Memories in a Jar

 

  • Chantarelle mushroom soup
  • Liquorice lamb with roasted vegetables & sweet carrot jus
  • Fish frikadeller with curry remoulade
  • Open pie with rye crust and rice & smoked cheese filling
  • Pancake tart with apple & rosehip sauce and blackberries

Finally time to do some contemplative writing again, after a busy summer. It’s been good, making friends for life over breakfast while running a B&B, enjoying all the fresh local produce in the restaurant & having manic days while popping up with Oren at festivals as Gwyl Arall and Gwyl Gardd Goll.
Now, with the wind blowing around the house, autumn has definitely arrived and brings a bit of melancholy with it. Nature is starting to show its more sorrowful colours in the deep red & purple of aubergines, plums, blackberries, elderberries & grapes. I would love to spend some time in a vineyard in Southern France to experience the buzz of the harvest and the anticipation of the wine it will make.

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The chill in the air and the first yellow leafs are telling us to hurry up, gather our produce and preserve the summer for the dark days to come. It is the season of jam & chutney making. No wonder there are no jam jars left in Caernarfon’s hard ware shop as we bought the last ones for the green tomato chutney I made. No point in waiting for the perfectly glossy full bodied but hard & green tomatoes to get some colour. Better off putting them in a jar where they will remind me of the good summer I had growing them.

trekker
Of all the jams, rosehip must be my favourite. Ever since one summer as a small boy I helped pick Mrs. Blauw lots of them from our bushes, and she gave me a Matchbox Ford tractor as my reward. Mrs. Blauw was one of the few people to recognize the value of these fruits of the flower of love. They need a bit of work, with their little devils of thorns and millions of rock hard seeds. But after a good cooking you end up with a scented syrupy goodness – full of vitamin c.

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All in all a good symbol of the sweet memories I am left with after the hard work this summer.

 

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Kashba & Farm

 


Chicken meatballs with lemon Harissa relish

Grilled seabass with herb & raisin salsa and Chermoulah marinade
Broad bean burger
Poached asparagus & carrots with caper mayonnaise
Jersey Royal salad
Vine leaf, herb & yoghurt pie
Bulghur wheat Kisir
Roast rhubarb with sweet labneh

Time to celebrate Ottolenghi’s recipes again. His ‘Plenty’ is one of my favourite cookery books, and after it good damaged in the fire a customer gave me a fresh new copy, hoping that I would use it as often.

Most of the recipes have got a modern Middle Eastern flair – Ottolenghi is originally from Jerusalem. Reading his recipes it strikes me that the love for fresh ingredients almost jumps of the page. Images of a Middle Eastern Kasbah come to mind, with piles of watermelons, tomatoes, aubergines, the scent of fresh coriander & mint, and a spice bazaar full of yellow & red and all the colours between them.

veggiestan

I’ve never been to such a place, but reading the words ‘pomegranate molasses’, ‘zumac’ and ‘za’atar’ brings me back to the Kanaalstraat in Utrecht, where I lived close by for years. It is in a multicultural neighbourhood, which is regarded as an example of integration. You’ll find an abundance of Halal butchers, Moroccan greengrocers, Turkish bakeries, Iranian supermarkets next to a an excellent wine shop, a Dutch cheese specialist and a well stocked fresh fish monger. A couple of Surinamese shops selling a unique mix of Oriental & Caribbean ingredients make it complete.
UTRECHT-KRACHTWIJK-LOMBOK
I know realise how fortunate I have been to have all this on my doorstep in my beginning years as a chef. Still remember that I first discovered a bottle of pomegranate molasses and asking the shopkeeper what to do with it. And after reading about it in some cookery books, spotting a vegetable like cardoons (blanched thistle) a couple of months later.

Being able to do all the shopping in one street was perfect– on the bike of course! It is not only the variety of produce that drove me there time and time again, but also the cheap prices and certainly the quality of the products. Whatever fruit I would buy, it would be ripe and sweet & juicy. I am always disappointed if I buy fruit in the supermarket now – never really right. Maybe that is because it’s all part of one big logistic nightmare process. Fruit is grown industrially to an order placed months before, then picked way before it is ripe because it will take a long time (travelling, being packaged) before it ends up in the supermarkets where it has to have a bit of a shelf life.

No, I’d rather have the piles of darkest red cherries which I remember from the Kanaalstraat. Ripe & ready, yes some a bit blemished, but they need to go, so are flogged at low prices. And of course I realise that they might have been picked under not very nice circumstances in Turkey, and brought to Holland overnight in the back of an old lorry.

Here in Wales the situation is dire. No greengrocer or fish shop in Caernarfon, or in even within miles from it. A couple of good local butchers, selling Welsh beef & lamb. Bangor, a university town, has a couple of ethnic shops, an oriental supermarket and a place with Middle Eastern goods – where I hope to find my special ingredients for this menu.
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But better than buying it from the shop is buying it straight from the farm. Luckily there is quite a few of those around! I might not be able to do my shopping on the bike anymore, but driving through the beautifl Welsh countryside and see your vegetables grow and the hens who lay your eggs potter about, is an experience I wish every chef could have.

Imagination & Silent Force

 

 

Indonesian Menu for this week:

  • Sweetcorn Cakes with Fruit & Vegetable Salsa
  • Soto Ajam – Chicken in Broth with Noodles
  • Mackerel with Green Beans & Cauliflower in Spicy Coconut Sauce
  • Lotek with Petjil sauce (vegetables with peanut sauce)
  • Bananas, Ginger & Cream with Sesame Cookies

It is World Book Day and where better to spend it then in my local bookstore, Palas Print. Caernarfon is lucky enough to have this excellent independent bookshop.

For me, as a wanderer, it is a lovely place to browse through the selection. I feel strangely old fashioned to go into a bookshop and wanting to discover the next book I will be reading. Instead of knowing what I want and ordering the cheapest copy through the internet.

Today I have cooked some dishes out of cookery books which are currently on the shelf of Palas Print and serve them in the shop for lunch. Most intriguing for me is a Ploughmans Pie from the Fabulous Baker Boys. My cooking is described as imaginative but I have never thougt of cooking cheese & chutney in a pie.

http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/tv-show-recipes/the-fabulous-baker-brothers-recipes/ploughmans-pie-recipe

The evening menu this week is Indonesian, a cuisine which is to the Dutch like Indian to the British. In the Netherlands most Chinese takeways serve a mix of Chinese & Indonesian cooking adapted to Dutch taste. Take away favourite Babi Pangang for instance is Char Siu pork with a sauce which seems to be a mix of Chinese Sweet n Sour and Indonesian Satay.

sukarno

Since my childhood I’ve eaten Nasi Goreng. But I didnt connect the dilluted Dutch version  with the spice islands.  The image I had of Indonesia (evoked by stamps I collected as a child) was of  a far flung exotic place, where deep and dark  forces are at work. Smouldering heat, rice fields and waving palms. Parts of that image I found back when I started to cook more authentic Indonesian food, heavily spiced and aromatic dishes as Nasi Rames (beef) and Soto Ajam  (chicken).

A famous Dutch novel set in colonial Indonesia is called ‘The silent force’. It is to you to discover to nature of this force working through all these spices, when I put the food on the table this weekend.

food of my father

This week I spent some days back in the Netherlands again, to catch up with my mother, who at, 85 is still cooking strong. I never realised till I was a chef myself how good her food was. One of my strongest assets, my palette, I have definitely got from her. My family is a bunch of ‘good eaters’. My mum and I agreed that when my dad only had 2 (Dutch style big) pancakes instead of his usual 4, it was a sign that with his appetite he lost his lust for life. And indeed, he died just before Christmas.
Being able to shop in the Netherlands I thought this week’s menu would be for him. In spirit he will join us and share the dishes he loved with my customers.

bartje
Starting with Brown Bean Soup, using an early dry bean variety originating from Holland. Has a smooth texture with a tasty, nutty flavour. Famous in the Netherlands because a classic figure in Dutch literature, the poor farmer’s boy Bartje, didn’t want to pray at the start of a main meal of just brown beans.
My dried brown beans (pinto would be a good substitute) are soaking now. I will cook them tomorrow together with some pork ribs (tip from my mum), onion, carrot, leeks, celery leaves, white pepper, savoury & nutmeg. Certainly for about 2 hours or more, they should be mushy but not completely break up. A bit of sweet soy sauce in it does wonders, as some thinly sliced smoked sausage.
In our household this was served on a winter Saturday, the day my mother departed from the traditional meat-veg-potato meal and cooked one-pot-wonders. After my student sister brought a recipe for chilli con carne home in the 70’s, brown beans found their way to our plates in another dish on Saturdays as well.
My dad loved fish. We grew strawberries commercially when I was a child and in the abundance of summer they were swapped with buckets of undersized fish of people from the nearby fishing village Urk. Little super fresh whole but headless plaice were gently floured and then deep fried whole. Lemon sole was best pan fried in butter. No messing with sauces – it was about the pure taste of the fish.
There will be lovely fresh plaice on the menu but I could easily have done something with smoked mackerel, battered cod & salted herring still were top of my father’s menu, even when his appetite got less in the last year of his life.

peren
Dutch Pork Roll with Poached Pears is not as much on the menu because of the meat but of the pears. They are of a Dutch variety – Gieser Wildeman -, which is inedible uncooked. Rock hard. But they turn silken smooth and velvety red when cooked in some red wine and cinnamon.
This menu could be never ending. As I said – I come from a family of ‘good eaters’. Roast chicken, apple sauce, the Dutch soft drink Rivella (a dairy sideproduct!), bami goreng (fried noodles), schnitzels as big as your plate, sautéed potatoes, a hard boiled egg, traditional Twentse Krentenwegge (currant tea loaf) and pap made with buttermilk are a few of my dad’s other favourite things.
For dessert? We’ll do special oliebollen – the Dutch doughnuts I wrote about in the first blog of the year – A New Beginning.(see January archive).  For a recipe: http://www.typicaldutchstuff.com/oliebol.shtml
Baker Mick especially made a bread with sauerkraut for this menu – following an ancient recipe I found him  (typed with a typewriter!): http://www.partisanbaker.com

Initiative with Pancakes

So I am sitting in the chair by the fire in my kitchen, ready to bake some pancakes. The recipe for the batter I got from a cookbook my mother got for a wedding anniversary, 50 years ago.

250 gr flour, 1 or 2 eggs, 5-6 dl milk, teaspoon salt, 125 gr butter or lard

Make a well in the middle of flour, break the eggs in it, add the milk in small parts, and mix till smooth. Add the salt. Bake from this batter not to thick pancakes in the butter or lard in a frying pan, which are cooked and on both sides golden brown.

Oh dear. How much butter in the pan? How many pancakes will this make? How long do they need to bake on each side? On what heat? How will you turn them over?

It shows that 50 years ago they only needed some bare instructions on how to cook. Nowadays we’ve forgotten basic skills and have to search for a step by step recipe with not too many ingredients on the internet. Or buy ready-made pancake batter in the supermarket. Is that a sign of progress our society has made?

pannekoek

Really, I urge you to make some pancakes today using the above recipe. It’s not too difficult, and if the recipe is a bit vague, what is wrong with a bit of self initiative? It is so satisfying to have made your own hearty, tasty pancakes.

Bacon pancakes with syrup is a symbol of the luxury we can indulge ourselves carefree in today, before the more contemplative, spartan 6 weeks of Lent start tomorrow.

For the more adventurous a recipe for speck pancakes with yeast, from the same cookery book. Use streaky bacon as a substitute for the speck.

200 gr flour, 200 gr buckwheat flour, 20 gr fresh yeast, ¾ l milk, 2 teasp salt, 200 g streaky bacon, lard or oil

Make a yeast batter from the flours, yeast & milk & let it rise. In a frying pan melt the lard or oil and fry bacon lightly. If the fat is hot enough, add the batter and bake the pancakes till they’re done and brown on both sides.

Ok, I’ll help you. A yeast batter is made by dissolving the yeast in lukewarm milk, the mixing it with the flours, leaving it in a damp warm place, covered by a teatowel, till it is doubled in size.

In keeping with the fasting traditional for Lent a Vegetarian Valentines Meal on Thursday, and lots of vegetarian food on an Indian Kerala Buffet for the weekend.