A New Beginning

It will be difficult to clean all the old year’s dust from the house (restaurant) before the new year, as is custom in some cultures. This weekend saw Oren’s kitchen destroyed by fire. The restaurant itself is completely intact, but covered in a black film of dust. Oren is closed till further notice, but we are improvising and opening a pop up restaurant at different locations during weekends.

For me, this means a new beginning. Where one road closes, another one opens. A reason to celebrate even. All the frills of Christmas make us almost forget that we are celebrating ‘a new light in darkness’. When I grew up in the Netherlands New Years Eve was as important as Christmas. Lots of fireworks to get rid of the old year’s dark spirits in the midwinter sky. In old times they believed the fat of fried foods would make the spirits’ swords slide off you. To this day Oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts for New Years Eve) are immensely popular.

The biggest New Years celebrations will be in February when the Chinese are welcoming the year of the Snake and in March when Nowruz is celebrated in Iran and other countries with Persian influences. Both have a lot of traditional foods connected to the new year:



In Pop Up Oren this week a Japanese menu, full of detoxing ingredients. Mochi – a glutinous rice cake – will feature on the menu. It is Japan’s most common New year’s food. Two round Mochi cakes (symbolising the coming and going year) are placed on top of each other, to form  Kagami Mochi, mirror cake.


Mochi is available in a good oriental supermarket. It is also eaten savoury, in stews. This video shows you how to make a classic Ozoni, new years stew. Dont be put off by the name of the ‘author’: cooking with dog.


Gingered Squash Sushi
Crunchy Nori Bundles wih Peanut Dressing
Ham Pancake
Salmon & Potato Miso Stew
Teriyaki Tofu
Braised Red Cabbage with Umeboshi
New Year Mochi Rice Cakes
Turnip pickle
Chestnut Dessert

sweet memory

In these dark days before christmas  I was called home because my dad was near the end of his life.  He died last Sunday, and we said our final goodbyes on December 21st, the day darkness turns lighter again.

I have been able to spend one week with my dad on the last bit of his way. It was hard but I will always be thankful for it. At one point in this week I was making a puzzel in the newspaper. The solution was ‘Every sadness will turn into a sweet memory in the end’.

That made me think of rosemary. The ever fragrant rosemary is a symbol of memories of love and friendship. In Mediterranean countries it was traditionally used at weddings and funerals. It is mentioned in Shakespeares Hamlet as the herb of remembrance.

For me poignant is that you have to do something to smell it, it releases it’s scent through touch.


I put a recipe for Rosemary Buttercake in ‘Hemelse Spijzen’, the book I had the pleasure of writing with Tini Brugge, in 2004. It will be on the menu this coming week. I hope it releases your own sweet memories, maybe when you think of this year gone by.

(it is called Buttercake but think Shortbread when you make it)

  • 160 g plain flour
  • 160 g butter
  • 80 g light soft brown sugar
  • 80 ground almonds
  • 2 teasp chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teasp dried)
  • 1 teasp vanilla sugar (caster sugar infused with vanilla)

Mix butter & sugar to a creamy mass. Add the rosemary and ground almonds and sieve in the flour. Mix to a smooth pastry. Bake in a round tin, 2o mins on 170 in a preheated oven. Take the tin from the oven and make wedges by cutting with the blunt side of a knife into the still soft cake. Sprinkle with the sugar and leave to cool.

St. Nicolas and Ivan Denisovich

It is St. Nicolas time back home in the Netherlands. In the middle of November he arrived on his steamboat from Spain, with his Moorish servants, all called (very political incorrectly) Black Pete. Since then he has been riding on his dapple horse over the rooftops, to have a look if children have been behaving well. Young believers, say under the age of 7, have put their shoes at the bottom of the chimney, sang their special St. Nicolas songs, and have found some treats the next morning as a reward. It all culminates on the eve of December the 5th, when the bag with presents for all the well behaved children arrives.


Here a recipe for Kruidnoten – say a Dutch version of Amaretti biscuits. Crunchy gingerbread drops, perfect to leave some in a shoe at the bottom of the chimney.

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 2 teasp of cinnamon
  • 1 teasp of ground ginger
  • 1 teasp of ground aniseed
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of white pepper
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of cloves
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2 tablesp of butter

Mix everything together into a dough, adding a tablespoon or 2 of cold milk if necessary. Wrap & rest in a fridge for at least 2 hours, but preferrably overnight for the flavours to blend. Roll small pieces (think amaretti) from the dough and flatten them a bit on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 15 mins in a preheated oven of 200°.


My pedantic site always wants to point out that the Santa Claus living with this elves and reindeer on the North Pole is a poor Americanised version of our original. ‘Sinterklaas’. But than I realise the Dutch myths around him are as far away from the original St. Nicolas story as well. That Saint Nicolas was a bishop in Turkey who saved some children from being cooked in a pot!

St. Nicolas is since then regarded as a protector of the weak, and as such Russia’s most beloved saint. The Russian champion of the disadvantaged. And by sheer coincidence we are having a Russian menu this week! But that is because Louise from Oren’s bookclub (gathering this Thursday) has chosen ‘A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ by Alexander Solzenytchin to read. I had to put  the book down, because it made me feel so cold. Maybe that’s why I chose the ham cooked in hay. That hay just said ‘warmth’ to me.

  • Zakuski (Russian Tapas)
  • Lazy S’chee (Cabbage Soup)
  • Ham Cooked with Hay & Beer
  • Salmon Steak in Madeira with Shrimp Sauce
  • Vegetarian Forshmak  (smoked tofu baked in cream)
  • served with baked Kasha (buckwheat) and mixed winter vegetables
  • Russian Brown Betty

We are cooking from ‘The Best of Russian Cooking’ by Alexandra Kropotkin this week.