Tag Archives: Fish

Dutch Herring

Dutch Herring

My favourite fish stall to buy herring. I love to take food tour clients here.

Dutch Herring:

Excitement is building here in the Netherlands.  Ever since it was announced in April social media has been chattering with events and my mailbox has been slowly filling with invitations.  This year the official start date of the herring season is 15th June.    Although herring can be caught through the months of May and June, there is always an official season start date picked by experts earlier in the year.  They decide when the herring are at their best based on, amongst other things, plankton levels in the North sea, this gives an indication of how fat the fish will be and when.  It’s a huge thing here and announcements are made in National media keeping us up to date with the condition of this year’s herring.  Parties and events are held all over the country to celebrate the landing of the herring.  The most famous of which is ‘vlaggetjesdag’ or flag day in the seaside town of Scheveningen near Den Haag.  This party takes place around the day of the opening of the season and the first barrel of herring is auctioned off for charity and always raises thousands.

This all makes it sound as if herring is only available at a specific time of year, but in fact we eat it year round.  Once caught in the herring season, the fish is frozen and defrosted throughout the year to ensure the best of the catch is available whenever we want it.

Dutch Herring

Fresh herring from the fish stall with little onions and pickles. On the side you can see ‘kibbeling’.

A lot of fuss about a little fish you might think?  Well I did too until I learned more about the significance of this tradition.  For starters, with all this publicity and excitement people are aware of where their food comes from, not only that, we also learn about the state of our sea – not a bad thing.  And of course where would Amsterdam be without herring?  Probably still a little town fighting to keep its head above water – literally and financially.  Amsterdam in particular has a lot to thank the little herring for.  It gave a huge boost to the economy of the evolving city hundreds of years ago.  Amsterdam’s origins are inseparable from the sea, herring was plentiful and so was always one of the main catches, as it was for so many cities and countries bordering the North sea.  But, the Dutch made a discovery that gave them the competitive edge when it came to catching the fish.  They found that by leaving a certain part of the stomach in the fish and not gutting it completely, enzymes were produced which kept the herring fresh for longer.  This had huge consequences for the industry and for Amsterdam.  Fishermen could stay at sea longer, make bigger catches for less cost and then the herring industry really took off and Amsterdam along with it.  Boat builders were needed to make the bigger vessels needed to catch and transport their precious cargo and of course numerous other trades and industries were needed to service the thriving herring industry.

Dutch Herring

You’ll see signs next to fish stalls celebrating the new catch.

Herring is eaten today as a street food.  You won’t see it in a restaurant, well, you might, but probably cooked or pickled or in some other fancy guise than the authentic raw version.  Yes, I said raw, the Dutch eat their herring raw.  Not pickled, that’s Germany or Scandinavia, not here.  You’ll get the best herring from stalls on the street or at markets.  Every area of every city has its herring stall.   These stalls sell other fish snacks like ‘kibbeling’ which is deep fried, seasoned pieces of white fish.  Traditionally cod, but when stocks became low and prices went up in recent years it was replaced by other white fish.  The word ‘kibbeling’ is a mix up of ‘kabeljauwwang’ which means cod cheek and is a really tasty alternative if you can’t quite handle raw herring.  I would urge you to try though, it is delicious, if it’s nice and fresh it’s hardly even fishy tasting, just creamy and sweet.  And of course it’s packed full of that famous healthy Omega 3 oil which does us so much good.  Think of it as Dutch sushi (no wonder Japanese travellers go wild for it!).

Dutch Herring

Fish Stalls dressed up to celebrate the new herring season.

If you’re an Amsterdammer, you’ll more than likely want pickles with your herring.  This combination is a centuries old version of fusion food (really, there is nothing new).  Pickling is big here in Amsterdam and was brought to the city by Jewish people.

So, if you want to eat your herring like and Amsterdammer, get over to the Albert Cuyp Market, look for the fish stalls – which will stand out from the crowd at this time of year with their big banners with ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’, written on them meaning that they have taken delivery of the new season herring  and ask for ‘Haring met uitjes en zuur’  – herring with little onions and pickled gherkins.  Then stand at the stall with your fellow herring connoisseurs from all walks of life and all ages whilst you stab at small pieces of herring with your Dutch flagged cocktail sticks muttering about this year’s quality and saying ‘hmmm lekker!’ (tasty!) at regular intervals.  Oh, but maybe not tell the Dutch that their prized herring was probably caught in Danish or Scottish waters.

Read my article on the best place (and most famous) to buy your authentic Amsterdam pickles.  De Leeuw.

Dutch Herring

Five generations of pickling tradition. Even Van Gogh enjoyed this family recipe.

 

 

Fish Pie – A British Classic

Fish Pie

Fish Pie:  I’ve eaten fish pie in some form or another all my life.  It’s a British classic and at its core a poor man’s dish which used off cuts of fish disguised in a sauce and covered with potatoes – you can’t tell that you don’t have the most beautiful fillets because the flavour is amazing!  For the last few years I’ve been going for a lighter version of fish pie, more vegetables, lighter sauce and it was really good.  Now though I want to get back to a more traditional fish pie and this is it.  It can take a bit of time to get the elements together, but it works really well as a make ahead dish, or for big groups.  I really like to make it when it’s one of those times when your not really sure when everybody will be arriving – you can eat it cold or warm it up easily too.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes plus time to cook the broccoli and potatoes.
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

I use an oven proof dish which measures 30cm / 13 in. x 22cm / 8.5 in. and 6cm / 2.5 in. deep to bake the pie in the oven

The Fish Pie Filling and Topping
1 x kg / 2.2 lb. of fish.  I use a mix of salmon, haddock and cod cut into large chunks.
3 x large garlic cloves chopped finely
4 x anchovy fillets chopped finely
6 x spring onions chopped finely
2 x tbsp of olive oil
Juice of a lemon
200gr / 7 oz. frozen, chopped spinach – defrosted and most of the water drained off.
200gr / 7 oz. frozen peas, defrosted
300gr / 10.5 oz. chestnut mushrooms chopped roughly
Florets from a head of broccoli – boiled
750gr / 1.6 lb. boiled potatoes2 x tsps of English mustard (Mash the potatoes and broccoli together  with the mustard and add a little salt and pepper to taste.)
50gr / 2 oz.  grated manchego or mature cheddar cheese, grated.
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 x bay leaves
5 or six whole black peppercorns

For The Béchamel Sauce
20gr / 0.7 oz. of unsalted butter
20gr / 0.7 oz. of plain flour
400ml / 14 fl. 0z. of milk
A pinch of fresh nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Set your oven to pre-heat to 200°C / 400°F.
  2. First, poach the fish. Place it in the milk (this is the milk you will use to make the sauce) with the bay leaves, black peppercorns and a little salt.  Cover the pan with a close fitting lit, bring to a gentle boil, remove it from the heat and allow the fish to cook for 5 to 7 minutes depending on how big your chunks of fish are.  When cooked, drain off the fish and keep the milk.
  3. Arrange the pieces of cooked fish evenly in the bottom of your pie dish.
  4. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan add the anchovies and garlic, cook for a minute or so on a high heat. Keep the mix moving so that it doesn’t burn and add the spring onions, stir through and cook for another minute or so until everything is softened and takes a little colour.   De-glaze the pan with the lemon juice and cook it off.  Add the mushrooms, mix through and cook on a medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until they soften a little.  Add the peas, spinach and some salt and pepper, stir through and cook for about 5 minutes on a gentle heat.  Actually you are just heating this up.  Check for seasoning, turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. If you are making this recipe for the first few times, I’d advise to make the sauce after you have the vegetables ready. Once you get more expert at it, then you can make it whilst the vegetables are cooking.
  6. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan – not a non stick pan. Add the flour and mix in using a metal whisk.  It will be like crumbly ball.
  7. Add the milk (with the bay leaves and peppercorns removed) and whisk vigorously. Keep going until the sauce thickens.  Adjust the heat so that you have enough too cook the sauce but not so much that it sticks.  I usually make this sauce on a medium high heat.  Add some salt and pepper and the nutmeg.  Turn down the heat and allow to cook for a couple of minutes – you can now use a wooden spoon to stir.
  8. You are now ready to assemble! Pour your sauce over the vegetable mix and stir through.  Check once again for seasoning.  Spread the vegetables evenly and carefully over the fish in the pie dish.  Try not to move the fish around too much – the goal is to have each piece of pie containing an nice piece of everything in each bite.  Take the potato mix and spread this over the top then sprinkle over the cheese and place in the oven to bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is nice and brown and crunchy.

Tips and Variations

  • Be creative with the fish. Try meaty white fish like halibut or monkfish for some luxury – the ultimate is with prawns or gamba’s.
  • Instead of spinach, try kale, just cook it in some boiling water for 5 minutes first.
  • This a great dish to make the day before and just heat up when you need it.
  • Be creative with the potato topping, try mixing with sweet potato, parsnips or sprouts, or in summer add lots of fresh herbs like parsley, chives or basil.
  • You can use single cream to make the sauce if you want a decadent, rich version. If you do this, then you can poach your fish in milk or water.  You can also use half milk and half cream.

Fish Pie - A British Classic

Moroccan Fish and Chickpea Curry

Moroccan Fish and Chickpea Curry

Moroccan Fish and Chickpea Curry

You know, I can’t really remember why I called this a ‘Moroccan’ curry – is there such a thing?  It should be a tagine surely?  I think it has something to do with the fact that I only use two spices, subtle – which probably made me think of a north African style of cooking, so not a complex Indian spice mix, but I do make a paste in the style of an Indian curry.  I have tried to think of another name for this dish that I’ve been making for about 10 years now, but it’s grown on me, so I hope you will forgive my culinary ignorance and just enjoy this satisfying simple dish.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Serves  4

2 x tbsp sunflower oil
4 x filets of cod (or other meaty white fish like hake) each about 175gr / 6 oz.  chopped into bite sized chunks
1 x large onion chopped finely
1 x red chili chopped finely
2 x cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 x tsp of turmeric
2 x tsp of cumin seed
A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger (about 70gr / 2.5 ), grated or chopped finely
1 x tbsp honey (or to taste)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 x tins of chopped tomatoes (2 x 400gr / 14 oz.)
2 x tins of chickpeas. Drained. (2 x 400gr / 14 oz.)
Optional – fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves chopped as garnish

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan on a medium/high heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, place the onion, chili, garlic, and ginger in the pan and let it cook for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften and take a bit of colour.
  3. Add the turmeric, cumin, honey and salt, let this cook for another 2 minutes. If the mix becomes to dry and starts to stick,  add a little water.
  4. Add the tins of tomatoes, and stir through your curry paste, you may need to turn the heat down to get to a gentle simmer, then add the fish. Keep the heat medium, just a gentle simmer letting the fish poach until it is cooked through.  This should take about 5 to 8 minutes.  Try not to stir too much so that the fish doesn’t break up.
  5. When the fish is cooked (it will turn from translucent to white) add the chickpeas and stir carefully until they are covered with the sauce. When the chickpeas are warmed through and the fish is cooked this dish is ready.  Check for seasoning.

Tips and Variations

  • If you use coriander (cilantro), chop the stalks finely and add this at the same time as the onion.
  • Instead of the chickpeas you can serve this mild curry with rice or noodles.
  • You can also try chicken filets, chopped into bite sized pieces. The difference here would be that you would add the chicken to the dish to cook after stage 3 as above, so before adding the tomatoes.
  • For a vegetarian version, leave out the fish, or swap chickpeas for lentils or other beans. You can also swap the fish for aubergine (egg plant), courgette (zucchini) and/or pumpkin – cooking times will vary.

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.

Thai Glazed Salmon

Thai Glazed Salmon

Thai Glazed Salmon

I suppose that’s not strictly true, I mean the idea was to make a glaze, but it ended up as being more of a sauce – I like it better that way.  If you want a glaze in the true sense of the word, then all you have to do is put the salmon back  in the pan once the glaze is cooked and cover it in the sauce letting it kind of stick to the fish.  I made so much of this that I had some left over and it was great the next day broken up over my salad.  Oh, and don’t think you have to stick to salmon, this works really well with chicken and pork too. 

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes 

Ingredients for 4 Servings
700gr / 1.5 lb. of skinless salmon filet sliced into strips of about 2cm / just less than an inch thick
2 x tbsp of sunflower oil
4 x spring onions (scallions) chopped finely (keep a little back to dress the dish)
1 x red chili chopped finely
50gr / 1.7 oz. of fresh ginger sliced julienne (matchsticks)
2 x garlic cloves chopped finely
4 x tbsp of sweet chili sauce
Juice of one lime
2 x tbsp honey
2 x tbsp Thai fish sauce

To Dress
Some fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, lime wedges and spring onion (scallion)

Method

  1. Heat the oil on a high heat in a heavy bottomed frying pan.
  2. Season the salmon with a little salt and when the oil is hot place the salmon filets in the pan. They should sizzle a bit but not too aggressively.  Cook the salmon on each side for about 3 minutes.  Be careful not to over load the pan, if you have too much salmon, then cook it off in batches.
  3. While the salmon is cooking you can prepare the glaze mix by measuring the chili sauce, honey, lime and fish sauce into a bowl and mix through with a fork.
  4. Remove the salmon from the pan and set aside on a clean plate.
  5. Put your pan straight back on the heat and add the spring onions (scallions), garlic, ginger and chili to the pan and fry off for a minute or so.
  6. Add the glaze mix, stir through and let it bubble and reduce for a couple of minutes until it is quite thick and syrupy .
  7. Serve the glaze poured over the salmon with the spring onions (scallions) and coriander (cilantro) and a few lime wedges on the side for squeezing.

Tips and Variations

  • You can make this glaze to cover chicken to. I like to use chopped chicken breast, but I don’t remove the chicken from the pan to make the glaze.  I also prefer this version with soy sauce instead of fish sauce.
  • Serve with rice noodles.

Baked Salmon and Parsley Sauce

SalmonParsleyPlate2

Baked Salmon and Parsley Sauce

Salmon is always my favourite ingredient for a spring time Sunday lunch.  This recipe is very simple and clean.  Fresh flavours combine effortlessly.

Preparation Time: less than 15 minutes
Cooking Time: less than 15 minutes

Ingredients for 4 Servings
For the Salmon
4 x salmon filets of about 150gr / 5 oz. each
Juice of one lemon
1 x tbsp of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

SalmonRawTray

For the Sauce
15gr / 0.5 oz.  unsalted butter
15gr / 0.5 oz.  plain flour
300ml / 10 fl oz.  semi-skimmed (half fat) milk
2 x heaped teaspoons of Dijon mustard
A large handful of flat leaved parsley chopped very finely
Salt (easy on the salt as the mustard can be salty)

ParsleySauceIngred

Method

To bake the Salmon

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.
  2. Place aluminium foil in a roasting tray.  Enough so that you can wrap the fish in it loosely.  Place the fish on the foil.  Drizzle over the oil and the lemon juice.  Sprinkle over the salt and the pepper.
  3. Cover your fish with the foil, making a loose parcel.
  4. Place the tray in the oven and allow to bake for 7 to 12 minutes.  The cooking time will not only depend on your oven, but also on how thick the salmon filets are.
  5. While the salmon is baking you can make the sauce.

To Make the Sauce

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan.  Not a non-stick pan.
  2. Add the flour and mix it, using a metal whisk,  until it is covered with the butter (a few seconds)
  3. Add about half third of the milk, whisk vigorously, it will be lumpy, don’t worry.
  4. Once this is thickened into a mass, add the other half and whisk until smooth.
  5. Turn the heat down to low, add the mustard and parsley with a little salt and mix it through with a wooden spoon, let it sauce simmer very gently for a few minutes.
  6. If at any point you feel the sauce is too thick, add a little bit of milk.
  7. Check for seasoning and serve.

ParsleySauceWhisk  

Tips and Variations

  • I like to serve this dish with some boiled new potatoes and either broccoli or green beans.
  • You can use other fish too.  Trout works very well, or milder tasting fish like whiting, cod or halibut.
  • Try adding some chives to the sauce for an extra flavour.
  • You can make the sauce in advance.  It may seem thick, but when you heat it gently again, it should reach the texture you want.  If not, just add some milk.
  • For a really luxurious version, use cream instead of milk, or use half cream, half milk.

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.

SalmonPlate1