The Delightful Dutch Dish

How one can cook oneself back into local reality

The astonishing avocado November 28, 2009

Filed under: fruit,side dish — orangepumpkin @ 11:00

This is not local. I don’t know where avocados are grown, but all I know is, that it isn’t here. When I was a very little girl my mother already used avocados. And because it’s a fun thing to do, we would use the seed to grow an avocado plant. I had it in my room for a considerable time, years really. I even took a picture of it with my camera when I was 11. I was really fond of my view with avocado plant. It was one lanky plant. It tried to be very tall, but it couldn’t, because it was in a pot, which was too small. It had a few leaves, but it never showed any intention to something you might call ‘flower’. But I loved it anyway. And secretly I hoped that one day I would have my own personal stash of avocados, from that very plant.

Alas, it was not to be. After years of struggling with our horrible climate, it died. We buried it among the branches and leaves of local trees. Covered it with manure and that was the end of Mr. Avocado. But not to my addiction to avocados. It only got worse. I love avocado in salad. The whole salad can be as Dutch as anything, but it just isn’t complete without the brilliant buttery flavour of at least one avocado. It has to be in there, or you might as well not eat the salad. But I have also been known to wolf down one whole avocado straight from the skin. You don’t need anything else in life.

I will tell you how I found out that avocados don’t grow in The Netherlands. Well, they grow, but they don’t bearfruit. And that last bit is essential, at least in my life. A while after my avocado plant died, we visited the botanical gardens. They have a huge greenhouse in which they grow all kinds of tropical plants. Fruit bearing banana’s. No, really. They even give you a banana when it’s in season. And I know that banana’s don’t grow in the Netherlands. Well, they do, certain sub species, but I haven’t seen any fruit. And the banana died when there were more than three consecutive days of frost (well, it was three weeks, but who’s counting). But in the greenhouse there was also this big lanky sad looking tree, and I asked what it was. Because it really looked like it was suicidal. Proudly the man said it was an avocado and that it was a big miracle that they had one this big. Unfortunately the greenhouse wasn’t really big enough and no one expected the avocado ever to bear fruit. It was a very hard little plant to grow. All I knew was that it was a good thing my avocado died, he would’ve been so very sad when he found out.

It took me years to finally admit to myself that I would not have one of these great avocado trees in my backyard that would allow me to eat avocados all day. Maybe if I move to some tropical place. But that’s probably not happening either. So, I buy avocados in the supermarket. And I eat them. And I do not feel guilty. At all. Ever.

Well, I do, but only a tad. Because I know that avocados probably come from South America. I’ve only been to South America once. I didn’t see avocado trees, but that might have to do with the fact that I went to an island. A Dutch island.

Anyway, the other day I found avocados in the shop of my local supplier of very local vegetables. They grow them in their own garden. Which is great. But I know that those avocados didn’t come from their garden. They came from South America, or maybe, just maybe, from Spain. But not any closer than that. Despite that knowledge, I bought two avocados. And I will wait until they’re ripe and then, I’ll eat them. Just like that, or maybe I’ll take some time to squeeze some juice from a lemon, grind some pepper and salt and then eat them. But I probably won’t take the time to do much more.

1 avocado (a nicely ripe one)
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
juice of half a lemon

Cut the avocado in half, use a spoon to remove the delicious fruit from its skin. Use a big kitchen knife to remove the seed as follows: get the tip of the knife in the seed (another piece of the blade will also work just fine). Not too shallow, but not too deep either. Hold the avocado in one hand, wriggle the seed out with the knife. Removing the seed from the knife can be tricky, because the seed can be slippery, hence ‘not too deep’.
Add lemon juice, pepper and salt and serve it just like that.

How local?
Not local at all. I don’t live in Mexico. Only the sea salt could be local, the rest is definitely from someplace else.


The best pumpkin soup November 27, 2009

Filed under: main course,soup,vegetable — orangepumpkin @ 16:50

I can already imagine myself in about two hours. I’ll be sitting here, with a plate of hot steamy pumpkin soup, which is delicious and very much local produce. Next to it I’ll have a plate with a cut up baguette. Which is French, but baked somewhere in the Netherlands, so that’s produced locally. Though God only knows where the ingredients come from. But for now I’ll count it as local produce. Because the biggest sin is about to be committed. I dip the piece of bread in the soup, and I sprinkle a bit of cheese over it. Cheese could be a very Dutch product. There’s a lot of milk and a lot of dairy products in my teeny tiny little country. But, not this cheese. I am a total sucker for Gran Padano cheese. I have no idea where exactly this Padano-place is, but it must be heavenly there. All I know is that it ain’t here. A little piece of it is here, but not the big booming lovely place of Padano itself. That’s somewhere in the divine country of Italy. So, Italy is in Europe, so it’s kind of local on a global scale, right? Sigh, I should move there. I really should. I should be lying in the sun underneath an olive tree, munching away on some local Italian baker’s bread, covered in Gran Padano cheese. Please?

So, let’s snap back to reality. Said soup, which is very Dutch and local and good, I’ve made it before. And when I did I swore it was divine. It was heavenly. Which is odd, since it’s not Italian, but Dutch, but, there it was, divine and heavenly soup. The thing is, right now, there is no soup. There is half a pumpkin, there’s a carrot, there’s onions and garlic… there’s just ingredients. Which is good, I can make soup, you know. Hmm. Well. There might be one tiny itsy bitsy of a problem here. In the past few days, or weeks, or maybe even months, all foodstuffs I have tried to produce (cook, bake) myself, have been… let’s just be honest here, not quite good enough to meet my own standards. Ok, so, I have high standards. If it’s not divine, I just won’t have it. You see, the needy hungry children in Africa (a Dutch parents’ favorite threat when children just won’t eat), they’d love this soup. They’d love the baguette and the cheese. They’d kill to switch places. But I’m not them. I’m the spoiled brat who has to cook her own meal and knows that everything she’s tried to make herself has been a total disaster. Except most of the times I made scrambled eggs. But then again, what could possibly go wrong with scrambled eggs? Well, let’s just say that I have been able to f*** them up nicely recently. In ways that have made me stay away from the eggs for a considerable time. And now I’m doing soup? Yes, today, I’m attacking the pumpkin soup. And it better be good, because I’m on the verge of losing my cooking mind here. I’m just warning the bloody pumpkin before he’s cooked, that should work, right?

Ok, so, it’s more than three hours later, and it took me two and a half to finally get to the finished product (I waste a lot of time reading this and that, doing something here, or like today: cleaning up the kitchen so it’s workable, I have a very tiny kitchen, but it takes me ages). But my! Does this soup rock! Right now it’s rocking my insides like a maniac, but that’s only because I totally stuffed myself. I know no limits when the food is good. Only after I’ve finished do I realize that limits should have been the way to go, but on hindsight I’m always a very, very clever girl.

First I fried the onions and the garlic in some olive oil (yes, that’s not local produce either, it’s Italian, did I express my love for Italian food already?). I poured 0,5L water over it, added the bouillon (broth) ingredients (a neat rectangular salty spiced dissoluble thingy, I wouldn’t know how to make my own bouillon, honestly). I chopped like mad to get the very stubborn pumpkin sliced up in nice *cough* and small *cough* pieces (I leave the skin, I once cleared the entire pumpkin from its skin, that took me over an hour and apparently you don’t need to, so I stopped bothering long, long time ago). I chopped the half of one very big carrot into pieces, threw everything in with the boiling water with onions. And let it cook for about 20 minutes. In the mean time I sliced my baguette (bread, but also more fancy in French) into nice thin slices, I buttered them and… I ate them. This always happens to me. You always get bread in restaurants; while they’re cooking away to feed you, they give you some nice little breads, some olive oil and fresh butter. And me? I’m eating away, stuffing myself like I’m the Thanksgiving turkey. It’s great to live in a country where there’s no such thing as Thanksgiving and we rarely eat turkeys or chickens that require stuffing. So I’m in the clear and I can just stuff away with my buttered bread. Which is what I did while my pumpkin was cooking. Because I was to serve the soup with some nice cheese, I decided to try out all the cheeses I bought today. And I bought a lot of cheese. Sinful cheese. Yes, the only thing you might want to skip if you’re making this pumpkin soup and you’re very dedicated to the world and only eating local produce… would be the cheese. Unless you’re Swiss or Italian and still living in your respective country. But if you’re a sinner like me, well, you just don’t care, you butter your bread and get your cheeses. Do it now, because I’ll say ‘cheese’ so very often that you will die if you don’t take the only natural antidote: real cheese!

I started my sinful cheesing with Emmentaler. Which comes from Switzerland. So it’s European, but not very local. Emmentaler cheese tastes great on a buttered slice of baguette. Even though the French and the Swiss don’t regularly get along in the real world, they do on your plate. Which is great! Then I had this little pièce de resistance called Passendale. I have no idea where it’s from, I’m just guessing it’s not Dutch because they sold it in miniature pieces and the price I payed was quite astronomical. Besides that, the Dutch don’t make a cheese like that. They… er… we don’t. I have no idea how to make cheese, but I’m Dutch, though with this Passendale cheese I wish I wasn’t, so I could say ‘they’. Maybe it’s just principles talking. You know, one of these Dutch guys saying ‘No, we cannot make a cheese that frivolous, that wonderful and that divine for the taste buds. It’s undutch! We just cannot do it!’ (somehow I prefer picturing a Frenchman with a baguette saying this) All I have to say is: we just wish we were first and we’d make a kick ass cheese like that! Passendale cheese is great! Greater than any Dutch cheese I’ve tasted. Ok, so now I’m googling ‘Passendale’ just to make sure it really isn’t Dutch, but more like English. The only good English cheese or something. Just so I can say that I have the only really great cheese the English make, in my friggin’ fridge right now. I just hope it’s not German, or Swiss. *frantic googling* No! I cannot believe it! It’s even better! It’s Belgian! No way! But YES, it’s Belgian! Wow. Great cheese! (It even tastes better now that I know that I have some really great Belgian cheese in my fridge. Ha!)
So, the Emmentaler and Passendale cheese were great on my buttered bread. So I decided to step down from the ‘mild’ cheese and get to the ‘extra pittig’ (god knows how I should translate that, it’s the tasty opposite to ‘mild’, which means the same both in English and in Dutch): Gruyère cheese! Which is also Swiss cheese (you might not know, so I’m being the thoughtful educator here). My butter liked it, my bread liked it and oh, yes!, my watering mouth liked it, too.
On to the rock hard cheeses I also brought along. They were all Italian. You should know I have a weakness for Italian food, did I mention that already? I can’t think of anything coming out of any Italian kitchen that I wouldn’t like. But most of it I’ll just love, really, the come to mama-kind of love. I know this cheese, the Grana Padano, and this cheese is my personal best friend (I know I already mentioned its divinity, but I’ll mention it again, and again). I could live on Grana Padano. I don’t need anything else. So I bought a wedge of it. And then I went nuts and bought the two other Italian cheeses that were lying next to it as well. One called Parmigiano and the other is called Pecorino. I put all of these on some buttered bread, just to try. Remember, the pumpkin was still simmering, and I had time. So I stood there, at my counter, gulfing down these slices of bread covered in Parmigiano. And I loved it! So I covered the next slice with Pecorino. And I loved it! I could barely believe my taste buds. So I made the next slice with Grana Padano and I entered heaven. I love it when that happens. Just standing in the kitchen, waiting for the pumpkin to be done cooking, eating away at some buttered bread and cheese and all of a sudden you hear angels singing and you float away to someplace else. Thank God I set the timer, which rang me back to my pumpkin soup reality.

After I tried to force the pumpkin bits into submission with a fork, I grabbed my stick blender. And it did the job nicely. I recommend it. But I also recommend to have the cover  ready and install it immediately after you’re done blending. The soup is now thick and right before you turned off the heat and stuck in the stick blender, it was cooking. (This is how I tell myself where and when I messed up, which of course, despite the divineness of the soup, I did, at least once, let’s just say the soup didn’t suffer much from my messing up. It’s a good soup all by itself.) And cooking substances have the tendency to say ‘blob’ or ‘blub’. They’re boiling, actually. Yes, and when a thicker substance than water boils, it says ‘blob’ in a more fervent way. It explodes all over your kitchen. I’m just saying: don’t let it happen to you. You know, it’s messy. And it’s such a waste to have to clean the divine soup off the floor. You know. I might’ve cried a little if I hadn’t been such a rock hard soul.
Add some cream cheese, some cooking cream, parsley and thyme. Stir it, serve it. And don’t forget the divine buttered bread and cheese.

It was a trip straight into heaven, the butter, the cheese, the bread (which I already knew to be a great combination), and the soup. Oh, the soup! It was creamy, it was tasty, it was beautifully orange. It was just right. My taste buds loved it, and so did the rest of me.

500g pumpkin
One big carrot
Butter/olive oil
2 onions
1 clove of garlic
0,5L bouillon
Cream cheese (I always use Philadelphia)
Cooking cream (I use soy cream, from Alpro (which is a Belgian brand))

Dice onions and garlic, fry them in a bit of butter or olive oil. Pour in the bouillon before they turn brown. Add the diced up pumpkin and carrot. Let it cook for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and use a stick blender (fork will do, it will take longer and leave more texture) to mash up the pumpkin and carrot. Add a chunk of cream cheese, parsley, thyme and some cooking cream. Serve it with buttered bread.

How Local? (distances travelled to my kitchen)
pumpkin, carrot, onions and garlic: 4,5 km
olive oil: 1000km (wild guess, it could be from anywhere, it doesn’t say on the bottle)
Passendale cheese: 200 km (birdflight)
Emmentaler cheese: 600 km (birdflight)
Gruyère cheese: 610 km (birdflight)
Pecorino Romano cheese: 1400 km (birdflight)
Grana Padano cheese: 1000 km (birdflight)
Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan) cheese: 950 km (birdflight)
Philadelphia cream cheese: ? (could be anywhere)
Baguette: 2,5-50km