Tag Archives: Culinary Tours

Amsterdam Top Choc Shops

Amsterdam Top Choc Shops

Amsterdam Top Choc Shops

As far as I’m concerned chocolate is a food group, so an essential part of a healthy balance diet.  With chocolate as with so many things in life, pure is best.  The chocolates I love to eat are the ones made from the best quality ingredients, no funny ingredients added to extend life or cover up nasties.  These chocolate shops all use fair trade ingredients.

I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I let you come to Amsterdam and not eat the very best, so here are my top three favourites.

Amsterdam Top Choc Shops

Pompadour

Pompadour : Situated in the 9-straatjes, Pompadour is a great place to stop for coffee and some chocolate to recuperate from all that tiring boutique shopping.  Of course I’m not forcing you to eat chocolate, you could choose one of their tasty cakes instead.  A beautiful little tearoom where the interior reflects the decadence and quality of the products – the ornate panelling was brought from the council buildings of the Belgian town of Mortsel where it was made in 1795.

Amsterdam Top Choc Shops

Puccini

Puccini :  These chocolates are generous in flavour and size.  Italian traditions influence the product as well as some seasonal ingredients.  They promise every Puccini chocolate to be a unique experience and I’d have to agree, like they say ‘Why re-create something that already exists’.  You’ll find Puccini in National Geographic’s list of best chocolate makers in the world for 2012.

Amsterdam Top Choc Shops

Van Soest

Van Soest:  I shouldn’t show so much favouritism, but … Van Soest are my very very favourite and have been since I discovered them.  Each flavour works perfectly, and I mean perfectly.  They use Belgian chocolate to create their own recipes and with the injection of their personal classy style, I just cannot resist.  I have no words.

If this has put you in the mood for some chocolate, why not book one of my Private Amsterdam Food Tours?  Just you and your own party with some of the very best sweet treats the city has to offer.  The Chocoholics Tour of Amsterdam

 

Recipe for Roast Butternut Squash, Red Onion and Chickpea Salad

ButternutChickpeaSalad

A week or so ago, after I had finished a culinary tour, I decided to treat myself to a healthy, if late, lunch.  I decided to head to Vinnie’s Deli. I’d seen it many times, walked passed, and promised myself a visit.  So today would be the day.  I was greeted by a display of colourful salads, boy, if I  wasn’t hungry before I came in,  I was now!  I opted for this salad.  Loved it, and of course went straight home to re-create it.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

The preparation of the salad and salad dressing can be done during time that the veggies are roasting.  This means that your total ‘active’ time is roughly 20 minutes.

Ingredients for 4 to 6 servings

For the Roast Vegetables
1 x medium sized butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into small bite-sized chunks.
2 x red peppers, de-seeded and also chopped into small bite-sized squares.
2 x red onions, chopped into small bite sized pieces
1 x tbsp olive oil
A good grind of black pepper
Salt to taste

Butternut Squash and Red Onion

Butternut Squash and Red Onion

Dressing
Juice and zest of a lemon
1 x clove of garlic (raw) grated finely
1 x tbsp of honey
2 x tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp of cayenne pepper (more if you want more of a kick of heat)
2 x tsp all spice (piment) powder
2 x tsp of paprika powder
A pinch of salt

The Salad
2 x tins of chickpeas (400gr / 14 oz.) drained and rinsed
3 x spring onions (scallions) chopped finely
A handful of fresh mint leaves chopped finely
A large handful of fresh flat leaved parsley chopped finely
Optional – some feta cheese

Method 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C/400°F.
  2. Place the vegetables for roasting, the oil and the black pepper (not salt as this can make your veggies watery instead of giving them a crispy, caramalised finish) into a roasting tin, mix through with your hands to coat everything in the oil.  Place in the oven until they are cooked through, softened, but not mushy, and have taken on some colour.  This can take anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes depending on the size you have cut your veggies and also each oven is slightly different, making cooking times variable.
  3. While the vegetables are roasting, mix up the ingredients for the salad dressing and set aside.  This will be a thick, gloopy dressing, but it coats everything nicely!
  4. Also whilst you wait on the vegetables, mix up the salad ingredients in your serving bowl.
  5. When the vegetables have been roasted, remove from the oven, add a little salt, mix through check for seasoning, and pour into your salad bowl with the salad ingredients, add the dressing and stir through, firmly, but carefully.  You want to coat everything evenly with as least tosses as possible without being so rough that you mush everything together.
  6. Sprinkle some feta over as you serve should you wish.

Tips and Variations

  • This works really well with puy lentils instead of chickpeas.
  • You can allow your vegetables to cool if you wish before mixing them into your salad, but I feel that the heat releases more flavour in the herbs and spices.
  • This salad can be served warm or at room temperature.  It keeps really well in the fridge for a few days.
  • I like to serve it with roast chicken or with lamb chops.
  • If I have leftovers, I like to eat this salad on its own for lunch.  I also like to chop some rucola (rocket) leaves through the salad.
Roast Butternut Squash

Roast Butternut Squash

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!