Fishy Volendam

DSC02713

During a dinner last week, for some reason (after a couple of white wines) we got the idea to make a little trip up to Volendam, primarily to get dressed up in traditional Dutch costumes – in which especially yours truly looks hilarious, being quite obviously not of Dutch descent…

Volendam is a little town just north of Amsterdam, famous for its picturesque looking old Dutch houses on a dyke, the fact that all people seem to have just one of 10 different surnames (anyone said inbreed? Shhhhhhh ;-)), many Dutch singers come from this place whose music is sometimes called ‘palingsound'(eelsound). This is because most importantly, Volendam is known for its fish.

Warning: extremely cheesy tune ahead

When we arrived, the first thing we did was getting our picture taken. Now as this is a public blog, I’m not going as far as revealing how incredibly ridiculous our group looks as old Dutch farmers. You’ll have to do with this lady, who kindly gave her permission to be shown here:DSC02696

Once this was out of the way, we could go and do what everyone does in Volendam: eat fish. Loads of it.

DSC02712

The location we chose for our fish was a little shop on the dyke – long tourist and locals queueing up won us over.
As we just couldn’t choose (and this blog needs to be filled with all relevant dishes), we went for all the local favourites:

Broodje paling (smoked eel bun)
The absolute Volendam speciality, the poor things just don’t get a life here as tonnes of eel gets eaten around this place. And at high speed, as before I could get my camera out, it had vanished. Use this link instead.

HaringDSC02716
The original Dutch sushi, herring is traditionally eaten raw with onions and optional pickle. Love it or loathe it – I must admit that I kind of like the buttery texture of this fish. However, be careful – this combination leaves you with a very foul breath. Unless you enjoy being turned down, have some mints at hand.

Kibbeling
This is a fried cod snack, very similar to the English style battered fish. The only real difference is that kibbeling used to be leftover fish which people would fry up, and to this day it’s always served as bite sized chunks.DSC02714

The verdict: well worth a short stopover!

Advertisements

Where to find Amsterdamned good…Italian food

There aren’t many travelers who don’t like a nice Italian meal. A tourist trap favourite cuisine to offer, Italian restaurants are in almost every western town and vary heavily in quality. Amsterdam’s no exception – there are around 250 Italian restaurants excluding take away/delivery counters in this village alone (with just over 756,000 inhabitants, it’s tiny compared to most world capitals *random Amsterdam trivia).

Annoyed by the quality of some restaurants, we decided to do some research to find the best places forra di pasta e pizza ina di towna. That’s just about the best Italian impression I can manage. Comments in Italian are welcome.

1. Incanto
Amstel 2
website

Situated on the second floor of a building overlooking the Muntplein/Flower Market area of the city, this gem is hardly noticable on the outside. Its relaxed modern interior, very pure offerings and extensive Italian wine list make it the spot for your special evening in Amsterdam. I particularly love their risotto as part of my meals there. Not suitable for those on a budget or only into casual dining, but worth every penny if you feel like splashing out a bit.

2. Mappa
Nes 59
website

Trendy eatery in the theatre street Nes close to Dam square. Very nice simple pasta dishes for a reasonable price. Great for winding down after a long day in town or just a nice casual dinner. I quite frequently take people out here, most recently including two Italian colleagues, who didn’t complain 😉 .Try their orange tiramisu as well (when available)!

3. Casa di David
Singel 426
website

Already a favourite amongst locals and tourists because of the good authentic tasting dishes on offer, Casa di David is a safe bet for a good Italian meal in the centre. One of the few real Italian restaurants that also do proper pizzas. However, food quality seems to have gone to the heads of staff a little as service can be dreadful. If you can stand being ignored from time to time or getting the ‘you should be glad to be here’ treatment when busy and concentrate on the food instead, you’ll have a good night out.

4. La Storia della Vita
Weteringschans 171
website

About 10 minutes walk from Leidseplein and just a few minutes away from the Heineken brewery is this family run restaurant, which is quite the experience (and wins the Hungryhelen award for prettiest name for a restaurant in town :-)). Listen to their Italian granddad sing and play the piano while having an a la carte or surprise meal (on weekends, they only offer a 3-6 course fish or meat menu from EUR 32,50). After a dinner with friends, mentioned granddad came up to our table with a cart full of after dinner drinks, and we all left with smiles. Also great for your date.

5. Gustavino
Gustav Mahlerplein 16
website

This one’s more for locals and business travelers, as Gustavino’s located in the Zuidas area of town just outside the Amsterdam Zuid train and subway station (the newly created business oriented district). Already well known amongst people working in the area, this is a nice place for business lunches and casual smart dinners. Following the typical Italian primi and secondi courses, they offer good quality pizzas, pastas and proper mains in a pretty trendy setting.

Ciao!

Rome 003

The rock ‘n’ roll diet – try some festival food!

What do music, beer, tents, portable toilets, large fields and junk food have in common? Festivals!
Each year, I suddenly forget the fact that I detest camping with a passion and get tickets for at least one of the European rock festivals. Peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll, right? Well no, leave out peace and love, 21st century festies are all about junk food, beer and rock ‘n’ roll. Three guesses what’s on todays’ blog menu?
DSC02606
Last weekend, we were at the Pinkpop festival in the south of The Netherlands. As festival food can be just as entertaining as the bands on display, we went on a grand tour of festival food stands to taste to give you an idea of what you’ve missed (or perhaps not)…IMAGE_373

Saturday, 12 PM:
Arrive at the festival. Tent’s up, looking for lunch. Check food stalls on the way…hamburger type bun with stuff that staff would like to sell as gyros gets picked. Was lukewarm, tasted like anything but gyros, but no instant diarrhea. Bonus.

IMAGE_3742:30 PM:
After much walking between car and tent, time to get ready for the main event. Fuel: German bratwurst. What a shame, this one lacked spices. Guess the guy of the stall figured that if 2/3 of his weekend clientele would be drunk anyway.

 

6:00 PM:
In need of refueling after the hilarious performance of the all star punk rock (cover)band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Watch it here, from 10″50 – if you like the genre, that is 😉.
IMAGE_375Decide to head left of the main stage for dinner. Hamburgers, chips, shoarma, spring rolls…fresh oysters? In the 10+ years I’ve been visiting festivals, I’ve never come across something like a festival oyster bar. Which also made me think – this cannot be right, surely this is to guarantee having to do things you don’t want to do in a portable toilet? Skipped and had a selection of canteen quality pasta and vegetables. Cost 12 euros, but probably the healthiest meal I’ve ever had at an event.

7:30 PM:IMAGE_377
We don’t drink an awful lot like some of the (not necessarily younger) festival crowd. However, being outside all day and having the odd beverage makes you hungry, so we decided to tuck into a typical Dutch snack – poffertjes (pov-er-chus). Best described as mini pancakes with a soft center, they’re enjoyed with loads of powdered sugar and butter. That’s because otherwise there’s no taste to it whatsoever. Finished our portion just on time for Bruce Springsteen.

12:30 AM:
Back in tent, once again craving for snacks. Took a mini snack salami, then sleep.

                                   Sunday, 10:00 ADSC02607M:
Wake up to find someone left some ladies’ underwear next to our tent. OK. Time to eat…wow, there’s so much grease on offer at the campsite stalls that it’s hard to choose. The only healthy options are yoghurt bowls and fruit juice, both costing around 6 euros a go. Now we’re not prepared to pay high class prices for low quality versions of fruit breakfasts, so we had some dodgy looking savoury pancakes – filled with bacon and enough cheese to hide the actual pancake flavour.

 
1:00 PM:
Old ska heroes Madness are up later in the afternoon, this means we need a hearty lunch: braadworst. The Dutch version of bratwurst, served in a bun with onion, mayonaise and ketchup. Yes, sausage again. Pinkpop seems to have sausage vendors scattered around all over the place. Not that I mind, and as an added bonus, this was the first snack that exceeded our expectations. Bravo!

7:00 PM:IMAGE_381
Wandering around the festival grounds we find many empty plates of everything from pizza slices to fried chicken. However, we’re feeling exotic and opt for a fusion ‘Indian stir fry’ with Turkish bread and enough garlic sauce to ensure a completely non-Indian taste. What it did taste like? Pre-seasoned frozen vegetables mixed with chicken and bamboo shoots. With sauce. For 8 euros. If this is the level required for serving food at events, I will stock up and start my own food cart next year.

IMAGE_3827:20 PM:
Not only was this meal dissappointing in taste, it was also a remarkably small amount we got served. Need some more food. We agreed to have some mini Vietnamese spring rolls. Spring rolls are so popular in The Netherlands one may almost call it a Dutch snack. We were pleasantly surprised that it was actually quite nice – bite sized, nice slightly tangy sauce, no need to squeeze out frying oil before consuming. Amazing, a second OK snack on one day! After the bands, went on to celecrate with friends at the campsite after party.

Monday, 10:00 AM:
Avoid pancakes. Spotted fried eggs on bread with bacon and cheese, had this. Good enough to give us energy until we get our first drinks of the day.

1 PM:
We couldn’t find any short queues for getting food/drink tickets, so needed something cheap for lunch. We hadn’t had any french fries yet this weekend, so here goes! Splash on a truckload of mayo, sit down on the grass to enjoy whilst listening to a Belgian singer called Novastar and watch people voluntarily getting themselves sunburnt.

IMAGE_384

3 PM:
It’s really a wonderful sunny day today, and on sunny days we all need to have ice creams. We took ours to the crowd to enjoy during the set of a Canadian punk band. Felt quite rebellious standing there innocently eating up the cone.

7 PM:DSC02683
Have overpriced but slightly healthy dinner again at the oyster bar. Same selection of veggies, meat  and some lasagna. However, clouds break seconds after I took the picture, and I can tell you that it takes a lot better food to be able to hold its taste when coming in contact with rain.

10:30 PM:
Last act of the festival on stage, but stomach not satisfied. With one food ticket left, I treated myself to the Dutchiest of all snacks, the kroket. This gooey meat snack with breaded crust is a favourite amongst the Dutch and many tourists, and always works as a quick comfort fix. As I finish my kroket, the festival comes to an end. Time to pack up and go back to proper food world!

To leave you with a little bit of that festival feeling, here’s a clip of the Madness performance:

Where to have Amsterdamned good…Chinese food

Dear foodies, let me introduce to you the first edition of a recurring topic on this blog – Amsterdam restaurant recommendations.
During a drink with an old schoolfriend I was asked why I’ll blog about eating everywhere and in any situation – but not about my favourite eateries around town. My initial thought was ‘well why would people be interested in Amsterdam-only reviews?’ Until he confronted me with the fact that actually, Amsterdam is a popular tourist location. That’s right. Silly me.

2479815152_8c485dc03e(C) Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Guide

You’ll probably have guessed by now that I’ll be discussing the places to be for Chinese food today.
Amsterdam has the largest Chinatown in The Netherlands, adjacent to the (in)famous Red Light District. Grab a shag, grab a doggy bag…;-)
I find it particularly hard to find great Cantonese food outside of Hong Kong, so when I moved to the ‘dam one of the first things on my list was to actually find that great restaurant that doesn’t serve Dutch style rice and noodles only barely edible with piles of peanut sauce (watch out for places serving ‘bami’ or ‘nasi’, especially the special version). General rule: go for places where you can find local Chinese and don’t complain about service – it’s all about the food! Here you go:

1. Oriental City
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 177-179
website

The place to be for delicious dim sum lunches. This restaurant is a hit with the local Chinese community who’ll take their families out for their weekend get-togethers. Waiting time for tables of over half an hour’s no exception at weekends, but well worth it once you get your steamed treasures! Also serve decent Cantonese and Sichuan dinner courses.

2. Nam Kee
Geldersekade 117 and Zeedijk 111
website

Probably the most famous Chinese restaurant in The Netherlands, this place was used for a book/movie called ‘De Oesters van Nam Kee’ (The Oysters of Nam Kee). Also, this typical Chinese restaurant romantically lit by fluorecsent lamps is the only one who have their own cookbook out. No place for a first date or anniversary, find your good traditional dinners and wonderful noodles here. Do also try the famous oysters, steamed and served covered in black bean sauce. Mouthwatering good!

3. Taste of Culture
Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 139
website

Not in Chinatown but in the Leidseplein area, this restaurant serving a selection of ‘regional Chinese dishes’ is regarded as one of the new gems in town. Several well known Dutch restaurant reviewers gave this place their thumbs up, so find a mix of Chinese and curious Dutch. Unfortunately, this means that their menu does contain some Dutch-friendly dishes, so check that you’re getting actual traditional dishes if you’re not at home in Chinese cuisine. Tip: try the claypot dishes.

Remember, Chinese food is to be shared – unless you go for a fusion restaurant, don’t think you can just order a main course per person. You’ll be dissappointed and feeling bloated for at least a week after 😉

Student comfort food

People who’ve experienced college life will all have something in common: working all night to reach a deadline. Once they graduate, they vow never to study again, settle down and file their marathon shifts under the category ‘back in the day’, subfile ‘glad I don’t have to go through that anymore’.

Some people, such as myself, however make the smart or absolutely insane decision to take up another part time course after full time college life. Yes, it has the advantage of having that second degree you should’ve really gotten the first time round but hadn’t figured out at the time that it was the right course to do and there were no hot men walking around there etc., etc., etc., but more importantly, here I am working on my thesis at 5 in the morning.

So what has this got to do with food, you ask? Well, everything! My all-nighter tonight brought back memories of a significant help during those hard times: student comfort food. Oddly enough, or perhaps actually not surprising at all, my kitchen contains enough food of this category to satisfy my cravings.

To qualify for student comfort food, consumables need to meet most of the following criteria:
– cheap
– quick
– microwavable or frozen
– often tinned
– in small portions. Like, you can’t have a full meal and work at the same time, duh!

Let’s go through a little top 10 of student comfort food lying around the hungryhelen ops base:

10. Mini milktart. I know my previous blog writes about this being an absolute success, but I should keep in mind only ‘mature’ students like myself will bake their own cakes. If it were from the local supermarket, it could’ve scored higher.
9. Tinned veggies (peas, corn…) – easy, cheap, vitamins and requires just a spoon to scoop out. Lovely.
8. Last night’s dinner. Easy option, but you always feel like you should’ve kept it for the next day like you said you would. The student will now have to buy another meal instead of beer with their last two Euros.
7. Chocolate. Makes frustrated students happy, however, chocolate is consumed all day at work and college, how much more can a human take?
6. Tinned fish. Tuna and mackerel are cheap, easy to scoop out and students will refer to it as healthy food. It goes great with melted cheese. What else do you want?
5. Eggs. Usually opted for at the end of the allnighter, this quickly refuels any starving student.
4. Potato crisps. No snack top 10 is complete without it. Not number 1 here though – it’s crispyness can interrupt sessions requiring absolute cncentration.
3. Ice cream. It’s a classic, it comes in many flavours including your dinner, and cools any overheated student down.
2. Instant noodles/soup. Why on 2? Because it has the disadvantage of having to be prepared, even though we do it with love.

And the winner…

1. Sausage! It’s nice and harty and fatty and chewy – instant comfort and requires no cutlery to eat. Boerewors, droë wors, bockwurst, frankfurter, salami, fuet, chorizo, breakfast sausage…hurray! Thanks for keeping me up all night!

IMAGE_365

I’m such a (milk)tart – part 2

*check out the full recipe on the ‘recipes’ page!*

Finally, some time to finish baking the long drooled for milktart. I triple checked that all ingredients are here and chucked away the man who’s still doubting whether the tart will be baked at all, so I’m ready. Attempt #2, let’s start!

First, of course one needs to melt butter before being able to knead it with other ingredients. As I’ve got quite a short attention span, I start to write this weeks’ shopping list while waiting.IMAGE_357

Then, after transferring the now melted butter to a mixing bowl, add sugar and egg and whisk away. Do ensure you pour the suger into your measuring cup, not on your kitchen top like me, the idiot.

Add in the flour, sifted. I’ve always like sifting, it’s like being a percussionist in a way. Do it in a beat for a more musical crust.

IMAGE_358Let the games begin: kneading time! Often seen as the best part of the baking process, get your hands nice and dirty and knead until you have that nice soft dough. You know you’re on the right track if your kitchen has become a right mess by this point. In my case, uhm, yes. Check.

 

Now, you’re ready to fill your pie dish. Before doing so, draw a friendly face in your dough.

IMAGE_359

If you have any dough left like me, don’t throw it away, fill a muffin tin for some cute mini milktarts! And donIMAGE_360‘t forget feeding some dough to the (significant) other, as they seem to love tasting unfinished product.

 

While the crust is in the oven, start preparing the filling. Boil milk and butter mixture, and prepare a bowl of the other ingredients. Give it a good mix and throw it in the remix with some of the boiled milk, heat again until it’s as thick as a cream sauce, and wowsie – ready to fill the dish!

Et voila!

IMAGE_361Before putting it away in the fridge to set, I showed the result off to the now impressed man. Just a few more hours and some cinnamon sprinkled to taste and I can munch away and imagine I’m back in Africa again…yum! Don’t think there’ll be a lot of sharing of this one 😉

I’m such a (milk)tart – part 1

Milktart*, or in Afrikaans melktert, is one of South Africa’s best known desserts. It’s also one of my all-time favourite sweet treat.
Unfortunately, the number of South African eateries in Amsterdam can be counted on one hand, so the best way to get your milktart fix is by baking it yourself.

Now it’s been quite some years since I’ve baked a milktart, so I’ll have to start from scratch. This means absolute concentration and taking precautions against scenes possible to arise during the baking process:

– lock away the significant other who believes he can do anything better

IMAGE_351
– chase the cat out of the kitchen who really fancies leaving flour footprints around the house

 
– vodka, in case of failing miserably at this fist attempt (over 18 and 21 only depending on your country of residence ;-))

IMAGE_346

 

 

 

 

 

Once done, it’s time to gather all ingredients and tools. Add some leftover salad to snack on. From here, I’ll give you the step-by-step guide to baking this tart.

IMAGE_344

1. Peek at the recipe
2. Discover everything is noted in US units
3. Mild panic, start searching unit converters
4. Discover that fortunately the measuring cups show both US and metric unit sizes (THANK YOU IKEA)
5. Onwards, start measuring sugar
6. Add flour
7. Shucks, perhaps I should’ve bought some more flour
8. Whoopsie, I’m short of half a cup of flour
9. Abandon project
10. Admit failure to significant other who subsequently starts to laugh in my face

So it looks like I’m going to have to wait until tomorrow before showing off my skills. Until then, I’ll take a tiny shot of that vodka to drown my sorrows.

To be continued……….

IMAGE_355

 

 

 

 

*Want to make one too? Recipe will be up together with part 2!