Tag Archives: Healthy Food

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.

 

 

Beef Chili with Herb Salsa

Beef Chili with Herb Salsa
Beef Chili with Herb Salsa :

When I’ve had a flourish of developing all sorts of new recipes, I love just to sink back into something familiar.  Recently it’s been a big bowl of good ole chili.  It started a few weeks ago, and I’ve been making it at least once a week since then.  When my husband said to me (as he does every day before disappearing off to work) ‘What’s for dinner tonight?’ I replied ‘Chili’ and he gave a surprised and pleased  ‘Oh’  I knew that it was a good idea.  I reckon it has been a good six months since I got my chili on, and it was just such a great feeling to cook it again.  Automatic pilot took over and before I knew it I was whistling around the kitchen.  So, even if it’s just for a while, put away all those new recipes you want to try, their time will come, and just enjoy a good ole bowl of chili!

Preparation Time: Under 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

2 x tbsp of sunflower oil
1 x large onion, chopped finely
4 x garlic cloves, chopped finely
3 x red capsicum peppers, deseeded and chopped finely
500gr / 1.1 lb minced beef
1 x tsp of chili powder (or more to taste)
1 x tsp of cinnamon
1 x tsp cumin
½  x tsp of nutmeg
2 x tsp of coriander powder
1 x tbsp of honey
2 x tins of kidney beans (400gr / 14 oz.), drained and rinsed
1 x 400gr / 14 oz. tin of tomatoes
1 x heaped tsp of tomato purée
Salt and black pepper to taste.

Ideas To Dress your chili, use all or your own combination
Some chopped jalepenos
2 x ripe avocados chopped roughly
Some chopped spring onions (scallions) and cucumber
Grated strong flavoured cheese like cheddar

Herb Salsa
4 x medium tomatoes chopped finely
6 x spring onions chopped finely
A large handful of parsley leaves chopped very finely
A handful of mint leaves chopped finely
A handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves chopped finely
The juice of two limes (or about 2 x tbsps)
Some salt to taste

Method

  1. Warm the oil in a pan and add the onion, and garlic. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes on a medium high heat until the onion has browned and softened.
  2. Add the chopped red capsicum peppers, and cook on a medium heat until soft, probably about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the mince, and allow it to brown.
  4. Then add chili powder, tomato purée, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, coriander honey and a little salt, stir through and cook for about a minute, just to give the spices a chance to release their flavour.  If the mix gets a bit dry add a few drops of water.
  5. Then add the tin of tomatoes and stir through until everything is evenly mixed in, leave your chili to cook gently on a medium heat for about 10 minutes – you can cover it if you wish which will keep it moist.
  6. While the chili is cooking you can get the salsa ready by placing all the ingredients in a bowl, and mixing the lime juice and salt through to your taste.
  7. Add the beans to the chili allowing them to warm through, check for seasoning and serve.

 Tips and Variations

  • With regards heat, best to take it in steps, as it is easier to add than take away! In this recipe we only use powdered chili for heat, but of course you can mix and match this with fresh red chilies and also dried chili – whatever you taste, you can adjust.
  • Try swapping a tin of kidney beans black beans, or a mixture.
  • To make a veggie version, swap the minced beef for 1 x aubergine (egg plant) chopped very very finely into little cubes, a courgette (zucchini) also chopped finely (I like to use yellow ones for colour and more sweetness!) and 4 x medium tomatoes chopped finely. You may find that you need a little more seasoning with the veggie version.  Start with the quantities of seasoning and spices as above and add should your taste require.
  • If you are using avocado, I find it best to cut it up at the last minute before serving, if you leave it lying around it will start to colour brown. Alternatively, you can prevent this by adding a squeeze of lime juice which will stop the oxidization process.

Beef Chili With Herb Salsa

Fully Loaded Hummus

Fully Loaded Hummus

Fully Loaded Hummus

I love hummus so much, I made a meal of it (well, almost)

I could, if I let myself, sit with a tub of freshly made humus and dip into it with chips, crackers, sticks of cucumber and carrot and finish it all to myself, so I have to be careful with the stuff.  I know that I find it very hard to limit myself to just a few mouthfuls, for as healthy as a hummus is, it is high on the old carlories.  That’s where my fully loaded version comes in.  Counter intuitive isn’t it?  To think that I made a fully loaded version of a recipe in order to balance out my greed, but when you read it you’ll see how it works.  Once you’ve tried this version of hummus, go wild, get creative with what you add to it, there’ll be no stopping you!

Preparation Time: Less than 30 minutes
Serves: 8 to 12

For the Hummus
2 x 410gr / 14 oz. tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
8 x tbsp of water
3 x large cloves of garlic
6 x tbsp of tahini (sesame seed paste)
Juice of 3 lemons
2 x tbsp of olive oil
Salt to taste

Dressing Ingredients To Fully Load the Hummus
2 x medium sized red onions, sliced thinly in rings and roasted at 200°C/400°F in one tbsp of olive oil for 15 to 20 minutes or until brown and crispy.
1 x tbsp of toasted cumin seeds
1/3 of a cucumber, seeds removed and chopped finely
1 x red chili pepper chopped finely
2 x spring onions (scallions) chopped finely
10 x red radishes chopped finely
A handful of each: mint, parsley and coriander (cilantro) chopped roughly
A pinch of paprika powder
2 x tsp of toasted sesame seeds
2 x tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. The first thing to do is to prepare the red onions. The rest you can do whilst they are roasting.
  2. In a food processor, whizz up the ingredients for the hummus until smooth, taste to check that it is seasoned correctly.
  3. Add about half of the dressing ingredients to a salad bowl (except for the paprika powder, sesame seeds and olive oil) and stir through the hummus until everything is mixed in then spoon this out on to your serving dish.
  4. Sprinkle the rest of the dressing ingredients over your hummus attractively and drizzle over the olive oil.

Tips and Variations

  • If you are rushed for time, use a good quality store bought hummus and don’t bother with the red onions.
  • Sprinkle over some feta cheese.
  • Try a version dressed with sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts and basil.

Fully Loaded Hummus

Recipe for Courgette Spaghetti

Recipe for Courgette Spaghetti

I’ve put off making this recipe for courgette spaghetti for some time.  Not because it’s difficult, but because it involves a gadget challenge for me – using the scariest of all kitchen gadgets – the mandolin.  OK, it might not be scary for everybody, but every time I see people using this I screw up my eyes and if I’m alone watching TV, I peer at it through my fingers as if I watching a horror film.  Why?  Well, I think it’s because I am waiting for them to slice their fingers on the razor sharp blade.  I could make this courgette (zuchinni) spaghetti without a mandolin, of course, you can use a potato peeler or a cheese slice to make the ultra thin strips, of, in this case a more linguine type shape, but I felt I should push through my fear and use the mandolin.  I have to say, I did it with complete focus and I still think that this particular gadget demands respect, but I have done it, and I know I can do it again.  The results?   Worth every slice of course.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: Less than 15 minutes

Serves 4 as a side dish or light lunch
2 x tbsp olive oil
4 x spring onions (scallions) chopped finely
3 or 4 cloves of garlic chopped finely
4 x courgettes (zucchini) sliced very thinly spaghetti style with a mandolin or into linguine strips with a potato peeler or a cheese slice.
3 x large tomatoes chopped roughly
2 x tsp tomato purée
5 or 6 good quality anchovies chopped finely
2 x (400gr x ) tins of chopped tomatoes
2 x tbsp of capers
Juice of one lemon
1 x tbsp of honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 50gr to 75gr finely grated pecorino (or parmesan) and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to dress.

Method

  1.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, spring onions and anchovies. Fry off on a high heat for about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the fresh tomatoes and tomato purée, stir through for and cook for another 30 seconds.
  3. De-glaze with the lemon juice.
  4. Once the lemon juice has evaporated add the tins of tomatoes, capers, honey and salt and pepper. Set the heat so that the sauce simmers gently and allow to cook for about 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Add the courgette (zucchini), stir though to cover it in the sauce and it heat up. This takes only 2 to 3 minutes. Check for seasoning and serve with the cheese and extra virgin olive oil drizzled over the top.  

Tips and Variations

  •  To make this dish more hearty add a tin or perhaps two of puy lentils or chick peas. Or you can add a tin of tuna to your sauce.
  • If you are having a healthy day, this is an excellent lunch or dinner. 

 

Porridge with Apple and Cinnamon

Porridge with Apple and Cinnamon

There’s not much I’ll miss about winter, but I already know I’ll pine for porridge with apple and cinnamon.  I’ve always been a huge porridge fan, I can’t help it, I’m Scottish, it’s in our blood (that and whisky of course), but this winter I made a change.  I played around with my porridge and added a little spice (of which I am also a huge fan) and this was the result.

Hmmm, do you think I’ll be allowed to eat porridge in the summer too?  Yeah, why not.

Preparation Time: 3 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 to 5 minutes

Ingredients for 4 servings
200gr / 7 oz. porridge oats
400ml / 13.5 fl. oz. water
½ tsp of salt
½ tsp of cinnamon (or to taste)
A few drops of vanilla extract
4 to 6 tbsp of apple compote
4 x tsp of honey
8 x tbsp of milk

Method

  1. Place the water, oats, cinnamon, vanilla and salt in a non stick pan, and put on a high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn down to a medium high heat and stir with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the oats soften and the mixture takes on a creamy texture. You can keep cooking and the mixture will become thicker if you prefer.
  3. Divide into bowls, drizzle over the honey and the milk and add a spoonful or so of the apple compote to each serving.

Tips and Variations

  • Great with some fresh berries, raspberries would be the real Scottish choice.
  • For a richer version, swap the milk for single cream, or you can start by cooking the oats in a half water, half milk liquid.
  • If you dare, you can add another Scottish touch, a wee dram of whiskey in every portion!

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. As well as serving this with porridge it goes great with meat, especially 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.