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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Tag Archives: cooking

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.

Smokin'!

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…

Enjoy.

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: http://translate.google.com/)
Jacques knew what he was talking about…

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All clotty and nice...

You know how people say that you can never have too much of a good thing…

After a week of travelling in the deep south – or west countries as they call it in the UK – I have definitely had too much of one of the isle’s greatest delicacies…

Clotted Cream…

It only has a minimum of 55% saturated fat, what could possibly be wrong about that?!
(please note that normal cream has around 30% and heavy double cream has a maximum of 40%)
I am amazed that after an overdose of cream (3 times a day and I just couldnt resist!),  I can still fit into my clothes…

Creammmmmmm...

May be it is all a lie…
May be cream is not fattening or unhealthy for you… or may be there is just something special about the happy cows in Devon and Cornwall?
Surely it has to be the process of the clotting… Or the fact they use un-pasteurised milk… right?
Could it be that the scones somehow balance out the multi saturated fat? or has all the creamy goodness simply got better?

Hmmm off course this can’t be true…

Have mercy!

But I dare you all to try a regime of 3x clotted cream a day…
As a pudding after lunch (meringue pie is a sure killer),
at tea time on a pile of scones (yes how could you resist) and lastly
as a final stroke of mercy after dinner (why not try it in on and next to Summer pudding with red fruit… a mere trifle… This is the British summer equivalent of Christmas pudding… anyone still able to stand?! Get off the floor you or simply roll to the nearest bed…)

Cream cream glorious creammmm

Hope I will be able to find some in the States…
Then again may be I shouldnt…

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The Dutch can't ship enough of the stuff...

In succession to the two earlier childhood memories, there is one more…

Appelmoes. (or apple sauce)

Next to Roosvicee all Dutch children are brought up on the stuff. It is not surprising as the sweet and sour taste easily makes the bitterest sprouts taste like pudding! It is such a super-natural condiment, that it is usually present at each dinner, next to the salt and pepper.

Jars of Mush...

I can clearly remember my brother mashing up his meatballs and boiled potatoes main just to top it off with pale green apple mush…
How cheerfully he would turn his dinner into cement that neatly filled the entire plate. (please know he has come a long way since when he got married and turned amateur chef and gourmand…)
(the mash-up in the picture on the right happened in 2008)

This condiment doesn’t seem to be very popular in the UK, nor can I find any replacement… (custard?! neh..)
I did see it once served with porc in a pub, but that doesn’t make it normal I guess.

Before medieval mush...

This rather surprises me, considering that Apple Mush has been around since medieval times, just like pea soup and spiced bread. (more about these later) It was even mixed with saffron, almond milk and fish livers for lent… Yummy thought indeed!

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Hmmmm.

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

Butter

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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After living in the UK for a while I started to really miss Indonesian  cooking.

This is pretty strange, as I have never really been hooked on is while living in the NL. As a student I had practiced making Boemboe (spice mixture). I guess I had always taken the presence of a Toko for granted.  (A Toko is an Indonesian shop/deli)

Sateh

In the Hague, where most of the original Indonesian immigrants live there is the annual Pasar Malam Fair (since the 50th anniversary it has been renamed the Tong Tong Fair). I am afraid I will have to miss it this year, all the shiny fabrics, sweet coconut drinks and spicy scented food tent. The most typical food to eat are the eternal Sateh sticks, with sticky soy or spicy peanut sauce. be sure to add some fried onion flakes and Seroendeng for maximum impact!

Off course there are the wonderful Indian curries here in the UK, but somehow the hot and slightly sweet dishes of Indonesia remind me of home. To prevent getting homesick, there is one ingredient that I always have in my kitchen stash: SAMBAL

This Sunshine of a condiment comes in many varieties.

Sambal Manis is my favourite.
It is sweeter and milder than the others and the best possible combination between hot, spicy and sweet…
It goes well with every kind of meat or rice dish and it is great to use to fry up left over rice… Just add some sweet and sour cucumber salad, seroendeng (see above) and a fried egg, and you’re ready to go…

Oily and hot...

I wonder if I can find anything similar on the East Coast…
I could make my own or follow my the example of my Aunt in Ireland, who only allows Dutch guests to cross the threshold if they hand over a large jar of Sambal first…
(I would always get her the super hot home-made variety ofrom Nam Kee Toko in the red light district in Amsterdam, this paste can only be shipped in glass as it would melt away any plastic containers…)

Hope the Americans like it hot?

I guess they do…

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Crumble...

Even in a haze of volcano ashes the season for pic nics has finally arrived.

So yesterday we had the great pleasure of having tea in the garden (yay first time, even if it involved extra blankets)

Apart from vast amounts of tea, the main ingredient of this event was Crumble.

For those who do not know this delicacy: it is the simplest thing on earth and also the most satisfying. What could possibly be better than warm fruit, topped with crispy sweet topping from the oven?

A raspberry experiment...

Originally it was my Irish uncle Frank who taught my brother Olivier the recipe when we were little, but over the 4 years in London I have practiced and perfected. (kids love the messy mixing of the topping, the messier the better!)

The main lesson is that it is the combination of ingredients is where the real skill lies.
If the fruit is more soggy (raspberries) > add more flower to the topping
If the fruit is more dry (old apples) > add more butter.

If the fruitis more acidic (mango) > add more sugar.
etc. etc.

Then there is the quality of the ingredients:
Chunky moscova or demerara sugar and whole grain spelt flower are brilliant in the topping, while older apples or a variety of different kinds usually help the filling. Raspberries amp up the flavour of the pie,  but are more acidic and need apple to balance.

Rhubarb with Lavender honey...

Thirdly there is the addition of something extra.
The bog standard Apple crumble is brilliant already.
But if you want to make crumble really exciting, try using fresh ground cinnamon bark instead of powder. (It is an amazing difference) Cardamom is also a great addition to apples and it also works well with raspberries.
Or experiment with honey:  drizzle lavender honey over rhubarb. Or try Lime blossom honey on apples, yum!

If you are really adventurous you could try my New England version (merging a peach cobbler with crumble) adding lavender flowers to peaches. Truly a brilliant combination.
Vanilla pods and Pears are also great friends. (but make sure not to make it too sweet)

Newton's Pride

There are millions of possibilities, each one better than the next.

I remember really enjoying one of my more successful dinners, where one of the guests had brought his own apples… There we all were after the main course, peeling and assembling our own pudding… Ha. The Apples were an ancient race called ‘Newton’s Pride’ and how proud we were of the result 🙂

Sorry I am getting hungry again…

PS. thanks sooo much Bella for climbing in through the bathroom window when we locked ourselves out yesterday. And thanks Victor for letting us in… Hope you both enjoyed the adventure and the crumble. 🙂

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The London Special!

…it’s my kitchen!

.

I really look forward to living in a house with some actual space, and even better… a real kitchen table!
Off course I am too shy to post pics of my own home (the one on the right is taken from the web, from a very clever site on small kitchens) , but anyone who has ever seen my place knows, that my kitchen is the size of a cupboard… Still I managed to cook 4 course dinner parties for 6 out of it…

A standard Cambridge kitchen?

.

Imagine what I could get up to if I had a place like Julia Child
Her famous, now Smithsonian kitchen was originally only a few houses down the road from where I will move to…
So please all come over soon to see me bone a chicken!

Bon Appetit!

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