A tricky spring feeling…

March 7th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Ah, this beautiful bright sun outside, the first crocuses taking a peak at the sky… I walk up this morning with a butterfly feeling deep inside… would it be spring, at last?

After diving into my tiny city garden full of enthusiasm for the very first time this year (yep, I’m that kind of gardener), while my dutchie went for his first spring stroll on the bike, it didn’t take more than a couple of hours before all our extremities, from feet to ears, went deeply frozen. Many fuming cups of tea later, we came to the conclusion that maybe we shouldn’t have ignored the temperature forecast, maybe it was not just quite spring!

All in all, a perfect excuse for one more comforting winter dinner, tonight… Something spicy, colorful, and revigorating that will warm us up from the inside out. Never been a better time to give another try at the dutch classic red cabbage stew, with small chunks of cooking apple and a hint of five spice. A great meat-lover-proof winter vegetable stew (ask my dutchie… well, as long as there’s a little meat on the side too though) and a winning match with game and winter roasts.

Chou Rouge

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Seasonal fish on the Christmas table

December 21st, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Last Saturday, while a frenzy of packing and last minute Christmas shopping was hitting my small household so that we could be ready to go for our flight to Morocco on Sunday, I had given up on publishing THE recipe I had wished to share with you before Christmas… That was without counting on the deep coat of snow that covered the Netherlands and neighboring countries on Sunday, plunging this part of Europe into chaos. No need to say that there was a long scary ride under the snow, a lot of queuing and waiting at the airport and of course no flight to Morocco or to about anywhere else that day.

Snow in Hoog Keppel (1)
Somewhere in Hoog Keppel, far, far away from the Moroccan sun…

Well we are still here in snowy Holland, but to see the things on the bright side: I had the occasion to enjoy a stroll in the untouched snow this morning, we managed to find another ticket for tomorrow (fingers crossed…), and I still get to share with you the perfect Christmas recipe for fish lovers. A fluffy fillet of monk fish*, my favorite fish, marinated in fresh herbs and wrapped in parma ham, roasted in the oven (inspired by a recipe from Masterchefs**) and served on a bed of red wine risotto.

Monkfish wrapped in prosciutto on a bed of red wine risotto

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My Winter tastes like…

December 13th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

almond appetizers brioche apple brunch cakes celeriac chanterelle chestnut chocolate Christmas comfort food cookies duck erwtensoep feast fennel French pastry game guinea fowl Halloween hazelnut jerusalem artichoke lemon monk fish orange pancakes parsnip passion fruit pear pomegranate pumpkin rabbit scallop soup speculaas truffle turkey turnip winkles wild mushrooms

Pumpkin soup for a shopaholic

November 26th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Not only am I a food addict, I am a shopaholic as well. Yet, it seems that I have more and more trouble to handle the crowds of the cold and rainy winter saturdays, when the city fillls up with people rushing around in all directions to get the best deals of the beginning sale period and the ideal Sinterklaas of Christmas presents a bit like a flooded river.

Do you even think that it will keep me away from shopping… Drop that thought immediately! I want my share of winter shopping too, the bite of the cold, the christmas lights in the streets, and this cute pair of Paul Smith pumps and this fab Red Valentino dress I’ve been drooling around for a couple of months patiently awaiting for the sales. Even if that means I’ll have to drown into the crowd. And most of the times it happens. Suddenly my own futility turns me into an exhausted ball in a flipper game. It’s time to escape the shopping streets just before drowning and take refuge at Lapsang, this cosy and friendly little tearoom in the side streets of the Hague, where a fuming bowl of pumpkin soup awaits me together with fresh Desem bread, creamy butter and a fragrant cup of tea.

Yet another pumpkin soup

Last week, while I was stuck in bed with the flu, shopping was the last of my wishes. Yet, I couldn’t help but dreaming for a marmite of Lapsangs’ pumpkin soup. So, as soon as I gathered enough strength, I improvised my own version of it…

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Fighting for the last bone…

November 14th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

If I tell you that the scene below was immortalised one couple of Sundays ago at my dinner table, you might wonder what on earth I serve my guests for dinner for them to fight over the last bone with such rage.

Hungry

Well I did too, because in less time I needed to have a bite myself that’s about all that was left of the generous pieces of full flavoured autumn lamb that won me over in the display of my beloved butcher…
Not less that one whole boned shoulder and four shanks that had been patiently simmering on my stove through the afternoon until falling of the bone, slowly but surely caramelised with the toffee like dates and delicately topped with shiny, deep pink drops of a ripe pomegranate.

Now if I tell you we were only four and there was enough for an army, this might convince you that there is something almost magic about the tajine like recipe I’m about to share with you. If not, take a look further down this post for a quick glimpse of what it looked like before landing on my dinner table or even better, check out the link to the original ‘grimoire’ from which I stole this mouth-watering spell, my favourite foodies magazine, the french ELLE a Table.

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Un bol de soupe pour Sophie!

January 15th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

There’s nothing like a fuming cup of Erwtensoep (dutch pea soup) to warm you up from head to toe during the cold dutch winter days…

Ewrtensoep

My friend Sophie would definitely agree with me… Although, she might not be the most objective on that one: she likes it so much she would also ask for it when visiting me in april! She’s been begging for the recipe for years now… With the great tips provided by my butcher and the icy weather from the last couple of weeks I really didn’t have anymore excuses to keep her waiting any longer, so here it is…

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Who’s afraid of the Christmas turkey?

December 14th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Qua Christmas traditions, there’s more than enough to choose from in the family: French on my side, Dutch and British for my other half (my ‘dutchie’ is also half brit)…
Usually, I pick a bit of everything (well, with a lot from French, to be completely honest).
With the years, my Christmas eve dinners have turned up as a joyous multicultural mess:

From oysters and foie gras next to the more northern style heartwarming soups
, the Chapon, the goose or the game, the French Christmas log or fancy entremet and the British Christmas pudding, the dutch cookies and spices…. Except for one thing: Turkey.

dinde
Lesson learned: unless the bird is bigger than you or your oven, a turkey is nothing to be afraid of!

Not that I don’t like it or that it’s extremely difficult to prepare. Maybe I’ve been secretely traumatised by monster sized turkeys ending up on the head of Mr Bean or Joe in Friends. Maybe I had some bad experiences with dried out turkeys and concrete like compact stuffings that almost make you choke. Maybe I just grew up inspired by my mum’s constant search for mouthwatering originality in the kitchen… Well, actually, I think it was just another of these dishes that for some hidden inconscious feeling I didn’t dare to cook. Just like cheesecakes before.

Anyway, last year I finally gave in my dutchie’s wishes for a good old Christmas turkey, and I must say that with a little organisation and a lot of faith, it turned out good, really good: 
It was golden on the outside, tender on the inside, delicately perfumed with truffle that I inserted under the skin and the traditionnal stuffing with chestnuts was rich, fragrant and comforting yet not to compact thanks to the addition of grated apples and silky greek yoghurt. I served it with a simple gravy made of the cooking juices, sauteed green beans with wild mushrooms and celeriac mash.

And you, will you dare turkey this Christmas?

 

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Who's afraid of the Christmas turkey?

December 14th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Qua Christmas traditions, there’s more than enough to choose from in the family: French on my side, Dutch and British for my other half (my ‘dutchie’ is also half brit)…
Usually, I pick a bit of everything (well, with a lot from French, to be completely honest).
With the years, my Christmas eve dinners have turned up as a joyous multicultural mess:

From oysters and foie gras next to the more northern style heartwarming soups
, the Chapon, the goose or the game, the French Christmas log or fancy entremet and the British Christmas pudding, the dutch cookies and spices…. Except for one thing: Turkey.

dinde
Lesson learned: unless the bird is bigger than you or your oven, a turkey is nothing to be afraid of!

Not that I don’t like it or that it’s extremely difficult to prepare. Maybe I’ve been secretely traumatised by monster sized turkeys ending up on the head of Mr Bean or Joe in Friends. Maybe I had some bad experiences with dried out turkeys and concrete like compact stuffings that almost make you choke. Maybe I just grew up inspired by my mum’s constant search for mouthwatering originality in the kitchen… Well, actually, I think it was just another of these dishes that for some hidden inconscious feeling I didn’t dare to cook. Just like cheesecakes before.

Anyway, last year I finally gave in my dutchie’s wishes for a good old Christmas turkey, and I must say that with a little organisation and a lot of faith, it turned out good, really good: 
It was golden on the outside, tender on the inside, delicately perfumed with truffle that I inserted under the skin and the traditionnal stuffing with chestnuts was rich, fragrant and comforting yet not to compact thanks to the addition of grated apples and silky greek yoghurt. I served it with a simple gravy made of the cooking juices, sauteed green beans with wild mushrooms and celeriac mash.

And you, will you dare turkey this Christmas?

 

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A time for soup

February 1st, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Lately, I am craving for my bed, a lot of sleep and soup! Chicken soup, leek and curry soup, fennel soup, celeriac and spinach soup… I  just can’t get enough!


Not surprising you would say, with all those microbes and viruses running around lately: I am surrounded by running noses, low hoarse voices and feverish eyes… My dutchie and I didn’t make an exception to the rule and are both trying to cope the best we can.  At least one good thing to the story: for once, I manage to have him eat soup without (hardly) any complaints!

In case you too are having trouble to crawl out of bed, desperatly looking for yet another pack of tissues, while your nose has nothing more to envy to the nose of that clown you laughed so much about at the christmas circus, I’d thought I would share a bowl of my favourite chestnut soup with you! It’s heartwarming, smooth and velvety… and it doesn’t only work great for colds: with a few thin slices of foie gras or of smoked duck breast, it’s a great starter to a fancy winter dinner!

Velouté de chataignes

Chestnut cream soup
Velouté de chataignes

serves 6 pers.
prep: 15 min. cook: 25 min

Ingredients:
500g steamed chestnuts (peeled),
900 ml chicken or turkey stock,

10cl liquid cream,
1 knob of butter,
1 small shallot, peeled and diced,
sea salt and pepper to taste,
Optional but so good: dices of fresh foie gras to garnish,

In a pan, sauteed half of the chestnuts with the knob of butter for 5 minuts. Lower the fire, add the remaining chestnuts, the shallot and cover with chicken bouillon and the liquid cream. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer covered for 20 to 25 minutes or until the chestnuts are soft. Leave to cool and mix until smooth using a blender (don’t add all the liquid at once so that you can adjust the texture to a velvety creamy soup). Before serving, warm up the soup on low heat. Serve the soup in individual bowls and for a real treat garnish with dices of fresh foie gras sprinkled with ‘fleur de sel’ and freshly crushed pepper.

Bon appétit!


Dutch comfy food for a monthly mingle

January 27th, 2008 § 5 comments § permalink

In the heart of the dutch winter, when it’s freezing cold outside, dark and rainy, when my stomach crave for some comfort food that will warm me up from head to toe… I cook dutch! When it comes to winter comfort food, dutch know their way in the kitchen: steaming hot erwtensoup (pea soup) with smoked sausage, creamy potato hutspot* or stamppot* with chicory or boerenkool, served with meatballs, sausages or bacon and a rich flavoured gravy… Might not sound like michelin star gastronomy to you, but I assure you, once you have tried the real homemade stuff, you’ll ask for more. 

I’ve been willing to post about my weakness for dutch winter food since the beginning of the winter season but didn’t come to it yet. Then last week, I stumbled over the theme of the Monthly Mingle event organised by Meetah from What’s for lunch honey? : comfort food! What a perfect occasion. Further, some days ago,  while having dinner in a dutch “Eetcafé”, I couldn’t help overhearing some expats at a table next to me complaining of the lack of culinary traditions in Holland….

So, to lovely Meetah and to all the too many expats in the Netherlands who cannot stop complaining about the lack of culinary culture in this country… Here’s one of my dutch winter favourite comfort food, the dutch ‘boeuf bourguignon’, the king of dutch stews, the ‘Hachee’.  Lean stewing steak, a lot of shallots and oignons, browned in butter and delicately flavoured with juniper berries, bay leaves and cloves, simmered slowly in a lot of beer until the meat falls apart… Lekker**!

Hachee
The king of dutch stews


My recipe is probably far from the traditionnal one but has been approved by many dutch so far. It is inspired from my favourite dutch cookbook (in english! …didn’t speak dutch at the time I got it): “Dutch cooking – The new kitchen” from Manon Sikkel and Michiel Klonhammer.
Just like boeuf bourguignon, in private, I love to have my Hachee with macaroni. When I have guests, I’ll serve it with a celeriac mash. Always a success. 


Hachee
Dutch hash stew – Boeuf mijoté à la hollandaise

serves 6 pers.
prep: 30 min. cook: 2 hrs

Ingredients:
1.5 kg lean stewing steak, diced in chunks fom ~3×3 cm
1 handful flour,
60g butter,
200g shallots, peeled and chopped
500g onions, peeled and sliced thinly
500 ml beer,
1 Tsp sugar

2 bay leaves,
3 cloves,
6 juniper berries,
sea salt and pepper to taste,
optionnal: 2 slices of bread generously spread with mustard

Hachee ingredients


Put the pieces of meat in a plastic bac with a handful of flour and shake to coat the meat. Melt the 2 thirds of the butter (40g) in a cocotte or heavy casserole and sear the meat on high heat (proceed in two batches to get the meat nicely brown). Reserve the meat, add the remaining butter and sauteed the onions (reserve ~100 g for later) and shallots over a low to medium heat until transparent. Pour back the meat, season to taste with sea salt and pepper and add the sugar, the cloves, bay leaves and juniper berries. — At that moment, the original recipe calls for two slices of bread crust removed, spread with mustard and added in chunks to the cocotte which should help thicken the stew (use then 750ml beer). Somehow, I have always inadvertantly missed that step without consequences, but will surely try it next time. — Then cover with beer and leave to simmer covered for about 2 hours. Serve hot with macaroni al dente or mashed celeriac or potatoes. 

Eet smakkelijk!
potato
My dutch potato “stampper”

Mashed Celeriac
Purée de Céleri rave

serves 6 pers.
prep: 10 + 5 min. cook: 20 min
Ingredients:
1 celeriac (~800g), cleaned, peeled and diced in 2 cm x 2 cm chunks***
4 potatoes (~300g), cleaned, peeled and diced
30g butter,
10cl liquid cream,

1 Tsp coarse sea salt,
pepper to taste,

Put a large amount of water to boil together with 1 Tsp of sea salt. When the water is boiling, add the celeriac and potatoes and cook for 15 to 20 min on medium heat or until the celeriac and potato are tender. Drain. Add half of the liquid cream, slightly warmed,  and mash using a fork or a dutch “stampper”  (don’t blend, the mash should be coarse). Add the butter and eventually add some more liquid cream to adjust the texture to your taste. Season with freshly crushed pepper. Serve hot!
If you wish, the vegetables can be boiled in advance, don’t drain and reserve covered until 15min before serving. Then reheat on low-fire, mash and season at the last moment.

Bon appétit!

* stamppot is a typical winter dutch dish calling for boiled potatoes coarsely mashed with roughly chopped season vegetables (raw or cooked) such as chicory, white loaf, carrots and oignons (this latest version being called hutspot)
** Lekker is dutch for yummy!
***  To avoid browning, keep covered in cold water seasoned with lemon juice

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