Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Top 5 Most Popular Crazy Dutch Foodie Posts in 2013

With the end of 2013 coming closer I thought it was a good idea to share the most popular Crazy Dutch Foodie blog posts from last year.

Number 5 and 4 are about my foodie travels:

5) Foodie destination: Andalusia 

4) Foodie destination: Sicily

3) Apparently I'm not the only one with a cookbook addiction! Number 3 best viewed post of 2013 is Confessions of a cookbook addict.

2) Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my favourite restaurant (ever!) changed their concept this year. Or maybe it's because they have start posting news on Twitter and Facebook in English (instead of Dutch) but at number 2 is my review about Restaurant Beluga in Maastricht. I can't wait to go there again in 2014 and check out the new menu.

1) And with three times (!) more pageviews than number 2  my most visited post is still the one about Top 10 Typical Dutch Food to try. Apparently a lot of tourists visiting the Netherlands google 'Dutch Food' and find my blog. Or maybe just foreign people who are interested or curious about Dutch food read it.
I'm definitely gonna write more about this topic in 2014 with a focus on more regional delicacies and Dutch recipes.

The first 2013 post was about my New Years resolutions; the only thing I didn't do was roasting a leg of lamb. So that's the first one of my 2014 resolutions ;-)

I have found it pretty difficult to post every week. I really don't understand how some foodbloggers can post almost every other day! But it's still just a hobby for me and a place to share my foodie thoughts with other foodies.

For now I'm travelling a few weeks in South Korea and Australia, but as soon as I'm back I will start blogging weekly again!
Have a wonderful and tasty Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!
Greetings from Down Under

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Low Carb Foodie; Part 2

Three weeks ago I decided to start eating less carbs. Mainly to eat less bread, potatoes, pasta and rice.
I experienced some headaches in the first 2 days. But after that I just felt more energetic and I didn't crave sugary snacks anymore.
As I wrote here before; I was very amazed about the fact that I did not miss the carbs as much as would have thought.

For me the most difficult part of eating low carb is the fact that you have to plan meals more ahead.
Taking a sandwich and some sandwich fillings or spreads to work is so easy to do. And don't forget I'm used to this habit for more than 30 years already. Bread for breakfast and bread for lunch. It's really common in the Netherlands to eat like this.

In the third week I almost panicked about the fact that I was going to be home late because of a traffic jam and didn't have anything planned for lunch next day. Because if you eat low carb it will be mostly salads and soups for lunch  (I don't eat low carb bread; it feels a bit like cheating to me). Which means you have to do some preparations the night before.

And because I'm still a foodie I don't want to eat the same things again every week. So after 2 weeks of delicious salads for lunch (see my first Low Carb Foodie post) I called my husband and asked him to get a bag of precut vegetables and 2 sausages to make a quick Dutch vegetable soup with little meatballs in it.
Ready in 15 minutes and enough for 2 lunches!
Last week I tried this thick Red Lentil Tomato Soup after reading the recipe on Simone's Kitchen blog.
Also easy to make, tasty and perfect to make ahead and reheat for lunch.

I think it's funny that my husband, who has absolutely no reason to watch his weight, doesn't miss the carbs either. He just enjoys eating tasty food, whether it's with or without carbs.
We both liked the lowcarb quiche with broccoli and bacon with a green salad on the side. For this dish I was inspired by this recipe from the blog Nutty About Health. I made it in a smaller amount, because it was just for the two of us, in a round baking tray and replaced the heavy cream with creme fraiche.

For breakfast I tend to eat oatmeal with milk, cinnamon and some dried figs.
Or Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts. I could eat this every morning; so delicious!

And I started experimenting with green smoothies. Which make me feel even more healthy. But it doesn't give me the same satisfied feeling as a salad or soup. But as a quick breakfast it's fine.

Green smoothie; 2 bananas, 2 apples, 2 hands of spinach and 2 glasses of water

I honestly don't feel hungry in between meals. But if I do want to snack something or if I'm having lunch or dinner later than normally I eat a cooked egg, some cheese, nuts or something sweet like dried dates or pure chocolate (minimum 70% cacao).

I always have this little snackbox in my bag

If you tell people you eat less carbs they automatically think you're on a diet. I don't see it like this. I still eat carbs if I want to. But now it's more likely that I eat carbs only one meal a day instead of three. Believe me; I will never give up on a good pasta dish. Nor would I want to miss eating baked potatoes with mayonaise. And I don't even think about stop eating things as home made cupcakes ;-)

And because I do not see it as a diet I really think I will manage to keep eating less carbs. Not gain weight and maybe even slowly loose some weight as a benefit.  But most important of all; feeling healthy and more energetic.

Tasty low carb recipes and tips are welcome. Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Foodie destination: Mallorca

When booking our next holiday I normally check the destination we have in mind on two points: 
Food & Wine. As in; What are the local specialties? Which restaurants should we definitely try? Are there any cooking courses we can attend? And are there local wineries that can be visited?

From there the accommodation is booked and we try to taste as much as possible in the time we have.
Almost any destination is a Foodie Destination as long as you do some research. 
So is Mallorca. Just not Cala D'or.

But our last holiday was not chosen and booked according my Food & Wine considerations. It was a family holiday together with my parents, brother, sister in law and 1-year old little niece. So most important was the fact that it had to be a family friendly resort. Because of this we ended up in Cala D'or which is perfect for those kind of holidays. Just not for foodies. It was packed with tons of Dutch spoken and owned (!) restaurants that all served pizza, pasta and steak...
And although these were not that bad it's not my idea of vacation.

But no worries; we had a great holiday. The apartment was perfect, the weather was great, my little niece was lovely, there were happy hours with 2 cocktails for the price of 1 and we rented a car for 3 days so we could drive around and taste a bit of the real Mallorca.

Here is a list of my Top 10 foodie things on Mallorca:

1) Lunch at Simply Fosh, Palma de Mallorca

Great service, great food and a great ‘Menu of the day’deal with only € 21,50 for 3-courses!
The menu changes every week and you get to choose from 2 starters, 3 mains (fish/meat/vegetarian) and 2 desserts.

Caponata Simply Fosh style with Buffalo Mozzarella
Beef Cheeks with Blackberry Puree, fried garlic and red onions
Fresh Cheese icecream with Prickly Pear marinated in Passion Fruit syrup

2) Dinner in restaurant Sa Teulera, Arta  

This restaurant is specialised in typical Mallorcan food.
Unfortunately we did not had dinner in this restaurant. But we were really lucky to have found a stall with their local specialties on the market in Arta by accident. We couldn't not see it; there was whole pig roasting on the street… !
The tumbet was soft and delicious. And I could not stop eating from a paella-like noodle dish; so tasty! Downside of all this great food was that I totally forgot to make pictures of it... 

3) Try Sobrassada

A raw traditional Balearic sausage made with ground pork, paprika, salt and other spices.  
Before I tasted it I thought that is was a 'hard' sausage. But instead it's soft and you have to spread it on toast. 
I have to admit it´s not my favorite specialty. But I guess you just have to get used the to specific taste a bit more. It´s funny that in ´tourist´shops they are sold neatly wrapped in paper. And I can understand why: if you see them without the paper they don't look as tempting!

Sobrassada neatly wrapped in tourist shop

Sobrassada sausage as sold on Olivar Market, Palma de Mallorca

4) Order Ensaimadas in Ca'n Joan de S'Aigo, Palma de Mallorca

One of the funny things about being a foodie is that in search of the best local delicacies you discover neighbourhoods and streets you would have otherwise missed.
We walked past this absolutely beautifull courtyard while looking for Ca'n Joan de S'Aigo.

Courtyard close to Ca'n Joan de S'Aigo
We almost missed it because it's tucked away in one of the narrow streets in the old quarter.  Stepping into this restaurant is like taking a step back into the past. It dates from 1700 and inside it looks like there is nothing changed ever since. It's also full with locals and almost no tourists.

Ca'n Joan de S'Aigo is famous for it's 'quart' (a really fluffy and soft sponge cake) and almond ice cream.
We ordered the quart and a few different ensaimadas to share. 
The prices are more than reasonable; € 0.95 for a basic ensaimada and € 1,- for a quarto

From left to right; quarto, basic ensaimada, ensaimada with cream and sobrassada

5) Wine tasting at Bodegas Castell Miquell, Alaro-Lloseta

Although it's a German owned winery and they don't grow the more local grapes from the Balearic Islands like Prensal Blanc, Callet and Manto Negro, this winery is definitely worth a visit. The views from here are amazing and they make high quality (and also pretty expensive!) prize-winning wines. At the time of visiting they were out of white, but we were more than happy to bring home a few bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon.

View during wine tasting at Castell Miquell

6) Board the Mallorca Wine Expres

A tourist train which takes you from Santa Maria through 8 different wineries, vineyards and cellars.
Unfortunately we didn't have time to plan this in our trip. But it sounds like a great wine tour with some good reviews and I will definitely book a spot if we ever go back to Mallorca.

7) Try Coca de Patata at Ca'n Molinas, Valdemossa

Typical sweet of Mallorca and the local specialty of Valldemossa.
Much more explained and better photographed by Cowboys and Cappuccinos blog! 

8) Stroll Olivar Market (Mercat d'Olivar), Palma de Mallorca

An indoor food market with stalls full of fresh fish and seafood, cheese, fruits, vegetables and delicious first class (plus expensive!)  Iberico and Serrano hams. We strolled the market together with my parents. My dad was so amazed about the prices of these cured delicacies; he could't stop saying: '€ 170,- per kilo? Per kilo? Really?'

Olivar Market at Plaza de L'Olivar
Beautifull cured Iberico hams, Olivar Market
Fresh Anchovies, Olivar Market

9) Mahon cheese from Menorca

A tasty white cow's milk cheese with an orange rind. Available from just a few months (soft) to aged (hard). Although from their neighbouring island Menorca, Mahon cheese is widely available in supermarkets on Mallorca.

10) Dinner at Spice of India, Cala d'or

And if, by some reason, you do get stuck in Cala D'or and are looking for an authentical place to eat; try Spice of India. Not authentically Spanish off course but the only place I found that didn't have a menu including pizza. All the staff was from India plus they serve some tasty curries!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Low Carb Foodie?!

To be clear; I don't diet. I just don't believe in diets. I do believe in healthy eating and running.
But the hype about popular Low Carb diets and colleagues talking about it did make me a bit curious.
Plus the fact that ever since I turned 30 running 2 to 3 times a week and eat everything I like just doesn't work anymore ;-)

So I decided that instead of totally eating Low Carb I would start by eating Less Carbs. Only one meal with carbs like bread, pasta, potatoes or rice every day. Which meant I would replace two of my meals with low carb dishes.

To my big surprise I'm not even missing all the carbs I used to eat!
Before I started I always thought that I'd really miss my fresh bread for lunch.
Not that I have lost a lot of weight (although I really cannot tell because I do not own scales).
But I feel like I have so much more energy!
I don't feel hungry and if I do feel like snacking I don't crave cookies or something else sugary.
Instead I take a few walnuts or dried dates and feel totally happy.
And being a foodie means that I get jealous looks at work during lunch time when I'm eating my lowcarb salad ;-) Because low carb or not; it has to be tasty!
It's really not a punishment to eat like this. More a new way of making choices in what I eat.

I would like to share  my favourite Low Carb meals from the last few weeks:

The Superfood Salad from Leon restaurant

I found this recipe in the Leon Cookbook I bought recently but it's also published on The Guardian website.
I substituted the feta cheese for goat cheese. It's delicious and so healthy. It just requires some planning ahead the night before you take this to work. But I make the amount for 2 and divide it over two lunches. Take the dressing with you apart from the salad, I do this in a little jam jar, and mix the last minute.
Here's a Instagram picture I made during lunch:

Cucumber Salad with Smoked Salmon

I have yet to write a decent recipe for this but I mix thinly sliced cucumber, tomatoes, smoked salmon, pine nuts, a bit of red onion and a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (2:1).

Here is a picture that was made by my colleague Sylvia that she posted on Facebook

Roasted Cauliflower with chickpeas 

A top recipe from Gwyneth Palthrows latest book It's All Good (in Dutch: (H) eerlijk eten).
I make this in a big wok pan and serve it with grilled white fish; an idea by Cooksterella.
You can find the English recipe via Google on different foodblogs.

Braised Chicory with Ham and Cheese

A favourite for many years. I always ate this with potatoes and even some extra meat. Now I just enjoy the best part of the meal. I make 3 chicories per person and use this recipe (in Dutch) from Belgian top chef Peter Goossens.
I will publish the slightly adapted recipe here soon in English.

Off course tips for tasty, low carb recipes are more than welcome!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Amateur or professional chef?!

Why don't I start cooking professionally? As in; quitting my day-job and doing what I like most.
I asked myself this question many times in the past few years.
Well as I know now; it's so much more than just cooking!

I was one of the 18 lucky people who got the chance to experience a whole day in the restaurant 'In de Keuken van Floris' (translated as: In Floris' Kitchen).  On the occasion of the World Food Festival weeks in Rotterdam from Wednesday 18th September until Friday 25th October 2013,  they offered a one-day internship in their professional kitchen.

I had dinner in this restaurant before and I loved the concept, the food and the wines.
The concept: The beautiful and modern kitchen is standing in the middle of the restaurant and all the guests
(a maximum of approximately 40) are sitting around it. There is only one 9-course menu, the same for everyone, which you can choose to be completely vegetarian. It starts at 19.00 pm and everyone is served the same dishes at the same time.
On quiet evenings chef Floris Versluijs, sous chef Mathieu Roza and sommelier Mathijs Struik run the restaurant themselves. When fully booked there is some extra help called in.

An impression of the restaurant; kitchen in the middle and tables around it

The food: The chef is cooking what he likes; and these are not the most simple dishes. Floris did internships in world famous restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen and Alinea in Chicago. He has his own touch and is constantly thinking about new ideas and experimenting with things he finds in nature. And I really love the fact that he is cooking a lot with (less known) vegetables. Absolutely delicious and inspiring.

The wines: Off course on the day I worked there I did not have any of the wines served with the food. But I still remember the Champagne we had during our last visit in 2012. It was something I had never tasted before: Champagne with the taste of a sweet sherry! (Michel Gonet 2004, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, Brut) This was during the Champagne flight we ordered before the dinner started. If you choose the wine pairing menu there will be served a matching wine with every dish. And they have also thought about the people who don't drink alcohol.  For those there is the choice of a juice pairing menu, with homemade juices.

So there I was, Wednesday morning 11.00 am,  ready to watch and learn.
And I learnt a lot;
- how they remember which guest has which allergy (counting clockwise)
- about 'French' mushrooms and melons ;-)
- that if a table of four leaves because they don't like their place in the restaurant there is more to taste for the staff (lucky me!)
- but that it also means a big loss of revenue (while costs are already made and the table is empty for the rest of the night)
- about working 14 hours a day with just two short breaks to eat something (and drinking lots and lots of espressos!)
- puzzling with space
- about vacuuming food and preparing it 'sous-vide'
- about negotiating with suppliers about just a few cents
- about the fact that Black Grouse birds have a penetrating odor
- and that you can still taste this terrible smell once it's prepared (as you probably figured this was not my favorite dish)
- that there is really no time to do some nice food photography during the service.

Some of these things are just really nice to know, for any chef.
But a lot of it you just don't have to worry about as an amateur chef.
If it's your hobby you just cook for fun. Because you like to cook, not because you have to earn a living out of it. Even if you master the same techniques and are able to cook on the same level as a professional chef, that is the big difference.

I have a deep respect for all professional chefs working on this level; continue to develop new dishes, new combinations and new techniques every day. In the meanwhile cooking for their guests plus dealing with A LOT of other stuff!

But besides the fact that cooking for a living is so much more than just cooking. Maybe even more important to me for choosing not to follow my passion, is that my current job gives me the opportunity to take a long time of to travel. And guarantees me that I still have a job when I come back.
Because if there is anything in the world I love as much as cooking it's travelling!

It was great to have this experience; I would definitely do it again if I get the chance. Although I've been cooking for many years there is no better and faster way to learn than in a professional kitchen.
To answer the first question; I really wonder if I would still be as passionate and enthusiastic about it.

With Chef Floris & Sous Chef Mathieu after a 14 hour shift (and they were not ready yet)
During my 1-day internship there was really no time to take any food pictures. Luckily friends who had dinner in the restaurant that night took some action-pictures. To give an impression of the dishes that are served In de keuken van Floris I post a few pictures of my dinner in 2012.

Note to reader; when I applied for this one-day-job I applied as 'Ilona' not as 'Crazy Dutch Foodie'. 
I wanted to be chosen as someone with a passion for cooking not as someone who might write a nice blog about the restaurant and maybe would be treated differently. 

Amuse bouche 2012

Main dish 2012

Vegetarian dish with pasta, artichoke, dried olives, dried tomatoes and Parmesan

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Foodie destination: Groningen

My most popular blogpost is still the first one: Top 10 Typical Dutch Food to try.
Apparently more foodies are interested in what the Netherlands have to offer!
In addition to that here is an update with some of the local specialties from the province Groningen.

After travelling South & Central America for 8 months in 2011/2012 I realised that there were so many places in the Netherlands that I had not visited.
Besides a few visits to burgundy city Maastricht (with my all time favourite restaurant Beluga)  and an annually visit to Amsterdam, first on my list after graduation was Groningen. I was told it was a beautiful city with a relaxed and lively atmosphere; and it is indeed.
The city Groningen is the capital of the province with the same name.  It's located in the North East of the Netherlands and borders with the North Sea and Germany.

From Tilburg where I live it's 3 hours by train or 2,5 hours by car.  For Dutch concepts of 'far' this is really far away. But it was definitely worth the travel.

Typical delicacies from Groningen:

Groninger koek

The Groninger koek (translated as 'Cake from Groningen') is a sweet cake made of rye meal, honey or syrup and cakes spices. It's a variety on the Deventer koek (cake from the city Deventer in the province Overijssel).
There are different Groninger Koek flavours; with nuts, sucade or ginger. I tried the Groninger Fladderakkoek. I had to ask what it was because I never heard of it before but it tasted great.
'Fladderak' is a liquor style local drink from Groningen with lemon and cinnamon. The main ingredients in the cake with the same name were: ginger, orange and cinnamon. With crunchy cinnamon-sugar rounds on top.

Groningen Fladderakkoek from bakery Olinga with ginger, orange and crunchy cinnamon sugar

I bought one from bakery Olinga. They are making this local product since 1850 and are located in Bierum, a small village in the north of the province Groningen. It's expensive, € 7,- for one cake, but really good.
Moist, firm and full of flavour.
If you, like myself, are not visiting this little village I can recommend buying it at Het Hanze Huis. A lovely little shop full of imported fine food products from companies in Europe that were found over 100 years ago. And as an extra service the people working there can tell you all about it.
Another well visited place in Groningen city to buy Groninger koek is bakery Knol's Koek.

In the Netherlands we eat Groninger koek spread with butter as a treat with coffee or tea.

Machedoux goat cheese

Machedoux is a raw milk Camembert-style goat cheese. 
It's served on cheese plates in many Dutch top rated restaurants. 
The organic goat farm 'de Oude Streek' where the Machedoux cheese is made is in the province of Groningen. 
If you only visit Groningen city I can recommend you buying it at Cheese shop Van der Leij.  And while you're there make sure you taste some of their many other delicious cheeses.

Groninger mustard

A pretty spicy mustard with whole or coarsely ground mustard seeds. Delicious with Dutch bitterballen, Dutch cheese or to make Groninger Mustard Soup.

Groninger worst

Translated as 'Groninger sausage'. Also called 'Groninger metworst'. If you like cloves you will love this dried local pork sausage. For me the taste of cloves was a bit too much to eat it raw. But once fried a bit in a pan and served with zuurkoolstamppot (a dish of mashed potatoes and sauerkraut) it was much better.

Groninger metworst; a local dried sausage with cloves

More tips on local food from Groningen are always welcome; please leave a comment.

Next Foodie destination blog post will be Mallorca (Spain)!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Perfect Afternoon Tea?

I love to enjoy a nice afternoon tea once in a while. In the Netherlands it's mostly called 'High Tea' and apparently we are not the only country who does that.
Also the Lonely Planet wrote an article about the worlds best high tea's.

On this website I found an extensive explanation about the history of English afternoon tea, which is really interesting to read.
I never really realised that this English tradition is spread around the world and you can have excellent afternoon teas in many places. Definitely an extra activity for future culinary travels.

It's actually pretty popular to enjoy an afternoon tea, especially by women. Between 14.00 and 17.00 you will see a lot of women meet each other in a nice tea- or lunchroom, even on weekdays. Some places are so popular you have to make reservations way ahead! 
But what makes it so appealing? And what makes a perfect afternoon tea?
I decided to do some research.

In the last few years I have tried lots of them in different cafes and restaurants. Through all these experiences I became a bit of an afternoon tea critic. And although there were some really good afternoon tea's with perfect tea, food and service (like The Ritz in London).  There were also a lot less authentic experiences where either the food and tea were good but the service was bad.  Or the food was not suitable for a tea; like little lamb kebab with yoghurt or soup. And countless of afternoon teas where the food was not homemade and cheap tea bags were served…
It's so simple! And not even that expensive.  

This is not what you like to get served as tea during an afternoon tea

A perfect afternoon tea definitely has to include good quality loose leaf tea!
And with that I mean tea leaves served in a tea infuser. Preferably from different tea producing countries to choose from (Argentina is one I did not know).
Unfortunately I seldom get this served during an afternoon tea.
Most of the time it's just regular tea bags L
That's so disappointing, why would anyone want to drink regular (in the Netherlands we drink a lot of the Pickwick brand) teabags when they can have that at home or work all the time?

Besides good quality tea I also think unlimited tea should be included in the price.
It's crazy to pay a lot of money for an afternoon tea and then only be served one pot or cup.

Then on to the food; typically it consists of: sandwiches, scones and sweet pastries.  
For me that's perfect. Sometimes you get served soup and/ or a salad first. But that just doesn't blend with tea and has nothing to do with a traditional afternoon tea but more with a normal lunch. Although savoury snacks are not always included, a little quiche is a good balance for all the sweet stuff. They should be served with the sandwiches; savoury before sweet! 

Popular sandwich fillings are egg-salad, smoked salmon and cucumber. Although some variety is seen here with carpaccio, tasty (Cheddar) cheese or chickenbreast chutney-like fillings.  
The bread is traditionally white, thinly sliced, and buttered. The crust is cut away cleanly from the sandwich after the sandwich has been prepared, but before serving.
I prefer to taste different flavours of  'finger sandwiches' also known as 'tea sandwiches'. Those are just small portions of normal sandwiches.

Finger sandwiches, on different bread,  served at Ritz Hotel, London
Then on to the one item that makes or breaks the perfect afternoon tea; scones with jam and clotted cream! Without freshly baked scones accompanied by jam or lemon curd and clotted cream it's not the real thing. The Cornish clotted cream served in the Ritz Hotel was as thick as butter :- ). Unfortunately that kind of clotted cream is hard to find in the Netherlands. You can substitute with whipped double cream mixed with mascarpone. (Note to Dutch readers: some of the large Jumbo supermarkets do have clotted cream in their assortment!) 

And to finish the tea sweet pastries and cakes are served.  Whatever these are, from cakes to chocolates, 
I always really appreciate it if this part is also home made. Although some things can be perfectly bought at a good quality patissier or chocolatier. Lately I also see some delicious macarons and mini cupcakes in this part. 
Maybe not traditional,  but certainly makes it an extra festive moment, is serving a glass of Champagne or other sparkling wine at the start of an afternoon tea.

Any suggestions for a nice place to try an excellent afternoon tea, anywhere in the world, are always welcome; please leave a comment! 
Recipes to make a perfect afternoon tea at home follow in future blog posts.

Cookbook recommendation: 
* The Ritz London book of Afternoon Tea Including a great collection of their recipes.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Dried Date Cake; No Bake Treat

Sometimes you taste something and immediately want to know the recipe. That happened a few weeks ago when I was having lunch with a friend at Bagels & Beans; a Dutch franchise formula lunch and coffee room.
A very successful concept where they serve delicious bagels, homemade cakes plus freshly squeezed juices , coffee and loose leaf teas. Most of it organic and fair trade.
(They also have an English menu online and in all their shops)

Anyway, it was not one of their bagels I was so excited about; it was their date cake.
A sweet and sticky cake, with the natural sweetness of the dried dates (plus some extra sugar and caramel syrup ;-))

I was already busy investigating the ingredients while eating it and was really surprised to find the original recipe on the Bagels&Beans website! I wish it was so easy to find these kind of recipes from more restaurants.

I used the original Bagels & Beans recipe with instructions from the Dutch food blog OverEten.com.
I halved the quantities and instead of a normal caketray i made it in a well greased small, round quiche tray (20 cm). And served it, cut into small pieces, as friandise with coffee and tea at my dinnerparty. It;s a perfect recipe to make for a lot of people.

Dried date cake cut into pieces in quiche tray before serving

Before serving it at the dinnerparty I tested the cake on my family. Let me tell you; they normally don't eat dried dates. My family is of the kind that likes to eat the familiar cakes and pies over and over again. Like Dutch apple pie or my grandmothers Cheesecake ( in Dutch: Monchoutaart).But even though they looked a bit strange when I presented the pieces of dried date cake; everyone loved it!

My grandmother just couldn 't stop eating. Same as my colleagues from work, who I brought the leftovers. They immediately asked for the recipe. And I was very pleased to hear already two of them made it themselves successfully.

This is definitely one of my new favorite recipes and I'm very happy that Bagels & Beans shared this recipe online.

For the Dutch version of this recipe in PDF click here.

Dried Date Cake

For about 8 'pie' pieces or approximately 30 little pieces


  • 250 grams dried dates, pitted and chopped (weight after pitting)
  • 125 grams of butter + extra for greasing the tray
  • 75 grams dark brown sugar (in Dutch: basterdsuiker)
  • 25 grams chopped walnuts
  • 75 grams Maria biscuits, chopped into small pieces in a mortar
  • ½ egg (M), beaten
  • 1 tablespoon caramel syrup (Monin or ( for Dutch readers) Douwe Egberts)
  • Flaked coconut

Important: make sure to have pitted and chopped the dates before you start; it is a sticky job.

1. Grease a small quiche tray (20 cm) with butter.

2. Melt the 125 grams of butter on the lowest possible heat.  Do not let the butter brown!  When the butter has melted  add the sugar in parts and stir constantly with a small whisk. Make sure it does not stick on the sides. It has to remain a liquid mass. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.

3. Beat the egg with a fork and add it only to the butter-sugar mixture as this is no longer really hot anymore, otherwise the egg solidifies immediately and you get pieces of egg in your cake. Pour it in gently and stir constantly. Put the pan back on the heat and continue to stir until completely incorporated.

4. Add 1 tablespoon caramel syrup while stirring.

5. Add dates, keep stirring and boil for 1 minute.

6. Then add the biscuits and walnuts and remove from heat. Stir until everything is mixed well.

7. Put the mixture into the quiche tray and press it flat with a spoon. The cake should be 1 ½ cm  thick. Make sure everything is evenly distributed.
Let cool about 1 ½ hours in the refrigerator before you cut it in pieces.

8. Sprinkle the cake with coconut flakes before serving.

Easy to make 1 to 2 days in advance; keep in refrigerator.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Thai Red Chicken Curry with Cashews

As a foodie I like to try new recipes all the time. But I also really cherish my favorite recipes which I make over and over again for years and are always a succes.
One of our favorite weeknight meals is Thai red chicken curry with cashew nuts. I think I once found it in the Dutch Delicious magazine, but I'm not sure because of the many magazine clippings I collected.

It has been modified slightly because there were just a few vegetables in the original recipe.
I added  green beans and some extra pepper. 
It's quickly finished with noodles that only need to be soaked in some boiled water.

Once all the ingredients are prepared it's a quick and tasty weeknight meal. With a little heat from the curry paste and a crunch from the cashews.
I think the Mae Ploy curry pastes taste so good that, especially for a weeknight meal, it really doesn't make sense to make the paste from scratch.

My favorite brand of Thai red curry paste

Thai red chicken curry with cashew nuts

Main course for 2 persons

-          1 tablespoon groundnut or sunflower oil
-          1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (I use Mae Ploy; see picture)
-          1 large red pepper, cut into thin strips
-          300 grams chicken breast, cut into strips
-          200 grams of green beans, halved and + / - cooked 7 minutes
-          1 clove garlic, minced
-          1 tablespoon oyster sauce
-          1 tablespoon fish sauce
-          1 tablespoon brown sugar
-          2 spring onions, chopped
-          50 grams (roasted, salted) cashews 
-          150 grams of noodles or white rice,  to serve

1) Cook the green beans (if not already done) and keep the cooking water for the noodles to soak.

2) Heat the oil in a wok and stir-fry the curry paste and chicken about 2 minutes.
Add the peppers, garlic and green beans and stir-fry briefly.

3) Add the oyster sauce, fish sauce and sugar and let simmer on low heat for about 4 minutes.

4) Add the spring onions and fry for 2 more minutes. Soak the noodles in the boiled water according to package directions.

5) Sprinkle with cashews just before serving.

Serve with noodles, white rice or fried noodles.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Perfect Dinner Party with Friends!

It was a LOT of work. It was so much planning, preparing, grocery shopping and cooking that I actually reconsider my idea of starting a living room restaurant! But OMG it was also so much fun!!!

I had celebrated my Bachelor of Law graduation with family by throwing a BBQ. But to celebrate with friends I decided to invite the 11 most culinary ones for a dinner party in our living room. Unfortunately the friends who love cooking, eating and wine as much as we do were on holiday, but there were still 9 amazing friends with a good appetite left!

Preparing Lemon Cheese Cake desserts with white chocolate in glass ramekins

Recently I wrote a post with 5 tips for throwing a stress free dinner party. Well, after last weekend I have some more tips! Especially for throwing a dinner party for more people.  It turned out there are other things to think about when you host 8 or more guests, instead of the 'normal' 4 or 6. 
When I googled on Internet I found dinner party do's and don'ts like; 'create a playlist', 'learn the art of conversation' and 'send formal invitations'. Those were not the tips I was looking for...

Table ready for our guests to arrive
It turned out that my most important advice for people who are planning a big dinner party is:
Make sure you have enough space in your refrigerator! 
Because I really hold on to rules number 4 and 5 (plan ahead and start cooking in time) I composed a menu with almost only dishes I could prepare a day or a few hours in advance.
That was a good thing, because at the evening of the dinner party I did not have to stress at all about getting courses ready on time. But off course all the pre-made dishes had to be stored cool. As soon as I started shopping for all the groceries, on my 3-page long(!) shopping list, I realised there was not enough room in our fridge for all the food. Not to mention the many bottles of wine and beer that had to be served chilled!

All dishes and the ingredients needed
Which brings me to the second extra tip when throwing a dinner party for a big group, but also for dinner parties in general:
Be creative! 
I put a part of the stuff I didn't need in the fridge at my work and another part in the fridge of our neighbours. We also borrowed a little extra refrigerator from my parents and used a camping fridge plus a coolbox with ice packs.

Another thing I had to be creative with was how to bring a lot of glasses, from the amuse bouche and the cocktails, to our guests while I only had one serving tray. For that I put a kitchen towel on an oven tray and that worked perfectly as a serving tray.

The third thing which is really handy if you're planning a dinner party for a lot of people; make a list of all the things that need to be done. If possible even write the time schedule with it. I'm convinced I would have forgot to heat the oven if I had'nt looked at my schedule that night.

Time schedule

And the last tip:
Be flexible, and don't be afraid to change the menu or just leave something out if you discover you don't have time for it or just doesn't fit.
I really wanted to have a dish with fresh figs, because their in season now. So I planned on serving fresh figs with blue cheese and prosciutto on a crostini with the aperitif. But last minute I skipped them from the menu because it meant keeping an eye on the oven during the time everybody arrived.

And a few hours earlier, while the  menu's were already printed and on the plates, I decided to skip the chicory with serranoham from Ottolenghi. Let me tell you; nobody even noticed!!!

The dinner was a big success! Even though just a few of our friends met each other before, everybody was talking and enjoying the food and wine.

The final result! 
Although I normally like to plan a dinner around a theme I decided to skip it because the most important thing was that it had to be easy to make for 11 persons.
But in the end I discovered I accidentally did have some sort of theme; Lemon! Except from the amuse bouche all the courses, including the cocktail, had some lemon in it.
And because I like to do things properly I especially bought some coffee and tea with a lemon link in it ;-)

Curious about the whole menu? Here it comes! The Persian grilled chicken was really popular, followed by the Kisir and the amuse bouche. Unfortunately I totally forgot to make pictures of all the dishes because I was so busy organising everything. Recipes will be published in next posts!


Pistachios, Remeker cheese and dried sausage from butcher shop Le Jeune
Amuse bouche
Parmesan Foam / acidic cherrytomatoes / basil oil (inspired by the signature amuse bouche from Beluga chef Hans van Wolde)
Toast with Fiorito Frizzo Cocktail and Strawberry/Lemonsoda Mocktail

Tilburg Sourdough bread with butter (grass/goat), salt, olive oil

First course
Salad with smoked salmon and Middle Eastern dressing
White wine: Domaine Gibault Sauvignon Blanc
Main course Israeli mezze:
Ottolenghi's marinated aubergines
Kisir (Turkish bulghursalad)
Dina’s carrot salad with honeyroasted pecans
Lamb Meatballs with tahinsauce
Red wine: Oratoire Saint Vincent Côtes du Rhône
Rose wine: Domaine de Gournier-Mourvedre
Lemon Cheesecake (inspired by Gu)
Dessert wine: Muscat de Beaumes de Venise


Coffee or tea with friandises
Homemade dried date cake/ Helva/ Chocolate coffeebeans
Tea: loose leaf Verveine
Coffee: Freshly ground coffee from Finca el Limoncillo (Nicaragua)

Liqor: Sabra
All wines (except the Muscat) were ordered at Vindict wineshop who also adviced about the winepairing with the food.

The Persian grilled chicken wings on the BBQ