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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Tag Archives: butter


Mixed with cream, baked in butter…

It is funny how most nationalities really believe in their national specialities. 
In Holland we are proud of many things, we have the best cheese (conveniently forgetting the French and English varieties) best football (not sure about Brazilians though…) and best beer (hmmm Trappist monks will probably not agree)… 

One of the things I always thought the Dutch to really be the masters of, is Pancakes…
(best made with cream and water instead of milk, as the milk will make them rubbery instead of crispy…)

Where else do you find restaurants dedicated to this flipped floppy disk?

Today however I learnt that the English really have one up on the Dutch, by dedicating a special day to eating pancakes…

Shrove Tuesday

For the sake of my Dutch friends I will try to explain. 
It is the last day before lent, where people finish up all the rich ingredients they have left in the pantry before fasting for 40 days. 


Carnival… festival of dropping meat?

Sounds plain and simple, but why then do the English keep their pancakes so simple?! Simply served with sugar and lemon juice, or in some extravagant cases Rhum.
Surely they should be able to come up with something more vice riddled? 
I was surprised that no one here had ever tried a bacon pancake with syrup… I’d say that is pretty rich, while even incorporating it with the Catholic meat referenced in Carnival….

It made me think about what I would give up for lent. In other words, what I would put on my pancake as a farewell for 40 days… 
But I couldn’t come up with anything, as at the moment I am living a rather moderate lifestyle. Most of the food is locally sourced, no biscuits, no chocolate, no smoking… There’s an occasional glass of wine with dinner. And a small piece of cheese after…

I don’t drink or eat enough of anything to worrying about giving it up. 
The only two possible items I would worry about are Tea and Butter
But tell me honestly… is there really life without either of those two? 

How will I cook without butter? 
I could try giving up tea and replacing it with herbal infusions? 
Would my niece and nephews start calling me Aunt Woopsie Tea instead?!


Thank God I just found out it will be next week instead of today… So I have a week to think about it.

So, what habits will you break, and what will you give up for lent?

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Trustworthy and straight forward?

But oh so yummy.

Eels, Aaltjes, Paling, Zee aal, Anguilla, Anguille, IJselmeerder aaltjes, whatever you call it, I mean the kind of fish that has a simple beginning and end and a world of straight taste down the middle.

I still remember the day I was served this delicacy for the first time at ‘de borrel’ in my grandparents house.
On a slightly burnt slice of toast, with a sliver of cold butter (no need to go into this now) and with two thin smoked strips of taste…

Before the taste I mostly remember the smell of fire, fishy water and everything inbetween at the same time.
Still I was to learn that the taste would take me even further. Even the smallest piece exudes a greasy and earthy goodness filling your whole mouth.

Last weekend I had the great pleasure to be reintroduced when a friend and I visited the Noordermarket in Amsterdam and found an old fisherman selling freshly smoked ‘IJsselmeerder aal’. He left the bag open, as they were still cooling off from the smoking the night before.


Peeling an eel is simpler than you might think.
Even if there are many proverbs in Dutch (and English) for that matter referring to the slipperiness of the nature of this fish.
I assure you there is no need not to trust his character.
As long as you let him lose its head, he easily disrobes, like a banana…
(a whole different world of proverbs comes to mind)
After you peel off the skin, simply remove the backbone, scrape off any oily residue (if you are a purist, but I prefer the whole thing) chop to bits and serve on toast or salad (as long as you use a ‘too white tablecloth’ to wipe your fingers on…)
You can think of adding mayonaise, but quite frankly I don’t see the point…


Regretfully Eels have been an endangered species, since their numbers declined after overfishing in 2009. So they are getting harder to come by…
So in case you have no eels at hand, may be this song will give you the same sensation:

Second verse:
Dans le port d`Amsterdam
Y a des marins qui mangent
Sur des nappes trop blanches
Des poissons ruisselants
Ils vous montrent des dents
A croquer la fortune
A décroisser la lune
A bouffer des haubans
Et ça sent la morue
Jusque dans le coeur des frites
Que leurs grosses mains invitent
A revenir en plus
Puis se lèvent en riant
Dans un bruit de tempête
Referment leur braguette
Et sortent en rotant

(feel free to use Google Translate in case you need help:
Jacques knew what he was talking about…

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Kipper kipper...

One of the things I know I will miss most in the UK is their breakfasts…
There is one thing in particular that makes a British Breakfast into a Brilliant British Breakfast:


My godfather in Norfolk has introduced me to this brilliant traditional morning feast from the Norfolk shores. Sliced, pickled and smoked whole herrings just have the perfect combination of salty, savoury and greasiness that is perfect for a day in the countryside.

Just have yourself some hand-smoked kippers sizzling from the AGA with a slice of rye toast and butter… and you know this will be a brilliant day.

Alternatively there are Bloaters (smoked whole – the Emperor Charles V erected a statue to the inventor of bloaters from Yarmouth) and Bucklings (without the heads)…

Blub blub bloaters...

Pity though that you will need a robust AGA for preparation, as the smell somehow seems homely and nice when emerging from an enamel pile. If attempted to cook them in a modern kitchen the smell is impossible to subdue. Not even the strongest overdrive driven fume cabinet can prevent the scent from moving into the kitchen drapes…

I will have to see if something similar can be sourced across the pond…
In worst case I will have to make do with soft shell crab…

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All my close friends know my great inclination for this Golden wonder…


Say it loud and say it proud… none of this non saturated nonsense or margarine or worse any named kind of spread…

I prefer a thin cold sliver of the stuff… On beschuit, fresh bread or in almost every possible dish.
Nothing beats a crispy end of a new loaf of whole grain bread. Soft and mushy inside with a  crunchy and crumbly edge topped with a cold chunk of salty creaminess…

Hmmm. I always prefer to serve my butter cold, so you have to slice instead of scrape. (again no nonsense with chemically softened spreadable butter here)

Pretty, but practical?

During a walk in the V&A last week we had a look through the impressive spread of dinner/eating implements throughout the ages. And off course it includes a real Victorian Butter Knife. But personally I think they are never sharp or thin enough…What fool ever designed this tool?

What tha?

It is even worse in Sweden as the butter knives are made of wood?! Is this instigated out of frugality or general health? Either way it is pretty tricky to eat any cold butter in a cold climate that way!

So after a great weekend in France, I am now completely in love again with this god of greasy food. Butter transformed the lovely snails into a really glorious melange of creaminess, garlic and herbs on top instead of rubbery dead orchard dwellers..

Fleur de Sel...

And then there is the glorious kind with Fleur de Sel salt crystals in it…Oh don’t get me started…

Another issue is the different standard shapes in which it gets sold.
This makes buying a butter dish a national activity.
(compare it to the different sizes in pillow cases between the UK and NL… I assume the US has a completely different proportion….) It is funny how butter is also part of this national proportional shift.

Hmmm I hope I will be able to find some proper stuff in the States, in whatever shape (a stick, really?!), as long as it is cold and fresh…

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No spilling!

For Dutch people I think this post will be a bit of a cliche.

But after quite a while I really started to appreciate some real Dutch treats.

One things I started to miss most is not as much the chocolate sprinkles (Hagelslag in NL) themselves…
(Some Dutch friends have turned into steady suppliers, making sure I always had a stash of this chocolate delight)
…more important is the best way to eat them.

Dark Chocolate Sprinkles with real butter on Beschuit…

Extra Dark Sprinkles...

Nothing can beat that.

The problem is that Beschuit is tricky to transport, as it turns to crumbs instantly… A single beschuit is really a double toasted white muffin, that goes all crispy and completely dry in the process.
This makes it a beschuit a brilliant carrier for all kinds of food, but also a great challenge to eat. 🙂

'Beschuit met Muisjes' or Little Mice in EN...

In Holland there are also special anise seed sprinkles to celebrate babies.

In every Dutch office large trays of the stuff would go around to test everybody’s teeth. There are pink ones if it is a girl, and now also blue ones for a boy… Poor parents, they have to grind their teeth on the hard little sprinkles for weeks to feed all the guests that come and look at the new baby.

But secretly they actually taste pretty good…

Summer on a Beschuit...

Oh and a great variety for the summer: Beschuit met Aardbeien…

Wanna Bite?

Just slice some strawberries on a beschuit and sprinkle it with some sugar… yum.

For hardcore lovers, try Beschuit with peanutbutter and a slice of ‘Port Salut cheese’ All guuey and dry at the same time. )

Sorry I couldnt resist to add this old Verkade add. >>
It is quite naughty in an old fashioned way, which regretfully is slightly lost in translation…

Wanna Bite?

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