Category Archives: Fed

Rollende in the Deep

Rabarcello: A Rollende Keukens Staple

Rollende Keukens has Rolled Back Around!

It’s the Ascension day long weekend, and the Rollende Keukens has been in full effect. Even bigger than last year, and the weather has been fantastic, meaning that the Mister Kitchens guys have actually been posting that the grounds are full, and asking people to consider going to a different park to enjoy the sunshine. Of course, I got in early, and I got in fast, so I have a lot of photos and food to share with you all.

Butch and Dutch by Mister Kitchens

Nose to Tail at the Butch and Dutch

It’s only fair to start with The Mister Kitchen Crew, without whom none of this would be possible. The Rollende Keukens, and the Rabarcello are their brain children. They always have a tasting menu, and there is always plenty of rhubarb spirit on display. This year, they also offered excellent spit roasts to take away too.  I think this is a great strategy, as it means that people can choose to graze, or have the usual sit down three course menu.

Wall of Duck Face at Rollende Keukens

Duck: A Definite Trend This Year

This year there seemed to be a lot of stalls serving duck, some were duck devotees, and sold nothing else; and some had duck as a highlight. Sadly, none of it seemed to be organic, and none was declared free range, or I would have been tucking in.

Brandt & Levie Blood Hot dog

This Black Dog is Really Fun

Luckily, there were plenty of stalls that offered foods for the welfare-fussy eater, including many vegetarian vegan, and organic meat options, including this excellent hot dog from Brandt and Levie, made with blood sausage, and pancetta, served with a relish of mustard and apple compote.

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There was also a couple of stalls doing game. This one, called Game from the Wild, is right up my street, and the merguez was succulent, well-spiced and tasty. I’d eat this again. My friend from the Morning Claret had a different experience with the Wild Boar kebab, so I’d stick with the sausage if I were you!

Steamed Dim Sum from Dim Sum Now

What Do We Want? When Do We Want It?

We arrived on the first visit really hungry, and these dim sum nicely took the edge off, so that we had the chance to go around and scout out the next tasty treat. I didn’t get too much sauce with these, which was a relief, because it was pretty strong stuff.

Asparagus Cream, Egg and Farmer's Cheese in Ciabatta

White Knight

Among many expats that I know, there is a bit of a gentle joke about how much the Dutch like white food. White asparagus, chopped boiled egg, lightly coloured ham and bechamel is a delicacy here. This original take on the dish from the Gastrovan has made me suddenly look at white food in a different light. The asparagus was pickled in something boozy, and the asparagus cream was definitely my try-at-home inspiration of this year’s festival.

Harissa shelfish, and oysters

If Music Be the Food of Love, This One Really Sang to Me!

There were a lot of oyster bars this year, one of which had a wide variety of oysters to pick and choose from. We lined up here, and while the Big Guy was queuing, I went to the sister stand, Zee en Zuil, because I’d spied razor clams, which I can never resist. They come barbecued with a medley of shellfish, cooked in a white wine, garlic parsley and rose harissa broth. It is the shellfish future.

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As always, the attention to detail on the stands was incredible. I particularly liked the herb table from bloempie, who I reviewed in 2012. I almost wish that I could justify building one of these myself.

Omelegg Stall at Rollende Keukens

This stall Was Calling My Name

Every stall holder that I talked to was really personable, and the sun was shining. All around people were having a great time. Some stalls spoke louder to me than others, however!

One of the most popular stalls, and also one of the most novel, was the Microbar, who were serving insects. Meal worm spring rolls, and cricket lollipops were on the menu. Given that all of the futurists are claiming that insects will be an important global food source in a world with 12 Bn inhabitants, we all need to get a bit more used to the thought of eating insects. With that in mind, I was determined to give it a go. I am not a big fan of slimy foods, like okra, so I decided that the meal worms were a step too far. The cricket was crunchy, and mostly tasted of the chilli and lemon zest caramel that they had been coated in, so that was much more to my taste. A nice little finish to yet another tasty weekend.

Rollende Keukens left us as full as the Westergasterrien has been all weekend, but that isn’t because of the weather!

Rollende Keukens is held at the Westergasterrein, Amsterdam every Hemelvaart Public Holiday weekend. Maybe I’ll see you there next year?



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All Aboard: The Last Kitchen


Since I seem to be unable to remember that the default on the mobile app is to publish rather than to save as a draft, here is a rather hurried post from yesterday’s evening meal, which I had intended to take a bit more time over creating. But, since some of you have already seen where I am, and liked the post that only basically contained a link to the site, here we go.

The Big Guy and I are in New Zealand. We’ve been doing a bit of gourmet camping, of which more a bit later, but there is only so much one can do with a tiny gas stove, with gas that lasts about an hour, and a three course dinner isn’t one of them!

We’ve been travelling around the Fiordland of the Southern Island, where life has been great, but the internet access has been patchy. Now we have moved towards the West coast, and have been on a number of pleasant walks and trips, including to the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. It’s a tough life, eh?

I wanted to share a very good meal that we had here, by way of recommending the Last Kitchen in Fox Glacier Township. It is a small, rather unassuming little place, that you might completely overlook, but that you probably shouldn’t. Not only is the food rather special, but it is a brilliantly warm welcome after a days hiking. There is nothing like great food served with a smile after physical exertion, is there?

Arancini with Chorizo and Brie at the last kitchen, Fox Glacier

Arancini with Chorizo and Brie

I started with the arancini. I’d already tucked into one of them before I remembered the photo, so the initial presentation was a lot neater. These were outstanding, golden and crisp on the outside, and the chorizo is a welcome peppery hit. It is served with a fresh pesto, and balsamic reduction.

Calamari at the Last Kitchen, Fox Glacier, NZ


The Big Guy loves to go for the familiar classics, and yesterday was no exception. He started with excellent calamari, in a very light batter, served with salad. It was a well-done take on this classic dish.

Pistachio Crusted Lamb at the Last Kitchen, Fox glacier, NZ

Pistachio Crusted Lamb

Main course took full advantage of the great local produce that you can see ranging all over the place here – namely lamb, beef and venison. I chose a beautiful piece of pistachio-crusted lamb, with a really buttery potato and celeriac mash, and wok-fried vegetables. This was lovely, and perfectly balanced. There was a delightful citrus element to the crust too, and the pistachios were in big lumps over the meat. The only criticism I have for the whole meal is that my lamb could have done with a slightly longer resting time, because it leaked  the juices back onto the plate, making my mash pink in places, but that really was a minor quibble.

Lamb Burger and Sweet Potato Chips at the Last Kitchen, Fox Glacier, NZ

Lamb Burger and Sweet Potato Chips

Burger was the order of the day for the Big Guy. But this was no ordinary or staid burger, this was made from well seasoned lamb, and topped with a rich and spicy beetroot relish. Beetroot is not my favourite, but I loved this way of serving it. I was very pleased to see that the burger came in the correct order, too. It really annoys me that some establishments think that the salad should be atop the burger with the relishes, but this is clearly wrong. It’s always great to find a restaurant that knows that salad and relish should have burger in between!

Affogato and Shortbread at the Last Kitchen, Fox Glacier, NZ

Affogato and Shortbread

Although we had eaten heartily, we could just about manage some dessert. I had an affogato, which is essentially vanilla ice cream with an espresso poured over the top. The simplicity of the dish requires excellent ingredients, and I am happy to say that both really were. The ice cream was rich and smooth, whilst the coffee was deep and had the right balance of fruity and bitter tones. The shortbread was very buttery, and light, perfect for dipping in te ice cream, as one might a soldier into a runny egg (and who doesn’t love that?).

Warm Chocolate Brownie at the Last Kitchen, Fox Glacier, NZ

Warm Chocolate Brownie

The Big Guy does love a chocolate brownie, and will always order it from a menu, although I have to say it was a tough choice for him this time, between this and the Chocolate and Baileys Cheesecake. As you can see, this was a big hitter in the chocolate stakes, and none the worse for that.

We washed this all down with a very good local Shiraz/Syrah called Barnstormer, and had a really excellent meal. It was also one of the cheaper places that we dined in, which is surprising, because it’s out of the way location must mean delivery costs alone are higher. This meal  was excellent value for money, and the wine prices were exceptionally good value too. So, I can thoroughly recommend this great little spot, in a very out-of-the-way location. Just remember to arrive hungry.

The Last Kitchen

Main Rd
(Cnr Sullivans Rd & State Highway 6)
Fox Glacier

T: +64 (0)3-751 0058



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A Philippine Tasting Plate

A fresh Fruit Breakfast - papaya and pineapple

The Freshest of Fruit

As I may have mentioned, I have been in the Philippines for work. I didn’t mention it before I went, because we were going to some areas of the southernmost island, Mindanao, which may not be considered to be safe. That said, we had a wonderful time, and saw no sign of trouble at all.

coconut and pandan juice

Pineapple and Pandan Juice

The thing I love most about travel is the different foods and flavours that I encounter. I ate many wonderful things, and I thought that I’d share some of them here with you. I hope you enjoy this little Philippine Tasting Plate. I also managed to bring back a few unusual ingredients, that I will be trying to make some interesting goodies with in posts to come.

Pineapple napkin ring

Pineapples Were, Unsurprisingly, A Bit of a Theme

Of course, I ate a lot of fresh tropical fruits; some of which were new to me, and some were more familiar. I had my first taste of mangosteen and durian (albeit in a crème brûlée) as well as many more familiar fruits. The mango, much like the avocado after my trip to Australia, has been forever ruined for me. You just cannot get the soft, sweet , thin-skinned little jewels that you find in the Philippines. My colleague and I stayed in a beautiful lodge in pineapple country, where there was a definite theme to the place, from the napkin rings, to the juice we had everyday. Fresh pineapple juice is a great start to a meeting.

Stuffed Squid

Stuffed Squid

Seafood is very popular, as you would expect from a country comprising of over seven thousand islands. I ate some really lovely dishes. Tuna is also very popular there, with many of their delicacies containing tuna. I haven’t eaten tuna in years, because there aren’t many left, and there is so much bycatch with the techniques that many fleets use. I remained tunaless, so I haven’t tried many of these specialties.

Chili Crab

A Catchy Crab Dish

I did eat very well in some very good restaurants. It is pretty difficult to be vegetarian in many of the local food places, all the Filipinos we met all said how much they love their meat. But that is not to say that it is impossible. I went to a very good vegetarian restaurant in Manila, who did a really tasty version of sisig – normally made with pork, but always with sharp flavours, often provided by calamansi (a local citrus fruit, more of which later). There are also many “foreign” food restaurants, where you can eat delicious vegetarian food. After a very long day of flight delays, and a cancellation, my colleague and I stumbled across an amazing persian restaurant. I am not vegetarian, but I can have too much meat, so I was really glad to find an Iranian curry, called Qalye Mahi. It was rich, soothing and sharp with tamarind, which isn’t something I’d really explored before. I must try to find a recipe for this.

A Philippine Vegetable GardenA Philippine Vegetable Garden

A Philippine Vegetable Garden

Amongst the other local specialities I tried were Kare Kare – slow cooked pork in a peanut sauce; Bicol – a fiery pork in coconut milk with a lot of chilis; and the ubiquitous adobo, which is meat cooked in vinegar and garlic. A particularly good one was a squid cooked in black vinegar and squid ink; another one I’m going to play around with. One of the more surprising things to eat was a type of yam called ube. It is bright purple, and is used in sweets, pastries and ice cream. I was originally told to look out for ube by Sally, who left a comment on this year’s resolutions post. I’m glad I was told,  I really enjoyed trying new ways to eat purple root veg masquerading as dessert, thank you Sally.

Taro - The Whole Plant is Edible & Often Cooked in Coconut Milk

Taro – The Whole Plant is Edible & Often Cooked in Coconut Milk

I was also delighted to learn of a fantastic tradition called Pasabulong. This is where returning travellers bring their family and colleagues gifts of food. Even if they have only gone to a different city. What a great tradition!

I continued this on, by bringing the Big Guy some sweets and dried squid. I also brought myself a few treats, including some ube. I am going to try to plant some, and I will see what I can cook up with the rest, and the other goodies that I bought. But that may be the subject for future posts.


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A Teambuilding Triumph

Dora's Kitchen

Team Build Differently

I was less than thrilled when I heard we had a team building thing as part of the staff Coming Back Week, where all the staff from all of the offices get together for strategy work, training and other discussions. I quickly changed my mind, when I heard about what we were doing.

Ingrdient Boxes, ready to go at Dora's Kitchen

What a Greeting

When you work for an organisation that campaigns to make food fairer, you don’t get to experience team building exercises  like yomping miles through a forest, or trying to get two people from A to B over a 2 m high obstacle with two bits of rope and a plank of wood. No, luckily for us; we get to cook.

Elizabeth of Dora's KItchen

The Warmest of Welcomes

We were going to experience Surinamese cooking. We were ushered in by Elizabeth of Dora’s Kitchen, who greeted us all with a big smile, a plate of tasty snacks and some delicious fruit drinks. Their motto is “Anders Koken”, which translates as “Cook Different”, and this was my first attempt at Surinamese dishes, my first ever cookery class, and it was certainly a different team building exercise. I think they lived up to their motto.

Team Building at Dora's Kitchen

And They’re Off!

After setting the tone for the day, we were divided into smaller teams, and found out what we would be cooking. The choices were Peanut Butter Soup, Bacaljauw moksi alesi (salt cod with coconut rice), Fruit Punch, Spicy Baked Aubergines, and little pastries (I didn’t catch what these were called). I have to say, I was a little sceptical, at the sound of some of the dishes, especially Peanut Butter Soup.

Preparing backaljauw

The Fish Dish

I was in one of the teams tasked with making the bacaljauw. This was more about team building than I had anticipated, because the recipe was a little baffling in parts. At first, I suspected that this was because it had been mangled by an online translation engine, but then I came to the conclusion it was to encourage us to work together to work out what it meant.

Making a pot a steamer

Finding Food Solutions

Team members were swapped around after a little while, but the work carried on.

Making Peanut Butter Soup

Stirring it Up Amongst Colleagues

It was interesting to learn about some new techniques, and from the buzz in the room, it seems that the rest of my work mates thought so too.

Making Fruit Punch

Punchy – The Fruit, Not My Work Mates

Despite the seeming chaos, it all came together pretty well in the end. We managed to produce dishes that the Surinamese teachers were pleased with.

All the best fruit and vegetables

Yes! We Have No Bananas (these are plantain)

Although the teachers were all very keen that the Madame Jeanette peppers (they are a bit like Scotch Bonnets) didn’t go into any of the dishes too soon. All spicy food over here is toned down for the “Dutch palate”. I find it really funny that a nation who got very rich on trading spices around the World don’t appreciate the heat of many of the dishes that people make with them.

making Cassava Balls

The Finishing Touches

The best part was that we got to sit down together and eat the fruits of our labour. I loved the event, I thought that it is a great way to get an organisation to come together and share an experience.

The finished Products

The Finished Products

And it turns out that everything was delicious, too. Even the Peanut Butter Soup – who knew?

The Washing Up!

The Washing Up!

If you are responsible for organising a team building exercise, and you like your colleagues, then I’d recommend giving a cookery workshop a go. Obviously, please don’t try this at home if you work with people who should not be in a confined space with sharp knives!


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Let The Good Times Rollende

Fire breathing dragon at the Rollende Keukens

They’re Back, and This Time, They’re Smokin’

Hello, I’m back, and so is the Rollende Keukens! Unlike me, who has had an unexpected break for very dull reasons, the Rollende Keukens is an annual event, and this year it’s bigger, bolder and busier than ever.

Oysters, Razor Clams and Prosecco to Kick Start Rollende Keukens 2013

Shellfish and Prosecco: Always the Perfect Start to Any Festival

There are many of the same stalls as we found last year, but there are a lot of new stalls, and also new concepts from old favourites. This year there is much more music, although sadly there are fewer lectures.

BBQ At Rollende Keukens

On Trend

As we made our way around the stalls yesterday, some trends were very clear. Last year, cocktail bars reigned supreme. This year it is all about the barbecue, with many stalls selling spit-roasts, pulled pork, char-grilled chickens, and much more.

Chickens in one of the stalls

Chicken: On Many Stalls, and In One of Them

Of course, there is more to offer, from around the world, from Indian and Thai to Mexican. There are new styles of cuisine, and even some healthy options. The crew from Fifteen Amsterdam have brought a mobile kitchen this year, although there was no sign of Jamie Oliver. I noticed that a lot more stalls have an eye on sustainability, with great organic, more local, and brilliant seasonal fare on offer.

Asparagus Salad with a Delicious sour cream & chervil dressing

A Healthy Option – Fresh Asparagus Salad

There are also a good deal more sweet vans, selling ice creams, cakes, churros, crepes, poffertjes, and all manner of delicious puddings.

Speakeasy Oyster bar

Putting on the Shellfish Ritz

It also seems that there is a lot more glamour this year. The stallholders have really upped their game, with stylish stalls, and beautifully decorated servers. The vans are festooned with beautiful and themed decoration, that matches the beautiful food. 

Rabarcello - tasty rhubarb schnaps

Rabarcello – Delicious and Inspiring

Of course, as one of the organisers of the Rollende Keukens, Mister Kitchen is back, with another lovely rhubarb tasting menu, which at €15 for three courses is an absolute steal. We have lined this up for Saturday, but places go quickly, so we’ll need to be prompt. I can already heartily recommend the Rabarcello. Delicious and refreshing. Of course, I’m eyeing this up to experiment with for my rhubarb glut.

World's Smallest Restaurant

The Littlest Resturant

The most exciting concept I found so far this year is the World’s Smallest Restaurant. Although I didn’t take my tape measure, This cannot be larger than 2m x 1.5m, and is really cute. You get a reservation for 10 minutes, and booking is essential, because this is popular, although the waiting list is not too long.

Inside the World's Smallest Restaurant 1

Tasteful Decor

Inside is lovely, with cute decor, and well-thought out features. The curtain at the front is very fine, and you can see out onto all the people getting excited about the restaurant, but they can’t see you.

Ordering at the World's Smallest Restaurant

Short Orders

The restaurant feels very private. And is so small that the waiters can’t fit in it too. You order through a letterbox…

Service at The World's Smallest Restaurant

Through the Hatch!

…and receive your food through a hatch in the back wall. There is a limited choice, although for €3.50 per person, it really is exceptionally good value for money, as you get two tapas dishes and a drink. The smallest restaurant in the World, with the smallest prices in the World.  You can’t say fairer than that.

A Very Unusual DJ Booth

A Very Unusual DJ Booth

Rollende Keukens is on from 13.00 – 23.00 for the whole of Helmervaart Weekend (Thursday 9th May to Sunday 12th May). This is long enough to break your visits into bite-sized pieces, so you could conceivably eat from every stall.

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Rollende Keukens Gather No Moss

Rollende Keukens

Rollende Keukens

Street food is right at the forefront of food trends at the moment. There have been a number of very successful restaurants and food businesses that have begun as street food vendors, being sold at markets and events. Amsterdam is no different, and this weekend is the Rollende Keukens Festival, at the Westergasterrein. Rollende Keukens means “rolling kitchens”, and the festival is crammed full of mobile kitchens in vans, caravans, and even in a converted mini!

Mini Smoothie Bar

Mini Smoothies For All

There is also entertainment in the form f bands and DJs. When we went on Friday, there were also a fine group of buskers who play rock and roll from the back of a Ford Mustang. This is not the first time I have seen this group, but it is great to see them at a planned event, normally, it is total luck if they happen to park up and start playing at the terrace of your choice. I have still never quite managed to catch their names though.

Cocktails at the Rollende Keukens

Cheers – Cocktails in the Sun

As well as music, there is a kid’s play area, and a demonstration kitchen which has given a series of lessons throughout the weekend. When we were there today, there was a children’s pizza demonstration. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the rest of the programme.

Barbecued Mussels from Big Green Egg

Barbecued Mussels from Big Green Egg

After dark, there are a series of food related films on offer, although it is worth noting that we went at nine (dusk) on Friday, and a number of the kitchens were already starting to shut up shop for the day. This may be because the Dutch generally like to eat at 6 -6.30, and it is mostly us expats who fill the restaurants in the late evening. This was a popular event, and it could also be that they need to restock after a busy day, so I am not going to pass judgement as to which is more likely to be the case.

Organic Rendang Bloempibrood (Flowerpot Bread)

Organic Rendang Bloempiebrood (Flowerpot Bread)

As I mentioned, we went yesterday, and today. With over 75 different stalls, there is plenty to choose from, and I wanted to give as many of them a chance as possible. As you would expect from so many food vendors in the same place, the cuisines are really varied.

Octopus Pancakes

Octopus Pancakes

With one or two disappointing exceptions, the quality of the food on offer is high. There is something for everyone, including vegetarians, vegans, and even qualitarans like me (organic, local good quality food)! I would have liked to have seen more organic fare, but I really hope that the numbers of producers offering organic will improve if more of us start to demand it.

Oysters from Ik Will Oesters

Oysters from Ik Will Oesters

Over the course of the two evenings, we have eaten oysters, drunk great cocktails, and had some really very good food of all kinds, as well as a couple of disappointments, but no need to dwell upon those.

Smoked BBQ Chicken from the BBQ Smoke Shack (not organic, this was the big guy's)

Smoked BBQ Chicken from the BBQ Smoke Shack (not organic, this was the Big Guy’s)

Rollende Keukens is also open tomorrow from 13.00 – 23.00. It is a fun event, with some great food and drink, and a great atmosphere. We are going back tomorrow to take advantage of the rhubarb tasting menu offered by Mr Kitchen. Maybe we’ll see you there?

Rhubarb Tasting Menu at Mister Kitchen, Ensuring We'll Be Back Tomorrow

Rhubarb Tasting Menu at Mister Kitchen, Ensuring We’ll Be Back Tomorrow!

Rollende Keukens

17-20 May



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Bulgarian(ish) Lamb

Bulgarianish Lamb

Lovely Lamb to End Lent

Lamb is traditional for Easter dinner in many cultures.

My American friend was already bringing a ham, that she baked according to a cherished recipe from her grandmother, to our international feast. It was delicious, and really well cooked, in a delicious sauce, some of which is sitting in my fridge, waiting for me to come up with a way to use it.

A baked ham for Easter is traditional in both the US and in Sweden.

However, I have a tendency to continue to invite people to dinners, and I would be horrified if people were to go away hungry (often resulting in us eating a lot of leftovers, but that is really no trouble). True to form, I had invited more people than I had told my friend about, and I wanted to make sure that we all had enough to eat. So I fell back on some more traditions and made a lamb dish.

A few years ago, the Big Guy and I had the pleasure of a trip to Plovdiv in Bulgaria. A friend of a friend had recommended the Puldin restaurant, and we had eaten an excellent meal there. My memory was that it was also pretty reasonably priced, despite what the Lonely Planet says, but I can’t really say for sure anymore. Either way, if you go to the beautiful, historic town of Plovdiv, I recommend this restaurant. The settings are gorgeous, and the series of rooms are both sumptuous and adorned with lovely art, frescoes and even a Roman wall in the room where we ate.

For some reason, my memory of this meal was stirred by trying to think of a different way to serve lamb, so that it would not overpower the ham. My memory is that I had a lamb dish that may (or may not) have been called St George’s Lamb. I may not remember the exact name, but I certainly remember the dish. The meat was meltingly tender, and came cooked with carrots and peas. Interestingly, it had been cooked in white wine, which really cut through the fatty richness of the meat. The vegetables had been added near the end of cooking, so they still retained a nice crunch. It was a truly remarkable dish.

Unfortunately, the Puldin does not seem to have a website (or at least not using our alphabet – they use the cyrillic alphabet in Bulgaria), so I have been unable to check if they still carry the dish to see if I got the name right , or go from a description on a menu. But that memory of a dish was the perfect thing to go on a plate that will star a baked ham, for a hungry person, so I decided to have a go at an approximation anyway.

There are a few Bulgarian lamb dishes on the web, but none really seemed to resemble the dish I had eaten in Puldin. I was pretty much on my own, so I decided to dive in and do my best in any case. I did find these two recipes, which I used as inspiration.

This is what I came up with

Recipe: Bulgarianish Lamb


1.5 kg leg of lamb, bone in – I found some lovely organic Texel lamb,

For the Marinade:

1 l water

400 ml white wine. I used an Auxerrois from Limburg, so it was local, and fruity enough to balance the lamb.

½ unwaxed lemon, sliced

50 ml tarragon or white wine vinegar

3 dried or 5 fresh bay leaves

2 tsp dried oregano

Freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:


4 tbsp oil

4-5 cloves garlic

3 carrots

150 g cherry tomatoes

3 medium potatoes

4 sticks celery

1 small onion

1 tbsp tomato puree

Little cold water to make a thin paste

1 tbsp plain flour


Pour the marinade ingredients over the lamb, and allow to marinate overnight. If the lamb is large, turn the meat regularly in the marinade.

Dry the lamb on kitchen paper, keeping the marinade aside for later.

Cook the whole garlic cloves in the oil. Remove them when they start to colour, and set aside. Be really careful not to allow the garlic to burn, you want a nice brown colour, but no black. Burnt garlic is bitter, and you do not want it in the sauce.

Salt the meat and brown the meat well on all sides. Be careful, it will spit, even if you have dried it well.

Soften the vegetables in the same oil, including the garlic used earlier. Meanwhile, remove the peel from the slices of lemon from the marinade, and make a thinner paste with the tomato puree and cold water.

Add the flour, and the tomato paste to the vegetables, and cook through for a couple of minutes. Don’t be tempted to skip this step, or the sauce will taste of raw flour. Add the lemon pulp to the pan, you can leave it on top of the vegetables, no need to stir it in.

Return the leg of lamb onto the top of the vegetables, and pour over the retained marinade. Bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that forms. Simmer on a low heat for up to three hours. You want the meat to be really tender and falling off the bone, but not overcooked, which will dry it out, despite being cooked in liquid.

Once it is done, allow the meat to rest in a warm place.

Pass the vegetables and the cooking liquid through a food mill (or you can blend them) to make the sauce. Remove the bay leaves before you pass them through the food mill, you don’t want to grind them, it will render your sauce inedible.

There will be quite a lot of sauce. Put it back on the hob in a clean pan, and reduce it by about a third. Taste at this point, and season with salt, pepper and some lemon juice, if required. The sauce should have a bit of a citrus kick to cut through the richness of the lamb.

Serve slices of the lamb, along with whatever veg you like, and allow your guests to pour the sauce over, as they choose.

You will have quite a lot of sauce left, and the bone of course, as well as some of the meat. Make stock with the bone, to be used on future lamb dishes (it is particularly distinctive, so may not be suitable for multiple meats, as is chicken and beef stock.

Don’t throw out the rest of the leftovers, I have a great recipe that will help you use them all up (of course!).


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Roots and Permaculture

Varzea da Gonçala

Where I Have Been Lately

Hello! I am back from a little sojourn in the Portuguese countryside, where I have been on a fantastic Permaculture Design Course.  I intended to get a load of posts done to be posted over the time that I was away, but as usual, I was behind, and doing them on the journey. I got to the venue to discover that there was no frivolous internet access (due to the tariff system in rural Portugal) and no mobile reception, so things didn’t work out as I had planned (and not planned, in many ways). I am not sorry, it was glorious to be away from it all, and was incredibly good for the soul.

Fig tree at the Varzea, Late March 2012

The View From the Classroom

I will post those other posts over the coming days, along with a few Easter posts, which should probably come first,  but I really want to tell you all about the course and what I got up to first. Partly by way of explanation for the absence, but also because I really want to recommend a permaculture course. This was a birthday present from the Big Guy, so I knew little about it before then. Lucky me!

Me & Permanent Varzea Residents

Me & Permanent Varzea Residents

The course itself was run at Varzea da Gonçala, a lovely small holding just outside Aljezur in the Algarve, and set in a valley (hence the lack of phone reception), not too far from the Atlantic. The Varzea operates on permaculture principles, producing its own fruit, vegetables, and eggs, and they have chickens and pigs to help work and feed the land. It is important to the people who  live and work there to demonstrate that permaculture is effective for everyone, and that it really works. It is why they have called their website ‘I Can Feed Myself’, to underline the point. Chris and Kris, who run it, along with the people who work with them, are excellent hosts and teachers. We also had  amazing food for our stay.

Feast Fit for a King at the Varzea

Feast Fit for a King (Our Last Night)

We ate like kings, with everything from jacket potatoes, to lasagne, to beautiful fresh salads of rocket, mustards, chard, lettuces, fresh herbs, nasturtium leaves and flowers, borage, peppers, you name it. I may not have sown these seeds, but I definitely got my hands dirty to tend to them, so these will form part of the 52 week salad challenge for me, and I don’t feel like it is cheating. The food was fantastic, prepared with love, and was so fresh.

Peter Cow Giving a Lecture


Our main tutor was Peter Cow, who runs Living in Circles, and there were sessions from other permaculturalists, including the people who live on the Varzea.

The Big Guy really couldn’t have chosen a better course. We learned about the principles of permaculture, and the design method, as well as putting it to practical use. I got to play with the compost and do some gardening, and I have learned some valuable skills. Peter is also keen on applying permaculture to the wider world, as well as the personal one. I will admit that I was not really looking forward to this, but I actually found it immensely useful. I have been able to get a different perspective on a couple of things, which have been holding me back in many ways.

The group of people I was on the course with were also brilliant. I have never worked with a group that was so on track, and with no little fighting and falling out, despite being such vastly different people.  Each of them brought a lot of different knowledge to the course, and it was so great to share this with everyone. One guy also lives in the same town as me, so I hope that we can continue to meet and maybe do some digging together!

Making a Wooden Spoon


We even practiced some new skills – both on the course, and in the breaks. As well as learning about swale construction, and building a stackwall. I got an insight into perspective in drawing, which has inspired me to give sketching a go – something I never felt equipped to do before. I helped to teach others how to make pasta. I even know how to make a wooden spoon. I’m just putting the finishing touches to one, albeit that it was produced with a little help from my friends. I really feel like I came away a craftswoman.

Constructing a Stackwall from Cordwood

Constructing a Stackwall from Cordwood

In fact, I have been so inspired by the course, I am trying to expand my use of permaculture and permaculture design. I have some plans for friends’ balconies – and before any of those said friends start to panic, don’t worry, permaculture has a lot to do with water catchment and no-dig, so you won’t become slaves to your pot plants. I am planning to implement my own polyveg system in my own garden, and I will be blogging about it here. I had intended to start a new blog for the gardening stuff (and had a great name lined up…) but the idea of permaculture is that you should take advantage of and increase beneficial relationships, and to me there is no better relationship than that between food and food production. So I am going to capture it here, and try to expand the communities of interest that could talk to each other. I am even going to try and design myself into a new career and direction, but I need a bit more work on that.

Finished Stackwall

Look What We Made!

Peter runs and collaborates on a number of permaculture courses, all of the details of which are available on his website. He is also really in tune with group dynamics and very skilled at getting very different people to work together and gel. You might like to go along to a course, or ask him to teach at one of yours.

Drying Homemade Pasta (No Pasta Machine)

Look What Else We Made!

The Varzea also offer a range of courses, as well as holiday accommodation and camping, for groups, individuals or families. You can get hands-on experience and teaching in permaculture practice. As well as having access to delicious, organic food from the land that they work. An ideal get away from the petrochemical farming and urban landscapes we have come to know, I really cannot recommend this place enough, not to mention the hospitality and the welcome you will enjoy here.

I hope that you will also come to share my enthusiasm for permaculture, and share the fruits of my labour (and the recipes that they inspire). Thanks for coming this far.

Contacts for Varzea da Gonçala

Contacts for Peter Cow

NB: I do not represent, nor am I being paid to blog about the permaculture course,or the Varzea.  I am just so enthused by the experience, and the people I met that I wanted to blog about it.


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You’ve Neva Had it So Good

Cafe Restaurant Neva reminds me of a Hanna Barbera hero, such as Hong Kong Phooey. By day, it is a mild-mannered cafe that serves the Hermitage museum in Amsterdam,  but by night it is transformed into a modern European fine dining restaurant, fighting hunger and exciting the palates of the well-heeled.

Well, actually, having never eaten there before, I may be understating the lunch fare. It is done by the same company, so the sandwiches could be every bit as magical as the evening dinner.

This was our penultimate venue for restaurant week, and it was a real treat. And after this restaurant week, I have revised my view of Dutch service. Without exception, every place we went to was friendly, helpful and pleasant. No sharp words or blunt answers.Thank you for making me confront my prejudices, waiters of restaurant week, I apologise and I salute you all.

I also have to admit to being a bit too intimidated to use a flash to take the photos, which is the reason for the substandard photos for this post, but the food was so good I didn’t want to avoid writing this up for the sake of the photography. It is hardly as though I am David Bailey everywhere else on this site in any case. If any of you have any tips on overcoming shyness in using flash in the low lighting of a restaurant, please let me know.

Anyway, back to Neva. The food here was both clever and delicious. It had the right amount of a nod to modern cuisine, with some surprising touches, without being too fussy. Although they did like a good foam. I think every dish had some of one variety or another.

Baby Leeks With Trout Eggs and a Buttermilk Dressing

Baby Leeks With Trout Eggs and a Buttermilk Dressing

The Big Guy, being Swedish, loves fish eggs, from Beluga caviar right through to Kalle’s Kaviar. As soon as I saw this on the menu, I knew that there was no way that he would have anything else. He loved it, and wolfed it down really quickly. I may have mentioned that he is not a man of superlatives, but he certainly seemed very happy with it. It was matched with an excellent Czech  Riesling. If you have never tried Czech wines, this is an excellent place to start, it is a light and fresh Riesling, but with all the required fruit.

Mackerel Ceviche with Cucumber Textures

Mackerel Ceviche with Cucumber Textures

This plate was as pretty as a picture, but it wasn’t a small dish. The cucumber textures were foam, sorbet, pickled, a mayonnaise with horseradish, meringue, and tiny cucumber microgreens. The foam worked really well in this context, delivering an intensity of flavour that plain cucumber doesn’t. The microgreens were lovely. I have been getting into microgreens a lot of late, as they are an easy way to do the 52 week salad challenge, especially in the winter months when it is hard to stop legginess. To my knowledge, none of the saladchatters has had a go at growing this one yet, but I have recommended it.

The meringue was savoury, and was salty, which was surprising. I hadn’t thought of making savoury meringues before, but I will play around with this, because I often have leftover egg whites, due to my custard addiction.

The only criticism I have about the dish is that mackerel was really more sashimi than ceviche, it was definitely not marinated in citrus juice. That said, it was very skilfully filleted and presented, so that you only got the most delicate flesh and no blood line. If it were any fresher, I may have had to slap it.

Oxtail Ragout with Celeriac

Oxtail Ragout with Celeriac

This is what the Big Guy had for his main. The celariac was in the gnocchi, the foam and as a pickle. It was a little light on the ragout of oxtail, which served as a background flavour, rather than the star of the dish. Despite this, it was fresh and lovely, with a juiciness being added by the pickle. The Big Guy says he could definitely eat it again.

Grey Mullet with Fennel in Bouillabaise Jus

Grey Mullet with Fennel in Bouillabaisse Jus

More foam on this one, this time it was fennel. I was much more interested in the fennel cream, which was really good; intensely aniseed, but with the lovely fresh greenness of herb fennel. It also cut through the bouillabaisse sauce really well. I loved this dish, it was really well cooked and well-balanced. I love fennel though, and this would definitely be a problem if you didn’t like it.

We both had the caramelised white chocolate cheesecake with chocolate rocks and blood orange sorbet for dessert, but we were far too eager to tuck in to take pictures, which is almost a shame because the presentation was a feast for the eyes. That paled into insignificance when we tasted it. Goodness me was this good. I would not normally choose white chocolate on a menu, but this was more like toffee, or the fudge you get when you boil a tin of condensed milk. The chocolate rocks were dark and crumbly, as I like them. The sorbet sounded odd in the mix, but was a revelation. It wasn’t sharp, but neither was it too sweet, and cut through the rich cheesecake.  For me, this was the highlight of the meal. Utterly delicious.

We rounded off the meal with a coffee and a herbal tea. With this, we also received a complimentary tin of petit fours and biscuits, all of which were very well made. It is touches like this that, for me, demonstrate the care that goes into making a meal out a real experience. And that is what an evening meal at Neva really is, from the extra touches, the friendly staff to the excellent food. Not to mention the beautiful surrounding of the Hermitage museum.

Outside of Restaurant week, they offer a three course theatre menu for €29, and a 4-6 course tasting menu for €42-59.

I think that the theatre menu is a bargain, and would definitely recommend a visit if you are going to the Carré or the Music Theatre. And I think that the tasting menu would be great for a special occasion too.

Cafe Restaurant Neva

Amstel 51

1018 DR Amsterdam

T: +31 (0)20 5307483

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This Tum’s For Hire: Last Night We Were Dining in the Dark

Ctaste dining room

View From the Best Table in the House

Apologies for the terrible punnage in the title of today’s post, but since my friend booked us a table for four at Ctaste for restaurant week, I have been unable to get Bruce Springsteen’s earworm out of my head.

Ctaste is one of several restaurants globally in which patrons dine in the dark. In some of these restaurants, the waiters are equipped with night goggles, but the one in Amsterdam employs visually impaired waiting staff. I found the concept really interesting, and was excited to go along, because I thought it would be a good test of my palate.

You start off in a lit conservatory, where you have the concept explained to you, and you get to choose from a meat, fish, meat and fish or vegetarian menu, and whether you would like wine or beer matching. Three of us chose the vegetarian option, and the Big Guy had the meat. Most of the party also had the wine matching, but one of us chose the beer option. The staff were also careful to check for any allergies that diners may have.

From here, we were ushered through several curtains into the very dark main dining room. You hold onto the shoulders of your waiter and fellow diners in a crocodile formation. It is surprisingly disorientating.

Once seated, the waiters check which of the party are having which options for food and wine, so that they can get a handle on the seating. When you think about it , it is pretty obvious that it should be the person who requires the meat or the beer option who says this to the waiter, but actually we all instinctively chimed in and started pointing. I am sure this isn’t helpful, but the waiters are very patient, and allow you to work this out for yourself.

Once that had been sorted, an appetiser quickly appeared. It was obviously a smoked mousse of some kind, but none of us could pinpoint exactly what it was. Our best guesses were either Jerusalem artichoke or aubergine. We would not be allowed to learn exactly what it was until the end of the meal, when we would be back in the lit area. This is so that other diners do not hear what they are about to have, and ruin the concept for them.

Starters came with a nice, really fruity white wine. Unfortunately, I didn’t check what they were at the end of the meal, but my best guess on it was that it was a Riesling of some kind. I didn’t try the beer, but it seemed to be a blonde beer, according to my friend.

The starters themselves were pickled cucumber rolls, stuffed with goats cheese, apple & celery; and the meat one was a beef and beetroot carpaccio. Both were served with a rocket and pak choy salad, with honey and a herb vinaigrette. We thought it was rosemary.

The main was accompanied by an ordinary red, possibly a Cabernet Sauvignon. Beer was seemingly a witbier of some kind.

The Big Guy identified his main as beef. Us veggies found a portabello mushroom stuffed with blue cheese. Again, both courses had a mushroom risotto, haricots verts and roasted parsnips, carrots, onions and pumpkin. As we were finding that it was necessary to use at least one hand, so that you can feel the whereabouts of the food on the plate, it was a good thing that the food was warm, but not too hot. Interestingly, the meat and the vegetable courses came on different shaped plates each time, but I guess that is an adaptation for the waiters rather than the diners.

Then followed a pre dessert. It was an extraordinarily rich chocolate mousse, with flecks of real chocolate on the top. At the bottom there was a chiffonade. At first, the flavour doesn’t come through, but you can feel the texture. I was wondering whether this was desiccated coconut when suddenly a herbal flavour flooded my mouth. I decided that this was mint.

Dessert caused the biggest split in opinion. We all found pineapple and a lemon cheesecake. One of us found butterscotch, I definitely got banana (which I cannot stand), and there was a general disagreement over the ice cream. I thought rum & raisin, and there were also mutterings of strawberry.The wine was a muscat, and the beer was said to be a honeyed variety.

The fact that you are in the dark, and have to rely on your taste more than your sight is really a conversation piece. It is also interesting how the room seems to get larger when there are more people in the room, but somehow seems to shrink when guests leave. It’s a pretty bizarre phenomenon.

The waiting staff here were also great, very friendly, and keen to stay and have a chat. We had a little bit of a cultural exchange, as our waitress wanted to hear us say nine hundred and ninety nine in Dutch (it has a lot of g sounds in it, so is often hard to pronounce correctly for foreigners). In return, she did a pretty good rendition of seven hundred and seventy seven in Swedish, with several similarly hard to pronounce ‘whuo’ sounds. That is two for two on the friendly and helpful staff stakes. Either I have been dining at the wrong establishments all this time, or I am about to come down with a crash in the remaining restaurant week bookings. We shall see.

We rounded the meal off with a liqueur coffee and the remainder of our four glasses of wine, which we were allowed to choose from the previous three; before being escorted gingerly back out to the lit area to learn what we had actually eaten that night.

We got most of it correct. The appetiser was actually smoked carrot. The dressing was balsamic vinaigrette with the starter. The Big Guy failed to identify that his main also came with smoked duck breast and a port sauce. The cheese with the mushroom was actually a camembert, and not a blue cheese as we had suspected. The mushroom in the risotto was chanterelle, and was given as a chanterelle and parmesan risotto. I think this is slightly pedantic, since parmesan is a key ingredient in any risotto anyway, but nevertheless, it was an ingredient which we did not specifically name. The herb in the pre dessert was actually basil. I think I tasted mint because it is the herb that one normally associates with chocolate, so it shows how much tradition and familiarity can influence what you think about food. I find this really fascinating.

The dessert was actually lemon cheesecake, with pineapple pieces, a banana fudge, and a blueberry pie ice cream, which was the most surprising. They had used dried blueberries, which I had thought were raisins, but their flavour was masked by the sweet crumble of the pie crust. I don’t think I would have got that it was blueberry pie if I had nothing else to identify for the whole meal, so there you go.

As it was restaurant week, the 3 course dinner was €27.50, but is normally €39.50. The wine matching was €12.50, which is pretty good value for 4 glasses of wine, although two of the three kinds were pretty standard wines. The beer matching was €8.50.

Overall, it was a fascinating experience, and the food was good. The waiters were excellent – attentive, friendly and helpful, which is to be lauded in any case, but they certainly felt more welcoming than many waiting staff in this city. I can definitely recommend giving this a go to challenge yourself, test your perceptions and to have a good meal.

Amsteldijk 55
1074 HX Amsterdam
Tel: +31-(0)6 22335366


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