Thursday, 6 December 2012

Foodie destination: Andalusia + Gazpacho recipe

Another high on my ‘places-I-want-to-travel-to’ list was Andalusia; and it was not disappointing!
We started our trip in Sevilla, famous for its tapas tradition, there is a saying about that city that says: ‘In Sevilla you don’t eat, you tapear’.  It means so much as eating on the go; moving from one bar to the other having a drink and the tapas which that bar is famous for.
And after arriving on Saturday evening  off course that’s what we started with in the neighbourhood close to our hostel.  We ended up in the bar which turned out to also be the oldest bar in Sevilla from 1670. 
It was packed with people, locals as well as tourists, and we got ourselves a place at the bar from where we could see all the action.  The orders came out really fast, one bartender was slicing thin pieces of Iberico ham from a big leg all night long and everyone’s bill was written down on the bar with chalk.
Besides the great ham my favorite tapa there was a plate of warm spinach with chick-peas and a lot of garlic! I’m not sure what kind of spinach was used, because it was so soft I guess they used a canned one.

Spinach with chickpeas in bar El Rinconcillo, Sevilla
The next morning we headed for breakfast and ended up by chance in bar Alfalfa where we had the most amazing Andalusian breakfast; tostada (toasted bread) with fresh tomato salsa, Iberico ham and olive oil.  A real treat to begin the day with. 

Andalusian breakfast with cured ham and tomato salsa on toast
We loved Sevilla right away for being a  tapas-city but it’s also extremely stunning to just walk around in the old streets, see the greatest Cathedral ever (according to the Guinnes book of world records), the Alcazar palace and,  my personal favorite;  the Plaza Espana. 

Beautiful Plaza Espana in Sevilla
After 2 days we picked up our rental car and drove to Granada, famous for the Alhambra and not so much for the food.   Nevertheless we had some tasty and really cheap lunch in the old Islamic quarter Albayzin; 3 courses for only  12 Euro.  We got to choose from various dishes and had the filled bell peppers, a big pan of paella for two and some kind of pudding like desert.
There is still a big North-African influence in the city and the food . After tea in one of the many tea houses in the ‘little Morocco’ district we went for Moroccan inspired tapas in the evening at Om Kalsum . We were again surprised by the great value for money we got here; 1 bottle of Rioja wine and 7 warm tapas for only € 14,-! If only we could eat and drink this good in the Netherlands for that less money. Also nice to know about Granada is that it is one of the very few cities in Spain where you still get tapas in some bars the way they used to be served; free with a drink. 

Maroccan style tapas at bar Om Kalsum, Granada
For the last days of our one-week-is really to short- holiday we drove from Granada to Cordoba  through the Route of  olives (Ruta del Aceite).  It’s obvious where it got this name from; as far as we could see there were olive trees all over the place. One of the most well known olive oils from this area is from Nunez de Prado in Baena,  but because of their closure during siesta times we did not visit it.

Olive trees all over!!!
An absolute wonder to see in Cordoba is the Mezquita; an old mosque turned into a church.
Even if you’re tired of seeing a lot of churches and palaces this one will still amaze you, at least it amazed me.
As for the culinary part there are some typical Cordoban specialties to try and there are good restaurants and tapas bars in the city.
The cold soup’ gazpacho’ is well known in the world but it’s Cordoba-sister soup ‘salmorejo’ is not that well known. And I really wonder why because it’s at least as good as gazpacho; a bit thicker (almost creamy) and with pieces of hard boiled eggs and off course cured ham in it.
A fun place to try the traditional recipe and then some more innovative versions is salmorejeria  Umami
They serve over 30 different salmoreja’s such as ‘avocado with smoked salmon’ and ‘Thai’ cold soups. Even some desert-salmorejo’s although I was not really enthusiastic about it because they were very sweet. With every kind you can choose if you want a whole portion( racion) or a half one (media). That is not only the case in this restaurant but in most of Andalusian restaurants and tapas bars; really convenient for persons who cannot choose and would love to try most of the menu ;).

Half portions of different salmorejos in Umami restaurant, Cordoba
Another not to miss in Cordoba thing is Bar Santos famous for it’s tortilla, which is huge!. You will definitely see a big line with people outside, next to the Mezquita,  eating there piece of tortilla and flushing it down with a beer. You really can’t miss it even if you were not looking for it. 

Huge tortillas at bar Santos, Cordoba

People eating their tortilla on the street in front of Bar Santos, Cordoba
After a week of tasting great Andalucian food, seen many beautiful things and just relaxed a bit and enjoyed being there we ended our trip with a tour and tasting at Bodegas Alvear; a Montilla winery. Montilla is a sherry like wine but then without extra alcohol added. Unfortunately the tour was only in Spanish, so we didn’t really understand the process of how it is made. But for the tasting in the end not so much Spanish words were needed; the sweet and syrupy Ximenez (PX-sherry) was just ‘muy rico’! 


Based on gazpacho recipes from Allerhande & Foodies Magazine

This is not an authentic Andalusian recipe but it’s my version of gazpacho; a cold tomato based vegetable soup. Only make this in the summer when it’s hot outside and the tomatoes are really red & ripe. 
It’s also full of healthy ingredients!

Makes 4 portions as a starter or lunch

  •           2 slices of white bread
  •           1 kg ripe tomatoes, in pieces
  •           2 bell peppers (red and yellow), seeds removed and chopped
  •           1 red pepper, seeds removed and chopped
  •           ½ cucumber, peeled and in pieces
  •           1 little onion, quartered
  •           2 cloves of garlic
  •           4 tablespoons extra virgin Spanish olive oil
  •           4 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  •           salt and pepper
  •           sugar
Remove the crusts from 2 slices of bread and soak them in cold water for about 10 minutes.
Peel and chop the garlic. Squeeze the soaked bread.

Puree the vegetables, garlic and squeezed bread with 4 tablespoons cold water (if needed) in a food processor or blender.
Stir the oil and the vinegar through the tomato soup.  Season with salt and pepper and a little sugar to taste.
Put the soup covered at least a few hours away in the fridge, or in the freezer for at least 15 minutes if you don't have enough time.

Serve the gazpacho with finely sliced tomato , cucumber, bell pepper and onion and maybe some croutons.

You can make the gazpacho easily 1 day before, and keep it covered in the fridge until you need it. 

For a Dutch touch I put in some little Dutch shrimps and parsley at the end. (see picture).

My homemade gazpacho with Dutch shrimps and parsley

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Foodie destination: A taste of Sicily

Italy is my number 1 favourite food country ever and the island Sicily was ranked very high on the list ‘places I want to visit’. Last September it was finally time and we took a cheap Ryanair flight to Trapani and spent a week on the western side of the island.

After landing we picked up our Fiat 500 rental car and first headed to Erice, a little medieval city excellent for tourists to wander around for a bit. Because we were starving after a 2 ½ hour flight, driving around to find a working ATM and finally reached Erice around 14.30 in the afternoon we went straight into to first restaurant we ran in to because restaurants in Sicily are only open from 12.00 – 15.00 for lunch and then close again until around 20.00 for dinner.  But even though we didn’t have time to find a decent place for lunch the typical pasta from Sicily we took,  Spaghetti con le sarde,  was really good.   It maybe not so well known as other Italian pasta dishes  but this one is with sardines, fennel, pine nuts and sultana’s and to me the perfect match of North African and Italian flavours.

Four kinds couscous at Thaam restaurant, San Vito lo Capo

One of my ‘must-try-while-in-Sicily things’ was eating couscous in San Vito lo Capo. Unfortunately we were 2 weeks too early so we missed out on the yearly Couscousfest. But we were not disappointed by the couscous we tasted at the restaurant Tha’am. where we could try a dish with 4 different kinds; lamb, fish, vegetables and wild fennel! I have never tasted such delicate and fluffy couscous that was so tasteful. Also the plate of starters we ordered was an amazing array of different flavours with northern African influences. 

Sicily has some very unique flavours and ingredients typical for the island and uncommon in other parts of Italy. There’s the high quality pistachios ‘Pistacchio di Bronte’ first brought to Sicily in the 9th century by Arab conquerors and nowadays called ‘the green gold’; they use it not only in sweet pastries or ice cream but also make pesto di pasticchio with it and serve that on pasta with shrimps.
A heavenly combination which we tried at restaurant Del Monsu in Castellammare del Golfo with big shrimps and again in Osteria Il Gallo el’Innamorata in Marsala with little shrimps.

Busiate pasta with pistacchio pesto and shrimps at Del Monsu restaurant

Then there is the really famous ricotta cheese in a salted version for  in the pasta al la Norma, ricotta salata, and the sweet and creamy version which is used as a filling in the fried pasty called cannoli. A cannolo is the most traditional Sicilian dessert and can be really heavy so make sure you’re either very hungry or order a little one.

Unfortunately we visited Palermo on a Sunday so we missed out on the great food markets, but this city is famous for it’s street food and although a lot of restaurants and shops close on Sunday we were full when we got back on the train.
A typical snack is arancini, balls made of risotto rice with a filling in it, they are as big as an orange (arancine in Italian) and fried. We went to the Bar Touring which is supposed to sell one of the best arancini in Palermo  and were shocked about the size of the balls; instead of my planned 3 different flavours to try we couldn’t share more than 1 because they were so big (and greasy!!!).

Arancine 'burro' with prosciutto and mozzarella at Bar Touring in Palermo
But the best tip I can give any foodie who is about to visit Sicily is to have lunch or dinner at Osteria Il Gallo e l’Innamorata in Marsala.   Our guidebook described it as a slow food temple, I would call it food heaven! Never before I have tasted such high quality Italian products in one meal.  We couldn’t choose between the fish or meat/cheese antipasti so we took both. That was great but already so much that there was no room left for dessert. But after the second dish I couldn’t care less; I’m still dreaming about the most amazing pasta ever. Spaghetti Trapanese (a combination of tomatoes, basil and almonds) topped with  bottarga di tonno (a delicacy of cured tuna roe)! 

Antipasti misto at Osteria Il Gallo e l'Innamorata in Marsala city

Most amazing spaghetti Trapanese with bottarga at Osteria Il Gallo e l'Innamorata in Marsala city

Here is my version of another typical Sicilian dish: Caponata Siciliana. This recipe is a combination of two recipes and the way I have made it a lot. At first I thought it was not completely authentic because I use courgette in it, but now I realize that there is not one authentic recipe or combination of ingredients. In Sicily every family and restaurant had it’s own recipe and they probably also use what’s in season or in their budget ;).

Caponata Siciliana

I love to serve it at room temperature as a part of an antipasti dish (for about 6- 8 persons) or as a side dish with meat or fish ( for 4 persons)

  • 1 aubergine (eggplant)
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced in half rings
  • 1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed well
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or white or red wine vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons honey or sugar
  • good quality olive oil (preferably from Sicily)
  • 400 gram peeled tomatoes or tomato passata
  • a few olives, pitted
  • 25 gram pine nuts
  • a few basil leaves
  • salt
1. Heat some oil in a frying pan and let the onions soften in about 10 minutes on low heat. 

2. Meanwhile, cut the eggplant into cubes, sprinkle generously with salt and leave for 20 minutes in a colander.

3. Cut the zucchini into cubes and fry in a little oil in a second frying pan brown and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Now turn the heat under the onions a little higher. Bake a minute on high heat and then add the honey and vinegar. Bake for a minute and add the peeled tomatoes with juice, olives, capers, and diced zucchini and then turn the heat down a little.

5. Rinse the eggplant cubes thoroughly under running water, pat dry and fry brown in a little oil over high heat. Heat everything through and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Fresh figs with prosciutto and blue cheese

I actually had decided to start blogging both in Dutch and in English and immediately after that I realized that I didn't have time to blog at all trying to combine work while study for a law degree.
Yet I can not resist a short blog post about a great simple appetizer now the fig season has started.
It's not really a recipe to call and that's why it's so easy to make.
I got enthusiastic by fresh figs from the garden and the beautiful figs that I found on the market.

This combined with spicy blue cheese, good quality prosciutto, balsamic vinegar from Modena and delicious sourdough bread from a new bakery in Tilburg was a pretty awesome appetizer!

Although you don't really need a recipe for this to try at home this is how I made it (thanks to my colleague Paul who is the perfect reader in the category 'is the recipe obvious to make for people who read the blog' :))

Click here for the Dutch version of this recipe.

Figs from the oven with prosciutto and blue cheese
based on an idea from 

For 2 people as a starter:
  • 3 ripe figs (you can eat the skin of fresh figs!)
  • 2 big slices of sourdough bread or other bread toasted or plain
  • some blue cheese (or substitute by mozzarella or goat cheese if you prefer)
  • raw ham (prosciutto)
  • good quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • fresh thyme (optional)
For the ones with the bread  I spooned out one ripe fig and divided the inside on two slices of bread.
Than sprinkled some good quality balsamic vinegar and tasty olive oil on it. After that I topped one piece with blue cheese and the other with raw ham. (we liked the one with the blue cheese better).

And for the third part of the starter I cut the fig almost, but not totally, in 4 parts. Divided the raw ham and blue cheese on it and put it on a plate in the oven at 200 degrees Celcius  for 10 minutes so the cheese could melt. After that I garnished it with some fresh thyme en served all three of them together as seen on the picture.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Dutch wine

When thinking of wine most people are not likely to think of Dutch wine; they have probably never heard of it anyway! 
And that is not so strange because the Netherlands is not exactly known for its wine. But despite the fact that we are a small country there are more than 200 vineyards! Most of them little compared to foreign vineyards and not all of them are commercial wine-growers but still, they exist!

I am very enthusiastic about Dutch wine in general but I'm especially proud of wine from Wijngaard de Linie. That’s not only because it’s from the south of the Netherlands where we live. Nor the fact that it’s made by relatives from my husband. Or that it has won many international wine trophies because it’s a really good wine. But especially because of the fact that a wine just tastes so much better and more special if you have picked the grapes by hand and helped bottling the wine!
Every time I tell people, not only foreign friends but also Dutch friends and colleagues, that I’m going to pick grapes they ask me if I’m spending the weekend in France. And when I told my boss that I was picking grapes in the little village of Made he wondered if there were any hills there ;).
Once you experienced the whole process you realize even more what a wonderful and natural product wine is. Every sip you take, every time you smell these great odors you realize it all began with the grapes you picked.

                                    Bottling Dutch wine @ wijngaard de Linie in Made, Netherlands

The Dutch white wines are of better quality then the red ones, but in the end it’s really all about your own taste. Personally I prefer the more classic grapes instead of the hybrid grapes (mixed varieties with more resistance) like Regent or Solaris  that are more likely to grow well in our climate.
Besides the fabulous white wine from de Linie, I can also recommend to try Dutch wines from the oldest Dutch vineyard the Apostelhoeve and the (really expensive but o so stunning!) Kus van Therese Cabernet Blanc from wijngoed Gelders Laren. The last one is so expensive because it bears the name of one of the most famous Dutch sommeliers from the 3 star Michelin restaurant de Librije.

Off course Dutch wine will probably never compete with wines from the more famous old and new wine countries; not because of the quality but as of the price. An average bottle starts at around 12 Euro, compared to around 7 Euro for a nice wine from Spain or even New Zealand. For now Dutch wine is more something you buy as a gift or just because you think it’s special to drink a wine from the Netherlands. And it is! So don’t be surprised to see some Dutch wines on International wine contests.

More information about all the Dutch vineyards can be found on the website: (also in English)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Smoked herring

I find it's harder to blog that I thought; plenty of topics to blog about but then there is the problem of time!
Only 24 hours in a day... And because English is not my first language  it requires more time and energy to type it all out. At least google translate is used a lot lately. On top of that I also decided that I would like to blog both in English and Dutch and that costs even more time! So it will take me a while to post the blogs more regularly; until then I just enjoy thinking about new topics and making notes till I find the time to post them.

This is just short little blog about a recipe I tried last night. Well it's not really a recipe because it doesn't even requires proper cooking! But it's really tasty and easy to make. Something different from the regular appetizers with smoked salmon and really helpful because I had my pregnant niece over for dinner ;).
At the fish store I bought some smoked herring and didn't really know what to do with it. 
Internet didn't  provide a recipe for a nice appetizer so I made it up. 
It turned out great by roasting some white bread to toast and remove the crusts, cut them in 4 pieces then half of them I smeared with salty butter and the other half with sun dried tomato paste. Top them of with a piece of smoked herring.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Top 10 Typical Dutch Food To Try

Every country has it’s own culinary history; some are famous all over the world like Italian, French and Chinese food and others are not so famous for their food. I guess because the Netherlands is such a small country we belong to the last group.  
While travelling in South and Central America we were regularly asked about Dutch food. Except for our famous cheese and Heineken beer not a lot of people know about the many delicious typical Dutch treats which are a bit of a rarity outside the borders of our country.
Here’s a nice list to start with whenever you visit the Netherlands or have the opportunity to taste it somewhere else.

Top 10 typical Dutch delicacies you definitely have to taste!

1) Dutch Cheese

The older the better and so tasty. Try some Dutch cheeses from different ages from young to old they are called: Jong, Jong Belegen, Belegen, Extra Belegen and Oud.

Our Israeli friends buying cheese in our local cheese shop

2) Fresh brown bread from the bakery

Just the smell  of it will make you happy!

3) White asparagus

A delicacy from the south of the Netherlands available only from  around 15 April until 24 June.
The classic combination with ham, eggs and butter is still the best way to eat them.

4) Stroopwafels

Thin waffles filled with a caramel-like syrup filling, best tried when you buy them while they are still warm on the market. Or put them on top of your teacup to warm them up a bit.

5) Frikandel speciaal

According to Wikipedia it isa Dutch snack, a sort of minced-meat hot dog filled with mayonnaise, curry ketchup and chopped raw onion’; you can find them in any snackbar

It is always the first thing I eat after coming home from a long trip.

Frikandel speciaal with lots of raw onions

6) Dutch wine

Still unknown but getting better every year. More about this topic in my next post!

7) Dutch new herring with chopped raw onions

Not my kind of treat but another seasonal and typical Dutch delicacy though. The herring season normally starts in May and lasts untill August (when the herring has a fat content of minimal 16 percent). More info on Dutch new herring can be found on Honest Cooking. And for a nice description on how we eat them check out this funny piece on Stuff Dutch People Like.

Until December 2013 this was the only Trappist brewery in the Netherlands.  It's located in the South of the Netherlands and definitely worth a visit. And while you're there also try the bitterballen which are made with Trappist beer.

9) Poffertjes  

They look like little pancakes served with butter and icing sugar. Mostly found on markets or fairs.
Poffertjes made on a special poffertjes baking tray

10) Bossche Bol from bakery Jan de Groot 

A 'Bossche Bol' is a chocolate treat full with whipped cream from the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch; the fact that there is a line of people on the street waiting to order every day is always a good sign. Jan de Groot Bakery is the most famous one. If you don't want to wait in the line to order them there you can also sit down on one of the outdoor cafes in the city; most of them sell the 'Jan de Groot Bossche Bollen'. 

The famous Bossche Bollen from Jan de Groot in 's-Hertogenbosch
This is the sign to look for; close to the Central Train station in 's-Hertogenbosch (also called Den Bosch)

Besides that we have many more typical Dutch food; drop (a black candy), lamb from the island Texel, lobster from the Oosterschelde and some local treats from the bakery like; eierkoeken, krentenbollen, Zeeuwse bolussen and vlaai from Limburg.

More about typical Dutch dishes and off course recipes will come in future blogs; you can find them through the Typical Dutch label or on the links below.

Typical Dutch; Groningen 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Starting to blog

Amuse bouche made on our hands at Librije restaurant

I finally decided to start my own blog about food, cooking, wine & culinary travels to foodie destinations; things that make life so beautiful ;).
Being back home in the Netherlands after backpacking 8 months in South and Central America made me feel a bit restless. It felt great to see all our friends and family again, sleep in our own bed, having a hot shower every day and not moving around every other 2 or 3 days.
But what I had missed most was the food!

Not only the typical Dutch delicacies like fresh brown bread and off course old Dutch cheese but just to have a choice of what to eat and cook everyday. Even the possibility to choose wine from all around the world and the more rare Dutch wines (yes they exist!) felt like a luxury. The Netherlands is a small country but we have adapted food and ingredients from all over; in every big city in the Netherlands you can find Indonesian, Thai and Suriname shops, a Moroccan or Turkish butcher and all kinds of restaurants from Sushi to Tapas and from Greek to Afghan.

It's funny how you have to travel all around the world to appreciate that even more.
With all new energy, recipes and tastes from our big trip still in my mind and the rediscovery of all the good things the Netherlands has to offer. I think it's time for a new challenge and get in touch with other crazy foodies to share thoughts and ideas!
So welcome to my blog and feel free to post comments.