Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And All the Trimmings

Although I had guests to dinner for both Christmas and Boxing Day, the turkey event was on Boxing Day. I had ordered a free-range bronze turkey of almost 4 kilos and dry-brined it for three days before cooking. Since I discovered this technique several years ago, it's my go-to method of roasting poultry. The result was the best turkey I've ever eaten—moist, well-seasoned meat with lots of flavour.

But this blog is about a couple of the trimmings, specifically the gravy and the cranberry sauce. I stumbled upon Jamie Oliver's recipe for Get-Ahead Gravy and thought "that's a good idea"—less palaver before serving and knowing there is enough. I didn't have bacon and forgot about finishing with cranberry sauce, but even then, it was terrific. When making turkey gravy just before serving, it never gets to cook long enough and it doesn't get the extra vegetable flavour that this gravy gets. The recipe makes lots and there are leftovers that I'm going to freeze in small containers for those times I want a bit of gravy with the mashed potatoes.

The cranberry sauce was another hit. I made it last year too but made no notes about it. I paid special attention this year and I now declare my search for the perfect cranberry sauce at an end. This is lovely stuff, not too sweet, with a fairly pronounced citrus component, which I really like. In fact, it's actually a cranberry cumberland sauce.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Golden Beet Salad

My Turkish greengrocer often has some surprising vegetables, and last week he was carrying something I had heard of but never seen locally—yellow beets. They look yellowy brown and indescript on the outside, but cut them open and they reveal gorgeous golden yellow flesh. The taste of the beets is, I think, less earthy and more subtle than the normal red variety.

I used a few of them to make beet soup, which was very tasty, but the yellow color faded and turned somewhat brownish. Maybe I cooked it too long.

The raw beet salad, however, was vibrant, fresh, and golden. It's super easy to make and could even turn beet haters into beet lovers.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Squash Stuffed with Couscous and Feta

Fall and winter bring lovely little squashes into the market. Most popular are orange-skinned ones with orange flesh, but there are green ones with yellow flesh too. I love them both, and in the past week have used them both. Their small size makes them perfect as a meal for two, especially when stuffed.  And when stuffed whole, there is a definite wow factor when they are brought to the table.

You can stuff them with anything—rice, bulgar, bread, vegetables, a bit of cheese. My choice this week was a couscous pilaf, flavoured with mushrooms and sage, with some feta cheese. It's a keeper.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tracking Recipes

I don't write up all the recipes I try, but that's not to say I don't have opinions about them or want to keep them accessible. If a recipe comes from a cookbook that I own or from a cooking blog I frequent, I will sometimes review it on Cookbooker, rather than blog about.

Not only is it a way to keep my own comments about a recipe, it gives me insight into what other people may have done with it, which can be quite helpful.

For a list of my recipe reviews, check out Barbara's Reviews.

Here's a list of some of the recipes I've tried and might make again with modifications:

Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Minestrone all Romagna
Cubed aubergine cooked with onions
Cauliflower with a cashew and sesame seed sauce
Curried cauliflower
Easiest Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Sunday, September 11, 2011

English Muffins

When I first moved to Holland there was a Marks and Spencers store in the Kalverstraat. I always found their clothes boring but they had a pretty good food section, and that was where I bought my English muffins. English muffins are unknown in Holland (except for the Egg McMuffin, perhaps), so when Marks and Sparks closed, I was bereft of one of my favourite breakfast foods.

Since then, I've had to rely on visits home to Canada for my EM fixes, and I've occasionally tried making them myself, with various recipes. Most of these seemed too bread-like and never achieved the chewy, porous texture of the commercial muffins I was used to. But I've found English Muffin valhalla with the following recipe. Using a yeast batter (not dough) and rings to keep the muffins in shape on the griddle, this is it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Minestrone

I am about to head off to England for a few days and wanted to use up some of the vegetables I have lying around before I go. Since I also had some good chicken stock (made in the slow cooker from bones leftover from Slow Cooker Basque Chicken), soup was a logical idea.

The result is one of those wonderful serendipitous soups that deserves a repeat! Sweet from the onions, roasted tomatoes, and sweet potato, nicely warmed by the green chile, with underlying depth from the stock, with a hint of smokiness from the roasted peppers. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Basque Chicken (Slow Cooker)

I made this thinking it would be a good alternative to coq au vin and a way to use a small organic soup chicken that I had in the fridge.

Despite the small size of the chicken, it was too big for all the pieces to fit easily in the slow cooker. Not to worry, I made a light chicken broth with the back, neck, and other bits that wouldn't fit.

The result was tasty but next time I will make some changes:

  • Use only chicken legs. This was a soup chicken, and with the long cooking it still remained fairly tough and stringy. And chicken breast always dries out.
  • Remove the skin from the chicken after browning and before adding it to the pot. I always remove the skin before eating anyway and wonder how much extra flavour it imparts.

Baked Halibut with Mustard and Dill

There is a store in Amsterdam called Fishes which deals only in sustainably caught fish, usually with a MFC (Marine Stewardship Council) certificate. It's not in my neighbourhood, so I don't often get there, but this week I placed an order with Ruud Maaz and treated myself to a piece of halibut from Fishes. I had forgotten how good halibut tastes.

It can also handle somewhat stronger flavours. I had some leftover curried spinach (saag without the paneer) that I planned to eat with it, so I decided to bake it with a bit of Dijon mustard and dill, and topped with some tomato slices. Sprinkled a bit of lemon juice and olive oil over top, baked for 10-12 minutes. It was wonderful!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Oatmeal Bread

I can sometimes get very discouraged about bread in Holland. There are a couple of good bakers in Amsterdam, such as Hartog and Vlaamsche Broodhuis, but most bread in supermarkets and even ordinary bakers is soft and squishy, no matter what the colour, grain, or the number of seeds in it.

So today I decided to make my own bread again. I dug into one of my new cookbooks and came up with Oatmeal Sandwich Bread. This recipe produces a very soft, sticky dough so it is not well suited to hand kneading. Instead, I put the apple-green machine to work.

The recipe calls for the mixed ingredients, except the salt, to rest for half an hour to autolyse. It lets the flour absorb more moisture and produce a moister loaf. It certainly seems to work, producing a large, flavourful loaf with a good crumb. It slices easily and does indeed work well for sandwiches.

The loaf is very large, rising well over the pan. I think I might split the dough into two smaller pans next time.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I'm not much of a baker, mainly because I like to eat the stuff that I bake and that's not good for me. But every once in a while comes an occasion that really needs a celebratory cake. My mother recently turned 85 and she is still game enough to travel, so when she came to visit me here in Holland a couple of weeks after her birthday I organized a little get-together for her. And the cake I made is an old family favourite—Black Forest Cake.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fish from Landmarkt

Yesterday I decided to check out a newly opened market/supermarket in North Amsterdam. They call it a covered market, but it is more like a supermarket that tries to concentrate on local produce, fish, and meat. At this time of year there is not that much local  produce yet, but the fish and meat counters were very well stocked and attractive, the bakery had great bread, and the service was super friendly.

I bought an ugly fish (zeeduivel a.k.a. sea devil, monkfish, angler fish) and had them clean it and give me the head and bones so I could make some fish stock (a.k.a. fumet). They asked if I wanted some more fish carcases, so I came away with a couple of small turbots at no extra cost. Like I said, nice service.

After checking out some recipes and advice on the internet, this is the fumet I made. It turned out very flavourful, perfect for a lovely Italian fish soup that I plan to make soon. And that fish pie recipe I still need to perfect.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kitchen Gadgets

You would think I have everything my little heart desires in the way of kitchen paraphernalia but I have found room for 2 new acquisitions that I have sort of been wanting—a mandolin and a small slow cooker.

I think the mandolin is my favourite of the two. Instead of being a full-fledged job with multiple blades and a box, and something to protect your fingers, and that costs almost a hundred euros (like the OXO deluxe mandolin), and which claims more space that I don't have in a kitchen cupboard, this is a simple hand-held plastic number with a ceramic blade that cost under 10 euros. And it just hangs on a rack when not in use. Since its acquisition I have been making thinly shaved salads almost everyday. My favourite is a fennel-cucumber salad.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Busy Sunday

Yesterday morning, a glorious sunny day, the first true spring day (20 degrees!), I found myself sauntering along the Albert Cuyp Markt—3 or 4 blocks of vegie/fruit, cheese, charcuterie, cheese, poultry, fish, and clothing vendors. Part of the pleasure of the market is the people watching, and the snatches of overheard conversations in that awful Amsterdam working class accent, lunch a sandwich from Tjin's Exotic Broodjes, poking into the Pittenkoning (one of my favourite kitchenware stores), and just reveling in the sun.

Needless to say, I came home with some goodies and today I spent the day cooking. I've cooked for the week and that has included:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Local Food

The local food movement has reached the Netherlands! Today, as I came home from shopping (clothes, not food), I noticed a mini-market on the square in front of Studio K, the café associated with the cinema of the same name next to my apartment building. There was stew from the Veluwe (the mildy hilly area in the center of the country, home to woods, drift sand, and heather where deer and wild pigs still roam), local honey, artisanal bread, dry sausages, and flyers about a new online supermarket that will deliver mostly-local, mostly organic produce, meat and fish to your door. It's the initiative of a local couple from a distribution point in East Amsterdam (Watergraafsmeer).

My first order is already placed!   www.ruudmaaz.nl

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pork Cooked in Milk, with Bay and Cinnamon

Normally I stay clear of combining meat with milk. It's a combination that doesn't appeal to me (I will never choose Beef Stroganoff in a restaurant, for example). I'm not kosher about it--pepperoni pizza, here I come--but in general, I avoid it.

But to prove how goy I really am, this Spanish recipe for pork cooked in milk (from Moro) intrigued me and proved to be delicious. There is a plainer version in Essentials of Italian Cooking, and the Moro recipe also mentions using lemon zest and sage leaves instead of bay and cinnamon, so you could make lots of variations.

Basically, it involves browning a pork roast in a pot, adding milk and flavourings, and then simmering with the lid half off until the pork is cooked and still juicy, and the milk has evaporated leaving the remaining solids to caramelize into an almost cheesy sauce. It sounds simple, and it IS simple, but ...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Garlic-Saffron Roast Chicken

Several weeks ago I put a gift certificate towards a new cookbook: Moro: The Cookbook. Moro is a restaurant the focuses on flavours from Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East. I'm not that keen on Spanish cooking as experienced in restaurants, at least the ones I've been to in my one trip to Spain. It's very meat-heavy and they don't understand that ham should not be part of a salad for vegetarians. (In contrast, the home cooking at Villa Matilde , where we stayed, was fabulous.) But I love North African food and would like to discover Spanish food that I like, hence the new cookbook.

All this is leading up to a recipe that was not in the cookbook! I started out seasoning a chicken a day in advance to make Zuni roast chicken, but on the day decided I wanted to do something new. Moro had a recipe for Chicken Stuffed with Garlic and Coriander. I didn't have coriander, but the rest of the recipe sounded intriguing so I made it without and served it to my guests that evening, followed by Casablanca Oranges (Jane Brody's Good Food Gourmet) for dessert, made with blood oranges and clementines.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Beef Rollade Braised in Tomato-Onion Sauce

I'm gradually making my way through the free-range beef in the freezer, and it is forcing me to explore new territory.  I love stews of all kinds, things that require long slow cooking and imprecise timing, and ground meat is flexible and easy to handle, but steaks and roasts are terra incognita for me. My experience with steak several weeks ago was not that positive, so it was with some trepidation that I turned my hand to the cuts of braadstuk (literally, roasting piece).  Of course, I ratcheted up the tension by inviting someone for dinner too.

I found the basic recipe on the internet (Braadstuk in tomatensaus), but adapted it in several ways:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cooking Sundays

Sundays tend to be the day I cook for the rest of the week. Saturdays are spent in errands, or lazing around recovering from the work week, or browsing through recipes planning things I'd like to try. But Sundays I get up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to cook. Today the agenda called for polpettini, eggplant curry, a lamb stew or curry, and deviled eggs (for the apartment potluck reception  this afternoon).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meal Planning and the Pantry for One

Unlike my mother, who usually plans meals for the whole week and mostly sticks to the plan, I tend to have only the vaguest ideas about what I will eat during the week. Often I'll make some kind of dish in the weekend that lasts me for multiple meals through the week. Too frequently, I end up with some forgotten vegetables and fresh herbs wilting their life away in the fridge. I hate throwing food out so some may end up in a soup pot, but too often some of it hits the trash.

I wouldn't feel so bad if we had a decent composting program here, but that went the way of the dodo. To be fair, I think a green waste collection program is pretty tough in a city where most people live in apartments. There is no garage or outside bin where you can store the stuff until it gets collected.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Spiced Cabbage Rolls

Today I was trying to find a way to use up the rest of a savoy cabbage that was wilting fast. I also had some ground beef defrosting in the fridge, so cabbage rolls immediately sprung to mind. The beef is quite high in fat, which is great for flavour and tenderness but not so great for my waist line, so I decided to mix it with some bulgur and vegetables to bulk it up and spread the load.

The bulgur made me think of tabouleh and middle-eastern dishes with raisins, which lead me to a new twist on cabbage rolls. The actual spices I used could be considered Moroccan or Indian. I just consider the result very good!

I only had enough cabbage leaves to do a half recipe (enough to serve 2 people) of cabbage rolls, so the rest of the meat mixture is now macerating in the fridge, ready to be turned into a little meat loaf tomorrow.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Vietnamese Pho

It's not that I haven't been cooking the last few weeks, it's just that with my little point-and-shoot camera, I can really only get decent pictures during the day. In the late afternoon and evening, when I'm usually cooking, I need to rely on artificial light (and standing absolutely still!) or on the flash, and that leads to orange blurry pictures or to garish glistening ones. My birthday is coming up next week so maybe I should gift myself a better camera and decent flash.

Anyway, one of the dishes I have been living off of for most of this week is a Vietnamese beef soup called Pho (pronounced like French feu).