Two things I want to mention before I jump into this: I made this post with the iPad WordPress app, and I am sad to say that in my opinion it is just awful. Secondly, this is a very picture-heavy post. It’s a collection of photos from one of the most lovely places I have been privileged to visit.
The Netherlands’ barrier islands are a very popular destination for the general Dutch population, as well as for a whole lot of Germans and some Brits and a subset of them all that are mad kite-surfers. We have only been to one and really see no reason to go anywhere else: Schiermonnikoog , which is also a national park, and is as close to heaven as Im going to get this side of Paradise (and Hawaii). For the dog it is sheer unadulterated bliss, and for us that also counts heavily. Watching her have that much fun is contagious. You can always be in the moment when watching that dog being allowed to just…be a dog. I am delighted that it is quite accessible from where we live, even as a day trip.
There’s a ferry that makes the journey 3 times a day. Everyone gets a ticket, even the dog, and then it’s 45 mins of slowly making our way across very changeable sea-bottom.
We stay at a place that rents small apartments, which is happily located at the very end of the road, so it looks out at the sea. If you look at the map, the hotel is situated just at the elbow of the island, which affords a stunning view of endless skies, water, and beach.
The apartment we rent
The restaurant is very good and serves a first class selection of snacks, lunches, and full meals. As an aside, there was one notable occasion last winter when we were eating dinner, and the place was being plagued by an unchained little boy who had clearly watched too many war movies with his English father. He was running around “blowing things up”, shooting at invisible enemies, talking into his sleeve like it was a radio and generally conducting a noisy war all by himself. This was already annoying, but suddenly the kid shouted at full, ear-piercing volume, “Cover me in case any Germans are coming!” Carel and I froze, forks halfway to our mouths, and stared at each other in horror and disbelief – did we really just hear that?!! It was tremendously embarrassing; there’s an unwritten rule here: Dont Mention The War. And the restaurant had at least 3 German couples eating at that time. His parents – amazingly- completely failed to shut the kid down. *gulp*. I surreptitiously looked at our fellow diners. No-one said a word. We cautiously resumed eating as the kid called in an air strike on the lighthouse. Wow. Just….wow.
The chocolate pie is awesome.
The Belgian waffle is lovely too – crisp, lightly sweet, with a very tart-sweet red currant preserver and of course, whipped cream.
One of my favorite drinks when I’m cold and wet is a coffee with a healthy shot of Liquor 43 in it, topped with a large dollop of whipped Dutch cream.
At night it’s really nice to sit by the fire and have a glass of wine, relax, and watch the sun set.
The whole island is a national park, and only residents can drive cars, so that means there are essentially none. Dogs are more than welcome and can run free on the beach, the dunes, and are also welcome in the restaurant. Most people just put their dogs under the table to snooze while they eat, but Daisy being the adored princess that she is, gets a seat by the fire, curled up in an armchair. After a long day of running in the frigid waters of the North Sea, and chasing rabbits over hill and dune, she’s usually limp with exhaustion and is happy to get into her chair and snooze.
That is one deliriously happy dog.
They have beanbags outside in the suntime, and they’re really nice to sit and snooze on when you’re just too tired to do anything else.
I mentioned kite-surfers, here’s one
There is a lighthouse on the island which is still very much in use, and watching the light sweep around at night is hypnotic and – to me – very soothing.
That light in the photo above is the beam from the lighthouse, just beginning its evening’s work. If it’s not raining, the sunsets bring people from across the island, out of the restaurant, and out into the freezing wind to watch and photograph them.
Yummy, yummy mushroom mixture that goes wonderfully well over anything bland – pasta, chicken, pork, or as a side dish. It’s very filling, so expect to be sleepy after you’ve had dinner….
- 2 large onions
- 500g (about a pound) of mushrooms, whatever sort make you happy
- dry white wine, or Cognac
- Italian seasoning
- Balsamic glaze/cream
- Salt and pepper
- a little olive oil
- truffle oil to finish, if you like it
Mince the onions, and sautee’ them over a slow fire with some olive oil until they’re translucent and a little brown. Meanwhile, slice the mushrooms or chop them up if you’re lazy, it doesn’t matter in the end.
When the onions are done, add the mushrooms and a palmful of the herbs, a little salt, mix around and let it simmer over a slow fire with a lid on it until the mushrooms are soft. Stir the mixture now and then.
Pour in a bit of booze, enough to cover the bottom of the pan, cover it up again. Meanwhile start your pasta water boiling (or whatever you plan to serve it with. I’m making it for pasta – fresh noodles from the market).
Taste it. Herby? Savory? Good. Add a generous squirt of balsamic glaze, and stir it so the mixture becomes a rich brown. Taste it some more. Adjust things until it tastes right. Turn the heat up a little, uncover it, and go have a drink of water.
What you’re aiming at is a nice, brown, rich gooey mess of mushrooms without much liquid. When it has reached that point, turn the fire off and cover it. When your pasta is ready, at the very last moment stir in some creme fraiche, mascarpone, Greek yogurt…anything rich and creamy, enough to just blend in and lighten the color of it a little. Pour over your pasta, finish with a drizzle of truffle oil if you like it, and serve.
This is really rich, so I like to serve it with a nice big salad and fruit for dessert. Dried figs stewed in red wine and balsamic are a great choice, but too heavy for Spring.
A nice light, dry while wine is perfect with it, and some lovely crunchy crusty bread to scrape your bowl with.
THIS RECIPE IS FULLY ENDORSED BY THE DOG. SHE THINKS IT’S THE BEST THING SINCE BUNNY RABBITS.
It’s spring. What better way to celebrate than to eat a cute lamb? A friend of mine gave me the link to this remarkably simple recipe. My adopted little brother gave me some lamb.
Voila’! It was amazing. It was so delicious that I feel compelled to share it here, with my edits because I am totally incapable of following a recipe. I have to tinker with it; it’s endemic.
Find some lamb. This recipe is for a kilo (about 2 pounds), which is double the original. Yeah, it was so good that the second time I made it I doubled the recipe so we would have leftovers. So:
- 1 kilo of lamb, cut into ~1 inch cubes. Can be bigger, or smaller. Whatever. Cut it up for stewing.
- 4 onions, minced
- 1 large spoonful of minced garlic. I cheat and used the store-bought kind. If you’re chopping cloves I’d guess about 4 large ones
- 4 bay leaves
- 500 grams/4 ounces pancetta (or bacon if you can’t find pancetta, the thicker and better quality the bacon, the better) cut into small strips
- A bottle of red wine. The more rich and full bodied it is, the better your stew will be
- 800 g/2 cans unflavored tomatoes – all I can find here is the whole peeled ones, so I chop them up before putting them in the stew
- Some maple syrup, or sugar, or strawberry jelly. Not preserves!
- A few spoonfuls of flour
- Thyme, a palmful
- Salt and pepper
Slowly cook the pancetta in the pot you intend to use for the stew until it is crisp and brown. This takes time and patience, but is well worth it because the slow cooking will melt the fat and that lovely stuff will add depth and flavor to your stew. If the bottom of the pan starts to burn before the pancetta is done, add some of the wine and stir it round to loosen the brown yummy stuff and let it cook off. Repeat this process until done. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl mix the flour, pepper, and thyme. Dredge the chunks of lamb in this mixture until each piece is well-coated, and fry them in small batches in very hot oil until brown on all sides. As each batch is done, toss it in the stewpot on top of the bacon. When you’re finished with the lamb, you can re-use the frying pan to cook the onions and garlic in. Sautee them slowly until translucent and maybe a little brown. Add them to the meat.
Put the stew on heat, add the tomatoes – juice and all – and then enough wine to cover it all, and mix it up gently. Put the lid on, bring it to a fast simmer, then lower the heat until it’s just barely simmering and walk away for an hour and a half or so. It really needs at least two hours to cook it or it won’t taste right. Trust me on this.
Come back later and taste it. Add some sweetener – maple syrup or strawberry jelly is best, but you can use sugar, just add it a little at a time to counter the acidity of the canned tomatoes. Keep tasting it until it’s right. Salt and pepper as you wish. Let it cook until you can’t stand it anymore and then serve.
I paired it with roasted carrots, Brussels sprouts and potatoes, and the rest of the wine. Heel, heel lekker!
[Editor’s note – Two crucial things to ensure the success of this recipe: it HAS to simmer for at least two hours. I’ve made it twice now and both times it did not reach the state of wonderfulness that makes us want to roll around in the stuff until 2 hours had passed. It needs an hour minimum after you add the sweetener. The sweetener is also crucial if you are using canned tomatoes. Carel tasted the stew before I added the maple syrup, and made a face. “Ew. Very metallic!” Yeah. And that’s using the tomatoes in a lined can. You absolutely need to counter that flavor or you will have wasted a couple pounds of very costly meat. So. Sweetener, and time. Use both. It will fail if you don’t.]
Otherwise more prosaically known as venison stew. I adapted a recipe I found online. These are the ingredients I used:
- 1 kilo boned venison shoulder
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 150g piece smoked streaky bacon or pancetta diced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 1 can Champignon ragout (or cream of mushroom soup)
- 1 package sliced mushrooms
- 300ml dark beer
- 2 tsp soft light brown sugar
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- a few squirts of balsamic cream
- salt, pepper, and chili oil
- 500g potatoes, the kind that dissolve when you cook them long enough
- Roasted baby carrots and mash, to serve
I cut the venison up into 1 inch cubes, and seared them over high heat with the oil, then reserved it to a bowl.
Then I minced the onion, and sauteed them slowly in the same pan until translucent, and a little brown. Then the pancetta. And then tossed the whole mess into the bowl with the meat.
Into a large, heavy bottomed stainless steel pot went the mushroom ragout. I rinsed out the sautee’ pan with a little beer, and poured it into the pot. You don’t want to miss out on all the yummy brown stuff! Then I dumped in the meat/onion/pancetta mixture, then the sliced mushies. While stirring I added the flour a little at a time, then the sugar, then poured in enough beer to just cover it all.
- VERY IMPORTANT! This stew is only going to be as good as the beer you use. Find the best, richest, heaviest, darkest, most alcoholic beer you can get your hands on. Something made by Belgian monks is a good choice. Guinness would work too, but you want something a little sweeter if you can get it.
Add the thyme, bay leaf, pepper, and a little salt. Bring to a slow boil and then reduce to the barest simmer, cover, and walk away for an hour or so. Then add the balsamic cream, and chili oil to taste. Stir it, and correct as you think is good. Add the potatoes. Cover it and let it cook for at least another 2 hours. Sometimes during that, come back and mush up the potatoes so that they are reduced to flour. This will thicken your stew perfectly. If you don’t want to use potatoes, you can use flour or corn starch, but becareful and add it a little at a time, stirring a lot and allowing the flour to absorb liquid before you add more. You don’t want to turn it into glop.
Total cooking time: about 3.5 hours for it to come out right.
I served this with roasted carrots and mashed potatoes:
- Cut up a bunch of baby carrots by slicing them lengthwise. Toss with olive oil and salt, spread in a single layer in a baking sheet, and pop into a 400 degree oven (200C) until brown and yummy. Roasting brings out the carroty flavor in a marvelous way.
- Boil 500g potatoes (the right kind – in The Netherlands there are so many kinds of potatoes you really have to be careful! Here, you need the “vast” or “solid” potatoes for this) until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Drain them, throw in some butter, mash them, add a little roasted garlic – I use the kind that comes in a jar because I’m lazy – and some milk or cream, salt and pepper, and mash until they are the consistency you want them. Cover and let rest for 5 mins while you assemble the meal.
If you made only enough stew for one meal, right before serving, add a big bag of spinach and stir it in. The heat of the stew will cook the leaves just right. If you made enough to have leftovers, don’t do that, cos the spinach will turn yucky when you re-heat it. Instead, pack the bowls you intend to serve the stew in with spinach, and then ladle the meat over it. Wait a few minutes and stir it up.
- This will add visual interest to an otherwise really boring looking bowl, it tastes good, and spinach is really good for you!
Enjoy! This is really, really good, and very easy!
Turn the oven on very low, set out an oven-proof dish that will hold all your stuff, pasta included and then…Make Stuff. Once you have made Stuff, put it in the oven-dish, and cover it up. Here’s one version of the Stuff you can make to go in this.
Boil a bag or two of fresh pasta, or if you’re feeling adventurous, make your own. I’m generally way too lazy for that, but it’s unquestionably going to be yummier if you make your own. Well, if you’re any good at making pasta, anyway. When it’s cooked to just slightly less than the softness you prefer, drain it and toss it in a bowl with some butter or olive oil, just enough to coat it and keep it from sticking together. Put it in the covered oven dish. In the oven.
Sautee’ a pile of cut-up fresh mushrooms in butter or olive oil, salt and pepper, and maybe some white wine (or red, if you don’t mind purple mushrooms). I think the wine gives a lovely flavor so it I use it if I have some. Pour in the wine and cover the ‘shrooms, letting them simmer until tender. Remove the lid and raise the heat, cooking off the liquid. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms. Put them in the covered oven dish.
In the same pan, pour in a bunch of carrot rounds and peas. Cook the same way as the mushrooms, until the carrots attain the desired level of softness and the peas are tender. I like to brown the carrot slices a little, so I turn up the heat just toward the end. Put them in the covered oven dish.
While you’re doing all this, in a small pan slowly cook some really good bacon, sliced into lardons. If you’re Dutch, use the bacony-bits (spekreepjes) you can get at Albert Heijn. They’re awesome in this stuff. When the bacon is good and browned but not crumbly – cook it slowly! – remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and then cook some diced onion in the bacon fat. Remove both items to the covered oven dish.
Cube some meat. I’ve tried chicken, Aimee has tried pork. I bet this would be completely fabulous with shrimp, or some filets mignon. Cut into 1-2 inch cubes, and sautee in a stainless steel pain with some butter (Butter. Not olive oil, this time. Butter!), salt, pepper, and thyme. As a gauge: For two chicken breasts, I use about a level teaspoon of dried thyme. Sautee until nicely browned, and remove from pan, dividing it into whatever bowls you’re planning to serve your meal in. Turn the heat down, deglaze the pan with a generous amount of cognac, then pour in some heavy cream. If you’re making this for two people I’d use about half a cup. Lengthen it a little with some half and half, sour cream, yogurt, or creme fraiche. Stir in some mustard – a generous teaspoon at least, some salt and pepper, and turn up the heat, stirring constantly until the cream is thick, slow pouring, and richly brown. (Caveat: if your chicken didnt leave enough browny stuff on the bottom of the pan to turn the sauce brown, then add a little more mustard for flavor and carry on anyway). Salt and pepper to taste.
Take your pan out of the oven, and distribute pasta, bacon and vegetables over the chicken cubes, pour the cream sauce over the lot and toss it until everything is creamy and coated and delicious. This is not a particularly attractive looking meal, so I didn’t photograph it, but…be prepared to over-eat.
You can vary the Stuff any old way. If you’re low-carbing, you should skip the pasta and add more veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower. Zucchini. Sweet peppers. Use whatever veggies you have on hand – that’s how this was born:
..oO( what’s in the fridge that needs using up? )
Saturday we went on a quest to find ingredients and gear for me to cook with. A brisk walk in the drizzle and cool air took us downtown to where the open-air market is. We found an Italian specialty store that sells, among other delights, fresh pasta. I swooned, bought some, and started plotting immediately. I spotted a grocer in the market who was selling herbs so I bought a big bunch of basil from him. We walked a lot that morning (5.3km!), so we stopped to rest and warm ourselves at a coffee shop (a real one, not a pot-selling one!) before heading home with our haul. I had a hazelnut cappucino, with whipped cream of course, and he had hot chocolate, which was quite literally steamed milk with a block of milk chocolate dissolved in it, with a side dish of whipped cream.
We went home and that evening I made fresh pasta with a variation on Amatriciana sauce – bacon, onion, crushed tomatoes, and sausage, melted together over low heat then simmered in red wine until thick and rich. A dollop of fresh cream added right at the end smoothed out all the flavors and added another layer of richness to the sauce. Served with the slightly chewy fresh fettucine, it was wonderful.
Carel, being the nice guy that he is, took himself off to the only open grocery store the next day and braved the crowds to find and buy baking powder, which he ultimately did. Small packets of it, but hey. It was baking powder and that meant that I could finally Make Something. YAY.
I’d made the frosting from this apple-pancake-cupcake recipe, given to me by Ivo. It looks fabulous but I wanted to create something so I went my own way. All you really need to know is the proportion of wet to dry ingredients. Then you can play. I like making mudpies, and here’s my latest one:
1.5 cups sugar (I replaced half with erythritol)
1/2 cup cream
7.5 ounces strained Greek yogurt
2 cups plus two tablespoons flour (for half of which I used spelt meal)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 handful raisins
The usual process, yeah? Mix the dry ingredients and the wet ones in different bowls, then combine, mixing the least possible to get a thorough combination, then plop it into a greased pan. I used a European cake pan, which is narrower than the ones in the States, with higher sides, and a pattern in it that allows the butter to collect in the little depressions in the sides – making for a superb crust. I not only coated it liberally with butter, but also sugared it, ensuring a buttery, caramelized exterior of the loaf. Baked for an hour at 400 degrees, it came out perfectly. When I removed it from the oven I poked long deep holes in it with a skewer and then poured heated maple syrup over the top, allowing it to drain down into the cake.
When cool, it proved to be just about perfect. Not too sweet, strong maple-y flavor, fine-grained and moist, studded with little pockets of sweetness that had been the raisins, with a crunchy sweet buttery crust. I served it with a little of the maple-bacon frosting on the side, and a cup of hot sweet milky tea. It was *awesome*. Carel loved it so much I named the creation after him. So now we have a Carel’s Cake!
Having made Experimental Pancakes, I decided to move on to tinkering with apples. I have a few of them and was in the mood to make dessert, so I sliced some up and cooked them slowly in some butter. When I say “some butter” you should also hear an attendant ethereal angelic choir burst into reverent and joyful song. This is butter like I’ve never had it, butter that is Butter, that is what every butter out there wants to be and falls pitifully short of. It’s a fine pale yellow, rich and smooth and creamy like nothing I’ve ever seen. This is butter that brings out mad urges to bake. Ooooooh. Christmas this year is going to be so good. Mmmm, cookies.
Anyway I was saying, cook them slowly in some butter (alleluia!) and a little ground cinnamon until they’re soft and golden brown on either side. At that point turn the heat way down and scrape it all into as small an area of your pan as possible. Stir in a spoonful of honey and toss the apple slices in the resulting bubbly thick sauce. Pour in a generous dollop of cream (!alleluia!), stir once and pull it off the fire. Toss until the cream stops frothing and settles into a rich brown liquid. Quickly pour it all out and into a warm bowl. Top with crushed ginger snaps, shortbread cookies, or nothing at all.
Caramelized apples and cream, with crumbled gingersnaps. Yum. We have no cinnamon at the moment, but even so Carel liked it well enough to ask me to make him his own portion (though with more cookies), after trying mine.