej in Hungary, île flottante in France and Vogelmilch in Germany. Although in the bistro our menu was based on provençal cuisine, I decided to prepare this dessert according to my mother’s instructions, simply because I believe it is the best. Now as we live in the countryside I can even use farm eggs and milk directly from our neighbours. Is there anything more satisfying for a cook? Definitely not!
While preparing the floating islands I receive an email announcing that People’s Choice will be open this week for Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2016. My heart started to beat faster. I knew I was selected in the first round but was there any new selection since then? The website is down because of the traffic so I better take a break and go out to the garden, pick some violets which are not only beautiful but eatable as well. After an hour finally I succeed to open the page and I see my photo among the 400 shortlisted images, among 33 in my category. I feel so moved that I am totally wordless.
I remember the sunny day several years ago when I was sitting on the stairs at the Plaza de los Mártires in Málaga, reading about this contest while sipping ice-cold gazpacho from a plastic cup. I was going through the terms, the pictures of the participants the list of the prominent jury and I was wondering whether I will be ever so far with my food photography that I dare to apply. Now, after two years and many pictures I see my name next to my selected picture that I took a few month ago as a surprise for my sister. I think about how many times I wanted to give up and after a few minutes of apathy just stood up and continued. I know it is a cornball thing but it is worth to dream big. Then of course work has to be done, no question about it. I am at the beginning of the journey but I enjoy every moment of it. When I put the beaten egg whites into the steaming vanilla flavored milk or when I serve it in the the glasses and pop them with a violet. My rhythm of taking the first few pictures. Then the moment of a short celebration of this day when I sit down on the stairs at our front door with a glass of floating islands in my hands while my dog, Beeper is rushing around seeking hidden nuts in the grass. I enjoy the perfectness of the moment and allow it to last for a few more minutes. Then I go back to my camera to the kitchen. That is my real home.

Dear Reader, if you wish to vote you can do it until the 10th April 2016 on the following site. You can find me in the Marks & Spencer Food Portraiture category: https://www.pinkladyfoodphotographeroftheyear.com/pink-lady-food-photographer-year/

Floating islands according to my mother”s recipe

Ingredients:
1000 ml milk
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla pudding mix (it is not necessary, makes the sauce a bit more thick)
5 tbsp sugar
1 package of vanilla sugar
2 cm piece of Bourbon vanilla bean
1 stripe of lemon peel (remove the inner white part because it is bitter)

Seperate egg yolks and whites and mix the yolks with the pudding mix, a tablespoon of sugar and 200 ml milk. Bring the rest of the milk to boil with the lemon peel and the vanilla bean in a saucepan where there will be enough space for the “islands”. Beat the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks. Dissolve the rest of the sugar in the boiling milk, reduce the heat and put spoonfuls of egg whites into it. Wait until they rise a bit, fold them and cook them until they rise again. Put them in a bowl and set them aside. When the “islands” are ready, remove the pan off the heat and mix the egg yolks into it. Stirring continuously bring it to boil and cook for further 3-4 minutes. Sieve the sauce and put the eggwhites on top. Top them with violets if you wish.

Hungarian floating islands from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchenHungarian floating islands from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchenHungarian floating islands from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchen

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer is a food photographer, chef and writer living in a small village in Northwestern Hungary. Her bilingual blog, Taste of Memories is about life in the Hungarian countryside. While she is bringing new life into the 90 year-old house and orchard of 18 fruit trees she cooks and bakes her family’s old recipes and tries to preserve traditions and old knowledge about how to live in rhythm and harmony with nature.

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