Tag Archives: Christmas

Easy Apple and Cinnamon Danish Pastries

Easy Apple and Cinnamon Danish Pastries

Easy Apple and Cinnamon Danish Pastries

These pastries are great to make for brunch.  So, I’m often found putting them together around the holiday season whether it’s Christmas, New Year or Easter – or just a lazy Sunday, they work at any time.  Don’t worry, this is a very easy recipe, using shop bought pastry (why not?) and a simple filling.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes +15 minutes if you need to make the apple compote.
Baking Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Cooling, Glazing and Icing: 15 minutes

Makes 8 Pastries
For the Pastry
8 x shop bought puff pastry squares measuring 12cm
1 x egg, beaten

For the Apple Filling
300gr / 10.5 oz. Apple Compote (recipe follows)
2 x tsp honey
1 x tsp cinnamon
75gr / 2.5 oz. raisins

For the Icing
10 x tbsp icing sugar
4 or 5 tsp water
For the Glaze
1 x tbsp apricot jam
1 x tsp water

Easy Apple and Cinnamon Danish Pastries

Method

  1. Put the oven on to heat it to 200°C/400°F.
  2. In a bowl, mix the apple compote with the honey, cinnamon and raisins and set aside.
  3. Line a baking tray(s) with greaseproof baking paper.
  4. Straight from the fridge, lay out the chilled slices of pastry on the lined baking trays. Leave some space in between each pastry square – about 2 cm / 1 in. Brush each slice with the beaten egg.
  5. Along the middle of each slice, diagonally, spread about 2 x tbsp of the apple mixture. Don’t spread right to the corners, but leave a couple of centimeters (1 x in.).
  6. Take both of the ‘free’ corners (the opposite corners to which you have spread the apple mix) of pastry and fold them over the middle. Squeeze them together gently but firmly to create a seal.
  7. Brush each pastry with egg.
  8. Place in the oven and bake until they are brown and crispy. This should take somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes.
  9. Whilst the pastries are baking, you can make the icing and the glaze. For the icing, add the water gradually until you get the consistency you wish. To make the glaze, put the jam and water in a heavy bottomed pan on a medium heat and let the jam melt.
  10. Once your pastries are ready, allow them to cool before adding the glaze then let the glaze set before applying the icing in thin stripes over your pastry.

Tips and Variations

  • These pastries work really well with all sorts of stewed fruit fillings like pears, peaches, plums or berries. You can even use jam – but be careful to use a good quality jam, otherwise it can get too sweet.
  • This recipe is based on a Danish pastry. It is not completely authentic because the real thing has a creamy base under the fruit, but I prefer this simpler way.
  • If your glaze sets in the pan before your pastries are cooled, heat it a little to melt it again.

To make the Apple Compote

Ingredients
150 ml / 5 fl. oz. water
4 x medium apples peeled, cored and roughly diced

Method

  1. Place the apples, water and cinnamon in a heavy bottomed pan, bring to the boil, then allow to simmer until the apples are soft.
  2. Mash with a fork for a rougher texture or liquidize it with a hand mixer for a smooth result
  3. Serve with pork or roast chicken. 

Tips and Variations 

  • The amount of water can depend on the apples, so if you feel it is getting to dry while cooking, just add a little water. Or , if you feel there is too much water, just turn the heat up and let it evaporate as steam.
  • This sauce keeps in the fridge for up to a week, or you can freeze it.

Amsterdam Private Food Tours

If this has made you hungry for more, why not book one of my Private Amsterdam Food Tours?  Just you and your own party with some of the very best food the city has to offer.

My new butcher friends at the Albert Cuyp market!

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Duck is my favourite poultry.  That said though, for some reason I seemed to struggle when cooking it.  Overcooking, undercooking, drying it out or ending up with a smoke filled house because of all that hot duck fat.  I decided it was time to focus on getting it right.  Getting it right every time.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 to 40 minutes

Ingredients for 4 Servings
For the Duck
4 x duck breasts (skin on) each weighing about 180gr / 6.3 oz. to 200gr / 7 oz. (give or take)
Some rough sea salt
Freshly Ground Black pepper

For the Redcurrant and Port Sauce
300ml / 10 fl. oz. good quality chicken stock
200gr / 7 oz. red currants
20gr / 0.7 oz. unsalted butter
1 x shallot chopped finely
2 x tsp of fresh thyme leaves
4 x tsp of port (ruby or tawny)
2 x tbsp of honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

For the Duck

  1. Put the oven on to heat it to 200°C/400°F. While the oven is heating, start the cooking process in a heavy bottomed frying pan/skillet.
  2. Sprinkle the salt and pepper on the skin side of the duck and rub it in.
  3. Place your pan on the hob/stove top. Put the duck breasts in the cold pan, skin side down. Turn on the heat to medium high and allow the duck to cook, leave it alone while this happens. If it starts to smoke too much, turn down the heat a little.
  4. Once you can see that the duck has cooked about a little more than half way by looking at the side of it to see the colour change, it should be transferred to the oven. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes, but of course it depends on the thickness of your duck and the intensity of the heat you use to cook it. You can do this in your pan if it has a metal handle, or you can transfer the duck to a roasting tray if your pan has a plastic or other unsuitable handle which won’t withstand the heat of the oven. I do the latter. If you are planning to do this too, heat the roasting tray in the oven beforehand. The easiest way to do this is to place it in there whilst you wait for the oven to reach temperature. The duck should be placed in the oven skin side down.
  5. Once in the oven, cook it for a further 7 to 10 minutes.
  6. Remove and allow to rest for a further 7 minutes before slicing it.

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

For the Redcurrant and Port Sauce

  1. Place half the butter in a pan and allow it to melt. Then add the shallots and cook them until softened on a medium high heat.
  2. Add the thyme, chicken stock, port, honey and a little salt and pepper. Add about ¾ of the red currants, keeping the rest back to add at the end of cooking.
  3. Turn up the heat to reduce the sauce until it is about 1/3 of its original volume.
  4. Turn down the heat, add the rest of the butter and whisk through until it is melted. Add the remaining berries, check for seasoning and serve poured over the duck.

Tips and Variations

  • It may seem strange to start the duck cooking on a low heat. After all, I’m always going on about getting pans hot before placing meat in them. The reason for this cold start with the duck is that it helps render the fat from the meat gradually, giving an even cook and a crispy skin.
  • The sauce works really well with cherries and blackberries too. Normally they are a little sweeter than redcurrants, so you could cut down on the amount of honey or add a squeeze of orange juice to balance the flavour should you prefer.
  • The redcurrant sauce works nicely with venison and other game birds like pheasant, partridge and quail. I have been known to serve it with game sausages, or a game pie which is great too.
  • You can make the sauce in advance and heat it up when you are ready to serve. It will keep in the fridge for a few days.
  • Keep the duck fat and use it to make roast potatoes.

Amsterdam Private Food Tours

If this has made you hungry for more, why not book one of my Private Amsterdam Food Tours?  Just you and your own party with some of the very best food the city has to offer.

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Quick Mince Pie Puffs

MincePiePuff1

Last year at Christmas time I went a bit crazy and made so much from absolute scratch.  It was great, don’t get me wrong, but this year I’m trying to go a bit easier on myself.  My recipes are just as tasty, but a bit quicker and less involved.  This version of my classic mince pie is absolute tribute to that.  So, if you find yourself craving those Christmas treats and the smells that just HAVE to fill the house, check out the website over the next few days for some easy ideas.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 20 to 30 minutes
Makes: 18 to 20 puffs

Ingredients
300gr / 10.5 oz. mince meat (ready made or your own recipe)
225gr / 8.oz. puff pastry rolled out thinly and cut into squares of 8cm (I like to keep it easy for these mince pie puffs, so I use ready made)
1 egg, beaten
A little flour to make rolling the pastry easier
A little icing sugar for dusting

 Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F
  2. When you have rolled and cut the pastry, place about two teaspoons of the mincemeat into one diagonal half of the pastry. Make sure you leave enough room (about 1cm / 0.5 in.) around the edge so that you can seal them.
  3. Dab your finger into the egg and run it around the edge of your pastry.
  4. Fold one corner over to another to cover your mincemeat and make a triangle shape. Press down around the edge firmly to seal. If you find when doing this that you have put too much mince meat in your puff, you can always rearrange them.
  5. Place each puff on a baking sheet which has been lined with greaseproof baking paper. You may find it easier to fill your puffs on the lined tray.
  6. Take a fork and make depressions with the prongs all the way around each puff where the seal is, this will make it more effective.
  7. Brush the puffs with the rest of the beaten egg and with a sharp knife make a hole in the thickest part of the puff to let steam out.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes (to be safe, check after 15 minutes) or until they are golden brown and crispy.
  9. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Tips and Variations

  • Serve warm for nicest results. You can serve them with some double cream or a little clotted cream for real luxury.
  • I like to have these with a glass of port, but of course they go great with a glass of mulled wine.
  • This recipe is an easy and quicker alternative to making mince pies from scratch.

MincePastryPuff3

Christmas Food Shopping in Amsterdam

xmasdecos3
Where I’ll be buying the turkey this Christmas!

All through the year,  I am constantly on the hunt for the best ingredients for my recipes and for tastings on culinary tours.  Ingredients that are fresh and taste how they should (sounds crazy I know, but you’d be surprised!).  Ingredients that are grown and products that are made by people who know what they are talking about, know what quality is, and most of all care about  the result.

This year round food detection really pays off at Christmas time.  I have years of experience and up-to-date information on the best addresses and the top ingredients just when I need it most.

As you can imagine, I get quite a few questions about where to get all that Christmas cheer in Amsterdam,  and so, I like to write a little blog piece each year to help out my fellow Amsterdam Christmas cooks.

This year, I am letting you into my personal, inner circle of  Amsterdam Christmas food supplies.  The places that I will be buying all my Christmas food.  So let’s start at the top:-

The Turkey
The perennial issue in the Netherlands, the million dollar question ‘Where can I get a turkey??’  I have heard this question for years, people frantically phoning me, or during cooking lessons when they ask, I see desperation in their eyes.  I understand totally, my first couple of Christmases in the Netherlands were spent in a desperate search for this illusive, Pimpernel-like bird.
For those of us from the UK or the US, we kind of just expect that at this time of year  the stores will be bulging at the seams with turkey, not so.  There is no tradition of eating turkey in the Netherlands, and why should there be? I mean, the bird is native to north America after all.
You might think that I’ll be heading straight for the most expensive,  chic, butcher to the stars kind of establishment, but that is not the case.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, not at all, in fact, there are some fabulous top of the range butchers that do great things with a turkey.  But I just want a good bird, no frills and so have ordered my turkey from Poelier Jonker (Maasstraat 19, no website available) , this place has been around for decennia, and is just what I love about a food store.  Honest product for  an honest price.

The Stuffing
I have to, really have to have a pork sausage based stuffing.  Nothing else will do.  I don’t want breadcrumbs, I don’t want fancy dried fruit versions, no vegetarian types, no nuts, no expensive meat stuffings.  I want pork, apple and sage.  That’s it.  So, first thing I need is a good sausage, which, once sourced and brought home, I will split open, retreive the meat and add my flavourings to make the stuffing.  The challenge here is that the sausage, the one I want anyway, is not really a Dutch thing.  So you may think you need to head to a deli and get a fancy sausage, Italian, Spanish style. You could, but that would be too posh, to many exotic flavours.   I now have the answer, I get my sausages from The French ButcherI pick up a couple of kilo’s of a basic “Bradwurst” and keep them in the freezer until the time comes to get my stuffing ready.  Stuffing sorted.

Fish
Although Christmas is the season of eating everything you can get your hands on, everything that is ‘naughty’, everything that is rich and bad for us, at a certain point all this heavy richness may get the bettter of you.  So you look for something else, something lighter, something that doesn’t sit with you for three days afterwards.  It’s time to turn to fish.  There are a few options here, but this year I have come to respect the fish counter at  Marqt more and more.  The staff are well informed, which always helps! They have information on sustainable fish and they can tell you what is caught locally.  For me, at this time of year, it’s usually salmon I’m after, and at the moment they are offering various types.
And of course there’s the prawn cocktail to consider, AND what Christmas would be complete without some smoked salmon.

Spice
It not only has to taste like Christmas, but it has to smell like Christmas.  Where does that come from?  Well, it’s that spice combination of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, star anise and ginger.  I need this mix for my mince pies, for ginger breads and cookies, for Christmas cake, for mulled wines, I could go on…..
For me, it’s not just the sweet baking spices I need, but I want to make sure I have some sharper, warmer and even hot and spicy spices at my disposal over the festive season.  Why? Turkey Curry of course!  Well, only joking, not exactly curry, but I love to make some spicy Asian style salads with left overs and crunchy vegetables,  for a contrast to all that meat and cream.
This morning, I checked my spice provisions and will need to do a dash this week to Peperbol to replenish stocks.  In this store they have every spice from A to Z.  If you need a little assistance with some translations, the staff are more than willing to help.

Vegetables
Not unimportant, where would we be without our Brussels!  This one is not so difficult, there are lots of great options to get tasty vegetables.  I reckon that the markets are the best bet for taste and freshness.  This year, I’ll be making two market visits to make sure that all my Turkey trimmings are up to scratch The Albert Cuyp markt and The Boeren Markt  (only open on a Saturday) will be filling my table this year.

Sweets, Treats and Special Things

These are all the things we don’t make ourselves, those tricky cakes and sweets, the cheeses, pâté’s, the delicatessen specialities that add a bit of sparkle to the festivities.  My cheese, stilton amongst many others, as always will be coming from Tromp, I am sure they will have other treats for my Christmas drinks and snacks too.  Pâté and rillette (NEED rillette on a warm, lightly toasted baguette) will come from the French Butcher (see above), dates, nuts and pomegranates from the Turkish Shop Nuri Genco,  (Rijnstraat 49, no website available).

As well as having guests at Christmas, if I’m lucky, I may get a couple of invitations too.  I love to bring something to friends that I have made as a contribution to the festivities, but I also love to buy things for my host.  If I buy, then I always choose something that I don’t make myself and go to the real artisans.  In this case it’s Van Soest for chocolates or Patisserie Kuyt for special cakes.

Oliebollen

After all that traditional Britishness which I love to have for my Christmas dinner, I do conede to a  little bit of Dutchness for New Year.  I am not a natural ‘oliebol’ eater.  I don’t relish the little doughnut type sweets as do my Dutch friends, but I have found a baker who makes them just the way I like them.  Is it a coincidence that they are one of the best bakers in Amsterdam?  I don’t know, but these are the only  oliebollen for me.  Get to Hartog’s early on new years eve because the queue gets outrageously long!

Wherever you get all those goodies, make sure you enjoy them and have a Very Merry Christmas!

Recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks with Shallots

  LamShankShallotGreekStyle

I think it has been about the last 3 Winters that I have been turning to various versions of braised lamb shanks to see me through the cold weather.  This year, I spotted a Greek recipe which has inspired my latest lamb creation.  It’s probably not what you would consider a true Greek style recipe, but there are a few additions which definitely give it a Greek angle.  The dill and the mint most obviously.

I love to get this meal ready of a weekend afternoon ready to come home to after a brisk walk or a day spent in the cold outdoors.  This works for a meal for 2 or fro as many friends and family as you can fit round the table.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time: 2 hours

Ingredients for 4 Servings
4 x meaty lamb shanks
1 x tbsp of sunflower oil
20 x shallots, peeled and halved across the breadth
2 x cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 x tbsp tomato purée
2 x tsp honey
2 x tsp dried oregano
2 x tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chili powder
300ml / 10.5 fl. oz. white wine
50ml / 1.7 fl. oz. red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
A handful of fresh mint leaves chopped roughly
A handful of fresh dill chopped roughly
Salt to taste

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a wide, non-stick frying or sauté pan that has a close fitting lid. I just say wide so that all the meat can touch the bottom of the pan while it browns and cooks.  I you don’t have a pan wide enough, don’t worry, just brown the shanks in stages, and you may need to use a little more liquid to cook so that the lamb is flavoured by all the ingredients in the cooking liquor.
  2. Brown the meat in the pan, turning it until you get some nice colour.  Remove, and set aside.
  3. Don’t clean the pan, just add the shallots and allow them to brown.  Then return the lamb to your pan.
  4. Add the garlic, tomato purée, honey, oregano, cumin, chili powder, some salt and stir through.  Then add the white wine and the vinegar.  Stir through and cover.
  5. Don’t worry if the liquid does not completely cover your meat, the idea is to create quite a rich, thick sauce.
  6. Stew on a low heat for 2 hours, or until the meat is so tender that it falls off the bone. Keep the pan covered. Turn the meat every half hour or so making sure it gets a chance to completely cook in the liquor.  Make sure the heat is correct, it should bubble very gently.  If the pan gets too dry, just add a little water.
  7. Just before serving, stir through most of your herbs, keeping a little back to sprinkle over the dish as presentation (and also flavour) when you serve.

 Tips and Variations

  • I like to serve this Greek inspired dish simply with a green salad or some cous cous.  You can also serve some simply boiled potatoes and green beans.