The Flavour of Life

A Dutch farm menu this week.
Dutch  Farm Salad with Cheese and/or Cured Sausage and Buttermilk Dressing
Dutch Beef Burger with Fried Liver Sausage and Mustard
White Asparagus with Egg and Lime Tree Blossom Sauce
served with Sautéed New Potatoes, Broad Beans and Aniseed Carrots.
Dutch style Semolina Pudding with Camomile Cream and Stewed Strawberries

June is my favourite month. Spring is over. Woken up after winter, all its detoxing fresh green leafs were like a refreshing morning shower. All its flowers and blossoms were a dawn chorus of better things to come. But it is in June that these promises are kept, as it is the month of real first harvesting. Ah, the taste of freshly dug up new potatoes, planted at Easter, with some butter and mustard. Strawberries, rose blossoms turned into a sweet juicy fruit of love. Cherries, gooseberries, currants, peas, broad beans.

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It is the month of my birthday, and sometimes it feels like the whole month is a birthday, being given all this fresh fruit and veg. And as on the morning of a birthday, there is the almost exhilarating anticipation of more things to come. Went for the hills on this early summer day, a lark singing high in the sky, surrounded by heather and llus bushes (bilberry). Couldn’t help but checking how many berries there are on the bushes, hoping the sheep will leave them alone, and that I will be able to pick my fair share in a month or so. Looking out below me I noticed the wheat is already starting to turn into fields of gold, and I could already almost smell a freshly baked bread.

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A friend of mine lost his farming father earlier this year. Living in the city himself he told me that he felt he lost more then his father. He missed the connection with the land, his father came from a way of life which is gone now. I guess he felt that the rhytm of his life has changed. For centuries food, and producing food, gave structure to our existence. Nowadays it seems more and more that food is just something nutritious. Instead of seeing it as a way of connecting, we separate  it by wrapping it in as much plastic as possible. In restaurants the distance is created  by turning food into some kind of art.

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I feel blessed that I can see golden fields and wild bilberries growing where I live. The importance of food as the flavour of life is also shown in the brilliant novel I recently read by Manon Steffan Ros: the Seasoning. It tells the story of Peggy, living in a village in the Welsh hills.  Each chapter centers around a different person and starts with a recipe of food they enjoyed together. It is the food that gives her memories some extra spice.
I applaud the concept of this book. I wish everybody the excitement of baking a cake, picking homegrown strawberries or the waiting for the right moment to pick wild blackberries. You can feel natures pulse through it, and that makes life so much tastier.

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.

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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.