The Delightful Dutch Dish

How one can cook oneself back into local reality

Chicory and shrimp! April 16, 2010

Filed under: salad,side dish,vegetable — orangepumpkin @ 09:24
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I don’t really know how I feel about my endeavour, right now. Because I don’t particularly care for two of the ingredients: chicory and baby shrimp. Well, it’s not actually baby shrimp, it’s crangon crangon. But they’re the smallest shrimp I’ve ever seen or eaten. In Dutch we call them ‘Hollandse Garnalen’, which translates into Dutch Shrimp. That probably is because 80% of those shrimp are caught by Dutch (and German) vessels. But I don’t really like these grey shrimp. They’re tasting too fishy to me. I don’t particularly like it.

The thing is, the name implies that they’re local. And to some extent, that’s true. They’re caught in the North Sea, and the Dutch coastline borders only the North Sea. So in everyone’s mind, some fisherman walks out into the sea, catches himself a bunch of these shrimp, peels them, and then eats them. How local do you want your shrimp? It doesn’t get more local than that. Well, to some amateur fishermen this could be true. I’ve seen these shrimp on the beaches, not many, but they’re there. So they definitely live in the North Sea, and even make it to our Dutch coast. But the shrimp you buy in the supermarket aren’t local. They just aren’t. I know this because there was a Dutch TV-programme about it a while back. They traced the route these supposedly Dutch shrimp travel before they end up on your plate. What it boils down to is that they’re being caught off the coast of Denmark. Ok, so that’s a little north of the Netherlands, Denmark and the Netherlands share a group of islands (the Wadden Islands), so you could argue that it’s just around the corner. On board of the vessel that catches these shrimp, they’re boiled, then they’re sold in Yerseke, which is in the most southern part of the country. It could be IJmuiden too, at least some place with a fish auction. If you’re a supermarket, you buy your fish at one of these commercial auctions. We’re talking big fishy business. Then these little grey shrimp are shipped to Marocco. See, that’s how local these Dutch shrimp are. Maroccans peel the shrimp for a few cents where Dutch employees would cost ten to a hundred times more. So yes, economically shipping the shrimp to Marocco is a good decision. In terms of local produce it’s ridiculous. After the Peeling of the Shrimp (that would be a great title for a thriller, wouldn’t it?), they’re being shipped to Germany, where they’re being packaged. I think that after or before that they’re once again sold in Yerseke, or IJmuiden, or whatever, but I’m not sure about that. When they’re packaged they’re finally moving to the supermarkets, through a busy distribution system that will take the shrimps on a sight-seeing tour of the country.

You see, besides that I don’t much care about the taste of these shrimp, I have a little ‘local-produce’ concern about them. According to my supermarket, the shrimp I’ve just bought are caught in the North Sea and the Wadden (which actually means they could be from anywhere between Scandinavia and Spain, and they probably are). But they’re ‘green’ because no other fish are harmed in the process. But they are, because the Dutch trawlers use nets that drag over the bottom of the sea, and they catch other fish that are not so ‘green’. Anyway, I have enough reason not to buy them, but I did anyway. Because the recipe demanded it.

I must say, that after I was done with my salad and I ate it, I didn’t feel so bad about the shrimp and chicory. They were doing quite nicely in there. I liked the overall taste, and the way my extensive use of mayonnaise covered some of it up. And the excessive use of chives did do something good, too. Ok, I didn’t love it. And I’m not sure if I will make it again. But it was better than I expected. I’ll give these well-traveled shrimp some credit. And the not-so bitter chicory, of course!

Ingredients

2 chicory

100 gr Dutch shrimp (I suppose you could use any type of small shrimp, really)

3 table spoons mayonnaise

freshly cut chives

2 tea spoons soy sauce (Japanese)

1 tea spoon lemon juice

1 apple (Granny Smith)

2 table spoons freshly cut chives

freshly ground chili pepper (Ok, I don’t have that, I used chili pepper powder instead)

Cut the chicory in small bits. Mix the mayonnaise and soy sauce in a bowl, add chili pepper and lemon juice. Cut the apple into small dice, I left the skin on for extra colourful effect. Mix apple, shrimp, chicory and chives in the mayonnaise-mix. Enjoy!

How Local?

shrimp: see above, pretty damn non-local

chicory: Dutch

chives: cut off in my own kitchen, but I bought the plant at the supermarket first

mayonnaise: made it myself

the spices & lemon juice were pretty non-local too.

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Scrambled eggs January 9, 2010

Filed under: cooking,meat,side dish — orangepumpkin @ 20:21
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Eggs and I, we don’t really mix well together. Except when there’s other ingredients involved as well, that’s when I love boosting my cholesterol with some really health-unfriendly eggs.

It all started when I was a really young and little orange pumpkin. For Easter the easterbunny (he’s a hare, at least in Dutch) would scatter some eggs all over our garden and we (my siblings and I) would go out and look for them. There were two types of eggs: the ones I would eat, and the ones I wouldn’t eat even if I’d be tortured. The first are chocolate eggs, and to me, there never were (or are) enough chocolate eggs around Easter. The second would be boiled eggs. And to me, there are always way too many of those, not just around Easter. How can a sane human being eat a boiled egg? That’s what I’ve asked myself for most of my life. I don’t get it. Poached eggs aren’t much better I’m afraid.

After the whole egg search was over, we would go inside and have breakfast. The table was set with all kinds of lovelies, it was a very festive breakfast. There would be a bowl of boiled eggs and there would be a chicken (wow, that chicken, sweet memories) filled with chocolate eggs. I would silently eat one (or maybe two) slices of bread, and then I would ask my mother nicely if I could start on the chocolate eggs. She never said yes. Before I could eat something sweet (including chocolate spread on my bread) I had to eat a boiled egg. It was torture. In my tiny brain I had two options: eat the boiled egg just like my siblings, and then start on the chocolate eggs (until my mother would intervene and say that it was enough, unless… and there was something more about boiled eggs), or not eat the boiled egg and watch my entire family eat chocolate egg after chocolate egg. Trust me, to a child, that is a very simple choice: two types of tortures, and only one included eating some chocolate eggs myself.
Eating the boiled egg was a real challenge, I hated the taste, I hated the texture, I hated the smell (I still do), and it would take forever. But I managed. And I ate at least one boiled egg a year.(Oh, and they were hard boiled, which is the worst, especially with the blueish yolk. I understand that for preservation’s sake (they were in the garden after all), you can’t serve moderately boiled eggs, but the memory itself is traumatic. Who knows how much therapy I need now that I remembered the blueish yolks?)

My father, on the other hand, was an avid egg-eater. He ate them boiled, fried, scrambled, poached. Anything would go for him. He was one happy egg-eater! He never did anything in the kitchen, except bake his egg for Sunday lunch every once in a while. And he would lovingly bake some bacon first, throw on lots of herbs, top it off with cheese, he was a happy man!¬† And everytime he was making himself an egg, he would say that one day, when he was young and naive and stupid, he thought he’d write a cookbook on how to prepare egg in one hundred different ways. ‘Or a thousand’, he’d say when he added just a little bit more salt. Because one period in his life, he’d lived on eggs. He didn’t have anything else.

It’s a bit strange to have that as my father and not really like eggs myself. But there you go, I don’t. But there are exceptions. And today I will give you the recipe of the most brilliant way to scramble eggs. Because I love them this way. I could live on eggs for quite a while like this. I change little bits of the recipe every time I scramble some eggs, so can you!

Ingredients:
1-2 eggs per person
half a table spoon red pesto (which contains tomatoes, I use Bertolli)
grated cheese (as much as you like, probably around 150 gram in my case)
250 gram diced ham, bacon or chicken
bit of salt
3 sun dried tomatoes (don’t overdo it, those can be really quite distinctive in any dish)
herbs (lots of herbs, I use this pre-mix of Fair Trade (which is a Dutch/Belgian brand, the mix is called ‘Sun dried tomatoes’), with: sun dried tomatoes, black pepper, garlic, red onion, paprika, olives and basil, it’s gorgeous!)
pepper
some olive oil

Put meat¬† in frying pan and fry until done. add eggs, wait a while and then add herbs, salt and pepper and stir until the eggs are solid. Add the pesto, sun dried tomatoes (yes, I add extra, can’t have enough tomatoes), stir some more. Add the cheese when you’re happy with the scrambledness of your eggs. Let the cheese melt completely, while stirring. I always add a truckload of cheese, I love it nice and cheesy =D (but remember: cheese is bad, it contains a crazy amount of calories and it’s not so good for your cholesterol. I don’t really mind, I’d rather die of a heart attack because of scrambled eggs, than be entirely miserable for the rest of my life without them!)

How local?
Eggs: 2-5 km
cheese: 50-100 km
pesto: is ‘Italy’ vague enough? It’s about 1500 km from my house anyway (if this Bertolli-plant is located in the north of Italy)
ham: no idea? Should be Dutch though, about 200 km?

 

Two cook-ups, one save December 9, 2009

Filed under: breakfast,cooking,dessert,side dish — orangepumpkin @ 18:24

At least, that’s what I think.

Yesterday for dinner I decided to get wild on the avocados I bought last week. Errr… no I didn’t. I just checked my supplies and wondered would could be in the brown paper bag surrounded by other fruits. I felt it and it felt squishy. And I remembered the avocados that were in there. And my heart sank (I typed sang, but that’s just wishful typing). Because squishy avocados usually are bad. A little squishy, yes, too much squishy and you’re doomed. You spent all this money on import fruit and then you go and let it rot because you forgot. I didn’t exactly forget, I just figured that it would take at least two weeks for my avocados to be squishy enough for consumption. But they did it in about 5 days.
So here I was, with two very soft avocados that gave in easily under any pressure I applied. I dug out the big old Knife, the biggest knife on the block in fact. I cut one delicious green fruit of paradise open, all the while noticing it’s extreme softness. And my heart sank some more. But then I did the magic trick, i opened the avocado and I actually saw what it looked like from the inside. I’m used to really soft and ripe avocados to be, well, spoiled. they’re brown. The brown might taste alright, but I’ve never tried it, I only eat the green. And those two halves looked majestically green to me. Not a spot of brown to be seen. Not one spot! I immediately dug in with my spoon to check the rest of the fruit. Green as any avocado should be! Wow. Amazing.
On to the next avocado. I was afraid that to pay for my neglect this one would be completely spoilt. But again, it wasn’t. Miraculously unspoilt avocados were at my disposal. So I squeezed a lemon. One whole lemon. While I added the juice I thought: “Hmm, that might be a bit much…”. And you know what I did? I shrugged. I shrugged at my own insightfulness. No! But yes, I did. I have a theory that it might not have been too bad, had it not been an organic lemon of which the juice was now totally masking the avocado flavour of two most delicious avocados on earth, but I guess I’ll never know. (The theory is that in my opinion (supported by all taste buds I have available) all organic produce is tastier than their non-organic counterparts. Apparently including the lemons…). I had only one option: add a whole lot of other stuff to conceal the sour lemon (it was a great lemon, don’t get me wrong, but it totally ruined the greatest of great avocados). I thought I had nailed it, so I spread it on my bread and ate it. But upon finishing my super spoilt me said: no. This was not a real save. This wasn’t good. This sucked actually. Unless you prefer lemons over avocados, but who would do that? Is there anyone in their right minds who would? (Lemons are nice, but come on, avocados win hands down!) I’ll write down the recipe sometime, because with a little less lemon this is just perfect!

Yesterday I made porridge, because I had milk left that was in real need of someone to save it, before it went sour. I like porridge. Not everyday, but usually it’s real nice. It’s not really complicated, anyone can make porridge, but the thing is, once you think it’s easy peasy, you risk ruining it. I did’nt ruin it. I stood by the pot and I watched the milk’s every move. I stirred it constantly and I did not get distracted by textmessages (ok, I did once, but I regained focus quickly and in the time I was texting, no horrible milk disasters ensued, and I still stood next to the stove, with the actual milk in view). You should know that there’s no real secret to making porridge. The burning is the big non-secret. The secret to the non-burning is a watchful eye. Turn down the heat the minute you see water evaporating. Because that is your clue that the milk is hot, and depending on what kind of stove you have (mine is electric), it will warm some more. Leaving the heat on is disastrous. Secondly, you need space where you can quickly move your hot pan of boiling milk should it go wrong despite your watchfulness. Thirdly: you need to stir like a madman. Constantly. Even when you’re not feeling like it, or don’t see the need. There is always a need for stirring with porridge. So that’s what I was doing when I was texting: stirring. With my left hand. Which was quite disastrous, except nothing went wrong. I’m a great multi-tasker when nothing goes wrong. It happens every once in a while. I can enjoy that. When the milk is close to boiling you rest your stirring for a second to throw in a few spoons of oats. Then you stir vigorously. Or not exactly vigorously, as long as you keep stirring. And make sure you touch the bottom. That way, you can feel when the porridge is starting to go wrong in all the wrong places. Because it first forms a thick layer of hard porridge on the bottom of the pot. When you leave that for too long and you keep the heat on… that’s when it gets burned. And when it gets burned you ruin all the porridge. Not just the bit stuck at the bottom. No, you’ll have this delicious burnt taste in every bit of porridge you have. So stirring is in order. Porridge hardly ever fails when I’m making it. It only fails when I’m not just texting, but I decide to check my e-mail. That’s exactly when I know I shouldn’t be making porridge. I deserve starving to death in those cases.

Anyway, the porridge wasn’t the save either, because it was great. No, the save was when I decided to make wentelteefjes. I only had about 300ml of my milk left, I had some old bread and I had eggs and cinnamon. I checked the bread for mold, because that’s something you don’t want to eat, right? Examination did not reveal any mold. So I mixed one egg with 250ml of milk, added cinnamon and started getting the bread ready. I checked again for any suspicious specks. And sure enough, there were. So, no wentelteefjes. But what do you do with milk mixed with egg and cinnamon? I checked the freezer for another bread. There wasn’t one. Oh. Porridge for breakfast again? Sure, but I had only a little bit of milk left, and the milk mixture. So I did something that probably is a great sin against all things culinary: I made porridge with cinnamon-egg-milk. There is a ponit in life when you just don’t care. I figured cinnamon would be good with porridge. I was a bit worried about the egg, though. Wouldn’t that totally screw up anything porridge-related? I’ll keep it short: it didn’t. And I saved the day. Well, my day anyway. It feels good when you can undo a bit of a cook-up. I know now that I should have scrutinized every slice of bread before starting on the real deal of mixing ingredients. You can call me really stupid, but once there’s something moldy with the bread, I’m not going to eat any of it. I probably still could, but I won’t risk it. It’s like the burnt porridge, I’m afraid the rest of the bread will be bad too. I probably wouldn’t die of eating some moldy bread, but still. I do draw the line there. Not really on expiry dates. The milk was two days past its expiry date and it was great. Those dates don’t mean your food is instantly completely inedible. And it also doesn’t mean it’s always completely edible before such a date. I know, because I’ve been there (well, I didn’t eat it, of course, I threw it out).

So, some other time for the wentelteefjes, promise. Oh, and the good recipe (with some good measures on avocado vs. lemon juice) for the avocados. But I’m sure I don’t need to supply a recipe for porridge, now, do I? Just boil milk, throw in a few spoons of rolled oats. Stir, wait until it thickens (at least two minutes, keep the milk close to its boiling point), if it doesn’t add some more oats. I’m not good with measures. I guess a lot (and that’s why I guessed one lemon would be really good on two avocados… so I do guess wrong sometimes, haha!).

 

The astonishing avocado November 28, 2009

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

Ingredients:
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.